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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 335: Estonia, Latvia, Russia: tensions rise

​Estonia to send all of its 155mm howitzers to Ukraine; Russia said it was downgrading diplomatic relations with NATO member Estonia, accusing it of “total Russophobia.” Latvia will downgrade its diplomatic relations with Russia in solidarity with Estonia. Ukraine deputy minister sacked for alleged theft of USD 400,000.

Daily overview — Summary report, January 24, 2023

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, January 24, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. January 23, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. January 23, 2023. Source: ISW.

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Day 335 of the full-scale russian military aggression begun.

The russian occupier launched 9x missile strikes on several settlements in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. Moreover, the enemy launched 27x air strikes and conducted 79x MLRS attacks.

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

The enemy continues to advance on Bakhmut and Avdiivka axes , despite significant losses.

Kup’yans’k axis: the adversary attempted offensives that have failed. All enemy attacks were repulsed by Ukrainian defenders.

The enemy stays on the defensive on Lyman, Novopavlivsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson axes.

Over the past day, Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled attacks in the vicinities of Chervonopivka (Luhansk oblast) ; Bilohorivka, Rozdolivka, Sil’, Krasna Hora, Bakhmut, Klishchiivka, Novobakhmutivka, Krasnohorivka, Vodyane, and Mar’inka (Donetsk oblast).

Kharkiv Battle Map. January 23, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. January 23, 2023. Source: ISW.

Volyn, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: no significant changes, no offensive grouping of the enemy detected.

The adversary does not stop shelling Ukrainian settlements along the contact line. The vicinities of Buchki, Mikhalchyna Sloboda (Chernihiv oblast); Novovasylivka, Kozache, Sopych, Kucherivka, Studenok, Boyaro-Lezhachi, Stukalivka, Vorozhba, Yunakivka, Volfine (Sumy oblast); Huryiv Kozachok, Strilecha, Slobozhanske, Zelene, Ternova, Starytsya, Vovchansk, Zemlianki, Novomlynsk, Kamyanka, and Krasne Pershe (Kharkiv oblast) were shelled with entire range of artillery systems. The attacks caused casualties among civilian population.

Donetsk Battle Map. January 23, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. January 23, 2023. Source: ISW.

Kup’yans’k axis: the enemy shelled the vicinities of Dvorichna, Hryanikyvka, Kup’yans’k, Kucherivka, Kislivka, Tabaivka, Krokhmalne, Berestov, Kruhlyakivka (Kharkiv oblast); Novoselivske, Stelmakhivka, and Andriivka (Luhansk oblast).

Lyman axis: the enemy shelled the vicinities of Makiivka, Ploshanka, Chervopopivka, Kreminna, Dibrova, and Kuzmyne (Luhansk oblast).

Bakhmut axis: the vicinities of Spirne, Vyimka, Berestovka, Bilohorivka, Vesele, Rozdolivka, Krasna Hora, Paraskoviivka, Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, Ozaryanivka, Mayorsk, and New York (Donetsk oblast) came under enemy artillery, tank and mortar fire.

Avdiivka axis: the vicinities of Berdychi, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Nevelske, Krasnohorivka, Heorgiivka, Maryinka, and Novomykhailivka (Donetsk oblast) suffered enemy attacks.

Novopavlivsk axis: the enemy employed tanks, artillery and mortars in the attacks in the vicinities of Paraskoviivka, Mykilske, Vuhledar, Prechistivka, Neskuchne, and Velika Novosilka (Donetsk oblast).

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. January 23, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. January 23, 2023. Source: ISW.

Zaporizhzhia axis: the vicinities of Komyshuvakha (Donetsk oblast); Chervone, Hulyaipole, Charivne, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanilivka, Orihiv, Novoandriivka, and Stepove (Zaporizhzhia oblast) came under russian artillery fire.

Kherson axis: the occupiers shell civilian population every day. The vicinities of Antonivka (Kherson oblast) and the city of Kherson came under russian artillery and MLRS fire yet again.

Over the past 10 days in some settlements of the Luhansk oblast, a decrease in the number of enemy personnel has been observed. In addition, more frequent deployment of mobilized personnel to the front line has become a common practice. Meanwhile, professional militaries do everything possible to stay out of the front line.

According to the available information, the russian occupation administration of Luhansk is evacuating families of servicemen of russian 2nd Army Corps to the territory of the russian federation.

During the past day, Ukrainian Air Force delivered 8x air strikes on concentrations of russian troops, weapons and military equipment, as well as 1x air strike against russian anti-aircraft missile complex.

Moreover, Ukrainian defenders shot down 2x enemy Su-25 aircraft; 1x Ka-52 attack helicopter; 1x “Orlan-10” UAV, and 2x Kh-59 guided air missiles.

Over the last 24 hours, Ukrainian missile and artillery troops attacked

3x concentrations of russian troops and 1x logistics warehouse.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

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

  • General Colonel Mikhail Teplinsky has likely been dismissed as one of Russia’s key operational commanders in Ukraine. Teplinsky was the officer on the ground in charge of Russia’s relatively successful withdrawal from west of the Dnipro in November 2022, and he has received praise in Russia as a capable and pragmatic commander.
  • It remains unclear whether Teplinsky still retains his additional remit as head of the VDV, Russia’s airborne forces. There is a realistic possibility that debate over the tasks VDV has been given has contributed to his dismissal: VDV has often been employed in ground holding roles traditionally given to the mechanized infantry.
  • Teplinsky’s dismissal is likely another symptom of continued divisions within the senior hierarchy of Russia’s operation as General Valery Gerasimov attempts to impose his personal authority on the campaign

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of Russian Army. Source: Ukrinform. ~

Losses of Russian Army. Source: Ukrinform.

Humanitarian 

Environmental

Putin’s aggression is the last call to end global fossil fuel addiction – opinion. European dependence on Russian oil and gas enabled the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It can be ended only by breaking the chains of global addiction to fossil fuels and ending the political and economic dominance of oil majors.

Legal 

155 cases of rape by Russian soldiers were officially documented, but the real number is much higher. Ukraine’s Police and Prosecutor’s office have documented 155 cases of sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine during the Russian war against Ukraine,

Ukraine deputy minister sacked for alleged theft of USD 400,000. Ukraine’s deputy infrastructure minister, Vasyl Lozinskyi, has been dismissed from his post for allegedly stealing $400,000 allocated for purchasing aid, including generators. After the news emerged, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, vowed that the old ways of corruption would not return to Ukraine.

Support

How many Leopard tanks Spain has and what it can give Ukraine. Analysts of the Spanish portal Infodefense have counted how many Leopard tanks Spain has and what they could give Ukraine, Defense Express reports. The analysts note that Ukraine’s partners from the defense coalition will most likely transfer Leopard tanks of the 2A4 model to Ukraine, as it is the most widespread version. If Spain decides to give them to Ukraine, it must take them out from combat units: repairing tanks that have been in storage will take time, while Ukraine needs them “here and now,” the analysts write.

Decisions are “made when they are due – and that happens in the Chancellery” – German Defense Minister regarding Leopard tank supplies. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius believes that it’s in Germany’s and Europe’s interest to consider the decision to supply Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine carefully and in a balanced manner, “and not in haste or frivolously.”

​Estonia to send all of its 155mm howitzers to Ukraine. On 19 January, Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas announced a new package of military aid to Ukraine which included all of the country’s 155mm howitzers, grenade launchers, and ammunition. Ambassador of Estonia in Ukraine Kaimo Kuusk called the decision “investment” not “aid.”

Russia said it was downgrading diplomatic relations with NATO member Estonia, accusing it of “total Russophobia.” In turn, Tallinn responded by telling Moscow’s envoy to the Baltic nation to leave. Latvia will downgrade its diplomatic relations with Russia in solidarity with Estonia, Latvian FM says.

New Developments 

Russian agents suspected of directing the far-right group to mail bombs in Spain – NYT. US and EU officials believe that Russian military intelligence officers directed associates of a white supremacist militant group based in Russia to carry out a recent letter bomb campaign in Spain whose most prominent targets were the Ukrainian and American embassies, the Spanish prime and defense ministers, according to The New York Timesreferring to US officials.

Poland to ask for Berlin’s consent to give Ukraine German-made tanks but will send them whether or not Berlin agreed. On 23 January, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Poland would ask Germany for permission to send German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine, and reiterated that Poland is ready to send them even without Germany’s consent.

Record-high 86% of Ukrainians support the country’s accession to NATO, poll shows. Public support for Ukraine’s accession to NATO among Ukrainians has increased once again in recent months reaching history’s highest level: 86% of Ukrainians would support this initiative in a referendum, according to the 12th National Poll by the Ukrainian pollster Sociological Group Rating carried out on 14-16 January 2023. Only 3% of respondents would vote against NATO accession, and 8% would not vote.

Former Wagner Group commander who fled to Norway arrested by police – The Guardian. Andrey Medvedev, a commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who recently fled to Norway after months of fighting in Ukraine, has been apprehended by police, the Guardian informs. The Wagner private military company led by Kremlin-linked oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin was accused of countless war crimes against Ukrainian civilians, including atrocities in Bucha.

Assessment 

  1. On the war.

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of January 23, 2023:

Ukrainian intelligence assessed that Russian forces are preparing for an offensive effort in the spring or early summer of 2023, partially confirming ISW’s standing assessment that Russian troops may undertake a decisive action in the coming months. Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) representative Vadym Skibitsky stated on January 20 that the spring and early summer of 2023 will be decisive in the war and confirmed that the GUR has observed indicators that Russian troops are regrouping in preparation for a “big offensive” in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.[1] Skibitsky also reiterated that Russian forces are unlikely to launch an attack from Belarus or in southern Ukraine.[2] ISW has previously assessed that Russian forces may be preparing for a decisive effort (of either offensive or defensive nature) in Luhansk Oblast and observed a redeployment of conventional forces such as Airborne (VDV) elements to the Svatove-Kreminna axis after the Russian withdrawal from Kherson Oblast.[3] ISW also maintains that it is highly unlikely that Russian forces are planning to relaunch a new offensive on northern Ukraine from the direction of Belarus.[4] Skibitsky’s assessments largely support ISW’s running forecasts of Russian intentions in the first half of 2023 and underscore the continued need for Western partner support to ensure that Ukraine does not lose the initiative to a renewed Russian offensive operation.

The Wagner Group’s outsized reliance on recruitment from penal colonies appears to be having increasing ramifications on Wagner’s combat capability. Head of the independent Russian human rights organization “Rus Sidyashchaya” (Russia Behind Bars) Olga Romanova claimed on January 23 that out of the assessed 50,000 prisoners that Wagner has recruited, only 10,000 are fighting on frontlines in Ukraine due to high casualty, surrender, and desertion rates.[5] ISW cannot independently confirm these figures, but they are very plausible considering Wagner’s model of using convicts as cannon fodder in highly attritional offensive operations.[6] The model Wagner has reportedly been using of retaining its highly trained long-serving mercenaries as leadership and Special Forces–type elements on top of a mass of untrained convicts also lends itself to high combat losses, surrenders, and desertions. The Wagner Group aim of reducing casualties among its non-convict mercenaries likely undermines its ability to retain and use effectively its large mass of convicts at scale and over time. ISW has previously reported on instances of relatives of Wagner group fighters receiving empty coffins after being told their loves ones died in Ukraine, suggesting that Wagner lacks the basic administrative and bureaucratic infrastructure to track and present its own losses, adding further credibility to the “Rus Sidyashchaya” estimate.[7]

Russia continues to deepen military and economic relations with Iran in an effort to engage in mutually beneficial sanctions evasion . NOTE: A version of this item appeared in the Critical Threats Project (CTP)’s Iran Crisis Update. [8] Russian Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin met with Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran on January 23 to expand bilateral cooperation efforts.[9] Ghalibaf noted that Moscow and Tehran should strive to strengthen ties in the banking, energy, and commodity-trading sectors in the face of American sanctions, which Volodin credited for bringing the two countries closer together.[10] Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) sources additionally speculated on further military cooperation efforts between Tehran and Moscow. IRGC-affiliated outlet Tasnim News published an editorial arguing that a Russo-Iranian joint production deal could allow Iran to receive Russian Mi-28 and Ka-52 attack helicopters.[11] Both Tehran and Moscow are likely looking to these agreements to mitigate the pressure of sanctions levied against them by the US.

Key Takeaways

  • Ukrainian intelligence assessed that Russian forces are preparing for an offensive effort in the spring or early summer of 2023, partially confirming ISW’s standing assessment that Russian troops may undertake a decisive action in the coming months.
  • The Wagner Group’s outsized reliance on recruitment from penal colonies appears to be having increasing ramifications on Wagner’s combat capability.
  • Russia continues to deepen military and economic relations with Iran in an effort to engage in mutually beneficial sanctions evasion .
  • Russian forces continued limited counterattacks to regain lost positions along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Ukrainian forces struck Russian concentration areas in occupied Luhansk Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut and on the western outskirts of Donetsk City.
  • Russian forces likely conducted a failed offensive operation in Zaporizhzhia Oblast in the last 72 hours.
  • Russian forces have not made any confirmed territorial gains in Zaporizhzhia Oblast despite one Russian occupation official’s continued claims. The occupation official may be pushing a narrative of Russian tactical successes in Zaporizhzhia Oblast to generate positive narratives to distract Russians from the lack of promised progress in Bakhmut.
  • The Kremlin’s efforts to professionalize the Russian Armed Forces are continuing to generate criticism among supporters of new Russian parallel military structures.
  • Russian officials and occupation authorities continue efforts to integrate occupied territories into Russian social, administrative, and political systems and crack down on partisan dissent in occupied areas.

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