Putin’s War, Week 96. Blowback From a Sunk Ship as Russia Launches Largest Missile Attack of the War – RedState

Putin’s War, Week 96. Blowback From a Sunk Ship as Russia Launches Largest Missile Attack of the War – RedState

Welcome to the last Ukraine Update of the year.

Not a lot of activity took place over the last week with Congress out of town. The Pentagon approved a $250 million aid package to Ukraine. It is billed as “the last” aid package until Congress appropriates more money. That isn’t all that accurate. The Pentagon has about $4.2 billion remaining in Presidential Drawdown Authority. The NDAA authorized $300 million for Ukraine aid. There are enough ways to continue providing Ukraine with needed support via reprogramming existing funds (the way Trump funded a small segment of the border wall) and other existing legislative authority by May-June; a lot of the slack will be out of the system. As I said in my last update, unfortunately, behind our paywall, I think the linkage of Ukraine/Israel military aid to border security is nothing but Failure Theater generated by Speaker Johnson for election-year fundraising.

READ MORE: Putin’s War, Week 95. The Russian Air Force Takes a Beating as Disease Rips Through the Russian Army

The two big items of news over the last week were the Ukrainian Air Force attacking the port of Feodosia in Occupied Crimea and sinking the Ropucha-class Landing Ship, Tank Novocherkassk. That ship was carrying a few thousand tons of ammunition destined for the front, indicating the Russians have stopped using the Kerch Strait Bridge for ammunition shipments.

Putin, who has been rather forgiving of military f**k-ups, took immediate action. He relieved the commanders of the anti-aircraft units defending that sector and reassigned them to assault battalions on the front lines. 

It reminded me of a scene from Cornelius Ryan’s classic book about the battle for Berlin called “The Last Battle.”

Once during the Polish campaign of 1944 Zhukov had stood with Marshal Konstantin Rokossoviskii and General Pavel Batov, Commander of the Sixth-fifth Army, watching troops advance. Suddenly Zhukov, viewing the scene through binoculars, yelled at Batov: “The corps commander and the commander of the 44th Rifle Division — penal battalion!”

Russia responded to that loss with a Friday night missile bombardment of Ukrainian cities that used over 100 ballistic and cruise missiles.

READ MORE: Massive Fireball Marks the End of A Russian Ship After Ukrainian Missile Attack

Here are some of my past updates. For all my Ukraine War coverage, click here.

Putin’s War, Week 95. The Russian Air Force Takes a Beating as Disease Rips Through the Russian Army

Putin’s War, Week 94. Putin Makes Shocker AnnouncementUSnd the War in Washington Goes Into High Gear 

Putin’s War, Week 93. General Winter Hits the Brakes, Offensive Postmortems and Funding Fights

Putin’s War, Week 92. Ukraine Gets Its Own Divine Wind and With Friends Like China, Who Needs Enemies 

PutiUSWar, Week 91. Mud and Snow Beats Fire and Steel, and TumbleweeUS Are Blowing Through Sevastopol

Putin’s War, Week 90. Grain Corridor Reopens and Russia Hints at Another Major Retreat 

Putin’s War, Week 89. Zelensky Gets an EU Invitation, the EU Looks East and the Russians Have a Timetable

Putin’s War, Week 88. TIME Magazine and the Offensive GEUs a Postmortem blindside Zelensky 

Putin’s War, Week 87. The Battlefield Shifts to Washington and Brussels

Putin’s War, Week 86. The Very Resistible Force Meets the Immovable Object in Donbas

Putin’s War, Week 85. The Curtain Goes Down on the Ukrainian Offensive and Russia Rolls for a Hard Six

Politico-Strategic Level

Largest Russian Missile Attack of the War

Friday, Russia launched at least 122 missiles and drones at targets across Ukraine, many think in retaliation for the sinking of a Russian landing ship on Tuesday. 

According to Ukrainian Air Force reports, this is how the attack unfolded.

  • The attack started with several waves of Iranian-made Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 explosive drones, with a total of 36 drones spotted, launched from the north and southeast, and then moving to western Ukraine.
  • At around 3 a.m., 18 Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers took off and reached the launch position at around 6 a.m., firing 90 Kh-101/Kh-555/Kh-55 air-launched cruise missiles.
  • At around 05 a.m., Russia’s Tu-22M3 long-range bombers launched eight Kh-22/Kh-32 cruise missiles from Kursk Oblast towards Ukraine’s northern and central regions.
  • At the same time, Russians attacked Kharkiv City with S-300 surface-to-air missiles, using them in their secondary ground-attack role. A total of 14 ballistic missiles – S-300/S-400/Iskander – targeted various regions of Ukraine, fired from occupied Crimea, and Russia’s Kursk and Belgorod regions.
  • At 6:20 a.m., five Russian MiG-31K fighter jets took off and launched five Kh-47M2 Kinzhal aeroballistic missiles from Russia’s Astrakhan region.
  • Also, Russia’s Su-35 tactical bombers launched four Kh-31P supersonic anti-radiation missiles and one Kh-59 cruise missile.

This is the breakout of interceptions.

  • 87/90 or (96.6%) of X-101 Missiles 
  • 0/5 or (0%) of Kinzhal Missiles 
  • 0/14 or (0%) of Ballistic Missiles
  • 0/8 or (0%) of Kh-22 Missiles 
  • 0/5 or (0%) of Kh-31P/Kh-59 Missiles

A reported 36 Shahed drones were part of the attack, and 27 of those were shot down.

The X-101 is a 1970s vintage .5-mach air-launched cruise missile. If it gets near a modern surface-to-air missile, it is dead. The “ballistic missiles” are S-400 or S-300 surface-to-air missiles deployed in a ground attack role.

Here are the results

Key points. 

  • The attacks were spread over Ukraine. In the far west, Lviv was hit, as were Odesa, Kiev, Dnipro, and Kharkiv.
  • None of the attacks appear to have been directed at military targets. Hits were scored on a maternity hospital, shopping mall, educational facilities, residential buildings, and private homes. At least 87 people are known to have been killed or wounded. The attacks included cities with highly developed air defense systems, like Kiev, and other cities with little to no defense. Most of the attacks struck cities relatively close to the front lines.
  • Significantly, none of the ships or submarines of the Black Sea Fleet participated in this attack.
  • The price tag for the Russians to pull off this one attack was about $750 million.
  • This is more likely than not a one-off attack and not the start of a campaign of regular 100+ missile attacks.

You Thought the VA Was Bad

Stories about the neglect of disabled Russian Army veterans abound on social media. The system of care for conscript soldiers varies from area to area, with no care seeming to be the standard. This is the latest edition. Presenting families of soldiers KIA with a bag of potatoes or onions in lieu of the required death gratuity is pretty standard. This is the first story I’ve encountered of a disabled veteran getting that treatment.

I Hate It When That Happens…

Cope! Cope Harder!

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian Air Force carried out a strike on Feodosia in Occupied Crimea. The attack sank the Ropucha-class Landing Ship, Tank, Novocherkassk; see Putin’s War, Week 95. The Russian Air Force Takes a Beating as Disease Rips Through the Russian Army. Subsequent satellite imagery shows the attack and subsequent explosion not only sank the Novocherkassk but also a training ship and leveled some pier-side warehouses.

Initially, it was reported that the ship was being used to store Shahed drones. Reports emerging now say that it contained a significant quantity of ammunition. Given the video evidence of the explosion, this latter explanation rings true.

Russian social media is full of claims that it was all part of a master plan.

If Putin were going to declare war, he’d have done it by now. If he was going to use the sinking of a ship as an excuse, the Black Sea Fleet has lost at least four other major ships and crickets. Given the number of red lines the West has crossed and the dozens of nuclear threats by Putin’s cronies, it is sort of stunning to find there are people with enough brain power to read that still believe this bluster is real.

Russia Threatens Japan and South Korea

South Korea is a major supplier of 155mm artillery ammunition to Ukraine; see Putin’s War, Week 94. Putin Makes Shocker Announcement and the War in Washington Goes Into High Gear. Last week, Japan sold Patriot missiles to the US. Japan doesn’t allow the transfer of Japanese weapons or weapon components to belligerents, but this lets US allies, like Poland and Germany, transfer US-made missiles to Ukraine while receiving replacements from the US that are backfilled by Japanese production.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova threatened both countries with unspecified “grave consequences,” and warned that Russia’s response might be asymmetrical. Like forcing Russian hookers to return home?

Operational Level

The operational tempo has dropped significantly in the last two weeks. The Russians continue to launch attacks all along the front but with very little success. The Russian Army succeeded in taking the city of Marinka in Donetsk last week. It was much more a propaganda victory and a swan song for the Donetsk People’s Republic militia than of any material consequence. More details are on that below.

Combat Operations

More Russian War Crimes

A reconnaissance drone caught a summary execution of three Ukrainian prisoners of war. 

The location is between the towns of Robotyne and Verbove in Zaporizhzhia.

After a while, documenting Russian criminality feels futile, but perhaps one day, the commanders of these “men” will stand in the dock somewhere and face justice.

Northern Front

The lines on this front remain stable. This does not imply a lack of offensive action by the Russian Army.



The Russian Army launched a major armored and mechanized infantry assault against Ukrainian positions around Synkiva with suboptimal results. Most of the vehicles are lost to mines. Adding to the problem, the attack was launched at the same place and at the same time as the previous day’s attack, which you can see burned out along the road.



This area remains stable. The number of Russian attacks has dropped significantly over the last month.


The Russians continue to hammer away at the Avdiivka Salient, but no meaningful progress has been made since early October.

Marinka Falls to Russia

I’m covering this because this has been pimped to the max in the Russo-sphere.On Christmas Day, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the liberation of the Donetsk suburb of Marinka. Marinka is located about 20 miles south of the Avdiivka Salient.

Marinka has been on the front line since 2014 and has been under attack since February 2022. Because the soldiers doing the dying were mostly quisling Donetsk separatists, that quisling government has created a stamp to commemorate the occasion.

Let’s look at the map to understand what is being celebrated (courtesy of Andrew Perpetua’s Daily Map Update). The original front line, from 2014, is the solid red line. The capture of Marinka represents about 1 mile of progress. 

Any progress is progress, but the DNR militia was obliterated in this fight, and there are no resources available to exploit this “victory,” which, in reality, isn’t terribly exploitable under the best of circumstances. 

Southern Front


The Russian Army continues to attack in this sector with the objective of regaining the segments of the Surovikin Line captured by the Ukrainians over the summer.

Robotyne-Verbove- Novoprokopivka

The Russian Army continues to make small gains, mostly between Robotyne and Verbove. Since this offensive started in early October, the Russians have regained about 2.5 square miles of territory and pushed a maximum of 850 meters beyond the line held in September. The fighting is intense, but it looks much more like jostling for position than the beginning of an offensive.

Partisan Activity

Just a reminder that the war on Russian supply dumps and lines of communication is at least as important as anything happening on the front line. The entire Russian front is fed by a rail trunk from Rostov-on-Don in the north and Crimea in the south. This disruption of rail traffic directly impacts the Russian Army’s ability to conduct operations.


There is no discernable movement in this sector. 

Marine on Marine

Ukrainian Marines turn back an assault by Russian Marines at the Krynky bridgehead. In what has become a familiar scene from this war, armored vehicles were stopped by a drone attack.

Russia Retaliates For Lost Ship

The Russians wasted no time in retaliating for the loss of their ship to a Ukrainian air strike. They did the most Russian thing ever; they targeted civilian areas of Kherson.

Rear Areas



A drone attack hit a complex of military warehouses.

In fairness, only part of Belgorod’s problem was Ukrainian drones.

Somehow, Russia thinks bombing civilian targets throughout Ukraine is totally fine, but the same happening to a Russian city is off-limits.

In the words of Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, “The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.”


A drone attack hit the “Kremniy EL” microelectronics plant in Bryansk. It is the second-largest producer of microchips in Russia.

Moscow, Tula, and Teva

Other drone attacks were reported in Moscow, Tula, and Teva, but video is not available.


A Russian Tu-22 disappeared from radar over Kursk. Some Russian Telegram channels say a Ukrainian surface-to-air missile shot it down. The distance places the Tu-22 at the extreme range of the Patriot system. A more likely explanation is mechanical failure or friendly fire.

What’s Next

Both sides are in sort of the “duck” stage. There isn’t a lot going on that is visible, but there is a lot of unseen activity involving logistics and training. I would expect both sides to launch offensive operations on some scale around the middle of February for military and political reasons. The anniversary of two years of war will not go unnoticed, and even though Putin’s election will be as free and fair as any election ever held in Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, or Fulton County, GA, he would like to go to the polls with some sort of visible success. We heard from several sources that he wants to conquer the historic area of Luhansk and Donetsk. The original goal, we were told, was January 1. That seems elusive right now.

The logical point of attack for a new Ukrainian offensive is exactly where the last one took place and where a Russian offensive is currently underway. The fact that the Russians are trying to move forward means they’ve had to lift some of the minefields that stymied the Ukrainians during the summer.

But the big battles will be fought in Washington, where an aid bill will be produced, and in Brussels, where the EU looks more and more willing to assume the leadership role that Joe Biden has relinquished just about everywhere in the world.


Originally Posted on: https://redstate.com/streiff/2023/12/30/putins-war-week-96-n2168001

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