The Russo-Ukrainian War – Day 348

Russia continues attacking at various spots along the front line. This includes attacking north near Svatove, around Kreminna, both to the north and south of Bakhmut, and at Vuhledar. It does not appear that the front has stabilized and currently the initiative lies with Russia.

The situation around Bakhmut appears to be slowly worsening for Ukraine. Russia appears to be trying to envelop Bakhmut from the south. Map of the front lines is provided here, dated 6 February: Update from Ukraine | Critical 72 hours for Bakhmut | Massive attack is planned in 10 days – YouTube.

Russia has had control of Soledar since the 12th/16th of January and has expanded its control of areas to the immediate west of the town. Soledar is 7 miles (12 kilometers) to the NW of Bakhmut. To the north of there, they are now threatening the village of Bilohorivka. Further to the north, they have made some advances to the west of Kreminna.

Well to the south of Bakhmut, Russia was also pushing towards the village of Vuhledar. Their first attacks appear to have stopped with losses, but they have picked up again.

None of these appear to be major attacks. Still waiting for one side or the other to start their great winter offensives. Lot of rumors. I mean, back in November the Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine was saying that they could be in Crimea by the end of the December. 

No major air bombardments this week. On 25 Jan., it was 55 missiles and the Ukrainians claimed to have shot down 47 (85%). The previous night 24 Shahed Iranian drones were launched, supposedly all were shot down. So the effect of the bombardment on the infrastructure was limited, but 11 civilians were killed. Meanwhile, someone is bombing Iranian manufacturing facilities in Iran. An independent article from a colleague on the effectiveness of this bombardment campaign: Why Putin’s attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure could backfire – Responsible Statecraft

The U.S. and every in and around Europe is now providing tanks to Ukraine. This includes 31 Abrams (M1A2) from the U.S., the previously announced 40 AMX-10 light tanks from France, the previously announced 14 Challengers from the UK, 14 Leopards (2A6) from Germany announced on the 25th Jan. plus they are going to provide 14 more later, 14 or so Leopards (2A4?) from Poland, probably 20 Leopards (2A4) from Spain, maybe 18 Leopards from Netherlands, Portugal is sending 4 (2A6) out of their 37, and 4 to 8 (2A4) from Norway out of their 36. Also, Morocco is providing Ukraine with 173 T-74s EA, 70 are already in Ukraine. It does appear in a number of cases the announcements are lagging behind the actual shipments of tanks. Poland is providing Ukraine with another 60 upgraded T-72s. It has already sent Ukraine some 260 or more tanks.

Twelve countries in NATO have Leopards. Germany is saying that a total of around 80 will be sent between them all. My count is now up to at least 70 Leopards from five or six different countries. People are also now talking about sending all the stored German Leopard Is. There are reportedly 160 of them. Not sure how many are combat capable.

From a practical point of view, it means that around four or so Ukrainian tank battalions will be armed up with Abrams/Leopards/Challengers. Ukraine has over 30 tank battalions. They should probably be in place for the spring offensives. Some of the Canadian Leopard 2s have already arrived in Poland.

I will put any changes/updates since my last post in italics. A link to a blow up of the map is here: Wikipedia mapIt is dated 6 February. The map is showing Soledar as taken on 16 January 2023.

Map from 13 January 2023 of Bakhmut area is from @War_Mapper:

Russia currently occupies five cities: Lysychansk (pop. 95,031), Severodonetsk (pop. 101,135), Mariupol (pop. 431,859), Berdyansk (pop. 107,928) and Melitopol (pop. 150,768). Kherson (pop. 283,649) was retaken by Ukraine on 11 November.

 

We have been looking at six major areas of operations. Only the Donbas appears to be active right now. 

1. Kyiv (pop: 2,962,180): It appears that Kyiv is secure. The previous major missile attack was on 14 January. The attacks over the two nights were not particular effective. They are now spacing out the major missile attacks to around once every two weeks.

2. Odesa (pop: 1,015,826): Appears to be secureRussia has rejoined the grain deal that they withdraw from on 29 October as a result of Ukrainian attacks on Russian ships near Sevastopol, and they have renewed the grain deal for another 120 days. The shipments still continue and the agreement between Russia, Ukraine and Turkey has resulted in almost twenty million tons of grain shipped by sea. As of 5 February, the amount of grain shipped from Ukrainian ports and across the Black Sea was 19,906,037 metric tonnes carried in 707 ships according to recent posts on twitter by @exit266. There are 42 days left to the agreement. The Russians did hit a Turkish ship in Odesa. I am guessing that is an accident, as Turkey is one of the few NATO countries that Russia has any dialogue with.

3. Kharkiv (pop: 1,433,886): Kharkiv looks to be secure. Still, it is near the Russian border, so this can change suddenly. 

4. The Donetsk and Luhansk provinces (the Donbas): Lysychansk has fallen as of 3 July 2022. Severodonetsk has fallen as of 25 June. According to Ukraine only 10,000 civilians remained in Severodonetsk and only 12,000 remained in Lysychansk. Severodonetsk residents as of 7 August still do not have water. Slovyansk (pop. 106,972) and Kramatorsk (pop. 150,084) appear safe now. It was claimed there are only about 22 – 24,000 people left in Slovyansk. 

In the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) first casualty report of 2023 they only report civilian deaths. They have not provided a complete casualty report since 16 December. They used to regularly provide them every week. They did provide an overview on 13 January but it did not include any military casualty data.

The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) is reporting as of 16 December that they had 4,133 soldiers killed and 17,379 wounded (4.20-to-1 wounded-to-killed ratio). This includes the 13 killed and 50 wounded reported from 01.01.22 to 02.25.22. This is 58 killed and 248 wounded the period from 2 – 8 December (4.28 wounded-to-killed ratio) and 74 killed and 226 wounded from 10 – 16 December (3.05-to-1 wounded-to-killed ratio). Not sure what happened to the 9th. For the period of 16 – 22 December (overlapping dates on 16 December) they report 43 killed, but do not report the wounded. Through the 16th, this is 108% casualties out of an estimated initial force of 20,000. The DPR website is back to posting and has backdated its post since 2 December. They have been very diligent about regularly updating this site. On 13 December, Daria Morozova, who heads the DPR Ombudsman reporting, stated to TASS that 104 DPR servicemen has been returned to the DPR. Overall, they report that 135 DPR fighters have been freed from Ukrainian captivity. She also reports that another 31 servicemen are undergoing medical treatment in other Russian regions. DPR servicemen being exchanged in prisoner exchanges is interesting in light of Ukraine actually trying them for treason (see below). On 11 January, they reported another 14 servicemen were released from captivity on 31 December, 2022 and on 16 January reported another 7 servicemen released from captivity that were part of the prisoner exchange of 8 January.

The DPR had been surprisingly diligent about regularly reporting their casualty figures. They have been reporting 64 to 95 killed a week since mid-August. Before then it was 127 for the week of 8.12.22-08.18.22, which is the highest since the week of 4.15.22-04.21.22 (225 killed). The number killed in December has dropped the last three weeks to 58/74/43 (through the 23rd), indicating a lower level of intensity. One wonders if some Russian losses or contractors are being included in these figures. Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) is reported as of 5 April to have had 500-600 killed out of an estimated force of 14,000. This is 21% casualties, assuming a 4-to-1 killed ratio. Don’t know how many of DPR and LPR forces are Russians from Russia as opposed to locals.

Ukraine hit a barracks in Makiivka on New Year’s Eve that is reported to have generated hundreds of Russian casualties. Some of this has been confirmed by Russian bloggers. Sources close to the Donetsk leadership are saying the death toll is below a hundred. It is similar to the attack last month at Melitopol. Russian Defense Ministry is admitting to 63 killed and Russia has now confirmed that the deaths were 89 (and it could be higher). They say that they were attacked by six projectiles fired by HIMARS, two were shot down by Russian air defense and four hit the building. Russia has claimed that they hit the Ukrainians back at Kramatorsk with 600 killed, except that a ground investigation clearly shows this claim is false.

5. Mariupol (pop: 431,859): The population of the city is down to 100,000 or less. The mayor, who is no longer in the city, claimed that more than 10,000 people have been killed. The head of DPR (Donets People’s Republic) has said over 5,000 people have been killed. Ukraine is now claiming at least 22,000 civilians have been killed there. We have no evidence supporting a number this high. The city has been decimated, lots of buildings and houses destroyed. Mariupol has no power, gas or water. There was an explosion in Mariupol on 23 December. Two were injured.

There is a mass grave being reported outside of Mariupol near the town of Manhush. It looks like around 200 graves have been dug. Another mass grave is also being reported on 23 April. So far, they appear to be graves for hundreds of people, vice thousands. A third mass grave has been reported. I do have my doubts about some of the higher claims of civilians dead at Mariupol. They are reporting as of 7 July additional “mass burials” at Staryi Krym. Article is attached: https://www.ibtimes.com/mass-burial-site-near-mariupol-doubles-size-15000-ukrainians-likely-buried-there-3566928. Still not convinced that this demonstrates tens of thousands killed in Mariupol. 

Prisoner Exchanges: Russia has claimed that they captured 2,439 prisoners from the siege of Mariupol. Russian claimed on 30 Juen that they held 6,000 prisoners. Ukraine stated in early July that they had more than 7,000 missing. Now Ukraine is stating as of 30 December that Russian holds 3,400 prisoners and 15,000 Ukrainians are missing. There has been over 1,000 prisoners exchanged. Unless the ones held from Mariupol are not being counted in this new estimate, the math does not match up.

In 2022 there were 1,447 prisoners of war exchanged, 112 civilians and five foreigners. Of those, at least 427 were from Mariupol/Azovstal. Latest prisoner exchange on 8 January was for 50 prisoners. Another prisoner exchange on 4 February of 116. Some of these Ukrainian prisoners had been in captivity for almost a year. 

The Ukrainian Omsbudsman has stated in late January that 800 severely wounded Ukrainians are held as POWs. He also stated that they hold 200 severely wounded Russians.

At least 427 of the Mariupol/Azovstal captives have been returned to Ukraine and up to 53 were killed in captivity. It appears that 53 Ukrainian prisoners were killed when the building exploded that they were housed at in Olenivka near Donetsk (actually it appears that the figure may be 42). One Russian, possibly a recently exchanged prisoner, was executed by the Russian Wagner Group for treason using a sledgehammer.  

There is a recent UN report on prisoners of war that is worth looking at. They interviewed 159 prisoners held by Russia and 175 held by Ukraine: Ukraine / Russia: Prisoners of war | OHCHR. They report that the vast majority of the Ukrainian prisoners of war they interviewed were tortured and ill-treated. In the case of Russian prisoners, they received credible allegations of summary executions of persons hors de combat and several cases of torture and ill-treatment. Both Russia and Ukraine are signatories to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. This article is worth reading: In Ukraine, families scramble for news of their POWs – CSMonitor.com.

6. Crimea & Kherson (pop: 283,649): Kherson is now back under Ukrainian control as of 11 November. It is secure but in range of Russian artillery fire and will be for a while. Not sure what the current remaining population is there. I gather it is tens of thousands of people. It was shelled Christmas eve and ten civilians were killed. There appears to be no military reason for this attack. Kherson and parts of Kherson province continued to be shelled.

Melitopol still has 70,000 residents. Mykoliav, which is still sometimes hit by Russian ordnance, is reportedly down to about 230,000 residents out of its pre-war population of 480,000.

On 5 December Putin did drive a German Mercedes across the bridge at Kerch straight. More videos for the home front morale.

Big hit on barracks in Melitopol on 10 December. Up to 200 Russians may have been in the barracks. Don’t have a reliable count of casualties, but the videos of the attack are truly scary. I assume this was done by HIMARs. Have heard nothing further on this strike that would confirm the casualties.

On 13 January a car was blown up in Berdyansk, indicating continued activity behind the lines.

 

Weather: Kharkiv at 2 PM: It is 29 degrees (-2 Celsius) and cloudy. Snow is forecasted for Sunday, otherwise it is clear for the week. For the next 10 days, it is freezing at nights and freezing during all but one day. Sunrise is now at 7:00 and sunset is at 4:37, giving them over nine hours of daytime to operate it. 

Kherson is 32 degrees (0 Celsius) and cloudy. It is clear for the next ten days. For the next 10 days, it is freezing at night and slightly above freezing during most of the days. Sunrise at 7:06 and sunset at 5:00.

It does appear they now have the weather they want for operations to start. Not sure either side is ready for this. I suspect serious offensives will not start until Spring. Spring in 1943 meant around 1 May. It was too wet and muddy before then.

Ukrainian Army Build-up:

We now have lots of tanks being promised to Ukraine, see discussion at the start of this blog post. UK has announced that it will provide 14 Challenger 2’s along with 30 AS-90 self-propelled artillery systems. UK is also providing Bulldogs, FV 432 APCs. Ukrainian crews have already started training on the Leopard. France has not ruled out providing Le Clerc tanks.

The German Leopard 2 is still in production and is the M1-A2, after declining to production of one tank a month in 2016. These tanks are superior to anything that the Russians deploy. I suspect they will be in place to use come this spring.

The EU has finally approved 500 million Euros in aid to Ukraine. This time Hungary did not object.

Ammo is the big story now, with the U.S. doing serious increase in artillery shell production. We have supposedly already sent 1 million rounds to Ukraine. We are currently producing 14K 155mm rounds a month. Expect to have 20K a month by spring and a whole lot more later. The hope is now to expand production to 90,000 rounds of 155mm rounds per month by 2025. As of January 18, the U.S. committed to providing Ukraine with 160 M-777 Howitzers and almost 1.1 million 155mm rounds. The Ukrainians have sometimes fired as much at 28K rounds in two days.

Ukraine is also producing 152mm rounds. I do not know what Russian production is, but suspect it is less. Just a reminder, in the long run GDP = military power. Not sure why this concept is so hard for some people to grasp (including Hitler and Tojo).

It was reported that Turkey was providing DPICM cluster munitions to Ukraine since November 2022. The U.S. so far has refused to. Turkey has denied doing so, but suspect Ukraine is getting cluster munitions from somewhere in Turkey.

The big news is what is occurring off the battlefield, where U.S. and other international aid is now providing more than $100 billion in aid to Ukraine. Over the long run this will change the military balance between Ukraine and Russia, unless Russia fully mobilizes for war. They seem hesitant to do this. The last G-7 meeting has committed to providing indefinite support to Ukraine for its defense against the Russian invasion. The reality is that they will have to dish out $100 billion a year for 2023 and maybe 2024 or longer to make this work. 

My original off-the-cuff estimate was that Ukraine needed $100-120 billion in aid a year.The U.S. has earmarked in its defense budget $44.9 billion for Ukraine for FY 2023, so it does appear that they will be doing their part in 2023. As long as the west is willing to provide Ukraine $100+ million a year in aid, I don’t see how Ukraine can lose the fight. This all points to the war continuing until at least the fall of 2023.

The U.S. defense budget has been signed by the President. It has been increased to $858. This includes $44.9 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and NATO. Last year’s budget was $768 billion. This defense budget is almost half the GDP of Russia.

On the twitter account @ianbremmer he has posted the following aid chart on 21 December for Ukraine:

Eyeballing the chart shows 48 + 30 + 7 + 6 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 2 +1 + 1 + 1 +1 + 1 +1 +1 = 109 billion in aid provided in 2022.

We so far have not sent Ukraine any of the 300-kilometer range ATACMS missiles and as of 15 September, have indicated that we have no plans to do so. Russia has been protesting strenuously against this. This range would give Ukraine the ability to completely cover Sevastopol and strike at the bridge on the Kerch straight connection the rest of the Russia to Crimea. Russia has been moving many of its ships from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk in Russia, out of the 300-kilometer range. On the other hand, the Ukrainian R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles that sunk the Russian cruiser Moskva also have a range of up to 280 kilometers (170 miles) kilometers and can certainly reach Sevastopol and I gather the bridge from Kerch to Crimea. As we have seen from the Ukrainian strike on Saki Airbase in Crimea on 9 August, they already have the ability to reach out and touch the Russians well behind the lines.

Poland is now providing Ukraine with updated Soviet T-72s, the PT-91 Twardy. Some claim 200 are being provided. Poland has already provided Ukraine with 240 Polish T-72s. Decenko is showing 270 tanks provided by Poland out of 320+ total provided by NATO. As of early December, Poland has made a deal with South Korea to receive 180 Korean K2 tanks and plans to self-produce 840 more of them starting in 2026. They are also planning for 672 new K-9A1 artillery systems. This will free up more T-91 Tawdy tanks and 2S1 Gvozdika artillery for Ukraine. 

Turkey has provided Ukraine with 50 Kirpi APCs, and another 150 more are expected, but I do not see Turkey flag on his graphic. Slovenia as of 19 September will provide Ukraine with 28 M-55S MBTs, which is a heavily upgraded version of the old Soviet T-55. Canada has provided Ukraine with 39 ACSVs. This was announced in June, they started arriving in Ukraine in October and only in December have they been spotted on the front lines. There is a lag between announcement and deployment. 

In the first week of January the U.S., Germany and France have promised Ukraine modern IFVs and light tanks (50 Bradleys, 40 Marders, and some AMX-10s wheeled lights tanks with 105mm guns, along with a couple of Patriot batteries). I assume it will be a few weeks before they show up on the battlefield. There are videos of Bradleys and Abrams moving by train across Poland towards the east. There were reports the previous week that the 47th Assault Brigade is now training in Grafenwoehr Germany on the U.S. Bradley’s. This is only two weeks after their transfer was announced. It is the older @1991 version of the Bradley with wire guided TOW AT missiles instead of Javelins. The 47th Assault Brigade is also armed with Slovenian M-55S tanks.

The latest U.S. aid package includes not only 50 Bradleys, but also 18 155mm M-109 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, and 36 105mm towed howitzers (to add to the 178 already provided), 100 M-113 APCs, 55 MRAPs, 138 HMMWVs (Hummers), RIM-7 Sea Sparrow Surface-to-air missile, and ammunition, claymores (mine not sword), spare parts, etc. It also appears that Italy has provided Ukraine with at least 6 PzH-2000 SP 155m SP Howitzer and they already deployed at the front. Denmark is providing Ukraine with 19 Ceasar 155mm SP artillery systems. Estonia, which shares a border with Russia, is now saying they are going to provide Ukraine with all their 155mm Howitzer. I guess they figure their primary threat is Russia and it is better to commit everything to Ukraine to fight them then to hold back and wait for some other day. I kind of think that logic applies to most of the states in Europe.

The focus is now on providing missile defense to Ukraine. So far Germany has provided 30-50 Gepards and is promising a Apside SAM battery and some older Hawk SAMs. The U.S. has provided considerable SAM help. They are now going to provide 8 NASAMS, two of which have already arrived, and I gather have already provided 1,400 Stingers. The U.S. has informally agreed to provide Ukraine with Patriots and appears to be moving rapidly to deploy them. It has set up training for them. Germany is also now providing them with Patriots. The Dutch are now providing Ukraine with Patriots. They have three batteries, so suspect they are providing them with at least one battery. There were 193 Dutch citizens on Malaysian flight MH-17.

The Dutch are also open to providing Ukraine with F-16sIt does look like the Slovakian Mig-29s were retired on 27 August but have yet to be shipped to Ukraine. They had 11 in service.

Do not know the current strength of the deployed Ukrainian Army but am guessing that it is between 200,000 to 300,000 troops. They clearly are going to have to build it up to 400,000 or more in response to Russia’s partial mobilization. There is a Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force of 100,000 to 200,000. Wikipedia was reporting 209,000 in their armed forces and 102,000 paramilitary. They are now reporting their armed forces at 196,600. President Zelensky said on 21 May that 700,000 soldiers are defending Ukraine. Most of those are militia. The Ukrainian army is around 200,000 and I gather is going to grow to 300,000. It does take a while to build up an army and training in the middle of a war is always a challenge. The upper limit of mobilization is around 5% of the population (there have been cases where it has been higher). So Ukraine with a population of 40 million can build up an army of 2 million, especially if it continues to receive significant outside help.

The Azov Regiment that was holding in Mariupol was actually a National Guard unit. That is the case with some of the foreign volunteer battalions also. There are some foreign volunteer units that have been there a while, including two Chechen battalions and a Georgian unit.

The two Chechen battalions include the older established Dudayev Battalion of several hundred men and a new battalion of men formed mostly from Chechen emigrees from other parts of Europe. These units are not under formal command of the Ukrainian military. The Ukrainian parliament on 18 October voted to recognize Chechnya as an independent country.

There also the independent Belarussian Kastus Kalinouski Battalion, which as of 5 March is reported to have 200 members. It is reported that they have had thousands of volunteers. The existence of this unit, of course, threatens to bring the war into Belarus at some point. One can envision a number of such scenarios in a few months or a few years.

There is also a group of Russian defectors and dissidents fighting for Ukraine, called the Freedom of Russia Legion. It was created in March 2022. It is reported to be more than 500 people. It has been joined by the ex-vice chairman of Gazprombank, Igor Volobuyev. Among its stated goals is the disposition of Russia president Putin. See: https://web.archive.org/web/20220408160703/https://time.com/6165422/russians-in-ukraine/ and Former Gazprombank executive Igor Volobuev joins the Freedom to Russia Legion within the Ukrainian Armed Forces (novayagazeta.eu).

On 31 August the Svoboda Rossii (Freedom of Russia) Legion that is part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the newly appearing National Republican Army (NRA) have created a political union headed a Russian former deputy of the Duma, Ilya Ponomarev. The NRA is the mysterious new opposition movement inside of Russia that is known only to the Kiev-based Ponomarev. They claim to have assassinated Darya Dugina. There is also a “Russian Volunteer Corps” in Ukraine that has not yet agreed to this political union. Still, this does indicate that some permanent Russian opposition is forming in Ukraine, however insignificant. It could become significant given time. 

Do not have a good estimate of the total number of foreign volunteers now in Ukraine, although it is clearly thousands.

Russian Army Build-up:  

Ukraine is reporting that around 280,000 Russians are deployed in Ukraine. This seems a reasonable estimate. On 4 November Putin stated at 318,000 reservists and “new volunteers” have been mobilized and 49,000 are in combat zones.I assume the Russian army in Ukraine was at about 200,000 at the start of this mobilization. Ukrainian press is now reporting that Russia is going to mobilize another 500,000 starting 15 January. Now their minister is saying Russia recruited 500,000 soldiers in their call up of reservists. We shall see if these rumors are correct. Ukraine will have to respond in kind.

The U.S. and UK estimate that the Wagner Group had 50,000 people in December 2022. Have no idea if this estimate is accurate.

The Russian defense budget for 2023 is $159 billion, up from $111 billion in 2022. This appears to now be around 9% of GDP.

Opposing forces: Ukraine had before the war an army (ground forces) of 169,000 in 2016. The Russian army (not armed forces) was 280,000. The current Ukrainian army is now probably over 200,000. The Russian army (ground forces) in and around Ukraine is probably around 150,000 (up to 190,000). Donetsk PR is estimated at 20,000 and Lugansk at 14,000. Russia has added at least 41,000 troops to the front line from their new partial mobilization effort and will be adding more. Potentially up to 300,000. Most likely by the spring next year, both armies will be sporting 400,000 or more troops. It does appear that by next spring, the level of intensity and casualties from this war will be a count twice as high as it currently has been.

General Valery Zaluzhny, the head of the Ukrainian armed forces, said in an interview on 16 December that Russia is preparing 200,000 fresh troops to launch another attack on Kiev in February or March or maybe late January. This is sort of line with my assumption that the Russian Army in Ukraine will be built up to around 400,000 troops by spring. Suspect the same or more for Ukraine. On the other hand, a Ukrainian minister is now saying the Russians recruited 500,000 late last year (instead of 300,000) and so therefore will be employing superior numbers against Ukraine. Not sure this is the case. 

Economics and the Home Fronts:

On 30 December the Prime Minister of Ukraine said that Ukraine managed to harvest 60 million tons of crops. In 2021 according to the Kyiv Independent Ukraine harvested 84 million tons of cereals and legumes, as well as 22.6 million tons of oilseed. This was actually the largest harvest in the recent history of Ukraine (since 1991). This was primarily due to favorable weather conditions (they are being helped by global warming?). In 2021 Ukraine had 42 million hectares of farmland which covers 70% of the country. Large agro-corporations operated 6 million of these hectares, small and medium agro-companies operated on 11 million. In 2020 Ukraine’s agricultural sector made up 9% of their GDP. A 20-year moratorium on land transactions was officially lifted on July 1, 2021.

According to Ukraine’s economic ministry. the Ukrainian economy shrank by 30.4% in 2022. I have seen an estimated for Ukraine of 45% decline in the economy and IMF has estimated a 35% decline (and 8.5% for Russia). Not sure that is the case anymore with $100+ billion in aid coming in (Ukrainian GDP was $181 billion in 2021). According to Ukraine, its GDP has dropped by 30% in the first nine months of this year. According to Zelenskyy, thanks to the October round of missile attacks, 30% of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed. 

A recent late January poll said that 87% of Ukrainians support joining the EU while 86% support joining NATO. Don’t know how accurate that poll is, but it sounds about right.

The IIF (Institute of International Finance) is estimating that the Russian economy will shrink by 15% this year and 3% in 2023. This is in line with previously reported estimates of an 8-12% decline in the Russian economy. The IMF has just made a forecast as of 27 July that the Russian economy will only shrink 6% this year. The previous IMF forecast in April was an 8.5% contraction. The IMF is still looking at a 3.5% contraction in 2023. According to a study from Yale, foreign companies accounted for 40% of Russia’s GDP.  Russia is going to be hurt by this in the long run.

Latest updates on the Russian economy has inflation running at 12-15% for the year. The Russian central bank in August revised it GDP forecast to shrink by 4-6%. Back in April it was saying 8-10% contraction. The IMF is also currently predicting a 6% contraction. The problem for Russia is that much of the decline appears permanent and will continue into 2023 and for as long as the war continues. The Russian economy is now officially in a recession. GDP fell by 4% in the third quarter after a 4% contraction in the second quarter. This is 4% contraction overall for the year. Meanwhile the U.S. GDP is growing by 2.9% (November estimate).

Russia has lost professional workers to flight from the country. The Federal State Statistic Service (Rosstat) is reporting 419,00 left Russia in the first half of 2022. They are claiming that 321,000 have returned. These are lower figures than people have previously reported (see paragraph below). See: Rosstat: Since the beginning of the year, 419 thousand people have left russia – DW – 06.09.2022

It has previously been reported that 3.9 million Russians left the country in the first three months of 2022. This obviously was not permanent migration. A recent non-governmental survey states that the average age of Russians who left the county after Feb. 24 is 32 years old, while 80% of them have a higher education degree. Between January and May of 2022, the population of the Russian Federation fell by over 430,000 people, 20% of those having left the country according to Rosstat. The long-term impact on Russia of this is significant and it may affect the country for decades. This article is worthwhile: ‘We realized that there’s no way we can return’: Russia’s best and brightest are leaving the country in record numbers. 6 young Russians explain why they left (msn.com). The Central Bank of Russia is reporting that 458 billion rubles (7.46 billion dollars) has been withdrawn from personal accounts since 21 September. The estimated GDP of Russia $2.133 trillion (IMF 2022), or 1.776 trillion (World Bank 2021) or 1.483 trillion (United Nations 2020). So, this is 0.3% to 0.5% of GDP that I am guessing has just migrated out of the country in the last month.

Added to that professional migration, it is estimated by the Gaidar Institute (which is still independent) that 250 to 350,000 people have left because the partial mobilization. See: IGOR YEFREMOV: “RAPID DEPARTURE OF EVEN A FEW HUNDRED THOUSAND RUSSIANS OF WORKING AGE CAUSES A VISIBLE BLOW TO THE LABOR MARKET” (The Gaidar Institute) (iep.ru). This is also lower than some previous claims (for example Forbes says 600,000 to 700,000, see above under “Russian Army Build-up”). Still, this adds up to potentially a half-million or more who have left the country because of the war. 

A major part of this war is about who is getting hurt the worst economically and how long people can stand the pain. The IMF predictions for the EU is 2.6% growth for 2022 and 2.3% growth for the U.S. This is down from the over 5% growth both experienced last year. Eurozone inflation for October is up to 10.7%, so this part of Putin’s plan is working. Whether it will be enough over the next six months to turn Europe away from supporting Ukraine is another subject. From a practical point of view, around half the aid going to Ukraine is the from the U.S., the other half is from the EU. There is some other international support (like Japan). 

Price of oil (Brent Crude) is still hovering down to 81.10 as of 8:24 AM. This is starting to get very low. I gather it is below $90 because of reduced demand from China. This lower price does hurt Russia. Saudi Arabia and OPEC decided in October to cut production by 2 billion barrels. This cut clearly helped Russia and may have affected U.S. politics. It is a dangerous political play by Saudi Arabia considering that its leadership is not well loved in the west. Saudi Arabia has announced $400 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Saudi currently produces around 10.6 million barrels a day. As I pointed out in an old post below $80 a barrel used to be the point where the Russian government budget would go into the red. Needless to say, low oil prices starve the Russian war machine. The Ruble has declined to 70.73 to the dollar, probably because of declining oil prices. The Ukrainian Hryvnia is steady at 36.57 to a dollar.

The reduction in energy imports had led to a $5.9 billion budget shortfall for Russia in August, as their government budget is mostly tied to taxes on their energy sector. They previously were running in the black. They are now reporting that the Russian government is having to do a 10% across the board cut because of the budget shortfalls. I gather that most energy exports to the west are now ending. Do not know the economic impact of that.

The cost to the west of this war includes, in part, an inflation rate that last in September that was 9.1% in the U.S. (but is currently near 0%), was 8.6% in the EU (is currently at 8.9%) and was 9.4% in UK. 

The daughter of Russia oligarch and nationalist Alexander Dugin, Daria Dugina (age 29), was blown up in her car on 20 August by what appears to be a remote-controlled detonated bomb. While I have assumed that the most likely option was that it was just business and Dugin was the target, the U.S. intelligence services appear to have concluded that it was done under direction of elements in the Ukrainian government, using the lady (with her 12-year old child with her) who Russia previously was reported to have run off to Estonia The U.S. did not know about this, and certainly would have objected if they did. President Zelenskyy may not have known about this before it happened.

A new outfit called the National Republican Army (NRA) has taken credit for this through a pronouncement read by a Ukrainian-based former Russian Duma member Ilya Ponomarev. Nobody has heard of these people before. It is an alleged partisan group working to overthrow the government of Putin. Ponomarev (b. 1975) was only member of the Russian Duma to vote against the annexation of Crimea back in March 2014. Needless to say, he no longer lives in Russia. The NRA’s leader is “Aleksandr.” Don’t know how many people are in the organization besides him.

It does appear that Putin has ridden out the political blowback from the partial mobilization. This has included 1) municipal councils in St. Petersburg and Moscow petitioning for his removal; 2) street protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere against the mobilization. According to OVD-Info, so far 16,437 people have been arrested or detained in Russia for anti-war activism since the start of the invasion and at least another 1,300 were detained or arrested around 21 September, 3) famed musician Alla Pugacheva speaking out against the invasion, and 4) mass migration from the country that may be as many as a half-million people. Still, it appears the government is securely in power and are going continue the war for 2023.

On 9 December, there was a big explosion at an empty shopping mall in Moscow. Hard to tell what was going on. Not every single fire in Russia is related to this war. Another defenestration case on 24 December. This time it was a Russian oligarch at a party in India. At least 22 Russian oligarchs and senior business executives have died this year. This has generated speculation, but there appears to be no unifying theme to their deaths, except that eight of them have fallen out of windows/balconies/downstairs/cliffs/boats. The average life expectancy for men in Russia is 66.49 years (World Bank 2020). For the U.S. it is 74.50 and for Norway it is 81.60.

Casualties: The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian miliary, Valerii Zaluzhny, on 21 August stated that almost 9,000 Ukrainian military have died in the war. This is a lower estimate than most people have given (although we have leaned towards the lower estimates). Not sure if these figures included militia losses (like Azov Regiment). If Ukraine lost almost 9,000, then hard to believe the Russian losses are that much higher. On 1 December a presidential advisor stated that Ukraine has lost between 10,000 and 13,000 troops killed.

I did do a briefing on 7 December in Norway that concluded:

Losses in 2022:

Ukrainian Army:

  • 13,500 – 16,500 killed
  • 54,000 – 66,000 wounded
  • 6,000 captured
  • 1,000 missing

Russian Army:

  • 16,028 – 19,028 killed (including LPR and DPR)
  • 64,112 – 76,112 wounded
  • 1,000 captured
  • 1,000? missing

Civilians:

  • 6,655 killed as of 1 December
  • Real figure is probably thousands more

The (slightly edited) full briefing is here (the figures are on slide 46): Some Observations from the War in Ukraine (2)

The Pentagon has just claimed that total Russian losses may exceed 110K. That is in line with my figures. BBC News Russia and an independent Russia media outlet called Mediazona records 10,720 Russians killed in 2022 and have added another 942 deaths for January 1-17 2023. This is a count of casualties by name that is developed by reviewing Russian announcements, obituaries, etc. As such, it certainly undercounts deaths to a degree. 

The Russian Defense Minister is now claiming as of 21 September that they have lost 5,937 killed in this war. This is their first update since March. This figure is probably low. A BBC News effort to count Russian casualties by name from open sources has come up with a figure of 6,476 as of 15 September. There are also losses of 3,069 for the DPR and at least 600 for the LPR (and I suspect the figure is higher). So, it appears that Russia and their allied losses are at least 9,606 killed and this probably does not include Chechens or the Wagner Group. He also claimed that almost 90% of the wounded have already returned to service and Ukrainian losses were 61,207 dead and 49,368 wounded. On 21 September, the Ukrainian General Staff put Russian killed at 55,110. On 25 March the Russian Defense Ministry stated that their losses were 1,351 Russians killed and 3,825 wounded (a 2.83-to-1 wounded-to-killed ratio).

The BBC Russia count of Russian dead is up to 7,822 Russians reported killed as of 21 October. This includes 41 recent draftees. My general sense is that the Russia army let itself get seriously depleted and should have started partial mobilization sooner. Sending recently mobilized troops to hold the line is not a good use of personnel.

There are rumors in mid-October that Russian has suffered 90,000 irrecoverable losses. Sources are reports from Russian news service Meduza quoting unnamed FSB source (would FSB know Army losses?). An irrecoverable loss is killed, seriously wounded or missing. So maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of those losses are killed, which does produce a figure on the high side in my opinion. I assume Ukraine does know how many Russians it has captured, but I have never seen a figure for that.

Meanwhile the Ukrainian deputy defense minister on 16 October is claiming that they exchanging losses with the Russians at a rate of 1 to 6.5. I do not trust such a claim. 

The UN is reporting as of 30 January at least 7,110 civilians confirmed dead in the war. Of those 4,144 of the deaths are in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk with 500 killed in territory controlled by Russian separatists. One wonders how many of the claimed Mariupol casualties are included in these figures.

From 1-30 November, OHCHR recorded 688 civilian casualties (162 killed). Of those, 153 were killed and 487 injured due to explosive weapons with wide area effects and 9 were killed and 39 injured due to mines and explosive remnants of war.  

From 1-31 December, OHCHR recorded 801 civilian casualties (188 killed). Of those 164 were killed and 584 injured due to explosive weapons with wide area effects and 24 were killed and 29 injured due to mines and explosive remnants of war.

They did include this chart in one of their earlier reports:

On 5 December, the First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Yevhen Yenin, said that according to National Police over 9,400 civilians have been killed in Russian shelling.

More than 26,000 people have died in this conflict: 5,937 or more (Russian Army) + 9,000 or more (Ukrainian Army) + 7,110 (Civilians) + 4,176 (DPR) + 600 (LPR) = 26,823. It is probably in excess of 36,000 total deaths depending on Ukrainian and Russian military deaths and the real count of civilian losses.

On 14 November a Taiwanese fighter, “Jonathan” Tseng Sheng-Guang, is reported to have died in Ukraine. The first Japanese volunteer fighter, under the name of Dobure, also has been killed in Ukraine. It is reported that at least 16 Belarussians have died fighting for UkraineIt has been reported that two Azerbaijani volunteers have died fighting for Ukraine. The total number of Americans killed in the war is seven killed in combat and two civilians. Three have been captured of which all three have now been exchanged, as has one detained civilian.

Air Power: The Pentagon on 12 March is reporting that Russia is flying about 200 sorties a day. The Ukrainian air force has 56 operational jets flying 5 to 10 hours a day. March 22 it was reported by the U.S. that Russia flew more than 300 sorties into Ukraine. March 24 it was reported that more than 250 Russian sorties were flown, mostly around Kiev and Kharkov. On 12 May, the U.S. was claiming that the Russians flew 300 sorties over Ukraine in the last 24 hours. On 14 May they were claiming 250 Russian sorties. It has been pretty consistent reporting of 250-300 sorties a day for quite some time now. For 24 August Ukraine reported 200 Russian sorties over Ukraine. 

On 3 September is it stated that Ukraine did 40 sorties, which is a record. On 18 September they claimed to have launched 20 air strikes, on 22 September launched 25 and on 11 October launched 15 air strikes. This is a fairly low level of air activity.

@Oryx, which is a twitter account worth following, is reporting as of 14 September that since the start of the war 53 Russian aircraft have been destroyed as have 42 Ukrainian aircraft. This is all counted by photo confirmation. On 19 September, U.S. General James Hecker stated that Ukraine has shot down 55 Russian aircraft in the war. He stated that he was pretty sure that all of those losses were due to surface-to-air missiles, SA-10s and SA-11s. This count does not include non-battle losses and accidents (of which there are some). It appears no Russian planes have been shot down in air-to-air combat and maybe only a handful of Ukrainian planes.

The Russians are now reported to be using loitering munitions. Ukraine has been using them since the start of the war. There are also reported of drone-on-drone engagements and have been 9 such cases reported. So drone vs drone combat is now a thing. 

Missile Defense: In his 5 July video, Denys Davydov states almost 80% of Russian missiles are being intercepted by anti-missile defenses. I have seen this claim repeated elsewhere but have no idea as to its validity. On 10 October, Ukraine intercepted only 43 out of the 84 missiles (51%) fired at it. On 11 October, they intercepted 20 out of 28 (71%). On 16 October there was another wave of missiles targeting Ukraine’s energy structure. The Mayor of Kiev (heavy weight world champion Vitali Klitschko) said that 23 of the 28 drones fired at Kiev were intercepted. Overall, 42 drones were fired at Ukraine and they claimed to have shot down 36 of them. 

The bombardment on 31 October consisted of over 50 Russian missiles/drones, of which 44 were claimed to have been shot down. Ukraine claims to have shot down 73 of the over 100 missiles fired in the bombardment of 15 November. Fragments of one Ukrainian air defense missile landed in Poland killing two. The missile that landed in Poland on 15 November was probably a Soviet-era S-300 surface-to-air missile, of which most versions have a range of less than 100 miles. Pretty hard for this to be anything other than Ukrainian. On 23 November, there was a large missile attack where Ukraine claimed 51 out of 70 missiles shot down. This attack shut down all the power in Kiev and killed four civilians there. The large attack on 5 December claimed around 60 missiles shot down out of around 70 fired, which is 86% intercepted. This is particularly good. On 16 December, they claimed to have intercepted 60 out of 74, or 81%. 

For the attack on 29 December, Ukraine does report shooting down 54 out of 69 cruise missiles and 11 Iranian drones. This comes out to 81% intercepted except other reports are saying over 120 missiles were fired. So, is the interception rate more like 54%? Anyhow, it does look like the Russians overloaded the Ukrainian missile defense this time. As this is supposedly their tenth such strike (I have not verified the count), then it is about time Russia figured this out. The question is: does Russia have the resources to keep doing this?

This was followed up with an attack on New Year’s Eve of about 20 cruise missiles and further attacks on 1 and 2 January. For the attack on New Year’ Eve it looks like they shot down 12 out of 20 cruise missiles (60%). In the attack of 1 and 2 January by 39 or 45 Iranian-made Shahed drones, Ukraine claims it shot them all down. They have power outages in Kyiv as a result of the attack on 2 January. This strongly indicates that not all the drones were shot down.

There was another missile attack on 14 January of only 38 missiles that was effective. Ukraine only shot down 25 of them (only 65%), so power infrastructure was hit, as was several apartment buildings. In the current attack on 25 January they shot down 47 out of 55 or 85%, which is better than they have been doing recently. The effectiveness of the current missile strike against infrastructure was limited.

The U.S., Germany and Holland have agreed to provide Ukraine with Patriot air defense missile systems. Should be interesting to see how well they do. Not sure when they are arriving, but it looks like we are set up to ship them and to start training Ukrainians at Grafenwoehr in Germany.

End of the War: It does look like Russia intends to hold onto most of Donetsk and Lugansk provinces, the majority of Kherson province (but not the capital) and four-fifths of Zaporizhzhia province. The capital Zaporizhzhia (pop. 722,713) is held by Ukraine. So, parts of four out of Ukraine’s 24 provinces and Crimea.

Populations of partly or completely occupied areas (2019 estimates):

Donetsk: 4,165,901

Lugansk: 2,151,833

Crimea: 2,033,700 (2001 census)

Zaporizhzhia: 1,705,836

Kherson: 1,037,640

Sevastopol: 509,992 (2021 estimate)

 

Population of Ukraine (excluding Crimea), 2022 estimate: 41,167,336

What they are willing to later negotiate away to achieve peace or a ceasefire is unknown. Russia has now annexed Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in addition to Crimea and Sevastopol. This sort of indicates that there is no basis for a negotiated settlement. Zelenskyy did lay out a 10-point peace plan in November. It includes:

5. Restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity

6. Total withdrawal of all Russian troops from all of Ukraine.

7. Punishment for war crimes.

The UN General Assembly did recently pass a resolution supporting reparations from Russia, but this does not appear to be in Zelenskyy’s ten-point plan.

Russia’s current peace position is that Ukraine must be demilitarized and de-nazified (is that a word) and Russia keeps Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia (and I guess must hand over the last two province’s capitals), Crimea and Sevastopol. The Russian foreign minister Lavrov did say on 29 Dec: “Putting forward all sorts of ideas and ‘formulas of peace,’ Zelensky cherishes the illusion of achieving, with the help of the West, the withdrawal of our troops from the Russian territory of Donbas, Crimea, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson region, the payment of reparations by Russia, and the surrender of international tribunals and the like. Of course, we will not talk to anyone on such conditions.”

This looks like an extended war, and I don’t think it will be over before the end of summer 2023. It may continue for years: So How Long is this War Going to Last? | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org) and Possible Outcomes of the War? | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org)

Atrocities: 

Latest war atrocity report is a video of a Russian soldier mutilating a captured Ukrainian soldier. Gather this video is recent and from the area of Severodonetsk. This of course, just reinforces the popularly perceived image of Russians as particularly brutal and “orc-like.” These types of reports, along with all the civilians being killed by shelling, only goes to further isolate Russia. It also shows a lack of discipline by command. 

Reports every week of significant civilian casualties in strikes against cities not near the front line. Russia is claiming it is striking at military targets in and around these cities, but there does not seem to be a lot of discrimination in their target selection or the weapons that they use.

Amnesty International has published a new report on the attack on the theater in Mariupol that killed hundreds, declaring it a war crime where the theater was the intended target. The death toll for this attack is often given as 600, but Amnesty International does state that it is likely much smaller than previously reported: “at least a dozen people died in the attack, but also that it is likely that many additional fatalities remain unreported.”

As of July, the police in the Kiev region have exhumed 1,346 bodies and 300 people are still missing. I assume the UN counting efforts have now picked up most of these civilian deaths. Ukraine has identified ten Russian soldiers wanted for “pre-mediated murder” in Bucha. They are all enlisted from the 64th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade.

There are also various accusations against the Russian Army Chechen unit operating around Bucha: Brutal Sect of Putin’s Army Accused of Murdering Their Own Comrades.

Ukraine has sentenced a 21-year old POW, Vadim Shishimarin, to life in prison for shooting a civilian on 28 Feb. in the Sumy region who was talking on his phone. His sentence was reduced to 15 years on an appeal. He is one of fifteen people in Ukraine facing war crime trails while another 120 people charged remain at large. Thirteen cases have been submitted to courts and seven verdicts have been issued. Two POWs pleaded guilty on 26 May of firing Grad rockets from Russia’s Belgorod region towards Kharkov on 24 Feb. Three suspects are charged with sexual violence and 64 for willful killing or ill-treatment of civilians. As of July, they are investigating 20,100 alleged offenses. The Ukrainian officials have a list of over 600 suspects. Ukraine is now reporting for October that they are investigating 40,400 war crimes. This whole process actually does seem to be systematic, legal and properly done.

Ukraine has exhumed 447 bodies from the mass grave site at Izyum, 425 civilians and 22 Ukrainian servicemen. Of those, 30 are reported to have shown signs of torture. This is according to the Ukrainian government but is probably a reasonable assessment. It does not appear to be another Bucha. 

Ukraine has exhumed more than 600 bodies of civilians in the Kharkov region. No reports yet if any are showing signs of torture or execution. They have exhumed 146 bodies in Lyman, 111 civilians and 35 military personnel. According to Ukraine nearly 900 bodies have been found in the de-occupied territories of the Kherson region, 700 civilians, more than 80 military and more than 100 Russian military.

A Dutch court has convicted two Russians (including Igor Girkin) and a Ukrainian in absentia for the downing of Malaysian Flight MH-17 (298 killed) over Donbas in 2014. One Russian tried in absentia was absolved. 

Ukrainian reforms:

A petition requiring Ukrainian officials to declare assets has passed, forcing Zelenskyy to respond. Assets declarations were halted when the war started.

Ukraine has now raided the home of a billionaire as part of its anti-corruption campaign. They also raided the home of the interior minister from 2014-2021. See: Ukraine raids home of billionaire in war-time anti-corruption crackdown (msn.com). A number of officials were dismissed last week from the Defense Ministry in another corruption scandal. This may result in the firing of the Defense Minister. A law maker was expelled from Zelenskyy’s political party over hiding that he purchased a mansion. Last week a Deputy Minister of Infrastructure was arrested in a $400,000 bribery scandal. A couple of weeks ago they arrested someone in the border police in another major corruption scandal. This is just for January! While it shows the level of corruption in Ukraine, how broad and extensive it is, and how high it goes; it also shows that Ukraine is making a serious effort to start shutting it down. These corruption problems will take years to correct. Once corruption becomes widespread in a country, it is hard to clean up. Look how long it took the U.S. to clean-up the Mafia (60+ years). 

Just to add to the list of recent Ukrainian corruption scandals, the head of the Turkish defense company Baykar, who makes the Bayraktar drones that Ukraine is using, is claiming that Ukrainian officials wanted a $10 million payout to connect to the electrical system the factory they were planning on building in Ukraine. It is good that people are going public with this.

Of course, it is as bad or worse in Russia, and they are making no attempt to clean it up. It appears to go to the top in Russia. In 2021 The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions index ranked Ukraine at 122 out of 180 countries with a score of 32 out of 100. Ukraine has a Global Corruption Barometer of 23%, which is the percentage of public service users paid a bribe in the previous 12 months. Russia is ranked lower than Ukraine with a rank of 136, score of 27 and barometer of 27%. Many of the former CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) tend to be riddled with corruption and unwarranted influence on the government by businesses.

Elements of the Ukrainian government are threatening reporters for their war reporting. See 2:02 to 4:44 here for full explanation: Update from Ukraine | Bakhmut is under the threat but Ruzzia is unable to take it – YouTube. Denys Davydov is currently not living in Ukraine.

There were videos that appear to document the killing to 10 to 12 Russian POWs in Makiivka on 12 November by their Ukrainian capturers. There is a claim that one Russian POW, standing up near them, fired on Ukrainian guards. If that is the case, it still does not explain how all ten+ people laying on the ground were killed, unless it was done deliberately. Even it a combat situation in the face of machineguns, there should be some survivors. Combat mortality of machine guns ranges up to 0.58 (see War by Numbers, pages 184 – 187) making it pretty hard to kill all ten of them unless they were specifically targeted (0.58 to the 10th power to estimate the odds of all ten being accidently killed in return fire produces a figure of less than 1% (00.4)).

Needless to say, Ukraine also conducting some war crimes has long been a concern of mineAs I suspect this is going to be a multi-year war and the critical element is going be whether the west continues to support Ukraine year-after-year, then Ukraine is going to need to continue providing accountability to the west for its actions if it expects to continue receiving aid. Ukraine currently does not have universal support in the U.S. Congress.

There is also a video out there in the early days of the war of Ukrainian soldiers shooting several Russian prisoners in their legs. There is a second video showing Ukrainian troops executing what appears to be four Russian prisoners seven miles SW of Bucha. See: https://news.yahoo.com/video-appears-show-ukrainian-soldiers-192219323.html. More detailed description from BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/61025388. It is on Youtube, if you want to look it up. I believe they are members of the Georgian Legion, a group of Georgian volunteers fighting for Ukraine.

There are also some retribution killings going on: Ukrainian Chief Intelligence Directorate: another traitor of Ukraine found shot. Ukraine stated on 8 June that they are investigating nearly 480 people for treason and collaboration. I have seen pictures (as of 13 November) of Ukrainians publicly tying two collaborators to posts in Kherson. This is not cool. Not as nasty as Russia executing people with sledgehammers, but still not cool.

Amnesty international has called out Ukraine for endangering civilians. This is probably a valid criticism and needs to be responded to. Those Ukrainian supporters who are dismissing the Amnesty International report are probably doing a disservice to Ukraine. 

I do believe that Ukraine needs to hold their troops accountable for any actions that violate the laws of war. Attacking the critics does not do that. The fact that the number of such actions done by Russia is much, much greater does not obviate this need or somehow become anti-Ukrainian. For example, I have not heard the results of any investigation into the Russian prisoners that were kneecapped back in March.

Ukraine did extend martial law for another 90 days until 21 November. This was done by vote from the parliament of 328 voting for it (out of 450). It would be good to have let it expire. Zelenskyy is now requesting another 90-day extension of martial law until 19 February 2023.

There are still 12 or 13 political parties banned in Ukraine, although one recently petitioned to have the ban removed. It was denied. The Communist Party of Ukraine had been banned again as of 5 July and its assets seized. This was the third time Ukraine has banned various forms of it (in 1991, 2015 and now 2022). In the last election it was allowed to stand, in 2012, it won 13% of the vote. Zelensky signed a decree on May 14 outlawing all political parties deemed to be “pro-Russian.” I will point out that even during the height of the cold war and McCarthyism, the Soviet Union funded American Communist Party, founded 1919, was not banned. The U.S. did put into place the Alien Registration Act/Smith Act in 1940 which indicted 215 people until a number of convictions were ruled unconstitutional in 1957 by the Supreme Count. The Kyiv Independent is twittering on 7 July that the authorities have detained a 63-year-old woman in Kharkov for supporting Russia’s war on social media. One must be careful that while fighting for their own freedom, that the government does not become yet another source of oppression. 

Ukraine is not treating Ukrainians who fight for Russia, LPR or DPR as POWs and has instead charged them with crimes. See: Inside courts where Ukrainian judges try Ukrainian POWs – JusticeInfo.net. Still, it does appear that they are then exchanging some of them later in the prisoner exchanges.

It was reported on 22 December that Ukraine cancelled the press accreditation of well-known Danish journalist Matilde Kimer. She was expelled from Russia in August for a ten-year period. Now is not allowed in Ukraine?

Other Issues: 

It is claimed that Belarus shot down a Ukrainian S-300 air-defense missile in its territory. In November one such missile landed in Poland killing two civilians. More noise from Belarus, with their units being reported to have withdrawn from the Ukrainian border while Russian troops are being sent there to train. I still doubt that they will join the war. Belarus has 60,000 troops and now they are trying to recruit another 20,000. This is from a country that the government was almost overthrown two years ago by popular acclaim. Ukraine has an 891-kilometer border (554 miles) with Belarus, so Ukraine must maintain some forces there. Belarus has stated on 16 October that a little less than 9,000 Russian troops will be stationed in Belarus to protect it borders. 

Ukraine has been made a candidate member of the European Union as of 23 June. It still means that it will be years before Ukraine becomes part of the EU, but this is a big first step. The Ukraine government applied for EU membership less than week after Russia first invaded them. Moldova was also granted candidate membership. Georgia has not (and it is not on good terms with Russia).

This was the issue that started all the turmoil in 2013. This is the issue that fueled all the conflict over the last nine years, for the Euromaidan revolt occurred when Ukrainian President Yanukovich decided to join Putin’s Eurasian Union vice the EU. The subsequent conflicts included the whole three-month Euromaidan revolt in the dead of winter of 2013-2014 that led to over 100 Ukrainians being killed, many protesters shot in the street by President Yanokovich’s security forces; the seizure of Crimea; the creation of LPR and DPR; the subsequent war; and now this war. Ukraine certainly has paid a much higher cost to join the EU than anyone else ever has. Current polling (Reuters April 5) shows that 91% of the Ukrainians support joining the EU. 

Finland and Sweden signed the accession protocol to join NATO on 5 July, along with all 30 members of NATO. They officially applied to join NATO on May 18. There was an objection from Turkey, but Sweden and Finland have resolved their issues just before the summit in Madrid in early July. As of 1 October, 28 NATO members have ratified the accession protocol. It does require unanimous consent of all 30 members for them to join NATO. It does add an 810-mile (1300 km) border with Russia, but NATO already abuts Russian and Belarussian territory in the Baltic states and Norway abuts Russia above the arctic circle. Also, Denmark has joined the common EU defense cooperation, something which it has stayed out of for three decades. The United States voted on 4 August to the accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO by 95-1. The remaining two states that need to vote for this are Hungary and Turkey.  Hungary is not going to get around to it until early 2023. It appears that Sweden has made all the “reforms” that it is going to make. Specifically, it has rejected the request to extradite four people. The U.S. in the past has made similar refusals. It is now up to Turkey to decide if this is enough. The U.S. is apparently negotiating selling F-16s to Turkey. This may be the quid-pro-quo that makes this happen. In October 2021 Turkey requested to purchase 40 F-16s. Congress has resisted approving the sale, but it appears it will go through if Turkey approves Sweden and Finland to join NATO. Turkish elections are scheduled for 14 May, so this issue may not get resolved until after that. Right now, U.S. Turkish relations have been a little contentious. Turkey was also just hit with a massive earthquate today near Syria. Over 1,500 dead.

Meanwhile, on 30 September, the president of Ukraine formally applied to join NATO. 

Also, the United States will be establishing a permanent troop presence in Poland, maintain a rotational brigade in Romania, and enhance its rotational deployment in the Baltic States, among other expansions. As of December, the United States has a total of 100,000 troops across all of Europe (including Germany and Italy). Canada is leading a NATO battlegroup of Latvia of around 2,000 soldiers, including troops from Canada, Albania, Czech Republic, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Germany is to lead a combat brigade in Lithuania of 3,000 – 5,000 soldiers. The command unit of around 100 soldiers arrived on 4 September. A NATO battalion of about 1,500-1,600 has been stationed there since 2017 and is under command of a German officer. There is also a NATO battle groups in Estonia and Poland. Germany is also now talking about an armored division for protection of NATO’s eastern border.

Poland has completed on 30 June a steel wall on its border with Belarus to curb the flow of asylum seekers from Belarus. The wall is 115 miles long (186 km), 18 feet tall (5.5 meters) and cost $407 million to build (353M Euros). Poland is also building a fence along its border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which has irked Russia. Work began in late February. The Polish border with Belarus is 258 miles long (416 km). Poland also announced around 15 July that it will be increasing its defense budget to be 5% of the GDP and building up its army to 300,000 troops. Poland is currently spending 2.4% of its GDP on defense. It is going to increase it next year to 3%. The U.S. currently spends 3.5% of our GDP on defense.

Lithuania has also completed a barrier between itself and Belarus. It is mostly a 4 meter (13 foot) tall steel wire fence topped by concertina barbed wire. It covers approximately 550 kilometers (342 miles) and costs 152M euros. See twitter @LinasKojala post for 29 August for a picture of the fence.

Finland is now also talking about starting to build a barbed-wire fence along its long border with Russian starting early next year. They are looking at it covering 124 miles of the 832-mile border. Estimated cost is $393 million with a completion date of 2026.

Artillery fire was exchanged on 5 October between Azerbaijan and Armenia, as a result of their continuing conflict that Russia is supposed to be policing. There are also now credible reports and videos of Azerbaijanis executing Armenian prisoners. Significant fighting has erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia on 13 September. There has been a cease-fire as of 15 September. Armenia has said that at least 49 of its soldiers have been killed since fighting erupted early Tuesday. They are now saying 105. Azerbaijan has said it has lost 50 troops. Russia is serving as the peacekeeper force with about 2,000 troops. I gather most of the fighting is artillery shelling. There have been large protests the last few days in the capital of Yerevan, Armenia against the prime minister. Meanwhile, U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is in Yerevan as of 18 September. This visit was then followed by protests in Yerevan against the Russian dominated military alliance CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), which Armenia, Russia, Belarus and three other post-Soviet states are members of.

Previous recent fights have resulted in at least 2 Armenians killed and more than a dozen wounded and 1 Azeri killed and 3 wounded. Azerbaijan took the border position. Russia is the Armenian-leaning peacekeepers in this area. One wonders if many of the outlying areas of the Soviet empire are going to turn into disorder over the next few months. The Azerbaijan embassy in London was also seized a few months ago by Muslim fundamentalists. Azerbaijan is a secular state. The Muslim fundamentalists may be supported by Iran. On 14 November, there was another round of shelling reported by Armenia at the border. On 26 November, there was another clash along the border, but no losses and then more firing on 27 November, with two Armenians reported wounded. There was another shelling by Azerbaijan reported on 23 December by Armenia. No casualties reported. It appears that Azerbaijan is trying to cut off the Lachin corridor, which connects Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh.

Kazakhstan has called for parliamentary elections on March 19. We shall see how that goes. Khazakstan was having blackouts, not caused by bombing. The last time they had political demonstrations (January 2022), estimates were that 217 to over 230 people were killed and they called in over 3,000 Russian paratroopers to help them. There were also major protests in 2011 (14 killed), 2016, 2018, several times in 2019, and 2020. So kind of waiting for next big eruption. Meanwhile, Khazastan has set up two “Yurts of Invincibility” in Bucha and Kyiv. These yurts provide food, medical care and shelter to Ukrainians.

The latest polling from Washington Post shows that 52% of Republicans want to reduce aid to Ukraine or “…want their member of congress to opposed additional funding.” The United States has passed the fiscal year 2023 budget, before the new congress is seated (with Democrats controlling the Senate 51-49 and the Republicans controlling the House 222-213). The end result is that U.S. budget is in place through September 2023 and cannot be overturned or cut by the new Republican majority House, if they so desire. After the fiasco of the Republicans taking 15 ballots to pick a House Speaker, I am pretty certain that come October 2023, the United States will be struggling to approve a budget for fiscal year 2024. This is going to complicate things. There is a clearly a vocal minority that is opposed to supporting Ukraine, as is presidential candidate Donald Trump. They appear to be having some influence.

The government of Hungary is the one NATO nation that is not clearly behind Ukraine. Hungary is dealing with economic problems and the EU is withholding recovery funding due to a “rule-of-law dispute.” Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 11 October called for a ceasefire in the war and accused the U.S. of fueling the war. He did state that he was on the side of Ukraine. He also has not yet approved Sweden and Finland’s membership into NATO but he has finally acquiesced to the latest EU aid effort to Ukraine. 

The country that produced the largest peace demonstrations, some 70,000 protesters in Prague on 3 September 2022, has just elected a retired three-star general as its president. He has made it clear that he supports Ukraine. It does appear that Putin’s policy of trying to undermine support this winter in Europe for the war in Ukraine is failing. It does appear that European support is solid and broad, with Czechia elections, Germans providing Leopards, Hungary signing off on EU aid packages to Ukraine, Bulgarian parliament overruling their president and providing aid, etc. The political situation is getting simpler, the war is going to continue until at least next fall. It may get resolved on the battlefield this summer. It could continue into 2024.

There are also some protests against the pro-western government of Moldova. Russia still has 1,500 peacekeeping troops in Transnistria.

It appears that the large protests in Iran are fizzling out. There are some serious demonstrations going on in Iran since 16 September, supported by labor strikes. It is said that at least nine protesters died in the first five days and Iran is now stating as of 24 September that 41 protesters have been killed. The count is certainly higher than that. An Oslo-based organization called Iran Human Rights is claiming as of 29 November that at least 448 people killed. They previously reported that also 40 security forces were killed. An Iranian general did acknowledge on 27 November that over 300 were dead. There are also an armed group (separatists?) that conducted an attack on 30 September in southeastern Iran (city of Zahedan) that killed 19 people. One wonders if the Iranian government has weathered the storm.

Meanwhile, the night of Jan. 28 someone attacked manufacturing facilities in Iran. It was done with at least three drones and a strike was clearly made in Isfahan, a city of 2-4 million right in the middle of Iran. There were four reported large explosions. The mostly likely story is that it was done by Israel operating from Azerbaijan. 

Also, corrupt Navy-contractor “Fat Leonard” Francis, 57, was detained last Tuesday by Interpol in Venezuela trying to flee to Russia. He had escaped house arrest in San Diego, fled to Mexico then Cuba and was intercepted at the Venezuelan airport. He was not using an alias and should be extradited back to the U.S. He is currently still in Venezuela.

There were two pipelines that were bombed in international waters. Apparently 165 feet of the pipe is destroyed. Sweden is currently investigating but has not found any clear evidence linking Russia to the bombing. That said, it is hard to imagine who else would do this.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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