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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 359: Russia strikes infrastructure facilities in Ukraine

Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Russian forces conducted another series of missile strikes on infrastructure facilities throughout Ukraine.  Russian forces are reportedly increasing their use of airpower. Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut, along the western outskirts of Donetsk City, and in western Donetsk Oblast.

Daily overview — Summary report, February 17

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, February 17, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. February 16, 2023. Source: ISW.

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Day 358 of the russian full-scale invasion continues.
During the day of February 16, the adversary launched another missile attack on the territory of Ukraine. 16x out of 36x enemy missiles were shot down by Ukrainian defenders. In addition, the enemy launched 12x air strikes and more than 10x MLRS attacks, killing and wounding civilians.
The threat of strikes by the russian federation across Ukraine remains high.
The enemy has not yet abandoned its aggressive plans, despite significant losses. The invaders’ main focus is the offensive operations on Kup’yans’k, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Shakhtars’ke axes.
Kharkiv Battle Map. February 16, 2023. Source: ISW
Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: certain adversary units remain stationed in the areas bordering Ukraine, but no offensive groups have been found. During the day of February 16, the vicinities of settlements of Popivka, Bachivs’k, Partyzans’ke (Sumy oblast), Veterynarne, Hraniv, and Vovchans’k (Kharkiv oblast) were shelled by the enemy. In addition, the adversary launched a helicopter gunship attack on the settlement of Udy (Kharkiv oblast) from the territory of the russian federation.
Kup’yans’k and Lyman axes: the enemy shelled the settlements of Dvorichna, Hryanykivka (Kharkiv oblast), Stel’makhivka, Nevs’ke, Chervonopopivka (Luhansk oblast), and Berestove (Donetsk oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. February 16, 2023. Source: ISW.
Bakhmut axis: Spirne, Vyimka, Bilohorivka, Vesele, Rozdolivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivske, Stupochky, Predtechyne, Oleksandro-Shul’tyne, and Kurdyumivka came under fire.
Avdiivka and Shakhtars’ke axes: the adversary fired artillery at the settlements of Vesele, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Pervomais’ke, Nevel’s’ke, Krasnohorivka, Heorhiivka, Mar’inka, Novomykhailivka, Vuhledar, Prechystivka, Velyka Novosilka, Vremivka, and Neskuchne (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. February 16, 2023. Source: ISW.
Zaporizhzhia axis: the vicinities of settlements of Zelene Pole (Donetsk oblast), Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Zaliznychne, Mala Tokmachka, Orikhiv, Novoandriivka, and Kam’yans’ke (Zaporizhzhia oblast) came under fire.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. February 16, 2023. Source: ISW.
Kherson axis: Zmiivka, Tokarivka, Antonivka, and Kherson were again hit by enemy artillery fire that caused civilian casualties.
The occupation administration of the city of Hola Prystan’ (Kherson oblast) is pressuring the local residents to re-register their property rights under russian law. In particular, information is being spread that Ukrainian citizens who do not comply with the occupiers’ demands by May 2023 will be deported to russia.
In Mariupol, temporarily occupied by the enemy, russian invaders are taking measures to “mobilize” certain members of society. From now on, homeless people, as well as alcohol or drug addicts are being taken to the enemy’s army.
During the day of February 16, the Ukrainian Air Force launched 13x air strikes on concentrations of russian troops, as well as 1x air strike on the position of the anti-aircraft missile system.
Ukrainian missile and artillery units hit 3x concentrations of enemy troops, 1x artillery unit at its firing position, 1x ammunition depot, and 2x other important targets of the invaders.

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Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Russia likely lost more than half of its operational tank fleet in Ukraine – IISS Military Balance 2023. Russia has likely lost more than 2,000 tanks in its war in Ukraine, more than half of its operational tank fleet, according to estimates released on 15 February by the London-based think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), The Wall Street Journal reports. The estimates are used to inform the IISS Military Balance, an annual assessment of military strength worldwide.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1626238576034738176

Netherlands to provide Ukraine with ammo and spare parts for Leopard 2 tanks – De Telegraaf. The Netherlands will supply Ukraine with ammunition for the German-made battle tanks Leopard 2, the Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren told De Telegraaf. The government of the Netherlands avoids making any statements about military aid for Ukraine. However, during a press conference at NATO headquarters, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius revealed that the Dutch contribution consists of 20,000 ammunition cartridges for Leopard 2 tanks, De Telegraaf reported.

Explosion occurred near Armiansk, occupied Crimea. Local sources claim that the explosion occurred at the Vadym train station in Kherson Oblast near the administrative border with Crimea 9 km away from Armiansk.

South Africa’s naval drills with Russia, China “tantamount to joining war against Ukraine”

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

  • Russian Ministry of Defence and private military contractor (PMC) forces have likely suffered 175-200,000 casualties since the start of the invasion of Ukraine. This likely includes approximately 40-60,000 killed. The Russian casualty rate has significantly increased since September 2022 when ‘partial mobilisation’ was imposed.
  • By modern standards, these figures represent a high ratio of personnel killed compared to those wounded. This is almost certainly due to extremely rudimentary medical provision across much of the force.
  • Artillery has almost certainly inflicted the majority of Russia’s casualties. Wagner PMC forces have deployed large numbers of convict-recruits. These have probably experienced a casualty rate of up to 50%.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of Russian Army. Source General Staff of Ukraine.

Humanitarian 

Another 100 Ukrainian POWs and one civilian released from Russian captivity in prisoner swap. The head of the President’s Office of Ukraine reported that today, February 16, Ukraine returned home 100 Ukrainian soldiers and one civilian from Russian captivity. Among the released fighters are national guardsmen, border guards, and soldiers of ZSU (the Armed Forces of Ukraine, – Ed.). 94 of them are defenders of Mariupol, including 63 soldiers from Azovstal. Their relatives have been waiting for them for so long. Many of the heroes received injuries of varying degrees of severity,” the message reads.

Russia tortures two Crimean Tatar political prisoners to death. Ukrainian human rights organizations called on international institutions to introduce personal sanctions against those involved in the illegal imprisonment and death of two activists in Russian prisons, Kostiantyn Shyrinh and Dzhemil Gafarov, who opposed the illegal annexation of Crimea.

47 days of Russian captivity and torture for pro-Ukrainian graffiti. Andriy Andriushchenko spent 47 days imprisoned and tortured by the Russians for graffiti.  Not just any graffiti, it must be said, but words and symbols that enraged the Russian invaders, as their appearance every morning defiantly demonstrated that Kherson remained a Ukrainian city.  Kherson was under Russian occupation for over nine months, with the invaders swiftly unleashing open terror against the population.  Andriushchenko had decided from the outset that he would not leave.  He explains that when, for example, the security services leave, you know that they have coordinated their actions with the military command and are probably engaged in some kind of tactical moves. When civilians leave the city to the invaders, it is the latter’s victory. “Because this is our land, and they force people to abandon their city, their homes…”

Support

Israeli FM promises Zelenskyy to give Ukraine civilian air defense system – Haaretz. During his visit to Kyiv on 16 February 2023, Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and promised that Israel would provide Ukraine with a civilian aerial threat warning system in three to six months, Haaretz reports. Earlier on 16 February, Cohen stated at a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, that Israel was developing an aerial threat warning system for Ukraine – a promise that former Defense Minister Benny Gantz also made.

Norway donates USD 7.4 billion in aid to Ukraine. On 16 February, Norway announced it would donate $7.4 billion to Ukraine as part of a five-year support package, making Norway one of the world’s biggest donors to the war-torn country. The funds will be split evenly between military and humanitarian assistance over five years, broken down to $1.5 billion annually.

New Developments 

Slovak parliament declares Russia to be a state sponsor of terrorism. Following the atrocities carried out by Russia against Ukrainian civilians, lawmakers of Slovakia have recognized Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Lawmakers in Slovakia have adopted a resolution that designated Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and called its current regime terrorist, TASR reported. Slovak Parliament has also condemned Russian aggression, including attacks on energy infrastructure and civilian targets, and expressed support for Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity.

Poll shows the majority of Europeans believe in Ukraine’s victory in the war with Russia. A poll of Eupinions, an independent platform for European public opinion, shows that a majority of Europeans believe Ukraine defends European values and will eventually win the war with Russia.

Switzerland seeks to confiscate USD 140 mn linked to Ukraine’s ex-President Yanukovych – Reuters. Switzerland has launched proceedings to confiscate more than 130 million Swiss francs ($140.89 million) presumed to be of “illicit origin” and linked to the entourage of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia after being ousted by mass protests in 2014, Reuters reported. Switzerland last year began looking into confiscating 100 million Swiss francs after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but raised the targeted amount to 130 million francs following further deliberations.

Switzerland not to confiscate frozen Russian assets over the fear of “undermining constitution.”Switzerland will not confiscate frozen Russian assets – s special task force has state that this would “undermine the countryʼs Constitution and the prevailing legal order,” according to the Federal Council of Switzerland. After international discussions and several parliamentary requests, the Federal Council asked the administration to examine the legal situation concerning assets currently frozen in Switzerland due to sanctions against Russia. It decided that the confiscation of private Russian assets contradicts the countryʼs Constitution.

The international fund allocates 200 million pounds to boost Ukrainian defense. The International Fund for Ukraine (IFU) will provide Ukraine with the first package of multi-million-pound funding to meet the lethal and non-lethal equipment provision priorities of the Ukrainian army, the British Ministry of Defense reported. The first equipment package was agreed upon by the UK, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Along with Iceland and Lithuania, these countries have contributed a collective total of more than £520 million to the IFU.

Assessment 

https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-february-16-2023*

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  February 16, 2022:

Russian forces conducted another missile strike on infrastructure facilities throughout Ukraine on February 16. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces fired 32 air- and sea-launched missiles at Ukraine, including 12 Kh-101/Kh-555 cruise missiles from Tu-95MS aircraft over the Caspian Sea, 8 Kalibr cruise missiles from a Black Sea frigate, 12 Kh-22 cruise missiles from Tu-22M3 long-range bombers over Kursk Oblast, and 2 Kh-59 cruise missiles from Su-35 aircraft over Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.[1] Ukrainian air defense reportedly shot down 14 Kh-101/Kh-555 cruise missiles and 2 Kh-59 cruise missiles, 6 over Mykolaiv Oblast, 2 over Kherson Oblast, and the remainder over western regions of Ukraine.[2] Russian missiles struck infrastructure targets in Lviv, Poltava, Kirovohrad, and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts.[3] Ukrainian Air Force Command spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat noted that Russian forces have changed their tactics and are launching cruise missiles at night, instead of in the middle of day, in order to take Ukrainian air defense forces by surprise.[4]

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Russian Federation Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova on February 16, confirming that the Kremlin is directly involved in facilitating the deportation and adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian families. During an in-person working meeting with Lvova-Belova, Putin stated that the number of applications submitted by Russian citizens for the adoption of children from Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts is growing significantly.[5] Lvova-Belova noted that she herself adopted a child from Mariupol and stated that she has particularly been working with Russian families to facilitate the placement of Ukrainian children into Russian homes, highlighting the story of one Moscow Oblast family who took custody of nine children.[6] Lvova-Belova confirmed that Russian regional governors are facilitating adoption efforts and emphasized the role of Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s efforts to work with her on programs for “difficult teenagers.”[7] Lvova-Belova’s and Putin’s meeting is likely a result of Putin’s January 3 list of instructions to Lvova-Belova and the occupation heads of occupied oblasts directing them to take a number of measures ostensibly to support children in occupied areas of Ukraine.[8] This meeting is additionally noteworthy because it suggests that Putin himself is overseeing and directing efforts to facilitate deportation and adoption programs, which ISW continues to assess may constitute a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.[9]

Putin also ostensibly made a limited concession to Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin during his meeting with Lvova-Belova. Lvova-Belova noted that some servicemembers are fighting for Russia in private military companies (PMCs) but that their families aren’t receiving the same social support as families of other servicemembers.[10] Putin responded that volunteers, contract servicemen, and everyone in the Russian Armed Forces are equal and that Russian officials are working on providing social benefits to all families, including those of PMC fighters. While Putin did not mention the Wagner Group explicitly, the allusion to PMCs suggests that Putin to some degree sees such irregular military formations as equal to conventional Russian forces. The provision of social guarantees to families of PMCs, especially Wagner, would mark an inflection from Putin’s recent attempts to disenfranchise Wagner and move closer to the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) establishment, on which ISW has previously reported.[11]

Ukrainian officials stated that Russian forces aim to capture Bakhmut by the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, which would require a significantly higher rate of Russian advance than anything seen for many months. Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov stated on February 16 that Russian forces intend to capture Bakhmut by February 24 to mark the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine and plan to conduct a massive series of missile strikes to mark the date.[12] Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin recently stated that he expects Wagner Group fighters to encircle Bakhmut by March or April, and Prigozhin‘s pragmatic assessments of Russian advances in the Bakhmut area have generally been closer to tactical realities than assessments forecasting rapid Russian advances.[13] Russian forces do not appear to be quickening their rate of advance around Bakhmut and are unlikely to meet this reported February 24 goal. Ukrainian forces could always decide that the costs associated with holding Bakhmut are too high and voluntarily withdraw from the city, although Ukrainian forces and leaders continue to indicate that they intend to hold the city. ISW previously assessed that the Ukrainian defense of Bakhmut would likely prevent Putin from claiming that Russian forces secured the city on the anniversary of the invasion in an attempt to renew hope in a Russian victory in Ukraine.[14] The Kremlin may launch another series of missile strikes on civilian targets throughout Ukraine to mark the symbolic anniversary as actual military success continues to evade the Russian military.

Russian forces are reportedly increasing their use of airpower in Ukraine but are unlikely to dedicate significant amounts of airpower to combat operations over Ukrainian-controlled territory. The Financial Times (FT), citing shared NATO-member intelligence, reported on February 14 that Russia is massing fixed-wing and rotary aircraft near the Russo-Ukrainian border and suggested that Russian fighter jets may support an offensive on the ground.[15] Russian opposition outlet Important Stories, citing an internal Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) source, reported on February 16 that the Russian military is changing tactics and has committed to using large amounts of airpower in Ukraine.[16] A senior NATO official reported that 80 percent of Russia’s airpower remains intact and that Russian forces have been attempting to disable Ukrainian air defenses in preparation for a large strike campaign.[17] The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) reported on February 16 that Russian sortie rates have increased over the past week to levels last seen in summer 2022 but noted that Russian forces have not increased their air presence in Ukraine and assessed that Russian forces are not likely preparing for an extended air campaign.[18] US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated that current Ukrainian air defense capabilities are not sufficient to combat a renewed wave of air attacks but stated that there are no imminent signs of a massive Russian aerial attack.[19] Important Stories noted that Russian forces have not likely adequately trained enough personnel to fully crew their aircraft.[20] Russian forces would likely suffer unsustainable aircraft losses if they committed aircraft to extended combat operations like a strategic bombing campaign or close air support, especially if Western states provide Ukraine with adequate air defense capabilities.

Russia and Ukraine exchanged 202 prisoners-of-war (POWs) in a one-for-one exchange on February 16.[21] Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, stated that of the 101 personnel Ukraine received, 94 were taken prisoner in Mariupol and that 63 of them were defenders of the Azovstal plant.[22] A Russian source expressed frustration that the Russian Ministry of Defense casually released Azovstal POWs while Russian authorities imposed a harsh sentence against Russian journalist Maria Ponomarenko for claiming that Russian forces destroyed the Mariupol Drama Theater.[23] A court in Barnaul, Siberia sentenced Ponomarenko on February 15 under the law against the dissemination of fake information about the Russian military to six years in a strict regime penal colony.[24]

Wagner Group financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin continues to subtly attack the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) credibility. Wagner Group artillerymen posted a video on social media on February 16 in which they claimed that Wagner Group artillery elements lack artillery ammunition and are “cut off” from ammunition supplies — implying that the Russian MoD is sabotaging Wagner Group’s ammunition supply despite Prigozhin’s claims that the Wagner Group is the main combat-ready force on the frontlines.[25] Prigozhin amplified this narrative when Russian media asked for his comment about the video, stating that these artillerymen are effective fighters simply asking for necessary supplies for success on the battlefield.[26] Prigozhin stated that he personally has had to appeal to “offices in Moscow” to secure resources before and that the fact that he has had to ask for ammunition does not undermine the Russian military’s credibility.[27] Prigozhin’s statement nonetheless promotes the larger narrative that the Russian MoD’s incompetence is hamstringing Wagner Group’s frontline forces and supports his larger effort to portray the Russian MoD as ineffective and corrupt.[28]

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces conducted another series of missile strikes on infrastructure facilities throughout Ukraine on February 16.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Russian Federation Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova on February 16, confirming that the Kremlin is directly involved in facilitating the deportation and adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian families.
  • Ukrainian officials stated that Russian forces aim to capture Bakhmut by the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, which would require a significantly higher rate of Russian advance than has been recently observed.
  • Russian forces are reportedly increasing their use of airpower in Ukraine but are unlikely to attempt dramatically increased air operations over Ukrainian-controlled territory.
  • Russia and Ukraine exchanged 202 prisoners-of-war (POWs) in a one-for-one exchange.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin continues to subtly attack the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) credibility.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut, along the western outskirts of Donetsk City, and in western Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued reconnaissance activities along the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is reportedly continuing its prison recruitment efforts.
  • Russian occupation officials continued efforts to integrate occupied areas into the Russian legal system.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko reiterated his longstanding boilerplate rhetoric that Belarusian forces will attack Ukraine if Ukraine or the West attacks Belarus.

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