Ukraine update: Russia sends all forces in Svatove to the front lines as Ukraine presses closer

Ukraine update: Russia sends all forces in Svatove to the front lines as Ukraine presses closer

UPDATE: Friday, Dec 23, 2022 · 9:33:32 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

This is what they are doing now to Kharkiv – a city that they totally believed was part of the “Russian world”. What will they do to the OTHERS??

— Christo Grozev (@christogrozev) February 28, 2022

UPDATE: Friday, Dec 23, 2022 · 7:14:47 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

Intense footage. Ukrainian soldiers trying to recover military equipment coming under direct artillery fire and barely manage to escape.

— NOËL 🇪🇺 🇺🇦 (@NOELreports) December 23, 2022

There’s one item that you might have noticed is routinely missing from Daily Kos’ ongoing coverage of the invasion in Ukraine: Daily updates on movement of troops and vehicles inside Belarus.

In just the last two weeks, media has breathlessly reported on Belarusian forces driving toward the southern border … even though those forces never actually left their home state, never came near the border, and returned to their starting point a couple of days later. That part of their journey drew much less attention.

Then there has been the attention given a reported new Russian buildup in Belarus. This buildup includes video of what’s reportedly a long line of rail cars ferrying 50 fresh new tanks to the front lines. Those videos have been both widely shared on social media as well as cable networks, even though they’ve been carefully staged so that there are no real indications of when or where they were shot. (Similar videos have supposedly shown 50 new Russian tanks, sometimes the same 50 Russian tanks, reportedly “in the Svatove area.” Spoiler alert: Nope.)

Let me just quickly return to what kos has been saying month after month since the invasion began. This applies equally well to the idea that Belarus itself might send forces into the war, or that Russia is assembling a force along the northern border to make a second go at Kyiv.

The rumor seems like total bullshit. But even if true, it hardly presents a real threat to Ukraine’s war effort. Russia is losing ground every single day. Opening up a third front isn’t in the cards.

Count today as another day when we’re not staying on top of every move being made in Belarus.

Where I am this morning, the temperature is -22°C. I wish I could export a bit of this to Ukraine, because it would really help solidify those roads around Svatove and Kreminna. The actual temperatures in the area this week are hovering around freezing; highs a few degrees above zero, lows a few degrees below. So while there is surely some freezing going on, any movement that’s waiting for the kind of deep freeze that would allow rolling T-72s across a corn field is going to have to wait a while longer.

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

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Multiple reports on Friday indicate that Svatove itself has been all but emptied of Russian forces. That’s because everyone available has been pushed out to stop reported Ukrainian advances, including that one near the village of Pidkuichansk, where Ukraine was able to bypass Russian forces located to the north and cut across the highway to come within a few kilometers of Svatove. The two main Ukrainian counterattacks continue to be at Pidkuichansk, and at Volodymyrivka to the north.

On Thursday, Russian sources were reporting that Russia was launching their own attack from Kolomyichykha in the direction of Stelmakhivka. Not only did that attack apparently come to nothing, on Friday there are reports of fighting in Kolomyichykha, with Ukrainian forces advancing on that position as well as another location between Kolomyichykha and Patalakhivka. It looks like Ukraine may finally be cleaning up that area of Russian occupation west of the highway. 

If Ukraine is able to push back Russian forces along this line, then Kuzemivka, which was the source of so much back and forth over the last month, could become a backwater—especially if a breakthrough east of Volodymyrivka allows Ukraine access to that north-south route into Svatove. Things have been moving slowly in this area but they are moving, and after weeks of testing various positions along the line, Ukraine appears to be making progress in the area directly west of Svatove.

In the Kreminna area, Russian sources have released drone footage of artillery firing at Ukrainian forces just south of Ploshchanka. It’s not clear when this video was taken, but it does seem to indicate that Russia has no ground force in the area and is restricted to trying to strike the Ukrainian force from a distance. (In the video, they seem to miss.)

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

Ukrainian forces near Dibrova reportedly repelled a Russian attack to the west, which is a pretty good indicator that Ukraine continues to hold this area. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces in the woods south of the city continue to advance to the north. Russia has reportedly laid out a series of trenches and fortifications that run pretty close to the yellow line of the road you can see around the name Kreminna, and Ukraine should be close to testing that line.

There are some indications that Russia is having difficulty getting supplies to Holykove, but still no signal that Ukraine has made progress in liberating this location. While Ukraine continues to hold the areas it had previously taken around Chervonopopivka, there are currently no reports of new progress north of Kreminna. It’s unclear if Ukraine will attempt to take the city without clearing this approach.

This wins the award for most bassackwards reasoning so far by a Russian leader. That’s a pretty high bar, but I think Gerasimov has set a new standard.

“Ukraine was threatening the world with nuclear terrorism and only Russia was able to save everything,”- Valery Gerasimov, Russian Army Chief of the General Staff and deputy MoD. His audience is clearly puzzled by this version of events.

— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) December 23, 2022


The invaders painted the Russian tricolor on the site of the “Milana” mural destroyed in #Mariupol.

— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) December 23, 2022

A possible indication of the direction Ukraine might move next. Tokmak is in Zaporizhzhia oblast, north of Melitopol.

The Russian-occupied city of Tokmak has been hit last night by a volley of GMLRS. Russian troops in that sector are getting soften up. #Tokmak #Ukraine #Zaporizhzhia

— (((Tendar))) (@Tendar) December 23, 2022

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