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Ukraine war latest: SBU reports destroying Russian ammunition depot in occupied Luhansk Oblast

by Alexander Khrebet and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 5, 2023 12:12 AM 8 min read
A screenshot of footage released by Ukraine's Security Service on Dec. 4, 2023, showing explosive munitions dropped by a drone on Russian ammunition depot and equipment in occupied Luhansk Oblast. (SBU/Facebook)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Key developments on Dec. 4:

  • SBU: Russian ammunition depot in occupied Luhansk Oblast destroyed by drone strike
  • Media: Zelensky 'bypassing' Zaluzhnyi in communication with some commanders
  • UK Defense Ministry: Russia lost estimated 320,000 troops in Ukraine
  • Russian official confirms death of Russian general in Ukraine
  • White House: US to run out of money for Ukraine by end of year
  • Umerov discusses Ukraine’s urgent military needs with Stoltenberg in Brussels.

Ukraine’s Security Service reported destroying a Russian ammunition depot and armored vehicles near the occupied city of Svatove in Luhansk Oblast, the SBU said on Dec. 4.

Svatove, which has been occupied since June 2022, sits just 15 kilometers east of the front line. Russian forces have concentrated attacks in the area, particularly in the direction of Kupiansk in neighboring Kharkiv Oblast.

The SBU shared footage of a drone dropping two explosive pieces on the roof of the depot, saying that its operatives gathered intelligence about the locations to conduct the overnight attack.

The SBU hasn’t specified the quantities of ammunition and equipment destroyed near Svatove.

Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukrainian drones have reportedly reached locations far beyond the front lines, including as far as Moscow and other areas hundreds of kilometers away from Ukraine.

Russia has been concentrating its forces around Kupiansk since mid-July, trying to regain the positions lost during the Ukrainian surprise counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast last autumn.

Kupiansk, around 100 kilometers east of Kharkiv, was occupied by Russian forces from Feb. 27 to Sept. 10, 2022.

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Media: Zelensky ‘bypasses’ Zaluzhny in talks with some other commanders

President Volodymyr Zelensky is allegedly "bypassing" Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi in communication with some military commanders, complicating the latter's ability to command Ukraine's Armed Forces fully, Ukrainska Pravda reported on Dec. 4, citing anonymous sources.

The news comes amid hypothesis in Western and Ukrainian media about alleged disagreements between Zelensky and Zaluzhnyi, which have received a lot of public attention following Zaluzhnyi's sobering op-ed on the state of the war for The Economist.

Instead of directly communicating with Zaluzhnyi, Zelensky maintains parallel communication lines with chiefs of some military branches, such as Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi or Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk, sources told the news outlet.

Zaluzhnyi allegedly receives some information from his subordinates only at the Supreme Commander-in-Chief's Headquarters meetings.

"There is an impression that Zelensky has divided the Armed Forces into two groups: the 'good' one commanded by Syrskyi and other favorites, and the 'bad' one subordinate to Zaluzhnyi," a person from Zaluzhnyi's inner circle told Ukrainska Pravda.

"This greatly demotivates the commander-in-chief and, most importantly, prevents him from commanding the entire military."

Ukrainska Pravda's sources claim that Zelensky sometimes makes decisions in military matters guided by political reasons.

One named example was the president's dismissal of all regional enlistment officers following reports of extensive corruption.

This caused friction with Zaluzhnyi, who, while acknowledging the need to fight corruption, pointed out issues with mobilization efforts, one of the sources told Ukrainska Pravda.

What appeared to be a quick and decisive move from a political point of view reportedly had complex consequences in the military sphere.

Recent personnel changes, such as the replacement of Special Operations Forces Сommander Viktor Khorenko, had a similar effect, Ukrainska Pravda wrote.

The Kyiv Independent could not verify the claims.

UK Defense Ministry: Russia loses estimated 320,000 troops in Ukraine

An estimated 320,000 Russian troops have been killed or injured since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported in an intelligence update on Dec. 4.

Neither Moscow nor Kyiv releases public information about troop losses, but the Russian military's culture of dishonest reporting means that Russian officials themselves likely have a "low level of understanding" about casualty figures, the ministry said.

Between Feb. 24, 2022, and November 2023, Russian forces "likely suffered around 220,000-280,000 wounded and approximately 70,000 killed," the intelligence update said.  

The range of losses has been calculated as between 290,000 and 350,000 personnel, with 320,000 being the median figure.

The latest Ukrainian military update said that Russia has lost over 332,000 troops in Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion.  

The New York Times reported in August that Russia's military casualties were nearing 300,000, citing U.S. officials. The figure included an estimated 120,000 deaths on the Russian side, which Moscow "routinely" undercounts, the report said.

The U.K. Defense Ministry reported that of the estimated 70,000 troops killed, approximately 20,000 were Wagner Group mercenaries.  

Russian independent media outlet Mediazona, together with the BBC's Russian Service, confirmed on Dec. 1 the names of 38,261 Russian soldiers who have been killed since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion.

The journalists said that the actual figures are likely considerably higher since the information they have verified so far comes from public sources, including obituaries, posts by relatives, news in regional media, and reports by local authorities.

Mediazona added that the "sheer volume of incoming data is overwhelming our processing capabilities."

As in the previous update, the increase in casualties stems largely from Russian soldiers killed near Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast, where a battle has been raging since early October.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Voronezh Oblast Governor Aleksandr Gusev confirmed on Dec. 4 that Russian General Vladimir Zavadsky was killed in action in Ukraine on Nov. 28.

Zavadsky, who was the deputy commander of the 14th Army Corps of the Russian Armed Forces, is the seventh high-ranking officer that Russia has confirmed to have been killed in Ukraine, independent Russian media outlet iStories reported.

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White House: US to run out of money for Ukraine by end of year

The U.S. is set to run out of funds to support Ukraine in the coming weeks if Congress does not take action, White House Budget Office Director Shalanda Young said in a letter to congressional leaders on Dec. 4.

The U.S. has been the largest donor of military aid to Ukraine. Concerns for continuing U.S. support to Ukraine have grown after months of infighting in Congress over government spending, including military aid for Ukraine.

"There is no magical pot of funding available," Young warned. "We are out of money—and nearly out of time."

Of the $111 billion so far approved by Congress to support Ukraine, the Defense Department has used 97% of its $62.3 billion budget for Ukraine, according to the White House.

The State Department has used 100% of the $4.7 billion it received to spend on military aid for Ukraine.

The State Department, together with USAID, has also used 100% of the $27.2 billion earmarked for economic and civilian security assistance, which includes programs like humanitarian demining.

These programs are "just as essential to Ukraine’s survival as military assistance," Young said.

"Helping Ukraine defend itself and secure its future as a sovereign, democratic, independent, and prosperous nation advances our national security interests."

The U.S. is now "out of money to support Ukraine in this fight," Young said, and the support Ukraine receives from the U.S. "cannot be replicated by others."

Republicans in the Senate threatened to block the aid in early November unless there were security resolutions on the southern border of the U.S., leading to a standoff with Democrats.

Though U.S. President Joe Biden signed a temporary spending bill into law on Nov. 16, averting the impending government shutdown, the issue of continued aid for Ukraine was unaddressed.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said on Dec. 4 that he had vetoed Bulgaria's agreement with Kyiv to provide Ukraine with 100 armored vehicles, returning the deal to the parliament, the Bulgarian news portal Novinite reported.

Radev has repeatedly argued against military assistance for Kyiv and has been accused of taking a pro-Moscow stance. His position has put him at odds with Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov's pro-Ukrainian government.

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Umerov meets Stoltenberg

Defense Minister Rustem Umerov met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, NATO announced on Dec. 4.

With the onset of winter "expected to complicate fighting," Umerov and Stoltenberg discussed "latest battlefield developments and Ukraine's urgent military needs," NATO said.

Stoltenberg "stressed that Allies are committed to stepping up political and practical support to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia's invasion."

The two also discussed reform efforts in Ukraine, as well as making Ukraine's forces interoperable within NATO.

Defense Minister Rustem Umerov and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Belgium, on Dec. 4, 2023. (NATO Pressroom)

Umerov wrote on X that ensuring the interoperability of Ukrainian forces within NATO was a "practical step" that the Defense Ministry is working on to "bring our country closer to NATO membership."

"Ukraine's membership in NATO is inevitable," Umerov wrote. "Our country chose that path a long time ago."

Stoltenberg said during a press conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Nov. 29 that he was impressed by the pace of Ukraine's reforms, as well as the commitment of the Ukrainian government and people to implement them amid the full-scale war.

The comments came during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, which was also attended by Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba.

Stoltenberg met with Kuleba in Brussels earlier on Nov. 29, during the NATO-Ukraine Council meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

"We both agree that Euro-Atlantic defense industries need to work as one system in order to both ramp up supplies to Ukraine and strengthen NATO allies. This priority resonates well with them," Kuleba said on X, following his meeting with Stoltenberg on Nov. 29.

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