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17 Oct 22.
Military and security developments
14 Oct 22.
- The Ukrainian Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories has now reported that Ukrainian forces have over the last month liberated 502 settlements in Kharkiv oblast, 75 in Kherson, 43 in Donetsk, seven in Luhansk oblast.
- Ukrainian forces have over the last 24 hours continued to make steady progress east of the Oskil River. Geolocated footage from 13 October indicates that elements of a Russian unit have surrendered on the key N-26 highway that runs south from Kupiansk in the north, past Svatove and through Kreminna. Ukrainian forces are therefore clearly consolidating their control over the last portions of Kharkiv oblast east of the river, and are steadily encroaching on Svatove, with the nearest Ukrainian position likely as close as 15km from the city.
- Russian officials have meanwhile claimed that their forces are once again in total control of the N-26 highway between Svatove and Kreminna, and their forces are continuing to push west towards Lyman. Russian forces are prioritising establishing new defences around Kreminna-Svatove, with so-called ‘dragon’s teeth’ defences involving layers of trenches being established along key approaches. However, Russian military bloggers have reported that Russian units, including regular elements of the 27th Motor Rifle Brigade and BARS-13 reserve units, are taking extremely heavy casualties in the area. This is primarily due to newly mobilised personnel being sent straight to the front without any serious training. According to a number of unconfirmed Russian reports, the 15th Regiment of the 27th Motor Rifle Brigade made up of newly mobilised men from Moscow had received no orders, no officer supervision or supplies before being sent straight to the Svatove front. Subsequently, half their number were hospitalised after coming under heavy artillery fire. Such reports are becoming more and more numerous, and the deaths of newly mobilised individuals without adequate training and supplies will continue to increase pressure on the Ministry of Defence and the Kremlin over accusations of needless loss of life.
- Further south along the Bakhmut line, Russian regular, militia and Wagner Group forces have made steady progress east and south of Bakhmut over the last 24-48 hours. Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) forces claim they have taken control of Ivanhrad and Optyne (4km southeast of Bakhmut), though notably Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin has claimed his forces were solely responsible for the advance. British Defence Intelligence has furthermore reported on 14 October that elements of DNR and LNR forces have made tactical advances towards the centre of Bakhmut town itself, supporting earlier claims by Russian forces this week.
- The Bakhmut line is essentially the only front where Russian forces are making any offensive progress in Ukraine. While incremental advances are building, the tactical, operational and ultimately strategic importance of seizing Bakhmut stands in stark contrast to the losses being sustained to the north in Kharkiv and Luhansk oblasts. As such, Moscow’s determination to continue prioritising offensive operations to seize Bakhmut has likely undermined efforts to shore up the Oskil-Kreminna frontline, and likely reflects the apparent reliance upon poorly trained mobilised personnel to plug gaps rather than re-deploy more experienced units.
- On the southern Kherson frontline, Russian officials have formally begun the evacuation of civilians from Kherson city. The decision to evacuate comes as Ukrainian forces continue to increase pressure on Russian positions across the Kherson oblast, including northwest of the city itself. The evacuation does not necessarily indicate an imminent Russian decision to withdraw, as they have frequently ordered evacuations of civilians when the frontline approaches a major population centre – such as in Svatove in Luhansk oblast. More broadly, however, the Ukrainian operational silence and contradictory reports indicate that much of the frontline in Kherson remains highly contested at present, with fighting over the last 24-48 hours seemingly focused south of Davydiv Brid.
- On 13 October, long-range attacks continued across Ukraine, including Kalibr cruise missile strikes against targets in Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolaiv oblasts, as well as drone attacks in Vinnytsia and Cherkassy, among other locations. However, Lviv oblast nevertheless remains a key target for Russian missiles this week, with the region’s governor confirming that a military facility in the Zolochivskyi District had been hit for a second time on 13 October. Meanwhile, numerous explosions hit the Russian city of Belgorod on 13 October, which Russia has blamed on Ukrainian forces. This morning, 14 October, Russian officials have furthermore claimed their air defences had shot down a number of Ukrainian rockets over Belgorod oblast, though the governor has confirmed damage to railway infrastructure in the region.
- Of particular note, today (14 October) is Defender’s Day in Ukraine, the first such celebration of the occasion since the invasion. Russia has previously increased the intensity of its long-range strikes during important holidays and state occasions. As such it remains a realistic possibility that we will see intense missile and drone strikes across the country today, including potentially against political and civilian targets in Kyiv.
- Satellite imagery published this week by Planet Labs clearly shows that Russia has forward deployed numerous strategic bombers to the Olenya air base on the Kola Peninsula, including at least seven Tu-160 ‘Blackjacks’ and four Tu-95 ‘Bears’. The developments follow Russian airspace notifications (NOTAMs) earlier this week that live fire exercises will be held in the Barents Sea between 13-15 October. This activity may ultimately be preparations for the upcoming Grom (‘Thunder’) nuclear exercises, which are traditionally held by Russian forces in late October. As previously reported, nuclear posturing and tests of new capabilities are increasingly likely in the coming weeks as part of Russia’s strategic deterrence campaign. Such capability tests could include the new Poseidon nuclear-capable unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV). We will continue to monitor and assess Russian nuclear signalling for any changes to the nuclear threat landscape over the coming weeks, though at present our assessment has not changed.
- Belarus: New counter-terrorism operation launched, although the likelihood of direct military involvement in Ukraine remains low. On 14 October, Minsk announced that it had launched a ‘counter-terrorism operation’ and has given security forces broader powers to either prevent or respond to provocations from ‘neighbouring countries’. The operation will afford security forces the right to detain people in order to verify identities and wiretap, among other powers. This development aligns with wider trends within Russia, and comes amid a series of foiled ‘terrorist attacks’ in Russia over the past week following the Crimean bridge attack. The CTO, together with the announced ‘joint regional grouping’ of forces with Russia earlier this week, are most likely designed to maintain pressure on the regime in Kyiv and build a counter-narrative that Ukraine is a terrorist state. Nonetheless, our assessment remains that Belarus is unlikely to join the war directly, particularly given the lack of military capability in Belarus and the threat to domestic instability that an intervention would likely trigger.
- Russia-Ukraine: Moscow’s willingness to reject grain exportation agreement threatens a sharp increase in global grain prices, reducing food security. On 13 October, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva said that Moscow is prepared to reject the renewal of an agreement on grain exports from Black Sea Ports unless the international community meets its demands. Russia has submitted a formal criticism of the Turkey and UN-brokered agreement of July 2022, which has now been delivered to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. If Russia does withhold its support for a renewal of the agreement, which runs out on 19 November, the global price of grain is likely to rise again sharply, as was the case earlier this year prior to the established agreement. Furthermore, a reduction in the quantities of grain exported from the Black Sea port will likely further reduce global food security in vulnerable jurisdictions reliant upon Black Sea foodstuffs.
- On 13 October, Moscow confirmed that 20 Russian soldiers have been returned to Russia in the latest prisoner swap deal with Kyiv. It remains unclear if this prisoner swap is linked to the one that occurred on 11 October, or is a new and separate deal.
- The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi stated on 13 October that good progress is being made in establishing a safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). He did not provide any further details following his meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, but he has been holding talks with both Ukrainian and Russian officials over the last week. It remains to be seen whether the IAEA’s efforts will result in a meaningful demilitarisation of the ZNPP, but given the growing number of accusations of Ukrainian sabotage, terrorist attacks and nuclear terrorism from the Kremlin, it remains unlikely that such an agreement would hold.
- On 13 October, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva said that Moscow is prepared to reject the renewal of an agreement on grain exports from Black Sea Ports unless the international community meets its demands. Russia has submitted a formal criticism of the Turkey and UN-brokered agreement of July 2022, which has now been delivered to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. If Russia does withhold its support for a renewal of the agreement, which runs out on 19 November, it is likely that the global price of grain will once again rise sharply, as was the case earlier this year before the established agreement. Furthermore, a reduction in the quantities of grain exported from the Black Sea port will likely further reduce global food security in vulnerable jurisdictions reliant upon Black Sea foodstuffs.
- On 13 October, President Putin attended the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Astana. During the conference, Putin formally proposed creating a new ‘gas hub’ in Turkey which would facilitate increased volumes of Russian gas to Europe, namely the Balkans. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has this morning, 14 October, backed Putin’s proposal, stating that such a gas hub will be established quickly and will most likely be set up in Thrace. This is the latest and most high-profile example of burgeoning Russo-Turkish economic ties since the 24 February invasion, despite previous Western threats that Ankara could fall foul of secondary sanctions if it increases economic cooperation with Moscow. Such an initiative would likely also boost Russia’s prospects of supplying gas to traditional Moscow allies in the Balkans and Central Europe, principally Hungary and Serbia – who also signed a deal on 10 October to build a new joint oil pipeline that would reinforce their reliance upon Russian oil (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 11 October).
- The Kremlin has ordered the repairs to the damaged Crimea Bridge be completed by July 2023. It remains highly likely that Ukrainian forces will attempt to attack the bridge at some point in the future, given that it remains operational – though queues of up to 1,000 lorries clearly show that delays are extensive. However, it remains to be seen how and with what capability Ukrainian forces will do so, given the likely increase in security screening of traffic crossing the bridges after the 8 October attack.
The Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei announced on 14 October that a counter-terrorism operation has been launched inside Belarus in response to alleged reports of ‘impending provocations’ from ‘neighbouring states’. However, this morning the State Security Committee of Belarus (KGB) denied that such an operation has been launched, claiming that reports ‘disseminated on the internet are unreliable’. Therefore, it remains unclear whether such an operation is in place, or whether Minsk is merely attempting to hide the fact. While further confirmation may arise in the coming hours, a counter-terrorism operation would align with our broader assessment that Russia has been setting conditions for such an operation inside Russian-claimed territory. Just today, 14 October, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted overwhelmingly (99 out of 100 members) on a resolution calling on European states to declare Russia a ‘terrorist state’. As anticipated in previous reporting, such a development means it is highly likely the launch of a counter-terror operation in Belarus would be aimed at supporting the counter-narrative that Ukraine is a terrorist state. However, unconfirmed reports also emerged on 13 October claiming that unnamed officers within the Belarusian military have reported that covert mobilisation has now begun in the country. According to opposition Belarusian newspaper Our Niva (banned inside Belarus), the alleged covert mobilisation will begin in rural areas of the country before later impacting cities. It will reportedly be organised under the guise of a ‘military capability test’ designed to increase the staffing of existing combat units.
Speculation and reports of a potential Belarusian mobilisation (covert or otherwise) have surfaced at regular intervals since the 24 February invasion; most notably on 30 June when reports claimed that summons had been sent out en masse to Belarusians ordering them to present themselves at military enlistment offices (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 30 June). However, despite reports, such action did not materialise, and as such these newest unconfirmed reports should be treated with caution and are highly unlikely to indicate an imminent threat to the northern Ukrainian border. It remains a realistic possibility that a Belarusian covert mobilisation could be used as a source of manpower to support Russian forces in Ukraine, but such a move would be more likely designed to improve domestic security capabilities, rather than generate a new offensive force to attack northern Ukraine.
On 10 October, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced a ‘joint regional grouping’ of forces with Russia, but as previously assessed there is little indication that such a force is being prepared with the intention of establishing a new front north of Kyiv (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 10 October). It is much more likely that the new joint force and the new counter-terrorism operation (if it has indeed been launched) are designed to maintain pressure on Kyiv to prevent the redeployment of Ukrainian forces screening the border to support counteroffensive operations in the south.
Global: Moscow-aligned actor’s crowdfunding project to prolong Western-based entities’ exposure to pro-Russian DDoS attacks over the coming weeks. On 13 October, industry reports claimed that the pro-Russian hacktivist group “NoName057(16)” created a crowdsourced project called “DDOSIA” to help fund Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks against Western organisations. This latest programme provided funding for DDoS attacks launched by other pro-Russian hacktivist groups, such as Killnet, and has had an estimated 40 percent success rate. Most recently, NoName057(16) supported the Killnet DDoS attacks that took at least 13 US airports’ websites temporarily offline earlier this week (see Sibylline Weekly Ukraine Cyber Update – 12 October 2022). This development further underscores pro-Russian hacktivist groups’ pledge to support the Russian government in its invasion of Ukraine by targeting Western states engaged in activities against Moscow, with malicious cyber attacks. Further pro-Russian cyber attacks against Western states’ critical infrastructure, such as airports or telecoms and energy firms, are highly likely to emerge in the coming weeks, especially following NoName057(16)’s promise to pay the “top contributors” of its crowdsourcing project upwards of USD 1,250. Despite this, the groups’ limited technical capabilities will ensure that such attacks result in only limited and/or temporary disruptions to the targeted organisations’ operations.
13 Oct 22.
- Following Russian claims of a successful counterattack southwest of Kreminna yesterday, it remains likely that Russian forces have retaken some territory, but it remains unlikely that they have regained control as far west as Terny and Yampolivka (16km west of Kreminna). Some Russian sources have claimed that Russian forces regained control of the eastern bank of the Zherebes River northwest of Kreminna near Andriivka and Makiivka (25km northwest of Kreminna). However, the Ukrainian General Staff reported on 12 October that their forces have repulsed Russian attacks against Novosadove, on the eastern bank of the river. Some Russian sources have reported a continued Ukrainian presence in Terny to the south of Novosadove. It is increasingly difficult to confirm where the current front line is on this axis, and it is clear that the area is now heavily contested. However, further north the Ukrainians are seemingly making further steady progress in consolidating their hold over the eastern banks of the Oskil River and are pushing Russian positions further back towards the Luhansk oblast administrative border.
- Further south, Russian forces continued launching ground assaults along the Bakhmut line. Russian sources claimed on 12 October that their forces have advanced several kilometres closer to the centre of Bakhmut itself, as well as taken an unspecified road junction to the northeast of the town, possibly the M-03 (T-40) and T-1302 junction. However, none of these advances remain confirmed.
- Notably, however, the Ukrainian General Staff reported this morning, 13 October, that in various points on the frontlines, particularly in Donetsk oblast, Russian units have received orders to ‘temporarily suspend offensive actions’. While we cannot confirm this, the General Staff maintain that the order was given due to extremely low morale amongst Russian regular and militia forces, reports of desertions from among newly mobilised personnel and refusals to follow orders at the front.
- On the southern Kherson axis, Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command confirmed that Ukrainian forces had retaken five settlements in the north of Kherson oblast: Novovasylivka, Novohryhorivka, Nova Kamianka, Trifonivka, and Chervone. However, many of these settlements have been understood to be under effective Ukrainian control since the Russian withdrawal to shorten their frontline earlier this month. As such, Ukrainian forces continue to effectively consolidate newly gained territory while the Russians focus on improving their defences further south. Notably, British Defence Intelligence reported on 13 October that Russian forces are likely preparing for an evacuation of some civilians from Kherson, which would likely in turn indicate that Russian forces are anticipating fighting to reach the city at some point. Ukrainian forces have continued launching ground attacks to the northwest of Kherson city over the last 24 hours, according to Russian sources, but it remains to be seen whether and how quickly Ukrainian forces will be able to push towards the city ahead of the winter.
- Waves of long-range and drone strikes continued across Ukraine on 12-13 October, though their intensity and impact continue to diminish following Monday’s nationwide attacks. Ukrainian officials have this morning, 13 October, confirmed numerous Russian kamikaze drone strikes in the Bucha and Makariv districts west of Kyiv. Preliminary reports from local police provide no further details on what was targeted beyond ‘infrastructure’.
- Monday’s nationwide strikes have had a clear impact on the level of Western support for Ukraine, and saw 14 NATO member states together with NATO-candidate Finland pledge their support on 13 October to boost European air defences. Numerous states including the US, France, the UK, and Germany have pledged to provide advanced air defence systems to Ukraine to improve interdiction capabilities during future Russian attacks. Most notable would be Berlin’s decision to provide four brand new short-to-medium-range IRIS-T air defence systems to Ukraine. However, despite the uptick in pledges, President Zelensky has claimed that Ukraine currently only possesses 10 percent of what it needs in terms of air defences to effectively combat Russia’s long-range strike capabilities. A meeting of NATO defence ministers is due to take place in Brussels later today, 13 October, where further commitments to support Ukraine are likely from other member states.
- On 12 October, the Ukrainian Resistance Centre, the leading state-affiliated organisation monitoring activity behind Russian lines, reported that Russian forces have brought an unspecified number of Iranian instructors to Crimea and Kherson to train Russian personnel to use the Shahed-139 drone. Such claims cannot be confirmed at this stage, but Ukrainian officials had previously claimed that Iranian trainers had been killed during a Ukrainian attack on a Russian drone control and training centre, located on the Kinburn Spit in Kherson oblast (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 27 September). The Ukrainian Resistance Centre claims that Iranian trainers, which could be members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), are directly controlling drones during missions targeting civilian targets inside Ukraine. If true, this would further indicate Iranian direct involvement in the conflict – something the Russians are actively accusing the US and NATO of doing on the Ukrainian side (see Forecast below for further analysis).
- On 12 October, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed to have foiled yet another alleged terror attack in Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk oblast, following previous reports of counter-terrorism raids in Moscow and Bryansk earlier this week. While the FSB has not overtly blamed Ukrainian ‘special services’ for the Sverdlovsk plot, they did specify that the perpetrator was a Ukrainian citizen. The Kremlin, military and security services have over the last week placed particular emphasis on alleged Ukrainian terrorism inside Russian-claimed territory, including the Crimea Bridge.
- The Russian Ministry of Defence furthermore claimed on 12 October that Russian forces had destroyed the Donetsk oblast headquarters of the Ukrainian right-wing ‘Right Sector’ (Pravyi Sektor), which is considered a terrorist organisation in Russia. This would all reinforce the growing possibility that the war in Ukraine will be designated as a counter-terrorism operation but is also likely aimed at responding to growing calls from Kyiv and the West to designate Russia a terrorist state. Such a narrative could also see anti-mobilisation and anti-government protests and arson targeting conscription centres framed as Ukrainian-led terrorist operations, which would further bolster security services’ remit to repress any unrest across the country.
- In a related development, unconfirmed reports emerged on 12 October that Russian authorities were handing out civil defence information flyers to people in regions bordering Ukraine, particularly Rostov oblast. These detailed what citizens should do in the case of serious emergencies, including air raids, chemical alarms, radiological hazards and/or mass flooding. Such reports remain unconfirmed, but if true would further align with the narrative being established by the Kremlin and the security forces. Particularly following President Putin’s accusations on 10 October that Ukraine had attempted a terrorist attack at the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 10 October). Notably, in a further related development, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed on 12 October that external power has been restored to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).
- On 12 October, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on a resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions as illegal and invalid. Only Russia, Belarus, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria rejected the vote, while 35 other states, including India and China and 19 African states, abstained. Notably, traditional soft allies of Russia, including Hungary and Serbia, voted in favour of the resolution, while Russia’s CSTO allies all abstained rather than rejecting the vote. Regardless, Putin’s decision to proceed with annexation, even as Russian forces were ceding ground, was clearly an attempt to draw a literal line to illustrate Moscow’s determination to retain control of these territories, irrespective of any future negotiations and calls for concessions on both sides.
- On 13 October, the head of the Russian-backed breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhania ordered the region’s defence headquarters to strengthen mobilisation readiness to ensure the security of the self-proclaimed republic. Meanwhile, the Security Council of Belarus stated on 13 October that mobilisation is not planned in the country. While both pro-Moscow regions could be a source of additional manpower for the war in Ukraine, it remains unlikely that mobilisation would occur in the short term, due to the destabilising impact this would likely have on both governments.
On 13 October, the Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council Alexander Venediktov warned that Ukrainian NATO membership would trigger ‘World War Three’. President Zelensky formally applied for fast-tracked membership of the alliance in direct response to Russia’s decision to annex Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 3 October). Ultimately, Ukrainian accession to NATO remains highly unlikely in the short to medium term, given the clear escalatory potential of such a move and the desire by NATO member states to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia. However, Moscow has in recent weeks accused the US and NATO of growing involvement in Ukraine, which the latest provision of new anti-air defence systems and growing perceptions of a threat of future intervention are likely to reinforce. On 12 October, the Kremlin stated that comments made by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg could constitute indirect confirmation that NATO is actively fighting for Kyiv in Ukraine. Russian state media also claimed this morning, 13 October, that the Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the US National Security Council John Kirby stated that the risks of drawing the US and NATO forces into Ukraine are now ‘high’. This reflects growing perceptions and/or desire to push the narrative of an increasing threat of US intervention in Ukraine. While such accusations are growing increasingly prominent in Russian public life and official communications, we nevertheless assess that the likelihood of such a NATO/US intervention remains low, except in response to Russian nuclear weapons use. Ultimately, however, these narratives and accusations will reinforce the threat of further escalation inside and potentially outside Ukraine, as Moscow attempts to deter growing NATO involvement. This could include further incidents or sabotage targeting European energy infrastructure. However, as has been the Western response to the nationwide missile strikes earlier this week, such activity could have the opposite intended effect and merely solidify NATO and EU resolve to increase their support for Ukraine over the winter.
Ukraine-Russia: Russian perceptions of growing US and NATO involvement in Ukraine will threaten further escalation. On 13 October, senior members of the Russian Federation Council warned that Ukrainian NATO membership would trigger ‘World War Three’. Ukrainian accession to NATO remains highly unlikely in the short to medium term, but Russia has in recent weeks accused the US and NATO of growing involvement in Ukraine – including the provision of new anti-air defence systems and growing perceptions of a threat of future intervention. Russian state media also claimed that the Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the US National Security Council, John Kirby, stated that the risks of drawing the US and NATO forces into Ukraine are now ‘high’ – reflecting perceptions of the growing threat of intervention in Russia. We nevertheless assess that the likelihood of this possibility remains low, short of Russian nuclear weapons use. However, these issues will reinforce the threat of further escalations inside and potentially outside Ukraine in a bid to deter NATO involvement.
Ukraine: Kyiv will remain almost totally reliant upon external financial aid in order to maintain balance of payments. On 12 October, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shymhal announced that Ukraine has received USD 1.3 bn of additional emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The funds will be used to facilitate the strengthening of defence capabilities, supporting the economy, pension payments and other social programmes. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February, the IMF has allocated over USD 2.7 bn of funding to Ukraine in order to help maintain normal government functions, with numerous Western governments and institutions also providing significant funds. The government in Kyiv will continue to rely almost entirely upon external Western funding in the medium term. IMF support will allow the administration to maintain the balance of payments amid growing budget deficits due to the ongoing war.
11 Oct 22.
- Ukrainian counteroffensive operations along the Oskil River and east of Lyman have seemingly slowed over the last 24-48 hours. The Russian Ministry of Defence has claimed that Ukrainian forces once again attempted to ford the Zherebets River southwest of Svatove unsuccessfully on 11 October. Russian sources have meanwhile reported that the Ukrainians are currently regrouping in various locations to restore offensive capabilities in preparation for future assaults east of Kupiansk. Other Russian sources have claimed that Ukraine is concentrating forces in the ‘Lyman-Svatove’ direction and intends to launch offensive operations at some point with a strike group of some 40,000 personnel. Amid the apparent Ukrainian regrouping along this front, Russian sources claimed on 11 October that their forces had conducted a highly successful localised counterattack southwest of Kreminna. They claim Russian forces had pushed back Ukrainian 66th Mechanised Brigade and the 111st Separate Territorial Defence Brigade, maintaining that they have retaken numerous settlements, including Makiivka, Nevske, Novosadove, Terny and Torske. While we cannot confirm these advances, they would represent a major counterattack that would put Russian forces as close as 10km east of Lyman. Considering earlier Russian reports of the steady concentration of Ukrainian forces west of Kreminna, such a significant advance in the space of 24 hours remains unlikely, though a Russian counterattack does appear to have been launched. We will likely see further clarification on the extent of the success of any potential counterattack in the coming days.
- Russian offensive operations along the Bakhmut line have meantime continued over the last 24-48 hours, though it is unlikely any notable progress has been made. The Ukrainian General Staff maintained that its forces repelled a number of ground attacks on 11 October around Bakhmut town, as well as the nearby settlements of Soledar and Mykolaivka. The Russian Ministry of Defence meanwhile stated that its forces repelled three Ukrainian attacks to the west of Donetsk city, 80km southwest of Bakhmut.
- On the southern Kherson front, the Russian Ministry of Defence reported on 11 October that two Ukrainian battalion tactical groups (BTGs) had conducted offensive operations towards Piatykhatky and Borozenske (18km east of Davydiv Brid), though we cannot confirm whether any change in the frontline has resulted. Russian military bloggers and other commentators have also been reporting that Ukrainian forces are reinforcing their positions around Davydiv Brid in preparation for future attacks to the south, likely towards Beryslav – a key settlement on the western banks of the Dnieper just 7km northeast of Nova Khakovka and a critical hydroelectric dam crossing. Russian forces meantime continue to strengthen their defensive lines across the oblast, with Planet Labs satellite imagery published on 11 October also indicating that Russian forces have established two new pontoon crossings across the Inhulets River near the village of Darivka, 10km north east of Kherson city.
- Russian long-range strikes across Ukraine did continue on 11 October, though their intensity decreased as anticipated. Nevertheless, President Zelensky confirmed that 28 missiles had been launched, 20 of which were intercepted by Ukrainian air defences, while 15 drones were also launched, the vast majority of which were successfully intercepted. Russian forces struck critical infrastructure in Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Lviv, Vinnytsia and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, with four electrical substations heavily damaged in Lviv – causing numerous blackouts across the region.
- On 11 October, the head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office Andriy Yermak stated that another prisoner swap took place, which reportedly saw the return of 32 Ukrainian soldiers and the body of an Israeli citizen who had fought for Ukraine returned. Yermak did not, however, provide details of the number of Russian prisoners exchanged. Kyiv stated that the negotiations to agree this latest prisoner exchange were ‘difficult’, but the fact that it has taken place is a clear indication that back door negotiations between the two sides are continuing to take place – despite both presidents Zelensky and Putin officially ruling out negotiating with one another directly. It is unclear who brokered or facilitated the exchange, but numerous states have been actively involved in facilitating dialogue, chief among them Turkey. Saudi Arabia had also previously helped facilitate the largest prisoner exchange of the war last month (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 22 September).
- In a related development, President Putin is reportedly due to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Kazakhstan tomorrow, 13 October, on the side-lines of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Astana. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated on 11 October that Moscow is open to talks with the West on the war in Ukraine, specifically dialogue with the US and Turkey. However, the prospect for serious discussions remains very slim in the short term. State Department spokesman Ned Price stated that Washington had ‘very little confidence’ that this was a legitimate offer for talks given Lavrov’s statement came just hours after one of the largest missile strikes against Ukraine since the beginning of the war. And just this morning, 12 October, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that neither the US or Russia has attempted to instigate top-level negotiations. Ultimately, Russian actions in Ukraine, in particular the increasing targeting of civilian infrastructure, will only harden Kyiv’s negotiating position further and make talks with Western powers less likely.
- On 12 October, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) reported that they had arrested eight people accused of involvement in the Crimea Bridge attack last week. According to the FSB, the ‘terrorist attack’ was orchestrated by the head of Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Kyrylo Budanov. They furthermore claim that five Russian citizens and three Ukrainian and Armenian citizens, were involved in planning the attack, where explosives were allegedly delivered from Odesa through Bulgaria, Georgia and Armenia to Russia. It currently remains unclear who or what specifically caused the explosion on the bridge, but Moscow is maintaining that a lorry full of explosives organised by Ukrainian intelligence caused the incident. The FSB have furthermore this morning, 12 October, claimed they have foiled a Ukrainian ‘terrorist attack’ against a transport terminal in Bryansk, reiterating the increasing emphasis Russia is placing on Ukrainian terrorist threats – and could support a transition from a ‘special military operation’ towards a ‘counter-terrorism operation’ as previously assessed (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 10 October).
- On 12 October a major leak was discovered in a section of the Druzhba pipeline running through Poland which transports oil from Russia to Germany and the wider European Union. The Polish government stated today that the leak was most likely caused by an accident, rather than sabotage. Following the suspected sabotage of various German railways on 8 October (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 10 October) and the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, the threat of other European off- and on-shore energy infrastructure being targeted by sabotage remains heightened. Oil supplies to Germany have been reduced since the discovery of the leak, but oil is still flowing. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenburg notably stated on 11 October that the alliance has enhanced the protection of its critical infrastructure following the Nord Stream incidents, and we will continue monitoring unusual activity around European critical energy assets given the increased threat environment.
- Shortly before publication, Russian state media reported that Ukrainian forces had allegedly attempted to land on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). Russian officials have claimed that 30 Ukrainian ‘saboteurs’ had been liquidated by Russian security forces, forcing the remaining Ukrainian forces to retreat. As previously reported, Moscow has claimed that Ukrainian special forces (together with ‘British specialists’) have been planning to seize the plant. Whether a false flag or a genuine Ukrainian operation, this will drive the threat of an escalation at the plant – particularly as external power to the plant has once again been cut this morning, 12 October (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 6 October for further details and analysis of this trend). However, it should be noted that we still maintain that a deliberate catastrophic nuclear meltdown at the plant remains highly unlikely.
On 11 October, Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that a train relocated some 446 tonnes of ammunition from Belarus’ 43rd Missile and Ammunition Storage Arsenal in Gomel to Crimea. According to the GUR, Belarus plans 13 further trains of weapons and ammunition from five different Belarusian arsenals to Rostov oblast at unspecified future dates. If true, this would strongly support our assessment that a Russian-Belarusian attack along the northern Ukrainian border remains unlikely. As previously assessed (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 10 October), there have been few indications that Russia and Belarus are building fresh forces in the country capable of seriously threatening northern Ukraine, despite the announcement of a new ‘joint regional grouping’ of forces on 10 October. Indeed, redeploying ammunition and weapons from Belarus to southern Ukraine is the clearest sign to date that Moscow and Minsk are not intending to open up a new front along the northern Ukrainian border. Kyiv and the Ukrainian General Staff have furthermore taken pains over the last 48 hours to reiterate their assessment that an attack remains unlikely along the border. Responding to Minsk’s accusations that Ukraine may be planning attacks against Belarus, President Zelensky proposed on 11 October that a mission of international observers by stationed along the Ukraine-Belarus border to monitor the security situation and deter an escalation. Minsk and Moscow, however, are highly unlikely to agree to such a proposal.
Hungary–Serbia: Proposed oil pipeline likely to increase reliance on Russian crude, frustrate regional relations. On 10 October, Budapest officials announced that they had agreed with Belgrade to build a pipeline to transport Russian Urals crude to Serbia via the Druzhba (‘Friendship’) pipeline. Serbia currently imports oil largely via Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, but this link will be cut when the EU enforces a ban on Russian seaborne crude starting in December. The Druzhba pipeline – running from Russia through Belarus and Ukraine to Central Europe – is currently exempt from the EU ban on Russian oil imports. Both Budapest and Belgrade are highly dependent on Russian energy supplies. Amid EU efforts to cut Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, the proposed pipeline is likely to add to tensions between the EU, Belgrade and Budapest. It is also likely to boost both countries’ reliance on Russian energy.
Ukraine: Russian campaign targeting critical infrastructure will increase likelihood of further energy rationing and blackouts over winter. On 10 October, the Ukrainian government requested that residents of Kyiv oblast reduce their energy consumption by 25 percent as the fallout from Russia’s recent missile attacks continues to impact essential services and power infrastructure across major cities. The government is continuing to repair power grids damaged in Russia’s attack, with the state-owned grid operator Ukrenergo equating the decrease in electricity to more than 93,000 electric kettles and 46,000 washing machines. Authorities across Ukraine have been working to resolve the widespread blackouts as well as mobile network disruptions and whilst power has been restored in most of Sumy oblast, energy blackouts remained in many targeted cities overnight. As the winter season begins, it remains highly likely that Russia’s targeting of critical power infrastructure will continue and further energy rationing will be enforced, complicating both private and business operations.
Russia: Government financial support package extended to the agricultural sector, mitigating impact of partial mobilisation on entrepreneurs. On 11 October, Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture announced the expansion of a scheme to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) amid recently introduced military draft legislation. The Ministry has proposed expanding support to ‘competence centres’, which will provide legal services to SMEs, alongside helping with sales and promotions targets. This latest proposal forms part of a wider legislative initiative recently introduced by the Russian government to shield entrepreneurial activities from the impacts of Moscow’s partial military mobilisation. Similar initiatives include the introduction of legislation that will permit business owners to be able to retain their status if mobilised, as current laws forbid military personnel from engaging in entrepreneurial activity. Further legislative changes will look to expand the level of finance available for businesses, though increased state support for the agro-industrial sector is likely to be targeted at Russian, rather than foreign-owned, operations.
US: Russian-linked DDoS attacks against major airports reflect recent escalation in Ukraine war. On 10 October, at least 13 US airport websites were temporarily inaccessible in what appeared to be a coordinated distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. Travellers were unable to check flight status or book airport services on affected websites, though the attacks did not disrupt airport operations. The pro-Russian hacktivist group Killnet later claimed responsibility for the campaign. Killnet specialises in DDoS attacks, targeting public and private entities in countries that support Kyiv in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. The group has previously attacked European, US and Japanese organisations (see Sibylline Weekly Ukraine Cyber Update – 19 July 2022). The timing of the attacks and the targeting of several major US aviation hubs, including the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), suggest the DDoS action was most likely a response to the latest escalation in the Ukraine war, following the Crimean Bridge explosion. With further escalations in the conflict highly possible following Moscow’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions, there is a heightened risk of more DDoS attacks by pro-Russian cyber threat actors targeting Western entities in the coming weeks. Likewise, pro-Ukrainian hacktivist groups will likely take retaliatory actions against Russian government institutions, media and companies.
- Pro-Russia cyber campaigns maintained pace during this monitoring period. Attacks against Ukrainian allies continued, with pro-Russian hacktivist group ‘Killnet’ claiming responsibility for several distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against major US airports. The campaign overwhelmed host servers, although it failed to inflict long-term damage on cyber infrastructure. The group also claimed responsibility for a cyber attack that brought several state websites in the US temporarily offline on 5 October. These latest developments remain on-trend with Moscow’s broader strategy of targeting countries supporting Ukraine, particularly the US government and its administrative and aviation digital infrastructure. As per our previous assessment, a wider precedent has now been set for the targeting of key infrastructure within the territories of Ukraine’s allies, although further attacks are unlikely to be particularly sophisticated and will therefore have minimal impact on the intended targets.
- Meanwhile, pro-Kyiv hacking groups, such as the IT Army of Ukraine, continue to focus attention on targeting Russian firms across sectors including retail and technology. These groups’ attacks will likely continue to take the form of either DDoS or defacement campaigns. The IT Army of Ukraine’s reported takeover of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) website on President Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday, indicates the persistent threat to organisations affiliated with the Russian economic, political, or military infrastructure.
Pro-Russian politically motivated cyber campaigns continue to target Ukraine’s allies, specifically state and aviation digital infrastructure
- On 10 October, the Pro-Russian hacktivist group ‘KillNet’ claimed responsibility for a large-scale distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against the websites of several major airports in the US. The attacks overwhelmed the servers which hosted these sites, using garbage requests to prevent users from obtaining any updates about their planned journeys or from making new bookings. Affected locations included Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Denver International Airport (DIA), and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), amongst others. These particular DDoS attacks did not impact flight schedules, however, they caused disruptions within a crucial economic sector.
- On 6 October, KillNet again claimed responsibility for a cyber attack that caused several state government websites in the US to be brought offline temporarily. State webpages in Kentucky and Mississippi were brought back online on the same day, however, Colorado’s page remained offline for a further 24 hours thereafter. Mainstream media in the US reported that a list of target sites was posted by Killnet on Telegram before the attack. Furthermore, Kentucky’s Board of Elections website was brought offline on 5 October. However, Killnet appears to only possess the capacity to execute DDoS attacks with short-term impacts and is therefore unlikely to inflict significant long-term infrastructural damage to a target’s network infrastructure.
Pro-Ukraine groups continue to launch cross-sectoral campaigns targeting Russian firms and affiliated entities; calls for retaliation against Russian strikes in Ukraine
- On 10 October, a Twitter account claiming to represent the Anonymous hacktivist collective called on ‘Anonymous of the world’ to ‘resume the cyber attacks’ on Russia. An hour later, the account posted a picture which claimed to show evidence of live network data indicating severe internet disruptions in Ukraine. The aforementioned post followed a post from another account purportedly representing the Anonymous collective which reported Russian shelling of civilian areas in Kyiv, warning that the ‘crimes will not go unpunished’. The posts highlight the collective’s intention to increase cyber activity against Russia and Russian-affiliated entities.
- On 8 October, a Twitter account purporting to represent the IT Army of Ukraine – a group of hackers loosely linked to the Ukrainian government – reportedly took over the website of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), on the day of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday. The CSTO is an intergovernmental military alliance including Russia and five other Eastern European and Central Asian governments, including Belarus. The hacktivists reportedly left a message on the website, wishing Putin a comfortable ‘trip to The Hague’, likely referring to the International Criminal Court seated in The Hague, Netherlands, which tries individuals of the more severe crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. The website has since been restored to normal.
- Also on 8 October, the IT Army of Ukraine reportedly targeted Russian clothes, home and goods retailer Wildberries. A Twitter account purporting to represent the group posted pictures reportedly showing evidence of the attack, including an error message on the Wildberries website. The hacktivist group did not provide further details of this cyber campaign, including what type of cyber attack was launched against the target website and how long disruptions lasted. However, given that the disruptions to these services were only temporary, with access to the website having since been restored, there is a realistic probability that Wildberries was targeted with Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks.
- On 7 October, the IT Army of Ukraine reported that they had conducted a cyber attack targeting the Russian majority state-owned bank, Sberbank. The following day, the Telegram and Twitter accounts claiming to represent the group stated that Sberbank had reported technical issues to clients the previous day, suggesting that the bank was referring to the disruptions caused by the cyber attack.
- On 7 October, a Twitter account claiming to represent the Anonymous hacktivist collective reported that the pro-Ukrainian volunteer hacktivist organisation, Team OneFist, working in collaboration with the IT Army of Ukraine had ‘silenced’ Russia’s Gonets-M satellite system. The group reportedly targeted the customer relationship management (CRM) and billing databases, effectively bringing the infrastructure down. It is unconfirmed whether the cyber attack has since ceased.
The threat of cyber attacks perpetrated against Ukraine’s allies, particularly the US, is ostensibly increasing, although Moscow’s ability to conduct such attacks on a large scale with long-term impacts remains mostly limited. Whilst there is thus far no indication that airport operations in the US were affected, the latest cyber activity is indicative of how Killnet is becoming increasingly more effective at targeting the cyber infrastructure of Ukraine’s allies in economically strategic industries. DDoS attacks of this variety typically cause short-term disruptions and in this instance, servers were brought back online within several hours without the infliction of any long-term damage. Nonetheless, Killnet’s recent actions suggest it is maintaining its promise of targeting Western entities with low-level cyber attacks in support of Russia. Furthermore, evidence suggests that Russia will likely continue to target key economic sectors in both Ukraine and its allies, with DDoS attacks likely to remain the key mode of operations utilised by Russian cyber actors. As was the case during previous reporting (see Sibylline Weekly Ukraine Cyber Update- 5 October 2022), we expect Russian actors to launch predominantly low-level and unsophisticated cyber campaigns in the coming weeks, partly as a result of limited financial and technical resources. Additionally, Ukraine’s targeting of the key strategic Russian-built Kerch strait bridge linking mainland Russia to occupied Crimea has elicited escalated kinetic retaliation from Moscow, which could spill over into the cyber realm also. Meanwhile, the call by a Twitter account claiming to represent the Anonymous collective of hacktivists to resume cyber attacks on Russia highlights the refocusing of attention towards Ukraine in light of recent developments in the conflict. This includes Russian long-range attacks on Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, in retaliation for the alleged Ukrainian strike on the Kerch Bridge, in Crimea. Nevertheless, the Anonymous collective is highly likely to maintain its other operations, notably targeting the Iranian government as protests persist. The persistence of Russian strikes on Ukrainian cities in light of the Kerch Bridge incident is highly likely to spur continued targeting of Russian government entities, affiliated organisations and businesses by pro-Ukrainian groups including the IT Army of Ukraine and affiliates in the coming days. Other potential trigger points which would spur an intensification of pro-Ukrainian hacktivism are likely to include Russian attacks on Ukrainian and Western infrastructure, including energy-related infrastructure, further Ukrainian battlefield victories, and domestic stability deteriorating inside Russia as a result of further battlefield defeats.
11 Oct 22.
- Ukrainian forces continue to make steady progress in eastern Ukraine, with counteroffensive operations continuing to take ground east of Lyman and the Oskil River. The Russian Ministry of Defence claimed that on 10 October Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attempted to ford the Zherebets River near Makiivka and Raihorodka (12km west of Svatove). Ukrainian forces are nevertheless slowly encroaching on Svatove from the south and west, with Russian forces appearing to step up preparations for its defence. According to the Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai, Russian forces have blown up unnamed railway and bridge crossings near the city, and were reportedly laying mines on 10 October.
- Further south along the Bakhmut line, Russian forces continue to prioritise ground offensives to the east and south of Bakhmut. Russian sources continue to make various claims about progress on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut, with unconfirmed claims that Russian forces have now cleared and are in complete control of Zaitseve (7km southeast of Bakhmut) – though such claims have been made before. Notably, however, Russian sources on 10 October claimed that Ukrainian artillery fire has intensified significantly in recent days, to levels not seen since the summer, and may indicate efforts on the part of Ukrainian forces to stymie Russian progress on the one front they are still trying to achieve offensive success.
- Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin also stated on 10 October that militia and Russian regular forces are making progress near Vuhledar and Marinka (both southwest of Donetsk city), but that progress is not as quick as commanders had hoped.
- On the southern Kherson front, some of the most notable fighting over the last 24-48 hours has taken place around Davydiv Brid on the eastern bank of the Inhulets River – a position from which Russian forces withdrew earlier this month. Ukraine’s Operational Command South reported on 10 October that their forces repelled an unsuccessful Russian attack towards the town, indicating low-level attempts by Russian forces to retake lost positions. The Russian Ministry of Defence meanwhile also claimed that its forces had repelled a Ukrainian offensive on villages near Davydiv Brid, with Russian forces claiming that the area is a ‘grey zone’ and remains heavily contested.
- Beyond these reports, Ukrainian military officials have claimed that numerous Russian units, including newly mobilised forces, have been taking extremely high casualty rates on the front. For example, the Ukrainian General Staff claimed on 10 October that a battalion tactical group (BTG) of the 150th Motorised Rifle Division had lost 520 service personnel killed in action. This report remains unconfirmed, and Ukrainian battlefield reports often exaggerate casualties inflicted on Russian forces. However, the loss of 520 men would represent almost half the contingent of a fully-manned motorised rifle BTG, and the unit in question was reportedly made up of newly mobilised personnel.
- Long-range attacks have continued in the 24 hours following yesterday’s nationwide attack. Overnight Russian missiles struck multiple targets in the city of Zaporizhzhia – which has remained a key target for Russian missiles in recent weeks. This morning, 11 October, Russian forces also launched missiles and kamikaze Shahed drones at Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Pavlohrad and Rivne, with the Ladyzhyn Power Plant near Vinnytsia also hit. The Ukrainian State Emergency Service confirmed on 11 October that 19 people had been killed during yesterday’s missile strikes, with 105 others injured.
- Ukrainian authorities and emergency services have been steadily restoring critical infrastructure and services following yesterday’s nationwide strikes, which created widespread blackouts and water and mobile network disruptions. While power has been restored in numerous cities, including parts of Sumy oblast, blackouts continued overnight in many locations. The strikes underline the mounting challenge for Ukraine to maintain critical services over the winter for both private and business operations. Yesterday, 10 October, Kyiv and Kyiv oblast residents reduced their electricity consumption by 26.5 percent following a request by the government. Further energy rationing is likely in the months ahead, including gas rationing, as Moscow’s campaign to undermine critical infrastructure and energy supplies continues to step up. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister stated that together with air defence systems, Kyiv needs large numbers of diesel generators to build resilience – he stated that his government is already working with partners willing to support Kyiv in this respect.
- On 10 October, the chief of the UK’s largest spy agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Sir Jeremy Fleming, stated that ordinary Russian citizens are increasingly becoming more aware of the mounting costs of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – and its failures. The statements come amid the growing number of people attempting to flee Russia following Putin’s ongoing expansion of Moscow’s war efforts. Nevertheless, although the latest available polling data by the Russian polling organisation Levada Centre indicate that societal anxieties about the war’s impact have grown since the start of the invasion, the likelihood of large-scale anti-government protests materialising is still relatively small in the short term. However, further anti-mobilisation protests and sporadic targeting of enlistment offices in Russia will remain heightened in the months ahead particularly as Ukraine continues to make gains on the battlefield.
- On 10 October, Moldova summoned Russia’s ambassador to demand an explanation after three cruise missiles launched from the Black Sea violated Moldovan airspace during yesterday’s strikes. President Maia Sandu has this morning, 11 October, demanded that Moldova’s borders be respected. While the violation of Moldovan airspace is a clear escalation, it is unlikely to represent a major shift in the likelihood of conflict spillover in Moldova and Transnistria – Russia’s withdrawal in northern Kherson oblast last week indicates that Russia’s ability to expand the war to Moldova is decreasing still further.
- However, the violation of Moldova’s airspace is highly likely to have been an attempt to maintain the pressure on Sandu’s pro-West government, which is facing growing threats to its stability as pro-Russian forces organise weekly anti-government protests in Chisinau. Sandu used her 11 October speech to highlight that ‘pressures [on the government] are increasing daily, and attempts to destabilise the situation in the country are becoming more frequent’. Polarisation is rising in Moldova, with Sandu accusing Moscow-aligned and criminal groups of wanting to ‘overthrow public order and gain power so that Russia can use our country in war’. The government is reportedly considering temporary amendments to existing legislation to allow police to ensure public order amid growing protests, which underscores the growing domestic instability threats inside Moldova, if not necessarily a growing threat of Russian military intervention.
On 10 October, the White House stated that it was likely that Moscow had been planning for a large-scale nationwide missile attack before the Crimea Bridge attack. As noted in yesterday’s report, it appears that the Kremlin had ordered preparations for a large-scale attack as early as 2 October. However, despite some speculation, this is unlikely to mean that Russian forces staged the attack against the bridge themselves and that preparations for the strikes necessarily indicated foreknowledge of the impending attack. There are various reasons why Moscow would have been preparing for a missile campaign before the attack, including distracting from and exacting revenge for recent military setbacks in Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts, as well as signalling to the West against increasing arms supplies to Ukraine. In recent weeks we have been frequently reporting on and assessing the growing likelihood of Russian strikes against civilian infrastructure, as well as cities in western Ukraine. We anticipated that such strikes would likely play into Russia’s escalating strategic deterrence campaign, designed to deter further NATO involvement in Ukraine and further arms deliveries (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 6 October). These dynamics are still in play, despite the Crimea Bridge attack. The Crimea Bridge attack could well have brought forward plans for such a missile campaign, and given the growing demands for a robust response from Russian pro-war hardliners, retaliation for the bridge attack was almost inevitable. However, the issue of growing US and wider NATO involvement in Ukraine remains a key priority for the Kremlin. Following yesterday’s strikes, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned today (11 October) that Russia could take unspecified ‘countermeasures’ against the US and its allies as a result of their ‘increasing involvement’ in the war in Ukraine. While he stated that direct conflict with the US and NATO is not in Russia’s interests, he underlined that Moscow is ‘issuing a warning’ that Western capitals ‘realise the danger of an out-of-control escalation’. Russia’s Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov has furthermore reiterated such warnings today, stating that by continuing to supply arms to Kyiv, the US and its allies ‘have come close to a red line’. Russian state media have also reported this morning that Kyiv has requested new types of long-range weapons, including ATACMS, while Washington has pledged to provide Kyiv with additional ‘advanced air defence systems’ in the wake of the strikes. As such, yesterday’s nationwide missile campaign, and the continued strikes against Lviv and Vinnytsia today, are also likely designed to illustrate Russia’s growing efforts to deter further Western weapons shipments. However, the outpouring of Western pledges to increase military aid in response to the strikes clearly shows that this strategy is currently not working. This in turn will increase the likelihood of further escalations to establish so-called ‘red lines’, as Putin shows all signs of favouring an ‘escalate to de-escalate’ strategy.
10 Oct 22.
- On 8 October, a large explosion damaged the Russian-built Crimea Bridge, also called the Kerch Strait Bridge, that connects Russia with occupied Crimea. The blast caused part of one of the lanes for road traffic to collapse, as well as damaging the adjacent railway bridge. Light road traffic has nevertheless resumed on the bridge, and the damage to the rail bridge is likely to be repairable. As such, the attack will only cause temporary disruption to Russian logistics in southern Ukraine, though heavy military transports will now have to rely upon ferry services for the time being. The exact cause of the explosion remains unclear, though a Russian assessment maintains that a lorry exploded on the bridge, which ignited several fuel tanks on the nearby railroad. Kyiv has not explicitly claimed responsibility, though the attack was widely celebrated across Ukraine. On 9 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally labelled the explosion a ‘terrorist attack’ orchestrated by ‘Ukrainian special services’.
- As we have previously forecasted throughout the war, any attack on the strategically and politically sensitive Crimea Bridge would trigger a disproportionate response from Moscow, to illustrate that a line had been crossed (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 10 August). We previously anticipated long-range strikes against central Kyiv and other cities as the most likely response, and as of this morning (10 October) Russia has launched the most intense aerial bombardment of Ukraine since the beginning of the war. Dozens of locations have been targeted across the country, including not only central Kyiv but also Dnipro, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kirovohrad, Khmelnytskyi, Kryvyi Rih, Lviv, Sumy, Ternopil, Vinnytsia, Zaporizhzhia and Zhytomyr.
- At time of writing, the Ukrainian General Staff has confirmed that 83 missiles have been launched at targets across the full breadth of Ukraine, 45 of which were reportedly intercepted by air defences. A wide range of missiles have seemingly been employed, including highly accurate Kalibr cruise missiles and less accurate Kh-101s, with additional unconfirmed reports claiming that dozens of Sahad kamikaze drones have been launched from Belarusian airspace, and could potentially be en route to Kyiv. More missiles are reportedly incoming at time of writing, and President Putin issued a statement this morning threatening further strikes. As such, air raid warnings should not be ignored – as they frequently have been in Kyiv and other major cities, given the relative lack of strikes against urban targets for many months.
- In Kyiv, Russian missiles have struck the central Pecherskyi, Shevchenkivskyi and Solomyanskyi districts, which have damaged critical infrastructure facilities and forced the suspension of all Kyiv metro services. The State Emergency Service of Ukraine has announced that several people have been killed and wounded in the attacks, which have targeted a pedestrian bridge as well as numerous other locations across the city. For example, a busy road junction on Volodymyrska Street near Tara Shevchenko Park was struck. While such open targeting of busy civilian areas is likely part of the campaign – and reflects the broader shift in the Kremlin’s rhetoric since the Kharkiv counteroffensive – various low-accuracy missiles, including Kh-101s, were likely used. Additionally, it is reported that signal jamming caused numerous missiles to miss their targets. As such, the attack on the Volodymyrska Street intersection could well have intended to strike government buildings and other so-called ‘decision-making centres’, including potentially the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) headquarters further up the road to the north. Other strikes reportedly narrowly missed the European Union mission in Kyiv (south of Tara Shevchenko park along Volodymyrska Street), with the German consulate reportedly damaged. Proximity to such ‘decision-making centres’ and Western embassies will mean a higher risk of collateral damage during subsequent missile strikes, with the Kremlin no longer interested in claiming that they are not striking civilian targets. For further analysis, see the Forecast below.
- On 8 October, the Kremlin confirmed that it had appointed Army General Sergey Surovikin as the new overall commander of Russian operations in Ukraine. Surovikin is the current commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces but has been in command of the Southern Grouping of forces in Ukraine for many months. His appointment was met with widespread enthusiasm from the hardline pro-war communities, with many expressing hopes that his experience and reputation for ruthlessness will change the course of the war. This is unlikely given that he has been in command of the Southern Grouping of forces for many months, which has made almost no progress and has most recently withdrawn in Kherson oblast. While a ground commander by training, having led Russian operations in Syria, Surovikin’s status as commander of Aerospace Forces may lead to a greater emphasis on utilising Russian airpower and bombing. Russian forces have largely under-utilised aviation in recent months due to Ukrainian air defences and a seeming unwillingness to risk key aviation assets.
- On the battlefield, developments over the weekend of 8-9 October remained broadly on-trend with developments we have been covering in recent weeks. Ukrainian forces have continued to make steady progress east of the Oskil River and along the Luhansk oblast border. Geolocated footage indicates that Ukrainian forces have taken the villages of Kruhlyakivka (20km south of Kupiansk) and Stel’makhivka (17km west of Svatove and inside the Luhansk oblast administrative borders). Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai also claimed on 9 October that Ukrainian forces have liberated seven additional villages in Luhansk: Andriivka, Hrekivka, Nadiia, Nevske, Novolyubivka and Novoyehorivka, further representing notable progress along the Luhansk border region west of Svatove in recent days.
- On the southern Kherson front, Ukrainian forces are continuing to consolidate their recent gains in the north of the oblast, while the information blackout continues to limit opportunities to confirm further progress. Ground fighting has nevertheless continued over the last few days northwest of Kherson city, which will continue to be a priority for both the Ukrainians and Russians in the coming weeks.
- On 10 October, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka stated that Russia and Belarus have agreed to establish and deploy a ‘joint regional grouping’ of forces. As part of the Union State agreements, Russia and Belarus share a unified military doctrine, with Russia taking more overt control over Belarus’ military in early 2022. Lukashenka addressed his troops this morning, justifying the move in response to the ‘escalation on the western borders of the Union State’ and alleged intelligence of a possible Ukrainian strike against its territory. Lukashenka has made such claims before, which have largely come to nothing, and so this latest speech is likely to be merely rhetorical in nature. However, the attack on the Crimea Bridge has refocused the threat of broader escalation.
- Deputy Head of Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR) Vadym Skibitsky claimed on 9 October that President Putin is meeting regularly with Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka in a bid to convince him to join the war in Ukraine. According to Ukrainian intelligence, Belarus is preparing to receive some 20,000 newly mobilised Russian troops, with six Belarusian battalions reportedly now stationed near the border with Ukraine, as of 9 October. At time of writing, numerous rumours of fighting along the Ukrainian-Belarusian border have been circulating on social media, though there are few indications to support that this is true at this time. This led Ukraine’s Operational Command North to formally issue a statement around midday (Kyiv time) confirming that there has been no change to the border region and that no Belarusian-Russian breakthrough has occurred.
- We have previously assessed that it remains unlikely that Belarus will formally enter the war and participate in a ground invasion of northern Ukraine, due in equal part to limited capability but also the threat this would pose to the domestic stability of the unpopular Lukashenka regime. Lukashenka has made similar escalatory claims and remarks in the past, and we have seen few indications that Russia has been building a substantial force in southern Belarus that would be capable of seriously threatening Kyiv or northern Ukraine. The threat of attacks along the Belarusian border has nevertheless increased following the Kerch attack, but we maintain that Ukraine is likely to have sufficient force along the border to prevent major incursions if an escalation does occur.
- False-flag operations along the Belarusian border will therefore remain key triggers to watch that could indicate a potential escalation (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 30 June for further analysis and other trigger points indicating potential Belarusian intervention). If the military situation in southern and eastern Ukraine deteriorates further, Moscow could potentially attempt to force Minsk’s hand to threaten Ukraine’s northern border and take pressure off their forces. However, the opening of another front would be extremely risky, as it would expose Russian Air Force positions to Ukrainian attacks. The Russian Air Force will continue to use Belarusian airspace to launch long-range strikes, as well as kamikaze drone strikes, against northern and western Ukrainian sites.
- The Crimea Bridge attack has had a notable impact on the domestic landscape inside Russia, with pro-war hardliners airing anger at the lack of an immediate response. Prominent pro-Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov and numerous other pro-war commentators immediately called for a massive campaign targeting Ukrainian critical infrastructure in revenge. While the Kremlin did indeed launch a massive retaliation almost 48 hours later, criticism of not only the Ministry of Defence but also Putin himself was highly notable in the interim. Numerous inpatient hardliners and military commentators called on Putin to directly intervene, warning that the Kremlin’s ‘silence’ would be perceived as ‘weakness’. Such direct criticism of Putin is extremely rare, and the Kremlin’s missile campaign could potentially be partly designed to pacify domestic hardliners, whose anger is becoming more and more palpable.
- On 8 October, Ukrainian intelligence (GUR) reported that the Kremlin had begun to arrest and detain numerous military officers and officials, following an alleged order for the elite Dzerzhinsky Separate Operation Purpose Division (ODON) security forces to enter Moscow. However, there are few other indications that this took place, with commentators and journalists on the ground in Moscow reporting no unusual activity. As discussed in previous reports (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 7 October), factional infighting, and scrutiny over Putin himself, is increasing in Moscow, which will likely place renewed importance on internal security forces to maintain order and stability. Ukrainian officials also claimed that the Crimea Bridge attack was a product of internal infighting amongst Kremlin factions – this is highly unlikely. As such, these claims by Kyiv are most likely examples of Ukrainian information operations designed to exacerbate perceptions of Russian infighting, rather than reflecting any intelligence that a Russian faction was behind the Kerch attack.
- This morning, 10 October, Denmark reported that the island of Bornholm had lost power. Authorities had initially stated that an undersea cable connecting the island to Sweden might have been cut, but Copenhagen has subsequently stated that a ‘local fault’ caused the issue. Given the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines earlier this month, the threat of submarine Russian sabotage remains high, and we will continue monitoring.
The attack on the Crimea Bridge marks a major precedent in the Russo-Ukrainian War, and its timing will only reinforce the wider threats of escalation and spill over we have been assessing over the last few weeks. Ukraine has long anticipated an attack on the Crimea Bridge, given that it is a legitimate military target that is militarily, politically and strategically vital to the Kremlin’s control over Crimea. While the apparent means employed during the attack do not represent a new war changing capability on the part of Kyiv, we anticipated that such an attack on the bridge would trigger a massive, disproportionate response against Ukrainian cities and ‘decision-making centres’ (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 10 August). Though it is notable that unconfirmed reports suggest the Kremlin had ordered preparations for a large missile strike as early as 2 or 3 October. Further strikes and kamikaze drone attacks against civilian infrastructure therefore remain likely over the next 24 hours, though the Russian Ministry of Defence has stated that the goal of the missile campaign has now been ‘achieved’ – indicating a likely winding down in the intensity of strikes. The attacks have nevertheless already caused widespread damage and disruption to critical infrastructure and services right across the country. Strikes against Lviv have resulted in widespread blackouts, disruption of water supplies and mobile network outages, with similar outages reported by other regional administrative across the country. This is just the latest confirmation that targeting civilian infrastructure and ‘decision-making centres’ (including embassies) is a priority during periods of escalation, which will increase the threat to business operations right across the country. The strikes are clearly aimed at illustrating to Kyiv (and the West) that a line has been crossed. While Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov quickly ruled out a nuclear response to the attack, the severity of the conventional missile response is indicative of the escalating stakes as Ukrainian forces inflict further battlefield defeats on Russia. Following an operational meeting of the Russian Security Council this morning, 10 October, President Putin vowed a ‘harsh’ response to any further ‘terrorist’ acts on Russian territory. Unconfirmed reports suggest Russia’s new overall commander of forces in Ukraine, Army General Sergey Surovikin, has been given free fire authority to use all capabilities short of nuclear. As assessed above, this could potentially result in increased emphasis on airpower and more overt targeting of civilians – which will likely be aimed as much at placating domestic constituents and illustrating strength than achieving measurable advantages on the battlefield. During his speech this morning, Putin notably alleged that Ukrainian special services had carried out three terrorist attacks against the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP). This is the latest allegation of Ukraine engaging in ‘nuclear terrorism’, and following the Kerch attack may indicate that the Kremlin is considering transitioning the war from a ‘special military operation’ towards a ‘counter-terrorism operation’. Accusations of Ukrainian nuclear terrorism reinforce the growing threat of an escalation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant assessed last week, though a major meltdown still remains unlikely.
Russia: Partial seizure of Sakhalin-1 pipeline reinforces growing threat of foreign asset seizures in ‘strategic sectors.’ On 10 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the partial seizure of the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project on the North-East shelf of Sakhalin Island. The Kremlin’s move to nationalise part of the project will affect bns of dollars of investment from foreign companies and forms part of a wider trend of Moscow increasing its control over foreign-owned energy assets. On 30 June, Putin similarly ordered the transfer of the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project to a Russian operator. Russia has ordered the establishment of a Russian company under the Rosneft subsidiary ‘sakhalinmorneftegaz-shelf’ to dictate the rights of existing investors in regard to Sakhalin-1. This will set a further precedent for the seizure of other foreign investments in Russia and increases the threat of raiding, confiscation and nationalisation of immovable foreign assets in so-called strategic sectors, including energy, defence and extractives.
Ukraine: Most intense aerial bombardment in months will cause further blackouts and critical infrastructure failures across the country, including Kyiv. On 10 October, numerous Russian missile strikes hit Kyiv in the central Pechersky district, damaging critical infrastructure facilities and forcing the suspension of all Kyiv metro services. The State Emergency Service of Ukraine announced several dead and wounded in the attack, with dozens of other cities also targeted across the country, including Lviv, Ternopil, Khmelnytskyi, Kryvyi Rih, Zhytomyr and Zaporizhzhia. The strikes appear to be a retaliation to the attack on the Kerch Bridge linking Russia and Crimea on 8 October. Further missile volleys are reportedly incoming across Ukraine in what is the most intense aerial bombardment of the country in several months. Civilian infrastructure appears to be the intended target across these cities, though inaccurate Kh-101 missiles have likely missed political targets, increasing damage to key road interchanges and other civilian locations. Further strikes are likely and air raid warnings should not be ignored during this intense period of Russian retaliation. (Source: Sibylline)
17 Oct 22. Russian drones attack Ukraine’s Kyiv; intense fighting in east.
- Kyiv hit by Russian drones
- Key hot spots in Donbas are Soledar and Bakhmut – Zelenskiy
- Russia says it repelled Ukrainian advances in several regions
Russian forces attacked Ukraine’s capital on Monday for the second time in a week while Russian and Ukrainian forces battled it out in heavy fighting around two towns in the Donbas region in the east, officials said.
Fighting was particularly intense this weekend in Donetsk and Luhansk, which make up the industrial Donbas, and the Kherson province in the south. They constitute three of the four regions Russia said it had annexed last month after holding what it called referendums – votes that were denounced by Kyiv and Western governments as illegal and coercive.
“The key hot spots in Donbas are Soledar and Bakhmut,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly address on Sunday. “Very heavy fighting is going on there.”
Bakhmut has been a target of Russian forces in their slow move through the region since taking the twin industrial towns of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in June and July.
Soledar is just north of Bakhmut.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday its forces had repelled efforts by Ukrainian troops to advance in the Donetsk, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions. Russia also said it was continuing air strikes on military and energy targets in Ukraine.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports on the fighting.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a “special operation” to root out what it calls dangerous nationalists. Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance, with the help of arms supplied by the United States and its allies, who have also imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw.
Away from the front line, Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv was attacked on Monday by so-called kamikaze drones, Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s staff, wrote on the Telegram messaging service. “Russians think it will help them,” Yermak said.
Kyiv’s Mayor Vitalii Klitschko said on Telegram that several blasts had rocked the central Shevchenkivskyi district of Kyiv, with a Reuters witness reporting three explosions. Several residential buildings had been damaged, he said.
“Rescuers are on the site,” Klitschko said, adding that a fire had broken out in a non-residential building. There was no immediate word on casualties. read more
The same district was hit by explosions a week ago, as Russia ordered the biggest aerial offensive against Ukrainian cities in retaliation for a blast on a bridge linking mainland Russia to Crimea – the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The head of the Russian-backed administration in the Donetsk region said on Sunday Ukrainian shelling had damaged the administration building in the regional capital.
“It was a direct hit, the building is seriously damaged. It is a miracle nobody was killed,” said Alexei Kulemzin, surveying the wreckage, adding that all city services were still working.
There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the attack on Donetsk city, which was annexed by Russian-backed separatists in 2014 along with swathes of the Donbas.
Rybar, a pro-Russian military channel on Telegram, said Ukrainian forces again shelled the southwestern Russian town of Belgorod, near Ukraine.
Anti-aircraft units intercepted most of the attacks, but there were two explosions near the airport. Three people were injured, it said.
GUNMEN OPEN FIRE
Russian authorities said on Sunday, a criminal investigation had been opened after gunmen shot dead 11 people and wounded 15 at a military training ground in the Belgorod region.
Russia’s RIA news agency, citing the defence ministry, said two gunmen opened fire with small arms during a training exercise on Saturday, targeting personnel who had volunteered to fight in Ukraine. RIA said the gunmen, who it referred to as “terrorists”, were shot dead.
Russia’s defence ministry said the attackers were from a former Soviet republic, without elaborating. A senior Ukrainian official, Oleksiy Arestovych, said the two men were from the mainly Muslim Central Asian republic of Tajikistan and had opened fire after an argument over religion.
Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the comments by Arestovych, a prominent commentator on the war, or independently verify casualty numbers and other details.
Meanwhile, British military intelligence said Russia was facing more acute logistical problems in the south after the damage to the road-and-rail bridge linking mainland Russia to Crimea caused by the Oct. 8 blast.
A spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said Russian forces were suffering severe shortages of equipment because of the damage to the bridge.
Almost 75% of Russian military supplies in southern Ukraine come across the bridge, the spokeswoman said.
Russian officials said the explosion on the bridge was caused by a truck bomb. Putin has branded the blast a “terrorist attack” orchestrated by Ukrainian security services.
Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the blast but celebrated it.
European Union foreign ministers are expected to agree on Monday on a mission to train 15,000 Ukrainian troops and an extra 500 million euros ($487m) in funding for arms for Kyiv. (Source: Reuters)
14 Oct 22. Ukraine Urgently Needs Air Defense Capabilities. Air defense capabilities are a crucial need for Ukrainian forces battling the Russian invaders, and the United States and its allies and partners are working to get those capabilities to Ukraine, a senior defense official said today.
The Russian attacks began 233 days ago and have been a strategic quagmire for President Vladimir Putin’s forces. The Ukrainians stopped the Russian military’s initial attack toward the capital of Kyiv and forced the Russians back. They held their own against Russian attacks on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and ultimately pushed the invaders back. The Ukrainians launched an all-out offensive from Kharkiv and expelled the Russians from much of the area that had been occupied. Ukraine’s military is also pushing the Russians back in the south and is on the outskirts of Kherson – a strategic node there.
The Russians have launched missile attacks against Ukrainian cities aimed at civilians and infrastructure. A senior defense official said these attacks are against the international laws of war.
“We do assess that the Ukrainians continue to make some advances on the battlefield,” the official said. “We also have seen …, particularly since the attack of the Kerch Bridge last week, … the Russians continue to retaliate. The use of precision-guided munitions in a very imprecise way has continued over the course of the week.”
The Russians have launched hundreds of rockets at the major Ukrainian cities. Ukrainian forces have had some success at shooting down the missiles, but they need more air defense capabilities.
In the eastern part of Ukraine, there have been seesaw attacks on both sides with the Ukrainians making gains in the north and south and the Russians making small gains in the center. “All of those attacks on both sides are coming with pretty high impact in terms of the employment of artillery and the losses,” the official said.
In the Ukrainian city of Kerson, Ukraine’s forces are pursuing the Russians along three lines of attack toward the city. The Ukrainians have liberated a number of villages and towns and are approaching the point where they are forcing the Russians to make some decisions in terms of how and what they want to choose to defend, the official said. “It’s also placed a good portion of that battle space under range of standard artillery, not . So, you’ve seen them employ fewer GMLRS recently, because they can range the Russian targets they want to hit with, with standard artillery.”
There are six Russian ships operating in the Black Sea, and they have fired rockets toward Ukraine; all have been intercepted.
Air defense remains a priority for Ukraine. The Russians, even with a huge Air Force, have never been able to achieve air superiority over Ukraine. Ukrainian aircraft and air defense forces have made it too dangerous for Russian aircraft to operate, and this changes the nature of combat in the country, the senior defense official said.
Yet, air defense does not come cheap. For every missile or aircraft knocked down, it’s safe to assume that a number of missiles were fired. Keeping these supplies up and increasing the integration of the air defense picture is key for Ukraine. The recent Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting in Brussels addressed this, and a number of allies and partners – along with the United States – are working to get these capabilities to Kyiv.
Ukraine has been using the Starlink communications system launched by SpaceX, the U.S. space technologies company. SpaceX has been funding the terminals in Ukraine, and the system has become important to the continuation of both civilian and military communications in the embattled country. Company President Elon Musk wrote a letter to the Pentagon officials saying the company cannot continue the expenditure and asking the Pentagon fund the system.
“We certainly recognize the advantages that any satcom capability has that allows the Ukrainians to use not just on the battlefield, but within the country itself,” said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh. “We understand the fragility in those communications, and it’s important that not just command and control may remain intact on the battlefield but throughout . We’re assessing our options and trying to do what we can to help keep these, these satcoms remain for the Ukrainian forces.” (Source: US DoD)
14 Oct 22. $725m 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 $725m to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This authorization is the Biden Administration’s 23rd drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.
The United States has delivered unprecedented security assistance to Ukraine and will continue to work with allies and partners to ensure Ukraine has the support it needs. This new security assistance package includes:
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
- 23,000 155mm artillery rounds;
- 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds;
- 5,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems;
- 5,000 anti-tank weapons;
- High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARMs);
- More than 200 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs);
- Small arms and more than 2,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition;
- Medical supplies.
This announcement follows Secretary of Defense Austin’s gathering of defense ministers of nearly 50 countries at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels this week, at which leaders committed to providing additional security assistance. Some examples of this additional support included:
- Germany recently delivered the first of four IRIS-T air-defense systems committed to Ukraine. This critical donation will help Ukraine better defend its civilians from Russian airstrikes. Germany also recently announced that it will deliver more MARS rocket systems and howitzers.
- Spain announced it will provide four HAWK launchers to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense.
- Norway, Germany, and Denmark invested into Slovakia’s indigenous production of Howitzers.
To meet Ukraine’s evolving battlefield requirements, the United States will continue to work with its Allies and partners to provide Ukraine with key capabilities.
In total, the United States has committed more than $18.2bn in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $20.3bn in security assistance to Ukraine and approximately $17.6bn since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion on February 24. (Source: US DoD)
14 Oct 22. NATO to kick off nuclear drills involving B-52 bombers on Monday. NATO said on Friday it would launch its annual nuclear exercise “Steadfast Noon” on Monday, with up to 60 aircraft taking part in training flights over Belgium, the North Sea and Britain to practise the use of U.S. nuclear bombs based in Europe.
The nuclear drills – which do not involve live bombs – are taking place amid heightened tensions after Russia repeatedly threatened nuclear strikes in Ukraine following major military setbacks on the battlefield there.
“Steadfast Noon” is likely to coincide with Moscow’s own annual nuclear drills, dubbed “Grom”, which are normally conducted in late October and in which Russia tests its nuclear-capable bombers, submarines and missiles.
NATO said the Western drills were not prompted by the latest tensions with Russia.
“The exercise, which runs until 30 October, is a routine, recurring training activity and it is not linked to any current world events,” the alliance declared on its webpage, adding that no live weapons would be used.
“This exercise helps ensure that the alliance’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu.
Belgium is hosting the drills that will involve 14 countries and up to 60 aircraft, including the most advanced fighter jets on the market and U.S. B-52 long-range bombers that will fly in from Minot Air Base in North Dakota, the statement said.
On Tuesday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg made clear that the alliance would proceed with its drills despite the tense international situation.
Cancelling the drills because of the war in Ukraine would send a “very wrong signal”, he told reporters, arguing that NATO’s military strength was the best way to prevent any further escalation of tensions. (Source: Reuters)
14 Oct 22. US in talks with Elon Musk’s Starlink over Ukraine internet access. The Pentagon said on Friday that it was in talks with Elon Musk’s Starlink mobile internet system to keep connectivity for Ukrainian forces, after the billionaire Tesla chief complained he was burning through nearly $20mn a month funding the service. News of the negotiations followed a report by CNN that Musk’s private space company, SpaceX, had written to the defence department last week asking for financial support from the US to fend off the financial strains on its satellite network. “I can confirm that the department has been in communication with SpaceX regarding Starlink,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said. “We’re working with our partners and allies trying to figure out what’s best.” “There are certainly other Satcom capabilities that exist out there,” she added. “There’s not just SpaceX, there are other entities that we can certainly partner with when it comes to providing Ukraine with what they need on the battlefield.” The Tesla and SpaceX boss appeared to confirm the request for cash, tweeting it was “insanely difficult” for a low-earth-orbit “communications constellation to avoid bankruptcy — that was the fate of every company that tried this before”. Musk won widespread acclaim earlier this year after intervening to bring internet service to Ukraine, but the move has become politically explosive in the past week after the world’s richest man called for a negotiated settlement to end the war. His proposal, which included allowing Russia to keep Crimea, was denounced by Ukraine’s leaders. The Financial Times also revealed that some Starlink terminals used by Ukraine’s military had stopped working in areas recently liberated from Russian occupation, raising questions about whether Starlink was blocking the service to some parts of the country. The news that SpaceX was seeking financial support from Washington provided fresh ammunition to Musk’s critics on Twitter who have opposed his position on Ukraine. Recommended War in Ukraine Ukrainian forces report Starlink outages during push against Russia However, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, defended Musk. “Like it or not, @elonmusk helped us survive the most critical moments of war. Business has the right to its own strategies,” he said on Twitter. “Ukraine will find a solution to keep #Starlink working. We expect that the company will provide stable connection till the end of negotiations.” Musk said that his company was spending “approaching $20mn a month” to “create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations & pay telcos for access to internet via gateways. We’ve also had to defend against cyber attacks & jamming, which are getting harder.” In an apparent confirmation of the leaked request for Pentagon help, Musk tweeted: “Strange that nothing was leaked about our competitors in space launch & communications, Lockheed & Boeing, who get over $60B,” adding that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the official who leaked the letter ended up working at one of the companies. In response to a tweet quoting a Ukrainian diplomat who told Musk last week to “fuck off” following his proposed peace settlement, the US-based entrepreneur said: “We’re just following his recommendation.” (Source: FT.com)
14 Oct 22. Ukrainian forces conducting ‘very clever and careful’ series of offensives against Russia. A defence analyst says the Russians “are not in the position to either defend dynamically or to conduct a counter-offensive”.
Ukrainian forces are advancing on both fronts, whilst Russian forces are just “digging in” and “playing for time”, according to a defence analyst.
Speaking to Forces News, Professor Michael Clarke, a former director general of defence and security think tank RUSI, said that the Russians, are in a sense “playing for time for the winter”.
“Undoubtedly, in my view, there will be a big Russian second defensive sometime early next year, or as the weather begins to change again towards the spring,” he said.
He believes Ukraine’s next big move could be the key city north of Kherson, Nova Kakhovka.
Nova Kakhovka “controls both the dam on the Dnipro river, which helps control the water supply into the Crimea, there’s also a big hydroelectric power plant there, it’s also a natural bridge across the Dnipro river.
Prof Clarke added: “If the Ukrainians take Nova Kakhovka, then it’s entirely plausible, in my view, that they would send forces over the dam across the bridge in effect. And they would be on the eastern side of the Dnipro river, and they would be in a position then to begin to encircle Kherson itself further south.
“I would expect them to make Nova Kakhovka their first objective, as a prelude, a stepping-off place, to an encirclement of Kherson.”
According to Prof Clarke, the Ukrainians are working to “insulate Russian troops, make sure that they can’t be supplied, then force them to either withdraw or have to surrender”. (Source: forces.net)
14 Oct 22. Vladimir Putin signals end of Russia’s unpopular mobilisation drive. Vladimir Putin has said Russia’s mobilisation drive to bolster its forces fighting in its faltering invasion of Ukraine will end within two weeks but defended the army from criticism of the draft. The Russian president on Friday said about 220,000 men had been drafted into the army since he called up reserves and moved to annex four occupied regions of south-eastern Ukraine. He said this was a sufficient effort to bolster forces on the battlefield. “Nothing additional is being planned,” Putin said, adding that he did not “see any need” to further strengthen the 1,100km frontline in Ukraine. Russia’s army continues to flail nearly eight months after Putin first sent troops into Ukraine and his initial plan of a blitzkrieg to capture Kyiv failed. Western officials say Putin’s mobilisation of men unfit for combat — even if the figures are in the hundreds of thousands — is unlikely to shift momentum in Russia’s favour in the immediate future, as Ukraine presses ahead with its counteroffensive. The draft has also proved deeply unpopular in Russia, from which more men fled to Kazakhstan in the first two weeks alone following Putin’s decree than joined the army. Some officials and pro-Kremlin commentators have also criticised widespread reports of “excesses” during the draft despite promises from Putin to only call up a limited force. In some regions, draft officers and police have press-ganged people off the street to join the army, while several men have already died at the front — apparently skipping the basic training Putin promised they would be offered. But Putin said the training was meant to take between 10 and 25 days, indicating he saw no problems with the reports. He said 33,000 people had already joined their combat units and 16,000 of them were taking part in combat operations. Despite Putin’s threat that he would use nuclear weapons to defend the Ukrainian regions he now considers part of Russia, Ukraine’s forces have continued to advance since he held a ceremony in the Kremlin and a rally on Red Square to celebrate the annexation. In particular, western officials say Ukraine is close to retaking all of the southern Kherson region up to the Dnipro river as soon as next week. On Thursday Russia-installed officials appealed to Moscow to help evacuate the local population. On Friday a western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said that “it is conceivable” that Ukrainian forces could recapture much of Kherson by the end of next week. “We think that the Russian position [in Kherson] is extremely fragile,” the official said. “And you would have noticed that in the last 24 hours, the occupation authorities have announced that they are evacuating the civilian population from that area, really underlining how vulnerable they are on that [right] flank, and also demonstrating the absurdity of the claimed annexations of Kherson as well as Zaporizhzhia and the Donbas.”
14 Oct 22. Putin’s war has turned back the clock on Russian power for decades, according to new analysis. The impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine in the long-term will likely reduce Russia to a position worse than when Putin assumed power 22 years ago, according to new analysis from the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. Territorial gains in Ukraine are almost wholly irrelevant to Russia’s future, argues the paper, with Putin having negatively impacted Russian power internationally and domestically across the board.
Paper authors Professor David Gioe from the Department of War Studies, and former Ministry of Defence official Dr William Styles said:
“Putin was well on his way to being remembered as the Tsar who made Russia great again, especially considering the chaos and disillusionment of the immediate post-Cold War decade. Yet, Putin will have lost far more than Ukrainian territories when the battlefield dust finally settles. There is no military, economic, intelligence, diplomatic dimension, and no aspect of Russian civil society, that will not be negatively impacted.”
To understand the broad swath of repercussions Russia now faces, the paper examines the impacts of Putin’s miscalculation on various aspects of Russian foreign policy and national power.
It highlights how coordinated action by the West has effectively crippled Russia’s interaction with the global economy. Short-term manipulation of the money supply and greater access to Chinese and Indian markets may have suggested economic resilience., But Gioe and Styles argue that in the long-term the loss of lucrative European markets and supply chains, not to mention stunted innovation due talented young tech entrepreneurs fleeing Russia, will see the economy decline to a worse situation than even in the Soviet era, when Russia had its state-backed industrial base to fall back on.
If Putin were to retreat from Ukraine, the analysis suggests that the majority of sanctions will remain in place for the time being. In fact, they could be used as a punishment, as the US and Europe have called for Russia to be held accountable for its actions and so have its assets seized to help rebuild Ukraine.
According to the paper, the Russian military has lost vital assets, including part of its Black Sea Fleet of ships, hundreds of tanks and helicopters, dozens of fighter aircraft, air and artillery systems. It further argues that these can’t be easily or quickly replaced, with sanctions inhibiting Russian arms manufacturers from acquiring technological components such as microchips and guidance systems from abroad.
With Russia the second largest exporter of weapons in the world, this is also likely to hit the Russian economy, with the war showing how unreliable and vulnerable Russian kit really is. India and the Philippines have already cancelled deals for Russian helicopters and, Russia itself is now buying combat drones from Iran.
Furthermore, as Professor Gioe argues, the war has revealed that the Russian military is not as formidable, nor as employable as many analysts calculated:
“Russia has suffered staggering casualties, and there are rampant accounts of dreadful troop morale. Even if the Russian military is able to secure a short-term operational victory through grinding attritional warfare, the sheer quantity of personnel required to maintain an effective counter-insurgency presence will be essentially impossible to generate.”
The report also anticipates that protests over the tens of thousands of Russians killed and grievously wounded will eventually come, which could easily dwarf the previous mass protests across Russia by soldiers’ mothers.
Russia’s intelligence services are in disarray, according to the analysis. The Russian security service (FSB)’s inability to accurately assess the situation in Ukraine has severely undermined the previously dominant organisation’s reputation within Russia.
“Typically Putin’s favourite tool on the international stage, internal squabbling and blame shifting has severely damaged Russian intelligence capabilities.
“It has also faced considerable crises in the way of cyberattacks exposing vast swathes of data on the Kremlin’s security apparatus, Ukrainian executions of suspected Russian agents severely undermining Russian operations, alongside the expulsions of over 400 Russian officials from posts around the globe. This will impede Putin’s ability for years to come to conduct global intelligence operations, given the probable reluctance of Western countries to accept more Russian ‘diplomats’.”
For the long term, Putin has set the conditions for Russia’s perpetual decline. Professor Gioe said: “Putin cannot stitch together enough tactical victories in Ukraine to translate his war into a strategic success given Russia’s faltering economy, crumbling military, chastened intelligence services, toxic international brand, dwindling demographics, and terrorised civil society. His blunder has caused catastrophic harm to Russia across every facet of statecraft in the short term, and, moreover, has imperilled Russian development and prosperity for the future.”
14 Oct 22. Civilians in ‘annexed’ Kherson urged to flee to Russia as Ukrainians advance.
- Governor of Russian region says all Kherson residents welcome
- Kherson is one of four provinces Russia claims to have annexed
- Ukraine defends Bakhmut in east in ‘brutal’ fighting -Zelenskiy
Evacuees from Ukraine’s southern Kherson region were expected to begin arriving in Russia on Friday after a Moscow-installed official suggested residents should leave for safety, a sign of Moscow’s weakening hold on territory it claims to have annexed.
“We suggested that all residents of the Kherson region, if they wish, to protect themselves from the consequences of missile strikes … go to other regions,” Russian-installed Kherson administration chief Vladimir Saldo said in a video message. People should “leave with their children”.
The offer applied foremost to residents on the west bank of the Dnipro River, he said. That includes the regional capital, the only major Ukrainian city Russia has captured intact since invading in February.
The first civilians fleeing from Kherson were due to arrive in Russia’s Rostov region on Friday, TASS news agency reported.
Kherson is one of four partially occupied Ukrainian provinces that Russia claims to have annexed in recent weeks, and arguably the most strategically important. It controls both the only land route to the Crimea peninsula Russia seized in 2014, and the mouth of the Dnipro, the 2,200-kilometre-long (1,367-mile-long) river that bisects Ukraine.
Since the start of October, Ukrainian forces have burst through Russia’s front lines there in their biggest advance in the south since the war began. They have since advanced rapidly along the west bank, aiming to cut off Russian troops from supply lines and escape routes across it.
TASS quoted the governor of Rostov, which borders on the Ukrainian territories Russia claims to have annexed, as saying his region was prepared to host anyone who chose to leave Kherson.
Ukraine’s armed forces have re-taken more than 600 settlements in the past month, including 75 in the strategic Kherson region, the government said. r
Reuters was not able to independently verify the report.
BLOW TO ANNEXATION CLAIM
A flight of civilians from Kherson would be a blow to Russia’s claim last month to have annexed around 15% of Ukraine’s territory and incorporated an area the size of Portugal into Russia.
Russia has assigned many of its best-trained troops to defend Kherson’s west bank. But that force can only be supplied across the river, which is several kilometres wide and has few crossings.
Mykolaiv, the nearest big Ukrainian-held city to Kherson, came under massive Russian bombardment on Thursday, with civilian facilities hit, local officials said.
Regional Governor Vitaly Kim said the top two floors of a five-story residential building were destroyed and the rest were under rubble. Video footage provided by state emergency services showed rescuers pulling out an 11-year-old boy who Kim said had spent six hours trapped under the rubble.
In the east, three Russian missiles exploded on Thursday morning near the central market in Kupiansk, a major railway junction city that Ukrainian forces recaptured in September.
The missiles destroyed shops, carpeting surrounding streets with glass shards, rubble, and twisted metal sheets.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address on Thursday that “brutal” fighting continued in the wine- and salt-producing town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, another area Russia has attempted to annex.
Zelenskiy said Ukrainian troops were defending Bakhmut with “skilful and heroic actions.”
He also accused the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) of inaction in upholding the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war and urged it to undertake a mission to a camp in the Russian-occupied east of the country.
In the latest of a series of Ukrainian criticisms of the ICRC, he said no one had yet visited Olenivka – a notorious camp in eastern Ukraine where dozens of Ukrainian POWs died in an explosion and fire in July.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to the battlefield setbacks with dramatic moves to escalate the conflict: proclaiming the annexation of territory, calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists and repeatedly threatening to use nuclear weapons to protect Russia.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday after a two-day meeting of defence ministers that the alliance would not drop support for Ukraine because of Moscow’s nuclear threats. Many countries pledged new military aid for Ukraine.
“They know that if they use (a) nuclear weapon against Ukraine, it will have severe consequences,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
This week, Russia launched the biggest air strikes since the start of the war, firing more than 100 cruise missiles mainly at Ukraine’s electricity and heat infrastructure. Putin said the strikes were retaliation for a blast on Saturday that damaged Russia’s bridge to Crimea.
Ukraine’s top prosecutor said on Thursday his office had opened criminal proceedings relating to Russian missile strikes that struck Kyiv and cities across Ukraine this week.
Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said the more than 112 Russian strikes had killed 17 people and injured 93.
“The goal of Russia’s deliberate attacks is to cause civilian deaths and to destroy civilian infrastructure … provoke a humanitarian catastrophe,” Kostin said.
“Coupled with the intimidation tactics against civilians, it’s a classical act of terror prohibited under international law.”
Russia denies it targets civilians. (Source: Reuters)
13 Oct 22. NATO Unified, Resolute in Face of Russia’s ‘Illegal’ Ukraine Invasion, Austin Says. NATO stands united in its support for Ukraine and strengthening the alliance’s collective defense in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today at NATO headquarters.
Europe is facing its largest security challenge since World War II as a result of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions, which include the recent “cruel attacks on civilian targets” in Ukraine, Austin said at the conclusion of a two-day ministerial.
Austin thanked the allies and partners that have stepped up to provide assistance to Ukraine.
“Today this proud alliance of free countries stands together to condemn Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” he said. “Putin thought he could easily conquer his peaceful neighbor, yet the Kremlin’s war of choice is now in its eighth month,”
In the face of this challenge, the alliance has never been more unified and resolute, he said.
“NATO has responded robustly and decisively to Russia’s imperial invasion, and our determination to protect every inch of NATO territory is unwavering,” the secretary said.
Allies have placed tens of thousands of troops under direct NATO command, along with significant air and naval assets, to protect against Russian aggression, he said.
Austin reiterated that NATO poses no harm to Russia.
“NATO continues to make clear that we will not be dragged into Russia’s war of choice. But we will stand by Ukraine as it fights to defend itself,” he told a news conference.
Spotlight: Support for UkraineOver the two-day ministerial, the participants discussed progress since the NATO summit in Madrid earlier this year. They discussed Ukraine’s urgent and long-term needs, the impacts of the invasion on broader security, and efforts to address the critical issue of ammunition stockpiles and defense industry capacity.
“I’m confident that our work here will help ensure that our allies maintain credible deterrence and defense while we continue our steadfast support of the brave citizens of Ukraine,” he said.
Ministers from Finland and Sweden attended the NATO meeting as invitees. Austin described the decision for those nations to apply to be members as a “historic step” and recommended allies ratify those protocols for accession as soon as possible.
Austin noted the importance of the alliance, saying President Joe Biden’s newly released National Security Strategy underscores the importance of NATO and working with like-minded allies and partners.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Austin appeared together for a press appearance earlier Thursday and highlighted NATO’s support to Ukraine and alliance security.
“We stand united as allies and in solidarity with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
“I welcome the unprecedented support the United States has delivered to Ukraine but also the unprecedented support that European Allies, Canada and partners are providing to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
Austin and the NATO secretary general voiced their support for the United Nations General Assembly’s condemnation Wednesday of Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of four Ukrainian regions.
In addition, Austin noted the United States is “absolutely committed” to the collective defense of the alliance under NATO’s Article 5 commitments, in which an attack against one member is considered an attack against all.
“We are committed to defending every inch of NATO territory if and when it comes to that,” he said, describing NATO as the “essential forum” for consultation, decision making and action when it comes to security of a region and transatlantic security. (Source: US DoD)
14 Oct 22. Ukraine Eyes Indian Co-Developed Air Defence System To Counter Russia’s ‘Missile Rain’ & Iranian Drones. With Russia having fired more than 100 cruise missiles on Ukrainian cities and Kyiv/Kiev knocking out power stations, the latter has been looking at the Indian co-developed surface-to-air missile as one of the air defense systems to counter the ‘missile rain.’
Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) admit being overwhelmed by the barrage that their existing Soviet-era Buk and S-300 AD platforms cannot tackle.
Israel has, however, been reported to be unwilling to transfer its drones and missiles, fearing a backlash in Syria where Russia might give a free hand to Iranian militias and Syria’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
Israel and Russia have a deconfliction mechanism in Syria where both are on opposite sides in the 11-year-old civil war.
Current State of Ukrainian Air Defences
While Ukraine has successfully shot down several Russian missiles and jets like the Su-35, Su-37, Su-35, and Su-25, many of these have been with the help of Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS).
These are Soviet-era Igla, US-made Stinger missiles, and the tracked 9K35 ‘Strela,’ which cannot shoot down smaller and more unpredictable land attack cruise missiles (LACM) like the 3M54 Kalibr and the X-101 and X-555.
The bigger Russian jets themselves become MANPAD targets since they fly low to avoid the larger AD systems and the military dynamics of the war that do not yet require high-altitude bombing.
Russian cruise missiles are being fired from warships in the Black Sea and Tu-22M and Tu-95 strategic bombers. Russia has also not seemed to have used its tactical battlefield missile, the 9K720 Iskander, in the present missile strike phase. Iskanders are even harder to detect and intercept, according to unnamed AFU officers in earlier reports.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s last G7 virtual summit, where he asked Europe and NATO for an “air shield” to stop Russia, coincided with Germany’s delivery of its highly advanced Iris-T surface-to-air missile (SAM) system.
The United States is also expediting the sale of its National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS).
But until then, the larger Ukrainian AD systems may not last, which have been managing to move around and keep changing positions in the countryside at the cost of leaving the cities unprotected.
Worst, Ukraine is now solely depending on foreign weapons, ammunition, and missiles, having all its defense industry knocked out by similar Russian long-range missile strikes at the beginning of the war.
On the first day of the Russian missile attacks on Monday, Ukrainian AD took down more than half of the 80 projectiles. AFU then claimed only eight out of 28 missiles hit their targets on day 2. But ordnance stocks are liable to be depleted, and Russia is capable of continuing to manufacture more with its advanced defense industry.
Ukraine Wants Indo-Israeli Missile System
According to a New York Times report, Ukraine has also asked Israel for air defense systems with Iron Dome and Barak-8 platforms being identified by Kyiv.
Barak-8 has been a collaborative effort between the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IMI) and the Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO) of India.
It is a different matter that the Iron Dome has long been pointed to be ineffective to the far more sophisticated Russian missiles. This is compounded by the larger geographical size of Ukraine and the greater number of radars and sensors that would need to be deployed.
Also called the Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile System (MR-SAM) meant for the Indian Air Force, the Barak-8 was originally co-developed with Israel for the Indian Navy under the designation Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile System (LR-SAM).
It was inducted by the Indian Air Force in September last year, while it is already installed on board frontline destroyers and frigates of the Indian Navy (IN).
Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Bharat Dynamics Limited, and Larsen and Toubro are some other firms involved in the project.
It can destroy jets, missiles, helicopters, and drones at a range of 70 km. While India has developed the solid-fuelled rocket motor/propulsion system and thrust vector controls, Israel has developed the electronics seeker that guides the missile in its terminal phase, critical avionics, electronics, and command and control (C2) system.
The missile can receive and process continuous updates on the position and flight trajectory of the target and use these updates to adjust its own flight to best intercept and destroy the target.
The naval LRSAM functions in consonance with the Israeli-developed MF-Star multifunction radar and provides point-and-area air defense. The agreement to co-develop the project was signed between India and Israel in January 2007, with several tests of the LR-SAM and MR-SAM conducted between December 2015 to March 2022. (Source: Google/https://eurasiantimes.com/)
13 Oct 22. French president Emmanuel Macron said France’s nuclear doctrine rested on the ‘fundamental interests of the nation’, which would not be affected by an attack on Ukraine. French president Emmanuel Macron has faced criticism from within the Nato alliance for stating that France would not respond with nuclear weapons if Russia used its own atomic arsenal against Ukraine or “the region”, which broke with the standard policy of “strategic ambiguity”. In an France 2 interview on Wednesday evening, Macron said the country’s nuclear doctrine rested on the “fundamental interests of the nation”, which “would not be directly affected if, for example, there was a ballistic nuclear attack on Ukraine, or in the region”. It is rare for leaders of nuclear-armed countries to spell out explicitly when such weapons would used because of the decades-old theory of deterrence through strategic ambiguity, and so as not to provide adversaries with a potential playbook for possible attacks. “Part of our deterrence is also not to speculate publicly on what kind of response, in what kind of situation, they would get,” said Kasja Ollongren, defence minister of the Netherlands, when asked about Macron’s statements. “The president of France speaks for France and for himself. I think that our choice is . . . to condemn [Putin’s nuclear rhetoric], keep our calm and be prepared,” she added. “I would not comment on different possibilities and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.” Nato officials declined to comment on Macron’s remarks. But speaking privately they said that while a response with conventional weapons to a Russian nuclear attack on Ukraine was most likely, it was alliance policy not to spell out under what exact circumstances nuclear weapons would or would not be used. France is one of three nuclear-armed Nato members and a critical part of the western deterrence against Russia. Macron’s words were amplified as he spoke ahead of a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels partly dedicated to discussions of the alliance’s nuclear planning. Speaking on Thursday after those talks, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would not make any comments on how its members would react to any use of a nuclear weapon. “We will not go into how exactly we will respond,” Stoltenberg told reporters. “It will have severe consequences if Russia uses any kind of nuclear weapon against Ukraine.” (Source: FT.com)
13 Oct 22. Russia strikes Ukrainian towns, head of annexed region tells residents to leave.
- Over 40 cities and towns hit by Russian strikes
- Russian-installed governor urges Kherson residents to evacuate
- Russian official warns of World War Three if Ukraine joins NATO
- Mykolaiv town “massively bombed”, local officials say
- Iran-made drones used in attacks near Kyiv – governor
Russian missiles have pounded dozens of Ukrainian cities and towns over the past 24 hours, while the head of one of the regions annexed by Russia told residents on Thursday to leave amid fighting between Russian and advancing Ukrainian forces.
A day after the United Nations Security Council condemned Moscow’s incorporation of four partially occupied regions into its territory as illegal, the Russian-installed governor of one of those, Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, appealed for residents to take their children and leave.
The official, Vladimir Saldo, asked for Moscow’s help in transporting civilians into Russia, saying the cities in the region were subject to missile attacks.
Since August, Kherson has been the centre of a major Ukrainian counter-offensive in which Kyiv says it has retaken more than 1,170 sq km (450 sq miles) of land.
Russian troops were not preparing to leave Kherson, another Russian-installed official said.
After Russia lost ground since early September around Kherson and a large area in the country’s northeast, Moscow has intensified its air campaign, prompting Kyiv’s allies to pledge more air defence systems and other military aid.
On Thursday NATO allies meeting in Brussels unveiled plans to also jointly beef up Europe’s air defences with Patriot and other missile systems.
“We are living in threatening, dangerous times,” said German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht at a signing ceremony where Germany and more than a dozen of European NATO members committed to jointly procuring weapons for a “European Sky Shield” to better protect their territory.
Moscow renewed warnings that more military aid for Kyiv made members of the U.S.-led military alliance “a direct party to the conflict,” and said admitting Ukraine to the alliance would trigger a global conflict.
“Kyiv is well aware that such a step would mean a guaranteed escalation to a World War Three,” deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Alexander Venediktov, told the state TASS news agency on Thursday.
Moscow has repeatedly justified the Feb. 24 invasion that has killed tens of thousands of people, in what it calls a “special operation”, by saying Ukraine’s ambitions to join the alliance posed a threat to Russia’s security.
Ukraine’s accession remains a distant prospect, not least because its membership during an ongoing war would put the United States and allies into direct conflict with Russia under the alliance’s collective defence clause.
Washington and other NATO members have provided Ukraine with weapons to fight Russia and imposed sweeping economic sanctions but have tried to avoid more direct involvement in the war.
In Brussels for a meeting of NATO’s defence ministers, including close-door talks by its nuclear planning group, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed to defend “every inch” of members’ territory.
Shortly after Russia’s assault began Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signalled he was willing to consider neutrality, but has since asked for fast-track membership, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as Russian land on Sept. 30.
In the past 24 hours Russian missiles hit more than 40 settlements, while Ukrainian air force carried out 32 strikes on 25 Russian targets, Ukraine’s Armed Forces General Staff said.
The southern port city of Mykolaiv came under massive bombardment, local officials said.
“It is known that a number of civilian objects were hit,” regional governor Vitaly Kim said in a social media post.
He said the top two floors of a five-story residential building were completely destroyed and the rest were under rubble. Video footage provided by state emergency services showed rescuers pulling from under the rubble an 11-year-old boy, who Kim said had spent six hours trapped under the debris.
‘COLD AS WEAPON’
On Wednesday, more than 50 Western countries met to pledge deliveries of air defence systems and other weapons to Ukraine after Putin ordered heavy retaliatory strikes in response to an explosion on a bridge in Crimea.
Germany has sent Ukraine the first of four IRIS-T SLM air defence systems, while Washington said it would speed up delivery of a promised NASAMS air defence system.
While Moscow denies targeting civilians, Kyiv says the strikes are aimed at the Ukraine’s population and its power supply, with Russian forces trying to use “cold as their weapon.”
“In their sick imagination, Ukrainians sitting for several hours without electricity is a victory,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Wednesday while calling on citizens to conserve energy and prepare for winter by stocking up on warm clothes, candles, torches and batteries.
At least 26 people have been killed since Monday in the Russian missile attacks. Ukrainian officials reported strikes at 28 energy installations.
Stressing the urgency of further assistance, Zelenskiy told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Thursday that Ukraine still had about only 10% of what it needed to protect itself against Russian air attacks. (Source: Reuters)
12 Oct 22. With Putin under pressure, Belarus edges closer to joining war in Ukraine.
- Putin needs help after run of defeats in Ukraine
- Lukashenko beholden to Kremlin, in no position to refuse
- Belarus steps up drills, but scale and purpose unclear
A flurry of military activity in Belarus this week has caught the attention of Ukraine and the West as a potential sign that President Alexander Lukashenko may commit his army in support of Russia’s flailing war effort in Ukraine.
Lukashenko has ordered troops to deploy with Russian forces near the Ukraine border, and his defence ministry says “combat readiness” drills are under way. On Tuesday, the interior ministry held exercises to eliminate “sabotage groups” near Yelsk, only 20 km (12 miles) from the border with Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has asked the Group of Seven (G7) countries to place an international observer mission near the border, while France warned Belarus it could face more Western sanctions if it deepened its involvement in Ukraine.
Belarus allowed itself to be used as a launchpad for Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine but has not joined the fighting directly. Analysts say Lukashenko would have no choice but to comply if Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded he enter the war, at a moment when Moscow is reeling from a series of defeats and facing unprecedented public criticism of its generals’ failings.
But they are sceptical that Belarus’s intervention would make much of a difference. Its armed forces total just 48,000 personnel, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and have not fought a war in more than 30 years of independence since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“It’s not exactly a combat-tested armed force,” said Samir Puri, author of “Russia’s Road to War with Ukraine”.
He said, however, that the risk of intervention by Belarus could force Ukraine to beef up security in the north of the country, drawing forces away from the frontlines with Russia in the south and east.
Zelenskiy’s call for foreign observers is a sign that Ukraine takes the risk seriously but it may not be diplomatically feasible, Puri said. It’s unclear who would provide such a force, as Moscow would veto any U.N. role and NATO or EU observers could be drawn into clashes with Russian forces.
The Belarusian defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Tuesday it said the deployment with Russian troops was a defensive measure “aimed at responding adequately to actions near our borders”.
CLOSER TO NATO
Belarus shares borders with three NATO members, a factor that may also be part of Putin’s calculations as he seeks to draw his ally into the war.
“It brings him much closer to NATO’s borders. Putin can then say: ‘I’m bringing the war to you. Do you really want it?’ What happens if a missile goes astray?” a senior European official said.
Lukashenko has not specified the size and role of the joint force he announced on Monday, though he said then that he expected the arrival of thousands of troops on Belarusian territory.
Not all the evidence suggests the Belarus military is on the verge on joining the fight. The Belarusian Hajun project, which monitors military movements, said there is evidence of equipment moving in the other direction, including the transfer to Russia of at least two trains with 28 Belarusian tanks.
Pavel Slunkin, a former Belarusian diplomat now at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said there were no signs of Russia pouring forces into the country to re-invade Ukraine from the north, as it did at the start of the war in February.
He said he did not believe Lukashenko was on the point of committing his forces to fight alongside Russia’s, but he may be readying himself for that eventuality. “Maybe he hasn’t decided it yet but he understands that this could happen and in this scenario it’s better to have the army prepared.”
Slunkin said Lukashenko, who survived mass protests with Russian help in 2020 and depends on Putin both politically and economically, would be in no position to withhold military support if the Kremlin required it.
“His guarantee of keeping his power very much depends on Putin,” he said. “Lukashenko can’t survive without Russia’s support and without repression. His dependence is so deep, he has almost no space for manoeuvre.” (Source: Reuters)
12 Oct 22. Canada announces new military package for Ukraine after Russian missile attacks. Canada said on Wednesday it will provide over C$47m ($34.06m) in new military aid to assist Ukraine in dealing with Russia’s invasion, with the package including artillery rounds, satellite communications, winter clothing and drone cameras, among other assistance. Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand announced the package, which builds on about C$600m in military equipment that Canada has donated or committed since Russia began its invasion on Feb. 24.
More than 50 Western countries met on Wednesday to promise more weapons for Ukraine, especially air defences after Russia launched its most intense missile strikes since the war began.
Russian attacks using more than 100 missiles have killed at least 26 people across Ukraine since Monday, when President Vladimir Putin ordered what he called retaliatory strikes against Ukraine for an explosion on a bridge.
Canada’s latest package includes C$15.2 m in equipment from the Canadian Armed Forces’ inventory, including 155mm NATO-standard artillery rounds, fuses, and charge bags compatible with M777 howitzer artillery guns, Anand said in a statement. It also includes 400,000 pieces of winter clothing for a total of C$15m and additional specialized drone cameras with a value of C$15.3m. Canada said on Tuesday it will send 40 more combat engineers to help support Polish efforts to train Ukrainian forces. (Source: Reuters)
13 Oct 22. The cutting-edge British weapons that will help Ukraine defend its skies. Britain announced on Wednesday that it was donating cutting-edge anti-aircraft missiles capable of shooting down cruise missiles.
Britain announced on Wednesday night that it was donating cutting-edge anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine that are capable of shooting down cruise missiles for the first time.
The advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) rockets will be usable with the US-provided Nasams systems, which are due to arrive in Ukraine in the coming weeks.
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said: “Russia’s latest indiscriminate strikes on civilian areas in Ukraine warrant further support to those seeking to defend their nation. So today I have authorised the supply of AMRAAM anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine.
“These weapons will help Ukraine defend its skies from attacks and strengthen their overall missile defence alongside the US NASAMS.”
It came as France also announced it was sending air-defence and radar systems in the coming weeks, in particular to help Ukraine protect itself from Russian drones.
“We’re going to deliver… radars, systems and missiles to protect them from these attacks,” President Emmanuel Macron told France 2 television.
France does have the SAMP/T (Mamba) surface-to-air defence system, although quite how many it could provide is unclear. It deployed one such system to Romania in May.
Vladimir Putin’s aerial bombardment of Ukrainian city centres earlier this week has prompted Kyiv to make securing Western air-defence systems its main priority.
But Nato countries are struggling to secure enough air-defence systems to protect Ukraine’s skies, Western officials have warned, amid fears Kyiv will remain vulnerable to more Russian missile barrages.
At a Nato meeting on Wednesday to decide on future military support for the war-torn country, Jens Stoltenberg, its secretary-general, agreed that creating a protective shield over Ukraine was a “top priority”.
In recent days, Putin’s forces have pummelled civilian targets in busy city centres across Ukraine after an unexplained explosion collapsed a section of the Kerch bridge between Russia and Crimea.
On Wednesday, the first of four German Iris-T systems promised by Berlin arrived in the country, while the Netherlands vowed to deliver €15 m worth of missiles to bolster Kyiv’s defences. The US also said it was speeding up delivery of eight of its most advanced National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems. But the pledges look likely to fall short of Ukrainian demands.
Paris has previously supplied Mistral shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine.
The simplest form of air-defence weapons, which Ukraine has already received, are fired by individual soldiers on the battlefield, or from rooftops in built-up areas.
The most sophisticated systems are linked to radars that can detect incoming threats from multiple miles away. Missiles are then directed on to the approaching threat, even if it manoeuvres in flight.
Missile batteries have to be used sparingly and grouped with similar weapons to ensure a layered system capable of defending against the majority of threats.
Ukraine is demanding Nato countries help create a shield over the country like the Israeli Iron Dome system.
But the Israeli system is optimised for less sophisticated missiles fired by Hezbollah fighters, and is occasionally penetrated, particularly if faced with multiple incoming rockets.
Small “bubbles” of defended areas must be placed around key sites instead, with commanders and politicians having to choose the most valuable areas to be protected.
Ukraine has received shipments of multiple British systems, such as Sky Sabre, which can intercept 24 targets at once, with the radar located up to 15km away for safety.
Sources at Nato meetings on Wednesday said increased coverage in Ukraine was being hampered by production issues and fears that donating air-defence systems would leave Nato’s skies undefended.
Germany and France both warned that it was not possible to completely protect Ukraine without putting the defence of their own countries in jeopardy. One source described it as a “difficult line to walk” for Nato allies.
Washington has been internally criticised for offering to ship its most complicated systems, such as the Patriot surface-to-air missile system, to Kyiv.
Arms manufacturers used by Nato members are said to not have the industrial capacity, logistical network or stockpiles to provide Kyiv with sufficient systems.
The Telegraph understands that, in private discussions, Nato officials have expressed concerns that many of their members are still awaiting deliveries of their own air-defence systems, which could take years.
Mr Stoltenberg said Nato would need to address its “long-term production capacity” for such systems, and other Western weapons: “So we can produce more weapons, more ammunition, more of the capabilities we need, both to ensure our own deterrence and defence, but also to continue to provide support to Ukraine.”
“Countries have already provided some, but there is a shortage of production capacity,” an official told the FT.
Among Nato’s more frugal members, Germany and France, there are also fears that they might over-order weapons for Ukraine.
It was stressed in one recent meeting of officials at the military alliance that 100 pieces of kit could be ordered, with 20 sent to Kyiv and the rest left to rot.
Nato defence ministers are also due to discuss the nuclear threat posed by Putin, after suggestions by the Russian president he would authorise strikes if his perceived territory is hit by Ukraine.
Mr Stoltenberg reaffirmed the alliance would carry out a nuclear deterrence exercise next week despite the ultimatum.
“We have seen the speculation about the use of low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine and we have conveyed clearly to Russia that this will have severe consequences. The nuclear rhetoric and the veiled threats from Russia are dangerous and reckless,” he said.
A Russian nuclear attack would “almost certainly be drawing a physical response from many allies, and potentially from Nato itself,” a senior official added. (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
13 Oct 22. UK to give air defence missiles to help Ukraine defend against rockets. The UK will donate hundreds more air defence missiles to Ukraine, including AMRAAM rockets which are capable of shooting down cruise missiles. The UK will donate cutting edge air defence missiles to Ukraine which can help protect against Russian missile strikes, the Defence Secretary announced today.
The AMRAAM rockets, which will be provided in the coming weeks for use with the NASAMS air defence systems pledged by the US, are the first donated by the UK which are capable of shooting down cruise missiles.
The rockets will help to protect Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure, with the announcement coming days after Russian missiles struck civilian targets in cities across Ukraine.
Hundreds of additional air defence missiles, of other types previously provided, will also be donated as part of the package, along with hundreds of additional aerial drones to support Ukraine’s information gathering and logistics capabilities, and a further 18 howitzer artillery guns, in addition to the 64 already delivered.
Bolstering Ukraine’s air defences has been and remains a priority for UK military support. So far we have provided a variety of air defence systems including Stormer vehicles fitted with Starstreak launchers, and hundreds of anti-air missiles.
Ben Wallace announced the latest tranche of equipment ahead of a meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels today (Thurs 13 Oct), where Allies met on the sidelines yesterday to discuss further support for Ukraine. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Russia’s latest indiscriminate strikes on civilian areas in Ukraine warrant further support to those seeking to defend their nation. So today I have authorised the supply of AMRAAM anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine. These weapons will help Ukraine defend its skies from attacks and strengthen their overall missile defence alongside the US NASAMS.”
The UK will also give £10m to NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine. The funding will help to provide urgent non-lethal assistance to Ukraine such as winter clothes, shelters, generators, fuel trucks and ambulances for the Ukrainian Army ahead of the winter.
The Defence Secretary will urge his Allied counterparts to continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. They will review the implementation of decisions taken at the Madrid Summit designed to strengthen NATO’s collective deterrence and defence. This will be the first time that Finland and Sweden will attend as official invitees.
They will also discuss defence industrial capacity, to ensure that Allies are able to increase stockpiles of munitions so that we can keep supporting Ukraine, while remaining ready to defend NATO territory.
Defence Ministers will speak about the recent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, as well as how the Alliance can safeguard critical infrastructure from future attacks.
NATO Allies have stepped up their presence in the Baltic and North Seas in response to the attacks, increasing security around key infrastructure across multiple domains, including with satellites, ships, submarines, maritime patrol aircraft, and anti-drone systems. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
12 Oct 22. France to deliver anti-air systems to Ukraine in coming weeks – Macron.
- Paris under pressure to deliver more weapons to Ukraine
- Source says Paris to deliver Crotale short-range missile system
- Macron says conflict will end with negotiation
France will deliver radar and air defence systems to Ukraine in the coming weeks, in particular to help Ukraine protest itself from drone and missile attacks, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday.
Speaking in an interview on France 2 television, Macron did not give any details on what type of anti-aircraft missiles or how many would be delivered.
A wave of attacks on Ukrainian cities this week has raised the stakes, with Kyiv demanding its partners provide more supplies, including air defence systems – something Paris has been unwilling to do so far.
“This is a new phase of bombing coming from land, sea, air and drones against essential infrastructure and civilians,” Macron said, adding that radar and anti-air missiles would be delivered in the coming weeks to “protect the country from drone and missile attacks.”
Paris has previously supplied Mistral shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine. A source aware of the matter said Paris would provide Crotale short-range anti-air missiles, which are used to intercept low-flying missiles and aircraft.
Ukraine’s defence ministry posted a video on social media on Wednesday aimed at giving France a gentle nudge to show its love through weapon supplies after repeated criticism that Paris has not been doing enough.
It was not clear whether Wednesday’s announcement would change the perception France is not doing enough militarily.
“We cannot deliver as much as the Ukrainians ask for because we need to keep some to protect our eastern flank. We are protecting our national territory,” he said.
Macron repeated that he had agreed with Denmark to divert six Caesars howitzer canons it had ordered to Ukraine. The technical details of that transaction have yet to be confirmed, diplomats have said.
France’s defence ministry announced on Tuesday that it was boosting its support on NATO’s eastern flank by sending more tanks to Romania, Rafale fighter jets to Lithuania and infantry to Estonia. It said nothing about Ukraine.
Macron repeated that he believed that a negotiated settlement between Ukraine and Russia would happen at some point to end the conflict, but it would need to be on Kyiv’s terms.
“We are preparing to spend the winter in this context of war,” Macron said, adding that he would continue talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin whenever necessary. (Source: Reuters)
12 Oct 22. Austin: Resolve of Ukraine’s Allies Strengthened Amid Russian ‘Atrocities.’ Russia’s latest attacks in Ukraine have shown the “malice and cruelty” of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “war of choice,” and have strengthened the resolve among Ukraine’s allies in their support of Kyiv, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today in Brussels.
“Russia’s latest barrage against Ukraine’s cities has again killed and wounded innocent civilians and put targets with no military purpose in the crosshairs,” the secretary said about the strikes targeting civilian populations and infrastructure.
Austin delivered the remarks as he opened a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group with defense ministers and chiefs of defense from nearly 50 nations.
“The whole world has just seen yet again the malice and cruelty of Putin’s war of choice, rooted in aggression, and waged with deep contempt for the rules of war,” he said.
Austin, who chaired the talks at NATO headquarters, held a news conference with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley following the meeting.
Indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilian targets is a war crime under the international rules of war, Milley stated.
“Russia has deliberately struck civilian infrastructure with the purpose of harming civilians,” he said. “They have targeted the elderly, the women and the children of Ukraine.”
The gathering of the contact group underscores the resolve of the international community after Russia’s “cruel and unprovoked invasion” and most recent “deliberate cruelty,” Austin said.
“Russia’s atrocities have further united the nations of goodwill that stand with Ukraine,” he said, adding that Putin has given the world another “grim preview of a future in which the appetites of aggressive autocrats outweigh the rights of peaceful states.”
Austin thanked Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Ukraine’s Joint Forces Commander, Maj. Gen. Eduard Moskaliov, for attending the contact group session.
He said the Ukrainians provided an update on the battlefield dynamics and priority needs and requirements for Ukrainian self-defense for the long haul.
The secretary said the Ukrainian forces have defended themselves “magnificently” and have made “extraordinary” gains in the battlefield.
“They’ve liberated hundreds of towns from Russian occupation, and they’ve retaken thousands of square kilometers of their land,” he said. “These victories belong to Ukraine’s soldiers, but the contact group’s security assistance, training and sustainment efforts have been vital. We’ve made tremendous progress by working together.”
Ukraine’s courage is inspiring, he said.
“We’ve watched as Putin tries to force untrained, unwitting Russian civilians to the front lines,” he said. “And we’ve seen the stark contrast with Ukraine, which has shown the world that the military and moral power of a free people fighting for their democracy and their sovereignty prevails.”
Members of the contact group have committed bns of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, along with humanitarian and financial assistance.
U.S. security assistance to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion in February now totals some $16.8 bn, Austin said, noting the United States is increasingly posturing itself to support Ukraine’s defense needs for the challenging months and years ahead.
The contact group will continue to boost Ukraine’s defensive capabilities for pressing urgent needs and for the long term, Austin said.
Russia has escalated the conflict, according to the chairman, with the attacks against civilian targets, recent mobilization of 300,000 conscripts, and attempted “illegal annexation” of four oblasts in occupied Ukrainian. An oblast is an administrative division, much like a region or province.
Austin described as a “sham” Putin’s attempt to annex Ukrainian territory.
“Countries around the globe have rejected Putin’s grim vision of a world where big powers can trample borders by force,” he said. “And proud people in Europe and far beyond have stood up for the rules-based international order that keeps us all secure.”
Austin noted with concern Putin’s language about nuclear weapons.
“Nuclear saber rattling is reckless and irresponsible,” he said. “We don’t expect to see and hear that kind of behavior from a major nuclear power, and so that’s very dangerous.” (Source: US DoD)
11 Oct 22. Stoltenberg Says NATO Remains Committed to Supporting Ukraine. Defending NATO in light of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s increasingly violent rhetoric is the main subject as alliance defense ministers meet in Brussels, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is journeying to Brussels to participate in the Defense Ministerial Meeting and will also chair a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.
Stoltenberg, who spoke in advance of the meeting at NATO headquarters, said the leaders will review progress on strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defense.
He said that while the alliance is not party to the conflict, “our support is playing a key role. Allies remain united in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and self-defense.”
“We will step up and sustain our support for Ukraine so that they can continue … to defend themselves, and liberate territory from Russian occupation,” the secretary general said. “Ukraine has the momentum, and continues to make significant gains.”
Stoltenberg noted the Russians are launching terror attacks on civilians and targeting critical infrastructure. “President Putin is failing in Ukraine,” he said. “His attempted annexations, partial mobilization and reckless nuclear rhetoric represent the most significant escalation since the start of the war, and they show that this war is not going as planned.”
Who sabotaged the Nord Stream pipeline cannot be ascertained, but it points to another problem for NATO and the secretary general said alliance members will further increase the protection for critical infrastructure.
Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov will be in Brussels for the meetings. “Together, we will address Ukraine’s urgent needs,” Stoltenberg said. “I welcome the recent announcements by allies to provide more advanced air defense systems and other capabilities to Ukraine, and I look forward to further deliveries.”
The secretary general said the alliance message is clear: NATO will stand by Ukraine “for as long as it takes. President Putin started this war. He must end it by withdrawing his forces from Ukraine.”
He called on Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko to stop supporting Russia in the conflict. Lukashenko has said he will deploy joint forces to operate with the Russian military inside Belarus.
“On Thursday, I will chair a regular meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group,” Stoltenberg said. “The fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear deterrence has always been to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression. Next week, NATO will hold its long-planned deterrence exercise — Steadfast Noon. This is routine training, which happens every year to keep our deterrent safe, secure and effective.”
The secretary general said that Putin’s veiled nuclear threats “are dangerous and irresponsible. Russia knows that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
He said NATO is closely monitoring Russia’s nuclear forces, and there has been no change in Russia’s nuclear posture.
During the ministerial, the defense leaders will make decisions to increase stockpiles of munitions and equipment, to speed up the delivery of capabilities, and “to use the NATO Defense Planning Process to provide industry with the long-term demand they need to boost production,” Stoltenberg said.
The Russian war on Ukraine means a difficult winter ahead globally. Given that “it is even more important that North America and Europe continue to stand united in support for Ukraine and in defense of our people,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
12 Oct 22. Putin is losing on the battlefield: UK statement to the OSCE
Ian Stubbs (UK delegation to the OSCE) stresses that, when Putin is losing on the battlefield, he takes the war to the Ukrainian people instead. Thank you Mr Chair.
On 8 October, an explosion damaged the Kerch Strait Bridge. A crucial logistics route for Russia’s militarisation of illegally annexed Crimea, the bridge also plays a key role in moving heavy military vehicles & equipment as well as fuels, oils and lubricants to the southern front of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Accordingly, substantial damage to this bridge will almost certainly have a significant impact on Russia’s already strained ability to sustain its forces under pressure in southern Ukraine.
In an address to his Security Council on 10 October, President Putin stated that the intense barrage of missile attacks he had unleashed across Ukraine was in retaliation for the attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge. He also threatened a harsh response to any further attacks on Russian territory.
Mr Chair, I would like to be very clear on two points:
- Opened in 2018 by Putin himself, the construction of the Kerch Strait Bridge was a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is a bridge built by Russia on Ukraine’s territory.
- Putin’s attempt to portray Monday’s barrage of missile strikes as a show of strength in retaliation of the Kerch Bridge incident fools no one. When Putin is losing on the battlefield, he takes the war to the Ukrainian people instead.
Mr Chair, the appalling wave of missiles strikes which took place on 10 October targeted civilian national infrastructure across Ukraine. It appears to have been the most extensive day of long-range strikes since the first days of Russia’s illegal invasion and the first time since June 2022 that the centre of Kyiv was targeted. Strikes on residential buildings, playgrounds, a pedestrian bridge and the National Philharmonic; as well as multiple power black outs and disruption to water supplies and communications remind us that once again Ukraine’s civilians are paying the terrible price for Russia’s barbaric actions.
President Putin claimed that the strikes were carried out with precision long-range ground, naval and air launched weapons. Such weapons in Russia’s arsenal include Iskander, Kalibr, and the Kh-101, all of which claim accuracies of under 50m and some as low as 2m. So, there are only a few possibilities as to why so much civilian infrastructure was struck, either: Russia severely overestimates its precision strike capability; Russian military planners were grossly incompetent in their targeting; or the Russian military deliberately conducted premeditated attacks targeting residential buildings, cultural sites and areas where children may have been present.
Russia took these actions in full knowledge of what would ensue: destruction, injuries and death. Such attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are not only abhorrent; they are war crimes and a blatant violation of international law.
Mr Chair, we and others have repeatedly called on Belarus to stop supporting Russian aggression, including allowing Russia to use Belarusian airspace to launch stand-off airstrikes and Iranian UAVs against Ukraine. Lukashenko’s announcement on Monday that a regional military group will deploy to Belarus’ borders in response to a contrived threat does nothing but further stoke instability in the region. Since 24 February, it has been overwhelmingly clear to the world from which side of the Belarusian/Ukrainian border the threat is emanating and it is not Ukraine.
Mr Chair, the announced deployment of Russian and Belarusian forces into a joint military task force is yet another manufactured distraction from Putin’s faltering invasion: more defeats in the east; more defeats in the south; more Generals sacked; more demoralised troops; more discontent amongst the Russian population; and more critique from Russia’s elites.
The miscalculations continue to mount. Putin and the Russian military leadership have consistently underestimated the will, determination and courage of the Ukrainian military and civilians to defend their homeland from a brutal and barbaric invader. They continue to fail to understand that every horrendous attack strengthens the Ukrainian resolve and that of its friends, like the UK, who remain steadfast in our support – for however long it takes – to ensure that the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the independence of Ukraine is fully restored.
Thank you. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
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