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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 346: Ukraine will fight to hold ‘fortress’ Bakhmut as long as it can – Zelenskyy

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 346: Ukraine will fight to hold ‘fortress’ Bakhmut as long as it can – Zelenskyy

Ukraine will fight to hold ‘fortress’ Bakhmut as long as it can – Zelenskyy. Russia sends Special Rapid Response Unit to Donetsk Oblast to quell riots among its soldiers. A new US aid package for Ukraine includes air defense, MRAP vehicles, and ammunition for HIMARS.

Daily overview — Summary report, February 4

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, February 4, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. February 3, 2023. Source: ISW.


Over the past day, Russian forces conducted 20 air and 3 missile strikes, including, on the civilian infrastructure of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv oblasts. The attacks caused casualties among the civilian population. Moreover, Russian forces conducted more than 90 MLRS attacks.

The threat of Russian air and missile strikes remains high across Ukraine.

Russian forces continue offensive operations on Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Novopavlivka axes, suffering heavy losses.

Over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian Defence Forces repelled attacks in the vicinities of Grekivka, Nevske, Kreminna, and Dibrova (Luhansk oblast); and Verkhn’okam’yans’ke, Krasna Hora, Paraskoviivka, Bakhmut, and Ivanovske (Donetsk oblast).

Kharkiv Battle Map. February 3, 2023. Source :ISW
  • Volyn, Polissya, Sivershchyna, and Slobozhanshchyna axes: no changes and no offensive groups of Russian forces were identified. At the same time, the vicinities of Senkivka, Tymonovichi and Yanzhulivka settlements (Chernihiv oblast); Vilna Sloboda (Sumy oblast); Veterynarne, Hlyboke, Ohirtseve, Zelene, Neskuchne, Hatyshche, and Vovchansk (Kharkiv oblast) came under enemy fire.
  • Kupiansk axis: the vicinities of Novomlynsk, Dvorichna, Zapadne, Holubivka, Kupiansk, and Kislivka (Kharkiv oblast); Novoselivske and Stelmakhivka (Luhansk oblast) suffered tank, mortar and artillery attacks.
  • Lyman axis: Terny and Torske (Donetsk oblast); Makiivka, Chervopopivka, and Dibrova (Luhansk oblast) came under enemy fire.
  • Bakhmut axis: Spirne, Vesele, Bilohorivka, Rozdolivka, Paraskoviivka, Bakhmut, Ivanovske, New York, and Druzhba suffered enemy attacks.
Donetsk Battle Map. February 3, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Avdiivka axis: Tonen’ke, Vodyane, Novomykhailivka, Heorgiivka, and Mariinka came under enemy fire.
  • Novopavlivka axis: Prechistivka, Velyka Novosilka, Neskuchne, Bohoyavlenka, and Vuhledar (Donetsk oblast) came under tank, mortar, and artillery fire.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. February 3, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the vicinities of 24 settlements came under enemy fire, including Novopil and Vremivka (Donetsk oblast); Olhivske, Malynivka, Hulyaipilske, Novodanilivka, Mala Tokmachka (Zaporizhzhia oblast); and Kachkarivka, Respublikanets, Kozatske and Kherson.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. February 3, 2023. Source: ISW.

Russian forces have resumed the evacuation of residents from the temporarily occupied territories. According to the available information, collaborators with their families are being prepared for departure from the Troitsky district of Luhansk oblast.

[The adversary continues to suffer losses. For example, in Bilovods’k (Luhansk oblast), the occupiers converted the Central District Hospital into a military hospital and brought there up to 120 wounded servicemen of the Russian Federation armed forces. ]

[With the aim to replenish its casualties, the adversary continues its recruitment campaign among convicts. Over the past week, up to 1,000 mercenaries were recruited in the penitentiary institutions of Novosibirsk oblast (Russia).]

During the past day, Ukrainian Air Force launched 8 air strikes on the concentrations of Russian troops.  4 enemy “Orlan-10” type UAVs were shot down. Our missile and artillery units attacked 1 command post, 2 concentrations of enemy troops and 1 “Solntsepyok” Heavy Flamethrower System.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Russians do not return aircraft after joint military exercises in Belarus, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ukrainian General Staff. “In Belarus, joint aviation exercises of the Russian and Belarusian armed forces have ended. However, the return of enemy aircraft to their base airfields has not been recorded.”

Ukraine will fight to hold ‘fortress’ Bakhmut as long as it can – Zelensky, Reuters reports. “President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday Ukraine would fight to hold on to the eastern “fortress” city of Bakhmut for as long as it could, and urged the West to supply long-range weapons to help Kyiv push Russian forces out of the Donbas region.

Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress, Zelenskyy told a news conference with top European Union officials following a summit in Kyiv. If weapons (supplies) are quickened, specifically long-range weapons, we not only will not leave Bakhmut, but we will also begin to deoccupy Donbas, which has been occupied since 2014, he said.

The city of Bakhmut has become the focal point of Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s invasion and of Moscow’s drive to regain battlefield momentum. Russian officials have said Russian forces are encircling Bakhmut from several directions and battling to take control of a road which is also an important supply route for Ukrainian forces.”

Russia {deploys] 30,000 occupiers to Mariupol and vicinity – Mayor’s Adviser, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Petro Andriushchenko, Advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol. “The military corps of the occupying forces increased by 10,000-15,000 over the past week alone. Most of them are stationed in villages of the Mariupol district, tactically using human shields. Overall, approximately 30,000 invaders have been concentrated in Mariupol and the region. […]

In addition, the Advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol reports on the arrival of 2,000-3,000 Kadyrovites [Chechens fighting for their pro-Russian leader Ramzan Kadyrov – ed.] in one of the seaside villages.”

Returning fire: Ukraine’s Armed Forces hit Russian territory ten times more often recently, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Novaya Gazeta Europe. The frequency of attacks by Ukraine has increased tenfold within a year of the war, as while in March only a few projectiles hit the border villages [of Russia], in January [of 2023] the [Russian] authorities reported attacks on average 1.5 times a day. […]

According to the local governor, Belgorod Oblast suffers the most from the bombardments, with over 50 settlements having been attacked. Kursk Oblast is the second most frequently attacked oblast in Russia. The local authorities reported 100 hits since the beginning of the full-scale war, including three attacks on the city of Belgorod itself. Bryansk Oblast is another border area, which was allegedly hit 39 times.

The next most frequently bombarded area is Russia-annexed Crimea. The Ukrainian Armed Forces usually target Russian military facilities in Sevastopol, including ships of the Black Sea Fleet. As Russian authorities claim, Ukrainian troops have attacked Crimea at least 36 times since the beginning of the hostilities.”

Zelenskyy states that Russia wants to capture eastern Ukraine and criticises those who relax in peaceful cities, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Russia wants revenge, the occupiers want to capture the east of Ukraine. What to prepare for? We are in the process. We are already getting ready. Intelligence and the military: we believe that the pressure will increase in the east of the country.

Russia wants revenge. They want revenge exactly where it didn’t work out [for them – ed,]. It wants to capture the east. Our task is not to give such an opportunity, not to give until the moment when our army is strengthened with appropriate weapons. I believe that we have every chance. Also, they will want to come back and take revengeful steps, remembering the defeat they had in the autumn, on the Lyman front, etc. Our resilience there also depends on weapons and motivation.

The president states that at the beginning of the invasion, the motivation and spirit of Ukrainian society were stronger. In particular, there was a feeling that the entire Ukrainian society was united and in a state of war against the invaders, but now Zelenskyy has the feeling that some Ukrainian cities are on a holiday. According to him, this is a manifestation of weakness. He called on Ukrainians to remind those who are “relaxing” in Ukraine that we are all at war and to remember the beginning of the invasion in February 2022.

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

  • The Russian military has formally integrated occupied areas of Ukraine into its Southern Military District. On 03 February 2023, Russian state news agency TASS reported that the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions are being placed under the three-star command which is headquartered in Rostov-on-Don.
  • This follows Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s January announcement that military expansion would include the establishment of ‘self-sufficient force groupings’ in Ukraine.
  • The move highlights that the Russian military likely aspires to integrate newly occupied territory into a long-term strategic posture. However, it is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the campaign: Russia currently deploys forces from across all of Russia’s military districts, commanded by an ad hoc deployed headquarters.
  • The scale of the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group’s convict recruitment programme has probably significantly reduced from its peak between the summer and autumn of 2022.
  • The Russian Federal Penal Service (FSIN) figures released on 31 January 2023 reported a national penal population of 433,000, suggesting a decrease of 6000 inmates since November 2022. In contrast, FSIN data indicated a decrease of 23,000 from September to November 2022. Wagner recruitment was likely a major contributing factor to this drop.
  • Separately, anecdotal evidence from Ukrainian combatants over the last ten days suggests a reduced Russian reliance on human wave-style assaults by Wagner convict fighters in key sectors. Significant tensions between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defence are playing out in public; competition between factions in the Russian elite is likely to be partially responsible for the reduced supply of convicts.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Wednesday 03 February, 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 130590 (+720),
  • Tanks – 3218 (+3),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6394 (+6),
  • Artillery systems – 2220 (+5),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 460 (+0),
  • Air defence means – 225 (+3),
  • Aircraft – 294 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 284 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5081 (+13),
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1956 (+4),
  • Special equipment – 203 (+1),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 796 (+0)

Russia sends Special Rapid Response Unit to Donetsk Oblast to quell riots among its soldiers, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Colonel Oleksii Dmytrashkivskyi, spokesman of the joint press office of the Defence Forces of the Tavria front. “It became known yesterday that the SOBR unit (The Special Rapid Response Unit – ed.) has approached Donetsk Oblast from the Russian side. This is not related to assault actions, but to the moral and psychological state of the troops. This unit came to quell riots.

Russian marines are also at work. The day before yesterday, in the Vuhledar area, marines tried to assault Ukrainian positions, and got, as they say, their ‘just deserts’. Thereafter, 10 people from this unit surrendered. A considerable amount of Russians died.”

Dmytrashkivskyi said that the 155th Marine Brigade of the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Federation, which is currently fighting on this front, has been restaffed three times. […]

For the second time, the brigade appeared on the Donetsk front, where it was actually defeated as well. The people who have been recruited to date are not quite competent in what the marines are, the colonel emphasised.”

The number of Russian troops killed and wounded in Ukraine approaching 200,000, Ukrinform reports, citing a report published by The New York Times, which analyzes Russian tactics, referring to assessments from American and European officials. “Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has lost about 200,000 soldiers killed and wounded. That toll, in just 11 months, is eight times higher than American casualties in two decades of war in Afghanistan,” the report reads.  

It is noted Russia suffered huge manpower losses during the fierce battles for Bakhmut and Soledar. At the same time, experts say that the loss of life is unlikely to be a deterrent to Putin’s war aims. Putin can sustain hundreds of thousands of casualties in Ukraine, although higher numbers could cut into his political support, the report reads.

Experts also pointed to myriad military supply and tactical problems to explain the Russian tactics. The Russian military is running low on artillery, standoff munitions. The Russian command is substituting these shortages by sending convicts in human waves to the front lines. Moscow has thrown people it sees as expendable into battles for decades, if not centuries, in particular during World War II, the report says.”


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 31 January:

Individual refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe: 8,046,560
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia 2,457,613
Other European countries 2,716,879
Russian Federation, Belarus 2,872,068
Refugees from Ukraine registered for Temporary Protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe: 4,823,326
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia 2,451,726
Other European countries 2,371,600
Border crossings from Ukraine (since 24 February 2022): 18,159,214
Border crossings to Ukraine (since 28 February 2022): 9,951,742

OHCHR recorded 18,657 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of 30 January. 7,110 were killed (including 438 children) and 11,547 injured (including 842 children).


Russia causes $600-750B in damages to Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. “Regarding the large-scale recovery – according to the World Bank’s estimates, as of June 1 of last year, the total amount needed for reconstruction as a result of damages and destruction caused by Russia to Ukraine is $350 billion. As of the beginning of 2023, this amount may reach UAH 600-750 billion, Shmyhal emphasized.

He added that the number one source of funding for reconstruction should be confiscated Russian assets, because Russia should pay for the destruction.”

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office service notices of suspicion to Prigozhin, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “The Prosecutor General’s Office has served a notice of suspicion to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group private military company (PMC). The head of the Wagner PMC is charged with encroaching on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine and waging a war of aggression (Art. 110.3, Art. 28.2, Art. 437.2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).”

The pre-trial investigation in criminal proceedings is carried out by the National Police. It is reported that the head of the Wagner PMC is directly responsible for thousands of war crimes.

According to the investigation, Prigozhin was empowered to recruit, train and manage his subordinates for further use in combat operations on the territory of Ukraine. All this happened with the full support of the current Russian regime. The Prosecutor General’s Office stressed that ordinary Wagnerites, even those who fled abroad, will not escape responsibility either.”

Russia must allow all deported children to return to Ukraine – EU, Ukrinform reports. “The European Union has urged Russia to stop the illegal practice of deporting Ukrainian nationals, especially children, and allow those already deported to safely return to Ukraine. That’s according to an EU statement announced during a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on Thursday.

The EU deplores the reported unlawful forcible deportations and transfers of Ukrainian citizens, including children, to Russia and within Ukraine’s temporarily occupied territories by Russia. Russia must cease these unlawful acts and all Ukrainians, especially children, must immediately be allowed to return safely, the statement reads.

The EU also condemned in the strongest possible terms Russia’s “persisting heinous attacks against residential, school and medical facilities, and against Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure, notably its energy, heating and water supply systems, as well as almost daily explosions in the vicinity of nuclear power plants.

Deliberate targeting of civilians or civilian objects is a war crime. Russia’s political and military leadership, and all those responsible for such acts, will be held to account. The EU is also determined to contribute to securing accountability for the crime of aggression, which is of concern to the international community as a whole, the statement says.”

459 children were killed, 919 children injured – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of February 3. 3,126 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, and 337 of them are destroyed fully. 67,838 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 16,986 crimes against national security were registered.

New US aid package for Ukraine includes air defence, MRAP vehicles, ammunition for HIMARS, Ukrinform reports, citing Pentagon. “The US Department of Defense has published a detailed list of weapons and equipment that will be transferred to Ukraine as part of a new package of security assistance for Ukraine announced on Friday. This [package] includes the authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $425 million, as well as $1.75 billion in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds), the report reads. […]

The first part of the package provides Ukraine with additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), additional 155mm artillery rounds, additional 120mm mortar rounds, 190 heavy machine guns with thermal imagery sights and associated ammunition to counter Unmanned Aerial Systems, 181 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles, 250 Javelin anti-armour systems, 2,000 anti-armour rockets, Claymore anti-personnel munitions, demolitions munitions, cold weather gear, helmets, and other field equipment.

Under the USAI-financed package, the Department of Defence will provide Ukraine with two HAWK air defence firing units, anti-aircraft guns and ammunition, equipment to integrate Western air defence launchers, missiles, and radars with Ukraine’s air defence systems, equipment to sustain Ukraine’s existing air defence capabilities, air defence generators, Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems, four air surveillance radars, 20 counter-mortar radars, spare parts for counter-artillery radars, Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems, precision-guided rockets, secure communications equipment, medical supplies, funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment.”

Longer-range rockets included in $2 bln US pledge for Ukraine, Reuters reports. “A new rocket that would double Ukraine’s strike range in its war with Russia was included in a $2.175 billion US military aid package, the Pentagon said on Friday. The new weapon, the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), will allow Ukraine’s military to hit targets at twice the distance reachable by the rockets it now fires from the US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

The 151 km (94 miles) GLSDB will put all of Russia’s supply lines in eastern Ukraine within reach, as well as part of Russian-occupied Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014. […] When the new rockets arrive, it will mark the first time Ukraine has seen its rocket range grow exponentially since the US furnished HIMARS in late-June 2022. HIMARS have a 77 km (48 miles) range and were instrumental in Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russian forces, […].

In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA news agency that it was important not to forget what President Vladimir Putin had said in Volgograd on Thursday. In a speech, Putin said we have the means to respond, and it won’t end with the use of armoured vehicles, everyone must understand that.”

The EU wants to train 30,000 Ukrainian soldiers – mass media, reports, citing Deutsche Welle. “The European Union intends to train twice as much Ukrainian military personnel as previously planned. This regards the training of 30,000 military personnel of the Defense Forces of Ukraine. The official announcement is planned for February 3 at the Ukraine-EU summit in Kyiv.

In addition, the European Union will provide Ukraine with € 25 million for demining, which should also be announced during the summit.”

German Government Approves Export of Leopard 1 Tanks to Ukraine, European Pravda reports. “The German government has granted an export license for delivery of older Leopard 1 main battle tanks to Ukraine. Steffen Hebestreit, the government spokesman, confirmed it on Friday in Berlin, without giving any details, reports Spiegel. So far, the federal government had only announced to send more modern Leopard 2 tanks from Bundeswehr stocks to Ukraine.

According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, Rheinmetall and Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft (FFG) want to prepare dozens of Leopard 1 tanks for Ukraine. However, there are still problems in obtaining the required 105-millimeter ammunition. The Leopard 1 is the forerunner of the more advanced Leopard 2. It was the first main battle tank built for the German Army after World War II. The 14 Leopard 2 tanks promised last week are much more modern. […]

According to Spiegel, the government decision concerned 29 Leopard 1s. German media previously reported the possibility of sending 88 Leopard 1 tanks.”

Canada, allies discuss supply of tanks to Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing Canadian Defense Minister, Anita Anand. “Canada and its allies have agreed on approaches to transfer modern military equipment to Ukraine and maintain it in good condition. I met my colleagues from Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Germany and Sweden to talk about our donations of equipment to Ukraine, such as Leopard 2 tanks, Anand said.

She added that “supporting Ukraine, we will continue to work together on training, spare parts and ammunition. Canada announced last week that it would join an international “tank coalition” and transfer four Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.”

Germany asks Sweden for launchers to boost IRIS-T air defences for Ukraine: Spiegel, Reuters reports. “Germany is talking to the Swedish government about buying mobile launchers that would boost the capabilities of IRIS-T air defence systems that Berlin is planning to send to Ukraine, Spiegel magazine reported on Friday, citing sources.

Germany has shipped one IRIS-T system to Ukraine and plans to send more, answering Kyiv’s pleas for air defences to repel Russian missile and drone attacks that have wreaked destruction on cities since the start of the invasion nearly a year ago. The Swedish launchers would help Ukrainian troops protect a larger area against Russian attacks.”

European Commission to allocate EUR 1B for fast recovery in Ukraine – von der Leyen, Ukrinform reports. “The European Commission will allocate EUR 1 billion to ensure rapid recovery of schools and hospitals in Ukraine, and a special secretariat has already been set up to coordinate this process. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen stated this at a press conference following the Ukraine-EU Summit.

She noted that, in addition to the restoration of buildings destroyed by Russia’s strikes on infrastructure facilities, it is still necessary to rebuild schools, hospitals, and roads in Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s allies push IMF to approve $14 bln-$16 bln loan – FT, Reuters reports. “Ukraine’s allies are pushing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to finalise plans for a multibillion-dollar lending programme, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

IMF representatives are planning to meet Ukrainian officials in mid-February to advance discussions over a loan that could range from $14 billion to $16 billion, the report said, citing officials familiar with the talks.”

New Developments 

  1. China says political trust with Russia has deepened after envoy’s visit, ReutersChina said on Saturday that mutual political trust with Russia has continued to deepen after Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu visited the country this week and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. China is willing to work with Russia to implement their strategic partnership and promote further progress in their relationship, the foreign ministry also said in its statement. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a strategic partnershipin Moscow a year ago aimed at countering the influence of the United States and which they said would have no “forbidden” areas of cooperation.”


  1. European Parliament backed Zelensky’s initiative on security guarantees for Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak. “The European Parliament has supported President Volodymyr Zelensky’s initiative on security guarantees for Ukraine. In the adopted resolution, the European Parliament called on the executive bodies of the Union and EU member states to support Ukraine’s peace plan. In the same resolution, MEPs call on the EU and its member states to cooperate with Ukraine in the issue of the Kyiv Security Compact that will contain effective mechanisms for guaranteeing and ensuring the security of Ukraine.”
  2. Ukraine wins EU pledges of support, no promise of fast-track accession, ReutersThe European Union offered strong support for Ukraine at a summit in Kyiv as air raid sirens wailed on Friday, but set no rigid time lines for its accession to the wealthy bloc. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had hoped the EU would put Ukraine on a rapid road to membership. He used the summit to step up calls for allies to deliver long-range weapons to help repel Russian forces besieging the city of Bakhmutand occupying much of the eastern Donbas industrial region.”
  3. Ukraine and Russia reject “peace in exchange for territories” proposal, unblocking “tank coalition”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Neue Zürcher Zeitung(NZZ), which cites two independent sources in the German authorities. “The Western countries’ decision to provide Ukraine with tanks could have been made because Kyiv and Moscow rejected a peace plan that provided for the cessation of hostilities in exchange for maintaining Russian control over part of Ukrainian territory.”
  4. Russia rejects reports that the US offered Moscow a secret Ukraine peace plan, ReutersThe Kremlin on Friday rejected as a «hoax» media report that US CIA Director William Burns had travelled to Moscow with a secret peace proposal that involved Ukraine ceding a fifth of its territory to Russia.”
  5. Putin suddenly declares that Russians’ main task is to ensure the preservation of Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “Our main task is to ensure the preservation of Russia, to create conditions for it to develop and be strengthened. This task will definitely be accomplished. But one of the components of the work to achieve this common goal is the revival and preservation of historical memory, [President Putin said].”
  6. Putin evokes Stalingrad to predict victory over ‘new Nazism’ in Ukraine, Reuters “In a fiery speech in Volgograd, known as Stalingrad until 1961, Putin lambasted Germany for helping to arm Ukraine and said, not for the first time, that he was ready to draw on Russia’s entire arsenal, which includes nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we see that the ideology of Nazism in its modern form and manifestation again directly threatens the security of our country, Putin told an audience of army officers and members of local patriotic and youth groups. Again and again, we have to repel the aggression of the collective West. It’s incredible but it’s a fact: we are again being threatened with German Leopard tanks with crosses on them.”
  7. Germany on Putin’s Volgograd statement: Invasion on Ukraine “war of aggression”, Ukrinform reports, citing German Federal Government, Steffen Hebestreit, an Ukrinform correspondent reports. “We took into account the words of President Vladimir Putin of Russia. A number of comparisons were drawn to justify the invasion of Ukraine. … But it is in no way justified, it is a war of aggression, which is why a number of nations, including Germany, strongly support Ukraine in its struggle. And this is, of course, completely understandable to the Russian president, the spokesman said.”
  8. EU agrees on price caps on Russian refined oil products, ReutersEuropean Union countries agreed to set price caps on Russian refined oil products to limit Moscow’s funds for its invasion of Ukraine, the Swedish presidency of the EU said on Friday. EU diplomats said the price caps are $100 per barrel on products that trade at a premium to crude, principally diesel, and $45 per barrel for products that trade at a discount, such as fuel oil and naphtha. Ambassadors for the 27 EU countries agreed on the European Commission proposal, which will apply from Sunday.”
  9. US attorney general approves first-ever transfer of seized Russian assets for use in Ukraine, UkrinformUS Attorney General Merrick Garland has authorized the first-ever transfer of forfeited funds of Russian oligarchs for the rebuilding of Ukraine. According to Ukrinform, he said thisin Washington on Friday, February 3, at a meeting with Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin. […] Today I am announcing that I have authorized the first-ever transfer of forfeited Russian assets for use in Ukraine, he said, adding that the assets were seized after the announcement he made last April of the indictment of designated Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev on charges of sanctions evasions.”
  10. Senators call on Biden to delay F-16 jet sale to Türkiye until Finland and Sweden are allowed into NATO, CNNA bipartisan group of senators urged President Joe Biden to delay the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye until Türkiye agrees to allow Sweden and Finland to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). […] The group of 27 senators wrote in their letter on Thursday, that […] failure to ratify the protocols or present a timeline for ratification threatens the Alliance’s unity at a key moment in history, as Russia continues its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” the letter says. A productive and mutually beneficial bilateral security relationship with [Türkiye] is in the interest of the United States, and we are awaiting the government’s ratification of the NATO accession protocols for Sweden and Finland.”


  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  February 3, 2022:

Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack northwest of Svatove and continued offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line on February 3.  The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near Stelmakhivka (15km west of Svatove) in Luhansk Oblast. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed on January 2 that Ukrainian forces prepared to repel a Russian attack near the Hryanykivka-Petropavlivka-Synkivka line and that a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group operated near Kyslivka (26km northwest of Svatove). The milblogger amplified a news report on February 3 claiming that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian advances into the Svatove-Kreminna area, which the news report called ”the tensest part“ of the Luhansk front. The news report claimed that the Russian 488th Motorized Rifle Regiment (144th Motorized Rifle Division, 20th Combined Arms Army, Western Military District) regularly fired on Ukrainian positions near the Svatove-Kreminna area. Another milblogger claimed on February 2 that the 144th Motorized Rifle Division conducted successful operations in the Svatove-Kreminna area on February 1 and that Ukrainian forces committed reserves to the area overnight. The milblogger also claimed that Ukrainian forces increased their rate of artillery fire and conducted some counterattacks, which Russian forces repelled. The milblogger claimed that Russian forces conducted attacks in an unspecified area along the Svatove-Kreminna line breaking through Ukrainian forces’ first line of defense.  The milblogger claimed that Russian forces focused on maintaining these new defensive positions and conducted reconnaissance of Ukrainian lines. The milblogger claimed that the Russian 59th Tank Regiment (144th Motorized Rifle Division, 20th Combined Arms Army, Western Military District) conducted successful offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line. 

Russian forces intensified the pace of offensive operations west of Kreminna on February 3. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on February 3 that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near Nevske (18km northwest of Kreminna) and Bilohorivka (12km south of Kreminna) in Luhansk Oblast. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesman Serhiy Cherevaty stated on February 3 that Russian forces increased their military activity in the Lyman direction and conducted a record number of artillery strikes (384) and 20 combat clashes. A Russian milblogger claimed on February 2 that the 3rd Motorized Rifle Division (20th Combined Arms Army, Western Military District) launched an offensive near the Balka Zhuravka gully northwest of Kreminna. The milblogger also claims that the 144th Motorized Rifle Division broke through Ukrainian defenses by two kilometers toward Yampolivka (16km west of Kreminna) and that Russian assault groups advanced toward Ukrainian positions near Dibrova (5km southwest of Kreminna). The milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces retreated to their second line of defense after a Russian attack in the Serebrianske forest (10km southwest of Kreminna). Another milblogger claimed on February 3 that Russian forces attempted to advance near Chervonopopivka (5km north of Kreminna) from Ploshchanka (15km northwest of Kreminna) to push Ukrainian forces across the Zherebets River.  Various Russian sources additionally claimed that Ukrainian troops took control of Bilohorivka. Occupation Mayor of Lysychansk Andrey Skory claimed on February 3 that Ukrainian forces left their positions in Bilohorivka, a claim that other milbloggers amplified. Claims on the status of  Bilohorivka are conflicting, however. Another milblogger claimed on February 3 that Russian forces attacked Bilohorivka but could not take the settlement. Footage posted on February 1 notably shows alleged Russian forces disguised as Ukrainian infantry attacking Ukrainian positions near Bilohorivka. If Russian forces dressed in Ukrainian uniforms attacked Ukrainian positions, it would be a violation of the Geneva Convention on war crimes, which prohibits ”making improper use of… the military insignia and uniform of Russian forces.”

Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut on February 3. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops repelled Russian attacks on Bakhmut itself; northeast of Bakhmut near Verkhnokamianske, Mykolaivka, Krasna Hora, and Paraskoviivka; and southwest of Bakhmut near Ivanivske and Kurdiumivka. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces spokesperson Serhiy Cherevaty stated on February 3 that Russian and Ukrainian forces engaged in 23 combat clashes in the Bakhmut area over the course of a day. Geolocated footage posted on February 2 confirms that Russian troops have advanced on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut. A Russian milblogger claimed that Wagner Group forces have expanded their control near the Siniat Plant in eastern Bakhmut. Russian sources additionally continued to discuss purported Wagner advanced northeast of Bakhmut in the Mykolaivka-Rozdolivka area about 15km north of Bakhmut. Former militant commander and convicted war criminal Igor Girkin noted that Russian operations northeast of Bakhmut are directed at developing an offensive towards Siversk (30km north of Bakhmut). Russian milbloggers claimed that Wagner troops southwest of Bakhmut are continuing efforts to advance from the Klishchiivka area towards Ivanivske (5km west of Bakhmut) in order to cut the T0504 Kostyantynivka-Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut highway.

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks on the western outskirts of Donetsk City or in western Donetsk Oblast on February 3. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces attacked towards Vodiane (on the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk City) but that the pace of hostilities in the Donetsk direction has otherwise decreased. Deputy Mayor of Vuhledar (30km southwest of Donetsk City) Maksym Verbovskyi stated that Russian forces are no longer trying to break through Ukrainian defenses around Vuhledar but are instead trying to surround the city from two sides (likely from the south and the east). A Russian milblogger noted that the situation around Vuhledar remains very tense and characterized by positional battles.

The Biden administration announced a new $2.2 billion military aid package to Ukraine on February 3, including precision long-range missiles for HIMARS. The package includes Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDM) that will increase the range of HIMARS to 151km from roughly 80km. The package also includes Javelin anti-armor systems, two HAWK air defense firing units, regular HIMARS ammunition, and 120mm mortar and 155mm artillery rounds.

Russian President Vladimir Putin continued his campaign against certain opposition voices in the domestic information space while continuing to platform critical nationalist milbloggers. Moscow authorities announced the arrest of Alexander Gusov, the alleged administrator of the Novyi Vek and VChK-OGPU Telegram channels, on charges of extortion on February 3. Independent Russian outlet OVD Info claimed that Russian authorities also arrested Oleg Seliverov for charges relating to terrorism after Moscow authorities recently investigated Seliverov for ties to the Nexta Live opposition outlet. Seliverov is an anti-war activist, and VChK-OGPU characterizes itself as exposing the “secrets of officials, oligarchs, gangsters, security officials.” Gusov denied his affiliations with Novyi Vek and VChK-OGPU on January 26, and Seliverov denied associations with Nexta Live on January 28.  VChK-OGPU condemned the arrests and claimed that Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov and Chemezov’s associates influenced the crackdowns. Putin censored several large opposition outlets in late January 2023, as ISW has previously reported. Putin likely aims to crack down against opposition outlets that directly oppose Putin’s regime or goals, including anti-war voices, while upholding voices such as nationalist milbloggers who support Putin’s regime and war even as the milbloggers criticize the regime for its poor execution of war aims they regard as insufficient.

Russian officials continue to perpetuate the information operation that the war in Ukraine is a direct threat to Russian security through legislative manipulations. Bryansk and Kursk oblasts announced on February 3 that they are extending the “yellow” level of terrorist threat indefinitely due to a need for enhanced measures to protect and defend Russian territory. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on January 31 that simplifies the process of implementing terror threat alerts in Russia and allows Russian regions classed as ”yellow level” of terrorist threat per Putin’s October 19 martial law decree to indefinitely introduce an elevated ”terrorist level.” Bryansk and Kursk oblast officials will likely use this new ”terror level” regime to escalate law enforcement measures in order to crack down on domestic dissent, partially to present the war in Ukraine as directly threatening Russian domestic security in order to generate continued support for Russian operations.

Key Takeaways

  • The Biden administration announced a new $2.2 billion military aid package to Ukraine on February 3, including precision long-range missiles for HIMARS.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continued his campaign against certain opposition voices in the domestic information space while continuing to platform critical nationalist milbloggers.
  • Russian officials continue to perpetuate the information operation that the war in Ukraine is a direct threat to Russian security through legislative manipulations.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line with an intensified pace of operations near Kreminna.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut.
  • Russian forces did not make any confirmed territorial gains in southern Ukraine.
  • Western officials reportedly estimate that Russian forces have sustained almost 200,000 casualties in the war in Ukraine.

Russian officials continue to rely on government-organized non-governmental organizations operating in occupied territories to create the veneer of grassroots support for Russian occupation.

Ukraine and Russia reject “peace in exchange for territories” proposal, unblocking “tank coalition”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), which cites two independent sources in the German authorities. “The Western countries’ decision to provide Ukraine with tanks could have been made because Kyiv and Moscow rejected a peace plan that provided for the cessation of hostilities in exchange for maintaining Russian control over part of Ukrainian territory.

The sources reported that in mid-January, US President Joe Biden instructed William Burns, Head of the Central Intelligence Agency, to check the readiness of Ukraine and Russia for negotiations. Burns voiced the offer of “peace in exchange for land” to Kyiv and “land in exchange for peace” to Moscow. The size of the territory in question allegedly amounted to about 20% of the area of Ukraine, which approximately coincides with Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

The NZZ sources added that both Ukraine and Russia have abandoned the “peace plan”. In Kyiv, they refused to divide the Ukrainian territory, and in Moscow believe that in the long run they will still win the war.

They claim that it was after Burns’ failed diplomatic mission that the US president decided to give in to the insistence of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and approve the supply of Abrams battle tanks. This is what unblocked Berlin’s decision to allow the provision of Leopard 2 tanks, both from its own  and from the stockpiles of other countries.

According to NZZ, Biden’s decision came as a surprise to Scholz, so his own decision on Leopard 2 tanks was probably spontaneous and not thoughtful, as the German side publicly stated.”

Major Russian offensive will end by April and will not be successful – ISW, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Institute for the Study of War. “Andrii Cherniak, Representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, told the Kyiv Post on 1 February in an interview that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the Russian military to capture all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts by March 2023. Cherniak also stated that Russian forces are redeploying additional unspecified assault groups, units, weapons, and military equipment to unspecified areas in the east of Ukraine.

Putin may have overestimated the Russian military’s own capabilities again. ISW has not observed any evidence that Russian forces have restored sufficient combat power to defeat Ukraine’s forces in east of  Ukraine and capture over 11,300 square kilometres of unoccupied Donetsk Oblast (over 42 percent of Donetsk Oblast’s total area) before March as Putin reportedly ordered, ISW emphasised.

According to the ISW’s preliminary assessments, a major Russian offensive before April 2023 would likely prematurely culminate during the April spring rain season before achieving operationally significant effects.

Russian forces’ culmination could then generate favourable conditions for Ukrainian forces to exploit in their own late spring or summer 2023 counteroffensive after incorporating Western tank deliveries, a report of ISW said.”


  1. Consequences and what to do? 

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry forming volunteer assault brigades known as Offensive Guard, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “Ihor Klymenko, Acting Minister of Internal Affairs, has said that the Interior Ministry has begun forming assault brigades known as Offensive Guard to strengthen the Defence Forces and liberate the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. […] It was decided that all those who are willing, who are patriots, and who lost their homes or relatives due to the war should be united in such brigades. We have already started forming units that are aimed at liberating our territories and reaching internationally recognised borders.

According to Klymenko, the basis of these units will be active police officers, border guards, and national guardsmen. […] Klymenko noted that all soldiers in these brigades will get the benefits that are available for military personnel and police officers. […]

Training of the brigade fighters will last for several months, first individually, then as part of a unit, and when the commander understands that the unit is ready, they will move on to performing combat tasks.”

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry’s 8 brigades invite fighters to ‘assault all the way to Crimea’, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing National Police of Ukraine and Ministry of Internal Affairs. “Ukraine is preparing for the liberation of Luhansk, Donetsk and Crimea from the Russian occupiers, so the Ministry of Internal Affairs is forming eight assault brigades of the Offensive Guard and inviting volunteers.

Ukraine is preparing for an assault all the way to the Crimea and the Black Sea in order to drive the occupiers out of our territory. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is starting to form assault brigades of the National Guard, the National Police and the State Border Guard Service, called the Offensive Guard. These are brigades of volunteers, motivated people who will take part in the liberation of Luhansk, Donetsk and Crimea.

Eight brigades versus one enemy. It’s time to take back what’s ours. Ihor Klymenko, Acting Minister of Internal Affairs, stressed that the Offensive Guard are professional assault brigades of the Ministry of Internal Affairs made up of patriotic fighters who seek to exterminate the enemy and liberate the occupied lands of Ukraine.

The National Guard of Ukraine invites volunteers to Burevii (Hurricane), Chervona Kalyna, Kara Dag, Rubizh (Frontier), Spartan and the legendary Azov. The State Border Service of Ukraine is waiting for volunteers in the Stalevyi kordon (Steel Border) brigade. The National Police of Ukraine awaits volunteers in the Liut (Rage) assault brigade.

No rear-guard tasks. Only high-quality training, constant drills and participation in contact-line operations. The formation of units is already underway. The new brigades are made up of military and police personnel who have significant combat experience and have performed heroically on the contact lines. These are our real heroes. We are manning the brigades exclusively with volunteers and highly motivated patriots of Ukraine.”

Applications to join Ukraine’s new Offensive Guard pour in, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Kateryna Pavlichenko, Deputy Head of the Minister of Internal Affairs, on national television. “The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine reports that large numbers of Ukrainians are sending in applications to join assault brigades in the Offensive Guard [Hvardiia nastupu, a project of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine that aims to form new assault brigades – ed.].

The recruitment campaign literally started on Thursday, but I know that many applications and questionnaires are already being submitted. In fact, many calls are being received on the hotline that was set up specifically for the establishment of these brigades. Recruitment is open to both men and women. First and foremost, they should be motivated people who are ready to liberate the [occupied – ed.] territories. It’s a window of opportunity.”

Pavlichenko said people who have already joined the units have combat experience, including the liberation of territories, motivation, and an understanding of how to serve on the front line. At the same time, Pavlichenko noted that combat experience is not mandatory.”

Ukraine should immediately receive longer-range artillery and F-16 jets, Ukrinform reports.  “In order to immediately strengthen the Ukrainian Armed Forces, stop the bloody bath around Bakhmut and prepare a successful counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces, the US administration should provide Ukraine with longer-range artillery and F-16 fighter jets. Former US Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, who serves as Senior Director at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, said this in a comment to Ukrinform. […]

He added that with long-range fire capabilities, the Ukrainians could immediately stop the bloody bath around Soledar and Bakhmut. In addition, the planes could ensure a successful counteroffensive by the Ukrainian Armed Forces or block more easily any anticipated Russian offensive.

Herbst also noted that given the time required for training on F-16 aircraft, it is necessary to start training Ukrainian pilots today. I think if the administration understood the need for the United States’ own interest in helping Ukraine defeat Putin quickly, they would do that, Herbst said.

He also said that the latest corruption scandals in Ukraine could theoretically have a “very negative” influence on the process of further support from the United States. But I think President Zelensky and his government have handled it well, Herbst said.”


Hans Petter Midttun: Less than 3 weeks after Interior Minister, Denys Monastyrsky, died alongside his first deputy minister and state secretary in a helicopter crash, the acting minister launches a program to form eight new assault brigades known as Offensive Guard.

The National Guard invites volunteers to Burevii (Hurricane), Chervona Kalyna, Kara Dag, Rubizh (Frontier), Spartan and the legendary Azov. The State Border Service calls for volunteers in the Stalevyi kordon (Steel Border) Brigade. The National Police asks for volunteers in the Liut (Rage) assault brigade.

Their task? The liberation of all occupied territories – including Crimea – until the internationally recognised borders.

I find that potentially problematic. Not because I question the need for 8 additional brigades to evict Russian forces from Ukraine. Nor because I question the professionality or dedication of the Ukrainian National Guard, the State Border Service or the National Police. Their servicemen are presently fighting in several of the hotspots along the frontline and do so with distinction.

I problematize the decision because it is not the task of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MoI).

MoI is tasked to oversee the interior affairs of Ukraine. The ministry carries out state policy for the protection of the rights and liberties of citizens, investigates unlawful acts against the interest of society and the state, fights crime, provides civil order, ensures civil security and traffic safety, and guarantees the security and protection of important individuals. It ensures internal security and stability.

The following bodies and institutions fall under MOI: the National Police of Ukraine, the State Border Service, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, the State Migration Service of Ukraine and the National Guard of Ukraine.

The latter is by far the most potent body. Following the Revolution of Dignity (Euromaidan), the National Guard was re-established, and the Internal Troops were disbanded in March 2014, only weeks after Russia started its war against Ukraine.

Its tasks includes (but are not limited to) protection of the constitutional system; protection of public order, provision of protection and protection of life, health, rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of citizens; participation in ensuring public safety and maintaining public order during rallies, demonstrations and other mass events that pose a danger to the lives and health of citizens; ensuring the protection of state authorities; protection of important state objects; participation in the implementation of measures related to the cessation of armed conflicts and other provocations on the state border; participation in special operations to stop the activities of paramilitary or armed formations; participation in stopping mass riots and participation in the restoration of constitutional law and order in the event of attempts to seize state power or change the constitutional order through violence; participation in the implementation of measures of the legal regime of martial law; and participation in the performance of territorial defence tasks.

The National Guard is a military formation with law enforcement functions. Following the law, it also supports the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) in repelling armed aggression against Ukraine and eliminating the armed conflict by conducting military (combat) actions, as well as in the performance of territorial defence tasks. In this task, however, it is subordinated to the UAF.

In the same manner, as the MoD is tasked to protect Ukraine against external threats, MoI and its subordinated bodies and institutions are primarily tasked to ensure internal security and stability.

Which raises the question: Why is MoI forming eight new assault brigades to liberate occupied territories?

If the MoD had announced that it will form eight new assault brigades, it would have perfectly made sense. First, it is the main mission and task of the UAF. Secondly, it has already signalled the formation of new units equipped with western-made main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles (yet to be delivered). Thirdly, strengthening the UAF would be a logical consequence of the Russian decision to further increase the manning of its armed forces to 1,5 million soldiers. The threat from the Russian Federation will persist even after its defeat in Ukraine and a peace agreement.

Lastly, in the summer of 2021, Ukraine re-established the territorial defence forces (TDF) calling for volunteers with the exact same skillset and motivation as MoI is recruiting. Again, bearing in mind the development in Russia, it would make more sense to increase the capacity of TDF. These forces are already fighting in several of the hot spots along the frontline, lacking, however, some of the hardware needed to perform its duties.

Assuming that the eight new assault brigades would be disbanded after peace has been restored, being organised under the UAF and TDF, it would be easy to mobilise the personnel if needed as there already is a system in place.

If they are not planned to be disbanded, however, this will be highly problematic. That would give MoI military capabilities it does not need to solve its mission and tasks.

Either way, establishing eight new assault brigades outside the Ukrainian Armed Forces raises several questions.

If they will be subordinated to the UAF anyway, why aren’t they formed as an internal part of the UAF directly? Why establish new military formations that will cause friction between MoI and MoD over manpower, weapons, and equipment? Will MoI need to build new, parallel elements to sustain and support the new military formations? Under which doctrine and concept will the eight assault brigades operate?

To frame my concern in a proper – though hypothetical – framework – which is less focused on their relevance in war than in peace – Ukraine should ask itself: Would Revolution of Dignity have been possible if MoI at the time had had the National Guard and the future eight assault brigades at its disposal?

From a democratic point of view, I am concerned by the MoI decision to form eight new assault brigades. Not because Ukraine does not need eight more brigades but because the Ministry of Internal Affairs does not need them.

I am also slightly concerned because the MoI has not been decided in splendid isolation. I feel confident that the announcement is coordinated with the other bodies of state power.

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