Ukraine Situation Report | 16 December 2022
Russian forces have conducted another major wave of airstrikes in Ukraine, launching more than 60 missiles in the most recent attacks on Ukrainian cities. Explosions have been reported in Kyiv - where water supplies and metro services have been affected - as well as in other major cities including the southern port city of Odesa. Kharkiv city is also reported to be without power after civilian infrastructure was targeted this week, while two fatalities have been confirmed in Kryvyi Rih after a residential building was hit. Ukrainian officials have claimed Moscow is trying to force Ukraine to negotiate whilst compensating for defeats on the battlefield. The Kremlin has yet to comment on the latest strikes, while Ukraine has accused Russia of planning a wide-ranging ground offensive for early in the new year.
Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has now faced not just weeks, but months of barrage, as Russian forces continue a relentless campaign to cripple the country’s power grid amid freezing wintry conditions. Kyiv is among the cities which have faced increased shelling and missile strikes in recent weeks, with some 40 missiles fired at the wider region within a single 12-hour period on Friday 16 December. Of these, 37 were allegedly shot down by Ukrainian air defence systems. Reports on Friday morning also indicate that at least nine power plants have been hit by Russian missiles in the last 24 hours, with the full extent of damage still yet to be determined. More than half of the country’s power consumers are estimated to have been affected by the strikes, while President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has reiterated warnings that they could soon face nationwide power cuts.
Ukraine’s claims that Russia is planning a new ground offensive has been supported by the latest British intelligence reports on the war, which suggest Moscow appears to be following “traditional military plans for entrenchment” typical of the Second World War. It’s been reported that Russian military heads have focused intense effort on constructing and reinforcing defensive front-line positions – tactics which have been “largely abandoned by most modern Western militaries” due to their vulnerability to precision strikes using modern military equipment. The speculated new Russian offensive could be concentrated in the eastern Donbas region, or in the south, or potentially towards Kyiv, according to Ukrainian generals, and is thought likely to occur in February, when half of the 300,000 conscripted troops would complete training. Western analysts have been more sceptical, however, and have suggested that Russia’s ability to conduct successful offensive ground operations is rapidly diminishing as Moscow is thought to be facing an imminent critical shortage of artillery munitions.
In the 10 months since Russia invaded Ukraine, territory held and controlled by Russian forces and Russian-backed separatist forces has increased, but still remains limited due to a mostly successful counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces. Military officials in Kyiv have stated that the Ukrainian offensive to retake occupied territory will resume as soon as weather conditions improve, but the overall message from Kyiv to Western allies amid the barrage has been that Ukraine needs more adequate air defence systems to protect cities and that it is “too early to relax” in light of the threat of a new Russian offensive.