Disinformation abounds but there will be offensives and counteroffensives as early as next month.
Kremlin insiders reportedly told Bloomberg that Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing a new offensive to regain the initiative that may begin as early as February or March 2023. Russian officials, Kremlin advisors, and other unspecified knowledgeable figures who spoke on condition of anonymity reportedly told Bloomberg that Putin seeks to conduct a new major offensive and that he believes that Russia’s tolerance to accept causalities will allow Russia to win the war in the long run despite Russian failures so far. This report is consistent with ISW’s current assessment and forecast that the Kremlin is likely preparing to conduct a decisive strategic action—most likely in Luhansk Oblast—in the next six months intended to regain the initiative and end Ukraine’s current string of operational successes. ISW previously assessed that the decisive strategic action in Luhansk Oblast could be either a major offensive or a Russian defensive operation to defeat and exploit a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Recent limited Russian ground attacks in Zaporizhia Oblast may be intended to disperse Ukrainian forces and set conditions for an offensive in Luhansk. Russia is redeploying elements of the 2nd Motorized Rifle Division from Belarus to Luhansk Oblast. This recent development suggests that the planned Russian offensive referenced in the Bloomberg report is most likely aimed at Luhansk Oblast though it could also occur in the Vuhledar area in western Donetsk. This new offensive is extremely unlikely to target northern Ukraine from Belarus. There continues to be no indication that Russian forces are forming strike groups in Belarus; Russian elements in Belarus are largely using Belarusian infrastructure and training capacity for training rotations. Russian milbloggers are also increasingly writing off the notion of a second attack against Kyiv as an information operation and are suggesting that the most likely target for a Russian offensive would be in eastern Ukraine or neighboring Kharkiv Oblast.
- Kremlin insiders reportedly told Bloomberg that Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing a new offensive to regain the initiative that may begin as early as February or March 2023.
- The Kremlin confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is issuing preemptive pardons for convicts who serve in Russian operations in Ukraine.
- A visual investigation by a Russian opposition outlet confirmed that Russian authorities are deporting children from occupied Kherson Oblast to occupied Crimea.
- Russian officials denied reported explosions near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) on January 26.
- The Russian military command is likely attempting to restrict mibloggers’ frontline coverage to regain control over the Russian information space ahead of the new offensive. These restrictions—if planned—are likely a part of the Chief of the Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov’s efforts to professionalize the Russian Armed Forces.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Kreminna on January 26 and January 27.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut, on the western outskirts of Donetsk City, and in western Donetsk Oblast.
- Russian sources did not report that Russian forces continued localized offensive operations in Zaporizhia Oblast on January 27.
- Russian officials claimed that the conscription age will not change in the upcoming 2023 spring conscription cycle.
- Russian occupation authorities are continuing to intensify efforts to integrate occupied territories into the Russian legal and administrative structures.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces notes the increasing activity of Russian combat aviation on all fronts.
Source: General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces on Telegram
Details: The report says that the Russian occupiers performed 24 air strikes and seven missile strikes during the day. In addition, they carried out more than 30 attacks using multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS). Casualties among civilians were reported. The premises of the Regional Infectious Disease Hospital in Kherson were damaged.
Despite significant losses, the Russians continue their offensive on the Bakhmut, Lyman, Avdiivka and Novopavlivka fronts. They are on the defensive on the Kupiansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson fronts.
The occupiers also continue to use the network of civilian healthcare facilities in the temporarily occupied territory to treat their wounded soldiers.
In the temporarily occupied resort village of Zaliznyi Port in Skadovsk District (Kherson Oblast) the Russian so-called "administration" is carrying out a census and confiscation of businesses (boarding houses, cafés, restaurants) that have not been re-registered under Russian law from Ukrainian citizens.
In response, the Air Force of Ukraine’s Armed Forces delivered seven strikes on clusters of Russian military personnel, as well as a strike on the positions of anti-aircraft missile systems.
- Ukrainian defenders repelled Russian attacks towards Nevske and Ploschanka settlements.
- The enemy attacked Ukrainian positions in the vicinity of Chervonopopivka, but didn’t gain any new ground.
- Russian forces attempted to seize new positions in the area of Verkhnokamyanske and Spirne, without success.
- Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian attack towards Rozdolivka.
- Russian troops attempted to advance and capture Blahodante, but the defenders repulsed the attack.
- Russian forces very likely captured the small settlement of Krasnopolivka. Given the location and size of the settlement, it didn’t make any sense for Ukrainians to stay there.
- The enemy attacked Ukrainian positions near Krasna Hora and Paraskoviivka, without success.
- Russian recon element conducted a recon by force near Klishchiivka. The group retreated after a brief skirmish.
- Fighting continues primary in the area north-west of Tavr Meat Plant and in the industry area, where Russians seems to have minor gains.
- Russian forces, again, tried to advance in the area of Vodyane and were met with accurate fire, again.
- The enemy recon group scouted Ukrainian positions near Nevelske. They retreated upon contact.
- The situation in Marinka remains difficult, fighting continues.
- There is an ongoing offensive attempt from the direction of Pavlivka and Mykilske towards Vuhledar. Russian sources claim a successful advance towards the outskirts of Vuhledar, but there is no footage to confirm such claim.
- Ukrainian sources released a drone video of repelling Russian attack just outside Mykilske, pretty far from Vuhledar.
- Ukrainian 72nd Mechanized Brigade confirmed in the evening that its troops continue to defend and hold the town of Vuhledar.
In the 1st month after their arrival, they were praised for their ease of use & accuracy despite their slow rate of fire.
@ratushnyi_r, a 🇺🇦 activist & soldier, reported that his recce team was constantly getting 1st round effects, the main objective of artillery.
During the summer, 🇷🇺 was able to shoot 60k rounds/day, meaning 🇺🇦 was being outshot 20:1
Survivability moves (not shoot & scoot as it’s sometimes called) were required. 🇺🇦 HARMS strikes had not yet degraded 🇷🇺 radar capabilities fully.
Speed was key, & M777s did fine.
September brought two major 🇺🇦 counteroffensives, and 🇷🇺 artillery was on the back foot.
M777 crews had more time to set up firing points (FP), safely store ammunition and propellant, and do more time-consuming missions like EXCAL.
More time at the FP between moves led some to believe that 🇺🇦 was reckless. However, it was more likely to do with a reduced threat from 🇷🇺 counterfire.
HARMS had probably destroyed many radars and 🇷🇺 was only firing 20k rounds daily at this time (thanks to HIMARS)
🇺🇦 M777 crews resembled American ones in a lot of ways at this point, but the lack of camo nets and ammunition/propellant improperly stored could pose a hazard if Russia changed tactics.
Which they soon did…
Meet the 🇷🇺 Lancet UCAV. At 3kg+ of HE and a range of 40km, it’s ideal against radars, but has mixed results against armor/vehicles.
In some cases resulting in a flat tire. With less arty ammo available, 🇷🇺 began to use these more instead of arty.
However, it was soon discovered seemingly by accident that Lancets had difficulty penetrating camo nets used by 🇺🇦 tanks to shoot indirect fire.
(Again, not good against armor)
🇺🇦 quickly passed these lessons learned to their M777 crews which were more vulnerable.
Within a week, metal fences/screens were being incorporated into camouflaging nets to provide protection against Lancets.
While this meant M777s would be less mobile, it meant they would be protected from their current threat.
Using an Orlan-10 for observation and 1-3 Lancets for strikes, the costs of NOT putting up nets was/is high.
The more M777s displaced to new positions, the easier they were to find. 🇷🇺 UAV constantly scan roads behind 🇺🇦 lines.
This is the paradox of survivability moves.
Unsurprisingly, more & more 🇺🇦 artillery units (in this case a 🇵🇱 Krab) decided to incorporate these into their FPs even if they were highly-mobile SPGs.
This could show that the threat from loitering munitions has outgrown the threat from 🇷🇺 artillery, at least currently
However, staying static isn’t without risk.
Complacency, improper storage, and fuzing rounds before missions start can cause catastrophic results, as seen here.
Propellant (the tubes strewn across the FP) completely lost and fuzed projectiles burned/damaged.
Lastly, what lessons should 🇺🇸 artillery take away? The start of answer is already in doctrine. All 🇺🇸 arty systems already have checklists with nets for use against detection/observation.
If reinforcing them with metal can help stop small drones, it should be considered.
Military innovation, leadership, and planning is all about understanding, analyzing, and mitigating risk. With every benefit comes a potential danger.
Ukraine has shown great skill when it comes to balancing risk. We should all dig deeper to better understand how.
-152+ M777 delivered
-9 months of use, 1 of the 1st NATO arty systems in 🇺🇦
-Barrels firing up to 7k rounds before replacement, 4k more than expected
-A key weapon system for Ukraine that’s made a huge difference on every front
• • •
Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut on January 27. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops repelled Russian attacks on Bakhmut itself; northeast of Bakhmut near Verkhnokamyanske (30km northeast) and Paraskoviivka (6km north); and southwest of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka (6km southwest). Geolocated footage shows Ukrainian artillery striking a Russian crossing on the Bakhmutivka River just northwest of Sil, indicating that Russian forces have advanced northwest of Soledar up to about this point. Ukrainian sources also confirmed that Russian troops captured Krasnopolivka (just northwest of Soledar) and Dvorichchia (just southwest of Soledar). A Russian milblogger claimed that Wagner Group fighters in the Soledar area are trying to push through Ukrainian defenses near Blahodatne (directly west of Soledar). Geolocated combat footage shows Ukrainian troops engaging Wagner Group fighters in the Miasokombinat suburb of northeastern Bakhmut, indicating that Wagner continues to incrementally advance within Bakhmut itself. A Russian milblogger also claimed that fighting is ongoing on the southern outskirts of Paraskoviivka. Russian sources additionally claimed that Wagner forces southwest of Bakhmut in the Klishchiivka area are trying to push northwest toward Ivanivske to cut the T0504 Kostyantynivka-Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut highway.
Eastern Ukraine: (Eastern Kharkiv Oblast-Western Luhansk Oblast)
Russian forces reportedly conducted a reconnaissance-in-force operation in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast on January 27. A milblogger claimed that Russian forces broke through Ukrainian defenses near Ternova (38km northeast of Kharkiv City) penetrating 500 meters deep.
Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Kreminna on January 26 and January 27. Secretary of the General Council of United Russia Andrey Turchak claimed that Kreminna is the most challenging segment of the frontline due to Ukrainian attempts to break through Russian defensive lines following his reported visit to the area on January 26. Turchak also claimed that Russian airborne forces are maintaining defenses in the Kreminna direction. A Russian milblogger claimed on January 26 that the 254th Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment (144th Motorized Rifle Division, 20th Combined Arms Army, Western Military District) repelled Ukrainian assaults and exchanged fire at a distance of 50-100 meters from Ukrainian forces near Kreminna. The Ukrainian General Staff stated on January 27 that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near Ploshchanka (16km northwest of Kreminna), Nevske (18km northwest of Kreminna), and Chervonopopivka (6km north of Kreminna).
Supporting Effort—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)
Russian sources did not report that Russian forces continued localized offensive operations in Zaporizhia Oblast on January 27. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces launched localized offensives along the line of contact in Zaporizhia Oblast in previous days and captured several settlements. ISW has not seen any visual confirmation that Russian forces have captured any settlements in the area and continues to assess that Russian sources likely made these claims to distract from the lack of progress in the Russian offensive to capture Bakhmut. The lack of reporting on localized Russian offensive operations in Zaporizhia Oblast suggests that these operations were likely limited in scope.
With the transfer of modern Western-made tanks now secured, Ukraine is turning its sights once again to advanced fighter jets, with France today stating that it had not ruled out providing Kyiv with combat aircraft from its own stocks. A French government official confirmed that unnamed Eastern European countries and Denmark were also possible candidates to provide fighter jets to Ukraine, while a Ukrainian Air Force spokesman says that a transfer of advanced Rafale multirole fighter jets is on the table.
Speaking today, Thomas Gassilloud, chairman of the National Assembly’s National Defense and Armed Forces Committee, said that the French government could agree to supply Ukraine with the fighter jets that it so badly wants.
“Regarding deliveries [of fighter jets] to Ukraine, we must study requests on a case-by-case basis and leave all the doors open,” Gassilloud said, after talks in London with British counterparts, including U.K. Defense Minister Ben Wallace.
Gassilloud added that the French government had certain conditions regarding a transfer of this kind, chief among them being a judgment that the jets didn’t constitute a risk of escalating the war to a point that it brought Russia into conflict with NATO
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