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Second attack on Engels airfield, incendiary shells in Kherson, FSB “eliminates” saboteurs. What happened on the front line on December 26?

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The front line

A section of the R-66 highway from Kreminna to Siverodonetsk in the Luhansk region is now within full range of the Ukrainian army’s artillery, reported Alexander Kovalenko, a military and political observer from the Information Resistance group. In doing so, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) have significantly complicated the logistics in the area for the Russian military. According to Kovalenko, Russia is suffering heavy losses among its mobilized soldiers at the Svatove-Kreminna line, where the Russian command has been trying to contain the actions of the AFU for more than two months.

Military analyst Def Mon stressed that Svatove is now within the Ukrainian army’s twenty-five-kilometer artillery range, which allows for the use of long-range shells.

Russian artillery has stepped up its efforts in the Zaporizhzhia direction. According to Russian propagandist outlet WarGonzo, Kamianske, Stepne, Mali Scherbaky, Orikhiv, Novodanilivka, Mala Tokmachka, Bilohiria, Charivne, Dorozhnianka, Chervone and Malynivka are all under attack. Russian artillery is also shelling Vuhledar.

In the Donetsk direction, battles are taking place near Novomikhailovka and in the city limits of Marinka. Russian forces have attempted to advance in the direction of Pervomaiske and Vodyane, on Krasnohorivka from the direction of Opytne and near Kamianka.

Shelling of Kherson

Over the past weekend, Russian troops rained fire on the Kherson region and Kherson itself, using artillery and multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS).

“Russian occupants shelled the territory of Kherson region 33 times. The region’s peaceful settlements suffered from artillery shells, as well as fire from MLRS, mortars and tanks,” – Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson administration, wrote of the strikes on December 25.

Yanushevich noted that Kherson was attacked 7 times – warehouses, standalone homes and apartment buildings were all hit. Authorities urged Kherson region residents to evacuate.

The day before, on December 24, Russia shelled the city of Kherson over 40 times and dropped over 70 shells on the Kherson region. Eleven people were killed. Yanushevich reported that a total of 64 local residents were wounded, with 18 people still in critical condition. According to local authorities, the shelling damaged a market and shopping center in the city.

Yanushevich stressed that people are transported daily by free buses from Kherson to Odesa via Mykolaiv, as well as several times a week from Kherson to other destinations across Ukraine: Kriviy Rih, Lviv, Dnipro, and Kyiv via Uman and Vinnytsia.

A video of the use of incendiary ammunition on Kherson – a war crime – appeared on multiple Telegram channels. The recording was made from a private home.

Kherson, seized by the Russian military in March, was liberated by the Ukrainian army in early November.

Second attack on Russia's Engels airbase

For the second time in a month, a Ukrainian drone attacked the Engels-2 airfield in the Saratov region, a base for Russian strategic bombers. According to claims made by the Russian Defense Ministry, the drone was shot down, and three servicemen died as a result of falling wreckage. Independent media outlet Baza reported four casualties as a result of the incident.

Telegram channels published apparent videos of the explosion, but they do not give a clear indication of what happened in Engels.

Engels is located approximately 750 kilometers (close to 460 miles) from the border with Ukraine. A Soviet Tu-141 drone was likely used in the attack – much like the previous strike on December 5. The Tu-141 is reusable operational-tactical reconnaissance aircraft with a range of up to 1,000 km (approximately 620 miles). OSINTtechnical wrote that the “eastern ramp of Engels airbase is burning.”

The Russian army evacuated four to six Tu-95 strategic bombers from the Engels-2 airfield, reported Ukraine’s Channel 24. The planes were transferred to the Ukrainka airfield in the Amur region in Russia’s Far East, according to the report.

FSB reports “elimination of Ukrainian saboteurs”

Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, claimed that it had “eliminated” a group of four Ukrainian saboteurs attempting to enter the Bryansk region from Ukraine. The agency released a video with blood-covered bodies, later revealing the names of those killed. There are a lot of inconsistencies in the FSB video – one of the killed “saboteurs,» who had to walk sizable distances over rough terrain, had perfectly clean boot soles.

The FSB report claimed that “the dead were armed with German SIG Sauer submachine guns and four 40 kg TNT equivalent bombs” and were allegedly preparing a “terrorist attack.” Experts interviewed by The Insider pointed out that the weapons were not fit for their stated purpose.

Shortly after the publication of the FSB video, the Telegram channel Grey Zone, which is considered to be associated with the Wagner Group, released uncensored photos of the “saboteur” murder scene. Experts, to whom The Insider showed these photos, suggested that the people in the images were killed as a result of a vehicle hitting a land mine, judging by their injuries. The land mine theory could also indirectly explain the clean soles seen on one of the dead soldiers.

Video appeal to the head of Russian General Staff

Bellingcat investigative journalist Christo Grozev tweeted a video appeal from Wagner Group mercenaries to Valery Gerasimov, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Chief of General Staff. In the video, the mercenaries call Gerasimov a “f***ot” and “f*cking *sshole” and complain about the lack of artillery shells. There is currently no confirmation that the soldiers in the video actually belong to the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC).

“To the Chief of the General Staff: you're a f***ot and a f*cking *sshole. We have nothing to fight with, we have no shells. There are guys out there dying for us, and we're sitting here not f*cking helping. We need shells, we want to f*ck everybody up. We're fighting against the entire Ukrainian army here at Bakhmut. Where are you? Help us, dammit. There's nothing else to f*cking call you. Except one word – f*ggot. When guys are dying, where are you all?” – say the men in the video.

The press service of Concord, a company owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner PMC, commented that Prigozhin was currently “unavailable” and could not comment on the video.

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