Overview:

  • UN Security Council to examine how plane carrying POWs exploded in Russia
  • Russian forces entered Avdiivka, mayor says, but ISW confirms no conquests
  • Air strikes on western Donetsk village kill two civilians
  • Kremlin-loyal bloggers describe “daring raid” on Russia-Ukraine border
  • Moscow plays next card in cat-and-mouse game of drone technology

Moscow’s requested UN meeting on downed POW plane will take place on Thursday

AFP reported on Wednesday night that the UN Security Council “will meet on Thursday to discuss Moscow’s charges that Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian transport military plane, killing everyone on board.”

Kyiv confirmed that a prisoner exchange was due to take place on Wednesday but said it had no information on the passengers of the downed plane, Kyiv Post reported, as Ukrainian special services claimed it “had no prior warning on airspace safety near Belgorod.”

Moscow said 65 captured Ukrainian soldiers and 14 Russians were killed when its IL-76 plane was shot down near the Russian-Ukrainian border, in the airspace above Belgorod, ahead of a planned prisoner exchange.

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The UN Council said in a statement that the meeting requested by Russia will take place on Thursday afternoon.

President Volodymyr Zelensky responded to Moscow’s accusations by saying Russia was clearly “playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners.”

Avdiivka mayor says Russian troops have arrived

The mayor of Avdiivka, Vitaliy Barabash, said on Wednesday that “Russian sabotage and reconnaissance groups entered the southern part of the city, but they were dislodged,” AFP quoted the mayor as saying.

Moscow’s troops have gradually tightened their grip around the Ukrainian-held industrial city in the Donetsk region, making much headway in the southern outskirts, especially, over the past few weeks. Fighting has been fierce in Avdiivka since October, but it has been contested between the two armed forces for years after Russia illegally annexed the region in 2014.

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Ukrainian special forces reported that they were able to sniff out the location of a Russian kamikaze drone launcher by secretly tracking one of its reconnaissance drones.

Barabash said, “The situation is difficult, but controlled.”

However, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which closely monitors social media posts in the area and has become an international point of reference for the war’s progress, on Wednesday registered no major, combat developments within the city limits.

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“There were no confirmed changes to the frontline in this area,” the ISW wrote about the Avdiivka front on Wednesday. “A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces marginally advanced southwest of Avdiivka near Pervomaiske, although ISW has not observed visual evidence of this claim.”

Bloggers from both sides admitted that fighting continues northwest of Avdiivka near Novobakhmutivka and Stepove; in southeastern Avdiivka near the “Tsarska Okhota” restaurant area; west of Avdiivka near Sjeverne and Tonenke; and southwest of Avdiivka near Vodyane, Pervomaiske, and Nevelske.

Avdiivka had an estimated pre-war population of some 32,000 people. About 1,100 are said to have remained.

Russian strikes kill two civilians and injure eight in western Donetsk town

Local officials said a Russian rocket strike on the town of Girnyk, 30 km to the west of Avdiivka, killed at least two people and wounded eight.

“The Russians attacked the town today around 4:00 pm (local time) hitting a residential area,” Vadym Filashkin, the Ukrainian head of the Donetsk region said in a social media post.

Operations: Kharkiv region

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Ukrainian Joint Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Serhiy Nayev reported on Wednesday that Russian sabotage groups attempted to cross over the border to Ukraine, “likely referring to Russian claims that Moscow’s troops captured Pletenivka,” the ISW inferred on Wednesday, referring to the border that Ukraine’s Kharkiv region shares with Russia.

The attack on Pletenivka was described by Kremlin-loyal bloggers as a “daring raid” after which Russian forces withdrew to their original positions. The ISW stressed that it has not observed visual evidence supporting such a claim. Instead, the think tank “continues to assess that Russian forces may conduct small-scale, tactical-level attacks across the Belgorod-Kharkiv border to fix and divert Ukrainian forces away from the Kupyansk front.”

Russia continues to innovate to keep up with Ukrainian drone technology

Russia’s military-industrial complex is still struggling to adapt to Ukraine’s increased use of drones, it seems.

Russian media reported this week that their scientists are completing tests of anti-drone “mini-missiles” that “forces will fire using modernized Pantsir-SM air defense systems to protect critical military assets against Ukrainian drone and quadcopter strikes,” according to the ISW.

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The miniature projectiles are “reportedly much smaller than standard Pantsir missiles, allowing Russian forces to equip Pantsir-mounted combat vehicles with 48 of the smaller missiles as opposed to 12 of the standard-sized missiles.”

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