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Ukraine war latest: Russia deploys reserves near Kupiansk, prepares blockade, says commander

by Alexander Khrebet and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 12, 2023 1:05 AM 6 min read
An evening look at the ruins of the destroyed ethnographic museum in Kupiansk, which became a target of the Russian forces, on Oct. 3, 2023. (Amadeusz Świerk)
This audio is created with AI assistance

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Key developments on Dec. 11:

  • Commander: Russia deploys reserves near Kupiansk, prepares blockade
  • Russia's FSB claims it detained 18 'Ukrainian agents' in Crimea this year
  • Air defense downs 18 drones, 8 missiles
  • UK, Norway announces support coalition to bolster Ukrainian Navy  
  • Sweden announces $133 million winter aid package for Ukraine

Russia is trying to capture the village of Synkivka in Kharkiv Oblast, hoping to pave the way for the blockade of nearby Kupiansk, Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi reported on Dec. 11.

Moscow has been concentrating a large force at the Kupiansk-Lyman axis in northeastern Ukraine since the summer, and heavy engagements and shelling have been a common occurrence.

Further along the Kupiansk-Lyman axis, Moscow's troops are reportedly attempting to push Ukrainian defenders behind the Chornyi Zherebets River and from the Serebrianskyi Forest.

The Kremlin is also redeploying troops from Russia to reinforce attacks in the directions of Zhytlivka and Terny, two villages near the administrative border of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, Syrskyi reported.

The commander said that Moscow is further concentrating “considerable efforts” north and west of Bakhmut, deploying airborne troops, marines, and special forces.

A surge in Russian activity has also been recorded near the besieged town of Avdiivka.

In Avdiivka, Ukrainians hold Russians off for nearly 10 years (PHOTOS)
Editor’s Note: The Kyiv Independent agreed not to publish the names and/or last names of people who live or visit Avdiivka so as not to endanger them and their immediate family. The city of Avdiivka, in Donetsk Oblast, has been on the front line of Russia’s war against Ukraine

Russian troops are attempting to advance in the south and north of Avdiivka, backed up by tanks and armored vehicles as “fierce battles continue,” Oleksandr Shtupun, the spokesman for the Tavria group of forces, said on air on Dec. 11.

Syrskyi noted on Dec. 10 that Russian troops continue offensive operations across the entire eastern front line.

The general added that he and other commanders holding the defense on the eastern front “thoroughly analyzed the situation and considered options for further actions.”

Russia’s FSB claims detaining 18 'Ukrainian agents' in Crimea in 2023

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed on Dec. 11 that it had uncovered a “network of Ukrainian intelligence services” in Crimea and had detained 18 “Ukrainian agents” on the occupied peninsula over the past year.

FSB has been repeatedly reporting on arresting “Ukrainian agents” since Crimea's occupation in 2014.

Although the Kyiv Independent cannot verify the FSB's claims, Ukrainian intelligence has reported on active anti-Russian resistance in Crimea, which has been under Moscow's occupation since 2014.

The activities of the alleged network were coordinated by Ukraine's military intelligence agency (HUR) and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) under the guidance of “Western handlers,” the FSB claimed.

The FSB alleged that “agents and accomplices of Ukrainian intelligence services” were tasked to carry out sabotage activities, and planned attacks against high-profile representatives of Russian occupation authorities, such as the Russia-installed head of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov.

Other supposed targets were said to include Crimea's Kremlin-controlled parliament chair, Vladimir Konstantinov, the Russia-installed head of Yalta, Yanina Pavlenko, a pro-Russian military blogger Alexander Talipov, and pro-Russian politician Oleg Tsaryov.

Tsaryov was reportedly shot and injured in late October. Ukrainian media wrote that the SBU was responsible for the shooting, citing sources in the security service.

The FSB also claimed that two attempts on Aksyonov's life had been made this year, one in May and another in July.

The Kyiv Independent can't independently verify this claim.

The detainees were accused of involvement in five sabotage operations against railway lines in the Simferopol, Kirovske, and Feodosia districts, bombings of gas pipelines in Simferopol and the village of Koreiz, and car bombings against Russian occupation authorities in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

‘I’m afraid we’ll never find them:’ Russia holds thousands of Ukrainian civilians hostage
In the early days of the full-scale invasion as Russian troops were occupying large swaths of territory outside of Kyiv, one local village resident was relieved to see what he thought were Ukrainian troops. The resident, Ivan Drozd, shouted the common Ukrainian salute “Slava Ukraini!” (Glory to Uk…

UK announces naval coalition with Norway to support Ukraine

The U.K. announced on Dec. 11 a new Maritime Capability Coalition with Norway to support the Ukrainian Navy and the procurement of two British minehunters by Kyiv.

The Black Sea remains heavily mined due to Russia's full-scale war, seriously threatening civilian vessels. Minesweeping capabilities would help Ukraine strengthen security in the Black Sea and enable continued shipping in spite of Russian threats.

The coalition's goal is to deliver “ships and vehicles to strengthen Ukraine's ability to operate at sea” and provide “training, equipment, and infrastructure to bolster security in the Black Sea.”

U.K. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps is scheduled to confirm the provision of two Sandown Class vessels alongside his Norwegian counterpart Bjorn Arild Gram.

Ukraine is procuring the vessels via the U.K. Export Finance, the country's export credit agency.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry later said that London is also providing 20 Viking amphibious vehicles and 23 raiding crafts.

“The new Maritime Capability Coalition will build the support that the U.K., Norway, and others are providing to Ukraine,” the U.K. Defense Ministry's statement read.

“This will be a long-term help to Ukraine transform its navy, making it more compatible with Western allies, more interoperable with NATO, and bolstering security in the Black Sea.”

Shapps commented that the minehunters would “deliver vital capability to Ukraine, which will help save lives at sea and open up vital export routes.”

“I would like to thank the U.K. for taking the initiative in creating this coalition,” the Norwegian defense minister said, adding that other countries are expected to join as well.

The coalition is only the latest in a series of allied initiatives to support various areas of the Ukrainian military capabilities, such as the fighter jet coalition.

The Ukrainian Navy also commissioned two Sandown Class vessels named Chernihiv and Cherkasy in July this year. London is retiring its Sandown fleet in favor of new unmanned systems.

The same day, the U.K. announced the creation of a new unit, the Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation (OTSI), to help combat companies that are circumventing sanctions, including those against Russia.

In addition, the U.K. government announced on Dec. 10 a 3.7 million pound ($4.6 million) package to support the documentation, investigation, and prosecution of war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Sweden announced a new humanitarian aid package for Ukraine worth 1.4 billion Swedish krona ($133 million), Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said at a press conference on Dec. 11.

The aid package, which is the largest humanitarian support package that Sweden has ever given to Ukraine, aims to help Ukraine cope with the increase in Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure during the winter months.

‘We can’t wait for peace:’ Reluctant at first, Denmark takes on rebuilding war-torn Mykolaiv Oblast
When President Volodymyr Zelensky announced to the Danish Parliament last March that Ukraine wanted the Nordic country to rebuild the war-torn southern Mykolaiv Oblast, it was the first the Danes had heard of it. Not only was the president’s plan to assign Ukrainian regions to allied countries for…

Russian attacks

Russian forces carried out attacks against 11 of Ukraine's oblasts with 18 loitering munitions and eight ballistic missiles over the past day, with at least six people reported as injured, regional officials said on Dec. 11.

Air Defense downed all Russian kamikaze drones and missiles, the military reported on Dec. 11.

The Dnipro-based Operational Command East said on Facebook on Dec. 11 that the air defense downed a Kh-59 Ovod cruise missile over Kryvyi Rih in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast at around 3 p.m. local time.

Falling missile debris in Kyiv injured one man in his early 30s, and three women were diagnosed with an acute stress reaction due to the attack, said Serhii Popko, the head of the city's military administration.

The missile fragments also reportedly damaged buildings in the capital's Darnytskyi municipal district.

Russian forces carried out 84 attacks against Kherson Oblast, injuring two people, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin reported.

The attacks targeted residential areas, as well as medical and educational institutions in Kherson, the governor noted.

Chernihiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, Sumy, Odesa, and Zaporizhzhia oblasts also came under attack, but local officials reported no casualties.

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