Ukraine update: Russian forces around Bakhmut forced to surrender ground as assault falters

Ukraine update: Russian forces around Bakhmut forced to surrender ground as assault falters

UPDATE: Friday, Dec 16, 2022 · 6:45:17 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

From the White House press pool coverage: 

POTUS boarded AF1 at 1:03 p.m. He responded to a question about sending air support to Ukraine and said: “You’ll hear in a few minutes.”

UPDATE: Friday, Dec 16, 2022 · 6:26:19 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

Russian drone pilot skillfully directs a Lancet into … the burned out remains of an already dead S-300. A Russian S-300. 

Russian Lancet kamikaze drone strikes burnt Russian S-300. Bereslavsky district of Kherson region P.S: (no typos)

— Special Kherson Cat 🐈🇺🇦 (@bayraktar_1love) December 15, 2022

A funny thing happened on the way to Russia’s impending conquest of Bakhmut. On Thursday, reports of locations of fighting weren’t just no closer to the city center than they had been on Wednesday, but many of those reports were actually farther away. Then came reports that Bakhmut had stabilized. This was followed by the inevitable third act—reports that Russia has been once again pushed back down the shell-cratered length of Patrisa Lumumby Street. Past the winery. Past the concrete factory. Past menswear and the aisle where they sell vacuum cleaners. And finally …

Additionally there are reports that Russian forces have retreated from the garbage plant, southeast of Bakhmut. This is not yet confirmed.

— NOËL 🇪🇺 🇺🇦 (@NOELreports) December 16, 2022

As for those blocks of streets along the eastern side of the city where Russia was reportedly advancing on Wednesday, it now appears that Russia did move into the city two or three blocks, but only two or three blocks. Telegram sources indicate that Ukrainian forces have isolated the Russian troops in that area and most have either been forced to retreat or eliminated.

Pro-Russian bloggers will just have to put up their party hats and unschedule the “Russia captures Bakhmut” celebration. Again.

Repeat of earlier map. Open in another tab for a better view.

This doesn’t mean the situation in the area isn’t still serious. On Thursday alone, Ukrainian forces repelled attacks at 22 different locations along the eastern front. That includes Hryhorivka, Vyimka, Yakovlivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Klishchiivka, Andriivka, Kurdiumivka, Ozarianivka, Druzhba, Oleksandropil, Novobakhmutivka, Nevelske, Maryinka, Pobieda, and Novomykhailivka, along with Bakhmut itself. That’s an extraordinary list of attacks, even if each one only involves a few dozen soldiers and a handful of vehicles. However, the key thing about that list isn’t any particular name; it’s the word “repelled.” At none of these locations did Russian forces appear to make any significant advance.

The fight is still difficult. The losses and destruction are still heartbreaking. And … Bakhmut holds.

#Bakhmut Zabakhmutka district. Fully under control of the Ukrainian army 🇺🇦

— Albir 24 🇪🇺🇪🇸🇺🇦 (parody) (@albir2024) December 16, 2022

Zabakhmutka is a district on the southeastern corner of Bakhmut—exactly where Russia appeared to be invading in the last two days.

There are videos available this morning showing Ukrainian forces hunting down at least two separate groups of what are reportedly Wagner mercenaries in the Bakhmut area. I’m not posting either, as they both end the same way—with a heap of Russian bodies. Let’s just say that it doesn’t appear that Russia is waltzing into Bakhmut this week, and if you’re so inclined, the videos are out there. This video, taken near Ozarianivka 10km south of Bakhmut, shows another Russian force being taken out, possibly with M30A1 “alternate warheads” launched using HIMARS, or by fragmentation and high explosive shells fired from M777 artillery. [WARNING: If you stick around to the end, you’ll literally be watching a body count as Ukrainian forces use drones to total up the Russians taken out by these blasts.]

Earlier reports from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense indicated that long-serving units in the Bakhmut area were being cycled out, new units were coming in, and a “new strategy” was in place. Many analysts (including me) assumed that the apparent losses of territory that happened over the last week were related to this change in strategy. However, at the moment, the new strategy is looking a lot like the old strategy: Hold Bakhmut and let Russia lose lots, and lots, and lots of forces attempting to take it. If anything has changed, it’s not Russia’s enormous casualty rate in the area.

At the moment, we’re probably not back to where things stood a week ago, with Russia still holding positions closer to the eastern outskirts, but things seem to be trending away from Bakhmut, rather than closer. 

In addition to ground attacks, Thursday was another big day for Russia, launching missile and drone assaults on civilian centers and utility infrastructure. Reports indicate that Russia launched at least 76 missiles, 60 of which were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses. One missile strike in Kryvyy Rih struck in a residential area, leaving an unknown number of casualties, and at least one reported death.

This is the residential building in Kryvyy Rih (southeastern Ukraine) that was hit by a Russian missile this morning No military objects anywhere near. People are stuck under the rubble. The rescue operation is under way right now. 📷

— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) December 16, 2022

Another missile managed to cut power to the Kharkiv area. Since Russia was pushed out of artillery range in September, the hard-hit city of Kharkiv has been the single largest target for Russian missiles. The city continues to face almost daily assault, with missiles, drones, and long-range MLRS fire directed from across the Russian border, with little to none of it apparently aimed at military targets. This image of a “missile graveyard” in Kharkiv, where fragments of fallen missiles have been dragged for safe disposal, dates to Dec. 7.  The missiles are still falling.

Almost all of the missiles pictured here, originally fell on residential areas of Kharkiv.

According to the General Staff, in addition to the 76 missiles, Russia launched 23 air strikes. Those also included strikes on civilian objects in Kharkiv city. Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second-largest city, but its proximity to the border has kept it Russia’s #1 target … even though there is absolutely no military value in attacking Kharkiv. As of Friday morning, electricity was off over much of Kharkiv city and the surrounding area following the latest round of missile strikes.

In addition to the missiles, Russia reportedly launched a number of Shahed-136 drones from the Black Sea or coastal regions, with at least 13 drones targeting the Kyiv area. All of these drones were reportedly shot down.

Just a few weeks ago, the Shahed drones were routinely penetrating Ukrainian airspace, reaching their targets, and wrecking infrastructure. The drones gave Russia’s shrinking supply of missiles a large and relatively low-cost boost. However, now those drones appear to be all but useless as Ukraine has both added air defenses and learned about how drones can be shot down with ordinary weapons. It may be that the Shahed-136 was a terror weapon for just a few terrible weeks. Now it’s just target practice for Ukraine.

Speaking of shooting down an aircraft with a weapon not designed for air defense, this guy shot down a missile with a machine gun.

💪Боєць ТрО збив на Київщині ракету з кулемета.

— Pilot SamolyotОFF 🇺🇦 (@pilotmsv) December 16, 2022

Send him to Kharkiv.

On Thursday evening, pro-Russian sources posted a video of the Russian BMPT “Terminator” armored fighting vehicle in action, supposedly near Kreminna. According to these Russian sources, the Terminator—seen firing all weapons in all directions—so “unnerved” Ukrainian forces that they gave up the attempt on the city.

Except they forgot to tell Ukraine. Because reports on Thursday evening and Friday morning indicate that Ukrainian troops in the forest south and west of Kreminna are closer than ever. On Thursday, Ukraine repelled Russian attacks at Novoselivske and Stelmakhivka near Svatove, and at Ploshchanka and Chervonopopivka near Kreminna. Again, the keyword is “repelled.” Ukraine has consolidated these positions, reinforced them, and now holds not just fire control on the highways west of Svatove, but actual physical control of the highway north of Kreminna.

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

Russia reportedly attempted to make an advance south of Kreminna, moving around Ukrainian forces in a move toward Bilohorivka. That attack also failed. 

Those images of the “terminator” seem to show it moving along a major highway. So if this was in the Kreminna area, it was probably north of the city, where Ukraine continues to advance. In fact, Russia reportedly shelled positions near Zhytlivka, so Ukraine could be closer to the city on the north than this map shows. Also, there was something about those terminator videos. The terminator … terminated itself.

russia released a propaganda video with the BMPT “Terminator” in it. Lol. Lmao, even 🤣 Probably only got 4 seconds outta it before it went kaboom on its own turret challenge submission.

— Justartsandstuff 🇨🇦🇺🇦🇹🇼🇮🇷 (@justartsndstuff) December 11, 2022

Ukrainian Pravda is reporting that a Ukrainian strike on a Russian base at Horlivka, about 5km back from the front lines in occupied Donetsk, was guided to the right position not by drones, but by Ukrainian partisans on the ground.

“The operation became possible thanks to the coordination of the resistance and the Armed Forces. The military received data on the location of the occupiers’ personnel and their equipment. As a result, Ukrainian forces conducted the operation using the coordinates. According to preliminary data, over 100 enemy personnel and equipment were destroyed.”

No location on this, but since I couldn’t find a new dancing soldiers video this morning, you’ll have to settle for Ukrainian forces advancing on Russian positions. 

Ukrainian Armed Forces advancing…#UkrainianArmy

— Ukrainian News24 (@UkrainianNews24) December 16, 2022

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