Ukraine update: Once again, Ukraine demonstrates that intelligence is the most important weapon

Ukraine update: Once again, Ukraine demonstrates that intelligence is the most important weapon

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023 · 8:43:05 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

Just a quick look at the area around Kupyansk, where nothing much seems to have changed in the last week. 

Kupyansk Area. Open in another tab for a larger view.

I’ve added red explosions to this map to note the locations that the Ukrainian Army reported as either being shelled, or repelling an attack, on Jan 2. You can see that the area Russia holds in that last little sliver of Kharkiv Oblast, as well as that line of towns to the east that are north of Svatove, gives them artillery range to hit much of the Ukrainian positions in this area, which is making it harder to move troops and equipment down the highway.

It’s a little concerning that no shelling was reported at Nova Tarasivka. That could mean this location has changed hands. However, this is a small, kind of end-of-the-road location, and Russia may have simply ignored it.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023 · 4:43:40 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

The step by step information that led HIMARS directly to the door of a Russian base 15km east of Kherson city.

Anatomy of an OPSEC failure. A Russian volunteer posted photos on VK in Sahy, Kherson Oblast with member of the GRU’s 10th Spetsnaz Brigade. He left the location tagging on, which makes it very easy to geolocate the Grand Prix country club from the tiles.

— Rob Lee (@RALee85) January 2, 2023

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023 · 4:26:20 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

Local sources report that in Veluki Kopani and Kostohryzove in occupied Kherson region two more Russian warehouses were destroyed.

— NOËL 🇪🇺 🇺🇦 (@NOELreports) January 3, 2023

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023 · 3:34:54 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

According to the regional military administrator of the Luhansk region, Ukraine now has such fire control over the highways between Svatove and Kreminna that Russia is forced to move troops between the two areas by routing them over to Starobilsk and back — a 100km detour.

On New Year’s Day, Ukrainian forces directed what were reportedly missiles from a HIMARS launcher at a building housing hundreds of Russian troops in the the occupied town of Makiivka, roughly 20 kilometers from the front lines in Donetsk Oblast. Unfortunately for the soldiers housed there, Russia was also apparently using the building—formerly a school—to stockpile ammunition. The resulting explosion absolutely leveled the location. That single attack appears to have killed hundreds of Russian soldiers, with the Ukrainian military estimating it at 400 killed, 300 more injured. Meaning that this might be the single largest loss of Russian forces in the entire war. We can’t be sure because Russia will not give actual numbers about losses during the sinking of the cruiser Moskva, but in any case, it’s a massive loss for Russia.

Ukraine followed this up by hitting another large ammunition storage in Svatove on Monday. This time, the massive explosion appears to have been triggered by a single small bomb dropped from what was likely a consumer-grade drone. That explosion also resulted in not just the loss of ammunition for that Svatove area, but the loss of an unknown number of Russian soldiers who were present in and around the facility.

In the early hours of Tuesday, it appears that Ukraine has hit another Russian base, this time in occupied Tokmak in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. How many Russian soldiers were taken out in this attack is unclear, but initial reports suggest “dozens.” This location was roughly 25 kilometers from the front lines.

In retaliation for the Makiivka attack, Russia fired missiles into an ice rink at Druzhivka, near Kramatorsk. The number of Ukrainian soldiers lost in this attack appears to be … zero. Because this isn’t just a war of weapons. It’s a war of intelligence.

Video from Ukrinform showing the explosion of an ammunition depot in Svatove.

Russian forces dig for survivors in the destroyed barracks at Tokmak.

💥In Tokmak, the base of the invaders was blown up along with dozens of chmobiks. According to local sources, on the night of Tuesday, January 3, a powerful blow was dealt to the building, which was occupied by the Russian military. 🇺🇦Real War #Ukraine #UkraineWar #Russia

— Ukraine War SitRep 🇺🇦 (@UKRWarSitRep) January 3, 2023

A French journalist happened to be filming in Druzhivka just as the Russian missile struck.

A French journalist was broadcasting live from #Druzhivka in #Donetsk, for the Quotidien TV show, when the ice arena was hit by rockets right behind him. Another civilian structure destroyed by the Terrorist State.#StopRussia #RussiaIsATerroristState

— Tim White (@TWMCLtd) January 2, 2023

Images from the scene on Monday showed firefighters attempting to save the building, home to what was reputedly one of the best hockey teams in Ukraine. What those images didn’t show was any sign that the building contained Ukrainian troops or any type of military equipment. Russia seems to have selected a purely arbitrary target because even before the invasion began, their intelligence sources have absolutely sucked when it comes to identifying Ukrainian military positions.

The entire reason that Ukraine was able to withstand the initial assault from Russian forces owes as much to Russia’s intelligence failings as it does how badly the Russian military handled maintenance and logistics. If Russia had been in possession of accurate intelligence, Ukraine’s air force and its air defenses would have fallen in the first day of the invasion, providing Russia with air superiority. Instead, Ukrainian jets and helicopters are still flying, Ukraine’s air defenses are constantly improving, and Russia is left firing missiles into houses and hockey rinks.

This is a content warning on just the text in the following tweet.

1/ The accounts of mobilised Russian soldiers who survived the Ukrainian HIMARS strike on Makiivka are beginning to emerge. Many more than the official figure of 63 are reported to have died. “We are cleaning their brains off our boots,” says one survivor. ⬇️

— ChrisO_wiki (@ChrisO_wiki) January 2, 2023

Here’s a look at what’s happened in the Svatove area over the last week. As with events around Lyman in the fall, the longer action lingers in an area, the more tiny villages and does-that-even-qualify-as-a-village locations appear on the map. The area around Svatove is getting pretty detailed at this point. Also note the scale of this map: All of this is happening very close to the city of Svatove.

Svatove area. Open image in another tab for a larger view.

Campaign Action

Here’s a guide to what’s been going on over the last week in a series of steps.

1) Ukraine carried out simultaneous attacks on four villages, including Kolomyichykha and Patalakhivka, effectively eliminating Russia’s area of control west of the P07/P66 highway (and yes that highway has a new official name, but I’m sticking with what Google puts on their maps to avoid confusion at this point).

2) Russia pressed back, creating a miniature salient and directing platoons to company-sized assaults on Kolomyichykha, Miasozharivka, and other locations Ukraine had recently liberated. In the process, Russia appears to have overrun the village of Dzherelne and placed several of these locations back into the “in dispute” category.

3) Ukraine pressed back against the Russian attacks, again pushing Russia out of Kolomyichykha and other identified villages. Russian forces have apparently also been driven from Dzherelne and the area around the Andriivka reservoir. 

4) However, Russia still seems to have some kind of force in this area detached from any of the village locations as reports are still showing Ukrainian forces repelling attacks at locations as deep in the “blue” as Stelmakhivka.

That’s one part of this subsection of a subsection of a front. The other important action is what’s happened just a few kilometers to the north. 

1) Ukraine appears to have solidified its control of Kryvoshyivka and Pidkuichansk, pushing Russian forces back from the highway in this area and opening a route of attack toward both Svatove and Kuzemivka.

2) After weeks of back and forth between Novoselivske and Kuzemivka, Ukraine appears to have won a couple of decisive engagements, enough so that the Ukrainian military is calling Novoselivske liberated for the first time since Ukrainian forces reached the area in October.

The action in Novoselivske/Kuzemivka mostly took place on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It included Russia launching an attack to the west headed by one of their newest T-90M tanks. That T-90M was destroyed, and was apparently the subject of this new turret-tossing championship video.

#Ukrainian ATGM crew blowing up Russian T-90M. 10/10 turret toss

— Suka Putinchik (@SukaPutinchik) January 3, 2023

In case you’re wondering, that turret had to clear 78 meters (256 feet) to have remained airborne that long. Pretty amazing. The loss of the tank was accompanied by the loss of other armored vehicles that attempted to make it over the railroad embankment separating the two neighboring towns. 

This was followed up by a Ukrainian counterattack that apparently went a long way toward breaking the concentration of Russian forces that have been gathered in Kuzemivka to prevent a Ukrainian advance along the highway to the northeast. 

Mind-boggling video of Ukrainian Special Forces «KRAKEN» unit in action near Svatove (assault and liberation of Novoselivske): close combat, eliminating russian invaders and taking prisoners, small arms and armored warfare🔞 A must-watch: 1/2

— Walter Report 🇺🇦 (@walter_report) January 2, 2023

Ukrainian forces also apparently moved toward Kuzemivka from the north, resulting in a serious fight in the woods north of the town from which Russian forces were eliminated. At this point, Russia is reportedly moving reinforcements to the area east of Kuzemivka by bringing in troops that had been positioned all the way over at Starobilsk. Ukraine hasn’t reported actually liberating Kuzemivka proper, and it’s unclear just where the current line falls, but the Russian losses in the area are significant. Those woods north of the town had been a location from which Russian forces enforced fire control over the highway. That area is lost to them now.

As on just about every day of the last two months, I’d love to be reporting “Svatove is liberated!” That’s not yet true. However, Ukraine is still steadily moving forward, taking new positions, solidifying older positions, gradually removing Russian forces from locations west of the city.

One thing that’s been slowing down activity around Svatove and Kreminna is that mud season has been prolonged this year. Sustained periods of below-zero temperatures that should have frozen the ground by now haven’t arrived as all of Europe is experiencing record warmth.

As The Washington Post reported on Monday, at least seven countries have already hit record highs in the new year. That area of extreme and unusual warmth includes Ukraine.

As temperatures soared 18 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 20 Celsius) above normal from France to western Russia, thousands of records were broken between Saturday and Monday — many by large margins.

However, that warmth is far from all bad in this situation. It may be slowing the movement of tanks in the east, but across all of Ukraine, the warmth is destroying Russia’s largest tactic in the war: its efforts to force Ukraine to the bargaining table by destroying infrastructure. Thanks to that warm weather, many areas of Ukraine are not seeing the expected difficulties with keeping people from freezing after Russia hits electrical or gas facilities. In fact, while officials are still urging Ukrainians to conserve power and blackouts are a regular part of life in most areas, including Kyiv, the electrical supply remains much higher than anticipated due to a much-reduced demand for heating.

That seems worth a little delay in the movement of tanks.

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