The Ukrainian army chief reckons that Russia could attack Kyiv again early next year. Top economists are said to have warned Putin about the consequences of the war before the war began – but they lacked the courage to give the decisive answer. All information about the Ukraine war can be found in the news ticker.
10:27 a.m .: There is an air alarm again in Kyiv. This is reported by the “Kyiv Independent”.
10:24 a.m .: According to British secret services, Moscow is now using Iranian drones from a different location than before in its war of aggression in Ukraine. In addition to air and sea-launched cruise missiles, drones provided by Iran and launched from the southern Russian region of Krasnodar were most likely used in the attacks on critical infrastructure in recent days, according to the British Ministry of Defense’s daily briefing on Twitter on Saturday.
Previously, such drones were mainly launched from the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. The British take the shift as a sign that Moscow may be concerned about Crimea’s vulnerability. In addition, it is easier for the Russians to organize supplies at the new location, since the weapons are believed to arrive in the Russian region of Astrakhan, which is closer.
Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine at the end of February, the British Ministry of Defense has published daily information on the course of the war, citing intelligence information. In doing so, the British government wants to both counter the Russian portrayal and keep allies in line. Moscow accuses London of a disinformation campaign.
08:38: Vladimir Putin is said to have ignored warnings from Russian economic experts about the consequences of an invasion shortly before the outbreak of the Ukraine war. This is reported by the Financial Times. Accordingly, about a month before the Russian invasion, Putin received numerous top economists in his country, including Herman Gref, head of Russia’s Sberbank, and Elvira Nabiullina, head of the Russian central bank.
Economists were worried about the West’s reaction should Putin recognize the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. They predicted GDP losses of up to 30 percent, inflation rates of 35 percent and the Russian economy set back by decades.
According to the report, Putin was unimpressed. While Gref listed the possible consequences, Putin simply interrupted him – and asked a question: how does Russia prevent this? The obvious answer, of course, would have been to advise Putin against a military escalation. But according to the Financial Times report, economists lacked the courage to tell Putin the truth to his face.
The newspaper quotes a person who is said to have known about the talks: “You were brave enough to ask the big man to meet you. But they failed to get the message across. You were unable to give him the only answer.”
Saturday, December 17, 8:34 a.m.: Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has promised further talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin about ending the war of aggression against Ukraine. “Our goal is for Russia to end its war of aggression and for Ukraine to defend its integrity,” Scholz told the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ, Saturday edition). For this it will “be necessary to speak,” explained Scholz. “Whether that’s done by phone, video link or at a long table remains to be seen.”
Russia must “recognize that this cannot continue”. Putin must “end the war, withdraw troops and thus create the opportunity for mutual understanding”. The appeal could only be: “Putin, end this war.” In view of Russia’s military failure, the danger of an escalation is “great”.
In early December, Scholz called Putin for the first time since mid-September. According to Steffen Hebestreit, the chancellor pushed for a diplomatic solution as quickly as possible during the hour-long conversation.
The Chancellor also does not expect a gas emergency, neither this winter nor the following. In view of the state aid programs that have already been launched, “it can be assumed that with this sum we can mitigate the high prices this winter and next,” Scholz told the “SZ”. In the future, the supply situation should improve and prices on the energy market should go back down. Despite the Russian supply freeze, the supply of gas will also be guaranteed in the coming winter.
With a view to the raw materials needed for the energy transition, Germany must also overcome its “reluctance” when it comes to procurement. In the future, for example, the country must be “honest enough” to say that the cobalt needed for the batteries of electric cars can be mined “with our support” and ensure “better working and environmental conditions”. “We can’t afford to be etepetete,” Scholz continued.
7:55 p.m .: The Russian elite unit of the 200th separate motorized rifle brigade has been “virtually destroyed” almost ten months after the start of the Ukraine war. This was the result of research by the US newspaper “Washington Post”. The unit, believed to be one of Russia’s strongest, was wiped out, the newspaper writes, based on the brigade’s internal documents, as well as information from Ukrainian and Western military and intelligence officials.
According to an internal Russian military document, the unit left Russia with more than 1,400 soldiers before the start of the war. Their goal: the attack on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. But by the end of May there were fewer than 900 soldiers left in the brigade. The commander was seriously wounded, other soldiers were listed as “missing” or “refusers”. Rocket launchers and tanks were destroyed or captured.
In September, the retreating unit of the 200th separate motor rifle brigade from Kharkiv encountered the advancing 92nd mechanical brigade of the Ukrainian military. Most of the officers were killed or injured, according to senior Ukrainian officer Pavlo Fedosenko. About 70 percent of the equipment was also destroyed. “There is nothing left of the brigade, it was wiped out,” Fedosenko told the Washington Post. According to a European military official, they “can no longer be regarded as a combat force”.
The brigade’s reconstruction, based on internal documents, interviews with members and their families, and reports from the Ukrainian military revealed that the unit had been severely depleted for months. The experienced soldiers and professional officers were replaced by inexperienced conscripts who were forced into military service. “They don’t even train us. … They just tell you, ‘You’re a Sagittarius now. There you go, there’s a machine gun here,” a soldier from the unit previously told the newspaper.
5:17 p.m .: The Ukrainian military leadership expects a major Russian offensive at the beginning of next year, including an attempt to recapture the capital Kyiv. “The Russians are preparing about 200,000 soldiers for the mission. I have no doubt that they are targeting Kiev again,” General Valery Zalushniy was quoted as saying by the Econimist magazine.
The Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Resnikov expects the new major offensive in February. He calculated that the training of the 300,000 Russian soldiers recently conscripted would take about three months. At this point, it was completed, he told the Guardian.
According to Reznikov, half of the newly drafted soldiers will be used to reinforce the Russian armed forces after losses on the battlefield. The rest – around 150,000 – are to be prepared more thoroughly for future offensives. The generals Saluschnij and Syrskij even reckon with 200,000 soldiers. It is not certain whether the advance will come from the Donbass in the east of the country, from the south or from neighboring Belarus.
However, analysts at the US think tank Institute for the Study of War suspect that Russian troops could most likely go on the offensive along two axes – along the Kharkiv-Luhansk border in northeastern Ukraine or in the Donetsk region. Currently, it appears that Russia is moving heavy weapons near the current front line along the Kharkiv-Luhansk border. In addition, the Russian leadership had regrouped the troops there.
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