Sponsored by Exensor
Military And Security Developments
- BAKHMUT: Russian forces continue to make incremental gains around Bakhmut, with further progress north-east of the town possibly laying conditions for an advance towards Siversk. Reports over the last 24-48 hours continue to indicate Russian advances near Rozdolivka, 11 miles (18km) northeast of Bakhmut following the possible seizure of Sakko and Vantsetti earlier this week (still unconfirmed). While Russian forces continue to intensify attacks against Bakhmut-proper, the most notable (if still limited) advances over the last two weeks have been to the north-east. This could suggest that Russian forces are prioritising operations along the T-0513 highway in a bid to further cut off Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) into Bakhmut, or set conditions for an eventual advance towards Siversk, the largest town in the area that sits 15 miles (24km) west of Lysychansk.
- DONETSK: Russian sources indicate that the intensity of fighting west of Donetsk city has decreased in recent days, but ground assaults continue against Marinka and Vuhledar. However, there are few further developments or confirmed advances to report as Ukrainian forces continue to claim that they are inflicting very high casualties on elite Russian naval infantry brigades fighting for access to the town.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Indicators continue to point to growing preparations for a Russian offensive effort in northern Luhansk oblast this month. Ukrainian governor of Luhansk Serhiy Haidai reported on 2 February that Russian forces have intensified shelling along the Svatove-Kreminna line, while the Ukrainian General Staff have reported an increased number of Russian assaults on this axis over the last 24 hours – though advances remain unconfirmed. The latter also reported on 2 February that Russian forces are preparing to destroy road infrastructure, bridges and dams in and around Tavilzhanka, 34 miles (54km) northwest of Svatove due east of Dvorichna and the Oskil River in Kharkiv oblast. If Russian forces do indeed attack infrastructure in this area, this could cut off Ukrainian forces from the western banks of the Oskil River and isolate them during the upcoming spring offensive. Reaching the Oskil River could therefore be the primary objective of Russian forces on the Luhansk axis during said offensive.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Russian occupation authorities have blocked mobile internet access across Luhansk oblast, which is due to come into force officially from 11 February. However, reports indicate that mobile internet coverage has already been cut off as of 2 February. This is highly likely an attempt to improve operational security (OPSEC) to conceal Russian preparations for its coming spring offensive, which is most likely to focus on retaking lost territory in Luhansk oblast to support offensives further south into Donetsk. Information blackouts are likely to further reduce open-source reporting from the front in the coming weeks.
- SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report.
- Ukraine: Further financial aid likely in near term, despite mixed progress on anti-corruption reforms. The Ukraine-EU summit begins in Kyiv later on 3 February. The subject of future aid and Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts will almost certainly be the focal points of the talks. An announcement of additional sanctions against Russia ahead of the one-year anniversary of the invasion will also likely follow the summit. Despite the ongoing support for Ukraine, a fast track to EU membership will almost certainly not be discussed. This is in part due to the mixed progress on Kyiv’s anti-corruption efforts. Nevertheless, there is a realistic possibility that the country will receive a new loan from the IMF to support its war-torn economy in the coming months. Indeed, a meeting between IMF representatives and Ukrainian officials is reportedly planned for mid-February.POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS
- DIPLOMACY: Today (3 February) marks the 24th European Union (EU)-Ukraine summit in Kyiv, and high-profile talks between president Volodymyr Zelensky and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen remain ongoing. Zelensky has this morning stated that he had reached ‘important mutual understandings’ with von der Leyen regarding Ukraine’s bid to join the bloc, though he called for integration talks to formally begin as early as this year. While the bloc has announced a doubling of its military aid to Ukraine and has made various statements regarding the positive steps Kyiv is taking regarding governance reform, the prospects of Ukrainian accession remain very remote (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 1 February). There will be an increased risk of long-range strikes against Kyiv for the duration of the summit. However, Moscow could potentially seek to conserve missile stocks ahead of expected strikes to mark the first anniversary of the invasion on 24 February and avoid alienating more cautious European officials present in the delegation that oppose more weapons transfers.
- AID: Ukrainian defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov pledged on 2 February that Ukraine will not strike de jure Russian territory if it receives long-range missile systems from Western allies, such as Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS). Reznikov said that Kyiv will provide guarantees and is prepared to coordinate targets with Western partners, given that fears of escalation caused by strikes deep inside Russian territory have so far limited support for the transfer of long-range systems. Nevertheless, the US is set to announce the transfer of Ground-launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDBs) for the first time, which will double Ukraine’s operational missile range to 94 miles (150km), which will place almost the entirety of Donbas within range for the first time. However, such systems are expected to be sent no sooner than October, confirming our earlier assessment (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 1 February).
- MOLDOVA: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated on 2 February that the West is seeking to turn Moldova into the ‘next Ukraine’ as an ‘anti-Russia’. Lavrov claimed that the country’s pro-West president Maia Sandu seeks to unite with Romania and join NATO after Sandu indicated on 20 January that her government is considering joining a ‘larger alliance’, without explicitly naming NATO, to safeguard the country against potential Russian aggression. Russian officials have responded angrily to the implication of Moldova joining NATO, and this issue will be one of the key trigger points for conflict spillover in 2023.
- MOLDOVA: However, it remains highly unlikely that Russia is planning to activate conventional ground forces from Transnistria for the foreseeable future, given the lack of capability they currently have in the region. Long-range strikes are a much more realistic threat and the expected intensification of strikes against Ukraine in the run-up to the first anniversary of the invasion could see deliberate targeting of energy systems near Moldova. Such targeting has previously caused nationwide blackouts across the border. Hybrid capabilities and destabilising actors remain an enduring threat in Moldova, and if Chisinau moves forward with a NATO application, pro-Russian actors inside the country will likely ramp up efforts to destabilise the pro-Western government with protests and potential attacks. For further analysis, see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 20 December 2022.
- DOMESTIC: On 2 February, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed that the presidential administration has not made any decision on banning officials from travelling abroad on holiday. On 1 February the leader of Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin reportedly appealed to a chairman of a State Duma committee requesting legislation to ban Russian officials and deputies from travelling abroad for the duration of the ‘special military operation’. Discussions in the State Duma and regional administrations appear to be heading in this direction. At present, it remains unclear whether ‘officials’ will apply only to politicians and administrators, or be extended to all state employees. Given the dominance of the public sector in Russia, made even more pervasive since the invasion, bans on holidaying abroad could potentially impact millions of workers. Such a decision would likely be highly unpopular, but if enacted it would support the Kremlin’s wider efforts to clamp down on the brain drain and deter emigration ahead of potential further rounds of mobilisation (see further analysis, see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 24 January).
- NORTH KOREA: According to the South Korean newspaper Daily NK, unnamed Russian sources have indicated that North Korea intends to send up to 500 personnel, including soldiers and police officers, to the Russian-occupied Donbas to aid in ‘reconstruction efforts’. While unconfirmed, the deployment will reportedly take place in mid-February or March. Russia’s relations with North Korea have warmed markedly since the invasion and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg claimed on 29 January that Pyongyang is supplying missiles to Russia. US intelligence has also assessed that Wagner Group has received North Korean ammunition and small arms (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 23 December 2022). As we assessed in our Annual Forecast, growing ties between Moscow, Pyongyang and Tehran will continue to impact not only the war in Ukraine but will also reinforce the wider threat of these actors operating as global disruptors and cooperating to undermine Western interests across the globe (see Sibylline Annual Forecast 2023).
NEGOTIATIONS: The Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung claimed on 2 February that CIA Director Bill Burns undertook a secret visit to Moscow in mid-January to propose a peace plan on behalf of the White House, but both Washington D.C. and Moscow have denied this. According to unnamed German officials cited in the article, Burns proposed that Ukraine cede some 20% of its territory to Russia to end the war, but that both sides refused. The sources claim that US President Joe Biden proposed the plan to avoid a protracted war. However, Kyiv rejected the proposals and Russian officials dismissed the idea given that they consider that ‘[Russia] will win the war in the long run anyway’. Both Russia and Ukraine believe time is on their side, with Burns himself stating on 2 February that the next six months will be ‘key’ to the outcome of the war. It remains likely that backchannels between the CIA, the Russian Foreign Security Service (SVR) and Ukrainian intelligence remain open. However, neither side is willing to seriously negotiate ahead of their respective spring offensives and counter-offensives, with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stating earlier this week that negotiations with Kyiv are ‘now impossible since there are no conditions for them either de facto or de jure’. Amid the refusal to negotiate, President Vladimir Putin gave a speech on 2 February to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, where he threatened to draw on Russia’s entire arsenal in response to Western weapons transfers. While once again framing the war in Ukraine as an existential struggle akin to the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis, Putin’s threats remained vague. He and other Russian officials have repeatedly threatened to draw on advanced Russian weaponry in response to Western systems, but Russia has remained relatively restrained – largely due to Russia’s limited capability to actually respond given the difficulties around acquiring intelligence on where Western shipments are entering and travelling through Ukraine. Putin’s threats remain on-trend and do not necessarily indicate an imminent escalation – particularly given momentum towards supplying F-16 fighter jets is currently dissipating within NATO. Nevertheless, the risk will remain going forward, particularly if Russia’s spring offensive results in failure later this year.
- BAKHMUT: According to a Ukrainian soldier currently fighting in Bakhmut, the situation in and around the town has ‘radically changed’ given that Russian forces have now deployed more professional units to the fight. The soldier’s testimony was published by the Ukrainian Joint Forces Task Force on 1 February and aligns with other reports from Ukrainian forces that indicate a marked increase in the professionalism and effectiveness of Russian tactics along the Bakhmut line.
- BAKHMUT: The deployment of airborne (VDV), more professional elements of Wagner Group and Main Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GUR) forces are presenting a growing challenge to Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut. This follows the attritional human wave tactics favoured by Wagner Group forces during earlier phases of the assault on Bakhmut. The soldier also stated that it is increasingly difficult for Ukrainian forces to hold positions, given Russian artillery and armour seek out and destroy Ukrainian-occupied buildings, preventing their use by the defenders.
- BAKHMUT: Reports over the last 24 hours indicate Russian forces continue to make marginal gains in eastern Bakhmut, with heavy fighting also ongoing west of Donetsk city. Notably, however, Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin stated on 1 February that Russian forces have not yet achieved an operation encirclement of Bakhmut; i.e. that all roads and routes of supply are placed under enemy fire control. He also refuted earlier claims by Donetsk Peoples’ Republic (DNR) officials that Russian forces had taken Sakko and Vantsetti, ten miles (16km) north of Bakhmut. Nevertheless, if Russian forces can sustain the current level of assaults, this will increase pressure on Ukrainian forces to eventually withdraw to preserve force and establish new defensive positions to the west.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Amid heaving fighting north-west of Svatove and Kreminna, Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai reported on 1 February that Russian forces have not yet formed an assault group, but continue to build up both troops and military equipment ahead of their expected offensive. Various unconfirmed reports from Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian assaults against Kreminna have been repulsed over the last 24-48 hours, with additional claims that Russia’s 488th Guards Motorised Rifle Regiment has advanced 800m into unspecified Ukrainian positions further north. This remains unconfirmed as the Ukrainian General Staff continues to report successful repulsion of various Russian attacks across the Svatove-Kreminna axis.
- SOUTHERN: Some Russian officials continue to claim widespread offensive operations along the Zaporizhzhia axis, but there continues to be little indication that Russian forces are making any advances around Orikhiv and Huliapole. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian General Staff this morning (2 February) reported that Russian forces had launched offensive operations along the Novopavlivka axis – referring to the eastern section of the Zaporizhzhzia line in western Donetsk oblast – the battle for Vuhledar in particular.
- BORDERS: During a conference on 1 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that a ‘priority’ for the Russian military is to eliminate the possibility of Ukrainian shelling of Russian territory. Putin stated that Ukrainian forces have damaged residential areas in Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk oblasts, and while Kyiv has not acknowledged this, cross-border shelling is a reality across much of the north-eastern border region. Aside from supporting the Russian narrative that Ukrainian forces continue to threaten Russian-speaking civilians, Putin’s statement could also indicate preparations for intensifying military operations against the border regions of Kharkiv, Sumy and Chernihiv oblasts.
- BORDERS: Any intensification of fighting along the international border is most likely to take the form of increased cross-border reconnaissance and sabotage raids – as was the case during a small raid on 23 January in Sumy oblast.
- However, as previously assessed, it remains a realistic possibility that Moscow will attempt to open up a new front along the international border – most likely in northern Kharkiv oblast – to support a wider spring offensive in the Donbas. For further analysis of Russian build-ups in Kursk oblast.
- BELARUS: On 1 February, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence announced that it now has full autonomous control of Russian-produced nuclear-capable Iskandr-M ballistic missile systems. Moscow first confirmed the planned transfers in July last year, when they also announced plans to help update Belarus’ Su-25 jets to enable them to carry air-launched nuclear weapons. Minsk has long called for Russia to help modernise its missile inventory, which was previously limited to Soviet-era Tochka-U missiles, with a limited range of 75 miles (120km), compared to Iskandr-M’s 310-mile (500km) range, which places most of northern-central Ukraine in range.
- BELARUS: While Iskandr-M is nuclear-capable, it remains highly unlikely that any nuclear weapons Russia stations in Belarus would be transferred to Belarusian control, and there is no indication that Moscow has transferred nuclear weapons. However, Moscow has previously suggested that it would do so in the future. Belarusian stocks of Iskandr-M are likely to remain very limited and are likely symbolic in nature, rather than posing a new threat to Ukraine – Russia has frequently fired Iskandr missiles from Belarusian territory during the course of the war. This is unlikely to reflect preparations for an imminent Belarusian intervention in the war in Ukraine, and more likely reflects the military integration of the Russian and Belarusian militaries under the Union State.
- AID: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated during an interview with CNN on 1 February that his government is considering supplying new military capabilities to Ukraine, including the country’s Iron Dome air defence system. Netanyahu also stated that he is prepared to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, reflecting Tel Aviv’s carefully balanced relations with both countries. During talks in December 2022, Netanyahu and President Volodymyr Zelensky allegedly discussed Kyiv changing its position on a UN vote on the Palestinian Territories in favour of Israel, in exchange for Iron Dome air defences. This remains unconfirmed, however, and Ukraine abstained from the subsequent vote. Kyiv has long sought the Iron Dome system, which would significantly enhance Ukrainian air defence capabilities. While the provision of Western Patriot systems has lessened the need for such Israeli capabilities, it is clearly something Kyiv still desires. However, it ultimately remains unlikely that Netanyahu would agree to provide Iron Dome capabilities in the short to medium term, and the statement is likely an attempt to continue balancing relations with Ukraine rather than an indication that a shift in Israeli weapons policy is imminent.
- SANCTIONS: On 1 February the US imposed sanctions on 22 individuals and entities linked to a global sanctions evasion network which is supporting Russia’s military-industrial complex. The targeted entities include companies in Bulgaria, Cyprus and Israel and form part of a growing attempt by the US and other Western powers to close loopholes that are allowing Russia to evade sanctions. For further analysis on the growing reputational and legal risks for European manufacturers in particular.
- CORRUPTION: President Zelensky vowed on 1 February that his administration will continue doing everything necessary to ensure nobody can ‘weaken’ the state through corruption. This comes after the launch of the largest anti-corruption raids in recent Ukrainian history, which saw raids against prominent oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky and former Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. The Economy Security Bureau also confirmed on 1 February that it had uncovered a USD 1 billion embezzlement scheme at the oil companies Ukrnafta and Ukrtatnafta, while the acting head of the State Customs Service was also fired over corruption allegations. Zelensky’s statement comes as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv on 2 February, ahead of the EU-Ukraine summit tomorrow (3 February), during which anti-corruption reform will likely loom large.
- DOMESTIC: The Russian government announced on 2 February that it has temporarily suspended applications for new passports. Russian state news had earlier warned of the possibility due to alleged ‘technical’ issues at the printing factory that creates biometric passports. At time of writing it remains unclear how long the suspension will remain in place, though an earlier temporary suspension in 2022 lasted between 25 August and 20 September. The move could reflect an overhaul to the production system given shortages of microchips used in the passports caused by international sanctions. However, it also aligns with wider indicators we have been tracking that suggest the Kremlin is steadily tightening restrictions on the ability of Russians to emigrate and strengthening controls at the nation’s borders. Moscow continues to try to mitigate the brain drain ahead of potential further rounds of mobilisation in Q1, and while such a suspension is likely to prove temporary, further restrictions to deter emigration are likely.
On 1 February, Politico reported that four unnamed high-ranking officials at the US Department of Defense held a classified briefing on the war in Ukraine, where they concluded that Ukraine is unlikely to be able to retake occupied Crimea in the near future. President Zelensky and various other Ukrainian military and intelligence officials have regularly stated that Ukraine aims to retake all occupied territories ‘from Crimea to Donbas’ by the end of 2023, though this remains unlikely short of a Russian military collapse. While the Pentagon has not and cannot confirm discussions during a classified meeting, the conclusions largely align with public statements by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. On 20 January, Milley stated that it will be ‘very, very difficult to military eject’ Russian forces from every inch of Ukraine this year, aligning with our assessment that the war is likely to protract well beyond 2023 under current conditions. Ukraine’s ability to conduct sizeable counter-offensive operations this year will to a large extent remain contingent upon the success (or lack thereof) of Russia’s spring offensive, which Kyiv expects will be launched within the next two months. Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov stated on 1 February that Kyiv is preparing for the Russians to launch a major offensive effort against either the Donbas or the southern axis. Reznikov also notably stated that 500,000 Russian mobilised service personnel are expected to support offensive operations, despite the official Russian figure indicating 300,000 reservists have so far been mobilised. If Russia’s spring offensive proves successful, Ukraine’s ability to launch subsequent counter-offensive operations in the summer will be reduced. However, if it fails, Ukrainian forces will likely seek to exploit new opportunities to launch a counter-punch with Western-supplied main battle tank armoured spearheads, which will aim at unhinging Russian defences and push them back towards the 2014 line of contact.
- During this monitoring period, we observed an increase in pro-Russia cyber attacks targeting Europe and the US as part of a continued response to Western military assistance to Ukraine. Meanwhile, an alleged cyber attack against the Welsh cyber security company Team Cymru indicates the increased vulnerability to security outfits which are tracking and reporting on pro-Russia threat actors active in the Ukraine conflict. Finally, the use of newly developed destructive wipe malware against Ukrainian targets by Sandworm, a Kremlin-sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT) group, remains on trend with the diversification of pro-Russia cyber techniques. However, lower-level phishing and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks will continue to represent the primary tactics among pro-Russia hacking groups, particularly those operating without state sponsorship.
- During this monitoring period, we observed an increase in joint pro-Kyiv cyber operations against Russian government entities and infrastructure. The pro-Ukraine hacking groups Team OneFist and Anonymous RoughSec will likely continue to conduct relatively sophisticated attacks in the coming days and weeks against Russian energy and government sectors. Meanwhile, the IT Army of Ukraine, a pro-Kyiv cyber threat group with links to the Ukrainian government, sustained operations against Moscow, focusing on Russia’s energy sector; the group will likely continue to conduct operations against major Russian entities which support critical national infrastructure.
Latest Significant Updates
Pro-Russia cyber groups have increased their attacks against European, US healthcare sectors; Kremlin-sponsored Sandworm employs new destructive wiper malware against Ukrainian targets
- On 30 January, the pro-Russia cyber threat actor Noname05716 alleged that it launched a DDoS attack targeting the website of the cyber security vendor Team Cymru. This comes after the vendor published a report about tracked pro-Russia hacktivist activity.
- On 29 January, the pro-Russia hacktivist collective Phoenix claimed to have launched cyber attacks against the websites of US-based hospitals as part of a wider campaign. The group claimed that it is working in conjunction with the pro-Russia hacking group Killnet to conduct widespread, pro-Moscow campaigns. Phoenix provided no further details about the attacks, which were likely to be low-level DDoS attacks causing limited operational disruption.
- On 28 January, the Cyber Army of Russia Reborn, a group with suspected ties to Sandworm, disclosed that it will start to conduct cyber attacks targeting the Swedish Industrial Economics Research Institute (IFN) as opposed to Ukraine, though no such attacks have yet taken place.
- On 25 January, Sandworm targeted Ukraine with a new Golang-based wiper malware called SwiftSlicer. The new malware is used to delete all of a system’s files, including shadow copies; it also recursively overwrites files located within system and non-system drives. It is unclear what sectors or organisations were targeted in this campaign.
Pro-Kyiv hacking groups increase attacks against critical Russian energy, telecommunications infrastructure
- On 31 January, Team OneFist and Anonymous RoughSec, a sub-group of the decentralised Anonymous collective, reported the completion of Operation Juliett. The ten-day cyber campaign targeted Russian telecommunications companies and internet service providers, such as Rostelecom. The campaigns involved focused strikes against Rostelecom edge routers at government and military facilities. The pro-Kyiv groups reported that over 120 of the routers were operationally taken down. The attack also involved using a zero-day vulnerability against 102 Q-Tech routers; the actors were able to block the internet SIM card in each router, rendering them completely unusable.
- On 30 January, Team OneFist and Anonymous RoughSec carried out Operation Quantum, their third joint operation. The operation targeted 14 Waviot power metering systems in Russia, prompting operational disruption to metering systems at over 5,000 locations. In addition, the groups targeted analytics and data collection systems, destroying all historical records and necessitating a full rebuild of the systems.
- On 29 January, the IT Army of Ukraine claimed that it had successfully hacked the Russian energy company Gazprom. The hackers allegedly stole and leaked information, including 1.6GB of files related to Gazprom’s financial and economic activities related to testing and drilling, as well as the implementation and adjustments of automated systems at the Koviktinsky well (one of the largest gas fields in Russia).
- On 26 January, the IT Army of Ukraine reportedly conducted a DDoS attack on Pervyj OFD, a major Russian financial data operator, forcing the organisation offline temporarily.
Pro-Russia cyber attacks against Ukrainian targets resumed during this monitoring period. Sandworm’s new Golang wiper malware highlights the continuous development of custom tools used by these pro-Russia groups. Since 2017, Sandworm has been known to use wiper malware against Ukrainian critical national infrastructure to inflict significant disruption. The most notable incident was that of the NotPetya malware, which targeted Ukrainian businesses and the country’s energy sector in 2017. The development of new Golang-based wiper malware, which is difficult to detect and mitigate, increases the likelihood that Kremlin-sponsored groups will conduct further destructive attacks against Ukrainian critical national infrastructure in the coming months. However, hacktivist groups operating without Russian state sponsorship will almost certainly continue to use relatively low-level phishing and DDoS attacks as their primary methods. Overall, further pro-Russia cyber operations are likely to continue targeting Ukrainian state-linked entities in the coming weeks, mainly in the energy, government and security sectors. Meanwhile, we observed an increase in pro-Russia cyber operations targeting Europe and the US during this monitoring period, including attacks against various healthcare institutions. The shift to targeting healthcare facilities via DDoS attacks is consistent with targeting patterns of Killnet and other pro-Russia hacking groups. Cyber threats will increase the likelihood of operational disruption to healthcare institutions and hospitals based in Europe and the US in the coming weeks. During this monitoring period, we observed continued joint cyber operations carried out by the Anonymous RoughSec group in collaboration with Team OneFist. In line with targeting patterns observed in previous weeks, the pro-Kyiv cyber threat actors launched attacks against Russian government entities and critical infrastructure, including power and telecommunications facilities. Operation Juliett, described as one of Team OneFist’s largest missions to date, came to an end after an allegedly successful ten-day campaign. The IT Army of Ukraine will likely sustain its targeting of Russian energy, IT, industrial and telecommunications entities in the near term. More broadly, increased co-operation between the cyber threat actors will likely persist in the coming weeks. Cyber operations carried out by the pro-Kyiv Anonymous collective decreased during this monitoring period compared with other pro-Kyiv threat groups. This likely reflects the group’s current focus on operations targeting the Iranian government amid Tehran’s ongoing repression of mass anti-government protests. This trend is likely to persist in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, the Anonymous collective and its splinter factions will almost certainly remain prevalent actors in hacktivism and DDoS campaigns against Russian entities as the Ukraine conflict continues in the coming months.
- OFFENSIVES: Ukrainian officials continue to report on Russian preparations for the anticipated spring offensive, which is likely to take place in the coming months. Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov stated on 31 January that Russian forces are readying a ‘maximum escalation’ in Ukraine in two to three months’ time, but that they will possibly launch operations in the next two to three weeks to coincide with the 24 February anniversary of the invasion.
- OFFENSIVES: Earlier on 1 February, spokesperson for Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR) Andriy Yusov assessed that Ukraine is currently ‘on the eve of a very active phase at the front’, where he anticipates fierce fighting will take place throughout February and March. GUR head Kyrylo Budanov also reported on 31 January that Ukrainian intelligence estimates that 326,000 Russian troops are currently fighting in Ukraine. This does not include 150,000 mobilised reservists who have been training in Russia and Belarus. These 150,000 troops have not yet been committed to any front, and will likely form a significant part of the spring offensive. Budanov assesses this offensive will likely focus on taking ground in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.
- BAKHMUT: Russian sources continue to claim marginal progress along the Bakhmut line, though advances remain slow. Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) sources claimed on 31 January that Russian forces took Sakko and Vantsetti, ten miles (16km) north of Bakhmut. This remains unconfirmed. Spokesperson for Ukraine’s Eastern Grouping of Forces Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty reported on 31 January that the Ukrainian command has various contingency options around Bakhmut, but that at present Ukrainian forces are being supplied with everything necessary to continue the defence of the town. Cherevaty drew attention to the precedent of the Ukrainian withdrawal from Lysychansk-Severodonetsk in 2022, which inflicted significant casualties on Russian forces and prevented them from capitalising on their victory by establishing new defensive positions. This prevented a subsequent march on Bakhmut.
- DONETSK: As the fighting intensifies, both sides are likely committing growing numbers of forces to the battle of Vuhledar. Unconfirmed reports from a Ukrainian officer published on 31 January claim that while the overall number of Russian assaults against the town has not diminished, poor weather conditions and high casualty rates are reducing the quality of said assaults. The officer claimed that the more professional 155th Naval Infantry Brigade of the Pacific Fleet has sustained especially heavy casualties and equipment losses, which is degrading their battlefield effectiveness. Nevertheless, reports of the deployment of increasing numbers of Russian reserves to the front indicate that Russia intends to maintain pressure on Vuhledar.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: On 31 January, Spokesperson for Ukraine’s Eastern Grouping of Forces Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty reported that Ukrainian advances north-west of Svatove and Kreminna have slowed for various reasons, including poor weather conditions and the desire to preserve forces. This likely indicates Ukraine’s continued struggle to generate any momentum along this axis as Russian forces continue to strengthen their defences ahead of the spring offensive. Unconfirmed reports from Ukrainian sources over the last 12 hours indicate possible Russian preparations for a new offensive west of Kreminna, which will possibly be launched the coming days.
- SOUTHERN: Cross-river reconnaissance and sabotage raids have intensified across the Dnieper River over the last 24-48 hours, though neither side likely intends to gain a bridgehead. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on 31 January that five Russian boats were destroyed on the Dnieper over the last 24 hours, while military spokesperson Colonel Yevhen Yerin claimed that the uptick in Russian sabotage operations is unlikely aimed at making territorial gains. Similarly, reports on 31 January indicated that Ukrainian forces conducted a raid against the southern (left) bank of the river. They reportedly landed near a residential area before Russian artillery forced their withdrawal.
- SOUTHERN: These reports remain unconfirmed, though it is clear that activity is intensifying along the Dnieper River as both sides seek to pin enemy forces along this front amid preparations for spring offensives and counter-offensives in eastern Ukraine. Yerin also reported that Wagner Group units are being deployed to positions along the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia axes – this is possibly part of a wider force rotation to pull out exhausted Wagner forces from the Bakhmut line to the relatively quiet southern fronts, and to deploy fresher troops to sustain the offensive in Donetsk.
- AID: The US will likely announce a new military aid package worth USD 2 bn, possibly as soon as this week. For the first time, the package will include longer-range missiles. Unnamed US officials cited by Reuters on 31 January indicated that Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB) will possibly be provided – a system that has over double the range of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). For further analysis of the GLSDB and its implications It should be noted that USD 1.725 bn of the package will come from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), meaning Washington DC will purchase weapons from defence contractors, rather than transferring them from US reserve stocks. This likely means that arms transfers will occur over several months, rather than weeks. It remains unlikely that Saab and Boeing have begun serial production of GLSDBs; in the absence of large reserve stocks, the delivery of these systems to Ukraine will possibly take place during the latter half of 2023, if not later.
- SANCTIONS: On 31 January, the Dutch government called on semiconductor producers in the Netherlands to step up efforts to prevent their products ending up in Russia. The government intervention follows the publication of a joint investigation by NOS and Nieuwsuur on 27 January which found that ms of Dutch-produced chips are being delivered to Russia via a small number of Chinese intermediary companies. These chips have reportedly been used to produce Russian armoured artillery, cruise missiles, attack helicopters and Iranian kamikaze drones. However, while EU law stipulates that companies must conduct due diligence to ensure their products do not end up in Russia, existing due diligence requirements are not a legal obligation. It remains likely that as more investigations surface, the EU will seek to close any loopholes which allow advanced semiconductors to support the Russian military-industrial complex. In the meantime, increased scrutiny will increase reputational risks for companies – particularly if Kyiv begins to ‘name and shame’ specific companies whose products have inadvertently supported the Russian war effort.
- MARTIAL: LAW: On 31 January, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally signed a decree that further enhances the ability of local authorities to introduce elevated ‘terrorist levels’ for indefinite periods in regions under ‘medium’ martial law readiness. The new rules will allow regions bordering Ukraine (Belgorod, Bryansk, occupied Crimea, Krasnodar Krai, Kursk and Voronezh oblasts) to introduce enhanced anti-terrorism security measures. This includes stopping and searching vehicles crossing administrative borders – previously only permitted in ‘maximum’ martial law readiness areas in occupied Ukraine. The decree underscores the slippery slope of martial law powers in European Russia; following the uptick in repression under the guise of ‘counter-terrorism’ efforts, daily life in these areas is likely to become increasingly controlled by the state.
CORRUPTION: Ahead of the EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv on 3 February, a widespread crackdown on corruption is clearly underway across Ukraine. A slew of reports has emerged over the last 24 hours announcing high-profile investigations and raids against oligarchs, business leaders and state officials. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), Bureau of Economic Security (ESBU) and State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) all issued reports earlier on 1 February of ongoing investigations related to suspected corruption or abuse of power. These include a search of the Dnipro home of one of Ukraine’s most powerful oligarchs, investigations into a former interior minister, SBI raids against the senior management of the Kyiv region’s tax service and confirmation from the Prosecutor General’s Office that two deputy defence ministers are now under investigation for embezzlement. The investigations follow allegations last month of corruption within the Ukrainian defence ministry. The resultant scandal has raised wider concerns of the extent of corruption in Ukraine, particularly given the bns of USD disbursed in military and financial aid. Amid the various investigations, the US Treasury Department reported on 31 January that it has found no indication that US funds have been misused in Ukraine after deploying auditors to the country. In an effort to assuage international concerns, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also initiated a government reshuffle. This has resulted in numerous state officials and regional governors being fired. The flurry of investigations and raids announced this morning represents one of the most widespread and rapid clampdowns on suspected corrupt activity in recent years. Such activity is clearly aimed at illustrating to Western partners that the Zelensky administration is serious about tackling corruption across all levels of Ukrainian society; governance and anti-corruption reforms clearly remain at the heart of Ukraine’s EU bid. President Zelensky announced on 31 January that Ukraine is preparing ‘new reforms’ which will change Ukraine’s social, legal and political realities. As such, the EU summit in Kyiv on 3 February will be an important milestone for identifying where progress has been made and where development is required to advance Kyiv’s candidacy. On 30 January, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal stated that Kyiv wants to join the EU in two years. This is a highly ambitious timeframe which is considered unrealistic by many in Brussels. French President Emmanuel Macron stated last year that it could be ‘decades’ before Ukraine joins the bloc. It remains highly unlikely that Ukraine will join the bloc within two years (irrespective of its ongoing war with Russia) due to extensive outstanding governance concerns. However, the Zelensky administration is clearly trying to underscore that it is prepared to make deep-rooted reforms and conduct high-profile purges to ensure that progress is made, as well as to improve Ukraine’s business environment.
Ukraine: Nationwide raids signal government efforts to clamp down on corruption, oligarchic influence. On 1 February, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) and the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) launched nationwide raids and investigations into various government officials and oligarchs. Among the targeted are the ex-head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Arsen Avakov, and oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. The timing of this nationwide clampdown is likely in preparation for the EU summit in Kyiv, to be held on 3 February. It also follows high-profile corruption allegations within the Ministry of Defence. Kyiv is clearly seeking to signal its ongoing efforts to combat corruption and oligarchic influence in order to boost transparency and international confidence that military aid is not being diverted. The anti-corruption investigations will likely improve governance conditions in the country and serve as a notable deterrent. However, longer-term anti-corruption reform remains a much more fundamental challenge.
Russia: Oil export ban reflects continued Russian pivot to Asia, risks possible short-term oil price spike. On 1 February, Russia enacted its oil export ban on countries adhering to the EU/G7+ USD 60 price cap. The ban will be in force until 1 July, with the option to extend it further. However, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will be able to lift it on a case-by-case basis. The ban reinforces Russia’s pivot to non-European markets, with last week’s announcement that Russia will begin direct gasoline sales to Pakistan underlining the growing importance of Asia. Notably, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised its forecast from an expected 2.3% contraction of the Russian economy to 0.3% growth in 2023. This indicates that sanctions on Russia had a limited impact throughout 2022, as new markets, including India and China, mitigated some losses in energy revenues. Given that Russian crude prices (Urals: USD 56) have often remained at around the USD 60 price cap, the G7 is considering revising the cap by 5 February. If Moscow further curtails its supplies, it could cause a short-term spike in global energy prices.
US: Treasury dismisses Ukraine corruption allegations; House likely to raise scrutiny over novel USD 2bn Ukraine aid package. The US Treasury said on 31 January that there is no indication of misappropriation or corruption stemming from American aid in Ukraine. The statement comes amid recent allegations of corruption among Ukrainian officials and ongoing high-profile raids targeting several Ukrainian government representatives and oligarchs (1 February). It also comes as the US is preparing to send nearly USD 2 bn in military aid to Ukraine, according to reports on 31 January. It is likely that Republican policymakers in the House are going to advocate for an audit of the aid package and will possibly push for the Oversight Committee to investigate the administration’s aid dispersal in Ukraine. Should there be a significant perception of corruption and misappropriation among policymakers and the public in the short to medium terms, there will likely be a negative impact on continued support and aid for Ukraine.
- BAKHMUT: Russian forces continue to make incremental gains around Bakhmut, steadily increasing pressure on Ukrainian defences and crucial ground lines of communication (GLOCs). Russian sources continue to claim slow but steady progress around the key town, with the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirming the capture of Blahodatne. In addition, Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) officials claimed earlier on 31 January that Russian forces are advancing ‘quite actively’ around Bakhmut. Russian sources have also made further claims of advances to the south around Vuhledar as well as west of Donetsk city, though these marginal advances remain unconfirmed at this stage.
- BAKHMUT: While the Ukrainian General Staff continues to report that its forces are successfully repelling attacks against the town, a Ukrainian commander in Bakhmut raised the possibility of a Ukrainian withdrawal during an interview with CNN on 30 January. While no decision has yet been made, the officer claimed that if the Ukrainian command decides to withdraw, the only purpose of such a move would be to ‘save lives’. In particular, he stated that ‘super qualified’ Russian regular forces (possibly including airborne VDV units) are now helping Wagner Group forces to assault the town, which another commander described as ‘a living hell’. As the Russian advance continues and critical GLOCs come under increasing pressure, a decision to withdraw to more defensible positions further west in order to preserve Ukrainian forces ahead of Russia’s expected spring offensive remains possible in the coming weeks.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Both sides are continuing to conduct offensive operations along the Oskil-Kreminna front; they are both ostensibly making marginal gains at different points of the line – the Russians around Dvorichna and the Ukrainians west of Kreminna. However, these small advances remain unconfirmed. Notably, a Russian source claimed on 30 January that Ukrainian forces are laying mines along unspecified bridges to the north-west of Svatove. Although unconfirmed, this points to Ukrainian contingency planning ahead of the expected Russian spring offensive. As we have previously assessed, such an offensive will likely aim to retake territory lost during last year’s Kharkiv counter-offensive – including territory west of the Oskil River. The offensive will possibly also involve a Russian operation against Kharkiv oblast from Belgorod.
- LUHANSK: Amid preparations for the offensive, the Ukrainian Resistance Centre alleged on 30 January that Moscow has given the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) authorities an ‘ultimatum’ to support its efforts to reclaim the administrative borders of Luhansk by 1 April, or risk facing ‘personnel decisions’. This remains unconfirmed, though the Resistance Centre claims Moscow is dissatisfied with efforts to mobilise the population of occupied Luhansk.
- SUMY-KURSK: The governor of the Russian region of Kursk claimed on 30 January that Russia has deployed greater numbers of troops and military equipment in the region, which borders Ukraine’s Sumy oblast. This possibly reflects genuine ongoing preparations for the spring offensive. It is possibly also part of Russia’s information campaign to keep the Ukrainians guessing where the spring offensive will target. We assess that a push further south into Kharkiv oblast remains more likely than a push into Sumy, though we will continue to monitor for deployments.
- SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report.
- AID: The US Transportation Command confirmed on 30 January that the first shipment of 60 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) is currently en route to Ukraine. Meanwhile, the UK confirmed that Ukraine will receive its 14 Challenger 2 tanks ‘before the summer’, while Norway’s Leopard 2 tanks will be in Ukraine by the end of March. However, amid the confirmation of transfers from many Western states, Austria and Hungary both confirmed during a joint press conference on 31 January that they will not be sending weapons to Ukraine ‘to prevent further escalation’. Both states have remained resistant to weapons transfers, with Hungary in particular being the most reticent NATO member due to Budapest’s cordial relations with Moscow. For further analysis, see the FORECAST below.
- CORRUPTION: Ukraine’s score rose by one point in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2022. Ukraine has been one of the few consistent improvers on the CPI, gaining eight points since 2013. However, Transparency International notes that the war has ‘disrupted some of the reform processes and exacerbated corruption risks’, as illustrated by the recent corruption scandal concerning the Ministry of Defence. While Ukraine’s progress on anti-corruption reform has been relatively modest in terms of the country’s overall global standing, especially considering the pressures of the war, there is scope for further progress on these crucial reforms. The Zelensky administration is currently conducting a thorough investigation into the corruption allegations and has sought to illustrate its zero-tolerance approach through a major government reshuffle, which aims to assuage Western investors’ and allies’ concerns given the influx of bns of dollars of aid money this year.
- DIPLOMACY: Russia’s foreign ministry stated on 30 January that Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Moscow in the spring. This has yet to be confirmed by Beijing, though Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is also expected to visit Moscow in February, possibly in preparation for a potential state visit. Xi’s visit to Moscow would mark a major propaganda coup for Russian President Vladimir Putin – particularly if any such visit takes place near or shortly after the one-year anniversary of the invasion (24 February). Russia’s foreign ministry stated that it wanted to take ties with China to a ‘new level’, setting a target of USD 200 bn in bilateral trade between the two countries by 2024. Plummeting Western exports amid sanctions have reinforced the growing economic relationship between Moscow and Beijing. However, the political relationship remains less clear cut; despite Beijing’s refusal to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, it almost certainly does not want the conflict to escalate.
- DOMESTIC: The independent Russian human rights group OVD-Info reported on 30 January that the security services arrested a couple in Krasnodar krai for expressing anti-war sentiment during a private conversation in a restaurant. The pair have been individually charged under ‘hooliganism’ and laws outlawing the discrediting of the Russian army. The incident underscores the increasing surveillance, censorship and repression across Russia. Krasnodar is adjacent to occupied Crimea, and remains under the second-highest (‘medium’) martial law readiness level; territories under higher levels of readiness will likely experience stricter censorship and repression laws.
- DOMESTIC: In a related development, the Central District Military Court on 31 January sentenced a man to 12 years in prison under anti-terror laws for setting fire to a military enlistment office in Nizhnevartovsk (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous okrug). The case is the first instance of a person being sentenced as a ‘terrorist’ for attacking an enlistment office. Throughout 2022, arsonists targeted numerous mobilisation centres in apparent opposition to the Kremlin’s partial mobilisation announcement in September 2022. However, such attacks have dropped off in recent months. The treatment of these attacks as terrorist acts will significantly deter further similar incidents and reflects a wider crackdown on all anti-war and anti-government dissent in Russia.
- CBRN: On 30 January, the head of Russia’s Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Troops (RKhBZ), Igor Kirillov, claimed that the Russian MoD had succeeded in ‘preventing the implementation of (Washington DC’s) military biological programmes on the territory of Ukraine’. Russia has long accused the US of operating biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine, as well as in other post-Soviet states on Russia’s border. It has provided no credible evidence to support these claims, other than proof of genuine pharmaceutical and medical research. According to Kirillov, the US is now ‘actively transferring research’ from Ukraine to countries in Central Asia and Eastern Europe (namely Poland and the Baltic states) and plans to test said biological weapons on the population of Ukraine. We will continue to monitor for various triggers, warnings and indicators relating to potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) escalation. These latest claims appear to reinforce the existing Russian narrative used to justify the invasion. They are also likely designed to discredit the US, as opposed to pointing to an imminent threat of a false-flag biological attack.
US President Joe Biden confirmed on 30 January that his administration will not send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. The announcement comes amid discussions around the provision of advanced fighter jets and long-range missiles following the commitment by several NATO members to transfer main battle tanks to Kyiv. Prior to Biden’s comments, numerous European countries already indicated a willingness to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine, including Poland and the Netherlands. The head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, claimed on 30 January that Poland is ready to provide F-16s to Ukraine ‘in co-ordination with NATO’, while French President Emmanuel Macron has not ruled out such transfers. Biden’s decision will likely make it much harder for countries such as Poland to transfer their own F-16 jets to Ukraine, given Washington DC retains control over re-export licenses. The White House has yet to confirm whether it will approve re-exports. Yuriy Ignat, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, stated during an interview on 30 January that Ukraine requires 200 multi-role aircraft to replace Soviet-era equipment and ensure effective air defence coverage across the country. Ignat stated that Kyiv’s aim is to create five tactical aviation brigades (of three squadrons each) made up of a single type of Western aircraft (almost certainly F-16s). Ignat also stated that Russia currently enjoys a five-to-sixfold advantage over Ukraine in terms of combat aircraft numbers, illustrating the current need for enhanced aerial capabilities to support both defensive and counter-offensive operations. However, as previously assessed, Biden’s decision does not necessarily close the door on fighter jet transfers to Ukraine; the provision of Soviet-era fighters, such as MiG-29s, is a likely option in the meantime. Poland transferred several MiG-29s to Ukraine last year for ‘spare parts’, and so additional transfers in the coming months remains likely. In addition, Biden’s decision does not rule out the eventual transfer of F-16s later in 2023 or beyond; various weapons transfers which were previously ruled out were then approved in light of the changing political situation within NATO and on the ground in Ukraine. Ultimately, Biden’s decision marks a blow to Kyiv’s hopes of capitalising on the momentum generated by the tank coalition. However, in the short term, it will also lower the threat of Russian escalation – including hybrid and grey zone responses aimed at deterring growing Western support. For further analysis.
Ukraine-Russia: US refusal to supply F-16s will lower prospects of conflict escalation in short term. On 30 January, US President Joe Biden stated during an impromptu press conference that the US would not send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. The White House later confirmed the statement. Washington DC’s decision will complicate the ability of other European states looking to supply Ukraine with fighter jets, as the US controls re-export licenses for F-16s. Even so, there is still the possibility of supplying older, Soviet/Russian-made jets as an alternative. The US decision also does not rule out the possibility of a transfer of F-16s at a later date, given that US export policy has changed multiple times due to the evolving nature of the conflict. While the decision is a blow to Ukraine’s hopes of acquiring advanced aerial fighting capabilities, Biden’s decision will also mitigate the threat of Russian escalation in the short term.
- OFFENSIVES: The Ukrainian General Staff this morning (30 January) reported that Russian forces are currently conducting offensive operations against Lyman (Oskil-Kreminna line), Bakhmut, Avdiivka (Donetsk) and Novopavlivka (Zaporizhzhia line), indicating offensive efforts of varying intensity across the entire frontline in eastern Ukraine. However, Russian progress over the weekend of 28-29 January has remained limited despite the intensification of the fighting.
- BAKHMUT: Russian forces continued assaults across the Bakhmut line over the weekend, when they likely made marginal progress north of Soledar. On 29 January, Wagner Group forces claimed to have taken the village of Blahodatne, five miles (8km) north of Bakhmut. While Ukraine initially denied the reports on 29 January, the Ukrainian General Staff did not list Blahodatne in the list of settlements from which its forces had repelled attacks in its two latest reports on 29-30 January, suggesting that Wagner have indeed taken the village. As such, it appears that Russian forces have successfully crossed the small Bakhmutka River north of Soledar. Russian forces are therefore making slow progress along the northern span of the T-0513 highway that runs south towards the M-03/E-40 highway – which together with the N-32 highway to the south represents the key Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) supplying the defence of Bakhmut. Geolocated footage published in recent days also suggests Wagner Group forces continue to make incremental gains on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut, with fighting now taking place in the Miasokombinat suburb.
- DONETSK: Russian forces have likely made marginal gains around Vuhledar in south-western Donetsk oblast, but Ukrainian forces continue to defend the town. Fierce fighting has continued across this section of the frontline, with geolocated footage published in recent days also indicating that Russian forces have made marginal gains near Pisky, just west of Donetsk International Airport. However, despite continual ground attacks along the Donetsk city line, Russian progress has remained very limited in recent weeks.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Despite continual fighting north-west of Svatove and Kreminna, neither side appears able to generate momentum to make major progress ahead of expected offensives in the coming weeks. Numerous Russian sources have over the last few days reported that Ukrainian forces are redeploying forces along the Oskil-Kreminna line, including bringing forces down from Kupiansk, to support potential counter-offensive efforts in the coming weeks. Reports of an uptick in Ukrainian reconnaissance-in-force operations and strikes against Russian rear areas in northern Luhansk oblast are amplifying Russian milblogger concerns over preparations for a renewed counter-offensive – however, the timing remains unclear given earlier warnings from the US not to launch premature counter-offensives given recent losses.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Last week Secretary of the General Council of United Russia Andrey Turchak claimed the Kreminna line remained the most difficult section of the front after reportedly visiting the area. Turchak claimed that Ukrainian forces are constantly trying to break through Russian defences, but that airborne forces (VDV) are supporting operations to strengthen the line and are supporting operations to retake lost positions. Geolocated footage appears to indicate that Russian forces have in recent days succeeded in making marginal gains around Hryanykivka, ten miles (16km) northeast of Kupiansk along the northern section of the Oskil-Kreminna line. However, overall the front remains fairly static as both sides struggle to gain momentum and likely conduct their preparations for spring offensives/counter-offensives respectively.
- SOUTHERN: Russian and Ukrainian sources have not reported any Russian offensive ground assaults along the Zaporizhzhia frontline since 26 January. This strongly supports the earlier assessment last week that the claimed Russian Zaporizhzhia offensive is not a genuine effort to move the frontline, but an information operation designed to confuse and disrupt Ukrainian operations. Aside from continued Russian artillery strikes against Kherson city, there are no other developments to report.
- MOBILISATION: Head of the Russian State Duma Committee on Defence Andrey Kartapolov confirmed on 28 January that his committee is reviewing over 20 laws on deferrals from mobilisation, as legislative processes around mobilisation continue. Today (30 January), UK Defence Intelligence furthermore assessed that Moscow is likely keeping the option for further rounds of partial mobilisation. This follows reports from last week indicating that Russian border guards were preventing Kyrgyz dual passport workers from leaving Russia – stating that their names were on mobilisation lists. This is the latest development supporting our assessment that Moscow is actively preparing for further rounds of mobilisation and are strengthening border regimes ahead of such an announcement. It remains unclear if and when such an announcement will be made, but Russian lawmakers are set to continue pushing through legislation to support these wider efforts.
- MUNITIONS: On 28 January, Tehran confirmed that numerous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) ‘unsuccessfully’ targeted a military site in the city of Isfahan, allegedly a site that produces Shahed-136 drones which are used by Russian forces in Ukraine. Satellite imagery published by Planet Labs from 29 January, after the attack, showed that the site was not damaged during the attack. If Isfahan is indeed the principal production site for Shahed-136s, production is unlikely to have been seriously undermined by this particular attack – though Israeli sources have claimed the attack was a ‘phenomenal success’. Nevertheless, as tensions between Iran and its neighbours continue to escalate, export volumes of drones to Russia may yet be affected by the growing needs of Tehran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It remains unclear when the next batch of Shahed-136 drones will be delivered to Moscow to enable Russian forces to sustain kamikaze drone attacks against Ukraine. For further context, see Sibylline Alert – 29 January.
- NEGOTIATIONS: Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated on 30 January that the West’s provision of main battle tanks to Ukraine has made it ‘pointless’ to conduct peace talks. While Ryabkov did nevertheless state that bilateral US-Russian negotiations on prisoner exchanges will continue, he stated that there are few realistic options for an ‘all for all’ exchange, following the most recent prisoner exchange late last year (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 9 December 2022). Ryabkov also stated that it is ‘quite possible’ that the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the US would lapse after 2026, and follows the unexpected termination of talks on renewing the agreement by Moscow in November 2022.
- AID: On 29 January, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak stated that ‘fast-paced’ negotiations remain ongoing between Kyiv and Western partners to supply aircraft and long-range missiles. According to a Politico report on 28 January, a ‘contingent of military officials’ at the US Department of Defense is urging the Pentagon to approve the supply of US-made F-16 fighter jets. The US has so far refused to supply Ukraine with modern fighter jets over concerns that they could be used to strike targets within Russian territory and trigger an escalation. However, the breakthrough commitment by Western allies to supply Ukraine with tanks has quickly shifted the discussion to the supply of fighter jets and some European officials have indicated a willingness to supply aircraft.
- AID: However, on 29 January Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz ruled out sending fighter jets to Ukraine and warned against Western allies ‘entering a bidding war over weapons’. Although Scholz is the only Western leader to express clear opposition to the provision of fighter jets to Ukraine, several European capitals are likely at least reluctant to engage in debate around the supply of jets so soon after a breakthrough commitment was reached on the delivery of modern tanks. As previously assessed, Russia is likely aiming the ramp up its strategic deterrence campaign and rhetoric in an attempt to stem growing momentum.
- CORRUPTION: Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubarov announced on 29 January that, following discussions with US officials, Kyiv proposed the creation of an aid audit mechanism to ensure greater transparency in the use of partners’ aid. According to Kubarov’s proposal, aid supplied to Ukraine for infrastructure and reconstruction efforts would be monitored jointly with the US Government Accountability Office. The proposal is designed to alleviate concerns among Ukraine’s allies following corruption revelations last week that led to the most widespread personnel changes within the Ukrainian government since Russia launched its full-scale invasion. Notably, on 30 January, Ukrainska Pravda reported that Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov is expected to remain in his position despite the procurement scandals at the Defence Ministry.
- SABOTAGE: On 30 January, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) reported another case of sabotage against the country’s railway system, this time in the Moscow region. FSB officers allegedly detained three young eighth-grade students who had damaged rail tracks, possibly near Moscow-Kurskaya station, reportedly under the instruction of unknown individuals who contacted them via the Telegram messaging app. Although there have been several cases of sabotage targeting Russia’s rail system in recent months, there is no suggestion that so far sporadic and seemingly isolated cases are likely to turn into a systemic sabotage campaign.
OFFENSIVES: During his nightly address to the Ukrainian people, President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed on 29 January that Russia seeks to prolong the war in Ukraine to ‘exhaust’ Ukrainian forces. Zelensky’s assessment aligns with our own. Almost all indicators point to the Kremlin and Russian military preparing for a protracted, attritional conflict that ultimately aims to steadily erode not only Ukrainian military capability but also the West’s support for Kyiv. The statements by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov (see NEGOTIATIONS above) underline the extreme unlikelihood of any genuine negotiations in the coming six months, as both sides prepare for their respective Spring/Summer offensives. In this respect, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov stated on 29 January that Ukraine intends to form at least two tank battalions with newly committed Western main battle tanks, which Kyiv hopes to deploy in counter-offensive operations ‘in the spring’. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated this morning (30 January) that such provision of tanks will do nothing to change the course of the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine and that amid the current ‘deadlock’, the provision of advanced weapons can lead to a ‘significant escalation’. We will continue to monitor for triggers, warnings and indicators for potential escalation amid the growing discussions around F-16 fighter jets. However, at present Russia’s strategic deterrence efforts have primarily been limited to diplomatic protests, escalatory rhetoric and long-range missile strikes inside Ukraine.
US: Sanctions against Russian PMC, Chinese imagery firm underscore rising scrutiny of bilateral ties. On 26 January, the US government designated the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company (PMC), as a transnational criminal organisation, citing its involvement in human rights abuses. The move comes after reports that Chinese firms are sending non-lethal aid to Russia, as well as news of sanctions against a Chinese company, Spacety, for allegedly providing synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite imagery to the Wagner Group to support its operations in Ukraine. The sanctions against Spacety signal rising scrutiny of the Chinese government’s enabling of Russia in the war in Ukraine, as well as Russia’s support for China in the East China Sea. Firms manufacturing dual-use technology will likely face increasing policy and reputational risks, especially those with commercial ties to Chinese or Russian entities.
Russia-US: Tensions over Western arms supplies to Ukraine will undermine nuclear stability talks. On 30 January, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia will possibly not renew its bilateral nuclear arms control treaty with the US. Both states’ current nuclear arsenals remain partially limited by the New START Treaty, which was extended in 2021 until February 2026. However, Moscow’s unilateral suspension of nuclear talks in November 2022 underscores the limited scope for serious negotiations at present given wider tensions. Ryabkov also stated that the provision of Western main battle tanks to Ukraine has made peace talks ‘pointless’. This reaffirms Moscow’s determination and commitment to the war and further limits the possibility of any notable negotiations, even for a short-term ceasefire, in the short to medium term. (Source: Sibylline)
06 Feb 23. Ukraine defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov is set to be replaced by Kyiv’s head of military intelligence, legislators in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party said on Sunday. The planned reshuffle was meant to move Reznikov to another senior government position, according to several MPs, but the lawyer-turned-politician said he would reject the shift. Maj Gen Kyrylo Budanov will become minister of defence, lawmakers said. The change will be put to a vote in Ukraine’s parliament over the next few days, reports suggested. If confirmed, it would be the biggest shake-up in the Zelenskyy administration since Russia’s president Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 last year. Other senior officials who are currently in acting roles are likely to be confirmed in office. David Arakhamia, parliamentary head of Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party, said: “War dictates personnel policy. Time and circumstances call for strengthening and regrouping.” “Oleksiy Reznikov is being transferred within the government to the position of minister for strategic industries to strengthen military-industrial co-operation, which is absolutely logical, given his expertise,” Arakhamia said. He pointed to Reznikov’s experience over the past year in securing weaponry from Ukraine’s western backers.
Head of Ukraine military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov © AFP via Getty Images Budanov, a 37-year-old former special forces operative, has been head of the military intelligence unit since 2020. But after Arakhamia’s announcement late on Sunday, Reznikov said he was not keen to take a new government position, adding: “It was news to me.” “I did not have any conversation about the Ministry of Strategic Industries with the president of Ukraine,” Reznikov said in an interview with Fakty ICTV television and internet news service. “If I suddenly received such an offer from the president of Ukraine . . . I would refuse it, because I do not have the expertise that would allow me to be the minister of . . . strategic industries,” he added. Zelenskyy has not commented on the planned reshuffle or new appointments. Some of the moves will require the president to formally submit the candidacies for approval. His party holds a shaky majority in parliament and regularly secures votes from allied parties. Ukraine’s defence ministry secures weaponry and supplies for the army, while military operations are independently drawn up and implemented by the general staff, led by Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief. Arakhamia said legislators would promote the stand-in head of the interior ministry, Ihor Klymenko. A career police officer, Klymenko took over as acting minister last month after his predecessor, Denys Monastyrsky, was killed in a helicopter crash outside of Kyiv. Vasyl Malyuk, named acting head of Ukraine’s SBU state security service last July, is to be appointed its chief, Arakhamia said. “Law enforcement agencies at this stage should be headed not by politicians, but by cadre law enforcement officers,” Arakhamia said. “The enemy is preparing to advance. We are preparing to defend ourselves and return what belongs to us,” he said referring to territory under Russian occupation and to recent reports that Russia’s invading forces are preparing a new offensive. During a press conference on Sunday, Reznikov defended his record as minister, outlined steps taken to curb corruption, and said the decision was up to the president. “I am on the team . . . I will do everything necessary for our victory,” Reznikov said. (Source: FT.com)
04 Feb 23. Portugal to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, PM says. Portugal will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Saturday, without specifying how many will be shipped.
Costa added that Portugal is in talks with Germany to obtain parts needed for the repair of a number of inoperable Leopard tanks in Portugal’s inventory of the weapon.
“We are currently working to be able to dispense some of our tanks,” Costa told Lusa news agency during a trip to the Central African Republic. “I know how many tanks will be (sent to Ukraine) but that will be announced at the appropriate time.”
Costa’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Admiral António Silva Ribeiro, the head of the Portuguese armed forces, said last month Portugal had 37 Leopard 2 tanks but it has been widely reported by local media that most are inoperable.
Portugal is working with Germany to get the parts needed to repair the tanks that are not operational, Costa said, adding he hoped to deliver them to Ukraine by the end of March.
The defence ministry said it would not comment on the “operability of weapons and equipment systems” for security reasons.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said earlier this week the country would receive 120 to 140 Western tanks in a “first wave” of deliveries from a coalition of 12 countries.
Kyiv secured pledges from the West to supply main battle tanks to help fend off Russia’s full-scale invasion, with Moscow mounting huge efforts to make incremental advances in eastern Ukraine. (Source: Reuters)
03 Feb 23. Germany asks Sweden for launchers to boost IRIS-T air defences for Ukraine: Spiegel. Germany is talking to the Swedish government about buying mobile launchers that would boost the capabilities of IRIS-T air defence systems that Berlin is planning to send to Ukraine, Spiegel magazine reported on Friday, citing sources.
Germany has shipped one IRIS-T system to Ukraine and plans to send more, answering Kyiv’s pleas for air defences to repel Russian missile and drone attacks that have wreaked destruction on cities since the start of the invasion nearly a year ago.
Advertisement · Scroll to continue
Report an ad
The Swedish launchers would help Ukrainian troops protect a larger area against Russian attacks. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck raised the issue on a visit to Sweden this week but the Swedish government has so far declined to supply the launchers, Spiegel reported.
Sweden’s armed forces declined comment. The Swedish defence ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
A Swedish defence ministry spokesperson said discussions on supplying weapons to Ukraine would need to be seen in the context that Sweden is geographically close to Russia but not yet a member of the NATO alliance, Spiegel reported.
Sweden’s bid to join NATO, along with neighbouring Finland, is currently facing objections from Turkey.
The IRIS-T system is built by privately held German arms maker Diehl and considered among the world’s most advanced.
The fire units can launch missiles over a distance of 40 kilometres (25 miles) to take down fighter jets, helicopters, drones, missiles and cruise missiles. (Source: Reuters)
02 Feb 23. ‘No magic wand’ in Ukraine war, says UK’s Wallace on question of supplying jets.
By Elizabeth Piper- British defence minister Ben Wallace said there was “no magic wand” that could help Ukraine in its battle against Russia, when asked on Thursday about the possibility of supplying British fighter jets to Kyiv.
Wallace did not rule out the possibility of sending jets but said fighter aircraft were not what Ukraine needed right now and that there were practical issues to consider, such as the many months it would take to train Ukrainian forces to use them.
“There is no magic wand in this horrendous conflict,” Wallace told reporters at Portsmouth in southern England, home to a naval base. He was speaking at a news conference of British and Australian foreign and defence ministers following a meeting on trade and security.
After Ukraine last month secured a hard-won commitment from Western states to provide battle tanks against Russia’s invasion, attention has shifted to whether Britain, the United States and other allies will consider Kyiv’s requests for fighter aircraft.
The United States has ruled out sending jets.
Wallace’s reply was not as clear cut, but he said what Ukraine needed now was for ground forces to be strengthened, likening Russian tactics to human wave attacks from World War I, when densely concentrated infantry overran defending forces.
“What the Ukrainians need is the ability to form military formations on the ground in order to use combined arms manoeuvre to push back Russian forces,” he said.
“Because that is how you defeat the human wave attacks that the Russians are currently having to resort to … They’re resorting to First World War-level type of attacks, with subsequent casualties to match.”
Separately, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a interview with Talk TV that aired late on Thursday that Britain was “always talking” to Ukraine about the support it needs.
“Our desire and goal is for Ukraine to win this conflict,” he said. “So, it’s not just the equipment, it’s also the capabilities and training that come alongside that, together with a plan with our allies that would ensure that they can be victorious.”
Earlier on Thursday, Sunak’s spokesman said the quickest a pilot could learn to fly a British fighter jet was 35 months.
03 Feb 23. Biden Administration Announces Additional Security Assistance for Ukraine.
Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) announces a significant new package of security assistance for Ukraine. This includes the authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $425 million, as well as $1.75bn in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds.
The Presidential Drawdown is the thirty-first such drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine that the Biden Administration has authorized since August 2021. Today’s announcement includes critical air defense capabilities to help Ukraine defend its people, as well as armored infantry vehicles and more equipment that Ukraine is using so effectively, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, artillery ammunition, and conventional and long-range rockets for U.S.-provided HIMARS. The specific capabilities include:
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
- Additional 155mm artillery rounds;
- Additional 120mm mortar rounds;
- 190 heavy machine guns with thermal imagery sights and associated ammunition to counter Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- 181 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles;
- 250 Javelin anti-armor systems;
- 2,000 anti-armor rockets;
- Claymore anti-personnel munitions;
- Demolitions munitions;
- Cold weather gear, helmets, and other field equipment.
Under USAI, the DoD will provide Ukraine with:
- Two HAWK air defense firing units;
- Anti-aircraft guns and ammunition;
- Equipment to integrate Western air defense launchers, missiles, and radars with Ukraine’s air defense systems;
- Equipment to sustain Ukraine’s existing air defense capabilities;
- Air defense generators;
- Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Four air surveillance radars;
- 20 counter-mortar radars;
- Spare parts for counter-artillery radars;
- Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Precision-guided rockets;
- Secure communications equipment;
- Medical supplies;
- Funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment.
Unlike Presidential Drawdown, USAI is an authority under which the United States procures capabilities from industry rather than delivering equipment that is drawn down from DoD stocks. This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide additional capabilities to Ukraine’s Armed Forces as part of our efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s military over the near and long-term.
In total, the United States has now committed $30bn in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $32bn in security assistance to Ukraine and more than $29.3bn since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked, full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022.
The United States will continue to work with its Allies and partners to provide Ukraine with capabilities to meet its immediate battlefield needs and longer-term security assistance requirements.
(Source: US DoD)
03 Feb 23. Air Defense Systems, Long-Range Fires Capability to be Sent to Ukraine.
The Defense Department today announced a new package of security assistance for Ukraine.
This includes the authorization of a presidential drawdown of security assistance, valued at up to $425m, as well as $1.75bn in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds.
Today’s announcement includes critical air defense capabilities to help Ukraine defend its people as well as armored infantry vehicles and more equipment that Ukraine is using so effectively, said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, who held a media briefing today.
“Everyone continues to watch with horror as Russia conducts aerial bombardment on civilian targets throughout Ukraine,” he said, noting that air defense will help address this, although they’ve already been doing a remarkable job of intercepting Russian drones and missiles.
The USAI package includes ordnance to give Ukraine long-range fires capability that will aid in Ukraine’s defense to help them take back their sovereign territory, he said.
“We’ve been focused on several key areas in the last few months to support Ukraine, specifically air defense capabilities, armor capabilities, long-range fires capabilities, and then combined with training in order to enable them to have the ability to conduct combined arms operations,” he said.
The presidential drawdown package includes:
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems;
- Additional 155 mm artillery rounds;
- Additional 120 mm mortar rounds;
- 190 heavy machine guns with thermal imagery sights and associated ammunition to counter unmanned aerial systems;
- 181 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles;
- 250 Javelin anti-armor systems;
- 2,000 anti-armor rockets;
- Claymore anti-personnel munitions;
- Demolitions munitions;
- Cold weather gear, helmets and other field equipment.
Under USAI, the DOD will provide Ukraine with:
- Two HAWK air defense firing units;
- Anti-aircraft guns and ammunition;
- Equipment to integrate Western air defense launchers, missiles and radars with Ukraine’s air defense systems;
- Equipment to sustain Ukraine’s existing air defense capabilities;
- Air defense generators;
- Counter-unmanned aerial systems;
- Four air surveillance radars;
- 20 counter-mortar radars;
- Spare parts for counter-artillery radars;
- Puma unmanned aerial systems;
- Precision-guided rockets;
- Secure communications equipment;
- Medical supplies;
- Funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment.
Unlike presidential drawdowns, USAI is an authority under which the United States procures capabilities from industry rather than delivering equipment that is drawn down from DOD stocks.
Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $32 bn in security assistance to Ukraine, including $29.3 bn since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. (Source: US DoD)
03 Feb 23. Ukraine will fight to hold ‘fortress’ Bakhmut as long as it can – Zelenskiy. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday Ukraine would fight to hold on to the eastern “fortress” city of Bakhmut for as long as it could, and urged the West to supply long-range weapons to help Kyiv push Russian forces out of the Donbas region.
“Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress,” Zelenskiy told a news conference with top European Union officials following a summit in Kyiv.
“If weapons (supplies) are quickened, specifically long range weapons, we not only will not leave Bakhmut, but we will also begin to deoccupy Donbas, which has been occupied since 2014,” he said.
The city of Bakhmut has become the focal point of Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s invasion and of Moscow’s drive to regain battlefield momentum.
Russian officials have said Russian forces are encircling Bakhmut from several directions and battling to take control of a road which is also an important supply route for Ukrainian forces.
Zelenskiy said Russia would continue to push in the east but that Ukrainian forces would be able to hold out until more Western weapons arrived. (Source: Reuters)
03 Feb 23. UK Rivet Joint fleet ups tempo for Black Sea ops. UK Royal Air Force (RAF) RC-135W Rivet Joint signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft have been operating at nearly three times their normal operating tempo to support intelligence-gathering operations in the Black Sea theatre, according to the service’s senior operations officer. Delivering the annual Sir Sydney Camm Lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on 1 February, Air Marshal Harvey Smyth, deputy commander (operations), added that operations over the last year had put crews “well within harm’s way”. Operated by No 51 Squadron at RAF Waddington, the three Rivet Joint aircraft – ZZ664, ZZ665, and ZZ666 – form part of a wider enterprise between the RAF and the United States Air Force (USAF). As part of the RAF’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Force, the RC-135W fleet is used to monitor, collect, and analyse communications and radar signals of interest. (Source: Janes)
02 Feb 23. Ukrainian soldiers will start training on Leopard 2 tanks next week as part of an EU-funded training mission, as Kyiv’s allies seek to deploy the newly pledged vehicles ahead of a feared Russian offensive this spring. Two people familiar with the preparations said that everything was ready to begin teaching the Ukrainian military to deploy the modern battle tanks after several European nations last week pledged to send them to Kyiv after months of deliberations and Ukrainian pressure. Berlin’s decision to send the German-made Leopard 2s marked a watershed moment in western support for Ukraine by agreeing to supply large numbers of modern Nato-standard main battle tanks. The decision has visibly angered Russia. Speaking in Volgograd on Thursday — renamed Stalingrad for a day to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany there — president Vladimir Putin warned the west of consequences for supporting Kyiv. “We have been forced to resist the collective west’s aggression again and again,” Putin said. “It’s amazing, but true: we are being threatened by German tanks sporting crosses again,” he added. In his latest thinly veiled threat about deploying nuclear weapons, Putin warned Germany and other European countries “that a modern war with Russia will be very different”. He added: “We are not sending our tanks to their borders, but we have ways of responding, and it won’t be limited to using armoured vehicles.” Germany also agreed for other countries who operate the tank to send them to Ukraine. That can only happen after enough Ukrainian tank crews have been trained to use them. The final details of the training plan were thrashed out at a US-led meeting of western defence officials in Germany on Wednesday. The training is expected to last about six weeks. Josep Borrell, the EU’s defence and security chief, said ahead of meetings with Ukrainian defence officials in Kyiv on Thursday that “crews of the battle tanks” would be trained under the EU mission, describing the vehicles as “a strong reinforcement of the Ukrainian military capability”. “Training will start from next week,” said one of the people, adding that hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers had already flown to locations across Germany and Poland. “It’s all going very quickly because the Ukrainians see the urgency.” “Politically, it is cleared,” said a second official. (Source: FT.com)
01 Feb 23. Ukraine plans to spend $540m on drones this year.
Ukraine plans to spend about 20 bn hryvnia (U.S. $540m) on new drones this year, according to the country’s defense minister.
The UAVs are meant to support the Ukrainian military as it continues to combat Russia’s invasion.
“In 2023, we are increasing the purchases of UAVs for the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Oleksii Reznikov said in a Facebook post. “This is just the beginning. After all, this is not only about the needs of aerial reconnaissance.”
The official said that, owing to the forthcoming acquisitions, the Ukrainian military will strengthen its combat drone capacities. Ukraine will use other new UAVs for surveillance, to support to artillery units and in other missions, Reznikov added.
To date, Ukraine has ordered drones for its armed forces from 16 local manufacturers, the minister said. Kyiv also continues to buy foreign-made UAVs, with a recent contract for 105 Vector reconnaissance drones signed with German manufacturer Quantum-Systems.
“The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine has placed a second batch order of Vector systems, following an earlier order of 33 UAS of the same model in August 2022,” the company said in a statement. “Vector has been extensively used and intensively tested on the Ukrainian battlefield, where it has proven to be an asset for military intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations. Its robust and rugged design makes it well-suited for operation in harsh environments and extreme weather conditions.”
The German business also announced the opening of a training and support facility in Ukraine, which is to provide services to drone operators and serve as the local hub for spare parts and repair services. The value of the latest contract, which is funded by the German government, was not disclosed. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
01 Feb 23. Statement From Linden Blue, Chief Executive Officer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. For nearly a year, the full might of the Russian military has battered — but not beaten — Ukrainian forces fighting for their very existence. The world has reacted in almost unanimous support for the Ukrainian cause, but those efforts have overlooked one of the most obvious and force-multiplying technologies of modern warfare: Long-range and enduring, stand-off sensing, unmanned aircraft systems.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is dedicated to providing information dominance to its partners. From the outset of the Russian invasion, we began looking for options to respond to the requests of Ukrainian forces with our products, including the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle. Both systems have been used to devasting effect in combat by U.S. and partner nations for more than two decades and remain the gold standard for high-quality, medium-altitude UAS in the world.
We have delivered more than 1,000 aircraft over 30 years and flown nearly 8 m flight hours, most of them in hostile areas around the world. This is all we do. We know that introducing these systems to the battlefield will provide an immediate impact.
We have offered to train Ukrainian operators on these systems at no cost to U.S. taxpayers or the Ukrainian government. We have offered flexible options and recommendations for delivery. We have discussed the situation endlessly at every level of the U.S. federal government, and with many international partners.
Recently, we offered to transfer two of our own, company-owned training aircraft, plus the ground control station and other hardware required to operate them, for the symbolic price of $1, and reiterated our offer to train the first cadre of pilots and maintainers at our expense
Many of the additional costs associated with readying these aircraft for combat, outfitting them with the necessary equipment, transporting them to Ukraine, setting up operations in that country, obtaining satellite bandwidth and providing additional supporting labor, are outside of our control. Our estimates for launch and ongoing operations do not include one penny of profit to our company.
Factoring in hardware and training that is essentially free, the offer is a remarkable deal with no strings attached. All that is required is approval from the U.S. government. Our goal is now, and has always been, to help the Ukrainian armed forces defend and protect their homes and families, and help bring a rapid closure to this conflict before more lives are lost.
There are limits to what an American defense company can do to support a situation such as this. From our perspective, it is long past time to enable Ukrainian forces with the information dominance required to win this war. Linden Blue, Chief Executive Officer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
31 Jan 23. U.S. readies $2bn-plus Ukraine aid package with longer-range weapons -sources. The United States is readying more than $2bn worth of military aid for Ukraine that is expected to include longer-range rockets for the first time as well as other munitions and weapons, two U.S. officials briefed on the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.
The aid is expected to be announced as soon as this week, the officials said. It is also expected to include support equipment for Patriot air defense systems, precision-guided munitions and Javelin anti-tank weapons, they added.
One of the officials said a portion of the package, expected to be $1.725bn, would come from a fund known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which allows President Joe Biden’s administration to get weapons from industry rather than from U.S. weapons stocks.
The USAI funds would go toward the purchase of a new weapon, the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) made by Boeing Co (BA.N), which have a range of 94 miles (150 km). The United States has rebuffed Ukraine’s requests for the 185-mile (297-km) range ATACMS missile.
The longer range of the GLSDB glide bomb could allow Ukraine to hit targets that have been out of reach and help it continue pressing its counterattacks by disrupting Russia further behind its lines.
Reuters first reported on Boeing’s proposal to field GLSDB for Ukraine in November. At the time it was expected GLSDB could be in Ukraine by spring.
GLSDB is made jointly by SAAB AB (SAABb.ST) and Boeing. It combines the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) with the M26 rocket motor, both of which are common in U.S. inventories.
GLSDB is GPS-guided, can defeat some electronic jamming, is usable in all weather conditions, and can be used against armored vehicles, according to SAAB’s website. The GBU-39 – which would function as the GLSDB’s warhead – has small, folding wings that allow it to glide more than 100km if dropped from an aircraft and hit targets as small as 3 feet (1 meter) in diameter.
The USAI funds would also be used to pay for more components of HAWK air defenses, counter drone systems, counter artillery and air surveillance radars, communications equipment, PUMA drones, and spare parts for major systems like Patriot and Bradley, one of the officials said.
There was also a significant amount of medical equipment – enough to equip three field hospitals being donated by another ally, the official added.
The White House declined to comment. The contents and size of aid packages can shift until they are signed by the president.
In addition to the USAI funds, more than $400m worth of aid was expected to come from Presidential Drawdown Authority funds, which allows the president to take from current U.S. stocks in an emergency.
That aid was expected to include mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs), guided multiple launch rocket systems (GMLRS) and ammunition.
The U.S. has sent approximately $27.2bn worth of security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s February 2022 invasion. Russia calls the invasion a “special operation”. (Source: Reuters)
31 Jan 23. EU member states have warned Brussels against giving Ukraine an unrealistic expectation of rapidly joining the bloc, ahead of a summit in Kyiv where Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pressing for progress on accession and reconstruction. Zelenskyy is due to host his EU counterparts Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel this week, where he is expected to lobby for the country’s EU membership, the use of frozen Russian assets to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction and a legal mechanism to prosecute Russians for war crimes. Senior diplomats from EU capitals are concerned that unfeasible Ukrainian expectations — including EU accession by 2026 — have been encouraged rather than tempered by Brussels’ top officials. “No political leader wants to be on the wrong side of history . . . Nobody wants to be blamed for not doing enough,” said one senior EU diplomat. “So they tell them it’s all possible.” In response to Russia’s invasion last February, the EU scrambled to support Ukraine through military, humanitarian and financial packages, including sanctions against Russia that have hit the bloc’s own economies.
The EU also took the unprecedented step of making Ukraine an official membership candidate, despite it falling short of the standard requirements. But while some central and eastern European member states have championed Ukraine’s demands, other northern and western capitals worry about how its large, poor population and vast agricultural sector could be integrated with the EU. France’s president Emmanuel Macron has been notably cautious about the speed of Ukraine’s accession, warning in May, before the country was formally made a candidate, that the process could take “several decades”. The EU’s leadership has struck an optimistic tone. European Commission president von der Leyen said on a visit to Kyiv in September that the “accession process is well on track”. “It’s impressive to see the speed, the determination, the preciseness with which you are progressing,” she added. (Source: FT.com)
31 Jan 23. U.S. curbs exports to Iranian firms for producing drones for Russia. United States on Tuesday put new trade restrictions on seven Iranian entities for producing drones that Russia has used to attack Ukraine, the U.S. Department of Commerce said.
The firms and other organizations were added to a U.S. export control list for those engaged in activities contrary to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.
The additions to the Commerce Department’s “entities list” were posted in a preliminary filing in the U.S. Federal Register, the government’s daily journal, and will be officially published on Wednesday.
Since Russia launched its war against Ukraine in February 2022, the United States and over 30 other countries have sought to degrade its military and defense industrial base by using export controls to restrict its access to technology.
The Iranian entities are Design and Manufacturing of Aircraft Engines, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Research and Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization, Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar Company, Paravar Pars Company, Qods Aviation Industry, and Shahed Aviation Industries.
Any suppliers to the entities are required to have licenses to ship goods and technology, but these are expected to be denied, apart from those for food and medicine. The licenses will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York said: “Sanctions have no effect on Iran’s drone production capacity because its drones are all produced domestically. This is a strong indication that the drones shot down in Ukraine and using parts made by Western countries don’t belong to Iran.”
In January, Canada announced it would buy a U.S.-made National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) for Ukraine. NASAMS is a short- to medium-range ground-based air defense system that protects against drone, missile and aircraft attack. The United States has provided two NASAMS to Ukraine and more are on the way.
Other ground-based air defense systems such as Raytheon Technology Corp’s (RTX.N) Patriot have been pledged by the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands as allies hope to stave off further power disruptions. (Source: Reuters)
31 Jan 23. Australia and France to jointly supply 155mm shells to Ukraine. This multi-million-dollar effort will involve participation from both nations’ companies, including France-based Nexter. Australia and France have confirmed their intent to jointly provide 155mm ammunition to strengthen the self-defence capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The same was confirmed in a joint statement released after a second, recently held France-Australia Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations meeting in Paris.
During the meeting, French Defence Minister Sébastian Lecornu and his Australian counterpart Richard Marles reiterated their shared commitment to supporting Ukraine.
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Marles said that this new ammunition supply project for Ukraine will be a multi-m-dollar effort and will represent the two nations’ defence cooperation.
Marles said: “This forms part of the ongoing level of support that both France and Australia is providing Ukraine to make sure that Ukraine is able to stay in this conflict and be able to see it concluded on its own terms.”
According to a report by Reuters, Lecornu also specified that the delivery of 155mm ammunition to Ukraine will be supported by French arms manufacturer Nexter and Australian companies, which will be responsible for providing powder for the shells.
Meanwhile, the US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) has announced that the first shipment, comprising 60 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), has been dispatched to Ukraine.
The shipment has already departed from the shores of North Charleston, South Carolina, last week.
This delivery is part of the additional $2.85bn military aid announced by the US earlier this month.
841st Transportation Battalion commander and US Army lieutenant colonel Rebecca D’Angelo said: “Bradley is a very powerful vehicle that we are providing to the Ukrainians. This is going to hopefully enhance their capabilities to provide forward advancement in the battlefield and regain lost grounds, by having equipment that matches or exceeds what the Russians have.” (Source: army-technology.com)
31 Jan 23. France has signalled openness to sending fighter jets to Ukraine as western countries weigh the next steps in military assistance to help Kyiv resist Russian attacks. “By definition, nothing is excluded,” President Emmanuel Macron said at a press conference in The Hague on Monday, adding that he had not received a request for jets from Ukraine. Since the US and Germany announced last week their decision to send main battle tanks to Kyiv — something France has not yet done — Ukraine’s backers have turned their attention to the possibility of supplying US-made F-16 or other western fighter jets. Ukrainian officials have said more advanced aircraft would help bolster air defences, repel Russian attacks and prepare for a renewed offensive in the spring. US president Joe Biden on Monday night ruled out sending F-16s to Ukraine, which appeared to dent Kyiv’s hopes that its biggest backer would lead the movement on the jets. Germany has taken a similar stance, but some more hawkish European countries such as Poland are in favour of sending combat aircraft under certain conditions. Paris has informed other European capitals that the possibility of sending additional weapons systems, including jets, is on the table, according to two officials briefed on the discussions, but a decision is unlikely to be in the immediate future. The priority remains providing air and missile defence systems, they said, and the new push to provide tanks and train Ukrainian crews to use them. Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov will be in Paris on Tuesday for meetings with his French counterpart and Macron, and the issue of military assistance will be discussed. On Monday night Macron once again laid out the criteria France uses when considering requests for military gear from Ukraine: Will it be useful and practical for the Ukrainian army to use? Does it pose the risk of escalation?
Will supplying the military hardware weaken French military capabilities? “We make these decisions based on the requests Ukraine makes, not the rumours going around . . . every time we get a request we consider it,” he added at the press conference, following a meeting with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte. Based on such criteria, France has so far decided not to send its Leclerc main battle tanks to Kyiv, although Macron has not ruled it out and has agreed to send lighter armoured personnel carriers known as the AMX-10. Ukraine was keener to acquire German-built Leopard 2 tanks. Kyiv is also in negotiations with the French and Italian governments to obtain a SAMP/T advanced medium-range air defence system, similar to the US Patriot battery, which can shoot down ballistic missiles. Defence analysts expect that France would send an older model of its Mirage jets to Ukraine if Macron opted to supply combat aircraft. Manufactured by Dassault Aviation, France had 106 Mirage 2000s in service at the beginning of last year, all of which will be replaced by fifth generation Rafale jets by 2030. France retired 14 Mirage 2000-C jets in June, so giving them to Ukraine would not degrade French military capabilities, and it will phase out a further 26 Mirage 2000-5 interceptors over the next few years. Given that France makes its own jets, there would be no need for third party approval to export them. Several European armed forces operate F-16s but would require US authorisation to send them to Ukraine. That makes French jets a more obvious candidate, one of the European officials said. (Source: FT.com)
30 Jan 23. Russian business offers cash bounties to destroy Western tanks in Ukraine. A Russian company said it will offer 5m roubles ($72,000) in cash to the first soldiers who destroy or capture western-made tanks in Ukraine, after the Kremlin vowed Russian forces would wipe out any Western tanks shipped to Ukraine.
The United States, Germany and several other European countries are lining up to send Kyiv dozens of advanced combat tanks over the next few months to help boost Ukraine’s military capacity as the war approaches the 12-month mark.
The decision has been criticised by the Kremlin as a dangerous escalation, and spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the tanks would “burn” on the frontlines.
Now a Russian company – Fores, a Urals-based firm which makes proppants for the energy industry – is offering cash payments to Russian servicemen who “capture or destroy” German-made Leopard 2 or U.S.-made Abrams tanks.
The company said it will pay five m roubles to the first Russian soldier to destroy one of the tanks, and 500,000 roubles ($7,200) for all subsequent attacks.
Echoing language used by Russian officials and pro-war state TV hosts, Fores said NATO was pumping Ukraine with an “unlimited” amount of arms and escalating the conflict. It also said it would pay a 15-m rouble ($215,000) bounty on Western-made fighter jets, should they ever be delivered to Ukraine.
The tanks have not yet been dispatched to Kyiv, and it could take several months before the bulk of the promised deliveries are sent.
Since the start of the conflict, Russia’s defence ministry has claimed to have destroyed hundreds of pieces of Western weaponry.
Kyiv has previously dismissed those statements, highlighting for instance that Russia has claimed to have destroyed more U.S.-made HIMARS rocket launcher pads than were ever delivered to the country.
Previous deliveries of advanced Western arms, particularly HIMARS, have been credited with turning the tide of the 11-month war, helping Kyiv to secure a series of surprise victories and pushing back Russian forces from territory captured at the start of the invasion. ($1 – 69.57 roubles) (Source: Reuters)
30 Jan 23. British tanks to arrive on Ukraine’s front lines ‘this side of summer’ – defence minister. Tanks donated by Britain to Ukraine will be on the front line before summer, defence minister Ben Wallace said on Monday, without giving an exact timetable.
Asked in parliament when the 14 Challenger tanks it has agreed to supply would be deployed onto the battlefield, Wallace said: “It’ll be this side of the summer, or May – it’ll be probably towards Easter time.”
He said security reasons prevented him from setting out the timetable of training for Ukrainian forces on using the tanks, but that it would begin with instruction on operation of individual vehicles before progressing to how to fight in formation. (Source: Reuters)
31 Jan 23. Western allies differ over jets for Ukraine as Russia claims gains.
- Biden says ‘no’ when asked about F-16s for Ukraine
- Zelenskiy says Moscow seeks ‘big revenge’
- Russian administrator claims foothold in Vuhledar
- Kyiv could recapture ground when Western weapons arrive – group
Ukraine’s defence minister is expected in Paris on Tuesday to meet President Emmanuel Macron amid a debate among Kyiv’s allies over whether to provide fighter jets for its war against Russia, after U.S. President Joe Biden ruled out giving F-16s.
Ukraine planned to push for Western fourth-generation fighters like F-16s after securing supplies of main battle tanks last week, an adviser to Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Friday.
Asked at the White House on Monday if the United States would provide F-16s, Biden told reporters: “No.”
But France and Poland appear to be willing to entertain any such request from Ukraine, with Macron telling reporters in The Hague on Monday that “by definition, nothing is excluded” when it comes to military assistance.
In remarks carried on French television before Biden spoke in Washington, Macron stressed any such move would depend on several factors including the need to avoid escalation and assurances that the aircraft would not “touch Russian soil.” He said Reznikov would also meet his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu in Paris on Tuesday.
In Poland on Monday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also did not rule out a possible supply of F-16s to neighbouring Ukraine, in response to a question from a reporter before Biden spoke.
Morawiecki said in remarks posted on his website that any such transfer would take place “in complete coordination” with NATO countries.
Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukraine president’s office, noted “positive signals” from Poland and said France “does not exclude” such a move in separate posts on his Telegram channel.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was in Japan on Tuesday where he thanked Tokyo for the “planes and the cargo capabilities” it is providing Ukraine. A day earlier in South Korea he urged Seoul to increase its military support to Ukraine.
Biden’s comment came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia had begun exacting its revenge for Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion with relentless attacks in the east, where it appeared to be making incremental gains.
Zelenskiy has warned for weeks that Moscow aims to step up its assault after about two months of virtual stalemate along the front line that stretches across the south and east.
Ukraine won a huge boost last week when Germany and the United States announced plans to provide heavy tanks, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock on the issue.
While there was no sign of a broader new Russian offensive, the administrator of Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, Denis Pushilin, said Russian troops had secured a foothold in Vuhledar, a coal-mining town whose ruins have been a Ukrainian bastion since the outset of the war.
Pushilin said that despite “huge losses” Ukrainian forces were consolidating positions in industrial facilities.
‘BATTLE FOR EVERY METER’
Pushilin said Ukrainian forces were throwing reinforcements at Bakhmut, Maryinka and Vuhledar, towns running from north to south just west of Donetsk city. The Russian state news agency TASS quoted him as saying Russian forces were making advances there, but “not clear-cut, that is, here there is a battle for literally every meter.”
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Ukraine still controlled Maryinka and Vuhledar, where Russian attacks were less intense on Monday.
Pushilin’s adviser, Yan Gagin, said fighters from Russian mercenary force Wagner had taken partial control of a supply road leading to Bakhmut, a city that has been Moscow’s focus for months.
A day earlier, the head of Wagner said his fighters had secured Blahodatne, a village just north of Bakhmut, although Kyiv said it had repelled assaults on Blahodatne.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports. But the locations of the reported fighting indicated clear, though gradual, Russian gains.
In central Zaporizhzhia region and in southern Kherson region, Russian forces shelled more than 40 settlements, Ukraine’s General Staff said. Targets included the city of Kherson, where there were casualties.
The Russians also launched four rocket attacks on Ochakiv in southern Mykolaiv, the army said, on the day Zelenskiy met the Danish prime minister in Mykolaiv city, to the northeast.
Zelenskiy is urging the West to hasten delivery of its promised weapons so Ukraine can go on the offensive, but most of the hundreds of tanks pledged by Western countries are months away from delivery.
British Defence Minister Ben Wallace said the 14 Challenger tanks donated by Britain would be on the front line around April or May, without giving an exact timetable.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Western countries supplying arms leads “to NATO countries more and more becoming directly involved in the conflict – but it doesn’t have the potential to change the course of events and will not do so.”
The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War think-tank said “the West’s failure to provide the necessary materiel” last year was the main reason Kyiv’s advances had halted since November.
The researchers said in a report that Ukraine could still recapture territory once the promised weapons arrive.
The Belarusian defence ministry said on Tuesday that Russia and Belarus had started a week-long session of staff training in preparation for joint drills in Russia in September.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow justifies as necessary to protect itself from its neighbour’s ties with the West, has killed tens of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes. (Source: Reuters)
23 Jan 23. Edgesource “donates more than USD2m” in C-UAS equipment to Ukraine. Edgesource Corporation has announced today that in 2022 it donated approximately USD2m in Windtalker™ Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft System (C-sUAS) technology and the centralized Dowding™ common operating platform to the Ukrainian Army.
“The Windtalker solution detects and locates drones, their pilots, and more, within a range of 35+ kilometers,” said a company press release. “Windtalker deploys in 30 minutes or less and can gather more than 30 data fields, including serial number, drone location, home location, operator location, flight path, velocity, and altitude. The Dowding system provides a single-pane operating platform that quickly and securely displays and analyzes sUAS activity and creates real-time intelligence reports. Dowding can be deployed and used by operators with minimal training in less than an hour.
“Edgesource recently announced the launch of EdgesourceX, which was created to bring similar C-sUAS capabilities to the commercial sector. Many arenas, public safety units, healthcare and critical infrastructure organizations are struggling to manage the risk from unauthorized drones. Edgesource helps these teams to ensure a security advantage.”
For more information: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2023/01/23/2593319/0/en/Edgesource-Donates-Two-M-Dollars-in-Counter-sUAS-Systems-to-Ukraine.html (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Homeland Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company