Ukraine and Russia are attacking Donbas symmetrically. Whoever succeeds first will force the enemy to retreat. We analyze the situation at the front on the 290th day of the full-scale invasion — with maps

Oleksiy Yarmolenko
Tetyana Lohvynenko
Ukraine and Russia are attacking Donbas symmetrically. Whoever succeeds first will force the enemy to retreat. We analyze the situation at the front on the 290th day of the full-scale invasion — with maps

Ukrainian troops fire artillery at Russian positions in the Donetsk region on December 4, 2022.

The Ukrainian and Russian armies are attacking Donbas symmetrically. The Ukrainian army is trying to put pressure on the Russian defenses between the cities of Svatove and Kreminna in the Luhansk region, and the occupiers are constantly attacking Bakhmut. Both Ukraine and Russia have now deployed the largest number of forces in these directions. Whoever succeeds first will create a threat to the enemy from the flank and force them to either regroup or retreat.

The most important event of the last 10 days is the explosions at Russian airfields where strategic aircraft are based. It is from them that the Russians bombard Ukraine with cruise missiles. On December 5, explosions rang out at Dyagilevo airfield in the Ryazan region and Engels airfield in the Saratov region. The next day, a large-scale fire broke out at the fuel warehouse at the airfield in the Kursk region, and the Slava oil plant caught fire in Bryansk. The causes of all explosions and fires are called strikes by unknown drones. Ukraine does not officially take responsibility for this.

On the satellite images that appeared later, it can be seen that at least one plane was damaged at both airfields. There were also photos from Diaghilevo, showing the damaged Tu-22M3 aircraft. After the explosions, Russian troops relocated strategic aviation planes even further, deep into the country.

Western mass media, citing sources, wrote that strikes on Russian airfields were carried out by Ukraine with Soviet Tu-141 Strizh jet drones. During the times of the USSR, it was an operational-tactical reconnaissance drone that could conduct reconnaissance to a depth of 400 kilometers and fly a thousand kilometers at a speed of over 1,000 km/h. Though, the Strizh is large, which makes it a fairly easy target for air defense. In Ukraine, these drones were used as dummies for exercises of the Air Defense Forces.

If Western media sources are to be believed, the Ukrainian military has modernized the Tu-141 and turned it into a kamikaze drone, an analogue of a cruise missile. Strizh model was developed and produced at the Kharkiv Aviation Plant. That is, Ukraine has its own capacities to manufacture or modernize them. If such a long-range weapon appears in Ukraine, it can seriously affect the course of hostilities, because it increases the radius of damage several times. The Russians will have to withdraw air defense forces from the front to cover strategic facilities in the rear, and strengthen the security of airfields near Ukraine.

The Russians have very few airfields that can serve strategic aircraft or from which they can take off. Now it will be more difficult for the Russians to prepare for and carry out massive missile strikes on Ukraine.

The strike on airfields on December 5 did not prevent a massive missile attack by Russian troops on the same day. Out of more than 70 missiles launched, the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces shot down over 60. This attack did much less damage to the energy sector than the previous ones. Odesa and the region were the most affected, where a blackout occurred for several days, while other regions were spared without serious accidents. But the lights are still being turned off in an emergency all over the country.

On December 6, the Russians again used Iranian Shahed-136 drones, which had not been noticed since mid-November. Presumably, the Russian forces received a new batch of drones or upgraded the old ones for operation in bad weather. Ukrainian Air Defense Forces shot down almost all of them.

The Kharkiv region

The situation in the Kharkiv region is almost unchanged — the Russians still control a very small area in the northeast of the region, not far from the Russian-Ukrainian border.

The only changes occurred in the area of the villages of Kyslivka, Yahidne and Orlyanske, where fighting has been going on since October. A video of Russian positions captured along with destroyed Grad multiple rocket systems appeared on social networks. Geolocation of the video established that it was filmed south of Yahidne, in the direction of the village of Nova Tarasivka. It can be argued that the Ukrainian troops have made some progress and are moving towards the village of Nyzhnia Duvanka in the Luhansk region. This will allow them to cut the road to the city of Svatove from the north.



Ukrainian troops continue to probe Russian positions along the roads Kupyansk — Svatove and Svatove — Kreminna. Fighting continues in the area of the villages of Novoselivske and Kuzemivka to the northwest of Svatove. The Russians claimed to have captured Novoselivske, but then lost it. They try to counterattack, but to no avail. Russian Telegram channels also write that Russian troops are repelling attacks by the Defense Forces of Ukraine on Kuzemivka. So, at the same time, the battles are going on for both villages, which are likely to change hands.

At the end of November, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine mentioned that the Russians were shelling the villages of Ploshchanka and Chervopopivka. But lately, it has been reported almost every day that the Ukrainian military is repelling the attacks of the invaders in the areas of these villages. Both are located along the Svatove — Kreminna road. Probably, the Ukrainian military, if they did not physically cut the road, came very close to it. The Russians can no longer use it to secure the front line at the Svatove-Kreminna border. They will have to look for other logistical ways.

Ukrainian troops are slowly moving deep into the Luhansk region to disrupt Russian logistics and try to encircle Kreminna and Svatove. The situation is complicated by the weather and Russian recently mobilized troops, with which the occupiers are trying to close the holes there.

On the right (southern) bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, on the administrative border of Luhansk region and Donetsk region, fighting continues for Bilohorivka and Spirne villages. Most likely, the Russians consider this direction as an auxiliary one, in order to threaten the Ukrainian defenders from the flank both in the areas of the cities of Siversk, Bakhmut and Soledar, and in the forests on the other side of the river near Kreminna.

The Russians announced that they captured the village of Yakovlivka on the Bakhmut-Lysychansk road. There is no confirmation of this. The loss of Yakovlivka will complicate the defense of the city of Soledar, because the Russians will be able to approach it not only from the southeast, but also from the east.

The situation around Bakhmut remains serious. Recently, the Russians have achieved certain successes here, which complicates defense. It can be said that the largest forces of both the Russian and Ukrainian armies are currently concentrated in the Bakhmut area. Here the battles are the fiercest, and the losses on both sides are the greatest.

A month ago, the Russians were pushed back a few kilometers from the city, but they again made some progress on its eastern outskirts. Fighting continues along and north and south of Patrice Lumumba Street. Industrial enterprises are located here, although there are also residential buildings. To the southeast of Bakhmut, the Russians have captured the cityʼs garbage dump and are trying to attack from there.

To the south of the city, fighting continues for Opytne and Ivangrad villages, which are the last settlements before the outskirts of Bakhmut. Most likely, the occupiers were still able to drive the Ukrainians out of Ivangrad, but it isnʼt known whether they gained a foothold there. Fighting continues in Opytne: the village mainly consists of high-rise buildings, which creates problems for the Russians. A better view opens from the roofs of these buildings, and they themselves become defensive positions.

The most threatening situation has developed further south of Opytne. Here, the Russians broke through the Ukrainian defenses along the Bakhmut-Horlivka road and quickly reached the Siverskyi Donets—Donbas canal. Most likely, they captured the villages of Ozaryanivka, Zelenopillya, Andriivka, and at least part of the village of Kurdyumivka. Fighting is still going on for Klishchiivka, which is located southwest of Bakhmut. From there, the Russians are trying to approach the city itself in order to bypass Opytne from several sides and reach the outskirts of Bakhmut.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported on December 7 that the Russians were trying to advance in the area of the village of Bila Hora, which is located outside Klishchiivka. Itʼs unclear from which direction they attacked. Most likely, from the side of the village of Kurdyumivka, because there are land crossings through the Siverskyi Donets — Donbas channel.

Ukrainian and Russian troops are carrying out symmetrical attacks on the banks of the Siverskyi Donets River. Defense forces of Ukraine are slowly advancing towards Svatove and Kreminna, and the Russians are trying to capture Bakhmut. If the Ukrainians succeed first, they will create a threat from the flank to the Russian troops in Rubizhne, Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, and may force them to withdraw. Later, a threat from the flank will appear for the Russian group advancing on Soledar and Bakhmut.

If the Russians capture Bakhmut sooner, they will create a threat from the flank to the defenders of the city of Siversk, and to those Ukrainian units operating on the other side of the river. Because of this, it is likely that the Ukrainian troops will have to abandon their attempts to advance on Svatove and Kreminna and move closer to Lyman and Slovyansk.

The Russians are also trying to advance in the western suburbs of Donetsk, from Avdiivka to Maryinka. The fiercest fighting continues in the city of Maryinka, near the Donetsk airport and the village of Pisky. Russian troops are trying to advance in Pervomaiskyi, but they are not having any serious success there. To the north of the Donetsk airport, the Russians probably captured part of the village of Vodyane.

The occupiers are constantly trying to advance on the village of Novomykhailivka in order to cut the road between Maryinka and Vuhledar. They are no longer trying to attack Vugledar from the south, but are making a major effort to enter the city from the north.



Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions

The situation at the front in the Zaporizhzhia region has not changed since the spring. Ukrainian troops continue to methodically destroy Russian bases, warehouses with ammunition and fuel, as well as accumulations of equipment.

Diplomats are actively working to create a “security zone” around the Zaporizhzhia NPP. In the last 10 days, the idea reached the official level. First, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said that he hopes to conclude an agreement by the end of the year. He also hinted that the Russians are not against withdrawing military personnel and weapons from the station. In Russia, it was officially confirmed that they are in talks with the IAEA, but deny that they are ready to give up control over the ZNPP. Sources of the Russian publication Meduza reported that the Kremlin is ready to withdraw troops from the ZNPP in exchange for guarantees of uninterrupted transit of Russian oil and gas through the territory of Ukraine.

The front does not change in the Kherson region either — at the beginning of November, it stabilized along the Dnipro River. Obviously, neither side has the desire and strength to force it, as it is a very risky operation. Therefore, most likely, the line here will remain unchanged until the Ukrainian troops begin to liberate the Zaporizhzhia region.

Between Kherson and the left bank of the Dnipro there are many islands where residential buildings are located. Locals have dachas there, which can be reached by regular boats. On December 3-5, the Ukrainian authorities canceled the ban on crossing the Dnipro and allowed people who were in summer cottages to cross to Kherson. The Russians opened fire on one of the boats, a person was killed. It is likely that groups of Russian troops remain on these islands, but only for sabotage or reconnaissance. It is impossible and impractical to keep a full-fledged contingent with heavy equipment or artillery there.



Weapons supply

On December 2, Spain handed over the first HAWK anti-aircraft missile systems to Ukraine. Most likely, after massive Russian strikes on the energy infrastructure of Ukraine, Western countries will try to transfer as many HAWKs as possible. These are not modern air defense systems, but they have been manufactured and upgraded since the 1960s. So, there are a lot of systems and missiles for them in the world, so it will be possible to quickly find and transfer the complexes to Ukraine. It is important for the Ukrainian army to have as many air defense means as possible to protect all the necessary objects.

On December 7, the German government announced a new military aid package. Dingo armored vehicles and Oshkosh tractors for military equipment continue to arrive in Ukraine. Germany promised to deliver a new type of Western artillery — 18-wheeled RCH 155 self-propelled howitzers. However, the manufacturing company said it was ready to produce them 30 months after receiving the order, that is, no earlier than 2025.

The tale with the German Patriot air defense systems, which were planned to be transferred to Poland, and which she wanted to give to Ukraine, ended. The Germans had the last word, and they did not support the idea. Therefore, the head of the Polish Ministry of Defense, Mariusz Blaszczak, announced that the systems will be located on Polish territory.

On December 7, the German publication Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, citing the spokeswoman of the US National Security Council, wrote that the United States encourages the federal government to supply Ukraine with modern German tanks. The US Presidentʼs national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, informed Germany that the Americans are not against supplying Ukraine with German Leopard tanks, if the Germans want to do it.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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Ukrainian military fire a mortar at Russian positions near the city of Toretsk, Donetsk region, on December 2, 2022.