Russia seized the initiative and is actively attacking Bakhmut. Ukraine must throw a lot of forces into its defense. Our analysis of the situation at the front on the 300th day of the full-scale invasion — with maps

Oleksiy Yarmolenko
Tetyana Lohvynenko
Russia seized the initiative and is actively attacking Bakhmut. Ukraine must throw a lot of forces into its defense. Our analysis of the situation at the front on the 300th day of the full-scale invasion — with maps

Ukrainian fighters fire from an M109 at Russian positions in the Vuhledar direction in the Donetsk region. December 19, 2022.

The Russian army transferred a significant number of forces to Bakhmut in the Donetsk region and began to advance more actively in that direction. This forces the Armed Forces of Ukraine to charge more and more additional units to the defense of the city in order to hold it. At the same time, in the Luhansk region, the Ukrainian military is slowly advancing towards the city of Kreminna from three sides in order to create a semi-encirclement for the Russian troops there and force them to retreat.

The most discussed event in the last 10 days was the interview in which the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valeriy Zaluzhny told the British publication The Economist about the possible future course of the war. He noted that the Russian army is preparing reserves and may try to attack Kyiv again with a group of approximately 200,000 people. However, Zaluzhny emphasized, the mobilized Russians will have worse equipment than the occupiers had in February of 2022, a very low combat potential, and will hardly be able to achieve success.

A repeated attack on Kyiv from the territory of Belarus will be possible during the entire full-scale invasion because the capital is Russiaʼs main target. No other gains in this war, even if there are any, will be worth the effort and means that Russia has spent and wonʼt help achieve its strategic goal of stopping Ukraineʼs movement to the West and returning it under Russian influence.

The second attack on Kyiv will be completely different. The Ukrainian army has been preparing for it for almost a year, all possible roads and paths have been mined and become easy targets. In addition, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have many different Western weapons that will allow them to quickly and accurately attack Russian convoys from the moment they cross the state border.

Zaluzhny said that the Ukrainian army can return all territories lost since February 24 by military means. For this, it needs 300 tanks, about 700 infantry fighting vehicles, and half a thousand howitzers. For Western countries, this is a lot, but itʼs possible — primarily thanks to the huge reserves of the US Army. Zaluzhny also draws attention to the lack of ammunition, which is why the upcoming military operation of the Ukrainian army, which is "already being prepared", was planned so that it would require significantly fewer shells.

Russian troops are again actively using Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drones. Most likely, the occupiers received a new batch from Iran and immediately began to launch them. Drones do the most damage to energy infrastructure facilities, especially in Kyiv and the Kyiv region. On the morning of November 14, the Russians attacked the capital with drones, but the anti-aircraft defense shot all of them down. However, two days later, on November 16, the Russian army launched another massive missile attack on Ukraineʼs energy infrastructure. At that time, Ukrainian air defense was able to shoot down 60 out of 76 missiles. Probably, with the help of drones, Russian troops are trying to determine the positions of Ukrainian air defense systems and find safe trajectories for missiles.

The Ukrainian foundation Come Back Alive, the largest civilian organization that helps the Ukrainian army, finished raising 230 million hryvnias for the Black Box initiative. These funds will be spent on the implementation of a classified project together with the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. Neither MDI nor Come Back Alive provide the details of the project, but note that the initiative will reduce Russiaʼs "offensive potential".

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.

There was confirmation that Kyslivka and Kotlyarivka villages were liberated. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been mentioning them in its summaries for several months, naming the populated areas shelled by the Russians. However, the liberation of these villages wasnʼt officially reported. The video of how the battles for Kyslivka and Kotlyarivka continued was published by the special unit of the MDI Kraken. Judging by the weather in the videos, they were shot at least a month ago. Russian Telegram channels also reported that Ukrainian troops were trying to advance on the village of Sofiivka, which is located behind these settlements.

Probably, the main target of the Ukrainian attach here is Nyzhnia Duvanka village in the Luhansk region. This will allow the Ukrainian Defense Forces to cut the road to Svatove city from the north. It connects Svatove and the Ukrainian-Russian border, so the Russians use it to provide their forces in and around the city.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine began to mention in its summaries the shelling of Vilshana village south of Tavilzhanka village. Consequently, Ukrainian troops are gradually advancing from the area of the city of Kupyansk to the north in order to finally liberate the Kharkiv region. Otherwise the Russians will threaten a flank attack on the Ukrainian group moving to the north of the Luhansk region, so itʼs important to knock them out from here.



In the Luhansk region, fighting continues along the roads Kupyansk—Svatove and Svatove—Kreminna. Russian troops are constantly trying to counterattack in order to throw the Defense Forces of Ukraine as far away from them as possible.

The Ukrainian army is slowly advancing. Most likely, the best situation for them is north of the city of Kreminna, in the area of Ploshanka, Chervopopivka, Pishchane, and Zhytlivka villages. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces constantly mentions them in summaries. This shows that the battles for them continue. The villages themselves are located directly on the Svatove—Kreminna road, so the Russians will no longer be able to use it to supply their troops. In addition, if the Ukrainian military liberates them, they will be able to approach the outskirts of Kreminna from the north.

Defense Forces of Ukraine are trying to approach Kreminna from other directions as well. In the reports of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, there were mentions of shelling of Dibrova village in the Luhansk region. This is the last settlement that separates Ukrainian forces and Kreminna from the west. To the south of the city there is a forest where the Ukrainian military can also operate. The General Staff constantly reports that the Russians are trying to advance on Serebryanka Forestry, a small group of buildings opposite the village of Serebryanka, on the other side of the Siverskyi Donets River.

Apparently, Ukrainian troops are advancing to Kreminna simultaneously from the north, west and south. If they manage to approach the outskirts of the city from three sides at once, it will be semi-surrounded, and, most likely, the Russians will have to withdraw from it in the direction of Rubizhne.

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

With each new day, it becomes more and more difficult to defend Bakhmut city. From the north, it is covered by another important city — Soledar. Itʼs extremely difficult for the Russian troops to take it by storm, besides, there are very deep salt mines where the Ukrainian military can hide from shelling. To force the Ukrainian Defense Forces to retreat, the Russians will have to surround Soledar.

Over the past 10 days, the Russians have been able to make some progress toward that goal. There were confirmations that the Ukrainian military had lost the village of Yakovlivka — the "Wagnerians" published photos near the local school. Now the Russians will be able to attack Soledar not only from the east, but also from the north.

The situation on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut is also difficult. Russian troops continue to advance here along two roads — from the territory of the industrial zone and from the side of the Bakhmut—Lysychansk highway. They have already entered the first private sector houses in the eastern part of Bakhmut.

The Russians continue to press the defenders of Bakhmut from the south, from the side of Opytne village. Ukrainian troops are still stationed here, so the fighting for the village continues. Even further south, the Russians are trying to bypass Bakhmut from the southwest and reach the Bakhmut—Kostyantynivka road. Fighting continues in the Klishchiivka area, as well as near Kurdyumivka village. In the area of Ozaryanivka village, the Russian army, most likely, crossed the "Siverskyi Donets—Donbas" channel. But the videos that appeared later may indicate that the Russians were knocked out of these positions.

In the Avdiivka direction, the Russians are making the greatest efforts to attack the villages of Pervomaiske and Nevelske. Over the past 10 days, they havenʼt been able to make serious progress. However, fierce fighting continues in the Maryinka town. The front line there tentatively runs along the central Druzhby Avenue.

The Russians continue to try to bypass the Vuhledar city from the north. For this, they need to capture Maryinka and Kostyantynivka and Novomykhailivka villages. The Russians are trying to attack the latter, but to no avail so far.

Fighting intensified in the area of the village of Velyka Novosilka. It seems that during the last 10 days, the Russian troops tried several times with powerful forces to advance on the village of Vremivka, but their attempts were repulsed and the occupiers suffered serious losses.



Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions

The situation at the front in the Zaporizhzhia region hasnʼt changed since the spring. Ukrainian troops continue to methodically destroy Russian bases, warehouses with ammunition and fuel, as well as accumulations of equipment.

The situation around Zaporizhzhia NPP remains unchanged. Negotiations about its status and the possible creation of a "security zone" are ongoing. French President Emmanuel Macron said that the coming weeks will be "decisive".

The situation is similar in the Kherson region. Here, the front has stabilized along the Dnipro River and, most likely, wonʼt change until the Ukrainian troops begin to liberate the Zaporizhzhia region.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported on November 17 that Russian troops are withdrawing part of their units from the cities of Kakhovka and Nova Kakhovka on the left bank of the Kherson region. The occupiers are also allegedly spreading information among the locals that they will leave these settlements by the end of the year. It isnʼt yet known whether it is rotation or the Russians want to leave the cities in the gray zone, because the Ukrainian army will not be able to gain a foothold on the left bank of the Kherson region and protect them.



Weapons supply

In the last 10 days, almost no public announcement was made about the supply of new weapons to Ukraine. The US also didnʼt announce a new aid package, although that should happen soon.

In the States, the authorities began to seriously discuss the delivery of one of the most modern Western air defense systems to Ukraine, the Patriot. The long negotiations between Germany and Poland ended with the fact that the Germans refused to hand over the Patriots to Ukraine and will deliver them to Poland, and the Americans, most likely, will soon agree to give Ukraine several such SAMs. Western media write that President Joe Biden will sign the decision on the transfer of the Patriot installments to Ukraine only after receiving from the Pentagon answers to all questions regarding the terms of training of the Ukrainian military, the possibility of maintenance, how legal the transfer of these systems will be and how it will affect the defense capabilities of the United States.

The Patriot air defense system will significantly strengthen Ukrainian air defense. Such complexes can shoot down targets at a distance of 3 to 100 km and at an altitude of 60 meters to 25 km. But everything will depend on the specific modification and missiles that Ukraine will receive. The most important thing about Patriot is that these complexes can shoot down ballistic missiles — now the Ukrainian army doesnʼt have means to shoot them down. The Russian military is still experiencing a shortage of ballistic missiles, in particular modern ones such as Iskander. However, they are constantly shelling the frontline cities with S-300 missiles, which can follow a ballistic trajectory, and are also negotiating with Iran on the supply of long-range ballistic missiles.

But there is also a problem — in order to use Patriot, the soldiers have to study for a long time. It isnʼt known whether this training has started. If not, the Patriots will be able to start operating in at least a few months.

Greece can offer Ukraine a faster option — to hand over its Soviet S-300 air defense systems. Instead, the Greeks are asking the US to provide them with a replacement Patriot air defense systems. Such an exchange will also be beneficial for Ukraine because the S-300 is in service with Ukraine and the army wonʼt have to learn how to work with them.

The British publication Evening Standard reported on December 14 that Western countries are discussing how to provide Ukraine with a "decisive advantage" over Russian troops and bring the end of the war closer. One of the sources suggested that the discussions could eventually lead to the transfer of modern fighter jets to Ukraine. According to him, the allies can help Ukraine "in whatever way", but with the condition of not carrying out attacks on the territory of the Russian Federation, except "directly involved in hostilities in Ukraine". It may also be about the supply of weapons that would allow Ukraine to carry out "cautionary strikes". Slovakia also commented on the possible supply of aviation. The country has decommissioned its MiG-29 fighter jets there since September and is working on transferring them to Ukraine.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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A destroyed Russian tank in the Kyiv region, December 19, 2022