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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 365: Heavy shelling and fighting in Donbas

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 365: Heavy shelling and fighting in Donbas
Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Heavy fighting in Bakhmut. Vuhledar under heavy shelling. Prigozhin showed a photo of killed Wagner mercenaries and accused Russian leadership of a lack of ammunition supply.

Daily overview — Summary report, February 23

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, February 23, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. February 22, 2023. Source: ISW.

 
Day 365 of the full-scale russian military aggression has begun.
The russian federation focuses its main efforts on offensives on Kup’yans’k, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk axes.
Last day, Ukrainian forces repelled about 90x enemy attacks on the mentioned axes.
The enemy launched 10x missile and 19x air strikes, and conducted 37x MLRS attacks. Once again, the attacks caused casualties among civilian population and damage to peaceful towns and villages.
The threat of russian missile strikes remains high across Ukraine.
Kharkiv Battle Map. February 22, 2023. Source: ISW.
Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the operational situation has not changed. No signs of the formation of enemy offensive groupings were identified. The enemy employed mortars and artillery against the vicinities of Mikhalchyna Sloboda (Chernihiv oblast); Sopych, Korenyok, Hirky, Boyaro-Lezhachi, Ryzhivka, and Basivka (Sumy oblast); as well as against the vicinities of 18x settlements in Kharkiv oblast, including Timofiivka, Strilecha, Starytsia, Vovchansk, Vilcha, Budarky, Ambarne and Bologhivka.
Donetsk Battle Map. February 22, 2023. Source: ISW.
Kup’yans’k and Lyman axes: the enemy attempted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Stelmakhivka, Kreminna, Bilohorivka, and Fedorivka. The vicinities of Kamianka, Dvorichna, Hryanykivka, Kotlyarivka, and Berestovka settlements (Kharkiv oblast); Nevs’ke, Chervonopivka, Kreminna, Kuzmyne, Dibrova, and Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast); Ivanivka and Yampolivka (Donetsk oblast) suffered artillery shelling.
Bakhmut axis: the enemy makes further attempts to attack Ukrainian positions in the vicinities of Orihovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Berkhivka, Yahidne, Maloiliinivka, and Bakhmut (Donetsk oblast). Russian forces conduct aerial reconnaissance to adjust artillery fire. More than 20x settlements, including Spirne, Vesele, Bilohorivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Berkhivka, Yahdne, Bakhmut, and Ozaryanivka (Donetsk oblast) came under enemy fire.
Avdiivka and Shakhtars’k axes: the enemy launched an offensive in the vicinities of Novobakhmutivka, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Nevels’ke, Mar’yinka, Pobieda, Vuhledar, and Prechistivka. In total, during the past day, the occupiers carried out 43x unsuccessful attacks. Russian artillery shelled the vicinities of 22x settlements, including Novobakhmutivka, Vesele, Avdiivka, Pervomais’ke, Vodyane, Nevels’ke, Krasnohorivka, Heorgiivka, Mar’yinka, Paraskoviivka, Novomykhailivka, Vuhledar, Prechistivka, and Velyka Novosilka (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia axis: the vicinities of Vremivka, Novosilka, Zelene Pole, and Novopil’ (Donetsk oblast); Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Zaliznychne, Novodanylivka, and Kam’yanske (Zaporizhzhia oblast); Vyshchetarasivka, and Marganets (Dnipropetrovsk oblast) were subjects to enemy attacks.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. February 22, 2023. Source: ISW.
Kherson axis: the city of Kherson and the vicinities of Tyaginka, Novotyaginka, Antonivka, Zelenivka, and Chornobayivka suffered enemy artillery fire.
The russian occupiers continue the so-called “passportization” of Ukrainian citizens on the temporary occupied territories. Thus, since February 19, the residents of Nova Kakhovka have been receiving propaganda messages about the activities of russian migration service in the city.
Due to the failure of offensive and significant casualties caused by the occupiers near Vuhledar, the personnel of the volunteer so-called Cossack detachment assigned to russian 155th marine infantry brigade (Pacific fleet), refuses to participate in further offensive actions.
Last day, Ukrainian Air Force conducted 11x air strikes on the concentrations of russian troops, and 1x air strike against enemy anti-aircraft missile complex in a firing position.
Ukrainian missile and artillery troops attacked 1x command post, 2x concentrations of enemy troops, and 1x ammunition depot.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Ukrainian company developed and produced a glove for drone operators during frosty weather. The Ukrainian company HardRide developed and produced a glove for drone operators. The company designs and sews clothing, bags, backpacks, and tactical equipment. Recently, it has presented a glove for drone operators, thanks to which the hands of drone specialists will be warm even in frosty weather. The product is made of membrane fabric. It has changeable transparent and opaque panels. Inside — fleece and insulation.

Close Putin’s confidant Prigozhin showed a photo of killed Wagner mercenaries, accusing Russian leadership of a lack of ammunition. Yevgeny Prigozhin is close to Putin’s confidant, managing Russian leading private military company Wagner, which recruited thousands of Russian prisoners for war in Ukraine. During the interview, Prigozhin said that the lack of ammunition prevents his Wagner troops from continuing an effective assault on Ukraine’s Bakhmut. Previously, his fighters have advanced up to 10 kilometers in various directions around the city during the last two months.

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

  • Over the last 48 hours, heavy fighting has continued in the Bakhmut sector where Ukrainian forces are keeping resupply routes open to the west despite Russia’s creeping encirclement over the last six weeks.
  • Further south in Donetsk Oblast, the town of Vuhledar has again experienced heavy shelling. There is a realistic possibility that Russia is preparing for another offensive effort in this area despite costly failed attacks in early February and late 2022.
  • Russia’s Eastern Group of Forces likely still has responsibility for the Vuhledar operation. Its commander, Colonel General Rustam Muradov, is likely under intense pressure to improve results following harsh criticism from the Russian nationalist community after previous setbacks. However, it is unlikely that Muradov has a striking force capable of achieving a breakthrough.

Losses of the Russian army 

Humanitarian 

Russian military killed 1382 civilians in Donetsk Oblast alone during the year – Oblast Head. Since 24 February 2022, Russian military has killed 1382 civilians in Donetsk Oblast alone; injured 3076, Oblast Head informs. On February 21st number of victims of russian army in Donetsk oblast increased by 1 killed, 1 injured. On February 20th number of victims of russian army in Donetsk oblast increased by 3 killed, 5 injured.

Kharkiv is under Russian missile attack. Several explosions rang out in Kharkiv during an air raid on the morning of February 22, the mayor of the city Ihor Terekhov informs. “Kharkiv is being attacked. Several explosions have already been heard in the city. Rocket launches from Russian territory are possible. Be careful,” he wrote.

EU member states vie for Ukrainian workers. In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion, Ukrainians arriving in EU countries could fill significant gaps in national labor markets. However, their potential mass return to Ukraine or competition among EU countries is causing employers concern, as reported by Euraсtiv.

Czech investigators recorded 2,800 Russian war crimes incidents related to the war against Ukraine – Radio Prague. Czech investigators involved in the investigation of war crimes in Ukraine recorded about 2,800 incidents and more than 40,000 damaged or destroyed objects from open sources. They also have information about the displacement of children from Ukraine to Russia, Radio Prague reports. The Czech police had charged 57 individuals with hate crimes against Ukrainians in the year since the start of the Russian invasion.

So far, 91 Russian soldiers involved in crimes in Bucha identified. During the occupation of Kyiv Oblast in March 2022, the Russian army committed more than 9,000 war crimes in the Bucha district of Kyiv Oblast, more than 1,700 civilians died, including about 700 in Bucha. Attorney General Andriy Kostin told US congressmen Michael McCaul, Darrell Issa, Keith Self, Jake Ellzey and Max Miller about this during a visit to the city. They visited the places of mass crimes and met with residents.

Support

Spain to send six Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine after repairs – defence minister. Spain plans to send six German-made 2A4 Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine after they undergo repairs, Defence Minister Margarita Robles told lawmakers on 22 February, adding that the number could increase over time, Reuters reports.

US giving Ukraine extended-range Jdam-ER smart bomb kit – Bloomberg sources. The US is providing Ukraine a long-range GPS-guided Jdam-ER bomb kit that’s capable of hitting targets 70 kilometers away, industry officials told Bloomberg. The Jdam-ER can be bolted on unguided bombs ranging from 230 to 910 kg.

New Developments 

International Federation of Journalists suspends Russian union. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today suspended the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) from membership following a vote of the Federation’s global Executive Committee — for acting “in a manner contrary to the principles or objects…..of the Federation”. The decision was taken following an investigation in to the conduct of the RUJ since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the formation of RUJ branches in occupied Ukrainian territories.

Ukraine and 9 countries will boycott the World Boxing Championship due to participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes. Ukraine will boycott the world boxing championships, along with USA, UK,  Ireland, Czech Republic, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Poland. The national boxing team of Ukraine will not compete at the world championships among women and men in 2023. The Vice President of the Boxing Federation, Oleh Ilchenko, announced this decision in an interview with Suspilne. The boycott is due to the admission of athletes from Russia and Belarus, who can compete under their flags. The International Boxing Association made a corresponding decision back in October 2022, when it lifted the ban on boxers from Russia and Belarus from participating in competitions.

Ukraine delivered four Russian trophy tanks to EU museums, expects tanks from allies soon. Ukraine delivered four Russian trophy tanks to EU museums on February 22, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov informed. He said they would be displayed to the public on February 24. He added that Ukraine expects first tanks from allies managed by trained Ukrainian crews “in the nearest future.”
Ukraine and partners need “information Ramstein” – EP Special Committee Chair. Raphaël Glucksmann, Chair of the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the EU, including Disinformation, stated that if the future of Europe is truly in jeopardy, it must tighten sanctions. Additionally, European broadcasters must stop airing Russian propaganda. He also emphasized that the Global South does not require the European narrative.

US Rep. Michael McCaul in Kyiv: momentum shifting toward ATACMS, F-16s for Ukraine. During his visit to Kyiv on 21 February, US lawmaker Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Biden administration and National Security Council were still split over “how fast and what weapons” to send Ukraine, which wants ATACMS missiles and F-16s, Reuters reports.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  February 22, 2022:

Russian President Vladimir Putin revived his imperialistic narrative that Russia is fighting for Russia’s “historic frontiers” on February 22, a narrative that he had similarly voiced in his speech before the re-invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Putin gave a four-minute speech at the rally for the Defenders of the Fatherland Day in Moscow, stating that there is currently “a battle going on for [Russia’s] historical frontiers, for [Russian] people.”[1] Putin had similarly called territories adjacent to Russia “[Russian] historical land” when announcing Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.[2] Putin did not offer other notable remarks on the progress of the war or discuss concrete frontline objectives. The concept of Russia’s “historical frontiers” could be used to justify aggression against almost any of Russia’s neighbors, as well as Moldova and the Central Asian states that do not share a border with Russia, since all of them contain territory that belonged at one point to either the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire or both.

Putin’s speech also followed his February 21 decree revoking his May 2012 edict on Russia’s position on Moldovan territorial integrity.[3]Putin revoked his 2012 orders to the Russian Foreign Ministry (MFA) to firmly uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter—which require the development of friendly relations between states on the basis of equality, respect for their sovereignty and territorial integrity—and Russia’s commitment to actively seek ways to resolve the Transnistria issue on the basis of respect for Moldovan territorial integrity. The revocation of the 2012 decree does not indicate that Putin intends to attack Moldova—an undertaking for which he lacks the military capability—although it does point toward an escalation in his ongoing efforts to undermine the Moldovan state.

The new decree also canceled the provision of “consistent implementation” of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (START) with the United States. Putin stated that he signed the decree “in order to ensure the national interest of the Russian Federation in connection with the profound changes taking place in international relations.”

Ukrainian intelligence officials continue to assess that Russia lacks the combat power and resources needed to sustain its new offensive operations in Ukraine. Representative of the Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Vadym Skibitsky told the AP that Russian forces intensified their offensive operations in at least four or five directions in Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhia oblasts at the beginning of February but have yet to achieve any significant successes despite continuing to exhaust their personnel and resources.[4] Skibitsky added that Russian forces are concentrating their efforts on capturing Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Marinka, Avdiivka, and Vuhledar.

GUR Chief Kyrylo Budanov stated in an interview with Forbes that the Russian offensive is so ineffective as to be almost unnoticeable and noted that Russian forces have been rationing shells and ammunition to sustain assaults on the Bakhmut, Lyman, and Vuhledar directions while conserving shells in other areas.[5] Budanov’s statement coincides with ISW’s assessment that Russian forces are prioritizing the Bakhmut and Lyman directions and have yet to launch a significant push to advance in areas west of Donetsk City.[6] Budanov added that Russian artillery stocks decreased to 30 percent of the total number of shells.  He claimed that Russia has imported a test batch of artillery shells from Iran and is currently attempting to procure another batch of 20,000 shells. Budanov previously estimated that Russian forces fired about 20,000 shells per day in late December 2022, down from 60,000 shells per day during the early stages of the war.[7] Budanov also observed that Russian tactics around Bakhmut and Vuhledar have largely shifted from artillery and mechanized attacks to infantry assaults due to the lack of shells and armored vehicles. Budanov noted that Russia had committed more than 90 percent of its 316,000 mobilized personnel to the frontlines, which further confirms Western and ISW’s assessments that Russian forces do not have significant untapped combat-ready reserves.[8] Budanov noted that the Kremlin’s stated objective of producing 800 tanks per year is unrealistic and stated that Russia can only produce 40 cruise missiles per month, which they use up in a single round of missile strikes. Russia has already lost at least 1,500 tanks and possibly as many as 2,000, as ISW has previously reported.[9]

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin directly accused the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) of mistreating Wagner forces, igniting intense backlash in the information space and supporting ISW’s prior assessments of a growing Wagner-MoD fissure.[10]Prigozhin accused the MoD of lying about supplying all unconventional units with requested artillery ammunition, claiming instead that Wagner forces receive only 20 percent of the artillery ammunition promised to them.[11] Prigozhin claimed that the MoD’s statement is “spitting at the Wagner private military company (PMC)” and an attempt to hide the MoD’s “crimes against fighters” who achieve battlefield successes near Bakhmut.[12] Prigozhin published a dossier contrasting Wagner forces’ artillery ammunition usage with what the MoD distributes to Wagner forces, an image showing Wagner fighters dead supposedly from the lack of artillery support during assaults, and an interview response claiming that the support of certain regional heads, including Crimean Occupation Governor Sergey Aksyonov, has helped raise awareness of Wagner forces’ ammunition shortages.[13] Prigozhin called on the MoD to fulfill its promises rather than “deceiving” the Russian public.[14] Many prominent Russian milbloggers jumped to defend Prigozhin, spreading Prigozhin’s claims and accusing the MoD of failing to support the supposedly most effective Russian forces in Ukraine.[15] One milblogger noted that the Russian MoD is now treating Wagner forces in the same way that the MoD treats its conventional forces in Ukraine, a clear step down from Prigozhin’s prior posturing as the true victor near Bakhmut.[16] Prigozhin’s complaints also confirm that his earlier boasts of Wagner’s independence from the Russian MoD were lies.[17] Another Kremlin-affiliated milblogger criticized the rivalry between the Wagner Group and the MoD as counterproductive.[18]

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price stated that the US government is concerned about the potential strengthening of Russia-China relations.[19]Price stated that the United States is concerned because “these two countries share a vision… in which big countries could bully small countries [and] borders could be redrawn by force.”[20] Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office Director Wang Yi in Moscow on February 22.[21] Kremlin newswire TASS reported that Yi said “no matter how the international situation changes, China remains committed to… maintaining positive trends in the development of its relations with Russia.”[22]

Key Takeaways

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin revived his imperialistic narrative that Russia is fighting for Russia’s “historic frontiers” on February 22, a narrative that he had similarly voiced in his speech before the re-invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
  • Putin’s speech also followed his February 21 decree revoking his May 2012 edict on Russia’s position toward Moldovan territorial integrity.
  • Ukrainian intelligence officials continue to assess that Russia lacks the combat power and resources necessary to sustain its new offensive operations in Ukraine.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin directly accused the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) of mistreating Wagner forces, igniting intense backlash in the information space and supporting ISW’s prior assessments of a growing Wagner-MoD fissure.
  • US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price stated that the US government is concerned about the potential strengthening of Russia-China relations.
  • Russian forces are likely attempting to increase the tempo of their offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Lyman line.
  • Some Russian sources refuted other Russian claims about the intensification of offensive operations in western Luhansk Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks throughout the Donetsk Oblast front line and secured marginal territorial gains around Bakhmut.
  • Russian and occupation authorities continue to publicly indicate that Russian forces are focusing on defensive operations in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast and Crimea.
  • US intelligence officials stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin may mobilize significantly more Russian personnel.

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