Putin's War, Week 45: Putin Declares a Cease Fire, Zelensky Gets Putin's Terms for Peace, and if You're Fighting a War, Leave Your Cell Phone Home

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

(The opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.)

Today marks the beginning of the 45th week of Vladimir Putin’s ill-advised invasion of Ukraine. As a result, this update will contain a couple of longer segments, so if your ADHD is acting up, you may want to take a pass.


Before I get started, just a word on why I do updates the way I do them. I realize that a non-trivial number of readers don’t believe Russia invading Ukraine is our problem and that we have enough problems at home and we shouldn’t spend money on a war that they believe doesn’t matter to us. There are also some commenters who think that Russia is the aggrieved party in the war. While I sympathize with the first group, I disagree with them. I don’t believe in trolling solid conservatives who I disagree with on one issue for the sake of “hate clicks,” so I try to put all my Ukraine commentary into this one post so we can get the disagreement out of the way and move on to opposing the left. As to the second group, as far as I’m concerned they can just FOAD.

Politico-Strategic Level 

Missile Attacks Continue on Ukrainian Infrastructure

As has happened about once a week since October, the Russian military launched a cruise missile attack on Ukrainian electrical infrastructure. These attacks typically come from Russian strategic bombers at a launch point around the Caspian Sea or from Russian surface combatants in the Black Sea.

This is what the receiving end looks like.

Ukrainian air defenses are becoming more robust and capable by the day, but the attacks still score hits.

In the long run, Ukraine has a better chance of weathering the missile attacks than Russia has of coercing a settlement by inflicting pain on the civilian population.

Negotiations Status

The Foreign Policy SmartSet® and Putin’s fellow travelers have been demanding negotiations to end the war in Ukraine. For negotiations to take place, there has to be something approaching good faith by both parties. That doesn’t exist. For instance, Turkish President Erdogan visualizes himself as a peacemaker in this war. The only high-level peace talks between Ukraine and Russia were held under Turkish sponsorship last Spring.

This is not a serious offer, or if it is serious, it isn’t sane. There is no reason that at this point in the war that Ukraine should accept the loss of four provinces (oblasts) that Russia unilaterally annexed in October (Putin’s Ukraine Annexation Speech Told Us What to Expect From Russia and It Is up to Us to Pay Attention) as a precondition for talks. The situation on the ground and the momentum on the ground all say this is merely Putin saying, “I’m willing to negotiate,” but setting a maximalist condition to ensure the talks never take place. Here is Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas describing how Russia negotiates.


Christmas Cease Fire

Vladimir Putin has ordered a 36-hour unilateral ceasefire in observance of Orthodox Christmas.

The Ukrainians aren’t big on the idea.

I doubt Ukraine will reciprocate because it doesn’t make sense to give the Russians a break. I’m sure I’ll see a lot of commentary like this pretending that Putin gives a rat’s butt about Christmas, peace, or Jesus Christ.

(Just a  note, despite what Zerohedge says, the Orthodox Church has not been cracked down on, only the schismatic portion that looks to the Moscow Patriarchate as its superior.)

Engels Air Base Attack Fallout

Ukraine carried out two drone strikes against the Russian strategic bomber Engels airbase (see The War in Ukraine Heats up as Drones Attack Russian Airbase Only 100 Miles From Moscow and Putin’s War, Week 44. Drones Strike Russian Strategic Bomber Base…Again…and Prigozhin Makes His Move). This has resulted in the Russian Air Force moving its strategic bomber fleet to bases in the Russian Far East. They will still be able to carry out strikes on Ukraine, but it will drastically increase the windshield time of the crews and the wear and tear on the aircraft.

This has led to anxiety that Ukraine may strike at Moscow itself just to make a point.

French Ambassador Gets a Present

Two weeks ago, I posted on how a birthday party for a senior officer in a Donetsk hotel was interrupted by Ukrainian precision artillery rounds; see Putin’s War, Week 43. Zelensky Visits the Front Lines and Washington, Putin Tries to Push Belarus Into War. One of the casualties was the guest of honor, Dmitry Rogozin, former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, and until July 2022, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

Rogozin blamed a French-made CAESAR 155mm self-propelled artillery piece for the attack (see Putin’s War, Week 14. Advanced Artillery, a Missing General, and a Grind With No Visible End for more on the CAESAR).

This shows the size of the shell fragment beside a one-ruble coin. By the way, this is not to make fun of the size of the piece; it is plenty big enough to kill you very dead.


The Ukrainians have reacted as expected. The inscription on this 155mm round reads “For Rogozin’s Ass.”

Wagner Chieftain Prigozhin Steps Out Front

I’ve chronicled the rise of “Putin’s Chef” Yevgeny Prigozhin, from background fixer to warlord. When the war started, Prigozhin would not admit any affiliation with the Wagner Group private military corporation (PMC) even though everyone knew he was in charge. Since the war ground to a halt, Prigozhin has raised his profile and his association with Wagner Group by filming his recruiting pitches at Russian prisons and opening offices in a St. Petersburg highrise. In last week’s update, I noted how one of his combat leaders called the top Russian military leadership “gay,” Prigozhin endorsed his views, and nothing happened. He also visited the front lines over Christmas, something his Army counterparts didn’t do.

Now Prigozhin is regularly appearing on Russian state television.

He even issued his own New Year’s message.

Any guesses who he is referring to when he criticizes “internal bureaucracy and corruption?”

Here Prigozhin discharged a handful of convict recruits who survived six months in Ukraine. No word if wooden swords were handed out.

Here Prigozhin presents commemorative sledgehammers to Russian home guards.

This rise of Prigozhin and Wagner has to be sanctioned by Putin. Otherwise, Prigozhin would have been suicided by now. The question is, “to what end?” Outside Russia-fluffers, no one has a very high opinion of Wagner Group personnel or tactical expertise. They’ve gained no notable successes on the battlefield. It nearly seems like a message from Putin to his military officers about how he wants them to behave.

Putin Photo Ops

Earlier, my colleague Bob Hoge posted on Putin’s New Year’s speech, Pugnacious Putin Lashes out at Zelensky and the West in Grim New Year’s Speech.

That post included this video.

If this weren’t official, I’d suspect that Putin’s head has been superimposed on an actor’s body because it just doesn’t look right. To those who follow Putin, there were some familiar faces in the crowd, all wearing Russian military uniforms.


Operational Level

The weather in Ukraine continues to be unseasonably warm due to that damned climate change. The ground isn’t expected to freeze solid for another week or so. Until then, both sides have to contend with the butt-deep mud. As a result, the tactical situation is essentially unchanged.

New Weapons


In a phone call yesterday, French President Emmanuel Macron promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky an undetermined number of AMX-10 armored fighting vehicles.

It is an easy-to-operate and maintain system that can kill most of the tanks on Ukraine’s battlefield.

The political impact of this is more significant than the military effect. German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz is under pressure to allow NATO countries with hundreds of obsolescent versions of the German Leopard II tank to transfer them to Ukraine. Scholtz has resolutely resisted saying Germany will not be the first nation to send tanks to Ukraine. The hope is that the AMX-10 is sufficiently close to an older Leopard in capability that it will pass for a tank and open the pipeline.

US and Germany to Send Top-of-the-Line Infantry Fighting Vehicles?

As I was writing this post, this announcement appeared.

The Bradly and Marder are awesome vehicles and could be a game changer. The Bradley, in particular, is a combat-proven system that can kill anything on the battlefield and keep the infantry squad it carries safe from harm. So the AMX-10 ploy had an effect.

Bastion Armored Personnel Carrier

In the same call, Macron agreed to send the Bastion APC to Ukraine.

Like the AMX-10, this system is easy to operate and maintain in addition to being very appropriate for the war being fought in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Produced Artillery Ammunition

The consumption of artillery ammunition in this war is nothing short of prodigious. Each month, Ukraine fires approximately the annual production of US ammunition plants. Russian war bloggers on social media are beginning to complain that there is insufficient ammunition to support Russian offensive operations. While the West can keep up with the rate of fire of 155mm ammunition, most Ukrainian tubes are Russian spec 152mm. The world’s supply of that caliber is just about drained. Russia is buying 152mm ammunition from North Korea to supplement its domestic production.

Now the Ukrainians have brought a domestic ammunition plant online, and the first products are hitting the field.

Franco-Swedish 155mm BONUS Anti-Armor Munition

Many have suspected for a while that the BONUS munition is in use in Ukraine. It carries two independently targeted explosive-formed penetrator (EFP) top-attack munitions that can defeat any armor on any battlefield.


Combat Operations

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

This is an extended video of Ukraine’s Kraken Regiment in action. This regiment is part of Ukraine’s military intelligence apparatus and is broadly equivalent to Russian Spetznaz. It was formed at the same time as the Russian invasion; it is all-volunteer, appears to be successful, and, like Russia’s pre-war Spetznaz and Airborne, makes good videos. This is an attack on the village of Novoselivske in Luhansk Oblast. As an infantryman, there are things that I’d be critical of, particularly their activities as they dismount. But they do a lot of stuff right showing they are learning.


Missile Defense Operations

Circling back, as Jen Psaki would say, to an earlier item in this post, Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets and Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself from those attacks is an ongoing saga.

The Russians are receiving Iranian Shahed-132 suicide drones…because what other kind of drone would Iran produce? The Russians seem to be launching large-scale attacks with several dozen drones, originating in Belarus, with the objective of forcing Ukraine to use a very expensive missile to destroy a very cheap drone.

There are some successes.

The German Gepard, in particular, is proving itself because it can destroy a drone at a fraction of the drone’s cost.

But no defensive system is perfect.

Prisoner of War Exchanges


Loose Lips Gets Sh** Blown Up

Over New Year’s Day and the couple of days that followed, Ukraine carried out a series of strikes on Russian personnel concentrations. No one knows what the body count is. Although the Russians admit that over 80 died in one attack, the actual total in all the attacks probably runs into the high triple digits of dead and wounded.

The strike the Russian government was forced to acknowledge and comment on was in Makiivka, Donetsk Oblast.

About 600 Russian recently mobilized Russians were billeted in a former college. The location was less than ten miles from the front lines. The Russian government is blaming troops using cell phones for the disaster. What is not explained is who thought this was a good idea. The area is riddled with Ukrainian special operations teams and people loyal to Ukraine. The location places it within easy reach of artillery.

My guess is that because they were recently mobilized, their chain of command wanted to prevent desertion before they went into combat and elected to keep them in a group. Because they were not properly equipped to live outside in below-freezing temperatures, they elected to keep them inside. And then there is this factoid gleaned from Russian social media.

While this attack was the most dramatic, it wasn’t alone.

This is also from Donetsk.

At least three in Zaporizhzhia.

More from Kherson.


And finally, a base belonging to the Chechens.

Here is another example. A Spetznaz detachment took up residence in a country club. A member of that detachment posted a lot of images of the buildings, including them, posing near the club’s logo. Needless to say, bad things followed. Read the whole thread for the complete story.

This is cutting one way because the Russian Army is not showing the social media discipline we see in the Ukrainian Army. The Ukrainian Army has more and better resources to geolocate targets from social media images and track cell phone locations. Every army in the world has a big lesson to learn here.


I’m only going to cover one tactical area of operations in this update because the fighting in other areas is not yielding measurable results.

I’ve posted several times on the meatgrinder around Bakhmut.

There are indications that the Russians may be on the verge of calling it quits.

Prigozhin’s Wagner Group has done the heavy lifting for the Russian Army in and around Bakhmut. Here is Prigozhin explaining why Bakhmut can’t be taken.

In my view, you make this statement for one of two reasons. You know the town is about to fall, and you puff up its defenses to make your victory look all the more valiant. Or you’ve had all the fun you can handle.

What’s Next?

I’m standing pat with a prediction of a winter offensive in Zaporizhzhia on the Tokmak-Melitopol axis. I think the strikes at Russian troop concentrations in that area and immediately north are strong indicators of this. In addition, the 20,000 or so Ukrainian troops trained in the UK and Germany will be entering combat soon. The combat videos show that though the Ukrainian Army is not where it needs to be in terms of orchestrating tanks, infantry, and artillery in a single package, they are much better than they were six months ago and definitely superior to the Russians.

I would be looking for one offensive over frozen ground, a halt for spring rain and thaw, and then a major drive in April to set the stage to end this war.


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