The Ukrainian military’s plans to field more soldiers have been dealt a blow after the parliament today refused to debate a new bill extending mobilization. The bill had been intended to address shortfalls in the ranks, now felt especially keenly as the Ukrainian counteroffensive, launched in the summer, has made only limited gains.
The bill was already controversial among lawmakers and the public. After a closed-door meeting with Ukraine’s military leaders, David Arakhamia, ruling party leader, today said that “some provisions directly violate human rights.”
“We understand the request of the military command and are ready to meet it. But not all the rules can be supported,” Arakhamia added, as the bill was kicked back to the government.
Introduced last month, the bill included several provisions, including tougher penalties for draft dodgers and a reduction in the starting age of military service from 27 to 25 years old. The bill was also set to do away with the currently unlimited period of compulsory wartime service and instead reduce this to 36 months.
It’s unclear where the latest development leaves the Ukrainian Armed Forces and their aspiration to increase their troop numbers, although Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov has said that a new version of the bill is ready for the government to review.
However, opposition politician Yaroslav Zheleznyak painted a bleak picture, as far as the military is concerned. “In short, there will be no developments under the law on mobilization. Neither today nor tomorrow. Nor in the near future.”
In December, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that the military needed to mobilize up to half a million people, to face the approximately 600,000 Russian soldiers directly involved in the Ukrainian war.
Currently, Ukraine has around 850,000 soldiers among its ranks, but its military is coming under increasing pressure as Russia increases its troop numbers on the front lines. Independent estimates suggest that Ukraine has already lost many tens of thousands of troops since the start of the full-scale invasion.
An unknown number of military-aged Ukrainian men have also left the country illegally to evade service with the armed forces. Referring to this, Zelensky today said: “If they are of mobilization age, then they should help Ukraine. And they should be in Ukraine.”
Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.
During his tour of the Baltic States, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was today in Estonia, meeting that country’s leaders. Once again, the Ukrainian president slammed the idea of a ceasefire, stating that such a move would benefit only Russia and wouldn’t lead to political dialogue.
Zelensky warned that a ceasefire would help Russia, giving it time to replenish its munitions stocks. He also noted that Moscow was already seeking to boost its available firepower by negotiating arms purchases from both Iran and North Korea. The Ukrainian leader claimed that, so far, Russia has received more than a million rounds of ammunition from North Korea.
During Zelensky’s visit to the Estonian capital, Tallinn, the country’s President Alar Karis called for long-term defense investment. “Lasting peace requires long-term investment in our defense capabilities,” he said.
Thirteen people were injured after two Russian missiles struck the Park Hotel in the city of Kharkiv — Ukraine’s second-largest city — late Wednesday, according to local authorities. Among those injured were foreign journalists, known to be regular users of the hotel.
In a post on the Telegram messaging app, the Kharkiv governor, Oleh Synehubov, said the missile strike took place at around 10:30 pm, local time, and involved S-300 surface-to-air missiles repurposed for the land-attack role.
“Nine of those injured have been taken to medical facilities,” wrote Synehubov. “One of them, a 35-year-old man, is in serious condition.”
According to AFP, Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov confirmed that 30 civilians were present when the missiles hit the hotel. Terekhov said there were no military personnel there at the time. Several other buildings, including two apartment blocks, were also reported damaged in the same attack.
In response to the attack, Sergiy Tomilenko, president of Ukraine’s National Union of Journalists, said that the missile strikes amounted to “the intimidation of media workers in order to limit the coverage of the war.”
Among the growing assortment of Turkish-supplied vehicles now being used by Ukraine is the Kirpi (Turkish for Hedgehog) mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle manufactured by BMC. Said to provide significant protection against mine and ballistic threats, the Kirpi has a V-shaped monocoque hull as well as provisions for both standard and add-on armor.
An interesting video, with subtitles provided by @wartranslated, reveals the chaos that took hold within a Russian unit after it came under attack from Ukrainian cluster munitions, somewhere in the Kharkiv region. While the date is unknown, the snow on the ground suggests it could well be from the current winter fighting.
Another unsuccessful Russian assault is shown in the next video, said to have been filmed near Kreminna/Terny in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine. The Russian tank and two BMP-series infantry fighting vehicles reportedly fell victim to the Ukrainian 60th Mechanized Brigade.
In our last Situation Report, we discussed an explosion on a section of railroad near the city of Nizhny Tagil in Russia’s Urals region.
According to Russian media outlet Baza, the explosion happened near an oil depot, close to the station of San-Donato. Russian Railways said that traffic in the area was “restricted” and some trains might run behind schedule.
Now a video has emerged that purports to show that damage:
The problem of mines in the Black Sea could be a step closer to being resolved, at least in part, thanks to a new de-mining agreement signed by Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey.
The three NATO members signed a memorandum of understanding in Istanbul establishing the Mine Countermeasures Naval Group in the Black Sea, or MCM Black Sea. The new group will oversee de-mining operations in these waters, to ensure the safe passage of shipping.
“It is of vital importance to be protected from security risks that war could cause,” said Turkish Minister of Defense Yaşar Güler, at the signing ceremony. “With the start of the war, mines drifting in the Black Sea posed a threat. To overcome this, we have come this far with joint efforts of our Bulgarian and Romanian allies,” he added.
MCM Black Sea will involve vessels only from Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey, although there’s scope for warships from other navies to become involved in the future.
Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline was heavily mined in the early stages of Russia’s full-scale invasion. Since then, some mines have been washed up in the waters of Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey. As well as endangering shipping, the mines have been a thorn in the side of Ukrainian efforts to break through Russia’s naval blockade, especially to ensure its continued export of grain.
Last month, a Panama-flagged ship arriving to collect grain struck a Russian naval mine in the Black Sea, injuring two sailors, according to Ukrainian authorities.
In related news, the commander of the Ukrainian Navy, Vice Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa, has said that the country has not requested Turkey allow two former U.S. Royal Navy Sandown class mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) to pass into the Black Sea.
Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Turkey can block the passage of military vessels through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. The treaty does not apply to ships returning to home bases.
Neizhpapa said that while the two MCMVs, renamed Cherkasy and Chernihiv, have been transferred to the Ukrainian Navy, they will remain in the United Kingdom for the time being, for crew training.
First-person view (FPV) drones continue to take a toll on armored vehicles and other targets on the battlefield, with unerring accuracy. Case in point, the next video, in which an explosives-armed Ukrainian FPV drone appears to enter the turret hatch of a Russian T-72 tank, before knocking it out.
In the next video, the tables are turned, as a Russian soldier downs an incoming FPV drone with small-arms fire.
Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, continues to come under attack from Kyiv’s forces. The governor of Belgorod, Vyacheslav Gladkov, admitted today that the region is facing “hard times,” due to recent shelling from Ukrainian forces.
Gladkov added that residents were “afraid” and that “not everyone can physically cope with it.”
In reaction to the attacks, which have reportedly left over two dozen dead, hundreds of residents have already left Belgorod city, the capital of the Russian border region of the same name.
“The Belgorod region is going through hard times. What Belgorodians have endured and are enduring, not everyone can physically cope with it. Everyone is afraid, but it is one thing when you sit and are afraid alone, and another thing when we cope with this misfortune together.”
Moscow has said that it will do “everything” it can to stop the attacks, but so far has not been able to prevent Ukrainian strikes on the region.
Not only Belgorod is feeling the effects of Ukrainian efforts to ‘bring the war home’ to Russia.
The Russian Ministry of Defense today claimed that its air defense forces had downed four Ukrainian drones over the Tula, Kaluga, and Rostov regions. Meanwhile, in the Voronezh region, governor Aleksandr Gusev stated that a Ukrainian drone had hit “the roof of a non-residential building” overnight, although said there was “no harm done.”
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the target of the drone in the Voronezh region was an aircraft repair facility, in Borisoglebsk, around 250 miles from the Ukrainian border.
The United Kingdom supplied Ukraine with its first modern Western-designed tanks, but the Challenger 2s have only infrequently been seen in action, although at least one knocked-out example has been noted in the past.
Also only rarely seen in action is the Ukrainian-operated, German-supplied IRIS-T SLM surface-to-air missile system. This example is seen launching a pair of IRIS-T missiles toward a Russian aerial target.
An account from the Russian military blogger Mikhail Zvinchuk, who writes on Telegram under the name Rybar, suggests there is dissatisfaction in Russian ranks about the handling of the campaign on the Dnieper River. Rybar says that Russian artillery fire responds too slowly to be of particular use, while a lack of air superiority means that Ukrainian aircraft can fly unchallenged overhead. As well as a criticism of the local commander, Rybar claims that Russian electronic warfare capabilities on this front are insufficient.
Moscow has issued another nuclear threat, with Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chair of Russia’s security council and a senior ally of Putin, warning today that any Ukrainian attacks on missile launch sites inside Russia, using weapons supplied by the United States and its allies would risk a nuclear response from Moscow.
Medvedev claimed that Ukrainian military commanders were considering striking missile launch sites within Russia’s borders with Western-supplied long-range missiles. The implication is that the Russian missile sites that would be targeted would be those used to launch conventionally armed ballistic missiles against Ukraine. Most, if not all, Russian ballistic missiles have the option to be fitted with nuclear warheads.
On the Telegram messaging app, Medvedev wrote:
“What does this mean? It means only one thing — they risk running into the action of paragraph 19 of the fundamentals of Russia’s state policy in the field of nuclear deterrence. This should be remembered.”
In its 2020 nuclear doctrine statement, Paragraph 19 provides a list of conditions under which the Russian president would consider using a nuclear weapon, including an attack involving conventional weapons against Russia “when the very existence of the state is put under threat.”
In other nuclear news, South Korea has claimed that Ukraine has become a de-facto test site for North Korean nuclear missiles. Like Russia, North Korea’s ballistic missile designs can also be armed with nuclear warheads. It recently emerged that North Korean missiles are now being used by Russia in its war on Ukraine, as you can read about here.
“By exporting missiles to Russia, the DPRK uses Ukraine as the test site of its nuclear-capable missiles,” said the South Korean ambassador to the UN, Hwang Joon-kook, using the official name of North Korea. The ambassador noted that one of the North Korean-supplied missiles flew 285 miles, the same distance between a North Korean launch site and the South Korean city of Pusan. “From the ROK [South Korean] standpoint, it amounts to a simulated attack,” Hwang said.
The latest version of the Russian UMPK series precision-guided glide bomb kit appears to be the heaviest yet, being based on an FAB-1500M-54 freefall bomb body, which has a nominal weight of 3,307 pounds. You can read more about the UMPK kit here.
That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.
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