Ukraine Conflict Update – 26 April
Military and hard security developments
- Russian forces continue to make slow but steady progress in the Donbas, with notable fighting taking place over the last 24 hours around Rubizhne, Kherson and to the south and west of Izyum. The most significant Russian thrusts remain directed south of Izyum towards Slovyansk and towards Severodonetsk, but Russian forces are maintaining pressure on multiple other axes of attack across the full breadth of the frontline.
- Over the last 24 hours, Russian forces have claimed they have taken numerous villages around Izyum, including Dibrovne and Kurulka south of Izyum, Spivakivka west of Izyum, and Zarichne to the east, on the road towards Lyman. While unconfirmed at this stage, this would represent moderate progress in gaining further positions from which to launch subsequent attacks towards the key objective of Slovyansk. If Russian forces consolidate their hold over Kurulka in particular, this would place the major rail line into Slovyansk within conventional artillery range. Cutting off this rail line is likely to remain a high priority for Russian forces in the coming days as it remains the only railhead in and out of the Donbas under Ukrainian control, and as such remains the critical avenue of resupply for Ukrainian forces in not only Slovyansk but across the entire northern Donbas front.
- Nevertheless, Ukrainian forces meanwhile continue to stage delay actions in the region, with a number of counterattacks seeing apparent success in preventing further Russian progress south and west of Izyum. After Russian forces took the village of Spivakivka, 20km due west of Izyum, Ukrainian forces have reportedly this morning conducted a limited counteroffensive and repelled Russian attempts to take the village of Zavody across from Spivakivka on the other side of the Donets River. As assessed in previous reports, Ukrainian forces are likely to make increasing use of the Donets and other rivers in the region as natural defensive barriers, with further withdrawals behind the Donets in the Severodonetsk salient remaining an option as Russian forces continue threatening Ukrainian supply lines.
- While Russian forces are making steady progress, efforts to by-pass Ukrainian defensive positions around Izyum are facing stubborn resistance. This will likely continue to slow Russian efforts to achieve tactical encirclements and undermine its ability to bring the significant portion of its combat power massed north of Izyum to bear, given continued reliance on roads as ground conditions off road remain challenging for Russian mechanised forces. Nevertheless, Russian momentum in the region is growing and so efforts to encircle Ukrainian forces will likely continue to make progress.
- In the southern direction, Russian forces have intensified bombardments along the southern axis, using Smerch and Grad MLRS systems, artillery, mortars and low-flying Su-24 attack aircraft to keep pressure up on Ukrainian forces south of Zaporizhzhia and Kryvhi Rih. Both the Ukrainian General Staff and Russian sources continue to expect limited attacks against both Kryvhi Rih and Mykolaiv in the coming days. However, as previously assessed at present it remains to be seen whether the Russians have the combat power in the area to sustain a successful push further north and west, which could prove detrimental to the Russian concentration of effort in the Donbas in any case.
- Nevertheless, as the Russians are seeing little progress in the east at present, Russian commanders may be looking for alternative targets to achieve some progress in the south, meaning pressure could yet increase in the south in the coming days. Nevertheless, the region remains heavily contested, with Ukrainian forces claiming to have retaken numerous villages in Mykolaiv oblast in recent days. As such, limited Ukrainian offensive operations over the last 24-48 hours northwest of Kherson have likely frustrated Russian preparations for any offensive, and so any move west towards Mykolaiv or north towards Kryvhi Rih would have to require a significant Russian effort.
- Further west in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, numerous explosions took place near the Ministry of State Security in Tiraspol, with other explosions reported in Parkany due west of the de facto capital and a radio transmitter reportedly destroyed further north near Mayak. While the Security Council of Transnistria has declared them terrorist incidents, it remains highly likely that they were false flag operations by Russian or Transnistrian forces themselves, with Moldova describing the incidents as “pretexts for creating tensions”, without attributing blame.
- Comments made by the deputy commander of the Russian Central Military District that Russia aims to create a land bridge to Transnistria likely triggered the attacks, as he claimed last week that Russian speakers in the region are being actively oppressed. This follows previous patterns of behaviour that justified intervention in the Donbas and other breakaway regions, and thus reinforces the likelihood of Russian aims to seize southern Ukraine if its offensive in the Donbas is successful. The attacks could also be part of an effort to eventually marshal Transnistrian forces for future operations against Ukraine to support such operations in southern Ukraine, but such an operation remains unlikely in the short term given limited Russian combat power in Transnistria. In this respect, Russian operations west of Kherson will remain the most important trigger to watch in the coming weeks, with Russian operations out of Transnistria unlikely to begin until at least Mykolaiv has been secured.
- Over the weekend Russian forces made moderate progress in the Donbas, but with no significant breakthrough as of yet. Russia nevertheless gained small but important areas of ground at key strategic positions around Izyum and elsewhere. This will likely provide opportunities for heavier assaults around Slovyansk, Severodonetsk and Popasna in the days ahead, as Russian forces continue to mass around Izyum, applying further pressure on Ukrainian forces in that direction. The Russians are furthermore reinforcing forces, albeit less overtly, further south along the Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk axis. Such forces could support an encirclement of the Donbas and support an attack against Pokrovsk, or potentially widen the offensive to target Zaporizhzhia in the coming weeks.
- Meanwhile, long-range strikes have continued across the country over the weekend. The head of Ukraine’s railway stations stated today that five railway stations in central and western Ukraine have been struck by Russian forces, with casualties reported. Fires reportedly broke out in the Lviv region, and several explosions were heard in the Vinnytsia region in the morning of 25 April. The developments underline the enduring risk of Russia targeting railway and other key infrastructure sites in western and central Ukraine, with the threat set to remain high as Moscow increases pressure on the Donbas and steps up efforts to undermine Ukraine’s ability to reinforce the region.
- The Russian Ministry of Defence has furthermore announced a unilateral ceasefire around the besieged Azovstal works in Mariupol to allow for civilians to evacuate. Officials stated that Russian forces would cease fire from 1400 (Moscow time) today, but already some Ukrainian sources are claiming shelling continues, and Kyiv has confirmed that such a corridor has not been agreed with Ukrainian officials. Ultimately, few humanitarian corridors out of Mariupol have succeeded or held for very long over the last two months, but resistance in the city is now limited to the besieged works, where Ukrainian defenders have called for help evacuating civilians. It remains to be seen whether such a corridor will allow the evacuation of civilians after President Putin ordered an effective blockade on the works last week.
- Early on 25 April, Russian authorities reported that a fire broke out a Russian oil depot and a military site close to Ukraine’s border. More specifically two large explosions and fires are reported to have occurred overnight in the Russian city of Bryansk, around 150km from the border. No casualties have been reported and it has not yet been announced whether the incidents are linked to the war with Ukraine. Nevertheless, the events are similar to and follow attacks on Belgorod a few weeks ago, for which local Russian officials blamed Kyiv.
Diplomatic and strategic developments
- Following a high-profile diplomatic visit to Kyiv over the weekend, Washington has pledged an additional USD 322m in military funding as well as announced plans to resume diplomatic operations in Ukraine. More specifically, the US is reportedly due to restart the said operations this week, following a similar move by other countries, such as the UK, which unveiled plans to restart its diplomatic mission in Kyiv this week. Meanwhile, following Washington’s promise to provide additional military aid to Ukraine, Russian ambassador to Washington warned the US against sending further supplies to Ukraine, further underlining the threat of targeted strikes against military facilities and border areas in western Ukraine in the short term. Nevertheless, the visit to Kyiv by both Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin marks the first high-level visit of US officials since the invasion and reiterates Washington’s commitment to Ukraine as the war enters its third month.
- In yet another indication that the talks between Ukraine and Russia have essentially reached a dead end was President Zelensky’s statement over the weekend that, although he supported the continuation of talks, the process was not possible if people in Mariupol were killed, or if a separatist referendum was to take place in Kherson. For his part, President Putin also stated that the talks were not progressing because Kyiv “put up a wall”, stating that it was “not the right time” to meet with President Zelensky. The statements follow the latest indications that Russia is likely seeking to take control of the entire east and south of Ukraine and establish a land bridge to Transnistria, according to comments by a top Russian military official last week.
- Incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron won approximately 58 percent of the vote during the second round of the presidential election yesterday, 24 April, with far-right challenger Marine Le Pen conceding after gaining 41 percent of the vote. The outcome of the election will have a profound impact upon the direction of not only French, but wider EU, policy towards Russia and Ukraine. Le Pen had advocated for a reproachment between NATO and Russia after the end of the war, which had threatened to exacerbate deep divisions within both the EU and NATO. While Macron’s victory alleviates these risks, the record number of votes cast for a far-right party in France underlines the challenge for Macron’s domestic agenda over the next five years. Ultimately, this dynamic will likely mean Macron places particular focus on foreign policy during his second term, including a likely push for European strategic autonomy and a European military in the wake of the Russian invasion. This in turn will place additional Russian scrutiny on prospective EU membership bids, including that of not only Ukraine, but also Moldova and Georgia, as well as provide further opportunities for Moscow to exploit NATO-EU disputes over defence issues.
Economic/business environment developments
- A sixth package of sanctions is reportedly set to be presented to the EU member states this week, with the new measures reportedly set to include potential restrictions on Russian oil and targeting on more Russian banks, including Gazprombank and Sberbank – this would mark an escalation given that these banks are involved in energy transactions. Moreover, the threat to place some form of a ban on Russian oil follows the latest EU ban on Russian coal, but, in line with our previous assessments, an EU-wide ban on Russian oil remains less likely, given that countries such as Germany and Hungary are heavily reliant on these imports and are likely to seek to water down such measures.
- On 25 April Greenpeace announced that its activists in Norway are attempting to block an Exxon Mobil tanker, the Ust Luga, from delivering Russian oil at the Slagen oil terminal south of Oslo. The activists reportedly utilised a small boat to reach the tanker, whereafter they chained themselves to the ship’s anchor. While Exxon Mobil maintain that they had purchased the 95,000 tons of Russian oil before the invasion of Ukraine, and that they planned no further purchases of oil from Russia, Greenpeace have called for a ban on all Russian gas and oil imports over the invasion. The direct action is the latest high-profile campaign that has seen environmentalist groups across Europe step up their anti-fossil fuel campaigning on the back of the invasion. In the UK, Just Stop Oil campaigners are due to restart their targeting of fuel disruption centres and oil refineries, which threatens to create localised shortages of fuel in the weeks ahead. Environmentalist activists are likely to continue more direct action campaigning across Northern and Western Europe in the weeks ahead, utilising growing popular opposition to Russian energy imports to push for wider decarbonisation, threatening to compound reputational as well as hard security threats for firms still doing business (or who are perceived to do business) with Russia.
- The Russian Kommersant newspaper reported on 22 April that the Presidential Administration has recommended that officials be placed in federal ministries, government agencies and state-owned corporations with the aim of disseminating the Kremlin’s political agenda to employees and monitoring the latter’s “frame of mind”. According to Kommersant, the new system would see the installation of a “deputy head for information and political work” in each entity, in part due to issues around “loyalty” in various departments. Given the expansion of the state bureaucracy and the scale of the public sector in Russia under Putin, this new system has the potential to monitor and reach tens of millions of workers. The proposals, if implemented, illustrate the extent to which state censorship and control has ballooned since the invasion, with this proposal the clearest indication yet that the Kremlin intends to move towards levels of state control and oversight not seen since the Soviet Union in a bid to shore up support for the war.
- Considering the withdrawal of Russian troops from around Kyiv, the security situation in and around the capital has moderately improved as of 22 April. The H01/P01 and the E40 are the most viable routes from Kyiv. The E40 and the E373 highways were declared ‘open’ for traffic by Ukrainian authorities and are now relatively safe, however, they remain heavily damaged and road-clearing processes continue which may cause some delays. The threat of air attacks remains high, therefore, safety cannot be guaranteed on any westbound evacuation routes. The threat posed by mines and unexploded ordnance also 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.
- Due to air attacks on Kremenchuk on 25 April, the westbound E50 through Oleksandriya and Uman to the E95 and the H01 seems to be a relatively safer route from Dnipro to Kyiv. 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. As such, we assess that all approaches into Zaporizhzhia face elevated risk from air/missile strikes at present.
Following US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin’s visit to Kyiv yesterday, the NATO summit in Germany will be a key event to watch over the next 24 hours. The summit is scheduled to take place at Ramstein Airport tomorrow, 26 April, with the Pentagon inviting both NATO and non-NATO allies. Kyiv has stated it expects an invitation, and while this hasn’t yet been confirmed at time of writing, the meeting is expected to focus heavily on Western military support for Ukraine, strategic deterrence and potential security guarantees for the country.Notably, Austin has today, 25 April, stated that the US “wants to see Russia weakened” to the extent that it cannot readily reproduce lost military capability, and thus will be unable to repeat such military aggression as seen in Ukraine again. He also praised Ukrainian forces and throughout his speech equated “they” (the Ukrainians) and “we” (the Americans) in their respective determination to win against Russia. In another statement on the Polish-Ukrainian border, Anthony Blinken has stated that he believes “Russia is failing” in its war aims, while Ukraine is succeeding. Such statements on the back of yet another announcement of USD 713m in military funding will reinforce growing perceptions in Moscow that the war in Ukraine is a proxy conflict between Russia and NATO. In a notable development in this regard, the Russian Investigative Committee over the weekend announced it was looking into Russian media reports that British sabotage experts from the Special Air Service (SAS) had been deployed in Western Ukraine. Domestic Russian propaganda is increasingly framing the war as a war between Russia and NATO, with Moscow claiming long-range strikes across Ukraine are targeting NATO and EU weapons stores in particular. As such, the prospect of further indirect NATO assistance through weapons transfers, or perceptions of direct involvement through special forces, underlines the growing risks of an escalation in strikes against Western Ukraine as Moscow steps up its demands for an end to Western arms shipments..
- Russian forces made their most significant advances of this phase of the conflict on 23-24 April. Although advances were not spectacular in terms of ground seized, taking several strategic positions will allow for more effective thrusts on Severodonetsk and Slovyansk. The main attacks have developed south of the bridgehead at Izyum; towards Lyman, north-east of Slovyansk; and into Toshkivka, along the Donets River ten miles south of Severodonetsk. In the southern part of the Donbas salient, pressure was also maintained with minor gains in Popasna and around Donetsk city.
- The immediate Russian plan remains to advance towards the major northern Donbas cities on multiple axes, trapping and destroying Ukrainian forces. This continues to be a comparatively slow process, still relying upon the heavy employment of artillery against well-prepared defensive positions. The notable advance south of Izyum was led by combat engineers to clear obstacles, which appears to have been effective. This attack has further opened up the bridgehead south of the Donetsk River in this area, and also brings Russian forces within nine miles of the northern railway route and one of the supply roads into the salient.
- Russian forces remain massed around Izyum and there is an increasing likelihood of a larger offensive from here in the next 72 hours. This may head straight towards Slovyansk, requiring an advance of about 20 miles, potentially meeting with forces currently approaching the city via Lyman, to the east. It also remains possible that there will be a push to meet forces massing now 80 miles to the south, seemingly covertly, close to Velyka Novosilka. This could suggest an objective in the area of Pokrovsk, if an encirclement is planned.
- The Russian units operating east of the Oskil River, and towards Lyman, are predominantly from the Central Military District and were previously deployed north and east of Kyiv. The capture of Lozove by these forces was celebrated by Russian sources, as the town is in the very northern part of Donetsk oblast; it is therefore seen as a genuine “liberation” in line with Moscow’s latest war aims. This further reinforces the idea that a push along the western border of Donetsk oblast by the forces from Izyum would support both political and military objectives.
- The massing of Russian units with little fanfare between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk continues to present a significant threat. This may include around four further BTGs committed rapidly from Mariupol (mainly naval infantry), although several units remain around the Azovstal plant in the city. At the very least an offensive here will draw off Ukrainian reserves, and it opens up an advance either north to complete an encirclement in Donbas or an advance on Zaporizhzhia itself.
- West of the Dnieper, authorities in Kryvyi Rih have warned of a coming thrust towards the city. Russian forces in this area have held positions for weeks but have not been able to gain ground, so this would likely require a significant reinforcement which is not currently evidenced. Continued fighting in the villages between Kherson and Mykolaiv will also threaten the base of any advance in this area.
- A significant Russian assault on Kryvyi Rih would give options to move on Zaporizhzhia and even Dnipro from the west, but would require a great deal of effort especially given the size of the cities. Russian supply lines would also be hugely extended and vulnerable. We therefore assess that any increase in this area at this time is more likely to be a supporting action to draw off Ukrainian resources, although in due course – arguably as “phase 3” – Russia will attempt to drive west in this area towards Transnistria and Odesa. Attacks now therefore might be used to secure a position of advantage for this future operation, especially if the forces to the south in fact move on Zaporizhzhia rather than driving into the Donbas.
- Overall, though, despite Russia’s efforts to rapidly rebuild forces from Kyiv, the balance remains fine and attempting too much at once will dilute and erode Russian forces. Lessons have clearly been learned in coordination of effort and particularly in supply chain security, with shorter and more resilient logistics routes heavily protected – including by aerostats (balloons) with cameras. Ukrainian forces, especially around Kharkiv, continue to try and threaten routes to the Russian border but widespread use of obstacles is allowing Moscow’s forces to shelter comparatively efficiently. Continued bombardment of Kharkiv is also designed to draw off Ukrainian forces, helping to shield the Russian troops further south. The city will therefore continue to be positioned as a Russian objective, although no ground movement by Moscow is likely here for some time.
- More widely, Russia continues to launch strikes on supplies and infrastructure in Ukraine. Raids over the weekend appear principally to have used Tu-95 bombers and Kh-101 cruise missiles. In Odesa, one of the missiles targeting the airfield appears to have fallen short and caused civilian deaths when it impacted a residential building. Although some missiles are being intercepted by Ukrainian air defence, the majority appear to be reaching targets, often cited by Moscow as storage sites for NATO and EU supplied military equipment.
- The principal focus of military aid at present continues to be artillery, with 155 NATO standard systems now pledged to Ukraine. Donations include a wide mix of systems, although the majority (94) are towed 155mm howitzers. Ammunition commonality for these weapons will be helpful, although Ukraine will still predominantly use the slightly smaller 152mm ex-Soviet systems. Supplies are therefore including significant amounts of shells in this calibre from NATO stockpiles.
- The focus on artillery represents its key role in this war; while missiles and hand-held rockets have been useful for stopping the spearhead of Russian advances, it is subsequent artillery fire that has eventually broken up offensives. Similarly, Ukraine has used tanks very effectively in both attack and defence, in comparison with Russian failure to employ suitable tactics. Zelensky will continue to seek pledges of more heavy warfighting capability, with the visit of the US Secretaries of State and Defense showing the continued commitment from the US.
- Ukraine is also benefitting from unconventional warfare. Two large explosions and fires occurred overnight in the Russian city of Bryansk, around 150km from the Ukrainian border. These seem to have been at a Rosneft oil storage site on the key “friendship” pipeline to Germany, and a nearby military fuel and ammunition dump. The targeting is similar to the attacks on Belgorod a few weeks ago, and there have also been attacks on key railway infrastructure inside Russia. Meanwhile, a series of fires last week and over the weekend have been reported at Russian military and industrial buildings, although it is possible that this is not an extension of the trend nearer the border but rather a result of a reporting focus.
- Overall, we assess that a larger Russian ground offensive remains likely on at least two axes in the coming days, although progress will probably remain slow. Pressure will be maintained across the Donbas, in Kharkiv, and west of Kherson. The possibility of a thrust on Zaporizhzhia cannot be discounted, and this would pose a challenge to Ukrainian forces, although no Ukrainian city is likely to fall rapidly. Instead, the main threat remains strategic targeting in the centre and west of the country. (Source: Sibylline)
25 Apr 22. US pledges $391m for Euro allies to buy American to backfill weapons donations to Ukraine. More than a dozen European allies will get nearly $400 million in new U.S. grants to buy American military hardware to backfill weapons they’ve donated to Ukraine from their own stockpiles, the State Department announced Monday. Of more than $700m in newly announced aid for Ukraine, $391m in Foreign Military Financing is for 15 allies in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, while another $322m is for Ukraine forces to “transition to more advanced weapons and air defense systems,” State Department Ned Price said in a statement.
Such financing is different from previous U.S. military assistance for Ukraine. It is not a donation of drawn-down U.S. Defense Department stockpiles, but rather cash countries can use to purchase supplies from the U.S.
The new money ― along with the U.S.-funded sale of $165m in artillery rounds, mortars, rockets, grenades and other ammunition for Soviet-era weapons in Ukraine’s arsenal the U.S. does not make ― brings the total American military assistance to Ukraine to $3.7bn since the invasion, officials said.
The announcement came after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials for three hours in Kyiv on Sunday.
Austin is due to meet Tuesday in Germany with his counterparts from a handful of nations to discuss the current and future defense needs of Ukraine.
At a joint press conference with Blinken in Poland after the Ukraine trip, Austin told reporters that, amid the fight’s shifting focus to the eastern Donbas region, Zelenskyy is requesting tanks, artillery and other munitions.
“We’re going to push as hard as we can, as quickly as we can to get them what they need. This will be a great topic of conversation for our meeting tomorrow,” Austin said.
Austin told Ukrainian officials the U.S. Defense Department will also expand military training for Ukrainian service members in the region on certain provided weapons systems.
U.S. officials said last week Ukrainian forces had begun U.S. training on howitzer artillery systems outside Ukraine and that the training would take about a week.
“The first step in winning is believing that you can win,” Austin said. “We believe that they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support, and we’re going to do everything we can … to ensure that gets to them.”
In a sharpening of U.S. rhetoric toward Moscow, Austin also told reporters the U.S. hopes the war in Ukraine will mean Russia can no longer invade its neighbors.
“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said. “It has already lost a lot of military capability and a lot of its troops, quite frankly, and we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.”
Austin also said Washington wants Ukraine to “remain a sovereign country, a democratic country, able to protect its sovereign territory.”
The State Department also announced Monday President Joe Biden will nominate Bridget Brink, currently the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, to be the next U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Brink previously served as senior advisor and deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassies in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and Tbilisi, Georgia. (Source: Defense News)
25 Apr 22. Blinken, Austin Meet Ukraine’s President in Kyiv. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III traveled by train yesterday to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, to meet with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Today, the two secretaries discussed the trip with the press in southeastern Poland.
“This was, in our judgment, an important moment to be there, an important moment for Ukraine, for the war — an important moment to have face-to-face conversations in detail about the extraordinary support that we’ve provided: security, economic, humanitarian, as well as the massive pressure that we’ve been exerting on Russia,” Blinken said.
Zelenskyy expressed deep appreciation for President Joe Biden’s leadership and for the incredible generosity and support of the American people, Blinken said.
“In turn, we expressed deep admiration for his leadership, for the extraordinary courage of Ukrainians in standing up to and pushing back this Russian aggression,” he said.
Discussions included returning U.S. diplomats to Ukraine starting next week, and Biden’s intent to nominate a new ambassador to Ukraine, Ambassador Bridget Brink, who is currently the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, Blinken said.
“Russia continues to try to brutalize parts of the country, and the death and destruction that we continue to see is horrific. But Ukrainians are standing up, they’re standing strong and they’re doing that with the support that we have coordinated from literally around the world,” Blinken said.
Massive pressure against Russia and solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in providing security assistance is having real results, he said.
“We’re seeing that when it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding. Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine — to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed,” he said.
” sought to assert the power of its military and its economy. We of course are seeing just the opposite — a military that is dramatically underperforming; an economy, as a result of sanctions, … that is in shambles. And it’s sought to divide the West and NATO; of course, we’re seeing exactly the opposite … with new countries considering applying for membership,” Blinken said.
Austin said that he and Blinken expressed condolences to Zelenskyy for the loss of so many civilians and they expressed their admiration for his courageous troops that have done a magnificent job of pushing back Russian forces.
The meeting with Zelenskyy focused on security assistance Ukraine would need to further beat back the Russian invaders, Austin said.
Tomorrow, Austin plans to meet with several ministers and chiefs of defense in Ramstein, Germany. He said the focus will be on generating additional capability and capacity for the Ukrainian forces.
On April 21, a senior Defense Department official told the press that aid to Ukraine from the U.S., allies and partners is rapidly flowing into the country daily.
Counter-artillery radar; 155 mm howitzers; the Phoenix Ghost, a tactical unmanned aerial system and the training required to use the systems have been included in the latest and forthcoming security assistance, the official said.
Once this security assistance gets into Ukraine, it’s up to the Ukrainians where and how it will be employed, the official noted. (Source: US DoD)
25 Apr 22. Finland, Sweden to begin NATO application in May, say local media reports. Finland and Sweden will together express their wish to join NATO in May, tabloid newspapers Iltalehti in Finland and Expressen in Sweden reported on Monday, citing sources close to the matter.
Despite tightening cooperation with the military alliance since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the Nordic countries had both opted to stay out. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which it calls a “special operation”, has forced Sweden and Finland to examine whether their longstanding military neutrality is still the best means of ensuring national security.
According to Iltalehti, the leaders of Finland and Sweden plan to meet in the week of May 16 and after that publicly announce their plans to apply to join the alliance.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto declined to comment, but repeated his longstanding view that he would prefer Finland and Sweden made similar choices.
Swedish daily Aftonbladet reported separately, citing sources close to Swedish government offices, that the United States and Britain had promised Sweden increased military presence, more in-depth military exercises and ‘strong political’ support from NATO countries” during a possible NATO application process.
The Swedish foreign ministry declined to comment on Expressen’s and Aftonbladet’s reports.
Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin said two weeks ago, while visiting her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson, that she expected Finland to make its decision whether to apply for NATO membership within weeks.
Stockholm is conducting a review of security policy, which includes a view on possible NATO membership, with the results due by mid-May.
Separately, Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats are also reviewing their long-held objection to NATO membership. That is expected at the latest by May 24. (Source: Reuters)
26 Apr 22. Russia’s Lavrov: Do not underestimate threat of nuclear war. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West on Monday not to underestimate the elevated risks of nuclear conflict over Ukraine and said he viewed NATO as being “in essence” engaged in a proxy war with Russia by supplying Kyiv with weaponry. Lavrov, in a wide-ranging interview broadcast on state television, also said that the core of any agreement to end the conflict in Ukraine would depend largely on the military situation on the ground.
Lavrov had been asked about the importance of avoiding World War Three and whether the current situation was comparable to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, a low point in U.S-Soviet relations.
Russia, Lavrov said, was doing a lot to uphold the principle of striving to prevent nuclear war at all costs.
“This is our key position on which we base everything. The risks now are considerable,” Lavrov said.
“I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.”
Russia’s two-month-old invasion of Ukraine, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has left thousands dead or injured, reduced towns and cities to rubble and forced over 5 million people to flee abroad.
Moscow calls its actions a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West says this a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression by President Vladimir Putin.
Lavrov, defending Moscow’s actions, also blamed Washington for the lack of dialogue.
“The United States has practically ceased all contacts simply because we were obliged to defend Russians in Ukraine,” Lavrov said, repeating the rationale for Moscow’s invasion of its southern neighbour.
But he said Western supplies of sophisticated weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, armoured vehicles and advanced drones were provocative measures calculated to prolong the conflict rather than bring it to an end.
“These weapons will be a legitimate target for Russia’s military acting within the context of the special operation,” Lavrov said.
“Storage facilities in western Ukraine have been targeted more than once (by Russian forces). How can it be otherwise?” he added. “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war.”
He said that Kyiv authorities were not negotiating in good faith and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former actor, was like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in playing to the public rather than addressing the task at hand — negotiations.
“They are similar in a way in their ability to play to the gallery. For example, they imitate negotiations,” Lavrov said. (Source: Reuters)
26 Apr 22. Ben Wallace ready with British howitzers and radar systems. Britain may send howitzers and counter-battery radars that can detect incoming Russian fire to Ukraine, the defence secretary revealed yesterday.
Ben Wallace told MPs that the UK was considering sending the 105mm L118 light gun, a towed howitzer, which has been in service with the army since 1974. He said AS90 howitzers, another option available, were unsuitable because of their age and weight.
Wallace also raised the prospect of sending counter-battery radars. A defence source said that the Ministry of Defence was considering the Mobile Artillery Monitoring Battlefield Asset (Mamba) weapon-locating radar system.
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Nicholas Drummond, a former British army officer and defence analyst, said it was a sophisticated piece of equipment and would enable Ukraine to locate, pinpoint and destroy Russian artillery. However, he said that the UK only had five sets and it might not be possible to send it without also sending operators.
Another defence source suggested that the UK would source such systems elsewhere.
Drummond added that the L118 was accurate and reliable but that the army only had 126 light guns so would not be left with many.
Wallace confirmed that Britain is sending a small number of Stormer armoured vehicles fitted with launchers for Starstreak anti-air missiles.
He said that Ukrainian forces had been using Starstreak high-velocity and low-velocity anti-air missiles for more than three weeks. The Stormer armoured vehicles would give Ukrainian forces “enhanced, short-range anti-air capabilities both day and night”.
He said that 14 Wolfhound protected patrol vehicles had already arrived in the country this week, with other armoured vehicles on their way.
In addition to lethal weapons, Boris Johnson announced that the UK is sending more ambulances and fire engines to Ukraine.
Extra funding will also help train Ukrainian doctors to deal with mass casualties following Russian attacks on Ukrainian hospitals.
The UK is supplying 22 new ambulances to Ukraine — in addition to those already announced from NHS trusts — equipped with paramedic kits and medical grab bags. They are due to leave for Ukraine in the coming days in direct response to a request from the Kyiv government.
Two further convoys of more than 40 fire engines, packed with thousands of items of rescue equipment including 300 fire hoses, thermal imaging cameras for finding victims and almost 10,000 items of protective clothing, have arrived in Ukraine.They are already providing vital support to firefighters on the front line.
There have been more than 130 attacks on healthcare facilities since the invasion and the UN has recorded about 4,800 civilian casualties. More than 100 fire stations and 250 fire engines have been destroyed.
Johnson said: “We have all been appalled by the abhorrent images of hospitals deliberately targeted by Russia since the invasion began over two months ago. The new ambulances, fire engines and funding for health experts announced today will better equip the Ukrainian people to deliver vital healthcare and save lives.
“Together with our military support, we will help to strengthen Ukraine’s capability to make sure Putin’s brutal invasion fails.”
Speaking at a Council on Geostrategy think tank event on the Black Sea, Sir Michael Fallon, a former defence secretary, said military help to Ukraine was “late in the day” but very welcome. He also stressed the importance of Britain’s nuclear deterrent in light of the invasion of Ukraine.
“Thank goodness we have renewed our deterrent”, he said, adding that it was right to spend so much money on the submarines given the UK could no longer be sure as to whether a hostile state might use nuclear weapons on the battlefield.
(Source: The Times)
25 Apr 22. Rheinmetall seeks permit to export Leopard tanks to Ukraine. German defence company Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE) has requested government approval to export 88 Leopard 1A5 tanks to Ukraine, German newspaper Die Welt wrote on Monday citing documents. A Rheinmetall spokesman declined to comment on the report. Earlier on Monday a defence source told Reuters that Rheinmetall had also sought a license to export 100 old Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine. (Source: Reuters)
25 Apr 22. Biden names veteran career diplomat Brink as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. President Joe Biden named veteran diplomat Bridget Brink as the new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the White House said on Monday, moving to fill a crucial position that was vacant for nearly three years as Washington ramps up efforts to help Ukraine fend off a Russian invasion. Brink, currently U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, has been a career diplomat for 25 years and has worked in Uzbekistan and Georgia as well as in several senior positions across the State Department and White House National Security Council. A Michigan native who speaks Russian, Brink’s “decades of experience make her uniquely suited for this moment in Ukraine’s history,” a State Department statement said.
The U.S. Senate needs to confirm the choice for the post, vacant since former President Donald Trump abruptly recalled then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in May 2019.
Democratic and Republican Senate aides said they did not anticipate problems winning approval. Brink was confirmed by unanimous voice vote in 2019 when former Republican President Donald Trump nominated her for her current position in Bratislava.
The nomination announcement came during a weekend trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Ukrainian capital Kyiv, where they met President Volodomyr Zelenskiy and other top Ukrainian officials. read more
During the visit, the cabinet secretaries also pledged new aid worth $713 million for Zelenskiy’s government and countries in the region, where the invasion has raised fears of further aggression by Moscow.
Washington also announced that U.S. diplomats will be returning to Ukraine this week — initially resuming “day trips” from Poland where they are currently stationed to the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv across the border.
“The increased U.S. presence demonstrates our support for Ukraine and is part of the U.S. commitment to return our diplomats to our Embassy in Kyiv as soon as possible,” the State Department said in a statement.
U.S. diplomats departed the Kyiv embassy nearly two weeks before the Feb. 24 invasion, moving some functions to Lviv before eventually relocating to Poland.
Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has killed thousands of people, displaced millions and raised fears of a wider confrontation between Russia and the United States, by far the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.
The United States has ruled out sending its own or NATO forces to Ukraine but Washington and its European allies have supplied weapons to Kyiv such as drones, Howitzer heavy artillery, anti-aircraft Stinger and anti-tank Javelin missiles. (Source: Reuters)
25 Apr 22. NATO warships arrive at Finnish port for training exercises. Three NATO warships arrived in the southwestern Finnish port of of Turku on Monday to train with Finland’s navy as Helsinki considers the possibility of joining the U.S.-led alliance amid increased tensions with Russia over Ukraine. Latvian minelayer LVNS Virsaitis and minehunters Estonian ENS Sakala and Dutch HNLMS Schiedam will train with two minehunters from Finland’s coastal fleet, the Finnish defence forces said in a statement. The two-day exercise, set to commence on April 28, will prepare the Finnish ships to take part in NATO response forces in 2022 and focus on “mine countermeasures and working in a multinational framework”, the statement said. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on April 13 that her country would take a decision in the next few weeks about whether to apply to join NATO, prompting an angry response from Russia. Finland and neighbouring Sweden are close partners with NATO but have shied away from joining the 30-member alliance, founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Marin said the option to join NATO had to be carefully analysed but that everything had changed since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) land border with Russia. (Source: Reuters)
25 Apr 22. Tirsapol, capital of the breakaway Moldovan territory of Transnistria which borders Ukraine to the east. Explosions struck the building housing the security services of the breakaway Moldovan republic of Transnistria on Monday, days after Moscow said the Russian-backed region could be drawn into the war in Ukraine. Transnistria, which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists and hosts Russian troop bases and arms depots, borders western Ukraine. It is seen as a potential flashpoint in rising tensions between Moscow and the west that have soared since President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine two months ago. A senior Russian commander said last week that the Russian army’s move to capture southern Ukraine would open “another way to Transnistria”. Moscow has claimed “there are also instances of oppressing the Russian-speaking population” in Transnistria, an argument that was used to justify the invasion of Ukraine. The explosions inside the building hosting Transnistria’s state security ministry in Tiraspol were caused by a rocket-propelled-grenade attack, the region’s authorities said. Photographs shared by the Transnistrian authorities appeared to show a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher left on the road outside the building. No details of who may have carried out the attack were provided. “[There are] broken windows on upper floors. Smoke billows from the rooms,” Transnistria’s government said in a statement. “An investigative team, sappers, firefighters, ambulance doctors and specialists from other emergency services are on site,” it said, noting that no casualties had been reported. Moldova’s government in Chisinau said in a statement that it was “concerned about the incident” and “called for calm” in the region. “The aim of today’s incident is to create pretexts for straining the security situation in the Transnistrian region, which is not controlled by the constitutional authorities,” it added. Transnistria separatists, backed by Moscow, fought a war against newly independent Moldova in 1992, and a ceasefire led to the region seceding de facto from Chisinau. The region, which is separated from the rest of Moldova by the Dniester river, is internationally recognised as a part of Moldova. (Source: FT.com)
25 Apr 22. Italy’s F-35A to support Nato’s enhanced air policing mission in Iceland. The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) has decided to deploy an F-35A detachment to support Nato’s Enhanced Air Policing mission in Iceland. The detachment will include 130 personnel, pilots, crew members, support and force protection personnel, along with four F-35A fighter aircraft. Based at Amendola Air Base (AB) in Italy, the F-35As will support the Icelandic air surveillance during their two-month deployment in Iceland. The aim of the mission is to conduct routine exercises and training to meet Iceland’s mission preparedness needs and to monitor its airspace. In addition, Nato’s Allied Air Command, along with the authority over the fighters, will tactically control the detachment operations from the Northern Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, Germany. Italian F-35A Iceland Task Force Air commander colonel Gianmarco Di Loreto said: “After being the first ally to deploy fifth-generation fighters on a Nato mission abroad, Italy demonstrates a sustained capability to provide modern fighter aircraft to Alliance operations.
“Our F-35A aircraft have already gained considerable international experience by participating in Nato’s Air Policing missions in Iceland, but also Estonia.
“Staffs have also executed the national QRA duty from their home base and will continue to train crews to protect national and Alliance skies.”
According to the Icelandic Coast Guard leadership, the deployment will maintain a periodic presence of Nato’s fighter aircraft to secure the country’s airspace.
The Coast Guard is responsible for conducting maritime operations, including search, rescue, safety, security, surveillance and law enforcement, in the seas surrounding Iceland.
Participation in Nato’s Air Policing mission will also mark the Italian F-35A’s third deployment to Iceland after 2019 and 2020.
Prior to this, the Italian Eurofighter Typhoons supported the Nato’s mission to safeguard the ally’s airspace in the High North in 2013, 2017 and 2018. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
25 Apr 22. Defence Secretary statement to the House of Commons on Ukraine: 25 April 2022.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace gave a statement to the House of Commons on Ukraine.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. It has now been 61 days since Russia invaded Ukraine, and it has been 74 days since my Russian counterpart assured me that the Russian army would not be invading.
As the invasion approaches its ninth week, I want to update the House on the current situation and what steps we are taking to further our support to the Ukrainian people.
It is our assessment that approximately 15,000 Russian personnel have been killed during their offensive. Alongside the death toll are the equipment losses. In total, a number of sources suggest that to date over 2,000 armoured vehicles have been destroyed or captured. This includes at least 530 tanks, 530 Armoured Personnel Carriers and 560 Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Russia has also lost over 60 helicopters and fighter jets.
The offensive that was supposed to take a maximum of a week has now taken weeks.
Last week Russia admitted that the Slava-class cruiser Moskva has sunk – the second key naval asset that they have lost since invading – significantly weakening their ability to bring their maritime assets to bear from the Black Sea.
As I said, Mr Speaker, in my last statement, Russia has so far failed in nearly every one of its objectives. In recognition of this failure, the Russian high command has regrouped, reinforced, and changed focus to securing the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. A failure of the Russian Ministry of Defence command and control at all levels has meant they have now appointed one overall commander – General Dvornikov. At the start of this conflict Russia had committed over 120 battalion tactical groups, approximately 65% of its entire ground combat strength. As of now we assess that over 25% of these have been rendered not combat effective.
Ukraine, Mr Speaker, is an inspiration to us all. Their brave people have never stopped fighting for their land. They have endured indiscriminate bombardment, war crimes and overwhelming military aggression. But they have stood firm, galvanised the international community and beaten back the army of Russia in the North and the North-East.
We anticipate that this next phase of the invasion will be an attempt by Russia to occupy further the Donbas and connect, via Mariupol, the Crimea. And so it is urgent that we in the international community ensure Ukraine gets the aid and weapons it so much needs.
As Defence Secretary I have ensured that, at each step of the way, the UK’s support is tailored to the anticipated actions of Russia. To date we have provided more than 5,000 anti-tank missiles, 5 Air Defence systems with more than 100 missiles, 1,360 anti-structure munitions, and 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosives. And in response to indiscriminate bombing from the air, and escalations by President Putin’s forces, on 9 March I announced that the UK would supply Starstreak high velocity and low velocity anti-air missiles. I am able to now report to the House that these have been in-theatre for over 3 weeks and they have been deployed and used by Ukrainian forces to defend themselves and their territory.
Over recess my ministerial team, Mr Speaker, hosted a Ukrainian government delegation at Salisbury Plain Training Area to explore further equipment options. This was quickly followed by the Prime Minister announcing a further £100 million worth of high-grade military equipment, 120 armoured vehicles, sourcing anti-ship missiles, and high-tech loitering munitions for precision strikes.
But as we can see from Ukrainian requests, more needs to be done. So for that reason I can now announce to the House that we shall be gifting a small number of armoured vehicles fitted with launchers for those anti-air missiles. These Stormer vehicles will give Ukraine forces enhanced short range anti-air capabilities, both day and night.
Since my last statement more countries have answered the call and more have stepped up to support. The Czech Republic has supplied T72 tanks and BMP Fighting Vehicles, and Poland has also pledged T72 tanks.
Mr Speaker, the quickest route to helping Ukraine is with similar equipment and ammunition to what they already use. The UK government obviously does not hold Russian equipment but, in order to help where we do not have such stock, we have enabled others to donate. Alongside Canada and Poland, the Royal Air Force has been busy moving equipment from donor countries to Ukraine. At the same time, if no donor can be found, we are purchasing equipment from the open market.
On 31 March I held my second international donor conference, involving an increase of countries to 35 countries, including representation from the EU and NATO. So far these efforts have yielded some 2.5 million items of equipment, worth over £1.5 billion.
These next three weeks are key. Ukraine needs more long-range artillery and ammunition and both Russian and NATO calibre types to accompany them. They also seek anti-ship missiles to counter Russian ships that are able to bombard Ukrainian cities. Mr Speaker, it is therefore important to say that, if possible, the UK will seek to enable or supply such weapons. I shall keep the House up to date, and also members of each front bench across the House, as we proceed. The MOD is working day and night to support, alongside the US, Canada, and the EU, continued logistical supplies.
But not all the aid is lethal. We have also sent significant quantities of non-lethal equipment to Ukraine. To date we have sent over 90,000 ration packs, over 10 pallets of medical equipment, more than 3,000 pieces of body armour, nearly 77,000 helmets, 3,000 pairs of boots and much more including communications equipment and ear defence.
On top of our military aid to Ukraine, we contribute to strengthening NATO’s collective security, for both the immediate challenge and the long term. We have temporarily doubled the number of Defence personnel in Estonia, sent military personnel to support Lithuanian intelligence resilience and reconnaissance efforts, deployed hundreds of Royal Marines to Poland, and sent offshore patrol vessels and Navy destroyers to the Eastern Mediterranean. We have also increased our presence in the skies over south-eastern Europe with four additional Typhoons based in Romania. That means we now have a full squadron of RAF fighter jets in southern Europe, ready to support NATO tasking.
As the Prime Minister announced on Friday, we are also offering a deployment of British Challenger 2 Tanks to Poland to bridge the gap between Poland donating tanks to Ukraine, and their replacements arriving from a third country.
Looking further ahead, NATO is reassessing its posture and the UK is leading conversations at NATO about how best the Alliance can deter and defend against threats. My NATO colleagues and I tasked the Alliance to report to leaders at the summit in June with proposals for concrete, long-term and sustainable changes.
Mr Speaker, some of us in this House knew that, behind the mask, the Kremlin was not the international statesman it pretended to be. With this invasion of Ukraine, all of Europe can now see the true face of President Putin and his inner circle. His intention is only to destroy, to crush, to rub out the free peoples of Ukraine. He does not want to preserve. He must not be allowed to prevail. Ukrainians are fighting for their very lives and they are fighting for our freedoms.
The President of Ukraine himself said as much: if Russia stops fighting, there will be peace. If Ukraine stops fighting, there will be no more Ukraine.
Thank you. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
25 Apr 22. US wants Russia ‘weakened’ to avoid repeat of Ukraine invasion.
Both the US Defense Secretary and the US Secretary of State have visited Kyiv.
The US Secretary of Defense has said Ukraine can win the war against Russia, admitting the United States wants to see “Russia weakened to a degree” that it cannot repeat its invasion of Ukraine.
It comes after Mr Austin visited Ukraine with US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken – the highest-level American visit to Kyiv since Russia invaded in late February.
Lloyd J Austin stated that Russia “has already lost a lot of military capability and a lot of a lot of its troops”, adding: “We want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.”
During the visit to Kyiv, the pair met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as well as a number of Ukrainian politicians.
Mr Austin said the United States would do everything it could to help Ukraine win the war against Russia, with the US confirming over $300 million (£234 million) in foreign military financing and approving a $165 million (£128 million) sale of ammunition.
“We want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country, able to protect its sovereign territory,” Mr Austin said.
“The first step in winning is believing that you can win,” he said.
Watch: Last week, the UK said it was looking at sending tanks to Poland as part of move to support Ukraine.
“And so they believe that we can win. We believe that we can win, they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support,” he said.
Mr Austin also said the conflict in Ukraine would evolve, and as a result, the Ukrainians’ “needs will change”.
“As those needs change, we’d like to be one step ahead,” he said.
Mr Blinken echoed Mr Austin’s view that Ukraine can win the war: “Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,” he said.
“Russia has sought, as its principal aim, to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence.
“That has failed. It sought to assert the power of its military and its economy.
“We, of course, are seeing just the opposite: a military that is dramatically underperforming, an economy as a result of sanctions, as a result of a mass exodus from Russia, that is in shambles.”
Mr Blinken reiterated the US wants to see Russian aggression in Ukraine ended through diplomacy and dialogue, confirming the US diplomats would return to Ukraine this week.
However, he also said US support will continue to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield.
“The bottom line is this: we don’t know how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign, independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin’s on the scene,” he said. (Source: forces.net)
25 Apr 22. UK-Poland launch collaboration on cutting-edge missile system.
The UK has today signed a contract with the Polish Government supporting the early introduction of Poland’s future short-range air defence system, Narew.
CEO of the Polish Armaments Group Sebastian Chwałek and MBDA Sales Director Poland Adrian Monks signed the interim capability contract in Warsaw today, which is the first of two stages to deliver the Common Anti Air Modular Missile (CAAM), a surface to air missile.
The collaboration will provide enhanced security and defence development for both NATO countries, and bolster European security.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Poland and the United Kingdom maintain a wide-ranging and important defence partnership and this move will benefit both countries, as well as the wider NATO alliance. This missile is at the forefront of threat detection and deterrence, with Poland’s Short-Range Air Defence system seeing even greater alignment between our Armed Forces.”
Flying at supersonic speeds, CAMM missiles can destroy modern air threats including stealth aircraft and high-speed missiles.
Each CAMM family missile is equipped with an advanced active radar seeker that can see even the smallest, fastest and stealthiest targets through the worst weather and the heaviest electronic jamming. They are capable of hitting a tennis ball-sized object travelling at several times the speed of sound.
The UK’s Sky Sabre and Poland’s NAREW GBAD systems will both use the same CAMM missiles and launcher, but with Polish designed components for the radar, C2, and vehicles. The British Army is currently deploying their CAMM-based GBAD system, known as Sky Sabre, to Poland to help protect Polish air space.
There are also plans to share these pioneering technologies for production of further ground-based air defence (GBAD) systems in Poland, which will develop and sustain critical skills and jobs across the respective missile sectors.
Chris Allam, Managing Director of MBDA UK, said: “MBDA is proud to be part of such an important programme for the protection of Polish skies together with our Polish partners from the Polish Armaments Group. This rapid initial Narew project demonstrates MBDA’s agility to respond to urgent needs and develop sovereign system solutions in rapid timescales. We are already working to deliver the first systems to Poland as well as addressing the wider Narew programme of technology transfer and Polish manufacture.”
The landmark move follows the visit from Poland’s President Andrzej Duda earlier this month where he spoke with Prime Minister Boris Johnson about accelerating defensive support to Ukraine.
During a visit to Poland in November to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to European and NATO defence, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak agreed a Statement of Intent to co-operate on air defence.
The missile agreement builds on the strong bilateral relationship between with forces operating side by side on land, at sea and in the air. It also follows the Ukrainian Naval Capabilities Enhancement Programme announced in 2020 which includes naval infrastructure, new missile craft, retrofit of their current vessels and two upgraded ex Royal Navy mine counter measures vessels.
Defence Minister for Armed Forces James Heappey will also visit Warsaw later this week to meet key military personnel involved in Op CABRIT as part of the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) delivering NATO commitments. The eFP compromises four multinational battlegroups in Estonia, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania upholding collective NATO security.
CAMM is the latest generation of air defence missile used by both the British Army and the Royal Navy and made in Bolton, with MBDA UK based in Stevenage and employing 4,000 people across the country. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
25 Apr 22. Russia Puts Its ‘F-22 Killer’ S-500 Missile Defense System Into Mass Production As Tensions Boil Over Ukraine. Russia’s newest anti-aircraft missile defense system S-500 (Prometheus) has already been put into mass production, Yan Novikov, the head of the Russian defense technology company Almaz-Antey, said on Monday.
“Currently, mass production of the S-500 system has been launched based on the latest achievements in domestic science and technology.
The combat capabilities of the system significantly surpass the capabilities of previously created anti-aircraft missile systems and complexes.
The S-500 is capable of becoming the basis of the Russian aerospace defense system. The troops will receive it within the time frame set by the state defense order,” Novikov told the Russian magazine National Defense.
The S-500 Prometey
The S-500 Prometheus is a next-generation surface-to-air missile system with a range of 600 kilometers (370 miles). It is a universal high-altitude interception complex with an increased anti-missile defense capability designed for intercepting and destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, hypersonic cruise missiles and stealth aircraft.
The S-500 Prometey (Russian for Prometheus) is already developed and it was first tested successfully in July of 2021. In September, the Russian Armed Forces began receiving their first S-500 consignments, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov.
And by October, the first S-500 brigade was deployed by the Russian Aerospace Forces’ 15th Special Forces Army to cover Moscow and the country’s Central Industrial Region.
The S-500’s operational range is approximately 370 miles within which it reportedly can detect and simultaneously counter up to 10 ballistic supersonic terminal ICBM warheads flying at speeds up to 4.34 miles (7 kilometers) per second.
Beyond providing battlefield tactical air defense, the mobile S-500 Prometheus system is considered one of the most advanced in the world, reportedly capable of destroying volleys of hypersonic missiles currently under development by various countries.
Russian analysts claim that S-500 could even target satellites in low-earth orbit and fifth-generation stealth aircraft, in addition to its primary targets of cruise and ballistic missiles. Moreover, the system’s survivability is allegedly enhanced by its high resistance to electronic interference.
The S-500 was developed by the Almaz-Antey Air Defence Concern to replace aging A-135 missile systems currently in use. It is considered a step up from the S-400 Triumf but would supplement that platform rather than replace it, it is said.
Boosting Supplies To Ukraine
Poland ranks second after the United States in the amount of weaponry supplied to Ukraine amid Russia’s military operation, the chief of the Polish Prime Minister’s Chancellery, Michal Dworczyk, said on Monday.
On Saturday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki claimed that Warsaw is supplying Kiev with a variety of weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-armor equipment as well as heavy weapons and ammunition, to enable it to stand up against Russia. He said Poland’s military assistance to Ukraine is now exceeding $1.6bn.
“Surely, we do not unveil the details of supplies, but it should be made clear that Poland is the country that, right after the US, dispatches the most weapons to Ukraine. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said earlier, 7 billion zlotys, or about $1.6 billion. This is the cost of our military support of Ukraine,” Dworczyk told Polish radio RMF FM, adding that in some types of arms Poland is taking the lead.
After Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine, the US and its allies rushed to forward billions of dollars worth of weaponry and military equipment to Ukraine. So far, Washington has rendered $1.7 billion in military assistance to Kiev, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledging to send more during the Sunday visit to the country with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The US is intending to allocate another $713 million in foreign military aid to Ukraine and over a dozen of other countries, for them to buy new weapons for their reserves or to compensate for arms provided to Ukraine, Blinken said.
Russia has repeatedly denounced the continuous flow of weapons to Ukraine from the West, saying that it adds fuel to the fire and derails the negotiation process. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last week that the ministry has issued a note to all states providing Ukraine with lethal arms. (Source: Google/https://eurasiantimes.com/)
22 Apr 22. Calling all weapons makers: Pentagon seeks new ideas to arm Ukraine. In its effort to quickly arm Ukraine against Russia, the Pentagon has announced the equivalent of an open casting call for companies to offer weapons and commercial systems that can be rushed to the fight.
The Defense Department on Friday posted a broad request for information from industry on the federal contracting website sam.gov. The move is part of a stepped-up dialogue between the Pentagon and industry, and a sign of the challenge of boosting arms production in response to the ongoing conflict.
The RFI, on behalf of the new undersecretary of defense for acquisitions and sustainment, Bill LaPlante, is seeking input “from across industry” about air defense, anti-armor, anti-personnel, coastal defense, counter battery, unmanned aerial systems, and communications equipment, such as secure radios and satellite internet gear.
To that end, the DoD asks that responding companies describe their weapon, product or system in 100 words or less, and ― in the case of munitions ― check off “appropriate target type(s),” such as area, fixed, airborne/missile, maritime, mine, moving, hard or soft. The RFI says information received will be used to develop requirements for an actual solicitation at a later date.
RFIs are a standard tool used ahead of contracting actions, but it’s one the Pentagon relies on in both routine situations and emergencies.
“The department routinely requests input from industry and commercial partners to conduct market research, learn more about their capabilities, and to shape future requirements,” DoD spokesperson Jessica Maxwell said in an email. “The Department issued similar requests to industry in the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The cutoff for submissions is May 6, and the DoD is evaluating proposals on a rolling basis. “The department is interested in learning about and discussing novel solutions, including from non-traditional weapons makers,” Maxwell said.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced another $800 m in military aid for Ukraine, and ― with total U.S. military aid topping $3.4 billion since Russia’s invasion Feb. 24 ― he plans to ask Congress for more authority next week. The White House also announced it added a new Ukraine aid coordinator.
Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., was among lawmakers who have criticized the Biden administration as not speedy enough in its assistance, particularly as the war intensifies in Ukraine’s Donbas region.
“The war is changing in the east, and the Ukrainians need much more to win and roll back Russian aggression. We’ll need to get creative,” Inhofe said in a tweet Friday, hours before the RFI was posted. “Further, we must ensure the Pentagon is able to get contracts out to industry to increase production ASAP. Let’s get to work.”
Top DoD officials convened defense industry leaders at the Pentagon earlier this month to gauge their ability to ramp up arms production in response to the conflict. Firms are still grappling with pandemic-related supply chain and workforce woes, and the Pentagon is also facing questions about how to replenish stocks of U.S. and allied equipment being sent to Ukraine.
As the DoD has raided its stockpiles of Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles as well as Switchblade drones, it’s also recently announced novel aid like an unmanned surface vessel, which the Pentagon has declined to describe in detail, and the Phoenix Ghost, a new drone developed by the Air Force.
The RFI lays out the department’s goal to “accelerate production and build more capacity across the industrial base for weapons and equipment that can be rapidly exported, deployed with minimal training, and that are proven effective in the battlefield.”
Companies must check off whether their system can be delivered in 30 days or less, 31-90 days, 90-180 days, or more than 180 days. If it’s in production, the DoD wants to know the maximum production rate per month and what other systems could be impacted by a production increase. If it’s not in production, the department wants to know what’s needed to begin production.
The U.S. military, which has trained Ukrainian forces on Switchblade drones, also wants to know what training each system requires and whether the responding country has training facilities in Central or Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile, the DoD on April 12 awarded the first contract of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative’s $300 m budget for this year: a $19.7 m deal with AeroVironment for a small, hand-launched surveillance drone called the RQ-20 Puma AE.
(Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
25 Apr 22. Large fire rages at fuel depot used as logistics base for Russian forces. A large fire has broken out at a Russian fuel depot on the Ukrainian border acting as a logistics base for Vladimir Putin’s forces.
Emergency services said the blaze began around 2am Moscow time (11pm GMT) at the Transneft Bryansk-Druzhba facility in Bryansk, owned by the oil pipeline company Transneft.
No injuries have been reported and the cause has not yet been established.
Bryansk is an administrative centre 154 km (96 miles) northeast of the Ukrainian border, and Russian officials said last week that Ukrainian helicopters had hit residential buildings and injured seven people in the area.
It comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and its defence secretary pledged additional military aid to Ukraine in the first official US visit to Kyiv since the invasion, including advanced weapons, and a return of US envoys to Kyiv.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said Russia has made minor advances since shifting its focus to fully occupying the Donbas, however its decision to besiege rather than attack Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant has “exhausted many Russian units and reduced their combat effectiveness”. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
22 Apr 22. Canada says it has provided heavy artillery to Ukraine forces. Canada said on Friday it has provided heavy artillery to Ukrainian security forces, following up on a pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week to send more artillery weaponry to Ukraine in the face of a Russian assault on its East. Canada has now delivered a number of M777 howitzers and associated ammunition to Ukrainian forces, and is finalizing contracts for commercial pattern armoured vehicles that it will send to Ukraine as soon as possible, the defense ministry said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Reuters)
25 Apr 22. Russia ‘made minor advances in Ukraine’ in shift to Donbas. Russia has made “minor advances” in some areas since shifting its focus to fully occupying the Donbas, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
The ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing that Moscow is still “yet to achieve a significant breakthrough” and that its decision to besiege rather than attack Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant has “exhausted many Russian units and reduced their combat effectiveness”. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
25 Apr 22. US envoys to resume diplomatic presence in Kyiv. United States diplomats will begin a gradual return to Ukraine this week, Washington’s secretary of state and defence chief have announced, in a further signal to Russia that its war is failing.
The trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin – which the US confirmed only after the two had left Ukrainian territory – came as the invasion enters its third month, with thousands dead and millions displaced.
Washington ordered the withdrawal of its diplomats in the weeks prior to Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine.
“Starting this week, members of that team will be able to do day trips instead into Ukraine,” a US official said. “Ultimately, (they will) resume presence in Kyiv.”
Britain and a host of European capitals are also reopening their embassies in Ukraine’s capital in the coming days. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
25 Apr 22. Russia ‘downs two Ukrainian drones in Russia’s Kursk region.’ Russian air defence systems shot down two Ukrainian drones in Russia’s Kursk region which borders Ukraine, regional governor Roman Starovoyt wrote on his Telegram channel on Monday. He said there were no casualties. The report could not be immediately verified. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
25 Apr 22. Blinken: Russia is failing in war aims and Ukraine ‘succeeding.’ After a secrecy-shrouded visit to Kyiv, US Secretary of State Blinken said Russia is failing in its war aims and “Ukraine is succeeding.” The trip by Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was the highest-level American visit to the capital since Russia invaded in late February, though Washington refused to confirm any travel plans. They told Ukraine’s president, Volodomyr Zelensky, and his advisers that the US would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition.
“We had an opportunity to demonstrate directly our strong ongoing support for the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people. This was, in our judgment, an important moment to be there to have face-to-face conversations in detail,” Mr Blinken told reporters Monday near the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Mr Austin said Zelensky’s response to the aid was deep appreciation for what was being given but “he has the mindset that they want to win and we have the mindset that we want to help them win.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
25 Apr 22. US to restore diplomatic presence in Ukraine and offers more military aid. Top Biden officials meet Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv as Washington steps up support. Senior US officials pledged to resume diplomatic operations in Ukraine and offered the country more than $322mn in military funding after a stealth trip to Kyiv where they met Volodymyr Zelensky, the country’s president. Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, and Lloyd Austin, defence secretary, made the trip to the Ukrainian capital on Sunday, disclosing the visit after they left the country early on Monday for security reasons. Blinken and Austin were the highest-ranking American officials to travel to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began in late February. Their trip came after a string of senior European officials and heads of government made the same journey in recent weeks. Blinken arrived in Kyiv with news that the US would restart its diplomatic presence in the country, beginning this week with day trips to the western city of Lviv. “We’ll seek to have our diplomats return to our embassy in Kyiv as soon as possible,” a senior state department official said, according to a note disseminated to reporters. In addition, US president Joe Biden is set to nominate Bridget Brink to be the next ambassador to Ukraine, a position that has been vacant throughout his administration. Brink is a career diplomat currently serving as US ambassador to Slovakia. The visit by Blinken and Austin came after the US intensified its provision of heavy weaponry to Ukraine to help it defend itself from Russia’s offensive. Moscow has shifted its focus to the eastern and southern parts of the country after failing in its original intent to quickly seize significant Ukrainian cities and decapitate the government. According to a senior defence official who briefed reporters, the US is also offering more than $322mn to Ukraine in additional funding for its military operations, part of a broader aid package of more than $713mn destined for other central and eastern European countries, as well as the sale of $165mn worth of ex-Soviet ammunition the Ukrainians are accustomed to using. Austin also briefed Ukrainian officials on howitzer artillery units the US was providing Kyiv and on related training it was holding in an unidentified third country. The US defence secretary will on Tuesday visit Ramstein, Germany to discuss the state of the war with several of his counterparts as well as Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. (Source: FT.com)
24 Apr 22. Swiss veto German request to re-export ammunition to Ukraine, SonntagsZeitung reports. Neutral Switzerland has held up German arms deliveries to Ukraine by blocking the re-export of Swiss-made ammunition used in Marder infantry fighting vehicles that Kyiv would like to get, Swiss paper SonntagsZeitung reported. The news comes as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz faces growing criticism for his government’s failure to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine to help it fend off Russian attacks, even as other Western allies step up shipments. The Marder, made by German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE), uses ammunition manufactured in Switzerland, the paper said. Switzerland restricts the re-export of such war materiel to conflict zones. The paper quoted a spokesperson for the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) as saying it had received two inquiries from Germany about transferring to Ukraine munitions it had got from Switzerland.
“Both of Germany’s requests were answered in the negative with reference to Swiss neutrality and the mandatory rejection criteria of the war material legislation,” it quoted the spokesperson as saying.
SECO was not immediately available for comment on Sunday outside of regular business hours. Switzerland has departed with past practice and adopted European Union sanctions designed to punish Russian for invading Ukraine, but has said its neutrality does not permit providing arms in conflict zones. Last month it rejected Poland’s request for arms to help neighbouring Ukraine. (Source: glstrade.com/Reuters)
24 Apr 22. Putin abandons hopes of Ukraine deal and shifts to land-grab strategy. Russian president was considering settlement with Kyiv last month but now sees no prospect of that. Vladimir Putin has lost interest in diplomatic efforts to end his war with Ukraine and instead appears set on seizing as much Ukrainian territory as possible, according to three people briefed on conversations with the Russian president. Putin, who was seriously considering a peace deal with Ukraine after Russia suffered battlefield setbacks last month, has told people involved in trying to end the conflict that he sees no prospects for a settlement. “Putin sincerely believes in the nonsense he hears on [Russian] television and he wants to win big,” said a person briefed on the talks. Though Moscow and Kyiv agreed their first draft communique at a meeting in Istanbul in late March, talks stalled after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of committing war crimes against civilians in cities such as Bucha and Mariupol. Putin said peace efforts were at a “dead end” and was infuriated after Ukraine sank the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, according to two of the people. “There was hope for a deal. Putin was going back and forth. He needs to find a way to come out of this a winner,” one of the people said. After the Moskva sank, “Putin was against signing anything. [ . . . ] after the Moskva he doesn’t look like a winner, because it was humiliating,” the person added. Ukrainian and western officials had always doubted his commitment to peace talks, suspecting it was a way of buying time for Moscow’s offensive. The Russian president appears to hold a distorted view of the war as set out by his generals and depicted on Russian television, the people briefed on conversations with him said. They added that he insisted, despite all evidence to the contrary, that his forces have not targeted civilians during attacks such as the siege of the Azovstal steelworks, Ukrainian forces’ last holdout in the largely destroyed city of Mariupol. (Source: FT.com)
24 Apr 22. The war in Ukraine has rendered the country’s coastline and ports such as Odesa unsafe for commercial shipping. The head of the world’s largest ship manager has urged Nato to provide naval escorts for commercial vessels passing through the Black Sea, which lies off Ukraine’s southern coast, as dozens remain stuck in the conflict zone. René Kofod-Olsen, chief executive of V.Group, said the western military alliance should intervene to ensure trade can flow from a region of vital importance for global food supplies. “We should demand that our seafaring and marine traffic is being protected in international waters. I’m sure Nato and others have a role to play in the protection of the commercial fleet,” he said. V.Group offers services, operational management and maintenance to shipowners around the world, supplying them with its pool of more than 46,000 seafarers. The war in Ukraine has rendered the northern third of the Black Sea unsafe for navigation, in effect barring access to the country’s coastline as ships and seafarers face threats from mines and projectiles. The flow of grains and fertilisers out of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are of huge importance to international food supplies, affecting the business of the big agricultural commodity traders Cargill, Bunge, ADM and Louis Dreyfus as well as the food companies they supply. Grain exports by Russia and Ukraine, which account for about 30 per cent of global wheat trade, have more than halved in March and April to date year-on-year, according to shipping data group Sea/ by Maritech, as the war takes its toll. (Source: FT.com)
23 Apr 22. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky lashed out at the Kremlin after Russian missiles killed eight civilians in the port city of Odesa, as America’s top diplomat prepared to visit Ukraine for the first time since Moscow’s full-scale invasion began eight weeks ago. In heated remarks, Zelensky called the Russians “bloody bastards”, “Nazis” and “Rashists” — a Ukrainian neologism mixing Russians and fascists — while pressing allies to increase deliveries of weapons and ammunition in a bid to tip the war’s balance in Ukraine’s favour. Russia has launched new offensives in the east and south of Ukraine that the country’s allies predict will bring some of the fiercest fighting yet. This week Moscow made clear that it wanted to occupy not only Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, but all of its south too, extending its control along the Black Sea coast to the Moldovan border. The Ukrainian president said he still supported a diplomatic path to ending the war, but sounded angry during a press conference held deep underground at the capital’s Maidan metro station for security reasons. “Eight people died and 18 to 20 were injured,” Zelensky said, speaking about Saturday’s missile attack. One of the missiles hit a multi-story residential building. “A three-month old child died . . . The war began when this child was a month old . . . Try to grasp that. Bloody bastards — I have no other words.” Russia’s defence ministry claimed that its missile strike had targeted a logistics hub in Odesa that had housed foreign weapons.Russian and Ukrainian claims about the war could not be independently confirmed. (Source: FT.com)
23 Apr 22. Germany must support Ukraine without endangering its own security, finance minister says. Germany must do everything in its power to help Ukraine win the war against Russia but without endangering its own security and NATO’s defence capability, Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on Saturday.
“We must do everything in our power to help Ukraine win, but the limit of the ethical responsibility is endangering our own security and endangering the defence capability of NATO territory,” Lindner said in a party conference speech in Berlin.
“But what is possible … must be undertaken pragmatically and quickly, together with our European partners,” he said.
Lindner said he was in favour of supporting Ukraine with heavy weapons, but that Germany must not become a party to the war.
“Ukraine needs military support, and in order to be victorious, it also needs heavy weapons,” Lindner added.
He rejected criticism aimed at Chancellor Olaf Scholz for the government’s apparent reluctance to deliver heavy battlefield weapons, such as tanks and howitzers.
“Olaf Scholz is a responsible leader who weighs things up carefully and makes decisions on this basis,” Lindner said.
A day earlier, when asked about Germany’s failure to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine, Scholz said NATO must avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia that could lead to a third world war. (Source: Google/Reuters)
23 Apr 22. Turkey blocks Russian armed forces’ air route to Syria. Move aims to pile pressure on Moscow to resume negotiations over Ukraine war. Turkey has banned Russia’s armed forces from using its airspace to reach Syria in a bid to increase pressure on Vladimir Putin as Ankara tries to revive peace talks with Ukraine. Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Russian military aircraft would no longer be able to transit through his country en route to Syria, where Moscow has played a key role in propping up the regime of president Bashar al-Assad. “We have closed our airspace to Russian military flights and even civilian flights that are carrying military personnel to Syria,” he told journalists on a visit to Uruguay, according to state-owned broadcaster TRT. Analysts said the move will further complicate logistics for Russia in Syria, after Turkey limited the passage of foreign warships from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean shortly after the Ukraine war began. Charles Lister, director of the Syria programme at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said on Twitter that Moscow’s only “viable air supply route” would now be via Iran and Iraq. Turkey will remain open to commercial flights to and from Russia, declining to follow the EU in closing off its airspace to Russian flights due to the importance of the country’s tourists to its economy. Cavusoglu said that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had informed Putin of the decision and that the two leaders were continuing to engage in dialogue. Ankara has been winding down permission for use of its airspace by the Russian military in Syria since Russia’s renewed offensive in Ukraine began, three people familiar with the matter said. But the decision to fully close it, and go public with the move, marked a significant escalation. Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East programme at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the US and other nations had been asking Turkey to use its leverage over Moscow in Syria and increase the pressure on Putin. (Source: FT.com)