Russia’s shelling intensifies as weather deteriorates, but U.S. says Ukraine is well prepared to fight through winter

Ukrainian forces likely well prepared to fight through winter, U.S. defense secretary says

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Indonesia’s Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto in Jakarta on Nov. 21, 2022.

Adek Berry | Afp | Getty Images

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Ukraine is in a good position to keep fighting Russia’s invading forces through winter.

“As we go forward into the winter, we’ve done a lot to try to prepare the Ukrainians to be prepared for a fight in the winter, and enable them to continue to keep pressure on our adversaries throughout the winter months,” he told a press conference as he prepared to meet his Indonesian counterpart, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, Monday.

“I think they’ll be in much better condition than their adversaries, because of the things that we provide. And again, our focus is to support them throughout. Their focus is to make sure that they’re doing everything to take back every edge of their sovereign territory,” he said.

He added that it’s “hard to predict how things will evolve” or what kind of timeline there might be for the war ending, however.

Austin said Ukraine had put the military assistance from its allies to good use in the war, noting “we’ve seen Ukraine use that assistance in very artful ways and they they’ve been very successful on the battlefield … they’ve taken back Kharkiv, and they’ve also most recently taken back as the important town of Kherson. And so we’ve seen a number of successes on the battlefield.”

An area of Luhansk looks vulnerable for Russian forces, UK says

Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region has been the focus of intense fighting for weeks, if not months, but Britain’s Ministry of Defense said it believes a key area of vulnerability for Russian forces is Svatove, an administrative hub in the neighboring Luhansk region.

“With Russia’s south-western front line now more readily defendable along the east bank of the Dnipro River, the Svatove sector is likely now a more vulnerable operational flank of the Russian force,” the ministry said on Twitter Monday.

An aerial view of Svatove city, in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine. The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian formations can now approach the city to strike Russian supplies.

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“As a significant population centre within Luhansk Oblast [province], Russian leaders will highly likely see retaining control of Svatove as a political priority.”

“However, commanders are likely struggling with the military realities of maintaining a credible defence, while also attempting to resource offensive operations further south in Donetsk,” it added. “As on other parts of the front, Russian forces continue to prioritise constructing defensive positions, almost certainly partially manned by poorly trained mobilised reservists.”

The ministry noted that both Russia’s defensive and offensive capability continues to be hampered by these severe shortages of skilled personnel and munitions.

The ministry said that in the last week, “intense artillery exchanges” have continued in the area of Svatove in Luhansk.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia’s shelling of Ukraine intensifies as winter approaches

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said fierce battles are still ongoing, with the most intense being in the Donetsk region, but that ground attacks have declined as winter sets in.

“The fiercest battles, as before, are in the Donetsk region. Although there are fewer attacks today due to the deterioration of the weather, the number of Russian shelling occasions remains, unfortunately, extremely high,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Sunday.

In Luhansk, the region next to Donetsk, Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces are advancing “little by little,” but added there have been almost 400 instances of shelling in the eastern region on Sunday alone. The president said forces in the southern part of Ukraine are “holding the line,” although the situation around de-occupied Kherson remains tense, with Russians shelling the city last night.

Black smoke rises from an oil reserve in Kherson on Nov. 20, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Bulent Kilic | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine’s damaged energy networks remain a massive problem for the government, with Zelenskyy noting that the “restoration of networks and technical supply capabilities, demining of power transmission lines, repairs – everything goes on round the clock.”

He said energy workers had managed to alleviate the situation in some regions “where there were a lot of real problems yesterday.” Nonetheless, “stabilization shutdowns” (scheduled energy shutdowns) have taken place in 15 regions and in Kyiv.

— Holly Ellyatt

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