North Korean missiles in Ukraine, expanding cooperation with Western partners, situation at front. Weekly military summary
In light of these events, Ukraine seeks to strengthen its defense capabilities and expand cooperation with Western partners, as emphasized by the recent agreement with the UK
Strikes on Houthis in Yemen
This was not a surprise. In fact, Yemen had been warned that measures would be taken to make impossible the terrorist actions carried out by the Houthis in the Black Sea, when they tried to obstruct civilian and military shipping, moreover, they attacked warships with their ballistic missiles and tried to attack Israel. In fact, this action on the part of the United States and Britain was, hopefully, a point that could significantly weaken the Houthis' capabilities, because it was actually a cruise missile strike.
Tomahawk missiles, 19 aircraft from both Britain and the United States, submarines, aircraft carriers were used for this purpose, so it is a really powerful blow to this grouping. But here is the reverse side of the medal, which is that indeed Britain and the United States have a powerful potential to destroy the enemy, but on the other hand, Iran has long-range drones, ballistic missiles with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers, which threaten Israel and American ships at sea. At the same time, Iran is supplying certain weapons to the Houthis, which shows that this potential of hostile countries should be destroyed, so to speak.
Another problem was that the Houthis were blocking the exit to the Red Sea. In fact, 15% of the trade turnover between Europe and Asia passes through the Gulf of Aden, which is an extremely important transportation hub, and neither the Americans nor the British will allow the Houthis to block these shipments.
Assistance to Ukraine
On the other hand, when talking about Ukraine and say where are ballistic missiles and destruction systems for Ukraine, there is a dissonance, because a certain terrorist group has an impressive list of weapons, and Ukraine has not developed such systems, which is actually another impetus to either really expand real cooperation with its Western partners and create real opportunities to repel the Russian invasion.
Amid this, I would like to see more active assistance from Ukraine's partners to strengthen Ukrainian defense capabilities, and today's visit of the British Prime Minister is, in my opinion, a positive step, because the first agreement with the G7 countries was signed, which defines security guarantees, Although Ukraine is now cautious about using the word "guarantee" after the Budapest Memorandum, the agreement is designed for 10 years, has nine chapters on different areas of cooperation, funding is allocated for each year, and even includes actions that Britain will take in the event of an attack by the Russian Federation, although in fact, Russian aggression is already underway.
Then the question arises as to what exactly constitutes these guarantees - in particular, consultations, within 24 hours certain countries that have decided to support Ukraine in the areas of arms supply must meet. I think that the very essence of this agreement is already important in that it now provides for areas of cooperation and allocation of funds, and also makes it possible to use the potential of the United Kingdom to strengthen Ukraine's industrial complex and obtain the weapons that Ukraine desperately needs.
We saw a meeting of the NATO council with the participation of the Ukrainian foreign minister, where they said that there would be quick steps to strengthen Ukraine's air defense. I think this topic also came up in the conversation with the British Prime Minister. But now the focus is only on getting more Patriot SAMs, if possible, but there are other proposals, including the possibility of getting ballistic missile defense systems from the United States, such as THAAD or Aegis Combat System. That is, Ukraine needs to expand the list of models that can fight Russian ballistic missiles at a much longer range than what Patriot can do. I think the Ukrainian side will raise this topic again; there is an understanding on the part of Ukraine's partners, and the question is to find these systems and create financial conditions so that Ukraine can either buy them or lease them or use them in a lease format or other solutions.
I believe that a hot war is still going on and it does have risks of escalation. Considering the statements of Sweden, which says that we understand the challenges that there may be a war and are preparing for war with the Russian Federation, we talk about transformation in NATO countries, we talk about the statements of the German Defense Minister, who also calls for more active rearmament of the army. But all this creates further risks. Now we see that this situation related to the actions of the Russian Federation can theoretically go beyond Ukraine.
Now the situation with Yemen is also one of the elements of this destabilization. How will this affect Ukraine's interests? In any case, Ukraine understands that it is important that the attention of the United States is not unfocused, but given the political statements made by the United States, there are still expectations of assistance to Ukraine - another billion US dollars. And then there are the actions of other partners, including the UK, where the military aid package will amount to $3.2 billion for two years in 2024-2025, which is more than the UK allocated in 2022 and 2023. In any case, there is a clear understanding that powerful countries still remain on Ukraine's side, and this creates preconditions for preparing Ukraine's active defense, especially in the perspective of offensive military operations.
Russian attacks on Ukraine
On January 8, the Russian Federation carried out another missile attack on Ukraine, the difference between this one and the previous ones was that a significant number of 25 ballistic missiles of various types were used, ranging from the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal to S-300 and S-400 missiles. These missiles were used by the Russian troops to hit those cities and objects where there are no powerful systems such as Patriot and SAMP/T that can repel these ballistic attacks. All 25 ballistic missiles were not shot down, although some of them did not reach their targets because they fell in different places, including the fragments of an Kh-32 missile, which is now being studied by Ukrainian experts, which fell in an open field. And when talking about the rest of the missiles, they were all shot down, but another feature of the attack, not so much on January 8, but on the other day, is that we found the wreckage of missiles that were identified as missiles from North Korea. Most likely, it is a missile under the KN-23 index, which is a copy of the Russian Iskander, but with a slightly longer range, up to 600 km.
Representatives of Ukraine's prosecutor's office said that there was confirmed evidence of the missile being a North Korean missile. Now a military-industrial axis of evil is being formed, with North Korea, Russia, Iran, and China, which is also involved in the supply of certain components. This axis of evil is now beginning to pose new serious challenges, because the emergence of ballistic missiles from North Korea, and then the risk of Iranian missiles, suggests that strengthening the air defense system is now on Ukraine's agenda. We have talked about this many times.
How the situation near Bakhmut and Avdiivka has changed in a year
January-May of last year, before the capture of Bakhmut or the ruins of Bakhmut, there were Russia's offensive actions, then in June-July-August-September, the Ukrainian side was engaged in offensive actions, when the most active battles were taking place in the south, And at that time, Russia was trying to somehow undermine the situation in the area of Kupyansk and Lyman, where Russian troops were trying to operate, and starting around October 9, when the attacks on Avdiivka began, this was the third such offensive by the Russian army along the entire contact line. In the three months since October 9, if we look closely at the map of the frontline, there have been no significant changes.
Map of fighting in Bakhmut sector
We can state that Russia has reached what remains of Marinka's ruins, and speaking of Avdiivka, we see that Ukraine's brigades are holding the town from both the north and the south, and the Russian army is not able to move closer its double envelopment it had dreamed of to prevent supplies to Ukraine's garrison.
Map of fighting in Marinka sectorAvdiivka will be held, about 13,000 Russian soldiers and about 400 units of armored vehicles were destroyed there, and it is clear that Russia is not particularly optimistic about further advances on Avdiivka.
Map of fighting in Avdiivka sector
Similarly, speaking of Kupyansk, where regular attacks have been launched since October, all the activity is taking place around several settlements near Synkivka, where the Russian army is approaching this settlement, which has already been destroyed, its mechanized units and manpower are being destroyed, they are retreating and trying to pull up reserves again.
Map of fighting in Kupyansk sectorIt is hardly possible to say that Russia's offensive has stopped completely, because Ukraine is only at a certain stage where the Russian troops are accumulating forces in certain areas related to Kupyansk, Avdiivka, Bakhmut and Marinka, although at a lower intensity. It can be expected that in some time Russia will also start active hostilities again.
Number of Russian troops in Ukraine
Speaking about the number of Russian forces, yesterday there was a statement by the Deputy Head of the Main Intelligence Directorate Vadym Skibitskyi, who said that there are 462 thousand Russian soldiers in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. By the way, this is slightly more than in December, when the number was 430,000, meaning that this hidden mobilization, as Skibitsky said, allows Russia to maintain the intensity of hostilities that are currently taking place on the front line. The main forces are now concentrated in the Kupyansk-Lyman area, with about 100,000 troops there, 80,000 in Bakhmut, 40,000 in Avdiivka, and then, as we move south, up to 200,000 personnel are stretched across different areas.
Battle of Krynky
This is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult areas, because marines, border guards, and Special Operations Forces are now there. According to various estimates, there are 300 to 600 of Ukrainian servicemen there, who are primarily covered by Ukraine's artillery from the right bank of the Dnipro, FPV drones, and electronic warfare. In fact, Russia is using assault operations for its Russian paratroopers to dislodge Ukrainian marines, but they fail, and when any Russian equipment is used, it is destroyed by artillery and FPV drones.
In the extreme pictures around Krynky there are already graveyards of Russian military equipment. Ukrainian marines are being covered quite effectively, but we need to understand what we are doing next with this mission in this part of the frontline. We have to understand that in any case, military expediency should be in the foreground, not some political decisions that can sometimes excessively dominate military logic.