Ukraine Conflict Update – March 24
- Fighting in and around Kyiv continues, though Russian forces have made little to no progress in recent days. Ukrainian forces have continued counterattacks on the Russian positions west of the city, with the aim of cutting off the battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in Irpin and around Gostomel airfield, though these areas remain heavily contested despite unconfirmed reports of clear Ukrainian encirclements. Nevertheless, Ukrainian forces have now largely succeeded in pushing Russian artillery out of range of much of Kyiv, but they retain the ability to reach the outskirts, while ballistic weapons and air strikes will continue to be used against targets in the city centre identified by UAVs. Elsewhere, Russian forces continued to strike and dig in around Chernihiv and Sumy, while artillery and ballistic missiles continued to attack Kharkiv and Mariupol.
- Elsewhere in the south, Ukrainian Armed Forces have claimed this morning that they have sunk a Russian Saratov Project 1171 (Alligator-class) amphibious landing ship while it was docked in the port of Berdyansk. The cause of an explosion aboard has not yet been verified. Berdyansk has notably become an important and much publicised resupply point for Russian forces, with Russian state media promoting videos of large quantities of armoured vehicles and equipment being unloaded at the port. The city lies just 80km west of the besieged city of Mariupol and if confirmed, the attack underlines Ukrainian forces’ ability to disrupt Russian operations behind the frontline, with the deterioration of the port and destruction of key supplies likely to slow Russian operations in the south as a result in the days ahead. NATO is furthermore considering sending anti-ship missiles during this week’s summit.
- Furthermore, Voice of America reported on 23 March that senior US Defense Department officials have again stated that they have seen no indications that the Belarusian military is preparing to enter the war in Ukraine. Nevertheless, the concentration of Russian and Belarusian troops in south-west Belarus remains a key issue to watch, though they will likely remain primarily defensive designed to keep Ukrainian forces committed to defending the border further west.
- Outlook for next week.
- More reinforcements in the Donbas Region to continue consolidation.
- Can Ukraine sustain counterattacks in Kyiv Region? Will Russia regroup and gain momentum?
- More Russian air-launched cruise missile strikes in the Western Region to prevent increased western arms supplies. Russia has used 50% of it stock of air-launched cruse missiles provided for the assault.
- 4 NATO Battlegroups of 800-1000 men will be deployed to the Baltics. NATO has established multi-national prepositioned supplies depots to allow for speedier resupply.
- 120,000 Russian IT Technicians have left Russia to go to the UAE, Georgia and the Baltics. Compnaies employing these people will be required to carry out extra due diligence in the event that some of these people could be plants made by the Russian government to infiltrate Western companies.
- On 23 March, President Volodymyr Zelensky called for worldwide street protests to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, now a month old. Addressing a meeting of G7, NATO and EU leaders in Brussels, Zelensky also called on Western countries to step up their weapons deliveries, including advanced fighter jets, tanks, armoured vehicles, missile defence systems and anti-ship missiles. The appeal comes before a NATO summit today, 24 March, where leaders will likely pledge more lethal weapons. The UK has already confirmed it will double the number of missiles it sends to Ukraine, pledging 6,000 new defensive missiles, including next-generation light anti-tank weapons (NLAWs). NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has furthermore said that the summit will see NATO leaders agree to “major increases in forces” in Eastern Europe, including four new battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
- Elsewhere during the Brussels summit, G7 leaders are also expected to warn President Vladimir Putin against using chemical or nuclear weapons in Ukraine, stating that the bloc remains ready to impose additional sanction measures if necessary. Similarly, Stoltenberg furthermore warned Russia that any attack using chemical weapons would have “widespread and severe consequences”. However, such warnings at present are not accompanied by any definitive red lines by NATO and/or the US, with no elaboration on what these “severe consequences” would actually be. As such, the warnings against such weapon usage in Ukraine are currently not backed up by any definitive (publicly announced) repercussions short of further sanctions. These, however, are in turn unlikely to prove a sufficient deterrent in and of themselves given that the vast majority of possible sanctions have already been imposed.
- Nevertheless, according to the New York Times, the US has established a new group, known as Tiger Team, to draw up contingency plans in case Russia uses chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, as well as possible responses should Russian forces target NATO weapon supply convoys. While it remains to be seen what will come out of this Team’s thrice-weekly meetings, discussions around how NATO can deter the use of CBRN weapons will remain central to this week’s NATO summit. Indeed, France confirmed on 24 March that it had successfully tested a new nuclear-capable medium-range air-to-ground missile. Formulating a clear NATO, US or even EU policy on CBRN use will be increasingly important as it remains likely that Putin will continue to test NATO resolve and probe the limits of its policies, particularly as the offensive in Ukraine continues to stall.
Economic/business environment developments
- On 23 March, President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow will seek payment in Russian rubles for gas sales from “unfriendly countries”. The move follows significant currency depreciation in the past month, by around 20 percent in value since 24 February. As such, the decision likely represents a bid by Moscow to force European gas buyers to purchase the currency in large quantities, consequently propping up the currency’s value by increasing the demand for Russian rubles in international currency markets. The Russian government and Central Bank have one week to present a plan for the introduction of the currency shift. However, reluctance among major banks to trade in Russian assets will heighten uncertainty over how major European gas buyers will pay for their imports.
- Concerns over possible disruptions to European energy supplies are already increasing in the aftermath of the announcement, risking a further jump in gas price. Germany’s BDEW energy industry group stated today, 24 March, that it foresees “concrete and serious indications” that Germany’s natural gas supply security is about to deteriorate. The group has called on the government to introduce an early warning system under which both industry and household consumers will be protected by identifying bottlenecks to ensure steady supplies. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck addressed the Bundestag today, stating that energy sanctions would be a potential “game changer”, but stated that Berlin is not currently in a position to take such an action. Nevertheless, pressure on EU governments to consider sanctions on Russian oil, gas and coal imports is increasing, though the enduring threat of severe disruptions to natural gas supplies is nevertheless likely to drive up gas prices regardless.
- On 24 March, the UK government announced a new package of sanctions. 65 additional Russian individuals and entities have now been added to the sanctions list, including Alfa-Bank and the world’s largest diamond company Alrosa. In addition, Herman Gref, CEO of Russia’s largest bank Sberbank, has also been sanctioned, involving asset freezes and travel bans, alongside Galina Danilchenko, the Russian-installed mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol. As the invasion continues and Russian forces increasingly look to install pro-Moscow regional administrations, it is likely that other Western countries will sanction further pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians that are assisting such occupying administrations. However, asset freezes and travel bans are likely to have a negligible impact and would rather be symbolic of opposition to and refusal to recognise pro-Russian administrations. In addition, the US also announced similar fresh sanctions, including against more than 400 individuals and entities, including members of the State Duma as well as 48 Russian defence companies.
- Turkey is making increased efforts to be an intermediary to negotiate a settlement. This is to ingratiate itself back into the US/EU orbit after its pro-Russian actions over the last few years, particular the purchase of S-400 missiles.
- Regarding evacuation and safe passage out of Kyiv and into western Ukraine, as of 24 March, the southbound H01/P01 remains the comparatively safest route for access to/exit from Kyiv. However, the missile strike in Kyiv’s Podil district near the city centre on 20 March highlights the danger posed to any movements in and around Kyiv. We assess that southern routes still remain comparatively safer, however. Of note, a curfew is in place in Kyiv until 0700 local time (0500 GMT) on 23 March.
- 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. Finally, there are increasing (unverified) accounts shared on social media of Russian forces firing indiscriminately on private vehicles on westbound routes into Kyiv, highlighting increased desperation on the part of Russian units in the area, but equally highlighting the severe risk to life posed by travelling on westbound routes to and from Kyiv at present.
- 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. Therefore, safety cannot be guaranteed on any westbound evacuation routes at present.
- Russian armour and infantry units continue to be dispersed north and south of the E373 and the E40, as far south as the P04, and as such these routes remain unsafe. The advance around Kyiv remains largely stalled at the time of writing, but an uptick in Russian MLRS and drone strikes in north-western Kyiv this weekend indicate that Russian forces may be regrouping for a more substantive push over the coming week. We assess that the south-west of the city remains highly unsafe, and that the areas of Fastiv, Obukhiv and Byshev Airport on the westbound P04 represent viable targets for Russian forces in the event that a serious push to encircle Kyiv begins again.
Looking ahead to the next 24-48 hours, today’s NATO summit in Brussels will be a key event to watch as the alliance considers how best to support Ukraine militarily and how to deter or respond to an escalation with Russia. Addressing NATO leaders this afternoon, President Zelensky called for unlimited NATO aid but criticised the alliance for not responding to his earlier calls to sell or give Ukraine 1% of its tanks and aircraft, as well as the alliance’s refusal to impose a no-fly zone. NATO leaders are expected to announce further weapons packages to support Ukraine as reports indicate Ukrainian forces are going through weapons systems and ammunition at a much faster rate than the current rate of supplies can sustain. With such renewed commitments the threat of Russian attacks targeting perceived weapons convoys will increase in the days following the NATO summit. In this respect, we continue to assess the risk of an attack on Uzhorod International Airport in western Ukraine, near the Slovakian border, as high. This follows a warning delivered by the Slovakian government earlier in March that it possessed ‘actionable intelligence’ of such a threat, and likely refers in part to warnings made by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that all shipments of armaments or materiel from NATO/EU members to Ukraine would be considered ‘viable targets’ by Russian armed forces. In particular, the still-pending transfer of the S-300 missile system to Ukraine from Slovakia remains a potential trigger for a Russian strike near the Slovakian border to deter further transfers of weapons and supplies. With the US confirmed to have shipped Patriot missile defence systems to Slovakia as of 20 March, the likelihood that Slovakia will transfer S-300 systems to Ukraine is high, elevating the risk of a Russian attack near the border.
- The last 24 hours saw comparatively little battlefield movement, with actions remaining at a low level. The focal areas remained the Russian forces around Kyiv and the fighting in Donbas, where Russia continues efforts to destroy Ukrainian forces in the north of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
- In Donbas, Russia claims once again to have controlled Izyum, southeast of Kharkiv, helping to secure the crossings over the Donets river. These claims continue to be contradicted by Ukraine, with local authorities stating the town remains contested. Rubizhne, northwest of Severodonetsk, also continued to be a focus of Russian forces. The city is strongly defended by Ukrainian forces and fighting in the area will likely become increasingly intense.
- Around Kyiv, Ukrainian forces have continued counterattacks on the Russian 35th Combined Arms Army west of the city, with the aim of infiltrating and cutting off the battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in Irpin and around Gostomel airfield. At present, despite some claims, these forces do not seem to have been isolated and on the ground sources report that the Ukrainian offensives are low level and lacking in coordination – although not lacking in spirit, which is allowing success to be achieved. The congested terrain means that combat here will likely continue to be confused for both sides and a clear picture is unlikely to emerge in the short term. Supply lines here are challenging for Russia given flooding and a comparatively small number of paved roads. At present some remain in Russian control, but artillery interdiction on these will continue to cause attrition and complicate the battle further south.
- More widely, Russian troops around Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy continue to dig in, placing mines and other defensive measures around their positions. Russian forces are also cutting roads and bridges out of Chernihiv to fully isolate the city, combined with intensified bombardment. Significant Russian forces have gathered to the north-east of Chernihiv and this area is likely to be the focus of short-term operations as Russia tries to shore up lines of supply.
- While Ukrainian forces have now largely succeeded in pushing Russian artillery out of range of much of Kyiv, the ability to reach the outskirts remains and ballistic weapons and air strikes will continue to be used against targets in the city centre identified by UAVs. At present, Ukraine lacks the means to counter this observation. If Russian troops dig in effectively, they will become very costly to displace, with Ukraine at this stage lacking the artillery capabilities effectively to support more complex attacks.
- This shows how Ukraine’s strength remains smaller infantry operations and raids, conducted with resolve, to keep Russian forces off balance. A focus on infiltration tactics and simultaneous reduction of Russian supplies and headquarters will continue to be effective. However, mustering the combat power to break through fixed defences will require a level of higher coordination that is not suited to the forces currently engaged.
- At this stage, Russia likely regards Kyiv as a secondary objective, although this is complicated by each of the Russian military districts being responsible for its own part of the battle – meaning that all fronts are competing for resources, and diluting their potential for offensive operations. The most useful aspect of the fight for the capital, from Moscow’s point of view, is that this is using up reserves and likely taking priority for weapon systems that cannot therefore be deployed to the south – which is more critical for Russia’s long-term success.
- A notable issue for Russia is the loss this morning of an Alligator-class landing ship in the port of Berdyansk, south-west of Mariupol. This was previously shown unloading armoured vehicles on Russian TV, and was also assessed to be carrying considerable ammunition supplies. The vessel was destroyed when a fire became uncontrolled and ignited ammunition; it is reported sunk at a depth of five meters alongside the quay. The Ukrainian Navy claims this was the result of a SS-21/Tochka-U ballistic missile strike, which is possible given the easy target being offered, although reporting from the scene does not fully corroborate this at present – indications appear to be that there was smoke followed by an explosion, rather than the other way around. Regardless, the incident at the very least suggests poor damage control or ammunition handling and is a further indication of sub-par Russian performance, while effective targeting by Ukraine is certainly plausible given that the ship very publicly remained in place for several days with ineffective cover.
- Berdyansk is only capable of handling 3-5 vessels, so its utility is now severely reduced, a situation that will be aggravated by the loss of fuel and ammunition supplies. Two Ropuchca-class landing ships were also damaged in the incident, although they escaped seawards. This therefore means not only that Russia’s ability to bring in support has been curtailed, likely slowing offensive operations in the south, but also that three of eleven landing ships in the Black Sea have been lost or damaged.
- Moreover, the unloading at Berdyansk suggests at least some of the previously embarked forces have now been deployed towards Mairupol, Donbas, or Zaporizhzhia. This reduces the threat to Odesa, which may explain why pressure from continued naval shore bombardments and cruise missile attacks have taken the place of posturing by the amphibious fleet; Russia is aiming to keep the three Ukrainian brigades there in place, to avoid them being committed around Mikolayiv. This underscores how Kherson could be vulnerable if Ukraine can muster the resources for an effective offensive, although this remains a significant stretch.
- Even such an audacious operation would likely fail to save Mariupol, however, where the gradual reduction of the city by Russian forces continues. Small numbers of civilians continue to escape here and other encircled areas, with estimates that 4,000 overall managed to get to comparative safety yesterday. This remains a tiny fraction of those facing escalating bombardment and steadily worsening conditions, however, with no indications that this will be ameliorated in the short term.
- To paraphrase Churchill, a month into the conflict we are probably seeing the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end. Russia continues to control large swathes of the country and is effectively holding millions of Ukrainians hostage in bombarded cities. Moscow continues to have reasonable expectations of a victory in the South and can effectively freeze the conflict in other areas. In turn, Ukrainian forces have exceeded the expectations of their NATO allies and almost certainly have blocked the perceived underlying Russian aim of denying Ukraine existence as a state.
- Some key issues facing NATO at today’s meeting therefore include how best to continue to support Ukraine, given that defensive aid alone will not allow a sustained offensive, but can only hold Russian forces more or less where they are; and how to handle any escalation by Moscow. While Russian troops are digging in, so are the Russian leadership, and escalation continues to offer Putin a way out of his failed strategic gamble. The formation by Biden of a tiger team to consider how best to respond to increased CBRN use or a precision strike on a NATO partner show that these are clear risks, that are presenting serious policy challenges.
Russia: Demand for ruble payment for gas exports set to exacerbate European energy insecurity
On 23 March, President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow will seek payment in Russian rubles for gas sales from “unfriendly countries”. The move follows significant currency depreciation in the past month, by around 20 percent in value since 24 February. As such, the decision likely represents a bid by Moscow to force European gas buyers to purchase the currency in order to pay for their supplies, consequently propping up the currency’s value by increasing the demand for Russian rubles in international currency markets. The Russian government and central bank have one week to present a plan for operationalising the shift. However, reluctance among major banks to trade in Western assets will heighten uncertainty over how major European gas buyers will pay for their imports. Concerns over possible disruptions to European energy supplies in the coming weeks is likely to drive further gas price jumps.
US President Joe Biden will meet with NATO leaders and several European heads of state today, 24 March, in Brussels for a series of meetings defining the West’s continued response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Whilst calls for more robust, far-reaching sanctions will be made – particularly by Polish and Baltic representatives – the appetite for more serious sanctions among the western EU leaders is likely to be minimal. In particular, Germany and Italy are highly unlikely to support a cut on Russian energy, an issue which is likely to increasingly drive regional tensions within the EU as member states struggle to distance themselves from reliance on Russian energy imports. As such, today’s meetings are unlikely to prompt substantial changes in the West’s approach to the invasion of Ukraine, but regional tensions may escalate further within the EU as a result.
Kazakhstan-Russia: Oil terminal closure set to erode investor confidence and exacerbate fiscal strains
On 23 March, Caspian Pipeline Consortium chief executive Nikolai Gorban reported that the loading of oil at the Russian Black Sea Novorossiysk terminal has stopped entirely. Reports claim that the pipeline route, which Kazakhstan uses to export two-thirds of its oil, could be largely unusable for up to two months as a result of damage to tanker loading infrastructure incurred during a recent storm. Repairs will face likely delays amid difficulties in obtaining spare components for damaged facilities due to international sanctions on Russia. The predicted disruption is set to drive a fivefold decline in oil shipments through the CPC pipeline in March and April, amounting to a fall of one million barrels per day. As such, revenues for Kazakhstan-based foreign energy companies are likely to fall in the coming months, eroding investor confidence. Meanwhile, a decline in oil production and state revenues will exacerbate fiscal strains amid regional economic volatility following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s policy plans will remain of heightened interest to Beijing as uncertainty about the Ukraine conflict raises concerns about its regional business interests. On 23 March, industry reports claimed that Chinese state-linked hacking group Mustang Panda is targeting European diplomats, internet service providers (ISPs), and research institutes across the globe in a cyber espionage operation. This campaign – which started in August 2021 – uses a series of phishing lures to compromise its victims, including topics such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While the aim of this campaign is unclear, Mustang Panda is known for orchestrating cyber espionage operations aimed at helping Beijing manage its political, economic, and foreign policy concerns. Given that Russia is a main target of this latest campaign, it is liable that at least one of Mustang Panda’s objectives is to exfiltrate sensitive information about Ukraine to determine how it could affect Beijing’s regional business interests. This aim would be consistent with previously detected activities, with Mustang Panda observed targeting European diplomatic entities assisting Ukrainian refugees in early March (see Sibylline Biweekly Ukraine Cyber Update -11 March 2022). With uncertainty around the Ukraine conflict unlikely to abate, there is a high likelihood of further Beijing-directed campaigns being launched in the coming weeks against Russian government agencies or European organisations providing support to Ukraine. (Source: Sibylline)
24 Mar 22. Russia’s best and brightest are fleeing Putin. News that Putin’s climate envoy Anatoly Chubais has quit his position and left the country is no great surprise and, to many Russians, not that great a loss. However his departure is still significant as it illustrates a growing haemorrhage of the talents in the wake of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Those Russians with the resources and, above all, skills to make it abroad are fleeing while they can. Chubais himself is still remembered by most Russians as one of the so-called ‘boys in pink shorts’ under former finance minister Yegor Gaidar. These men were responsible for implementing the ‘shock therapy’ transition to the market in the 1990s that left most Russians impoverished, while a handful became ultra-rich oligarchs. Chubais, who is from St Petersburg, is also thought to have been behind fellow Peterburger Vladimir Putin getting a job in Moscow with the presidential property management agency when he lost his position as deputy mayor in 1996. This really gave Putin’s career the acceleration it needed to eventually take him to the presidency. Tatyana Yumasheva, daughter of former president Boris Yeltsin, claimed that Chubais later opposed the idea of making Putin prime minister and presidential heir-apparent in 1999, on practical political grounds – he didn’t think he would get parliamentary approval – rather than because he didn’t believe Putin was up to the job.
One estimate is that more than 200,000 Russians have fled so far
Whatever else one may say about him, Putin does reward loyalty, and he certainly seems to have regarded Chubais with favour. Between 1998-2008, Chubais headed the state-owned electrical power monopoly RAO UES. He was then appointed to head Rosnano, the Russian nanotechnology corporation, at a time when the Kremlin was prioritising this field of research. In 2020, he was dismissed following concerns about waste and a lack of progress. Despite this Putin found an honorific sinecure for Chubais, making him special presidential envoy for relations with international organisations relating to sustainable development.
Nonetheless, this liberal economist and successful business manager was clearly increasingly out of step with Putin as he became steadily more authoritarian and belligerent. Last week, Chubais posted a coded critique on Facebook in a post commemorating Gaidar’s death in 2009. Chubais mournfully said it seemed ‘an entire era’ since then, and admitted that he had not understood the ‘strategic risks’ facing Russia. Quite what – or who – posed those risks became clear when, yesterday, he resigned his position and reportedly left Russia for Turkey. He is the most senior and Russian figure to leave his position because of the war so far. For better or worse, Chubais is certainly more widely known than former Kremlin aide and deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich, who last week was forced to step down as chair of the Skolkovo Foundation, a high-tech start-up incubator, after criticising the war.
In itself, Chubais’s departure is no great blow to Putin. However, this matters because in Turkey, he will be joining a growing diaspora of Russia’s talents. They are heading to Istanbul and Riga, Tbilisi and Yerevan – or indeed wherever they can get to in an age when Russians are suddenly becoming persona non grata and flights are limited, few and far between. One estimate is that more than 200,000 Russians have fled so far. Even though this is likely to be on the lower end of the scale, that looks scarcely much more than a rounding error in a population of 144 million. However, to a disproportionate degree, these are younger professionals, with the skills to be portable and the assets to buy one of the now-extortionately expensive tickets out. Computer programmers, teachers, designers, doctors, entrepreneurs, data scientists, architects: the skillset of those leaving Russia is often impressive. Some of these people, for now, at least, will end up driving taxis, cleaning offices and delivering pizzas. It won’t be long before they come to represent an invaluable resource to their new home countries in an age of skill-scarcity – something the UK should also remember. But the West’s gain will come at the expense of Russia. There have been many Russian diasporas, some voluntary, some enforced. The departure of a 66-year-old millionaire like Chubais is perhaps politically-embarrassing, but the loss of tens of thousands, ultimately perhaps hundreds of thousands of Russia’s best and brightest will be another of Putin’s many toxic legacies to his country. (Source: Spectator)
24 Mar 22. Battle in Eastern Ukraine Heats Up as Russians Are Driven Back East of Capital. Ukrainian soldiers have forced Russian invaders back from the east side of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. Russians to the northwest of the city have begun digging defensive positions, a senior defense official said yesterday. The Russians do appear to be stepping up operations in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, the official said. Kyiv is still in danger, but the fighting there has changed. “The Russians are about 15 to 20 kilometers away from city center. So, no movement,” the official said. But the Russians are digging in and establishing defensive positions, which is a change. “They’re actually not trying to advance right now. They’re taking more defensive positions,” the official said. To the east of the capital, Ukrainian forces were able to push the Russians back to about 55 kilometers east and northeast of Kyiv. Tuesday, the Russian forces were about 20 to 30 kilometers away from the city. In Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, the Russians are outside the ring road and are about 15 to 20 kilometers away from the city center, the official said. This is despite heavy fighting for the city, the official said.
In the Donbass region, “we still believe that the Russians are trying to basically cut it off and, therefore, pin down Ukrainian forces,” he said. The idea is the Russians will move south and north out of Mariupol to isolate Ukrainian forces fighting in the region. “What I would say is that this is the area which has become much more active for Russian forces … they have applied a lot more energy in the area,” the official said.
Russian forces are prioritizing eastern Ukraine even as forces around Kyiv start to dig in.
Mariupol is contested with the Russians bombarding the city with artillery and other long-range fires. The official said there are Russian forces inside the city, but the Ukrainians continue to fight very hard for Mariupol.
Odesa remains an enigma, and Western officials wonder if Russia is not feinting towards Odesa to tie down Ukrainian forces. “It’s not entirely obvious to us that they actually will make a move on Odesa,” the official said. “So, we’re just kind of watching that to see to see where it goes.”
There is no major change in the air environment, with Russian pilots remaining risk-averse in the face of Ukrainian defenses.
“We continue to see the Russians look at options for reinforcements, and we do believe they’re moving in that direction to reinforce some of their forces from outside Ukraine,” he said.
The official noted the last deliveries of the $350 million U.S. security package will be arriving in the region shortly. The first deliveries from the $800 million package should arrive within days. “It’ll be a series of more multiple flights over many days,” he said. “We’re going to prioritize the kinds of … defensive systems that we know that (the Ukrainians) are using in the fight.” (Source: US DoD)
24 Mar 22. Statement by NATO Heads of State and Government. We, the Heads of State and Government of the 30 NATO Allies, have met today to address Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades. Russia’s war against Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and is causing enormous human suffering and destruction.
We condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. We call on President Putin to immediately stop this war and withdraw military forces from Ukraine, and call on Belarus to end its complicity, in line with the Aggression Against Ukraine Resolution adopted at the UN General Assembly of 2 March 2022. Russia should comply with the 16 March ruling by the UN International Court of Justice and immediately suspend military operations. Russia’s attack on Ukraine threatens global security. Its assault on international norms makes the world less safe. President Putin’s escalatory rhetoric is irresponsible and destabilizing.
Ukrainians have inspired the world with heroic resistance to Russia’s brutal war of conquest. We strongly condemn Russia’s devastating attacks on civilians, including women, children, and persons in vulnerable situations. We will work with the rest of the international community to hold accountable those responsible for violations of humanitarian and international law, including war crimes. We are deeply concerned about the increased risk of sexual violence and human trafficking. We urge Russia to allow rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access and safe passage for civilians, and to allow for humanitarian aid to be delivered to Mariupol and other besieged cities. We also condemn attacks against civilian infrastructure, including those endangering nuclear power plants. We will continue to counter Russia’s lies about its attack on Ukraine and expose fabricated narratives or manufactured “false flag” operations to prepare the ground for further escalation, including against the civilian population of Ukraine. Any use by Russia of a chemical or biological weapon would be unacceptable and result in severe consequences.
Russia needs to show it is serious about negotiations by immediately implementing a ceasefire. We call on Russia to engage constructively in credible negotiations with Ukraine to achieve concrete results, starting with a sustainable ceasefire and moving towards a complete withdrawal of its troops from Ukrainian territory. Russia’s continuing aggression while discussions are taking place is deplorable. We support Ukraine’s efforts to achieve peace, and those undertaken diplomatically by Allies to weigh in on Russia to end the war and relieve human suffering.
We stand in full solidarity with President Zelenskyy, the government of Ukraine, and with the brave Ukrainian citizens who are defending their homeland. We honour all those killed, injured, and displaced by Russia’s aggression, as well as their families. We reaffirm our unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders extending to its territorial waters.
Ukraine has a fundamental right to self-defence under the United Nations Charter. Since 2014, we have provided extensive support to Ukraine’s ability to exercise that right. We have trained Ukraine’s armed forces, strengthening their military capabilities and capacities and enhancing their resilience. NATO Allies have stepped up their support and will continue to provide further political and practical support to Ukraine as it continues to defend itself. NATO Allies will also continue to provide assistance in such areas as cybersecurity and protection against threats of a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear nature. NATO Allies also provide extensive humanitarian support and are hosting millions of refugees. Foreign Ministers will discuss further our support to Ukraine when they meet in April.
We are united in our resolve to counter Russia’s attempts to destroy the foundations of international security and stability. We are holding Russia and Belarus to account. Massive sanctions and heavy political costs have been imposed on Russia in order to bring an end to this war. We remain determined to maintain coordinated international pressure on Russia. We will continue to coordinate closely with relevant stakeholders and other international organizations, including the European Union. Transatlantic coordination remains crucial for an effective response to the current crisis.
We call on all states, including the People’s Republic of China (PRC), to uphold the international order including the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, as enshrined in the UN Charter, to abstain from supporting Russia’s war effort in any way, and to refrain from any action that helps Russia circumvent sanctions. We are concerned by recent public comments by PRC officials and call on China to cease amplifying the Kremlin’s false narratives, in particular on the war and on NATO, and to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
We remain committed to the foundational principles underpinning European and global security, including that each nation has the right to choose its own security arrangements free from outside interference. We reaffirm our commitment to NATO’s Open Door Policy under Article 10 of the Washington Treaty.
We are providing tailored support to partners affected by Russian threats and interference and will step up our assistance to help them resist Russian malign influence and strengthen their resilience, based on our partners’ requests and our long-standing partnership programmes. In April, Foreign Ministers will consider concrete proposals for enhancing our support to these partners.
We will continue to take all necessary steps to protect and defend the security of our Allied populations and every inch of Allied territory. Our commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is iron-clad.
In response to Russia’s actions, we have activated NATO’s defence plans, deployed elements of the NATO Response Force, and placed 40,000 troops on our eastern flank, along with significant air and naval assets, under direct NATO command supported by Allies’ national deployments. We are also establishing four additional multinational battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. We are taking all measures and decisions to ensure the security and defence of all Allies across all domains and with a 360-degree approach. Our measures remain preventive, proportionate, and non-escalatory. We will now accelerate NATO’s transformation for a more dangerous strategic reality, including through the adoption of the next Strategic Concept in Madrid. In light of the gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades, we will also significantly strengthen our longer term deterrence and defence posture and will further develop the full range of ready forces and capabilities necessary to maintain credible deterrence and defence. These steps will be supported by enhanced exercises with an increased focus on collective defence and interoperability.
We are increasing the resilience of our societies and our infrastructure to counter Russia’s malign influence. We are enhancing our cyber capabilities and defences, providing support to each other in the event of cyber-attacks. We are ready to impose costs on those who harm us in cyberspace, and are increasing information exchange and situational awareness, enhancing civil preparedness, and strengthening our ability to respond to disinformation. We will also enhance our preparedness and readiness for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. We will take further decisions when we meet in Madrid.
The steps we are taking to ensure the security of our Alliance and of the Euro-Atlantic area will require adequate resourcing. Allies are substantially increasing their defence expenditures. Today, we have decided to accelerate our efforts to fulfil our commitment to the Defence Investment Pledge in its entirety. In line with our commitment in Article 3 of the Washington Treaty, we will further strengthen our individual and collective capacity to resist all forms of attack. At our meeting in Madrid, we will submit additional plans on how to meet the Pledge.
Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine represents a fundamental challenge to the values and norms that have brought security and prosperity to all on the European continent. President Putin’s choice to attack Ukraine is a strategic mistake, with grave consequences also for Russia and the Russian people. We remain united and resolute in our determination to oppose Russia’s aggression, aid the government and the people of Ukraine, and defend the security of all Allies. (Source: NATO)
24 Mar 22. All Yours. Krasukha, Krasukha, Krasukha, Ja, Ja!
Social media posts on 23rd March revealed that Ukrainian forces had captured the command and control container equipping a Russian Army 1RL257 Krasukha-4 electronic warfare system.
Losing what was advertised as one of the world’s most advanced ground-based electronic warfare systems is at best unlucky and at worst downright careless.
Ukrainian forces appear to have bagged themselves a valuable prize, according to social media. On 23rd March pictures circulated of what appears to be part of a Russian Army 1RL257 Krasukha-C4 electronic warfare system. As Armada has reported in the past, this can reportedly jam airborne radars transmitting on frequencies of 8.5 gigahertz/GHz to 18GHz. This should allow the targeting of airborne X-band (8.5GHz to 10.68GHz) and Ku-band (13.4GHz to 14GHz/15.7GHz to 17.7GHz) radars. X-band is routinely used by combat aircraft fire control radars and by airborne surveillance radars. Ku-band radars equip air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles as they provide an exceptionally sharp picture of the targets they are engaging.
The Russian Army routinely deploys the 1RL257 as part of a pair of systems. Its counterpart is the 1L269 Krasukha-2. This also targets airborne radar but lower frequency systems transmitting on frequencies of one to five gigahertz. US Army documents claim a jamming range of circa 135 nautical miles (250 kilometres) against airborne targets.
One reported target for the 1RL257 is the Westinghouse/Northrop Grumman AN/APY-1/2 S-band radar equipping Boeing’s E-3 Sentry series of airborne early warning aircraft. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation E-3As have regularly flown sans interference close to Ukraine’s airspace since the war began. This seems to suggest that the 1RL257’s jamming capabilities against these radars may be exaggerated.
One of each Krasukhas is usually deployed with each of the Russian Army’s Independent EW Brigades. These provide overarching operational-level electronic attack against ground-based and airborne radars and radios. Tactical EW is the preserve of the army’s EW companies. Armada estimates that at least five Independent EW Brigades are deployed in the Ukrainian theatre. These are drawn from Russia’s Western, Southern, Eastern and Central military districts. A total of four complete Krasukha systems may have been deployed totaling eight jammers.
The element of the 1RL257 ensemble captured by Ukrainian forces appears to be the container housing operator consoles and command and control equipment. Pictures show the container as largely undamaged.
Its discovery is mysterious. Both Krasukha variants are supposedly some of the most advanced electronic warfare technology that Russia has to offer. Why was it not better protected? Why was no attempt made to destroy or badly damage it before capture? Was it simply abandoned by its operators and not considered worth protecting? The latter would not be a ringing endorsement of its capabilities.
This is a potentially significant loss for Russian EW practitioners. Should the container end up in NATO hands, it may yield information on how the overall Krasukha system works. Such intelligence will be vital in ensuring that both Krasukhas can be rendered null and void in any future conflict.(Source: Armada)
24 Mar 22. Hand-held Equaliser: Russian Tanks Hit Hard by Shoulder Fired Anti-Armour Weapons in Ukraine. Although the more sophisticated long range and precision guided anti-armour missiles like the FGM148 Javelin from the United States and Saab Dynamics NLAW provided by the United Kingdom are receiving the most attention from media and public officials, the individual hand-held shoulder fired anti-armour weapons are adding significantly to the destruction inflicted on the Russians. As combat encounters increase in urban and built-up areas, these weapons will become even more important. The confines of urban areas with homes and buildings clustered together down narrow streets result in reduced lines of sight and ability to engage at extended ranges. In addition, the buildings offer cover and concealment for defenders who can often move between buildings undetected – a tactic much used in the defence of Stalingrad. Now that same tactic is being used against advancing Russian units which are channelled down such streets, increasingly rubble strewn which they are creating through their indiscriminate artillery and missile fire against civilian areas. Defence at relatively close ranges of several hundred meters and often much less is very costly to an advancing army.
In both urban and rural forests and dense growth the guided missile may not be able to take advantage of its longer range that is possible in more open areas. Their minimum engagement ranges can also handicap their use; the Javelin is best deployed over 150 metres for a top-attack and 65m for direct attack. This could make it difficult to engage a tank that suddenly appears around a street corner at short range. In addition, the guided missiles are both costly and often limited in numbers, so they are ideally reserved for the most difficult or high priority targets, like main battle tanks or command vehicles.
Individual shoulder fired anti-armour weapons not only fill this gap but provide infantrymen with an anti-armour, anti-material, and close fires support capability immediately to hand. It is likely that much of the destruction inflicted on the stalled Russian supply columns in Ukrainian dismounted attacks could be attributed to these weapons. Supply and fuel trucks and their escorting light armoured vehicles would be prime targets for individuals with easily carried shoulder-fired systems engaging suddenly from the flanks. The effectiveness of shoulder fired anti-armour weapons against unsupported armoured vehicles in an urban setting is dramatically illustrated in the engagement of a lone Russian main battle tank on the streets of Maripol.
The Ukrainian Army has large stocks of hand-held shoulder fired unguided rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) from its Soviet Union past. These include the well-known reloadable RPG-7 with an effective range under 300m (US Army tests showed a 50 percent hit probability at 180m). Most often these fire a High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) shaped charge warhead. It is simple to use, and at 15.4 pounds (7 kilogrammes) it easily carried. Others include the RPG-18 and RGP-22, both one-shot disposable weapons using a HEAT warhead rocket for use inside 200m primarily against light armour, structures, and material. The light 6.2lb (2.8kg) weight allow these to be widely distributed to soldiers. These all have a back-blast limiting their firing from inside buildings and confined spaces. They are most effective employed in teams with several weapons engaging the same target, preferability from the side or rear.
The military aid response promised and/or delivered to Ukraine includes thousands of over six different individual shoulder fired systems from at least 10 countries. The majority are single-shot disposable weapons that are simple to use and can be widely issued to bolster the defences. The largest quantity is the 11,000 Nammo designed M72 66mm LAWs being provided by five countries. Similar to the RPG-18 and 22, which are derived from it, they are lightweight at 8lb (3.6kg) and compact (780mm/31 inch) to carry) with an effective range of around 200m. There are a number of improved versions of the M72 including the higher velocity EC (Enhanced Capability) round. A ‘soft-backblast’ version has been developed but it is not known if these have been offered. The simplicity and carrying ease allow M72 to be used in mass ambushes against light armoured and soft targets.
The Saab Dynamics 84mm AT4 recoilless smoothbore anti-tank weapon is arriving in Ukraine with 5,000 promised by Sweden at the end of February (breaking its long position of not arming an active conflict). On 16 March the United States announced its aid would include 6,000 AT-4s. The AT-4 will add a substantial boost to Ukraine’s ground forces, particularly its urban combat capabilities. A single shot weapon, its HEAT warhead version is accurate against a point target at 300m and area targets to 500m. Accuracy is facilitated by the velocity of the projectile that reaches 300 metres per second. The AT-4 CS (Confined Space) version can also be safely fired from a more enclosed space. This allows soldiers to remain hidden in a basement, bunker or upper story window so that they can engage the target closer, especially areas where armour is less thick. The AT-4 HEAT is also specially designed for increased ‘behind armour effect’, devastating the interior on a tank by targeting the crew, controls, and stowed ammunition. Other AT-4 versions are available with an urban combat round that can be set to penetrate a wall and explode inside – referred to as mouse-holing. AT-4 fielding offers a new level of capability that can accompany Ukraine’s infantry manoeuvre tactics and its urban fight.
The Saab Dynamics NLAW manufactured by Thales in the United Kingdom and supplied by the UK Government to Ukraine has been widely endorsed those using it. The NLAW has proved deadly against Russian armour including main battle tanks. Its 800 metre maximum range appears to have been sufficient for the ambush tactics favoured by the defenders. (Ukraine MoD)
Germany and the Netherlands are providing 1,400 Panzerfaust 3 (Pzf3) shoulder fired anti-armour weapons which comprise a disposable canister containing the rocket and reusable firing and sight device. At around 28.6lb (13kg) ready for action, the rocket has a 110mm (4.3in) shaped charge warhead with both tandem-charge and bunker-buster rounds available. Pzf3 are typically used by a two-person team: the gunner with two rounds and a rifleman backpacking an additional three rounds. In addition to Pzf3 which are optically sighted, it is evident that weapons with computer-assisted laser sights are being provided. These can be used against static targets at up to 600m and moving to 300m.
As part of its aid package, Poland is delivering its RPG-76 Komar (Mosquito) – a simple lightweight 2.6lb (2.1kg) disposable anti-armour weapon. Originally developed and produced in Poland through the 1990s, these are being drawn from stocks. Despite a short 200m range and modest 260mm penetration, the RPG-76’s low weight and compact 805mm length with its frame stock folded make it a handy infantry weapon especially against soft targets like trucks.
This influx of simple individual shoulder fired and largely modern anti-armour weapons, added to Ukraine’s existing RPGs, seem to be significantly complicating Russian attempts to take the towns and cities as rapidly as they first thought. They have provided Ukraine’s soldiers with substantial firepower in defence and to interdict Russian supply lines. The quantities themselves are impressive as one military observer reflected: “if only 20 percent are effective, it would mean a loss of over 1,000 Russian combat vehicles”. (Source: Armada)
24 Mar 22. Russian arms buyers abstain from condemning aggression in Ukraine. Nearly 300 known arms transfers took place between some of the countries that chose to abstain from condemning Russia’s military action in Ukraine and Moscow between 2010 and 2021. On 2 March 2022, 35 nations abstained from voting for the UN General Assembly resolution to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Nearly a fifth of global arms exports came from Russia between 2017 and 2021. Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) Arms Transfers Database shows that 26 of these nations had known arms transfers of major conventional weapons with Russia between 2010 and 2021. It’s important to note that SIPRI’s database does not cover the transfer of small arms and light weapons, which means military ties may be even greater. Among these countries was China, a key ally of Russia, as well as Algeria and India. While arms transfers between these countries may not be the direct reason for choosing to abstain, it does indicate that these countries have a degree of corporation with Russia. States that are more dependent on Russian arms are likely to sit on the fence, but there are also “other driving factors, such as membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization”, says Dr Richard Johnson senior lecturer in the politics of international relations at the University of Strathclyde. SIPRI data reveals that there were 38 known transfers of military equipment from Russia to Algeria between 2010 and 2021. The country has had strong ties with Russia since the Soviet era and between 2017 and 2021, 81% of Algeria’s military imports came from Russia. China also relied on Russia for 81% of its arms imports in the same time period. Between 2010 and 2021, there were 31 transfers of equipment from Russia to China. However, of all the abstaining countries that had known ties with Russia, India reached the highest number of arms deals. It has long been a big receiver of Russian military equipment, and nearly half of all India’s arms imports came from Russia between 2017 and 2021. India received 52 separate transfers of military equipment from Russia between 2010 and 2021, and it was the world’s largest importer of arms, accounting for 11% of all arms imports between 2017 and 2021. India being such a large customer of Russia not necessarily as an approval of Moscow’s politics but largely because “India needs weapons and Russia supplies them without asking too many questions”, says Siemon T. Wezeman a senior researcher at SIPRI. Forecasts from GlobalData reveal that its defence budget is set to increase by 20.4% between 2021 and 2025. This spending is largely down to India’s perceived threats from Pakistan, whose defence budget is set to increase by 47.6% between the same period, and its long-term ally China. (Source: army-technology.com)
23 Mar 22. UK budget outlook touts weapon deliveries for Ukraine’s defense. The British government has given Ukraine over £100m, or $132m, worth of weapons and other equipment to help Ukrainian forces fend off Russia’s increasingly bloody invasion, according to documents published by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on March 23. That support has come in the form of anti-tank weapons, for example, which London has sent to war-stricken Ukraine by the “thousands,” according to the government’s so-called Spring Statement economic forecast. In addition, London is “enabling up to £3.5bn ($4.6bn) of export finance to support Ukraine, including on defense capability,” the documents, published by the Treasury, said. The last official figure provided by the British Ministry of Defence for the supply of Thales UK-built light anti-tank weapons stands at 3,615, though Defence Sectary Ben Wallace appeared to tell two Russian hoax callers last week that over 4,000 missiles had been supplied and that Britain was running out of its own weapons Wallace announced last week that Britain was looking at stepping up its weapons supply effort to Ukraine by sending short-range StarStreak surface to air missile of the British Army, also made by Thales UK. A small number of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon anti-tank missiles are also scheduled to be dispatched, according to Wallace. There were hopes the Spring Statement, also known here as the “mini-budget,” might be a vehicle for an announcement on a defense spending increase here driven by the rising threat of Russia. But Sunak barely made mention of defense and confined his statement to tax and other domestic issues. The chancellor has been under increasing pressure from lawmakers to increase defense spending, but a statement released as part of the Spring Settlement 2022 appeared to signal Sunak thought he had already given enough to defense for the moment, following a major boost in 2020.
“The 2021 Integrated Review identified Russia as the most acute threat to the U.K.’s security. Reflecting this, the MoD received the largest sustained spending increase since the Cold War, with a £24bn ($38bn) cash uplift over four years. This settlement ensures the U.K. continues to exceed NATO’s 2% of GDP funding guideline and remain one of the leading defense spenders in NATO,” said the Spring Statement documents. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
24 Mar 22. International coalition to support ICC Russian war crimes investigation.
The Deputy Prime Minister has gathered ministers from across the world to The Hague today (24 March 2022) to formulate an international package of support for International Criminal Court (ICC).
- Deputy Prime Minister to chair a meeting of ministers from across the world at The Hague today
- UK to offer extra funding, personnel and military expertise to hold Russians to account for war crimes
- British police and military have begun collecting evidence for investigation
The UK will offer the International Criminal Court military, policing and financial support as part of the global response to Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
The substantial assistance will be offered during a meeting of justice and foreign affairs ministers chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, at The Hague.
An additional £1m in funding will be provided, and soldiers with military expertise will be assigned to the ICC to help uncover evidence of war crimes.
The War Crimes Team within the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command will be mobilised to assist the investigation and are directly engaged with the ICC.
The Deputy Prime Minister will continue his work with international partners at the meeting in The Hague to support the investigation, with Ukrainian Justice Minister, Denys Maliuska, in attendance.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, said: “Today, the UK is uniting a coalition of international partners to provide the funding and law enforcement support to reinforce the ICC’s investigation into potential war crimes in Ukraine.”
President Putin and his commanders should know that they will be held to account for their actions, and risk ending up spending the rest of their days behind bars.
The financial support has been provided by the Foreign Office’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund to ensure – among other things – the ICC has the technology it needs to hold and process the massive volume of evidence it is gathering.
Foreign Office Minister of State, James Cleverly, said: “The UK led the way in calling for an investigation into Russian war crimes earlier this month – the largest referral in the history of the International Criminal Court. It is vital that the ICC is able to carry out that investigation and that’s why the UK will provide military, policing and financial support to help uncover evidence of such crimes, and ultimately seek justice.”
Police will provide victims with relevant support and officers are engaging with potential witnesses to assist the war crimes investigation and seeking to identify further witnesses as Ukrainians arrive seeking refuge in the UK. Conversations are ongoing with legal services professional bodies to scope how top-class UK barristers and lawyers can be put at the service of the ICC’s investigations. Barristers from the UK have played an integral part in war crimes prosecutions ever since Hartley Shawcross led the British prosecution at Nuremburg. This is the latest in a series of efforts from the UK to provide Ukraine with economic, diplomatic, humanitarian and defensive support alongside lethal aid. It follows a government clampdown on the use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) – a common tool used by wealthy oligarchs seeking to silence those who shine a light on their wrongdoing. The UK will continue to support the ICC’s work and has set up the UK Government taskforce for war crimes which includes the Attorney General, ministers from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Ministry of Defence and Home Office, as well as senior officials from these departments and representatives from the War Crimes Team within the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command and Crown Prosecution Service. Last week the Deputy Prime Minister met with the President of the ICC, its Registrar and its Chief Prosecutor, all of whom stressed the need for international co-operation to help prosecute Putin and his commanders. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
24 Mar 22. Foreign Secretary announces 65 new Russian sanctions to cut off vital industries fuelling Putin’s war machine.
New sanctions target strategic industries, banks and business elites.
- Liz Truss has announced 65 sanctions, targeting strategic industries, banks and business elites.
- The sanctions target those aiding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine including the Wagner Group, multiple defence companies and Russian Railways
- The UK has now sanctioned over 1,000 individuals and businesses under the Russia sanctions regime since the invasion
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has announced 65 new Russian sanctions today (Thursday 24 March) against a range of key strategic industries and individuals. The UK has now sanctioned over 1,000 individuals and businesses under the Russia sanctions regime since the invasion.
Today’s sanctions target key industries supporting Russia’s illegal invasion, including Russian Railways and defence company Kronshtadt, the main producer of Russian drones. The Wagner Group – the organisation Russian mercenaries reportedly tasked with assassinating President Zelenskyy – has also been sanctioned.
Six more banks are targeted, including Alfa Bank whose cofounders include previously sanctioned oligarchs Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan. The world’s largest diamond producer Alrosa is also sanctioned.
Individuals sanctioned include the billionaire oil tycoon Eugene Shvidler, founder of Tinkoff bank Oleg Tinkov, Herman Gref, the CEO of Russia’s largest bank Sberbank, and Polina Kovaleva, Foreign Minister Lavrov’s step daughter. Galina Danilchenko, who was installed by Russia as the ‘mayor’ of Melitopol is also sanctioned – the first time an individual has been sanctioned for collaboration with Russian forces currently in Ukraine.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “These oligarchs, businesses and hired thugs are complicit in the murder of innocent civilians and it is right that they pay the price. Putin should be under no illusions – we are united with our allies and will keep tightening the screw on the Russian economy to help ensure he fails in Ukraine. There will be no let-up”. All those sanctioned today will have their assets in the UK frozen which means no UK citizen or company can do business with them, and individuals subject to travel bans are also prohibited from travelling to or from the UK. Today’s sanctions will bring the total global asset value of the banks the UK has sanctioned since the invasion to £500bn and the net worth of the oligarchs and family members in excess of £150bn.”
The provisions brought in by the Economic Crime Act have streamlined the previous legislation so the UK can respond even more swiftly and effectively to the current crisis. The government will continue to tighten the screw and use sanctions to degrade the Russian economy on a scale that the Kremlin, or any major economy, has never seen before.
The UK has led the international sanctions effort, cutting off whole sectors of the Russian economy by targeting its defence companies, its trade and transport sector, and working with allies to exclude Russia from the SWIFT financial system.
Key individuals and businesses sanctioned today:
- ALFA-BANK JSC (Alfa-Bank), the largest of the private banks in Russia and is based in Moscow. Alfa-Bank ranks among the top 10 largest banks in terms of capital in Russia and Ukraine. It is a distinct entity to distinct from Alfa-Bank (Ukraine) which has not been sanctioned.
- Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond mining company specializing in exploration, mining, manufacture, and sale of diamonds. It is headquartered in Mirny, Russia and its market capitalization is reported as an estimated £4.69bn.
- Eugene Markovich Shvidler, is a billionaire businessman with close business links to Roman Abramovich (designated by the UK on 10 March 2022). His net worth is reported as an estimated £1.2 billion.
- Oleg Tinkov, founder of Tinkoff Bank. His net worth is reported as an estimated £3.4 billion.
- Herman Gref, Chief Executive Officer of Sberbank, the largest Russian bank. Gref is a close advisor of President Putin since they started working together in the St Petersburg Government in the 1990s. He served as Putin’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade between 2000 and 2007, before taking over at Sberbank.
- Oleg E Aksyutin, the Deputy Chairman of the Management Board at Gazprom PJSC, the Russian multinational energy corporation.
- Didier Casimiro, the First Vice President of Rosneft, the Russian State oil company.
- Zeljko Runje, the Deputy Chairman of the Management Board and First Vice President for Oil, Gas, and Offshore Business Development of Rosneft
- Galina Danilchenko, installed as ‘mayor’ of Melitopol by Russian authorities after their military occupied the city and kidnapped the legitimate mayor. This is the first designation by any partner country for collaboration with the Russian military in Ukraine since the invasion.
- Polina Kovaleva, stepdaughter of Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. She reportedly owns a c.£4m property in London. This sends a strong signal that those benefiting from association of those responsible for Russian aggression are in scope of our sanctions.
- (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
23 Mar 22. Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg’s term as head of the military alliance is set to be extended by another year, diplomatic sources told the Financial Times, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The extension needs to be agreed by all 30 Nato allies at a summit in Brussels on Thursday, but has the backing of the US, the alliance’s largest member. Stoltenberg was due to step down at the end of September to take on a role as governor of Norway’s central bank. Nato member states have pushed for him to stay, citing the risk of changing leadership during the conflict in Ukraine, the FT reported on Wednesday, which has sparked concerns over Europe’s security. (Source: FT.com)
23 Mar 22. Stoltenberg Expects NATO Leaders to Strengthen Alliance Posture. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he expects leaders will approve plans to strengthen the alliance’s posture in all domains of warfare and to continue their unwavering support for the people of Ukraine.
Stoltenberg previewed the summit meeting of NATO allies — which will include President Joe Biden — during a press conference in Brussels. He said this is a “pivotal moment” for security.
During the alliance summit tomorrow, Stoltenberg said he expects further decisions to be made. “I expect leaders will agree to strengthen NATO’s posture in all domains, with major increases to our forces in the eastern part of the alliance on land, in the air, and at sea,” he said. “The first step is the deployment of four new NATO battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.”
These would join NATO battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. “This means that we will have eight multinational NATO battle groups all along the eastern flank, from the Baltic to the Black Sea,” he said. “We face a new reality for our security. So, we must reset our deterrence and defense for the longer-term.”
Biden will participate in the meetings at NATO headquarters and will journey on to Poland later in the week. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is accompanying the president.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the NATO meeting remotely from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, which is under Russian attack.
Stoltenberg condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine. “Allies stand united in support for the brave people of Ukraine and against the Kremlin’s cruelty,” the secretary general said. “Putin must end this war, allow aid and safe passage for civilians, and engage in real diplomacy.”
Putin’s war has unified the NATO allies, and the nations have imposed crushing sanctions on Russia, the country’s leaders, and others who enable the invasion of a sovereign nation.
“NATO has acted with speed and unity to protect and defend all allies,” Stoltenberg said. “There are now hundreds of thousands of allied troops at heightened readiness across the alliance — 100,000 U.S. troops in Europe and 40,000 forces under direct NATO command, mostly in the eastern part of the alliance.”
These forces are backed by the full force of the alliance in the air, at sea, in cyberspace and in space.
The secretary general said the alliance leaders will reaffirm support for Ukraine. “Ukraine has the right to self-defense under the U.N. charter, and we are helping Ukrainians to uphold this fundamental right,” he said. “Since 2014, allies have trained Ukraine’s armed forces and significantly strengthened their capabilities. are putting that training into practice now, on the front lines with great bravery.”
From the start of this crisis, Europe and North America have stood together, united in NATO. And we remain united, opposing Russia’s aggression, supporting Ukraine and protecting all allies.”
NATO allies have worked feverishly to equip and train Ukrainian forces, he said. “In the last months, allies have stepped up military support providing anti-tank and air-defense systems, drones, fuel and ammunition, as well as financial aid and hosting millions of refugees,” he said. “Tomorrow, I expect allies will agree to provide additional support including cybersecurity assistance.”
In an ominous note, Stoltenberg also said the allies will provide equipment “to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.”
While aiding Ukraine is important, he said, ensuring the conflict doesn’t escalate to a war between Russia and NATO is paramount. “This would cause even more death and even more destruction,” he said.
With the Russian invasion, the global security situation has shifted. “We face a fundamentally changed security environment where authoritarian powers are increasingly prepared to use force to get their way,” Stoltenberg said. “So, I expect we will also address the role of China in this crisis. Beijing has joined Moscow in questioning the right of independent nations to choose their own path. China has provided Russia with political support, including by spreading blatant lies and disinformation. And allies are concerned that China could provide material support for the Russian invasion.”
Stoltenberg said he expects leaders will call on China to live up to its responsibilities as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and join the rest of the world in calling for an immediate, peaceful end to this war.
The Russian invasion has given NATO allies a new sense of urgency “because we cannot take peace for granted,” Stoltenberg said. “From the start of this crisis, Europe and North America have stood together, united in NATO. And we remain united, opposing Russia’s aggression, supporting Ukraine and protecting all allies.” (Source: US DoD)
24 Mar 22. Zelensky appeals to west to step up military aid as Nato leaders meet Joe Biden to call on allies in Brussels to provide more support for Kyiv and boost sanctions on Moscow. President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to western nations to take “meaningful steps” to bolster Ukraine’s military campaign against Russia ahead of a Nato summit aimed at deepening the alliance’s support for Kyiv. As the war in his country entered its second month, the Ukrainian leader urged the world to provide heavy military equipment to aid his nation’s “struggle for life” in the face of a Russian invasion that has caused widespread destruction, forced more than 10mn people from their homes and left another 12mn trapped in areas ravaged by conflict. “Freedom must be armed,” Zelensky said in an online address, delivered in Ukrainian, Russian and English. “The Ukrainian sky has not been made safe from Russian missiles and bombs. We have not received aircraft and modern anti-missile weapons. We have not received tanks, anti-ship equipment.” (Source: FT.com)
24 Mar 22. PM announces major new military support package for Ukraine: 24 March 2022.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce a major new package of support for Ukraine at the NATO and G7 leaders’ meetings.
- Prime Minister will urge Allies to ensure Ukrainians have the means to continue to protect themselves at NATO and G7 summits today
- UK will provide 6,000 new defensive missiles and £25m for Ukraine’s armed forces
- Leaders meeting in Brussels are expected to discuss longer-term military, diplomatic and humanitarian support for Ukraine and strengthening measures against Russia
The Prime Minister will announce a major new package of support for Ukraine today at the NATO and G7 leaders’ meetings, as he calls on the international community to stay the course on Ukraine and stand against tyranny.
The measures announced today include 6,000 missiles, consisting of anti-tank and high explosive weapons, and £25m in financial backing for the Ukrainian military. This more than doubles the defensive lethal aid provided to date to more than 10,000 missiles, and comes on top of the £400m the UK has committed in humanitarian and economic aid for the crisis. The Prime Minister will set out the UK’s intention to work with partners to bolster Ukraine’s defence capabilities, including longer-range targeting and intelligence, as the Ukrainian people face down an unprovoked invasion.
The UK will also provide an additional £4.1m for the BBC World Service as part of a cross-government effort to tackle disinformation in Russia and Ukraine, as well as new financial and policing support for the International Criminal Court’s investigation into war crimes.
One month into the conflict, the Prime Minister will welcome NATO and the G7’s unified stance on Ukraine and collective action on economic, military and diplomatic measures. He will urge Allies and partners to step up a gear in response to Russia’s use of increasingly brutal tactics, including by providing enhanced defensive support to Ukraine and doubling down on economic sanctions against the Kremlin.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Vladimir Putin is already failing in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people have shown themselves to be extraordinarily brave and tenacious in defending their homeland, in the face of an unprovoked onslaught. But we cannot and will not stand by while Russia grinds Ukraine’s towns and cities into dust. The United Kingdom will work with our allies to step up military and economic support to Ukraine, strengthening their defences as they turn the tide in this fight. One month into this crisis, the international community faces a choice. We can keep the flame of freedom alive in Ukraine, or risk it being snuffed out across Europe and the world.”
The UK has already provided over 4,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces, including Next-Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons Systems, or NLAWs, and Javelin missiles. The Government is also supplying Starstreak high-velocity anti-air missiles to help Ukrainians defend themselves against aerial bombings, as well as body armour, helmets and combat boots.
The £25m in new non-ODA funding from the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund will help to pay the salaries of Ukrainian soldiers, pilots and police and ensure the armed forces are well equipped with high-quality equipment. The UK has committed £400 m in humanitarian and economic support to date, complementing the huge generosity of the British public, and donated more than 4 m items of medical equipment and 500 mobile generators.
In further support announced today, the BBC World Service will receive an additional £4.1m in emergency funding to support its Ukrainian and Russian language services in the region, and to help it create content to counter disinformation about the war in Ukraine. The funding has been provided by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and FCDO.
The Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, will also chair a meeting of justice and foreign ministers in the Hague today to coordinate support for the International Criminal Court’s war crimes investigations. The Deputy Prime Minister is expected to announce an additional £1 m in funding for the court, as well as new support from UK soldiers with expertise in intelligence gathering and the Met Police’s War Crimes Team. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
24 Mar 22. EU Commission’s “Freeze and Seize” Sanctions Task Force Steps Up Work. The European Commission’s ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force, set up to ensure EU-level coordination to implement sanctions against listed Russian and Belarussian oligarchs, has now stepped up its action at the international level. It will work alongside the newly established ‘Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO)’ Task Force, under which the EU operates together with the G7 countries Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as Australia. The ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force was set up by the European Commission to ensure the efficient implementation of the EU sanctions against listed Russian and Belarussian oligarchs across the EU. The ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force is composed of the Commission, national contact points from each Member State, Eurojust and Europol as well as other EU agencies and bodies as necessary. It will coordinate actions by EU Member States, Eurojust, Europol, and other agencies to seize and, where national law allows provides for it, confiscate assets of Russian and Belarussian oligarchs. While the Commission provides strategic coordination, Eurojust and Europol are best placed to ensure operational coordination. The first meeting of the ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force took place on 11 March and was chaired by Commissioner Reynders. Member States explained the measures already taken, the situation on ongoing judicial proceedings, and the possibilities for the confiscation of assets under the appropriate legal bases. The first meeting was welcomed by all EU Member States. On 18 March, a second meeting will take place where the participating parties will further discuss their coordination. The Task Force is set to meet weekly. However, the Task Force will reassess this need and will convene other meetings as necessary. Within the remit of EU sanctions, all assets belonging or controlled by listed persons must be frozen. Today 877 individuals and 62 entities are subject to an asset freeze under EU sanctions in the context of the Russian aggression to Ukraine. (Source: glstrade.com)
24 Mar 22. Ukraine’s plea for Soviet-era anti-aircraft systems goes unanswered US plan to provide long-range missile defence runs into resistance from those countries that have the munitions. US president Joe Biden’s promise to supply Ukraine with Soviet-era long-range missile systems has become bogged down in difficulties with sourcing and moving the equipment, according to US and western officials. Even as the US and its allies prepare to announce fresh sanctions on Moscow and additional lethal and humanitarian aid for Ukraine this week, the provision of the anti-aircraft ordnance seen by Kyiv as crucial to its ability to halt Russia’s advance is set to take more time. The effort is running into similar issues as the now-abandoned plan to transfer Polish fighter jets to Ukraine, a move that descended into a diplomatic fiasco. The countries that have the equipment — Slovakia, Greece and Bulgaria — have either balked at the plan or want new systems as a substitute. They also fear that Moscow will interpret any transfer as an aggressive act. (Source: FT.com)
23 Mar 22. Former defence attaché: Warnings of Putin’s invasion ignored in favour of UK banks.
Retired Air Commodore Carl Scott said he regularly warned of the “inevitability of conflict” during his time in Russia.
Warnings that Vladimir Putin would wage war were consistently ignored in favour of City banks harvesting Russian wealth, the UK’s former defence attaché to Moscow has claimed.
Retired air commodore Carl Scott said he warned of the “inevitability of conflict in detail, regularly” during his period in Russia between 2011 to 2016.
He said the Russian president’s aims were “never concealed”, having instigated “colossal” militarisation, the distortion of the public narrative and clampdowns on dissent.
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The former attaché wrote in a letter to the Financial Times: “The list is remorseless, the consequences could not be ignored. But they were.”
He continued: “It was not until I returned to the UK on the eve of our withdrawal from the EU, a manoeuvre which greatly emboldened those in Moscow, that I understood how our society had changed in the years I was serving overseas.
“The values we were demanding of other nations had long since faded from our own actions.
“I despair at the decisions Putin has taken, but even more at the prospect of finding credible leadership at home in the UK among those who have compromised so long with his regime and the wealth it offered,” he added. (Source: forces.net)
23 Mar 22. Oil exports from a crucial pipeline on Russia’s Black Sea coast were fully halted on Wednesday, pushing crude prices higher amid fears that Moscow would interrupt energy supplies just as US president Joe Biden arrives in Europe to discuss the war in Ukraine. The Caspian Pipeline Company, the Moscow-headquartered consortium running a pipeline linking Kazakh oilfields with Russia’s Novorossiysk port, said on Wednesday that it was shutting down all three units used to load oil from the more-than-1,500km artery on to tankers, blaming storm damage. “The loading is fully stopped due to objective reasons because of abnormal storms,” said Nikolay Gorban, CPC’s chief executive, on Wednesday. “We have found some damage that does not allow [us] to operate the single point moorings further safely.” Gorban said two of the terminal’s three mooring units had suffered “critical” damage and were completely inoperable. A third was awaiting an inspection, but divers could not survey the damage until the storm cleared, he said. He added that any repair work would be delayed by western companies’ unwillingness to supply parts. Biden this month prohibited investments by US companies in Russia’s energy sector and banned on imports of oil from the country. The full closure comes as EU leaders prepare to discuss deeper sanctions on Moscow for its decision to invade Ukraine. (Source: FT.com)
23 Mar 22. Russian Forces Invading Ukraine Suffer Low Morale. Russian forces invading Ukraine are suffering low morale that could affect the outcome of the battle there, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.
Reports out of Ukraine indicate a breakdown in some units stemming from logistics and sustainment issues, he said during a Pentagon news conference yesterday.
“We continue to see indications that the Russians did not properly plan for logistics and sustainment,” Kirby said. “We know that they continue to have fuel issues across their force, and that they’re still struggling with food.”
He noted that there is footage of Russian troops ransacking grocery stores in Ukraine. The Russians “either didn’t properly plan for logistics and sustainment or they didn’t properly execute to their plan, but they are still having problems,” he said.
Earlier in the day, a DOD official said on background that Russian forces in Ukraine are suffering cases of frostbite, which any U.S. military leader will say is a symbol of a breakdown in unit morale and unit cohesion.
“You know how important morale is to military effectiveness and cohesion,” Kirby said to the reporters. “We certainly have indications that morale is a growing problem inside the Russian forces that are fighting in Ukraine. We’ve seen increasing indications that morale and unit cohesion is a problem and yes, absolutely translates into potential military effectiveness issues.”
Ukrainian resistance exacerbates the Russian problems. Kirby said there are indications that Ukrainian forces are retaking some territory the Russians initially took.
Russian leaders must be growing frustrated with the lack of progress of the invasion, the press secretary said. After 27 days, Russian forces have expended a lot of munitions, and thrown a lot of forces into the fight. Still, Russian President Vladimir Putin built up a significant amount of combat capability before launching this unnecessary war, Kirby said.
“Here it is day 27, and they haven’t taken Kyiv. They haven’t taken Kharkiv, and they haven’t been able to isolate the Donbass area,” Kirby said. “The Ukrainians are fighting back very creatively and very bravely.”
The Russians have not achieved any of the strategic objectives they set out to achieve. Kirby once again called on the Russian leader to end his “war of choice” with Ukraine. “He can end this war today by being a negotiator of good faith with the Ukrainians,” he said. “There’s no indication he’s willing to do that.” (Source: US DoD)
21 Mar 22. Russia has a military professionalism problem, and it is costing them in Ukraine. Even if Russia “manages to take control of the territory of Ukraine, the Russian military’s underlying problems with professionalization may handicap these occupiers in their efforts to maintain control over that country for the long-term,” write two RAND experts. Much has been made about the surprisingly stout Ukrainian defense against what had appeared to be overwhelming military force from Russia. At the core of the issue seems to be a lack of coordination, planning and training among the Russian forces. In a new analysis, RAND experts Marek N. Posard and Khrystyna Holynska write that Russia has a military professionalism problem, one that has been building in plain sight for decades. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia appears to have been far from seamless. The internet is littered with reports of Russian soldiers seemingly stalled in convoys, deserting their units, and being unable to maintain their equipment. An effort to collect and confirm the instances of Russia’s abandoned, destroyed, and captured military systems had to be terminated due to the inability of its contributors to keep up with the pace at which it is happening.
While the internet is not reality, some may wonder if this is really the same Russian military that has been feared around the world for decades?
Effective militaries need people and equipment, but also a strategy to guide what those people do with that equipment. Plenty has been written about the people and the gear, but we think the current war in Ukraine points to some problems lurking within Russia’s military manpower and personnel system.
There are several reasons why these problems may have been overlooked. For one, research on the military manpower and personnel systems of foreign countries tends to be viewed as a sleepy area of research by military scholars. Further, there is a bias towards modernization issues in assessments of foreign countries versus the squishier topics related to military professionalization — the will to fight, cohesion, and morale are simply harder to assess than the number of tanks.
For more coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, click here.
Still, it is astounding how many of Russia’s challenges now on display were, in retrospect, hiding in plain sight for years. While some of these problems likely existed during prior Russian military operations, the fierce resistance by Ukrainians is exposing them more clearly than what was seen during past conflicts, as evident from reports of several Russian generals killed in Ukraine. The death of one general officer in combat is an incredibly rare thing; the death of multiple generals may speak to a need for top officers to be directing field activities in person, a potential sign of a lack of trust down the chain of command.
For decades, the Russian military has embarked on professionalizing their force structure, relying more on contract soldiers instead of conscripts. As a comparison, the U.S. ended conscription and transitioned to an All-Volunteer Force during the 1970s. Unlike Russia, however, the U.S. military ended conscription relatively quickly and spent significant resources constructing (and evaluating) an expansive system of programs designed to recruit, train, support, and retain a highly professionalized force. While Russia’s efforts at professionalization have been a bit slower, there is some evidence their military scholars have looked to the United States for insights.
For two decades, Russia actively and widely disseminated a narrative underlining their military might. However, some explicit references to troubling issues still broke through, including through the “official” channels.
The 2008 Strategy of Social Development of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2020 explicitly states that “the level of military-professional training of military personnel continues to decline.” In his address to the board of the Ministry of Defense last year, Russian leader Vladimir Putin emphasized that achieving success in any conflict depended directly on the professionalism of the commanders and listed working on increasing professionalism in the military as a priority.
As part of Russia’s efforts, the Russian military has conducted research on their manpower and personnel system. Some of the results from this research are publicly available and do not always paint a great picture of the Russian military.
For example, back in 2014, the Russian military’s sociology center reported that more than a quarter of their own personnel surveyed reported having problems with their infantry equipment. A 2020 article in a Ministry of Defense military journal talks about a gap in the increase in advanced systems deployment and the ability of the service members to operate them effectively. Gennady Zhytko, the Commander of the Eastern Military District (which reportedly is heavily involved in the conflict), lamented in 2020 the shortage of officers on the battalion and regiment level.
Insights from Russia’s scholars complement these military publications. Despite being limited in their access and pressure to paint a bright picture, some researchers admit that Russia’s military forces lack material and professional motivation to serve.
We cannot speak to the Russian military strategy or equipment they are using. We can, however, point to what Russian service members seem to be doing with their equipment. The apparent failures among the Russian rank and file suggest this country has underlying problems in its efforts to professionalize its force structure. But you don’t have to take our word for it, the Russian military and their scholars have released research — sometimes with data — to support this conclusion.
Military professionalization is a time-consuming and costly endeavor. Russia has neither the time nor money to fully professionalize their force structure now. In essence, Moscow is stuck with the force it has, not the force it might want. Even if it manages to take control of the territory of Ukraine, the Russian military’s underlying problems with professionalization may handicap these occupiers in their efforts to maintain control over that country for the long-term, counter potential insurgencies, and presumably rebuild the country to allow for an eventual withdrawal. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
23 Mar 22. Nato leaders are preparing to send equipment to Ukraine for use in defending against chemical and nuclear weapons, the head of the alliance Jens Stoltenberg has said. Speaking on Wednesday, Stoltenberg said the group was expected to agree at a summit the following day to provide Ukraine with “additional support”, including equipment to “protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats” as well as cyber security assistance. The initiative would be the first time Nato member states have sent supplies to Ukraine specifically to counter weapons of mass destruction amid rising fears in western capitals that Moscow could use them. “We are concerned about the use of chemical or biological weapons,” Stoltenberg said, adding that Nato had noted “nuclear sabre-rattling” by Russian president Vladimir Putin. “Any use of chemical weapons would totally change the nature of the conflict . . . and have far-reaching consequences.” US president Joe Biden said ahead of a visit to Europe that there was a “real threat” Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine. Biden, who is due to arrive in Brussels at about 9pm local time on Wednesday, will attend the Nato summit as well as meetings with EU and G7 allies aiming to increase support for Kyiv and tighten the financial squeeze on Russia’s economy with more sanctions. Biden will also travel to Poland. (Source: FT.com)