- Sweep of Zaluzhny’s satellite office turns up a listening device
- Moscow’s TikTok fakes framed Reznikov, attacked others, report claims
- NYT: Ukrainian drones helping AFU forces hold their ground on Dnipro banks
- Russians advance near Bakhmut
- British intelligence foresees “electoral fraud and intimidation” in occupied lands
- AFU troops pick up gains along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line
Ukraine’s security services found bug in AFU chief’s office
Ukraine’s security services (SBU) said on Sunday that they had found a wiretap in an office that was set aside for the Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces (AFU), although it was found to be inoperative upon a preliminary look, AFP reported.
“We emphasize that the equipment was found not directly in Valery Zaluzhny’s [main] office, but in one of the premises that could be used by him for work in the future,” a statement from the country’s security services said.
“According to preliminary data, the device found was in a non-operational state,” it added. “No data storage devices or means of remote audio transmission were found.”
The device will be sent to tech investigators for further examination. Investigators did not immediately blame Moscow for the planted wiretap.
The AFP highlighted recent reports of supposed “growing tension in recent months between Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top general, and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky,” rumored after Zaluzhny’s comments to The Economist and other outlets describing a “stalemate” between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
The Kremlin has reportedly been pushing rumors of a possible rift between the Ukrainian President’s Office and the military leadership as part of its ongoing propaganda efforts to disaffect Ukrainian citizens and dissuade Western allies in their support for Ukraine, in both financial and military assistance to Kyiv.
Russia steps up disinformation to discredit Ukrainian officials, sow discord
A joint project between the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Laboratory (DFRLab) and the BBC published a report over the weekend that implies that former Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov was the target of a Russian disinformation campaign on TikTok, accusing the ex-minister of corruption in the lead-up to his resignation in September.
“Publishing videos in at least seven languages, the campaign accused Reznikov of purchasing luxury mansions and cars, implying that he and the Ukrainian government more broadly were profiting from the war. TikTok described it as the largest information operation ever uncovered on the platform and attributed it to a Russia-based covert operation,” the report reads.
“The campaign against Reznikov is not the only instance in which Ukrainian officials have been accused of corrupt real estate purchases, including one that targeted President Zelensky,” the DFRLab summary continues.
“In February 2023, meanwhile, pro-Kremlin Telegram channels spread rumors that the daughter of Valerii Zaluzhny, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, had purchased villas in Chile.”
Whether related or not, or even true, as mentioned earlier there have been rumors circulating about growing discord between Zaluzhny and Zelensky, with Moscow feeding the narrative to Western media.
Joint @DFRLab & @BBC Verify investigation exposes the largest information manipulation operation ever uncovered on TikTok. The Russia-based covert operation targeted former Ukrainian defense minister @oleksiireznikov. Read up👇 https://t.co/9duNjcqXBS— EUvsDisinfo (@EUvsDisinfo) December 17, 2023
British intel foresees intimidation in Russian elections across occupied Ukraine
The daily intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defense on Sunday said there likely will be “electoral fraud and voter intimidation” in March elections in occupied territories of Ukraine. Polling stations for Russian presidential elections will be set up in March in any still-occupied districts of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.
“The Russian administration will almost certainly utilize methods including substantive electoral fraud and voter intimidation to ensure Russian president Vladimir Putin wins in the regions by a substantial margin,” the update said.
“It is almost certain that presidential voting... will be neither free nor fair,” the Ministry said.
“A thin line of fishermen's houses”: NYT interviews with soldiers fighting by Dnipro highlight drone-defense but high casualties
Interviews published this weekend by the New York Times (NYT) with Ukrainian soldiers who had been fighting along the banks of the Dnipro revealed that Western reports about the AFU’s prognosis there have been “overly optimistic” and that Ukrainian casualties are much larger than many believe.
But commanders who were interviewed said that Ukrainian drone assaults there have helped suppress Russian airstrikes on the foothold (that is, a “thin line of fishermen’s houses”) in Krynky that the AFU has been using as its base.
“Several soldiers and marines spoke to journalists out of concern about the high casualties and what they said were overly optimistic accounts from officials about the progress of the offensive,” the NYT’s team wrote.
“The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that it was not immediately possible to comment on the soldiers’ accusations but that it would provide a response in due course,” according to NYT.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) took away from the NYT report that the Ukrainian drone operators conducting strikes on Russian artillery units were the real heroes of the counteroffensive there:
“The reported suppression [by drones] of long-range Russian artillery may allow Ukrainian forces to operate more freely in near rear areas in west bank… which may partially explain intensified Russian glide bomb strikes against Ukrainian targets on the west bank,” the ISW wrote.
“The much more abundant 152mm tube artillery systems that Russian forces widely operate in Ukraine have an approximate range of 25 km, although Russian forces are unlikely to deploy these systems to immediate frontline areas due to the threat of Ukrainian counterbattery fire.”
We were featured briefly in the New York Times.— Ukraine Control Map (@UAControlMap) December 17, 2023
Whilst the headline is bleak, please don't doom and actually read the full article as there is good information on the Krynky attack here. https://t.co/45tWsrCIfe
The Kremlin’s units seemingly advanced north of Khromove (immediately west of Bakhmut), while the AFU’s General Staff claimed that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked near Bohdanivka (6 km northwest of Bakhmut), Ivanivske, Klishchiivka, and Andriivka (10 km southwest of Bakhmut).
Russian military bloggers “continued to characterize the localized Russian offensive effort around Bakhmut as an operation aimed at advancing to Chasiv Yar (12 km west of Bakhmut),” the ISW reported. In terms of units involved, Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov said that elements of the Akhmat Spetsnaz “Shustry” detachment are conducting operations on the outskirts of Klishchiivka.
2-й механізований батальйон 3-ї ОШБр ФПВ дроном атакує російську піхоту на північний захід від Хромового, Донецька область.— EjShahid (@EjShahid) December 16, 2023
Location: NW of Khromove, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine
48.604766, 37.941045@GeoConfirmed @UAControlMap
Source: https://t me/lumieregroup/37 pic.twitter.com/NDP8L8jepq
Operations: Kharkiv region
According to reports compiled by the ISW, Ukrainian forces made advances along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on Sunday, citing geolocated video footage suggesting that Ukrainian forces recently advanced in northern Synkivka.
According to research by the ISW, geolocated footage published on Sunday indicates that Russian forces made marginal gains near Stepove (3 km north of Avdiivka), while Russian bloggers claimed that the Kremlin’s invaders advanced towards Novokalynove (5 km north of Avdiivka) as well as the city’s coke and chemical plant and the industrial zone north of Avdiivka.
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