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Ukraine Conflict – July 25th.
Military and security developments
22 Jul 22.
- Limited Russian assaults across the frontlines continue to achieve very little progress, with few notable developments to report over the last 24 hours. Russian forces did conduct two localised ground offensives north of Kharkiv and along the Kherson-Mykolaiv respectively, but both were unsuccessful. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that the latter attack near Kherson was only a platoon-sized attack, indicating the very limited nature of Russian offensive action at present.
- More broadly, Russian forces are primarily engaged in limited positional battles, making heavy use of artillery. This is likely aimed at softening Ukrainian defences before launching more concerted assaults in the coming days and weeks, indicating that the official end of the operational pause last week has not yet translated into renewed large-scale offensives.
- The spokesman for Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Vadym Skibitsky reported on 21 July that Kyiv estimates that Russia has used 55-60 percent of its pre-war stocks of high-precision missiles. Skibitsky specifically highlighted Iskandr ballistic and Kalibr cruise missiles, as well as Kh-101 and Kh-555s. Indeed, the increase in reports of Russian forces using older, inaccurate Soviet-era weaponry and missiles not designed for ground strikes illustrates a clear trend in diminishing stocks of these weapons. In recent weeks in particular, Russia has repeatedly used old 1960s era Kh-22 anti-ship missiles and increasing S-300 air defence missiles to strike at ground targets, to varying degrees of success, significantly increasing the threat of collateral damage to civilians.
- The extent to which Russia is able to ramp up production of high-precision weapons remains unknown. While, China has shown itself to be very concerned about secondary sanctions, with overall trade volumes with Russia declining since the invasion, there are indications that China continues to facilitate Russian missile production. Chinese customs data recorded that exports of dual purpose microchips and other electronic components to Russia more than doubled in the first five months of 2022. Chinese exports of aluminium oxides, vital for weapons and aerospace production, are now also more than 400 times higher than in 2021, standing at 153,000 metric tons in May. This prompted the US Commerce Department to add five Chinese electronics companies to its trade blacklist last month for reportedly assisting Russian military production. Additionally, the high likelihood of hidden exports means supplies of dual use military equipment and commodities may be much higher than official export data suggests.
- The Ukrainian state energy agency Energoatom stated yesterday, 21 July, that Russian forces are storing heavy weaponry inside the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. As we assessed in previous reporting, this is likely a bid to protect said equipment from Ukrainian strikes. This follows reports of a Ukrainian partisan attack on the plant with kamikaze drones earlier this week, which may have led to a decision to store weapons deeper inside the plant. Energoatom maintains that 14 units of heavy military equipment, including highly combustible ammunition and weaponry, have now been placed in the engine room of reactor one, with Russian forces also demanding entry into the engine rooms of reactions two and three.
- Energoatom have warned that the proximity of flammable oils has now dramatically increased the threat of a fire inside the plant. Moreover, the agency maintains that Russian equipment will now prevent specialised fire engines from accessing the control room of reactor one. Energoatom has warned that should a fire occur, such as via an accidental detonation of ammunition, the scale of the resultant catastrophe could be equal to the Chernobyl disaster. While it remains highly unlikely that Ukrainian forces would attack the reactors directly, this week’s partisan attacks show readiness to attack the wider plant. However, the Russian occupying forces have consistently undermined nuclear safety in and around the plant during the course of the war. As such, the risk of an accident (or indeed a false flag incident) will remain a realistic possibility given seemingly lax Russian safety precautions.
- Today, 22 July, Kyiv and Moscow are expected to sign a grain exports agreement, in a bid to alleviate the global food crisis. Details of the deal that have been made public include Moscow agreeing to a truce during shipments, with Turkey alongside the UN inspecting the vessels to quell Russia’s concerns of weapon transfers. The former issue is especially something that Kyiv is sceptical about, given Russia previously violating numerous ceasefire agreements during attempts to evacuate civilians. Nevertheless, with the need to release about 20 million tonnes of grain trapped in silos in the port of Odesa and receive the much-needed income from exports, Kyiv has a strong incentive to sign the agreement, despite the underlying mistrust over Russia’s intentions. As such, the likely signing of a deal will mark a notable step forward in addressing the global food crisis in the short term, but food security will nevertheless remain volatile for the duration of the war given the realistic possibility of security guarantees being broken.
- In his usual evening address, President Zelensky said that he believes that Ukraine has “a significant potential for the advance of our forces on the front and or the infliction of significant new losses on the occupiers”. Additionally, Zelensky highlighted that the intensity of attacks against Russian forces “needs to be increased”. The statements follow the president’s earlier pledge this week to retaliate after noting that Russia strikes on Odesa and other Ukrainian cities have increasingly been hitting residential buildings. As such, although Kyiv is highly unlikely to deliberately target Russian civilian populations, the recent pledges from the US for deliveries of more HIMARS systems will likely continue to embolden Zelensky in maintaining the policy that Kyiv intends to reclaim all of Ukraine’s territories. To that end, the risk of tit-for-tat strikes is likely to increase the risk of other Ukrainian civilian centres being hit in the months ahead amid the moderately escalatory rhetoric.
- This morning, 22 July, the Russian government announced it has expanded its list of so-called “unfriendly states”, adding Croatia, Denmark, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The foreign minister of the Russian-backed separatist region of Transnistria, Vitaly Ignatiev, stated today that the breakaway region seeks independence and subsequent accession to the Russian Federation. The statement technically does not indicate a shift in policy by the separatist government, given that an unrecognised referendum in 2006 delivered an overwhelming result in favour of joining Russia. Nevertheless, the statement comes a day after the thirtieth anniversary of the peace accords that ended the Transnistrian war, a highly symbolic moment that has exacerbated tensions in the region. Moscow has over the last 24 hours accused Moldova of “sabotaging the rotation of Russian troops” and preventing delivery of weapons systems to Transnistria, after reports of Russian officers being detained at Chisinau airport this week. At present Russia maintains around 1,500 regular forces (roughly two battalion tactical groups (BTGs) worth) in the breakaway region, alongside around 8 additional BTGs of the separatist Transnistrian Armed Forces. In a similar vein to the situation on the Belarusian border, it remains our assessment that Russia does not retain sufficient forces in the region to seriously threaten a ground invasion of Moldova or still less western Ukraine. Indeed, Moscow’s complaints this week indicate they are having serious difficulty in resupplying their forces in the region, which remains geographically isolated from Russia. As such, any offensive would likely result in a net strategic loss for the Kremlin that would expose the pro-Russian region to Ukrainian attack. Nevertheless, comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this week (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 21-07-22) indicate that if Russia is able to expand the war over the coming months and potentially years, annexation of the region remains a realistic possibility. In this scenario, however, Russian forces would likely need to take Odesa and establish a land bridge to Transnistria, a massive military undertaking. Given Russia remains on the defensive in southern Ukraine, this remains highly unlikely over the next three months, but remains possible if the Kremlin commits to a protracted war well beyond 2022. In the short term, however, the recent developments in Transnistria are more likely to destabilise the situation along the border and inside Moldova itself. False flag attacks and “provocations” along the Transnistrian border remain a realistic possibility in the coming weeks, given such precedents earlier in the conflict. Additionally, it is notable that recent public opinion polling indicates that support for pro-Russian former president Igor Dodon and his Socialist Party has now surpassed the reformist government of pro-Western president Maia Sandu. Such a shift is highly likely a result of soaring inflation and the government’s failure to reform the justice system. However, the polling reinforces our assessment that Moscow still retains tangible soft power influence inside Moldova, despite the rapid increase in support to join the EU since the invasion of Ukraine. Deteriorating socio-economic conditions will provide further opportunities for Moscow to leverage political polarisation and corrupt political entities to undermine domestic stability – particularly later in the year when gas shortages threaten to trigger anti-government unrest ahead of the winter.
Russia-Ukraine: Impending grain export deal will alleviate global food crisis in the short-term, though challenges will remain. Russia and Ukraine are reportedly set to sign a grain exports agreement which will alleviate the global food crisis. Details of the deal which have been made public include Moscow’s agreement to respect a truce during the shipments, with Turkey operating alongside the UN to inspect vessels. This is intended to assuage Russia’s concerns about the transfer of weapons. Around 20 million tonnes of grain are trapped in silos at the port of Odesa. Ukraine’s desperation to receive much-needed income from exports will outweigh its scepticism about a truce. Kyiv therefore has a strong incentive to sign the agreement, despite its underlying mistrust. Although the likely signing of a deal will mark a notable step forward in addressing the global food crisis, food security will remain volatile for the duration of the war. This is because there is a realistic possibility that security guarantees will be broken.
21 Jul 22.
- The Russians have failed to make any significant progress over the last 24 hours, including around their three primary objectives in eastern Ukraine, namely Siversk, Slovyansk and Bakhmut. Yesterday, 20 July, the Ukrainian General Staff claimed that their forces managed to push Russian forces back around the villages of Hryhorivka and Spirne, to the northeast and southeast of Siversk respectively. If confirmed, this indicates that the Eastern Grouping of Russian forces operating in the area are struggling to build offensive momentum. This is most likely a result of the short ten-day operational pause last week being insufficient to reinforce and reconstitute the force following the capture of Lysychansk. Nevertheless, Russian forces are likely to slowly grind their way westwards in the coming days and weeks, given Siversk remains a key objective to enable future assaults on Slovyansk-Kramatorsk to the west.
- Russian forces have claimed modest progress further south closer to the Bakhmut line, however. Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) forces have claimed to have taken Berestove, around 25km northeast of Bakhmut. The village sits along the T-1302 highway that runs southwest towards Bakhmut, and has been heavily contested for the last two months. Fighting also continues elsewhere along the Bakhmut front, where Russian forces have made the only notable – if modest – advances of the entire frontline since Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered an end to the operational pause last week. Offensive operations around Slovyansk, have also continued, but by contrast, have made almost no progress at all in recent weeks.
- On the southern axis, Ukrainian forces once again struck the Antonivskyi Bridge over the Dnipro River. This second attack appears have done more damage than the first. Ukrainian Kherson Oblast Military Administration Adviser Serhiy Khlan has claimed that Russian forces are now unable to use the bridge to transport heavy equipment. This claim seems to be supported by a statement by the head of the Russian-backed occupation authority in Kherson oblast, Vladimir Saldo, who confirmed that the bridge is now closed to freight traffic for repairs, though it allegedly remains open for private passenger vehicles. Further attacks are likely, but its closure in the meantime will undermine Russia’s ability to reinforce their forces on the west bank of the Dnipro, further exposing the already apparent vulnerabilities of the Kherson-Mykolaiv border to future Ukrainian counterattacks.
- The Ukrainian Resistance Centre confirmed yesterday that Ukrainian partisans attacked Russian personnel at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, leaving at least nine injured and an unknown number of Russians dead. Russian authorities have claimed that Ukrainian “terrorists” used kamikaze UAVs to attack the plant, in what appears to be one of the most sophisticated partisan attacks of the war. In recent weeks Russian forces have been concentrating equipment and artillery in the plant, in a bid to deter Ukrainian strikes and counterbattery operations due to fears of inflicting collateral damage on the reactors. There are currently no indications that the attack has caused any major damage to the plant or reactors. However, it remains possible that the Russians will claim it has in a bid to paint Ukrainian forces as irresponsible and cause panic amongst the local inhabitants.
- CIA Director William Burns stated yesterday, 20 July, that the US intelligence community estimates Russia has sustained around 15,000 killed and around 45,000 wounded during its invasion of Ukraine. As assessed in previous reporting, verifiable casualty figures for both sides of the conflict are elusive given the secrecy both Moscow and Kyiv attach to casualty rates, and the likelihood that both sides have exaggerated enemy losses they claim to have inflicted. Moscow has not updated its official casualty figure of 1,351 soldiers killed since 25 March. Meanwhile, the running total of Russian deaths claimed by Kyiv is highly likely to be exaggerated, standing as it does at 38,850 today. The CIA estimate remains highly credible, though it is impossible to independently verify.
Ukraine: Cyber attack aimed at spreading misinformation highlights targeting of media organisations amid ongoing conflict. On 21 July, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP) claimed that “Cyber criminals have spread the news suggesting that the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is allegedly in critical condition under intensive care” after hacking radio station broadcasts of TAVR Media. TAVR Media is one of Ukraine’s largest radio groups, overseeing nine local stations, and released a statement declaring that its servers and networks had been targeted in a cyber attack and that the relevant services were endeavouring to resolve the issue. The messages were reportedly broadcast at midday and prompted Zelensky to share a video on Instagram denying any health issues. The details of the attack and the identity of the group have not been disclosed. However, it is highly likely that the responsible group is affiliated with Russia given the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The cyber attack is the latest in a string of incidents targeting media and communications organisations in both Ukraine and Russia, with the Anonymous hacktivist group claiming responsibility for a cyber attack on Russian-media organisations last month (see Sibylline Weekly Ukraine Cyber Update – 14 June 2022). Consequently, with no immediate foreseeable resolution to the conflict, motivated cyber groups are likely to continue to target media organisations based in Ukraine and Russia.
- In a notable development, Russia resumed gas flows to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline today, 21 July. In the short term, the event has reduced fears of a complete cut off and moderately improved energy security, though the current deliveries are still well below the pipeline’s capacity. Prior to the pipeline’s scheduled maintenance, Moscow was shipping only 40 per cent of its capacity, with Germany reporting that Gazprom had scheduled deliveries today of only 30 per cent, which will ensure that Europe will still remain at a high risk of shortages and potential need to ration gas.
- In his nightly video address on 20 July, President Zelensky criticised the EU’s seventh package of sanctions against Russia as being “not enough”. The newest round of sanctions, which reportedly come into force today, 21 July, includes a ban on Russian gold imports, and Sberbank’s asset freezes. The new measures did stop of short of imposing caps on Russian energy, which were previously discussed by G-7 leaders – something that President Putin strongly warned against. As such, with Europe already facing a looming energy and cost-of-living crisis and Moscow only expanding its war aims in Ukraine, the willingness and ability of the EU to continue introducing ever more damaging sanctions will be tested, particularly with Moscow’s credible threat of a complete gas cut off.
- The fourth meeting of the ‘Ukrainian Defence Contact Group’, of the so-called Ramstein summits, took place online yesterday, 20 July. US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin who chairs the group has committed to find innovative ways to provide long-term support to the Ukrainian military in what he termed a “critical phase of the conflict”. The US in particular committed to providing four more HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS), which have already been used to great effect by Ukraine in recent weeks – including this week’s strikes against the Antonivskyi Bridge.
- In a related development, the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force General Charles Brown hinted yesterday that the US or a close ally might transfer jet fighters to Ukraine in the future. While this is not yet US policy, the suggestion once again reinforces our assessment that the intensity of Western military support for Ukraine continues to grow. Such a slippery slope of commitments has transformed many of the debates that dominated NATO earlier in the conflict; namely concern that provision of advanced offensive capabilities would provoke Russia and escalate the conflict.
- Of additional note, the Ramstein summit made no announcement around longer-range MLRS munitions for Ukraine, as previously reported as a possibility. However, General Brown’s comments reinforce the trend that more and more offensive capabilities are set to be transferred to Ukraine, irrespective of Russian threats. It remains unclear where the Russian “red lines” are in terms of what weapons the West can provide to Ukraine, given the provision of MLRS systems had previously been considered an escalatory move. However, what is clear is that the US will likely continue testing these boundaries in the months ahead to provide more potent offensive systems.
Yesterday, 20 July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Moscow’s “military tasks” go well beyond the Donbas, reinforcing our assessment that Russia’s war goals are highly unlikely to be satisfied by the conquest of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Specifically, Lavrov stated that “now the geography is different […] it’s not just Donetsk and Luhansk, it’s Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and a number of other territories”. Lavrov did not specify what these “other territories” were, but he explicitly said that should the West continue to supply Ukraine with long-range weapons – as we have assessed is highly likely above – then Moscow may need to push further west into Ukraine. In this scenario, Lavrov stated, “the geographical tasks will extend still further from the current line” as Moscow would not allow Zelensky, “or whoever replaces him”, to threaten Russian or proxy territory with longer-range systems. The statement was likely an immediate response to Washington’s pledge to supply Ukraine with further advanced precision HIMARS systems. However, the strategic calculus behind Lavrov’s threats speaks to longer-held Kremlin anxieties about Ukraine becoming a de facto NATO member state that hosts long-range NATO weaponry capable of targeting Russian soil. Such anxieties ultimately played a major role in triggering the invasion in the first place, which Moscow had clearly hoped would prevent this from happening. However, the failed invasion of northern Ukraine has meant this has clearly backfired, with the invasion actually bringing about the scenario the Kremlin sought to avoid. This backfiring is a recurring feature of Russian foreign policy, illustrated by Moscow’s efforts to stop NATO expansion, which triggered the accession of Sweden and Finland to the alliance, and efforts to stall Western integration of former Soviet States, which has resulted in a dramatic increase in support for the EU in Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. Russian foreign policy and military failures in Ukraine have thus made the Kremlin’s security anxieties even more pressing than before the invasion. This is likely to reinforce the Kremlin’s readiness to fight a protracted war in an attempt to mitigate these perceived threats. However, Moscow’s hardening stance and seeming expansion of its war aims appear to outpace the military realities on the ground, where Russian forces are struggling to generate momentum for even small-scale tactical gains. The extent to which the military realities on the ground are being reported back to the Kremlin remains unknown. As such, it remains possible that there is a serious discrepancy between the Kremlin’s political objectives and the Russian Armed Forces’ ability to achieve them. The next phase of the war, the conquest of Donetsk oblast, will likely help determine the extent of this discrepancy, and whether the Kremlin is able to continue fighting to achieve its expanding war aims without general mobilisation.
Russia: Threat Of Foreign Expropriations Increase.
- In May the Kremlin proposed a draft bill that would empower the state to seize the in-country assets of foreign companies that leave the country, though the bill has not yet passed its second reading.
- Despite the bill not having passed, numerous precedents have indicated Moscow’s willingness to expropriate or de facto nationalise foreign assets, with firms operating in “strategic sectors”, such as industrial production and energy, the most at risk as the war drags on and the Kremlin implements policies to partially mobilise the economy.
- The Kremlin has nevertheless shown reticence to expropriate non-strategic sector assets. However, discussion in the UK of seizing Russian oligarchs assets risks triggering tit-for-tat legislative retaliation and expropriations, with the Russian government making the process of reciprocity clear in its rhetoric and legal debates.
- Finally, the trajectory of the war in Ukraine will ultimately dictate the direction of travel inside Russia. Mounting pressure from the far-right hard liners and desires to achieve much more in Ukraine will place growing pressure on the Kremlin to mobilise the economy to sustain the war effort, which in turn will significantly increase the risk of expropriations of foreign assets.
On 10 March, less than two weeks after the invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin proposed draft legislation that threatens to seize the in-country assets of foreign organisations that leave the country “without due reason”. The proposed legislation would empower the state-owned Vnesheconombank and the state export-guarantee agency to seize the property of foreign companies that left the Russian market of their own accord, largely under the justification of “premeditated bankruptcy”. President Vladimir Putin himself stated that the government would push to “introduce external management and then transfer these enterprises to those who actually want to work”, noting that “there are enough legal and market instruments for this”. Following the initial proposal, the Russian prosecutor general on 11 March allegedly launched an inspection of the 300 or so international firms that had suspended their operations in Russia at that time. In addition, sources cited in a Wall Street Journal article published on 13 March claimed that said Russian prosecutors had issued warnings to numerous prominent Western multinationals in Russia, threatening asset seizures and arrests of officials of firms looking to withdraw from the country. While the Russian Embassy in the US denied these claims, Russian authorities had reportedly issued the warnings via letters, calls and in-person visits to companies including Coca-Cola Co., McDonald’s Corp., Procter & Gamble Co., International Business Machines Corp. and Yum Brands Inc. Specifically, they reportedly threatened to arrest officials who had criticised the government as well as threatened to seize company assets, including intellectual property. It is important to note at the outset that there has been no indications of such arrests or blanket seizure of company assets or intellectual property since. However, there have been a number of precedents that show Kremlin willingness to do so, including the de facto nationalisation of Renault’s assets in May, the effective seizure of over USD 10 bn worth of jets leased to Russian airlines, and most recently the nationalisation of the Sakhalin-2 gas pipeline, which threatens to force out Shell and Mitsubishi from the project. The current legislative process of the offending bill The proposed legislation, known as the bill “on the external administration for managing organisations” (No. 104796-8), passed its first reading on 24 May. However, Deputies in the State Duma subsequently confirmed that it would not pass its second reading in the Spring Session of parliament, which formally ended on 6 July. Following standard Russian legislative process, the bill will face a further two readings in the lower house, the State Duma, before passing through the upper house, the Federation Council, whereafter the President will sign it into law.
20 Jul 22.
- Over the past 24 hours Russian forces have continued to prioritise limited assaults around Siversk, Bakhmut and Slovyansk to set conditions for future offensives against these key settlements. Positional battles continue along all these axes, though the Russians have made no further confirmed progress around Slovyansk and Siversk. Fierce fighting nevertheless continues along a number of key villages 10km east of Siversk, with the Russian Ministry of Defence claiming counterbattery operations around the town are successfully degrading Ukrainian artillery.
- Further south along the Bakhmut line, Russian forces have made incremental gains over recent days. The Ukrainian General Staff have confirmed that Russian forces have successfully entrenched themselves along the southern outskirts of Pokrovske, just 5km east of Bakhmut itself. Slow but steady consolidation of this area, together with similarly steady progress to the south, will set conditions for an assault against Bakhmut in the coming weeks, with control over stretches of the H-32 and M-03 highways opening the way into the town.
- Along the southern Mykolaiv-Kherson axis, Russian forces continue to prioritise defensive operations to prepare for an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive in the coming weeks. Most notably, Ukrainian forces have seemingly used HIMARS to strike the highly strategic Antonivskyi Bridge that spans the Dnipro River, less than 6km east of the centre of Kherson city. Imagery of the attack appears to show only limited damage to the bridge itself, indicating that it remains useable. The bridge is only one of two crossing points across the large Dnipro River that remain under Russian control, the other being the bridge running across the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant, some 50km to the east. The two bridges remain critical to Russia’s ability to reinforce and hold Kherson city and the wider Kherson-Mykolaiv border region. Of all the frontlines, this one remains the most vulnerable to Ukrainian counterattack. High-precision Ukrainian systems like HIMARS will therefore continue to threaten Russia’s ground lines of communication along this front, with further strikes against the bridge highly likely in an attempt to cut off Russian forces operating on the west bank of the Dnipro.
- Yesterday, 19 July, sources cited by the Wall Street Journal claimed that Ukraine is facing difficulties getting Western weapons to the frontline. The primary issue is the vast array of different weapons systems now deployed, all of which require different types of ammunition, spare parts and training. According to the article’s sources, it has turned into a “logistical nightmare” for the Ukrainian military. Ukraine is now entirely reliant upon Western weapons supplies, and while the US in particular will continue supplying NATO-standard weapons systems, the ad hoc nature of weapons supplies has likely undermined Kyiv’s ability to bring those systems to bear in a timely, efficient and sustainable manner. As the war drags on, however, training and logistics systems will likely improve, mitigating these issues in the longer term.
- Yesterday evening, President Zelensky vowed to deliver “retaliatory strikes” after noting that Russian strikes on Odesa had hit residential buildings, only days after a missile strike on an apartment building in Vinnytsia also left dozes dead. The threat also follows yesterday’s statements by senior Russian officials, including former president and current Deputy Head of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, that peace in Ukraine would be set on “our [Russia’s] terms”. The developments are just the latest indicators reinforcing our previous assessment that both sides, but especially Russia, are likely to only harden their stance. As such, Russian strikes are set to further increase the threat of collateral damage to civilian infrastructure in the weeks and months ahead, likely aimed at demoralising Ukraine and pressuring Kyiv to sign a peace deal set out by Russia.
- However, Zelensky’s vow to launch “retaliatory strikes” in response to civilian casualties carries a moderate escalation risk. Yesterday we reported on the potential provision of longer-range munitions for HIMARS and other MLRS systems. This remains very much unconfirmed, though an announcement could be made at today’s Ramstein defence minister’s summit. Nevertheless, Zelensky’s vow to launch retaliatory strikes risks triggering a tit-for-tat exchange that could see the risk to civilian centres in Ukraine increase.
- Kyiv is highly unlikely to openly target Russian civilian populations in response, given the detrimental impact this would have on Kyiv’s international support. However, if longer-range munitions are provided, Ukraine’s ability to target military targets inside Russia will increase. Ukrainian strikes across the border earlier in the war have already resulted in a number of Russian civilian deaths, and the realities of the current war mean civilian casualties cannot be totally avoided when striking military targets. As such, Russia’s previous pledge to retaliate will increase the risk of an escalation trap that would only reinforce the trend of increasing threats to civilians as the war drags on.
- Meanwhile, the latest US intelligence reiterates that Russia is reportedly preparing to formally annex parts of Ukraine in a similar fashion to the 2014 annexation of Crimea. To that end, Washington has warned that the US would implement additional sanctions on Russia if it attempts to annex more territory, stating that the US is set to unveil more security assistance to Ukraine this week. Although the timeline for the potential referenda remains unclear, it is likely that an attempt to carry out such votes will take place this year – potentially on 11 September – with Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson oblasts the primary targets of annexation plans.
Numerous hawkish Russian military bloggers have over the last 24 hours continued calling for an expansion of the war effort in Ukraine, reflecting the far-right’s growing pressure on the Kremlin to commit to fighting a protracted war in Ukraine. The most influential of these is Igor Strelkov (real name Girkin), a former DNR commander and FSB officer with over 410,000 followers on Telegram. Yesterday, 19 July, Strelkov outlined his demands for a massive expansion of the war effort, bringing together his long-held views in a single manifesto. He has called for: full mobilisation of Russian manpower and the economy; a formal declaration of war (and dropping the façade of the current ‘special military operation’); the implementation of martial law on all frontline regions; the full conquest of Novorossiya (including Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolaiv and Odesa); and the establishment of a Ukrainian puppet government, which would then join Russia via the Union State with Belarus. While Strelkov retains no official position in Russia or the Donbas, and remains a fierce critic of the Kremlin, he is currently the leading dissenting voice of the hard-line ultranationalist wing, with a significant following and constituency of support. While Strelkov’s maximalist objectives represent the extreme view, an increasing number of hawks outside the Kremlin agree that an expansion of the war effort is necessary. For example, Yuri Kotyenok, who himself has over 310,000 followers on Telegram, yesterday claimed that the Kremlin had always been pursuing a “Syrianisation” of the war in Ukraine. He argues that this is because the Kremlin has not set specific deadlines or objectives for the termination of the ‘special military operation’. While clearly in part an attempt to justify the failure of Russia’s initial invasion in February, the comparison to Russia’s war in Syria reaffirms the ultranationalist commitment to fighting a protracted war well beyond 2022. Such calls for these maximalist objectives are likely to place greater and greater pressure on Putin as the war continues. Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether these independent voices will serve the Kremlin’s interests in building a broader consensus for a war footing, or whether Putin will continue to resist such calls for fear that the Russian population is not prepared to accept mobilisation. It should be noted that amongst his wider demands, Strelkov also called for the nationalisation of foreign property. While this is not official Kremlin policy, proposed legislation to empower the state to seize assets of foreign companies that have left Russia indicates this is the potential direction of travel. As such, the extent to which key political constituencies within Russia support such calls for an expansion of the war effort will remain a key trend to watch for foreign firms that retain operations in Russia, particularly if the Kremlin continues on its current path towards partial mobilisation of the economy.
EU: The risk of “cyber spillover” incidents will remain high due to pro-Russian and Ukrainian threat actors’ ongoing tit-for-tat cyber conflict. On 19 July, the Council of the European Union claimed that the growing number of pro-Russian cyber attacks against “essential” organisations across the globe heightens the risk of cyber “spillover” incidents emerging from and escalating the Ukraine conflict. The EU’s warning follows a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that the pro-Russian hacktivist group Killnet launched against several Western government agencies’ websites, including in Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania (see Sibylline Weekly Ukraine Cyber Update – 19 July 2022). In response, pro-Kyiv threat actors, such as Anonymous or the IT Army of Ukraine, have declared “cyber warfare” against these groups. Given that most non-state pro-Russia or pro-Ukraine groups do not have physical assets that can be targeted, there is a realistic probability of this tit-for-tat cyber conflict being targeted against countries and/or organisations being supported by these groups, such as Russia’s or Western countries’ critical infrastructure. While neither side has shown the technical capabilities required to engage in cyber attacks more sophisticated than DDoS or intelligence gathering, such activity could still cause temporary and sporadic operational disruptions to critical infrastructure operators and those dependent on their services in the coming weeks.
19 Jul 22 Cyber Update
- While Pro-Russian threat actors’ publicly disclosed cyber activity has continued to decline during this monitoring period their intensity has maintained pace, highlighted by the Killnet cyber attacks launched against Polish, Lithuanian, and Latvian government websites over the past week. The end of Russia’s operational pause in Ukraine could signal that a spike in pro-Russian cyber attacks is forthcoming. Such cyber attacks will likely take the form of disruptive or intelligence-gathering operations, such as DDoS or data wipers and aimed at expressing Moscow’s political grievances over Western states’ retaliatory actions and/or supporting Moscow’s military operations in Ukraine.
- Publicly disclosed pro-Ukraine hacking operations including data leaks and disruptive cyber activities have also continued to decline modestly during this monitoring period. Nevertheless, further pro-Kyiv cyber campaigns are highly likely to be launched in the coming days in retaliation to the end of Russia’s operational pause in Ukraine. However, these cyber attacks will most likely remain low-level rudimentary attacks that have limited or no impact on Russia-based business operations or Moscow’s military activity in Ukraine.
Russia-linked campaigns decline; however, Pro-Moscow groups will continue launching disruptive cyber attacks against Ukraine and Western countries supporting Kyiv’s operations
- Over the past week, the pro-Russian hacktivist group Killnet has launched a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against several Western government agencies’ websites, such as in Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. The hacktivist group claimed on its Telegram account that these cyber attacks are in response to these countries’ increasingly provocative rhetoric and actions toward the Russian government, such as the Lithuanian government’s decision to expand the restricts on the rail transport of goods through its territory to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave . This activity is indicative of Killnet’s declaration of cyber war against the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and Ukraine in support of Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. Pro-Kyiv hackers’ data leak operations decline; however, the threat posed to Russia-based businesses and Russian government agencies will persist indefinitely.
- On 17 July, a Twitter account allegedly linked to the Anonymous hacktivist collective’s affiliate group Abatu claimed it hacked the Russian Institute for Terrestrial Magnetism and leaked over 3 GB of sensitive data. This post followed the group’s 16 July allegation that they hacked the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping and leaked its “software, user manuals, and more” online. Investigations of these alleged data leaks are still underway, making it difficult to assess the veracity of these claims. If officially confirmed, these incidents would be indicative of Anonymous’ 12 July allegation that the collective has hacked and leaked over 12 m Russian files and emails since the start of the Ukraine conflict on 24 February.
- On 14 July, the Abatu group also claimed to have compromised the China Academy of Telecommunications Research. The group refrained from disclosing why they targeted this China-based entity. However, China has continued to remain one of Russia’s biggest trading partners despite the international community’s growing calls for countries to decrease trade with Russia for fear such funds are being used to support its invasion of Ukraine. Indeed, China’s import of crude oil from Russia has increased by 55 percent year-on-year, amounting to nearly 8.42 m tonnes according to the Chinese General Administration of Customs. As such, this cyber campaign is highly likely aimed at expressing Abatu’s political grievances over China’s continued support of Russia despite its ongoing military offensives in Eastern Ukraine.
- On 13 July, another Twitter account allegedly linked to the Anonymous subgroup NB65 claimed the group hacked the “Lysva mechanical Plant” and took control of the plant’s Domain Name System (DNS) protocol, which turns domain names into IP addresses and allows internet browsers to load webpages, and deployed ransomware onto its systems. If officially confirmed, such activity would be consistent with Anonymous’ targeting of high-profile Russian companies as a part of its #OpRussia campaign aimed at expressing the group’s political grievances over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
While publicly disclosed pro-Russian cyber attacks continued to decline during this monitoring period, the intensity of such activity remains on pace with previous weeks. Indeed, the DDoS attacks launched by Killnet against Polish, Lithuanian, and Latvian government websites underscores the group’s continued support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through launching disruptive and politically motivated cyber attacks against Western states engaged in provocative activities against Moscow. With the end of Russia’s operational pause in Ukraine on 16 July likely to prompt additional Western states to engage in retaliatory actions against Moscow’s military offensives in Eastern Ukraine, there is a heightened risk of further such pro-Russian cyber attacks being launched against Western or Ukraine’s government agencies engaged in this activity. Such cyber campaigns are most likely to take the form of disruptive, destructive, or intelligence-gathering operations, such as DDoS or data-wipers, and aimed expressing political grievances, helping the Russian government assess how Western governments are aiding Ukraine, evaluating the Ukrainian military’s strategies, or limiting Kyiv’s ability to rally a response to its military offensives. Elsewhere, publicly disclosed pro-Ukraine cyber campaigns have also continued to decline during this monitoring period. The cyber attacks that have been recorded or alleged over the previous week have remained focused on leaking data and launching disruptive cyber operations to express their political grievances over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. With the Russian government’s formal end to its operational pause in Ukraine likely to further heightened tensions amongst pro-Kyiv groups, additional cyber attacks by threat actors such as Anonymous and its affiliate groups are highly likely to emerge in the coming weeks. Despite this threat, there is a realistic probability that these cyber attacks will remain rudimentary – such as DDoS, defacement, or data leaks – and have limited or no impact on their target’s operations. Russia-based business operations and/or organisations supporting Moscow’s military activity in Ukraine are expected to be the most at-risk for such activity.
- Following Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s order on 16 July to restart offensive operations “on all axes”, Russian forces have continued to make little to no progress on any front. The Ukrainian General Staff have reported numerous failed assaults over the last 24 hours, including around Siversk and Bakhmut, which remain the most likely principal objectives of this next phase of the war.
- On 18 July, Shoigu inspected the Eastern grouping of Russian forces under the command of Lieutenant General Rustam Muradov, a relatively rare acknowledgement of the presence of the Eastern group in Ukraine. In contrast to the Central and Southern groups, which took part in the battle for Lysychansk, the Eastern group is rarely mentioned. Units of the Eastern Military District, likely remaining under the command of Muradov, have been operating around Izyum, though it remains unclear whether Muradov also retains control of operations north of Kharkiv. Nevertheless, Shoigu tasked Muradov with destroying Ukrainian long-range missile and artillery systems, in particular the Western-supplied HIMARS systems. The Ukrainians have used such systems to good effect in recent weeks, and have claimed dozens of successful attacks on Russian ammunition and logistics depots well behind the frontline.
- North of Kharkiv the Russians remain largely on the defensive. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) has stated that a GUR reconnaissance unit conducted a special operation around the village of Dementiivka, north of Kharkiv city, where a limited Ukrainian counterattack pushed a “large unit” of Russian forces out of the village, though this has not been confirmed.
- On the southern axis along the Kherson-Mykolaiv frontline, the Russians are also still on the defensive. Notably, officials from Kherson oblast have reported that Russian forces are reorienting many of their forces towards more populated areas in the region, likely in an attempt to discourage Ukrainian strikes on their positions. Together with earlier reports of ammunition being stored in culturally significant buildings, such as Kherson City Drama Theatre, this is an indication of the pressure Ukrainian artillery is placing on Russian forces on this axis. In addition, pro-Russian telegram channel Rybar has reported that Ukrainian forces are strengthening their positions near the Mykolaiv-Kryvyi Rih frontline. Similarly, the channel claims that Ukrainian forces have established a pontoon bridge near Arkhanhelskyi, which if true would likely form preparations for a counteroffensive across the Inhulets River.
- On 19 July, officials in Kyiv confirmed Oleksandr Klymenko as the new head of the anti-corruption prosecutors’ office, a key requirement from Ukraine’s international partners. The development represents yet another step forward in Kyiv’s efforts to root out endemic corruption and curtail the influence of oligarchs, conditions that have been demanded by the West in order to receive financial aid. Additionally, Kyiv must now also appoint a new head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, something that Zelensky is likely to prioritise given his increased focus on clamping down on perceived treasonous and corrupt activity and desire to speed up Ukraine’s process of becoming an EU member state. Given Zelensky’s strong public backing, such efforts, as well as further purges within the administration, will likely see increased momentum in the short term. Klymenko’s appointment also follows a serious shake up of the government yesterday when President Zelensky dismissed two key officials, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and head of the State Security Service (SBU) Ivan Bakanov, following accusations that some of their subordinates have engaged in treason and collaborated with Moscow. The Ukrainian Parliament has formally approved the dismissal of Bakanov today, 19 July, with Zelensky set to dismiss a further 28 SBU officials over treason and collaboration accusations. Notably, Washington has confirmed that the US will continue providing Kyiv intelligence, despite the ongoing personnel changes within the SBU.
- On 18 July, Rybar also published a report criticising the establishment of the Free Buryatia Foundation and the New Tuva movement, both of which are anti-war movements comprising of activists of the Buryatian and Tuvan ethnic minorities. Pro-war commentators, including Rybar, have accused the groups of spreading anti-war propaganda as a means of inciting ethnic tensions and divisions. However, the movements do reflect growing perceptions among these communities that ethnic minorities are being used as cannon fodder during operations in Ukraine, mirroring ethno-nationalist narratives that loomed large during the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s.
- The nature of Russia’s military means that units are often recruited along largely ethnic lines in given regions, with Chechen, Bashkir, Tuvan and Tartar units among the most prominent to have been deployed in Ukraine. Only yesterday we reported on Buryatian soldiers refusing to fight in Ukraine, and the Moscow Times’ Russian service has also now reported that 300 Dagestani troops had also refused to fight in Ukraine during the opening phases of the conflict in March.
- According to data collected by IStories, the Muslim-majority region of Dagestan and the Siberian region of Buryatia have both suffered the highest casualty rate of all Russian federal subjects during the course of the war. As such, reports of desertion and refusals to fight among such ethnic units remain highly credible. It is particularly notable furthermore that regions with large ethnic minorities, including Chechnya, Udmurtia and Bashkorotstan, have supplied the largest number of “volunteer” battalions, which Moscow ordered all federal subjects to raise earlier this month. By contrast, majority ethnic-Russian regions have so far produced far fewer such units to be deployed to Ukraine, reinforcing an emerging ethnic discrepancy.
- This will remain a key trend to watch going forward, as perceptions of disproportionate ethnic sacrifice during the Soviet-Afghan war arguably fed into the nationalist movements that helped precipitate the collapse of the Soviet Union. While it remains highly unlikely at this stage that such dynamics will seriously threat the stability of the Russian Federation at this stage, the issue increases the likelihood of anti-war unrest in these ethnic minority regions, as well as risking further dissertations or refusals to fight at the front. Moscow’s repressive domestic policies will likely mitigate the threat of serious domestic unrest to a significant extent in the months ahead. However, as the war drags on and socio-economic conditions deteriorate, narratives of ethnic minorities being deployed as cannon fodder to preserve Slavic lives could become a compelling and powerful message in historically anti-Moscow regions.
International Energy Agency warns of regionwide energy shortages this winter, as non-Russian gas flows unlikely to meet European energy requirements. The head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol, issued a statement yesterday, 18 July, warning that the European Union’s current diversification of energy sources away from Russian gas imports remains insufficient to prevent bloc-wide energy shortages this winter. Birol noted that non-Russian gas sources – referring to Norway, Azerbaijan and Qatar – will not provide sufficient flows to replace Russian imports entirely, particularly during the requisite timeframe to avoid shortages during winter. The warning compounds existing fears in Europe’s energy sector of a total cut in Russian gas flows through Nord Stream 1, with planned maintenance works on 11 July set to conclude in the coming 48 hours. However, the Kremlin is highly likely to delay Nord Stream 1’s re-opening, elevating energy security risks across Europe for the foreseeable future.
Russia: The end of Moscow’s operational pause in Ukraine will further heighten its scrutiny of Western firms under its “anti-fake news” laws. On 18 July, Russia’s internet watchdog Roskomnadzor announced that international technology company Google was fined USD 358m for failing to comply with “fake news” legislation. Roskomnadzor claimed that Google and its subsidiary YouTube failed to removed content, such as information on Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, after repeated requests. This is the latest regulatory fine levied against Google since Roskomnadzor fined the firm nearly USD 1.2m in June for allegedly failing to stop the spread of “unreliable” information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Such actions are indicative of the Russian government’s ongoing crackdown on alleged misinformation/disinformation regarding its military activities in Ukraine. Furthermore, these decisions are in line with Moscow’s implementation of “anti-fake news” laws, which carry a 15-year prison sentence for “knowingly” spreading fake news. Further regulatory fines will highly likely be levied against Western technology firms operating in Russia over the coming weeks, especially with the end of Russia’s operational pause in Ukraine on 16 July resulting in a myriad of new content being posted on these companies’ platforms about the conflict.
Ukraine Refugee Crisis
- Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, almost 9 m refugees have fled Ukraine in the single worst refugee crisis on European soil since the Second World War. The majority of those fleeing the conflict are children, women and the elderly, prompting an increase in organised crime activity in central and eastern Europe. In particular, human trafficking operations will experience a large surge in activity according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
- In the long term, the influx of refugees into the EU may ease labour market challenges. This is dependent on EU governments adopting comprehensive measures to facilitate refugees’ integration into the European labour market and sustained positive social sentiment towards their integration.
- However, whilst European Union member states have provided unprecedented support to Ukrainian refugees to date, central and eastern European states are facing increasing burdens on their emergency infrastructure, particularly in housing and healthcare. As high inflation and soaring energy prices exacerbate socio-economic challenges across the whole European region, sentiment towards refugees will likely deteriorate in the near term, increasing the risks of anti-refugee sentiment manifesting into domestic unrest.
Approximately 5.6m Ukrainian refugees remain in the EU since fleeing the Russian invasion, according to UNHCR data. The majority of these refugees (approximately 65 percent) plan to stay in the EU in the short term. Approximately 9 percent intend to move to another host country within the bloc. The remainder have attempted to return to Ukraine, though a substantial number remain in transit between host countries. Highly porous borders between Ukraine and its neighbouring countries, notably Poland and Romania, make tracking exact refugee numbers difficult, especially the number of refugees returning to Ukraine. As such, while the numbers of refugees remaining in Europe certainly remain high, it is difficult to ascertain how many have already returned to Ukraine and how many have passed through official registration efforts, increasing their vulnerability to organised crime groups (OCGs) active in human trafficking. Large influx of refugees will likely increase European labour force, presenting a surge in labour demand and alleviating rising skill shortages for businesses Approximately 77 percent of Ukrainian refugees remaining in the EU qualify as ‘skilled’, having completed technical or vocational training equivalent to a university degree. The European Central Bank (ECB) estimates there will be a median increase between 0.2 and 0.8 percent in the EU’s labour force in the next two to five years. This corresponds to an increase of between 0.3 and 1.3m workers, assuming that 55 percent of the total number of refugees settle in the EU. Although this figure represents data taken from mid-July, it is likely that the number of refugees entering the EU will increase. As such, the increase in labour supply caused by the influx of Ukrainian refugees is anticipated by the ECB to alleviate the shortages in the EU labour market. If Ukrainian refugees can find work without going through protracted administrative procedures to acquire the right to work in the EU, they will enable the market to respond to the present surge in labour demand and alleviate rising skill shortages for businesses operating in Europe. The EU invoked the Temporary Protection Directive to provide help for the ms of refugees fleeing Ukraine. On 3 March, Spain was one of the first member states to implement the directive, providing asylum for Ukrainian nationals and citizens of other nations residing in Ukraine with valid visas. To date, the UNHCR figures estimate around 3.6 m refugees from Ukraine are registered for Temporary Protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe. Despite the EU’s swift policy action, obstacles in the labour market make it difficult for refuges to integrate into host countries’ labour markets, especially in the short term. Indeed, skill mismatches, limited local language skills and issues with certification recognition will act as barriers to refugee integration. As such, businesses are unlikely to benefit from the surge in labour force unless administrative challenges are quickly addressed and businesses implement additional measures, such as vocational or language training, to help the integration of refugees into Western labour markets. The proportion of refugees of working age will be critical in determining the impact on the European labour force. When Russia started its offensive on 24 February, the Ukrainian government declared martial law across the country, prohibiting men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country. As a result, 90 percent of refugees fleeing to Europe comprise elderly people, children and women of working age. Consequently, unless governments prioritise the provision of accessible childcare facilities and care homes for the elderly, the integration of Ukrainian refugees into European labour markets will face significant challenges in the short to long term, impeding additional labour inflows for businesses in afflicted nations.
Human trafficking activity in neighbouring countries is highly likely to increase, elevating reputational and supply chain risks for businesses
Previous trends in conflicts such as the Russo-Georgian 2008 war and the Syrian 2011 civil war indicate that human trafficking groups increase their activities significantly during major armed conflicts. Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, received a large surge in requests from European governments to assist trafficked persons in Ukraine and other European countries since the outbreak of the war. According to Fabrice Leggeri, Frontex Executive Director, criminals operating along borders between EU countries and Ukraine have been increasing their activities at an unprecedented rate targeting vulnerable refugees, mainly women and children. Romania has requested the most assistance from Frontex in dealing with human trafficking issues. As a result, it has deployed over 200 officers to screen refugees arriving from Ukraine. Businesses operating in the EU will face heightened reputational and supply chain risks so long as human trafficking remains a concern. Since more than five million refugees remain outside Ukraine, countries bordering Ukraine, including Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, are expected to experience increased human trafficking risks in the coming weeks. The largest reputational and operational risks are likely to be faced by businesses with connections to transport, such as cross-border freight shipments by rail and road, or shipping operations in the Black Sea in countries like Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania.
Reversal of Polish position on refugees is likely to escalate ethno-religious tensions and social instability if public sentiment fades
As of 11 July, Polish border guards have registered approximately 4.6m border crossings from Ukraine to Poland. According to the UNHCR, this represents more than half of the approximately 9.1 m crossings out of Ukraine since the conflict began. Around 1.2 m Ukrainians have chosen to apply for temporary protection by registering for PESEL, the national identity number, with the Polish government. This decision makes it easier for them to access healthcare, education and social security. Despite historically high levels of anti-migrant sentiment, particularly during the surge in Syrian refugees into the European Union during the 2015 Global Migration Crisis, to date Polish anti-refugee sentiment in the context of the current crisis has remained low. Nevertheless, there are some indicators that more severe sentiment could develop in future. In border towns near the Ukrainian border, fears that migrants will place a strain on the economy will contribute to negative attitudes towards refugees at the community level. This will also heighten the risk of ethno-religious conflicts and social instability closer to central Poland, particularly Warsaw, where the refugee surge has exacerbated a housing crisis. Meanwhile, tensions related to non-white migrants and refugees remain high; on 1 March, hundreds of self-identified right-wing nationalists roamed through Przemysl, a city bordering Ukraine and Poland, harassing refugees who appeared to be of African, South Asian or Middle Eastern origin. Businesses working with minority groups will likely face elevated risks in the near to long term, especially if the country’s socio-economic conditions deteriorate and the economy begins to suffer. Meanwhile, refugees crossing the Poland-Belarus border have also experienced hostility, with many of them being summarily pushed back to Belarus. Here they face serious abuses, including beatings and rape by border guards and other security forces, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). In March, at least one person drowned and another disappeared in the course of being pushed away. HRW has noted that the Polish authorities have an obligation to prevent more fatalities and suffering by ensuring access to the asylum procedure and allowing humanitarian assistance workers and independent observers access to currently restricted border areas. Ongoing disputes along the border will elevate reputational risks for businesses working with asylum seekers who fail to receive appropriate assistance.
Disruption to agri-food markets will exacerbate migration flows from North Africa; co-operation with EU members on migration will face long-standing issues
The Russia-Ukraine conflict and the imposition of Western sanctions on Moscow have disrupted global supply chains and caused a sharp increase in commodity prices, particularly regarding food and energy. This has had major implications for the Middle East and North Africa region, where most countries are largely reliant on agri-food imports. While Gulf countries have been able to balance food inflation with rising energy sector revenues, others, such as Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia, have been particularly vulnerable to the volatility. Furthermore, water scarcity and droughts are threatening the recovery of winter wheat supplies in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. This is likely destabilise the socio-economic health of these countries even more. As a result, the sustained spill-over effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are likely to trigger in an increased influx of refugees and migrants towards Europe. This will compound migration issues in the coming, which traditionally form the peak period for migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The prospective increase in Mediterranean crossings has already prompted concerns among EU members, with Spain highlighting the issue during the latest NATO Summit in Madrid. This follows attempts by at least 2,000 migrants to breach the border fence separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco, which resulted in several fatalities. Notably, Morocco and Spain have strengthened bilateral relations since March with a deal to tackle irregular migration and Madrid’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, changing a long-standing policy. However, the developments exemplify the deeply politicised nature underpinning migration co-operation between EU and North African governments. Nonetheless, there is a realistic possibility that the Ukraine refugee crisis may prompt European countries to revaluate and reshape the EU’s migration policy and deepen co-operation with North African governments. However, periods of socio-economic pressure, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, have actually resulted in exacerbated anti-migrant sentiments across Europe. Immigration will likely become a more divisive issue at the EU-level and within several European countries as the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to affect living costs. Therefore, a multi-front increase in migrant flows may trigger tougher prevention, expulsion and deportation measures, particularly with the easing of movement and travel restrictions after pandemic-related lockdowns. Furthermore, EU members might cite their current efforts towards hosting Ukrainian refugees to avoid taking in other refugees or participating in joint migration mechanisms to pursue effective re-settlement approaches.
It is almost certain that the number of Ukrainian refugees leaving the country will continue to increase in the coming months. This number may even reach around 10 m. The huge intake of refugees by Poland and other countries bordering Ukraine will continue to exacerbate economic and financial pressures and to strain government services like healthcare. Furthermore, increased socio-economic health risks will drive ethno-religious tensions in the near term. Furthermore, Europe continues to struggle with the current energy crisis and surging levels of inflation. There is therefore a realistic possibility that European countries will be forced to prioritise their own domestic needs, leading to a decrease in aid for Ukrainian refugees in the near term. This will simply exacerbate the existing humanitarian crisis. The Ukrainian refugee crisis therefore represents an opportunity for emboldened OCGs and smugglers across North Africa to respond to an increased demand along the Mediterranean route. In parallel, it will also likely increase instances of cross-border trafficking of other commodities and illicit goods, such as drugs and weapons. Though criminalised, irregular migration is broadly tolerated, with limited sanctions imposed on countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, with only external pressure from the EU or member states pushing for countries to adopt a tougher approach. Greater co-operation with the EU is likely to prompt several North African governments to undertake proactive measures to curb migration, heightening the risk of unrest in host communities, violent clashes with the security forces and human rights violations. Furthermore, a deteriorating socio-economic outlook coupled with large migrant communities unable to leave their transit country will foster the growth of significant informal economic sectors across North Africa.
18 Jul 22.
- On 16 July, Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu officially announced the end of the operational pause in Ukraine. Shoigu has ordered both the Southern and Central groupings of Russian forces, commanded by Sergei Surovikin and Alexander Lapin respectively, to increase offensive operations on all axes of attack. However, Russian forces have over the weekend launched only limited assaults at multiple key points, with few confirmed territorial gains. A ten-day operational pause is far from sufficient for a major reconstitution of Russian forces after the battle of Lysychansk, and this relatively short break likely explains the absence thus far of major offensive action following Shoigu’s order. It is thus likely that more time will be required to rest and reinforce Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine before major offensives materialise that could significantly alter the frontline.
- Nevertheless, the priority for Russian forces in the coming week will be to set conditions for larger assaults on Siversk, Bakhmut and Slovyansk. Over the weekend the Ukrainian General Staff confirmed their forces had successfully repulsed several smaller-scale Russian ground assaults around these key settlements. However, despite the failure to make much further ground, Russian forces have stepped up aerial reconnaissance together with artillery and missile bombardments against these three principal targets, increasing the pressure on the Ukrainians.
- The Russian military continues to face morale and discipline issues, underlining continued poor conditions at the front which the short ten-day operational pause this month is unlikely to have sufficiently alleviated. The Russian media outlet Mediazone on 17 July published claims that seven soldiers from the Russian region of Buryatia (Siberian Federal District) had received threats from their commanders after refusing to fight in Ukraine. According to Mediazone, 77 soldiers had filed reports refusing to fight, complaining that “there was not a single tank left in the brigade”, while the Ukrainians had “rocket launchers and howitzers”. The soldiers’ commanders allegedly refused to accept the reports, threatening to keep them locked in a garage for 3-4 days in punishment, before being sent to “rehabilitation centres” near Luhansk. The report is the latest indication that the lack of sufficient rotation of units and the absence of meaningful rest periods continues to undermine Russian morale and thus overall combat effectiveness. Shoigu’s order to intensify offensive operations on all axes will only reinforce this exhaustion among various Russian units, undermining efforts to seize new territory.
- Nevertheless, over the weekend there have been further indications that Moscow intends to continue military operations beyond Donetsk oblast, which remains the principal goal of this next phase of the war. On 16 July the head of the separatist Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and the head of the Russian-backed Kharkiv oblast civil-military administration, Vitaly Ganchev, signed a mutual cooperation and defence agreement. Ganchev stated on 6 July that new administrations will be set up across the occupied Kharkiv region, including Kulyansk, Izyum, Kharkiv and Chuhuiv, the vast majority of which is currently not under Russian control.
- In this respect, Russian forces have continued artillery and missile strikes across the Kharkiv frontline, though ground operations have over the last week remained primarily defensive. Nevertheless, Russian sources have claimed that their forces struck the Kharton Express research enterprise in the Kyivskyi district of Kharkiv on 17 July, where British and Polish military instructors were allegedly conducting training. The Kharkiv frontline is not currently a priority for Russian forces. However, if and when progress is made in Donetsk oblast in the coming months, efforts to take further territory in Kharkiv oblast, a constituent part of the so-called Novorossiya region, will likely increase thereafter.
- On 17 July the Ukrainian Navy claimed that numerous Russian warships have been redeployed from the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol, in occupied Crimea, to the port of Novorossiysk, southeast of the Kerch Strait. While a major redeployment has not yet been confirmed, satellite imagery and other OSINT have over recent weeks indicated a steady shift in Russian naval activity in the Black Sea. Frequently patrolled areas by surface warships have steadily moved east and south around Crimea following the sinking of the Moskva in April.
- This is likely for two principal reasons. The first is the now serious threat of West-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles, which has denied Russian surface vessels the relative impunity they enjoyed at the beginning of the war, forcing them further from the Ukrainian coastline. The second is the likely reorientation of forces to protect the strategic Kerch Bridge, which connects occupied Crimea with mainland Russia. Russian forces have deployed radar barges and smoke generators around the bridge in recent weeks in a bid to protect it, and a reorientation of forces towards Novorossiysk would mean surface vessels are in closer proximity to protect the bridge and extend their anti-air umbrellas when on patrol. Ukrainian commanders have previously singled out the bridge as a major strategic target for their forces, and all indications suggest Moscow is taking this threat very seriously. As previously assessed, a Ukrainian strike against the bridge remains a key trigger point for large-scale and disproportionate long-range attacks against Ukrainian ground targets, including potentially “decision-making centres” in Kyiv and elsewhere.
- On 15 July the Russian-backed occupying administration of Kherson oblast introduced new laws criminalising criticism of the Russian authorities, the military, or the invasion of Ukraine. The new law allows occupying authorities to deport Ukrainians deemed guilty, and is the latest escalation in repression measures to control enduring anti-Russian resistance in the south. However, in a notable development that reflects the confusing picture in the southern occupied areas, Ukrainian Mayor of occupied Enerhodar Dmytro Orlov claimed on 17 July that Russian authorities in neighbouring Zaporizhzhia oblast are fabricating “non-existent partisans”. According to Orlov, local authorities are doing so to claim to their commanders that they are successfully mitigating the partisan threat and to justify repressive policies.
- The Ukrainian Resistance Centre remains the principal source for reporting on Ukrainian partisan activity behind the frontline, and it has reported assassinations and partisan activity targeting railway infrastructure, in particular, this month. However, Orlov’s claims stand as a reminder that local Russian authorities and military commanders are likely facing significant pressure to report success to their superiors, meaning fabrications of Ukrainian partisan activity to justify inactivity or otherwise obfuscate other failures remain very plausible.
The major military development over the weekend was the end of the Russian operational pause in Ukraine, which will likely see a steady intensification of offensive operations along multiple fronts in the coming weeks. Deputy Head of the Donetsk People’s Militia Eduard Basurin stated today, 18 July, that the “liberation” of the remaining Donbas territories, namely Donetsk oblast, will be completed in 2022. While he did not provide a specific date, the statement reinforces the fact that the conquest of the remaining 45 percent of Donetsk oblast remains the principal objective for Russian forces in this next phase of the war. Meanwhile, the most notable political development saw President Volodymyr Zelensky dismiss two key law enforcement officials on 17 July: Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and head of the State Security Service (SBU) Ivan Bakanov. Zelensky removed the pair following accusations that some of their subordinates have engaged in treason and collaboration with Moscow. Kyiv has appointed First Deputy Head Malyuk Vasyl as acting head of the SBU until a replacement is finalised. The development marks the most notable shake-up of the government since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. It ultimately indicates growing tensions within the Ukrainian government amid enduring concerns of collaboration and Russian penetration of state institutions. The SBU has opened numerous cases against collaboration and intelligence operatives across the country. This has included individuals inside Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, in the case of a parliamentary aide accused earlier this month of passing sensitive information to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Further reshuffles remain highly likely in the short term as Zelensky continues to clamp down on perceived treasonous activity, in particular accusations that certain insider forces facilitated Russia’s ability to capture large parts of southern Ukraine early on in the invasion. Zelensky’s overwhelming public support will strengthen his hand in conducting such high-profile purges during wartime. In addition, the stated aim of pushing through EU-mandated anti-corruption reforms will also provide Zelensky with a strong mandate to shake up leading state institutions. (Source: Sibylline)
23 Jul 22. U.S. pledges more military aid to Ukraine, peace seems far off.
- Grain export deal signed, wider truce looks distant
- Zelenskiy: No ceasefire without recovering conquered lands
- U.S. announces $270 million in fresh support
- Lithuania lifts Kaliningrad rail ban – Russia’s RIA
The United States promised more military support for Ukraine, including drones, and is doing preliminary work on whether to send fighter aircraft, as fighting raged on in the east, with the war about to enter its sixth month.
Moscow and Kyiv signed a landmark deal on Friday to unblock grain exports from Black Sea ports. However, representatives declined to sit at the same table and avoided shaking hands at the agreement ceremony in Istanbul, reflecting wider enmity.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed Friday’s agreement as unlocking around $10bn worth of grain exports, needed to ease a food crisis.
But on the war, Zelenskiy said there could be no ceasefire unless lost territory was retaken.
“Freezing the conflict with the Russian Federation means a pause that gives the Russian Federation a break for rest,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
“Society believes that all the territories must be liberated first, and then we can negotiate about what to do and how we could live in the centuries ahead.”
There have been no breakthroughs on the front lines since Russian forces seized the last two Ukrainian-held cities in the eastern province of Luhansk in late June and early July.
Russian forces failed to establish control over Ukraine’s second-biggest power plant at Vuhlehirska, northeast of Donetsk, and troops tried to advance west from the city of Lysychansk but were pushed back, the Ukrainian armed forces’ general staff said.
In the southern town of Nikopol on the Dnipro river, continued Russian shelling killed at least one person, a Ukrainian official said on his Telegram channel.
“A 60-year-old woman died,” said Oleksandr Vilkul, head of the military administration of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine.
The Russian attack on Nikopol in the south, target of more than 250 rockets in the past week, damaged 11 homes and farm buildings, cut off gas and water pipes, and destroyed a railway track, he added.
Up river in the Dnipropetrovsk region, rockets targeted a town and nearby villages, the region’s governor, Valentyn Reznychenko, said on Saturday.
In the northeastern, “several powerful strikes” hit the centre of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Saturday morning, Mayor Ihor Terekhov wrote in a post on Telegram.
Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment by Reuters outside regular hours.
Kyiv hopes that its gradually increasing supply of Western arms, such as U.S. High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), will allow it to recapture territory.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday its forces had destroyed four HIMARS systems between July 5 and Wednesday, refuted by the United States and Ukraine.
Ukraine’s mayor of Russian-occupied city Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, reported that two explosions were heard in the early hours of Saturday at the Azov Sea resort Kyrylivka, where he said Russia had moved material to avoid becoming targets for HIMARS.
“They hoped that neither our HIMARS nor the Armed Forces and the resistance movement would get them there. But someone definitely got them,” Fedorov said from territory still in Ukrainian hands.
Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.
The White House on Friday announced $270 million in fresh support for Kyiv, saying it was doing preliminary work on whether to send fighter aircraft, although such a move would not happen in the near term.
The Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has caused Europe’s biggest conflict since 1945, forcing millions to flee and turning entire cities to rubble. The Kremlin says it is engaged in a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its allies say the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.
Friday’s deal to allow certain exports to be shipped from Black Sea ports seeks to avert famine among tens of millions of people in poorer nations by delivering more wheat, sunflower oil, fertiliser and other products to world markets, including for humanitarian needs.
A blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet, trapping tens of millions of tonnes of grain and stranding many ships, has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks and, along with Western sanctions, stoked food and energy price inflation.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the crisis, blaming sanctions for slowing its own food and fertiliser exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its Black Sea ports.
A United Nations official said a separate pact signed on Friday would smooth such Russian exports and that the U.N. welcomed U.S. and European Union clarifications that their sanctions would not apply to their shipment.
“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea. A beacon of hope… possibility… and relief in a world that needs it more than ever,” said U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Russia’s RIA news agency reported that Lithuania has lifted a ban on the rail transport of sanctioned goods into and out of the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, an enclave sandwiched between Poland and the Baltic state, cut off from the rest of Russia.
Lithuania had imposed the ban in June, triggering an outcry from Moscow and a promise of swift retaliation. (Source: Reuters)
22 Jul 22. Lithuania pledges more armoured personnel carriers for Ukraine. Apart from delivering armoured vehicles, Lithuania has plans to hold extensive training for the Ukrainian forces.
The Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence has announced plans to support Ukraine in the form of additional armoured personnel carriers and training.
The announcement was made by Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anušauskas at the Ukraine Defence Contact Group meeting.
The minister said the government will soon ship M113 and M577 armoured personnel carriers and ammunition to Ukraine.
He added that Lithuania has been a “substantial contributor” of the M113 armoured vehicles to the war-torn nation.
The lightweight M113 is capable of amphibious operations on land and in water. The speed of the vehicle is 67.6kmph on land and 5.8kmph in water.
So far, Lithuania has delivered assistance worth over €123m to Ukraine.
Apart from the M113s, the country’s military aid to date includes Stinger air defence systems, anti-armour weapons, 120mm mortars, small arms, body armour vests, and helmets.
Lithuania has also delivered drones, anti-drone equipment, surveillance radars, and Bayraktar TB2, along with ammunition.
The minister proposed to hold extensive training for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
He said: “Ukraine has identified key requirement for courses and the Lithuanian Armed Forces is ready to meet it. We currently have requests for military police officer and demining personnel training.”
Lithuania is expected to deploy over ten military instructors to the UK to train nearly 10,000 Ukrainian troops for a period of three months.
Earlier this month, the first group of soldiers from Ukraine arrived in the UK for the military training programme.
The UK has also decided to deliver artillery guns, drones, and hundreds of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine in the next few weeks.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the country will supply over 20 M109 155mm self-propelled guns and 36 L119 105mm artillery guns.
The package will also include counter-battery radar systems, over 50,000 rounds of ammunition to equip the existing artillery, 1,600 anti-tank weapons, and drones.
22 Jul 22. Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister visits Royal Navy mine-hunting training as part of UK visit.
Ukraine’s Volodymyr Havrylov and UK Armed Forces Minister James Heappey met Ukrainian sailors being trained by the Royal Navy in Scotland and visited infantry training by the Army in England.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister has met soldiers and sailors training in the UK during a visit to see first-hand Britain’s ongoing support for his country.
The UK has taken a leading role in supporting Ukraine in its efforts to defend itself from Russia’s illegal invasion, providing more military equipment than any country other than the US, and launching a scheme to train 10,000 Ukrainian personnel.
Volodymyr Havrylov met with UK Armed Forces Minister James Heappey and visited parliamentarians to discuss what further support is required to meet the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Both ministers then travelled to Scotland, where Ukrainian sailors are being trained by the Royal Navy to operate Sandown Class Minehunter vessels, ahead of the sale of two such vessels in a deal agreed last year under the Ukrainian Naval Capabilities Enhancement Programme (UNCEP).
Ministers Havrylov and Heappey spoke with trainees and the Royal Navy instructors, observing them practicing key skills at sea, such as weapon drills and damage control, whilst learning to operate the machinery on the vessels.
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said: “The intensity with which the Ukrainian soldiers and sailors are training is something to behold. They work with the focus of troops who know they’ll be fighting in a war in just a few short weeks’ time.”
Delivering training that matches that intensity and focus is not straightforward. The Royal Navy and the British Army are working long hours and drawing on all their operational experience to make sure their new Ukrainian friends are sent into combat with the best chance of victory.
Deputy Defence Minister Volodymyr Havrylov said: “I saw the brotherhood of Ukrainian and British soldiers working together to achieve a common goal – strengthening the combat capabilities of the Ukrainian army. We are very grateful to the government and people of the United Kingdom for their invaluable contribution to Ukraine’s success in repelling the Russian aggressors.”
The two ministers also visited one of the locations where Ukrainian soldiers are being trained in essential battle-winning skills in a major new UK-led military programme.
More than 1,000 UK service personnel are involved in the programme, which is taking place at military sites across the North West, South West and South East of the UK. Each course will last several weeks and will be conducted by elements from 11 Security Force Assistance Brigade.
The training will give volunteer recruits with limited military experience the skills to be effective in frontline combat. Based on the UK’s basic soldier training, the course covers weapons handling, battlefield first aid, fieldcraft, patrol tactics and the Law of Armed Conflict.
The visit of Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister came in the same week as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace revealed plans to supply scores of artillery guns, and hundreds of drones and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine in the coming weeks. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
22 Jul 22. Ukraine’s ports to reopen as grain deal ‘agreed.’ Ukraine and Russia, both among the world’s biggest exporters of food, did not immediately confirm Thursday’s announcement by the office of the Turkish presidency. But in a late night video address Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hinted his country’s Black Sea ports could soon be unblocked. The blockade by Russia’s Black Sea fleet has reduced supplies to markets around the world and sent grain prices soaring since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into neighbouring Ukraine on Feb. 24. The agreement is due to be signed this lunch time, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s office said. The United Nations and Turkey have been working for two months to broker what Guterres called a “package” deal – to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports and facilitate Russian grain and fertiliser shipments. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
21 Jul 22. UK to send scores of artillery guns and hundreds of drones to Ukraine. Ben Wallace reveals latest British military support for Ukraine, including plans to send 50,000 artillery shells and hundreds more anti-tank weapons in the coming weeks. Javelin anti-tank missiles and other UK military aid being sent to Ukraine earlier this year. The UK will supply scores of artillery guns, hundreds of drones and hundreds more anti-tank weapons to Ukraine in the coming weeks, the Defence Secretary has revealed. The delivery of the new equipment will significantly step up the UK’s support as the country fights to repel Russia’s brutal and unjustified invasion. More than 20 M109 155mm self-propelled guns and 36 L119 105mm artillery guns will soon arrive from the UK, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced in an update to Parliament today. Counter-battery radar systems and more than 50,000 rounds of ammunition for Ukraine’s existing Soviet era artillery will also follow, he added. This equipment will bolster the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against Russia’s indiscriminate use of artillery. The UK will also send more than 1,600 more anti-tank weapons in the coming weeks, along with drones, including hundreds of loitering aerial munitions. So far 6,900 NLAW, Javelin, Brimstone and other anti-tank weapons, as well as 16,000 artillery rounds, six Stormer vehicles fitted with Starstreak anti-air missile launchers and hundreds of missiles have been sent to Ukraine. The UK has also supplied maritime Brimstone missiles, multiple launch rocket systems, 120 armoured fighting vehicles and large quantities of non-lethal aid including more than 82,000 helmets, 8,450 sets of body armour and over 5,000 night vision devices.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The scale and range of equipment we are providing demonstrates the strength of our resolve. Together with our international partners, we will ensure Ukraine has the tools to defend their country from Putin’s illegal invasion. The uplift comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in June that the UK would provide another £1 bn of military support to Ukraine. The funding, which brings UK military support and broader regional activity since the outbreak of war to £2.3bn, will herald a new phase in the international community’s support, enabling Ukraine to go beyond their valiant defence against the illegal Russian invasion and mount offensive operations. The next phase of military support, paid for with this additional funding, will include even more sophisticated air defence systems, uncrewed aerial vehicles and innovative new electronic warfare equipment.”
It comes after the UK launched a major training operation for Ukrainian forces, with the potential to train up to 10,000 soldiers. The Defence Secretary recently visited some of the first Ukrainian soldiers taking part in the programme, which is taking place at sites across the North West, South West and South East of the UK. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
21 Jul 22. MI6 chief says Russia ‘about to run out of steam’ in Ukraine. Head of UK secret intelligence service describes war by president Vladimir Putin a ‘strategic failure.’ Richard Moore said a slowing of Russia’s advance had given the Ukrainian military a chance to strike back. MI6 chief Richard Moore said Russia was “about to run out of steam” in Ukraine, giving the country’s military a chance to strike back in the conflict he described as a “strategic failure” for Vladimir Putin. Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in his first overseas speech as head of the UK secret intelligence service, Moore said Russia would face trouble supplying troops and other logistical challenges in the coming weeks. “The Russians will increasingly find it difficult to supply manpower and material over the next few weeks. They will have to pause in some way and that will give the Ukrainians opportunities to strike back,” he said. Moore said that while the conflict was “obviously not over”, Russia was making only marginal progress in its campaign. “The Russian forces have made some incremental progress over recent weeks and months, but it’s tiny amounts. We’re talking about a small number of miles of advance,” he said. “When they take a town, there’s nothing left of it . . . it is obliterated, and so I think they’re about to run out of steam.” Moore said it was critical that Ukraine demonstrated its ability to retaliate against Russia, saying it would help ensure continuing high morale and send a strong message to Europe. “It will be an important reminder to the rest of Europe that this is a winnable campaign by the Ukrainians because we are about to go into a pretty tough winter,” he said. “I don’t want to sound like a character from Game of Thrones but winter is coming and clearly in that atmosphere with the sort of pressure on gas suppliers and all the rest, we’re in for a tough time.” Russian forces seized the whole of Luhansk province in eastern Ukraine at the beginning of July. After a brief operational pause, they have resumed their offensive and are advancing from the north, east and south-east on the cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. These are crucial to Ukraine’s defence of Donetsk province and the rest of the Donbas region, which Putin has vowed to “liberate”. The Russian advance is slow and grinding, relying on intense artillery fire to flatten Ukrainian positions. In recent weeks, Ukraine has acquired multiple launch rocket systems known as Himars from the US to target ammunition depots and slow Moscow’s artillery machine. Satellite data from Nasa has shown the Russian bombardment of the frontline has been less intense, suggesting the Himars may be having the desired effect. Recommended War in Ukraine: free to read Rebuilding one street in Ukraine Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, continue to push back against Russian troops north of Kherson in the south of the country, although Kyiv’s readiness for a large-scale counteroffensive is still unclear. (Source: FT.com)
21 Jul 22. Russia restarting major gas pipeline, expands Ukraine war goals.
- Nord Stream pipeline restarts with reduced capacity
- Moscow says southern Ukraine is also in focus now
- U.S. says any annexations would not go unchallenged
- US estimates 15,000 Russian forces killed in war so far
Russia is resuming supplies of gas via a major pipeline to Europe on Thursday, the pipeline operator said, amid concerns Moscow would use its vast energy exports to push back against Western pressure over its invasion of Ukraine.
The resumption of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline at reduced capacity following a 10-day maintenance break could take several hours, a spokesperson for the operator told Reuters.
The pipeline restart came after comments from Russia’s foreign minister showed the Kremlin’s goals had expanded during the five-month war.
Sergei Lavrov told state news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday that Russia’s military “tasks” in Ukraine now go beyond the eastern Donbas region.
Lavrov also said Moscow’s objectives will expand further if the West keeps supplying Kyiv with long-range weapons such as the U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
“That means the geographical tasks will extend still further from the current line,” he said, adding peace talks made no sense at the moment.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov later told RIA Moscow is not closing the door on talks with Kyiv despite Lavrov’s comments.
Concern that Russian supplies of gas sent through Nord Stream 1 pipeline could be stopped by Moscow prompted the European Union to tell member states on Wednesday to cut gas usage by 15% until March as an emergency step.
“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, describing a full cut-off of Russian gas flows as “a likely scenario” for which “Europe needs to be ready”.
A spokesperson for Austria’s OMV said Russia’s Gazprom signalled it would deliver around 50% of agreed gas volumes via Nord Stream on Thursday, levels seen before the shutdown.
Russia, the world’s largest gas exporter, has denied Western accusations of using its energy supplies as a tool of coercion, saying it has been a reliable energy supplier.
As for its oil, Russia will not send supplies to the world market if a price cap is imposed below the cost of production, Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak as saying on Wednesday.
FIGHTING TOLL MOUNTS
On the battlefront, the Ukrainian military has reported heavy and sometimes fatal Russian shelling amid what it says were largely failed attempts by Russian ground forces to advance in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions that make up the Donbas.
“In the Luhansk region, there is probably not a single square metre of land left untouched by Russian artillery,” Serhiy Gaidai, the regional governor, said on the Telegram messaning app. “Shelling is very intense. They stop only when the metal ‘gets tired’.”
In the previous 24 hours, Ukrainian forces said they had killing more than 100 Russian soldiers in the south and east and destroyed 17 vehicles, some of them armoured.
The Russian-installed administration in the partially occupied Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia said Ukraine had conducted a drone strike on a nuclear power station there, but the reactor was not damaged.
Multiple blasts were also heard in the Russian-controlled southern region of Kherson overnight and into Thursday, Russian news agency TASS reported.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
Russia’s invasion has killed thousands, displaced millions and flattened cities, particularly in Russian-speaking areas in the east and southeast of Ukraine. It has also raised global energy and food prices and increased fears of famine in poorer countries as Ukraine and Russia are both major grain producers.
The United States estimates that Russian casualties in Ukraine so far have reached around 15,000 killed and perhaps 45,000 wounded, CIA Director William Burns said on Wednesday.
Russia classifies military deaths as state secrets even in times of peace and has not updated its official casualty figures frequently during the war.
US OPPOSES ANNEXATIONS
The United States, which had said on Tuesday that it saw signs Russia was preparing to formally annex territory it has seized in Ukraine, promised that it would oppose annexation.
“Again, we’ve been clear that annexation by force would be a gross violation of the UN Charter, and we would not allow it to go unchallenged. We would not allow it to go unpunished,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a regular daily briefing on Wednesday.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and supports Russian-speaking breakaway entities – the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) – in those provinces, together known as the Donbas.
Lavrov is the most senior figure to speak openly of Russia’s war goals in territorial terms, nearly five months after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Feb. 24 invasion while denying that Russia intended to occupy its neighbour.
Then, Putin said his aim was to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine – a statement dismissed by Kyiv and the West as a pretext for an imperial-style war of expansion.
Lavrov told RIA Novosti that geographical realities had changed since Russian and Ukrainian negotiators held peace talks in Turkey in late March that failed to produce any breakthrough.
“Now the geography is different, it’s far from being just the DPR and LPR, it’s also Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions and a number of other territories,” he said, referring to territories well beyond the Donbas that Russian forces have wholly or partly seized.(Source: Reuters)
20 Jul 22. Defense Leaders Meet to Bolster Ukraine Support. Defense leaders from some 50 nations met today as part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group to discuss the ongoing international support provided to Ukraine as it fights to maintain its sovereignty following an illegal invasion by Russia.
“Russia’s cruel and unprovoked invasion has spurred the international community into action,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III during a briefing after the group’s fourth meeting. “Today’s meeting is just another sign of the way that nations of goodwill are rising to the moment. The security assistance that we are rushing to Ukraine is making a real difference in real time. And everyone in the contact group has been inspired by the courage of the Ukrainian people and the skill of the Ukrainian military.”
In attendance at today’s meeting, Austin said, were Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Ukrainian Deputy Defense Chief Lt. Gen. Yevhen Moisiuk, who provided critical insight into what’s happening in Ukraine and what Ukraine needs.
“I’m grateful to these brave leaders for taking the time to update us on Ukraine’s most urgent requirements,” Austin said. “They also provided us with an important battlefield update. And they described how Russia is massing artillery and rocket fire in its desperate, aggressive push to seize sovereign Ukrainian territory in the Donbas.”
The equipment and support provided by nations involved in the contact group has already demonstrated value in the way it’s been successfully employed by the Ukrainians, Austin said.
“Ukrainian forces are now using long-range rocket systems to great effect, including HIMARS provided by the United States and other systems from our allies and partners,” Austin said. “Ukraine’s defenders are pushing hard to hold Russian advances in the Donbas, and the international community has also worked hard to provide Ukraine with better coastal defense capabilities. And that directly contributed to Ukraine’s victory on Snake Island, and it has helped prevent a Russian landing in Odesa.”
Still, Russia is keeping up the pressure, Austin said, and nations involved in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group will continue to help Ukraine keep up it’s defense by providing even more support.
“We’re pushing hard to maintain and intensify the momentum of donations,” he said. “And that includes many new announcements made this morning.”
Some nations, Austin said, are providing training to the Ukrainian armed forces; others are refurbishing Ukrainian equipment, while some are providing spare parts.
“Countries — including the Czech Republic, Poland and the U.K. — are working with their domestic industrial bases to find ways to help Ukraine even more quickly,” Austin said. “Other countries, such as our Baltic and Australian allies, continue to generously deliver items from their own stockpiles.”
The secretary called out Poland for acting as a “linchpin” for security assistance efforts, as well as for its assistance, so far, of more than $1.7 bn in military equipment. He also thanked Norway for providing Ukraine with its advanced surface-to-air missile system.
“I’m very thankful to these countries and to all the countries that have offered aid,” he said. “I’m confident that these efforts will continue to grow.”
U.S. security assistance to Ukraine so far has included, among other things, over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, more than 6,500 Javelin anti-armor systems, and more than 700 Switchblade drones.
The U.S. has also provided 126 155-mm howitzers with up to 411,000 155-mm artillery rounds and a dozen High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems along with associated ammunition.
“As you know, we’ve provided the Ukrainians with 12 HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems to further strengthen their long-range fires capability,” Austin said. “I think that everyone here understands the difference that they’ve made on the ground.”
The secretary said the U.S. will send four more HIMARS to Ukraine, for a total of 16, and that an official announcement about that will come later this week when another security assistance package is announced. That package will be the 16th sent to Ukraine, so far, and will also include additional Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, which are used in HIMARS.
Austin said he expects that security assistance will continue for Ukraine — both from members of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group and the United States.
“We’re going to keep moving at the speed of war,” he said. “We’re going to make clear that might does not make right. We’re going to stand strong with our fellow contact group members, and we’re going to support Ukraine’s self-defense for the long haul. And we’re going to defend the rules-based international order that protects us all.”
The Ukraine Defense Contact Group met for the first time in Germany in April and serves now as a way for participating nations to coordinate their assistance Ukraine and focus on Ukraine’s future defense needs. At the time, Austin said he expected the group to continue to meet on a monthly basis.
“As this fight rages on, the contact group will keep finding innovative ways to sustain our long-term support for the brave men and women of the Ukrainian armed forces, and we will tailor our assistance to ensure that Ukraine has the technology, the ammunition and the sheer firepower to defend itself,” Austin told contact group participants. (Source: U.S. DoD)
20 Jul 22. Greg Hayes, chief executive of US defence contractor Raytheon: ‘Shame on us after Crimea — we probably should have understood that this was a possibility.’ The war in Ukraine will prompt governments to refocus on buying conventional weapons, on top of next-generation high-tech systems, as they reassess global threats, the head of one of the world’s biggest defence companies has said. Greg Hayes, chief executive of Raytheon, one of the Pentagon’s top five “prime” defence contractors, said he expected there to be a “change in procurement” priorities over the next two years as governments looked to replenish stockpiles of weapons that had been depleted in the conflict but also as they “rethink what the threat environment is”. Ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US has maintained that the Indo-Pacific region remains its top defence and strategic priority, where naval and air systems take precedence and land systems are deprioritised. Defence experts believe a dual approach is now necessary. “We’re going to need more of these conventional weapons systems to deter Russian aggression,” said Hayes, adding that defensive systems such as Patriot surface-to-air missiles, anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems would be needed along the frontier from Romania up through Finland. “What this war in Ukraine has shown is that some of the older technology, which had not been the focus, is actually still viable in terms of defending a country,” Hayes said. “The whole national defence strategy of the US for the past 10 years or so focused on [the] Indo-Pacific — how do you defend Taiwan? How do you ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea?” he continued. “The other threat was insurgencies and terrorism. It was not Russians.” “Shame on us after Crimea — we probably should have understood that this was a possibility” with Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula in 2014 but nobody “really gave it much credence” until Russian troops built up along the Ukrainian border late last year, added Hayes. According to Mark Cancian, a former Pentagon official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank, the US was “absolutely strategically caught off guard because we focused on China and had expected Europe to be a less demanding theatre”.
He added that over the years, the US had “squeezed out the capacity for surge production” for munitions and some major weapons systems needed in Ukraine because maintaining those “production capabilities was regarded as wasteful”. In May, the US awarded a contract to Raytheon for Stinger missiles for the first time in two decades, purchasing 1,300 of them for $624mn. Hayes said that the company would like to redesign the missile’s “seeker”, which is kept at very cold temperatures to allow it to sense any heat emitted by its target. A complete redesign of the weapon would take five or six years, so, instead, it would receive upgraded electronics and other technology in its warhead. Overall, it will take time for the US and other western governments to respond to the changing geopolitical landscape, while defence companies must contend with widespread supply chain issues that are expected to continue at least for the rest of this year. Jim Taiclet, chief executive of Lockheed Martin, told analysts during an earnings call on Tuesday that the deterioration in the global security environment “happened over literally three or four months. What that requires is the Department of Defense to shift gears. And I can tell you, the clutch isn’t engaged yet.” Recommended The Big Read Europe’s defence sector: will war in Ukraine transform its fortunes? Separately, Hayes, who took over as chief of Raytheon after its merger with United Technologies two years ago, said the deal had already proved a success. The combined group, which includes Raytheon’s defence and missile businesses, engine maker Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace, had identified “more than $10bn of revenue opportunities” from sharing technologies between the defence and commercial aerospace sides of the business. Hayes played down the likelihood of a merger between P&W and Britain’s Rolls-Royce in the near term. The two companies used to have a joint venture that built engines for Airbus and a combination of some sort has long been speculated about. (Source: FT.com)
15 Jul 22. House authorizes training for Ukrainian pilots to use US aircraft. The House approved $100 m in funding to train Ukrainian pilots to use U.S. aircraft as part of the National Defense Authorization Act it passed 329-101 this week.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked since March for American-made F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. But Ukrainian pilots accustomed to aging Soviet-era MiG-29s and Sukhoi planes have not been trained to use U.S. fighter jets, a process that could take months.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told Defense News he has been in touch with the Kyiv on the matter and that he added the $100 m for training as an amendment to the defense authorization bill this week in order to facilitate an eventual shift of Ukraine’s military hardware away from Soviet-era technology.
“What we want to do is obviously send a message to authorize the process,” Kinzinger told Defense News. “There is no doubt to me that when this war ends, Ukraine is going to have to be outfitted with western military equipment. Plus, there’s just no more MiGs left and no more MiG supplies.”
The Biden administration has thus far not transferred the requested U.S. aircraft as part of the billions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine, generating tension with a vocal contingent of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The United States also declined to facilitate the transfer of Poland’s MiG-29s from Ramstein Air Base in Germany earlier this year after Warsaw made the announcement without consulting Washington.
The Biden administration has remained wary of allowing sensitive U.S. technology to fall into Russian hands on the battlefield and has worried about Moscow’s response should Ukrainian forces use high-end American equipment to attack Russian territory. But Kinzinger said the Ukrainians can be trusted with the equipment.
“They’ve been clear — and they’ve shown this with the weapons they have — they’re not trying to start a war with Russia inside of Russia,” said Kinzinger. “They just want to defend their homeland.”
He noted the United States is ready to start training Ukrainian pilots at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi and possibly in Texas as well. It would take about three months to train the pilots to fly the F-15s and F-16s at a basic level.
The Senate is not expected to vote on its version of the defense authorization bill until September at the earliest, then both chambers must agree on compromise legislation in conference committee. Should Kinzinger’s amendment survive conference, the United States could be training Ukrainian pilots here as soon as next year. (Source: Defense News)
20 Jul 22. U.S. to send four more HIMARS to Ukraine. The United States will send four more high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday, in the latest military package to help it defend itself against Russian forces.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu earlier this week ordered generals to prioritize destroying Ukraine’s long-range missiles and artillery after Western-supplied weapons were used to strike Russian supply lines.
Nearly five months since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion, Russian forces are grinding through the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and occupy around a fifth of the country.
“(We) will keep finding innovative ways to sustain our long-term support for the brave men and women of the Ukrainian armed forces and we will tailor our assistance to ensure that Ukraine has the technology, the ammunition and the sheer firepower to defend itself,” Austin said at the start of a virtual meeting with allies on Ukraine.
The West has supplied Ukraine with longer-range heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems so it can hold out despite Russian artillery supremacy in numbers and ammunition.
Ukraine says it has carried out successful strikes on 30 Russian logistics and ammunitions hubs, using several multiple launch rocket systems recently supplied by the West.
In a press conference after the meeting, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said Ukraine had used HIMARS to hit Russian command and control nodes, logistic network and air defense sites within Ukraine.
About 200 Ukrainian forces had been trained on the HIMARS and none of the systems had been destroyed by Russian forces, Milley said.
He added an issue would be the rate of ammunition being used by Ukrainian forces, though there would be no impact on the readiness of the United States in the next couple of months at the current rate.
Milley said the Donbas region had not been lost by Ukrainians yet and described it as a “grinding war of attrition.”
HIMARS have a longer range and are more precise than the Soviet-era artillery that Ukraine has had in its arsenal.
Austin said the new package would also include rounds for Multiple Launch Rocket Systems as well as artillery munitions.
The latest package would bring the total number of HIMARS the United States has provided to Ukraine to 16.
The United States has provided $8 bn in security assistance since the war began, including $2.2 bn in the last month.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow’s military “tasks” in Ukraine now went beyond the eastern Donbas region, in the clearest acknowledgment yet that it has expanded its war goals.
Austin said Lavrov’s comments appeared to be aimed at the Russian population.
“That’s not a surprise to any of us or anybody in Europe or anybody around the globe, I think he’s talking to the people in Russia who have been ill informed throughout,” Austin told reporters.
The United States and allies are starting to examine possible training for Ukrainian pilots as part of a project to help build a future Ukrainian air force, Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles “CQ” Brown told Reuters.
A number of different options were being looked at on helping Ukrainian troops, including training for pilots, but no decision had been made, Milley said. (Source: Reuters)
20 Jul 22. Putin says Ukraine did not make good on preliminary peace deal.
- No immediate response from Ukrainian government on Putin remarks
- Putin visited Iran, also met Turkey’s Erdogan
- Russia ready to clear way for Ukraine grain exports, Putin says
- Russian bombardment of Ukraine cities continues
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said Moscow did not see any desire from Ukraine to fulfil the terms of what he described as a preliminary peace deal agreed to in March.
Putin, speaking to reporters in televised comments after a visit to Iran, said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were offering to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, which Moscow’s forces invaded in late February.
There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian government to Putin’s remarks in the early hours of Wednesday.
Putin, asked about a possible meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said Kyiv had not stuck to the terms of a preliminary peace deal he said had been “practically achieved” in March, without elaborating.
“The final result of course… depends on the willingness of the contracting parties to implement the agreements that were reached. Today we see the powers in Kyiv have no such desire.”
Negotiations took place in March, with both sides making proposals but without a breakthrough. At the time, Zelenskiy said only a concrete result from the talks could be trusted.
Putin met Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Tuesday, deepening ties between the two countries who are both under Western sanctions.
During the visit to Iran, Putin also met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to discuss a deal that would resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports, now blockaded by Russia.
Russia was ready to facilitate Ukrainian grain exports by the Black Sea, but also wanted the remaining curbs on Russian grain exports to be removed, said Putin, who was shown by Rossiya state TV answering questions from media at the end of his visit to Iran.
On Tuesday the Russian leader had said not all the issues had been resolved yet on grain shipments, “but the fact that there is movement is already good.”
It was Putin’s first in-person meeting with a NATO leader since Russian troops invaded and was a pointed message to the West about Russian plans to forge closer strategic ties with Iran, China and India to help offset Western sanctions imposed over the invasion.
The trip shows how isolated Russia has become, said White House national security spokesman John Kirby.
Kirby also said the United States was preparing to unveil another weapons package for Ukraine. Citing U.S. intelligence, he accused Russia of laying the groundwork to annex Ukrainian territory, which the Russian embassy denied.
The Kremlin has said there is no time limit to a conflict it calls a “special military operation” to ensure its own security. Ukraine and the West condemn it as an unprovoked war of aggression against its neighbour.
Russia was trying to “drag” Ukraine into a protracted conflict into the winter, Zelenskiy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said in a magazine interview published on Tuesday.
“It is very important for us not to enter the winter. After winter, when the Russians will have more time to dig in, it will certainly be more difficult” for any Ukrainian counter-offensive, Yermak said.
Russia’s offensive in the eastern Donbas region continues to make minimal gains as Ukrainian forces hold the line, British military intelligence said on Wednesday.
More than two weeks have passed since Russia’s last major territorial gain – capturing the city of Lysychansk in the Donbas.
Ukraine’s general staff reported widespread shelling and attacks in various areas of the country.
“In the Bakhmut direction, the occupiers are conducting combat operations with the aim of creating conditions for an offensive on the city of Bakhmut and taking over the territory of the Vuglegirsk power plant,” the general staff said.
“There is a shortage of ammunition, food and water in the enemy units,” it added, without elaborating.
Five civilians had been killed and 16 had been wounded by Russian forces in the Donetsk region, while two civilians had been killed by shelling in the city of Nikopol in the south, the respective regional governors said on Telegram.
Reuters could not immediately verify the Ukrainian accounts.
At least one person was killed in a Russian missile strike on the centre of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, authorities said.
“I felt a really powerful explosion and I understood it was somewhere here,” said Valentina, 70-year-old local resident whose son-in-law, Maksym, was critically injured in the attack.
“I called my daughter and she says that Maksym is not picking up the phone. He must have been knocked off then,” she cried.
As the war drags on, concerns that Russia may halt supplies of natural gas to Europe have risen.
In response, the European Union is considering a voluntary 15% cut in natural gas use by its member states beginning next month, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing EU diplomats.
Brussels is expected to publish plans on Wednesday for how the 27 EU members can reduce gas use. The exact number for the reduction target was not specified in a draft document of the plan seen by Reuters.
Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) was ready to fulfil its obligations on gas exports, Putin said, and was not to blame for a reduction in gas transit capacity, including shutting down one of the routes via Ukraine to Europe by Kyiv. (Source: Reuters)
18 Jul 22. Kremlin’s struggle to sustain combat power is ‘becoming increasingly acute’, MoD says. Russia’s struggle to sustain combat power is “becoming increasingly acute” amid a lack of military personnel and split fronts, Britain’s Ministry of Defence has reported.
“As well as dealing with severe under-manning, Russian planners face a dilemma between deploying reserves to the Donbas or defending against Ukrainian counterattacks in the south-western Kherson sector,” the MoD said.
It added that while Russia may still make further territorial gains in the eastern Donbas region, “their operational tempo and rate of advance is likely to be very slow without a significant operational pause for reorganisation and refit”.
The MoD’s statement comes after reports that the Kremlin had ordered a “volunteer mobilisation” of up to 34,000 soldiers by the end of next month to patch up its battered forces. The recruitment drive is part of a push to shift Russians on to a war footing without declaring a full mobilisation.
Russia has suffered at least 20,000 casualties in nearly five months of tough fighting in Ukraine, more than the Soviet Union suffered in 10 years of war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
18 Jul 22. Strategic Port Access Aids Support to Ukraine, Austin Tells Greek Defense Minister. Priority access to the Port of Alexandroupolis in northeastern Greece has allowed the U.S. military to continue to support Ukraine as that nation fights to maintain its sovereignty following the unprovoked February 24 invasion by Russia, the U.S. defense secretary told his Greek counterpart.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted a meeting at the Pentagon today with Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos. The two defense leaders discussed the growing partnership between the United States and Greece and the close cooperation between the two countries on basing, defense modernization and collective defense, particularly in the face of Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine.
“The defense relationship between the United States and Greece has never been stronger,” Austin said. “The updated U.S.-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement reflects our nations’ unshakeable commitment to shared peace and security. And it has enabled the expansion of U.S. forces in Greece to support the United State’s and NATO’s objectives for strategic access in the region.”
Two examples of that partnership, Austin said, include the continued hosting of U.S. Naval forces at Souda Bay and priority access granted to U.S. military forces at the Port of Alexandroupolis in northeastern Greece, just 60 miles north of the Dardanelles Strait in Turkey. Port access allows quick entrance to the Sea of Marmara and then on through the Bosphorus Strait into the Black Sea.
“That access allows us to continue to provide military assistance to Ukraine and to counter malign actors and exercise and operate in the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea region,” Austin said.
Panagiotopoulos thanked Austin for his leadership of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which stood up in April, and said Greece remains committed to providing continued support to Ukraine.
“The reaction of Greece to the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine was indeed swift and decisive,” Panagiotopoulos said. “We offered all the assistance we could afford Ukraine, a country that is under attack in violation of every rule of international law. We implement those sanctions imposed on the aggressor. Despite their cost to us, we’re willing to contemplate any other action, any other type of assistance that will ”
Greece’s location on the Mediterranean Sea, makes it a strategically positioned defense partner that can and does provide access to ensure NATO allies are able to defend their mutual interests. Panagiotopoulos said that part of the world now faces various forms of revisionism which pose a threat to all nations.
“Greece is a key hub for supporting and … projecting allied presence in a region facing various forms of revisionism,” Panagiotopoulos said. “Revisionism, whether it takes the form of questioning basic rules governing the international legal order, or whether it’s expressed as the pursuit of changing internationally recognized borders — or both, as is often the case — constitutes a major threat to the interests of Greece, the interests of the United States, and the North Atlantic alliance in general. Revisionism of any form is against stability … revisionism must not prevail.” (Source: US DoD)
18 Jul 22. EU members’ wish lists are due for new Ukraine replenishment fund. European Union member nations must soon deliver shopping lists of weapons and ammunitions expended in Ukraine that they want Brussels to help restock, according to EU and industry officials. The July 25 deadline would kick off the first cycle of a new co-financing instrument meant to replenish nations’ arsenals with exclusively European-made products in an effort to strengthen the bloc’s defense industry.
Since Russia’s attack on Ukraine in late February, member countries have sent Ukraine a steady stream of military support, ranging from handheld weapons and ammunitions to, more recently, small numbers of artillery pieces.
“The countries who have delivered munitions in great quantities are very interested in replenishing their stocks,” one senior EU defense official said recently. That is because they face “internal pressure” to secure their own countries’ defenses, the official explained.
But the EU’s new €500 m ($510 m) replenishment fund is quickly turning into a test case of whether the institution can be a useful broker in rapid, joint procurements at all, according to industry watchers. The task entails pooling member nations’ needs, lining up local vendors that have sufficient production capacity and using the EU’s clout to overcome supply-chain bottlenecks in the process.
Officials in Brussels are working against the clock, as member states grow frustrated with bloc bureaucracy and as they weigh buying from abroad and on their own instead. A “lack of trust” in joint procurements remains prevalent in the bloc’s defense ecosystem, the senior EU official said.
In addition, officials are still awaiting a final version of the regulation that would clarify the basic workings of the fund, a spokeswoman for the European Defence Agency told Defense News. The agency is one of several entities tasked with operationalizing the fund through a larger task force.
The number of stakeholders means there could be anywhere from 60 to 90 individuals involved in a funding mechanism meant to be “simple and straightforward in its implementation,” as chief EU diplomat Josep Borrell described the objective in a mid-May report.
An eventual EU regulation is expected to answer questions about subsidy disbursements as well as eligibility requirements for national equipment requests and manufacturers vying to fill them.
Still, the first round of member nation requests, due later this month, should be “as concrete as possible,” giving the fund’s task force an idea of the volume and interest to be expected, the EDA spokeswoman said. (Source: Defense News)
18 Jul 22. Wagner Group’s value to Russia reduced as mercenaries suffer casualties, UK says. According to the Ministry of Defence, the group is “hiring convicts and formerly blacklisted individuals” with “very limited training”.
Russia’s use of private military company Wagner in Ukraine has seen the group lower its recruitment standards as it continues to suffer casualties, according to intelligence.
In an update, the MOD said the group was “hiring convicts and formerly blacklisted individuals” and that “very limited training” is being made available to the new recruits.
“This will highly likely impact on the future operational effectiveness of the group and will reduce its value as a prop to the regular Russian forces,” the MOD tweeted.
The Twitter thread also outlined Russia’s use of Wagner to “reinforce frontline forces and to mitigate manning shortfalls and casualties”, with the MOD saying the group was “almost certainly” central to Russia’s capture of Popasna and Lysyschansk.
As a result of the group’s effectiveness, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, was made a Hero of the Russian Federation, the intelligence update said.
Watch: Nearly 8,000 Wagner Group mercenaries deployed by Russia in Ukraine, MPs hear.
“This, at a time when a number of very senior Russian military commanders are being replaced, is likely to exacerbate grievances between the military and Wagner,” the MOD said.
“It is also likely to impact negatively on Russian military morale.”
It comes after the executive director of the Bellingcat investigative website told MPs nearly 8,000 mercenaries from Wagner Group were deployed to Ukraine, but the group has sustained heavy casualties.
Giving evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Christo Grozev said 3,000 members of the private military company were thought to have been killed on the battlefield.
He also said sources within Wagner told Bellingcat the number of the group’s personnel fighting alongside Russian Forces were “much higher” than expected. (Source: forces.net)
18 Jul 22. Ukraine president sacks security chief, cites hundreds of treason cases.
- Zelenskiy sacks security chief, prosecutor
- Hundreds of treason, collaboration cases launched
- Russia shells entire front line – Ukraine military
- Kyiv says Western supplied long-range arms working
- Moscow orders troops to intensify operations
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy sacked the head of the country’s domestic security service and state prosecutor, citing hundreds of cases of alleged treason and collaboration with Russia, as Moscow appeared set to step up military operations.
Zelenskiy said more than 60 officials from the SBU security service and prosecutor’s office were working against Ukraine in Russian-occupied territories, and 651 treason and collaboration cases had been opened against law enforcement officials.
The sackings on Sunday of Ivan Bakanov, head of the security service, and Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, who led efforts to prosecute Russian war crimes, and the sheer number of treason cases reveals the huge challenge of Russian infiltration as Kyiv battles Moscow in what it says is a fight for survival.
“Such an array of crimes against the foundations of the national security of the state … pose very serious questions to the relevant leaders,” Zelenskiy said. “Each of these questions will receive a proper answer.
In his nightly speech to the nation, Zelenskiy noted the recent arrest on suspicion of treason of the SBU’s former head overseeing the region of Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014 that Kyiv and the West still view as Ukrainian land.
Zelenskiy said he had fired the top security official at the start of the invasion, a decision he said had now been shown to be justified.
“Sufficient evidence has been collected to report this person on suspicion of treason. All his criminal activities are documented,” he said.
3,000 CRUISE MISSILES
After failing to capture the capital Kyiv early in the invasion, Russian forces using a campaign of devastating bombing now control large swaths of Ukraine’s south and east, where pro-Russian separatists already control territory.
Zelenskiy said Russia had used more than 3,000 cruise missiles to date and it was “impossible to count” the number of artillery and other strikes so far.
Dozens of relatives and local residents on Sunday attended the funeral of 4-year-old Liza Dmytrieva, one of 24 people killed in a Russian missile strike in the city of Vinnytsia last week.
Western deliveries of long-range arms are beginning to help Ukraine on the battlefield, with Kyiv citing a string of successful strikes carried out on 30 Russian logistics and ammunitions hubs, using several multiple launch rocket systems recently supplied by the West.
The strikes are causing havoc with Russian supply lines and have significantly reduced Russia’s offensive capability, according to Ukraine’s defence ministry
Ukraine’s southern Operational Command reported that in the Kherson region, it had destroyed two Russian Pantsir missile systems, three strategic communication systems, one radar station, two ammunition depots, and 11 armoured and military vehicles on Sunday.
The Russian military are also using radio-electronic warfare to suppress satellite communication channels, the Ukrainian General Staff said in a statement early on Monday.
RUSSIA INTENSIFIES OPERATIONS
Russia has ordered military units to intensify operations to prevent Ukrainian strikes on areas held by Russia, according to Ukraine which on the weekend reported shelling along the frontline in what it said was preparation for a fresh assault.
Ukraine’s general staff said its forces had repelled Russian attacks in several towns in the Donetsk region.
“Fighting is currently ongoing near Hryhorivka near the administrative between Luhansk and Donetsk regions,” it said.
Overnight at least 10 explosions were reported in the southern city of Mykolaiv, but there was no information on casualties, while two people were killed and 10 wounded in Avdiivka and Novy Donbas, said Ukraine’s general staff, citing local officials.
Reuters could not immediately verify the reports.
The British defence ministry said on Sunday that Russia was reinforcing defences across areas it occupies in southern Ukraine after pressure from Ukrainian forces and pledges from Ukrainian leaders to drive Russia out.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion on Feb. 24 calling it a “special military operation” to demilitarise its neighbour and rid it of dangerous nationalists.
Kyiv and the West say it was an imperialist land grab and attempt reconquer a country that broke free of Moscow’s rule with the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two has killed more than 5,000 people, forced more than 6 m to flee Ukraine and left 8 m internally displaced, says the United Nations.
Ukraine and the West say Russian forces are targeting civilians and been involved in war crimes, charges Moscow rejects. (Source: Reuters)
18 Jul 22. Russia targets Ukraine’s missiles as Western-supplied weapons bite. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered generals to prioritise destroying Ukraine’s long-range missile and artillery weapons after Western-supplied weapons were used to strike Russian supply lines.
Nearly five months since President Vladimir Putin ordered the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces are grinding through the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and now occupy around a fifth of the country.
Shoigu, one of Putin’s closest allies, inspected the Vostok group which is fighting in Ukraine, the defence ministry said.
Shoigu “instructed the commander to give priority to the enemy’s long-range missile and artillery weapons,” the defence ministry said.
The ministry said the weapons were being used to shell residential areas of Russian-controlled Donbas and to deliberately set fire to wheat fields and grain storage silos. Reuters was unable to verify battlefield reports from either side.
The Zvezda news service showed Shoigu, dressed in combat uniform, speaking alongside Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.
The United States and its allies have supplied bns of dollars’ worth of weaponry to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, including long-range arms which Kyiv says are beginning to help on the battlefield.
Ukraine says it has carried out a string of successful strikes on 30 Russian logistics and ammunitions hubs, using several multiple launch rocket systems recently supplied by the West.
Moscow has emphasised its attacks on Western-supplied weapons in its defence ministry briefings, and accuses Ukraine of using long-range arms to strike residential areas in separatist-controlled regions of the Donbas.
Separatist leader Denis Pushilin said on Thursday that two people were killed when Ukrainian forces shelled a bus station in the separatist-held city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko accused Russian forces on social media of striking the centre of Donetsk but pinning the blame on Ukraine. (Source: Reuters)
18 Jul 22. Iran Says it Refused to Supply Drones to Russia – White House Says Russians Visited UAS Airfield. Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian insists his country opposes Russia’s war against Ukraine, but was vague Wednesday about whether Tehran’s military cooperation with Moscow would include sales of drones that could carry missiles.
The Iranian foreign minister was vague when asked about U.S. contentions that Russia is about to acquire Iranian drones that could transport missiles.
“We have various types of collaboration with Russia, including in the defense sector,” Abdollahian replied. “But we won’t help either of the sides involved in this war because we believe that it [the war] needs to be stopped.”
The United States believes that Russian officials visited an airfield in Iran recently to view attack-capable drones, U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan said on Saturday.
“We assess an official Russian delegation recently received a showcase of Iranian attack-capable UAVs….To our knowledge, this is the first time a Russian delegation has visited this airfield for such a showcase,” Sullivan said in a statement.
The statement included satellite imagery dated June 8 showing Iranian Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones flying at the airfield at the same time a Russian delegation transport plane was on the ground. It said similar equipment was showcased for a second Russian visit to the airfield on July 5. (Source: UAS VISION/Yahoo/Reuters)
17 Jul 22. US defence industry boss calls for clarity on what arms Ukraine needs. Northrop Grumman chief says weapons makers need a ‘clear demand signal’ as conflict rolls on Kathy Warden: The industry needs to ‘get an indication that if we build it, the demand will come.’ The head of one of America’s biggest defence companies has called on western governments to provide a “clear demand signal” if the industry is going to be able to provide the weapons needed for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine. Kathy Warden, chief executive of Northrop Grumman, one of the top five “prime” contractors in the US, warned that weapons stockpiles had not been built to service a lengthy war. “The most important thing now is to get a clear demand signal on what the sustained commitment is and the level of draw down from those stockpiles is going to be,” Warden said in an interview in London. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve heard we’re running out, but if you do project forward that we’re going to want to sustain these levels of commitments for another couple of years — that’s certainly not what anyone had built stockpiles to accommodate,” she said. Northrop Grumman, which is headquartered just outside Washington DC, makes the Bushmaster automatic cannons and midsized ammunition which have been supplied to Ukrainian forces from US government stockpiles. Its RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft has been making regular surveillance flights over the Ukrainian border on behalf of the US air force and Nato allies. The US, along with other Nato countries, has been supplying a range of weapons, including Raytheon-made Stinger anti-air missiles, to Ukrainian forces but concerns over stockpiles are rising as the conflict shows no signs of ending soon. Global supply chain constraints mean the industry is also struggling to source critical components, with lead times in some cases having doubled or tripled, according to Warren. Raytheon, another major defence contractor, has already signalled that it would take the company a “little bit of time” to make more Stingers. In May, the US placed an order for 1,300 of the Stingers, its first in 18 years. The warning from Northrop Grumman was echoed by another prime contractor, which has started procuring components now in expectation there will be contracts for more weapons but with the risk that they are not ultimately used, according to one of its executives. “We think in the long term, there’s going to be a requirement to replace Russian air combat capability — fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft” for the Ukrainians, the industry executive said. Warden said that the defence industry’s dialogue with the Pentagon was “good” and that discussions were ongoing about “getting clarity on their plans”.
The country’s prime contractors have been meeting with the Pentagon several times a week to discuss what is being provided to Ukraine. “They’ve been doing their best to pull industry together and share those plans, both at a more general level and specific, so that we can get ahead of contract and make investments and advance,” Warden added. Northrop was prepared to make investments, including expanding factories “ahead of a contract”, said Warden, but cautioned that industry needed to “get an indication that if we build it, the demand will come”. It can take years for a defence company to source parts, assemble, test, and deliver a system. Northrop Grumman generates more than 80 per cent of its annual revenues from contracts with the US government, including key roles on programmes such as the F-35 fighter jet where it provides parts for the weapons system and avionics. It also led the industry team for Nasa’s James Webb space telescope. Like many manufacturers, Northrop Grumman is wrestling with supply chain challenges, in particular shortages of electronic parts such as cables, connectors and power supplies. Lead times for such parts have “doubled or tripled,” said Warden. The biggest constraint facing the industry is securing microprocessors, a predicament made worse because decades-old technology is still used in some systems. In certain cases, companies are now guessing the quantity of parts they could need — both for potential use in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world — over the next couple of years and placing the orders now. “That buys us two or three years of time to figure out how to change the design of a system to incorporate a new generation of electronic components,” said the industry executive. (Source: Google/FT.com)
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