December 5, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Major Ukraine drone attack on Russian targets in Crimea

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted successful drone strikes against Russian military targets in occupied Crimea on the night of December 4 to 5. Ukrainian media reported on December 5, citing sources in the Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) and Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), that GUR and SBU elements struck a Russian military oil terminal in Feodosia, a Nebo-M radar system near Baherove (13km west of Kerch), and a helicopter landing pad, P-18 Terek radar system, and a Baikal-1M anti-aircraft missile control system in unspecified areas of Crimea. Russian sources, including the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), claimed that Russian air defenses, electronic warfare (EW) systems, and small-arms fire downed up to 35 Ukrainian drones near Baherove, Feodosia, Cape Chauda, and over the Sea of Azov but did not say that any Ukrainian drones struck their intended targets. Another group of Russian sources, including Kherson Oblast occupation head Vladimir Saldo, claimed that Russian air defenses downed up to 41 Ukrainian drones over northern Crimea and the Sea of Azov and claimed that Ukrainian forces attempted to strike Russian air defense systems and fuel storage facilities. Ukrainian forces have been conducting an interdiction campaign against Russian military infrastructure in occupied Crimea, primarily Black Sea Fleet assets, since June 2023 to degrade the Russian military’s ability to use Crimea as a staging and rear area for Russian operations in southern Ukraine.

Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine on the night of December 4 and 5. Ukrainian military officials reported that Russian forces launched 17 Shahed-136/-131 drones from Kursk Oblast and Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Krasnodar Krai, and six S-300 missiles at targets in Ukraine and that Ukrainian air defenses shot down 10 of the drones. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that the Russian missiles targeted civilian objects in Donetsk and Kherson oblasts. Ukrainian officials reported that Russian drones struck civilian residences and infrastructure in Lviv Oblast and Izyum and Chuhuiv raions, Kharkiv Oblast.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted successful drone strikes against Russian military targets in occupied Crimea on the night of December 4 to 5.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine on the night of December 4 and 5.
  • The Russian State Duma will reportedly consider a proposed bill that would recognize the Sea of Azov as an internal Russian body of water, likely setting conditions to coerce recognition of Russia’s illegal annexation of occupied Crimea and Kherson, Zaporizhia, and Donetsk oblasts.
  • Russian opposition party Yabloko founder Grigory Yavlinsky advocated for a ceasefire in Ukraine as part of his presidential bid likely in an attempt to distinguish himself from Russian President Vladimir Putin and give voice to Russians who support a ceasefire.
  • The Kremlin may be strategically allowing Yavlinsky to criticize the Russian government in order to preserve its veneer of electoral legitimacy and to delegitimize possible support for a ceasefire among factions in the Kremlin.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized the benefits that migrants provide to the Russian economy, while promoting ongoing efforts to Russify migrants in Russia and citizens of post-Soviet countries.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudia Arabia on December 6 and will host Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi in Russia on December 7- a bout of diplomatic outreach likely focused on strengthening Russia’s position with Gulf States while continuing to solidify the deepening Russian-Iranian security partnership.
  • Armenia appears to be effectively abstaining from participation in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
  • The Kremlin continues to intensify censorship efforts, targeting prominent Russian messaging and social media app Telegram.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast but did not make any confirmed advances.
  • Russian forces are reportedly quickly sending poorly trained convict recruits to reinforce assaults elements in Ukraine.
  • Russian occupation authorities are reportedly intensifying their seizure of Ukrainian property in occupied Berdyansk, Donetsk Oblast.
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