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Military And Security Developments
- BAKHMUT: Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar declared on 14 September the liberation of Andriivka, six miles (10km) south-west of Bakhmut, but later acknowledged that fighting remains ongoing around the settlement. However, since then Ukraine’s Third Separate Assault Brigade currently fighting for the settlement announced on 15 September that it has successfully liberated the village and surrounded the Russian defending force. This cannot yet be confirmed, however. Otherwise, Ukrainian forces continue to make slow progress along the Bakhmut axis, but advances are extremely limited and subject to repeated Russian counter-attacks.
- DONETSK: Geolocated footage from 13 September indicates that Ukrainian forces have progressed east of the rail track north of Krasnohorivka, located 5.5 miles (9km) north of Avdiivka. The report comes after Ukrainian forces reportedly made advances in Optyne, situated 1.9 miles (3km) south-west of Avdiivka. Although Russian sources claimed that Russian troops have retaken positions recently captured by Ukraine in Optyne, reports on Ukrainian advances in the sector likely underscore Russia’s inability to progress.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Geolocated footage from 13 September indicates that Russian forces made progress as of 12 September west of Lyman Pershyi, located seven miles (12km) north-east of Kupiansk. A Russian source claimed that Russian forces made unspecified progress on 13 September between Synkivka and Petropavlivka, situated around five miles (8km) north-east and four miles (7km) east of Kupiansk, respectively. However, such claims remain unverified.
- SOUTHERN: The Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south continues to slow, with Russian forces seemingly containing Ukrainian advances for the time being. Ukrainian forces have achieved no confirmed advances over the last 24 hours, with the overall rate of advances slowing down significantly over the last week, including around Robotyne. However, given the attritional nature of the fighting, it remains unclear to what extent either side has sufficient reserves or forces to continue offensively and defensively in the coming weeks. Further east along the Vremevsky salient, some Russian sources reported on 15 September that Ukrainian forces have gone on the tactical defensive after unsuccessful attacks against Novodonetske and Novomaiorske, located around eight miles (12km) south-east of Velyka Novosilka (Donetsk oblast). Ukrainian forces have seemingly attempted to advance on the villages over the past week, but there is little evidence that they have achieved any progress.
- KHERSON: On 15 September, Ukrainian Southern Command spokesperson Nataliya Humenyuk stated that Russian forces currently lack the reserves to significantly strengthen the Kherson front, but that they continue to rotate forces and build new defensive lines. Humenyuk stated that Russian troop rotations are drawing forces to the Zaporizhzhia frontline, reflecting a broader trend where more experienced units are being transferred away from quieter frontlines. She nevertheless acknowledged that Russia is retaining ‘powerful assault units’ in locations at risk of Ukrainian raids. Russian sources have continued to report on semi-regular Ukrainian attempts to cross the Dnieper River and raid the east (left) bank, but reports on 14 September indicate that an attempted landing near Oleshky, four miles (7km) east of Kherson city, was repulsed.
- STRIKES: Yuriy Ihnat, Ukraine’s Air Force spokesperson, stated that on 15 September a Russian drone strike targeted Ukrainian bombers. Ihnat claimed that the strike was in retaliation to the 13 September strike against a Russian shipyard in Sevastopol, where British-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles reportedly damaged a Russian landing craft and submarine. On 15 September, UK Defence Intelligence (DI) reported that the Ukrainian strike most likely functionally destroyed the landing craft while the Kilo-class submarine suffered significant damage, with repairs likely to take years to return the submarine to service.
- STRIKES: According to Ukraine’s Air Force, the retaliatory Russian strike included 17 Iranian-made Shahed-131/136 drones and was directed at Khmelnytskyi oblast, where the Starokostiantyniv military airbase is located. The airbase houses Su-24 bomber aircraft that are highly likely the primary launch platform for Storm Shadow missiles. While Ukraine’s air defences intercepted 15 Russian-launched drones, it remains unknown whether the remaining projectiles reached their targets, though Ukraine has successfully managed to protect their scant bomber fleet from Russian missile and drone attacks over the last year. Given the increasing tempo and lethality of Ukraine’s longer-range strikes, Russian forces are highly likely under pressure to prioritise efforts to undermine Kyiv’s Su-24 bomber fleet and the supporting infrastructure that facilitates its combat missions. Khmelnytskyi oblast is likely to be under renewed missile pressure in the coming weeks.
- VOLUNTEERS: Cuba’s ambassador to Russia, Julio Antonio Garmendia Peña, disclosed on 14 September that his country’s government will not prevent Cuban citizens from enlisting in the Russian military to fight in Ukraine. On 4 September, Havana announced it had detected a human trafficking network operating from Russia to recruit Cuban citizens living there, and even some individuals within Cuba, into Russia’s military forces to fight in Ukraine. In the statement, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs insisted it is not part of the war in Ukraine, adding that it is acting (and will continue to act) against those who participate in any form of human trafficking for mercenary or recruitment purposes. Peña stated that Havana opposes ‘illegality’, but that it is not against Cubans legally participating in the war. While it is unclear whether the ambassador’s comments reflect an apparent policy shift within the Cuban government or an agreement with Moscow, Peña’s comments will highly likely drive the risk of sanctions against Havana. Russia nevertheless will likely continue efforts to recruit foreign nationals to bolster its manpower in the coming months rather than ordering a nationwide mobilisation campaign, to which the Kremlin is highly likely adverse given stability concerns ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
- RECONSTRUCTION: US President Joe Biden announced on 14 September the appointment of Penny Pritzker as the country’s first special representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery. Pritzker will work alongside the Ukrainian government, US allies and partners (such as the G7 and EU), international financial institutions and the private sector to assist in Washington DC’s efforts to help rebuild Ukraine’s economy. The representative will be tasked with mobilising public and private investment, shaping ‘donor priorities’, as well as working to open export markets and businesses that were shut down by Russia’s full-scale invasion. Pritzker reportedly plans to visit Ukraine in the coming weeks, where she will begin assessing its economy and meet with political and business leaders. The World Bank estimated in March that Ukraine’s reconstruction and recovery will cost an estimated USD 400 bn, though this figure is likely to increase as the war progresses. As this is the US’ first-ever special representative responsible for assisting in Ukraine’s economic recovery, Pritzker’s appointment signals Washington DC’s long-term interest in aiding Kyiv in this regard. Ultimately, her appointment could realistically prompt other EU or G7 countries to create similar representative roles to drive up investment in post-war Ukraine.
SANCTIONS: The US Treasury Department announced on 14 September that it had imposed nearly 100 sanctions against Russian elites and Russia’s industrial base, financial institutions and technology suppliers. The Department said the sanctions target individuals and entities that it believes benefit from, support and sustain Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Two Turkish-based entities, Margiana Insaat Dis Ticaret and Demirci Bilisim Ticaret Sanayi, were also included in the recent announcement. According to the US Treasury Department, the former company had made hundreds of shipments to sanctioned Russian entities that form part of the supply chain for producing military drones used to attack Ukraine. Meanwhile, the second has reportedly sent sensors and measuring tools to Russia.
An unnamed senior US Treasury official said on 14 September that Washington DC has voiced concerns with the Turkish government and the country’s private sector over the past 18 months about the significant risks of conducting business with US-sanctioned entities linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Further punitive measures against companies believed to aid Moscow in procuring dual-use goods and military equipment in the coming months are likely, even if sanctions against Turkish entities drive tensions between NATO members Ankara and Washington DC.
The US State Department also announced on 14 September further sanctions. The measures targeted 37 entities involved in Russia’s energy production and future export capacity, including companies and individuals involved in developing key energy projects, such as Russia’s Arctic LNG 2 project. The project is expected to be launched at the end of the year or early 2024. It would aid Moscow in achieving its goal of gaining 20% of the global LNG market by 2035. The measures are therefore highly likely aimed at impeding Russia’s ability to raise revenue from its natural resources in the Arctic.
Meanwhile, the EU has lifted restrictive measures against three Russian businessmen in a rare move that is likely to create tensions with Kyiv. The EU’s Official Journal indicated on 14 September that sanctions against Grigory Berezkin, Farkhad Akhmedov and Alexander Shulgin had been removed, though Brussels gave no official reasons for its decision. Berezkin is the chairman of one of Russia’s largest holding companies, ESN Group, and is reportedly close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Akhmedov is a former senator and co-owner of the Russian natural gas-producing company Nortgas. The EU also accused him of being close to the Kremlin, which Akhmedov strongly denied. Shulgin, who previously headed Ozon, a Russian e-commerce firm, won a case at the European Court of Justice last week against the sanctions. The court ordered his delisting after finding insufficient evidence of him continuing to be an influential and leading businessman after stepping down from his role at Ozon. Lawsuits are likely to remain one of the primary reasons why Russians would be removed from sanctions lists going forward.
- BAKHMUT: The Ukrainian General Staff reported on 14 September that their forces have achieved unspecified ‘partial success’ south of Bakhmut, amid grinding advances through the village of Klishchiivka, four miles (6km) south-west of Bakhmut. Some Russian sources have claimed that Russian forces have withdrawn from unspecified positions near the village and have begun entrenching themselves in new defensive positions on the eastern side of the railway line, but there is limited indication at present that Russian forces have abandoned the village. Other Russian sources, meanwhile, claimed on 14 September that their forces have launched successful counter-attacks, retaking lost positions and pushing the Ukrainians back.
- DONETSK: On 13 September, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, stressed that the military situation in Avdiivka and Marinka has deteriorated due to increasing Russian attacks and shelling. Maliar claimed that although Russian offensive operations remain unsuccessful, the Russian command maintains its objective to capture Avdiivka and Marinka. Maliar’s statements come after recent reports indicated an uptick in fighting in Opytne, located 1.9 miles (3 km) south-west of Avdiivka; the settlement remains contested, though Russian forces have reportedly retaken positions captured previously by Ukrainian forces. Fighting will continue to be intense in the Donetsk sector, and illustrates that both sides continue to allocate resources for limited offensive operations in what could be described as supplementary fronts which are not the focus of the counter-offensive at present.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Nothing significant to report
- SOUTHERN: Geolocated footage published on 12-13 September indicates that Ukrainian forces have made some minor progress south of Robotyne (Zaporizhzhia oblast). Otherwise, the Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south continues to grind forward, but with little other confirmed advances amid continual Russian resistance. The Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, a key city and objective of the counter-offensive some 47 miles (76km) south-west of the current frontline, stated on 13 September that Russian forces have begun to strengthen the ‘third line’ of defences in Zaporizhzhia oblast. Russian forces are reportedly reinforcing the deep rear defences, including construction of new trench lines near Polohy, 19 miles (31km) east of Robotyne, and anti-tank defences near Tokmak. The mayor, Ivan Fedorov, also claimed that Russian forces are deploying former prisoners to hold the frontline near Robotyne, though this cannot be confirmed. Other indicators point to Russian forces redeploying some of their most capable units to this sector in order to slow the Ukrainian advance.
- STRIKES: Ukraine’s Air Force reported on 14 August that air defences intercepted 17 of the 22 Iranian-made Shahed-131/136 drones launched by Russia overnight. The drones reportedly targeted Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolaiv, Sumy and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. Local authorities reported that drones struck a grocery store in Sumy oblast. The latest drone strikes come after Russia launched 44 drones against Ukraine on 13 September, specifically targeting Odesa port infrastructure. Notably, Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure, Oleksandr Kubrakov, reported on 13 September that since Russia has withdrawn from the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI), 105 port infrastructure facilities have been damaged. According to Kubrakov, Ukraine’s grain exports have dropped by nearly three m tonnes per month due to strikes against Ukrainian Danube ports and Russia’s ongoing blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
- STRIKES: A Ukrainian media outlet reported that on 14, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) and the Ukrainian Navy launched a drone and Neptun cruise missile strike against Crimea. The attack reportedly destroyed a Russian Triumph air defence in Yevpatoria, western Crimea. At the same time, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported on 14 September that Ukrainian forces launched five sea drones against a Russian Black Sea Fleet patrol ship, the Sergei Kotov. The Russian MoD said that the vessel destroyed all the drones. The attack comes after Ukraine reportedly launched a missile and drone strike on 13 September, damaging two Russian vessels under repair in a shipyard in Sevastopol (Crimea). A pro-Ukrainian partisan telegram channel reported that partisans facilitated the missile attack against the vessels. Such attacks illustrate the growing capacity of Ukrainian forces to conduct attacks against Crimea and Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, with such capacities likely enhanced by the assistance of pro-Ukrainian partisan groups operating in the Crimean peninsula.
- ENERGY: Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on 12 September that preparations to bolster energy resilience against potential Russian attacks during the ‘heating season’ are entering their final stages. Shmyhal disclosed that about 84% of heating networks, 78% of central heating stations, more than 80% of residential buildings, as well as 86% of schools, kindergartens and hospitals are prepared for winter, adding that they should be fully ready in a month. Seven nuclear power units have also been repaired and two more will be commissioned before the start of the heating season. Shmyhal stated that Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy aims to have 25 thermal power plant units ready by the beginning of this period, noting that almost 80% of the equipment at the thermal power plants has been repaired. Meanwhile, 35 hydroelectric power units have either been repaired or are undergoing repairs. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in late July that Russia is likely to recommence attacks against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the upcoming autumn-winter period; akin to a campaign in the corresponding period of 2022-2023. Giving ongoing contingency planning and resiliency building, any Russian winter strike campaign will likely prove less effective than the previous winter, though it will still likely cause limited blackouts.
- AID: The US Defense Department Inspector General’s Office (DoD OIG) disclosed on 13 September that additional personnel will be sent to Kyiv to evaluate the use of US-provided military equipment. According to the report, dated 12 September, a senior official from the agency is already at the US Embassy in Ukraine working with US and Ukrainian team members. An October 2022 report from the DoD OIG obtained by CNN in July found that some Western-provided weapons transferred to Ukraine last year had been stolen by criminals and arms dealers before they reached Ukrainian troops. Although Ukrainian intelligence services were reportedly able to recover the weapons and equipment, the deployment of additional personnel is likely to provide greater assurance that military aid is being directed to the right places and used for its intended purposes.
BLACK SEA: On 14 September, the BBC reported that a Russian fighter jet pilot intentionally tried to shoot a Royal Air Force (RAF) surveillance plane in September 2022. According to three unnamed senior Western defence sources with knowledge of the incident, communications intercepted by the RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft suggest that the first missile fired had missed rather than malfunctioned as previously claimed The intercepted communications reportedly indicate that the pilot thought he had been given permission to target the plane after receiving an ambiguous command from a Russian ground station. One unspecified source told the BBC that the words received were to the effect that the pilot ‘had the target’. The Russian pilot then reportedly released an air-to-air missile which successfully launched but failed to lock on to its target. The people familiar with the matter said that the unclear language used appears to show a high degree of unprofessionalism between Russian personnel, with an argument then breaking out between the first pilot and the individual flying the second Russian Su-27 jet who did not believe permission had been granted to launch the missile.
While the claims cannot be confirmed, we previously forecasted that the incident demonstrated the risks of unintended escalation and tactical errors in the Black Sea. As the recent intelligence seems to indicate that the missile’s launch was intentional and likely influenced by unclear communication, imprecise instructions between Russian personnel will compound the risk of similar incidents taking place between Western (particularly British) and Russian aircraft in the coming months. At present the UK is the only NATO power to deploy manned flights in the Black Sea, with Rivet Joint aircraft now escorted by Typhoon fighters. There is a realistic possibility that both intentional or unintentional provocations would precipitate an escalation in the conflict, particularly if personnel from NATO-member states are injured or killed.
Separately, on 13 September, Bulgaria’s Defence Minister Todor Tagarev disclosed that Sofia is holding talks with NATO allies on how to respond to Russia’s partial blockade of Bulgaria’s Black Sea exclusive economic zone. Tagarev said that Russia continues to declare part of Bulgaria’s economic zone in the Black Sea as closed to shipping until the end of September because of ongoing military exercises in the area. The minister added that these actions are already considered a provocation. While it is unclear what form a potential resolution could take, either by Sofia acting independently or with wider support from NATO allies, Russia’s militarisation of the Black Sea is likely having economic repercussions for littoral states, principally Bulgaria and Romania. Such operations could realistically impede countries’ access to their own exclusive economic zones, which would most likely impact shipping lanes and offshore oil and gas operations.
13 Sep. 23
- BAKHMUT: Ukrainian forces continued counter-offensive operations around Bakhmut over the past 24 hours, having recently made minor advances amid slow overall progress. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on 12 September that Ukrainian forces had partial success in the vicinity of Klischchiivka, 4 miles (7km) southwest of Bakhmut. This was seemingly confirmed by a Russian milbogger who reported that Ukrainian forces were now operating in the centre of the settlement, where Chechen units had previously held positions. Geolocated footage posted on 11 and 12 September also indicates that Ukrainian forces made small gains north of Kurdyumivka 8 miles (13km) southwest of Bakhmut.
- DONETSK: A Russian milblogger claimed on 12 September that Russian forces regained positions captured by Ukrainian forces on 11 September near Optyne, situated 1.9 miles (3km) south-west of Avdiivka. While we cannot confirm this claim, it indicates that Optyne has been at the centre of intense fighting over the past few days, with Ukrainian military authorities announcing on 11 September that their forces captured part of the settlement. Russian and Ukrainian forces are deeply entrenched along the lines of control around Donetsk and Avdiivka and advances made by either side are frequently very limited and susceptible to successful counter-attacks.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Nothing significant to report.
- SOUTHERN: The overall pace of Ukrainian counter-offensive and Russian defence operations remained broadly on trend over the past 24 hours. On 12 September the Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces had partial success in the vicinity of Robotyne in western Zaporizhzhia oblast. Ukraine’s Tavriisk grouping of forces spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun stated that Ukrainian forces had advanced 300-500 meters to the south and south-east of Robotyne and near Novodanylivka 2 miles (4km) south of Orikhiv. However, several Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Robotyne and the settlement of Verbove, 6 miles (10km) east of Robotyne. Neither Ukrainian nor Russian forces made notable advances infighting around the border area between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts
- STRIKES: Ukrainian forces likely launched one of the largest attacks against Russia’s Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol (Crimea) since Russia’s full-scale invasion began, early on 13 September. According to comments by Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR) to RBC-Ukraine, the strike damaged a carrier and a submarine, which were undergoing repair in a shipyard. Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russian governor of annexed Crimea, claimed that Ukraine launched ten missiles and three maritime drones. The Russian Ministry of Defence Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported that seven missiles and three sea drones were intercepted. While details on the types of missiles used remain unclear, Kyiv has previously used Shadow Storm and Scalp cruise missiles, provided by the UK and France respectively, to target Crimea. Independent OSINT sources posted satellite images showing that the strike likely damaged a Ropucha-class amphibious landing ship and a Kilo-class submarine, the second since August and first ever recorded Ukrainian strikes on such assets respectively. Russia has typically used Kilo-class submarines to launch cruise missiles, with the submarine capable of carrying up to four Kalibr cruise missiles.
- STRIKES: The attack is a further illustration of Ukraine’s growing offensive maritime and strike capabilities. Targeting Russia’s Black Sea vessels almost certainly reflects a bid to undermine Moscow’s ability to enforce the blockade of Ukraine’s ports and, more broadly, to undermine Russian logistics across southern Ukraine, given that landing vessels have been used to transport civilian and military cargo. For further analysis on the tactical and strategic objective of such strikes, see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 4 August 2023.
- STRIKES: Ukraine’s Air Force reported that air defences intercepted 32 of the 44 drones launched by Russia on the night of 13 September. The drones mainly targeted ports in Odesa oblast, with reports indicating that drones damaged port infrastructure in the Izmail Danube port. According to Ukraine’s Air Force, the strikes were launched from three different directions, likely in a bid to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defences. The latest large-scale strike underlines Russia’s consistent efforts to degrade Ukraine’s Danube and Black Sea port infrastructure since withdrawing from the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI). Given Moscow’s reluctance to renew the BSGI in the short-term, Ukraine’s port infrastructure will remain a priority target for Russian strikes, challenging Kyiv’s efforts to establish alternative supply routes for grain transit.
- AID: Denmark announced on 12 September that it will donate a package of military aid worth around USD 830 m to Ukraine – Copenhagen’s largest assistance for Kyiv since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion. According to the Danish Ministry of Defence (MoD), it will include tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, ammunition, anti-aircraft guns and other equipment. The full amount will be distributed over three rounds through to 2025, with the largest portion (USD 618.5 m) to be donated this year. However, Denmark’s Finance Committee is yet to authorise the package, according to the MoD’s statement. Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said Denmark has almost exhausted its defence stocks after more than a year and a half of war in Ukraine, adding that Copenhagen is now looking into more targeted joint procurement and international co-operation that is tailored to Ukraine’s needs. Other European nations supporting Kyiv will also likely seek to enhance international procurement efforts in the coming months should their own defence stocks experience shortages.
- AID: The director of the US Air National Guard, Michael Loh, said on 12 September that the US could train the first set of Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets before the end of the year. However, the general stated it would be longer before the pilots are able to fly in combat missions. Loh said the pilots are currently being evaluated for their English language proficiency and that, depending on their level and previous fighter jet experience, they could complete the US training in three months. According to the general, the Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, where the training will take place, will likely move some of its other international pilot programmes to prioritise Ukrainian pilot training.
- EU: Ukraine disclosed on 12 September that it is prepared to make changes to its laws on minority rights to open EU accession talks. The deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, Olga Stefanishyna, told the Financial Times that Kyiv is ready to make ‘additional amendments’ to rules on secondary education in minority languages, including Hungarian, on the condition that teaching in Ukrainian is also balanced. Ukrainian officials are expected to begin talks with Hungary and Romania this week on balancing the teaching of Ukrainian and minority languages in secondary schools. In June, the European Commission said Ukraine had achieved ‘some progress’ in addressing recommendations on national minority rights. In April, Hungary’s State Secretary Tamás Menczer said Budapest will not support Ukraine’s EU and NATO integration as long as Kyiv continues actions that it perceives as curbing the rights of Ukrainian Hungarians. An estimated 80,000 ethnic Hungarians reside in Ukraine’s Zakarpattia oblast. There is a realistic possibility that Budapest could still claim that Kyiv has not addressed the issue of minority rights sufficiently to block the start of EU accession talks in December even if Ukraine does make additional amendments.
GRAIN: On 12 September, both Poland and Hungary warned they would unilaterally ban Ukrainian grain imports if the EU does not extend an existing ban beyond 15 September, when it is due to expire. The EU imposed restrictions on Ukrainian imports into Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia earlier in 2023 after an influx of Ukrainian grain into these countries placed downward pressure on prices and led to protests by local farmers. Under the soon-to-expire restrictions, Ukrainian grain can only enter the territory of the five countries if it is transiting to other destinations. Slovakia has also indicated in recent days that it supports extending the ban, and reportedly confirmed this during talks with Hungary on 12 September, while Bulgaria and Romania are reportedly willing to be more flexible.
Brussels and at least 13 EU member states are opposed to extending the ban. However, there was also opposition to the first set of EU restrictions but Brussels introduced them in a bid to maintain EU unity on Ukraine and to reassert its competence over the bloc’s trade policy after Hungary, Poland and Slovakia announced unilateral bans. There is therefore a realistic possibility that the EU will extend the restrictions for these countries, given the aforementioned factors, though Brussels has not yet made its position clear. On 12 September, Denys Shmyhal warned that if Poland does impose a unilateral ban, it will seek arbitration with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to seek compensation.
The position of Hungary, Slovakia but particularly Poland, which has been the leading proponent of extending the ban, is not indicative of a broader dwindling of support for Ukraine. The nationalist ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland faces a tightly contested general election on 15 October and is likely to fall short of a majority. It counts farmers as an important constituency and will therefore almost certainly follow through on its warning unless the EU is able to offer notable concessions that the government can realistically sell as a victory to this section of the electorate. Nevertheless, the Polish government will remain one of the most ardent supporters of Ukraine’s military campaign.
Insurance brokers said on 13 September that Ukraine is increasing its road and rail shipments of its grain since Russia withdrew from the BSGI in July. According to Spike Brokers, 188,000 metric tonnes of agricultural goods were exported by lorries from 1-11 September, compared to 169,000 tonnes during the same period in August. It said the most active crossing points in September were those between Ukraine and Poland, while crossings over the Romanian border had increased by around a third over the last week. While Ukraine announced in late August that it was close to finalising a scheme with global insurers to cover grain ships travelling through its Black Sea ports, enduring Russian military threats against civilian vessels in the Black Sea could realistically render some shipowners and crew reluctant to utilise the initiative. In the event that EU restrictions are extended, or unilateral bans are imposed, the restrictions are unlikely to significantly hinder exports as long as they continue to permit the transit of Ukrainian grain to other destinations.
12 Sep. 23
- BAKHMUT: Nothing significant to report
- DONETSK: Nothing significant to report
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Geolocated footage from 11 September indicates that Russian forces have made advances near the forest belt north-east of Synkivka, located around five miles (8km) north-east of Kupiansk. However, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks near Synkivka. On 10 September, a Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces advanced up to half a kilometre near Novoyehorivka, located around ten miles (16km) south-west of Svatove. However, Maliar claimed that Russian offensive operations near Novoyehorivka and in the Svatove sector more broadly remain unsuccessful. Moscow will highly likely continue to dedicate substantial resources to the Oskil-Kreminna axis as part of an ongoing effort to divert Ukrainian forces from their principal focus along the southern front.
- SOUTHERN: Ukrainian counter-offensive operations remained on trend over the past 24 hours, though there is little evidence of advances. On 11 September, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar reported that Ukrainian forces continued to achieve unspecified ‘success’ south of Robotyne and west of Verbove. At least one prominent Russian milblogger reported that Ukrainian forces supported by artillery reached the village of Novoprokopovka, around eight miles (13km) south of Orikhiv. However, the statement indicated that Ukrainian forces remain on the northern outskirts of the settlement itself. Over the past 48 hours, Russian sources have claimed that their forces made small advances during offensive operations around the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, though we cannot confirm these reports.
- STRIKES: Earlier on 12 September, the UK’s Defence Intelligence (DI) reported that SA-22 air defence systems have been positioned on elevated towers and ramps in Moscow. According to DI, the move is part of an effort to recalibrate Moscow’s short- and medium-range air defences to intercept Ukrainian drones more effectively. It is also likely intended to reassure the population that measures have been taken to counter the increasing number of drones targeting the capital, especially as such strikes have complicated the Kremlin’s efforts to buffer the Russian population from the war. Ukrainian drone strikes on Russian territory (for which Kyiv has not claimed responsibility) continued over the past 24 hours. The governor of Kursk oblast, Roman Starovoyt, reported on 11 September that a drone dropped an explosive device on the town of Rylsk (Kursk). On 12 September, a Russian milblogger reported a similar drone attack in Belgorod oblast.
- STARLINK: Bloomberg reported on 12 September that US Senator Elizabeth Warren is demanding an investigation into SpaceX. Warren stated on 11 September that a probe is required due to allegations that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was responsible for preventing a Ukrainian drone attack against the Russian navy last year (see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 8 September 2023) The senator also stated that Congress needs to determine whether it has adequate tools to ensure foreign policy is conducted by the government rather than a bnaire. The outlet reported that Musk is likely to attend a closed-door summit with senators in Washington DC (US) on 13 September alongside technology industry leaders. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has refused to criticise Musk for his apparent refusal to aid in the attack, instead emphasising the importance of Starlink for Ukraine’s military communications. Washington DC will likely remain concerned over how to ensure the company continues to provide its services to Ukraine, particularly for military operations, without restriction.
- NORTH KOREA: On 12 September, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Russia following reports of a potential meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov announced the meeting would be held in Russia’s far east but did not specify the location. Unnamed sources close to the Russian authorities claimed the talks could take place either in Vladivostok (Primorsky krai) on 12 September, or at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur oblast on 13 September. Peskov disclosed that negotiations between the two delegations will take place, as well as a one-on-one meeting between Putin and Kim. The North Korean delegation reportedly includes diplomats, senior military commanders and arms industry officials, which suggests that defence co-operation will likely be a significant focus for the talks. There is a realistic possibility that the two sides will secure an agreement for North Korea to provide weaponry (such as artillery rounds) for Russia to use in Ukraine; additional Western sanctions against Moscow and Pyongyang are likely to follow any such agreements.
- CORRUPTION: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on 12 September that he had vetoed a bill that would prolong restrictions on electronic asset declarations for public officials. Zelensky insisted that the registry for declarations must be opened immediately. Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, passed a bill on 5 September restoring the requirement for senior officials to declare their assets. However, the parliament made several amendments, including one that prohibits public access to officials’ asset declarations for one year and which allows only law enforcement agencies to check said declarations. This anti-corruption measure is considered central to talks on Kyiv’s accession to the EU, and so the veto is likely to ensure the bill is implemented correctly. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urged Ukraine on 11 September to increase its efforts to fight corruption. A survey by the Razumkov Centre in March found that 64% and 51% of respondents distrust officials and the parliament, respectively. As such, Zelensky’s decision to veto the bill is also likely aimed at restoring trust in state officials and the parliament.
BLACK SEA: Ukraine’s military intelligence (GUR) claimed on 11 September that GUR units had recaptured the Boiko Towers (oil and gas drilling platforms off the coast of Crimea). The GUR stated that these platforms were occupied by Russia in 2015 and were used for military purposes following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, notably as helicopter landing sites and for the deployment of radar equipment.
The GUR revealed that intelligence operatives reclaimed the Petro Godovanets and Ukraina platforms, as well as the Tavrida and Syvash drilling rigs, but did not specify when the operation took place. If true, these claims underscore that Ukraine is steadily regaining de-facto control of the north-western Black Sea region and is pushing Russian maritime forces closer to Crimea. However, these rigs will be extremely vulnerable to Russian long-range missile strikes while under (reported) Ukrainian control.
It therefore remains unclear whether it is tenable for Ukrainian forces to maintain their alleged control over the Boiko Towers. However, if Ukraine can maintain said control over these (and other) rigs, the infrastructure could possibly be used as staging grounds for amphibious raids and maritime drone attacks. Whichever side controls these rigs will likely be in a stronger position in any future negotiations to end the war, as the Boiko Towers are economically significant assets, making them important bargaining chips.
Also on 11 September, UK Prime Minster Rishi Sunak stated that a Russian military vessel fired missiles at a Libyan cargo ship that was stranded in Ukraine’s Odesa port on 24 August. Ukraine’s air defences reportedly intercepted the Russian missile. Sunak’s statement marks the first time an official has acknowledged that a civilian ship has been targeted since Kyiv pledged to ensure that vessels stranded in Odesa can sail in the Black Sea following Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI). The attempted strike will likely deter global insurers from providing cover for civilian cargo vessels. Russian military threats will remain a major obstacle for maritime traffic sailing from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. (Source: Sibylline)
15 Sep 23. Inspector General Robert P. Storch announced today that the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (DoD OIG) released the report “Evaluation of Land-Based Security Controls for Equipment Being Transferred by Rail to Ukraine.” (The report is classified and has not been publicly released–Ed.) The evaluation report addresses DoD’s security controls for the ground movement and transfer of cargo headed to Ukraine by rail in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility. This transportation and transfer of equipment by rail is part of DoD’s support to the Government of Ukraine under Presidential Drawdown Authority.
The DoD OIG found that DoD personnel effectively planned, coordinated, and executed the movement of defense articles for transfer to Ukraine by rail. However, during the transfer operations, DoD guard forces did not consistently implement security controls in accordance with existing regulations. This occurred because U.S. Army Europe and Africa did not provide written guidance specifying responsibilities for planning and supervising the in-transit security of these defense articles.
Additionally, the DoD OIG found that U.S. Army Europe and Africa did not provide guidance to its subordinate commands regarding the enforcement of existing in-transit security procedures for the shipment of these defense items. This lack of enforcement led to inconsistencies and gaps in mission preparation for the in-transit guard forces, and resulted in missing, incomplete, or inaccurate transportation documentation. In one instance, due to incomplete paperwork and mission preparation, a security guard force was unaware that the vehicles it was guarding contained sensitive items.
To address these issues, the DoD OIG recommended that U.S. Army Europe and Africa prepare and issue written orders assigning responsibilities for planning and implementing security for the ground transport and transfer of sensitive items for movement to Ukraine. The DoD OIG also recommended that U.S. Army Europe and Africa provide an order to its subordinate commands to immediately enforce existing in-transit security standards.
IG Storch stated, “The security and accountability of U.S. support to Ukraine is a primary focus of effort for the DoD OIG. We continue to review the DoD’s processes and procedures and make recommendations to reduce the risk of diversion or theft of these items during the transfer processes.” (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ DoD Inspector General)
17 Sep 23. Rising ammunition prices set back NATO efforts to boost security, official says. A top NATO military official warned on Saturday that a drastic rise in ammunition prices means that allies’ higher defence spending does not automatically translate into greater security and called for more private investment in defence companies.
“Prices for equipment and ammunition are shooting up. Right now, we are paying more and more for exactly the same,” Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, the chair of NATO’s military committee, said on Saturday after a meeting of the alliance’s chiefs of defence in Oslo.
“That means that we cannot make sure that the increased defence spending actually leads to more security.”
NATO has been pressing for a boost in defence production to satisfy a demand for weapons and equipment that has soared since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as allies not only rush supplies to Kyiv but also build up their own inventories.
One major concern has been a shortage of 155mm artillery rounds, with Kyiv firing up to 10,000 of these shells per day.
In February, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Kyiv was burning through shells much faster than the West could produce them.
Bauer pushed for more private investment in the defence sector to ramp up production capacity, urging pension funds and banks to stop labelling defence investments as unethical.
“Long term stability needs to prevail over short term profits. As we have seen in Ukraine, war is a whole of society event,” he said, adding such investment was in the private sector’s strategic interest as well.
“Forty percent of the (Ukrainian) economy evaporated in the first days of the war, that was private money to a large extent, that money is gone,” he noted.
Bauer also pressed business leaders to speed up the expansion of production capacity.
There was, however, no correlation between a shortage of ammunition and the arduous progress of the counteroffensive in Ukraine, according to Bauer.
“The reason why it takes time is because it is extremely dangerous, because there’s an enormous amount of mines in a very deep minefield – more than 10 kilometres – with five, six mines per square meter,” he said, noting Ukraine was still advancing 200 or 300 meters per day.
In 2024, NATO will be holding its largest collective defence drills since the Cold War, with over 40,000 troops from across the alliance set to take part in the exercise Steadfast Defender in Germany, Poland and the three Baltic states. (Source: Reuters)
11 Sep 23. NATO Drone Unit has Provided Hundreds of Flying Hours Collecting Critical Intelligence for the Alliance. Since the beginning of 2022 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force (NAGSF) has conducted many missions and accumulated hundreds of flying hours on the eastern flank. Flying at high altitudes above Allies territories and in international airspace, the NAGSF RQ-4D remotely piloted aircraft collected hundreds of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) data sets that are used by all Allies to prepare activities supporting deterrence and defence of NATO member countries.
“We will continue exploiting our unique and critical capability to deter our adversaries and defend the Alliance”
“The NATO RQ-4D is a key contributor to the situational awareness of the Alliance and the NAGSF team of multinational experts at the AGS Main Operating Base at Sigonella processes these ISR products and collates them with data from other sources,” said Brigadier General Christoph Pliet, Deputy Chief of Staff Operations at Allied Air Command, Ramstein, where RQ-4D operations are controlled. “Final products are then distributed to the 31 member nations of NATO and used to inform decisions for military operations to protect our Allies,” he continued.
“NAGSF is a prime example of member nations successfully working together to preserve the integrity of Allied territory,” said Brigadier General Andrew Clark, NAGSF Commander. “We will continue exploiting our unique and critical capability to deter our adversaries and defend the Alliance,” he added.
NAGSF regularly operates their RQ-4Ds during extended missions and makes legitimate use of international airspace. Succeeding in military operations requires continuous and comprehensive situational awareness. NAGSF is an asset NATO employs to achieve an understanding of movements in the air, on land or at sea, to enable our planning, concept and effective operations. As NATO’s intelligence hub, NAGSF collects, collates, exploits and distributes products that further enable us to prepare and react appropriately to changes in the security environment at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/NATO)
13 Sep 23. Ukrainian arms importer prioritizes howitzers, drones, ammo. Ukraine’s state-run defense company SpetsTechnoExport is pursuing numerous contracts to secure deliveries of weapons and equipment for the country’s military, with multiple rocket launchers, howitzers, armored vehicles, drones and ammunition all high on its priority list.
Oleksii Petrov, the acting director of SpetsTechnoExport, told Defense News the company is holding talks with various Western partners during this year’s DSEI industry show here. The nation’s military requires major deliveries for its wartime efforts, he said.
“With regards to ammunition, we need different types, including 122mm and 125mm, among others,” Petrov said. “Our defense industry is very efficient, but we also need to work with our partners to procure the necessary weapons in large amounts.”
The company specializes in imports and exports of weapons and military gear. It is also developing its own capacities in drones, according to Ivan Sybyriakov, the manager of SpetsTechnoExport’s Unmanned Systems Center.
“Every month, Ukraine and the invader, Russia, lose at least 2,000 drones combined. This creates a major demand for drones, and our center works with both domestic and foreign manufacturers to procure them for the Ukrainian armed forces,” he said.
SpetsTechnoExport continues to look for new drone suppliers, and currently imports unmanned aerial vehicles from a growing group of countries, which includes the United States, Poland, Turkey, Norway, and Lithuania, according to Sybyriakov. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
17 Sep 23. Ukraine’s long and bloody war. The Army is still advancing but painfully slowly against an entrenched Russian enemy protected by minefields. As Alina Mykhailova, an officer and paramedic in the Ukrainian Army, spoke about how the killing of her commander had “orphaned” her unit, her pain was palpable.
“On losing this man, whom I loved so much and with whom I had shared so much, I realised that we in the battalion were now all orphans,” she said, wiping away tears while the audience before her struggled to contain theirs.
The sombre mood marked a stark contrast to the buoyant atmosphere at last year’s Yalta European Strategy conference, attended by the regional heads of state and government.
At the time of the 2022 gathering, Ukraine’s army had just started its first counter-offensive, liberating a swath of territory and persevering over Russian troops in an attack that had caught almost everybody off guard. Toasts of ‘Slava Ukraini’ (glory to Ukraine) were shared because for the first time in a war that none of them had wanted, Ukraine was advancing, while the Russians were retreating. Fast forward a year, and the Ukrainian Army is still advancing but painfully slowly against an entrenched enemy protected by minefields that sometimes can be over three miles deep. Last year, one person compared the fighting to El Alamein, the beginning of the end of the Second World War. This year, it has instead been compared to the bloody battles of the First World War.
“Perhaps the biggest difference from 2022 is that so many people have now died,” said Dmytro Natalukha, a Ukrainian MP attending the conference. “One in two people now know somebody who has died in the fighting. I’ve lost count of the number of my friends I’ve lost.”
One officer, speaking off the record, spoke about the toll that attacking across minefields against well-dug-in defenders without air cover had taken on his company. The men replacing those who had fallen, he added, lacked the same level of training and motivation. And, if the war drags on for one or two more years, the strain on Ukraine’s limited human resources could become immense.
But for all the death and suffering Ukraine has endured, it still remains defiant.
“The reason I fight is for revenge,” said Masi Neyyem, a soldier whose face still bears the scars he got from a mine blast in June last year. “I want revenge in the most horrific way that international conventions would allow. The more Russians die, the better it is. As a combatant I still have the right to kill the Russians. And this is what I want most of all.”
Victory at a cost
But even when victory comes – for the Ukrainians at the conference there was no “if” – it will be a bitter-sweet moment for a country that has already lost thousands of people and is bracing itself to lose many, many more.
“For me there will never be victory without the people we have lost standing beside us,” said Ms Mykhailova. “This is the sad reality. There will never be the victory I was craving for. We will not have anyone to celebrate it with. The victory will come at a very great cost because victory will be measured in people’s lives; the people you read about in the obituaries every day.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
16 Sep 23. Russia ‘stockpiling missiles’ for winter attacks on energy infrastructure. Russia is stockpiling cruise missiles as it gears up for winter attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, according to British intelligence.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) reports Moscow is increasing its production of rockets while deploying them less frequently, amid warnings that it intends to freeze Ukraine into submission
It said: “Since April 2023, ALCM [air-launched cruise missile] expenditure rates have reduced, while Russian leaders have highlighted efforts to increase the rate of cruise missile production. Russian is therefore likely able to generate a significant stockpile of ALCMs.
“There is a realistic possibility that Russia will again focus these weapons against Ukrainian infrastructure targets over the moment.”
It comes after Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, warned Russia wanted Ukrainians to “freeze to death” as the cold weather draws in. Oleh Kiper, governor of the Odesa region, warned yesterday that it faced a “difficult” winter.
North Macedonia expels three Russian diplomats
North Macedonia has ordered expulsion of three more Russian diplomats in the third such move since the start of the Russian invasion on Ukraine last year, the foreign ministry confirmed on Saturday.
The ambassador of the Russian Federation in Skopje, Sergey Bazdnikin, was summoned on Sept 12 and was informed that three of his colleagues were proclaimed persona non grata and must leave the country, the ministry said in a statement.
“Such a decision was adopted after information was received from competent institutions about activities being taken against the Vienna convention for diplomatic relations”, it added.
The Balkan country has expelled Russian diplomats on two previous occasions since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Kim Jong-Un inspects hypersonic missiles during Russia tour
Kim Jong-Un has met with Russia’s defence minister to inspect the Kremlin’s newest military weapons.
Kim viewed Russia’s nuclear-capable bombers, hypersonic missiles and an advanced warship from its Pacific fleet on Saturday.
The North Korean leader’s visit to Russia’s Far East has sparked Western concerns about an arms alliance that could ramp up Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.
However, Putin has said no such agreement will be made. The allies are both under a catalogue of international sanctions with Pyongyang for its nuclear tests and Moscow for the Ukraine war.
Russia’s failure in Ukraine war is crucial for European security, says Norway
Bjørn Arild Gram, the Norwegian defence minister, said on Saturday that European Security hangs in the balance if Russia wins the war in Ukraine.
Speaking at the opening of Nato Military Committee Conference in Oslo, he said: “We, as allies, stand firm together in the support of Ukraine against Russian aggression. The Russian invasion of Ukraine must fail. This is important for Ukrainian and European security.”
North Korean weapons unlikely to make big difference in Ukraine war, says top US official
North Korea may be able to boost Russia’s supply of artillery munitions for the war in Ukraine but that is not likely to make a big difference, the top American military officer said as he arrived in Norway for Nato meetings on Saturday.
US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the recent meeting in Russia between North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and Russian president Vladimir Putin will probably lead North Korea to provide Soviet-era 152 mm artillery rounds to Moscow.
But he said it was not yet clear how many or how soon.
“Would it have a huge difference? I’m skeptical of that,” Milley told reporters traveling with him. He said that while he does not want to play down the weapons assistance too much, “I doubt that it would be decisive.”
Foreign governments and experts have speculated that Kim will likely supply ammunition to Russia in exchange for receiving advanced weapons or technology from Russia.
Russia denies Ukraine has retaken Andriivka
Russia has denied a Ukrainian claim to have recaptured the devastated eastern village of Andriivka, a stepping stone on the way to the town of Bakhmut.
“The enemy did not abandon plans to capture the city of Artyomovsk of the Donetsk People’s Republic and continued to conduct assault operations … unsuccessfully trying to oust Russian troops from the population centres of Klishchiivka and Andriivka,” the Russian defence ministry said in its daily briefing.
Andriivka lies south of largely-ruined Bakhmut, a mainly symbolic prize that Russian forces seized in May after the fiercest and longest battle since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The Ukrainian General Staff on Friday also reported “partial success” near Klishchiivka, also south of Bakhmut.
Telegraph was unable to verify the reports.
Poland to ban entry of Russia-registered passenger cars
Interior minister Mariusz Kaminski said on Saturday that Poland would ban the entry of passenger cars registered in Russia starting Sunday.
The ban is a further part of sanctions imposed on Russia and its citizens in connection with the war in Ukraine, PAP news agency said.
Russia says it downed Ukrainian drones over three regions
The Russian defence ministry said on Saturday its air defence systems had destroyed a drone launched from Ukraine over the border into the adjacent Belgorod region.
Earlier, it said Russian air defences had shot down two Ukrainian drones over the Kaluga and Tver regions.
First ships head towards Ukraine through Black Sea corridor
Two cargo vessels are heading towards Chornomorsk in Ukraine despite Russia withdrawing from the UN Black Sea grain deal and launching a series of missile attacks on Ukrainian ports.
Ukraine’s infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Saturday that ships Resilient Africa and Aroya will use the port to load almost 200,000 tons of wheat for Africa and Asia.
Ukrainian court orders ex-minister is detained on suspicion of treason
A Ukrainian court on Friday ordered a former government minister detained for 60 days with no option of bail on suspicion of espousing pro-Russian sentiments and committing treason.
Nestor Shufrych is accused of maintaining contacts with a fugitive Ukrainian parliamentarian suspected by investigators to have worked for Russian security services and of abetting plans to encourage pro-Moscow separatism in eastern Ukraine.
A video of a Kyiv court ordering Mr Shufrych’s detention circulated on numerous Ukrainian news sites.
“This is what the authorities need,” Mr Shufrych said in a video issued by Public Suspilne Television as court officials placed him in handcuffs and led him away.
News reports quoted Mr Shufrych’s lawyers as saying they would appeal the court’s ruling.
The investigators said Mr Shufrych had been carrying out instructions by Russian and pro-Russian officials to promote pro-Moscow policies inside Ukraine.
‘Putin kidnapping Ukrainian children to fight in future Russian wars’
The UK imposed sanctions on a number of Russians linked to the abduction of Ukrainian children in July this year.
British officials said the deportations were designed to “erase Ukrainian cultural and national identity” through the relocation of the children to a network of re-education camps.
In this episode of Life on the front line, the charity Vans Without Borders (VWB) interviewed a Ukrainian soldier stationed in Zaporizhzhia, who said that not only are these children taught to hate Ukraine, but also placed in military training to fight for Russia in future wars.
Read more and watch the video here.
‘Bring them back’: Ukrainian orphans demand return of children in Russia
Ukrainian orphans Ivan and Maksym, 17 and 16, escaped shelling and hunger in besieged Mariupol only to be captured and taken to the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk where they were held incommunicado for months with dozens of other children.
They are among about 400 Ukrainian children to have returned from Russia or Russian-held territory since Moscow invaded Ukraine – a fraction of the 20,000 children that Kyiv has identified as taken without the consent.
The boys and four other Ukrainian children told their stories in The Hague, where the campaign “Bring Kids Back UA” was launched in September by Netherlands-based NGO Orphans Feeding Foundation.
The boys, students at the Mariupol Technical School of Building, were living in a dormitory when the area came under fierce bombardment by Russian forces. Food and water ran out, and they fled on foot in March to a nearby village.
“When we arrived, we went to the hospital, because there was nowhere else to go. We said we were orphans, and they informed the Donetsk hospital. Then child protection services came and asked where our parents were. So we were taken away,” Maksym told Reuters.
Ivan said: “We didn’t want to go there, but we didn’t have a choice. We were fed four times a week. We spent time in our rooms and played on our phones. They let us go outside for one hour a day, and not every day. There was nothing for us to do.”
Moscow has repeatedly denied forcibly taking Ukrainian children, saying it found only a small number of children in orphanages or without parental care, and tried to accommodate as many as possible with relatives in Russia.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant in March against Russian president Vladimir Putin, accusing him of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.
Culture of lying within Russian military ‘preventing victory’
The culture of lying within the Russian military is preventing the Kremlin from achieving victory over Ukraine, according to a Russian official.
Lieutenant-General Andrei Gurulev, a member of the Russian State Duma and former deputy commander of the Southern Military District, has complained about lies in the ranks of the Russian military.
He has claimed that false reports are leading to poor decision-making at many levels within the Russian military, the Institute of War reports.
Mr Gurulev also stated that Ukraine’s drone strength is blocking Russia from making sufficient gains.
He said Ukrainian air defenses at the front are effective against Russian helicopters and are preventing Russian helicopters from using previously highly effective anti-tank missiles.
He reiterated common complaints about Ukraine’s ability to conduct drone strikes on Russian rear areas and insufficient Russian counter-battery capabilities.
Ukrainian minister vows more drone strikes on Russian ships
Ukraine will be able to conduct more attacks on Russian ships, a Ukrainian minister who has played a key role in building the country’s drone industry told Reuters after a recent series of sea raids.
“There will be more drones, more attacks, and fewer Russian ships. That’s for sure,” Mykhailo Fedorov, the digital transformation minister, said in an interview on Friday.
Ukraine has made several attacks in September using sea drones and missiles on Russia’s Black Sea fleet in and around the Crimean peninsula.
Russia says US conviction of Kremlin-linked businessman “politically motivated”
Moscow has dismissed as “politically motivated” the conviction of Russian businessman Vladislav Klyushin in a US court for participating in a $93 m insider-trading scheme, local media RIA reported on Saturday.
Klyushin, who has ties to the Kremlin, was sentenced on Sept 7 to nine years in prison after being found guilty in February of trading shares using hacked secret earnings information about multiple companies.
Hackers from 2018 to 2020 viewed and downloaded yet-to-be-announced earnings reports for hundreds of companies including Tesla and Microsoft, whose shares Klyushin and others then traded before the news was public, according to prosecutors.
Russia’s foreign ministry said the charges against Klyushin, the owner of a Moscow-based information technology company called M-13 that did work for the Russian government, were completely far-fetched and fabricated”, according to RIA.
It said he was “another victim of the fanatical Russophobia that now reigns in the power structures overseas”.
Russian officials in Crimea plan to sell Zelensky’s properties
Russian-installed authorities in Crimea said on Saturday they planned to sell about 100 Ukrainian properties, including one belonging to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament, said the nationalised properties would be sold “soon” and the authorities had held the first eight auctions for the properties of Ukrainian business figures.
The sale contracts amounted to more than 815 m roubles (£6 m), Mr Konstantinov said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
Russian-installed authorities in Crimea said in February that they had nationalised around 500 properties in Crimea including some belonging to senior Ukrainian politicians and business figures.
Biden to meet with Zelensky to pledge more aid
The United States expects to announce additional aid to Ukraine next week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday.
President Joe Biden will host Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, on Thursday at the White House.
Mr Zelensky is expected to meet with congressional leaders from political parties while he is in Washington, Mr Sullivan said.
Reuters reported on Monday that the US is considering shipping army tactical missile systems (Atacms) that can fly up to 190 miles (300 km), or guided multiple launch rocket system (Gmlrs) missiles with a 45-mile (70-km) range packed with cluster bombs, or both systems.
Kyiv has repeatedly asked the Biden administration for Atacms to helpdisrupt supply lines, air bases and rail networks in Russian occupied territory. But a source familiar with the situation said the U.S. does not plan to announce Atacms for Ukraine during Zelensky’s visit to the White House next week. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
17 Sep 23. Canada to give C$33m to help buy air defenses for Ukraine. Canada will contribute C$33m ($24.5m) to a British-led partnership that is buying air defense equipment for Ukraine to help it fend off Russian missile and drone attacks, Defence Minister Bill Blair said on Sunday.
In a statement, Blair said the contribution was part of the
C$500m worth of military aid for Kyiv that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in June.
Canada, home to one of the world’s largest Ukrainian diasporas, is a vocal supporter of Kyiv. Since Russia invaded in February 2022, Ottawa has committed over C$8bn in aid, including around C$1.8bn in military assistance. The partnership, which also includes the United States, the Netherlands and Denmark, aims to buy hundreds of short- and medium-range air defense missiles and associated systems. ($1 = 1.3523 Canadian dollars) (Source: Reuters)
12 Sep 23. Russia-Ukraine: Russian military threats likely to impede maritime traffic in Ukrainian Black Sea ports. On 11 September, UK Prime Minster Rishi Sunak stated that a Russian military vessel fired missiles against a Libyan cargo ship in the Black Sea that was stranded in Ukraine’s Odesa port on 24 August. Ukraine’s air defences reportedly intercepted the Russian missile strike. Sunak’s statement is the first time an official has acknowledged that a civilian ship has been targeted since Kyiv pledged to ensure that vessels blocked at Odesa can sail in the Black Sea following Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI). Four ships have reportedly been able to leave Ukrainian Black Sea ports. However, the attempted strike will likely deter global insurers, which have expressed apprehensions, from providing cover for civilian cargo vessels. Ultimately, given that Moscow remains reluctant to renew the BSGI in the short-term, such threats will remain a major obstacle for the resumption of maritime traffic in Ukrainian Black Sea ports. (Source: Sibylline)
13 Sep 23. Electronic warfare in Ukraine informing US playbook. Ukrainian forces are exploiting gaps in Russian jamming and spoofing capabilities, opening seams in which they make noticeable gains on the battlefield, according to a U.S. Air Force commander.
While the Russian military seeks to break Ukrainian command and control and block access to the electromagnetic spectrum, used for communications and weapons guidance, among other vital tasks, Ukrainians are resilient and resourceful in their application of electronic warfare, said Col. Josh Koslov, the leader of the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing.
“The agility being displayed by both parties, in the way that they’re executing operations in the spectrum, is awesome,” he told reporters during a discussion at the Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. “Both sides are doing the cat-and-mouse game very, very well.”
The U.S. is observing the invisible back-and-forth and is taking notes as the Pentagon works to reinvigorate jamming and deception arsenals in preparation for potential conflicts with China or Russia.
The spectrum would be hotly contested in a fight with either.
“In the future, for us, if we do confront a peer, being agile and being rapid is the key to success in the spectrum,” said Koslov, whose team at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida works to quickly upgrade electronic-warfare tools aboard aircraft. “Not having control of spectrum leads to fatalities, leads to getting killed. And we’ve seen that time and time again in that conflict.”
The 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing, established two years ago, is the first of its kind and the outgrowth of an electromagnetic spectrum superiority study.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown this year warned Congress the Defense Department was losing its ability to fend off attacks on the electromagnetic spectrum, leaving troops exposed. Prioritization of high-end electronic warfare systems fell off following the Cold War.
Koslov, in an interview last month, told C4ISRNET he agreed with Brown’s assessment and was working to address the issue.
“I think where we have to focus is on the highest-end or most-difficult problems, because I believe in the lesser-included threat, which means if I could do it at the highest end, I should be able to adapt to lower-end threats,” he said at the time. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
15 Sep 23. Ukraine plans big rise in defence spending in 2024 draft budget. Ukraine’s government approved on Friday a draft budget for next year, planning for higher defence spending and counting on continued Western financial support to cover the expected deficit.
The draft 2024 budget puts the deficit at 1.548trn hryvnias ($42bn) or at about 20.4% of gross domestic product.
More than half of all planned Ukrainian budget spending next year, or 1.7trn hryvnias, is planned for the defence sector to fund the war effort against Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion in February 2022.
“The key focus of this draft is defence and security of our country,” said Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. “This amount (defence spending) is 113 bn hryvnias more than this year. There will be even more weapons and equipment. More drones, ammunition, missiles,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
The finance ministry said in a statement that spending on defence was expected to be more than 21% of gross domestic product. The spending includes an allocation of 48.1bn hryvnias for buying drones, which have been widely used by both sides in the almost 19-month-old war.
The forecast for budget financing provides for reduction of the deficit to 20.4% of GDP from 27% in 2023, the ministry said.
Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said he hoped for continued Western financial support. Since the start of the war almost 19 months ago, Ukraine had already received nearly $62bn in foreign aid.
“In terms of working with partners, the road is long. The work continues. For 2023 we have secured the financing in full. I think and hope that for 2024 we will agree on support from our partners,” he said in televised comments.
Public debt repayment is planned to be 606.5bn hryvnias, including 421.6bn hryvnias to be spent on internal debt repayments and 184.9bn hryvnias for external debt repayments.
Budget revenues are expected to be 1.56trn hryvnias. About 468.8bn hryvnias is budgeted for social spending, and 30.8 bn hryvnias allocated for business support. The budget draft also envisages GDP growing by 5% in 2024 to reach 7.824trn hryvnias. The draft has yet to be approved by parliament. ($1 = 36.9290 hryvnias) (Source: Reuters)
15 Sep 23. U.S. aims to make 100,000 artillery shells per month in 2025, US official says. The U.S. plans to increase monthly production of 155 millimeter artillery shells over the coming years to 100,000 in 2025, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer said on Friday. “We’re going to be at 100,000 per month in 2025. We were at 14,000 per month 6 or 8 months ago, we are now at 28,000 a month today,” Bill LaPlante, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer said at a conference on Friday. Demand for 155mm artillery rounds has soared in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But allies’ supplies for their own defense have been run down as they have rushed shells to Kyiv, which fires thousands of rounds per day. (Source: Reuters)
15 Sep 23. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy will travel to Washington for high-level meetings to drum up support for additional aid after he attends the UN General Assembly next week, according to people familiar with the matter. Zelenskyy will meet US president Joe Biden at the White House and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. He is also expected to visit the Pentagon to meet defence secretary Lloyd Austin. His trip will come as the White House urges Congress to approve $24bn in additional funds for Kyiv to support its military efforts through the beginning of next year, and amid rising tensions within the Republican party over the level of support Washington should provide to Ukraine following Moscow’s full-scale invasion last year. The Ukrainian military made more progress in its counteroffensive campaign to wrest back territory from Russia on Friday, recapturing the village of Andriivka near Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region and trouncing enemy forces, according to the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces. Secretary of state Antony Blinken — the highest-ranking US official to visit Ukraine since its summer counteroffensive got under way — announced the latest package of security and humanitarian assistance worth $1bn during his surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv last week. The Biden administration is also close to deciding whether to provide Ukraine with long-range missiles known as ATACMS, which Kyiv has long sought to help it disrupt Russian military logistics beyond the front line. A senior Biden administration official told the Financial Times last week that “a decision could be coming soon”. Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Zelenskyy, said he was confident the US would agree to send ATACMS. Zelenskyy’s office, which has a policy of not announcing the president’s foreign travel plans in advance for security reasons, did not respond to a request for comment on the upcoming US visit. The White House declined to comment. He last visited Washington in December, when he delivered an impassioned plea to a joint session of Congress and to the American public to ramp up support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion. The address came just weeks before Republicans, some of whom within the party’s right wing have been critical of the Biden administration’s backing for Kyiv, took control of the House of Representatives. US support was crucial to help Ukraine “not just to stand in such a fight, but to get to the turning point to win on the battlefield”, he said. “Your money is not charity, it’s an investment in global security and democracy.” Zelenskyy is not expected to speak to a joint meeting of lawmakers this time but to hold talks with smaller groups inside the Capitol. His trip will follow a visit to Vladivostok in Russia by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who pledged his country’s “full and unconditional support” to Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Russian army as it continued its war against Ukraine. The Russians are in need of ammunition, particularly artillery shells, as they try to defend captured territory in south-eastern Ukraine, which Putin claimed last September to have annexed to Russia. Recommended War in Ukraine Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia in maps — latest updates Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, are pressing ahead with their counteroffensive, launched three months ago. While it has not produced the significant gains Kyiv and some of the country’s western backers hoped for, Ukraine continues to make progress. The capture of Andriivka by Ukrainian forces on Friday marked one of the most significant battlefield gains in the east since the nearby city of Bakhmut fell under Moscow’s control in May. Russian forces suffered significant losses of personnel and equipment while Ukrainian troops managed to entrench themselves and secure their advance around the village, Ukraine’s general staff said. “As a result of a lightning operation, the Russian garrison of Andriivka was surrounded, cut off from the main forces and destroyed,” Ukraine’s 3rd Separate Assault Brigade wrote on Telegram. (Source: FT.com)
14 Sep 23. Ukraine-Moldova: Facilitation of cross-border freight will likely boost Ukrainian exports. On 14 September, Ukraine and Moldova extended an agreement liberalising road freight transport between both countries until the end of 2025. Subsequently, Ukrainian cargo freight carriers will not need special permits for two-way and transit shipments. The agreement’s renewal is part of Kyiv’s wider efforts to facilitate cross-border freight with European countries. In March, Kyiv extended a similar agreement with the EU for a year. Furthermore, on 9 August, Ukraine ratified a bill streamlining customs procedures in compliance with EU rules, with the bill likely to decrease the risk of delays at borders resulting from inspection operations. More broadly, the deal comes as Ukraine seeks to export its agricultural products through routes other than the Black Sea grain corridor after Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI). Kyiv’s efforts to remove administrative barriers for cross-border freight transport will likely expedite border crossings for goods and boost Ukrainian exports. (Source: Sibylline)
17 Sep 23. Russia prepares for Ukrainian offensive on Tokmak. Soldiers of the 47th Brigade, tank department, of the Ukrainian army with a Leopard 2 at the Tokmak front in Zaporizhia Oblast in the country’s south-east on Saturday. British intelligence said on Sunday that Russian forces are getting ready for a Ukrainian offensive in the strategically important town of Tokmak in southern Ukraine, which is approximately 16km behind the current front line.
The report says that Russia is setting up checkpoints, “hedgehog” anti-tank defences and digging new trenches in the area, which is held by its 58th Combined Arms Army.
“Tokmak is preparing to become a lynchpin of Russian’s second main line of defences”, the Ministry of Defence said.
Improvements to the town’s defences likely indicates Russia’s growing concern about Ukraine breaking through the first line of defence in the northern part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, it said. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
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