Russo Ukrainian War. Day 329: Leopard tanks for Ukraine on Gemany’s new defense minister’s priority agenda

 

Daily review

Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

US, Ukraine top military chiefs meet in person for the first time. The Netherlands to send Patriot missile defense systems to Ukraine along with the US and Germany. Germany said tanks will be the first item on the agenda of the new defense minister.

Daily overview — Summary report, January 19, 2023

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, January 19, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. January 17, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. January 17, 2023. Source: ISW.

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The three hundred and twenty-ninth day of the heroic stand-off of the Ukrainian people against the russian military invasion began.
During the day, the enemy carried out 22 airstrikes and carried out more than 50 attacks from MLRS.
The threat of russian air and missile strikes remains high throughout Ukraine.
The enemy does not give up its intentions to capture the Donetsk Oblast within the administrative borders. The main efforts are concentrated on conducting an offensive along the Bakhmut axis. Conducts unsuccessful offensive actions on the Avdiiv axis. In addition, they are trying to improve the tactical position on the Lyman axis.
Zaporizhzhia axis: russians carried out unsuccessful offensive actions in the areas of the settlements of Orihiv and Gulyaipole. The enemy is defending on the Kupyansk, Novopavlivsk and Kherson axes.
Kharkiv Battle Map. January 17, 2023. Source: ISW ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. January 17, 2023. Source: ISW

Volyn, Polissya, Siversk and Slobozhansk axes: the situation has not changed significantly, and no offensive groups of the enemy have been detected. Joint exercises of the Air and Space Forces of the russian federation and the Air Force and Air Defense Forces of the republic of belarus are ongoing on the territory of the republic of belarus. Practical tasks on the interaction of air and ground components in offensive operations are being worked out. The areas of the settlements of Rivne and Novodmytrivka in the Sumy Oblast and Budarka, Zemlianka, Gatyshche, Vovchansk, Ternova, Chugunivka, Novomlynsk and Dvorichna in the Kharkiv Oblast were hit by mortar and artillery fire.
Kupyansk axis: the enemy shelled the districts of Petropavlivka, Kyslivka, Ivanivka, Krokhmalne, Synkivka, Berestove, and Tabaivka in the Kharkiv Oblast and Stelmakhivka in the Luhansk Oblast.
Lyman axis: Druzhelyubivka in the Kharkiv Oblast and Novoyehorivka, Nevske, Chervonpopivka and Dibrova in the Luhansk Oblast were under enemy fire.
Donetsk Battle Map. January 17, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. January 17, 2023. Source: ISW.

Bakhmut axis: areas of 13 settlements were affected by fire. Among them are Verkhnokamianske, Bilogorivka, Vesele, Soledar, Krasna Gora, Bakhmut, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka and Druzhba of the Donetsk Oblast.
Avdiivka axis: Avdiivka, Vodyane, Nevelske, Georgiivka, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka in Donetsk Oblast were shelled.
Novopavlivsk axis: Velyka Novosilka, Zolota Nyva and Ugledar of the Donetsk Oblast were hit by the enemy fire.
Zaporizhzhia axis: more than 15 settlements were affected by artillery fire, in particular, Vremivka and Novopil in Donnechyna and Orihiv, Poltavka, Malynivka, Gulyaipole, Mala Tokmachka, Stepove, Kamianske and Plavni in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. January 17, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. January 17, 2023. Source: ISW.

Kherson axis: the areas of Antonivka, Berehove, Vesele, Fedorivka, L`vove, and Kherson were hit by MLRS and barrel artillery. Civilians suffered again.
Russian occupying forces do not stop looting the temporarily occupied territories. Thus, in the settlements of Gornostaivka, Kairy, Bratolyubivka, and Nyzhni Sirogozy of the Kherson Oblast, the occupiers, moving in groups of 10-15 people, search the empty houses of local residents and take away all household appliances and furniture.
During the day, the aviation of the Defense Forces made 13 strikes on enemy concentration areas and 3 strikes on the positions of its anti-aircraft missile systems.
In addition, our defenders shot down an enemy Ka-52 helicopter and an experimental russian reconnaissance UAV “Merlin-VR”.
At the same time, units of missile and artillery troops of the Defense Forces of Ukraine hit 1 control point, 2 areas of concentration of the occupiers’ manpower, and 1 radio-electronic warfare station.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

US, Ukraine top military chiefs meet in person for the first time. The top US military officer, Army Gen. Mark Milley, traveled to a site near the Ukraine-Poland border on Tuesday and talked with his Ukrainian counterpart, Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s armed forces Valeriy Zaluzhnyi face to face for the first time — a meeting underscoring the growing ties between the two militaries and coming at a critical time as Russia’s war against Ukraine nears the one-year mark, AP reports.

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

https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1615657675110465537

  • By the end of 16 January 2023, Ukrainian forces had highly likely withdrawn from the Donbas town of Soledar, leaving Russian military and Wagner Group proxy forces in control. Ukrainian forces have likely established new defensive lines to the west.
  • Russia’s advance on Soledar primarily consisted of Wagner forces and was a supporting operation aimed to enable the eventual envelopment of the larger settlement of Bakhmut. One of Ukraine’s two main supply routes into Bakhmut is now under increasing pressure.
  • Imagery shows that since the start of January 2023, the south and east of Bakhmut has continued to be subjected to intense artillery bombardment. Ukrainian forces almost certainly continue to defend against Russian forces on the outskirts of the city.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of Russian Army. Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. ~

Losses of Russian Army. Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

 

Humanitarian

Russian occupiers plan to transfer cities to the status of villages, cut their budget – Luhansk Administration. In Luhansk Oblast, the Russian occupiers want to transfer some of the captured towns to the status of villages in order to further reduce costs, in particular, on social infrastructure, Luhansk Oblast Administration reported.

Ukraine and Russia hold talks on major POWs swap. Ukrainska Pravda reports, referencing CNN Turk, Turkish Ombudsman Şeref Malkoç said that Ukraine and Russia were working on an extensive prisoner exchange, which could involve 1000 people.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1615129396586708992

Environmental

Legal 

Everyone involved in Dnipro missile attack will be held to account, Zelenskyy says. “We will definitely find everyone who caused this terror. Everyone involved in this and other missile attacks against Ukraine will be found and held to account,” Zelenskyy commented after hearing the report on the house destroyed by a Russian missile in Dnipro. The debris dismantling and search and rescue operation is completed. It is known about 45 dead, including 6 children. 79 people received injuries of varying degrees of severity, including 16 children. In total, about 1700 people lived in this high-rise building. In the building, 230 apartments were damaged, 72 were completely destroyed.

FSB bans the last Ukrainian charity providing humanitarian aid in Russian-occupied Melitopol. Russia’s FSB have raided the last functioning charity in occupied Melitopol (Zaporizhzhia oblast), taking some employees away for so-called ‘filtration’ and leaving elderly, disabled and other vulnerable Melitopol residents without the humanitarian aid they need to survive.  Russia has been targeting volunteers since the beginning of its full-scale invasion, with those seeking to help other Ukrainians presumably viewed with suspicion and distrust.  Several, such as Iryna Horobtsova and Yaroslav Zhuk, are known to be imprisoned by the Russians in occupied Crimea or Russia, while the wher

Support

The Netherlands to send Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine along with the US and Germany. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told US President Joe Biden on Tuesday that the Netherlands would offer Patriot missiles to Ukraine, Reuters reports. The Netherlands will join the United States and Germany in sending the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, Rutte told Biden at the White House.

Zelenskyy and Steinmeier discussed Ukraine Peace Formula and further defense support. During the meeting in the format of a video conference with Federal President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy discussed

  • the situation on the frontline,
  • the necessity of increasing defense support for Ukraine,
  • and the diplomatic process on the implementation of the Ukrainian Peace Formula.

Germany said tanks will be the first item on the agenda of new defense minister Boris Pistorius. “When the person, when the minister of defence, is declared, this is the first question to be decided concretely,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told Deutschlandfunk radio broadcaster on Tuesday regarding the possible supply of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Reuters reports.

UK wants Germany to allow re-exports of Leopard 2s from NATO countries to Ukraine. Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has called on Germany to release Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine after he confirmed that the UK would send 14 of its own Challenger 2 tanks, the first time a western nation has given its own heavy armor to Kyiv, The Guardian reports.

New Developments 

“Russian warship, go f*** yourself” recognized as the phrase of 2022 in Lithuania. “The few, but extremely strong, emotional and important words of the border guards inspired both the Ukrainian people and the entire free world, from gray-haired grandmothers to military and world leaders,” noted Valdemaras Sarapinas, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Lithuania to Ukraine. According to him, more moderate phrases are usually chosen in diplomacy, but in some exceptional cases such strong, effective words are needed. The border guards of Ukraine expressed their gratitude to partners and friends from the Republic of Lithuania for their support.

27 mn euro from transfer of Ukraine football player to Chelsea directed to Mariupol defender, families of fallen soldiers. The owner and president of Ukrainian football club Shakhtar, former Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, after completing the transfer of Mykhailo Mudryk to Chelsea for a record sum for Ukraine (70 million euros and 30 million bonuses), announced the launch of the Heart of Azovstal project allocating 1 billion UAH (27 million euro) to help the defenders of Mariupol and the families of fallen soldiers.

Serbia asks Russia to end recruitment of its people for war against Ukraine. Russia should halt its efforts to recruit Serbs to fight alongside its Wagner paramilitary group in Ukraine, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in a broadcast by the Belgrade-based Happy TV, Reuters reports.

Ukrainian tennis player won over the Russian competitor at the Australian Open despite provocation with the Russian flag. Ukrainian tennis player Kateryna Baindl won the first round of the Australian Open 2023 against the Russian Kamilla Rakhimova. The game was attended by people wearing T-shirts with Russian symbols, a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and holding a Russian flag. That’s despite the Australian policy of a neutral flag regarding Russia during the competition.

Ukraine invited the Austrian Foreign Minister to the place of deadly Russian missile attack after he called for moderate policy toward Russia. “There he will have the opportunity to repeat arguments about not overshooting the mark to the relatives of 44 people who died as a result of the Russian missile attack at a high-rise building,” spokesman of Ukraine’s MFA Oleg Nikolenko said adding that “we appreciate the cooperation with Austria, we are grateful for the support in the UN and the EU, and we are looking forward to the visit of the Austrian minister to Ukraine in order to develop dialogue in this regard.“

Raiffeisen Bank confirmed it provides payment holidays for Russians fighting in Ukraine despite claims to quit the Russian market. As was reported, Russian subsidiary banks of foreign parent financial institutions, in particular Raiffeisen Bank International (Vienna), Citibank (New York), Credit Europe Bank (Amsterdam) and OTP Bank (Budapest), are providing credit payment holidays to Russians fighting against Ukraine. Ukraine’s National Bank publicly appealed to the management of international banking groups to implement their previous statements and quit the Russian market.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  January 18, 2023:

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced on January 17 that he will implement Russian President Vladimir Putin’s directive to conduct large-scale military reforms between 2023-2026 to expand Russia’s conventional armed forces, likely in preparation for a protracted war in Ukraine and also to set conditions to build a significantly stronger Russian military quickly. Shoigu stated that Putin ordered Russian authorities to increase the number of Russian military personnel to 1.5 million (from the current 1.35 million). Shoigu outlined that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) will institute unspecified “large-scale changes” in the composition, complement, and administrative divisions of the Russian Armed Forces between 2023-2026.[1] Shoigu noted that Russia also needs to strengthen the key structural components of the Russian Armed Forces. Shoigu announced that Russia will reestablish the Moscow and Leningrad military districts, form a new army corps in Karelia (on the Finnish border), form new self-sufficient force groupings in occupied Ukraine, and form 12 new maneuver divisions.[2] Shoigu added that Russia needs to increase its capabilities to adequately prepare its forces by developing more training grounds and increasing the number of trainers and specialists. Shoigu first foreshadowed aspects of this reform at the Russian MoD Collegium meeting on December 21 when he proposed that Russia form two new airborne assault divisions, three new motorized rifle divisions, and reform seven existing brigades of the Northern Fleet and Western, Central, and Eastern Military districts into seven new motorized rifle divisions while expanding five existing naval infantry brigades into five naval infantry divisions.[3] It appears that Shoigu did not include the reformation of five naval infantry brigades into divisions in his January 17 statement. It is unclear if that part of the plan has been dropped.

These reforms demonstrate Russia’s intent to reform the Russian military to conduct large-scale conventional warfighting in general and not just for the current war against Ukraine, as ISW has previously assessed.[4] It is unclear if the Russian military will be able to grow as Shoigu described within three years.[5] Russia can nominally form new divisions but it remains unclear if Russia can generate enough forces to fully staff them to their doctrinal end strengths amid an ongoing war. Shoigu made previous announcements about Russian military reforms that never came to fruition, such as in May 2022 when he called for the formation of 12 new Western Military District (WMD) units of unspecified echelon by the end of 2022 and for the Russian MoD to recruit 100,000 reservists in August 2021.[6] Russia has previously faced challenges with fully staffing existing brigades and regiments, lacking sufficient trainers, and fully forming one new division it announced in 2020 before the start of the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.[7] The restructuring of the 150th Motorized Rifle Division (8th Combined Arms Army) took over a year.[8] Russia will also continue to face economic problems, which may continue to strain the Russian military command’s ability to supply its forces.

Russia’s ability to generate large-scale rapid change in its military capacity depends on President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to redirect large portions of the federal budget to a military buildup and putting Russia on something like a war footing for several years. There are signs that Putin might be willing to do so. Reform and expansion on the scale Shoigu outlined will not happen in time to affect the war in Ukraine materially for many months, but it could change the correlation of forces going into 2024, and it could establish conditions for a much more formidable Russian military threat to its neighbors, including NATO, in the coming years. Ukraine likely continues to have a window of opportunity into and through the summer if the West provides it the support it needs.[9]

Putin may announce a second mobilization wave to expand his army in the coming days—possibly as early as January 18. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov announced on January 17 that Putin will deliver a speech in St. Petersburg on January 18 in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of Soviet forces breaking the Nazi siege of Leningrad, Putin’s hometown.[10] Putin is fond of using symbolic dates to address the Russian people, and some Russian pro-war milbloggers noted that he will seize this opportunity to either declare mobilization or war with Ukraine.[11] Ukrainian and Western intelligence also repeatedly warned of Putin’s mobilization preparations scheduled for mid-January.[12]

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is trying to improve professionalism within the Russian armed forces and likely test and improve the effectiveness of its chains of command down to the small unit level. Several milbloggers commented on a reported list of guidelines for Russian troops in Ukraine that restricts the use of personal vehicles and certain personal electronic devices in the combat zone and sets stricter guidelines for the grooming standards of men on the frontlines.[13] The Russian MoD is likely attempting to institute these measures to instill greater professionalism in Russian troops and potentially gauge the ability of lower-level commanders to execute orders to standard, two issues that were brought to light in the wake of the December 31 Ukrainian strike on a Russian concentration area in Makiivka that killed up to 400 mobilized Russian servicemen. Following the Makiivka strike, the Russian MoD highlighted the lack of sound operational security (OPSEC) practices among Russian servicemen and blamed personal cellphone use—among other factors—for enabling the strike.[14] These guidelines likely are part of the ongoing Russian MoD line of effort to conduct widespread military reforms and bolster the overall professionalism of the Russian armed forces in order to avoid further failures such as the Makiivka strike.

The Russian MoD may have additionally issued these guidelines in an attempt to gauge the effectiveness of Russian commanders in executing orders. The issue of grooming on the frontlines, as ISW previously reported on January 16, has been a sticking point between lower-level commanders and undisciplined troops who refuse to obey orders to shave.[15] While the basic presentation of frontline troops may seem like a trivial matter, in reality, adherence to or disregard for such standards can indicate the professionalism or lack thereof of conventional forces. In poorly performing and demoralized units, failure to adhere to such standards can fuel demoralization and poor performance. Attempting to enforce those standards even in the circumstances facing the Russian military in Ukraine today, therefore, makes sense. The order to enforce such standards is also a way for higher echelons of the Russian command to test the ability of lower-level commanders to execute a relatively straightforward order on the individual soldier level.

Several prominent voices in the pro-war information space, including Russian and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) officials, seized on these guidelines to support further criticisms of the Russian MoD, suggesting that the Russian MoD will likely face stiff resistance in continued attempts at professionalization and modernization. Moscow City Duma Deputy Andrei Medvedev complained that the Russian MoD is ignoring real issues on the front and instead banning the movement of personal vehicles in combat zones, which, Medvedev noted, restricts the ability of volunteers to provide servicemen on the frontline with crowdfunded vehicles and supplies that the MoD has failed to procure for them.[16] Medvedev and Deputy DNR Information Minister Daniil Bezsonov both noted that the prohibition of certain personal electronics will impede soldiers’ ability to control quadcopters and store terrain maps offline.[17] These responses suggest that Russian military leadership will struggle to institute meaningful and sustainable reforms as long as they continue to place the onus for change on an individual basis. While these suggested changes are sound and prudent decisions in principle, the Russian MoD will likely struggle to effectively implement them due to continued fragmentations in the information space that skew strongly against the conventional MoD apparatus. The MoD faces a challenge using improved enforcement of standards to raise the quality of the Russian Armed Forces with such a significant trust deficit.

Serbian President Alexander Vucic called on the Wagner Group to cease recruitment in Serbia on January 16. Vucic posed a rhetorical question, asking why Wagner is violating Serbia’s laws.[18] Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin stated that Wagner does not operate in Serbia and claimed that no Serbian nationals are enlisted in Wagner detachments because “Serbs themselves are doing an excellent job at handling their problems.”[19] Prigozhin’s statement may be a form of sarcasm, given recent tensions between Kosovo and Serbia.[20] Russian sources posted footage on January 17 purporting to show Serbian volunteers serving in a Russian volunteer battalion deployed to Zaporizhzhia Oblast, although ISW has not observed any Serbian nationals serving in Ukraine as a part of the Wagner Group.[21]

Key Takeaways

  • Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced on January 17 that he will implement Russian President Vladimir Putin’s directive to conduct large-scale military reforms between 2023-2026 to expand Russia’s conventional armed forces, likely in preparation for a protracted war in Ukraine and also to set conditions to build a significantly stronger Russian military quickly.
  • Putin may announce a second mobilization wave in the coming days, possibly as soon as January 18.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is trying to improve professionalism within the Russian armed forces and likely test and improve the effectiveness of its chains of command down to the small unit level.
  • Several prominent voices in the pro-war information space seized on these guidelines to support further criticisms of the Russian MoD, suggesting that the MoD will likely face stiff resistance.
  • Serbian President Alexander Vucic called on the Wagner Group to cease recruitment in Serbia.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct limited counterattacks near Kreminna as Ukrainian officials continued to suggest that Russian forces may be preparing for a decisive effort in Luhansk Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued offensive actions across the Donetsk Oblast front line.
  • The Russian information space is struggling to portray tactical Russian gains around Soledar as operationally significant.
  • Russian forces in Kherson Oblast continue to struggle to maintain their logistics efforts in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast due to Ukrainian strikes.
  • A Russian occupation official claimed that Putin will make an “important statement” pertaining to the war in Ukraine on January 18.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin may be attempting to establish the Wagner Group as a legal entity in Russia.

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