Good morning from Kyiv, which enjoyed its first quiet night of 2023 after days of Russian missile and drone strikes.
Sadly, no one here expects it to last, and President Volodymyr Zelensky warned last night of a “prolonged” period of attacks from kamikaze drones. More on that below.
What’s happening today?
Germany’s Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht is in hot water after posting a “tone deaf” video to Instagram in which she reflected on a year ending with "war raging in the middle of Europe" and then fondly recalled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine having led to "a lot of special experiences" and the chance for "many encounters with great and interesting people."
The bizarre video has sparked calls in German media for her to resign, though she is yet to comment. You can watch the video and read more about the backlash here.
This is not the first time the defense minister has found herself in hot water. Only a month ago, Lambrecht was criticized by Government and coalition partners over apparent unpreparedness and inaction to secure enough ammo for Germany’s armed forces.
The other big story is just how many Russian troops were killed in a Ukrainian Himars strike against a barracks in the Russian-occupied city of Makiivka on New Year’s Eve.
Russia’s defense ministry has acknowledged that 63 troops died in the attack, but Ukraine claims the death toll is closer to 400.
A higher figure than Russia’s official announcement has also been backed up by several Russian war correspondents, including former separatist leader Igor Strelkov who said "hundreds" had been killed and wounded.
Significantly, even the lower figure of 63 would represent the biggest Russian loss of life in a single incident officially acknowledged by the Kremlin.
You can read more about that story here.
What was in President Zelensky’s latest message?
President Zelensky has warned that Russia is planning a prolonged attack with "Shaheds", Iranian-made kamikaze drones.
While these weapons don’t pack the firepower of cruise missiles, they are more difficult to detect and counter, leading to prolonged air raid alerts, often at night. Even if they don’t hit their targets, their shooting down can lead to extremely loud and tense nights like Kyiv experienced in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
“They are betting on exhaustion,” Zelensky said in his daily address on Monday evening. “On exhaustion of our people, our air defense, our energy sector.
“But we must ensure – and we will do everything for this – that this goal of terrorists fails like all the others.”
In more positive news, Zelensky highlighted a call yesterday with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in which they discussed further aid to Ukraine as well as a Ukraine-EU summit to be held on Feb. 3 in Kyiv.
You can read more about that story here.
What’s the latest military situation?
The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) update on Jan. 3 focuses on the situation in Bakhmut, which has been the scene of some of the most intense fighting of the war for months now.
The MoD notes that the frequency of Russian attacks has ”likely reduced from a peak in mid-December”, adding: “Russian offensive operations in the area are now likely being conducted at only platoon or section level.
“It is unlikely Russia will achieve a significant breakthrough near Bakhmut in the coming weeks.”
The Institute for the Study of War’s Jan. 2 daily assessment covers a multitude of topics, most notably:
· Russian sources gave a lukewarm response to Russian President Vladmir Putin’s staged New Year’s address, while Russian milbloggers lauded Wagner Group financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s appearances on the frontlines over the New Year’s holidays;
· Russia’s air and missile campaign against Ukraine is likely not generating the Kremlin’s desired information effects among Russia’s nationalists; and
· The Russian MoD is likely attempting to deflect the blame for its poor operational security (OPSEC) onto Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) officials and mobilized personnel.
And that’s it for today’s Morning Memo.
Kyiv Post will bring you the latest news throughout the day and we’ll be back with another edition tomorrow.