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*** Official Russia vs. Ukraine Discussion - Invasion has begun *** (6 Viewers)

In the largest aerial attack since its invasion started, Russia barraged Ukraine with 75 Shahed drones overnight, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday.

Most of the drones were aimed at Kyiv and the region around the capital, the Ukrainian Air Force said in a statement.

Ukrainian forces managed to shoot down all but one of the Shahed kamikaze drones, as well as an X-59 cruise missile over the Dnipro region, the Ukrainian air force said.

The assault included the highest number of Russian drones to be deployed in one night since Moscow launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The air attack lasted more than six hours, Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said in a statement. Anti-aircraft missiles, tactical aviation, mobile fire groups, and electronic warfare units were involved in repelling the air attack.

No deaths were reported as a result of the barrage, but falling debris damaged buildings. In Kyiv, a fire broke out at a kindergarten, while windows were damaged in neighboring houses. Debris damaged the second floor of a five-story building, where two women had to be evacuated, Klitschko said.

Five people were injured in total, the mayor said.

As a result of the attack, more than 12,000 households in the capital were temporarily cut off from electricity, Ukraine’s state energy operator Ukrenergo said. Power cuts were also reported in the Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Cherkasy and Sumy regions.

Russia was reliant on Iran to deliver the Shahed drones last year but can now produce about 1,000 of them a month at its own factory, according to a senior Ukrainian security official.

The air force reported downing 74 of 75 drones in the regions of Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, Kirovohrad and Kyiv. Yuriy Ihnat, an air force spokesperson, said that 66 drones were downed over the capital and the surrounding region.
He added that waves of drones launched from the south-east “circled” Kyiv as they waited for drones that took off from the western Russian city of Kursk to approach the capital and attack it simultaneously.
A Kh-59 cruise missile was also destroyed in Dnipropetrovsk region, said Mykola Oleschuk, the commander of the Ukrainian an air force. He said that Ukraine’s “mobile fire” air defence forces, typically consisting of western-supplied ground-to-air missile systems mounted on US Humvees or pick-up trucks accounted for “almost 40 per cent” of the missiles and drones shot down.

Denmark will increase its military support for Ukraine by 2.3bn Danish crowns (£302m) this year, its defence ministry has said.

This is in addition to the £629m it has already pledged to spend on military donations for Kyiv.

Interestingly, Denmark, which is a NATO member, said it would include this funding for Ukraine towards its alliance obligations.

NATO members are expected to commit 2% of their GDP on defence spending.

Denmark also said it would allocate around £2.7bn in funding for Ukraine between 2025 and 2027.

Ukraine needs more air defences to protect its grain export routes as well regions bordering Russia, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday, as he addressed an international summit on food security in Kyiv.
"There is a deficit of air defence - that is no secret," Zelenskiy told the Grain from Ukraine summit, which was attended by senior officials from European countries, including Swiss President Alain Berset and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte.

Western countries have for years accused Russia and its ally Belarus of using migrants seeking safety and economic opportunity in Europe as pawns to destabilize Western democracies. European leaders called it a form of “hybrid warfare” that Moscow deploys against them, along with disinformation, election interference and cyber attacks.

Finnish Foreign Minister Valtonen told the AP that there is no doubt that Russia “is instrumentalizing migrants” as part of its “hybrid warfare” against Finland following the nation’s entry into NATO — a decision prompted by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Other Western experts agree.

“The Finns are quite right the Russians have been weaponizing migration for some time allied with aggressive disinformation — the idea being simply to produce ‘wedges’ within societies they judge to be hostile,” said Klaus Dodds, a geopolitics professor at Royal Holloway, University of London.

“This is all about destabilizing Finland,” Dodds added.
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Russia held these Ukrainian teens captive. Their testimonies could be used against Putin

The Russian missing child poster went up in Crimea soon after Rostyslav Lavrov escaped last month.
“HELP FIND,” it read. “17 years old, born 2006 … Height 160 cm, thin build, dark hair, blue eyes.”
“Anyone who knows anything about the whereabouts of the teenager is asked to report this.”
The attached photo — which Lavrov said was taken several months ago when Russian authorities holding him against his will tried to issue him a Russian ID card — showed the Ukrainian teen sullen in a white shirt and tie.
He is one of three Ukrainian teenagers who fled Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea this summer and shared their experiences with The Washington Post in lengthy interviews in Kyiv and Kherson. They each described systematic efforts by Russian officials to keep them in Russian-controlled territory.

(1/5) Russia’s Black Sea Fleet’s (BSF) ability to use its Novorossiysk base to reload vessels with cruise missiles is likely to become a significant factor in the fleet’s operational effectiveness.
(2/5) Traditionally, BSF has reloaded cruise missiles at Sevastopol in Crimea. With that facility increasingly held at risk by Ukrainian long range strikes, Russia will highly likely see Novorossiysk as the best alternative site.
(3/5) However, relocating and reloading the missiles would require new delivery, storage, handling and loading processes.
(4/5) On 13 November 2023, the Ukrainian military claimed that Russia has paused firing maritime cruise missiles because of ‘logistical problems’ at Novorossiysk.
(5/5) Russia will likely seek to expedite overcoming such issues in time for maritime cruise missiles to be included in any winter campaign of strikes against Ukraine.

Update: Ukraine’s Air Force says Russia has begun painting drones black to make it harder for air defense systems to detect them.

There have been fears for weeks that Russia will soon commence its winter bombing campaign aimed at starving Ukrainian cities of electricity and undermining morale at the coldest and darkest time of year. Russia’s been stockpiling rockets and drones specifically for the task.

BBC Ukraine has verified research by Austria’s Express which found that 650,000 Ukrainian men of fighting age are living in the EU under temporary protection - the status given to those who fled from Feb 24 onwards.

Lawrence Freedman post (long):

If my analysis is correct then ‘not losing’ on the basis of the current lines of contact is not tantamount to a win because it leaves the Russian grip on Ukraine tenuous and circumscribed. For Putin ‘not winning’ is better than losing but it is not enough. He may be prepared for the war to go on for years to get to a win but there is no reasons to suppose that he relishes years of gruelling positional battles without a major breakthrough any more than Zelensky.

And Russia, unlike Ukraine, has a choice. It has the option of withdrawing from the fight. While Putin might hope that time is on his side and that the West will lose interest there is an alternative possibility that support for Ukraine will continue and even strengthen, as ordnance production steps up, and that the Russian people and elite will become progressively more anxious as the war drags on. If so, he may see the coming months as a chance to make real gains in the war. Ukraine is tired and depleted, with insufficient ammunition and stressed air defences. This explains the effort and urgency apparent in Russia’s current operations.

The Domodedovo and Vnukovo international airports in Moscow oblast suspended operations after drones approached the Russian capital early on Nov. 26.

Flightradar data suggests departure flights are grounded.

Russian media claims 11 Ukrainian drones were shot down by air defense while one building in the city of Tula was hit.

The Ukrainian Air Force says it shot down 8 of 9 Shahed drones tonight, and 74 of 75 Shaheds launched last night.

Russian forces launched the largest drone strike against Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion overnight on November 24 to 25 using a new modification of the Iranian Shahed 131/136 drones.[1] Ukrainian military officials reported that Russian forces launched 75 Shahed drones that mainly targeted Kyiv City from the southeast (Primorsko-Akhtarsk) and northeast (Kursk Oblast) and that Ukrainian forces shot down 74 drones.[2] Ukrainian military officials also reported that Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian Kh-59 cruise missile over Dnipropetrovsk Oblast and that air defenses activated in at least six regions, including Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, and Kirovohrad oblasts.[3] Ukrainian Air Force officials stated that mobile fire groups enabled Ukrainian forces to shoot down a significant number of drones.[4] Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky observed that Russian forces launched the drone attack on the Ukrainian remembrance day of the 1932-1933 Holodomor man-made famine.[5]

Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat reported that Russian forces attacked Kyiv with a new modification of Shahed drones and noted that these drones were black in color and contained a material that absorbs radar signals, making them more difficult to detect.[6] Russian milbloggers similarly claimed that Russian forces used “black Geran” or “Feran” (the Russian name for Shaheds) drones for the first time and claimed that these drones are more challenging to detect in the night sky.[7] Iranian media published footage on November 19 showing the Iranian Ashura Aerospace University of Science and Technology presenting the new Shahed-238 jet-powered modification of the Shahed-136 drone.[8] The presented Shahed-238 appeared to be black in color, but it is unknown if Russian forces used the Shahed-238 modification during the November 25 strike.

Ukrainian and Russian forces continue to grapple with the challenges electronic warfare (EW) systems pose on the front. The Economist reported on November 23 that superior Russian EW systems are impeding Ukrainian reconnaissance, communication, and strike capabilities.[9] The Economist, citing Western experts, stated that Russia has placed a “huge focus” on producing and developing superior EW capabilities and that Ukraine is struggling to produce equivalent EW systems and EW-resistant weapons domestically. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi assessed in his essay “Modern Positional Warfare and How to Win It” that Ukrainian forces need to introduce necessary command and control (C2) processes for EW complexes, increase EW production capabilities, streamline engagements with volunteer organizations that provide smaller EW complexes to Ukrainian forces, improve Ukraine’s counter-EW measures, and develop new drones with EW in mind.[10] The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported on November 25 that it is working to develop drone variants more resistant to Russian EW systems and produce successful variants at scale.[11] Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) Deputy Director of Analysis Margarita Konaev and CSET Fellow Owen Daniels reported on September 6, 2023, that Russian adaptations to the deployment of EW systems continue to present challenges for Ukrainian drones transmitting targeting information and securing Ukrainian signals.[12] Russian sources previously credited superior Russian EW capabilities for aiding Russian forces’ defense against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in southern Ukraine in June 2023.[13]

Russian sources have also repeatedly expressed concerns and complaints about perceived inadequacies in Russian EW systems, however.[14] Russian sources credited superior Ukrainian EW and aerial reconnaissance systems for Ukrainian advances south of Bakhmut in September 2023 and claimed that Ukrainian EW systems were significantly disrupting Russian communications in western Zaporizhia Oblast in August 2023.[15] ISW reported on November 25 that the effectiveness of Russian EW systems is inconsistent across the front, allowing the Ukrainians to continue to use drone-based reconnaissance-strike complexes to disrupt Russian offensive operations.[16] Russian milbloggers have been inconsistent in their assessments of which side has “superior” EW systems, indicating that neither Russia nor Ukraine currently has a decisive advantage over the other.[17] Western aid in support of Ukrainian efforts to destroy, disrupt, or bypass Russian EW systems would increase Ukraine’s ability to strike targets near the front precisely, disrupting Russian advances, and setting conditions for further Ukrainian offensive operations.[18]

Growing Russian success in the drone war is partly explained by the density of EW systems it is able to field, thanks to those years of investment. A report published in May by Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds of RUSI, a think-tank in London, reckoned the Russians are fielding one major EW system every 10km along the frontline. They think that among many Russian EW systems the truck-mounted Shipovnic-Aero (pictured) is proving especially deadly to Ukrainian drones. The system has a 10km range and can take over control of the drone, while acquiring the co-ordinates of the place from where it is being piloted, with an accuracy of one metre, for transmission to an artillery battery.
Starting from a much lower level of technical and operational skill, Ukraine is struggling to develop home-grown EW capabilities to match those of the Russians. Some progress is being made. The nationwide Pokrova system is being deployed. It can both suppress satellite-based navigation systems, such as Russia’s GLONASS, and spoof them by replacing genuine signals with false ones, making the missile think it is somewhere it is not.
Pokrova should be highly effective against the Iranian-designed Shahed-136 loitering munition, but less so against cruise missiles that rely more on terrain-matching systems, which compare the ground below to a library of stored images rather than being guided all the way in. As well as Pokrova, so-called “Frankenstein” systems, cobbled together with typically Ukrainian ingenuity by combining Soviet systems with more modern technology, are also making an appearance.

But what is missing is much in the way of help from Ukraine’s Western allies when it comes to the EW contest with Russia. Mr Jones says that, as far as America is concerned, that is not likely to change. EW falls into a category of technology transfer restricted by an export-control regime that is rigidly policed by the State Department.
Video of some explosion: https://twitter.com/Mike_Eckel/status/1728843608110063721

Exceptional Russian air transport movements through November 2023 suggest that Russia has likely moved strategic air defence systems from its Baltic coast enclave of Kaliningrad, to backfill recent losses on the Ukraine front. (1/4)
This follows an uptick in losses of SA-21 air defence systems in Russian-occupied Ukraine in late October 2023. (2/4)
As its most westerly outpost and bordered on three sides by NATO member states, Russia sees Kaliningrad as one of its most strategically sensitive regions. (3/4)
The fact that the Russian MoD appears willing to accept additional risk here highlights the overstretch the war has caused for some of Russia’s key, modern capabilities. (4/4)

In audio intercepts from the front lines in Ukraine, Russian soldiers speak in shorthand of 200s to mean dead, 300s to mean wounded. The urge to flee has become common enough that they also talk of 500s — people who refuse to fight.

As the war grinds into its second winter, a growing number of Russian soldiers want out, as suggested in secret recordings obtained by The Associated Press of Russian soldiers calling home from the battlefields of the Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk regions in Ukraine.

The calls offer a rare glimpse of the war as it looked through Russian eyes — a point of view that seldom makes its way into Western media, largely because Russia has made it a crime to speak honestly about the conflict in Ukraine. They also show clearly how the war has progressed, from the professional soldiers who initially powered Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion to men from all walks of life compelled to serve in grueling conditions.
“There’s no f------ ‘dying the death of the brave’ here,” one soldier told his brother from the front in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region. “You just die like a f------ earthworm.”

What’s happening in Ukraine is “simply genocide,” the soldier in Kharkiv told his brother.
“If this s--- doesn’t stop, then soon we’ll be leading the Ukrainians to the Kremlin ourselves,” he said.

“This is just a huge testing ground, where the whole world is testing their weapons, f--- it, and sizing up their d----,” he went on. “That’s all.”
But there are other voices, too, of men who remain committed to the fight.

“As long as we are needed here, we will carry out our task,” a soldier named Artyom told AP from eastern Ukraine at the end of May, where he’d been stationed for eight months without break. “Just stop asking me these stupid questions.”

When he finally got to go home, it came at a terrible price: his brother’s life.

Nicknamed “Crazy Professor” because of his disheveled hair, he was swept up in the first days of Russia’s September 2022 draft. The soldier said he was assured that he wouldn’t see combat and would get to go home every six months.

Neither turned out to be true.

After a few weeks of training, the Professor was sent to the front line near Bakhmut as a mortarman. He wanted out almost immediately. He was ill-equipped, at least compared to the well-camouflaged Wagner soldiers wandering around.

“They have night vision and automatic rifles with cool silencers. I have an automatic rifle from 1986 or hell knows what year,” he told his brother in a January phone call.
It was his job to aim, but the Russian army’s coordinates were so sloppy that soldiers ended up killing each other.

The Professor said his commander instructed them not to kill civilians, but who was a civilian and who was a combatant? Even a kid could carry a grenade, he told his brother. Where did the mortars he fired land? Had he killed children?

The worst was when he was out with young guys in his unit. There was just a strip of woods between them and the Ukrainians.

“I imagined that there, on the other side, there could be young people just like us. And they have their whole lives ahead of them,” he told AP in June. “Bones, tears — all the same, they are the same as we are.”

The Professor told himself he didn’t really have a choice: Either fire the mortar or face criminal charges and end up in a pit or a prison.

“If you don’t like something, if you refuse to do something, you’re considered a refusenik,” he told AP. “That is, you’re a ‘500’ right away. … So we had to follow orders. Whether we wanted to or not.”

The Professor never thought he’d be a refusenik one day too.

More at link. Some of those recordings appear to be from early to mid 2023.

“This is the heaviest landmine and unexploded ordnance contamination we’ve seen in Europe since the Second World War,” says Paul Heslop, a 54-year-old Yorkshireman who is the head of the United Nations’ mine action programme in Ukraine. “I’ve worked in mine clearance all over the world for 30 years, from Afghanistan to Somalia, but feel like everything else was an apprenticeship.”

Landmines are among the most evil devices on earth, designed to maim rather than kill to drain the enemy’s morale and resources. Sometimes they are disguised as toys. Cheap to produce — from as little as £2.50 — they are time-consuming and expensive to remove. “Most weapons of war kill in the moment, but landmines remain in the ground and kill for decades — not just combatants but women and children,” says James Cowan, 59, a retired British Army general who runs the Halo Trust. “That’s what makes them particularly barbaric.”
When the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan from 1979-89, its forces left up to ten million mines, which still kill or maim 150 people a month. The devices have been banned since 1997 under the Ottawa Treaty, which has been signed by 164 countries — though notably not Russia, China or the US. The treaty came about following a high-profile campaign championed by Princess Diana, who walked through a minefield in Angola accompanied by Heslop, who was then working for the Halo Trust — a scene recreated in the current series of the Netflix drama The Crown.
Today the Russians are not only leaving mines as deadly farewell gifts, but also to fortify their current positions. While waiting for Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which started in June after a wait for western weapons, the Russians dug in along the 600-mile front line in the east, laying dragon’s teeth and hedgehogs (concrete and metal tank traps) and miles of minefields to form what is known as the Surovikin line, after the Russian general Sergey Surovikin, who was then commander in the field.
The mines are in three rows stretching back as far as 15 miles, and so densely laid that in many areas they are almost touching — Ukrainian sappers (army engineers) are finding up to five mines per square metre. “It’s the largest minefield in human history,” Cowan says. The previous biggest, between North and South Korea, was 150 miles. “This is almost 600 miles long, with more than two million mines in it. Surovikin substituted manpower for mine power — he did not have enough men, so used huge stocks of mines.”

Deminers working for the Halo Trust have found eight kinds of antipersonnel mine in the country so far: some old tech, some new. Soviet-era mines still in use include the PMN series and the PFM-1, used in Afghanistan — a small green plastic device known as the “butterfly” for its wings, which looks like a toy a child might pick up, scattered from mortar guns or helicopters and set off by a foot.
Among the new is the deadly POM-3 or “medallion”, never used in combat before. These are fired in batches from rocket launchers and land by mini-parachute before burrowing into the ground. Seismic sensors can detect footsteps, and on detonation they jump to chest height and throw out switchblade-like fragments up to 16m away.
Seven types of anti-vehicle mines have been found and three kinds of booby-trap mines, placed under landmines so they detonate if the landmine is lifted. I get some sense of how slow and difficult these are to remove when I spend two days with some of the brave people trying to make Ukraine safe again.

After weeks of relative calm, Russia launched its largest-ever kamikaze drone attack against Kyiv at dawn on Saturday, November 25. Air defense counterfire, followed by explosions, could be heard echoing across the sky for six hours.
According to Air Force Commander Mykola Olechtchouk, the Ukrainian capital was "the main target" of an attack involving 75 explosive-laden Iranian Shahed-type drones. Launched in successive waves across the country, 66 of them flew over Kyiv and the surrounding region alone. Seventy-four were shot down, according to the army. One of its spokesmen, Yuriy Ignat, explained that these drones had been "improved upon": Coated in carbon fiber and black paint, they'd been rendered more difficult to detect. Five people, including an 11-year-old child, were injured by falling debris, while dozens of homes across four of the capital's districts were damaged.

German Gepard anti-aircraft guns, Soviet ZSU-23-4 Shilka, and the 2S6 Tunguska anti-aircraft missile and gun system are actively involved in the destruction of Russian loitering munitions.

The Gepard in this case proves to be an extremely effective weapon and spends a very small amount of 35mm ammunition on one Russian drone.

The installation fires a salvo of 35mm anti-aircraft shells from a twin automatic gun, which bursts at the target and forms a cloud of shrapnel, that is, a large area of destruction. And so Shahed is destroyed in one salvo.
Ukraine also obtained in 2023 the American AN/TWQ-1 Avenger short-range hybrid mobile surface-to-air missile launcher systems and self-propelled anti-aircraft guns.

For such a system, Russian Shahed drones and cruise missiles are quite an easy target due to their low static altitude, as well as their predictable flight direction and speed.
This allows the operator to lock-on the target and fire a FIM-92 Stinger missile. In addition, in case of close contact, the installation is equipped with an aviation modification of the M2 Browning 12.7mm machine gun with a doubled firing rate (1200 rounds per minute).

However, Ukraine lacks these systems, and it does not allow to ’close’ all directions over Ukraine.

Back in the spring of 2022, mobile teams began to be created in Ukraine to quickly strengthen air defense.

For this, SUVs were chosen, on which a tripod with sighting devices and a Mistral anti-aircraft missile system were installed.

Before the loitering munitions appeared on a stage, mobile groups used to be the only ones who were involved in shooting down Russian ZALA and Orlan drones.
After the Iranian Shahed-136 drones came into play, the Ukrainian Defense Forces began to install various machine guns on light vehicles.

To solve the problem of the lack of special iron sights, anti-aircraft sights were added to machine guns in workshops.
For mobile teams, PKT, DSHKM, Maxim, western Browning machine guns, and FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS, were put on turrets.

In general, the DSKM heavy machine guns, which were also purchased from the Romanian company Uzina Mecanica Cugir, began to be massively installed.
Soldiers with conventional small arms and man-portable air-defense systems were also involved in forming such mobile teams.

Every time the Air Raid Alert starts in Ukraine, the Air Defense Mobile Fire Team Forces are already in full combat readiness.
Mobile teams are also using trucks with ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns and upgraded Zastava M75 20×110mm anti-aircraft installations.

The Ukrainian M75s were modernized by equipping them with HikVision infrared and thermal optical devices.
A picture from optical devices on an anti-aircraft installation is transmitted via a digital video channel to the gunner’s tablet.

Technical Surveillance Counter Measures Teams, armed with electronic warfare systems, were also given mobility in Ukraine.

These teams are capable of preventing attacks on civilian and military facilities. Increasing the mobility of such electronic warfare teams will allow them to use their means to counter the enemy in time.


However, it is not the current fighting that is making the situation dangerous for the Russian army. Above all, Ukraine has "succeeded in securing several crossing points over the Dnipro River, enabling it to reinforce its positions and rotate troops to be more combat effective", says Tack.

Securing a river crossing is no mean feat, as crossing rivers is one of the most complex and dangerous military operations. This is why the Dnipro River is considered one of Russia’s best defensive assets in southern Ukraine.

Ukraine can now pride itself on having removed this obstacle for at least some of its troops. "For the moment, the Ukrainians are able to provide security for small groups of infantry, accompanied by a few light vehicles, crossing the river. But the area is not yet secure enough to attempt to send in contingents of tanks or heavy artillery," says Aliyev.

Furthermore, a major offensive cannot take place in this region without heavy military equipment, says Tack. Ukrainian troops are currently trying to clear the road that runs from east to west along the Dnipro River in the hopes of pushing the Russian artillery as far back as possible to keep any Ukrainian tanks out of range of Russian guns, should Ukraine decide to send tanks across the river.

But the Ukrainian army has not yet succeeded in doing so and is in the meantime trying to decide whether to attempt to seize new territory. In addition to having enough soldiers stationed there to do so, "the Russian troops present in this region are less well trained and equipped than those in Bakhmut and the Zaporizhzhia region, where Ukraine has concentrated its main counteroffensive effort", says Tack.

However, Ukrainian soldiers do not have enough firepower to reach Crimea, the main objective of any offensive in the Kherson region. "For the time being, these attacks can still be seen as an effort to distract Russia into transferring troops to this area, which would weaken Russian defences in the Zaporizhzhia region," says Tack.

If Russia doesn’t take the bait however, then Ukraine would have to consider the possibility of launching a major offensive. This risky decision would involve mobilising a large number of forces. "We would need at least 100 tanks and several hundred support vehicles in addition to light infantry," says Aliyev.
Ukraine "probably does not have as many forces in reserve and would therefore be forced to transfer some of them from another part of the front", says Aliyev. This could potentially provide Russia with opportunities for a counter-attack.
What's more, organising this type of offensive not only takes time, but also risks turning the left bank of the Dnipro River into a death trap for the Ukrainian army. Both of the experts interviewed believe that Russia is waiting for its enemy to mobilise more forces on the left side of the Dnipro River before sending troops to try to surround the Ukrainian contingent and cut off the few possibilities of retreat. "That's why the Ukrainians are taking their time: to see how the Russians react," says Tack.

After all, Ukraine does not have many alternatives. "The counteroffensives in Bakhmut and around Zaporizhzhia have ground to a halt and the southern part of the Kherson region currently appears to be the main opportunity to show the world that Ukraine is making progress," says Aliyev. In other words, the Ukrainian army will be forced to take major risks if it wants to prove that the Western-backed counteroffensive has produced tangible results.

A Ukrainian strike on a power station in Russian-held territory in eastern Ukraine overnight cut power to towns and cities, the pro-Russian authorities there said on Sunday, less than a day after Moscow launched a record number of attack drones toward Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
The overnight attack was another sign of Kyiv’s determination to inflict damage on its adversary’s electricity infrastructure before what many in Ukraine expect will be a renewed wintertime assault by Russia on Ukraine’s power grid.
Denis Pushilin, the pro-Moscow leader in the Russian-held part of the Donetsk region, said that most of the drones launched by Ukraine at the area overnight had been intercepted, but “due to the massiveness of the strikes, not everything was shot down.”
“The situation is not easy,” he said on the Telegraph messaging app, adding that some towns and districts had been left without light. He did not say whether the attack had involved drones or missiles or a combination of the two.
The attack hit the thermal power plant in Starobesheve, a town at least 25 miles east of the front line in the region, according to Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency. It said that power had been cut in half of the regional capital, Donetsk, and in half of the port city of Mariupol about 60 miles to the south.

Fire reported at Chelyabinsk factory producing motors for military use. Top Ukrainian official told me today we should expect more operations in Russia — but only against military targets. “Russians should never be allowed to forget they are waging war.”

Moscow has activated a network of sleeper spies in Ukraine in the past two months as Putin tries to destabilise society further in the face of military deadlock, Ukraine’s national security adviser has said.
Oleksiy Danilov said in an interview with The Times that dormant Russian agents embedded in public institutions including the SBU, Ukraine’s domestic security service, were being ordered to undermine the country’s unity. “They realise they cannot win this militarily so attempts at internal destabilisation have become the priority,” he said.

Of the four men who lined up at an army recruitment centre in Kyiv one morning this month, only one was there voluntarily.
Oleksandr, a 34-year-old used-car dealer, said he could no longer watch from the sidelines after five acquaintances were killed in Europe’s biggest war since 1945. He built up a financial cushion for his wife and newborn child before deciding to fight. “It’s time,” he said.
The others had received mobilisation notices. Two said medical conditions had previously prevented them from serving: one cited brain damage from a freak accident, the other metal plates in his spine. The fourth — Yevhen, a 42-year-old sales manager with no military experience — said: “I’m not going to hide, but I honestly don’t know what I can contribute.”
The meagre queue was a far cry from the thousands of volunteers who lined up at recruitment centres following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
It underscored the challenge facing Ukraine, with a population of less than 40mn, nearly two years into a war against an enemy with more than three times the number of people: how to maintain a flow of recruits into the armed forces without stirring social unrest and how to build capacity to enable Kyiv to regain the battlefield initiative.

Ukrainian officials and western analysts say it is not just a question of numbers but of fitness, capability and skills. The average age of Ukrainians at the front and those trained by western allies has been 30-40, rather than more usual 18-24, said Jack Watling, senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a UK think-tank.
The issue was not troop quantity but the “quality and capacity to command operations at scale”, he said.
Mobilisation early last year disproportionately pulled in older men with military experience, but younger men with more endurance and skills were now needed, he added.

“Ukraine needs infantry in top physical shape,” said Franz-Stefan Gady, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “The physical requirements for the infantry are demanding and have increased as this conflict has settled into small-scale infantry engagement fought on foot in trench systems.”

Konrad Muzyka, director of Rochan Consulting, a Poland-based group that tracks the war, said that given Ukraine had less manpower than Russia, better training and better troops would allow it to sustain the fight for longer.
“Ukraine can’t adopt the Russian way of war, which focuses on attrition, as Moscow will be able to outspend Kyiv in almost every aspect, from military production to being able to sustain higher losses,” he said.

In the latest bid to reboot the process and attract younger, more motivated and better-educated recruits, Ukraine’s defence ministry has said volunteers would not necessarily serve in the trenches but in a role of their choice that matched their skills.
One aim is to lure more IT professionals for units operating drones and other high-tech weaponry. Three people with just such a specialism told the Financial Times they would consider the offer if they could ensure they would have roles as drone operators or use their expertise in cyber warfare or similar roles.

Throughout November 2023, Russian casualties, as reported by the Ukrainian General Staff, are running at a daily average of 931 per day. (1/4)
Previously, the deadliest reported month for Russia was March 2023 with an average of 776 losses per day, at the height of Russia’s assault on Bakhmut. (2/4)
Although Defence Intelligence cannot verify the methodology, taken as a total including both killed and wounded, the figures are plausible. (3/4)
The last six weeks have likely seen some of the highest Russian casualty rates of the war so far. The heavy losses have largely been caused by Russia’s offensive against the Donbas town of Avdiivka. (4/4)

Russian forces reportedly complained about the vulnerability of Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast amid continued complaints about weak Russian capabilities on the east bank. A Russian milblogger claimed on November 26 that personnel of the Russian 70th Motorized Rifle Division (of the newly formed 18th Combined Arms Army) often write to him complaining about the vulnerability of Russian logistics in the east bank of Kherson Oblast near Krynky (30km northeast of Kherson Oblast and 2km from the Dnipro River) to Ukrainian drone strikes.[8] The milblogger also agreed with another Russian milblogger’s previous claims that Russian forces in this area struggle with unit coordination as well as commanders’ negligence at the company and battalion levels.[9] The milblogger suggested that Russian forces near Krynky should create a separate anti-drone company staffed by personnel of the separate reconnaissance battalion of the 70th Motorized Rifle Division to protect Russian GLOCs.[10] Russian GLOCs on left bank Kherson Oblast, such as the E58 Antonivka-Sahy highway (about 5-8km away from the Dnipro River), are located close to the Dnipro River shoreline, making them vulnerable to Ukrainian interdiction. ISW previously reported that Russian milbloggers have repeatedly complained about Russian forces near Krynky suffering from problems, such as insufficient fire support, unit coordination, electronic warfare (EW), counterbattery, and air defense, but has observed that these reported problems do not always translate into significant battlefield effects.[11] Russian sources have continually claimed that Russian forces are unable to push Ukrainian forces out of Krynky and that Ukrainian forces are currently unable to make operationally significant advances in the east bank area.[12]

Russia continues to face skilled and unskilled labor shortages amid inconsistent and contradictory Kremlin policies that disincentivize Russians who fled Russia and migrant workers from working in Russia while simultaneously trying to increase Russian industrial capacity and force generation. Russian State Duma Chairperson Vyacheslav Volodin claimed on November 25 that many Russians who left Russia because of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine are returning to Russia because they could not find work abroad.[13] Volodin warned that Russia is not “waiting with open arms” to accept returning Russians and claimed that they “committed treason against Russia, relatives, and friends.”[14] A prominent Kremlin-affiliated Russian milblogger agreed with Volodin’s statements on November 26 but noted that Russia continues to face severe skilled labor shortages and characterized the number of returning Russians as “catastrophically small.”[15] The milblogger added that the labor shortages have increased the number of migrants seeking jobs in Russia and criticized Russian authorities for their “open door policy” on migration.[16] The Russian government appears to be struggling to reconcile incoherent and competing objectives by prioritizing crypto-mobilization efforts to send manpower to the frontline at the expense of Russia’s national labor force while simultaneously enforcing policies that restrict migrants’ prospects to work in Russia.[17] Russian law enforcement agencies are also coercing migrants both with and without Russian citizenship into Russian military service, further reducing the migrants’ ability to augment Russia’s labor force.[18] The Kremlin’s incoherent and contradictory policies seek to achieve mutually exclusive objectives of reducing negative shocks to Russia’s domestic labor force, while disincentivizing migrants from working in Russia and enticing Russians to return from abroad while not providing them opportunities to work and trying to recruit them into a war they fled. The poor implementation of these policies has not generated any apparent or imminent threats to the Russian economy or war effort at this time, however.

A massive winter storm on the Black Sea has killed at least three people, caused the evacuation of hundreds more, and left millions in Ukraine and Russia without power or heat.

States of emergency have been declared across Russian-controlled Crimea, where an estimated 1.9 million people are currently without power due to storms that have raged since Friday.

Waves battering the coast also continue to disrupt shipping.

Roads in the region have been flooded, trees uprooted and power plants knocked out of service due to heavy snow.

Blizzards brought on by the storm caused power outages in Romania and Bulgaria on Sunday.

Russian meteorologists say it is the most severe storm to hit Crimea since record keeping began, claiming the only storm that came close to this magnitude hit in 1854 — when 30 some ships were sunk during the Crimean War.
The storm is also believed to have left people dead in Russia's southern Krasnodar region.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Energy Ministry said more than 2,000 Ukrainian towns are currently without power.

Weather forecasters say the storm will increase in intensity before it passes, telling residents to expect stronger winds and heavier snowfall.

Turkey’s exports to Russia of goods vital for Moscow’s war machine have soared this year, heightening concerns among the US and its allies that the country is acting as a conduit for sensitive items from their own manufacturers.
The growing trade, and the corresponding rise in imports to Turkey of 45 civilian materials used by Russia’s military, has undermined US and European attempts to curb Moscow’s ability to equip its armed forces, fuelling tensions between Ankara and its Nato partners.

In a sign of how it has become a priority in Washington to rein in this trade, Brian Nelson, US Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, will visit Istanbul and Ankara this week, where he is set to discuss “efforts to prevent, disrupt, and investigate trade and financial activity that benefit the Russian effort in its war against Ukraine”.
It will be Nelson’s second trip to Turkey this year and comes amid indications that some dual-use parts — identified by the US and its allies as being of particular value to the war — are being transported directly to Russia even when they have been labelled as going to another country.

The trade flourishes by exploiting regulatory gaps between US export controls and EU enforcement, according to Emily Kilcrease, director of the Energy, Economics and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security think-tank.
“With some of the third-party countries like Turkey, we’re really at a weaker enforcement position than we’d ultimately like to be,” said Kilcrease, a former deputy assistant US trade representative. “We really have to lean on those countries to take enforcement actions in their own jurisdictions, to get at the specific entities that are facilitating the trans-shipment.”
Turkey, along with the United Arab Emirates, often serves as an intermediary destination for Russian entities seeking to exploit multistage import routes to get around controls, said a European sanctions official. It was particularly used to procure European goods, the official added.
Official data from Turkey showed a surge in declarations of exports of high-priority goods to ex-Soviet nations Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, but those countries’ statistical agencies have not recorded a matching rise in imports.
These large discrepancies suggest that items reported by Turkey as destined for intermediaries were instead being transported directly to Russia, analysts said. Kazakhstan recorded high-priority goods imports from Turkey of $6.1mn in the year to September, but Turkey’s data shows exports of those goods to Kazakhstan amounted to $66mn over the same period.
“It’s obvious these goods are going to Russia,” said Elina Ribakova, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics think-tank and vice-president for foreign policy at the Kyiv School of Economics.

The Ukrainian government is planning to change its conscription practices as it seeks to sustain fighting capacity after nearly two years of full-fledged war with Russia.

The changes, expected to be announced this week, will include the use of commercial recruitment companies to carry out more targeted conscription and to reassure conscripts they will be deployed in roles that match their skills and not simply sent to the front, according to one senior official.

“Some people are scared, scared to die, scared to shoot, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be involved in other activities … Now we have a new minister with a new approach,” Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s security council, told the Guardian.

Danilov said the army would work with two of Ukraine’s biggest recruitment companies in order to identify people with specific skills, and to dissuade skilled Ukrainians who wanted to help the army but did not want to go to the front from trying to evade the draft.

“The mobilisation will become more flexible, those specialities that are required will be announced, and people will be volunteering for a concrete position. For example, they need welders or mechanics and so on,” said Danilov.

A source in the defence ministry confirmed that contracts had been signed with recruitment companies, but did not give any further details. It was not immediately clear how involved the recruitment companies would be in the process, nor at what level general recruitment for frontline work would continue alongside the more targeted process.

Finland may take more measures to stop an unusually large increase in asylum seekers crossing the border from Russia in what the country and its allies say is an orchestrated move by Moscow, the prime minister said on Monday.
Some 900 asylum seekers from nations including Afghanistan, Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen have entered Finland from Russia in November, an increase from less than one per day previously, according to the Finnish Border Guard.
Finland blames a change in Russian border protocol for the increase and calls this a hybrid attack.
It says Moscow is funnelling them to the border in retaliation for its decision to increase defence cooperation with the United States, a charge the Kremlin denies. Finland infuriated Russia when it joined NATO in April, ending decades of military non-alignment, due to the war in Ukraine.
It has already closed all but one entry point but is still expecting more migrants to arrive.
"Intelligence information from different sources tells us that there still are people on the move ... If this continues, more measures will be announced in the near future," Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told a press conference.
He gave no details of what the measures could entail.
Several Finnish media outlets reported on Monday, citing anonymous government sources, that the government had held talks over closing the whole border.

Turkey’s exports to Russia of goods vital for Moscow’s war machine have soared this year, heightening concerns among the US and its allies that the country is acting as a conduit for sensitive items from their own manufacturers.
The growing trade, and the corresponding rise in imports to Turkey of 45 civilian materials used by Russia’s military, has undermined US and European attempts to curb Moscow’s ability to equip its armed forces, fuelling tensions between Ankara and its Nato partners.

In a sign of how it has become a priority in Washington to rein in this trade, Brian Nelson, US Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, will visit Istanbul and Ankara this week, where he is set to discuss “efforts to prevent, disrupt, and investigate trade and financial activity that benefit the Russian effort in its war against Ukraine”.
It will be Nelson’s second trip to Turkey this year and comes amid indications that some dual-use parts — identified by the US and its allies as being of particular value to the war — are being transported directly to Russia even when they have been labelled as going to another country.

The trade flourishes by exploiting regulatory gaps between US export controls and EU enforcement, according to Emily Kilcrease, director of the Energy, Economics and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security think-tank.
“With some of the third-party countries like Turkey, we’re really at a weaker enforcement position than we’d ultimately like to be,” said Kilcrease, a former deputy assistant US trade representative. “We really have to lean on those countries to take enforcement actions in their own jurisdictions, to get at the specific entities that are facilitating the trans-shipment.”
Turkey, along with the United Arab Emirates, often serves as an intermediary destination for Russian entities seeking to exploit multistage import routes to get around controls, said a European sanctions official. It was particularly used to procure European goods, the official added.
Official data from Turkey showed a surge in declarations of exports of high-priority goods to ex-Soviet nations Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, but those countries’ statistical agencies have not recorded a matching rise in imports.
These large discrepancies suggest that items reported by Turkey as destined for intermediaries were instead being transported directly to Russia, analysts said. Kazakhstan recorded high-priority goods imports from Turkey of $6.1mn in the year to September, but Turkey’s data shows exports of those goods to Kazakhstan amounted to $66mn over the same period.
“It’s obvious these goods are going to Russia,” said Elina Ribakova, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics think-tank and vice-president for foreign policy at the Kyiv School of Economics.

The Ukrainian government is planning to change its conscription practices as it seeks to sustain fighting capacity after nearly two years of full-fledged war with Russia.

The changes, expected to be announced this week, will include the use of commercial recruitment companies to carry out more targeted conscription and to reassure conscripts they will be deployed in roles that match their skills and not simply sent to the front, according to one senior official.

“Some people are scared, scared to die, scared to shoot, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be involved in other activities … Now we have a new minister with a new approach,” Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s security council, told the Guardian.

Danilov said the army would work with two of Ukraine’s biggest recruitment companies in order to identify people with specific skills, and to dissuade skilled Ukrainians who wanted to help the army but did not want to go to the front from trying to evade the draft.

“The mobilisation will become more flexible, those specialities that are required will be announced, and people will be volunteering for a concrete position. For example, they need welders or mechanics and so on,” said Danilov.

A source in the defence ministry confirmed that contracts had been signed with recruitment companies, but did not give any further details. It was not immediately clear how involved the recruitment companies would be in the process, nor at what level general recruitment for frontline work would continue alongside the more targeted process.

Finland may take more measures to stop an unusually large increase in asylum seekers crossing the border from Russia in what the country and its allies say is an orchestrated move by Moscow, the prime minister said on Monday.
Some 900 asylum seekers from nations including Afghanistan, Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen have entered Finland from Russia in November, an increase from less than one per day previously, according to the Finnish Border Guard.
Finland blames a change in Russian border protocol for the increase and calls this a hybrid attack.
It says Moscow is funnelling them to the border in retaliation for its decision to increase defence cooperation with the United States, a charge the Kremlin denies. Finland infuriated Russia when it joined NATO in April, ending decades of military non-alignment, due to the war in Ukraine.
It has already closed all but one entry point but is still expecting more migrants to arrive.
"Intelligence information from different sources tells us that there still are people on the move ... If this continues, more measures will be announced in the near future," Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told a press conference.
He gave no details of what the measures could entail.
Several Finnish media outlets reported on Monday, citing anonymous government sources, that the government had held talks over closing the whole border.
Is there a bigger frenemy to the US than Turkey?

Turkey’s exports to Russia of goods vital for Moscow’s war machine have soared this year, heightening concerns among the US and its allies that the country is acting as a conduit for sensitive items from their own manufacturers.
The growing trade, and the corresponding rise in imports to Turkey of 45 civilian materials used by Russia’s military, has undermined US and European attempts to curb Moscow’s ability to equip its armed forces, fuelling tensions between Ankara and its Nato partners.

In a sign of how it has become a priority in Washington to rein in this trade, Brian Nelson, US Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, will visit Istanbul and Ankara this week, where he is set to discuss “efforts to prevent, disrupt, and investigate trade and financial activity that benefit the Russian effort in its war against Ukraine”.
It will be Nelson’s second trip to Turkey this year and comes amid indications that some dual-use parts — identified by the US and its allies as being of particular value to the war — are being transported directly to Russia even when they have been labelled as going to another country.

The trade flourishes by exploiting regulatory gaps between US export controls and EU enforcement, according to Emily Kilcrease, director of the Energy, Economics and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security think-tank.
“With some of the third-party countries like Turkey, we’re really at a weaker enforcement position than we’d ultimately like to be,” said Kilcrease, a former deputy assistant US trade representative. “We really have to lean on those countries to take enforcement actions in their own jurisdictions, to get at the specific entities that are facilitating the trans-shipment.”
Turkey, along with the United Arab Emirates, often serves as an intermediary destination for Russian entities seeking to exploit multistage import routes to get around controls, said a European sanctions official. It was particularly used to procure European goods, the official added.
Official data from Turkey showed a surge in declarations of exports of high-priority goods to ex-Soviet nations Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, but those countries’ statistical agencies have not recorded a matching rise in imports.
These large discrepancies suggest that items reported by Turkey as destined for intermediaries were instead being transported directly to Russia, analysts said. Kazakhstan recorded high-priority goods imports from Turkey of $6.1mn in the year to September, but Turkey’s data shows exports of those goods to Kazakhstan amounted to $66mn over the same period.
“It’s obvious these goods are going to Russia,” said Elina Ribakova, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics think-tank and vice-president for foreign policy at the Kyiv School of Economics.

The Ukrainian government is planning to change its conscription practices as it seeks to sustain fighting capacity after nearly two years of full-fledged war with Russia.

The changes, expected to be announced this week, will include the use of commercial recruitment companies to carry out more targeted conscription and to reassure conscripts they will be deployed in roles that match their skills and not simply sent to the front, according to one senior official.

“Some people are scared, scared to die, scared to shoot, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be involved in other activities … Now we have a new minister with a new approach,” Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s security council, told the Guardian.

Danilov said the army would work with two of Ukraine’s biggest recruitment companies in order to identify people with specific skills, and to dissuade skilled Ukrainians who wanted to help the army but did not want to go to the front from trying to evade the draft.

“The mobilisation will become more flexible, those specialities that are required will be announced, and people will be volunteering for a concrete position. For example, they need welders or mechanics and so on,” said Danilov.

A source in the defence ministry confirmed that contracts had been signed with recruitment companies, but did not give any further details. It was not immediately clear how involved the recruitment companies would be in the process, nor at what level general recruitment for frontline work would continue alongside the more targeted process.

Finland may take more measures to stop an unusually large increase in asylum seekers crossing the border from Russia in what the country and its allies say is an orchestrated move by Moscow, the prime minister said on Monday.
Some 900 asylum seekers from nations including Afghanistan, Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen have entered Finland from Russia in November, an increase from less than one per day previously, according to the Finnish Border Guard.
Finland blames a change in Russian border protocol for the increase and calls this a hybrid attack.
It says Moscow is funnelling them to the border in retaliation for its decision to increase defence cooperation with the United States, a charge the Kremlin denies. Finland infuriated Russia when it joined NATO in April, ending decades of military non-alignment, due to the war in Ukraine.
It has already closed all but one entry point but is still expecting more migrants to arrive.
"Intelligence information from different sources tells us that there still are people on the move ... If this continues, more measures will be announced in the near future," Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told a press conference.
He gave no details of what the measures could entail.
Several Finnish media outlets reported on Monday, citing anonymous government sources, that the government had held talks over closing the whole border.
Is there a bigger frenemy to the US than Turkey?
Saudi Arabia

The U.S. has increased its output of 155mm shells far faster than it originally forecasted, and plans to increase it further—if Congress can pass a budget for the nearly two-month-old fiscal year. Europe has moved more slowly than it intended to, hampered by the consensus-focused nature of NATO and the EU.

And in a twist that belies Europe’s reputation for state-owned businesses, its dilemma is set by market conditions, while U.S. progress is made possible by state-control of ammo manufacturing.

It’s a “a bit of a chicken-and-egg question,” said Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur during a recent visit to Washington, D.C. Industry officials, Pevkur said, say, “‘Please give us contracts and then we can produce’ and then we say that, you know, ‘There is a clear demand. Just start to increase your production’.”

On the U.S. side, production doubled within a year of launching a crash production program, largely because the Army owns the facilities that make the shells.

“The U.S. Army has a pretty direct lever to increase the production of staple munitions like 155mm artillery shells,” said Rafael Loss, a European defense expert on the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Army produced around 14,000 155mm rounds a month in government-owned, contractor-operated munitions plants. In December 2022, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said the Army was looking to increase production to 20,000 rounds per month by the spring and 40,000 rounds per month by 2025.
Last March, Army Undersecretary Gabe Camarillo upped the target slightly, announcing plans to produce 24,000 rounds a month by year’s end.

The Army hit the target early, then exceeded it, producing 28,000 shells in October. At least some of those shells went right out the door to Ukraine, Army acquisition secretary Doug Bush told reporters in a media roundtable in November. He declined to say just how many.

Bush said the service now aims to boost its monthly production to 36,000 by March, 60,000 by September, 70,000 to 80,000 in early 2025, and 100,000 by the end of calendar 2025 — two and half times more than Wormuth’s year-old goal.

NATO, whose own procurement agency is also pursuing the acquisition of more 155mm rounds, is finding that prices have quadrupled.

In October, NATO’s senior military officer, Adm. Rob Bauer, said that the price for one 155mm shell had risen from 2,000 euros ($2,171) at the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion to 8,000 euros ($8,489.60).

For comparison, the U.S. currently pays $3,000 for its most modern shells, according to an Army spokesperson. That price includes the charge, fuze, and shell body.

Unlike the U.S., European 155mm production is primarily in the hands of the commercial market. That means that European countries can incentivize production increases through purchases, but cannot order factories to invest in automation, double shifts, or build new plants, as the U.S. has.

“There really isn’t any government that can command industry to produce more, they have to place orders through contracts,” said CFR’s Loss.

European munitions firms, meanwhile, have few opportunities to raise money from private hands, thanks to regulations on banks and arms makers, Loss said. They therefore have trouble increasing production merely on the expectation of higher orders.

According to Saks, the Russian armed forces are stepping up their efforts to conquer larger territories in order to create the perception in the West that supporting Ukraine is a hopeless endeavor.

"Unfortunately, in the West, and especially in public opinion, there is a very strong attachment to the idea to seeing the situation in light of which territories currently belong to the troops of one side or the other. But in actual fact, you have to look at what is happening at the strategic level," Saks explained.

"We can see that, what's going to happen in the war is not really just a question of the front line at all. If Ukraine has now indicated that it is capable of conducting its own air strikes against Russian infrastructure on Russian territory, and on a slightly larger scale, as has happened over the last few days, and if this becomes routine on both sides, then it will really start to matter which side's air defenses are better," the security expert said.

"And this could turn out in very different ways. Air defense also means that if, in the case of Russia, we see that their air defenses are not working, and Ukraine, as you know, is using predominantly Western-made weaponry, then that also calls into question Russia's greater strategic defense capabilities as a whole. So, Russia has actually taken very big risks, it is not easy for them to fight this war in Ukraine."

"I am of the opinion that Russia cannot carry on like this indefinitely. Somewhere in Russian society, too, this limit has to be reached. Maybe we really can't perceive it so to speak and predict it, because to do that we would have to be in the Russian information space ourselves," Saks said. "At the moment Russia is clearly trying to avoid a new [wave of] mobilization. There is talk of some pretty big numbers that they could recruit to make up for the losses, but these are actually still very much estimates based on Russia's own sources."

"It's a question of motivation, of what the soldiers are fighting for. Up to now, the Russian leadership has somehow managed to motivate its soldiers to die on the front line. However, I don't think it's possible for it to last that long and that Russia can continue in this way indefinitely without declaring mobilization. And that is what Ukraine is playing on at the moment, trying to discredit Russia's ability to manage this kind of political process in Russia," he said.
Video: Could Eastern Ukraine’s Avdiivka Become the Next Bakhmut?

The effect is being felt at the front as America tries to stretch its dwindling funds. “In the spring the flow of military supplies was a broad river. In the summer it was a stream. Now it is a few drops of tears,” says one informed Ukrainian source. Ukraine faces a bleak winter amid great uncertainty: its counter-offensive has failed to break through Russian lines; its enemy is increasing its arms production; and its vital ally is paralysed by political turmoil and distracted by Israel’s war in Gaza.

In what has often been an artillery war, Ukraine is already suffering from “shell-hunger”, says Michael Kofman of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an American think-tank. He reckons that Ukraine was firing 220,000-240,000 larger calibre shells (152mm and 155mm) per month during the summer, but the rate of fire is dwindling and will fall to 80,000-90,000 shells a month. Even these numbers are more than America and European countries are currently producing—roughly 28,000 and 25,000 a month respectively. Western production is rising, with targets to triple output, but that will take a year or more, and some of the output will be used to replenish Western stocks and supply others. Russia outpaces Western shell production and has been helped by a surge of rounds from North Korea.

Ukraine is trying to boost its own defence industry, robust in Soviet times but badly neglected since, not least to make NATO-standard 155mm shells. “No matter how much we grow local production, we would be hugely dependent on Western partnerships,” admits a senior official in Kyiv.
If American support diminishes, Ukraine will be unable to mount another large counter-offensive, says Mr Kofman. It can try to make even greater use of drones. But ultimately it will have to dig in. “Ukraine should learn from what worked for Russia,” he says. “The stronger your defences, the fewer shells and troops you need to hold the line.”

Chart: https://twitter.com/AntonLaGuardia/status/1729281474585616411

My quick chart of what America's Ukraine fatigue looks like in dollar terms: US PDA announcements, $ million per quarter. (NB I have extrapolated a figure for "December" as the average of October and November. It may well be lower if there is no supplemental)

Western disarray and Russia’s growing commitment of its human and industrial resources to the war point to a bitter year on the defensive for Ukraine. But the Russian army’s limitations on the offensive—on display in the grueling fight for the city of Avdiivka—suggest it is more likely to grind out small gains than to achieve a breakthrough.
Putin is still a long way from conquering the Ukrainian regions Russia has claimed—let alone from achieving his bigger goal of subjugating Ukraine, whose existence as an independent nation-state he has called a historical anomaly.
“The material advantages in 2024 are principally on Russia’s side, but they don’t appear decisive enough that Russia will be able to achieve its political aims,” said Michael Kofman, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
“It’s inaccurate to suggest that Russia is winning the war,” Kofman said. “However, if the right choices are not made next year on Ukraine’s approach and Western resourcing, then Ukraine’s prospects for success look dim.”

(1 of 5)

In recent days, Russian forces have made further small advances on the northern axis of a pincer movement as part of their attempt to surround the Donbas town of Avdiivka.
(2 of 5)

Since the start of October 2023, Russian forces have moved the front line forwards up to 2km in this area.
(3 of 5)

Although modest, this advance likely represents one of the greatest Russian gains since spring 2023. It has cost the units involved thousands of casualties.
(4 of 5)

This operation is gradually bringing Russian troops closer to the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical plant, where Ukrainian forces maintain one of their main defensive positions.
(5 of 5)

Although Avdiivka has become a salient or bulge in the Ukrainian front line, Ukraine remains in control of a corridor of territory approximately 7km wide, through which it continues to supply the town.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and several Russian milbloggers stated that Russia must maintain active operations in Ukraine and expressed worry over the prospect of further Western military support to Ukraine, though some milbloggers additionally expressed increased discontent with the perceived lack of articulated Russian war aims and stated Russia must clarify its war aims before discussing any pause or end to the war. Lavrov claimed on November 27 that the West is currently trying to "freeze" the war to gain time and rearm Ukraine for future attacks on Russia.[9] Several Russian milbloggers similarly claimed that any "truce" or pause in the war will only benefit Ukraine and allow Ukrainian forces to rest, refit, and relaunch offensive operations.[10] One prominent critical milblogger claimed that a pause in the war will allow Ukraine to conduct a "Minsk-3," alluding to the previous Minsk agreements that temporarily paused large-scale combat operations in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 but ultimately allowed Russia to prepare for the full-scale invasion in 2022.[11] The critical milblogger also observed that any discussions regarding pauses or negotiations in the war will be particularly harmful to Russia because Russia has failed to clearly define war aims or conditions necessary for a Russian victory.[12] The milblogger noted that the lack of a clear definition for victory has caused internal destabilization within Russia.[13] Other Russian milbloggers noted that Ukraine still controls several territories that Russia has claimed to have (illegally) annexed, arguing that Russia should not see any negotiations until or unless Russia can capture the rest of the four occupied oblasts (Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhia oblasts), as well as Odesa and Mykolaiv oblasts.[14]

Renewed discussion of hypothetical negotiations underlined Russia’s lack of clearly articulated war aims and are causing significant anxiety in the pro-war Russian information space. Some milbloggers claimed that Russia cannot even consider the possibility of pausing the war until they have fully captured the four occupied Ukrainian oblasts, while other milbloggers advocated for more maximalist aims such as the capture of Odesa and Mykolaiv oblasts, in which Russia currently has no presence (with the exception of a small Russian presence on the Mykolaiv Oblast side of the Kinburn Peninsula).[15] The apparent lack of consensus as to what exactly would constitute a Russian victory is compounding anxieties over the perceived pace of the war in the Russian information space —an anxiety that is increasingly reflected in the highest levels of the Russian government. ISW has previously reported that select voices in the Russian information space, namely deceased Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, advocated for freezing the lines in Ukraine to afford Russian troops the ability to rest and reconstitute, but Lavrov's statement against any sort of pause in Ukraine is an explicit rejection of this argument, as well as a tacit acceptance of a protracted war in Ukraine.[16] Clear Russian concern about Ukraine's ability to rearm and relaunch offensives in the case of the pause highlights Russia’s concern over continued NATO and Western support for Ukraine. Russia is rapidly replacing losses and belatedly moving its economy to a war footing, and ISW continues to assess that the Kremlin would leverage any pause or ceasefire to prepare for renewed aggression against Ukraine.[17] Ukraine's partners have the capability to sustain and accelerate aid to Ukraine and enable Ukraine to restore maneuver to the battlefield.[18]

Russia’s attempt to artificially create a migrant crisis at the Finnish border appears to be failing due to Finnish authorities’ swift response. Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo stated on November 27 that the Finnish government will close the last border crossing with Russia “if necessary” and reported that the Finnish government is ready to take unspecified additional measures in response to Russia’s artificially generated migrant crisis.[20] Finland previously closed three checkpoints on the Finnish-Russian border on November 23, leaving only its northernmost border crossing open.[21] Several other Finnish government officials also signaled their support for closing the entire border with Russia.[22] A Russian insider source claimed that Russian Presidential Administration First Deputy Head Sergei Kiriyenko instructed Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) Head Vladimir Kolokoltsev to gather migrants from the Middle East, Africa, and other regions to send them to the Finnish border.[23] The insider source complained that Finnish border authorities stopped most migrants from crossing into Finland and that Russian authorities must now settle the migrants in Russia.[24]

"The wife of Ukraine's spy chief, Lt Gen Kyrylo Budanov, is being treated in hospital for suspected poisoning with heavy metals, a Ukrainian intelligence source has confirmed to the BBC."

Russia's notorious hacking group Fancy Bear is targeting European governments with cyberattacks, the European Union's cyber emergency response team has warned officials in a note seen by POLITICO.

At least seven European governments have been targeted with spearphishing campaigns, which include using custom-tailored lures to target specific, high-profile targets to download malicious software or give away access to digital systems.

“We assess that the threat level posed to [EU institutions and agencies] by this activity is high,” the bloc's Cyber Emergency Response Team for the EU (CERT-EU) said in a note classified for limited distribution (TLP Amber+Strict) sent earlier in November.

The group "is leveraging diverse decoy documents to lure victims, including the meeting minutes of a subcommittee of the European Parliament and a report from a United Nations Special Committee,” the note read.

The warning comes amid growing concerns that next year's European election will be targeted by hacking groups from countries with a cyberoffensive program against Europe, like Russia and China. EU voters head to the polls in June.

It is clear that personal sanctions on various Russians have had no real impact on policy. But it is foolish to try and make some simplistic judgement as to whether or not the wider sectoral sanctions on the economy have ‘failed’.
Have they destroyed Russia’s capacity to wage war or forced Putin to withdraw from Ukraine? Patently not, but the experiences of Iran and North Korea should have demonstrated to everyone that authoritarian regimes can withstand sanctions for a long time, not least by transferring the pain to their cowed and controlled citizens.
That does not mean they have not had an effect, though. Russia is, for example, able to bypass the G7+’s attempts to impose a $60 (£48) per barrel price cap on its oil exports by selling outside the bloc and using gambits such as its ‘ghost fleet’ of unregistered tankers. However, this has entailed all kinds of additional costs and risks, from paying hefty fees to rogue traders to using uninsured vessels. Likewise, Russia is still managing to source microchips for its drones and cruise missiles, but through a complex network of third-party re-exporters or by buying modern fridges and the like through ‘grey market’ channels and removing and repurposing the hardware. This works, but is an expensive, time-consuming and inefficient way of acquiring essential components that Russia itself cannot make.
This is the point: what sanctions are doing is adding costs and bottlenecks to the Russian war economy. Of course, the Russians have a track record for ingenuity in responding to tough circumstance, from Central Bank chair Elvira Nabiullina’s firm fiscal policy, through the smugglers and facilitators bringing in sanctioned goods, to the entrepreneurs exploiting new markets, from pseudo-McDonalds to domestic clothing lines.

Video: Ukraine's Avdiivka empties in face of Russian assaults

Finland will close its entire border with Russia to travellers for the next two weeks in a bid to halt a flow of asylum seekers to the Nordic nation, the government said on Tuesday.
Finland last week shut all but one of its remaining border posts to travellers from Russia, keeping open only the northernmost crossing located in the Arctic. But this too would now close, allowing only goods transport, the government said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, in a ranting speech before a presidential election campaign, cast Moscow’s military action in Ukraine as an existential battle against purported attempts by the West to destroy Russia.

Putin, who has been in power for more than two decades and is the longest-serving Russian leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, is expected to soon declare his intention to seek another six-year term in a presidential election next March.

“We are defending the security and well-being of our people, the highest, historical right to be Russia — a strong, independent power, a country-civilization,” Putin said, accusing the U.S. and its allies of trying to “dismember and plunder” Russia.

Ukraine and its Western allies have condemned the Russian action against Ukraine as an unprovoked act of aggression.
“We are now fighting for the freedom of not only Russia, but the whole world,” Putin said in a speech to participants of a meeting organized by the Russian Orthodox Church.

He denounced what he described as Western “Russophobia,” claiming that “our diversity and unity of cultures, traditions, languages, and ethnic groups simply don’t fit into the logic of Western racists and colonialists, into their cruel scheme of total depersonalization, disunity, suppression and exploitation.”

“If they can’t do it by force, they will try to sow strife,” he said, vowing to block “any outside interference, provocations with the aim of causing interethnic or interreligious conflicts as aggressive actions against our country, as an attempt to once again foment terrorism and extremism in Russia as a tool to fight us.”

Russian authorities have intensified their crackdown on dissent amid the fighting in Ukraine, arresting and imprisoning protesters and activists and silencing independent news outlets.

Putin said that the U.S.-dominated global order has become increasingly decrepit, declaring that “it is our country that is now at the forefront of creating a more equitable world order.”

“And I want to emphasize: without a sovereign, strong Russia, no lasting, stable world order is possible,” he said.

Iran has finalised arrangements for the delivery of Russian Su-35 fighter jets and Mil Mi-28 attack helicopters, Iran's deputy defence minister Mahdi Farahi has told Tasnim news agency.

Iran's air force has only a few dozen strike aircraft, including Russian jets - as well as ageing US models acquired before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"Plans have been finalised for Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets, Mil Mi 28 attack helicopters, and Yak-130 jet trainers to join the combat units of Iran's Army," Mr Farahi said.

Tasnim did not include any Russian confirmation of the deal and Sky News cannot verify the report.
Most Russians back war in Ukraine and buy Putin’s case for it, report says

Crucially, most Russians are convinced that Russia has paid such a high price that it must not relinquish any of Ukraine’s territory it now occupies, with Putin determined to force Kyiv to accept Russia’s land seizures, according to the report, which was published Tuesday.
A striking 68 percent of Russians support continuing the war, which has killed tens of thousands on each side, according to the report, and a hard-line group of 22 percent strongly oppose a cease-fire under any circumstances. A similar number, about 20 percent, strongly oppose the war, a figure that has not budged since the February 2022 invasion.
A majority of Russians — 72 percent — support peace talks, yet only 19 percent are willing to make concessions to Ukraine for the sake of peace. Polls cited in the report were face-to-face representative national surveys of 1,600 people.

The report follows up on earlier in-depth research in the first six months of the war and indicates that support for the war has remained remarkably stable, despite military setbacks and high casualties. The military does not publish up-to-date casualty figures, and propaganda channels have consistently played down battlefield setbacks, denied Russian atrocities and extolled the military.
The report by Denis Volkov of the Levada Center and Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center suggests that the softening of support for the war in some sections of the population will not derail Putin’s reelection, as the Kremlin strives to use the campaign to enhance his personal legitimacy after ditching the limit on Putin seeking another presidential term in 2020.
“Russian mass consciousness is stuck between two contradictory views,” the report said. In focus groups, most of the war’s supporters argued that “we need to finish what we started” and “we have already lost too much to stop now, only victory will suffice.”

The Kremlin’s war propaganda — that Russia is fighting a war for its very survival against Ukrainian “Nazis” backed by the West — was often repeated in focus groups, both by strong supporters of the war and those who are more equivocal, according to the report.
But the high costs and lack of clear benefits of the war have caused some unease: 41 percent of Russians believe the war has done more harm than good, slightly higher than the 38 percent who believe the opposite, the report said.
Most Russians equate the political interests of Putin with the interests of the nation as a whole and tend to support the war even if they see it as harmful, the report said.
“Many people back government initiatives while recognizing the harm they are doing.” the report stated. “This tells us something about the mechanism behind people’s decisionmaking: they will submit to anything the government has decided.”

Link to report referenced above:

‘You have to accept that you can be killed. But it is always scary.’ The story of one bloody battle in a trench in eastern Ukraine

Russia's losses are not high enough for it to end the war in Ukraine, said Estonian Defense Forces chief Gen. Martin Herem and the Ministry of Defense's top official Kusti Salm on Monday. The pair were also against the formation of a civil defense service which has been discussed in recent days.

Herem said that before the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, he believed the death of 1,000 Russian soldiers a day – 15,000 over two weeks – would put a stop to any aggression. But he has now changed his mind.

"[The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery] Zaluzhnyi told me last July that 15,000 is definitely not enough. This autumn, he wrote an article in which he said that 150,000 was also too few. I do not think we have a standard by which to say what is enough," the general told ERR's radio show "Välistund".

Salm said Russian society is now fully mobilized to win the war and the goal is to win the war.

"And it's not just for Putin, it's the whole industrial complex, the education system, the central bank, everybody – everybody's working day and night, thinking about how to win this war. And, of course, if you put all the resources behind it and measure all the resources on an absolute scale, the losses are actually not very large. Russia still has 130 million people. 200,000 deaths is 0.15 percent. This does not seem like something that can be promised now. And especially when we compare it with the casualties of World War II or the Russian Civil War. Then 20–30 million people died there, that's normal wear and tear for him," said the permanent secretary.

Herem said there is no manpower shortage in Russia: "Russia went to war with about 300,000 plus people and has sent 400,000 more, of whom an estimated 100,000 have been recruited this year. Not mobilized, but recruited, which shows that society is not, if not supporting, then certainly not opposing this war."

Discussing the development of the Russian armed forces since the start of the war, the general said, there are technological improvements but it has not become any smarter.

"What they have got going, though, is their own military industry, because if we say today that Russia produces two million projectiles a year, I think we'll hear in the near future that it's going to produce even more. Today, Russia itself already produces about 1,000 of these Iranian so-called Shaheed drones with its own name. Russia has begun to produce its own stealth air-to-air missiles, which it didn't have at the beginning of the war, but which it has deployed over the course of the war, and which we know it has improved significantly. All these things are technological developments," he outlined.

A prominent Russian milblogger continued to highlight mid-level command problems among Russian forces operating on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast, amid continued complaints about weak Russian capabilities and the vulnerability of Russian ground lines of communications (GLOCs) on the east bank. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian personnel in smaller units such as the 1822nd Battalion did not know their commanding officers or details about their supervisory structure “for a long time.”[33] The Russian milblogger claimed that unspecified company commanders in the 1822nd Battalion continually ordered units to capture islands in the Dnipro River Delta despite suffering heavy losses and conducting minimal casualty evacuations and that the 1822nd Battalion’s personnel could not contact a higher-level commander to address their complaints.[34] The milblogger noted that the Russian military command ordered elements of the 1822nd Battalion to capture islands in the Dnipro River as a punishment while contract soldiers remain on the east bank, suggesting that the 1822nd is mainly staffed with mobilized personnel.[35] The milblogger claimed that ”respected authorities” are investigating problems in the 1822nd Battalion and that mid-level Russian commanders are attempting to identify the personnel who originally voiced their complaints.[36] The milblogger concluded that Russian “Dnepr” Grouping of Forces Commander Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky “inherited a difficult legacy” in reference to persistent problems among Russian forces operating in the east bank of Kherson Oblast.[37]

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday that Ukraine had fulfilled “almost” all the requirements set out by the EU to start accession talks, ahead of a pivotal European Council summit in December.

(1 of 7)

Through November 2023, the Russian air force has likely started to more frequently employ the RBK-500 500kg cluster munition bomb.
(2 of 7)

Depending on the variant, each RBK-500 ejects between approximately 100 and 350 sub-munitions.
(3 of 7)

In turn, each sub-munition typically detonates with either hundreds of high-velocity fragments, or a single, larger anti-tank charge.
(4 of 7)

RBK-500 are reported to have been deployed against Ukrainian forces on the Vuhledar axis and near Avdiivka, both in Donetsk Oblast.
(5 of 7)

There is a realistic possibility that, as with other air-dropped bombs, Russia has likely recently integrated a UMPC guided stand-off glide kit with RBK-500.
(6 of 7)

This allows the carrying aircraft to release the munition many kilometres away from the target. Russia’s glide bomb kits have generally achieved poor accuracy.
(7 of 7)

However, with its large number of sub-munitions, a single RBK-500 can cause effects over an area of several hundred metres, increasing the chance of inflicting at least some damage on the intended target.

confirmation that another Russian general, Major General Vladimir Zavadsky, was killed in Ukraine: in fighting on the Dnipro's left bank, in Kherson. He's at least the 10th general to have been killed in the war. (?). Unconfirmed reports say he may have stepped on a land mine.

A brief summary of the current situation on the frontline in areas where Russian forces are attempting to develop offensive actions. For a more detailed version of this update, please visit the project's website linked in my bio.

Link to that report: https://frontelligence.substack.com/p/frontlines-overview-recent-developments

Russia has built up a large stockpile of missiles and intends to use them in a bid to destroy Ukraine’s power and heating infrastructure in the coming months, Nato’s secretary-general has warned.
With the front line largely frozen after Ukraine’s autumn counteroffensive failed to make significant gains, Kyiv has stepped up calls for more air defence supplies from its western allies as it girds for another winter bombardment.
“Russia has amassed a large missile stockpile ahead of winter, and we see new attempts to strike Ukraine’s power grid and energy infrastructure, trying to leave Ukraine in the dark and cold,” Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.
“We must not underestimate Russia. Russia’s economy is on a war footing,” he said following a meeting of allied foreign ministers and their Ukrainian counterpart.

A senior Ukrainian intelligence official told the Financial Times that Russia was now receiving frequent shipments of munitions from Iran and North Korea, including Iranian one-way attack drones and North Korean artillery shells and rockets.
The artillery is arriving in quantities that will ensure Russian troops can at least continue fighting at a level consistent with the hostilities in recent months, while the drones are likely to be used along with long-range missiles in Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure over the winter months.

Cracks have emerged not only on political lines but, most worryingly, between the military and political leadership. Relations between President Volodymyr Zelensky and his commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny are understood to be terrible. The differences of opinion were first reported in summer last year. A recent candid interview by The Economist with the general, in which he declared that Ukraine’s war had reached a stalemate, brought that conflict into the open. Mr Zelensky publicly rebuked his general for the headlines. In a later interview he appeared to warn Mr Zaluzhny to stick to military affairs rather than “do politics.”
A senior government source suggests the open conflict in the leadership was a “predictable” result of a stalled counter-offensive operation that had “not gone to plan”. The official says Mr Zaluzhny was possibly unwise to contradict the more optimistic public positions of his president, but few inside the government could quibble with his sober conclusions. A blame game is now underway about who is responsible for the failure. “The politicians are saying their generals are Soviet-trained twits. And the generals are saying the politicians are interfering twits. Victory has many fathers, but no one wants to parent a stalemate.”

Another factor at play is a reported criminal investigation into the defence of southern Ukraine. This was the one area where Russian forces were able to establish a quick and hugely important victory in February and March of 2022, creating a new land corridor to Crimea in a few weeks. Ukrainian turncoats assisted the advance. Bridges were not blown up as they should have been. The army was also ill-prepared. Mr Zaluzhny is, say some reports, currently named only as a witness to the probe; but that may change into something more serious. Allies say the possibility of a criminal charge is designed to keep him in line. His media engagement could be seen as an insurance policy, a general-staff source suggests.
Mr Zaluzhny has not declared any political ambitions, and his few steps into the political arena have been anything but deft. That does not mean he poses no threat to Mr Zelensky. The president, a comic performer as recently as 2019, knows how quickly Ukrainian society can make and break its leaders. Internal polling seen by The Economist suggests the president, once lauded for his role in defending the country, has been tarnished by corruption scandals in his government and by concern over the direction of the country. The figures, which date from mid-November, show trust in the president has fallen to a net +32%, less than half that of the still revered General Mr Zaluzhny (+70%). Ukraine’s spychief, Kyrylo Budanov, also has better ratings than the president (+45%).

A senior official briefing reporters after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels said the alliance reiterated its support for Ukraine knowing that a peace agreement in the next year is unlikely.
"My expectation is that Putin won't make a peace or a meaningful peace before he sees the result of our election," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the outcomes of the meeting.
Asked whether they were expressing a personal opinion or the view of the U.S. government, the official said it was a "widely shared premise."

Storms and rain have slowed Russia's efforts to secure eastern Ukraine including the shattered town of Advdiika in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said, as per a Reuters report.

After already seeing two days of storm, weather agencies have predicted more rain in the east, leaving the ground unsuitable for military manoeuvres.
"They've started to shell the town centre from Donetsk. Our brigade is holding its ground, but we can't see any equipment coming," Serhiy Tsekhotskyi, a Ukrainian officer in Advdiika, said on national television.

"The weather is unsuitable. But once the frosts come and the ground hardens, an attempted assault with equipment is possible."

Russia's forces have been trying to capture Avdiivka since mid-October as part of their advance through eastern Ukraine.

Another Ukrainian military official, Volodymyr Fitio, said the bad weather had forced Russia to make "adjustments."

"You cannot advance when the ground is like this," Fitio told the media outlet Espreso TV. "The Russians previously brought in reserves and threw them into battle. There are a lot fewer movements like that now because of the weather."

To end the war, Russia had dispatched a former culture minister -- infamous for a PhD plagiarism scandal -- and a firebrand nationalist who had recently faced down sexual harassment allegations.

"It was about 45 minutes into the first round of talks that the intellectual level of these people became clear -- their lack of understanding that the war was a war," Mykhaylo Podolyak told AFP during a recent interview in Kyiv.

"These people were not prepared to negotiate. They were just technical staff with nearly no influence in Russia. They came, read out certain ultimatums, and that's it!" the presidential advisor added.

Almost two years after those meetings collapsed, there are growing calls for Ukrainian officials to return to negotiations with the Kremlin to hash out a diplomatic end to the fighting.

Those pleas are coming in the wake of a disappointing Ukrainian counteroffensive that -- despite stockpiles of Western weapons -- failed to win back territory in the south or east.

And they are building as concerns grow over the West's commitment to supporting Ukraine, and disruptions to ammunition deliveries.

Russian forces have been increasing attacks in eastern Ukraine, Moscow and Kyiv both said.

Although the front lines have barely shifted in 2023, fighting has remained intense, with the nearly encircled industrial town of Avdiivka still up for grabs.

"The enemy has doubled its artillery fire and airstrikes. It has also intensified ground infantry attacks and is using armored vehicles," said Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesman for Ukraine's army.

Improving weather conditions, after powerful storms hit both southern Ukraine and Russia earlier this week, had enabled Russia's forces to intensify their assaults and use drones again, Shtupun added.

Russia's military claimed it had taken control of Khromove, a small village on the outskirts of Bakhmut.

"Troops, supported by aviation and artillery fire, improved their positions along the front line and liberated the village of Artemovskoye," Russia's Defense Ministry said in a daily briefing, referring to the village by a previous version of its name.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) on Wednesday called the migrants arriving at Finland's border a "hybrid attack conducted by Russia" to sow discontent in society. He said Estonia is prepared in case the situation moves to its borders.

"What is happening on Finland's border is nothing less than a blatant hybrid attack conducted by Russia, aimed at sowing anxiety and instability and attempting to pressure us by weaponizing people," Tsahkna said at the Nordic and Baltic foreign ministers (NB8) in Brussels, held on the sidelines of the NATO ministerial meeting.

"It is yet more proof that Russia is not fighting only in Ukraine; instead it poses a threat to other countries with its hybrid attacks."

Tsahkna underlined that Estonia was prepared to close its border with Russia and defend itself against any hybrid attacks.

“We have to continue, we have to keep fighting. Ukraine is not going to back down,” Dmytro Kuleba told Nato foreign ministers in Brussels. He said Kyiv remained committed to recapturing all its land, including Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that was annexed by the Kremlin almost a decade ago. He expressed frustration at the speed with which western countries were delivering weapons to Ukraine.

There are also tactical reasons for Russia's stubbornness. Avdiivka is located just 15 km from Donetsk, a city occupied since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists and which has become one of the symbols of the "Novorossia" ("New Russia," a term borrowed from the imperial conquests of the 18th century) championed by the Kremlin leader. Losing this city would be a major symbolic setback for Putin, who simply cannot afford to lose it.

"Taking Avdiivka would enable the Russians to create a protective glacis [defensive slope], which is all the more important given that the front line is less fortified in Donetsk than elsewhere," explained Joseph Henrotin, a research fellow at the Center for International Risk Analysis and Forecasting and editor-in-chief of the magazine Défense & Sécurité Internationale.

And indeed, Avdiivka makes sense. While the front is frozen everywhere else, except perhaps along the Dnipro River, where the Ukrainians are trying to establish bridgeheads, fixing the enemy at a given point would allow them to "break the forces" there, explained Henrotin. War is not just fought by conquering or retaking territory, but also by inflicting losses on the enemy, to prevent them from regenerating their forces. This is all the more important as the Russians and Ukrainians know that they have entered a war of attrition, in which whoever holds out the longest will win.

Moreover, Avdiivka is a more strategic lock than Bakhmut. "The town protects the logistics hub of Pokrovsk, some 40 kilometers to the west, which links the Ukrainian army's northern and southern facilities," explained one French officer. Losing Avdiivka would put Kyiv's army links under threat from a Russian advance, with potentially significant effects on its center of gravity.
Nevertheless, Ukrainian forces appear to have learned their lesson from Bakhmut and are reported to have modified their tactical approach to limit their losses. "In Bakhmut, the Ukrainians were defending themselves in contact with the Russians, which was extremely deadly for them. If the images of the operations at Avdiivka are anything to go by, they are defending just as firmly but from a greater distance, using a lot of FPVs [drones booby-trapped and piloted from several kilometers away] in particular," Henrotin said. Of the 1,000 armored vehicles lost by the Russians in October, many of them at Avdiivka, just over half were lost as a result of FPV fire, according to images posted on social media.

It remains to be seen how long the Ukrainians will hold out. Since the start of October and the launch of their assault on Avdiivka, the Russians are said to have recaptured around 30 square kilometers of territory and Kyiv's troops are now only holding an area around 8 kilometers wide to the north-west of the city.

(1) Russia’s airborne forces, the VDV, has likely started deploying the newly formed 104th Guards Airborne Division (104 GAD) in Ukraine for the first time. The division is probably assembling in Kherson Oblast.
(2) In August 2023, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to re-establish 104 GAD, which was previously downsized to a smaller, brigade-sized formation in 1998.
(3) Its subordinate units likely include the 337th regiment, an additional manoeuvre regiment, and the 52nd Artillery Brigade. With the addition of the 104 GAD, the number of divisions in the VDV’s order of battle will increase to five.
(4) The division will likely be poorly trained and is unlikely to meet the erstwhile elite standards of the VDV.
(5) It will almost certainly receive close scrutiny from the Russian General responsible for Kherson, General Colonel Mikhail Teplinsky; his routine role is overall commander of the VDV.

The men of the Stugna unit were cold and tired as they approached the Crimean shoreline a little to the north of Tarkhankut Bay. The mission was a struggle even before they had to evade shore patrols, breach defensive lines and attack a building full of troops.

For 10 hours, they battled five-foot waves and chilly October water traversing the Black Sea on Sea-Doo GTX 300 personal watercraft. Loaded down by grenade launchers, machine guns, man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and other equipment needed to assault Russian positions, the watercraft frequently tipped over. That slowed the progression and increased the risk of detection as the Stugna raiders had to right the watercraft and make sure everyone was accounted for. The weather and harsh sea state weren’t the only concerns.
“We had a couple of minutes pause on our way when we came across two boats of our enemies,” Dmytro Linko, the commander of Stugna, - a special mission unit of the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) - told The War Zone through an interpreter. “It was very hard.”

The raid was part of a much larger, ongoing effort, said Linko. He and two of his men who took part in the Oct. 4 mission and others agreed to provide us with exclusive insights into these operations.

“Strategically our objective is to liberate Crimea,” said Linko. “But tactically we have several goals. One is to actually eliminate as many enemies as is possible. And the other tactical objective is more of an ideological one. We need to show the resistance or the people in Crimea supporting Ukraine that we are moving forward and that the Ukrainian flag despite - being so many years out of Crimea - is back on the peninsula.”

Linko said the raiders selected the Sea-Doo personal watercraft for practical reasons.

"We had no other choice," he said. "We used the ones we could find."
Linko said the raids on Crimea and other targets in the Black Sea are a top priority of Lt. Gen. Kyrulo Budanov, commander of GUR. Budanov has frequently expressed his desire to us to see the peninsula liberated.

“We have been ordered to work on the de-occupation of Crimea,” said Linko.

More at link above.

New report from Russia's Central Bank acknowledges that West's price ceiling on Russian crude & petroleum products added transition costs & hit demand, resulting in revenues of Russia's largest oil/gas biz falling 41% in Jan-Sept vs same period last year.

RIA Novosti says that Russia has transferred a batch of Su-34 bombers to a training center where Russia will train Russian pilots to use UMPK glide bombs.

Video: Ukrainian airpower relies on Soviet-era technology

Ukraine will need to wait until next year before it receives its first big shipment of rocket-propelled bombs the U.S. has adapted to strike at a nearly 100-mile (160km) range, according to the Pentagon and people familiar with the timing.
When the U.S. was first approached by Boeing (BA.N) to buy and ship the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) to Ukraine last fall, the most optimistic timeline for shipping was around spring of this year, according to a document seen by Reuters at that time. It was reported by Politico in February that delivery wouldn't take place until later in 2023.

Ukraine needs GLSDB to augment the limited number of 100-mile range ATACMS rockets the U.S. has sent. It will allow Ukraine's military to hit targets at twice the distance reachable by the rockets it now fires from the U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and force Russia to move its supplies even farther from the front lines.
People familiar with current timing say delivery to the U.S. by Boeing, the prime contractor for the GLSDB, will take place in late December - followed by several months of testing before onward shipment to Ukraine.
A Pentagon spokesman said "we anticipate providing this key capability in the early 2024 timeframe after successful verification," another term for testing.
Because the contract to begin production of GLSDB was signed in March, according to a Pentagon statement to Reuters, delivery was forced towards year-end. Production required government furnished materials, so contract signing constrained its start.

Small part of a longer report:

Since 2009, Russia has invested significant effort into developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, for military purposes. They have used drones for reconnaissance, targeting, electronic warfare, and direct strikes. Some of these UAVs have been used in Ukraine and Syria since 2014, while combat UAVs (i.e., the Orion and Altius drones) still were on the research and development phase at the beginning of 2022.
However, after a year of war in Ukraine, the Russian military has lost the biggest part of its tactical reconnaissance and targeting UAVs. At the same time, it was still unable to deploy advanced combat UAVs. As soon as fall 2022, or roughly six months into Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine, Russia started the large-scale use of Iranian loitering munitions, and continues to be highly dependent on them as of fall 2023.

Despite efforts towards increasing their production, Russia’s use of its own loitering munitions remains insignificant.

An operation conducted by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) detonated explosives on a railway line in Siberia that Russia uses for military supplies, a Ukrainian source told Reuters on Thursday.
The source, who declined to be identified, said four explosive devices were detonated overnight as a cargo train was moving through the Severomuysky Tunnel in Buryatia region, which borders Mongolia.
Such an attack, more than 4,000 km (2,480 miles) from Ukraine, would be a striking demonstration of Kyiv's ability to conduct operations deep inside Russia.

A plan to draft more Ukrainian men into the army has been sitting on President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s desk since June. The wartime leader so far has defied pressure from the military to sign it.
Instead, Zelenskiy last week asked his government and top brass for a more comprehensive package, one better tailored to a nation exhausted by a war and preparing for another winter of fighting. It again put off the blueprint, approved by Ukraine’s parliament, to lower the draft age during war for men with no military experience to 25 from 27.

“The law should have taken effect — the parliament fully backed it,” Roman Kostenko, a lawmaker on the parliamentary defense committee, said in an interview. “Conscription is taking place with difficulty now.”
The delay exposes the mounting problem of filling Ukraine’s military ranks almost two years into a conflict that Zelenskiy’s top general says has settled into a standoff. Although Moscow has had its own struggles with conscription, Ukraine’s plight puts it at a potential disadvantage to Russia, a vast nation whose population of 143 million is more than triple that of prewar Ukraine.
Zelenskiy’s reluctance to sign the law stems from his wish to see a clear plan for what his military seeks to achieve with a call-up, how new recruits will be deployed and how to design a rotation for those who’ve been on the battlefield for 21 months, according to people familiar with his thinking.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for faster construction of fortifications in key sectors under pressure from Russian forces, particularly in eastern Ukraine, the focal point of Moscow's advances 21 months into its invasion.
Zelenskiy issued his appeal after touring Ukrainian positions in the northeast, one of several areas where Russian forces have been trying to make recent headway - and recapture areas taken back by Ukrainian troops a year ago. He said one of the meetings he held with commanders dealt with fortifications.
"In all major sectors where reinforcement is needed, there should be a boost and an acceleration in the construction of structures," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
"This of course means the greatest attention to the Avdiivka, Maryinka and other sectors in Donetsk region. In Kharkiv region, this means the Kupiansk sector and the Kupiansk-Lyman line."

Military spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun said Ukrainian forces had rebuffed Russian attacks on the coking plant.
"The plant is under our control. The enemy is suffering significant losses there," Shtupun told Espreso TV, noting Russian artillery and air attacks inside and around the town.
"The Russians are actively pressing ground attacks, sometimes using armoured vehicles."

Several soldiers volunteered to talk to The Wall Street Journal. They described their motivations for joining the Russian army fighting in Ukraine, their brief training and their units’ low morale after being ordered to conduct costly assaults. The Journal verified their identities and has withheld their surnames.
Combat at Avdiivka was “an animal nightmare,” said Sergei, a former factory worker from Perm near the Ural Mountains who signed up in October for money. His old job paid 30,000 rubles a month, he said, or about $340. The army offered him 100,000.
Training consisted mostly of menial chores such as picking up branches, he said. Combat preparation consisted of firing two magazines’ worth of ammunition from an assault rifle, he said, and mostly theoretical first-aid lessons.

He didn’t expect to be at the front line. He thought he would only be driving trucks in the rear, he said.
Sent straight to Avdiivka, his unit was ordered to attack Ukrainian-held tree lines on the city’s northern flank. But the assault was driven back by Ukrainian armored vehicles. The unit retreated to its starting position, leaving dead men strewn across the muddy fields.
Sergei was wounded but was soon sent back to the front line. In late November, he was captured while disoriented, he said. “I felt relieved. I don’t want to see this nightmare anymore.” His family hasn’t seen any of his promised pay yet, he said. The Ukrainians let him and other POWs phone home.
Pavel was drafted in late 2022, during Putin’s first big wave of conscription to bolster Russian forces in Ukraine, which were on the retreat at the time. “My choice was either to come here or face a fine or prison,” said the former machine-tool operator from Siberia.
Tactical training consisted of charging across a field, in the style of Soviet-era World War II movies in which troops shout “for Stalin!,” said Pavel.
He spent many months in the rear in northeastern Ukraine. He saw little action but came to fear large Ukrainian drones that buzz unseen in the night, which Russians have dubbed “Baba Yaga”—an evil witch in Eastern European folk tales.
This fall, Pavel’s unit was sent to Avdiivka and told they were now assault troops.
His company was ordered to cross the fiercely contested train tracks north of the city and take some trenches, he said. Many of their vehicles were knocked out by artillery well before they reached the Ukrainian position. Russian infantry fell dead and wounded in the mud. The unit took and held the trenches, taking more casualties, before being relieved.
“The captain said we fulfilled our goal. But how can you say that if only 35 out of 100 men came back?” said Pavel. “And that was just on one day.” He blamed the losses on commanders’ blunt tactic of frontal assaults and on the men’s lack of training. “To become real assault troops takes work and a lot of time,” he said.
Russian authorities have disclosed very little information about the heavy casualties in the war, noted Pavel. “Now I saw them with my own eyes.”

Russia is intensifying its offensive in the east of Ukraine amid a warning from the head of Nato that Kyiv’s allies should not underestimate Moscow’s ability to continue fighting, despite massive losses.
The Kremlin is thought to be desperate to capture new territory before President Putin secures a new six-year term of office at rubber-stamp presidential elections due in March.
“Russia’s economy is on a war footing, Putin has a high tolerance for casualties, and Russian aims in Ukraine have not changed,” said Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s chief.
The focus of Russia’s offensive is Avdiivka, a strategically important town in the Donetsk region. Its capture could allow Russia to threaten Pokrovsk, an important transport hub about 20 miles away.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, said that Russia was pouring troops into the battle for Avdiivka with little regard for casualties. “Russia still has unlimited human resources that it ruthlessly uses for conducting so-called ‘human wave attacks’,” he wrote on social media. About 300,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured since Putin invaded Ukraine last year, according to British military intelligence.
Pokrovsk was struck on Thursday by Russian S-300 missiles that slammed into a multistorey building. A six-month old baby was pulled alive from the rubble. Serhii Dobriak, a regional official, urged residents to leave. “They are just destroying the civilian population,” he said. At least one person was killed in strikes on nearby towns. Five others were missing under the ruins of buildings.

One glimmer of hope for Ukraine has been its establishment of positions in Krynky, a village on the occupied left bank of the Dnipro river across from the city of Kherson, which was liberated last year. However, analysts at Deep State, a Ukrainian website that monitors the fighting, said that Kyiv’s forces were struggling to advance.
“The enemy’s forces are significantly superior,” the website wrote. “Everything rests only on heroism. But the operation should not be for heroism alone. If the zone of control is not expanded in the future, then a heroic defence will develop into a tragedy.”


This paper examines the Russian military logistics system since 2010 with emphasis on its performance in Ukraine. It includes a detailed assessment of Russia’s military logistics system based on major reforms introduced in 2010, highlighted by the merger of the Technical and Logistics Services to form a unified material-technical services (MTO). Over the next decade, Russia’s logistics system underwent further reforms including changes in structure, order of battle, command and control, and transportation and storage systems, to improve performance and better align logistics with the new brigade structure introduced after the Georgia War. Next, the paper examines the performance of Russian military logistics during the 2022 Ukraine campaign. Russia’s MTO forces performed poorly during the initial invasion in part due to deficiencies in force design and doctrine and in part to the immense challenges presented by the initial invasion plan. Russian logistics fared better once the campaign refocused on the Donbas, which greatly simplified the logistics task. MTO operations had to adjust further after introduction of US HIMARS, which necessitated moving key logistics nodes further to the rear, and during mobilization, to accommodate the mass influx of new personnel. Despite many setbacks, Russian logistics has been generally successful in sustaining combat operations in Ukraine, while MTO leaders are now using lessons learned to inform future reform efforts.

A recent Russian opinion poll indicates that the number of Russians who fully support the war in Ukraine has almost halved since February 2023 and that more Russians support a withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine than do not. Independent Russian opposition polling organization Chronicles stated that data from its October 17-22, 2023, telephone survey indicates that respondents who are “consistent” supporters of the war - those who expressed support for the war, do not support a withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine without Russia having achieved its war aims, and think that Russia should prioritize military spending - decreased from 22 percent to 12 percent between February 2023 and October 2023.[1] Chronicles stated that 40 percent of respondents supported a withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine without Russia having achieved its war aims, and that this number has remained consistent at about 39 to 40 percent throughout 2023. Chronicles stated that 33 percent of respondents did not support a Russian withdrawal and favored a continuation of the war and noted that this number has been consistently decreasing from 47 percent in February 2023 and 39 percent in July 2023. Recent polling by the independent Russian polling organization Levada Center published on October 31 indicated that 55 percent of respondents believed that Russia should begin peace negotiations whereas 38 percent favored continuing the war.[2]

Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian military bureaucracy is impeding Russian drone usage and acquisition among Russian forces operating on east (left) bank Kherson Oblast amid continued complaints about weak Russian capabilities on the east bank. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) warehouses storing various types of drones and electronic warfare (EW) equipment are full despite drone shortages among Russian forces operating on the left bank of Kherson Oblast.[32] The milblogger claimed that Russian authorities are not interested in reading through applications and filling out the paperwork associated with sending new drones to the frontline.[33] The milblogger also complained that Russian personnel have to “go through seven circles of hell” in order to request a replacement drone.[34] Another prominent milblogger outlined the seven pieces of information that Russian units need to submit to the Russian military to record the destruction of a drone and request a replacement, which include proving that the drone had been destroyed during normal weather conditions and that Russian forces were not using electronic warfare systems at the time of the drone’s destruction.[35] Other Russian milbloggers recently complained on November 25 that military bureaucracy at the brigade and division level is preventing Russian frontline soldiers from applying for drones directly from the MoD.[36] ISW has previously reported that Russian milbloggers have complained about various problems among Russian forces operating on the east bank of Kherson Oblast but has observed that these alleged problems do not necessarily translate into significant battlefield effects.[37] The founder of a Ukrainian drone company, Maksym Sheremet, told Forbes Ukraine in an article published on November 29 that Russian companies manufacture approximately 300,000 first-person viewer (FPV) drones per month.[38]
The AP Interview: Ukraine’s Zelenskyy says war with Russia is in a new phase as winter looms

Control over Maryinka, a town in eastern Ukraine all but destroyed by more than a year of fighting, remained uncertain on Friday, with unofficial reports suggesting Russian forces had registered some gains.
Most accounts of Maryinka, southwest of the Russian-held regional centre of Donetsk, describe it as a ghost town amid daily reports of Ukrainian forces defending different districts. Once a city of 10,000, there are no civilians left.
Ukraine's General Staff, in its evening report, said Russian forces had been unsuccessful in attempts to advance on villages near Maryinka, but said nothing of troop movements in the town.
Russia's Defence Ministry made no mention of the town in its dispatches.
Unofficial Russian blogger Rybar referred to a photo circulating on social media showing Russian forces hoisting the national flag in the southwest of the town. Ukrainian forces, it said, remained in control of other districts.
"However, if information about the movement of Russian troops to the south is accurate, the enemy's retreat is a question that is fast approaching," it said.
Ukrainian social media accounts noted Russian advances, but quoted soldiers as rejecting the notion that Moscow's troops controlled the entire town.
"The Russians have been taking Maryinka since March 2022," read one post on the blog DeepState. "Maryinka has been in ruins for more than a year."
Russian forces, focused on eastern Ukraine, have been attacking the town of Avdiivka, 40 km (25 miles) north of Maryinka, since mid-October. Ukraine says its forces control Avdiivka, though not a single building remains intact.
Ukrainian military spokesperson Volodymyr Fitio, speaking on national television, made no reference to either Maryinka or Avdiivka, but said Russian forces were launching attacks in many sectors of the 1,000-km front line.
Ukrainian forces, he said, had repelled attacks near Kupiansk, a northeastern area seized by Russia after invading in February 2022, but retaken by Ukrainian troops a year ago.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday ordered the country’s military to increase the number of troops by nearly 170,000 to a total of 1.32 million, as Moscow’s military action in Ukraine continues into its 22nd month.

Putin’s decree was released by the Kremlin on Friday and took force immediately. It brings the overall number of Russian military personnel to about 2.2 million, including 1.32 million troops.

It is the second such expansion of the army since 2018. The previous boost by 137,000 troops, ordered by Putin in August 2022, put the military’s numbers at about 2 million personnel and about 1.15 million troops.

The Defense Ministry said the order doesn’t imply any “significant expansion of conscription,” saying in a statement that the increase would happen gradually by recruiting more volunteers. The ministry cited what it called “the special military operation” in Ukraine and the expansion of NATO as the reasons for beefing up the army.

This week, Vladimir Putin approved a significant increase in Russia's military spending for 2024, as well as the budget plan for the next few years. According to Col. Ants Kiviselg, head of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Intelligence Center, the move indicates Russia will be able to continue its war in Ukraine to the same level of intensity as it is now. Kiviselg added that there have been major changes on the front line in Ukraine over the last week.

"Russia increased its defense spending by around 100 percent this year, meaning in 2023 the Russian Federation's defense spending budget will rise to around €100 billion, which is around a third of all government spending," Col. Kiviselg said at the Estonian Ministry of Defense's weekly Friday press conference.

"In the coming years, we can see that for 2024, Russia's defense budget will remain at about the same level, that is, €100 billion, and then in 2025-26 it will decrease slightly," he added.

Col. Kiviselg said the Russian armed forces had already exceeded the level of spending foreseen in the country's national defense budget for the whole of 2023 in the first six months of the year. This forced the adoption of an additional budget.

"In a nutshell, this will allow Russia to continue the ongoing war [in Ukraine] at the current level of intensity. However, this is being maintained at the cost a significant decline in services and welfare for Russian society," Kiviselg said.

The commander of the Estonian Defense Intelligence Center also said the situation on the Ukrainian frontline has remained largely unchanged over the past week.

"The overall intensity of the fighting has decreased somewhat compared to previous weeks, which may be due to the worsening weather conditions at the end of last week and the beginning of this one. The snowstorm that hit southern Ukraine in the second half of the week reduced the intensity of the fighting for a while. But overall it did not have a significant impact on the activities of either side," said Col. Kiviselg.
According to Kiviselg, the main focus for the Russian forces continues to be on the Avdiivka region, where the most intense fighting has been taking place.

"It can be said that around 20 percent, or even a little more of the all the fighting on the front is taking place in the Avdiivka area, which is a very significant proportion. On the most active day this week, there were over 100 points of contact along the entire front line," he said.

Kiviselg added that Ukrainian troops have been persistently resisting on the southern edge of Avdiivka, while also counter-attacking to reduce the threat from Russian forces on the flanks and continuing to secure the areas that remain under Ukrainian control.

"There have been no significant changes on the southern part of the front. Ukrainian forces have been able to hold the areas they have retaken on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River, while the Russian Federation has begun further mining to discourage possible Ukrainian advances in that direction," Col. Kiviselg explained.

"It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will be able to achieve an operational breakthrough in Ukraine in the near future," the EDF colonel added. "However, Russia is likely to step up the intensity of its long-range strikes against Ukraine's critical infrastructure - electricity, transport, businesses, warehouses, telecommunications centers - in the coming weeks."

Russia's aim, Kiviselg said, is to destroy Ukrainian morale and provoke a level of social discontent that could destabilize Ukraine's political landscape or spark internal disputes in Ukrainian society. "We can also see that Russia has launched information operations in Ukraine, primarily to shift attention from external threats to the domestic situation, looking for possible points of discord, and exacerbating them," said Kiviselg.

German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall AG wants to build its first armored vehicles in Ukraine next year, Chief Executive Armin Papperger was cited as saying by German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.
Papperger said he expected a deal with Ukraine on the construction of Fuchs armored transport vehicles - named after the German word for fox - and Lynx infantry fighting vehicles by early next year.

Switzerland has frozen an estimated 7.7 billion Swiss francs ($8.81 billion) in financial assets belonging to Russians, the government said on Friday, under sanctions designed to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
The figure, a provisional estimate, represented a slight increase from the 7.5 billion francs the Swiss government said it had blocked last year after the neutral country adopted European Union sanctions.
Long read, but interesting:

In September 2022, as Ukraine was pushing Russian troops out of the eastern Kharkiv region, several Russian mercenaries were cut off from their main group after Kyiv’s forces recaptured the town of Balaklia.

For more than two weeks, these fighters hid in empty homes as they attempted to make it to the Russian side of the front line east of Balaklia. At some point during their flight, a member of their group took pen to paper and wrote a desperate note.

“Dear God, help us to return home alive and healthy. We are tired of wandering behind enemy lines for 15 days, thrown into defensive positions,” the note reads.

The trapped fighters were part of a battalion called the Wolves, one of numerous armed formations fighting for Russia’s invading forces under the umbrella of Redut, purportedly a private military company like Wagner, the mercenary group led by led by Yevgeny Prigozhin before his death in an August 23 plane crash.

But an investigation by Schemes and Systema – RFE/RL’s Ukrainian and Russian investigative units, respectively – revealed that Redut is not, in fact, a private military company. It is a front: a shadowy recruitment network run by the Russian military’s main intelligence directorate, known as the GRU.

Based on battlefield records and multiple interviews with Redut fighters and recruiters, the investigation provided an unprecedented look inside this secretive GRU program that at times resembles a hall of mirrors: contracts signed with nonexistent companies, fighters attached to military units on paper only, and in one case, a posthumous state award from Russian President Vladimir Putin for a Redut fighter of whom the Defense Ministry said it had no record.

Now, RFE/RL is publishing additional records, testimony, and independent reporting by Schemes and Systema revealing the inner workings of this system, which Redut recruiters say offers multiple benefits for those who sign up – including the option to quit without the threat of a court-martial and the ability to earn cash that can be hidden from creditors, courts, and the government.

Redut was created “so that people could avoid paying taxes or, for example, any court costs,” one recruiter told Systema.

This arrangement also allows the Russian government and military to maintain a layer of legal distance from the many fighters and units under the umbrella of this ostensibly private organization.

The Russian defence industry is moving to close the capability gap with Ukraine in the development of one-way attack uncrewed surface vehicles (OWA USVs). (1/4)
On 27 November 2023, Mikhail Danilenko, head of Russian firm KMZ, announced their USVs would be trialled in the ‘special military operation’ with a view to establishing series production in 2024. (2/4)
KMZ has previously manufactured a range of USVs, but in recent months they have started promoting their OWA capability; Danilenko said the boat could carry a munition of up to 600 kg. (3/4)
Navies have employed USVs since the Second World War. However, with modern types resembling speedboats packed with explosives, in the hands of Ukrainian forces they have emerged as a key capability in maritime domain since Russia’s full-scale invasion. (4/4)

.@Deepstate_UA's map shows small Russian gains on the Marinka, Avdiivka, Bakhmut, and Lyman fronts this week. https://deepstatemap.live/en#11/48.5246/37.7463

President Zelensky has admitted that Ukraine’s counteroffensive against invading Russian forces did not achieve the success he had hoped for.
“We wanted faster results,” the Ukrainian leader said during a visit to the Kharkiv region in the north east of the country. “From that perspective, unfortunately, we did not achieve the desired results. And this is a fact.”
Asked if he was satisfied with the results of the offensive, Zelensky told the AP news agency: “Look, we are not backing down, I am satisfied. We are fighting against the second [best] army in the world: I am satisfied. We are losing people: I’m not satisfied. We didn’t get all the weapons we wanted: I can’t be satisfied, but I also can’t complain too much.”

Ukrainian and Western analysts say Russia's renewed offensive on Avdiivka, its largest operation since the assault on Bakhmut, is proceeding at an extremely high human cost.
In a Nov. 27 update, British military intelligence said the fighting had contributed to "some of the highest Russian casualty rates of the war so far".
"Every day there are new fresh forces, regardless of the weather, regardless of anything - of losses," one member of Ukraine's 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade told Radio Liberty.
"But no matter what, they keep crawling, literally over the bodies of their own."
Andrei Gurulyov, a Russian lawmaker and retired military officer, has said the offensive has shown the need for Russian forces to improve their ability to attack.
Russian war bloggers, whom the Kremlin's media handlers have brought under tighter control, have acknowledged heavy losses on their own side but pointed to significant Ukrainian losses too.
The main war bloggers' collective account on the Telegram messaging service - "Operation Z: War Correspondents of the Russian Spring" - has given its more than 1.3 million followers detailed accounts of what it says is the steady but hard-won progress of Russian forces in Avdiivka.
It has described how they have been using air strikes with targeting assistance from special forces, artillery, drones, helicopters, tanks and infantry against heavily dug-in Ukrainian troops.
Semyon Pegov, a prominent Russian war blogger who has attended Kremlin meetings with President Vladimir Putin, has described Avdiivka, which Russians call Avdeevka, as "a fortress" with numerous concrete-reinforced bunkers.
Pegov, who has likened the fighting to trench warfare in World War One, said Russian forces took control of Avdiivka's industrial zone in recent days and that Russian cluster munitions were inflicting "huge losses" on Ukrainian forces.
The Russian defence ministry issues spare but regular updates. Unlike late Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose forces spearheaded the assault on Bakhmut, it does not offer predictions or set out its aims.

Both sides see Avdiivka as key to Russia's aim of wresting full control of the two eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk - two of the four Ukrainian regions Russia says it has annexed but does not have full control of.
Avdiivka is seen as a gateway to Donetsk city, about 15 km (9 miles) to the south, whose residential areas Russian officials say have been regularly shelled by Ukrainian forces.
Pushing Ukrainian forces out of Avdiivka would be seen as enlarging the amount of territory Russia controls and making Donetsk city safer.
Seizing Avdiivka could boost Russian morale and deal a psychological blow to Ukrainian forces, which have made only incremental gains in a counteroffensive launched in June.
Mykola Bielieskov of the National Institute for Strategic Studies, an official think-tank in Kyiv, said taking Avdiivka would not "decisively" tip the situation in Moscow's favour but "would make the situation more tenable for occupied Donetsk as a major Russian logistics hub."
Bielieskov believes the campaign to capture Avdiivka is mostly driven by what he called the Kremlin's eagerness to "strengthen the hand of Western sceptics" who are calling for a cut in military and financial support for Kyiv, citing the limited impact of billions of dollars in military aid.

Germany's army has completed training a second batch of Ukrainian soldiers to use the Patriot air defense system, Germany's DPA news agency reported on Saturday.

The training took place at an undisclosed Bundeswehr air force base.

Lieutenant General Andreas Marlow, commander of the multinational Special Training Command, said the focus was on defending Ukraine's airspace.

The Patriot system one of the most sophisticated air defenses in the world. Germany has recently pledged to supply Ukraine with an additional unit of the system as part of its winter package.

Many of the Ukrainian troops have previous experience with air defense systems like the S-300 designed during the Soviet era.

(1/4) The Russian authorities are likely attempting to quash public dissent by wives of deployed Russian soldiers, including by attempting to pay them off and discrediting them online. This follows small scale protests in Moscow in November 2023.
(2/4) Research by independent Russia media outlets and comments by protesting wives themselves suggest that, in recent weeks, the authorities have likely offered increased cash payments to families in return for them refraining from protest.
(3/4) On 27 November 2023, one prominent online group for soldiers’ wives published a manifesto against ‘indefinite mobilisation’. On around 31 November 2023, the group was pinned with a ‘fake’ warning label – likely at the instigation of pro-Kremlin actors
(4/4) The authorities are likely particularly sensitive to any protests related to those citizens mobilised in September 2022, who have now been at the front line for over a year

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi signaled intent to increase Ukrainian defenses and fortifications around the Ukrainian theater, but notably did not include Zaporizhia Oblast in discussions of ongoing and future defensive measures. Zelensky stated on November 30 that Ukrainian forces will strengthen their fortifications in all critical directions of the front, including the Kupyansk-Lyman line, oblasts in northern and western Ukraine, and Kherson Oblast, but particularly emphasized the Avdiivka and Marinka directions and other areas of Donetsk Oblast.[1] Zelensky additionally met with various Ukrainian operational group commanders and discussed Ukrainian defensive operations in the Avdiivka and Marinka directions.[2] Zaluzhnyi spoke with Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Charles Brown to discuss Russian offensive operations in the Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Marinka directions.[3] Zelensky’s and Zaluzhnyi's statements notably identified the areas of the front where Ukrainian forces are chiefly focusing on defensive operations such as the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border line (between Kupyansk and Lyman), most of Donetsk Oblast (likely in reference to Bakhmut and the Avdiivka-Donetsk City axis) and Kherson Oblast, but notably did not mention the Zaporizhia Oblast axis—suggesting that Ukrainian forces have not gone over to the defensive in this area. These statements generally accord with ISW's assessment that Russian forces have been trying to regain the theater-level initiative in Ukraine since at least mid-November by conducting several simultaneous offensive operations in the areas where Ukrainian forces have transitioned to chiefly defensive actions.[4] In a separate interview with AP on December 1, Zelensky warned that in addition to the impacts that winter weather conditions are likely to have on the frontline, Russia will likely resume an intense air campaign against critical Ukrainian infrastructure.[5]

Ukrainian intelligence reportedly damaged another train along a section of the Baikal-Amur Railway on December 1 in an apparent effort to degrade Russian logistics in the Russian Far East. Ukrainian media reported that Ukrainian intelligence sources stated that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) conducted a special operation that damaged another train carrying fuel as it passed over a bridge along an unspecified part of the northern bypass of the Baikal-Amur Railway.[14] The SBU reportedly planned the operation to coincide with the expected rerouting of train traffic following the November 30 explosions in the Severomuysky Tunnel that disrupted a section of the East Siberian Railway in the Republic of Buryatia and damaged a fuel train, which Ukrainian media also connected to the SBU.[15] Russian sources claimed that the explosions on December 1 also occurred in the Republic of Buryatia and that six fuel tanks were completely or partially damaged.[16] Russian outlet Baza reported that travel is still blocked through the Severomuysky tunnel.[17] Ukrainian media reported that Ukrainian intelligence observed the Russian military using the railway to transfer equipment and supplies, although there are no indications that the December 1 explosions damaged the bridge along the Baikal-Amur Railway and will cause long-term disruptions.[18] The Baikal-Amur Railway and the Eastern Siberian Railway are the two major railways in the Russian Far East and connect Russia to China and North Korea, both countries on which Russia is increasingly relying for economic and military support to sustain its war effort in Ukraine.[19]

Russian milbloggers claimed that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD)’s disproportionate allocation of drones among frontline units and poorly-executed grassroots drone production campaigns are impacting frontline unit effectiveness. Russian milbloggers complained on December 1 that some decentralized grassroots campaigns aimed at arming Russian frontline units with new drones are failing to design battlefield-effective drones, sometimes developing “toys” instead of weapons.[33] The milbloggers complained that Russian drone manufacturers base the development of new drones on stylized and cinematic battlefield footage of Russian kamikaze drones striking Ukrainian equipment, resulting in these ineffective “toy” drones that can produce cinematic effects but struggle to further tactical objectives. The milbloggers claimed that the strikes that such footage depict are often “pretty” but ineffective, and claimed that Russian frontline units must conduct such strikes and produce such footage for the Russian MoD and grassroots drone manufacturers to continue allocating drones to those units.[34] These complaints are indicative of the struggles that the Russian MoD and other states with a highly centralized system face when implementing and integrating technological advances onto the battlefield. ISW has observed no indications that these frontline drone struggles have significantly impacted Russian military capabilities in Ukraine. The Russian milbloggers largely appear to focus on reiterating common complaints about the MoD prioritizing idealized lies that obfuscate harsh battlefield realities at the expense of Russian military personnel.[35] One milblogger claimed that the worst impact of these ineffective drones was that their ineffectiveness threatens frontline Russian soldiers.[36]

Russian sources complained that Russian soldiers' continued use of personal electronics and messaging apps in frontline areas is jeopardizing Russian operational security (OPSEC). A prominent pro-Russian "hacktivist" released an alleged Ukrainian intelligence report on November 30 that shows Ukrainian intercepts of Russian personal communications from one day on one sector of the front.[37] The Russian source complained that this alleged report is relatively small compared to other such reports the source has obtained and complained that all WhatsApp and other messages that Russian military personnel send end up in Ukrainian interceptions, including documents, conversation screenshots, and media files.[38] One Russian milblogger responded to this post and claimed that neither warnings nor "detailed lectures" on the dangers of using WhatsApp and SMS systems in combat areas appear to affect Russian soldiers’ communication habits. The source concluded that "WhatsApp is killing" Russian personnel and that commanders need to crack down on Russian personnel’s use of these applications.[39] Another milblogger responded that Russian soldiers' use of WhatsApp informs Ukraine where Russian forces are going to attack.[40] Russian units have continually struggled with proper adherence to OPSEC principles in key frontline and rear areas throughout the war thus far, particularly pertaining to personal cellphone use in combat areas.[41] The Russian military command largely blamed Russian cellphone use for a devastating Ukrainian strike on a concentration area in Makiivka, Donetsk Oblast, on New Years Eve 2022, and it appears as though Russian command has largely failed to remedy such issues over the course of the past year.[42]

One year after the liberation of the territories in eastern Ukraine, euphoria has given way to gloom, with daily life punctuated by bombardments. Ukrainian NGO East SOS, which has been providing assistance to war-affected populations since 2014, has just returned from a mission in the liberated regions of Kherson, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Donetsk. It painted a bleak picture. "Many villages have been 100% destroyed," Oksana Kuiantseva, a member of the organization, told Le Monde during her visit to Paris on Wednesday, November 30. "Everything seems abandoned. And then, after a quarter of an hour, you hear dogs, and you discover that people are living here, in unimaginable conditions."
Amid the ruins, without gas, water or electricity, these villagers survive as best they can. "They make small repairs, fetch water and build fires to cook food. The smallest task takes up a lot of their time," said the volunteer. Set back a century, these Ukrainians are still paying their electricity bill. "It's very impressive because nobody knows they live there: They're completely cut off from the rest of the world, but do everything to pretend they have a normal life."

In the villages, the biggest threat is the omnipresent mines. "The Russians systematically laid them as they withdrew, including in fields, forests, roads and houses," said the NGO in its assessment report. As of November 1, at least 264 civilians had been killed by mines and over 830 injured throughout the country. However, between clearing mines, putting out fires after bombardments, evacuating inhabitants and transporting and distributing humanitarian aid, the state's overworked emergency services are only able to clear a small part of the polluted areas.
In the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions, the forests, littered with mines, are particularly dangerous. Despite the risks, local residents venture out every day to collect wood before winter sets in – this year, the official wood distribution program is behind schedule. They also carry out demining operations on their own, using traditional methods. In Kamyanka, in the Kharkiv region, a villager specializes in "homemade" mine clearance by burning grass in gardens and fields to detonate mines. It's a dangerous method that is formally discouraged by the authorities and far from effective – many devices remain intact. In the village of Yatskivka, which has around 100 inhabitants, 12 have already been injured by mines since the beginning of the year.

Germany handed over its latest delivery of military aid for Ukraine on Dec. 1, which included a number of vehicles, drone-detection systems, and ammunition, among other equipment.

The package included four HX81 tractors and their semi-trailers (used for the transportation of tanks and other heavy equipment), eight Zetros off-road trucks, four other vehicles, 15 HLR 338 precision rifles and 60,000 rounds of ammunition, five drone-detection systems, laser range finders, and more than 4,000 155mm shells.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced a $1.4 billion defense aid package for Ukraine during his visit to Kyiv on Nov. 21.

This new package is to include four IRIS-T SLM air defense systems, 20,000 155mm shells, and anti-tank mines, Pistorius said.

Here's new imagery of Russia's Sevastopol harbor defenses in Crimea that were recently battered by storms.

Russian military reporter (combatant) Filatov says on Telegram that Russian MoD prioritises targets for FPV-drones that will bring "spectacular footage" rather than actual combat assistance. Russian drone handlers are reluctant to give away drones that will spoil their statistics. This comes in contrast to Ukrainians, who will spend however many FPV drones to get their targets, even if nothing visual comes out of it.

Russian deserters tell of blood, betrayal and hope in escaping Ukraine war

When Igor, a Russian soldier, was conscripted to go to war in Ukraine, he reacted with a fatalistic shrug. But deserting the army amid staggering casualties, he said, required determination and a plan.
The 28-year-old Muscovite, who was mobilized in September 2022 and left Russia this September, never supported the war and claims he never met a conscripted soldier who did.
“The mobilized do not want to go to war and to fight,” Igor said in an interview. “There is no motivation. How can we even talk about any motivation for a Russian person to kill a Ukrainian?”
He felt guilty leaving comrades fighting as he skipped out of Russia during his two-week home leave.
“The time comes and at a certain point people realize how scary it is and how heavy the losses are. And you reach the point when you can’t take it any longer,” he recounted, adding that many never returned from leave.

Igor’s scathing account of Russia’s military problems, and the scale of desertions, could not be independently verified by The Post, but are consistent with dozens of videos recorded by Russian soldiers in occupied Ukraine and posted on social media, complaining about suicidal missions, a lack of ammunition and supplies and other issues.
Some soldiers died because they did not know how to use their military equipment or vehicles, Igor said. But most died in storming operations because commanding officers never ordered a retreat until casualties were too high to continue the attack.
“A minimum survived,” Igor said. “You would see new faces and new people, and you realized that in a couple of days, you would not see them again.”

He described a cutthroat environment, in which newcomers were suspect, many soldiers were poorly trained, and only smart soldiers survived. His job was retrieving the dead and wounded, often close to Ukrainian lines.
“We drank with only close friends,” he said. “We had a principle: We didn’t let strangers at the table.”
Many of the men were poorly trained.” You can’t be a good soldier when you have had no practice using a machine gun for years,” he said.
Even today, Igor cannot explain why he did not initially flee Russia after President Vladimir Putin’s controversial September 2022 mobilization, unlike tens of thousands of men who ran for the borders.
“I was sent a military summons and you just go without thinking,” he said. “It was that typical Russian man type of thinking, ‘If not me, then who?’”

DoD acquisition head Bill LaPlante says US can make 100,000 shells per month by 2025—up from 14,000/month 6-8 months ago—but only if supplemental passed by Congress. “If we don’t get the supplemental…we won’t get there.” Money needed to get rate from 80,000 to 100,000 #RNDF2023

“I remember every moment. Every drop of blood,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mstyslav Chernov, who captures the dawn of Russia’s full-scale Ukraine invasion in
@20DaysMariupol. “The worst thing that people could do now is be indifferent,” he adds.

Swedish defense chief: “I can say that right now the conditions don't exist” for Ukraine to win the war. “We can see in front of us that the war will continue for several years.”

Russian forces eased attacks on the beleaguered eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka on Saturday and unofficial reports from the region suggested they had failed to capture the devastated town of Maryinka to the southwest.
Russia's military has focused on eastern Ukraine since abandoning an advance on Kyiv in the first days after the February 2022 invasion. Since mid-October, the military has set its sights on seizing Avdiivka and its vast coking plant.
Russian reports on Friday suggested Moscow's troops had taken control of Maryinka, 40 km (25 miles) to the southwest, engulfed in fighting for well over a year. But unofficial Ukrainian reports on Saturday said its forces were holding some districts.
Ukrainian military spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun told national television that Russian attacks on Avdiivka had halved over the past 24 hours, largely as a result of heavy losses.
"The coking plant is controlled by the Ukrainian armed forces," Shtupun said. "Enemy forces are trying to make their way inside, but are suffering losses in infantry and equipment."
Fighting was still intense, he said, in an adjacent area outside the town centre known as the "industrial zone." Russia's popular war blog Rybar said the zone had fallen under Russian control.

Reuters could not verify accounts from either side.

Vitaliy Barabash, head of the town's military administration, told Channel 24 television that Avdiivka was "starting to look like Maryinka, a settlement that basically no longer exists. It has been razed to its foundations."
There were no official Ukrainian reports on Maryinka, but military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said reports of its capture by Russian troops were untrue.
"We acknowledge that there was an advance there of the Russian military," Zhdanov said in an online presentation. "But the southwestern and northwestern parts of the town are under the control of Ukrainian forces."

Deepstate, an unofficial Ukrainian war blog, quoted Ukrainian servicemen as denying any notion that Russian forces had secured full control over what was once a town of 10,000.
Russia's Defence Ministry made no mention of Maryinka.
Russian war blog Rybar referred to photos on social media of Russian flags in the town, but added: "Nevertheless, several buildings remain under the control of the Ukrainian military."
Another Ukrainian spokesperson, Volodymyr Fitio, told national television that Kyiv's forces had repelled 21 Russian attacks in areas surrounding Bakhmut. The town, also shattered by months of fighting, was captured by Russian forces in May, but Ukrainian troops have since taken back nearby villages.
Ukrainian forces have focused on recapturing occupied villages in the east and south in a counteroffensive launched in June, though President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has acknowledged that advances have been slower than Kyiv wanted.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that the Western military alliance should be ready for bad news from the Ukrainian front as Kyiv continues to defend against Russia's all-out invasion.

"Wars develop in phases," Stoltenberg said in an interview Saturday with German broadcaster ARD. "We have to support Ukraine in both good and bad times," he said.

"We should also be prepared for bad news,” Stoltenberg added, without being more specific.

His comments come as Western allies debate over ammunition and financial aid for Ukraine, and as Moscow boosts its troop levels. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Friday to increase the number of soldiers by some 170,000 to a total of 1.3 million.

The front lines have moved little in recent months despite Kyiv’s counteroffensive during the summer. But the Ukrainians have used cruise missiles to push back the Russian fleet in the Black Sea and have caused damage deep in Russian territory

“These are big victories even though they haven’t been able to move the front line,” Stoltenberg said in the interview.

Stoltenberg called on NATO’s members to ramp up the production of ammunition, bemoaning the fragmented state of Europe’s defense industry.

(1/7) The efforts of both Russia and Ukraine to overcome their adversary’s ground-based air defence systems continue to be one of the most important contests of the war.
(2/7) On the Russian side, the SA-15 Tor short-range surface-to-air missile system (SAM) is playing a critical and largely effective role.
(3/7) With a maximum range of 15 km, the SA-15 is operated by the Russian army air defence units and is designed to protect the front line of ground troops.
(4/7) This is in contrast with other short-range systems, such as SA-22 Pantsir, which are operated by Russian Aerospace Forces and typically protects command nodes, longer range SAMs, and air bases.
(5/7) Effectively acting as the front line of Russia’s elaborate air defence network in Ukraine, the SA-15 is currently particularly utilised to counter Ukrainian uncrewed aerial vehicle operations.
(6/7) One of the key limitations of the system in the current war is likely the endurance of its crew.
(7/7) With an established allocation of only three personnel to each system, maintaining a high state of alert for extended periods is highly likely proving an extreme test of endurance.

The General Prosecutor's office in Ukraine launched a criminal investigation on Sunday into allegations that Russian forces shot and killed Ukrainian soldiers as they were surrendering.

The move came after Ukraine's military press office said that footage of the incident is genuine. If confirmed, the incident could constitute a war crime.

A video posted on Telegram shows two men coming out of a shelter and lying on the ground. This is followed by what appears to be gunfire.

The undated drone footage, purportedly filmed near the heavily contested eastern town of Avdiivka, was posted on Telegram.

The video's authenticity has not been independently verified.

"The footage published in the media depicts the killing of two Ukrainian prisoners of war," Ukraine’s military command said on Telegram.

Local media quoted a military spokesperson as saying "all evidence will be handed over to the responsible international institutions dealing with war crimes."

Ukraine's human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets also denounced the events as a "war crime," saying the men in the video are clearly doing everything possible to show they pose no threat to the Russian soldiers.
Video: https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1731418907930443956

Video of three tanks from Ukraine's 63rd Mechanized Brigade firing on Russian positions.

Video: https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1731417555829395728

Video of a Russian UAV ramming a Ukrainian UAV on the Kreminna front.

Thread on Avdiivka: https://twitter.com/OSINTua/status/1731359380379992564

Video: https://twitter.com/olliecarroll/status/1731370776954012012

This is what the Avdiivka coking plant - still just about held by Ukraine - now looks like. For a before picture of the plant click on the header photo of my Twitter account.

In an interview, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said AFU Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi had told the truth when he said the war had reached a “stalemate” and that criticism of Zaluzhnyi by some Ukrainian politicians was “unfair.”

Another Russian DIY UGV platform built by soldiers on the front line - this logistics vehicle apparently has a CUAS system to defend against Ukrainian FPVs (several FPVs are shown to miss the UGV in the video, either via that system or possibly pilot error). https://t.me/pomosh_zemlyakam/3053

Russia is buying hundreds of units of a Chinese all-terrain vehicle that is also widely marketed to US consumers, purchases that risk heightening tensions over Xi’s tacit backing of Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Report: https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12150

Some observers note that the UAF’s overall performance to date has been in part due to high levels of recruitment and motivation. High losses, however, pose a continued challenge to the UAF’s ability to sustain effective operations.
After Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the UAF gained important combat experience fighting Russian-led forces in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk (known as the Donbas). This experience led to a large proportion of trained veterans among Ukraine’s population. In 2022, these veterans and other volunteers (including foreign recruits) were quickly mobilized into Ukraine’s new volunteer Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) and Reserve without the need for lengthy training. These units have been crucial in supporting regular UAF units, enabling the regular units to spearhead operations and counteroffensives.
Since the beginning of the 2022 war, the UAF reportedly has suffered high levels of casualties, lowering force quality. Losses are likely higher among regular UAF and Special Forces units, leading to a greater reliance on TDF and Reserve units. Many of these TDF and Reserve units also have sustained heavy casualties, further increasing the proportion of new recruits needed to regenerate forces. Unlike in the initial period of the war, when most recruits were veterans, at present most new recruits have little military experience and, as a result, take longer to train. Currently, the UAF is also experiencing growing recruiting challenges; Ukrainian officials have stated they intend to implement further mobilization plans (such as changes in conscription) in the near future.
The UAF faces several challenges in deploying new personnel. First, at the time of the invasion, Ukraine did not have a fully developed professional noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps, which it previously had been seeking to develop along NATO standards. As described above, a high number of trained veterans, many with combat experience, mitigated to some degree the need for an established NCO corps to train and command new recruits. Losses among these veterans have increased the importance of developing a professional NCO corps and affected unitlevel capability.
Second, the UAF’s need for immediate reinforcements creates pressure to deploy troops with only basic training. To sustain combat operations in the current conflict, however, the UAF continues to balance training personnel to conduct complex operations and operate advanced weaponry with ensuring sufficient personnel are deployed at the front line.
Finally, the UAF struggles to train officers for staff positions to assist commanders in managing and coordinating operations. The lack of trained staff officers has in some cases led to tactical operations being coordinated and managed by higher-level command staff, leading to centralized and slower decisionmaking.

The UAF continues to demonstrate high levels of operational flexibility, motivation, and capability. The UAF appears committed to capitalizing on Russian military shortfalls and demonstrating to foreign audiences its ability to retake territory. However, as fighting shifts into more positional and attritional combat, some observers argue the UAF should transition to sustaining combat capability.
The UAF command structure appears to be more centralized than it was earlier in the war. While the UAF seeks to adopt NATO-style principles of command, it still exhibits traits of Soviet-style command, particularly among mobilized officers educated according to Soviet doctrine. Nevertheless, the UAF has demonstrated flexibility and a willingness to adjust operations due to changing circumstances, particularly at the unit and junior levels.

Key Takeaways:

  • Poor weather conditions continue to slow the pace of Ukrainian and Russian combat operations across the entire frontline but have not completely halted them.
  • Russian forces launched another series of Shahed 136/131 drone and missile strikes targeting southern Ukraine overnight on December 1-2.
  • Ukrainian and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials reported that the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) completely disconnected from all external power sources for five and a half hours on the night of December 1 to 2, marking the plant’s eighth complete black out - all under Russian occupation.
  • The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned three third party entities involved in the transport of Russian crude oil above the G7 price cap.
  • The Russia Ministry of Defense (MoD) signaled that it likely intends to continue relying on crypto-mobilization recruitment schemes for any potential increase in the size of the Russian military.
  • The Kremlin’s policy towards the role of migrants in bolstering Russia’s industrial capacity continues to be inconsistent.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s November 30 threat against Moldova may have emboldened certain pro-Russian actors to attempt to sow political instability and division in Moldova.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced near Avdiivka.
  • Radio Svoboda’sSchemes” and “Systems” investigative projects published a joint investigation on December 1 detailing how the Main Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU) created the “Redut” private military company (PMC) to recruit thousands of Russians for irregular combat service in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian partisans reportedly conducted a partisan attack against Russian military personnel in occupied Melitopol, Zaporizhia Oblast, on December 1.

Fresh Russian shelling killed at least three people including an elderly man in a village garage and a woman beside a city bus stop, Ukrainian officials said, as President Volodymr Zelenskiy reported "intense battles" at dozens of frontline locations.
"Russian occupiers once again shelled Kherson," Zelenskiy said, referring to the southern, port city on the west bank of the Dnipro River, abandoned by Russian forces late last year but now regularly shelled from the river's eastern bank.
He said the most severe of the frontline battles were in the eastern towns of Maryinka, Avdiivka and Bakhmut, but also reported heavy fighting in Kharkiv region and in the south.
"Brutal" shelling rained down on "buildings, streets, our hospitals" in Kherson, he said, and offered condolences to families of those killed, noting Kherson region alone had suffered 20 shelling incidents in one day.
In the east, the prosecutor general's office said a 69-year-old woman was killed on the spot and a 70-year-old woman suffered gunshot wounds in the town of Kostyantynivka.
As its counteroffensive fizzles, Ukraine battles itself, Russia and a shift in the world’s attention

Staring down a long and difficult winter, Ukraine is fighting on multiple fronts.

“There is severe fatigue from the war,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, a Kyiv-based political analyst.

“Many Ukrainians are disappointed that a quick victory was not achieved,” he told NBC News. “But the vast majority of Ukrainians are united in the need to continue resisting Russian aggression.”

After successful campaigns to retake territory in eastern and southern Ukraine just over a year ago, Kyiv and its Western allies spent much of the first part of 2023 gearing up for a major counteroffensive.

It was touted by military observers as a potentially decisive campaign to return occupied Ukrainian territories that might even threaten the Kremlin’s hold on the prized Crimean Peninsula, which has been under Russian control since 2014. But since the counteroffensive was launched in June, Ukraine has made only modest gains against heavily fortified Russian defense lines, leaving the war largely deadlocked as the fighting season nears an end.

“We are in what’s called positional warfare, as opposed to maneuver warfare,” said Frank Ledwidge, a former British military intelligence officer and senior lecturer in war studies at England’s University of Portsmouth. “Basically, we are in the First World War situation, where you have two entrenched armies, neither of which is going to be able to break the other.”

Fighting is likely to grind to an even more definitive halt as bitter weather sets in, with a deadly winter storm wreaking havoc in the region last week.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has attempted to establish a foothold on the left bank of the Dnieper River in the southern Kherson region, occupied by Russia since the first days of the war.

Russian forces retreated to that side of the river after Ukraine seized back the city of Kherson last year.

The region’s Russian proxy governor said the landing operation has been met with “fiery hell,” but Kyiv has said its troops are maintaining their positions. On Wednesday, Zelenskyy visited troops in the region and received an update on their progress on the left bank, his office said, without elaborating.

Analysts say this latest apparent attempt to breathe life into Ukraine’s counteroffensive would only be likely to make a difference if Ukrainians manage to establish a bridgehead — a secure way across the river that could allow them to bring over armor and other support. “A Ukraine success could alter what’s now widely seen as a stalemate,” said Rajan Menon, an analyst with Defense Priorities, a Washington-based think tank.

The war has reached a deadlock for several reasons, Menon said, including ambivalence and a lack of urgency from Kyiv’s allies, which meant some crucial supplies arrived too late for the counteroffensive to be effective.

But a lack of appropriate air cover has been the biggest stumbling block, Menon added, with Ukraine’s air force vastly outnumbered and overpowered by Russia’s.

“You can’t do it on flat terrain without your troops being covered from the air,” he said.

Sviatoslav Yurash, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament and a serving soldier, said that the counteroffensive is still achieving one important aim — exhausting Russia militarily.

He points to Ukraine’s success in effectively breaking Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea with attacks on its navy in southern Russia and occupied Crimea this summer.

“We understand the war won’t be easy or fast,” Yurash said at a coffee shop in the heart of the capital, Kyiv. “But we have shown the world that even the scary Russian war machine can be stopped and we can force it to suffer horrible losses.” (Both Russia and Ukraine claim high personnel losses on the other side, but have not reported their own casualties).

The latest Dnieper offensive was a surprise for the Russians, Yurash said, showcasing that Ukraine has not run out of “tricks and ideas” about how to defeat the Kremlin.

Adding to Ukraine’s troubles, Zelenskyy appears to be at odds with his top general, Valeriy Zaluzhny.

In an essay published by The Economist last month, Zaluzhny gave voice to a sense shared by many in Ukraine and the West — the war is at a stalemate, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces said, and “there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.”

Zelenskyy rushed to reject his general’s absolutism, denying that the war had reached such a definitive impasse.

This public airing of grievances has raised concerns at home and abroad about the unity of Ukraine’s leadership.

Zelenskyy brushed off a conflict with Zaluzhny in the meeting with reporters last month, saying that wartime means “common interests” and no room for “personal politics” that play into Russia’s interests.

But Zelenskyy allies have publicly chided Zaluzhny for his leadership of the war, with one lawmaker launching a scathing tirade on social media accusing him of not having a solid plan for how to win and demanding his resignation.
The president is also facing criticism in some circles for signaling that he opposes holding next year’s scheduled presidential election amid the war, and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said last week that the country was moving toward authoritarianism.

“At some point we will no longer be any different from Russia,” Klitschko told German news outlet Der Spiegel.

So removing Zaluzhny would likely create tremendous blowback for Zelenskyy.

“Zaluzhny is the second most popular person in Ukraine, and the presidential team sees him as a potential competitor,” Fesenko, the Ukrainian analyst, said. “And now, it seems, they want to blame Zaluzhny for the problems at the front. However, given Zaluzhny’s popularity both in the army and in society, his dismissal or resignation could have very ambiguous consequences, including weakening the position of Zelenskyy himself.”

The general’s “realistic diagnosis” of the situation on the front lines caused a spectrum of emotions in Ukraine, according to Fesenko. Zelenskyy’s office issued rare public criticism, he added, because the comments were taken “too dramatically” in the West and this could create problems for Ukraine.

And they had the effect of a “cold shower” for many in Ukraine, Fesenko said.

“It helped many Ukrainians get rid of inflated and inadequate expectations about the imminent end of the war,” he said.

Ukrainian osint channel DeepState's latest assessment of battlefield developments is pretty grim, warns that the need for multi-layer defenses has become "critically important."

Over the month of November, Russia expanded the territory it controls in Ukraine by approximately 4 km².

This marks the smallest net change in control over a single month since the February 2022 invasion.

Currently, Russia occupies a total of 17.48% of Ukraine.

EU budget dispute threatens €50bn war lifeline for Ukraine

EU leaders risk leaving Ukraine empty-handed at a perilous moment in its war against Russia as divisions over finances threaten a €50bn lifeline for Kyiv and Hungary vows to thwart its EU membership talks.
Disputes within the EU over money and Ukraine’s future are endangering crucial pledges to Kyiv made months ago — just when the flow of US financial and military support for Ukraine has abruptly stalled in a politically divided Congress.
EU member states are far from reaching a deal over topping up the bloc’s joint budget — including €50bn for Ukraine — ahead of a summit in Brussels on December 14-15, said officials involved in the discussions.
EU efforts to reach a compromise are being hampered by the victory of a far-right party in last month’s Dutch election and a recent German court ruling curbing the government’s borrowing. A budget agreement would be “very, very difficult”, a senior official said.

At the last EU leaders’ summit in October, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz dismissed the commission’s calculations as “a comic”, according to multiple people briefed on the private debate.
Officials said EU negotiations over the budget were always going to be difficult but a compromise was still possible. A revised package is expected to be proposed before the summit.
“I think the doom and gloom around this issue is vastly over-exaggerated,” said one EU official involved in the discussions. “We are not going to allow Ukraine to experience a sovereign default.”
But resistance from finance ministries wary of additional spending has been stiffened by the decision of Germany’s constitutional court striking down the use of pandemic emergency borrowing facilities for future green investment, and by the victory of far-right, anti-EU politician Geert Wilders in the Dutch election.

Ukrainian air defense coverage along the front line is reportedly incentivizing Russian forces to rely more heavily on remote strikes with glide bombs. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun stated on December 3 that Ukrainian forces shoot down Russian attack helicopters, such as Ka-52 and Mi-24 helicopters, as soon as they enter the range of Ukrainian air defense systems.[7] Shtupun stated that this Ukrainian air defense capability has prompted Russian forces to use Su-35 and Su-34 attack aircraft to launch remote strikes with glide bombs from 50 to 70 kilometers behind the line of combat engagement.[8] Russian forces effectively used helicopters to defend against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast in summer 2023 but decreased the use of rotary wing aircraft following the downing of Ka-52 helicopters in the area in mid-August 2023.[9] Shtupun’s statements are consistent with these observations as well as with the increased Russian use of glide bombs throughout the frontline, particularly in southern Ukraine.[10]

Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat stated on December 3 that Ukrainian air defenses are similarly prompting Russian forces to increase their use of KAB glide bombs because FAB glide bombs require Russian aircraft to fly within range of Ukrainian air defenses.[11] Ihnat added that KAB bombs are inaccurate and that Russian forces therefore launch a large number of the glide bombs to strike Ukrainian targets.[12] Ihnat stated that Russian aviation launches about 100 glide bombs on average at Ukrainian targets along the front line each day and stated that Ukraine needs long-range air defense systems and F-16 fighter jets to counter the current Russian aviation threat.[13]

The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) reported that Russian air defense systems are also constraining Ukrainian operations along the front, specifically Russian SA-15 TOR short-range surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs).[14] The UK MoD reported that Russian forces use the SA-15 SAMs to provide cover for Russian ground forces at the front line and have effectively employed them to counter Ukrainian drone operations.[15]

Russian forces conducted offensive operations near Avdiivka on December 3 and recently made confirmed advances. Footage published on November 28 and geolocated on December 2 indicates that Russian forces advanced west of the railway north of Stepove (3km northwest of Avdiivka).[49] Additional geolocated footage published on December 2 indicates that Russian forces advanced southwest of Pervomaiske (10km southwest of Avdiivka).[50] Russian milbloggers claimed on December 2 and 3 that Russian forces advanced south and southeast of Stepove, with some Russian milbloggers claiming that Russian forces advanced 300 meters near the settlement.[51] Russian milbloggers also claimed on December 2 and 3 that Russian forces advanced south of Novokalynove (13km northeast of Avdiivka) and west of Krasnohorivka (5km northwest of Avdiivka) on Avdiivka’s northern flank as well as on the southern flank near Pervomaiske and Sieverne (6km west of Avdiivka).[52] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked east of Novobakhmutivka (9km northwest of Avdiivka) and Novokalynove; south of Tonenke (5km west of Avdiivka); and near Stepove, Avdiivka, Sieverne, and Pervomaiske.[53] Russian sources claimed on December 3 that Russian forces also attacked on the northern flank from Kamianka (5km northeast of Avdiivka) and on the southern flank near the industrial zone southwest of Avdiivka.[54] A Russian milblogger claimed on December 2 that Russian forces are conducting reconnaissance-in-force operations and are regrouping to resume assault operations near the industrial zone southeast of Avdiivka.[55] Ukrainian Avdiivka Military Administration Head Vitaliy Barabash stated on December 3 that Russian forces opened two additional directions of attack on the industrial zone southeast of Avdiivka and from Spartak (4km south of Avdiivka) during the third wave of assaults on Avdiivka in order to distract Ukrainian forces.[56] Barabash also stated that Russian forces are waiting for weather conditions to improve in order to use heavy equipment in assaults again.

Ukrainian forces continued ground operations in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast on December 3 but did not make any confirmed gains. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces maintain positions on the east bank and are conducting counterbattery fire in the area.[70] Russian milbloggers claimed that meeting engagements continued near Krynky (30km northeast of Kherson City and 2km from the Dnipro River) but that the tempo of fighting has decreased due to fog and rain.[71] Russian milbloggers claimed on December 2 and 3 that Ukrainian forces continued attempts to transfer reinforcements and supplies to positions on the left bank of the Dnipro River.[72]

(1/4) Between 24 February 2022 and November 2023, official Russian MoD forces likely suffered between 180,000 and 240,000 personnel wounded and approximately 50,000 killed. Wagner Group mercenaries likely suffered approximately 40,000 wounded and 20,000 killed.
(2/4) Therefore, overall, the Russian side has likely suffered around 220,000-280,000 wounded and approximately 70,000 killed. This gives an estimated range of between 290,000 and 350,000 total Russian combatant casualties.
(3/4) The median of the estimate range is 320,000 total Russian combatant casualties.
(4/4) Even amongst Russian officials there is likely a low level of understanding about total casualty figures because of a long-established culture of dishonest reporting within the military.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in an interview last week that Russia is mobilising its resources against NATO. Would you agree with such an assessment?

What he mentioned is not a surprise, and this is common knowledge. This is the common understanding because it was announced by Russia that it will rebuild its capacities and capabilities on the other side of the borderline that we share.

Currently, Russia is significantly committed to its unlawful war against Ukraine, but it has already started and will further continue to reconstitute its capabilities separate from the war in Ukraine and that imposes an increased threat to the Baltic Sea region.

In that regard, [Landsbergis] is right. But we need to be very careful what conclusions we derive from that. I think the conclusions that were translated into actions regarding procurement and enhancing the capabilities of the Lithuanian Armed Forces are very wise and pointing in the right direction.

To believe that we can defend against Russia only with the procurement of drones and air defence is wrong. It is still the combined arms of land, maritime, air, cyber, and soft capabilities [...] that will determine the battlefield.
Having said that, I don’t exclude and neglect the fact that new modern capacities will populate the battlefield, like drones, for example, but that will not replace the capacities that determine military art in its fundamental factors. The trick and the demand that comes with this new development is how you combine them and how you protect best against the capacities of the enemy.

The transfer of F-16 fighter jets to the Ukrainian Armed Forces will change the picture in the war, as it will triple Ukraine's enemy detection and fighting capabilities, said Col. Mart Vendla, deputy chief of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Headquarters, on ETV show " Ukrainian stuudio."

Members of the Ukrainian Defense Forces are already undergoing training on F-16 fighter jets. According to Col. Vendla, receiving these planes will greatly empower the Ukrainian Air Force.

"If you are expecting me to say that the F-16s will save the world, unfortunately I cannot say that. However, let it be said that the appearance of the F-16s will significantly change the picture. In the current situation, the MiG-29 and the Su-27, which Ukraine has, date back to the early 1980s, and so the arrival of the F-16s will significantly strengthen the Ukrainian Air Force," Col. Vendla said.

"Today, Ukraine's entire air defense essentially relies on the basis of ground-based missile systems, which prevent the Russians from reaching medium altitudes in Ukrainian airspace, from which they would be able to drop bombs from above with cheap munitions in a manner similar to in Homs, Syria. So, that is currently being held off by air defense missile systems and obviously Russia is doing everything it can to expend that inventory and those missiles in order to gain access," he explained.

"F-16s are game-changers in the sense that they can be used to fight air-to-air battles and support air-to-ground battles. So, in that sense, Ukraine's enemy detection and firing capabilities will essentially triple with them. But, of course, you're going to need a lot of them, and you're going to have design your strategy accordingly, because you don't just fight with a platform alone. It comes down to the specific context, the pilot inside and all the other supporting elements. So, it's a lot more complex than just saying that now the world is changing. Yes, it will change, but whether it will change permanently remains to be seen," he added.

Removal of Russian air defense systems from Kaliningrad is telling

British intelligence recently reported that Russia has removed air defense systems from Kaliningrad. According to Vendla, this is a telling sign.

"If we recall, Russia's basic narrative all along has been that it is surrounded by NATO and feels highly threatened. The refutation of this narrative actually began with the war in Ukraine, when Russia started to withdraw its troops. In fact, ground troops were withdrawn from our region quite a long time ago, but since the attrition of troops is quite high, basically all the ground troops have now been moved out of here," Vendla said.

"But with the sea and air, the 'chest' has been held. Now, the air defense systems have also been largely withdrawn. Of course, there are still some here, but the picture is very different. This means that, in fact, any claim that Russia feels threatened by NATO has no basis. We simply do not know how to use this, or we do not actually talk about it directly, and we allow this stupid narrative to run rampant in Europe. We should be much more vocal about this," the colonel said.

Defensive war ahead this winter

According to Vendla, when winter arrives, the war will become more about defense than attack.

"The ground has become soft and does not allow for maneuvers. It may be possible to do something with small units, but neither side can do anything major on this type of ground. Defense is, of course, part of the attack. So when you get to a new location, you build and reinforce your defenses," he said.

According to Vendla, we are likely to see more Ukrainian strategic attacks on Russia's interior over the winter. This week, for example, there was an explosion at the BAM railroad tunnel in Russia.

"Such deep strikes are practical in the sense that defensive measures there are significantly weaker than those near the front. It is possible to do a lot of damage there, and all at once. We've seen how the attack on the Kerch bridge caused logistics to be reassessed, and how the appearance of the HIMARS has forced Russia to extend its logistical chains. So, the attack on the BAM tunnel and the bypass bridge will certainly help, and probably also limit the amount of ammunition and other support materials coming from Asia. I'm pretty sure we'll see more of these types of strategic attacks in the cold season," the colonel said.

The White House has issued a blunt warning that the US is set to run out of funds to aid Ukraine by the end of the year, saying that a failure by Congress to approve new support would “kneecap” Kyiv.

Outnumbered and outgunned, one front-line soldier has given a sobering account of Ukraine's struggle to cling on to its foothold on the east bank of the vast Dnipro river.

Several hundred Ukrainian soldiers have made it there as part of a counter-offensive launched six months ago.

Under relentless Russian fire, the soldier spent several weeks on the Russian-occupied side of the river as Ukraine sought to establish a bridgehead around the village of Krynky. The BBC is not naming him to protect his identity.

His account, sent via a messaging app, speaks of troop boats blown out of the water, inexperienced reinforcements and a feeling of abandonment by Ukraine's military commanders.

It highlights growing tensions as Ukraine's defence against Russia's invasion grinds to the end of another year.

Ukraine's military told the BBC they are not commenting on the situation in that area for security reasons.

"The entire river crossing is under constant fire. I've seen boats with my comrades on board just disappear into the water after being hit, lost forever to the Dnipro river.

"We must carry everything with us - generators, fuel and food. When you're setting up a bridgehead you need a lot of everything, but supplies weren't planned for this area.

"We thought after we made it there the enemy would flee and then we could calmly transport everything we needed, but it didn't turn out that way.

"When we arrived on the [eastern] bank, the enemy were waiting. Russians we managed to capture said their forces were tipped off about our landing so when we got there, they knew exactly where to find us. They threw everything at us - artillery, mortars and flame thrower systems. I thought I'd never get out."

"Every day we sat in the forest taking incoming fire. We were trapped - the roads and paths are all riddled with mines. The Russians cannot control everything, and we use it. But their drones are constantly buzzing in the air, ready to strike as soon as they see movement.

"Supplies were the weakest link. The Russians monitored our supply lines, so it became more difficult - there was a real lack of drinking water, despite our deliveries by boat and drone.

"We paid for a lot of our own kit - buying generators, power banks and warm clothes ourselves. Now the frosts are coming, things will only get worse - the real situation is being hushed up, so no-one will change anything.

"No-one knows the goals. Many believe that the command simply abandoned us. The guys believe that our presence had more political than military significance. But we just did our job and didn't get into strategy."

"Mostly our losses were mistakes - someone didn't climb in that trench quickly enough; another guy hid badly. If someone isn't switched on, he'll be immediately targeted from everywhere.

"But thanks to our doctors, if we can get an injured soldier to the medics - he'll be saved. They're titans, Gods. But we can't get the remains of the fallen out. It's just too dangerous.

"At the same time our drones and missiles inflict a lot of losses on the enemy. We took prisoners of war once, but where to put them, if we have no way to cross the river even with our own injured comrades?"

"Several brigades were supposed to be posted here, not individual companies - we just don't have enough men.

"There are a lot of young guys among us. We need people, but trained people, not the green ones we have there now. There are guys who had spent just three weeks in training, and only managed to shoot a few times.

"It's a total nightmare. A year ago, I wouldn't have said that, but now, sorry, I'm fed up.

"Everyone who wanted to volunteer for war came a long time ago - it's too hard now to tempt people with money. Now we're getting those who didn't manage to escape the draft. You'll laugh at this, but some of our marines can't even swim."
"I got out after getting concussed from a mine, but one of my colleagues didn't make it - all that was left of him was his helmet.

"I feel like I escaped from hell, but the guys who replaced us last time got into even more hell than us.

"But the next rotation is due. My time to cross the river again is soon."

First-hand account there from a soldier who fought on the east bank. I pulled most of his quotes, but the full article should be read.
Already posted, but Russia seems to now be confirming this:

Major General Vladimir Zavadsky, deputy commander of Russia's 14th Army Corps, has been killed in Ukraine, a top regional official said on Monday.
The governor of Russia's Voronezh region, Alexander Gusev, said Zavadsky had died "at a combat post in the special operation zone", without giving further details.
"Special military operation" is the term that Russia uses to describe the war in Ukraine, now approaching the end of its second year.

Washington Post released a two-part series today with a ton of info on Ukraine's recent counteroffensive. Too much for me to possibly quote in full, but they're good reads:

Miscalculations, divisions marked offensive planning by U.S., Ukraine

This examination of the lead-up to Ukraine’s counteroffensive is based on interviews with more than 30 senior officials from Ukraine, the United States and European nations. It provides new insights and previously unreported details about America’s deep involvement in the military planning behind the counteroffensive and the factors that contributed to its disappointments. The second part of this two-part account examines how the battle unfolded on the ground over the summer and fall, and the widening fissures between Washington and Kyiv. Some of the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.
Key elements that shaped the counteroffensive and the initial outcome include:
● Ukrainian, U.S. and British military officers held eight major tabletop war games to build a campaign plan. But Washington miscalculated the extent to which Ukraine’s forces could be transformed into a Western-style fighting force in a short period — especially without giving Kyiv air power integral to modern militaries.
● U.S. and Ukrainian officials sharply disagreed at times over strategy, tactics and timing. The Pentagon wanted the assault to begin in mid-April to prevent Russia from continuing to strengthen its lines. The Ukrainians hesitated, insisting they weren’t ready without additional weapons and training.
● U.S. military officials were confident that a mechanized frontal attack on Russian lines was feasible with the troops and weapons that Ukraine had. The simulations concluded that Kyiv’s forces, in the best case, could reach the Sea of Azov and cut off Russian troops in the south in 60 to 90 days.
● The United States advocated a focused assault along that southern axis, but Ukraine’s leadership believed its forces had to attack at three distinct points along the 600-mile front, southward toward both Melitopol and Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov and east toward the embattled city of Bakhmut.
● The U.S. intelligence community had a more downbeat view than the U.S. military, assessing that the offensive had only a 50-50 chance of success given the stout, multilayered defenses Russia had built up over the winter and spring.
● Many in Ukraine and the West underestimated Russia’s ability to rebound from battlefield disasters and exploit its perennial strengths: manpower, mines and a willingness to sacrifice lives on a scale that few other countries can countenance.
● As the expected launch of the offensive approached, Ukrainian military officials feared they would suffer catastrophic losses — while American officials believed the toll would ultimately be higher without a decisive assault.

The entire article is much longer.

Part 2: In Ukraine, a war of incremental gains as counteroffensive stalls

This account of how the counteroffensive unfolded is the second in a two-part series and illuminates the brutal and often futile attempts to breach Russian lines, as well as the widening rift between Ukrainian and U.S. commanders over tactics and strategy. The first article examined the Ukrainian and U.S. planning that went into the operation.
This second part is based on interviews with more than 30 senior Ukrainian and U.S. military officials, as well as over two dozen officers and troops on the front line. Some officials and soldiers spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe military operations.
Key findings from reporting on the campaign include:
● Seventy percent of troops in one of the brigades leading the counteroffensive, and equipped with the newest Western weapons, entered battle with no combat experience.
● Ukraine’s setbacks on the battlefield led to rifts with the United States over how best to cut through deep Russian defenses.
● The commander of U.S. forces in Europe couldn’t get in touch with Ukraine’s top commander for weeks in the early part of the campaign amid tension over the American’s second-guessing of battlefield decisions.
● Each side blamed the other for mistakes or miscalculations. U.S. military officials concluded that Ukraine had fallen short in basic military tactics, including the use of ground reconnaissance to understand the density of minefields. Ukrainian officials said the Americans didn’t seem to comprehend how attack drones and other technology had transformed the battlefield.
● In all, Ukraine has retaken only about 200 square miles of territory, at a cost of thousands of dead and wounded and billions in Western military aid in 2023 alone.

Last year's successes, as Ukraine first blunted Russia's attacks on its capital and then recaptured swaths of territory, have faded into a stalemate along hundreds of kilometers of frontlines as entrenched Ukrainian and Russian soldiers fight bloody battles for advances and retreats measured in meters.

That’s led to political infighting in Kyiv as officials search for ways to outlast Russia during a long war in which Moscow has more men, more weapons and a bigger economy. The mood in Kyiv is further soured by recent wobbles in foreign support for continued military aid.

Ukrainian politicians are desperate for a plan for what to do next.
They say the military’s main idea seems to be to draft many more Ukrainians and to press Kyiv’s allies for more artillery ammunition. Civilian officials, meanwhile, want the military to provide a proper plan for the war, hinting the brass has none.

“All we hear so far from [the military] is: ‘Give us more people and millions of artillery shells.’ That’s unrealistic,” said a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But military officials told POLITICO that a plan does exist.

“You think that [U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin and [Commander of the U.S. European Command Christopher] Cavoli would come to meet Zaluzhny if he had no plan?” one asked.

The political feuding, according to analysts, could be seen as a worrying sign that the unity that has held the country together in the face of Russian aggression is beginning to crack, just as the war settles into a grinding stand-off at the end of a disappointing Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The deepening rifts and mudslinging come amid fraught debates in the US and EU over the future of financial and military aid for Kyiv. Some officials and analysts in Ukraine are concerned that the internal squabbles could discourage western allies from maintaining their support.

“I am watching what is happening in our politics recently not with sadness, but with horror,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst and director of the Penta Centre for Political Studies, a Kyiv-based think-tank. “If this vortex of conflict is not stopped, it could all end badly. Not for those fighting among themselves, but for the country.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's chief of staff said on Tuesday that the postponement of U.S. assistance for Kyiv being debated in Congress would create a "big risk" of Ukraine losing the war with Russia.
The remarks by Andriy Yermak were some of the frankest yet from a senior Kyiv official as uncertainty swirls over the future of vital U.S and European Union assistance packages as Ukraine's war with Russia rages on with no end in sight.

“The threat has been overlooked for too long, partly because the sheer number of facilities makes it difficult to prevent such incidents. It is also typical that threats are not addressed before they materialise,” Matti Pessu, an expert at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), told LRT.lt.

Russia is the biggest threat in the region. Just last year, Nordic broadcasters published a joint investigation which revealed that Russian ships were surveying and mapping Europe’s critical infrastructure in the North Sea. According to a former long-time Dutch intelligence officer, this is a clear signal that Russia is preparing for war with the West.

“Underwater infrastructure is the weakest link. It is extremely difficult to monitor, which makes it vulnerable to sabotage,” says Pessu. Most vulnerable are the undersea internet cables that run along the Atlantic seabed from Ireland to the US. Underwater fibre-optic cables still transmit 95 percent of the world’s data.

“These cables are quite often damaged by passing ships, and the damage is quite small because there are many cables and they compensate for the lost capacity. But in the event of a conflict, facilities such as LNG terminals would be heavily guarded and the impact of their loss would be enormous. Therefore, any defence strategy has to take this into account and allocate resources to adequately defend such facilities,” Tony Lawrence, a researcher at Estonia’s International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS), told LRT.lt.

"Thousands of criminals are walking our streets."
We spent months on this piece about a shocking spate of murders committed across Russia by some of the 30,000 convicts freed from prisons and given presidential pardons in exchange for fighting in Ukraine

NEW: Russia has agreed to release six more Ukrainian children after further negotiations by Qatar. One is an 11-year-old whose mother is a Ukrainian soldier currently in Russian captivity, per official w/ knowledge of the deal

The biggest victims of Putin’s outrageous war are often the littlest. Vladik, 6, can barely speak following his mother’s death in Bucha last year. But he told me why he keeps bringing coins to her grave. “So she can buy something in heaven. Like ice cream”

Link to story referenced above: https://www.economist.com/europe/20...p-ukrainian-children-face-the-loss-of-parents

(1/3) Over recent weeks Russian forces have made creeping advances through the ruins of Marinka, a town in Donetsk Oblast. Russia now likely controls most of the built-up area. However, Ukrainian forces remain in control of pockets of territory on the western edge of the town.
(2/3) Marinka has been on the front line since 2014. With a pre-war population of 9000, it is comprehensively ruined– drone footage suggests that the vast majority of buildings have been reduced to rubble.
(3/3) Russia’s renewed efforts against Marinka are part of Russia’s autumn offensive which is prioritising extending Russia’s control over the remaining parts of the Donetsk Oblast – highly likely still one of the Kremlin’s core war aims.

Both the Russian Federation and the United States and its allies have avoided taking actions carrying the greatest risk of escalation to nuclear-weapons use. Left uncertain is whether specific contingencies might yet prompt nuclear use. But the Russo-Ukrainian war has now been going on long enough to ground the debate in what has been said and done during its course. Russian nuclear decision-making requires the most attention, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statements about it have been the most authoritative. He has defined Russia’s nuclear red line consistently and relatively restrictively, reserving the threat of nuclear use for an existential threat to the state. He has focused on deterring the West from fighting alongside Ukraine, disregarding those who wanted to punish the West for the support it was providing. So long as NATO continues to respect Putin’s red line, there is no reason to believe Putin would authorise nuclear use.

Ukraine's Western partners continue efforts to provide Ukraine with military and economic support. German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall announced on December 3 that it won a contract to provide Ukraine with €142 million worth of 155mm artillery rounds, which Germany will deliver to Ukraine in 2025.[8] Rheinmetall stated that it will deliver around 40,000 rounds to Ukraine from a separate order in 2024. British outlet The Times highlighted Ukraine's use of British-provided Martlet lightweight missiles to deter a large-scale Russian Shahed drone strike on Kyiv City in late November 2023.[9] The Times noted that the British Army trained Ukrainian operators on Martlet systems in the UK earlier this year. Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov additionally met with his Belgian counterpart, Ludivine Dedonder, on December 4 to further develop the bilateral Ukrainian-Belgian relationship, particularly in regard to building out Ukraine's defense industrial base with Belgian support.[10] Head of the Ukrainian President's Office Andriy Yermak spoke with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan about the upcoming Ukrainian-American conference on arms production that will take place on December 6 and 7 in Washington, DC.[11]

Russia continues to reckon with the economic ramifications of labor shortages partially resulting from the war in Ukraine. Russian state media outlets reported on December 4 that Russian consulting company Yakov and Partners has recorded increased labor shortages in domestic production that will likely grow to a deficit of two to four million workers by 2030, 90 percent of whom are likely to be semi-skilled workers in critical industries.[1] Yakov and Partners noted that this supply shortage will place upward pressure on workers’ wages that will outpace GDP growth and make Russian companies even less attractive to foreign investment.[2] Russian outlet RBK cited Russian economic experts who stated that this problem can only be resolved through improved interactions between Russian businesses and the state, including through dedicated programs to repatriate Russians who fled the country due to the war and programs to attract "highly-qualified" migrants from other countries.[3] ISW previously assessed that Russia continues to face shortages in both skilled and unskilled labor, a problem that is further compounded by the Kremlin's inconsistent and often inflammatory messaging about Russians who fled Russia because of the war and against migrant workers within Russia.[4] The Russian economy will likely continue to grapple with the Kremlin's competing desires to bolster Russia's force generation and industrial capacity while simultaneously disenfranchising key labor groups, which is likely to lead to continued concerns over Russian economic output and potential resulting social grievances.

Infographic from Ukraine's 93rd Mechanized Brigade of the losses inflicted on Russian equipment in September and October by FPVs. It says 17 tanks, 7 BMPs, 2 BTRs and 2 MT-LB were damaged and 4 BMPs, 1 BTR and 2 MT-LB were destroyed

One of the obvious take aways is that tanks are more likely to survive strikes by FPVs or other anti-tank weapons than IFVs or APCs. If you get rid of tanks, you will see greater IFV and APC losses.

UK MoD Defence Intelligence reported Nov. 17 that Russia’s Aerospace Forces (VKS) are increasingly risking their most advanced Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft, the Beriev A-50U, to identify enemy airborne targets in Ukraine airspace.

The A-50U (NATO Codename MAINSTAY-D) features a 30-foot diameter rotating radar dome similar to the well-known US Boeing EA-3 Sentry AWACS. Accordingly, it can detect and identify enemy aircraft at longer ranges than the radar sets of Russian fighters or SAM systems, “because its altitude allows it to see further around the curvature of the earth,” reads the report from MoD in London.

The heart of the A-50U upgrade replaces previous-generation analogue electronics with a modern, digital avionics suite that speeds data processing and enhances both signal tracking and target detection. Spokesmen for the RosElectronica consortium that produces the on-board hardware state the A-50U configuration can detect more types of aircraft and simultaneously track a larger number of targets and guided missiles than the previous-generation variant.

Since the start of the Ukraine war, the A-50U has been largely utilized for battle management of VKS fighter aircraft, as well as providing long range, ground targeting coordinates for Mikoyan MiG-31K aircraft carrying the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missile.

While over 40 A-50s have been produced, there are only eight of this most advanced version of the aircraft, and any lost in action would be difficult if not impossible to replace. Russia has deployed the planes accordingly, keeping the aircraft well back from Ukrainian air defense systems. Fear of losses was exacerbated following a drone attack on one aircraft in February while it was parked at an aerodrome in Belarus.

That Russia would be willing to move the planes forward is a tacit acknowledgement of the ongoing issues with the VKS, but there are three specific reasons for the move now: Russian air losses, the need to maximize the S-400 air defense system, and preparing for an influx of Western-made fighter jets in 2024.

As Ukraine’s air defenses improve and with the coming of western fighter models, the VKS will be forced to make some difficult choices, said a Ukrainian defense electronics and EW expert who spoke to Breaking Defense. “They will have to decide what costs them more: to lose one or more of these A-50s or to continue to see their combat aircraft and S-400 units progressively degraded.”

The Netherlands has earmarked € 2.5 billion (nearly $2.7 billion) to support Ukraine in 2024.

Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot made the announcement during a visit to Ukraine where she sought to reassure counterpart Dmytro Kuleba of continued support.

"My main message to Minister Kuleba was the same as to all of you here. Be assured of our support," Bruins Slot said.

The Dutch foreign minister went to the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where Ukrainian forces discovered widespread evidence of Russian atrocities.

The commander of Ukraine's air force, Mykola Oleshchuk, said that a Russian SU-24 fighter bomber was shot down near Snake Island in the Black Sea.

Oleshchuk said that the Russian bomber had been supported by another fighter aircraft and was trying to fire a missile south of Odesa.

The Ukrainian Air Force said Russia had sent a search aircraft to look for the pilots of the downed aircraft in the sea.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned the downing of the SU-24 during his nightly video address. Russia now has one aircraft less and Ukraine will continue to deplete its stocks, Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian Air Force claims to have shot down a Russian Su-24M Fencer swing-wing attack jet flying over the western end of the Black Sea near the famed Snake Island. There is unconfirmed speculation that a U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missile might have brought the Su-24M down. If true, that could point to a new effort on Ukraine's part to disrupt Russian strikes on targets in the western portion of the country.

Posts across the Ukrainian Air Force's social media accounts announced the shootdown of the Russian Su-24M earlier today, adding that the Fencer had been flying with a Su-30SM Flanker fighter as its escort at the time. An unspecified surface-to-air missile was said to have been used to knock out the Su-24M.

The Ukrainian Air Force says it shot down 41 of 48 Shahed drones launched by Russia over night.

As Ukraine leans on suicide drones to wear down Russia’s invading forces, private, civilian-run training schools are working to supply the Ukrainian army with thousands of pilots.

That’s no mean feat. The drones are extremely hard to fly, requiring weeks of training before a pilot is ready to fight on the front line.

“The chance that you will literally fly into a wall during training is higher” than with other types of drones, said Ihor Dvoretskyi, a project manager with Ukraine’s Defense Ministry who also volunteers with Victory Drones, one of the country’s largest drone education centers.

More formally known as loitering munitions, suicide drones have emerged as a key weapon of the war, with both sides using them in large numbers. Some are sophisticated, purpose-built munitions, but many are hobbyist racing drones adapted to serve as flying improvised explosive devices. Such drones are also known as first-person view (FPV) drones, after the goggles used to fly them.

“In every area, they’re using FPV drones,” said Yehor Cherniev, deputy chairman of the Ukrainian parliament’s Committee on National Security, Defence and Intelligence. “They’re a cheap weapon, and a weapon that сan be used en masse.”

But it takes longer to learn to fly them than, say, the hardware-and-software-stabilized photography quadcopters used across Ukraine’s frontline to coordinate artillery.

“You are literally flying this drone like it was a Cessna [plane] from the 1960s,” said Dvoretskyi.

Vitaliy Barabash, head of the military administration in Avdiivka, said Ukrainian forces had secured control of the village of Stepove on the northwestern approaches to the town.
"Yesterday and the day before yesterday, our side carried out very serious stabilisation actions," Barabash told U.S.-funded Radio Liberty. "Stepove is now fully controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine."
The popular Russian war blog Rybar said Russian forces had secured new areas around the village, 5 km (3 miles) north of Avdiivka. And the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War, quoting geopolitical footage from Monday, said Russian forces were occupying improved positions.

Barabash stood by his contention that Russian forces had been kept out of the plant, but acknowledged that fighting raged in the "industrial zone" outside the town centre.
Reuters could not confirm accounts from either side.
Fighting has also gripped two other largely devastated eastern towns, Ukrainian-held Maryinka and Russian-held Bakhmut.
Military analyst Serhiy Zgurets said Russian forces were trying to move on the northeastern town of Kupiansk, seized by Russian troops after the invasion, but later retaken by Ukraine.
Zgurets, writing on the website of media outlet Espreso TV, said fighting had been going on for several weeks near the village of Synkivka, 9 km from Kupiansk.
In Kherson, three people were killed and at least six injured in new Russian shelling.
"Today, the enemy destroyed one of the humanitarian centres," Yuri Sobolevskyi, deputy head of Kherson regional council, told national television. "One of our medical institutions was shelled. The shelling is continuing ...and the density is high."
Officials earlier said four doctors at the medical centre were injured. They said Russia fired two S-300 missiles, also damaging residential buildings nearby.
Russian forces used the "Grad" multiple launch rocket system for a two-hour-long attack on the eastern frontline city of Chasiv Yar, the General Prosecutor's Office said, killing one and injuring five. Residents, it said, were receiving water and bread from volunteers at the time of the attack.

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