Tonight, fresh off a resounding victory in Soledar the questions begin as to what is next. Will the Russians finish up the work in Bakhmut, as rumors swirl about a mass evacuation of Ukrainian troops from the embattled town, or are bigger things afoot?
There are indications, not just the streamlining of the Russian command structure but movements along the front and in the areas around Ukraine that the long discussed, much dreaded, Russian winter offensive might well be starting soon; maybe even in the next 96 hours.
First the rate of attrition of Ukrainian artillery units and logistics supplies has been at a much faster and broad pace. Video below of a Polish Crab 155 mm self-propelled gun destroyed by a Lancet drone for example:
🇷🇺 🇺🇦 🇵🇱 Epic hunt of the Russian kamikaze drones "Lancet" hunting the Polish self-propelled gun "Crab".— AZ 🛰🌏🌍🌎 (@AZgeopolitics) January 11, 2023
Huge detonation at the end of the video pic.twitter.com/bkE3ugbCGf
These isn’t even counting the massive hunting operations for M777 and MLRS systems supplied by the US and its NATO partners which have been destroyed in large numbers recently. The drone wars have also succeeded in draining the precious air defense systems and the Ukrainians are now putting up less and less resistance to incoming attacks be it by cruise missiles or inexpensive drones.
Second, a small item noted by HI Sutton today via Naval News, a noted observer of international naval activity, might send a chill up the spine of those in Kiev:
Sudden Surge In Russian Navy Ships And Submarines In Black Sea
This morning Russian Navy ships and submarines left their base at Novorossiysk, in the Black Sea, en-masse. This is highly unusual and may indicate ongoing operations.
Sources seen by Naval News confirm the exodus. The group included the Project 11711 Ivan Gren class landing ship, Pyotr Morgunov, the largest amphibious ship in the Black Sea.
It also contained all three Project 636.3 Improved-Kilo class submarines which were present at the base. Analysis suggests that other warships were also sailing, leaving only a few warships and support vessels in the port. It is likely the most empty that Novorossiysk has been in many months.
If this is indeed what is happening then the odds that offensive operations are quite possible in the next several days. If more vessels depart from their Caspian Sea ports and head north, then indeed a massive wave of missile attacks might be forthcoming soon.
Third, the buildup of upgraded equipment more on par with the regular Russian Army has been sighted inside of the SMO area. For example this column of T-90M’s supposedly nearing the front lines:
Or a first time appearance of Mi-28 NM Superhunter with the upgraded Izdeliye-305 LMUR guided air to surface missile.
2185/ RF Mi-28 with "Izdeliye-305 LMUR". #Donbass pic.twitter.com/EEkQqA7nRm— Huligan (@Ghost132607472) January 10, 2023
There are numerous indications that the new equipment, including upgraded APCs, etc. are all moving into the conflict zone over the past two weeks.
Lastly, the sudden appearance of massive Russian forces in Belarus and the sudden “drills” that the government in Minsk has ordered.
🇷🇺🇧🇾"As part of the coordination of the regional grouping of troops of Russia and Belarus, one of the units of the 11th separate Guards mechanized Brigade marches to the "designated region" to perform combat training tasks," Belarus Defense Ministry pic.twitter.com/CynLN7aRY5— AZ 🛰🌏🌍🌎 (@AZgeopolitics) January 11, 2023
And videos of what Russia has placed in that nation:
An echelon of #Russian military equipment arriving in Belarus. This time they're clearly marked with the letter Z. In my opinion, it's just a matter of time before they cross the border into Ukraine once again pic.twitter.com/KLj0gv0qab— OSINT_Sentinel (@OsintSentinel) January 11, 2023
Accumulation of Russian military equipment, presumably in Belarus or near the Belarus border. I dont know about you, but to me, this looks like a preparation for another invasion pic.twitter.com/D2Y79ylpWC— OSINT_Sentinel (@OsintSentinel) January 11, 2023
Belarus blue balling story rolls on. pic.twitter.com/du7TyHvIMU— Ghost (@mdfzeh) January 5, 2023
Time will tell but the weather is perfect, the ground is frozen over most of the target areas, air superiority is attainable in the first 24 to 72 hours if executed properly, thus one has to conclude that the within the next 96 hours would be the most logical time to jump off. Add in the fact that the destruction of those units in Soledar is kicking Ukrainian morale in the teeth right now and the timing would be perfect to break them in other regions formerly untouched by the conflict outside of missile attacks.
Big Serge has an excellent thread on the possible routes of attack and those regions which would face a blistering onslaught should this be the case. I highly advise my readers click on the Tweet below and follow his military logic as it is quite logical.
Where might Russia commit forces on an offensive? Let's do a quick parsing of the situation and examine the possibilities.— Big Serge ☦️🇺🇸🇷🇺 (@witte_sergei) January 11, 2023
In the mean time, feel sorry for the permabulls on Wall Street who think that geopolitics is not a threat and worse, the poor bastard who is an Ukrainian border guard in the title picture for this story. Because I think the Russian military has learned from their errors in 2022 and will attack with overwhelming, make that blistering force which might well destroy the combat effectiveness of the Ukrainian armed forces.