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AFU strike on Russian airfield 180 km away from Moscow, more troops deployed in Belarus. What happened on the frontline

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Situation on the frontline

In the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, Russian troops have reportedly intensified radio-technical reconnaissance (RTR), the use of operational-tactical UAVs and Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft, military expert Konstantin Mashovets says. Electronic warfare (EW) activities have also intensified noticeably.

Bakhmut direction – Russian offensive continues, but on the whole, they are expecting to compensate for their losses, not by trainloads of equipment, but by convoys of KamAZ trucks with mobilized soldiers or prison transports with convicts, writes Ukrainian military and political expert Oleksandr Kovalenko. According to him, the pressure has not decreased, but the Russian army has exhausted its potential to advance, even for a hundred or two meters towards Bakhmut. The reason for this is the loss of combat effectiveness by the majority of the Russian units.

According to Mashevets, the Russian command has deployed at least two additional battalions in the Kurdyumivka area; their task is to break through to the Bila Hora-Kleshchyivka line together with the Wagner PMC. In this way, they will be able to create suitable conditions for the development of further offensive both towards Kostiantynivka and towards Ivanivske and Bakhmut (from the south).

At the same time, the Ukrainian army, despite its advantage in manpower, has no resources for a diversionary strike, similar to those it undertook during the fighting for the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk agglomeration, diverting the attention of the Russian Federation with attacks in the Kherson and Kharkiv directions. In fact, now, after a number of victories in the fall by the Ukrainian side, Bakhmut no longer represents a strategic value, but only a symbolic one. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are forced to expend large amounts of resources and manpower in an effort to hold this section of the front and fight battles of attrition.

Svatove direction - according to the military analyst Def Mon, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have repelled attacks near Ploshchanka and Bilohorivka. However, communication between Svatove and Kreminna has been interrupted, Mashovets writes.

“If the AFU closely approaches Severodonetsk – Lysychansk in those areas and advances towards Starobelsk, it will in all probability negate the enemy's efforts to the south and create a threat of the northern part of the entire Russian grouping of troops deployed in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine being cut off. That is why the enemy is continuing its persistent counterattacks in the Kreminna area towards Torske, Zarichne (i.e. towards Liman) and southwest of Svatove,” Mashovets writes.

In the Donetsk direction, according to Russian war correspondent Semyon Pegov's channel WarGonzo, Russian troops are advancing near Novomykhailivka and Marinka from the south, while Russian artillery is shelling Avdiivka and Krasnohorivka.

Russia builds up troops in Belarus

The total number of Russian troops in Belarus may reach 20,000-22,000, says Mashovets. Now this figure stands at 10,500 and growing. According to the expert, the transportation of troops to the joint Russian-Belarusian “training centers” is under way; once there, the process of active combat training of both Russian and Belarusian troops will start. Mashovets also notes that the movement of troops is carried out at a rate much higher than the transportation of weapons and military equipment. However, according to him, it is not enough for conducting active combat operations.

On December 3, it was reported that Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu arrived in Belarus for talks with President Lukashenka and Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin. According to Lukashenka, both Belarusian and Russian “defenders of the Union State” will be able to repel any aggression after joint training of units. “We are preparing today as a single grouping, a single army. Everyone knows about it around us. We have not been hiding it. And in the modern world, it's impossible to hide it,” Lukashenka said.

Mutual shelling. The Russian Armed Forces' strike on the Starokramatorsk Machine-Building Plant

On December 5, a number of explosions occurred at the Starokramatorsk machine-building plant. Pro-Russian Telegram channels are reporting a new strike on the plant, which is allegedly linked to the fact that the AFU ammunition depot might be located there. The previous strike on the plant was on December 3.

The head of Kryvyy Rih military administration, Oleksandr Vilkul, said that “several powerful explosions” were heard on the night of December 5. After midnight, the Russians reportedly fire three rockets at Kryvyy Rih, hitting an industrial enterprise; one worker was killed and three wounded. Later, the head of Kryvyy Rih said that the enterprise hit by the Russian Armed Forces was the ArcelorMittal Kryvyy Rih plant.

There were also explosions in Donetsk during the night. According to Russian media, the Ukrainian armed forces shelled the occupied city around 3:00 am, particularly hitting its central area.

  • Aftermath of Donetsk shelling
  • Aftermath of Donetsk shelling
  • Aftermath of Donetsk shelling

The occupied settlements of Alchevsk and Kreminna in the “LNR” were shelled by HIMARS rocket launchers. The so-called LNR reported 10 casualties in Alchevsk. One of the rockets landed on a dormitory.

Strikes on the Dyagilevo and Engels air bases 700 km from the Ukrainian border

There were simultaneous explosions at two military airfields in Russia. According to Russian media, an explosion in the apron area of an airfield near Ryazan (Dyagilevo) killed three people and injured five. The Russian state-run RIA Novosti reported it was an explosion of an oil tanker truck. According to RIA, an aircraft was damaged as a result of the incident. Tu-95MS and Tu-22M3 missile carriers are stationed at the base. Almost simultaneously with the explosion in Ryazan, another one occurred at the Russian Air Force strategic aviation airbase in Engels, Saratov Region. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, “the hull plating of two aircraft stationed at a Russian airbase was slightly damaged by falling and exploding debris of jet drones.” Kyiv did not officially claim responsibility for the attacks.

The pro-Russian Telegram channel Rybar reported that the incident at the strategic facilities was an act of sabotage “with a high degree of probability”. Another Russian propaganda outlet, Readovka, reported that both airfields were attacked by drones launched from the Kharkiv Region. In that case, the drone must have traveled about 700 kilometers to reach Engels. If the new Ukrainian drones do indeed have a range of 1,000 kilometers, then all Russian military targets from the Finnish border to Dagestan are within range. Shortly before the strike, Ukroboronprom announced a new stage of tests of a classified UAV with a range of up to 1,000 km, but no one has ever seen it and there is no evidence of its existence.

Grey Zone, a channel associated with the Wagner PMC, as well as the Russian military correspondent Alexander Kots claim the attack could have been carried out using the Tu-141 Strizh jet UAV - a reusable Soviet operational and tactical reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle with a flight range of up to 1000 km.

Area within the radius of 1000 km from Ukrainian-controlled territory @Tendar
Area within the radius of 1000 km from Ukrainian-controlled territory @Tendar

Russian military observer Ilya Kramnik noted that the drone had to fly through several air defense zones in this way, and compared it to the flight of 18-year-old German Matthias Rust, who in 1987 crossed the Soviet border and landed his small Cessna-172 Skyhawk light aircraft near the Kremlin walls on Vasilievsky Spusk. Rust's flight showed the poor organization of the Soviet air defense, dozens of generals and air defense officers were discharged, and two even got prison sentences.

The exact consequences of the strikes are not yet known. In Engels, the UAV strike does not appear to have had any serious consequences. This follows from a comparison between the December 5 satellite images of the airfield taken after the strike and the December 4 images taken the day before.

In Dyagilevo, a Tu-22M3 was probably damaged as a result of the strike. Judging by the photo, the bomber could have been equipped with an Kh-22 missile. If it had exploded as a result of the strike, it would have caused significant damage to the aircraft sitting on open ground nearby. The Ukrainian media also say that a Tu-95MS was damaged, and that project 95 planes are no longer in production, so the loss of the plane caused a considerable harm to the Russian Air Force. There is still no confirmation that a Tu-95 was damaged.

Tu-22M3 in the apron area at Dyagilevo before and after UAV strike Rob Lee
Tu-22M3 in the apron area at Dyagilevo before and after UAV strike Rob Lee

Aviation Colonel Viktor Alksnis writes that both airfields are used for stationing long-range aviation aircraft, which carry strategic nuclear weapons and are part of the Russian Federation nuclear triad comprised of ground-based, sea-based and air-based nuclear forces. In other words, the strike targeted the aviation component of the Russian Federation's nuclear deterrent force.

“Aerodromes in Engels and Dyagilevo belong to such critical military facilities, the disabling of which would disrupt retaliatory actions of Russia’s nuclear forces. And if we follow the letter of the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation, these strikes are grounds for retaliatory nuclear strikes, at least tactical ones, against strategic facilities of Ukraine. First of all, the decision-making centers, bridges over the Dnieper River, tunnels and transport infrastructure”.

The pro-Russian Telegram channel Military Informant notes that the strikes on the airfields show the professional ineptitude of the Russian command, which did not learn the lessons of Ukraine's successful attacks on other Russian airfields.

“These people learned nothing from Saki in Crimea, or Veretie in the Pskov Region, or even the attempted drone strike on Shaikovka, where Tu-22M3s are based. In other words, the trend of strikes against airfields of the Air Force, and even more so against aviation carrying long-range missiles, was evident. To date, airfields, even with strategic aviation, cannot be covered by SAM systems with installed active phased array radars (e.g. Pantsir-SM) just to counter small commercial drones, which Ukrainian saboteurs have been using to attack targets on Russian territory almost since the beginning of hostilities”.

Dmitriy Peskov said that Vladimir Putin had been informed of the emergencies in the Saratov and Ryazan regions. The explosions at the Engels airfield were also commented on by advisor to the head of the Ukrainian presidential office Mykhaylo Podolyak.

“The Earth is round. Galileo discovered that. It is a pity that the Kremlin lot did not study astronomy, preferring court astrologers. Then they would have known: if you launch something into the airspace of other countries, sooner or later unknown projectiles will return to where they started.”

Massive missile strike on Ukraine

After reports of strikes on two Russian airfields, Russia launched a massive missile strike against Ukraine. The cruise missiles were launched from the Black and Caspian Seas and from strategic bombers. Propagandists said that it was a “retaliatory strike”, but military experts previously warned that Russia was preparing for a large-scale missile attack.

An air raid was declared in all regions of Ukraine. After the explosions, there were blackouts in the Kyiv region, Odessa was partially de-energized and residential buildings were destroyed in Zaporizhzhia. Explosions were heard in Cherkasy, Vinnytsia, Kirovohrad, Mykolaiv and Odessa regions. Missile hits were also reported in Odessa, Mykolaiv and Uman.

Four people were killed in the massive missile strike, a total of 70 missiles were fired, President Vladimir Zelensky said.

“The main result is that 70 Russian missiles have arrived, most of them have been shot down. But unfortunately, we are not yet able to fully protect our skies - there have been several hits. Unfortunately, there are casualties... As of this hour, there are four people on the list of those killed by the Russian strikes.”

The Russian shelling of Ukraine even reached Moldova on December 5 - a Russian missile fell on its territory but did not explode, according to Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Galushchenko, who discussed the incident with Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu.

According to the Ukrainian Air Force command, 60 of more than 70 incoming missiles were shot down.

“According to preliminary information, eight Tu-95MS strategic aviation bombers were used to launch 38 H-101/N-555 cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea and from Volgodonsk, Rostov Region. The enemy also fired 22 Kalibr cruise missiles from ships of the Black Sea Fleet. In addition, Ukraine was attacked from the Black Sea by long-range Tu-22M3 bombers each carrying three Kh-22 cruise missiles, and by Su-35 fighters each carrying six Kh-59 and one Kh-31R guided missile.”

Anti-aircraft missile units, aviation, mobile strike teams of the Ukrainian Air Force and other Defense Force units were involved in shooting down the missiles. A video has been published in which a cruise missile is allegedly destroyed by a Gepard SAM delivered from Germany.

Significant equipment losses

A video has also surfaced depicting the destruction of the Russian Air Force's Ka-52 helicopter with a distinguished crew, according to pro-Russian Telegram channel Fighterbomber. “The crew of the Beard was the grouping’s most effective crew. They were the best of the best. Legendary. Six Orders of Courage shared by the two of them. Today they're gone. Both of them. The crew has been presented for the highest award and the highest title of the Russian Federation, the Gold Stars of Heroes. Posthumously.”

Apparently, the helicopter was shot down with an S-300, according to OSINTtechnical.

Another substantial loss for Russia was the Su-24M shot down near Bakhmut on December 5.

Supply of weapons and military equipment, including modified HIMARSs, to Ukraine

The USA has modified the HIMARS missile launchers for their further transfer to Ukraine. Due to the modification, Ukraine will not be able to launch the missiles to the Russian territory, The Wall Street Journal reports. Since June, the USA has supplied Ukrainian forces with 20 HIMARS launchers and a large number of satellite-guided missiles with a range of almost 50 miles (80 km).

Also on December 3, Lithuania handed over to Ukraine two more repaired PzH2000 self-propelled howitzers and 155 mm ammunition, the Ukrainian Armed Forces general staff says.

See also The Insider's December 2 military report: Russia preparing evacuation from Kakhovka, withdrawal from Zaporizhzhia NPP, another plan to seize Kyiv. What happened on the frontline.

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