Here we are at Week 48 of Putin’s War, the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Like in the last several weeks, not a lot of ground has been gained or lost. Last Friday, some 40 nations met at the monthly Ramstein Ukraine donor’s conference to discuss aid to that country. The results of that conference was increased support and the transfer of several hundred tactical vehicles to the Ukrainian Army.
Be sure to read my last updates.
Putin’s War, Week 47. Gerasimov Shakes Up the Russian Army and the Russian Spring Offensive Looms
Putin’s War, Week 46. Putin Shakes up the Army Command, Prigozhin Shows How It’s Done, and Western Tanks for Ukraine Are on the Way
Putin’s War, Week 45: Putin Declares a Cease Fire, Zelensky Gets Putin’s Terms for Peace, and if You’re Fighting a War, Leave Your Cell Phone Home
Putin’s War, Week 44. Drones Strike Russian Strategic Bomber Base…Again…and Prigozhin Makes His Move
Putin’s War, Week 43. Zelensky Visits the Front Lines and Washington, Putin Tries to Push Belarus Into War
Putin’s War, Week 42. Ukraine Gets the Nod to Strike Targets in Russia and Some Tools to Do It With
Many more are available at this link.
What Up, Moscow?
In the past few days, anti-aircraft systems have been installed in and around Moscow.
Residents of Moscow are becoming concerned that Pantsir-S1 air defense missile systems are being positioned atop some of the city’s buildings.
— Danny Armstrong (@DannyWArmstrong) January 20, 2023
— Igor Sushko (@igorsushko) January 20, 2023
Is the Kremlin trying to impress upon the public that the country is at war? Or is there a deeper meaning (read the whole thread)?
Russia Reaches Stage 4 of the 6 Phases of a Big Project
If you’ve been in any larger business or in the government, you’ve run across the totally facetious, yet totally true Six Stages of a Big Project:
1. Wild enthusiasm
2. Dejected disillusionment
4. Total confusion
4. Search for the guilty
5. Punishment of the innocent
6. Promotion of non-participants
There is evidence in that official Russia is solidly in Stage 4 and thundering towards Stage 5.
In Solovyov’s propaganda show, Russians are already being brought to the realization that the occupied territories will have to be surrendered. pic.twitter.com/mLg90chI8N
— NOËL ?? ?? (@NOELreports) January 20, 2023
Starting a special military operation was a catastrophic mistake.
I don’t know who told Putin that the Ukrainians would not resist.
I highly recommend listening to it. pic.twitter.com/yG9adkIQqo
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) January 20, 2023
As we know Putin will not be the guy left standing when the music stops, it is going to be interesting to see how this plays out.
Ukraine Hit By Another Russian Missile Barrage
Overnight, Ukrainian cities were hit by another Russian missile barrage. Some 55 missiles, a mixture of cruise missiles launched by strategic bombers and Iranian Shahed-136 suicide drones targeted infrastructure and seemingly random locations in Ukrainian population centers. This is pretty much in line with the Russian strategy of attempting to terrorize and demoralize the Ukrainian people. Presumably they are doing this for a strategic purpose, but, being Russians, they may be doing it for sh**s-and-grins.
Ukrainian air defenses are becoming more proficient, in this attack all of the Shahed drones were shot down. The bar graph below reflects missiles fired vs. missiles shot down. The trend line shows the interception rate.
The interception rate of incoming Russian missiles of the Ukrainian air defense is increasing and has reached 85% (today, 47 of the 55 missiles were downed). Last night all of the 24 Shahed drones were intercepted.
Graph from @tweetsNV pic.twitter.com/b1wz4Wnkfk
— Mattia Nelles (@mattia_n) January 26, 2023
I see this claim made from time to time.
WAR ON CITIES: Today’s RU missile barrage included de-nuclearized Kh-55 Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs). These weapons, often launched with ballast instead of warheads, are used to distract UKR air defenses, so other RU cruise missiles can hit civilian targets. pic.twitter.com/7YKi9RUQUu
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) January 26, 2023
Even though the Kh-55 is “nuclear-capable,” it also has a conventional warhead. I don’t know why you’d fire a missile with a ballast warhead IF you have a live one. Yes, I know we used concrete bombs during Operation NORTHERN WATCH, but that is because we were trying to avoid civilian casualties. There is no evidence that is much of a concern to the Russians. I’m also not sure how radar can sort out the decoys from the real ones and target the decoys unless it is just a way of increasing the number of targets. Then I go back to the original point, if you have real warheads I’d think you’d use them and not worry about decoys.
No matter the decoys or the success rate, each Russian attack comes with a cost.
russian strikes on Ukraine on January 26 killed 11 people, injured 11 more. This is the result of missile attacks and Iranian”Shahed” drones attacks. Hits were reported in 11 regions. 35 buildings were damaged –
Ukrainian State Emergency Service.
— Margo Gontar ?? (@MargoGontar) January 26, 2023
Wagner Group Saga Continues
The Wagner Group private military corporation run by “Putin’s Chef” Yevgeny Prigozhin, continues to play an outsized role in Ukraine. Mostly because it is the only element of the Russian military effort that has shown any success. The success has been at a frightful price, but convicts, not mobilized citizens, have paid for it.
Earlier this week, the US government designated the Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organization based on it receiving arms and ammunition from North Korea. As I posted (see Russia’s Wagner Group Mercenaries Designated as a Criminal Organization by the US Government) the main impact of this action will be to make the already problematic cooperation between the Russian Army and the Wagner Group even more interesting.
Ukraine Will Receive Western Tanks
The long-running melodrama starring Germany as Hamlet trying to decide to allow the export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine finally came to an end. Germany will send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to match the 14 Challenger 2 tanks transferred by the UK last week (see Putin’s War, Week 47. Gerasimov Shakes Up the Russian Army and the Russian Spring Offensive Looms). When other contributions are counted, Ukraine will acquire about 200 best-in-class tanks by early summer. Poland has already started training Ukrainian tank crews on the Leopard 2.
As I posted yesterday, see Biden Announces Transfer of 31 Abrams Tanks to Ukraine, far from being “escalation,” the Russians are ignoring the transfer. They are even talking about sending a small number of their own T-14 Armata tanks. These were supposed to be Russia’s answer to modern tanks. Here’s one at a Moscow parade…after it had eaten its own gearbox.
— Igor Sushko (@igorsushko) January 19, 2023
This is the take on the most popular Russian talk show.
“German tanks on Russian land – the reason to destroy Berlin!”
Sign of a right decision – Solovyev’s tantrum. pic.twitter.com/DAWAxnTkux
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) January 25, 2023
Israel Still Hedging Its Bets
Israel has been the sole Western holdout in supplying arms to Ukraine. As I posted earlier, see Putin’s War, Week 33. Mobilization Muddle, a New Era in Air-to-Air Combat Begins, and Another Lull Before a Storm, several countries have sent HAWK missile batteries to Ukraine. The HAWK is still effective, particularly against cruise missiles, drones, and helicopters, but has been replaced by more modern systems. Israel has quite a few of these systems in storage but refuses
BREAKING: Israel rejects a US request to hand Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine
— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) January 25, 2023
Switzerland Comes Through
Switzerland has resolutely refused to allow transfer of Swiss-made weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. This may not sound like much, but the German Gepard anti-aircraft system that has demolished the Russian drone threat, uses Swiss-made 35mm Oerlikon ammunition. Brazil had offered tens of thousands or rounds but Switzerland forbade the transfer. Now Switzerland is taking steps to break down that barrier.
Pakistan Sends Ammunition to Ukraine
If Russia can turn to the Third World, in the guise of North Korea, for its ammunition, it is only fair that Ukraine do the same.
— Duke Of Twist (@DukeTwist) January 20, 2023
Not to be too glib about it, but this is where the war will be won or lost. Just as Ukrainian ammunition expenditures exceed the annual production of the US, Russia is firing a lot more artillery ammunition than it can produce. The difference is that there is more NATO 155mm ammunition in ammo dumps around the world than there is Soviet-era 152mm ammunition. Plus, about 20 different countries are producing ammunition for Ukraine, whereas only Russia is producing ammunition for Russia. When they talk about the “tyranny of mathematics,” this is what they mean.
Switzerland is finally prepared to offer help. The Swiss Security Policy Commission of the National Council wants Germany, Denmark and Spain to be allowed to transfer weapons from Switzerland to Ukraine. For example Gepard ammo.
— NOËL ?? ?? (@NOELreports) January 24, 2023
Sergei Lavrov Rolls Out Another Reason for the War
We started out with the invasion of Ukraine being necessary because it was a hotbed of Nazism ruled by Nazis and drug-addicts…and maybe gay Satanists. Now Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and trotted out a new reason that compelled Putin to launch his 72-hour war in Ukraine. The US and UK were going to build a navy base on the Sea of Azov. Why we or the Brits would want a navy base in body of water where the right to enter is limited and surrounded by Russia is not explained.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is now blaming the Russian invasion of Ukraine on imaginary Anglo-Saxon naval bases on the Sea of Azov pic.twitter.com/S06hGqn2os
— Business Ukraine mag (@Biz_Ukraine_Mag) January 23, 2023
New Body Count Estimates
As a rule, I don’t cover this kind of thing because the data available is not reliable. This week there was a brief exception to that rule. The Norwegian army estimated that the Russians had lost 180,000 KIA/WIA and the Ukrainians about 100,000 KIA/WIA along with 30,000 civilians killed.
The Norwegian Chief of Defence, General Eirik Kristoffersen, gave these casualty estimates on TV2 today, though with caveats:
Russian mil: 180 000 KIA/WIA
Ukrainian mil: 100 000 KIA/WIA
Ukrainian civilian: 30 000 killed
— The Lookout (@The_Lookout_N) January 22, 2023
According to participants, US intelligence gave its own estimate at last Friday’s Ramstein meeting (The Next Ukraine Aid Conference Will Reflect a Change in Western Views on the End Game in Putin’s War):
Institute for the Study of War: “The Sun reported that US intelligence estimates total Russian military casualties in Ukraine as 188,000 as of January 20, suggesting a possible 47,000 Russians killed in action in less than a year of fighting.”
— Anders Åslund (@anders_aslund) January 22, 2023
And the war is nowhere near over.
Russian Unmanned Ground Vehicle
We haven’t seen new Russian weapons systems before now. Dimitry Rogozin, director general of the Russian aerospace consortium Roscosmos, has announced that Russia will send and unmanned ground vehicle to Ukraine.
1/ THREAD: Russia’s Dmitry Rogozin gave a detailed interview to RIA Novosti about Marker combat UGV trials in Ukraine next month, along with discussion about drones and EW in the war. Main points below – given that its Russian state media, usual caveats apply: pic.twitter.com/kMWPQbdpLp
— Samuel Bendett (@SamBendett) January 24, 2023
Rogozin claims the “Marker” vehicle has an integrated drone and autonomously selects its own route to a destination. There is no word on how many of these are available for the war.
Sweden’s CV-90 Infantry Fighting Vehicle
One of the unexpected items dropped into the donation basket at Ramstein was 50 of Sweden’s CV-90 IFVs. These are incredible vehicles that will equip one Ukrainian battalion.
Sweden also confirmed the donation of 12 Archer 155mm howitzer systems. I previewed that system here Putin’s War, Week 37. Kherson Liberated and Winter Comes.
Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle
Also arriving via the Ramstein donor’s conference is the US Stryker. The Stryker is an awesome vehicle that provides amazing speed and maneuverability. It has several different mission-specific models along with amazing crew protection and potent firepower.
Russian Fortifications Show Where Russia Thinks the Danger Lies
The Russians have been hard at work for months building fortification belts. This map shows where they think the next attack is coming from.
An interactive map showing many of Russia’s field fortifications in Ukraine is available here: pic.twitter.com/IAENIZp5KX
— Brady Africk (@bradyafr) January 23, 2023
In the north, in Luhansk, they have fortified the current line of contact. There is very little construction in Donbas despite the intense combat. But in Zaporizhzhia, they are digging like naked mole rats. They are also constructing multiple belts leading into Crimea. As I’ve pointed out for weeks, a successful Ukrainian offensive with Melitopol as its operational objective will force the evacuation of all Russian troops west of the city and will place Crimea in a state of siege.
The Russians have scored a tactical success in Donbas. After five months of intense combat, Wagner Group troops have officially gained control of the city.
Today, Armed Forces of #Ukraine informed that they withdrew from the ruined city of #Soledar in the war-torn #Donbas that the Russians claimed to capture on January 12. But AFU says it doesn’t mean that #Bakhmut city, which is in 15 km from Soledar, will eventually fall as well.
— Viktor Kovalenko (@MrKovalenko) January 25, 2023
As you can see, the Russians have made minor gains around Bakhmut.
As I’ve written several times, I don’t see the value of either of these battles beyond the propaganda impact. Both sides have spent an incredible amount of blood and steel, but even if Bakhmut falls, the Ukrainians have another defensive line prepared about five miles to the rear. They will just fall back and the Russians will get to do it all over again.
Not to make excuses, but I think the Ukrainians are fighting an economy of force battle. They are just holding on and exacting casualties…and suffering their own. The Ukrainians are pulling units out of the line to go to Germany for training — one battalion on US Bradleys, one on German Marders, one on Swedish CV-90, and two battalions on US Strykers. They are sending troops to the UK for basic training.
In northern Donbas, between Svatove and Kreminna, the Ukrainians have successfully carried out some minor operations that I think are shaping operations. That is, the attacks themselves are focused on objectives that will allow a larger operation to take place. Unlike Soledar-Bakhmut, where a Russian breakthrough to the west has to run perpendicular to streams and ridges, a Ukrainian breakthrough to the east finds flat, open ground. I’ve written about this before. For those interested, the thread below covers why I think it is important to watch this area. I’m not in 100% agreement, but she does understand logistics and why a breakthrough here could make the Russian position in northern Donbas tenuous.
1/ I haven’t written about the Svatove-Kreminna axis because the fog of war is thick. Now that ?? is knocking on Kreminna’s door, we’re getting clarity. Here’s a short ? explaining what’s going on, & why it’s a big deal.
— Bree (@DofConsequence) January 21, 2023
Anastasia Yelsukova, a reporter for the Russian online “news” outlet Readovka, single-handedly disproved the FAFO theory. She only hit level 5 or 6 on the horizontal axis. Still, she scored a solid 10 on the vertical axis proving the FA to FO relationship is logarithmic, not arithmetic, and implying there are FO levels we’ve never previously contemplated.
Yelsukova was reporting from Soledar when the Wagner Group unit she was with came under artillery fire.
Anastasia recibió una grave herida en la pierna pero su vida no corre peligro. pic.twitter.com/p95odoLYo4
— Noticias de Ucrania 24 horas (@UKR_token) January 21, 2023
Lobkove has been captured by Russian forces, they’re slowly getting closer to Zaporizhzhia city.
The city itself is based mostly on the eastern bank of the Dnipro river. It’ll be very hard for Ukraine to defend the city as there are only 3 bridges across the river. pic.twitter.com/xMftUBGliW
— LogKa (@LogKa11) January 20, 2023
She received immediate medical care.
— Existenz.se (@Existenzse) January 21, 2023
And state-of-the-art evacuation.
VIDEO of the evacuation of Russia`s Readovka media propagandist Anastasia Yelsukova from the frontlines of Soledar after being wounded in the leg. #Ukraine #Russia #Putin #Putinswar #UkraineRussianWar #UkraineWar pic.twitter.com/hA6sLNP9k8
— raging545 (@raging545) January 21, 2023
Surgeons were able to save her leg, and she’s back in Russia.
The Nonexistent Russian Offensive
Earlier in the week, Russian Telegram and pro-Russian social media were all aflutter with claims of a Russian offensive oriented on Orikhiv
If true it would be significant (this guy’s analysis shows he’s a total tool, but that is a different issue). The axis Orikhiv-Tokmak-Melitopo remains, in my view, the war-winning operation for Ukraine. If Melitopol is taken, the only rail line from Crimea to Russia and the highway network from Russia to Crimea are severed. This means all Russian troops to the west of Melitopol are out of fuel, ammunition, spare parts, and replacements. For that reason, a preemptive Russian offensive aimed at Orikhiv would be a plausible and uncharacteristically savvy move by the Russian Army.
It turns out there were some localized attacks that gained some ground but couldn’t hold it.
#Zaporizhzhia front update. There is no major offensive, there are simultaneous local attempts to advance with forces of up to 2 platoons each. At first, the ?? managed to push to a maximum distance of 2 kilometers, but artillery and a counterattack restored the status quo. pic.twitter.com/zY1uEwmjZ8
— Albir 24 ?????? (@albir2024) January 21, 2023
Valentina Miamai, a pro-Russian activist before the invasion and a member of the quisling government in Zaporizhzhia, was targeted by an IED. Reports differ on her surviving wounds from the blast.
It is reported that the car of a local collaborator, Valentina Mamai, was blown up with the use of an IED in Berdyans’k, Zaporizhia Oblast. It is reported she survived. @GeoConfirmed
— Mike Papa Whisky (@Cosmonaut19) January 25, 2023
Raid at Nova Khakovka
Ukrainian commandos carried out a raid on a Russian forward command post at Nova Khakovka.
A clip from the ?? SOF night raid on a Russian command post in the Nova Kakhovka area, Kherson Oblast, ??-occupied left bank of the Dnipro river. pic.twitter.com/jBYGiVWyND
— M|§F|T ???? (@am_misfit) January 24, 2023
Most sources agreed the raid was successful. A few Russian Telegram accounts claim the Russians foiled the landing and destroyed the raiding group. No imagery has been posted to substantiate that claim. My view is that if the Russian accounts were correct, we’d have seen evidence of that.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record but I don’t see any reason to change my forecast from the last several weeks. The weather in Ukraine is still unseasonably warm, making off-road mobility difficult.
— Sprotiv (@sprotiv) January 25, 2023
I think there will be a winter offensive by Ukraine in the Svatove-Kreminna area with a limited objective. When the new tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles, complete with trained crews, come out of Grafenwoehr in late March, I think we’ll see the focus shift south to Melitopol.