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Ukraine Update – August 1st.
Military and security developments
- In eastern Ukraine, Russian forces have continued to focus offensive operations around Bakhmut, where their Southern Grouping of forces have achieved marginal gains over the past week. The Russians launched numerous assaults and reconnaissance-in-force probing attacks to the northeast, east and southeast of Bakhmut, but they have made little confirmed progress in the last 24 hours. The Ukrainian General Staff this morning claimed that their forces had successfully repelled Russian assaults near Novoluhanske and Soledar, but that heavy fighting continues.
- Further south, Russian forces appear to have intensified offensive efforts and artillery strikes around Avdiivka, an area just 7km north of Donetsk city. We rarely report on Russian operations around Avdiivka given that the town has consistently been at the frontline and operations have remained largely limited to artillery duels and unsuccessful Russian assaults. Ukrainian defences in this area have remained largely unchanged since 2014-2015. As such they present a formidable obstacle for Russian forces to overcome, with Russia unlikely to be able to capitalise on tactical successes by conducting deeper penetrations of Ukrainian lines, due to insufficient numbers of infantry. Regardless, due to Russian concerns that Avdiivka’s proximity to Donetsk city threatens assets and forces they have in the city, Russian forces may attempt a concerted effort to push the Ukrainians back. The Ukrainian General Staff’s Main Operational Directorate has stated that elements of the 2nd Army Corps (the forces of the Luhansk People’s Republic) have been deployed to the area in order to form new offensive groupings. However, this morning the Ukrainian General Staff reported that a Russian assault against the town had failed, forcing them to withdraw.
- On the southern axis, both Russian and Ukrainian forces have continued to launch limited offensive operations, with artillery duels and strikes against the opponent’s ground lines of communications remaining intense. Russian efforts to retake lost territory along the Kherson-Mykolaiv border have failed to achieve any confirmed success, though there have similarly been few reports of confirmed Ukrainian advances over the last 24 hours. Russian authorities have meantime reportedly reopened the Darivka Bridge east of Kherson city after repairing damage from Ukrainian HIMARS strikes, with the establishment of ferry crossings and pontoon bridges clearly aimed at facilitating passenger traffic and limited equipment transfers across the Dnieper River.
- Russia has furthermore continued force generation efforts as the attritional fighting degrades Russia’s overall combat effectiveness. The spokesman of Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Vadym Skibitsky today reported that Russia has been preparing a new third army corps in the Western Military District. Eight battalions have reportedly already been formed by mid-July, with Skibitsky maintaining that Moscow intends to raise a full corps by mid-August. While a new corps would provide Russian commanders with a force to support a new offensive, the quality of the troops is almost certainly poor, with limited training and likely degraded equipment.
- A chronic shortage of Russian officers is also apparent, which will continue to undermine both force generation efforts as well as command and control issues at the front. Yesterday the GUR reported that Russian military commanders have begun assigning on a mass scale the rank of junior lieutenant to non-commissioned officers (NCOs), without the requisite experience and education normally required for a commissioned officer. While battlefield promotions are to be expected in such a high-intensity conflict environment, this gets to the heart of a fundamental challenge within the Russian military, which is institutional and therefore unlikely to change in any time soon. The lack of a professional NCO corps and the rigidly top-down command structure does not allow for battlefield initiative and rapid adaptability. This will continue to undermine Russian offensive capability, while their Ukrainian adversaries continue to build an increasingly professional force with much higher morale.
- Following his appointment as the new Prosecutor General on 27 July, Andriy Kostin ordered a further detention of Viktor Medvedchuk, the former leader of Ukraine’s main pro-Russian political party. Medvedchuk is currently on trial for treason and for assisting the Russian war effort. He was under house arrest just prior to Russia’s invasion and managed to briefly escape, but was recaptured by Ukraine’s security services whilst allegedly trying to flee to Russia. The development is on trend with our assessment that President Zelensky will only intensify the crackdown on pro-Russian forces and corrupt officials in the country moving forward, with further detentions and dismissals of top officials highly likely in the short term. Ultimately, given the strong degree of unity within Ukraine between various factions in society, further meaningful anti-corruption reforms are highly likely in the months ahead.
- Furthermore, G-7 ambassadors arrived in Odesa on 29 July, welcoming Ukraine’s appointment of the head of the specialised anti-corruption prosecutor’s office and praising the crucial steps in Kyiv’s fight against high-level corruption. Additionally, the delegation reiterated the importance of the newly-signed grain exporting deal, following which Moscow nevertheless continued its attacks against Odesa, in a sign that the agreement could still be undermined. Despite these attacks, however, Kyiv nevertheless maintains that grain exports will begin in the coming days, which would provide the country with much-needed revenue and alleviate the global food security issues. Nevertheless, as emphasised previously, Russia will not cease its strikes against various parts of Ukraine, especially the east and the south, with such attacks set to continue in the weeks ahead. Ultimately, this will inevitably ensure that global food security remains highly volatile given the high likelihood of incidents in and around the Black Sea.
- Earlier this week US Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered Moscow discussions regarding a potential deal on the release of two US citizens – Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan – imprisoned in Russia. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on 28 July that it would consider the request for a call when “time permits”. Washington subsequently accused Russia of not engaging meaningfully with the proposal. Moscow’s response was largely anticipated given the currently all-time low bilateral relations between the two countries amid the war in Ukraine. As such, the events further underline the currently high threat of arbitrary detention of Western, but especially US, nationals in Russia for the foreseeable future, as the Kremlin likely seeks to use the current US prisoners as leverage.
- For more strategic analysis and escalation outcomes to the current conflict in Ukraine, see our Scenario Planning and Projections report.
This morning Russian officials reported numerous explosions in Bryansk oblast, across the border from Ukraine’s Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts. Ukrainian and Russian forces have consistently engaged in artillery duels along this border, though Ukrainian forces have in the past launched more sophisticated attacks deeper inside Russian territory, including UAV drone attacks, Tochka-U missile strikes and even helicopter raids. While the scale of such Ukrainian offensive operations has remained comparatively limited, Russia has consistently stated that it will respond to any long-range missile strikes against its territory. The most advanced long-range artillery systems used by Ukraine, the Western-supplied HIMARS systems, at present only have limited range munitions, incapable of striking targets deep inside Russian territory. However, there is growing discussion in the US about supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles. Yesterday, 28 July, Elissa Slotkin, member of the US House of Representatives Committee on Armed Forces Affairs, stated that there is now bipartisan support in the US Congress for sending Kyiv longer-range ATACMS missiles for the HIMARS systems. These missiles would be capable of striking targets 280-300km away, and significantly increase Ukraine’s capability to strike inside Russia as a result. Both the US and Kyiv previously ruled such strikes out when the first HIMARS systems were delivered. However, the slippery slope of weapon supplies has already seen the provision of numerous advanced systems – including the HIMARS – that earlier in the conflict had been expressly ruled out as escalatory. As such, mounting support inside the US Congress could set the stage for the supply of such longer-range missiles in the future, as we have previously anticipated is increasingly likely. However, given Moscow’s repeated warnings about strikes on Russian territory, this would risk triggering disproportionate Russian retaliation against Ukrainian cities given Russia’s inability to effectively counter and interdict said missiles.
Europe: Record-breaking DDoS attack with possible links to Ukraine war underlines sustained threat to governments and businesses. On 27 July, US cyber security and cloud service firm, Akamai Technologies, revealed that it had detected the largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in Europe on record hitting one of its customers. The attack occurred on 21 July peaked with 853.7 gigabits per second and 659.6 million packets per second in the first 14 hours. The victim has been targeted 75 times over the past 30 days, with user datagram protocol (UDP) flood being the most popular vector deployed. Akamai claimed that it was able to mitigate the impact of these attacks. The record-high volume of traffic is indicative of the sophisticated nature of the attack, for which a global botnet of infected devices would be used. Akamai did not disclose the details about the target beyond stating that it was a customer in Eastern Europe. The location suggests that the campaign is likely linked with the ongoing war in Ukraine and the associated cyber conflict. Pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian hackers have used DDoS attacks targeting websites of government institutions, critical infrastructure and private businesses (see Sibylline Weekly Ukraine Cyber Update – 19 July 2022). With the protracted war showing no signs of a resolution, DDoS, data-wiping and website defacement attacks will continue to pose a threat to European government agencies and relevant industries, such as technology, defence and utilities.
- This morning, 28 July, the Ukrainian General Staff confirmed that the Russian Southern Grouping of forces have continued to achieve “partial success” south of Bakhmut, following the seizure of Novoluhanske and the Vuhledar power plant earlier this week. Russian forces, likely in part led by the Wagner Group, have made progress around the village of Vershyna, some 10km southeast of Bakhmut, reinforcing slow but steady gains in this direction over the past week. The Deputy Head of Svitlodarsk City Military Administration yesterday confirmed that Ukrainian forces had indeed withdrawn from the nearby town of Novoluhanske earlier this week, with further withdrawals possible as Russian forces continue to push north-westwards towards Bakhmut.
- Further north Russian forces continue to launch unsuccessful attacks along the Izyum axis, making no further progress towards the key city of Slovyansk in recent days. Notably, however, the Ukrainian General Staff yesterday reported their forces had repelled a Russian reconnaissance force near the village of Pasika – a village which had previously been understood to be over 5km behind Russian lines. The report remains unclear and we have not yet seen any OSINT that would confirm Ukrainian troops are operating in the area. A limited Ukrainian counterattack may have taken place in this direction. However, Kyiv has not claimed to have taken any territory here in recent weeks, with Russian officials also dismissing social media claims that Ukrainian forces had retaken nearby settlements as false. Following a similarly unclear report of fighting around the Sivati Hory National Nature Park yesterday, this frontline is increasingly contested amid unconfirmed reports of limited Ukrainian counterattacks.
- Over the last 24 hours there have been few confirmed developments relating to the building Ukrainian counteroffensive along the Kherson-Mykolaiv border. The Russians did launch a number of limited but unsuccessful counterattacks along the eastern bank of the Inhulets River, likely attempts to retake lost territory recently captured by Ukrainian forces.
- Beyond this, long-range strikes and artillery duels continue as both sides intensify counterbattery operations and efforts to unbalance the others’ ground lines of communication. Russian-backed officials in the Kherson occupation administration confirmed yesterday that the Antonivsky bridge is now closed to all traffic, following the latest Ukrainian precision strikes yesterday. With the railway bridge further east also damaged, Russia will face increased challenges resupplying its 49th Combined Arms Army (CAA), which is based on the western bank of the Dnieper. Nevertheless, the Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security Council, Oleksiy Danilov, confirmed yesterday that Russia is deploying additional forces to Kherson oblast, indicating growing Russian efforts to prepare for the coming counteroffensive.
- On 27 July, Ukrainian lawmakers officially appointed Andriy Kostin, a member of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party and a staunch Zelensky loyalist who is accused by some activists of undermining judicial reform, as new Prosecutor General. Both issues in pre-war times would likely have prompted much more public opposition and scrutiny, as Zelensky has previously been accused of appointing those close to him to positions of power. Additionally, Oleksandr Klymenko was appointed as head of the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office – a key EU demand for Ukraine’s eventual membership in the EU – as Kyiv speeds up its anti-corruption reform efforts. Whilst a degree of controversy is affiliated with Kostin in particular, with the country in a state of war and Zelensky retaining strong public support, the president will likely seek to push through his mandates and reform agenda quickly, as Kyiv is desperate to secure international funding amid the war.
- Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar reported on 27 July that her ministry has stepped up monitoring weapons proliferation in Ukraine, amid growing concerns that Western-supplied armaments could fuel a future weapons proliferation crisis in Europe. Maliar highlighted the role Russian propaganda has played in overexaggerating the mismanagement, misuse and resale of weapons. However, the sheer numbers of weaponry being distributed, particularly those distributed at the very beginning of the war, have raised concerns that after the conflict, these weapons could be reexported elsewhere. This could elevate the threat posed by far-right extremists, particularly in Germany, where weapons proliferation is already a notable issue. To combat this, Kyiv has introduced numerous monitoring systems to increase transparency, with Ukrainian and US experts currently working on a new control system which will be fully operational “soon”.
Today, 28 July, marks the anniversary of the first Day of Ukrainian Statehood, a highly symbolic holiday that is set to refocus minds and Kyiv’s determination to continue fighting after 155 days of war. To mark the occasion, President Zelensky has said that Ukraine will not give up and will not stop its current course of action until the entire Ukrainian territory is liberated. Zelensky’s statements came as Russian forces continued to step up long-range strikes across Ukraine. The Ukrainian Air Force has confirmed that Russia has already launched over 20 missiles across Ukraine this morning, including sea-based Kalibr cruise missiles, Iskandr ballistic missiles and bomber-launched Kh-22 anti-ship missiles. Most notably, a missile landed in Vyshhorod, just north of Kyiv, reportedly striking infrastructure. Though details are limited at time of writing, preliminary media reports indicate that there have been no casualties. The strike also took place as the president of Lithuania arrived in Kyiv to celebrate Statehood Day. The timing of the strike is unlikely to be coincidental, and further strikes across Ukraine are highly likely during Statehood Day to remind Kyiv that Russia’s war aims span well beyond the Donbas. Numerous high-ranking Kremlin officials have reiterated Russia’s maximalist war goals today – likely timed to coincide with Ukraine’s Statehood Day. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov this morning stated that Moscow believes “it is necessary to liberate Ukraine from neo-Nazi sentiments in general”, stating that Ukraine “must be completely liberated”. Russian state news agency TASS made the point of contextualising Peskov’s statement in relation to a statement by Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) head Denis Pushilin, who said that “the time has come to liberate Russian cities”, referring to cities allegedly founded by Russians, including Kyiv, Chernihiv, Poltava, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Lutsk. In addition, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev published a map on Telegram yesterday showing a partition of Ukraine. According to the map, all territories east of the Dnieper, as well as Odesa, Mykolaiv, Cherkasy and Kirovohrad oblasts, are part of Russia. Meanwhile, the rest of Ukraine had been partitioned between Poland, Hungary and Romania, with a rump Ukrainian state limited to Kyiv oblast. Medvedev has claimed that this map was produced by “western analysts”, but this remains unlikely given that Moscow has consistently been the only side seriously pushing the idea that Poland seeks to annex western Ukraine. It is significant that the Kremlin has been pushing such maximalist war goals in recent days and weeks, reflecting as it does a growing discrepancy between Moscow’s apparent aims and the inability of the military to make progress in the Donbas. By contrast Zelensky’s Statehood Day statement and the building counteroffensive in Kherson oblast are both indicative of Kyiv’s apparent growing determination to retake all occupied territories. These recent assertions of maximalist war aims on both sides could in part be designed to set expectations for starting negotiating positions during potential future talks. However, by broadcasting such maximalist war aims to their respective domestic audiences, it will be increasingly hard for both sides to reach a compromise from which both could walk away claiming victory. As such, this dynamic is set to further diminish the already very low likelihood of any serious progress in peace negotiations in the coming months.
Russia: Threat of arbitrary detention of US nationals will remain high despite possible prisoner swap. On 27 July, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, revealed that Washington DC made a “substantial offer” to Moscow in June for the release of two US citizens imprisoned in Russia. The prisoners are being held on drug smuggling and espionage charges, though the US claims the detentions are politically motivated and aimed at securing sanctions relief and/or the release of Russian prisoners in the US. While it is possible the deal will indeed involve a prisoner swap, additional details are as yet unconfirmed. Blinken hopes to engage directly with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to advance an agreement. If the resolution goes forward in the coming weeks, it is likely to set a precedent for future prisoner exchanges. However, it is unlikely to alleviate the currently high threat of arbitrary detention of US and other foreign nationals in Russia, a tactic likely used by the Kremlin as a leverage tool.
- Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces have modestly stepped up the frequency and intensity of their offensive operations across eastern Ukraine, making some limited progress near the Bakhmut line. Footage emerged on 26 July indicating that Russian forces have now taken the village of Berestove, near the Luhansk-Donetsk oblast border. The settlement sits along the T-1302 highway and has been heavily fought over for the past two months. OSINT suggests Ukrainian forces may have withdrawn from Berestove, but this has not been confirmed by Kyiv. Russian progress along the T-1302 remains slow, but the fall of Berestove would allow Russian forces to continue pushing southwest through Soledar towards Bakhmut town.
- Russian forces have continued to make limited progress south of Bakhmut following the seizure of the Vuhledar power plant. The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed this morning that fighting is now taking place around Kodema and Semyhirya, indicating Russian forces are pushing further west from the plant.
- The Ukrainian General Staff also reported various Russian attacks around Izyum, including largely unsuccessful operations to the southeast, and in particular the northwest. Russian forces have repeatedly attacked settlements south of Izyum to set conditions for future assaults against Slovyansk to the southeast. However, border areas to the west and northwest of Izyum have been comparatively quieter in recent months. The Russian assault around the town of Chepil, located some 17 miles (27km) northwest of Izyum, is a likely indicator that Russian forces are attempting to strengthen their ground lines of communications (GLOC) along this axis. The Ukrainian General Staff also claimed this morning that Russian forces are making increased use of pontoon bridges in the area to shore up their logistics. The Russian attacks reinforce our assessment that Russian commanders have not abandoned plans to take further land in Kharkiv oblast, and are continuing to maintain pressure on Ukrainian forces in the region, including through continuous artillery bombardment.
- Kyiv has also claimed that its forces repelled various Russian attacks around the Sviati Hory National Park, located some 12 miles (20km) northeast of Slovyansk along the Siverskyi Donets River. Russia currently controls the entire eastern bank of the river in this area. It is unclear if the Ukrainian General Staff’s report refers to Russia’s attempt to cross the river or Ukraine’s defence of its foothold across the river. Nevertheless, previous Russian failures to cross the river suggest that it will continue to be a major obstacle, likely preventing rapid Russian progress towards Slovyansk in the coming weeks.
- On the southern axis along the Kherson-Mykolaiv border, Ukrainian counterattacks appear to be making some limited progress. On the morning of 27 July, Ukraine’s Operational Command South claimed that it liberated the village of Andriyivka. It also confirmed that Ukrainian forces regained control of the nearby village of Lozove several days earlier. Both settlements sit on the eastern bank of the Inhulets River, located around 40 miles (65km) northeast of Kherson city. These military successes indicate that Ukraine has succeeded in holding a bridgehead on the Russian-controlled side of the river. In addition, Kyiv confirmed that it launched fresh high-precision missile strikes against the strategic Antonovsky bridge which crosses the Dnieper River east of Kherson, illustrating continued efforts to undermine Russia’s ability to reinforce areas currently under attack by Ukraine.
- On 26 July, President Zelensky dismissed yet another top official from his post over alleged ties to Russia. Ruslan Demchenko was dismissed as First Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council; he is suspected of having lobbied for the ‘Kharkiv agreements’ in 2010. The agreements ultimately allowed Russia to extend the basing of its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol until 2042 and are believed to have facilitated Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The dismissal is in line with our previous assessment that high-profile purges in government will continue in the coming weeks and months as Zelensky moves to crack down on potential pro-Russia forces and to revive the reform agenda to secure international funding.
- Today, 27 July, Turkey will officially open a new joint co-ordination centre to oversee the implementation of the grain export agreement reached last week. The new centre will reportedly monitor all ship movements leaving the three principal Ukrainian ports designated for grain exports, namely Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi (Yuzhne). The first major test of the agreement is expected today, with Kyiv anticipating the first grain exports to depart from Chornomorsk, possibly in the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, Russian forces have sustained intense missile and aerial bombardments against various targets along the Black Sea coast. In particular, Russian bombers on 26 July fired 13 missiles at Zatoka, a coastal settlement at the mouth of the Dniester Estuary that sits just 16 miles (25km) south of Chornomorsk. Moscow clearly intends to sustain pressure along the coastline during this crucial first test of the grain agreement; it remains far from certain that the deal will be successful.
On 26 July, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) upgraded Russia’s GDP estimate by 2.5 percentage points, stating in its World Economic Outlook that the Russian economy is doing better than expected. Despite the impact of international sanctions, Moscow has benefited from surging energy prices in recent months, while non-energy exports have also fared better than expected. The IMF also reported that domestic demand in Russia has demonstrated notable resilience, due in part to the “containment of the effect of sanctions on the domestic financial sector”. This likely alludes to competent management by Russia’s Central Bank Governor, Elvira Nabiullina, as well as the better-than-expected performance of the Russian labour market. Although Russia still faces a significant 6.5 percent contraction in GDP this year, the IMF’s updated forecast illustrates the limitations of international sanctions and various mitigating factors that continue to insulate the Russian economy from the worst effects of being isolated from the Western financial system. Meanwhile, the economic situation inside Ukraine is comparatively worse. Concerns over the sustainability of Ukraine’s macroeconomic stability and finances continue to mount, threatening to seriously undermine Kyiv’s war effort the longer the conflict drags on. In particular, Ukraine’s mounting foreign debt has loomed large this week amid widespread acknowledgement that Kyiv is unable to service its debts fully amid unprecedented military spending needed to finance the war. Nonetheless, Kyiv secured preliminary agreements this week with bondholders and numerous Western governments to defer debt replacements for up to two years from 1 August. However, this support is not guaranteed and has yet to be finalised. The state gas corporation Naftogaz only yesterday missed a deadline for a USD 335 m payment after creditors refused to postpone payments for two years. The corporation is thus now officially in default, threatening its ability to purchase gas supplies ahead of the winter. The preliminary agreement came alongside a 25 percent devaluation of the hryvnia, aimed at both easing pressure on imminent debt repayment obligations as well as slowing the depletion of the country’s foreign currency reserves. These are already down to USD 12.9bn from USD 19bn in February, which is estimated to be enough for two and a half months of vital agricultural and industrial imports. Yet despite the agreement’s short-term impact, Kyiv risks running out of funds this autumn without major restructuring and cuts to government expenditure. Moody’s, a credit rating agency, forecasted a budget deficit of around 22 percent of GDP this year, representing a shortfall of some USD 50bn for 2022. This growing deficit has dramatically increased the importance of international financial support to prop up the economy and to sustain the current war effort. International partners have pledged over USD 38bn in support since the invasion began, though only USD 12.7bn was delivered by early July, according to the Ukrainian foreign ministry. As economies around the world face a looming recession and the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades, sustaining such high levels of financial support will likely becoming increasingly complex and fraught. However, Ukraine retains very few options to sustain the war effort beyond international budgetary support. The Ukrainian Central Bank has already bought USD 7.7bn worth of government bonds since the invasion, including USD 3.6bn in June alone. This effectively equates to printing money. If such government bond buying continues to increase, the government risks exacerbating inflation in Ukraine, which was already at 20 percent before the devaluation of the hryvnia this week. All these macroeconomic indicators point to a worsening economic situation for Ukraine, with its ability to sustain the war effort and to meet basic daily governmental needs increasingly hostage not only to international military aid, but more fundamentally international financial assistance.
Russia: High energy prices and expansion of non-Western partnerships are likely to mitigate impact of recession. On 27 July, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that Russia’s economy is performing better than expected despite sweeping international sanctions and the war in Ukraine. In its July 2022 World Economic Outlook, the IMF upgraded Russia’s GDP estimate for the year by 2.5 percentage points. This comes as Moscow continues to benefit from surging energy prices in recent months, propping up crude oil export revenues, while non-energy exports have also fared better than expected. Meanwhile, the IMF also reported that domestic demand in Russia has demonstrated resilience, in part a result of the “containment of the effect of sanctions on the domestic financial sector” and the better than expected performance of the labour market. High global energy prices are likely to continue to mitigate Russia’s fall into recession, predicted to contract by six percent in 2022, as Moscow seeks to expand diplomatic and economic ties with non-Western governments.
- Activity from pro-Russia groups has focused on targeting media organisations within Ukraine to spread misinformation related to the health of President Zelensky in the past week. Additionally, there are signs that Russia-aligned cyber groups are shifting from a reliance on distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks to tactics likely to have a more significant impact on targets. Amid the ongoing conflict, there is growing concern that businesses based in countries aligned with Ukraine may suffer from direct or indirect consequences of Russian cyber activity.
- There has been a notable lack of new publicly disclosed cyber campaigns from pro-Ukraine cyber groups in the past week. However, the claim from the pro-Ukraine ‘GhostSec’ that it prompted power outages in Russia last month with an attack on a hydropower plant represents a significant success (if the claim is accurate). Activity by such groups is expected to continue despite the lack of new attacks.
Russia-linked campaigns target media services in Ukraine, aiming to spread misinformation; evidence suggests Russia-linked groups are seeking to employ greater non-DDoS tactics
- On 21 July, the Ukrainian State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP) claimed that radio group TAVR Media had been hacked. This reportedly led to its broadcasts falsely declaring that the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was in intensive care (see Sibylline Cyber Risk Register Daily Analytical Update – 22 July 2022). This is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat attacks between Ukrainian and Russian groups aimed at media and telecommunications organisations. There have also been reports of a growing number of Russian attacks against Ukraine-based targets which have not employed DDoS tactics in the past week. For example, the Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG) stated that the Russia-linked advanced persistent threat (APT) group ‘Turla’ distributed android-related malware for the first time, targeting pro-Ukrainian hacktivists. The attacks involved the use of a spoofed application pretending to be linked to the Ukrainian Azov Regiment and claiming to be able to help perform DDoS attacks against Russian targets. Reports also suggest that the Russia-linked APT group ‘Cozy Bear’ has been abusing Google Drive to conduct cyber espionage campaigns.
Pro-Ukraine activists claim responsibility for disrupting power supplies in Russia
- On 20 July, the Ukraine-aligned group GhostSec claimed responsibility for an attack against a Russian Industrial Control System (ICS) which led to the emergency shutdown of Gysinoozerskaya Hydropower plant in Russia. The incident, which occurred last month, involved an explosion and a subsequent fire at the facility and a power blackout in the surrounding area. GhostSec claimed that it will continue to campaign against Russian targets as the conflict persists. If the claim is true, the incident represents a high-profile and successful attack against Russian critical energy infrastructure.
As Western support for Ukraine continues, it is increasingly likely that operations in countries aligned with Kyiv will be targeted or indirectly impacted by Russian cyber activity. This threat was highlighted by the Council of the European Union on 19 July, which warned of the potential for ‘spillover’ incidents from cyber attacks against ‘essential’ global organisations. Additionally, it is likely that Russia-linked cyber groups will gradually employ more sophisticated and impactful attacks, moving away from the so far predominant use of DDoS attacks. This is in line with a warning by the pro-Russia cyber group ‘Killnet’ this week that it is developing a new type of attack to target Western companies involved in the production of weapons sent to Ukraine. Elsewhere, activity by pro-Ukraine cyber groups continued to be largely muted in the past week. However, despite a joint agreement regarding the export of Ukrainian grain, cyber groups are expected to continue campaigning against Russian targets in Russia. Active groups such as Anonymous and the ‘IT Army of Ukraine’ will likely continue low-level disruptive attacks. Organisations with operations in Russia or judged to be aligned with the Kremlin are the most vulnerable. Additionally, the Ukrainian authorities will continue to strengthen defences against potential Russian cyber attacks, with some officials assessing that Russia is yet to employ its full cyber capabilities.
- Over the last 24 hours, Russian forces have made marginal gains south of Bakhmut, as predicted. The Ukrainian General Staff have confirmed that Russia achieved “partial success” around the Vuhledar Power Plant in Novoluhanske, roughly 25km southeast of the outskirts of Bakhmut town. Russian forces have been fighting for this relatively unimportant area for almost two months, and yesterday’s advances seem to have resulted from a deliberate Ukrainian withdrawal from the area, though this hasn’t been confirmed.
- Footage released by Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) forces indicate that Wagner Group private military company (PMC) forces led the assault into the town of Novoluhanske. The forces in this region are operating under the aegis of the Southern Grouping, under the command of General Sergei Surovikin. The Southern Grouping has remained the only grouping in eastern Ukraine that has achieved any notable progress in recent weeks, but even here gains have been marginal and the progress towards taking Bakhmut itself will continue to be slow.
- Meanwhile, Russian assaults along other axes, including those aimed at setting conditions for future assaults against Slovyansk and Siversk, have achieved no notable progress in recent days. The Ukrainian General Staff yesterday asserted that the Central Grouping in particular, whose task is to eventually take Slovyansk, are currently focusing on rebuilding manpower and equipment, which likely explains the reduction in the number of assaults on this axis in recent days.
- On the southern axis, information around the Ukrainian counteroffensive that is likely building on the Kherson-Mykolaiv border remains limited. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian Southern Operational Command have claimed their forces have destroyed numerous Russian ammunition depots and command posts behind the frontline over the last 24 hours. Additionally, Ukraine have conducted helicopter and aircraft attacks in Beryslavskyi and Khersonskyi districts, with an unconfirmed report of Ukrainian artillery strikes against the outskirts of Kherson city itself.
- Russian forces are continuing to strengthen their defences across the southern frontlines, including digging trenches around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and hiding military equipment in residential buildings and neighbourhoods. The Russians have also reportedly deployed a pontoon bridge over the smaller Inhulets River near Darivka, roughly 17km northeast of Kherson city. This is likely a bid to strengthen the resilience of Russian ground lines of communication on the west bank of the Dnieper River – which remain highly vulnerable following Ukrainian strikes against the three principal Dnieper bridges this week.
- Yesterday, 25 July, Ukrainian air defences shot down two UAVs over Volyn oblast in north-western Ukraine. The Ukrainian General Staff have subsequently confirmed that the Belarusian military have been conducting training along the border, including aerial reconnaissance of Lutsk and Kovel. Debris from the destroyed drones reportedly killed at least one person in the region, illustrating the enduring risk of collateral damage in areas far from the frontline. Drone and aerial reconnaissance are set to continue for the foreseeable future across Ukraine, and are likely designed to test Ukrainian defences and remind Kyiv of the need to continue screening the Belarusian border. These developments do not change our assessment that Belarus is highly unlikely to enter the war directly in the next three months (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 30-06-22 for further analysis).
- Nevertheless, in a related development Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alyksandr Lukashenka announced yesterday, 25 July, that Russia could transfer nuclear-capable Iskandr-M ballistic missile systems to Belarus. Putin stated that Belarus could receive the missiles within months, with plans to update Belarus’ Su-25 jets to enable them to carry air-launched nuclear weapons also announced. Minsk has long called for Russia to help modernise its missile inventory, which is presently limited to Soviet-era Tochka-U missiles, with a limited range of 120km, compared to Iskandr-M’s 500km range. Ultimately, it remains unclear whether such plans will actually go ahead given Russia’s stocks of weapons continues to diminish. As such, the announcements are in the immediate term most likely designed as a signal to the West. It furthermore remains our assessment that it is highly unlikely that Moscow would hand over nuclear weapons to Minsk – which the 2020 nationwide anti-government protests and partisan activity earlier in the war indicate remains a somewhat unreliable and potentially unstable partner. Rather, plans to make Belarus ‘nuclear capable’ are much more likely to indicate the beginnings of the complete military integration of Belarus with Russia. Any nuclear weapons stationed in Belarus are almost certain to remain under Russian control, and will provide only limited additional strategic reach for Russia, given nuclear weapons are already stationed in the neighbouring Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
- As anticipated, over the last 24 hours Russian forces have continued to step up long-range missile and aerial bombardment of southern Ukraine, including Mykolaiv and Odesa oblast. Despite these attacks, Kyiv nevertheless said that it hopes that grain exports will begin this week. The details of the procedures have not yet been published, but Kyiv has stated that it intends the first grain shipments to leave Chornomorsk port tomorrow, 27 July. Thereafter, exports from Odesa will begin.
- Following the earlier attack against Odesa over the weekend, Moscow alleged that it had struck military targets, in particular anti-ship missiles. Lavrov also emphasised yesterday that the signing of the grain deal did not mean that Russia will halt its “special military operation” and that Moscow will continue to strike targets it believes to be military infrastructure. As such, similar strikes are highly likely to persist in the coming days and week, with local authorities in Odesa reporting another strike early this morning, 26 July, which reportedly hit a civilian area. The developments are on trend and reflective of our assessment that food security will continue to remain highly volatile given the high risk of incidents in and around the Black Sea, which could yet derail the newly-signed agreement.
- On 25 July, Gazprom announced that that it will cut gas supplies to Europe to 20 percent of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline’s capacity from 27 July. The development follows Russia resuming gas flows to Europe after the pipeline underwent a scheduled maintenance period, but highlights the very high likelihood that Moscow will continue to engineer disruptions and decreasing supplies in the weeks ahead. Subsequently, the reduction in gas flows once again raises the fears of certain countries facing shortages during the winter months, with industrial gas rationing already being considered in countries like Germany. For further analysis on the implications of gas shortages in Europe, see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 21-07-22.
Yesterday, 25 July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia’s ultimate goal is to overthrow President Zelensky’s government, stating that Moscow will help Ukrainians “liberate themselves from the burden of this absolutely unacceptable regime”. The statement is the bluntest indication yet that Moscow’s war aims to “demilitarise and denazify” Ukraine have not been abandoned, despite military setbacks on the battlefield. The statement furthermore follows Lavrov’s earlier comments last week in which he also stated that Russia seeks to capture more Ukrainian regions beyond the Donbas (see Sibylline – Daily Ukraine Update – 21-07-22 for further analysis). As previously assessed, these statements and others given by Kremlin officials point to Moscow’s readiness to continue fighting a more protracted war, despite the very slow and attritional progress made in the Donbas in recent months.
Russia-Germany: Gazprom to cut energy supplies to 20 percent capacity, increasing energy security concerns and socio-economic risks. Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom has confirmed that it will cut gas exports to Germany from 27 July through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to just 20 percent of capacity. Gazprom announced that flows will drop to 33 m cubic metres per day, reducing the current, already decreased level due operations required of a Siemens gas turbine. However, Germany has said it has seen no technical reason for the latest deduction. Last week, Germany was forced to declare a USD 15 bn bailout of Uniper, its largest gas importer from Russia, as Germany increased its gas readiness to the EU’s second highest ‘alert’ stage. The most recent cut in gas supplies to Germany, if it continues throughout the winter, will increase costs for countries already experiencing heightened energy security risks, and therefore increase socio-economic challenges and policy risk to firms.
- Over the 22-24 July weekend, the Ukrainians launched what is likely to be the beginning of a counteroffensive along the Kherson-Mykolaiv border, following weeks of steady build-up and anticipation that Ukrainian forces were preparing a counterattack. President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on 23 July that Ukrainian forces are progressing “step by step” in the region, with unnamed US sources also stating that numerous unspecified Russian-occupied villages have been retaken in recent days. Ukrainian forces have furthermore damaged all three Russian-controlled bridges spanning the Dnipro River over the past week, including a HIMARS strike against the dam at the Nova Kakhova Hydroelectric Power Plant, roughly 55km east of Kherson city.
- Information flows remain fairly limited beyond official statements at this stage, with regional administrators calling on local Ukrainian civilians to not report on the progress of ongoing operations. Russian sources are equally unlikely to report on Ukrainian successes along this axis. As such, the current frontline will remain difficult to determine and independently confirm until the Ukrainian General Staff decides to report on progress in their daily briefings. Nevertheless, on 24 July, Ukrainian Advisor to the Kherson Oblast Administration Serhiy Khlan stated that Ukrainian forces have switched from defensive to counteroffensive operations, which appears to be the clearest acknowledgement yet that such an offensive has been launched. For further analysis of the implications of the building counteroffensive, see Forecast below.
- Elsewhere on other frontline lines there have been limited developments over the weekend. The Ukrainian General Staff has reported a number of failed Russian assaults around Slovyansk, Siversk and Bakhmut in recent days, though an intensification of fighting around the Vuhledar Power Plant could see progress south of Bakhmut in the coming days. Nevertheless, together with other failed but limited Russian assaults north of Kharkiv as well as along the Kherson-Mykolaiv front, Russian forces are clearly continuing to struggle to generate much offensive momentum, despite the end of the operational pause a week ago. Russian forces are likely slowly encroaching on Siversk from the east, but progress is seemingly very slow and difficult to confirm at this stage.
- Shortly after Ukraine and Russia signed a grain exports agreement on 22 July two Russian sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles hit Odesa, casting serious doubt on the likelihood of the agreement holding. Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed responsibility for the attack, alleging that the strike had destroyed “military infrastructure”. Although the strike in and of itself will not derail the deal, and did not hit grain supplies, further such strikes are highly likely to take place in the coming days and weeks, with Russia having previously violated numerous ceasefire agreements during attempts to evacuate civilians earlier in the conflict. As such, despite the deal representing a notable step forward in addressing the global food crisis, the strike on Odesa underlined the fact that food security will remain highly volatile for the duration of the war given the realistic possibility of Russia breaking security guarantees during grain shipments.
- Russia-backed officials in occupied Zaporizhzhia oblast once again claimed that the referendum on whether to join Russia will be held in “the first half of September” in both Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Additionally, Ukrainian media sources have also claimed that Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk are also planning to hold a referendum on joining Russia on the entire territory of the region. The sources allege that there is no date for the pseudo-referendum, but that one possible option is 11 September – the day of Russian regional and gubernatorial elections. However, given the slow pace of the Russian offensive in Donetsk, it is highly unlikely that Moscow will manage to capture the whole region before this date, thus casting doubt on the success of the vote proceeding on the entire territory amid ongoing Ukrainian resistance.
- In a notable development, President Zelensky has stripped prominent oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky of his Ukrainian citizenship, which will open the way for his arrest and potential deportation to the US, where the authorities are currently investigating Kolomoisky’s alleged involvement in large-scale money laundering. According to the report, nine other individuals have also been stripped of their Ukrainian citizenship. Although Kyiv is yet to make the formal announcement, an adviser to the Head of the President’s Office, Serhiy Leshchenko, has reportedly confirmed the development to the media. The move is on trend and reflective of our previous assessment that Zelensky is highly likely to take an increasingly harsher stance against Russia-leaning forces within Ukraine and intensify the fight against corruption in a bid to reassure Ukraine’s Western partners that Kyiv is serious about reforms.
- On 22 July, the head of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Denis Pushilin signed an agreement with the head of the pro-Russian occupation government of Kharkiv oblast to facilitate political, cultural and economic integration with Russia. Pushilin stated that the “Russian city of Kharkiv, which has always been a gubernatorial city of the Russian empire […] will also return home [to Russia]”. This is the latest indicator supporting our assessment that Moscow’s territorial ambitions extend beyond the Donbas and southern Ukraine. As such, the symbolic Russian-speaking city of Kharkiv will likely remain a longer-term Russian objective if the military situation allows in the coming months.
- For more strategic analysis and escalation outcomes to the current conflict in Ukraine, see our Scenario Planning and Projections report.
On 24 July, Ukrainian Advisor to the Kherson Oblast Administration Serhiy Khlan stated that “a turning point has occurred on the battlefield”, as Ukrainian forces switch from the defensive to the counteroffensive along the Kherson-Mykolaiv frontline. The expected Ukrainian counteroffensive along this axis looks set to mark a new phase of the war, which the provision of Western-supplied HIMARS systems and Kyiv’s generation of fresh brigades in recent weeks has facilitated. While the success of any counteroffensive remains to be seen, Khlan stated yesterday that “Kherson region will definitely be liberated by September”, reflecting growing Ukrainian confidence following the success HIMARS strikes have achieved on the battlefield in recent weeks. The Russians have so far struggled to find an effective counter to these systems, relying increasingly on camouflage and storing assets in civilian areas to discourage Ukrainian attacks – including inside the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. HIMARS have in particular increased Ukraine’s counterbattery capabilities, which appears to have had a notable impact on the intensity of Russian artillery strikes across the frontline in recent days. Throughout the war, Russian forces have relied extremely heavily upon artillery dominance to sustain incremental gains. However, in the absence of a viable Russian counter to Ukrainian HIMARS, this advantage is diminishing and will thus undermine Russian forces’ ability to build momentum during future ground offensives. Furthermore, as reported by British Defence Intelligence on 25 July, a major Ukrainian counteroffensive will also likely force a choice on Russian commanders; whether to reinforce the vulnerable Kherson-Mykolaiv border, or continue strengthening the offensive in the Donbas – which is struggling to gain momentum despite the ostensible end of the operational pause last week. Aside from impacting the dynamics on the battlefield, a sustained Ukrainian counteroffensive will significantly increase the pressure on the Kremlin to escalate its commitment to the war more broadly. We anticipate that far-right hard liners will double down on their demands for general mobilisation as the only way to effectively counter Ukraine’s growing offensive military capabilities and confidence on the battlefield. In particular, a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive would expose Crimea to Ukrainian attack – something President Zelensky has consistently stated is a goal of his government. As previously assessed, the need to defend Crimea, considered intrinsic Russian territory by Moscow, is an order of magnitude more important to the Kremlin than defending occupied territory it has gained since February. As such, any credible threat to that territory carries a more profound escalation risk than Ukrainian counterattacks would have in the Donbas. Recent comments by prominent Russian officials arguably reflect this escalatory potential, which may be laying the political foundations for a transition from a “special military operation” to a full declaration of war, and a potential future mobilisation thereafter. Most notably, Chechen leader and Putin loyalist Ramzan Kadyrov stated on 24 July that Western military support for Ukraine is provoking the Russian Federation into starting a full-scale war in Ukraine. This furthermore aligns with Kremlin narratives that Russia is fighting a proxy conflict with NATO, which may ultimately justify a decision to mobilise and conceal Russian military failures. As such, if and when Ukrainian forces begin taking ground around Kherson, the Kremlin will face mounting pressure to offset Russian military vulnerabilities with raw numbers, which in turn would reinforce the attritional nature of the war that would likely extend into 2023 as a result.
25 Jul 22.
Russia-Ukraine: Grain export deal highly likely to face further security guarantee violations. On 23 July, two Russian cruise missiles struck Ukraine’s Odesa port, after the two parties signed a landmark deal to resume grain exports on 22 July. Russian Foreign Minister Maria Zakharova reported that the strikes destroyed “military infrastructure” at the port, however, the attack did not cause significant damage. Signed one day prior, the grain exports agreement is aimed at alleviating the global food crisis through facilitating shipments from three of Ukraine’s ports, including Odesa. Subsequently, Western, Ukrainian and United Nations (UN) officials condemned Russia’s strikes on Odesa, with the attack highlighting issues in enforcing security guarantees. Despite this, Ukrainian authorities are continuing with technical preparations for the launch of agricultural exports from its ports. However, further Russian attacks in the region are almost certain in the coming weeks, threatening to collapse the grain deal and prevent its implementation, sustaining threats to global food security for the foreseeable future.
Nigeria: EU gas needs will drive increased purchases and investment in Nigeria. On 23 July, EU officials confirmed the bloc is actively seeking to bolster its supplies of gas from Nigeria due to tensions with Russia. While the EU currently imports roughly 14 percent of its Liquid Natural Gas supply from Nigeria, volumes of gas exports to Europe from Nigeria have been falling. Nigeria exported 36 bn cubic meters (bcm) of LNG to the EU in 2018, but 23 bcm in 2021. This is in part due to criminal activity and vandalism of pipelines in the Niger Delta, forcing the LNG terminal at Bonny Island to operate at 60 percent capacity. In the short term Nigeria is seeking to bolster available supply by enhancing security in the Niger Delta, re-opening key pipelines after August. Increased EU interest is also likely to drive investment in infrastructure to bolster LNG deliveries to the EU, with a committee due to meet at the end of July to discuss how to proceed with a Trans-Saharan gas pipeline capable of delivering a further 30 bcm to the EU. (Source: Sibylline)
01 Aug 22. Russia pounds Ukrainian port; Putin announces global maritime ambitions.
- Putin’s maritime ambitions include Black Sea, Arctic
- Russian missiles pound port of Mykolaiv
- Explosion in Russia’s Black Sea fleet base
- Ukraine grain tycoon Oleksiy Vadatursky killed in Mykolaiv
- First Ukraine grain ship may leave port Monday
Russian missiles pounded Ukraine’s port city Mykolaiv on the Black Sea, as President Vladimir Putin signed a new naval doctrine casting the United States as Russia’s main rival and setting global maritime ambitions in the Black Sea and Arctic.
Putin did not mention the conflict in Ukraine during a speech marking Russia’s Navy Day on Sunday, but said the navy would receive hypersonic Zircon cruise missiles in coming months. The missiles can travel at nine times the speed of sound, outrunning air defences. read more
Navy Day celebrations in the port of Sevastopol were disrupted when five Russian navy staff members were injured by an explosion after a suspected drone flew into the courtyard of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, the Crimean port city’s governor, Mikhail Razvozhayev, told Russian media.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Olga Kovitidi, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, told Russia’s RIA news agency that the attack was “undoubtedly carried out not from outside, but from the territory of Sevastopol”.
“Urgent search operations are being conducted in the city to track down the organisers of this terrorist act,” Kovitidi was quoted as saying.
Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said more than 12 missile strikes on Sunday, probably the most powerful on the city in five months of war, hit homes and schools, with two people confirmed killed and three wounded. Missile strikes continued into Sunday evening.
Ukrainian grain tycoon Oleksiy Vadatursky, founder and owner of agriculture company Nibulon, and his wife were killed in their home, Mykolaiv Governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram.
Headquartered in Mykolaiv, a strategically important city that borders the mostly Russian-occupied Kherson region, Nibulon specialises in the production and export of wheat, barley and corn, and has its own fleet and shipyard.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy described Vadatursky’s death as “a great loss for all of Ukraine”.
Zelenskiy added that the businessman – one of Ukraine’s richest with Forbes estimating his 2021 net worth at $430m – had been building a modern grain market with a network of transhipment terminals and elevators.
“It is these people, these companies, precisely the south of Ukraine, which has guaranteed the world’s food security,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly address. “This was always so. And it will be so once again.”
Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, setting off a conflict that has killed thousands, uprooted millions and deeply strained relations between Russia and the West.
The biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two has also stoked an energy and food crisis that is shaking the global economy. Both Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of grain.
Zelenskiy said Ukraine may harvest only half its usual amount this year due to disruption to farming.
But an agreement signed under the stewardship of the United Nations and Turkey on July 22 provides for safe passage for ships carrying grain out of three southern Ukrainian ports.
The ship may leave Ukraine’s ports on Monday, a spokesperson for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said.
Zelenskiy said Russia has been transferring some forces from the eastern Donbas region to the southern Kherson and Zaporizhizhya regions.
“But that won’t help them there. None of the Russian strikes will go unanswered by our military and intelligence officers,” he said.
After failing to quickly capture the capital, Kyiv, early in the war, Russia has turned its forces on Ukraine’s east and south.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and Kyiv says Moscow is seeking to do the same with the Donbas region and link it to Crimea in the south. Russian-backed separatist controlled parts of the region before the invasion.
Russia said it had invited U.N. and Red Cross experts to investigate the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists.
Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations over a missile strike or explosion early on Friday that appeared to have killed the Ukrainian prisoners of war in the front-line town of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.
The International Committee of the Red Cross condemned the attack and said it had not received permission to visit the site, while adding it was not its mandate to publicly investigate alleged war crimes
30 Jul 22. Ukraine says scores of Russians killed in Kherson fighting.
- Kherson is focus of Ukrainian counter-offensive
- Ukraine says rail links to Kherson over Dnipro have been cut
- Ukraine, Russia trade accusations over POW deaths
The Ukrainian military said on Saturday it had killed scores of Russian soldiers and destroyed two ammunition dumps in fighting in the Kherson region, the focus of Kyiv’s counter-offensive in the south and a key link in Moscow’s supply lines.
Rail traffic to Kherson over the Dnipro River had been cut, the military’s southern command said, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and the east.
Ukraine has used Western-supplied long-range missile systems to badly damage three bridges across the Dnipro in recent weeks, cutting off Kherson city and – in the assessment of British defence officials – leaving Russia’s 49th Army stationed on the west bank of the river highly vulnerable.
“As a result of fire establishing control over the main transport links in occupied territory, it has been established that traffic over the rail bridge crossing the Dnipro is not possible,” Ukraine’s southern command said in a statement.
It said more than 100 Russian soldiers and seven tanks had been destroyed in fighting on Friday in the Kherson region, the first major town captured by the Russians following their Feb. 24 invasion.
The first deputy head of the Kherson regional council, Yuri Sobolevsky, told residents to stay from away from Russian ammunition dumps.
“The Ukrainian army is pouring it on against the Russians and this is only the beginning,” he wrote on Telegram.
The pro-Ukrainian governor of Kherson region, Dmytro Butriy, said Berislav district was particularly hard hit. Berislav is across the river northwest of the Kakhovka hydroelectric powerplant.
“In some villages, not a single home has been left intact, all infrastructure has been destroyed, people are living in cellars,” he wrote on the Telegram app.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports and officials from the Russian-appointed administration running the Kherson region earlier this week rejected Western and Ukrainian assessments of the situation.
The two sides also traded accusations on Friday over a missile strike or explosion which appeared to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in eastern Donetsk province.
Forty prisoners were killed and 75 wounded at the prison in the frontline town of Olenivka held by Moscow-backed separatists, Russia’s defence ministry said. Some of the deaths were confirmed by Reuters journalists at the prison.
A spokesperson for the separatists put the death toll at 53 and accused Kyiv of targeting the prison with U.S.-made HIMARS rockets.
Ukraine’s armed forces denied responsibility, saying Russian artillery had targeted the prison to hide the mistreatment of those held there. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia had committed a war crime and called for international condemnation.
Reuters could not immediately verify the differing versions of events.
Reuters TV showed the remains of a cavernous burned-out building filled with metal beds, some with charred bodies lying on them while other bodies were lined up on military stretchers or on the ground outside.
Shell fragments had been laid out on a blue metal bench. It was not immediately possible to detect any identifying markings and it was not clear where the fragments had been collected.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it is seeking access to the site and has offered to help evacuate the wounded.
Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians since its invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia denies targeting civilians.
A U.N.-brokered deal to restart shipping grain from Ukraine and ease a worldwide food crisis was discussed by the top diplomats of the United States and Russia on Friday in their first phone call since before Russia’s invasion of its neighbour began on Feb. 24.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Washington was not living up to promises regarding the exemption of food from sanctions, the foreign ministry said. read more
A Russian foreign ministry account of the phone call cited Lavrov as telling Blinken that Russia would achieve all the goals of its “special military operation”, and said Western arms supplies to Ukraine would only drag out the conflict.
Blinken warned Lavrov about any Russian territorial claims during its war in Ukraine.
“The world will not recognise annexations. We will impose additional significant costs on Russia if it moves forward with its plans,” he said. (Source: Reuters)
29 Jul 22. Defense Official Says Sanctions Nearly Stall Russian Offensive in Ukraine. Fighting continues in the east and south of Ukraine as Russian advances slow to a crawl, grind to a halt in some places, or are slowly reversed in areas like Kherson, said a senior Defense Department official said today.
Russia is failing on the battlefield and suffering domestic failures at home, the official said.
The Ukrainians have become very effective in finding and killing Russian command and control nodes and destroying swaths of Russian materiel, the official said.
“Even as Russia is talking the big talk, even as Russia is menacing the Ukrainian population, the Ukrainians continue to bravely advance. They’re making tremendous use of the $8.2bn in equipment we’ve provided, thus far,” the official said.
The menace to Ukrainian civilians includes air strikes in the Ukrainian cities of Odesa and near Kyiv over the past week, the official noted.
Also, the National Intelligence Council released a “chilling report” that described at least 18 so-called filtration camps where Ukrainians are subjected to inhumane conditions, including abuse and, in some cases, executions, the official said.
Regarding military support to Kyiv, DOD is consulting closely with Ukraine’s ministry of defense to ensure materiel, including ammunition, that they need is forthcoming. DOD is putting together another security assistance package that will address those needs, the official said.
In terms of Russian domestic failures, export controls that have been imposed on Moscow by the United States, partners and allies around the world are just now starting to have an effect, the official said, ticking off a list that included:
Major Russian state-owned companies have lost 70-90% of their market capitalization. Around 1,000 multinational companies have suspended operations in Russia.
Inflation in Russia is rising up to 20%.
The Russian stock market has lost a third of its value.
“This is just the beginning of the impact of these sanctions,” the official concluded.
(Source: US DoD)
29 Jul 22. Lithuania to equip Ukraine with ten more M113 APCs.
The government also plans to train Ukrainian maintenance personnel, instructors, and demining personnel in Lithuania.
Army Training Command/U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus
Lithuanian National Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas has confirmed that the government will deliver additional assistance, including ten M113 armoured personnel carriers, to Ukraine.
The minister announced this during a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov in Kyiv.
Anušauskas said the Lithuanian Government will ship additional M113 armoured personnel carriers (APCs), smoke grenades, blank ammunition, and explosives to further strengthen the capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces.
The delivery of additional M113s by Lithuania will bring the number of such vehicles sent to Ukraine to 30.
Operational in over 44 countries, the M113 provides amphibious operation both on land and in water.
The vehicle uses a single 0.50cal M2 Browning machine gun as its main armament.
It can also be fitted with a 40mm Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher, anti-tank weapons, and mounted with the M47 Dragon missile system.
The armoured vehicle provides safety from small firearms to big artillery shell splinters. (Source: army-technology.com)
29 Jul 22. Iran Already Delivers Combat Drones to Russia. A batch of Iranian drones was sent across the Caspian Sea to Russia. In the future, military cargo is planned to be delivered to the borders of Ukraine via Astrakhan and Volgograd. It is known that the basis of the cargo consists of heavy strike drones “Shahed 129”. Its development was based on the Israeli Hermes 450 drone and the American MQ-1 Predator. The length of the fuselage of “Shahed 129” is 8 meters. The wingspan is 16 meters. The declared combat load is up to 400 kg. Flight speed – up to 150 km/h with a radius of up to 200 km. The declared flight range is up to 1700 km. The developers claim that the drone can stay in the air for up to 24 hours. It can be armed with Sadid-1 anti-tank missiles (a copy of the Israeli Spike-ER) or a high-precision planning bomb with a fragmentation warhead – Sadid-345. It is worth noting that practically nothing is known about the actual combat characteristics of Iranian drones since they have not yet been used in a full-scale war. Therefore, the capabilities of “Shahed 129” may differ from those declared. (Source: UAS VISION/Censor.NET)
29 Jul 22. Drone Valley Concept at Warsaw Drone Summit. Bernard Hudson’s, CEO at LGGS and a former CIA Chief of Counterterrorism, Drone Valley concept for Poland was presented at the Warsaw Drone Summit, as a way to accelerate innovation in this increasingly critical sector to benefit Poland and Ukraine. The meeting brought together militaries, governments, investors and companies who were heavily involved in the drone industry from Poland, Ukraine, USA and other countries. The Russian invasion on Ukraine has made it clear that the role of drones on today’s battlefield has rapidly increased. And will be growing. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation data size of military drone market is valued at $11.7bn in 2022 and is projected to reach USD 17.2bn by 2028. That is why Hudson initiated the Warsaw Drone Summit as a communication platform to exchange views of relevant stakeholders in the region and come up with a plan to accelerate innovation in this sector. A Drone Valley located in Poland, which could become a regional center for drone technology and innovation, seems to be the best concept to address all needs of the moment.
The concept of “Drone Valley” is not at all limited to drones, says Elizabeth Charnock, CEO at Chenope, an American software startup who recently opened up in Poland. Numerous kinds of advanced software technologies are becoming more and more important for drones and indeed across the spectrum of sophisticated military equipment. These include machine vision, sensor fusion, and advanced inferencing software.
For Yegor Dubynskyi, Ukrainian Digital Transformation V-ce Minister, it’s obvious that thanks to rapid technological advancement internet and digital space have increasingly become the new digital technology on the battlefield where drones and other unmanned systems play more and more significant roles.
“Ukraine develops innovative solutions for UAVs production and becomes a new testing ground for the drone technology”, says Dubynskyi. “The mission of drones is to conduct smart warfare and preserve human lives. And a drone is a sign of the Ukrainian smart fight for freedom”,
Robert Fintak, CEO of the Polish Chamber of Unmanned Systems (PISB), agrees that the Drone Valley is a concept to benefit not only Poland and Ukraine, but the whole CEE region. Poland has one-of-a-kind opportunity to become a drone industry incubator for the region and strengthen a cooperation in this region. „I love the Drone Valley concept. Poland has strong position in drone development and manufacturing. Combining Polish and Ukrainian resources would create unparalleled competitiveness on European level”, adds Fintak.
BERNARD HUDSON, FORMER CHIEF OF COUNTERTERRORISM, CIA
Bernard Hudson is the CEO of LGGS, an international drone advisory firm whose activities in conflict zones range from the Middle East to Eastern Europe. Prior to starting LGGS, Bern last served as CIA’s Chief of Counterterrorism where he directed all aspects of the Agency’s global war on terrorism. He is also currently a non-resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center and serves on a number of boards. He holds a BA from Georgetown University in Political Science.
Headquartered in Reston, VA (USA), LGGS is a drone advisory firm that brings together battle-proven experts from the most sophisticated unmanned programs in the world. We help governments and others tackle some of the world’s hardest problems related to drone technology and applications. LGGS staff collectively have decades of experience identifying innovative and cost-effective ways to use drones and related technologies in both combat and non-combat usages.
Chenope is an American software company that develops systems for constructing complex mathematical models. Use cases include sensor fusion – where we partner with LGGS – and detection of the coordinated transmission of disinformation. Chenope’s multidisciplinary team holds several very highly cited patents in different areas of AI. It includes mathematicians, computer scientists, computational linguists, and an economist. Chenope has an office in Kyiv, and has recently opened an office in Warsaw.
POLISH CHAMBER OF UNMANNED SYSTEMS
Headquartered in Warsaw, the goal of the association is to work towards improving the regulatory environment and the organizational conditions of the unmanned systems market in order to fully exploit the economic and technological potential of the sector. (Source: UAS VISION)
28 Jul 22. Sale of Iranian UAS to Russia: A Game-Changer for the Whole Region and for U.S Foreign Policy. Despite the Biden Administration’s efforts to compartmentalize the theatres of operation (Russia/Gulf/China) and find tailored solutions to each of them, the geopolitics of its adversaries catches up with it, extending the domain of the European conflict to the old Gulf ones. In other words: there is no longer a solution of continuity between theatres, but a strategic continuum between regional conflicts, which surprises only the Biden Administration. The two main regional players, Iran and Israel, have been already conducting an active regional policy for a long time, and never walled-up their strategic horizons: for both, war has no borders and no limits.
Iran’s proxy strategy has proven to be efficient and deeply destabilizing. Its influence is particularly visible in five countries, encircling Israel and the Gulf states: Lebanon (Hezbollah, a state within a state), Bahrain (70% of population is Shiite), Yemen (Houthis), Iraq and of course Syria, especially since the return of the most of the Russian expeditionary force.
The other regional player, Israel, has always adopted a world-wide strategy to offset its lack of allies and of territorial strategic depth. Europe, Africa, South America and of course Middle East and the Gulf.
But for Washington, which has carefully decided to stay away from the Gulf, the sale of Iranian drones to Russia is a brutal return to reality. The Biden team is thus forced to return to a global doctrine of containment of the axis of evil, from Russia to China via Iran, which is precisely what it wanted to avoid.
When U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tells the press that Iran is preparing to send hundreds of armed drones to Russia, it is actually the first implicit acknowledgment that the battlefield is no longer regional, but global….something that intelligence services knew for decades.
Unveiling the UAS deal between Iran and Russia, just before Mr. Biden’s trip to the region, also sends a clear political message: Israel and Saudi Arabia must now adopt a harder stance with Russia. Both countries, for very different reasons, had, so far, no interest in aligning themselves with the Anglo-Saxon anti-Russian obsession: they have one now and the best.
The drone: game changer beyond borders and regimes
The Iranian drone threat is indeed as scary in the Gulf as the threat of the Turkish TB2 is in Ukraine, giving this weapon system the ability to change military doctrines and political lines more than any other one (deterrence aside): the Iranian drones will thus cement the relationship between Israel and the Arab countries of the region more surely than the Abraham Accords.
No need to confirm that the Iranian drone threat is real, precise and constantly improving, as evidenced by the attacks of September 14, 2019 (swarm flight) against the Aramco facilities in Arabia; those of January 27 in the UAE against tankers in Musaffah; , and recently the flight of three Hezbollah drones near the (disputed) Israeli Kamish gas field.
An asymmetric weapon by definition, where a system costing several m dollars can be easily destroyed by an improved toy costing just hundreds, the drone was, initially, the very tool of Israel.
Sales to Russia and Turkey have generated copies and upgraded models. But more than Israel and like Turkey, Iran has truly established “a drone geopolitics”, consolidating its regional hold by and with this weapon. Not only does it design and produce new types (more enduring, better armed, better protected) but it exports them (to its proxies who use them): very recently, Hezbollah in the Israeli offshore gas field of Kamish, in the disputed area between Israel and Lebanon) and it produces it abroad (the factory in Tajikistan is in production since 2017).
Despite permanent Western surveillance which leads to some interceptions (often publicized as recently), Iran succeeds every day in circulating men and materials in the regions it controls, maintaining a strike capacity which is not more regional but now extends to the eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea and part of the Indian Ocean. General Gantz’s recent speech in the Knesset, describing Iran’s encirclement of the Gulf countries and Israel, gave a particularly precise picture of the levers of deterrence available to Tehran, even without detaining a nuclear bomb.
It is therefore not surprising that in recent weeks the Saudis have officially asked the Israeli Ministry of Defence to approve the sale of various drones, radar systems, advanced warning and anti-drones’ systems and ground-to-air defence systems.
It is also not surprising to learn that Israeli officials have visited the Kingdom to discuss potential agreements for surface-to-air systems without American components (medium-range Barak-8; short-range Spyder): the two States want to keep their little secrets.
It is therefore not surprising that the so-called Middle East Air Defence (MEAD) alliance was formed empirically (with common early warning network) under an initiative of Israel and the UAE.
Only the Biden Administration did not want to see the link between all these theatres of operations.
The Iranian drone gives it the opportunity of freeing itself from initial ideological blinders and of realizing the dream of the American deep state: the continuum between all areas of conflict, which the best policy of domination possible. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/)
28 Jul 22. Ukraine steps up drive to retake Russian-controlled south with air strikes.
- Ukraine tries to squeeze Russia from south of country
- Tries to disrupt supply lines, bombs bridges
- Targets Russian forces with air strikes
- Russia says it bombs Ukrainian infantry
- Kyiv says Russia is redeploying forces to south
Ukraine stepped up its drive to retake the Russian-controlled south of the country by trying to bomb and isolate Russian troops in hard-to-resupply areas, but said it saw evidence that Moscow was redeploying its forces to defend the territory.
Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, which borders Russian-annexed Crimea, fell to Russian forces soon after they began what Moscow calls “a special military operation” on Feb. 24.
Ukraine, which describes Russia’s actions as an imperial-style war of conquest, said on Thursday its planes had struck five Russian strongholds around the city of Kherson and another city in the area.
British military intelligence, which helps Ukraine, said it was likely that Ukrainian forces had also established a bridgehead south of a river which runs along the wider Kherson region’s northern border.
“Ukraine’s counter-offensive in Kherson is gathering momentum,” it said in a statement.
Ukraine says it has retaken some small settlements on the region’s northern edge in recent weeks as it tries to push Russian forces back, a potential prelude to what Kyiv has billed as a major counter-offensive to retake the south.
Russia said on Thursday it was unfazed, with the defence ministry saying its planes had attacked a Ukrainian infantry brigade in the far north of the Kherson region and killed more than 130 of its soldiers in the last 24 hours.
Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russian-appointed military-civilian administration running the Kherson region, has also dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments of the battlefield situation.
“(Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskiy’s statement that Kherson region will be liberated in three to six weeks is…a lie. All these counter-offensives that result in a large number of Ukrainian casualties are coming to nothing,” Stremousov told Russia’s RIA news agency on Wednesday.
‘MASSIVE RUSSIAN REDEPLOYMENT’
Ukraine has used Western-supplied long-range missile systems to badly damage three bridges across the River Dnipro in recent weeks, making it harder for Russia to supply its forces on the western bank.
British intelligence said the strategy was starting to isolate Russian forces in the Kherson region.
“Russia’s 49th Army, stationed on the west bank of the Dnipro River, now looks highly vulnerable,” it said in an intelligence bulletin.
Kherson city was now virtually cut off from the other territories occupied by Russia.
“Its loss would severely undermine Russia’s attempts to paint the occupation as a success,” it said.
A Ukrainian strike on Wednesday on the Antonivskyi bridge, the sole span serving Kherson city, prompted its closure to traffic. That forced Russia to open a ferry service, the route of which it said would constantly change for security reasons.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, tweeted that Russia was concentrating “the maximum number of troops” in the direction of the Kherson region but gave no details.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Zelenskiy, said Russia was conducting a “massive redeployment” of forces from the east to the south in what amounted to a strategic shift from attack to defence. read more
RIA reported on Thursday that Russian security services had uncovered a group of Ukrainian agents in Kherson who had been paid to pass on the map coordinates of Russian forces there to Ukraine for targeting with artillery.
Zelenskiy said Ukraine would one day rebuild the Antonivskyi bridge over the Dnipro and other crossings in the region.
“We are doing everything to ensure that the occupying forces do not have any logistical opportunities in our country,” he said in a Wednesday evening address on the eve of what is Ukraine’s annual Statehood Day.
Oleksiy Gromov, a senior member of Ukraine military’s General Staff, told a news briefing on Thursday that the bridge was of great importance for Russia’s defensive effort and for Ukraine’s attempted offensive.
“We have repeatedly struck the Antonivskyi bridge… There is significant damage to the bridge’s structures,” Gromov said.
Russia continues to carry out its own daily strikes against targets across Ukraine.
Five people were killed and 25 wounded in a Russian missile strike on a flight school in the central Ukrainian city of Kropyvnytskyi on Thursday, the regional governor said. read more
Fierce fighting is also underway in eastern Ukraine where Russia is trying to take control of the entirety of the industrialised Donbas region.
Ukraine confirmed late on Wednesday that Russian forces had captured the Soviet-era coal-fired Vuhlehirsk power plant, Ukraine’s second-largest, in what was Moscow’s first significant gain in Donbas in more than three weeks. Kyiv played down the importance of the setback. (Source: Reuters)
28 Jul 22. US and German Air Forces’ fighter jets support Nato’s missions. The USAF’s F-22 will be deployed in European Theatres while German Eurofighters will be in Baltic States. The US Air Force (USAF) has deployed its F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft to support Nato’s Air Shielding mission in the European Theatre. The aircraft has already arrived at RAF Lakenheath in the UK and will fly to the 32nd Tactical Air Base (AB) in Łask, Poland. The deployed aircraft are from the USAF’s 90th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Wing, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Alaska. However, the fighter jets will support the Nato’s mission as the 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. The F-22A Raptor aircraft can perform both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions that allows full realisation of the operational concepts required by the modern forces.
Besides, the integration with Nato allied and partners nations further showcases the commitment of alliance to deter and defend in complex and changing security conditions.
The Air Shielding missions allow the integration of allied air, surface-based air and missile defence units into Nato’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence system, operating under Nato Command and Control (NCC).
The mission aims to safeguard the territory of Nato allied populations and forces from various air and missile threats.
On 27 July, five Eurofighter Typhoon jets of German Air Force flew to the Ämari AB in Estonia to support Nato’s Air Policing mission in the Baltics.
Four of the five aircraft belong to the Tactical Air Force Wing 71 ‘Richthofen’ from Wittmund while one belongs to Tactical Air Force Wing 31 ‘Boelke’ from Nörvenich.
The five fighter jets will take over the security mission from 1 August to protect Nato’s airspace in the Baltics region for next nine months.
According to the German Luftwaffe, the aircraft supplier performed machines and other safety checks on all the five aircraft before this latest deployment. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
28 Jul 22. Putin’s troops ‘vulnerable’ as counter-offensive in Kherson gains momentum. A Ukrainian counter-offensive has virtually cut off the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson and left thousands of Russian troops stationed near the Dnipro River “highly vulnerable”, the Ministry of Defence said. Ukraine has made clear it intends to recapture Kherson, which fell to Russia in the early days of the invasion launched by Vladimir Putin. The MoD said Ukrainian forces are “gathering momentum” with their counter-offensive and had used new, long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges crossing the Dnipro.
“Russia’s 49th Army, stationed on the west bank of the Dnipro River, now looks highly vulnerable,” it said on Twitter, adding that Kherson was virtually cut off from the other territories occupied by Russia.
“Its loss would severely undermine Russia’s attempts to paint the occupation as a success.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
27 Jul 22. Himars strike closes key bridge into Russian-occupied city of Kherson. Authorities in the Russian-controlled Ukrainian city of Kherson have closed the city’s only bridge across the Dnieper river after it came under fire from US-supplied high mobility artillery rocket systems (Himars), according to Interfax and TASS reports on Wednesday.
The Antonovsky bridge has been closed for civilians but its structural integrity has not suffered from the shelling, Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-appointed city administration, told Interfax.
Separately, TASS quoted the official saying that Himars had targeted the bridge. A Ukrainian counteroffensive to recapture the southern region from Russia could potentially benefit from the destruction of the bridge.
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
25 Jul 22. Ukraine says it has destroyed 50 Russian ammunition depots using HIMARS. Ukraine said on Monday its forces had used U.S-supplied HIMARS rocket systems to destroy 50 Russian ammunition depots since receiving the weapons last month.
In comments on national television, Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov underlined the growing impact that the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) are having as Ukraine tries to repel Russia’s invasion.
“This cuts their (Russian) logistical chains and takes away their ability to conduct active fighting and cover our armed forces with heavy shelling,” Reznikov said.
Reuters could not independently verify Reznikov’s remarks. Russia did not immediately comment.
Reznikov said Ukrainian artillery crews had conducted “precise” strikes on several bridges. He gave no details but was apparently referring to three river crossings in Russian-occupied Kherson region which local occupation authorities say were attacked by HIMARS over the past week.
Reznikov also said Ukraine had received three Gepard anti-aircraft armoured fighting vehicles, the first of 15 expected, and that Kyiv was expecting to take delivery of several dozen Leopard tanks.
Russia says it has destroyed several of the HIMARS systems though Ukraine has denied this. In the latest such report, Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Monday its forces had destroyed an ammunition depot for HIMARS systems in the Khmelnytskyi region in western Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have said repeatedly that Western supplies of weapons are critical to Ukraine’s military effort, and underlined the importance of the HIMARS because of Russia’s artillery supremacy in terms of numbers and ammunition.
HIMARS have a longer range and are more precise than the Soviet-era artillery that Ukraine had in its arsenal.
Russia has criticised the United States in particular for providing Ukraine with instructors to help Ukrainian forces use HIMARS.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, has captured a chunk of territory in southern Ukraine and used its artillery supremacy in the east to make gradual territorial gains. (Source: Google/Reuters)
26 Jul 22. Russian gas cut to Europe hits economic hopes. Ukraine reports attacks on coastal regions.
- Gazprom says turbine halt will further cut gas to Germany
- United Nations hopes for grain exports in days
- U.S. exploring overland routes after Russian strike
- Fire erupts at oil depot in Russian-occupied territory
Russia said it will cut gas supplies to Europe from Wednesday in a blow to countries that have backed Ukraine, while missile attacks in Black Sea coastal regions raised doubts about whether Russia will stick to a deal to let Ukraine export grain.
The first ships from Ukraine may set sail in days under a deal agreed on Friday, the United Nations said, despite a Russian missile attack on the Ukrainian port of Odesa over the weekend, and a spokesman for the military administration in the saying another missile had hit the Odesa region on Tuesday morning.
Soaring energy costs and the threat of hunger faced by ms in poorer nations show how the biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two, now in its sixth month, is having an impact far beyond Ukraine.
European Union countries are set to approve on Tuesday a weakened emergency proposal to curb their gas demand as they try to wean themselves off Russian energy and prepare for a possible total cut-off.
The Ukrainian military on Tuesday reported Russian cruise missile strikes in the south and that Ukrainian forces had hit enemy targets. Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman from the military administration in Odesa, told a Ukrainian television channel that a missile fired from the direction of the Black Sea had struck the region, but gave no information on casualties.
East of Odesa along the Black Sea coast, port infrastructure at Mykolaiv was damaged by an attack, according to the mayor Oleksandr Senkevich.
Russia’s defense ministry did not immediately reply to an out-of-hours request for comment.
A major fire broke out at an oil depot in the Budyonnovsky district of Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine after Ukrainian troops shelled the province, Russia’s TASS reported, quoting a reporter at the scene. No casualties or injuries have been reported.
Russian energy giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM), citing instructions from an industry watchdog, on Monday said gas flows to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would fall to 33 m cubic metres per day from Wednesday.
That is half of the current flows, which are already only 40% of normal capacity. Prior to the war, Europe imported about 40% of its gas and 30% of its oil from Russia.
The Kremlin says the gas disruption is the result of maintenance issues and Western sanctions, while the European Union has accused Russia of energy blackmail.
Politicians in Europe have repeatedly said Russia could cut off gas this winter, a step that would thrust Germany into recession and hurt consumers already hit by soaring inflation.
Moscow says it is not interested in a complete stoppage of gas supplies to Europe.
Adding to concerns on the energy front, the Ukrainian state pipeline operator company said Russian gas giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) without prior notice has increased pressure sharply in a pipeline that runs through Ukraine to deliver Russian gas to Europe.
Such pressure spikes could lead to emergencies including pipeline ruptures, and pipeline operators are obliged to inform each other about them in advance, the Ukrainian company said. Gazprom could not be immediately reached for comment.
Before the invasion and subsequent sanctions, Russia and Ukraine accounted for nearly a third of global wheat exports.
Officials from Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations agreed on Friday there would be no attacks on merchant ships moving through the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait and on to markets.
Moscow brushed aside concerns the deal could be derailed by a Russian attack on Odesa on Saturday, saying it targeted only military infrastructure.
The White House said the strike cast doubt on Russia’s credibility and was watching closely to see if commitments would be fulfilled.
“We will also continue to actively explore other options with the international community to increase Ukraine exports through overland routes,” it said.
Russia’s Black Sea fleet has blocked grain exports from Ukraine since Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion. Moscow blames Western sanctions for slowing its food and fertiliser exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports.
Under Friday’s deal, pilots will guide ships along safe channels through the naval minefields.
A Ukrainian government official said he hoped the first grain shipment could be made from Chornomorsk this week, with shipments from other ports within two weeks.
Zelenskiy was adamant that trade would resume: “We will start exporting, and let the partners take care of security,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on a tour of African countries, said there were no barriers to the export of grain and nothing in the deal prevented Moscow from attacking military infrastructure.
The Kremlin also said the United Nations must ensure curbs on Russian fertiliser and other exports were lifted for the grain deal to work.
The Kremlin says it is engaged in a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Both Kyiv and Western nations say the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.
Thousands of civilians have died and ms have fled during the war. Russian artillery barrages and air strikes have pulverised cities.
With Western weapons boosting the Ukrainians, Putin’s forces are making slow progress but they are believed to be readying for a new push in the east.
Ukraine said on Monday its forces had used U.S-supplied HIMARS rocket systems to destroy 50 Russian ammunition depots since receiving the weapons last month.
Russia did not comment but its Defence Ministry said its forces had destroyed an ammunition depot for HIMARS systems. (Source: Reuters)
26 Jul 22. ‘No indication’ Ukraine warship was at location of Russia strike in Odesa port, Britain says. Britain said on Tuesday there was “no indication” that a Ukrainian warship and a stock of anti-ship missiles were at the dock-side in Odesa port on Sunday, after Russia earlier said it had destroyed those targets with high-precision missiles.
“Russia will continue to prioritise efforts to degrade and destroy Ukraine’s anti-ship capability. However, Russia’s targeting processes are highly likely routinely undermined by dated intelligence, poor planning, and a top-down approach to operations,” the British Ministry of Defence said in a regular intelligence update. Ukrainian military has said two Kalibr missiles fired from Russian warships hit the area of a pumping station at the Odesa port and two others were shot down by air defence forces. (Source: Reuters)
25 Jul 22. Defence Secretary visits Slovakia to discuss support for Ukraine. Ben Wallace, the first Defence Secretary to visit Slovakia in over a decade, met with Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad in Bratislava for talks on how we can work even more closely to enhance our support.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Slovakian Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad in Bratislava
The Defence Secretary visited Slovakia today (Mon 25 July) to meet his counterpart and discuss our joint work to support Ukraine and safeguard European security.
The UK and Slovakia have been working in lockstep to support Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia’s illegal invasion. Britain was the first European country to supply military aid to Ukraine and recently announced plans to send hundreds of drones and scores of artillery guns, while Slovakia was the first NATO ally to donate air defence systems and recently revealed it would send self-propelled howitzers to the country.
Ben Wallace met with Slovakian Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad in Bratislava to speak about what more can be done and how we work together going forward to enhance our support for Ukraine.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Slovakia is a leader in Central Europe in standing up for Ukraine and resisting Russian aggression.
I was delighted to visit my good friend Jaroslav Nad today. Our bilateral meeting explored next steps in military aid to the conflict as well as British support to Slovakian defence.”
Ben Wallace and Jaroslav Nad discussed other important topics during the one-day visit, including our joint work through NATO and efforts to counter Russian disinformation in Eastern Europe and promote peace and stability in the region.
They also spoke about how we might expand and deepen our historic defence partnership, which dates back to World War 2, when Slovak pilots served in the RAF and brave soldiers from the former Czechoslovakia, trained in the UK in cooperation with the Czechoslovakian government in exile in Britain, assassinated high-ranking Nazi Reinhard Heydrich.
Today, the UK and Slovakia have a close defence relationship which is growing, with cooperation in a number of areas such as through joint training and exercises, including the British Military Advisory Training Team (BMATT), which is delivering a course this month in Slovakia. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
25 Jul 22. More HIMARS, ‘Phoenix Ghost’ Drones Bound for Ukraine. The Defense Department has announced another package of security assistance for Ukraine, which will include additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, ammunition and a substantial number of Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial systems.
This latest package includes about $175 m in equipment pulled from existing U.S. military stocks through presidential drawdown authority and $95 m in equipment from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, or USAI fund, said a senior defense official during a background briefing at the Pentagon.
Included in the latest presidential drawdown authority package are four additional HIMARS systems, which will give Ukraine a total of 16; four command post vehicles; additional anti-armor weapons, spare parts and other gear; and 36,000 rounds of 105 mm ammunition.
“This is ammunition that is actually going to support a donation that the United Kingdom is making of Howitzers, and this is something that we do quite frequently where we match countries that maybe have one part of a capability with another donor country to create a complete capability for the Ukrainians,” the senior defense official said. “It’s something that EUCOM has been facilitating through their cell in Stuttgart, Germany.”
As part of the $95 m USAI outlay, the Defense Department has also committed to sending as many as 580 additional Phoenix Ghost tactical unmanned aircraft systems to Ukraine. Under USAI, these systems will be purchased from manufacturers so they can then be delivered to the Ukrainian military.
“The Ukrainians have been making excellent use of the Phoenix Ghost system,” the senior defense official said. “This action allows us to go out and procure from industry additional capability. That’s where USAI is different from drawdown — this is actually a procurement action. And with the Phoenix Ghost system, what we’ll be able to do is ensure steady deliveries of this capability starting in August to ensure that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have a continual supply of this capability.”
While Russian advances in Ukraine are slow — and costly — there’s also evidence that Russian morale is retreating, said a senior military official.
“We continue to see increased signs of discipline and morale problems in the Russian army,” the military official said. “The Ukrainian will continues to be incredibly strong. And what we’re seeing is that will kind of … push the Russians around pretty decently.”
When it comes to Russian morale, the official said there are many reports that detail soldiers at all levels deserting posts or refusing to fight.
“We continue to see that in reflections and conversations with Ukrainians that affirm that,” the military official said. (Source: US DoD)
25 Jul 22. US Drone Technology is Ending up in Russia’s Hands. CNN’s Nic Robertson shows how Western technology used in drones is helping Russia to track and kill Ukrainian forces. A Ukrainian technical intel officer shows inside a captured Russian Orlan-10 surveillance drone, revealing components from around the world. The officer claimed that the drone’s cell phone tracker was US-made. He said that the engine was manufactured in Japan, and the thermal imaging module on the camera was produced in France after Russia had already invaded.
Other Russian drone parts come from countries including Austria, Germany, Taiwan and the Netherlands, the officer claimed.
The officer said his job is to follow every serial number to work out who made the part and alert allies to stop Russia’s drone techs from getting their hands on it.
Robertson noted that stopping the supply of these often commercial components won’t be easy, as Russia might have stockpiled parts and has a long history of evading sanctions.
The issue of Western parts in Russian drones is not a new problem. As early as 2017, researchers found Western-manufactured components in a Russian drone being flown over eastern Ukraine, The Washington Post reported.
Some of the components identified from that drone traveled to Russia through obscure middlemen and small trading companies, the paper said, whose businesses could be tough to track.
“The FBI has been tracking down Russian supply networks since 2014 and trying to close them down. So if they can, they will continue trying to side-step it. And it is a real problem because often these components are bought by legitimate companies,”
Samuel Cranny-Evans, RUSI research analyst, told CNN.
Ukraine’s military said that Russian drones’ thermal and infrared imaging and cell-phone tracking – many of the parts for which come from the West – are helping Russia locate and kill Ukrainian soldiers, per the CNN report. (Source: UAS VISION/YouTube)
25 Jul 22. Russian-Estonian Trucker Prisoned for Buying Drones for Russian Army in Ukraine. Harju County Court in Tallinn sentenced 43-year-old resident of the Pskov region, trucker and singer Vladimir Shilov to 4 months in prison for buying drones for the Russian army fighting in Ukraine and trying to smuggle them across the border.
Shilov was arrested on May 28 while trying to smuggle quadcopters bought in Estonia across the border to the 76th division in Pskov. He collected money for them on VKontakte, and published a photo of the equipment there a few hours before crossing the border.
Since February 24, the trucker has been actively and aggressively supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine in videos and posts on VKontakte and looking for “traitors to the motherland” among truckers.
“I am against the war, but I am for my country, I am for our president, he calculated everything – do not send me any videos that everything is bad with the Russian army. We are raising money for quadrocopters for our paratroopers. In principle, our army is provided, but frankly, we don’t have everything in Russia, such equipment is super fashionable, like that of NATO, for example. If we save at least one life, then I think no one will regret the money sent, “Shilov said.
The court in Tallinn considered his actions as deliberate and direct assistance to an act of aggression by a foreign state. As a punishment, Shilov was sentenced to one year in prison: four months must be served in prison immediately, the rest can be written off if he does not commit a new intentional crime within four years.
Drones purchased for the Russian army from a trucker were confiscated. He must also pay a total of EUR 1,632.60 in procedural costs.
Shilova’s bride Oksana Tightly refused to comment on the SeverRealii correspondent’s sentence to the groom and, after questions from the press, closed her page, changed her name and profile picture. Prior to that, she spent a month on VKontakte collecting money to pay for the services of a lawyer for Shilov.
In addition to Shilov, a court in Tallinn sentenced two Estonian citizens to five months in prison for donating money to a truck driver for drones for the Russian army. They were found guilty of aiding and abetting a foreign act of aggression and sentenced to five months in prison. The term will not have to be served if they do not commit an intentional crime within a year and eight months of probation.
- Vladimir Shilov is a popular cover artist in the Pskov region. He regularly gives concerts in rural and urban clubs, where he performs patriotic songs by Gazmanov, the Lyube group, as well as hits by Yuri Shatunov, Stas Mikhailov, Soso Pavliashvili, Alexander Marshal and others. (Source: UAS VISION/Radio Free Europe)
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