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24 Oct 22.
Military and security developments
21 Oct 22.
- Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai confirmed this morning, 21 October, that the heaviest fighting in eastern Ukraine is currently taking place in the direction of Svatove, most likely referring to the Luhansk-Kharkiv oblast border region. Russian sources have claimed that their forces have taken further villages in north-eastern Kharkiv oblast, with unconfirmed reports that they have taken control over a part of the railway line running south through Horobivka, 10 miles (16km) northeast of Kupiansk.
- Haidai has also reported that Russian occupation authorities in Luhansk are evicting residents from their homes and relocating them to Rubizhne and Severodonetsk, further south. If true, this would align with other examples of mass relocations of local populations in the occupied territories – most recently in Kherson. This could also indicate preparations for a further Russian withdrawal from northern Luhansk oblast to the new ‘Wagner Line’, as discussed in yesterday’s report (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 20 October).
- Information relating to the Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kherson remains limited, but Russian sources continue to report on the overall shape of the campaign. The Russian Ministry of Defence on 20 October acknowledged that Ukrainian forces penetrated Russian defences around Sukhanove, 26 miles (42km) north of Nova Kakhovka, but claimed that their forces subsequently repelled the Ukrainians and stabilised the frontline. Meanwhile, Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the Ukrainian General Staff Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov reported on 20 October that Ukrainian forces had improved their tactical positioning around Blahodtne, 13 miles (20km) northwest of Kherson city, though he provided no further details. Ukrainian forces have also continued to strike at the Antonivsky Bridge across the Dnieper River. Russian officials have alleged that the attack was a deliberate attack on civilian journalists who were crossing the bridge at the time, claiming that four civilians had been killed.
- Hromov has furthermore claimed that there are now up to 45 Russian battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in Kherson oblast, with more mobilised forces being brought up to the front. While a BTG is theoretically manned by around 1,000 military personnel, Russian units are highly likely to be extremely degraded – with recently mobilised forces also likely to be of very low quality. Nevertheless, Hromov maintains that the ‘number one task’ for Russian forces is to hold the southern frontline in Kherson and hold off the Ukrainian counteroffensive that is pushing towards Kherson.
- However, there are growing indications that Russian forces are prioritising the redeployment of significant quantities of equipment and personnel across the Dnieper – which would support the possibility that Russian forces are preparing for a withdrawal and abandonment of western Kherson oblast. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published a report on 20 October outlining with satellite imagery that Russian forces had intensified the withdrawal of military equipment across the Dnieper in early October. Previous chaotic withdrawals in Kharkiv oblast resulted in Russian forces leaving behind large quantities of advanced equipment, which are now being used by Ukrainian forces. Having seemingly learned from this experience Russian commanders are attempting to avoid a repeat if and when they withdraw from the western bank of the Dnieper. Hromov has further stated that Russian forces may be in the process of withdrawing all their more experienced regular forces from the western bank, and may intend to leave only recently mobilised forces to hold the frontline. However, this remains to be seen.
- Amid growing indicators that Russia is considering a withdrawal, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on 20 October that Russian forces are setting conditions to deliberately destroy the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant and dam. Zelensky has stated that Russian forces are currently mining the plant and are preparing a false-flag operation that would trigger a massive regional disaster. According to Zelensky, the dam holds back 18 million cubic metres of water, which if compromised would flood over 80 settlements along the banks of the Dnieper, including Kherson city, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. He has called on Western allies to warn Russia against destroying the plant, demanding that it be treated ‘exactly the same as the use of weapons of mass destruction’, with resultant consequences for Russia. However, the West is highly unlikely to establish the dam as a red line akin to nuclear weapon use.
- The pro-war Russian Telegram channel Rybar published a video on 20 October showing the potential extent of flooding if the dam was destroyed. Russian sources have in recent days stepped up their accusations that Ukraine intends to destroy the dam, which as previously assessed could well be designed to cover Russia’s retreat across the Dnieper and distract from yet another major military setback (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 20 October).
- The military situation along the Bakhmut line remains broadly on-trend, with Russian sources claiming incremental gains to the south and east of Bakhmut town – none of which can be confirmed at this stage. Russian sources did, however, report that Ukrainian forces launched a counterattack near Ivanhrad, two miles (4km) southeast of Bakhmut, in an attempt to hold off Wagner Group forces to enable ‘Ukrainian strike groups’ to reposition along the frontline. However, this remains unconfirmed.
- In an interview with the Canadian CTV news channel, President Zelensky stated that to his knowledge Kyiv did not order the Crimean Bridge attack earlier this month, stating that ‘Russian domestic conflicts’ likely caused the explosion. Zelensky’s statement aligns with earlier statements by Ukrainian intelligence that claimed factional infighting was the cause, but this remains unlikely.
- The White House on 20 October stated that it has intelligence that confirms a small number of Iranian military personnel are in occupied Crimea to provide on-the-ground training and direct assistance in piloting Iranian-supplied drones to hit civilian targets in Ukraine. Despite official Iranian denials, mounting evidence indicates that Tehran is taking an increasingly direct role in the war in Ukraine – including an accidental acknowledgement of this by a Russian Ministry of Defence Public Council member while live on air. This has led several Western countries to implement new sanctions on Iran – including most recently UK and EU asset and travel bans on 20 October.
- On 20 October, Hromov at the General Staff stated that he believes there is now a growing threat of Russian and Belarusian forces ‘resuming the offensive on the northern border’, but that the threat is now mostly directed at the western part of the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. According to Hromov, Russian and Belarusian forces may attempt to launch offensive action in a bid to ‘cut the main logistics arteries of supplying weapons […] to Ukraine from partner countries’. Despite Hromov’s assessment, however, we still maintain that Russia and Belarus do not currently retain the capabilities to do so. The uptick in Belarusian rhetoric and very public announcements about increased Russian deployments to the country is still most likely aimed at fixing Ukrainian forces at the border, rather than indicating any imminent threat of a new front along the northern border. Nevertheless, long-range strikes, including ballistic and cruise missiles as well as kamikaze drones, will continue to be launched from Belarusian airspace against targets in western Ukraine for the foreseeable future.
- Local authorities in Kyiv have once again ordered energy restrictions and rolling blackouts across the oblast today, 21 October. The head of the Kyiv regional military-civilian administration Oleksiy Kuleba stated that further blackouts from 0920 hours (local time) were necessary as residents failed to reduce their consumption effectively yesterday. Kuleba reiterated the government’s appeal for all residents and businesses to reduce electricity consumption. The DTEK Kyiv Electric Power Network has published a new outage schedule where specific addresses can be searched to determine when a given location will be affected by blackouts.
- On 20 October, Vladimir Dzhabarov, Russia’s First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, suggested extending conscription to two-year military service, as had been the case in the past. Another State Duma deputy Alexei Chepa also raised the possibility of drafting women into the military, given the experience of the Israeli Defence Force. However, this morning, 21 October, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that any such discussions are taking place in the Kremlin and that there are currently no plans to expand conscription. However, this remains to be seen ahead of the delayed Autumn conscription cycle, which begins on 1 November. Expanding conscription rules would allow Russia to retain hundreds of thousands of service personnel and would support efforts to raise service personnel numbers in Ukraine.
On 20 October, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the House of Commons that on 29 September a Russian jet fighter released a missile near an unarmed British reconnaissance drone in international airspace over the Black Sea. Wallace stated that he raised the issue with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, who claimed on 10 October that it was an accidental launch due to a ‘technical malfunction’. Wallace has stated that he does not consider the incident to have been a deliberate escalation on the part of the Russians, seemingly accepting the technical malfunction explanation. Notably, however, British reconnaissance aircraft currently operating in the Black Sea are now flying with fighter escorts – a clear indication that despite the claims of accidental launch, the UK is taking the potential for further incidents seriously. One of the most important takeaways from the incident is that it confirms that back channels remain open between Russia and the West. Such military and diplomatic back channels will be of continued importance amid the threat of further escalation in Ukraine and growing nuclear rhetoric. This is particularly likely in the coming weeks if Russian forces suffer yet another defeat in Kherson oblast and/or Putin continues down his apparent ‘escalate to de-escalate’ strategy. While the prospects of serious Russia-West dialogue are likely to remain limited to crisis management and de-escalation channels, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is continuing to promote direct dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv. Today, 21 October, Erdogan announced that he intends to host talks between presidents Putin and Zelensky ‘in the near future’. He provided no further details, and it very much remains to be seen whether either president would agree to such talks given that both parties have effectively ruled out any negotiations with one another. On 4 October, Zelensky formally enacted a National Security Council decision into law that outlined the ‘impossibility of conducting negotiations with the President of the Russian Federation V. Putin’ (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 4 October). Nevertheless, Erdogan stated that Putin remains ‘much softer’ and is ‘more open’ to negotiations at present than at any other time since the invasion. This is highly likely a reflection of the current Russian strategy to hold the line ahead of the winter. Russian strategy would therefore likely benefit from a ceasefire to freeze the conflict over the winter and enable Russian forces to reconstitute their forces before launching fresh offensives in the spring. However, with Ukrainian forces launching their own fresh counter-offensives, the prospects of any ceasefire will remain very slim given that it would largely serve Russian interests.
Germany: Suspected arson at Ukrainian refugee shelter highlights elevated risk of targeted attacks against refugees. On 20 October, police confirmed that they were investigating a fire that destroyed a shelter for Ukrainian refugees the previous day, in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, as a suspected arson attack. The 14 residents living in the shelter along with three employees were unharmed. On 17 October a painted swastika was discovered at the entrance to the building, though police stated it remains unclear if the graffiti was connected to the fire. The incident comes amid ongoing weekly demonstrations in parts of eastern Germany – in particular Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia – some of which are distinctly pro-Russian and highly critical of the federal government’s support for Ukraine. While these protests continue, the risk of further targeted attacks on Ukrainian refugees and refugee shelters more generally will remain elevated.
20 Oct 22.
- An information blackout in southern Ukraine will make it difficult to ascertain the current situation on the Kherson frontline, but Ukrainian forces likely launched a counteroffensive along this axis on 19 October (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 19 October). Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russian occupation authorities in Kherson, claimed that Ukrainian forces began their offensive around 1200 hours (local time) on 19 October. According to Stremousov and other Russian forces, the Ukrainians have been attacking from Nova Kamianka and Duchany, on the eastern end of the front, towards Sukhanove (40km north of Nova Kakhovka). It remains unclear if Ukrainian forces have made any progress given that Russian sources claim they have repulsed these attacks.
- While the situation on the battlefield remains unclear, Russian occupation authorities have begun the ‘evacuation’ of civilians from Kherson city, with state television showing footage of civilians crossing the Dnieper River on newly constructed barges. Today, 20 October, UK Defence Intelligence reported that Russian authorities are likely seriously considering a major withdrawal of their forces from the western bank of the Dnieper River, following Army General Sergey Surovikin’s acknowledgement that ‘difficult decisions’ are ahead for his forces in Kherson.
- The presence of some of Russia’s ostensibly most elite fighting forces, including elements of the VDV airborne forces and elite naval infantry regiments, has suggested that the Kremlin had prioritised defending Kherson in recent months. Kharkiv oblast by comparison received very little in the way of reinforcements ahead of the Ukrainian Kharkiv counteroffensive in September. However, the appointment of Surovikin as overall commander of Russian forces in Ukraine could well have resulted in a reappraisal of the long-term viability of Russia’s position on the western bank of the Dnieper. The loss of Kherson city – the only oblast capital seized by Russian forces since the February invasion – would be a huge blow to Moscow. However, more fundamentally, its loss would ultimately threaten the long-term viability of Russia’s control over Crimea given the Crimea canal in Nova Kakhovka supplies fresh water to the peninsula.
- It remains to be seen whether Russia will withdraw, but it appears that senior Russian officials are at least setting informational conditions to mitigate the shock of yet another major military setback if it materialises. In addition, accusations that Ukraine is planning to target the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric dam could indicate that Russia plans to stage a false-flag operation that could ultimately justify a withdrawal. As reported yesterday, Stremousov had warned that such an attack would cause mass flooding, and such a false-flag operation could provide some cover for a Russian withdrawal – although mass flooding would of course complicate efforts to withdraw across the Dnieper River in an orderly fashion.
- On 19 October, a Russian media pundit alleged on national television that a nuclear device has been primed in Mykolaiv, which Ukrainian authorities will allegedly detonate and blame on Russia, to justify US military intervention in Ukraine. There are currently no indications to support this claim, and it is important to note that Russian state television has frequently hosted individuals that have made extremely implausible and/or bellicose claims about the war in Ukraine. As such, this accusation is not at present a reflection of an official Russian government claim. While a further military defeat in Kherson will increase the threat of an escalation, we still maintain that Russian use of a low-yield nuclear weapon remains unlikely at present. If the military situation for Russian forces rapidly deteriorates across multiple fronts, the threat will increase, and we will continue to actively monitor nuclear signals that could indicate a change in the threat environment.
- In eastern Ukraine, fighting has continued along the Donetsk-Luhansk-Kharkiv oblast border regions. Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) officials on 19 October reiterated earlier reports that their forces had retaken the village of Horobivka, 10 miles (16km) north-east of Kupiansk. Heavy fighting has also reportedly continued west of Kreminna, where Russian forces have been attempting to retake lost ground, though there has been no confirmed progress for either side over the last 24 hours. Much of the area remains heavily contested.
- Similarly, heavy fighting has also continued along the Bakhmut line further south, with Russian sources claiming incremental progress in and around Bakhmut town, which we cannot confirm.
- Despite Russia’s continual offensive efforts along the Bakhmut line and their shoring up of the Svatove-Kreminna defensive line, it appears that Russian forces are preparing for further setbacks and withdrawals in the east. The state-controlled Ria Novosti outlet reported on 19 October that engineering units of the Wagner Group are currently constructing a fortified ‘Wagner Line’ in the Donbas. According to an accompanying map, the fortified line will run from Svitlodarsk in Donetsk oblast, running north along the Luhansk-Donetsk oblast border roughly along the Bakhmut line, before meeting the Siverskyi Donets River and running along its southern banks to the pre-24 February line of contact north of Luhansk city. While the so-called ‘Wagner Line’ is reportedly aimed at protecting elements of Russia’s regular forces while Wagner forces take land around Bakhmut, the line could suggest contingency planning for the loss of a significant portion of territory taken in northern Luhansk oblast – including Severodonetsk and Svatove.
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin stated on 19 October that he has ordered Wagner commander Andrei Bogatov to create a ‘people’s militia’ in Belgorod to ‘defend the borders of the oblast’. The announcement is likely connected to one of the clauses in the martial law decree (see Forecast below), which enables local authorities in frontline regions to establish new territorial and civil defence measures – though the wording around these provisions remains vague and may prove to be yet another attempt at covert mobilisation. Prigozhin’s announcement could nevertheless also be a tacit acknowledgement that Russia does not currently retain significant forces in Belgorod oblast and is raising forces to strengthen the border to free up forces to redeploy to Ukraine.
- On 19 October, President Putin declared martial law in the four annexed regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, while implementing a new four-tier security threat readiness system across the Russian Federation. For further analysis, see the Forecast below.
- From today, 20 October, Ukrainian authorities have introduced nationwide power restrictions in response to sustained Russian attacks against the country’s energy infrastructure, which has destroyed or seriously damaged some 40 percent of Ukraine’s power generation capacity. The scheduled blackouts will take place between 0700-2200 hours (Kyiv time) but should not last more than four consecutive hours in any given location, as the blackouts will be spread across the country at alternate times in different regions. However, Ukraine’s state energy company Ukrenergo has warned that households and businesses could see two separate periods of four-hour blackouts today, including during the peak hours of 1700-2300 hours.
- President Zelensky confirmed on 19 October that his government is preparing various contingency scenarios to mitigate the impact of further energy instability – these plans notably include contingency planning in the event of a complete disabling of the electricity grid nationwide. Kyiv has stated that regular blackouts will remain a realistic scenario going forward if consumption is not dramatically reduced across the country.
- With the onset of winter and steadily plummeting temperatures, maintaining stable energy supplies during the heating season will be increasingly difficult for Ukrainian authorities. However, on 19 October, Spain announced it would send numerous electricity generators to Ukraine to assist, and numerous other states are likely to provide generators to mitigate electricity shortages over the winter. However, the Russian campaign is having an increasing impact on basic operations across the country, with no signs that the missile and kamikaze drone strikes against power plants will cease in the short term. Overnight strikes in Kryvih Rih caused ‘serious destruction’ at the city’s power generation facilities, while the Burshtyn Power Station in Ivano-Frankivsk oblast caught fire after strikes on 19 October.
- In addition, electricity instability will continue to have knock-on impacts on other Ukrainian critical services, including internet and telecommunications and water coverage. This morning, 20 October, the governor of Sumy oblast confirmed that the water supply has been cut off across the region. He directly appealed to local businesses to reduce electricity consumption today to help the energy system and avoid blackouts in the future. Meanwhile, internet connectivity fell to 81 percent of ordinary levels in Kyiv, with today’s and future blackouts likely to undermine internet access despite the continual funding of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network to Ukraine.
On 19 October, President Vladimir Putin issued two decrees following a meeting of the Security Council implementing various forms of martial law across Russian-controlled territory. The first decree imposed full martial law in the recently annexed regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The imposition of martial law in these regions is unlikely to result in any meaningful change, given that Russian occupation authorities had already been controlling the territories under de facto martial law conditions. As such, this merely establishes the legal justification for policies which occupation authorities have been utilising for many months.
However, the second decree is much more significant, as it has established a new four-tier system of ‘martial law readiness’ across the entire Russian Federation. The new system ranges from ‘maximum’, ‘medium’, ‘elevated’ and ‘basic’:
- ‘Maximum’ readiness equates to full martial law, which is currently only applied to the annexed territories.
- All Russian oblasts neighbouring Ukraine and the annexed territories (Belgorod, Bryansk, occupied Crimea, Krasnodar, Kursk, occupied Sevastopol, Voronezh, and Rostov oblasts) have been placed at ‘medium’ readiness, a form of ‘partial’ martial law.
- The rest of the Central and Southern Federal Districts, a large swathe of territory in western Russia including Moscow, have been placed under ‘elevated’ readiness, which is understood to be a slightly less serious regime with less scope for emergency powers. Notably, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has stated that his administration has no plans to invoke any of the decree’s provisions in the capital.
- And finally, the rest of the Russian Federation has been placed under the lowest ‘basic’ readiness level, meaning that a form of less draconian ‘partial’ martial law is now in place across the country.
Putin’s decree has provided local authorities with a wide range of potential emergency powers, depending on the readiness level of a given region. Local authorities will reportedly have until 22 October to submit proposals on how they will implement and use said powers – indicating that the implementation of the new readiness system will be highly variable and dependent upon local interpretations. The most immediate impact will nevertheless be felt in the regions under the ‘medium’ readiness level, where local authorities have been granted a range of powers to ‘protect public order’, including the forced ‘temporary resettlement’ of local populations, curfews and movement controls. Most significantly for business operations across the country, the decrees also set provisions for a significant expansion of economic mobilisation. Clause 3(e) in particular has granted ‘medium’ readiness authorities to ‘introduce control over the work of facilities that ensure the functioning of transport, media and communications, the work of printing houses, computer centres and automated systems, for the needs of defence’. This ambiguous clause has effectively provided authorities with legal authority to seize enterprises deemed vital for the war effort and place them under state control. The decrees have furthermore set the legal conditions for further expansions of martial law and emergency powers across the country in the future, including potentially short-notice border closures. As such, the martial law decrees have set the legal precedent for a much more openly repressive state going forward, with arbitrary arrest, raids, censorship, movement controls, seizure of assets and greater state intervention in the economy increasingly likely under the guise of supporting the war effort.
Ukraine-Russia: Introduction of martial law in four occupied regions will increase Russian control over critical services, set conditions for wider economic mobilisation. On 19 October, a presidential decree approved by Russia’s Federation Council formally introduced martial law in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, which Russia illegally annexed earlier this month. The decree also imposes a series of alert readiness levels across the entire Russian Federation. These will incrementally restrict movement and transport across each region, affording Russia’s military broad powers of arrest and detention to support Moscow’s war efforts. The impact of martial law will be highly dependent on the level of alert that a given region is placed under. However, the decree universally expands the provisions for economic mobilisation across the country and will likely result in increased state intervention in the economy and over critical services. Indeed, it will set the condition for short-notice border closures if this is deemed necessary at a later date.
Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan: Accusations of military build-up raise threat of resumed border clashes. On 19 October, Tajik security forces accused Kyrgyzstan of deploying military equipment and digging trenches along the countries’ shared border, as well as violating its air space. Tensions have steadily risen between the two sides despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement in September 2022 following a short period of intense fighting along the border. The agreement ensured that Kyrgyz and Tajik troops would withdraw heavy military equipment, so as to reduce the prospect of either side initiating hostilities. However, following the most recent accusations, Kyrgyzstan asked the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to deploy peacekeeping troops to enforce the ceasefire. While statements from each side regarding alleged escalations amount only to accusations, they retain the potential to trigger further border clashes – particularly as Russia is unlikely to be able to intervene in a stabilising capacity due to its war in Ukraine.
19 Oct 22.
- On 18 October, the new commander of Russia’s operations in Ukraine, General Sergey Surovikin, acknowledged on Russian television that the situation for his troops remains ‘tense’ across Ukraine. He underlined that the situation in Kherson oblast in particular was ‘very difficult’ and warned that his forces would face ‘difficult decisions’ depending on military developments in the coming days and weeks, a potential allusion to possible further Russian withdrawals.
- Subsequent statements by Russian-installed Kherson officials have underlined the deteriorating situation for Russian forces in Kherson ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive. On 18 October, the Russian-installed governor of Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, stated that between 50-60,000 inhabitants of Kherson city will be evacuated (effectively deported) across the Dnieper river in anticipation of a Ukrainian assault. Saldo also reported earlier on 19 October that the occupying leadership in Kherson has decided to relocate across the Dnieper due to the anticipated counter-offensive. The deputy governor, Kirill Stremousov, claimed that Ukrainian forces have been massing to the north of the city and could launch an attack at any point. He claimed that Ukraine is planning to attack and destroy the Nova Khakovka hydroelectric dam, and that there is therefore a high risk of extensive flooding along the Dnieper. He claimed that if the attack is successful, water levels in two unnamed districts of Kherson city could rise by one metre.
- Earlier on 19 October, Kyiv announced a total news blackout in the south of Ukraine. Given that the authorities issued similar blackouts before previous counter-offensives, this is the strongest indicator that Ukraine is indeed planning to launch a major assault in the coming hours. This will likely confuse the situation in the coming days, though Ukraine has always prioritised operational security, particularly in the south.
- While the success of any potential counter-offensive remains to be seen, the highly unusual acknowledgement of difficulties by Russia’s new commander is likely an attempt to prepare local and Russian populations for the possibility of serious military setbacks in Kherson. It is likely also a tacit acknowledgement of Russia’s increasingly tenuous position on the western bank of the Dnieper. Russian sources have supported this assessment over the last 24 hours, with unconfirmed reports of Ukrainian build-ups across the entire Kherson frontline, including to the north-west of Kherson city. Various Russian sources claim that their forces repelled Ukrainian attacks in the vicinity of Kherson city yesterday, though these could well have been reconnaissance missions or probing attacks to test Russian defences ahead of a broader counter-offensive.
- The head of Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR), Major General Kyrylo Budanov, stated on 18 October that his agency anticipates ‘significant victories’ for Kyiv by the end of the year, including the reclamation of Kherson city. Reflecting growing Ukrainian confidence, Budanov also stated that Russia’s loss [of the war] is ‘inevitable’, and that Ukrainian operations to liberate all occupied territory, including Crimea, will be completed by next summer. Despite this growing confidence and the recent battlefield victories over Russian forces, further Russian defeats will increase the threat of escalation (see the Forecast below for further analysis).
- Elsewhere on the ground in Ukraine, Ukrainian forces continue to consolidate their control over positions east of the Oskil river. Reports from the Ukrainian General Staff on 18 October indicated that Ukraine has taken Kotlyarivka, located about 17 miles (28km) north-west of Svatove. This would confirm that Ukraine has made further progress south-east of Kupiansk along the N-26 highway running south towards Svatove. However, Russian sources also claimed on 18 October that their forces retook Horobivka, a settlement located about ten miles (16km) north-east of Kupiansk near the Oskil river crossing at Dvorichna. However, these claims remain unconfirmed at present.
- Notably, the Ukrainian General Staff also reported on 18 October that Russian forces conducted an unsuccessful ground attack against the village of Ohirtseve, located just over a mile (2km) south of the Russian border in northern Kharkiv oblast. Importantly, it is situated on the western side of the Oskil river. The limited attack could be aimed at maintaining pressure on Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv and dissuading them from redeploying to support counter-offensive operations in the south. At present, it remains unclear what forces Russia has been able to mass around Belgorod which could threaten the Ukrainian flank west of the Oskil. However, given the overall military picture and Surovikin’s announcement yesterday, any forces they have kept in reserve are likely to be highly degraded.
- On 18 October, numerous Iranian military and government officials openly confirmed that Tehran has agreed to ship surface-to-surface ballistic missiles to Russia, alongside additional drones. It is the first time Tehran has openly acknowledged its growing involvement in the war in Ukraine, and is highly likely to result in swift calls in the West for extensive new sanctions to be placed on the Iranian regime. According to Iranian officials, a deal was signed on 6 October when members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) visited Moscow. Tehran will now supply Russia with Fateh and Zolfaghar family ballistic missiles, which have a range of 186 miles (300km) and 435 miles (700km) respectively. As previously assessed, these missiles will enable Russia to mitigate the diminishing stockpiles of its own ballistic missiles and enable continued low intensity strikes against Ukraine throughout the winter (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 17 October). Iranian officials claimed that the first shipments will take place within a ‘maximum of ten days’.
- According to Budanov, the first batch of Shahed-136 drones provided to Russia numbered around 1,750 units, though he claims Ukrainian air defences have shot down 70 percent of that number to date. Interdiction rates of Iranian-produced ‘kamikaze’ drones remain very high across Ukraine, though their numbers and relative cheapness are succeeding in penetrating Ukrainian defences to strike at targets across the country. Nevertheless, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed on 18 October that the alliance will deliver anti-drone air defence systems to Ukraine in the coming days to increase Ukraine’s capability to limit the effectiveness of kamikaze drone strikes – strikes which have played a large role in destroying around 30 percent of the country’s power stations over the last week.
- Earlier on 19 October, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence stated that it had begun summoning citizens to check their eligibility for military service, though it stated that it is not planning to introduce mobilisation. The ministry maintains that the ongoing military registrations are ‘strictly routine’ and will be completed by the end of the year. The announcement follows unconfirmed reports last week indicating that a covert mobilisation will begin in Belarus under the guise of a ‘military capability test’. Given today’s announcement, these reports appear to be highly credible. However, as previously assessed, it is notable that Minsk is taking great strides to ensure that its military activities, including the establishment of a new ‘joint regional grouping’ of forces with Russia, are broadcasted. This reiterates our assessment that such activity is primarily designed to serve political and deterrence purposes, rather than indicating that Belarus will enter the war or that there will be a significant change to the balance of military capabilities along Ukraine’s northern border. Please see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 17 October for further analysis.
- On 18 October, Ukraine’s parliament voted in favour of recognising the ‘Chechen Republic of Ichkeria’ as ‘temporarily Russian-occupied territory’. The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria was the name of an Islamic self-proclaimed state in the Russian Chechen Republic which achieved de facto independence from Russia following the First Chechen War (1994-1996). The Second Chechen War (1999-2009) resulted in the reintegration of the republic into the Russian Federation, but only after a prolonged Islamist and Chechen nationalist insurgency concluded in 2009. The region has since remained highly volatile, with Putin loyalist Ramzan Kadyrov ruling the republic with a considerable degree of autonomy and ruthlessness that has largely curtailed nascent Islamist and separatist agitation.
- For the past year, we have been closely monitoring the potential for a rise in Islamist agitation across not only Chechnya but the wider Northern Caucasus. We have already assessed that NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and anti-mobilisation unrest in neighbouring Dagestan is likely to provide fertile ground for Islamist groups to exploit growing anti-Moscow resentment and increase recruitment and radicalisation efforts (see Sibylline Extremism Quarterly Q4 2021 and Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 27 September for further analysis). Ukraine’s recognition of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as occupied territory is likely to add further impetus to this trend and could well trigger an uptick in Islamist and separatist recruitment in the region – particularly given that Kadyrov’s paramilitary security forces (the so-called ‘Kadyrovtsy’) have largely deployed to Ukraine. We will continue to monitor the situation closely. Recruitment and radicalisation efforts will possibly reinforce the growing likelihood of Moscow declaring a counter-terrorism operation across Russia, especially as Kyiv is now openly attempting to destabilise the Russian Federation and appeal to ethnic minorities to resist Moscow’s decrees (see Forecast below).
- In a related development, Moldova’s defence minister, Anatolie Nosatîi, stated on 18 October that Chisinau would decree mobilisation if the current fighting in Ukraine shifted dramatically towards its borders. The announcement comes as Moldova attempts to improve its very limited military capabilities to deter Russian aggression. Romanian and British troops are currently engaged in a training operation in southern Moldova until 21 October. The announcement and training exercise have already elicited condemnation from various Russian figures, though it should be noted that Russia does not currently retain the capabilities to attack Moldova in force – particularly if a Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kherson materialises in the coming days. Nevertheless, the announcement will increase the likelihood of domestic pro-Russian agitation across the country, including potential bomb scares, anti-government unrest or false-flag operations along the Transnistrian border.
Later on 19 October, President Vladimir Putin is due to hold a virtual meeting of the Russian Security Council, with an extended meeting of Russia’s Federation Council taking place afterwards according to the council’s chairperson, Valentina Matvienko. The Federation Council’s meeting is due to take place from 1700 hrs (local time) following the Security Council meeting – an unusual time schedule that could indicate follow-up proceedings by the upper house to rubber stamp a potential announcement by Putin. The Kremlin has emphasised that the Security Councill meeting is a normal ‘weekly operational meeting’. However, there has been extensive speculation across the Russian information space and social media that Putin will use the meeting to make a major announcement. The Security Council meeting will reportedly consider issues around migration, leading to speculation that Putin could announce border closures or even martial law. Martial law remains unlikely at this stage, though border closures and/or the announcement of a counter-terrorism operation remain realistic possibilities given the trends we have monitored over the last few weeks. While a major announcement remains to be seen, the UK’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, made a short-notice visit to the US for discussions with his counterpart, Lloyd Austin, and other White House officials on the situation in Ukraine. While it is unclear what has triggered the last-minute meeting, the UK’s deputy defence minister, James Heappey, stated on 18 October that the conversations involving Wallace were ‘beyond belief’. The Foreign Office stated this remark is in relation to the uptick in attacks targeting civilians in Ukraine, and that it remains unclear if any new intelligence has come to light regarding the upcoming Security Council meeting or further escalation. The situation in Kherson will likely be a key military indicator to watch in the coming days; we previously assessed that further Russian conventional battlefield losses will increase the threat of escalation, especially as Putin’s options continue to narrow.
- Pro-Russia cyber campaigns-maintained pace during this monitoring period, with the majority of the publicly-reported incidents remaining targeted against Western nation-states providing support to the Ukrainian government. While DDoS attacks continue to be the preferred modus operandi for pro-Russian hacktivists groups, the rudimentary nature of these cyber attacks has limited their ability to cause long-term disruptions. Nevertheless, there is a realistic probability that the DDOSIA crowdfunding project will increase the frequency of disruptive cyber attacks launched by pro-Russian threat actors by providing them with much-needed funding.
- Meanwhile, the cyber operations launched by pro-Kyiv hacking groups, such as the IT Army of Ukraine, have remained focused on disrupting the Russian military’s partial mobilisation of troops into Ukraine and spreading unrest amongst general Russian citizens by targeting critical infrastructure, such as power substations. Further pro-Kyiv cyber campaigns are highly likely to emerge over the coming three months, especially with concerns over Moscow’s partial mobilisation partially tipping the balance of the conflict in favour of Russia set to persist through the upcoming winter period.
Pro-Russian politically motivated cyber campaigns will persist, with DDoS attacks posing the greatest threat to NATO member state-based organisations
- On 15 October, Bulgaria’s Chief Public Prosecutor Ivan Geshev disclosed via Twitter that several Bulgarian government installations was been targeted by Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks. While Geshev refrained from attributing this cyber campaign to one specific actor, initial investigations revealed that the internet traffic originated from Magnitogorsk, Russia. While Deputy Chief Prosecutor and Director of the National Investigation Borislav Sarafov has refrained from attributing this cyber campaign to a specific cyber actor, the pro-Russian hacktivist group Killnet claimed responsibility for it via its Telegram channel.
- On 14 October, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) disclosed that transport and logistics organisations in Poland and Ukraine were being targeted with a new ransomware strain. This variant, known as Prestige, was first detected on 11 October and utilised tactics rarely used against Ukrainian organisations, namely deploying malicious payloads across the victims’ enterprise networks. MSTIC has refrained from attributing this latest campaign to any specific actor. Nevertheless, this activity shares notable similarities with the victimology of cyber attacks launched by Russian state-linked hacking groups as a part of the Ukraine conflict, specifically those targeted by the Hermetic Wiper malware. If the links to the Russian government are proven, this latest campaign would be consistent with Moscow’s targeting of people and organisations located In Ukraine and/or NATO member states that are supporting Kyiv (see Sibylline Cyber Daily Analytical Update – 16 August 2022).
- 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.
Pro-Ukraine groups continue to target Russia-based organisations supporting Moscow’s war efforts
- On 18 October, the IT Army of Ukraine, a pro-Kyiv hacking group with alleged links to the Ukrainian government, claimed responsibility for a DDoS attack launched against more than 70 Russian stores. These online stores reportedly sold Russian military uniforms and were located in ten different regions, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, and Voronezh. The duration of these cyber attacks differed per target but on average they lasted several hours, with some experiencing disruptions that lasted several days. These cyber attacks appear to be in response to the ongoing partial mobilisation of Russian citizens to support Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine and are aimed at temporarily delaying Russian troop and supply mobilisation.
- On 15 October, the IT Army of Ukraine claimed that they launched several malicious cyber attacks against a power substation in St. Petersburg’s Krasnogvardeysky and Kalininsky districts that resulted in temporary power outages. While the pro-Kyiv threat actor has refrained from providing additional details of this incident, the duration of this cyber attack and the level of disruption caused indicates it was likely a DDoS attack. Local St. Petersburg authorities have declined to comment on the IT Army of Ukraine’s allegations and instead claim that the power outage was caused by an “accident” at the substation.
- On 18 October, Arne Schoenbohm, the president of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) was fired with immediate effect and disciplinary proceedings started after news emerged that the consultancy he co-founded before becoming cybersecurity chief has worked with companies linked to Russian security services. Schoenbohm co-founded the Cyber Security Council Germany in 2012, a lobbying firm advising private companies as well as authorities on cybersecurity matters. The organisation had Protelion amongst its members, a subsidiary of a Russian company founded by a former KGB spy, with alleged ties to Russia’s security services.
The threat to Western nation-states supporting Ukraine against Russia’s conventional and cyber activities, particularly NATO member states, has continued to increase during the previous monitoring period. While pro-Russian cyber threat actors are likely to target Western states’ critical infrastructure, including government agencies or energy firms, with a wide range of cyber activity, the most frequently used cyber attack will likely remain DDoS. These cyber actors’ growing utilisation of this attack vector is highlighted by the DDoS attacks launched against the Bulgarian government agencies’ websites, the latest in a series of Western government agencies to be targeted by the pro-Russian hacktivist group such as Killnet. While these unsophisticated cyber attacks will likely only cause temporary disruptions (a few hours to days), there is a realistic probability that the DDOSIA project started by NoName057(16) will increase the frequency with which these disruptive cyber operations are launched by providing Russia-aligned actors with more consistent funding. All Western, and particularly NATO member states, countries will remain exposed to pro-Russian DDoS attacks over the coming six months. However, the cyber attack against Bulgarian government agencies’ websites underscores that these disruptive cyber operations will most likely occur in response to a political decision by the targeted nation-state. Indeed, the cyber attacks against Bulgaria followed Sofia’s decision to provide additional humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including financial support, and winter clothing/footwear, on 12 October. While pro-Russian cyber attacks could emerge during other periods as well, the days following Western governments’ public announcement of support for Ukraine, either financially or militarily, will represent the most likely flashpoint for any malicious pro-Russian hacktivist attacks to take place. Government agencies and critical infrastructure operators, such as in the telecoms, energy, and technology sectors, will be the most at risk for these cyber campaigns.
18 Oct 22.
- There have been few confirmed developments in eastern Ukraine over the last 24 hours. Ukrainian forces seemingly continue to consolidate their positions as part of likely preparations for further counteroffensive operations in the near future. Russian sources claimed on 17 October that Ukrainian forces near Kupiansk are preparing to push eastwards towards the town of Nyzhna Duvanka, located about 11 miles (17km) north of Svatove, though this remains to be seen. To the west of Kreminna, Russian forces have continued to launch ground attacks aimed at retaking lost positions along the eastern bank of the Zherebets river. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that their forces successfully repulsed a Russian attack against Torske, located about 11 miles (17km) west of Kreminna.
- Further south, intense fighting continues to rage along the Bakhmut line, with the Ukrainian General Staff reporting numerous Russian assaults against a large number of settlements to the east and north-east of Bakhmut, as well as inside Bakhmut town itself. No confirmed Russian progress has been made over the last 24 hours, though various Russian sources claim that Ukrainian units are taking heavy casualties in the area. Notably, Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin stated earlier this week that Ukrainian forces are putting up ‘decent resistance’, and dismissed speculation of an imminent Ukrainian withdrawal discussed among Russian sources as a mere rumour. Prigozhin has also claimed that his Wagner Group forces are the only ones currently fighting around Bakhmut, denying the presence of Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) 1st Army Corps forces.
- On the southern Kherson front, limited information continues to confuse the situation on the ground. This follows previous reports that Ukraine had launched a widespread counteroffensive between Davydiv Brid in the west and Dudchany in the east. On 17 October, Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) published a phone intercept that purported to show a Russian soldier claiming that Ukrainian forces will conduct renewed counteroffensive operations in the coming days. Russian sources claim that Ukrainian forces had attempted to push south from Dudchany towards Mylove and Piatykhatky on 17 October, though this remains unconfirmed.
- A Russian Su-34 jet crashed into a residential building in the Russian city of Yeysk on the Sea of Azov coast on 17 October, resulting in at least 13 deaths. Russian authorities have blamed a technical fault for causing the crash.
- On 17 October, NATO began its pre-planned annual nuclear deterrence drills in Western Europe. Exercise ‘Steadfast Noon’ will involve 14 countries and comprise mainly of training flights over Belgian, British and North Sea airspace. The drills will run until 30 October, and come amid increasing nuclear tensions between the alliance and Russia. For its part, Moscow is ramping up preparations for Russia’s Grom (‘Thunder’) nuclear exercises, which are traditionally carried out in late October (see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 14 October).
- On 17 October, the European Parliament approved the timetable for a debate on whether to recognise Russia as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’. The debate is now due to take place at the 21-24 November session. In the run-up to the vote, Moscow is highly likely to claim that numerous incidences of Ukrainian ‘terrorist activity’ occurred inside both Russia and the occupied territories. Accusations by Russia that Ukraine is a state sponsor of terror are particularly likely if MEPs vote in favour of the resolution, which they are likely to do.
- On 17 October, the major US oil company ExxonMobil confirmed that it has now left the Russian market. This follows months of discussions with Moscow, which resulted in the expropriation of ExxonMobil’s 30 percent stake in the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project in eastern Siberia. The company did not specify whether it had received any compensation for its seized assets, which were valued at over USD 4 bn, or whether it will contest the seizure in an international arbitration court. The incident is the latest example of Moscow expropriating Western assets in Russia’s energy sector. Notably, the Kremlin had already seized ExxonMobil’s shares in Sakhalin-1 on 7 October, transferring them to a government-controlled entity.
- Numerous other Western energy majors have already left Russia under similar circumstances, including BP, Equinor Shell and TotalEnergies. India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Japan’s SODEDO have expressed interest in continual involvement in Sakhalin-1, though it will remain at the discretion of the Kremlin whether either of these firms will be able to buy shares in the new Russian entity controlling the project. Either way, ExxonMobil’s exit underlines the diminishing likelihood that Western energy firms will be able to re-enter the Russian market under current conditions for the foreseeable future.
- Mykolaiv has suffered particularly heavy bombardment in recent days. Together with Zaporizhzhia city, Mykolaiv constitutes a key urban target for Russian forces nearest the frontline. Most notably, the Mykolaiv Oblast Military Administration confirmed on 17 October that Russian missiles struck sunflower oil containers being prepared for exports at Mykolaiv port. The strikes came after suggestions by Moscow that Russia could withdraw from the agricultural export deal which has facilitated Ukrainian exports through the Black Sea for several months. As the renewal date (22 November) for the deal approaches, further attacks against agricultural and port infrastructure are likely as Russia seeks to extract concessions during negotiations for the deal’s renewal.
- On 17 October, Russia and Ukraine’s latest prisoner swap saw 108 Ukrainian female prisoners exchanged for 110 Russians. The Ukrainian women had reportedly been in jail since 2019 after separatist authorities arrested them in the Donbas. Among the Russian prisoners were 72 sailors who had worked on commercial vessels and who were held in custody since the February invasion. A number of high-profile prisoner exchanges have taken place in recent weeks, even as both Kyiv and Moscow double down on their negotiating positions. The fact that such deals are being made successfully clearly indicates that at least low-level communication continues to take place between Russian and Ukrainian authorities. However, it does not currently change our assessment that serious ceasefire negotiations remain highly unlikely in the short term.
Russia’s long-range campaign against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure is set to continue for the foreseeable future, with renewed strikes over the last 24-48 hours causing widespread disruption across the country. Earlier on 18 October, President Zelensky confirmed that 30 percent of the country’s power stations have been destroyed since 10 October. Two missiles struck a power supply facility in Zhytomyr, causing power blackouts and water outages in the city. Furthermore, three missiles hit power facilities in the Desnianskyi district of Kyiv, while energy facilities in Dnipro also suffered ‘serious damage’ earlier on 18 October, causing widespread power and water outages. One of the water pumps at the Dniprovodokanal water utility site in Dnipro has lost power, resulting in water supply issues on the left bank of the Dnieper river. The systematic targeting of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is unlikely to ease any time soon, and is setting conditions for a prolonged low-intensity campaign aimed at undermining Ukraine’s energy security throughout the winter. Zelensky has called for a dramatic increase in air defence support from the West, and the US Department of Defense confirmed on 17 October that it is currently trying to speed up the delivery of two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) to Ukraine. The US has so far pledged eight NASAMS to Ukraine, with other Western allies also pledging to step up air defence support following the 10 October strikes. Ultimately, diminishing stocks of high-precision cruise missiles means Moscow cannot sustain intense nationwide bombardments indefinitely. However, it retains sufficient reserve stocks and is sourcing increasing numbers of Iranian alternatives to enable sporadic high-intensity and continuous lower-intensity strikes for the foreseeable future. Energy and other critical infrastructure will remain key targets for Russian ‘kamikaze’ drones and conventional missile strikes throughout the winter. However, residential areas will also continue to be targeted as Russia aims to terrorise local inhabitants in a bid to show that the war remains nationwide. Georgia: Influx of Russians may lead to visa change, but country will remain key jurisdiction for Russian relocations for foreseeable future. On 17 October, Georgia’s president Salome Zurabishvili stated that Tbilisi may change its current liberal visa regime for Russian travellers. The country has faced an unprecedented level of inward migration from Russian since the invasion of Ukraine, with current legislation permitting individuals to stay for up to 365 days without a visa. Zurabishvili publicly described the volume of Russian citizens migrating as ‘a challenge’. However, any visa change will ultimately remain the decision of the Georgian Dream government, rather than the President. Georgian Dream has previously ruled out any changes to the visa programme regarding Russian citizens, and has received criticism from the opposition and Kyiv for maintaining cordial relations with Moscow. It remains to be seen whether there will be a policy shift, but Georgia will remain a key jurisdiction for companies to relocate their Russian staff for the foreseeable future.
Canada: Foreign minister announces sanctions against Russian individuals and entities promoting disinformation. On 17 October, the Canadian foreign minister announced that it will impose sanctions on 34 people for facilitating Russian disinformation and propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine. In addition to those individuals, Canada will also apply sanctions against state-owned television network, TV Zvezda, managed by the Russian Defence Ministry. Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly added that Russian disinformation has worked to undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity through state media proxies that ‘parrot President Putin’s ahistorical talking points’. The announcement coincides with the barrage of drone attacks on Kyiv. There are increasing reputational risks for organisations tied to sanctioned individuals or their assets, as government and public scrutiny seek out alleged complicity.
17 Oct 22.
- Over the weekend of 14-16 October, Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in eastern Ukraine and Kherson oblast, though limited reporting means confirmed progress is difficult to confirm. Much of the fighting remains concentrated to the west of Kreminna, where Russian forces launched a counterattack last week. The Ukrainian General Staff have reported that their forces have repelled numerous attacks against Terny and Torske (17km west of Kreminna), though some Russian sources claim Russian forces recaptured Terny. As such, the area remains contested, though Russian sources have also anticipated a renewed Ukrainian counteroffensive directed towards Kreminna and Svatove in the coming days. Severing the R-66 highway will likely remain a primary objective for Ukrainian forces before advancing on the towns themselves.
- On 16 October, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that the most intense fighting is currently taking place on the Bakhmut line, namely around Bakhmut and Soledar. Russian forces have continued to prioritise offensive operations along this axis in recent months, with Russian sources claiming various incremental advances last week – though Kyiv has refuted these claims and maintains that Ukrainian forces are currently holding the line. We cannot confirm these conflicting reports at present.
- On the southern Kherson frontline, Russian sources claimed on 15 October that Ukrainian forces launched a widespread counteroffensive across the full breadth of the northeastern Kherson axis. Ukrainian official and unofficial sources continue to maintain their operational silence, so we cannot confirm these most recent developments. Nevertheless, numerous Russian sources have reported that Ukrainian mechanised forces assaulted various points from Davydiv Brid in the northwest to Dudchany in the east. As previously reported, Beryslav is likely the primary target of any Ukrainian counteroffensive on this axis, given its strategic position on the western banks of the Dnieper just 7km northeast of Nova Khakovka and a critical hydroelectric dam crossing. Some Russian sources claim their forces have repelled all Ukrainian attacks, but the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, or if it has been launched at all, remains to be confirmed.
- Russian forces continued to launch long-range strikes and kamikaze drone attacks against various Ukrainian cities over the weekend, which Zaporizhzhia in particular suffering the most intense and sustained bombardment. However, this morning, 17 October, numerous waves of kamikaze drones attacked Kyiv, with residential blocks targeted. The Ukrainian Air Force claims it has shot down at least 11 Shahed-136 drones across northern and central Ukraine this morning.
- On 14 October, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov claimed that Russia had 609 high-precision missiles remaining from its pre-war stockpile of 1,844. We cannot confirm these numbers, and we currently do not know to what extent the Russian defence industry has stepped up production since the invasion. However, what is clear is that Moscow cannot sustain intense nationwide bombardments indefinitely, with President Putin confirming on 14 October that there was no need for further large-scale strikes given that all 29 targets had allegedly been hit. Given these diminishing stocks, Russian forces are likely to rely increasingly on cheap kamikaze drones, including Iranian-produced Shahed-136s.
- President Zelensky claims that Russia has placed an order for a further 2,400 Shahed-136 drones, which would likely provide Russia with significant capability to continue striking Ukrainian targets for the foreseeable future. Indeed, on 15 October, unconfirmed reports of ‘leaked’ information from Iranian sources claimed that Russia has bought an unspecified number of Iranian Arash-2 drones, which are allegedly faster, more destructive and have a greater range than Shahed-136s. US and NATO intelligence officials cited in the Washington Post also claimed on 16 October that Iran is preparing to begin shipments of short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles (including Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar missiles, with a 300 and 700-kilometre range respectively). This would go some way to boosting Russian missile stocks and would enable continual low-intensity bombardment of Ukrainian cities over the winter. Iran continues to deny that they have supplied any weapons to Russia to use in Ukraine.
- On 14 October, President Putin stated that Russia’s partial mobilisation will end ‘in about two weeks’, with a total of 220,000 reservists having been called up – notably down from the original 300,000 figure originally ordered by the Kremlin. According to Putin, 16,000 mobilised reservists are already involved in combat missions. Putin also confirmed that reservists will receive a standardised training schedule involving 5-10 days of ‘initial training’, and 5-15 days of training with combat units, before being deployed directly to combat missions. The timing is notable given that the mobilisation is now due to end at the same time as the delayed Autumn conscription cycle is due to begin, on 1 November. This likely reflects the inability of the Russian military bureaucracy to conduct its regular conscription cycle and train additional reservists at the same time. This in turn is also a likely indication that Moscow would be unable to effectively issue total mobilisation even if it wished to do so, which it does not at present.
- The Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) placed a USD 100,000 bounty on the head of former FSB officer and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) official Igor Strelkov (real name Girkin). According to the GUR, ‘it is known that [Strelkov] has decided to renew his participation in the war against our state’. Strelkov’s very active Telegram channel (now with over 750k followers) has not posted anything since 10 October, except for an image of himself in military fatigues – supporting the GUR’s assessment that he may now be actively participating in the war effort. Strelkov remains a highly influential figure whose views and criticism of how the war has been conducted has to a large extent reflected the views of the wider pro-war, hardliner community inside Russia.
- Over the weekend of 15-16 October, numerous states traditionally close to Moscow issued warnings to their citizens to leave Ukraine. On 15 October, the Chinese Foreign Ministry called for their citizens to leave, and will facilitate their evacuation due to the ‘grim security situation’. Similarly, traditional Russian allies Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Serbia have issued similar warnings, with Serbia temporarily suspending their embassy in Kyiv ‘until the conditions for returning to Ukraine are met’. Given all of these states traditionally retain strong lines of communication with Moscow, it remains unclear whether the announcements are in response to any given intelligence or warning from the Kremlin, or whether they are responding more broadly to the intensification of missile strikes over the last week.
- Russian missile and kamikaze drone attacks have continued to undermine Ukrainian electricity networks, though Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal stated on 16 October that despite Russia’s recent attacks, Ukraine’s energy systems remain resilient. Nevertheless, attacks over the last 24 hours have left areas of Sumy and Dnipropetrovsk oblast without power, while blackouts in Kharkiv have led to a renewed suspension of the metro. This morning’s kamikaze strikes against Kyiv have also damaged numerous energy facilities in and around the capital. The Russian Ministry of Defence this morning, 17 October, claimed their forces had launched large-scale high-precision strikes against ‘military command and control facilities and the energy system’, further reinforcing the Kremlin’s prioritisation of targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
- On 16 October, President Zelensky called on Ukrainians to reduce electricity consumption during peak evening hours 17:00-23:00, particularly those in Kyiv oblast, which is likely to increasingly impact business operations over the winter as electricity stability decreases. Ukrainian forces have nevertheless launched apparent retaliation strikes against Russian energy infrastructure, with an oil refinery and electric substations in Belgorod oblast causing temporary power cuts across the region in recent days.
- The loss of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has deprived Ukraine of a significant portion of its electrical output, which will continue to exacerbate Ukrainian energy insecurity for the foreseeable future. However, in the meantime, the situation around the plant itself remains tense. Fighting around the plant has meant external power has once again been cut as of this morning, 17 October, while Russian officials claim their forces have repelled two Ukrainian ‘sabotage attempts’ against the plant in the last four days. The Ukrainian Resistance Centre also claimed on 16 October that part of the ZNPP is now under the control of the Special Rapid Response Unit Akhmat, a Chechen unit under the control of Ramzan Kadyrov. Russia continues to increase reporting of alleged Ukrainian sabotage attempts and plans to seize the plant militarily, and as such the ZNPP will remain one of the key trigger points for a potential escalation in the weeks ahead. However, our assessment remains that a catastrophic meltdown remains highly unlikely (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 18 August).
Following reports last week that Minsk had launched a counter-terrorism operation in Belarus, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka stated on 14 October that this has not occurred. Rather, his government has introduced a ‘regime of a heightened terrorist threat’. This appears to be a largely semantic distinction, and nevertheless supports our assessment that Russia and Belarus are still establishing a counter ‘terrorist’ threat narrative that will justify greater repression in the event of any unrest or ‘sabotage’ attempts. See Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 14 October for further analysis. In other Belarusian developments, on 15 October, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence confirmed that the first Russian troops due to form part of the new ‘joint regional grouping’ of forces arrived in Belarus. Despite other unconfirmed reports that Belarus was beginning covert mobilisation, and broader concerns that Belarus and Russia are planning to open up another front of the war north of Kyiv, our assessment has not changed, and we see no indications of an imminent threat to the north Ukrainian border. This most recent deployment of Russian forces in Belarus has been publicised by Minsk at various points, with significant media attention and statements from Minsk hardly conducive to a clandestine military build-up designed to take the Ukrainians by surprise and open up a new front in the war. The number of Russian troops being deployed to Belarus is anticipated to be relatively small, and considering Belarus’ own extremely limited capability and the absence of Russian mechanised forces needed to sustain a major push towards Kyiv, the deployment will not seriously change the military balance along the northern Ukrainian border. Instead, the very publicly broadcasted deployment is much more likely to serve three key purposes:
- To keep the pressure on Ukrainian forces screening the northern border, and prevent their redeployment to support the more critical Donbas and Kherson counteroffensives;
- To boost Russian troop numbers inside Belarus to enhance domestic security capabilities – Minister for Emergency Situations Vadim Sinyavsky has placed specific emphasis on the growing need to enhance ‘civil defence’ capabilities and has reportedly armed employees of the Ministry in case of armed hostilities (which we can also read as armed insurrection or unrest);
- To support broader strategic deterrence activities vis-à-vis NATO and strengthen the western border of the ‘Union State’ in case of an escalation.
Belarus: Threat of joint Russian, Belarusian force opening new axis against Ukraine remains low. On 15 October, the first Russian service personnel deployed to partake in a new ‘joint regional grouping’ of forces arrived in Belarus. The joint force’s alleged mission is to strengthen the defence of the border, following claims by Belarus’ president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, last week that Ukraine may be planning to attack Belarus. Despite the rhetoric and deployment of Russian troops, our assessment has not changed. We have seen no indications of an imminent ground assault from the northern border, though the threat is growing from a low base. The very public announcement of the new force is highly likely aimed at drawing international attention, as opposed to building up forces clandestinely for a surprise attack. Furthermore, it is likely that the deployment of troops to Belarus is intended to shore-up domestic security, rather than to form an offensive force targeting Ukraine.
Ukraine-Poland: Russia-aligned cyber attacks targeting transport and logistics firms will persist as Moscow attempts to disrupt Ukrainian’s counteroffensive operations. On 14 October, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) disclosed that transport and logistics organisations in Poland and Ukraine were being targeted with a new ransomware strain. This variant, known as Prestige, was first detected on 11 October and utilised tactics rarely used against Ukrainian organisations, namely deploying malicious payloads across the victims’ enterprise networks. MSTIC has refrained from attributing this latest campaign to any specific actor. Nevertheless, this activity shares notable similarities with the victimology of cyber attacks launched by Russian state-linked hacking groups as a part of the Ukraine conflict, specifically those targeted by the Hermetic Wiper malware. If the links to the Russian government are proven, this latest campaign would be consistent with Moscow’s targeting of people and organisations located In Ukraine and/or NATO member states that are supporting Kyiv (see Sibylline Cyber Daily Analytical Update – 16 August 2022). Further destructive Russia-linked cyber attacks against transport entities based in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries are highly likely to emerge over the coming days as Moscow seeks to disrupt the Ukrainian military’s logistical support lines and halt the progress of its counteroffensive operations (see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 14 October 2022). (Source: Sibylline)
24 Oct 22. Russia hits Ukraine homes, evacuates Kherson, warns of escalation.
- Missile smashes into Mykolaiv apartment block
- Ukrainian forces on offensive in Kherson region
- Kherson is gateway to Russian-annexed Crimea
- Western nations reject Russia’s ‘dirty bomb’ accusation
MYKOLAIV, Ukraine, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Russia fired missiles and drones into the Ukrainian-held southern town of Mykolaiv, destroying an apartment block, and said the war was trending towards “uncontrolled escalation” in a flurry of telephone calls to Western defence ministers.
The strike on the shipbuilding town about 35 km (22 miles) northwest of the front line in Kherson came as Russia ordered 60,000 people to flee the region “to save your lives” in the face of a Ukrainian counter offensive.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed the “rapidly deteriorating situation” in phone calls with British, French and Turkish counterparts, the ministry said.
He also spoke by phone with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for the second time in three days. The Pentagon said Austin told Shoigu he “rejected any pretext for Russian escalation.”
Without providing evidence, Shoigu said Ukraine could escalate by using a “dirty bomb”, or conventional explosives laced with radioactive material.
Ukraine does not possess nuclear weapons, while Russia has said it could protect its territory with its nuclear arsenal.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba rejected the accusation as “absurd” and “dangerous”, adding: “Russians often accuse others of what they plan themselves.”
In a joint statement after the talks, Britain, France and the United States said they were committed to supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and rejected Russia’s warning about a “dirty bomb”.
“Our countries made clear that we all reject Russia’s transparently false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory,” they said.
“The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation.”
Sunday’s missile strike in Mykolaiv wiped out the top floor of the apartment block, sending shrapnel and debris across a plaza and into neighbouring buildings, Reuters witnessed. No fatalities were recorded.
“After the first blast, I tried to get out, but the door was stuck,” said Oleksandr Mezinov, 50, who was woken from his bed by the blasts. “After a minute or two, there was a second loud blast. Our door was blown into the corridor.”
On Sunday, Ukraine’s General Staff said anti-aircraft defences had shot down 12 of Russia’s Iranian-made Shahed-136 attack drones in the past 24 hours.
Tehran denies supplying the weapons to Russia.
Britain’s defence ministry said Russia was using the Iranian uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) to substitute for increasingly scarce Russian-made long-range precision weapons.
But Ukraine’s efforts to contain the UAVs have been successful, the ministry added on Monday in its Twitter update.
Ukraine’s advances in recent weeks around Kherson and in the country’s northeast have been met with intensifying Russian missile and drone attacks on civilian infrastructure, which have destroyed about 40% of Ukraine’s power system ahead of winter.
Russian troops have withdrawn from parts of the front and occupation authorities are evacuating civilians deeper into Russian-held territory before an expected battle for Kherson, the regional capital on the west bank of the Dnipro river.
Kherson is a gateway to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
“The situation today is difficult. It’s vital to save your lives,” Russian Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov said in a video message. “It won’t be for long. You will definitely return.”
Russia-installed authorities there reported insufficient vessels to ferry people across the river at one point on Sunday, blaming a “sharp increase in the number of people wishing to leave”.
About 25,000 people have been evacuated since Tuesday, the Interfax news agency said.
Ukraine’s military said it was making gains in the south, taking over at least two villages it said Russia had abandoned.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday its forces had kept up attacks on Ukraine’s energy and military infrastructure, destroyed a large ammunition depot in the central Cherkasy region, and repelled Ukrainian counter-offensives in the south and east.
Reuters could not independently verify the accounts.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the Russian attacks on energy infrastructure had struck on a “very wide” scale.
With the war about to start its ninth month and winter approaching, the potential for freezing misery loomed.
Volodymyr Kudritskiy, head of Ukraine’s national energy company, Ukrenergo, said power had been restored to more than 1.5 million customers after mass weekend attacks on energy targets.
Moscow denies targeting civilians in what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Ukraine also accused Russia of hampering a deal on grain exports via the Black Sea, saying its ports were working only at 25% to 30% capacity. (Source: Reuters)
21 Oct 22. Iranian trainers on the ground help Russia with Ukraine drone attacks, U.S. says.
- U.S. says it will deter Iran munitions supplies to Russia
- Tehran has denied drones are Iranian-made
- Ukrainians endure day of forced power cuts
The United States has said Iranian military trainers were in Crimea helping Russian forces operate Iranian-made drones to attack targets in Ukraine, adding an alarming strand to a war that has heightened geopolitical tensions.
Ukrainian citizens endured the first day of nationwide scheduled power outages since the war began eight months ago so repairs could be made to damaged or destroyed energy plants as winter approaches.
“We can confirm that Russian military personnel based in Crimea have been piloting Iranian UAVs and using them to conduct kinetic strikes across Ukraine, including in strikes against Kyiv in recent days,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told a daily briefing with reporters, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.
“We assess that … Iranian military personnel were on the ground in Crimea and assisted Russia in these operations,” Price said. He said “we do have credible information” but he did not provide evidence.
Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has used the southern peninsula to train soldiers and reopen Soviet-era military bases as part of the invasion of its neighbour.
There was no immediate public reaction from Tehran to the U.S. accusations but Iran has denied the drones are Iranian-made. Russia has also denied using Iranian drones in Ukraine.
Russia’s defence and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that Washington was going to pursue all means to “expose, deter and confront” Iran’s supply of munitions to Russia, including more sanctions, while also considering air defences for Ukraine.
European Union members have agreed on new measures against Iran, the bloc said, while Britain imposed sanctions on senior military figures and a firm it said were involved in the supply of Iranian drones to Moscow.
Russia and Iran have also been involved in the 11-year-long civil war in Syria, together supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Iran and Russia, they can lie to the world, but they certainly can’t hide the facts, and the fact is this: Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground,” Kirby said, without providing details.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter he had held detailed discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on a request for air and missile defence systems and technology. Lapid’s office said the Israeli leader expressed “deep concern” about the military connection between Iran and Russia.
BLACKOUTS IN UKRAINE
People across Ukraine were urged to use less power as the government enforced electricity curbs between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Thursday.
The first such restrictions since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion included blackouts in some areas, and followed a barrage of Russian attacks that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said had struck a third of all power plants.
“In order to restore the reliability of our energy system, several weeks will be needed,” said Volodymyr Kudritskiy, chairman of the board of national energy company Ukrenergo.
That estimate was conditional on a end to mass shelling, he said.
The northeast region of Sumy went without water and some grocery shops in the capital Kyiv reported brisk sales of bottled water.
“There is much anger against Russian leaders and Russian people,” said Kyiv resident Mikhaylo Holovnenko.
“But we are ready for outages. We have candles, charged power banks. Ukraine is charged to win.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected a training ground for mobilised troops in Ryazan, southeast of Moscow, and was shown firing a sniper rifle in footage apparently intended to show his backing for soldiers heading to fight in Ukraine.
Russia’s defence ministry said it was again targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure, a strategy it has stepped up since the appointment this month of Sergei Surovikin – nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media – as commander of what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
In video addresses on Thursday, Zelenskiy, without providing evidence, accused Russia of preparing to cause a large-scale disaster in southern Ukraine.
Ukraine has information that Russian forces have mined the dam and units of the Kakhovska hydroelectric power station, Zelenskiy asserted, adding that 80 settlements, including the city of Kherson, could experience rapid flooding.
The Ukrainian military reported fierce fighting in the Beryslav district as their forces press their advance towards Kherson city, the only regional capital Russian forces have captured. Control of Kherson gives Russia a land route to Crimea and the mouth of the Dnipro river, which bisects Ukraine.
Four people were killed when Ukrainian rocket artillery struck a ferry crossing in Kherson city late on Thursday, the Moscow-appointed deputy regional governor said. Authorities in the region which Russia proclaimed as annexed last month said this week they planned to evacuate up to 60,000 people over the next six days.
In the industrial eastern region of the Donbas, comprising Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, a Ukrainian counter-offensive was aimed at retaking the towns of Svatovo and Kreminna, Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian television. (Source: Reuters)
20 Oct 22. Russian air force patrols ally Belarus’ borders.
Russia’s air force held scheduled patrol flights at the borders of its ally Belarus on Thursday, Minsk said, as concerns remain that it could take a more active role in the Ukraine war.
Russia has deployed an enhanced task force of 9,000 troops and hundreds of pieces of military hardware to its neighbour after President Alexander Lukashenko said last week Belarus was at threat of attack from Ukraine.
“Right now, the Russian aviation component of the regional troop grouping is carrying out a scheduled patrol of the air borders of the Union State,” Belarus’ defence ministry said in a statement. The “Union State” is the name of a borderless customs-free zone between Russia and Belarus.
Russia used Belarus as a staging post for its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, deploying troops and equipment from there for its failed offensive on Kyiv in the early days of the war.
Belarus shares a 675-mile (1,085-kilometre) border with Ukraine and is less than 60 miles (100 kilometres) from the Ukrainian capital at its closest point.
While Lukashenko has repeatedly claimed Belarus is at risk of attack by Kyiv, he has so far not sent forces to fight alongside Russia, despite Ukrainian and Western concerns it may.
Ukraine denies it is a threat to Belarus.
In a separate incident, the head of the Belarus’ KGB domestic security agency said on Thursday they had arrested a Ukrainian spy and two Belarusian citizens on treason charges after the KGB said it had discovered they were trying to pass military information to Ukraine’s intelligence agencies. (Source: Reuters)
21 Oct 22. Ukraine war latest: Russia planted mines at a hydroelectric dam, says Zelensky. President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of planting mines at a hydroelectric dam in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, which is under the control of Moscow’s forces.
“According to our information, the aggregate and dam of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant were mined by Russian terrorists,” Mr Zelensky said in his daily address published on social networks.
“If the dam is destroyed… the North Crimean canal will simply disappear”, and this would be “a catastrophe on a grand scale”, he added.
Earlier on Thursday Mr Zelensky told the European Union that “Russia’s leadership has given the order to turn the energy system itself into a battlefield.”
Speaking via videolink he warned that would spur a new wave of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Europe.
“The consequences of this are very dangerous, again for all of us in Europe,” Mr Zelensky told EU leaders meeting in Brussels for a summit.
20 Oct 22. General Says Iranian Drones, Troops Operating in Ukraine. The Defense Department assesses that Iranians have been in Ukraine to assist Russia with the drone operation there, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a media briefing at the Pentagon today.
The department’s understanding is that Iranian military personnel are on the ground in Crimea assisting Russian military personnel to conduct these drone operations in Ukraine, he said.
Ryder noted that the department knows the drones are from Iran. However, the Iranians reportedly have denied shipping drones to be used against Ukraine.
“It’s just indicative of the kinds of rhetoric that you hear coming from Iran and from Russia, trying to say that these are not Iranian drones when they clearly are,” Ryder said.
“In many ways, these drones are used to, as psychological weapons used to create fear. But from an operational, from a strategic standpoint, it still doesn’t change the fact that Russian forces on the ground continue to lose territory or at best hold ground,” he said.
The department is going to continue to work with allies and partners to get security assistance to Ukraine as Ukrainians continue to fight and defend their country, he said.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has spoken recently to the Ukrainian minister of defense, as well as with allies and partners, about what can be done to continue to support Ukraine in areas like air defense and other needed capabilities, he added.
“We continue to see Iran be complicit in terms of exporting terror — not only in the Middle East region, but now also to Ukraine. And, so, I think that speaks for itself,” he said.
On a different topic, Ryder said the Air Force plans to unveil the nation’s newest strategic bomber aircraft — the B-21 Raider — on Dec. 2 at the Northrop Grumman Corporation’s production facilities in Palmdale, California.
“Raider will provide our nation with a formidable combat capability that can be deployed across a range of operations in the highly contested environments of the future,” he said.
The B-21 is a long-range, highly survivable, penetrating-strike, stealth bomber that will incrementally replace the B-1 and B-2 bomber aircraft, becoming the backbone of the Air Force bomber fleet, he said. (Source: US DoD)
20 Oct 22. Ukraine: Why is a 50-year-old vehicle still being used on the battlefield? Thousands of the BMP armoured fighting vehicles continue to fight on both sides in the conflict in Ukraine.
The BMP1 first entered service in 1966, so why, more than 50 years later, is the infantry vehicle still being spotted on the battlefield for Russia and Ukraine?
When it first went into service within the Soviet Army the vehicle was revolutionary.
Forty thousand were built worldwide, with Ukraine and Russia having big stocks dating back to the USSR when they were part of the same army.
Other Warsaw Pact countries had a big stockpile, and many of them have donated to Ukraine during their latest conflict with Russia.
Another bonus of using the ageing BMP1 is that its familiar kit means there is little or no need for extra training.
Russia has even brought mothballed BMPs out of storage.
The dated design, however, has come with some problems, such as thin armour and a weak gun by modern standards, which has led to some heavy losses. Another two versions of the BMP, the BMP2 and BMP3, have been manufactured, but the rollout was slowed due to the fall of the Soviet Union. So, the BMP1 lives on, as it seems it is easier and cheaper to adapt and update an older vehicle than it is starting from scratch. (Source: forces.net)
20 Oct 22. UK Sanctions Iran over kamikaze Russian drones. The UK is implementing new sanctions on Iranian individuals and business responsible for supplying Russia with kamikaze drones used to bombard Ukraine.
- UK measures target Russian drone supplies used to attack civilian targets and critical infrastructure in Ukraine
- Today’s sanctions target Iranians responsible for supplying Russia with kamikaze drones
- Procurement is further evidence of Iran’s destabilising role in global security and a clear violation of a UN Security Council Resolution
The UK is today (October 20) implementing new sanctions on Iranian individuals and business responsible for supplying Russia with kamikaze drones used to bombard Ukraine.
Russia is using the drones to attack both civilian targets and critical infrastructure in Kyiv and across Ukraine, with the intention of cutting off Ukrainian people from energy, heating, and water.
By supplying these drones Iran is actively warmongering, profiting off Russia’s abhorrent attacks on Ukrainian citizens, and adding to the suffering of the people and the destruction of critical infrastructure. Both Russia and Iran are violating a UN Security Council Resolution that controls the transfer of these weapons from Iran.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “Iran’s support for Putin’s brutal and illegal war against Ukraine is deplorable. Today we are sanctioning those who have supplied the drones used by Russia to target Ukrainian civilians. This is clear evidence of Iran’s destabilising role in global security. These cowardly drone strikes are an act of desperation. By enabling these strikes, these individuals and a manufacturer have caused the people of Ukraine untold suffering. We will ensure that they are held to account for their actions.”
Today’s sanctions target the individuals and business personally responsible for providing the drones that have been used in these barbaric strikes. They are:
- Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri – the Chairman of the armed forces General Staff who has overseen the army branches supplying Russia with drones. Bagheri is subject to an asset freeze and travel ban
- Brigadier General Seyed Hojjatollah Qureishi – the key Iranian negotiator in the deal that has provided Russia with the Iranian produced drones. Qureishi is subject to an asset freeze and travel ban
- Brigadier General Saeed Aghajani – the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of the Iranian armed forces, Aerospace Force UAV Command – the IRGC are reported to have been in the temporarily controlled territories of Ukraine advising Russian forces on how to use the drones. Aghajani is subject to an asset freeze and travel ban.
- Shahed Aviation Industries – the Iranian manufacturer of the Shahed drones which have been used by Russia during its illegal invasion of Ukraine. Shahed Aviation Industries is subject to an asset freeze.
Procuring these weapons shows Russia is turning to countries such as Iran out of desperation in order to continue fighting their illegal war.
Open-source evidence has shown Russia’s own defence company and drone producer Kronshtadt struggle to maintain production since they were sanctioned (24 March 2022), with fridges and dishwashers being cannibalised in order to create military equipment, and Soviet-era tanks have also been sent to the front line as they strain to maintain their military equipment.
The UK has previously designated close to 300 Iranian individuals and entities for their role in weapons proliferation, human rights abuses, and terrorism. These include those involved in Iran’s drone programme, including Iran’s Ministry of Defence Armed Forces Logistics and the Iran Aviation Industries Organisation and its subsidiaries including Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Company and Qods Aviation Industry and individuals including Amir Hajizadeh, the IRGC Aerospace Force Commander.
Iran has one of the largest and most diverse drone and missile arsenals in the Middle East and continues to increase the sophistication, range and accuracy of its weapons systems. It also has a long-standing track record of proliferating drones, missiles and missile technology, including to non-state actors. The missiles and drones are under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Iran’s and Russia’s action violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which provides that the transfer from, or to, Iran of specified items require prior approval from the Security Council.
In response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the UK and our international partners have implemented the most severe package of sanctions ever imposed on a major economy. The UK has sanctioned over 1,200 individuals and 120 entities since the start of the invasion as well as introducing unprecedented trade measures. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
19 Oct 22. A Musk monopoly? For now, Ukraine has few options outside Starlink for battlefield satcoms. “I think everyone agrees that if there’s a reasonable cost-based argument that paying for use does make sense,” industry analyst Tim Farrar said. But “I think Elon has made that more difficult rather than less difficult because you don’t normally negotiate your weapons contracts on Twitter.”
Though the recent tumult over whether Elon Musk’s SpaceX would continue to fund the operation of its Starlink satellite service in Ukraine appears to be over for now, an uncomfortable question remains: If for some reason Starlink is not available, who else might the Pentagon, or Ukrainian forces for that matter, be able to turn to?
While there are other satellite communications firms providing internet connectivity from space, experts say that, at least in the short term, there are few that provide both the wide global coverage and inexpensive, highly mobile and easy-to-use receiver terminals that have made Starlink a vital part of Ukraine’s war against Russia.
“There really aren’t any great substitutes here. I mean, this is why [Starlink has] been such a game changer, because there’s not been anything like it before,” said Tim Farrer, an industry consultant. That situation isn’t likely to change, he added, for “maybe about a year” — meaning that for the moment it is almost the only game in town for keeping the embattled Kyiv government and the Ukrainian military connected.
CNN reported Oct. 14 that SpaceX in September wrote to the Pentagon asking payment in the future for the satellite communications terminals and internet access the company up to now has been donating to the embattled Ukraine government and military. According to CNN, SpaceX’s director of government sales said “We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time.”
SpaceX’s mercurial founder Elon Musk on Saturday seemed to reverse course in a typically colorful tweet, and Monday went further, tweeting that the company has withdrawn its request.
Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder on Monday said up to now the Pentagon has not paid Starlink anything for the company’s services in Ukraine — even if CNN suggested others in the US government had — but he reiterated remarks by his deputy on Friday confirming that the Defense Department is in conversations with SpaceX, as well as others, about how to ensuring continued Ukrainian access to satcom.
Beyond Ukraine, DoD has been rushing to contract Starlink not just for experiments to substantiate its Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) effort, but also to provide battlefield connectivity to commanders in the field. Nonetheless, questions about the company’s near market-lock on space-based internet services for military use have been ricocheting around Washington and other allied capitals — with some wondering what options they have aside from the Musk-backed system.
In his Monday, comments, Ryder acknowledged other providers, saying “When it comes to the broader issue of providing satellite communication to Ukraine, we are in discussions with SpaceX, as well as other companies, to look at how to best provide that service.”
While Ryder did not provide details about those other providers, there are at least a handful of companies that today offer internet connectivity from space. These include Viasat, OneWeb, SES, Iridium, Inmarsat, Eutelsat and Avanti.
These aren’t hypothetical systems. For example, ViaSat’s KA-SAT service is currently operating in Ukraine, as well as providing free wi-fi to Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia, and the firm said on Friday that it is working to rapidly provide additional services. (Spokesperson Dan Bleier told Breaking Defense on Monday that the company couldn’t provide more details at the moment.)
But experts say each of those providers face near-term challenges in competing directly with SpaceX — which has global coverage with almost 3,500 satellites in low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 550 kilometers, and provides cheap receiver terminals that basically are ready to go once you take them out of the box.
Brad Grady, a satellite industry analyst at Northern Sky Research, told Breaking Defense on Wednesday that Starlink has a number of “key advantages” over its closest competitors. These include: “latency, throughput, [and] terminal size/power.”
Satellites stationed in geosynchronous orbit some 36,000 kilometers in altitude — including KA-SAT and those operated by Eutelsat, Intelsat, Avanti, and Inmarsat — can provide world-wide coverage including over Ukraine, but GEO birds have a couple of downsides vice networks in lower orbits.
First, they tend to be more vulnerable to cyber attack, several industry experts noted, as exemplified by Russia’s successful hack of KA-SAT ground terminals in Ukraine right at the start of the war in February. GEO-based networks also have higher latency — the time it takes to downlink and uplink — than those closer to the Earth, because of, well, physics.
Satcom operators in LEO and medium Earth orbit (MEO) also have challenges in meeting Starlink’s capabilities. For example, OneWeb, which is putting up a mega-constellation in LEO to rival Starlink, currently doesn’t operate satellites that cover Ukrainian territory, several sources said, although it has plans to be able to provide capacity there at the end of next year.
“They don’t have the capacity right now,” said one industry expert.
OneWeb last July announced it had started operations covering regions north of 50 degrees latitude (including the Arctic), but according to the company’s website, its full constellation, including satellites that cover lower latitudes, will not be operational until next year. Ukraine lies just below 50 degrees north.
Amazon’s similar network, called Project Kuiper and to comprise some 3,236 satellites, hasn’t even launched yet and won’t begin service until sometime in the 2026 or 2027 timeframe. The launch of the first two satellites was planned for late this year, but has been delayed due to schedule slips in development of the United Launch Alliance’s heavy-lift Vulcan rocket. That launch is now planned for early next year, according to Amazon’s website.
Grady said that in the non-geostationary satellite market, Luxembourg-based telecommunications firm SES’s O3b and future O3b mPower constellations, which are stationed in MEO, come closest to meeting Starlink’s current capabilities. (The company reportedly is a main provider of satellite television in Ukraine and has employees on the ground there.)
“O3b/mPower is probably the next most-viable Non-GEO solution, but [the] terminals aren’t as small as Starlink, so some trades there,” he said.
A Matter Of Receivers
As Grady and other experts noted, SpaceX’s greatest advantage is that Starlink terminals are low cost, highly mobile and, all-importantly for warfighters, simple to set up and use. GEO networks in particular require large, heavy and expensive terminals. But even many terminals designed for satellite networks in lower orbits haven’t quite matched the specifications for Starlink’s small size, weight and power, known as SWaP.
According to SpaceX’s website, Starlink’s dish antenna weighs about 2.9 kilograms (6.4 pounds) and the terminal has very few moving parts.
“It’s a question of terminals,” industry analyst Farrar said “The closest thing is, there are some portable terminals for Inmarsat Global Express. But they’re not self-installing. They don’t set themselves up. You have to know where to point them at the satellite. They’re really big, and [they cost] tens of thousands of dollars.”
A number of companies are working to bring new, smaller flat-panel antennas to the market that are electronically steered, and can pick up signals from satellites in across GEO, MEO and LEO. However, many of those new terminals are not yet ready for primetime — either in development or only being deployed in small numbers.
For example, Intelsat for the first time is developing its own antenna specifically for cross-orbit connectivity, called the multi-orbit, tactical terminal, or MOTT, said David Micah, president of Intelsat General Communications.The reason is that DoD is increasingly interested in “hybrid” architectures for satcom that include satellites in all multiple orbital planes, he told Breaking Defense on Oct. 12.
“That’s under development, 100 percent funded by Intelsat and will hit the market about a year from now. It’s been under development for six or nine months, and it’s going to be really a state-of-the-art satellite terminal,” he said.
Antenna maker Kymeta also is focusing on multi-orbit, steerable antennas, with a particular focus on flat panel antennas for mounting on vehicles, Walter Berger, the company’s president, told Breaking Defense on Oct. 12.
While the Hawk u8 terminal, put on the market in April, is much heavier than Starlink’s, weighing in at 100 pounds, Berger said it sports military-grade cybersecurity. And because it can switch “within milliseconds” from connectivity with LEO sats — Kymeta has an agreement with OneWeb to link to its constellation — to satellites in GEO, he stressed that the Hawk u8 is much harder to jam.
“So, it gives the military that kind of redundant pathway when shit hits the fan. We’re gonna stay connected,” he said.
Berger noted that more than 1,000 of the terminals will be deployed by the end of next year, not just by DoD and the Army, but also by the defense ministries of other nations — although he was coy about which ones.
As for SpaceX’s somewhat understandable concern about long-term losses to the company as the Ukrainian war stretches far beyond the timeframe almost anyone could have imaged in February, the bottom line is going to be just how much of that pain it can negotiate away.
SpaceX’s letter, according to CNN, specified that Starlink operations would cost more than $120 m for the rest of the year and could cost close to $400 m for the next 12 months. Specifically, CNN quoted the letter as saying that about 85 percent of the 20,000 terminals [provided at the letter’s time] in Ukraine were paid — or partially paid — for by the US, the United Kingdom, Poland or private entities. Those entities also paid for about 30 percent of the internet connectivity, which SpaceX says costs $4,500 each month per unit for the most advanced service.
But in an Oct. 7 tweet, Musk said that the company’s operations in Ukraine has cost $80 m and will exceed 100 m by the end of the year.
“I think everyone agrees that if there’s a reasonable cost-based argument that paying for use does make sense,” Farrar said. The problem, he said, is that the company’s “numbers are constantly changing. … I think Elon has made that more difficult rather than less difficult because you don’t normally negotiate your weapons contracts on Twitter.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
20 Oct 22. HENSOLDT delivers air defence radars for Ukraine in record time. TRML-4D high-performance radars detect targets within a radius of 250km. Sensor specialist HENSOLDT is supplying four of its high-performance radars in record time for Diehl Defence’s IRIS-T SLM air defence system, which is designed to strengthen Ukraine’s defence capability. As part of an order from Diehl Defence worth a two-digit m euro sum, one of the TRML-4D radars has already been delivered, with three more to follow within a few months.
Thomas Müller, CEO of HENSOLDT, said: “The situation in Ukraine requires quick and decisive action. Due to a serial production line and the commitment of our employees, we are able to deliver such systems to protect the population in the shortest possible time.”
TRML-4D uses the latest Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar technology with multiple digitally shaped beams. It is capable of detecting, tracking and classifying various types of aerial targets, with a focus on small, fast and low-flying and/or manoeuvring cruise missiles and aircraft, as well as hovering helicopters. It ensures the rapid detection and tracking of some 1,500 targets in a radius of up to 250 km.
HENSOLDT has decades of experience with radar systems for air defence and actively drives the further development of key technologies in this field. In addition to the TRML-4D multifunction radar, the company’s portfolio also includes the Twinvis passive radar, the Spexer product family and radars for securing ship and air traffic. HENSOLDT supplies radars for the new frigates and corvettes of the German Navy, for airspace surveillance and for approach control at airfields of the German Armed Forces, among others.
As purely German systems, HENSOLDT’s solutions are not dependent on foreign technology and therefore offer the highest degree of approvability and certifiability for operation in Germany, as well as the highest possible security of supply. At the same time, they are fully compatible with NATO’s integrated air defence architecture.
19 Oct 22. Britain’s Wallace discussed Ukraine security concerns on Washington trip -source. British Defence Minister Ben Wallace met his U.S counterpart in Washington this week to discuss shared security concerns about the situation in Ukraine, a senior defence source said in response to speculation around the sudden trip.
Following advances by Ukrainian forces to retake land in the east of the country, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a partial Russian mobilisation and also issued nuclear threats.
Wallace cancelled a planned committee hearing in parliament on short notice in order to go to Washington on Tuesday, prompting questions around what was behind the apparently urgent nature of the trip.
“There has been a lot of speculation about why the defence secretary travelled to Washington,” the source said.
“As we approach winter in Ukraine with their successes on the battleground against Russian forces and in light of Putin’s recent actions, it was important to meet face to face with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and others from the U.S. administration to discuss our shared security concerns.”
Ukrainian cities are increasingly being targeted by missile and drone strikes, and foreign secretary James Cleverly told Sky News “there’s urgency because civilians are being targeted in a new way and so we have to respond to that.”
“Our response has to be done at pace,” he said on Wednesday.
But on Tuesday junior defence minister James Heappey told Sky News that Wallace was in Washington “having the sort of conversations that – beyond belief, really – the fact that we’re at a time when these sort of conversations are necessary”.
Asked whether Wallace had gone to Washington to discuss the risk that Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Prime Minister Liz Truss’s spokesman reiterated that there would be “severe consequences” if Russia used nuclear weapons, but added: “I would guide away from speculating on this as an issue.”
“I think it would be a mistake to be drawn into speculation on this rather than focusing on what we are seeing take place day-by-day, which is a senseless and barbaric attack on civilians across Ukraine,” he told reporters. (Source: Reuters)
19 Oct 22. U.S. targets Russian military procurement network in new sanctions. The United States on Wednesday imposed fresh sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine, targeting a network that Washington accused of procuring military and dual-use technologies from U.S. manufacturers and supplying them to Russian users.
The U.S. Treasury Department said it imposed sanctions on Russian national Yury Yuryevich Orekhov, whom it accused of being a procurement agent, and two of his companies – Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH and Opus Energy Trading LLC.
Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said sanctions and export controls imposed by a broad coalition of allies had left Russia increasingly struggling to secure “inputs and technologies” for its war.
“We know these efforts are having a direct effect on the battlefield, as Russia’s desperation has led them to turn to inferior suppliers and outdated equipment,” he said in a statement. (Source: Reuters)
19 Oct 22. Russia to review working with U.N. chief if he inspects drones in Ukraine. Russia said on Wednesday that it will reassess cooperation with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres if he sends experts to Ukraine to inspect drones that Western powers say were made in Iran and used by Moscow in violation of a U.N. resolution.
Speaking after a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting on Moscow’s use of drones, Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy called on Guterres and his staff to “abstain from engaging in any illegitimate investigation.”
“Otherwise, we will have to reassess our collaboration with them, which is hardly in anyone’s interests. We do not want to do it, but there will be no other choice,” he told reporters.
Polyanskiy did not elaborate.
The Security Council met on Russia’s use of drones in Ukraine at the request of the United States, France and Britain, who argue that the drones are Iranian made and used by Moscow in violation of a 2015 resolution endorsing the Iran nuclear deal.
Tehran denies supplying the drones to Moscow and Russia has denied its forces had used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine.
“Iran has obligations not to export these weapons,” Britain’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador James Kariuki posted on Twitter after the meeting. “As a member of the U.N., Iran has a responsibility not to support Russia’s war of aggression.”
Ukraine this week invited U.N. experts to inspect some downed drones. Guterres reports twice a year to the Security Council – traditionally in June and December – on the implementation of the 2015 resolution. Any assessment of the drones in Ukraine would likely be included in that report.
“As a matter of policy, we are always ready to examine any information and analyze any information brought to us by Member States,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday.
Iran and Russia both argue that there is no mandate for Guterres to send experts to Ukraine to inspect the drones.
In a letter to Guterres on Wednesday, Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani said Ukraine’s invitation to U.N. experts “lacks any legal foundation” and called on Guterres “to prevent any misuse” of the resolution and U.N. officials on issues related to the Ukraine war.
French U.N. Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said Guterres has a “clear mandate twice a year to report on all these things and to make technical assessments, so I think the U.N. secretariat will have to go and will go.”
Under the 2015 resolution, a conventional arms embargo on Iran was in place until October 2020.
But Ukraine and Western powers argue that the resolution still includes restrictions on missiles and related technologies until October 2023 and can encompass the export and purchase of advanced military systems such as drones.
The U.N. Security Council is unable to take any substantial action over the war in Ukraine because Russia holds a veto on the 15-member body, along with China, the United States, France and Britain.
Dujarric declined to comment on Polyanskiy’s remarks.
Guterres and senior U.N. officials are negotiating with Russia to extend and expand a July 22 deal that resumed Ukraine Black Sea grain and fertilizer exports. The pact could expire later next month if an agreement is not reached.
Polyanskiy said he was not optimistic about a renewal because Russian exports of grain and fertilizer were being hindered. But when asked if Russian cooperation on the Black Sea grain deal could be at risk if Guterres sends experts to Ukraine to look at the drones, Polyanskiy said: “I don’t make direct link so far.” (Source: Reuters)
20 Oct 22. Ukrainian forces push toward Kherson, Kyiv orders electricity curbs.
- Nationwide restrictions limited to one day for now
- New damage to critical infrastructure, Zelenskiy says
- Battle for southern city of Kherson looms
Ukraine’s military tightened the noose around Russian forces occupying the southern city of Kherson on Thursday as the government ordered nationwide curbs on electricity use because of Russian missile and drone attacks on power plants.
In Kherson, the only regional capital Russian forces have captured since their invasion eight months ago, the Russian-appointed administration began an evacuation of a city that controls the only land route to the Crimea peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014, and the mouth of the Dnipro river.
On Wednesday, Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russia-backed administration in Kherson, wrote on Telegram that Ukraine had launched an offensive towards Novaya Kamianka and Berislav in the Kherson region.
While Ukraine remained tight-lipped about its operations, its military said in an early Thursday update on the Kherson region said 43 Russian servicemen had been killed and six tanks and other equipment destroyed.
Reuters was not able to verify battlefield reports.
Footage of people fleeing by boat across the Dnipro river were broadcast by Russian state television, which portrayed the exodus as an attempt to evacuate civilians before it became a combat zone.
About 50,000 to 60,000 people would be moved out in the next six days, said Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed chief of Kherson, while maintaining that Russia had the resources to hold the city and even counter-attack if necessary.
While gaining ground on front lines, Ukraine counted the cost of Russia’s long range strikes deep into its territory.
On Thursday, the government placed restrictions on electricity usage nationwide for the first time since Russia’s invasion following a barrage of attacks on power plants just before the winter sets in.
Power supply will be restricted between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., government officials and the grid operator Ukrenergo said, and temporary blackouts were possible if people did not minimise their use of electricity, a presidential aide said.
“We do not exclude that with the onset of cold weather we will be asking for your help even more frequently”, Ukrenergo said, referring to the restriction that is limited to Thursday.
Russia has intensified its missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s power and water infrastructure in recent days.
“There is new damage to critical infrastructure. Three energy facilities were destroyed by the enemy today,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his Wednesday night video address.
“We assume that Russian terror will be directed at energy facilities until, with the help of partners, we are able to shoot down 100% of enemy missiles and drones,” said Zelenskiy, who earlier in the week said a third power stations had been hit by Russian air strikes.
Zelenskiy was due to address an EU summit on Thursday. Leaders of the 27 member states will discuss options for more support to Ukraine, including energy equipment, helping restore power supply and long-term financing to rebuild.
DRONE STRIKES, GRAIN TALKS
Reuters witnesses said five drones hit the southern city of Mykolaiv on Thursday, but it was unclear where they had exploded or how much damage had been done.
Ukraine accuses Russia of using Iran-made Shahed-136 “kamikaze drones”, which fly to their target and detonate. Iran denies supplying them and the Kremlin has denied using them.
The United States, Britain and France raised the issue of Iran’s suspected transfer of drones to Russia at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, told reporters Russia would reassess its cooperation with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his staff if Guterres sends experts to Ukraine to inspect downed drones that Ukraine and the West assert were made in Iran.
Polyanskiy said he was not optimistic about reaching agreement with Guterres and other U.N. officials in negotiations to extend and expand a July 22 deal that led to the resumption of Ukraine Black Sea grain and fertilizer exports. The pact could expire next month.
Meanwhile, the United States imposed new sanctions on Russia, targeting a network that it accused of procuring military and dual-use technologies from U.S. manufacturers for Russian users.
ON THE EASTERN FRONT
In eastern Ukraine bordering Russia, Moscow’s forces focused their main attempt to advance on the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, the Ukrainian military said.
Bakhmut is the focus of Russia’s slow advance through the Donetsk region. Forces trained tank and artillery fire on at least 10 towns in the area, including Bakhmut, Soledar and Bilohorivka, the Ukrainian military said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded an all-Russia war effort and declared martial law on Wednesday in areas of Ukraine occupied by his forces.
Zelenskiy warned Ukrainians in occupied areas against any Russian attempts to draft them into the army, saying they should try to leave.
“If you cannot do this and find yourself in Russian military structures, at the first opportunity try to lay down your weapons and come to Ukrainian positions,” he said. (Source: Reuters)
14 Oct 22. Ukraine conflict: ‘Drones’ engage in first recorded unmanned aerial combat. Unmanned systems have engaged each other in combat for the first time, footage released from Ukraine appears to show. A 16 second clip of two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or ‘drones’ as they are colloquially known, duelling in the skies of the Ukrainian battlefield marks the first time that an engagement entirely between unmanned systems has been recorded not just in that conflict, but in the history of warfare. The footage shows the engagement from the onboard camera of one of the two protagonists. Identified on social media as being a Ukrainian UAV spotting for artillery, this ‘drone’ is approached by what is reported to be a Russian quadcopter that manoeuvres around it before seemingly purposefully crashing into it with a view to take it out of the sky. As seen in the clip, it is the quadcopter that actually comes to grief, its rotor blades snapping before crashing to the ground. (Source: Janes)
19 Oct 22. Ukraine calls Russia’s evacuation of Kherson residents a ‘propaganda show.’ Claims of imminent attack on city are part of Moscow misinformation campaign, Kyiv says. Occupation authorities in Kherson said they began evacuating residents from the western bank of the Dnipro river as the Kremlin-appointed leader in the southern Ukrainian region warned of a looming offensive by Kyiv. But the claims of evacuation and an impending attack were part of a Russian disinformation campaign to lay the groundwork for an armed provocation that Moscow will blame on Kyiv, Ukrainian authorities said on Wednesday. Volodymyr Saldo, who was appointed by Moscow to lead Kherson following the illegal annexation of that region and Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia in late September, claimed in a video address on Tuesday night that a “large-scale offensive” by Ukrainian forces would soon get under way, without providing evidence. On Wednesday, Russian state television aired video of what it claimed was a long queue of residents preparing to board ferries that would take them to the Dnipro’s eastern banks, a part of the Kherson region that is more tightly controlled by Russian forces. “The Russians are trying to scare the people of Kherson with fake newsletters about the shelling of the city by our army, and also arrange a propaganda show with evacuation,” Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, wrote on Telegram. He added that this was “a rather primitive tactic, given that the armed forces do not fire at Ukrainian cities — this is done exclusively by Russian terrorists.” The comments came as Ukrainian air defence systems intercepted missiles in Kyiv and other cities, as Russia launched their latest barrage of attacks targeting critical infrastructure on Wednesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced that martial law in the occupied Ukrainian territories would come into force on Thursday. The Ukrainian army has been advancing slowly towards the city of Kherson over the past month, sweeping through towns and villages in a counteroffensive intended to force a Russian retreat to the other side of the Dnipro river. (Source: FT.com)
18 Oct 22. U.S., Estonia Defense Leaders Pledge to Do More for Ukraine. Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III pledged to do even more to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia’s invasion today. The men met at the Pentagon to discuss the Russian invasion, NATO defensive efforts and bilateral defense relations.
Estonia is a NATO frontline state sharing a 183-mile border with Russia. In fact, Estonia was one of the “captive nations” of the Soviet Union — annexed by Soviet Dictator Josef Stalin as part of his deal with German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler that started World War II in Europe.
Austin said the meeting comes at a timely moment. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war of choice is eight months old and while the Ukrainian military has more than held its own against the far larger foe, more needs to be done.
Putin has turned his weapons on the civilian population of Ukraine seeking to terrorize men, women and children in the cities of the nation. “We’ve seen renewed and cruel Russian attacks and nations of goodwill everywhere have spoken out against Putin’s atrocities, his irresponsible rhetoric and sham attempts to annex parts of sovereign Ukraine territory,” Austin said.
That unity against Russian aggression is real. Austin pointed to the most recent Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting last week in Brussels as an example. “At that meeting, you and I saw firsthand the deep commitment and resolve of our allies and partners who are standing up for Ukraine’s right to defend itself,” the secretary said. “We are deeply grateful to Estonia, Mr. Minister, and our other NATO allies for their contributions to Ukraine’s fight to defend itself. We can all see the differences that these efforts are making on the ground and the progress that the Ukrainians have made in their counter offensive.”
Estonia is a NATO ally and Austin reiterated the U.S. resolve to defend every inch of NATO territory. U.S. troops along with other NATO forces have deployed to the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The United States enhanced rotational deployments to the region with a mix of armored, aviation, air defense and special operations forces.
Austin thanked the minister for being such a good host to U.S. forces. “I understand that you have plans to increase your ability to host our forces,” he said. “So let me thank you for those steps as well.”
Minister Pevkur told the secretary that Estonia is committed to do all it needs to support Ukraine and build up its own military. He noted that Estonia is increasing its defense budget next year by 42 percent, committing 3 percent of gross domestic product to defense. A full percentage point higher than the NATO goal.
“We are extremely grateful for the long-term U.S. security assistance that has helped us to accelerate the development of our military capability,” Pevkur said. Estonia is investing in HIMARS systems, medium-range air defense capability, new anti-tank and anti-vessel systems and more. The country is also investing in new ranges and building up ammunition stocks.
“I would like to thank the U.S. for its leadership in supporting Ukraine, to fight for the country and for the freedom,” the minister said. “Of course, we will stand united with all of our allies today to make sure that, in the future, we will not look back and think we could have done more.” (Source: US DoD)
18 Oct 22. Ukraine conflict: Greece receives first Marder 1A3 IFVs from Germany. Greece received the first six Marder 1A3 tracked infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) from the German government on 17 October as part of a series of agreements to transfer 40 of the IFVs to the Hellenic Army in exchange for Greece supplying 40 of its BMP-1 tracked IFVs to Ukraine.
Greek Minister for National Defence Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos said in a statement on 14 October that Greece was scheduled to take delivery of 10 Marders around 21 October. The statement was in response to a parliamentary question submitted on 5 October by member of parliament George Tsipras on the timeline for the exchange agreement with Germany and raising concerns that the transfer of Hellenic Army materiel to Ukraine would result in defence capability gaps. (Source: Janes)
17 Oct 22. US and UK agree to bolster co-operation on Russia sanctions. Top Treasury officials say they have decided to take collaboration to a ‘new level.’ The US and UK have agreed to bolster their co-operation in implementing and enforcing financial sanctions as they try to make it harder for Russia and other countries to elude economic punishment imposed by the west. In a joint announcement due to be published on Monday and obtained by the Financial Times, top officials at the US and UK Treasury said they had decided to take their collaboration to a “new level”. “We will identify opportunities to pool expertise, to think creatively about the challenges we face, to explore opportunities to align the way we implement sanctions, and to assist our stakeholders either through joint products or by providing guidance resulting from collaboration behind the scenes,” wrote Andrea Gacki, director of the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and Giles Thomson, director of the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation at the UK Treasury. “Over time, we expect to realise the benefits of our collaboration not only in relation to the sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also across other common sanctions regimes . . . our common values and combined role in the global financial system make our partnership incredibly potent,” they added. The announcement comes as Washington and London, along with other western allies, are considering new ways to punish Russia for its latest military escalation against Ukraine, but also signalled their intention to impose financial restrictions on entities in third countries assisting Moscow in the war. Meanwhile, the US Treasury is planning to create a new role of chief sanctions economist to examine the economic effect of sanctions, while OFSI is expanding into a larger organisation. Gacki and Thomson said the OFAC and OFSI were particularly focused on joint approaches to “cyber threats and the misuse of virtual assets, improving information sharing, and ensuring that our sanctions do not prevent humanitarian trade and assistance from reaching those in need”. “Financial sanctions will continue to be a vital tool in supporting the United States’ and United Kingdom’s respective foreign policy and national security aims,” they added. “They also help to protect the integrity of our financial systems as part of wider efforts to tackle corruption, kleptocracy, and other forms of economic crime.” (Source: FT.com)
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