Russo Ukrainian War. Day 316: Ukrainian soldiers repel assault in the Bakhmut area

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

All islands in Kherson Oblast are in the grey area. Ukrainian soldiers repel assault, capture enemy’s positions, and explode two ammunition warehouses in the Bakhmut area. Patriot will start defending Ukraine “as soon as possible.

Daily overview — Summary report, January 5, 2023

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, January 5, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. January 4, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. January 4, 2023. Source: ISW.

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“During the past day, the Russian occupiers launched 3 missiles, 13 airstrikes and 68 MLRS attacks, in particular, on the civil infrastructure of the cities of Bakhmut, Kostyantynivka and Kurakhove of the Donetsk region, Nikopol in the Dnipropetrovsk region and Kherson. There are victims, seriously wounded and dead among the civilian population.

The danger of enemy air and missile strikes remains on the entire territory of Ukraine.

Russian forces continue to focus their efforts on conducting an offensive in the Bakhmut direction. There was no success in the Avdiyiivka and Kupyan directions after the offensive. On the Novopavlivsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, it continues to conduct active defence, shelling the positions of our troops and civilian objects along the contact line.

[Russian forces continue to move personnel, weapons, military equipment and ammunition to the areas of hostilities. In addition to rail transportation, it uses military transport and civil aviation.]

Over the past day, units of the Defense Forces repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of the settlements of Stelmakhivka and Ploschanka of the Luhansk region and Belogorivka, Soledar, Krasna Gora, Viimka, Pidgorodne, Bakhmut, Kurdyumivka, Mayorsk, Severnye, Vodyane, Krasnohorivka, Vesele, Maryinka, and Pobyeda in Donetsk region.

No signs of the formation of offensive groups of Russian forces were detected in the Volyn, Polissya, Siverskyi and Slobozhanskyi directions.

Kharkiv Battle Map.t January 4, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map.t January 4, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • In the Siversky and Slobozhanskyy, the districts of Kamianska Sloboda, Chernihiv region, were hit by tank, mortar and artillery shelling; Kustyne, Maiske and Pavlivka in Sumy Oblast and Krasne, Staritsa, Ohirtseve, Gatishche, Vovchansk, Ustinivka and Figolivka in Kharkiv Oblast.
  • In the Kupyansk and Lyman directions, areas of 20 settlements were affected by fire. Among them are Ivanivka, Kupyansk, Dvorichna, Vilshana, Kislivka, Kotlyarivka and Krokhmalne in Kharkiv Oblast and Makiivka, Ploshanka and Dibrova in Luhansk Oblast.
  • In the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions, areas of more than 40 settlements were shelled. In particular, these are Verkhnokamianske, Bilogorivka, Bakhmut, Bila Gora, Diliivka, Avdiivka, Nevelske, Krasnohorivka, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka of the Donetsk region.
Donetsk Battle Map. January 4, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. January 4, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • In the Novopavlivsk direction, enemy fire was recorded near the settlements of Zolota Niva, Vugledar, Mykilski Dachi and Prechistivka in the Donetsk region.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. January 4, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. January 4, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • In the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, the areas of more than 45 settlements were affected by the fire. The civil infrastructure of Poltavka, Gulyaipilske, Mala Tokmachka and Stepove settlements of the Zaporizhzhia region and Kherson, Novosilka, Tyaginka and Sadove were damaged by tank, mortar and artillery shelling.

Forced integration of temporarily occupied and occupied territories into the legal field of the Russian Federation continues. Thus, in the city of Horlivka, Donetsk region, the deadline for issuing Russian-style passports has been shortened from 30 to 10 days. In addition, license plates and driver’s licenses of the Russian Federation are issued in the region.

[In the city of Luhansk, in the neurological department of the Luhansk Regional Clinical Hospital, the occupiers are treating more than 100 mercenaries of the private military company “Wagner”.]

[Regarding enemy losses. On January 3, fire damage was confirmed to the concentration of manpower and military equipment of the occupiers in the Tokmak settlement of the Zaporizhzhia region. The losses of Russian forces amounted to about 80 soldiers wounded and dead.]

During the past day, the Air Force of the Defense Forces made 20 strikes on enemy concentration areas, as well as 5 strikes on the positions of its anti-aircraft missile systems.

In the previous day, in the eastern direction, units of anti-aircraft missile troops of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed a Russian Su-25 attack aircraft, a Ka-52 attack helicopter and an Orlan-10 operational-tactical UAV.

Soldiers of missile troops and artillery of the Defense Forces carried out fire damage to 3 control points, 4 areas of concentration of manpower and military equipment, and 2 enemy ammunition depots.

Military Updates

Russian shelling. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Russian shelling. Icelandic Data Analyst.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1610722491361550336

AEW&C aircraft that helps in targeting arrived in Belarus from Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reported on 3 January, citing Belaruski Hajun [an independent Belarusian military monitoring media outlet]. “An Il-76 A-50U aircraft, designed to track air and surface targets, arrived at the Machulishchy airfield in Belarus from Russia.”

All islands in Kherson Oblast are in the grey area, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Interfax-Ukraine news agency, citing Yevhen Yerin, Head of the joint press centre for Ukraine’s defence forces on the Tavriya front. “Regarding the island [Velykyi Potomkin – ed.], I will say this: now all the islands are located in the so-called grey zone, which is not clearly controlled by our troops or the occupiers.

Accordingly, yes, our servicemen are trying to reach these islands, to carry out certain measures as part of the operation. At the same time, it is impossible to talk about [fire] control over the islands. Yerin added that the islands are not a bridgehead that should be held for the long term. He emphasised that control over the islands is possible only after gaining full control over the opposite bank [left bank of the Dnipro River].”

Ukrainian soldiers repel assault, capture enemy’s positions in the Bakhmut area, Ukrinform reports, citing the State Border Guard Service. “Soldiers of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service, together with the military of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, repelled an enemy assault in the Bakhmut area and captured Russian forces’ positions in a counterattack. During the battle, the Ukrainian defenders killed nine Russian soldiers and wounded about 20 invaders.

According to the report, as of this time, the Ukrainian Defense Forces have advanced 300 meters and are securing new positions.”

Media report explosions near Belbek airfield in Sevastopol, Ukrinform reports. “On the morning of January 4, explosions rang out near the Belbek airfield in temporarily occupied Sevastopol, Crimea. Social media users write about explosions near the Belbek airfield in Sevastopol, RFE/RL’s Russian service posted on Telegram.

Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the Mariupol mayor, wrote on Telegram that the air defence system was activated in Sevastopol at least twice this morning. As reported, blasts rocked Dzhankoy, Crimea, on January 3.”

Partisans became more active in the Russian Federation, trains stopped near Krasnoyarsk, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine. “The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine records the activation of the resistance movement in the Russian Federation. On the night of 4 January in Russia, partisans once again stopped the movement of civilian trains and military trains on a section of the Trans-Siberian Railway near Krasnoyarsk. Russian media does not report anything about the incident on the railway near Krasnoyarsk.

The Defence Intelligence added that in 2023, this is at least the sixth case of destruction of alarm units, centralization and blocking on the railway in different regions of Russia, which leads to violations in the traffic schedules of military trains. According to the secret serviceʼs estimates, about 40 such cases of destruction of railway transformers and locomotives were recorded in 2022.”

Russia deploys 5 warships to Black and Azov seas – Ukraine’s Navy, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ukrainian Navy. “The Military Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine say that Russia has three warships on combat duty in the Black Sea, and two ships in the Sea of Azov. There are 9 Russian ships in the Mediterranean Sea, including 5 carriers of Kalibr cruise missiles, and a total salvo of 76 missiles.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1610864166084005889

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): 

https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1610959339572924416

  • On 27 December 2022, Oleksiyy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, reported that Russia had relocated long-range aviation (LRA) Tu-95MS BEAR heavy bombers and Tu-22M3 BACKFIRE medium bombers to Russia’s far east.
  • On 5 and 26 December 2022, the LRA’s Engels air base was struck and several aircraft damaged. Russia has highly likely responded to the incidents by conducting a general dispersal of LRA aircraft, especially to airfields further away from Ukraine.
  • The LRA will still be able to fire air-launched cruise missiles into Ukraine because the weapons have a 5000km range, in addition to the flight range of the bombers. However, operating from dispersal locations will add additional maintenance stress and will further deplete the limited flying hours available on these ageing aircraft.
  • On 31 December 2022, Ukraine struck a school building in the Russian-held town of Makiyivka near Donetsk city, which Russia had almost certainly taken over for military use. The building was completely destroyed and, as the Russian MoD confirmed, 89 Russian personnel were killed.
  • Given the extent of the damage, there is a realistic possibility that ammunition was being stored near troop accommodation, which detonated during the strike creating secondary explosions.
  • The building was only 12.5km from the Avdiivka sector of front line, one of the most intensely contested areas of the conflict. The Russian military has a record of unsafe ammunition storage from well before the current war, but this incident highlights how unprofessional practices contribute to Russia’s high casualty rate.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Thursday 5 January, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – about 109720 (+810),
  • Tanks – 3041 (+3),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6108 (+2),
  • Artillery systems – 2051 (+12),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 426 (+2),
  • Air defence means – 215 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 284 (+1),
  • Helicopters – 271 (+1),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 4759 (+14),
  • Vessels/boats – 16 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1844 (+2),
  • Special equipment – 182 (+1),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 723 (+0)

Russians marching over corpses: Ukrainian Army Commander-in-Chief reports on the situation at the front, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, spoke with Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the phone for the first time this year on 3 January 2023, and reported on the situation at the front.

Heavy fighting is ongoing on the Svatove-Kreminna frontier and in the Lysychansk area. The situation in the Soledar-Bakhmut-Maiorsk area remains the most complicated. The Russians are basically trying to advance by marching over the corpses of their fellow soldiers there, but the Defence Forces of Ukraine are making tremendous efforts to hold back the offensive. On the Donetsk front, we managed to hold our positions near Avdiivka and continue to conduct counteroffensive measures.

We are holding the defensive lines on the Zaporizhzhia front securely and making efforts to protect the city of Kherson from Russian attacks, primarily local people and critical infrastructure facilities. The situation at the border with the Republic of Belarus is fully controlled.”

The Commander-in-Chief also said the Russians had launched 14 attacks using cruise missiles and deployed 94 Shahed-136 kamikaze drones in the period from 31 December to the morning of 3 January.”

Russian soldiers use bodies of dead brothers-in-arms as shields, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, in an interview with ABC News. “Bodies of Russian soldiers have piled up in Donbas, and Russian troops use those piles as shields when they conduct offensive operations. Budanov was in Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, at the end of December where the fiercest battles are going on right now. What he saw shocked him. 

Soldiers showed me a section where dead bodies are piled up like something you would see in a movie… There are hundreds of dead bodies just rotting away in the open field; in certain places, they are piled on top of other bodies like makeshift walls; when Russian troops attack on that field, they use those bodies for cover, like a shield… But it’s not working. There are actual fields of dead bodies there.”

Residents of Luhansk Oblast mobilized by Russian invaders are preparing to surrender, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleksiy Gromov, Deputy Head of the Main Operational Directorate of the Ukrainian General Staff. “If the Ukrainian defence forces break through the defensive lines of the Russian occupation forces on the Svatove-Kreminna line and, accordingly, the transfer of hostilities closer to the city of Luhansk, a significant part of the military units of the 2nd Army Corps, especially from among those mobilised in the temporarily occupied territories, plans to surrender.

On 3 January, Serhii Haidai, the Head of Luhansk Оblast Military Administration, reported that the Kreminna-Svatove highway was under fire control of the Ukrainian defenders, and now the logistics of Russian invaders became much more complicated. According to him, the Russians are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, because they are repressing the local population of the occupied territories, and suspecting people of collaboration with the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Losses of the Russian Army. Source General Staff of Ukraine. Source: Ukrinform. ~

Losses of the Russian Army. Source General Staff of Ukraine. Source: Ukrinform.

Humanitarian 

Ukraine sees speeding up inspections as key to Black Sea grain deal, Reuters reports. Ukraine’s efforts to increase exports under the Black Sea grain deal with Russia are currently focused on securing faster inspections of ships rather than including more ports in the initiative, a senior Ukrainian official said on Wednesday. Ukraine is a major global grain producer and exporter, but production and exports have fallen since Russia invaded the country last February and started blockading its seaports.

Three leading Ukrainian Black Sea ports in the Odesa region were unblocked in July under an initiative between Moscow and Kyiv brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. Under the deal, all ships are inspected by joint teams in the Bosphorus.

Kyiv accuses Russia of carrying out the inspections too slowly, causing weeks of delays for ships and reducing the supply of Ukrainian grain to foreign markets. Russia has denied slowing down the process. […] Ukraine exported around 7 million tonnes of agricultural products in September and October and 6 million in November, but shipments fell sharply to less than 4 million in December. Kyiv attributes the drop to a slowdown of inspections.

Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said on Tuesday that no new vessels were currently expected to arrive in Ukraine for loading. It said 94 vessels were waiting for inspection in the Bosphorus, including 69 empty vessels for loading and 25 which had already been loaded with agricultural products. Vessels are waiting for an average of more than a month, the ministry said.”

Some 4.9M IDPs in Ukraine – Ministry of Social Policy, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ministry of Social Policy. “Almost 4.9 million IDPs have been registered, of which more than 3.5 million people have moved after February 24, 2022, the statement says.

According to the Ministry, throughout the year more than 1.8 million displaced persons received accommodation assistance. More than UAH 57 billion was laid down in the state budget to cover these expenses.”

Environmental

Energoatom discusses the inability of the IAEA to create a safety zone at the ZNPP, Ukraine Business News reports. “The head of state energy company Energoatom, Petro Kotin, does not believe that the IAEA will be able to achieve the creation of a safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. In his opinion, Ukraine has a better chance of reclaiming the nuclear power plant through military means.

In particular, according to Bloomberg, Kotin assumes that in the event of a successful offensive by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Zaporizhzhia region and the de-occupation of Melitopol, the Russians will have no other option but to leave the NPP.

In an interview with Reuters, he proposed an alternative involving UN peacekeepers. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia can block the creation of a peacekeeping mission. Still, according to the head of Energoatom, this will only increase general awareness of Moscow’s actions.”

Over 20% of Ukraine’s arable land is temporarily occupied – agrarian policy minister, Ukrinform reports, citing Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Mykola Solskyi. “Now, nearly over 20% of arable land is not under the control of Ukraine – these areas of land are under occupation, he said.

Solskyi added that the areas where winter wheat and corn, as well as sunflower, were mainly sown remain occupied. The minister emphasized that these lands are also contaminated with mines. As reported by Ukrinform, according to preliminary estimates of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy, more than 1 million hectares of soil in Ukraine was affected by Russia’s full-scale invasion.”

Millions of refugees from Ukraine have crossed borders into neighbouring countries, and many more have been forced to move inside the country. The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance the UNHCR reports. As of 3 January:

Individual refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe: 7,915,287
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia 2,428,282
Other European countries 2,616,823
Russian Federation, Belarus 2,870,182
Refugees from Ukraine registered for Temporary Protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe: 4,905,293
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia 2,419,288
Other European countries 2,486,005
Border crossings from Ukraine (since 24 February 2022): 17,139,782
Border crossings to Ukraine (since 28 February 2022): 9,180,679

Legal 

Ukraine’s Security Service issues notices of suspicion to 2 Russian commanders for attacking civilian facilities, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing SSU. “The Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) has issued the first notices of suspicion for the shelling of civilian facilities in Ukraine to Colonel General Sergei Kobylash, commander of the Russian Air Force’s Long-Range Aerospace Forces, and Admiral Igor Osipov, the former Commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet  [a notice of suspicion is an important initial stage of a pre-trial investigation under Ukrainian criminal procedure law – ed.].

In the course of the investigation, investigators from the SSU have found that since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Sergei Kobylash has been following instructions from Russia’s top military and political leadership regarding the destruction of Ukrainian cities.”

Prosecutors already targeting 635 suspects in “main case” probing Russian aggression against Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing the Prosecutor General’s Office. “The Main Case of Russian aggression toward Ukraine involves as many as 635 suspects at the moment. Among the 635 suspects are military and political leaders of the Russian Federation: ministers, MPs, officials, heads of law enforcement agencies, warmongers, and Kremlin propagandists.

In total, Ukrainian law enforcement registered 62,480 crimes of aggression and war crimes. Of these, 60,734 are related to violations of the laws and customs of war, 67 – to planning, preparation for or starting and waging a war of aggression, 40 – to propaganda of war, etc.

In addition, 17,369 crimes against national security were registered: 10,434 – regarding encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine, 1,913 – treason, 3,905 – collaborative activities, 383 – aiding and abetting the aggressor state, 62 – sabotage, etc.”

452 children were killed, 877 children injured, 13,876 deported by foe forces, and 354 reported missing – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of January 5. 3,126 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, and 337 of them are destroyed fully. 62,480 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 17,369 crimes against national security were registered.

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 316: Ukrainian soldiers repel assault in the Bakhmut area ~~

The Hague City Council favours the initiative to host a special tribunal to prosecute Russia, Ukrinform reports.  “The Hague City Council favored the initiative put forward by VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) leader Lotte van Basten Batenburg on the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute the Russian Federation in The Hague.

As a member of The Hague City Council, I want The Hague city authorities to do everything possible to support the creation of a special tribunal and to prepare for its location in our city. The Hague is an international city of peace and justice, the ICC and special tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia are already here. Eurojust and Europol are also headquartered here. Therefore, we have the experience and international legal infrastructure to host the future special tribunal which will investigate and prosecute the crimes and atrocities committed during Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” Lotte van Basten Batenburg [said].”

Support

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1610834093096275972

Netherlands to help Ukraine win the war, prime minister says, Euromaidan Press reports. “On 3 January, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte said he had a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during which he promised to provide military aid to Ukraine to help defeat Russia. According to Zelenskyy, they discussed the risk of escalation at the front and the potential challenges and Ukraine’s defence needs.

“Ukraine has held its own against Russia’s barbaric invasion for almost a year now. The months ahead are crucial. I just spoke to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and assured him that the Netherlands will do everything it can to help Ukraine not only defend itself but also win the war”, Mark Rutte said on Twitter.”

Zelensky and Macron agree on cooperation to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense, Ukrinform reports. “Had a long and detailed conversation with President of France Emmanuel Macron on the current situation, Zelensky posted on Twitter. The President thanked Macron for the decision to transfer light tanks and Bastion APCs to Ukraine, as well as for intensifying work with partners in this direction.

Agreed with Emmanuel Macron on further cooperation to significantly strengthen Ukraine’s air defence and other defence capabilities. We also agreed to work on the implementation of the Peace Formula, the President added. […] As reported, President of France Emmanuel Macron promised in his New Year’s address to continue to help Ukraine “without delay” and “until its victory“.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Announces New Ramstein Meeting, European Pravda reports. “We have high hopes for new decisions on defenсe assistance from our partners. The next Ramstein meeting will take place soon. It will be crucial for the announcement of new decisions, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister, said at an online briefing on Wednesday, 4 January.

Kuleba has also named the weaponry the Ukrainian army needs most. According to him, the top priorities are anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence systems with ammunition. That is why we will have talks not only on new Patriot batteries but also on new NASAMS, IRIS-T, Crotal systems, the Minister added.

Ukraine is also interested in additional Gepard and Vulcan systems, portable anti-aircraft missile systems such as Stinger, and artillery rounds. He has pointed out that Ukraine is currently working with partners to reach a new level of providing the armed forces with artillery systems and armoured vehicles of all types.

Even children in Ukraine ask for a leopard for Christmas. We understand that children think not only about toy leopards. We not only think about this but also work very, very hard. I said last year, and I am still convinced that in 2023 we will receive something that, for various reasons, we could not obtain in 2022. I can confirm it. Wait for the news, the Minister underlined.”

Norway donates additional artillery shells to Ukraine; the Norwegian Government says in a statement. “Norway donates another 10,000 artillery shells to Ukraine. The material has been sent. The artillery shells can be used in several types of artillery systems, including the M109 that Norway has donated in the past.

It is important for Europe’s and Norway’s security that Ukraine succeeds in standing up to Russia’s attack. Ukraine needs international support in the form of military equipment and training of its own forces. Norway has contributed heavily through 2022 and will continue to contribute to support Ukraine in 2023, says the Minister of Defence. The artillery shells are taken from the stockpiles of the Norwegian Armed Forces. The consequence for national preparedness has been assessed.

Biden says Bradley Fighting Vehicles are on the table for Ukraine, Reuters reports. “US President Joe Biden on Wednesday said that sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine was being considered to help the country fight Russia’s invasion.

It was not clear how many Bradleys are destined for Ukraine, but the United States is preparing another weapons aid package which could be announced in the coming days.”

Patriot will start defending Ukraine “as soon as possible”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister. “The American Patriot air defence system will be deployed in Ukraine as soon as possible. Preparations for the transfer of these systems have already begun.

Ukraine’s Armed Forces to keep shooting down Shahed drones with everything they have, even if it is expensive, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Yurii Ihnat, Spokesperson for Air Force of Ukraine. “The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine consider inappropriate accusations that Ukrainian defenders shoot down Iranian-made Russian drones with much more expensive missiles from Western air defence systems because it is about saving people’s lives and the preservation of vital infrastructure.

This is how the spokesman for the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reacted, in particular, to the New York Times article about Ukraine shooting down cheap drones with expensive missiles.”

New Developments 

  1. Chief of Defence Intelligence predicts Putin’s death: Very quickly and soon, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing ABC News. “Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, has said that Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, has cancer and will die very soon, but after Ukraine’s win in the war with Russia.
  2. Russia is not a military threat to the world anymore, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing ABC News. “Kyrylo Budanov, the Head of Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence, states that Russia has lost its status as a powerful military state and the world should no longer fear it. Budanov states that Putin’s regime is a laughingstock for everyone. The Russian troops are all but reduced to defending territories they still occupy within Ukraine, and not for much longer. According to Budanov, the only issue remaining is Russia’s nuclear arsenal and the uncontrollable regime of Putin. This might lead the whole world to realise the necessity of Russia’s denuclearization or at least an international overseeing of its nuclear arsenal.”
  3. Putin deploys new Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles to Atlantic, ReutersPresident Vladimir Putin sent a frigate to the Atlantic Ocean armed with new generation hypersonic cruise missiles on Wednesday, a signal to the West that Russia will not back down over the war in Ukraine. Russia, China and the United States are in a race to develop hypersonic weapons which are seen as a way to gain an edge over any adversary because of their speeds – above five times the speed of sound – and manoeuvrability.”
  4. NATO will discuss the war in Ukraine at the January 18-19 meeting, Ukraine Business NewsNATO’s highest military body, the Military Committee, will meet on January 18-19 in a face-to-face format in Brussels. 32 defence staff chiefs will participate in a series of meetings to discuss issues of strategic importance for NATO. […]At the final meeting, the Military Committee will discuss NATO’s ongoing support for Ukraine.”
  5. Germany Open to Seizing Russian Assets to Help Ukraine Rebuild, BloombergGermany is open to using billions of euros in frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine rebuild as long as legal issues can be resolved and allies follow suit. […] The detail of the discussions shows how the potential for asset seizures is moving beyond a theoretical debate and toward implementation, but major hurdles remain. Scholz wants any move coordinated with allies and legally tight, the people said.”
  6. Russia reduced the daily gas transit through Ukraine by another 10%, Ukraine Business NewsOn January 4, the Russian Federation reduced the daily natural gas transit through the Ukrainian GTS to Europe by another 10%, to 38.4 million cubic meters per day. ExPro analysts calculated that this is the lowest level in the entire history of observations since 1991. Currently, Russia transports natural gas through Ukraine to Slovakia and Moldova. Transit to Moldova remains at about 6 million cubic meters per day. However, transit to Slovakia on January 4 decreased from 36.8 to 32.8 million cubic meters. In general, the volume of Russian gas transit is approximately one-third of the guaranteed 109.6 million cubic meters per day capacity booked by Gazprom.”
  7. Ukrainian ambassador criticises Israel because of conversation with Russian Foreign Minister: it indicates a change in policy, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The Times of Israel. “Ukrainian ambassador to Israel Yevhen Korniichuk has criticised the conversation between Eli Cohen, Israelʼs Foreign Minister and Sergey Lavrov, his Russian counterpart. According to Korniichuk, communication with Lavrov indicates a change in the country’s policy, since Israeli diplomats have not spoken with Lavrov since the beginning of the war. He also noted Israel’s incomprehensible policy regarding the war, because the country in no way condemns massive strikes on critical infrastructure in Ukraine. Israel is unique, from the point of view of our partners. It is silent, Korniichuk said.On 2 January, Eli Cohen, the newly appointed Israeli Foreign Minister, statedthat Israel would start “talking less publicly” about the war between Russia and Ukraine.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  January 4, 2023:

Ukrainian Counteroffensives Eastern Ukraine: (Eastern Kharkiv Oblast-Western Luhansk Oblast)

Russian forces continued limited counterattacks to regain lost positions along the Svatove-Kreminna line on January 4. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi reported that fierce fighting is ongoing along the Savtove-Kreminna line and in the direction of Lysychansk (15km southeast of Kreminna). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian assault near Stelmakhivka (16km northwest of Svatove). A Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) 2nd Army Corps officer claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted maneuver defense in the vicinity of Kuzemivka (15km northwest of Svatove) to restrain Russian advances in the area. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces also conducted assaults near Ploshchanka (17km northwest of Kreminna) and in the direction of Makiivka (22km northwest of Kreminna). The Russian milblogger described these actions as tactical in nature but stated that soon Russian forces may be able to develop them into supporting a larger operation along the Svatove-Kreminna line. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian assault near Bilohorivka (12km south of Kreminna).

Ukrainian strikes are reportedly degrading Russian military logistics in Luhansk Oblast. Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai stated on January 4 that Russian forces must now deliver ammunition to the grouping in the Svatove area directly from Luhansk City because Ukrainian forces defeated Russian attempts to build warehouses near Svatove. […]

The Russian milblogger information space continues to seize on official responses to the Ukrainian HIMARS strike on a Russian base in Makiivka to criticize endemic issues in the Russian military apparatus. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) released an official response to the strike on January 4 and attributed it to the “presence and mass use by personnel, contrary to prohibitions, of mobile telephones within range of enemy weapons systems.” The Russian MoD also claimed that the death toll of the strike is now 89, including a deputy regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel Bachurin. The clear attempt by the Russian MoD to blame the strike on individual mobilized servicemen […] drew immediate ire from Russian milbloggers. One milblogger emphasized that it is “extremely wrong to make mobile phones guilty for strikes” and concluded that “it is not cell phones and their owners that are to blame, but the negligence of the commanders.” Several milbloggers noted that the use of cell phones on the frontline in the 21st century is inevitable and that efforts to crack down on their use are futile. The milblogger critique of the Russian MoD largely converged on the incompetence of Russian military command, with many asserting that the Russian military leadership has no understanding of the basic realities faced by Russian soldiers on the frontline and is seeking to shift the blame for its own command failures on the “faceless masses” of Russian mobilized recruits.

The Russian milblogger response to the Russian MoD deflection of blame onto individual servicemen accurately identifies the endemic unwillingness or inability of the Russian military apparatus to address systemic failures. Cell phone use may have aided the Ukrainian strike to some degree, but the Russian MoD’s fixation on this as the cause of the strike is largely immaterial. An appropriately organized and properly trained and led modern army should not permit the convergence of the factors that contributed to the Makiivka strike in the first place. The Russian command was ultimately responsible for the decision to pack hundreds of mobilized men into non-tactical positions within artillery range of the frontline and near an ammunition depot. The Russian MoD is likely using the strike to further deflect blame for its own institutional failures in the conduct of the war onto mobilized forces, whose own conduct is additionally emblematic of the Russian force generation failures.

The continued construction of Russian units using solely mobilized recruits will not generate combat power commensurate with the number of mobilized personnel deployed. Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Head Denis Pushilin remarked in the wake of the Makiivka strike on January 4 that some of the officers of the targeted regiment were mobilized servicemen. Pushilin’s indication that certain Russian units are relying on newly mobilized and poorly trained recruits for leadership roles, as opposed to drawing from the combat-hardened officer cadre, adds further nuance to the poor performance of and high losses within units comprised of mobilized recruits. Mobilized servicemen with minimal training and degraded morale in the role of officers are likely contributing to poor operational security (OPSEC) practices and lack the basic acumen to make sound tactical and operational decisions.

The Russian MoD has again shifted the rhetoric and format of its daily situational reports (SITREPs) likely to flood the information space with insignificant claimed successes and distract from its significant military failures. The Russian MoD instituted this shift on January 3, doubling the length of its previous SITREPs and focusing on claimed strikes against Ukrainian military assets that often lack operational significance rather than on its largely unsuccessful ground attacks. These SITREPs focus on small settlements and group strikes by target type rather than location, making it difficult for its audience to geographically orient the SITREP and verify the claimed strikes. The Russian MoD also dedicated multiple Telegram posts to featuring a new missile carrier, the Admiral Gorshkov, that is very unlikely to conduct operations supporting Russian forces in Ukraine, a performative measure similar to those that Russian milbloggers have recently criticized, as ISW has previously reported. The Russian MoD had previously attempted to emulate the Ukrainian General Staff’s SITREPS in response to widespread milblogger criticism of the lack of transparency in official war coverage following Russia’s military failures in the fall of 2022. […]

Russia will likely seek further bilateral cooperation with Iran in order to secure a greater number of high-precision weapons systems for use in Ukraine. An Iranian state-run media source claimed on December 28 that Iran will soon receive 24 Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia likely in exchange for Iranian-made drones and ballistic missiles. A Russian milblogger claimed that these high-precision weapon systems will allow Russian forces to more effectively target Ukrainian rear areas defended by Western anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems than their current manned aircraft. Senior US officials reported on December 9 that Russia is providing an unprecedented level of military and technical support to Iran in exchange for Iranian-made weapons systems.

Russian forces would use all the pledged 1,750 Iranian-made drones in Ukraine by May 2023 if they consume them at the same rate as between September and December 2022. Russia will therefore likely look to secure further agreements with Iran on the provision of Iranian-made high-precision weapons systems in order to augment its campaign against Ukrainian critical infrastructure. The Iranian government’s Islamic Republic News Agency claimed on January 1 that Russia and Iran are building a new transcontinental trade route to bypass sanctions and “foreign interference.” Russian and Iranian officials may be negotiating a trade route in part to support more consistent arms transfers between the two countries. ISW has previously assessed that Iran may be supplying drones and potentially ballistic missiles to the Russian Federation to more clearly establish an explicitly bilateral security relationship with Russia in which Iranians are more equal partners.

Key Takeaways

  • The Russian milblogger information space continues to seize on official responses to the Ukrainian HIMARS strike on a Russian base in Makiivka to criticize endemic issues in the Russian military apparatus and its unwillingness to address systemic failures.
  • The continued construction of Russian units using solely mobilized recruits will not generate combat power commensurate with the number of mobilized personnel deployed.
  • The Russian MoD has again shifted the rhetoric and format of its daily situational reports (SITREPs) likely to flood the information space with insignificant claimed successes and distract from its significant military failures.
  • Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Chief Kyrylo Budanov stated that Ukrainian forces intend to launch a major counteroffensive throughout Ukraine in the spring of 2023.
  • Russian forces are increasingly reliant upon Iranian-made drones to strike Ukrainian critical infrastructure, and Russia will likely seek further bilateral cooperation with Iran in order to secure a greater number of high-precision weapons systems for use in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces continued limited counterattacks to regain lost positions along the Svatove-Kreminna line as Ukrainian strikes reportedly damaged Russian military logistics in Luhansk Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut amid continued indicators that the broader offensive may be culminating.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations on the western outskirts of Donetsk City.
  • Russian forces continued to rebuild force capability and conduct defensive operations in Kherson Oblast on January 4.
  • Select Russian private armament manufacturers are continuing to criticize the Russian military campaign.

Russian occupation authorities continued to take measures to resolve administrative issues associated with consolidating Russian control of occupied territories on January 4.

Russia prepares new offensive actions, may attack from north or east, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Andrii Cherniak, a representative from Defence Intelligence of Ukraine. “According to Ukrainian military intelligence estimates, the Russians will try to continue conducting offensive operations next year. They have not managed to achieve their goal on any of the fronts. They understand that they are losing, but they do not plan to end the war. We are considering the possibility that they can attack from the north or east at the same time.”

He stressed that defenders are ready for any invader action. Cherniak also expressed a belief that the Russians will try to hold the land corridor to Crimea and seize the whole of Donetsk Oblast. At the same time, he believes that the invaders will not be able to cross the Dnipro River to recapture the city of Kherson.

Ukrainian military intelligence forecasts that over the next 4–5 months, the Russian army may lose up to 70,000 more servicemen. But, according to Cherniak, the Russian leadership is ready for such losses.”

Ukraine says Russia plans new mobilisation to ‘turn tide of war’, Reuters reports. “Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was planning to call up more troops for a major new offensive, even as Moscow was facing some of its biggest internal criticism of the war over a strike that killed scores of fresh conscripts. Kyiv has been saying for weeks that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to order another mass conscription drive and shut his borders to prevent men from escaping the draft.

We have no doubt that the current masters of Russia will throw everything they have left and everyone they can round up to try to turn the tide of the war and at least delay their defeat, Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Tuesday. We have to disrupt this Russian scenario. We are preparing for this. The terrorists must lose. Any attempt at their new offensive must fail. […]

Putin said last month there was no need for further mobilisation. But in a sign the Kremlin may now be considering one, a little known group claiming to represent widows of Russian soldiers released a call on Tuesday for Putin to order a large-scale mobilisation of millions of men. The Kremlin has not commented on that appeal.”

Ukrainian Armed Forces spokesperson says new wave of mobilization will not help Russians, Ukrinform reports. “The presence of a large number of military personnel is the only trump card remaining for the Russians, according to Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the Eastern Group of Troops of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He said on Ukraine’s television that a new wave of mobilization in Russia, which is due to begin on January 5, will not help Russia in the war because a trained and motivated Ukrainian army equipped with advanced weapons will resist this, Ukrinform reports.

Of course, all of our analytical, intelligence and information structures are working powerfully. A systematic analysis is constantly being conducted at all levels, so this [another wave of mobilization in Russia] has not been a secret for a long time, Cherevatyi said. He recalled that the large dynamics of enemy losses at the front required the renewal of their personnel, therefore a new wave of mobilization was expected.

At the same time, he added that the Defense Forces of Ukraine are successfully using the advanced models of Western weapons in the battle against a large enemy. Our motivation and training, multiplied by the latest Western equipment, can be a turning point in the war, and this can nullify any mobilization efforts of Russian forces, Cherevatyi said.”

Ukraine planning major offensive for spring, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing ABC News. “Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, said in an interview to ABC News that Ukraine is planning a major offensive for spring, and the fiercest fighting is expected in March. This is [when we will see more – ed.] liberation of territories and dealing the final defeats to the Russian Federation. According to him, this will happen throughout Ukraine, from Crimea to Donbas.

Our goal, and we will achieve it, is returning to the borders of 1991, like Ukraine is recognized by all subjects of international law, he emphasised. Budanov did not rule out further strikes on the territory of Russia but did not specify who would be behind them.

He added that the attacks would take place deeper and deeper inside Russia’s territory, but also said he’d be able to comment on who carried out these strikes only after the end of the war.”

Russia waiting for new drones and preparing missiles for next attack, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Vadym Skibitskyi, representative of Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence, in an interview to RBK-Ukraine news agency. “They [the Russians – ed.] will now try to use new approaches. If they do not have enough missiles for a large-scale attack, they will combine high-precision missiles, Kh-22 and S-300 [missiles], especially in front-line areas, and kamikaze drones. You see how the Russians actively used them for two days in a row. […] That is, they will combine means to maintain the pace of strikes on our civilian infrastructure facilities. […]

He noted that when [the Defence Intelligence – ed.] says that the stocks of Russian missiles is enough for another two or three strikes, they mean high-precision missiles: Kh-101, Kh-555 and Kalibrs, and large-scale attacks, with total fired missiles about 80 in each. According to our estimates, they [the Russians – ed.] can now produce approximately 30 units of Kh-101 per month. If we talk about Kalibrs, then we see 15-20 units per month, said Skibitskyi. According to him, the Russians have approximately 60 sea-based Kalibr cruise missiles and are producing them at a maximum of 20 per month. Defence Intelligence states that the Russians have approximately 160 units of Kh-22 missiles, but these are old missiles that are difficult to use now.

In general, according to regulatory documents, the strategic limit should be 30% of the entire stockpile of missiles. But they have already passed this limit for all types of missiles, for [Iskanders, Kalibrs, Kh-101, and Kh-555]. That is, they already have less than 30% of reserves. […]

Skibitskyi noted that there are “not so many” Kinzhal missiles in the Russian Federation. If they are also launched, then there will simply be nothing to scare the world with. They are now using Kinzhals for demonstration and intimidation, [to show – ed.] that they have such weapons no one will be able to shoot down. Accordingly, with this, they maintain the tension regarding the possibility of using these weapons not only against us, but also against other European countries, he said.

As for drones, Russia also has problems with them, Skibitskyi said. To date, they have deployed approximately 660 Shahed drones. The contract calls for 1,750 items. It takes time to deliver and prepare them. They have deployed a large number in recent days, and these stocks need to be replenished… Our data indicates that they will now have another shipment. How long it will be, we will be clarifying. Before that, they used to bring in batches of 250–300 items. Let’s see how it will be this time.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do? 

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine triggers ‘soul-searching’ at western universities as scholars rethink Russian studies, RFE/RL reports. “When more than 2,000 Slavic, East European, and Eurasian studies specialists from around the world gather in Philadelphia later this year for their largest annual conference, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will dominate the discussion — or loom large over the proceedings, at the very least.

In Ukraine, Moscow’s unprovoked war has killed tens of thousands of people and laid cities and towns to waste. At universities across the West, it has thrust Russia’s history of imperialism and colonialism to the forefront of Slavic and Eurasian academic discussion — from history and political science to art and literature.

The war is forcing scholars, departments, and university officials to question how they teach the history of Russia, the former Soviet Union, and the region, what textbooks and sources they use, whom they hire, which archives they mine for information, and even what departments should be named.

The Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) has made “decolonization” — which it describes as “a profoundly political act of re-evaluating long-established and often internalized hierarchies, of relinquishing and taking back power” — the theme of its 2023 conference. “Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has led to widespread calls for the reassessment and transformation of Russo-centric relationships of power and hierarchy both in the region and in how we study it,” the association says in a notice on the convention. […]

Some faculty have questioned why an institution covering a region that spans two continents and reaches from the Atlantic to the Pacific should have only one country — Russia — in its name. […]  Many scholars say the Russian state receives too much focus in academia at the expense of the colonized nations, regions, and groups, including Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, as well as ethnic minority communities in Russia itself. The view from St. Petersburg and Moscow – the capitals of Russia since the tsarist era and of the Soviet Union – dominates.

Proponents of decolonization or “decentering” are calling for a greater inclusion of voices from those nations and regions in the curriculum of Russian, Soviet, and Eurasian history, literature, culture, political science, and economics. Oxana Shevel, a professor of political science at Tufts University in Massachusetts and president of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies, says many scholars of the region feel that academia has “overlooked to a large extent” the trauma caused by Russian imperialism and colonialism.

The focus, instead, tends to be on the Moscow-centric view that the Russian and Soviet states brought “modernization, education, and industrialization” to those communities. “Scholars who study non-Russian regions of the former Soviet space are basically speaking with one voice for the need to decolonize Soviet and post-Soviet studies,” Shevel told RFE/RL. […]

The potential impact of the shift that has begun goes beyond the need to rewrite lectures and incorporate new material. It could also affect current and future research projects and reach back in time, as well, leading to greater scrutiny of past works. […]

Erica Marat, a professor of political science at the National Defense University in Washington and a Central Asia expert, says the push by scholars of Ukraine to challenge the status quo in academia has inspired those studying other regions ruled by Moscow. “The war in Ukraine and just how Ukrainian scholars are speaking out is really opening up a lot of space for the rest of us,” she told RFE/RL.

Vitaly Chernetsky, a Ukrainian-born professor of Slavic and Eurasian languages and literatures at the University of Kansas, says that the works of experts from non-Russian regions and communities are not taken seriously enough by peers, a view shared by Marat and others. Ukraine has been “misjudged and misunderstood” in the West in part because scholars of Russia dominate the discussion, Chernetsky said.

As a case in point, he says one reason many in the field expected Kyiv to fall quickly following the Russian invasion in February was that they bought into the narrative that Ukraine was a “divided” nation with a weak sense of national identity. Universities rarely offer courses in the history or culture of Ukraine, Europe’s largest country by size and its seventh-largest by population. A major reason has been a lack of student demand — which scholars say is a result of the entrenched focus on Russia, though the war has led to a spike in interest. […]

Scholars say studies of the Eurasian regions of Russia and Soviet studies in the United States has historically been taught from a Moscow-centric perspective because of the outsized influence of Russian-born scholars who helped found the field. Clarence Manning, chairman of the Department of Slavic Studies at Columbia University and one of the few Ukraine experts of his time, made this argument in a 1957 scholarly article.

A dominant school of thought within US academia held that “every person within the old Russian empire is a Russian,” he wrote. These scholars, described as “Russia Firsters,” repeated “old traditional formulas set out by Russian scholarship before the [1917] Revolution” and treated Russia and later the Soviet Union “as a single, unified country.” […]

Susan Smith-Peter, a professor of Russian history at the College of Staten Island in New York, says that the teachings of Vasily Klyuchevsky, an imperial-era scholar and one of the founders of modern Russian historiography, were essentially transplanted to the United States.

Klyuchevsky, who died in 1911, denied the existence of Ukraine as a people and a culture distinct from Russia, she says. His students in Moscow included Michael Karpovich, who would go on to teach generations of Russia scholars over three decades at Harvard University, from 1927 to 1957. Karpovich “rejected the historiographical legitimacy of a separate Ukrainian history,” Smith-Peter wrote in a blog post this month, adding that as a result, the works of Ukrainian scholars “were often not integrated into the work of Russian historians.”

One key narrative passed on from imperial-era historians by emigres, and still widely taught in the United States today, is that Russia is the direct and sole successor to Kievan Rus — also known as Kyivan Rus, from the city’s Ukrainian name — a state that reached the peak of its power a century before Moscow was founded.

Putin, who has falsely claimed that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people” and has suggested in numerous historically inaccurate written and spoken remarks that Ukraine has no right to exist as a fully sovereign state, has used that vastly simplified notion of continuity in attempts to justify his war. His skewed version of history appears to be at the center of what numerous analysts have said is Putin’s obsession with dominating Ukraine. […]

The challenge academics now face is understanding how Russian imperialism and colonialism impact the way they think about or approach their subjects. “I think that is the most interesting shift, and probably the most controversial,” he said. As for the textbook A History Of Russia, Steinberg said he has made “some significant changes in the direction of questioning simple assumptions about Kyiv-Moscow continuities and will develop these further in the 10th edition.”

While some institutions and professors have been making changes to their classes and curricula, Chernetsky said, the field still needs “deep, structural” change. The important thing here is not to lose momentum, because big academic institutions tend to be inert, he said.”

Hans Petter Midttun: As the title implies –  Why Ukraine will win in 2023 – my last article of 2022 ended on a positive note. While it’s impossible to predict how and when Russia’s war against Ukraine will end, many wheels have been set in motion to ensure that its defeat is inevitable. 2023 will be a year of hope and victory.

In my introduction, I argued that the US, NATO and the EU have failed to define the “red lines” Russia cannot cross. They have so far failed to respond to the Russian continuous escalation of the war, including the energy war against Europe, its increased efforts to eradicate Ukrainian nationhood, its war on global food security or its destruction of the Ukrainian energy sector. They have also failed to publicly support the Ukrainian declared end-state (or define one themselves) or clarify what “support as long as it takes” means in practical terms.

Throughout 2022, I have stressed that the West is not supplying Ukraine with the means it needs to defeat and evict Russian forces from Ukraine. Ukraine is being attacked from three dimensions while being enabled to fight in only one. Its international partners have until now refrained from delivering long-range fire capable of destroying critical military capabilities and enablers on Russian territory. Ukraine needs more HIMARS, NASAMS, Patriot and artillery, as well as ATACMS, F-16, American M-60 and M-1 Abrams or the German Leopard-1 and Leopard-2, and M2 Bradleys and Marders.

At the start of 2023, we already see small but important signs of a policy change.

One of the most important ones is the statements of both President Macron and Prime Minister Rutte that they will continue to support Ukraine until victory. The statements define a clear end-state and, therefore, imply a strategy to achieve it. Doing everything they can to help Ukraine not only defend itself but also win the war, means providing it with the tools it needs to evict the Russian forces.

While the two statements only represent two Heads of State, they are still in breach with what has been a remarkable unison strategic messaging from the West throughout 2022. For exactly that reason, it’s unlikely that they would commit without having most of NATO and the EU member states “on board”.

This lends credit to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba’s statement that

I am still convinced that in 2023 we will receive something that, for various reasons, we could not obtain in 2022. I can confirm it. Wait for the news.”

This might already be reflected in both ongoing deliberations as well as signals of new defence aid. The US is considering delivering M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) to Ukraine. While the main role of the M2 is to provide protected transport for soldiers in close contact with the enemy and offers a significantly higher level of protection than the M113 armoured personnel carrier, it is also equipped with a powerful 25 mm gun and two TOW anti-tank guided missiles.

Equally important, a US decision to supply Bradley will force Germany to deliver Marders. Introducing the two IFVs on the battlefield will increase the Ukraine Armed Force’s ability to manoeuvre, especially as the Russian inventory of “modern” main battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and artillery is being depleted and is experiencing a reduction in the availability of artillery ammunition.

A decision to supply modern western IFVs will be yet a case of previous “nays” inevitably being turned into “ayes”.

This means that Abrams and Leopard might be next on the line. The previously expressed fear of “escalation of the war into a broader confrontation” (which I have repeatedly stressed, is already taking place), is hopefully being replaced by the recognition that:

  1. repeated Ukrainian breaches of Russian declared red-lines have not triggered the WW3 many were predicting;
  2. the increasingly more advanced defence support to Ukraine – and the consequential destruction of Russia’s Armed Forces – has not escalated the full-scale war in Ukraine into a military confrontation in Europe;
  3. the global “tsunami of ripple effects” from the war is not sustainable; and that
  4. Russia is no longer a military threat to the world.

I have previously argued that sanctions will not work without the parallel use of military power.

Sanctions have undoubtedly impacted Russia’s ability to wage war. They have, however, had no impact whatsoever on Russia’s willingness to use military power to achieve its strategic aim and objectives. Sanctions will only work when employed in combination with military power.”

When countering an opponent using a strategy based on the parallel and synchronized use of all means available to the state, the West must be willing to defend itself on equal terms. NATO and the EU must coordinate and synchronize their employment of both military and non-military means to counter an increasingly more aggressive Russian foreign policy.

Using non-military means only is like trying to pump empty a flooded ship compartment without closing the hole in the hull. While it might stop the ship from sinking it also turns damage control into an enduring commitment.

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