Key Takeaways from the ISW:

  • The Kremlin appears to be returning to expansionist rhetoric last observed before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in an effort to resurface its claims that Ukraine is part of historically Russian territory and discuss the borders Russian leaders regard as appropriate for a rump Ukrainian state.
  • The return of the Kremlin’s notion of a “partitioned Ukraine” is likely an organized effort to mislead the international community into rejecting key components of Ukraine’s sovereignty: its territorial integrity as defined in 1991 and its right to self-determination.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on December 13 that Ukraine’s decision to transition to defensive operations is motivated by winter weather conditions and not a “crisis,” in response to a recent New York Times (NYT) article.
  • Russian and Ukrainian sources continue to report on the impacts of challenging weather conditions on offensive and reconnaissance operations throughout the front, even as reported freezing and snowy winter conditions in eastern Ukraine offer the prospect of better conditions for maneuver.
  • A Russian “Storm-Z” assault unit instructor complained that deputy commanders of Russian irregular armed formations are spreading illogical and false claims that present an overly optimistic view of the situation on the front in the Russian media and information space.
  • The instructor’s complaint about Russian sources spreading unsubstantiated and maximalist claims largely aligns with ISW’s mapping practices.
  • The Russian MoD is likely using formalized irregular unit commanders as a conduit to spread incorrect information about Russian battlefield successes within the Russian information space in order to circumvent the MoD's responsibility.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of drone and missile strikes on the night of December 12 to 13.
  • A Russian hacker group reportedly linked to the Main Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU) and a Russia-aligned hacker group both claimed responsibility for the cyberattack on Ukrainian mobile operator Kyivstar.
  • The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) stripped naturalized Russian citizens of their Russian citizenship for the first time, likely as part of ongoing migrant crackdowns aimed at coercing migrants into Russian military service while placating the xenophobic Russian ultranationalist community.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attended the second Ukraine-Northern Europe Summit in Oslo, Norway on December 13.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, north of and near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west of Donetsk City, along the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in various sectors.
  • The Chuvash Republic is offering bonuses to foreigners who fight in the war in Ukraine, likely as part of efforts to recruit migrants to the Russian military.
  • Occupation authorities continue efforts to destroy Ukrainian national and historical identity.

Authors: Karolina Hird, Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, Christina Harward, and Frederick W. Kagan.

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