December 30, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine stages major drone attack against  military targets in Russia 

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a large series of strikes against targets in Russia on the night of December 29 to 30 and on December 30. Ukrainian security sources told Western and Ukrainian media that Ukrainian forces launched more than 70 drones on the night of December 29 to 30 at Russian military infrastructure and defense industrial facilities near Moscow, Belgorod, Tula, Tver, and Bryansk cities. The Ukrainian security sources reportedly characterized these strikes as a response to the Russian strikes on December 29, which was the largest series of drone and missile strikes against Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces intercepted 32 Ukrainian drones in Bryansk, Orel, Kursk, and Moscow oblasts on the night of December 29 to 30. The discrepancy between these Russian and Ukrainian figures may suggest that Ukrainian forces struck many of their intended targets, as Ukrainian security sources suggested to Western and Ukrainian media. Ukrainian forces reportedly struck the Kreminy El Plant in Bryansk City, which is Russia’s second largest producer of microelectronics, 90 percent of whose manufactured products are reportedly components of Russian military equipment and systems. Geolocated footage published on December 30 shows explosions over Bryansk City. The Russian MoD stated that Russian air defenses shot down 12 Ukrainian MLRS rockets in Belgorod Oblast on December 29 and several more Ukrainian MLRS rockets near Belgorod City during the day on December 30. Ukrainian security sources reportedly told Western and Ukrainian media that the Ukrainian strikes on December 30 targeted Russian military targets near Belgorod City.

Russian forces conducted a lower number of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on December 30 following the large Russian strike series on December 29. Ukrainian military officials reported that Russian forces launched 10 Shahed-136/-131 drones at targets in southern Ukraine, an Iskander-M missile at Zaporizhzhia City, an unspecified number of Kh-59 missiles at Dnipro and Odesa cities, and six unspecified missiles at Kharkiv City. Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces intercepted five of the drones, the Iskander-M missile, and one of the Kh-59 missiles. Russian forces reportedly struck civilian infrastructure in Kharkiv City, an enterprise in Odesa City, and the office of the Ukrainian Human Rights Commissioner in Kherson City. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on December 30 that the December 29 Russian strike series killed 39 people and wounded 159 and impacted hundreds of civilian objects. The Economist reported on December 29 that a source in Ukraine’s defense industry stated that Russian strikes on December 29 predominately targeted defense industrial facilities in Ukraine, including those connected to Ukrainian missile and drone production. Russian strikes against Ukrainian defense industrial facilities likely mean to prevent Ukraine from developing key capacities to sustain operations for a longer war effort and disrupt Ukrainian efforts to seek Western partnerships for joint production in Ukraine.

Key Takeaways

  • Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a large series of strikes against targets in Russia on the night of December 29 to 30 and on December 30.
  • Russian forces conducted a lower number of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on December 30 following the large Russian strike series on December 29.
  • Russian officials continued to clearly state that Russia is not interested in negotiating with Ukraine or the West in good faith and intends to achieve its maximalist objectives in Ukraine.
  • The Kremlin’s recent public rhetoric about its maximalist objectives and imperial designs in Ukraine are permeating the Russian information space.
  • Russia continues to set information conditions aimed at destabilizing Moldova by framing Russia as a protector of allegedly threatened Russian-language speakers in Moldova.
  • Russia continues attempts to actively shape the Western information space to support Russian positions and undermine support for Ukraine while portraying these efforts as endogenous to the West.
  • The Russian Ministry Foreign Affairs (MFA) emphasized Russia’s improving diplomatic relations with non-Western countries in way that suggests that the Kremlin is insecure about the possibility of diplomatic isolation against the backdrop of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
  • Russian forces made confirmed gains near Kreminna, Bakhmut, and Avdiivka as positional engagements continued along the entire line of contact.
  • The Russian military command reportedly continued the dissolution of the “Kaskad” operational combat tactical formation of the Donetsk People’s Republic’s (DNR) Internal Affairs Ministry (MVD) to support its efforts to formalize control over Russian irregular forces.
  • Russia continues efforts to integrate education systems in occupied Ukraine and expand education programs aimed at eliminating Ukrainian identity in occupied territories.

(For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-december-30-2023 )

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