Ukraine Situation Report: First Person Video Drone Relentlessly Hunts Down A Russian Van

Today’s situation report starts with what is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary videos captured by drones so far in the conflict in Ukraine — and there have been many to choose from. This one was apparently first posted to the Telegram messaging app by Escadrone, a non-profit group organized in Ukraine in order to manufacture first-person view (FPV) attack drones — a type of highly maneuverable loitering munition that is proving highly important in the conflict.

The footage shows a Ukrainian FPV drone literally chasing down a Russian UAZ-452 4×4 off-road van, better known as a Bukhanka, as it tears down a road, veering wildly from side to side in an attempt to avoid the drone.

One of the passengers can be seen leaning out of a window of the van, attempting to shoot the drone down using an assault rifle, but the drone then appears to strike home and detonate successfully.

While this is certainly one of the more remarkable videos to have emerged showing FPV drones in action in Ukraine, the importance of these systems on the battlefield means we will certainly see many more, especially with extensive efforts underway, in Ukraine especially, to field them in far greater numbers.

The massive impact on armed FPV drones has been so major that there is now open talk that they are taking dominance over shoulder-launched anti-armor weapons on the battlefield. Ukraine is particularly concerned that Russia is now taking an upper hand in this arena, after Ukrainian forces largely dominated with the use of FPV drones up until recently.

Before we head into the latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that the actions of his armed forces have denied the Russian Navy the ability to operate freely within the Black Sea.

“I would like to note that now — as one of the main results of our actions — Russia is unable to use the Black Sea as a springboard to destabilize other regions of the world,” Zelensky said, in a post on Telegram.

The Ukrainian leader also pointed specifically to the effectiveness of drone boats and drone submarines — more properly, uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) and uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) — in forcing the Russian Navy to pull back from these waters.

“For the first time in the world, it was in the Black Sea that a fleet of naval drones began to operate — a Ukrainian fleet,” Zelensky added.

Repeated attacks on Russian Navy vessels, infrastructure, and command facilities, primarily in and around Crimea, have seen Ukraine take the initiative in the naval war. This has increasingly resulted in Russian naval vessels being pushed back to waters further east and to the south in the Black Sea, limiting their effectiveness in the Ukrainian conflict. In particular, vessels able to launch Kalibr land attack cruise missiles have been relocated from Sevastopol, taking them away from their support infrastructure, with significant operational repercussions.

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has said that Russian forces are continuing to launch attacks against the heavily contested town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

In its latest intelligence update, the MoD said: “Russia is almost certainly attempting a pincer movement to encircle the town.”

The analysis continued: “Avdiivka has been fought over for nearly a decade and holds political importance to Russia given its proximity to Donetsk city … The [Avdiivka Coke and Chemical] plant dominates the main road into Avdiivka and, if Russian forces were to secure it, resupplying the town would become increasingly difficult for Ukraine.”

In the remarkable video below, purportedly taken somewhere near Avdiivka, Russian forces can be seen using an MT-LB tracked armored fighting vehicle as a VBIED, or vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. Packed with explosives, the MT-LB is sent in the direction of the Ukrainian lines, but it runs into a minefield and is destroyed in a spectacular detonation before reaching its target.

The following video confirms that drone-launched grenades, mortars, and other munitions are just as important as ever on the battlefield, including around Andriivka. In this case, they are seen being used with unerring accuracy by Ukraine against Russian trenches and foxholes.

Fighting appears to continue around Bakhmut, also in the eastern Donetsk region, where a bloody battle ended up with the city falling into Russian hands earlier this year, after months of fighting. The video below, although undated, purports to show an assault on Russian positions by the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade. Intense trench warfare and close-quarters fighting through a landscape of blasted trees is still very much the order of the day in this region.

There are reports, too, of heavy Russian shelling in the southern city of Kherson, in the Ukrainian region of the same name.

The local governor, Oleksandr Prokudin, said today that at least one person had been killed and at least eight injured during the shelling.

“The enemy fire damaged residential buildings and a grocery store,” Prokudin said on Telegram. “A critical infrastructure facility was also destroyed,” he added. His claims were reported by Reuters, although they cannot currently be independently verified.

Kherson comes under regular Russian attack, primarily by artillery fire. The city was abandoned by Russian troops a year ago when they withdrew from the western bank of the Dnipro River. Kherson remains vulnerable to Russian fire from positions on the eastern bank.

On the Dnipro, the Ukrainian Armed Forces say that the situation on the Russian-held eastern bank of the river is “fairly fluid.” Earlier this week, Russia admitted for the first time that Ukrainian troops had managed to cross over to the eastern bank and establish bridgeheads there. You can read our most recent update detailing the situation here.

In a report yesterday, The Wall Street Journal said that Ukrainian marines were reinforcing positions in three villages on the eastern bank of the Dnipro. These positions are said to include several Humvees as well as at least one infantry fighting vehicle. These have reportedly been effectively used to cut off one road used by Russian forces to resupply their troops in the area.

Overall, the crossing of the Dnipro has been a rare highlight in the slow-moving Ukrainian counteroffensive. Western officials today said that the counteroffensive has essentially come to a standstill on the Zaporizhzhia front, but stated that three Ukraine brigades are believed to have made it across the Dnipro near Kherson.

These three brigades are now thought to have established a position on the Russian side of the river, although they will need considerable support and armor if they are to remain there.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Southern Command said: “The pushback from our side is taking place on a line from three to eight kilometers [1.8 to five miles] along the entire bank from the water’s edge. For now, we will ask for informational silence … which would allow us to report later on great successes.”

Speaking to media outlet RBK Ukraine, Ukrainian military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko said that the growing area of contested control on the eastern bank “significantly reduces the mobility and capability of the Russian occupiers.”

Attacks from the air now, and reports that the Zaporizhzhia region, in the south, came under Russian missile attack yesterday. According to local officials, one Russian missile killed two emergency workers who were trying to put out a fire from an attack only minutes earlier.

Regional governor, Yuriy Malashko, claimed that at least seven other people were injured in the strikes in the Zaporizhzhia region, in the course of which Russia fired three missiles in about half an hour.

Ukraine continues to inflict heavy losses on Russian one-way attack drones sent primarily to strike its critical national infrastructure (CNI) targets. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, its air defenses shot down 16 out of 18 attack drones launched by Russia in the latest wave of overnight strikes. One Russian Kh-59 series standoff missile was also claimed destroyed.

Among the weapons used by Ukraine in its war against Russian long-range attack drones is the Cold War-era ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun, seen here reportedly engaging an Iranian-designed Shahed-series kamikaze drone.

With strikes by air-launched cruise missiles remaining at a notably reduced tempo, Moscow is relying increasingly on long-range drones for these kinds of missions. At the same time, use is being made of S-300 series surface-to-air missiles that have been repurposed for the land attack role.

Ukrainian authorities said today that S-300s had been used in attacks on civilian infrastructure in the eastern region of Kharkiv. While they reported that damage had been inflicted, they also said that no deaths or injuries had been reported.

More repurposed S-300 surface-to-air missiles appear to have been used in a Russian strike launched against the eastern Ukrainian town of Selydove yesterday. As of Thursday, rescuers were still working at the site of the attack, a residential building, where officials said that the death toll now stood at three, with another body having been recovered today. Three people were reportedly injured in the strike.

“Body of third victim of Russian missile strike has been found,” the state emergency service said on Telegram.

A spokesperson for the rescue services also told Ukraine’s state-run Suspilne media outlet that one more person is believed to be trapped under the rubble.

According to the Ukrainian police, yesterday’s attack on Selydove saw four missiles hit the town, causing damage to six apartment buildings and 20 homes.

Rescue workers carry the remains of a person killed in front of a heavily damaged residential building following a Russian strike, in the town of Selydove, Donetsk region, on November 15, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images

In related news, Ukraine today announced that it has commenced production of a long-range attack drone said to be analogous to the widely used Shahed-136 that is employed by Russia.

According to Oleksandr Kamyshin, the Minister for Strategic Industries of Ukraine, serial production of the so-called “Ukrainian Shahed” has commenced at a rate of “dozens” per month.

U.S.-supplied M1126 Stryker 8×8 armored fighting vehicles are not often seen in Ukrainian hands, but this one is seen having been knocked out, likely by a Russian anti-armor missile or rocket-propelled grenade. The Stryker is said to have been fighting in the Zaporizhzhia region when it was hit. According to Oryx, the open-source Dutch intelligence defense analysis website, at least nine other Strykers have been confirmed as destroyed or damaged so far.

More 8×8 armored fighting vehicles could be on their way to Ukraine before long, too, with unconfirmed reports that the Hyundai Rotem company in South Korea plans to supply Kyiv with its N-WAY 8×8 wheeled armored personnel carriers.

The newly appointed British Foreign Secretary David Cameron today met Ukrainian President Zelensky during a trip to Kyiv.

Cameron said that the United Kingdom would continue its military support to Ukraine and that it would remain a priority despite the continuing crisis in the Middle East.

In a video posted by the Ukrainian president on X (formerly Twitter), Cameron said:

“What I want to say by being here is we will continue to give you the moral support, the diplomatic support, the economic support, but above all the military support that you need, not just this year, and next year, but however long it takes.”

Zelensky added: “Now you know the world is not focused on the situation on our battlefield in Ukraine and it’s dividing focus really doesn’t help, and we are thankful that you always supported Ukraine.”

Cameron’s Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, said that the two countries were determined to work together “toward victory”. Kuleba also noted that the United Kingdom would continue providing Kyiv with weapons, noting that co-production efforts would be ramped up and also pointing to the aim of “ridding the Black Sea of Russian threats.”

A Russian court today found the artist and musician Alexandra Skochilenko guilty of knowingly spreading fake news about the behavior of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine. The 33-year-old has been sentenced to seven years in a prison colony after she replaced supermarket price tags with messages calling for an end to the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

Skochilenko undertook the action in a supermarket in her native Saint Petersburg in March 2022.

Skochilenko, who has already spent over a year and a half in prison, denied the formal charge of knowingly spreading false information about the army.

As part of a crackdown on anyone who speaks out against Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, there have so far been a reported 20,000 detentions and more than 800 criminal cases.

Russian artist Alexandra Skochilenko, 33, accused of spreading disinformation about the Russian Army for changing supermarket price tags with messages criticizing the Russian military offensive in Ukraine, gestures from inside a defendants’ cage during her verdict hearing at a court in Saint Petersburg on November 16, 2023. Photo by OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images

According to a report today from Agence France-Presse, central Asian migrants are leaving Russia in significant numbers as a direct result of the war in Ukraine.

AFP spoke to one individual, construction worker Zoir Kurbanov from Tajikistan, who had lived and worked in Russia for a decade.

Kurbanov said he was offered jobs on building sites in Mariupol and Donetsk, both cities in occupied Ukraine. The 39-year-old refused and decided to return to Tajikistan to take a worse-paid job.

The report claims that as a way of filling the ranks of its armed forces in Ukraine, Russia is attempting to lure central Asian migrants like Kurbanov to work in occupied parts of Ukraine. From there, they are then accused of a real or fabricated offense by the local Russian authorities, who offer them the choice of prison or serving on the front lines.

In a related development, Russian lawmaker Mikhail Matveyev recently called for central Asians who have recently been granted Russian citizenship to be drafted instead of ethnic Russians. “Why are they not mobilized? Where are the Tajik battalions? There is a war going on, Russia needs soldiers. Welcome to our citizenship.”

To finish the latest situation report, a classic example of low-flying from some of the recognized masters of the art — the Ukrainian Air Force. The undated footage shows a Ukrainian MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter skimming the tarmac at its base, before pulling up into a steep vertical climb, in a video that reportedly dates from sometime this year.

That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.

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Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.