January 18, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Ukrainian drones attack Russian military facilities in Leningrad Oblast, near Gulf of Finland

Institute for the Study of War

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that Russia’s maximalist objectives in Ukraine remain unchanged and that Russia is not interested in negotiations with Ukraine or the West. Lavrov stated at a press conference on January 18 that Russia “will achieve the goals of its ‘special military operation’ consistently and persistently.” The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) readout of this speech included a link to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February 24, 2022 speech in which Putin outlined Russia’s goals of “demilitarizing” and “denazifying” Ukraine and his demand that NATO commit not to admit new members – goals which are tantamount to full Ukrainian and Western surrender. Lavrov reiterated that these goals are unchanged, claiming that “serious” talks about the “realistic” conditions for ending the war “presuppose [Ukraine’s] renunciation of Nazi ideology, Nazi rhetoric, racism towards everything Russian, and entry into NATO.” Lavrov attempted to justify these conditions as necessary for preserving the Ukrainian people’s independence and identity, despite the fact that ISW has routinely documented how Russian forces and occupation officials have been engaging in large-scale and deliberate ethnic cleansing campaigns and efforts to eliminate the Ukrainian language, culture, history, and ethnicity in areas that Russian forces occupy. Lavrov also denied Ukraine’s agency as a sovereign state, claiming that “it is not Ukraine that will decide when to stop and start talking [with Russia] seriously” about the end of the conflict, but that it is the West that will make this decision. Lavrov dismissed a question about recent media publications about the possibility of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, stating that “rumors are just that – rumors.” Lavrov claimed that the West – not Russia – is to blame for the absence of negotiations and threateningly stated that “those [in the West] who refuse [to negotiate] must understand that the longer they wait, the harder it will be to negotiate” and that “there is no hope that Russia will be ’defeated.’” Lavrov made similar statements on December 15, 2023, suggesting that the Kremlin believes that the longer the war continues, the more territory Russia will be able to occupy, and that the course of the war will increasingly weaken Ukraine’s negotiating position.

The battlespace in Ukraine continues to be the center of the technological offense-defense race between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Deputy Chief Major General Vadym Skibitskyi stated on January 18 that Russian forces “learn quickly enough” and have completely adapted the Kh-101 air-launched cruise missile compared to the model that Russia used in 2022. Skibitsky stated that new Kh-101s are equipped with an active electronic warfare (EW) system and “thermal traps” to prevent the missiles from emitting trackable heat signatures. Skibitsky noted that Ukrainian forces need to innovate and adapt in response to Russian adaptations to “prevent the loss of territories.” The GUR assessment of Russian technological innovation in the air domain is consistent with ISW’s previous observations that Russian forces are adapting their methods and means for conducting strikes on Ukraine, and that Ukraine in turn must adapt and innovate with Western support to respond to such strikes. Moscow Duma Deputy Andrei Medvedev identified similar adaptation-response dynamics in a January 18 post where he discussed the use of drones by both Russian and Ukrainian forces. Medvedev stated that Russia has opted for the mass production of drones, leading to the production of large numbers of drones that lack the technological adaptations needed to compete with Ukrainian drones based on battlefield experience. Medvedev noted that Ukrainian forces are constantly improving their drones and warned that constant Ukrainian innovation may eventually make Russian mass-produced drones ineffective. Medvedev’s discussion of the importance of constant technological adaptation and innovation on the battlefield emphasizes ISW’s assessment that Russian and Ukrainian forces are engaged in a technological and tactical offense-defense race.

Key Takeaways:



  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that Russia’s maximalist objectives in Ukraine remain unchanged and that Russia is not interested in negotiations with Ukraine or the West.
  • The battlespace in Ukraine continues to be the center of the technological offense-defense race between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
  • Recent widespread GPS disruptions across Poland and the Baltic region are prompting speculation about the potential operation of Russian electronic warfare (EW) systems in the region.
  • The French Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on January 18 that it launched an “artillery coalition” to strengthen support for Ukraine amid continued Ukrainian statements that Russian forces in Ukraine have superior artillery capabilities.
  • Ukrainian partisans and satellite imagery confirmed that Ukrainian strikes against occupied Crimea in late December 2023 sank a Russian Tarantul-class corvette near Sevastopol.
  • The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reportedly conducted a successful drone strike on Russian military facilities in Leningrad Oblast on January 18.
  • The European Union (EU) Parliament voted to endorse another step in a rule of law procedure that could eventually suspend Hungary’s voting rights after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban vetoed an EU vote for further military assistance to Ukraine.
  • Russia and the Central African Republic (CAR) are in negotiations regarding Russian military basing in CAR.
  • Russian forces made confirmed advances near Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area amid continued positional engagements along the front.
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