Ukraine Situation Report: The Winter War Has Arrived

Winter has arrived in Ukraine with snow blanketing parts of the country in recent days. Summer’s lush green grass is long gone and the golden fields of autumn are fading fast, soon to be buried by motionless white amid tank tracks and fresh craters. 

Video of two Ukrainian T-64BV tanks on the move gives a rough idea of what lies ahead as temperatures fall further. The two snow-covered behemoths roll along under dimly lit overcast. The haunting snowy terrain is as beautiful as it is unforgiving for those fighting in it.

One of the former Afghan Air Force Mi-17s donated to Ukraine by the U.S., and a Dutch-donated YPR-765 APC, made frosty appearances as well. The snow evoked memories of a chilling image of a Russian casualty in the war’s earliest days outside Kharkiv. 

Away from the frontlines, winter poses further challenges as Ukraine’s energy sector remains under siege. Maksym Tymchenko, head of Ukraine’s leading energy company DTEK, said Ukrainians should be ready to leave the country before winter fully sets in to avoid overloading a power supply already on life support. 

Recently liberated Kherson is in a similar predicament with much of its basic infrastructure, namely power and water, remaining damaged from fighting and scorched earth tactics.

Before heading into the latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get up to speed with our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

A large explosion, reportedly from a natural gas pipeline, rocked Russia’s Leningrad Oblast just outside St. Petersburg on Saturday morning.

It’s not immediately clear what caused the inferno, and no casualties have been reported. Industrial accidents happen, but given the context of Russia’s continued strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure and the NordStream pipelines’ suspicious sabotage this fall, it’s something to keep a close eye on. 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as snow fell in Kyiv on Saturday. 

The BBC reported that the two discussed a new British aid package, including 125 anti-aircraft guns, radars, and electronic warfare systems to combat the continued threat from Iranian drones. The two also visited Kyiv’s growing exhibition of captured and destroyed Russian equipment, and Sunak met Patron, Ukraine’s bomb-sniffing Jack Russell terrier. 

Sunak is the second British leader to visit the capital, with former Prime Minister Boris Johnson making previous visits during the war. His visit also came as Zelensky confirmed Russia had yet to officially seek negotiations for the war’s end. 

In the Kherson region, we have footage of Ukrainian soldiers clearing anti-tank mines up close and personal. Soldiers rig the tank-killing saucers with explosives before setting them off. 

The work isn’t for nothing either, as evidenced by what’s left of a Ukrainian M1224 MaxxPro mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle. The engine and everything in front of the front axle got blown to pieces, but the crew compartment remains largely intact as designed. 

For the first time since Russian forces attacked on February 24, a Ukrainian train arrived at Kherson’s train station to large crowds welcoming the decorated carriages. Ukraine’s railways, from Kyiv’s metro to vital east-west lines ferrying equipment, have remained incredibly resilient despite the Russian onslaught. 

So far as matters on the Black Sea go, rumors of a Ukrainian attack on the narrow Kinburn spit proved true in part after pictures of damage appeared Saturday. While reported amphibious landings remain unfounded, it does appear someone shelled buildings on the peninsula. 

With Kherson retaken, the world wonders when and where Ukraine will make its next move having pledged to liberate its remaining occupied territories, including Crimea. Volodymyr Havrylov, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister, claimed the country could return Crimea before the end of 2022, though Kyiv has since walked back that rather optimistic claim.

Work on the damaged Crimea Bridge continues as crews could be seen fitting pre-fabricated bridge segments into place. Traffic on the vital link between the peninsula and Russia has been limited since the stunning October 8 attack left the bridge crippled. 

Above the frontline, new footage shows what is said to be a Ukrainian MiG-29 Fulcrum launching an AGM-88 HARM. The missile’s lofted flight profile after launch both maximizes its range and improves its ability to detect and home in on the targeted radar, if indeed that is what is being depicted here.

We wrote about Ukraine’s rapidly developed HARM capability for its Fulcrums, which you can read here

Much closer to the ground, though, there are pictures of the Black Hornet micro drone in Ukrainian service. Ukraine has been equipped with a number of the tiny surveillance drones via the United Kingdom and Norway.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine tweeted a video of a surprisingly livable dugout field barracks somewhere near the frontline. Reportedly built by soldiers on their own initiative, it’s complete with lighting, bunk beds, and a router for wireless internet. 

If you’re fighting in a frozen nightmare, there has to be incredible value in having such a cozy and probably warm place to sleep.

There’s another grim reminder of where the war stands near the town of Bakhmut as the country groes colder. What’s left of fallen Russian troops lie scattered among the craters, the latest in Moscow’s continued assault on Ukrainian lines in the area. 

On a lighter note, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Rod Stewart began his British tour this week clad in blue and yellow with a tribute to Ukraine. 

We will continue to update this story until we state otherwise.

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