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Military And Security Developments
• BAKHMUT: Geolocated footage posted on 1 November indicates that Ukrainian forces made marginal advances south of Bakhmut in recent days. The footage indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced north-east of the railway line near Klishchiivka, located four miles (7km) south-east of Bakhmut. Russian milbloggers provided very little commentary on the Bakhmut sector over the past 24 hours. However, one prominent milblogger reported that Russian units have improved co-ordination and are suffering fewer losses compared to the initial (Russian) defence of Bakhmut, though we cannot confirm this.
• DONETSK: On 2 November, Vitaliy Barabash, the head of the Ukrainian Avdiivka military administration, stated that Russian forces are conducting offensive operations mainly north of Avdiivka, despite heavy rain. On the same day, Ukraine’s Tavriisk Grouping of Forces spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun stated that Russian troops are attacking in small infantry groups. Shtupun also noted that the tempo of Russian operations has declined due to Russian forces regrouping and waiting for reinforcements. On 3 November, a prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces conducted successful attacks north-west of Krasnohorivka, located around three miles (5km) north-east of Avdiivka. However, such claims remain unverified.
• OSKIL-KREMINNA: Geolocated footage from 2 November shows that Russian forces progressed west of Orlyanka, located 13.6 miles (22km) east of Kupiansk.
• SOUTHERN: On 2 November, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reported that Ukrainian forces inflicted heavy losses on Russian forces attempting to advance in the direction of Vuhledar in western Donetsk oblast. Zelensky’s comments, which we cannot confirm, indicate there has been an uptick in fighting near Vuhledar, which has remained relatively quiet since Russia’s failed offensive to capture the town earlier in the year. Given the current Russian push to seize Avdiivka, a second simultaneous effort to seize Vuhledar remains highly unlikely.
• KHERSON: Nothing significant to report
• STRIKES: Earlier on 3 November, Russia reportedly launched a massive drone strike against infrastructure in Lviv and Odesa oblasts, as well as residential buildings in Ivano-Frankivsk and Kharkiv oblasts. According to Ukraine’s air force, the attack included 40 Shahed-136/131 drones and one Kh-59 cruise missile. Ukrainian forces reportedly shot down 24 drones and the missile. Following the attack, President Zelensky warned that Russia will intensify strikes during the coming winter season. Ukrainian critical infrastructure, particularly energy infrastructure, will be priority targets for Moscow’s winter strike campaign.
• STRIKES: On 2 November, a prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces launched at least ten drones against Russian-occupied Enerhodar. The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported that its air defences intercepted nine drones.
• BORDERS: On 6 November, Polish truck drivers plan to block (partially) three border crossings with Ukraine in opposition to an influx of Ukrainian-registered trucks. The protesters reportedly plan to allow just one truck crossing per hour; they will also allow the passage of weapons for the Ukrainian army and vehicles transiting livestock. As of 1200hrs (local time), bidirectional traffic will be disrupted at Poland’s Dorohusk and Hrbenne-Rawa-Ruska (both Lublin voivodeship) crossings, while only outbound traffic will be disrupted at the Korczowa crossing (Subcarpathian voivodeship, also Poland). While five other crossings will remain operational, the protest will likely cause significant disruption for vehicles with a weight load of more than 7.3 tonnes. Protesters will demand a reimposition of restrictions (which were relaxed in 2022) on the number of Ukrainian trucks entering the country and a ban on transport companies with capital from outside of the EU.
• BORDERS: The co-organiser of the blockade reportedly told the Ukrainian media outlet Ukrinform that the protest has officially been registered with the local authorities until 3 January, indicating that it will possibly last for months. It remains uncertain how the Polish government will respond to the protest; both the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) and the alliance of opposition parties that will likely form the next government are currently focused on their respective government-formation efforts following the 15 October general election. Nevertheless, following similar protests by farmers earlier in the year, which prompted the PiS to ban Ukrainian grain from the domestic market, it is clear that frustration among certain sectors of the Polish economy with the EU’s liberalisation of trade with Ukraine will pose a challenge to the next administration; it will also cause disruption to supply chains feeding into Ukraine.
• DRONES: International media reported on 2 November that a Russian drone manufacturer plans to open a production line in Uzbekistan. The firm, Flyseeagro, announced that it would spend USD 80 million on the investment over a five-year period, allowing it to export the equipment to Russia and other foreign markets. Flyseeagro claims to produce drones for agricultural purposes such as crop spraying and monitoring fields. The CEO of Uzbekistan’s Navoi free economic zone, where the production line will be opened, insisted on 2 November that these drones are designed for agriculture and cannot be converted for military use.
• DRONES: However, given that drones are a dual-use technology which can be used for both civilian and military purposes, military use remains possible. An investigation is likely necessary to determine whether imposing sanctions is applicable. As such, the risk of secondary sanctions against Uzbek entities and individuals, particularly those linked with Russian firms involved in manufacturing or selling dual-use technology, will remain elevated in the short-to-medium term if the plant begins production.
• INSURANCE: Ukraine’s economy ministry announced on 2 November that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the UK government will work on a war risk insurance pilot project. The project envisions creating a new fund to facilitate the development of an international market for the re-insurance and insurance of property and trade risks, including the insurance of goods in transit or in storage. A statement of intent was signed on 31 October between EBRD and London.
• INSURANCE: Ukraine’s deputy economy minister Volodymyr Kuzio stated on 31 October that investment risk insurance is vital in order to create a favourable investment environment for attracting private capital and supporting long-term reconstruction projects. The UK government’s statement on 31 October noted that UK businesses have the expertise and will to help Ukraine rebuild itself; however, a lack of insurance often prevents architects, engineers or lawyers from engaging in such ventures. This will hinder Ukraine’s recovery. As such, the war risk insurance scheme will possibly help to persuade foreign entities to invest in Ukraine and also to remove barriers that impede UK companies from operating in the country.
AID: On 2 November, US House Republicans approved a USD 14.3bn military aid package exclusively for Israel. Earlier on 2 November, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that his chamber would not support the ‘deeply flawed proposal’, revealing that he instead intends to work with senators in both parties on a package that includes aid for Israel, Ukraine and other issues. US House Speaker Mike Johnson insisted that aid for Ukraine would follow, re-iterating plans to combine this aid with funding for US border security. However, national security spokesperson John Kirby stated on 2 November that US President Joe Biden would veto any bill that only contains aid for Israel, indicating that the prospect of the bill being successful remains limited. Such intra-governmental divisions will sustain the risk of Ukrainian aid being delayed or rejected in the near term. A Gallup poll on 2 November found that 41% of US citizens believe that the US is doing too much to assist Ukraine. In June, this figure was 29%. In all, 62% of Republicans and 44% of independents believe that Washington DC is providing too much support for Kyiv; this view is only shared by 14% of the Democrats polled. Meanwhile, 37% of the respondents believe that the US should maintain its financial support for as long as Ukraine requests, while 61% believe that there should be a time limit on such assistance. The results of the poll reflect the declining trend of support for Ukraine among Republican voters; it will further reinforce the pivotal role of the 2024 US presidential elections in determining the provision of long-term US aid for Ukraine.
• BAKHMUT: Nothing significant to report
• DONETSK: On 1 November, a prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces are currently looking to prevent Ukraine from restoring its positions in the Avdiivka sector and that the Russian goal is to hold recently occupied positions. The claims likely confirm a slowdown of the pace of Russian assaults around Avdiivka over the last week, which likely means that Russian forces are preparing for a new offensive push. Notably, on 1 November, Russian sources claimed that Russian forces are preparing to launch attacks in northern Avdiivka, near the industrial zone of the Avdiivka coke plant.
• DONETSK: On 30 October, a Ukrainian military official forecasted that Russia is preparing to conduct a new wave of highly attritional infantry-led frontal assaults, characterised as ‘meat’ assaults, in the Avdiivka sector. The official claimed that the Russian command will rely on underequipped and poorly trained units, such as the Storm-Z assault detachments mainly comprised of convicts, to conduct such assaults. On 1 November, an OSINT source, GeoConfirmed, claimed that Russian forces have lost at least 197 vehicles since the beginning of its offensive push on 9 October. The Russian command’s commitment to conduct highly attritional assaults shows that it has not learned from previous failed offensive efforts. As such, a new offensive push is unlikely to result in significant strategic breakthroughs in the sector.
• OSKIL-KREMINNA: Geolocated footage from 31 October shows that Russian forces progressed east of Petropavlivka, located around four miles (7km) east of Kupiansk. On 2 November, a Russian milblogger claimed that Russian troops managed to occupy new positions near Petropavlicka and Synkivka, located around five miles (8km) north-east of Kupiansk. He also stated that Russian forces aim to achieve a breakthrough in the Kupiansk direction. However, such claims remain unverified, with Russian progress in the sector remaining marginal over the past weeks. On 1 November, the Ukrainian Commander of Ground Forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, stated Russian forces have made continued efforts to capture the Kupiansk without achieving a strategic breakthrough in the sector.
• SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report
• KHERSON: Ukrainian forces almost certainly maintain a number of bridgeheads on the left bank of the Dnieper River despite intense Russian efforts to repel them. One prominent Russian milblogger reported on 2 November that Ukrainian forces slightly expanded their control of the town of Krynky, located around 23 miles (37km) north-east of Kherson city (Kherson oblast). A second Russian milblogger claimed on 2 November that as part of ongoing Ukrainian preparations to cross the Dnieper, Ukrainian forces struck the headquarters of the Russian Dnipro military group, but that the group’s newly-appointed commander, General Mikhail Teplinsky, was uninjured. The milblogger did not provide details on the weapon system used to strike the headquarters.
• STRIKES: Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed that air defences intercepted six Ukrainian drones over the Black Sea and Crimea on 2 November. While Ukrainian authorities have not commented on the attack, there has been an uptick in strikes against Russian-annexed Crimea in the past few days, with such attacks reportedly focusing on military targets. On 2 November, the UK Defence Intelligence reported that Ukrainian strikes have destroyed at least four long-range Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launchers over the past week. Russian media reported on 26 October that Russia lost three SA-21 launchers in the Luhansk oblast, while Ukrainian sources claimed that strikes had destroyed additional air defences in Crimea. The UK DI assessed that such losses underscore the vulnerability of Russia’s integrated air defence system to modern precision strike weapons. Efforts to replace destroyed air defence systems will likely weaken air defence in other operational areas, according to the UK DI.
• AID: North Korea has allegedly transferred more than one m rounds of artillery to Russia. According to South Korean lawmaker Yoo Sang-bum, who attended a closed-door intelligence briefing on 1 November, North Korea has sent around ten shipments of weapons to Russia since August. North Korea also allegedly dispatched advisers to Russia on the use of the munitions, which would reportedly be enough to supply Russian forces for over two months of shelling at current rates of fire, though this cannot be confirmed. For comparison, the EU has collectively pledged to provide Ukraine with one m 155mm shells to Ukraine by March 2024, illustrating the significant scale of the potential North Korean transfer (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 26 October 2023).
• AID: Reports from earlier on 2 November claim that Pyongyang may also have supplied Moscow with short-range ballistic missiles, alongside artillery shells and other weaponry. South Korea estimates that North Korea has shipped around 2,000 containers of weapons and munitions to Vladivostok (Primorsky Krai, Russia). South Korea’s military also claimed North Korea likely provided Russia with T-series tank ammunition, anti-tank guided missiles, rocket launchers, rifles and machine guns. While this cannot be confirmed, such weapons shipments will increase the risk of Western sanctions against both states, though North Korea is highly unlikely to be deterred by additional punitive measures.
• AID: On 31 October, the Frontelligence Insight project estimated that Russia has received roughly 2,000 cargo containers, which collectively hold over half a m artillery shells from September to late October. It noted that these artillery shells encompass both 152mm and 122mm calibres and signify a substantial enhancement for Russia’s ammunition stockpiles, particularly ahead of the winter.
• BELARUS: The exiled Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Pavel Latushka, said in an interview published earlier on 2 November that there are approximately 2,000 Russian soldiers in Belarus. Meanwhile, Latushka cited information from a Belarusian military monitoring group that there are around 500 to 1,000 Wagner Group fighters remaining in the country. He claimed that some of them joined Belarus’ armed forces as instructors for training officers and soldiers. They also reportedly received Belarusian citizenship as this is a requirement for serving in the Belarusian military, though this cannot be confirmed. Latushka’s comments underscore modeslty growing Belarusian military capability, but amid the draw down of Russian forces in the country, Belarusian forces are highly unlikely to take part in offensive operations against Ukraine in the short to medium term (see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 1 November 2023).
• MOBILISATION: On 1 November, Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation unveiled a large-scale draft evasion scheme. The scheme involved nine military officers and was allegedly organised by the former head of the Kyiv Regional Military Commissariat. The suspects were accused of enriching themselves by providing draft-eligible men seeking to avoid military mobilisation forged documents declaring they were unfit for military service. In August, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed the heads of all the enlistment offices in the country after a probe revealed that recruitment officials were illegally enriching themselves by helping draft-eligible men leave Ukrainian territory.
• MOBILISATION: The latest corruption scandal likely illustrates that draft evasion networks continue to operate within Ukraine’s military institutions despite efforts to shut down such schemes. On 1 November, Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valery Zaluzhnyi stressed that one of Ukraine’s priorities is to shut down draft-evading loopholes in the country’s legislation and build up reserve forces. Zaluzhnyi’s comments illustrate Ukraine’s recruitment challenges compounded by corruption within Ukraine’s military institutions and the high attrition rate of the war (see FORECAST below for further analysis).
STRATEGY: In an Economist article published on 1 November, Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valery Zaluzhnyi assessed that Ukraine will most likely not achieve a significant military breakthrough without fundamental changes to break the current deadlock. The General urged for greater innovation with drones, electronic warfare, anti-artillery capabilities and de-mining equipment, arguing that Ukraine needs to utilise a combination of all technical solutions that already exist to move past this current attritional and largely static phase of the war.
In an essay written for The Economist, Zaluzhnyi disclosed that the war at its present stage is gradually moving to a ‘positional form’. The general noted that this benefits Russia as it gives Russian forces the ability to reconstitute and build up their military capabilities. He assessed that the current positional nature of the conflict is largely due to military parity between both countries’ forces. However, Zaluzhnyi stressed that the parity Ukraine has managed to achieve through a smaller quantity of more accurate firepower may not last. While the General noted that basic weapons, such as missiles and shells, remain essential, Ukraine’s armed forces need new and innovative military capabilities and technologies to end the attritional phase of conflict, noting that air power remains the most important such capability.
However, he noted that the delay of Western arms deliveries in 2023 was not the main cause of Ukraine’s current impasse. Zaluzhnyi said this war cannot be won with outdated weapons and methods, stating that this will inevitably lead to delay, and consequently, defeat. The General noted that the biggest risk of attritional trench warfare is that it can protract for several years and wear down the Ukrainian state.
Ultimately, the provision of ever-more advanced capabilities by Western partners has enabled Ukraine to reach parity and, in areas such as artillery fires, gain superiority over Russian forces. This means the continuation of this aid will prove vital to keep Ukraine in the fight given Russia’s industrial and manpower advantages. However, the modern Ukrainian battlefield is rapidly developing, making older capabilities less reliable or relevant. For example, a commander in Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate stated on 26 October that the Turkish-supplied Bayraktar-TB2 drones now have ‘limited utility’ amid advances in Russian air defences. Despite TB2s providing Ukraine a critical edge during the first phase of the full-scale invasion, the constant cat-and-mouse technological development means they no longer provide serious capability outside certain applications.
Ukraine’s Western allies can ensure Ukraine maintains a technological advantage in many areas if aid continues to flow, but as we have previously reported, there are growing concerns that shortages of personnel will become the limiting factor in 2024 for Ukraine.
*Russia: Persistent pro-Ukraine cyber espionage will sustain heightened risk of cyber attacks against civilian infrastructure. On 31 October, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) reported the arrest of two individuals suspected of conducting cyber attacks against domestic IT assets for Ukraine. One of the suspects is a student who allegedly assisted unspecified hacker groups supervised by Ukraine’s security forces and carried out cyber attacks against Russian information infrastructure facilities. The other is believed to be a member of a Ukrainian cyber unit and was allegedly involved in hacking operations that used malware to disrupt critical infrastructure networks in Russia. It is unclear as to whether the two incidents are linked. The arrests highlight ongoing cyber espionage operations amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, with Moscow continuing to crack down on perceived internal dissent and cyber activity aiding Kyiv. However, Ukraine-linked hacker activity is likely to persist throughout the course of the conflict, sustaining the risk of disruptive cyber attacks on civilian infrastructure in both countries.
• BAKHMUT: Nothing significant to report
• DONETSK: Geolocated footage from 30 October shows that Russian forces made marginal advances south-west of Avdiivka and south-west of Krasnohorivka, located three miles (5km) north of Avdiivka. On 30 and 31 October, Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces are attempting to advance near the Avdiivka coke plant situated immediately north of the city. However, such claims remain unverified. A Russian source also stated that Russian troops are currently not attacking the site and are instead still preparing for an upcoming offensive push.
• OSKIL-KREMINNA: Nothing significant to report
• SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report
• STRIKES: Earlier on 1 November, Russian forces launched 20 Shahed-136/131 drones; Ukrainian air defences reportedly intercepted 18 drones. The local authorities reported that a drone hit an oil refinery in Kremenchuk (Poltava oblast) while falling debris damaged railway infrastructure in Kropyvnytskyi (Kirovohrad oblast). Furthermore, Ukraine’s air force reported that air defences in Odesa shot down two Kh-59 cruise missiles earlier on 1 November. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russia launched four Iskander-M ballistic missiles on 31 October. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian authorities reported that Russian forces launched 45 glide bombs in Kherson oblast on 31 October; they highlighted that such bombs are currently being used extensively along the south-western frontline. On 30 October, a Russian milblogger stated that Russian forces are beginning to use new ‘smart’ glide bombs equipped with laser and satellite guidance; these will significantly enhance the accuracy of their impact. Such bombs are typically used against fortifications.
• STRIKES: On 1 November, the UK’s Defence Intelligence (DI) reported that Russia’s Lancet one-way attack drones have been one of the most effective new capabilities Russia has employed over the past 12 months. According to DI, Russian forces use Lancet drones to hit priority targets; they have become a key element of Russia’s counter-battery capabilities with regard to striking Ukrainian artillery. On 21 October, Russian sources claimed that Russia has started using the ‘Izdeliye-53’ drone, a new version of the ‘Lancet’ kamikaze drone that can identify targets with an automatic guidance system. The sources claimed that Russian forces are not using the drone on a wide scale but are currently testing it for mass synchronised swarm strikes. The integration of new drones will likely result in Russia diversifying its strike tactics across the frontline; this will increasingly challenge Ukraine’s air defence capabilities as Russia ramps up its drone production.
• STRIKES: Earlier on 1 November, Vladimir Saldo, the head of the Russian Kherson occupation authorities, reported that Ukrainian forces launched a ‘massive’ missile strike against Russian-occupied Kherson. Saldo stated that Russian air defences shot down seven missiles while two projectiles detonated on the ground near the Arabat spit. Traffic was temporarily suspended on the Kerch Strait Bridge.
• NATIONALISATION: On 31 October, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov stated that companies from ‘unfriendly’ countries will not be allowed to leave Russia easily. Peskov announced that if these foreign entities want to leave they will do so on the terms of a special government commission. This underscores Moscow’s efforts to deter corporate flight by continuing to complicate exit strategies; the announcement comes as a prominent Western beverage manufacturer openly stated on 31 October that Russia had ‘stolen its subsidiary’.
• NATIONALISATION: Earlier on 31 October, the Financial Times reported that Moscow has restricted Western corporations selling their Russian assets from withdrawing the proceeds in USD or EUR. The outlet’s insiders alleged that Western companies leaving Russia must agree on a sale price in RUB or face delays and potentially losses if sellers insist on receiving payments in an alternate currency. An unnamed investment banker who reportedly recently helped close a deal worth around USD 300 m stated that the commission set a seven-day deadline for the transfer of funds from the completion of the sale into a foreign account. However, the buyer was unable to transfer more than USD 20 m daily. As such, the measures are highly likely aimed at safeguarding the currency from further depreciation.
• AID: On 31 October, the US outlet The Hill reported that US President Joe Biden would likely veto a bill proposed by House Republicans to send aid to Israel without also having to send aid to Ukraine. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that separating security assistance for Israel from other priorities, such as Ukraine, would have global consequences. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby also implied on 31 October that Biden would possibly block the Republican bill, stating that it doesn’t meet the US’ national security needs. While it cannot be confirmed whether Biden will veto the package, intra-governmental tensions will likely prolong the provision of US aid to Ukraine in the coming days and weeks.
• SANCTIONS: The EU is reportedly considering new sanctions that would target around EUR 5 bn (USD 5.3 bn) in trade with Russia. According to a Bloomberg report on 31 October, the bloc’s 12th sanctions package aims to tighten restrictions on Russia’s revenue sources and industry, and also to curb its ability to sustain its war in Ukraine. It will reportedly include export restrictions on welding machines, chemicals and other technologies used for military purposes. Software license bans, restrictions on the import of a small number of processed metals and aluminium products, construction items, transport-related goods and diamonds are also under consideration.
• SANCTIONS: The bloc is also reportedly seeking to add more goods to an existing transit ban and list additional companies based in third countries if those states fail to crack down on these firms. Notably, the EU is deliberating on whether to try to convince companies to add clauses to their contracts with entities in third countries to prohibit the export of ‘battleground goods’ to Russia. This is almost certainly aimed at dissuading such companies from assisting Moscow in acquiring dual-use technology and closing loopholes for sanctions evasion. The proposal for the next round of sanctions will possibly be presented as early as next week. However, the proposed measures will possibly change before then, particularly if there is pushback from member states which are reluctant to impose further sanctions, such as Hungary and Slovakia.
• BELARUS: A spokesperson for Ukraine’s state border guard service, Andriy Demchenko, stated on 31 October that Russia appears to have withdrawn all its units from Belarus. The units were withdrawn as part of a rotation, though no new units were subsequently brought in. Demchenko noted that some Russian military personnel will remain in Belarus, though they are mostly involved in servicing Russian equipment in the country. He also revealed that there are currently fewer than 1,000 Russian Wagner Group mercenaries in Belarus. As such, the threat of a renewed Russian invasion from Belarusian territory remains extremely low.
POLLING: On 31 October, Russia’s Levada Centre, which is the country’s largest independent polling organisation, released new data indicating Russians’ opinions on the war in Ukraine. According to its results, about 76% of respondents support the actions of Russia’s armed forces in Ukraine, compared to about 16% who do not. Such polling must be considered with a degree of scepticism, given the Russian public’s likely concerns about voicing any opinions that contradict the government’s line. Nevertheless, the Levada Centre’s findings indicate that while support for Russia’s armed forces has remained high since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, it has actually increased slightly since August.
Support for Russia’s military actions in Ukraine was higher among the older generations. About 82% of Russians aged 55 or over voiced their support for Russia’s armed forces in Ukraine, compared to about 62% of Russians aged between 18 and 24. Just over a quarter of the latter age group voiced their disapproval of Russia’s military actions in Ukraine. The organisation found that the highest levels of support can be observed among older respondents who trust Russian television and approve of President Vladimir Putin. These dynamics are largely unsurprising and reflect the state’s control over traditional media (as opposed to alternative online sources used by young people).
Almost two thirds of Russians surveyed (62%) believe that Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is progressing ‘successfully’. The proportion of people who consider it to be progressing ‘very successfully’ increased slightly between June (9%) and October (12%); this coincides with Ukraine’s counter-offensive. Only around 21% of respondents in October believed that Russia’s military actions were not progressing ‘successfully’.
Meanwhile, about 37% of respondents were in favour of Russia continuing the war in Ukraine, while around 56% voiced their preference for starting peace negotiations. More than two thirds of Russians aged 18-24 believe that peace talks should commence (69%) compared to about 46% of those respondents aged 55 and older. However, most Russians stated that they would be against ending the invasion of Ukraine if it meant Russia’s withdrawal from the territories it currently occupies. Only about 34% of Russians would support Putin if he decided to end the invasion and return the annexed territories, though around 70% of respondents would support his decision to end the war without this caveat.
These results indicate that there is likely to be significant public backing for the Kremlin to retain control over the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine. While peace negotiations are highly unlikely to take place in the coming months due to reluctance in both Kyiv and Moscow, the survey reinforces our assessment that Russia is highly unlikely to end the war without expecting (or demanding) significant territorial concessions from Ukraine. A peace agreement with limited or no territorial concessions would carry potential risks politically for the Russian government, risks that it will almost certainly seek to avoid.
*Europe: Ukrainian gas storage will likely bolster regional energy security despite ongoing conflict. Earlier on 1 November, reports emerged that European gas traders are increasingly considering the option to store natural gas in Ukraine; this comes as the EU’s natural gas storage is nearing full capacity. On 25 October, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal stated that Kyiv is ready to allow non-Ukrainian traders to use up to 50% of the country’s storage capacity. While most of this capacity is located deep underground in western Ukraine and hundreds of miles from the frontline of the war, Russia can still strike all of Ukraine’s territory. If traders use a significant portion of this capacity, it would likely bolster European energy security by providing a buffer against possible supply disruption. Foreign traders already increased the volume of natural gas stored in Ukraine between September and October. Nevertheless, a likely Russian strike campaign against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure this winter will deter some traders due to high commercial
• BAKHMUT: Geolocated footage posted on 30 October indicates that Ukrainian forces likely made a small advance north-east of Kurdyumivka, located six miles (10km) south-west of Bakhmut. One Russian milblogger also reported that Ukrainian forces made a southward advance beyond the railway line in the town of Andriivka, located around four miles (6km) south of Bakhmut. Otherwise, the lines of control remained broadly static. On 30 October, Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi reported that Russia had strengthened its forces in Bakhmut and that they had moved from defensive to offensive operations. He provided no further details on Russian force composition and noted only that the alleged changes were designed to prevent further Ukrainian advances.
• DONETSK: On 30 October, Tavriisk Group of Forces spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun stated that Russian forces are preparing to launch highly attritional ‘meat’ assaults in the Avdiivka sector. Such assaults refer to infantry-led frontal attacks launched with insufficient equipment and artillery preparation. Shtupun explained that Russia is training Storm-Z assault units, largely manned by convicts, to conduct these highly attritional assaults. According to Shtupun, Russia is likely compensating for heavy equipment losses following Ukrainian claims that they destroyed over 400 pieces of Russian equipment in this sector over the past three weeks. Such ground attacks conducted by underequipped and poorly trained Storm-Z detachments are unlikely to result in a major breakthrough in the sector. Meanwhile, geolocated footage from 30 October shows a Russian TOS-1A thermobaric artillery system operating in Novoselivka Druha, located three miles (5km) north-east of Avdiivka; this suggests that Russian forces control the settlement.
• OSKIL-KREMINNA: Geolocated footage from 30 October shows that Russian forces made marginal progress in the direction of Torske, located five miles (8km) south-west of Kreminna. On 30 October, a Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces regained several positions near Raihorodka, located around seven miles (12km) west of Svatove.
• SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report
• KHERSON: Nothing significant to report
• STRIKES: On 30 October, Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed that its air defences intercepted eight Storm Shadow missiles over Sevastopol in Crimea. Pro-Ukrainian Telegram channels reported that several explosions were recorded in Sevastopol. Quoting residents, the Ukrainian media outlet Suspline also reported explosions in Saky on Crimea’s western coast, where an important strategic military air base is located. While Ukraine did not claim responsibility for any strikes, its Centre for Strategic Communications reported that overnight, on 29-30 October, Ukrainian forces struck a strategic air defence facility on the western coast of Crimea.
• STRIKES: Meanwhile, the Ukrainian energy company DTEK reported that Russian forces struck a thermal power plant in one of Ukraine’s frontline regions late on 30 October. While DTEK did not specify the region, Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko revealed that Russian forces shelled an energy facility in Donetsk oblast, meaning it is the most likely region. The attack caused electricity and water supply cuts. Russia will increasingly seek to target Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the coming cold season to undermine the country’s socio-economic resilience. Ukraine’s air force reported that overnight on 30-31 October, Russia launched two Shahed-136/131 drones and one Kh-59 missile. Ukrainian air defences reportedly destroyed the drones.
• UNREST: On 30 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West and Ukraine of orchestrating anti-Jewish rioting in the Muslim-majority Dagestan Republic on 29 October. Putin did not provide evidence to support his claims, which were likely designed to deflect blame from the Russian authorities for failing to prevent the storming of Makhachkala Uytash Airport (MCX). For more information, see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 30 October 2023. While Ukraine has insisted that it was not involved in the unrest, which is highly likely the case, Moscow’s accusations were anticipated. Earlier on 30 October, Dagestan’s governor, Sergei Melikov, claimed that Russia’s ‘enemies’ are attempting to destabilise Dagestan, including by using methods to incite inter-ethnic and inter-faith tensions.
• UNREST: Putin alleged that Ukraine, under the guidance of Western intelligence services, was responsible for the incident, and that it formed part of an effort to ‘instigate pogroms in Russia’. Putin instructed regional authorities to take firm actions to protect citizens’ rights and inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony. While he did not specify what these actions entail, reports indicate that in several regions of Russia, mainly in the south, there was a widespread outage of the messaging service Telegram after the riots. This indicates a clear readiness to crack down on social networks to mitigate the risk of further unrest, with Putin’s remarks reflecting concerns around ethno-religious tensions in Muslim-majority regions.
• UNREST: On 31 October, Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Muslim-majority Chechen Republic, ordered the security forces to shoot protesters to prevent unrest. Russian state-media quoted Kadyrov as saying that this would deter people from participating in riots and that he had told representatives of Russia’s internal affairs ministry and national guard (Rosgvardia) to detain participants of unauthorised rallies. Such orders are likely aimed at deterring turnouts at future protests. While the Russian security services are unlikely to resort to such measures as a first course of action, increased repression against rioters is likely; inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions and violence will present risks across the Northern Caucasus, especially for the duration of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
• AID: On 30 October, US House Republicans, led by the recently elected Speaker Mike Johnson, unveiled a USD 14.3 bn aid plan for Israel, further complicating assistance for Ukraine. The package splits the assistance for Israel from a wider funding request from President Joe Biden that combines aid for Israel with that for Ukraine. Johnson’s plan envisions paying for the aid for Israel by cutting Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRS). The House is likely to vote on the measure on 2 November. Ultimately, the move will likely further stall the prospect of US aid to Ukraine in the near term.
• NEGOTIATIONS: Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu claimed on 30 October that Russia is ready for realistic discussions on resolving the conflict and its co-existence with the West. Shoigu stated that Moscow remains prepared to participate in political discussions on a post-conflict settlement if the ‘necessary conditions’ are created. While the minister did not provide further clarification on what this would involve, his remarks are highly unlikely to point to a significant policy shift by Moscow to begin peace talks with Kyiv. Russia and Ukraine are highly unlikely to enter into negotiations to end the war in the short term, despite the slowing down of advances on both sides.
OFFENSIVES: On 30 October, Time magazine published an article citing unnamed members of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration as saying that a major change in Ukraine’s military strategy is needed. One of Zelensky’s close aides reportedly stated that one minister would need to be fired alongside a ‘senior general in charge of the counter-offensive’ to ensure accountability for Ukraine’s slow progress during this year’s counter-offensive. The counter-offensive has ground almost to a halt in recent weeks, with only marginal advances reported on the southern Zaporizhzhia frontline as well as around Bakhmut. While Kyiv is clearly determined to continue the offensive through the winter, Ukrainian forces are losing momentum as Russian defences continue to hold. Therefore, serious questions are being asked as to what Ukrainian forces can realistically achieve in 2024.
Zelensky’s close aides indicated that there are widespread (and worsening) morale and materiel issues within the Ukrainian armed forces that are limiting the scope for further advances. Shortages of ammunition remain a perennial issue. Given the failure of European and Western allies to ramp up 155mm artillery round production, such shortages will likely continue into early 2024 and undermine Ukrainian options to launch further counter-offensive operations. However, shortages of personnel are becoming even more acute in certain branches of the Ukrainian armed forces. While official casualty rates are classified, Ukraine has lost well over 100,000 personnel in the war. Efforts to mobilise sufficient personnel to sustain military operations means that the average age of a Ukrainian soldier is now 43 years old; shortages will only worsen as the war protracts into 2024.
These issues expose a wider incongruence between orders from the presidential administration and the military’s ability or willingness to undertake said orders. TIME cited a senior Ukrainian military officer who claimed that in early October, Kyiv demanded an operation to retake the city of Horlivka (Donetsk oblast), a large city north of Donetsk city that Russian forces have controlled since 2014. Ukrainian officers reportedly responded to the order, asking ‘with what?’, citing a lack of not only ammunition and weapons, but also personnel.
Ultimately, as the winter approaches, onlookers will begin to conclude that the Ukrainian counter-offensive has effectively failed to achieve its principal objectives. These are namely the reclamation of occupied territory and to prove to the world that Ukraine can win this war, not merely to deprive Russia of its own victory. Amid ongoing concerns around corruption, the perceived failure of the counter-offensive will in turn reinforce ongoing arguments within the US Congress and other national capitals that Ukraine cannot win this war. This will drive concerns that spending significant sums of money and drawing down domestic military stockpiles to support the war effort is no longer beneficial – particularly given other global crises, such as the Israel-Hamas war. While Western military and financial support is set to continue in the short term, the issues cited above and their impact on Western support aligns with our base case scenario that, over the next 12 months, the Russo-Ukrainian war will protract into an open-ended attritional conflict.
• BAKHMUT: Geolocated footage indicates that Russian forces made very marginal territorial gains near Bakhmut on 27 October. The footage indicates that Russian forces advanced west of Kurdyumivka, located 8 miles (13km) south-west of Bakhmut. Neither Ukrainian nor Russian forces made other confirmed advances over the past 72 hours. A prominent Russian milblogger reported that Ukrainian forces achieved initial success in crossing the railway to the north of Klishchiivka around 4 miles (6km) south of Bakhmut, but were eventually repelled by Russian forces. The fighting on this portion of the front remains highly fluid with extremely limited confirmed advances by either side. On 27 October, a Ukrainian commander reported that Ukrainian forces have sometimes advanced just 10 meters per day near Bakhmut, as Russia continues to deploy significant quantities of personnel as well as artillery and drones to blunt Ukrainian advances.
• DONETSK: On 28 October, the UK Defence Intelligence (DI) reported that Russian forces have likely suffered the highest casualty rates of 2023 in the Avdiivka sector. According to the DI, Russian milbloggers have been heavily criticising the Russian command’s highly attritional tactics. On 28 October, Ukrainian defence minister Rustem Umerov told US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin that Russia has lost around 4,000 soldiers in the sector since it initiated a major offensive in mid-October. On 29 October, Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun stated that Russia has deployed 40,000 personnel in the Avdiivka sector and continues to transfer personnel, underscoring Moscow’s commitment to sustain the offensive tempo in the sector despite the high attrition rate. Meanwhile, geolocated footage from 29 October shows Russian forces advanced south of Kransnohorivka, directly south of Donetsk city.
• OSKIL-KREMINNA: Nothing significant to report
• SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report
• KHERSON: Geolocated footage posted on 27 October indicates that Ukrainian forces made a marginal southward advance from underneath the Antonivsky road bridge on the left bank of the Dnieper River in Kherson oblast. The extent of the advance remains unclear but was likely only a marginal movement given the territory here is essentially a marsh area. Separately, Russian forces have continued efforts to repel Ukrainian forces from the settlement of Krynky on the left bank of the river, located around 23 miles (37km) north-east of Kherson city. Geolocated footage posted on 28 October indicates that Russian forces likely made some progress in advancing to the east of the settlement. However, at least two prominent Russian milbloggers reported on 29 and 30 October that Ukrainian forces maintain a presence in the small town, the extent of which remains unclear.
• STRIKES: Governor of Odesa oblast Oleh Kiper reported that a Russian missile strike earlier on 30 October damaged a building and equipment in a shipyard in Odesa. Ukraine’s Air Force reported that early on 30 October air defences intercepted 12 Shahed-136/131 and two Kh-59 cruise missiles launched by Russia. Overnight on 28-29 October, Russian forces reportedly launched five Shahed drones and one Kh-59 cruise missile. The drones were intercepted while the missile reportedly targeted the Myrhorod district of Poltava oblast. Ukraine’s Air Force claimed that air defences intercepted three of the four Iskander-K ballistic missiles and that the fourth missile missed its target overnight on 27-28 October.
• STRIKES: Meanwhile, Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed that air defences intercepted 36 Ukrainian drones over the Black Sea and Crimea early on 29 October. A Russian Telegram channel reported that a drone strike damaged the Afipsky oil refinery in Russia’s Krasnodar Krai. Furthermore, an unnamed source of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) told Ukrainska Pravda that the SBU was responsible for the strike against the refinery. The source explained that the refinery produced over seven m tonnes of aviation fuel used by Russia’s military aviation. In May, Russian authorities claimed that a drone strike caused a fire at the Afipsky oil refinery. As such, the strikes likely show that Kyiv aims to undermine Russia’s ability to refuel its military aircraft amid broader efforts to degrade Russia’s military aviation capabilities.
• STRIKES: On 27 October, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the CEO of Ukraine’s national grid operator Ukrenergo, stated that Russia’s 2022-2023 winter strike campaign damaged 70 large energy facilities. Russia will most likely intensify strikes against Ukrainian energy infrastructure in the coming winter months. In October, Yuriy Ihnat, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Air Force, warned that although Ukraine has been reinforcing the protection of critical infrastructure, it will remain vulnerable to Russia’s winter strike due to insufficient air defences. On 28 October, the New York Times (NYT) reported that the US is pursuing the ‘FrankenSAM’ programme, which combines Western defence assets with Soviet-era munitions and equipment, likely to address Kyiv’s growing need for air defences. For instance, the FrankenSAM programme will produce hybrid air defence systems combining US-made RIM-7 Sea Sparrow with Soviet-era Buk launchers. The programme will reportedly also combine US-made Sidewinder missiles with Soviet-era radars, which are readily available in Ukraine. US defence official Laura K. Cooper explained that the FrankenSAM programme contributes to ‘filling critical gaps in Ukraine’s air defences’.
• ELECTIONS: Almost two thirds of Ukrainians (62%) believe that elections should only be held after the war finishes, according to a survey published on 24 October by the International Republican Institute (IRP). Just 22% of respondents would prefer for elections to take place as early as March 2024, when Ukraine would ordinarily hold presidential elections. Meanwhile, 39% of Ukrainians surveyed said parliamentary elections should be held in the current war-time conditions, though just 20% believe a presidential vote should take place – likely reflecting the extremely high approval ratings of president Volodymyr Zelensky. Parliamentary elections should have been held no later than 29 October, as per the country’s constitution. However, it prohibits elections being conducted under a state of martial law, which has been extended since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
• AID: The recently appointed US House Speaker Mike Johnson said on 29 October that aid to Israel will be considered in a stand-alone measure this week. This is despite US President Joe Biden’s push for combined funding that would also include Ukraine. Johnson said that the Israel-Hamas conflict takes the ‘immediate attention’, adding that the funding should therefore be separated and passed through. Johnson did not explicitly mention Russia’s war in Ukraine, but said there are other global crises that need to be addressed and will be, likely in reference to providing additional assistance for Kyiv. We previously assessed that there is a moderate to likely possibility that additional aid for Ukraine will be delayed if the funding request is divided.
• MOBILISATION: Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, disclosed on 30 October that the ministry is working on a pilot project of ‘smart mobilisation’. Fedorov stated that it wants to launch an initiative that allows a person to choose on their own volition which speciality for which they would like to be recruited. The minister stated that a pilot scheme will be run first for drone operators, with people eligible to choose whether they would like to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or to work in a company specialising in attack drones.
• MOBILISATION: Fedorov noted that a person who wants to be mobilised will not be required to go to a military registration and enlistment office under this programme. People will be required to take an online test and go to a recruiter who will outline where this person can serve. Should the volunteer meet the necessary requirements, they will then undergo professional training before being sent to the battlefield. The project is planned to be launched in a month or two and underscores Ukraine’s efforts to address manpower shortages by encouraging citizens to choose to mobilise rather than attempt to evade it. The scheme could realistically incentivise those previously hesitant of enlisting in Ukraine’s armed forces, though Kyiv is likely to continue facing personnel shortages for the foreseeable future.
NATIONALISATION: On 29 October, the chairman of Russia’s State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, warned that Moscow would seize the assets of ‘unfriendly’ EU states if the bloc uses frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine further. Volodin implied that Russian retaliation would be more costly to the EU if it moved to use frozen Russian assets for such purposes.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on 27 October that the EU executive is working on a proposal to pool some of the earnings from frozen Russian state assets to assist Ukraine and its post-war reconstruction. Von der Leyen said the value of frozen Russian sovereign assets is EUR 211 bn (USD 223.15 bn). The commission reportedly intends to put forward legal proposals in early December. However, Ukraine is unlikely to receive the funds in the near term if the bloc progresses with the move.
While Volodin’s threats are certainly aimed at dissuading the EU, they remain credible given Moscow’s de-facto nationalisation of Western joint ventures and subsidiaries in recent months. The assets associated with ‘unfriendly’ EU countries, particularly those linked to strategic industries such as energy, will likely be at heightened risk of confiscation in a tit-for-tat response in the coming months. For further analysis, please see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 1 August 2023.
*Russia: Assets of ‘unfriendly’ EU countries will be more vulnerable to confiscation in coming months. On 29 October, the chairman of Russia’s State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, warned that Moscow would seize the assets of ‘unfriendly’ EU states if the bloc uses frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine further. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on 27 October that the EU executive is working on a proposal to pool some of the earnings from frozen Russian state assets to assist Ukraine and its post-war reconstruction. Von der Leyen said the value of frozen Russian sovereign assets is EUR 211 bn (USD 223.15 bn). While Volodin’s threats are certainly aimed at dissuading the EU, they remain credible given Moscow’s de-facto nationalisation of Western corporations in recent months (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 1 August 2023). The assets associated with ‘unfriendly’ EU countries, particularly those linked to strategic industries such as energy, will likely be at a heightened risk of confiscation in a tit-for-tat response in the coming months. (Source: Sibylline)
02 Nov 23. Biden Administration Announces New Security Assistance for Ukraine. Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced additional security assistance to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This includes the drawdown of security assistance from DoD inventories valued at up to $125m to meet Ukraine’s immediate battlefield needs, as well as $300 million in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses over the long term.
This announcement includes the Biden Administration’s fiftieth tranche of equipment to be provided from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021, including additional air defense capabilities, artillery ammunition, anti-tank weapons, and other equipment to help Ukraine counter Russia’s ongoing war of aggression. This package utilizes assistance previously authorized for Ukraine during prior fiscal years under Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA). Specific capabilities in this package include:
1. Additional munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS);
2. Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
3. 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
4. Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
5. Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems;
6. More than 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades;
7. Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing;
8. M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel munitions;
9. 12 trucks to transport heavy equipment;
10. Cold weather gear; and
11. Spare parts, maintenance, and other field equipment.
Under USAI, the DoD will provide Ukraine with:
1. Additional laser-guided munitions to counter Unmanned Aerial Systems.
Unlike Presidential Drawdown, which draws equipment down from DoD stocks as well as defense services, education, and training, USAI is an authority under which the United States procures capabilities from industry for Ukraine. This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process through USAI to provide additional capabilities to Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
This package makes use of $300 million of USAI provided under the Continuing Resolution that Congress recently passed, and exhausts the remaining USAI funds currently available to support Ukraine. The Administration continues to call on Congress to meet its commitment to the people of Ukraine by passing additional funding to ensure Ukraine has what it needs to defend itself against Russia’s brutal war of choice.
The United States remains committed to working with some 50 Allies and partners who are providing Ukraine with the capabilities it needs to defend itself now and deter Russian aggression well into the future. Our allies and partners have stepped up to provide approximately $35 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. Under the leadership of the United States, this global coalition has enabled Ukraine’s courageous forces to successfully defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence and take back more than half of the territory seized by Russian invaders.
Security assistance for Ukraine is a smart investment in our national security. It helps to prevent a larger conflict in the region and deters potential aggression elsewhere, while strengthening our defense industrial base and creating highly skilled jobs for the American people. This security assistance package signals the United States’ continued commitment to support the Ukrainian people in the face of Russian aggression.
(Source: U.S. DoD)
02 Nov 23. Kremlin spread rumour Putin had died to ‘test his popularity.’
Ukrainian intelligence claim purposeful spread of fake news helps gauge ‘reactions of individuals, the elite and the media’
The Kremlin spread a rumour that Vladimir Putin had died to test his popularity among the Russian public, Ukraine has claimed.
Andrii Yusov, a Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman, said that a report last week by a Russian Telegram channel on the alleged demise of the president was a ploy by Moscow intended to help it tighten domestic control.
“In this way, the empire, which is built on the work of the secret services, learns how to continue to rule,” he told Ukrainian media.
The Telegram channel, General SVR, reported on Oct 27 that Putin had died and that body doubles were representing him in public.
It claimed the Russian president’s body was being stored in a freezer after his alleged demise.
The channel is renowned for its florid posts and regularly reports that Putin has died.
But, despite its reputation for fake news, General SVR’s claim of his latest demise still generated headlines around the world, forcing Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, to issue a denial.
And this, according to Mr Yusov, was all part of the Kremlin’s masterplan.
“The basic purpose of fake news is to look at how society reacts in terms of numbers and dynamics,” he said.
“[The purpose is] to look at the reactions of individuals, the elite and the media,” Mr Yusov added.
Despite the Ukrainian claim that Moscow had used General SVR to test public opinion of Putin, and some Western tabloid media reporting its posts on the Russian leader’s alleged death as “insider intelligence”, there has been no authoritative analysis linking the Kremlin to the channel.
‘Always predicting Putin is going to go’
As well as regularly reporting his death, General SVR has reported on various alleged humiliations suffered by Putin, such as falling down the stairs and soiling himself.
The General SVR Telegram channel has distanced itself from the Kremlin and instead claims to be authored by a former officer in Russia’s intelligence service.
Mark Galeotti, a Russia analyst, said that was unlikely to be the case.
He added that Western media outlets had become an easy target for fake news concerning Putin because of their fixation with the Russian leader and editors’ push for headline-grabbing stories.
Instead, posts by General SVR closely match the lurid claims of Russian political scientist Valery Solovey, who quit his lecturing job at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 2019. These claims include Putin drinking blood and taking up Shamanism.
“Solovey is always predicting that Putin is going to go any day now. Someday he will be right, on the same principle that a stopped clock is accurate two times in the day,” Prof Galeotti said.
Prof Solovey is known to be a critic of the Kremlin. He has said that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former leader of the Wagner mercenary unit, was not killed in a plane crash in August but is living on an island off Venezuela. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
02 Nov 23. National Armaments Directors Focus on Long-Term Support for Ukraine. As the conflict in Ukraine surpassed its 600th day earlier this month, National Armaments Directors from more than 40 countries, the European Union and NATO gathered in Brussels, Belgium on October 20, 2023, under the auspices of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. Meeting for the seventh time, the group was established to synchronize international efforts on industrial base and sustainment challenges in support of Ukraine.
In addition to updates on meeting near-term requirements for key capability areas—including ground-based, long-range fires; integrated air defense systems; air-to-ground capabilities; and sustainment—the session highlighted increasing focus on long-term support to Ukraine.
“Since coming together, this group of National Armaments Directors has demonstrated a unique ability to drive meaningful action and get the Ukrainian armed forces the equipment they need to defend their sovereignty,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante, who leads the forum. “But we know our work isn’t done yet as we assist Ukrainian efforts in building their future force to defend their citizens.”
NADs are particularly focused on long-term sustainment support and industrial base resilience.
“The innovation and resourcefulness the Ukrainians have demonstrated to keep equipment in the fight is nothing short of remarkable,” said Christopher Lowman, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment. “As the number of different systems and platforms donated continues to increase, employing a coordinated approach to sustaining them with our allies and partners will be critical for maximizing Ukraine’s combat power into the future.”
Within the UDCG NAD forum, development of a long-term, doctrinal sustainment strategy for Ukraine is nearing completion. Aligned with NATO standards, the strategy will touch on everything from maintenance, repair, and overhaul of equipment; expansion of, and training for, logistics information technology systems; and availability of technical data packages for spare parts.
“Whether we’re talking about maintaining an Abrams tank or F-16, these efforts will ensure appropriate support is pushed forward to enable Ukraine’s success while safeguarding against third-party transfers and protecting proprietary rights,” Lowman said. “And across the board, the sustainment work being done at the NAD level will directly support the capability coalitions being established at the ministerial level.”
At the 16th meeting of the full Contact Group on Oct. 11, 2023, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III expanded on his vision for long-term coordination of contributions in major capability areas through focused coalitions.
“We have already organized highly effective coalitions focused on Leopard tanks and F-16 training, which have marshalled resources from multiple countries,” Austin told ministers and senior defense leaders. “But now, we’re taking this concept a bit further. We’re asking countries to organize coalitions focused on wider capabilities, beyond just specific platforms.”
Additional capability coalitions currently include information technology infrastructure and demining efforts, with others expected to form in the coming weeks and months. The United States jointly lead the F-16 coalition alongside Denmark and the Netherlands.
“Just as this Contact Group surged capabilities to support Ukraine’s immediate needs, we will also organize ourselves to coordinate our investments in Ukraine’s future force,” Austin added.
At the NAD level, those efforts include exploring approaches to aid Ukraine in its efforts to expand the capacity and capability of its domestic industrial base.
“Increasing domestic production in Ukraine will have immediate operational benefits, especially when it comes to munitions and air defense capabilities,” LaPlante said, “but it will also contribute significantly to the growth of Ukraine’s economy with quality new jobs.”
From facilitating industry introductions and refining business case proposals, to determining short- and long-term objectives of the Ukrainian defense industrial base, the U.S. and its allies and partners are focused on identifying specific mechanisms to enhance industry partnership with Ukraine.
“While there are certainly some challenges we’re working through collectively, I’m encouraged by the progress being made across the interagency here in the United States as well as globally with our partners abroad,” LaPlante said. “We strongly support Ukraine’s vision for its domestic production, and I look forward to advancing the work already underway not only through the UDCG NAD forum, but through other collaborative engagements in the coming weeks as well.”
The next UDCG NAD meeting is expected to take place in December 2023. (Source: U.S. DoD)
31 Oct 23. US seeks to ramp up munitions production for Ukraine, Israel. President Joe Biden’s $106bn defense spending supplemental request to Congress aims in part to bolster munitions production capacity to continue rushing arms to Ukraine and Israel.
The Senate Appropriations Committee questioned Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a Tuesday hearing on the status of U.S. stockpiles and the workforce, supply chain and infrastructure constraints of weapons manufacturers racing to replenish them.
The Senate is formulating its supplemental spending bill encompassing both Ukraine and Israel aid, while the House is set to vote on a stand-alone Israel aid bill later this week.
“There are some limitations in terms of how quickly they can do certain things,” said Austin. “There will continue to be workforce challenges. And when you expand capacity, there’s this issue of the time it takes to build the capacity and make sure the lines are running smoothly.”
Austin noted some defense contractors have required workers to take on additional shifts to keep up with production rates.
“What they’ve done in a lot of cases to meet urgent needs is double and triple shifts so that they can in some cases crank out munitions and weapons at a much greater speed,” he said.
Austin’s comments come as Israel rapidly burns through munitions as it continues to bomb the 2.2m Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing more than 8,500 people and wounding more than 21,500, per the Gaza Health Ministry. Shortly before the hearing, Israel bombed the Jabalia refugee camp, which the Health Ministry lambasted as a “horrific massacre” that killed at least 50 people and wounded hundreds.
It is the latest of many civilian targets Israel has bombed in its campaign to destroy Hamas. Israel launched its campaign following Hamas’ massacre of approximately 1,400 Israelis and abduction of 240 hostages, per the Israel Defense Forces.
On top of that, the Biden administration has less than $5.5 bn remaining to continue transferring weapons to Ukraine as the nation’s slow-moving counteroffensive fails to retake significant tracts of territory.
Biden’s requested defense supplemental includes $44.4 bn to continue arming Ukraine and $14.3 bn in military aid for Israel. That request includes more Iron Dome interceptors to stop Hamas rockets and additional munitions for Israel to continue its bombardment of Gaza.
A large portion of the requested funding would go toward backfilling U.S. stockpiles of weapons the Biden administration has so far sent Ukraine and Israel. There’s also $3 bn requested to expand industrial base capacity.
“We simply do not have the workforce, supply chain or infrastructure necessary to meet the coming threats,” Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said at the hearing. “Building out this capacity is going to take time and resources, but we can start now by making targeted investments in our munitions production base.”
Biden’s supplemental request includes $30 bn to replenish weapons sent to Ukraine as well as funding to backfill stocks given to Israel.
“As a general rule, we’re going to do everything that we can to meet the demands that we see in both Ukraine and Israel,” Austin said.
The U.S. and NATO continue to face a shortage of 155mm ammunition and are providing those shells both to Ukraine and Israel.
“I’m hearing from industry that they are currently lacking the investment to help quickly accelerate rocket motor production for the [Iron Dome] interceptor missiles to meet the increased demand,” Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said at the hearing.
Boozman asked Austin if the supplemental bill should include infrastructure investment to help expand rocket motor production for Iron Dome interceptor missiles.
Austin declined to answer at the hearing and noted he would respond to Boozman in writing, citing the fact that he used to work at RTX, formerly Raytheon Technologies, which coproduces the Iron Dome interceptor with Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
The latest Israel-Hamas war is by far the most destructive, with Israel noting approximately a week after it began its campaign against Gaza that it had dropped more than 6,000 bombs in six days — more than the U.S.-led coalition dropped during any month of its counter-Islamic State campaign.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said at the hearing Israel has stopped disclosing the number of munitions it has used. He stressed the need to distinguish between Hamas and Palestinian civilians and for Israel to comply with the laws of war.
“Some members of Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s coalition have indicated that all Palestinians in Gaza are responsible for the horrors visited upon Israel,” he said. “And Israel has imposed, as you know, a full siege on the people of Gaza, cutting off most water, food, medicine, electricity and fuel shipments.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
01 Nov 23. Moscow urged to investigate missile attack on cafe that killed 59 civilians. Russia has been urged to investigate a missile strike on a Ukrainian village that killed 59 civilians. The attack on a cafe in the village of Groza in early October was one of the deadliest strikes of the war, killing 36 women, 22 men and an 8-year-old boy at a funeral wake. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said it “has reasonable grounds to believe” that a Russian Iskander missile — a short-range precision-guided ballistic weapon — probably caused the blast. The extensive damage and weapon debris at the scene led investigators to that conclusion, the report said. The incident “serves as a stark reminder of the human cost of the war in Ukraine and underscores the necessity of holding perpetrators accountable,” said Danielle Bell, head of the UN mission in Ukraine. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
31 Oct 23. Australian Support to Ukraine Includes C-UAS from DroneShield.
In collaboration with the local defense industry, the Australian Government is extending its military support to Ukraine with an additional allocation of $20m. This assistance includes a range of Australian-manufactured equipment designed to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities, such as demining tools, portable X-ray machines, a 3D metal printer, and anti-drone systems.
These cutting-edge items are produced by four forward-thinking Australian defense companies: DroneShield, Micro-X, Minelab, and SPEE3D. With this new allocation, Australia’s total support to Ukraine reaches approximately $910m, encompassing the provision of Bushmaster-protected mobility vehicles, heavy artillery, essential ammunition, and contributions to the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund.
Furthermore, the Royal Australian Air Force has deployed an E-7A Wedgetail aircraft to Germany as part of a multinational effort to safeguard a crucial conduit for international humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine. This deployment fulfills a commitment made by the government ahead of the Prime Minister’s attendance at the NATO Summit in Vilnius.
The aircraft has landed at Ramstein Air Base and will be stationed there for six months under Operation Kudu. Up to 100 Australian Defense Force personnel have accompanied the aircraft, although they will not participate in the conflict in Ukraine. Importantly, they will not enter Ukrainian, Russian, or Belarusian airspace during this deployment.
The Albanese Government remains steadfast in its commitment to collaborate with the Ukrainian government and international partners to provide assistance and urge Russia to withdraw from Ukraine promptly. (Source: https://cuashub.com/)
31 Oct 23. Slovenian Firm Quietly Provides Surveillance Drones to Ukraine. Slovenian drone maker C-Astral recently provided reconnaissance systems to Ukrainian troops – its unmanned aerial system Belin — otherwise known as Bramor C4EYE — made their way to the embattled country.
“It [the drone] is in fact being used by the Ukrainians and has been for some time,” Jernej Moderc, a Bramor drone pilot at C-Astral, told Defense News at the GSOF Symposium held Oct. 24-26 in Brno. “We do have some communication channels with the troops using them to get feedback and make improvements accordingly.”
Moderc could not disclose when and how many of the drones reached Ukraine, but did say it was fairly recent and involved several systems.
It’s unclear whether the systems were sent directly and solely by the company, or if the Slovenian Defence Ministry provided the technology from its own inventory, as the country operates the drone type.
The ministry declined to comment for this story. And in a follow-up statement to Defense News, C-Astral said it did not directly provide drones to Ukraine but rather donated them through a Slovenian government initiative.
The Belin drone is entirely manufactured and assembled in Slovenia by C-Astral. It is an unarmed aircraft primarily intended for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions as well as to follow convoys.
Launched from a catapult, the system has a maximum endurance of three hours and can operate out to a distance of 40 kilometers (25 miles) via a line-of-sight communications link.
The company said electronic warfare has proved the main challenge for its drones in Ukraine, with another C-Astral drone operator and trainer noting the need to bolster the resilience of the aircraft navigation systems against spoofing or to overcome a loss of signal.
“Even if you have replacements available, a drone’s global navigation satellite system is often susceptible to being jammed above enemy territory or its communications link with a pilot may be cut out,” the individual told Defense News, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. “We’re also seeing instances of friendly electronic warfare, where Ukraine’s electronic warfare systems will jam their own drones, hindering effective command and control.”
Since its debut in 2007, C-Astral’s defense business has expand. The company’s co-founder, Marko Peljhan, told the Slovenian media outlet Bloomberg Adria in July that the firm saw a 262% increase in its 2022 revenue. Revenue from sales rose from €1.5 m to €4.07 m (U.S. $1.6m to U.S. $4.31m) that year, Peljhan had explained. He partly attributed these figures to a surge in demand for drones since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
In August, Slovenia and Montenegro signed an agreement to jointly procure the Belin drone. The contract, worth an estimated €3 m, will see the first units delivered to Montenegro next year, according to company representatives. (Source: UAS VISION/Defense News)
31 Oct 23. Russian losses ‘pass 300,000’ amid ‘major’ eastern offensive. Russia has lost more than 300,000 troops since beginning its invasion of Ukraine in February last year, Kyiv has claimed.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces on Tuesday said the Russian military had lost 300,810 personnel in combat.
As well as high numbers of casualties among its soldiers, Ukraine claims Russia has lost more than 5,000 tanks.
Earlier this week the Ministry of Defence said it believed Russia could well be suffering its heaviest losses this year as it launches a “major” assault on the eastern town of Avdiivka.
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
30 Oct 23. Dutch F-16s for Ukraine to arrive in Romania within two weeks-Rutte. The first U.S.-made F-16 combat aircraft the Netherlands is donating Ukraine will arrive in Romania’s training centre within two weeks, outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Monday.
“I expect the Patriot missiles to be delivered shortly, to aid Ukraine in the upcoming winter. And the same speed applies to the F-16s,” Rutte during a video conference with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy posted on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
“The first ones will be shipped to the training centre in Romania within the next two weeks so that day we will get ready for further training,” he added.
Denmark, Norway and Belgium have also announced they will give F-16 jets to Ukraine.
“What is happening now in Gaza and the terrorist attack on Israel and all the follow-up from that will not, shall not and cannot distract us from what is happening between you and Russia, the fact that you are fighting off the Russia aggression,” Rutte said.
“We have to make sure that the world is able to focus both on Ukraine and of course is involved very much of what is happening now in the Middle East.” (Source: Reuters)
30 Oct 23. Ukraine Reveals Ratel Small UGV Attack Platform. Initially reported in Business Insider, Ukraine has unveiled a small uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV) attack platform named Ratel S or Honeybadger.
Similar in concept to the custom-built drones built to carry and deliver military ordnance, the Honeybadger small UGV attack platform is designed to carry anti-tank mines or other explosives to destroy or damage Russian tanks and equipment from a safe location.
“The main idea is that the robot is used as a mobile warhead that carries anti-tank mines or other explosive devices,” said Brave1 spokesperson Viktoriia Kovalchuk.
The Ukrainian-built small UGV attack platform can carry up to 77 pounds at a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour. The drone can run for 40-50 minutes at an average speed or up to two hours at a slower speed. In a Telegram post, Ukrainian minister Mykhailo Federov reported that the platform has a range of around 3.7 miles. (Source: https://cuashub.com/)
26 Oct 23. EU delivers only a third of one m artillery shells promised to Ukraine. The European Union has delivered only a third of the one million artillery shells it had promised to Ukraine, as the bloc’s plan to ramp up munition production falls behind schedule.
Brussels has supplied Kyiv with about 300,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition since signing off on the scheme to bolster its dwindling stocks earlier this year, Bloomberg reported.
Under the plan, member states were first encouraged to dip into their existing stocks before increasing industrial capacity and clubbing together to sign joint orders large enough to convince manufacturers to ramp up production.
Shipments were scheduled to be made over a 12-month period, with the final shell set to be handed to the Ukrainians in March next year.
But more than six months on, the initiative has delivered about 30 per cent of its overall target to date.
Based on current progress and the number of contracts signed, it risks falling short of the promised amount of shells, Bloomberg reported.
The report comes amid mounting fears that the war between Israel and Hamas could divert military aid and attention away from the war in Ukraine.
The Pentagon is planning to ship tens of thousands of artillery rounds to Israel that had been destined for Ukraine in the wake of Hamas’s Oct 7 attack, according to a report by Axios, a US news agency.
At the same time, the US has been encouraging Europe to step up its production of 155mm shells to help Kyiv.
On Thursday, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, was set to urge European leaders to be steadfast in their support for his country in a video address to a summit in Brussels.
‘We support Ukraine for as long as it takes’
Arriving at the summit, Charles Michel, the European Council’s president, said: “It’s key for us to make it very clear we support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
“We will discuss how we can develop more support.”
The EU hopes to sign off another €500m (£435m) to fund member states’ weapons deliveries to Kyiv.
There will also be discussions over €20bn in long-term support for Ukraine’s military, which is being held up by a number of opponents.
French officials have argued the support must be contingent on only weapons produced in the EU being delivered to Ukraine, while eastern and Baltic leaders have said excluding US and UK arms would slow down deliveries.
Future aid packages in doubt
The emergence of Robert Fico as Slovakia’s new prime minister has also thrown the bloc’s future aid packages into doubt, after he said he would not back further support for Kyiv or sanctions against Russia.
Mr Fico campaigned heavily before his September election victory on a pledge to halt his country’s military aid to Ukraine and make its foreign policy independent of Brussels. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
27 Oct 23. Ukraine develops unmanned mine detector. Ukrainian innovators from the Brave1 defence technology cluster are developing an unmanned mine detector called ST-1.
According to Mykhailo Fedorov, minister of digital transformation for Ukraine on 27 October, the mine detector autonomously searches for mines and works, on average, four times faster than a human.
This will “significantly speed up the process of demining Ukrainian territories and make it safer. For example, sappers of the State Emergency Service, the Armed Forces, and the National Police will be able to control a drone and search for mines from a safe place”, Fedorov said.
ST-1 features sensors and an inductor that allows it to fly around obstacles at low altitude as well as a microcomputer, which processes and transmits data to soldiers in real time. The system is being tested in the field and the team is gathering feedback, adding improvements, and preparing to scale production, he added. (Source: Janes)
30 Oct 23. Russia’s Shoigu accuses West of seeking to expand Ukraine war to Asia-Pacific. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the West wants to expand the conflict in the Ukraine to the Asia-Pacific region, Russian state media reported, citing comments made at a Beijing defence forum on Monday.
Speaking at the Xiangshan Forum, China’s biggest military diplomacy event, Shoigu said NATO is covering up a build-up of forces in the Asia-Pacific region with an “ostentatious desire for dialogue”, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
Shoigu said NATO countries were promoting an arms race in the region, increasing their military presence and the frequency and scale of military drills there.
U.S. forces will use information exchanges with Tokyo and Seoul on missile launches to deter Russia and China, Shoigu said. He also accused Washington of trying to use climate change and natural disasters as an excuse for “humanitarian interventions”.
Shoigu said the emergence of new security blocs such as the Quad and AUKUS undermined the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and nuclear non-proliferation efforts in the region.
At the same time, he said, Russia’s move to revoke its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty did not mean the end of the agreement, and Russia was not lowering its threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.
“We are only seeking to restore parity with the United States, who have not ratified this treaty,” Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Shoigu as saying. “We are not talking about its destruction.”
Shoigu said that Moscow was ready for talks on the post-conflict settlement of the Ukraine crisis on further ‘co-existence’ with the West, but that Western countries needed to stop seeking Russia’s strategic defeat.
Making clear the conditions for such talks were not in place yet, Shoigu said: “It is also important to ensure equal relations between all the nuclear powers and permanent United Nations Security Council members who carry special responsibility for upholding peace and global stability.”
27 Oct 23. Denmark Donates Military Equipment to Ukraine for DKK 3.7bn.
Denmark sends a military donation of DKK 3.7bn (approx. $522m–Ed.) to Ukraine. The donation includes tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery ammunition, drones and small arms.
The government has decided to send another donation package of military equipment to Ukraine. Donation package XIII contains, among other things, artillery, BMP-2 armored vehicles, T-72EA tanks and armored engineer and recovery vehicles. The latter is financed in cooperation with Germany.
These are materiel and types of ammunition that are in demand by Ukraine and are of crucial importance for Ukraine to maintain its land military combat power.
Donation package XIII also provides support for NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package and the EU’s joint procurement of artillery ammunition.
“I met with my Ukrainian colleague on Tuesday in Kyiv and was updated partly on the situation in Ukraine and partly on Ukraine’s needs in the fight against the Russian invasion. It is on the basis of ongoing talks with the Ukrainians that the thirteenth and comprehensive Danish donation package has been put together”, says Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen.
“Today’s donation confirms that Ukraine can count on Denmark’s unwavering support in their fight for freedom. This is support that is crucial for Ukraine to continue the fight. The donation also sends an important signal to both Ukraine and Russia that we do not lose focus, even though much of the world’s attention these days is directed at Israel and Palestine,” says Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen.
On the basis of Ukraine’s demand for additional 155mm artillery ammunition, donation package XIII also proposes to donate a larger quantity of propellant charges and stun tubes from the Defense’s own stocks. The Defense Command has assessed that the donation will not have immediate consequences for the organization of the Armed Forces.
Donation package XIII is financed by the Ukraine Fund, which the government established in March 2023 with support from the SF, DD, LA, K, RV, DF and NB political parties. M (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com) (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Denmark Ministry of Defence; issued Oct. 26, 2023)
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