Ukraine Situation Report: New Ground-Based Air Defense Coalition Announced

The new coalition announced today, led by Germany and France, will bring together 20 nations to boost Ukraine’s air defenses.

byHoward Altman|
Germany has agreed to provide Ukraine with additional IRIS-T air defense systems.
Diehl Defence

Germany and France are leading a new ground-based air defense coalition designed to bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend against Russian missile and drone threats.

The 20-nation coalition was announced Wednesday as part of the 17th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG), an organization of some 50 nations gathering to provide Kyiv with what it needs to keep fighting Russia.

“I appreciate the leadership of Germany and France in organizing this important initiative,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday before the virtual meeting. Combined, UDCG members have provided Ukraine with more than $80 billion in security assistance since early 2022.

Details about the coalition, what it will provide, how it will work and who will take part are limited.

Following the meeting, Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov lauded Germany for providing a new $1.4 billion aid commitment announced Tuesday that includes an unspecified number of additional IRIS-T air defense systems with interceptors and one additional Patriot air defense system. Those as well as about 20,000 155mm artillery shells and 8,000 anti-tank mines will be delivered by mid-December, Umerov said.

In his evening address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the new coalition.

“The leaders in its organization are Germany and France. I am grateful for this leadership. I am also grateful to every country that participates in these efforts, which enable our cities and villages to be more protected from Russian attacks,” he said. “Not everything can be said publicly yet, but Ukraine's sky shield is getting more powerful literally every month.”

Before we head into the latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

In a summary of battlefield conditions he presented on Telegram Wednesday, Zelensky said Ukraine faces "difficult weather, difficult defense in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Donetsk and Avdiivka directions." He said his forces are conducting "offensive actions in the south."

Gen. Valeri Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine's military, said on Telegram Wednesday that he took part in his first Defense Contact Group meeting. He told those attending "that the situation at the front is complicated, but controlled. The Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to conduct defensive and offensive operations."

Ukraine continues to battle Russian forces in and around the village of Krynky in occupied Kherson Oblast about 1.5 miles across the Dnipro River.

"A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked from Krynky and entered the forest area near the settlement," the Institute for the Study of War reported Tuesday. "Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continue to hold positions in Krynky and near the Antonivsky Road Bridge and the small railway bridge six kilometers east of the Antonivsky Bridge."

"Geolocated footage published on November 21 indicates that Russian forces advanced northeast of Krynky. The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) reported that elements of the Russian 810th Naval Infantry Brigade (Black Sea Fleet) are operating in the Kherson direction.

Video has emerged showing a new Ukrainian "Mammoth" drone attacking a building in Krynky. In the video below, backed by Aerosmith's Dream On, you can it fly through a window, into the building and cause serious damage.

Elsewhere on the battlefield, the fighting continues despite the cold, snowy weather, but there has been little territory gained or lost by either side. Here are some key takeaways from the latest Institute for the Study of War assessment:

  • Ukrainian and Russian forces continue to conduct offensive operations in eastern and southern Ukraine despite rainy and snowy weather conditions.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Russian officials are struggling to subdue Russian hysteria around Ukrainian operations in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes overnight on November 20-21 and on November 21 targeting port and civilian infrastructure, including a hospital in Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 21 and advanced in some areas.

You can see the challenges of fighting in the mud in this video below of a Ukrainian M777 howitzer team working in the muck.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is “ready for talks” to “end the tragedy” of the war in Ukraine, but blamed a Kyiv law prohibiting talks, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Putin, who unilaterally launched the all out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, used his speech at the virtual meeting of the G20 nations to say it was necessary to think about how to stop the tragedy of the conflict in Ukraine and said Russia had never refused to participate in peace talks with Ukraine.

“Military actions are always a tragedy,” Putin said to the virtual meeting. “And of course, we should think about how to stop this tragedy. By the way, Russia has never refused peace talks with Ukraine.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, signed a decree in October 2022 formally declaring the prospect of any Ukrainian talks with Putin “impossible” but leaving the door open to discussions with Russia.

On Tuesday, addressing former U.S. President Donald Trump's claim about being able to quickly end the war, Zelensky told Fox News that Ukraine could stop the war by giving up Donbas and Crimea, but "this is not a peace plan."

Russia has begun using its MiG-35 Flanker fighter in combat, the official Russian RIA Novosti news agency reported Wednesday. It as part of an evaluation to see if the so-called “4++” generation aircraft should be produced in greater numbers in part to sell to foreign customers.

“Today, in connection with the events that are taking place, the vehicle is already participating in all operations that are being carried out. Further test flights still have to be completed, and then the Ministry of Defense will make a final decision,” General Designer of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Sergei Korotkov told RIA Novosti.

There are currently six pre-production MiG-35s in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces, Korotkov said.

Korotkov said that the capabilities of the MiG-35 “satisfy the foreign customer” and added that export negotiations are underway. RIA Novosti did not specify which countries are considering purchasing the MiG-35. As far as its capabilities, you can read more in our report about Russia's development of the jet.

A still image from a recently published Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) video shows a closer look at the UMPK, or Unifitsirovannyi Modul Planirovaniya i Korrektsii, meaning unified gliding and correction module. You can read more about this wing kit for dumb bombs in our story here.

Here is a closer look at a Ukrainian Air Force Su-24M Fencer, armed with air-launched cruise missiles. It is unclear from this photo whether they are U.K.-donated Storm Shadows or French-donated SCALP-EGs.

Ukraine claimed that the air defense forces destroyed an Iranian-made Russian Mohajer-6 reconnaissance and strike drone near Odesa.

One of the many attributes the Bradley Fighting Vehicle brings to the battlefield for Ukraine is its Bushmaster 25mm main gun. In this video below, you can see it in action, raking a Russian position in a treeline, reportedly near Stepove in Donetsk Oblast.

Speaking of tree lines, Michael Kofman (@KofmanMichael), Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment, is back from a recent trip to Ukraine and talked about the slowdown of the war.

"The level of fighting has gone to a place where the individual tree lines all have a name … tree lines have become critical objectives," he said in a recent War On The Rocks podcast.

The raw horror of battle is captured in this 33-minute long video released by the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade. It shows the unit in fierce trench warfare near Avdiivka, trading volleys with the Russians, dodging incoming fire and treating the wounded.

More than a dozen people were detained after Poland wrapped up an investigation into the operation of a Russian spy network, Polish media outlet RMF24 reported Wednesday. 

In total, 16 foreign nationals are suspected of participating in an organized criminal group and acting against Polish interests for foreign intelligence, and 15 have been detained, the outlet reported. If convicted, they face up to 10 years in prison. 

The National Prosecutor's Office said it placed 15 suspects in pretrial detention "due to the need to secure the proper course of the proceedings" and the risk that the accused could escape. 

The suspects are all foreign nationals from "beyond our eastern border," RMF24 said. 

The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) claimed Ukrainian forces wounded a Russian journalist in a drone attack Wednesday.

"An unmanned aerial vehicle of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) dropped a fragmentation munition at a group of Russian journalists who were preparing a report on the shelling of Zaporizhzhia region settlements by the AFU," the MoD wrote on Telegram. "As a result of the AFU unmanned aerial vehicle strike, correspondent for the Russia-24 TV channel Boris Maksudov was wounded by shrapnel. The journalist was promptly evacuated to a medical facility of the Russian Defence Ministry. There is no threat to his life. Boris Maksudov was provided with all the necessary medical assistance."

Ukraine's Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) once again set its sights on the Kerch Bridge in a cheeky Tweet.

"Crimean autumn wind and a completely unnecessary construction. November 22, 2023 - To be continued…," GUR said.

The sign in the video says "GUR Artan," one of its special units. 

And finally, as the harsh chill of late autumn sets in, Ukrainian troops unveiled a secret weapon to keep them warm.

That's it for now. We'll update this story when there's more news to report about Ukraine.

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