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Military And Security Developments
*Poland-Belarus: Closure of key border checkpoint will likely dampen cross-border trade, travel. On 9 February, Poland’s Interior Minister announced that the government would close one of the country’s main border crossings with Belarus in the interests of state security. The Bobrowniki border crossing will be closed to all traffic as of 1200hrs (local time) on 10 February. The decision was taken after a Polish journalist and activist based in Belarus was sentenced to eight years in jail on politically motivated charges on 8 February. As a result of the closure, only two of the six major crossing points along the two countries’ 249-mile (400 km) border remain open. The closure is likely to worsen existing delays to cross-border trade and travel. Although Minsk denounced the decision, its scope for retaliation is limited.
*Russia: Facial recognition systems at borders will increase state scrutiny of emigration. On 9 February, Russian authorities revealed plans to install facial recognition systems at some of its land borders. According to the plans, the system will be installed at land borders with China, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and Poland. It aims to cross-check the identities of travellers with a ‘biometric database’, though no further details were given. Earlier this month the Russian Council approved a law on mandatory DNA registration for all convicts and suspects, including those subjected to administrative arrest. The delivery of the facial recognition system is due by 25 November 2023. The new system will enhance state control on entry and exit of the state, and likely forms part of the government’s ongoing efforts to mitigate the brain drain and deter another potential mass exodus, such as the one that followed the partial military mobilisation in late 2022. It will also elevate risks for activists and NGO staff who seek to exit or enter the country.
• OSKIL-KREMINNA: The Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast, Serhiy Haidai, confirmed on 9 February that the current ‘escalation’ in Russian activity in the region is ‘de facto […] part of the full-scale offensive that Russia has been planning, aligning with our previous assessment. However, Haidai claimed that Russian forces ‘have not had much success’ and have not achieved a breakthrough at present. Limited information from the front means it remains unclear whether the Russians have made any notable advances following numerous claims over the previous 24–48-hour period, though offensive operations are likely continuing to build momentum and pressure as Russian commanders commit more forces to the offensive. Notably, social media footage published on 9 February showed a Ukrainian strike against a Russian BMPT Terminator urban warfare armoured fighting vehicle. Other reports suggest that Russian forces are using TOS-1 thermobaric multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS), indicating that Russian commanders are committing more advanced equipment to the ongoing Luhansk offensive.
• BAKHMUT: Russian forces continue to prioritise the interdiction of key ground lines of communication (GLOCs) as they set conditions for the encirclement of Bakhmut. Some Russian sources have claimed over the last 24-48 hours that Russian forces have changed their tactics along the Bakhmut line – moving away from frontal assaults against Bakhmut to prioritising interdicting GLOCs. This assessment aligns with the patterns we have been monitoring in recent days, which have seen Russian forces make steady progress towards cutting off the key M-03 and N-32 highways supplying the defence of Bakhmut (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 9 February 2023). Interdicting GLOCs is clearly aimed at steadily undermining Ukrainian defences and precipitating a Ukrainian withdrawal from the town. Numerous Russian sources have claimed that regular Russian and Wagner Group forces have continued to make progress towards these two highways, though the extent of further advances remains unconfirmed. Wagner Group sources similarly claimed on 9 February that they are attacking Krasna Hora, located four miles (7km) north-east of Bakhmut, from three directions, and that Ukrainian forces are close to withdrawing. Again, this is unconfirmed.
• DONETSK: Limited offensive operations west of Donetsk city are unlikely to be achieving significant results for Russian forces at present. Amid ongoing assaults around Avdiivka-Donetsk, reports by a Ukrainian reserve officer indicate that an ethnic Tatar volunteer battalion is currently attacking Vuhledar. This indicates that the more elite 155th Naval Infantry Brigade, which had been spearheading operations in the area, has possibly been replaced by other units given the large-scale losses it has suffered in recent months. Footage indicates that the 155th has lost large quantities of equipment, including as many as 13 main battle tanks and 12 BMP infantry fighting vehicles in a single engagement.
• SOUTHERN: Russian forces have continued to launch limited reconnaissance ground operations along the Zaporizhzhia frontline, though are unlikely to have made any progress.
• STRIKES: Earlier on 10 February, Russia launched its latest nationwide wave of strikes against urban targets across Ukraine. Earlier this week we assessed that a nationwide strike was due, and its timing is notable ahead of the one-year anniversary of the invasion on 24 February (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 8 February 2023). As we assessed at the time, these strikes mean that Russian forces will have 71 fewer cruise missiles to use during any bombardment campaign to mark the anniversary. According to preliminary reports from the Ukrainian General Staff, Russia fired 106 missiles, including 71 cruise missiles (43 Kh-101/Kh-555 and 28 Kalibr), as well as up to 35 S-300 missiles. Ukrainian air defences reportedly intercepted 61 of the 71 cruise missiles. Missiles targeted critical infrastructure across the country, including in Kharkiv, Khmelnitsky, Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa and Zaporizhzhia.
• STRIKES: As was the case prior to the previous nationwide strikes on 26 January, Russian forces launched a number of Shahed 131/136 kamikaze drones across the country during the night before this morning’s strikes. As we assessed at the time, such tactics are clearly aimed at depleting Ukrainian air defences to increase the likelihood of more lethal and high-precision cruise missiles penetrating said defences and reaching their targets (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 26 January 2023). Notably, UK-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) this week published an investigative analysis of an Iranian-produced Shahed-131 drone, and found that the warhead has been modified to maximise the fragmentation and lethality of the weapons to destroy energy infrastructure.
• SPILLOVER: Moldova and Ukraine confirmed that during this morning’s strikes, two naval-launched Russian Kalibr cruise missiles flew into Moldovan airspace before striking targets inside Ukraine, reportedly narrowly avoiding Romanian airspace. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny claimed that the missiles also violated Romanian airspace, though Bucharest has subsequently denied this. Romania’s defence ministry instead reported that the missile flew within 21 miles (35km) of the Romanian (and NATO) border.
• MOLDOVA: Last week we assessed that Moscow will intensify pressure on the pro-Western Moldovan government, including via long-range strikes against neighbouring Ukraine (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 3 February 2023). While the missile did not strike targets inside Moldova, it remains highly likely that the flight path was deliberately chosen as a warning to Chisinau, and is at least the sixth instance of Russia violating Moldovan airspace since the invasion. The proximity of the missiles’ flightpath to the Romanian border is also likely aimed at warning NATO. For further analysis on the threat of destabilisation in Moldova, see the FORECAST below.
• ANNIVERSARY: Russian President Vladimir Putin will address the Federal Assembly on 21 February. This will be a key moment ahead of the one-year anniversary of the invasion. Putin has frequently used addresses to the Federal Assembly to make high-profile announcements, including the recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent countries just before the invasion. Further announcements will possibly include new rounds of mobilisation, a decision on whether to send conscripts to Ukraine, alterations to the scope of the ‘special military operation’ and/or alterations to martial law conditions.
• ANNIVERSARY: Russia is also preparing to hold a concert at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow to mark the Day of the Defender holiday on 22 February, two days before the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine. Putin is likely to address crowds of up to 200,000 people. He last addressed a rally at the Luzhniki in March 2022. The Kremlin is likely to once again present this month’s rally as an indication of widespread support for the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine and President Putin’s leadership (see Sibylline Ukraine Alert – 18 March 2022). High-profile Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) raids or other sabotage operations are possible throughout the event, though such raids are highly unlikely to target Moscow or any other civilian population centre. The Russian Armed Forces have continued to strengthen air defences around the capital, which include S-300 systems. For further analysis, see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 23 January 2023.
• AID: On 9 February, Ukraine formally requested fighter jets from the Netherlands. The Netherlands was the first NATO member state to broach the idea of transferring F-16s to Ukraine, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte confirmed that talks on jets were ongoing ‘behind closed doors’. While the transfer of jets remains unlikely in the immediate term, Kyiv will continue with its efforts to build a ‘jet coalition’ in the coming weeks and months, following the success of the ‘tank coalition’. The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and the UK are currently the most open countries to such transfers (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 9 February 2023).
• AID: French President Emmanuel Macron said on 10 February that France will not send fighter jets to Ukraine, but did not rule out such a move in the future. Portugal meanwhile confirmed that it currently has no ‘extra’ jets to transfer to Ukraine, despite being open to the idea. This reflects the enduring strain being placed on European militaries following large-scale transfers of reserve and active stocks of equipment to Ukraine. Without a major ramping up of military-industrial production to offset transfers to Ukraine and maintain domestic European capabilities, supply chain problems will likely steadily worsen and limit options for further transfers of equipment to Ukraine.
• AID: The CEO of the German defence contractor Rheinmetall has also confirmed that it is in negotiations with Kyiv over supplying modern Panther main battle tanks within 15 to 18 months. Kyiv is also reportedly interested in acquiring Rheinmetall’s modern Lynx infantry fighting vehicle. As with the Leopard 2s, Berlin would have to formally approve any private exports to Ukraine. In other developments, Lithuania’s defence minister, Arvydas Anusauskas, confirmed on 9 February that Vilnius will transfer 36 portable anti-aircraft systems (possibly Swedish-produced L-70 guns) to Ukraine to counter Iranian-produced drones.
• BORDERS: On 9 February, the Russian authorities revealed plans to install facial recognition systems along their country’s borders, further complicating extraction operations. According to the plans, the systems will be installed along Russia’s borders with China, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and Poland, and will cross-check identities of travellers with a ‘biometric database’. Earlier this month, the Russian Council approved a law on mandatory DNA registration for all convicts and suspects, including those subjected to administrative arrest. Deliveries of facial recognition systems are due by 25 November, though high-priority border crossings with Kazakhstan, for example, could see accelerated roll outs. The new systems will enhance state control over the entry and exit of the state. They will almost certainly form part of the government’s ongoing efforts to mitigate a brain drain and deter a similar mass exodus as that which followed the ‘partial’ mobilisation in late 2022. Such surveillance capabilities will further complicate options for extraction from Russia, particularly if and when a second round of mobilisation is announced. For further analysis of Moscow’s growing scrutiny over its borders, see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 24 January 2023.
• For more strategic analysis and escalation outcomes to the current conflict in Ukraine, see our Scenario Planning and Projections and Ukrainian Victory Scenarios and Implications reports.
MOLDOVA: Shortly after the missile strikes this morning, including the violation of Moldova’s airspace, Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita announced on 10 February the resignation of her government. While a specific reason behind the resignation was not expressly stated, Gavrilita cited a lack of domestic support and numerous crises which have hampered her government in recent years – including an energy crisis and enduring corruption. However, Russia’s ongoing attempts to destabilise Moldova’s pro-Western government and President Maia Sandu are likely to be the ultimate cause of the collapse of the government.
The timing of Gavrilita’s resignation is highly likely linked to an intercepted secret Russian communique which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reportedly shared with President Sandu on 9 February. The intercepted communique reportedly outlined Russian plans to ‘destroy the political order in Moldova’, though we have no further details at present. We have frequently reported on the means with which Moscow has been actively interfering with, and destabilising, Moldova over the last 12 months. It is likely that the scale of the Russian plans and Gavrilita’s government’s seeming inability to effectively respond to them have triggered the loss of Sandu’s confidence in the government. Gavrilita’s government has frequently been criticised for its failure to respond effectively to increasing Russian influence operations and the ceaseless economic, energy and security crises.
President Sandu will now begin consultations with parliamentary factions to form a new government; Sibylline will continue to monitor for developments. Ultimately, the resignation of the government will further destabilise Moldova at a critical time. While we maintain that Russia does not maintain the capabilities to threaten a military invasion of Moldova, Moscow is clearly attempting to overturn the pro-Western government; hybrid and influence operations are likely to intensify in the country in the coming weeks.
On 10 February, Moldova’s Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita announced her government’s resignation. The sudden resignation follows this morning’s confirmed reports by both Chisinau and Kyiv that two Russian Kalibr cruise missiles violated Moldova’s airspace before striking targets inside Ukraine. The missiles reportedly narrowly avoided Romanian airspace to within 21 miles (35km).
• The resignation follows a wide array of crises which have hampered Gavrilita’s government since the start of the war in Ukraine. These include an acute energy crisis, soaring inflation, enduring corruption, and an influx of refugees from Ukraine. Unconfirmed reports of fictionalisation within the ruling and reform-oriented Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) have likely further undermined confidence in Gavrilita’s government.
• Latest public opinion polls from 2022 have consistently indicated declining public approval ratings for PAS. Pro-Western President Maia Sandu’s approval has also dropped significantly since the invasion of Ukraine and now stands just 5% higher than that of the pro-Russian ex-President Igor Dodon.
• The collapse of Gavrilita’s government comes amid a sustained destabilisation campaign by Russia and pro-Russian forces inside the country, which has likely fuelled frequent anti-war protests.
• The timing of Gavrilita’s resignation is highly likely linked to an intercepted secret Russian communique which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reportedly shared with President Sandu on 9 February. The intercepted communique reportedly outlined Russian plans to ‘destroy the political order in Moldova’, though there are no further details at present.
The resignation of the government will further destabilise Moldova in the short term and increase the likelihood of protests and Russian hybrid operations. While we maintain that Russia does not have the capabilities to militarily invade Moldova, Moscow is highly likely attempting to undermine and likely eventually overturn the pro-Western government with a pro-Moscow regime. Gavrilita’s resignation is likely an attempt by president Sandu to improve resilience against Russia. However, Moscow has various capabilities to intensify hybrid operations and destabilise the country further, including pro-Russian actors in the country.
President Sandu will now begin consultations with parliamentary factions to form a new government, with the most recent reports indicating that Sandu has proposed the appointment of Dorin Recean for the position of prime minister. Recean has previously served as minister of internal affairs between 2012-2015 under pro-European Prime Ministers Vladimir Filat and Iurie Leancă. As such, the government’s pro-reform, pro-Western agenda is unlikely to change, with the new government set to continue pursuing EU membership.
Bomb scares in the capital Chisinau, border provocations along the Transnistrian border, further missile airspace violations and anti-government protests are all realistic possibilities in the aftermath of the resignation, if Moscow and pro-Russian factions within Moldova seek to capitalise on the current instability and undermine any pro-Western successor government in the coming weeks. For further analysis on Russia’s interest in Moldova and destabilisation threats (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 20 December 2022).
- OFFENSIVES: On 9 February, Ukraine’s military intelligence (GUR) stated that it anticipates a ‘military escalation’ in Donbas as well as likely intensifications of Russian military operations elsewhere in a bid to ‘distract’ Ukrainian forces. However, as we reported earlier this week, Russia has already intensified operations in Luhansk oblast. Operations will likely continue to ramp up steadily in intensity in the coming days and weeks. It is clear that Russian forces have committed sizeable contingents of at least three divisions to the offensive; other divisions currently stationed in Luhansk, including the 2nd Motorised Rifle Division (part of the 1st Guards Tank Army), have likely not yet been committed.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: The Russian offensive in northern Luhansk oblast continues to gather speed as Russian forces attack at multiple points in increasing strength. However, the scale of advances remains unconfirmed. The Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast, Serhiy Haidai, reported on 8 February that there has been a ‘maximum escalation’ in the Kreminna direction and that Russian forces are attempting to break through there. Various other indicators, including geolocated footage, also suggest large concentrations of Russian forces are moving westwards towards the Zherebets River, which they are crossing at various points. The river has for months defined much of the frontline west of Svatove and Kreminna, and it is clear that Ukrainian positions on either side of the waterway are now under increasing pressure.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Various Russian sources have claimed advances at various points along the Oskil-Kreminna line and are claiming to have successfully forced Ukrainian forces to withdraw to secondary defensive lines. However, almost all of these claims remain unconfirmed at present. However, a former FSB and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) officer Igor Strelkov (Girkin) denies that Russian forces have made any significant advances in Kharkiv oblast as of 8 February, stating that advances at present remain tactical and limited in operational significance. However, Russia is likely only beginning its offensive; it will likely commit additional units to generate further momentum in the coming weeks.
- OFFENSIVES: Weather conditions will likely dictate the success of the building offensive (particularly manoeuvre operations) in the coming months. Surface temperatures on 8 February across Ukraine stood at around 0 C (32 F), though rising temperatures mean snowmelt is set to deteriorate ground conditions in the coming weeks. The UK’s Defence Intelligence assessed earlier on 9 February that both sides will likely avoid major offensive or counter-offensive operations during the Ukrainian mud season (Bezdorizhzhia, also known as Rasputitsa in Russian) from mid to late March. During this time, fighting will possibly remain limited to infantry battles in urban areas where ground conditions are less crucial. However, Russia will possibly still attempt larger-scale operations irrespective of weather conditions, as it did frequently in early 2022. In the meantime, Russia’s building offensive in Luhansk is set to continue intensifying, with frozen ground conditions providing good opportunities for manoeuvre operations at present.
- BAKHMUT: Russian forces are making steady advances to the north and south of Bakhmut amid efforts to set conditions for the operational encirclement of the town. One of the most notable updates by the Ukrainian General Staff earlier on 9 February was that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks against Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Dubovo-Vasylivka. Both of these settlements are located on the southern side of the M-03 (E-40) highway, four miles (7km) north-west of Bakhmut. Following reports of Russian advances towards Zaliznyanske on 8 February, it therefore appears that Russian forces have made notable advances north of Bakhmut, and are steadily closing the encirclement of the town from the north. If Orikhovo-Vasylivka comes under attack, it is likely that the M-03 highway has been partly cut off, severing a key ground line of communication (GLOC) into Bakhmut. Russian forces are also making marginal gains south of Bakhmut, which in turn is applying increasing pressure to the other critical GLOC supplying Bakhmut. Russian forces continue to make marginal advances towards Ivanivske, located less than three miles (4km) west of Bakhmut. Ivanivske sits along the N-34 (T-0504) highway that runs south-west towards Kostyantynivka – a possible fall-back position for Ukrainian forces if and when they withdraw from Bakhmut.
- DONETSK: On 8 February, a video emerged indicating that a contingent of Russian regular artillery forces have possibly been placed under Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) People’s Militia command for the first time. While unconfirmed, any transfer of artillery battalions to DNR units would indicate that DNR forces are no longer able to replenish losses internally from within the occupied territories. Numerous waves of mobilisation and conscription have likely exhausted manpower reserves in the occupied region. However, the move could also reflect the likely goal of Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov to professionalise the Russian military coalition in Ukraine, which likely includes integrating paramilitary units and the 1st and 2nd Army Corps of the DNR and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) more effectively. In a related development, the former LNR deputy interior minister, Vitaly Kiselev, posted a video on 8 February seemingly showing elements of the 150th Motorised Rifle Division attacking (and allegedly making progress against) Marinka, located 13 miles (21km) south-west of Donetsk city.
- SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report.
- WAGNER GROUP: The head of Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced on 8 February that his private military company (PMC) has halted recruitment from among Russia’s prison population. Prigozhin provided no reason for the move, which remains unconfirmed. Nevertheless, data released by Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service on 1 February showed that the decrease in prisoner numbers had slowed between November 2022 and January 2023; these numbers decreased by 6,000 compared to a reduction of 23,000 between September and October 2022. This strongly suggests that the Wagner Group has been slowing their recruitment from prisons for many months. This most likely reflects the diminishing appeal of joining the group even in exchange for a presidential pardon, given the PMC’s reputation for throwing convict soldiers into highly attritional fighting where casualty rates are extremely high.
- DIPLOMACY: Following his visit to the UK on 8 February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is visiting Brussels (Belgium) on 9 February to meet with EU leaders and address the European Parliament. Zelensky arrived in Brussels with French President Emmanuel Macron following his trip to Paris. During his visit, Zelensky will likely appeal for the acceleration of EU membership talks. He will also likely call for more weapons deliveries from European states, following his appeal to the UK to transfer fighter jets.
- ESCALATION: While a decision has yet to be made, the Russian embassy in London (UK) warned that there will be ‘military-political consequences’ for Europe and the world if the UK transfers fighter jets to Ukraine. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated on 8 February that ‘nothing remains off the table’, while Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is reportedly ‘actively looking at whether [to] send jets’. As previously assessed, there is a realistic possibility that the UK will announce fighter jet deliveries later in 2023 after it became the first country to announce a training programme for Ukrainian fighter pilots this week. Notably, US President Joe Biden also stated on 8 February that aid to Ukraine remains ‘open-ended’, again setting conditions for further weapons transfers later this year. We have frequently assessed that Moscow likely feels the need to prevent or delay a consensus emerging on the provision of NATO fighter jets. While Russian capabilities to respond conventionally remain limited and are highly unlikely to trigger conflict spillover, Moscow’s strategic deterrence campaign will possibly include subthreshold hybrid and grey zone operations – particularly following recent developments around the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage (see the FORECAST below).
- ECONOMY: On 8 February, it emerged that the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) proposed raising income tax on Russian companies by 0.5 percentage points. Currently, income tax on Russian companies stands at 20%. The proposal came after the finance ministry released its latest economic data for January, which showed the deepest deficit since 1998 on the back of falling energy revenues and skyrocketing military spending. In an interview with Russian state media on 8 February, Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov revealed that the government is discussing mandating large businesses to make a one-time ‘voluntary’ contribution to the state-budget. The RSPP’s suggested scheme comes amid a counter-proposal made by the government against any mandatory one-time payment. A corporate tax rise or mandatory contribution is increasingly likely as Moscow seeks to bridge the growing deficit; further rises are possible if energy revenues – and crucially domestic consumption-linked taxes – continue to fall.
SABOTAGE: On 8 February, US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh claimed in a blog post that US divers and the CIA had mined and subsequently blown up Nord Stream pipelines in September 2022 on the orders of President Joe Biden. Hersh has provided little evidence to support his claims beyond citing unnamed divers from the US Navy’s Diving and Salvage Centre who allegedly took part. The US and Norway, which was also allegedly involved in the operation, have expressly denied the allegations. While the overall lack of evidence from the sabotage site means US and/or NATO involvement cannot be definitively ruled out, we firmly assess that Russia was the most likely power behind the sabotage for a variety of reasons. For further analysis and our reasoning as to this assessment, see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 28 September 2022. Hersh’s lack of verifiable evidence is an additional factor behind our assessment that Russia was more likely to be behind the sabotage. Russia has previously blamed the UK’s Royal Navy of sabotaging the pipelines, with President Vladimir Putin claiming ‘Anglo-Saxon’ powers were behind the incident. Nevertheless, commenting on Hersh’s blog post earlier on 9 February, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov remained cautious about treating the article as a primary source, but stated its analysis should not be ignored. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has nevertheless warned that there will be ‘consequences’ for Washington DC, without specifying what these consequences will entail. At present, it likely remains in Russia’s interests to amplify Hersh’s allegations and frame the US as a state sponsor of terrorism. As such, Russia’s short-term response will likely involve information and psychological operations designed to amplify and expand upon existing mis- and dis-information campaigns. Nevertheless, if new evidence emerges of US involvement and/or public opinion begins to side with Russia’s narrative, the threat of ‘retaliatory’ targeting of US and European critical infrastructure will increase. Russia will likely attempt to frame hybrid operations as a proportionate response to US ‘aggression’. This would further align with Russia’s overall information strategy, which has generally been aimed at undermining trust in opposing narratives without providing concrete evidence, and framing all actors as being equally culpable.
Russia: Corporation tax rises increasingly likely as Moscow looks to plug growing deficit . On 8 February, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) has reportedly proposed raising income tax on Russian companies by 0.5 percentage points. Currently, income tax on Russian companies stands at 20%. The proposal comes after the Ministry of Finance released the latest economic data for January, which showed the biggest deficit since 1998 on the back of falling energy revenues and skyrocketing military spending. In an interview to Russian state media on 8 February, Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov revealed that the government was discussing mandating large businesses to make a one-time ‘voluntary’ contribution to the state budget. The RSPP’s plan comes as a counter proposal for the one-time payment discussed by the government. A corporate tax hike or mandatory contribution is increasingly likely as Moscow seeks to bridge the growing deficit, with further rises possible in the future if energy revenues – and crucially domestic consumption-linked taxes continue to fall.
- BAKHMUT: Russian forces continue to make incremental gains around Bakhmut, but Ukrainian forces are still preventing a Russian encirclement for the time being. The Ukrainian General Staff this morning reported that their forces had repelled a number of attacks across the eastern frontline. But amid continued fighting in the eastern outskirts of the town proper, Russian forces are likely making slow but steady progress to the north-east of Bakhmut in particular. Unconfirmed reports from 7 February indicate that Wagner Group forces could have cleared around 50% of Krasna Hora, four miles (7km) northeast of Bakhmut. Numerous Russian sources have claimed that their forces have made further advances to the north of the settlement over the last 24 hours, with the Ukrainian General Staff itself reporting a Russian attack against Zaliznyanske, a settlement four miles (7km) north-west of Krasna Hora. This indicates Russian forces have indeed moved northwards across the T-0513 road that leads north to Siversk.
- BAKHMUT: Russian forces have also continued offensive operations to the south-west of the town, where increasing pressure is being placed on key ground lines of communication (GLOCs) that are supplying Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut. On 7 February, Russian sources claimed that Wagner forces reached the N-32 (T-0504) highway for the first time, though other Russian sources have reiterated that Ukrainian forces remain in control of Ivanivske, a key settlement sitting on the N-32 less than 3 miles (4km) west of Bakhmut. This advance remains unconfirmed. In any case, it is clear that the N-32 is now under increasing pressure from Russian fire control, though various indicators point to Ukrainian supplies still being able to get through to Bakhmut itself.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Russian offensive operations west of Svatove and Kreminna remain ongoing, but limited information from this axis means it is unclear whether Russian forces have made further advances. A senior officer within the Luhansk People’s Militia claimed this morning (8 February) that Russian forces have taken ‘more advantageous positions’ near Svatove and Kreminna, though this is unconfirmed. Heavy fighting remains ongoing around Novoselivske, eight miles (14km) north-west of Svatove, while the Ukrainian General Staff also reported that their forces have repelled attacks near Kreminna and Dibrova – a key settlement north of the Siverskyi Donets River that is seeing increasingly intense fighting as Russian forces likely seek to set conditions for advances towards Lyman.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Notably, despite the Russian reports of advances, head of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Leonid Pasechnik reported on 8 February that Ukrainian forces are amassing sufficient reserves along the Oskil-Kreminna line to launch a counter-attack. Pasechnik described the situation along the Luhansk front as ‘very difficult’ and could indicate efforts to manage expectations around the rate of Russian advances along the front.
- SOUTHERN: Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR) on 7 February rejected claims made by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu that Russian forces had taken numerous settlements along the Zaporizhzhia front, as well as advances in western Donetsk oblast. Russian forces do continue to launch limited ground operations along the southern front, likely reconnaissance-in-force operations to test Ukrainian defences ahead of a potential supplementary offensive operation during the upcoming spring offensive.
- SOUTHERN: Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov stated on 7 February that Kyiv is not ruling out the possibility of a new Russian push against Kharkiv oblast or towards Zaporizhzia as part of its upcoming spring offensive. As we have previously assessed, the primary objective of Russia’s spring offensive is likely to be taking additional territory in Donbas and placing Sloviansk-Kramatorsk under increased pressure from the north and east. However, Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv remain realistic possibilities as supplementary objectives, with the former in particular providing Russia with an opportunity to blunt the possibility of a Ukrainian summer counter-offensive designed to sever the land bridge to Crimea.
- SOUTHERN: Cross-river raids have also stepped up over the last 48 hours along the Dnieper River in Kherson oblast, with Ukrainian forces claiming to have destroyed numerous Russian boats in the Dnieper delta. UK Defence Intelligence today (8 February) assessed that both sides are highly likely aiming to maintain control over various islands in the delta to provide early warning of any attempt by the other side to launch a major cross-river assault. However, it remains highly unlikely that Russian forces will attempt to create a bridgehead on the northern (right) bank of the river. As such, the primary threat to Kherson city for the coming months will remain artillery strikes.
- PMCs: On 7 February, Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR) claimed that Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin has formally approved the creation of a private military company (PMC) by the Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Nafta. While unconfirmed, the GUR claims would support the wider normalisation of PMCs and paramilitary forces within Russia, and notably follows the expansion of the Belarusian state-backed PMC Gardservis (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 12 January 2023). It remains unclear whether Gazprom will move forward with establishing a PMC with the express role of protecting the gas giant’s energy assets, or whether the force would be used to conduct other paramilitary operations – potentially in Ukraine. Given Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov is currently seeking to professionalise the Russian military coalition in Ukraine, and likely aiming to reign in the Wagner Group PMC, it remains unlikely that any Gazprom PMC would quickly become a rival to Wagner Group. However, in the absence of the abolition of PMCs on the frontline, more rival PMCs could serve the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD)’s interests as a means of undermining the influence of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group.
- DIPLOMACY: President Volodymyr Zelensky is visiting the UK today (8 February) in his second foreign trip since the Russian invasion following his trip to Washington D.C. and Warsaw in December 2022. Zelensky is set to meet with King Charles and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, where they will discuss the UK’s support for Ukraine, as well as address the British parliament. Zelensky will also meet Ukrainian service personnel currently being trained by British forces – of which 10,000 have already been trained in the last six months, with a further 20,000 expected to be trained this year. The visit comes after plans for Zelensky’s visit to Brussels were reportedly leaked by unknown officials on 7 February, leading to concerns for the president’s security. It remains unclear at the time of writing whether a trip to Brussels after London will go ahead.
- AID: To mark Zelensky’s visit to London, the UK government has announced that it will begin training Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard fighter jets. The UK has previously ruled out providing Ukraine with its own jets, primarily due to practical logistical and training issues. However, the move to provide training is clearly an attempt by London to reinvigorate discussions among NATO allies about providing NATO aircraft, including the F-16, to Ukraine. A training programme will set conditions for the utilisation of such aircraft by Ukrainian pilots if those transfers are made later in 2023, as we have previously assessed is eventually likely. Given that the UK was the first Western state to announce the transfer of a main battle tank, the UK could also be the first state to eventually announce NATO jet transfers later this year – potentially recently retired Tornado GR4s or first tranche Eurofighters.
- AID: The UK also notably stated on 8 February that it will provide Ukraine with ‘longer range capabilities’, but without providing any further details. It remains unclear what systems will be transferred and on what time scale, but the export version of the air-launched Storm Shadow (SCALP) long-range cruise missile with a range of over 150 miles (250km) remains a possibility. Numerous other European states have also announced new weapons transfers to Ukraine on 8 February, including five additional Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (SPAAGs) and additional guided missiles.
- AID: On 7 February, Germany’s Federal Security Council formally approved the supply of 178 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine from Germany’s industrial stocks, with other European states including Denmark and the Netherlands also set to transfer their own Leopard 1 tanks. While not as advanced as Leopard 2s, refurbished Cold War-era Leopard 1s will make a notable difference in making up for Ukrainian losses of tanks (which Oryx estimates at around 450 since the invasion in February). Increased numbers of vehicles will crucially provide Ukraine with additional mass to conduct larger-scale manoeuvre operations during future counter-offensives in the summer – during which Kyiv will hope to exploit emerging vulnerabilities in the Russian frontline if the Russian spring offensive fails to generate a breakthrough or overextends Russian lines.
- ESCALATION: In a related development prior to the European announcements, on 7 February Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu accused Ukraine’s Western partners of trying to ‘prolong the conflict as much as possible’ by providing more advanced weapons systems to Kyiv. Shoigu stated that increasing NATO involvement in the war can ‘lead to an unpredictable level of […] escalation’. Senior Kremlin officials have frequently made such statements, including President Vladimir Putin, but as previously assessed Moscow’s capabilities to genuinely respond to these arms transfers remain limited. Nevertheless, if the UK in particular does supply longer-range weapons capable of hitting targets inside Russia, it will mark an important test of Russia’s response. As previously assessed, open confrontation with a NATO state remains highly unlikely, but diplomatic protests, escalatory rhetoric and potential hybrid/grey zone operations remain enduring threats to the UK and wider NATO states.
Today, 8 February, marks the 350th day since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the one year anniversary on 24 February fast approaching. Russian military operations are set to continue intensifying ahead of that date as Russian forces appear to be accelerating plans to launch their spring offensive. Aside from military ground operations, we also anticipate an intensification of long-range missile strikes across Ukraine during the anniversary.
Russian forces have generally launched long-range strikes every 1.5-2 weeks in recent months, and the last strike campaign took place on 26 January, almost two weeks ago. As such, a strike campaign would ordinarily be expected in the coming days. However, every week that goes by without such strikes means Russia will be able to stockpile additional cruise and ballistic missiles, providing them with dozens of additional weapons with which to launch a much more intense strike campaign on or around 24 February. If an attack does not come this week, it will likely mean that strikes to mark the anniversary will be particularly intensive.
- During this monitoring period, we observed a decrease in pro-Russia distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks targeting Europe and the US. This is likely due to these cyber groups preparing to conduct larger attacks in the coming weeks to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (24 February). Meanwhile, alleged cyber attacks targeting various cyber security companies providing counter-DDoS services have underscored the ongoing campaigns against pro-Ukraine security vendors. In addition, several pro-Russia hacktivists have openly stated that they wish to physically harm people from countries which support Ukraine, and to target facilities such as hospitals and mental health facilities. It is therefore possible that there will be a rise in DDoS attacks (among others) targeting healthcare sectors in pro-Kyiv countries.
- Also during this monitoring period, we observed an ongoing trend in pro-Kyiv cyber operations against Russian government-affiliated businesses. These include entities which are assisting the Russian government in its military operations. This trend will likely persist in the coming weeks, particularly during the run-up to the anniversary. In addition, the Ukrainian security services employed sophisticated cyber capabilities to target high-level individuals residing in Ukraine who are accused of actively supporting Russia’s war.
Latest Significant Updates
Pro-Russia cyber attacks wane against Europe, US; DDoS attacks increase against security vendors
- On 7 February, the pro-Russia cyber threat actors Passion botnet and Anonymous Russia claimed to have launched a DDoS attack against the website of Radware, an Israel-based DDoS protection vendor. The groups stated that they would return the website in exchange for 2 Bitcoin (around USD 46,350).
- On 6 February, the pro-Russia hacktivist group Killnet claimed to have launched a DDoS attack against the official website of the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, the government entity responsible for financial regulation.
- On 5 February, the National Hackers of Russia group made a series of threats against government departments and critical infrastructure in Lithuania and the Czech Republic. The group stated that it intends to distribute emails detailing imminent physical threats at critical facilities, including police departments, power plants and government ministries. The group’s alleged aim is for personnel at these locations to be evacuated after on-site alarms are triggered by these emailed threats. The group will then carry out cyber attacks against these sites without people being physically present to employ counter-measures.
- On 3 February, Phoenix, a pro-Russia hacktivist collective, stated it intends to target German suicide help centres via DDoS attacks.
Pro-Kyiv hacking groups have increased attacks against Russian-controlled businesses; campaigns to steal information about Russian government, businesses with ties to Kremlin have continued
- On 6 February, a pro-Kyiv hacktivist group, Cyber Anarchy Squad, reportedly obtained access to several networks in Russia. The group claims to have accessed over 500GB of data and to have opened a portal for other groups to download data.
- On 5 February, the pro-Kyiv threat actors CAXXII and Anonymous allegedly stole 128GB of documents from the Russian Internet Service Provider (ISP) Convex. According to the documents, there is evidence that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) is conducting internet and telephone surveillance on its citizens, as well as private organisations operating in the country; it reportedly calls the project ‘Green Atom’.
- On 4 February, the Ukrainian security services allegedly hacked into a video call between Moscow and pro-Russia collaborators in Ukraine. The security services then officially notified the collaborators (who reside in Ukraine) that they are being charged with treason.
- On 2 February, the pro-Kyiv Italian sect of Anonymous (AnonSecIta) targeted various companies belonging to Vladimir Potanin (a Russian oligarch) with DDoS attacks. The companies affected include:
o Nornickel, the largest nickel and palladium mining and smelting company in Russia
o Reksoft, an offshore software engineering company of which Potanin controls 40%
o Ulba, a metallurgical company which produces beryl, uranium and tantalum
o Kaskor-Mashzavod, a leading manufacturer of equipment for complex works in the oil, chemical and gas sectors
o JSC Norilskgazprom, an affiliate of Nornickel which extracts and supplies gas for two plants in Russia
Hacktivist groups operating without Russian state sponsorship will almost certainly continue to use relatively low-level phishing and DDoS attacks as their primary tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs). They have expanded their target set to include security vendors such as Radware, Akami and CloudFlare. This is likely an attempt to demonstrate to the wider community that security vendors cannot protect themselves against DDoS attacks; this will also hinder the ability of these groups to attract business. We also observed a shift in TTPs by pro-Russia hacktivists such as Phoenix. The group openly stated that it intends to cause physical harm to people. Following its proposal to target German suicide help centres with DDoS attacks, Phoenix stated that ‘if mentally ill people die, there will be no-one to supply weapons to’. This is the first time Russian hacktivists have openly declared their intent to cause physical harm to people in countries which support Ukraine. While it is unclear whether these hacktivist groups will follow through on their threat and conduct physical attacks against individuals in pro-Kyiv countries, the dramatic shift in rhetoric it still notable. During this monitoring period, cyber operations carried out by Anonymous and its affiliates continued to expand. Their most recent data theft campaign revealed that Russian intelligence services are conducting surveillance operations against Russian citizens and private businesses operating in Russia. These surveillance efforts are classified as unauthorised wiretapping and espionage campaigns; they go against Russian law, and contradict public statements made by Russian officials. There is a realistic possibility that such activity will prompt backlash by civilians and businesses operating in Russia. Furthermore, it is likely that private businesses whose information and data were exposed as part of the leak will be targeted in future attacks.
Cyber operations by AnonSecIta, a pro-Kyiv Anonymous affiliate, increased during this monitoring period. Its activity focused on carrying out attacks against businesses owned by Russian oligarchs. The group conducted extensive DDoS attacks against the websites of businesses owned or controlled by Vladimir Potanin, allegedly because his name was not included as part of the list of EU sanctions imposed by the bloc against Russia following the latter’s invasion of Ukraine. The DDoS attacks focused on Potanin’s mining, manufacturing and technology businesses, whose profits are allegedly used to help fund Russia’s military activities. The Anonymous collective and its splinter factions will almost certainly remain prevalent actors in DDoS campaigns against Russian entities as the conflict in Ukraine continues.
- OFFENSIVES: According to the Ukrainian General Staff this morning (7 February), Russian forces are currently regrouping at various points on the frontline and are conducting offensive operations in five key directions: towards Kupiansk in Kharkiv oblast, Lyman (Oskil-Kreminna line), Bakhmut, Avdiivka (west of Donetsk city) and Novopavlivka (west Donetsk oblast). While official Ukrainian reports continue to maintain that their forces are successfully repelling Russian attacks, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reported this morning that offensives in the Vuheldar and Bakhmut axes are developing ‘successfully’.
- OFFENSIVES: UK Defence Intelligence today (7 February) assessed that Russia is unlikely to be able to build up the forces needed to substantially affect the outcome of the war within the coming weeks, and that Russian forces lack the munitions and manoeuvre units required for successful offensives. While this likely remains true, our assessment remains that Russian forces are unlikely to attempt sweeping manoeuvre operations as part of their spring offensive. Rather, Russian forces are more likely to steadily apply pressure across a wide frontage, during which they will attempt to create opportunities for breakthroughs and reinforce success wherever it manifests.
- BAKHMUT: The Ukrainian head of the Donetsk regional military administration Pavlo Kyrylenko stated on 7 February that Ukrainian forces are not ruling out the capture of Bakhmut, but that Ukrainian forces continue to hold the line at present. The statement clearly acknowledges the increasingly difficult position Ukrainian forces are in around Bakhmut and follows president Volodymyr Zelensky’s announcement last week that Ukraine will not withdraw from the town. While supplies continue to enter Bakhmut, increasingly heavy fire control over key roads and steady advances are setting conditions for an eventual encirclement – which Russian forces have not yet achieved.
- BAKHMUT: Various Russian sources continue to claim advances both south-west and north-east of Bakhmut, though the Ukrainian General Staff reports successful repulsion of attacks against Bakhmut itself. On 6 February, Russian sources claimed that Russian forces have advanced as close as a kilometre within the T-0504 highway near Stupochky, eight miles (13km) southwest of Bakhmut. This remains unconfirmed. In addition, geolocated footage from 6 February indicates that Ukrainian forces are still in control of Bilohrivka, despite earlier Russian claims that they had seized the settlement. Advances in this direction nevertheless remain likely in the coming weeks as Russian forces are likely setting conditions for an encirclement of Siversk, seven miles (11km) southwest of Bilohorivka. If Russian forces are able to push west and south of Kreminna to the north (across the Siverskyi Donets River) as well as continue advancing up the T-0513 highway to the south, a cauldron will then be established around Siversk.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Russian sources claim that their forces have gained the initiative across northern Luhansk oblast and are making advances all the full length of the Oskil-Kreminna line. While internet service outages continue to limit opportunities for confirmation at this stage, the Ukrainian General Staff has in recent days provided only limited updates on this front, which could indicate Russian forces are indeed making progress here. At the northern section of the front, numerous Russian sources claimed on 6 February that their forces took Synkivka, five miles (9km) northeast of Kupiansk. While unconfirmed, such advances would likely support earlier reports of a limited Russian breakthrough around Dovirchne, further to the north. Geolocated footage seems to support the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD)’s reports that Ukrainian forces are been forced out of the western section of the town.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Other Russian claims indicate likely advances north-west of Svatove and Kreminna respectively, with unconfirmed reports that Russian airborne units are making steady progress in heavily wooded areas south of Kreminna and Dibrova towards the banks of the Siverskyi Donets. As above, such advances would support Russian efforts to begin establishing a cauldron around Siversk, which sits due south of the Serebryanka forest across the river. Notably, despite the clear intensification of Russian operations across the Oskil-Kreminna line, Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai reported on 6 February that Russian forces appear to be stockpiling ammunition and building troop reserves ahead of the main, full-scale spring offensive effort later this month. Haidai in particular drew attention to the significant concentration of troop numbers in Luhansk, which he estimates include ‘tens of thousands’ of mobilised forces, excluding professional regular personnel already there. For further analysis on the likely beginnings of the spring offensive in Luhansk oblast.
- SOUTHERN: During his military update on 7 February, Russian defence minister Shoigu claimed that Russian forces have succeeded in taking a number of settlements along the western Zaporizhzhia line, including Pidhirne and Lobkove, though this remains unconfirmed. There are limited wider indications to support the claims of Russian advances on this axis and there are no other notable developments to report over the last 24-48 hours.
- KHARKIV: On 6 February, the deputy head of the regional Kharkiv oblast administration Roman Semenukha assessed that there is currently no threat of an attack on Kharkiv city and that rumours of an impending offensive towards the city on social media are Russian information operations. While the main effort of the spring offensive is likely to come from the east, in northern Luhansk oblast, retaking lost ground in Kharkiv oblast remains a likely objective. It remains likely that Russia still has around 150,000 mobilised reservists that it has yet to commit to operations in Ukraine. As such, it remains a realistic possibility that Russia will attempt to open up a supplementary front, or at the very least launch spoiling attacks, along the Kharkiv oblast border, to support the main spring offensive effort in Luhansk oblast.
- BELARUS: We continue to monitor Russian and Belarusian troop movements in southern Belarus, and there are no indicators to suggest an ongoing build-up or preparations for a new offensive towards Kyiv. The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed today (7 February) that they have also not detected any offensive groupings in southern Belarus. On 1 February, the Ukrainian Border Force estimated that around 9,000 Russians troops remain stationed in Belarus, which are highly likely to be primarily undertaking training. As we have consistently reported in recent months, Russia and Belarus are highly unlikely to have a force capable of launching a successful offensive towards Kyiv in the short to medium term. Supplementary advances to support Russia’s spring offensive, if they are launched, are more likely to target eastern Ukraine, including Zaporizhzhia and/or Kharkiv.
- AID: On 6 February, Reuters reported that Switzerland may decide to reform its neutrality laws given mounting pressure on the government to end a ban on the re-export of Swiss-produced weapons to war zones, including Ukraine. Switzerland has consistently blocked the re-export of various weapons and munitions to Ukraine under its neutrality laws, including ammunition for the Gepard anti-aircraft guns which have been highly effective against Russian/Iranian kamikaze drones. On 24 January, Switzerland’s parliament formally approved an initiative which would permit the re-export of Swiss-made military equipment to Ukraine. A recent poll indicated that 55% of surveyed Swiss citizens are now in favour of allowing weapon re-exports to Ukraine. Under Switzerland’s direct democratic system, a referendum on the issue may result given enduring splits in parliament. However, if a formal reform to Switzerland’s neutrality law does take place, Russian retaliation will likely increase cyber and wider security risks for Swiss firms given previous precedents.
STRIKES: The governor of the Russian region of Kaluga oblast reported that a drone had exploded and crashed near the city of Kaluga, 124 miles (200km) southwest of Moscow. While he provided little additional information, the drone is most likely to have been a Ukrainian Tu-141 reconnaissance UAV. The nearby Shaykovka Air Base could have been the intended target, given that it remains a base for Tu-22M bombers and Ukrainian UAVs have previously struck the base in October 2022. In recent days, various Ukrainian officials have reiterated pledges not to use any Western-supplied long-range missile systems to attack de jure Russian territory. However, Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov stated on 6 February that ‘nobody prohibits us to destroy targets with weapons produced in Ukraine’. Ukrainian officials have consistently indicated that they intend to continue launching long-range UAV raids on military targets ‘deeper and deeper’ inside Russia, and successful attacks on the Engels-2 airbase in Saratov, for example, have illustrated the long-range capability of domestically produced and upgraded Ukrainian UAVs. In a related development, The Moscow Times reported on 7 February that unnamed senior officials within the Russian administration have confirmed that the Kremlin has ordered an overhaul of the country’s bomb shelters, even in Russia’s Far East regions. While no official announcement has been made, efforts to restore Soviet-era shelters is taking place across the country amid the increasing threat of Ukrainian long-range UAV raids. Ultimately, Ukrainian forces remain unlikely to target civilian population centres deliberately, favouring instead air bases, oil refineries and other military targets. Nevertheless, the restoration of bomb shelters also likely serves the Kremlin’s goal of reminding local populations of the ongoing ‘special military operation’ and the alleged threat Ukrainian forces pose to Russian civilians as part of the steady mobilisation of Russian society.
- BAKHMUT: On 3 February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Ukrainian forces will not withdraw from Bakhmut and that they will continue fighting for as long as they can. Zelensky’s decision is likely driven primarily by political as opposed to military considerations, especially as Ukrainian soldiers on the ground report that the situation in and around the town has deteriorated markedly in recent weeks. These developments come as Russia has deployed more professional and effective forces to the area. Last week we assessed the growing possibility of a Ukrainian withdrawal from the town to preserve Ukrainian forces and take up new defensive positions further west (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 31 January 2023). However, Zelensky’s decision means that such a withdrawal is now less likely, unless a major Russian breakthrough occurs in the short term. However, an eventual withdrawal will likely be necessary if Russian forces can maintain the current tempo of offensive operations. On 5 February, Zelensky acknowledged that the situation in Donetsk oblast was ‘very difficult’ as Russian ground assaults continue to intensify.
- BAKHMUT: Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin stated on 5 February that Ukrainian forces are ‘fighting to the last’ in Bakhmut, amid intense urban fighting in which Russian and Ukrainian forces are fighting house-by-house and room-by-room. The UK’s Defence Intelligence reported on 5 February that Russian forces continue to make small advances around the town. As the two main ground lines of communication (GLOCs) into Bakhmut, the N-32 and M-03 highways, remain under Russian fire control, ‘Bakhmut is increasingly isolated’. Over the weekend of 4-5 February, Russian sources claimed numerous marginal advances around the outskirts of Bakhmut, including unconfirmed advances to Stupky, the northern-most suburb of Bakhmut town itself. Overall, Russian forces are currently making the most notable progress further north-east of the town, along the T-0513 highway that runs north towards Siversk. However, amid the steady Russian gains, Russian forces are also likely taking very high casualty rates, with Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov claiming on 5 February that Russian forces are sustaining 500 casualties (killed and wounded) in Bakhmut every day.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: On 3-4 February, Russian forces increased the tempo of offensive operations west of Kreminna, with Ukrainian spokesperson for the Eastern Group of Forces reporting a record number of ground clashes and 384 artillery strikes along the front in a single day. Various Russian sources claimed that Russian units had achieved tactical breakthroughs at various points of the Oskil-Kreminna line over the last 48-72 hours, though these have yet to be confirmed. The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) also claimed on 4 February that its forces had also launched offensive operations near Dvorichna at the northern sector of the front along the Oskil River in Kharkiv oblast. The MoD claims to have pushed Ukrainian forces out of the western outskirts of the town, though this remains unconfirmed; mobile internet outages across the region will likely make it difficult to confirm any advances in the coming weeks.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Russian sources claimed that Russian advances south of Kreminna are setting the conditions to support an encirclement of Siversk, 13 miles (21km) south-west of Kreminna across the Siverskyi Donets River and 19 miles (31km) north-east of Bakhmut. There has also been a large number of conflicting reports over the last 48 hours claiming that Russian forces have or have not retaken Bilohorivka, eight miles (12km) north-west of Lysychansk and just seven miles (12km) north-east of Siversk. Even if Russian forces have not made such advances, it is clear that Russian offensive operations have stepped up across the full length of the Oskil-Kreminna-Bakhmut lines in the Donbas. However, Russian and Ukrainian reports over the last 48-72 hours indicate a general reduction in the intensity of Russian assaults west of Donetsk city, including against Vuhledar. This likely reinforces the assessment that Moscow has prioritised the northern section of the front ahead of its spring offensive.
- SOUTHERN: Given Russia’s clear prioritisation of operations in eastern Ukraine, there have been few notable developments along the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia fronts in recent days. Nevertheless, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Southern Defence Forces, Natalya Humenyuk, stated last week that amid this focus in the east, Kyiv cannot rule out the possibility of an ‘unexpected’ offensive in the south – though many Ukrainian officials assess that Russia currently does not have the capabilities in the south to launch a major offensive. Nevertheless, another Ukrainian spokesperson for the Tavriisk Direction Defence Forces, Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi, claimed that President Putin has ordered the seizure of Zaporizhzhia city by 31 March. This is a highly unrealistic objective, especially if Putin has also ordered the seizure of Donetsk oblast on the same timescale. Nevertheless, supplementary offensive operations along the Zaporizhzhia axis remain a realistic possibility amid wider efforts to disperse Ukrainian defences to thin out defences further east.
- CBRN: The head of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Denis Pushilin claimed on 6 February that Ukrainian forces have used unspecified chemical weapons during operations around Bakhmut and Vuhledar. Pushilin provided no evidence to support his allegations. It is unlikely that Ukrainian forces would employ chemical weapons, which are banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention; this would risk losing international support and undermine the much more vital efforts to acquire more advanced Western weapons. Russian officials have frequently accused Ukraine of doing what they themselves have been doing or plan to do as part of false-flag information operations. Pushilin’s accusations are unlikely in and of themselves to be an indicator of an imminent deployment of chemical weapons by Russian forces during their spring offensive. However, the use of chemical weapons remains a risk; we will continue to monitor for other triggers, warnings and indicators (TWIs) for further chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) escalation. For further analysis of Russia’s possible use of chemical weapons.
- MUNITIONS: On 5 February, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Kremlin and Iran are moving forward with plans to build a new plant in Russia capable of producing at least 6,000 Iranian-designed drones. The report claims that in early January a high-level Iranian delegation visited the planned site for the factory to kickstart the project. It added that the two countries plan to build a faster drone that would be more challenging for Ukrainian air defences (which have improved significantly in recent months). This intelligence points to deepening Russian-Iranian defence co-operation. The move will possibly provide Russia with a significant domestic production capability to offset reliance upon shipments of Shahed-131/136 drones from Iran.
- CORRUPTION: On 5 February, the leader of President Zelensky’s Servant of the People Party, Davyd Arakhamia, announced that Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov will be removed from his position. According to Arakhamia, Reznikov will be replaced by the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence (GUR), Kyrylo Budanov, though this is unlikely to take place this week. If confirmed, Reznikov’s removal will be the highest-profile government change since a corruption scandal which has already resulted in a significant cabinet shake-up. Given allegations of corruption in the defence ministry under Reznikov’s leadership, his replacement would clearly be intended to reassure Kyiv’s Western partners and to demonstrate that Zelensky’s anti-corruption drive remains credible and will not exclude the president’s political allies.
- MOBILISATION: Earlier on 6 February, President Zelensky submitted draft legislation to parliament (Verkhovna Rada) on the extension of martial law and the period of general mobilisation. The draft laws would extend the period of martial law and the period of general mobilisation for 90 days as of 19 February. The legislation is in essence a pure formality; the current period of martial law and mobilisation is set to expire on 19 February and parliament will almost certainly adopt the legislation. As we have previously assessed, mounting casualties and the coming Russian spring offensive will likely increase the risk of mobilisation expansions in Ukraine in Q1-2 of this year
- AID: On 5 February, Defence Minister Reznikov stated that Israel had promised to provide Ukraine with a missile and drone alert system. His comments came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French TV channel LCI on the same day that his government would consider the possibility of supplying its Iron Dome anti-missile defence system, before caveating that Israeli support for Ukraine would ‘probably be in other areas’. As Israel has so far only provided Ukraine with humanitarian aid, the provision of weapons, even if these are purely ‘defensive’, would mark a highly significant shift in policy.
- SANCTIONS: On 5 February the EU’s ban on Russian diesel fuel and other refined oil products came into force as part of the bloc’s wider efforts to cut its dependence on Russian energy and deprive the Kremlin of revenue needed to finance the war. The embargo will be combined with an EU and G7 price cap of USD 100 per barrel of diesel and USD 45 per barrel of fuel oil and other low-end oil products. In the very near term, the ban is unlikely to impact the Kremlin significantly. According to Bloomberg, Russia intends to export approximately 730,000 barrels of diesel a day from western ports in February, the biggest monthly flow since the start of 2020. Moscow will use legal trade workarounds and push to supply new markets to mitigate the impact of the ban in the short term. Nevertheless, the ban will highly likely lead to a drop in Russian diesel exports and add pressure on Moscow’s ability to finance the war
*Estimates are that Ukraine has approximately 600 tanks in reserve of various marques with 450 of those being combat ready. The 200 promised by various nations will be required for the forthcoming Spring Offensive. Some Leopard 1A5 tanks are being used on the borders allowing T-72 tanks to be deployed near the front line to meet any Russia offensive.
OFFENSIVES: Russian forces have continued to intensify offensive operations at multiple points along the frontline in recent days, likely reflecting the beginnings of Russia’s spring offensive campaign. Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut and along the Oskil-Kreminna line are under increasing pressure as Russian forces set conditions for what is likely to translate into a concerted effort to retake land lost during Ukraine’s Kharkiv counter-offensive in September 2022. Such an objective would likely aim to once again place northern Donetsk oblast, including the major cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, under pressure from the north and east. Accompanying operations around Bakhmut will likely attempt to break through and force a Ukrainian withdrawal towards Kramatorsk and Kostyantynivka, 13 miles (21km) south-west of Bakhmut. The timescale for the Russian offensive is likely shortening. This possibly reflects the alleged order by President Vladimir Putin to capture Donetsk oblast by March and/or the pressure facing Russia to bring forward offensive plans before Western tanks and other equipment arrive in Ukraine later in the spring. The Financial Times quoted unnamed Ukrainian military advisers on 5 February stating that the Russian offensive will possibly begin in the next ten days. Ukrainian governor of Luhansk oblast Serhiy Haidai also stated on 6 February that he anticipates a major intensification of Russian operations after 15 February and ahead of the 24 February anniversary of the invasion. It remains unclear whether ongoing attacks along the line of contact represent where the focus of a possible Russian spring offensive will take place, or whether they are shaping operations ahead of a much larger effort later this month. As we have previously assessed, Russian forces will possibly look to open up a new front in eastern Ukraine from the international border south of Belgorod, in a bid to disperse Ukrainian forces and increase the opportunities for a breakthrough somewhere along the frontline. However, it remains unclear whether Russian forces have rebuilt sufficient capability and improved their logistics and command and control systems to take key operational targets before their offensive culminates later this year. If Ukrainian intelligence is accurate, Putin’s alleged deadline for seizing Donetsk oblast by March is highly unrealistic and possibly reflects the Kremlin’s continued overestimation of Russian capabilities due to erroneous reporting on combat readiness from the ground. In addition, the outgoing Ukrainian minister of defence, Oleksiy Reznikov (see CORRUPTION above), claimed on 5 February that Ukraine has created sufficient reserves of both personnel and resources to withstand Russia’s coming spring offensive, even before the latest rounds of advanced Western equipment arrive in Ukraine. Nevertheless, it is clear that Ukrainian forces are already under mounting pressure at various points along the frontline. As such, if Russian forces have successfully learned lessons from the last 11 months of fighting, Moscow will possibly succeed in making steady progress across eastern Ukraine during an attritional campaign designed to intensify pressure along a large frontage, rather than dramatic and sweeping manoeuvre operations. (Source: Sibylline)
11 Feb 23. Russia has lost half of main battle tanks says US.
Half of Russia’s main battle tanks have likely been destroyed or captured by Ukraine, a senior US defense official said.
Russia “has probably lost half of its main battle tank stock in combat and through Ukrainian capture,” Celeste Wallander, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, said on Friday.
The estimate by Mr Wallander – who did not provide an exact figure for the number of tanks lost since Russia invaded in February 2022 – comes as Ukraine is set to receive an influx of heavy Western tanks from its supporters.
Britain has said its Challenger 2 tanks will be deployed in Ukraine in March, while Germany and its allies aim to get a battalion of Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv by April. The United States has also promised a battalion – or 31 – of its M1 Abrams tanks.
Meanwhile Russian missiles hit power facilities across Ukraine on Friday in what is believed to be the start of a major new Russian offensive. (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
11 Feb 23. British weapons could be made in Ukraine.
Senior UK defence industry officials discussing plans with their counterparts in Kyiv
British weaponry and military vehicles could be manufactured in Ukraine under plans that would mark a deepening of the country’s ties with Nato.
Senior UK defence industry officials are discussing the plans with their counterparts in Kyiv, with any deal likely to be seen as a significant strengthening of Britain’s relationship with Ukraine.
British executives have travelled there with a view to setting up joint ventures that would manufacture arms and vehicles locally under licence.
Other European defence companies are also in talks with Ukraine, with British companies keen not to be beaten to the punch by French and German rivals. A race is on to put the UK “at the front of the queue”, one executive told The Telegraph.
It comes after Rishi Sunak opened the door to Britain sending fighter jets to Ukraine following a plea from Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, during his surprise trip to the UK last week.
Any joint venture is likely to require sign-off from Mr Sunak. Russia has repeatedly threatened retaliation against the West for sending arms to Ukraine, and any manufacturing support is likely to further inflame tensions.
On Saturday night, Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence declined to comment, saying it was a matter for industry.
But Ed Arnold, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think tank and a former British army Nato officer, said: “Industry cooperation drives closeness in international relations. This might be initially billed as commercial, but it will need tacit political approval at least.”
Mr Arnold added that a deal on military equipment would “point to future long term cooperation, deepening ties between Britain and Ukraine to a level they haven’t been yet”. He said a deal of this kind would bring Ukraine “closer towards Nato and European security structures”.
Ukraine has applied to join Nato, but the alliance is unlikely to accept while the country is in a state of war. As a Nato member, fellow members would be legally compelled to actively defend it against Russia, a commitment that goes well beyond the supply of weapons.
James Black, a military procurement expert at Rand Corporation, a US security think tank, said a deal seeing a Western power manufacture heavy arms in Ukraine would be a first because the country has little history of industrial co-operation.
He added: “The Ukrainian defence industry has been primarily focused on producing and maintaining Soviet-era or indigenous technologies, and since independence it has suffered from several decades from underinvestment, stalled reforms, corruption issues, and other challenges.”
Ukraine has made some Israeli and US small arms, such as rifles, under licence, and has adapted some of its tanks to incorporate Israeli electronics.
Francis Tusa, an independent defence expert, said any new factories would present themselves as key targets for Russian bombing raids, adding: “A tank factory isn’t small. And quite frankly, if I’m Putin it’ll be one of the first places I take out.”
Deals to make Western armour would be likely be seen as antagonistic by Moscow, but Nato allies are unlikely to be intimidated by these threats in the wake of ever more complex arms donations, he added.
“At this stage anything the West does, the Russians will say that’s provocation,” said Mr Tusa, adding that the West was likely to take the stance: “Well, tough.”
Ukraine is understood to want to build Western-designed artillery, vehicles and weapons itself under licence rather than simply buying them.
Licensing military design for local construction is common because it offers arms companies a revenue source but allows the customer country to retain jobs and build skills. Britain’s Sea King helicopters, built in Yeovil, are licence-built versions of US Sikorsky models, for example.
The move would allow Ukraine to maintain jobs for its tens of thousands of defence workers as it shifts from Russian designed armaments to Nato-standard arms.
An advisor to Ukroboronprom, Ukraine’s state-owned arms manufacturer, last week publicly said it wanted to do deals with Western companies to manufacture Nato-standard Western arms domestically. Serhii Markovskyi told Western representatives that Kyiv was seeking to strike deals to boost security in the region.
“In addition to direct participation in joint ventures and a form of cooperation with Nato industry, we can also act as an important tool for replacing the Russian and Chinese influence in countries of the Middle East, Asia and Africa,” he told defence chiefs at a seminar hosted by the Royal United Services Institute last week.
Ukrainian soldiers are being trained to use Nato equipment, including British armoured vehicles, by various armed forces.
Joint venture manufacturing would help end Kyiv’s reliance on handouts from the West. Billions of pounds of equipment have been sent to the front lines by European allies and the US, but Ukraine continues to require huge amounts of support.
The continued demands have led to concerns that the West will be unable to ramp up production sufficiently to restock its own armouries and continue to supply Ukraine.
While armourers such as France’s Nexter, BAE Systems and Rheinmetall are increasing shell production, building a new line takes two years.
In the meantime, European arms companies rely heavily on just two makers of the propellants that send the shells on their way when fired from artillery tubes.
Mr Markovskyi said: “The main challenges for the Western industry appear to be a shortage of qualified workers and engineers, dependence on China for those materials, insufficient volumes of production of explosive and special chemistry.”
Ukraine is an accomplished arms maker in its own right. During the Soviet era, it was a centre of high-spec military manufacture, with Dnipro known as “Rocket City” because of its prowess in space engineering and intercontinental ballistic missile design.
It was reported on Saturday night that Nato believes British forces are so overstretched they will not be able to take on Russia, according to a source speaking to the Mail on Sunday.
A Ministry of Defence insider backed claims in the German media that Berlin had been asked to remain in charge of its rapid reaction force as the UK was unable to spare the 5,000-strong force needed. (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
12 Feb 23. Poland dampens Zelensky’s fighter jet hopes. Poland, one of Ukraine’s closest allies, has cast doubt on whether the country will get Western fighter jets.
Poland has been one of the West’s fiercest supporters of sending weaponry to Ukraine but President Andrzej Duda told the BBC on Sunday that sending jets was a “very serious decision” and “not easy to take”.
Modern fighter jets are currently at the top of Ukraine’s priority list – President Volodymyr Zelensky used his speech in Westminster last week to appeal for them.
But Mr Duda said that Poland didn’t have enough jets to send by itself and noted that combat aircraft have high maintenance needs, which would pose a challenge. (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
10 Feb 23. Slovakia to receive MANTIS C-RAM system from Germany. Germany is donating two Modular, Automatic and Network capable Targeting and Interception System (MANTIS) counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar defence (C-RAM) systems to Slovakia, Defence Minister Boris Pistorius and General Eberhard Zorn, Inspekteur der Bundeswehr (armed forces chief), announced in a 7 February order of the day. They said the donation would permanently strengthen Slovak air defences and that training of specialists from the Eastern European country on MANTIS would begin in Germany in the “coming months”. MANTIS is based on an improved version of the Skyshield system originally developed by Oerlikon, now part of Rheinmetall, and fires 35 mm advanced hit efficiency and destruction (AHEAD) air burst munitions to intercept and destroy RAM rounds before they reach their targets. Each of the two systems delivered to the Bundeswehr at the end of 2012 consists of six 35 mm guns, two radars, a command post, a maintenance console, and an operator simulator. The system can be deployed with up to eight guns. (Source: Janes)
10 Feb 23. Ukraine has pleaded with its allies for ammunition and artillery “immediately”, warning it is running short of stocks to defend against a new Russian offensive that Kyiv fears is imminent. The demand, by deputy prime minister Olha Stefanishyna, came on a day when Moscow launched ballistic missiles against Ukraine’s infrastructure. It also followed a tour of western capitals by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that emphasised longer-term supplies of fighter jets and heavy weaponry. “What is of ultimate urgency is . . . the ammunition and the artillery that we need immediately to make sure that we can operate with the new military equipment we received,” Stefanishyna said in an interview with the Financial Times. “We do not have this amount of ammunition that we need.” Kyiv is preparing for an imminent large-scale attack by Russian troops as the Kremlin attempts to seize more territory in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine ahead of the first anniversary of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion later this month. Ukraine’s army is consuming ammunition at an unprecedented rate as it engages in punishing exchanges with Russia, prompting concerns about supplies. Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, said the Russians were doing ‘everything possible to make the war continuous, lasting and exhausting’ © Milan Kammermayer/AFP via Getty Images0 Ukraine is estimated to be firing more than 5,000 artillery rounds every day — equal to a smaller European country’s orders in an entire year in peacetime. That rate of use has put huge strain on Europe’s defence producers, compounding supply chain challenges and increasing lead times for many munitions. Stefanishyna, Zelenskyy’s top official for European integration, warned that the Russians were doing “everything possible to make the war continuous, lasting and exhausting”, adding that Moscow had the resources, ammunition and reserves to continue its campaign. EU Council president Charles Michel on Friday said the bloc needed to “co-operate with the industrial sector and to ensure that we can speed up the level of production of ammunition”. Russian strikes against Ukrainian cities and energy structure on Friday came as Moscow announced it would cut oil production in response to a price cap, the first sign it is seeking to weaponise oil supplies after slashing natural gas exports to Europe last year. During the attack, Russian forces fired 71 cruise missiles, seven Iranian-supplied Shahed attack drones and 35 S-300 missiles, normally used for air defence, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, chief of Ukraine’s general staff, said on Twitter. Ukrainian air defences shot down 61 of the cruise missiles and five of the drones, he added. One missile crossed over into Moldovan airspace. Natalia Gavrilita, Moldova’s prime minister, later resigned, a day after the country’s intelligence agency said Russia’s security services were seeking to undermine the former Soviet state. In a further sign of the mounting international tensions, Alexander Novak, Russia’s chief negotiator with the Opec+ group of oil producers, said the country was cutting production by 500,000 barrels a day in response to the “destructive energy policy of the countries of the collective west”. This represents almost 5 per cent of Russia’s production. (Source: FT.com)
10 Feb 23. Defense Official Says Allies, Partners Are Key to Defense.
Allies and partners are an integral part of the U.S. National Defense Strategy, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said today.
Speaking at a Center for a New American Security event, Celeste Wallander addressed questions about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but her main emphasis was on the importance of allies and partners and what they bring to the deterrence table. Wallander’s portfolio includes Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has often said the United States’ network of allies is the country’s main advantage over any potential challenger.
The classic example of the importance of allies is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, she said. “Each and every ally” brings capabilities to deterrence, Wallander said.
The alliance has been incredibly successful, deterring the Soviet Union until it dissolved in the 1990s. NATO was the basis for intervention in the Balkans. NATO invoked Article 5, which states that an attack on one nation of the alliance is an attack on all, only once in its history—after the 9-11 attacks on the United States.
NATO has changed and adapted to each new security era, and it’s adapting again as Russia is seeking to overset the international rules-based infrastructure that has kept peace among great powers since the end of World War II.
Each NATO ally brings capabilities to the alliance that contributes to the “credible combat power that NATO can mount and make clear to a potential adversary — most specifically Russia” — that an attack on an alliance country would be a losing proposition.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, NATO has taken action, building more battle groups in the eastern frontline states. The nations also provide the capabilities required for air policing and managing the air domain, she said. At sea, NATO allies bring different naval capabilities to the problem of maritime domain awareness that encompasses everything from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean to the North Atlantic.
“It is that broad scope of incredible combat power that comes from combined … armed forces and the jointness of our militaries, which brings something different to bear to deterrence,” she said.
While NATO represents 31 allies to the United States, there are many other allies stretching from the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific. Each ally, she said, is important to U.S. defense.
It’s not just military capabilities, but intelligence and information that allies bring, she said. The United States has worked to share intelligence and information with allies and partners, and such efforts will continue. She also said the conflict in Ukraine highlighted the need for allies to more closely bind their various defense industrial bases together to produce military capabilities more quickly and efficiently.
Wallander was asked specifically about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She said Russia’s ground capabilities “have been significantly degraded,” with tens of thousands of casualties and the probable loss of half of its main battle tanks. Officials estimate that probably 80 percent of Russia’s ground force is dedicated to the invasion.
“That said, Russia retains a defense industrial base,” Wallander said.
Russia has been producing weapon systems at a slower pace and with less technology due to sanctions, she said. “Russia has also drawn upon partnerships that it has to fill in some of the gaps, most notably Iran, acquiring UAVs to be able to strike Ukrainian targets, and Russia continues to field a pretty substantial air force,” she said. “So, it is a mixed picture.”
Russia continues to take casualties in Ukraine, but as they take these losses, “it is also learning how to adapt,” Wallander said. “It is learning tactically, operationally and somewhat strategically how to adapt, and it is drawing lessons learned. We’re seeing some of those play out in how Russia is conducting, for example, the operations right now in eastern Ukraine.” (Source: US DoD)
10 Feb 23. France doesn’t rule out fighter jets for Ukraine, but says more immediate firepower needed.
- Macron says fighter jets will take too long to deploy
- Ukraine needs quicker support, such as artillery – Macron
- Moscow says Western fighter jets would prolong conflict
- Ukrainian officials say new Russian offensive has begun
- Russian strikes hit Kharkiv, Ukrainian’s second largest city
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday he did not rule out sending fighter jets to Ukraine at some point, but that Kyiv was in need of more immediate military firepower, as Ukrainian officials said a fresh Russian offensive was underway.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has long urged Ukraine’s allies to send jet fighters and on Thursday said that several European leaders were ready to supply aircraft.
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“Europe will be with us until our victory. I’ve heard it from a number of European leaders…about the readiness to give us the necessary weapons and support, including the aircraft,” Zelenskiy told a news conference in Brussels, where he attended a European Union summit.
Such a move would be one of the biggest shifts yet in Western support and Moscow has warned it would escalate and prolong the conflict.
“I exclude absolutely nothing,” Macron said when asked about the possibility of sending jets at the end of a summit of EU leaders.
But Macron said the current priority was to help Ukraine in the weeks and months ahead, and fighter jets could not be delivered in that timeframe and it would take time to train Ukrainian pilots to fly them.
Macron said the priority should be on items such as artillery, which had proven to be effective and on which Ukrainian forces were already trained. He said it might be necessary to intensify delivery of such items and Ukraine’s allies would examine this possibility in coming days.
As the anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches on Feb. 24, Kyiv has predicted an aggressive onslaught from Moscow aimed at notching territorial gains it can trumpet at the one-year mark, after months of little movement.
Asked on Ukrainian television if he agreed that the Russian offensive had already begun, Pavlo Krylenko, governor of the eastern Donetsk region, said on Thursday: “Yes, definitely.”
Around eastern towns like Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Vuhledar that have witnessed some of the bloodiest battles of the war, “the enemy’s forces and means are escalating there with daily intensity, he said.
According to Oleg Zhdanov, a Ukrainian military analyst, defenders in Bakhmut were still being supplied from the west, but were under pressure from three sides, with Russian forces entering two northern districts of the city two days ago.
“In the Avdiivka sector, Russian troops are trying to bring in reserves in order to take control of the centre of the contested town of Marinka,” Zhdanov said in his regular roundup of developments in conflict delivered on YouTube.
He said Ukrainian forces still controlled the centre of Marinka, contrary to Russian media reports that mopping up operations were underway.
The wider Donbas area of the east, comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk, has been one of Russia’s major objectives, and the Kremlin declared them in the autumn to be among four annexed territories after referendums decried as shams by the West.
“Over the past week to 10 days, the frequency of shelling has increased. The daily number of attacks has increased,” Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai told Ukrainian Radio NV on Thursday.
He said there was a major new Russian assault around Kreminna, along a northern stretch of the eastern front, but that Moscow’s forces were “having no significant success.”
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield accounts.
KYIV EXPECTS WEAPONS, AIRCRAFT
Western countries that have provided Ukraine with arms have so far refused to send fighter jets or long-range weapons capable of striking deep inside Russia for fear of being drawn further into the conflict.
Zelenskiy began a European tour on Wednesday with a meeting in London with Britain’s Rishi Sunak and dinner in Paris with France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz.
Sunak promised to train Ukrainian pilots to fly advanced NATO fighter jets. He stopped short of offering to supply the planes, but said nothing was off the table.
Zelenskiy said that some of what he had been promised in Paris by Macron and Scholz was still secret.
MOSCOW WARNS WEST AGAINST ESCALATION
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would be Ukrainians who suffered if Britain or other Western countries supplied fighter jets to Kyiv, and that the line between indirect and direct Western involvement in the war was disappearing.
Russian forces have been advancing recently for the first time in half a year, fortified with tens of thousands of freshly mobilised recruits, in relentless winter battles that both sides describe as some of the bloodiest of the war.
At least 17 Russian missiles hit the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia in an hour on Friday morning, its acting mayor, Anatolii Kurtiev, said. The attacks targeted energy infrastructure, he said on the Telegram messaging app, adding that information was being collected on damage and casualties.
Russian forces also launched a series of overnight strikes that knocked out power supplies in parts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, local officials said on Friday. There was no word on casualties.
“The occupiers hit critical infrastructure. There were about 10 explosions,” Kharkiv governor Oleh Synehubov said on Telegram. “In some regions, there are power cuts. Emergency services are on site.”
Russia launched the war it calls a “special military operation” to combat what it describes as a security threat from Ukraine’s ties to the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia’s invasion is an unprovoked land grab. (Source: Reuters)
09 Feb 23. Georgia Scheduled For More U.S. Military Assistance.
In January, the Defense Department notified Congress of its intent to fund $33m in security assistance for Georgia.
“Today, I’m pleased to announce that we’ve approved Georgia for the risk-assessed payment schedule so Georgia will be able to request and acquire vital military capabilities more easily,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, who hosted a visit by Georgian Defense Minister Juansher Burchuladze at the Pentagon today.
“This announcement reflects the value that we place on our bilateral defense relationship and our partnership,” Austin added.
For three decades, the United States supported Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Austin noted.
“Georgia deepened its ties to the West and supported its path to Euro-Atlantic integration. And over that time, Georgia has made significant contributions to global security,” Austin said.
Georgian military units have served and sacrificed alongside U.S. and NATO forces in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
“Georgia was the largest per capita troop contributor to the NATO mission in Afghanistan,” Austin noted.
“We deeply appreciate Georgia’s outsized effect on security and stability in the South Caucasus and around the world and our security partnership continues to deepen,” he said.
Georgia is part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which met at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 20
“Georgia’s participation in the contact group helps us all strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself and to bolster the rules-based international border that keeps us all secure. And that’s crucial as Ukraine continues to fight bravely against Russia’s unprovoked and unjust invasion,” Austin said.
In October 2021, Austin and Burchuladze met in Georgia, where the secretary announced the Georgia Defense and Deterrence Enhancement Initiative.
“This is a new bilateral program to make important reforms in the Georgian military, Georgian ministry of defense and armed forces and to strengthen their territorial defense and resilience capacity,” Austin said.
Burchuladze said Georgia values its strategic partnership with the U.S., “which is essential for Georgia’s defense and peaceful and stable development. We treasure our partnership, our shared beliefs, values and interests, which we have been defending together over the past three decades.”
Georgia defense forces proudly serve alongside U.S. and allied troops in the most dangerous spots, he said.
Burchuladze mentioned that Russia not only invaded Ukraine; it earlier invaded Georgia.
The Russo-Georgian War took place in August 2008 in the Georgian areas of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. (Source: US DoD)
09 Feb 23. Wagner Group leader stops recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine. A notorious Russian paramilitary leader has claimed his group will no longer recruit prisoners to fight in Ukraine, bringing to an end one of the most brutal episodes in President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former restaurateur known as “Putin’s chef” who admitted to founding the Wagner Group last year, said in a statement published by his catering company on Thursday that its controversial prisoner recruitment programme would end. Prigozhin offered little explanation of why Wagner had chosen to halt recruitment and make the decision public. But the move followed institutional pushback against the group from other parts of the Russian security services. “The army has to do something about Prigozhin eventually,” a former senior official said. “It’ll end badly for him. The points he scored are all about to expire, and nobody likes him.” Wagner has taken an increasingly prominent role on the war’s bloodiest battlefields, helping Russia’s sputtering campaign secure a rare gain last month with the capture of Soledar, a town in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The US, which has also charged Prigozhin with interfering in the 2016 presidential election, declared Wagner a “significant transnational criminal organisation” last month in an attempted crack down on its efforts in Ukraine and other conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. Wagner’s forces in Ukraine are largely made up of convicts who are thrown into battle with little to no training or equipment and have sustained extremely high casualty rates, western and Ukrainian officials have said. “Wagner’s just sending people out sometimes without even any weapons. It’s like the Red Army in the second world war,” a western official said. “They all get killed, then the regular forces come in and mop up.” The group’s emergence after years of secrecy led Prigozhin to publicly clash with the Russian army’s leadership, which he accused of incompetence, corruption and unfairly trying to claim credit for what he said was Wagner’s success in Soledar. Prigozhin’s willingness to criticise the army — a taboo in a country where wartime dissent is tightly policed — and growing profile in state media had made him the leading advocate for an ultranationalist faction of Russian hardliners. Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the apparent end to the prison recruitment drive suggested Russia’s military leaders had regained the upper hand. This followed a command reshuffle in January that put Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s general staff, in charge of the invasion. (Source: FT.com)
07 Feb 23. Netherlands to purchase Leopard 1 tanks for Ukraine.
Together with Denmark and Germany, the Netherlands will supply at least 100 Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks to Ukraine. This trio of countries will also supply spare parts and ammunition. The Netherlands Ministry of Defence also wishes to provide instructors in order to contribute to training. This is what Minister of Defence Kajsa Ollongren and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra wrote to the House of Representatives today.
Together with Germany and Denmark, the Netherlands will purchase the Leopard 1A5s directly from German industry. The tanks are refurbished ones that were in storage. The Leopard 1A5 is a modernised version of the Leopard 1A1 and the predecessor of the Leopard 2.
According to Minister Ollongren, the war in Ukraine is in a crucial phase. She expects the fighting to intensify in the coming months. Russia is continuing its mobilisation and there are signs that it is preparing a new offensive. The minister therefore believes that supplying main battle tanks is of importance in maintaining Ukraine’s staying power and improving its position on the battlefield. As the minister stated, it is ultimately about ensuring Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign state.
The ministries of defence of Germany and the Netherlands have for some time been exploring with German industry the options that are available for supplying tanks to Ukraine. Because they are made in Germany, Germany must grant users permission if they wish to send their Leopards of this type to Ukraine. This permission was recently granted. The number of tanks that will be supplied in addition to the 100 depends on the refurbishment of the tanks in stock in German industry.
The provision of Leopard 1A5s is separate from the initiative to make the modern Leopard 2A6 available to Ukraine. Discussions on this matter are still ongoing. The defence ministers of the countries that are supporting Ukraine militarily will meet again in Brussels on 14 February prior to the meeting of NATO defence ministers. The Leopard 2 matter will then be further discussed. (Source: ASD Network)
08 Feb 23. Russia-Ukraine lessons to boost US electronic warfare, Sen. Reed says. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to reimagine how the U.S. military fights, including across the electromagnetic spectrum, and is looking to Ukraine for clues.
“We are in a tremendously dynamic situation, where technology is changing rapidly, techniques are changing rapidly,” Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, said Feb. 7 at a Defense Writers Group event. “We are truly multidimensional.”
The recent, notable shifts, Reed said, include the Department of Defense’s growing emphasis on space and its investment in electronic warfare, which can be employed to find and fool adversaries and, on the flip side, fend off foreign attempts to do the same.
“How do we operate? All of that has to be reimagined and integrated,” he said. “And the experience in Ukraine is giving us insights for this transformation.”
Electronic warfare is a fight for control of the spectrum, which is used for communications, weapons guidance and situational awareness. While the invisible struggle lacks the spectacle of tanks tearing through town or bombs busting bunkers, the techniques are critical, U.S. military and industry leaders say, as battlefields teem with high-tech, software-first systems.
In the Russia-Ukraine war, now approaching the one-year mark, forces are jumbling communications, jamming GPS signals and more. At least one Ukranian defense official has described the embattled Eastern European country as a “testing ground.”
The U.S. is taking note, according to Reed, who advocated during the Tuesday event for “equipment that is capable of operating effectively” while remaining “ahead of the competition.” The contest for spectrum dominance in a conflict involving the U.S., China or Russia is expected to be intense.
“I think the most adaptable is the field of electronic warfare,” Reed said. “And the innovation that they’re seeing taking place, some of it spontaneously, on the part of the Ukrainians — just doing some ingenious things, because desperate times require desperate need. They’re doing it.”
The U.S. Army, specifically, is trying to reinvigorate its electronic warfare armory after decades of decay. The service in 2022 awarded multimillion-dollar contracts to Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics Missions Systems for what is known as the Terrestrial Layer System, which will provide soldiers a bloc of electronic warfare, cyber and signals intelligence capabilities. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
08 Feb 23. Sunak remarks at the press conference with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine: 8 February 2023. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s remarks at the press conference in Dorset alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Volodymyr, it’s a privilege to stand here with you today, and to have you here in the United Kingdom.
The path from Ukraine to the UK has been well trodden over the past six months, with 10,000 of your soldiers making the journey for military training, and more arriving every week.
And just a few days ago, dozens arrived to learn how to operate our Challenger 2 tanks.
I am told they are already mastering the art of driving these sophisticated 62-ton weapons, which will soon be making a difference on the battlefields of your country.
All over the UK, Ukrainian men and women are learning how to command and control NATO-standard weapons, whether that is in drone warfare, tank operations or basic training. Their dedication, courage and determination is a credit to you and your country.
Volodymyr, now your visit here today underlines our two countries’ close and enduring friendship – we will always be by your side, our staunch and unwavering friends.
We both know the people of Ukraine’s incredible strength and inspiring bravery will ultimately defeat tyranny. That is why we are training and arming them with the equipment they need to push back Russian forces.
And as I said to you earlier today, we are also accelerating the delivery of our equipment, and the equipment of our allies, to ensure it reaches your frontline in the coming days and weeks, not months or years.
The Ukrainian crews who arrived last week will be using Challenger 2 tanks to defend Ukraine’s sovereign territory next month.
And I am pleased that today we have agreed that we will expand our training programme – a programme that has trained 10,000 troops in the last six months alone – to your marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring the Armed Forces of Ukraine are able to defend their country for generations to come.
We must arm Ukraine in the short term, but we must bolster Ukraine for the long term. Your country cannot be left vulnerable to attack ever again.
Today we have signed the London Declaration, further deepening our cooperation, and in the coming days, we mark a year since the needless and unprovoked invasion, and Russia will see – more than ever – that their tactics are only solidifying western resolve. Only convincing us to go further, and faster, to help you, Volodymyr. And we will.
After all, you told me last week that collective, international unity is your greatest weapon, and you can be sure that we will deliver on that, not just now, but long into the future. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
08 Feb 23. SpaceX’s Shotwell says Ukraine ‘weaponized’ Starlink network.
The president of SpaceX said today that the Ukraine military’s use of the Starlink broadband system for tactical communications has moved beyond the scope of company’s intention in providing the service.
“It was never intended to be weaponized,” Gwynne Shotwell said Feb. 8 at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, DC. “The Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement.”
Shotwell did not go into detail about how Ukraine has weaponized Starlink in its war with Russia, though Ukraine’s use of the satellite internet capability for battlefield connectivity and coordinating strikes has been widely reported.
“You offer a commercial product by connectivity to people, which is helpful in conflict. But you also want to be careful of how they use it,” she said. “They’re trying to fight for their country, so I understand it. . . . it’s just not what was intended.
There are more than 23,000 Starlink ground stations operating in Ukraine today, allowing the country to connect with the constellation of more than 3,200 communication satellites. In October, SpaceX owner Elon Musk indicated the company would no longer fund Ukraine’s use of Starlink. He later reversed course and is in discussion with the U.S. Department of Defense about future funding for the effort.
SpaceX announced in December it would create a new national security-focused business unit called Starshield designed to build on its launch and satellite communications offerings and introduce new capabilities like Earth observation.
Shotwell noted that while Starlink satellites could face threats on orbit — whether from U.S. adversaries or space debris — the constellation’s size offers some level of resiliency.
“I think numbers are very important,” she said. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
08 Feb 23. PM extends Ukraine military training to pilots and marines as President Zelenskyy makes first visit to the UK since Russian invasion.
President Zelenskyy arrives in the UK today to meet the Prime Minister and visit Ukrainian troops.
- President Zelenskyy arrives in the UK today to meet the Prime Minister and visit Ukrainian troops.
- Comes as the Prime Minister announces plans to expand training for the Armed Forces of Ukraine to sea and air, including fighter jet pilots and marines, as part of long-term investment in their military.
- UK also accelerates military equipment to Ukraine in a bid to give Ukrainian forces the upper hand on the battlefield and limit Russia’s ability to target civilian infrastructure.
President Zelenskyy will visit the UK today to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and address parliament as the UK steps up its delivery of lethal aid into the country, and prepares to train fighter jet pilots and marines. The leaders will discuss a two-pronged approach to UK support for Ukraine, starting with an immediate surge of military equipment to the country to help counter Russia’s spring offensive, and reinforced by long-term support.
The Prime Minister will also offer the UK’s backing to President Zelenskyy’s plans to work towards a just and lasting peace for Ukraine.
As part of today’s talks, the Prime Minister will offer to bolster the UK’s training offer for Ukrainian troops, including expanding it to fighter jet pilots to ensure Ukraine can defend its skies well into the future.
The training will ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future. As part of that long-term capability investment, the UK will work with Ukraine and international allies to coordinate collective support to meet Ukraine’s defensive needs.
He will also offer to begin an immediate training programme for marines.
That training will be in addition to the recruit training programme already running in the UK, which has seen 10,000 Ukrainian troops brought to battle readiness in the last six months, and which will upskill a further 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers this year. The UK will continue to work with the Ukrainian Armed Forces and international community to scale the programme up in 2023.
Just last week, Ukrainian troops arrived in the UK to learn how to command Challenger 2 tanks, following the Prime Minister’s decision to send the main battle tanks to Ukraine.
The Prime Minister will also offer to provide Ukraine with longer range capabilities. This will disrupt Russia’s ability to continually target Ukraine’s civilian and critical national infrastructure and help relieve pressure on Ukraine’s frontlines.
The President and his team will also meet defence and security chiefs, including the Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of the Air Staff, to discuss the details of the training programme.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “President Zelenskyy’s visit to the UK is a testament to his country’s courage, determination and fight, and a testament to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries. Since 2014, the UK has provided vital training to Ukrainian forces, allowing them to defend their country, protect their sovereignty and fight for their territory. I am proud that today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future. It also underlines our commitment to not just provide military equipment for the short term, but a long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come.”
The UK will also announce further sanctions today in response to Russia’s continued bombardment of Ukraine, including the targeting of those who have helped Putin build his personal wealth, and companies who are profiting from the Kremlin’s war machine. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
07 Feb 23. Berlin announced on Tuesday that Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark would supply Ukraine with up to 178 older-generation Leopard 1 tanks to help Kyiv defend itself against Russian aggression. The plan to deliver more tanks than expected came as Germany’s defence minister Boris Pistorius made a surprise visit to Ukraine, where he met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude but urged Germany and other western partners to speed up supplies as his country faces the threat of a big Russian offensive. “The recent decisions on the tank coalition and the initiative from our European friends . . . can really give us . . . parity on the battlefield,” Zelenskyy said. “It is necessary to understand that it depends on time, on the quantity and modernity of the tank coalition’s equipment.” Asked during an interview with Bild in Kyiv whether the world would be a better place without Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, Pistorius responded: “I think so, it can be said without hesitation or compromise, yes.” “I can confirm the commitment of Germany that our 14 Leopard 2A6 [tanks] will be delivered by the end of March,” Pistorius told Bild. Germany’s economy ministry on Tuesday said it had issued licences to the country’s arms companies for up to 178 Leopard 1 tanks to be exported to Ukraine. These tanks, which were decommissioned by the German military two decades ago, will need to be modernised. The number of vehicles would depend on how many Leopard 1 tanks could be repaired, with an aim to deliver a minimum of 100 tanks, according to a joint statement by German, Dutch and Danish authorities. Further partners were welcome to join the initiative, it added, with Belgium having also shown “initial interest to participate” in the scheme. Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov said the agreement envisions “20-25 of these tanks by the summer, about 80 by the end of the year, and more than 100 Leopard 1 tanks by 2024.” Der Spiegel reported that German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall would participate in the scheme, saying it had secured an option for 88 Leopard 1 tanks it had in storage and would start work on making them battle ready. Rheinmetall did not respond to a request for comment. Recommended War in Ukraine Ammunition supply chain crisis: Ukraine war tests Europe in race to rearm Tuesday’s announcement follows Berlin’s decision to send 14 of the more advanced Leopard 2 model, which is faster and has more powerful cannons, after weeks of pressure from Nato allies. That decision marked a notable policy shift because Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz had long hesitated to provide the country with heavy armour, fearing that it would increase the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and Nato. Ukraine has for months pleaded for its western backers to provide hundreds of modern main battle tanks and other Nato-grade weaponry as its forces swiftly deplete their stockpile of Soviet-era weapons. Andriy Zagorodnyuk, a former Ukraine defence minister and current government adviser on security, said securing more tanks “as soon as we can” remained critical. (Source: FT.com)
07 Feb 23. Russian reinforcements pour into eastern Ukraine, says governor.
- Russian reinforcements moving into eastern Luhansk
- New Russian offensive possible in 10 days, says governor
- British intel says Russia does not have forces for offensive
- Zelenskiy vows to bolster frontline with personnel changes
- Defence minister would be highest government change during war
Russia was pouring reinforcements into eastern Ukraine ahead of a possible new offensive, said a Ukrainian governor, but British intelligence said on Tuesday it was unlikely that Russia would have enough forces to significantly affect the war within weeks.
Desperate for Western military aid to arrive, Ukraine anticipates a major offensive could be launched by Russia for “symbolic” reasons around the Feb. 24 anniversary of the invasion, which Moscow persists in calling “a special military operation”.
Ukraine is itself planning a spring offensive to recapture lost territory, but it is awaiting delivery of promised longer-range Western missiles and battle tanks, and some analysts say the country was months away from being ready.
“We are seeing more and more (Russian) reserves being deployed in our direction, we are seeing more equipment being brought in…,” said Serhiy Haidai, Ukraine’s governor of the mainly Russian-occupied Luhansk province.
“They bring ammunition that is used differently than before – it is not round-the-clock shelling anymore. They are slowly starting to save, getting ready for a full-scale offensive,” Haidai told Ukrainian television.
“It will most likely take them 10 days to gather reserves. After Feb. 15 we can expect (this offensive) at any time.”
The war is reaching a pivotal point as its first anniversary approaches, with Ukraine no longer making gains as it did in the second half of 2022 and Russia pushing forward with hundreds of thousands of mobilised reserve troops.
Britain’s Defence Intelligence said in its daily report that Russia’s military has likely attempted since early January to restart major offensive operations aimed at capturing Ukraine-held parts of Donetsk.
However, Russian forces have gained little territory as they “lack munitions and manoeuvre units required for a successful offensive”, it said.
“Russian leaders will likely continue to demand sweeping advances. It remains unlikely that Russia can buiild up the forces needed to substantially affect the outcome of the war within the coming weeks.”
In his Monday evening address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said personnel changes on the border and frontline will bolster Ukraine’s military efforts amid uncertainty over the future of his defence minister, just as Russia advances in the east for the first time in six months.
Zelenskiy said he wanted to combine military and managerial experience in local and central government but did not directly address confusion about whether his defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, would be replaced.
On Sunday, David Arakhamia, head of Zelenskiy’s parliamentary bloc, said Reznikov would be transferred to another ministerial job, but on Monday he wrote that “there will be no personnel changes in the defence sector this week.”
Zelenskiy says he needs to show that Ukraine was a safe steward of billions of dollars of Western military and other aid, and his government is engaged in the biggest political and administrative shake-up since Russia’s invasion nearly a year ago.
“In a number of regions, particularly those on the border or on the front line, we will appoint leaders with military experience. Those who can show themselves to be the most effective in defending against existing threats,” he said.
The European Union said Zelenskiy has been invited to take part in a summit of EU leaders, amid reports he could be in Brussels as soon as this week, in what would be only his second known foreign trip since the invasion began.
Zelenskiy’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
NEW RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE
Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Ukrainska Pravda on the weekend that intelligence suggested any new Russian offensive would likely come from the east or south.
“Their dream is to expand the land corridor to Crimea in order to continue supplies. Therefore, of course, the key risks are: the east, the south, and after that the north,” he said.
Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.
Ukrainian defence analyst Oleksandr Kovalenko said a new Russian offensive could come from one of four directions; the eastern Luhansk region, the Donetsk region, the Zaporizhzhia region and the city and port of Mariupol.
“Things are more serious in Donetsk region, particularly around Bakhmut and Avdiivka. And the Russians will be boosting their contingents there as well as equipment and paratroops,” Kovalenko, from the “Information Resistance group” think tanks, told Ukrainian radio NV.
For months Russia’s main target in eastern Ukraine has been Bakhmut, where its state media said the Wagner mercenary group had gained a foothold. Ukraine said on Monday evening that Russian forces had trained tank, mortar and artillery fire there in the past 24 hours.
Kovalenko said Mariupol, captured by Russian forces last May, could be used by the Russians to bring in troops and equipment for a new offensive.
“It could serve as a transport hub for the Russian occupation forces,” he said.
Kovalenko said Ukraine’s counter-offensive would not happen any time soon and Ukrainian forces would be assuming a defensive position, particularly in Donetsk.
“It may be an active defence, but a defensive position nonetheless. The idea will remain to block any Russian advance,” he said.
“Things could change more quickly in other sectors. But this situation could go on for two to two-and-a-half months – that is the time required for providing the tanks for brigades, training and getting everything outfitted.” (Source: Reuters)
06 Feb 23. Ukrainian troops arrive in UK to ‘get to grips’ with AS90 artillery guns. Ukrainian military personnel have arrived in the UK to begin training on how to use AS90 self-propelled artillery guns, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has said.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced last month about 30 AS90 howitzers will be sent to Ukraine to help the country defend against Russia’s invasion.
Ukrainian troops arrived over weekend to “get to grips” with the armoured self-propelled artillery weapon,
The AS90 entered service with the British Army in the 1990s.
It equips three field regiments of the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Artillery.
It is fitted with a 155mm, 39-calibre gun barrel and according to the Army, in trials, two AS-90 guns were able to deliver a total payload of 261kg onto a single target in less than 10 seconds.
During a statement to Parliament, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that the AS90 weapons are part of a military aid package that will allow Ukrainians to “go from resisting to expelling Russian forces from Ukrainian soil”.
Mr Wallace also added that AS90s will come from British stocks, along with their associated ammunition.
It comes as Mr Sunak has said that he is focused on ensuring the UK’s defensive military equipment reaches the front line of Ukraine as quickly as possible to help seize the opportunity to push back Russian forces.
In a phone call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday, both leaders agreed that it was important that international partners accelerated their assistance to Ukraine.
Also, as part of the UK’s military aid package, the UK has committed to sending a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks.
Fourteen Challenger 2s are “intended” to arrive in Ukraine “at end of March”, according to defence minister Alex Chalk.
Ukrainian troops arrived in the UK for Challenger 2 training at the end of last month. (Source: forces.net)
06 Feb 23. German Patriots in Poland reach IOC. Luftwaffe Patriot air-defence systems deployed to Poland have reached an initial operational capability (IOC), a German Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson told Janes on 4 February. Three Patriot firing units with around 350 military personnel had been deployed close to Zamość near the Polish-Ukrainian border, the spokesperson added.
The Luftwaffe announced the deployment to Poland of two of the three assigned Patriot squadrons of Flugabwehrraketengeschwader (Surface-to-Air Missile Wing) 1 based in Bad Sülze, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, on 23 January. Each squadron consists of a fire-control station, multifunctional radar, power supply vehicle, radio relay station, radio mask station, resupply vehicle, and launch vehicles.
The MoD spokesperson told Janes, “The Patriots will defend Polish airspace and reinforce the integrated NATO air defence on the eastern flank as a contribution to NATO enhanced Vigilance Activities (eVA).” (Source: Janes)
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