Центр оборонних стратегій

Russia’s war on Ukraine. 17.12.2023

Operational situation

In the operational zone of the Ukrainian Operational-Strategic Group of Forces (OSG) “Khortytsia” on the Kupyansk direction, Ukrainian defenders repelled 14 enemy attacks near Synkivka and Stelmakhivka. On the Lyman direction, Ukrainian troops thwarted 6 enemy attacks in the Serebryansk forestry area and east of Terny. On the Bakhmut direction, Ukrainian forces repelled 12 enemy attacks near Bohdanivka, Ivanivske, Klishchiivka, and Andriivka. The Defense Forces continue to inflict losses on the enemy in personnel and equipment, consolidating their positions on the achieved front lines.

In the “Tavriya” OSG operational zone on the Avdiivka direction, Ukrainian defenders continue to hold back the enemy, which persists in attempting to encircle Avdiivka. Ukrainian troops steadfastly maintain the defense, causing losses to the Russian forces. The Defense Forces effectively repelled 17 enemy attacks east of Novobakhmutivka, Stepove, and Avdiivka, as well as another 13 attacks in the areas of Nevelske and Pervomaiske. On the Maryinka direction, the Defense Forces continued to hold back the enemy in the areas of Maryinka, Pobieda, and Novomykhailivka, effectively repelling 12 attacks. On the Shakhtarsk direction, the enemy did not engage in offensive (assault) actions. On the Zaporizhzhia direction, the Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled 12 enemy attacks west of Novopokrovka and Robotyne. On the Melitopol direction, the Defense Forces continue active operations, inflicting losses on the Russian forces in personnel and equipment, wearing down the enemy along the entire front line.

In the operational zone of the “Odesa” OSG on the Kherson direction, the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to hold their positions on the left bank of the Dnipro River, conduct counter-battery warfare, and inflict damage on the enemy’s rear areas. 

Russian forces continued offensive actions in the Kupyansk area, northeast and near Bakhmut, Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk, on the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts, in the western part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast. They advanced in several sectors.

General conclusion:

  • Currently, the most potent adversary’s troop groupings within the Joint Group of the Russian Armed Forces on the Southwest Theater of Military Operations are the “Yug (South)” grouping and the “Dnieper” grouping, aligning with the priorities of the Russian military command:
    • Avdiivka and Bakhmut directions (“Yug (South)” grouping) – 158,134 personnel
    • Kherson direction (“Dnieper” grouping) – 72,620 personnel.
  • On the Kupyansk and Lyman directions, Russian forces have commenced employing more effective unidentified munitions instead of the “Lancet” strike UAVs.
  • In the Avdiivka area, the enemy command is attempting to synchronize the actions of forces both north and south of the city, prompting the deployment of reserves south of the town.
  • Reports regarding the deployment of a strike group on the territory of Belarus on the Northern direction are not in line with the actual situation.
  • The command of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ military transport aviation conducted flight-tactical training with the crews of military transport aircraft An-124-100 “Ruslan,” involving the simultaneous takeoff of seven aircraft. The training aimed to evaluate the readiness of young An-124-100 crews for the simultaneous airlifting of military units with standard armament and equipment over long distances.
  • The adversary’s command notes two particular aspects in the operations of the “Odesa” OSG on the Kherson direction: the effective use of mobile ATGMs that are constantly maneuvering, and the direct communication channel between the advanced units on the bridgeheads, the artillery fire units and UAV control points on the right bank of the Dnipro. The response time ranges from dozens of seconds to several minutes.
  • The Ukrainian Defense Forces have significantly reduced the effectiveness of the Russian air defense system over Crimea, compelling its units that have retained combat capability to constantly maneuver to ensure the protection of objects and simultaneously evade attacks from the Defense Forces.

Change in the line of contact (LoC):  

  • There were 89 combat engagements on various fronts.
  • On the Kupyansk direction, the “Khortytsia” OSG forces repelled at least 11 Russian attacks near Synkivka, 5 attacks near Makiyivka, east of Terny and Yampolivka.
  • Russian forces attacked on the Zahoruykivka-Tymkivka-Ivanivka-Kyslivka line and repelled Ukrainian attacks near Vilshana, Synkivka, Lake Lyman, Petropavlivka, Novoselivske, near Terny, Zhytlivka, Kuzmyne, and Bilohorivka.
  • On the Bakhmut direction, Russian forces advanced north of Khromove, and unsuccessfully attacked near Bohdanivka, Ivanivske, Klishchiivka, and Andriivka.
  • On the Avdiivka direction, the enemy command introduced additional forces into the battle. 
  • Along the Vodyane–Opytne line, units form the Russian 74th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 41st Army initiated attacks. Previously, on the Vodyane–Tonenke and Opytne–Severne directions, units of the 1st Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 1st Army Corps (8th Army) and the 55th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (41st Army) were active, reinforced by several separate battalions. The deployment of reserves on this front indicates a deviation of the Russian forces from the operation schedule.
  • The 114th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade managed to reach the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant (AKHZ), while the 21st and 30th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigades, operating from the side of Krasnohorivka, penetrated beyond the railway towards Stepove, expanding the wedge towards Novokalynove. Simultaneously, the forces operating to the south failed to capture Tonenke and Severne.
  • Russian forces have advanced near Nevelske, toward Pobeda and Novomykhailivka, and unsuccessfully attacked near Maryinka, Krasnohorivka, and Novomykhailivka. 
  • The “Tavria” OSG forces attacked near Maryinka and Pobeda, but units of the 5th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 1st Army Corps repelled the attacks.
  • On the Berdyansk direction, the “Tavria” OSG forces repelled 2 Russian assaults near Staromayorske.
  • Tokmak direction: Russian forces repelled Ukrainian assaults near Robotyne. They achieved minor success northwest of Verbove; units of the 247th Air Assault Regiment of the 7th Air Assault Division repelled their positions north of the village and consolidating on positions west of Robotyne.
  • The “Tavria” OSG forces repelled at least 8 Russian attacks west of Novopokrovka and south of Robotyne.
  • Kherson direction: The 2nd Motorized Rifle Battalion of the 26th Motorized Rifle Regiment (70th Motorized Rifle Division) suffered significant losses from artillery fire of the “Odesa” OSG in the Krynky area and has extremely limited capabilities for evacuating its wounded. The enemy is actively trying to use electronic warfare and radio-technical reconnaissance means.
  • The “Odesa” OSG targeted concentrations of enemy forces in the Nova Mayachka area with long-range fire means.
  • In the Black Sea-Azov Sea operational zone, the enemy naval grouping on combat duty consists of:
    • Black Sea: 1 ship;
    • Azov Sea: 1 ship;
    • Mediterranean Sea: 4 ships, including 2 cruise missile carriers, with a total salvo of 16 Kalibr cruise missiles.

Change in enemy disposition: not detected.

Escalation indicators: 

  • The enemy is increasing the intensity of combat actions on the Avdiivka direction.

Possible operation situation developments: 

  • Russian forces will be unable to completely seize the initiative in the coming months and launch a large-scale offensive that would prevent the Ukrainian Defense Forces from allocating resources to their offensive operations.
  • The enemy’s military command will continue to focus on encircling Avdiivka, improving its operational position in the Bakhmut area, attempting to advance towards Kupyansk in the vicinity of Synkivka, and solving the problem of the “Odesa” OSG strongholds on the left bank of the Dnipro. Defensive operations will be sustained on the other fronts.
  • The Russian military command believes that the military impasse during the winter will deplete Western support for Ukraine and give the Russian forces an advantage despite significant losses in the Russian Armed Forces and persistent shortages of personnel, ammunition, and equipment.
  • Russian forces are attempting to seize the initiative on the theater of military operations in Ukraine, at least since mid-November 2023. To achieve this, they initiated offensive operations on several sections of the front during the most challenging weather conditions of the autumn-winter season.
  • On the Bakhmut direction, the enemy will attempt to encircle Chasiv Yar.
  • The village of Pobeda will become the next direction in the development of the Russian offensive on the Maryinka front.
  • The Russian Federation plans to seize Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts entirely and part of Kharkiv Oblast up to the Oskil River by the end of 2024. Over the next 36 months, Russia intends to capture parts of Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv Oblasts, including the city of Kharkiv on the left bank of the Dnipro River.

Russian operational losses from 24.02.22 to 17.12.23  

Personnel – almost 346,070 people (+1,250); 

Tanks – 5,739 (+19); 

Armored combat vehicles – 10,692 (+25); 

Artillery systems – 8,137 (+37);

Multiple rocket launchers (MLRS) – 923 (+3);

Anti-aircraft warfare systems – 609 (+4);

Vehicles and fuel tanks – 10,766 (+56);

Aircraft – 324 (0);

Helicopters – 324 (0);

UAV operational and tactical level – 6,278 (+40);

Intercepted cruise missiles – 1,610 (+1);

Boats/ships – 23 (0).


  • According to information provided by the Situation Center of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Russian troops shelled 12 regions of Ukraine over the past day. A total of 151 towns and villages and 66 infrastructure objects were attacked with various types of weapons. One person was reported killed and three injured in Donetsk Oblast, two people were wounded in Zaporizhzhya Oblast, one person was injured in Chernihiv Oblast, and three people were wounded in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. The number of casualties is being updated/clarified.
  • On the night of December 17, the Ukrainian Air Force effectively intercepted and downed 20 combat drones and a Kh-59 guided aviation missile. Two Shakhed UAVs were shot down over Khmelnytskyi Oblast. 
  • Overnight, Russian forces launched their third attack on Odesa Oblast this week deploying strike drones. The Ukrainian air defense effectively intercepted 9 “Shahed-136” UAVs. One of the downed drones fell into a residential neighborhood in the Odesa district, causing an explosion and subsequent fire. Rescue teams found one casualty at the site of the incident.
  • Russian forces have intensified strikes on Zaporizhzhya Oblast. Over the past day, they launched 174 strikes, a significant increase from the previous average of 60-75 strikes per day. As a result of the shelling of Huliaypilske village, two local residents, a 55-year-old woman and a 73-year-old man, sustained injuries.
  • On December 16, a total of 20 individuals, including four children, were evacuated from the de-occupied areas in Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian occupation authorities increased pressure on Ukrainian citizens working at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. According to the Main Intelligence Directorate, the occupiers demand that several hundred Ukrainian station workers obtain Russian passports and sign contracts with the “Rosatom” corporation by December 31, 2023.

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