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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 328: The war is in a “decisive phase” – NATO Secretary-General

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the Russo-Ukrainian War is in a “decisive phase.” Ukrainian units defend positions in Soledar and its outskirts. Russian forces made additional territorial gains north of Bakhmut and may be intensifying attacks south of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka.

Daily overview — Summary report, January 17, 2023

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

Situation in Ukraine. January 16, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

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

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Attacking residential areas, Russian forces continue to destroy infrastructure and homes of civilian population, thus violates rules of International Humanitarian Law and the laws and principles of war.

Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces launched 2 missiles and 7 airstrikes, and conducted more than 70 MLRS attacks that caused casualties among the civilian population.

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

[A joint flight and tactical training of air force units of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus and Russia, which are part of a regional grouping of troops that involves combat aircraft of both countries, began near the Ukrainian border on January 16. Thus, under the guise of joint training, the adversary has reinforced its combat aircraft group in Belarus. Due to this, the threat of missile and air strikes from the airspace of Belarus is growing .]

The adversary does not abandon plans to seize the Donetsk oblast of Ukraine and continues offensive operations on Bakhmut and Avdiivka axes.

Over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled attacks in the vicinities of more than 20 settlements , including Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast); Verkhn’okam’yans’ke, Spirne, Krasnopolivka, Sil’, Soledar, Bilohorivka, Bakhmut, Pivnichne, Kam’yanka, Vod’yane, Nevels’ke, Mar’yinka, and Pobieda (Donetsk oblast).

Kupyansk, Lyman and Novopavlivka axes: Russian forces attempted to improve the tactical situation; Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axis – Russian forces stay on the defensive .

Kharkiv Battle Map. January 16, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. January 16, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • Volyn, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes : no significant changes, no signs of the establishment of offensive grouping reported. The vicinities of more than 15 settlements , including Krasne, Neskuchne, Vesele, Hatyshche, Vovchans’k, Nesterne, Zemlyanky, Novomlyns’k, Dvorichna, and Kam’yanka (Kharkiv oblast), were subjects to tank, mortar and artillery shelling.
  • Kupyansk and Lyman axes : Russian forces shelled the vicinities of more than 15 settlements , including Kislivka, Kotlyarivka, Vyshneve (Kharkiv oblast); as well as Novoselivs’ke, Andriivka, Makiivka, Kreminna, Dibrova, Terny, and Yampolivka (Luhansk oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. January 16, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. January 16, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • Bakhmut axis : more than 15 settlements , including Vyimka, Bilohorivka, Soledar, Krasna Hora, Paraskoviivka, Bakhmut, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, New York, and Vesele (Donetsk oblast), suffered Russian shelling.
  • Avdiivka axis : Avdiivka, Vodyane, Pervomais’ke,hGeorgiivka, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka ( Donetsk oblast) came under enemy fire.
  • Novopavlivka axis: Vuhledar, Mykilski Dachy, and Veyika Novosilka (Donetsk oblast) suffered enemy attacks.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. January 16, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. January 16, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • Zaporizhzhia axis : more than 15 settlements were affected by artillery fire, in particular, Vremivka, Novopil (Donetsk oblast); Poltavka, Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Mala Tokmachka, Novoandriivka, Stepove, Kam’yans’ke, and Plavni (Zaporizhzhia oblast).
  • Kherson axis : the occupiers do not stop terrorizing the civilian population. In particular, Sablukivka, Kachkarivka, Olhivka, Tyaginka, Ingulets and Kherson were hit by mortar and artillery fire.

In the temporarily occupied territories, in the settlements of Zavodivka, Gornostaivka, and Cairo of the Kherson oblast, the occupiers stopped broadcasting all Ukrainian TV channels; only Russian TV is available nowadays.

[On the territory of Russia, foreign citizens who are pending to become citizens of the Russian Federation are offered to voluntarily enlist in the Russian forces army and automatically obtain Russian citizenship . Also, commercial structures in Moscow are pressured into financial support of Russian forces armed forces through the transfer of funds in the amount of 10 million rubles. At the same time, at the Kadamovskiy training ground (Rostov oblast, Russia), units with the mobilized men are expected to arrive for training and further manning of detachments and units of the Russian occupation troops participating in combat in Ukraine. The replenishment will primarily man the private military contractor Wagner and Bars units , which are permanently suffering casualties in Ukraine.]

[According to the available information, Russian forces used an S-300 system in Novopskov (Starobilsk district, Luhansk oblast) on January 15. As a result, one missile fell on a residential building, killing two civilians.]

[In the settlements of the temporarily occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts, Russian invaders are intensifying counterintelligence and security measures , conducting intensive checks of the local residents. Particular attention is paid to their mobile phones.]

Ukrainian missile and artillery troops attacked 1 command post, 11 concentrations of Russian troops, 1 fuel and lubricants storage, and 1 enemy ammunition depot during the day.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Ukrainian units defend positions in Soledar and its outskirts , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Serhii Chrevatyi, spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, on air of the 24 TV Channel. “ Ukraine’s east remains the main direction of the aggressor’s attack. Russian forces focused the main attack on the Bakhmut front, especially in the area of Soledar, where the battles are ongoing. Ukrainian units continue to hold the defence in the city and its outskirts .”

Russia deploys 6 ships armed with 30 Kalibr cruise missiles in Black Sea , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ukrainian Navy. “ 17 Russian warships, including 6 Kalibr cruise missile carriers, are on combat duty in the Black Sea on Monday, 16 January. The Navy notes that a total firing capacity of 6 carriers is about 30 missiles.

2 ships are on combat duty in the Sea of Azov, and 9 Russian ships are in the Mediterranean Sea .”

Russian-installed official in Crimea says air defences shot down 10 drones , Reuters reports. “ The Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol in Crimea said on Monday that air defences had downed 10 drones over the city in what he called a “failed Ukrainian attack”. […] Air defence and the Black Sea Fleet shot down 10 out of 10 Ukrainian drones over the sea, he said in a post on his Telegram channel.

He denied reports in Ukrainian media that there were explosions in the city, and said air defences were continuing to monitor the skies. Ukraine has demonstrated the capacity to hit Russia with surprise attacks in Crimea, far beyond the frontlines of fighting in south and eastern Ukraine, though it typically refrains from claiming responsibility .”

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

  • On 14 January 2023, Russia resumed long-range missile strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure, the first in approximately 15 days, launching tens of missiles. As with the previous eight waves of strikes since 11 October 2022, Russia primarily targeted the Ukrainian electricity grid .
  • An AS-4 KITCHEN large anti-ship missile, launched from a Tu-22M3 BACKFIRE medium bomber, highly likely struck a block of flats in Dnipro city which resulted in the death of at least 40 people. Russia falsely implied a Ukrainian air defence missile was responsible. KITCHEN is notoriously inaccurate when used against ground targets as its radar guidance system is poor at differentiating targets in urban areas. Similar weapons have been responsible for other incidents of civilian mass-casualties, including the Kremenchuk shopping centre strike of 27 June 2022.
  • While some missiles such as KITCHEN are unsuitable for precision strike, evidence from the Ukraine war suggests that dysfunction of Russia’s long-range strike capability is more profound . It highly likely struggles to dynamically identify targets, and to access rapid and accurate battle damage assessment.
  • Over the weekend, intense fighting continued in both the Kremina and Bakhmut sectors of the Donbas front. As of 15 January 2023, Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) almost certainly maintained positions in Soledar, north of Bakhmut, in the face of continued Wagner Group assaults.
  • Around Kremina, fighting has been characterised by a complex series of local attacks and counter-attacks in wooded country . However, overall, the UAF continue to gradually advance their front line east on the edge of Kremina town.

Over the last six weeks, both Russia and Ukraine have achieved hard-fought but limited gains in different sectors . In these circumstances, a key operational challenge for both sides is to generate formations of uncommitted, capable troops which can exploit the tactical successes to create operational breakthroughs.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Tuesday 17 January , the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – about 116950 (+870),
  • Tanks – 3121 (+3),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6215 (+11),
  • Artillery systems – 2104 (+5),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 441 (+3),
  • Air defence means – 220 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 286 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 276 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 4877 (+7),
  • Vessels/boats – 17 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1872 (+0),
  • Special equipment – 190 (+0),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 749 (+0)

Russians lack ballistic missiles, they will use S-300 and S-400 more frequently , Ukrainska Pravda reports. “ Yurii Ihnat, the spokesman of the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said that Russian forces has less than 100 Iskander ballistic missiles left, so the Russians are increasingly using the modified S-300 and S-400 missiles to hit ground targets in Ukraine. They are being used increasingly often, from Kharkiv to Mykolaiv Oblast, and we can see them around Kyiv… This indicates that they have fewer ballistic missiles [left].”

Ihnat notes that S-400 is a new anti-aircraft system that the Russians are very proud of. Its range spans hundreds of kilometres. To destroy such missiles, Western systems are needed; alternatively, S-400’s need to be destroyed directly at the positions from which the missiles are launched . In the east, about 150 km [away – ed.]. These are actually S-300 systems, they need to be destroyed either with HARM missiles or in some other way on their positions.”

According to the spokesman, Russian forces has less than a hundred Iskanders left , but there is a large stockpile of S-300 missiles, as the Russian Federation keeps producing them.

The Russian Federation has about a hundred Kh-22 missiles left : […] Kh-22 missiles were also in our arsenal, we gave them to Russians for gas debts […]. Some were handed over, and some were scrapped. Their fate is such that they now return to Ukraine. This, too, has already become a meme amongst the Russian public.

Since the beginning of the full-scale war in February 2022, the Russians have already launched more than 210 such missiles, and none of them was shot down: “Western modern systems (such as Patriot, SAMP-T) capable of shooting down ballistic missiles can destroy the X-22, but it is impossible to do this with the means available in Ukraine [at the moment – ed.].”

Humanitarian 

Ukraine and Russia working on large PoW exchange, Ukraine’s Ombudsman hands list with 800 people, Russian – 200 , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing CNN Turk. “ Şeref Malkoç, Ombudsman of Turkey, said that Ukraine and Russia are working on a large prisoner of war exchange, in which a total of 1,000 people may participate.

At the meeting I attended, the Ukrainian Ombudsman handed over a list of 800 people to the Russian side. The Russian Ombudswoman handed over a list of 200 people to her Ukrainian counterpart. The exchange is not limited to this. It is a list of wounded, captured. In addition, there are thousands of children, there are women, there are other problems .”

Emergency blackouts in nine Oblasts of Ukraine , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ukrenergo. “ As of 11:00, the power system continues to be restored after the 12th massive missile strike landed by Russian invaders on 14 January. The shortage in the energy system has increased significantly. This is due to a decrease in electricity production because of rocket attacks on power plants. This is also overlaid by an increase in consumption due to the beginning of the working week.

Due to the excess of consumption limits, emergency shutdowns have already been introduced in four oblasts since 9:00, and in five oblasts of Ukraine since 10:00. Emergency shutdowns are also possible in other regions. Ukrenergo has noted that the situation is complicated by weather conditions (gusty wind, icy wires); there is a shutdown due to damage in the distribution networks in the central region .”

Six ships carrying grain leave Ukrainian ports over past two days , Ukrinform reports, citing the press service of the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine. “” Grain Initiative: over the weekend, six ships carrying 153,000 tonnes of agricultural products bound for Africa, Asia, and Europe left the ports of Great Odesa,” the report says. […] Currently, 21 ships have checked in the ports of the Odesa region, to be loaded with 800,000 tonnes of Ukrainian agricultural products. Another vessel is moving through the Grain Corridor toward one of the Ukrainian ports.

The ministry reports that there is a growing line of vessels awaiting inspection in the Bosphorus Strait. As of January 15, there were 109 vessels in the queue , of which 22 are loaded with agricultural products. The ministry emphasizes that the Russian delegation continues to delay inspections and refuses to work after 15:30. So far, only two vessels out of 81, which declared their participation in the Grain Initiative, have been cleared.

Since August 1, a total of 653 ships left the ports of Odesa, exporting 17.5 million tonnes of Ukrainian food products to the countries of Asia, Europe, and Africa .”

Environmental

IAEA Expands Its Mission in Ukraine to Prevent Nuclear Accident , European Pravda reports. “ The International Atomic Energy Agency expands its presence in Ukraine to help prevent a nuclear accident during the ongoing war.

As reported, [Rafael Grossi, IAEA Director] will travel to the South Ukraine and Rivne Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) as well as to the Chornobyl site to launch the missions consisting of two IAEA experts at each of the facilities.

The IAEA already has a permanent presence of up to four experts at the Zaporizhzhia NPP; in addition, a team of two experts will also be stationed at the Khmelnytsky NPP in the coming days. In general, the IAEA will have around 11-12 experts present in the country.

After a short-lived mission at the Zaporizhzhia NPP, IAEA experts presented a report confirming that Russia had deployed “military personnel, vehicles and equipment in various locations at the plant”. Since then, Rafael Grossi, the IAEA’s Director General, has been negotiating with Kyiv and Moscow to establish a nuclear safety zone around the plant .”

Legal 

Prosecutor General’s Office names Russian military unit that targeted residential building in Dnipro , Ukrainska Pravda reported on Sunday, citing Prosecutor General’s Office. “ According to preliminary information, a Kh-22 missile was used. This type of missile leads to the greatest human casualties, because the missile is extremely inaccurate, has a huge deviation rate [from its course – ed.]. Therefore, the use of such weapons for targets in densely populated areas is clearly a war crime.

This type of missile was used in Serhiivka and Kremenchuk. It can be launched by one Russian unit only, the 52nd Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment.”

Security Service of Ukraine names six Russian soldiers involved in attack on multi-storey residential building in Dnipro.

About 400 Ukrainian children adopted by Russian families , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing a presentation of analytical report on deportation of Ukrainian citizens to Russia and Belarus. “ Russian sources state that more than 4 million Ukrainians are currently in Russia. These are people mainly from Mariupol and Kherson, deported during the full-scale invasion of Russia. Until 24 February 2022, deportations took place in the temporarily occupied territories.

Deportation includes several stages and war crimes: tortures, inhumane treatment, filtration camps that preceded deportation, said Alyona Lunyova, director of advocacy at the ZMINA Human Rights Centre.

Many of the deportees are minors. Kateryna Rashevska, a lawyer at the Regional Center for Human Rights, states that according to various sources, Russia had deported from 260,000 to almost 700,000 minors, as well 1,500- 2,500 orphans . At least 400 children have already become members of Russian families.

The children were deported to at least 57 Oblasts of Russia. Their locations really vary: Sakhalin, Astrakhan, Murmansk, Dagestan, said Rashevska. She added that the purpose of such actions perpetrated by Russia is the genocide of the Ukrainian people and nation .”

Support

Under Secretary of Defense: US acknowledges Ukraine’s need to strike beyond front line , Ukrinform reports. “ The USA acknowledges Ukraine’s need to strike further beyond the front line and is considering the best options for the transfer of heavy combat vehicles, including tanks. […]

There is a need to reach beyond the front line and, without going into details, I will say that we acknowledge this need in the current phase. And we should think about how to help Ukraine overcome this challenge. But I will not resolve in advance what kind of system it might be, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told journalists at the Media Center Ukraine–Ukrinform. […] Talks with Ukraine on providing missiles will continue.

Commenting on the possibility of transferring Abrams tanks to Ukraine, Kahl noted that this is a very expensive weapon that is very difficult to maintain. It is not clear whether this is the best response to the challenges. Therefore, we will continue to consider what heavy vehicles, including tanks, it makes sense to provide on time and in the necessary quantity and also to ensure their support for Ukraine, he emphasized .”

US begins expanded training of Ukrainian forces for large-scale combat , The Washington Post reports. “ The US military has launched an expanded, more sophisticated training program of Ukrainian forces that is focused on large-scale combat and meant to bolster Ukraine’s ability to take back territory from Russian forces, the Pentagon’s top general said Sunday.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on a flight from Washington to Europe that the training began Sunday at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany and will continue for five or six weeks . About 500 soldiers will go through the initial version of training, focused on what the military calls combined-arms warfare, in which tanks, artillery, combat vehicles and other weapons are layered to maximize the violence they inflict. […]

The training, first disclosed in planning late last year , begins as the United States and its allies lock in an ever-growing list of weapons that could be used in an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive within months. […]. Other nations, including Britain, Poland and France, have pledged complementary weapons, including battle tanks, and Ukraine has pressured Germany to do the same. Milley said the challenge will be determining how quickly the Ukrainian military will be ready and trained to use all of the new military equipment. […]

Milley said that Ukraine’s first priority is finding more air defenses, a continuing challenge highlighted by a Russian missile attack on a civilian apartment complex in the city of Dnipro on Saturday that killed dozens of people. They’re getting hit every few weeks with really significant attacks, and they’re attacks on the civilian infrastructure, the general said. The Russians are consciously, as a matter of policy, attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure. That in of itself is a war crime. ”

USA contemplates how to help Ukraine counteract ballistic missiles after attack on Dnipro , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defence for policy in the Biden administration. “ The USA considered strengthening the air defence of Ukraine with equipment designed to counteract ballistic missiles, such as the one used in the attack on an apartment block in the city of Dnipro on 14 January. […]

Kahl remarked that, currently, the American side is focused on equipping the Ukrainian Air Defence Forces with [missiles] for the Hawk and Buk systems, and added that the USA and Germany will supply Ukraine with the Patriot air defence systems that will serve as a decent protection against ballistic missiles.

Kahl reminded the public that as soon as 20 January, another meeting of the Contact group for Ukrainian Defence will be held at the Ramstein air base in Germany. Air defence remains priority number one . The second most important issue is the guarantee that Ukraine has enough armoured vehicles to continue holding the initiative on the front. Kahl emphasised.»

United Kingdom announces most significant military aid package for Ukraine , Ukrinform reports, citing a statement made by United Kingdom Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace in the House of Commons. “ Today, I can announce the most significant package of combat power to date to accelerate Ukrainian success, Wallace said.

In his words, the new package will include a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks with armoured recovery and repair vehicles, eight AS90 guns (two further batteries at varying states of readiness), 100 armoured and protected vehicles (including Bulldog personnel carriers), a manoeuvre support package (including minefield breaching and bridging capabilities worth £28 million), dozens more uncrewed aerial systems worth £20 million to support Ukrainian artillery, 100,000 artillery rounds, hundreds more sophisticated missiles (including GMLRS rockets, Starstreak air defence missiles, and medium range air defence missiles), and an equipment support package of spares to refurbish up to 100 Ukrainian tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

According to Wallace, the tanks and the AS90s will come from the United Kingdom’s stocks, along with their associated ammunition, and a significant number of the other donations will be purchased from the open market or from supportive third-party countries.

Today’s package is an important increase in Ukraine’s capabilities. It means they can go from resisting to expelling Russian forces from Ukrainian soil, Wallace noted .”

The Armed Forces of Ukraine received the eighth Zuzana 2 self-propelled howitzers of Slovak production , the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “ This is also the last of eight Zuzana 2 self-propelled howitzers, which Slovakia, […] undertook to deliver to Ukraine on the basis of a sales contract concluded last June. […]

In addition to fulfilling the contract for the supply of 8 units of Zuzana self-propelled howitzers, KONSHTRUKTA-Defense will manufacture 16 more units of this type of equipment for Ukraine, which will be jointly financed by the Kingdom of Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of Norway .”

Britain will help Ukraine despite temporary weakening of its own forces – General Sanders , Ukrinform reports, citing the BBC. “ Sending tanks and artillery guns to Ukraine will significantly bolster the country’s war effort, but temporary weaken the British Army. This was stated by Commander of the British Army, General Patrick Sanders, on Monday, who also emphasized the need for restoring the combat capability of the British troops as soon as possible.

Gen Sir Patrick Sanders said that Ukraine would put British donations to “good use” in the fight with Russia. The head of the British Army also said that ensuring Russia’s defeat in Ukraine makes us safer .”

About hundred drones and dozens of Starlinks sent to Bakhmut , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Minister. “ 83 drones have been sent to Bakhmut. Mavic, Matrice, Autel [UAVs] from the Drone Army [a Ukrainian state-run fundraising campaign – ed.] will be the eyes and assistants of the Ukrainian military. Dozens of Starlinks have also been handed there.

Fedorov emphasised that satellite communication is more important than ever on this area of the front line. He also urged to join the fundraising for the Drone Army through the United24 platform .”

Price of Saving Ukraine. On What Conditions EU Allocates €18 Billion to Kyiv , European Pravda reports. “ According to the report of the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine, budget expenditures in 2022 amounted to UAH 2,704 billion ($75 billion), of which 38.6%, about $29 billion, was funded by partner states . In addition, EU and NATO states provide Ukraine with weapons and humanitarian aid. If we look at all the expenses, the West paid most of the Ukrainian costs. Western financial and military assistance must continue for Kyiv to win the war. However, the European Union has put forward some conditions to Kyiv in 2023: they will transfer the funds only if reforms are carried out. The war is no longer perceived as a reason to slow down changes in Ukraine. […]

Kyiv is receiving weapons and ammunition, which it had requested for several years, and this flow does not stop now. Ukrainian partners hand over heavy, high-tech, and expensive military equipment (like the Patriot, worth about $1 billion per battery). It needed time to accomplish such decisions. The cost of weapons the Ukrainian army will receive from partners in 2023 may exceed $40 billion.

Financial assistance has also changed. In the spring of 2022, the G7 countries decided on joint financial assistance for the Ukrainian economy. The USA and the EU promised to allocate $1.5 billion per month to cover the budget deficit . They agreed on no conditions for the funds to Kyiv. It helped save Ukraine and preserve the controllability of the Ukrainian economy.

However, the EU did not fulfill its political obligations due to internal issues. Ukraine received only €6 billion out of the promised €9 billion. […] The only part of the agreement that the Union fulfilled was funding without preconditions, which is unusual for macro-financial assistance. Given last year’s failures, the approval of a new package of €18 billion of macro-financial assistance for 2023 has become a matter of honour for Brussels. They reaches a compromise in late December.

However, a new issue showed up. The EU has started putting forward the conditions for the financial assistance – several EuroPravda sources in the Ukrainian government complained in December. […] The European Union needs assurance that Ukraine will properly use 18 billion euros. That’s why the EU traditionally pays attention to the rule of law and anti-corruption . So these indicators are also on the list, explained Stefanishyna.

These criteria have always been the most difficult for Ukraine. The Deputy Prime Minister hopes that Ukraine will get the entire sum of €18 billion. One of our main arguments (in negotiations with the European Commission) was that we need these funds for the country to survive , she explained […]. Most important is that Kyiv had to agree: the time of unconditional help is history.

The war was no longer perceived as an excuse for delaying structural reforms . This sounds logical: President Zelenskyy insists that Ukraine should move towards joining the EU even during the war. Therefore structural reforms should resume. […]

The first tranche of €3 billion (two-month aid) will be unconditional. Kyiv expects to receive this money in January. The EU will transfer the remaining €15 billion only after fulfilling Ukraine’s commitments . The memorandum consists of 20 points, divided into four blocks: “Rule of law,” “Energy,” “Structural reforms and good governance,” and “Macro-financial stability.” Each item has a deadline. […]

The government makes clear that €18 billion are not for military expenses. We have agreed with the EU, and we adhere to it, that their funds go to humanitarian needs, not on financing security and aid,” Stefanishyna said. However, whatever the intended purpose, Ukraine receives this debt aid.

Some EU states, primarily Germany, wanted to allocate money to Ukraine as a grant , as the USA did last year. This idea did not find unanimous support. As a compromise, they agreed on extremely favourable conditions which guarantee that the loan of €18 billion will not put Ukraine in a “money pit.” First, the loan repayment period is due within 35 years. […] Secondly, Ukraine will [not start repaying ] its debt not before 2033, according to EU Council. This is an unprecedentedly long grace period. Moreover, it is not ruled out that the debt could be written off or the seized funds of the Russian Federation will repay it. Thirdly, Ukraine will not pay interest and other loan services.”

New Developments 

  1. Russian missile strike on house in Dnipro: EU debates how to respond to Kremlin’s signs of escalation , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing EU spokesman Peter Stano. “ This is yet another example of how the Putin regime continues to fuel this conflict and the EU’s position has always been to react to any signs of escalation. We are now seeing an increase in the targeting of civilians in their homes after Russia decided to target critical infrastructure that is crucial for people to survive the winter. This is another sign that the regime wants escalation and does not want de-escalation, Stano said. […] Discussions on how to respond to the ongoing aggression and what to do in response to the latest signs of escalation by the Kremlin are ongoing, he added. ”
  2. Kuleba: Only way to save OSCE to get rid of Russia as its part , Ukrinform “ The Ukrainian side believes that the only way to save the OSCE from the destructive influence of Russia is to get rid of the Russian Federation as part of the organization. This was stated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, who spoke at a joint press conference in Kyiv with the current OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia Bujar Osmani. The head of Ukrainian diplomacy noted that Russia had long attacked the Helsinki Final Act, even before February 24, but since the full-scale invasion, they have been systematically destroying every letter of it, every day. Everything they do is aimed at undermining this fundamental document and undermining the OSCE .”
  3. Zelenskyy has survived over 12 assassination attempts since start of full-scale invasion , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The Independent. “ It is noted with a reference to ‘Ukrainian officials’ that Zelenskyy has survived more than 12 separate attempts on his life by Russian forces since the full-scale war began in February 2022. [Chris] Whipple, said that at least two of those success stories were thanks to US intelligence shared by Burns during that visit to Kyiv: The intelligence was so detailed that it would help Zelenskyy’s security forces thwart two separate Russian attempts on his life .”
  4. Russia produces first set of Poseidon super torpedoes – TASS , Reuters “ Russia has produced the first set of Poseidon nuclear capable super torpedoes that are being developed for deployment on the Belgorod nuclear submarine, TASS reported on Monday, citing an unidentified defence source. Since a grim New Year’s Eve message describing the West as Russia’s true enemy in the war on Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has sent several signals that Russia will not back down. […] US and Russian officials have both described Poseidon as a new category of retaliatory weapon, capable of triggering radioactive ocean swells to render coastal cities uninhabitable .”
  5. Ukraine’s Zelensky calls on OSCE to do more about Ukrainians moved to Russia , Reuters “ Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) on Monday to do more about Ukrainians that Kyiv says have been forcefully deported to Russia and their fate once inside the country .”
  6. German defence minister resigns amid criticism, pressure over Ukraine arms , Reuters “ German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned from Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government on Monday, the culmination of growing doubt about her ability to revive Germany’s armed forces against the backdrop of the Ukraine war. Her decision dealt a blow to Scholz at a time when Germany is under pressure to approve an increase in international military support for Kyiv, and Germany’s defence capabilities have been called into question after several Puma infantry tanks were put out of service during a recent military drill .”
  7. Sweden, Finland must send up to 130 “terrorists” to Turkey for NATO bid , Reuters “ Sweden and Finland must deport or extradite up to 130 “terrorists” to Turkey before the Turkish parliament will approve their bids to join NATO, President Tayyip Erdogan said .”

Assessment 

  1. On the war.

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of January 16, 2023:

Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces made additional territorial gains north of Bakhmut on January 15-16 . Wagner Group forces captured the Sil railway station northwest of Soledar on January 16. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces captured the entirety of Sil on January 16, though ISW is unable to verify this claim at this time. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces captured a Ukrainian stronghold west of Berestove (15 km northeast of Soledar) on January 15, but did not provide evidence. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks against Soledar, Sil, and Krasnopolivka (just north of Sil) on January 15 and 16.

Russian forces may be intensifying attacks near Klishchiivka (southwest of Bakhmut) after capturing Soledar (north of Bakhmut) in a new effort to encircle Bakhmut, after months of ineffective frontal assaults. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed on January 15 that Russian forces are attacking Klishchiivka and noted that Russian advances in southern Bakhmut will enable Russian forces to threaten Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) on the T0504 highway from Chasiv Yar to Bakhmut. Russian sources reported that heavy fighting continued in Klishchiivka on January 16. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks against Bakhmut itself, Klishchiivka, and Mayorsk on January 15 and 16. Geolocated combat footage published on January 15 indicates that Russian forces have made marginal advances in southeastern Bakhmut near the Bakhmut garbage dump. A Russian source claimed that Russian forces made additional territorial gains in southern Bakhmut on Maly Troitsky Lane, north of Opytne.

Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area on January 15-16 . The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks against Krasnohorivka, Novobakhmutivka, Pobyeda, Vodyane, and Marinka on January 15 and 16. Russian milbloggers reported that elements of the Russian 42nd Motor Rifle Division, 150th Motor Rifle Division, and the 5th Brigade of the Donetsk People’s Republic 1st Army Corps are fighting difficult battles to advance in Marinka but that Ukrainian forces are repelling Russian attacks as of January 16.

The Kremlin continues to publicly challenge Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s claims that Wagner Group forces were solely responsible for capturing Soledar, Donetsk Oblast, on January 12. Russian President Vladimir Putin attributed the success on the frontlines to Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and General Staff plans when responding to a journalist’s question on January 15 regarding Russian advances in Soledar. Putin’s statement was aired live on state-controlled TV and was likely a deliberate effort to undermine Prigozhin’s influence within the Russian information space, given that Putin has previously refrained from commenting on tactical advances in Ukraine. Putin may have also sought to demonstrate he retains control over traditional Russian mass media, while Prigozhin continues to grow an audience on Telegram and other social media networks. The Russian MoD, in turn, also continued to report that Russian Southern Military District (SMD) assault detachments and Russian airborne troops are attacking Ukrainian positions around Bakhmut and likely deliberately excluded mentioning Wagner forces in its January 15 daily briefing.

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov possibly indirectly accused Prigozhin of deliberately exposing the conflict between the Russian MoD and Wagner in the Russian information space. Peskov attempted to dispel reports of an ongoing conflict between Prigozhin and the Russian MoD, stating on January 16 that these reports are “products of information manipulations.” Peskov, however, added that while most of such manipulations come from Russia’s ”enemies,” the Kremlin has ”friends” who also behave in a similar way. Peskov’s statement may have been tacitly aimed at Prigozhin, whose criticism of the Russian MoD is growing increasingly brazen. Peskov also continued Putin’s efforts to undermine Wagner’s effort to advance a narrative that only Wagner forces were responsible for capturing Soledar, noting that Russians will remember both Russian servicemembers and Wagner forces for their achievements.

Prigozhin is continuing his efforts to undermine faith in the Russian MoD and in Putin-aligned actors. Prigozhin directly responded to Peskov’s statement in an interview question about the MoD-Prigozhin conflict, stating that he has no reason to not trust Peskov. Prigozhin could have easily disproved reports of the conflict by simply denying them, but continued his tactic of using deliberately vague messaging in order to generate more discussion within the Russian information space, ultimately aimed at undermining confidence in the MoD and Putin. Prigozhin also presented medals to Wagner forces for the capture of Soledar on January 15, including symbolically awarding a fighter who previously received a medal of courage from Putin.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the Russo-Ukrainian War is in a “decisive phase” on January 15. Stoltenberg told German news outlet Handelsblatt on January 15 that NATO countries recognize the current situation and must “provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs to win.” Stoltenberg’s statement supports ISW’s January 15 assessment that the Kremlin likely intends to take decisive strategic action in 2023. Stoltenberg’s statement does not entail that the war is in its final phase or that Russian forces are planning to employ all available resources in impending actions. Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications representative Andriy Yusov remarked on January 15 that Russian President Vladimir Putin has recognized that Russian forces cannot take Ukraine quickly and is considering waging a drawn-out war of attrition. ISW noted on January 15 that the Kremlin retains its long-term maximalist goals to seize Ukraine and is likely considering multiple courses of action to achieve those goals.

Stoltenberg dismissed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s repeated concerns that the Western provision of weapons to Ukraine could cause a nuclear escalation. Stoltenberg stated that “this risk of using nuclear weapons is low” and that countries including China conveyed to the Kremlin that “nuclear weapons must not be used.” […]

The appointment of the Russian Chief of the General Staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov, as theater commander of Russian forces in Ukraine notably did not spark a significant wave of criticism within the Russian nationalist milblogger discourse. Milbloggers largely claimed that Gerasimov’s appointment signifies that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is retaking responsibility for the war. The milbloggers connected Gerasimov’s appointment to several ongoing issues including internal MoD tensions; conflict between the MoD and the Wagner Group; and the poor state of the war. Milbloggers adopted a defeatist stance regarding Gerasimov’s appointment, noting that the fate of Gerasimov’s own military career rests on the long-term outcome of the war. Some more critical nationalist voices stated that Gerasimov’s appointment is an example of the Kremlin’s inability to learn from its historic defeats, given that Gerasimov failed to keep occupied territories in northern Ukraine at the start of the war, but such discourse has been limited. Milbloggers have largely expressed hope that Gerasimov will continue to cooperate with his predecessor (now his deputy commander), Commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces Army General Sergey Surovikin, and continue missile strikes against Ukrainian energy infrastructure. The mixed hopeful but apathetic milblogger response may indicate their hopes that the Russian MoD and the Kremlin are beginning to realistically envision the war in Ukraine by introducing a centralized command structure to take charge of the military campaign.

Key Takeaways

  • The Kremlin continues to challenge Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s claims that only Wagner forces seized Soledar, Donetsk Oblast.
  • Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov possibly indirectly accused Prigozhin of deliberately exposing the conflict between the Russian MoD and Wagner in the Russian information space.
  • Prigozhin continued his efforts to undermine faith in the Russian MoD and Putin-aligned actors.
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the Russo-Ukrainian War is in a “decisive phase,” which does not entail that the war is in its final phase or that Russian forces are planning to employ all resources in impending actions.
  • A prominent milblogger revived pre-February 2022 discussions of Kremlin intent to return close Putin ally Viktor Medvedchuk to power in Ukraine.
  • The appointment of Russian Chief of the General Staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov as theater commander of Russian forces in Ukraine notably did not spark a significant wave of criticism within the Russian nationalist milblogger discourse.
  • Russian forces continued to launch localized assaults to regain lost positions around Svatove and in the Kupyansk direction as Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations around Kreminna.
  • Russian forces made additional territorial gains north of Bakhmut and may be intensifying attacks south of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks near Avdiivka and Donetsk City.
  • Russian forces continued efforts to accumulate manpower in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast and to develop new logistic routes between Russia and southern Ukraine.
  • Low discipline among Russian forces continues to directly endanger Russian soldiers and limit force effectiveness.

Russia strengthens aviation grouping in Belarus, threat of airstrikes is growing , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ukrainian General Staff. “ On 16 January, joint flight and tactical drills of the aviation units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus and Russia, which are part of the regional grouping of troops, began near the Ukrainian border with the involvement of both countries’ combat aircraft. Thus, under the cover of joint drills, Russian forces strengthened the combat aviation grouping in Belarus.

In view of this, the threat of missile- and air strikes from the airspace of Belarus is increasing .”

Putin instructs Gerasimov to seize Donbas by March – intelligence , Ukrinform reports. “ Russian president Vladimir Putin instructed the new commander of Russia’s joint grouping of forces in Ukraine, Valeriy Gerasimov, to seize Donbas by March.

Putin does not pay attention to reality, that is why he has not changed his global goals: the destruction of Ukrainians as a people, a separate nation and the destruction of Ukraine as an independent state. He can set such goals, in particular, we can talk about the priority direction for the ruscists: Donbas. And the next timeline he defines already for Gerasimov as, let’s say, the new leader of the war against Ukraine… This goal is to seize Donbas and form a security zone there but already by March,” Andriy Yusov, a representative of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, said on the air of FREEDIM TV channel.

He noted that these are not the first timelines that the Russian Federation set for itself, and each time they were postponed .”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Over 95% of Ukrainians are confident Ukraine to win the war with Russia , Ukrinform reports, citing Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS). “ More than 95% of the respondents are confident in Ukraine’s victory in the war with Russia. At the same time, the absolute majority of respondents (63.2%) expect it within this year,” the statement reads. Only 26% answered that the war will last more than a year. So, society has high hopes for a quick end to the military confrontation with Russia, which will climax in our victory, KIIS reports.

As noted, almost all respondents give high (63.8%) or medium (32.1%) ratings to the international support provided to Ukraine to defeat Russia.

According to the research, as a result of the war and awareness of the value of the country, which has always been undermined by socio-political negativism prevalent in Ukraine, the corresponding assessments have changed significantly. Now, evaluations of the effectiveness of the Ukrainian government have improved significantly (only 9.3% of respondents see it as low), as well as expectations for the country’s future (76.2% believe that the situation will improve). Therefore the general attitudes towards the state changed from mostly negative in 2021 (55.8% negative against 6.6% positive) to mostly positive in 2022 (46.6% positive against 26.1% negative). […]

Optimism in the short term is also indicative – more than two-thirds of respondents (67.9%) answered that they expect life to improve in 2023 , sociologists state.”

Hans Petter Midttun : On March 24, US President Joe Biden asserted that NATO is more united than ever amid Russia’s ongoing invasion. NATO has never been stronger or more united, Secretary Antony J. Blinken said on 22 December.

Ironically, Blinken used the new Strategic Concept and the pending membership of Finland and Sweden as examples of unity.

While many of its member states remain committed to defending democracy beyond NATO’s area of responsibility, NATO has in part walked away from its role as the defender of international rule of law, liberal democracies and our shared values and principles.

Finland and Sweden are still being denied NATO membership and are exposed to Turkish demands in conflict with both their values and principles, as well as their constitutions.

The political declarations of unity are just that: political declarations. The reality, unfortunately, is different. Today’s “unity” is defined by the absence of the confrontations we witnessed under former President Trump.

While NATO fails to acknowledge that it is being exposed to a Russian Hybrid war (which the EU acknowledged on 16 September 2021), the internal challenges the Alliance is facing are partly a result of Russia’s efforts to undermine the Alliance.

Hybrid War is the parallel and synchronized use of both military and non-military means to destabilize nations from within. Synchronization is the ability to effectively coordinate the employment of both military and non-military means in time, space, and purpose to create the desired effects.

It is a total war, where the aggressor is using its total resources to shape the operational environment. This encompasses the use of diplomatic, political, energy, economic, informational, religious, legal, security and military instruments.

All of the tools have been employed against the member states of the Alliance, adapting to their national interests and targeting their critical vulnerabilities. It has weaponized economy and energy to build strategic dependencies as a means to influence their foreign policies. Russia has used diplomacy, and political and academic affiliation to appeal to their inclination for a peaceful resolution of the war, framing military tools as escalatory and highly dangerous.

Russia has done its very best to confuse and manipulates both the international audiences as well as its domestic population. Using disinformation, cyber-attacks, blackmail, provocations, fabrications, military deceptions, and other active measures, it has created a virtual reality that for more than 8 years has prompted the NATO member states into making the political decisions Russia wants without suspecting (or acknowledging) they are being manipulated.

It is, however, not responsible for the ever-present discord. It has simply amplified and explored existing vulnerabilities.

NATO is divided between those who remember the cost and consequences of oppression and occupation and those who do not. This internal strife comes on top of the everlasting friction over lack of burden sharing, as only ten out of thirty member states fulfil their NATO target of 2% of GDP spending on defence budgets.

Despite the 8 years of lead-time, the Alliance – or rather the member states – were utterly unprepared for the full-scale invasion. Countries had – and still have – a wide range of critical vulnerabilities after decades of lack of investment in security and defence. Stockpiles were low (and increasingly lower one year into the full-scale invasion). Logistic solutions are not dimensioned to serve a full-scale war in Europe. Weapons in storage have often been found to not be ready for combat. The defence industries have been unable to ramp up production to meet the urgent need of both Ukraine and the Alliance (trying to close existing vulnerabilities).

While Ukraine has received much critical defence support from its partners, most of the weapons and equipment have been old and low-tech.

“ While the numbers and lists of gear are impressive, America hasn’t given very much that might impact America’s security in any substantial way . We’ve handed over a lot of former Russian or otherwise obsolete equipment, including 45 Russian-built T-72B main battle tanks and 20 Mi-17 helicopters. Much of the gear sent to Ukraine was headed for either the scrapheap or to other allies .” (Forbes, 26 December 2022)

Not all, but most. There are several examples of more high-tech weapon systems like HIMARS, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Brimstone missiles, Switchblade kamikaze drones, Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial systems, unmanned coastal defence and short-range anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems (Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, NLAW, Javelin and TOW anti-armour missiles). They have, however, all some things in common: They are easy to operate, fire-and-forget and do not require an extensive logistic support system to maintain.

As the first anniversary of the invasion is approaching, more advanced weapon systems are being pledged. Some of these are, however, still under production and will not be in theatre for years.

Despite being exposed to extensive air and missile strikes from the first day of the full-scale war – including 200-300 daily Russian combat aircraft missions (during the initial phase) and continuous missile strikes against 80-100 cities and settlements along the more than 1000 km long frontline – the West has not yet delivered the Air Defence Ukraine need to protect its population.

This is not an indication of a lack of will to provide Ukraine with Air Defence means. It is a sign of a critical vulnerability within the Alliance itself. The member states cannot donate something they lack themselves.

That’s only one out of several fields of concern. We have recently seen several analyses stressing the lack of artillery, ammunition, main battle tanks and transport and recovery vehicles. The Alliance lacks maritime capabilities. Its ability to sustain air operations is limited.

NATO is presently not set up to fight a full-scale war in Europe.

I have previously argued that NATO’s Strategic Concept-2022 is a commitment to do less, and a result of the weakest link defining the highest level of ambition. Being limited to providing non-military support only is hardly a sign of unity when Eastern Europe has been calling for NATO to intervene.

The Western defence support to Ukraine – which does not include all the tools Ukraine need to defeat Russia – reflects both differences in understanding of Russia, national interests and security and defence policies. However, it also reflects critical vulnerabilities within the Alliance.

After having stressed the need for Europe to invest in its defence capabilities for decades, the US will not find the present capability gap amusing. Taking NATO or US support for granted might prove a huge mistake in the long run.

In the short term, however, taking a Ukrainian victory for granted might prove to be an even greater mistake . As Russia is preparing for a prolonged war – adapting a wartime economy, mobilising the defence industry, considering another mobilisation or extending the upper age of routine military conscription from 27 to 30, reforming its armed forces, building up to 20 new divisions, reverting to the post-2010 military districts, and replacing the military leadership – it is increasingly in NATO’s interest to cut the war short.

Despite the obvious shortcomings within the Alliance, providing Ukraine with combat aircraft, attack helicopters, modern tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, cruise missiles and ACTAMs makes more sense by the day.

At the end of the day, this comes to upholding the principles of war : Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative. Mass the effects of overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time. Employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible.

Keeping operational capabilities parked and stores at safe distance from a war NATO is a part of meets none of these principles .

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