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Military And Security Developments
- Over the last 24-48 hours, Russian sources continue to report on incremental progress along the Bakhmut line, including further advances towards Klishchiivka, four miles (7km) south-west of Bakhmut. While on 8 December the Ukrainian General Staff reported on its forces’ continued success in repelling Russian attacks around Bakhmut, the latest military briefing earlier on 9 December did not include any such details. This possibly indicates further Russian progress over the last 24 hours, though we cannot confirm this at the time of writing. Intense fighting has also continued further south along the Donetsk city line, particularly around Avdiivka, five miles (8km) north of Donetsk city. Nevertheless, the frontline remains much more static in this vicinity as both Russian and Ukrainian sources report on attacks and counter-attacks being successfully repulsed on both sides. This points to little movement in recent days.
- Further north, Russian forces are strengthening defensive positions along the Oskil-Kreminna front in likely anticipation of fresh Ukrainian counter-offensives over the winter. The UK’s Defence Intelligence reported on 8 December that Russian forces have now completed an almost continuous trench system along the 37 miles (60km) between Svatove and the Russian border. Maps of this new fallback line published on Russian social media in recent days indicate the extensive defences east of Svatove that the Russians have been preparing in recent weeks. These defences will present a significant obstacle to any future Ukrainian counter-offensive operations to retake northern Luhansk oblast. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai stated on 8 December that he is ‘convinced’ that Ukrainian forces will be able to push Russian forces back to the pre-24 February demarcation line in Luhansk oblast by the end of the winter. He did, however, acknowledge that this would be a very difficult task, and that there are further indications that Russian forces will present a more coherent defence than during the Kharkiv counter-offensive.
- In addition to the fixed defences under construction, Russian forces are also bolstering troop numbers to reinforce defences along the Oskil-Kreminna line. The UK’s defence ministry similarly reported yesterday that elements of the Russian 1st Guards Tank Army are likely deploying along the defensive lines around Svatove. However, London notes that in contrast to its ‘elite’ status before the invasion, it has likely been partially reinforced with mobilised reservists and is likely well below its doctrinal strength of 25,000. In addition, Haidai reported on 8 December that Russia has brought up unspecified elements of the VDV airborne forces from Kherson to Svatove, further indicating that Russia’s more elite forces are steadily concentrating in Luhansk in anticipation of a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
- Overall reporting on fighting along the Oskil-Kreminna line over the last 24 hours has been broadly in line with patterns assessed in recent weeks. Russian forces are continuing to launch limited attacks north-west of Svatove, including in the direction of Kupiansk, 31 miles (50km) north-west of Svatove. Meanwhile, both the Russian defence ministry and Ukrainian General Staff have confirmed that Russian forces are also stepping up spoiling attacks west of Kreminna, though it is unlikely that Russian forces have had much success in dislodging Ukrainian positions along this axis.
- Additionally, Russian forces launched a limited attack north-east of Kharkiv city on 8 December, which Ukrainian forces successfully repulsed around Ternova, 21 miles (35km) north-east of Kharkiv city. Russian forces have periodically launched assaults along the international border north of Kharkiv following the withdrawal amid Ukraine’s Kharkiv counter-offensive in September. Such attacks are highly likely to be reconnaissance operations to try to fix Ukrainian forces and to screen the border to prevent future attacks. They are unlikely to represent an imminent or major incursion designed to take significant ground in the direction of Kharkiv city.
- There were a few notable developments to report along the Kherson frontline over the last 24-48 hours. Russian occupation forces did, however, report on 8 December that they had begun restoring the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant. While Russian forces will possibly use the pretext of restoration works to lay explosive charges at the plant or otherwise prepare for a false flag operation, the complete destruction of the plant and the dam remains unlikely, as previously assessed (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 10 November).
- On 8 December, Ukraine’s state atomic energy agency Energoatom reported that Russian forces have placed numerous Grad multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) near reactor six of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). Energoatom anticipates that the systems will be used to strike Nikopol and Marhanets across the Dnieper River, using the proximity of the reactors as a shield to prevent Ukrainian counter-battery fire. Russia has previously made frequent use of the ZNPP as a base from which to launch attacks with relative impunity. While the deployment of Grad systems remains unconfirmed, it would be the latest indicator supporting our overall assessment that an imminent demilitarisation of the ZNPP remains unlikely. This comes despite cautiously optimistic reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on progress in talks with Moscow and earlier reports that Russia is possibly preparing to withdraw from the plant (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 5 December).
- A growing bottleneck of oil tankers along the Bosphorus (Istanbul, Turkey) risks further undermining global oil supplies and price stability. As of 8 December, at least 16 oil tankers travelling from the Black Sea were waiting to cross the Turkish Straits after Ankara began insisting that all vessels carrying Russian oil prove that they have insurance to cover any potential payouts following the EU and G7 price cap and partial ban on seaborne oil imports. If the backlog continues to build, it is likely to further hit global oil supplies and drive up prices. Both the UK and US are reportedly in talks with Ankara to discuss a solution. For further analysis on the implications of the price cap, see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 7 December.
- On 9 November, President Vladimir Putin claimed that the West has turned Ukraine into a ‘colony’ and is using the country as a battering ram against Russia which is ‘pushing [Ukraine] on a suicidal path’. The latest speech aligns with Putin’s previous bellicose and anti-Western rhetoric and comes less than 48 hours after he gave another speech that seemingly sought to ease nuclear tensions (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 8 December).
- Putin addressed his latest remarks to the military leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) during a visit to Kyrgyzstan for a summit of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Putin specifically claimed that the war in Ukraine represents ‘the dire consequences of the US desire to maintain its dominance in the world’. This line reflects broader attempts by Moscow to present the war in Ukraine as an opportunity to break the US-dominated world order in an appeal to the Global South and other nations traditionally resistant to US and Western influence. While Putin’s visit to Kyrgyzstan will aim at shoring up Russia’s ebbing influence in Central Asia, his speech is also emblematic of the Kremlin’s aim to challenge the rules-based international order and curry support from other countries that have felt excluded due to globalisation and Western dominance.
- The Turkish energy firm Karpowership confirmed earlier this week that it is negotiating a contract to supply 300-400 megawatts of electricity to Odesa via floating power plants in Romania and Moldova. If approved, the mega wattage could supply electricity to around one million households and ease pressure on Ukraine’s domestic electricity generation. However, recent strikes against power lines running between Romania and Moldova in Ukrainian territory, which led to blackouts in Moldova, underscore the enduring vulnerability of all power grid infrastructure in Ukraine; as such even external sources of power are likely to be impacted by Russian strikes inside Ukraine.
- Russia-US: Despite Griner-Bout prisoner exchange, threat of arbitrary detention of Western citizens will remain high. On 8 December, Russia and the US agreed to a prisoner exchange wherein basketball star Britney Griner was exchanged for the Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in Abu Dhabi. Griner has been in custody since her arrest at an airport near Moscow in February 2022, when she was accused of entering Russia with illegal vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil. She was subsequently sentenced to nine years in prison, following a trial which US President Joe Biden publicly described as a ‘show trial’. While a positive development, another US citizen, former US Marine Paul Whelan, remains imprisoned in Russia following his arrest in 2018 on charges related to espionage. Despite Griner’s release, months of negotiations underline the enduring threat of arbitrary detention of Western citizens in the Russian Federation and Moscow’s use of Western citizens as leverage. Nonetheless, the exchange also confirms that Russia-US negotiations can achieve results despite tensions over the ongoing war in Ukraine.
On 8 December, President Vladimir Putin warned that Russia would continue launching mass strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, confirming our assessment of the continued threat of further waves of attacks over the coming months. He claimed that the Russian strikes are in retaliation for Ukrainian attacks against Russian critical infrastructure – including the Crimea Bridge and the alleged attack on the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant. Notably, a new draft law was submitted to the Russian State Duma on 8 December which would increase the punishment for those convicted of involvement in sabotage, expanding maximum sentences to life imprisonment, including for those financing and ‘organising a sabotage community’, even if it does not result in loss of life. The latest wave of cruise missile strikes on 5 December has exacerbated energy instability, with DTEK this morning confirming that emergency shutdowns will continue in Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Odesa oblasts. Amid this continued instability, Kyiv’s partners are stepping up direct support to improve Ukrainian energy resilience over the winter. Most recently, France confirmed this week that it will send 100 generators to Ukraine; this is the latest example of growing technical assistance.
- Over the last 24-48 hours, Russian offensive operations have continued across Donetsk oblast, where fighting remains very intense. Most notably, the Ukrainian General Staff reported that its forces had repelled Russian attacks against Kurdyumivka and Bila Hora, located around eight miles (13km) and nine miles (15km) south-west of Bakhmut, respectively. An attempted attack against Bila Hora would be particularly notable, as it would indicate that Russian forces have crossed the Siverskyi Donets–Donbas canal (SDD) that runs west of Bakhmut. Wagner Group forces claim they made progress in this direction in recent days. Any major progress would possibly allow Russian forces to outflank Ukrainian positions west of Bakhmut. However, given the robust Ukrainian defences in the area, it remains to be seen whether Russian forces can sustainably push that far west.
- Further north along the Oskil-Kreminna line, Russian forces appear to be steadily intensifying attacks in a likely attempt to pre-empt and undermine Ukraine’s own preparations for renewed counter-offensive operations in the coming days and weeks. The Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces reported on 7 December that Russian forces are preparing counter-offensives towards Kupiansk, 31 miles (50km) north-west of Svatove at the northern end of the Oskil-Kreminna line. The Russian defence ministry confirmed this morning that offensive operations have continued in the Lyman direction. However, this possibly also refers to offensive operations further south, as well as those around Kupiansk. Meanwhile, Russian sources continue to report on Ukrainian operations west of Kreminna. However, it is likely that Russian forces also launched a series of attacks against Ukrainian positions along the R-66 highway. Much of the area west of Kreminna remains highly contested, but it is clear that Ukrainian forces are steadily encroaching on the town from the north-west.
- The situation on the southern Kherson front has remained broadly stable over the last 24-48 hours according to the limited sources available from this axis. The Ukrainian General Staff continued to report on Russian defensive preparations along the eastern (left) bank of the Dnieper river. Adviser to the Kherson regional administration Serhiy Khlan stated on 7 December that Russian forces are preparing to pull significant numbers from rear positions elsewhere along the southern axis in the event of Ukrainian attacks against Russia’s left bank positions. Notably, Russian commander Alexei Kondratiev on 7 November denied that Ukrainian forces control any part of the Kinburn Spit, though Ukrainian officials have recently reported that an operation is ongoing on the peninsula.
- On 7 December, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the Russian military is currently seeking to ‘freeze’ the fighting in order to enjoy an operational pause over the winter to regroup and launch fresh offensives in the spring. This aligns with our earlier assessments. While Russia will possibly seek an operational pause, Ukrainian forces are highly likely to maintain pressure and launch fresh counter-offensives to sustain their current momentum and deprive Russian forces of an opportunity to rebuild over the winter.
- Over the last 24 hours, there were a number of apparent low-intensity Ukrainian attacks against Russian territory. The success of these attacks was mixed. The Russian governor of occupied Crimea reported that Russian air defences shot down a drone earlier on 8 December over waters near Sevastopol, the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet. Similarly, a missile was shot down near the village of Kuleshovka in Belgorod oblast on 7 December. However, explosions were reported earlier on 8 December in the Yakovlevsky urban district of Belgorod.
- Meanwhile, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat confirmed on 7 December that Russia has resumed using Iranian-produced Shahed-136 drones after a three-week pause from operating these systems. Kyiv assesses that this hiatus was caused by icing issues amid plummeting winter conditions, and that Russian engineers have likely now modified the drones to operate in cold temperatures. As such, it is likely that Shahed-136s will once again be used in large-scale attacks to overwhelm Ukrainian air defences and exhaust their munitions.
- Amid the increasing rate of Ukrainian cross-border attacks, Kyiv continues to lobby Western partners, particularly the US, for more advanced weapons systems. However, dwindling stocks of weaponry are placing increased pressure on Western capitals and raising questions over whether they can sustain current rates of military aid in the medium to long term. For example, while Germany confirmed on 7 December that it will send a further 18 RCH 155 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, it also reported a critical shortage of ammunition in its reserve stockpiles. This shortage has been exacerbated by the slowdown of component imports from China.
- Low domestic production capacity, insufficient reserve stocks and vulnerable military supply chains have led to discussions about supplying off-the-shelf but rarely used ammunition and weapons systems. A notable example is the continual Ukrainian request for the US to supply cluster munitions. Cluster munitions are imprecise weapons that scatter ‘bomblets’ across a wide area; they are banned by more than 100 countries under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Neither the US nor Ukraine are signatories to the convention. Russia has used various cluster munitions throughout the war. According to US sources cited by CNN on 7 December, the Biden administration is considering sending cluster munitions to Ukraine as a last resort amid dwindling ammunition stocks.
- The US unveiled its Fiscal 2023 National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) on 6 December. The act commits at least USD 800 million in additional security aid to Ukraine as part of a USD 858 billion defence budget. Crucially, USD 2.7 billion has been earmarked to boost munitions production capacity, with the production rate of 155mm artillery shells likely to increase from the current 14,000 a month to 20,000 by spring 2023, and 40,000 by 2025. Uncertainty remains as to whether this production rate will sustain Ukraine’s current expenditure level; Ukrainian forces are possibly firing 2,000-4,000 shells a day. Periods of particularly heavy fighting will dramatically increase this rate. Nevertheless, the ramping up of production will prove vital to the US’ ability to sustain current levels of military aid to Ukraine in the medium to long term – particularly as the war is likely to protract for the foreseeable future (see Forecast below).
- On 7 December, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a proposed ninth round of sanctions against Russia. Under the new regime, 200 additional individuals and entities will be placed under sanctions, including the Russian Regional Development Bank. New export controls will be introduced to undermine the production of drones, namely drone engines, as well as dual-use goods, including chemicals, nerve agents, electronics and IT components. Bans on new mining investments and other economic measures against Russia’s extractive and energy sectors will also be levied. The UK is likely to outline its own latest package of sanctions on 9 December.
- The CEO of Naftogaz, Ukraine’s largest oil and gas firm, reported on 7 December that Russian attacks have damaged 350 natural gas facilities across the country, resulting in a loss of gas production capacity worth around USD 700 million. Notably, President Volodymyr Zelensky also stated on 7 December that the damage to critical infrastructure means it is impossible to restore the electricity grid completely. However, he announced that additional power generation capacity is increasing everyday. Blackouts will therefore continue; the most significant outages are currently impacting Khmelnytskyi, Kyiv, Lviv, Poltava, Vinnytsia, Zakarpattia and Zhytomyr oblasts.
On 7 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine could prove a ‘lengthy process’. He also claimed that the war had already accomplished significant results given the acquisition of new territories. He claimed that gaining total control over the Sea of Azov was a key objective of Peter the Great. The emphasis on acquiring new lands and the comparison to Peter the Great, which Putin has frequently made in recent months, underlines Russia’s decidedly imperialist ambitions in Ukraine, and likely indicates that Moscow has not yet abandoned its maximalist objectives therein. Notably, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reaffirmed earlier on 8 December that ‘demilitarisation and denazification’ remain the key goals of the ‘special military operation’. He also stated that there were currently no discussions about annexing further territories in Ukraine in response to a question regarding the scope of the war. Putin’s statement ultimately aligns with our assessment in recent months that the Kremlin is doubling down on its war in Ukraine. It is readying for a protracted conflict predicated on the steady erosion of Western support for Ukraine in the long term. His comments were also likely designed to inject domestic reassurance regarding a longer-term operation. In particular, Putin likely wants to assure hardliner audiences that the Kremlin (and Putin personally) is committed to the war and is prepared to put in more effort to achieve victory, rather than cutting its losses and ending the war in the short term. While Putin previously stated that there is currently no need for further mobilisation, the emphasis on the protracted nature of the war indicates the Kremlin is likely readying the population for further waves of conscription, as we previously assessed (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 28 November). Finally, Putin also stated during his speech that the threat of nuclear war is growing. However, in a notable development, he stated that Russia will not use nuclear weapons first. According to Putin, any Russian use of nuclear weapons would be retaliatory in nature and that ‘the possibility of using [a nuclear weapon] in the event of a nuclear strike on [Russian] territory remains very limited’. He furthermore stated that Russia ‘is not crazy’ and understands the power of nuclear weapons and will not ‘brandish them like a razor’. This somewhat eases the previously bellicose nuclear rhetoric employed by the Kremlin and will clearly ease nuclear tensions in the short term. However, we maintain that Moscow is likely to periodically raise the spectre of nuclear conflict at semi-regular intervals to maintain pressure on both Kyiv and the West as part of a longer-term strategic deterrence campaign. Russian nuclear doctrine allows for the use of nuclear weapons in self-defence. While Putin’s latest statements downplay previous indications that the war in Ukraine could be viewed as an existential conflict by Moscow, the threat of nuclear escalation will likely increase if Russia sustains serious military defeats on the battlefield in the coming months. For further analysis on potential scenarios, triggers and implications of a nuclear escalation in Ukraine, see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 25 October.
Russia-Ukraine: Kremlin acknowledges that war could be protracted; diplomatic channels remain open, On 7 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the ongoing war in Ukraine could be lengthy, reinforcing earlier assessments that serious progress towards a ceasefire or peace process is unlikely in the short-to-medium term. Following Putin’s statement, the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Ryabkov, announced on 8 December that the country does not deem it necessary to cut all diplomatic ties with the US, as other diplomatic channels between the two countries have not yet been exhausted. Ryabkov nevertheless reaffirmed that the situation between the two countries remains extremely difficult, particularly in relation to the fate of Russian citizens in American prisons. While Putin and Ryabkov’s statements reinforce enduring tensions and the likelihood of the war extending well into 2023, diplomatic channels do remain open and will likely continue to reduce the threat of a major escalation.
- Russian forces are likely continuing to make only very marginal gains in Donetsk oblast. Various sources continue to report on intense fighting south and east of Bakhmut in particular, and while there have been claims of progress around Opytne, 2 miles (4km) south of Bakhmut, Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin refuted these claims on 6 December. In addition, the commander of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR)’s Vostok Battalion Alexander Khodakovsky reported on 6 December that Russian forces do not currently have the advantage of surprising Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut as they had done in Mariupol earlier in the war. While he did report that Russian forces are making marginal gains around Bakhmut, he noted that Ukrainian defences along this axis continue to prevent major breakthroughs.
- To the north along the Oskil-Kreminna line, Ukrainian forces continue counter-offensive operations and have likely made some progress over the last few days. The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported that Russian strikes targeted a Ukrainian command post in Kyslivka, 18 miles (30km) northwest of Svatove, inadvertently confirming Ukraine has taken the village. Similarly, geolocated footage emerging in recent days appears to show Ukrainian troops inside Novoselivske, 11 miles (18km) to the northwest of Svatove and comes after Russian forces had appeared to retake the town last week. The Ukrainian General Staff have also reported shelling of various towns northeast of Kupiansk on the northern edge of the axis, including Tavylzankha and Bohdanikske, just 10 miles (15km) southwest of the international border. As previously assessed, lowering temperatures and freezing ground will improve conditions for manoeuvre warfare and likely facilitate an intensification of Ukrainian counter-offensive operations along this front.
- The prominent Russian ultranationalist, former DNR commander and FSB officer Igor Strelkov (Girkin) confirmed on 6 December that he has returned to Russia after several failed attempts to join various units on the frontline. He nevertheless claimed to have gained first-hand experience of conditions on the frontline after illegally joining a DNR battalion along the Oskil-Kreminna front near Svatove.
- In a series of posts to his Telegram channel, which has over 717,000 followers, Strelkov set out his conclusions from his short stint at the front. He claimed that Russian forces are fighting by ‘tactical inertia’ due to troops’ and officers’ ignorance of the ultimate strategic objectives of the ‘special military operation’. He claims that Russian forces in Ukraine are as a result suffering from a ‘crisis of strategic planning’ and that widespread apathy is undermining morale and combat effectiveness. He contrasted this with the Ukrainians, whom Strelkov claims are implementing their own strategic objectives amid the passivity of Russian forces. Aligning with our assessment, Strelkov also stated that Ukraine will not slow counter-offensive operations over the winter and that Ukrainian capability and confidence continue to grow. Strelkov remains one of the most prominent pro-war critics of the Russian Ministry of Defence, and his return to Russia will likely provide further insight into conditions at the front.
- Following the apparent Ukrainian attacks against numerous Russian airbases this week, the US State Department stated on 6 December that it is not ‘enabling’ or ‘encouraging Ukraine to strike beyond its borders’. Spokesperson Ned Price stated that US military support remains defensive in nature, but noted that the Ukrainians remain highly innovative and are working to improve their capabilities.
- While Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the Engels-2 and Dyagilevo attacks, new evidence emerging from the sites indicates that Ukraine most likely utilised a modified Soviet-era Tu-141 reconnaissance drone to perform the role of a long-range cruise missile to hit the Engels-2 airbase. Russian authorities investigating the site have reportedly stated that smaller Tu-143 drones were used, but those have a much smaller range and would have required substantial modification to enable them to reach some 370 miles (600km) from the Ukrainian border. Kyiv is actively experimenting and building new domestic capabilities. US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has stated that the US is not preventing Ukraine from developing its own long-range strike capabilities that could hit targets inside Russian territory – which is clearly a strategic priority of Kyiv.
- Belarusian state news this morning, 7 December, reported that military equipment and security forces will be moved to unspecified areas of the country over the next 48 hours to check response readiness to ‘possible acts of terrorism’. Given the emphasis Minsk has placed on domestic security, this is indeed likely to be a security check designed to demonstrate readiness to both Ukraine and the domestic population. It remains unlikely that this readiness check is an attempt to build up forces to threaten the northern Ukrainian border, and our overall assessment of the threat of a renewed invasion has not changed. See Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 30 June for further analysis.
- On 6 December, both Belgorod and Kursk oblasts confirmed the formation of territorial defence units. According to the regional governors, several battalions of local residents have been formed from individuals not eligible to join the regular Armed Forces given medical or other reasons. In its daily update this morning, 7 December, UK Defence Intelligence also highlighted the building of trenches and the establishment of elaborate defences along the border designed to repel mechanised assaults.
- Russian authorities have in recent weeks frequently raised the prospect of a Ukrainian invasion along this border, which is likely in part aimed at increasing the stakes for the Russian population and encouraging patriotic feeling. UK Defence Intelligence did note that these preparations may also reflect a genuinely held belief that a Ukrainian invasion remains a credible threat. While a Ukrainian invasion remains highly unlikely in our assessment, it is clear that the war is increasingly impacting residents across Belgorod and Kursk oblasts. The Ukrainian attack against Kursk Vostochny Airport (URS) only yesterday is indicative of growing Ukrainian capability to strike inside Russian territory and bring the war to a larger cross-section of the Russian population than previously.
- Russian strikes have continued at a lower intensity over the last 24 hours, following the nationwide bombardment on 5 December. The Ukrainian Armed Forces claim to have shot down 14 Shahed-136 drones overnight, while S-300 missiles managed to penetrate air defences to strike energy infrastructure targets in Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro. Notably, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal stated on 6 December that following this week’s missile strikes, the Ukrainian energy system is currently running on a 19 percent deficit. While this means that energy restrictions and rolling blackouts have been extended to various parts of the country, it is a notable improvement on the 27-30 percent deficit the system was running a week ago. Authorities had also restored water and sewage treatment in Odesa oblast by the evening of 6 December.
- During a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels on 6 December, Hungary blocked a financial assistance package to Ukraine worth EUR 18 bn. The decision is clearly linked to the delay of Hungary’s own EUR 5.8 bn package of Covid-19 recovery funds, which the European Commission has halted over various governance concerns in Budapest. Given the need for unanimity within the bloc, Hungary is likely leveraging the Ukrainian budgetary support to extract concessions from its fellow member states to unblock the Covid-19 funds. Ukraine remains almost entirely reliant upon Western financial support to ensure the basic balance of payments amid a ballooning deficit caused by military spending, and further delays will only reinforce Kyiv’s fragile macro-economic stability.
- Finally, on 6 December, the German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht confirmed that Berlin will deliver Patriot air defence systems to Poland, and not transfer them to western Ukraine as Warsaw had earlier requested. The decision confirms our earlier assessment, but, notably, Der Spiegel reported earlier this week that Germany would supply Ukraine with seven additional Gepard anti-aircraft systems to ‘take the pressure off’ the debate around the Patriot missiles. Gepards have proven highly effective at countering Russian and Iranian-produced drones, and increased platforms will bolster Ukraine’s already high interdiction rates.
On 6 December, the Russian government announced that it is considering three options as a response to the price cap that was introduced by the European Union (EU) and G7 on Russian oil imports earlier this week. Firstly, a complete ban on the sale of oil to countries that are in favour of the restriction. Secondly, a ban on exports under contracts that include the price cap, regardless of the recipient country. Thirdly, the introduction of an ‘indicative price’ which sets a fixed maximum discount for its crude for all global buyers. A decision has not yet been made, but President Vladimir Putin reportedly discussed the options with leaders of various oil companies on 6 December. The first two options align with previous statements and warnings given by various Russian officials in recent weeks, with Moscow regularly threatening to cut oil supplies to those countries that implement a price cap. Ultimately, the second option remains the most likely and would provide Moscow with flexibility to respond to specific countries while keeping high levels of Russian oil in the market. The third option remains the least likely, as Moscow would not want to alienate its non-EU/G7 customers, such as China and India, but would likely have the biggest impact on global oil prices. A decision is expected to be made in the near term, with the decision due to be implemented by the end of 2023, threatening to drive oil prices for Western importers over the winter.
During this monitoring period, patterns of pro-Russia cyber activity 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 reports of connectivity issues across Odesa, Sumy and Zhytomyr following a fresh wave of Russian missile strikes on 5 December. These connectivity issues fit with our previous assessment that offensive Russian cyber activity is highly likely to occur alongside kinetic military strikes. We continue to assess that the overreliance of pro-Russia actors on DDoS attacks will persist in the short to medium term. This week’s DDoS attack against the Vatican highlights the ongoing cyber threat facing organisations and countries which are politically and financially supportive of Ukraine in its fight against Russia. On this occasion, the Pope’s condemnation of Russia’s actions will likely have been regarded as provocative by the Kremlin, which ostensibly responded by temporarily disrupting the Vatican’s website servers with high volumes of internet traffic. As per our previous assessments, this attack underscores the high likelihood that pro-Russia cyber attacks will most often occur after governments and entities make public announcements in support of Ukraine. Nonetheless, this largely unsophisticated mode of cyber attack has so far only inflicted small-scale damage against the cyber infrastructure of entities such as the EU, the UK and the US, among others. Microsoft’s assessment of recent pro-Russia cyber operations against Ukraine offers a further indication of the sustained threat posed by Russia’s GRU to civilian and energy infrastructure. As per our previous assessments, a wider precedent has been set with regard to the targeting of critical energy infrastructure within the territories of Ukraine’s allies. However, future attacks are unlikely to be particularly sophisticated and will therefore have minimal impact on the intended targets both within Ukraine and externally. In the past week, pro-Ukraine cyber threat actors and hacktivist groups such as the IT Army of Ukraine and Anonymous continued to report the launch of cyber operations targeting the Russian authorities and associated private entities. This includes digital systems belonging to organisations in the energy and financial services sectors. The alleged attacks included web defacement campaigns and likely DDoS operations aimed at disrupting customer and public access to digital systems and cyber infrastructure. Meanwhile, statements by Twitter user Intel Havoc, a reported member of the pro-Kyiv threat actor Team OneFist, indicate that the group is preparing to launch a ‘coordinated response’ against Russian ‘actions in Spain’. This statement almost certainly refers to several letter bombs delivered to sites in Spain, including the Ukrainian embassy in the capital Madrid and a Spanish arms manufacturer. There is a realistic possibility that Russian operatives or independent pro-Russia actors were behind these attacks. Team OneFist will likely intensify its cyber campaign against Russian government-linked targets in the coming weeks, including those in critical sectors such as energy and defence.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited troops in Slovyansk earlier on 6 December to mark the Day of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Slovyansk is a key base located around 24 miles (39km) north-west of Bakhmut in Donetsk oblast.
- The Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai stated earlier on 6 December that the most intense and ‘difficult’ fighting remains concentrated in Donetsk, particularly along the Bakhmut line. Haidai refuted unconfirmed Russian reports that Russian troops are encroaching on the outskirts of the town, but acknowledged that the situation around Bakhmut remains ‘extremely tense’. Russian forces continue to claim incremental progress to the east and south of the town. Wagner Group forces allege they are advancing steadily towards Klishchiivka, which is located around four miles (7km) south-west of Bakhmut. They are reportedly meeting fierce Ukrainian resistance, which is preventing rapid progress. The Ukrainian General Staff continues to report that its forces are successfully repelling Russian attacks around Bakhmut.
- Further north along the Oskil-Kreminna line, the military situation remains broadly in line with patterns identified in recent weeks. Ukrainian forces are likely continuing with counter-offensive operations north-west of Svatove and Kreminna, though we cannot confirm whether they have made any progress over the last 24-48 hours. The Russian defence ministry nevertheless claimed earlier on 6 December that its forces had taken unspecified ‘advantageous positions’ in the Krasnolymansk direction, referring to the area west of Kreminna. While we cannot confirm if Russian forces have made advances in this vicinity, any such operations are likely aimed at spoiling Ukrainian preparations for further advances on Kreminna.
- There are few major developments to report along the Kherson axis at the time of writing; military activity has largely focused on exchanges of artillery fire across the Dnieper river.
- Following yesterday’s apparent attacks against Dyagilevo and Engels-2 airbases in Russia’s Ryazan and Saratov oblasts, respectively, a further drone attack struck an oil storage tank at Kursk Vostochny Airport (URS) earlier on 6 December. The airport is located around 62 miles (100km) north-east of the Ukrainian border. It is home to the 14th Fighter Aviation Regiment, which currently operates Su-30SM multi-role fighters. While the regional governor confirmed the drone attack, the extent of the damage remains unclear. New satellite footage published in the wake of the Dyagilevo airbase attack shows burn marks very close to a Tu-22M3 bomber; additional footage and imagery also indicates damage to Tu-95MS strategic bombers at Engels-2 airbase.
- Following the Ukrainian drone attacks, Russia launched its latest nationwide strike campaign against Ukrainian critical infrastructure, including targets in Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Odesa and Vinnytsia oblasts. At least 70 Kh-101, Kh-555, Kh-22, Kh-59, Kh-31P and Kalibr cruise missiles were launched at Ukrainian targets. However, according to the Ukrainian General Staff, 60 of those missiles were successfully interdicted by Ukrainian air defences. Nevertheless, electricity blackouts and water outages impacted Kryvyi Rih and Odesa, further destabilising electricity in neighbouring Moldova. Debris from a Russian missile also landed near the town of Briceni in the north of Moldova. While the authorities reported no casualties or damage, it is the second such cross-border incident to have occurred and underscores the collateral risks along Ukraine’s borders.
- Yesterday’s strikes will most likely be followed by a period of relative calm; Russia typically rebuilds its stockpiles ahead of further mass bombardments. However, Yuriy Ignat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, warned that lower-intensity follow-up strikes remain possible, and could be launched as soon as later on 6 December.
- Following the latest attacks, the Conflict Armament Research (CAR) organisation published an investigation on 5 December into the missiles used in Russia’s previous nationwide strikes on 23 November. According to field research of the remnants of two Kh-101 air-to-surface cruise missiles, the projectiles bore markings indicating they had been produced between July and September 2022 and October and November 2022. This points to two key implications: the first is that Russia is clearly able to continue producing advanced guided munitions despite Western sanctions. It also exposes Russia’s stockpile challenges; the oldest missiles are typically fired first during Russian operations. As such, it is possible that Russian Kh-101 stocks now only comprise munitions produced very recently, with little in the way of a strategic reserve. Last month, Ukrainian intelligence agencies estimated that Russia retained 132 Kh-101 cruise missiles, which represents around 50 percent of its pre-war stockpile.
- On 6 December, a senior adviser to the Russian state atomic energy agency Rosenergatom announced that the transfer of control of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is ‘impossible’. The statement comes after recent reports from both Energoatom and the Russian opposition media outlet Meduza that Russian forces are possibly preparing to leave the plant amid ongoing negotiations with the IAEA to ‘demilitarise’ the site. In a related development that still further underlines the low likelihood of an imminent Russian withdrawal, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu accused Ukraine earlier on 6 December of ‘nuclear terrorism’ amid its continued shelling of the ZNPP. As we previously assessed, Russia is unlikely to give up direct control of the nuclear plant indefinitely, even as it takes part in active negotiations with the IAEA to establish a safety zone around the plant. As a result, continued shelling in and around the site will likely continue; this consequently presents low-likelihood risks of a nuclear accident.
- Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov once again urged Russians to ignore speculation and reports on social media that a new wave of mobilisation is being prepared. As we previously reported, Ukrainian intelligence reports and supposed evidence circulating on Russian social media channels in recent weeks appear to suggest new waves of partial mobilisation will be introduced as early as this month. It remains to be seen if and when the Kremlin will announce expansions to mobilisation. However, expansion is likely in the coming months, especially as Moscow doubles down on its ‘quantity over quality’ strategy in Ukraine and builds new units ahead of planned offensives early next year.
- A senior United Russia senator, Andrei Klishas, submitted a bill on 5 December to the State Duma which seems to restrict the rights of Russians who fled the country to avoid partial mobilisation from securing work upon their return. Following the partial mobilisation decree in September, an estimated 400,000 Russians left for Kazakhstan, while around 700,000 headed for Georgia. While the majority have subsequently returned, around 100,000 Russians remain in those countries. The proposed legislation likely forms part of a wider push to discourage mass emigration and draft dodging – possibly in anticipation of further rounds of mobilisation in the coming weeks and/or months.
The attacks have dramatically exposed the growing vulnerability of Russia’s strategic assets far from the frontline, as well as failures regarding force protection and air defences. Numerous Russian military bloggers and commentators have strongly criticised the Russian defence ministry over the last 24 hours for not anticipating the attacks and protecting strategic assets which were clearly potential targets for Ukraine – targets which also form part of Russia’s nuclear deterrence capabilities. However, the attacks underline the challenges posed by drone warfare to both sides in this rapidly evolving battlefield and the relative inability of conventional air defences to interdict small UAVs effectively. Russia has previously made extensive use of cheap Iranian-produced Shahed-136 drones as well as domestically-produced Oran systems, which have provided Moscow with deep strike capability across Ukraine. If Kyiv manages to step up production of its own long-range kamikaze drone systems, Russian strategic assets normally beyond the reach of Ukrainian weapons systems will be placed within Ukrainian operational range; they will also be rendered vulnerable to repeated attacks. Given that Dyagilevo and Engels-2 airbases are 285 miles (460km) and 370 miles (600km) from the nearest Ukrainian-held territory, respectively, the attacks clearly illustrate Ukraine’s growing capability to strike targets in Russian rear areas. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly underlined the need for Ukraine to target Russian long-range capabilities at their source, most notably as part of their appeal for longer-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS). While there is still much uncertainty surrounding the attacks, they clearly illustrate Kyiv’s determination and capability to disrupt Russian long-range strike capabilities. It remains unclear if the drones in question were launched from Ukrainian-held territory or whether they were launched by Ukrainian sabotage groups from inside Russia. However, unnamed Ukrainian officers cited by the New York Times claimed on 5 December that at least one of the strikes was carried out near the base by Ukrainian special forces, who reportedly guided the drones onto the target. Nevertheless, as has been the case following previous Ukrainian attacks against sensitive sites, including the Saki airbase attack in Crimea and the Crimea Bridge, Russian forces are likely to learn lessons and strengthen defences to mitigate against further similar attacks. The attacks have ultimately exposed the vulnerability of Russian rear area bases. Subsequent attacks will likely aim to steadily disrupt Russia’s ability to conduct long-range strikes against Ukraine. Military airbases will inevitably be the highest priority targets for Ukraine, though it is notable that Kursk Vostochny Airport (URS) was used as a both a civilian and military airport even before the war. Airspace restrictions remain in place throughout oblasts along the Ukrainian border, mitigating the threat to civilian operations. However, attacks against Engels-1 and Dyagilevo airbases, the latter of which is located just 100 miles (162km) south-east of Moscow, clearly illustrates the vulnerability of airports far from the frontline.
Russia: Kyiv targets Russian airbases, highlighting threat to airports across the Russian Federation. The Russian Defence Ministry confirmed that Ukrainian drones attacked airfields in Ryazan and Saratov oblasts on 5 December, hundreds of kilometres from Ukraine. Another attack against the Kursk Vostochny Airport (URS) was reported earlier today (6 December). The drones aimed to disrupt Russian long-range strategic bombers which are used to launch cruise missiles against Ukrainian energy infrastructure. In the aftermath of the attacks, Russian forces launched 70 missiles in the latest nationwide bombardment. While it remains unclear whether the drones were launched from inside Ukraine or Russia, the attacks illustrate Ukraine’s growing capability to target Russian rear areas, including airports. Military airbases will be at greatest risk of Ukrainian attack, but a lower-level threat will also extend to dual-use civilian airports far from the frontline. The Kursk Vostochny Airport had previously been used by civilian airliners before the war.
- Winter conditions continue to steadily improve ground conditions for both sides across Ukraine, if at the same time placing new pressures on living conditions for troops – particularly poorly equipped Russian mobilised forces. Nevertheless, as the ground hardens the intensity of operations will likely increase, particularly in Luhansk oblast where Ukrainian officials have said Ukrainian forces will soon be able to intensify counter-offensive operations along the Oskil-Kreminna line.
- By contrast, US Director for National Intelligence Avril Haines predicted on 3 December that the overall tempo of fighting is likely to reduce over the winter, with both sides looking to consolidate ahead of the spring. However, Haines did acknowledge that Ukrainian forces will likely be in a better shape to conduct operations over the winter and the majority of indicators we have been tracking in recent weeks point to Ukrainian forces gearing up for fresh counter-offensives this winter, rather than a consolidation. Ukrainian officials have frequently stated over the last month that a pause in fighting would only serve Russian interests. As such, and as previously assessed, we are anticipating an increase in the intensity of fighting in the coming weeks.
- There are already indications that operations are intensifying along the Oskil-Kreminna line. Over the weekend of 2-4 December, various Russian sources reported an intensification of Ukrainian attacks west of Kreminna, further indicating the Ukrainian forces are getting closer to the town. Ukrainian forces have allegedly reached the Kreminska power substation in the vicinity of the settlement, though this has not been confirmed. Ukrainian officials also claimed on 3 December that forces have liberated 13 unspecified settlements in Luhansk oblast.
- Russian sources have also reported that their forces have lost control of a section of the R-66 highway to the north of Kreminna, while Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) officials reportedly detected the formation of Ukrainian strike groups near Kreminna. However, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has claimed its forces have repelled Ukrainian attacks across the frontline, including around Novoselivske, 11 miles (18km) to the north-west of Svatove, and Chervonopopivka, located five miles (8km) north-west of Kreminna. Regardless, it is likely that Ukrainian forces are successfully setting conditions for a future assault on Kreminna itself.
- Further south, Russian offensive operations along the Bakhmut line continue to make only incremental progress, and at a seemingly high cost. A spokesperson for Ukraine’s Operational Command East Serhiy Cherevatyi stated on 4 December that the situation in the ‘Bakhmut sector’ remains ‘tense but controlled’. The Ukrainian General Staff has consistently reported over the last few days that their forces have repulsed Russian attacks around Bakhmut, though some Russian reporting and geolocated footage indicate marginal gains south and east of Bakhmut. Cherevatyi also reported that his command estimates that Russian forces are losing around 50 dead and 50 wounded service personnel every day along the Bakhmut line, which if accurate would reinforce our assessment that Russian forces are taking very high casualty rates for very limited gain.
- Along the southern Kherson axis, Russian and Ukrainian forces have primarily focused on exchanging artillery fire and interdicting ground lines of communication (GLOCs). However, in a potentially highly significant development, on 3 December, the Ukrainian volunteer special air intelligence unit ‘Carlson’ published footage appearing to show soldiers crossing the Dnieper River and raising a Ukrainian flag on the eastern (left) bank of the river. The unit claimed that this is the first time any Ukrainian force had established a beachhead on the left bank of the river, and if confirmed could indicate the beginning of a Ukrainian campaign in southern Kherson oblast. Russian forces have been focusing on establishing layered defences across the region, clearly anticipating potential Ukrainian counter-offensive operations. However, it remains to be seen whether Ukrainian forces can hold and consolidate any bridgehead across the river, though recent indications over the last week have suggested that Russian forces have pulled back from various positions south of the river – likely in a bid to protect against Ukrainian artillery fire.
- Earlier this morning, 5 December, a fuel truck reportedly exploded at the Dyagilevo airbase in Ryazan, near Moscow, killing three and injuring six. Meanwhile, a drone has also reportedly damaged two Tu-95 strategic bombers stationed at the Engels-1 airbase in Saratov, where at least two people were injured. The Kremlin has not provided any further details at this stage, and it remains unclear whether the incidents are related or if they were conducted by Ukrainian operatives or anti-war partisans. Both airbases are highly strategic targets for Ukraine given that they are the home bases of large numbers of Russian strategic bombers used to fire cruise missiles at Ukraine. We have furthermore been monitoring an uptick of activity around the Engels airbase in particular in recent days. If the attack was conducted by Ukrainian intelligence this would represent a significant blow to the perceived invulnerability of Russian positions far from the Ukrainian frontline.
- Ukrainian forces once again accused Russian forces on 4 December of using banned chemical weapons in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Navy accused Russian forces of dropping K-51 aerosol grenades from drones – the second such accusation in the last month.
- Over the weekend of 3-4 December, Russian forces launched several cruise missiles at the cities of Kryvyi Rih and Zaporizhzhia. Missiles again struck industrial and energy complexes in both cities this morning, 5 December, specifically the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Kryvyi Rih. Beyond this, Russian strikes have remained limited to settlements and military targets closer to the frontline, including Nikopol and areas north of Kharkiv. Notably, the Ukrainian General Staff stated last week that Ukrainian air defences shot down 72 percent of the 239 cruise missiles and 80 percent of Shahed-136 drones launched by Russian forces throughout November. At the time of writing air raid alerts have sounded in various Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, indicating that a new wave of strikes has possibly been launched. For further analysis of Ukraine’s air defences, see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 18 November.
- Power restrictions remain in place in many parts of the country, with contingency planning for long-term blackouts continuing. Ukrainian energy firm DTEK stated on 4 December that in the absence of new waves of strikes, Ukraine may be able to cease issuing emergency power shutdowns due to increased energy generation capacity. However, it remains highly likely that Russia will launch another wave of strikes in the coming days and weeks to prevent this. On 4 December, Kyiv authorities stated that in the event of new blackouts, local services will have to drain water from private residences connected to the central heating system to prevent water freezing in the pipes. As temperatures plummet, freezing pipes are just one issue that could prevent the rapid restoration of heating to homes in the aftermath of a blackout. Boiler breakdowns will continue to drive demand for repair services, with shortages of replacement equipment likely to compound these pressures.
- In Europe, there is growing concern that Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure will trigger a new wave of refugees as cold winter weather sets in. On 4 December, the German ambassador to the UK, Miguel Berger, told Sky News that he expects ‘another wave… in the coming weeks’. Berger’s comments came after the Polish government last week announced that it plans to make Ukrainian refugees pay for some government-provided housing and food by early 2023, in recognition of the growing cost the country faces providing support to the more than 1.5 m Ukrainian citizens currently registered as refugees in Poland. The Kremlin almost certainly intends to trigger a new influx of refugees into Europe with the expectation that this will drive internal tensions and reduce European support for Ukraine. However, there are currently no significant indications this will work in the short term at least.
- The Russian opposition outlet Meduza reported on 3 December that Moscow may be ready to transfer control of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) either to Kyiv or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The report follows reports last week by Energoatom that there were signs Russian forces are possibly preparing to leave the plant (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 28 November). According to sources cited by Meduza, the Kremlin could relinquish control over the plant in exchange for guarantees of unhindered oil and gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine. However, it appears unlikely that Ukraine would cut supplies either via the southern section of the Druzba pipeline or the Yamal pipeline given the backlash this would likely trigger from Europe. Therefore, Ukraine arguably lacks the bargaining chips to make such a withdrawal worthwhile in the eyes of the Kremlin.
- However, if Russia does announce a withdrawal from the ZNPP, there is a moderate to high risk that Russian forces would conduct a false flag operation and blame Ukraine for shelling the plant to justify its remilitarisation. Such a strategy would enable Russia to continue to present itself as doing all it can to facilitate nuclear safety while depicting Kyiv as irresponsible, which would support Moscow’s wider efforts to undermine support for Ukraine.
On 2 December, EU member states agreed to place a USD 60 per barrel price cap on Russian crude oil in a bid to reduce Moscow’s ability to finance its invasion. The cap, which will also be implemented by G7 members and allies such as Australia, is intended to allow Russian oil exports to countries such as China and India to continue, but at a lower profit to the Kremlin. Under the agreement, EU and G7 insurance and shipping firms are banned from facilitating Russian oil shipments to third countries above the price cap. Although the cap comes into force today, 5 December, there will be a 45-day transition period allowing ships that were loaded before today to carry and unload their cargo until 19 January without the risk of sanctions. The cap will be reviewed every two months to ensure that the cap remains at least 5 percent below the market price for Russian crude. The price cap comes as the EU’s embargo on Russian seaborne oil shipments also comes into effect today, 5 December. The USD 60 cap is set higher than the level at which Russian crude is currently selling its crude, which is trading at a discount against benchmark prices. However, Moscow has repeatedly warned that it would cut off supplies to countries that implement the cap, with Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak warning on 4 December that Moscow was willing to cut back on production. Today, 5 December, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that the Kremlin was preparing retaliatory measures, but did not specify what these would entail – cutting off oil exports being a possible option. The destination of the vast majority of Russian crude oil exports has shifted dramatically to eastern markets, and away from Europe. Discounted oil has seen an increase in orders from China, India and Turkey, and Russia has already been taking steps to insulate its exports still further from EU/G7 bans. There have been widespread reports that Russia has amassed at least 100 additional tankers that it aims to use to supply countries such as China, India and Turkey, and we have previously reported on evidence that Russia has previously exported oil to Egyptian oil terminals to circumvent sanctions. While it remains to be seen how successfully such efforts will compensate for the loss of the European market, Moscow is likely to struggle to maintain its current level of exports following the partial ban and price cap. Price cap on Russian crude oil will elevate risk of short-term supply disruption. On 2 December, EU member states agreed to place a USD 60 per barrel price cap on Russian crude oil in a bid to reduce Moscow’s ability to finance its war in Ukraine. The cap is intended to allow Russian oil exports to continue flowing to countries such as China and India, but at a lower profit to the Kremlin. Under the agreement, EU and G7 insurance and shipping firms are banned from facilitating Russian oil shipments to third countries above the price cap. The cap will be reviewed every two months to ensure that it remains at least 5 percent below the market price for Russian crude. Moscow has repeatedly warned that it will cut off supplies to countries which implement the cap. Disruption is therefore likely in the short term, with oil prices likely to rise in the coming weeks.
Ukraine: Post-war reconstruction will require long-term financial support from West, its allies. On 4 December, the Word Bank stated that the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine will likely cost between EUR 500-600 bn. Ukraine’s total loses, related to infrastructure destruction and economic potential, are now estimated to cost up to USD 4 bn per day. Furthermore, the Kyiv School of Economics estimates that more than 40 m square metres of housing stock have been destroyed since the onset of the war, with a decrease in GDP and an outflow of investments and labour further complicating the country’s economic stability. While reconstruction presents long-term opportunities for Western investment, Ukraine remains almost entirely reliant on international funding to ensure a degree of socio-economic stability. Extensive long-term funding will need to be maintained if Ukraine hopes to continue its war efforts into 2023. (Source: Sibylline)
09 Dec 22. $275m 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 $275 million to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This authorization is the Biden Administration’s twenty-seventh drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.
This security assistance package will provide Ukraine with new capabilities to boost its air defenses in addition to providing critical equipment that Ukraine is using so effectively to defend itself on the battlefield.
Capabilities in this package include:
• Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
• 80,000 155mm artillery rounds;
• Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems equipment;
• Counter air defense capability;
• High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) Ambulances and medical equipment;
• Approximately 150 generators;
• Field equipment.
In total, the United States has committed $20 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration. Since 2014, the United States has committed approximately $22.1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine and more than $19.3 billion 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)
09 Dec 22. Iran and Russia’s ‘sordid deals’ threaten global security: Foreign Secretary’s statement. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has called out ‘sordid deals’ between Russia and Iran as threats to global security. The Foreign Secretary has claimed ‘sordid deals’ between Russia and Iran are threatening global security, following the release of information by the US today showing Iran has become one of Russia’s top military backers. The US have today released information laying bare the extent of Iran’s military support to Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, including the provision of hundreds of drones used to kill Ukrainian civilians. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “Iran is now one of Russia’s top military backers. Their sordid deals have seen the Iranian regime send hundreds of drones to Moscow, which have been used to attack Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and kill civilians. In return, Russia is offering military and technical support to the Iranian regime, which will increase the risk it poses to our partners in the Middle East and to international security. The UK will continue to expose this desperate alliance and hold both countries to account. The UK agrees with the US assessment that Iranian support for the Russian military will grow in the coming months as Russia attempts to obtain more weapons, including hundreds of ballistic missiles. The UK is concerned that Russia intends to provide Iran with more advanced military components, allowing the regime to strengthen their weapons capability, further increasing the risk to both regional and international security.” On the 19 October the UK, together with the US and France, raised this issue with the UN Security Council and supports Ukraine’s request for a UN investigation into the Iranian transfers, which are in violation of Security Council resolution 2231. We will continue to hold both countries to account for this deplorable activity. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
09 Dec 22. Russia is perpetrating this war of aggression with weapons sourced from Iran: UK statement at the Security Council.
Statement delivered by Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the Security Council briefing on Ukraine.
Thank you President and I thank the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs for her briefing.
President, I will be brief because we discussed Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine just three days ago.
During that meeting, we heard Under-Secretary-General Griffiths’ harrowing account of the horrific consequences of Russia’s war and his deep concerns about the impacts of systematic attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and civilian centres, particularly ahead of winter. We have just seen further OHCHR reporting on potential atrocities against civilians committed by Russia.
The irony, given the topic of this meeting, is that Russia is perpetrating this war with weapons sourced from Iran in violation of resolution 2231, and is almost certainly seeking to source weaponry from other UN sanctioned states like North Korea as its own stocks dwindle.
We note that despite the resounding calls in this Council again on Tuesday for a ceasefire, and for peace, meaningful dialogue and diplomacy, the Russian President on Wednesday doubled-down, confirming that the invasion would continue and that it would be protracted. He also reaffirmed the neo-imperialist nature of the campaign, claiming that unlike Peter the Great, he had made the Sea of Azov a Russian internal sea.
President, in the face of Russia’s relentless effort to seize Ukraine’s territory in breach of the UN Charter, and to dehumanise, kill and subjugate its people, Ukraine has no choice but to exercise its right to defend itself. If it does not, it would cease to exist. In a similar situation, all of us would do the same. And due to the deep determination to live, Ukraine is prevailing.
The UK is proud of the support it is providing to the Ukrainian people in the face of this aggression, be it defensive, humanitarian or assistance to rebuild critical infrastructure destroyed by Russian attacks.
President, Russia can end this suffering immediately by ceasing attacks against Ukraine, including critical national infrastructure and innocent civilians, and withdrawing all of its forces illegally present in Ukraine.
We welcome and support Ukraine’s initiative for a just and sustainable peace. We again join the international community in calling on Russia to similarly commit to meaningful dialogue and negotiations based on upholding Ukraine’s rights under international law and the UN Charter. Thank you President. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
09 Dec 22. Putin admits Russia can’t supply clothes to front line troops. Vladimir Putin has admitted that there have been problems procuring equipment and clothes for the hundreds of thousands of men called-up to fight in Ukraine.
Some 300,000 men were called up in the autumn as part of the Russian president’s “partial mobilisation” – but the draft has been plagued by accusations of sub-standard equipment and shortages.
Mr Putin asserted that some of the issues related to supplying these men were now easing as he spoke at the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) summit in Kyrgyzstan.
The Russian president also denied that more troops would be needed to achieve Russia’s aims. Despite this, the Kremlin has yet to put out an official decree ending the call-up.
09 Dec 22. Russia to send Iran top fighter jets in return for kamikaze drones. Downing Street said the new ‘sordid deals’ between Moscow and Tehran threaten global security, Iran is to receive top-of-the-range fighter jets from Russia “within the next year” in exchange for the kamikaze drones sent to the battlefield in Ukraine, US sources said on Friday night.
Downing Street and the White House warned that the new “sordid deals” amount to a “large scale military partnership” between Tehran and Moscow.
The US later warned that Russia was expanding and modernizing its nuclear arsenal, already the largest in the world.
Russia is planning to send Tehran advanced military equipment and components, including helicopters and air defence systems, US intelligence sources said.
Biden administration officials said Iranian pilots were already being trained in Russia on how to fly the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet, indicating Iran “may begin receiving the aircraft within the next year.”
Speculation has swirled that Moscow may redirect some 24 SU-35 jets currently grounded in Russia after an Egyptian order for them was cancelled.
The fighter jets would represent a significant modernisation of Iran’s aging air force and would increase the threat posed by Iran across the Middle East and to Israel.
It came as the Ministry of Defence said on Friday that new Iranian drones were appearing in Ukraine, causing fresh havoc on the battlefield.
The White House said the Iran-Russia relationship is transforming into “a full-fledged defence partnership” with weapons and military expertise flowing in both directions, the officials said.
‘Sordid deals threatening global security’
James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, claimed the “sordid deals” between Russia and Iran are threatening global security.
Meanwhile, Barbara Woodward, the UK’s ambassador to the UN, confirmed on Friday that Russia is attempting to obtain more weapons from Iran, including hundreds of the missiles.
“In return, Russia is offering Iran an unprecedented level of military and technical support. We’re concerned that Russia intends to provide Iran with more advanced military components, which will allow Iran to strengthen their weapons capability,” she said.
The White House said last night: “This partnership poses a threat not just to Ukraine, but to Iran’s neighbours in the region.” One senior administration official said: “We have shared this information with partners in the Middle East and around the world.”
Russia and Iran have worked closely together to prop up the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria over the last decade.
However, Moscow is now bogged down in a conflict with Kyiv, while the Islamic Republic is facing unrest within its own borders.
Sanctioned by the West and facing isolation from much of the rest of the world, they have had to rely much more heavily on the other for military support.
Lloyd Austin, US Defense Secretary, said on Friday that Russia is expanding and modernizing its nuclear arsenal.
Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, with close to 6,000 warheads, according to experts. Together, Russia and the United States together hold around 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads – enough to destroy the planet many times over.
“As the Kremlin continues its cruel and unprovoked war of choice against Ukraine, the whole world has seen Putin engage in deeply irresponsible nuclear saber-rattling,” Mr Austin said.
It came shortly after Mr Putin reiterated his threat to use nuclear weapons if Russia were attacked. (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
09 Dec 22. South African MPs demand to know if government is selling arms to Russia. South African MPs have demanded to know whether the government is selling arms to Russia after a cargo ship sanctioned for its role in Moscow’s war effort docked at a navy base near Cape Town.
The Lady R, a Russian-flagged roll-on-roll-off vehicle and container carrier, was spotted in South Africa’s Simon’s Town naval port on Thursday night.
The vessel was seen off-loading and then taking on cargo during one of the regular power cuts that affect the country, the Daily Maverick, a South African paper, reported citing local witnesses who photographed her in port.
Witnesses saw the vessel leaving port at around 6.30am on Friday, local media reported. The ship’s transponder was switched off later on Friday, meaning her exact whereabouts were unknown.
Kobus Marais, the defence spokesman for the opposition DA, said he had written to Thandi Modise, the defence minister, to demand an explanation.
The defence minister “must explain to South Africans what a sanctioned Russian ship is doing at the Simon’s Town naval base and why there is so much secrecy surrounding it”, he said in a statement.
“Evidence suggests that over the last two nights there was unusual activity in the harbour with on-board cranes offloading cargo from the Russian commercial vessel onto trucks,” he said.
“This behaviour has local residents worried because the vessel is under sanctions by the US and European Union after Russia invaded Ukraine.”
The South African defence ministry has not commented on the ship’s visit.
The Lady R is a relatively small 7,260 ton ship designed to carry vehicles and cargo containers. It is owned and operated by Transmorflot LLC, a Russian company registered in Dagestan.
The Telegraph approached Transmorflot LLC for comment.
The United States sanctioned Transmorflot and six of its vessels including the Lady R in May, saying they had been used to transport weapons for the Russian government.
Vessel tracking services show she switched off her transponder earlier this week. Her last known position was near Cape Town.
There is no evidence that South Africa has sold arms to Russia since the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.
The National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), the government agency that all South African arms firms must apply for permission before exporting weapons, says it has no record of sales to Russia.
Ms Modise visited Moscow in August to attend a conference hosted by Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister.
The same month she declined to say whether Armscor, South Africa’s state-owned defence company, was selling munitions to Russia.
In response to a written parliamentary question from opposition leader John Steenhuisen, she said that she could not divulge details of specific arms deals because “unauthorised disclosure may cause serious implications to national security”. (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
09 Dec 22. Germany to send Skynex air defence systems to Ukraine – Handelsblatt. Germany is to send two additional air defence systems to Ukraine of the type Skynex by Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE), the Handelsblatt daily reported on Friday, citing unnamed sources in Berlin. The systems are to be delivered in early 2024, the report said. (Source: Reuters)
Rheinmetall supplying international customer with Skynex air defence system. Rheinmetall is supplying an international customer with two Skynex air defence systems. The systems will enhance the customer’s ability to defend itself against aerial threats. Worth around €182 million, the system is to be delivered in the beginning of 2024. In addition, a memorandum of understanding was signed for the procurement of HX trucks in the amount of approximately €12m. These vehicles will be delivered with the Skynex systems.
09 Dec 22. Russia shells ‘entire frontline’ in Donetsk as fighting intensifies.
Russian forces have shelled the entire front line in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said, as part of what appeared to be the Kremlin’s scaled-back ambition to secure only the bulk of lands it has claimed.
The fiercest fighting was near the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, the region’s governor Pavlo Kyurylenko said in a television interview. Five civilians had been killed and two wounded in Ukrainian-controlled parts of Donetsk over the previous day, he said early on Friday.
“The entire front line is being shelled,” he said, adding that Russian troops were also trying to advance near Lyman, which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces in November, one of a number of setbacks suffered by Russia since invading its neighbour in February.
In Bakhmut and other parts of the Donetsk region that neighbours Luhansk province, Ukrainian forces countered with barrages from rocket launchers.
08 Dec 22. U.S. to send Ukraine anti-drone, air defense aid worth $275m. The United States is preparing to send Ukraine a $275m military aid package offering new capabilities to defeat drones and strengthen air defenses, according to a document seen by Reuters on Thursday and people familiar with the package.
The package could be announced as early as Friday. Details of the anti-drone and air defense equipment included could not be determined.
The Pentagon is also expected to include rockets for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers made by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), 155mm ammunition, Humvee military vehicles and generators, according to the people and the document.
A National Security Council spokesperson declined to comment on the aid package. The contents and size of aid packages can shift until they are signed by the president.
The $275m will be covered by Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) which allows the United States to transfer defense articles and services from stocks quickly without congressional approval in response to an emergency.
Russia’s surge in missile strikes in Ukraine is partly designed to exhaust Kyiv’s supplies of air defenses and achieve dominance of the skies above the country, a senior Pentagon official said in November.
To counter these attacks, the United States has sent sophisticated anti-aircraft NASAMS systems to Ukraine which have been running for a few weeks.
Washington previously announced it was also sending HAWK interceptor missiles as well as The United States is preparing to send Ukraine a $275m military aid package offering new capabilities to defeat drones and strengthen air defenses, according to a document seen by Reuters on Thursday and people familiar with the package.
The package could be announced as early as Friday. Details of the anti-drone and air defense equipment included could not be determined.
The Pentagon is also expected to include rockets for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers made by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), 155mm ammunition, Humvee military vehicles and generators, according to the people and the document.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a National Security Council spokesperson declined to comment on the aid package. The contents and size of aid packages can shift until they are signed by the president.
The $275 m will be covered by Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) which allows the United States to transfer defense articles and services from stocks quickly without congressional approval in response to an emergency.
Russia’s surge in missile strikes in Ukraine is partly designed to exhaust Kyiv’s supplies of air defenses and achieve dominance of the skies above the country, a senior Pentagon official said in November.
To counter these attacks, the United States has sent sophisticated anti-aircraft NASAMS systems to Ukraine which have been running for a few weeks.
Washington previously announced it was sending four Avenger short-range air defense systems that use Stinger missiles, made by Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N), and HAWK interceptor missiles.
U.S. allies have also been sending air defense systems.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, the United States has sent around $19.1 bn worth of security assistance to Kyiv.
U.S. lawmakers voted on Thursday to provide Ukraine at least $800 m in additional security assistance next year.
U.S. allies have also been sending air defense systems.
Since the Feb. 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, the United States has sent around $19.1 bn worth of security assistance to Kyiv.
U.S. lawmakers voted on Thursday to provide Ukraine at least $800 m in additional security assistance next year.
08 Dec 22. Ukraine detains couple suspected of spying for Russia in Odesa. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has detained a married couple suspected of spying for Russia in the Black Sea city of Odesa, one of Ukraine’s largest ports.
An SBU statement issued on Thursday did not name the couple but accused them of collecting intelligence for Russia on locations for possible military deployments and the movement of air defence units.
It said the couple were believed to be Russian military intelligence officers who had planned to create a network of agents in southern Ukraine.
SBU officers found mobile phones and computer equipment with evidence of “hidden correspondence with the aggressor”, it said.
“The SBU detained both spies when they attempted to transfer classified information to Russia,” the SBU said.
The couple could not be reached for comment.
Odesa has frequently come under fire since Russia invaded Ukraine in February but it remains under Ukrainian control.
The SBU said both the man and woman detained had arrived in Ukraine in 2018 and received residence permits, and that the man had served in the Russian army.
It said the detainees had sent the information they collected to a former Russian special forces officer in Crimea who cooperated with military intelligence. The Crimea peninsula was seized by Russia in 2014.
The SBU also published a series of photos of the couple’s arrest, the military documents of the detained man showing his military rank as colonel, as well as Russian passports of the detainees. (Source: Reuters)
08 Dec 22. Scholz: Risk of Russia using nuclear weapons has diminished, for now. The risk of Russian President Vladimir President Putin using nuclear weapons as part of his war in Ukraine has decreased in response to international pressure, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published on Thursday.
The war was continuing with “undiminished brutality” though, for now, one thing had changed, Scholz told Funke media in an interview to mark his first year in office.
“Russia has stopped threatening to use nuclear weapons. As a reaction to the international community marking a red line.”
Despite deep divisions, it was important that dialogue with the Kremlin continued, Germany’s leader added.
Putin said on Wednesday that the risk of a nuclear war was rising but insisted Russia had not “gone mad” and that it saw its own nuclear arsenal as a purely defensive deterrent.
Funke said the interview with Scholz was conducted on Monday and quotes authorised on Wednesday afternoon.
Scholz said Putin had to stop the war but afterwards, he would be prepared to talk to Russia about arms control in Europe, adding this had also been on offer before the war.
Defending Germany’s support for Ukraine, which critics in Kyiv and elsewhere in Europe say has been too reticent, Scholz said after the United States, Germany was one of the biggest supporters of Ukraine, including with weapon supplies.
“We are doing everything we can to prevent a direct war between Russia and NATO. Such a conflict would have only losers – all over the world,” he said.
Scholz said he expected Europe’s biggest economy to get through the winter well and to remain a strong and successful industrial nation as it reduces its reliance on Russian energy.
“We are now making the necessary decisions to become independent in the long term. From 2045 onwards, we want to be completely climate-neutral and generate our energy entirely without natural gas, coal or oil,” he said.
Asked if he would stand again as chancellor in the next election, he said: “Of course”. (Source: Reuters)
08 Dec 22. Russian troops take part in tactical drills in Belarus. Russia said on Thursday its troops were taking part in tactical exercises in Belarus, amid fears that Moscow is pressing its ally to get more involved in the Ukraine war. Belarus has said it will not enter the war in Ukraine, but President Alexander Lukashenko has in the past ordered troops to deploy with Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, citing threats from Kyiv and the West.
In a statement, Russia’s defence ministry said, “Servicemen of the Western Military District … continue intensive combat training on the ranges of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus.”
It added, “Combat training events are held during both daylight and at night.
“Servicemen are shooting from all types of small arms, as well as from mortars; they hone their skills in driving combat vehicles, pass psychological obstacle courses, study tactical medicine and other disciplines.”
Video clips posted by the ministry showed Russian soldiers in snow gear training near tanks in a winter landscape, firing weapons including artillery.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what he called a “special military operation”, triggering the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War Two.
Putin says he is defending Russian speakers in eastern and southern Ukraine and calls the war a watershed moment as Russia finally stands up to an arrogant West after decades of humiliation since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they cast as an imperial-style war of occupation. Ukraine says it will fight until the last Russian soldier is ejected from its territory. (Source: Reuters)
08 Dec 22. Russia attacks in east Ukraine as Putin celebrates land grab.
- Russia deploying reserves near Luhansk, governor says
- Putin says Sea of Azov is now Russia’s “internal sea”
- Russia says shoots down drone near Crimea
- Putin compares himself to Peter the Great
Russian forces are pressing forward with air and ground attacks on several settlements in eastern Ukraine, officials said on Wednesday, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated seizing territory during the nine-month war.
Near the city of Lysychansk, Russia deployed more troops to try to capture the village of Bilohorivka, Ukraine’s governor of the region said, while a commander in another heavily fought-over settlement described an intensifying Russian air offensive.
“They are bringing in more and more reserves,” around Bilohorivka to try to capture the village, Luhansk governor Serhiy Haiday told Ukrainian television. “There are constant attacks.”
In the settlement of Bakhmut and other parts of the Donetsk region that neighbours Luhansk, the assault killed nine civilians, the regional governor said. Ukrainian forces countered with barrages from rocket launchers, Reuters witnessed.
Fighting was underway along the entire line of demarcation in Donetsk, with the frontline town of Avdiivka shelled by Russian tanks on Thursday morning, said Tatiana Ignatchenko, a spokeswoman for the Donetsk regional administration.
Putin made clear on Wednesday that expanding Russia’s borders was a key goal of the war, in contrast to stated aims at the start of the Feb. 24 invasion he calls a “special military operation,” when he said Moscow’s plans did not include the occupation of Ukrainian land.
Putin said Russia had already achieved a “significant result” with the acquisition of “new territories” in Ukraine – a reference to the annexation of four partly occupied regions in September that Kyiv and most members of the United Nations condemned as illegal.
Warning that the war could be lengthy, Putin said Russia had made the Sea of Azov its “internal sea”, now bounded by Russia and Russian-controlled territory in southern Ukraine including Crimea.
He said that had been an aspiration of Peter the Great – the 17th- and 18th-century warrior tsar to whom he has compared himself in the past.
Kyiv’s forces have in recent weeks pushed Russia back from swathes of land it occupied, including a major city, Kherson. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says his troops will eventually drive Russia from all the captured territory, including the annexed Crimea peninsular that sits between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
On Thursday, Russian naval forces shot down a Ukrainian drone over the Black Sea, said the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, an important port and the largest city in Crimea.
Earlier this week, twin strikes on air bases deep inside Russian territory dealt Moscow a major reputational blow and raised questions about why its defences failed, as attention turned to the use of drones in the war between neighbours.
In the Russian-controlled Ukrainian city of Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia region, a supply route into Crimea, Russian-installed authorities summoned men of fighting age to mobilize, Ukraine’s military general staff said in a statement.
Russia has launched dozens of attacks from multiple rocket launchers since Wednesday, the general staff said, along with 16 airstrikes and 7 missile attacks.
Reuters was unable to immediately verify battlefield reports from either side.
Hundreds of miles away, across Ukraine’s northern border, Russian soldiers were preparing for fighting in winter conditions by taking part in tactical training exercises in Moscow’s close ally Belarus, the Russian defence ministry said.
A flurry of Russian diplomatic and military activity in Belarus in recent weeks has revived fears that Moscow is pressing its ally to get more involved in the Ukraine war.
President Alexander Lukashenko, who relied on Russian troops to put down a popular revolt two years ago, has allowed his country to serve as a staging ground for Russia’s invasion of their common neighbour.
He has so far kept his own army from joining in, but recent weeks have seen increasing signs of involvement in Belarus from Moscow. On Saturday, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu flew unannounced to the capital Minsk. He and Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin signed amendments to the two countries’ security cooperation agreement, without disclosing the new terms. Thousands of Russian troops have deployed in Belarus since October, Ukraine says, and Belarus authorities have increasingly spoken of a threat of what they call terrorism from partisans operating from across the border. (Source: Reuters)
07 Dec 22. Nato’s Stoltenberg says conditions for peace in Ukraine ‘not there now.’ The conditions for a peaceful settlement to the war in Ukraine are “not there now”, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has said, and Kyiv’s western allies must continue to provide weapons to Ukraine.
Stoltenberg said that, while it was likely the conflict would enter a quieter phase over the winter, both sides would seek to regroup and rearm their forces, and so Nato countries should keep providing support to Ukraine.
“The conditions [for a diplomatic solution] are not there now,” Stoltenberg said at the FT’s Global Boardroom event on Wednesday, adding that Russia had shown no sign of desiring a peaceful end to the war. “The more we want a peaceful solution, the more urgent it is that we provide military support to Ukraine.”
“Russia is trying to freeze” the conflict, Stoltenberg said, ahead of “launching a bigger offensive in the spring”.
“Now Ukraine has momentum,” Stoltenberg said, adding that Nato capitals are “considering constantly what [weapons] systems we want to deliver” to Kyiv. (Source: FT.com)
06 Dec 22. Airbase attacks ‘some of most strategically significant failures’ since Russian invasion. Attacks on a Russian airbase 600km from Ukrainian-controlled territory is likely to be considered as “some of the most strategically significant failures of force protection” since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a recent update on Twitter, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) said multiple open sources reported explosions at the Engels Airbase and at Dyagilyaevo airfield near Ryazan.
“Two Tu-95 BEAR heavy bombers were reportedly damaged at Engels and three people were killed when a fuel tank exploded at Dyagilyaevo,” the MOD said.
“The causes of the explosions have not been confirmed.
“However, if Russia assesses the incidents were deliberate attacks, it will probably consider them as some of the most strategically significant failures of force protection since its invasion of Ukraine.
“The sites are much deeper inside Russia than previous similar explosions: Engels is over 600km from Ukrainian-controlled territory.”
The update said Engels is the main operating base of Russia’s Long Range Aviation within the west of the country and houses more than 30 heavy bombers.
“These aircraft contribute to Russia’s nuclear deterrent and have also frequently been used to launch conventional cruise missiles at Ukraine,” the MOD said.
“The LRA is likely to respond by temporarily moving bombers to dispersal airfields.
“The Russian chain of command will probably seek to identify and impose severe sanctions on Russian officers deemed responsible for allowing the incident.”
It comes after a recent intelligence update from the MOD said the amount of sorties flown by Russian tactical combat aircraft has dramatically reduced, due to both weather conditions and the threat of Ukrainian air defence.
The MOD added that Russian aircraft probably now conduct “tens of missions per day, compared to a high of up to 300 per day in March 2022”.
06 Dec 22. The devastating humanitarian impact of Russia’s systematic strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure: UK statement at the Security Council. Statement by Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the Security Council briefing on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine
Thank you President. And thank you Under-Secretary-General Griffiths for your briefing.
“Death, destruction, displacement and suffering,” as you said.
President, this is the third time in as many weeks that we have discussed Russia’s brutal attacks on civilians across Ukraine.
On all three occasions, the UN has underlined the devastating humanitarian impact of the systematic strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and civilian centres. This presents a potentially catastrophic situation for Ukraine’s brave and courageous people and for the 690 organisations that are supporting the humanitarian need as winter begins, and people are left without water, power and shelter.
We know what Russia is trying to do: it is trying to bring terror and suffering to the civilian population in a war of subjugation. It is barbaric, illegal, and horribly cruel.
The statistics we have heard from the UN today are shocking, more than 17,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine by Russia’s senseless war. It is a devastating number of innocent lives lost, and we’ve heard today in particular the impact Russia’s war is having on children in Ukraine:
- the millions forced to flee their homes and in need of humanitarian assistance,
- the hundreds killed, injured or missing.
- the damage or destruction of over 500 schools, and classes interrupted by air raid sirens and power cuts.
- the reports that thousands of children have been forcibly taken to Russia.
- And the credible allegations of sexual violence against children by Russian forces.
The trauma inflicted by Russia will last for generations.
President, the response from this Council, and the wider UN Membership, has been consistent: a call for an end to conflict; for peace.
President Zelenskyy again asked us, two weeks ago, to help end the suffering of the Ukrainian people and expressed his willingness to negotiate a peace based on the principles of the UN Charter.
But Russia is not listening.
Its response has been wave after wave of long range strikes, and continued, albeit frustrated, efforts to take Ukrainian territory.
It is time for Russia to end this war, withdraw from Ukrainian territory, and commit to dialogue and negotiations based on international law and the UN Charter. Thank you, Madam President. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
04 Dec 22. Russia burning through ammunition in Ukraine at ‘extraordinary’ rate. Russia is burning through its munitions stockpiles at an “extraordinary” rate as its invasion of Ukraine grinds on into its tenth month, the nation’s top intelligence official said Saturday.
And Russia does not have enough ability to replace those weapons on its own, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said during a fireside chat at the Reagan National Defense Forum here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Haines would not provide specific figures on how fast Russia’s munitions are depleting, but said it is happening “quite quickly.”
“It’s really pretty extraordinary, and our own sense is that they are not capable of indigenously producing what they are expending at this stage,” Haines said. “That’s why you see them going to other countries, effectively, to try to get ammunition.”
Specifically, Russia’s reserves of precision munitions are running out the fastest, she said. The U.S. intelligence community and allies are paying close attention to the health of Russia’s munitions stockpiles, and how they could be used in other conflicts, she said.
Haines said Russia has obtained some artillery ammunition from North Korea, and that the intelligence community is also tracking those exchanges, but added “it’s not been a lot, at this stage.”
Haines’ comments come as the U.S. is trying to boost its own munitions production capability as it continues supplying arms to Ukraine. For example, the Army last week awarded Lockheed Martin a $431m contract to produce more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, launchers, which the U.S. has in recent months sent to Ukraine.
Earlier in the day, Raytheon Technologies chief executive Greg Hayes raised concerns about the pace Stinger and Javelin munitions are being used in Ukraine, and industry’s own ability to keep up.
While Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are building about 400 Javelins per month, Hayes said, “in the first 10 months of the war, we’ve essentially used up 13 years of Stinger production, and five years worth of Javelin production. So the question is, how are we going to resupply, restock the inventories?”
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said on that panel that her service has pushed $6bn in contracts to industry to help replenish munitions. This includes the Excalibur artillery rounds, built by Raytheon and BAE, and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Munitions Systems, an air defense system also known as NASAMS from Raytheon and Kongsberg, both to supply Ukraine and to rebuild U.S. stocks.
“Certainly, we all would like to have greater stockpiles than we had in the last several years,” Wormuth said. “But I do think we’ve done a lot to put money on contract with industry, to increase production of these systems.”
Haines said that Russia is trying to obtain more precision munitions from Iran — which has already provided drones that Russia has used to attack Ukraine’s power infrastructure.
Haines called Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s electrical grid, gas, heating, and other elements of its civilian infrastructure “outrageous” and “illegal.”
One of Russia’s motivations for carrying out these attacks is to undermine Ukraine’s will to fight, she said, but the United States sees no signs that the approach is succeeding. While such a lessening may happen over time, she said, it depends on how resilient Ukraine’s critical infrastructure is, and the West’s ability to help the nation defend those targets.
Russia’s invasion has also devastated Ukraine’s economy and attacks on critical infrastructure will worsen the economic toll.
Haines said the pace of the war — along with Russia’s steep casualty rates — has slowed recently, as winter sets in and in the wake of Russia’s withdrawal from the Kherson region, most fighting now occurring in the Donetsk region.
That will likely continue over the next few months, she said. But it remains to be seen what the next counteroffensive will look like once the spring thaw sets in, she said.
Both nations will try to resupply and regroup their forces to prepare for the resumption of major fighting, Haines said, but the U.S. is skeptical as to whether Russia will be ready. She said she is more optimistic that Ukraine will be better prepared.
Haines also said Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely surprised by his military’s failure to swiftly capture Ukraine. In recent months, he has learned more about his military’s on-the-ground situation, she said — but perhaps not enough to make the changes he would need.
“He is becoming more informed of the challenges that the [Russian] military faces,” Haines said. “But it’s still not clear to us that he has a full picture at this stage of just how challenged they are. We see shortages of ammunition, poor morale, supply issues, a whole series of concerns that they’re facing.” (Source: Defense News)
03 Dec 22. Partnering With Ukraine on Cybersecurity Paid Off, Leaders Say. A year ago, a hunt forward 10-member team of the U.S. Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force arrived in Kyiv, Ukraine.
The Marine Corps major leading that team called back and she said, “We’re gonna be here for a bit,” said Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, commander, U.S. Cyber Command and director, National Security Agency/chief, Central Security Service.
Nakasone spoke on a panel today at the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
That team grew from 10 to 39 people, working with Ukraine to strengthen its cyber defenses and provide reassurance. It paid off big-time as Russia launched its invasion, he said.
The lesson: presence, persistence and the value of partnerships is what matters most, he said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, industry, academia, as well as foreign allies and partners are among those that the Defense Department works with closely, he said.
A prime example is Cybercom partnering with the FBI and CISA, to ensure safe and secure elections, he mentioned.
“We generate really good insights. We share intelligence and information with the FBI and CISA. And then, we take action against adversaries who are going to try to do us harm,” Nakasone said.
The past year, the NSA released 24 unclassified cybersecurity advisories regarding what to expect in terms of Russian attacks on such things as the U.S. critical infrastructure, he said.
Frank Kendall, secretary of the Air Force, who also spoke on the panel, said regarding military cyber systems, “If we put the resources into them, we can be reasonably cybersecure. … But tactics will continue to evolve. They’re going to get more sophisticated over time as we build better defenses.”
Over the last few decades, America’s ability to secure against cyberattacks has improved pretty dramatically, he added.
“You’re never going to be perfect, but you can be highly resilient and you can be at a point where you if you get an unexpected attack, you can recover,” Kendall said.
When Russia attacked, Ukraine was not able to entirely defeat the cyber threat but they were able to block a lot of its impact, he said. (Source: US DoD)
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