Updates (2023-01-16): More Reshuffle in Military Command Structure, Striking Power Plants, Dnepropetrovsk Tragedy

The fluctuations in Russian MoD, especially the combat command positions are continuing.

Colonel General Mikhail Teplinskiy, the commander of the Russian airborne troops (paratroopers, the VDV) handed his resignation but was given a leave instead. Rumors are this is in response for the wasteful use of paratroopers by the General Staff, namely Gerasimov. Instead, Lieutenant General Oleg Makarevich, previously the Head of the State Military Combined Arms Academy and the Deputy Head of the General Staff Academy, will now man this position. Makarevich had no previous affiliation with the VDV: he commanded the coastal-defense troops, Chief of Staff of the Eastern Military District, Deputy Commander of the Western Military District etc.

The infamous Western Military District receives its fourth commander in the last 12 months — Lieutenant General Evgeniy Nikiforov. Rybar reports that Nikiforov take some part in the fighting in UA in 2014-2015 as then deputy commander of the 20th Army. As such he had relationship with Evgeniy Prigozhin and his newly created Wagner Group. He also enjoys good working relationship with Valeriy Gerasimov. He described as someone flexible and ready to find compromises with his colleagues.

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Rybar reports that few days ago Russia made it second (?) strike on the Ukrainian power plant. This time in the Western Region, the Burshtyn power plant’s turbine room was heavily damaged, with a few generators destroyed and others out of commission. The power plant has a nominal output capacity of 2.3MW, and plays an important role in balancing the power supply in the Western parts of the country. Most chances are it will not be back into operation any time soon, and if it does, only with limited capacity. This is in strike contrast to the pointless months-long “humanitarian” strikes on 330Kv or other power transformers, which were hailed by many commentators as an Ingenius plan conceived by Russian military planners which would collapse the entire Ukrainian power distribution infrastructure in short period of time. The winter came, but the Ukraine electrical power infrastructure remains largely operational.

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The exact cause for the heavy damage to appartement building in Dnepropetrovsk is still unclear. About 30 residents reported dead. The most probable explanation, judging by the power of the strike, is a heavy missile. Kh-22 seems to fit as the probable culprit. Arestovich talked about it being intercepted, as a result of which it strayed from its course and hit the civilian building. Kh-22 are hard to hit midcourse, because of their high, ballistic trajectory. It seems plausible the intended target was in vicinity of the city. The nearby bridges across the Dnepr Rives seems to fit well as possible target for this kind of missile. But it is only a speculation at this point. The absence of reports of any other bridges hit may suggest the intended target was something else. The original Kh-22 is able to hit a large radar-contrast structures such as large bridges by design.

Some commentators call the Kh-22/-32 a cruise missile, as it is classified by the Russian Military. It is not entirely accurate. It uses a liquid rocket engine, not an air-breathing one, and it uses a nearly ballistic trajectory to reach its maximal range. The wings are intended to provide more control over flight trajectories, which makes it “winged” — a Russian term for “cruise” missile. Intended as an anti-aircraft-carrier, it carries about one-ton explosive warhead in its conventional variant. If Kh-22 was the culprit, it could have caused this kind of destruction without a warhead, just based on the missile’s weight (~5 launch mass) and speed (~3.5-4.5M). If so, it is also possible it was intended as “decoy target”, and wasn’t carrying any warhead or terminal guidance radar.

Any Ukrainian mentions in the media regarding their inability to intercept ballistic missiles are only intended for the Western use to hasten the supply of Western air-defence systems. Ukrainian operated S-300 and Buk air-defence systems are capable to provide defense against tactical or short-range ballistic missiles.

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