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Military And Security Developments
- BAKHMUT: Geolocated footage posted on 9 November indicates that Russian forces likely marginally advanced in the direction of Klischiivka, located four miles (7km) south-west of Bakhmut. The advance comes after the Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces significantly intensified ground attacks near Bakhmut between 8 and 9 November. In recent days, Russian milbloggers have widely reported unspecified Russian advances at Andriivka, the Berkhivka Reservoir and Klischiivka, though these remain unconfirmed.
- DONETSK: On 9 November, Ukraine’s Tavriisk Grouping of Forces spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun reported that Russian forces have intensified aviation operations near Marinka and Avdiivka. Russian forces have also continued ground attacks in both directions, with the Ukrainian General Staff reporting that Ukrainian forces repelled 7 attacks near Avdiivka and 23 attacks near Marinka. Meanwhile, earlier today (10 November) a prominent Russian milblogger reported that Russian forces had entered the village of Stepove, located five miles (8km) north-west of Avdiivka, though we cannot confirm this.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Geolocated footage from 9 November indicates that Russian forces made marginal progress south of Pershotravneve, located 15 miles (24km) east of Kupiansk (Kharkiv oblast). On 9 November, a Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces made tactical progress near Synkivka and Petropavlivka, located around five miles (8km) north-east and four miles (7km) east of Kupiansk. Another milblogger claimed on 9 November that Russian troops captured unspecified positions near the Serebrianske forest. However, we cannot confirm these claims. Russian sources consistently exaggerate the extent of their advances, partly to draw Ukrainian forces away from more critical frontline locations.
- SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report
- KHERSON: Nothing significant to report
- CRIMEA: Ukraine’s military intelligence (GUR) confirmed that on 10 November Ukrainian forces struck two high-speed landing crafts near Chornomorske (Crimea). The GUR stated that the targeted vessels were Project 11770 Serna-class boats carrying crew and armoured vehicles. GUR footage of the attack clearly indicates that it was carried out with maritime drones. On 4 November, a Ukrainian missile strike damaged a Project 22800 Karakurt-class Kalibr missile carrier corvette. It is increasingly clear that Kyiv is systematically degrading Russian military capabilities in Crimea, which undermines its operations in the Black Sea and its long-term ability to defend the peninsula. The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD), reported that air defences in Crimea intercepted two drones on 10 November.
- STRIKES: Ukraine’s Air Force reported that early on 10 November, Russia launched six Shahed-136/131 drones, one Kh-31 missile and one Kh-59 missile. Air defences reportedly intercepted five drones and the Kh-59 missile in Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mykolaiv and Poltava oblasts. No further details were provided.
- ECONOMY: On 9 November, Ukraine’s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, approved the state budget for 2024. Estimated budget revenues were increased from USD 610 million (UAH 22 billion) to USD 49 billion (UAH 1.77 trillion). Meanwhile, expenditures remained relatively unchanged at USD 93 billion (UAH 3.35 trillion). Ukraine’s Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said the priorities of the state budget include strengthening defence capability, protecting the population, supporting veterans, raising social standards and economic recovery. He said expenditures on security and defence will not be lower than in the 2023 budget. Approximately USD 47 billion (UAH 1.7 trillion) will be allocated for defence and security – 22.1% of Ukraine’s GDP.
- ECONOMY: Although the deficit was reduced by USD 610 million (UAH 22 billion), Ukraine will still face a significant budgetary deficit of about USD 44 billion (UAH 1.57 trillion). Kyiv also reduced its necessary external borrowing from USD 42.9 billion to USD 41 billion following revised revenues and negotiations with the IMF. However, this is still a significant sum indicating Ukraine’s ongoing reliance on foreign support, which could realistically be harder to reach in 2024 should donors or Western states be required to fund other priorities or experience ‘war fatigue’.
- BORDERS: On 9 November, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service (DPSU) reported that approximately 1,700 trucks have been prevented from crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border as a result of an ongoing protest at three border checkpoints by Polish truck drivers. The protest has been ongoing since 6 November on the Polish side of the Yavhodyn-Dorohusk, Rava-Ruska-Hrebenne and Krakivets-Korczowa border checkpoints. The protesters are allowing military aid, humanitarian aid, private cars and buses to cross. However, the DPSU stated that the protest could disrupt the delivery of humanitarian aid as the partial border blockade has slowed all forms of traffic. Attempts to negotiate with the protest organisers have so far failed; the protest will likely persist in the coming days.
BLACK SEA: Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry reported on 9 November that maritime traffic continues to and from Ukrainian ports in Odesa oblast. Kyiv is clearly attempting to reassure crew and vessels that maritime traffic has not been impeded after a Russian anti-radar missile hit a civilian vessel in the Black Sea Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi on 8 November (see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 9 November 2023).
The ministry said six vessels carrying 231,000 tonnes of agricultural products had left the region’s ports and were headed towards the Bosphorus. Meanwhile, five vessels were allegedly waiting to enter ports for loading. Russia has endeavoured to disrupt Ukrainian exports and undermine maritime traffic to Ukrainian ports since exiting the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) in July. However, it remains undetermined whether the civilian vessel was intentionally targeted.
On 10 November, the UK’s Defence Intelligence (DI) said that the missile was likely being used to target Ukrainian military radars in the area, which is a credible explanation. The DI said that the missile may have realistically locked onto the civilian ship’s radar in the absence of a live military radar signature. According to the DI, this would demonstrate poor weapons employment tactics by the Russian pilot who launched the missile. Tactical errors and miscalculation will likely continue to sustain operational and security risks in the north-west Black Sea, particularly around Ukrainian ports, increasing the risk of collateral damage for assets and maritime personnel.
The strike will likely deter some crew and shipowners from travelling to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in the near term, despite Kyiv’s efforts to demonstrate that traffic is flowing regardless. International media reported on 9 November that war risk insurance premiums have since risen. Maritime insurers list Ukraine as a high-risk area and an additional war risk insurance premium must typically be renewed every seven days. Vessels also have an annual war policy.
Traders are reportedly negotiating with insurance companies that have raised insurance rates for cargo and vessels for Ukrainian sea exports after the incident. However, it is uncertain how successful these discussions will be or how long they will take. The number of shipowners willing to load in Ukrainian ports has also reportedly decreased, and sea freight costs have risen. Insurance premiums will therefore likely remain elevated in the near term, while certain insurance brokers will likely be less willing or able to provide cover for such voyages
- OFFENSIVES: On 8 November, Ukrainian Secretary of National Security, Oleksiy Danilov, stated that Ukraine was making ‘great progress’ in the direction of Russian-occupied Crimea. Danilov noted that the destruction of Russian land assets on the peninsula as well as naval assets of the Black Sea Fleet represent major successes for Ukraine. Danilov’s comments are a reminder that while Ukraine’s counter-offensive has progress more slowly than was anticipated, its long-range strike campaign continues to successfully degrade Russian military capabilities. This is particularly true of strikes targeting Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which has been forced to move significant assets out of its headquarters at Sevastopol. On 4 November, Ukrainian forces struck a newly built Russian naval corvette, likely using a French-supplied SCALP missile. Ukraine’s offensive capability in the Black Sea, and its anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy, will likely continue to expand as the conflict persists.
- KHERSON: Ukrainian forces have likely continued to marginally advance on the left bank of the Dnieper in Kherson oblast over the past 24 hours. Two prominent Russian milbloggers reported on 9 November that Ukrainian forces managed to expand their control of the village of Krynky, the current epicentre of fighting on the left bank, located 18 miles (30km) north-east of Kherson city. Ukrainian forces also reportedly conducted attacks on the nearby settlements of Poyma, Pischanivka and Pidstepene, located 7 miles (12km), 8 miles (13km) and 10 miles (7km) east of Kherson city, respectively. These attacks are likely geared towards diverting Russian resources away from the principal effort at Krynky.
- BAKHMUT: Nothing significant to report
- DONETSK: Nothing significant to report
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Nothing significant to report
- SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report
- STRIKES: On 9 November, the Ukrainian General staff reported that Russian forces fired Kh-59 and Kh-31 missiles at Ukrainian targets. Air raid alerts were activated in Dnipropetrovsk, Kirovohrad, Kherson and Mykolaiv oblasts. Ukrainian air defences reportedly intercepted the Kh-59 missile. On the same day, the governor of Russia’s Kursk oblast, Roman Starovoyt, reported that Ukraine carried out a drone attack against a butter factory in the city of Sudzha (Kursk oblast). Starovoyt claimed that the drones dropped three cluster munitions, causing damage to the factory.
- STRIKES: On 8 November, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko reported that in recent weeks, Russia has attacked Ukrainian energy infrastructure around 60 times with various projectiles. He stressed that Ukraine increasingly needs energy equipment to replace and repair damaged infrastructure. We assess that Russia will almost certainly significantly ramp up strikes against energy infrastructure with the onset of cold weather.
- STRIKES: On 9 November, Russian lawmakers belonging to a working group on Russia’s ‘special military operation’ submitted a bill that would give private security personnel at fuel and energy facilities the right to shoot down drones. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has already signed into law a bill that gives security forces and private security organisations the right to shoot down drones when protecting assets with high requirements for ‘counter-terrorism’ activity. However, security requirements for energy facilities were not included in this legislation; the bill submitted by the lawmakers intends to fill this gap in the law, particularly since Ukraine has demonstrated increased capacity to strike Russian energy assets over the past six months.
- AID: US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby disclosed on 8 November that the US has used around 96% of the funds allocated for Ukraine since the beginning of the war. Kirby stated that more than 90% of security assistance replenishment funds have now been expended, adding that the Department of Defense (DoD) has around USD 1.1 bn of replenishment funds remaining as the winter sets in. Kirby cautioned that the ‘runway’ for providing Ukraine aid is getting shorter, reiterating the need for supplemental funding to be approved. For further analysis on US aid obstacles to Ukraine, please see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 3 November 2023 and Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 20 October 2023.
- AID: On 8 November, German defence manufacturer Rheinmetall said it had won an order from the German government to supply Ukraine with around 100,000 rounds of 120mm mortar ammunition. Rheinmetall said the order forms part of a recent EUR 400 m military aid package for Ukraine’s armed forces. It stated that delivery is due to begin shortly, though a precise timeframe was not given, and extend over the next two years. Rheinmetall stated that its mortar ammunition has optimum combat effectiveness, including during operations in difficult terrain and urban environments due to its enhanced range and heightened precision. While the provision of the additional rounds will help alleviate certain Ukrainian ammunition shortages, further supplies of 155 mm ammunition shells remain the key ammunition requirement.
- SANCTIONS: On 8 November, the UK issued new sanctions against 29 individuals and entities operating in and supporting Russia’s gold, oil and strategic sectors. The new measures target Russian oligarchs and businesses, as well as facilitators in third countries. A United Arab Emirates-based network which London said was responsible for channelling more than USD 300 m in gold revenues to Russia was targeted. The UK also enforced punitive measures against two of Russia’s largest gold producers, Nord Gold PLC and Highland Gold Mining Limited.
- SANCTIONS: Russian gold and oil are a significant form of revenue for Moscow; the precious metal was worth GBP 12.6 bn (USD 15.5 bn) to the Russian economy in 2021. Further sanctions to target Russia’s key income streams are almost certain in the coming months. Additional measures against firms helping Russia evade sanctions in third countries are also highly likely, which will drive the risk of secondary sanctions against such entities.
BLACK SEA: Ukraine’s southern military command stated on 8 November that a Russian anti-radar missile hit a Liberia-flagged civilian vessel entering a Black Sea port in Odesa oblast. A Ukrainian pilot on board the vessel was reportedly killed, while three Filipino crew members and a port worker were reportedly injured. As of writing, Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has not commented on the incident.
According to the head of the Bosphorus Observer consultancy, Yoruk Isik, the ship (identified as KMAX RULER) was loading iron in the port of Pivdennyi when it was struck. Data from MarineTraffic, which tracks the movement of ships, indicated that a Liberia-flagged vessel travelling under the same name was at the maritime border between Romania and Ukraine earlier on 8 November. Civilian ships often switch off their radars when entering Ukrainian waters, likely to avoid being targeted.
It marks the most serious Russian attack against a civilian vessel in the Black Sea since the collapse of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) in July. Russia’s MoD previously claimed that a Russian patrol ship had fired warning shots at a Palau-flagged cargo ship travelling to a Ukrainian riverine port (see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 13 August 2023). Russia said on 19 July that cargo ships bound for Ukrainian Black Sea ports would be considered as possible carriers of military cargo and therefore military targets.
While it remains uncertain whether the strike was intentional or a miscalculation, Russia’s re-militarisation of the north-west Black Sea will sustain elevated security risks for civilian vessels. A Ukrainian official stated on 8 November that Russian forces have carried out 21 targeted attacks against Ukrainian port infrastructure since Moscow’s withdrawal from the BSGI. This underscores the heightened collateral risk for vessels and crew operating therein.
*Russia-Ukraine: Strike against civilian vessel underscores ongoing security risks in Black Sea. Ukraine’s southern military command stated on 8 November that a Russian anti-radar missile hit a Liberia-flagged civilian vessel entering a Black Sea port in Odesa oblast. The ship was reportedly loading iron in the port of Pivdennyi when it was struck. A Ukrainian pilot on board the vessel was killed, while three Filipino crew members and a port worker were injured. Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) is yet to comment on the incident. It marks the most significant Russian provocation against a civilian vessel in the Black Sea since the collapse of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) in July. Russia stated on 19 July that cargo ships bound for Ukrainian Black Sea ports would be considered as possible carriers of military cargo and therefore military targets. While it is uncertain whether the strike was intentional or a miscalculation, the risk of collateral damage stemming from Russian attacks against civilian vessels operating in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports will nevertheless remain elevated.
*Ukraine: Destructive Russian cyber operations pose elevated operational risk to critical infrastructure. On 8 November, the security company Mandiant reported on novel tactics that the Russian threat actor, ‘Sandworm’ has used in attacks against Ukrainian critical infrastructure since late 2022. These tactics were used in conjunction with kinetic attacks on Ukraine, causing a power outage on a Ukrainian city’s electrical grid. Sandworm breached the grid’s operational technology (OT) network and accessed a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) management system using “living-off-the-land” (LotL) techniques. This attack configuration underscores the pervasive risk that the group poses to Ukrainian critical infrastructure, despite the growing sophistication of OT cyber defences. Attacks on OT networks can have a significant impact on business operations, exacerbating potential national security risks. Ongoing targeting by Sandworm against critical infrastructure, particularly energy generation and electricity networks, highlights the group’s rapid evolution and increasingly destructive operations. The risks are unlikely to abate as long as the war continues.
- BAKHMUT: Nothing significant to report
- DONETSK: Nothing significant to report
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Nothing significant to report
- SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report
- KHERSON: Ukrainian forces possibly slightly expanded the bridgehead on the left bank of the Dnieper River over the past 24 hours. The most intensive fighting is near the settlement of Krynky, located around 18 miles (30km) north-east of Kherson city. One prominent Russian milblogger reported on 7 November that Ukraine was able to move fresh troops into the settlement and that Ukrainian forces occupied unspecified positions to the south of Krynky; another claimed that Ukrainian forces marginally advanced towards a forested area. Numerous Russian milbloggers acknowledged that the overall zone of combat operations on the left bank is expanding, despite ongoing Russian efforts to dislodge Ukrainian forces. One Russian source stated that Ukrainian forces are attempting to expand the number of personnel on the left bank by constantly transferring small numbers of troops across the river.
- STRIKES: On 7 November, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky approved measures to reinforce the resilience of Ukraine’s energy system for the coming 2023-2024 winter. The measures were outlined by Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council (NSCDC) and likely aim to mitigate the risk of energy blackouts caused by Russia’s upcoming winter strike campaign. Ukrainian officials have consistently warned that Moscow will resume strikes against energy infrastructure during the onset of the heating season in a bid to undermine the country’s socio-economic resilience. The measures outlined by the NSCDC include contingency preparations such as developing alternative energy sources, introducing mobile power generation units and decreasing energy exports.
- STRIKES: On 7 November, the Ukrainian energy company DTEK reported that Russian forces shelled a thermal power plant along the front line. On 30 October, a similar attack was reported by DTEK, causing water and electricity cuts. These attacks indicate that Russia will likely gradually increase the shelling of energy infrastructure near the frontline in addition to its upcoming winter strike campaign.
- ASSASSINATIONS: Earlier on 8 October, Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR) claimed responsibility for the killing of Mikhail Filiponenko, a senior figure in the Russian-occupied ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ (LNR). Filiponenko, who was formerly the head of the LNR People’s Militia, was almost certainly killed as a result of a vehicle borne-IED (VBIED) in Luhansk city. The GUR stated that a special operation targeting Filiponenko was carried out in collaboration with ‘representatives of the resistance movement’, and that it would continue to target war criminals and collaborators. The killing is further evidence of Ukraine’s ongoing ability to conduct assassinations deep within Russian and Russian-occupied territory (see Sibylline Daily Ukraine Update – 24 October 2023)
- AID: US Senate Democrats on 7 November blocked a Republican-backed bill that would exclude Ukraine and provide emergency aid to Israel exclusively. Senator Patty Murray, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Ukraine can no more afford a delay in aid than Israel. US President Joe Biden on 19 October announced that he was going to send Congress an urgent funding request for aid to Israel and Ukraine, though House Republicans later approved a USD 14.3 bn military aid package for Israel alone (see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 3 November 2023). Further intra-governmental wrangling over the provision of US aid will likely continue in the near term, which will risk assistance for Ukraine being rejected or delayed.
- AID: On 8 November, Ukraine’s Air Force spokesperson, Yuriy Ihnat, reported that Romania is preparing a training facility to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets. Ihnat further stated that such training centres will be established in Ukraine, though without providing a specific timeline. He explained that pilots training in the US and in Europe will be able to train at the Romanian facility. On 25 October, the US Air Force confirmed that Ukrainian pilots have begun training on F-16 aircraft in the US Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona. While Ukrainian officials have systematically framed the provision of F-16 aircraft as a ‘game changer’ for the course of the war, a US military official warned that it may take several years before Ukrainian pilots acquire significant proficiency on F-16 planes.
- NEGOTIATIONS: On 7 November, US State Department deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel, refuted reports that the US is coaxing Ukraine into peace negotiations with Russia. Patel stated that Washington DC is not aware of any conversations with Kyiv about negotiations outside of the peace formula structure, likely referring to several meetings that have been held in recent months to promote Ukraine’s conditions for peace. Patel reiterated the US’ position that no negotiations should take place on the subject of Ukraine’s future without Kyiv’s involvement. NBC reported on 3 November that US and European officials have begun discussions with Ukraine on what peace negotiations with Russia might entail, though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and EU officials have also dismissed the report. For further analysis, please see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 6 November 2023.
EU: Earlier today, 8 October, European Commission (EC) President Ursula von Der Leyen announced that the EC has recommended opening accession negotiations with Ukraine to join the EU. Von der Leyen stated that Ukraine is undertaking significant reforms to prepare for accession while fighting an existential war. This marks a significant step towards Kyiv’s EU integration, though it is highly unlikely to become a member of the bloc for the foreseeable future.
Bloomberg reported earlier on 8 October that this recommendation will likely come with conditions. It reported that before a negotiating framework is adopted, Kyiv will need to enact legislation on minority rights, anti-corruption and regulate lobbying to align it with EU standards as part of its ‘anti-oligarch action plan’. The outlet noted that required steps also involve laws relating to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and its staffing levels, as well as its powers to crackdown on graft.
While the veracity of the report cannot be confirmed, Radio Free Europe (RFE/RL) reported on 7 October that the EC believes that Ukraine has fully met four of the seven necessary conditions to unlock accession talks. The outlet claimed to have obtained an internal commission document, which stated that the EC considers more work is needed on tackling corruption, de-oligarchisation and the protection of national minorities, aligning with Bloomberg’s report.
Ukraine’s neighbouring state Moldova also received a recommendation to begin formal negotiations on its bid to join the EU. Von der Leyen said that the pro-Western government in Chișinău has also made significant reforms despite constant destabilisation efforts from Moscow and pro-Russian actors in Moldova. RFE/RL reported that Moldova had fulfilled six out of the nine criteria needed to launch formal talks. The outlet’s insiders claimed that the EC’s report would likely recommend that Chișinău start negotiations in spring. However, it remains uncertain whether the EC would require that Moldova first implement the remaining three conditions: reforming the judiciary, fighting corruption and de-oligarchisation.
- BAKHMUT: Geolocated footage published on 6 November indicates that Russian forces made a limited northward advance near Vasyukivka, located around seven miles (12km) north of Bakhmut. Additionally, Russian milbloggers and one Ukrainian source reported that Russian forces advanced near the Berkhivka reservoir, located around three miles (5km) north-west of Bakhmut, though we cannot confirm this.
- DONETSK: Nothing significant to report
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Geolocated footage from 6 November indicates that Russian forces advanced south-west of Pershotravneve, located around 15 miles (24km) east of Kupiansk (Kharkiv oblast). On 7 November, a Russian mlilblogger claimed that Russian forces managed to occupy contested ‘grey zones’ following attacks near Synkivka and Petropavlivka, located around five miles (8km) north-east and four miles (7km) east of Kupiansk, respectively. We cannot confirm these claims (which are regularly overstated as part of Russian information operations).
- SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report
- KHERSON: Ukrainian forces continue to hold a bridgehead on the left bank of the Dnieper River in Kherson oblast, where they have likely expanded their presence. One prominent Russian milblogger reported on 7 November that while Ukrainian forces have been unable to expand the bridgehead significantly, they have increased their presence on the left bank to several hundred troops. Unconfirmed footage indicating that Ukrainian forces were able to transfer a BTR-4 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) to the left bank using a medium-sized floating transport has also caused widespread concern among the Russian milblogger community; one milblogger described Kherson as the ‘most difficult’ frontline. The Ukrainian deployment of drones, long-range artillery and electronic warfare is reportedly complicating Russian efforts to push back.
- KHERSON: Earlier on 7 November, Ukraine’s military intelligence (GUR) reported that Russian forces are laying explosives near critical infrastructure in Kherson. According to the GUR, explosives have been planted near stationary gas control points, electrical substations and other critical infrastructure. The GUR stated that this indicates Russian forces likely intend to destroy critical infrastructure in the region in the event that they are forced to retreat. While we cannot confirm this, the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in June and Russia’s strike campaign against Ukrainian energy facilities make clear that Russia is willing to destroy critical infrastructure.
- STRIKES: Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported that their air defences intercepted 17 drones over the Black Sea and Crimea earlier on 7 November. Russian media outlets reported explosions in the vicinity of the Belbek military airfield near Sevastopol and also around Saky (western Crimea), where an important military airbase is located. Explosions were also reported near the Russian city of Taganrog (Rostov oblast) near a military airfield. The governor of Rostov, Vasily Golubev, claimed that air defence systems did not function properly; the Russian MoD has not issued any statement on the incident. Although Ukrainian officials have not yet commented on these incidents, Kyiv has been targeting military airfields to degrade Russian aviation capabilities at an increasing rate.
- STRIKES: On 7 November, the UK’s Defence Intelligence (DI) reported that the Ukrainian 4 November strike against the Zaliv shipyard in Kerch (Crimea) most likely damaged a newly built Russian naval corvette. According to DI, the attack has likely forced Russia to relocate shipbuilding capabilities from the frontline; this will increase the delays in delivering new vessels.
- STRIKES: A Ukrainian defence official, Major General Vadym Skibitsky, stated on 6 November that Russia is likely to begin its strike campaign against Ukrainian energy infrastructure during the onset of cold weather. Skibitsky stated that higher levels of electricity consumption (for heating) will place a greater load on the power system, which will in turn allegedly provide more ‘favourable conditions’ to carry out strikes. Meanwhile, Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ignat stated that he anticipates that Russia will rely more heavily on Shahed drones in this winter strike campaign. Ignat noted that during the 2022-23 winter, Russia was entirely dependent on supplies from Iran. However, it is now able to produce drones domestically. He stated that while the ratio of drone and missile use was equal during the last strike campaign, more drones are likely to be used in the coming campaign.
- AID: On 6 November, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico stated that private defence companies would not be affected by his decision to end government-sponsored military aid packages being sent to Ukraine. During his inaugural meeting with Defence Minister Robert Kalinak, Fico clarified that weapons and ammunition from the Slovakian armed forces’ stores would not be sent to Ukraine under his government. However, he added that ‘nobody’ would obstruct a private company producing weapons and sending them to Ukraine.
- WAGNER GROUP: The head of Russia’s Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, announced on 6 November that a large group of former Wagner Group fighters is undergoing training with Chechen Akhmat special forces. Kadyrov stated that tactical shooting exercises, as well as training for snipers, machine gunners, sappers and artillerymen, form part of the programme. In late October, Kadyrov disclosed that 170 former Wagner Group fighters had joined Akhmat. While he claimed that former Wagner fighters have previously joined the unit, he also implied that this enlistment has increased.
- WAGNER GROUP: It is not clear how many Wagner Group mercenaries are participating in the exercises, nor if they will remain with Chechen forces after their training. It is therefore uncertain at present whether these former Wagner Group fighters will be integrated into Akhmat’s special forces and/or deployed to Ukraine in the near term. Nevertheless, it likely further underscores Moscow’s lack of centralised control over paramilitary organisations.
- BORDERS: On 6 November Ukraine’s ambassador to Poland, Vasyl Zvarych, called for an end to protests by Polish truck drivers that are blocking three border crossings with Ukraine. The protesters have partially blocked the border crossings at Dorohusk and Hrbenne-Rawa-Ruska (both Lublin voivodeship) and Korczowa (Subcarpathian voivodeship). They are demanding the reimposition of EU trade restrictions which were liberalised in 2022; they also maintain that an electronic queue system for truck drivers exiting Ukraine is causing long delays. The Polish government has stated that it cannot meet the demands of the protesters because the removal of permits for Ukrainian truck drivers is covered under EU rules.
SANCTIONS: On 6 November, the Financial Times (FT) reported that 127 UK companies have admitted breaching UK sanctions against Russia. The outlet claimed to have seen a freedom of information (FOI) request submitted to the UK’s HM Treasury which outlined the voluntarily disclosed sanctions violations as of 17 May.
According to the FT, businesses can reduce government-imposed penalties by voluntarily admitting breaches and co-operating with investigations. An insider close to the HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) revealed that the unit is not trying to ‘unduly’ penalise honest mistakes. The unnamed source said the unit takes into consideration relevant efforts and checks conducted as potential mitigating factors when assessing a breach.
The UK has sanctioned over 1,600 individuals and entities as part of Russia-related sanctions since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. A financial crime partner at a prominent multi-national law firm headquartered in the UK, which made the FOI request, stated that the breadth of London’s punitive measures has posed a significant challenge for UK-based businesses. This is due to Russia’s extensive integration within the global economy compared to other countries currently under sanctions, such as Iran and North Korea.
However, as the UK government will almost certainly continue to impose sanctions against Russia, compliance risks will highly likely persist in the medium-to-long term. The FT noted that a lack of transparency over the ultimate beneficial owners and controllers of companies, as well as Russian shareholders who are possibly involved in shell companies, make it harder for UK companies to ensure they have not breached sanctions.
Nevertheless, the report underscores the ongoing need for firms to conduct enhanced due diligence to comply with enforced sanctions and avoid potential penalties. Penalties range from no action or a warning letter to a civil penalty and possibly even criminal prosecution. Financial penalties also have no cap. Non-compliance with sanctions therefore entails financial risks. However, reputational risks are more likely for larger enterprises.
*Russia: President’s slated re-election bid will likely be framed as critical for government stability. Reuters reported on 6 November that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to run in the March 2024 presidential election. An insider familiar with the matter revealed that a ‘choreographed hint’ will be made in the coming weeks. Russian media reported early last month that the informal presidential campaign is likely to begin in November. Reports indicated that Putin would possibly announce his re-election bid to coincide with the opening of a forum on 4 November, though he did not attend on this day. One of Reuters’ sources stated that a major change in Russia’s political leadership would not be practical. As such, Putin will almost certainly be re-elected. The Kremlin will almost certainly seek to maximise continuity and government stability amid its war in Ukraine; Putin’s re-election will likely be framed as the most (or only) viable means to ensure this.
- OFFENSIVES: On 4 November, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his office publicly rebuked Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valery Zaluzhnyi’s recent assessment that the war has become a stalemate (see Sibylline Ukraine Update – 2 November 2023). In potentially the most notable display of disagreement between civilian and military leadership since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, deputy head of the president’s office, Ihor Zhovka, said that Zaluzhnyi’s assessment caused ‘panic’ among Ukraine’s Western backers and would work to Russia’s advantage. Zelensky meanwhile insisted the war had not reached a stalemate and that the military was working on various plans to speed up operations and deliver ‘an unexpected blow’ to Russia. While it remains unclear how serious the disagreement is, the dismissal of the commander of Ukraine’s Special Operation Forces (SSO), Viktor Khorenko on 3 November indicates that Kyiv will possibly carry out further senior personnel changes in order to revitalise counter-offensive operations.
- BAKHMUT: Over the past 72 hours, fighting near Bakhmut remained on trend, with both Russian and Ukrainian forces likely making very limited gains near the settlement of Klischiivka, located 4 miles (7km) south-west of Bakhmut. On 4 November, a prominent Russian milblogger reported that Ukrainian forces advanced near a forested area north of Klischiivka and were gaining a foothold with the support of artillery fire. Meanwhile, geolocated footage posted on 4 November indicates that Russian forces made a limited advance to the west of the railway line near the settlement.
- DONETSK: Geolocated footage from 3 and 4 November indicates that Russian forces made limited advances in the direction of the railway south-east of Stepove, located five miles (8km) north-west of Avdiivka. The footage also shows the Russian troops advanced west of Krasnohorivka, located three miles (5km) north of Avdiivka. Russian advances almost certainly remain highly costly. The UK Defence Intelligence (DI) reported on 4 November that Russia has likely lost around 200 armoured vehicles and several thousand military personnel since it launched its offensive on Avdiivka in mid-October. The UK DI added that due to extensive equipment losses, the Russian command is opting for dismounted infantry-based assaults, with Ukrainian military officials having recently explained that Russia is increasingly launching highly attritional frontal infantry-led ‘meat’ assaults.
- OSKIL-KREMINNA: Nothing significant to report
- SOUTHERN: Nothing significant to report
- KHERSON: On 5 November, Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that Russian forces launched 50 glide bombs against ‘populated’ areas of the west bank of the Dnieper River in Kherson oblast within a 24-hour period. As a result, an educational institutional institution was destroyed but no further information was given. Russian forces are almost certain to continue intensive strikes against areas on the west bank of the Dnieper (in Kherson oblast) in a bid to complicate further Ukrainian preparations to cross the river. Nevertheless, a small contingency of Ukrainian forces have continued operations on the left bank over the past 72 hours, despite Russian efforts to repel them.
- STRIKES: Overnight on 5-6 November, Russia launched 22 Shahed-136/131 drones against Ukrainian targets. The attack also included one Iskander-M ballistic missile and three cruise missiles, including Kh-31, Kh-59 cruise and Onyx missiles. Ukraine’s air defences reportedly intercepted 15 drones and the Kh-59 cruise missile. The strikes reportedly damaged port infrastructure in Odesa, an abandoned industrial building and a museum in Odesa city centre (Odesa oblast). Russian forces launched two Shahed-131/136 drones against Sumy oblast overnight on 3-4 November and three Iskander-K ballistic missiles against Dnipropetrovsk and Poltava Oblasts.
- STRIKES: The Centre of Strategic Communications of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that on 4 November, Ukrainian forces successfully struck the Zaliv shipyard in Kerch (Crimea). Lieutenant General Nikolai Oleshchuk, commander of Ukraine’s Air Force, said the strike destroyed a carrier of Kalibr cruise missiles. A satellite image published on 4 November indicates that a Project 22800 Karakurt-class Kalibr missile carrier corvette was targeted. Oleshchuk hinted that Ukraine used Scalp cruise missiles. The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported that air defences intercepted 13 of the 15 missiles launched by Ukraine and that the strike damaged a vessel, without specifying the type of ship. Given that the Zaliv Shipyard is the main repair facility for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the attack will further undermine Russia’s naval capabilities in the Black Sea. The reported destruction of a Kalibr cruise missile carrier also indicates a Ukrainian effort to degrade Russian strike capabilities ahead of winter.
- STRIKES: Russian sources reported that Russian air defences intercepted Ukrainian drones targeting a railway at an oil refinery in the town of Dzhankoi (Crimea) on 5 November. According to a Russian milblogger, Ukraine also launched UK-supplied Storm Shadow missiles on Berdiansk (Zaporizhzhia oblast) on 5 November. Such strikes reflect a wider uptick in Ukrainian attacks against Crimea and Russian rear areas in occupied Ukraine. On 4 November, Brigadier General Serhiy Baranov, Chief of the Main Directorate of Artillery, Missiles and Drones of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, stated that Ukraine is planning for a large-scale drone campaign during the coming winter. Baranov’s statements are indicative of Kyiv’s efforts to respond to Russia’s winter strikes with tit-for-tat, large-scale strikes against critical infrastructure and priority military targets.
- AID: The US has begun sending smaller military aid packages to Ukraine, likely to counteract delays in Congress on providing further assistance. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on 3 November that Washington DC is doing so to stretch out its ability to support Kyiv for as long as possible. On 3 November, the US Department of Defense (DoD) announced an additional USD 425 m package for Ukraine. It provides up to USD 125 m of arms and equipment authorised under previously directed drawdowns, as well as USD 300 m to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences over the long term.
- GRAIN: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that Ukraine has exported more than 100 m tonnes of goods, primarily agricultural products, through ‘solidarity lanes’. The comments were made during a joint meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on 4 November. Leyen further stressed that the solidarity lanes allowed Ukraine to export 65% of its agricultural products, allowing Kyiv to yield EUR 42 bn of export revenue in 16 months. Leyen confirmed that the EU is investing in rail, road and border crossing infrastructure to expand such routes. The expansion of solidarity lanes will increase the amount of Ukrainian grain to reach global markets, though it will further increase Kyiv’s dependence on such routes.
- ELECTIONS: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba disclosed on 3 November that President Volodymyr Zelensky is assessing the pros and cons of holding a presidential election in March 2024. Kuleba noted that there are clear logistical and security challenges for holding elections during wartime, including how to ensure soldiers on the frontlines and those living under Russian occupation or abroad could participate. Ukraine’s constitution prohibits elections from being held under martial law.
- ELECTIONS: On 6 November, Oleksiy Goncharenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker, stated that Ukraine should not hold elections during war time. Goncharenko pointed to several legal and practical hurdles, as well as guaranteeing the legality and legitimacy of such a vote. The prospect of a Ukrainian presidential election next spring is low, though this is highly unlikely to prompt domestic unrest given most Ukrainians believe that elections should only be held after the war ends (see Sibylline Ukraine Daily Update – 30 October 2023).
NEGOTIATIONS: On 3 November, NBC reported that US and European officials have started covert discussions with Ukraine about what possible peace negotiations with Russia might involve to end the war. The outlet cited one unnamed current senior US official and one former official who are both allegedly familiar with the matter.
According to NBC, the conversations have included very broad outlines of what Kyiv may have to cede to reach a peace settlement. Some of the talks allegedly took place in October during a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group. The discussions reportedly began amid concerns among unspecified US and European officials that the war has reached a ‘stalemate’ and the ability to continue providing open-ended aid to Ukraine.
US officials are allegedly concerned that Ukraine is running out of manpower, while Russia has a seemingly ‘endless supply’. The outlet also claimed that the US government is concerned that Russia’s war in Ukraine has garnered less public attention since the beginning of the Israel conflict and that this shift could make securing additional aid for Kyiv more challenging. We have previously assessed that the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas militants will likely adversely impact the provision of US military assistance to Ukraine despite assurances from certain US officials.
Some unspecified US military officials have reportedly begun to describe the Russo-Ukrainian war as a ‘stalemate’ in private, with some arguing that victory may be determined by which side can maintain its military force the longest. The outlet stated that some officials have also privately assessed that Ukraine likely only has until the end of 2023 or early next year before more urgent discussions about peace negotiations should begin.
While the veracity of the report cannot be confirmed, Zelensky insisted on 4 November that Western officials are not pressing Kyiv to enter peace talks. Ukraine is highly unlikely to agree to negotiations while its publicly stated war objective is to recapture all territory occupied by Russia, despite the current counter-offensive effort failing to deliver sweeping territorial gains. Notably, a poll by the International Republican Institute (IRI) published in late October found that 94% of Ukrainians believe a Ukrainian victory is possible, with 68% of respondents confident that Kyiv will regain all of its territory – including Crimea.
The Biden administration reportedly has no indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to negotiate with Ukraine at present. This aligns with our assessment that Russia is also highly unlikely willing to participate in peace talks. Western officials allegedly assess that Putin still believes he can ‘wait out the West’, or keep fighting until Ukraine’s allies lose domestic support for aiding Kyiv or supplying weapons and ammunition becomes too costly. The Kremlin’s strategy is highly likely comprised of the above-mentioned factors, as well as the hope that other global crises will emerge and deflect and divert support for Ukraine. (Source: Sibylline)
11 Nov 23. Cracks between Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukraine’s military as Russia conflict hits stalemate. “We are not ready to give our freedom to this f—–g terrorist Putin,” said Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, leaning forward in his chair with fury flashing in his eyes.
The outburst, in an interview with the American broadcaster NBC last week, was a rare display of public anger from the Ukrainian leader, whose displays of emotion are usually confined to solemn meetings with soldiers wounded in the fight against Russia’s invading forces.
But it came after months of heavy losses in a counter-offensive that ended in what many in Ukraine have described as a stalemate, leading to reports that Kyiv was being urged to consider peace talks with Moscow.
Against the backdrop of the stalled offensive, tensions between Ukraine’s political and military leaderships, which are normally kept private, have spilt into public view.
It is a sign that even Mr Zelensky, who has stoically led Ukraine’s defence against Russia since the full-scale invasion began in February last year, may be starting to crack.
Mr Zelensky’s initial reaction was to call for an end to the political infighting, but he also delivered a very public reprimand of his top general, Valery Zaluzhny, who claimed that the fighting had reached a “stalemate”.
In one nightly address earlier this week, the Ukrainian president said: “Everyone should be concentrating their efforts right now on defending the country.
“Put themselves together and do not rest; do not drown in infighting or other issues,” he added, in a warning that discord would bring dire consequences for the country.
Mr Zelensky also rebuffed Gen Zaluzhny’s characterisation of the conflict at a press conference with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, saying: “Everyone is tired and there are different opinions.”
The president’s top aides joined in the war of words, insisting Gen Zaluzhny’s claim of a stalemate only “eases the work of the aggressor” and generates “panic” amongst Kyiv’s Western backers.
It took 20 months of war for the rift between the military and civilian leadership to emerge, despite earlier claims of a dispute about politicians’ over-optimistic outlook.
Categorising Ukraine’s battle against Russia as a stalemate is seen as particularly troublesome by Kyiv’s government.
In the past five months of fighting, Ukraine recaptured only a tiny portion of land, with Russia still controlling one-fifth of the country’s territory.
Officials fear that the perceived deadlock could lead to Western allies increasing the pressure for peace talks with Russia that would force them to surrender territory in exchange for an end to the war.
Some in Kyiv, including Mr Zelensky, are more concerned that a perception the war is frozen in place could lead to international attention drifting away from Ukraine, especially when the war between Israel and Hamas threatens to escalate into a regional conflict across the Middle East.
“The war in the Middle East, this conflict takes away the focus,” the Ukrainian president said last week.
‘A lot of fatigue’ for war in Europe
This is a particular concern for Mr Zelensky because it could discourage some allies from maintaining their military backing for Kyiv as the war with Russia rumbles on.
Washington has already admitted it is throttling military aid packages to stretch the remaining funds as Congress refuses to back more money for Ukraine.
Giorgia Meloni, the Italian prime minister, also suggested that “there is a lot of fatigue” in Europe, in a phone call with Russian pranksters pretending to be an African diplomat.
As the public row played out between Kyiv’s military and civilian leaders, Mr Zelensky was portrayed as tired, anxious and irritable in an interview with Time magazine.
“Exhaustion with the war rolls along like a wave,” he said. “You see it in the United States, in Europe.”
Meanwhile, Gen Zaluzhny’s comments may have sparked public rebuttals from Mr Zelensky and his office, but the Ukrainian general is largely seen as untouchable.
Because of his popularity, Ukraine’s top military commander is seen as a potential political rival to the current president, but Gen Zaluzhny has not signalled any intentions in that direction.
Instead, the slap down came as one of his deputies, the head of the special operations forces, was dismissed by the president’s office.
‘Our victory is achievable’
Maj Gen Viktor Khorenko told Ukrainska Pravda that he did not know why he had been sacked and had found out “from the media”.
Gen Zaluzhny also appeared blindsided by the decision and “could not explain this”, he added.
Rustem Umerov, the newly appointed Ukrainian defence minister, said that he had recommended the sacking but insisted he could not explain why because it would “give reasons to the enemy to weaken Ukraine”.
Solomiya Bobrovska, an opposition politician who is a member of the Ukrainian parliament’s defence and intelligence committee, told The New York Times: “The firing looks like political interference into the armed forces and into its combat actions.”
Pavlo Rozenko, a former vice prime minister of Ukraine, also criticised the decision, arguing: “You made a very big mistake when you made this submission behind Zaluzhny’s back.
“And it is precisely such mistakes that weaken Ukraine in this war… It is very unfortunate that political intrigues prevail in this situation.”
Despite the turmoil, Mr Zelensky has attempted to portray a united front.
“Our victory is achievable,” he said earlier this week. “We will get there if we all stay focused on this aim.”
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
10 Nov 23. Ukraine’s Security Forces thwart illicit trade in fighter jet and helicopter parts.
SSU operations disrupt smuggling networks targeting MiG-29 and Mi-8 components.
Ukrainian security forces, in a series of coordinated operations across multiple regions, have dismantled two transnational smuggling networks attempting to export components of military aircraft illegally.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) has detained several individuals involved in these illicit activities, safeguarding national security and preventing the unlawful transfer of equipment.
In a breakthrough, the SSU Counterintelligence has uncovered and thwarted the unlawful export of MiG-29 fighter aircraft components in an operation spanning Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and Zaporizhzhia. Three dealers, including the mastermind based in Kharkiv, were apprehended for attempting to sell stolen spare parts worth almost Hrv2.5m ($66,000) to Asian customers.
The traffickers, who had pilfered these components from Motor Sich, planned to smuggle them out of Ukraine, concealing their actions from customs control. A radar unit for a MiG-29 fighter for air defence systems was among the seized items. The SSU caught one suspect red-handed in Odesa oblast as he tried to transport the aircraft products to East Asia via unrecognized Transnistria.
Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of metals and alloys to the aerospace and defence industries, according to GlobalData’s “The Global Military Rotorcraft Market 2023-2033” report.
Simultaneously, the SSU Counterintelligence exposed another smuggling scheme involving components for multi-purpose Mi-8 helicopters in the Kirovohrad region. A former official of Kropyvnytskyi Detention Center, using online ads to attract potential buyers, attempted to sell auxiliary gas turbine engines and navigation equipment for the Mi-8.
The suspect, planning to use international cargo services, falsified information in declarations to conceal the nature of the transported goods. The SSU intervened, serving the individual a notice of suspicion under Article 333.1 of the CCU, thus preventing the illicit export of aircraft components.
Both operations, conducted under the procedural supervision of regional Prosecutor’s Offices, highlight the SSU’s work in combating criminal networks involved in the theft and illegal trade of military equipment.
The investigation is ongoing to bring all participants in these activities to justice, emphasizing Ukraine’s commitment to maintaining the integrity of its defence industry and safeguarding against threats to national security. The seized equipment, crucial for military aviation, will be handed over to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
10 Nov 23. Romania, Netherlands to Open F-16 Training Center on Monday. The Netherlands to Open F-16 Training Center for Ukrainian, Romanian Pilots on Monday. The Netherlands, alongside Romania and Lockheed Martin, will open the European F-16 Training Center (EFTC) in Romania on Monday, the Ministry of Defense announced in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
The Dutch armed forces will make 12 to 18 units of the F-16 fighter jets available for its use. The fighter jets will remain the property of the Netherlands and will be used to train Romanian and Ukrainian pilots.
The training center was the result of initial proposals from the Netherlands and Denmark, and the United States soon joined the initiative. The American aerospace company Lockheed Martin will provide training and maintenance for the jets.
Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren will open the training center alongside her Romanian counterpart Angel Tîlvăr and Lockheed Martin Vice President Orlando “OJ” Sanchez. The opening ceremony is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
“The training center in Romania is a further step in the European efforts to provide F-16 capability to Ukraine,” the ministry stated. The Netherlands previously expressed its intention to deliver F-16s to Ukraine and to develop a plan for F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots.
The first five Dutch F-16 fighter jets arrived in Romania on Wednesday. The Dutch military will send the remaining F-16 fighter jets this year, said General Onno Eichelsheim, the Commander of the Armed Forces (CDS). “We are now assuming that they need eighteen, and we are planning accordingly,” Eichelsheim said to ANP. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ NL News)
10 Nov 23. Putin’s Drone Academy Blown Up. A key Russian facility used to train more than 10,000 kamikaze drone operators for Vladimir Putin’s army has been wiped out by Ukraine.
Six people were killed and 11 wounded in Tuesday night’s devastating attack, reportedly using US supplied HIMARS – high mobility artillery rocket system.
Dramatic footage showed people being rescued from the blitzed Zhoga Republican Centre for Unmanned Systems in Russian-occupied Donetsk city, climbing over rubble and scaling fire service ladders to get to safety.
Russian operators were taught for both strike and reconnaissance at the military training facility set up to massively increase UAV attacks against Ukraine. Its historic buildings also housed civil servants from Russia’s Department of Labour and Social Protection of the Population.
The city centre was allegedly hit by three strikes from HIMARS launchers, according to the Russia-installed proxy head in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin.
He claimed there was a direct hit to an occupation authorities building and four civilian infrastructure facilities were damaged, the Kyiv Independent reports.
Correspondents of the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported hearing three to four blasts in the city. The alleged Ukrainian missile strike came just hours after the centre’s head boasted of its success in training drone operators.
Dmitry Barov said: “The Republican Centre for Unmanned Systems has trained more than 10,000 military experts for the Russian army since the start of its work.” (Source: UAS VISION/The Sun)
09 Nov 23. Some Ukraine drone pilots fear early advantage over Russia now lost. The soldiers piloting Ukraine’s fleet of small, cheap assault drones are voicing concerns that, despite pioneering their use, they are now being leapfrogged by their adversary as Moscow pumps money and resources into its drone sector.
The use of agile First Person View (FPV) drones in battle has been one of the most successful of the various low-cost strategies Ukraine has used to defend itself from a full-scale invasion by Russia, its much richer and more powerful neighbour.
However, Moscow has also gradually mirrored and increased its use of these drones, which were originally made for racing by hobbyists and enthusiasts but are modified to carry explosives, to devastating effect.
Every week, both countries publish onboard camera footage from FPVs, which cost several hundred dollars, flying towards and taking out enemy tanks and radar systems worth millions.
In a field in eastern Donetsk region where they had come to perform a test flight, drone pilots from the 80th Airborne Assault Brigade fighting near Bakhmut said Russia was gaining the upper hand through more organised supplies and greater spending.
“Their drones are always in the air, day and night. We can see they’ve implemented serial production of drones for reconnaissance, surveillance and for strikes,” said a 34-year-old drone platoon commander, who introduced himself by the callsign “Komrad”.
While it is hard to assess Russian numerical superiority in FPVs accurately – and the experiences of the unit near Bakhmut provides only a snapshot of what is happening – Komrad estimated it at around double what Ukraine had on his sector of the front.
“Drones are a game changer in this war. If we mess this up, things will be difficult,” he said.
Komrad says his crews can run as many as 40 strike missions a day – but the number is often much lower due to a lack of drones.
The senior sergeant of the brigade’s drone company, a 57-year-old former business executive with the callsign “Yizhak”, said sometimes a crew may have 10 identified targets but only two or three drones.
“So we can hit two or three, and we have to let seven go because we don’t have anything to hit them with.”
Russia has ramped up production of FPV drones this year. A Russian state-owned defence enterprise announced this May that it planned to start making up to 3,000 of the devices a month.
Samuel Bendett, Senior Adjunct Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said Russia had significantly boosted FPV production through volunteer groups, which alone were likely making many thousands of drones a month, as well as the defence sector which was also expanding production of such drones.
“This year was critical to the Russian efforts to field this tech in large numbers, and an even bigger effort should be expected in 2024.”
Ukraine’s government, meanwhile, has funded production of larger, longer-range drones for reconnaissance and assault, but the vast majority of small, battlefield-level devices have been purchased throughout the war by civic organisations and donations from private individuals.
The pilots of the 80th Brigade say this is still the case, although the state is now supplying some FPV drones.
Ukrainian Digital Minister Mykhailo Fedorov told Reuters in September that Ukraine had boosted its overall aerial drone production by more than 100 times in 2023. Another minister said in October Ukraine would be making “dozens of thousands” of drones a month by the end of this year.
“We have trained people, motivated people. But sometimes we feel a deficit, and if the government gets large-scale manufacturing of these drones on the rails, the (balance of) the war will tip in our favour,” Yizhak said. (Source: Reuters)
10 Nov 23. 30,000 Ukrainian recruits trained in largest UK military training effort since Second World War.
Total number of Ukrainian soldiers trained under UK Armed Forces programmes is now more than 52,000. More than 30,000 ordinary Ukrainian men and women have trained to become soldiers under the largest military training programme of its kind on British soil since the Second World War.
Ahead of schedule, the UK-led Op Interflex has reached the milestone of 30,000 recruits trained in the UK since June 2022 – taking the total number of trained Ukrainian soldiers to more than 52,000 since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
The training was set up in the UK after Op Orbital, the British Army’s long term training programme in Ukraine, had to be paused when Russia launched its full-scale invasion against Ukraine in February 2022. Op Interflex launched in June 2022 and had the target of training 30,000 troops by the end of 2023.
Delivered in locations throughout the UK, the world-leading programme takes volunteer recruits who have joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine with little to no previous military experience and teaches them the skills required to survive and be effective in frontline combat. The training allows Ukraine’s forces to accelerate their deployments, rebuild their forces, and scale-up their resistance as they continue to defend their nation’s sovereignty against Russian invaders.
After launching last summer, a number of international partner forces joined the programme, providing vital experience, training and insight into frontline combat. These countries include Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Australia. And today, NATO ally Romania has also confirmed its involvement, taking the total number of partner nations to ten.
The course is delivered over a minimum period of five weeks and includes weapons handling, battlefield first aid, Law of Armed Conflict training, patrol tactics and rural environment training. During the past 12 months, the UK’s wider package of support has also evolved to include upskilling Ukrainian Marines, with British Commandos training Ukraine’s forces in small boat amphibious operations, as well as mine-clearance training by the Royal Engineers, trauma response training and even Army chaplaincy support for Ukrainian padres.
The Prime Minister and President Zelenskyy visited Ukrainian forces training in the UK in February. The leaders heard, first-hand, how the training the Ukrainian soldiers were receiving on British Challenger 2 tanks would give them the upper hand on the battlefield and allow them to push back Russian forces.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
I am incredibly proud of all the British and Ukrainian soldiers, sailors, airmen and women involved in this major undertaking – their dedication and professionalism today is ensuring peace for our continent in the future.
Op Interflex has changed the equation of this war, harnessing Ukraine’s spirit, courage and determination, and matching it with global military expertise.
The crucial contribution of our international partners to this programme reinforces the global support for Ukraine and underlines our united belief that Ukraine can and will win this war.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Op Interflex’s size and ambition is unrivalled, the programme is a key example of how the UK can help galvanise the international community into supporting the Armed Forces of Ukraine. I’m delighted we will exceed the target for this year and thank the UK trainers and our international partners who have worked night and day to reach the milestone ahead of schedule. I also pay tribute to the determination and resilience of the brave Ukrainian recruits that arrive on British shores.”
Commander Interflex, Col James Thurstan said: “The UK and international partner forces are working hard to provide Ukrainian recruits with the skillsets needed to defend their sovereign territory. We work closely with the Armed Forces of Ukraine to ensure that the capabilities provided to them meet the tactical demands of the conflict as it evolves.”
Head of the Main Department of Doctrine and Training of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Major General Oleksii Taran said: “Ukrainian Defense Forces highly appreciate and are grateful to the United Kingdom, its nation and government for the opportunity to train Ukrainian personnel at British military bases as part of the multinational training Operation Interflex.”
A jointly developed training programme taking into account the Ukrainian experience, professionalism, and discipline of the multinational instructor community. The exceptional thoughtfulness of the logistical and material-technical dimension of the operation ensures the highest standards of both the basic combined military training of the Ukrainian recruits and the training of Ukrainian instructors and mid-level commanders.
We notice the greater fighting capacity of the servicemen and women of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who successfully completed the Interflex training course, their resilience and ability to engage hard with the enemy under bombardment. They have warfare and basic weapon handling skills, are trained to conduct combat operations in trenches and urban areas, have basic military medical training according to international protocols, and are knowledgeable about the Law of Armed Conflict.
This is undoubtedly an impressive contribution of Great Britain and partner countries in Ukraine’s fight against the unprovoked and criminal Russian aggression.
Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has lost over 50% of the land it initially captured following the February 2022 invasion.
As well as the major training programme, the UK continues to support Ukraine to push back Russian forces. As part of the £4.6bn worth of UK military support, we have provided long range missiles, western main battle tanks, and logistical support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
This is in addition to the $60bn raised for Ukraine during the Ukraine Recovery Conference held in London in June. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
09 Nov 23. DOD Implores Congress to Provide Ukraine Defense Funding. The Defense Department is beseeching Congress to pass the supplemental budget request that President Joe Biden initially made in August to continue to meet Ukraine’s battlefield needs, said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, who held a news conference today.
“The urgent need for this package to get approved and passed by Congress continues to grow,” she said. As a result, “we have been forced to meter out our support to Ukraine.”
DOD used 95% of the initial $62.3 billion that it had in Ukraine supplemental resources, from when the full-scale invasion by Russia into Ukraine occurred in February 2022.
All of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding has been expended, she said.
A small amount of presidential drawdown authority funding is available, but packages to Ukraine have been getting smaller and smaller, she said.
Another meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group will occur later this month, she noted, adding that allies and partners are continuing to support Ukraine, as is the U.S.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken held a news conference in Tokyo, yesterday, during a meeting of the G7 foreign ministers, in which he said that the G7 has led the world in galvanizing and sustaining support for Ukraine.
To put Ukraine on a solid foundation for next year, the U.S. must help Ukraine do four things simultaneously, he said.
Keep fighting to win back its territory.
Build a world-class military force to ensure maximum deterrence for the long term and make clear to President Vladimir Putin that he cannot and will not outlast Ukraine and he cannot and will not outlast all of Ukraine’s supporters.
Kick-start economic recovery and growth and bring more hope and more opportunity to the Ukrainian people.
Accelerate the reform process to speed Ukraine’s path to the European Union and to attract investment. (Source: U.S. DoD)
07 Nov 23. Extensive Norwegian Training of Ukrainian Soldiers. We have a goal that, together with allied partners, we help train more than 50,000 Ukrainian soldiers during 2023. Approximately well over 300 Norwegian instructors are continuously contributing to the training of Ukrainians, abroad and at home this year, and from next year this number will be increased. We plan to spend in excess of NOK one bn from the Nansen program next year on training Ukrainian soldiers,” says Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram (Sp).
On November 6, Gram visited for the first time the Ukrainian, Norwegian and German forces at the EU Training Mission for Ukraine (EU MAM) outside Berlin. Norway contributes to the training of Ukrainian soldiers through various programmes: the EU training program EU MAM, the British training program INTERFLEX as well as training in Norway, such as specialist training in Trøndelag.
“After Russia’s invasion and ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine, the country has received broad military and civilian support from the West. At the same time, Ukraine needs more and better trained soldiers to fight against the Russian invasion forces. In addition, they need to increase their competence in several professional fields. It is important that Norway takes its share of this and contributes where we can,” says Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram.
“At the same time that Norwegian forces are training Ukrainian soldiers together with allies, we are also taking a lot of lessons home with us to Norway. The experience the Ukrainians have gained on the battlefield is also useful for us. Close cooperation and coordination with other countries also provides important learning,” says Gram.
Norway collaborates with Germany to train Ukrainian soldiers through the EU MAM Ukraine
“Norway’s strength contribution to EUMAM receives very good feedback. In particular, Norwegian flexibility and professionalism are mentioned. The armed forces are very good at training and mentoring, where the Norwegian approach arouses great interest from other nations,” says Bjørn Arild Gram.
On March 5, 2023, soldiers from the Army began the training of Ukrainian soldiers at the base outside Berlin. Norwegian soldiers train Ukrainian storm engineers and carry out training in combat in built-up areas. By the end of 2023, Norway in the EU MAM through the Army will have trained around 2,000 infantrymen and storm engineers to raise their level and skills.
“The contribution to EUMAM is now around 80 people. We are considering increasing the number of contributors from Norway to 100 people in 2024,” says Gram. “EU MAM has ambitions to increase the number of Ukrainians who are trained in 2024, which Norway wants to help make happen. We contribute to strengthening Ukraine’s defense by increasing the competence of the Ukrainian forces.
Norway collaborates with Great Britain to train Ukrainian soldiers through INTERFLEX
“Continued support for Ukraine is absolutely essential. The war is exhausting and Ukraine is in great need of new soldiers. Training and education are absolutely central to the further defense battle, both for those undergoing basic training and specialist training. I am impressed by the work the skilled Norwegian instructors do, and it has been important for me to visit them to see how the training is carried out,” says Gram.
Norway is among the largest contributors to the operation; among the 11 countries that support the UK, Norway is the second largest contributor. As of today, Operation INTERFLEX has contributed to training 28,000 Ukrainian soldiers, with the aim of training 37,000 soldiers in total by the turn of the year. Norway is the only country apart from Great Britain and Canada with more than 100 instructors.
In the framework of Operation INTERFLEX, Norway contributed until the summer of 2023 with a framework of 70 people. From the summer of 2023, the limit increased to 140 people. The training period for the Ukrainian soldiers and the Norwegian instructors is five weeks, then there are two weeks of evaluation, preparation and reconditioning for the instructors.
Training throughout Norway
Norway now offers professional training for Ukrainian soldiers in Norway. Norwegian forces train Ukrainian soldiers in areas such as sanitation, sharpshooting and leadership. The Home Guard has been given responsibility for leading and organizing the training at Værnes. HV has extensive experience in receiving and supporting foreign forces. They have also led the training of Ukrainian forces in the UK. Norway has also provided training to Ukrainians on material that we have donated. This training took place in Norway or in a third country.
Around 700 Ukrainians are trained in Trøndelag in 2023 – at the same time several hundred others are trained at various camps across the country.
The government has previously announced a Norwegian F-16 contribution with ten instructors and two F-16 aircraft.
Norway also participates in the training of Ukrainian deminers in Lithuania. The training is a collaboration between the Nordic countries.
More about Norwegian military support to Ukraine
Norway has provided military support to Ukraine since the beginning of the war. The Norwegian military support for Ukraine is part of a broad international effort among allies and partner countries.
Norwegian military support is organized along four main tracks:
* Donations of material from own holdings.
* Donations of material acquired through international cooperation and fund mechanisms.
* Donations of material procured directly from industry.
* Training and education of Ukrainian personnel.
(Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Norwegian Ministry of Defence)
07 Nov 23. Denmark Unveils ‘Significant’ Increase in Defense Spending, Ukraine Support. The Government Will Give the Defense Settlement and the Ukraine Fund a Significant Boost. The government is planning an extra boost to the defense settlement and the Ukraine fund in the government’s 2030 plan, which was presented today. An additional DKK 4.9 bn will go to the defense settlement and DKK 23.5 bn to the Ukraine Foundation (approx. $4 bn in total–Ed.)
“We are in uncertain times, which requires us to continually adapt to changes in the threat landscape. We must ensure that we have a strong defence, and then it is necessary to secure long-term support for Ukraine, which in practice is also fighting for our freedom. Therefore, with the 2030 plan, we have today presented a necessary boost that both strengthens the Danish defense and ensures military support for Ukraine over the next few years,” says Minister of Defence, Troels Lund Poulsen.
The defense is facing a historic build-up in the new defense settlement, and at the same time, Denmark has taken the lead in supporting Ukraine. These remain major priorities for the government, which in the 2030 plan will give the defense settlement and the Ukraine Fund a further boost with an eye to the security policy situation.
In the long term, the government will continue the significant support for Ukraine and will therefore increase the framework for military support in the Ukraine Fund by DKK10.5bn in 2025, DKK7.4bn in 2026 and DKK5.6bn in 2027.
The government will also make the financial framework in the defense settlement larger. In June, the government and a broad majority in the Danish Parliament agreed on the new defense settlement and decided to invest DKK 149.9bn in the period 2024-2033. The government will allocate an additional DKK 2.9bn in 2028 and DKK 2.0 bn in 2029. Thus, a total of DKK 154.8 bn will be invested in the defense settlement.
“Defense is facing a big task. This is a significant strengthening of Danish defense and security, which must be done in a wise way. It happens best when it can be planned, and therefore we continue to have a phasing in that takes into account the possibility of using the funds in a sensible way,” says Troels Lund Poulsen.
With previous agreements, funds corresponding to two percent of GDP have been allocated for defense and security in 2023 and 2024. The extra investments mean that funds are allocated so that Denmark also from 2025 onwards lives up to the NATO objective of spending the minimum two percent of GDP on defense spending. (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)(Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/)Danish Ministry of Defence; issued Nov. 07, 2023)
09 Nov 23. The Slovak Government Did Not Approve the Military Aid Package for Ukraine. The Government of the Slovak Republic did not approve the fourteenth package of military aid for Ukraine worth 40.3m euros. The proposal for the donation was prepared by the former leadership of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) of the Slovak Republic. The military aid was to consist of four m pieces of 7.62 mm ammunition, 5,172 pieces of large-caliber ammunition for the 125 mm caliber cannon, 140 missiles for the Kub air defense system, eight mortars and 1,200 mines. Since the beginning of the conflict, the Slovak Republic has supported Ukraine with thirteen packages of military aid with a total value of 671m euros. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Slovak TASR news agency)
08 Nov 23. Ukrainian Army Receives 206 Heavy Shot Drones from Army of Drones. The Defense Forces of Ukraine have recently acquired 206 domestically-produced Heavy Shot Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). These acquisitions were made under the “Army of Drones” state program, aimed at strengthening Ukraine’s Armed Forces capabilities through the increased use of drones.
Mykhailo Fedorov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, officially announced this significant deployment on the same day, emphasizing the versatility of these Heavy Shot UAVs. Their operational roles include targeting and neutralizing enemy infantry, military equipment, storage facilities, and control points.
The delivery of over 200 Heavy Shot attack drones to the frontlines marks a significant milestone in the ongoing implementation of the “Army of Drones” program. This project is a collaborative effort involving the Ukrainian Army, government, and private organizations, with the primary mission of upgrading and expanding the use of drones in the Ukrainian Armed Forces to counter Russia’s substantial advantage in traditional air force capabilities.
Since the start of the war, Ukraine has employed drones for reconnaissance and attacks, even though these drones lack the firepower of traditional fighter jets. This strategy has enabled Ukraine to effectively surveil and disrupt Russian troops, enhancing Ukraine’s military capabilities.
The significance of the acquisition of 200 Heavy Shot drones by the ‘Army of Drones’ initiative cannot be underestimated, as these drones are poised to significantly augment Ukraine’s defense and offensive capabilities. The Heavy Shot UAVs are optimized for engaging enemy infantry, as well as targeting warehouses, command posts, and lightly armored vehicles.
The Heavy Shot UAV was conceived, developed, and manufactured entirely within Ukraine by Gurzuf Defence. This company offers a range of Heavy Shot drone configurations, with prices ranging from $10,000 to $15,000, making them a cost-effective choice for any armed forces.
The drone offers an operational range of up to 20 km and can carry payloads ranging from 10 to 40 kg, including standard and non-standard ammunition developed by sappers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
These UAVs are equipped with 2K cameras featuring a 30x zoom capability and 3-axis stabilization, a GPS navigation system designed to withstand electronic warfare, and an automatic return-to-base feature after completing their missions, enhancing their operational efficiency. (Source: UAS VISION/Army Recognition)
08 Nov 23. Ukrainian forces hold line in shattered eastern town of Avdiivka -military. Russian forces, their numbers swelled by reserves, tightened their vise around the shattered eastern city of Avdiivka on Wednesday, but Ukrainian forces are holding defensive lines, Ukrainian military officials said.
The Russian military has focused on eastern Ukraine after failing to advance on Kyiv in the early days of Russia’s February 2022 invasion and their troops have been pounding Avdiivka since mid-October.
Online videos show apartment buildings reduced to shells, with 1,500 of its 32,000 pre-war residents remaining.
Anton Kotsukon, spokesperson for the 110th separate mechanised brigade, said Russian forces were massed on three sides of the town.
“They are building up reserves. They’ve brought in about 40,000 men here along with ammunition of all calibres,” Kotsukon told national television. “We see no sign of the Russians abandoning plans to encircle Avdiivka.”
Russian forces, he said, were “playing cat and mouse”, sending up “huge numbers” of drones while deploying artillery forces to secure a better picture of the town’s defences.
General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, head of Ukraine’s southern group of forces, said troops around Avdiivka were “stoutly holding their defences”.
Avdiivka has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. It was seized briefly in 2014 when Russian-backed separatists captured chunks of eastern Ukraine, but Ukrainian troops retook it and built up fortifications.
Local officials said the Russians were holding back on a “third wave” of assaults after a week of heavy rain.
“The third wave hasn’t started yet, but they are preparing for it,” Vitaliy Barabash, head of the town’s military administration, told the national TV. “Today is already the second day when the weather is favourable for this.”
Ukrainian forces regard Avdiivka as a gateway for future advances to recapture territory in the east – the large Russian-held town of Donetsk is 20 km away.
But Ukrainian analysts suggest Russia has little to gain in a protracted drive that has already sustained high losses.
“This task now has a more political nature, given the losses the Russian army has already suffered here,” military analyst Denys Popovych told NV Radio. “Unfortunately, this task will continue. There will be a third wave of attacks. And a fourth.”
Ukraine’s military launched a counteroffensive in June in the south and east, but the advances have been much slower than a campaign last year that recaptured stretches of the northeast.
Russian accounts of the fighting noted strikes against Ukrainian positions near Bakhmut, a town captured by Moscow’s forces in May after months of battles. Reuters could not verify battlefield accounts from either side. (Source: Reuters)
09 Nov 23. New Ukrainian Kamikaze Drone in Production, has Already Hit its First Russian Targets. A Ukrainian-designed kamikaze drone with range of 1,000 kilometers has entered production and has already struck Russian targets, according to officials. Ukraine’s State Enterprise Ukroboronprom announced at the end of 2022 that it was working on producing a long-range “one-way unmanned aerial vehicle” or kamikaze drone.
It would give the Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU) the ability to strike targets with a 75-kilogram warhead, out to a range of 1000 kilometers and that would be resistant to Russian electronic warfare (EW) capability.
They gave little technical detail on the project other than to say it was sourcing components from unnamed foreign suppliers but emphasized that the design, software, communication and control means, assembly and maintenance was conducted by its own domestic specialists.
The only imagery available at the time was a photo of the drone’s nose which led commentators to speculate that it was analogous to the Iranian/Russian Shahed drone.
On Monday, Nov. 6, the Ukrainian news outlet Економічна Правда (Economic Truth) published an interview with Herman Smetanin, who became the general director of Ukroboronprom, in June, as part of a major reshuffle of Ukraine’s defense industry.
In the interview Smetanin talked about the tasks he had been given which boiled down to ensure the enterprise started producing the weapons Ukraine needed to fight the war with Russia in the quantities required and as soon as possible.
The interviewer particularly drew attention to the need for long-range strike capability and that Smetanin’s predecessor, Yuriy Gusev, had said the long-range drone had already flown but the lack of information led people had begun to doubt its existence.
The answer Smetanin gave was straightforward: “It is in mass production, and has been ordered by our defense forces. The UAV has, in fact, hit its first Russian targets. The recorded combat range was around 1,000 kilometers.”
When asked if the Ukroboronprom drone was an analogue of the Iranian Shahed, he replied: “Many Ukrainian state and private manufacturers are making analogues of ‘shaheda’… we are focused on the production of more complex and expensive projects with higher performance and longer-range.”
A photo appeared on the Telegram site of Insider Ukraine, also on Monday which may (or may not) show the final design of Ukroboronprom’s kamikaze drone. (Source: UAS VISION/Kyiv Post)
09 Nov 23. Moscow sending Ukrainian POWs to fight on frontlines. The Kremlin is sending Ukrainian prisoners of war to the front lines to fight for Moscow, according to Russian state media.
A video posted by RIA Novosti showed the Ukrainians swearing allegiance to Russia, holding rifles and dressed in military fatigues to fight in a battalion named for mediaeval nobleman Bogdan Khmelnitsky, considered a Russian national hero for bringing parts of Ukraine under Moscow’s control in the 15th century.
It was not immediately possible to verify the report, or whether the POWs were coerced into their actions.
The reported move marks an apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions relating to the treatment of POWs, which forbids them from being exposed to combat or from working in unhealthy or dangerous conditions – coerced or not.
“Russian authorities might claim they are recruiting them on a voluntary basis but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where a prisoner of war’s decision could be taken truly voluntarily, given the situation of coercive custody,” said Yulia Gorbunova, senior researcher on Ukraine at Human Rights Watch. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
08 Nov 23. EU offers Ukraine ‘historic’ membership as Volodymyr Zelensky vows to keep fighting. Ukraine president praises decision to invite Kyiv for accession talks as bloc says discussions should begin once country meets conditions. Brussels recommended opening formal EU membership negotiations with Ukraine on Wednesday, as Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to keep fighting Russia despite the poor results of the counter-offensive.
Ursula von der Leyen hailed it as a “historic day” for the EU and Ukraine, which the European Commission’s president said had accepted the “call of history” to align with the continent’s democracies over Russian dictatorship.
Ukraine has made EU membership, alongside joining the Nato military alliance, its key geopolitical goal in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion last February.
Mr Zelensky praised the decision to invite Kyiv for accession talks as a “historic step” for his country. The commission said the talks should formally be launched once Ukraine had met the final seven reform conditions set by Brussels when it was granted candidate status in June last year.
But the process cannot start before a political sign-off from the bloc’s 27 member states, expected to be made when they meet for their final European Council summit of the year in mid-December.
“Ukraine continues to face tremendous hardship and tragedy provoked by Russia’s war of aggression,” Mrs von der Leyen told a news conference on Wednesday.
“And yet, the Ukrainians are deeply reforming their country, even as they are fighting a war that is existential for them,” she added, urging national capitals to back her recommendation.
‘Cyprus model’ could be followed
A report issued by the Commission showed that Kyiv had met four out of the seven conditions to kickstart accession talks.
It warned, however, that more work needed to be carried out by Ukraine’s government to crack down on corruption, oligarchs’ influence and rules to protect minorities. National capitals have also warned a final decision on Kyiv’s membership, even if decades away, won’t be made while Ukraine is still at war with Russia.
“Member states will not be able to have a country at war join, while we have a mutual defence clause in the treaties,” a diplomatic source told the Telegraph.
This could eventually lead to Ukraine redrawing its borders, in the event of a frozen conflict with Russia, to join the bloc.
The Commission also recommended opening accession talks with Moldova and Bosnia, with the latter needing to meet certain conditions, and granted candidate status to Georgia, as part of a huge expansion into the Western Balkans.
The bloc has a convention not to accept members with unresolved border conflicts, the only exception being Cyprus, which joined in 2004, without any preconditions of a peace treaty.
Under Nicosia’s agreement, the south, represented by Greek Cypriots, was ushered into the bloc, while the Turkish Cypriots were left occupying one side of a border not recognised by either side.
National capitals have raised the prospect of the “Cyprus model” being used for Ukraine, meaning Kyiv would be allowed to join the EU, but would be only partially embraced by the bloc.
‘No bid to force Kyiv into peace talks’
It comes amid suggestions that Western officials, from Europe and the US, had held talks with the Ukrainian government on possible peace solutions with Russia. The plan, first reported by NBC News, would have seen Ukraine make concessions to end the war. But the US State Department has denied being involved in a bid to force Kyiv into peace talks.
“Any negotiations are up to Ukraine,” Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, said. “We are not aware of any conversation with Ukraine about negotiations outside of the peace formula structure,” he added, referring to Mr Zelensky’s 10-point plan to end the war.
The Ukrainian president on Wednesday pledged to keep fighting Russian forces, seeking to deliver a result on the battlefield this year. He said he was concerned some voices in the Republican Party were seeking to reduce aid to Kyiv.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin met a senior Chinese general, hailing the growing military ties between Moscow and Beijing. The Russian president said: “Our contacts in the military and military-technology spheres are becoming increasingly important.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
07 Nov 23. Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s video address on Monday night was blunt. “We need to pull ourselves together,” he said. “We cannot relax or allow ourselves to be divided by disputes or different priorities.” It was a message to the Ukrainian people feeling the heavy strains of 19 months of Russia’s war of aggression. It was also a message to his own team of advisers and military officers whose morale has been hammered by limited progress on the battlefield and deep concern over faltering western support for Ukraine’s war effort. Kyiv’s ironclad communications discipline has faltered in recent days as differences over messaging and potentially strategy have spilled into the open. Over the weekend Zelenskyy repudiated the assessment of his own top military commander that the war with Russia was at a “stalemate”. In an interview published alongside an opinion piece and a longer essay in The Economist last week, Ukraine’s chief of the general staff Valeriy Zaluzhnyi used the word “stalemate” to describe the state of the war. The general’s point was that fighting had become “positional” and that big technological breakthroughs would be needed to change the dynamic and give Ukraine back the advantage. It was a lengthy exposition of his military thinking and an attempt to argue for more sophisticated weaponry. But Zelenskyy and his closest aides believe that by using the word “stalemate”, Zaluzhnyi gave the wrong signal to western allies — that there was no point in sending more weapons to Ukraine because it cannot win the war. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, and chief of the general staff Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, left, visit an artillery training centre © Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout/Reuters Ihor Zhovkva, one of Zelenskyy’s senior advisers, appeared on Ukraine’s national news broadcaster on Friday to denounce the general’s public intervention. Zhovkva said there were private forums where Zaluzhnyi could voice his opinions. The op-ed had “made (Russia’s) work easier”, he added. As well as the public rebuke meted out by his office, Zelenskyy asserted his authority over his military chief by firing the head of the special forces, Viktor Khorenko. Khorenko told journalists he found out about his sacking through the media and claimed that Zaluzhnyi had not been aware of the decision. The dismissal was a “signal to Ukraine’s military and first of all to Zaluzhnyi — to show who has the power”, said Oleksiy Goncharenko, an opposition MP. Following a long-awaited summer counteroffensive that has fallen short of its objective to free territories under Russian occupation, Zelenskyy also told NBC news on Sunday the Ukrainian military would be coming up with “different plans, with different operations in order to be able to move forward”. Ukrainian forces are continuing to press Russia’s along the frontline but fortified Russian defences and deep minefields have resulted in an advance of just 17km in five months. (Source: FT.com)
06 Nov 23. OFAC Hardens Sanctions With 130 New Russian Evasion and Military-Industrial Targets. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has sanctioned 130 individuals and entities abetting Russia’s war against Ukraine by providing Russia with technology and equipment from third countries. Additionally, these actions take aim at Russia’s domestic industrial base, which is seeking to reinvent itself as the maintainer of Russia’s war machine. With these designations, OFAC is disrupting producers, exporters, and importers of nearly all of the high-priority items identified by the international coalition imposing sanctions and export controls on Russia. The U.S. Department of State has also issued nearly 100 sanctions targeting Russia’s future energy production and revenue, metals and mining sector, defense procurement, and those involved in supporting the Russian government’s war effort and other malign activities. OFAC took its actions pursuant to Executive Order 14024 of April 15, 2021. As a result of OFAC’s designations, all property and interests in the property of the designated persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. All transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or blocked persons are prohibited unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt. These prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person and the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person. Click here for further identifying information on the 130 designated individuals and entities. In addition, OFAC has concurrently issued Russia-related General License 13G, “Authorizing Certain Administrative Transactions Prohibited by Directive 4 under Executive Order 14024”; Russia-related General License 74, “Authorizing the Wind-Down and Rejection of Transactions Involving East-West United Bank”; Russia-related General License 75, “Authorizing Certain Transactions Related to Debt or Equity of, or Derivative Contracts Involving, Certain Entities Blocked on November 2, 2023”; and Russia-related General License 76, “Authorizing the Wind Down of Transactions Involving Certain Entities Blocked on November 2, 2023.” (Source: glstrade.com)
06 Nov 23. Piranha AVD 360 – Ukraine’s New EW C-UAS System. Ukraine has created a unique electronic warfare (EW) system, Piranha AVD 360, to protect armoured vehicles and military personnel against enemy drones.
The relevant statement was made by Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for Innovation, Education, Science and Technology Development – Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov on Telegram, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.
“The Piranha AVD 360 is a unique electronic warfare system to strengthen the Defense Forces. This technology helps to protect armored vehicles and military personnel against enemy drones more effectively,”
In his words, the Piranha AVD 360 EW system creates a protective dome of up to 600 meters around itself. The system prevents drones from receiving commands and transmitting data. As a result, unmanned aerial vehicles hang in the air, make an emergency landing, or fall uncontrollably.
According to Fedorov, the Piranha AVD 360 EW system also jams satellite navigation systems, such as Russia’s GLONASS.
“Currently, the system has successfully passed field tests and is ready for serial production. Technologies and innovations are the key to our victory. They help to destroy the enemy more effectively and save the lives of the military,” Fedorov noted. (Source: UAS VISION/ Ukrinform)
05 Nov 23. Ukraine hits Russian warship after 15-missile salvo on Crimea shipyard, Witnesses reported a number of explosions and missiles hitting the port city of Kerch, in Crimea. Ukraine fired 15 cruise missiles at a Russian shipyard in occupied Crimea, hitting a warship in an attack that could further undermine Moscow’s offensive capabilities.
French-supplied SCALP missiles struck the Russian vessel stationed at the Zalyv dockyard in the port city of Kerch on Saturday, Lt Gen Mykola Oleshchuk, the commander of Ukraine’s air force said.
The warship was armed with Kalibr cruise missiles that have frequently been used by Russia to strike targets inside Ukraine, he added.
“I confirm,” Gen Oleshchuk said on Sunday morning after posting a message the evening before which said the Ukrainian attack had probably hit its target.
Ukrainian media named the Russian warship as the Askold, a small Karakurt-class warship that is armed with eight Kalibr missiles. The Askold was reportedly going through its final fittings at the harbour before being commissioned into the Black Sea Fleet.
Satellite photos showed a Russian warship in the Zalyv dockyard during the missile strike and Russia’s Ministry of Defence confirmed one of its warships had been hit.
The ministry said late on Saturday that air defences had shot down 13 of the 15 missiles fired by Ukrainian forces, but others struck the shipyard.
It did not provide details about the ship or the extent of the damage.
SCALP missiles are the French equivalent of British Storm Shadow missiles which Ukraine has used to strike Russian command centres in occupied Ukraine and Russia’s Black Sea Fleet based at Sevastopol, in annexed Crimea.
Ukraine has frequently attacked Russia’s navy in the Black Sea over the past year, forcing the Kremlin to withdraw its warships from Sevastopol to the port of Novorossyk, further along the coast.
Moscow has also announced plans to build a new naval base for its fleet in Abkhazia, a rebel part of Georgia which is 350 miles away
But attempts to push Russia’s forces back on land have proved less successful, with Gen Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the head of Ukraine’s armed Fforces, stating the war has effectively ground to a stalemate despite Kyiv’s counter-offensive efforts.
Ukraine’s military on Sunday said a Russian missile strike close to the war’s southern frontline in the Zaporizhzhia region had killed at least 20 soldiers as they stood on parade for a medal ceremony.
The troops were from the 128th mountain assault brigade, which recruits heavily from the western Transcarpathian region.
Three days of mourning
Viktor Mykyta, the region’s governor, declared three days of mourning following Friday’s attack.
“I ask all fellow countrymen, communities, entrepreneurs in public catering establishments to refrain from any entertainment events, concerts,” he said.
Ukraine’s ministry of defence has ordered an investigation into the incident.
Meanwhile, in the east, Russia appeared to be throwing soldiers into battle around Avdiivka, near Bakhmut, the British Ministry of Defence said.
The battle for the town, in the Donbas region, has become one of the deadliest of the war with both sides reportedly suffering thousands of casualties over the past month.
Avdiivka, about 16 miles from the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk, is surrounded by Russian-held territory to the north, east and south.
The town, once home to 30,000 people, has been on the front line of the war since Russia’s initial Donbas invasion in 2014.
(Source: Daily Telegraph)
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