Russia buys components for Orlan drones in violation of sanctions.

The Russian Spetsialniy Tekhnologicheskiy Tsentr company, which produces drones, is still receiving Western components for the Orlan-10 drone, with intermediaries in the United States, China, and Russia helping it to circumvent restrictions.

A joint investigation by Vazhnye istorii (Important Stories), Reuters and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI); reports by Ukrainian Pravda and Radio Liberty

Details: According to the RUSI, the Russian-made Orlan-10 UAV uses components from US-based companies Altera and Xilinx, Texas Instruments, Microchip Technology, Analog Devices, Linear Technology, European STMicroelectronics and NXP Semiconductors, and Japanese companies Renesas Electronics and Saito Seisakusho.

None of these companies should now be supplying their spare parts to the Russian defence industry. Yet a chain of intermediaries has been established between Western suppliers and the Russian recipient. The investigators uncovered this chain by studying the financial and customs documents related to the manufacturer of Orlan-10 drones.

Alexei Terentyev, one of the owners of the St. Petersburg company Spetsialniy Tekhnologicheskiy Tsentr (STC - Special Technology Centre), said that the company had not noticed the consequences of the sanctions - on the contrary, it had become "more credible".

From January to October 2022, the STC, which is now under sanctions, bought more than $25 million worth of Western components through intermediaries, according to journalists and personnel of the Royal United Services Institute.

The Orlan-10 version of the drone widely uses microelectronics from US-based Analog Devices, Texas Instruments, Xilinx (owned by AMD), and Taiwan company Getac, as well as Saito engines from Japan.

The investigation says that STC purchased some of the foreign components for the production of drones (approximately 300 million roubles from January to May) from the Russian Citilink network. Another supplier of electronics is the St. Petersburg company SMT-Ayilogic. As a result, STC provided this company with 80% of revenue last year.

SMT-Aylogic received western components from Asia Pacific Links (Hong Kong). Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, purchases amounted to approximately 6 million dollars, according to their figures. The nominal owner of Asia Pacific Links is Russian citizen Anton Trofimov.

In addition, SMT-Aylogic bought components for Orlan drones from the US company Ik Tech. It was also founded by a Russian with American citizenship, whose name is Igor Kazhdan. From 2018 to 2021, it supplied almost 1,400 GUM3703FEBY processor modules found after the Russian shelling in Ukraine among the wreckage of the Orlans.

In February, two weeks before the Russian invasion, Kazhdan was arrested on charges of smuggling military and dual-purpose products into Russia. He admitted that he had started doing business with Russian firms in 2016 "bypassing export restrictions."

Ukraine's Minister of Defence believes Russia is preparing major offensive in February.

Oleksii Reznikov, the Minister of Defence of Ukraine, believes that Russian troops are preparing for a major new offensive in February next year.

Reznikov in an interview with  The Guardian

"The [conscripts] do a minimum of three months to prepare. It means they are trying to start the next wave of the offensive probably in February, like last year. That’s their plan" Reznikov informed.

Reznikov said that while Ukraine is now able to successfully defend itself against Russian missile attacks targeting key infrastructure facilities, including the power grid, evidence is emerging that the Kremlin is preparing a major new offensive.

Referring to Russia’s partial mobilisation of about 300,000 soldiers, Reznikov suggested that while half of them, often after receiving minimal training, are being used to reinforce Moscow’s forces after a series of battlefield setbacks, the rest are being prepared more thoroughly for future offensives.

"The second part of the mobilisation, 150,000 approximately, started their training courses in different camps," said Reznikov.

Reznikov expects Russia will continue to mobilise its citizens after the current partial mobilisation, describing the main tactic of Russian commanders as a "meat grinder", where they throw as many people at a battle as possible in the hope they will overwhelm the smaller Ukrainian force.

If it was a meat grinder against a meat grinder, we would lose. It was a mistake to perceive us as a small Soviet army that would fight a big Soviet army. Certainly, a big Soviet army would win and a small Soviet army would lose, but we are not a Soviet army," Reznikov noted.

Reznikov believes Ukraine is now defeating Russia in the air. As he said, Ukraine’s air defence systems had increased their efficiency from 50% at the beginning of the war to 80% in December.

The Guardian noted that Reznikov’s comments about a possible new major offensive by the Russians echoed similar remarks made to The Economist this week, including from Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine; Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine; and Oleksandr Syrskyi, Commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

"The briefings appeared to be part of a broad, coordinated effort to warn against complacency among western allies and highlight the continuing threat Russia poses to Ukraine," The Guardian wrote.

Russia attacks infrastructure facilities of Kharkiv.

On the afternoon of 15 December, the Russian military struck infrastructure facilities of the city of Kharkiv. Residents of Kharkiv are urged to stay in shelters.

Ihor Terekhov, Mayor of Kharkiv infromed about explosions in Kharkiv. The Russians attack infrastructure.

Kherson cut off from grid: Russia attacks city's critical infrastructure.

The Russian military has struck critical infrastructure of the recently liberated city of Kherson, resulting in the city being completely cut off from the electricity supply.

Yaroslav Yanushevych, Head of the Kherson Oblast Military Administration reported that "Kherson is completely cut off from the grid following the Russian attack. Heavy attack on the critical infrastructure facility in the city's Korabel district is ongoing.

On the morning of 15 December, Russian invaders attacked the centre of Kherson for the second time in a few days, hitting an area 100 metres away from the building of the Kherson Oblast Military Administration. A Russian projectile has also hit the place where the medical aid and humanitarian aid distribution point is located. There is information about 2 people killed.