Ukraine Conflict Update – 20 April
Military and hard security developments
- Russian forces have continued to attack along various axes in eastern and southern Ukraine, with air and artillery bombardments continuing to intensify in particular. Ukrainian forces have managed to repulse a number of Russian attacks however, but this likely reflects the fact that Russian forces are continuing to focus on reconnaissance and probing attacks ahead of larger scale offensives likely to be launched in the coming days. Pro-Russian separatist media outlets have nevertheless this morning claimed that Ukrainian forces have begun withdrawing from the triangle around the Rubizhne, Severodonestsk and Lysychansk salient, though this has not yet been confirmed. Ultimately, Ukrainian withdrawals from this region remain possible amid mounting Russian pressure in order to shorten their defensive lines to better protect critical points. However, the success of Russian offensives in this respect remains to be seen, though pressure on the defenders is clearly growing significantly. The outcome of the war for the future of Ukraine and indeed Russia will become apparent over the next two to three weeks depending on the increased supply of equipment from NATO and the weather. Russian ratio is only 2:1, whereas 3:1 is the ideal for an attacking force. Russia’s intentions continue to change depending on the success or failure of its advance.
- The Pentagon stated on 19 April that Ukraine has received numerous additional combat aircraft as well as spare parts to assist in repairs, though they did not provide specific details. While the spokesman did not state which states had transferred fighters to the Ukrainian air force, they did confirm that the US has not provided any whole aircraft to Ukraine – though Washington has pledged numerous Soviet-era Mi-17 helicopters. According to the Pentagon, Kyiv now operates more fighter aircraft than it did two weeks ago, underlining Ukraine’s increasing, rather than decreasing, capabilities in certain areas ahead of the Russian offensive in the Donbas. However, Kyiv pushed back against these claims, maintaining that the US has sent equipment to help get more planes into service, rather than allies sending aircraft. Nevertheless, such statements from the Pentagon will only reinforce perceptions amongst Russian commanders that Western heavy weapons shipments need to be interdicted, particularly if Moscow intends to fight a more protracted conflict beyond the Donbas offensive.
- The Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev has stated on Telegram that foreign volunteers in Ukraine, which he described as “mercenaries”, are not considered legal combatants and thus the Geneva Convention does not apply to them. The statement underlines the enduring threat of war crimes and poor treatment of prisoners of war, particularly against certain demographics of Ukrainian fighters – namely foreign volunteers and soldiers perceived to fight for fascist militias, such as the Azov regiment currently fighting in Mariupol. Medvedev’s statement comes as unnamed European officials cited by the Guardian claim that Russia has deployed some 20,000 mercenaries from Syria, Libya and elsewhere from the Wagner Group in the Donbas region.
Diplomatic and strategic developments
- On 19 April Moscow expelled more European diplomats in retaliation for similar measures over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The latest expulsion of diplomats from Netherlands and Denmark furthermore underlines a historic break in relations between Russia and the collective West. Moreover, even if the war in Ukraine comes to end in the coming weeks, these diplomatic relations will not be easily restored.
- Today, 20 April, the Finnish parliament are scheduled to debate the country’s security policy, which is expected to move the country towards a formal application for NATO in June. The invasion of Ukraine has dramatically shifted political and public will towards joining the alliance, despite (and inevitably because of) Russian threats against any NATO expansion. ‘Military-technical’ measures remain a likely response in the coming weeks, including cyber attacks, aerial incursions and naval drills in the Baltic, but consensus is building in Helsinki that a change in security policy is needed to ward against potential future Russian aggression. A similar trend is building in neighbouring Sweden, with a new poll by Aftonbladet released on 20 April stating 57% of respondents back membership of NATO, up from 51% last month. Swedish politicians by contrast to their counterparts in Finland remain more cautious about NATO membership, but an ongoing security review means an application is also increasingly likely if Finland also applies.
- On 19 April, the Netherland’s foreign ministry announced that they have reopened their embassy in Lviv. The embassy is now operating with a limited staff and the ambassador in Lviv. It is likely that other Western countries will follow suit and reopen their embassies in Western Ukraine following Russia’s shift of focus to the Donbas.
Economic/business environment developments
- Russian billionaire Oleg Tinkov posted a strong anti-war message on his Instagram account, alleging that “90% of Russians are against” the war. Tinkov also called on the West to “give Mr Putin a clear exit to save his face and stop this massacre”. The development marks another high-profile Russian economic elite openly criticising the war, driving the risk of him facing prosecution under Russia’s new “fake news” laws following Moscow’s crackdown on anti-war commentary. Although an oligarchic revolt is still currently unlikely, depending on how the Kremlin chooses to deal with Tinkov could inform the response from other Russian billionaires, particularly as more sanctions against Russia continue to be expanded. Nevertheless, Putin’s tight control over the oligarchs and their general lack of political influence required to change the president’s mind furthermore underscores the low likelihood that this group of elites will be the driving force of change – at least in the short term.
- In a similar development, former Crimean prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya has criticised the veneration of the ‘Z’ symbol in Russia and criticised the war in Ukraine as a “tragedy”. A native of Luhansk oblast, Poklonskaya remained a strong supporter of the annexation of Crimea, being the first Russian prosecutor of the region, but she has since broke with the official line on the war in Ukraine, describing it as a “catastrophe”. She had previously been considered a rising star in Russia, but her political influence has diminished in recent years despite her appointment as Deputy Head of a federal agency on international humanitarian cooperation. Nevertheless, the fact that a well-known sitting official has come out and criticised the war is notable, underlining sizeable opposition within the government to the war – though, as above with the oligarch class, is remains unlikely at this stage that such criticism will translate into a direct threat to the Kremlin.
- In line with previously observed trends, the Russian Education Ministry yesterday, 19 April, announced plans that children – as young as seven years old – will be required to study patriotic Russian history, with schools required to commence each school week by singing the national anthem and raising the Russian flag, starting on 1 September, the start of the school year in Russia and Ukraine. The development is on trend with ongoing efforts by the Kremlin to establish control over the information landscape and to shape the societal way of thinking, which is also one the ways in which the state is able to prevent the emergence of dissent, despite the existence of a powerful coercive apparatus.
- According to the latest IMF projections, Ukraine’s economy is expected to contract by 35% in 2022. The projections furthermore underline that the economic conditions will remain severely depressed for years to come, even if the war were to end soon. This is due to “the loss of life, destruction of physical capital, and flight of citizens,” all of which will cumulatively impede economic activity and recovery from restoring back to the pre-war times. Moreover, the economic impact of the war is felt globally, with the IMF also underlining that the increased fuel and food prices are already placing under additional strain lower-income countries in places such as the Middle East and Asia.
- Considering the withdrawal of Russian troops from around Kyiv, the security situation in and around the capital has moderately improved as of 20 April. The H01/P01 and the E40 are the most viable routes from Kyiv. The E40 highway was declared ‘open’ for Kyiv-Lviv traffic last week by Ukrainian authorities, however, the E40 and the E373 remain heavily damaged from air/missile strikes and artillery shelling. 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, Zhytomyr, Rivne, 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.
- While Ukraine’s State Emergency Services continue demining operations around Kyiv, the threat posed by mines and unexploded ordnance remains high across Kyiv oblast. We note that this advisory is supported by a warning from Kyiv Region Military Administration on 12 April stating that de-occupied towns and settlements adjacent to Kyiv should not be re-settled by civilian populations due to high quantities of mines and unexploded ordnance.
- 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.
- 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. On 14 April, Russia has claimed that it struck Dnipro airfield in an air attack, in the vicinity of the H08 route, underlining extreme security risks in the region. As such, 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.
- After having failed to establish evacuation corridors over the last few days, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereschchuk announced that a humanitarian corridor to evacuate individuals from the besieged city of Mariupol will be opened from 1400 (local time) on 20 April. Nevertheless, Vereschchuk stressed that because of the “very difficult security situation” changes may occur, which is highly likely given the failed previous attempts to evacuate people from this area. Moreover, it was also reportedly not immediately clear whether the announced corridor had Russia’s support, further indicating that plans to evacuate those remaining in Mariupol may be jeopardised.
On 20 April, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Russia has handed over a formal written document outlining Moscow’s position on negotiations and the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian side will reportedly study the proposals, but Peskov has reiterated previous Russian accusations that Ukraine has deviated from issues allegedly agreed during previous talks in Turkey last month. In a further indication of the declining likelihood of meaningful progress on peace talks, Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, stated today that Russia has “already lost confidence in the Ukrainian negotiators”, with Ukrainian officials expressing similar sentiments in the other direction following the discovery of the extent of war crimes in northern Ukraine. No further details have been provided as to the contents of the Russian proposals, but statements from President Zelensky will be a key event to watch in the coming days that may provide some insight into Russian war aims. Ultimately, however, such negotiations are highly unlikely to result in any progress in the coming weeks given that Russia has now committed to the offensive in the Donbas. As previously assessed, the outcome of this offensive will thus likely determine the trajectory of peace talks thereafter.
- Russian forces have continued large-scale artillery and air bombardments along much of the front lines, accompanied by ground assaults in a number of areas. Many of yesterday’s attacks were repulsed and do not seem to have been pushed with vigour, although assessed Russian losses are comparatively small, which may indicate that these are largely an extension of probing activity and reconnaissance by fire seeking to draw out Ukrainian positions for targeting. This would be in line with doctrine and recent practice.
- Russian forces do, however, seem to have achieved successes in several areas. Following the capture of the town of Kreminna, north-west of Severodonetsk (as reported yesterday), an advance has developed westwards towards the small city of Lyman. This attack has been joined by forces from Termy, captured two weeks ago, advancing from the north. 30 miles to the west, Russian forces have advanced south on Lozove, along the bank of the Oskil River. These two axes threaten to trap Ukrainian forces north of Lyman, which are likely conducting a withdrawal towards the city, which forms an important part of the Ukrainian defensive line. It also controls one of the railways towards Severodonetsk and covers crossings of the Donets River.
- While the comparatively quick Russian advance in this area reflects the advantage conferred by more open terrain (compared to e.g. Kyiv), river crossings will continue to pose a challenge to Moscow’s forces. Ukrainian defenders continue to employ effective delaying tactics, including denying bridges through demolition, and denser terrain along the course of rivers and streams makes for areas where ambush tactics can be used to greater effect. Advances around Izyum have been contested in this manner, including through the use of reverse slope defences, where defenders remain hidden until the advancing forces are at short range and vulnerable. Use of small drones supports the intelligence collection required to mount this sort of defence effectively.
- The other area where Russia has gained significant ground is around the city of Hulyaipole along the southern front, around 55 miles east of Zaporizhzhia. This is in the middle of the extended line between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, which remains comparatively thinly covered by both sides. Another thrust has also developed towards Velyka Novasilka, 30 miles north-east. These are only using 1 BTG on each axis, so far, and so attacks here are assessed to be efforts to draw off Ukrainian reserves and prevent reinforcement of other positions. However, it remains possible that more forces will be committed – potentially to whichever of the two attacks is more successful. This would open up options for Russia, including an advance on Zaporizhzhia and eventually Dnipro, although we continue to assess that a move to close an encirclement by meeting forces from the Izyum bridgehead is the most likely course of action should a breakthrough be achieved.
- We believe that further forces are being released from Mariupol and these may be used on this axis. While resistance remains at the Azovstal plant, Russia appears to be relying on using a combination of bombardment and demands for surrender, despite pictures of infantry clearing a part of the massive industrial site yesterday. Given the complexity of the plant and the fate likely awaiting Azov fighters, we continue to believe that at least some Ukrainian soldiers will remain to harass Russian forces in the city using infiltration tactics, although larger scale resistance is effectively already subdued.
- Two more Russian BTGs also entered Ukraine yesterday, bringing the assessed in country total to 78. With the 22 reforming in Belarus, this gives a total of 100 active from the 120 plus 12 reinforcements deployed since the start of the operation.
- On the Ukrainian side, the scale and speed of weapons supply from NATO and EU nations has continued to increase in response to the Russian offensive. This now includes additional artillery, surface-to-air systems, short ranged anti-shipping missiles, armoured vehicles, aircraft, and vital components to help restore elements of the Ukrainian Air Force. A Ukrainian Mig-29 and a Su-25 ground attack aircraft have been shot down in recent days over Donbas, showing that air operations are building, although Ukraine continues to be heavily outnumbered in the skies. Surface-to-air systems continue to be the main hazard to Russian planes and helicopters, which are therefore using very low-level tactics to provide close support for Russian troops. The threat environment continues to limit the effectiveness of these strikes, although Moscow undoubtedly still has an overwhelming advantage in terms of air support.
- We continue to assess that Russia has improved its command and control, communications, and logistics, and is now employing better tactics on ground that generally is more suitable than earlier in the war. The overall commander’s previous main achievement in Syria was bringing together artillery, air, and ground forces to good effect, and this appears to be reflected in current operations. However, comparatively low morale and the hasty rebuilding of BTGs, coupled with a lack of experience in many senior commanders, may continue to slow offensive operations. This will likely be magnified by the agile nature of the Ukrainian defence, although in turn the Ukrainian forces have been under bombardment for long periods of time and are facing issues receiving supplies in sufficient quantities – particularly of artillery rounds
- We expect this pattern to continue in the next 24-48 hours, as Russia seeks to gain advantageous positions on multiple axes and wear down the defenders, and Kyiv in turn seeks to delay and cause significant casualties for the attackers. Significant Ukrainian withdrawals are possible in some areas as lines are shortened and key locations reinforced. This may even include the withdrawal of some forces from the far eastern end of the salient around Severodonetsk, which is hardest to reinforce and facing the greatest risk of encirclement – with Russian and separatist news outlets already claiming that is taking place as of this morning. The conduct of withdrawals, which are most likely to be conducted in the dark given Russia’s generally poor performance at night, will particularly demonstrate if the Ukrainian forces are able to maintain cohesion in the face of growing Russian pressure. Conversely, uncontested retreats will show that Russian forces continue to lack real aggression and ability to manoeuvre effectively.
Pro-Russian operations continue to target Ukrainian and Western government agencies, companies and critical infrastructure
- On 16 April, Russian-linked Conti ransomware group claimed responsibility for an attack targeting German wind turbine manufacturer Nordex on 31 March. Conti added the Nordex Group to its data leak website, Conti News, on 11 April, though has not uploaded data files at the time of writing. The attack forced Nordex to shut down its IT systems “at multiple locations and across several business units”, with the firm reporting on 12 April that investigations were ongoing, with IT systems undergoing restoration processes.
- On 14 April, the Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine (CERT-UA) reported that pro-Russian hackers are using IcedID malware in phishing cyber attacks on the Ukrainian government, exploiting vulnerabilities in the Zimbra open source email platform. The attacks are reportedly linked to a threat cluster known as UAC-0041, which allegedly aims to steal sensitive information via an infection sequence, initiated by an email containing a Microsoft Excel document which releases IcedID malware by prompting users to enable macros.
- On 12 April, CERT-UA reported having taken “urgent measures” to thwart a malicious cyber attack launched by pro-Russian hackers four days prior, allegedly aimed at disconnecting and decommissioning “industrial infrastructure controlling high-voltage electrical substations”. Nevertheless, Ukrainian authorities reported no damages incurred to the grid, having taken action to repel the attack. Analysis by researchers at Slovakian cyber security firm ESET, who supported Ukraine in averting the attack, has linked the malware campaign targeting Ukraine’s electricity grid to the hacking group Sandworm, affiliated with Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).
Pro-Ukraine hackers remain highly active; retaining strong focus on critical sectors, including energy and construction
- During the monitoring period, a Twitter account allegedly linked to the Anonymous hacktivist collective claimed that the group had conducted multiple cyber attacks against Russian government-affiliated entities in the energy sector. For instance, on 19 April, an allegedly Anonymous-linked Twitter account claimed that the group had just leaked 87,500 new emails (107 GB) from Neocom Geoservice, an engineering firm specialising in “exploring oil and gas fields and providing drilling support” via the whistleblowing media site Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets). The attack targeted Neocom over its partnership with Russia’s state-owned energy corporation, Gazprom, with the data leak reportedly including communications between the two companies. The week prior, on 13 April, a Twitter account reportedly linked to the Anonymous group claimed that members had obtained access to 495,000 emails from Russian company Technotec, which “provides oil and gas field services to companies including Rosneft and Gazprom”, as part of ongoing operations against the Russian government.
- Cyber attacks during the monitoring period also targeted Russia’s construction sector. On 19 April, a Twitter account reportedly linked to the Anonymous group claimed that the group had leaked 15,600 emails (9.5 GB) from Russia’s General Department of Troops and Civil Construction. The construction company purportedly “works on projects in the interests of the Russian Ministry of Defence”. In addition, reports emerged a day prior that Anonymous hackers had breached 222 GB of email data belonging to Gazregion, a company associated with Gazprom via the construction of gas pipelines.
- Meanwhile, hacking group Network Battalion 65 (NB65) claimed responsibility for multiple alleged cyber attacks targeting Russian companies over the monitoring period. This includes reports on 18 April that the group had successfully hacked Russian bank JSC Bank PSCB, allegedly obtaining transaction details, banking customer information, token data and tax information among the breached data. The group purportedly aims to release the 800 GB of leaked data in the coming days. On 15 April, a Twitter account linked to NB65 reported that the group had published 400 GB of files and datasets leaked from Russia’s largest independent travel agency, Continent Express, available via DDoSecrets.
- Furthermore, pro-Ukrainian groups, including Anonymous collective Spid3r, DoomSec and Lorian Synaro, have directly targeted Russian government agencies and their websites in cyber attacks during the monitoring period. On 15 April, a Twitter account allegedly linked to the collective claimed that members had hacked and temporarily disabled Russia’s Ministry of Health, customer service and the Federal State Statistics Service websites. Meanwhile, the Anonymous group claimed to have breached the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB)’s employee database and reportedly obtained sensitive information on over 600 FSB personnel, including names, past and present addresses, car registration plates and phone numbers. Days prior, on 13 April, a Twitter account reportedly connected to the Anonymous hacktivist collective claimed the group’s responsibility for an attack which downed the Russian government’s Department of Competition, Energy Efficiency, Ecology and Economy website.
Though not explicitly related to the conflict in Ukraine, Conti’s declaration of responsibility for cyber attacks on German wind turbine manufacturer Nordex’s IT systems indicates sustained risks of Russian state-sponsored or affiliated attacks targeting Western firms in critical sectors. This supports previously identified trends, with the attack representing the expansion of cyber threats to countries not directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine. Similar pro-Russian malicious cyber campaigns and attacks remain likely to target Western entities in the coming weeks, particularly organisations operating in critical industries working closely with governments, most notably Ukraine.
In addition, Russian-linked cyber threat actors will continue to seek to target Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, as highlighted by CERT-UA’s reporting of attempted attacks on Ukraine’s electrical grid by the GRU-linked cyber threat actor Sandworm. Such cyber attacks are likely to increase in frequency in the coming weeks, in a bid to support Moscow’s launch of a full-scale offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, pro-Ukrainian hacking groups are likely to maintain the scope and frequency of cyber campaigns and attacks observed during the monitoring period in the coming weeks. Hackers such as the Network Battalion 65 and Anonymous launched multiple cyber operations targeting Russian government agencies, website domains and critical sectors. Anonymous remains an active and effective pro-Ukraine hacking group, collaborating closely with whistleblowing media outlet DDoSecrets, reportedly targeting Russia’s energy and construction sectors, as well as government intelligence, health and economic agencies. These alleged cyber activities align with existing targeting patterns and trends of pro-Ukrainian groups, which aim to disrupt and exert pressure against Russia’s military activities in Ukraine.
Germany: Social Democrats’ ties to Gazprom indicative of European division over energy sanctions. The pressure on prominent Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician Manuela Schwesig is growing following revelations this week that her local government worked closely with Russian state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom to undermine sanctions imposed by the United States on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Schwesig is a senior member of the ruling SPD and is the so-called minister-premier of Mecklenburg-Vorpommen, the northeastern state in Germany where the Nord Stream 2 ends. Reports by the Welt indicate that Schwesig’s government cooperated closely with Gazprom, including coordinating media talking points and suggesting Gazprom establish an environmental foundation to circumvent US sanctions. The revelations will increase scrutiny of the SDP-led government’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while simultaneously further alienating European partners such as the Czech Republic and Poland as well as the US, a long-standing critic of Berlin’s reliance on Russian gas. Germany’s energy dependency on Russia will remain one of the most significant obstacles to an EU-wide embargo of Russian hydrocarbons, despite mounting pressure within the bloc for such measures.
Russia: Lack of alternative buyers will likely sustain continued decline in crude oil exports and revenues. On 19 April, media sources reported that crude oil shipments from Russia dropped by 25 percent between 8-15 April, compared with the week prior. This translated to estimated revenues of approximately USD 181m, down USD 60 million in comparison with the previous week. The findings come one week after President Vladimir Putin vowed to search for international markets for Russian energy exports, with Moscow facing mounting Western sanctions amid its ongoing conflict in Ukraine. In the event that alternative markets are not readily accessible, persistent trends in the decline of crude shipments in the coming months will further strain revenues and widen budget deficits for an internationally isolated Kremlin. Moves by European officials to draft a sixth package of sanctions targeting Russian oil exports to Europe will compound these challenges, though sustained resistance among European Union (EU) member states such as Hungary is likely to mitigate further financial pressure on Moscow. (Source: Sibylline)
20 Apr 22. Norway has donated around 100 French-designed anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine at war with Russia, the Norwegian government announced on Wednesday. The Donation, already made, relates to Mistral launchers with a hundred missiles which have so far been on board Norwegian navy ships, the Ministry of Defense said in a press release. Built since the end of the 1980s by the defense group Matra, which has since been merged into the European giant MBDA, the Mistral is a very short-range surface-to-air missile. At the end of March, during a speech by videoconference before the Norwegian Parliament, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had asked Oslo for anti-aircraft missiles, but of a more modern type, the NASAMS, produced by the Norwegian Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace.
“The missile (Mistral) must be withdrawn from service in the Norwegian army but it remains a modern and effective weapon which will be of great use for Ukraine”, declared the minister Norwegian Defence, Bjørn Arild Gram, quoted in the statement.
“Other countries have also donated similar weapon systems,” he added.
“Good news in the morning”, welcomed on Telegram the head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, Andriï Iermak, commenting on the Norwegian donation.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24 , Norway has already supplied Ukraine with some 4,000 M72-type anti-tank weapons and other small military equipment. (Source: Google/https://bobrtimes.com/)
20 Apr 22. Russian advances repelled in Donbas, UK says, amid fresh ultimatum to surrender. As the battle rages between Russian and Ukrainian forces along on a 300-mile (480km) front line in the eastern Donbas region, intelligence from the ground is emerging. The UK’s Ministry of Defence has issued its latest update on the situation saying Ukrainians are repelling “numerous” attempted advances from Russian forces. According to the UK, Russian shelling and strikes are intensifying. Troops are being hampered by “environmental, logistical and technical challenges” and Ukraine’s “highly-motivated” resistance. This is echoed by Ukraine, which has revealed its fighters are so far holding the line. It has also claimed to have sprung counter-attacks and to have retaken the town of Maryinka near Donetsk, a region in Donbas. Russia has a very large part of its army in the east – which also includes the Luhansk region – after it withdrew forces near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. It claims to have hit 1,000 targets while also still trying to take port city of Mariupol. There are fresh reports the Russian Defence Ministry has once again proposed that Ukrainian fighters “lay down arms”. This offer has previously been rejected by Ukraine despite Russia resorting to “indiscriminate attacks” in the besieged city, the Ministry of Defence says. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s allies are continuing to offer support, which Russia fiercely opposes. They are pledging to supply more weapons in what the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky describes as the “battle for the Donbas”. The US is providing more artillery, Germany’s helping to finance anti-tank weapons and ammunition and Czech Republic plans to repair Ukrainian tanks and armoured vehicles. Russia has since accused the West of dragging out the military operation for as long as possible. (Source: BBC)
19 Apr 22. US to provide howitzer training to Ukrainians. The US is set to start training Ukrainian personnel on howitzers in the following days, Reuters reported, quoting a senior US defence official. This comes after US President Joe Biden approved an additional $800m worth of military aid for Ukraine last week. The package includes 155mm Howitzers, among other military equipment. Following the announcement, the US Department of Defense (DoD) said that the Ukrainians will need training to use the howitzers and other new military capabilities. The US defence official told the news agency that the howitzer training will be provided outside Ukraine. Some Ukrainian personnel will be trained on using the new systems, and then they will be sent back to train other colleagues. The US military previously trained the Ukrainian troops in the US to use the Switchblade drone systems. Russia conducted missile strikes against the Ukrainian military, and associated military targets, overnight. Approximately 16 Ukrainian military facilities, including five command posts, a fuel depot, and three ammunition warehouses, were destroyed in the attack, Reuters reported, citing a Russian defence ministry statement. These facilities were located in the regions of Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Dnipropetrovsk, and in the port of Mykolayiv. This comes after Russia said that it will continue with the military operations until all objectives are achieved. Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksander Kubrakov told Reuters that the invasion has affected up to 30% of the country’s infrastructure. The damage costs may total more than $100bn. (Source: army-technology.com)
19 Apr 22. Pentagon, industry wrestle with how to boost weapons production for Ukraine. As Pentagon officials gauge the defense industry’s ability to ramp up arms production in response to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, firms are still grappling with pandemic-related supply chain and workforce woes. Top defense executives are likely to face questions starting this week during quarterly earnings calls about how they’ll be able to overcome those issues. Experts say the answers are unclear. According to Bill Greenwalt, who served as deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial policy during the George W. Bush administration, it has historically taken the U.S. defense industrial base 18 months to 3 years to get ready for conflicts.
“Our budget, appropriations, requirements, and acquisition systems are stuck in a peacetime mode where time doesn’t matter, and it will be difficult to pivot out of those processes quickly,” Greenwalt, now with the American Enterprise Institute, said in an email.
“The U.S. will face start-up production line issues, labor issues, supply chain issues, parts and machine tool obsolescence issues, time constraints certifying new suppliers and technical approaches, plus time waiting for budgets and contracts to be issued,” he added.
Last week, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks convened a meeting with representatives of eight major defense firms to discuss industry proposals to accelerate production of existing systems. The meeting was focused on satisfying the needs of the U.S., Ukraine and other allies, according to an official readout.
Andrew Hunter, who was performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, led a roundtable during the meeting to discuss ways of boosting production capacity for “weapons and equipment that can be exported rapidly, deployed with minimal training, and prove effective in the battlefield,” the readout said.
Boeing, L3 Harris Technologies, Raytheon Technologies, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, HII, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman all attended, according to DoD.
The gathering marked the second time in three months DoD leaders have convened a group of industry executives at the Pentagon. Hicks, with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in early February met with hypersonics industry executives, who urged investment in testing infrastructure.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began Feb. 24, the U.S. has provided $2.6bn in security assistance to Ukrainian forces, most from U.S. military stockpiles. An $800 million package announced last week was the seventh such drawdown package.
DoD says that as of April 14, it’s provided more than 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems; 5,500 Javelin anti-armor systems; 700 Switchblade tactical unmanned aerial systems; 7,000 small arms; 50 million rounds of ammunition; and 18 155mm Howitzers with 40,000 155mm artillery rounds; 16 Mi-17 helicopters; hundreds of armored Humvees and 200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers.
Last month, Congress finalized the fiscal year 2022 $1.5trn spending bill, which provides $13.6bn in new aid for the Ukraine crisis. The money was in large part to restore military stocks of equipment already transferred to Ukrainian military units through the president’s drawdown authority.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby assured reporters last week none of the military’s stocks for the systems are so low that the military’s readiness would be imminently affected. He described the discussion with CEOs as a precaution.
“As these packages go on, and as the need continues inside Ukraine, we want to … be ahead of the bow wave on that and not get into a point where it becomes a readiness issue,” he said.
One analysis by Mark Cancian, a Center for Strategic and International Studies senior adviser, estimated that, based on DoD’s own reporting, the U.S. military has probably given about one-third of its Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and has between 20,000 to 25,000 left.
To ramp up from the U.S. military’s current buy of 1,000 per year to maximum capacity of about 6,480 Javelins a year would take a year, Cancian found. Replenishing U.S. stocks would require 32 months, unless the president invokes the Defense Production Act to prioritize deliveries of components to the manufacturer, a joint Lockheed-Raytheon venture.
“To get from 1,000 to 6,000 more quickly, you need some help,” Cancian said.
Cancian noted that not only is DoD concerned with its own supplies and equipping Ukraine but backfilling allies who are sending Ukraine tanks and missile defense systems, placing further demands on the U.S. defense industrial base.
Meanwhile, as industry weighs investments in its production lines, the Pentagon has yet to release detailed and long-term spending plans for FY23. Industry should be wary of the government’s ability to finalize those plans in a timely way, according to Greenwalt.
“The department sometimes has a history of leaving industry holding the bag when the money doesn’t show up from the appropriators,” he said. “When it comes to DoD’s relationship with industry, no good deed ever goes unpunished.”
In a note to investors Monday, Capital Alpha Partners Managing Director Byron Callan cautioned against factoring demand from the Ukraine fight into predictions for the defense outlook.
“It’s going to take months to see how the changed security environment in Europe will translate to changes in defense demand in 2023-25,” Callan said. “For analysts, it’s best, for now, to build scenarios as there could still be downside risk (Russian defeat, Putin falls).”
Even if it makes financial sense for industry to ramp up production, there’s a question of how. The National Defense Industrial Association’s “Vital Signs” survey of defense firms recently gave a failing grade to the defense industrial base and its ability to surge production capacity, as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to roil the sector.
The diversity, productivity and compensation of the industry’s workforce was the No. 1 concern in the survey, with the availability of materials right behind it. Asked what issues could have been raised in the recent meeting between industry and Pentagon leaders, NDIA representatives said those concerns, among others, have not gone away.
“We asked, ‘Where is your supply chain most vulnerable?’ and the No. 1 answer was ‘gap in U.S.-based human capital,’ and ‘constrained supply chain’ was the No. 2 response,” said Nick Jones, NDIA’s director of strategy.
Among the top 100 publicly traded defense contractors, the cash conversion cycle — how long it took for firms to buy parts and turn them into a system and sell it — rose from 56 days in 2019 to 128 days in 2020.
“If it takes you 128 days from start to finish, that really hampers your ability to surge,” said NDIA Regulatory Associate Robbie Van Steenburg.
Callan, in his note, also said workforce issues could hinder the defense sector’s ability to meet higher demand. Whether defense firms can find the workers needed to build more weapons, if required, remains an open question.
“It’s been tough to hire people, particularly in engineering and skilled trades, and extremely challenging to hire people with clearances,” Callan said. “These sorts of issues are not new for the sector, but they raise a fundamental issue — can capital investments and workforce expansion earn acceptable returns, or is there a view that surging demand in 2022-23 could ebb away in 2024-26?” (Source: Defense News)
19 Apr 22. Ukraine’s military gets more aircraft and parts to repair others, Pentagon says. Ukraine’s military has received additional aircraft as well parts for repairs to get damaged aircraft flying again, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
Ukraine has defied expectations of allies and military experts by not only keeping its air force operational nearly two months after the start of Russia’s invasion but actually repairing aircraft and, apparently, adding to its inventory.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby did not offer details on which countries provided aircraft, but acknowledged new transfers and said Ukraine had more operable fighter aircraft than it had two weeks ago.
“They have received additional aircraft and aircraft parts to help them get more aircraft in the air,” Kirby told a news briefing, without elaborating.
Kirby said Washington had not provided any aircraft to Kyiv.
“We certainly have helped with the trans-shipment of some additional spare parts that have helped with their aircraft needs, but we have not transported whole aircraft,” he said.
Still, that might soon change. The United States has announced plans to transfer Russian-made helicopters to Ukraine that had once been intended for Afghanistan.
More than 50 days into the war, the skies over Ukraine are still contested in part due to Ukraine’s fleet of aircraft and air defenses, including portable, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles provided by the United States and its allies.
That has allowed Ukraine to wage a much more effective ground campaign than if Russia had air dominance and could defend its invading forces from the skies. (Source: Reuters)
19 Apr 22. The US said it would send more artillery to Ukraine to help it repel a renewed military offensive by Russia, which is pouring thousands of extra troops into the south and east of the country as it gears up for the next phase of the nearly eight-week-long invasion. Joe Biden, US president, made the announcement during a visit to New Hampshire on Tuesday, responding “yes” when asked by reporters whether the Pentagon would send more artillery. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby later said: “If the Ukrainians desire more artillery support then we are going to do what we can to flow more artillery support.” The US is expected to announce another round of lethal aid in the coming days, two US officials said. The package is expected to be worth about $800mn and include artillery as well as anti-armour and anti-air equipment, one of the officials said. Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said Biden discussed providing more ammunition and security assistance on a call with allies including the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Poland, Romania and the UK. The leaders of the European Council, Nato and the European Commission also took part. The pledge to provide more weapons came as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said western military aid had fallen short of the country’s needs. “If we had access to all the weapons we need, which our partners have and which are comparable to the weapons used by Russia, we would have already ended this war,” Zelensky said in an evening address. Biden’s promise to send more artillery was not matched by some western allies, notably German chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has come under domestic pressure to supply and tanks and armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine as it braces for renewed Russian onslaught. (Source: FT.com)
19 Apr 22. DOD Official Describes How Security Assistance Gets to Ukraine. A senior Defense Department official spoke to the media about U.S.-provided security assistance to Ukraine.
The current crisis in Ukraine has demonstrated the important role that the Defense Security Cooperation Agency plays in executing U.S. foreign policy, the official said.
The agency’s mission is wide-ranging, from arms transfers and institutional capacity building to international military training and education and humanitarian assistance, the official said.
Since the beginning of the invasion, DSCA has executed $2.3 billion in presidential drawdown of security assistance to Ukraine and $300 million under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative as of April 1, the official said.
The term presidential drawdown is used when the president authorizes military hardware to be pulled from existing U.S. military stock.
“This is a time of higher and faster movement than we’ve really ever done in our history,” the official said.
The official then described how a presidential drawdown works.
- Working together with the Ukrainians and with U.S. European Command, a list of requirements is developed and shared with those who work on policy in the Pentagon. Coordination of stocks and deliveries is also made with allies and partners.
- A determination is made whether the U.S. industrial base can refill those stocks over time.
- DSCA shares the list with the military departments, to determine if they have the availability of the stocks.
- The military departments provide information on what the readiness impacts are of drawing down that equipment from U.S. stocks.
- The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff provides his recommendations and then a memorandum goes to the secretary of defense for his approval of the drawdown plan.
- The package of requirements is then built.
- At that point, the president will direct the drawdown.
- Then, the State Department secretary signs a memo directing DOD to execute and then DSCA puts out the executive order.
Although there seem to be a lot of steps, that whole process has been known in the last several months to done in as few as 48 to 72 hours, which is unprecedented, the official said.
Another form of security assistance, the official said, is the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. For this process, DOD notifies Congress how it intends to use that money and that is generally done through contracting for new procurement so the timelines can be a little longer on providing that, the official said.
Another source of funding for Ukraine security assistance comes from foreign military financing, which is under the authority of the State Department. It is used for new procurements, although it could also buy things out of DOD’s own stocks, the official said, adding that this type of assistance is for longer term requirements.
“Security cooperation has enabled a strong U.S.-European defense and security relationship and suitably prepared Ukraine to face Russia in this premeditated, unprovoked and brutal invasion,” the official said.
A second senior DOD official also spoke today.
Since yesterday, two more Russian battalion tactical groups have been added to the 76 in Ukraine, bringing the total to 78, the official said.
So-called BTGs are typically composed of combined-arms elements, such as air defense, armor, tactical vehicles, artillery, helicopters, engineering and logistical support.
Mariupol is still contested. It is being heavily pounded with Russian long-range fires, the official said.
Russian forces are intent on taking Mariupol because it would provide a land bridge for Russia from the Donbas to Crimea. A second reason is that it would give the Russians flexibility to free up forces from there so they could join other BTGs northward in the Donbas, the official said.
Mykolayiv, which is further to the west, is still in Ukrainian hands, the official said.
Heavy fighting continues elsewhere in the Donbas region, the official said.
Around 1,670 Russian missiles have been fired thus far on Ukraine since the start of the invasion, the official said. (Source: US DoD)
19 Apr 22. “Ukraine is now a crime scene. Those responsible must be prosecuted.” – UK at the UN Security Council.
Statement by Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine.
I’d like to start by thanking Kelly Clements and António Vitorino for their briefings. And as we have heard today, the people of Ukraine continue to bear the terrible costs of Russia’s invasion, and as Russia begins a new offensive on the Donbas, millions of Ukrainians face further suffering.
Our consideration of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine must be guided by two overarching principles: protection of civilians and prosecution of war crimes.
After 55 days of war, 7.1 million people are displaced within Ukraine, and 4.7 million people have fled to neighbouring countries.
And like others, I pay tribute to the compassion and solidarity of neighbouring countries who are hosting refugees, and the work of the UN – in particular the UNHCR and the IOM for their initiatives – and in particular the Blue Dot Initiative, to protect unaccompanied women and children who may face sexual exploitation, abuse and suffering.
Many Ukrainians, including children, have been forcibly deported, against their will, to Russia – they should be allowed to leave in safety and with dignity.
For the thousands of civilians remaining in Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and other cities, struggling to survive without food, water, warmth and medical supplies, the UK joins others in supporting the Secretary-General’s call for an urgent humanitarian pause to allow assistance to reach civilians in the hardest-hit areas.
And to this end, the UK has pledged almost £400 million in aid to Ukraine, and is a leading humanitarian donor, providing £220 million of humanitarian assistance to deliver life-saving assistance and support countries receiving and hosting refugees. We have also guaranteed $1 billion in World Bank lending to Ukraine.
Second, the prosecution of war crimes. For those who suffered in Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka, Chernihiv, and many other towns, from Russian forces’ occupation and atrocities – let there be no doubt that justice will be sought for these crimes against humanity.
We welcome the International Criminal Court investigations, led by Karim Khan, which are underway.
As the Prosecutor said – Ukraine is now a crime scene.
The investigations of the appalling sexual violence in Ukraine will be informed by the Murad Code, which we launched here last week, and are a vital step towards supporting survivors and bringing perpetrators to justice.
For the sake of those we could not protect from violence, there must be prosecution of those who committed it.
Finally, we should not ignore the looming humanitarian needs caused by secondary displacements, as the economic consequences of this war translate into rising food, energy and finance costs, exposing more than 1.2 billion people in 69 countries to perfect storm conditions. The urgent and simple solution to this humanitarian crisis is for President Putin to stop the war.
19 Apr 22. DOD: U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine Provides What’s Needed, as Needed. As the conflict in Ukraine changes, the types of security assistance the U.S. is sending changes as well, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.
Last week, the U.S. announced another $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine. It’s the seventh package of weapons, ammunition, vehicles and protective equipment the U.S. has provided to Ukraine since August of 2021.
During a briefing today at the Pentagon, Kirby told reporters that what’s being sent to Ukraine is done so in consultation with that country, and what’s included is tailored to what’s needed at the time to meet the needs of the Ukrainian military for the conflict they are in.
In February, Russians were attacking the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv, Kirby said. Concerns were high then that Kyiv would fall. The U.S. provided the Ukrainians what was needed then, for that fight — Javelin missiles. Kirby said they played an important role in preventing Russians from taking the city.
Now the conflict has changed, with the Russians turning away from Kyiv and toward the eastern part of Ukraine — in the Donbass. As a result, the makeup of U.S. security assistance has now shifted to help the Ukrainians fight there instead.
“It’s the middle of April, the Russians have had to recalibrate,” Kirby said. “They’re focusing on the Donbas. That is a different terrain. That is a different fight. It requires different capabilities for both sides.”
During what he described as “iterative” conversations with the Ukrainians about how the U.S. could help, it was artillery support that was requested. And last week, the U.S. responded by promising 18 howitzers, along with 40,000 rounds of ammunition to go with them.
What the U.S. is sending to Ukraine now, Kirby said, is what the Ukrainians are asking for, tailored for the fight they are in — a fight that is expected to continue to change in unpredictable ways as the conflict progresses.
“Everything we’re sending is a result of iterative conversations that we’re having with the Ukrainians, literally in real time, about what they need, and what we can provide,” Kirby said. “We do the best we can with each package to tailor it to the need at the time. And now the need has changed, because now the war has changed.”
While Kirby didn’t have any announcements about future security packages, he did say it was “within the realm of the possible” that the Ukrainians would want additional artillery support and rounds to go along with them — and that the U.S. would “do everything we can” to meet that requirement.
Beyond that, he said, future security assistance packages bound for Ukraine would continue to be specifically tailored to what the Ukrainians need, as they need it, to meet the challenges they face as the conflict on the ground continues to evolve.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re helping in the most effective way and we believe we are,” Kirby said. “And we’ll see what … future packages look like. But I guarantee, whatever they look like, they’re going to be tailored based on the Ukrainian’s needs, in the moment, and what … they most require.”
This most recent security assistance package for Ukraine, worth $800m, was announced April 13. It includes 18 155 mm Howitzers, along with 40,000 artillery rounds. Also included are the AN/TPQ-36 counter artillery and AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel air surveillance radar systems.
To move Ukrainian troops around the battlefield, the package includes 100 armored Humvee vehicles, 200 M113 armored personnel carriers and 11 Mi-17 helicopters. The helicopters will augment the five Mi-17 helicopters sent to Ukraine earlier this year.
Within 48 hours of the approval of that security assistance package, Kirby said, the first shipment was on its way to Ukraine. (Source: US DoD)
19 Apr 22. Britain examining anti-ship missile solution for Ukraine. Britain is looking at ways to supply anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, including mounting its ‘Brimstone’ missiles to vehicles, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday. Asked what anti-ship weaponry Britain was planning to send to Ukraine to support it against the Russian invasion, Johnson said:
“One of the systems that we’re looking at … is to see if we could mount some Brimstones on the back of technicals (vehicles) to see if that will do the job.”
He also said there were other options under consideration.
Brimstone missiles have previously been used by British forces in Libya and Syria, and are typically launched from fast jet aircraft. Their manufacturer, MBDA, says they can be used against fast-moving land and sea targets. (Source: Reuters)
20 Apr 22. New surrender deadline in Mariupol as West promises Ukraine more arms.
- Russia tells Ukrainians at Mariupol plant to lay down arms
- U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany promise more help
- U.S. plans new military aid package in next few days – sources
KYIV/KHARKIV, April 20 (Reuters) – Russia gave Ukrainian fighters holding out in Mariupol a new ultimatum to surrender on Wednesday as it pushed for a decisive victory in its offensive in the east, while Western governments promised to give Ukraine more military help.
Thousands of Russian troops backed by artillery and rocket barrages were advancing in what Ukrainian officials have called the Battle of the Donbas.
Russia’s nearly eight-week-long invasion has failed to capture any of Ukraine’s largest cities, forcing Moscow to refocus in and around separatist regions in the east.
The biggest attack on a European state since 1945 has led to nearly 5 million people fleeing abroad and reduced cities to rubble.
Russia was hitting the Azovstal steel plant, the main remaining stronghold in the southeastern port city of Mariupol, with bunker-buster bombs, a Ukrainian presidential adviser said late on Tuesday. Reuters could not verify the details.
“The world watches the murder of children online and remains silent,” adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.
Russia has been trying to take full control of Mariupol for weeks. Its capture would be a huge strategic prize, linking territory held by pro-Russian separatists in the east with the Crimea region that Moscow annexed in 2014.
But not a single Ukrainian soldier had laid down their weapons after an earlier ultimatum to surrender lapsed, Russia’s defence ministry said, as it renewed its deadline.
Ukrainian commanders have vowed not to surrender and Ukraine’s general staff said early on Wednesday fighting was going on at the steel plant while Russian forces attempted an offensive near the northeastern city of Kharkiv.
British military intelligence said fighting in the Donbas region was intensifying as Russian forces tried to break through Ukrainian lines and disrupt its reinforcements.
Russia says it launched what it calls a “special military operation” on Feb. 24 to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext.
The United States and its allies have responded with sweeping sanctions on Russia and support for Ukraine.
The White House said new sanctions were being prepared and U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to announce a new military aid package about the same size as last week’s $800m one in the coming days, sources told Reuters.
The United States, Canada and Britain said they would send Ukraine more artillery, while Norway said it had shipped Ukraine 100 Mistral air defence missiles.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a four-day humanitarian pause in the fighting this weekend, when Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter, to allow civilians to escape and humanitarian aid to be delivered.
Ukraine said Russian forces in their new offensive had captured the town of Kreminna, an administrative centre of 18,000 people in Luhansk, one of the two Donbas provinces.
Driven back by Ukrainian forces in March from an assault on Kyiv in the north, Russia has instead poured troops into the east for the launch of what its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, confirmed was “another stage of this operation”.
Russian forces have also made long-distance strikes at other targets including the capital and Kharkiv, where at least four people were killed by missiles, authorities said on Tuesday.
In one suburban street, the body of an elderly man lay face down near a park, a ribbon of blood running into the gutter.
“He worked in security not far from here,” a resident named Maksym told Reuters. “The shelling began and everyone fled. Then we came out here, the old guy was already dead.”
Ukrainian authorities in Donetsk said three civilians had been killed and six wounded in the past 24 hours.
Overnight shelling in central Avdiivka had left part of the town without electricity, the regional administration said in a statement.
In Mariupol, scene of the war’s heaviest fighting and worst humanitarian catastrophe, about 120 civilians living next to the Azovstal steel plant left via humanitarian corridors, the Interfax news agency said on Tuesday, quoting Russian state TV.
Drone footage on Tuesday showed people buying food and other items at a makeshift market, as well as charging their mobile phones from a generator. A Reuters correspondent said prices at the market were very high.
Mariupol has been besieged since the war’s early days. Tens of thousands of residents have been trapped and Ukraine believes more than 20,000 civilians have been killed there.
“The Russian army will forever inscribe itself in world history as perhaps the most barbaric and inhuman army in the world,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.
“Deliberately killing civilians, destroying residential quarters and civilian infrastructure, and using all kinds of weapons, including those prohibited by international conventions,” he added in a video address.
Russia has denied using banned weapons or targeting civilians and says, without evidence, that signs of atrocities were staged.
Video released by Ukraine’s Azov battalion purported to show people living in a network beneath the sprawling Azovstal steel plant, where they say hundreds of women, children and elderly civilians are sheltering with supplies running out.
“We lost our home; we lost our livelihood. We want to live a normal, peaceful life,” an unidentified woman says in the video.
“There are lots of children in here – they’re hungry. Get us out of here.”
Reuters could not independently verify where or when the video was shot. (Source: Reuters)