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Military And Security Developments
- BAKHMUT: Russian forces continue to counter-attack along the town’s flanks; despite claims that they have recently retaken limited (and unspecified) positions, the frontline remains broadly static. Heavy fighting nevertheless continues, with Ukrainian forces continuing counter-offensive operations; the most notable fighting is taking place around Klishchiivka, located around four miles (6km) south-west of Bakhmut.
- DONETSK: Nothing significant to report
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: On 9 August, the governor of Kharkiv oblast, Oleg Synyehubov, announced that 53 settlements in Kupiansk raion (Kharkiv) will be evacuated because of the intensification of Russian shelling and airstrikes. While Russian forces have been stepping up operations in the Kupiansk sector, the evacuation does not necessarily mean that Russian forces are likely to make major operational breakthroughs in the sector, though pressure is clearly mounting on the defending Ukrainian forces.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: On 10 August, Ukraine’s Eastern Group of Forces spokesperson, Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty, reported that Russian forces have been trying to take the operational initiative in the Kupiansk sector for the past few days. However, according to Cherevaty, Ukrainian forces have strengthened their positions in the area. On 10 August, Russian Western Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Sergei Zybinsky claimed that Russian forces took control of five Ukrainian positions in Vilshana (Kharkiv), located around nine miles (15km) north-east of Kupiansk. Several Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces made progress around Synkivka, located around 11 miles (17km) north-east of Kupiansk, with some Russian sources stating that Ukrainian forces withdrew from several positions and retreated towards Kupiansk. There is no visual evidence corroborating the Russian claims; the Ukrainian General Staff reports that Russian offensive operations in the sector remain unsuccessful.
- SOUTHERN: Ukrainian forces have likely made limited progress at two points along the southern front over the last 24 hours. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on 10 August that its forces had achieved ‘partial success’ south of Staromaiorske, located around six miles (10km) south-west of Velyka Novosilka (Donetsk oblast). Specifically, Russian sources reported on 10-11 August that Ukrainian forces have made limited advances towards the nearby village of Urozhaine. Geolocated footage from 10 August also indicates that Ukrainian forces crossed the Mokri Yaly River to take up positions in the south-western sections of the village, though it remains unclear if Kyiv has since retained these positions.
- SOUTHERN: Further west, unconfirmed reports emerged earlier on 11 August that Ukrainian forces have broken through Russian defences and have entered the outskirts of Robotyne, located around eight miles (13km) south-east of Orikhiv (Zaporizhzhia oblast). Images of Ukrainian forces in front of the town’s sign support these reports, though it remains unclear if Ukrainian forces will successfully consolidate control over such a toehold in the northern sectors of the town.
- KHERSON: Russian sources reported earlier on 11 August that Ukrainian forces are allegedly planning to transfer additional forces to the Kherson frontline in preparation for a large-scale landing operation. However, the sources themselves acknowledge that any such alleged plans could be part of a Ukrainian information operation aimed at spooking the Russians into redeploying sizeable forces to protect the Dnieper riverbank from an attack that never materialises.
- STRIKES: Ukraine’s air force reported that Russia launched Kh-47M2 Kinzhal ballistic missiles against Kyiv oblast earlier on 11 August. The number of missiles is unknown at the time of writing. The authorities reported that missile debris fell in three locations in Kyiv’s Obolonskyi district, including a paediatric medical facility. The damage caused to the facility underscores the persistent collateral risks facing civilian infrastructure. According to a report by the Ukrainian Healthcare Centre published on 10 August, Ukraine’s healthcare infrastructure has been targeted by more than 1,000 attacks since the beginning of the war.
- STRIKES: Russian forces also launched a strike against a prominent hotel in Zaporizhzhia city on 10 August, underscoring the threat to NGOs and other workers staying at hotels in frontline cities. The UN condemned the attack against the Reikartz Hotel given its has often housed UN staff and NGO workers. As such, civilian infrastructure will continue to be vulnerable to Russian strikes, despite Ukraine’s increasing interception rate of Russian projectiles.
- STRIKES: Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reported on 11 August that air defences intercepted a drone over the capital Moscow during the third consecutive drone attack against the city. Although Ukrainian officials never claim responsibility for strikes on Russian territory, the uptick in attacks against Moscow reflects Kyiv’s determination to carry out strikes deep into Russian territory, despite their fairly limited impact on Russia’s war machine.
- Heightened risk of cyber espionage operations targeting diplomatic entities in Belarus. A cyber espionage threat group, ‘MoustachedBouncer’, is using adversary-in-the-middle (AitM) attacks on Internet Services Providers (ISPs) to target diplomatic representations in Belarus. In a report released on 10 August, cyber security company ESET identified five distinct campaigns that have targeted diplomatic entities since 2020. The threat actor is suspected to have been active since 2014 and has not yet been attributed to a particular country. MoustachedBouncer is likely to have either breached the ISP infrastructures in a previous supply chain compromise or collaborated with entities that had access to network service providers in Belarus. The group directed users to a Windows Update URL, infecting them with custom malware upon installation. MoustachedBouncer’s infrastructure is not publicly accessible, thereby hiding it from security researchers and protecting it from takedowns. The exploited ISPs are operated by the state-owned telecommunications firm Beltelecom and the largest private ISP, Unitary Enterprise AI. These elements demonstrates that the group has a significant degree of sophistication and is possibly state-affiliated. Due to Belarus’ close ties with Russia amid the war in Ukraine, the diplomatic representations of NATO member states are likely to be targeted by espionage campaigns in Belarus.
- BELARUS: On 10 August, a fire broke out at a gasoline production unit at the Mozyr oil refinery in south-eastern Belarus. It comes after Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) claimed on 4 August that it had obtained intelligence suggesting Russia was preparing to stage a false-flag attack at the facility in an attempt to draw Belarus into the war. The SBU claimed that Russian military and intelligence forces would carry out the provocation disguised as Wagner Group mercenaries. Belarus’ Ministry of Emergency Situations said it had extinguished the fire and that the cause is being determined. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka stated in February that his country would join Russia in the war if it is first attacked by Ukraine. While there is a realistic possibility that the incident was a false-flag attack, it is highly unlikely that this would prompt Minsk to enter the conflict, particularly given the uncertainty over the future of Wagner Group in the country and the very low offensive capabilities of the Belarusian military.
- AID: The Washington Post reported on 11 August that the first Ukrainian pilots to undergo F-16 training will most likely not be ready to fly the fighter jets until next summer. It reported that two unnamed Ukrainian officials stated that although the six selected pilots are already fluent in English, they must first attend language lessons in the UK for four months to learn terminology associated with the aircraft. This training will reportedly take place alongside ground staff who possibly have a lower proficiency in English because Denmark, one of the nations leading the training efforts, allegedly requested to train entire crews together rather than pilots first. According to the outlet, this has pushed back the start of the training (which is likely to take six months) to January. While we previously assessed that F-16s were unlikely to be deployed this year, the report indicates that delays over training will likely continue to impede the deployment of the fighter jets over the battlefield.
- FINLAND: Finland is reportedly negotiating a new defence co-operation agreement with the US to allow for long-term troop deployments to the country following its accession to NATO. On 9 August, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reiterated Moscow’s plans to strengthen Russian forces along the Finnish border in response to the expansion of NATO. However, Russian plans to create new army corps and to re-establish the Leningrad Military District will likely require a significant expansion to conscription and/or mobilisation programmes if they are to be brought to fruition amid the attritional war in Ukraine – meaning it remains unclear if Moscow will be able to translate paper strength into a genuine force to balance NATO forward deployments to Finland. Finland’s accession to NATO doubled the length of the alliance’s border with Russia. While increased posturing will drive tensions and airspace violations and tests are more likely, these will not increase the risk of a genuine military confrontation along the border.
- BLACK SEA: Ukraine announced on 10 August the opening of a new ‘humanitarian corridor’ through the Black Sea for ships that have been stuck in Ukrainian ports since Russia launched its full-scale invasion. The new routes will be used initially to facilitate the exit of civilian vessels stuck in the ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa and Pivdennyi. Ukraine’s navy stated that Russian mines continue to pose a threat along these shipping lanes, noting that only vessels whose owners or captains confirm they are ready to sail in such conditions will be allowed to transit. Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 19 July that vessels travelling to Ukrainian Black Sea ports would be considered potential carriers of military cargo and therefore legitimate military targets. While the latest initiative will test Russia’s willingness and ability to enforce a de-facto blockade of Ukraine’s ports, many ships are likely to remain reticent to sail at present due to Russia’s threats and remilitarisation of sections of the Black Sea.
- Ukraine: Ships likely to remain hesitant to use new Black Sea corridor due to Russian threats. On 10 August, Ukraine announced the opening of a new ‘humanitarian corridor’ in the Black Sea for ships that have been blocked in its ports since Russia launched its full-scale invasion. The new routes will be used initially to facilitate the exit of civilian vessels stuck in the ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa and Pivdennyi (all in Odesa oblast). Ukraine’s navy stated that Russia and mines continue to pose a threat along these shipping lanes, noting only vessels whose owners or captains confirm they are ready to sail in such conditions will be allowed to pass through. Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 19 July that vessels travelling to Ukrainian Black Sea ports would be considered potential carriers of military cargo and, therefore, potential military targets. While the initiative poses a test of Russia’s willingness and ability to enforce a de-facto blockade of Ukraine’s ports, many ships are likely to remain reticent to sail at present due to Russia’s threats and actions to remilitarise sections of the Black Sea.
- Russia: ‘Crypto-nationalisation’ of Yandex will likely take place despite risks of brain drain. On 10 August, Reuters reported that Russian authorities were hesitating on nationalising the Russian branch of the multinational technology company and research engine, Yandex. According to unnamed sources, Moscow fears that the takeover would result in the loss of highly skilled staff, with many of the firm’s employees having already moved abroad after Russia invaded Ukraine. Moscow’s nationalisation plans are highly likely part of the Kremlin’s efforts to tighten its control over the information space ahead of the 2024 presidential elections. Yandex was fined for not abiding by Russia’s censorship laws, while the company’s founder Arkady Volozh publicly denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 10 August, a likely indication that the nationalisation will eventually go ahead. While foreign stakeholders are reportedly planning to divest from the Russian operations, Moscow is currently considering allowing Kremlin-affiliated businessmen to purchase the entity. This ‘crypto-nationalisation’ option would allow the Kremlin to maintain control over Yandex, while moderately mitigating the risk of a brain drain resulting from a complete nationalisation.
NATIONALISATION: Reuters reported on 10 August that the Russian authorities are hesitant to nationalise the Russian branch of the multinational technology company and research engine Yandex. According to unnamed sources, Moscow fears that the takeover would result in the loss of highly skilled staff, with many of the firm’s employees having already moved abroad after Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia’s minister for digital development stated in December that around 100,000 IT specialists had left the country since Moscow ordered the full-scale invasion, underscoring the credible risk of a further ‘brain drain’.
Moscow’s nationalisation plans are highly likely part of the Kremlin’s efforts to tighten its control over the information space ahead of Russia’s 2024 presidential elections. Yandex was fined for not abiding by Russia’s censorship laws, while the company’s founder, Arkady Volozh, publicly denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 10 August, a likely indication that the nationalisation will eventually go ahead.
While foreign stakeholders are reportedly planning to divest from Russian operations, Moscow is currently considering allowing Kremlin-affiliated businessmen to purchase the entity. Independent Russian news outlets reported in July that a top aide of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sergei Kiriyenko, is advocating a new plan to sell Yandex’s Russian assets to businessmen with connections to Yuri Kovalchuk – the billionaire known as Putin’s personal banker. This ‘crypto-nationalisation’ option would allow the Kremlin to maintain control over Yandex while moderately mitigating the risk of a brain drain resulting from a complete nationalisation. It would also serve to reward those in the Kremlin’s favour, including allies of Kiriyenko, ensuring these individuals continue to prove their loyalty.
In a separate development that underlines the contradictory operating environment facing Western firms, a prominent Italian bank is reportedly edging closer to securing approval from Moscow to transfer its Russian operations to local management. Reuters, citing a source close to the matter, reported on 10 August that the final authorisation is still pending and that there is no certainty it will be granted. Presidential approval is necessary for key banks to break away from their Russian businesses. Although Italy is considered an ‘unfriendly country’ by the Kremlin, there is a realistic possibility other foreign lenders looking to leave the Russian market will also be permitted to do so in the coming months if the Italian bank in question receives approval to divest its Russian operations. This would in turn reduce reputational risks for corporations, though Moscow has simultaneously been trying to complicate Western exit strategies in a bid to deter foreign capital flight. However, as Rome has maintained more cordial business relations with Moscow compared with other Western nations, the Italian scenario represents a special case. For further analysis on evolving nationalisation risks, please see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 1 August 2023.
- BAKHMUT: Nothing significant to report
- DONETSK: Nothing significant to report
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: On 9 August, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, reported that Russian offensive operations in the direction of Kupiansk remain unsuccessful despite the presence of a large offensive force. Maliar claimed that Russian operations around Synkivka, located around 11 miles (17km) north-east of Kupiansk, have been unsuccessful over the past few days. However, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed on 9 August that its forces had taken several Ukrainian positions near Mankivka, around nine miles (15km) east of Kupiansk. On 10 August, the Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled seven Ukrainian counter-attacks in the Kupiansk direction.
- SOUTHERN: Heavy fighting continues at multiple points along the southern axis, with Ukrainian attacks and Russian counter-attacks over the last 24-48 hours leading to advances around Robotyne, located around eight miles (13km) south-east of Orikhiv (Zaporizhzhia oblast). Russian sources also acknowledged earlier on 10 August that Ukrainian forces successfully took unspecified strongholds near Robotyne, which was previously contested space. Further east along the Vremevsky salient, Ukrainian forces are continuing to prioritise attacks against Urozhaine, located around 11 miles (18km) south of Velyka Novosilka (Donetsk oblast). Ukrainian forces have likely advanced east of this village in recent days, meaning they are likely applying increased pressure on the settlement from the north, west and east.
- KHERSON: The Ukrainian MoD continues to ‘not confirm’ the recent crossing of the Dnieper River around Kozachi Laheri, though geolocated footage from 9 August indicates that the event was likely a limited raid. Russian forces appear to be in control of key positions in and near the settlement, though it likely remains under intense Ukrainian artillery bombardment. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian armed forces claimed on 9 August that they successfully struck Russia’s main military command post in Nova Kakhovka, some 19 miles (31km) north-east of the site of the recent raid. While we cannot confirm this, Ukrainian forces are clearly stepping up attacks along the Kherson front, likely in a bid to pressurise Russian forces to redeploy troops from the critical Zaporizhzhia axis.
- STRIKES: Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reported that Russian air defences intercepted two drones targeting the capital on the night of 9-10 August in the latest attack against the city. According to Sobyanin, the first drone was shot down in Kaluga oblast and the second drone was neutralised over Moscow’s central ring road. Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport (VKO) and Domodedovo Airport (DME) temporarily closed on the night of 9-10 August. The Ukrainian authorities have not claimed responsibility for the strikes. The temporary closure of the airports illustrates the disruption risks resulting from Kyiv’s increased willingness and capacity to strike deep into Russian territory.
- STRIKES: The Russian MoD also reported that its air defences intercepted 11 drones targeting the city of Sevastopol in Crimea overnight on 10 August. The strikes reflect Kyiv’s broader efforts to step up attacks against Russian and Russian-annexed territories. Notably, recent data provided by the independent Russian media outlet Verstka indicate that the number of explosions in Russia increased from 20 in 2021 to 83 in 2022. The statistics reflect the growing rate not only of drone strikes, but also sabotage operations across the country by Ukrainian agents and anti-war domestic agitants. It is unclear who or what was responsible for the 9 August explosion at the Zagorsk optical-mechanical plant in Sergiev Posad, located roughly 41 miles (67km) north-east of Moscow. However, Russian sources broadly agree that it was not related to Ukraine, and that the overseer of the plant was reportedly detained for not following safety procedures. Nevertheless, the damage caused to a major producer of pyrotechnics and optical equipment for the military marks the latest blow to Russia’s military-industrial complex.
- STRIKES: The governor of Ukraine’s Rivne oblast, Vitaliy Koval, reported that a Russian drone struck an oil depot in the city of Dubno, situated 28 miles (46km) south-west of Rivne. Although the strike caused a large fire, Koval claimed that chemical and radiation levels are normal. As such, residents were not evacuated. The strike took place on the night of 9-10 August and comprised ten Iranian-made Shahed 136/131 drones, of which Ukraine’s air defences reportedly intercepted seven. The attack was highly likely (at least in part) retaliation for Ukraine’s recent drone attacks against Russian oil infrastructure in the Black Sea. As we previously assessed, when one side targets a given sector or form of infrastructure belonging to the other, the likelihood of its own (same) sectors or infrastructure types being targeted in retaliation will increase.
- REFORMS: On 9 August, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ratified a bill that raises the country’s compliance with the EU’s Customs code. Initially voted on by Ukraine’s Parliament on 14 July, the bill simplifies procedures for determining the country of origin for goods. As such, Ukrainian customs will implement the Pan-Euro-Mediterranean (PEM) Convention on preferential rules of origin. The bill comes after Parliament ratified on 29 June the country’s participation in the EU customs programme. It aims to increase the co-operation between customs administrations and will act as an incentive for Ukraine to modernise its customs system. Increased compliance with EU customs rules will streamline customs procedures, thus decreasing the risk of delays at borders resulting from inspection operations. The law reflects Ukraine’s increasing efforts to comply with EU regulations in a bid to integrate into the bloc; it will also facilitate Ukraine’s exports to the EU and help to accelerate border crossings for goods.
- REFORMS: Ukraine’s Parliament passed a bill in the first reading on 9 August restoring the obligation for political parties to report on their funding. The legislation reportedly aims to minimise the influence of oligarchs on political parties, which has been an issue in Ukrainian politics for years. While presidential elections are due to be held in the spring of 2024, Zelensky stated in June that elections must be held in peacetime when there are no hostilities. The president announced that, according to the country’s constitution, no elections can be held in Ukraine while martial law remains in effect. According to the European Commission’s (EC) interim assessment in June on Ukraine’s progress in fulfilling the conditions required for launching accession negotiations to join the EU, Kyiv made ‘some’ progress towards fighting corruption and de-oligarchisation. As such, the bill is highly likely connected to Kyiv’s efforts to join the bloc, with further reform efforts likely in the coming months.
- AID: Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko reported on 9 August that Kyiv will need at least USD 42bn in foreign financial aid in 2024 due to high defence and security expenditure. Marchenko stated that Ukraine received this sum in external financing for 2023, noting that it is planning for no less in 2024. However, the minister also noted that there are no guarantees that the required funding will be provided. In June, the EU proposed a four-year financial assistance package worth EUR 50 billion (USD 55 billion). It will reportedly include both loans and grants; the reserve will possibly encourage donors other than the EU to boost their financial support for Ukraine.
- AID: Marchenko also stated that the IMF will provide support, and expressed hope that the US would follow suit. The minister’s remarks underscore the extent to which Kyiv relies on external funding to support its economy and war effort. According to a recent poll conducted for CNN by Server Reporting Services (SSRS), 55% of US citizens surveyed believe Congress should not authorise additional funding to support Ukraine. As such, there is a realistic possibility that war fatigue, particularly in the US, will impede the delivery of aid in the long term. The amount of support Washington DC is willing to offer is likely contingent on the results of the 2024 presidential election.
- AID: Separately, the Washington Post reported on 9 August that dozens of Leopard 1 tanks will possibly undergo refurbishment before being sent to Ukraine after a purchase from a private Belgian dealer. Belgium’s defence minister, Ludivine Dedonder, revealed earlier this year that Brussels is seeking to re-buy the tanks but claimed that an ‘unreasonable price’ was quoted. The German arms group Rheinmetall announced on 9 August that it was providing around 30 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine which were purchased from a Belgian company. Meanwhile, the German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that many of the tanks were in such poor condition that they could only be used for parts. Ultimately, it remains unclear just how useful these tanks will be once they undergo repair works; it is also difficult to assess when they would arrive in Ukraine. On 9 August, the German government also announced its latest military aid package for Ukraine, which includes two Patriot air defence systems, as well as ten BV206 all-terrain vehicles, over 6,500 rounds of 155mm smoke ammunition, four reconnaissance drones and more. The delivery of two Patriot systems will bolster Ukraine’s air defence capabilities, though Ukrainian officials will highly likely continue to appeal for more systems to counter Russian strikes.
- NUCLEAR: Earlier on 10 August, Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom warned that the main power line supplying the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has failed, meaning the plant needs to connect to a back-up line. Such disconnections to the main power grid have occurred at semi-regular intervals during the war. Whenever this happens the vulnerability of the back-up line increases the risk of stress on the plant’s safety features. Nevertheless, there are back-up generators in case of an emergency, and we do not anticipate any serious deterioration at the plant in the short term. In a separate development last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAE) confirmed that it has observed no mines on the rooftops of reactors 3 and 4 after its experts were granted access to the site several weeks after Kyiv accused Moscow of installing unknown objects on the units. For further analysis of the scenarios for a nuclear incident at the ZNPP.
WAGNER GROUP: According to unconfirmed reports on 9 August, Wagner Group fighters are allegedly leaving Belarus en masse. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has allegedly refused to finance the fighters’ stay in the country due to previous expectations that Moscow would pay for their upkeep – which apparently it has not done. While such claims cannot be confirmed, it raises further questions about the fallout of the group’s 23-24 June mutiny, such as whether parts of the deal that ended the rebellion have now collapsed; it also renders the Wagner Group’s future as uncertain.
The VChK-OGPU Telegram channel, which reports on Kremlin factions and inter-agency competition, claimed on 8 August that Wagner Group personnel are being transported by bus from their camps in Belarus. Buses have reportedly transported up to 600 Wagner personnel to cities in southern Russia, including Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don and Voronezh. Notably, these regions are traditional Wagner Group strongholds in Russia (the group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, seized control of military sites in Rostov-on-Don during the uprising). According to reports, the first stage of the withdrawal has already taken place; the second stage will allegedly begin after 13 August.
If the reports that Wagner Group soldiers are being transported to these locations are true, this would possibly signal that the Russian authorities are relatively confident that a renewed uprising remains a remote prospect. Their return to Russia would also possibly indicate that the Russian state is seeking to integrate Wagner Group fighters into the regular armed forces, which the Kremlin and MoD have largely been unsuccessful at doing so far. According to the source, soldiers who have not signed up for new work in Libya were urgently sent ‘on vacation’ to Russia. However, there appears to be no mention of their return to Belarus, though a small contingent of military instructors will reportedly remain in the country to train Belarusian forces. Despite the various claims, we are yet to observe evidence of Wagner Group forces leaving Belarus. Ultimately, this is the latest indication that the fate of the group remains highly uncertain; its deployments to Africa and/or Ukraine are also unclear, despite Prigozhin seemingly retaining control over the group following the mutiny.
- Ukraine: Increased compliance with EU customs rules will boost Ukrainian exports, cut bureaucracy. On 9 August, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ratified a bill that raises Ukraine’s compliance with the EU’s customs code (UCC). Initially voted by Ukraine’s parliament on 14 July, the bill simplifies procedures for determining the country of origin of goods. As such, Ukrainian customs will implement the Pan-Euro-Mediterranean (PEM) Convention on preferential rules of origin. The bill comes after the parliament ratified on 29 June the country’s participation in the EU customs programme. The programme aims to increase the co-operation between customs administrations and will act as an incentive to modernise Ukraine’s customs system. Increased compliance with EU rules will streamline customs procedures, thus decreasing the risk of delays at the borders resulting from inspection operations. The law reflects Ukraine’s increasing efforts to comply with EU regulations in its bid to integrate with the bloc. The move will help facilitate Ukraine’s exports to the EU, which will begin speeding up border crossings for goods.
- BAKHMUT: Russian forces continue to counter-attack at the flanks of Bakhmut in a bid to retake lost positions, but the frontline has been slow to move in either direction over the past two weeks. Russian sources claimed on 8 August that Russian forces counter-attacked and successfully retook unspecified positions near Klishchiivka, four miles (6km) south-west of Bakhmut. However, this remains unconfirmed and is unlikely to represent a notable change. Other Russian sources claimed on 9 August that their forces had ‘stabilised’ the situation along the northern flanks of Bakhmut, but this in part might be due to a reduction in the tempo of Ukrainian attacks in recent days.
- DONETSK: Nothing significant to report
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: On 8 August, the commander of Ukraine’s land forces, Oleksandr Syrsky, assessed that the Russian command’s goal was to break through Ukrainian defences to reach Kupiansk. Syrsky explained that Russian forces have gathered eight storm-Z assault detachments in the sector for that purpose. Nevertheless, given the low quality of Storm-Z units, which are largely manned by convicts, Russian operations are unlikely to result in major breakthroughs in the sector. Instead, Russian milbloggers explained on 8 August that Russia’s current goal in the sector is to force Kyiv to divert forces to defend the Oskil-Kreminna frontline. As such, while limited advances are taking place in this sector, the primary Russian objective is more likely aiming to stretch Ukrainian forces in an effort to alleviate other sectors of the frontline, including Bakhmut.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: On 8 August, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed that Russian forces took advantageous positions in Vilshana, situated 15 miles (24km) east of Kupyansk. On 9 August, a Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces are trying to regain lost positions east of Bilhorivka, located 12 miles (20km) south of Kreminna. The milblogger explained that Russian troops are consolidating their gains around Novoselivske, located around nine miles (14km) north-west of Svatove, in preparation for upcoming offensive operations. However, we cannot confirm the extent of Russian advances at this time.
- SOUTHERN: The Ukrainian General Staff reported on 9 August that their forces had achieved ‘partial success’ near three settlements on the southern front, though Ukrainian advances remain slow. Ukrainian forces have reportedly gained ground near the villages of Verbove (13 miles (21km) south-east of Orikhiv), Urozhaine and Pryyutne, around 11 miles (18km) south and south-west of Velyka Novosilka (Donetsk oblast). Russian sources have claimed that Ukrainian forces succeeded in entering the northern outskirts of Urozhaine, but were allegedly repulsed. We cannot confirm this. Nevertheless, Ukrainian counter-offensive operations are continuing, and Serhiy Kuzmin, a strategic communications officer for the Tavria group of forces, stated on 8 August that Ukrainian forces have already entered the first line of Russian defences, but that the situation remains ‘very difficult’.
- KHERSON: The Ukrainian General Staff stated on 9 August that it is not commenting on the Ukrainian raid across the Dnieper River. Since the raid, Russian sources have broadly reported that Russian forces retain control over Kozachi Laheri (the primary location of the fighting) and that Ukrainian forces were pushed back to the riverbank. However, it still remains unclear whether Ukrainian forces have retained a beachhead on the east (left) bank of the Dnieper River.
- STRIKES: Early on 9 August, Moscow authorities reported that the capital’s air defence intercepted two drones, in the third attack against Moscow since last week. Later on 9 August, Russian media outlets reported an explosion in an industrial plant manufacturing optical and optoelectrical devices for defence purposes; the plant is situated in the north-east of Moscow. The media reports explained that the explosion was the result of an accident. While Ukrainian authorities have not claimed responsibility for the explosion, there is a realistic possibility that Ukraine was responsible, given the strategic importance of the plant.
- STRIKES: The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed that the 7 August ballistic missile strike against Pokrovsk in Donetsk oblast targeted a Ukrainian command post. However, on 8 August, Ukraine Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty denied the Russian MoD’s statements, with local authorities claiming that the strike destroyed civilian infrastructure resulting in seven deaths. While it remains difficult to confirm whether there was a Ukrainian command post in the area, the strike illustrates the growing risk of collateral damage resulting from Russia’s strike campaign.
- BLACK SEA: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video published on 8 August that his country will mirror Russian attacks in the Black Sea. Zelensky warned that if Russia continues to dominate the Black Sea, outside of its territory, enforcing blockades and launching missiles at Ukrainian ports, Ukraine will do the same. The Ukrainian president also threatened that Russia will have no ships left by the end of the war. It comes after an attack against a Russian oil tanker and a special operation against Novorossisyk – a key naval base and oil export terminal (see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 3 August 2023). Zelensky’s remarks signal a growing willingness to target Russian infrastructure and Russian-flagged vessels in the Black Sea, parts of which are becoming increasingly remilitarised since Moscow withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) in July. Further attacks in both directions remain highly likely in the coming weeks, and tit-for-tat attacks will risk escalating the security environment significantly in the coming months, which will further drive up insurance premiums for maritime exports.
- AID: The Pentagon confirmed on 8 August that US President Joe Biden has authorised F-16 fighter jet training for Ukrainian pilots. Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh stated Biden has given the green light to allow and support the training, which is being led by Denmark and the Netherlands. Politico reported on 4 August, citing unnamed insiders, that the first group of Ukrainian pilots who will take part in the training programme have been selected. According to the outlet, eight Ukrainian pilots who are fluent in English are ready to start learning to fly the aircraft once a formal training plan is drawn up by European allies and approved by the US. Meanwhile, an unnamed US official told Politico that 20 pilots who have a basic understanding of English are available to start language courses in the UK as soon as this month. While such steps accelerate Ukraine’s path towards utilising the fighter jets, they are unlikely to be deployed in 2023.
WAGNER GROUP: Ukraine claimed on 8 August that construction of a new camp to host Wagner Group fighters in Belarus has begun near the Ukrainian border. According to Ukraine’s National Resistance Centre, the base is being built to accommodate about 1,000 personnel at the Zyabrovka airfield, which is about 14 miles (22km) from the Ukrainian border.
Citing ‘underground sources’, the centre claimed there is a plan to deploy Wagner Group fighters in the future to ‘simulate subversive activities’ along the frontier of Ukraine’s Chernihiv oblast. It stated there remains a high probability that Belarus and Russia will use the camp to intimidate neighbouring European countries to create the pretence that the mercenaries will attack EU nations. In turn, the centre alleged this could make European countries reduce their support for Ukraine. While the claims, or the presence of this camp, cannot be confirmed, it is highly unlikely that Wagner Group fighters would openly threaten EU and NATO member states neighbouring Belarus militarily. An attack would highly likely trigger a NATO response due to the protections set out in Article 5. Nevertheless, there is significant scope for sub-threshold ‘provocations’ along the border, with the presence of Wagner Group fighters in Belarus continuing to exacerbate tensions, especially with Minsk’s neighbours Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. On 9 August, Warsaw announced that it will send 2,000 troops to its frontier with Belarus – twice the number requested by Poland’s Border Guard – to curtail irregular migration and stabilise the situation on the demarcation line. However, the reported construction of the newest camp is also likely part of information operations that the mercenary group also poses a direct threat to Ukraine from the north. Any potential raids across the border are highly unlikely to represent a major renewed invasion given Wagner and Russia’s limited capability.
Russia: Suspension of double taxation treaties likely tit-for-tat response to Western sanctions. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on 8 August suspending a number of tax agreements with ‘unfriendly countries’. These treaties primarily concern double taxation, which allows individuals and legal entities that are considered tax residents of one country, but receive income in another, to pay taxes either in only one jurisdiction or in both but at a reduced rate. The decree applies to almost 40 of the 84 states with which Moscow has tax agreements, including France, Germany, the UK and the US. According to the decree, the decision was made in response to the ‘hostile’ actions of these states, indicating it is likely in part a retaliation against sanctions. It also likely aims to provide extra revenue to bolster the faltering Russian economy. Further actions targeting Western entities in Russia are likely in the coming months amid an increasingly hostile environment for foreign investment.
- OFFENSIVES: Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny stated on 7 August that Russian forces are currently attempting to ‘distract’ Ukrainian forces along certain fronts with counter-attacks, but Kyiv retains the initiative. Zaluzhny claimed that the overall situation at the front remains stable, and Russian counter-attacks are failing. While Ukrainian forces do retain the initiative in the south and around Bakhmut, Russian forces have likely regained the initiative in the north-east, around Kupiansk and west of Svatove where they are making limited gains. Notably, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky stated on 7 August that the tempo of the counter-offensive is slower than expected, but similarly claimed that Kyiv retains the initiative – but that patience is required for Ukraine to succeed.
- BAKHMUT: Nothing significant to report
- DONETSK: Nothing significant to report
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: On 8 August, the Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks south of Novoselivske, located around nine miles (14km) north-west of Svatove. However, geolocated footage from 5 August indicates that Russian forces have indeed captured Novoselivske, amid wider advances along the north-eastern front. On 7 and 8 August, Russian milbloggers reported an uptick in Ukrainian offensive operations near Karmazynivka, located seven miles (12km) south-west of Svatove. The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed on 7 August that over the past few days, Russian forces have advanced seven miles (11km) along the frontline and 1.8 miles (3km) in the Kupiansk direction. On 8 August, Russian Western Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Sergei Zybinsky claimed that Ukrainian forces are trying to regain lost positions in the Kupiansk direction, with five counter-attacks allegedly repelled by Russian forces.
- SOUTHERN: Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar reported on 7 August that Ukrainian forces had achieved ‘tactical success’ south of Mala Tokmachka and Robotyne, eight miles (13km) south-east of Orikhiv (Zaporizhzhia oblast). However, she did not provide any further details and there is little other evidence to indicate Ukrainian advances on this or any other sector of the southern front over the last 24 hours. Russian sources have reported limited activity as of 8 August, with small-scale Ukrainian assaults south of Orikhiv (Zaporizhzhia oblast) and along the Vremevsky salient (Donetsk oblast) resulting in no change.
- KHERSON: Unconfirmed reports indicate that small Ukrainian strike forces are conducting operations on the east (left) bank of the Dnieper River, with some Russian sources expressing growing concern over the evolving situation. Following the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence’s acknowledgement of the operation on 7 August, it remains unclear how large the Ukrainian operation is. Russian sources have reported numerous river crossings over the last 48 hours that are taking advantage of the relative inexperience of Russian forces arrayed on this frontline, with small groups of Ukrainians reportedly taking positions near Kozachi Laheri, roughly 17 miles (28km) north-east of Kherson. It remains unclear if the operation is a genuine attempt to establish a permanent presence on the left bank of the river. However, even if it is a raid or reconnaissance-in-force operation, it likely aims at forcing the Russians to redeploy troops from the critical Zaporizhzhia frontline to strengthen defences along the lower Dnieper, in order to prevent further Ukrainian advances near Kherson.
- STRIKES: Nothing significant to report
- AID: The US has approved a shipment of the first batch of M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine. Speaking on 7 August, Army Acquisition Chief Doug Bush said the tanks are expected to arrive in early autumn, noting a package of equipment needed to support and maintain them will also be transferred. This includes ammunition, spare parts and fuel equipment. Politico reported in late July that the Abrams main battle tanks are likely to arrive in Ukraine in September (see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 28 July 2023). However, given the timeframe and training and logistics requirements, they are unlikely to play a major role in the latter phases of the counter-offensive.
- AID: Meanwhile, a senior Ukrainian lawmaker disclosed on 7 August that key factions in the German parliament have reached a consensus to supply Kyiv with long-range Taurus cruise missiles, but that an official decision was pending. However, Reuters reported on 7 August that a German defence ministry spokesperson had said Berlin’s position remains unchanged. German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius on 3 August ruled out the provision of the weapons, stating they are not a top priority at present. Nevertheless, it remains a realistic possibility that Berlin could supply the weapons if certain conditions are agreed upon, such as not striking de jure Russian territory. Yehor Chernev, who heads Ukraine’s delegation at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, said these weapons have a range of 310 miles (500km) and are capable of covering all occupied territories, including the southern coast of Crimea. The missiles would therefore enhance Ukraine’s capabilities to strike Russian logistics at a greater distance than with British-supplied Storm Shadow missiles, which have a range of over 155 miles (250km).
- AID: On 8 August, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, Oleksiy Danilov, stated that Ukraine has its own domestically produced weapons to strike at Russia. According to Danilov, Kyiv is asking its allies for long-range weapons in order to reclaim its occupied territories. Such comments were likely made to alleviate concerns among Ukraine’s more reluctant partners that such equipment would not be used to target deep within Russian territory.
- BELARUS: Belarus began military exercises on 7 August near its border with Lithuania and Poland. According to the Belarusian Ministry of Defence (MoD), the drills will take place at the Gozhsky training ground and areas in Grodno oblast. The MoD stated the exercises are based on experiences from the ‘special military operation’ – what Russia calls its war in Ukraine – and involves the use of drones, as well as the close interaction of tank and motorised rifle units with units of other branches of the armed forces. The drills will likely further drive tensions with neighbouring Lithuania and Poland, though the risk of a military escalation remains a highly remote prospect.
- BELARUS: Amid the military activity, on 7 August, Poland’s Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wąsik accused Belarus and Russia of orchestrating another influx of irregular migration into the EU via the Polish border in an attempt to destabilise the region. However, Wąsik said the situation was not as severe as it was in 2021. Latvia’s State Border Guard Service nevertheless reported on 7 August that Belarusian border guards had helped several migrants cross over the fence at a point on the demarcation line. It claimed Belarusian authorities made a hole in the fence and then closed it so the migrants could not go back through. Further low-level provocations on Belarus’ borders with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland using irregular migrants remain highly likely in the coming months to drive tensions with the EU and NATO.
- ASSASSINATION: Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) reported on 7 August that an alleged informant for Russia had been detained in connection with a plot to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to the SBU, the woman had been gathering intelligence about Zelensky’s planned visit to Mykolaiv in late July allegedly in order to plan a Russian airstrike to kill the president. The agency also said it established that the suspect had been tasked with identifying the location of electronic warfare systems and warehouses storing ammunition of the armed forces. If accurate, which remains likely, Zelensky’s protection will likely be reinforced as he travels around the country in the coming months, particularly to the frontlines or regions nearby. The SBU has continued to prioritise identifying and exposing other alleged informants or Russian collaborators, and the overall number of arrests in recent months indicates that Russian intelligence still retains an extensive network of informants across the country.
NEGOTIATIONS: On 7 August, Ukraine’s Presidential Office denied reports that Kyiv has softened its stance regarding the withdrawal of Russian troops as a condition to start peace negotiations. Citing unnamed European officials, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ukraine did not push its demand for a full Russian troop withdrawal at the Saudi-hosted talks in Jeddah on 5-6 August, which was attended by representatives from over 40 countries (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 7 August 2023).
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ten-point peace plan includes calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops and the cessation of hostilities, as well as the restoration of Ukraine’s state borders with Russia. Ihor Zhovkva, the deputy head of the Presidential Office, reiterated on 7 August that Kyiv remains insistent that Russian forces need to fully withdraw from Ukraine and that no participants of the talks in Jeddah contested this. Zhovkva confirmed that Ukraine will not change Zelensky’s peace formula, noting that only a change in its ‘tactics’ is possible, though it is unclear what precisely this means.
It is highly unlikely that Kyiv will deviate from this stance for the foreseeable future given that a full troop withdrawal remains an integral aspect of the peace formula and Kyiv’s definition of victory. Kyiv will view entering into negotiations without a full withdrawal of Russian troops as providing Moscow with an opportunity to prepare for renewed aggression against Ukrainian territories at a later date. Nevertheless, all wars must end in negotiations and if Ukrainian forces fail to achieve a strategic breakthrough during its counter-offensive, international pressure on Kyiv to begin considering certain concessions in order to reach peace will likely increase, particularly ahead of the 2024 US presidential election. In the short to medium term, however, genuine peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine remain a remote prospect.
- BAKHMUT: Russian counter-attacks to the north and south of the town are highly likely containing Ukrainian advances, which have slowed in recent weeks. On 5 August, the Wall Street Journal cited various unnamed Ukrainian soldiers serving on the Bakhmut axis who claim that Russian defensive and counter-attacking operations have slowed Ukraine’s ability to advance in recent days. Nevertheless, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR), Kyrylo Budanov, stated on 5 August that Ukrainian forces are currently advancing faster around Bakhmut than along the southern axis. However, there was little evidence over the weekend of 5-6 August to indicate that Ukrainian forces have made any advances. There is also no indication that Russian forces have been able to retake lost positions.
- DONETSK: A Russian milblogger reported on 5 August that Russian forces captured three unspecified lines of Ukrainian fortifications north-east of Avdiivka. Meanwhile, the former deputy interior minister of Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) claimed on 4 August that Russian forces advanced up to 1.2 miles (2km) into Ukrainian defences around Marinka. However, both these claims cannot be confirmed. Ukraine’s General Staff reported on 7 August that Ukrainian forces successfully repelled Russian attacks around Avdiivka and that Ukrainian troops continue to hold back Russian advances around Marinka.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar reported on 7 August that since mid-July, the Russian command has been concentrating its forces around Kupiansk. Previously, in July, Ukrainian military sources claimed that Russian forces have concentrated around 100,000 personnel in this sector. The Oskil-Kreminna frontline will remain a priority for Russian forces given the relative weakness of Ukrainian forces there (in contrast to further south), as well as the opportunities this axis provides to alleviate pressure on other critical sectors further south, including Bakhmut.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: On 6 August, the commander of Russia’s 8th Combined Arms Army, Gennady Anashkin, stated that Ukrainian forces have been losing ground along the Oskil-Kreminna line. On 5 August, a Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces recaptured Novoselivske, located around nine miles (14km) north-west of Svatove behind the N26 highway (which connects Kupiansk to Svatove). The milblogger claimed that intense fighting continues south of Novoselivske. However, while there is no visual confirmation to support these claims, recent geolocated footage indicates that Russian forces made limited gains in areas leading to the highway in southern Novoselivske. Meanwhile, further south, geolocated footage from 4 August indicates that Ukrainian forces made limited progress east of Verkhnokamianske, situated 11 miles (18km) south of Kreminna. However, Russian forces retain the overall initiative along the Oskil-Kreminna axis.
- SOUTHERN: Earlier on 7 August, Russian sources reported that Ukrainian activity levels along the frontline south of Orikhiv (Zaporizhzhia oblast) have remained low, noting also that Ukrainian forces retain offensive potential in this sector. In recent days, Ukrainian forces have seemingly continued to launch small-scale infantry assaults without achieving any notable or confirmed advances. A prominent Russian volunteer battalion commander, Alexander Khodakovsky, who is fighting in the south, reported on 6 August that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attempted to attack the village of Urozhaine, located ten miles (16km) south of Velyka Novosilka (Donetsk oblast). The Ukrainians reportedly attacked with two infantry platoons. They were supported by several tanks and armoured vehicles. However, despite successfully crossing the Mokri Yaly River, they failed to secure positions and were pushed back.
- KHERSON: On 7 August, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported that GUR special forces, known as the ‘Shaman’ battalion, are successfully conducting operations on the east (left) bank of the Dnieper River, deep inside Russian-controlled territory. The report provided no further details other than that the unit was ‘advancing deep into occupied territory’ in Kherson oblast (though we cannot confirm this). Ukrainian forces are likely continuing to conduct reconnaissance and sabotage operations on the left bank of the river, though it remains unclear whether they are seeking to expand their bridgehead around the Antonivsky Bridge on the Russian-controlled side of the river.
- STRIKES: The Russian occupation authorities in Crimea reported that on 6 August a Ukrainian strike damaged the Chonhar Bridge linking Crimea to Ukraine’s southern mainland (currently annexed by Russia). According to the Strategic Communications Directorate of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the strike also damaged the smaller Henichesk Bridge connecting Henichesk Raion to the Arabat Spit, though there is no visual confirmation of this damage. The head of the Russian Kherson occupation authorities, Vladimir Saldo, claimed Ukrainian forces launched 12 British-made Storm Shadow missiles. As a result of the strikes, Russian forces were forced to reroute road traffic from shorter eastern routes to longer western routes. The Chonhar Bridge has so far been hit three times in the past two months, with strikes reported on 22 June and 29 July. As such, in addition to the Kerch Strait Bridge strikes reported in July, the strikes against the Chonhar Bridge are likely part of Ukraine’s wider effort to disrupt Russian supply routes along key ground lines of communications (GLOC) and to isolate the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
- STRIKES: On the night of 5-6 August, Russian forces launched one of their largest long-range strike campaigns in months; it occurred in two waves. The first wave included 15 Kalibr cruise missiles and three Kinzhal ballistic missiles; the second wave included 27 drones and six Kalibr cruise missiles. Ukraine’s air force reported that its air defences intercepted 17 Kalibr cruise missiles, 13 Kh-101 and Kh-555 cruise missiles and 27 Shahed-136/131 attack drones. On 5 August, Russian forces launched strikes hitting industrial sites in Khmelnytsky and Zaporizhzia oblasts.
- STRIKES: Most significantly, the Ukrainian Air Force confirmed that Russian forces targeted the Starokostiantyniv area, near a key air base in Khmelnytsky oblast. The base is highly likely a key hub for Storm Shadow missiles and the aircraft which launch them. On 6 August, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat stated that the latest attack was unsuccessful given that various protocols exist to protect key air bases. While Ukraine lost several modern fighter jets in the early stages of the war, there is little evidence to indicate that Kyiv has lost significant numbers of its remaining platforms, suggesting that robust protection measures are in place at its key strategic air bases. Nevertheless, Russian forces will continue targeting Ukrainian air fields and the infrastructure which supports them – Zelensky confirmed that facilities operated by the aircraft engine manufacturer Motor Sich were also targeted during strikes against Zaproizhzhia over the weekend.
- STRIKES: On 6 August, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Western allies to provide Western-made air defence systems. This follows Russia’s latest large-scale strike. Zelensky reported that over the past week, Russia launched 65 missiles and 178 drones. Most of the missiles were intercepted, according to Zelensky. However, Ukraine’s interception rate of ballistic missiles remains low; its air defences were unable to intercept the ballistic missiles during the 6 August strike. Western air defences, such as the US-made Patriot system, have proven to be the most efficient in intercepting ballistic missile strikes. Previously, Kyiv claimed that Ukraine needs 10-12 such systems (it currently only operates two).
- AIRPOWER: The Ukrainian Air Force claimed on 6 August that it has destroyed over 3,500 Russian aerial objects since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. This reportedly includes 350 aircraft and helicopters, 1,200 cruise missiles, 24 ballistic missiles, 13 Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missiles and over 2,000 drones. Despite the high interception rates, particularly among drones and cruise missiles, Russia continues to utilise its notable air assets on the battlefield; the UK’s Defence Intelligence (DI) reported on 7 August that Russian tactical combat aircraft have, on average, conducted over 100 sorties a day. While such tactical airpower proved effective during the early stages of the Ukrainian counter-offensive in June, DI assesses that in recent weeks Russian forces have been less able to generate effective tactical airpower along the southern front.
- Russia: Legislation targeting foreign investors demonstrates sustained hostility to foreign investment. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on 4 August excluding foreign investors from ‘unfriendly countries’ from holding stakes in major Russian companies and banks. The Russian government will reportedly establish a list of entities, which will include all systemically important banks as well as companies that meet certain criteria in relation to their revenue, number of employees, assets or taxes paid. The legislation allows for the rights of foreign investors from ‘unfriendly countries’ to potentially be suspended and their shares distributed among Russian owners. The legislation comes as the Russian government implements policies strengthening the state’s power to effectively nationalise foreign-owned assets (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 1 August 2023). Further legislation targeting shareholders from ‘unfriendly’ states is likely in the coming months, underscoring the enduring hostility to foreign investment in Russia.
- Moldova: EU membership negotiations are unlikely to start this year amid slow governance reform progress . On 5 August, Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu stated that negotiations for Moldova’s EU accession are unlikely to start in 2023. Popescu’s statements come after pro-EU Moldovan president Maia Sandu expressed on 18 May hope that the accession talks would start before the end of 2023, stating that the EU membership would protect the country from Russia’s destabilisation campaign. Popescu reported that Moldova had fulfilled three of the nine requirements identified by the European Commission (EC) to start membership talks. Such requirements include the reform of electoral legislation, the involvement of civil society in the decision-making process and the protection of human rights. Moldova has also reportedly made progress in combatting corruption, organised crime and implementing de-oligarchisation policies. However, Moldova’s slow progress in implementing the EU recommendations and Russian influence in the country will delay the negotiations, which will more likely start in 2024 at the earliest.
- Belarus-Poland: Continued low-level provocations by Wagner personnel will increase risk of border closures. On 4 August, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński disclosed that Wagner Group personnel in Belarus have made attempts to enter Polish territory. Jabłoński added that the Polish government anticipated further border provocations and potential airspace violations. While Wagner forces are highly unlikely to stage an open military confrontation along EU and NATO borders, low-level provocations such as the facilitation of irregular migrants into EU territory will remain highly likely. The Polish government is, to an extent, playing up the potential threat posed by Wagner in order to justify increased military spending ahead of the general election set to take place by mid-November. It is possible that a continuation of provocations by Wagner personnel will see the Polish government close its border with Belarus. However, the impact this would have on the Baltic states means this measure will remain a last resort; partial border closures by Riga and Vilnius remain more likely (Source: Sibylline)
11 Aug 23. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ordered the sacking of all the country’s regional army recruitment chiefs after investigators discovered officials had been taking bribes to allow people to avoid the military draft on medical grounds. Despite the patriotic fervour that has gripped the country 18 months into Russia’s full-scale invasion, some men are desperate to escape the military call-up and are willing to pay to get out of it Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 have been banned from leaving the country ever since martial law was introduced in February 2022. Exemptions exist, however, for medical reasons, study abroad, being a single father, having more than three children or caring for a disabled person. A recent government investigation uncovered corruption at recruitment centres in 11 different regions. The cost of bribes differed across the country, but many draft dodgers were asked to pay $6,000 for a medical certificate granting them an exemption from military service, the probe found. The investigation was prompted by corruption charges brought against the head of the Odesa regional recruitment centre in July. Yevhen Borysov was charged with taking more than $5mn worth of bribes to approve exemptions. Depending on his cut of bribes that varied between $2,000 and $10,000 per person, Borysov helped hundreds and possibly thousands of men avoid being drafted. (Source: FT.com)
11 Aug 23. Germany in talks with MBDA over delivery of cruise missiles to Ukraine -source. MBDA (AIR.PA), (LDOF.MI), (BAES.L) about the delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine, a security source told Reuters on Friday, echoing a report by Spiegel magazine.
Kyiv has been pushing Berlin to supply it with the Taurus, a missile with a range of more than 500 km (311 miles) that is launched by fighter jets such as the Tornado, the F-15 or the F-18. Berlin has held back amid concern over the long range of the weapon and its potential use against targets inside Russia.
A German government spokesperson told Reuters the government had no update to its position.
“Germany is focusing on heavy artillery, armored vehicles and air defense systems. There is no new information on the Taurus cruise missile,” said the spokesperson.
Cruise missiles are hard to detect by air defence radars as they fly at low altitudes. They are mainly used to hit high-value targets behind enemy lines such as command bunkers, ammunitions and fuel dumps, airfields and bridges.
Britain and France have supplied Ukraine with Storm Shadow and Scalp cruise missiles, and Ukraine’s military has said it had adapted Soviet-made aircraft to use them. However, the United States has so far refrained from sending its ATACMS to Ukraine despite requests by Kyiv.
Technically, it is very easy to limit the range of a Taurus cruise missile, according to experts.
The talks between the German government and MBDA are focusing on such a modification, as Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to prevent at all costs any Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory with the weapon, Spiegel reported.
In June, the Kremlin warned France and Germany that delivering cruise missiles to Kyiv would lead to a further round of “spiralling tension” in the Ukraine conflict.
Russia has been using long-range missiles to destroy targets in Ukraine including civilian infrastructure, and Ukraine has no easy way to respond to that.
The German military has some 600 Taurus missiles in its inventories, with some 150 among them ready for use, according to media reports. Spain and South Korea also operate the Taurus.
10 Aug 23. Biden asks Congress for additional funding to support Ukraine.
The Biden administration on Thursday asked Congress to provide more than $13 billion in emergency defense aid to Ukraine and an additional $8 billion for humanitarian support through the end of the year, another massive infusion of cash as the Russian invasion wears on and Ukraine pushes a counteroffensive against the Kremlin’s deeply entrenched forces.
The package includes $12 billion to replenish the U.S. federal disaster funds at home after a deadly climate season of heat and storms, and funds to bolster the enforcement at the Southern border with Mexico, including money to curb the flow of deadly fentanyl. All told, it’s a $40 billion package.
While the last such request from the White House for Ukraine funding was easily approved in 2022, there’s a different dynamic this time.
A political divide on the issue has grown, with the Republican-led House facing enormous pressure to demonstrate support for the party’s leader, Donald Trump, who has been very skeptical of the war. And American support for the effort has been slowly softening.
White House budget director Shalanda Young, in a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, urged swift action to follow through on the U.S. “commitment to the Ukrainian peoples’ defense of their homeland and to democracy around the world” as well as other needs.
The request was crafted with an eye to picking up support from Republicans, as well as Democrats, particularly with increased domestic funding around border issues — a top priority for the GOP, which has been highly critical of the Biden administration’s approach to halting the flow of migrants crossing from Mexico.
Still, the price tag of $40 billion may be too much for Republicans who are fighting to slash, not raise, federal outlays. As a supplemental request, the package the White House is sending to Congress falls outside the budget caps both parties agreed to as part of the debt ceiling showdown earlier this year.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement there was strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate.
“The latest request from the Biden administration shows America’s continued commitment to helping Americans here at home and our friends abroad,” he said. “We hope to join with our Republican colleagues this fall to avert an unnecessary government shutdown and fund this critical emergency supplemental request.”
Biden and his senior national security team have repeatedly said the United States will help Ukraine “as long as it takes” to oust Russia from its borders. Privately, administration officials have warned Ukrainian officials that there is a limit to the patience of a narrowly divided Congress — and American public — for the costs of a war with no clear end.
“For people who might be concerned the costs are getting too high, we’d ask them what the costs — not just in treasure but in blood, perhaps even American blood — could be if Putin subjugates Ukraine,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said this week.
Support among the American public for providing Ukraine weaponry and direct economic assistance has softened with time. An AP-NORC poll conducted in January 2023 around the one-year mark of the conflict, found that 48% favored the U.S. providing weapons to Ukraine, down from the 60% of U.S. adults who were in favor sending Ukraine weapons in May 2022. While Democrats have generally been more supportive than Republicans of offering weaponry, their support dropped slightly from 71% to 63% in the same period. Republicans’ support dropped more, from 53% to 39%.
Dozens of Republicans in the House and some GOP senators have expressed reservations, and even voted against, spending more federal dollars for the war effort. Many of those Republicans are aligning with Trump’s objections to the U.S. involvement overseas.
That means any final vote on Ukraine aid will likely need to rely on a hefty coalition led by Democrats from Biden’s party to ensure approval.
The funding includes another $10 billion to counter Russian and Chinese influence elsewhere by bolstering the World Bank and providing aid to resist Russian-aligned Wagner forces in Africa. Domestically, there’s an additional $60 million to address increased wildfires that have erupted nationwide. And the request includes $2.2 billion for Southern border management and $766 million to curb the flow of deadly fentanyl. There is also $100 million earmarked for the Department of Labor to ramp up investigations of suspected child labor violations.
To ease passage, Congress would likely try to attach the package to a must-pass measure for broader government funding in the U.S. that’s needed by Oct. 1 to prevent any shutdown in federal offices.
Members of Congress have repeatedly pressed Defense Department leaders on how closely the U.S. is tracking its aid to Ukraine to ensure that it is not subject to fraud or ending up in the wrong hands. The Pentagon has said it has a “robust program” to track the aid as it crosses the border into Ukraine and to keep tabs on it once it is there, depending on the sensitivity of each weapons system.
Ukraine is pushing through with its ongoing counteroffensive, in an effort to dislodge the Kremlin’s forces from territory they’ve occupied since a full-scale invasion in February 2022. The counteroffensive has come up against heavily mined terrain and reinforced defensive fortifications.
The U.S. has approved four rounds of aid to Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion, totaling about $113 billion, with some of that money going toward replenishment of U.S. military equipment that was sent to the frontlines. Congress approved the latest round of aid in December, totaling roughly $45 billion for Ukraine and NATO allies. While the package was designed to last through the end of the fiscal year in September, much depends upon events on the ground.
“We remain confident that we’ll be able to continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” said Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
There were questions in November about waning Republican support to approve the package, but it ultimately passed. Now, though, House Speaker McCarthy is facing pressure to impeach Biden over unproven claims of financial misconduct and it’s not clear whether a quick show of support for Ukraine could cause political damage in what’s expected to be a bruising 2024 reelection campaign.
Trump contends that American involvement has only drawn Russia closer to other adversarial states like China, and has condemned the tens of billions of dollars that the United States has provided in aid for Ukraine. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/AP)
11 Aug 23. Huge fire breaks out near Putin’s home. A large fire in Odintsovo, Moscow region of Russia. A fire broke out at a warehouse just four miles away from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official residency late on Thursday, Russian state news reported.By midnight Moscow time the fire had spread to over 21,500 square feet, TASS reported citing a statement from the emergency services. It was not immediately clear what caused the fire – and there has been no mention from either warring party about a drone strike – but it marks the second huge ‘mystery’ fire in Russian territory in the past two days. The warehouse is in Odintsovo, west of Moscow, a town that lies between President Putin’s official residence and Vnukovo airport. Russia has reported two Ukrainian drone strikes that were heading for Moscow this week before being shot down by air defence systems. Kyiv has not been publicly commenting or claiming attacks inside Russian territory. In the early hours of Thursday a fire that had spanned 1,000 square metres broke out at a car repair centre in the Moscow suburbs as Russia said that two drones were shot down. Authorities have not given any official reason for the cause of either fire. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
11 Aug 23. Ukraine orders Kharkiv evacuations amid Russian attempts to breach front line. Nearly 12,000 residents across 37 towns and villages were told to leave or sign a document saying they would remain at their own risk. Ukraine on Thursday issued an evacuation order for nearly 12,000 residents in the eastern Kharkiv region where Russia is increasingly attempting to punch through the front line.
Residents across 37 towns and villages were told to leave or sign a document saying they would remain at their own risk.
Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s defence minister, recently warned “the intensity of combat and enemy shelling is high” in and around the town of Kupiansk, which was under Russian control until last September.
Kyiv has previously claimed Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops and 900 tanks in the Kharkiv region in a bid to recapture lands lost in a Ukrainian counter-offensive last summer.
Ms Maliar said Russia had “formed an offensive group and is attempting to move forward” in the area in an effort to advance on the Ukrainian-held city of Kupiansk, a rail hub close to the Russian border.
In recent days, Moscow has claimed to have pushed back the front line some two miles in a renewed push in the area, which is seen as diverting Ukraine’s attention from its own counter-offensives.
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
11 Aug 23. British Commandos train hundreds of Ukrainian Marines in UK programme. Ukrainian marines were trained by Royal Marines and Army Commandos to conduct small boat amphibious operations, including beach raids. Nearly 1,000 Ukrainian marines are returning home after being trained by Royal Marines and Army Commandos, during a six-month UK programme supported by international partners.
The training, announced by the Prime Minister during President Zelenskyy’s visit to the UK in February, has seen British Commandos training Ukraine’s forces in small boat amphibious operations – conducting beach raids using inflatable boats.
It is the first programme of amphibious training delivered by the UK to Ukraine, culminating with the Ukrainian marines planning and conducting raids by both day and night.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The UK has led the way in training the Armed Force of Ukraine, providing world-leading training in frontline combat skills to more than 20,000 of Ukraine’s Army recruits through Operation Interflex. This programme of training, delivered by elite British commandos, will support Ukraine to build its own distinct marine force and expand its capability to operate in a maritime environment.”
Approximately 900 Ukrainian marines have completed the course, which included training to use Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons (NLAW) and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, use of mortars and drones for reconnaissance, and explosive demolition of obstacles such as Dragon’s Teeth anti-vehicle fortifications.
Equipment used in the training is the same as some of the military support the UK has provided to Ukraine, with more than 10,000 anti-tank weapons including thousands of NLAW systems already provided.
Trainees came from a variety of backgrounds, with many being civilian volunteers with no prior military experience, while others have transferred from other sections within the Armed Forces of Ukraine – some having already been engaged in combat on the frontline.
Instructors from 42 Commando and 47 Commando Raiding group delivered the training, alongside Army Commandos from 24 Commando Engineers and Royal Artillery Gunners from 29 Commando. Instructors from the Netherlands Marine Corps were also part of the training programme.
One of the recently trained Ukrainian marines said:
The training I have received from the UK Royal Marines has been far more intense than I expected. I have learned so much and never expected to be doing the things I have done. All the way through, our British instructors have been beside us, showing us how to move and how to work together in a small team – this will make a difference when we return home to Ukraine.
Each training cohort underwent a rigorous five-week programme, developing individual skills including fieldcraft, battlefield first aid, close quarters combat, and fitness, and unit planning in realistic scenarios. The training will further support Ukraine’s capability to develop its own marine force and develop an international training concept for marines.
More than 20,000 recruits from the Armed Forces of Ukraine have already received training in the UK since the start of 2022, learning essential frontline skills including trench and urban warfare, leadership, and medical training.
At the start of 2023, the UK committed to train a further 20,000 Ukrainian recruits – approximately double the amount trained last year – under one of the largest training programmes of its kind in the world.
Beyond teaching combat skills to recruits, the UK has provided a broad package of in other skills including medical training to provide pastoral care, spiritual support and moral guidance.
Including both the Op Interflex and the programme for marines, the UK’s training for the Armed Forces of Ukraine is supported by Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.
The UK remains fully committed to supporting Ukraine, with a further £2.3bn already earmarked for further military support through 2023, with additional munitions and equipment to be delivered in the coming months. Further UK government assistance continues in the form of humanitarian support and economic aid. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
10 Aug 23. Poland to station 10,000 troops on Belarus border. Warsaw is planning a big military build-up along its border with Belarus to counter what the government sees as an increasing security threat from Russia’s ally and host of Wagner paramilitary fighters. Poland’s defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Thursday that about 10,000 soldiers would eventually be stationed on the Belarus border or nearby. The goal was to move troops “closer to the border with Belarus to scare the aggressor so that they do not dare to attack us”, the minister told Polish national radio. He did not give a timeframe for the project and the defence ministry later clarified that most of these new troops would probably be training rather than carrying out military operations near the border. The rightwing government in Warsaw, which is preparing for re-election, had already announced this week that it would double an existing contingent of soldiers at the border to 4,000. The reinforcements coincide with Belarusian military exercises close to the Polish border. Minsk said the drills were designed to draw on experiences from Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, including the use of drones. Last month’s relocation to Belarus of Wagner fighters and an increase in migrants attempting to cross the border illegally add to Warsaw’s security concerns. Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki last week warned that Wagner was potentially preparing “sabotage” actions against Poland and Lithuania.
But Błaszczak’s planned military ramp-up also comes two days after president Andrzej Duda kicked off the official election campaign by fixing October 15 as the date for the parliamentary vote. The ruling Law and Justice party, or PiS, has turned national security and sovereignty into battle cries to convince voters to grant it an unprecedented third consecutive term in office. “There is a real threat from Russia or Belarus, but you have to remember that the election campaign is under way,” said Maciej Milczanowski, a political scientist with the University of Rzeszów, a city close to Ukraine. “Rightwing parties always gain when there are threats, so pumping up threats may seem to benefit the ruling party.” Poland’s mounting concerns about Belarus are shared by the Baltic states, in particular Lithuania, which is also sending more border guards and has been discussing with Poland whether to close their borders with Belarus completely. Poland faced 4,000 attempted illegal border crossings last month — about one-quarter of the total for all of 2022 — which represented “another stage of the hybrid war”, said Polish commander of the border guards Tomasz Praga on Monday. Recommended Poland From the archive: Poland battles ‘forgotten’ refugee crisis by building Belarus border fence The increase comes after Poland built a steel fence along almost half its border with Belarus to avoid a repeat of the migrant crisis of 2021, when Minsk lured tens of thousands of migrants from African and Middle Eastern countries to Belarus and sent them across its borders with EU members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Polish officials have also talked about Wagner possibly using its African operations to help bring more refugees to Belarus’s border with Poland. “Many Poles are afraid, especially after the recent statements of prime minister Morawiecki who presents the Wagner group as a great threat to Poland,” said Milczanowski. “Such words must be followed by a reaction.” Morawiecki estimated last week that there were at least 4,000 Wagner troops in Belarus, but their most recent whereabouts are unclear. Minsk has published pictures showing Wagner fighters training Belarusian forces and warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin has posted videos showing him in a tent resembling those set up for his fighters. But he has also travelled back to Russia since, including to meet with African leaders, raising speculation on social media that his militia will not stay long in Belarus. The Polish opposition, meanwhile, is seeking to capitalise on any perceived government blunders. After two Belarusian military helicopters briefly entered Polish air space last week, opposition leader Donald Tusk said it was unacceptable that the authorities acknowledged the incident only after locals posted videos on social media. “Our problem is also the government that failed to cope with the situation,” Tusk said. (Source: FT.com)
09 Aug 23. Deal struck to get Leopard tanks to Ukraine from private Belgian broker. Dozens of Leopard 1 tanks could be overhauled and sent to Ukraine after an unidentified buyer purchased the German-made fighting vehicles from a private Belgian dealer.
“I am glad they will finally join the fight for freedom,” the dealer, Freddy Versluys, who is chief executive of the defense company OIP Land Systems, wrote in a LinkedIn post. He included a photo featuring rows of tanks in a hangar along with a bottle of “Ukrainian Freedom” brand vodka.
Versluys bought the tanks years ago when the Belgian army sold them as part of cost-cutting measures. Earlier this year, as allies debated if and how to get tanks to Ukraine, Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder said her country was seeking to re-buy the Leopards but was quoted an “unreasonable price.”
Versluys did not disclose the price paid for the tanks or other details of the deal, but he disputed accounts that he had demanded 500,000 euros per vehicle after purchasing them for 15,000 euros each. “The fact that they leave our company proves that we asked for a fair market price and someone was more than happy to take them,” he wrote on LinkedIn.
The deal seems to end an awkward situation that embarrassed Belgium and raised questions about how so many battle tanks ended up in the hands of a private Belgian dealer and why NATO allies could not get them to Kyiv, Ukraine, more quickly.
It was not clear when the tanks, which need major refurbishing, will arrive in Ukraine, or even how many will prove usable.
German arms group Rheinmetall said Wednesday that it was supplying about 30 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine that were purchased from a Belgian company. Handelsblatt, a German newspaper, reported that many of the Leopards were in such poor condition that they could only be used for parts. The German government has said little about the deal so far.
Russians tied to Putin or military sidestep sanctions and draw protest
Versluys, a Belgian businessman in his 60s, runs OIP Land Systems, a firm that specializes in buying and refurbishing old military equipment, including military-wheeled and -tracked vehicles, for resale or spare parts.
He made headlines earlier this year when he posed for the press with dozens of secondhand tanks for sale, just as Western allies were struggling to find weapons to support Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invaders occupying a large swath of the country’s southeast.
In an interview with the Guardian, Versluys said he had “probably the widest private arsenal of tanks in Europe,” including the 50 Leopard 1s, 38 German Gepard tanks, 112 Austrian SK-105 light tanks and 100 Italian VCC2 and 70 M113 armor carriers.
Russia and Ukraine have scrambled to obtain more weapons, ammunition and fighting vehicles as the war drags into its 18th month with no sign of any imminent major breakthrough on either side of the battlefield.
On Wednesday, a suspicious explosion at a factory in the Moscow region killed at least one person and injured at least 60, according to Russian media. With at least nine people reported missing and emergency workers sifting through the rubble, the death toll is expected to rise.
The explosion occurred at the site of the Zagorsk Optical and Mechanical plant, which is a subsidiary of Shvabe, a holding company owned by Rostec, a state-controlled industrial manufacturer and defense contractor.
Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Monday at the Kremlin with Rostec chief executive Sergei Chemezov.
Some local officials told Russian media that the explosion occurred at a warehouse at the plant site that had been rented by Pyro-Ross, a pyrotechnics company.
The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that Pyro-Ross went bankrupt in April. The company’s general director, Sergei Chankae, was reportedly taken away for questioning.
Also on Wednesday, Russian authorities said they shot down two combat drones in the Moscow region during the previous night, and they accused Ukraine of organizing the attack.
Without acknowledging any role, a senior Ukrainian official said the sight of an “unidentified drone” underlined how Russia was “bringing the war to its own territory.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://www.washingtonpost.com/)
09 Aug 23. Ukraine to receive additional Patriot air defence systems from Germany -Zelenskiy. Germany and Ukraine have agreed on the supply of additional Patriot air defence missile systems to Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his evening address on Wednesday.
“Today there is good news from Germany – exactly what we agreed with (German Chancellor) Olaf Scholz. There are additional Patriot systems. Thank you very much, Olaf, it is necessary for the defence of our people against Russian terror,” Zelenskiy said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Germany announced its decision to ship two more Patriot launchers to Ukraine.
“This will definitely bring us closer to creating a full-fledged air shield for Ukraine. This will help people, cities, villages,” Zelenskiy said.
Ground-based air defence systems such as Raytheon’s (RTX.N) Patriot are built to intercept incoming missiles. They are, however, in short supply across NATO since many allies scaled down the number of air defence units after the Cold War. (Source: Reuters)
08 Aug 23. Blast rocks Russian military optics plant near Moscow. A factory in a city near Moscow making optical systems for the Russian military was rocked by an explosion on Wednesday, which sent a column of smoke into the sky and injured 52 people. Authorities said the blast was caused by a violation of technical protocols by a fireworks company that rented storage space from the Zagorsk Optical-Mechanical Plant and used it to house equipment for its displays. The plant is a major developer and manufacturer of precision optical devices for the Russian military, making equipment such as night vision goggles and binoculars, as well as devices for use by police or in science and healthcare. The incident follows a string of similar explosions at industrial sites across Russia in recent months, which were attributed to Ukrainian drone strikes or pro-Ukrainian saboteurs. The same plant also caught fire in June last year, just a few months into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Drone strikes attributed to Ukraine have become a regular occurrence in the Moscow region in recent months with two combat drones shot down over an area south of the capital in the early hours of Wednesday. Security camera footage captured the moment of the explosion at the plant in Sergiev Posad, a small city and popular tourist destination 70km north of Moscow. Videos shared on social media showed smoke billowing across the city. info Moscow Targeted In Fresh Ukraine Drone Attack © Reuters Russia blamed Kyiv for what it said was a twin drone attack targeting Moscow that it thwarted with no casualties or damage. Unconfirmed reports said there were some casualties in what is suspected to be Ukraine’s latest attempts to target the Russian capital. The Zagorsk optical plant produced equipment for the Russian army during the second world war, when it was relocated to Siberia as the frontline drew nearer to Moscow. Authorities said the explosion on Wednesday took place at a rented warehouse on the grounds of the plant. “We know that the accident occurred at 10:40am in a metal hangar 40×40 metres. This is a warehouse of pyrotechnics, which was rented by a private company,” Moscow region governor Andrey Vorobyov said. (Source: FT.com)
09 Aug 23. Deal struck to send German-made Leopard 1 tanks from Belgium to Ukraine. Dozens of second-hand Leopard 1 tanks that once belonged to Belgium have been bought by another European country for Ukrainian forces fighting Russia’s invasion, the arms trader who did the deal said Tuesday. The German-made Leopards were at the centre of a public spat earlier this year after Belgian Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder said the government had explored buying back tanks to send to Ukraine but had been quoted unreasonable prices. The clash highlighted a predicament faced by Western governments trying find weapons for Ukraine after more than a year of intense warfare – arms they discarded as obsolete are now in high demand, and often owned by private companies.
Freddy Versluys, CEO of defence company OIP Land Systems, bought the tanks from the Belgian government more than five years ago.
He told Reuters he had now sold all 50 tanks to another European government, which he could not name due to a confidentiality clause. He said he also could not disclose the price.
Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper reported on Tuesday evening that arms maker Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE) had acquired the tanks and would prepare most of them for export to Ukraine.
The company declined to comment.
“The fact that they leave our company proves that we asked for a fair market price and someone was more than happy to take them,” Versluys said in a post on LinkedIn, accompanied by a picture of tanks next to a bottle of Ukrainian vodka.
He said the tanks were now being transported to a factory for a substantial overhaul. Some of the tanks would be used for spare parts while others would be repaired, he said. He estimated it could be four to six months before they were on the battlefield in Ukraine.
A defence source told Reuters that the German government was paying for 32 of the Leopard 1 tanks to be restored and sent to Ukraine and that this was part of a support package for Ukraine that Germany announced at the NATO summit in Vilnius in July.
The German Defence Ministry had no immediate comment.
Several of Kyiv’s Western allies agreed earlier this year to send modern Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and also to send older Leopard 1 models.
The Leopard 1 was made by German firm Krauss-Maffei, starting in the 1960s. It is lighter than the Leopard 2 and has a different type of main gun. The models sold by Versluys were last upgraded in the 1990s.
A spokesperson for the Belgian defence ministry declined to comment on the sale of the tanks.
Reporting by Andrew Gray; additional reporting by Christoph Steitz and Sabine Siebold; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Alex Richardson(Source: Reuters)
09 Aug 23. Berlin ready to extend Patriot air defence deployment to Poland until end of 2023. Germany has offered to extend the deployment of three Patriot air defence units in Poland until the end of 2023, the defence ministry in Berlin said on Tuesday.
“An extension beyond the end of 2023 is not foreseen,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that some of Germany’s Patriot units were needed for use by NATO’s quick reaction response force in 2024, while others had to undergo maintenance.
Together with three Patriot air defence units, some 300 German soldiers have been based in the Polish town of Zamosc, about 50 km (31 miles) from the Ukrainian border, since the start of the year to protect the southern town and its crucial railway link to Ukraine.
The deployment was triggered by a stray Ukrainian missile that struck the Polish village of Przewodow in the region last November, in an incident that raised fears of the war in Ukraine spilling over the border.
During a visit to Zamosc in July, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius had not immediately responded to a request by his Polish counterpart to extend the Patriot mission.
Relations between Berlin and the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party in Warsaw have been strained, with both sides at odds over a range of topics – from arms deliveries to Kyiv to an EU migration deal rejected by Poland.
Ground-based air defence systems such as Raytheon’s (RTX.N) Patriot are built to intercept incoming missiles.
They are, however, in short supply across NATO since many allies scaled down the number of air defence units after the Cold War.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent NATO allies scrambling to plug the gaps in their own inventories, while also supplying Kyiv with air defence systems to ward off Russian attacks. (Source: Reuters)
09 Aug 23. Ukraine says it prevented Russian hacking of armed forces combat system. Ukrainian special services have foiled an attempt by Russian hackers to penetrate the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ combat information system, the SBU security service said on Tuesday.
Ukraine has reported an increase in Russian attempts to hack into computer systems of the Ukrainian government, armed forces and energy sector since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022. Russia has repeatedly denied such accusations.
“As a result of complex measures, SBU exposed and blocked the illegal actions of Russian hackers who tried to penetrate Ukrainian military networks and organise intelligence gathering,” SBU said on the Telegram messaging app.
The service said hackers tried to gain access to “sensitive information on the actions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the location and movement of the Defence Forces, their technical support”.
SBU said the responsibility for the attack lay with a sophisticated Russian hacking team, known within the cyber security research community as Sandworm. Cyber specialists found that hackers planned to use Ukrainian military tablets to spread viruses in the battle system, SBU said. (Source: Reuters)
08 Aug 23. Lithuania boosts Ukraine with NASAMS and other support. Lithuania has continued its military support throughout the first seven months of 2023, encompassing an array of equipment, training, and financial aid. In a steadfast display of solidarity and amidst escalating regional tensions, Lithuania’s dedication to bolstering Ukraine’s military capabilities remains strong. The Baltic nation has continued its military support throughout the first seven months of 2023, encompassing an array of equipment, training, and financial aid. Notably, the imminent delivery of NASAMS missile launch systems shows Lithuania’s strategic focus on enhancing Ukraine’s defensive capabilities against emerging threats, including anti-drone capabilities and logistical support.
This approach reaffirms Lithuania’s role as a stalwart ally in Ukraine’s quest for enhanced security and stability. The announcement is part of Lithuania’s continuous military support to Ukraine, which has seen a stream of resources flowing into the conflict-stricken nation.
Lithuania’s dedication to Ukraine’s defence has been palpable, with an array of military assets being supplied, ranging from Mi-8 helicopters and L-70 anti-aircraft guns to M113 armoured personnel carriers and millions of essential cartridges and grenade launcher ammunition.
However, the impending provision of NASAMS missile launch systems is a big moment in this enduring partnership. Lithuania purchased the two NASAMS launchers for the air defence of Ukraine from Kongsberg in a deal worth $10.7m.
This May, the US agreed to a $285m sale of Raytheon’s NASAMS air defence systems to Ukraine. In cooperation with the US, Norway also delivered the NASAMS firing units to strengthen the defensive capabilities of Ukraine against the missile attacks of the Russian military forces.
According to GlobalData Analyst Briefing: Ukraine’s air defence demands will test capacity and affordability, “Western aid has prioritised medium-range stationary systems such as NASAMS and IRIS-T which are ideal for defending large urban areas and will free up what remains of Ukraine’s more mobile systems to support frontline operations.
The NASAMS missile launch systems, renowned for their advanced anti-drone capabilities and logistical efficiency, will empower Ukrainian forces to counter aerial threats more effectively. With drones becoming an increasingly pervasive tool on the modern battlefield, including anti-drone technology in Lithuania’s support package showcases the nation’s foresight in addressing evolving security challenges.
Lithuania’s support extends beyond hardware, as it also actively engages in the training and developing of Ukrainian soldiers. This multifaceted assistance includes consultations, medical treatment, and rehabilitation services for Ukrainian military personnel, highlighting Lithuania’s approach to ensuring Ukraine’s armed forces remain combat-ready.
Furthermore, Lithuania’s commitment transcends national borders, as the nation allocates funds to international support initiatives to aid Ukraine. This financial contribution shows Lithuania’s broader commitment to regional stability and security as it seeks to foster a peaceful and prosperous future for Ukraine and the broader geopolitical landscape. (Source: Google/ army-technology.com)
09 Aug 23. Russia shoots down two Ukrainian drones near Moscow – defence ministry. Russia said it had shot down two Ukrainian drones near Moscow on Wednesday, one near a major airport to the south of the city and one to the west of the capital.
“An attempt by the Kyiv regime to carry out a terrorist attack with unmanned aerial vehicles was prevented over the territory of the Moscow region,” the defence ministry said.
“Two UAVs were destroyed by air defences.” One was shot down near Domodedovo, where one of Russia’s biggest international airports is located, and another near the Minsk motorway, Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. (Source: Reuters)
08 Aug 23. Belarus military exercises raise tensions in Poland and Lithuania. Warsaw deploys more soldiers to border after Minsk begins drills to test lessons of Ukraine war Poland dispatched more troops to its border with Belarus on Tuesday after Minsk started military exercises that have heightened security concerns in neighbouring Nato countries. The Belarus defence ministry said the military drills were designed to draw on experiences from Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, including the use of drones. Minsk has been loyal to Moscow throughout the full-scale invasion, which started last year and involved Russian troops being deployed from Belarus. The exercises started on Monday in an area close to both Poland and Lithuania, prompting the deployment of an additional 1,000 Polish soldiers on top of the existing 2,000 troops stationed at the border. Lithuania said it was also planning to send more border guards to the Belarusian frontier. The military build-up comes amid security concerns prompted by the relocation of Wagner Group paramilitaries to Belarus as part of a deal that ended a mutiny against Russia’s top brass. Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned last week that some Wagner troops had been spotted near the Belarus border and were potentially preparing “sabotage” actions against Poland and Lithuania. He estimated that at least 4,000 fighters had moved to Belarus. Last month, Belarus published footage of Wagner troops serving as military instructors for Belarusian soldiers. The head of Lithuania’s border guards said on Tuesday that the situation remained tense but that most of the Wagner forces were not positioned close to the frontier. “The possibility of provocations at our border exists. We are preparing for this,” Rustamas Liubajevas told a press conference. The area where the drills are taking place is close to the strategically sensitive Suwałki Gap, which separates Belarus from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad where Russia’s Baltic fleet is headquartered. Morawiecki met Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda last week on the Polish side of the Suwałki Gap. After the meeting, Nauséda said Poland and Lithuania stood ready “for any possible scenario” and would also jointly continue to assess whether to close completely their borders with Belarus.
Lithuania last week disclosed that it had declared almost 1,000 Belarusian nationals a threat to security, denying them a residency permit. It also stepped up its protests against the Ostrovets nuclear power plant in Belarus, situated less than 50km from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, which it has deemed a threat to its national security and public health. Nato said the military alliance had “significantly increased its defensive presence” in eastern Europe and would “continue to do what is necessary to deter any threat and protect every inch of allied territory”. Concerning Wagner’s relocation and training of the Belarusian army, Nato was “closely monitoring all military activities inside Belarus”, said Oana Lungescu, Nato’s spokesperson. “We do not see any direct or imminent military threat posed by Wagner mercenaries to our allies, but we remain vigilant.” The European Commission said that Minsk’s decision to hold army drills close to the Suwałki Gap and its EU borders was “not a surprise” and that “these military exercises need to be seen in [the] context of what Russia is doing in Ukraine . . . trying to flex the muscles, trying to intimidate the neighbours”. Recommended The Big Read Belarus: an ever growing dependency on Russia The EU has issued seven rounds of sanctions against Belarus, and member states last week agreed to an export ban on goods such as firearms, ammunition and products related to space and aviation. Ahead of a fiercely contested Polish national election this autumn, the rightwing government in Warsaw has played up the need to guarantee national security against not only Russia but also its staunch ally Belarus. Last week, Warsaw accused Minsk of sending two helicopters into Polish airspace, which were flying “at a very low height, hard to intercept by radar”, the Polish defence ministry said. Minsk denied the incident. Polish officials have also ramped up fears of a hybrid war and a repeat of the events of 2021, when Belarus lured tens of thousands of migrants from Middle Eastern countries to take direct flights to Minsk, only to then send them to the borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. So far this year, there have been 19,000 attempted illegal crossings of the Polish-Belarusian border, up from less than 16,000 for all of 2022, the chief commander of the Polish border guards said during a news conference on Monday. Commander Tomasz Praga described the situation as “another stage of the hybrid war”. (Source: FT.com)
08 Aug 23. 60-Year-Old ZU-23-2 Twin Autocannon Hunts Russian Lancet UAVs. Russian Lancet drones present a significant threat to Ukraine’s defense mechanisms, given their capability to target and obliterate even well-armoured vehicles. Despite being compact and cost-efficient, their potential for destruction makes them challenging to neutralize, especially with costly missiles. However, traditional anti-aircraft machine guns may offer an efficient solution to this predicament.
According to ArmyInform, Ukraine’s 30th Separate Mechanised Brigade employs a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft machine gun to counteract Russian Lancet drones.
About the ZU-23-2 Machine Gun
The ZU-23-2, a massive 23 mm machine gun, has been in use since the 1960s. Equipped with two barrels and a long belt of rounds, it can engage aircraft up to 2.5 km away. Initially intended for helicopters and attack aircraft, the ZU-23-2 has now found its niche in combating suicide drones.
Characterized as a towed twin autocannon, the ZU-23-2 weighs almost a ton and typically requires a two-person crew – a gunner and a commander. Additional personnel may assist with tasks such as spotting, communications, and ammunition management.
With an impressive firing rate of 400 rounds per minute per cannon, the ZU-23-2 can reach up to 2,000 rounds per minute during short bursts. Given its dual barrels, the ZU-23-2 can cover a vast sky area, enabling it to eliminate even small targets like the Lancet drones.
ZU-23-2 vs Lancet or Orlan Drones
Currently, the ZU-23-2’s crucial role is to shield Ukrainian assault units from Lancet kamikaze attacks, Orlan reconnaissance drones, and various other unmanned aerial vehicles. It’s worth noting that reconnaissance drones usually fly at higher altitudes, making them the primary targets for Strela-10 air defense systems and Western weapons.
However, these reconnaissance drones can occasionally descend to lower altitudes, within the ZU-23-2’s scope to detect and engage them.
In Ukraine, the ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun must remain concealed from drone attacks. Despite its simplicity and age, this weapon disrupts Russian drone operations, making it a high-priority target. As a result, frequent position changes are necessary.
ZU-23-2 isn’t Consistently Effective
It should be noted that anti-aircraft guns like the ZU-23-2 are not consistently effective. Drones, with their high speed and small size, can be challenging to detect. Nevertheless, in the absence of man-portable anti-aircraft missiles, this strategy remains the best defense against suicide drones.
Suicide drones pose a significant dilemma for Russians and Ukrainians alike. Is it justifiable to deploy expensive missiles, costing hundreds of thousands or millions, against such small targets? Conversely, these diminutive targets can destroy tanks worth several million or, worse, claim the lives of Ukraine’s defenders. While the ZU-23-2 may not be effective against modern jets, it remains a valuable tool in the fight against drones.
The Russian Lancet drone kamikaze is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by Russia’s ZALA Aero Group. It is designed to be used as a kamikaze drone, meaning it is intended to be flown into a target and detonated. The drone is primarily used for military purposes, such as destroying eney targets or conducting reconnaissance missions.
The Russian Lancet drone kamikaze is equipped with a high-explosive warhead that can be detonated upon impact. It is also equipped with a camera that allows the operator to view the target and guide the drone to its intended destination. The drone can be controlled remotely or can be programmed to fly autonomously.
The technical characteristics of the Russian Lancet drone kamikaze include a maximum speed of 130 km/h, a flight time of up to 30 minutes, and a range of up to 40 km. It has a wingspan of 1.8 meters and weighs approximately 5 kg. The drone is powered by an electric motor and can be launched from a variety of platforms, including a launcher, or by hand.
Why is Lancet a Game-changer in Modern Warfare?
Under the stewardship of Concern Kalashnikov, ZALA Aero Group has revolutionized the face of battle with the creation of Lancet drones, particularly the Lancet-3. This drone’s warhead significantly diverges from its predecessor, Lancet-1, and Iran’s Shahed-136 drones. Thus, while Shaheds are more apt for infrastructure targets, the Lancet-3 is geared toward armoured adversaries.
When facing off against the Leopard 2A6 tanks, the Russians opt for the Lancet-3, and the reason its unique warhead. The Lancet-3’s Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) or High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warhead is engineered specifically to target and penetrate key military assets such as tanks.
Analysts have compared the warhead’s functionality to that of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM). The Lancet-3 detonates just before impact, unleashing an armour-piercing round. The drone’s attack mode involves a high-explosive fragmentation or thermobaric warhead. Interestingly, the drone’s speed nearly triples as it descends towards its target, enabling the Lancet-3 to ram its ATGM warhead into the Leopard 2A6 armor at a staggering 300 km/h.
Another contributing factor to the Lancet-3’s superiority over the German 2A6 tanks is its precision aiming system. As of March this year, reports indicate that the Lancet-3 is equipped with a state-of-the-art EO guidance system. (Source: UAS VISION/Bulgarian Military)
08 Aug 23. Ukrainian-Made Sirko Reconnaissance Drones Aim to Replace Mavic Quadcopters at Front. Drones are becoming an indispensable weapon in Ukraine’s fight to expel Russian invasion forces from its territory, with commercial, off-the-shelf quadcopters serving as eyes in the skies for Ukrainian front-line forces.
To end reliance on foreign-made drones, Ukraine is ramping up its own drone manufacturing base. Around 200 companies now make drones, but Ukraine needs just a few basic models to carry out tasks like reconnaissance in the war zone, the chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Skyassist Research and Production Company LLC, Ihor Krynychko said in an interview with Radio NV on Aug. 4.
“Every aircraft has its purpose,” Krynychko said.
“On the one hand, these opportunity zones overlap with each other. However, speaking about Mavics or other quadcopters, they have their own physics of flight. I mean these aircraft can hover in the air. This is what primarily differs them from plane-type drones.”
Skyassist is now setting up mass production of another kind of drone, Sirko, which is a fixed-wing UAV that has its own niche on the battlefield.
“We need to realize that the full replacement isn’t possible at all,” Krynychko told NV.
“The main purpose of quadcopters is to watch a 300-meter-wide area near the frontline,” he said.
“They hover in the air and monitor the situation. In aircraft-type drones (like Sirko) lift is generated by the flow of the wing. So, it can sometimes replace a plane, sometimes a quadcopter. … A quadcopter is (like) a balloon from World War I, when it took off and a guy with a spyglass was watching the enemy from above.”
While unable to hover, Sirko is a first-class reconnaissance drone, which can also serve as a fire adjuster, Krynychko said. Moreover, its simple design means it’s easy to mass produce – and Ukraine needs masses of drones, perhaps in the tens of thousands.
“It’s easy to mass produce, besides it has a very interesting design which is plain and simple,” Krynychko said.
“It’s a mechanism 92 centimeters in size. It’s a monoplane. There is no need to fold or unfold it to prepare it for combat actions or evacuation. It’s very easy to use. It is launched with a rubber band exclusively and works mostly automatically. However, we left the option of manual control during flight. An operator can order a drone to fly to the right, or to the left, or in any other desired direction. But mechanism automatically chooses the angle to turn at. It’s called stabilized flight.”
The distance between an operator and a drone can reach up to 30 km, he added. The new Kharkiv-made Sirko drone was first unveiled in May 2023.
(Source: UAS VISION/The New Voice of Ukraine)
08 Aug 23. Largest ever UK action targets Putin’s access to foreign military supplies. Foreign Secretary announces 25 new sanctions targeting Putin’s access to foreign military equipment.
- Foreign Secretary announces 25 new sanctions targeting Putin’s access to foreign military equipment.
- This includes individuals and businesses in Turkey, Dubai, Slovakia and Switzerland who are supporting the illegal war in Ukraine.
- The UK is also tackling Iranian and Belarusian support for Russia’s war machine.
The Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly has today (8 August 2023) announced 22 new sanctions on individuals and businesses outside Russia supporting Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, as well as 3 Russian companies importing electronics vital to Russia’s military equipment used on the battlefield.
Today’s measures will damage Russia’s defence systems by cutting off Putin’s access to foreign military equipment. Among those sanctioned are:
- Two Turkey based businesses, Turkik Union and Azu International, for their role in exporting microelectronics to Russia that are essential for Russia’s military activity in Ukraine.
- Dubai based Aeromotus Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Trading LLC, for its role in supplying drones and drone components to Russia.
- Slovakian national Ashot Mkrtychev, for his involvement in an attempted arms deal between the DPRK and Russia.
- Swiss national Anselm Oskar Schmucki, for his role in Russia’s financial services sector, including through working as Chief of the Moscow office of DuLac Capital Ltd.
We are also taking further action to tackle Iran and Belarus’ support for Russia’s military. The UK has previously imposed sanctions on Belarus for continuing to actively facilitate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has called out Iran’s destabilising role in global security, including through sanctions against Iranian suppliers of the UAVs used by Russia to target Ukrainian civilians. Today’s sanctions include:
- Iranian individuals and entities involved in the research, development and production of UAVs for the IRGC.
- Belarusian defence organisations linked to the manufacturing of military technology for the Belarusian regime, which has directly facilitated Putin’s illegal war.
The UK is also sanctioning three Russian companies operating in the electronics sector for their role in procuring UK-sanctioned western microelectronics that are essential for sustaining Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.
This sanctions package is part of a series of wider action targeting those critical to supplying and funding Putin’s war machine – and it is the biggest ever UK action on military suppliers in third countries.
The Russian defence industry is severely stretched and focused entirely on sustaining the war. Unable to access Western components, the Russian military is struggling to produce sufficient top-end equipment and is now desperately searching for foreign armaments. Russia is already having to mobilise soviet-era tanks and harvest kitchen freezers for low-grade chips. Today’s package tackles Russia’s attempts to circumvent and offset these clear impacts of UK and allies’ sanctions.
Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly said:
Today’s landmark sanctions will further diminish Russia’s arsenal and close the net on supply chains propping up Putin’s now struggling defence industry.
There is nowhere for those sustaining Russia’s military machine to hide.
Alongside our G7 partners, the UK has repeatedly called on third parties to immediately cease providing material support to Russia’s aggression or face severe costs.
We will continue working together with our international partners to prevent third parties supplying weapons and welcome stronger action to clamp down on rogue military supplies and sanctions circumvention. The UK is committed to maintaining international efforts to ensure sanctions are effective, investigate activities that support circumvention and act accordingly. We welcome cooperation from third countries where they are taking steps to address actions by those in their jurisdictions supplying Russia.
Through this sanctions package, the UK is also taking further steps to tackle countries actively supporting Putin by supplying weapons and military components directly to Russia, including Iran, Belarus and DPRK. Among these new designations is the Belarusian company Gomel Radio Plant which is repairing Russian military equipment; and the Iranian Paravar Pars Company, a key regime-linked UAV manufacturer, and seven of its executives. Iran is responsible for supplying Russia with the kamikaze drones used to bombard Ukraine. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
07 Aug 23. Russian Air Force having no ‘decisive operational effect’ due to Ukrainian air defences – UK intelligence. The Russian Air Force is failing to have a “decisive operational effect” due to the threat posed by Ukraine’s air defences, according to the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).
In its latest defence intelligence update, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) said the Russian Air Force has “carried out over 100 sorties a day” so far this summer but these have been limited to “Russian-controlled territory due to the threat from Ukrainian air defences”.
“The Russian Air Force continues to consistently deploy considerable resources in support of land operations in Ukraine, but without decisive operational effect,” the MOD said.
“Russia has attempted to overcome this issue by increasingly using basic free-fall bombs with range-extending glide attachments.
“Aircraft can release these many kilometres from their targets, but they have yet to demonstrate consistent accuracy.
“At the start of Ukraine’s southern counter-offensive from June 2023, Russian attack helicopters proved effective.
“However, in recent weeks Russia appears to have been less able to generate effective tactical airpower in the south.”
The West has sent numerous weapons systems to Ukraine, including air defence systems.
One, sent by the US, Netherlands and Germany, is the Patriot and is used to intercept and destroy incoming cruise missiles and aircraft.
It comes after a blood transfusion centre in the town of Kupiansk was struck by an aerial bomb guided by Russian forces on Saturday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
“This war crime alone says everything about Russian aggression,” President Zelensky said on his Telegram channel.
“Beasts that destroy everything that simply allows (us) to live. Defeating terrorists is a matter of honour for everyone who values life.” (Source: forces.net)
07 Aug 23. DOD Focuses on Readiness, Modernization as It Arms Ukraine. The Defense Department remains committed to arming Ukraine as the country defends itself against Russia’s unprovoked invasion while at the same time maintaining U.S. military readiness, a top Pentagon acquisition official said today.
Douglas R. Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said the U.S. has undertaken a multipronged approach toward modernizing the defense industrial base while expanding production of critical capabilities.
“The U.S. Army is committed to and will succeed at maintaining our stocks sufficient for training and readiness of the U.S. Army, while also supporting our ally, Ukraine, with what they need, working as part of an international team to make sure that happens,” he said.
The Biden administration has committed more than $43bn in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
That assistance has included more than 2,000 Stinger antiaircraft systems, more than 10,000 Javelin anti-armor systems, and more than 2m 155mm artillery rounds, among other items.
The assistance has been provisioned through drawdowns of existing U.S. stocks and through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, the authority under which the U.S. procures capabilities from industry and partners.
In response to the effort to assist Ukraine, the U.S. has ramped up production of key artillery rounds used most by Ukraine in support of its counteroffensive operations and in defending its territory against the invading Russian forces.
Bush said the U.S. is currently producing new artillery rounds at a rate of 24,000 per month and is on track to produce in excess of 80,000 rounds per month over the following year.
“As a whole, the team is doing great,” Bush said. “We’re both modernizing our industrial base while we’re ramping up production.”
He added that throughout the war, U.S. equipment has remained highly effective in combat.
“That’s the result of decades of work by thousands of people to make sure our equipment is tested well and also that our industry partners produce it, critically, at a high level of quality,” Bush said. “Lots of countries can produce. The United States produces the best in terms of quality. I think we are seeing that, and I think that speaks well of our industry partners.” (Source: U.S. DoD)
08 Aug 23. Putin ramps up production of deadly Lancet kamikaze drones. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the head of a state-owned defence conglomerate to increase the production of attack drones, as the drone war between the warring countries ramps up.
In televised footage of the meeting on Monday night, Putin was seen ordering the head of Rostec – which produces around 90 per cent of the equipment used in Ukraine – to increase the number of weapons being churned out.
Putin said Russia needed more Kub and Lancet drones, which have emerged as a thorn in the side of Ukraine’s advancing forces, saying the drones had proven “very effective”.
“It is necessary to increase the percentage of the production of the latest types of weapons. T-90 ‘Proryv’ tanks, and aircraft systems,” the Russian President said. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
07 Aug 23. Ukraine “using UK air-to-air missiles for C-UAS missions to good effect.” In an interview with the UK’s Times foreign editor Maxim Tucker, a senior officer in Ukraine’s air defence command said the UK’s supply of ASRAAM missiles based on Supacat transporters has been particularly effective against Shahed kamikaze drones.
The MBDA ASRAAM is an air-to-air missile in service with the Royal Air Force as its Within Visual Range (WVR) Dominance weapon and is being integrated onto the F-35 Lightning II.
Several news media have reported on the effectiveness of the combination of Supacat and ASRAAM which have also proved effective against Russian helicopter attacks.
Meanwhile, in his August 6 address to the Air Force Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has spoken of the importance of maintaining its air defence capabilities. “Today, I heard a report on the use of advanced air defense systems – Patriots and IRIS-T, which we received from our partners – by our warriors. I am grateful to every country, every leader who helped us with them,” said the president. “In this week alone, Russian terrorists have already used 65 different missiles and 178 attack drones against us, including 87 “Shaheds”. We managed to shoot down a significant number of them.”
Many press outlets have reported that Ukraine is concerned about the supply of replacement missiles and components to sustain air defence capabilities. (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
07 Aug 23. German chancellor Olaf Scholz is under mounting pressure to provide cruise missiles to Ukraine to bolster its struggling counteroffensive against Russian forces. Two lawmakers in Scholz’s Social Democrat party (SPD), which has often been more cautious than its coalition partners, have recently joined a chorus of voices calling for Swedish-German made Taurus missiles to be sent to Kyiv. “The counteroffensive is faltering, the Ukraine does not have a significant air force to support it,” Andreas Schwarz, an SPD member of parliament, told the German news outlet Der Spiegel on Sunday. “That leaves only guided missiles such as Taurus cruise missiles, with which the Ukrainian army could overcome the minefields laid by the Russians and recapture territory.” His comments were cautiously echoed by Nils Schmid, foreign policy spokesman for the SPD in parliament, who told German newspaper Tagesspiegel that he did not “rule out” supplying systems such as Taurus in conjunction with the US. Schmid warned, however, that it was vital to ensure that Ukrainian soldiers — rather than their German counterparts — could do target programming, otherwise it would bring Berlin “dangerously close to direct participation in the war”. Further supplies of cruise missiles would offer a boost to the Ukrainian counteroffensive, launched in June, that has made only moderate progress towards its aim of liberating Russian-occupied far eastern and southern regions. Equipped with German Leopard tanks and other Nato-grade weaponry provided by western allies, Ukraine’s infantry has struggled to break through heavily mined and fortified Russian positions. In a bid to soften the ground, Ukraine’s air force bombers have used British Storm Shadow long-range cruise missiles, provided earlier this year, to repeatedly strike Russian weapons arsenals, fuel depots, command posts and logistical infrastructure including bridges. Moscow has responded in recent weeks by heavily targeting air bases with air strikes in a bid to counter the threat posed to its faltering full-scale invasion by the long-range missiles. Last month, France announced it would follow the lead of the UK by supplying Ukraine with Scalp missiles, which like British Storm Shadows have a range of about 250km. But Germany, along with the US, has been more hesitant, with policymakers in Berlin fearing the risk of escalation that would come with supplying a weapon with a range of more than 500km that could be used to strike Russian territory. The German defence minister Boris Pistorius said last week that supplying Taurus missiles, which are produced by a joint venture formed by Germany’s MBDA and a subsidiary of Sweden’s Saab, “is not our top priority right now”. He said Germany, which is the second-largest supplier of weapons to Ukraine in absolute terms after the US, was not the only country to be hesitant about such a move, pointing to reticence from Washington. He added that German missiles had a “special reach”. The debate has drawn comparison in Germany with the long and painful discussion about dispatching German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, which reached a peak in January this year after months of deliberations that drew frustration from Berlin’s international allies. Recommended The Big Read The ‘monumental consequences’ of Ukraine joining the EU Scholz eventually struck a deal with Joe Biden to send the Leopard 2 to Kyiv — and allow other European countries to do the same — with the US committing to send its own Abrams tanks. Schwarz said that he now had a sense of “déjà vu”, adding: “As with the tank issue, we are now refusing to hand over important equipment that will probably be delivered in the end.” He argued that Ukraine could already target Russian territory with Mars and Himars artillery systems that have been delivered by Germany — but had not yet done so. (Source: FT.com)
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