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Ukraine Conflict – June 27.
Military and security developments
- The Russian offensive against the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk salient has continued over the last 24 hours, with further progress tightening the growing encirclement of the area. This morning, 24 June, Head of the Luhansk oblast Regional Administration Serhiy Haidai confirmed that Ukrainian troops have been ordered to retreat from Severodonetsk. He stated that it does not make sense for Ukraine to continue fighting amid “broken defences” and the growing casualty rate. With the three principal bridges across the Siverskyi Donets River destroyed, the withdrawal of large numbers of troops will prove difficult but doable, and will allow Ukraine to utilise the natural defences of the river and the elevated topography of Lysychansk to better defend against Russian attacks from the south.
- Ukrainian officials have confirmed that Russian helicopters have been systematically destroying roads and bridges leading to Lysychansk in a clear effort to cut off resupply routes in and out of the city. Russian forces have continued to move north from Toshkivka along the P-66, with fighting now less than 5km from southern Lysychansk. The Ukrainian General Staff furthermore confirmed yesterday that units of the DNR’s 1st Army Corps have captured Mykolaivka, a settlement near the T-1302 highway that connects Bakhmut to Lysychansk. Russian and separatist forces have continued attacking elsewhere along the road, and with the Siversk-Lysychansk road now also under Russian fire, all Ukrainian ground lines of communication to Lysychansk are under significant pressure that will allow Russian forces to increasingly interdict supply convoys. LNR commanders have anticipated that they will cut off Lysychansk from the west, and thereby complete the encirclement, within the next two to three days, but this remains to be seen.
- The encirclement of the Zolote-Hirske pocket appears to have been completed and Russian and separatist forces are currently in the process of clearing the settlements. The Russian Ministry of Defence today claimed that their forces have now taken control of roughly half of Zolote and that some 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been trapped in the pocket, allegedly including some 80 foreign fighters. They have furthermore claimed to have captured some 800 soldiers. However, various Ukrainian sources have refuted such claims, maintaining that Ukrainian forces successfully withdrew beforehand. It remains to be seen how many Ukrainian troops will ultimately be captured in this pocket, but the fact that Russian clearing operations remain ongoing indicates that there are units of Ukrainian forces still in the area.
- Russian forces have clearly made significant gains in the last few days, but there are numerous indications that Moscow will struggle to sustain this level of momentum and high intensity fighting over the coming weeks, even if and when Lysychansk falls. The Ukrainian General Staff yesterday, 23 June, confirmed that units of the Rosgvardia National Guard were spearheading the Russian assault against Severodonetsk alongside elements of the LNR’s 2nd Army Corps. This is the latest confirmation that Rosvgardia units have been deployed in large numbers as frontline troops, despite their role being primarily territorial and population control as opposed to frontline infantry. This is highly likely to reflect Russian troop shortages and the degradation of the combat power of their conventional forces.
- Ukraine’s “defend every square inch” policy has clearly delayed the Russian advance and inflicted heavy casualties on Russian forces over the last few months, and as such a strategic pause will likely be necessary for the Russians to reconstitute their forces, even if their encirclement of Lysychansk proves successful in the coming days and weeks. This will likely also provide Ukrainian forces an opportunity to establish new lines of defence and in turn prepare themselves for the next phase of this attritional conflict.
- On 23 June Belarusian Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin held meetings with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Moscow, where the two discussed bilateral military cooperation. The meeting comes after Minsk announced fresh “mobilisation exercises” in south-eastern Belarus near Gomel, with Russian social media sources claiming that Russian aircraft have transferred 16 S-400 air defence missiles and a Pantsir air defence system to Gomel airport on 22 June. The new exercises will run until at least 1 July and are likely in part a response to Lithuania’s decision to ban the transit of certain goods to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. However, despite the continued build-up and growing Russian-Belarusian military integration, this is unlikely to indicate an imminent ground offensive against northern Ukraine. Our assessment in this regard remains unchanged given the relatively limited capabilities of the Belarusian Armed Forces and the likely political costs such an intervention would mean for the long-term stability of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime.
- Russian media outlets reported today that a Russia-installed politician in the occupied city of Kherson was killed “as a result of a terrorist attack”. Unlike with previous similar incidents, Ukrainian officials claimed responsibility for the event. Although the true level of resistance is impossible to independently verify given the strict controls over the information coming out of the occupied territories, the development underlines the existence of strong anti-Russia sentiment in the region. Since the start of the invasion, Moscow has continuously tried but ultimately failed to project a sense that the local populations wish to join Russia, despite Putin signing a decree streamlining the citizenship process for residents in the area, as well as attempting to mobilise crowds in support of obtaining a Russian passport.
- In line with these developments, Ukrainian intelligence on 23 June claimed that the occupying Russian authorities plan to hold referenda on the creation of independent republics in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts on 11 September. While Kyiv has not disclosed the intelligence that led to this assessment, it should be noted that Ukrainian intelligence had previously posited numerous other dates for such referenda, all of which passed with no vote taking place. As such, we remain cautious about ascribing too much significance to such dates, particularly given that September is still several months away, by which time the military situation could have altered Russian plans in any case.
- The reports also contradict earlier statements by pro-Russian occupation authorities that had suggested that a vote to join Russia directly, rather than a vote to declare a “People’s Republic”, was the preferred option. The confusion likely indicates that Moscow has up until now not coordinated a coherent occupation policy in the regions, leaving local administrators to make statements in an ad hoc fashion. However, Sergey Kiriyenko, the First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Administration and close Putin aide, has reportedly arrived in the Donbas to oversee the political integration of the occupied territories. Previous unnamed Kremlin officials had touted Kiriyenko as the future head of a new Russian federal region, encompassing the DNR, LNR as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. As such, a more coherent integration policy for the occupied territories may emerge in the coming weeks and months as Kiriyenko establishes his authority in a bid to implement the Kremlin’s plan for the region.
- The Russian Kommersant newspaper has today, 24 June, reported that the Russian drone producer Hive plans to significantly increase domestic production of industrial drones. Russia currently has relatively limited domestic drone production capacity, with the war in Ukraine and the withdrawal of Chinese drone producer DJI Drones from Russia earlier this year driving demand and drone prices. The utility of commercial and industrial drones on the modern battlefield is clear and as such Hive’s plan is the latest attempt by Russian industry to ramp up import substitution to offset shortages.
- However, such efforts are likely to prove long-term projects which will do comparatively little to alleviate shortages and military requirements in the short term. Moscow’s corresponding plans to ramp up domestic production of airliner aircraft, for example, is another case in point. Russian industrial leaders last week openly acknowledged that the current plans are highly unrealistic given supply chain disruption and lack of spare parts, with even the government’s optimistic plans setting a timeframe of around 2024 for the first deliveries of aircraft. Such issues reinforce the assessment that Russian industry is currently unable to successfully offset shortages caused by sanctions in the short term, which will continue to undermine military operations for the foreseeable future.
As anticipated, on 23 June European leaders officially approved Ukraine and Moldova’s candidate status, paving the way for eventual EU membership. Although full membership will take at least several years and is subject to implementation of strict judicial and anti-corruption reforms, the move marks a blow to Moscow as the EU’s influence in the region continues to grow. The EU also stated that it will “swiftly” work on upping military aid to Kyiv, as well as further financial assistance. The decision reflects newfound unity within the bloc, as several countries had previously opposed Ukraine moving closer towards the membership due to numerous governance issues.
- Following the breakthrough around Toshkivka, Russian forces are sustaining momentum and have continued to make gains on the western bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, pushing closer to the outskirts of Lysychansk and threatening to close the shallow encirclement of Zolote-Hirske. The Ukrainian General Staff this morning, 23 June, confirmed that Russian forces are assaulting Vovchoyarivka and Bila Hora, both at the southern outskirts of Lysychansk.
- Russian sources have since shared claims that the Ukrainian defences around Vovchoyarivka have collapsed, and that fighting has now reached the outskirts of Lysychansk itself. While the frontline remains unclear at present, the UK Ministry of Defence has reported that the Russians have advanced over 5km towards the southern outskirts of Lysychansk, reinforcing reports that the Russians are making progress.
- Similarly, the Ambassador of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) to Russia, Rodion Miroshnik, has this morning also claimed that LNR forces have taken control of the road connecting Siversk and Lysychansk, alleging that between 5-7,000 Ukrainian troops in Lysychansk-Severodonetsk are now cut off from supplies. While Miroshnik was not specific in his claims, he likely refers to the northern stretch of the T-1302 that runs west of Vovchoyarivka, though if this has been taken this would represent a significant rate of advance over the last 24 hours that may indicate a wider Ukrainian withdrawal. Nevertheless, given previous Russian and separatist claims that they had “seized” other stretches of the T-1302 further south north of Popasna, it is a realistic possibility that Russian forces have merely placed the road under conventional artillery and mortar fire, rather than having taken control on the ground.
- In line with this, Luhansk Regional Administration Head Serhiy Haidai this morning confirmed that the T-1302 highway between Bakhmut and Lysychansk is now impassable due to Russian fire, but other routes to Lysychansk remain open. Notably, however, footage published by a BILD journalist yesterday indicated that even these western routes out of the city are now under Russian mortar and artillery fire, which could support LNR claims. Regardless, it is clear that all routes out of Lysychansk are now under mounting Russian pressure, which will severely undermine Ukraine’s ability to resupply their troops continuing to fight in Severodonetsk and now Lysychansk. The UK MOD has reported that some Ukrainian units have withdrawn from the Lysychansk area, likely to avoid being encircled, and it remains to be seen whether more Ukrainian forces will attempt a withdrawal given Russian momentum at present.
- Further south Russian forces are pushing to complete the shallow encirclement of Ukrainian forces in the Zolote-Hirske pocket. The Ukrainian General Staff have this morning confirmed the capture of the villages of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka, due west of Myrna Dolyna and just 6km from the Russian Popasna salient frontline. While it remains unclear whether Russians forces have joined up, the capture of these two key villages has in effect closed the encirclement as there are now no roads leading out of the pocket, severely limiting options for a withdrawal (see Forecast for further analysis of the situation).
- The focus of Russian offensive operations remains around Lysychansk, but Russian forces are also continuing attacks northwest of Slovyansk. Fighting is now reportedly taking place in the forested areas around Krasnopillya, which sits roughly 20km northwest of Slovyansk along the M-03 highway. While not much Russian progress has been confirmed in recent days, the Ukrainian General Staff have reported that two additional tank units have been brought forward in preparation to support further offensives towards Slovyansk, with the units allegedly preparing to utilise flamethrower systems to support the attacks.
- On the southern axis, fighting remains ongoing along the Mykolaiv-Kherson border region, with both Russian and Ukrainian forces claiming advances at different points along the frontline. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence has confirmed that unspecified units of the Russian 8th and 49th Combined Arms Armies (CAA), 22nd Army Corps and airborne VDV forces are currently operating along this front. It now remains highly likely that Russian forces have successfully pushed the Ukrainians back across the Inhulets River around the heavily fought over settlement of Davydiv Brid. Ukrainian forces had last month managed to take the settlement and gain a foothold on the eastern bank of the river during a limited counteroffensive, but it is increasingly apparent that the Russians have restored control over the eastern riverbank. This reinforces our assessment that amid Russia’s growing momentum in the Donbas, reports of Ukrainian ammunition and fuel shortages will continue to undermine Ukraine’s ability to both launch and, more importantly, sustain counteroffensives in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, Deputy Head of Ukraine’s
- Presidential Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko reported on 22 June that Ukrainian forces have recaptured Kiselivka, a town along the M-14 highway just 15km from Kherson city itself. Thus, despite mounting pressure on Ukrainian forces elsewhere, the Ukrainians are maintaining pressure on Russian forces northwest of Kherson even as the Russians are pushing the Ukrainians back further north.
- Russia-Estonia: Simulated missile strikes and airspace violations by Russia heighten regional tensions, increasing risk of armed conflict. On 21 June, Estonia, a member of the NATO alliance, accused Russia of conducting military exercises with simulated missile attacks targeting Estonia and violating its airspace by helicopter last weekend. Provocative activity on Estonia’s border with Russia has increased, according to the Defence Ministry, ahead of the upcoming NATO summit next week in Madrid (28-30 June). Furthermore, Russia has stated that ships from its Baltic Fleet carried out large-scale manoeuvres in the Gulf of Finland last week, including mine-laying, artillery firing and anti-submarine drills. Regional tensions in the Baltics will almost certainly remain elevated ahead of the NATO Summit next week, with the risk of armed conflict in the region seeing a slight increase as well.
- Russia-Azerbaijan: Ban on certain foods from Azerbaijan reinforces bilateral tensions, meaningful de-escalation unlikely in the short term. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is travelling to Baku today, 23 June, to meet with President Ilham Aliyev regarding tensions with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. The visit follows renewed fighting on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with the latest allegations from Armenia claiming that one of its troops was killed on the border last week. However, previous diplomatic efforts to normalise relations have largely stalled, with tensions between Moscow and Baku currently also heightened. The strained relations between the two have furthermore been underlined this week after Moscow banned the imports of certain fruits and vegetables from Azerbaijan. Whilst Lavrov’s visit is likely to alleviate some tensions in the short term, possibly resulting in the lifting of the ban in the days ahead, the broader challenges and the potential of further escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh will remain heighted for as long as Russia is preoccupied with its war against Ukraine.
- Yesterday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated that “Ukraine needs a Marshal Plan for reconstruction”, noting also that the rebuilding of the country would be a “task for generations.” The cost of reconstruction is bound to be immense, however, requiring bns over several years. Commitment of this scope will subsequently also place a large financial burden on Europe and further test the continent’s unity and willingness to continue supporting Kyiv. Fatigue of the war and the impact of the rising cost of living is already revealing cracks in the system as some countries within the bloc are more willing to seek a compromise with Russia, even if this means Ukraine ceding some of its territory. These issues will only intensify in the months ahead, particularly as Europe is highly likely to face another winter of higher-than-usual gas prices, and potential shortages, all of which will only undermine the ability and/or willingness of some to commit substantial funds to Ukraine’s reconstruction over several years.
- The Kremlin has yet to announce its formal response to Lithuania’s decision to enforce EU sanctions by blocking the transit of certain goods through its territory to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. There have been limited developments on the situation since our last written report, and we will continue to monitor the situation.
The Russian breakthrough around Toshkivka is placing significant pressure on the integrity of Ukrainian defences in the Donbas, with unconfirmed claims that the Siversk-Lysychansk highway is at least under Russian artillery fire set to limit the opportunities for an orderly withdrawal of Ukrainian forces in the coming weeks. However, it is around Zolote and Hirske to the south that poses the most immediate threat of an encirclement of Ukrainian forces, with all roads out of the pocket now cut off.
Russian troops led by Chechen units are this morning continuing to assault Zolote and Hirske, indicating that some Ukrainian forces remain in the area despite the closing encirclement. Russian sources are at time of writing claiming LNR forces are now in control of the Karbonit neighbourhood of northern Zolote. The rapidity of the Russian breakthrough around Toshkivka may have precluded an orderly withdrawal from the pocket, but the fact that Ukrainian units are still fighting in Zolote also indicates that Kyiv’s “defend every square inch” policy remains in place. While this will continue to slow the Russian advance across the Donbas, this also sets the scene for the surrender of significant numbers of highly experienced Ukrainian troops in the coming weeks, akin to the surrender of Mariupol. The intensity of the fighting means Ukrainian casualties continue to mount, which last week Kyiv estimated to be between 200-500 daily casualties in the Donbas alone. As such, it remains to be seen whether Kyiv can sustain the loss of thousands of experienced troops and equipment over the longer term if the Russians are successful in cutting off the entire Severodonetsk-Lysychansk pocket. The Russians are claiming that between 5-8,000 Ukrainian troops remain in the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, and while some withdrawals are likely taking place west of Lysychansk, Kyiv is showing no signs of preparing the population for an abandonment of the cities to take up more defensible positions further west. As such, the tightening Russian encirclement will threaten to cut off these troops in the coming weeks, which will likely test President Zelensky’s “defend every square inch” policy.
Global: Pro-Kyiv hackers’ cyber assault on Russia will limit Moscow’s ability to effectively target western entities supporting Ukraine. On 22 June, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) disclosed that Russian state-linked hackers had increased their cyber efforts against western governments supporting Ukraine. These threat actors have reportedly targeted 128 entities across 42 countries, including the UK and other NATO member states. Of these entities, the top three targeted sectors were government agencies (49 percent), IT (20 percent), and NGOs (19 percent). These cyber attacks are aimed at exfiltrating sensitive information about how western governments are aiding Kyiv against Russia and/or monitoring organisations supporting Ukrainian refugees. Despite the wide range of activities, the MSTIC found that only 29 percent of these Moscow-backed cyber attacks were successful, underlying our assessment that the ongoing cyber assault from pro-Kyiv hackers – including those from the US and the IT Army of Ukraine – and Russia’s poor preparation have severely limited Moscow’s capacity to launch effective cyber operations. Nevertheless, with Moscow’s protracted conflict in eastern Ukraine set to last well into the summer and autumn, further such cyber operations are highly likely to be launched in the coming six months against Ukrainian critical infrastructure and western organisations supporting Kyiv’s resistance, such as IT or defence firms.
- Yesterday, 21 June, Russian forces made significant progress south of Severodonetsk, pushing the Ukrainians back several kilometres west of the Siversky Donets River that has opened up Lysychansk to attack from the south. Ukrainian officials and the General Staff have confirmed Russian forces recaptured the key town of Toshkivka, which has been fought over for many weeks given its important position on the western bank of the river. The town had up until now prevented Russian forces from cutting off the P-66 highway that runs north to Lysychansk, but the Russians have now broken through and are continuing to assault in various directions.
- The Russians have managed to push the Ukrainians several kilometres further westwards from Toshkivka, with the Ukrainian General Staff confirming the capture of the villages of Myrna Dolyna and Pidlisne, both of which lie on the western side of the P-66. This confirms that the Russians are now in control of large stretches of the P-66 highway, with attacks being launched both northwards towards Lysychansk and southwards towards Hirske-Zolote. The General Staff also last night confirmed partial Russian success along the outskirts of Hirske, but the capture of Myrna Dolyna to the north means that Ukrainian forces defending Zolote and Hirske are now at high risk of being surrounded. Indeed, Russian sources this morning are already claiming to have completed the encirclement after allegedly capturing the villages of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka, due west of Myrna Dolyna and just 6km from the Russian Popasna salient frontline.
- While this remains unconfirmed at present, the Russians have now cut off all roads leading out of the Hirske-Zolote pocket, meaning the only avenue for withdrawal of Ukrainian forces will be across fields, intersected by a railway line. As anticipated in our previous reporting, it thus appears that closing the shallow encirclement of the area remains a priority for Russian forces, which will shorten the Russian frontline and enable a concentration of forces aimed at closing the larger encirclement west of Lysychansk.
- The capture of Toshkivka and Russian progress along the P-66 highway will furthermore open up Lysychansk to attack from the south. This will mean the Russians will be able to avoid a costly opposed river crossing as their forces continue consolidating their hold over its sister city Severodonetsk to the east. Fighting remains ongoing at the Azot industrial plant in the city’s northwest, though the Ukrainians yesterday reportedly repulsed Russian assaults against the southeastern suburbs of the city, around the villages of Syrotyne and Voronove.
- The Russians have furthermore continued offensive operations across the Popasna salient frontline, where Moscow will seek further advances in order to sustain the building momentum around Toshkivka. Russian forces have consolidated their control over Vrubibka, which is adjacent to the T-1302 highway that connects Bakhmut to Lysychansk. Further west, the Russians have also claimed to have captured the town of Klynove, roughly 10km east of Bakhmut – indicating that Russian pressure continues to build along the M-03 highway as well.
- Notably, however, the Ukrainian General Staff reported on 21 June that Russian forces operating out of the Popasna salient had consolidated battalion tactical groups (BTGs) from the 5th Combined Arms Army (CAA), as well as withdrawn units of the 1st Separate Motorised Rifle Brigade of the DNR’s 1st Army Corps to restore their combat effectiveness. While the intensity of the fighting means the reconstitution of units remains normal practice, the withdrawal of elements of the 1st Army Corps more likely reflects the very high losses Russian and separatist forces are currently incurring. Indeed, DNR casualty figures cited by the British Ministry of Defence on 22 June indicate DNR forces have since the beginning of the invasion lost roughly 55 percent of its forces through KIA and wounded. Russian and separatist forces are clearly making steady progress in the Donbas, but the intensity of the fighting and the reportedly ever-decreasing quality of frontline troops mean that these gains are being achieved at relatively high cost. Ultimately, however, this is the nature of attritional warfighting, and all indicators point to the Kremlin preparing to sink these losses and continue fighting until at the very least October to achieve its political objectives, namely the “liberation” of the Donbas.
- This morning, 22 June, an oil refinery in the Rostov region of Russia caught fire, with OSINT footage indicating that a Ukrainian drone struck the facility. The refinery is located in Novoshakhtinsk, north of Rostov-on-Don, roughly 150km from the current frontline in the Donbas. If confirmed, the Ukrainian drone would have had to fly over the heavily fortified Donbas region to penetrate so far behind the frontlines, with Russian air defences clearly failing to intercept it. The attack came shortly after Kyiv claimed a “significant” victory over Russian forces after striking Snake Island yesterday, where it claimed to have killed 49 Russian soldiers during dozens of strikes. While this similarly remains unconfirmed, these two attacks, which in turn followed the sinking of a naval tugboat last week, clearly indicates Ukraine is stepping up long-range attacks designed to degrade Russian supply chains. However, the growing number of such strikes is likely to trigger a punitive response from Russia, reinforcing the growing risk of long-range strikes against “decision-making centres” in Kyiv and other urban areas in retaliation.
- French Foreign Minister Clement Bonn reportedly stated on 21 June that EU member states have reached a “complete consensus” on granting Ukraine a candidate status on the eve of the EU summit on 23-24 June. As mentioned before, however, even if agreed, the move will not result in immediate accession, with Ukraine first needing to undertake robust reforms, a process that will take several years. Nevertheless, the development would also inevitably aggravate Russia, which has equated Ukraine’s partnership with the EU to NATO. As such, the risk of long-range strikes on critical infrastructure and the capital will remain heightened over the next 48 hours.
- Media reports emerging on 21 June indicate that a meeting between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations (UN) will take place in Istanbul next week to discuss grain exports from Ukrainian ports. The opening up of a maritime corridor could facilitate the export of some 35-40 m tonnes of grain in the next six months, which would ease the mounting food security crisis ahead of the Ukrainian harvest in July-August. However, both sides remain far apart on the details around demining Black Sea waters, and so it remains to be seen whether Turkey and the UN can facilitate a sustainable agreement.
- Latest reports indicate that, as of 16 June, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) acknowledged that 2,128 of its military personnel have been killed in action since the start of the invasion. The figure highlights the very high number of casualties in DPR alone, with the total number of Russian and pro-Russian casualties set to be much higher. Notably, Russia has not revealed the number of casualties since 25 March and has severely tightened restrictions around the publication of this information. Although Moscow remains reticent to mobilise the population to achieve its main goal of the “liberation” of the Donbas, if casualty rates and equipment losses continue to grow and the offensive stalls, the likelihood of a mobilisation will increase. Meanwhile, despite reports of growing domestic discontent in Russia and concern regarding the true death toll as well as treatment of troops at the frontline, the likelihood of it translating into unrest is still low, but will only increase the longer the war continues, requiring the regime to tighten its control over the population still further.
- Yesterday, 20 June, the head of the Luhansk Regional Administration Serhiy Haidai confirmed that Russian forces control the whole city of Severodonetsk with the exception of the Azot chemical plant in the northwest. However, he also verified that Russians have entered the industrial zone as Russian sources had previously claimed. This is the first time the Ukrainians have confirmed Russia controls the entire city minus Azot, but Haidai did stress that Ukrainian forces in Azot have still not yet been entirely surrounded. Russian state media this morning, 21 June, claimed that a number of Ukrainian reservists had surrendered without resistance in the Syrotyne suburb of Severodonetsk, which would further suggest that Russian forces have pushed their lines west of Metolkine and closer to the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River.
- As Russian forces continue to make steady but costly progress in Severodonetsk, Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar stated that the coming week will prove decisive for the Russian offensive, maintaining that Moscow has committed significant portions of its overall combat power to seize the city in the coming days. She alleges that the Russian leadership has set 26 June as the goal to reach the administrative borders of Luhansk oblast – a goal which would require the capture of not only Severodonetsk but also Lysychansk and the surrounding area. Given the very slow progress of fighting and previous alleged deadlines that have proven militarily unrealistic, we remain cautious about the feasibility of this new deadline. It remains highly unlikely that the Russians would be able to achieve this by the end of the week, particularly given that Ukrainian defences continue stymie Russian efforts to close the cauldron north of the Popasna salient.
- The operational manoeuvre group around Popasna continues to launch attacks aimed at cutting off the T-1302 highway that connects Bakhmut to Lysychansk. The Russians have launched new assaults this morning against the village of Mykolaivka, as well Vershyna and Semyhirya to the east of Bakhmut, but no confirmed progress has been made in the last 24 hours. Large stretches of the T-1302 nevertheless remain within range of Russian D-30 and Msta-B howitzers, and as such it remains under frequent artillery bombardment that continues to disrupt Ukrainian supplies reaching Lysychansk and Zolote. However, local reports confirm that Ukrainian forces are continuing to make good use of resupply runs by Mi-8 helicopters flying at extremely low altitude, which Russian forces are seemingly struggling to interdict.
- Chechen forces have continued to assault the Zolote area in an attempt to close the mini encirclement of Ukrainian forces around Zolote-Hirske, but with little confirmed success. Despite this area being surrounded on three sides and the redeployment of Russian reinforcements to support attacks on this axis, the Ukrainian defences remain steady, preventing further Russian progress towards Lysychansk. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian General Staff have this morning, 21 June, stated that their forces have over the last 24 hours successfully repulsed assaults against the Bila Hora region, southeast of Lysychansk. If Russian forces are assaulting around Bila Hora, this indicates that Russian forces are making steady progress northwards along the western bank of the Siverskyi Donets River. Geolocated footage from 19 June did indicate Russian tanks advancing in the key settlement of Toshkivka, which sits to the south of Bila Hora and controls the approaches to the P-66 highway that runs north to Lysychansk. Russian claims that they have taken the town remain unconfirmed, and while the area likely remains contested it appears the Russians are slowly consolidating their control over the town and the surrounding area, which will eventually open up opportunities to push north towards Lysychansk.
- On the southern axis, fighting and artillery exchanges continue along both the Mykolaiv-Kherson and Zaporzhzhia frontlines. Supporting earlier reports of Ukrainian counterattacks, the commander of the Azov Regiment Rodion Kydryshov has claimed that the Ukrainians have shifted from defensive to offensive operations along the Zaporizhzhia frontline. While further changes to the frontline have not been confirmed, Russian forces continue to consolidate forces around Vasylivka, south of Zaporizhzhia city, and are focusing on counter-battery defensive operations along the M-18 (E105) highway. Further west along the Mykolaiv-Kherson border, Russian forces have similarly stepped up artillery bombardments in a likely effort to slow further Ukrainian advances north of Kherson and around Davydiv Brid.
- A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence confirmed today that Kyiv estimates up to seven Belarusian battalions remain stationed along the Ukrainian border, representing some 3,500-4,000 personnel. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka last month announced plans to increase the size of the Belarusian army from the current 60,000 to 80,000, and recruitment efforts remain ongoing. We will continue to monitor the military situation along the Belarusian border, but our assessment that a ground invasion of northern Ukraine is unlikely remains unchanged. Nevertheless, Lithuania’s decision to ban the rail transit of various goods to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave could yet increase military activity along this border in the coming days and weeks.
Russia-Turkey-Ukraine: Heightened Black Sea maritime risks will persist despite grain corridor talks. A Turkish delegation is set to visit Moscow this week to discuss the resumption of grain exports across the Black Sea, as ms of tonnes of wheat and other grains are unable to leave Ukrainian ports due to sea mines, Russian blockades and occupation. The United Nations (UN) has proposed a plan to facilitate exports via safe corridors, with Turkey willing to provide security guarantees to cargo travelling across the Black Sea. Turkey will host Russian, Ukrainian and UN officials in Istanbul next week for further negotiations. However, Kyiv’s pursuit of port security guarantees and Moscow’s aim of securing sanctions relief for grain and fertiliser exports will represent key obstacles in the coming weeks. Elevated maritime risks to grain shipments are highly likely to persist even if the mechanism becomes operational in the coming months, due to the risk of collateral damage to ships and threat of Russian disruption of exports amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
- On 20 June, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, supported the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, which is one of the necessary conditions to receive the candidate status for EU membership. The decision is likely to be positively received by the Netherlands, which remains more sceptical about supporting Ukraine’s EU membership ambitions. The move is thus likely aimed at illustrating to Brussels that the Rada remains committed to aligning Ukraine with European standards, particularly ahead of the EU leaders’ summit later this week, 23-24 June, when a final decision on whether to grant Kyiv candidate member status is expected.
- Meanwhile, local media reports in Ukraine have once again reported on the ongoing resistance to joining Russia from local populations in the occupied territories. Such resistance has previously thwarted Russia’s attempts to push forward a “voluntary” accession process, forcing them to postpone the planned deadline for the transfer of power to a civilian administration. Similarly, Ukrainian intelligence also reported that the Russian forces are creating artificial queues in Berdyansk for Russian passports to create the impression that there remains strong desire amongst the local population to become part of Russia.
- Additionally, on 20 June, the Head of the President’s Office Andriy Yermak said that there is no one in Kyiv who would allow a “Minsk-3” process to resolve the current war in Ukraine. Yermak reiterated that negotiations are only possible when the conditions are right, with the clear failure of the Minsk-1 and Minsk-2 processes to prevent a renewal of the Donbas conflict leading to fears that a Minsk-3 ceasefire process would only allow Moscow to regroup and try again at a later date. Both sides remain far apart on territorial concessions, and so the prospects for meaningful peace negotiations remain remote for the foreseeable future.
The Kremlin has responded angrily to Lithuania’s decision to enforce EU sanctions and ban the transit of various goods across its territory to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, resulting in reports of panic buying in the region of around 480,000 people. The Russian Foreign Ministry has today, 21 June, summoned the EU ambassador to Moscow, Marcus Ederer, after the Kremlin described the transit ban as “illegal”, warning of retaliation. The Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, a silovik hawk, has arrived in the region and has vowed that Moscow will respond to Vilnius’ decision. He has stated that such a response will have a “serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania”, without specifying what this will entail. Despite the Kremlin’s anger, there has been confusion as to what the ban actually prohibits, with Moscow pushing the line that it is a full-blown blockade of the exclave, which it isn’t. Rather, the ban only currently applies to certain goods, including products made from iron ore, steel, coal, construction materials and advanced technology. The ban also only currently applies to rail transport, and so road and maritime connections remain open, with food stuffs and various other goods continuing as normal. Nevertheless, the dispute is set to drive tensions in the region and the Kremlin has made it clear that unless Vilnius reserves its position, which is unlikely, it will retaliate to “defend [Russia’s] national interests”. Moscow could decide to terminate bilateral trade with Lithuania, which despite rapidly diversifying away from Russian oil, gas and electricity imports, still imports other goods and minerals from Russia. However, such a move would only exacerbate the supply issues for the exclave, though the regional administration has emphasised that maritime supply is being stepped up to mitigate the risk of shortages. So-called “military-technical” responses remain equally likely. It remains highly unlikely that Moscow will overtly attack Lithuania, a NATO member state, but an increase in military activity along the Belarusian border, in the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad itself remains highly likely in the coming days and weeks. Recent naval exercises by the Russian Baltic Fleet, headquartered in Kaliningrad, stand as a clear precedent. Only last week Denmark accused Russian warships of twice violating their territorial waters near Bornholm, some 300km west of Kaliningrad. As such, aerial and naval incursions directed at Lithuania, together with missile posturing, remain likely.
Moscow is also likely to leverage its influence over bordering Belarus to apply additional pressure on the Lithuanian border. Minsk has previously weaponised migration to destabilise the Lithuanian border in the past, and despite increased security measures along the border today, Minsk could ramp up such tactics once again in response. Bellicose rhetoric from President Lukashenka should thus be expected, alongside increased military exercises and posturing along the border.
- Over the weekend, Russian forces have made only marginal gains in and around Severodonetsk, which remains the principal effort for Russian forces in the Donbas. The head of the Luhansk Regional Administration Serhiy Haidai confirmed today, 20 June, that Russian forces are now in control of the town of Metolkine, in the southeastern suburbs of the city. Russian forces had previously claimed to have taken the airport, which sits southwest of Metolkine, and so it remains unclear where the current frontline is in this part of the city. Progress remains slow as the defences around the Azot industrial plant continue to hold, but incremental Russian gains are pushing the Ukrainians further towards the eastern riverbank.
- Russian sources have today reported that their forces are making progress north of the Popasna salient, though there have been few confirmed advances over the weekend. Fighting remains ongoing around Berestove and Mykolaivka along the T-1302 highway that connects Bakhmut to Lysychansk, with little movement of the frontline. The Ukrainians have furthermore repelled numerous attacks around Hirske, Zolote, and Toshkivka, three key settlements which continue to prevent further Russian progress along the P-66 highway that runs north to Lysychansk. Progress on this axis remains slow, but the Russians have reportedly brought up further reinforcements to support offensive operations here, including two battalions of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps of the DNR and LNR forces respectively.
- Offensive Russian operations have also continued southeast of Izyum, but with very little progress over the weekend. Russian forces will maintain pressure along this axis as their forces regroup and strengthen east of the Siverskyi Donets River around Lyman, but until a breakthrough out of Izyum or a river crossing is achieved, progress against Slovyansk will remain limited. In this respect, and aligning with our previous assessment, Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk has stated that Russian forces are conducting preparations to cross the Siverskyi Donets River southeast of Lyman, with cutting off Ukrainian ground lines of communication around Siversk the likely goal.
- Geolocated OSINT imagery indicates that Ukrainian special forces successfully destroyed a newly established Russian pontoon bridge near Bilohorivka on 16 June, near the location where previously failed river crossings have occurred. Artillery bombardments of the surrounding area have intensified in recent days, illustrating the growing Russian pressure on the southern bank of the river. However, given the most recent destruction of a pontoon bridge, it remains to be seen whether the Russians will be able to cross the river in the coming weeks. Defending the few fordable points along the river will be a key operational priority for Ukrainian forces, and given they have so far been successful in this, Russian forces will continue to be frustrated in their attempts to enclose the cauldron around Severodonetsk-Lysychansk by cutting off Siversk.
- The Zaporizhzhia oblast Military Administration has over the weekend predicted that Russian forces intend to launch new offensive operations against Orihiv and Huliaipole in the near future, both southeast of Zaporizhzhia city. Along the southern axes, momentum largely remains with Ukrainian forces as limited counteroffensives continue to unbalance Russian defences, forcing the redeployment of reinforcements to shore-up defensive lines on the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia frontlines. Russian forces have in particular sought to strengthen anti-air defences along the Kherson-Mykolaiv border region. However, reports of Ukrainian successful airstrikes behind the Russian frontline, including the reported destruction of a Russian ammunition depot by Ukrainian Su-25s in Snihurivka, some 65km east of Mykolaiv, illustrate the limited effectiveness of Russian anti-air capabilities in the region, and the continued offensive capabilities of the Ukrainian Air Force along this axis.
- There has been an increase in activity along the Zaporizhzhia frontline, which has seen very little movement over the last few months despite continuous artillery duels. The Ukrainian Mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov claimed on 19 June that Ukrainian forces have pushed the Zaporizhzhia frontline at least 10km at an unspecified point, though this has yet to be confirmed. Nevertheless, all indicators point to a build-up of Russian forces along the axis, including the deployment of vehicles and troops to Vasylivka and Polohy (south of Zaporizhzhia) from occupied Crimea. The Zaporizhzhia oblast Military Administration’s prediction of new offensive operations against Orihiv and Huliaipole, both of which are north of Vasylivka and Polohy, and the relocation of further reinforcements along the axis could indicate preparations for an offensive. However, this axis continues to be relatively undermanned and as such defensive operations are likely to remain the priority for Russian forces.
- The spokesperson of the Odesa military-civil administration Serhiy Bratchuk has claimed that the Kremlin has fired Colonel-General Andrei Serdyukov as commander of Russian Airborne Forces, replacing him with the current chief of staff to the Central Military District Colonel-General Mikhail Teplinsky. We cannot confirm these claims, but, if true, the move indicates that Bratchuk has been held responsible for the poor performance of VDV airborne forces during the opening phases of the invasion. Before the invasion, the VDV was considered amongst Russia’s most capable forces, but they sustained very high casualty rates during the failed operations against northern Kyiv and Kharkiv. Further purges of high-ranking officers are likely as the Kremlin seeks to explain these failures, but this is likely to only reinforce command and control issues given the numerous deaths of high-ranking commanders placing a further strain on the top-heavy command structure of the Russian military.
- Yesterday, 19 June, Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that the Russian Navy is restructuring its naval forces in the Black Sea to include more submarines. The report follows the sinking of the Russian Project 22890 tugboat Vasily Bekh on 17 June by Ukrainian TB2 Bayraktar drones, a highly significant kill that has prevented, in this instance, the supply of personnel, weapons, and ammunition to Snake Island. The strategic island remains completely reliant upon imported supplies, and as such the targeting of supply vessels illustrates the growing difficulty for Russia to resupply the island.
- The fact that a Bayraktar successfully sunk a ship in the vicinity of the island’s theoretically potent air defences indicates the limitations of Russian anti-air capabilities in the North Black Sea and the overall poor performance of the Black Sea Fleet during the war. As such, a restructuring of Russian naval forces to make more use of submarines is a clear response to Ukraine’s growing anti-shipping capabilities, with increasingly vulnerable Russian surface warships and supply vessels likely to be utilised more cautiously as Western supplies of drones and anti-ship missiles allow Ukraine to directly challenge and undermine Russia’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy in the Black Sea.
- European ministers are meeting today, 20 June, to discuss the ongoing blockade of grain exports in Ukraine, as over 20 m tonnes of grain shipments have been stuck in the country since the invasion began in February. Meanwhile, despite both Poland and Romania moving to adapt their railways to facilitate grain exports via land, it will not be possible to free all of the blocked grain via railways, though various efforts to diversify routes will moderately alleviate the pressure in the immediate term. Nevertheless, the latest projections from the World Bank predict that global food, fuel, and fertiliser prices will remain elevated into 2024, though are expected to somewhat ease in 2023.
- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that the war in Ukraine could take years, whilst also expressing cautious optimism about Ukraine’s chances of defeating Russia. Specifically, Stoltenberg said that “with more modern weapons, the probability increases that Ukraine will be able to drive Putin’s troops out of Donbas again”. President Zelensky has once again urged the West to speed up the arrival of weapons systems, with local reports also highlighting mounting shortages.
- Meanwhile, although the West is set to continue providing aid to Ukraine, the rising cost of living and concerns about shortages of their own weapons stockpiles will inevitably test the duration support can realistically continue in its current capacity. Despite these growing socio-economic issues, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned against “Ukraine fatigue” during a surprise visit to Kyiv on 18 June, committing British support for Ukraine’s long-term “strategic resilience”. Zelensky also issued a statement on 20 June predicting that Russia will intensify its attacks following the European Commission’s recommendation that Ukraine be granted candidate status to join the EU.
- The new Chief of the General Staff of the British Army Sir Patrick Sanders stated during an internal message on 16 June that the British Army must prepare itself to face Russia on the battlefield. He stated that the UK Armed Forces and those of its allies must be “capable of defeating Russia” to deter Russia from further aggression. The statement is aimed at augmenting the UK and by extension NATO deterrence. Despite such rhetoric, our assessment has not changed that an expansion of the war to involve NATO states remains highly unlikely at this stage.
- For more strategic analysis and escalation outcomes to the current conflict in Ukraine, see our Scenario Planning and Projections report.
On 17 June, President Vladimir Putin hosted a slimmed-down version of the annual St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). During the summit Putin delivered a wide-ranging speech where he vowed to continue the “special military operation” in Ukraine, stating that Russia would “undoubtedly” achieve its goals in Ukraine – namely the “demilitarisation and de-nazification” of the country. This is just the latest indication that the Kremlin is doubling down on its war aims and preparing the population for a protracted attritional conflict in Ukraine. Putin also lambasted the West for waging an “economic blitzkrieg” against Russia, which he claimed was always doomed to failure given Russia’s ability to substitute imports. However, Putin’s optimistic economic forecast is highly unlikely to be born out by the facts as the full impact of international sanctions has still yet to be felt. Russia’s largest bank Sberbank predicted last week that Russia faces a 10-year recession without major efforts to insulate Russia from sanctions, with the bank’s CEO Herman Gref emphasising that 56 percent of Russian exports and 51 percent of its imports are from countries that have imposed sanctions on Moscow. Nevertheless, new data published on 20 June indicates that Russia has become the largest supplier of crude oil to China, displacing Saudi Arabia for the first time in 19 months. Discounted Russian oil has led to a significant increase in Chinese oil imports from Russia, up 12 percent in May to 8.42 m tons. Gref has claimed that Russia has reorientated 73 percent of its oil deliveries to Asian markets in April and May. This reflects a concerted effort to diversify Russian exports away from European markets, which, together with historic energy prices, Moscow expects will bring the Russian treasury up to USD 14.4 bn in additional energy revenues this year. Such energy exports will mitigate the impact of international sanctions to an extent, but limited import substitution will continue to hurt the Russian economy for the foreseeable future, including undermining Moscow’s ability to offset military equipment losses given significant military-industrial supply chain disruption.
Kazakhstan-Russia: Nur-Sultan’s refusal to recognise Donbas republics will mitigate threat of direct sanctions. On 17 June, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev refused to explicitly recognise the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) separatist regions of Ukraine as independent republics during the 2022 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, hosted by Vladimir Putin. The existence of Russian-majority regions in Northern Kazakhstan in part underpins this refusal, though Russia is unlikely to support separatist movements in Kazakhstan. Tokayev’s reported refusal to accept an order of merit of the Russian Federation is also likely to represent a bid to distance Kazakhstan from the Kremlin to mitigate the threat of secondary sanctions targeting the former’s economy in the coming months. However, the temporary halting of Kazakh oil shipments by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) reinforces Kazakhstan’s enduring economic dependency on Russia, with knock-on impacts of sanctions and the war set to continue undermining Central Asia’s socio-economic health for the foreseeable future, despite Tokayev’s efforts to distance his regime from the Kremlin.
Georgia: Rejection of immediate EU candidacy status will exacerbate regional tensions and domestic polarisation. On 17 June, the European Commission (EC) assessed that “recent developments have undermined [Georgia’s] progress”, despite the country having a solid foundation for further European integration. As such, the EC recommended that Georgia should address several political conditions before reaching formal European Union (EU) candidate status, including making progress in tackling corruption. Simultaneously, the EC recommended for fellow applicants Moldova and Ukraine to immediately obtain formal candidate status. The decisions come a week after the European Parliament called for sanctions against Georgia’s de facto ruler, Bidizna Ivanishvili. As such, the recommendation will further inflame EU-Georgia tensions in the coming weeks, incentivising Georgia’s Dream Party to retain its balanced approach to relations with Moscow. The decision will also exacerbate political and public polarisation ahead of a pro-EU rally planned by the Home to Europe group in Tbilisi today, 20 June, at 2000hrs local time. The event is likely to cause localised disruptions to overland transport routes.
Russia-Lithuania: Russia threatens retaliation after Lithuania bans commodities transit to Kaliningrad, amplifying regional tensions. On 20 June, Russia called on Lithuania to lift restrictions or face an unspecified form of retaliation. The threat came in response to Lithuania’s ban on the transit of some goods across its territory to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. The remarks sparked concern in Brussels, where the EU’s foreign policy leader, Josep Borrell, stated that Lithuania was only upholding the bloc’s sanctions framework and was not acting unilaterally. In response, Russia will likely ramp up disinformation in the region in the coming weeks, as well as cyber attacks. Earlier in June, the Russian State Duma called for the repealing of a Decree of the State Council of the USSR recognising Lithuania’s independence. As such, regional tensions between these states will remain amplified in the near term, especially considering the geopolitical importance of Kaliningrad to Russia as it provides access to the Baltic Sea.
Georgia: Anti-government protests reflect socio-political divisions but will not undermine political stability. On 20 June, more than 100,000 people protested in Tbilisi after the European Commission (EC) recommended deferring Georgia’s candidate status. In a bid to demonstrate their desire to join the EU, many held EU flags and banners reading “We Are Europe”. The protest was organised by opposition parties, who pledged “mass disobedience” if the government fails to comply with popular reform demands and fails to take the necessary steps to move the country closer to becoming an EU member. The EC will reportedly revisit the question by the end of the year. As such, public pressure on the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) government will be heightened in the months ahead, with sporadic protests likely to break out should GD be perceived as holding back on reforms. Nevertheless, with the political opposition repeatedly failing to dislodge GD from power, the government’s stability is unlikely to be notably undermined in the short term.
- 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 APT 28, will continue to remain a high-priority threat for Ukraine-based entities in light of Moscow’s continued military operations in Eastern Ukraine. While Ukrainian government agencies and critical infrastructure operators will remain the most at-risk for any future attacks, Western government agencies or private sector entities – such as in the energy sector – perceived to be supporting Kyiv’s operations will also be at a heightened risk of being targeted by Moscow-directed cyber attacks.
- Meanwhile, Pro-Ukraine hackers have also continued their disruptive cyber activities during this monitoring period. While these cyber threat actors have allegedly continued to target Russian government organisations and private sector firms, such activities appear to have had a limited impact on Moscow’s military in Ukraine and/or government operations in Russia. Despite these limitations, these groups will likely continue to launch rudimentary cyber attacks – such as DDoS, data leaks, and defacement – against a wide range of sectors. There is a notable risk of such activity causing short to medium-term disruptions to Russia-based organisations.
- Pro-Russian operations maintain pace; APT 28 will subject Ukraine-based organisations to further intrusions in support of Moscow’s military offensives in Eastern Ukraine. On 20 June, Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA) disclosed that Ukraine-based individuals and organisations are being targeted by a Russian state-linked phishing campaign. These phishing emails purport to contain a word document that discusses the likelihood of Russian President Vladimir Putin deploying nuclear weapons during the Ukraine conflict. Based on a forensic investigation, it is assessed with “medium” confidence that this campaign is being conducted by the Russian state-linked Advanced Persistent Threat Group (APT) 28. APT 28 (also known as Fancy Bear) is a highly sophisticated cyber threat actor that is known to launch cyber espionage campaigns to exfiltrate information of interest at the behest of the Russian government. Defence, energy, or government sector organisations are the most common targets for APT 28.
- Pro-Ukraine hackers continue data leak operations; Russian government agencies and critical infrastructure will remain most at-risk for future attacks. On 19 June, the hacktivist collective Anonymous’ affiliate group GhostSec claimed via Twitter to have leaked the sensitive information of Russian digital service provider Rostelecom RU and Russian media organisation Vyberi Radio online. Additional details about this campaign, including how much data was leaked, are limited, making it difficult to assess the full impact of this incident. If this data leak is officially confirmed, this would constitute the second alleged Anonymous-linked attack against both Rostelecom RU and Vyberi Radio since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. Such activity would be indicative of pro-Ukraine hackers’ ongoing attempt to counter Moscow’s misinformation/disinformation campaigns by disrupting Russian media outlets’ operations and the latest since Anonymous claimed that the group had compromised a series of Russian media outlets between 9-10 June via Twitter (see Sibylline Weekly Ukraine Cyber Update – 14 June 2022).
- On 18 June, another Anonymous affiliate group known as DarkBloomSec alleged via Twitter to have hacked the Russian Federal State Budgetary Educational Institutions and leaked 55 MB of its data via Telegram. Investigations of this alleged data leak are still ongoing, making it difficult to assess the veracity of DarkBloomSec’s claims and the potential impact such a leak could have on the Russian government’s operations. Nevertheless, if officially confirmed, this incident would be indicative of the hacktivist collective’s allegation that they have leaked over 12 m Russian files and emails since declaring “cyber war” against the Russian government in late February and early March.
- On 17 June, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed that unknown hackers launched a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack during the 25th St Petersburg International Economic Forum, which delayed the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech. While Peskov refrained from attributing this attack, the IT Army of Ukraine reportedly claimed responsibility for the incident. This attack is consistent with the series of disruptive cyber attacks pro-Kyiv hacking groups, such as the IT Army of Ukraine, have launched against Russian public and private sector organisations since Moscow invaded Ukraine. This is the latest such cyber intrusion since the Anonymous collective claimed via Twitter on 15-16 June to have breached the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration of the Russian Federation and Russia’s ruling Rusnod party’s infrastructure.
Publicly-disclosed cyber attacks launched by pro-Russian hacking groups maintained pace during this latest monitoring period. The ongoing phishing campaign by APT 28 constitutes the most notable Russia-linked threat. As with previous weeks, these attacks appear to be aimed at gaining a foothold in targets of interests’ infrastructure. As such, this latest APT 28 campaign is likely targeting Ukraine-based organisations with potentially links to either the Ukrainian government and/or its military. Given this targeting, this campaign is assessed to pose a low-medium threat to private sector organisations. Nevertheless, entities that could be perceived as having close relations with Kyiv and/or supporting its government and military operations – such as defence, energy, technology, or telecommunication sector firms – will be at a heightened risk of being targeted during this campaign and/or follow-up attacks, such as DDoS or defacement. However, Russia’s apparently limited capabilities to launch innovative and sophisticated cyber attacks during this conflict 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 expressing their political grievances with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and/or disrupting its misinformation operations. As in previous weeks, the Anonymous collective and its affiliated hackers allege to be the most active participant in the conflict. Meanwhile, the IT Army of Ukraine has continued to engage in cyber operations aimed at either defending Ukraine’s critical infrastructure from Russian cyber attacks and/or disrupting Moscow-linked organisations/ events. Despite the group’s DDoS attack against the 25th St Petersburg International Economic Forum, such activities have had limited or no impact on Moscow’s military or government operations. Nevertheless, with pro-Kyiv hackers’ cyber assault on Russian government agencies and their private sector partners set to persist, 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. Western firms operating in critical sectors – such as energy or telecommunications – that have maintained operations in Russia will also remain exposed to this risk as well. (Source: Sibylline)
23 June 22. $450m in Additional Security Assistance for Ukraine.
Attributed to Acting Pentagon Press Secretary Todd Breasseale:
Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) announces the authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $450 million to meet critical needs for Ukraine’s fight. This authorization is the thirteenth drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021. Capabilities in this package include:
- Four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems;
- 36,000 rounds of 105mm ammunition;
- 18 tactical vehicles to tow 155mm artillery;
- 1,200 grenade launchers;
- 2,000 machine guns;
- 18 coastal and riverine patrol boats;
- Spare parts and other equipment.
The United States has now committed approximately $6.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $6.1 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked invasion on February 24. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $8.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. The United States continues to work with its Allies and partners to provide Ukraine with capabilities to meet its evolving battlefield requirements. (Source: US DoD)
23 June 22. Ukrainian troops retreat from ‘smashed to pieces’ Severedonetsk. Ukraine’s forces will have to retreat from Severodonetsk, the regional governor has said, after weeks of fierce fighting against the Russians in the battleground eastern city.
“Ukrainian armed forces will have to retreat from Severodonetsk. They have received an order to do so,” Sergiy Gaiday, governor of Lugansk region which includes the city, said on Telegram.
“Remaining in positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there does not make sense.”
“All critical infrastructure has been destroyed. Ninety percent of the city is damaged, 80 percent (of) houses will have to be demolished,” he added.
He did not indicate whether troops would be withdrawn immediately, or over what time frame any withdrawal would happen. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
22 June 22. A fire broke out at an oil refinery in southern Russia’s Rostov region after a drone attack, state media said on Wednesday, in what military experts suggest could be part of apparent Ukraine-backed strikes behind enemy lines. The fire was sparked by a drone that flew into a heat transfer unit, state newswire Tass reported, citing two unnamed sources. Russia did not directly accuse Ukraine of the attack, though one of the Tass sources said two drones were spotted near the plant. Vasily Golubev, the regional governor, wrote on Telegram that workers had found fragments of two drones at the refinery. Video of the crash posted by Baza, a channel on the Telegram messaging app, showed a drone flying high over the Novoshakhtinsk refinery before crashing into it and prompting an explosion. The fire ranged over a 50 sq m area before firefighters put it out, emergency services said. No casualties were reported. While the precise type of the drone remains unclear, Ukraine Weapons Tracker, a respected open-source intelligence group, said it appeared to be based on Ukrainian-made reconnaissance drone modified to carry explosives. The explosion took place about 150km behind front lines. Ukrainian officials declined to comment on the attack. (Source: FT.com)
22 June 22. How the cloud saved Ukraine’s data from Russian attacks. The cloud is a system of decentralized, networked computer servers spread out all over the world. In the waxing hours of first light on Feb. 24, as Russian soldiers lumbered across the Ukrainian border from their staging areas towards the fateful day’s objectives, elements of the Russian military and security services worked in conjunction to strike a crippling blow. Their target – critical Ukrainian government data.
As the multi-pronged invasion commenced, cruise missiles struck a Ukrainian governmental facility housing servers full of important data. At the same time, Russian cyber operatives conducted “wiper attacks” on computer networks – attempting to delete all the stored information.
Despite the sophisticated and holistic nature of the Russian attack, the Ukrainian data survived the onslaught. For a week earlier, it had been virtually smuggled out of the country. The data which had once singularly been stored on physical servers, had been uploaded to the cloud.
“The key to a country’s digital resilience in wartime is the ability quickly to move data outside the country while still connecting to and relying on it for a government’s digital operations,” according to a report from Microsoft on the cyber lessons of the Ukrainian war. “One reason these kinetic and cyberattacks have had limited operational impact is because digital operations and data have been disbursed into the public cloud,” it said.
Microsoft, which competes with Amazon, IBM, Salesforce and other software and computer networking companies in providing cloud services to governments, published the report, “Defending Ukraine: Early Lessons from the Cyber War,” on June 22.
Prior to the Russia-Ukraine war, a data protection law prohibited the Ukrainian government from utilizing the cloud to store and process data, forcing all the data to be centralized and vulnerable, according to the report. The law was amended just days before the invasion to permit the very same information to be housed on the cloud.
The cloud is a system of decentralized, networked computer servers spread out all over the world. Stored data, often encrypted and secure, is housed in duplicate across multiple servers and can be accessed via the internet from any location. The redundancy means that even if one server is destroyed, the data is not lost because it is copied elsewhere.
Governments around the world have been exploring the idea of adopting the cloud for official use. The Pentagon awarded Microsoft a contract for just that reason in 2019 before rescinding it less than a year later. New DoD contracts for cloud computing are expected to be awarded this year.
“It’s also important to think about the longer-lasting lessons that come from these efforts,” the Microsoft report said. “The last few months in Ukraine illustrate the very different defense needs that prevail during a war.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
22 June 22. Putin threatens to deploy new Satan II nuclear missile – which can reach Britain in just three minutes – by the end of 2022.
- Putin also says Russia will boost military following damage suffered in Ukraine
- He praised his ‘hero’ soldiers as he hosted military graduates at the Kremlin
- President said first Sarmat missiles will be on combat duty by the end of the year
- The ‘Satan II’ said to be world’s longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile
Vladimir Putin has threatened to deploy Russia’s new Satan II nuclear missile, which can reach the UK in just three minutes, by the end of 2022.
The Russian president has also said the country will also continue to boost its military following damage suffered during its ongoing invasion of Ukraine and praised his troops for battling ‘like heroes’.
Speaking as he hosted military academy graduates at the Kremlin on Tuesday, Putin said Russia will place the first batch of Sarmat ballistic missiles on combat duty by the end of the year as part of the efforts, The Telegraph reports.
The Sarmat missile, or ‘Satan II’, is said to be the world’s longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of striking a target 11,200 miles away – meaning it could easily strike targets in the US and Europe.
Putin has previously hailed the development of the missile, which was successfully test-fired in April, ‘a big, significant event’ for Russia’s defense industry, saying the Sarmat will ‘ensure Russia’s security from external threats and make those who try to threaten our country with aggressive rhetoric think twice.’
Western military experts have said the Sarmat is capable of carrying 10 or more nuclear warheads and decoys – easily enough to wipe out territories the size of Britain or France in a single strike. (Source: Daily Mail)
21 June 22. Howitzers arrive in Ukraine, first in pledged weapons package from Germany. German self-propelled howitzers have arrived in Ukraine in the first delivery of heavy weapons promised by Berlin, Ukraine’s defence minister said on Tuesday. Ukraine has pleaded with the West to send more and better artillery as the country runs out of ammunition for its existing Soviet-era arsenal, which is dwarfed by Russia’s.
“We have replenishment!…The German Panzerhaubitze 2000 with trained Ukrainian crews joined the Ukrainian artillery family,” Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on social media. The Panzerhaubitze 2000 is one of the most powerful artillery weapons in Bundeswehr inventories and can hit targets at a distance of 40 km (25 miles).
Germany pledged in May to supply Kyiv with seven self-propelled howitzers, adding to five such artillery systems the Netherlands has promised. read more
Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s president’s office, posted a list of other weapons promised by Germany, including 30 Gepard tanks and three MARS II multiple rocket launchers, as well as 500 shoulder-fired Stinger missiles. Kyiv has previously said it needs 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones among other heavy weapons to repel Russian troops, which invaded the country on Feb. 24 and occupied about 20% of its territory. Other countries that have supplied Ukraine with self-propelled and towed howitzers include the United States, Britain, France, Norway and Poland. (Source: Reuters)
21 June 22. Cyber-physical systems will continue to be targeted by malicious cyber actors via distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, increased malware activity, targeted persistent phishing attacks, and disinformation campaigns as long as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, according to Gartner.
“The fog of war” according to Paul Proctor, vice president analyst at Gartner, can challenge situational awareness and panic aims to increase the risk of mistakes, to the advantage of bad actors.
“While the impacts of individual attacks will vary, the broader effects of a heightened threat environment will be felt by organisations worldwide,” Proctor said.
“It’s likely that cyber threats will continue at least as long as the physical conflict does.”
Cyber warfare does not have geographical boundaries, Proctor notes, in the way that physical conflict does.
“At least three energy companies in Germany have been targeted in cyber attacks since the invasion began.”
“We’ve also seen cyber actors in other regions, such as China, taking advantage of the situation to propagate threats, as well as involvement from non-state actors, like the Anonymous hacking group engaging in an offensive against the pro-Russia Conti ransomware gang,” Proctor explained in a CRN interview.
Enterprise Security risk cannot be managed in a vacuum by the CISO and their team, Proctor added, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated
“Crises place an additional premium on risk-based decision-making, and business leadership must be involved at every level.”
“Executives who make defensible, risk-informed choices are more likely to navigate their organisations with resilience, from response through recovery.”
“Geopolitics and cyber security have become inextricably linked,” Proctor said. Security leaders ‘need to be looking at the global threat landscape from a business lens,’ as business decisions moving forward, will have security implications. (Source: https://www.cybersecurityconnect.com.au/)
20 Jun 22. Praise for Ukraine support as Defence industry offers more help. Industry leaders are praised by the Defence Secretary for their vital role in helping provide weapons, ammunition and logistical support to Ukraine.
- Defence Secretary thanks defence industry leaders for their support to Ukraine
- Comes as nearly 300 innovative proposals submitted for funding to accelerate support for Ukraine
- New approaches could provide battle-winning solutions as UK warns the war could continue for years
The roundtable, convened at Downing Street with thirteen industry Chief Executives, comes as industry organisations across the country came forward to submit proposals that could accelerate the development of equipment for Ukraine’s armed forces.
The £25m campaign fund – launched by Ministers in late May – focused on bolstering the existing provision for artillery, coastal defence and aerial systems. 295 proposals were received and sifting has begun, with a view to funding allocations beginning in the coming weeks.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Backed by our formidable Defence industry, the UK has been one of the global leaders in providing military assistance to support Ukraine’s armed forces. Their creativity and commitment to this complex and demanding problem has been invaluable to helping resist the Russian invasion.”
As this unprovoked attack continues and Russia’s tactics change, we are working closely with industry partners to provide innovative solutions that will bolster the heroic Ukrainian efforts for the coming weeks and months. Through the £25m innovation fund, the Government believes drawing on UK expertise across the defence industry, including from innovative small and medium-sized enterprises, could provide battle-winning solutions for the Ukrainian forces.”
The UK has already committed more than £2.8 bn to support Ukraine through humanitarian aid and grants, as well as military kit including 120 armoured vehicles, air defence systems and more than 6,500 anti-tank missiles.
The thirteen industry organisations in attendance were:
- BAE Systems
- Lockheed Martin
- Northrop Grumman
- Thales UK
Our military support so far amounts to over £750m and includes:
- The multiple launch rocket system (M270 weapon system) and associated munitions (M31A1)
- More than 5,000 NLAW anti-tank missiles
- More than 200 Javelin anti-tank missiles
- 120 armoured vehicles
- 1,360 anti-structure munitions
- 5 Air Defence systems, including Starstreak missiles
- 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosives
- Stormer vehicles fitted with launchers for anti-air missiles.
- New anti-ship missile systems
- More than 400,000 rounds of small-arms munitions
- More than 200,000 pieces of non-lethal aid including helmets, body armour, rangefinders and medical equipment
- Electronic warfare equipment
- Counter battery radar systems
- GPS jamming equipment
- Thousands of night vision devices
- Dozens of heavy lift UAV systems to provide logistical support to isolated forces
- Over 20 M109 155mm artillery guns, purchased on the open market and refurbished (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
20 Jun 22. Russia threatens retaliation against Lithuania following rail ‘blockade.’ Baltic state halts transport via train of Russian goods under sanctions to enclave of Kaliningrad Lithuania, which controls the only overland rail route linking Kaliningrad with mainland Russia, has begun limiting the export of oil, cement, steel, iron, coal and other goods under sanctions. Moscow has threatened to retaliate against Lithuania after the Baltic state halted the rail transport of Russian goods under EU sanctions to the enclave of Kaliningrad. Russia’s foreign ministry summoned Lithuania’s chargé d’affaires in Moscow on Monday to “demand an immediate cancellation of the restrictions” or face “actions to defend [Russia’s] national interests”, it said in a statement. Grigory Karasin, a former senior diplomat who chairs the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said the démarche was “harsh” and warned any response would be “quite decisive”, according to the Russian news agency, Interfax. Lithuania, which controls the only overland rail route linking Kaliningrad with mainland Russia, at the weekend began limiting the export of goods covered by EU sanctions in retaliation for President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The restrictions affected oil, cement, steel, iron, coal and other goods amounting to slightly more than half of total Russian rail supplies to Kaliningrad, the ministry said. Sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, Kaliningrad has been a source of tension between Russia and Europe since the Baltic states declared independence from the USSR in 1991, leaving it without a direct overland route to Moscow. Russia’s Baltic fleet, which has almost 80 warships and submarines, is headquartered there. Moscow has also deployed nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles in the region, though it has not said whether they carry nuclear warheads. Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s security council, warned in April that it would be impossible for the region to remain “non-nuclear” if Finland and Sweden joined Nato, suggesting the possible nuclear deployment could be made official. The EU sanctions have isolated Kaliningrad further still, forcing Russian planes to make a detour over the Baltic Sea due to a ban on using the bloc’s airspace. (Source: FT.com)
17 June 22. Ukraine could partake in EU defense-cooperation projects after war ends. Ukraine has a deal in place with the European Defence Agency that could be triggered to enable defense-cooperation projects with the bloc once the war with Russia ends, according to the agency’s chief executive, Jiří Šedivý. Ukraine is one of a handful of nonmember states that have negotiated so-called administrative arrangements with the agency, an entry requirement into the bloc’s sprawling bureaucracy for jointly developing military capabilities. Dated December 2015, the deal was never used because of Ukraine’s interest in building its arsenal with a focus on quantity rather than new creations, Šedivý told Defense News.
“I can imagine that after the war, there will be interest also in industrial cooperation, and we can use the framework of the administrative arrangement for EDA,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the Eurosatory defense exhibit in Paris this week.
To be sure, there are a lot of “ifs” wrapped up in such a scenario. There is no end game in sight for the fighting in Ukraine amid Russian politicians suggesting Moscow is still intent on entirely subjugating the country. The balance of firepower has recently shifted in favor of the invaders, who are grinding down a Ukrainian force desperately awaiting more heavy weapons than allies can deliver.
But Šedivý’s comments — along with the prospect of Ukraine getting EU membership candidate status now gaining traction in Brussels — signal that European officials are at least envisioning concrete ways of pulling Kyiv closer to the union, including on defense matters.
Meanwhile, a similar administrative arrangement between the European Defense Agency and the U.S. government remains under negotiation. In particular, European concerns related to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations have yet to be sorted out, according to Šedivý.
The ITAR regime is Washington’s way of exerting influence over any aspect of military-grade equipment or knowledge generated with even the slightest level of U.S. participation. The regulations are guaranteed to come into play in virtually any defense cooperation project between the U.S. and the EU.
“We’ve had several rounds of discussions, including in Washington, and there is a very clear effort to reach an administrative arrangement as soon as it would be possible, and that’s probably all I can say at the present moment,” Šedivý said.
But he did note that negotiations are happening amid “very strong goodwill and very good atmospherics.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
20 Jun 22. The first four Australian M113AS4 Armoured Personnel Carriers being gifted to Ukraine departed RAAF Base Amberley last week.
Loaded into a Ukrainian Antonov AN-124 aircraft, the four vehicles are the first of 14 M113AS4s to be provided by Australia.
The Australian government’s military assistance package consists of over AUD 285 m worth of support including Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles, M777 Howitzers; anti-armour weapons, ammunition, unmanned aerial systems and a range of personal equipment.
Prime Minister, The Hon. Anthony Albanese said the latest shipment of military assistance responds to a direct request by the Minister of Defence of Ukraine for additional vehicles and demonstrates Australia’s sustained commitment to the people of Ukraine.
“Australia, like many nations, condemns the continuing unwarranted aggression of Russia against the people of Ukraine,” Mr Albanese said.
“Our nation has stood by Ukraine since the beginning of this unlawful conflict and we are proud to be able to provide access to significant capabilities such as the Armoured Personnel Carriers that have travelled in the past week.”
Deputy Prime Minister, The Hon. Richard Marles added “We will continue to look at ways we can best help the people of Ukraine. Australia stands with Ukraine, and again calls on Russia to cease its unprovoked, unjust and illegal invasion of Ukraine.”
The M113AS4 Armoured Personnel Carrier is a longstanding in-service ADF armoured fighting vehicle capability, designed to transport infantry soldiers on the battlefield.
Developed in Australia, the AS4 is a modernised variant based upon the highly effective M113 series which have served the Australian Army and many other forces with great success since the 1960s.
Along with the proven Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles, the M113AS4s will provide valuable protected mobility for Ukraine forces, joining similar capabilities being gifted from across the globe.
(Source: ASD Network)
17 June 22. Fact Sheet on U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine.
The United States has 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.
On June 15, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced $1 bn in additional security assistance for Ukraine. This includes an authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $350 m, as well as $650m in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds. This authorization is the twelfth drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.
United States security assistance committed to Ukraine includes:
- Over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems;
- Over 6,500 Javelin anti-armor systems;
- Over 20,000 other anti-armor systems;
- Over 700 Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- 126 155mm Howitzers and 260,000 155mm artillery rounds;
- 108 Tactical Vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers;
- 19 Tactical Vehicles to recover equipment;
- High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and ammunition;
- 20 Mi-17 helicopters;
- Hundreds of Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles;
- 200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers;
- Over 7,000 small arms;
- Over 50,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition;
- 75,000 sets of body armor and helmets;
- 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Laser-guided rocket systems;
- Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Unmanned Coastal Defense Vessels;
- 22 counter-artillery radars;
- Four counter-mortar radars;
- Four air surveillance radars;
- Two harpoon coastal defense systems;
- M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel munitions;
- C-4 explosives and demolition equipment for obstacle clearing;
- Tactical secure communications systems;
- Thousands of night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, optics, and laser rangefinders;
- Commercial satellite imagery services;
- Explosive ordnance disposal protective gear;
- Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protective equipment;
- Medical supplies to include first aid kits;
- Electronic jamming equipment;
- Field equipment and spare parts;
- Funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment.
The United States also continues to work with its Allies and partners to identify and provide Ukraine with additional capabilities to defend itself. (Source: US DoD)
17 June 22. Prolonged war may make Russia more cyber aggressive, US official says. Russia may turn to increasingly brazen cyberattacks as its military is stymied by Ukrainian forces, according to a senior U.S. cybersecurity official.
While a feared wave of cyberattacks against U.S. networks and critical infrastructure at the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine failed to materialize, a protracted conflict could motivate Moscow to act more aggressively in cyberspace, Neal Higgins, deputy national cyber director for national cybersecurity, said June 14.
“A slow military progress continues to thwart the Russians on the ground in Ukraine. They may increasingly consider cyber options to divide our allies and to dilute international resolve against its action,” Higgins said at an event hosted by Defense One. “We have not seen that yet, but we’re not out of the woods. We have to keep our shields up, we can’t let our guard down.”
President Joe Biden warned in March that evolving intelligence showed Russia planned potential stateside cyberattacks. He said the magnitude of Russia’s cyber capabilities “is fairly consequential, and it’s coming.”
Military leaders, lawmakers and analysts in the early days of Russia’s offensive also warned of dangerous cyber spillover.
“The Russians have a history of using poorly controlled, damaging attacks that can spread beyond their intended targets,” Higgins said. “That’s what happened, most famously, in 2017 with the NotPetya attack, which was focused on Ukraine but caused billions of dollars of damage around the world.”
Russia peppered Ukraine with cyberattacks in the lead up to its invasion this year and continues to assault digital systems. The U.S., Canada and European powers in May blamed the Kremlin for a February cyberattack on Viasat that disrupted internet service for tens of thousands of people, including those in Central Europe.
“The last 24 months have seen an unprecedented surge in high-profile cyber events, from SolarWinds beginning in late 2020, through Kaseya, Colonial Pipeline, JBS Foods, and now the use of cyberattacks in connection with the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Higgins said.
Viasat in March told C4ISRNET the hack had no effect on U.S. government customers and did not jeopardize their data. Its core network infrastructure and gateways were also not compromised.
Russia has historically denied wrongdoing.
In response to the growing threat, the U.S. government urged the private sector and others to step up their cybersecurity practices and keep an eye out for irregularities. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a so-called Shields Up notice, warning that Russian belligerence “could impact organizations both within and beyond the region, to include malicious cyber activity against the U.S. homeland.”
Higgins on Tuesday said the U.S. is better prepared for cyberattacks now.
“One of the key activities that you’ve seen since the threat of the Russian invasion of Ukraine really began to metastasize in late 2021 was greater collaboration between the government and the private sector, including through the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, the JCDC, run by CISA,” he said. “But a lot of work has occurred less visibly to try to make sure that we are as well defended as we can be.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
17 June 22. U.S. drone sale to Ukraine hits snag – sources. The Biden administration’s plan to sell four large, armable drones to Ukraine has been paused on the fear its sophisticated surveillance equipment might fall into enemy hands, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The technical objection to the sale was raised during a deeper review by the Pentagon’s Defense Technology Security Administration charged with keeping high value technology safe from enemy hands. Previously the plan, which has been circulating since March, had been approved by the White House, three people said.
The plan to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia was first reported by Reuters earlier in June.
The objection to the export of the drones arose due to concerns the radar and surveillance equipment on the drones could create a security risk for the United States if it fell into Russian hands.
The sources said this consideration had been overlooked in the initial review but came up in meetings at the Pentagon late last week.
“Technology security reviews are a standard practice for the transfer of U.S. defense articles to all international partners. All cases are reviewed individually on their own merit. Through the established process, national security concerns are elevated to the appropriate approving authority,” said Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough.
The decision on whether or not to continue with the deal is now being reviewed higher up the chain of command at the Pentagon, but the timing of any decision is uncertain, one of the people a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
One solution to move the sale forward would be to swap out the existing radar and sensor package for something less sophisticated, but that could take months to complete, one of the sources.
If the case to sell the drones is allowed to progress, Congress would be given a chance to block it, though that was seen as unlikely.
The four General Atomics-made Gray Eagle drones were originally slated to go to the U.S. Army, people familiar with the process said.
According to Army budget documents, the Gray Eagles cost $10 m each. (Source: Reuters)
14 June 22. “110 Sky Wiper C-UAS units on their way to Ukraine from Lithuania” – press reports. According to a Twitter message from Lithuanian journalist Andrius Tapinas (https://twitter.com/AndriusTapinas/status/1536342733987516418), Lithuania is supplying Ukraine with 110 counter-UAS (C-UAS) weapons built by Lithuania’s NT Service UAB, at a cost of more than EUR 1.5m ($1.56m).
The EDM4S “Sky Wiper” is a hand-held, trigger-actuated, point-and-shoot weapon which transmits an electro-magnetic pulse which interrupts the drone’s communications signal. The guns will be delivered to 35 units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, according to reports. (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
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