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Military And Security Developments
• On the Oskil-Kreminna line, the frontline continues to remain broadly static as poor ground conditions undermine offensive and counter-offensive operations west of Svatove and Kreminna. Fighting has largely returned to positional battles and exchanges of artillery fire without major territorial changes, though Russian and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) sources have claimed that Ukrainian forces are continuing attempts to break through Russian lines while taking heavy losses.
• Further south, intense offensives along the Bakhmut and Donetsk city lines continue. Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Denis Pushilin reported on 25 November that all ‘allied forces’, including regular Russian, Wagner Group PMC and proxy DNR/LNR forces, are advancing along almost the entire line of contact in Donetsk oblast. While Pushilin acknowledged ‘difficult conditions’ on the front, including poor ground and weather conditions, he claimed Russian forces are making progress – though we cannot confirm any incremental Russian advances at this stage. The Ukrainian General Staff for its part this morning, 25 November, stated that Russian attacks on this axis are primarily focused against Andriivka, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Krasnohorivka, Mariyinka and Nevelske, among other locations in Donetsk oblast. Notably, Pushilin also claimed that Ukrainian forces are primarily launching counter-attacks against the northern sectors of Donetsk oblast, likely referring to Ukrainian operations northwest of Kreminna.
• Further south, Russian occupation officials this morning, 25 November, claimed that Russian forces successfully repelled a Ukrainian ‘sabotage and reconnaissance group’ attack that attempted to penetrate Russian lines in Polohivskyi raion, an area roughly halfway along the Zaporizhzhia axis that runs from the Dnieper in the west to the pre-February line of contact in Donetsk oblast in the east. The situation around Pavlivka remains unclear at present, but conflicting reports indicate that the village remains contested by both sides and that fighting continues, with the Ukrainian General Staff reporting this morning that Russian forces are primarily on the defensive along the Zaporizhzhia line at present.
• There have been few notable or confirmed developments on the southern Kherson frontline over the last 24-48 hours, with Ukraine’s continued operational silence limiting our ability to assess the nature of Ukrainian operations on Kinburn Spit at present. Nevertheless, military activity on this axis remains focused on artillery duels across the Dnieper River, with Russian artillery continually shelling areas on the western (right) bank, including Kherson city. Meanwhile, explosions have been reported in numerous Russian positions far from the frontline, including in Chaplynka and Skadovsk, 47 miles (75km) and 38 miles (61km) southeast of Ukrainian positions in Kherson city respectively. Since Ukrainian forces have established new fire control points along the western bank of the Dnieper, HIMARS systems are now able to strike Russian targets deep inside southern Kherson oblast, including regions just north of the border with occupied Crimea.
• Ahead of a NATO summit to be held in Bucharest on 29-30 November, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated on 25 November that the alliance will continue supporting Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’. Notably, Stoltenberg stated that he will use the upcoming Bucharest summit to call for greater assistance in Ukraine’s transition from Soviet-era equipment to modern NATO standards. While making ever greater use of Western weapons, the Ukrainian Armed Forces remain highly reliant upon key Soviet equipment and ammunition to sustain combat operations, and Ukraine’s ability to resupply these systems remains a key vulnerability. However, Stoltenberg reported today that the alliance’s production of Soviet-era weapons and ammunition has expanded significantly, as part of the alliance’s efforts to support Ukrainian forces. As previously assessed, the ramping of production of Soviet-era air defence missiles (particularly for the S-300 and Buk systems) will in particular prove vital to Ukrainian resilience in 2023, given the relatively low production capacity for those systems in both Ukraine and NATO. Please see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 18 November for further analysis.
• Notably in this respect, the Ukrainian General Staff stated on 24 November that the Ukrainian Air Force is currently conducting six times as many strikes as the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS). This underlines the relative success of Ukrainian air defences in depriving the VKS room for manoeuvre in Ukrainian airspace, with the vast majority of Russian air sorties taking place along the frontlines where Russia’s air defences are strongest. The failure of the VKS to suppress dispersed mobile surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs) early in the war and the subsequent proliferation of other NATO-supplied air defences continues to limit the ability of Russia to bring its airpower to bear. As such, continued Western air defence supplies over the long term remain vital to contain Russian airpower, mitigating the threat posed to Ukrainian cities and locations beyond the immediate frontlines.
• The power situation remains tenuous across Ukraine, though ongoing repair work has brought power and water supplies back online for many regions, with the Ukrainian energy agency Ukrenergo stating that as of this morning, 25 November, 70 percent of the country’s electricity needs are currently being met. Nevertheless, last night DTEK confirmed that only 30 percent of Kyiv residents had electricity, and energy restrictions will remain in place across the country moving forward. DTEK yesterday stated that electricity will likely be restricted in Kyiv to between two-three hours a day until the grid stabilises, though the situation has likely improved as of this morning. Ukrenergo furthermore stated on 25 November that repair work is being slowed by ‘strong winds, rain and sub-zero temperatures at night, ice and gusts of wind’.
• The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed on 24 November that it has begun providing onsite support at Ukraine’s four nuclear power stations that remain under Kyiv’s control, following a request from the government. The Khmelnytskyi, Rivne and South Ukraine plants were all disconnected from the grid following Russia’s latest strikes on 23 November, forcing them to rely solely on emergency diesel generators to power vital safety and support systems. It was the first time in decades that all four Ukrainian nuclear power plants, including the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, had been shut. The move was made as a precaution, and the plants have subsequently been reconnected to the grid, but the incident underscores the impact Russian long-range strikes against Ukraine’s wider power network are having on nuclear safety.
• Ukrainian officials confirmed on 24 November that another prisoner exchange has taken place. 50 Ukrainian service personnel were reportedly exchanged, including 12 who took part in the siege of Azovstal in Mariupol. It remains unclear how many Russian service personnel were exchanged as part of the deal. The news comes after reports emerged that Russian and Ukrainian representatives had met in the United Arab Emirates to discuss a prisoner swap in exchange for facilitating exports of Russian ammonia via Ukrainian pipelines. The prisoner exchange may indicate that progress has been made on this issue, which remains a key condition for Russia’s continued involvement in the Black Sea Grain Initiative (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 24 November).
• This morning, 25 November, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated categorically that any discussion of returning Crimea to Ukrainian control remains ‘unacceptable’ to Moscow. Peskov’s statements come in relation to an interview given by President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Financial Times this morning. In the interview, Zelensky stated that the future of Crimea is increasingly being discussed by the international community, but that in the absence of a serious peace plan, discussion of returning Crimea to Ukraine short of military ‘de-occupation’ is ‘a waste of time’. Peskov claimed that this proves Kyiv is not serious about a peaceful settlement to end the war. However, it remains our assessment that Moscow will not agree to return Crimea to Ukraine in any future negotiations under current conditions, and as such the continuation of military operations is the only way for Kyiv to achieve this objective. Such an objective will nevertheless be highly escalatory, as we have previously assessed – please see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 25 October.
On 24 November, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban confirmed that the Hungarian parliament will ratify the accession of both Finland and Sweden into NATO during its first session of 2023. All NATO member states except Hungary and Turkey have ratified the accession bids, but Orban’s announcement has ended concerns in Helsinki and Stockholm that the accession process would be further delayed in 2023.
Turkey meanwhile has reiterated its demands that Sweden extradites members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organisation in Turkey, before it will agree to ratify Stockholm’s (and by extension Helsinki’s) accession. Notably, however, the new right-wing coalition Swedish government elected in September under Ulf Kristersson has distanced itself from statements made by the previous Social Democrat-led government that have been perceived by Ankara as showing leniency towards the PKK. Earlier this month on 16 November, Kristersson’s government pushed through a new constitutional amendment that strengthens the country’s anti-terror laws, which has been a key demand of Turkey. New anti-terror legislation is set to make it easier to prosecute members of the PKK, and potentially allow for their extradition, and is due to enter into force on 1 January 2023. As such, Turkey may also soon ratify Sweden’s NATO accession in early 2023.
- The Oskil-Kreminna axis remains broadly static, despite continued Russian reports of Ukrainian attacks northwest of Svatove and Kreminna. For example, Russian sources claimed their artillery had stopped a Ukrainian attack near Chervonopopivka, a village just five miles (8km) north-west of Kreminna along the R-66 highway, with poor ground conditions likely slowing Ukrainian counter-offensive operations. The Ukrainian General Staff have meanwhile also reported unsuccessful Russian attacks along this axis, which are likely primarily spoiling attacks designed to undermine Ukrainian preparations for further assaults against Svatove and Kreminna as the ground slowly hardens.
- Further south, Russian offensive operations have continued focusing on making incremental gains along the Bakhmut and Donetsk city lines. The Ukrainian General Staff have continued to report that their forces are successfully repelling numerous Russian assaults along the full length of the axis. However, some geolocated footage does indicate that Russian forces, principally Wagner Group, are making very limited gains west of Donetsk city, including around Marinka, a town roughly 13 miles (21km) southwest of Donetsk city. Further south still, fighting continues around the key village of Pavlivka, with geolocated footage published on 23 November showing Ukrainian forces inside the settlement, despite previous Russian claims that they had consolidated control over the area.
- The southern Kherson frontline has remained broadly stable over the last 24-48 hours, with no further confirmation of how Ukraine’s ongoing operation on the Kinburn Spit is progressing. However, recently published satellite imagery taken throughout November clearly shows that Russian forces are further strengthening their ground lines of communication (GLOCs) across southern Kherson oblast and into occupied Crimea. The Ukrainian General Staff furthermore reported on 23 November that Russian forces are building improved fortifications along the M-14 highway that runs between Kherson and Melitopol in a clear attempt to improve resiliency and contingency planning for further Ukrainian counter-offensives.
- Unnamed Biden administration officials cited by Politico stated on 23 November that Washington is concerned that Russian forces may use chemical weapons before resorting to nuclear escalation if Moscow suffers further military setbacks in Ukraine. We have previously reported on unconfirmed Ukrainian reports of Russian forces using certain weapons banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, most recently the alleged use of K-51 aerosol grenades on 14 November.
- The US officials cited by Politico underlined that Washington does not have any intelligence to indicate a chemical attack is imminent. However, they maintain that Moscow retains the capabilities to deploy Novichok-style nerve agents and other chemical weapons in easily concealable (and therefore plausibly deniable) munitions or as aerosols to cause mass casualties. Major Russian battlefield defeats have been amongst our key trigger points for a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) escalation. While our threat assessment has not changed, Russia’s transition to more irregular warfighting methods remains plausible if further Ukrainian counteroffensives succeed in the coming months. For scenarios, triggers and implications of a nuclear escalation in Ukraine.
- On 23 November, Russian forces launched the latest nationwide wave of long-range strikes. The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed that 70 cruise missiles and around 10 Zala Lancet UAVs were used during the attack, though air defences reportedly intercepted 51 Kh-101/Kh-555 cruise missiles and 5 drones. Residential areas, thermal power plants and substations were nevertheless hit across Donetsk, Kirovohrad, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv, Vinnytsia and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. Wider reports indicate that further sites were targeted in Cherkasy, Dnipropetrovsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Poltava and Sumy oblasts. Russian forces fired 31 missiles at Kyiv alone, with 21 shot down by air defences, causing major blackouts and water outages.
- However, the Russian Ministry of Defence this morning claimed, in opposition to all available evidence, that they launched no strikes against Kyiv, and that all destruction on 23 November was caused by falling Ukrainian and Western air defence missiles. This is one of the weakest Russian disinformation campaigns in recent months and is only likely to anger domestic hardliners that have been calling for open acknowledgement of Russian strikes against Ukrainian cities.
- This morning, 24 November, the mayor of Kyiv confirmed that 70 percent of the city remained without power following yesterday’s strikes, as temperatures reached -3 C (26 F). President Volodymyr Zelensky formally addressed the United Nations Security Council in the aftermath of the strikes, calling for action to prevent further Russian strikes. However, as Russia remains a permanent member of the Security Council, Moscow will simply veto any meaningful proposed action. The timing of the strikes is highly likely to coincide with the European Parliament’s recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, which took place just hours before the strikes.
- Russia’s escalating campaign of targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure is continuing to have an increasingly direct impact on Moldova’s energy security. Yesterday’s strikes against infrastructure in Odesa led to widespread blackouts across Moldova. Moldova’s power network remains interdependent with that of Ukraine’s, and since Ukraine stopped exporting electricity in October, Moldova has remained highly reliant upon imports from Romania. Romanian power now accounts for 80 percent of Moldovan consumption compared to previously when Ukraine met 90 percent of this demand. However, Russian bombardment of Ukrainian critical energy lines is having a detrimental impact on even this alternate energy source. On 15 November, the Isaccea-Vulcanesti power line that supplies Romanian electricity through Transnistria stopped working. The line passes through Ukrainian territory in two locations and Russians likely attacked the network on Ukrainian soil in a bid to further undermine the energy situation in Moldova. Yesterday’s strikes likely prompted a similar disruption to Moldovan energy supply.
- Given Moldova’s almost total reliance on Romanian energy imports amid gas and electricity shortages out of Transnistria, prolonged blackouts are now a serious threat over the winter. It has remained our assessment for several months that Moscow is actively seeking to undermine energy security in Moldova to destabilise the pro-EU government in Chisinau and trigger anti-government protests over the winter. As such, further Russian strikes inside Ukraine will likely, in part, aim to extend energy insecurity across the border into Moldova itself.
- According to unnamed sources cited by Reuters, Russian and Ukrainian representatives met in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week to discuss the prospects of further prisoner swaps in exchange for facilitating the export of Russian ammonia via Ukrainian pipelines. The UAE reportedly mediated the talks without input from the United Nations or Turkey, both of which have led negotiations in extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Removing the remaining international restrictions on Russian agricultural and fertiliser exports (which would include ammonia) remains a principal condition for Russia’s cooperation in the grain deal, which the UN agreed to last week. While the state of current negotiations remains unclear, the report is the latest indication that back-channel negotiations remain open and also highlights the leading role Middle Eastern states are taking in facilitating talks between Moscow and Kyiv.
Following yesterday’s long-range strikes, President Zelensky has appealed to the international community to increase support to prevent the continuation of Russian ‘energy terrorism’. Ukraine’s Western allies are increasingly considering how they can support Ukraine’s energy system through the winter, with Germany calling a meeting of the G7 to discuss the issue. Meanwhile, Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak stated on 23 November that he had formally asked Germany to transfer Patriot missile launchers it has offered to Poland to western Ukraine, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki backing the plan. Blaszczak argued that Patriot missiles inside Ukraine will not only protect Ukraine from Russian strikes and blackouts but would also strengthen security along Poland’s eastern border following last week’s Przewodow incident. The deployment of US-produced Patriot systems inside Ukraine has long been a principal concern of Moscow’s, and would pose a serious threat of escalation as Russia has previously established this as a ‘red line’. While other so-called ‘red lines’ have been crossed in the past without significant Russian retaliation, including the provision of HIMARS systems, Patriot missiles would likely be very different. Patriot systems would severely undermine the efficacy of Russia’s long-range strike capability, being able to not only increase interdiction rates of cruise missiles but also intercept short-range ballistic missiles – capabilities that Ukraine currently does not have. As such, it would be much more likely that Moscow would threaten to escalate to prevent Patriots from being deployed to ensure the effectiveness of its long-range strikes over the winter and into 2023. In any case, it remains unlikely that Germany would agree to grant Ukraine Patriot systems unilaterally in the short term, despite growing Western desires to bolster Ukraine’s air defences over the winter.
- Russian offensive operations continue to focus on making incremental progress along the Bakhmut and Donetsk city lines in the Donbas, with Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) officials stating earlier this morning that the intensity of fighting around Bakhmut is now ‘extremely high’. Over the last 24-48 hours, especially intense fighting took place around Marinka, a town roughly 13 miles (21km) south-west of Donetsk city. Numerous Russian sources claim that Ukrainian forces are steadily withdrawing after suffering heavy casualties. Russian sources also claim that their forces have successfully cut off two of the three principal supply routes into the town, though we cannot confirm this; it remains to be seen whether Russian forces will be able to take the town in the coming days.
- The Ukrainian General Staff reported on 22 November that Wagner Group and Chechen forces have been deployed to Debaltseve, 26 miles (42km) south-east of Bakhmut. Such forces may well have been redeployed from Kherson following the withdrawal across the Dnieper river; they will likely be committed to ongoing offensive operations against Bakhmut.
- The General Staff also reported that Russian forces have been deploying and regrouping around Molochansk, a settlement 26 miles (42km) north-east of Melitopol near the Zaporizhzhia frontline. Footage has emerged on social media in recent days indicating significant Russian troop movements along this front; it is likely that Russian forces are redeploying forces from Kherson to shore up the Zaporizhzhia front in anticipation of potential Ukrainian counter-offensives south of Zaporizhzhia in the coming weeks and months.
- Earlier on 23 November, the Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai stated that poor weather conditions are currently limiting progress further north along the Oskil-Kreminna axis. However, the initiative remains with Ukrainian forces, which are making incremental progress. Both the Ukrainian General Staff and Russian defence ministry continue to report that their forces are repelling attacks along the Oskil-Kreminna line, though we are currently unable to verify any changes to the frontline. Amid the seeming lack of any notable advances on either side, Haidai stated that Ukrainian forces are currently waiting for the frost to harden to enable further advances. When ground conditions improve, Haidai anticipates Ukrainian forces will be able to report ‘positive news’. This is likely the case across all active frontlines, where both sides are currently facing poor ground conditions that are stymieing offensive and counter-offensive operations, limiting progress.
- On 22 November, Russian officials confirmed that probable Ukrainian drones attacked Sevastopol in occupied Crimea, with Russian forces in the area now ‘on alert’. Russian air defences reportedly shot down at least two drones, with the authorities claiming no damage to civilian infrastructure during the raid. The attack reportedly targeted an electricity and heating plant in the Balaklava district. However, further explosions have been reported this morning in the town of Yevpatoriya, roughly 40 miles (64km) north of Sevastopol. However, preliminary reports indicate that these explosions were possibly caused by Russian training exercises, rather than a Ukrainian attack.
- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) predicted that Ukraine will possibly suffer one of the single worst falls in GDP after a war of any participant in a conflict in the last 200 years. The EBRD’s latest economic forecast anticipates that Ukraine’s GDP will fall by 30 percent in 2022, but will begin to recover with 8 percent growth in 2023. By contrast, the EBRD predicts a 5 percent contraction for Russia this year, and a further 3 percent contraction in 2023. The World Bank has estimated that Ukraine will need at least USD 349 bn for reconstruction after the war, which represents more than 1.5 times the size of the pre-war economy. While there are extensive reconstruction opportunities in Ukraine, major uncertainty around how the war will end will continue to undermine investor confidence and inhibit foreign direct investment (FDI) in the short to medium term; Kyiv will therefore remain almost entirely reliant on international loans and aid to ensure a basic balance of payments and a continuation of reconstruction efforts.
- On 22 November, the head of Ukrenergo, the state energy operator, stated that the level of damage Russian strikes have inflicted on Ukraine’s energy system has been ‘colossal’, with ‘almost all’ thermal power plants, hydroelectric plants and Ukrenergo substations damaged. President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on 22 November that if Russian strikes continue to cause widespread blackouts over the winter, Ukrainians will have access to ‘invincibility centres’. These centres will provide basic services 24 hours a day, including electricity, mobile phone connectivity, heat, clean water and first aid, all free of charge. Zelensky confirmed that around 4,000 invincibility centres are currently planned, which will boost basic resiliency in the event of prolonged blackouts over the winter. However, the threat of a total collapse of the energy system will mean industrial and business resiliency will likely require private generators and cannot rely on ‘invincibility centres’, which will primarily be for civilian use.
- Earlier on 23 November, the European Parliament formally designated Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. The Kremlin has yet to make a statement on the issue. While the plenary vote is largely advisory and symbolic, given that only member states themselves can formally recognise Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, it is an important political development that will increase the threat of some form of indirect Russian retaliation.
On 22 November, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov published figures of Russia’s remaining stocks of precision-guided weapons. These include:
- 119 Iskandr ballistic missiles (representing 13 percent of its pre-invasion stockpile)
- 43 Kh-47M2 Kinzhal ‘hypersonic’ (air-launched Iskandr ballistic) missiles (73 percent)
- 347 3M-55 Onyx cruise missiles (74 percent)
- 6,980 S-300 air-defence missiles (87 percent)
- 132 Kh-101 cruise missiles (50 percent)
- 150 Kh-155 cruise missiles (50 percent)
- 150 Kh-555 cruise missiles (50 percent)
- 229 Kalibr cruise missiles (45 percent)
- 356 Kh-35 cruise missiles (41 percent)
- 120 Kh-22/32 cruise missiles (32 percent)
While many of these figures represent a significant depletion of available Russian stocks, particularly ballistic missiles, Reznikov also stated that Ukrainian intelligence understands Russia has managed to manufacture 120 Kalibr and Kh-101 as well as 360 Kh-35 cruise missiles since February. While supply chain issues and component shortages will undermine Russia’s ability to manufacture high-precision weapons at scale, they clearly retain some domestic capability to partially offset the expenditure of these missiles in Ukraine. Spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force Yuriy Ignat stated that Russia retains enough missiles for approximately three mass long-range attacks on the same scale as that seen on 15 November. At the time of writing, explosions in Odesa on the morning of 23 November were confirmed amid reports that at least 15 cruise missiles were launched from Tu-95 strategic bombers, indicating that a new wave of strikes is likely to take place later today.
The UK’s Defence Intelligence reported earlier on 23 November that Russia has likely ‘very nearly exhausted its current stock’ of UAVs, stating that no confirmed UAV strikes have been publicly recorded in Ukraine since 17 November. However, Russia will be able to source replacements from Iran, principally the Shahed-136, which will likely allow for further waves of attacks against energy infrastructure throughout the winter. For further analysis of Ukrainian air defences and capabilities to interdict drones and missiles. European Union: Softened oil price cap will still have dampening effect on European shipping industries. Today, 23 November, EU diplomats will meet to discuss and potentially approve a price cap on Russian oil exports which has reportedly been watered down. Among other measures, the bloc has reportedly proposed adding a 45-day transition to the introduction of the cap set to take effect on 5 December, when the EU’s sixth package of sanctions comes into force. The proposal would also lift indefinite restrictions on ships that carry Russian oil above the price cap, with penalties on those ships to be limited to a 90-day period. The cap, which is to be implemented by a coalition of the G7, EU, US and Australia, is expected to be a fixed price that will be reviewed every few months. Despite the softened provisions, EU countries with large shipping industries such as Malta, Greece and Cyprus will be disproportionately impacted by the ban.
Armenia: Peaceful protests calling for Armenia’s exit from Moscow-led security alliance will cause localised disruption. On 22 November, a pro-Western opposition group staged a protest in Armenia’s capital city, Yerevan, calling for the country’s exit from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), as neither Russia nor other CSTO members aided Armenia during a deadly border escalation with Azerbaijan in September. The National-Democratic Pole (NDP) has pledged to hold further protests over the course of today, 23 November, amid a summit of the Russian-led defence bloc in Yerevan. Armenia’s Prime Minister has previously publicly criticised the alliance’s refusal to help Armenia, with a steady rise in claims among Armenian opposition groups that the Russian alliance no longer serves Yerevan’s security interests vis-à-vis Azerbaijan. While an exit from the alliance remains unlikely in the short term, there remains a heightened risk of domestic unrest during the summit, but protests are likely to proceed peacefully, causing only localised disruption.
Russia-US: Oil price cap will provide businesses with further clarity ahead of EU ban, hitting Russian revenues. On 22 November, the United States (US) Treasury Department released details of its plan to impose a price cap on Russian oil. The US and other Western nations have yet to finalise exactly what they will pay for energy exports that have helped to fund the war in Ukraine, although the plan aims to allow nations to reduce Russia’s revenues whilst simultaneously keeping oil on the market. The guidance is primarily designed to aid maritime insurers and firms with their understanding of the incoming price ceiling, by defining how the cap applies in different situations. Moreover, Treasury officials have specified that the price cap is likely to fluctuate in line with market conditions. Nonetheless, this move will serve to provide businesses with further clarity on their energy imports while limiting Moscow’s sources of revenue, which have kept the economy afloat amid sanctions, ahead of the EU’s partial oil ban set to enter into force later this year.
- During this monitoring period, pro-Russia cyber campaigns against Ukraine and its allies remained consistent with levels identified in recent reports. The UK suffered a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against key institutions, for which the pro-Russia hacktivist group Killnet claimed responsibility. Attacks against government infrastructure in Vanuatu occurred this week in a similar manner to those witnessed in Australia during the last monitoring period. While we observed no instances of pro-Russia attacks against critical infrastructure in Ukraine during this monitoring period, there remains an overall deterioration in the cyber threat environment for Kyiv and its allies.
- In the past week, the pro-Ukraine hacktivist volunteer group Team OneFist accelerated its campaign of cyber attacks targeting the Russian government and associated entities, companies and infrastructure. Attacks included web defacement campaigns countering Russian disinformation and propaganda. The group also claims to have conducted cyber attacks disabling key business and operational functions, including those of a major car dealership, Rolf. Further such attacks are likely in the coming weeks as pro-Ukraine groups aim to disrupt and undermine Moscow’s military activities in Ukraine.
Pro-Russia cyber campaigns continue to target the cyber infrastructure of Ukraine’s allies, while the US assesses that Russia’s cyber operations have underperformed throughout the war.
- On 22 November, the Russia-aligned hacktivist group Killnet claimed to have caused significant disruption to multiple organisations and websites across the UK through a series of DDoS cyber attacks. This is likely a response to the UK government’s continued support for Ukraine. The group’s telegram channel claimed that it had successfully targeted the Bankers Automated Clearing Service (BACS), the London Stock exchange and the official website of the Prince of Wales. In recent months, Killnet has continually targeted the cyber infrastructure of organisations and countries that are opposed to Russia’s war against Ukraine, including the US Department of the Treasury and the FBI. In all cases, targeted websites were back up and running within a period of hours or days.
- On 18 November, the government of Vanuatu announced that damage to its servers due to a cyber attack lasted for 11 days. The attack targeted key infrastructure including the country’s parliament and prime minister’s office, alongside the databases of government departments and hospitals. Australian news media reported that the attackers demanded a ransom, which the government of Vanuatu has allegedly refused to pay. No details have yet been disclosed about the value of the extortion bid or the identities of the attackers. However, Australia recently suffered a string of similar ransomware attacks carried out by Russia-linked groups, pointing to a potential wider trend in malicious cyber activity across the Pacific region.
- On 16 November, the US Department of Defense claimed that Russia’s cyber operations in the ongoing war in Ukraine have drastically underperformed compared to pre-war expectations, and that the country is been unprepared for protracted warfare.
- Team OneFist, a pro-Kyiv group, accelerates its cyber campaign targeting Russian government-linked public and private sector entities, as well as critical physical and digital infrastructure. On 21 November, a Twitter account claiming to represent Voltage, the alleged founder of the international pro-Ukraine hacktivist volunteer group Team OneFist, claimed that the group’s ‘Polish warriors’ hacked and defaced the website of Forpost-Pskov, a door, hardware and furniture retailer in the city of Pskov (Russia). The group claims to conduct its activities in support of the IT Army of Ukraine, a pro-Kyiv hacking group with alleged links to the Ukrainian government. As of 23 November, access to the website remains blocked via a pop-up video displaying the Team OneFist logo and images and details of alleged Russian military atrocities related to the conflict in Ukraine.
- Also on 21 November, a self-described member of Team OneFist claimed that a cyber attack had compromised an operational Russian automated intelligence/machine learning model and power grid. The attack reportedly took place during peak power usage hours and targeted an EnstoGroup grid automation controller belonging to the Russian DK Port substation. The substation reportedly provides energy and data to the Russian Energy Agency (Rosenergo) fault location, isolation and service restoration (FLISR) system. The attack reportedly used the grid automation controller to feed malicious data into the FLISR AI model, taking the system offline. Voltage supported the claims and indicated that they will reveal ‘big news’ in the ‘coming days about three missions against power’ and energy ‘infrastructure in Russia’.
- On 18 November, Voltage reported that further cyber attacks allegedly conducted by Team OneFist targeted the website of the transport system of Russia’s third-largest city, Novosibirsk. The account posted alleged evidence of the cyber attack, which was reportedly conducted by group member ‘Mefisto…from Poland’. The website was operational as of 23 November. Images posted by other users on the date of the alleged cyber attack showed that access to the website was blocked by a pop-up video showing purported Russian atrocities in Ukraine.
- On the same day, Voltage announced the completion of Operation Paslek by Team OneFist. The group reportedly launched cyber attacks targeting the billing and payment systems of 1C, a Russian software developer, as well as Rolf, Russia’s largest car dealer. Voltage shared pictures showing alleged evidence of the attack on Rolf, claiming that essential documents, action templates and historical car sales transactions had been deleted, and that the company was rebranded to ‘Team OneFist’. This was apparently disseminated in a mass email via the company’s primary sales and business functions system.
During this monitoring period, patterns of pro-Russia cyber activity have remained in line with our assessment that there is a significant and persistent cyber threat against the security of Ukraine and its allies. We observed new DDoS attacks levelled against the UK which targeted the cyber infrastructure of key financial institutions and the royal household of the Prince of Wales. This underlines the ongoing cyber threat facing countries and entities that are openly supportive of Ukraine. We continue to assess that the overreliance of pro-Russia actors on DDoS attacks will persist in the short to medium term. This largely unsophisticated mode of cyber attack has so far only inflicted small-scale damage against the cyber infrastructure of targeted countries. However, malign pro-Russia cyber actors such as Killnet have almost certainly risen in prominence since the onset of war. We assess that the group tends to switch targets based on geopolitical developments; it also identifies targets for other pro-Russia hacking groups to attack. The attempted extortion of Vanuatu’s government and essential services cyber infrastructure further highlights the necessity for increased security measures in relation to databases holding personal information; these are likely to have become a valid target for pro-Russia cyber campaigns. While the attacks in Vanuatu have yet to be attributed to Russia, they follow a similar pattern of attacks against Australia’s largest insurance company carried out last week by pro-Russia actors. Nonetheless, the likelihood of pro-Russia cyber actors continuing to execute low-level malicious cyber attacks against such targets remains high. As per our previous assessments, it remains highly likely that pro-Russia cyber attacks will most often occur after Western governments make public announcements in support of Ukraine. These announcements could pertain to military or financial support, as well as sanctions against Russia. Government agencies and critical infrastructure operators in the telecommunications, energy and technology sectors will be the most vulnerable to any such attacks. In the past week, Team OneFist has increased its targeting of local authorities, as well as critical physical and digital infrastructure and private entities associated with the Kremlin. Recent operations include web defacement campaigns using a pop-up video to publicise purported Russian war crimes in Ukraine and to highlight the state of Russia’s military and domestic political situation. Other attacks have sought to bring systems offline and impair essential operational and business functions of entities and firms linked to Russian government operations. In particular, Team OneFist’s founder Voltage claimed that the attack against Rolf was aimed at impacting Russia’s auto-sales and service market in a bid to ‘erode’ available revenues for Moscow to continue its war in Ukraine. Voltage claimed that Team OneFist will launch further cyber attacks targeting Russian infrastructure, including energy infrastructure, in the coming days. Meanwhile, pro-Ukraine cyber attacks and campaigns against Russian targets linked to the Anonymous hacktivist collective remained limited in the past week amid a persistent focus on activities relating to Operation Iran. Nevertheless, social media accounts claiming to represent the Anonymous collective have posted on the launch of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as part of Operation World Cup and Operation FIFA. This indicates an ongoing threat to the sporting governing body FIFA and event sponsors. It is possible that the Iranian national team’s refusal to sing the Iranian national anthem, widely seen as a display of defiance against the government and a gesture of support for ongoing anti-government protests, will reduce the intent of cyber actors to launch attacks targeting tournament organisers or event partners for failing to suspend Iran’s participation.
- Fighting in Donetsk oblast remains intense, with Russian regular, Wagner and proxy forces continuing with offensive operations along the Bakhmut and Donetsk city lines. A senior Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) official claimed on 21 November that Ukrainian forces have ceased offensive operations around Soledar and Bakhmut; they allegedly switched to defensive operations after suffering heavy losses, though this cannot be confirmed. Wagner Group forces launched ground assaults towards the village of Klishchiivka, located around four miles (7km) south-west of Bakhmut, though their progress cannot yet be verified.
- Fighting is also ongoing to the south-west of Donetsk city. While the Ukrainian General Staff continue to report that their forces are repelling Russian attacks along this axis, various Russian sources continue to claim incremental progress. This includes around Marinka, located about 13 miles (21km) to the south-west of Donetsk city, and along the M-04 highway west of Pisky. This indicates a steady consolidation of advances to the north and north-west of Donetsk International Airport (DOK). Fighting is also ongoing in the vicinity of contested territory around Pavlivka.
- The Russian defence ministry stated earlier on 22 November that its forces destroyed three Ukrainian ‘sabotage and reconnaissance groups’ near Pavlivka, while also intensifying their fire against Ukrainian positions around Vodiane, about seven miles (11km) north-east of Pavlivka. However, Russian offensive operations along this axis appear to be ineffectual at present. Russian piecemeal attacks have reportedly involved only small numbers of vehicles, which points to an overall inability to co-ordinate operations on a larger scale.
- Further north, poor weather conditions have continued to hinder offensive and counter-offensive operations along the Oskil-Kreminna line in recent days. Nevertheless, Ukrainian forces continue to grind forward. Russia is prioritising the reinforcement of its defensive positions between Svatove and Kreminna, including via the construction of ‘dragon’s teeth’ fortifications near Popasna, south-east of Kreminna. Notably, LNR official Rodion Miroshnik stated on 21 November that the defensive situation for Russian forces in Luhansk oblast has ‘clearly deteriorated’ during the last week. This suggests that Ukrainian forces are succeeding in maintaining pressure on Russian positions despite the poor weather.
- Amid this mounting pressure, the Russian governor of Belgorod oblast Vyacheslav Gladkov gave a press conference on 21 November, in which he confirmed that Russian forces are currently constructing a new defensive live along the border with Ukraine. The so-called ‘Belgorod dash line’ is being constructed as part of a series of wider contingencies to mitigate the low-likelihood threat of a Ukrainian cross-border attack. This comes after the Wagner Group’s leadership claimed it is creating its own ‘Wagner Line’ along the border, as well as reports on 6 November that the group is opening training centres to establish ‘people’s militias’ in Belgorod and Kursk oblasts. Despite the fortification of the border, Ukraine is unlikely to cross forcefully into Russian territory; cross-border operations are more likely to involve drone attacks and special forces raids.
- On the southern Kherson axis, Russian forces continue to prioritise strengthening defensive positions along the eastern (left) bank of the Dnieper river. Advisor to the Kherson regional administration Serhiy Khlan stated on 21 November that the Russians are building second- and third-line defences and are currently storing military equipment in densely populated areas. While the frontline has broadly stabilised along the river, kinetic ground operations are possibly being conducted across the waterway. Russia’s defence ministry claimed on 21 November that its forces repelled a Ukrainian ‘sabotage and reconnaissance’ group from crossing the Dnieper near Dniprovske, roughly seven miles (11km) south-west of Kherson city. We cannot confirm whether this is accurate. However, Kyiv has suggested that its forces are conducting ongoing operations further west.
- On 21 November, the spokesperson for the Ukrainian Southern Defence Forces Natalia Humenyuk confirmed that Ukrainian forces are conducting a military operation on the Kinburn Spit. She provided no further details. The Kinburn Spit is a peninsular located roughly 31 miles (50km) south of Mykolaiv at the estuary of the Pivdenniy Buh and Dnieper rivers. It is occupied by Russia and enables control of the Dniprovska gulf. The peninsula serves as an important launching post for Russian drone strikes against Odesa and Mykolaiv and is situated just 28 miles (45km) east of Yuzhne, one of the principal Ukrainian ports exporting grain under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
- Ukrainian operations on Kinburn will likely deny Russian forces the ability to use the peninsula to threaten and attack much of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, while also threatening Russia’s western flank on the eastern (left) bank of the Dnieper river. As previously assessed, it remains unclear whether Ukrainian forces will be able to consolidate a bridgehead on the peninsula, or whether the ongoing military operations on the spit are primarily raids and/or special forces operations designed to harass the Russians, rather than establish a bridgehead from which to launch subsequent ground assaults.
- Footage from 21 November confirms that the UK has provided advanced Brimstone 2 laser-guided missiles to Ukraine. London previously only acknowledged sending Brimstone 1 missiles. The newer Brimstone 2 missiles have almost twice the range and are able to hit ground targets with high precision. This development follows the visit of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to Kyiv last week, during which Sunak committed to expanding the provision of air defences to Ukraine as part of a new GBP 50 m package. The footage of the Brimstone 2 missiles is the latest indication that Western powers are providing Ukraine with capabilities beyond those formally acknowledged in official inventory lists. Such advanced systems will enable Ukrainian forces to consolidate their increasing advantage in short-range, high-precision offensive strikes which are being used to great effect against Russian forces.
- The head of YASNO, one of Ukraine’s largest private energy providers, warned on 21 November that rolling blackouts are likely to continue across Ukraine until at least March 2023. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also underlined that current electricity blackouts are being exacerbated by the sharp increase in power consumption due to plummeting temperatures. Weather forecasts indicate that temperatures in Kyiv are set to remain around 0 C (32 F) for the next ten days.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on 21 November that there are no immediate nuclear safety concerns at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). This follows an inspection of the site after an intensification of shelling in recent days. All six of the plant’s reactors are stable, with the IAEA inspection also confirming the integrity of the fuel and radioactive waste storage facilities. President Zelensky formally called on NATO to guarantee the protection of Ukraine’s nuclear plants from Russian sabotage. The alliance is highly unlikely to do so publicly due to its desire to avoid escalation and further NATO involvement in Ukraine. The IAEA has reportedly pushed for a protection zone around the plant, though it provided no further details on talks regarding the matter. While Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed earlier on 22 November that Moscow will continue its dialogue with the IAEA, he reported that there has been no significant progress. Ultimately, the IAEA’s efforts to demilitarise the ZNPP are unlikely to succeed.
- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported on 21 November that at least 6,595 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and 10,189 injured since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. The majority of these casualties were in the Donbas. The OHCHR acknowledged that the real figure is likely to be ‘considerably higher’ due to a lack of confirmed data.
On 21 November, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly formally adopted a resolution calling on member states to designate Russia ‘under its current regime’ as a terrorist state. The resolution is advisory in nature as opposed to binding. It is particularly noteworthy that the Turkish delegation backed the resolution. This marks the latest example of Ankara juggling its unique position as both a NATO member state which supports Ukraine and an independent country pursuing pragmatic foreign policy with regard to Moscow. It remains to be seen how many NATO member states back the resolution, though numerous states already have done so. To date, the parliaments of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have all formally recognised Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The European Parliament will vote on 22 November on a similar resolution to recognise Russia as a terrorist state. As previously assessed, this upcoming vote will remain a key trigger point for potential Russian ‘military-technical’ and political retaliation over the next 24-48 hours. A vote in favour will possibly pass without incident, with a response limited to rhetorical accusations in the best case scenario. However, Russia also has the ability to retaliate with false-flag operations against nuclear facilities or even grey zone operations outside Ukraine’s borders. For implications and potential Russian retaliation to the European Parliament vote.
- On 20 November, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that fierce fighting has continued in Donetsk oblast, but that bad weather has resulted in fewer attacks in recent days. Nevertheless, Russian forces have continued their offensive operations along the Bakhmut and Donetsk city lines throughout the weekend of 19-20 November, seemingly at a continued high cost. Russian sources have claimed their forces have made incremental progress along these axes over the last 48-72 hours, including the seizure of part of the T-0513 highway near Mayorsk, south of Bakhmut. However, the Ukrainian General Staff reported on 19 November that 500 wounded Russian service personnel had been sent to the Horlivka hospital from the Mayorsk direction – indicating Russian forces are taking very high casualties for only incremental gains.
- Nevertheless, the intensity of Russian attacks means Ukrainian forces are under significant and mounting pressure on this axis. On 19 November, the Ukrainian General Staff reported an increase in Russian troop movements in and around Luhansk city. Numerous official sources have reported in recent days of steady build-ups of Russian troops across the Donbas, likely reflecting the anticipated redeployment of Russian forces freed up following the withdrawal from the western (right) bank of the Dnieper River and Kherson city. Ukrainian officials overseeing Mariupol also reported 10-15,000 Russian personnel are being stationed in Mariupol Raion, which will likely be brought up to support offensive operations southwest of Donetsk city, possibly around Pavlivka or to shore-up defences south of Zaporizhzhia city. Indeed, the head of the occupation movement ‘We Are With Russia’ Vladimir Rogov reported last week that Russian forces were not preparing for a winter ‘lull’ in fighting in Zaporizhzhia oblast – likely referencing Russian concerns of a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive aimed at striking south towards Melitopol and eventually Mariupol.
- Russian redeployments of VDV airborne and other regular forces from Kherson are also likely to support defensive operations along the Oskil-Kreminna axis further north. The Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai reported last week that Russian forces were now transferring elements of VDV airborne units from Kherson to Luhansk oblast, in particular Novoaidar, 35 miles (56km) southeast of Kreminna. In wider developments over the last 48 hours, positional battles west of Kreminna and Svatove have continued, though the Russian Ministry of Defence reported strikes on Ukrainian positions in Novoselivkse, indicating that Ukrainian forces had likely taken the town, which sits roughly 11 miles (18km) northwest of Svatove. Elsewhere, Russian sources have largely claimed that they have repulsed Ukrainian assaults across the wider Oskil-Kreminna front, though we cannot confirm any further Ukrainian advances at this time.
- On the southern Kherson front, Russian forces continue to strengthen defences along the southern (left) bank of the Dnieper River and construct additional defensive lines deep inside Russian-held territory. Both sides have also continued artillery and MLRS strikes across the river, but as previously assessed, the front continues to stabilise as both sides redeploy forces to the east.
- On 21 November, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that there are ‘no discussions in the Kremlin’ on the possibility of a second wave of mobilisation. The statement comes after several days of speculation and reports across Russian media that suggested Moscow may be preparing for a further round of mobilisation in either December or January 2023. Russian Telegram channels began circulating unconfirmed images of draft mobilisation summons received by a St Petersburg resident who will reportedly need to appear for mobilisation in January. Other Russian sources reported over the weekend that state structures are continuing to send their employees on mobilisation training courses. As previously assessed, it should be noted that the Kremlin has not repealed mobilisation legislation, keeping the option open for further waves of mobilisation at any time.
Ukraine: Kyiv will remain reliant on external funding, despite EU macro-financial assistance. On 20 November, the European Commission announced the details of a USD 18bn macro-financial assistance programme to aid Ukraine. The package will provide interest-free loans to Ukraine for a period of up to 35 years, with Kyiv not having to pay anything until 2023. The assistance will reportedly not be accompanied by strict conditions regarding specific usage and/or fund allocation. Nonetheless, the programme’s overall aim is to support macro-financial stability and stabilise the economy amid Russia’s ongoing war. The government in Kyiv will remain almost entirely reliant on external Western funding in the medium term, with EU support allowing the administration to maintain the balance of payments amid huge budget deficits due to military spending.
Georgia: Proposed new Caspian gas pipeline will likely boost European energy diversification . On 21 November, Georgia’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Levan Davitashvili announced that the government is in the early stages of a project that will supply gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe, via Georgia. The project will have Azerbaijan, Romania and Hungary as key stakeholders and will potentially see gas transformed into a liquid state upon reaching Georgian territory, before being regasified in Romania. Georgia’s government has recently begun to focus on expanding energy and transit capability. Should the project come to fruition, it will provide an alternative route for the transportation of Azerbaijani gas to European markets, bypassing Russia. While a longer-term project, the proposed deal would likely improve European energy security, aiding energy diversification efforts at a time when Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine is causing instability in global energy markets.
Russia: Kremlin crackdown on dissent likely to continue, but nascent anti-war sentiment unlikely to undermine government stability in short term. On 21 November, the first criminal case against conscripts refusing to fight in Ukraine opened in Russia. The two soldiers on trial allegedly refused to go to the frontlines and were later detained by military police. This comes on the same day that police in Moscow arrested Yabloko party activist Maria Volokh, following a small anti-war rally that took place near the Ministry of Defence. Both developments are indicative of a wider government crackdown on all dissent and come as a draft law has been submitted to the State Duma which looks to significantly increase government control over recommender algorithms on the internet. As Moscow tightens its grip over the information and tech space, clampdowns on potential avenues for the expression of nascent anti-war sentiment will continue to limit the scope for serious domestic unrest or government instability in the short term.
- Today, 21 November, marks Ukraine’s Day of Dignity and Freedom, a national holiday commemorating both the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Revolution of Dignity of 2014. During an address to the Ukrainian people, President Zelensky called on Ukrainians to gather in Independence Square to celebrate, and emphasised that amid Russian strikes, Ukrainians can go without fuel, water, and lights, but not without will. Given the political resonance of the holiday as the beginnings of the pro-EU and anti-Russian Euromaidan movement in Ukraine, the risk of punitive Russian strikes is higher today. On 20 November, the 270th day of war since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Russia has launched over 4,700 missiles against Ukraine since 24 February.
- Statements issued this weekend by Kyiv on the subject of peace talks with Moscow provided further indications that Ukraine aims to capitalise on its recent battlefield successes rather than enter into negotiations. On 18 November, President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed the notion of a ‘short truce’ which he said Moscow is seeking to allow Russian forces to regroup, insisting that a ‘real, long-lasting’ peace could only be delivered through the ‘complete demolition of Russian aggression’. Zelensky’s comments summarise the view in Kyiv that Russia would merely use a truce to consolidate its current position and reconstitute forces to launch new offensives in the Spring. On 20 November, senior adviser to Zelensky, Mykhaylo Podolyak, similarly described suggestions that Kyiv should negotiate as ‘bizarre’ given Ukrainian forces’ recent battlefield gains, equating negotiations at this stage as tantamount to capitulation. He added that while Moscow had not made ‘any direct proposal’ to Kyiv for peace talks, such suggestions have been passed on through intermediaries.
- In a related development, Peskov stated this morning, 21 November, that regime change in Kyiv was not a goal of the ‘special military operation’ in Kyiv. He made the comment in reference to a statement by senior Russian senator Konstantin Kosachev, who stated that normalisation of ties between Moscow and Kyiv can ‘only happen after a change in Ukraine’s leadership’. Despite Peskov’s statement, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin this morning stated that Zelensky should be brought before a special war crimes tribunal due to footage emerging over the weekend which Moscow claims shows Ukrainian forces executing Russian prisoners. The circumstances of the shootings remain unclear as Ukraine has refuted that their troops executed non-combatant Russians, with the UN Human Rights Office opening an investigation.
- On 19 November, the Washington Post (WP) reported that, according to intelligence gathered by the US and other Western security agencies, Moscow and Tehran reached an agreement in November to manufacture hundreds of Iranian attack drones in Russia. According to one official, both Moscow and Tehran are moving very quickly to implement the agreement. US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson told the WP that Washington and its Western allies were pursuing ‘all means’ to deter Iran from providing Russia with further such munitions. If the deal is fully realised, it would enable Russia to continue striking energy infrastructure and degrading Ukrainian air defences over the winter.
- On 20 November, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a statement condemning renewed shelling at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). The plant was shelled more than a dozen times over the weekend of 19-20 November, reportedly damaging buildings, systems and equipment. While nothing critical for nuclear safety was struck, shells reportedly fell close to reactors and damaged a radioactive waste storage building. IAEA head Rafael Grossi said that the IAEA team on the ground plans to conduct an assessment today, 21 November. However, the Russian nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom stated that there would be limits on what the IAEA could inspect. In line with previous incidents at the ZNPP, Kyiv and Moscow blamed each other for the shelling. While it is impossible to independently verify these claims, it is clear that Russian forces continued to use the plant as a base from which to shell the city of Nikopol, which lies on the opposite side of the Dnieper River.
Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence (GUR) stated on 20 November that they had received intelligence that Russian ‘special services’ are planning provocations against Belarusian critical infrastructure facilities. The GUR stated that Russia plans to blame NATO and Ukraine for a ‘terrorist attack’ on the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), also known as the Astravyets plant, though other critical infrastructure along the Ukrainian border in Brest and Grodno regions also remains possible targets. According to the GUR, the Russians plan to claim NATO and Ukrainian operatives had disguised themselves in Belarusian uniforms. It should be noted from the outset that Ukrainian intelligence has issued numerous previous intelligence reports suggesting an imminent Russian false-flag operation inside Belarus in a bid to lay the pretexts for Minsk’s entry into the war – none of which have yet materialised. Nevertheless, given Russian accusations of Ukrainian ‘nuclear terrorism’ against both the Zaporizhzhia and Kursk nuclear power plants, further false-flag attacks inside Belarus remain a credible threat and escalation trigger point.
The European Parliament vote tomorrow, 22 November, on whether to label Russia a terrorist state, will act as a key trigger point for potential false-flag operations against nuclear and other critical infrastructure across Russia, Belarus and occupied Ukraine, particularly if the Parliament approves that vote. This would be consistent with established patterns of Russian behaviour, seeking to set conditions to accuse an adversary of precisely what they had accused Russia of doing – sponsoring terrorism.
While a serious nuclear incident at any nuclear power plant remains highly unlikely, the BNPP will present an enduring threat to neighbouring Lithuania. Given the BNPP is located just 32 miles (51km) east of Vilnius, the Lithuanian parliament formally recognised the plant as a threat to Lithuania’s national security in 2017. Even if a false-flag operation does occur at the BNPP, we anticipate that a genuine nuclear incident would be highly unlikely for the same reasons as that given for the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant; namely, that any significant fallout would likely threaten Minsk and wider Belarus just as much as Lithuania. As such, the aim of any false-flag operation at the plant would likely be primarily political: to accuse the West of sponsoring nuclear terrorism in retaliation for the EU Parliament vote; to ratchet up fears of a nuclear escalation as part of the wider strategic deterrence campaign we have been assessing; and, potentially, an attempt to increase support amongst the Belarusian population for the war. However, the Ukrainian General Staff have also stated that they have not observed the formation of any new Belarusian assault groups. As such, we still assess that Belarus is unlikely to enter the war directly in the short to medium term, even if a false-flag attack does take place on Belarusian soil in the coming days and weeks. (Source: Sibylline)
26 Nov 22. U.S. weighs sending 100-mile strike weapon to Ukraine. The Pentagon is considering a Boeing proposal to supply Ukraine with cheap, small precision bombs fitted onto abundantly available rockets, allowing Kyiv to strike far behind Russian lines as the West struggles to meet demand for more arms.
U.S. and allied military inventories are shrinking, and Ukraine faces an increasing need for more sophisticated weapons as the war drags on. Boeing’s proposed system, dubbed Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), is one of about a half-dozen plans for getting new munitions into production for Ukraine and America’s Eastern European allies, industry sources said.
GLSDB could be delivered as early as spring 2023, according to a document reviewed by Reuters and three people familiar with the plan. It combines the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) with the M26 rocket motor, both of which are common in U.S. inventories.
Doug Bush, the U.S. Army’s chief weapons buyer, told reporters at the Pentagon last week the Army was also looking at accelerating production of 155 millimeter artillery shells – currently only manufactured at government facilities – by allowing defense contractors to build them.
The invasion of Ukraine drove up demand for American-made weapons and ammunition, while U.S. allies in Eastern Europe are “putting a lot of orders,” in for a range of arms as they supply Ukraine, Bush added.
“It’s about getting quantity at a cheap cost,” said Tom Karako, a weapons and security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said falling U.S. inventories help explain the rush to get more arms now, saying stockpiles are “getting low relative to the levels we like to keep on hand and certainly to the levels we’re going to need to deter a China conflict.”
Karako also noted that the U.S. exit from Afghanistan left lots of air-dropped bombs available. They cannot be easily used with Ukrainian aircraft, but “in today’s context we should be looking for innovative ways to convert them to standoff capability.”
Although a handful of GLSDB units have already been made, there are many logistical obstacles to formal procurement. The Boeing plan requires a price discovery waiver, exempting the contractor from an in-depth review that ensures the Pentagon is getting the best deal possible. Any arrangement would also require at least six suppliers to expedite shipments of their parts and services to produce the weapon quickly.
A Boeing spokesperson declined to comment. Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman declined to comment on providing any “specific capability” to Ukraine, but said the U.S. and its allies “identify and consider the most appropriate systems” that would help Kyiv.
Although the United States has rebuffed requests for the 185-mile (297km) range ATACMS missile, the GLSDB’s 94-mile (150km) range would allow Ukraine to hit valuable military targets that have been out of reach and help it continue pressing its counterattacks by disrupting Russian rear areas.
GLSDB is made jointly by SAAB AB (SAABb.ST) and Boeing Co (BA.N) and has been in development since 2019, well before the invasion, which Russia calls a “special operation”. In October, SAAB chief executive Micael Johansson said of the GLSDB: “We are imminently shortly expecting contracts on that.”
According to the document – a Boeing proposal to U.S. European Command (EUCOM), which is overseeing weapons headed to Ukraine – the main components of the GLSDB would come from current U.S. stores.
The M26 rocket motor is relatively abundant, and the GBU-39 costs about $40,000 each, making the completed GLSDB inexpensive and its main components readily available. Although arms manufacturers are struggling with demand, those factors make it possible to yield weapons by early 2023, albeit at a low rate of production.
GLSDB is GPS-guided, can defeat some electronic jamming, is usable in all weather conditions, and can be used against armored vehicles, according to SAAB’s website. The GBU-39 – which would function as the GLSDB’s warhead – has small, folding wings that allow it to glide more than 100km if dropped from an aircraft and targets as small as 3 feet in diameter.
At a production plant in rural Arkansas, Lockheed Martin is redoubling efforts to meet surging demand for mobile rocket launchers known as HIMARS, which have been successful in hitting Russian supply lines, command posts and even individual tanks. The No. 1 U.S. defense contractor is working through supply chain issues and labor shortages to double production to 96 launchers a year.
Lockheed Martin has posted more than 15 jobs related to the production of HIMARS, including supply chain quality engineers, purchasing analysts, and testing engineers, according to its website.
“We’ve made investments in terms of infrastructure in the factory where we build HIMARS,” said Becky Withrow, a sales leader at Lockheed Martin’s missile unit.
Despite the increase in demand, Lockheed Martin’s chief financial officer told Reuters in July that he did not expect significant Ukraine-induced revenue until 2024 or beyond. The CFO of Raytheon Corp (RTX.N), another major U.S. defense contractor, echoed that timeline in an interview with Reuters this summer.
HIMARS fires Guided Multiple Rocket Launch System missiles (GMLRS), which are GPS-guided rounds with 200-pound (90kg) warheads. Lockheed Martin make about 4,600 of the missiles per year; more than 5,000 have been sent to Ukraine so far, according to a Reuters analysis. The U.S. has not disclosed how many GMLRS rounds have been supplied to Ukraine.
Repurposing weapons for regular military use is not a new tactic. The NASAMS anti-aircraft system, developed by Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace and Raytheon, uses AIM-120 missiles – originally meant to be fired from fighter jets at other aircraft. Another weapon, the Joint-Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), ubiquitous in U.S. inventories, is a standard unguided bomb that has been fitted with fins and a GPS guidance system.
25 Nov 22. Foreign Secretary announces critical practical support for Ukraine as winter sets in.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has travelled to Ukraine as part of ongoing UK efforts to ensure the country has the crucial practical support it needs through the winter.
- the Foreign Secretary has travelled to Ukraine to underline the UK’s unwavering support for the country following devastating Russian attacks on critical national infrastructure
- during the visit he has announced a further £3 million of support to the Partnership Fund for a Resilient Ukraine to rebuild vital local infrastructure
- comes as he and the Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey announce that the UK is also committing £5 million for Ukraine-led initiative to ship grain to countries at risk of famine
The Foreign Secretary has travelled to Ukraine as part of ongoing UK efforts to ensure the country has the crucial practical support it needs through the winter.
The visit comes as Russia tries to exploit the harsh winter in Ukraine by continuing its brutal attacks on the country’s civilian and energy infrastructure to exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
During a visit to Kyiv on Saturday, the Prime Minister announced a £50 million package of defensive military support, and the Foreign Secretary will use this visit to ensure that the UK is following through on other key commitments, including further support to help Ukraine through the winter, and to rebuild and recover in the longer term.
That includes providing an additional 35 emergency vehicles, including 24 ambulances and 6 armoured vehicles, which are to arrive in Ukraine from the UK, to support civilians caught in conflict. He will also announce that the UK will step up its support on demining, increasing its support from £2m this year.
While in Ukraine, the Foreign Secretary will meet President Zelenskyy, as well as Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and other key members of the Ukrainian government, including ministers involved in reconstruction efforts. He is also meeting members of civil society who are fighting to protect human rights, and the UK’s embassy staff in Ukraine.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “As winter sets in, Russia is continuing to try and break Ukrainian resolve through its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure. Russia will fail. The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine. I have today announced a package of hands-on support for our Ukrainian friends in their fight, from ambulances to crucial support for survivors of the sexual violence carried out by the Russian military. I’ve seen here first-hand how the UK’s efforts are helping brave citizens to resist and rebuild. Our support will continue for as long as it takes for this remarkable country to recover.”
During the visit the Foreign Secretary has seen the scale of catastrophe wrought indiscriminately by Putin, and how the UK – with its international partners – is providing concrete support for recovery.
Through this fund the UK is supporting the Government of Ukraine, local officials and Ukrainian communities to rebuild vital local infrastructure. This is enabling people to return to normal life by clearing debris from Russian attacks, making areas safe and secure, and rebuilding schools and shelters in towns and villages. This new funding will be targeted to areas recently liberated from Russian control in southern Ukraine, including Kherson Oblast.
He is also visiting a school, which will re-open for 350 students in the next fortnight after being rebuilt by volunteers, including parents and teachers, with UK support.
Ahead of the UK hosted PSVI (Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative) conference next week, the Foreign Secretary will announce a further £3.45 million for the UN Population Fund to boost survivor centred gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health services, and ensure continued access to expert support for survivors of sexual assault.
The consequences of Putin’s war in Ukraine are also being felt across the world, and impacting some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. Today the Foreign Secretary, alongside the Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey also announced that the UK is committing £5 million to a Ukrainian led initiative, delivered through the UN World Food Programme, to supply grain to countries most at risk of famine, including Yemen and Sudan.
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said: “I am pleased the UK government can support President Zelenskyy’s work to help Ukraine’s grain reach some of the poorest and most vulnerable nations in the world.
Global food security is in all our interests – and helping Ukraine’s farmers and agricultural sector to continue producing and exporting food in these most difficult of circumstances is vital for that security. I want Ukraine’s farmers to know that all British farmers stand shoulder to shoulder with you.”
25 Nov 22. NATO troops hold drills in Poland’s Suwalki Gap.
NATO forces took part in drills in northern Poland on Friday, an area of crucial significance to the security of the alliance’s eastern flank.
The Suwalki Gap, a sparsely populated area of Polish territory lying between Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, is of strategic importance because its takeover by Russia would isolate the Baltic states from the rest of NATO.
Poland has been beefing up its armed forces in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and plans to raise defence spending to 3% of gross domestic product (GDP).
“As part of these drills there were exercises that… were formulated based on our experience and observation of the battlefield in Ukraine,” said Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak. “We know what methods Russia uses and what methods (of defence) are effective.”
The TUMAK- 22 exercises involve 2,000 soldiers from land and air forces, the Polish Ministry of Defence said. They also involved more than 1,000 pieces of combat and logistical support equipment.
On the snowy day, drills included practicing crossing water and landing. Explosions rang out at Lake Kepno near the village of Klusy as a simulated attack began.
“What happened today at Lake Kepno was part of a larger exercise which has been going on for several weeks,” said Colonel Tomasz Biedziak.
The drill saw dozens of Polish and allied soldiers cross the water with military vehicles on amphibious transporters, while U.S. troops in Abrams tanks simulated chasing the enemy.
Low clouds prevented military aircraft from taking part at Lake Kepno.
26 Nov 22. The war in Ukraine will be won through bravery on the battlefield — and the ability to source ammunition. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shattered a number of comfortable beliefs. One was that Europe could rely on Russia for energy. Another was that high-intensity conventional warfare was a thing of the past. Indeed, for a while, it looked like democracies no longer needed an arsenal. They could get away with a combination of fighter jets and precision weapons. The war in Ukraine has disproved that. At one point Ukraine was estimated to be firing 20,000 shells a day, and Russia three times that amount. Today Ukraine is reportedly firing between 4,000 and 7,000. Data on stocks are sensitive and hard to come by. But, as a point of comparison, the 2022 US artillery munitions budget of $174m includes over 75 000 rounds of “dumb” ammunition, according to analysis by the Royal United Services Institute. That would equate to about two weeks of Ukrainian shelling at current rates. How much might that cost? Analysis of press releases and military blogs suggests a standard, US 155mm “dumb” howitzer shell costs over $800. At an average rate of fire, a fortnight of shelling by Ukrainian armed forces would cost more than $62m. “Smart” precision-guided 155mm shells cost almost $200,000 each. Defence industry insiders say Ukraine has only limited supplies and is firing these very sparingly. The US continues to supply Ukraine, with the latest package announced this week bringing total military aid to more than $19bn. But given stretched resources, Nato countries may wonder whether they can deplete stockpiles without exposing a flank. Meanwhile, the EU is scrambling to map and mop up any remaining production spare capacity. Companies in the sector are trying to acquire what slack there is. That was the rationale behind Rheinmetall’s bid for Spain’s Expal earlier this month. It followed Italian company Beretta’s purchase of an ammunition business from Switzerland’s RUAG in March. Another Italian group, Fiocchi Munizioni, was acquired on Friday by a Czech company. Ammo — especially the smaller calibre stuff — is still a fragmented market. There is more consolidation to come. Making the best of existing capacity will be crucial to the war effort because ramping up new production lines will take a very long time. (Source: FT.com)
26 Nov 22. Britain says Russia likely removing nuclear warheads from missiles and firing at Ukraine. Russia is likely removing nuclear warheads from ageing nuclear cruise missiles and firing unarmed munitions at Ukraine, Britain’s military intelligence said on Saturday.
The defense ministry said open source imagery shows wreckage of an air launched cruise missile fired at Ukraine which seem to have been designed in the 1980s as a nuclear delivery system, adding that ballast was probably being substituted for the warheads.
Such a system will still produce damage through the missile’s kinetic energy and unspent fuel. However, it is unlikely to achieve reliable effects against intended targets, the ministry added in its daily intelligence update posted on Twitter.
“Whatever Russia’s intent, this improvisation highlights the level of depletion in Russia’s stock of long range missiles”, the ministry said. (Source: Reuters)
25 Nov 22. Germany in talks with allies over Polish push for Patriot deployment to Ukraine.
- NATO says decision on Patriot deployment up to specific country
- Poland asked for German launchers to be sent to western Ukraine
Germany said on Friday it was discussing with allies Poland’s request that German Patriot air defence units be sent to Ukraine, after NATO’s chief suggested the military alliance might not oppose such a move.
“We are talking with our allies about how to handle Poland’s … suggestion,” a German government spokesperson told reporters in Berlin.
Berlin offered Warsaw the Patriot system to help secure its airspace after a stray missile crashed and killed two people in Poland last week. Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak later asked Germany to send the fire units to Ukraine instead.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said such deployments should be decisions for individual nations, taking into account rules around final users.
“The specific decisions on specific systems are national decisions,” he told reporters in Brussels.
“Sometimes there are end users agreements and other things so they need to consult with other allies. But at the end of the day, it (the decision) has to be taken by the national governments,” he added.
Stoltenberg’s comments came after German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht on Thursday said sharing Germany’s Patriot units outside NATO territory would require prior discussions with NATO and the allies.
Patriots are produced by the U.S. company Raytheon (RTX.N).
On Friday, the Polish president said it was Germany’s decision where its Patriot air defence units are stationed, adding that it would be better for Poland’s security if they were on Ukrainian territory near the border.
“From a military point of view, it would be best if they were located in Ukraine to also protect Polish territory, then they would protect both Ukraine and Poland most effectively,” Andrzej Duda told a news conference in Kaunas, Lithuania. “But the decision rests with the German side.”
Duda later said that Germany could send the Patriot units to Ukraine without NATO troops to operate them, something he says Kyiv has been asking for for a while.
“But if there is no consent to this, let them be here (in Poland) and protect us,” Duda wrote on Twitter.
On the sidelines of NATO drills in northeastern Poland, Blaszczak took a swipe at Berlin by saying he was surprised by the idea that the German Patriots might be too advanced to be transferred to Ukraine.
“These are the old patriots, the Polish version is the newest … the claim that the old German Patriots are very advanced is not true,” he said. (Source: Reuters)
25 Nov 22. Ukraine struggles to restore power as Russia targets energy grid.
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- Only half of Ukraine’s power demand being met: grid operator
- We are an unbreakable people, says President Zelenskiy
- Russian shelling attacks kills seven in Kherson, says official
- More than 15,000 people missing in war, says expert
Much of Ukraine remained without heat or power after the most devastating Russian air strikes on its energy grid so far, and in Kyiv residents were warned to brace for further attacks and stock up on water, food and warm clothing.
Moscow acknowledges attacking basic infrastructure, saying it aims to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight and push it to negotiate. Kyiv says such attacks are a war crime.
“Together we endured nine months of full-scale war and Russia has not found a way to break us, and will not find one,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a nightly video address on Thursday.
Zelenskiy also accused Russia of incessantly shelling Kherson, the southern Ukrainian city that it abandoned earlier this month. Seven people were killed and 21 wounded in a Russian attack on Thursday, local authorities said.
Viewed from space, Ukraine has become a dark patch on the globe at night, NASA satellite images showed.
Zelenskiy said that while power, heat, communications and water were being restored gradually, problems still existed with water supplies in 15 regions.
Ukrenergo, which oversees Ukraine’s national power grid, said 50% of demand was not being met as of 7 p.m. Kyiv time (1700 GMT) on Thursday.
In the capital Kyiv, a city of three million, 60% of residents were without power amid temperatures well below freezing, mayor Vitaly Klitschko said.
“We understand that missile strikes like this could happen again. We have to be ready for any developments,” he added, according to Kyiv city council.
Authorities have set up “invincibility centres”, where people can charge phones, warm up and get hot drinks.
“It is the second day we are without power and food. More than 60 children are waiting for food and we cannot prepare anything unless the power gets fixed,” said a woman at one such centre in Kyiv.
Russia’s barrage killed 11 people on Thursday and shut down all of Ukraine’s nuclear plants for the first time in 40 years.
Thursday marked nine months since Moscow launched what it called a “special military operation” to protect Russian-speakers. Ukraine and the West say the invasion is an unprovoked war of aggression.
Since early October, Russia has launched missiles roughly once a week in a bid to destroy the Ukrainian power grid.
Zelenskiy told the Financial Times that this week’s strikes had created a situation not seen for 80 or 90 years – “a country on the European continent where there was totally no light.”
British Foreign Minister James Cleverly visited Ukraine and will pledge millions of pounds in further support to ensure the country has the help it needs through winter, his office said on Friday.
Cleverly, who is set to meet Zelenskiy on the trip, condemned Russia for its “brutal attacks” on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure.
Ukrainian officials said a reactor at one nuclear plant, Khmelnytskyi, had been reconnected to the grid late on Thursday.
The vast Zaporizhzhia plant in Russian-held territory was reconnected earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian nuclear power company Energoatom said.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was Kyiv’s fault Ukrainians were suffering because it refused to yield to Moscow’s demands, which he did not spell out. Ukraine says it will only stop fighting when all Russian forces have left.
Nuclear officials say interruptions in power can disrupt cooling systems and cause an atomic disaster.
THOUSANDS OF MISSING
More than 15,000 people have gone missing during the war in Ukraine, an official in the Kyiv office of the Hague-based International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) said.
The ICMP’s programme director for Europe, Matthew Holliday, said it was unclear how many people had been forcibly transferred, were being held in detention in Russia, were alive and separated from family members, or had died and been buried in makeshift graves.
In Kyiv, members of the Kyiv National Academic Operetta Theater tearfully bid farewell to 26-year-old ballet dancer Vadym Khlupianets who was killed fighting Russian troops.
Moscow shifted to the tactic of striking Ukraine’s infrastructure even as Kyiv has inflicted battlefield defeats on Russian forces since September.
The war’s first winter will now test whether Ukraine can press on with its campaign to recapture territory, or whether Russia’s commanders can halt Kyiv’s momentum.
Zelenskiy said that in some areas Ukrainian troops were preparing to advance but gave no details.
Having retreated, Russia has a far shorter line to defend to hold on to seized lands, with more than a third of the front now blocked off by the Dnipro River.
Russia has pursued an offensive of its own along the front line west of the city of Donetsk, held by Moscow’s proxies since 2014. Ukraine said Russian forces tried again to advance on their main targets, Bakhmut and Avdiivka, with limited success. Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield accounts. (Source: Reuters)
23 Nov 22. Russian generals ‘systematically planned and ordered sexual violence’, says war crimes investigator. Wayne Jordash, an international criminal lawyer, said sexual violence ‘maybe even more frequent’ in territories occupied for longer periods. There is evidence that Russian commanders in several instances were aware of sexual violence by military personnel in Ukraine “and in some cases, encouraging it or even ordering it,” according to an international criminal lawyer assisting Kyiv’s war crimes investigations.
Wayne Jordash, a British lawyer, told Reuters that in some areas around the capital of Kyiv in the north, where the probes are most advanced, some of the sexual violence involved a level of organisation by Russian armed forces that “speaks to planning on a more systematic level.” He didn’t identify specific individuals under scrutiny.
The previously unreported findings by investigators about the alleged role of commanders and the systematic nature of attacks in some locations are part of patterns of alleged sexual violence that are emerging as Russia’s war in Ukraine enters its ninth month.
Jordash, who is part of a Western-backed team that provides legal expertise to Ukraine, said it was too early to conclude how widespread the practice was because investigations in recently-recaptured areas of the northeast and south are at an earlier stage. However, the patterns suggest that sexual violence “maybe even more frequent” in territories that were occupied for longer periods, he added, without providing evidence.
Reuters interviewed more than twenty people who worked with alleged victims – including law enforcement, doctors and lawyers – as well as an alleged rape victim and family members of another.
They shared accounts of alleged sexual violence by Russian armed forces that occurred in various parts of Ukraine: many included allegations of family members being forced to watch or multiple soldiers participating or acts being conducted at gunpoint. (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
24 Nov 22. The real legacy of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine will be death and destruction: UK statement to the OSCE. Ambassador Bush says that Russia’s repressive actions externally in Ukraine and internally within Russia have struck at the heart of OSCE’s core principles.
Thank you, Mr Chair. As we look ahead to the OSCE Ministerial Council in Lodz next week, Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine – supported by the Belarusian regime – will rightly be a central focus. The Russian Government’s repressive actions externally in Ukraine and internally within Russia have struck at the heart of the OSCE’s core principles; principles we have all committed to for our collective security, and for a more peaceful, just and stable future. Through its actions, the Kremlin has demonstrated that it prefers war over peace; death over life; chaos over stability; and isolation over cooperation.
Just yesterday, missile strikes on Ukraine plummeted Ukrainian cities into darkness and caused massive blackouts in Moldova. As other colleagues have mentioned, a new-born baby was killed in a missile strike on a maternity unit in the southern Zaporizhzhia region. This baby is but one life amongst thousands of lives lost, because of the decisions of one man, President Putin. At the UN Security Council Session last night, we reiterated the message – Russia’s systematic attacks on Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure are unacceptable and must end.
And what has Russia achieved in return? The past nine months have been testament to the grave miscalculation Putin made when he chose to invade a sovereign neighbour. Not only has Russia achieved none of the strategic objectives of his invasion, Putin has underestimated the unwavering bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian people, and the resolve of the international community at every turn.
Nowhere is this clearer than in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson. When Putin sent his forces into Ukraine, he thought Kyiv would fall in a matter of days. Whilst his military was being driven back by Ukrainian forces, he declared Kherson part of Russia ‘forever’. Ukraine has shattered Putin’s delusional belief that he could seize Ukrainian sovereign land, and be welcomed by those he sought to subjugate.
Mr Chair, President Putin would have the world believe Russia is liberating Ukraine. However, the real legacy of his illegal war – what his war of choice has actually achieved – will be nothing but death and destruction:
- So far there are more than 16,700 civilian casualties, including over 6,500 killed;
- 17.7m in need of humanitarian assistance;
- over 7.8m refugees;
- 6.5m internally displaced people; and
- We have just heard from our Ukrainian colleague about the ms who have been left without electricity, water or heating as temperatures have begun to drop below zero.
The Kremlin can continue to try to distract and deny responsibility for the atrocities committed by its military forces, however no lie, no disinformation, no false truths can erase the memories of the countless Ukrainians subjected to atrocities and war crimes. Putin cannot defend robbing Ukraine’s 5.7m school-age children of a safe and stable education.
And the repercussions of Russia’s war are not only being felt in Ukraine, but worldwide. Global food markets have been severely disrupted, hitting the poorest the hardest, accompanied by an eightfold increase in global energy prices caused by Russia turning off their gas taps. Almost every corner of the world has been impacted by Putin’s war in some way; the economic aftershocks will be felt for years to come.
Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has unleashed a Pandora’s Box of suffering, pain, death and devastation on Ukraine and the wider world – but Russia can bring it to an end. Russia needs to cease hostilities, withdraw from within Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders, and adhere to its international obligations and commitments – without conditions.
Last week’s guilty verdict, convicting 3 individuals of murder in relation to the downing of MH14, was an important step in securing justice for the families of the victims.
Mr Chair, the UK is proud to have stood with Ukraine from the very beginning of this barbaric war. We will continue to do so. We are humbled by the strength and determination shown by Ukraine in defence of the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Next week, as we gather in Poland, we call on participating States to champion the OSCE commitments that underpin our collective security; to defend and uphold international law; and to hold those responsible for atrocities to account. We cannot and will not allow Russia’s behaviour to go unimpeded.
24 Nov 22. Deadly missile strikes knock out power. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the United Nations Security Council to act against Russia over air strikes on civilian infrastructure that again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.
* Zelenskiy appealed to the U.N. Security Council to take action to stop Russian air strikes targeting vital infrastructure that have once again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.
* Russian missiles knocked out electricity in the Kyiv region and killed at least six people in the Ukrainian capital during attacks that caused blackouts across the country.
* Ukraine disconnected power units at the Khmelnytskyi nuclear power station in the west after massive Russian missile strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, the regional governor said.
* Special “invincibility centres” will be set up around Ukraine to provide electricity, heat, water, internet, mobile phone connections and pharmacy service, free of charge and around the clock, Zelenskiy said.
* Battles raged in the east, where Russia has sent some of the forces it moved following its withdrawal from around the city of Kherson in the south. Russia is pressing an offensive of its own along a stretch of frontline west of the city of Donetsk, held by its proxies since 2014.
* The European Parliament’s website was unavailable for several hours due to a denial-of-service attack by “pro-Kremlin” hackers, after its lawmakers designated Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, the institute’s president said.
* About 50 Russian soldiers were killed and up to 50 were wounded when Ukrainian forces attacked an ammunition depot in the eastern Luhansk region, the Ukrainian military said.
* Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield accounts. Russia denies targeting civilians.
FOREIGN RESPONSE, AID
* European Union governments failed to reach a deal on what level to cap prices for Russian sea-borne oil under the Group of Seven nations (G7) scheme and will resume talks on Thursday evening or on Friday, EU diplomats said.
* The United States has authorized an additional $400 m in military aid to Ukraine, which will include weapons, munitions and air defense equipment. The Biden administration has provided $19.7bn in military assistance to Ukraine (Source: Reuters)
23 Nov 22. $400m in Additional Assistance for Ukraine. Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) announces the authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $400 m to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This authorization is the Biden Administration’s twenty-sixth drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.
Capabilities in this package include:
- Additional munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS);
- 150 heavy machine guns with thermal imagery sights to counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS);
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
- 200 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds;
- 10,000 120mm mortar rounds;
- High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARMs);
- 150 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs);
- Over 100 light tactical vehicles;
- Over 20,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition;
- Over 200 generators;
- Spare parts for 105mm Howitzers and other equipment.
With Russia’s unrelenting and brutal missile and UAS attacks on Ukrainian critical energy infrastructure, additional air defense capabilities remain an urgent priority. The additional munitions for NASAMS and heavy machine guns will help Ukraine counter these urgent threats.
In total, the United States has committed more than $19.7 bn in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $21.8 bn in security assistance to Ukraine and more than $19 bn since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion on February 24.
To meet Ukraine’s evolving battlefield requirements, the United States will continue to work with its Allies and partners to provide Ukraine with key capabilities. (Source: US DoD)
23 Nov 22. UK to give artillery rounds and helicopters to help defend Ukraine. 10,000 artillery rounds will be donated, as the UK completes the first delivery of Sea King helicopters to Ukraine. An additional 10,000 artillery rounds will be provided by the UK to support Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s illegal invasion, the Defence Secretary has announced on a visit to Norway.
The rounds will enhance Ukraine’s defensive capability and come as the first delivery of Sea King helicopters arrives in Ukraine to provide key search and rescue capabilities.
The Royal Navy provided a six-week programme of Sea King training in the UK for 10 crews of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and associated engineers.
The additional military aid comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Kyiv at the weekend, where he announced a £50 m package of defence aid. That package included 125 anti-aircraft guns and technology to counter deadly Iranian-supplied drones, including dozens of radars and anti-drone electronic warfare capability.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Our Support for Ukraine is unwavering. These additional artillery rounds will help Ukraine to secure the land it has reclaimed from Russia in recent weeks.”
The Defence Secretary is visiting Norway where he will host a meeting of the Northern Group of defence ministers onboard the UK’s aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The meeting is expected to cover the implications of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, security developments in Northern Europe, and Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership applications.
The Northern Group is a UK initiative which aims to promote more coherent, efficient and effective defence and security co-operation in northern Europe. It comprises 12 nations; Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the UK.
The UK is also supplying winter kit to Ukraine’s troops as they continue to battle to liberate their country from Russian forces as winter rapidly approaches – when temperatures are known to sink to minus 20°C and below in parts of the country.
Heavy duty sleeping bags and roll mats, combined with heated accommodation and personal winter clothing, will help to prevent cold-related injuries and ensure troops can operate effectively and efficiently. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
22 Nov 22. Ukraine needs help to counter Iranian-made ballistic missiles, drones. Iran could soon provide the Russian military with even deadlier weapons than the Iranian drones it has been using to target Ukrainian civilian infrastructure: ballistic missiles. The U.S. should not wait for Iran to supply, and Russia to start launching, these devastating munitions at Ukrainian cities before it sends essential military equipment to deal with this threat. Instead, Washington should preemptively provide Ukraine with the necessary offensive and defensive weaponry against Iranian ballistic missiles.
The acquisition of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles has enabled Russia to expand operations against front-line and increasingly interior civilian areas in Ukraine. Russia has rapidly become the largest operator of the systems, vastly surpassing any previous recorded use of them, according to the Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s Iran Projectile Tracker, which details Iranian-linked attacks. September 2021 held the record for the most Iran-linked UAVs used in attacks at 66; but Russia reportedly launched over 70 in September this year and more than 230 in October.
Russia could now be turning to Iranian ballistic missiles as a more effective weapon, with Iranian UAVs providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support. Additional munitions are unlikely to reverse Russia’s recent retreats, but acquiring Iranian ballistic missiles would enable Moscow to wreak even greater destruction as well as more effectively strike larger and better protected military installations. The respective 500-kilogram and 600-kilogram payloads of Iran’s Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar short-range ballistic missiles are significantly larger than the 40-kilogram capacity of the Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAV that Russia has been using for the past three months.
While Ukraine claims to have downed up to 85% of Russian-launched Iranian UAVs — a staggering figure given the large number of sites it must protect — it would not likely have the same success against ballistic missiles. The United States has focused on bolstering Ukrainian capabilities to destroy aircraft, cruise missiles and drones, for example, by delivering two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems and recently announcing a $400 m security package with Avenger short-range air defense systems, HAWK interceptors, and additional Stinger missiles.
Yet, according to Yuriy Ihnat, a Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson, the country has “no effective defense against [ballistic] missiles,” and that “it is theoretically possible to shoot them down, but in fact, it is very difficult to do it with the means we have at our disposal. We have anti-air defense, but not anti-missile defense.”
Given this deficiency, America must prepare a package that further bolsters Ukrainian offensive and defensive capabilities to neutralize or degrade the effectiveness of UAVs and ballistic missiles. The Pentagon, working with other NATO partners, should explore options to provide Ukraine with Patriot PAC-2 or PAC-3 surface-to-air missiles, which are highly effective at destroying short-range ballistic missiles, as well as provide the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System, a surface-to-surface weapon that can strike targets about 190 miles away with a 370-pound explosive.
Contractors could operate PAC-2 missiles, or they can run in fully automatic mode, minimizing the long training time it would take to learn how to use them. Ukraine could use ATACMS with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems that the United States has already provided to enhance its “left of launch” options by hitting Russian targets before they fire missiles or drones.
The Ukrainian military already operates American-made Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems; however, ATACMS can strike targets three times as far and with a warhead that is at least double the size, enabling Ukraine to more capably strike Russian drone and missile launch or storage sites in Crimea, compared to the GMLRS with its 15- to 70-kilometer range and 200-pound payload.
President Joe Biden has been reluctant to supply the system, claiming in September that “we’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia.” If Russia acquires Iranian ballistic missiles, this cost-benefit analysis would shift in favor of providing ATACMS that can destroy targets deeper into Crimea on the condition that Ukraine not use the weapons to strike Russia as Biden fears.
Ukraine’s inability to protect against Iranian short-range ballistic missiles should tip the balance in favor of providing Ukraine with ATACMS with strict end-use restrictions that limit their operation to illegally occupied Ukrainian territory. Ukraine’s need for further American-made weaponry and the provision of air defenses capable of neutralizing launches originating in Russia will incentivize it to follow these rules. If Moscow chooses to strike Ukraine from within its own territory, air defenses like Patriot missiles will be critical to enabling Ukraine to protect itself without launching an escalatory strike on Russia.
Less potentially escalatory options include expanding its provision of NASAMS, Avenger, HAWK and Stinger systems that could enable Ukraine to neutralize drones conducting ISR, thus decreasing Russia’s precision targeting.
Meanwhile, Washington should push Greece to sell its Russian S-300 air defense system to Ukraine, and then provide Greece with American-made air defenses to replace it. At the same time, the United States can also work with its partners to interdict or thwart the transportation of Iranian components or weaponry and provide any necessary intelligence for Ukrainian attacks on Russian locations.
Moscow has already caused death and destruction with Iranian drones, even with Ukraine reportedly intercepting most of them. The United States must not sit by while Russia acquires even more damaging Iranian ballistic missiles that Ukraine is not currently prepared to stop. If it moves quickly, Washington can demonstrate to Moscow that its hopes for an Iranian-made solution for its disastrous invasion will fail. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
22 Nov 22. Austin Thanks Congress for Continued Support of Ukraine. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III had a side meeting with some U.S. senators at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, this week.
Austin thanked legislators for their continued support for Ukraine and encouraged passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, who held a press briefing today.
“At a time when the United States faces challenges from China and an acute threat from Russia, it is essential that we have the authorities we need to keep the American people safe, deter adversaries and support a lethal, resilient and healthy joint force,” Singh said.
Singh characterized the fighting in Ukraine as a “dynamic and active battlefield.” She added, “We’re seeing the Ukrainians push back using the weapons and systems that not just we have provided, but that other partners and allies have provided.”
The Defense Department is keenly aware of the Russian bombing of Ukrainian infrastructure using Iranian-sourced drones. The strikes have included the power grid, which targets the Ukraine civilian population with dire consequences as winter approaches, she said.
The department, in consultation with allies, partners and the Ukrainians, have ongoing discussions to address the urgent needs of Ukraine — not just on the battlefield, but also to sustain their own infrastructure, she said.
“We’re seeing Russia being further isolated by reaching out to countries like Iran and North Korea to resupply what they need. It clearly shows their own weakness, and it clearly shows how isolated they’ve become in the world,” she said.
Regarding Turkish airstrikes against Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish positions this week, Singh said the department continues to monitor what is happening on the ground.
Turkey claims the attacks are against terrorist groups responsible for a deadly bombing in Istanbul on Nov. 13.
“We continue to urge for de-escalation. … These strikes from all sides risk our mission, which is to defeat ISIS,” Singh said, referring to the Islamic State. (Source: U.K. MoD)
22 Nov 22. Senators urge Pentagon to reconsider Gray Eagle drones for Ukraine. A bipartisan group of 16 U.S. senators pressed the Biden administration to carefully reconsider Ukraine’s request for lethal Gray Eagle drones to fight Russia and asked the Pentagon to explain why it has not moved ahead, according to a copy of the letter.
The Biden administration has so far rejected requests for the armable MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone, which has an operational ceiling of 29,000 feet and would represent a great technological leap forward for Ukraine.
The rejection had been based on concerns the drones could be shot down, were not essential to Ukraine’s war effort and could escalate the conflict, but the Pentagon has not gone on record to confirm its stance.
Ukraine has made numerous appeals for the United States to supply it with the powerful drones, most recently with anti-drone missiles, hoping Washington will reverse its prior opposition, as Russia increasingly turns to kamikaze drones and attacks civilian infrastructure.
The senators, including Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Joe Manchin, both of whom serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed concern over U.S. opposition to the request, saying that provision of the armable drone “demands careful reconsideration.”
A Pentagon spokesman said, “As a matter of policy, we do not comment on our communication with elected officials.”
The senators gave Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin until Nov. 30 to explain why the Pentagon believed the drone was not appropriate for the fight in Ukraine, whether U.S. concerns related to technology transfer were surmountable, and if the Pentagon thought that introducing the drone, made by General Atomics, would further antagonize Russia.
The letter and its contents were reported on by the Wall Street Journal earlier on Tuesday. (Source: Reuters)
22 Nov 22. Ukraine braces for harsh winter as Russian strikes cripple power facilities.
- Ukrainians brace for winter with little or no heating
- Temperatures in several areas already below freezing
- Zelenskiy says half Ukraine’s power capacity crippled by Russia
- Kherson residents can express interest in moving elsewhere
- Ukraine: Russia bombing Kherson from across river
Ukrainians braced for a winter with little or no power in several areas including the capital where temperatures have already dropped below freezing as relentless Russian strikes crippled the country’s energy capacity.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged people to conserve power, particularly in hard-hit areas such as Kyiv, Vinnytsia in the southwest, Sumy in the north and Odesa on the Black Sea.
Moscow’s response to military setbacks in recent weeks has included a barrage of missile strikes against power facilities, and Zelenskiy said half of the country’s power capacity had been knocked out by Russian rockets.
“The systematic damage to our energy system from strikes by the Russian terrorists is so considerable that all our people and businesses should be mindful and redistribute their consumption throughout the day,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address. “Try to limit your personal consumption of electricity.”
Millions of Ukrainians are most likely to live with blackouts – a daily occurrence across the country – at least until the end of March, Sergey Kovalenko, the head of YASNO, which provides energy for Kyiv, said on Monday.
He said workers are rushing to complete repairs before the winter cold arrives.
“Stock up on warm clothes, blankets, think about options that will help you wait a long outage,” Kovalenko said. “It’s better to do it now than to be miserable.”
Citizens in the recently liberated southern city of Kherson, where Kyiv says Russian troops destroyed critical infrastructure before leaving earlier this month, can apply to be relocated to areas where security and heating issues are less acute.
In a Telegram message for Kherson residents – especially the elderly, women with children and those who are ill or disabled – Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk posted a number of ways residents can express interest in leaving.
“You can be evacuated for the winter period to safer regions of the country,” she wrote, citing both security and infrastructure problems.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the blackouts and Russia’s strikes on energy infrastructure are the consequences of Kyiv being unwilling to negotiate, the state TASS news agency reported late last week.
On Monday evening, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia was bombarding Kherson from across the Dnipro River, now that its troops had fled.
“There is no military logic: they just want to take revenge on the locals,” he tweeted.
Moscow denies intentionally targeting civilians in what it calls a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities.
Kyiv and the West describe Russia’s actions as an unprovoked war of aggression.
NUCLEAR PLANT SHELLING
Battles continued to rage in the east following Russian troop movements into the industrial Donbas region from around Kherson in the south.
Moscow has been reinforcing the areas it still holds and pressing an offensive of its own along a stretch of front line west of the city of Donetsk held by its proxies since 2014.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Tuesday its forces repelled numerous Russian attacks in several areas in the Donetsk region.
“The enemy does not stop shelling the positions of our troops and settlements near the contact line,” it said.
“Attacks continue to damage critical infrastructure and civilian homes.”
Russia and Ukraine on Monday traded blame for at least a dozen explosions at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, which has been under Russian control since soon after it invaded the country on Feb. 24 but is across the Dnipro River from areas controlled by Kyiv.
Ukraine narrowly escaped disaster during fighting at the weekend that rocked the plant, Europe’s largest, with a barrage of shells.
Zelenskiy urged NATO members to guarantee protection from “Russian sabotage” at nuclear facilities.
IAEA experts toured the site on Monday, and the agency said they found widespread damage but nothing that compromised the plant’s essential systems.
The reactors are shut down but there is a risk that nuclear fuel could overheat if the power driving the cooling systems is cut. Shelling has repeatedly cut power lines.
Russia’s defence ministry said Ukraine fired at power lines supplying the plant.
Ukraine’s nuclear energy firm Energoatom said Russia’s military shelled the site, accusing it of nuclear blackmail and actions that were “endangering the whole world”.
Reuters could not immediately verify which side was responsible.
Repeated shelling of the plant during the war has raised concern about a grave disaster in the country that suffered the world’s worst nuclear accident, the 1986 Chornobyl meltdown. (Source: Reuters)
21 Nov 22. Britain’s Brimstone missiles primed to make Russian soldiers’ lives hell. The RAF is sending Kyiv supplies of its latest laser-guided rocket, which can travel at double the range of the previous model
Britain has sent Ukraine an advanced model of the laser-guided Brimstone missile with double the range of the previous design.
Footage has emerged of supplies of Brimstone 2 missiles being delivered by the Royal Air Force to help Ukraine push back Russian forces.
Ukrainian troops have modified trucks to serve as mobile launch platforms to destroy Russian tanks and other vehicles from long range. The missiles are usually launched from the air.
The missiles, along with similar anti-tank weapons sent by Ukraine’s other Western allies, would have been central in blunting Moscow’s military advance in recent months.
Britain first gave Brimstone missiles to Ukraine about six months ago. However, a video released last month by the British Forces Broadcasting Service showed the more advanced version being prepared for transportation at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.
The missiles, which each cost about £175,000, can hit targets by tracking a laser fired by troops, aircraft or vehicles, or select its own target from a pre-programmed list through the use of an extremely high-frequency millimetric wave radar.
This system allows the weapon to scan the battlefield and select the most appropriate target, discounting civilian vehicles or less important military equipment.
When guided by a laser fired by friendly troops, Brimstone can be used in built-up areas with great precision, limiting the potential for collateral damage among the civilian population.
The first version of Brimstone entered RAF service in 2005. It was upgraded in 2008 so it could be guided by laser. Brimstone 2, the next improved model, entered service in 2016.
With a range, when launched from a jet, of roughly 37 miles, and a 6.3kg (13.9lbs) warhead, Brimstone 2 is designed primarily to hit ground targets, including moving vehicles.
However, a maritime version of the weapon has been developed, specifically designed to hit fast attack craft such as speed boats. It is very similar to earlier variants, but has to compensate for the radar and laser “scatter” that can occur when operating over water.
Trials were conducted in 2013 of Sea Spear fired against a simulated attack formation of five targets, one of which was a 15-metre craft travelling at 20 knots.
The successful trial demonstrated the missile’s ability to strike numerous individual targets at sea.
On a visit to Kyiv at the weekend, Rishi Sunak announced another military aid package of £50m would be sent to Ukraine.
Brimstone was not thought to be part of that package, which focused instead on the provision of air defence weapons and ammunition to counter the threat from Iranian-supplied Shahed-136 drones. (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
21 Nov 22. Ukraine’s full-circle on Iron Dome air defence may pan out with new Israeli PM. A change of government in Israel could be about to help protect Ukraine from Iranian drones. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky once more asked for the provision of the Israeli Iron Dome air defence system during a press conference on 16 November, with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s recently elected Prime Minister-designate, stating that he would consider the proposition.
As early as 15 February, in advance of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth was reporting that Ukraine had unsuccessfully sought the Iron Dome system which has been responsible for intercepting over 90% of the 4,000 rockets and missiles fired at Israel during recent operations in the region.
But by mid-July, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov described a turn in Ukraine’s view of the defence system: “Iron Dome was built [for protection] against slow, low-altitude, low-impact missiles that were basically made in garages. Iron Dome does not protect against cruise and ballistic missiles,” said Reznikov, speaking at a Forbes summit.
After the success of the Ukrainian counter-offensive in October Russia deployed waves of Iranian produced loitering munitions to target civil and infrastructure targets deep within Ukraine. As part of efforts to increase air defence, the Ukrainian government sent an official request to Israel for Iron Dome batteries. The request, detailed in letter obtained by Axios, argued that successfully deterring the drones would deter further improvements in Iranian systems, but was met by expressions of unwillingness from both sides of Israel’s political divide.
On 9 November, Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz told journalists that the production capabilities of Israel were insufficient to furnish Ukraine with air defence systems. “It is clear that even if it was decided that we change our policy, it is impossible to empty our supply of air defence systems,” said Gantz.
However, during remarks at a Stimson Centre panel discussion on Ukraine and the future of air warfare delivered on 14 November, Tom Karako, senior fellow with the International Security Program and Director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, appeared to contradict Gantz’s position regarding the limits to support for Ukraine stemming from insufficient production capabilities: “There is one system that the United States could share but have not done so, and that’s our Iron Dome. We don’t need to take anything away from Israel for its own defence. The United States has two batteries of Iron Domes.
“And if, in a foreign policy standpoint, Israel were to green-light the transfer of those from the United States to Ukraine, that would be a helpful addition,” continued Karako, referring to the agreement between Israel and the US – nations that jointly developed the Iron Dome – only to sell the technology to third parties through mutual consent.
Following this month’s elections in Israel and the change in governing party, Zelensky was asked if there had been a shift in relations with Israel: “The shift is that we got back in contact with Netanyahu… We passed on to them all details regarding air defence systems. This is the top priority. He has assured me that he will sort this issue out as soon as possible or he will think where he can help, and then he will get back with a response.” (Source: army-technology.com)
21 Nov 22. US Army weighs multiyear contracts for munitions to aid Ukraine. The Army is weighing which munitions programs are best suited for multiyear contracts should Congress approve these authorities to replenish supplies sent to Ukraine. Bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate would grant the Pentagon wartime procurement powers, allowing it to use multiyear contracts to buy massive amounts of high-priority munitions to help Ukraine fight Russia and refill U.S. stockpiles.
The proposed legislation is an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill and was offered instead of the critical munitions acquisition fund sought by the Pentagon and some lawmakers but rejected by Senate appropriators.
The munitions programs most likely to see this approach would be ones the service is already buying at large scale and with hot production lines, Doug Bush, the Army’s acquisition chief, told reporters Monday.
Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or GMLRS, and Patriot missiles rise to the top of weapons systems produced in large volumes, he said. Additionally, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, launchers could be a candidate for a multiyear contract, Bush noted.
“That would be, for the Army, unusual, but this could be the circumstance where it’s a good idea, but we’re still working on that and anything we do would require specific congressional approval by both authorizers and appropriators,” he said.
Bush said Congress has been open to the Pentagon presenting the idea and the data to justify it.
“A great advantage of multiyear contracts is usually you save a lot of money, you stabilize the industrial base and you stabilize suppliers,” Bush told reporters in a Nov. 21 briefing. “The downside of multiyears is you don’t quite have as much flexibility year to year.”
Referring to his own experience as a staff member on the House Armed Services Committee, Bush said Congress has “been supportive of multiyear approaches as long as the numbers add up.”
“We will have to prove that in each individual case here to where the value of doing the multiyears is demonstrable in terms of cost savings and production stability,” he added. “I think we can do that on not everything, but there are certainly a few programs, maybe three or four for the Army … where a multiyear approach could have great benefits.”
Over the last month, the U.S. Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a deal worth $521 m to replenish U.S. stocks of GMLRS, which have been supplied to Ukraine to beat back Russia’s invasion.
Lockheed also received on Nov. 17 an Army contract worth $14.4 m to increase production capacity to rapidly replenish U.S. stocks of HIMARS after sending systems to Ukraine.
Lockheed is currently tooled to build 60 HIMARS launchers a year, but the contract, awarded in early October, will allow the company to ramp production up to 96 launchers per year, a company spokesperson told Defense News.
The company has made factory infrastructure investments and will be able to scale production within the same factory footprint, the spokesperson added.
In September, Ukraine announced its plan to buy 18 HIMARS, in addition to the 20 systems the U.S. has sent to the country. Lockheed Martin also won a $179m contract earlier this fall to replace HIMARS being sent to Ukraine, along with an order of GMLRS. Last month, Bush told Defense News the Army is using multiple methods to accelerate contracts that will replenish supplies heading to Ukraine. As of October, the U.S. military has made roughly $3.4bn in Ukraine-related contracting actions for arms and equipment. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
21 Nov 22. Ukroboronprom and six Nato nations to jointly produce military equipment. The countries, including Poland, the Czech Republic, France, and Denmark, will also set-up maintenance and research hubs. Ukrainian government enterprise Ukroboronprom has signed an agreement with six NATO allied and partner nations to jointly develop and manufacture heavy weapons and military hardware.
It was announced by Ukroboronprom in a media statement on 18 November.
The six countries include Poland, the Czech Republic, France, and Denmark, among others. Ukroboronprom’s statement said that the agreements ‘do not allow for [the] disclosure of any details.’
Apart from military equipment production, the new deal will see Ukroboronprom increase the production of various calibres of ammunition and the establishment of service hubs to perform weapons’ maintenance and repair related work.
The Ukrainian enterprise will also set up joint research centres to work in the field of high technologies.
The execution of the planned efforts will also involve the donation of funds from different countries, as well as Ukrainian and Czech defence enterprises.
The UK Government has pledged to deliver an additional £50m package comprising air defence systems for Ukraine.
This was finalised during British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent visit to Kyiv, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on 19 November. The new tranche includes a total of 125 anti-aircraft guns and other technology to deter Iranian developed and supplied drones, radars, and anti-drone electronic warfare systems that are being used by Russian military forces.
According to the UK Government, the defence systems will safeguard the Ukrainian forces and population from the ‘intense barrage of Russian strikes’.
Sunak said: “We are today providing new air defence, including anti-aircraft guns, radar, and anti-drone equipment, and stepping up humanitarian support for the cold, hard winter ahead.”
The country is also sending winter kits and supplies for the Ukrainian soldiers to fight the extreme cold winter.
20 Nov 22. Iran to help Russia build drones for Ukraine war, Post says. Russia has reached agreement with Iran to begin manufacturing hundreds of unmanned weaponised aircraft on Russian soil, The Washington Post reported, citing intelligence seen by U.S. and other Western security agencies. The Post said Russian and Iranian officials finalized the deal during a meeting in Iran in early November. Russia and Iran are moving rapidly to transfer designs and key components that could allow production to begin within months, three officials familiar with the matter said, according to the newspaper. (Source: Reuters)
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