Both sides have made small advances along the frontline in recent days. But Bakhmut remains the hottest spot, where battle has been going on for almost five months.
The Wagner PMC stormed Kleshcheyevka south of Bakhmut, WarGonzo reports. Counterattacks continue on the eastern outskirts of the city itself. To the northeast, the Wagner PMC is attacking in the area of Podgorodne. South of Soledar the AFU are trying to break through defenses near Bakhmutske. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian armed forces repulsed attacks near Marinka and Krasnohorivka.
Destroyed apartment buildings, seriously wounded soldiers, muddy trenches, and civilians in basements under incessant shelling have been common scenes in and around Bakhmutsince the fighting began.
Gaining control of a town with a prewar population of 70-80,000, which has dwindled to nearly 10,000, could give Russia a springboard for an offensive against two larger cities, Kramatorsk and Slavyansk, Reuters notes. Due to fierce fighting, much of Bakhmut is in ruins.
Residential building in Bakhmut damaged by Russian strike
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived at the positions of the Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut on December 20. He personally decorated Ukrainian servicemen.
«Bakhmut fortress. Our soldiers. They won’t surrender to the enemy. With their bravery they have proven we will stand our ground and won’t give up. Ukraine is proud of you. I am proud! Thank you for the courage, resilience and fortitude you’vedemonstrate in repelling enemy attacks», Zelensky wrote in his Telegram channel.
Zelensky had already visited the front; he visited Slavyansk on December 6 and Kherson on November 14.
Ex-DNR Defense Minister Igor Girkin (Strelkov) mocked Russian President Vladimir Putin after Zelensky arrived at the front.
«Zelensky flew to Bakhmut (Artemivsk) and decorated his soldiers fighting at the front against us. (One should think that Wagner suspended combat operations for the duration of the visit of the esteemed Kyiv partner). And here is Vladimir Vladimirovich decorating his heroes right inside the Kremlinwalls... Look at these honest courageous faces, admire the proud posture of the heroes. Well, who has better motivated his soldiers and officials to go on fighting? For me the answer is obvious. The entire People's Republic of Donetsk, who adoresits head Denis Vladimirovich only slightly less than Vladimir Vladimirovich, is in ecstasy and ready for new great achievements...», Girkin wrote in his Telegram channel.
The founder of the Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prygozhyn, also reacted to the arrival of the Ukrainian president in Bakhmut. His press service published a video of Putin's «cook» in the Bakhmutdirection. In the footage, Prigozhin addresses Zelensky with a proposal to meet in Bakhmut, using artillery to attract attention. According to Prigozhyn, he went to the frontline when he learned that Zelensky decided to visit Bakhmut.
«Dear Vladimir Aleksandrovich, if you haven't left Bakhmut yet, I'm ready to meet. Prigozhin,» says the founder of the PMC.
By the time Prigozhin's statement was published, Zelensky's representatives said he had already left town.
Russia has started transferring its tanks, trucks and troops from the training ranges in Belarus to the south of the republic, closer to the border with Ukraine. Belarusian Gayun claims that during the day of December 20, movements were recorded of Russian military equipment and mobilized troops from the Belarusian training ranges in the northern and central parts, where they had been stationed, to the south of the republic.
On December 13, an unscheduled inspection of the combat readiness of the Armed Forces was conducted in Belarus on Lukashenka's instructions. Before that, Lieutenant General Sergey Nayev, commander of the United Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said that Ukraine was preparing to respond because of the accumulation of troops in Belarus.
Power supply was disrupted in Suzemka district of the Bryansk Region due to shelling by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Governor Alexander Bogomaz reported.
«Today, the Ukrainian armed forces shelled the territory of the Suzemka district. There were no casualties. As a result, power supply was partially disrupted in the settlement,» Bogomazwrote. Later he reported that as a result of a drone attack on the district’s power grid in Trubchevsk district an administrative building and a car were damaged.
A video of a Ukrainian kamikaze drone hitting the Trubchevskpower plant building was published by the pro-Russian Telegram channel Military Informer.
80% of the Kyiv region remains without electricity due to infrastructure damage after yesterday's shelling. The head of Kyiv’s regional military administration, Oleksiy Kuleba, says:
«As a result of large-scale damage to the energy infrastructure, Ukrenergo has introduced emergency power cuts. 80% of the region is without light. The most difficult situation is in the Bucha, Vyshhorod, Obukhiv and partially Fastiv districts, i.e. in more than 30 communities,» Kuleba wrote in his Telegram channel.
On the night of December 19, the Russians attacked the Kyiv region and the capital with kamikaze drones. Infrastructure facilities and private houses were damaged. Three people were injured.
The balance of power
Ukrainian Forbes columnist Volodymyr Datsenko has published data compiled from open sources showing that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are gradually catching up to the Russian Armed Forces in terms of key indicators of military power, but the Russian side still has a huge advantage in equipment, artilleryand aviation. Russia has been suffering heavy losses, but Ukraine has been receiving assistance from allies and capturing equipment at the front.
Russia is the main supplier of heavy weapons to Ukraine (at least tanks and armored vehicles). Although mobilization has not helped the Russian side much, the Russian army has managed to deliver a large amount of military equipment to the front lines. The newly mobilized troops arriving at the front are already better prepared. But they are still poorly equipped, the analyst notes.
For the third time, Russia has changed its tactics. At first it relied on heavy armored vehicles and rapid breakthroughs, in the summer the Russians began to use groups of armored vehicles and infantry to attack, and now attacks are mainly carried out by infantry with artillery support (like in World War I).
Ukraine, on the other hand, is now using many more armored vehicles in the offensive. The lack of tanks necessitates the use of lighter equipment, but it is much more effective than an attack with infantry alone.
Datsenko says Russia can probably afford to mobilize up to a million more soldiers. And that will allow it to fight long enough. But the key advantage is artillery. Given the tens of millions of old Soviet shells, Russia’s artillery stocks are far from being depleted, Datsenko says.
Meanwhile, Russia is running out of more scarce long-range projectiles designed for ranges over 20 km. It is likely that Ukraine now dominates at ranges of 20-80 km. But the supply of 155mm projectiles is also limited. Therefore, it is important for Ukraine to obtain more long-range systems and projectiles.
Military expert Serhiy Grabsky said in an interview with The Insider that the most intense fighting is currently taking place in the Donetsk Region, where it is difficult to use artillery and tanks, so Russia has been increasingly relying on assault groupsthere.
On the battlefield, they are now trying their best to hold on to their positions from those locations that they have managed to capture, so they are trying to dig into the ground and prevent the Ukrainian defense forces from breaking through those positions before the arrival of additional troops, which are now being hastily assembled and trained at training grounds in the Russian Federation. In this regard, we see two tactics: the tactics of World War I, namely artillery shelling and holding on to territories, and the tactics of using assault groups with minimal use of artillery and heavy equipment. This is specific to the Donetsk region, because based on the terrain of that location, namely the presence of highly urbanized territories, the use of tanks and artillery there is very limited. The Russian military has already been burned by urban fighting in Mariupol, so it is trying to save equipment by sacrificing human resources instead.
Ukraine does not currently have such a powerful armored fist, it has been using lightly armored vehicles to liberate territories so far. Tanks are now used as an infantry fire support to hold positions as a mobile firing point. Tanks no longer play the colossal role they once played because they are fairly easytargets, and the reconnaissance assets on both sides are so strong that it is easy for them to identify and destroy a target such as a tank.
French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the transfer of the Crotale anti-aircraft missile systems to Kyiv, Le Journal du Dimanche reports citing French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu. Paris also handed over two multiple rocket launchers.
«Adding up all of our military assistance, we are among the top five countries. We are one of the largest donors with €550 million in aid,» Lecornu said.
Furthermore, Praise The Steph reports that a BATT UMG armored vehicle manufactured by the US company The Armored Group was spotted in Bakhmut as part of the Ukrainian forces. The U.S. has not officially announced deliveries, but according to Ukrainian media an Eastern European country ordered 100 such vehicles for Ukraine in October.
The Russian side reports it has transferred a new batch of upgraded T-90M Proryv tanks to the combat zone. The crews are currently testing the armored vehicles and firing them in the rear.
Starlink in Ukraine
The Ukrainian authorities have agreed with Ilon Musk's SpaceX company on getting another 10,000 plus Starlink satellite terminals, Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Minister MykhailoFedorov told Bloomberg. The terminals will be transferred to Ukraine in the next few months. Fedorov noted that Ilon Musk told him personally he would continue to support Ukraine.
Ukraine has received about 22,000 Starlink antennas since the start of the war, the Minister said. He noted that a new contract has not been signed yet, but some EU countries have expressed their willingness to finance the supplies, and «at the moment all the financial issues have been settled».
Read also The Insider's report of the main development at the front on December 19: “Kamikaze drones attack Kyiv, Borshchevik against Starlink, missile strikes in Russian regions. What happened on the front line».