Ukraine Update–Day 11

‘Vlad the Invader’ is still pommeling the Ukrainian cities and refugees are still flooding into neighboring nations.

Russian Campaign Update. While the Russian advance on the ground is not taking place at the pace many military analysts thought . . . the facts are . . . they are making slow, steady progress. Certainly their logistics need to be improved, air supremacy has not yet been achieved, and the information operations fight is dismal. The two largest cities of Ukraine are still held by the Ukrainians. Over time, as more and more Russian troops, tanks, and supplies flow into Ukraine the defense will wear down. It remains to be seen just how deep into Ukraine Russia intends to go. Will they stop at the capital city of Kyiv? Or try to go all the way to the far western border?

Russia’s offensive activities on Saturday (Mar 5) were less than expected. It is likely that the Russians are consolidating their positions, letting logistics catch up to the forward elements, and preparing for the next set of offensive actions. Those interested in Russia’s ground combat capabilities can take a peek at The Future of the Russian Military, RAND Corporation, 2019, PDF, 116 pages.

Power Generation. The Russians have already captured the largest of the four active nuclear power plants. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was recently attacked and is now held by the Russians. Radiation levels remain normal at this plant. Two of the six reactors are in operation. The Ukrainian staff continue to work, however they are confined to the plant and not allowed to leave. There are reports that the Russians are heading to the Kaniv hydroelectric power plant located 60 miles south of Kyiv on the Dnieper River.

Fight for the Skies. After more than a week of war in Ukraine the Russian air force has yet to commence large-scale operations. The continued absence of major air operations now raises serious capability questions. Certainly the presence of Ukrainian man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and other air defense systems have had an effect. However, some analysts are thinking that the Russian air force lacks the institutional capacity to plan, brief, and fly complex air operations at scale. “Is the Russian Air Force Actually Incapable of Complex Air Operations?”, RUSI, March 2, 2022.

Drones in the Fight. A volunteer drone force is helping Ukraine repel the Russian invasion. Citizens are asked to donate hobby drones and volunteer to operate them on the front line. The drones have been used to track Russian convoys. The operators then relay the images and GPS coordinates to Ukrainian troops. “Ukrainian drone enthusiasts sign up to repel Russian forces“, AP News, March 4, 2022.

Maritime Activities. The amphibious task force with naval infantry remains posed to strike at Odessa on the coast of the Black Sea. Some commercial ships in the Black Sea have been hit by the Russians with a few of them sinking causing a loss of life. Turkey has closed the Turkish straits separating the Mediterranean Sea from the Black Sea to all warships. Read more about this under the “Commentary” section below.

Kyiv. The capital city of Ukraine is considered the primary objective of the Russians. The Capture of Kyiv would allow Russia to put in place its puppet government. The city is not yet fully encircled – with terrain southeast and south of the city still held by Ukrainian forces. Vehicles can still depart but only when the curfew is not in effect. The trains were still running as of Saturday (Mar 5).

Kharkiv. The second largest city of Ukraine is Kharkiv located in the northeast of the country. The city has endured shelling by the Russians. Artillery, rocket, and missile fire has struck military and civilian targets. As of Saturday residents were still able to flee although transportation out of the city is limited. Many civilians have been injured or killed.

Mariupol. Located on the Sea of Azov, the coastal city of Mariupol is under siege by the Russians. This city is situated along the coastal road network that would provide Russia with a land bridge between Russia and the Crimea. A humanitarian corridor from Mariupol heading west had been negotiated between the two adversaries but was immediately fired upon by the Russians. So very little people were able to escape the city through the corridor. The 400,000 residents are without electricity, food, and water.

Mykolayiv. Located on the west bank of the Dnieper River close to the coast of the Black Sea, Mykolayiv is a strategic objective for the Russians that is on the road to Odessa located further west along the coast of the Black Sea.

Russia’s PMCs Recruiting. Russian private military companies have stepped up recruiting – looking for people with military experience. There are reports that the Wagner Group has up to 1,000 personnel in Ukraine.

Map – Russian MLRS Ranges and Nuclear Power Plants. “TinCup Intel” @KenGriffeySr1 has published an image depicting the ranges of various types of rockets from current Russian occupied and contested areas and where Ukraine’s five nuclear power plants are. DOI and author of map unknown. The world is concerned about the possibility of damage to one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants that would result in a radiation leak. The United Nations Security Council engaged in a debate over the recent Russian attack on a nuclear plant in Ukraine. (UN News, 4 Mar 2022). The Russians appear to be approaching another Ukraine nuclear plant in Yuzhnoukrainsk.

Current Situation – Map. The territory currently held by Russian forces is depicted on a map (as of 5 Mar) provided by the Institute for the Study of War. See also a map posted by the UK Ministry of Defence (as of 6 Mar).

Putin’s Threats. The president of Russia has not only raised the threat of nuclear conflict with the west, he has also issued a lot of other threats. A few days back he threatened Finland and Sweden for their statements on possible NATO membership.

Federal Republic of Ukraine? When the hostilities subside Russia will attempt to consolidate its territorial gains. There is very little doubt on the intentions of Russia for western Ukraine. There will be an announcement declaring the independence of that region. A possible new name of the territory may be the Federal Republic of Ukraine. Read “Putin threatens Ukraine’s ‘statehood,’ likens sanctions to ‘declaration of war’”, The Washington Post, March 5, 2022.

Ukrainian SOF. The Ukrainian Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 2015. It has four army special operations regiments, three navy special operations regiments, two training centers. It has worked closely with U.S. Special Operations Command – Europe (SOCEUR) in developing its training and doctrine. “Ukraine conflict: Ukrainian special operations forces in focus”, Janes.com, March 4, 2022.

Russia’s Reserve Units. The conscript and contract basis of filling the ranks of the Russian army is detailed in a recent report by the Institute for the Study of War. “Explainer on Russian Conscription, Reserve, and Mobilization”, ISW, March 5, 2022.

OSS Manual Translated into Ukrainian. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) published the Simple Sabotage Field Manual for use by its agents and operator during World War II. Its purpose was to instruct citizens from countries under Nazi occupation about how to perform acts of sabotage using everyday items. The OSS Society has translated the OSS Simple Sabotage Manual into Ukrainian. Read more about the manual in “For the Glorious Ukrainian Resistance”, by Charles T. Pinck, Small Wars Journal, March 5, 2022. The manual (Ukrainian) can be read online or downloaded here. The English version is available here.

Territorial Defense Forces. According to the National Guard of Ukraine, over 100,000 citizens have joined the newly established volunteer branch of the armed forces since the invasion took place. There are estimates that over 66,000 Ukrainians have returned to their home country from various parts of the world to join in on the defense of Ukraine. Over 3,000 U.S. volunteers have joined up to serve in the newly established international force.

Ham Radio Operators and Spreading the Truth. The media and internet in Russia is currently locked down and controlled by the Russian government. Russian citizens are hard pressed to read anything that resembles the truth of the invasion and current status of the conflict. Some of them are getting news through their radio amateurs and short wave radios. One method of countering this one-sided media coverage in Russia is to use the capability resident in the worldwide ham radio community. There are a lot of ham radio enthusiasts who can assist in this endeavor. Many of them assisted U.S. service members in decades past with communications with their families using the the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS). Perhaps it is time for them to go to work once again.

China’s TikTok. Many young people get their news from the Chinese-owned video app. The current conflict in Ukraine has millions scrolling the app war videos and graphic footage of combat actions. However, the news may not be very accurate in many cases. “TikTok is Gripped by the Violence and Misinformation of the Ukraine War”, The New York Times, March 5, 2022.

The Propaganda War. Patrick Howell O’Neil writes on how frauds, liars, and grifters are adding to the chaos of the current conflict in Ukraine. “The Propaganda War Has Eclipsed Cyberwar in Ukraine”, MIT Technology Review, March 2, 2022.

Arms Transfers and Assistance. A research briefing was published by the UK that details military assistance provided to Ukraine prior to the invasion and in the initial days of the invasion by the United Kingdom, United States, NATO, EU, and others. Read Military Assistance to Ukraine since the Russian Invasion, House of Commons Library, March 3, 2022, PDF, 29 pages.
https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-9477/CBP-9477.pdf

Fighter Jets for Ukraine. A few days ago there were reports that three countries would provide Ukraine with fighter jets. That news story got squashed. However, on Saturday new reports came out saying that Poland would provide jets to Ukraine and in return the U.S. would move F-16 fighter jets into Poland. This would require White House approval and congressional action.

Credit Cards. Visa and Mastercard have suspended operations in Russia. The Russians continue to be hit with ever increasing economic sanctions as punishment for its invasion of Ukraine.

Assistance to Ukrainian Refugees. The United Nations estimates that over one million Ukrainians have departed their country in the past few weeks. The assistance provided by the international community has been swift and comprehensive. There has been a sharing of the burden among European nations as well as members of the international community at large. Read more in “Sharing Responsibility for Ukrainian Refugees: An Unprecedented Response”, Lawfare, March 5, 2022.

Examining Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine. After more than a week of conflict, the Russians have made some clear gains. But they have also exhibited some serious deficiencies. Rob Lee and Aaron Stein of the Foreign Policy Research Institute discuss the trajectory of the war, the Russian challenges, and the future of the conflict in this podcast. Chain Reaction, March 4, 2022, 42 minutes.

Closing the Turkish Straits. Cornell Overfield is an analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses – the Navy’s federally funded research and development center. He writes on how Turkey is implementing the obligations under the 1936 Montreux Convention that requires it to restrict transits of Russian warships through the Turkish straits separating the Black Sea from the Mediterranean Sea. Currently Turkey has closed the straits to all warships. Overfield argues that the straits should only be closed to Russian and Ukrainian warships. Read his perspective in “Turkey Must Close the Turkish Straits Only to Russian and Ukrainian Warships”, Lawfare, March 5, 2022.

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Those Ukrainian/Russian Talks

The two major antagonists are talking….Ukraine and Russia are meeting in Belarus, a Russian ally, to discuss what it will take to end the conflict that is devastating Ukraine…..

There was little movement in the Ukraine-Russia peace talks Thursday, but there was a change that could help those trying to escape the fighting flee safely. Negotiators agreed to set up humanitarian corridors for war refugees, Axios reports. Mykhailo Podolyak, a member of the Ukrainian delegation, said his team went into the talks wanting the corridors for civilians and a cease-fire. “The results Ukraine needs are not yet achieved,” he tweeted about the cease-fire. A timetable for establishing the path for those leaving Ukraine wasn’t released. It would be coupled with cease-fires, per USA Today. In a week, more than 1 million people have left Ukraine.

In the talks in Belarus, humanitarian issues including the evacuations, food, and medicine were the focus, per NPR. On the invasion, Russia stuck to President Vladimir Putin’s insistence on the “demilitarization and neutrality of Ukraine,” as he had in a call Thursday with French President Emmanuel Macron. President Volodymyr Zelensky called out Putin to “sit down with me” and negotiate directly. “What are you afraid of?” Zelensky asked in a press conference, adding: “It is not that I want to talk with Putin. I think I have to talk with Putin. The world has to talk with Putin because there are no other ways to stop this war.”

The negotiators said only that they will meet again soon. One analyst said that Putin’s refusal to yield on any of his demands shows he has no intention of negotiating. Democratic Rep. Adam Smith and others suggest the US lay out the conditions for lifting the sanctions against Russia to give Putin a way out. Radek Sikorski, a Polish politician and diplomat, argues instead that the goal of sanctions at this point should be a change of rulers in the Kremlin, per Axios.

There is some glimmer of hope for an end to this insanity as long as the two sides continue to talk.

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