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Military And Security Developments
- Russian forces continue to launch offensive operations across Donetsk oblast, particularly along the Bakhmut line. In a rare public appearance on 22 December, Russian Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov stated that Russian forces are focusing most of their effort on ‘liberating’ Donetsk oblast, aligning with the overall pattern of military activity in recent months. Geolocated footage published on 22 December indicates that Russian forces are now operating inside Andriivka, 6 miles (9km) southwest of Bakhmut, after the Ukrainian General Staff had earlier this week claimed their forces had repelled attacks against the town.
- While this indicates Russian forces continue to make incremental gains, other Russian attacks against Bakhmut are seemingly making little progress. The spokesperson for Ukraine’s Eastern Grouping of Forces Serhiy Cherevaty reported on 22 December that Ukrainian forces have successfully repelled Russian attacks which had temporarily broken through Ukrainian defences into the outskirts of the town. On the same day, various Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces are preparing a counter-attack aimed at pushing Russian forces out of Bakhmut.
- Further north along the Oskil-Kreminna front, there continues to be little movement in the frontline. Despite this, Russian reports over the last 24 hours indicate a slight uptick in fighting along the northern section of the front, including an intensification of positional fighting along the Oskil River to the northeast of Dvorchina, 10 miles (17km) northeast of Kupiansk. Russian sources have also claimed a slight intensification of fighting northwest of Kreminna, including various Ukrainian reconnaissance-in-force attacks. Senior Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) officers also reported this morning, 23 December, that Russian forces are conducting a ‘mobile defence’ around Svatove, but provided no further clarification on the status of the front.
- On the southern Kherson front, Russian military operations remain focused on strengthening its layered defences. Notably, the head of the Russian occupation authority in Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, stated on 22 December that an ‘anti-sabotage operation’ is underway in occupied Kherson to counter Ukrainian attempts to cross the Dnieper River. He also claimed that Russian forces are successfully repelling continuous Ukrainian attempts to land on the Kinburn Spit, though given previous Ukrainian reports of an ongoing operation in the area it remains unclear if Ukrainian forces have gained a beachhead on the peninsula.
- Elsewhere across the southern front, the Russian acting governor of occupied Zaporizhzhia Yevhen Balitsky reported this morning, 23 December, that his administration does not currently see any Ukrainian preparations for a counter-offensive along the Zaporizhzhia axis. He claimed that Ukrainian forces are demoralised and have not gathered significant forces in the area.
- On 22 December, US National Security Adviser John Kirby reported that according to US intelligence, the Wagner Group private military company (PMC) has been receiving North Korean arms and ammunition. While the quantities are not extensive, Washington has raised concerns that Pyongyang could supply further equipment to help Wagner forces sustain its offensives in the coming months. Pyongyang and Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has denied the reports, but we have previously reported on credible intelligence suggesting North Korea is supplying arms, particularly artillery ammunition, to Russian forces in Ukraine (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 6 September). Kirby also reported that Prigozhin is estimated to be spending around USD 100 m per month to fund Wagner operations, and estimated Wagner to be fielding 50,000 personnel in Ukraine, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convict recruits. Kirby also reported that over 1,000 Wagner personnel have likely been killed along the Bakhmut line in recent weeks, indicating the very high casualty rate sustained amid human wave tactics and disregard for the lives of its convict soldiers.
- Finally, Sentinel 2 satellite imagery published on 22 December indicates a notable uptick in naval activity in and around the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol, in particular submarine activity. Ukrainian intelligence warned yesterday of potential preparations for renewed long-range strikes involving around 67 cruise missiles on either 22-23 December, possibly in response to Zelensky’s visit to Washington. The latest satellite imagery showed numerous Kilo-class submarines at sea, which could indicate preparations for Kalibr cruise missile strikes.
- Unnamed Ukrainian and European diplomats reported yesterday that President Volodymyr Zelensky will present a peace plan on or around 24 February 2023, the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The contents remain unconfirmed, and it remains to be seen whether it will differ significantly from the ten-point plan Zelensky has already published.
- On 23 December, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak reiterated that Russia could impose a ban on the supply of oil and petroleum products to countries joining the EU price cap. Novak also confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to outline the Kremlin’s response to the USD 60 per barrel price cap sometime next week, after many weeks of speculation as to what option the response will be. Novak added that Russia may have to cut oil production by 5-7%, amounting to 500,000-700,000 barrels per day. A Russian ban and oil production cut will elevate energy insecurity and would likely drive energy prices in the short term for European and other Western consumers
- During a press conference on 22 December, Putin claimed that the US Patriot air defence battery due to be sent to Ukraine in the coming months is an ‘outdated weapon’ and will prolong the conflict, but that Russian forces will be able to counter it. The US Patriot system is amongst the most advanced air defence systems in the world, and Russian weapons programmes have in recent years to a large extent focused on countering this capability, including the development of ‘hypersonic’ missiles designed to outmanoeuvre the Patriot and neutralise the platform from the rear. The Pentagon is now reportedly considering training Ukrainian personnel how to operate the Patriot in the US, rather than in a third-party country like Germany. If approved, it would mark the first instance of Ukrainian training conducted on US soil.
Following President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the US, President Vladimir Putin gave a press conference on 22 December, where he once again denied Ukrainian sovereignty and reaffirmed his maximalist objectives to ‘protect’ Ukrainians against their own government in Kyiv. Putin claimed that Russia wants an end to the war sooner rather than later (notably using the Russian word for ‘war’ rather than ‘special military operation’) and that this would inevitably involve a diplomatic solution. However, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov this morning, 23 December, suggested that Moscow’s desire to end the war as soon as possible related to the fulfilment of Russia’s goals in its ‘special military operation’, rather than necessarily a desire for timely negotiations. In this respect, Peskov also claimed that Russian forces have made ‘significant progress’ in achieving one of its principal objectives, namely the ‘demilitarisation’ of Ukraine. During his press conference, Putin nevertheless sought to present Kyiv as blocking negotiations, seemingly encouraging the West to negotiate directly with Moscow rather than through Kyiv. He also argued that by supplying Patriot systems to Ukraine, the West was actively prolonging the war. The latter statement in particular is likely aimed at undermining Western support for Ukraine given the growing desire to avoid a protracted war. However, the proposed military reforms approved by Putin earlier this week indicated that Moscow itself is planning for the longer term, both in terms of its commitment to Ukraine and its military capability vis-à-vis NATO (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 22 December). Following Putin’s press conference, US and NATO officials subsequently rejected the prospect of talks, stating that there is no indication that the Kremlin wants to enter into serious negotiations. This aligns with our assessment: any negotiations Moscow pushes in the coming months will highly likely aim at securing a short-term ceasefire to allow Russian forces to rebuild ahead of fresh offensives next year, rather than represent a genuine desire to bring the war to an end.
Russia: Proposed ban on activities of foreign freight aggregators reinforces Kremlin control over data and will further limit foreign operations. On 22 December, the head of the Russian Public Consumer Initiative (CPI) proposed banning all foreign freight aggregators, which currently occupy a third of the Russian market in cargo transit data. The proposal is made on the grounds that freight data stored on servers outside of Russia, namely Germany, is being misused and given to Western intelligence agencies. The proposal cited the Crimea Bridge attack, which involved a freight lorry being used to target the bridge. The CPI has already requested an audit of the German company Transporeon, which provides customers with a digital logistics platform for use in monitoring Russian freight. The proposal is the latest example of Moscow’s growing control and supervision over foreign companies and data. The Kremlin will continue to use domestic security and the war effort to justify state influence over aspects of the Russian economy.
Russia-Ukraine: Russia’s proposed military reforms underline commitment to protracted war in Ukraine, reinforcing vital importance of long-term Western aid. On 21 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s initiative to increase the size of the Russian Armed Forces. The proposals will raise the conscription age while expanding the overall strength of the military by 30%, to 1.5 m, and deploying 20 new divisions. This comes on the back of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the US, where extensive new military support was promised by US president Joe Biden. The support in form of Patriot systems will in particular improve Ukrainian air defences in urban centres. However, Putin’s speech underscores Moscow’s commitment to expanding its military and doubling down on the war in Ukraine, ensuring that the maintenance of Western military and financial support will remain vital to Ukraine’s war effort in the long term as all indicators suggest the war will protract well into 2023. (Source: Sibylline)
02 Jan 23. Russia says army barracks hit by Ukrainian strike as it targets Kyiv with drones. Moscow said a Ukrainian air strike hit army barracks in the Russian-occupied town of Makiivka in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 63, as it continued to target Kyiv with drones. Four high-explosive warheads struck the Makiivka temporary deployment base, while two were shot down by Russian air defences, Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement on Monday. The school building that was being used as barracks stood near an ammunition dump and weapons cache. Russian military bloggers said hundreds of newly mobilised Russian troops had died or were missing. While not taking credit for the strike, the Ukrainian military suggested in a Telegram post that the Makiivka attack had killed 400 Russian soldiers and injured 300. The bloggers described the event as a disaster and called for commanders who made the decision to place such a large number of troops in one unprotected building to be punished. The air strike shows the damage western-supplied Himars missiles can inflict on Russian forces, who were forced to retreat in the face of Ukrainian counter-offensive in the east and south last year. But it also underlines poor tactical judgment from the Russian army commanders, according to analysts. Rob Lee, senior fellow at the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, commented on Twitter: “One of the problems with relying on mobilized soldiers is that it is more difficult to disperse them because of a lack of small unit leadership . . . But housing them next to ammunition storage is simply a leadership failure.” Meanwhile, Russia extended a three-day run of attacks on Ukraine’s civilian and military infrastructure by launching 39 drones on the capital on Monday morning. All of the drones were destroyed, Ukraine’s air forces said. “Anti-aircraft missile units, fighter aircraft of the Air Force and mobile fire groups were involved in repelling the attack,” it said. Since October, Russia has carried out regular air strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure as its military ground operation has become bogged down after Ukrainian counteroffensives. However, Russia’s airborne attacks have become less frequent in their intensity as Moscow has started to run low on stocks of cruise missiles, according to military officials. In a change of tactics that seeks to swamp Ukraine’s air defences, Moscow has instead turned to Iran-supplied drones, which are cheaper to use, if easier to shoot down. (Source: FT.com)
02 Jan 23. Russian drones attack critical infrastructure in and around Kyiv, officials say. Waves of Russian drones targeted infrastructure in Ukraine’s capital and surrounding areas on Monday, damaging energy facilities and causing some power outages, officials said, as Russia extended its bombardment into the second day of 2023.
Ukraine’s air force said that its air defence systems destroyed all of Russia’s 39 Iranian-made Shahed drones that targeted Ukraine overnight in what it said was a “massive attack”.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy praised Ukrainians for showing gratitude to the troops and one another and said Russia’s efforts would prove useless.
“Drones, missiles, everything else will not help them,” he said of the Russians. “Because we stand united. They are united only by fear.”
But in a stern New Year’s speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin signalled no let-up in his assault on Ukraine.
Ukraine’s air defence systems worked through the night to bring down incoming drones and to warn communities of the approaching danger.
“It is loud in the region and in the capital: night drone attacks,” Kyiv Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said.
“Russians launched several waves of Shahed drones. Targeting critical infrastructure facilities. Air defence is at work,” he said on the Telegram messaging app.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the strikes had knocked out some power and heating. (Source: Reuters)
02 Jan 23. Volodymyr Zelenskyy pledges victory in 2023 as Ukraine shoots down Russian missiles. Ukraine weathered another round of missile and drone attacks early on New Year’s Day as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lauded the country’s determination to overcome Russian aggression, saying that “when we win, we will hug”. Russia launched 45 Iranian-made drones mostly targeting the capital Kyiv overnight, all of which were shot down by Ukraine’s air defences, with no reported casualties. “It didn’t work out that the holiday was spoilt for Ukrainians!” the country’s air forces said. The latest attack came hours after Saturday’s volley of cruise missiles that Russia launched as President Vladimir Putin was delivering a militaristic end-of-year message during which he pledged to put an end to the “criminal Nazi regime in Kyiv”. Flanked by uniformed soldiers, Putin’s speech contrasted sharply with Zelenskyy’s more emotive message in which he said he wished for “one thing — victory” and that 2023 would be a year of return for Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s full-scale invasion launched more than 10 months ago. “The return of our people: Soldiers — to their families. Prisoners — to their homes. Migrants — to their Ukraine . . . Return of our lands . . . Return to normal life,” Zelenskyy said in his overnight New Year’s address to the nation. “To happy moments without curfew . . . without air raid sirens.” (Source: FT.com)
30 Dec 22. UK military support for Ukraine continues with delivery of counter explosive ordnance equipment.
Hundreds of metal detectors and bomb de-arming kits have been donated to help clear minefields and unexploded ordnance as part of the latest package. The UK has donated more than 1,000 VALLON metal detectors and 100 bomb de-arming kits to Ukraine to help clear minefields and make safe reclaimed territory, civilian homes, and infrastructure.
The deliveries are the latest in a continuous supply of support that the UK has been providing Ukraine throughout 2022 and which will continue in 2023. The UK has also recently provided a significant package of air defence systems, including more than 1,000 air anti-air missiles and 125 anti-aircraft guns, to defend Ukraine against Russian strikes on its cities and infrastructure.
The UK was the first country in Europe to send military aid to Ukraine, sending thousands of NLAW anti-tank missiles early in 2022. Since then, the RAF has flown over 240 flights to move thousands of tonnes of military aid from the UK and international partners, ranging from sophisticated missiles to clothing to support troops through the harsh winter. The UK continues to liaise with the government of Ukraine to ensure that future supplies meet the tactical demands of the conflict as it evolves.
The Defence Secretary, Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, said: “Russia’s use of landmines and targeting of civilian infrastructure underline the shocking cruelty of Putin’s invasion. This latest package of UK support will help Ukraine safely clear land and buildings as it reclaims its rightful territory.”
In addition to providing equipment, UK armed forces have trained thousands of personnel from the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU). A major training programme began in the UK in June, with UK personnel working alongside international partners to train new recruits in the basics of combat. Specialist training has also been conducted on equipment donated to Ukraine. In total, more than 11,000 AFU personnel were trained in the UK in 2022. This support is set to continue in the new year – with the support of international partners, the infantry training programme now aims to train up to 20,000 AFU personnel in 2023.
VALLON can help troops breach minefields and clear safe routes on roads and paths. It can also help ensure that civilian infrastructure and houses are clear of explosive hazards, allowing people to safely return to their homes. The bomb de-arming kits, meanwhile, are designed to de-arm the fuze from unexploded Russian bombs, munitions, and improvised explosive devices. This counter explosive ordnance equipment is some of the latest in a wide range of equipment which the UK has donated to Ukraine to support its fight against Russia’s illegal invasion.
Helping to defend against attacks from the air, the UK has supplied Ukraine with Stormer vehicles and thousands of anti-air missiles including Starsteak and Advanced Medium Range Anti-Air Missiles (AMRAAM). Visiting Kyiv in November, the Prime Minister announced a new air defence package including 125 anti-aircraft guns as well as radars and anti-drone technology, helping defend Ukraine from Russian attacks against its infrastructure.
On the ground, Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) have allowed the AFU to strike targets with precision from up to 80km away, helping to push back Russian forces and counter their use of long-range artillery. The Ministry of Defence has also supplied dozens of M109 155mm self-propelled guns and L119 105mm light guns, along with over 100,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and millions of rounds of small arms ammunition.
This weaponry has been supported by more than 200 armoured vehicle and 100 logistics vehicles to help the AFU move troops and equipment around the battlefield, as well as Sea King helicopters to support search and rescue.
Meanwhile at sea, the UK has donated maritime Brimstone missiles and autonomous underwater mine-hunting vehicles to help keep waters safe for shipping.
In addition to direct deliveries of military aid, the UK has established the International Fund for Ukraine, which uses contributions from international partners to rapidly procure priority military materiel.
In total, the UK provided £2.3bn of military aid to Ukraine in 2022 – more than any other nation except the United States – and the government has committed to sustain the same level of funding in 2023. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
30 Dec 22. NATO’s Stoltenberg calls for more weapons for Ukraine – DPA. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on NATO member states to supply more weapons to Ukraine, according to an interview published on Friday.
“I call on allies to do more. It is in all our security interests to make sure Ukraine prevails and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin does not win,” Stoltenberg told German news agency DPA.
He said it was perhaps even more important that Ukraine receive enough ammunition for the systems already in place, adding that the need for ammunition and spare parts was “enormous”.
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Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in an address to a group of Western leaders asked for a wide range of weapons and air defence systems to help efforts to counter the Russian invasion.
Also, the United States last week announced nearly $2 billion in additional military aid, including the Patriot Air Defense System, which offers protection against aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles.
NATO’s Stoltenberg told DPA that military support for Ukraine was the fastest way to peace.
“We know that most wars end at the negotiating table – probably this war too – but we know that what Ukraine can achieve in these negotiations depends inextricably on the military situation,” he said.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what Putin calls a “special military operation” against what he perceives as threats to Russian security.
Ukraine and its Western allies have denounced Russia’s actions as an imperialist-style land grab and imposed sanctions to try to disrupt the campaign.
The 11-month war has killed tens of thousands of people, driven millions from their homes, left cities in ruins and shaken the global economy, driving up energy and food prices. (Source: Reuters)
28 Dec 22. Scores of Russian missiles were fired at Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities on Thursday in what officials described as one of the largest daily barrages of a months-long campaign targeting the country’s energy infrastructure. “Russia keeps resorting to its missile terror against peaceful citizens of Ukraine,” General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said in a Twitter post. “This morning . . . 69 missiles were launched in total. 54 cruise missiles were shot down by the assets of Ukraine’s armed forces,” he added. Colonel Yuriy Ignat, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s air force, told the Financial Times that in addition to the missiles, Russia had fired at least 11 kamikaze drones at Ukraine early on Thursday.
The number of casualties and the extent of the damage nationwide, almost a year into Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, were not immediately clear. Ukraine’s air force command said in a statement that “after the night attack of kamikaze drones, the enemy attacks Ukraine from various directions with air and sea-based cruise missiles from strategic aircraft and ships”. Local officials in two Russian regions on the border said anti-air defences had shot down Ukrainian targets, including drones. The apparent attacks suggested Ukraine was continuing to attack Russian territory after a series of recent strikes on air bases deep behind enemy lines, including two hits on the Engels air base. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Zelenskyy’s administration, in a Telegram channel post that included photographs of destruction, said three people were injured, among them a 14-year-old girl, after a missile landed in a residential neighbourhood in the eastern Darnytsky district of Kyiv.
Tymoshenko also posted a photograph of a Russian missile that landed in a house in Ivano-Frankivsk, a provincial capital in western Ukraine, but did not explode. Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv’s mayor, said there were “several explosions in the capital”. He urged residents to charge their phones and stock up on water as “there may be power outages”. Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of Lviv, the largest provincial capital in western Ukraine where explosions were also heard, said “90 per cent of the city is without electricity”, adding that water supplies could be disrupted. Explosions were reported in many Ukrainian towns and cities, some close to the frontline, including Odesa on the Black Sea and Kharkiv, the largest city in eastern Ukraine. Russian missile and kamikaze drone strikes on the Ukrainian electricity grid and heating infrastructure have triggered rolling, hours- and days-long power and heating blackouts in recent months. Moscow launched the campaign this autumn after counteroffensives pushed back Russian forces from swaths of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine, where Moscow still holds close to 20 per cent of Ukrainian territory. Klitschko said the air force had downed 16 missiles over the capital. (Source: FT.com)
29 Dec 22. Explosions rock Ukrainian cities as Russia launches ‘more than 100 missiles’ in waves. Air raid sirens rang across Ukraine as Russia unleashed more than 100 missiles on Thursday morning, according to a Ukrainian presidential adviser, and blasts were heard in several cities, including the capital Kyiv. “A massive air raid. More than 100 missiles in several waves,” presidential office adviser Oleksiy Arestovych wrote on Facebook, and the head of Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region also reported Russian missiles in the air.
Explosions were heard in Kyiv, Zhytomyr and Odesa, according to a Reuters correspondent and local media reports.
Power cuts were announced in the Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk regions, aimed at minimising potential damage to the energy infrastructure.
The blitz came hard on the heels of the Kremlins rejection of a Ukrainian peace plan, insisting that Kyiv accept Russia’s annexation of four regions.
Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians, but Ukraine says its daily bombardment is destroying cities, towns, and the country’s infrastructrure from power to medical.
On Wednesday, Russian shelling hit the maternity wing of a hospital in the city of Kherson, though no-one was hurt, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s deputy chief of staff. Staff and patients were moved to a shelter, Tymoshenko said in a post on Telegram.
“It was frightening … the explosions began abruptly, the window handle started to tear off … oh, my hands are still shaking,” Olha Prysidko, a new mother, said. “When we came to the basement, the shelling wasn’t over. Not for a minute.”
Ukraine’s recently liberated southern city of Kherson has remained under constant bombardment from Russian forces which had retreated to the east bank of the river when the city was retaken in a major victory for Ukraine last month.
Zelenskiy, in a video address, urged Ukrainians to hug loved ones, tell friends they appreciate them, support colleagues, thank their parents and rejoice with their children more often.
“We have not lost our humanity, although we have endured terrible months,” he said. “And we will not lose it, although there is a difficult year ahead.”
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Kyiv and its Western allies have denounced Russia’s actions as an imperialist-style land grab. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls it a “special military operation” to demilitarize its neighbour.
Sweeping sanctions have been imposed on Russia for the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people, driven ms from their homes, left cities in ruins and shaken the global economy, driving up energy and food prices.
Russian gas exports to Europe via pipelines collapsed to a post-Soviet low in 2022 as its largest customer cut imports due to the Ukraine conflict and a major pipeline was damaged by mysterious blasts, Gazprom data and Reuters calculations show.
There is still no prospect of talks to end the war.
Zelenskiy is vigorously pushing a 10-point peace plan that envisages Russia respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and pulling out all its troops.
But Moscow dismissed it on Wednesday, reiterating Kyiv must accept Russia’s annexation of the four regions – Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.
There can be no peace plan “that does not take into account today’s realities regarding Russian territory, with the entry of four regions into Russia”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Zelenskiy’s idea of driving Russia out of eastern Ukraine and Crimea with Western help and getting Moscow to pay damages to Kyiv is an “illusion”, the RIA news agency reported.
TASS cited Lavrov as saying that Russia would continue to build up its fighting strength and technological capabilities in Ukraine. He said that Moscow’s mobilised troops had undergone “serious training” and while many were now on the ground, the majority were not yet at the front.
Zelenskiy told parliament to remain united and praised Ukrainians for helping the West “find itself again”.
“Our national colours are today an international symbol of courage and indomitability of the whole world,” he said in an annual speech held behind closed doors.
On the battlefront, Russia shelled more than 25 settlements around Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Wednesday. The Kherson region, at the mouth of the Dnipro, serves as a gateway to Russian-annexed Crimea.
Heavy fighting persisted around the Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut, in the eastern province of Donetsk, and to its north, around the cities of Svatove and Kreminna in Luhansk, where Ukrainian forces are trying to break Russian defensive lines.
Britain’s defence ministry said Russia had likely reinforced the Kreminna section of the frontline as it is logistically important and relatively vulnerable following Ukrainian advances further west.
Kyiv-based military analyst Oleh Zhdanov noted that Kharkiv city and region had also come under heavy attacks which damaged a regional gas pipeline.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said in a Telegram post that the city had come under attack twice, “presumably” from Iranian Shahed drones, five of which Ukraine’s eastern air command separately reported downing over the city of Dnipro. Reuters was unable to verify battlefield reports.
26 Dec 22. Russia’s long-range air force to get new hypersonic missiles – Interfax. Russia’s long-range air forces are to be refitted with new wing-borne hypersonic missiles, the Interfax news agency reported on Monday, citing the force’s commanding officer.
“In the interests of long-range aviation, the development and supply of the entire range of aviation weapons, including new cruise hypersonic missiles, is being carried out,” Interfax cited the commander, Sergei Kobylash, as saying in an interview with the Russian defence ministry’s newspaper.
Russia’s fleet of long-range bombers are part of its nuclear triad, and are capable of launching both nuclear and conventional missiles. (Source: Reuters)
26 Dec 22. Russian troops work ’round-the-clock’ on new air defence positions – Interfax. Russians troops are working “round-the-clock” at new anti-aircraft missile system positions to defend against missile and air strikes by Ukraine, the Russian Interfax reported late on Sunday citing the defence ministry.
Crews of the S-300V systems were “mastering new position areas” of the Russian long range surface-to-air missile systems, the news agency reported, citing a ministry statement.
“The air defence units of the Western Military District continue to serve in the new position areas on combat duty around the clock,” the agency cited the ministry as saying.
The Western Military District, one of Russia’s five military districts, incorporates regions bordering Ukraine, including the Belgorod and Bryansk regions. It also covers the Kaliningrad exclave.
Citing a military commander, Interfax reported that the S-300V battery is capable of tracking a target at a distance of up to 204km (127 miles) and at an altitude of up to 30km (18.6 miles). (Source: Reuters)
26 Dec 22. Lithuania to provide additional training support to Ukraine in 2023. The training will be provided under ongoing international missions – EUMAM Ukraine and Op Interflex. The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania has approved the proposal to provide additional military training to the Ukrainian soldiers to enhance their battle skills.
The proposal was submitted by the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence (MND) and the Ministry of Foreign affairs. As an urgent matter, the proposal was also tabled for consideration by the country’s president.
This initiative will see deployment of additional Lithuanian Armed Forces personnel to train nearly 1,500 Ukrainian soldiers, of which 1,100 soldiers will be trained in Lithuania.
The training will start next year.
It will be executed under the European Union’s ongoing training mission, known as European Union Military Assistance Mission in support of Ukraine (EUMAM Ukraine).
Around 40 Lithuanian personnel are expected to be deployed under EUMAM effort.
Besides, another 25 Lithuanian soldiers will be deployed under the British-led multinational training effort, called Operation Interflex.
Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said: “Allied efforts to provide more support to Ukraine with military training are increasing, new assistance to Ukraine missions are launched.
“Lithuania will contribute actively to them because our security depends on Ukraine’s security. We will support Ukraine until it wins and when that happens, we will train their troops further.”
Separately, Bulgaria has also announced a new logistics operation to provide additional military assistance to Ukraine.
This was announced by Bulgaria’s Deputy Defence Minister Katerina Gramatikova during a Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) press conference on 23 December.
The operation majorly involves sending military equipment, armaments and ammunition to Ukraine under a previously signed agreement on 5 December.
The MoD is currently in the process of submitting associated proposal to Bulgarian Council of Ministers, while the final decision will be made by Bulgaria’s Parliament. (Source: army-technology.com)
28 Dec 22. Ukraine fighting intensifies as Russia seeks to recapture lost cities. Russian forces fired 33 rockets at civilian targets in the Ukrainian city of Kherson in the 24 hours to early Wednesday, Ukraine’s military said, as fighting intensified with Russia deploying more tanks and armoured vehicles on front lines.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in its morning report that Russia forces were attacking populated areas on the right bank of the Dnipro River near Kherson with mortars and artillery.
Russia denies targeting civilians. Reuters was unable to immediately verify the reports.
Russian forces abandoned Kherson last month in one of Ukraine’s most significant gains in the 11-month war, but fighting has entered a slow, grinding phase as bitter winter weather has set in.
“There has been very little change in terms of the front line but pressure from the enemy has intensified, both in terms of the numbers of men and the type and quantity of equipment,” said Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov.
Zhdanov said that fighting had intensified with Russia deploying armoured vehicles and tanks.
The heaviest fighting has been around the eastern city of Bakhmut, a bombed-out ghost town, which Russia has been trying for months to storm at huge cost in lives, and further north in the cities of Svatove and Kreminna, where Ukraine is trying to break Russian defensive lines.
In Bakhmut, home to 70,000 people before the war and now in ruins, Reuters reporters saw fires burning in a large residential building. Debris littered the streets and the windows of most buildings were blown out.
“Our building is destroyed. There was a shop in our building, now it’s not there anymore,” said Oleksandr, 85, adding he was the only remaining resident there.
Nearby, 73-year-old Pilaheia said she had long got used to the “constant explosions”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, calling it a “special military operation” to “denazify” his neighbour, which he said was a threat to Russia.
Russia set out to subdue Ukraine within days, but its forces were defeated on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, in the spring and forced to withdraw from other areas in the autumn.
Putin responded by summoning hundreds of thousands of reservists for the first time since World War Two.
RUSSIAN RETALIATES OVER PRICE CAP
Putin retaliated on Tuesday against a price cap on its oil imposed by Western countries, saying Russia would ban oil sales to countries that abide by the cap imposed on Dec. 5.
The cap, unseen even in the times of the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union, is aimed at crippling Russia’s military efforts in Ukraine – without upsetting markets by actually blocking its supply of oil.
Under the cap, oil traders who want to retain access to Western financing for such crucial aspects of global shipping as insurance must promise not to pay more than $60 per barrel for Russian seaborne oil.
That is close to the current price for Russian oil, but far below the prices at which Russia was able to sell it for much of the past year, when windfall energy profits helped it offset the impact of financial sanctions.
The oil ban decree from Putin was presented as a direct response to “actions that are unfriendly and contradictory to international law by the United States and foreign states and international organisations joining them”.
The ban would halt crude oil sales to countries participating in the price cap from Feb. 1-July 1, 2023. A separate ban on refined oil products such as gasoline and diesel would take effect on a date to be set by the government. Putin would have authority to overrule the measures in special cases.
Russia is the world’s second largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia, and any actual disruption to its sales would have far-reaching consequences for global energy supplies.
PROMOTING PEACE PLAN
Putin has repeatedly spoken of a desire for peace talks in comments in recent days.
But his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov made clear Russia has preconditions, including that Ukraine recognise the conquest by force of around a fifth of Ukrainian territory, which Russia says it has annexed.
Ukraine says it would never agree to relinquish land.
Zelenskiy has been promoting a 10-point peace plan, discussing it with U.S. President Joe Biden among others, and urging world leaders to hold a Global Peace Summit.
In a late night address on Tuesday, Zelenskiy said a meeting of the military command had “established the steps to be taken in the near future”.
“We will continue preparing the armed forces and Ukraine’s security for next year. This will be a decisive year. We understand the risks of winter. We understand what needs to be done in the spring,” he said.
27 Dec 22. Ukraine must demilitarize, Russian foreign minister says.
Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday warned anew Ukraine that it must demilitarize, threatening further military action and falsely accusing Kyiv and the West of fueling the war that started with Moscow’s invasion.
Sergey Lavrov said Ukraine must remove any military threat to Russia — otherwise “the Russian army (will) solve the issue.” His comments also reflected persistent unfounded claims by the Kremlin that Ukraine and its Western allies were responsible for the 10-month war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions.
Russia launched the war on Feb. 24, alleging a threat to its security and a plot to bring NATO to its doorstep. Lavrov reiterated on Tuesday that the West was feeding the war in Ukraine to weaken Russia, and said that it depends on Kyiv and Washington how long the conflict will last.
“As for the duration of the conflict, the ball is on the side of the (Kyiv) regime and Washington that stands behind its back,” Lavrov told the state Tass news agency. “They may stop senseless resistance at any moment.”
In an apparent reaction, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that “Russia needs to face the reality.”
“Neither total mobilization, nor panicky search for ammo, nor secret contracts with Iran, nor Lavrov’s threats will help,” he said. “Ukraine will demilitarize the RF (Russian Federation) to the end, oust the invaders from all occupied territories. Wait for the finale silently…”
A day earlier, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the Associated Press in an interview that his government wants a summit to end the war but that he doesn’t anticipate Russia taking part.
Kuleba said Ukraine wants a “peace” summit within two months with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres acting as mediator. But he also said that Russia must face a war crimes tribunal before before his country directly talks with Moscow.
Both statements illustrate how complex and difficult any attempts to end the war could be. Ukraine has said in the past that it wouldn’t negotiate with Russia before the full withdrawal of its troops, while Moscow insists its military gains and the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula cannot be ignored. Testifying to the hardships of war, families of Ukrainian prisoners of war believed held by Russia on Tuesday said the Christmas holiday season is particularly painful and appealed for more to be done to bring their loves ones back home. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military Times/AP)
22 Dec 22. Wagner Group bought weapons from North Korea for Russian army, US says. Foreign Secretary: President Putin turning to Kim Jong-un for help is a sign of Moscow’s desperation and isolation
North Korea has delivered arms to Russia’s private military group Wagner, the White House said on Thursday.
The sale of weapons last month included infantry rockets and missiles, said White House national security spokesman John Kirby, adding that the US will impose further sanctions on the group due to the sale’s violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
“We can confirm that North Korea has completed an initial arms delivery to Wagner, which paid for that equipment,” he said.
Mr Kirby said the Wagner group, which is independent of the Russian defence forces, is spending more than $100m each month on its Ukraine operations as it emerges as a “rival” for power to the defence and other ministries in the Kremlin.
“Wagner is searching around the world for arms suppliers to support its military operations in Ukraine,” he said.
Wagner leading operations in the Donbas
The Russian military has been relying on Wagner to lead combat operations in parts of the Donbas.
Responding to news of the deal, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “The fact that President Putin is turning to North Korea for help is a sign of Russia’s desperation and isolation.”
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