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Ukraine Conflict Update – 25 April
Military and hard security developments – April 22
- Offensive Russian operations have continued in the Donbas, but as in previous days progress has remained limited as Russian forces seemingly remain focused on probing attacks setting the ground for a larger offensive in the coming days. In a notable development, however, Russian forces struck near a bridge over the Dnieper in the city of Zaporizhzhia, the first time a bridge over the river has been targeted. This likely underlines mounting efforts by Russian forces to undermine Ukraine’s ability to reinforce the Donbas, which together with continued strikes against transport, fuel and food and water depots will place additional strain on Ukrainian supply lines in the coming weeks. In this regard, explosions were reported overnight in Kropyvnytskyi, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia and Novomoskovsk in Dnipropetrovsk oblast.
- On 22 April, President Zelensky stated that Mariupol “continues to resist,” despite President Putin declaring that Mariupol has been “liberated” and ordering for the Azovstal works to be sealed off. However, with basic supplies there quickly dwindling, it is unclear for how long the remaining resisting forces and civilians will be able to hold out. Meanwhile, the latest satellite images by Maxar Technologies have shown photos of mass graves near Mariupol, with local Ukrainian officials accusing the Russians of burying thousands of Ukrainian civilians to cover up the atrocities. Moscow has previously denied it was responsible for the atrocities in Bucha after Russian troops withdrew from Kyiv, with other such discoveries in other parts of Ukraine only set to derail any prospects of negotiations between the two sides. However, the scale of loss may never be precisely estimated in the occupied areas. Nevertheless, the blockade of Mariupol will likely allow Russia to move its forces elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, as Putin seeks to declare more “victories” ahead of 9 May Victory Day.
Diplomatic and strategic developments
- The US has announced a new USD 800 million military aid package for Ukraine. The new package comprises of 72 155mm howitzers and vehicles to tow them, plus 1400,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, enough to outfit five battalions. 120 unmanned Phoenix Ghost UAVs will also be transferred, with Ukraine expected to take delivery of the package by the weekend. The US has announced that it will train some Ukrainians on the use of the artillery systems “outside the country”. In addition, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on 21 April that dozens of Ukrainian soldiers are currently training in the UK to be able to use the 120 armoured vehicles pledged to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The UK is also training Ukrainians on the use of the Starstreak air defence systems in Poland. These announcements underline increasing Western involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, if still indirectly, which will likely only increase the risk of Russian interdictions of weapons supplies in Western Ukraine.
- As of 21 April, pro-Russian politicians of the banned Opposition Platform – For Life (OPZZh) have reportedly established a new parliamentary party in the Ukrainian Rada, named Platform for Life and Peace. The new political party comprises 25 deputies from OPZZh and will be led by Yuriy Boyko, who was previously the co-Chairman of OPZZh. While the new party is likely to be banned once again by the government due to its clear links to Russia, the “rebrand” nevertheless underlines continued efforts by pro-Russian politicians to remain active in Ukrainian politics. The timing of the move is notable as Ukrainian intelligence indicates a referendum is planned in Kherson oblast for 1 May, which the new political party may well play a role in a bid to lend it a shred of legitimacy.
- According to an independent Russian media report, since the start of the invasion, at least five Russian military enlistment offices have been targeted in an arson attack. According to the reports, local residents in these places have reportedly deployed the use of Molotov cocktails, causing damage to military enlistment offices in a bid to disrupt the recruitment campaign and demonstrate opposition to the war. Whilst notable, in line with out previous assessment, such incidents – as well as the wider acts of protest – are still isolated in Russia, and the likelihood of a major uprising breaking out in the short term is still unlikely.
- On 22 April, the British government announced that they are reopening their embassy in Kyiv next week. The United Kingdom will become the first country to reopen their embassy in Kyiv since all diplomatic staff left the capital city due to the Russian invasion. The announcement by the United Kingdom came only a day after the Dutch Foreign Ministry announced that they are reopening their embassies in Lviv, with other Western countries are expected to follow suit.
Economic/business environment developments
- On 21 April the Russian Federal Customs Service (FTS) announced they have classified import and export data to avoid “misinterpretations” of the data. The move follows similar decisions earlier this month by the Central Bank and Energy Ministry to limit access to various datasets on economic standards. The decisions are clearly designed to mitigate criticism and obfuscate the impact of Western sanctions on the Russian economy, with a substantial drop in imports and exports anticipated due to the war. The absence of official statistics will make it harder to ascertain the state of the Russian economy, though the Kremlin’s economic adviser Maxim Oreshkin had already stated that he anticipated a double-digit drop in exports for March. In addition, the US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo stated today that Western sanctions had led to more than 50% drop in high-tech imports, impacting the country’s manufacturing and IT sectors in particular, as well as the defence sector.
- On 22 April, the mayor of Mariupol made an appeal for the full evacuation of the 100,000 civilians still stuck in Mariupol while Deputy Prime Minister Vereshchuk announced that Ukrainian services are not attempting to establish a humanitarian corridor today. Most evacuation talks and efforts over the past 5 days have failed, with only a few dozen civilians being able to flee the besieged city on 21 and 20 April.
- Considering the withdrawal of Russian troops from around Kyiv, the security situation in and around the capital has moderately improved as of 22 April. The H01/P01 and the E40 are the most viable routes from Kyiv. The E40 and the E373 highways were declared ‘open’ for traffic by Ukrainian authorities and are now relatively safe, however, they remain heavily damaged and road-clearing processes continue which may cause some delays. The threat of air attacks remains high, therefore, safety cannot be guaranteed on any westbound evacuation routes. The threat posed by mines and unexploded ordnance also remains high across Kyiv oblast. We note that this advisory is supported by a warning from Kyiv Region Military Administration on 12 April stating that de-occupied towns and settlements adjacent to Kyiv should not be re-settled by civilian populations due to high quantities of mines and unexploded ordnance.
- Between Dnipro and Kyiv, we recommend the westbound H08 along the river until Kremenchuk and then the E50 through Oleksandriya and Uman to the E95 and the H01 to Kyiv. This route is currently the safest to Dnipro but takes approximately 90 minutes longer than alternative routes. We would advise that due to missile strikes earlier today on a railway station at Piatykhatky in Dnipropetrovsk oblast, the H08 northbound to Kremenchuk should be chosen over the E50 between Dnipro and Oleksandriya.
- Between Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia, there are two main road routes: the H08 and E105. Due to RU military targeting civilian and military aviation infrastructure with missile strikes, we believe there is substantial risk associated with all road routes into Zaporizhzhia, as the H08 is in close proximity to Shyroke Airfield just north-west of Zaporizhzhia, and the E105 passes through Zaporizhzhia International Airport and then Vilniansk Airfield. As such, we assess that all approaches into Zaporizhzhia face elevated risk from air/missile strikes at present.
After announcing yesterday that Mariupol has been “liberated”, the deputy commander of Russia’s Central Military District Rustam Minnekayev stated today that the second phase of the war in Ukraine aims to establish not only full control over the Donbas, but control over southern Ukraine. The aim, according to Minnekayev, is to establish a land bridge to Crimea and the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria in the west, where he alleged oppression of Russian speakers remained ongoing. Notably, however, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to answer questions for clarification on this today, meaning it remains unclear whether these are official war goals of the second phase of the operation. They do, however, remain highly credible and concur with our own assessment of potential “phase three” operational objectives – namely the conquest of Novorossiya.
With the majority of Kherson oblast already under occupation, a de facto land corridor has already been established to Crimea. Meanwhile, the forming of a bridge to Transnistria represents a much more ambitious and militarily complex objective, and would require the taking of Mykolaiv in the first instance, and then ultimately Odesa if such a land bridge is to be sustainable over the longer term. Odesa remains a major prize for Russian forces that would completely deprive Ukraine of access to the Black Sea. However, its taking would require a concerted effort to push west and thus would only take place if the offensive in the Donbas was successful, with a substantial portion of Ukraine’s regular forces likely needed to have been destroyed in the process. At present, Russian combat power remains relatively limited in the west around Kherson, meaning an attack on Mykolaiv remains unlikely in the short term for as long as Russian attention remains focused on the Donbas. Nevertheless, if the offensive in Donbas succeeds in the coming weeks, a substantial redeployment of forces westwards to Kherson oblast will indicate likely intentions to expand the scope of the war once again. The fall of Mykolaiv would be the most significant trigger for operations further west, which would increase the likelihood of Russian forces stationed in Transnistria being sent across the border to apply pressure on Ukrainian forces from the west. This would place Odesa under renewed pressure thereafter. Given that Russia’s amphibious capabilities have been significantly degraded since the start of the war, the primary threat to the city will likely emanate from ground operations to the east if and when Mykolaiv falls to Russian forces. Ultimately, if the conquest of Novorossiya is in the fact the objective of the next phase of the war, the conflict is likely to protract for many more months, requiring Russia to double down on its military commitment to Ukraine that will likely transition into a battle of attrition as much as a war of rapid manoeuvre.
Military and hard security developments – April 21
- Offensive Russian operations have continued in the Donbas, but little progress has been made thus far. Operations are still largely confined to probing attacks followed by artillery bombardments, though the Russians are making ground in certain areas, namely in the south between Huliapole and Velyka Novosila in Zaporizhzhia oblast. Over the next 24-48 hours, Russian forces will likely continue focusing on probing the Ukrainian defences across the east to look for vulnerabilities to exploit. Russian combat power nevertheless continues to build as more BTGs are redeployed in the east, which will likely be committed in the coming days to support successful attacks as they materialise.
- In a televised address on 21 April, President Vladimir Putin declared Mariupol “liberated”, though the Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu has stated that 2,000 Ukrainian defenders remain holed up in the contested Azovstal works. Putin has subsequently ordered Shoigu to suspend operations to storm the works, ordering the area be sealed off instead. As such, it remains unclear how long Ukrainian defenders will hold out following numerous ultimata to surrender were ignored, despite dwindling supplies and the presence of injured and civilians in the works. Ukraine has proposed unconditional talks with Russian negotiators in the city itself, but it remains to be seen whether this will be accepted or go anywhere – it remains unlikely. Ultimately, however, Putin has now claimed Russian forces have successfully taken the largest city so far in the invasion, a major milestone ahead of the 9 May Victory Day.
- The German newspaper Bild reported on 21 April that the Chancellor Olaf Scholz has blocked the transfer of heavy weapons to Ukraine. The newspaper reportedly received a list of weapons due to be sent to Ukraine, which had removed almost all heavy systems that had been requested by Kyiv, including Leopard-1 tanks, artillery, and Puma, Boxer and Marder armoured vehicles. While defensive weaponry and smaller systems remain on the list, the report suggests that a decision to block heavy weapons has been made up until now, though this has not been confirmed by the Chancellery. Nevertheless, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is currently on tour in the Baltics, where she stated on 21 April that efforts to examine maintenance, ammunition and training requirements for various German weapons systems remains ongoing, and that there is no “taboo” against sending heavier systems to Ukraine. Ultimately, Berlin has clearly yet to make a final decision on the issue, despite mounting pressure.
- The Ukrainian parliament has officially extended nationwide martial law for another month, which is now up for renewal on 25 May
Diplomatic and strategic developments
- The Russian Ministry of Defence confirmed on 20 April that it had successfully fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile during a test in Arkhangelsk. Vladimir Putin appeared on national television to comment on the launch of the Sarmat missile, stating that it would make Russia’s opponents “think again”, in a clear warning to NATO. The timing of the launch will likely refocus many minds on the threat of nuclear escalation, with Russia in particular likely to double down on nuclear posturing and threats if the ongoing offensive in the Donbas stalls.
- According to Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde, Sweden plans to speed up talks for a potential NATO membership application. According to Linde, the debate, which was initially expected to conclude by the end of May, is now likely to be finalised by 13 May, with Linde clarifying that because the momentum to join the alliance is stronger in Finland, “there is strong pressure on Sweden to finalise its analysis.” The development is on trend with our previous forecasts and also underlines the fact that the invasion of Ukraine has served as a strong catalyst for other nations to actively seek to join the alliance, precisely because of enduring Russian threats against further NATO expansion. With the latest opinion polling data in Sweden already showing that support for the membership in the alliance is on the rise, with 57% of respondents backing it, the longer the war in Ukraine continues, the more likely it is that this figure will increase still further. Nevertheless, a retaliation from Russia in the coming months remains likely, particularly in the cyber realm, but also in the form of aerial incursions and naval drills in the Baltic in a bid to dissuade such change in security policy.
- According to the Ukrainian intelligence services, Russian administrators of Kherson oblast are planning on holding a referendum on or around 1 May. The reports come after earlier intelligence indicated Russian plans for a referendum to declare a People’s Republic of Kherson in a similar vein to those in Luhansk, Donetsk and Crimea. The referendum will reportedly be followed by the establishment of a new pro-Russian administration, with efforts to forcibly mobilise adult men in the region to assist in the “liberation” of the oblast. However, resistance to the Russian occupation continues to mount, with a pro-Russian blogger killed in Kherson city after he had applied for a local government position under the Russian administration. With posters also appearing across the city declaring resistance, the referendum will likely be heavily resisted by the local population, though the official results of any vote will be clearly in favour of independence from Ukraine regardless.
- Russian forces have continued offensive operations, although they have made little progress overall. Attacking on multiple axes against well-prepared Ukrainian forces is causing increasing casualties, although claimed losses of Russian equipment remain low for the size of the engagement area. This means that this is still largely an artillery battle, for now, with Russian forces generally seeking to find Ukrainian forces through making contact before calling in support from guns, rockets, helicopters, and fixed-wing air support. However, the coordination of this remains comparatively slow, limiting its effectiveness, and the weather continues to hamper both fire support and ground movement.
- The Russian aim remains to create opportunities to break through and isolate Ukrainian forces, particularly in the main defended areas of Kramatorsk, Severodonetsk and Slovyansk. This is supported by pressure on previous key engagement areas, including: Rubizhne and Popasna in the east of the Ukrainian-held area; around Kremmina and Izyum from the north; against Niu York and Adviivka, outside Donetsk city, in the south; and along the line from Zaporizhzhia to Donetsk.
- Separate holding attacks have also been mounted by Russian forces outside Kharkiv and south of Mykolaiv. These are the areas most likely to receive significant Ukrainian reinforcements, particularly between Kharkiv and Izyum, where Kyiv is trying to achieve a position to threaten Russian supply lines. While this remains unlikely to succeed, fighting here will draw off Moscow’s reserves and therefore contribute to a successful defence of Ukraine’s positions in Donbas.
- Similarly, a threat to the Russian-held city of Kherson would help to draw off forces from elsewhere, and could be enabled by forces from Odesa – no longer under significant risk of assault due to the reduction in Moscow’s amphibious capability, and increased caution in Russian naval operations since the sinking of the Moskva.
- Russia continues to bring more forces into the operational area, with four more BTGs entering the country. At least three of these are now deployed north of Izyum, which remains set to be the main attack axis from the north, although direction of advance remains unclear; this may be set by exploiting the route that is giving the most success, although attempts to expand the Russian bridgehead largely remain unsuccessful at this time. The deployment will show whether Russia will indeed attempt a deeper encirclement or instead focus on the cities and centre of military mass of Ukrainian forces.
- The most success has been noted in the south, where Russian attacks continue to gain ground between Huliapole and Velyka Novosila, about halfway between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk. However, forces engaged here currently remain limited on both sides. It remains possible that forces freed from Mariupol will be deployed on this axis, potentially developing an attack towards the railway at Pokrovsk, which would also help the assault out of Donetsk. Alternatively, this may continue either north or towards Zaporizhzhia as part of an operation to fix Ukrainian forces in place along the line here.
- Mariupol itself has been declared as captured by Russia, which involves ignoring the protracted resistance at Azovstal. In a scripted presentation, Putin ordered the Russian MoD not to assault the location, saying it was not worth Russian lives and could be left cordoned and isolated. This attempt to portray resistance as irrelevant allows the declaration of success, but this remains hollow while resistance continues. The cordon will also continue to tie up troops needed elsewhere, and require around the clock surveillance. Operations to hinder this will continue from Ukrainian forces, although the situation is of course increasingly difficult, and heavy bombing and shelling may continue. Caring for wounded and civilians will use up substantial supplies for the defenders and so is unlikely to be allowed by Russia, worsening the situation significantly over time. Attempted exfiltration by fighters is increasingly likely, in an effort to resist elsewhere, although Russia is on guard for this.
- Showing how resistance can grow, a prominent pro-Russian blogger was killed in their car in Kherson. They had recently applied for a local government post. Posters declaring resistance have also begun to appear in the city. Such efforts will be fostered across all occupied areas, although in turn Russia is increasing control through fake votes and oppressive tactics, including raids by the FSB to disrupt stockpiles of weapons for use by the nascent insurgency. While these have been intercepted, their existence shows this is not an idle threat.
Economic/business environment developments
- On 20 April the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) stated that recent interest payments made on dollar-denominated debt were a “potential default” as the payments were made in rubles. The ruling puts Russia still closer to sovereign default ahead of the end of the grace period on 4 May. Russia could still avert a default by bypassing blocked US accounts and use its own domestic clearing agents to allow dollar payments to bondholders, but this remains to be seen. In related developments, China’s UnionPay system has now refused to work with Russian banks over fears of secondary sanctions impacting their operations. Moscow had hoped to role out China’s payment system after Visa and Mastercard suspended their operations last month, but the move underscores Russia’s entrenching financial isolation, including from ally China, and will only exacerbate financial instability ahead of the 4 May grace period deadline.
- The UK has today, 21 April, announced a new round of sanctions targeting Putin’s “war leaders”, with some 26 military officers now formally sanctioned. The announcement follows fresh US sanctions which were announced on 20 April, targeting dozens of individuals and entities. Among those targeted include the Russian commercial bank Transkapitalbank as well as Russia’s crypto currency mining industry, which before the invasion was the third largest in the world. Cryptocurrencies provide opportunities to circumvent and evade financial sanctions, hence the US move to sanction the likes of the holding company of Bitcoin miner BitRiver and its subsidiaries. However, by their nature as decentralised assets, the US’s ability to curtail their ability to evade sanctions remains limited, and Russia will likely seek to increase its utilisation of cryptocurrencies amid its increasing financial isolation, despite widespread suspicion and opposition to the asset class within the Russian government before the invasion.
- Considering the withdrawal of Russian troops from around Kyiv, the security situation in and around the capital has moderately improved as of 21 April. The H01/P01 and the E40 are the most viable routes from Kyiv. The E40 and the E373 highways were declared ‘open’ for traffic by Ukrainian authorities and are now relatively safe, however, they remain heavily damaged and road-clearing processes continue which may cause some delays. Air raid warnings across western Ukraine and a missile strike on Vasylkiv near Kyiv on 18 April highlight that the threat of air attacks remain high, therefore, safety cannot be guaranteed on any westbound evacuation routes.
- While Ukraine’s State Emergency Services continue demining operations, the threat posed by mines and unexploded ordnance remains high across Kyiv oblast. We note that this advisory is supported by a warning from Kyiv Region Military Administration on 12 April stating that de-occupied towns and settlements adjacent to Kyiv should not be re-settled by civilian populations due to high quantities of mines and unexploded ordnance.
- It is highly likely that ad-hoc checkpoints and stop-and-search checks by Ukrainian units will continue to take place on routes around and in Kyiv in the coming days and weeks, and those seeking to leave/enter Kyiv should treat such checks with due caution.
- Between Dnipro and Kyiv, we recommend the westbound H08 along the river until Kremenchuk and then the E50 through Oleksandriya and Uman to the E95 and the H01 to Kyiv. This route is currently the safest to Dnipro but takes approximately 90 minutes longer than alternative routes. We would advise that due to missile strikes earlier today on a railway station at Piatykhatky in Dnipropetrovsk oblast, the H08 northbound to Kremenchuk should be chosen over the E50 between Dnipro and Oleksandriya.
- Between Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia, there are two main road routes: the H08 and E105. Due to RU military targeting civilian and military aviation infrastructure with missile strikes, we believe there is substantial risk associated with all road routes into Zaporizhzhia, as the H08 is in close proximity to Shyroke Airfield just north-west of Zaporizhzhia, and the E105 passes through Zaporizhzhia International Airport and then Vilniansk Airfield. On 14 April, Russia has claimed that it struck Dnipro airfield in an air attack, in the vicinity of the H08 route, underlining extreme security risks in the region. As such, we assess that all approaches into Zaporizhzhia face elevated risk from air/missile strikes at present.
As the Russian offensive in the Donbas continues to build momentum, Russia has reportedly rejected a proposal by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a four-day Easter truce to facilitate humanitarian aid and evacuations. According to Russia’s UN delegation, such a ceasefire would provide Ukrainian forces with opportunity to regroup, and they have as a consequence rejected the proposal. In other diplomatic developments, President Volodymyr Zelensky has stated that Ukraine has not received anything that clearly outlined the latter’s conditions for peace talks, despite the Kremlin’s claims that Russia had presented Kyiv with a formal written document outlining Moscow’s position on negotiations and the war in Ukraine. While the contradictory statements likely reflect the poor state of communications between the two sides, the development also underlines our assessment that Russia is highly unlikely to be serious about negotiating and that progress in the diplomatic sphere remains highly unlikely. Instead, it remains our assessment that Russia’s minimum war aims are to secure the entirety of the Donbas, with a likely aim of the 9 May deadline. The outcome of this offensive is therefore subsequently likely to shape the trajectory any future negotiations, and Ukraine’s potential loss in the Donbas may well embolden Putin to once again expand his war objectives thereafter.
- Russian forces have continued to make little progress in the various attacks around Donbas, although we maintain our assessment that in part this is due to a deliberate approach to probe and shape the battlefield ahead of more concerted offensive action. Ukrainian forces continue to delay, including denying key bridges and creating obstacles.
- 25 BTGs continue to be stacked up in the Izyum area, with more equipment formerly around Kyiv pictured moving towards the city. These belong to – in order – the 1st Guards Tank Army, 20th Combined Arms Army, and the 35th Combined Arms Army. Concentrations of artillery have been noted north-east of the city and Russia continues to rebuild capability on their side of the border, meaning that further BTGs will continue to be slowly committed to the fight. Some of these are enablers, for example engineer, artillery, or electronic warfare formations, which are being deployed with more care than was evident in the earlier stages of the invasion.
- Russian air power has maintained sorties despite poor weather. Extreme low-level tactics continue to be used by helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, which are showing a high degree of respect for Ukrainian low level air defence capabilities. At least one SU-30SM or SU-34 was pictured lost to air defences over Donbas, along with two helicopters shown downed near Kherson, showing that this respect is warranted. Conversely, a Ukrainian AN-26 tactical transport aircraft has been lost over Zaporizhzhia oblast. Russia claims that a pair of fighters engaged and destroyed the plane, while Ukrainian sources merely commented that it had crashed. The incident remains unconfirmed, but if true would likely represent the need rapidly to move weapons and supplies.
- The supply situation is certainly getting more complicated for Ukraine, with Russia striking one of the Dnieper bridges for the first time as part of the continued missile offensive. In general, Moscow’s targeting of infrastructure was comparatively limited during the early stage of the conflict, possibly representing a desire to maintain as much as possible intact for subsequent use. This aspiration has been steadily eroding as the need to destroy transport, fuel, and life support infrastructure has become more apparent. The Dnieper bridges are a significant choke point and although crossings on dams will be harder to neutralise, these are limited, and rail operations will be particularly affected. Railway infrastructure, key bridges, and warehouses believed to be storing weapons continue to be Russia’s key targets.
- Russian sources have alleged several cross-border incidents by Ukraine into Russian territory, either involving shelling or in the latest case an armoured attack on Goptovka – a border checkpoint southwest of Belgorod. Although evidence is lacking, Russian forces claim eight out of ten tanks were destroyed. If confirmed, and border engagements certainly seem credible, this operation took place in the rear of Russian forces screening Kharkiv. Armoured units from Kyiv have been moved to this area, and we previously assessed that Ukrainian operations were likely around the city in efforts to disrupt Russian supplies and draw off reserves.
- The narrative of increased engagements on the border does however fuel Russian narratives that may support escalation, especially given two large fires at significant industrial buildings inside Russia yesterday (one of which was the design unit for Iskandr missiles). These are being blamed on internal saboteurs in Russian social media commentary, although it is quite possible that they were just coincidental at this time, given the lack of further supporting evidence. Nonetheless, there is genuine Russian paranoia about increasing threats to security, which may influence decision-making.
- Further insight into Russian future planning was potentially gained during a speech by the deputy commander of the Central Military District yesterday. He explicitly discussed plans not only to take the Donbas, but also the land bridge to Crimea, and a link to Transnistria. While this is not from the very top, it likely represents a serious view of objectives, and concurs with our own assessment. Russia does not at present have the combat power to achieve all of this simultaneously, with operations west of the Dnieper remaining challenged, but it is possible that a move towards Odesa and the Moldovan border will develop again as more reinforcements are moved to the south of the country. This in turn will depend on the progress of the Donbas battles, with Russia taking a slow approach still, and being hampered by weather. It remains more likely given troop numbers that the move to the west will be “Phase 3” of the Russian plan, but this will require success in Donbas comparatively rapidly and the heavy attrition of Ukrainian forces to prevent a further stubborn defence, increasingly supported by Western arms. Neutralisation of that flow will remain a key Russian political and military objective.
Russian ambitions are also supported by the increasing reporting of a planned referendum to declare Kherson’s separation from Ukraine, mirroring the votes being held in villages adjacent to Donetsk that are seeing them request to join the DPR. This is likely driving the uptick of resistance in Kherson reported yesterday. Footage of FSB troops raiding houses and finding arms shows Russia’s capability to suppress resistance, but also highlights that this is being prepared and is an increasing threat given the comparatively weak hold over some parts of the south.
US: Ukraine conflict sustains heightened risk of attacks by Russia-linked threat actors. On 20 April, the cyber security agencies of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance —Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US— released a joint advisory warning about the growing threat of malicious activities by Russian-sponsored criminal groups. The statement cited the ongoing conflict in Ukraine as a prominent factor driving potential attacks. Since the invasion of Ukraine, threat actors linked to Russia have engaged in various cyber attacks targeting Ukrainian government agencies and critical infrastructure as well as countries and organisations providing support for Kyiv (see Sibylline Weekly Ukraine Cyber Update – 19 April 2022). The joint advisory also highlighted the use of destructive malware, ransomware, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and cyber espionage by advanced persistent threat groups (APTs) affiliated to Russian intelligence agencies. Energy utilities, telecommunications, financial services, and other critical infrastructure will remain the most likely targets, with the US agribusiness sector also at particular risk during the planting and harvesting seasons. With pro-Ukraine hackers also stepping up attacks against Russian entities, the tit-for-tat cyber conflict will likely result in more malicious activities targeting the Western countries and companies in the coming weeks.
Pakistan: Energy shortage will continue to undermine industrial activity despite procurement of tenders. On 21 April, Pakistan’s state-run Pakistan LNG Limited (PLL) finalised tenders for four out of seven required LNG cargoes for delivery in May-June. The country is reeling under an energy crisis due to fuel shortages as well as maintenance issues at power plants due to insufficient funding. Consequently, most urban centres such as Karachi, Lahore, and Hyderabad have had to undertake load-shedding activities causing power outages for anywhere between 6-12 hours. The tenders for LNG will likely only provide short term respite for households and industries in some areas as distribution of resources for power generation will likely remain fractured. Furthermore, the removal of state subsidies on electricity will most likely be a requirement for an IMF relief package, currently being negotiated. This will likely drive public dissatisfaction with the new Shehbaz Sharif government, presenting a flashpoint for domestic unrest and heightened threats to government stability in the coming months.
Angola-Italy-Republic of Congo: Efforts to replace Russian gas will drive further investment in African energy and transit infrastructure. On 21 April, Italy signed an agreement with the Republic of Congo to speed up the development of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project with Italian energy major Eni to allow production to begin in 2023. This will allow Italy to increase its LNG imports from Congo by over 4.5 billion cubic metres (bcm). This came a day after Italy signed another deal with Angola for between 1-1.5 bcm, as Italy seeks to replace the 29 bcm of gas it currently imports from Russia, which it aims to become energy independent from by the second half of 2023. The agreements underline a sharp escalation in European interest in sourcing gas from African countries. This will likely lead to greater investment in developing new refining and transit facilities as well as new pipelines across West Africa, as while North Africa already has such infrastructure in place it does not have the capacity to meet European demand.
Armenia-Russia: Dedollarisation of bilateral trade will reinforce dependence on Russian imports and vulnerability to shocks. The Armenian and Russian central banks are discussing plans to conduct trade in their respective currencies, the Armenian dram and the Russian ruble, rather than USD. In recent weeks, Yerevan has paid for Russian gas supply payments in rubles, with pricing carried out in dollars. The mechanisms could protect Armenia from exchange rate volatility generated by sharp depreciations in the ruble’s value, highlighted in the weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, the close economic relationship between the countries will support Yerevan’s payment in rubles for Russian gas and wheat exports, upon which it is heavily reliant, due to its receipt of currency streams from Russian tourism and remittances. Nevertheless, the measure will reinforce Armenia’s dependence on Russian imports in the coming months, further exposing the economy to shocks linked to Russia’s conflict-driven economic decline, which has led the World Bank to forecast Armenian GDP growth down from 5.3% to just 1.2% this year.
Russia: Moscow moves closer to sovereign default as Chinese UnionPay withdrawal exacerbates financial isolation. On 20 April the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) stated that recent interest payments made on dollar-denominated debt were a “potential default” as the payments were made in rubles. The ruling puts Russia still closer to sovereign default ahead of the end of the grace period on 4 May. Russia could still avert a default by bypassing blocked US accounts and use its own domestic clearing agents to allow dollar payments to bondholders, but this remains to be seen. In related developments, China’s UnionPay system has now refused to work with Russian banks over fears of secondary sanctions impacting their operations. Moscow had hoped to roll out China’s payment system after Visa and Mastercard suspended their operations last month, but the move underscores Russia’s increasing financial isolation, including from ally China, and will only exacerbate financial instability ahead of the 4 May grace period deadline for debt interest payments. (Source: Sibylline)
23 Apr 22. With exhausted troops and low morale, Vladimir Putin’s gamble in the Donbas could backfire.
Russia may have high aspirations to take southern Ukraine, but its forces are vulnerable and facing steely opponents
For Russia to gain “full control over the Donbas and southern Ukraine” as the latest shift in Moscow’s war aims seem to suggest, Vladimir Putin will need to refresh and reorganise his forces, fast.
It is a bold ambition. But where will the troops come from?
Russian forces were defeated in the north of the country, along with Voznesensk and Mykolaiv in the south.
The mayor of Mykolaiv said this week his city was “over motivated” to repel the invaders, in contrast to the low morale of Moscow’s troops.
“Go home and live,” he told Russian soldiers trying to get his city to surrender, “or come here and die. Welcome to hell, motherf——!”
Even if the nine battalion tactical groups fighting in Mariupol are released following Putin’s optimistic declaration of victory, their exhaustion will mean they will not be able to push north, to Zaporizhzhya, or west, to Mykolaiv and possibly Odesa, any time soon.
And that’s just the combat troops.
The logistic lines, stretched and harried from the flanks by Ukrainian raiding parties, are in no shape to open an axis west as well as push into the Donbas.
Maybe the latest comments from Moscow about wanting to take all of southern Ukraine were a deception, designed to keep Ukrainian reinforcements fixed around what remains of Ukraine’s coast – rather than redeploy to kill Russians in Kherson, Izyum and Donetsk.
For Russia to have any aspiration to control the south of the country it must first overcome the many shortcomings it displayed in the march on Kyiv in the early weeks of the war.
In particular, the prospect of an amphibious landing to threaten Odesa is fanciful, especially given the loss last week of the warship Moskva, which would have provided essential defence against air attack.
The greater the stated war aims, the bigger the chances of failure unless Putin’s forces can operate as a coherent force, including with air cover.
A Western official said, in the renewed offensive in the Donbas, Russian forces were continuing to operate in long convoys on single roads, making themselves vulnerable to Ukrainian attacks.
Moscow’s troops had shown “some improvement”, the official said, but were “not a force transformed” and were starting to show limitations in the supply of precision weapons.
Any forces recovered from operations in the north of the country “are largely being fed in piecemeal into this fight rather than being held back”.
“We still see the Russian air force restricted to operating over its own troops. It is still very, very concerned about Ukrainian air defence capability.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
22 Apr 22. Russia seeks to capture all of southern Ukraine in major expansion of war goals. A top Russian commander says troops are aiming to occupy all of southern Ukraine, potentially up to Transnistria in Moldova
Russia now aims to occupy all of southern Ukraine as well as taking the Donbas in the east, a top Russian commander said on Friday, indicating an expansion of Moscow’s war goals.
Maj Gen Rustam Minnekayev, the deputy commander of the Russian central military district, said one of the current objectives for Russian troops in Ukraine was to gain “full control over the Donbas and southern Ukraine”.
“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population,” he told a meeting in Yekaterinburg, quoted by Russian news agencies.
Taking enough territory to reach Transnistria in neighbouring Moldova – if that is the goal – would require Russia to not only hold the territory it has seized so far, including Mariupol, but also to make gains further west, including the city of Odesa, where there has been relatively little fighting so far.
Analysts have suggested this would be highly ambitious, especially given the recent loss of the Moskva warship which would have provided aerial cover for an invasion of the coastal city.
However, other experts have suggested that the comments merely mean Russia intends to hold on to its current gains in the south and preserve the option for a future offensive towards Transnistria.
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
22 Apr 22. UK set to provide Poland with Challenger II tanks in Ukraine arms drive. Boris Johnson announces plans to ‘backfill’ supplies of Soviet-era tanks in latest push to fight off Russian advances
Britain is planning to send tanks to Poland so more can be provided to Ukraine, Boris Johnson has announced as he warned Russia could still win the war.
The Prime Minister said that he wanted to “backfill” supplies of Soviet-era T-72 tanks being provided by Warsaw to help Ukraine fight off the Russian invasion.
“We are looking at sending tanks to Poland to help them as they send some of their T72s to Ukraine,” he said.
Speaking during a trip to India, the Prime Minister also revealed early plans for Western allies to provide “security guarantees” to Ukraine to avoid it ever being invaded again if the conflict came to an end.
The “quad” of Britain, the US, France and Germany are leading the discussions, with the idea being to promise Ukraine weaponry, training and intelligence in the long term.
Asked if Russia could eventually overcome Ukraine, Mr Johnson said: “The sad thing is that that is a realistic possibility.”
The US on Friday appeared to contradict the Prime Minister, with Daleep Singh, the deputy national security adviser, saying: “The assessment from where we stand is that … ultimately [Vladimir] Putin will see this is not the end game he bargained for.”
The interventions came with the war entering a new phase, with Putin focusing on taking eastern Ukraine after the failure to capture Kyiv in the early weeks.
Mr Johnson was asked about an assessment by Western intelligence figures that the conflict could last for years and Russia could win its objective of taking the Donbas region.
He said: “The sad thing is that that is a realistic possibility. Putin has a huge army. He has a very difficult political position because he has made a catastrophic blunder.
“The only option he now has is to continually try to use his appalling, grinding approach, then by artillery, trying to grind those Ukrainians down.
“He’s very close to securing Mariupol now. The situation is, I’m afraid, unpredictable. We have got to be realistic about that… I agree that could be a long period.”
Mr Johnson has to date held back from helping to get tanks into Ukraine. It is understood that the Ministry of Defence is considering sending Challenger II battle tanks to Poland.
Joe Biden, the US president, recently faced criticism after ruling out sending fighter jets to Poland that could then be transported into Ukraine.
He expressed fears that it could be seen as an escalatory measure by the Kremlin and draw the US or Nato into direct military conflict with Russia. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
22 Apr 22. Ukraine: UK government to re-open British embassy in Kyiv.
The British embassy will re-open in Kyiv next week after its temporary closure.
The UK government will shortly re-open the British embassy in Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv.
The embassy was forced to temporarily close due to Russia’s full-scale and illegal invasion. A contingent of British staff remained in western Ukraine to provide humanitarian and other support.
The Prime Minister has today confirmed the embassy is set to re-open next week, dependent on the security situation.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “The extraordinary fortitude and success of President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people in resisting Russian forces, means we will shortly be re-opening our British Embassy in Kyiv. I want to pay tribute to the bravery and resilience of the embassy team and their work throughout this period.”
The British embassy premises are currently being made secure before staff return, starting with the UK Ambassador Melinda Simmons. The UK continues to advise against all travel to Ukraine. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
21 Apr 22. Statement on $800m in Additional Security Assistance for Ukraine.
Attributed to Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby:
This afternoon, April 21, the Department of Defense (DoD) announces the authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to an additional $800m tailored to meet critical Ukrainian needs for today’s fight as Russian forces launch a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine. This authorization is the eighth drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.
Capabilities in this package include:
- 72 155mm Howitzers and 144,000 artillery rounds;
- 72 Tactical Vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers;
- Over 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems; and
- Field equipment and spare parts.
This commitment, together with the 18 155mm howitzers announced on April 13, provides enough artillery systems to equip five battalions. The United States has now committed more than $4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $3.4 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked invasion on February 24.
The United States also continues to work with its Allies and partners to identify and provide Ukraine with additional capabilities.
The United States will continue to utilize all available tools to support Ukraine’s Armed Forces in the face of Russian aggression. (Source: US DoD)
22 Apr 22. How Russia’s race to take the Donbas may give Ukraine the edge.
The little time that Moscow’s depleted troops have left to rebuild and regroup could work to Kyiv’s advantage
Russia’s military commanders will be desperate for more time to rest, train and hope the soggy ground hardens as summer approaches
Time, as military commanders throughout history would likely attest, is the soldier’s enemy. When you are fighting a war, there is never enough of it.
The battle for the Donbas is likely to hinge on that maxim and could well favour the Ukrainians.
After the mauling that the Russian army took in the north of Ukraine following the botched invasion on Feb 24, at least 22 battalion tactical groups (about 15,000 troops) are undergoing “reconstitution” in Belarus, according to a senior US defence official.
Reconstitution consists of regenerating (i.e. fixing) the vehicles and soldiers broken by combat and reorganising the fighting units to adjust the relative numbers of infantry, tanks, engineers and other military capabilities.
Ideally, a period of reconstitution should be followed by weeks of training.
The newly formed units and fresh troops are like the component parts of an orchestra: the instruments may individually be very good, but each part needs time to understand how the other elements work if the result is not to be a cacophonous mess (see Battle for Kyiv, 2022).
A Western official said that it would take Russia a minimum of three weeks to reconstitute to even the most basic standard. That was two weeks ago. It will be to Ukraine’s advantage – just – if the few Russian advances over the weekend are the prelude to a major ground offensive in the Donbas.
Battle for the Donbas
Much has been made of Vladimir Putin’s desire to show military success by May 9, the date for Russia’s annual Victory Parade in Moscow marking the country’s success in the Second World War.
Of course, if that date passes with his forces still bogged down in the assault on the country’s neighbour, Putin will claim it had never mattered at all.
However, symbolism does matter to him. The nine battalion tactical groups currently being exhausted, squeezing the tactically irrelevant last pocket of Ukrainian resistance from Mariupol, shows that.
They will not be ready for new missions in the Donbas any time soon.
No respite for the Russians
Russia’s military commanders will be desperate for more time: to rest, train and hope the soggy ground hardens as summer approaches, better to allow tanks and other armoured vehicles to use their speed and manoeuvrability over open ground.
It is unlikely that Putin will grant them their wish, so they will have to go with what they’ve got.
Russia now has 76 battalion tactical groups in Ukraine, a figure US officials estimate was bolstered by 11 more over the weekend. It is a significant reduction from the 125 such groups Western officials say Moscow invaded with.
Military commanders will always welcome fresh troops, but if the extra 11 fighting units are conscripts, or incorrectly structured for the fight they are about to be thrown into, the additional numbers will count for little.
Combined, Russia has probably fewer than 50,000 troops available in the country to tackle about 40,000 of Ukraine’s best trained and equipped forces.
This is nowhere near the 3:1 force ratio military experience says that an attacker needs to overwhelm a defender (more likely 5:1 in this situation, given the terrain and skill of the Ukrainian soldiers).
General Alexander Dvornikov, Moscow’s newly appointed theatre commander, will need to display strategic brilliance to overcome these shortcomings and time is not on his side.
His plan will need to imbue his army with a tactical nous it has hitherto shown itself to be incapable of possessing.
That is possible, but as the old military maxim goes: no plan survives contact with the enemy.
As Gen Dvornikov battles the calendar and his boss to get troops ready, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, will also be acutely conscious of the passage of time.
The battle for the Donbas will likely see more “conventional” fighting. Tanks and other armoured vehicles should be freer to roam, combining with infantry and artillery to concentrate force at points of weakness and exploit opportunities. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
22 Apr 22. France and Germany evaded arms embargo to sell weapons to Russia. Paris and Berlin sent Moscow £230m of military hardware, including bombs, rockets and missiles, that is likely being used in Ukraine
France and Germany armed Russia with €273m (£230m) of military hardware now likely being used in Ukraine, an EU analysis shared with The Telegraph has revealed.
They sent equipment, which included bombs, rockets, missiles and guns, to Moscow despite an EU-wide embargo on arms shipments to Russia, introduced in the wake of its 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The European Commission was this month forced to close a loophole in its blockade after it was found that at least 10 member states exported almost €350 million (£294 million) in hardware to Vladimir Putin’s regime. Some 78 per cent of that total was supplied by German and French firms.
Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, has faced fierce criticism this week for his reluctance to provide heavy weapons to Ukraine. Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to negotiate with Putin have seen the French president accused of appeasement.
Both Paris and Berlin have resisted an EU ban on buying gas from Russia, with the bloc currently paying Moscow €1 billion (£840 million) per day for energy supplies.
The EU report emerged as a top Russian commander said Moscow had expanded its goals to take “full control” of southern Ukraine, as well as the eastern Donbas region.
Russian forces would create a land bridge to Crimea and could push as far as the border of Moldova, said Major General Rustam Minnekayev, the deputy commander of the Russian central military district.
In New Delhi, Boris Johnson on Friday warned that Russia could still win the war, announcing plans to send British tanks to Poland so that Ukraine could receive Warsaw’s Soviet-era T-72 models.
Asked if Russia could win the war in Ukraine, the Prime Minister conceded it was a “realistic possibility” and that Moscow was very close to seizing Mariupol.
On Friday, Putin told Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, that the marines holed up in the city’s Azovstal steel plant would be allowed to live if they surrendered.
Meanwhile, Mr Scholz pointed to the threat of nuclear war as he sought to answer critics over Berlin’s reluctance to provide Ukraine with high-powered arms.
Criticism increased when it emerged that German firms had used a loophole in an EU embargo on arms exports to Russia, making sales worth €121 million (£107 million) of “dual-use” equipment, including rifles and special protection vehicles, to Moscow.
Berlin defended its use of an ambiguity within the EU’s 2014 arms blockade, insisting that the goods were sold only after the Kremlin guaranteed they were for civilian use, rather than military application.
“If there were indications of any kind of military use, the export licenses were not granted,” a spokesman for the country’s economy ministry added.
France was also found to have been responsible for sending shipments worth €152 million (£128 million) to Russia, as part of 76 export licences. Paris allowed exporters to fulfil contracts agreed before 2014, using a backdoor technicality in the EU embargo. Alongside bombs, rockets and torpedoes, French firms sent thermal imaging cameras for more than 1,000 Russian tanks as well as navigation systems for fighter jets and attack helicopters. Since the start of the invasion on Feb 24, the EU has introduced further restrictions on the export of dual-use items to Moscow, closing the loophole. However, it took the bloc until its fifth package of sanctions, described as the most draconian ever introduced by Brussels, until the exemption on previously agreed arms sales to Russia was scrapped. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
23 Apr 22. Zelenskiy warns Russia is eyeing other countries after Ukraine.
- Russia says it plans full control of Donbas and southern Ukraine
- Ukraine says comments show Russia is seeking occupation
- UK says Russian forces have made no major gains in 24 hours
- EU official sees decisive couple of weeks
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned that Russia’s invasion of his country was just the beginning and that Moscow has designs on capturing other countries, after a Russian general said it wants full control over southern Ukraine.
“All the nations that, like us, believe in the victory of life over death must fight with us. They must help us, because we are the first in line. And who will come next?” Zelenskiy said in a video address late on Friday.
Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, was quoted by Russian state news agencies as saying full control over southern Ukraine would give it access to Transnistria, a breakaway Russian-occupied part of Moldova in the west. read more
That would cut off Ukraine’s entire coastline and mean Russian forces pushing hundreds of miles further west, past the major Ukrainian coastal cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa.
The statement was one of the most detailed about Moscow’s ambitions in Ukraine and suggests Russia does not plan to wind down its offensive there anytime soon.
Ukraine’s defence ministry said Minnekayev’s comments showed Russia was no longer hiding its intentions.
Moscow, it said on Twitter, had now “acknowledged that the goal of the ‘second phase’ of the war is not victory over the mythical Nazis, but simply the occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine. Imperialism as it is.”
But despite Russia’s ambitious objectives and claims to have seized Mariupol, its forces made no major gains in the last 24 hours, British military intelligence said on Saturday.
Ukrainian counterattacks continue to hinder Moscow’s efforts, and heavy fighting is frustrating Russian attempts to capture the key port city, impeding their progress in the Donbas, the Ministry of Defence tweeted in a regular bulletin. read more
Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine and liberate its population from dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and its Western allies call Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion an unjustified war of aggression.
Moldova’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Moscow’s ambassador on Friday to express “deep concern” about the general’s comments. Moldova was neutral, it said. Moldova last month applied to join the European Union, charting a pro-Western course hastened by Russia’s invasion.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on whether Russia had expanded its goals or on how Moscow saw the political future of southern Ukraine.
As U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Washington, Zelenskiy said allies were finally delivering the weapons Kyiv had asked for.
President Joe Biden said on Thursday he had authorized a further $800 million in military aid for Ukraine, including heavy artillery, ammunition and drones. Canada said on Friday it had provided more heavy artillery to Ukraine.
A senior EU official said the next couple of weeks would likely be decisive. “We are likely to see a very significant increase in the intensity of Russian military attacks in the east (and on) the coast,” he told reporters.
Ukraine’s military said Russia is continuing its offensive operations in the east, trying to establish full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and secure a land connection to Crimea.
Russian forces are also partially blockading the city of Kharkiv, according to a Saturday morning update from Ukraine’s general staff.
In Mykolaiv, 87 civilians have died in the invasion, including one child, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said late Friday on his Facebook page. Nearly 400 people have been wounded. Reuters could not independently verify reports from either side.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region who has often described himself as Putin’s “foot soldier”, wrote on his official Telegram account late on Friday that Chechnya was deploying hundreds of additional volunteers to fight for Russia in Ukraine.
In Geneva, the United Nations human rights office said there was growing evidence of Russian war crimes, including indiscriminate shelling and summary executions. It said Ukraine also appeared to have used weapons with indiscriminate effects.
Russia denies targeting civilians and says, without evidence, that signs of atrocities committed by its soldiers were faked. Ukraine has previously said it will punish any soldiers found to have committed war crimes.
Russia said it had “securely blockaded” thousands of Ukrainian troops holed up in a huge steel works in Mariupol, the main port of the Donbas, a day after President Vladimir Putin said the army would not bother rooting them out.
Putin declared victory in the city after a nearly two-month siege. In a Russian-held section of Mariupol, dazed-looking residents ventured out this week to a background of charred apartment blocks and wrecked cars.
Volunteers in white hazmat suits and masks roved the ruins, collecting bodies from apartments and loading them on to a truck marked with the letter “Z”, symbol of Russia’s invasion.
Ukraine estimates tens of thousands of civilians have died in Russia’s siege of the city and says 100,000 civilians are still there and need full evacuation.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk on Friday said “there is a possibility” a humanitarian corridor out of Mariupol could be opened up on Saturday.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will visit Moscow on Tuesday to meet Putin and discuss urgently bringing peace to Ukraine, a spokesperson said, adding that Guterres will then head to Kyiv for talks with Zelenskiy. (Source: Reuters)
22 Apr 22. Fact Sheet on U.S. Security Assistance for Ukraine. As of April 22, the United States has now committed more than $4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $3.4bn since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked invasion on February 24.
On April 21, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to an additional $800m tailored to meet critical Ukrainian needs for today’s fight as Russian forces launch a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine. This authorization is the eighth drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.
As of April 22, United States security assistance committed to Ukraine includes:
- Over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems;
- Over 5,500 Javelin anti-armor systems;
- Over 14,000 other anti-armor systems;
- Over 700 Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- 90 155mm Howitzers and 183,000 155mm artillery rounds;
- 72 Tactical Vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers;
- 16 Mi-17 helicopters;
- Hundreds of Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles;
- 200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers;
- Over 7,000 small arms;
- Over 50,000,000 rounds of ammunition;
- 75,000 sets of body armor and helmets;
- 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Laser-guided rocket systems;
- Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Unmanned Coastal Defense Vessels;
- 14 counter-artillery radars;
- Four counter-mortar radars;
- Two air surveillance radars;
- M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel munitions;
- C-4 explosives and demolition equipment for obstacle clearing;
- Tactical secure communications systems;
- Night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, optics, and laser rangefinders;
- Commercial satellite imagery services;
- Explosive ordnance disposal protective gear;
- Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protective equipment;
- Medical supplies to include first aid kits.
The United States also continues to work with its Allies and partners to identify and provide Ukraine with additional capabilities.
The United States will continue to utilize all available tools to support Ukraine’s Armed Forces in the face of Russian aggression. (Source: US DoD)
22 Apr 22. The true cost of the war in Ukraine to families, civilians and society may be immeasurable. But in purely financial terms, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told a meeting of the World Bank and IMF Ukraine needs about $7bn (£5.4bn) per month in support to make up for economic losses caused by Russia’s invasion. Meanwhile, estimates of the cost of physical damage to Ukraine’s buildings and infrastructure have come to about $60bn, according to World Bank President David Malpass. See our live page for the latest.
US President Joe Biden has announced an additional $800m to supply Ukraine with heavy artillery weapons, ammunition and drones. The UK says it is hosting “a couple of dozen” Ukrainian soldiers to train them to use 120 armoured vehicles donated by Britain – and training Ukrainians in anti-aircraft defence, in Poland. It’s too late for many in the besieged port of Mariupol, where satellite images suggest mass graves have been dug nearby. One of its last defenders, from the controversial Azov regiment, says the steelworks where fighters are holed out is largely destroyed, with the dead lying in bunkers and civilians trapped under buildings. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called off an assault on the area’s tunnel network in favour of sealing it off. (Source: BBC)
21 Apr 22. Australia faces new Russian cyber threat. Critical infrastructure across Australia could be the target of heightened threats posed by Russian state-sponsored cyber actors, according to a new multinational advisory.
A new joint advisory has been issued by key cyber security agencies across Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, flagging new risks to critical infrastructure posed by Russian state-sponsored cyber actors.
The advisory was co-issued by the:
- Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA);
- the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI);
- National Security Agency (NSA);
- Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC);
- Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS);
- National Cyber Security Centre New Zealand (NZ NCSC);
- the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC-UK); and
- National Crime Agency (NCA).
Supported by industry members of the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, the advisory provides technical details on malicious cyber operations by actors from:
- the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB);
- Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR);
- Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU); and
- Russian Ministry of Defense, Central Scientific Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics (TsNIIKhM).
According to the alert, some of these cyber crime groups have recently threatened to conduct cyber operations in retaliation for perceived cyber offensives against Russia or against countries supporting the Ukrainian resistance
A number of recommendations have been issued to stakeholders at risk of cyber attack, which include:
- prioritising patching of known exploited vulnerabilities;
- enforcing multifactor authentication;
- monitoring remote desktop protocol (RDP); and
- providing end-user awareness and training.
“We know that malicious cyber activity is part of the Russian playbook. We also know that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyber attacks against US critical infrastructure,” CISA director Jen Easterly said.
“[This] cyber security advisory released jointly by CISA and our inter-agency and international partners reinforces the demonstrated threat and capability of Russian state-sponsored and Russian aligned cyber criminal groups to our homeland.”
Abigail Bradshaw, head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre urged Australian organisations to shore-up their cyber defences.
“Recent intelligence and historic instances of destructive cyber attacks indicate now is the time for organisations to improve their cyber security posture,” she said.
“In particular, critical infrastructure organisations should act now to raise defences, not wait until being attacked.
“The ACSC stands ready to support its critical infrastructure partners in responding to the threats we face – by raising their awareness of the threat, sharing indicators of compromise, and providing technical mitigation advice.”
The joint advisory has also encouraged all organisations to share information about incidents and unusual cyber activity with their respective cyber security authorities. (Source: Defence Connect)
21 Apr 22. Ukrainian troops begin training in Britain as Johnson steps up support. A small number of Ukrainian troops are being trained in Britain for the first time since the start of the Russian invasion as Prime Minister Boris Johnson steps up his military support to help Ukraine fight off its neighbour. The troops began training with armoured patrol vehicles donated by Britain this month, Johnson’s spokesman said.
Britain is providing Ukraine with 120 armoured patrol vehicles, including the Mastiff, which can be used as a reconnaissance or patrol vehicle. The spokesman said Britain, in conjunction with its allies, was providing new types of equipment to Ukrainian soldiers that they may not have used before.
“It is only sensible that they get requisite training to make best use of it,” the spokesman said. “We are always conscious of anything perceived to be escalatory but clearly what is escalatory is the actions of (Vladimir) Putin’s regime.”
Johnson, under pressure over parties at his Downing Street residence during the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, has been at the forefront of efforts to supply Ukraine with military equipment since the start of the war.
The British leader has established close ties with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, talking to him regularly by phone and visiting him in Kyiv.
Members of the Ukrainian government visited a military camp in April on Britain’s Salisbury Plain where they were shown demonstrations of equipment, followed by discussions on how the government can supply weapons. Britain’s military has been training Ukrainian forces since the 2014 annexation of Crimea. They were withdrawn in February to avoid direct conflict with Russian forces and the possibility of NATO being drawn into the conflict.
Since the start of the war, Britain has provided Ukraine with anti-ship, anti-aircraft and light anti-tank weapons, which have proved useful for mobile Ukrainian fighters to use against Russia’s armoured vehicles.
The United States military is also training Ukrainian troops on using howitzer artillery while Britain is training Ukrainians in Poland to use anti-aircraft weapons. (Source: Reuters)
22 Apr 22. Ukrainian fighters hold on as Putin claims victory in Mariupol.
- Fight for Mariupol has been biggest battle of war
- Putin says Russia has ‘liberated’ the city
- U.S. to send newly developed “Ghost” drones to Ukraine
Ukrainian fighters were clinging to their last redoubt in Mariupol on Friday after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the biggest battle of the war, declaring the port city “liberated” following weeks of relentless bombardment.
The United States, however, disputed Putin’s claim and said it believed Ukrainian forces still held ground in the city. Putin ordered his troops to blockade a giant steel works where the Ukrainians are holding out, having refused an ultimatum to surrender or die.
Ukraine said Putin wanted to avoid a final clash with its forces in Mariupol, as he lacked troops to defeat them. But Ukrainian officials also appealed for help to evacuate civilians and wounded soldiers.
In a televised meeting at the Kremlin, Putin congratulated his defence minister and Russian troops for the “combat effort to liberate Mariupol” and said it was unnecessary to storm the industrial zone containing the Azovstal steel plant.
“There’s no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities … Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can get through,” Putin said.
Mariupol, a major port in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, sits between areas held by Russian separatists and Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Moscow seized in 2014. Capturing the city would allow Russia to link the two areas. read more
Even as Putin claims his first big prize since his forces were driven away from the capital Kyiv and northern Ukraine last month, it falls short of the unambiguous victory Moscow has sought after months of combat in a city reduced to rubble.
In a late-night address, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia was doing all it could “to talk about at least some victories”, including mobilising new battalion tactical groups.
“They can only postpone the inevitable – the time when the invaders will have to leave our territory, including from Mariupol, a city that continues to resist Russia regardless of what the occupiers say,” Zelenskiy said.
The steel complex is one of the biggest metallurgical facilities in Europe, covering 11 sq km with huge buildings, underground bunkers and tunnels.
British military intelligence said a full Russian assault on the plant would likely mean heavy Russian casualties and Putin’s decision to blockade it would free up forces for elsewhere in the east.
Russia stepped up its attacks in east Ukraine this week and made long-distance strikes at other targets including Kyiv and the western city of Lviv.
Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces had increased attacks along the whole front line in the east and were trying to mount an offensive in the Kharkiv region in the northeast.
British military intelligence also reported heavy fighting in the east as Russian forces tried to advance on settlements but said they were suffering from losses sustained early in the war and were sending equipment back to Russia for repair.
Russia calls its invasion a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext for a war that has killed thousands and uprooted a quarter of Ukraine’s population.
The United States authorized another $800 million in military aid for Ukraine on Thursday, including heavy artillery and newly disclosed “Ghost” drones that are destroyed after they attack their targets. read more
“We’re in a critical window now of time where they’re going to set the stage for the next phase of this war,” U.S. President Joe Biden said.
Asked about Putin’s victory declaration in Mariupol, State Department spokesman Ned Price said it was “yet more disinformation from their well-worn playbook”.
Mariupol, once home to 400,000 people, has seen not only the most intense battle of the war that started when Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, but also its worst humanitarian catastrophe.
Ukraine estimates tens of thousands of civilians have died there. The United Nations and Red Cross say the civilian toll is at least in the thousands.
Journalists who reached Mariupol during the siege found streets littered with corpses, nearly all buildings destroyed, and residents huddled in cellars, venturing out to cook scraps or bury bodies in gardens.
Mariupol’s mayor, Vadym Boichenko, told Reuters that Putin alone could decide the fate of the 100,000 civilians trapped in the city.
“The lives that are still there, they are in the hands of just one person – Vladimir Putin. And all the deaths that will happen after now will be on his hands too,” Boichenko said in an interview. (Source: Reuters)
21 Apr 22. Meet ‘Phoenix Ghost,’ the US Air Force’s new drone perfect for Ukraine’s war with Russia.
“The Phoenix Ghost is this was rapidly developed by the Air Force, in response, specifically to Ukrainian requirements,” a senior defense official told reporters. “This is a great example of adapting to their needs in real time.”
The latest $800m arms package for Ukraine includes a unique new item — the Phoenix Ghost tactical drone, a never-before revealed system designed by the US Air Force that will now prove its mettle on the battlefields of Ukraine.
The United States will provide more than 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems, which are manufactured by AEVEX Aerospace, the Pentagon announced today.
Earlier today, a senior defense official said the new drone “was rapidly developed by the Air Force in response, specifically, to Ukrainian requirements.” However, in a later briefing, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby walked back that characterization, stating that the Phoenix Ghost was “developed before” Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
“It was developed for a set of requirements that very closely match what the Ukrainians need right now in Donbas,” he said.
The Phoenix Ghost is similar to the Switchblade unmanned systems previously delivered to Ukraine, the official said, in that it is a “one way drone” that is “clearly designed to give a punch” to a number of different types of targets. This likely means that Phoenix Ghost is a low-cost, single-use suicide drone that behaves like a loitering munition — flying around an airspace before ramming itself into a target.
That said, there are differences in the “scope of capability for the Phoenix Ghost, but I’m just not going to be able to get into more detail about those capabilities,” the official said, citing the classification of the new system.
The official claimed to have “no idea” how Phoenix Ghost got its name, but noted that the new system would require minimal training for Ukrainian operators who are already familiar with Switchblade or other unmanned aircraft.
The Air Force declined to comment on the creation of Phoenix Ghost, directing all inquiries to the Pentagon.
AEVEX Aerospace’s role in the design and manufacturing of Phoenix Ghost is also murky, with the defense official providing few details.
Breaking Defense phoned the company’s Solana Beach, Calif.-based headquarters hoping to find out more information, but was told “We have no comment on the issue you are calling about” by the person who answered the phone. (Breaking Defense had identified itself as a member of the media but had not specifically inquired on Phoenix Ghost. Asked specifically about Phoenix Ghost, the representative for AEVEX repeated that she had no comment.)
AEVEX markets itself as a “a recognized leader in full-spectrum airborne intelligence solutions,” with experience in operating manned and unmanned intelligence aircraft, exploiting the data they collect, and fabricating drones or mission systems.
On March 4, AEVEX was one of more than 50 companies that received an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract from the Navy to meet “new and emerging requirements” for areas including “combat integration and identification systems, ship and air integrated warfare systems, special communications mission solutions, air traffic control and landing systems, airborne systems integration, and integrated command and control and intelligence.” However it’s unclear whether this contract award has anything to do with the Phoenix Ghost.
The bespoke new drone is only one part of the latest $800 million arms package announced by President Joe Biden today. Also included are:
- 72 155mm Howitzers and 144,000 artillery rounds
- 72 Tactical Vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers
- Field equipment and spare parts
The Biden administration has provided about $3.4 billion in security assistance for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24. The latest round of Howitzers, combined with an earlier package from April 13, “provides enough artillery systems to equip five battalions,” the Pentagon said in a statement. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
21 Apr 22. More Howitzers, Artillery Rounds, UAVs Headed to Ukraine.
Another $800m in security assistance is headed to Ukraine, the Pentagon announced today. This is the 8th drawdown package announced, which is gear pulled from existing U.S. military stock. Included in this package are 72 155 mm howitzers, 144,000 artillery rounds, 121 Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial systems and vehicles with which to tow the howitzers.
The Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial System, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby, is a system developed by the Air Force in response to Ukrainian requirements.
“Phoenix Ghost is a tactical, unmanned aerial system … provides similar capabilities to the Switchblade series of unmanned systems — similar capabilities, but not exact,” said Kirby. At this time he was not willing to elaborate further on the capabilities of the Phoenix Ghost.
The Phoenix Ghost system, he said, will likely require minimal training for Ukrainian users who are already experienced in operating other UASs.
“We’re going to be working through those training requirements directly with the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” he said.
Last week the U.S. announced it would ship 18 howitzers to Ukraine, along with 40,000 artillery shells to go with them. The U.S. will now ship 72 additional howitzers to Ukraine and 144,000 additional shells. That brings the total number of howitzers to 90.
“These additional 72 howitzers will help basically fit out five more … artillery battalions for the Ukrainians,” Kirby said. “This was … very much in keeping with their needs, specifically in the Donbas, and the kind of fighting that has already started there and we expect to continue over days and weeks ahead.”
The latest security assistance package also includes 72 tactical vehicles which can be used to tow the howitzers.
So far, eight drawdown packages of security assistance have been targeted at Ukraine. Helping move that equipment and also to move equipment and supplies donated by U.S. partner and allied nations, is the Eucom Control Center – Ukraine.
During a background briefing this morning, a senior defense official said Eucom Control Center – Ukraine was established in March in Stuttgart, Germany, to support both security force assistance and humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainians.
” responsible for consolidating Ukrainian assistance needs. The Eucom Control Center coordinates and synchronizes timely delivery of U.S., allied and partner contributions of assistance,” the official said. “This cell is co-located with the UK-led International Donor Coordination Center, which coordinates resources from amongst our international community partners to enable donor countries from around the world to provide military equipment and aid to the armed forces of Ukraine.”
The official said for the latest security assistance package, Eucom Control Center – Ukraine has been working with the services and with the joint staff on sourcing solutions for the equipment and material. It’s expected the first flights will leave the U.S. in the next 24 to 48 hours and that the first rounds of that equipment will be in the Ukrainian hands by the end of the weekend. (Source: US DoD)
21 Apr 22. President Biden Announces New $800m in Military Assistance to Ukraine. President Joe Biden announced today that the United States will send another $800m in equipment to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s two-month-long invasion.
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of an $800 million military aid package the president signed last week.
“Now launched and refocused their campaign to seize new territory in eastern Ukraine, and we’re in a critical window where they’re going to set the stage for the next phase of this war,” the president said. “And the United States and our allies and partners are moving as fast as possible to continue to provide Ukraine the forces that they need the equipment their forces need to defend their nation.”
Biden said today’s announcement of more military equipment would further augment Ukraine’s ability to fight in its eastern area of the country, particularly in the Donbas region. “This package includes heavy artillery weapons, dozens of howitzers and 144,000 rounds of ammunition to go with those howitzers. It also includes more tactical drones,” he said.
In the past two months, the president added, the United States has moved weapons and equipment to Ukraine at record speed. “We’ve sent thousands of anti-armor and anti-missile helicopters, drones, grenade launchers, machine guns, rifles, radar systems.”
“The United States alone has provided 10 anti-armor systems for every one Russian tank that’s in Ukraine — a 10-to-1 ratio,” Biden added. “We’re continuing to share significant timely intelligence with Ukraine to help defend them against Russian aggression,” he said.
The president said the United States is sending funding directly to the front lines of freedom “to the fearless and skilled Ukrainian fighters who are standing in the breach.” He touted the courage of Ukrainians and the resolve shown by not just their military, but also by the Ukrainian citizens.
“It’s the sustained and coordinated support of the international community, led and facilitated by the United States is a significant reason why Ukraine is able to stop Russia from taking over their country this far,” Biden said.
The president said that next week he plans to send Congress a supplemental budget request to keep weapons and ammunition flowing to Ukraine without interruption. “My expectation is Congress would move quickly,” he noted, citing bipartisan support for the people of Ukraine.
“Our unity with our allies and partners and our unity with the Ukrainian people is sending an unmistakable message to ,” Biden said. “He will never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine; that will not happen.”
In addition to bolstering Ukraine’s resistance on the battlefield, the United States is also demonstrating its support for the people of Ukraine, he said.
“Today, the United States is announcing that we intend to provide an additional $500m in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government,” the president said. “This brings our total economic support for Ukraine to $1bn in the past two months. This is money the government can help to stabilize their economy, to support communities that have been devastated by the Russian onslaught and pay the brave workers that continue to provide essential services to the people of Ukraine,” he added.
As the United States has welcomed tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees so far, Biden also announced today, “Uniting for Ukraine,” a new program to enable Ukrainians seeking refuge to come directly from Europe to the United States.
The new humanitarian program will complement the existing legal pathways available to Ukrainians, including immigrant visas and refugee processing, the president said. “It will provide an expedient channel for secure, legal migration from Europe to the United States for Ukrainians who have a U.S. sponsor, such as a family or a . This program will be fast, it will be streamlined, and will ensure the United States honors its commitment to the to the people of Ukraine,” he added.
Additionally, the Treasury Department yesterday rolled out further measures to crack down on the entities and individuals attempting to evade the unprecedented sanctions that have been imposed on Russia — not just the United States’ sanctions, but those throughout the West, Biden said.
“Today, I’m announcing the United States will ban Russian-affiliated ships from our ports, as they did in Europe. That means no ship that sails under the Russian flag, or that is owned or operated by Russian interests, will be allowed to dock in a United States port or access our shores,” he said.
Biden said that Putin was counting on the resolve of NATO, the European Union and U.S. allies in Asia giving way, leading to reduced support for Ukraine.
“Once again, we’re going to prove him wrong,” he said. “We will not lessen our resolve. We’re going to continue to stand with the brave and proud people of Ukraine; we will never fail in our determination to defend freedom and oppose tyranny.” (Source: US DoD)
13 Apr 22. Footage suggests first recorded use of Russian UGV in Ukraine. The most proven and combat-ready uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV) in the Russian army’s possession has reportedly appeared on a Ukraine battlefield. Footage has emerged that seemingly shows Russian military sappers operating a Uran-6 UGV in an unknown location somewhere in the Luhansk region. On 1 April, a source claiming to be the press service of the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ released a video of the Uran-6 in the first recorded use of the UGV in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict and the third known combat deployment for the system. The Uran-6 was publicly unveiled in December 2014. In the following eight years, it has seen service in Syria in 2016 and the Nagorno-Karabak region in 2020. Various improvements and upgrades have been made to the system through data accumulated during combat missions and rigorous testing in multiple environments. The tracked Uran-6 weighs 6 to 7t depending on the installed equipment and can be remotely operated at distances of up to 1,000m. The system includes an 8×8 Kamaz-63501 truck with multilift hook lift platform, allowing the ability to unload and set up the UGV in 3-4 minutes. Recent reported uses of newer Russian weapon systems, such as the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic ballistic missile or the Zemledelie ISDM remote minelayer system, indicate that the Russian MoD may be using the conflict to test equipment in the field. It is, therefore, possible that UGVs such as Uran-9 or Nerekhta could also emerge on the battlefield in Ukraine. (Source: Shephard)
20 Apr 22. Russia tests nuclear-capable missile that Putin calls world’s best.
- Sarmat launch comes at moment of extreme tension over Ukraine
- Putin boasts it can evade missile defences
- Test follows years of design and funding delays
In a show of strength two months into its assault on Ukraine, Russia test-launched a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile which President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday would make Moscow’s enemies stop and think.
Putin was shown on TV being told by the military that the long-awaited Sarmat missile had been test-launched for the first time from Plesetsk in northwest Russia and hit targets in the Kamchatka peninsula, nearly 6,000 km (3,700 miles) away.
The test of the Sarmat, under development for years, did not surprise the West, but came at a moment of extreme geopolitical tension. Russia has yet to capture any major cities since it sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Ukraine’s defence ministry was not immediately available for comment.
“The new complex has the highest tactical and technical characteristics and is capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defence. It has no analogues in the world and won’t have for a long time to come,” Putin said.
“This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia’s security from external threats and provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country.”
Announcing the invasion eight weeks ago, Putin made a pointed reference to Russia’s nuclear forces and warned the West that any attempt to get in its way “will lead you to such consequences that you have never encountered in your history.”
Days later, he ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert. “The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last month.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday the Sarmat was fired from a silo launcher at 1512 Moscow time (1212 GMT).
Russia’s nuclear forces will start taking delivery of the new missile “in the autumn of this year” once testing is complete, Tass quoted Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Roscosmos space agency, as saying on Wednesday.
Jack Watling of the RUSI think-tank in London said there was an element of posturing and symbolism involved, less than three weeks before the annual Victory Day parade where Russia shows off its latest weapons.
“The timing of the test reflects the Russians wanting to have something to show as a technological achievement in the lead-up to Victory Day, at a time when a lot of their technology has not delivered the results they would have liked,” Watling said.
Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the launch was an important milestone after years of delays caused by funding issues and design challenges.
He said more tests would be needed before Russia could actually deploy it in place of ageing SS-18 and SS-19 missiles that were “well past their sell-by date”.
Barrie said the Sarmat’s ability to carry 10 or more warheads and decoys, and Russia’s option of firing it over either of the Earth’s poles, posed a challenge to ground and satellite-based radar and tracking systems.
Igor Korotchenko, editor in chief of Russia’s National Defence magazine, told RIA news agency it was a signal to the West that Moscow was capable of meting out “crushing retribution that will put an end to the history of any country that has encroached on the security of Russia and its people”.
Ukraine has mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions to try to force Russia to withdraw forces Moscow says are on a special operation to degrade its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it calls dangerous nationalists. (Source: Reuters)
20 Apr 22. Russia Notified U.S. of ICBM Test Launch. Russia’s defense ministry said today the country test-launched one of its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles, and Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said the Russians had properly notified the United States under its new START Treaty obligations.
“Such testing is routine, and it was not a surprise. It was not deemed be a threat to the United States or its allies,” Kirby said.
The Russian defense ministry reported that the long-range missile was launched from western Russia, north of Moscow, and landed on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the country’s far east.
Kirby said Ukraine has not been given any fixed-wing aircraft by the U.S. or other allies and partners. However, he said the country was given spare parts that enabled a number of fixed-wing aircraft to be operable that previously were not.
Fixed-wing refers to aircraft that are not helicopters, such as bombers and fighters.
Meanwhile, a senior Defense Department official said Russia continues to conduct offensive and shaping operations in eastern Ukraine.
Shaping operations involve the placement of more forces and enablers — such as engineering and logistical support, as well as command and control systems.
To the west of Donetsk, Ukraine, fighting continues in the Kherson region. “We assess that Ukrainian forces have regained regain control of a town Oleksandrivka, Ukraine, about 40 kilometers south of Mykolayiv,” the official said.
DOD also maintains that the Ukrainian city of Mariupol is still being contested, and there still is active Ukrainian resistance at Mariupol’s Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, the official said.
Russian forces are advancing south from the north side of the Donbas region, and they are trying to maintain pressure on Ukrainian forces in that area, the official said.
Russian forces continue to push south out of Izyum, Ukraine, toward the cities of Kramatorsk, Sloviansk and Lyman in the Donbas, the official said.
Airstrikes are focused on the area of fighting in eastern Ukraine, particularly around Izyum and north of the Donbas, the official said. These are airstrikes that include the use of some Russian bombers, as well.
In the maritime domain, the Russian Navy continues to be postured largely off the coast of Crimea and well away from the from the southern coast near Odesa, Ukraine, and that part of the northern Black Sea, the official said.
Security assistance continues to arrive in Eastern Europe from the United States and elsewhere in Europe, the official said, including 155 mm howitzers and thousands of artillery rounds.
Training on U.S.-made artillery pieces is being conducted outside of Ukraine, the official added.
In the Donbas and elsewhere, “the Ukrainians are putting up a fight. They’re scrapping. They’re not just laying down and letting the Russians move,” the official said. (Source: US DoD)
20 Apr 22. Biden hosts military chiefs as Ukraine crisis intensifies. President Joe Biden convened U.S. military leaders on Wednesday in an annual White House gathering taking on special significance as the war in Ukraine enters a risky new phase and Washington plans more weapons assistance.
A “variety of topics” were set to be discussed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior military leaders, a National Security Council spokesperson said. The event includes a formal West Wing meeting as well as a dinner in the president’s residence with leaders’ spouses afterward.
While the annual military policy meeting rarely makes news, weighty issues are on the agenda this year, topped by a conflict in Ukraine that officials fear could imperil European security for years to come.
Russia has said it has entered a new stage of its operation and is methodically seeking to “liberate” the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Western allies anticipate Russia’s campaign could last many months, grind to a stalemate and test the battlefield capabilities of Ukrainian fighters.
Opening the meeting, Biden touted the toughness of the Ukrainian military and said that NATO’s unity has shocked Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“They’re tougher and more proud than I thought; I’m amazed what they’re doing with your help,” Biden said. “I don’t think that Putin counted on it being able to hold us together.”
The United States is expected to announce another military aid package for Ukraine in coming days that could match the $800m pledged last week.
Russia says it launched what it calls a “special military operation” on Feb. 24 to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext.
U.S. forces are not fighting in Ukraine but are indirectly engaged, arming, training and financing Kyiv’s forces.
A lengthy clash could also test U.S. public support for Washington’s backing of Ukraine. Last month, Biden asked Congress for record peacetime spending on the military for the upcoming fiscal year. read more
The meeting comes amid questions about the future of NATO forces in Europe, including whether to install a permanent presence on the defense alliance’s eastern border with Russia.
During a brief portion of the meeting open to reporters, Biden also expressed pride that women represented three of the senior officials included in the gathering. (Source: Reuters)
20 Apr 22. SpaceX shut down a Russian electromagnetic warfare attack in Ukraine last month — and the Pentagon is taking notes. Russia’s halting efforts to conduct electromagnetic warfare in Ukraine show how important it is to quickly respond, and immediately shut down, such attacks, Pentagon experts said Wednesday.
But the U.S. needs to get much better at its own EW rapid response, they said during the C4ISRNET Conference Wednesday — and can learn a lot from how the private sector has handled these situations.
Brig. Gen. Tad Clark, director of the Air Force’s electromagnetic spectrum superiority directorate, said modern wars will increasingly involve electromagnetic warfare, particularly to shape the battlefield when conflicts begin.
Dave Tremper, director of electronic warfare for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, pointed to SpaceX’s ability last month to swiftly stymie a Russian effort to jam its Starlink satellite broadband service, which was keeping Ukraine connected to the Internet. SpaceX founder Elon Musk steered thousands of Starlink terminals to Ukraine after an official sent him a tweet asking for help keeping the besieged country online.
“The next day [after reports about the Russian jamming effort hit the media], Starlink had slung a line of code and fixed it,” Tremper said. “And suddenly that [Russian jamming attack] was not effective anymore. From [the] EW technologist’s perspective, that is fantastic … and how they did that was eye-watering to me.”
The government, on the other hand, has a “significant timeline to make those types of corrections” as it muddles through analyses of what happened, decides how to fix it and gets a contract in place for the fix.
“We need to be able to have that agility,” Tremper said. “We need to be able to change our electromagnetic posture to be able to change, very dynamically, what we’re trying to do without losing capability along the way.”
Redundancy is also critical so the U.S. could keep operating on another system if an EW attack succeeded at knocking one out, Tremper said.
The U.S. needs to think a lot more innovatively when it comes to building new EW equipment, Clark said. It won’t be enough to just buy upgraded versions of legacy systems, he said — the U.S. has to come up with new systems that allow for much greater resilience and speed.
This includes incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning into next-generation systems to be able to respond faster, he said. Increased use of digital engineering can also help the military model new equipment with a computer and work out the kinks before going through the time-consuming typical acquisition and testing process.
Clark said the Air Force’s in-development Compass Call, the EC-37B, is a prime example of how digital engineering is transforming how the service approaches new electromagnetic warfare capabilities.
Software coders and engineers are working with Compass Call operators on the ground to figure out creative ways to jam enemy signals, Clark said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has taught the U.S. a great deal about the sophistication and reliability of Russian equipment, they said, and their troops’ ability to carry out missions in a synchronized way.
In particular, Tremper said, it has shown how important it is to properly train the personnel assigned to carry out electromagnetic warfare operations. Trying to carry out EW while moving forward inside the territory you’re invading, and not in a secure location, makes it even trickier.
“It’s a very hard problem, if you don’t have well-trained operators,” Tremper said. “The degree of coordination and synchronization of these types of operations is such that the undertrained operator will have a harder time pulling off those types of events successfully.”
Tremper said the Pentagon expected a “much stronger” EW showing from Russia — but cautioned that isn’t to say all of Russia’s efforts have failed. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
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