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Ukraine conflict – June 20.
Military and security developments
This week Ukraine’s chief negotiator with Russia, David Arakhamia, warned the US that Russian people and companies are creating entities in the Republic of Georgia to sidestep Western sanctions. Since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Georgia has refrained from imposing sanctions on Russia citing sanctions are contrary to Georgia’s “national interests”. Arakhamia will meet with US Congress, State Department and Treasury to encourage the Biden administration to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism to help boost the efficacy of sanctions. It is unlikely that the US will adopt Arakhamia’s appeal as the move will heighten regional tensions between the West and Russia; trigger retaliatory action from Russia; and cause further operational uncertainty for businesses within Russia. Over the coming weeks it is more likely that the US will engage with Georgia to promote a more hard line stance against the country or potentially face secondary sanctions. The EU is also likely to help in this effort given its presence in the country.
In Central Asia, Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev vowed not to break international sanctions against Russia over warnings of secondary sanctions on its economy from the West. Toqaev did note that Kazakhstan has continued to work with the Russian government since the start of the Russo-Ukraine war, and maintained allied duties in Russian-led groups like the Collective Security Treaty Organizations (CSTO) and Eurasian Economic Union, but in a way that did not violate current Western sanctions. Toqaev’s commitment to Western sanctions show they are effective in alienating sanctioned states from the international community.
EU-Ukraine: Key EU member states approve candidate status for Ukraine, increasing threat of tit-for-tat escalation by Russia. On 16 June, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and Romania each confirmed their support for Ukraine receiving “immediate” EU candidate status, whilst visiting the capital of Kyiv. The European Commission is set to release a statement proposing candidate status for Ukraine today, 17June, giving EU leaders a week to examine the paper before making a decision at a critical EU summit from 23-24 June. Although candidate status for Ukraine does not entail membership of the European Union, or even a fast track to membership, regional tensions are almost certainly set to increase with Russia, especially if EU candidate status prefigures an uptick in military aid shipments to Ukraine. Therefore, the risk of tit-for-tat escalation by Russia will remain elevated in coming weeks, as will the risk of a possible increase in air and missile strikes on rail and aviation infrastructure in western Ukraine to deter aid shipments.
At the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, the first round of Western sanctions caused the rouble to collapse from 78 roubles per US dollar to 138 roubles per US dollar. This week the rouble is at its strongest in around four years, with one US dollar worth 57 roubles. A stronger rouble is linked to a number of factors including robust oil prices and Moscow creating a post sanction policy demanding gas payments in roubles rather than foreign currencies. Whilst a stronger rouble raises the question about the purpose and efficacy of international sanctions, it is worth noting that from February to March 2022, inflation rates jumped 7.6%, the highest monthly jump since January 1999, indicating that sanctions are having an impact on Russia’s economy.
In other sanctions-related news, the Biden administration revealed they will increase sanctions on Iran to curb nuclear capabilities if talks cease. US officials are attempting to revive a 2015 Obama-era denuclearization agreement (P5+1) with Tehran, the same deal which former President Trump withdrew from in 2018, which enforced restrictions on the country’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Discussions have been stalled since March. The agreement was widely Earlier this year, President Biden decided to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the designated terrorist list which may have contributed to delays on an agreement. Iranian negotiators demanded that the IRGC be removed from the US’ blacklist, but the US rejected this unless Iran was willing to offer concessions on non-nuclear issues. If Washington and Tehran are unable to agree on the future of Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a diplomatic setting, businesses operating in the country should anticipate tougher sanctions by the end of the year.
- Russian forces have continued efforts to encircle Ukrainian forces in Severodonetsk over the last 24 hours, though Ukrainian officials have contested earlier Russian claims that Ukrainian forces are now surrounded in the city, maintaining that the Ukrainian Armed Forces still have a number of logistical routes to resupply troops. Nevertheless, head of the separatist LNR Leonid Pasechnik has claimed that Russian and separatist forces entered the compound of the Azot industrial area in the northwest of the city on 16 June, though he confirmed that Ukrainian forces still control the area. The Ukrainian General Staff have also confirmed that Russian forces have been assaulting Metolkine and Syrotyne, villages southeast of Severodonetsk city itself, though Ukrainian forces have reportedly repulsed the attacks.
- The Russians have nevertheless made some further progress around the Popasna salient, though the extent of these advances has yet to be confirmed. Russian sources are now claiming their forces have seized control of unspecified sections of the T-1302 highway that runs between Bakhmut and Lysychansk, which have allegedly already enabled Russian interdiction of transfers of Ukrainian reserves to the Severodonetsk salient. Similarly, DNR forces have also claimed to have made notable gains north of Svitlodarsk, southeast of Bakhmut. While again unconfirmed at this stage, it appears Russian and separatist forces are in control of Novoluhanske and the area surrounding the Vuhlehirske Reservoir.
- Meanwhile, Russian offensive operations southeast of Izyum have continued to make small gains along the M-03 highway towards Slovyansk, but Ukrainian resistance around the villages of Dolyna and Bohorodychne is slowing progress. Fighting north of Kharkiv has furthermore continued to intensify in the last 24 hours, with Russian attacks at multiple points across the axis, including along the Belgorod-Kharkiv highway and further east around Rubizhne and Ternova. However, little territorial change has been confirmed, with the Ukrainian General Staff maintaining today that these attacks have so far been repulsed.
- Yesterday, 16 June, the Kremlin and Russian Ministry of Defence issued a number of warnings in response to an earlier statement by Ukrainian Major General Dmitry Marchenko that designated the Crimean Bridge as a “number one goal” for the Ukrainian military. The bridge, which connects occupied Crimea to mainland Russia over the Kerch Strait, is a highly strategic route that has played a central role in Russia’s ability to rapidly resupply its forces in southern Ukraine; hence Marchenko’s designation as a key military target if and when the West supplies Ukraine with long-range capabilities. However, the Kremlin has responded clearly that it would consider any strike as a terrorist attack. Given the bridge’s strategic – and political – importance as a connection between perceived sovereign Russian territory, any Ukrainian strike would be a major trigger for rapid punitive strikes against “decision-making centres”, including in central Kyiv. We assess that Moscow would perceive such an attack as necessitating a response to illustrate a line has been crossed, with disproportionate strikes against Kyiv the most likely response.
- On 16 June, President Volodymyr Zelensky called a meeting of the senior leadership of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to check military readiness in the event of another invasion from Belarus. Zelensky has subsequently ordered military checks in four unspecified regions, most likely Volyn, Rivne, Zhytomyr and Kyiv oblasts, all of which border Belarus. Belarusian military exercises along the southern border with Ukraine remain ongoing, which Minsk has reportedly extended until at least 25 June.
- Russian forces have reportedly deployed S-400 and Pantsir air defence systems and Iskandr-M ballistic missile systems to the southern Belarusian border, and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka stated on 10 June that Belarusian forces may need to fight in western Ukraine so that the region “is not chopped off by the West”. However, despite the rhetoric, our assessment remains unchanged, in that a full-scale invasion from Belarus is unlikely in the short to medium term. It is our assessment that Zelensky’s order remains part of normal and expected military contingency planning, rather than an indication that Kyiv has obtained fresh intelligence suggesting an imminent threat.
- Long-range strikes and aircraft sorties from Belarusian airspace will in any case continue for the foreseeable future. However, a concerted ground offensive from Belarus will likely only materialise as a higher likelihood threat if Ukrainian forces in the Donbas collapse and/or Russian forces succeed in taking the entirety of the Donbas, whereafter Moscow would likely look to expand military operations elsewhere if the situation remains favourable. Ultimately, however, even in this eventuality, we assess that there remain higher-priority targets for Russian forces to subsequently focus on, namely Odesa, Kharkiv and Dnipro.
- Further details of the current state of the Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to emerge as Ukrainian officials call for greater quantities of Western military equipment to offset losses. Commander of Land Force Command Logistics, Brigadier General Volodymyr Karpenko, has confirmed that Ukrainian forces have suffered 30 to 50 percent equipment losses in combat since the invasion, illustrating the growing importance of Western supplies to sustain military operations. Estimates of Ukrainian casualty figures have similarly risen over the last week. President Zelensky at the start of the month estimated that between 60-100 Ukrainian service personnel were dying in the Donbas each day. However, lead Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia this week increased this estimate to 200-500 KIAs a day, stating that casualty rates can in fact reach highs of 1,000 a day. This ultimately reflects the intensification of the fighting in the Donbas in recent weeks, where Russian forces have improved combined arms tactics to make greater use of its dominance in artillery.
- However, the intensification of the fighting is highly likely to be impacting Russian casualty rates to an even greater extent, given the Ukrainians have the defender’s advantage across the Donbas frontline. Russian casualty rates remain difficult to estimate, with the Kremlin tightening controls over this information and corresponding Ukrainian estimates of some 33,000 killed likely to be too high. Nevertheless, Russia’s apparent difficulties in regenerating and reconstituting its forces can tell us a lot about the growing need for manpower.
- This week the Ukrainian General Staff claimed that some battalion tactical groups (BTGs) have only been able to muster as few as 30 soldiers, in contrast to around 600-800 personnel at full complement. This reflects the fact that Russian forces are now deploying increasingly ad hoc smaller units at the company or platoon level, which often advance on foot, rather than coherent BTGs. On 16 June, Ukrainian General Staff Main Operations Deputy Chief Oleksiy Gromov estimated that Russia has committed some 330,000 servicemen to the invasion of Ukraine. These numbers reportedly include some 80,000 from the mobilised reserve, up to 18,000 Rosgvardia National Guard personnel, and up to 8,000 private military contractors – though it remains unclear whether Kyiv has included forcibly mobilised troops from the DNR and LNR in its overall numbers.
- It is clear that Moscow is prepared to continue fighting until at the very least October to achieve its primary goal of the “liberation” of the Donbas, but has consistently remained reticent to mobilise the population to achieve this. However, if casualty rates and equipment losses continue to grow and the offensive stalls, the likelihood of a mobilisation will increase. Following some speculation on the issue this week, the Kremlin yesterday, 16 June, stated that President Putin will not announce mobilisation during his speech at today’s St Petersburg Economic Forum.
- On 16 June, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania visited the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, and after meeting with President Zelensky gave a formal statement confirming their support for Ukraine to be granted European Union candidate status at the earliest juncture. The announcement by the four leaders marks a substantial step toward bringing Ukraine into the European Union’s sphere of influence, although candidate status in and of itself neither constitutes nor implies full membership of the European Union.
- On 16 June, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov reaffirmed the prevailing stance in Kyiv that its intentions are to “liberate all of our territories, all, including Crimea”. Reznikov emphasised that deliveries of weapons from the West will help Ukraine in achieving this task, with the US in particular announcing yesterday another USD 1 bn package of weapons. The pledged military aid, however, still falls short of what Ukraine has been requesting, and is highly unlikely to drastically increase. Nevertheless, the continuation of this support as well as statements from Kyiv and the West regarding Ukraine reclaiming the lost territories will ensure that both sides will continue to pursue their current military operations, extending the conflict at least into the autumn.
- Following his trip to Kyiv, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that, in his opinion, an agreement with Moscow regarding grain exports from Odesa port is unlikely, stating that President Putin “did not want to accept a UN resolution on this subject”. The statement is in line with our previous assessment regarding the currently low likelihood of such a deal being reached given that Kyiv and Moscow remain far apart on the issue. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s grain exporters have been seeking out alternative transport paths, including by road and rail, and the Baltic Sea, which will somewhat alleviate the backlog and supplies. However, with Ukraine’s exporting capacity still hugely curtailed, food prices and shortages will remain a knock-on trigger in the months ahead that will only exacerbate socio-economic insecurity and domestic instability risks in food insecure regions.
On 17 June, the European Commission (EC) formally recommended that both Ukraine and Moldova be granted candidate status. Although a highly symbolic step that will pave the way for both countries to join the European Union, both will remain subject to implementing rule of law, justice and anti-corruption reforms, which is set to be long process over the course of several years. Nevertheless, the decision is highly significant for Ukraine, representing as it does robust political support from the European Union as Kyiv seeks an ever-closer relationship with the West. The EC’s decision is only a recommendation, however, and the final decision to grant the status must be approved by all EU member states, with a decision likely during the bloc leaders’ summit on 23-24 June. Whilst the Netherlands and Denmark remain sceptical, yesterday’s endorsement by France, Germany, Italy and Romania has increased the likelihood of the status being formally approved by all members in the week ahead, though this still remains far from certain.
- The Russian ultimatum for Ukrainian forces trapped in Severodonetsk to surrender was ignored yesterday, 15 June, as Ukrainian forces continue to hold out in the western outskirts of the city along the Siverskyi Donets River. Nevertheless, as of this morning, 16 June, Russian forces have claimed significant progress in their assault on Severodonetsk. While their claims remain unconfirmed at this stage, Russian forces maintain that they are now in control of the eastern end of the northernmost bridge connecting Severodonetsk to Lysychansk, due west of the Azot industrial area. Russian sources are also claiming that fighting is now approaching the Yuvileyniy (‘Jubilee’) Bridge, the southernmost bridge.
- Both of these bridges have been destroyed, but the Russian frontlines are clearly pushing closer to the riverbank itself at both ends of the city. While the Ukrainian defences in the northern Azot industrial area continue to hold for the time, it is likely that Ukrainian forces have pulled out a significant number of troops from Severodonetsk, with limited withdrawals likely continuing to take place. Russian sources are claiming that 2,500 Ukrainian and International Legion soldiers are currently surrounded in Azot, with the United Nations (UN) furthermore warning yesterday that thousands of civilians remain trapped in Severodonetsk as the Russian encirclement continues to tighten.
- Further south around the Popasna salient, Russian forces have been launching attacks across the full length of the salient, with some notable success in the north. Reports indicate that Russian forces have successfully broke through around the town of Vrubivka, and are now pushing further north as both sides fight over the villages of Mykolaivka and Berestove, the latter of which lies on the T-1302 highway that connects Bakhmut to Lysychansk. The Ukrainian General Staff have furthermore reported that Russian forces have deployed a battalion tactical group (BTG) to the Bakhmut front from Kupyansk, as well as unspecified units of the 8th Combined Arms Army (CAA) along the eastern end of the salient near Komyshuvakha.
- These deployments very much reinforce our assessment that following the steady progress in Severodonetsk, Russian operational focus is likely to shift towards making progress on this axis, including consolidating control over Toshkivka and closing the mini encirclement around Zolote. Russian forces are consolidating their control over the eastern bank of the river in Severodonetsk, but the destruction of the bridges over the Siverskyi Donets means an opposed river crossing remains the only option available for Russian forces stationed in Severodonetsk itself. As such, Russian forces are more likely to concentrate on achieving a breakthrough north of Popasna to enable an assault on Lysychansk from the west and thus avoid an extremely costly (and apt to fail) river crossing. However, as long as Ukrainian forces remain entrenched in the Azot industrial zone, this will prevent the Russians from redeploying forces in Severodonetsk to support the operationally more important task of closing the encirclement north of Popasna.
- Russian offensive operations have also continued to intensify north of Kharkiv, with sustained artillery bombardments and assaults on a number of villages reflecting the beginnings of what is likely to be a limited counteroffensive designed to push the Ukrainians further back from the international border towards Kharkiv city. Following the capture of Ternova this week, it appears that Russian forces are currently assaulting numerous settlements in the north-eastern end of the axis, including in Rubizhne and as far south as Staryi Saltiv, both of which sit along the Siverskyi Donets reservoir. This morning, 16 June, Russian forces also appear to be pushing further west, likely aimed at retaking the villages of Dementiivka and Prudyanka, both of which sit near two key highways running south to Kharkiv city.
- On the southern axis, Ukrainian forces have continued their limited counteroffensive northwest of Kherson city. Both Russian and Ukrainian sources have today confirmed that Ukrainian forces are attacking at various points, namely in the direction of the villages of Pravdyne, Tomyna Balka, and along the M-14 highway that connects Kherson and Mykolaiv. The Ukrainians are making moderate progress along this axis, but the wider region remains heavily contested as Russian forces continue to concentrate on improving defensive fortifications and positioning. Such fortification efforts are also continuing on the Zaporizhzhia axis, which has seen very little territorial changes in recent weeks despite continuing artillery duels. The Zaporizhzia Regional Military Administration has reported that Russian forces from Crimea are being brought up to fortify Dniprorudne and support operations along the frontline, while Ukrainian Tochka-U missile launchers are also reportedly being brought up to Zaporizhzhia to support Ukrainian operations along this axis. Despite the continual build-up, however, both sides remain focused on other fronts, and so it remains unlikely that a major offensive or counteroffensive will take place here in the short term.
- The Russians have furthermore announced that Kherson commercial seaport is now operational and can begin exporting cargo. However, the Ukrainians are still in control of the strategic Ochakiv coast southwest of Mykolaiv, which controls the entrance to the Dniprovska Gulf and the approaches to both Kherson and Mykolaiv seaports. As a result, any Russian ship travelling to and from Kherson will remain highly vulnerable to Ukrainian short-range anti-ship weapons, and as such a resumption of commercial or military shipping remains unlikely. Nevertheless, the Russian Navy continues to consolidate its control over Snake Island further out to sea, with satellite imagery published this week indicating an increase in fortifications and military equipment on the island. The island will continue to prove a highly strategic base for Russian forces and a key node in its to-date successful anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy in the Black Sea.
- The leaders of France, Germany and Italy arrived in Kyiv today in a bid to demonstrate solidarity and support for Ukraine, following Kyiv’s accusations that the leaders of the three states have not taken a strong enough stance against Russia. Air raid sirens sounded shortly after the trio arrived in Kyiv, underlining the enduring risk of Russian long-range strikes. The visit also comes as Russia further restricted gas exports to Europe, with the latest restrictions to Germany and Italy reflective of Moscow’s warnings against the former’s support for Ukraine’s EU membership as well as financial and military aid. Further cutting of gas supplies will only reinforce heightened energy prices and inflation, driving up the cost of living at a time when yesterday’s market sell-off in Europe has reignited old fiscal divisions within the EU and concerns over a new debt crisis.
- Turkey has offered to host a four-way meeting involving the UN, Russia, and Ukraine in an attempt to unblock Black Sea ports and facilitate the export of grain through the Bosphorus. Negotiations have so far made very little progress, but Ankara’s efforts to facilitate dialogue is only likely to increase as the Ukrainian harvest season approaches in July-August and tens of ms of tonnes of grain remain stranded in overflowing Ukrainian silos.
- On 15 June, Russia reportedly offered “safe passage” for Ukrainian grain shipments from Black Sea ports, but stated that it would not be responsible for establishing corridors for commercial vessels. In this respect, Turkey has proposed that its navy escort vessels and guide them around sea mines under UN supervision. The clearance of sea mines remains a key sticking point that at present is preventing any progress being made; the Russians are demanding Ukraine demine the coast, while Ukraine is refusing given it would expose its coast to Russian naval operations. Negotiations are set to continue in the coming weeks, but it remains to be seen whether Ankara and the UN can facilitate a compromise deal this summer.
Following yesterday’s US-led summit in Brussels, numerous Western states have committed to further military aid for Ukraine. US President Joe Biden in particular announced another USD 1 bn package of weapons, including 18 howitzers, 36,000 rounds of ammunition, and two Harpoon coastal defence systems, among other equipment. While the US has by far committed the most amount of military aid to Ukraine, and is highly likely to continue doing so for the foreseeable future, the amount of support falls far short of what Kyiv itself has been asking for. Earlier this week the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence asked for 1,000 howitzers and 300 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). These numbers are far in excess of what Western states are able to provide, with the German Ministry of Defence confirming during the conference that it will only be delivering three instead of four MARS II MLRS systems, stating that the Bundeswehr is already “at its limit” in terms of available stocks. This means that the total number of MLRS systems pledged to Ukraine by the US, UK, and Germany amounts to 10 systems, far below the 300 requested. While Kyiv has repeatedly stated that weapons shipments are not coming fast enough, this week’s Brussels conference will likely ensure a continual supply of weaponry in the short term. However, it remains to be seen for how long Western states can sustain these support levels as the war continues to grind on and a looming economic crisis distracts Western attention from the war.
- The focus of Russian offensive operations continues to be Severodonetsk, where Moscow is now openly calling on Ukrainian forces to surrender. Russian forces claim to have largely encircled Ukrainian troops entrenched in the Azot industrial area. While we cannot confirm at this stage whether a full encirclement has been achieved, the destruction of the last remaining bridge connecting Severodonetsk to Lysychansk will effectively limit options for retreat and resupply in any case.
- The Russian Ministry of Defence announced last night that a humanitarian corridor would be established today, 15 June, from 0800 (Moscow time) to allow for the evacuation of civilians from the Azot plant. However, as of this morning LNR commanders have alleged that Ukrainian shelling has made evacuations impossible. The humanitarian corridor thus appears to have been a nonstarter given that the Ukrainian side had not agreed to it. The situation in Severodonetsk has thus far resembled the siege of Mariupol in many ways, including the Russian utilisation of artillery to clear the city section-by-section and the Ukrainian defence in the industrial sector. However, the number of civilians trapped remains less than in Mariupol, estimated at around 500, including children. The destruction of the bridges will severely complicate humanitarian evacuation efforts.
- Southeast of Izyum, Russian forces are continuing to advance steadily along the M-03 highway that runs south to Slovyansk. The Ukrainian General Staff this morning confirmed that Russian forces are currently advancing towards the village of Krasnopollia, though Ukrainian forces reportedly repulsed assaults against the neighbouring village of Dolyna yesterday. Elsewhere, Russian forces appear to be consolidating, including around the village of Bohorodychne and east of Raihorodok.
- Notably, however, Ukrainian forces have stepped up attacks west of Izyum in recent days. Such attacks will be aimed at increasing pressure on the Russians’ western flank. Ukrainian forces have reportedly recaptured the villages of Zavody and Spivakivka, settlements on the edge of the heavily wooded area that sits on the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River due west of Izyum. The forests are clearly providing Ukrainian light forces opportunities to infiltrate Russian lines along this axis, which could yet provide Ukrainian forces an opportunity to achieve an outsized impact on Russian operational planning.
- If they are able to push the Russians back here, the Russians are likely to be forced to divert forces to offset the growing vulnerability of their ground lines of communication that run through Izyum. This in turn will likely take some pressure off Ukrainian forces defending the M-03 highway northwest of Slovyansk, slowing the Russian advance in that direction. Russian artillery strikes west of Izyum have stepped up over the last 24 hours, indicating increasing Russian efforts to slow Ukrainian attacks. Ultimately, however, it remains to be seen whether the Ukrainians can sustain offensive operations on this axis given the deteriorating situation in Severodonetsk and reports of fuel and ammunition shortages.
- Nevertheless, Ukrainian counterattacks have furthermore continued along the Kherson-Mykolaiv border region, with unconfirmed reports of Ukrainian forces advancing to within 18km of the northern outskirts of Kherson city. While we cannot confirm this at this stage, wider Ukrainian counterattacks elsewhere along this axis, namely around Davydiv Brid, have placed growing strain on Russian defences, despite efforts to entrench themselves and mine parts of the Inhulets riverbank.
- Overnight Russian long-range strikes hit targets in Lviv and Ternopil oblasts, with the Russian Ministry of Defence claiming it destroyed a depot full of NATO-supplied ammunition near Lviv. However, Ukrainian air defences reportedly interdicted a number of missiles, including one shot down over Zolochiv in Lviv oblast. The fragments from the intercepted missile reportedly hit a nearby brick factory, injuring a number of people – this underlines that even when Russian missiles are intercepted, they are still capable of causing significant collateral damage to nearby areas and below the flight path.
- Finally, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova stated today that death sentences handed down to foreign fighters in the DNR will set a “clear example to other soldiers of fortune fighting for Ukraine”. This aligns with our earlier assessment that a decision by the DNR’s Supreme Court to execute two British and one Moroccan fighter captured in Mariupol would serve to deter other foreigners from fighting for Ukraine, aiming at undermining the morale of the International Legion – units of which are currently still fighting in Severodonetsk. Zakharova’s statement evidently confirms that Moscow has little intention to treat captured foreign fighters according to the Geneva Conventions, with further executions possible in an effort to demoralise Ukrainian forces.
- As anticipated in our reporting, Europe’s unity over the war in Ukraine is increasingly being tested, with the latest survey results in nine EU member states strongly indicating that public attention and concern are increasingly focusing on the cost of living crisis. More specifically, the divide appears to be growing between those who want to see a quick end to the war – even if it means Ukraine ceding territory – and those who believe that Russia must be punished. This trend is highly likely to persist and intensify, with more and more Europeans likely to increasingly prefer an end to the conflict given the rising inflation and energy prices, which are expected to remain heightened for the remainder of the year
- Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also urged the West to provide Ukraine with the weapons that it has requested as quickly as possible, stating that the Russian forces will continue moving further west unless the Ukrainian army is able to stop them. Zelensky’s statements came just ahead of today’s meeting of almost 50 countries, where Western leaders will discuss potential further military aid to Ukraine. Ahead of the meeting, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Anna Malyar stated that Western partners have so far provided Ukraine with around 10 percent of the weapons and ammunition it had requested. However, it is our assessment that notable policy changes are unlikely to come out of today’s meeting, given that many states remain cautious of aggravating Moscow further and the growing concerns over the socio-economic impact of increasing military aid to Ukraine. Nevertheless, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht confirmed on 14 June that German howitzers will soon be available for use in Ukraine. The supply of such weapons will continue to drive the threat of Russia launching long-range missile strikes across different parts of Ukraine, with such strikes once again reported yesterday in western Ukraine in Lviv and Ternopil oblasts.
On 14 June the Russian military blogger, Yuri Kotyenok, claimed on Telegram that Russian authorities are currently preparing to loosen conscription and recruitment standards. These will allegedly include increasing the age limit for military service from 40 to 49 as well as dropping previous requirements for military experience to serve in tank and motorised infantry units. The current spring conscription cycle remains ongoing, running from 1 April until 15 July. The next autumn cycle is scheduled to take place between 1 October and 31 December. Around 1.2 m men are estimated to be eligible for conscription each year, but in recent years only around 400,000 conscripts actually serve in the military each year. Given the clear need for manpower and the subsequent loosening of service requirements, the numbers called up during the current spring cycle are likely to be much higher. Ukrainian intelligence maintains that the Russian Ministry of Defence has extended war planning for a further 120 days until October. As such, the autumn conscription cycle will similarly be another flashpoint for a significant expansion of conscription, or, if the Russian offensive stalls, a potential mobilisation. As the war in Ukraine is officially a “special military operation” and not a war, conscripts are not legally permitted to be deployed to the frontline. However, there is widespread evidence of conscripts serving there. Nevertheless, the majority of newly conscripted troops will likely be deployed to hold rear areas, for which military professionalism and effective training are less important. Rosgvardia National Guard and FSB units have been deployed in significant numbers to the occupied territories, but given enduring resistance, particularly in southern Ukraine and the DNR, the need for a sizeable occupation force is apparent as Russia continues to speed up annexation. Nevertheless, it is clear that the diminishing strength of frontline battalion tactical groups (BTGs) will mean that conscripts are unlikely to be solely employed in support roles as the war drags on. Russian forces are already increasingly reliant upon poorly trained, poorly equipped troops, as frequent criticisms from Russian pro-war hardliners on social media attest. As the war grinds on in its current attritional phase, the quality of Russian forces will still further decrease as the need for raw numbers together with modern equipment shortages will inevitably dilute overall professionalism and combat effectiveness.
- Russian assaults on Severodonetsk have continued over the last 24 hours, but their forces have still not taken full control of the city. Luhansk Oblast Administration head Serhiy Haidai confirmed yesterday, 13 June, that Russian forces have indeed destroyed the third bridge that connects Severodonetsk to Lysychansk, meaning Severodonetsk is now cut off from all land connections. Deputy Head of the Donetsk People’s Militia Eduard Basurin has blamed Ukrainian forces for the destruction of the bridges, claims Haidai has rejected. Had Ukrainian forces in Severodonetsk decided to withdraw to Lysychansk, the demolition of the bridges during their retreat would have been a logical move, but considering Ukrainian forces remain entrenched in the Azot industrial area in the city, it remains unlikely that the Ukrainians are responsible for the destruction of the last bridge. The bridge’s destruction will further complicate efforts to resist the Russian assault. The Ukrainian General Staff have furthermore reported that Russia has brought up an additional two battalion tactical groups (BTGs) to the north of Severodonetsk, likely to support an assault on the Azot industrial area.
- South of Severodonetsk, the Russian operational manoeuvre group has continued efforts to cut off the T-1302 highway north of the Popasna salient, but have failed to make much progress. The Ukrainians have successfully repulsed a number of Russian assaults along the north and eastern axis of the salient near this key road, which nevertheless remains under frequent artillery bombardment if not Russian control. Separatist LNR commanders claimed yesterday, 13 June, that their forces had seized the strategic settlement of Toshkivka, a town on the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River that guards the approaches to the P-66 highway that runs north to Lysychansk. This remains unconfirmed at this time, but the recapture of the town would mark a notable development that will open up options for Russian forces to threaten Lysychansk from the south and cut off the P-66 highway.
- On the southern end of the Popasna salient, the Russians have made some more notable progress after consolidating their hold of the village of Vidrodzhennia – a settlement roughly 2km from the M-03 highway that runs northwest towards Bakhmut and Slovyansk. Numerous attacks remain ongoing at time of writing across this axis, including on the other side of the M-03 around the villages of Dolymtne and Kodema. Russian sources have this morning, 14 June, reported Russian and DNR troops reaching as far north as Vershina, allegedly establishing control over a portion of the M-03 in the process. However, while a concerted Russian offensive does appear to be ongoing, any further progress remains unconfirmed at this stage as the Ukrainian General Staff this morning indicated that assaults to the west of the M-03 had so far been unsuccessful. Nevertheless, if and when Russian forces manage to reach the M-03, they will be in a better position to eventually launch an assault towards Bakhmut from the southeast.
- Around Izyum, Russian forces continued limited offensive operations along the M-03 highway northwest of Slovyansk, but have not made much further progress since taking control of the north outskirts of Bohorodychne earlier this week. Forces arrayed on the east bank of the Siverskyi Donets around Lyman have meanwhile been regrouping at two critical points: northeast of Raihorodok and southeast of Yampil. These represent the two key river crossing points around Lyman, indicating preparations are likely underway for potential attempts to cross the Siverskyi Donets. The LNR Ambassador to Russia Rodion Miroshnik stated on 13 June that the main assault on Lysychansk will take place alongside an assault on Siversk, southeast of Yampil, in order to close the cauldron and prevent a Ukrainian withdrawal. As such, the forces arrayed around Yampil may be preparing for an eventual river crossing in the coming weeks, likely via Dronivka or Serebrianka that would enable Russian forces to push on Siversk. Over the last 24-48 hours, both Siversk itself and the settlement of Serebrianka have been shelled by Russian forces, reflecting the growing pressure on this axis.
- The Russian Ministry of Defence has today claimed that a unit of “Ukrainian nationalists” opened fire on 30 Ukrainian servicemen of the 25th Battalion of the 54th Mechanised Brigade after they allegedly surrendered to Russian forces. The claim cannot be confirmed at this stage and it remains probable that it is misinformation designed to demoralise Ukrainian forces. In recent days there has been a notable uptick on Russian social media as well as from official channels claiming infighting between Ukrainian forces. For example, LNR Ambassador Rodion Miroshnik claimed yesterday, 13 June, that skirmishes between Ukrainian forces had broken out in Lysychansk, noting that Russian forces are not yet in the city.
- Russian sources have increasingly been claiming that members of the perceived “neo-Nazi” Privyi Sektor and Azov Regiment have been tasked with ensuring Ukrainian troops do not surrender or retreat. Given such claims reinforce the Russian “de-Nazification” narrative, they are unlikely to be true at this stage. Nevertheless, Kyiv’s policy of “defending every square inch” retains the potential to trigger some backlash from Ukrainian units, particularly if they perceive their position to be untenable and have been ordered not to withdraw. Aside from unsubstantiated Russian accusations, however, there have been no indications of this impacting Ukrainian operations in the Donbas.
- Following strikes on Chortiv in Western Ukraine, Russian forces yesterday also reportedly fired three missiles on Chernihiv oblast. The Russian Ministry of Defence claimed it destroyed a depot of artillery weapons and ammunition, portable air defence systems, though such claims are common and cannot be independently verified. Nevertheless, the attacks reinforce the enduring threat of long-range strikes across all of Ukraine and Russian attempts to destroy military equipment and supply lines. Meanwhile, yesterday, Kyiv also publicly called for the supply of numerous weapons including 300 rocket launchers, 500 tanks and 1,000 howitzers, with President Zelensky’s senior adviser Mykhailo Podolyak also accusing the West of lacking urgency to supply Ukraine with the weapons he believes are necessary to help Kyiv win the war. Podolyak’s comments come ahead of the scheduled meeting on 15 June of Western defence ministers to discuss military aid to Ukraine, though notable policy changes in this regard are still unlikely given Western reluctance to provoke Russia.
- On 13 June, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the main goal of the “special military operation” is the “protection” of the Donetsk and Luhansk peoples’ republics (DNR and LNR), underlining our previous assessment that complete control over these two oblasts is highly likely to represent the bare minimum of Russia’s military objectives. Moreover, Moscow is highly unlikely to surrender the control of the territories that it has occupied so far and is likely to seek to absorb them into Russia, with the Russia-backed deputy head of military-civilian administration of Kherson stating that the region is “already irrevocably the Russian Federation”.
- On 14 June Ukrainian authorities banned another pro-Russian political party, “Nashi”, with the court ruling the party’s property must become the property of the Ukrainian state. Nashi was founded by Yevgeny Muraev, who was named by the press at the beginning of the invasion as one of the potential replacements approved by the Kremlin to replace Zelensky. The party’s activities have already been suspended by the National Security and Defence Council since March 2022. Kyiv maintains a hard stance on Russia-linked forces and has increasingly emphasised the need to prosecute perceived traitors and collaborators in order to prevent them from forming new political parties.
- For more strategic analysis and escalation outcomes to the current conflict in Ukraine, see our Scenario Planning and Projections report.
Tomorrow, 15 June, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin will chair a special meeting of defence ministers in Brussels to discuss weapons shipments to Ukraine. The meeting will be the third such conference since the US announced its intention to coordinate international military support for Ukraine during the Ramstein summit in April. As above, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has called for a significant increase in military supplies, including 1,000 155mm howitzers – a substantial increase considering the US had confirmed delivery of 109 by the end of May. He has also called for some 300 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), which would account for roughly half the US’s existing stockpile. As a result, such requests are likely to be a negotiating tactic, with Western leaders highly unlikely to agree to such a massive increase given the dramatic impact such transfers would have on their own military stockpiles. The importance of the summit has only grown in recent days following Kyiv’s acknowledgement that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have used up almost all of Soviet and domestic equipment and ammunition. Ukraine has now acknowledged that it is now effectively wholly reliant upon Western defence aid. As a result, the outcome of the summit will be a key test of Western commitment to Ukraine and the willingness of national governments to sustain military aid in the coming months.
Ukraine: Destructive and disruptive cyber attacks targeting Ukraine-based organisations will persist in support of Moscow. On 13 June, industry reports informed that a Russian state-linked hacking group was exploiting a vulnerability in a Microsoft Windows Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT) to compromise Ukraine-based entities. Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA) assessed with “medium confidence” that the Moscow-backed hacking group Sandworm is responsible for the campaign, based on the attackers’ tactics, techniques, and procedures. Most notably, Sandworm is utilising phishing emails to leverage the MSDT vulnerability known as Follina to compromise Ukrainian media organisations and remain undetected by virus scanning tools. This incident is the latest Sandworm attack since CERT-UA disclosed in April that the hacking group attempted to take “high-voltage electrical substations” in Ukraine offline with the CaddyWiper malware. Such activities are consistent with Moscow’s ongoing attempts to destabilise Ukraine’s critical infrastructure via cyber attacks to limit Kyiv’s capacity to respond to its kinetic military operations. With Russia’s protracted conflict in Eastern Ukraine set to continue for at least the coming months, further disruptive/destructive cyber attacks targeting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, such as energy or media, are highly likely to emerge as a part of Moscow’s “hybrid warfare” strategy.
Global: Beijing will increase cyber espionage activity to assess risks to Chinese business interests amid recent elections in Australia and the Philippines. On 13 June, cyber security firm Unit42 claimed that the Chinese state-linked hacking group Gallium was targeting financial institutions and government entities in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa with a new remote access trojan (RAT). This RAT, known as PingPull, allows Gallium to exfiltrate sensitive information and carry out other actions. Gallium is historically known to target industries of strategic interest to the Chinese government, to gather intelligence that can help Beijing achieve its broader geopolitical goals. Given Gallium’s focus on Southeast Asian and Pacific countries, there is a high probability that one of the campaign’s goals is to collect information on these countries’ policies toward contested issues such as the South China Sea disputes. The election of new heads of state in Australia and the Philippines and their potential impact on Chinese business interests in the region further increase Beijing’s incentives to engage in cyber operations against these targets. Government-linked organisations, such as defence firms, will be at the highest risk for these operations.
- Over the weekend Russian forces have continued to make progress in the city of Severodonetsk, pushing Ukrainian forces further back around the western outskirts. Given Ukraine’s inferiority in artillery to Russia, which Ukrainian intelligence has put as high as 1:15, the growing shortage of artillery shells and limited counter-battery capabilities will make it increasingly difficult for Ukrainian forces to resist Russia’s sustained mass bombardments in the coming days and weeks. Russian artillery has over the weekend also intensified the bombardment of neighbouring Lysychansk. Reflecting the growing importance of artillery and counter-battery warfare to both sides’ operations in the Salient, Commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny called on his US counterpart General Mark Milley for more M114 155mm howitzers as soon as possible.
- Ukrainian officials have confirmed that Russian forces have now destroyed two of the three bridges crossing the Siverskyi Donets River that connects Severodonetsk to its sister city Lysychansk. Russian sources claimed the third bridge was also destroyed on 12 June, but even if it has not yet been destroyed, Ukrainian officials confirmed that it is now inoperable. The destruction of the bridges is clearly aimed at cutting off Ukrainian ground lines of communication and thus trapping the remaining Ukrainian forces inside the city. However, the bridges’ destruction will also deprive Russian forces of a river crossing point in the future. As such, the move appears to indicate that Russian commanders have no intention of conducting an opposed river crossing to reach Lysychansk if and when Severodonetsk is captured. Instead, as previously assessed, Russian forces are likely to concentrate on offensive operations further south on the western bank of the Siverskyi Donets, which will allow an attack on the city from the southwest. However, despite this, Russian forces continue to make limited progress here. Ukrainian forces continue to repulse Russian assaults on the key settlement of Toshkivka, preventing Russian forces from reaching the P-66 highway that runs north to Lysychansk, with other Russian assaults across the Popasna salient similarly resulting in few confirmed gains over the weekend. Russian forces are nevertheless making incremental gains directly south of Toshkivka, with the Ukrainians confirming Russian forces have now entered the village of Orkihove and have seized the train station in Komyshyvakha to the west. Russian forces are thus tightening the mini cauldron around the town of Zolote, but progress remains slow as the Ukrainian defence continues to hold along this axis, despite now being surrounded on three sides.
- Russian offensive operations have continued to make modest progress southeast of Izyum, increasing the pressure on Slovyansk. Over the weekend Russian forces have repeatedly assaulted the villages of Dolyna and Bohorodychne, the latter of which Russian forces now claim to control, but more likely remains contested. The Ukrainian General Staff have furthermore reported that Russian forces have replenished fuel and ammunition stocks around Lyman over the weekend, indicating likely preparations for renewed offensive operations towards Slovyansk. However, these forces will need to cross the Siverskyi Donets River if they are to support pushes down the M-03 highway towards Slovyansk. Nevertheless, rather than a frontal assault directed towards Slovyansk, Russian forces arrayed around Lyman may seek to cross the river further east in order to threaten Siversk – a less well-defended town than Slovyansk whose capture would significantly tighten the encirclement around the Severodonetsk salient. However, the Ukrainian defenders retain a significant advantage along the full breadth of the river on this axis, given the more defensible elevated south bank. As such it remains to be seen whether the Russians will actually be able to successfully cross the river given their repeated failures to do so previously.
- The Ukrainian General Staff in its morning briefing today, 13 June, confirmed that Russian offensive operations have achieve partial success north of Kharkiv. Russian forces are now reportedly in control of the northern outskirts of Ternova and the village of Izbytske, which have remained heavily contested in recent weeks since the Ukrainian counteroffensive pushed the Russians to within 5km of the border. It remains unclear whether either side retains the combat power on the axis to launch a serious offensive, particularly following reports last week that elements of the DNR’s 1st Army Corps have refused to fight there. However, the seizure of Ternova will reduce the pressure on Russia’s ground lines of communication to the north, while also allowing Russian forces to continue exerting pressure and artillery fire on northern Kharkiv.
- Yesterday, 12 June, Russian naval forces fired four missiles from the Black Sea and struck targets in the town of Chortiv, which sits along the M-19 highway in Ternopil oblast in Western Ukraine. The Russian Ministry of Defence claims it destroyed a large depot of anti-tank missile systems, portable air defence systems and shells, all of which they claim have been supplied by US and other Western allies. Russia regularly claims to have destroyed depots of Western military equipment, but given tight Ukrainian operational security and bans on disseminating evidence of attacks, we cannot confirm whether such long-range strikes are effectively interdicting supplies and thus reinforcing growing Ukrainian ammunition shortages. President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed during an address on 12 June that 2,606 cruise missiles have hit Ukraine since the 24 February invasion.
- On 12 June, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mentioned the possibility of holding talks with President Zelensky and President Putin, as Ankara continues its efforts to mediate on the issue of unblocking Ukraine’s ports for grain exports. It remains our assessment, however, that any agreement between Moscow and Kyiv is still unlikely in the short term, given that both sides are far apart on the issue. Meanwhile, on the same day, in a bid to avert a global food crisis, Kyiv also announced that it has set up two grain exporting routes through Poland and Romania. Additionally, according to the authorities, Kyiv is also currently in discussions with Baltic states regarding the possibility of adding a third such export route. Despite this, the supply chain is nevertheless set to be severely disrupted in the months ahead, especially as it is currently unclear how much grain it would be possible to move through these routes.
- On 12 June, on the occasion of Russia day, Moscow reportedly issued about 23 passports to residents of the occupied southern city of Kherson, as well as an unspecified number of passports to those in Melitopol. However, Ukrainian media reports have indicated that in both locations local resistance remains strong, with the offices of the self-proclaimed interior ministry in Melitopol, reportedly targeted in an attack on 12 June. Although it has not yet been specified who was responsible for the attack, the incident very likely reflects Ukrainian insurgency and local resistance to the occupation.
- Media reports over the weekend reported that the European Commission (EC) is expected to back Ukraine’s EU candidate status this week, following a visit by EC President Ursula von der Leyen to Kyiv over the weekend. Nevertheless, such status would be linked to stringent rule of law and anti-corruption reforms, which Ukraine struggled to enact even before the February invasion, and which have unavoidably been put on hold since the war in any case. Additionally, the move would be subject to approval by all 27 EU governments on 23-24 June, with Denmark and the Netherlands in particular raising their objections. However, it is increasingly likely that Ukraine will be granted candidate status, though the journey to actual EU membership will almost certainly take several years, if not decades.
On 11 June, the deputy head of the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Vadym Skibitsky claimed that Ukrainian intelligence had received confirmation that Russian forces have extended their war planning for another 120 days, up to October. Skibitsky has furthermore claimed that the Russian General Staff is currently modifying its operational plan every month, and that they will continue to adjust the current plan depending on the extent of successes or failures in the Donbas. While we will be unable to independently confirm this intelligence, it reinforces our own assessment that Russian commanders are preparing to fight a more protracted conflict for many more months yet. The war in Ukraine is currently in a distinctly attritional phase, characterised in large part by artillery and counter-battery capabilities. Given Russia’s overwhelming superiority in artillery and Ukraine’s growing shell shortages and reliance upon Western supplies, such warfighting will place a growing strain on Ukrainian defensive operations in the coming weeks and months. Russia clearly aims at grinding through the Donbas to achieve its minimal political objectives of the “liberation” of both Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, but it remains to be seen if the Ukrainians can offset Russian artillery dominance with effective counteroffensives elsewhere along the frontline given growing shortages of ammunition.
- Pro-Russian cyber threat actors have continued to engage in malicious activities during this monitoring period. Cyber attacks launched by state-linked threat actors, such as Sandworm, are highly likely to maintain pace, especially as Moscow’s protracted conflict in Eastern Ukraine continues in the coming months. Moreover, the Kremlin’s warning that the West’s cyber interference in its “special operation” in Ukraine will sustain the two sides’ tit-for-tat cyber conflict. Western government agencies, critical infrastructure operators, such as in energy, and key private sector partners, such as in technology, will likely constitute the most at-risk targets for these attacks.
- Pro-Ukraine hackers continued to be the most active threat actors during this monitoring period. Despite these hackers’ persistent cyber assaults against Russian organisations, such activities have had a limited impact on Moscow’s military operations in Ukraine. On the other hand, limited third-party oversight within Russia has made it difficult to assess the full impact these attacks have had on private sector organisations based in Russia. Nevertheless, these groups are expected to continue launching rudimentary cyber attacks – such as DDoS, data leaks, and defacement – as part of its #OpRussia against a wide range of sectors. There is a notable risk of such activity causing short to medium-term disruption to Russia-based organisations.
Pro-Russian operations maintain pace; Sandworm will continue attacks against Ukraine-based organisations in support of Moscow’s protracted conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
- On 13 June, industry reports informed that a Russian state-linked hacking group was exploiting a vulnerability in a Microsoft Windows Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT) to compromise Ukraine-based entities. Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA) assessed with “medium confidence” that the Moscow-backed hacking group Sandworm is responsible for the campaign, based on the attackers’ tactics, techniques, and procedures. Most notably, Sandworm is utilising phishing emails to leverage the MSDT vulnerability known as Follina to compromise Ukrainian media organisations and remain undetected by virus scanning tools. This incident is the latest Sandworm attack since CERT-UA disclosed in April that the hacking group attempted to take “high-voltage electrical substations” in Ukraine offline with the CaddyWiper malware.
- On 9 June, the Russian government warned that any cyber attacks launched against its critical infrastructure from Western countries will heighten the risk of “direct military confrontation” and will be responded to with “targeted countermeasures”. While not explicitly stated, this declaration is likely in response to US General and Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) Paul Nakasone’s 1 June disclosure that the US’ cyber forces are engaged in “offensive, defensive, [and] information operations” to help support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.
Pro-Ukraine hackers continue data leak operations; Russian government agencies and critical infrastructure will remain most at-risk from future attacks
- 13 June, the whistleblower website Distributed Denial-of-Secrets (DDoSecrets) claimed that the hacktivist collective Anonymous hacked and leaked nearly 759GB of sensitive information from the Russian IT company NPO VS. Forensic investigations of this alleged data leak are ongoing, making it difficult to assess the full impact of this incident. However, NPO VS’s client list is believed to include governmental entities, such as the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, increasing the probability of this latest data leak containing classified state information.
- On 10 June, a Twitter account allegedly administrated by an unknown hacktivist group linked to Anonymous claimed that the Russian IT and telecommunications company Obit was compromised. Uncertainty over the type and amount of data leaked during this incident makes it difficult to assess the total impact of this incident. However, if officially confirmed, this cyber attack would be indicative of the hacktivist collective’s 5 June allegation that they have leaked over 12 m Russian files and emails since declaring its “cyber war” against the Russian government in late February and early March.
- Between 9-10 June, various Twitter accounts purportedly linked to the Anonymous hacktivist collective claimed that the group had compromised a series of Russian media outlets. These cyber attacks reportedly targeted well-known media organisations, such as RBK, and played “Ukrainian and anti-war songs” in protests of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Such activity is consistent with pro-Ukraine hackers’ ongoing attempt to counter the Russian government’s misinformation/disinformation campaigns by disrupting Russian media outlets’ operations. This is the latest such campaign since another Twitter account allegedly linked to the Anonymous collective claimed on 1 June that Anonymous hacked Russia’s Vyberi Radio group and leaked around 823 GB via DDoSecrets.
- On 7 June, another Twitter account that alleges to represent Anonymous claimed that the collective temporarily took several Russian government and legislative websites offline via Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks. In addition to these DDoS attacks, the group also claimed to have leaked 28GB of sensitive files from the central bank of Russia.
Publicly-disclosed cyber attacks launched by pro-Russian hacking groups maintained pace during this latest monitoring period. The latest attack by the state-linked hacking group Sandworm constitutes the most notable cyber attack launched by a pro-Russian cyber threat actor. Moreover, such activity is consistent with Moscow’s ongoing attempts to destabilise Ukraine’s critical infrastructure via cyber attacks to limit Kyiv’s capacity to respond to its kinetic military operations. With Russia’s protracted conflict in Eastern Ukraine set to continue for at least the coming months, further disruptive/destructive cyber attacks targeted against Ukraine’s critical infrastructure operators, such as telecoms or energy, are highly likely to be targeted. Moreover, Western government agencies and private sector entities, such as tech firms, supporting Ukraine will also be at a heightened risk of being targeted by retaliatory cyber attacks in light of the Kremlin’s 9 June warning. Such retaliatory activities will most likely take the form of either ransomware, DDoS, data wiper, and/or defacement attacks. Nevertheless, Russia’s apparently limited capacity to launch cyber attacks across multiple fronts will reduce the likelihood of its cyber attacks being successful.
Meanwhile, pro-Ukraine hackers have continued to launch cyber attacks as a part of their #OpRussia campaign aimed at either countering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by targeting its critical organisations and/or disrupting its misinformation operations. As in previous weeks, the Anonymous collective and its affiliated hackers continue to be the most active members of the conflict. Despite these hackers’ continued bombardment of Russian government agencies and their private sector partners, such attacks have had limited or no impact on Moscow’s military capabilities in Ukraine. On the other hand, it remains difficult to assess the full impact of the attacks targeted against Russia-based organisations given either these companies’ reluctance to publicly disclose they have been attacked and/or the limited oversight that third-party cyber threat researchers currently have over these organisations due to Moscow’s strict control over the flow of information leaving Russia related to the Ukraine conflict. Nevertheless, with several alleged Anonymous members indicating that #OpRussia is highly likely to continue for at least the coming months, further disruptive cyber attacks are expected to be launched throughout 2022. Such activities will most likely take the form of either defacement, DDoS, or data leak operations.
Belarus-Russia: Hacktivist’s leaking of Russian audio is unlikely to impact bilateral relations but could lead to further international sanctions. On 14 June, the Belarusian Cyber Partisans hacktivists leaked audio via Telegram allegedly showing that the Belarusian government wiretapped foreign diplomatic missions, including the Russian embassy/consulate. The leak purports to contain 1.4TB (or 50,000 hours) worth of voice calls, with the hacktivists claiming that there “are still a lot of recordings of embassies and consulates of other countries”. This statement indicates that the data leak is highly likely aimed to further the group’s core aim of toppling Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s administration for its “ongoing human and civil rights abuses” and disrupting Minsk’s support for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. This is the group’s latest campaign since it launched cyber attacks against the Belarusian state railway system in February to delay Russian transport lines into northern Ukraine. This incident is unlikely to significantly impact Belarus-Russia relations given Lukashenko’s reliance upon Russian support and Minsk’s active involvement in Russian operations in Ukraine. However, any intelligence found in the leaked audio indicating that Minsk helped plan the invasion and/or spy on other countries for Russia could further heighten international scrutiny and result in additional sanctions being levied against the two nations.
Ukraine: Meeting to discuss more military aid is highly unlikely to result in notable policy changes, prolonging global supply chain disruptions linked to Russia’s invasion. Western governments are expected to make announcements regarding the supply of more weapons to Ukraine during a crucial meeting of almost 50 countries today, 15 June. Ahead of the meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged western leaders to provide Ukraine with more military aid as soon as possible, warning that if Ukraine does not receive them, “the conflict will stagnate”. Zelensky also reiterated that Moscow will continue to move further west unless the Ukrainian army is able to stop the Russian forces. Although the next weapons package is likely to be announced, it is highly unlikely that the western leaders will agree to the quantities requested by Kyiv given the dramatic impact such transfers would have on their own military stockpiles and the likely escalation with Russia. As such, the conflict in eastern Ukraine is highly likely to persist for the coming months, prolonging global supply chain disruptions, such as for grain products, linked to the invasion.
Germany-Russia: Gazprom cuts gas flows through Nord Stream 1, raising energy security risks across bloc. Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom confirmed yesterday (15 June) that it will cut gas exports to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline as of today, 16 June, citing unspecified technical issues. However, Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck stated in response to Gazprom’s move that he believes the cut to be “politically motivated”, warning that the move marks the beginning of “…a trend of a step-by-step operation as gas flows to different countries are cut.” The cut follows Russian countersanctions on the Gazprom German subsidiary earlier in June, and in the short term it is almost certain that Gazprom’s decision is politically motivated, with the cut likely to unsettle European markets and drive up gas prices in the short term, increasing energy security risks across the bloc. (Source: Sibylline)
17 June 22. UK acquires over 20 M109 howitzers for Ukrainian armed forces. The UK Government has acquired and repaired more than 20 M109 155mm self-propelled howitzers to send them to Ukraine to combat Russian aggression, reported Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform, citing Sky News.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News that the government had purchased the artillery units from a Belgian arms company and refurbished them to suit the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces.
“…they (M109 howitzers) are starting to arrive, and they have a much longer range than 152mm,” Wallace stated.
The M109 is a US-made, 155mm self-propelled howitzer based on a tracked armoured chassis.
Given that Russia exceeds Ukraine in the count of artillery, the allies are providing long-range artillery and missile systems for the Ukrainian forces, Wallace added.
Earlier this month, Norway had announced a donation of 22 M109 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers and ammunition to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the UK is considering sending more anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, Reuters reported, citing Wallace on Wednesday.
Last month, the UK launched a £25m campaign fund to encourage the development of new defence solutions to support the armed forces of Ukraine.
This competition is focused on improving the current provision for artillery, coastal defence and aerial systems.
Since the onset of Russia’s military incursion, the UK set aside nearly £2.8bn to provide humanitarian aid for Ukrainians.
Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden approved a further $1bn in security assistance to bolster the Ukrainian armed forces.
Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, around $5.6bn has been announced as security assistance for Ukraine by the US. (Source: army-technology.com)
16 June 22. Ukraine to get thousands of secure radios in latest US package. The U.S. will provide Ukraine with secure communications equipment as the Eastern European country’s fight against Russia rages into a fourth month.
The U.S. Department of Defense on June 15 said “thousands of secure radios” would be sent to Ukraine as part of a $1 bn security package announced by President Joe Biden. It gave no specifics as to models or manufacturers but described them as a “near-term priority” that would help the besieged country “defend against Russian aggression.”
The radios will be sourced using Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds, or USAI, and won’t come from existing U.S. stockpiles, the Pentagon said. Instead, they will be procured from private industry, with Wednesday’s announcement kicking off the process. No delivery dates were disclosed.
Communications and connectivity are under constant assault in Ukraine, as cyberattacks hamstring websites, methods of command and control are harassed and the telecommunications industry remains a top target. The Ukrainian government on May 31 reported that “Russian invaders disabled communication services” in the south of the country, darkening networks across the Kherson region.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin this week said there is an “unwavering determination to get Ukraine the capabilities that it urgently needs to defend itself” and that the country is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield.
“Russia is using its long-range fires to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions, and Russia continues to indiscriminately bombard Ukraine’s sovereign territory and recklessly endanger Ukrainian civilians,” Austin said at a Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at the NATO headquarters in Belgium. “So we must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense and we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens and its territory.”
The U.S. in April said it would send secure, tactical communications systems to Ukraine as part of a $300m aid package, also using USAI, and in May announced it was dispatching electronic jamming equipment to the front lines, as well.
Included in the latest package are spare parts, night-vision devices, optics, Harpoon anti-ship launchers and more ammunition for medium-range rocket launchers. The U.S. years ago began supplying Ukraine with more-modern radios to protect communications and combat jamming.
The U.S. has committed roughly $5.6 bn in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. More than $8.3 bn of assistance has been committed since 2014. (Source: Defense News)
17 June 22. Ukraine recommended as EU candidate. EU leaders are expected to approve Ukraine’s candidate status at next week’s European Council summit. Ukraine has taken a step closer towards joining the EU after the European Commission recommended it to be granted candidate status to join the bloc on Friday. The boost to Ukraine’s hopes of membership is laden with meaning in a country that turned defiantly westwards during the 2013 Euromaidan protests that toppled its pro-Russian president.
It will be a blow for Vladimir Putin, whose illegal invasion was an attempt to force Ukraine back into Moscow’s sphere of influence.
EU leaders are expected to approve Ukraine’s candidate status at next week’s European Council summit but with strict conditions.
That decision will pave the way for years or even decades of complicated negotiations and painful reforms before Ukraine can join the bloc.
Volodymyr Zelensky said, “Ukrainians have already earned the right to take this path and receive candidate status.”
The Ukrainian president called for immediate full EU membership in the weeks after the February 24 invasion.
The EU was not willing to grant that but is keen to show Ukraine has a path to eventually join the bloc by accelerating the process of granting candidate status.
The commission will give its fast-tracked opinion, the quickest ever given on candidacy on Friday which then must be approved by all the 27 member states.
It will also call for candidate status for Moldova, which applied to join after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and set targets for Georgia to fulfil before it gets the same status.
Georgia was invaded by Russia in 2008. A pro-EU party won a majority in snap elections defending pro-Russian parties last year in Moldova.
On a historic visit to Ukraine on Thursday, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania said they supported Ukraine being granted “immediate candidate status”.
In the ruins of battle-scarred Irpin, Mr Macron saw graffiti that spoke to Ukrainians hope for a brighter future.
“Look at that, ‘Make Europe, not war,’” the French President said, “It’s very moving to see that.”
Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, said, “Ukraine belongs to the European family”.
But he warned membership came with “clear criteria […] especially democracy and the rule of law.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
16 June 22. How war in Ukraine is informing future US Air Force networks.
The warren of networks, logistics and shared information American and allied forces rely on as they funnel resources into Ukraine to help the country beat back a Russian invasion is providing valuable insights for one of the U.S. Air Force’s most pressing modernization efforts.
Demand for connectivity in a dense, bustling European theater and the solutions applied day to day are feeding into the development of the service’s Advanced Battle Management System and will “continue the momentum forward,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Chad Raduege, chief information officer at European Command, said during a June 15 C4ISRNET webcast.
“I think what we’re seeing as we go through this Ukrainian crisis, and we see all the coordination that is required, we are realizing there are some advanced capabilities that are allowing us to see and have more visibility and better connectivity with our allies and partners,” said Raduege, who also serves as EUCOM’s command, control, communications, computers and cyber director.
The Advanced Battle Management System, or ABMS, is the Air Force’s latest push to create a next-generation command and control system. It is also the service’s contribution to Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, the Department of Defense’s vision for seamless and lightning-quick communication regardless of domain or national affiliation.
ABMS, much like JADC2, has a ways to go in terms of maturation. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall in 2021 expressed skepticism about the project and called for a tighter focus; he has since described its buildout as an imperative.
Lawmakers in fiscal year 2022 proposed spending $269m directly on ABMS, some $65m more than the Air Force initially sought. The boost, military officials said at the time, suggests growing support for the effort.
Raduege on Wednesday said more-clearly defined goals would be helpful to the development of JADC2 in the near term, but might be ineffective or counterproductive in the long-term.
“Once we get one connection that happens, once we get a fusion from one platform, there will be this growing, insatiable appetite to have more and more connectivity and more and more sensors. I don’t know that actually getting to an end point is really feasible,” he said. “JADC2 is more nebulous. It will be evolving for the rest of my career and the rest of all our careers as we continue to want more and more.”
Key to the realization of JADC2 is the creation and upkeep of a modern mission-partner environment, in which data from an array of militaries can be accessed and acted upon, according to a Pentagon strategy published in March.
Juggling an increasing number of information sources and rapidly making sense of it all can be difficult, Raduege said, but the crisis in Ukraine provides critical, real-world feedback. In shuttling weapons and humanitarian aid into Eastern Europe, the U.S. is working intimately with international forces it would likely fight alongside on a future battlefield.
“If I were to summarize a lesson learned, it would be we can’t have enough coalition connectivity fast enough,” he said. “And so we are working rapidly to enable. Sometimes that’s simple interoperability and ones and zeros. That’s the easy part.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
15 June 22. $1bn in Additional Security Assistance for Ukraine. Attributed to Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Media) J. Todd Breasseale: “This afternoon, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced $1bn in additional security assistance for Ukraine. This includes an authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $350m, as well as $650m in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds.”
The PDA authorization is the twelfth drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021. Capabilities in this package include:
- 18 155mm Howitzers;
- 36,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition;
- 18 Tactical Vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers;
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems;
- Four Tactical Vehicles to recover equipment;
- Spare parts and other equipment.
Under USAI, the DoD will provide Ukraine with near-term priority capabilities to defend against Russian aggression. Included in this package are:
- Two Harpoon coastal defense systems;
- Thousands of secure radios;
- Thousands of Night Vision devices, thermal sights, and other optics;
- Funding for training, maintenance, sustainment, transportation, and administrative costs.
Unlike Presidential Drawdown, USAI is an authority under which the United States procures capabilities from industry rather than delivering equipment that is drawn down from DoD stocks. This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide additional capabilities to Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
The United States has now committed approximately $6.3bn in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $5.6bn since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked invasion on February 24. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $8.3bn in security assistance to Ukraine.
The United States also continues to work with its Allies and partners to identify and provide Ukraine with capabilities to meet its evolving battlefield requirements. At today’s Ukraine Defense Contact Group hosted by Secretary Austin, 48 countries participated to discuss security assistance, generating new announcements of donations, including for high priority artillery and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems. (Source: US DoD)
15 June 22. Joint Statement by the United States Department of Defense, the Ministry of Defence of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom. The United States, United Kingdom, and Germany are deeply committed to supporting Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Russia has shifted its focus to the Donbas region, where it is engaging in a systematic long-range rocket and artillery barrage against defensive Ukrainian military positions and civilian infrastructure alike.
To help Ukraine defend its citizens and sovereign territory, the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany have committed to provide Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) with Guided MLRS (GMLRS) rockets. Ukraine has specifically requested this capability, which will allow the Ukrainian Armed Forces to engage the invading force with accurate fire at ranges of approximately 70 kilometers.
The United States announced on June 1, 2022 that it would provide four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and GMLRS munitions. On June 6, the United Kingdom announced it would donate three M270 MLRS launchers with GMLRS munitions.
And today, at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels, Belgium, Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht announced that Germany would transfer three M270 Mittleres Artillerie Raketen System (MARS) launchers and GMLRS ammunition from Bundeswehr stocks.
The transfer of these MLRS systems, and the associated training our three countries will provide to Ukrainian operators is crucial to Ukraine’s self-defense. The necessary training has already begun on the U.S. HIMARS and UK M270 systems for their deployment in the coming weeks, and training on the German MARS launchers will begin very soon so the systems and their Ukrainian crews can be deployed urgently and without delay. (Source: US DoD)
15 June 22. More Than 50 Nations Pledge to Help Build Ukraine’s Defense.
Representatives from more than 50 nations pledged to get more military capabilities into the hands of Ukrainian forces battling Russian invaders, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today in Brussels.
Austin chaired the third meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. The group is looking to get Ukraine what it needs to fight the battle developing in the Donbas region of the country.
Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark A. Milley briefed the media at NATO headquarters following the meeting.
“I’m especially pleased that defense leaders from some 50 countries came together here today,” Austin said. “It’s a testament to the on-the-ground impact of this contact group that it continues to grow.”
Austin announced that President Joe Biden had approved a $1 bn security assistance package for Ukraine. This will include multiple launch rocket system munitions, 18 more 155 mm M777 towed howitzers and the tactical vehicles to tow them, and 36,000 rounds of 155 mm ammunition.
“This package also includes $650 m in Ukraine security assistance initiative funds that will help Ukraine defend itself with two additional Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems and thousands of secure radios, night vision devices, thermal sights and other optics,” the secretary said.
Allies and partners are also building Ukraine’s military capabilities. Austin said Germany will provide three multiple-launch rocket systems and guided MLRS munitions to Ukraine. “Slovakia announced a significant donation of MI-series helicopters and urgently needed rocket ammunition,” Austin said. “We also discussed important new artillery donations from many countries, including Canada, Poland and the Netherlands.”
To have military capability, there needs to be a weapon system, a trained crew and munitions. The contact group is working on the training portion of this equation.
“To date, we have trained 420 Ukrainians on the M777 howitzer, 300 Ukrainians on the self-propelled M109, 129 on the M113 armored personnel carrier, 100 on unmanned aerial systems, and 60 most recently graduated today on the,” Milley said.
The contact group works hand-in-glove with Ukrainian defense leaders. Today, the Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov attended the meeting.
Milley said that since the start of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainians have asked for 10 battalions of artillery. “Twelve battalions of artillery were delivered,” he said. The contact group has also delivered 97,000 anti-tank systems. “That’s more than there are tanks in the world,” he said.
“They asked for 200 tanks; they got 237 tanks,” he continued. “They asked for 100 infantry fighting vehicles; they got over 300. We’ve delivered, roughly speaking, 1,600 or so air defense systems and about 60,000 air defense rounds.”
The HIMARS, or High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, will be an important addition to Ukraine’s arsenal. The U.S. military is training HIMARS crews one platoon at a time in Germany. “By the end of this month, we will transfer HIMARs systems, ammunition and trained crews for operational use in the defense of Ukraine,” Milley said.
Ukraine is making incredible sacrifices in defense of their country. “In the media, you see reported that Ukraine is taking 100 killed and 100 or 200 or 300 wounded per day,” he said. “I would say those are in the ballpark of our assessments.”
He was asked if Ukraine could sustain the fight in light of such losses. “For Ukraine, this is an existential threat,” Milley said. “They’re fighting for the very life of their country. So, your ability to endure suffering — your ability to endure casualties — is directly proportional to the object to be attained. If the object to be attained is survival of the country, then you’re going to sustain it — as long as they have leadership, and they have the means by which to fight.”
The Ukraine Defense Contact Group first came together in April at a meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. There was a virtual meeting of the group last month. “Since the contact group first came together nearly three months ago, we built tremendous momentum for donations and delivery of military assistance,” Austin said. “And after this afternoon’s discussions, we’re not just going to maintain that momentum; we’re going to move even faster and push even harder.”
The group will look to deepen cooperation and coordination to get needed capabilities to Ukraine. “We’ll bolster Ukraine’s armed forces to help them repel Russian aggression now in the future,” the secretary said. “So we’ll continue working closely and intensively together with this contact group. We’ll keep on strengthening our support for Ukraine’s self-defense and will continue to stand up for the rules-based international order that protects us all.” (Source: US DoD)
15 Jun 22. Austin Convenes Contact Group at ‘Pivotal Moment’ for Ukraine.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III convened the third meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Belgium and urged nations to “not lose steam” in their efforts to supply Ukraine with the means to defend itself from the Russian invasion.
Austin told the more than 45 nations gathered at NATO headquarters that the stakes are too high to fail in this effort.
“Ukraine is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield,” he said. “We’re seeing what President Zelenskyy warned us about: after failing to take Kyiv and after reassessing its combat aims, Russia has shifted its focus to the Donbas.”
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov also attended the meeting.
Russia has also changed tactics using long-range fires to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions in the region. This calls for different systems, different training and different logistics for Ukraine to succeed.
“Russia continues to indiscriminately bombard Ukraine’s sovereign territory and recklessly endanger Ukrainian civilians,” the secretary said. “So, we must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense. And we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens and its territory.”
The unprovoked Russian attack on Ukraine is not just a danger to that nation, but to European security and the global rules-based international order that has worked so well since World War II, he said.
Ukraine’s soldiers and citizens “are defending their homeland with resolve, grit and ingenuity,” Austin said. “They’ve inspired us all, and they need our help.”
Austin has kept in near constant contact with his Ukrainian counterpart, and he is well-versed on Ukraine’s needs. “We’re working in lockstep to meet Ukraine’s requests for new capabilities — particularly its need for long-range fires, armor and coastal defense,” he said.
The United States has already provided Ukraine with howitzers, Javelins, ammunition, unmanned aerial systems, Mi-17 helicopters, counterartillery radars, tactical vehicles and electronic jamming equipment.
U.S. forces are also training Ukrainian forces on new capabilities. “And we’re committed to do even more,” Austin said. “We are providing Ukraine’s defenders with HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems that will significantly boost Ukraine’s capabilities — especially when combined with additional donations of NATO-standard rocket systems from the United Kingdom and our other allies.”
Austin praised the more than 45 allies and partners that have rushed aid to Ukraine. He said the response is a reflection of the global outrage over the invasion “and it’s a reflection of global commitment to reinforcing an international order rooted in rules and respect.”
Austin took stock of what the contact group has accomplished since the last meeting three weeks ago.
The United States and allies are providing Harpoon launchers and missiles to bolster Ukraine’s coastal defense. The United Kingdom is providing M270 multiple-launch rocket systems and training to help Ukraine defend the Donbas. “Several of our allies and partners are providing howitzers and artillery ammunition,” he said. Other forms of military assistance — from tanks to helicopters — continue to flow into Ukraine.
“So, we’ve got a lot done,” Austin said. “But … we don’t have any time to waste. So, we’re here to dig in our spurs.”
“By working together, we can help Ukraine defend itself from Russia’s cruel assault,” Austin said. “We can strengthen Ukraine’s security for the long haul, and we can rally together to show that rules matter and that might does not make right.”
15 June 22. Joint statement by Joint Expeditionary Force Defence Ministers. Ministers released a statement welcoming Finland and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership. Today, the Defence Ministers of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) – comprising Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK – met in Oslo.
JEF Defence Ministers discussed current security challenges, including the implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and considered the future development of the JEF to ensure it continues to make an effective contribution to security and stability in its core region of the High North, North Atlantic and Baltic Sea. JEF Defence Ministers also took part in a table-top exercise to practise the JEF’s role in responding to an escalating crisis, including the relationship between the JEF and NATO in such a scenario.
All JEF Defence Ministers strongly welcome Finland’s and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership. Each country has made its sovereign decision to join NATO after a clear, open and democratic process; they share the Alliance’s values and are modern, highly capable defence and security partners with whom together we will enhance our collective, transatlantic security.
The allied JEF Partners will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Finland and Sweden in a spirit of solidarity through their accession to NATO membership. We shall work closely with our NATO Allies to integrate both Finland and Sweden into the Alliance as soon as possible. The JEF shall engage in multi-domain activity across our core regions to provide enhanced levels of assurance to our Finnish and Swedish friends as they complete the process of joining NATO. This is in addition to the series of integrated activities and exercises in northern Europe that JEF Defence Ministers agreed at their meeting at Belvoir Castle on 21-22 February 2022.
We reaffirm the shared purpose and common resolve of the JEF to work together to enhance security and stability in northern Europe and be ready to respond to a wide range of contingencies, both in peacetime and at times of crisis and conflict; all in a way which is coherent with, and complementary to, the role of NATO. (Source: U.K. MoD)
14 June 22. Russia’s Grand Strategy for Ukraine Takeover Unmet, Says DOD Official. In the broadest sense, Russia has thus far failed to secure its strategic objectives in Ukraine, said the undersecretary of defense for policy.
Colin Kahl spoke about the war in Ukraine and the pacing challenge of China at the Center for a New American Security’s National Security Conference today.
” Vladimir Putin went into this war seeking to gobble Ukraine up. … I think he envisioned some kind of a thunder run to Kyiv that would change the regime. The Russians were badly defeated in the battle of Kyiv. They’ve also been pushed out of Kharkiv,” he said.
In the south and east, the Russians have been making incremental gains, but they are not sweeping through Ukrainian defenses as they had hoped to do, Kahl said.
“The Ukrainians remain stalwart defenders. There are significant casualties, but that is true on both sides,” he said.
Putin has mentioned imperial ambitions and seeking to reconstitute what he thinks is a glorious past of the Russian empire, Kahl said.
That’s unlikely, he said. “The Ukrainians are holding tough. I do not think the Russians have the capacity to achieve those grandiose objectives.”
The nature of the fight has shifted to an artillery duel, he said. That is why the Defense Department is supplying M-777 artillery to Ukrainian forces and is in the process of training their forces on the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
The munitions for the M-777 being provided have a range of around 70 kilometers, he said. “That will be useful to allow the Ukrainians to have more standoff. We expect those systems to get into the fight soon and we’re committed to continuing the flow of those munitions and I know other allies and partners are too.”
Kahl also mentioned that U.S., ally and partner nations’ sanctions on Russia are having an effect. “This year will wipe out the last 15 years of economic growth in Russia and the impact of sanctions are only getting started.”
The export controls that the U.S. has put on Russia will make it very difficult for the Russian military to reconstitute their standoff munitions and precision guided munitions, he added.
Although Russian ambitions are a threat to the free world, China remains the department’s pacing challenge, he said.
“China is really the only country with both the intent and the capability to systemically challenge the United States militarily, politically, diplomatically, economically, technologically–kind of across the board. And that is true not just in the moment, but for the foreseeable future,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
07 June 22. Lithuania pledges to send counter drone equipment to support Ukrainian defence forces. Lithuania’s defense ministry is to send additional military equipment, including counter drone systems, to Ukraine according to a report by Republic World.
According to the newspaper, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvidas Anushauskas held a high-level meeting with the first deputy speaker of Verkhovna Rada, Oleksandr Korniyenko, to discuss Vilnius’s further support to the war-ravaged country. As per the announcement, the next shipment will include anti-drone and thermal imaging equipment, and a Bayraktar drone.
“In the near future, we will hand over armoured vehicles, trucks and SUVs to Ukraine. A decision on the shipment of anti-drones and thermal imagers will be made these days as well,” said Anushauskas in a statement released on 6 June 2022.
Lithuanian military support to Ukraine so far includes Stinger air defence systems, anti-tank weapons, body armour and helmets, 120 mm mortars, small arms, ammunition, thermal imagers, drones, anti-drone, and surveillance radars. In total, Lithuania’s military assistance to Ukraine so far amounts to about 115m euros. For more information contact: www.republicworld.com (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
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