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Military And Security Developments
- PEACE NEGOTIATIONS: On 5 January, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to implement a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark Orthodox Christmas. The proposed ceasefire, from 1200 hrs (Moscow time) on 6 January to 2400 hrs on 7 January, comes after Patriarch Kirill called for a Christmas truce. However, as we previously reported, any truce was highly unlikely to hold (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 5 January), and Kyiv has already rejected the unilateral ceasefire as ‘hypocritical’. Exchanges of artillery fire have already been reported on both sides following the 1200 hrs deadline. Ultimately, a temporary ceasefire would serve Russian, not Ukrainian, interests at this stage, and allow Russian forces to rest, reconstitute and deprive the Ukrainians of the initiative they have won on various sections of the front.
- ATTACKS: The ceasefire is also likely aimed at appealing to Putin’s Orthodox base, and will likely be utilised by the Russian Orthodox Church to cast Putin as a defender of Orthodoxy. This is particularly likely due to the ongoing power struggle between the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine (UOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) for control of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. In this respect, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk this morning (6 January) warned individuals living in occupied territories to avoid attending church services on 7 January, due to unconfirmed Ukrainian intelligence that Russian forces are preparing ‘terrorist attacks in churches’. False-flag attacks against Orthodox worshippers remain a credible threat in the coming 48 hours, and would likely support the Kremlin’s narrative that Kyiv is conducting genocide against Russian speakers and the Orthodox faithful. For further analysis of the proposed Christmas ceasefire, see the FORECAST below.
- BAKHMUT: Fighting remains intense along the Bakhmut line, though unconfirmed reports indicate that Ukrainian forces executed a successful, if limited, counter-attack from Bakhmut. According to a report by the Ukrainian State Border Guards Service from 4 January, Ukrainian forces successfully forced the Russians to withdraw in an unspecified area around the town, allowing Ukrainian forces to advance some 300m. This remains unconfirmed, and Russian sources have denied the reports, claiming instead that Russian forces have continued to make incremental gains on the southern and eastern outskirts of Bakhmut. Fighting also continues further south, to the west of Donetsk city, but despite continual positional battles there have been very few notable developments or shifts to the frontline in recent weeks.
- OKSIL-KREMINNA: Both Russian and Ukrainian forces are struggling to gain momentum during largely positional battles in northern Luhansk oblast, which has likely led to the deployment of additional forces on both sides. The Ukrainian General Staff has continued reporting that their forces have repulsed various limited Russian attacks around Kupiansk, while various Russian sources claim that elements of the 3rd Motorised Rifle Division of the 20th Guards Combined Arms Army (CAA) are conducting offensive operations near Ploshchanka-Makiivka, 11 miles (18km) northwest of Kreminna.
- This morning, 6 January, former Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) ambassador to Moscow, Rodion Miroshnik, reported that Ukrainian forces are withdrawing their reserves from the Svatove direction towards Kreminna. Miroshnik anticipates that Ukrainian forces have decided to concentrate forces towards Kreminna, rather than disperse them along the wider Oskil-Kreminna line, but it remains to be seen whether this is accurate. Meanwhile, Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai reported on 5 January that a ‘huge influx’ of additional units of mobilised and Wagner Group forces have been deployed to the Kreminna area due to Russian perceptions that the situation along this front is deteriorating. Various sources have reported an increase in overall troop numbers on both sides along the Oskil-Kreminna front. As such, fighting is likely to intensify over the coming weeks if both sides commit these forces to offensive and counter-offensive operations.
- SOUTHERN: Few notable developments along the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia frontlines over the last 24 hours, with fighting primarily limited to artillery duels and small reconnaissance raids along the Dnieper River. Russian sources did, however, claim some limited advances for their forces along the Zaporizhzhia line on 5 January, specifically around Dorozhnyanka, around 50 miles (81km) south-east of Zaporizhzhia, which Russian sources claimed to have captured on 31 December 2022.
- DIPLOMACY: On 5 January, President Putin had a telephone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, where he once again reaffirmed Moscow’s maximalist objectives in Ukraine. During the call, Putin stated that the Kremlin remains open to negotiations, but that any negotiations need to acknowledge ‘new territorial realities’, aligning with previous Kremlin statements that ceding the occupied territories remains the condition for talks (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 3 January).
- AID: In recent days, the US, France and Germany have all committed to providing Ukraine with previous-generation infantry fighting vehicles, which will provide a notable boost to Ukrainian ground capability when delivered. On 4 January, France announced it would supply AMX-10s, akin to ‘light’ tanks, which marked a step toward the provision of Western-made tanks to Ukraine. Western countries have so far declined to supply Ukraine with NATO-standard battle tanks, citing possible reprisals from Russia, but the likelihood of such systems being provided in the coming months is increasing. Yesterday, 5 January, the US confirmed it will supply Bradley fighting vehicles as part of its latest USD 3 billion military aid package, while Berlin also confirmed it would provide an undisclosed number of Marder vehicles, which the Bundeswehr are currently phasing out.
- In addition, and most notably, Berlin has confirmed it will provide an additional Patriot air defence system to Ukraine – a significant development as the US has up until now been the only country that has committed to supplying a single system. The Pentagon also confirmed on 5 January that it is considering training Ukrainians to use the Patriot system on US soil. These latest developments all point to robust, and growing, military support amongst Ukraine’s Western partners. The infantry fighting vehicle announcements also illustrate that coordination amongst NATO allies can assuage concerns that providing more advanced capabilities increases the risk of escalation. This sets conditions for the provision of ever-more advanced systems in the months ahead, including potentially main battle tanks.
- For more strategic analysis and escalation outcomes to the current conflict in Ukraine, see our Scenario Planning and Projections and Ukrainian Victory Scenarios and Implications reports.
PEACE NEGOTIATIONS: High likely that Putin’s Christmas truce reflects established patterns of ‘goodwill gestures’ and unilateral ceasefires which have previously attempted to cast Ukraine as the aggressor. The Russians have frequently used so-called ‘goodwill gestures’ to justify more pragmatic military decisions, namely the withdrawal from Kyiv in April and the abandonment of Snake Island in June. As we have anticipated in previous reporting, any ceasefire pushed by Moscow is highly likely to only serve as an opportunity for Russian forces to regroup before launching fresh offensives . The Kremlin has shown no signs of a genuine desire to reach a compromise and end the fighting in recent months. As such, the appeal for a Christmas truce is likely designed as a ‘win-win’ information operation. If the Ukrainians agreed, which remained highly unlikely in any case, it would have allowed Russian forces to rest, relieve pressure and potential ammunition shortages, and launch renewed offensives in the coming days. However, if the Ukrainians refused, as they have, Russia can attempt to claim the moral high ground by claiming that Kyiv has violated the ceasefire, and has once again refused to entertain peace or take steps that would facilitate negotiations. Russian state media have already reported on Ukrainian artillery strikes against Donetsk at precisely 1200 hrs (Moscow time) when the ceasefire began. In the coming hours, we anticipate statements from the Kremlin condemning Ukrainian ‘violations’ of the Christmas ceasefire and accusations that Kyiv, not Moscow, is preventing peace negotiations. In the meantime, fighting is set to continue across the frontline throughout the Orthodox Christmas period over the next 48 hours. It is furthermore notable that the Christmas ceasefire was met with extreme disapproval from the hardliner and pro-war military blogging community that influences large portions of Russia’s information space. This response indicates that the domestic constituency most likely to influence Kremlin decision-making is overwhelmingly opposed to any form of negotiations or even a temporary ceasefire. While latent anti-war sentiment remains underreported due to Kremlin repression, anti-war factions do not have a voice in the Kremlin and wider Russian society at present. As such, the angry response to the Christmas ceasefire announcement from hardliners only confirms that the sections of Russian society that currently matter to the Kremlin remain steadfast in their desire to continue the war and opposition to any compromise deal.
Russia-Ukraine: Hostilities will continue despite Russian unilateral Christmas ceasefire announcement. On 5 January, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to implement a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark Orthodox Christmas. Putin’s order comes after a call by the Russian Orthodox Church’s spiritual leader Patriarch Kirill. The proposed ceasefire is planned to take place from 1200 today (6 January) and last until midnight 7 January. However, Kyiv has already rejected the ceasefire, calling it ‘hypocritical’. Moscow has so far shown no signs of a genuine desire to reach a compromise and end the fighting in recent months. The ceasefire likely serves as a ‘win-win’ information operation for Russia: if it came into force, it would have allowed the Russian military to regroup before renewing attacks; if rejected, as has happened, it will allow Moscow to paint Ukraine as the aggressor. Ultimately, fighting is set to continue over the Orthodox Christmas period, with both sides showing no genuine readiness to enter into negotiations.
- MILITARY: On 4 January, Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) chief, Kyrylo Budanov, stated that Ukrainian forces are planning to conduct a major counter-offensive in the spring. He anticipates that the fiercest battles will take place in March. Budanov also stated that the counter-offensive will take place ‘from Crimea to Donbas’ and will aim to liberate all territories back to the 1991 borders and inflict a final defeat on the Russian Federation. We have been tracking the possibility of fresh Ukrainian counter-offensives in recent weeks. While the planned spring offensive will likely represent Ukraine’s principal effort of early 2023, Ukrainian forces are likely to continue counter-offensive operations until then, particularly in northern Luhansk oblast along the Oskil-Kreminna line. Any such operations will likely be aimed at maintaining the initiative and setting conditions for a broader spring offensive in February/March.
- BAKHMUT: Over the last 24-48 hours, the most significant developments along the Bakhmut line have involved marginal Russian gains on the southern outskirts of Soledar, a town located six miles (10km) north-east of Bakhmut. Russian sources claimed on 4 January that their forces had taken three unnamed Ukrainian positions and had also assumed control of the Deksonska railway station south of the town. Notably, the commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrsky, reported on 4 January that both sides had engaged in ground combat 22 times over the previous 24 hours, and that Russian forces had launched 238 artillery, MLRS and tank strikes. These reports demonstrate the intensity of fighting along this axis.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Russian forces have continued to launch limited attacks around Kupiansk and north-west of Svatove, though are unlikely to have made notable advances. On 3 January, Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny reported that ‘fierce fighting’ continues along the Svatove-Kreminna line, as well as in the direction of Lysychansk. This may refer to fighting around Bilohorivka, which is located eight miles (12km) north-west of Lysychansk, where Russian forces have seemingly made marginal gains in recent days. However, there are few notable developments to report regarding the last 24 hours.
- SOUTHERN: Ukrainian officials reported on 4 January that Russian forces continue to rebuild their capability along both the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia frontlines. GUR spokesperson Andriy Chernyak reported that Russian forces are deploying additional units in northern Crimea in a bid to shore up the defences of the land corridor connecting Crimea to mainland Russia. Chernyak claims that Russian forces are currently building fortifications in this area due to their belief that they will have to fight there eventually. Other Ukrainian military spokespeople also confirmed that Russian forces were active on islands in the Dnieper river delta south of Kherson city. These islands are not controlled by either side. This comes after reports of a Ukrainian attack against Velykyi Potomkin Island (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 4 January).
- PARTISAN: According to Ukrainian intelligence, unknown actors stopped the movement of trains in Krasnoyarsk (Russia). Kyiv claims this is evidence of increasing partisan activity in Russia. The raid reportedly took place on 4 January and prevented the movement of military transport along a section of the Trans-Siberian Railway. We previously reported on possible partisan activity inside Russia. The GUR claims that the latest attack is likely to be ‘at least the sixth case’ of deliberate destruction of railway infrastructure in Russia, reflecting a possible intensification of ‘railway partisan’ activity. Together with Ukrainian long-range drone and sabotage operations deep inside Russian rear areas, sporadic anti-war partisan activity will continue to pose a credible threat to Russian infrastructure located far from the frontline.
- MARITIME: On 4 January, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched Russia’s newest and most advanced frigate, the Admiral Gorshkov. The frigate will tour the Atlantic and Indian oceans, as well as the Mediterranean sea. It will commence its tour from an undisclosed port in northern Russia. It is the first Russian vessel to be armed with Tsirkon hypersonic missiles, which Moscow claims can reach speeds of Mach-9 (nine times the speed of sound), though NATO estimates can only reach Mach-8. In any case, Mach-8 would make it the fastest anti-ship missile in the world. However, given Turkey has invoked the Montreux Convention which prevents warships passing through the Turkish Straits into the Black Sea, it remains unlikely that the Admiral Gorshkov will play an active role in the war in Ukraine. In order to reach Ukrainian land targets, the Gorshkov would have to fire its missiles over NATO airspace from the Mediterranean. This would mark a significant escalation which Moscow is unlikely to desire at this stage. As such, the maidan tour of the Gorshkov is primarily political and symbolic in nature, and aimed at projecting Russian naval power and demonstrating advanced capability to NATO.
- STRIKES: Ukraine’s GUR reported on 4 January that Russian forces are currently encountering problems replenishing stocks of high-precision missiles. Spokesperson Vadym Skibitsky updated Kyiv’s latest estimates for Russia’s domestic production of various missile systems, stating that Russia is now capable of producing 30 Kh-101 cruise missiles and 15-20 sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles per month. However, the GUR estimates that in order to maintain the rate of long-range strikes against Ukraine, which come roughly every 1-2 weeks, Russia has eaten into its strategic reserve of all missile types. Russian doctrine maintains that reserves should be no less than 30% of stockpile numbers.
- MUNITIONS: Kyiv now estimates that Russia has 160 Soviet-era Kh-22 cruise missiles, and that its numbers of Kinzhal ‘hypersonic’ missiles (air-launched versions of Iskandr ballistic missiles) are limited. Notably, Ukrainian attacks against Russian strategic long-range aviation bases, namely the Engels-2 base in Saratov, have forced Russia to relocate much of its strategic bomber fleet to its far east. While these assets will still be able to target Ukrainian infrastructure, the UK’s Defence Intelligence reported earlier on 5 January that the relocation of Russian bombers will exacerbate maintenance issues. For further analysis of Russia’s long-range strike capabilities, see the Forecast below.
- PEACE NEGOTIATIONS: On 5 January, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill called for a Christmas truce in ‘Ukraine and Donbas’ ahead of Orthodox Christmas (6-7 January). Given the schism between the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches, the growing furore over control of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and Patriarch Kirill’s steadfast support for Moscow’s invasion, it remains unlikely that the church will be able to facilitate a temporary Christmas truce. Neither side has shown any inclination towards temporary ceasefires to mark important holidays or religious festivals.
- BELARUS: We are continuing to monitor for triggers, warnings and indicators that would warrant a change in our assessment that Russia is unlikely to launch a renewed offensive against Kyiv. Earlier on 5 January, the State Border Committee of Belarus alleged there have been ‘isolated cases of provocations from the Ukrainian side’ along the border in recent days. These alleged provocations include weapons being aimed at Belarusian positions. This statement is consistent with Minsk’s regular accusations that Ukraine is deliberately driving tensions along the border. It is unlikely to represent any notable escalation.
- BELARUS: While the situation along the Belarusian-Ukrainian border remains stable, reports detailing the poor state of repair of Russian units in Belarus further indicate the low likelihood of Russia building a strike force capable of threatening Kyiv. On 4 January, a prominent pro-war Russian Telegram account shared unconfirmed reports about the apparent poor state of a tank battalion in Russia’s 2nd Motorised Rifle Division. The battalion is likely reorganising in Belarus. According to alleged members of the unit, the battalion has been officially signed off as ‘combat ready’ and is due to deploy in the near future. In reality, the unit’s equipment (including its tanks) is in poor condition. Furthermore, an alleged total absence of spare parts has reportedly undermined repair efforts for months. While unconfirmed, the report is likely indicative of widespread problems facing not only the 2nd Motorised Rifle Division in Belarus, but other Russian units as well. While the 2nd Motorised Rifle Division could ultimately be committed anywhere in Ukraine, this is the latest indicator that Russian forces in Belarus are struggling to reconstitute offensive capability at a significant scale.
STRIKES: The Ukrainian Air Force reported on 4 January that Russia has used 660 Iranian-produced Shahed-136 and 131 drones since September 2022. However, despite high interdiction rates they still pose a major threat to Ukrainian cities. Spokesperson for the air force Yuriy Ihnat reported that Russian forces are utilising Shahed drones because they can better evade radar by flying at low altitudes. Ihnat also warned that even when Ukrainian air defences interdict 100% of drones during an attack, they can still damage Ukrainian infrastructure, as their warhead often does not detonate when intercepted by air defences. As a result, their warhead can still detonate upon impact with the ground. This underscores the enduring collateral damage threat posed to Ukrainian urban centres targeted by these low-cost systems. Vadym Skibitsky, a spokesperson for the GUR, reported on 4 January that Russia has placed an order for 1,750 drones from Iran. While recent strikes likely mean a significant portion of existing stocks has been expended, Ukrainian intelligence indicates that Moscow is due to receive another shipment from Iran at an unspecified date. As such, kamikaze drone waves are likely to continue to support more impactful cruise missile strikes for the foreseeable future. Notably, Ukrainian intelligence reports cited by CNN on 4 January revealed that components produced by over a dozen US and Western companies have been found in Iranian-produced Shahed-136 drones. This illustrates the limited impact of existing US and Western sanctions on Iran’s domestic drone industry. Washington DC has imposed extensive export controls and sanctions in recent years aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining advanced components. Dual-use technologies, GPS modules and semi-conductors are likely still reaching Iran. This highlights the challenges facing Western governments to cut off Russia’s access to advanced electronics and components for use in its own precision missile programmes. Notably, Iran’s official state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported on 1 January that Moscow and Tehran are currently building a transcontinental trade route to ‘bypass sanctions’. Iran is likely to provide Russia will assistance in circumventing sanctions amid the continual strengthening of the two states’ military and political alignment.
Poland: Spike in Russia-linked cyber attacks expected in coming weeks against public, private sector organisations. A spike in cyber attacks by Russia-linked threat actor groups is expected in the short-to-medium term against Polish public and private sector entities, including energy and defence organisations. The Polish government warned on 30 December 2022 that hostile Russian cyber activities, including by Russian military-linked group GhostWriter and pro-Russia hacktivists NoName057(16), had intensified due to the country’s support of Ukraine. Operations included data gathering, distributed denial of service (DDoS) and phishing, while simultaneously seeking to promote Russian disinformation. In response, the Polish government extended the country’s cyber security threat level CHARLIE-CRP and alert level BRAVO until 28 February 2023. Private firms and media companies, among others, have also been targeted by Russian threat actors in the past, and are therefore also expected to remain potential targets. Organisations identified as closely linked with Poland’s support to Ukraine are expected to be the most vulnerable. Such attacks are also expected to spike in the lead-up to and following major announcements of political and military support for Ukraine.
- There was a moderate decrease in pro-Russia cyber operations against Ukrainian targets during this monitoring period, though such operations are likely to resume in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, we identified an increase in low-level pro-Moscow web defacement campaigns targeting webpages in Western countries associated with pro-Kyiv Western governments. Such attacks will continue in the coming weeks, though they will likely only result in low-level and temporary disruption to targeted websites and associated operations.
- The Anonymous group’s warning to Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić indicates that further flare-ups in tensions between Kosovo and Serbia represent a likely flashpoint for cyber campaigns targeting the Serbian government, pro-Russia officials and Russia-linked companies in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, pro-Ukraine hacktivist volunteer groups and hacktivist collectives have continued to claim cyber attacks against private entities, including financial services and industrial companies linked to the Russian government. This remains broadly consistent with trends observed in recent months.
Latest Significant Updates
Pro-Moscow cyber threat actors launch web defacement campaigns targeting Western governments
- On 28 December 2022, pro-Russia cyber threat actor Killnet launched a web defacement campaign targeting the US government’s website for South Abington Township (Pennsylvania). The attack placed a pro-Russia message on the website’s homepage, which has since returned to normal.
- On 26 December 2022 a group labelling itself as part of Anonymous Russia claimed a web defacement attack targeting a promotional page linked to the town of Huntly, located on New Zealand’s North Island (also referred to as Raahui Pookeka in Māori). This comes after the group reported web defacement attacks on 23 December 2022 targeting several Australian websites.
- On 22 December 2022, the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Centre (HC3) of the US Department of Health and Human Services delivered a general warning to US hospitals and other healthcare providers regarding attacks by Killnet. The warning primarily centred on distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks possibly prompting service outages lasting hours or days. The warning follows Killnet’s claims in December 2022 that it had launched cyber attacks against and compromised data belonging to a US healthcare organisation with links to the US military.
Cyber campaigns continue to target Russian, Russia-affiliated private sector entities; Anonymous threatens Serbian President over actions in Kosovo, ties with Moscow
- On 1 January, the IT Army of Ukraine, a volunteer pro-Kyiv hacking group with alleged ties to the Ukrainian government, announced the launch of a web defacement campaign targeting the ‘official websites of the administrations of cities, districts and settlements’ in Russia. The group claimed to have broadcast Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s New Year’s address on the web pages.
- On 30 December 2022, a Twitter account claiming to represent the Italian branch of the decentralised Anonymous hacktivist collective reported cyber attacks against Russia’s largest private insurance company, AlfaStrakhovanie Group. Alleged evidence posted by the pro-Kyiv hacktivist group indicates the attack forced the AlfaStrakhovanie webpage offline. However, website operators appear to have restored access to the webpage.
- On 29 December 2022, a Twitter account claiming to represent Anonymous posted a message addressed to Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. The video warned President Vučić to halt his alleged ‘dangerous actions in Kosovo’ which it claimed are aimed at destabilising the region, labelling him as a ‘puppet’ of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- Also on 29 December 2022, a Twitter account claiming to represent Anonymous leaked data reportedly belonging to Russia’s largest petrochemical company, SIBUR. The hacktivist group posted pictures showing the alleged leaked data, and claimed to have ‘defaced’ floorplans accessed via the desk-booking and interactive floor plan platform StaffMap.
It is likely that previously observed patterns of pro-Russia cyber activity will resume in the coming weeks despite the moderate decline in pro-Russia cyber attacks against Ukrainian targets observed during this monitoring period. Ukrainian state-linked entities, mainly in the defence, security and energy sectors, will continue to represent the primary targets of pro-Russia cyber attacks aimed at disrupting Ukrainian war efforts. Primary tactics will likely include relatively low-level DDoS attacks and web defacement campaigns. The suspected pro-Russia Windows 10 Operating System installer malware attacks against Ukrainian government organisations identified in December 2022 could indicate a diversification of tactics among pro-Russia threat actors. However, more sophisticated cyber attacks are likely to be less common due to their greater resource and technical requirements.
Meanwhile, pro-Russia hacktivist groups have maintained their trend of launching web defacement attacks targeting the websites of Western, ‘anti-Russian’ governments. This was highlighted by recent cyber attacks claimed by Killnet and Anonymous Russia against government websites in countries like New Zealand and the US. Nevertheless, these attacks are likely to be relatively low-level DDoS attacks, causing only temporary operational disruption.
In recent weeks, we have recorded an uptick in cyber operations by Killnet targeting pro-Kyiv governments, particularly the US. The group will almost certainly threaten to carry out and claim responsibility for further attacks in the coming weeks. However, there is a realistic possibility these threats will not be followed by successful attacks. The group will also likely exaggerate the success of any claimed attacks. This was acknowledged and highlighted in the HC3 warning issued to US healthcare providers on 22 December 2022. During this monitoring period, pro-Kyiv cyber campaigns remained broadly consistent with targeting patterns observed in previous weeks. This includes the targeting of Russian or Russia-affiliated companies in the financial services, energy and heavy industry sectors, among others. Meanwhile, the IT Army of Ukraine’s launch of a web defacement campaign targeting Russian government administrative websites to mark the New Year remains consistent with both the modus operandi and the targeting history of pro-Kyiv cyber threat actors. Pro-Kyiv groups will continue to launch mostly low-level cyber attacks against the aforementioned companies and entities in the coming weeks. These attacks will broadly aim to counter Russian disinformation and disrupt business and government operations in a bid to hamper Moscow’s war efforts in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Anonymous collective’s message to President Aleksandar Vučić comes amid elevated tensions between Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovan Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla has accused Belgrade of acting under Moscow’s influence in an attempt to destabilise the country. Meanwhile, members of the pro-Kyiv cyber threat actor Team OneFist allege that Russia has been covertly placing Russian intelligence officers in Kosovo. Flashpoints for the launch of cyber campaigns by pro-Kyiv groups include flare-ups in bilateral tensions and allegations of further Serbian destabilising activities in Kosovo, such as attacks against personnel in northern Kosovo. Targets will likely include Serbian government entities and pro-Moscow officials, as well as private sector companies with strong ties to Moscow.
- BAKHMUT: Russian forces have continued offensive operations along the Bakhmut line over the last 24-48 hours, albeit at a seemingly lower intensity than in previous weeks. The Ukrainian General Staff reported this morning, 4 January, that their forces continue to repel Russian assaults against Bakhmut and Soledar, 6 miles (10km) northeast of Bakhmut. Geolocated footage published on 3 January indicates that Wagner Group forces have established positions north of Soledar, but all indicators point to progress largely stalling.
- BAKHMUT: Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has in recent days acknowledged that his forces are unable to break through around Bakhmut due to strong Ukrainian defences. He candidly acknowledged that Wagner’s assaults against the town are highly attritional because Russian forces need to clear building by building. He reported that it can take weeks to take a single building, each one of which is a ‘fortress’, and reported that Ukrainian forces have established defensive lines ‘every 10 metres’. Prigozhin’s comments are likely an attempt to justify Wagner’s lack of progress in recent weeks – and likely supports the assessment that the offensive against Bakhmut has now largely culminated. While Bakhmut has remained the schwerpunkt (primary military effort) of Russian operations for several months, the seeming culmination of the offensive and Prigozhin’s statements may indicate Russian commanders are considering a change in focus and preparing fresh offensives elsewhere to break the current deadlock. This possibility is supported by uncertainty as to the political and strategic significance of Bakhmut to Moscow in the context of increasingly impregnable defences.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Over the last 24-48 hours, Russian forces continued to launch limited attacks to retake key positions in northern Luhansk oblast, though it is likely that Ukrainian forces are largely repelling these attacks. A senior officer from the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) 2nd Army Corps, reported this morning that Ukrainian forces operating near Kupiansk, 30 miles (50km) northwest of Svatove, are using ‘false positions’ and conducting a ‘manoeuvrable defence’ to hide their real strength and numbers, seemingly limiting the potential for Russian progress in the area. Nevertheless, further south, new geolocated footage indicates that Russian forces are now operating within 1 mile (1km) north of Bilohorivka, 8 miles (13km) south of Kreminna, suggesting marginal progress in this direction. Other than this, there have been few changes to the Oskil-Kreminna front.
- KHERSON: The overall situation on the southern axes remains on-trend, though Ukrainian forces did establish positions on Velykyi Potomkin Island in the Dnieper River delta, south of Kherson city. It remains unclear whether Ukrainian forces have gained complete control of the island, given that Russian sources have claimed the island remains contested. Nevertheless, the development is the latest confirmation that both sides continue to launch cross-river raids in attempts to gain control over the Dnieper delta. However, it remains unlikely that the attack on Velykyi Potomkin is indicative of Ukrainian preparations to launch a large-scale river crossing to establish a bridgehead on the southern (left) bank of the river in the short term.
- MARTIAL LAW: According to new end-of-year data, Russian security services detained 20,467 people for political reasons in 2022, 19,478 of whom for speaking out against the invasion of Ukraine. The data, published by independent Russian human rights watchdog OVD-Info, reflects the steep increase in political repression since the invasion, which also reportedly saw 210,000 sources of independent online information blocked by the government. Moscow also designated 176 organisations and individuals as ‘foreign agents’ in 2022, with a further 22 entities deemed ‘undesirable’ in Russia. Government efforts to clamp down on anti-war and anti-government activity have left very little room for resistance, with anti-war protests largely disappearing except for the semi-tolerated campaigning of mothers and wives of servicemen.
- DOMESTIC: According to Levada Centre, President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating at the end of December 2022 stood at 81%, an increase from 77% in September. Levada Centre remains the nearest equivalent to reliable independent polling data one can acquire in Russia. As such, the centre’s data likely reflects a solid base of support for Putin, even if some respondents feel pressured to signal their support for Putin during such polling. In addition, such figures likely reflect the prevailing apathy amongst the Russian population, and further underline the unlikelihood of any anti-Putin or anti-government unrest materialising in the short term.
- BUSINESS RISK: Russian restrictions on foreign businesses continue to strengthen, with Kommersant reporting on 29 December that the Russian government is drawing up legislation to decriminalise the illegal use of software belonging to foreign companies that have left Russia. The proposed legislation would allow Russian companies to use software that is no longer available from Western firms, due to their inability to renew licenses. A similar bill on compulsory licensing of copyright and related rights (including software) for copyright holders who left the Russian market had previously failed to gain support in the State Duma. However, that bill was tabled by an opposition MP, and this time the Ministry for Digital Development is reportedly compiling the bill. This indicates that it now has government and Kremlin backing and therefore will likely pass in the coming weeks. This would significantly increase copyright and intellectual property risks for Western firms that have left Russia.
MOBILISATION: On 3 January, President Volodymyr Zelensky reaffirmed Ukrainian claims that Moscow is preparing for a fresh round of mobilisation in the coming days and weeks. Aligning with our own assessment in recent weeks, Zelensky maintained that Russia is preparing for new offensives in early 2023, but did not specify where such offensives are anticipated to fall. On 30 December, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov stated that Kyiv believes the Kremlin is also readying to close the border to military-aged men. The head of Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Kryrylo Budanov claimed that the new mobilisation will be announced on 5 January. This remains unconfirmed, but we have previously assessed that fresh waves of mobilisation are likely in the New Year, with the Federal Security Service (FSB) highly likely to have learned lessons following the mass exodus of citizens in the wake of September’s partial mobilisation decree. If the Kremlin does announce a new wave of mobilisation, FSB checks at the border are highly likely to be much more intrusive than previously, with widespread disruption to passenger flights, border crossing points and international freight. While further rounds of Russian mobilisation are likely, there is ample evidence that the influx of mobilised forces is already undermining Russian military professionalism and capability. Further influxes of mobilised personnel will likely only exacerbate these issues. On 3 January, numerous Russian military bloggers claimed that the Russian Armed Forces have recently deployed large numbers of newly mobilised service personnel trained as artillerymen and tank operators into infantry divisions, without any infantry training. While this may reflect the recent artillery shortages and extensive loss of armoured vehicles, it likely also reflects broader challenges within the Russian Armed Forces as it transitions towards an ad hoc conscript structure. This will ultimately sustain Russia’s high rate of casualties, if not increase them further, as untrained personnel are being used as cannon fodder in frequently wasteful attacks.
- BAKHMUT: Since our last Ukraine update, there have been few significant changes to the frontlines; the overall intensity of Russia’s offensive in Donetsk oblast has steadily eased over the last two weeks. The UK’s Defence Intelligence (DI) estimated on 3 January that the Russian assault on Bakhmut, which has remained the principal effort of Russian forces in Ukraine in recent months, has likely culminated. Russian forces have expended significant resources, both in terms of manpower and ammunition, for very limited gains to the east and south of Bakhmut, while Ukrainian forces have successfully strengthened defensive positions in and around the town. A Russian breakthrough is unlikely in the coming weeks, with Russian forces seemingly now attacking largely at platoon and section levels. Nevertheless, Russian sources continue to claim that their forces have pushed the frontline into the southern and eastern outskirts of Bakhmut, with fighting reportedly taking place along on Kotsyubinsky, Lomonosov and Lumumba streets as of late December 2022. This remains unconfirmed.
- MUNITIONS: The likely culmination of Russia’s offensive against Bakhmut comes amid unconfirmed reports of Russian ammunition shortages and indications that Russian forces are struggling to maintain the heavy weight of fire recorded throughout November and early December 2022. DI reported on 24 December 2022 that Russian forces do not currently have sufficient stockpiles to enable large-scale offensive operations. This is largely due to the increase in mobilised forces along the front and the toll and strain which defensive operations are placing on artillery. Similarly, Chief of Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Kyrylo Budanov reported on 31 December 2022 that while Russian forces had previously fired around 60,000 artillery shells a day along the entire frontline, they are now firing around 19,000-20,000 a day. Budanov maintains that artillery shortages are likely to become more acute by March. If accurate, this will likely undermine Russia’s preparations for (and its ability to sustain) a new offensive in eastern or northern Ukraine in early 2023.
- DONETSK: The Ukrainian General Staff reported on 31 December 2022 that a HIMARS strike against a Russian base in Makiivka, located less than six miles (10km) east of Donetsk city, inflicted massive casualties on Russian forces stationed there. Ukrainian officials claim that over 400 mobilised service personnel were killed and that around 300 others were injured. The Russian defence ministry claims that 63 service personnel were killed. Other Russian sources have reported over 200 casualties, indicating that the defence ministry’s official figure is likely much lower than the actual toll so as to conceal the full lethality of the attack. The success of the attack triggered widespread criticism and recriminations against both the defence ministry and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) officials. Moscow blamed poor operational security on the ground for allowing the Ukrainian precision strike. However, the fact that Ukrainian forces were able to target such a large concentration of personnel in close proximity to ammunition stores indicates that Russian forces are still failing to disperse effectively. This is likely a result of large influxes of poorly trained mobilised personnel and continual failures in operational leadership and logistical planning.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Further north, Russian and Ukrainian forces have launched limited operations along the Oskil-Kreminna line; this activity has caused limited change to the overall frontline. Despite unfounded and false reports in late December 2022 that Ukrainian forces entered Kreminna, Russian forces have so far succeeded in spoiling Ukrainian preparations for a counter-offensive, preventing a breakthrough into the town. Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai reported on 29 December 2022 that Russian forces have deployed significant numbers of units, including Wagner Group forces, to the Kreminna line in a bid to reinforce the city.
- While Ukrainian forces continue to steadily encroach on the key R-66 highway connecting Kreminna to Svatove, the deployment of growing numbers of mobilised forces will likely slow Ukrainian counter-offensive efforts in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, Russian sources have claimed in recent days that Ukrainian forces are erecting pontoon crossings across the Siverskyi Donets river and that they are also conducting reconnaissance operations south-west of Kreminna. While unconfirmed, these reports indicate possible preparations for an assault against the town in the coming days and weeks.
- SOUTHERN: Fighting along the southern axis, including both the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia lines, has also caused little change to the frontline in recent weeks. Fighting has been largely limited to positional battles, small-scale raids and strikes against ground lines of communication (GLOCs), with few reports indicating any major developments on Kinburn Spit or along the banks of the Dnieper river. Nevertheless, Russian forces have launched a series of limited attacks south of Zaporizhzhia in recent days, with Russian sources claiming small gains. On 31 December 2022, the Russian defence ministry claimed that Russian forces captured Dorozhnyanka, located around 50 miles (81km) south-east of Zaporizhzhia. This has not been confirmed.
- STRIKES: Over the Christmas and New Year period, Russian forces launched a series of high-intensity long-range strikes against Ukrainian cities, increasing their use of Iranian Shahed-136 drones. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that it shot down 54 of 69 cruise missiles during an attack on 29 December 2022, though various infrastructure sites were still hit. An attack on 31 December 2022 was less intense, with 12 of 20 cruise missiles intercepted. The majority of drones were shot down over Kyiv, the main target for Russian drone strikes. Russian forces launched at least 39 drones, predominately Shahed-136s, between 29 and 31 December 2022. This constitutes a notable increase compared with previous attacks. It likely confirms Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s report on 19 December 2022 that Russia had received a new batch of some 250 drones from Iran.
- Notably, the Ukrainian Air Force reported on 28 December 2022 that Ukrainian forces have intercepted over 850 missiles and drones since September, including 420 cruise and ballistic missiles and 430 Iranian-made drones. Orthodox Christmas on 7 January is a possible trigger point for renewed long-range strikes; Moscow will possibly try to undermine Ukrainian morale in the run-up to and during the major holiday.
- BELARUS: Amid the Russian strikes, the Belarusian authorities claimed on 30 December 2022 that a Ukrainian S-300 air defence missile was shot down over Belarusian airspace. This is unlikely to represent a major escalation. The secretary of Belarus’s Security Council said it was ‘unlikely’ that the missile entered Belarusian airspace by accident, with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka claiming that the incident was indicative of Ukraine’s attempts to drag Belarus into the war. This is highly unlikely to be the case. While tensions remain elevated, we have not identified any indications that would change our overall assessment that Belarus remains unlikely to enter the war in the short to medium term. We have also continued to monitor Belarusian and Russian military deployments across the country in recent weeks; while Russia continues to deploy limited forces near the Ukrainian border, there are few indications suggesting it is forming a strike group capable of marching on Kyiv
- Russia: Gazprom exports outside ex-Soviet states fell by 45.5% in 2022; firm to increase exports to China. On 2 January, Gazprom reported that exports outside the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) totalled 100.9 bn cubic metres in 2022, compared to 185.1 bn in 2021. Russian gas exports to Europe, previously Gazprom’s main export market, have drastically reduced following European sanctions. As a result, Gazprom had been steadily increasing exports to China in 2022, with Gazprom’s head, Alexei Miller, disclosing plans for a new level of gas supply to China from 1 January. To increase its capacity to supply China, Gazprom will have to further develop gas fields and pipelines in Siberia. Last year, Moscow announced its plans to build the ‘Power of Siberia 2’ pipeline, as an alternative to the Russian-European ‘Nord Stream 2’ pipeline. While European sanctions have impacted Russian exports, its pivot to Asian markets will mitigate their impact on revenues in the medium term
- ECONOMY: On 1 January, several Western ship insurers cancelled ‘war risk’ cover for vessels operating across the Belarus, Russia and Ukraine region in a bid to limit their exposure to the fighting in Ukraine. The largest P&I (protection and indemnity) clubs in the world, including American, North, UK and West, no longer provide ‘reinsurance for war risk exposure to Russian, Ukrainian or Belarus territorial risks’. While the move was expected (existing reinsurance contracts are normally renewed on 1 January every year), it will complicate maritime supply chains and likely increase costs, as well as the risks impacting those vessels currently involved in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
- ENERGY: President Vladimir Putin confirmed Moscow’s response to the EU-G7 oil price cap in a speech on 27 December 2022, banning crude oil exports to those countries from 1 February. The ban on all countries that abide by the USD 60 per barrel price cap will be in place for five months, though an extension thereafter is possible. Putin’s decision avoids the most dramatic response which Moscow reportedly considered, namely establishing a minimum price for crude exports to specific countries. This would have had a much wider-reaching impact on global energy markets. However, the wording of the decree approved by Putin remains vague; it leaves the door open for Moscow to introduce further responses depending on the status of the global oil market in the coming months. As such, a major reduction in Russian oil exports could yet undermine global oil markets and energy prices in the coming months.
- AID: On 30 December 2022, reports emerged that the US government is reportedly considering supplying Ukraine with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. A final decision has not been made. Kyiv’s ground capabilities would increase significantly if it were to secure these assets. Western states will likely supply more advanced systems to Ukraine at a steady rate in early 2023. While Russia has consistently criticised these transfers, it is limited in its ability to respond. Moscow has failed to act on the crossing of previously established ‘red lines’, the most recent example being an announcement by the US that it will provide Patriot air defence systems to Ukraine.
- PEACE TALKS: Throughout the holiday period, Russian and Ukrainian officials made several statements on the prospect of peace negotiations. However, despite paying lip service to the prospect, genuine compromises to facilitate negotiations are highly unlikely in the short term. On 25 December 2022, Putin stated that Russia ‘is ready to negotiate with all parties’ over Ukraine. However, all other statements by Putin and Kremlin officials indicate that this offer is not genuine. Indeed, the key theme of statements by senior Russian officials over the holiday period was a distinct reinforcement of Russia’s original ‘demilitarisation’ and ‘denazification’ war objectives, rather than any overtures towards a ceasefire.
- PEACE TALKS: On 28 December 2022, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reaffirmed that any peace negotiations with Ukraine will only begin on the understanding that Russia will not give up the occupied Ukrainian territories. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Ukraine will aim to host a peace summit by the end of February, and that Russia would only be invited if it faced ‘a war crimes tribunal first’. These developments underline our previous assessment that both sides will maintain hardened positions; the prospect of any potential meaningful settlement is highly unlikely in the coming months. For further analysis on the trajectory of the conflict in 2023, see the FORECAST below.
- ESCALATION: The prospect of escalation will remain a key issue in early 2023; we will continue to monitor various triggers, warnings and indicators. On 27 December 2022, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the US against ordering a ‘decapitation strike’ against President Putin, warning of ‘consequences’ if any such attempt was carried out. Lavrov’s statement referred to previous unconfirmed reports circulated in September that a special operation to kill Putin in the Kremlin had been ‘front and centre’ among options being considered by the US. Clearly there are no further indications that such an assassination attempt is planned. However, images published on 2 January of Putin appearing to wear what is possibly body armour underneath his suit suggest that the Kremlin is taking such threats seriously.
- Ukrainian intelligence has already shown its capability to stage assassination attempts in Moscow. This follows the killing of Daria Dugina on 20 August 2022. However, robust Russian security measures will severely limit assassins’ chances of success against Russian officials who are much more senior than the likes of Dugina. Further assassination attempts against senior Russian officials will remain a key trigger point for escalation in 2023. Genuine attempts on Putin’s life are therefore unlikely.
On 31 December 2022, both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky broadcast annual New Year messages to their respective populations, reinforcing clearly that both sides are determined to continue fighting for the foreseeable future. Zelensky’s address focused on the successes of Ukrainian forces in 2022 and Kyiv’s determination to continue fighting in 2023 until all remaining occupied territories are liberated. Putin’s address, meanwhile, recognised the difficulties of 2022, but framed the war in Ukraine as nothing short of a fight for Russia’s sovereignty and independence, as well as the reclamation of Russia’s ‘historical territories’.
Framing the war as an existential struggle with the West has been a common refrain over the last six months. Together with Russian officials’ reaffirmation of Moscow’s maximalist war objectives in Ukraine (see PEACE TALKS above), Putin’s address confirms that the war will continue well into 2023. This comes despite Ukrainian officials reporting last week that the fighting has now reached ‘deadlock’ across the front. Both sides are likely preparing fresh offensives and counter-offensives which they hope will break the respective deadlock in the coming weeks. However, it remains unclear whether either side can generate sufficient force to break the current stalemate. (Source: Sibylline)
08 Jan 23. Ukraine says its forces repel constant Russian attacks in east. Ukrainian forces are repelling constant Russian attacks on Bakhmut and other towns in the eastern region of Donbas, Ukrainian authorities said on Monday, after denying Kremlin claims of 600 soldiers killed in a missile strike.
Russia launched seven missile strikes, 31 air strikes and 73 attacks from salvo rocket launchers in the past day, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said in a daily report.
Ukrainian forces repelled attacks on 14 settlements, including Bakhmut, it added.
“Bakhmut is holding on despite everything,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in nightly video remarks on Sunday.
“And even though most of the town has been destroyed by Russian strikes, our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance.”
The nearby town of Soledar was holding on, “even though there is even greater destruction and things are very difficult”, he added.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the battlefield reports.
Zelenskiy made a fresh denunciation of what he called Russia’s failure to observe a truce it had proclaimed for Orthodox Christmas by staging attacks on Ukrainian cities.
“Russians were shelling Kherson with incendiary ammunition immediately after Christmas,” he said, referring to the southern city abandoned by Russian forces in November.
“Strikes on Kramatorsk and other cities in Donbas – on civilian targets and at the very time when Moscow was reporting a supposed ‘silence’ for its army.”
On Sunday, Russia said a missile attack on Kramatorsk, northwest of Bakhmut, had killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers, but a Reuters reporter at the scene found no obvious signs of casualties.
A Reuters team visited two college dormitories that Moscow said had been temporarily housing Ukrainian personnel and which it had targeted as revenge for a New Year’s attack that killed scores of Russian soldiers and caused outcry in Russia.
But neither dormitory in the eastern city of Kramatorsk appeared to have been directly hit or seriously damaged. There were no obvious signs that soldiers had been living there and no sign of bodies or traces of blood.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, a Ukrainian military spokesperson for the eastern region, described the claim of mass casualties as an attempt by the Russian defence ministry to show it had responded forcefully to Ukraine’s recent strikes on Russian soldiers.
“This is an information operation of the Russian defense ministry,” Cherevatyi told Ukrainian broadcaster Suspilne News.
As Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine grinds towards the one-year mark, Russia’s military is under domestic pressure to deliver battlefield successes.
Hawkish voices have sought an escalation of the war effort after setbacks such as loss of captured territory and high rates of death and injury.
Some prominent Russian military bloggers have criticised the Russian defence ministry claims.
“Let’s talk about ‘fraud’,” wrote one prominent pro-war military blogger on the Telegram messaging app, who posts under the name of Military Informant and who has more than half a million subscribers.
“It is not clear to us who, and for what reason, decided that 600 Ukrainian soldiers died inside, all at once, if the building was not actually hit (even the light remained on).
“Instead of the real destruction of the enemy personnel, which would have been a worthy response, an exclusively media operation of retaliation was invented.”
The militaries of both Russia and Ukraine militaries have often overstated enemy losses, while minimising their own.
Ukraine’s top military officials said last week some 760 Russian troops had been killed or wounded in two attacks on Moscow-controlled parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. These reports could not be independently verified.
06 Jan 23. U.S. $3bn Military Package to Ukraine Looks to Change Battlefield Dynamics. DOD officials unveiled the more than $3 billion package of military capabilities to help Ukraine drive the Russian invaders from their soil.
“The war in Ukraine is at a critical point right now, and we have to do everything we can to help the Ukrainians continue to resist Russian aggression,” Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, said.
The presidential drawdown authority announced today is the largest the United States has committed to so far. The authorization of presidential drawdown of equipment from U.S. inventories is valued at up to $2.85 billion and there is an additional $225 million in foreign military financing to contribute to the long-term capacity and modernization of Ukraine’s military, Cooper said.
The major announcement was the inclusion of 50 M2-A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles for the Ukrainian military. These armored vehicles — enough to outfit a mechanized infantry battalion — will come with 500 tube-launched, optically sighted, wire-guided, or TOW, anti-tank missiles and 250,000 rounds of 25 mm ammunition.
The drawdown authority also includes 100 M-113 armored personnel carriers and 50 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles. The U.S. will also provide 138 Humvees.
Artillery remains a crucial capability for the Ukrainians and the PDA will provide 18 self-propelled 155 mm Paladin howitzers, 36 105 mm towed howitzers and thousands of rounds to supply both systems.
The United States will also provide anti-aircraft capabilities including RIM-7 missiles and 4,000 Zuni rockets.
Also included are night-vision devices, sniper rifles, machine guns, spare parts, clothing and more.
“These capabilities will complement and work with the expanded U.S.- led training beginning this month that will build Ukraine’s capacity to conduct joint maneuver and combined operations,” Cooper said. “We will ensure Ukraine has both the equipment and the skill necessary to sustain its efforts to push back on Russian aggression.”
U.S. officials are always looking at what Ukraine needs to fight the Russian invaders. “Their battlefield needs have evolved over time,” Cooper said.
When Russia invaded on Feb. 24, 2022, the immediate need was anti-armor weapons and the United States and partner nations sent thousands of Javelin systems and other comparable systems to Ukraine. After Ukraine defeated the initial Russian push, artillery became the crucial need and the United States sent howitzers and ammunition to the nation. Recently, air defense has been the priority and the United States and allies have sent systems that Ukraine has cobbled together to form an integrated air-defense system.
Now Ukraine needs armored vehicles and Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United States are sending them to the besieged nation, Cooper said. “In the case of the Bradley, what you are seeing is a recognition that this is the right time for us to provide this armored capability,” she said. “This is the right time for Ukraine to take advantage of its capabilities to change the dynamic on the battlefield.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin “has not given up his aims of dominating Ukraine and continuing to acquire Ukraine’s territory,” Cooper said. But … “the Russian armed forces weaknesses have collided with those aims.”
The aid to Ukraine is still important, the deputy assistant secretary said. “From an overall strategic perspective, it is hard to emphasize enough the devastating consequences if Putin were to be successful in achieving his objective of taking over Ukraine,” she said. “This would rewrite international boundaries in a way that we have not seen since World War II. And our ability to reverse these gains and to support and stand by the sovereignty of a nation, is something that resonates not just in Europe, but all around the world.
“No one wants to send a signal to another bully around the world that they can take over their neighboring country without paying a steep, steep price,” she continued.
06 Jan 23. More Than $3bn in Additional Security Assistance for Ukraine. Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) announces the Biden Administration’s commitment of $3.075bn in additional security assistance for Ukraine. This includes the authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $2.85bn to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs, as well as the Department of State’s announcement of $225m in Foreign Military Financing to contribute to the long-term capacity and modernization of Ukraine’s military.
The Presidential Drawdown is the twenty-ninth such drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine that the Biden Administration has authorized since August 2021. Capabilities in this package include:
- 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles with 500 TOW anti-tank missiles and 250,000 rounds of 25mm ammunition;
- 100 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers;
- 55 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs);
- 138 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs);
- 18 155mm self-propelled Howitzers and 18 ammunition support vehicles;
- 70,000 155mm artillery rounds;
- 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds;
- 1,200 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems;
- 36 105mm towed Howitzers and 95,000 105mm artillery rounds;
- 10,000 120mm mortar rounds;
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
- RIM-7 missiles for air defense;
- 4,000 Zuni aircraft rockets;
- Approximately 2,000 anti-armor rockets;
- Sniper rifles, machine guns, and ammunition for grenade launchers and small arms;
- Claymore anti-personnel munitions;
- Night vision devices and optics;
- Spare parts and other field equipment.
The Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and other armored vehicles and artillery systems will complement the recent commitment of combat vehicles to Ukraine by Germany and France. DoD also welcomes Germany’s commitment to join the United States in supporting Ukraine’s urgent requirement for air defense capabilities by also supplying one Patriot air defense battery to Ukraine.
The Biden Administration will continue to encourage Allies and partners to make additional donations of air defense systems, artillery, combat vehicles, and other critical capabilities to support Ukraine in defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity for as long as it takes. Toward that end, the Department of State also announced today $682 million in additional Foreign Military Financing to incentivize and backfill donations of military equipment to Ukraine by Allies and partners.
In total, the United States has committed more than $24.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $27 billion in security assistance to Ukraine and more than $24.2 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion on February 24. (Source: US DoD)
06 Jan 23. Ukraine’s Zelenskiy thanks Scholz for defence package, discusses ‘further cooperation.’
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he had spoken by phone to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday and thanked him for a “powerful defense package” that would help Ukraine fend off Russian troops and defend its cities.
He also said they had discussed further defence cooperation but gave no details.
In a joint statement with Washington on Thursday, Berlin said it would provide Kyiv with Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles and a Patriot air-defence system.
“I thanked (Scholz) for the powerful defense package, including several dozen Marder vehicles and the Patriot system. We discussed further cooperation to strengthen the Ukrainian army,” Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter.
He and other top Ukrainian officials have repeatedly called for heavier and more advanced weapons systems following Russia’s invasion, now in its eleventh month.
France also announced this week that it was sending light AMX-10 RC armoured combat vehicles.
Zelenskiy also said on Friday that he had met two U.S. senators in Kyiv, Jack Reed and Angus King, to discuss the battlefield situation and “the risks of potential escalation”, hours after a Russian-declared unilateral ceasefire began.
Zelenskiy called the ceasefire a “manipulation”.(Source: Reuters)
06 Jan 23. Pentagon awards L3Harris $40m anti-drone weapon systems contract. The U.S. Department of Defense awarded L3Harris Technologies Inc (LHX.N) a $40 contract to deliver 14 anti-drone weapon systems to bolster Ukraine’s security forces, the defense contractor said on Friday.
The company said its Vehicle Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment (VAMPIRE) kit will allow Ukraine ground forces to target, shoot down enemy drones and defend against ground threats.
Under the contract, L3Harris will deliver four VAMPIRE units by mid-2023 and ten more by year-end.
The defense contractor will install the kits on U.S. government-provided vehicles for combat support to the Ukrainian battlefield.
The United States and its allies have supported Ukraine with billions of dollars in weapons for the war against Russia since it began last year.
Separately, a new U.S. weapons aid package for Ukraine worth more than $3bn is set to be announced later on Friday and will include Sea Sparrow missiles for air defense and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, according to a document seen by Reuters. (Source: Reuters)
06 Jan 23. Germany wants to deliver around 40 Marder vehicles to Ukraine in Q1. Germany said on Friday it wants to deliver around 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine before the end of March, and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Berlin could ultimately send its entire functioning fleet of the weapons.
Germany announced on Thursday it would provide Marders to Ukraine, ramping up military support for Kyiv to repel Russian forces. The announcement came on the same day that the United States pledged Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and a day after a similar announcement from France.
Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said a Patriot anti-aircraft missile system from army stocks will also be delivered to Ukraine in the first quarter. Washington has also offered Patriots to Ukraine.
Training on the Marder vehicle is to take place in Germany and last about eight weeks, Hebestreit added.
Speaking in Brevik, Norway, Vice Chancellor Habeck said Germany should send “all Marders that are operational” to Ukraine.
Habeck did not specify how many vehicles this would be. Germany once fielded hundreds of Marders but has been phasing out the Cold War-era weapons in favour of newer Pumas which it has purchased to replace them.
Thursday’s announcement came after Chancellor Olaf Scholz faced a chorus of calls from within his three-way coalition to beef up military support for Ukraine, following France’s announcement it was sending AMX-10 RC combat vehicles.
Scholz has ramped up defence spending and sent aid and weapons to Ukraine since the invasion, but has sometimes hesitated before supplying powerful weapons for fear of risking direct conflict with Russia.
He has also made it clear that he did not want to go it alone on sending heavy weapons to Ukraine and that he would coordinate deliveries with other members of the NATO alliance. (Source: Reuters)
05 Jan 23. Ukraine Troops to Get Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
DOD will be delivering Bradley fighting vehicles to Ukraine in the near future, White House officials said today.
Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the Bradleys are part of a larger shipment of equipment to Ukraine that will be announced later.
The Bradleys are armored vehicles that can transport infantry in combat zones. They have both offensive and defensive capabilities and provide “a level of firepower and armor that will bring advantages on the battlefield as the Ukrainian military continues to defend their homeland,” Ryder said during a news conference.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, expecting a quick victory against the smaller country. The Ukrainian military punched well above their weight and stopping Russian pincers aimed at Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. The United States and partner nations have supplied the Ukrainian military with the capabilities it needs to turn back the invaders including anti-armor capabilities, air defense equipment, armored vehicles, ammunition, supplies and much, much more.
Ukrainian soldiers must learn how to use the vehicles and maintain them, and Ryder said this will be part of the training that Ukrainian soldiers receive from U.S. and partner nations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a ceasefire to celebrate Orthodox Christmas, Jan. 7, but there is skepticism about the Russians honoring the ceasefire.
“Understandably, I think that there’s significant skepticism both here in the U.S. and around the world right now given Russia’s long track record of propaganda, disinformation and its relentless attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians,” Ryder said. “If Russia was truly interested in ceasing the violence and the bloodshed that they have brought to Ukraine’s people, they would pull out of Ukraine immediately.”
“While Russia seems to be pretty good at exporting violence, they don’t seem to be pretty good at exporting the truth,” Ryder said. (Source: US DoD)
06 Jan 23. Ukraine clinches U.S., German armoured vehicles, rejects Russian truce order.
- Ukraine calls Putin order for Orthodox Christmas truce a trick
- Russian envoy to U.N. says Ukraine has no respect
- Kyiv to get U.S. Bradley and German Marder combat vehicles
Ukraine dismissed as a trick a unilateral order by Russia for a 36-hour ceasefire starting on Friday and the leaders of the United States and Germany said they were sending armoured fighting vehicles in a boost for the Kyiv government.
The U.S. weapons package, to be announced on Friday, is expected to include about 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles as part of security assistance totalling about $2.8bn, U.S. officials said.
“Right now the war in Ukraine is at a critical point,” U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters. “We have to do everything we can to help the Ukrainians resist Russian aggression.”
Germany would provide Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles, according to a joint statement on Thursday from Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Both countries agreed to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them, it said. Germany would also supply a Patriot air defence battery to Ukraine, which has scored some battlefield successes since Russian forces invaded last February but has asked allies for heavier weapons.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rejected out of hand a Russian order for a truce over Russian Orthodox Christmas starting at noon on Friday and ending at midnight on Saturday. He said it was a trick to halt the progress of Ukraine’s forces in the eastern Donbas region and bring in more of Moscow’s forces.
“They now want to use Christmas as a cover, albeit briefly, to stop the advances of our boys in Donbas and bring equipment, ammunitions and mobilised troops closer to our positions,” Zelenskiy said in his Thursday night video address.
“What will that give them? Only yet another increase in their total losses.”
Biden suggested Putin’s ceasefire offer was a sign of desperation. “I think he’s trying to find some oxygen,” he told reporters at the White House.
Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, responded on Facebook saying: “Washington is set on fighting with us ‘to the last Ukrainian’.”
On the decision to send Bradleys, he urged Washington to consider the “possible consequences of such a dangerous course.”
Russia’s Orthodox Church observes Christmas on Jan. 7. Ukraine’s main Orthodox Church has been recognised as independent by the church hierarchy since 2019 and rejects any notion of allegiance to the Moscow patriarch. Many Ukrainian believers have shifted their calendar to celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 as in the West.
Zelenskiy, pointedly speaking in Russian and not Ukrainian, said that ending the war meant “ending your country’s aggression … And the war will end either when your soldiers leave or we throw them out.”
Dmitry Polyansky, head of Russia’s permanent mission to the United Nations, wrote on Twitter that Ukraine’s reaction was “one more reminder with whom we are fighting in #Ukraine – ruthless nationalist criminals who … have no respect for sacred things”.
In a phone call with Zelenskiy on Thursday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his government was ready to take on mediation and moderation duties to secure a lasting peace between Russia and Ukraine.
Putin told Erdogan separately on Thursday that Russia was open to dialogue over Ukraine but that Kyiv would have to accept the loss of territories claimed by Russia, the Kremlin said.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, at an event in Lisbon, said he believed the warring sides were “far from a moment in which a serious peace negotiation is possible”.
The war, described by Putin as a “special military operation” to protect his country’s security, has displaced millions, killed thousands of civilians and left Ukrainian cities, towns and villages in ruins.
In an update on Thursday, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said that at least 452 children have been killed and 877 children injured in the conflict.
In the capital Kyiv and the eastern city of Kramatorsk, people trying to go about their daily lives during wartime rejected Putin’s ceasefire call.
“Look, we had Catholic Christmas, the fighting continued,” Valerii, 30, in Kramatorsk said, adding that his town had suffered three or four hits on New Year’s Eve alone.
“The fighting never stops, not on holidays, not on weekends. So to trust him? No.”
In Kyiv, Nataliia Shkolka, 52, said: “We were under such bombing for New Year’s Eve. I think it’s just hypocrisy on Putin’s part.”
The heaviest fighting of the war continues in eastern Ukraine, with the worst of it near the eastern city of Bakhmut.
Ukraine says Russia has lost thousands of troops despite seizing scant ground in months of futile waves of assaults on Bakhmut.
Near the front, Reuters saw explosions from outgoing artillery and smoke filling the sky.
“We are holding up. The guys are trying to hold up the defence,” said Viktor, a 39-year-old Ukrainian soldier driving an armoured vehicle out of Soledar, a salt-mining town on Bakhmut’s northeastern outskirts.
The United States is of the view that Putin’s ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of a powerful mercenary group, wants to take control of salt and gypsum from mines near Bakhmut, a White House official said.
05 Jan 23. Vladimir Putin orders unilateral truce in Ukraine over Orthodox Christmas. Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered a unilateral ceasefire by Russian troops in Ukraine over the Orthodox Christmas on January 6-7, a move that Kyiv described as hypocritical and a propaganda attempt. The ceasefire, which followed an appeal by Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, will come into effect at midday on January 6 and last until midnight the following day, and will apply along the length of the contact line, the Kremlin said on Thursday. “We call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and give [people] the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the day of the nativity of Christ,” the Kremlin said in a statement. Ukraine appeared to reject Russia’s truce. Russia “must leave the occupied territories — only then will it have a ‘temporary truce’. Keep hypocrisy to yourself,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser in the office of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Twitter. Earlier, Podolyak described Kirill’s appeal as “a cynical trap and an element of propaganda”. Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, speaking on television said Kyiv would not enter into any negotiations with Russia about a Christmas ceasefire. The call for a ceasefire followed an appeal by Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who supports Russia’s war against Ukraine © Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images The defence ministry in Moscow said it had received the president’s order and directed troops to begin a 36-hour ceasefire from midday on January 6. Asked about Putin’s call for a ceasefire, US president Joe Biden said: “I found it interesting. He was ready to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches on the 25 and New Years. I think he is trying to find some oxygen.” The order comes days after Russia suffered a major blow on New Year’s Eve when Ukraine hit a barracks housing soldiers in the town of Makiivka in the Russian-occupied Donetsk province in the east. The official death toll, according to Russia’s defence ministry, stood at 89 on Wednesday, while Kyiv claimed it was in the hundreds. Several Russian pro-war military bloggers accused commanders of “criminal negligence” and called for individuals to be punished for allowing a large number of soldiers to be housed together and in an unprotected building. Russia has not made significant battleground gains since conscripting 300,000 men following a mobilisation order in late September. After being pushed out of most of the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine in the late summer, Russian forces also retreated from the southern regional capital Kherson in November. A push to win control over the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk has turned into a grinding battle. The Russian Orthodox patriarch who proposed the ceasefire has been an ardent supporter of Russia’s war against Ukraine. It has deepened an existing rift between the religious communities of the two countries, with Ukrainian churches and churchgoers breaking ties with Moscow over the Kremlin’s invasion and the Patriarch’s pro-war position. Many Orthodox church buildings have also been damaged by air strikes on Ukraine. Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of political consultancy R. Politik, said Putin’s decision to call a ceasefire was part of the Kremlin’s “publicity game”. (Source: FT.com)
05 Jan 23. Ukraine military says killed 800 Russian soldiers in past day.
- U.S. predicts months of intense fighting in Bakhmut in east
- Russia deploys frigate with hypersonic cruise missiles
- This story includes content produced in Russia where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine
Ukraine’s military estimated on Thursday that 800 Russian soldiers were killed in the past day, mostly in fighting in the eastern Donetsk region, while Western allies pledged supplies of armoured battle vehicles but not the tanks Ukraine wants.
Giving its regular morning roundup of the fighting, Ukraine’s military said Russian forces were focused on an offensive in the Bakhmut sector and its attacks in the Avdiivka and Kupiansk sectors were unsuccessful.
It said more than 800 Russian soldiers, one aircraft, a helicopter and three tanks were destroyed over the past day.
It also reported an unspecified number of civilian casualties as a result of Russian air, missile and rocket attacks on the largely ruined, Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut and two other cities in the Donetsk region – Kostiantynivka and Kurakhove.
Russia denies targeting civilians in what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Reuters could not independently verify battlefield accounts.
A senior U.S. administration official on Wednesday gave a sobering assessment of fighting in the Donetsk region, especially around Bakhmut.
“The fighting is still quite hot … what we’re seeing in Bakhmut we should expect to see elsewhere along the front that there will be continued fighting in the coming months,” the official said.
In his evening video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukrainian troops outside Bakhmut were inflicting numerous losses on their adversaries and Russia was building up its forces in the region.
Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar, citing his ministry’s main intelligence directorate, wrote on the Telegram app that significant losses for Russia meant it would likely have to announce a another partial mobilisation in the first quarter of the year.
According to Yegeny Balitsky, the governor of the Russian held Zaporizhzhia region, Ukrainian artillery killed five people and wounded 15 including four emergency workers, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
ARMOUR ON THE WAY
French President Emmanuel Macron told Zelenskiy France would send light AMX-10 RC armoured combat vehicles to help the war effort, a French official said on Wednesday after the two leaders spoke by telephone.
While the official said these would be the first Western armoured vehicles delivered to Ukraine, Australia has given Kyiv 90 of its Bushmaster vehicles, an armoured unit hardened against landmines and other threats.
President Joe Biden said later on Wednesday that the United States was considering sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine, which is fighting Europe’s biggest land conflict since 1945. Cities have been destroyed, millions of people displaced and tens of thousands killed since Russia’s invasion in February.
The Bradley armoured vehicle, which has a powerful gun, has been a U.S. Army staple to carry troops since the mid-1980s. The U.S. Army has thousands of them, and they would give Ukraine more firepower on the battlefield and strengthen its ability in trench warfare.
Biden’s decision, however, would fall short of sending the Abrams tanks that Ukraine has sought. It has repeatedly asked Western allies for heavier fighting vehicles such as the Abrams and German-made Leopard tanks.
Zelenskiy thanked Macron for the announcement and said it showed the need for other allies to provide heavier weapons.
“This is something that sends a clear signal to all our partners. There is no rational reason why Ukraine has not yet been supplied with Western tanks,” he said.
The United States is preparing another package of weapons, which could be announced in coming days on top of about $21.3 bn in security assistance so far to Ukraine.
The United States has increased the capability of the weapons it has sent including shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles as well as Javelin anti-tank missiles, the HIMARS rocket system and NASAMS surface-to-air missiles.
During a visit by Zelenskiy to Washington last month, the United States pledged to send the sophisticated Patriot missile system to repel Russian missile and drone attacks.
Russia launched its “special military operation” on Feb. 24, citing threats to its security and a need to protect Russian speakers. Ukraine and its allies accuse Russia of an unprovoked war to seize territory.
Major General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Military Intelligence of Ukraine, told ABC News that he expected more strikes “deeper and deeper” inside Russia, without saying whether Ukrainian forces would be responsible.
Budanov said he had been “glad to see” the Dec. 26 attack on Russia’s Engels air base, hundreds of miles from the Ukraine’s border.
Asked about attacks on Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, Budanov said: “Crimea is part of Ukraine, it’s part of our territory. We can use any weapon on our territory.”
In a signal to the West that Russia will not back down over Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a frigate on Wednesday to the Atlantic Ocean armed with new generation hypersonic cruise missiles, which can travel at more than five times the speed of sound. (Source: Reuters)
05 Jan 23. Ukraine unleashes ‘Bonus’ weapon that can destroy two tanks in a single shot. Ukraine has started using new high-tech artillery shells capable of destroying two tanks in a single shot from up to 20 miles away, imagery from the battlefield has shown.
Russian sources have shared photos online showing what appeared to be a 155mm (6.1in) Bonus projectile, likely supplied by France to be fired by the Cesar self-propelled howitzers it also sent to Ukraine.
The “Tankers U” channel, run by Russian tank operators, shared an image, believed to be the first, showing an unexploded submunition recovered by Russian troops in the eastern Donetsk region.
Each Bonus shell contains two such submunitions, which feature fold-out wings and advanced sensors.
Once fired, the two submunitions are deployed high above a target area, with each searching the ground below for targets.
Once identified, the munitions lock on to a target using thermal and infrared imaging and attack them from above.
The munitions use an explosively formed penetrator – a thin sheet of metal, usually copper, that is turned into a jet of molten material by an explosive charge – to penetrate the target’s armour.
Previously released video footage showed Ukraine using a similar system, believed to be German, being used to destroy a Russian Pantsir-S1 air defence system.
A small flash of light falls from the sky before an explosion engulfs the Russian launcher.
However, a Russian military channel on the Telegram messaging app seemingly confirmed French-made Bonus shells had now been used by Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donetsk region.
Russian military bloggers have been warning their colleagues to take steps to protect themselves from the high-tech Bonus projectiles.
“Hiding the thermal footprint of systems,” Tankers U wrote. “Even from the experience of the Chechen wars, it became clear that ordinary polythene stretched over sleeping militants did not allow them to be found in a greenhouse.”
The channel then proposed to break up the outline of vehicles to further spoof the Bonus’ target acquisition. (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
05 Jan 23. Macron promises ‘first Western tanks’ for Ukraine. France is set to become the first Western country to deliver tanks to Ukraine, the French presidency announced Wednesday after talks between Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky. The move to supply the French-made AMX-10 RC to Ukraine — a light tank model in service since the 1980s that is being phased out in the French military — represents a significant shift in French military support for Ukraine.
Paris has already delivered state-of-the-art artillery, armoured personnel carriers, anti-aircraft missiles and air-defence systems to Ukraine, but Macron has long been wary of antagonising Russia and breaking off diplomatic contact with Vladimir Putin.
“The president wanted to increase… aid” to Ukraine “by accepting to deliver AMX-10 RC light tanks”, an aide to the French leader told reporters on condition of anonymity after the call between Macron and Zelensky.
“It is the first time that Western-designed tanks are supplied to the Ukrainian armed forces,” he said.
NATO allies have gradually ramped up their military support to Ukraine since February last year, delivering increasingly sophisticated weapons systems while also publicly worrying about the risk of escalating the conflict with Moscow.
Transfers of fighter jets, long-range missiles and tanks have long been viewed as potentially provocative, risking a more direct confrontation between Russia and the West.
It was not immediately clear how many of the French tanks would be dispatched or when they would be delivered, though training and maintenance has been agreed as part of the deal.
The French defence ministry said the countries’ defence ministers would soon hold talks.
The AMX-10 RC tanks are light and six-wheeled, rather than on tracks.
They were designed for reconnaissance missions and have been deployed in France’s most recent overseas military operations in the Sahel region of West Africa and in Afghanistan.
They are “very mobile… perhaps old but high-performance”, a French official said.
Zelensky on Twitter said he thanked Macron “for the decision to transfer light tanks” to Ukraine, as well as Bastion armoured personnel carriers.
“Thank you friend! Your leadership brings our victory closer,” the Ukrainian leader added.
Macron has repeatedly riled his Ukrainian allies in the past as well as hawkish eastern European states over comments seen as focusing on diplomatic solutions to the conflict rather than Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russia’s occupying forces.
In June, he said “we must not humiliate Russia”. In December, he called for Russia to be offered “security guarantees” at the end of the conflict.
Macron has hardened his rhetoric against the Kremlin in recent weeks, however, accusing Putin of committing war crimes through his “cowardly” and “cynical” attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure.
In his New Year’s Eve message, the French leader addressed Ukrainians, saying: “We will help you until victory and we will build a fair and durable peace. Count on France and count on Europe.”
The presidential aide said that the French-made Crotale air defence system was already in action in Ukraine, helping guard against drones and missiles.
“These systems have arrived and are being used by the Ukrainians and are well received,” the aide said. (Source: News Now/https://www.monitor.co.ug/)
04 Jan 23. Putin deploys new Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles to Atlantic.
- Putin sends hypersonic missiles to Atlantic
- Sends of frigate with Zircon missiles
- Putin says no other power has such weapons
- Russia has used hypersonic missiles in Ukraine
- This content was produced in Russia where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine
President Vladimir Putin sent a frigate to the Atlantic Ocean armed with new generation hypersonic cruise missiles on Wednesday, a signal to the West that Russia will not back down over the war in Ukraine.
Russia, China and the United States are in a race to develop hypersonic weapons which are seen as a way to gain an edge over any adversary because of their speeds – above five times the speed of sound – and manoeuvrability.
In a video conference with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Igor Krokhmal, commander of the frigate named “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov”, Putin said the ship was armed with Zircon (Tsirkon) hypersonic weapons.
“This time the ship is equipped with the latest hypersonic missile system – ‘Zircon’,” said Putin. “I am sure that such powerful weapons will reliably protect Russia from potential external threats.”
The weapons, Putin said, had “no analogues in any country in the world”.
More than 10 months since Putin sent troops into Ukraine, there is no end in sight to the war which has descended into a grinding winter artillery battle that has killed and wounded tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides.
Russia has also used hypersonic Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles in Ukraine.
Along with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle which entered combat duty in 2019, the Zircon forms the centrepiece of Russia’s hypersonic arsenal.
Russia sees the weapons as a way to pierce increasingly sophisticated U.S. missile defences which Putin has warned could one day shoot down Russian nuclear missiles.
Shoigu said the Gorshkov would sail to the Atlantic and Indian oceans and to the Mediterranean Sea.
“This ship, armed with ‘Zircons’, is capable of delivering pinpoint and powerful strikes against the enemy at sea and on land,” Shoigu said.
Shoigu said the hypersonic missiles could overcome any missile defence system. The missiles fly at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of over 1,000 km, Shoigu said.
The main tasks of the voyage were to counter threats to Russia and to maintain “regional peace and stability jointly with friendly countries”, Shoigu said.
A U.S. Congressional Research Service report on hypersonic weapons says that Russian and Chinese hypersonic missiles are designed to be used with nuclear warheads.
The target of a hypersonic weapon is much more difficult to calculate than for intercontinental ballistic missiles because of their manoeuvrability. Beyond Russia, the United States and China, a range of other countries are developing hypersonic weapons including Australia, France, Germany, South Korea, North Korea and Japan, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service. (Source: Reuters)
04 Jan 23. Biden says Bradley Fighting Vehicles are on the table for Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday said that sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine was being considered to help the that country fight Russia’s invasion.
“Yes,” Biden said when asked if the option was on the table.
The armored vehicle with a powerful gun has been used as a staple by the U.S. Army to carry troops around battlefields since the mid-1980s.
The Army has thousands of Bradleys, which could give the Ukrainians more firepower on the battlefield. Biden’s move, however, is short of sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine, which the Ukrainians have been requesting.It was not clear how many Bradleys are destined for Ukraine, but the United States is preparing another weapons aid package which could be announced in the coming days.
Late last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the U.S. Congress that the tens of billions of dollars of aid it had approved to help it combat a Russian invasion was not charity, but an investment in global security.
The United States has sent about $21.3bn in security assistance to Kyiv as Europe’s biggest land conflict since 1945 grinds on, killing tens of thousands.
The United States has increasingly sent more capable weapons to Ukraine. Initially, Raytheon Technologies Corp-made shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, as well as Javelin anti-tank missiles, were used to beat back the Russian advance. Javelins are made by a Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon joint venture.
As the war progressed and Ukraine’s needs changed, more complex weapons systems, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS)d, were shipped to Kiyv. Most recently, the United States pledged to send a Patriot missile system to repel Russian missile and drone attacks. Training and other logistics still need to be worked out. The Army is working to retire its Bradley fleet, and is working with industry to build a replacement as it seeks to modernize. (Source: Reuters)
04 Jan 23. Zircon: The hypersonic missile Putin hopes will turn the tide against Ukraine. President Putin warned in December that Russian troops would be armed with the Zircon hypersonic missile in January. The Russian President hopes the missile will help turn the tide in his campaign in Ukraine. Russia test-fired the Zircon hypersonic missiles in December, a move Russian officials said was meant to help make Russia’s push for security guarantees “more convincing”.
Capable of speeds above Mach 5 – reportedly up to Mach 9 – the Zircon hypersonic missile also has a range in excess of 1,000km.
“It was designed as an anti-ship missile, to supplement and replace the Onyx or SS-N-26,” defence and international affairs expert Dr James Bosbotinis told Forces News.
He added: “It also has a secondary land-attack role. It’s been tested a number of times from the nuclear-powered submarine, Severodvinsk and the Admiral Gorshkov frigate.”
The Zircon hypersonic missile reportedly has speeds of Mach 9 (Picture: Russian MOD).
Dr Bosbotinis notes that the Russians currently operate principally subsonic and supersonic cruise missiles, the Kalibr, the SS-N-27 Sizzler, the heavyweight anti-ship missile the Onyx, as well as the backfire launched AS-4 Kitchen.
Russia does currently operate the X-32, which has a high supersonic speed of Mach 4/4.5, however, Russia’s latest Zircon missile reportedly has a speed of Mach 9, or nine times the speed of sound.
“The window of time to detect, track, prosecute it, is extremely short,” Dr Bosbotinis said.
“This is one of the advantages of hypersonic missiles, they are difficult to detect, and track and engage because their speed compresses the time available to a defender.
He added: “So the Zircon would be extremely challenging for defenders to defend against.” (Source: forces.net)
03 Jan 23. Russia fighting for weeks to capture ‘a single home’, says Wagner head as he hits out at lack of equipment. Russian forces are having to fight for weeks to capture “a single home” in Bakhmut, the head of the mercenary Wagner Group has said, as he appeared to cast the blame for slow progress on a lack of supplies from the Kremlin.
Bakhmut is one of the largest towns still held by Kyiv in the industrial Donetsk region and has been the focus of the Russian onslaught since August.
British intelligence has said that Russia’s forces are unlikely to make a breakthrough despite throwing thousands of men at the town in one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
“Everyone has a question,” Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, said in a video published on social media, “when are you taking Bakhmut?”
Explaining why his mercenaries, who have been given a prominent role in the assault, had so far failed, the 61-year-old said that “it’s a fortress in every home”.
He added: “The guys lock horns for every home, sometimes not just for one day. Sometimes for weeks over a single house. They take one home, they take a second, a third.
“What is breaking through the defences? It’s taking one house.
“If we say there are 500 lines of defence [in Bakhmut], probably we won’t be wrong. A line of defence every ten metres.” (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
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