Ukraine Conflict Update – 29 April
Military and hard security developments
- The Russian offensive in the Donbas continues to make very slow progress, with few notable advances over the last 24 hours along the various axes of attack. Potentially as a response to this slow progress, Ukrainian sources have reported that the Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov has arrived in Izyum to take personal command over the offensive. While unconfirmed at this stage, Gerasimov’s presence in-theatre would reflect the Kremlin’s determination to make progress in the region in the coming weeks, particularly ahead of the Victory Day celebrations on 9 May. However, Gerasimov’s presence in Ukraine will likely threaten the authority of Aleksandr Dvornikov, who had been appointed commander of Russian operations in Ukraine earlier in the invasion, and likely reflects a failure to overcome enduring command and control issues.
- The Azovstal works in Mariupol continues to hold out, but Russian forces have intensified their bombardment of the compound. The Ukrainian General Staff have reported that seven Tu-22 strategic bombers have been deployed against the works, striking a Ukrainian field hospital with multi-tonne “bunker-buster” munitions. President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced that an undefined operation is planned for today, 29 April, which will aim at evacuating civilians trapped inside the works. While he provided no details of the operation, it remains to seen how this will be accomplished, though Ukrainian commanders in Azovstal have indicated that hundreds of civilians, including children and injured people, remain trapped amid depleting food and water supplies.
- There have furthermore been reports of exchanges of fire along the northern Russian-Ukrainian border over the last 24 hours. Reports indicate Russian grenade and mortar attacks along the border of Chernihiv oblast in the far north, though local Russian FSB officials have alleged Ukrainian attacks against infrastructure on the Russian side of the border. Meanwhile, the Russian governor of Kursk oblast confirmed mortar strikes at border checkpoints this morning. The developments underscore the enduring threat of cross-border attacks in the north, despite the Russian withdrawal last month, though such exchanges of fire are unlikely at this stage to indicate any Russian plans to reinitiate major offensive operations against northern Ukraine. Nevertheless, missile strikes against Kyiv overnight underscore the increasing threat of long-range strikes against major cities across Ukraine (see Forecast below for further analysis). In response to the interception of three missiles yesterday over Odesa, the local administration has extended the curfew in the city, which will hold from 2200 on 1 May until 0500 3 May (local time).
Diplomatic and strategic developments
- On 28 April, US President Joe Biden asked Congress for an historic USD 33 billion package for military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The package will include USD 20.4 billion in military assistance, USD 8.5 billion in economic support and the remaining USD 3 billion in humanitarian relief. The proposals will more than double the existing military aid provided by the US to Ukraine, and reflects the doubling down of US military backing following the Ramstein summit earlier this week. While the Kremlin has threatened retaliation if countries intervene in Ukraine, it is clear that consensus is building in the West towards supporting Ukraine military over the longer term.
- In line with this, the German Bundestag took a historic step yesterday, 28 April, and voted in favour of providing Kyiv with heavy weapons, with 586 votes in favour, 100 against, and seven abstentions. The vote follows Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s U-turn earlier this week after he approved the transfer of Gepard anti-aircraft tanks. While the Chancellery will likely remain reticent to expand weapons transfers to include Leopard tanks and other heavy equipment, the Bundestag vote will increase pressure on such transfers, which are increasingly likely as the US, UK and Poland in particular double down on expanding support.
- In related developments, Poland has confirmed it has sent 200 T-72 tanks as well as dozens of infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine. Warsaw has also stated that it is prepared to guard Slovakia’s air space if and when the country ground its MiG-29 fleet, which Bratislava has indicated it intends to send to Ukraine. The move paves the way for the transfer of the aircraft and reflects broader efforts amongst NATO allies to free up Soviet-era equipment familiar to Ukrainian forces by replacing it with newer capabilities.
- The UK has confirmed today, 29 April, that it will send 8,000 troops to take part in exercises in Eastern Europe. While the exercises had long been planned, the war in Ukraine has refocused the importance of European military exercises this summer, with the deployment representing one of the largest British deployments since the Cold War. The British Army will conduct exercises alongside other allies in Poland, as well as near the Estonian-Latvian border alongside French and Danish forces. In the context of Helsinki’s possible accession to NATO, one of the most notable deployments will see British troops embedded in an armoured brigade in Finland as part of the Joint Expeditionary Force. The upcoming exercises between April and June will reinforce growing NATO commitment to defending Eastern European allies, with Moscow likely to respond with its own posturing and exercises, likely involving Belarus, as tensions remain extremely high.
Economic/business environment developments
- German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck announced that Berlin would not block a potential Russian oil embargo by the EU, noting that the country would be able to cope with a total energy cut-off. The statements mark a notable policy shift from Germany, which has been one of the most reluctant European states to sanction Russian oil and gas, given Berlin’s heavy reliance on these imports from Russia. Hungary has also reportedly softened its stance on the issue this week, indicating that the sixth round of EU sanctions may well include some form of a ban on Russian oil, one of the major sources of revenue for the Kremlin.
- However, by contrast the issue of natural gas ruble payments to Russia continues to divide the EU, with all indicators pointing to increasing divergence and attempts to find work-arounds. Numerous European companies are asking for clarification from the European Commission, which has so far issued vague guidelines saying companies should not pay in rubles, and that any move to open a ruble account with Gazprombank (as demanded by Moscow) would constitute a breach of sanctions. However, unity is starting to fray as numerous national governments, including Hungary, have indicated their intentions to acquiesce to the Kremlin’s demands because they have no other choice, while a major European oil firm has also confirmed it is preparing to open up a ruble account with Gazprombank.
- The cutting off of gas to Poland and Bulgaria earlier this week thus appears to be succeeding in dividing the bloc’s response, with Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany amongst those most concerned to avoid interruption to their supplies. Germany is now sending gas to Poland following the Kremlin’s decision to cut Warsaw off, but this can only continue for as along as Germany’s supply of Russian gas continues. Meanwhile, such uncertainty is pushing up energy prices still further, though the markets have calmed slightly as investors place their hopes on a compromise arrangement or a work around. However, the spectre of energy rationing is already increasing, as Italy announced plans to restrict air conditioning and heating in public buildings this summer, with non-compliance punishable by fines ranging from EUR 500 – 3,000.
- Considering the withdrawal of Russian troops from around Kyiv, the security situation in and around the capital has moderately improved as of 28 April. The H01/P01 and the E40 are the most viable routes from Kyiv. The E40 and the E373 highways were declared ‘open’ for traffic by Ukrainian authorities and are now relatively safe, however, they remain heavily damaged and road-clearing processes continue which may cause delays. The threat of air attacks remains high, therefore, safety cannot be guaranteed on any westbound evacuation routes. The threat posed by mines and unexploded ordnance also remains high across Kyiv oblast. We note that this advisory is supported by a warning from Kyiv Region Military Administration on 12 April stating that de-occupied towns and settlements adjacent to Kyiv should not be re-settled by civilian populations due to high quantities of mines and unexploded ordnance.
- Due to air attacks on Kremenchuk and Uman on 25 April, the westbound E50 to Oleksandriya and from there the H01 seems to be a relatively safer route from Dnipro to Kyiv. Between Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia, there are two main road routes: the H08 and E105. Due to RU military targeting civilian and military aviation infrastructure with missile strikes, we believe there is substantial risk associated with all road routes into Zaporizhzhia, as the H08 is in close proximity to Shyroke Airfield just north-west of Zaporizhzhia, and the E105 passes through Zaporizhzhia International Airport and then Vilniansk Airfield. As such, we assess that all approaches into Zaporizhzhia face elevated risk from air/missile strikes at present.
Moscow confirmed today, 29 April, that it had launched a “high-precision” missile strike on a rocket plant in Kyiv overnight, at the same time as the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting the capital. The attack resulted in at least one casualty and is highly likely to have been an intimidation tactic as well as wider posturing following threats to target “decision-making centres” in response to the UK and wider NATO backing of Ukrainian strikes inside Russia. This is furthermore in line with our assessment that Russia will not allow the presence of Western officials and advisers to deter strikes against the capital, underlining a likely attempt to deter Western politicians and advisers from visiting Kyiv. It also underlines the mounting threat and enduring vulnerability of Kyiv to long-range strikes, which will continue to undermine relocation efforts and the reestablishment of business operations in the city for the foreseeable future.
• With Victory Day fast approaching, Russian gains continue to remain slow and steady in the Donbas, with Russian forces making few notable advances over the last 24 hours. Offensive operations have continued across multiple axes of attack, with a failed assault on Rubizhne underlining the continued stubbornness of Ukrainian defences in the Severodonetsk salient. Further attacks south and west of Izyum have similarly achieved little progress over the last 24 hours.
• In an indication of the mounting importance of the Izyum salient and the need to achieve some notable victories in the coming weeks, Russia’s Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov has reportedly arrived in Izyum. While unconfirmed at this stage, Ukrainian media have claimed that Gerasimov has taken personal command of the Russian Izyum offensive. Though it remains unclear whether he will command forces at the operational and tactical level, with some sources maintaining he will command at the “strategic level”, his arrival comes after the appointment of the Commander of the Southern Military District Aleksandr Dvornikov as overall commander of Russian forces in Ukraine. It would thus suggest that Dvornikov’s appointment has not overcome the widespread command and control issues that necessitated the appointment of a single commander in the first place. If Gerasimov has indeed taken command, it is a further indication of Moscow’s determination to achieve some progress in the Donbas in the coming days and weeks.
• However, in an indication of the declining importance of the upcoming 9 May Victory Day to the timeline of the Donbas offensive, the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Denis Pushilin stated on 28 April that the republic will postpone its Victory Day celebrations until the entire Donetsk oblast is “liberated”. While this reinforces the assessment that the symbolic date of 9 May is increasingly unlikely to set an end point or pause in the Donbas, Moscow will nevertheless want to claim some sort of victory during the celebrations, with Gerasimov likely sent to achieve this.
• As such, Russian forces will likely renew offensive efforts against the Severodonetsk salient in order to claim that at least Luhansk oblast has been entirely “liberated” during the celebrations. As such, further Russian progress southeast of Lyman (following the capture of Yampil) and west of Popasna (south of Severodonetsk) will continue to present the most significant threat to Ukrainian forces in the coming days. A breakthrough in either of these directions will threaten to cut off Ukrainian forces fighting in the Severodonetsk salient from their base in Slovyansk, with the Russian move on Yampil already threatening the critical rail connection into the salient.
• Looking ahead, the weather forecast in eastern Ukraine over the next seven days will largely favour Russian offensive operations. Higher temperatures will help dry out the ground, which will steadily benefit off-road manoeuvre over the coming weeks, while only partial cloud cover will enable continued air force and UAV sorties.
• Russian operations north of Kharkiv continue to sustain pressure on the city, primarily through artillery and aerial bombardments. The Ukrainian General Staff maintain that at least 7 BTGs are now in the Kharkiv area, with units from the 6th Combined Arms Army (CAA) and Northern Fleet 14th Army Corps forcing Ukrainian units to screen Russian positions, while the bulk of Russian forces continue to funnel into the Izyum salient. Nevertheless, Ukrainian forces have over the last few days attempted numerous counterattacks north of Kharkiv, including the successful capture of the village of Kutuzivka northeast of Kharkiv, and an unsuccessful assault on Kozacha Lopan, just 5km from the Russian border the north. While unsuccessful, the latter attack was clearly aimed at threatening the nearby E105 highway, which serves as the primary supply route for Russian forces north of Kharkiv. Together with continuing Ukrainian sabotage operations north of the border in Belgorod oblast, such attacks will continue to threaten Russian supply lines to their forces west of the Siverskyi Donets River, as well as their forces massed around Izyum.
• Elsewhere, Russian forces have continued to conduct long-range strikes across the country. As anticipated in our recent reporting, two missiles struck targets in Kyiv overnight – the first time the city has been struck in recent weeks. Three missiles struck targets in the residential Shevchenkovsky district in the west of the city late last night, which notably took place while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was in the city following his visit to Moscow the day before. The Russian Ministry of Defence maintains that it carried out a “high-precision” strike on a rocket plant in the capital, alongside 30+ other attacks on military targets overnight.
• The attacks come after Moscow had warned of long-range strikes against “decision-making centres” in Kyiv if Ukrainian attacks inside Russian territory continued. However, the presence of Guterres underscores the increasing risk of attacks irrespective of whether foreign dignitaries are in the city, and the renewed threat to residential areas of the city. Other explosions were reported to the south of Kyiv in Fastiv, as well as further west overnight in Shepetivka and Khmelnytskyi, with Ukrainian air defences also reportedly shooting down a missile over Odesa.
Moscow’s increasing coordination of cyber and military operations will remain a primary threat to organisations linked to Ukraine’s critical infrastructure
• April saw the continued escalation of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, with Moscow increasingly utilising cyber space to attack Ukrainian targets. Highlighting this trend, Microsoft published a report on 27 April claiming to have detected at least six separate Russian state-linked threat actors launching more than 237 cyber operations against Ukraine since the start of the conflict. These attacks largely fell into the categories of destructive, espionage or intelligence operations, with 32 percent of the destructive attacks targeted against Ukrainian government organisations and over 40 percent at operators of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.
• In contrast, Pro-Ukraine cyber operations have largely maintained course during the last month, with groups linked to the hacktivist collective Anonymous remaining the most active in compromising Moscow-linked targets. However, an increasing number of cyber security experts have questioned the validity of Anonymous’ hacking claims, with a Japanese former member reporting to Japanese news outlets on 21 April that several of their hacking allegations have been fake. Despite this, previous analyses conducted by cyber security firms, such as Security Discovery, of Anonymous-linked data leaks found “of 100 Russian databases […] 92 had been compromised”. While the group has appeared to compromise some high-profile targets, including the Kremlin, these attacks have remained largely rudimentary, such as defacement or data leaks, and have had a minimal or temporary impact on the targets’ operations.
• Microsoft’s latest report claimed that the timing of Russia’s cyber attacks closely matched with its conventional military activities in Ukraine. As such, Further Moscow-linked cyber attacks are likely to be launched in concert with Russia’s ongoing offensives in the Donbas region. Such activity will heighten the risk of escalating the ongoing tit-for-tat cyber conflict between pro-Kyiv and pro-Moscow hackers. This will result in more malicious cyber attacks against organisations supporting Ukraine’s government and military operations, such as telecoms and IT sector firms, in the near future.
Ransomware and hacktivism will pose an increasing threat amid the escalating Russia-Ukraine conflict
• In late April, several cyber security authorities, including the US NSA and UK NCSC, jointly published a list of the top 15 vulnerabilities routinely exploited in 2021 by malicious cyber actors. At the top of this list was the Apache Software Foundation’s Log4J vulnerability that was discovered in late 2021. The alert claimed that the inclusion of Log4J demonstrated malicious actors’ ability to “quickly weaponize known vulnerabilities and target organisations [in a zero-day attack]”. Nearly 80 zero-day attacks were launched throughout 2021, compared to the 62 recorded in 2019-2020.
• Despite this alert, the fallout from Log4J has been limited, with a report published by the Dutch National Cybersecurity Centre (NCSC) in January claiming that “the aftermath of recent incidents connected to Log4Shell exploitation” has been limited due to entities’ quick mitigation efforts. Nevertheless, the NCSC has warned organisations across all sectors to remain vigilant for ongoing Log4J-related threats because malicious parties will continue to search for vulnerable systems and carry out attacks. Most notably, Chinese Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) group 41 was observed in March targeting six US state governments’ networks through a range of web applications, including Log4J (see Sibylline Cyber Daily Analytical Update – 9 March 2022).
• With organisations’ poor cyber hygiene standards and the sustained proliferation of working from home technology likely to provide hackers with additional vulnerabilities to exploit, there is a heightened risk of sectors, such as tech and telecoms, being targeted in the coming months.
• Russia has continued to make slow progress in the Donbas, though a breakthrough continues to prove elusive. The Russians are continuing to attack at multiple points across the entire frontline, though major thrusts continue to be directed out of Izyum towards Slovyansk to the east, Barvinkove to the south as well as further west, a push clearly intended to circumvent established Ukrainian defences along the key T2122 highway. Elsewhere, Russia continues to bombard the Azovstal works in Mariupol, though they have made no notable progress in recent days ahead of a planned press tour of the city, which is expected to take place today, 28 April.
• The Russians have furthermore been conducting probing attacks in the southern direction west of Kherson, though Ukrainian counterattacks have stalled any advances in recent days. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian General Staff have stated that Russian forces in the region are reinforcing and have stepped up aerial reconnaissance in the region, indicating preparations for offensive operations against Mykolaiv and/or Kryvhi Rih to the north. Given the growing tensions in Transnistria this week, a thrust towards Mykolaiv will be an important development if it manages to make ground, though it remains to be seen whether such an attack will prove sustainable. In Transnistria itself, reports indicate that local authorities are preparing for a de facto mobilisation of the male population, and with further provocations and false-flag attacks likely in the coming days, the situation could yet escalate further – though as previously assessed, any offensive operations out of Transnistria will be highly risky for Russian forces, and will risk a major overextension without reinforcements from Ukraine.
• Long-range strikes beyond the immediate frontline have furthermore continued, with explosions reported overnight in Odesa, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Dobripillia, north of Pokrovsk.
Diplomatic and strategic developments
• On 27 April, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against any country intervening in Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine, stating that, should Russia’s warnings be ignored, the response will be “lightning fast”. The threats notably follow this week’s summit at Ramstein air base in Germany to discuss strategies to supply weapons to Ukraine, as well as Germany’s policy shift to increase its military aid to Ukraine. At present, these threats are likely to be mainly posturing as Moscow increasingly seeks to deter further support to Ukraine and warn against other nations joining NATO. Nevertheless, in line with our previous assessments, the threat of conflict spill over remains, with non-EU and non-NATO states, most notably Moldova, most at risk of being impacted in the months ahead, particularly given the escalating situation in Transnistria this week.
• NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg stated that, should Finland and Sweden choose apply for membership, they “will be welcomed with open arms to NATO”, comments which are likely to only aggravate Russia following its failure to deter NATO expansion, instead pushing more countries to seek membership in the alliance. Moreover, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace reiterated his statement that it is “legitimate” for Kyiv to target logistical infrastructure on the Russian territory. Paired with the expansion of western military aid to Ukraine, such statements from senior officials will only reinforce Moscow’s perception of the war in Ukraine being a proxy conflict with NATO, with Russian Foreign Ministry warning the west against “trying our [Russia’s] patience”. Ultimately, this will increase the risk of retaliation from the Kremlin – including in the form of long-range strikes on Western Ukraine to deter arms shipments. Additionally, the targeting of western embassies, or the nearby areas, should also not be ruled out as a potential escalatory response from Russia should the rhetoric continue to intensify from both sides.
• The Ukrainian General Staff on 27 April reported that Russian occupiers in Kherson oblast are printing ballots and conducting a census ahead of an anticipated referendum on the declaration of a Kherson People’s Republic (KNR), expected on or around 1 May. Efforts to crackdown on resistance with tear gas and stun grenades have increased in recent days amid protests, with a new military-civilian administration installed and former KGB officer Alexandr Kobets appointed as mayor of Kherson. These authorities have indicated that the Russian ruble will be introduced in Kherson oblast from 1 May, further reinforcing our assessment that Russia intends to incorporate the territory. In related developments, Russian sources reported on 27 April that fresh referenda are set to be held in Luhansk and Donetsk on 14-15 May to join the Russian Federation.
• However, the dynamics of pro-Russian referenda could also be utilised to expand Russian control of areas outside of Ukraine, namely the breakaway republics of Transnistria and South Ossetia. The rapidly escalating situation in Transnistria and the move towards mobilisation means a referendum could yet to organised in the months ahead if annexation is indeed planned. However, such dynamics would likely also destabilise another Russian neighbour, namely Georgia. A referendum to join Russia is at the heart of the ongoing presidential race in the pro-Russian breakaway republic of South Ossetia, with incumbent president Anatoly Bibilov in particular in favour of a vote in the aftermath of the second round, which is now scheduled for 8 May.
• On 28 April, Ukrainian sources have reported that President Maia Sandu has decided to shift Moldova’s policy on Russia and will align with some EU sanctions on the country. The adviser to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko made the announcement, though it has yet to be confirmed by Chisinau at time of writing. The move represents a marked shift in Moldovan policy after treading a careful line following the 24 February invasion of Ukraine, but Sandu reportedly made the decision in the wake of the provocations in Transnistria earlier this week. If Chisinau does go through with introducing some sanctions, as well as providing non-military humanitarian aid to Ukraine as Gerashchenko claimed, this would increase the likelihood of a Russian response.
• The de facto mobilisation in Transnistria in the coming days will provide Moscow with additional forces with which the posture and threaten Chisinau in response, but as previously assessed, offensive operations against Moldova threaten to overextend Russia and undermine its operations in Ukraine. However, the weaponisation of gas remains a further option. Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavriliţa stated on 27 April that it remains unclear whether Russian gas supplies will be cut from 1 May due to outstanding debt issues by the country’ primary purchaser of Gazprom gas, Moldovagaz. However, she did confirm that seven unnamed international companies have indicated readiness to provide Moldova with natural gas in this eventuality, including from Romania, Poland and the Netherlands. Ultimately, however, further provocations and false-flag attacks remain likely in Transnistria, with a decision by Chisinau to back EU sanctions increasing the threat of limited conflict spill over across the Moldovan border in the coming months.
Economic/business environment developments
• Following Russia’s cut of gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria this week, media reports indicate that some of the largest gas importers in Europe are willing to accept Putin’s demands that payments must be made in Russian rubles. However, according to media reports EU officials have warned that the EU will consider this in violation of sanctions. The effective weaponisation of gas by Russia works as yet another tool with which Moscow can widen divisions and undermine unity with the bloc. As such, Moscow’s decision to cut gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria has reinforced the reality of the threat of such disruptions to the wider European region should Putin’s demands be ignored. Notably, however, Poland in particular is comparatively less dependent on Russian gas than many other European states, with Warsaw already not planning to renew its contract with Gazprom, meaning that cutting off gas supplies to Poland may well have been a relatively lower risk move for Russia. However, the Kremlin has threatened to cut off supplies other EU countries that do not pay in rubles, a risk that will continue to increase in light of escalating tensions and mounting western support for Ukraine.
• Considering the withdrawal of Russian troops from around Kyiv, the security situation in and around the capital has moderately improved as of 28 April. The H01/P01 and the E40 are the most viable routes from Kyiv. The E40 and the E373 highways were declared ‘open’ for traffic by Ukrainian authorities and are now relatively safe, however, they remain heavily damaged and road-clearing processes continue which may cause delays. The threat of air attacks remains high, therefore, safety cannot be guaranteed on any westbound evacuation routes. The threat posed by mines and unexploded ordnance also remains high across Kyiv oblast. We note that this advisory is supported by a warning from Kyiv Region Military Administration on 12 April stating that de-occupied towns and settlements adjacent to Kyiv should not be re-settled by civilian populations due to high quantities of mines and unexploded ordnance.
• Due to air attacks on Kremenchuk and Uman on 25 April, the westbound E50 to Oleksandriya and from there the H01 seems to be a relatively safer route from Dnipro to Kyiv. Between Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia, there are two main road routes: the H08 and E105. Due to RU military targeting civilian and military aviation infrastructure with missile strikes, we believe there is substantial risk associated with all road routes into Zaporizhzhia, as the H08 is in close proximity to Shyroke Airfield just north-west of Zaporizhzhia, and the E105 passes through Zaporizhzhia International Airport and then Vilniansk Airfield. As such, we assess that all approaches into Zaporizhzhia face elevated risk from air/missile strikes at present.
Following the US-led Ramstein summit in Germany earlier this week, we are clearly in another escalatory phase of the conflict as the West doubles down on and expands its support for Ukraine’s war effort. President Putin’s threats of “lightning-fast retaliation” if countries intervened in Ukraine underscore the growing likelihood of a Russian response to mounting Western arms shipments to Ukraine, though this is still much more likely to remain in-theatre at this stage, rather than any move to escalate the war into NATO borders.
Nevertheless, comments made overnight by senior UK ministers, including Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, will further reinforce this escalatory dynamic, as they implied the UK intends to support Ukraine in reclaiming all its territory – including Crimea. Occupied-Crimea is considered intrinsic Russian territory by the Kremlin, and with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also today stating that the alliance stands ready to support Ukraine’s military for years to come if necessary, Russian fears that the military advantage may eventually turn in Ukraine’s favour will fuel the risk of an escalation. In this regard, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) have today alleged that they have intelligence that the US and Poland are planning to establish Polish control over much of Western Ukraine to “reclaim” lost Polish land. They allege that Polish troops are preparing to enter the region “under the slogan of protecting them from Russian aggression”. Such allegations reflect still further the escalating war of words, but may also in part reflect genuine Russian paranoia over the scope for direct NATO intervention in Ukraine.
As a result, and following Putin’s threats of “lightning-fast” retaliation, demonstrations of Russian capabilities inside Ukraine are likely in the coming days, intended for a NATO audience to deter further involvement. These are likely to include cruise, ballistic and potentially hypersonic missile strikes in areas closer to NATO borders, as well as wider nuclear posturing. Moscow has reiterated threats to target “decision-making centres” in response to the UK and wider NATO backing of Ukrainian strikes inside Russia, and thus the threat of punitive strikes against Kyiv in particular is growing. Most notably, there are increasing indications that Russia will not allow the presence of Western officials and advisers to deter strikes against perceived decision-making centres, underlining a likely attempt to deter Western politicians and advisers from visiting Kyiv.
However, other more escalatory options remain to the Kremlin, including potentially striking near or directly at foreign embassies in Kyiv or consulates in Lviv – though it should be noted that there is no publicly available intelligence to indicate that this is planned imminently. Nevertheless, the UK and US have indicated plans to reopen their respective embassies in the capital some time in the near future, and as such these buildings could present highly symbolic targets to demonstrate Russian resolve to escalate without directly targeting NATO territory proper.
• Russian momentum is steadily building in the Donbas as their forces continue to make modest advances around Izyum in particular, though Russian forces have yet to achieve a breakthrough. Russian forces have continued to attack on multiple axes of advance from Izyum, including southeast towards Slovyansk, southwest toward Barvinkove and due west. The Russians have in particular been pushing west of Izyum over the last 24 hours, away from the primary operational objectives in Donetsk oblast, in a likely attempt to circumvent Ukrainian defensive positions along the T2122 road towards Barvinkove.
• The Ukrainian General Staff have furthermore reported that two further Russian BTGs and the 76th Airborne Division have been deployed from Belgorod to the Izyum front, indicating a continued build up of forces on this axis. However, as has been the case in recent days, the Russians are still struggling to bring all their forces to bear south of Izyum given Ukrainian delay actions and enduring reliance upon roads. As such, the advance west of Izyum, which could be aimed at facilitating a large encirclement of Ukrainian forces around Slovyansk, will remain a significant challenge, though improving weather will steadily dry out the ground in the weeks ahead and thus provide additional opportunity for Russian manoeuvre.
• Russian forces have continued to bombard the Azovstal works in Mariupol, including using Tu-22M3 strategic bombers, though very little progress has been made in recent days. According to Ukrainian intelligence, the Kremlin is due to hold a press tour of the city today, reportedly including foreign journalists, and will likely frame the battle for the city in terms of their de-Nazification narrative. There are also increasing reports of Russian forces restricting civilian movements in the city, including resorting to blackmail and physical coercion to force civilians to work for the occupying administration.
• There are also growing indications of systematic “filtration measures” across all occupied territories, including in Kherson ahead of an expected referendum, with military-aged men and pro-Ukrainian activists increasingly being abducted for interrogation. It remains possible that such abductions are intended for future prisoner exchanges, but abducted civilians and Ukrainian defenders from Mariupol and the east in particular could conceivably be paraded in the upcoming Victory Day celebrations as prisoners of war – claiming they are neo-Nazis.
• Fighting has also continued in the southern direction west and north of Kherson, where Russian forces are seemingly preparing for new offensive operations. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence have stated that various elements of Russia’s 8th and 49th Combined Arms Armies (CAA), the 22nd Army Corps as well as Black Sea naval infantry and airborne force are all reinforcing their forward positions in the region and are massing ammunition reserves. An uptick in Russian aerial reconnaissance in the area is a further indication of preparations for offensive operations, with Kyiv expecting assaults in the direction of Mykolaiv and Kryvhi Rih in the coming days.
• The upcoming referendum and likely declaration of the Kherson People’s Republic (KNR), expected on or around 1 May, could furthermore result in a forced mobilisation of civilians in order to “liberate” the rest of the oblast, though a protest in Kherson yesterday underlines that resistance remains despite increasing crackdowns. Russian sources have furthermore reported that referenda in Luhansk and Donetsk are expected to take place on 14-15 May on whether to join the Russian Federation. This would be the clearest indication yet that conquered territory in Ukraine will be incorporated into Russia as part of Novorossiya.
• In Transnistria, the situation remains very tense as further false-flag operations remain likely in the coming days, potentially including a missile strike which will be blamed on Ukraine. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the Transnistrian Ministry of Defence distributed letters to regional administrations indicating the need for all men under the age of 55 to take part in special military training. The letters were reportedly sent out on 21 April, indicating that a decision to move towards mobilisation had been made prior to the attacks earlier this week, aligning once again with previous precedents in the Donbas prior to the invasion. While ostensibly voluntary, the de facto conscription would likely be widely enforced and will thus provide both Moscow and Tiraspol with additional forces in the region. Given numerous referenda are expected in the Donbas, Kherson, and even potentially South Ossetia in Georgia in the coming weeks, similar processes could yet be organised in Transnistria that would further destabilise the situation.
• Following the US-led Ramstein summit earlier this week, President Putin warned the West of “lightning-fast retaliation” if countries intervened in Ukraine. Putin alleged that the West seeks to carve Russia up into pieces and underscored that Moscow would not hesitate to use the most modern weapons systems in response to such a strategic threat. The threats came as both the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stated that the UK is doubling down on its support for Ukraine, with Wallace in particular implying that London intends to support Ukraine in reclaiming all its territory – including Crimea. Such statements underpin the rapid shift in Western policy towards the war in Ukraine and will play into Kremlin paranoia over NATO intervention and reinforce the rising risk of escalation and conflict spill over. While the war in Ukraine has split Russian public opinion, the 2014 annexation of Crimea was by contrast almost universally popular, with Crimea considered intrinsic Russian territory by the Kremlin. Perceptions and suggestions that NATO states such as the UK intend to help Ukraine reclaim Crimea are thus highly escalatory as Russian CBRN doctrine warrants first use tactical nuclear weapons if faced with an existential threat to Russian territory.
• Russian state media has furthermore increasingly been broadcasting stories about the likelihood of a nuclear escalation and “World War III” over the war in Ukraine in recent days, indicating that nuclear escalation is now entering mainstream debate in Russia in response to the uptick in NATO support for Ukraine. Nuclear posturing and demonstrations of Russian capability against Ukraine are thus increasingly likely, particularly if further NATO states indicate intentions to facilitate Ukraine in retaking post-2014 occupied territory.
Ukraine: Government agencies and critical infrastructure to remain the most at-risk as Moscow increases coordination between cyber attacks and military operations. On 27 April, Microsoft claimed to have detected at least six separate Russian state-linked threat actors launching more than 237 cyber operations against Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in late February. These attacks have entailed a wide range of activities, including destructive attacks, such as data wipers, and “broad espionage and intelligence activities” against various targets, including NATO member states. Microsoft’s investigation revealed that 32 percent of the attacks recorded were targeted against Ukrainian government organisations and over 40 percent at Ukraine’s critical infrastructure operators. Microsoft’s findings further confirm the Security Service of Ukraine’s (SBU) 14 February disclosure that Ukraine is being targeted by an ongoing Moscow-directed “wave of hybrid warfare” (see Sibylline Cyber Daily Analytical Update – 15 February 2022). Microsoft claimed that the timing of these cyber attacks closely matched Moscow’s conventional military activity in Ukraine. As such, there is a high likelihood of further such cyber activity being launched in coordination with Russia’s military activities in the Donbas to undermine Kyiv’s defensive capabilities. Ukrainian government agencies and critical infrastructure, such as telecoms, will remain primary targets for these attacks.
Greece: Government puts ‘countermeasures’ in place against possible Russian gas flow cut, highlighting wider energy instability risks across Europe. On 27 April, Greek government spokesperson, Giannis Oikonomou, stated that Greece’s government had put in place measures to ensure gas will not be shut off in the event of a Russian freeze on gas exports. Greece, which is facing a severe cost-of-living crisis compounded by the escalating energy crisis across Europe, is reliant upon Russia for approximately 40% of its annual energy expenditure. The government has not yet formally confirmed whether it will comply with a Russian ultimatum to pay for energy exports in rubles, although with the next payment to the Russian government due on 20 May, it appears unlikely that Greece will comply with the Russian demand. There is therefore a substantial risk that Russia will in some form seek to limit gas flows to Greece, in keeping with its decision to do the same with Poland and Bulgaria, both of whom refuse to meet the Kremlin’s demand. The risk of energy instability will therefore be elevated over coming weeks for firms operating in Greece.
Ukraine: DDoS attacks against Pro-Ukraine sites and supporting organisations likely to increase as Russia’s military operations in Ukraine intensify. On 28 April, Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA) warned that pro-Ukraine sites and government web portals are being targeted by ongoing Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks. While the responsible threat actor remains unknown, the targeting of Ukraine-linked sites likely indicates involvement of a Russian state-linked campaign. Russian hackers have continuously compromised devices since before the start of the Ukraine conflict to build its botnet, with the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) disclosing on 3 March that Dutch routers were likely used in the February DDoS attacks that preluded Russia’s invasion. This continued probing has resulted in a notable uptick in DDoS activity in recent months, with cyber security firm Kaspersky claiming on 25 April that such attacks reached an all-time high in Q1-2022 (see Sibylline Cyber Daily Analytical Update – 27 April 2022). With Russia highly likely to launch additional disruptive attacks over the coming days as part of its military campaign in Ukraine, Western organisations supporting Ukrainian sites will likely face elevated risks of similar DDoS attacks.
Ukraine: Government agencies and critical infrastructure to remain the most at-risk as Moscow increases coordination between cyber attacks and military operations. On 27 April, Microsoft claimed to have detected at least six separate Russian state-linked threat actors launching more than 237 cyber operations against Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in late February. These attacks have entailed a wide range of activities, including destructive attacks, such as data wipers, and “broad espionage and intelligence activities” against various targets, including NATO member states. Microsoft’s investigation revealed that 32 percent of the attacks recorded were targeted against Ukrainian government organisations and over 40 percent at Ukraine’s critical infrastructure operators. Microsoft’s findings further confirm the Security Service of Ukraine’s (SBU) 14 February disclosure that Ukraine is being targeted by an ongoing Moscow-directed “wave of hybrid warfare” (see Sibylline Cyber Daily Analytical Update – 15 February 2022). Microsoft claimed that the timing of these cyber attacks closely matched Moscow’s conventional military activity in Ukraine. As such, there is a high likelihood of further such cyber activity being launched in coordination with Russia’s military activities in the Donbas to undermine Kyiv’s defensive capabilities. Ukrainian government agencies and critical infrastructure, such as telecoms, will remain primary targets for these attacks. (Source: Sibylline)
28 Apr 22. Ukraine weapon switcheroos are flushing Soviet arms out of Europe. As some Eastern European nations send their Soviet-era kit to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s attack, the new weapons those nations stand to get in return from the United States and its allies could shape the continent’s arsenal for years to come.
The tactic of backfilling donated tanks in Poland, air defense gear in Slovakia or armored trucks in Slovenia, for example, is meant to beef up Ukraine’s resistance while offering European Union members a way to remain out of direct conflict. The transactions, many of which go unpublicized, add a new dynamic to an already volatile military procurement pattern in Europe that clashes with the bloc’s lengthy plans for collectively developed weapons.
“When it comes to new equipment, the Eastern European partners will primarily turn to the United States,” said Matthias Wachter, chief defense analyst at the German industry association BDI. “Germany and France have unfortunately disqualified themselves in the eyes of many eastern Europeans by way of their reluctant stance on military support for Ukraine.”
For example, Poland is in line to receive an undisclosed number of Challenger 2 tanks from the U.K. to backfill its supply of T-72 tanks to Ukraine. That’s in addition to the planned purchase of 250 Abrams tanks from the United States in a deal worth almost $5bn.
As a result, Poland, once interested in joining the German-French Eurotank development effort, will now be flush with modern tanks for decades to come, Wachter noted.
Washington has worked for years to get former Warsaw Pact countries to replace their Soviet-era equipment with NATO-compatible kit. A $713m tranche of aid announced Monday, aimed at Ukraine and its neighbors, is meant to do just that.
With the new package, the U.S. stands to benefit both strategically — getting partners and allies off Russian equipment to improve interoperability and deny money for Moscow — and financially, thanks to the subsidization of American weapons abroad.
The aid does include Soviet-era ammunition, rockets and artillery for Ukraine to use for the fight now, but the Biden administration also foresees Ukraine and its neighbors using more Western equipment over the long term, according to a U.S. government summary obtained by Defense News.
The summary ticked off dozens of categories of Ukrainian military needs ― from night-vision devices to multiple launch rocket systems ― that could be fulfilled by the U.S. or other NATO allies.
The package announced Monday included, beyond Ukraine, more than $300m divided between more than a dozen Central and Eastern European countries ― for equipment, training or both. Billed as backfilling supplies of weapons that countries are sending Ukraine, the State Department-controlled Foreign Military Financing is also meant to “enhance partner military integration with NATO,” the summary read.
NATO aspirant Georgia’s $35m portion would support the fielding of “brigade combat equipment sets,” counter-drone technologies and the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, which is a joint and coalition command-and-control fires support system.
Another $23m would go to Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the Europe Recapitalization Incentive Program, which the U.S. State Department launched in 2018 to speed up the process of getting allied nations off Russian gear. The money would buy an additional two medium-lift helicopters in addition to four UH-1H helos delivered in 2021 through the program.
The package would provide:
• Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania: $54.5m each
• Albania: $17m
• Bulgaria: $34.5m
• Croatia and Moldova: $15m each
• Montenegro: $4.9m
• North Macedonia: $28m
• Romania: $35m
• Slovenia and Slovakia: $9.5m each
• Czech Republic: $520,000
The State Department fulfilled its obligation to notify Congress in recent days in order to get the funding in place, but not all of the specifics are finalized, according to a U.S. government official not authorized to speak about the matter on the record.
“We’ve been working for years, especially among the NATO allies, to get rid of the remainder of what Warsaw Pact material they’ve got because, No. 1, they’re NATO members, so we want that interoperability and we want to eliminate the potential for Russian leverage, if they’re dependent on Russia [for equipment],” the official said.
The announcement of the aid came as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held the inaugural meeting of defense leaders from over 40 nations to better coordinate efforts in support of Ukraine’s defense against Russia, which invaded its neighbor Feb. 24. Austin has been at the center of U.S. efforts to spur European nations to send their older equipment to Ukraine in exchange for Western gear.
Though this latest aid package includes so-called nonstandard ammunition Ukraine can immediately use, whether Kyiv ultimately turns to NATO-compatible equipment is not a given.
“I don’t think Ukraine’s made a decision about that. And you can’t really expect them to have made a decision right now while they’re fighting for their lives,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Wednesday.
The U.S. is providing equipment to backfill allied countries because some are risking their own security by sending that equipment, and “it’s the responsible thing for us to do, to have conversation[s] with these allies and partners about what their needs are going to be going forward as well,” Kirby said.
Just as the Pentagon is using a stepped-up dialogue with the American defense industry to probe its ability to meet the needs of the U.S. military, its allies and Ukraine, Austin asked the assembled leaders to assess the “health and vitality” of their own defense-industrial bases, in light of a new reality in Europe, Kirby said.
“We know that whatever happens here, however this war ends, the security landscape in Europe has changed. Not ‘is changing,’ not ‘will change,’ ” Kirby said. (Source: Defense News)
28 Apr 22. Biden asks Congress for new $33bn Ukraine aid package. President Joe Biden on Thursday asked Congress to pass a proposed $33bn Ukraine aid package, including more than $20bn in military aid and other security assistance.
The supplemental funding request includes $16.4 bn for the Defense Department, $8.5bn in economic assistance, and $3 bn for humanitarian assistance and to fight food insecurity.
“Additional security assistance will put urgently needed equipment into the hands of Ukraine’s military and police, including ammunition, armored vehicles, small arms, demining assistance and unmanned aircraft systems,” Biden wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The new package includes $6bn for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and $5.4bn to replenish U.S. stockpiles after American materiel was transferred to Ukraine under a presidential drawdown authority. Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
An official from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget told Defense News earlier this week that Biden has approximately $250m in spending authority left out of the $3.5bn that Congress authorized for the president to use in transferring military equipment to Ukraine from U.S. stockpiles.
The supplemental request also asks Congress for $2.6bn to support the deployment of U.S. troops in Europe, including costs related to transportation, temporary duty, special pay, airlift, weapons system sustainment and medical support.
The Biden administration also wants $550m to establish a critical munitions acquisition fund to help procure and expedite the availability of what OMB called “high-demand munitions” for the U.S. and its coalition partners.
Additionally, the Biden administration is seeking $4 bn in Foreign Military Financing for Ukraine, a State Department program that would grant Kyiv the ability to purchase American defense articles from the United States.
An OMB official told reporters on a call that the administration is asking Congress for funds that would allow the president to use the Defense Production Act to “expand domestic production of critical reserves of critical minerals and materials that have been disrupted by [President Vladimir Putin’s] war and are necessary to make everything from defense systems to cars.”
Some Senate Democrats have floated using the Defense Production Act to expedite the replenishment of munitions that the United States has sent to Ukraine, such as surface-to-air Stinger missiles.
Raytheon Technologies has said it may be unable to make more of the shoulder-fired Stinger missiles until at least 2023 due to parts and material shortages.
Biden also reiterated his request that Congress pass a COVID-19 funding package. While Senate Democrats have floated the idea of pairing the Ukraine supplemental with pandemic aid, doing so could delay the passage of additional funds for Kyiv, as Republicans have refused to advance COVID-19 aid absent an immigration-related vote.
Still, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., indicated Wednesday he could be open to passing the Ukraine supplemental as a stand-alone bill.
“If we find we don’t have agreement, we want to get the Ukrainian assistance ASAP,” Hoyer told reporters on a press call. (Source: Defense News)
29 Apr 22. UK dispatches war crimes experts to help Ukraine with investigations.
Foreign Secretary announces that the UK will deploy a team of war crimes experts to support Ukraine with investigations into Russian atrocities.
• UK experts will deploy to support the Ukrainian Government in gathering evidence and prosecuting war crimes.
• This follows reports of sexual violence by Russian forces in Ukraine.
• Comes as the Foreign Secretary meets President of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for talks today.
The UK will deploy a team of war crimes experts to support Ukraine with investigations into Russian atrocities, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has announced.
The specialist team will assist the Ukrainian Government as they gather evidence and prosecute war crimes and will include experts in conflict-related sexual violence.
They will arrive in Poland in early May and meet international partners, NGOs, refugees and the Ukrainian government to scope out the assistance they can provide.
It comes as the Foreign Secretary travels to The Hague today for talks with ICC Court President, Judge Piotr Hofmanski, at the International Criminal Court, where she will reaffirm the UK’s full support for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes and the use of sexual violence not just in the conflict in Ukraine but around the world.
The visit follows Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab’s visit to The Hague last month to offer practical support to the court for investigating and prosecuting and the report produced under the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Moscow Mechanism, which found credible evidence of torture, rape, the killing of civilians and the forced deportation of more than half a million people in Ukraine.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said:
Russia has brought barbarity to Ukraine and committed vile atrocities, including against women. British expertise will help uncover the truth and hold Putin’s regime to account for its actions. Justice will be done.
While in The Hague, the Foreign Secretary will see her Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra for talks on working together with the Netherlands on holding Russia to account, including their work through the Joint Expeditionary Force and NATO.
• The UK is a leading country donor to the crisis, committing nearly £400m (£394m) of aid for urgent economic and humanitarian support since the invasion.
• This includes a £220m package for aid agencies on the ground to provide medical supplies and basic necessities, saving lives and protecting vulnerable people. So far the UK has sent a rapid donation of food supplies following a request from the government, committed to donating up to 42 ambulances to help bring vital lifesaving care, sent more than 5 million medical items and supported UK-Med to carry out vital lifesaving work in Ukraine.
• The UK supports the work of the International Criminal Court and is providing £1m of additional funding to help the ICC to have an improved system to store evidence submitted in relation to the OTP’s investigations.
• The UK was part of the coalition that created of the Commission of Inquiry at the Human Rights Council, to ensure all allegations of atrocity crimes are thoroughly investigated. We help support such work through our £3m annual funding to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
• The UK has launched a £10 million Civil Society Fund to support organisations in Ukraine, including those helping people affected by conflict-related sexual violence. This follows the launch of the Murad Code earlier this month that provides guidelines for how to properly interview survivors of sexual violence.
• The UK will host an international conference 28 – 30 November 2022 to drive global action to tackle sexual violence around the world and mark 10 years since the launch of the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
28 Apr 22. Canada, U.S. in Lockstep for Support to Ukraine. NATO. Canada and the United States are in lockstep in their support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia, defense leaders said following Pentagon meetings today.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted Canadian Minister of National Defense Anita Anand for the meeting that also covered the wide range of issues facing both neighbors.
“Canada isn’t just a great neighbor, it’s also a true friend and a steadfast ally,” Austin said during a news conference following the meeting. “And today, we’re grateful for Canada’s resolute support of the Ukrainian people after Russia’s reckless and lawless invasion.”
It was the second time in a week that the two leaders had met. Austin and Anand also spoke at the Contact Group on Ukrainian Defense held at Ramstein Air Base, Germany on Monday. At that meeting, Canada pledged to send eight armored vehicles and other vital supplies to Ukraine.
Austin was able to brief the Canadian leader on President Joe Biden’s request to Congress to aid Ukraine’s struggle against the Russian invasion. “I’m proud to note that the President has now requested $16bn for the Department of Defense to address Ukraine’s self-defense needs in the crucial weeks ahead,” he said. “This supplemental request includes $6 bn more for the Ukraine security assistance initiative, which helps us to procure weapons and systems for Ukraine, and $5 bn for additional presidential drawdown authority, which allows us to continue providing critical material from our own inventory, and another $5 bn dollars to help us pay for the operational cost of bolstering NATO’s eastern flank, as well as additional investments. For instance, it features something we call a critical munitions acquisition fund, which will allow the department to purchase and establish a strategic reserve of vital munitions like anti-aircraft and anti-tank munitions to surge for this crisis, and quite frankly, crises to come.”
The two leaders also discussed matters unrelated to Ukraine, including the North American Aerospace Defense Command — a binational command with its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “We talked about our joint efforts to strengthen North American defense ties, including the need to ensure a stable Arctic region where international norms are respected, and we discussed how we’re both working with regional partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to combat threats like transnational crime and drug trafficking,” Austin said.
The two also discussed China and both nations’ commitments to ensuring a secure and open Indo-Pacific region. “That’s why I’m so pleased that last year for the first time, Canada participated in a cooperative Taiwan Strait transit with the United States,” he said. “And we’re going to find additional opportunities to work together on our shared vision of a secure, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
Canada has long been involved in ensuring Ukraine’s security and sovereignty. Since 2015, Canada trained more than 33,000 Ukrainian soldiers. Canada is also training Ukrainian soldiers right now to operate M-777 howitzers, Anand said.
In addition to the eight armored vehicles, “in the coming weeks we will continue to supply Ukraine with the equipment that it needs to fight and win,” the minister of national defense said. “At this crucial time for Euro-Atlantic security, Canada’s commitment to the NATO alliance is unwavering.”
To back this up, Canada has recently deployed a second frigate to NATO’s maritime forces and added more troops and capabilities to the Canadian-led multinational battlegroup in Latvia.
“At this crucial moment, Russia is testing the will of Canada, the United States and our allies and partners,” Anand said. “Russia cannot redraw maps at will to suit its own ends. Russia cannot erode the rules-based international order without consequences. Sovereign nations cannot be erased from the map. And NATO cannot be divided. In fact, as we saw in Germany this week, we are more united than ever before. And we will continue to stand with Ukraine. We remain prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory, and we will always do whatever it takes to ensure the security of our North American continent.” (Source: US DoD)
29 Apr 22. Russia bombards Kyiv during UN chief’s visit. Russia launched missile strikes on Kyiv while Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, was visiting the city.
Two explosions were heard as the official was visiting in the first bombardment of the capital since mid-April, the president’s office said.
“Missile strikes in the downtown of Kyiv during the official visit of @antonioguterres,” tweeted the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Ukrainian Defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, condemned the strikes.
He said: “While the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is visiting Kyiv, a permanent member of the UN Security Council – Russia – is launching missile strikes on the city. This is an attack on the security of the Secretary General and on world security!”.
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
28 Apr 22. Tough Fighting in Donbas as Biden Asks for More Aid to Ukraine.
Tough fighting continues in the Donbas region of Ukraine with 92 Russian battalion tactical groups now operating in the area, a senior defense official said today.
The official also said that some Russian troops are moving out of Mariupol to the northwest even though fighting continues in the Black Sea port.
“We can report that there’s been more than 1,900 missile launches since the beginning of the invasion,” the official said, citing most of the strikes having been in Mariupol and the Donbas region.
The official said Russian progress is “slow and uneven,” with Ukrainian troops making gains in some areas while Russian forces make gains in others.
The Russian military has not overcome their problems with logistics and sustainment that plagued them on their strike toward Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv in February and March, the official said. In addition, due to the effective resistance from Ukrainian forces, the Russians are fearful of outrunning their supply lines.
“Just from logistics alone, they’re only able to sustain several-kilometers-or-so progress on any given day … because they don’t want to run out too far ahead of their logistics and sustainment lines,” he said.
The brief on the situation in Ukraine comes as President Joe Biden sent another aid package to Congress. Overall, the package comes to $30 bn, with $20.4 bn of that amount in additional security and military assistance for Ukraine and for American efforts to strengthen European security. This is being done in full consultation with NATO allies and partner nations concerned over Russia’s unprovoked war.
The package would include $5 bn in additional drawdown authority, $6 bn for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and $4 bn for the State Department’s foreign military financing program.
“The assistance includes funds that will allow us to ensure Ukraine has the weapons it needs to wage this fight, replenish our own stockpiles of key systems, help other countries to shift away from a dependence on Russian weapons, enable Ukraine’s government to continue performing basic functions, address food insecurity exacerbated by Russia’s war of aggression, and support Ukrainian refugees and the countries that are providing them sanctuary,” said an administration official speaking on background from the White House.
The funds will provide Ukrainians with an additional and uninterrupted flow of artillery, armored vehicles, anti-armor and anti-air capabilities.
The package will also forge a stronger NATO security posture through support for U.S. troop deployments on NATO territory, including transportation of personnel and equipment, temporary duty, special pay, airlift, weapons system sustainment and medical support, officials said.
(Source: US DoD)
29 Apr 22. Nato warns war could last years. Nato is warning Ukraine is likely to be mired in war for the long term. The defence alliance’s deputy secretary-general, Mircea Geoană, says “the next few days and weeks could prove decisive, but the war would probably take longer… even years”. It comes after several Russian strikes hit the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, as UN chief Antonio Guterres visited the city for talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky. Mr Guterres said it was “a source of great disappointment, frustration and anger” his organisation’s Security Council had “failed to do everything in its power to prevent” the war. (Source: BBC)
29 Apr 22. British Army exercises boost presence across Europe. Around 8,000 British Army troops will conduct a series of planned exercises across Europe this summer in one of the largest deployments since the Cold War.
The exercises will see 72 Challenger 2 tanks, 12 AS90 tracked artillery guns and 120 Warrior armoured fighting vehicles deploy to countries from Finland to North Macedonia, demonstrating the Army’s modernisation into a lethal, agile and global force.
Tens of thousands of troops from NATO and Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) allies and partners are involved in the exercises. The high readiness forces from the Lead Armoured Task Force and Air Manoeuvre Task Force will take part.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The security of Europe has never been more important. These exercises will see our troops join forces with allies and partners across NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force in a show of solidarity and strength in one of the largest shared deployments since the Cold War.”
Operating across Europe, the British Army will stand alongside partners, combining our capabilities and shared values, promoting peace and security.
The programme follows the Defence Secretary’s ‘Future Soldier’ announcement last November, setting out how the British Army is evolving into a more lethal, agile, and global force in line with the UK Government’s Integrated Review. These exercises showcase the Army’s capabilities and readiness, demonstrating the central role it plays in NATO deterrence.
Troops from B Squadron of the Queen’s Royal Hussars have deployed to Finland this week to take part in Exercise Arrow. They will be embedded into a Finnish Armoured Brigade, with participation from other partners including the US, Latvia and Estonia. The exercise will improve the ability of UK and Finnish troops to work alongside each other as part of the JEF, deterring Russian aggression in Scandinavia and the Baltic states.
In May, Exercise Hedgehog will see the Royal Welsh Battlegroup and the Royal Tank Regiment exercising on the Estonia-Latvia border alongside 18,000 NATO troops, including French and Danish, who are part of the British-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence. Hedgehog is the biggest military exercise in Estonia and takes place every four years.
Commander Field Army Lieutenant General Ralph Wooddisse said:
The UK makes a significant contribution to the defence of Europe and the deterrence of Russian aggression. The British Army’s series of exercises is fundamental to both. We continue to deploy across Europe, from the Baltic to the Aegean, to train and fight alongside our allies and partners, providing powerful, capable and ready forces to support NATO and show the UK’s commitment to peace and security.
A wide range of units from the Field Army will be involved, from light and airborne forces, to helicopters and armoured forces, supported by artillery, electronic warfare, air defence, surveillance drones, engineers and logisticians. The scale of the deployment, coupled with the professionalism, training and agility of the British Army, will deter aggression at a scale not seen in Europe this century.
Alongside Exercise Hedgehog, Exercise Defender in Poland is ongoing until late May, with 1,000 soldiers from the King’s Royal Hussars Battlegroup and C Squadron of the Light Dragoons deployed alongside troops from 11 partner nations including Poland, Denmark and the United States. This exercise involves Challenger 2 tanks and other armoured vehicles deploying from the NATO Forward Holding Base in Sennelager, Germany. The deployment is supported by 104 Theatre Sustainment Brigade operating from the UK and in bases in Europe.
Exercise Swift Response, which also began this week, sees elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team and 1 Aviation Brigade Combat Team operate alongside French, American, Italian, and Albanian counterparts in North Macedonia. There are 4,500 personnel on the exercise including 2,500 British troops. The exercise involves parachute drops, helicopter-borne air assaults and sees a company of French paratroopers integrated into the 2 Parachute Regiment Battlegroup and an Italian battlegroup working to a British chain of command.
These exercises showcase the scale and significance of the British Army’s contribution to the defence of Europe and highlight the continued importance of the leadership role which UK plays as a member of NATO and the JEF.
In addition to the Army’s programme, the UK will deploy a major headquarters to the Baltic region, in support of the JEF. The Standing Joint Force HQ (SJFHQ) will establish three linked nodes – in Latvia, Lithuania and the third at their home base at Northwood HQ in London, the first operational deployment for the headquarters. The UK is the framework nation for the JEF, a coalition of like-minded partners, able to respond rapidly to crises in the High North, North Atlantic, Baltic Sea region and further afield. Over 200 military personnel are involved in the operation, including specialists in cyber, space and information operations. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
28 Apr 22. Sweden’s government does not plan to hold a referendum if its parliament decides to proceed with an application for NATO membership, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Friday.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced both Sweden and Finland to review long held beliefs that military neutrality is the best means of ensuring national security, with both countries expected to make a decision in the coming few weeks. read more
Andersson said that a referendum was a “bad idea”.
“I don’t think it is an issue that is suitable for a referendum,” she told reporters.
“There is a lot of information about national security that is confidential, so there are important issues in such a referendum that cannot be discussed and important facts that cannot be put on the table.”
Sweden’s parliament is reviewing security policy with a report expected in mid-May. Separately, Andersson’s own party, the Social Democrats, are looking at whether to drop their objections to NATO membership. read more
With a majority in parliament backing membership, the ruling Social Democrats are seen as the biggest hurdle to Sweden applying to join the 30-nation alliance.
The leader of the Moderates, the biggest opposition party, has also rejected calls for a referendum on the issue.
“Voters … are not naive about Russia,” Ulf Kristersson told daily Aftonbladet earlier this week in a debate with Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar. “It’s very clear that Swedish voters have understood what happened on 24 February and have drawn their conclusions.”
Dadgostar, whose party opposes NATO membership, told Aftonbladet that Swedes should get a say in the decision.
“This .. has to go back to the voters, there has to be very strong democratic support in this question,” she said.
Sweden holds a general election in September. An opinion poll by Demoskop in daily Aftonbladet published on April 20 showed 57% of Swedes in favour of joining NATO, up from 51% in March. (Source: Reuters)
28 Apr 22. Joe Biden asked Congress to provide $33bn in additional security, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, a sweeping request suggesting Washington is braced for the possibility of a protracted conflict. The substantial provision of new funds, which are expected to last until September, comes as Washington is taking an increasingly assertive approach to the war, expanding the scope and amount of lethal aid to Ukraine it has provided in recent weeks. “As long as the assaults and atrocities continue, we’re going to provide military assistance,” Biden said on Thursday. He added that the US has mostly exhausted previous funding allocated by Congress, necessitating the new request. The latest funding would be more than double the $13.6bn Congress approved for Ukraine in March, suggesting that the White House anticipates the war could continue for months to come. “It’s not cheap but caving to aggression is going to be more costly as we allow it to happen,” he said. “We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine.” Biden said the new package “begins the transition to longer-term security assistance”. Of the $33bn, $20.4bn will be used for security and military assistance, including $5bn more to send weapons from American stockpiles, $6bn for security assistance and $4bn for the state department’s foreign military financing programme. The White House said the funds will support the provision of additional artillery, armoured vehicles, cyber capabilities and air defences as well as efforts to clear landmines and improvised explosive devices. They will also support US troop deployments in Nato territory. The US also plans to provide $8.5bn in economic aid for Ukraine’s government and $3bn in humanitarian aid to address food security and people displaced by the war. (Source: FT.com)
28 Apr 22. Russia appears to be using mine clearance tools to strike Ukraine. Tools designed to save lives are being misused, footage released by Russia appears to show.
Footage released by Russia’s defence ministry appears to show buildings in eastern Ukraine being targeted by Russian troops using equipment designed to clear minefields and protect life.
The UR-77 Meteorit, normally called into action when troops need to cross dangerous land, is shown in the Russian footage seemingly being misused to destroy buildings.
The system is similar to the UK’s Python, slinging a line charge (a rope rigged with high explosives) hundreds of metres ahead. When it lands flat and detonates, it wipes out any IEDs with it and clears a straight-line route for vehicles and troops.
If used correctly, civilians living in conflict zones can also benefit from safer routes outside of their homes.
However, the Russian footage from Rubizhne, Luhansk, appears to show a more concentrated blast radius, suggesting the clearance tool has been manipulated to destroy more localised targets, rather than just creating longer and thinner paths toward them.
28 Apr 22. Truss: West must ‘double down’ support for Ukraine and supply tanks and warplanes.
Liz Truss says Western allies need to be “digging deep” into their inventories, adding “the fate of Ukraine remains in the balance”.
The West must be prepared for the “long haul” to ensure Russia’s defeat in Ukraine, the Foreign Secretary has said.
In a major speech, Liz Truss made calls for allies to increase defence spending and supply tanks and warplanes to Kyiv.
Ms Truss argued that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine shows the need for a shake-up of the international structures which failed to prevent Russia’s actions.
She said Western allies need to impose even tougher economic sanctions to increase Russia’s isolation, including cutting off oil and gas imports “once and for all”.
“There must be nowhere for Putin to go to fund this appalling war,” she said in a speech at the Mansion House in the City of London on Wednesday night.
In a call to Western allies, she said: “We cannot be complacent – the fate of Ukraine remains in the balance.
“And let’s be clear – if Putin succeeds there will be untold further misery across Europe and terrible consequences across the globe. We would never feel safe again.
“So we must be prepared for the long haul and double down on our support for Ukraine.
“Heavy weapons, tanks, aeroplanes – digging deep into our inventories, ramping up production. We need to do all of this.”
She added: “We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace later reinforced the Foreign Secretary’s view that Russian forces must be pushed out of “the whole of Ukraine”, saying Britain would support Ukrainians in “both diplomatic efforts or military efforts”.
Asked if the UK would help Ukraine win back its territory, the Defence Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re prepared to help Ukraine stand by its sovereignty and defend itself however long that may take.
“There is no difference in the position of the United Kingdom since 2014, which is when Ukraine as a sovereign nation was invaded both in Crimea… and Donetsk.
“That needs to stop, that needs to be reversed.”
In her speech, Ms Truss added that the UK will need to “learn the lessons of Ukraine.”
“The UK sent weapons and trained Ukrainian troops long before the war started,” she said.
“But the world should have done more to deter the invasion. We will never make that same mistake again.
“Some argue we shouldn’t provide heavy weapons for fear of provoking something worse.
“But my view, is that inaction would be the greatest provocation. This is a time for courage not for caution.”
Dominic Raab was non-committal on Wednesday when asked if the Foreign Secretary was right to say that the West should supply warplanes to Ukraine.
The Deputy Prime Minister also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I certainly don’t think we should be… avoiding providing support to Ukraine at this critical moment in the war. And the Foreign Secretary is right about that.”
Pressed on whether she was right about providing the planes specifically, he said: “We need to listen very carefully to what the Ukrainians need and help with our allies to provide them with the military support, so that they win and so that [Vladimir] Putin loses, and that’s part of it, so is the sanctions.”
28 Apr 22. Russia uses Kalibr missiles to destroy arms depot in Ukraine.
Russia has used Kalibr missiles to destroy an arms depot in Ukraine, Reuters reported, citing the Russian defence ministry.
The depot is located in the Zaporizhzhia region and was said to contain weaponry supplied by Western countries.
The ministry said that Russian forces destroyed hangers housing ‘a large batch of foreign weapons and ammunition’ supplied to Ukraine by the US and other European countries.
The ministry did not specify the types of weapons that were stored in the hangers. Reuters could not independently verify the missile strikes.
This comes after Russia warned the US and other countries that delivering military aid to Ukraine will escalate the ongoing conflict.
Since Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, the Western countries have been supplying Ukraine with essential military aid. This has included the delivery of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, drones, ammunition, and other types of armaments.
Last week, the US approved an $800m defensive aid package for the embattled country. This included howitzers, tactical vehicles, drones and other equipment, and spare parts.
US Pentagon press secretary John F Kirby said that the weapons delivered to Ukraine are having an impact on the battlefields and are helping the forces to fend off Russian aggression.
He added that more than half of the US howitzers are currently in Ukraine.
The first group of Ukrainian troops were already trained to operate the system. These soldiers will go back to Ukraine and train other troops.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the UK will ship additional military aid. (Source: army-technology.com)
28 Apr 22. Vladimir Putin could dig in like a ‘cancerous growth’ in Ukraine, Ben Wallace warns. Vladimir Putin could seek to consolidate Russia’s territorial gains in Ukraine and dig in like a “cancerous growth”, Ben Wallace has warned.
“You can see in his current statements he is, in almost desperation, trying to broaden this either with threats or indeed, with potential false flags or attacks,” the Defence Secretary told Sky News.
“I think it’s certainly the case that Putin, having failed in nearly all his objectives, may seek to consolidate what he’s got, sort of fortify and dig in as he did in 2014.
“Just be a sort of cancerous growth within the country in Ukraine and make it very hard for people to move them out of those fortified positions.”
Mr Wallace’s comments came after the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson was rocked by a series of explosions on Wednesday night.
Missiles and rockets were fired into the city by Ukrainian forces, Russian media reported.
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
28 Apr 22. Ukraine can attack Russian logistics under international law, Wallace says. British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said it would be legitimate for Ukrainian forces to target Russian logistics, but if they did so they would be unlikely to be using British weapons.
“If Ukraine did choose to target logistics infrastructure for the Russian army, that would be legitimate under international law,” Mr Wallace told BBC TV.
“They currently don’t have British weapons that could do that, so it is unlikely that it is our weapons. We don’t really have many long range weapons that are delivered in the way their army does.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
28 Apr 22. Air defence activated in Russia’s Belgorod, TASS reports.
Air defence systems were active in the Russian city of Belgorod in the early hours of Thursday, the TASS news agency cited the local government as saying.
The Belgorod province borders Ukraine’s Luhansk, Sumy and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago. Russia has accused Ukraine of carrying out strikes on targets in the region. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
27 Apr 22. Equipment Sent to Ukraine Having an Effect on Battlefields. The equipment being sent to Ukraine is having an effect on the battlefield, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today.
The equipment is making a difference on the battle lines in the Donbas region — the site of the major Russian effort in Ukraine.
Kirby, who just returned from a trip with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III to Europe, said the fight in the Donbas is active and kinetic. Ukrainian officials told Austin that the equipment — coming from 40 different countries — is allowing Ukrainian forces to hold their own against the Russian invasion.
In Europe, Austin said the United States and partner nations will continue to get the equipment and supplies the Ukrainians need to the country, Kirby said.
Munitions continue to flow into Ukraine, as well as weapon systems. Kirby said that more than half of the U.S. howitzers are in Ukraine today and that the first tranche of Ukrainian soldiers have been trained in how to use the operation of that system. Those soldiers will go back to Ukraine and teach their fellow soldiers as those batteries stand up.
What Ukraine’s military needs changes day to day, Kirby said, and U.S. officials are in constant contact with them to ensure the right mix arrives in time to make a difference.
“We know they’re expending rounds, every single day, of all different types and calibers,” Kirby said. “And we’re doing everything we can to continue to make sure that they can stay fight.”
Austin chaired a meeting of nations involved in supporting Ukraine at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Over two months into the war in Ukraine, these partners are examining the vitality of the defense industrial base. They are doing this “because we know whatever happens here, and however this war ends, the security landscape in Europe has changed: Not is changing, not will change. It’s changed now based on what Putin has done,” Kirby said.
This change affects U.S. service members as well. Secretary Austin ordered thousands of personnel to Europe to strengthen NATO forces in advance of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Those forces are still there. The American footprint in Europe is now well over 100,000 service members with some permanently assigned there, others on rotational orders and some on temporary deployments. There have been no redeployments back to the United States, Kirby said.
“We’re still working our way through what that’s going to look like coming months,” he said.
Secretary Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, look at force posture around the world every day. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has changed the strategic environment. While there hasn’t been a decision yet on redeployments or replacements for troops ordered to Europe, there are discussions within DOD on what the U.S. footprint in Europe should look like, Kirby said.
The press secretary said DOD officials will also reach out to allies and partners for their input. “Those kinds of consultations haven’t started yet, but I can tell you that the secretary wants us to start thinking about what a European footprint should look like, again, because the landscape has definitely changed.” (Source: US DoD)
28 Apr 22. Putin warns West of lightning retaliation for intervention in Ukraine.
• Putin warns of retaliation if West interferes
• Biden set to comment on Russia’s ‘brutal war’
• Ukraine says Europe should stop depending on Russia
• France to host EU energy ministers on May 2
• Russia denies energy blackmail
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of lightning-fast retaliation if countries interfere in Ukraine, while U.S. President Joe Biden was set to comment on Thursday in support of Ukraine’s fight against “Russia’s brutal war”.
Russia has told the United States to stop sending arms to Ukraine, saying large Western deliveries of weapons were inflaming the conflict.
Addressing lawmakers in St Petersburg on Wednesday, Putin said the West wanted to cut Russia up into different pieces and accused it of pushing Ukraine into conflict with Russia.
“If someone intends to intervene in the ongoing events from the outside, and create strategic threats for Russia that are unacceptable to us, they should know that our retaliatory strikes will be lightning-fast,” said Putin, according to video of his address supplied by Russian media.
“We have all the tools for this, things no one else can boast of having now. And we will not boast, we will use them if necessary. And I want everyone to know that.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24 and has reduced towns and cities to rubble and forced more than 5 m people to flee abroad.
Western countries have responded with sanctions and weapons for Ukraine to fight a war that has brought fears of wider conflict in the West, unthought-of for decades.
Russia calls its intervention a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West says this a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression by Putin.
Biden will deliver remarks on Thursday in support of “Ukrainians defending their country and their freedom against Russia’s brutal war”, the White House said.
While Russia presses its military assault in eastern and southern Ukraine, its economic battle with the West threatens gas supplies to Europe and is battering the Russian economy as it struggles with the worst crisis since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine said Europe should stop depending on Russia for trade after it halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for not paying in roubles.
“The sooner everyone in Europe recognises that they cannot depend on Russia for trade, the sooner it will be possible to guarantee stability in European markets,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late on Wednesday.
Germany, the biggest buyer of Russian energy, hopes to stop importing Russian oil within days but warned that a Russian energy embargo or blockade would tip Europe’s largest economy into recession. read more
Gazprom (GAZP.MM), Russia’s gas export monopoly, suspended gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland on Wednesday for not paying in roubles, a move aimed to soften the impact of sanctions.
While the president of the European Commission said Gazprom’s suspension was “yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail”.
France will host a meeting of EU energy ministers on May 2.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia remained a reliable energy supplier and denied it was engaging in blackmail. He declined to say how many countries had agreed to pay for gas in roubles.
Sanctions are taking a heavy toll on Russia, with its economy ministry indicating in a document the economy could shrink by as much as 12.4% this year. read more
Canadian lawmakers voted unanimously on Wednesday to call Russia’s attacks in Ukraine a “genocide”, with members of parliament saying there was “ample evidence of systemic and massive war crimes against humanity” being committed by Russia.
Canada’s parliament said in a motion Russia’s war crimes included mass atrocities, wilful killing of civilians, the desecration of corpses, forcible transfer of children, torture, physical and mental harm, and rape. read more
Russia denies targeting civilians.
Since the Russian invasion force was driven back at the outskirts of Kyiv last month, Moscow has refocused its operation on eastern Ukraine, starting a new offensive to fully capture two provinces known as the Donbas.
Russia’s Black Sea fleet retains the ability to strike Ukrainian and coastal targets, despite its losses of the landing ship Saratov and the cruiser Moskva, Britain’s defence ministry said.
About 20 Russian navy vessels, including submarines, are in the Black Sea operational zone, the ministry said on Twitter.
Reuters could not immediately verify the report.
Ukraine said Russian forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in Kherson, the first big city it has seized. A series of powerful explosions caused by rockets hit Kherson later on Wednesday, Ria News agency reported. read more
Blasts were heard earlier in three Russian provinces bordering Ukraine, authorities said, and an ammunition depot in the Belgorod province caught fire. read more
Kyiv has not confirmed responsibility for these and other incidents but has described them as payback. “Karma is a cruel thing,” presidential adviser Mikhaylo Podolyak wrote on social media.
An aide to the mayor of the ruined port city of Mariupol said Russian forces had renewed their attacks on the Azovstal steel plant, where fighters and some civilians remain holed up.
Concern has also increased over the prospect of the conflict widening to neighbouring Moldova, where pro-Russian separatists have blamed Ukraine for reported attacks this week in their region, occupied since the 1990s by Russian troops.
27 Apr 22. Putin threatens retaliation against Ukraine’s allies if they intervene in war. Vladimir Putin has vowed to “fulfil all the tasks” of his invasion of Ukraine “without condition” and threatened Kyiv’s allies with retaliation if they intervene.
Countries “that get it into their heads to meddle in ongoing events from the side and create unacceptable strategic threats for Russia, they must know that our response to counterpunches will be lightning-quick,” Russia’s president said in a speech to lawmakers on Wednesday.
Putin said Moscow had “all the instruments for this, ones nobody else can boast of now,” in an apparent reference to recent Russian tests of hypersonic and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear payloads and are particularly difficult for anti-air systems to intercept.
“We will use them, if the situation calls for it. And I want everyone to know,” Putin said. “All decisions on this matter have been taken.”
Putin said western attempts to “economically strangle Russia” through sanctions had failed. He claimed Russian troops had prevented “a real danger of . . . a major conflict that would have unfolded on our territory according to other people’s scripts” by invading Ukraine.
He said the west wanted to use Ukraine as a platform to attack Russia through the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, and the separatist-held eastern Donbas border region.
26 Apr 22. USMC unit and radar deploy to Lithuania for Nato operations.
The deployment will provide air defence, surveillance, and traffic control support.
The US Marine Corps (USMC) has deployed an AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) along with one of its units to Lithuania.
The deployment is in support of the Nato’s enduring Air Policing mission. It is also the first time USMC has deployed its unit to support the operation.
Throughout the deployment, the unit will provide air defence, radar surveillance, multi-domain command and control, air traffic control and other communications support.
US Marines will use the G/ATOR, a next generation air surveillance, air defence and air traffic control (ATC) radar, to conduct air domain awareness and air surveillance during the mission.
The newest AN/TPS-80 is a multi-role, medium-range radar, which uses active scanning to build an airspace picture for the controllers.
Developed by Northrop Grumman, the radar will also provide detailed real-time situational awareness to counter several airborne threats.
USMC deployed unit commanding officer colonel Michael McCarthy said: “This deployment highlights the expeditionary character of our marines and the command-and-control systems they employ such as the AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR.
“With little notice and a light footprint, we were able to seamlessly move from training in an arctic, maritime environment to the Baltics; reassuring allies and immediately contributing to USAFE and Nato operations.”
Before the deployment to Lithuania, the USMC unit participated in the Norwegian-led Exercise Cold Response 22 (CR 22).
The exercise witnessed the participation of Nato allies and partner nations to train together in extreme cold weather conditions on land, in the air, and at sea. (Source: naval-technology.com)