Ukraine Conflict Update – April 1
Sibylline noted on 24th February 2022 during a Ukraine briefing the likely impact sanctions would have on the dominance of the dollar in global transactions. An official at the IMF has similarly noted that the wide-ranging sanctions put in place by the West on Russia will likely lead to the continued growth in the use of other currencies, including the Chinese renminbi, to conduct international transactions and a more fragmented global monetary system. The IMF official warned that this will also impact the foreign currency reserves central banks stock as countries tend to choose those with which they mostly trade. Although there will be greater diversity in currency reserves and uses in international payments, the dollar will continue to be dominant, albeit at a lower rate. This will not have a big impact on the effect of sanctions, but a more fragmented monetary system will allow greater ‘work arounds’ for those in non-sanctioning jurisdictions who wish to do business with a sanctioned entity or individual.
Last week we briefly touched on the difficulties of identifying sanctioned individuals’ assets when they actively seek to hide ownership using offshore entities and complex holding structures routed through jurisdictions with favourable privacy laws. This is still true – as evidenced by recent reports emerging from France regarding the difficulty in identifying and seizing property on the Côte d’Azur. Many properties are under the veil of spouses’ and children’s names rather than registered under the sanctioned individual. This strategy has long been used to disguise assets, but is also part of the extreme privacy valued by UHNWIs. However, this privacy and the protection it affords them is at risk from careless Instagram posts by their retinue and the company they keep, from guests to teenage children, mistresses and others.
The advent of geolocation to identify someone’s whereabouts using clues from photos posted on Instagram means tracking and identifying yachts and houses is becoming easier. Not to mention, that once a photo or post has been uploaded to the internet it is often impossible to delete completely thanks to web archives or investigators downloading and saving this ‘evidence’ in real time which can be used to prove ownership or control of the asset. Recent examples include the case of Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin’s second wife, Olga, who posted several photos of her with friends on a yacht in the Mediterranean. A joint investigation in 2016 by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta used these photos to link the USD120 million mega yacht ‘Amore Vero’ to Sechin – the yacht was previously named St Princess Olga but was changed to Amore Vero following Olga and Sechin’s divorce. However, Sechin and Rosneft never confirmed ownership of the yacht and sued Novaya Gazeta to publish a retraction.
A more recent example of how promoting a luxury lifestyle on Instagram potentially resulted in direct sanctioning was the targeting of Polina Kovaleva, the stepdaughter of Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. An investigation by activists associated with jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny used photos published by Kovaleva to prove that she had a lifestyle beyond her means, and was therefore likely using funds given to her by her sanctioned ‘stepfather’. Photos included her on a yacht, on other holidays and playing tennis in Hyde Park. The investigation also revealed that as a 21-year old student at Loughborough University, she bought a GBP4.4 million flat in Kensington in cash. Following the viral Twitter feed dated 10 March 2022, the UK sanctioned Kovaleva on the 24th March. The UK and other jurisdictions have been criticised for not targeting oligarchs’ families and other beneficiaries, and this particular instance highlights how public outcry and civil society may influence whose names are added to the sanctions list.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to evolve, with Moscow escalating its offensive in the southeast to realise its stated goal of securing the entirety of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Ukrainian resistance in the besieged port city of Mariupol held up Russia’s advance in the south, despite Russia capturing Kherson, so far the only regional capital held by the Kremlin. Russia’s offensive towards Kyiv appears to have largely stalled with Ukrainian forces making gains to both the east and west of the capital. Western nations continue to supply Ukraine with defensive weaponry despite President Zelenskiy’s efforts to secure substantive offensive support from the US, EU, and the UK. Ceasefire violations in late March by Azeri forces in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and the declaration by the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia that it would hold a referendum on formal annexation by Russia are indicative of the wider disruption of the Ukraine conflict on regional stability, as competing entities seek to capitalise on the conflict to advance their own strategic goals. Elsewhere, the 25 March missile attack on a Saudi oil depot in the city of Jeddah by Houthi forces will likely embolden the Tehran-linked group to carry out further attacks focused on critical oil infrastructure within the Kingdom. The attack highlights the increased capabilities possessed by Houthi forces to carry out sophisticated, targeted strikes. Accordingly, the scope for an escalation in the conflict in Yemen will likely increase in the coming months as Saudi-led forces seek to curtail Houthi capability.
- In a notable development, regional governor of the Russian city of Belgorod, located about 30 kilometres from the Ukrainian border, stated that a fuel depot in the city was hit by two Ukrainian military helicopters. As a result of the explosion, two employees have reportedly been injured, though no casualties have been reported. Footage of the event confirms the attack, though Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense declined to directly comment that it was responsible, merely stating that it could not be held responsible for “every catastrophe on the Russian territory.”
- The Russia Forces are divided into Three Districts, Eastern dealing with Kyiv, Western dealing with Kharkiv and the Southern District, the most experienced, dealing around Crimea. The 4th Air Assault Brigade has withdrawn to Belarus and may be redeploying to the Donbas. Mercenaries are being employed at $7000 a month on a six month contract from Syria, CAR and Libya, which may suggest a longer war.
- The Ukrainian military announced on 1 April that some Russian forces in northern Kyiv were pulling back toward the Belarusian border, adding that the forces have also taken looted property with them. The announcement follows Moscow’s statement this week that it will scale down military operations around Kyiv in a bid to show good faith ahead of the talks in Turkey. However, western intelligence doubts that Russia is serious about scaling down and is merely using this as an opportunity to regroup ahead of a new offensive. The UK’s ministry of defence also released intelligence yesterday stating that it anticipated heavy fighting to take place in the outskirts of Kyiv in the coming days.
- Russia’s Defence Ministry also announced that a humanitarian corridor will be opened on 1 April from 10.00 (local time) to allow for evacuations of civilians that have been trapped in the besieged city for weeks with almost no access to basic items such as food, water, and electricity. However, previous attempts to organise humanitarian corridors and evacuate civilians out of the besieged city have largely failed, thus casting doubt on whether today’s attempts will be successful. Indeed, media reports already suggest that Russia is reportedly preventing aid from getting to Mariupol and preventing the announced humanitarian corridor from opening.
Diplomatic and strategic developments
- Talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations began today, with the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stating that the explosion at an oil depot in Belgorod was not conducive to facilitating comfortable conditions for discussions. However, at the time of writing the Kremlin has nevertheless largely downplayed the event, stating that it is being investigated. At the same time, Kyiv has declined to comment. Additionally, Lavrov reportedly also said that Russia is preparing its response to the proposals put forward by Ukraine, stating that these represented a “movement forward”. He furthermore reiterated that Ukraine’s non-nuclear and neutral status is an absolute necessity, and that the two sides are in the progress of formulating an understanding of the status of Crimea and the Donbas. It remains our assessment that the issue concerning these territories, particularly the Donbas, will remain a key obstacle in reaching an agreement, with Moscow highly unlikely to accept any settlement that does not either recognise Donbas independence or significantly alter its status within the Ukrainian state; the absence of which would in effect amount to an admission of defeat.
- Lastly, on 1 April Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with India’s leaders in New Delhi for the first time since the invasion in a bid to further deepen strategic ties between the two states. His visit will expediate ongoing discussions on the rupee-rouble agreement arranged to maintain bilateral trade, particularly for the purchase of oil. Indeed, Lavrov said that Russia is “willing to discuss and reach mutual acceptable form of cooperation” while Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar defended India’s purchase of Russian oil, stating that other European countries continued to do so. Notably, Russia has offered to supply oil to India at a discounted rate based on the pre-war prices to invite New Delhi to order more shipments, whilst also underlining the growing relationship between Russia and India, as the former is growing increasingly more isolated from the West.
Economic/business environment developments
- Following heightened tensions over a potential energy crisis in Europe, President Putin said yesterday that Russia would continue supplying gas to Europe even as it demands that payments be made in rubles. Payment for Russian gas will reportedly be allowed to be made in foreign currency to a designated account at Gazprombank, which would require buyers to open bank accounts both in foreign currency and Russian rubles, a mechanism that moderately alleviates worries of a full-blown energy crisis and mass disruptions in the short term. Nevertheless, energy insecurity will overall remain heightened as Moscow could seek to retaliate should further sanctions be imposed, for example, ultimately further underlining Europe’s struggles to wean itself off Russian gas.
- The impact of international sanctions against Russia appears to be increasingly felt by ordinary Russian citizens, with the trend set to only intensify the longer the war continues. Prices for basic food staples such as sugar have reportedly increased by 30 – 40%, with even pro-Kremlin media outlets such as Rossiyskaya Gazeta, reporting on the price increases. However, there is currently still no indication that the deterioration in living standards will translate into a mass uprising or destabilise the regime, as most people still remain reluctant to protest, according to the latest opinion poll data.
- Similarly, although it is likely that anti-war demonstrations in Russia are simply not being reported given the state’s enhanced control over the media and information landscape, the demonstrations do appear to also have declined since the start of the invasion amid harsh crackdowns. Those protesting against the war have persistently been targeted by the state, with the latest examples including the cancelation of a concert due to be performed by Russian soprano Anna Netrebko after she condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Numerous high-profile Russian artists have already lost their positions and/or fled abroad after expressing an anti-war sentiment. The pressure is also extremely high on Russian students, many of whom are threatened with being expelled from universities for demonstrating against the invasion.
- On 30 March, American satellite communication firm Viasat confirmed that a “multifaceted and deliberate” cyber attack launched against its systems on 24 February resulted in “several thousand” customers in Ukraine and “tens of thousands” in Europe experiencing service disruptions. This attack coincided with Russia launching its invasion of Ukraine, and it is therefore believed that this targeted distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack was aimed at inhibiting Ukrainian officials’ ability to coordinate a response by disrupting communication services inside the country. Cyber security firm SentinelOne also discovered that a new data wiper malware – dubbed AcidRain – was launched against Viasat’s satellite broadband service to destroy SATCOM modems. AcidRain constitutes the seventh data wiper malware to be deployed against Ukraine since the start of the conflict.
- On 30 March, Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) claimed that alleged Moscow-linked hackers launched a credential phishing campaign against NATO and some Eastern European militaries. While Google refrained from disclosing further details about this campaign, including which specific militaries were targeted and its success rate, it did attribute this activity to the cyber threat actor known as Coldriver or Callisto. While little is known about Coldriver, cyber security firm F-Secure Labs claims that it is “interested in intelligence gathering related to foreign and security policy in Europe”. As such, this hacking group is likely seeking to exfiltrate classified information about its targets’ security and foreign policy plans regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- On 29 March, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned that US organisations’ uninterruptible power supply (UPS) devices are being targeted in an ongoing cyber campaign. UPS are internet-connected devices used by mission-critical organisations – such as server rooms or hospitals – as emergency backup power generators. US federal agencies have warned in recent weeks that Russian hackers are continuously scanning US organisations’ networks for vulnerabilities, indicating a potential plot to launch retaliatory cyber attacks against the US in connection to the Ukraine conflict. It is currently unclear whether this attack is being launched by Moscow-linked hackers.
- On 29 March, the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) warned that there is a risk of Russian firms being pressured by the Russian government to help them launch cyber attacks against the West through their commercial products and services. While the NCSC said that there is no evidence to indicate such attacks are imminent, it also claimed “it would be prudent to plan for the possibility” due to these firms’ legal obligation to assist the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). This alert is indicative of the German Federal Office for Information Security’s (BSI) early March warning that Russian cyber security firm Kaspersky’s antivirus products could be used by Russian hackers to engage in malicious cyber activity against EU or NATO countries
- Pro-Ukraine hackers’ tactics expand further; Russia-based entities exposed to data-wiper threat
- On 29 March, industry reports claimed that the Russian Federal Air Transportation Agency (Rosaviatsia) was successfully targeted by a “powerful and effective cyber attack”. this incident reportedly erased all documents, files, aircraft registration data, and emails from the agency’s servers. While further technical details regarding this attack are limited, Rosaviatsia claims that the hackers were able to gain access to its systems due to “poor performance of contractual obligations” by the firm operating its IT infrastructure. While industry reports have attributed this incident to Anonymous, several of the group’s members have denied such allegations and said “Anonymous will never endanger civilians. Anonymous does not engage in cyber terrorism!”.
- The Ukrainian Defence Ministry’s Directorate of Intelligence claimed on 28 March that it published sensitive information of over 600 Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agents online. This data allegedly included phone numbers, addresses, SIM cards, dates of birth, and passport numbers. The Defence Ministry claimed that it leaked this information because the agents were engaging in “criminal activities” across Europe at the behest of the Russian government. The Ukrainian ministry did not disclose what type of malicious activities these Russian operatives engaged in or who were the targets of those Russian spies.
In contrast to the early stages of the war, Russia’s cyber activity has continued to increase in recent weeks. These cyber campaigns appear to be a mixture of both intelligence-gathering operations and vulnerability scanning. These cyber espionage campaigns, such as the ones launched against NATO and Eastern European countries’ militaries, indicate that Moscow is actively seeking to exfiltrate classified information about NATO’s military and logistical support to Ukraine to help plan either future cyber or physical attacks. While the Russian government’s pledge to reduce military operations around Kyiv and to open humanitarian corridors around Mariupol slightly lowers the likelihood of these attacks occurring in the coming days, there is a heightened risk that a renewal in hostilities will be accompanied by either disruptive or destructive cyber attacks, such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) or data wipers.
While these cyber attacks will most likely target organisations directly supporting the Ukrainian government and military operations, there is an increased risk of cyber “spillover” activity affecting entities in the West. This risk is highlighted by the CISA’s 29 March warning that UPS devices supporting “mission-critical organisations” – such as server rooms – are being targeted in an ongoing cyber campaign. While the aim of this campaign is unclear, Russian hackers launched multiple attacks in 2015 against the UPS systems supporting Ukraine’s power grid, such as control rooms, and communication lines to prevent system operators from coordinating a robust response to their main attack, which resulted in power outages of one to six hours across the country. There is currently no indication that such an attack is being planned against US critical infrastructure. Nevertheless, with tensions related to the Ukraine conflict expected to persist indefinitely, there will remain an elevated risk of UPS devices being utilised in a multi-step cyber attack against critical US organisations, including the energy sector, in retaliation for Washington’s support of Ukraine and sanctioning of Russia.
Meanwhile, pro-Ukraine hackers, such as the IT Army of Ukraine and Anonymous, have continued to launch cyber operations aimed at either countering Moscow’s ongoing disinformation/misinformation warfare tactics or expressing political grievances about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Much like what was observed in the previous monitoring period, pro-Ukraine hacking groups continue to escalate their cyber targeting tactics. Most notably, the attack against Rosaviatsia constitutes the first time hackers supporting Kyiv have engaged in data-wiping activities. This attack has presented a particular concern because of reports that Rosaviatsia does not possess a backup and has permanently lost all its data. Claims by pro-Kyiv hacktivist groups, such as Anonymous, that they would not target any critical infrastructure that could result in civilian casualties will lower the risk of similar tactics being implemented on a mass scale against wider government entities. However, there will remain an elevated risk of Western corporations perceived to be in non-critical sectors, such as retail, and still operating in Russia being targeted by such data wiping attacks in the coming weeks. Organisations are advised to ensure they have robust data backups to minimise their exposure to this risk.
- On 30 March, a Twitter account allegedly linked to the Anonymous hacktivist group claimed that the group compromised Russian investment firm Thozis Corp and leaked 5,500 of its emails online. Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets) – the site where the information was leaked – claimed the firm was “approved by the Russian government as a priority investment as part of the 2020 Strategy and receives government support”. The data contained in this leak was reportedly “sensitive information about deals and investments of the firm”.
- The safest route for departure from Kyiv as of 1 April remains the H01/P01. For routes to western Ukraine, we recommend following the H01/P01 southbound until connecting with the westbound P32. Fighting around the north-west and west of Kyiv remains intense, with missile strikes in Zhytomyr Oblast near the E40, and thus we reiterate past advisories that the westbound E373 and E40 are highly unsafe. While Russian ground troops have been pushed back, the south-west E95 and the P04 remain unsafe as well following missile strikes in the vicinity of Fastiv and air raid warnings in Vinnytsia.
- SOCMINT indicates ad-hoc checkpoints and stop-and-search checks by Ukrainian rear echelon units continue to take place on the P02, P69, M07 circular and H01/P01 in Kyiv. These are likely conducted in order to identify potential Russian fifth columnists/saboteurs, and Ukrainian units conducting these checks are believed to be operating on capture/kill orders. As such, those seeking to leave/enter Kyiv should treat such checks with due caution.
- For routes toward western Ukraine, the P32 westbound from Bila Tserkva currently remains the safest major westbound road out of Kyiv. However, shelling in Vinnytsia, Vasylkiv and Fastiv remains an ongoing threat, and air raid warnings across the length of the P32 – notably in Khmelnytskyi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv – highlights the increasing spread of the conflict into western Ukraine, particularly following the strike against a fuel depot in Lviv on 27 March. Therefore, safety cannot be guaranteed on any westbound evacuation routes at present.
Talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegation resumed in Turkey today, on 1 April. The discussions have notably taken place against the backdrop of President Zelensky’s warnings that Russia was seeking to establish “occupation administrations” in Russia-controlled parts of eastern and south-eastern Ukraine. Additionally, Zelensky also fired two senior Ukrainian intelligence officers for treason, indicating that the Ukrainian security services may have been penetrated by the Russians, with further purges therefore likely. Additionally, the diplomatic talks also follow yesterday’s western intelligence reports that doubt Russia’s announcement that it will scale down its military operations around Kyiv, with NATO also predicting that Russia is using the talks as an opportunity to regroup ahead of a new offensive. Washington has also reaffirmed today that President Biden “has no plans” to speak with President Putin until Russia demonstrates “serious de-escalation”, underlining the lack of trust in Russia’s intentions.
Moreover, although at the time of writing the Kremlin seems to have somewhat downplayed the alleged Ukrainian airstrike against an oil-storage facility in Belgorod, Peskov did state that the incident was not conducive to facilitating comfortable conditions for discussions. Although Kyiv has declined to directly comment about the incident, it is possible that Russia may well use it as an excuse to renew its offensive and keep up the pressure on Ukraine by arguing that the talks are not being conducted in good faith. Nevertheless, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said this morning that talks between the Russian and Ukrainian delegation must continue, though we anticipate that both sides are unlikely to make notable breakthroughs on key sticking points such as the status of the Donbas in the immediate term. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba stressed that the Russian forces must return to their positions prior to the invasion, something that remains unlikely in the short term. It remains our assessment that Moscow is highly unlikely to accept any settlement that does not either recognise Donbas independence or significantly alter its status within the Ukrainian state; the absence of which would in effect amount to an admission of defeat. Nevertheless, the continuation of talks does represent progress, though much will depend on Russia’s response to the proposals put forward by Ukraine to determine how willing the Kremlin is to engage on further issues and whether further progress towards a negotiated settlement remains possible in the short term.
- There has been comparatively little battlefield movement in the last 24 hours, although Ukrainian forces have continued to take back small amounts of territory around Kyiv and north of Kherson, following the patterns established through this week.
- Armenia-Azerbaijan: Further spikes in Nagorno-Karabakh violence could derail peace talks. On 31 March, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced plans to meet Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and the European Council President Charles Michael in Brussels on 6 April, claiming that Yerevan is prepared to begin negotiations and sign a peace deal with Baku as soon as possible. The meeting will take place during a period of heightened tensions in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, with Moscow accusing Baku of violating a ceasefire agreement on 26 March after its armed forces entered a Russian peacekeeping zone. Several key issues will continue to hinder the normalisation of relations and cessation of hostilities between the two parties. In particular, Azerbaijan’s five-point plan to normalise relations received by Armenia in recent weeks failed to specifically address the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The status of the region will continue to represent a sticking point for upcoming negotiations, which could face derailment in the event of further spikes in violence in the coming weeks.
- This morning did however see an audacious raid by two Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters from Ukraine, which targeted a Russian depot in Belgorod, around 30km from the border opposite Kharkiv. Rockets were used to set fuel tanks ablaze and the helicopters are clearly shown in footage, confirming the attack. This comes a day after an ammunition explosion in the same area, raising suspicions that this was a result of similar action, although that remains blamed on human error.
- This is not the first operation against Russian territory, even ignoring the possibility of the ammunition depot, given the use of at least two Tochka-U ballistic missiles against airbases inside Russian territory early in the war. However, it is a more direct assault and action in the region has led to increasing panic in Kursk and Belgorod, which has already required action from the authorities. Panic buying was already under way, but has particularly focused on petrol stations this morning, with large queues pictured.
- Belgorod has effective anti-missile defences in the form of S-400 missile batteries. These should be augmented by low-level systems, which have been pictured, to prevent exactly this sort of attack. While the Hinds seem to have used the terrain to mask approach at nap of the earth level, this is nonetheless a further highly embarrassing lapse by Russian air defences. This speaks of both hubris and negligence.
- The attack comes just after a meeting of donor countries agreed to supply more heavy weapons to Ukraine, including artillery, complex air defence systems, and anti-ship missiles. This is a complicated area, with donations previously being restricted to defensive aid in order to limit the possibility of attacks on Russian territory. This particularly – and publicly – affected the issue of supplying Mig-29s to Ukraine from NATO stocks. The incident may hinder transfers of more such equipment, although now the offer is made it will be harder to roll back.
- It remains possible that this is a Russian false flag operation with the intention of drumming up wider support for the conflict, although we discount this due to the target(s) selected for operations. Ammo and fuel storage are legitimate military objectives and the minimal impacts on civilians make it hard to brand this as a terror attack. The Russian reaction will therefore be key to observe; we expect that it will be played down, if genuine, in order to hide the shortcomings exposed.
- More widely, Russia has continued troop withdrawals from west of Kyiv and the vicinity of Sumy, although substantial troops remain in this area and the attack just across the border may make Russia reconsider further movement of forces from between here and Kharkiv. The abandonment of the airfield at Hostamel overnight underscores Russian failure; many airborne soldiers died to achieve this objective, which was never usable due to proximity to Ukrainian air defences. The 74th Air Assault Division of the VDV, which was heavily involved in the fighting at the airfield, is one of the main formations so far withdrawn to Belarus for reconstitution and redeployment, most likely in the Donbas.
- While Russia is aiming to hold on to its positions near Ukrainian cities, the withdrawal is nonetheless offering Ukrainian forces the opportunity to infiltrate and recapture ground. Given low Russian competence, it is possible that losses of territory and position will be much greater than the Kremlin is expecting.
- Signs continue that Russia is looking to make up its forces. We have previously reported on the three BTGs formed from South Ossetia, and the movement of additional naval infantry and forces from the far east, with these being committed in the Donbas and towards Zaporizhzhia. Recruitment efforts in Syria are well under way, with volunteers being offered a six month contract, and a target of 300 people per day – an airliner’s worth, for tracking – to be moved to the conflict. Currently this is focused on those with experience working with Russian forces. Seemingly, the positions vacated will then be backfilled by other volunteers within Syria.
- Recruitment is also extending to Libya and the Central African Republic, with evidence that Wagner is pulling people back to the conflict in Russia. This movement may also be contributing to a change in Russian combat operations in Syria, although air attacks on Idlib show that pressure will be maintained in the region despite the Ukraine conflict. In general, Russia is therefore conducting a gradual transfer of forces, balancing a need for training with the imperative quickly to make up replacements.
- At present we assess that Syrian volunteers will be assimilated to replace Russian soldiers one for one, rather than deployed as formed units. This further reflects Russia’s difficult balance, but suits the mindset of a conscription army. While those with experience in urban fighting are being prioritised, the fact remains that the war in Ukraine is very different to Syria, and so the main advantage is purely one of manpower.
- Russia is also calling up its class of 135,000 conscripts. This is in line with normal practice, although we believe it likely that 100,000 current conscripts will find themselves mobilised to continue full time service. This maintains Russian troop numbers for now, and in due course will allow more to come to the fight, but this will be a comparatively lengthy process – not least as in Russia training is conducted at units not in depots, and many units are currently deployed, causing significant complications.
- Taken together, the contracts being offered to foreign volunteers; the movements being made; and the indications of the possible use of reserve liability all suggest that Moscow is preparing for a conflict lasting months. This supports the assessment that we will see continued pressure on major cities, strategic attacks on targets in the centre and west of Ukraine, attrition of infrastructure, and attempts to accelerate the humanitarian disaster alongside gradual pressure and attrition on Ukrainian forces in Donbas and across the south.
- Russia will also continue attempts to suborn local leadership structures, emphasised by President Zelensky’s firing of two senior Ukrainian intelligence officers for treason. This is part of a recent pattern that has also involved removing diplomatic staff figures from Morocco and Georgia. The Ukrainian security services do appear to have been penetrated by the Russians, including at a very senior level, and we expect purges of this influence to continue. However, in Ukraine this is probably a less effective strategy than Russia had hoped or expected – something that has led in turn to the removal of senior Russian figures. This has been underscored by US and UK figures speaking publicly about how Putin has been misinformed, something potentially designed to help him back down from the strategic trap in which he is currently caught. (Source: Sibylline)
01 Apr 22. Russian gas flows to Europe despite Putin deadline.
- Gas still flowing to Europe despite Putin threat to cut it off
- Hopes for evacuations from Mariupol but aid not allowed in
- Workers collect the bodies in recaptured Irpin
Russia allowed gas to keep flowing to Europe on Friday despite a deadline for buyers to pay in roubles or be cut off, and peace talks resumed, with Moscow saying it would respond to a Ukrainian offer.
An order by President Vladimir Putin cutting off gas buyers unless they pay in roubles from Friday had caused alarm in Europe, where it was seen as Moscow’s strongest card to play to retaliate for Western financial sanctions. Germany, the biggest buyer, rejected the demand as “blackmail”.
But pipelines were pumping as normal on Friday. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the decree would not affect shipments which were already paid for, only becoming an issue when new payments were due in the second half of the month.
“Does this mean that if there is no confirmation in roubles, then gas supplies will be cut off from April 1? No, it doesn’t, and it doesn’t follow from the decree,” Peskov told reporters.
Negotiations aimed at ending the war resumed by video link, even as Ukrainian forces made more advances on the ground in a counterattack that has repelled the Russians from Kyiv and broken the sieges of some cities in the north and east. Russia said progress was being made in the talks and it would respond to a Ukrainian peace proposal delivered earlier this week.
The Red Cross said it had been barred from bringing aid in what would have been the first humanitarian convoy to reach the besieged port of Mariupol, but still hoped to be able to organise the evacuation of residents by bus.
After failing to capture a single major Ukrainian city in five weeks of war, Russia says it is pulling back from northern Ukraine and shifting its focus to the southeast, including Mariupol.
Russia has painted its draw-down in the north of Ukraine as goodwill gesture for peace talks. Ukraine and its allies say the Russian forces have been forced to regroup after sustaining heavy losses due to poor logistics and tough Ukrainian resistance.
Irpin, a commuter suburb northwest of Kyiv that had been one of the main battlegrounds for weeks, is now firmly back in Ukrainian hands, a wasteland littered with burnt-out tanks.
Volunteers and emergency workers were carrying the dead on stretchers out of the rubble. About a dozen bodies were zipped up in black plastic body bags, lined up on a street and loaded into vans.
Lilia Ristich was sitting on a metal playground swing with her young son Artur. Most people had fled; they had stayed.
“We were afraid to leave because they were shooting all the time, from the very first day. It was horrible when our house was hit. It was horrible,” she said. She listed off neighbours who had been killed – the man “buried there, on the lawn”; the couple with their 12-year-old child, all burned alive.
“When our army came then I fully understood we had been liberated. It was happiness beyond imagination. I pray for all this to end and for them never to come back,” she said. “When you hold a child in your arms it is an everlasting fear.”
The governor of the Kyiv region, Oleksandr Pavlyuk, said on Friday Russian forces had also withdrawn from Hostomel, another northwestern suburb which had seen intense fighting, but were still dug in at Bucha, between Hostomel and Irpin.
Further north, Russian forces have withdrawn from the site of the Chernobyl former nuclear power plant, although Ukrainian officials said some Russians were still in the radioactive “exclusion zone” around it.
Over the past 10 days, Ukrainian forces have recaptured suburbs near Kyiv, broken the siege of Sumy in the east and driven back Russian forces advancing on Mykolaiv in the south.
In the latest Ukrainian advance, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said on Friday Ukrainian forces had recaptured villages linking Kyiv with the besieged northern city of Chernihiv.
RED CROSS AID BLOCKED
Friday’s video peace talks picked up from a meeting in Turkey on Monday, where Ukraine offered to accept neutral status, with international guarantees for its security.
The Ukrainian proposal would put off discussion of Russia’s territorial demands, including Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and the Donbas which it demands Ukraine cede to separatists.
“We are preparing a response. There is some movement forward, above all in relation to the recognition of the impossibility of Ukraine” joining NATO, Russia’s Lavrov said on Friday. He said there is a “lot more understanding of another reality. I mean the situation in Crimea and Donbas”.
Putin sent troops on Feb. 24 for what he calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine. Western countries call it an unprovoked war of aggression and say Putin’s real aim was to topple Ukraine’s government.
Russia now says it has turned its focus to the Donbas, a southeastern area where it has backed separatists since 2014. Russia’s biggest target in that area is Mariupol, where the United Nations believes thousands of civilians have died under a month-long siege, suffering relentless bombardment without access to food and water supplies, medicine or heat.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said a convoy it had organised had been denied permission to bring aid into Mariupol. It did not say who had refused permission.
Spokesperson Ewan Watson said the convoy of buses had set off for Mariupol on Friday without the aid supplies, in the hope of reaching the city to evacuate trapped civilians. Ukraine has blamed Russia for refusing to allow any aid to reach the city.
A fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukraine border caught fire, and the regional governor said it had been hit by two Ukrainian helicopters in what would, if confirmed, be Ukraine’s first known airstrike on Russian soil. Ukraine’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Russian oil firm Rosneft, which owns the depot, reported the fire without identifying the cause. (Source: Reuters)
31 Mar 22. Some Russian Forces Disengage From Kyiv, but Airstrikes Continue. Although some Russian forces continue to disengage from positions north and east of the Ukrainian capital, airstrikes continue, and Kyiv is still in danger, a senior defense official said today.
“We haven’t observed that much of a difference over the last 24 hours, so I’d still roughly leave it at about 20 percent or so,” the official said. “There hasn’t been … a wholesale movement, at least not at this point.”
Earlier this week, Russian officials had announced they were going to de-escalate the attacks on Kyiv and concentrate on the eastern Ukrainian provinces, but defense officials continue to see attacks on Kyiv. “I would say that … despite the rhetoric of de-escalation, we’re still observing artillery fire and airstrikes in and around Kyiv,” the official said. “They’re still fighting to the north of Kyiv. As these forces begin to reposition, the Ukrainians are moving against them.”
In southern and eastern Ukraine, fighting continues, and Russian invaders have made little progress, including in the city of Mariupol. “The Ukrainians are fighting very, very tough inside the city,” the official said.
Overall, the airspace over Ukraine remains contested with the Russians launching around 300 sorties yesterday. As of today, the Russians have launched more than 1,400 missiles. “There’s nothing new in the maritime environment to speak to,” he said.
The repositioning of Russian forces from Kyiv indicates that Russian military leaders know they have failed to take the capital city, the official said. “They have been under increased pressure elsewhere around the country because they are obviously making decisions to alter their goals and objectives,” he said.
Russian morale continues to suffer. “We have continued to see unit cohesion issues, command and control problems problems with faulty leadership,” the official said.
Officials have said they have heard anecdotes about poor morale and poor performance on the battlefield, but admitted “it’s anecdotal; we can’t say with certainty that it’s uniformly across all the force that they have in Ukraine.”
Still, these anecdotes reinforce some of the core problems experienced by the Russian military, including the lack of any kind of professional noncommissioned officer corps. “This is an operation of armed conflict on the scale that the Russians have not attempted in a very, very, very long time on multiple lines of axes,” the official said.
There has been poor coordination between elements and subordinate commands, and there have been vast problems with logistics and sustainment. The Russian military depends largely on conscripts, and there is evidence that the regime of President Vladimir Putin has not been honest with its troops. “It’s a military that doesn’t have a noncommissioned officer corps the way that the West does; so, you’re not seeing a lot of small-unit leadership or even any initiative at lower levels,” the official said. “It’s a very top-down driven military, and we think that some of the problems they have directly result from that leadership organizational structure.” (Source: US DoD)
01 Apr 22. Ukraine says Russia is seeking to form ‘occupation administrations’ in territory it controls. Zelensky says Moscow regrouping for new assault as he fires two generals he called ‘traitors’ A Ukrainian fighter shoots from a trench at the front line east of Kharkiv on Thursday. Ukraine said Russian forces were seeking to form “occupation administrations” in Moscow-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine as president Volodymyr Zelensky warned of “powerful strikes” on the region. The Ukrainian military said on Friday that Russia was trying to set up governance structures in the “temporarily occupied” districts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. The statement followed days of warnings that Moscow was preparing to intensify its attacks. Russia has increased the number of troops in the Donbas region while continuing its military assault in the south of the country. UK intelligence services said Russia was redeploying forces from Georgia to fight in Ukraine. Ukraine’s military said: “In the temporarily occupied territories, the Russian enemy continues its illegal actions, restricting the movement of civilians, using the houses and apartments of local residents to accommodate personnel, and holding local residents and activists hostage. Marauding and violence against Ukrainian citizens continues.” (Source: FT.com)
31 Mar 22. Russia Possibly Repositioning Forces to Donbas. About 20 percent of the Russian forces to the North of Kyiv are repositioning, and while American officials do not know where they are going, they don’t think they are going home. A small number of Russian forces are beginning to reposition from their attack on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. “It is not exactly clear … where they’re going to go, for how long and for what purpose, but we don’t see any indication that they’re going to be sent home,” said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby. The best assessment is these troops will reposition to Belarus where they will refit, get resupplied and then be moved back into Ukraine, possibly into the Donbas region, Kirby said. “It’s clear the Russians want to reprioritize their operations in the Donbas area that could be one destination, but again, too soon to know,” he said. “We don’t really have a good sense of it.”
Kirby also discussed how long the American troops deployed to Europe will remain in the region. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III ordered the first of those troops to deploy from the United States in February. Most are now in the frontline NATO states of the Baltic Republics, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.
“I think the Secretary wants to keep his options open,” Kirby said. Austin ordered just under 20,000 troops to the region on temporary orders.
“We’ll take each one as it comes and the secretary will decide whether that capability needs to stay – yes or no – and then does it need to be that unit, or do we need to rotate that unit out,” the press secretary said. “Thus far, nobody has been rotated out. Everybody that the secretary has ordered in, is going to stay in.”
No decision has been made for those forces. The same is true of the USS Harry S. Truman carrier Strike Group in the Mediterranean, Kirby said. The Truman “will stay in the Mediterranean until the secretary decides that it’s time for the ship to rotate out.”
Finally, Kirby said the aid to Ukraine has been moving at light speed for the federal government. He said the $350 million of equipment that President Joe Biden authorized Feb. 26 – just two days after the Russian invasion – “was completed in a record three weeks,” Kirby said.
Another $200 million worth of equipment and supplies have also been delivered. “Then the $800 million that the president approved 10 days ago … those shipments are already arriving,” he said. “In fact, from the time he signed the order to the first shipment going on its way, it was four days.”
Every shipment to Ukraine is a mixture of weapons systems, support and sustainment. This includes food, body armor, helmets, small arms ammunition, medical and first aid kits. These are in addition to the Javelin anti-armor weapons and the anti-air Stinger systems. (Source: US DoD)
01 Apr 22. Ukraine strikes fuel depot in Russia’s Belgorod, regional governor says. Two of Ukraine’s military helicopters struck a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod on Friday, a Russian official has said, making the first accusation of a Ukrainian air strike on Russian soil since Moscow invaded its neighbour in late February. Video images of the purported attack posted online showed what looked like several missiles being fired from low altitude, followed by an explosion. Reuters has not yet been able to verify the images.
The helicopters struck the facility after crossing the border at low altitude, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on messaging app Telegram.
The resulting blaze injured two workers, Gladkov added, while some areas were being evacuated in the city near the Ukrainian border.
However, Russian oil firm Rosneft (ROSN.MM), which owns the fuel depot, said in a separate statement that no one was hurt in the fire, though it gave no information on the cause.
Ukraine’s defence ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
An ammunition depot near Belgorod caught fire on Wednesday, causing a series of blasts. At the time, Gladkov said authorities were waiting for the Russian defence ministry to establish its cause.
Moscow calls its action in Ukraine “a special military operation”.(Source: Reuters)
01 Apr 22. UK says Ukraine has retaken villages of Sloboda, Lukashivka. British military intelligence said on Friday Ukrainian forces have retaken the villages of Sloboda and Lukashivka to the south of Chernihiv and located along main supply routes between the city and Kyiv.
“Ukraine has also continued to make successful but limited counter attacks to the east and north east of Kyiv,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.
Chernihiv and Kyiv have been subjected to continued air and missile strikes despite Russian claims of reducing activity in these areas, the ministry added. (Source: Reuters)
31 Mar 22. U.S. targets Russia’s technology sector in fresh sanctions. The United States on Thursday imposed fresh sanctions on Russia, targeting the technology sector, a sanctions evasion network and what it called “malicious cyber actors” while paving the way to act against additional sectors in response to President Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine.
“We will continue to target Putin’s war machine with sanctions from every angle, until this senseless war of choice is over,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 21 entities and 13 people, including Joint Stock Company Mikron, Russia’s largest chipmaker and manufacturer and exporter of microelectronics.
Washington also determined that three new sectors in the Russian economy are subject to sanctions under an existing executive order, allowing the United States to slap punitive measures on any person or entity operating in the aerospace, marine and electronics sectors.
Thursday’s actions freeze any U.S. assets of those targeted and generally bar Americans from dealing with them.
Those targeted include Moscow-based Serniya Engineering and equipment maker Sertal, both of which the Treasury Department accused of working to illicitly procure equipment and technology for Russia’s defense sector that can double for civilian use.
The Treasury imposed sanctions on the two companies alongside other firms and people, accusing them of being part of a sanctions evasion network.
The Russian embassy in Washington and Mikron did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the measures. Serniya and Sertal could not immediately be reached for comment.
Washington has imposed sanctions several times over the five weeks since Russia launched the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two. Moscow calls it a “special operation.”
Western nations will try to find new grounds for sanctions on Russia, Putin said on Thursday, adding that his country must aim to retain jobs and to create new ones. (Source: Reuters)
31 Mar 22. Ukraine state nuclear firm says all Russian forces have left Chernobyl plant. The Ukrainian state nuclear company said on Thursday that all of the Russian forces occupying the Chernobyl nuclear power station had withdrawn from the territory of the defunct plant. There was no immediate comment from the Russian authorities. The U.N. nuclear watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said it is preparing to send a mission to the radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl in northern Ukraine. read more Though Russian soldiers seized control of Chernobyl soon after the Feb. 24 invasion, the plant’s Ukrainian staff continued to oversee the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel and supervise the concrete-encased remains of the reactor that exploded in 1986, causing the world’s worst nuclear accident.
“According to the staff of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, there are now no outsiders on site,” Energoatom said in an online post. State-owned Energoatom had earlier said most troops had gone, leaving only a small number behind.
Russian forces have also retreated from the nearby town of Slavutych, where workers at Chernobyl live, the company said.
In a separate post, Energoatom said the Russian side had formally agreed to hand back to Ukraine the responsibility for protecting Chernobyl. It shared the scan of a document signed by people it identified as a senior staff member at Chernobyl, the Russian military official assigned to guarding Chernobyl.
Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the document.
Ukraine has repeatedly expressed safety concerns about Chernobyl and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops, whose presence prevented the rotation of personnel for a time. read more
Earlier this week, workers at the site told Reuters that Russian soldiers had driven without radiation protection through the Red Forest, the most radioactively contaminated part of the zone around Chernobyl, kicking up clouds of radioactive dust. read more
Asked to comment on the accounts from Chernobyl staff, Russia’s defence ministry did not respond.
Energoatom said that as a result of their concerns about radiation, “almost a riot began to brew among the soldiers,” suggesting this was the reason for their unexpected departure.
The IAEA said it had not been able to confirm the reports of Russian forces receiving high radiation doses. Earlier on Thursday, the head of Energoatom urged the IAEA to help ensure Russian nuclear officials do not interfere in the operation of Chernobyl and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, which is also occupied by Russian soldiers. (Source: Reuters)
01 Apr 22. Ukraine negotiations to resume, Europe faces Russia gas deadline.
- Talks resume, humanitarian corridor for Mariupol to open
- Moscow demands European gas buyers pay in roubles
- Europe says it will not be ‘blackmailed’
- Zelenskiy points to ‘battles ahead’ in Donbas
European buyers of Russian gas faced a deadline to start paying in roubles on Friday, while negotiations aimed at ending the five-week war were set to resume even as Ukraine braced for further attacks in the south and east.
Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing and galvanised the United States and allies around the world to impose punishing penalties on Russian government entities, businesses and oligarchs.
Russia will respond to European Union sanctions, the RIA news agency quoted a senior foreign ministry official on Friday.
“The actions of the EU will not remain unanswered … the irresponsible sanctions by Brussels are already negatively affecting the daily lives of ordinary Europeans,” Nikolai Kobrinets told the news agency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin played one of his biggest cards on Thursday, demanding European energy buyers start paying in roubles from Friday or have existing contracts halted. (Full Story)
European governments rejected Putin’s ultimatum, with the continent’s biggest recipient of Russian gas, Germany, calling it “blackmail”.
The energy showdown has huge ramifications for Europe as U.S. officials circle the globe to keep pressure on Putin to stop an invasion that has uprooted a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people. (Full Story)
The International Energy Agency will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss a new release of strategic oil reserves alongside a U.S. plan to pump massive supplies starting in May to cool oil prices that had soared more than 30% this year largely as a result of the Ukraine war.
The war also threatens to disrupt global food supplies, with a U.S. government official sharing images of what they said was damage to grain storage facilities in Ukraine, a major grain exporter.
Putin sent troops on Feb. 24 for what he calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine. Western countries say Putin’s real aim was to topple Ukraine’s government.
At talks this week, Moscow said it would reduce offensives near the capital Kyiv and in the north as a goodwill gesture and focus on “liberating” the southeastern Donbas region.
Kyiv and its allies say Russia is instead trying to regroup after taking losses from a Ukrainian counter-offensive that has recaptured suburbs of the capital plus strategic areas in the northeast and southwest.
Ukraine’s general staff said Russian troops have started a partial withdrawal from the Kyiv region towards Belarus and were taking looted vehicles with them.
Video footage from Irpin, on the western fringe of Kyiv, showed destroyed Russian tanks amid bombed out buildings and Ukrainian authorities removing victims in body bags.
“We knew they (Russians) were being pushed out but when our army came then I fully understood we have been liberated. It was happiness beyond imagination,” said Irpin resident Lilia Ristich.
In a fresh development, a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukraine border was on fire and the regional governor said it had been attacked by two Ukrainian military helicopters. If confirmed, it would be the first Ukrainian airstrike on Russian soil.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned of “battles ahead” in Donbas and the besieged southern port city of Mariupol.
“We still need to go down a very difficult path to get everything we want,” Zelenskiy said.
Peace negotiations are set to resume by video conference on Friday. Seeking to bolster its position, Moscow is redeploying forces from Russian-backed breakaway regions in Georgia to Ukraine, Britain’s defence ministry wrote on Twitter.
The reinforcements indicated Russia had sustained unexpected losses, it said.
U.S. and European officials say Putin has been misled by generals about his military’s dire performance.
Ukrainian authorities were hoping to evacuate more residents from Mariupol after Russia agreed to open a humanitarian corridor on Friday, but several previous deals have collapsed amid mutual recriminations.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 45 buses sent to evacuate people from Mariupol had been stopped on Thursday by Russian forces outside Berdyansk, about 75 km to the west.
“Tomorrow we will continue trying to push through a humanitarian corridor to Mariupol so as not to leave our people on their own,” she said in an online post.
In a Facebook post, the general staff said Ukrainian forces were still holding Mariupol, a gateway to the Black Sea which links a strategic corridor between Donbas and the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula.
The mayor’s office estimates 5,000 people have died.
Tens of thousands have been trapped for weeks with scant food, water and other supplies in the city that was once home to 400,000 people but has been pulverised by bombardment.
Elsewhere, there was evidence of Ukraine’s successful counter-attack in Trostyanets, an eastern town. Burned-out Russian tanks and abandoned ammunition littered muddy roads.
“We spent 30 days in the basement with small children. The children are shaking, even still,” said a woman named Larisa.
01 Apr 22. Australia exploring options for Bushmaster delivery to Ukraine: PM. Australia has responded to Ukraine’s request for Bushmaster vehicles in support of its resistance to Russia’s invasion. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed the government is exploring options to deliver Thales Australia-built Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles to Ukraine following a request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his remote address to a joint sitting of Federal Parliament on Thursday evening (31 March). According to Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, Bushmaster stocks were reviewed overnight to determine the quantum and logistics of a delivery to Ukraine via a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster.
“We’ll just see what we can land there by the C-17s and we might only be able to upload three or four Bushmasters on to a C-17 at once,” he said.
“But we’re just going through that logistics at the moment.”
Alternatively, the government is exploring whether it could source Bushmasters from Germany, France or elsewhere in Europe to reduce delivery delays.
The commitment builds on a new $25 million military assistance package announced by Prime Minister Morrison ahead of President Zelenskyy’s address to Parliament.
The new package is expected to include tactical decoys, unmanned aerial and unmanned ground systems, rations and medical supplies.
“The Australian government will continue to identify opportunities for further military assistance where it is able to provide a required capability to the Ukraine Armed Forces expeditiously,” Minister Dutton said in a statement released following the announcement.
“…Australia stands with Ukraine against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion.
“We will continue to impose the maximum costs against Russia through targeted sanctions on individuals and entities, including President Putin and his circle of oligarchs and propagandists, military commanders and members of Parliament.”
The government has also previously announced the provision $65 million of humanitarian assistance, 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal, and the granting of temporary protection visas and support for Ukrainian community groups in Australia. (Source: Defence Connect)
31 Mar 22. UK convenes international conference to secure military aid for Ukraine. The Defence Secretary hosted the second International Defence Donor Conference for Ukraine, leading efforts of partners to bolster the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The conference brought together over 35 international partners to discuss the latest situation in Ukraine and the country’s most pressing requirements for lethal and non-lethal military aid. The international community has committed to widening its package of military support for Ukraine and explored new ways of sustaining the Armed Forces of Ukraine over the longer term, including the provision of increasingly capable air and coastal defence systems, artillery and counter battery capabilities, armoured vehicles and protected mobility, as well as wider training and logistical support.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace MP said: “Today’s donor conference demonstrates the international community’s determination to support Ukraine in the face of President Putin’s illegal and unprovoked invasion by Russian forces. We are increasing our coordination to step-up that military support and ensure the Armed Forces of Ukraine grow stronger as they continue to repel Russian forces.”
The first Donor Conference was held on 25 February, boosting the provision of immediate support as Russia commenced its invasion. The number of participants has since increased to 35.
The UK Government is now working with Poland, the United States, and other partners to coordinate the provision of longer term international support, alongside the recently announced new UK military support package for Ukraine.
The UK has supported Ukraine since the 2014 invasion, training over 20,000 Ukrainian personnel, and earlier this year started providing lethal aid. This has included over 4,000 NLAWs and Javelin anti-tank systems, as well as committing to send Starstreak air defence systems and 6,000 new anti-tank and high explosive missiles. This is in addition to a range of non-lethal aid including body armour, helmets, boots, ration packs, rangefinders and communications equipment. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
31 Mar 22. Official Says U.S., Allies Concerned That Putin Is Misinformed About Ukraine War. Russian military leaders have not been honest with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin about the realities on the ground in Ukraine, and Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said Wednesday that the lack of honesty between Putin and his generals is a concern to the United States and allies.
“It understandably would be an issue of concern … for not just our European allies and partners, but certainly for Ukraine if Mr. Putin is misinformed or uninformed about what’s going on inside Ukraine,” Kirby said. “It’s his military. It’s his war. He chose it. So, the fact that he may not have all the context, that he may not fully understand the degree to which his forces are failing in Ukraine, that’s a little discomforting, to be honest with you. And certainly one outcome of that could be, could be a less than faithful effort at negotiating some sort of settlement here.”
Kirby said if Putin is not fully informed about how Russian military forces are faring in Ukraine, then it makes it far more difficult for negotiators to draw up an enduring agreement between the two countries.
Earlier this week, the Russian military said it would move military forces away from Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv. Kirby said the Defense Department has seen that is starting to happen, but, so far, in small numbers. What’s more important, he said, is where those troops are going — not merely that they are moving away from Kyiv.
“We have seen over the last 24 hours the repositioning of a small percentage of the troops … and the battalion tactical groups that Russia had arrayed against Kyiv — probably in the neighborhood of 20% of what they had — they are beginning to reposition,” Kirby said.
Some of the troops moving away from Kyiv are headed north into Belarus, but none are headed back to their garrisons in Russia, he said.
“That’s not a small point,” he said. “If the Russians are serious about de-escalating, because that’s their claim here, then they should send them home. But they’re not doing that — at least not yet. So, that’s not what we’re seeing.”
The department’s assessment of why troops are being moved to Belarus, Kirby said, is that those troops would be resupplied and then possibly moved elsewhere in Ukraine.
Europe Is Changing
Late last year, DOD released the results of its Global Posture Review, which is a detailed study of where the United States currently has forces stationed outside the U.S. and where it might be more beneficial to station troops.
At the time, Russia had not yet begun its most recent invasion of Ukraine, and Kirby told reporters that recent events in Europe have changed things, including how the United States thinks about its current force posture. The change to the security situation in Europe, he said, may mean a U.S. force posture in Europe that is different than what was initially envisioned.
“The security environment is different now. And however this war ends, and we don’t know when and we don’t know what that’s going to look like, I think we are working under the assumption that Europe’s not going to be the same anymore,” Kirby said. “Therefore, we probably shouldn’t have the same outlook to our posture in Europe.”
How the U.S. force posture in Europe might change as a result of recent events is not yet known, Kirby said, though decisions would be made in consultation with allies and partners there.
In the past few weeks, for instance, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has visited several nations in Europe to meet with counterparts, and discussions have turned to how the U.S. might change its posture in Europe.
“In every one of those conversations when he meets with his counterparts, there’s a discussion about U.S. leadership in the region and what it means and what they want it to look like,” Kirby said.
Aid to Ukraine
The department is underway now in delivering to Ukraine the military supplies and weapons that make up the $800 million security assistance package recently approved by the president, Kirby said.
“What I can tell you is that material is getting into the region every single day, including over the last 24 hours,” Kirby said. “We are in the first half a dozen shipments of what will probably be around 30 or so of this $800m that the president signed out. It’s already moving into the region.”
Kirby also said the department is prioritizing what equipment goes first based on what is most urgently needed by the Ukrainians.
The $800m package to assist Ukraine includes 800 antiaircraft systems, 9,000 anti-armor systems, 7,000 small arms, 20 million rounds of ammunition, and drones. (Source: US DoD)
30 Mar 22. Ukraine conflict: Russian mine-laying system makes combat debut. Russian forces have been observed using the ISDM Zemledeliye mine-laying system in Ukraine, marking the system’s combat debut. Video circulating on social media since 27 March shows two vehicles launch a full salvo of 50 mine-loaded rockets each, the footage was purportedly taken in Kharkiv Oblast. The ISDM – inzhenernoi sistem distantsionnogo minirovaniya or engineer system for remote mining – was specifically developed for the Russian Armed Forces’ Engineer Troops within the R&D ‘Zemeldeliye-I’ framework, and part of a December 2013 contract agreed between the Russian MoD and NPO Splav. Based in the Russian city of Tula, NPO Splav is a prominent developer and manufacturer of multiple launch rocket systems. The system was first unveiled during the 2020 May Day Parade in Moscow and a preliminary batch is thought to have been delivered to the Engineer Troops earlier in the same year. A complete system comprises a launch vehicle with 50 122 mm rockets that are loaded with scatterable anti-personnel or anti-tank mines, and a transloader vehicle fitted with a reloading crane on its rear. (Source: Janes)