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Ukraine Conflict – August 8th
Military and security developments
- On the southern axes, Russia is continuing to build up its forces along both the Kherson-Mykolaiv border and strengthening its defences along the relatively lightly held Zaporizhzhia frontline. Russian units launched numerous ground assaults across the Kherson-Mykolaiv front, and while making no confirmed progress in the last few days, the attacks are likely aimed at confining Ukraine’s bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Inhulets River. While information from this front is often lacking, there has been little indication of any significant Ukrainian offensives on Russian positions. Ukrainian activity is by and large confined to defensive operations, artillery duels and long-range HIMARS and guided artillery strikes against Russian ground lines of communication.
- These conditions have raised uncertainty over when and if the anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive will materialise along this axis – particularly now that Russian forces have reinforced the front and improved its air defences in the area. Kyiv has over recent weeks built expectations of a Ukrainian counteroffensive, with Ukrainian administrators in the region claiming last month that they expected their forces to liberate Kherson city by September. Ukraine is highly likely to be generating fresh brigades with Western-trained troops and modern, NATO-standard weaponry. However, it remains uncertain when or if such a force will be committed to a counteroffensive given the manpower pressures caused by attritional battles in the Donbas.
- Additionally, even if a counteroffensive does not materialise in Kherson, the Ukrainians have arguably achieved an operational success by compelling Russian commanders to redeploy forces from the key eastern axis. Since the withdrawal from Kyiv, Russian forces have ultimately retained the operational initiative given that as attackers they can choose where to concentrate their forces – whereas Ukraine is compelled to defend all of its territory and so must distribute its forces on a wide front. However, the steady redeployment of Russian forces to the south has illustrated that the threat of a Ukrainian counteroffensive can alter the enemy’s plans, and alleviate pressure on Ukrainian forces in the Donbas.
- Indeed, this is already providing Ukrainian forces in the east of the country with opportunities to exploit emerging gaps in Russian lines. Over the last 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have launched a series of counterattacks northwest and southwest of Izyum, where they have seemingly retaken some ground. Ukraine’s 93rd Brigade has claimed it recaptured Dibrovne, around 22km south of Izyum, while the Ukrainian General Staff has claimed further advances in the surrounding area, namely in Dmytrivka, Mazanivka and Sulyhivka. While these advances have not yet been confirmed, they would represent one of the most significant advances for Ukrainian forces in recent months, and would illustrate the extent to which Russia’s redeployments to the south have exposed Russian flanks along the Kharkiv-Donetsk border frontline. There will likely be further opportunities for Ukrainian forces to exploit Russian vulnerabilities over the coming weeks, but it remains to be seen whether Ukrainian commanders have sufficient personnel and resources to sustain counterattacks and consolidate newly retaken positions.
- Despite these emerging gaps around Izyum, Russian forces remain highly concentrated along the Bakhmut line and north of Donetsk city, and are continuing to push Ukrainian forces back. The Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the Ukrainian General Staff Oleksii Gromov confirmed yesterday that Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from Semihirya and Dolomitne towards Kodema, pushing the frontline to within 5km of the T-0513 highway that runs south from Bakhmut. The General Staff furthermore confirmed this morning that Russian offensives remain ongoing towards Soledar, roughly 10km northeast of Bakhmut. Further south, Russian and separatist DNR forces are continuing to attack Avdiivka and Pisky, northwest of Donetsk city. Gromov has now confirmed that Ukrainian forces have indeed withdrawn from the Butivka coal mine to take up new positions south of Avdiivka.
- Moscow continues efforts to generate more forces to support the war in Ukraine. Gromov claimed yesterday that the Kremlin is preparing alterations to current legislation that would prohibit the dismissal of troops during martial law. While this has not been confirmed, if true this would be a notable indicator that the Kremlin is considering declaring martial law in the coming months, or potentially a state of emergency in the oblasts neighbouring Ukraine. As previously assessed, Moscow remains highly legalistic in its approach to warfare, and as such monitoring of legal debates and parliamentary process can provide key indications about policy options being considered by the Kremlin.
- Efforts to stem the outflow of military personnel and ramp up recruitment remains a key priority for Moscow, with Gromov also claiming that Russian commanders are now actively considering redeploying troops from Syria to Ukraine – though again, this is unconfirmed. Finally, advertising flyers to join the Russian military have begun appearing across Transnistria amid a seeming drive to recruit Russian and Moldovan citizens to join the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Transnistria (OGRF). However, we maintain that this reflects the general desire for manpower across the Russian military, rather than indicating that the situation in Transnistria is deteriorating or that Moscow is preparing for an imminent attack out of Transnistria.
- Russia: Threat of Western citizens being arbitrarily detained remains high amid Kremlin attempts to gain leverage in negotiations. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated on 5 August that Moscow is prepared to discuss prisoner exchanges with the US. This comes a day after a Russian court found US basketball player Brittney Griner guilty of smuggling drugs, sentencing her to nine years in prison. Last week, President Biden’s administration offered to exchange a Russian arms trafficker for the release of both Griner and a fellow detained US citizen, Paul Whelan. However, Moscow stated it would only consider the deal when the time was right. The timing of Lavrov’s statement comes less than 24 hours after Griner’s sentencing, which strongly suggests that Moscow is using US citizens as leverage in negotiations. As such, the threat of arbitrary detention and conviction for any Western travellers, particularly US citizens, remains high as Moscow seeks further leverage in negotiations.
- Following the first shipment of grain out of Ukraine, three more vessels have reportedly left Black Sea ports early today, 5 August, bound for Ireland, the UK and Turkey. The development marks yet another positive sign for global food security and inflated food prices. Yesterday, the Kremlin also stated that the Turkish-brokered deal to unblock exports was not a “one-off mechanism”, stating that it hopes more shipments would follow. It remains to be seen whether today’s shipments will reach their intended destinations smoothly, but the developments are nevertheless promising in the short term. However, yesterday, President Zelensky cautioned that these first shipments are not enough to salvage Ukraine’s war-torn economy, and expressed doubt about whether future shipments would take place. Whilst it remains to be seen whether the continuation of shipments will continue without delays, it remains that the continuation of strikes and growing civilian casualties across Ukraine’s south will inevitably cast doubt over future shipments proceeding without incident.
This week evidence emerged that Russia has exported oil to the small El Hamra oil terminal on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, in a possible test of ways to circumvent impending oil sanctions. A Russian vessel carrying 700,000 barrels worth of Russian oil docked at El Hamra on 24 July, and while the development does not break any sanctions at present, it points towards likely efforts by Moscow to build resilience for its oil exports before an EU ban on Russian oil shipments enters into force later this year. The EU has agreed to ban seaborne imports of Russian crude oil from 5 December 2022, and ban petroleum product imports as from 5 February 2023. By unloading its oil at the El Hamra oil terminal, and others like it along the Egyptian coast, it provides opportunities for Russian exporters to blend their oil with locally produced Egyptian crude, as well as opportunities for transhipping its cargo between vessels. Such methods, which Russian vessels have reportedly already conducted at sea in the Atlantic and Malacca Strait, will not only conceal the final destination of Russian oil, but the origin of the oil in the first instance – and therefore complicate any accusations that the purchaser breached sanctions. Iran has employed similar techniques in recent years to circumvent Western sanctions on its oil exports, and it is highly likely that Moscow would attempt to utilise such methods to limit the impact of EU sanctions later this year. However, such efforts go beyond Egypt and at-sea transhipping cargo. Today, 5 August, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to meet President Putin in Sochi, raising concerns that Moscow is courting Ankara to help create ways to circumvent internationals sanctions. Earlier this week, Ukrainian intelligence reportedly intercepted the Russian proposal for the meeting. The alleged proposal called for Ankara to allow Russia to buy stakes in Turkish oil refineries, oil terminals and reservoirs, among other suggestions that risk breaching sanctions, and therefore threatening secondary sanctions on Ankara. Erdogan would likely want to avoid the potential fallout from breaching sanctions amid record inflation and an impending election. However, with Turkey playing a leading role in facilitating the grain export deal, and with Ankara seeking Moscow’s tacit approval for a planned military offensive in northern Syria, there are myriad dynamics at play that could yet influence negotiations on economic cooperation.
- Russian forces have continued to launch frontal assaults along a number of key axes over the last 24 hours, but have achieved little confirmed progress. The Southern Grouping of Russian forces, including units of Wagner Group PMCs, launched numerous attacks towards the Bakhmut line, and while Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) forces have claimed they have taken the village of Travneve (18km south of Bakhmut), this has not been confirmed. The Ukrainian General Staff claims that their forces had successfully repulsed all other assaults in the area.
- Further south, Russian and DNR forces are remaining focused on assaulting Avdiivka, with an attempted breakthrough around Spartak and Mineralne east of Avdiivka failing. DNR sources have claimed their forces have made further progress around Pisky, southwest of Avdiivka, and now control half of the settlement. However, this has not been confirmed by available information.
- Along the southern Kherson-Mykolaiv axis, Russian forces continued attempts to regain lost territory over the last 24-48 hours, but there is little indication that said attempts were successful. The Ukrainian General Staff in particular reported that their forces had successfully repelled a reconnaissance-in-force attack near Bilohirka. The settlement is situated on the eastern bank of the Inhulets River and is where Russian forces have consistently attempted to push Ukrainian forces back across the river. However, despite these attacks, the Ukrainian bridgehead on the eastern bank of the river continues to hold out.
- Efforts to degrade one another’s ground lines of communication have also continued on this axis. On 4 August, Russian officials claimed that their forces had interdicted another attempted strike on the crucial Antonovsky bridge over the Dnieper River. Social media footage furthermore indicates that the Russians are currently repairing the bridge, but in the meantime, they have now established a ferry service, which appears to be providing only limited capacity for largely civilian traffic across the river.
- To the north, the Belarusian military have been conducting new combat readiness drills along the Ukrainian border, with the Ukrainian General Staff reporting that Minsk is strengthening its positions in Brest and Homel oblasts. This remains in-line with expected military activity and follows established patterns of military exercises along the border. Most notably, this morning the Commander of the United Forces, Lieutenant General Serhii Naev, stated that Ukrainian forces have conducted a thorough analysis of Russian troop movements during the assault north of Kyiv in March, and have fortified the approaches to Kyiv. He attested that Russian forces would not advance in the direction of Kyiv a second time, given the city is now much more prepared to repel an assault. This aligns strongly with our assessment that Russia does not currently retain the capability to launch a ground offensive against northern Ukraine, with the heavily-fortified capital now posing a much more formidable obstacle than it did in February and March.
- Last week, former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s visited Moscow to meet with President Putin, stating that Moscow would like a negotiated solution to the war. Kyiv responded on 3 August, stating that any peace settlement would hinge on a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops. Moreover, President Zelensky called Schröder’s behaviour “disgusting”, underlining fierce criticism shared amongst others in Kyiv that a number of prominent European politicians continue to engage with the Kremlin. Meanwhile, Kyiv’s response strongly underlines our baseline assessment that the public and political appetite in Ukraine for a settlement on Moscow’s terms is minimal, with the vast majority of Ukrainians unwilling to surrender any part of Ukraine’s territory. Meanwhile, the likelihood of Moscow agreeing to Kyiv’s demands is non-existent at this point, meaning that the military developments in the coming months will dictate timelines for any potential resumptions of talks.
- According to the latest government estimates, since the beginning of martial law, border guards have detained approximately 6,400 military-aged men attempting to flee Ukraine, with many having purchased forged documents in order to attempt to pass at border checkpoints. Moreover, multiple reports of attempted bribery of border guards have also been reported. As a result, nearly 200 criminal proceedings have been launched against those accused of illegal human smuggling, reinforcing our assessment of this risk as well as a general increase in human trafficking throughout the reporting period. Moreover, the developments underline the severity of the consequences for military-eligible Ukrainian men trying to leave the country during the state of war, with such measures set to remain in place for the duration of the war.
Yesterday, 3 August, Kyiv announced that Ukraine’s forecast for its 2022 harvest has now increased from 60 m tonnes to 65-67 m tonnes of grain, marking a positive development for the global food security outlook. Moreover, the first shipment of grain to leave Ukraine’s Odesa port officially reached Turkey yesterday, and has passed the necessary inspections as part of the UN and Turkey-brokered agreement. The vessel set to pass through the Bosporus Strait “shortly”. Nevertheless, President Zelensky downplayed on 3 August the importance of the first grain shipment, stating that it represented only a fraction of what Ukraine must sell to the global market to revive its war-torn economy. Zelensky also highlighted that it is still unclear whether other grain exports would take place. Currently an additional 17 vessels are reportedly being loaded with agricultural exports in Ukrainian ports, though no announcements regarding their potential departures have yet been made. Zelensky’s cautious tone follows a spate of deadly strikes on Ukraine’s south, one of which killed the prominent agricultural tycoon Oleksiy Vadatursky in his home in Mykolaiv last weekend. As such, the intensification of strikes and growing civilian casualties will inevitably cast doubt over the likelihood of future shipments proceeding without incident or Ukraine pulling out of the agreement. However, given Kyiv’s dire need to prop up its economy, it will continue to be in Ukraine’s interest to cooperate, despite the heightened hostilities.
- Russian forces across eastern and southern Ukraine launched a number of ground assaults over the last 24 hours, with the Ukrainians confirming modest progress along the Bakhmut and Avdiivka axes. The Ukrainian General Staff have reported an intensification of Russian artillery and air strikes against Bakhmut, with Russian ground forces subsequently gaining ground near Kodema, roughly 12 miles (20km) south-east of Bakhmut.
- Further south, Russian and separatist forces made progress around Avdiivka. Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) forces reported that they have pushed Ukrainian forces from the Butivka coal mine ventilation shaft, a defensive position described as Ukraine’s closest position to Donetsk city which they have held since 2015. The significance of this highly tactical development reflects the ordinarily static nature of the front in the area, with Russian forces facing entrenched Ukrainian positions which have built up since 2014.
- Amid slow but steady Russian advances along these axes, President Zelensky on 2 August described the situation in the Donbas as “hell”. He furthermore commended that despite the provision of US multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), Ukrainian forces “cannot yet completely break the Russian army’s advantage in artillery and manpower, and this is very noticeable in the fighting, especially in the Donbas”. Thus, despite the building Ukrainian counteroffensive along the Kherson-Mykolaiv axis and the redeployment of Russian forces further north, the Donbas will remain under considerable pressure from Russian artillery.
- Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) has provided further reports of Russian redeployments to the southern axis as Russian commanders prepare for the anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive. A Battalion Tactical Group (BTG) of Russian airborne forces has reportedly arrived in Crimea, from where it will deploy to the frontlines in the near future. Airborne troops also reportedly redeployed from Donetsk to the southern axis.
- Along the Kherson-Mykolaiv frontline, Russian forces launched a number of failed reconnaissance-in-force attacks over the last 24 hours amid heavy artillery and aerial bombardments. Meanwhile, officials in Kherson claimed on 2 August that Ukrainian forces had liberated seven more settlements in the oblast, though details regarding these settlements were not provided. Ukrainian forces have continued launching high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) strikes against Russian ground lines of communications (GLOC), with Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reporting that the Ukrainian Air Force struck three Russian positions north and north-west of Kherson. This is the latest indication of the failure Russia’s anti-air defences and air force to deprive the Ukrainian Air Force (UAF) of freedom of operations along this vulnerable front.
- On 2 August, Russia’s Supreme Court formally declared the Azov Regiment a “terrorist” organisation. The regiment, also known as the Azov Battalion, has featured prominently in Russian propaganda as a neo-Nazi unit. Moscow has used the battalion to justify the “denazification” of Ukraine as part of a “special military operation”. The Azov Regiment emerged as a far-right paramilitary force in 2014 and was identified as a major facilitator of right-wing extremism in Ukraine and across Europe before Russia’s invasion in February. While clear far-right links to the group exist, the Russian narrative has greatly exaggerated the extent to which neo-Nazi sentiment is shared across the wider Ukrainian military and political establishment. Russian propagandists frequently frame the Azov Regiment as the Ukrainian state in microcosm. For further analysis of the dynamics of far-right extremism in Ukraine, and the likelihood that the war will galvanise far-right recruitment across Europe, see the Sibylline Extremism Quarterly – Q1 2022.
- The Azov Regiment was heavily involved in the siege of Mariupol earlier in the war, with many of its members surrendering to Russian forces and subsequently incarcerated as prisoners of war (POWs). A number of these fighters recently died during the Olenivka prison bombing. The Supreme Court’s ruling was widely expected and is likely to set the scene for terrorist trials of numerous Ukrainian POWs in the coming months. The Russian embassy in the UK last week called for Azov Regiment fighters to be “humiliated” and hanged for their alleged terrorist activity, mirroring a wider narrative among Russian nationalists and pro-war commentators that the Geneva Accords should not apply to Azov fighters.
The former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder travelled to Moscow last week. During his visit he reportedly met with his alleged long-time friend President Vladimir Putin. On 3 August, German broadcasters published an interview with Schröder, in which the former chancellor reported that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution to the war in Ukraine. The Kremlin also reiterated this sentiment on 3 August, stating that Kyiv is “aware of Russia’s conditions”. Schröder has long been regarded as an ally of Putin. He has retained a position on the board of the Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft. He was also offered a place on the board of Gazprom, which he refused, as well as the chairmanship of the shareholder’s committee of the firm overseeing the building of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. While Schröder has described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “mistake”, he also described that the idea of Ukraine retaking Crimea militarily as “absurd”, questioning whether anyone seriously believes Putin would ever give up Crimea. The prospect of serious progress being made towards peace negotiations is currently very low. The anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson and the fact that Russian forces have yet to conquer the entire Donbas remain the most immediate obstacles to the prospect of peace talks. As such, the military situation will continue to dictate timelines for any such negotiations; current conditions make these unlikely in the short to medium term.
- Activity from pro-Russian groups during this monitoring period focused on launching disruptive attacks against industries and/or entities linked to the Ukraine conflict. This discovery is indicative of Russian-aligned cyber groups’ continued reliance on DDoS attacks despite their limited success and impact. With the war in Ukraine expected to continue for the foreseeable future, there is a heightened risk of Western government agencies and private sector organisations providing support to Kyiv – such as defence or finance – being either directly and/or indirectly impacted by Russian cyber activity.
- Publicly disclosed cyber campaigns launched by Pro-Ukrainian cyber threat actors – such as Anonymous – remained limited during this monitoring period. Nevertheless, the activity that was observed continued to be focused on hacking Russian companies and or organisations and leaking their sensitive data. Moreover, Anonymous’ call to boycott TUI Group over its alleged and unfounded support of a Russian oligarch underscores the group’s continued “naming and shaming” of Western entities allegedly maintaining their operations in Russia. This group’s activity against Western firms and/or government agencies is expected to continue in the coming weeks, especially as Russia’s offensive campaigns in Ukraine intensify.
Military and security developments
- Russian offensive operations have continued to focus on pushing west around Bakhmut and Avdiivka, though no confirmed progress has been made over the last 24 hours. The Ukrainian General Staff have reported that their forces had repelled a number of ground assaults and reconnaissance-in-force attacks east and south of Bakhmut, with Russian forces focusing on pushing westwards around the villages Vershyna, Kodema, and Travneve. Similarly, Russian and separatist forces attempted a number of attacks around Avdiivka further south, but Ukrainian forces reportedly repelled them and forced them to withdraw.
- Reports have continued to emerge over the last 24 hours indicating that Russia is deploying increasing numbers of units from eastern Ukraine to the southern frontlines, including both the Kherson-Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia fronts. Vadym Skibitsky, spokesman for Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR), has reported that elements of the Eastern Grouping of Russian forces operating around Slovyansk are currently transferring a large number of troops via Crimea to shore-up the southern frontlines. As previously reported, such troop transfers reflect the seriousness with which Russian commanders are taking the threat of Ukrainian counteroffensives in the south, but will equally limit opportunities for Russian forces to make any real progress around Slovyansk in the coming weeks.
- Along the southern Kherson-Mykolaiv border, fighting remains intense as both sides conduct localised attacks, artillery duels and frequent air strikes aimed at degrading one another’s ground lines of communications. Notably, however, Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command assessed yesterday that Russian forces may soon form strike groups along this axis, following the flow of steady reinforcements moving in from the Donbas. Russian forces have continued attempts to improve their tactical positioning along the frontline, but open-source indicators point to little progress being made over the last few weeks.
- By contrast, local Ukrainian Kherson officials yesterday claimed that Ukrainian forces have liberated 46 settlements in Kherson oblast since the Russian invasion began. According to the Ukrainian Resistance Centre, which monitors and reports on partisan activity behind Russian lines, Russian officials have evicted all civilians who live within a 400-metre radius of the railway station in Brylivka (45km southeast of Kherson) in order to prevent them informing partisans of shipments of military equipment and troops. The railway station is a key node in the railway line that supplies the 49th Combined Arms Army on the western bank of the Dnieper River, with the evictions clearly reflecting the impact partisan activity is having on Russian logistics across southern Ukraine. See below for further analysis and updates relating to partisan activity and Russian occupation of southern Ukraine.
- Yesterday, 1 August, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov confirmed that Kyiv has now received four additional HIMARS systems from the US. The news preceded the announcement of another USD 550 m security package from Washington, which will include 75,000 rounds of 155mm howitzer ammunition and a further unspecified quantity of ammunition for the HIMARS. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence furthermore confirmed yesterday that German MARS II multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), a variant of the US-produced M270 MLRS, are already in Ukraine. When crews have been trained, such systems are highly likely to be deployed to southern Ukraine, where MLRS and the HIMARS specifically have been used to great effect to prepare for future counteroffensive by degrading Russian logistics and command and control throughout Kherson oblast.
- On 1 August, two unnamed US officials cited by Politico reported that Washington has assessed that US-provided HIMARS artillery was not used to attack the Olenivka prison last week, which left 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war dead. According to satellite imagery and analysis of the site, there are no traces of HIMARS weapons. Similarly, the lack of any collateral damage to the surrounding site indicates that other non-precision artillery systems used by the Ukrainian military are highly unlikely to have been used. Ukraine’s new Prosecutor General, Andriy Kostin, has furthermore stated that a preliminary investigation into the incident suggests a vacuum bomb was used from inside the complex. While it remains impossible to independently confirm one way or another at this stage, the available open-source evidence and the weight of recent precedent indicates it is more likely that the attack was a staged false-flag operation by Russian forces, rather than a targeted strike by Kyiv.
- Russian occupation authorities and security services have continued to intensify efforts to mitigate growing anti-Russian sentiment and partisan activity across southern Ukraine. On 1 August, an advisor to the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol claimed that Mariupol residents staged protests against plans to demolish damaged buildings in the city, with Russian forces reportedly having to intervene to protect the pro-Russian mayor, Konstantin Ivashchenko, during the unrest. Ukrainian officials have claimed that mismanagement of the city has created major rifts within the pro-Russian administration, which they claim threats the position of Ivashchenko. While this remains to be seen, such protests are likely to mean occupation authorities escalate repression. The Ukrainian Resistance Centre has reported that occupying authorities across southern Ukraine have already stepped up raids and checks of local residents’ homes, phones and computers, with restrictions on movement and enforced checkpoints making it even harder for residents to move in and out of their local area – likely in a bid to mitigate partisan activity.
- On 1 August, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken accused Russia of using the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant as a “nuclear shield”, calling Russian activity at the site and the stationing of troops and equipment there the “height of irresponsibility”. The comments came amid a push by the Biden administration to move forward on new nuclear arms treaties with Russia at the United Nations – efforts that are highly unlikely to achieve much progress in the short term, given the dynamics at play in Ukraine.
- As previously assessed, Russia has been utilising the nuclear plant as a military base, from which Russian artillery can effectively target Ukrainian positions with almost no risk of counterbattery fire, given the risks of a major nuclear catastrophe that would result. Given the pressure HIMARS systems are placing on Russian positions across Ukraine, Moscow is highly unlikely to stop using Zaporizhzhia as an artillery base. However, this will sustain the low-likelihood, high-impact threat of a nuclear accident given the proximity of high explosives and the omnipresent risks of accidental fire or stray munitions compromising the reactors.
Military and security developments
Russia-Turkey-Ukraine: Grain export deal facilitates first shipment; risk of breakdown persists. On 1 August, the first shipment of Ukrainian grain left the port of Odesa under a grain export agreement signed between Russia, Turkey, the United Nations (UN) and Ukraine on 22 July. The 26,000 metric ton shipment is set to reach Istanbul tomorrow, on 2 August, where it will be subject to inspection by Turkish authorities before continuing towards its destination of Tripoli, Lebanon. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba labelled the departure of the first grain shipment as a “relief for the world”. The development encourages optimism that the export deal will alleviate high global grain prices and food insecurity driven by conflict-related disruptions to Russia and Ukrainian grain exports in recent months. However, the three Ukrainian ports covered by the deal – Chornomorsk, Odesa and Yuzhne – remain vulnerable to Russian shelling amid the ongoing conflict, sustaining the possibility of a breakdown in the agreement in the coming weeks.
EU-Russia: EU relaxes sanctions on Russian oil shipments, reducing energy security risks for third countries. On 29 July, the European Union has amended its existing sanctions, relaxing its restrictions on Russian oil trade to address concerns regarding rising oil prices and energy supply risks. According to the original sanction, the EU banned businesses from issuing new insurance for vessels transporting Russian oil anywhere in the world. However, following concerns from the United Kingdom and the United States regarding increasing oil prices, the EU has amended its sanctions so that European companies are now allowed to do business with Russian companies if they are transporting oil to third countries outside the bloc. The easing of restrictions against Russian crude oil trade to third countries will likely lead to a moderate reduction in oil prices globally, however, threats to energy security in Europe will remain elevated.
Kazakhstan: Coal road export ban unlikely to significantly alleviate energy insecurity in near-term. On 1 August, legislation took effect prohibiting the export of coal and other forms of household fuel via road for a period of six months. The measure is aimed at avoiding domestic shortages of coal and other household heating materials, as witnessed in September 2021 during a cold snap which drastically increased demand, resulting in shortages. The shortage also came as Kazakhstan increased coal exports by 30 percent in 2021, mostly to regional neighbours, despite coal production in January to July 2021 remaining stable with levels in 2020. The ban is likely to generate a limited-to-moderate reduction in coal revenues, with efforts to bypass the ban via alternative transportation methods, such as rail transport, set to sustain energy insecurity in the coming months. As such, an unexpected drop in temperatures during the autumn months is likely to result in energy shortages, which will probably trigger business interruptions and domestic unrest.
- Over the 29-31 July weekend Russian forces stepped up the intensity of ground attacks across eastern Ukraine, including along the Izyum and Kharkiv axes. Largely unsuccessful ground assaults have taken place both southwest and northwest of Izyum, which may be preparations for further offensive action aimed at taking additional territory in Kharkiv oblast. The likelihood of any meaningful progress towards Kharkiv city itself remains very limited at present. Ultimately, the fact that Russian forces continue to launch sporadic attacks along this axis, despite more pressing priorities further south, is a likely indication that the Kremlin has not abandoned plans to make advances in Kharkiv oblast.
- Nevertheless, the Ukrainian General Staff have stated that Russia is redeploying an unspecified number of units from the Slovyansk/Izyum direction to the Zaporizhzhia frontline – a very lightly held area on both sides that Russian commanders have likely appraised as their next-most-vulnerable frontline after Kherson. If confirmed, such redeployments will limit opportunities for Russian forces to generate offensive momentum on the Slovyansk/Izyum axis, reinforcing the likelihood that Russian commanders have deprioritised the taking of Slovyansk amid greater focus on advances of Bakhmut and northwest of Donetsk city.
- It is along these axes that Russian forces achieved the only confirmed progress in the last 72 hours, with the Ukrainian General Staff confirming incremental Russian advances east of Bakhmut in particular. Russian forces have reportedly secured positions on the outskirts of the village of Semihirya, around 15km southeast of Bakhmut. Progress remains slow and incremental on this axis, but Wagner Group and other Southern Grouping forces are amongst the only units generating any notable Russian gains in Ukraine at present.
- Russian forces have furthermore made some limited progress around Avdiivka, as offensive operations northwest of Donetsk city continue to intensify – as anticipated last week. The Ukrainian General Staff reported a number of ground assaults in the area over the weekend, noting that unspecified Russian units achieved “partial success” around Avdiivka. Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) officials have furthermore claimed their forces secured positions to the southeast of Pisky, 9km southwest of Adviivka, and while unconfirmed, the claims remain in-line with wider Ukrainian reporting.
- On the southern axis along the Kherson-Mykolaiv border, fighting continues to escalate as both sides attempt to improve tactical positioning ahead of the anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive, though limited Russian ground assaults have achieved very little in recent days. Ukrainian intelligence has furthermore confirmed that additional Russian units have now been deployed south of Kryvhi Rih, at the northern-most section of the Kherson-Mykolaiv frontline and a potential focal point for a future Ukrainian counteroffensive.
- In particular, Ukrainian forces have continued to target Russian logistics and expose the vulnerability of Moscow’s ground lines of communication across southern Ukraine. Amid various claims of HIMARS strikes against ammunition depots, Kyiv furthermore claimed to have destroyed the command post of the 34th Separate Motorised Rifle Brigade in Bruskynske – illustrating that such strikes will further undermine the command and control operations of the Russian 49th Combined Arms Army that is now facing increasing challenges of resupply following attacks on the Dnieper bridges. Recent OSINT footage indicates that Russian forces have now deployed radar reflectors in the Dnieper in an attempt to defend the Antonivsky bridges from Ukrainian missile strikes. Ukrainian strikes and partisan activity have also continued further behind Russian lines. Overnight on 31 July, Ukrainian officials claimed to have struck a 40-car train transporting Russian troops, ammunition and military equipment from occupied-Crimea.
- Today, 1 August, the first shipment of Ukrainian grain has reportedly left the port of Odesa, modestly improving the outlook for the alleviation of the impending food crisis. The ship’s departure came despite Russia’s continuous shelling of southern Ukraine, with the shelling of Mykolaiv over the weekend resulting in the death of a well-known Ukrainian agricultural businessman, Oleksiy Vadatursky, and his wife. Both the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and the Kremlin welcomed the ship’s departure from Odesa, though as the enduring targeting of southern Ukraine demonstrates, the likelihood of incidents in and around the Black Sea will remain very high, especially as Moscow appears to be increasing its offensive on Ukraine’s south. The ship, the Razoni, is bound for Tripoli in Lebanon and is reportedly carrying some 26,000 tons of corn, and is expected to arrive in Istanbul by midday tomorrow, 2 August. According to Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, 16 more vessels are currently waiting to load cargo and depart under the programme. The next few days will thus prove the first real test of the grain export agreement. (Source: Sibylline)
05 Aug 22. U.S. readies new $1bn Ukraine weapons package. The Biden administration’s next security assistance package for Ukraine is expected to be $1bn, one of the largest so far, and include munitions for long-range weapons and armored medical transport vehicles, three sources briefed on the matter told Reuters on Friday. The package is expected to be announced as early as Monday and would add to about $8.8bn in aid the United States has given Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that President Joe Biden had not yet signed the next weapons package. They cautioned that weapons packages can change in value and content before they are signed.
However, if signed in its current form, it would be valued at $1bn and include munitions for HIMARS, NASAMS surface-to-air missile system ammunition and as many as 50 M113 armored medical transports.
The new package follows a recent Pentagon decision to allow Ukrainians to receive medical treatment at a U.S. military hospital in Germany near Ramstein air base. r
Last Monday, the Pentagon announced a separate security assistance package for Ukraine valued at up to $550 million, including additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
The White House declined to comment on the package.
The new package would be funded under the Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA), in which the president can authorize the transfer of articles and services from U.S. stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency.
HIMARS play a key role in the artillery duel between Ukraine and Russia has been described as “grinding” with very little movement of the front line in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
Since Russian troops poured over the border in February in what Putin termed a “special military operation”, the conflict has settled into a war of attrition fought primarily in the east and south of Ukraine.
Moscow is trying to gain control of the largely Russian-speaking Donbas, comprised of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea to the south in 2014.
So far the United States has sent 16 HIMARS to Ukraine and on July 1 pledged to send two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS). read more
It was unclear if the NASAMS launchers, made jointly by Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N) and Norway’s Kongsberg (KOG.OL), are already in Ukraine if the munitions were for launchers donated by another country, or if they were being prepositioned.
The United States previously committed 200 M113 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.
The armored personnel carriers outfitted with medical equipment could make the fight with Russia more survivable for Ukrainian troops who could then be sent to Germany for further medical treatment.
The Kyiv government said in June that 100 to 200 Ukrainian troops were being killed per day. (Source: glstrade.com/Reuters)
06 Aug 22. Fears for nuclear safety as Moscow claims Kyiv shelled power plant. UN’s nuclear watchdog warns that the situation at the occupied Zaporizhzhia plant is ‘completely out of control.’ Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was captured by Russian forces in March CREDIT: Alexander Ermochenko
Moscow on Friday accused Kyiv of shelling a nuclear power station under its control, renewing safety fears over Europe’s largest plant.
Russian forces captured the Zaporizhzhia power station and surrounding areas in southeastern Ukraine in March.
Western officials have sounded the alarm over Moscow’s use of the plant as a launch pad to fire at targets in nearby Ukrainian-held territories, with little chance of return fire.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog has warned that the situation at the occupied power plant is “completely out of control”.
On Friday, Russia and Ukraine accused each other of hitting at least one of the plant’s power lines.
The plant is still run by its Ukrainian technicians but under Moscow-installed management.
Russian state media claimed Ukrainian shells struck a high-voltage power line at the plant and said a fire had broken out on the premises.
In turn, Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom said Russian shelling had caused the damage.
“Three strikes were recorded on the site of the plant, near one of the power blocks where the nuclear reactor is located,” Energoatom said.
“There are risks of hydrogen leakage and radioactive spraying. The fire danger is high,” it said, adding that initially there were no casualties.
However, Ukrainian authorities said the plant still worked and no radioactive leak had been detected.
With Russian kit, including highly combustible ammunition, stored in Zaporizhzhia’s engine rooms, analysts believe Moscow is using the threat of a nuclear meltdown at the site to deter future donations of heavy weaponry by Ukraine’s Western allies.
But a Western official has suggested Ukraine could feasibly strike Russian targets around the nuclear plant because it is built to withstand terror attacks, including by aircraft.
Three grain ships left Ukrainian ports
In July Kyiv used US-supplied kamikaze drones to strike Russian weapons and troops sheltering between the plant’s cooling towers, some 150 yards from a reactor.
Separately, three grain ships left Ukrainian ports on Friday and the first inbound cargo vessel since the Russian invasion was due in Ukraine to load.
Russian President Vladmir Putin meanwhile was meeting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who is cultivating a role as a mediator in the war, in the Russian city of Sochi.
“The international community cannot end the war in Ukraine by ignoring Russia,” said Fahrettin Altun, a top aide to Erdogan.
Turkey helped negotiate the agreement that on Monday saw the first grain ship leave a Ukrainian port for foreign markets since the Russian invasion on Feb 24.
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
05 Aug 22. Canadian Armed Forces set to train Ukrainian recruits in UK. Under Operation UNIFIER, over 225 CAF personnel will deploy for an initial period of nearly four months. Canadian National Defence Minister Anita Anand has announced the government’s approval to deploy the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to the UK to train Ukrainian recruits. Under Operation UNIFIER, the CAF will send over 225 personnel to the UK to help Ukrainian personnel build their defence capabilities.
The majority of the CAF personnel will serve as trainers for an initial period of approximately four months and will be supported by a command-and-control element.
There will initially be over three training cohorts comprising 90 soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Edmonton. The troops will leave for the UK on 12 August.
The first courses to be taken up by CAF personnel at a military base in South East England will focus on individual skills for frontline combat.
Under this initial phase, Ukrainians will be trained in weapons handling, battlefield first aid, fieldcraft, patrol tactics, and the Law of Armed Conflict.
Earlier this year, the Canadian Government decided to extend the mission until March 2025.
Introduced in 2015, the CAF’s Operation UNIFIER seeks to help Ukraine protect its sovereignty in the face of Russian invasion. So far, the CAF has trained nearly 33,000 Ukrainian personnel in advanced military skills. (Source: army-technology.com)
04 Aug 22. NATO members working with defence companies to boost weapons supplies to Ukraine.
NATO members are working closely with defence companies to ensure Ukraine gets more supplies of weapons and equipment to be prepared for the long haul in its war with Russia, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.
“We are providing a lot of support but we need to do even more and be prepared for the long haul,” Stoltenberg told Reuters in an interview.
“Therefore we’re also now in close contact and working closely with the defence industry to produce more and to deliver more of different types of ammunition, weapons and capabilities,” he said.
In recent months, the United States and other Western countries have begun shipping more advanced conventional weapons systems to Ukraine, including high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) that offer a longer range and more precision.
Stoltenberg said separately in a speech in Norway to local Labour party activists on Thursday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, had created the most dangerous moment for Europe since World War Two and that Russia could not be allowed to win.
He also accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of engaging in “reckless and dangerous” rhetoric regarding the potential use of nuclear arms.
While NATO members are not directly involved in the war, NATO is closely involved in coordinating the Western response to the invasion.
Stoltenberg reiterated his position that the war would likely end only after negotiations.
“We know most wars end at the negotiating table. We also know that the outcome of those negotiations will be totally dependent on the strength on the battlefield,” he told Reuters.
“It’s not for me to tell Ukraine what those terms exactly should be. It’s for me and NATO to support them to strengthen their hands, so we maximize the likelihood of an acceptable solution,” reiterating similar comments he made in June.
The war has led previously non-aligned Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership, with the request so far ratified by 23 of the 30 member states, including the United States.
“This is the fastest accession protocol in NATO’s modern history. I expect the other seven remaining allies to do the same,” Stoltenberg said.
He said Turkey’s demand for extraditions from Sweden and Finland of terrorism suspects would have to be decided by courts in the two Nordic nations.
“The rule of law applies in Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said. (Source: Reuters)
02 Aug 22. Russian claims of destroying Ukrainian HIMARS false -Pentagon. The Pentagon on Tuesday denied Russian claims that the country had destroyed six U.S.-made HIMARS missile systems since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, according to Interfax, said on Tuesday that Russia had destroyed the HIMARS after Moscow deployed tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“We are aware of these latest claims by Minister Shoigu and they are again patently false,” Todd Breasseale, the Pentagon’s acting spokesman, said.
“What is happening, however, is that the Ukrainians are employing with devastating accuracy and effectiveness, each of the fully accounted for precision missile systems the U.S., our Allies, and partners have provided them to defend against Russia’s brutal, criminal invasion,” Breasseale added.
Russia regularly claims it has hit HIMARS, but has yet to show proof.
Shoigu said Russia had also destroyed five anti-ship Harpoon missile launch systems and 33 M777 howitzers since Moscow deployed tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine.
Reuters could not verify the accuracy of the reports.
Ukraine officials have said they operate up to a dozen HIMARS systems, whose accuracy and long range have allowed Kyiv to reduce Russia’s artillery advantage. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Reuters)
04 Aug 22. German and Italian Eurofighters to perform Nato’s Air Policing missions. Russia’s aggressive military incursion into Ukraine has led to reinforced defences on Nato’s eastern flank.
The French Air and Space Force has officially handed over the task of Nato’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission to the German Air Force.
This was marked by a ceremony conducted at Ämari Air Base (AB) in Estonia on 2 August, in the presence of military officials.
It is the 13th BAP mission led by the German Air Force fighters.
Following Germany’s takeover, four French Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets are being replaced by four German Eurofighters from Tactical Air Wing 71 ‘Richthofen’.
German Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Commander major general Harold van Pee said: “Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has severe implications for Euro-Atlantic security.
“Nato and allies have taken further action; we have introduced enhanced the Vigilance Activities in addition to Air Policing; several Allies have used Ämari base to launch and patrol skies creating a defensive shield and protecting Nato territory against potential aggression.”
The Eurofighters will be deployed to Estonian AB under the 60th BAP rotation and will join the Hungarian Gripen fighters, leading the mission from Šiauliai AB in Lithuania, where the task was passed on 29 July.
The German and Hungarian fighter jets will also be joined by the Italian Eurofighter aircraft to provide credible and flexible capability to the alliance for protecting the regional skies above the Baltic Sea region.
The Italian Air Force’s Eurofighter jets have ceremonially taken up Nato’s mission on 1 August. The detachment Air Task Force ‘White Eagle’ will operate from Malbork, Poland. Following their arrival in Malbork on 28 June, the four Italian aircraft were declared ready to execute Air Policing sorties after achieving full operational capability ahead of schedule on 30 July. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
03 Aug 22. Ukraine orders UAVs from German company. The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine has acquired an unspecified number of Quantum-Systems Vector unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Quantum-Systems, a German-based company, received an order from Ukraine for the delivery of an undisclosed number of Vector electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) reconnaissance UAVs, the company announced on 3 August. According to the company, the UAVs were financed from the German “security capacity building” fund. A small proportion of the UAVs ordered are already in use in Ukraine, while the following systems will be delivered to Ukrainian forces once they have received adequate training, the company detailed. Training forces to operate the Vector typically takes no more than four days, they added. Additional information regarding the deal has not been disclosed for security reasons, the company said. The fixed-wing UAV has a wingspan of 2.8m, a maximum take-off weight of 7.4kg, and an endurance of up to two hours. It can also operate at speeds of up to 25m/s. (Source: Janes)
04 Aug 22. Ukraine warns of new Russian offensive; Sweden, Finland move closer to joining NATO.
- Ukraine warns of new Russian southern offensive
- Strike force aimed at president’s hometown, says Ukraine
- U.S., Italy approve Finland, Sweden accession to NATO
- Ukraine calls on China to help end war, says SCMP
Ukraine said Russia had started creating a military strike force aimed at President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih, while NATO moved closer to its most significant expansion in decades as the alliance responds to the invasion of Ukraine.
The U.S. Senate and the Italian parliament both approved on Wednesday Finland and Sweden’s accession to the 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Under NATO membership, which must be ratified by all 30 member states, an attack on one member is an attack against all.
“This historic vote sends an important signal of the sustained, bipartisan U.S. commitment to NATO, and to ensuring our Alliance is prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, has repeatedly warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO.
NATO’s 30 allies signed the accession protocol last month, allowing them to join the U.S.-led nuclear-armed alliance once its members ratify the decision.
Ratification could take up to a year.
Ukraine on Wednesday dismissed suggestions by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that Russia wanted a “negotiated solution” to the war and said any dialogue would be contingent on a Russian ceasefire and withdrawal of its troops.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Thursday that Ukraine was seeking an opportunity to speak “directly” with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help end the war.
“It’s a very powerful state. It’s a powerful economy … So (it) can politically, economically influence Russia. And China is (also a) permanent member of the U.N. Security Council,” Zelenskiy told SCMP in an interview.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.
On the battleground, Russian forces were engaged in considerable military activity, firing from tanks, barrel and rocket artillery in several parts of Ukraine, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Thursday.
Earlier, Ukraine said Russia had begun creating a strike group in the Kryvyi Rih direction and that it could be preparing new offensive operations in southern Ukraine. The steel-producing city of Kryvyi Rih where Zelenskiy grew up lies around 50km (30 miles) from the southern frontline.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, said on the Telegram app that three civilians had been killed in Bakhmut, Maryinka and Shevchenko and five wounded in the past 24 hours.
Governors of the Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk regions reported that their regions had been shelled overnight, and civilian infrastructure, houses had been damaged.
“The idea is to put military pressure on us in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk over the next few weeks…What is happening in the east is not what will determine the outcome of the war,” Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in an interview appearing on YouTube.
The whole point of the Russian offensive in the east is to force Ukraine to divert troops from the area that is truly a danger – Zaporizhzhia, Arestovych added.
Mayor Yevhen Yevtushenko of Nikopol, west of Zaporizhzhia in central Ukraine, said his city had been shelled overnight.
Russia in March was accused of firing shells dangerously close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as its forces took it over in the first weeks of the invasion.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Moscow of using Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant as a “nuclear shield” in attacks on Ukrainian forces.
Reuters was not able to verify battlefield reports.
Russia denies it targets civilians, but many towns and cities have been destroyed and thousands killed in the biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two. Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russian forces of war crimes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in what he calls a “special military operation” to rid the country of fascists. Ukraine and the West said Putin launched an unprovoked “imperial” land grab.
The war has sparked a global energy and food crisis. Russia and Ukraine produce about one third of global wheat and Russia is the main energy supplier to Europe.
An agreement between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, to allow safe passage of grain ships from Ukraine has been hailed as a rare diplomatic success in the war.
The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain since the war started passed through the Bosphorus Strait on Wednesday. The vessel, Razoni, was carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn to the Lebanese port of Tripoli. r
Zelenskiy said Ukraine needed to export a minimum 10 m tonnes of grain to urgently help bring down its budget deficit which was running at $5 bn a month.
A senior Turkish official said three ships could leave Ukrainian ports daily following the Razoni’s departure, while Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said 17 more ships had been loaded with agricultural produce and were waiting to set sail. (Source: Reuters)
03 Aug 22. The cyber lessons from Ukraine. In a war of tanks and artillery, how well have the newest warfare strategies been used? While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rages on, conventional hardware grabbing the headlines has come in addition to cyber attacks hitting forces where it hurts.
Ciaran Martin, the former CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre, says Russia started its illegal campaign by successfully targeting Ukrainian satellite communications.
This weakened defensive ground forces from Ukraine’s perspective but was accompanied by a secondary misinformation campaign to undermine the opposition online.
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This two-pronged method should guide future approaches to cyber, say Mr Martin, but secondary capabilities like cyber couldn’t “change the outcome of war” decisively, he added.
“They’re important, they’re potent, but they’re limited.”
The assurance of consequences were Russia to launch a large-scale attack on the West has led to its absence, despite what many predicted, during the Ukraine war.
Meanwhile, China is posing a far greater threat in cyberspace.
“Russia is very good at hacking the internet that America built, but that’s all it’s good at,” Mr Martin explained.
“China is building its own internet, it’s building its own technological base. It’s huge already and it’s competing for the leadership,” he added.
The lessons being learned, or confirmed, on cyber throughout the latest European conflict regard its limitations in assisting conventional campaigns compared to the now unrealistic, fantastical public perception, the expert says.
Well-planned over a long time and correctly executed, cyber attacks can cause damage but still not to the scale and the same extent as a bombing campaign.
However, with China now increasingly able to compete for technological leadership with the West, the environment has become more ominous.
“That’s why virtually every major British security leader is now saying that, when it comes to technology, Russia is ‘severe bad weather’ and China is ‘climate change’.” (Source: forces.net)
03 Aug 22. Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schröder has said after he visited Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week that the Kremlin is open to talks to end the war in Ukraine. “The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schröder said in an interview with the German magazine Stern. Schröder has been harshly criticised in recent months over his refusal to distance himself from Putin, a close friend, despite Russia’s war in Ukraine, and over his continuing links to Russian energy companies that are closely controlled by the Kremlin. In a recent interview he defended the president over alleged Russian atrocities in Ukrainian towns such as Bucha, saying he did not think those orders would have come from the Kremlin. Speaking to Stern he refused once again to renounce his friendship with Putin. “I have condemned the war many times, you know that. But would it really help anyone if I were to personally distance myself from Vladimir Putin?” he asked. Schröder added that remaining in touch with the Russian leader meant he could “still be useful”. He said he had received many letters from within Germany saying: “It’s a good thing there’s still someone keeping the channels of communication with Russia open in the current conflict”.
The Social Democrats are trying to kick the former chancellor out of the party, while in May he finally stepped down as chair of Rosneft, the state-owned Russian oil company, after weeks of pressure. Schröder said the Kremlin was ready to negotiate an end to the war, pointing to the success of talks to restart Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea. “Perhaps one could gradually expand that into a ceasefire,” he said. But the kind of settlement he said was possible reflected many of the Kremlin’s key preoccupations. He said it would be a “big mistake” to dismiss possible concessions by Ukraine in advance as a “dictated peace”. The problems could be solved, he said, through a compromise for the eastern region of Donbas — based on a “Swiss canton model” — as well as “armed neutrality” for Ukraine as an alternative to Nato membership. He also said Ukraine should surrender its claim to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. “The idea that the Ukrainian president [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy will reconquer Crimea militarily is just absurd,” he said. Recommended Oleg Churiy Ukraine needs more western support and smarter economic policies to win the war Schröder also said Germany could avoid an energy crunch this winter by bringing the now-defunct Nord Stream 2 pipeline into service. As well as driving negotiations for the original Nord Stream pipeline, Schröder later served as chair of the shareholder committee of Nord Stream AG. “If things really get tight, there is this pipeline, and with both Nord Stream pipelines there would be no supply problem for German industry and for German households,” he said, describing NS2 as “ready”. The former leader said Germany and France had a special responsibility to try to end the war in Ukraine. “Not enough is happening at the moment on that front, that’s my impression,” he said. “Because it’s clear that nothing will happen without talks.” (Source: FT.com)
03 Aug 22. Moscow could use nuclear arsenal against ‘direct aggression.’ A Russian diplomat has told the United Nations that the conflict in Ukraine does not warrant Russia’s use of nuclear weapons, but Moscow could decide to use its nuclear arsenal in response to “direct aggression” by Nato countries over the invasion.
At a nuclear non-proliferation conference, Alexander Trofimov said Moscow would only use nuclear weapons in response to weapons of mass destruction or a conventional weapons attack that threatened the existence of the Russian state.
“None of these two hypothetical scenarios is relevant to the situation in Ukraine,” Trofimov, a senior diplomat in the non-proliferation and arms control department of Russia’s foreign ministry, told the UN conference to review the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The comments came as Russia accused the United States of direct involvement in the Ukraine war. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
01 Aug 22. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine offers lessons on land, at sea and by air. Months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, experts say the conflict is providing new lessons across the land, air and sea domains, potentially shaping future strategies for the U.S. military.
Last week, the Department of Defense announced another security package of $270 m for Ukraine, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial systems. That would bring the total number of Ukrainian HIMARS to 16 and send 580 additional Phoenix Ghosts to the frontlines, according to a DoD statement.
The battle on land
Speaking at the Heritage Foundation Thursday, David Johnson, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, described the fight on land as a war of attrition. In part, though, Russia’s war of attrition is against the will of the West to aid Ukraine, not just the will to fight against Ukraine’s armed forces, he noted.
“Putin’s supposition is ‘I will outlast them, and I will break their will,’” Johnson said. “‘And I’m also going to work on the West because winter is coming.’”
This type of war, he said, is something the modern U.S. military has not experienced. The U.S. should prepare for this kind of “shock to the system” as it faces rising threats, Johnson added.
“This is what real war looks like, and we haven’t seen it in so long, we’ve forgotten,” he said.
Capitalizing on Black Sea vulnerabilities
Despite much of their naval forces being depleted early on, Ukraine has managed to capitalize on Russian vulnerabilities, including the weaknesses of its ships against precision missiles and Moscow being boxed out of the Black Sea.
Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said at the same event last week precision missiles shot from land have delivered some of Russia’s most visible blows in the conflict, including the sinking of the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
“Ukraine really hasn’t been able to do much at sea, but what they have been able to do … is leverage their anti-ship weapons that are launched from shore to be able to hold off the Russian navy,” Clark said.
The sinking of the Moskva, he said, makes clear “it just takes one missile to get through” to a warship that will leave it “at least out of action and potentially out completely.”
Russia’s naval strategy has also stalled due to the geopolitics of the Bosporus Strait, the one waterway leading out of the Black Sea. Turkey, who controls the strait, closed it off to all warships in March, making it impossible to switch out any damaged warships in the blockade.
Now, Russia is left to leverage its blockade against the rest of the world. In recent weeks, Russia has been in negotiations that would allow Ukraine — one of the world’s largest exporters of grain — to move its products out of the port city of Odessa.
A ship carrying 26,000 tons of corn left the port city of Odessa on Monday. In a separate deal, Turkey agreed to open the Bosporus Strait so Russia can export its own grain and fertilizer, according to reports from National Public Radio. The negotiation did not affect the movement of warships in the strait.
According to the United Nations World Food Program, nearly 50 m people are threatened with famine due to disruptions in the global food supply caused by Russia’s blockade.
“The biggest challenge we are facing today worldwide is the food shortages that are resulting from the Russian blockade of Odessa,” Clark said. “In a lot of ways, the naval fight is the one that is the most consequential for the rest of the world.”
Underperformance by Russia in the air
While many consider Russia to have the second most powerful air force in the world, Russia’s inability to achieve air superiority throughout the conflict has cast doubts on Moscow’s projection of air power.
Rebecca Grant, president of IRIS Independent Research, said during the panel Russian pilots commonly take off, only to reach altitude, launch a missile into Ukraine and then immediately go back to the airfield. That kind of performance, she said, makes her doubt previous perceptions of Russian airpower.
“Russia’s performance in the air has been terrible,” Grant said. “Turns out, really, they were just sort of a continental air force. They don’t like to fly at night. They don’t like to fly very far into Ukraine.”
Another area of underperformance, Grant said, has been joint military campaigns among branches of Russia’s armed forces. She pointed to a poorly coordinated offensive during the airborne assault on Hostomel Airport outside of Kyiv in the opening days of the invasion, where Russian troops were pushed back and eventually ended their planned siege on Ukraine’s capital.
“How did we happen to overestimate the abilities of the Russian air force and most of all their abilities to work in … a combined armed or joint campaign?” Grant said. “It has been a surprise the lack of the level of integration.” (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
02 Aug 22. Ukraine purchases UAVs following ‘dronations.’ Ukraine has purchased 64 reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) following charity ‘dronations’. The State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP) announced on 1 August that 64 “reconnaissance” UAVs will be displayed in Kyiv. The display, scheduled to occur on 2 August, will include two WB Electronics Group Fly Eye 3.0 UAVs, 30 DJI Matrice 300 Real Time Kinematic (RTK) UAVs, and 30 ‘hobbyist’ UAVs – all of which have been “dronated” from organisations and individuals around the world to the Army of Drones, the announcement stated. The baseline Fly Eye 3.0 UAV is designed to operate at altitudes of up to 3,280 ft (1,000 m) and to travel at speeds of between 60 and 120km/h, and can remain aloft for at least 2.5 hours. One Skyeton Raybird UAV and one Culver Aviation SKIF UAV, produced in Ukraine, will also be on display, the announcement added. (Source: Janes)
29 Jul 22. Germany’s Bundeswehr announces the forthcoming delivery of 16 BIBER (BEAVER) armoured bridge-laying vehicles for the Ukraine.
To further support the Ukrainian land forces, [German] Federal Minister Lambrecht has decided to deliver a package of 16 BIBER armoured bridge-laying vehicles.
With the BIBER, the Ukrainian troops can overcome water or obstacles in battle. Delivery of the first six systems will take place later this year, starting in the fall. Ten more systems will follow next year. The overall package includes sixteen armoured bridge-laying vehicles as well as transport, repair and training.
This decision supplements the support provided by the Bundeswehr in July 2022:-
- Lethal re-exports that require German approval: 20,000 rounds of 155mm howitzer ammunition through Norway, 8 type FH-70 field howitzers through Estonia, 12 trucks (Unimog) through Estonia, 3 Wolf SUVs through Estonia
- Support with non-lethal support goods from Bundeswehr stocks: 102 motor vehicles (trucks, minibuses, off-road vehicles; thereof 22 trucks 15t and 80 Toyota Pick-ups), 6 HEP70 incl. decontamination agent
- Support with lethal goods from Bundeswehr stocks: 3 self-propelled howitzers 2000, 3 MARS II multiple rocket launchers including ammunition
- Paid as part of the extended upgrading initiative from the industry list: 33 M113 personnel carriers from Denmark with armament, 7 GEPARD anti-aircraft gun tanks including ammunition. (Source: www.joint-forces.com)
29 Jul 22. North Macedonia donating T-72s to Ukraine and disbanding tank battalion. North Macedonia is donating its T-72 main battle tanks (MBTs) to Ukraine, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed to Janes on 29 July, the day after Macedonian television showed a column of eight trucks carrying tanks passing through Kriva Palanka on the motorway to Bulgaria.
The donated MBTs belong to the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia’s (ARSM’s) tank battalion, which the MoD said in a statement will be disbanded as the T-72s are “third generation tanks that technological developments will, in a few years, make uncompetitive and incompatible with North Macedonia’s demands for the supply of a Western platform”.
“Based on analysis, recommendations, and plans adopted for equipping the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia in the coming period, the transformation or disbandment of the tank battalion will be carried out and modern anti-tank capabilities will begin to be established in the army, with the implementation of these plans already under way,” the MoD said, adding that no additional funds would be invested in modernising tanks, in line with Long Term Defence Capability Development Plan (LTDCP) 2019–2028. (Source: Janes)
01 Aug 22. Norway supplies 14 Iveco light armoured vehicles to Ukraine.
The armoured patrol vehicles will offer mobility and high protection levels to Ukrainian troops. The Norwegian Government has announced the donation of 14 Iveco light armoured vehicles (LAV III) to Ukraine.
According to the government, the armoured patrol vehicles in demand by the Ukrainian forces are similar to the ones used by Norwegian troops in Afghanistan.
The donated LAVs will offer mobility and high protection levels to the Ukrainian troops.
The LAV is an upgraded version of the Iveco light multirole vehicle (LMV), a four-wheel-drive, purpose-built military vehicle that can be operated in both protected and unprotected states.
Under its basic configuration, the seven ton light armoured vehicle offers a maximum speed of 130kmph and a range of 600km.
In 2018, Iveco delivered the last allocation of fourth generation LAVs to the Norwegian Army.
The latest contribution by Norway is in addition to military equipment including artillery, portable anti-aircraft defence, and armoured personnel carriers already sent to Ukraine.
Norwegian Defence Minister Bjørn Arild Gram said: “Norway continues to contribute to the Ukrainian fight for freedom.
“The government is constantly assessing how Norway can provide further support to Ukraine in protecting the country from Russian invasion.”
In June this year, Norway delivered 22 M109 155mm tracked, self-propelled howitzers, spare parts, and ammunition to Ukraine.
It also trained Ukrainian servicemen in Germany on the use of the artillery system.
The US Department of Defense has started the process of procuring National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) to support Ukraine.
This was reported by a US defence ministry official, who did not disclose specifications of the contracting process. (Source: army-technology.com)
01 Aug 22. Ukraine gets more U.S., German rocket launcher systems – minister. Ukraine has received more German and U.S.-made multiple rocket launcher systems, part of a series of deliveries of the high-precision heavy weapons promised by its allies, its defence minister said on Monday.
The government in Kyiv has repeatedly pleaded with the West to send more long-range artillery as it tries to turn the tide on Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion and attack Russian supply lines and ammo dumps.
Moscow has accused the West of dragging out the conflict by giving Ukraine more arms, and said the supply of longer-range weapons justifies Russia’s attempts to expand control over more Ukrainian territory for its own protection.
Ukraine has received four U.S.-made high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS), Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said.
“I’m grateful to @POTUS and @SecDef Lloyd Austin III and the (U.S.) people for strengthening of #UAarmy,” Reznikov wrote on Twitter.
HIMARS have a longer range and are more precise than Ukraine’s Soviet-era rocket artillery, allowing Ukrainian forces to hit Russian targets that were previously unreachable.
According to estimates by experts, Ukraine already operates up to a dozen HIMARS systems. The Ukrainian military has also received three MARS II MLRS, the German version of the U.S.-made M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System. The delivery was announced by Christina Lambrecht, the German defence minister on July 26.
“The third brother in the Long Hand family – MLRS MARS II from Germany – has arrived in Ukraine,” Reznikov wrote on Twitter.
According to specifications by its manufacturer Kraus-Maffei Wegmann(600579.SS), MLRS MARS II can hit targets at a range of up to 70km (43 miles), depending on the type of ammunition it is using.
It is designed to destroy troops and equipment, air defences, command posts and communications and to lay minefields.
Ukraine has so far received German Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers. Lambrecht on July 26 also announced the delivery of five Gepard anti-aircraft systems.
Kyiv has previously said it needs 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones among other heavy weapons to repel Russian troops.
Other countries that have supplied Ukraine with artillery systems include the United States, Britain, France, Norway and Poland.
Russia has described its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” to demilitarise its neighbour. Ukraine and the West have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war. (Source: Reuters)
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