SITREP 1/20/24: Russian Gains Resume as Holidays End

We return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Things are—or have been—in a bit of a lull in Ukraine, owing to the holiday rotations being carried out all over the front. But, particularly on the Avdeevka front, those rotations have reportedly finished and full attacks have resumed. This has led to the immediate advancement of Russian forces, and capture of new areas.

The most speculative of the reports states that Russian advance scout forces have captured several buildings in District 9 of southwestern Avdeevka. They are reportedly able to cross that no man’s land of fields from Vodiane to the first urban stronghold, but this may be a tenuous probing action from which they may withdraw:

The actual most confirmed advances happened to the southeast around the ‘Tsar’s Hunt’ area. Not only have forces reportedly pushed up past the highway overpass which was the site of long grueling battles, with some reports claiming they fully captured the Hunt at the rear, but they pushed further west from the Industrial area:

Meanwhile on the northern side, Russian forces advanced east of the Coke Plant along the Treatment Plant area next to Kamyanka, further squeezing in the AFU:

At the northern side Russian forces barely managed to progress to the middle of Stepove and have been stopped there by fierce defense from the Ukrainian 47th brigade.

Highlighting Russia’s inability to move past there was a much-discussed video of two Bradleys ambushing and defeating a Russian T-90M, which demonstrated the superiority of the elite 47th’s tactics in this area. They are using very quick scoot-and-shoot tactics which utilize the Bradley’s mobility to good effect, while the Russian advances here have been a bit sclerotic and pedantic in their inability to create novel approaches or use tactical creativity. The fact that the T-90M was caught out in the open by itself with no support just further demonstrates the lackluster tactics in this area.

For my readers only I have the world exclusive of the full combined videos from every available angle. First is Ukraine’s own ‘creative edit’ made to cherry pick their highlights:

What the video does confirm, however, is that the entire crew of the T-90M safely escaped, which means it was not penetrated at any time by the vast amounts of attacks against it. The action happened here, by the way, in Stepove, just north of the Coke Plant:

The much longer ‘full’ video shows that not only were initially two Bradleys hectoring the lone tank, but as other experts have weighed in, the tank’s turret appears to have been already disabled by a combined FPV drone and TOW ATGM attack from the Bradleys. The pro-UA side is pushing the narrative that the Bradley’s 25mm Bushmaster is what took out the tank, but that is not the case. While the hits ‘look’ spectacular—this is only so because the Bradleys are using showy incendiary ammo which is further setting off both the T-90M’s smoke canisters at the side of the turret, as well as its reactive armor. But these 25mm hits are not actually penetrating anything.

Ultimately, it simply shows that no tank is invincible given poor tactics or when it’s outsmarted and ambushed from multiple sides.

What’s interesting is, in the above photo we can see the commander’s independent sight is turned precisely toward the side where the Bradleys were for the majority of the ‘fight’—but the turret was pointed forward at the beginning, and apparently unable to turn. This indicates to me that the commander was watching the Bradleys but the damaged turret was no longer able to bear on them. Afterwards it was somehow short-circuited even more and began spinning entirely, which further indicates there was some kind of turret malfunction happening—most likely by an earlier FPV/TOW strike.

But they’re trying to convince people of the Bradley’s superiority over the T-90M, or the general inferiority of Russian tanks. But we also have footage of a single Russian T-80 taking out an entire Ukrainian convoy of NATO armor which included multiple Bradleys. It goes to show that anything can take out anything else, given the appropriate circumstances and positioning. This is not to mention that the tank was never even destroyed but rather disabled, and can likely be towed and easily repaired. In fact, it demonstrates the hardiness of the tank as it was waylaid by Bradleys for a quarter of an hour without even taking major damage; that’s quite a feat.

But what it does unfortunately reveal, is Ukraine’s superiority in the ‘ring generalship’ of that corridor. Not only were Ukrainian FPVs hitting the T-90M while Russian FPVs appeared to be absent, leaving the Bradleys free to roam, but Ukraine had situational awareness from various observational drones which produced the videos above. The Russian side on the other hand apparently had little such integration because if they did, the T-90M would not have walked into such an ambush: they would have had the situational awareness to see where the enemies were at all times, relaying that to the tank crew.

This further corresponds to some of the reports from the area, citing precisely the above—lack of coordination, lack of the ability to suppress the enemy’s positions, etc.

One of the reasons explaining the disparity is that Ukraine has its most elite and best-equipped 47th as well as some of its most elite special forces units: Omega, 8th Special Purpose Regiment, and several others. This is specifically on the Stepove front, rather than all of Avdeevka. These high level and likely NATO-mercenary-backed units are going up against a middling ‘Russian’ formation of mostly DPR units, as well as what some consider the ‘expendable dregs’ of Storm-Z penal battalions.

The deficiencies here are highlighted by this video from days ago of the main supply route running to Avdeevka. Ignore the June date, that’s an AI mistranslation and should be January 10th, 2024:

What it shows is that the road is fully navigable even by daytime, with no signs of pot-marks or artillery craters. That means there is likely no kind of ‘fire control’ present and Ukrainian resupplies move freely in and out of the city.

That Avdeevka sign is said to be somewhere around here on this road through Lastochkyne:

And you can see proof in the video as the UA soldier even shows the Coke Plant (mistranslated as Coxa Hill in video) right next to him in the fog.

Only days later, around January 15-17, Aiden Aslin, aka CossackGundi, even returned to the front to pose on the same exact road:

Thus, we can conclude there is little fire control even by day, which means the ISR of the Russian side in this region leaves much to be desired, further explaining the slow progress.

That all said, MediaZona continues to show a major decline in casualties for the foregoing period, despite revising the earlier October losses during Avdeevka’s first heavy offensive phase. January will likely be revised slightly higher eventually too, but the general trend is undeniable:

That means any fantasies of extremely ‘heavy’ Russian losses are just that. There are occasional episodes of 5-15 troops dying at a time, which are used by Ukraine to play to emotions and create the perception of a killing field; but in reality, most days there are very few losses. And despite Russia’s technical deficiencies in this area, they are using brute force to inflict heavier casualties on Ukraine with bombs and artillery raining down all day and generating a constant flow of sanitary losses.

Avdeevka is taking far longer than many imagined, as some believed it would fall by the end of last year. At this pace it could likely hold another three months if not even longer. It may very well hold for six months, however in the end it will certainly fall. The AFU troops in the town speak of vast Russian firepower superiority and the constant ability to rotate fresh troops. It may wield a cudgel rather than the hoped-for scalpel here, but Russia simply has far too many resources and fresh troops and they are inexorably inching forward.

In the end, Avdeevka is cunningly providing the same result as Bakhmut: more ‘expendable’ Russian troops are being traded for Ukraine’s most irreplaceable elite units.

Speaking of the Bradley, here’s another video showing a Bradley firing on an already disabled BMP-2. It may even be a Ukrainian one and the video made for ‘show’. But it’s interesting to see nonetheless. My previous position on Bradleys continues to prove true: the Bradley is emerging as one of the few actually semi-effective NATO weapons in this war:

It may not do anything particularly amazing, but nothing particularly bad stands out either. On frontal assaults it’s very easy to hit by Russian Ka-52s and ATGMs due to its large profile, but in more positional warfare, its nimbleness, accurate gun, and relatively good protection and reliability appear to be clear strengths.

In the meantime, Russia continues to badly degrade Ukraine’s air defense. An Iris-T was recently hit as well as a slew of Osas, Strelas, and Buks. Here’s an Osa:

The air defense situation is getting critical for Ukraine, with even airforce spokesman Yuri Ignat reportedly claiming their ammo could begin to run dry within the next couple weeks.

I already highlighted last time how their latest report showed 0% interception rate for most Russian missiles in the last strike.

With this in mind, came a very interesting report:

The Russian Army is preparing air assault brigades for landing behind the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ defense lines, – ISW

American analysts suggest that the Russian Armed Forces intend to conduct operations with landings from helicopters for the rapid deployment of personnel, as was the case during the initial battles for Gostomel airport near Kiev on February 24, 2022.

They will be used as another means to conduct grueling front-line infantry support attacks on Ukrainian fortified positions in the short term.

“Russian sources claim that such an air assault brigade – the 49th separate – is already operating in the Zaporozhye direction as part of the 58th combined arms army,” the ISW report says.

These brigades, as the Institute suggests, will be used outside the framework of traditional airborne troops. – RVvoenkor

Recall long ago I wrote about how the key to defeating the modern tactical stalemate resulting from ubiquitous ISR and mines is via heavily coordinated attacks from all possible vectors. One of the vectors that could potentially do wonders is an air assault attack to the rear which would paralyze the defending forces’ rear HQ lines, disrupting communications, and effectively creating ‘havoc’ and confusion in a less prepared and trained force.

Russia has not been able to use this factor due to the overwhelming proliferation of battlefield mobile air defense systems. But if the report above is true, it likely means that Russia senses Ukraine’s AD has been attritioned to such a point that small scale air assault landings could actually stand a chance of being carried out. This can be used in critical areas to land a company behind the lines in coordination with an offensive assault on a highly entrenched sector—like Ugledar, Avdeevka, and places of this nature. The air assaults would bypass all the minefields hampering advances today, instantly nullifying one of the top three major issues. This is one of those ‘dynamic’ elements that has been largely missing thus far.

It would still come with major risks, of course. But a well-planned assault of this manner could effect an entire cascade of breakdowns leading to the instantaneous collapse, encirclement, and capture of an entire small front.

There’s no telling how true the report is, however it does shed light on the possibility that Russia is expecting to expand operations beyond the mere pedantic and attritional/positional style warfare currently characterizing the fronts.

In other news, the German Bundestag finally officially and smartly voted to not supply Ukraine with the Taurus missile:

Recall what I wrote in one of the last reports:

Nothing has been going well for Ukraine on the international front. The entire leadership is currently attending Davos, and it’s already being called a ‘bust’ with no real answers for Zelensky. There have only been some ‘symbolic’ photo-ops with the world’s shadow elite.

Kuleba with Soros:

Defense minister Umerov and ‘cardinal’ Yermak with Schwab and co, in the front row, no less:

And the situation at home continues to worsen. The Verkhovna Rada is still hung up on the mobilization, with an increasing number of elites openly denouncing Zelensky. Ex-Rada Deputy and Aidar deputy commander Mosiychuk has had enough of the corruption and goes for the jugular in outright telling Zelensky and his team to “shoot [themselves]”:

A thread that went viral on X spoke of a catastrophic situation in Ukraine. It’s extremely evocative—read below:

I just got back from Ukraine, where I was visiting some friends. Everything we have heard about what’s happening in Ukraine is a lie. The reality is darker, bleaker, and unequivocally hopeless.

There is no such thing as Ukraine “winning” this war. – By their estimates, they have lost over one million of their sons, fathers and husbands; an entire generation is gone. 

– Even in the Southwest, where the anti-Russian sentiment is long-standing, citizens are reluctant or straight-up scared to publicly criticize Zelensky; they will go to jail.

– In every village and town, the streets, shops, and restaurants are mostly absent of men.

– The few men who remain are terrified of leaving their homes for fear of being kidnapped into conscription. Some have resorted to begging friends to break their legs to avoid service.

– Army search parties take place early in the morning, when men leave their homes to go to work. They ambush and kidnap them off the streets and within 3-4 hours they get listed in the army and taken away straight to the front lines with minimal or no training at all; it is “a death sentence.”

– It’s getting worse every day. Where I was staying, a dentist had just been taken by security forces on his way to work, leaving behind two small children. Every day, 3-5 dead bodies keep arriving from the front lines.

– Mothers and wives fight tooth and nail with the armed forces, beg and plead not to have their men taken away. They try bribing, which sometimes works, but most of the time they are met with physical violence and death threats.

– The territory celebrated as having been “won back” from Russia has been reduced to rubble and is uninhabitable. Regardless, there is no one left to live there and displaced families will likely never return.

– They see the way the war has been reported, at home and abroad. It’s a “joke” and “propaganda.” They say: “Look around: is this winning?”.

– Worse, some have been hoaxed into believing that once Ukrainians forces are exhausted, American soldiers will come in to replace them and “win the war”. There is no ambiguity in these people. The war was for nothing – a travesty. The outcome always was, and is, clear.

The people are hopeless, utterly destroyed, and living in an unending nightmare.  They are pleading for an end, any end – most likely the same “peace” that could have been achieved two years ago. In their minds, they have already lost, for their sons, fathers and husbands are gone, and their country has been destroyed. There is no “victory” that can change that. 

Make no mistake, they are angry with Putin. But they are also angry with Zelensky and the West. They have lost everything, worst of all, hope and faith, and cannot comprehend why Zelenky wishes to continue the current trajectory, the one of human devastation. I didn’t witness the war; but what I saw was absolutely heart-breaking. Shame on the people, regardless of their intentions, who have supported this war. And shame on the media for continuing to lie about it.

It’s difficult to know how absolutely true the above is, but it comes from a small account that has no history of posting any ‘propaganda’ from one side or the other.

The US and NATO in the meantime continue to suffer humiliations.

The British minesweeper HMS Chiddingfold collided with the HMS Bangor in Bahrain:

It’s safe to say it’s out of action for a while.

While an F-35 was destroyed by an incompetent mechanic:

All while passenger planes in America continue to experience unprecedented problems, with another “mishap” as a 747 caught fire over Miami.

Russian ballistic missiles struck a NATO mercenary base in Kharkov, reportedly killing up to 60 French mercenaries:

Russia even summoned the French ambassador Pierre Levy on account of this, who was pelted with questions:

In what looked like a scene from a cold war spy intrigue movie, the French ambassador was hounded about the mercenaries by journalists as he haughtily stormed out of Moscow:

France of course officially denied everything. But not before being contradicted by their own defense minister Sebastien Lecornu, who said that there are in fact mercenaries in Ukraine but France ‘cannot stop citizens’ from going there to fight because France is a “democracy”. Cue the eyeroll.

“There are French civilians who went to fight in Ukraine in Ukrainian military uniform,” he said. “We can’t ban them from doing that, we are still a democracy.”

Lecornu insisted, however, that “these people have no connection with the French armed forces, do not wear French uniform and are not associated with the French military institutions.” He refused to comment on the matter further, saying that anything else would be used by Russia in its “information war.”

French TV sprang into damage control mode, patching in to a frontline correspondent who reportedly is in contact with up to ‘five’ French groups “in that area”. While he denied they took any casualties, the simple admission that there are five separate groups of French mercenaries just in that area of Kharkov alone should be quite eyebrow-raising:

However—big problem: a new report exposed a secret program to do exactly what we all long suspected was happening, and what Austrian Colonel Reisner himself admitted would be doneThe bombshell video below is a must-watch:

French military journalist and historian Laurent Briard leaked classified information: in 2022, an attempt was made to persuade French military personnel of certain specialties to break their contract and go as mercenaries to fight for Ukraine

Only amateurs of this field would be ignorant of how this routinely works. It is long-standing special-ops tradition in any country, particularly the US, for soldiers to be taken off the military registrar by ‘retiring’ or ‘handing in their badges’, only to go on special black-ops missions totally off the record for the sake of plausible deniability.

It has long been presumed that NATO was trucking in thousands of mercs to staunch Ukraine’s losses by pressuring active duty soldiers to go off-uniform.

The above is further testament to this being a Russian-NATO war. There also happens to be rumor of a high-ranking Italian colonel who ‘unexpectedly died’ yesterday, which is being covered up, with some tying it to the Kharkov strike. But for now this remains highly questionable and speculative at best, as I could find no corroborating information on it:

German journalist Thomas Roeper also commented on the strikes:

WESTERN MEDIA SILENT on Russian strikes on mercenaries in Kharkov, says German journalist Thomas Roeper in video above, describing total censorship of details on number killed in Western media, with such outlets repeating Kiev’s line of just a few injuries at best. There is already information that many of them are running in shock when they see what is happening on the Ukrainian side, they don’t talk about this at all – Western media is just covering up the news; if this becomes widely known, it may demotivate new mercenaries – Roeper (in video above).

The massive US base at Ain al-Assad in Iraq underwent a large attack from Iranian-backed forces. Once more we saw the total failure of the Patriot missile systems, which were seen shooting in number to the sky:

Outside the base, spent casings of the most advanced Pac-3 Patriot variant were reportedly identified embedded into the ground:

Not long after, CENTCOM gave their official confirmation, admitting that they could not shoot down all the missiles, and that numerous US personnel were now injured—once again with the infamous ‘Traumatic Brain Injuries’:

This is the US’s second largest base in Iraq, well protected with all the most advanced air defense networks—and they could not stop a minor rocket attack. Yet we’re supposed to believe that downgraded and older versions of Patriots (Pac-2s, etc.) in Ukraine are stopping Russian hypersonic Kinzhals with 100% ratios? The propaganda is just exposing itself.

Some reports claim the base itself suffered ‘serious damage’, but there is no confirmation yet as to exactly what was hit, other than videos showing heavy smoke pouring from the base.

All this follows more ships being hit in the Red Sea by Ansar Allah forces. With its back against the wall, rumor had it that US generals have been begging Biden to let them go ‘gloves off’ to stop the increasingly humiliating escalations:

Leadership within U.S. Central Command as well as other Defense Officials have reportedly been Urging the White House to allow them to go “Gloves-Off” in order to Halt any further Threat by the Houthi Terrorist Group in Western Yemen to Commercial Shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden; according to Officials, several Options have been presented to U.S. President Biden which he has continually Denied, these include a Larger-Scale Air Campaign involving the Air Force over Western Yemen to Destroy any Houthi Offensive Capability, an Amphibious Operation against several Ports include Hodeidah in Western Yemen, and even Limited Strikes on Targets within Iran to “Send a Message” about further Aid and Support to the Houthis.

Now WaPo reports that Biden may have given in, and is crafting a long term “indefinite” campaign of strikes, which means—you’ve guessed it—US has just gotten itself into another inextricable mire benefiting the MIC:

The Biden administration is crafting plans for a sustained military campaign targeting the Houthis in Yemen after 10 days of strikes failed to halt the group’s attacks on maritime commerce, stoking concern among some officials that an open-ended operation could derail the war-ravaged country’s fragile peace and pull Washington into another unpredictable Middle Eastern conflict.

Biden proceeded to humiliate himself with a nonsensical response which again demonstrates the utter rudderlessness of US policy:

Did I mention another $30+ million dollar American MQ-9 Reaper was shot down in Iraq while all this was going on?

A last few items:

Remember Marianna Vyshemirskaya, who was infamously used in Ukrainian propaganda in the Mariupol hospital attack, claiming she was a victim of Russia?

She has now published a photo on her social media signing her name in support of Putin’s candidacy for the upcoming election:

The t-shirt above says “Team Putin”. So much for that propaganda.

Zelensky gives a stunningly delusional speech to his WEF cohort:

Next:

Like a scene from a movie, Russian drones deliver grenades to Russian troops—as resupply—during an ongoing trench assault on an AFU position:

Next:

I wanted to share a remarkable new article from Harper’s written by Italian writer Marzio G. Mian:

Despite being written from a typically critical Western slant, it manages to capture something very raw and powerful currently happening within Russian society. It is a sort of reluctant and inadvertently romantic ode to the rebirth of the Russian spirit that has been perplexing Western observers. They cannot quite understand how it’s possible that, beneath the umbrella of the ‘brutal Ukrainian war’, Russian people are basking in a newfound solidarity and love for their country, including even its most ‘checkered’ past, that of Stalin amongst other things.

The author takes a month-long jaunt across the Volga, where this new energy effervesces through cities like Samara, Ulyanovsk, and Volgograd. Everywhere he looks, he seems vexed to find the Russian spirit unbreakable, inexplicably resilient, and above all else: irreverently defiant. He grudgingly ponders a new generation of teens in Stalin t-shirts, as they go on pilgrimages to museums celebrating the ‘problematic’ Soviet leader. The soul-weary author disheartedly takes in these “horrifying” realizations, while still managing to render a vivid and powerful grass-roots portrait of this new emergent Russia, undergoing an epochal transformation. One of those teens revealingly tells him:

The above gets to the heart of the paradox—or the Russian enigma, as Churchill called it—the reason why Westerners cannot seem to comprehend this new revival, or anything else about modern Russia. Westerners did not experience the horror of the 90s; they could never grasp the salvatory stature of Stalin’s image in comparison to those traitorous times.

Either way, despite the Western angle and a couple egregious attempts at bald-faced propaganda, I personally found the article invigorating to read.

Finally, another documentary on the Battle of Mariupol is here. I can’t vouch for the auto-translation, but this one seems to have been made directly by some of the combat units involved, rather than a professional media company or journalists seeking to make profits. For those who are interested, enjoy:

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