Центр оборонних стратегій

Russia’s war on Ukraine. 21.12.2023

Operational situation

In the operational zone of the Ukrainian Operational-Strategic Group of Forces (OSG) “Khortytsia” on the Kupyansk direction, Ukrainian defenders repelled 16 enemy attacks in the areas of Synkivka, east of Petropavlivka, and Ivanivka, where the enemy attempted to breach the defense of Ukrainian forces. On the Lyman direction, the Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled 13 enemy attacks near Bilohorivka and east of Terny and Spirne. On the Bakhmut direction, Ukrainian troops repelled 7 enemy attacks near Bohdanivka, Klishchiivka, and Andriivka.

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, inflicting losses on the enemy forces. The Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled 14 enemy attacks in the areas of Novokalynove, east of Novobakhmutivka, Avdiivka, and another 22 attacks near Severne, Pervomaiske, and Nevelske. On the Maryinka direction, the Defense Forces continued to restrain the enemy in the areas of Maryinka, Pobieda, and Novomykhailivka, repelling 10 attacks. On the Shakhtarsk direction, the enemy did not engage in offensive (assault) actions. On the Zaporizhzhia direction, the Defense Forces repelled 6 enemy attacks west of Verbove and south of Robotyne. On the Melitopol direction, the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue active operations, inflicting losses on the occupying forces in personnel and equipment, exhausting the enemy along the entire front line.

In the operational zone of the “Odesa” OSG on the Kherson direction,  the Ukrainian Defense Forces persist in expanding their bridgehead. Despite encountering setbacks, the adversary launched eight assault attempts to dislodge Ukrainian units from their positions. The Russian forces encountered a robust resistance, resulting in a withdrawal with incurred losses. Ukrainian defenders conduct counter-battery warfare, delivering fire strikes on the enemy’s rear targets.

Russian forces continued their advance north of Bakhmut and sustained positional combat operations along the entire contact line.

General conclusion:

  • Russian forces are increasing the pace of their operations north of Klishchiivka.
  • Russian forces have suffered nearly 25,000 personnel casualties in battles in Donetsk Oblast over the past 2 months, with 80% of these losses occurring on the Avdiivka direction.
  • The adversary is forming new combined platoons from broken units for attacks near Avdiivka, although some well-trained and equipped units continue to engage in combat in this area.
  • The “Tavriya” OSG forces on the Tokmak direction have predominantly transitioned to a defensive posture.

Change in the line of contact (LoC):  

  • There were 99 combat engagements on various fronts.
  • On the Kupyansk direction, Russian forces captured 2 positions on the eastern bank of the Oskil River and continued ground attacks near Synkivka, east of Petropavlivka, and near Ivanivka.
  • The “Khortytsia” OSG forces counterattacked near Synkivka. Prolonged positional battles took place in the Dibrova and Serebryansk Forest areas.
  • On the Bakhmut direction, Russian forces made slight advances southwest of Spirne, progressed on a front 530 meters wide and 170 meters deep west of Khromove, and on a 3 km front near Ivanivske, in the areas of Klishchiivka and Kurdyumivka. Units of the Russian “Sever-V” Brigade of the Volunteer Corps advanced in the Bohdanivka area. 
  • The “Khortytsia” OSG forces attacked near Pazeno.
  • On the Avdiivka direction, Russian forces made slight advances near Pervomaiske, 1 km near Novomykhailivka, on a front 1.75 km wide and 780 m deep southeast of Novomykhailivka. They attacked northwest, west, and southwest of Avdiivka, near the Avdiivka industrial zone, and the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant (AKHZ).
  • The “Tavriya” OSG forces are counterattacking around Avdiivka, near Maryinka, and Novomykhailivka. 
  • Battles continue near Maryinka, Krasnohorivka, Novomykhailivka, and Pobieda.
  • Berdyansk direction: Russian forces continue to exert pressure against Ukrainian troops south of Velyka Novosilka in the areas of Staromykhailivka and Pryiutne.
  • Tokmak direction: Russian forces have advanced up to 1.5 km near Robotyne and Novoprokopivka and within a few hundred meters near Verbove. 
  • The “Tavriya” OSG forces repelled Russian attacks west of Verbove, south of Robotyne, and west of Novopokrovka.
  • Kherson direction: The “Odesa” OSG forces are deploying reserves to the Krynky area and maintaining positions in occupied buildings under heavy strikes from Russian UAVs, artillery, and aviation on the eastern bank. They effectively repelled 37 attacks on their positions.
  • In the Black Sea-Azov naval operational area, the enemy naval group on combat duty consists of:
    • Black Sea: 4 ships;
    • 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: 

  • In the Krynky area, the enemy conducted a force regrouping, including the rotation of units from the 104th Air Assault Division due to significant losses sustained during two weeks of continuous combat. 
  • Units of the 201st Military Base of the Russian Armed Forces (Dushanbe, Tajikistan) is deployed in the Serebryansk Forest.
  • Units of the 78th Motorized Rifle Regiment “Sever-Akhmat” (of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division, the 58th Army), and the 88th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (of the 2nd Army Corps) are active near Klishchiivka. The 105th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (of the 1st Army Corps) operates west of Bakhmut. Units of the 98th Airborne Division continue their actions near Bakhmut.
  • Units of the 33rd Motorized Rifle Regiment (of the 20th Motorized Rifle Division, 8th Army), persist in attacking Ukrainian positions southwest of Maryinka.
  • Units of the 247th Air Assault Regiment of the 7th Air Assault Division and the 76th Air Assault Division operate near Verbove.

Possible operation situation developments: 

  • The Russian Federation plans to seize the entire Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and part of Kharkiv Oblast up to the Oskil River by the end of 2024. Over the next 36 months, Russia intends to capture portions of Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv Oblasts, including the city of Kharkiv on the left bank of the Dnipro River.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • On the Bakhmut direction, the enemy will attempt to encircle Chasiv Yar.
  • In the near future, the enemy will attack the positions of the “Tavriya” OSG in the direction of Pobieda – Kostiantynivka along the Maryinka – Vuhledar road. Their objective is to penetrate the rear and left flank of the Ukrainian units defending in the Novomykhailivka area. 
  • The enemy command is forming preliminary conditions for a repeat of the Bakhmut and Avdiivka scenarios in the Vuhledar area, attempting to advance on the flanks of the stronghold of the Ukrainian Defense Forces, with the main direction of the attack planned to be the Maryinka – Kostiantynivka – Vuhledar road.

Russian operational losses from 24.02.22 to 21.12.23  

Personnel – almost 350,270 people (+1,080); 

Tanks – 5,828 (+14); 

Armored combat vehicles – 10,825 (+31); 

Artillery systems – 8,226 (+20);

Multiple rocket launchers (MLRS) – 932 (+4);

Anti-aircraft warfare systems – 611 (0);

Vehicles and fuel tanks – 10,919 (+48);

Aircraft – 324 (0);

Helicopters – 324 (0);

UAV operational and tactical level – 6,342 (+26);

Intercepted cruise missiles – 1,613 (+1);

Boats/ships – 23 (0).


  • According to information provided by the Situation Center of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Russian troops shelled 13 regions of Ukraine over the past day. A total of 117 towns and villages and 103 infrastructure objects were attacked with various types of weapons. Two people were reported injured in Donetsk Oblast and 4 people in Kherson Oblast. The number of casualties is being updated/clarified.
  • On the night of December 21, Ukrainian air defense successfully downed 34 out of 35 Russian UAVs on various fronts. The drone attacks occurred in multiple waves at different intervals, between 20:00 on December 20 and 03:30 on December 21.
  • On December 21, 2023, the Russian forces launched two air strikes on Toretsk, targeting civilian infrastructure. Three civilians died, and five were injured.
  • Since February 24, 2022, the Russian army has launched 7,400 missiles of various types at Ukraine, according to Yuri Ignat, the spokesperson for the Air Force. Approximately 1,600 of them have been destroyed. The figure of 7,400 includes all types of missiles, such as S-300 and S-400 (which constitute about a third), Kh-22, and ballistic missiles (Russia launched around 900 Iskander-M ballistic missiles at Ukraine).
  • Approximately 30 out of 125 children from Luhansk Oblast, whom the Russian occupation authorities transported to Tyumen in northern Russia for recreation, got sick and are currently hospitalized in Saratov Oblast, Russia. A 12-year-old girl died, as reported by Artem Lysohor, the head of Luhansk Oblast Military Administration.
  • One of the top priorities for the parliamentary Freedom of Speech committee, led by its new Chair Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, will be to examine legal mechanisms for the release of Ukrainian journalists held by Russia. Presently, more than 25 journalists are in Russian captivity, with no information available for some, including Olena Roshchina from “Ukrainska Pravda.”
  • In communities located close to the front line, residents experience a hiatus in their lives between episodes of shelling. They await the following alert and cannot use this temporary calm productively, as demonstrated by the study titled “Territorial Communities of the South: Resilience and Security in the Face of Direct Threats to Life.” There are no acute food supply issues in the areas where the study was conducted. However, Ukrainians exhibit behavioral models developed during the Holodomors and in the 1990s, they keep supplies that allow them to endure for an extended period and live autonomously.

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