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Ukraine Conflict – August 23rd.
Military and security developments
- For the first time since 6 July, Russian and Ukrainian forces claimed no additional territorial gains on 18 August, despite Russian forces continuing to launch numerous ground attacks across multiple axes. As has been the case in recent weeks, operations around Bakhmut and Donetsk city have been the focus of Russian efforts, with Soledar and Adviivka under most pressure at present.
- Provocations at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant highly likely in coming days, though meltdown remains unlikely. On 18 August, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey met with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in Lviv. During their talks, Zelensky agreed to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visit to the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), though it remains unclear whether Moscow will allow such a visit. The ZNPP has become a flashpoint in recent weeks, driving concerns that shelling will cause a nuclear incident. Both Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of preparing to conduct ‘provocations’ at the plant in the coming days. Russian false-flag attacks are especially likely given previous precedents. While a major nuclear disaster is highly unlikely, an intensification of fighting around the ZNPP will continue to undermine nuclear safety, with the site’s power and cooling systems most vulnerable to damage.
- Along the southern axes, Russian operations remain focused on consolidating their ground lines of communication and building defences in anticipation of any potential Ukrainian counterattack. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on 18 August that Russia has deployed an additional two battalion tactical groups (BTGs) to an unspecified area on the southern axis, though these BTGs are highly likely to be understrength and are subsequently most likely designed to improve defence rather than provide any new offensive capability.
- On 18 August, pro-Russia militia leader Vladimir Novikov reported to Russian state news that the occupation authority in Zaporizhzhia oblast is allegedly forming a “volunteer army” to conquer the remainder of the oblast. Russian efforts to attract volunteers and even forcibly mobilise Ukrainian citizens in occupied areas have so far been largely unsuccessful. Any Zaporizhzhia volunteer army is therefore unlikely to provide Moscow with a force capable of pushing north towards Zaporizhzhia given that this frontline remains relatively thinly defended at present. Nevertheless, Russian operations at the far eastern end of the Zaporizhzhia frontline near the Donetsk border have intensified over the last week, and so Russian forces will likely attempt ground attacks elsewhere on the frontline in the coming weeks.
- Numerous reports emerged on the night of 18 August indicating an intensification of activity across occupied Crimea. As with other Ukrainian activity in Crimea, we cannot confirm whether the reported explosions were caused by Ukrainian attacks, special forces, partisan activity, drones or Russian air defences – though UAV and air defences remain the most likely. Locals reported at least four explosions near the Belbek airbase, just north of Sevastopol, with the local governor claiming Russian air defences shot down a drone, causing no damage. Much like Saki airbase, Belbek remains a major military target for Ukrainian forces, and while there are various indicators to suggest the Black Sea Fleet have withdrawn a number of their aircraft to safer bases further east, satellite imagery from earlier this week showed over a dozen of what are likely VKS Su-27s on the airstrip.
- Similarly, local residents in the occupied city of Kerch reported explosions, which local officials also claimed had been local air defences shooting down a Ukrainian UAV. Kerch sits at the far eastern end of Crimea and controls the western end of the Crimea Bridge, also sometimes called the Kerch Bridge. We have previously reported on Russian forces increasing defensive capabilities around the bridge over the last month, including installing radar reflectors, redeployment of surface fleet vessels and S-400 air defence systems. We cannot confirm whether a Ukrainian UAV was indeed shot down over Kerch, but if true this indicates Ukraine’s growing capabilities and willingness to probe and attack Russian positions right across Crimea. The location of the alleged UAV flight, some 250km from the nearest frontline, suggests Ukrainian special forces or partisans conducted reconnaissance of the Crimea Bridge from within Russian-held territory. This would align with our previous assessment that Kyiv is likely preparing to strike at the bridge at some point in the future. However, Ukrainian sabotage missions have not been limited to occupied Crimea, with attacks also reported at Nova Khakovka in Kherson oblast. Two Russian villages in Belgorod oblast were also evacuated overnight following a fire at a munitions depot near the village of Timonovo, over 30km north of the border. While again unconfirmed, this is likely the latest Ukrainian sabotage operation on Russian territory proper. Social media reports also reported a fire in Stary Oskol, a site much deeper into Russian territory that is over 160km from the Ukrainian frontline.
- On 18 August, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that there were indications that the global food markets were slowly starting to stabilise. The announcement came as shipments of grain out of Ukraine continue uninterrupted, despite the heavy Russian shelling and strikes on the region. Despite this positive short-term development, our assessment still remains that the likelihood of disruptions to the agreement remains high not only due to the inflated energy and transportation costs, but also given the intensification of attacks against Russian military targets in Crimea. To that end, in the lead up to Ukraine’s Independence Day on 24 August, we expect such attacks to only increase. Should Ukraine target the Crimea Bridge, the likelihood of which has increased this month, Moscow’s retaliation is bound to be disproportionate, which would likely increase the likelihood of accidental or deliberately staged incidents in the Black Sea, disrupting grain exports.
- Ukrainian media outlets speculated today, on 19 August, about a potential meeting between President Zelensky and President Putin during the G-20 summit in Bali in November. Putin is due to attend the event, though Kyiv has not yet confirmed Zelensky’s attendance. However, the President’s Office did not rule out the possibility of Zelensky attending, prompting speculations that the two presidents could meet during the summit. The Kremlin, however, ruled out this possibility. Indeed, should Zelensky attend, which will likely depend on the progress of the war, any potential meeting is unlikely to lead to a change in position from either side. Both Kyiv and Moscow have hardened their stances over the last few months and remain determined to continue fighting to improve any future negotiating position.
- Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate reported on 19 August that Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) prosecutors plan to hold show trials of captured Ukrainian soldiers that took part in the defence of Mariupol on 24 August, to coincide with Ukraine’s Independence Day. Fair trials for Ukrainian and foreign soldiers accused of mercenary activity are unlikely, with members of the Azov Battalion unlikely to be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, but rather as terrorists.
The situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) remains extremely tense, with false-flag attacks at the site highly likely in the coming days. Aligning with our previous assessment, Ukrainian intelligence claimed on 18 August that Russian forces are planning a false-flag attack, with unconfirmed reports that Russian authorities have told plant employees not to come into work today, 19 August. The Ukrainian energy agency Energoatom has claimed Russian forces aim to disconnect power units at the plant from the Ukrainian grid. This aligns with our most likely scenario for what Russia aims to accomplish at the plant, and while the risk of a meltdown remains remote, cutting power networks will strain the plant’s back-up safety systems. During Guterres visit to Lviv on 18 August, President Zelensky agreed to the parameters of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission to the nuclear plant. Kyiv had previously resisted such a mission over concerns that it would legitimise Russian control over the site. However, the growing threat of an incident and mounting international pressure has clearly changed Kyiv’s position. It nevertheless remains unclear if Moscow will actually allow such a visit, despite officials previously indicating willingness, as the Kremlin this morning rejected UN calls for the demilitarisation of the plant. An IAEA visit would likely deescalate the situation at the plant in the short term, but given mounting Russian rhetoric and indicators that a false-flag operation is planned, it remains unlikely that a mission would be allowed at the site in the coming days at least. Unconfirmed footage published on Telegram on 18 August appeared to support previous assessments that Russian military forces are now stationed inside one of the plant’s turbine halls, in closer proximity to one of the plant’s reactors. The chief of Russia’s Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, claimed on 18 August that Ukraine will strike the plant in order to blame Russia for causing a nuclear incident and creating a 30km exclusion zone around the plant. As such, Russia appears to be setting information and military conditions for some sort of false-flag operation at the plant in the coming days. However, as we assessed yesterday, the likelihood of a catastrophic meltdown remains highly unlikely, with false-flag operations much more likely aimed at instilling panic rather than triggering a genuine meltdown that would ultimately threaten Russia. At time of writing at 1130 BST, wind direction software shows moderate winds blowing northwest from the plant, but prevailing winds in Ukraine are currently blowing southwest. For further analysis and forecasting on the threat of a nuclear incident, please see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – Scenarios for a Nuclear Incident in Ukraine – 18 August.
- Attacks along the Bakhmut line and west of Donetsk city remained the focus of Russian offensive operations over the last 24 hours. Various Russian units have attacked to the northeast, east and south of Bakhmut, largely in an attempt to make progress along key roads that lead to the town, including the T-0513 and the T-1302. However, progress remains slow. Meanwhile, Russian and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) forces continued to make limited gains to the west of Donetsk. The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed on 17 August that Russian and DNR forces had achieved “partial success” in the direction of Optyne (6km northwest of Donetsk), which sits along entrenched Ukrainian positions held since 2015. Furthermore, Russian forces have also made marginal progress further south, along the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia oblast border.
- Russian forces have also continued limited ground assaults around Slovyansk, Siversk and north of Kharkiv city, but no confirmed progress has been made over the last 24-48 hours.
- On the southern axis, Russian forces are primarily focusing on bolstering their defences and strengthening ground lines of communication where they can. The Russians have reportedly mined areas near Inzhenerne and Ukrainske along the T-0401 highway, likely in preparation for any Ukrainian counterattacks. Meanwhile, Russian forces have also continued to launch small, reconnaissance-in-force ground attacks to the northwest of Kherson and near Ukraine’s bridgehead over the Inhulets River, but have reported no meaningful progress.
- Russian state media confirmed on 17 August that Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov has been appointed the new commander of the Black Sea Fleet, confirming earlier reports that Igor Osipov had been removed. The appointment represents one of the highest profile command changes of the war, and is highly likely a response to the spate of Ukrainian attacks across occupied Crimea over the last week. In particular, the attack on Saki airbase and to a lesser extent the drone attack on the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol were highly embarrassing for the fleet, which has now lost a significant number of fixed wing aircraft. Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate has reported that the Black Sea Fleet are redeploying dozens of aircraft away from forward airbases in Crimea, clearly in a bid to protect them from further Ukrainian attacks. Sokolov’s appointment is therefore likely to be part of a broader campaign to reorganise operations across the peninsula.
- Elsewhere in the maritime sphere, an uptick in Russian air activity potentially indicates that Russian Northern Fleet submarines have sortied into the North Atlantic. The increase in activity comes after the Russian Ministry of Defence formally warned the UK this week after Russian MiG-31s scrambled to intercept a Royal Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane that allegedly entered northern Russian airspace. While the uptick in Russian activity is likely in part a response to the UK’s flight, it could also indicate wider preparations for upcoming naval exercises, which could potentially see the test firing of the new Tsirkon hypersonic missile. Such activity is likely primarily for the purpose of military posturing, rather than indicative of a serious threat of escalation.
- On 17 August, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed to have neutralised a six-person terrorist cell in Crimea, associated with the Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir group. The FSB have alleged that the terrorist cell was coordinated by Ukrainian security services. While providing no evidence of this, it is not the first time they have alleged a connection between Kyiv and Islamist groups since the invasion began. Russian state media and social media commentators have taken pains to frame the recent spate of Ukrainian attacks in Crimea as terrorist acts. Checkpoints at the Crimea Bridge have now been established, with security forces reportedly checking cars and personal belongings.
- Under international law, Russian military sites in Crimea are legitimate targets for Ukrainian forces, and so the attacks cannot be classed as acts of terrorism. Ultimately, Moscow’s accusations represent an attempt to discredit Ukraine and distract from growing calls in the EU for Russia to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism – which Latvia has already issued. By claiming to have arrested Islamist terrorists in Crimea, Moscow can claim that Ukraine is a state sponsor of terrorism, further complicating international efforts to build consensus on designating Russia as such.
- According to the latest public opinion polls conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, more than half (58 percent) of the respondents believe that the state needs a strong leader during the war, as opposed to a purely democratic governance system. Additionally, the preference for a strong president and support for their ability to interfere with parliamentary activities was supported by 79 percent of the respondents. Broadly, the results are reflective of the long-standing inconsistency in Ukrainian public opinion preferences, which have previously expressed preference for a strong leader on the one hand, and the need to develop democratic institutions on the other. The latest figures reinforce our assessment that strong public support for President Zelensky, especially during war time, will only strengthen his hand and ability to push through reforms and carry out government reshuffles. Such efforts are likely to be supported by Ukraine’s western partners in the short term given Zelensky’s renewed focus on tackling corruption and curbing oligarchic influence, but are likely to clash with the longer term development of democratic institutions.
This morning, 18 August, the Russian Ministry of Defence has claimed that Ukraine is preparing a so-called “provocation” at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) to coincide with the visit of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Moscow alleges that Ukrainian forces stationed in Nikopol will today fire at the plant, whereafter Kyiv will blame Russia for creating a “man-made disaster” at the site. Both Moscow and Kyiv have accused one another of shelling the site multiple times over the last month, but we cannot confirm one way or another who has been responsible. Nevertheless, Russia has frequently engaged in false-flag operations throughout the course of this war. Notably, the Russian Ministry of Defence also stated it has drawn up plans to evacuate the area in the event of an incident, while Ukraine’s Energoatom announced on 17 August that is has established a crisis centre to monitor and respond to any potential incident at the ZNPP. The situation at the plant therefore continues to deteriorate, and as both sides increase preparedness for an incident, it remains highly likely that an intensification of shelling will take place over the coming week. Russian state media have furthermore this morning published a map allegedly showing the spread of radiation across western Ukraine and Central Europe, including Germany, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, in the event of a meltdown. It remains our assessment that a catastrophic meltdown remains highly unlikely at the plant, even in the event of an intensification of fighting, and as such the map is most likely designed to sow panic among the international community. During any potential incident, the strength and direction of wind will remain the single most important factor in determining which areas would be impacted, though scientists of the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute have this morning published new studies indicating the possibility of radiation reaching Central Europe. At time of writing at 1130 BST, wind direction software shows moderate prevailing winds around the plant blowing south and eastwards, indicating more immediate threat to Russia, rather than Central Europe as the Russian map suggests. However, this could of course change at any moment. The location of the plant will ultimately mean Russia is always at more risk of radiation than Central Europe, depending on the wind direction. As such, it still remains highly unlikely that a meltdown at the plant would trigger a catastrophic radiation leak, but the intensification of fighting, spread of misinformation and poor safety procedures will all obscure the picture in the event of a major provocation.
Scenarios For A Nuclear Incident
- Upticks in fighting around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) have raised concerns over the likelihood of a nuclear incident, with Moscow and Kyiv accusing one another of endangering nuclear safety and risking a major incident.
- A major nuclear disaster at the ZNPP nevertheless remains highly unlikely, even in the event of an accidental strike against the reactor. Containment measures and back-up cooling systems will likely mitigate the release of radiation during a meltdown, with the design of the plant providing a more robust ‘defence in depth’ system of defences than those at Chernobyl and Fukushima.
- As such, the worst-case scenario would more closely resemble the Fukushima nuclear accident as opposed to Chernobyl, though redundant and multiple independent systems still make this highly unlikely. In this scenario, radiation released during a meltdown would most likely impact the surrounding area, rather than spreading high concentrations of radiation hundreds of kilometres across Europe.
Pro-Moscow hackers’ targeting of Ukraine’s nuclear power sector will continue amid rising threat of shelling at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station. On 17 August, industry reports claimed that the pro-Russian hacktivist group People’s Cyber Army launched a cyber attack against Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom. This threat actor reportedly launched a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack against the power company’s website, taking it offline for an estimated three hours. This cyber attack is indicative of Moscow-linked hackers’ continued targeting of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure operators to help the Russian military to gain advantages in the highly contested Donbas region by pulling Kyiv’s focus and resources elsewhere. With the increasing threat of shelling Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station heightening concerns about nuclear safety, further cyber campaigns targeted at Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, especially nuclear power sites, are highly likely over the coming weeks. Despite these concerns, the low-level technical capabilities displayed by pro-Russian hacktivist groups are highly unlikely to pose a significant threat to the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. However, more sophisticated actors, such as Russia’s state-linked hackers, could present a threat to the plants’ safety if they attempt to deploy malware similar to the 2017 Triton attack Iran allegedly launched against Saudi Arabia that almost caused an explosion at a petrochemical plant. That said, there is a low likelihood of such a scenario to materialise considering the significant collateral damage such an incident would cause.
- Fighting across the various frontlines has remained broadly on trend over the past 24 hours, though the situation in Crimea continues to escalate (see the Forecast for updates and our assessment).
- Further south, Russian, Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and private military company (PMC) forces conducted an offensive operation east of Siversk, described by Luhansk oblast head Serhiy Haidai as ‘massive’. Ukrainian forces reportedly repelled the attack, though LNR officials claim to have surrounded Siversk on three sides. There is no evidence to support this claim, which notably comes after an unverified video showing LNR soldiers refusing to fight was posted on Telegram (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 16 August).
- Elsewhere, Russian attacks have continued along the Bakhmut line, with LNR forces now claiming to control most of Soledar’s industrial zone. Again, there is no evidence to support this at present. While Russian ground assaults continue around Bakhmut, no further progress has been confirmed in the last 24 hours. Meanwhile, Russian and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) forces continue to make slow but steady progress west of Donetsk, with the Ukrainian General Staff confirming on 16 August that they had achieved ‘partial success’ towards Novomykhailivka, located about 16 miles (25km) south-west of Donetsk.
- Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, Russian sources reported that heavy fighting is currently taking place in the Sviati Hory National Nature Park to the north-east of Slovyansk along the Siverskyi Donets river. While this remains unconfirmed, it would likely support the assessment that this area provides opportunities for limited Ukrainian counterattacks, given that Russian forces have seemingly withdrawn units from this frontline to support operations in the south.
- On the southern Kherson-Mykolaiv axis, Russian forces launched a series of ground assaults in an attempt to improve their tactical positioning; none appear to have successfully made any ground. Despite the deployment of a significant contingent of Russian units, conducting offensives on this axis remains extremely difficult for both sides, with little change having been made to the frontline in recent weeks. Nevertheless, Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command claimed on 16 August that Russia is moving increasing numbers of Chechen units to Kherson oblast to assist Rosgvardia forces in deterring Russian deserters. While the deployment of Chechen units remains likely, the scale of discipline issues and morale cannot be confirmed, though the latter is likely to be very low given recent Ukrainian successes behind Russian lines and strikes against the bridges over the Dnieper river.
- UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are due to arrive in Lviv on 18 August to meet with President Zelensky. The meeting is set to be among the highest profile foreign visits to Ukraine since the war began, with the grain export deal and the situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant likely to be on the agenda (along with the provision of Turkish-made Bayraktar drones). Erdogan has expressed hopes to discuss ending the war through a diplomatic settlement. However, despite Ankara’s success in bringing Kyiv and Moscow together for the grain deal, meaningful progress towards peace negotiations remains highly unlikely at this stage.
- Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, stated on 17 August that the Ukrainian Armed Forces currently do not need to increase personnel numbers, meaning an expansion of mobilisation in Ukraine is unlikely at present.
- On 16 August, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed Ukrainian sabotage groups had blown up six power lines and disrupted operations at the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant inside Russia, located over 56 miles (90km) from the Ukrainian border. We cannot confirm this, as Ukraine has not commented on the claims. Reciprocal Ukrainian sabotage acts against Russian nuclear power plants in response to the situation in Zaporizhzhia cannot be ruled out, particularly as Ukrainian forces show increased willingness to operate behind Russian lines in Crimea. However, a Russian false-flag operation also remains a realistic possibility, which would support Moscow’s narrative that Kyiv is actively attempting to trigger a nuclear incident. Either way, the claimed incident reflects the continual escalation surrounding nuclear plants and the dangers of military operations undermining nuclear safety.
- During the 10th annual Moscow International Security Conference on 16 August, President Vladimir Putin once again accused the West of dragging out the war in Ukraine and ‘spark[ing] old and new conflicts’. Moreover, Putin accused the West of fuelling the war in order to ‘maintain their hegemony’, reinforcing our assessment at the start of the war that for Russia (and Putin personally), defeat or perceived decline of Russia as a superpower amounts to humiliation. This means that a Russian withdrawal from occupied territories will not take place in the short term. Moreover, throughout the war, Putin has framed Russia’s invasion in terms of a broader conflict between Moscow and the West, preparing Russian society for a protracted conflict. As such, with the latest polls indicating that the vast majority of Russians support Putin’s so-called ‘special military operation’, the latest developments reinforce our assessment that the war will highly likely extend into 2023 amid the broader perception that the West is increasingly posing a threat to Russia itself.
Ukraine’s campaign of special forces and partisan activity in occupied Crimea will continue to dominate the dynamics of the war in the coming days. In yesterday’s report we assessed the impact of the attack on the military depot and railway lines around Maiske in northern Crimea (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 16 August), which has severely impacted rail transit across the region. Russian authorities cancelled all civilian passenger trains from Russia to Crimea in the aftermath of the attack. This represents a further blow to Russian claims that the popular tourist destination remains safe. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak stated on 16 August that Ukraine’s strategy in the south is to ‘create chaos within Russian forces’ by striking logistics and command and control centres across occupied territories. This strategy appears to be achieving results and could be aimed at setting conditions for a Ukrainian counteroffensive along the Kherson frontline. Most significant, however, was Podolyak’s statement that recent Russian offensive operations have ‘taught everybody that a counteroffensive requires huge amounts of manpower […] but a Ukrainian counteroffensive looks very different’. It is unclear from this statement whether Podolyak means that the Crimean attacks represent the entire counteroffensive, or that they are merely just a part of it. There is a realistic possibility, therefore, that this is also an acknowledgement that Ukraine is struggling to generate the ground forces necessary to launch a major ground counteroffensive in Kherson oblast, where Russian forces have redeployed a large number of units in anticipation of just this kind of counteroffensive. Nevertheless, Podolyak also emphasised that the Crimea Bridge is a legitimate target that ‘should be destroyed’. This is the latest confirmation that the bridge is a strategic priority for Kyiv. As attacks continue to escalate across Crimea, it remains a realistic possibility that Ukrainian forces will attempt to strike the bridge in the coming weeks, potentially before or on Independence Day on 24 August. This would be a highly symbolic move. A new daily record for passenger traffic across the Crimea Bridge was recorded on 15 August, as civilians flee in large numbers. This could ultimately deter a Ukrainian strike in the immediate term for fear of inflicting civilian casualties, though questions remain over Ukraine’s ability to strike the bridge with long-range missiles in any case. As previously assessed, an attack was to occur against the bridge would trigger an intensification of Russian strikes across Ukraine. However, we are already anticipating an uptick in strikes in the run-up to Independence Day on 24 August, regardless of any such strike. Over the last 24 hours, Russian missiles have hit Odesa and an airbase in Zhytomyr. In the week ahead, Moscow is highly likely to retaliate with ballistic, cruise and potentially hypersonic missiles to emphasise their military superiority, especially as Ukrainian attacks against Crimea have shattered the Russian narrative of invulnerability. In this respect, reports emerged earlier this week that Russia is stockpiling S-300 and S-400 air defence systems and missiles in Belarus. This likely supports the assessment that preparations for an intensification of missile attacks and airstrikes across northern and western Ukraine are underway. S-300 missiles have been used to attack ground targets in recent months, though they are primarily air defence systems. There is a realistic possibility that Russian aircraft will launch airstrikes against northern Ukraine in increasing numbers, with a strengthened air defence umbrella aimed at protecting their aircraft during such a campaign. Regardless, Belarus is highly likely to be the staging ground for a large number of ballistic, cruise and potentially hypersonic missile strikes over northern Ukraine in the coming weeks, with Kyiv likely to be particularly vulnerable on Independence Day on 24 August.
- On 15 August, a video emerged on Telegram allegedly showing members of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Battalion 2740 refusing to fight in the neighbouring Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR). According to the video, the authenticity of which cannot be confirmed, LNR soldiers maintain that they have already achieved victory on 3 July, following the fall of Lysychansk and the capture of the Luhansk oblast borders. While the authenticity of the video cannot be confirmed, the sentiment of the LNR soldiers remains highly credible given numerous indications of jurisdictional and highly localised focus in the Donbas.
- Ukrainian intelligence has previously reported that elements of the DNR’s 1st Army Corps refused to fight around Severodonetsk and north of Kharkiv because those locations were outside the DNR’s borders (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 10 June). Such refusals to fight clearly reflect enduring divisions between the DNR and LNR authorities that have likely impacted Russian operational planning in the Donbas throughout the war, as well as low morale. Additionally, this factor underlines the likely difficulties Russian commanders and propagandists will face in martialling the LNR, and later DNR, forces to assist in achieving the Kremlin’s maximalist goals, that go far beyond their borders in the Donbas. This likely partly explains the stagnation of the frontline along the Luhansk oblast border since June, where the Eastern Grouping of forces, which includes large elements of the LNR’s 2nd Army Corps, have failed to make any progress. Earlier this month, Luhansk Oblast Administration head Serhiy Haidai stated that private military companies (PMCs) are now leading most Russian attacks on this axis. This is likely reflective of the degradation of Russia’s regular forces, but also potentially the low morale of LNR forces to conduct offensives beyond their republic’s borders. However, it should be noted that LNR forces are nevertheless assisting in offensive operations along the Bakhmut line further south, where progress is being made.
- Meanwhile, slow but steady progress around Donetsk city is likely having a galvanising effect on the DNR forces’ willingness to fight at present, where propagandists and recruiters are emphasising the emotional resonance of taking positions held by the Ukrainians since 2014. Over the last 24-48 hours, fighting on this axis has been intense, with DNR and Russian sources claiming to have made progress around Avidiivka, Mariinka and Vuhledar (50km southwest of Donetsk). The Ukrainian General Staff this morning confirmed that Russian forces have achieved “partial success” around Solodke-Novomykhailivka (25km southwest of Donetsk).
- On the Bakhmut line, Russian and separatist forces continue to make slow but steady progress, including around the outskirts of the town of Soledar (10km northeast of Bakhmut), where the Russians are now in control of the Knauf gypsum factory. In addition, over the last 24-48 hours, Chechen “Akhmat” special forces have claimed to have gained strategically significant positions east of Siversk along this axis, but there is no evidence to support this at present.
- On the southern Kherson-Mykolaiv axis, the situation remains broadly stable, with no ground attacks as both sides continue to prioritise artillery duels and reconnaissance. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that as of 15 August, the composition of Russian forces along the axis has not changed, which may be an indication that disrupted ground lines of communication (GLOC) across the Dnieper River are preventing redeployment of forces along the frontline. Indeed, the head of Kherson oblast Military Administration Serhiy Khlan stated on 15 August that Ukrainian strikes have rendered the brings across the Dnieper inoperable. In a related development, reports emerged on 15 August that partisans had successfully blown up a railway bridge near the south-western outskirts of Melitopol on 13 August.
- On 15 August, officials in St Petersburg denied reports that the administration had sent letters of summons to the local military recruitment centres, after Russian social media users responded negatively to the apparent campaign. The city administration has claimed that unknown “regular lovers of provocations” were behind the distribution of the allegedly fake letters. While we cannot confirm whether this was indeed the case, it should be noted that the letters were not conscription notices in any case, but summons likely designed to intimidate men of military age to voluntarily sign a military contract under offers of high salaries and signing bonuses. This is most likely a strategy employed by local administrations under intense pressure to increase voluntary recruitment, seeking to exploit individuals who are not aware that they are not legally required to sign a military contract upon their arrival at a recruitment centre.
- On 15 August, the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, voted to extend martial law and general mobilisation laws for a further 90 days, until 21 November. In a related development, President Zelensky has today, 16 August, refused a request to reopen Ukraine’s borders to military-aged men. Over 25,000 citizens had signed a petition for Zelensky to do so, but general mobilisation laws that prevent all men aged between 18-60, unless under specific exemptions, from leaving the country.
- Yesterday, 15 August, President Putin launched the annual Army-22 Technical Forum in Moscow, followed by his keynote speech at the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security this morning, 16 August. The Army-22 Forum is an annual showcase of the Russian defence industry and is one of the key opportunities for the Kremlin to secure lucrative foreign arms sales to prop up the state budget and allow for further investment in the Russian defence budget. Putin opened the forum by claiming that Russia stands ready to export a wide range of advanced weaponry to its “allies and partners”, despite the massive demand for equipment in Ukraine at present.
- During his speech, Putin placed particular emphasis and appealed directly to “allies that do not bend under the so-called hegemon”, i.e. the US. This likely reflects efforts by Moscow to begin building an anti-West bloc alongside China, Iran and other nations, which would aim at limiting the impact of Western sanctions and provide more secure long-term markets for Russian energy, commodities and defence exports. The Army-22 Games will be held until 27 August, where Russia will showcase its military equipment in a bid to sign export deals. As such, demonstrations of advanced weapons systems may take place in Ukraine, though the Games themselves are not formal military drills and will not impact the military situation on the ground.
This morning, 16 August, the Russian Ministry of Defence reported that an act of “sabotage” caused a fire at an ammunition depot near the village of Maiske, in the Dzhankoy district of Crimea. Social media images indicates a large explosion took place, with local rail infrastructure also reportedly impacted, preventing trains from travelling along the line that connects the Crimea Bridge with Kherson. Ukrainian officials have commented evasively on the explosion, indicating possible Ukrainian responsibility – though as with other recent attacks on occupied Crimea, we cannot confirm whether this was a long-range strike, a special forces operation or local partisan activity. Maiske, situated in northern Crimea oblast, is over 170km from the nearest Ukrainian positions in Kherson oblast. If this was a Ukrainian attack, as appears likely given recent precedents, this once again reflects Ukraine’s growing capability to strike targets deep behind enemy lines in occupied Crimea (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 10 August for more details and implications). As we have previously assessed, occupied Crimea is clearly under mounting pressure by Ukrainian forces as Kyiv reiterates its determination to liberate the region, driving the risk of an escalation if Ukraine has indeed acquired domestically produced new longer-range missiles.
- Pro-Russia groups’ activity during this monitoring period focused on intelligence gathering operations against entities operating in Ukraine, as well as NATO member states. This activity was carried out to acquire information that could help Russia gain a tactical advantage in its protracted conflict in the Donbas region. Further intelligence gathering cyber campaigns are highly likely to be launched against targets of strategic value to Russia, such as Ukrainian or NATO government agencies and their private sector partners. These campaigns are particularly likely given that the conflict in eastern Ukraine will persist in the coming months.
- In contrast, publicly-disclosed cyber campaigns launched by pro-Ukraine cyber threat actors (such as Anonymous) continued to decline during this monitoring period. While this possibly indicates a reduced interest by these groups to support Kyiv due to other political issues, such as ongoing China-Taiwan cross-strait tensions, there remains a heightened risk of groups like Anonymous continuing to engage in pro-Kyiv cyber activity in the wake of significant developments in the Ukraine conflict. Such cyber attacks will likely keep targeting Russian government agencies, Moscow’s critical infrastructure operators and Western firms which have maintained business operations inside Russia.
Russia-linked disruptive cyber campaigns continue; DDoS, other low-level cyber activity remain high-priority threats to Western businesses
- On 15 August, industry reports claimed that the Russia-linked hacking group Shuckworm (also known as Gamaredon) is engaged in an ongoing intelligence gathering campaign against Ukrainian organisations. This threat actor is reportedly utilising self-extracting 7-Zip files, downloaded via email, to upload its malicious payloads onto its victims’ devices. While these intelligence reports did not disclose which sectors are being attacked, the campaign’s focus on Ukraine indicates they are likely targeting organisations with close relations to the Ukrainian government, such as those in the defence and/or telecommunications sectors. They will seek to gather information that could help the Russia gain military advantages in the highly contested Donbas region.
- On 15 August, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) claimed they disrupted a Russia-linked hacking campaign targeting individuals and organisations located in NATO member states. This threat actor, tracked as SEABORGIUM or ColdRiver, reportedly launched social engineering campaigns via email and social media to compromise targets of interest to the Russian government. These include defence and intelligence consulting companies, NGOs, IGOs, think tanks and higher education institutions. It is unclear how many victims were compromised by this campaign before it was disrupted by Microsoft.
- On 14 August, the pro-Russia hacktivist group Killnet continued to claim that they exfiltrated sensitive information from US defence firm Lockheed Martin after subjecting it to a cyber attack in early August (see Sibylline Weekly Ukraine Cyber Update – 9 August 2022). While Killnet claims to possess personally identifiable information (PII) on Lockheed Martin’s employees, including full names, email addresses and contact information, Lockheed Martin has denied these allegations and stated it ‘remains confident in the integrity of our robust, multi-layered information systems and data security’. If officially confirmed, this would constitute the most notable Killnet cyber incident since the group launched Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks earlier in 2022 against several Western governments, including Lithuania, Norway and Romania.
- Late last week, Victor Zhora, Deputy Director of Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection (SSSCIP), discussed cyber warfare in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine during the Black Hat cyber conference. Zhora claimed that Kyiv has detected over 1,600 ‘major cyber incidents’ in 2022, with a notable number of these incidents occurring between March and April. Zhora noted the discovery of industroyer2, the apparent successor to the industroyer malware used in 2016 to take the industrial control systems for Kyiv’s electrical grid offline, causing blackouts.
Pro-Ukraine cyber campaigns remain limited; disruptive cyber attacks present long-term threat to Western businesses with alleged connections to Russia
- On 14 August, a Twitter account allegedly linked to Anonymous claimed that the group hacked Russian streaming services and TV news channels and broadcast ‘footage of the destruction of Russian military assets’. This activity is consistent with pro-Kyiv hacking groups’ previous campaigns aimed at countering the Russian government’s misinformation/disinformation operations by targeting Russian media outlets. This is also one of the latest cyber attacks by Anonymous since the group claimed it hacked Russia’s Vyberi Radio Group in early June, leaking around 823 GB of data.
- On 12 August, another Twitter account purportedly representing Anonymous claimed that the group took two Russian video conferencing services, Videomost.com and Webinar.ru, offline after subjecting them to cyber attacks. Anonymous has declined to provide additional details of these incidents. However, given the level of resultant disruption and Anonymous’ known tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), it is highly likely that these services were taken offline by DDoS attacks.
Publicly disclosed pro-Moscow cyber campaigns have experienced a slight uptick during this monitoring period, with cyber attacks targeting Ukrainian organisations and NATO member states accounting for the most notable activity. These attacks are indicative of MSTIC’s April report which claimed that 237 cyber operations have been launched against Ukraine by at least six Moscow-linked hacking groups since Russia’s invasion in February (see Sibylline Cyber Daily Analytical Update – 28 April 2022). Moreover, it also highlights the findings of MSTIC’s follow-up June report which claimed that Russia-linked hackers have targeted 128 entities across 42 countries, including NATO member states, since the start of the Ukraine conflict, with government agencies (49 percent), IT (20 percent) and critical infrastructure operators (19 percent) constituting the most targeted sectors. There is a realistic possibility that these campaigns are aimed at exfiltrating critical intelligence that can help Russia gain a tactical military advantage over Ukrainian forces in the contested Donbas region. They will possibly also help Russia determine what type of aid NATO members states are providing Kyiv, enabling it to assess how this support will impact its operations. Further intelligence-focused cyber campaigns are highly likely to target areas of strategic value to Moscow, including Ukrainian and NATO government agencies, as well as private sector firms supporting their operations. These include IT, NGO and/or telecommunications firms. In contrast, publicly-disclosed pro-Ukraine cyber activity has continued to decline during this monitoring period. Nevertheless, hacktivist groups like Anonymous have remained highly active on social media platforms, including Twitter and Telegram, promoting their alleged cyber activities. While some cyber security experts and former Anonymous members have questioned the veracity of the group’s claims, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov labelled Anonymous and its sub-groups among the most active pro-Kyiv threat actors targeting the Russian government. As such, there is a realistic probability that a notable number of the group’s claims are truthful. Nevertheless, the ongoing decline of publicly-attributed cyber attacks to pro-Kyiv hacking groups indicates that these groups’ interest to support Ukraine is beginning to wane and that there is more appetite to launch cyber operations related to other political developments, such as cross-strait tensions between China and Taiwan. While this would lower the overall threat posed to Western businesses operating in Russia, cyber actors still pose a long-term threat to Russia-based entities during periods of significant development in Ukraine, including if Russia formalises its control of the Donbas region. Given these groups’ low technical capabilities, there is a realistic probability that their cyber activities will take the form of either DDoS or data leaks. Russian government agencies, Moscow’s critical infrastructure and Western companies which maintain operations in Russia are the most likely to be targeted by cyber attacks. Organisations are advised to consult ‘quick guide’ checklists provided by Western governments’ cyber security agencies – such as the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) – to minimise their exposure to cyber threats.
Ukraine-Russia: Organisations with links to Kyiv will remain high-value targets for Moscow-directed hackers as they seek insights into Ukraine’s military plans in the contested Donbas region. On 15 August, industry reports claimed that the Russian state-linked hacking group Shuckworm (also known as Gamaredon) is engaged in an ongoing intelligence gathering campaign against Ukrainian organisations. This threat actor is reportedly utilising self-extracting 7-Zip files, downloaded via email, to upload its malicious payloads onto its victims’ devices. While these intelligence reports did not disclose which sectors are being attacked, the campaign’s focus on Ukraine indicates they are likely targeted against organisations with close relations to the Ukrainian government, such as defence or telecommunications, to gather information that could help the Russian military gain advantages in the highly contested Donbas region. Such activity is indicative of Ukrainian government officials’ latest disclosure that over 1,600 “major cyber incidents” have been detected in Ukraine in 2022 so far, with most linked to Russia’s invasion. With the protracted conflict in the Donbas set to persist further, such cyber campaigns are likely to be launched against key targets, such as Ukrainian critical infrastructure operators and government agencies.
Moscow-linked hackers’ targeting of NATO member states will persist to gain insights into Western governments’ military and financial support of Ukraine. On 15 August, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) claimed they disrupted a Russian state-linked hacking campaign targeted against people and organisations located in NATO member states. This threat actor, tracked as SEABORGIUM or ColdRiver, reportedly launched social engineering campaigns launched via email and social media to compromise targets of interest to the Russian government, including defence and intelligence consulting companies, NGOs, IGOs, think tanks, and higher education institutions. It is unclear how many victims were compromised by this campaign before it was disrupted by Microsoft. This activity is indicative of MSTIC’s disclosure that Russian state-linked hackers have increased their cyber efforts against Western governments supporting Ukraine, especially those in NATO member states (see Sibylline Cyber Daily Analytical Update – 23 June 2022). Further such cyber campaigns are highly likely to be launched, especially with NATO member states’ military and financial support of Ukraine expected to persist in the coming months. Defence, military, intelligence, government, NGOs, and educational sector organisations will likely remain the most at-risk for these Russian cyber activities.
- Russian forces continued launching ground assaults across eastern Ukraine over the weekend of 12-14 August, with some limited progress. Ground assaults around Siversk continued over the weekend. Russian social media reports claim Russian forces have taken checkpoints in the village of Spirne, 12km southeast of Siversk, but this has not been confirmed.
- However, it is along the Bakhmut line where Russian regular, private military companies (PMCs) and separatist forces continue to achieve the most progress, albeit still relatively limited compared to earlier advances in the war. The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed on 14 August that Russian forces had achieved “partial success” in the direction of Bakhmut, but did not provide details. Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) forces have claimed progress to the northeast of Bakhmut, with the eastern outskirts of Soledar (10km northeast of Bakhmut) under intense pressure.
- Ukraine-Russia: Moscow’s targeting of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure operators will continue in support of its conventional military operations in the Donbas. Late last week, Victor Zhora, Deputy Director of Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection (SSSCIP), discussed the state of cyber warfare in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine during the Black Hat cyber conference. Zhora claimed that Kyiv has detected over 1,600 “major cyber incidents” in 2022, with a notable number of these incidents occurring between March and April. For example, Zhora noted the discovery of industroyer2, the apparent successor to the industroyer malware used in 2016 to take Kyiv’s electrical grid’s industrial control systems offline and cause blackouts. This disclosure is indicative of Microsoft’s April report which claimed that more than 237 cyber operations have been launched against Ukraine by at least six Moscow-linked hacking groups since Russia’s invasion in late February (Sibylline Cyber Daily Analytical Update – 28 April 2022). Microsoft claimed that Russia’s cyber attacks were launched in coordination with its conventional military activities in Ukraine. Further cyber attacks are highly likely to be launched, especially as the protracted conflict in Eastern Ukraine is set to persist for the coming months. Ukraine’s government agencies and critical infrastructure operators, such as energy or telecommunications, will be the most at-risk for these attacks.
- Various Russian sources have claimed that their forces over the weekend reached the north-western outskirts of Bakhmut town itself, with fighting allegedly taking place along Patrisa Lulymby Street, which sits to the west of the M-03 highway. A significant intensification of the bombardment of Bakhmut overnight on 14-15 August could support this, but the advance cannot be confirmed at this stage. Nevertheless, if true, this would represent a significant advance for Russian and separatist forces and indicate that Wagner Group-led forces in the area are maintaining the limited momentum built up in recent weeks. However, on 14 August, Ukrainian forces claimed to have struck the headquarters of the Wagner Group PMC in Popasna. The strike followed the visit of Russian commander Serhiy Sereda to the alleged site on 8 August, which he then published on his Telegram channel – likely providing Ukrainian forces the intelligence needed to strike the site. Such instances of poor operational security will continue to provide both sides with opportunities to strike command and control centres.
- Further south, around Donetsk city, Russian and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) forces have also launched numerous ground assaults, though the Ukrainian General Staff maintain that Ukrainian defences are currently holding and most of these attacks have been successfully repelled. Notably, the spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Operational Command refuted Russia’s claim to be control of Pisky (5km northwest of Donetsk), though all indicators point to Russian forces consolidating control over the area and preparing for future attacks to take the rest of the town.
- Slightly further north, Russian forces furthermore conducted limited ground attacks northwest of Slovyansk over the weekend, but made no confirmed progress. There are numerous indications that suggest this Izyum-Slovyansk axis is maintained by increasing numbers of newly raised volunteer battalions, as well as elements of the Eastern Military District. This reflects earlier assessments that Russia has withdrawn regular forces from this axis in order to reinforce the south, indicating that the Izyum-Slovyansk axis does not remain a priority for Moscow at present – with poorly trained volunteer battalions highly unlikely to provide much capability to launch major offensives in the area at present. Meanwhile, around Kharkiv, the Russian Ministry of Defence claimed on 13 August that its forces have taken the village of Udy (over 40km northwest of Kharkiv), though this has not been confirmed.
- On the southern Kherson-Mykolaiv axis, Ukrainian forces are continuing to successfully degrade Russian ground lines of communication (GLOC) following further strikes against the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant and Antonivsky bridges. While it remains unclear whether any of these bridges are operational following heavy damage, the recurring strikes have most likely severed these road and rail connections across the Dnieper River, at least temporarily. This will pose the most serious threat to the longer-term viability of Russian operations on the west bank of the Dnieper if Ukrainian forces do launch a major counteroffensive. Pontoon ferries near Antonivsky bridge and aerial resupply will highly likely be insufficient to reinforce Russian forces during a major Ukrainian counteroffensive. However, it remains unclear how much Russian forces have been able to stockpile on the west bank of the river. Numerous Ukrainian officials have also claimed that over the past week unspecified numbers of Russian commanders have relocated from Kherson city to the eastern bank of the river, though this remains unconfirmed.
- The latest UK Ministry of Defence reports predict that Moscow is likely to be in the advanced stages regarding the plans to hold a referendum in the occupied and so-called Donetsk People’s Republic to become part of Russia. Notably, however, the self-proclaimed and Russia-installed leader of the region said last week that the specific date of such a vote would be determined after the Republic’s “complete liberation”. As such, given that the current pace of the Russian offensive in Donetsk is very slow, there is a realistic possibility that the likely annexations plans will not materialise this year –unless there is a notable change on the battlefield, or should Kyiv agree to territorial concessions, something that is currently highly unlikely. Nevertheless, plans to hold fake referendums in other occupied parts of south-eastern Ukraine will likely continue to be pushed ahead, with the latest reports confirming that Russian forces are continuing their attempts to cement their control over the captured territories, such as in the occupied city of Kherson, by enforcing financial transactions in rubles.
- Additionally over the weekend, relatively positive developments in the maritime sphere continued, with the latest reports indicating that another six vessels have been authorised to depart from Ukraine’s ports through the humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea. Four of these ships are reportedly awaiting inspections scheduled for 16 August, with the other two having already passed the necessary checks. To that end, President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed that a supply of grain bound for Ethiopia, “where the situation with hunger is particularly severe” is underway, moderately alleviating short-term food security concerns.
- On 14 August 42 countries released a joint statement demanding Russia withdraw immediately from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.O The calls came after numerous reported strikes against the plant over the weekend, with the latest accusations of shelling coming just hours after the joint statement. However, President Zelensky issued a warning on the evening of 14 August that all Russian soldiers who fire on the nuclear plant or use it as an artillery base will become a target for Ukrainian special and regular forces. Following this, Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-backed occupation regional administration of Zaporizhzhia oblast, called for a “regime of silence” to be declared around the plant, using the Russian term often used to describe a temporary ceasefire. A temporary ceasefire would be more realistic than a Russian withdrawal, but such a ceasefire would be highly unlikely to hold for long even if it was agreed.
- Today, 15 August, separatist authorities of the DNR will hold a trial of five foreigners accused of mercenary activity in the Donbas. A Swede, a Croat, and three Britons will stand trial, which follows the sentencing of two Britons and a Moroccan national to death under the same charges last month. It remains highly likely that today’s trial will pass a similar death penalty, though it remains to be seen whether the DNR will actually follow through with the sentencing. Nevertheless, show trials are also likely to begin in Russia proper as well, given that on 2 August Russia’s Supreme Court formally declared the Azov Regiment a “terrorist” organisation. Such a designation will risk individuals found guilty of “terrorist activity” not being tried under the Geneva convention as prisoners of war.
This morning, 15 August, Russian news outlets reported extensively on comments made by Ukrainian Deputy Oleksiy Honcharenko, who claimed that during a NATO summit in June Kyiv discussed plans to destroy the Crimea Bridge with UK Secretary of Defence Ben Wallace. As assessed last week, the Saki airbase attack has set a major precedent for Ukraine’s growing confidence and ability to strike at Russian forces and assets in occupied Crimea (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 10 August 2022). This has highlighted the growing vulnerability of the strategic Crimea Bridge, following numerous statements by Ukrainian military commanders anticipating strikes against the bridge in the future. Following the coverage of Honcharenko’s claims, the Deputy Speaker of Russia’s Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev stated that it would be “obvious” that an attempt to strike the Crimea Bridge would have been accomplished only with the help of foreign weapons. While Kosachev maintained that Russian forces would not allow the bridge to be destroyed “under any circumstances”, enduring failures in Russia’s air defences and the Saki raid have severely undermined Russian confidence that such strategic assets remain beyond the reach of Ukrainian forces. Kosachev’s emphasis on foreign long-range weapons supports our assessment that the destruction or targeting of the Crimea Bridge will be a major escalation flashpoint. This would highly likely trigger reprisal long-range strikes against “decision-making centres” across Ukraine. However, it would also increase the risk of Moscow viewing the attack as directly sanctioned and facilitated by the West, particularly the UK, though any resultant escalation inside Ukraine is unlikely to lead to any conflict spill over. (Source: Sibylline)
22 Aug 22. Russian forces pound Ukraine, Zelenskiy warns of more serious attacks. Russian forces pressed on with their offensive across several Ukrainian regions on Monday, while President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned of the potential for more serious attacks ahead of Ukraine’s 31st anniversary of independence from Soviet rule.
Artillery shells rained down on Nikopol, a city near Zaporizhzhia – Europe’s biggest nuclear plant, while missiles struck near the Black Sea port of Odesa over the weekend.
Zelenskiy has called for vigilance, saying Moscow could try “something particularly ugly” ahead of Wednesday, which marks Ukraine’s Independence Day and also half a year since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Zelenskiy said he had discussed “all the threats” with French President Emmanuel Macron and word had also been sent to other leaders including Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“All of Ukraine’s partners have been informed about what the terrorist state can prepare for this week,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address, referring to Russia.
He also said if Russia went ahead with plans to try captured Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol, then it would have violated international rules and cut itself off from negotiations.
“If this despicable show trial were to go ahead … this would be the line beyond which negotiations are no longer possible,” he said. “There will be no more conversations. Our state has said everything.”
The Financial Times, in an article published Sunday, quoted Gennady Gatilov, Moscow’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, as saying Erdogan had tried to facilitate dialogue.
But he dismissed speculation about talks between Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying there “was not any practical platform for having this meeting”, the report said.
In Russia, authorities are investigating a suspected car bomb attack outside Moscow that killed the daughter of Alexander Dugin, an ultra-nationalist Russian ideologue who advocates Russia absorbing Ukraine.
While investigators said they were considering “all versions” when it came to establishing who was responsible, the Russian Foreign Ministry speculated there could be a link to Ukraine, something a Zelenskiy adviser dismissed.
“Ukraine, of course, had nothing to do with this because we are not a criminal state, like the Russian Federation, and moreover we are not a terrorist state,” Mykhailo Podolyak said on Ukrainian TV.
MORE RUSSIAN STRIKES
As Ukraine prepared to mark its Independence Day embroiled in a war that has flattened towns and cities, killed thousands and forced millions to flee, officials reported more Russian strikes on targets in the east and south of the country.
In the eastern Bakhmut region, Russian forces inflicted damage from artillery and multiple rocket launcher systems in the areas of Soledar, Zaytseve and Bilogorivka settlements, Ukraine’s General Staff said in its daily update on Monday.
They continued to focus their efforts on establishing full control over the territories of Luhansk and Donetsk regions, maintaining the captured areas of Kherson and parts of Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Mykolaiv regions, the General Staff added.
Of particular concern is the shelling of Nikopol.
Nikopol was shelled on five different occasions overnight, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram on Sunday. He said 25 artillery shells hit the city, causing a fire at an industrial premises and cutting power to 3,000 residents.
The fighting near Zaporizhzhia and a missile strike on the southern town of Voznesensk, not far from Ukraine’s second-largest atomic plant, have spurred fears of a nuclear accident.
On Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Macron held a phone call stressing the importance of ensuring the safety of nuclear installations, while underlining their “steadfast commitment” to Ukraine. read more
Moscow says it is engaged in a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” its neighbour. Ukraine and its allies say Moscow has launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
Russia said on Sunday that its Kalibr missiles had destroyed an ammunition depot containing missiles for U.S.-made HIMARS rockets in Ukraine’s southeastern Odesa region, home to ports critical to a U.N.-brokered plan to help Ukrainian agricultural exports reach world markets again. Kyiv said a granary had been hit. Reuters was not able to independently verify the battlefield reports. (Source: Reuters)
21 Aug 22. Top Russian diplomat dismisses hopes of negotiated end to Ukraine war. Moscow sees no possibility of a diplomatic solution to end the war in Ukraine and expects a long conflict, a senior Russian diplomat has warned, as President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion reaches the six-month mark this week. Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, told the Financial Times that the UN should be playing a bigger role in attempts to end the conflict and accused the US and other Nato countries of pressing Ukraine to walk away from negotiations. There would be no direct talks between Putin and Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he said. “Now, I do not see any possibility for diplomatic contacts,” Gatilov said. “And the more the conflict goes on, the more difficult it will be to have a diplomatic solution.” His remarks, which come despite a flurry of shuttle diplomacy in recent weeks, are a blow to negotiators who had hoped that a recent agreement on grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports could form the basis for a broader deal. The UN has become mired in “politicisation” because of the war and that has “damaged the authority of the UN and its organisations”, Gatilov said. As a result, it is unable to act effectively as a mediator, he complained. “We do not have any contacts with the western delegations,” he said of his day-to-day work in Geneva. “On the protocol side we do not see each other . . . Privately we do not have any contacts, unfortunately . . . we simply do not talk to each other.” Global diplomacy was in the worst state he had experienced in his 50-year career, Gatilov added. “The world has changed and the UN will never be the same as it was before,” he said. Russia invaded on February 24, in what Putin called a “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine.
It was condemned by western countries which imposed crippling sanctions on Moscow and severed ties. An initial attempt to seize Kyiv in a lightning assault was thwarted, forcing Moscow’s army to regroup and focus on an artillery-led campaign in the east. Bilateral ceasefire negotiations broke down after evidence was discovered of war crimes committed by occupying Russian troops in April. Moscow has denied the allegations. The failure to restart peace talks, combined with continued western military support for Ukraine, meant it was impossible to forecast how long the conflict could last, Gatilov said: “And so they [Kyiv and its western supporters] will fight until the last Ukrainian.” Gatilov, who served as deputy foreign minister before being posted to Geneva in 2018, claimed that Moscow and Kyiv had been “very close” to an agreement that could have paused the conflict in negotiations hosted by Turkey in April. People involved in the talks have refuted this. (Source: FT.com)
19 Aug 22. Blasts, fresh drone attacks rock Russian-held areas far from Ukraine war front.
- Half of Russia’s Black Sea aviation wiped out – Western official
- Kyiv coy over incidents in Crimea and Russia
- Ukraine fears Russia will decouple nuclear plant from grid
- Washington prepares more military aid for Kyiv
Russia reported fresh Ukrainian drone attacks on Friday evening, a day after explosions erupted near military bases in Russian-held areas of Ukraine and Russia itself, apparent displays of Kyiv’s growing ability to pummel Moscow’s assets far from front lines.
The latest incidents followed huge blasts last week at an air base in Russian-annexed Crimea. In a new assessment, a Western official said that incident had rendered half of Russia’s Black Sea naval aviation force useless in a stroke.
Russia’s RIA and Tass news agencies, citing a local official in Crimea, said it appeared Russian anti-aircraft forces had been in action near the western Crimean port of Yevpatoriya on Friday night. Video posted by a Russian website showed what appeared to be a ground-to-air missile hitting a target. Reuters was unable immediately to confirm the video’s veracity.
Tass cited a local official as saying Russian anti-aircraft forces knocked down six Ukrainian drones sent to attack the town of Nova Kakhovka, east of the city of Kherson. Ukraine says retaking Kherson is one of its main priorities. Separately, an official in Crimea said defences there had downed an unspecified number of drones over the city of Sevastopol.
“The Ukrainian armed forces treated the Russians to a magical evening,” said Seriy Khlan, a member of Kherson’s regional council disbanded by Russian occupation forces.
The night before, multiple explosions had been reported in Crimea – which Moscow seized in 2014 – including near Sevastopol, headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, as well as at Kerch near a huge bridge to Russia.
Inside Russia, two villages had been evacuated after explosions at an ammunition dump in Belgorod province, more than 100 km (60 miles) from territory controlled by Ukrainian forces.
Kyiv has been withholding official comment on incidents in Crimea or inside Russia while hinting that it is behind them using long-range weapons or sabotage.
A Western official indicated on Friday that at least some of the incidents were Ukrainian attacks, saying Kyiv was consistently achieving “kinetic effects” deep behind Russia’s lines. read more
Huge explosions on Aug. 9 at Russia’s Saky air base on the Crimean coast had put more than half of the Black Sea Fleet’s combat jets out of use, the official said, in what would be one of the costliest attacks of the war.
Russia has denied aircraft were damaged in what it called an accident, although satellite pictures showed at least eight burnt-out warplanes and several huge craters.
Moscow dismissed the head of the Black Sea Fleet this week.
Ukraine hopes its apparent new-found ability to hit Russian targets behind the front line can turn the tide in the conflict, disrupting supply lines Moscow needs to support its occupation.
A senior U.S. defense official said on Friday that U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration was preparing another security assistance package for Ukraine valued at $775 million and containing surveillance drones and for the first time mine-resistant vehicles.
Since last month, Ukraine has been fielding Western-supplied rockets to strike behind Russian lines. Some explosions reported in Crimea and Belgorod were beyond the range of ammunition Western countries have acknowledged sending so far.
A senior Ukrainian official said around half of incidents in Crimea were Ukrainian attacks of some kind, and half accidents caused by Russia’s poor operations. He emphasised that attacks were carried out by saboteurs rather than long-range weapons, though he would not say whether Kyiv now had ATACMS, a longer range version of the U.S. HIMARS rockets it began using in June.
The official, who declined to be named, said Ukraine had hoped its strikes would have a bigger impact in reducing Russian artillery power but Moscow was adapting.
CONCERN ABOUT NUCLEAR PLANT
Ukraine also issued dire warnings about a frontline nuclear power station, the Zaporizhzhia complex, where it said it believed Moscow was planning a “large-scale provocation” as justification to decouple the plant from the Ukrainian power grid and connect it to Russia’s.
“If the Russian blackmail with radiation continues, this summer may go down in the history of various European nations as one of the most tragic of all time. Because no nuclear power station anywhere in the world has a procedure for a terrorist state turning a nuclear power plant into a target,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an address Friday evening.
Continuing the mutual blame game, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of shelling the complex, risking a nuclear catastrophe.
Ukraine’s nuclear power operator said on Friday it suspected Moscow was planning to switch over the Zaporizhzhia plant to Russia’s power grid, a complex operation Kyiv says could cause a disaster.
The power station is held by Russian troops on the bank of a reservoir. Ukrainian forces control the opposite bank.
Moscow has rejected international calls to demilitarise the plant and Putin on Friday renewed his accusation that Kyiv was shelling it in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, according to the Kremlin’s readout.
Macron’s office said Putin agreed to a mission to Zaporizhzhia by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Thousands of people have been killed and millions forced to flee since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24, saying it aimed to demilitarize Ukraine and protect Russian speakers on what Putin called historical Russian land.
Ukraine and Western countries view it as a war of conquest aimed at wiping out Ukraine’s national identity. (Source: Reuters)
19 Aug 22. Additional Defensive Weapons to be Shipped to Ukraine, Says Official.
A major presidential drawdown authority security assistance package is about to be unveiled, said a senior Defense Department official who briefed the Pentagon media today.
This PDA is valued at up to $775m, the official said, noting that a $1 billion security assistance package was also just released on Aug. 8.
The official summarized what’s in this current PDA:
Additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS.
16 105 mm howitzers, along with 36,000 rounds for the artillery.
The United Kingdom has supplied 105 mm howitzers to Ukraine in the past.
15 ScanEagle unmanned aerial systems for reconnaissance.
Mine clearing systems, including 40 MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles with mine rollers that will allow Ukraine to neutralize areas heavily mined by Russia in the south and east.
Additional high-speed, anti-radiation missiles, known as HARM missiles, for integration into Ukrainian aircraft to seek and destroy Russian radars.
1,500 tube-launched, optically tracked, wire guided anti-tank missiles, known as TOWs.
1,000 Javelin anti-armor systems.
2,000 anti-armor rounds to be used in existing anti-armor systems, many of which have already been provided by allies and partners such as the Carl Gustaf weapon developed by Sweden.
Other security assistance includes 50 Humvees, tactical secure communication systems, demolition munitions, night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, optics and laser rangefinders.
“Right now, I would say that you are seeing a complete and total lack of progress by the Russians on the battlefield,” the official said, adding that Ukrainian forces are employing Javelins and HIMARS in very effective ways.
Since 2014, more than $12.6 billion has been provided to Ukraine in security assistance.
“This isn’t the end. We will continue to consult with the Ukrainians to make sure that we are providing them what they need, when they need it,” the official said. (Source: US DoD)
19 Aug 22. $775m in Additional Security Assistance for Ukraine.
Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) announces the authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $775 million to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This authorization is the Biden Administration’s nineteenth drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.
Capabilities in this package include:
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
- 16 105mm Howitzers and 36,000 105mm artillery rounds;
- 15 Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- 40 MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles with mine rollers;
- Additional High-speed Anti-radiation missiles;
- 50 Armored High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV);
- 1,500 Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
- 1,000 Javelin anti-armor systems;
- 2,000 anti-armor rounds;
- Mine clearing equipment and systems;
- Demolition munitions;
- Tactical secure communications systems;
- Night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, optics, and laser rangefinders.
In total, the United States has committed approximately $10.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $12.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.
As President Biden has made clear, we will support Ukraine as they defend their democracy for as long as it takes. The United States will continue to work with its Allies and partners to provide Ukraine with key capabilities to meet Ukraine’s evolving battlefield requirements. (Source: US DoD)
19 Aug 22. Putin and Macron agree IAEA mission to Ukraine nuclear plant. Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of risking disaster by attacking facility near Zaporizhzhia. France is insisting on a temporary ceasefire while officials from the IAEA inspect the site to ensure its safety. Russian president Vladimir Putin and France’s Emmanuel Macron have agreed to push ahead with an urgent safety mission by the International Atomic Energy Agency to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which both sides in the war say is at risk from the fighting around it. A senior French official said Putin had agreed in a call with Macron on Friday that the IAEA inspectors could visit from Ukrainian-held territory — as demanded by Kyiv — and would not be obliged to access the power station from the zone invaded and controlled by Russian forces, although the Kremlin did not confirm this. “The president of the Russian Federation told the French president that he agreed with the deployment of this mission in the terms discussed,” the Élysée Palace said in an official statement. “The two presidents will talk again in the coming days on this matter after technical experts have discussed it and before the deployment of the mission.” The mission, which the French official said needed to happen “very quickly”, will also require at least a temporary ceasefire for the inspectors to see the site and make their recommendations for ensuring nuclear safety, according to the French official. “It’s not easy to negotiate a proper ceasefire, but there must be assurances that the IAEA mission can take place in secure conditions, which means the cessation of combat for at least the duration of the visit,” the French official said. A successful ceasefire and IAEA visit would follow the earlier accord to allow grain for world markets to be exported from Odesa and other Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea, which have been blockaded by Russia since the start of the invasion.
The tentative deal on the IAEA visit comes after weeks of reported shelling incidents at the nuclear power plant, which Russia’s army occupied soon after it invaded six months ago. Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of conducting strikes on the plant in the southern Ukrainian town of Energodar. The claims and counterclaims have triggered fears over a potential catastrophe in a country that suffered the world’s worst nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1986 when Kyiv was under Soviet rule. In a video address to the nation late on Thursday, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeated his calls for Russia to “immediately and unconditionally allow IAEA representatives to the plant and also immediately and unconditionally withdraw its troops from the territory of the plant”. But Zelenskyy also stressed that Russia as “the one who organised nuclear blackmail certainly cannot be the conduit for any such missions”. Macron has had numerous conversations with Putin and Zelenskyy to try to avert and then to end the war. The call on Friday, which lasted more than an hour, was the 22nd exchange between Macron and Putin since December last year, the Elysée said. According to the Kremlin, Putin told Macron that shelling of the Russian-controlled nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, which he blamed on Kyiv, created the risk of “large-scale catastrophe”. (Source: FT.com)
19 Aug 22. Russia Has Lost Two Squadrons Of Its ‘Best’ Su-35 Fighters.
Rostec, the Russian state-owned military hardware conglomerate, has long hyped the capabilities of its Sukhoi Su-35 (NATO reporting name “Flanker-E”), and the Kremlin has described the aircraft as one of its very best fighters. Such bolster is common for a country in wartime, but now Moscow will have to explain how it has lost two full squadrons – about 24 aircraft in total – in recent fighting in Ukraine.
“The Su-35 aircraft has also shown a low level of survivability. During the full-scale aggression, the occupiers have lost two squadrons of such aircraft, that’s about 24 planes,” Oleksii Hromov, deputy chief of the main operational department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said in a briefing to the public last week.
Of course, it goes without saying that 19FortyFive cannot independently confirm such a claim.
Nonetheless, assuming the claim is accurate, the losses are so great that there are reports that Russia may be forced to send in its outdated Su-24M bombers to replace its aircraft losses. If the “best” can’t get the job done, one can only feel sorry for the Russians piloting those antiquated planes.
One factor could be that the “best” didn’t exactly perform in combat as expected, especially as Russia has failed to achieve air superiority even as Ukraine continues to rely on the far older MiG-29.
Moreover, it has also been further noted that there have been reliability issues that continue to plague the fourth-generation plus plus aircraft – and not just those in Russian service. China had purchased some two dozen Su-35s from Moscow less than a decade ago, but apparently, just nine are still operational.
Confidence: Crash and Burn
Even as Russia may have to call up the outdated Su-24M, there has been word that Russia would be willing to trade the Su-35 to Iran for its Shaheds drones. Questions abound as to why a nation (Russia) that is lacking sufficient hardware would trade away what is arguably among its most advanced fighters for unmanned drones, yet, that may suggest the Kremlin has so little faith in the Su-35 that it would rather employ the drones in the skies over Ukraine.
Yet, for the Islamic Republic – which has relied on truly ancient aircraft that even includes third-generation U.S. fighters from the 1970s – the Su-35 would be a major boost. Already, Iranian pilots and technicians have been sent to Russia for training, while Moscow has apparently already dispatched teams to Tehran to be trained on the drones.
“During the last several weeks, Russian officials conducted training in Iran as part of the agreement for UAV transfers from Iran to Russia,” a U.S. official told CNN.
Moscow’s need to rely on Tehran for help only serves to speak volumes about the Kremlin’s military capabilities, notably the Su-35.
The Su-35 is actually just a heavily upgraded derivative of the Su-27 aircraft. According to its designers, as a multirole fighter, the Su-35 can be used in a variety of missions and is capable of attacking ground and naval targets, including infrastructural facilities shielded by air defense systems, as well as those located at a considerable distance from home airfields.
The Russian fighter jet can deploy air-to-air missiles of up to 300 kilometers (190 miles), well beyond visual range, and it can also be armed with the heavy Oniks anti-ship cruise missile, as well as a multitude of air-to-ground weaponry. It can carry up to eight tons of the weapon payload (missiles and bombs of various types) on a dozen underwing hardpoints, while the fighter jet’s other armament includes a 30mm aircraft gun.
It may sound good on paper, but so far Russia’s best hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype. Perhaps Iran will have better luck with them.
What the Experts Told Us
“While it is impossible to know for sure how many Su-35s have been lost over Ukraine, one thing is clear: these planes are not as good as American or European fighters like the various versions of the F-15 and Eurofighter Typhoon,” explained a retired Senior U.S. Defense Department official in an interview with 19FortyFive. “Russia’s Su-35 does on paper seem like a decent fighter, but we are finding out now that many of our assumptions on how Moscow’s Air Force would operate in wartime were way off.” (Source: News Now/https://www.19fortyfive.com/)
19 Aug 22. Europe’s Military Aid To Ukraine Is Decreasing – Media.
Throughout July, the six largest countries in Europe did not offer Ukraine new bilateral military commitments – this is the first such month since Russia’s invasion in February.
This was reported by Politico with reference to data from the Kiel Institute of the World Economy, European Pravda reports.
The publication emphasizes that this is a sign that, despite historical changes in European defense policy, military assistance to Ukraine seems to be decreasing – just when Kyiv launches a decisive counteroffensive.
Fresh data from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, which tracks support for Ukraine during the war, covers the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland and is due to be released on Thursday.
Christoph Trebesch, head of the team compiling the Ukraine Support Tracker, said the organization’s data showed European military aid commitments for Ukraine have been on a downward trend since the end of April.
“Despite the war entering a critical phase, new aid initiatives have dried up,” he said.
Denmark will increase financial support for Ukraine by EUR 110 million.
Western allies did meet last week in Cophenhagen to gather pledges for boosting Ukraine’s military, amassing EUR 1.5 billion in commitments. But Trebesch, who said his team is still analyzing the numbers, cautioned the figure “is meager compared to what was raised in earlier conferences.”
Trebesch argued that European countries should be considering the Ukraine war as more akin to the eurozone crisis or the coronavirus pandemic, two events that promoted the Continent to funnel hundreds of billions into emergency funding measures.
For example, the EU’s pandemic recovery fund covers approximately EUR 800 billion in loans and grants. Total European aid to Ukraine so far is only a small part of this amount. According to Trebesch, it’s “surprisingly little considering what is at stake.”
Recall, earlier the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine reported that August and September would be extremely important months for the further development of hostilities on the entire front.
In addition, the formation and training of four battalions for sending to war in Ukraine continues in Chechnya.
Meanwhile, the occupiers expect a massive offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Independence Day. (Source: https://ukranews.com/)
19 Aug 22. Estonia pledges more mortars and anti-tank weaponry for Ukraine. The country will also donate a second field hospital to Ukraine, and support UK-led training programmes. Understand the impact of the Ukraine conflict from a cross-sector perspective with the GlobalData Executive Briefing: Ukraine Conflict. The Estonian Ministry of Defence has announced additional military assistance to Ukraine in the form of mortars and anti-tank weaponry.
In response to a request by Ukrainian forces, Estonia has also revealed plans to support a UK-led training programme.
Estonian Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur said: “The Estonian Defence Forces are especially proficient in training reservists for combat in an intense conventional war against a larger adversary, meaning precisely for the kind of war that Ukraine is in right now.”
In cooperation with Germany, the Nato member has decided to donate a second field hospital to support the medical capabilities of Ukrainian personnel.
So far, Estonia has delivered military aid worth €250m to strengthen Ukrainian defence capabilities.
Poland and the Czech Republic have decided to strengthen bilateral military cooperation and defence industries amid rising Russian aggression.
Poland Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said: “We are involved in Nato, but we are also discussing cooperation in the European Union forum, concerning, for example, the supply of fuel for the army.”
Czech Minister of Defence Jana Černochova said: “I can say that Poland is modernising its equipment, and so is the Czech Republic. We have joint ventures prepared.”
The two sides also held discussions on holding joint exercises of special units, airborne units, and military police.
ICEYE and the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation have also signed a contract to provide ICEYE’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite imaging capabilities to Ukraine.
The company will also provide the Ukrainian Armed Forces with access to its constellation of SAR satellites.
This will help the soldiers receive radar satellite imagery on key locations with a high revisit frequency.
Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation founder Serhiy Prytula said: “ICEYE owns the most developed radar satellite imaging technology in the world, as of today.
“This agreement is a significant step in responding to the Government of Ukraine’s urgent request for critical earth observation data and it will greatly benefit our Armed Forces.” (Source: army-technology.com)
18 Aug 22. Biden administration readies about $800m in additional security aid for Ukraine. President Joe Biden’s administration is readying about $800m of additional military aid to Ukraine and could announce it as soon as Friday, three sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday. Biden would authorize the assistance using his Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the president to authorize the transfer of excess weapons from U.S. stocks, the sources told Reuters. The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that an announcement could slip into next week, cautioning that weapons packages can change in value before they are announced.The White House declined to comment. Since Russian troops poured over the Ukrainian border in February in what Russian President Vladimir Putin termed a “special military operation,” the conflict has settled into a war of attrition fought primarily in the east and south of Ukraine. Washington has sent billions of dollars in security assistance to the Kyiv government. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Reuters)
19 Aug 22. Ukrainian celebrity crowdfunds radar satellite for armed forces. A well-known Ukrainian TV host has crowdfunded a gift to help Ukraine’s armed forces beat back Russia’s invasion: usage rights to a radar satellite that can see through clouds.
TV star Serhiy Prytula and Finnish satellite company ICEYE OY confirmed the deal in separate statements on Thursday.
“The contract signed with the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation will initially provide the Government of Ukraine with the full capabilities for one of ICEYE’s satellites already in orbit,” the company said.
“In addition, ICEYE will provide access to its constellation of SAR satellites, allowing the Ukrainian Armed Forces to receive radar satellite imagery on critical locations with a high revisit frequency,” it said on its website.
The satellites differ from conventional ones due to their synthetic radar imaging technology, which can produce high-resolution images at night, and see through cloud cover, ICEYE says.
“I dont know of any other cases in history when people, young and old, came together and bought a satellite for their state,” Prytula said in a video posted on YouTube.
Prytula, whose foundation has conducted several fundraising drives to help the war effort, said the money for the satellites had been raised in June by the “People’s Bayraktar” crowdfunding initiative, which sought to purchase three Bayraktar TB2 combat drones from Turkish manufacturer Baykar Defense. Responding to the wave of publicity caused by that initiative, Baykar handed over three drones for free.
As a result, Prytula said he was able to use the money he had raised, which his foundation says currently stands at over 2bn hryvnia ($55m), to purchase access to the ICEYE satellite. ($1 = 36.2500 hryvnias) (Source: Reuters)
18 Aug 22. Russia says 3 MiG warplanes with hypersonic missiles moved to Kaliningrad region -media. Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday three MiG-31E warplanes equipped with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles have been relocated to its Kaliningrad region, Interfax reported.
Russian state-owned news agency RIA cited the ministry as saying that the MiG jets would be on round-the-clock duty.
Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic coast exclave located between NATO and European Union members Poland and Lithuania, became a flashpoint after Lithuania moved to limit goods transit to the region through its territory, with Russia promising retaliation.
Tensions in the region have risen since Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine six months ago in what it calls a “special military operation”.
Earlier on Thursday, Finland’s Defence Ministry said that two Russian MiG-31 jets were suspected of violating its airspace near the city of Porvoo, on the Gulf of Finland 150 km (90 miles) from Russia.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington had seen the announcements from Russia regarding the repositioning of assets, which he said portrayed it as a matter of defense and deterrence.
“That of course is nonsense,” Price told reporters.
“Russia does not face a threat from NATO. Russia does not face a threat from Finland. Russia does not face a threat from any other country.” (Source: Reuters)
19 Aug 22. Ukraine war: Russia shoots down drone as four blasts rock major military airport in Crimea.
At least four explosions hit near a major Russian military airport on the Moscow-controlled Crimean peninsula on Thursday, three sources said.
The sources said the explosions were near Russia’s Belbek military airport, north of the Black Sea fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol.
Ukraine has hinted it orchestrated other blasts over the last 10 days at other Russian installations in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhayev, writing on Telegram, said Russian anti-aircraft forces downed a Ukrainian drone and no damage occurred. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
19 Aug 22. Leaders of Ukraine, U.N. seek to secure Russian-held nuclear plant. The U.N. chief and the presidents of Turkey and Ukraine have discussed ways to end the war started by Russia and secure Europe’s largest nuclear power station, as Russia and Ukraine traded accusations of new shelling near the plant. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters after talks in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday he was gravely concerned about circumstances at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and called for military equipment and personnel to be withdrawn.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he, Guterres and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy discussed building on a recent positive atmosphere to revive peace negotiations with Russia that took place in Istanbul in March.
In a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement in July for Russia to lift a blockade of Ukrainian grain shipments, and exports resumed at the beginning of August.
NATO member Turkey has maintained good relations with Russia, an important trade partner, and sought to mediate in the conflict, which began six months ago when Russian forces invaded neighbouring Ukraine.
“Personally, I maintain my belief that the war will ultimately end at the negotiating table. Mr Zelenskiy and Mr Guterres have the same opinion in this regard,” Erdogan said.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow.
At the same time, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is readying about $800m of additional military aid to Ukraine and could announce it as soon as Friday, three sources familiar with the matter said. r
Meanwhile, 17 people were killed and 42 wounded in two separate Russian attacks on the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, the regional governor said on Thursday.
Five rockets hit the city early on Friday killing at least one person, he said.
At least four explosions hit near a major Russian military airport on the Moscow-controlled Crimean peninsula on Thursday, three sources said. The sources said the explosions were near Russia’s Belbek military airport, north of the Black Sea fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol.
Ukraine has hinted it orchestrated other blasts over the last 10 days at other Russian installations in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhayev, writing on Telegram, said Russian anti-aircraft forces downed a Ukrainian drone and no damage occurred.
The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said on Friday that Russian forces had launched attacks and tried to make advances on three or more fronts and Ukrainian forces had repelled them.
In the south, 73 Russian soldiers were killed and 13 pieces of equipment and ammunition depots were destroyed as Ukrainian forces sought to take control of new territory, the regional command said on Facebook.
“In the course of the ensuing battle, (our) units fired on the enemy, which, as a result, was obliged to return to its original position with losses of tanks, armoured vehicles and personnel.”
Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield accounts.
FEARS OF NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE
Russia says its aim in Ukraine is to demilitarise the country and protect Russian-speakers on land that President Vladimir Putin says historically belongs to Russia.
Ukraine and the West call it an unprovoked war of conquest. Ukraine shook off Russian domination when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.
Guterres reiterated calls for demilitarisation around the nuclear plant.
“The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, agreement is urgently needed to re-establish Zaporizhzhia’s purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area,” Guterres said.
Russia, which captured the plant in southern Ukraine soon after the Feb. 24 invasion, said it could shut it down, which Ukraine warned would increase the risk of a nuclear catastrophe.
Russia had earlier rejected as “unacceptable” international calls for a demilitarised zone. Ukrainian engineers are still operating the plant despite the Russian occupation.
The power station sits on the Russian-controlled south bank of a huge reservoir in Enerhodar; Ukrainian forces hold the north bank. Russia and Ukraine traded accusations through the night of shelling civilian areas near the power station, as they have done for days.
Ukraine also accuses Russia of using the plant as a shield for its forces to launch strikes across the reservoir on Ukrainian-held cities, which Russia denies.
Reuters cannot independently confirm the military situation in the area or the responsibility for shelling.
Zelenskiy said after meeting Guterres that they had agreed parameters for a possible mission to the plant by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“Russia should immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from the territory of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as well as stopping any provocations and shelling,” Zelenskiy said. (Source: Reuters)
18 Aug 22. Russia losing tanks due to explosive armour failure, MOD says. When used correctly, Explosive Reactive Armour decreases the effectiveness of missiles fired before they strike a tank.
Russia is losing Main Battle Tanks in Ukraine due to its failure to provide sufficient Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA), the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has said.
ERA works by using plastic explosives placed in between two metal plates, which is then fitted to a tank.
When hit with a missile, the ERA explodes, detonating the missile before it enters the tank, protecting it from more serious damage.
When used correctly, ERA decreases the effectiveness of missiles just as they strike a tank.
According to the MOD, Russian forces have had a “poor” culture of using ERA “which dates back to the First Chechen War in 1994”.
In an intelligence update posted on Twitter, the MOD also said it was “highly likely that many Russian tank crews lack the training to maintain ERA” – resulting in either the poor fitting of ERA or it being left off Russian tanks completely.
These shortcomings have seen widespread turret ejections – a design in the Russian T-72 tank that sees the 12-tonne turret thrown into the sky when they are severely hit.
The MOD said that the war has also seen Russian commanders fail to “enforce low-level battle discipline – such as the use of ERA”.
“The cumulative effect of these failures is likely a significant factor behind the poor performance of Russia’s forces,” the MOD added. (Source: forces.net)
18 Aug 22. Russian defeat ‘inevitable’, says US veteran commander. Moscow is betting against the West fulfilling defence supply promises to Ukraine, a retired lieutenant general explains.
A momentum shift in the Ukraine war means Russian defeat rather than victory is now “inevitable”, according to a former commander of US Army Europe.
Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges says the outcome of the war comes down to “the will of the West versus the Kremlin” – the latter hoping weapon deliveries and other support packages do not actually reach Ukraine.
The UK has committed more than £2bn in defence donations to Ukraine since the start of the war and recently promised to double the number of long-range multiple rocket systems from three to six.
The US has committed more than $25bn of support as of 7 June, while Lt Gen Hodges believes Moscow’s logistics systems are fast becoming exhausted.
By the end of 2022, he thinks Russian forces could be pushed back to where they began in late February, when the invasion began, but that retaking Crimea and parts of the Donbas region, under Russian control since 2014, could take “more time” and maybe even negotiation.
The retired US Army Europe Commander joined other experts in questioning the tactical proficiency of Russia.
“The famous Black Sea fleet (…) is hiding on the other side of Crimea right now, from a Ukrainian navy that doesn’t exist,” he explained.
Lt Gen Hodges says fear of Russian escalation and potential use of a nuclear weapons has resulted in a spoon-feeding of weaponry donations rather than bulk offers which would go a lot further.
He estimated 300 HIMARS rocket systems in US possession compared to the 12 it has donated to Ukraine. Victory for Ukraine depends on the West deciding the threat of Russian escalation is low, he said, which would in turn lead to the provision of “long-range precision fires, endless amounts of ammunition and improved missile defence capabilities”. (Source: forces.net)
18 Aug 22. Russia kills seven in fresh strikes on Kharkiv. One person has died and 18 were wounded in pre-dawn shelling of a residential area in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Oleh Synehubov, the regional governor said.
“At the moment, there are 18 wounded, among them two children, one person died,” Mr Synehubov wrote on the Telegram messaging app. A day earlier six people died and another 16 were wounded in a Russian rocket attack on the city. The strikes come as an adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky said the conflict has reached a “strategic deadlock”.
“Russian forces have achieved only minimal advances, and in some cases we have advanced, since last month,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video. “What we are seeing is a ‘strategic deadlock.'” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
18 Aug 22. Ukraine says fighting ‘deadlocked’ ahead of visit by UN chief.
- U.N. chief to meet Zelenskiy in Lviv on Thursday
- Seven die in Russia attack on Kharkiv – emergency service
- Ukrainian forces rout Russian attack in Kherson
Ukrainian forces said on Thursday they had beaten back a Russian attack in the southern region of Kherson, while the death toll from Russian shelling of Kharkiv city in Ukraine’s northeast climbed as the nearly six-month war grinds on without let-up.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan later on Thursday in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.
They will discuss ways to find a political solution to the war and address the threat to global food supplies and risk of a disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which has been taken over by Russian forces.
The war has forced millions to flee, killed thousands and deepened a geopolitical rift between the West and Russia, which says the aim of its operation is to demilitarise its neighbour and protect Russian-speaking communities.
“Russian forces have achieved only minimal advances, and in some cases we have advanced, since last month,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video.
“What we are seeing is a ‘strategic deadlock’.”
Russian bombardment of a residential area of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-biggest city, on Wednesday evening killed seven people and wounded 16, the Ukrainian Emergencies Service said.
“This is a devious and cynical strike on civilians with no justification,” Zelenskiy said on the Telegram messaging app.
One person was killed and 18 were wounded on Thursday in pre-dawn shelling of another residential area of Kharkiv, Oleh Synehubov, the regional governor said.
In the south, Ukrainian forces routed an attempted advance by Russian forces near the town of Bilohirka, northeast of Kherson, Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said.
The south district of the Operational Command of the Ukrainian armed forces said Ukrainian forces killed 29 “occupiers” as well as destroying artillery, armoured vehicles and a military supply depot.
Reuters was not able to independently confirm the battlefield reports.
Fighting around the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has raised fears of a catastrophe and Guterres has said he wants a demilitarised zone established.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said he had spoken to the director general of the International Atomic Agency, who was ready to lead a delegation to the plant.
“I emphasised the mission’s urgency to address nuclear security threats caused by Russia’s hostilities,” he said on Twitter.
The two sides have exchanged accusations of shelling near the plant.
BLACK SEA FLEET CHIEF REPLACED
The United States, Albania, France, Ireland, Norway and Britain have asked the U.N. Security Council to meet on Aug. 24 to discuss the impact of the war in Ukraine, diplomats said, marking six months since Russia’s invasion.
A series of blasts at military bases and ammunition depots in the past week in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, has suggested a shift in the conflict, with Ukraine apparently capable of striking deeper into Russian-occupied territory.
Russia blamed saboteurs for the attacks, while Ukraine has not officially taken responsibility but has hinted at it.
Ukrainian military intelligence said in a statement that after the recent explosions in Crimea, Russian forces had urgently moved some of their planes and helicopters deeper into the peninsula and to airfields in Russia. Reuters could not independently verify the information.
On Wednesday, Russia’s RIA news agency cited sources as saying the commander of its Black Sea fleet, Igor Osipov, had been replaced with a new chief, Viktor Sokolov.
If confirmed, it would mark one of the most prominent sackings of a military official in a war in which Russia has suffered heavy losses of men and equipment.
The Black Sea Fleet, which has a revered history, has suffered several humiliations since President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine – which Moscow calls a “special military operation” – on Feb. 24.
In April, Ukraine struck Russia’s flagship the Moskva, a huge cruiser, with Neptune missiles. It became the biggest warship to be sunk in combat for 40 years.
MORE GRAIN SHIPS LEAVE
Crimea provides the main supply route for Russian forces in southern Ukraine, where Kyiv is expected to launch a counter-offensive in coming weeks. The Black Sea Fleet has also blockaded Ukraine’s ports since the beginning of the war, trapping vital grain exports that are only now starting to move again, and sending global food prices soaring.
Three more ships with exports left Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Wednesday, a monitoring group said, bringing the number of vessels to leave Ukraine under a U.N.-brokered grain export deal to 24.
The government in Kyiv has said it hoped to increase the monthly volume of sea exports to 3m tonnes in the near future to clear a backlog of 18m tonnes of grains left over from last year’s harvest and start selling new crops.(Source: Reuters)
17 Aug 22. Ukraine ‘testing ground’ shaping US network, electronic warfare effort. Fierce battles being waged in Ukraine are showcasing cyber and electronic warfare and their consequences for connectivity and communications, according to the deputy commanding general at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
“If we’re looking to see how a modern battlefield is impacted by EW and cyber warfare, we need to look no further than what is going on right now” in Eastern Europe, Lt. Gen. Maria Gervais said Aug. 16 at the AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference. “Everything that we are seeing in Ukraine has implications for a unified network, and almost certainly represents the type of threats we will see.”
Both Russia and Ukraine employ cyberattacks, jamming and other forms of digital belligerence to hamstring each other’s forces on the battlefield. The U.S. is supplying Ukrainian troops with tactical communications equipment as well as electronic warfare kit, though specifications are scant.
Gervais’ comments come as the Army works to align its various networks within the tactical and enterprise spheres — in the field and back at home — to better share data in any environment and any theater. The Pentagon is similarly pursuing a military-wide overhaul of communications, across land, air, sea, space and cyber, known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
The Army in October released its unified network plan, which cut a path for unification and stressed the need for cybersecurity and resilience, or assured connectivity despite an array of potential attacks. The cyber and EW realms, Gervais said, “are why maintaining a unified network is so critically important.”
“A unified network gives our force the ability to succeed in volatile, congested, contested environments,” she said, “in order to be successful on the battlefield of tomorrow.” (Source: Defense News)
17 Aug 22. Ukraine was behind three explosions in Crimea, says Ukrainian government report. Ukraine was behind three explosions rocked Russian military facilities in the annexed province of Crimea this past week, including an explosion at a Russian air base on the peninsula’s west coast that wrecked several airplanes, according to a Ukrainian government report circulated internally and shared with CNN by a Ukrainian official.
The official requested anonymity because they were not authorized to share the information with the media.
The report describes the Saki airbase, which was rocked by explosions last Tuesday, as a hard but one time loss for Russian military infrastructure in the peninsula, with subsequent attacks as proof of Ukraine’s systematic military capability in targeting Crimea.
The August 9 incident at Saki airbase, which destroyed at least seven military aircraft, severely damaged the base and killed at least one person.
Russia claimed it was a result of an accident and Ukrainian officials have so far declined to confirm on the record that they were responsible.
In a speech following the incident, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the war “began with Crimea and must end with Crimea — its liberation.”
Another set of explosions were reported in Crimea this week, on August 16, this time at an ammunition depot in Maiske and at an airfield in Gvardeyskoe.
Russian officials said the incident in Maiske had been the result of sabotage, but they did not specify the kind of sabotage, or whom they believed was responsible.
Acts of sabotage
The attacks come as nascent resistance movement in Russian occupied areas have been carrying out acts of sabotage.
Over the weekend, Ukrainian officials confirmed that a railway bridge near Melitopol, which Russians used to transport military equipment and weapons from occupied Crimea, was blown up by Ukrainian partisans.
As analysts speculate that there is a campaign to degrade Russia’s military capability in Crimea, Zelensky warned Ukrainians living in occupied areas on Tuesday to avoid Russian forces’ military facilities.
And in reference to the miles-long tailbacks of civilian vehicles attempted to leave Crimea for Russia, Zelensky said: “The queue these days to leave Crimea for Russia via the bridge proves that the absolute majority of citizens of the terrorist state already understand or at least feel that Crimea is not a place for them.”
The Russian road state agency on Tuesday reported a new traffic record across a Crimean bridge just days after the explosions at Saki airbase.
“During the day on August 15, 38,297 cars drove across the bridge in both directions,” the statement read.
Local officials have downplayed the size of the lines saying they were the result of stricter controls on the bridge for security reasons and not because of an increase in outward traffic.
“From the point of view that they are fleeing Crimea, this is a complete lie, there is no doubt about it,” the head of the Russian-controlled Crimean administration, Sergei Aksyonov, told Russian state TV on Tuesday.
He had, however, acknowledged last month a hit on the tourism industry in Crimea saying that a 40% decline was expected over the summer. The Russian Tourism Association made a similar prediction in June.
Crimea was forcibly seized by Russia in 2014 — soon after Ukrainian protesters helped topple pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych — when thousands of Russian-speaking troops wearing unmarked uniforms poured into the peninsula in early March that year.
Two weeks later, Russia completed its annexation of Crimea in a referendum, slammed by Ukraine and most of the world as illegitimate, and then considered the biggest land-grab on Europe since World War II. (Source: CNN)
15 Aug 22. North Korea and Russia to expand ‘bilateral relations’, Putin tells Kim. Vladimir Putin told Kim Jong-un that their two countries would “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts”, Pyongyang’s state media reported on Monday.
In a letter to the North Korean leader for Korea’s liberation day, the Russian President said closer ties would be in both countries’ interests, and would help strengthen the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the Northeastern Asian region, North Korea’s KCNA news agency said.
Kim also sent a letter to Putin saying the Russian-North Korean friendship had been forged in the Second World War with victory over Japan, which had occupied the Korean peninsula.
The “strategic and tactical cooperation, support and solidarity” between the two countries had since reached a new level in their common efforts to frustrate threats and provocations from hostile military forces, Kim said in the letter.
KCNA did not identify the hostile forces, but it has typically used that term to refer to the United States and its allies. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
17 Aug 22. Latvia delivers six M109A5Oe howitzers to Ukraine. The 155mm howitzer has a firing range of 22km with standard ammunition, and 30km with advanced ammunition. The Latvian Ministry of Defence has announced the delivery of six M109A5Oe self-propelled howitzers and related ammunition to strengthen the Ukrainian forces. The move follows a recent decision taken by the Latvian Cabinet of Ministers in this regard. M109A5Oe is a 155mm self-propelled artillery system and features a semi-automatic loading device, inertial navigation system, electrical system, and an artillery fire control system.
The howitzer has a firing range of 22km with standard ammunition, and offers a firing range of 30km with advanced ammunition.
It is also capable of opening fire within a minute of receiving an order, and can leave the fire position within 30 seconds after the firing task.
Latvian Minister of Defence Artis Pabriks said: “Ukraine must receive support from the rest of Europe continuously.
“This is an effective gift because, thanks to the support provided by the allies so far, Ukrainian soldiers already know how to handle these equipments and can use them for defence immediately.”
Ukrainian Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov said in a Twitter post: “Six more M109 howitzers that have recently arrived in Ukraine from Latvia are already showing results on the battlefield.”
This week, Latvia also announced the delivery of two Mi-17 and two Mi-2 helicopters to Ukraine.
So far, Latvia has committed over €200m in the form of uncrewed aerial vehicles, dry food rations, ammunition, anti-tank weapons, and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to help the Ukrainians combat Russian forces.
Latvia is part of the Ukrainian Defence Contact Group.
Earlier this month, Pabriks and Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur planned to jointly procure medium-range air defence (MRAD) systems to boost the region’s defence capabilities. (Source: army-technology.com)
17 Aug 22. Russian Anti-Drone EW System Attacked by Ukrainian Drone. A video circulating on social media shows the moment a Ukrainian-operated drone hits an advanced Russian anti-drone system. The system is not attacked by a Bayraktar or Switchblade 600 military drone, but by a civilian model modified for military operations. The incident suggests either that Valdai cannot intercept small drones like those produced by DJI, or that it is malfunctioning.
The anti-drone system was developed by the Lianozovo Electromechanical factory. Work on the project began in 2016, and the system entered Russian military service in 2021.
The video was filmed from what likely was a small commercial drone rigged for dropping attached munitions. Similar devices see widespread use in the conflict, employed on both sides by both regular Ukrainian and Russian armed forces and various volunteer, paramilitary and guerilla units.
The drone appears to be dropping three modified hand grenades – RKG-3 or a similar model – with additional fins attached. The grenades explode around one of the subsystems of the station.
The question of what exactly attacked still remains. According to the description under the original video, it was “Silok”, an electronic warfare system designed to locate and disable drones at the distance of up to 4 kilometers (2.5 miles).
Some components of the system visible in the video – particularly the electronic control and radio monitoring subsystem, a tripod-mounted cuboid component which seemed to be the main target – indeed resemble the “Silok”.
However, on the left side of the video another subsystem of the complex is visible: a subsystem of radio-electronic control. Its shape appears to be different to that of Silok, implying that the complex might be the ROSC-1, a different electronic warfare system. Its resemblance with the system in the video was noticed by Twitter account Ukraine Weapons Tracker.
Manufactured by Almaz-Antei, a major Russian arms corporation, the ROSC-1 was introduced in 2021 and is one of the latest Russian anti-drone systems.
According to the manufacturer, it was specifically designed to disable various kinds of small and medium UAVs, such as the commercially-available DJI Mavic and DJI Spark and military-grade RQ-11B Raven and RQ-7 Shadow.
Various documentation of the ROSC-1, available online, claims that it is capable to detect and disable small drones at the distance of up to 10 kilometers.
The question remains whether the system in the new video is indeed the ROSC-1. The most identifiable part of the system – a control module, which can be mounted on a truck or in a shipping container – is not visible in the video.
It also calls into question if an operational or even complete system was attacked. While the two subsystems visible in the video indeed constitute a lucrative target and may have sustained substantial damage from the shrapnel thrown around by the grenades, the control module, a much larger and arguably more important target, remains absent.
Nevertheless, a Ukrainian attack on one of Russia’s top electronic warfare systems is a highly interesting development, and the fact that it was conducted by the exact type of weapon it was designed to counter gives it an additional importance. (Source: UAS VISION/Aerotime Hub; Ukraine Weapons Tracker)
16 Aug 22. NP Aerospace Supplies Life Saving Body Armour to Ukraine Soldiers. NP Aerospace has manufactured and delivered more than 20,000 sets of life-saving body armour plates and carrier vests to Ukraine military personnel in the last three months on behalf of NATO Governments. This is part of contracts totaling 62,000 sets of armour (124,000 plates) due to be delivered weekly over the next nine months.
The company has also delivered over 1,000 helmets to support a range of NGOs to support humanitarian efforts such as media, hospitals and charities.
The first 6,350 sets of body armour plates and carrier vests were manufactured and delivered in less than 10 weeks since the Ukraine conflict started. In order to ensure urgent delivery NP Aerospace has ramped up production with the recruitment of 90 additional factory operators and 24 hour shifts and is operating around the clock.
James Kempston, CEO and owner of NP Aerospace, comments: “As Ukraine faces a full scale war, NP Aerospace’s extensive manufacturing capacity is providing advanced, life saving armour, helping to keep soldiers in the fight and bring them safely home. We are honoured to be supporting the people of Ukraine in their hour of need and are working around the clock to deliver protection where it is needed most – on Ukraine’s front-line soldiers.”
16 Aug 22. Ukrainian Air Force receives four helicopters from Latvia. One of the two painted Mi-17 helicopters underwent an overhaul in Latvia before delivery. The Latvian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has revealed that Latvia donated four helicopters to the Ukrainian Air Force.
The four aircraft include two Mi-2 and two Mi-17 multi-mission helicopters that will be soon included in the aviation fleet of the Ukrainian Army.
The helicopters have been handed over to the Ukrainian Air Force and were in a partially disassembled form.
Prior to the delivery, all platforms were painted and one of the two Mi-17 helicopters underwent an overhaul in Latvia.
Once the helicopters are assembled completely, the Ukrainian Air Force will start using the Mi-17 and Mi-2 helicopters in the performance of tasks.
Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks said: “Half a year ago, the ‘Stinger’ air defence systems donated by Latvia helped the Ukrainian Army to delay the Russian invasion.
“Now, as Ukrainian soldiers go on a counterattack in many places, the helicopters we have donated will help to carry out military operations and save lives.
“Western support for Ukraine must not dwindle until it liberates all its territory from the Russian occupation forces.”
According to the MoD, Latvia has already provided around $203m (€200m) in support of Ukraine.
It includes uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAS), anti-tank weapons, ammunition, dry food rations, weapons, and personal equipment.
Latvia is also one of the member states under the Defence Contact Group of Ukraine, which is responsible for assisting Ukraine amid the war with Russia.
A meeting of the Defence Contact Group was recently conducted in Copenhagen, which was attended by the defence ministers of as many as 26 nations including Latvia.
16 Aug 22. Russian General Praises DJI Mavic Drone as ‘True Symbol of Modern Warfare.’ Chinese drone maker DJI has been singled out for praise by a former Russian army general because its drones have proved so useful during Russia’s military operations.
As the South China Morning Post reports, Army General Yuri Baluyevsky is the former Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. A new book written by Baluyevsky states that the the DJI Mavic drone specifically has had a “revolutionary” impact on warfare by enhancing the accuracy of artillery weapons. By hovering the Mavic over a target, Baluyevsky compares the accuracy offered to precision-guided missiles.
The problem for DJI and China is Russia deciding to advertise the fact it loves these drones. On Friday, the Russian embassy in China published a post on the Weibo microblogging service citing a report from Russian state media outlet Sputnik about Baluyevsky’s book. The post included a quote from Baluyevsky which said, “The Mavic quadcopter drone made by China’s DJI has become a true symbol of modern warfare.”
The Russian embassy has since taken down the post, but not before Chinese users reacted angrily to its “malicious intent” by flooding the post with comments. DJI responded with its own post on Weibo stating, “All DJI products are designed for civilian purposes and cannot meet the requirements of military specifications … We do not support applications for military purposes.”
Last year, the US placed DJI on an investment ban list because it was enabling China’s military-industrial complex, with surveillance of Uyghurs in Xinjiang pointed to as a specific example. Then in April this year, DJI attempted to stop its drones being used by Russia in its war with Ukraine. Sales of all DJI drones were suspended in Russia, but based on Baluyevsky comments, it was clearly too little too late. (Source: UAS VISION/PC)
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