Ukraine Conflict Update – 13 April
Military and hard security developments
- The Russian Ministry of Defence claimed today, 13 April, that over 1,000 Ukrainian marines of the 36th Naval Infantry Regiment have surrendered in Mariupol, though this hasn’t yet been confirmed. Nevertheless, it appears the Russians have continued to make significant progress in the city, with the Azovstal works in the south of the city seeing the heaviest fighting. Following allegations that Russian forces used chemical substances against troops in the Azovstal works, the White House has stated that it is not in a position to confirm such use, but it did reiterate that it had previously had “credible information” that Russia may use chemical agents in its offensive against Mariupol.
- The Ukrainian State Border Service and the Ukrainian Armed Forces confirmed on 12 April that they have strengthened the defences of the Ukrainian border with Transnistria and Belarus. The spokesman for the Border Service stated that this was to “prevent escalation” in those directions, and underlines that Ukraine continues to take the threat of a potential redeployment of troops to north Ukraine seriously. While attacks from Belarus remain less likely at present given the focus in the Donbas, the outcome of the offensive will determine whether Russia expands its area of operations again, which ensures the importance of Ukrainian forces screening the borders.
- Satellite imagery published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has indicated that the number of Russian aircraft at the Lipetsk-2 airfield has more than doubled since late March. According to the imagery, published on 11 April, 6 heavy multi-role Su-27 fighters, 14 Su-30 or Su-34 bombers, 10 Su-24 bombers and 4 other aircraft are amassed at the airfield, from where sorties and bombing runs are regularly launched by Russian forces across Eastern Ukraine. Similarly, Maxar Technologies has also published new satellite imagery indicating significant ground forces build up in Belgorod, neighbouring Ukraine’s Kharkiv oblast. Such build-ups are clearly part of the continued preparation for the upcoming offensive in the Donbas.
- Maintaining the artillery tempo. Sources suggest that even with the 24/7 artillery shelling of major Ukrainian cities that the Russian Army has enough reserves and new barrels to keep up the tempo. A Heavy 207 N artillery systems are being flown down form Kyiv and artillery is gaining preference over other systems being shipped by rail from Kyiv. However sighting systems on UAVs in particular are hard to come by after the 2014 Sanctions, so UAVs resembling model aircraft have been cobbled together using water bottles for fuel tanks an standard cameras with the shutter stuck open for photo-recce purposes.
Diplomatic and strategic developments
- On 12 April Ukrainian security forces captured and arrested Viktor Medvedchuk, the pro-Russian politician and leader of the now-banned Opposition Platform – For Life. Medvedchuk had been held under house arrest before the invasion, on treason charges for handing Ukrainian military secrets to Moscow, but had escaped a few days before the invasion. He had reportedly been caught wearing Ukrainian military uniform while trying to escape the country in Kyiv oblast. President Volodymyr Zelensky has offered to exchange Medvedchuk for Ukrainians captured by Russia. Medvedchuk remains a close personal friend of President Putin, and as the most prominent pro-Russian politicians and oligarchs in Ukraine he may have intended to form part of a pro-Russian administration had Kyiv fallen in the opening stages of the invasion. The Kremlin has yet to respond to the offer, but if he is swapped in a prisoner exchange, he may be utilised by Russian forces in the south and east to legitimise newly installed pro-Russian governments and mayors in the region.
- Earlier this week a former Russian Duma deputy claimed that former presidential adviser Vladislav Surkov had been placed under house arrest. While impossible to verify at this stage, Surkov has allegedly been accused of embezzlement in the Donbas region from 2014 onwards, in a potential indication of a major policy shift on Ukraine. Known as the ‘Grey Cardinal’, Surkov has remained a very close advisor of President Putin since the first days of his presidency as head of the Presidential Administration from 1999 to 2011 and then as assistant to the president from 2013-2020. He was a chief architect of Russia’s ‘Near Abroad’ policy as presidential adviser on Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Ukraine, and as such many credit him with significant influence and oversight of the war in Donbas since 2014.
- If Surkov’s house arrest is true, though confirmation of this will remain extremely difficult, this would likely indicate major policy divisions within the Kremlin on Ukraine. Surkov’s control over Russia’s Ukraine policy before the invasion could nevertheless potentially mean he has been selected as a fall man to blame for the initial failure of Russian forces to seize control of the government in the opening phases of the invasion. The Times has furthermore claimed this week that over 150 FSB security officers have been removed from their jobs. While they provided no hard evidence of this, this would furthermore indicate significant reshuffles of personnel in key decision-making security agencies underscore policy divisions.
- The US is expected to announce as earlier as today, 13 April, a new military aid package worth USD 750 million, according to unnamed US officials citied by Reuters. While the specific weapons to be transferred have not yet been decided, a senior US congressional aide reportedly stated that heavy artillery systems, including howitzers, will likely form part of the package. The US have already provided more than USD 1.7 billion in security assistance since the invasion began, and the prospect of transferring heavier weapons systems underlines the willingness for the West to arm Ukraine to fight a potentially protracted conventional conflict over many months. However, such transfers increase the risk of Russian retaliation and attempts to interdict these shipments – indeed, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov today reiterated that Russia will view US and NATO vehicles transporting weapons to Ukraine as “legitimate military targets”.
- Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has today, 13 April, confirmed that she intends for Sweden to submit an application to join NATO in June. The move comes as neighbouring Finland indicated last week that it will also submit an application this summer, with Prime Minister Sanna Marin stating today that the country will decide whether to apply “within weeks”. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has rapidly increased support for NATO membership in both Sweden and Finland, but as previously assessed in earlier reports, Russia is likely to respond with ‘military-technical measures’, including the repositioning of weapons systems to the Baltic, aerial and naval incursions and cyber attacks.
Economic/business environment developments
- Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal confirmed on 13 April that Ukraine has begun sowing in all oblasts except for Luhansk, which remains under almost complete control of Russian forces. The government has already reportedly provided farmers with preferential financing worth around USD 120 million. However, this will only go so far when large swathes of the country remain under Russian occupation and critical infrastructure needed to prepare and transport foodstuffs has been destroyed. Furthermore, the fact the Black Sea coast remains under Russian blockade will severely limit options for wheat and other agricultural exports later in the summer, if the war has not concluded by then. As Ukraine remains one of the most important grain exporters in the world, the progress of the sowing and harvest seasons will be closely monitored, as the expected sharp reduction in Ukrainian grain will have profound impacts on food insecure areas across the planet – particularly parts of the Middle east and Horn of Africa.
- The UK has announced today that it has added 178 individuals to its sanctions list it accuses of “propping up the illegal breakaway regions” in eastern Ukraine – including Viktor Medvedchuk. The UK will also from tomorrow, 14 April, ban the import of Russian iron and steel as well as key exports, including quantam technologies and advanced materials. In addition, the Jersey Royal Court on 13 April froze USD 7 billion worth of assets belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, in the latest crackdown on offshore Russian wealth. In wider developments, Switzerland has today announced that it will mirror the trade and financial sanctions already implemented by the EU on both Russia and Belarus, expanding its existing sanctions regime to align with the EU’s.
- Considering the withdrawal of Russian troops from around Kyiv, the security situation in and around the capital has moderately improved as of 13 April. The H01/P01 and the E95 are the most viable routes from Kyiv. The E40 highway was declared ‘open’ for Kyiv-Lviv traffic last week by Ukrainian authorities. However, we continue to see video evidence (dated to within the past 48hrs) suggesting that parts of the E40 remain heavily congested by wreckage, with substantial damage to the highway itself including significant potholes from air/missile strikes and artillery shelling, particularly in the vicinity of Makariv, approx. 70km west of Kyiv and directly adjacent to the E40. Therefore, although travel on this route should be relatively safe, there may be delays as road-clearing continues. Air raid warnings across western Ukraine – notably in Khmelnytskyi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv – highlight that the threat of air attacks remain high in western Ukraine, therefore, safety cannot be guaranteed on any westbound evacuation routes.
- It is highly likely that ad-hoc checkpoints and stop-and-search checks by Ukrainian units will continue to take place on routes around and in Kyiv in the coming days and weeks, and those seeking to leave/enter Kyiv should treat such checks with due caution. A curfew will be in place in Kyiv from 2100 local time on 13 April to 0600 on 14 April. The curfew in Irpin currently in place since 0600 on 12 April will last until 0900 local time on 15 April.
- Between Dnipro and Kyiv, we recommend the westbound H08 along the river until Kremenchuk and then the E50 through Oleksandriya and Uman to the E95 and the H01 to Kyiv. This route is currently the safest to Dnipro but takes approximately 90 minutes longer than alternative routes. We would advise that due to missile strikes earlier today on a railway station at Piatykhatky in Dnipropetrovsk oblast, the H08 northbound to Kremenchuk should be chosen over the E50 between Dnipro and Oleksandriya.
- Between Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia, there are two main road routes: the H08 and E105. Due to RU military targeting civilian and military aviation infrastructure with missile strikes, we believe there is substantial risk associated with all road routes into Zaporizhzhia, as the H08 is in close proximity to Shyroke Airfield just north-west of Zaporizhzhia, and the E105 passes through Zaporizhzhia International Airport and then Vilniansk Airfield. The H08 route may be marginally less dangerous due to its relative greater distance from the front line in south-eastern Ukraine, but we assess that all approaches into Zaporizhzhia face elevated risk from air/missile strikes at present. Due to ongoing civilian evacuations from Zaporizhzhia, we assess that there will be substantial delays on both routes. On 13 April, Russian forces reportedly blocked evacuation buses in Zaporizhzhia region.
- In Kharkiv, all exits face substantial risk of shelling and missile strikes, and the situation changes nearly hourly. Due to strikes on civilian residential areas near the M18 we are currently recommending the westbound M03 in the direction of Poltava.
- The risk of a Russian air strike, missile attack or bomb attack on the western Ukrainian city of Uzhorod increased on 8 April following the announcement by Slovakia that it is donating its S-300 air defence system to Ukraine. The Slovakian MOD has stated in March that it has actionable intelligence on the targeting of Uzhorod International Airport by Russian assets and advised extreme caution around the airport. The agreement by the Slovakian MOD to acquire the US PATRIOT missile system – thereby allowing it to transfer the S-300 missile defence system to Ukraine – will likely trigger a retaliatory move by Russia on Uzhorod.
On 12 April US President Joe Biden formally accused Russian forces of conducting genocide in Ukraine, the first time the Biden administration has officially used the term. Only a small number of other countries, including Poland, have joined President Volodymyr Zelensky in referring to atrocities across Ukraine as genocide, but Biden doubled down on the use of the term when asked for clarification. The Kremlin has responded by stating such allegations are “unacceptable” Russia’s relations with the West are clearly already at historic lows, with little scope for meaningful dialogue any time soon. However, the US’s allegations of genocide will nevertheless still further diminish the likelihood of even the slightest normalisation of relations for the foreseeable future. Accusations of genocide are hard to roll back if pragmatic negotiations are necessary to end the war in Ukraine, and sanctions relief will likely remain a key Russian demand if any peace settlement is to be agreed. However, it is clear that public and political will in many Western capitals continues to entrench, which will make reaching a diplomatic resolution harder as compromises may be necessary on sanctions.
Likely with this dynamic in mind, French President Emmanuel Macron on 13 April refused to call Russian actions in Ukraine genocide, stating that he was not sure “the escalation of words is helping the cause right now”. Macron has remained one of the only Western leaders to keep dialogue with the Kremlin open, with Paris confirming today plans to hold telephone calls with both Zelensky and Putin in the coming days. Ultimately, with evidence of widespread Russian war crimes and accusations of chemical weapon use in Mariupol, diplomatic engagement on even humanitarian corridors remains strained at present, with the prospects of a diplomatic resolution to end the war remaining extremely low for the foreseeable future, with much depending on the outcome of the impending Donbas offensive.
- Russian forces have continued overnight strategic attacks on railway infrastructure and storage sites across Ukraine. A missile against the station and junction in Piatykhatky, in western Dnipropetrovsk oblast, has resulted in numerous trains being diverted. Similarly, an important junction at Lozova, on the main rail route towards Sloviansk in southern Khakiv oblast, was also targeted. Air threats are currently being reported in Kharkiv and Dnipro, with these cities plus Mykolaiv remaining routine targets for strikes.
- Significant air and artillery pressure is being maintained throughout the Ukrainian salient in northern Donbas. While fighting has continued in Rubizhne, north of Severodonetsk at the eastern end of the pocket, Russian troops there are being pictured digging in their positions. This implies that they will possibly shift over to using a strategy of protracted bombardment to cause attrition and degradation of Ukrainian forces in the city, keeping them in place while a deeper encirclement is attempted west of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. Nonetheless, limited ground offensives are continuing as Russia continues to maintain pressure and seek weaker points in the defence.
- Further reports suggest that resistance in most of Mariupol is drawing to a close, with Russian forces making significant gains. The negotiated surrender of 1,000 Ukrainian marines has not been substantiated, although brief and unverified Russian video footage showed at least 150 purported captives. The Azovstal works will remain the hardest area of the city to neutralise due to the complex terrain, threats of toxic hazards, and the attitude of the Azov defenders. Additionally, in common with many Soviet era structures, the works have built in bunkers and tunnels for nuclear defence.
- Russian forces are aware that these underground defences exist, and Russian sources have reported extensively that these locations are being used by NATO forces, linked to alleged bioweapons research. While use is not inevitable, this narrative may be a further pretext for further CBRN incidents, which will remain almost impossible to verify; these will most likely be non-persistent nerve agent or possibly choking agents. Azovstal currently remains the most likely area for use of such tactics, which may then be repeated in later sieges in Donbas, should they be successful.
- Russian forces continue to build up in depth around Donbas, aligned to the likely main avenues of attack. Recovering forces from Kyiv remain largely on the Russian side of the border, where they are comparatively safe, although regional authorities are increasingly concerned about sabotage and espionage in this region. Large-scale denial of GPS is also now happening in this area, as Russia starts more effectively to integrate electronic warfare and air defence across the region. This could hamper the operation of some commercial UAV systems and other consumer-based items being used by the Ukrainian military, although Russian forces have hitherto also relied on some of these same items, so will be constrained. The move may also indicate a lingering fear of precision-guided strikes by NATO forces, with similar defensive jamming systems being deployed in Syria since 2016.
Overall, we expect this pattern of activity to continue for the next 24-48 hours.
Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan: Border demarcation issue will sustain risks of escalatory border clashes. Late on 12 April, Kyrgyzstan’s Border Guard Service and its Tajik counterpart agreed to withdraw some forces from their shared border following an armed confrontation in several disputed territories. At approximately 21:00 local time, Tajik border guards reportedly opened fire against their Kyrgyz counterparts during a bilateral meeting of border representatives who had assembled following an earlier exchange of fire between border guards near Maskat village, in the Leylek district of south-western Kyrgyzstan. Negotiations between the heads of the respective border guard services have stabilised the situation, though the ongoing issue of border demarcation will sustain the risk of similar incidents taking place in the coming weeks. Such clashes are likely to heighten regional tensions, elevating the risks of sporadic escalations in armed violence. Long Term Issues Will Limit South Africa’s Commodity Boom Despite Ukraine Opportunities.
Long Term Issues Will Limit South Africa’s Commodity Boom Despite Ukraine Opportunities.
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is likely to encourage Western companies to seek alternative suppliers for various mineral goods, likely benefitting South Africa which is a key exporter of platinum and palladium which are also extracted in Russia. However, currently South Africa lacks the logistical environment to support foreign mining companies seeking to shift sourcing to the country.
- Separately, allies of the former president Jacob Zuma continue to constitute a considerable proportion of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), sustaining challenges to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s fight against corruption and his economic reforms. Such disputes will sustain challenges to businesses operating in the country, threatening prospects for foreign investment.
- Finally, enduring high unemployment and poverty rates sustain the risk of criminal activity and domestic unrest, including the recent anti-migrant protests in cities. These trends will also contribute to sustained concerns from potential investors.
On 1 April, the ratings agency Moody’s upgraded its outlook for South Africa from ‘negative’ to ‘stable’. The agency claimed that the country’s improved fiscal outlook meant that risks to creditors, while still significant, were not worsening, with the government demonstrating its capacity to reprioritise its spending. However, enduring socio-economic and political issues, associated unrest and criminal activity will make South Africa a persistently challenging operating environment for staff and businesses, threatening the viability of mining companies shifting to South Africa from Russia.
The Ukraine-Russia conflict boosts prospects for foreign investment, driving a commodity boom
The ratings agency Moody’s upgrade of its outlook on South Africa likely reflects a projected commodity boom, with South Africa uniquely placed to absorb demand from western companies likely shifting sourcing for key mineral goods from Russia. One such mineral is palladium, of which Russia has traditionally been a key exporter. However in 2021 South Africa surpassed Russian production of palladium to become the world’s largest producer with 80 metric tons, around 40 percent of global supply. In addition, South Africa contains 80 percent of the world’s platinum reserves, and is one of the largest producers of platinum group metals. As well as a potential increase in customers, South Africa will also benefit from rising global prices. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the spot price of palladium increased by 33 percent from 25 February. Given the refined nature of the product and the small quantities in which its used, the volatility in this price is significant. As the Russia-Ukraine conflict endures, commodity prices are likely to remain high. This will bolster already elevated profits following the commodities boom in 2021, following which the world’s largest platinum miner by market capitalisation, South Africa-focused Anglo American Platinum, announced that it would pay over USD 5 billion in dividends for 2021. Another commodity boom will bolster the revenues of the South African government, allowing the government to reduce debt and attracting further international investment. In 2021, increased commodity prices boosted the profitability of companies in the mining sector and subsequently tax receipts to the government, allowing it to cut borrowing in 2022 whilst reducing debt, which is now scheduled to peak at 75 percent of GDP in 2025, a year earlier than previous projections by South Africa’s National Treasury. However, deepening political divisions will undermine prospects for foreign investment President Ramaphosa faces considerable opposition from former president Jacob Zuma’s allies within the ANC, which will undermine South Africa’s ability to effectively capitalise on the opportunities presented by this conflict. Ramaphosa has faced clashes with various ministers, including his energy minister, Gwede Mantashe, who has been accused of hindering the government’s plans to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. Pro-Zuma allies’ continue to control a considerable fraction of the ANC and elevated influence will sustain challenges to Ramaphosa’s fight against corruption. For example, on 10 April, the ANC elected Zuma supporter Zandile Gumede, a former mayor of eThekwini, as the ANC chairwoman of the eastern eThekwini municipality, despite several corruption charges. Gumede was elected ahead of Ramaphosa’s ally, Thabani Nyawose, by 29 votes, underlining Zuma’s significant influence within the ANC. Enduring levels of corruption within the government will likely threaten prospects for the expansion of the mining industry in South Africa. The state-owned Transnet SOC Ltd.’s rail network is critical for moving bulk commodities from mines to ports. The Minerals Council South Africa claimed that coal, iron ore and chrome companies missed out on an estimated a USD 2.4 billion last year, as contracted volumes couldn’t reach ports. Transnet is one of many state firms that was hollowed out by mismanagement under Zuma’s administration. After part of its fleet designed to transport fuel was grounded by shortages of parts, due to the suspension of supplier contracts arising from state corruption, the company turned to general freight locomotives to haul some coal, although in considerably less quantities. As corruption endures, the potential for the country to provide a viable environment for western mining companies will be hindered.
Enduring socio-economic challenges will also discourage foreign investment
While key sectors and the South African government may see some increase in revenues economic challenges, including an unemployment rate of around 35 percent, will persist, driving criminal activity and threatening the viability of foreign companies’ operations. Compounded by the enduring levels of corruption, a key issue facing businesses’ transfer of bulk commodities to ports is cable theft on railway networks carrying goods, significantly disrupting the movement of goods. As poverty levels and unemployment rates remain high in the country, and may be further exacerbated by rising food and fuel prices caused by the conflict, such criminal activity will persist, challenging mining companies ability to meet rising demand and decreasing prospects for foreign investment. Sustained socio-economic challenges including high rates of unemployment and disruption to the delivery of public services, such as frequent power cuts, will continue to drive domestic unrest. Economic challenges in the country have bolstered levels of xenophobia over recent months, increasing support for the anti-migrant Operation Dudula movement, led by Soweto based Nhlanhla ‘Lux’ Dlamini. This has prompted protests in Robertson in Western Cape, Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg in Gauteng. Such protests risk prompting attacks on migrant owned businesses and their communities in major cities, with recent attacks around Johannesburg resulting in several deaths, elevating threats to bystanders and businesses employing foreign staff.
Enduring economic challenges will sustain criminal activity and domestic unrest, compounding challenges to the operations of foreign companies. Previously, anti-migrant protests prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to ask companies not to employ undocumented foreign nationals to reduce tensions, potentially indicating rising compliance requirements. Notably, the government is likely to implement additional regulation targeting foreign workers within existing employment law in order to mitigate further criticism. Companies found not to be compliant with existing regulations will likely be targeted by entities such as Operation Dudula directly. Furthermore, recent protests threaten to drive violence towards business as protestors target not just migrant communities but also businesses employing foreigners. As the anti-migrant movement endures, ongoing protests and the associated policy risks will elevate reputational threats to businesses and may discourage investors seeking to enter the South African market. This is particularly likely for entities seeking opportunities in business areas such as Durban where hundreds of Operation Dudula members marched through the streets over the weekend. Zuma’s allies within the ANC have previously accused Ramaphosa of prioritising international investment over local issues and concerns. Attempts by the South African government capitalise on the interest of foreign companies seeking to find alternative sourcing opportunities will likely further compound those allegations, rendering the government highly sensitivity to allegations of foreign exploitation. Growing accusations will likely deepen divisions within the party, increasing concerns about a potentially hostile environment for foreign businesses which could therefore undermine investment opportunities in the country. Moreover, growing accusations will likely exacerbate challenges to Ramaphosa’s capacity to implement economic reforms, including subsidy cuts. Such demands will undermine the government’s efforts to reduce the country’s sizeable debt, which is key to rebuilding international lenders’ confidence, securing foreign investment in the medium-to-long term. (Source: Sibylline)
13 Apr 22. Macron declines to follow Biden’s Ukraine ‘genocide’ claim. French leader stops short of repeating US president’s accusation regarding Russia’s war conduct. Emmanuel Macron, French president, has declined to endorse the accusation by his US counterpart Joe Biden that Russia’s Vladimir Putin was guilty of “genocide” in Ukraine. His caution echoes that of other European leaders who have instead called for a full investigation of potential war crimes by Moscow. Biden on Tuesday said Putin “declares war and commits genocide a half a world away”, before saying it was for lawyers to draw a final conclusion. He said he used the term because it was “clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian . . . The evidence is mounting.” Macron, asked about the US president’s remark in a France 2 television interview on Wednesday, said: “So far, it has been established that war crimes were committed by the Russian army and that it is now necessary to find those responsible and bring them to justice.” He continued: “I am very careful with some terms these days . . . I am not sure the escalation of words is helping the cause.” The statement echoed the position of a majority of EU leaders who have largely refrained from using the term “genocide” in the context of the war, even in private conversations, instead reinforcing the need to bring those responsible for war crimes to account. The Kremlin on Wednesday condemned Biden’s statement as “unacceptable.” (Source: FT.com)
13 Apr 22. Putin’s ignoble Ukrainian war and the need to maximise sanctions immediately. “It is increasingly impossible for any one country to stand to one side and claim neutrality as any such claim supports Putin’s on-going aggression against the Ukrainian people and this includes indirectly supporting war crimes.” John R. Bryson, Professor of Enterprise and Economic Geography, Birmingham Business School.Regarding sanctions and what should now be labelled as Putin’s ignoble Ukrainian war, I have argued that a structured approach to sanctions should be applied that includes all Russian businesses, financial interests and infrastructure, educational, sporting, cultural, and travel activities. This list should also have included any individuals directly or indirectly linked to the Russian side of the conflict including the Russian oligarchs and their families. The US, UK, the European Commission, and other countries, have applied sanctions and continue to identify new sanctions that could be imposed on Russia. Nevertheless, a lukewarm or lacklustre approach to sanctions has been applied thus far. Now is the time for all countries to impose maximum sanctions. Now is also the time for all countries to decide how they are going to respond to Putin’s illegal ignoble Ukrainian war. It is increasingly impossible for any one country to stand to one side and claim neutrality as any such claim supports Putin’s on-going aggression against the Ukrainian people and this includes indirectly supporting war crimes. We should acknowledge all sporting and cultural bodies that have imposed effective sanctions on Russia. But more is required. Last Sunday, a Russian go-kart driver was permitted to compete in the CIK-FIA European Karting Championship in Portugal. Anti-war rules prevented him from competing under the Russian flag and the national anthem could not be played during the post-race ceremonies. This type of passive anti-war rule supports Putin’s aggression; a total ban on all Russian participation in sporting and cultural activities is required immediately. Everyday Russia’s military campaign is supported by revenue flows linked to the sale of gas and oil to European consumers. In 2021, EU energy imports from Russia were worth $108 billion (€99bn). Since the start of Putin’s ignoble war, the EU has provided more funding to Russia than it has provided to support Ukraine. Now is the time for the European Commission, and all member states, to accept that it no longer possible for Europeans to continue to rely on Russian gas and oil. European citizens, businesses and economies would experience major detrimental impacts, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for any one country to continue to provide Russia with indirect support for its military campaign. How does one balance rape, death, forced relocation, mass murder from indiscriminate shelling and war crimes against the difficulties that would result from no longer being able to consume Russian gas and oil? It is impossible to negotiate with Putin; Russia needs to be forced to withdraw from Ukraine either by effective sanctions or by defeat in battle. Russia likes to make threats. One of the current threats is that any attempt by Sweden and Finland to join NATO would come with repercussions. The European Union must now respond to Putin’s war with a threat that they would enforce immediately. This threat would be the application of a novel and high-risk solution to Europe’s gas problem. All member states should be prepared to forego Russian gas immediately. Russia should be informed that all European Russian gas payments would now be placed in an escrow account with the funds eventually being disbursed to Ukraine as part payment of Russian war reparations. This fund would continue to grow and would be allocated to Ukraine once all conflict had ceased and all Russian forces had left Ukrainian territory. Once the war had ceased then the revenue flows would return to Russia but not the accumulated escrow fund. Russia might respond by cutting off the supply of gas to European countries, but the European threat would be that this action would then result in Russia’s permanent exclusion from the European energy market. Placing European gas payments to Russia in an escrow account would force Putin to act by turning off the gas, escalating the war even with nuclear weapons or it might hasten the end of his ignoble Ukrainian war. The danger is that Russia sells discounted gas and oil to other countries, but any such sales would be to nations that are directly endorsing Russian war crimes, and this should be acknowledged. There are alternatives to maximising sanctions and one of these is to provide Ukraine with all the military equipment that it requests and to provide this immediately. The danger is that the Ukrainian war will be lost as the US, UK, EU, and other nations continue to discuss options. Now is the time to act and to maximise both sanctions and military support.
13 Apr 22. US president Joe Biden is expected to announce $800mn in additional military aid for Ukraine on Wednesday, including artillery and armoured vehicles, according to a person familiar with the matter. The assistance comes as Ukraine is preparing for a new Russian offensive in the south-eastern Donbas region, after successfully forcing a retreat of Moscow’s forces from the area around Kyiv. The US and its allies are looking to provide weapons to help Ukraine as it transitions away from the street and city fighting that dominated its defence of Kyiv to the more conventional battles expected in eastern Ukraine. The move comes in response to pleas from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for heavier weaponry to combat Russian tanks and missiles. Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, and Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, last week spent two hours on the phone reviewing Ukraine’s requests for aid with the head of the country’s armed forces and Zelensky’s top adviser. “Some of that’s been delivered, some of it’s on the way, and some of it we’re still working to source,” Sullivan told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. A National Security Council spokesman said the US was “working around the clock to provide Ukraine with additional capabilities they have requested and need to defend their country”. The new pledge will bring the total US assistance supplied to Ukraine since the beginning of the war to $2.5bn. In addition to artillery and armoured vehicles, the package will include engineering and field support and night vision equipment. (Source: FT.com)
12 Apr 22. U.S. to announce $750m more in weapons for Ukraine, officials say. U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is expected to announce as soon as Wednesday another $750m in military assistance for Ukraine for its fight against Russian forces, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter told Reuters. The equipment would be funded using Presidential Drawdown Authority, or PDA, in which the president can authorize the transfer of articles and services from U.S. stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency. One of the officials said final determinations were still being made about the mix of equipment. A senior congressional aide said the equipment to be announced would likely include heavy ground artillery systems to Ukraine, including howitzers.
White House officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The White House said last week that it has provided more than $1.7bn in security assistance to Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine that Russia calls a “special military operation. “The congressional aide said some lawmakers had been informed within the last 24 hours about the upcoming announcement, which was expected within the next 24 to 48 hours.
Weapons shipments have included defensive anti-aircraft Stinger and anti-tank Javelin missiles, as well as ammunition and body armor.
U.S. and European leaders are being pressed by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to provide heavier arms and equipment to engage Russia in Ukraine’s eastern region, where Russia is expected to intensify its military efforts.
Raytheon Technologies (RTX.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) jointly produce Javelins, while Raytheon makes Stingers. Other top weapons makers are Boeing Co (BA.N), Northrop Grumman (NOC.N), General Dynamics (GD.N) and L3Harris Technologies (LHX.N).
Separately, the Pentagon will host leaders from the top eight U.S. weapons manufacturers on Wednesday to discuss the industry’s capacity to meet Ukraine’s weapons needs if the war with Russia lasts years, two people familiar with the meeting told Reuters. (Source: Reuters)
12 Apr 22. Russian Forces, Ukrainians Vie for Mariupol. U.S. officials assess that Ukrainians are still contesting the strategic city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.
Russian forces have surrounded the city on the Sea of Azov, but Ukrainian military personnel are still fighting the invaders, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.
Russian forces have heavily shelled the Ukrainian city, and news footage from Mariupol shows an area devastated by aerial and artillery fire. “But our assessment is that the Ukrainians are still fighting for it,” he said.
The city is in a strategic location just south of the Donbas area of Ukraine and has an excellent port on the Sea of Azov — an arm of the Black Sea. Mariupol would provide the Russians “unfettered and unhindered land access between the Donbas and Crimea,” Kirby said.
The Russians say the region is Russian, but the area “also has great significance to the Ukrainian people,” Kirby said. Mariupol is a key to Ukraine’s economic life.
“It is their city, and it’s part of their country, and they haven’t given up on it. And we’re not giving up on them, either,” Kirby said.
Ukrainian allies and partners — including the United States — continue sending military equipment, supplies, food and more into Ukraine. Kirby would not talk about the way the Ukrainian forces are deployed as the Russians attack the eastern part of the nation.
” continue to fight bravely for their country,” Kirby said. “We continue to try to support their efforts to do that through truly an unprecedented level of speed, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.” (Source: US DoD)
12 Apr 22. Pentagon asks top 8 U.S. weapons makers to meet on Ukraine -sources. Pentagon will host leaders from the top eight U.S. weapons manufacturers on Wednesday to discuss the industry’s capacity to meet Ukraine’s weapons needs if the war with Russia lasts years, two people familiar with the meeting said on Tuesday.
Demand for weapons has shot up after Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24 spurred U.S. and allied weapons transfers to Ukraine. Resupplying as well as planning for a longer war is expected to be discussed at the meeting, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The Pentagon’s office of Acquisition and Sustainment, the weapons buyer for the U.S. Department of Defense, will host the 90 minute meeting and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks was expected to attend, one of the people said.
The Pentagon has said that the most useful weapons are smaller systems such as Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, which Washington and allies have been shipping to Ukraine on a nearly daily basis.
The intense usage, as well as the battlefield effectiveness displayed by Ukrainian forces, has driven interest in restocking these weapons.
Raytheon Technologies (RTX.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) jointly produce Javelins, while Raytheon makes Stingers. Other top weapons makers are Boeing Co (BA.N) Northrop Grumman (NOC.N), General Dynamics (GD.N) and L3Harris Technologies (LHX.N).
The White House said last week that it has provided more than $1.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion, including over 5,000 Javelins and more than 1,400 Stingers.
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Administration is having weekly meetings of its European Crisis Management Team to review specific requests related to Ukraine.
To speed up U.S. government approval for sales and transfers of arms produced by American defense contractors, the Pentagon has re-established a team to respond to the increased demand.
12 Apr 22. DOD Ensures Ukraine Has Necessities to Counter Russian Invasion. With Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine taking a new turn, the United States continues to deliver military capabilities to Ukraine, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks said today.
Hicks told the Defense Writers Group that the United States will provide the capabilities Ukraine’s military needs to counter the Russian invasion for the short term and the long term.
Even before Putin’s attack began Feb. 24, the United States was delivering aid to the nation. Over the past year, the United States provided $2 billion in aid to Ukraine, with $1.7 billion of it going to the country since the invasion began.
Javelin anti-armor and Stinger air defense systems get most of the press, but the aid also encompasses small arms ammunition, radios, rations and more. “I’ve never seen anything like it in terms of the ability to identify what’s needed, work with allies and partners, work with industry, work inside the services and then move that capability forward and get it into Ukraine,” she said. “Just an incredibly impressive set of work.”
To sustain the effort, the Defense Department “must work with those allies in the industry that supports us and supports them,” she said.
To ensure the U.S. can supply what Ukraine requires in both the short and long term, DOD is working along three lines of effort, Hicks said. The first is direct support to Ukraine — identifying what the military needs immediately. This also encompasses working with allies and partners to identify capabilities and work with them to move those capabilities to Ukraine expeditiously, she said.
DOD has two means to deliver capabilities to Ukraine. One is drawdown authority, in which the president can authorize the transfer of equipment, articles or services in an emergency. The other is the Ukrainian security assistance initiative that Congress authorized. “Congress and the President have both been very clear that they are happy to provide other authorities, if we need that,” she said.
The second line of effort involves coordinating with the more than 30 nations who are providing aid to Ukraine to ensure that they are adequately supplied to ensure their own security. “We want to make sure we’re working with all of those allies and partners to figure out where there might be some need for backfill for them,” the deputy secretary said. “Do they have things they want from our industry? That’s a whole effort underway with armaments directors throughout NATO … and beyond.”
The third line of effort is the industry resilience piece that is meant to address the long-term aspect of the war. She met with Business Executives for National Security yesterday, and the DOD is convening a meeting of the department’s largest prime contractors tomorrow to discuss its requirements across broad portfolio areas.
Officials said the meeting “will discuss industry proposals to accelerate production of existing systems and develop new, modernized capabilities critical to the department’s ongoing security assistance to Ukraine and long-term readiness of U.S. and ally/partner forces.”
This third line of effort will also help replenish American stocks of weapons, she said. Over the long term, it is critical that the DOD build enduring strength for U.S. forces, allies and partners by building the U.S. industrial base to face the challenges of supply for both the current conflict and conflicts in the future, Hicks said. (Source: US DoD)
13 Apr 22. Biden says Russia committing genocide in Ukraine.
- Putin says he is confident operations will achieve goals
- Putin seemed to ramble or stammer in address
- Zelenskiy mocks Putin saying attack is going to plan
- Concern over unconfirmed use of chemical weapons
U.S. President Joe Biden said for the first time that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine amounts to genocide, as President Vladimir Putin said Russia would “rhythmically and calmly” continue its operation and achieve its goals.
“Yes, I called it genocide because it has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian and the evidence is mounting,” Biden told reporters as he prepared to board Air Force One on Tuesday.
Biden has repeatedly called Putin a war criminal, but delivering a speech at an ethanol plant in Iowa earlier on Tuesday the U.S. president escalated his rhetoric to accuse Russia of genocide.
“We’ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me.”
Russia has denied targeting civilians and has said Ukrainian and Western allegations of war crimes are fabricated.
Many towns Russia has retreated from in northern Ukraine were littered with the bodies of civilians killed in what Kyiv says was a campaign of murder, torture and rape.
Interfax Ukraine news agency on Wednesday quoted the Kyiv district police chief saying 720 bodies have been found in the region around the capital, with more than 200 people missing.
The General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a Wednesday briefing that Russian forces were maintaining rocket and bomb attacks on civilian infrastructure in the Kharkiv region in the northeast and the Zaporizhzhia region in central Ukraine. Reuters could not verify the reports.
Moscow’s nearly seven-week long incursion, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has seen more than 4.6 million people flee abroad, killed or injured thousands and left Russia increasingly isolated on the world stage.
The Kremlin says it launched a “special military operation” on Feb. 24 to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext for the invasion.
Putin on Tuesday used his first public comments on the conflict in more than a week to say Russia would “rhythmically and calmly” continue its operation, and expressed confidence his goals, including on security, would be achieved.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy mocked Putin in an early morning address on Wednesday: “How could a plan that provides for the death of tens of thousands of their own soldiers in a little more than a month of war come about?”
Putin said that on-off peace negotiations “have again returned to a dead-end situation for us.”
The Russian leader frequently seemed to ramble or stammer. Only occasionally did he adopt the icy, confident demeanour that has been his trademark fopr 22 years in power.
Putin, who had been ubiquitous on Russian television in the early days of the war, had largely retreated from public view since Russia’s withdrawal from northern Ukraine two weeks ago.
Russian forces have failed to capture one major city and have suffered heavy losses since launching an invasion in late February.
Russia’s appointment of Army General Alexander Dvornikov as commander of the Ukraine war shows how Ukrainian resistance and Russia’s ineffective pre-war planning is forcing it to reassess its operations, British military intelligence said on Wednesday.
BATTLE FOR DONBAS CRITICAL
Russia says it now aims to capture more territory on behalf of separatists in two eastern provinces, known as the Donbas, which includes the besieged port of Mariupol.
The assault on the industrial heartland of Donbas sets the stage for a protracted battle that is certain to inflict heavy losses on both sides and will ultimately define the course of the war, analysts said. read more
Ukraine says tens of thousands of civilians have been trapped inside Mariupol with no way to bring in food or water, and accuses Russia of blocking aid convoys.
As Russia redoubles efforts in the east, Luhansk regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai urged residents to evacuate.
“It’s far more scary to remain and burn in your sleep from a Russian shell,” he wrote on social media.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the eastern Donetsk region, said he had seen incident reports on possible chemical weapons use in Mariupol but could not confirm them.
The United States and Britain have said they were trying to verify the reports. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it was closely monitoring the situation. Chemical weapons production, use and stockpiling is banned under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. Russia’s defence ministry has not responded to a Reuters request for comment. Russian-backed separatist forces in the east denied using chemical weapons in Mariupol, the Interfax news agency reported. The United States is expected to announce $750 million more in military assistance, two officials told Reuters, likely including heavy ground artillery systems to Ukraine, including howitzers, in a sign the war is expected to drag on. (Source: Reuters)
12 Apr 22. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German president, has abandoned plans to visit Kyiv after admitting he would not be welcome in the Ukrainian capital in what is being seen as a serious snub for one of Germany’s senior politicians. Steinmeier, who has been on a state visit to Warsaw, said his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda had recently suggested the two of them travel to Kyiv along with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia “to send a strong signal of European solidarity with Ukraine”. “I was prepared [to do that],” he went on. “But apparently, and I have to take this on board, it wasn’t wanted in Kyiv.” Steinmeier has come under sharp criticism in recent days over his closeness to Russia, a country he once described as an “indispensable partner”. He was speaking after the mass circulation Bild Zeitung newspaper cited Ukrainian officials as saying that the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky would refuse to meet Steinmeier if he came to Kyiv. While serving as Germany’s foreign minister, Steinmeier had a strong relationship with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. He was also seen as a strong supporter of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that was designed to bring Russian gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine, and which was suspended in February. (Source: FT.com)
12 Apr 22. ‘Every option is on the table’ if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine, minister says.
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told Forces News “people will be held to account” if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine.
“Every option is on the table” to hold Russia accountable if it uses chemical weapons in Ukraine, the Armed Forces Minister has said.
James Heappey told Forces News the Prime Minister, the President of the United States and the President of France “have all been very clear that the use of chemical weapons won’t be tolerated”.
“If they are used, people will be held to account and every option is on the table for how they will be held to account,” he said.
He added that there needs to remain a certain level of “ambiguity” over the consequence of Russia using chemical weapons so President Vladimir Putin cannot weigh up whether it is a “price worth paying” for his military objectives in Ukraine.
Mr Heappey added that it was clear Putin’s desire was to push for an outcome he can celebrate on 9 May, Russia’s Victory Day.
But the Russian president’s refocusing on the Donbas region is not something the minister views as “particularly sensible”.
He also said while central Ukraine can “return to some level of normality”, the focus on the Donbas will result in “some really bloody and intense fighting that could rumble on for months”.
“They are dribbling reinforcements into the Donbas and they’re doing so at a time of year when it’s so muddy in the spring time that they’ll be fixed on roads,” Mr Heappey said.
“We’ve seen in the way that the Ukrainians reacted to the armoured column north of Kyiv, that if you’ve got really long convoys stuck on roads, the Ukrainians just pick them off.
“This is just lots of Russian soldiers meeting their death because of Putin’s arrogance,” he added.
As the war is now approaching the eight-week mark, Mr Heappey added that NATO should not have got involved in the conflict from the outset.
“I think if we were, I don’t think I’d be having this conversation with you from an above-ground room in the MOD (Ministry of Defence),” he said.
“I think I would have been down in the bunker and we would have found ourselves with cruise missiles landing in London.” (Source: forces.net)