Russo Ukrainian War. Day 175: Another explosion in Crimea

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Russia and Ukraine officials say that an ammunition Russian dump exploded in Crimea. IMoscow blames saboteurs for explosions in Crimea. In occupied Lysychansk, an explosion kills up to 100 Russian soldiers. About 430 Russian aircraft and 360 helicopters are concentrated around Ukraine. South: Ukrainian aircraft attack Russian stronghold, concentrations of manpower. More than 563,000 tonnes of agricultural products have already been exported from Ukraine through ‘grain corridors.’ Russia targets Energoatom in an extensive cyberattack.

Daily overview — Summary report, August 16

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, August 17, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below. 

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“[Russian forces continue to focus its efforts on establishing full control over the territories of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, maintaining the temporarily captured areas of the Kherson region and parts of the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Mykolaiv regions, creating favourable conditions for resuming the offensive in certain directions, as well as blocking Ukraine’s maritime communications in the Black Sea. Air and missile strikes on civilian objects of our State continue.]

[No signs of the creation of offensive groups of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus were found in the Volyn and Polissya directions. The threat of missiles and airstrikes from the territory of Belarus remains.] A Russian Su-34 aircraft attacked infrastructure facilities in the territory of the Zhytomyr region from the territory of the Republic of Belarus. The threat of further missiles and airstrikes from the territory of the Republic of Belarus remains.

In the Siversky direction, Russian forces do not stop shelling from the barrel artillery on the border areas of the Chernihiv and Sumy regions. [Yesterday, Russian forces carried out artillery fire near Kamianska Sloboda in Chernihiv oblast and Khodyne and Svarkove in Sumy oblast. Reconnaissance flights of enemy UAVs are underway.]

[In the Slobozhansky direction:]

Kharkiv Battle Map. August 16, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. August 16, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Kharkiv direction, Russian forces continue to actively conduct UAV reconnaissance to adjust the artillery fire and determine the positions of the units of the Defense Forces. They carried out shelling of military and civilian infrastructure in the districts of Kharkiv, Petrivka, Dementiivka and eighteen other settlements. [Yesterday, Russian forces carried out fire damage in the areas of Odnorobivka, Sosnivka, Duvanka, Dementiivka, Pytomnyk, Ruska and Cherkaska Lozova, Cherkaski Tyshky, Petrivka, Verkhniy Saltiv, Mospanove, Ivanivka, Korobochkyne and Chepil settlements.]
    • [Yesterday, they carried out airstrikes near Verkhniy Saltiv, Husarivka, and Sosnivka. Remote mining of the area near Peremoha and Ukrainka was recorded.]
    • Airstrikes near Stary Saltov and Mospanovoy. They are conducting an offensive near Lebyazhi and Bazaliivka, and the fighting continues. The occupiers are remotely mining the area near Lebyazhy.
  • In the Sloviansk direction, Russian forces carried out fire damage from tanks, artillery and MLRS in the areas of Brazhkivka, Velyka Komyshuvakha, Dibrivne, Virnopillia and Mazanivka settlements. Conducted remote demining of the area near Dovgenki. [InYesterday, Russian forces used tanks, artillery and MLRS to fire near Hrushuvaha, Krasnopilla, Virnopilla, Rydne, Mazanivka, and Dolyna.]
    • They tried to wage an offensive battle in the Bogorodichny district, but were unsuccessful and withdrew. Fighting continues near Mazanivka and Novodmytrivka.
    • [Yesterday, Russian occupiers used incendiary ammunition in the areas of Nova Dmytrivka and Dibrivne settlements.]
    • [Yesterday, near Mazanivka, Russian forces tried to wage an offensive battle, but were unsuccessful and retreated.]
Donetsk Battle Map. August 16, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. August 16, 2022. Source: ISW.

In the Donetsk direction, the occupiers continue to focus their efforts on the Bakhmut and Novopavliv directions. On the Kramatorsk and Avdiivsk directions, Russian forces are trying to improve the tactical position of the troops. [In the Donetsk direction, Russian main efforts are focused on conducting active offensive and assault actions in the Kramatorsk, Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions.]

  • On Kramatorsk direction, artillery shelling was recorded near Mykolayivka, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Spirny, Verkhnyokamyansky, Ivano-Daryivka, Hryhorivka, and Zvanivka. Russian forces were conducting aerial reconnaissance in the Kramatorsk area. [Yesterday, enemy units fired from artillery and MLRS in the areas of Kramatorsk, Verkhnokamianske, Hryhorivka, Pereizne and Rozdolivka settlements.]
    • [Yesterday, near Ivano-Daryivka, with the support of aviation, Russian forces conducted unsuccessful assault actions. It suffered losses and retreated.]
    • Near Spirny, the occupiers decided to go on the offensive, suffered losses and retreated.
  • In the Bakhmut direction, Russian forces shelled the districts of Bakhmut, Soledar, Zaytsevo, Bilogorivka and Mayorsk. Conducted airstrikes on civilian infrastructure near Soledar. [Yesterday, shelling of military and civilian infrastructure was recorded in the districts of Kostyantynivka, Soledar, Shumy, Yakovlivka, and Mayorsk. Russian forces also carried out airstrikes near Yakovlivka and Soledar.]
    • [Yesterday, they tried to conduct reconnaissance by fighting near Vershyna, but after being hit by fire – ran away. Offensive and assault actions of the occupiers in the Soledar, Zaytseve, Mayorsk districts ended in losses and withdrawal.]
    • He conducted offensive and assault actions near Zalizny, Shumy and Zaitseve, was unsuccessful, and withdrew. Fighting continues in the Soledar and Bakhmutsky areas.
  • In the Avdiivka direction, tanks and artillery of various types shelled territories near Avdiivka, Maryinka, New York, Alexandropol, Piski, Vodyanyi, Opytny, and Nevelsky. [Yesterday, Russian forces, in addition to shelling near Avdiivka, Krasnohorivka, Alexandropil, Vodyane, Opytne, Novokalynove and Novobakhmutivka, carried out an airstrike near Maryinka. Led an offensive in the Nevelske area, hostilities continue.]
    • Russian forces carried out airstrikes in the areas of Maryinka, Krasnohorivka and Yasynuvata. Conducted aerial reconnaissance with UAV near Krasnohorivka and Opytny. Attempts are being made to carry out assaults in the Opytny area, and fighting continues.
  • In the Novopavlivskyi and Zaporizhzhia directions, Russian forces fired artillery, MLRS and tanks in the areas of the settlements of Velika Novosilka, Novosilka, Novomykhailivka, Pavlivka, Bogoyavlenka, Sontsivka, Stepnohirsk, Shevchenko, Vugledar, Burlatske, Charivne, Zaliznychne, Gulyaipole, Gulyaipilske, Novodanilivka, Lukyanivske, Orihiv, Vremivka, Poltavka, Novopil and Novoandriivka. [Yesterday, artillery shelling was recorded near Volodymyrivka, Novoukrainka, Pavlivka, Vuhledar, Novosilka, Charivne, Vremivka, Kamianske, Dorozhnyanky, and Novopole.]
    • Airstrikes near Volodymyrivka, Novosilka and Shcherbaki. He conducted offensive battles in the area of ​​the settlement of Shevchenkove, received a strong repulse and retreated. Fighting continues near Novomykhailivka.
    • The occupiers mined the area in the Inzhenerny and Ukrainsky districts.
    • [Yesterday, Russian forces launched airstrikes near Novoandriivka, Pavlivka, and Poltavka. Conducts an offensive near Novomykhailivka, hostilities continue.]

In the Pivdenny Buh direction, Russian main efforts are focused on holding the occupied positions, preventing the advance of our troops and attacking units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine. Russian forces are taking measures to replenish losses. He carried out shelling from artillery, MLRS and tanks in the areas of Mykolaiv, Stepova Dolyna and 27 other settlements. [Yesterday, Russian forces shelled the areas of the settlements of Stepova Dolyna, Nova Zorya, Prybuzke, Shevchenko, Kiselivka, Blahodatne, Shyroke, Kobzartsi, Andriivka, Dobryanka, Osokorivka, Potemkine, Trudolyubivka, Velyka Kostromka and Chervonohryhorivka from tanks, artillery and MLRS.]

  • [Yesterday, they carried out airstrikes in the Posad-Pokrovske, Bila Krynytsia, and Lozove districts. A poor attempt at an offensive battle near Novohryhorivka ended with significant losses and retreat for the occupiers.]
  • The occupiers launched airstrikes and conducted offensive battles near Biloghirka. Ukrainian soldiers kindly thinned the ranks of the Russian invaders and forced Russian forces to retreat. Russian forces continue to conduct reconnaissance with unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Military Updates 

About 430 Russian aircraft and 360 helicopters are concentrated around Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “The number of helicopters used by the Russian Federation against Ukraine has significantly increased to over 360 now. The relevant statement was made by Air Force Command Spokesperson Yurii Ihnat.

At the beginning of the full-scale war, Russia’s air formations around Ukraine consisted of 700 aerial vehicles: 450 aircraft and 250 helicopters. The Air Force and other defence forces have already destroyed lots of enemy aerial vehicles, but Russian forces can replenish stocks, bringing aerial vehicles from the middle of the country. Today, there are slightly fewer planes – 430 – deployed around the border with Ukraine at different airdromes in Belarus, Russia and Crimea. But, the number of helicopters significantly increased to over 360 deployed close to the border with Ukraine,” Ihnat told.

Russia’s A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft continue to operate in the air space of Belarus and the air space of Russia, Ihnat noted.”

In occupied Lysychansk, an explosion kills up to 100 Russian soldiers, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Serhii Haidai, Head of the Luhansk Oblast Military Administration, reported on the explosion in occupied Lysychansk, where, according to him, up to a hundred Russian soldiers were killed.”

Plumes of smoke seen at Russian military airbase in Gvardeyskoye, Crimea -Kommersant, Reuters reports. “Plumes of black smoke were seen on Tuesday at a Russian military airbase near the settlement of Gvardeyskoye in the centre of Russian-controlled Crimea, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported.”

Moscow blames saboteurs for explosions that rock ammo depot in Russian-annexed Crimea, Reuters reports. “Russia on Tuesday blamed saboteurs for orchestrating a series of explosions at an ammunition depot in Russian-annexed Crimea, a rare admission that armed groups loyal to Ukraine are damaging military logistics and supply lines on territory it controls.”

Explosions in Crimea: record traffic jam on Kerch bridge, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Russian Kremlin-aligned information agency RIA Novosti. “There is record-breaking traffic on the Kerch/ Crimean bridge in Russia-occupied Crimea. On 15 August, 38,297 cars went in both directions. There is no information on how many cars left and entered Crimea. The previous record was registered on 16 August 2020, when there were 37,374 vehicles.

Russia says Ukrainian ‘sabotage’ behind pylon blasts in southern Kursk region, Reuters reports. “Russia’s FSB security service on Tuesday accused Ukrainian “saboteurs” of repeatedly blowing up electricity pylons running from a nuclear reactor complex in the southern Russian region of Kursk, disrupting the plant’s operations.

In a statement, the FSB said saboteur groups had targeted six high-voltage power pylons connected to the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant on Aug. 4, 9 and 12, leading to a “breach” in the plant’s functioning. […] Kursk is about 90 km (55 miles) from the Ukrainian border and one of several Russian cities to have been hit by explosions at fuel depots and ammunition dumps since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly six months ago.”

The railroad was blown up in Kursk Oblast in Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Baza, a Russian Telegram channel. “On 16 August in Kursk Oblast in Russia, a part of the railroad was blown up, as reported by the Russian media outlets. The railroad was used for freight trains only.”

The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, informed General Wayne Donald Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces,  about the situation at the front line. “It is intense but fully controlled. The location of missile systems along the state border shared with the Republic of Belarus, in particular at the Ziabrivka airfield, triggers concern.

Russian forces continue to advance along the entire front line. At the same time, Russian forces carry out approximately 700-800 shelling of our positions every day, using from 40 to 60 thousand pieces of ammunition. Russian main efforts are concentrated on pushing our troops back from the Donetsk oblast. The most intense situation is now on the axis of Avdiivka-Pisky-Mariinka.”

South: Ukrainian aircraft attack Russian stronghold, concentrations of manpower, Ukrinform reports, citing Operational Command South. “Ukrainian Air Force aircraft in southern Ukraine attacked a Russian stronghold and four clusters of enemy manpower and military equipment on August 16. Ukrainian aircraft launched the attack near Pravdyne, Arkhanhelske, Olhyne, Bilohirka, and Novopetrivka.

Putin, amid setbacks in Ukraine, offers arms to Russia’s ‘many allies’, The New York Times reports. “Russian forces in Ukraine are struggling with artillery shells that miss their targets and rapidly diminishing stocks of precision munitions in a war of aggression that has left Russia isolated from the West. But on Monday, President Vladimir V. Putin addressed a defence industry trade show outside Moscow with a different message: Russia, he said, wants to sell its arms to the world.

Mr. Putin stood on an outdoor stage in front of a largely uniformed crowd and offered to sell Russia’s “most advanced weapons” to what he said were Moscow’s “many allies.” The weapons, he claimed, are helping achieve Russia’s goal of “step-by-step liberating the lands of the Donbas,” Ukraine’s eastern region.

“Russia sincerely cherishes its historically strong, friendly, truly trusting ties with the states of Latin America, Asia and Africa,” Mr. Putin said. “We are ready to offer our allies and partners the most modern types of weapons, from small arms to armored vehicles and artillery, military aviation and unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Russian state media said delegations from 72 countries were attending the trade show, called “Army 2022.” Belarus, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan each mounted their own exhibits, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.”

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 175: Another explosion in Crimea ~~

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): 

  • On 16 August 2022, both Russian and Ukrainian officials acknowledged that an ammunition dump had exploded near Dzhankoi in northern Crimea, where a nearby railway and electricity sub-station were also likely damaged. Russian media also reported that smoke was rising from near Gvardeyskoye Airbase in the centre of Crimea.
  • Dzhankoi and Gvardeyskoye are home to two of the most important Russian military airfields in Crimea. Dzhankoi is also a key road and rail junction that plays an important role in supplying Russia’s operations in southern Ukraine.
  • The cause of these incidents and the extent of the damage is not yet clear but Russian commanders will highly likely be increasingly concerned with the apparent deterioration in security across Crimea, which functions as rear base area for the occupation.
  • The surface vessels of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet continue to pursue an extremely defensive posture, with patrols generally limited to waters within sight of the Crimean coast. This contrasts with heightened Russian naval activity in other seas, as is typical for this time of year.
  • The Black Sea Fleet continues to use long-range cruise missiles to support ground offensives but is currently struggling to exercise effective sea control. It has lost its flagship, MOSKVA; a significant portion of its naval aviation combat jets; and control of Zmiinyi (Snake) Island.
  • The Black Fleet’s currently limited effectiveness undermines Russia’s overall invasion strategy, in part because the amphibious threat to Odesa has now been largely neutralised. This means Ukraine can divert resources to press Russian ground forces elsewhere.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of 17 August, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:

As of Wednesday 17 August, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:

  • Personnel – more than 44100 (+200),
  • Tanks – 1886 (+6),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 4162 (+10),
  • Artillery systems – 993 (+4),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 263 (+0),
  • Air defence means – 136 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 233 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 196 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 3054 (+5),
  • Vessels/boats – 15 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 790 (+3),
  • Special equipment – 93 (+1),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 190 (+0)

Russian enemy suffered the greatest losses (of the last day) in the Kharkiv and Donetsk directions.

Humanitarian 

About 350,000 people are living under occupation in the Luhansk region, Ukrainska Pravda reports citing Kyiv Post. “More than 300,000 (people) have left the area where the active phase of hostilities took place. That means there are about 350,000 people left in the territory of Luhansk Oblast. Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk Oblast Military Administration, recalled that Luhansk Oblast, as part of Ukraine, used to have a population of 2,258,000. But after 2014, 30% of the Luhansk region was occupied, including the cities of Alchevsk, Stakhanov and Luhansk.

The population of the Ukrainian-controlled territory was 650,000, plus 200,000 people who had the status of Internally Displaced Persons. 300,000 people left the oblast after the full-scale Russian invasion and the beginning of the active phase of hostilities, so about 350,000 citizens are currently living under occupation.”

Ukraine says it can export 3 million tonnes of grain from ports next month, Reuters reports. “Ukraine can export 3 million tonnes of grain from its ports in September and may in the future be able to export 4 million tonnes from them monthly, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yuriy Vaskov said on Tuesday. He said Ukraine had received applications for 30 ships to come to Ukraine in the next two weeks to export grain.”

More than 563,000 tonnes of agricultural products have already been exported from Ukraine through ‘grain corridors’, Ukrinform reports, citing the report of the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, the data of which was made public by TRT Haber TV channel. “Since the beginning of August, 563,317 tonnes of agricultural products have already been exported from Ukraine through the “grain corridors”. In particular, almost 451,500 tonnes of corn, 50,300 tonnes of sunflower meal, 41,600 tonnes of wheat, 11,000 tonnes of soybeans, 6,000 tonnes of sunflower oil, 2,900 tonnes of sunflower seeds have been exported.

From August 1 to August 15, 36 ships were allowed to pass along the ‘grain corridors’. In total, 21 ships heading from Ukraine transported 563,317 tonnes of foodstuffs. During this period, 21 ships were allowed to leave and 15 – to enter the ports of Ukraine,” the TV channel informs with reference to the report of the Joint Coordination Center.”

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 175: Another explosion in Crimea ~~

OHCHR recorded 13,212 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of August 14. 5,514 were killed (including 356 children) and 7,698 injured (including 595 children).

️️Environmental 

Germany says undecided on nuclear plants extension, Reuters reports. “Germany’s government denied a media report on Tuesday that it had decided to postpone the closure of its last three nuclear power plants, saying it would make its final decision once it received the results of ongoing stress tests.

The plants are due to be shut down by the end of the year under legislation introduced by the government of former Chancellor Angela Merkel following the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in 2011.

But debate is intense in Germany about whether to keep them running longer given a possible energy crisis this winter following a decline in Russian gas deliveries.”

Russia targets Energoatom in an extensive cyberattack, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Energoatom. “On 16 August 2022, the Energoatom website suffered the most extensive cyber attack since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion. The attack was carried out from the territory of the Russian Federation.

People’s CyberArmy, a Russian cyber group, has carried out the attack using 7.25 million bots, which simulated hundreds of millions of views of the company’s homepage over the course of three hours. Energoatom said that the attack did not significantly affect the website’s functionality; regular users were able to continue perusing the website without disruptions.

On 15 August, the Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine’s Parliament – ed.] appealed to world organisations, parliaments, and state governments to condemn the act of nuclear terrorism committed by Russia at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar.”

Legal 

361 children were killed, 712 children injured, 6,809 deported by foe forces, and 225 reported missing – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of August 15. 2,328 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 289 of them are destroyed fully. 28,798 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 13,412 crimes against national security were registered.

Support 

Latvia has supplied Ukraine with six self-propelled howitzers “M109” and the ammunition needed for their use, the Ukrainian General Staff reports.

Latvians launch fundraiser to buy Bayraktar UAV for Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ziedot.lv charity platform. “In Latvia, a fundraising campaign has kicked off for the purchase of a Bayraktar strike drone for the needs of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.”

The Slovakian “Self-propelled howitzers Zuzana have arrived in Ukraine, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “These are the 7th such NATO-style weapons for Ukrainian Army. Zuzanas will be in the great company of M777, FH70, CAESARs, M109, Krabs and PzH 2000.”

Action wanes at U.N. to isolate Russia almost six months into the Ukraine war, Reuters reports. “On a June night under the chandeliers of Russia’s United Nations mission in New York, dozens of U.N. ambassadors from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia attended a reception to mark the country’s national day – less than four months after its forces invaded neighbouring Ukraine. “We thank all of you for your support and your principled position against the so-called anti-Russian crusade,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told them, after accusing countries he did not name of trying to “cancel” Russia and its culture.

The crowd of ambassadors illustrated the difficulties facing Western diplomats in trying to sustain international resolve to isolate Russia diplomatically after an initial flurry of U.N. denunciations for attacking Ukraine.

Wary of frustration and concern among some countries that the war is consuming too much global attention nearly six months in with no prospect of the United Nations being able to end it, Western diplomats acknowledge they are limited in how they can significantly further target Russia beyond having meetings. As the war has dragged on, it has become harder to find meaningful ways to penalize Russia, said Richard Gowan, U.N. director at the independent International Crisis Group.

In some cases, Western countries are shying away from some specific moves, fearing tepid support, as rising vote abstentions have signalled a growing unwillingness to publicly oppose Moscow, diplomats and observers said. The European Union mulled a plan in June to appoint a U.N. expert to investigate human rights violations in Russia, according to diplomats, but it shelved the idea over fears nearly half the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva might oppose it.”

New Developments 

  1. Russia says ‘no need’ to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, ReutersRussia has no need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, its defence minister said on Tuesday, describing media speculation that Moscow might deploy nuclear or chemical weapons in the conflict as absolute lies. “From a military point of view, there is no need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine to achieve the set goals. The main purpose of Russian nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack, Sergei Shoigu said during a speech at an international security conference in Moscow.”
  2. Zelensky about visa ban for Russians: Close borders for a year and you’ll see the result, Ukrinform reports, citing The Washington Post. “There is nothing in these sanctions that takes away property or human life. I said from the very beginning that I believe that the most important sanctions are to close the borders because they are taking away someone else’s territory. Well, let them live in their own world until they change their philosophy, Zelensky said, noting that this measure will be more effective than any other sanctions.”
  3. Finland limits visas to Russians amid a rush of Europe-bound tourists, ReutersFinland will slash the number of visas issued to Russians from Sept. 1 […]. Finnish land border crossings have remained among the few entry points into Europe for Russians after a string of Western countries closed their airspace to Russian planes in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Finland would cut daily visa application appointments in Russia from 1,000 to 500 per day, with just 100 allocated to tourists, the ministry said. Finland and the Baltic states would also propose that the European Union discontinues a visa facilitation agreement with Russia that makes it easier for Russians to travel to and within the European Union, Haavisto said.”
  4. Estonian visa cancellation has ordinary Russians worried, ReutersEstonia this week will close its border to more than 50,000 Russians with previously issued visas, the first country in the European Union to do so, making it harder for ordinary Russians to enter the EU. We will sanction all the Schengen visas which are valid currently except some humanitarian and family-related cases,” Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu told Reuters, adding that the government was considering closing the Estonian-Russian border completely to all Russians.”
  5. Guterres to meet with Zelensky, Erdogan in Lviv on Aug 18, UkrinformOn Thursday, August 18, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will arrive in Lviv to attend a trilateral meeting with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

map source: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-august-16

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of 16 August, 2022:

Russian and Ukrainian sources reported explosions at an airfield and a critical Russian supply nexus in Crimea on August 16. Local reports and videos show a series of explosions at a Russian ammunition depot and a transformer substation in Dzhankoiskyi District and an airfield near Hvardiiske, Crimea. These explosions both caused significant damage to Russian resources and seriously disrupted Russian logistics. Russian forces have used Dzhankoi as a railway hub for transporting troops and equipment to occupied settlements in southern Zaporizhzhia Oblast, including Melitopol. Russian authorities temporarily suspended passenger rail service from Russia into Crimea following the attack.

Ukrainian forces have not officially claimed responsibility for these explosions. The New York Times reported that an anonymous senior Ukrainian official attributed the explosions in Dzhankoiskyi District to an elite Ukrainian military unit operating behind enemy lines, but no Ukrainian official has publicly come forward to claim responsibility. The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement calling the explosions a result of sabotage.

A Ukrainian strike on logistical targets in Crimea, which is the sovereign territory of Ukraine, would not violate Ukrainian commitments to Western partners regarding Ukraine’s use of Western-supplied weapons within Ukrainian territory or stated US policy regarding Ukraine’s right to use force to regain control of all its territory including areas seized by Russia in 2014. There are no indications that Ukrainian forces used US-supplied weapons in recent strikes on Crimea, and it is unlikely that they did since the targets are well beyond the range of the US-provided systems.

Attacks on Russian positions in and around Crimea are likely part of a coherent Ukrainian counter-offensive to regain control of the west bank of the Dnipro River. Russian supply lines from Crimea directly support Russian forces in mainland Ukraine including those in western Kherson Oblast. Ukraine’s targeting of Russian ground lines of communication and logistic and support assets in Crimea is consistent with the Ukrainian counteroffensive effort that has also targeted bridges over the Dnipro River and Russian logistical support elements in occupied Kherson Oblast. The net effects of this campaign will likely be to disrupt the ability of Russian forces to sustain mechanized forces on the west bank of the Dnipro River and to defend them with air and artillery assets on the east bank from Ukrainian counterattacks.

The Kremlin continues efforts to misrepresent its likely maximalist goals in Ukraine. ISW assesses that Russian strategic objectives remain unchanged: changing the regime change in Kyiv and securing territorial control over most of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin omitted mention of territory outside of Donbas while describing the goals of Russia’s war in Ukraine on August 15. Putin closed his preliminary remarks to the Army-2022 forum on August 15 with the claim that Russian and Donbas forces are “doing their duty” to fight for Russia and “liberate” Donbas. Such a limited statement of Russian goals sharply contrasts with previously articulated Russian war goals to “denazify” and “demilitarize” all of Ukraine. Putin‘s relatively limited statement additionally is incompatible with Russian actions to integrate occupied parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts into the Russian Federation.

Key Takeaways

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. August 16, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. August 16, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • Russian forces conducted ground attacks across the Eastern Axis but failed to advance northwest of Sloviansk and east of Siversk.
  • Russian forces are launching offensive operations around Bakhmut, southwest of Avdiivka, and southwest of Donetsk City.
  • Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations in northern and northwestern Kherson Oblast.

  • The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Ukrainian forces in Nikopol are preparing to conduct provocations at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, possibly setting information conditions for further shelling of Nikopol or provocations of its own.
  • Chechen units are reportedly relocating to Kherson Oblast to police Russian military deserters.

Russian forces struggle to recruit soldiers even for safe, prestigious jobs.

Russian military expert opens up: ‘The situation at the front is getting dramatic’, De Telegraaf reported a week ago. Critical reports about the state of the Russian army and setbacks on the battlefield usually come from the Ukrainians or Western intelligence services. But now it is a leading Russian military expert who openly puts his finger on the sore spot for the Russians in an interview: “The situation at the front is getting dramatic.”

“To put it bluntly, we are not superior in the air,” said [Ruslan Pukhov], the director of The Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST). He has close ties to the arms industry and the Russian Defense Ministry. In addition, as a military expert, Pukhov is a member of the Advisory Council of the Russian Federation and is an unadulterated patriot.[…] “With the provision of modern western medium-range anti-aircraft defences, the situation will only get worse.”

There are many problems. First, we don’t have enough precision-guided ammunition. It has the advantage that it is accurate even from a great height, explains Pukhov. Our latest version of the SU-34 bomber aircraft does not belong to the fifth generation either. That means that the “most modern form of targeting” is missing. “It greatly reduces the efficiency of pressurizing anti-aircraft defences and taking out troops. The planes are thus forced to drop unguided bombs at heights where they are vulnerable to portable anti-aircraft systems or even have to cut off air support to our troops. Air defence systems were therefore the first weapons that the West sent to Ukraine.

A chronic lack of drones (which the Ukrainians have) makes it all the more difficult for Russia. [Ukraine] is better than us at target location. […] The Ukrainians have learned to use their artillery in combination with drones. They have a much better overview of what’s happening on the ground than we do. The Ukrainian army has been fighting it in Donbas for eight years. When it comes to an artillery duel, we often lose. The use of drones has revolutionized artillery. We missed that evolution.

The artillery usually has to make do with old conventional rockets and grenades. The Special Military Operation proves once again that two expensive modern guided missiles are more effective than thousands of cheap bombs. They will cause more damage, especially if Russian forces is deeply entrenched or hiding in bunkers. Bombing cities flat doesn’t make progress either. That is the strategy of the First World War. It will not work if there is no superiority over Russian forces infantry. This is only possible with modern reconnaissance equipment and smart bombs. We do not have that.”

According to Pukhov, the Russian army has missed the boat on another important front. We have never invested in long-range artillery. This trend has been around since the 1980s. With the delivery of the British and American GPS-controlled systems that have a range of up to 85 kilometres, the situation may become “dramatic”, warns the military expert. The Ukrainians can now destroy our systems. […]

The front is long and there are not enough soldiers. It’s simple: the Ukrainians have to defend and have a lot of soldiers and artillery. We must try to break through that front with too few personnel and vulnerable tanks and armoured cars. De facto we are fighting an army in peacetime. Ukraine is already in the fourth wave of mobilization, so there is no shortage of people. […]

For now, the new western weapons are making only a little difference. Pukhov sees reluctance in the West to supply them en masse. […] But the top Russian adviser does think that the Ukrainians “learn quickly.”

They surprised him. “They have emerged as talented fighters. But so far, the Ukrainian military has not shown that the offensive is capable of much. They have the same problems as us. The attacking forces usually consist of small groups, they come under artillery fire that they cannot eliminate. They can’t keep their positions for long and their armoured cars are knocked out en masse and eventually have to retreat.”

Russia amassing forces in Belarus, could ‘congratulate’ Ukraine on Independence Day with missiles, Ukrinform reports. “Ukraine must be ready for missile strikes from Belarusian territory as the Russians amass weapons there. We constantly observe the movement of [Russian] troops in the territory of Belarus, as well as the transportation of ammunition, Iskander and other types of missiles. This happens all the time. If an Il-76 flies from the Russian Federation to the territory of Belarus, then it is clear that it delivers weapons,” Yuriy Ihnat, Spokesperson for the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said.

There are intelligence data indicating that Russian forces amass its forces in Belarusian territory, he noted. This also has a political component: to threaten the West, and threaten Ukraine. There has always been a certain threat from the territory of Belarus, and let me remind you that it was its territory that Russia used from the first days of the full-scale invasion and launched strikes from there with various weapons: airplanes, Iskander and Tochka-U missiles. Therefore, we must definitely be prepared for possible missile strikes,” Ihnat emphasized.

Five takeaways from The Post’s examination of the road to war in Ukraine, The Washington Post reports. A months-long examination by The Washington Post of the road to war in Ukraine, including Western efforts to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, is based on extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior US, Ukrainian, European and NATO officials. Here are some key findings:

  1. The United States intelligence community penetrated multiple points of Russia’s political leadership, spying apparatus and military, and found Vladimir Putin preparing for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In the Oval Office in October 2021, President Biden’s top advisers presented him with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war plans for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. US intelligence agencies had used satellite imagery, intercepted communications and human sources to show that Putin was massing troops along Ukraine’s border with the aim of seizing the capital, Kyiv, and much of the country, leaving only a rump Ukrainian state in the west.

The United States had discovered Putin sharply increasing funding for military operations while leaving his pandemic response underfunded. “We assess that they plan to conduct a significant strategic attack on Ukraine from multiple directions simultaneously,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Biden. “Their version of ‘shock and awe.’ ”

  1. Every decision on arming Ukraine was predicated on not giving Russia a reason to attack the United States and NATO.

Biden was determined to rally NATO allies in the face of the impending invasion without provoking a direct conflict between Russia and the United States. Milley carried note cards in his briefcase encapsulating the US interests and strategic objectives, as well as the high stakes. Problem: ‘How do you underwrite and enforce the rules-based international order’ against a country with extraordinary nuclear capability, ‘without going to World War III?’ Every decision on arming Ukraine was predicated on not giving Russia a reason to escalate, often to the frustration of Ukrainian officials, who pressed the United States to send increasing numbers of more powerful weapons, even as they publicly doubted that the invasion would happen. […]

  1. Biden dispatched his top intelligence official to confront Putin with evidence of Russia’s war planning.

Biden sent CIA Director William J. Burns to Moscow to deliver Putin a message: We know what you’re up to, and if you invade, there will be severe consequences. Burns delivered a personal letter from Biden, and he spoke to Putin by phone from an office in the Kremlin. The Russian leader had decamped to the resort city of Sochi during a coronavirus wave that placed Moscow under lockdown. […]  Burns concluded that Putin had not made an irreversible decision to invade. But, he reported back to Biden after the phone call, “my level of concern has gone up, not down.”

  1. Kyiv complained US intelligence wasn’t specific enough to prepare for an invasion.

Ukrainian officials complained that whenever the Americans shared their bleak outlook about an imminent invasion, they never fully provided Kyiv with the details of their intelligence. […] “We asked for details; there were none,” Kuleba said.

  1. Zelensky suspected that some Western officials wanted him to flee.

The Ukrainian leader worried that with his government out of the way and a Kremlin-backed regime installed, NATO powers would seek a negotiated settlement with Moscow over Ukraine. “The Western partners wanted to — I’m sure someone was really worried about what would happen to me and my family,” Zelensky said. “But someone probably wanted to just end things faster. I think the majority of people who called me — well, almost everyone — did not have faith that Ukraine can stand up to this and persevere.”

Similarly, warning Ukrainians to prepare for war as some partners wanted him to, he said, would have weakened the country economically and made it easier for the Russians to capture. “Let people discuss in the future whether it was right or not right,” Zelensky recalled, “but I definitely know and intuitively — we discussed this every day at the National Security and Defense Council, et cetera — I had the feeling that [the Russians] wanted to prepare us for a soft surrender of the country. And that’s scary.”

Consequences and what to do? 

US allies most vulnerable to Russia press for more troops and weapons, The Washington Post reports. “As the United States and NATO inject personnel and equipment into Eastern Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, vulnerable allies such as Latvia are scrambling to scale up their defenses for fear they will be next to come under attack.

Like Ukraine, which is not a NATO member but considered a close partner of the alliance, the countries closest to Russia say they are desperate for more Western military aid. It is essential to arm themselves as well as Ukraine, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said during a visit from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin this month, because there is a real risk the war will “come to our borders.”

The Biden administration has vowed to boost side-by-side exercises in the region to hone proficiency in air-defense capability and other vital combat skills, not only in Latvia but across the Baltics and in other nations within easy striking distance of Russian forces. About 100,000 US troops are deployed across Europe, an increase of 20,000 in recent months, with a growing center of gravity in the east. But for those on Russia’s doorstep, it’s not yet enough.

The NATO members bordering Russia and Belarus — which, once considered a buffer state, has functioned as a forward-operating base for Russian troops since the start of the Ukraine war — are pleased, they say, that the United States along with Europe’s financial powerhouses have embraced the view that Russia poses an existential threat to the West.

The military investments made over the past six months are accepted with gratitude, but leaders in the region believe the alliance must become more aggressive in the long term. They are mindful of the resistance from some corners of Congress to moving more US personnel to Europe during a time of rising tensions with China, but most insist that having a greater American footprint in Europe is necessary to keeping Moscow at bay.

Even more vital, Baltic and Eastern European officials say, is a turbocharging of defense production lines to accelerate fulfillment of long-standing orders for weapons that these front-line countries say they require. […]

We are on the brink of taking risks, [Kusti Salm, secretary general of the Estonian Defense Ministry], said. “Very heavy risks of our own national security tapping into some of our reserves. … And I know that there are other allies doing the same. So the only solution is rapidly ramping up the manufacturing power, and making sure the policy framework and policy financing signal support for this. […] Many of those countries also have been supplying Ukraine with NATO-compatible heavy weapons from their own stocks. […]

In an interview, the Polish defense attache, Brig. Gen. Krzysztof Nolbert, said “winning that war is absolutely fundamental to security in Europe.” Poland is the third-largest donor to the Ukrainian military, Nolbert added, and has routinely urged the West to support Kyiv “more decisively as opposed to incrementally,” including by sending in fighter jets. […]

Recently, the head of Poland’s national security bureau, Pawel Soloch, spoke with President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, about the need for defense production to be more responsive to escalating threats […].

Latvia now considers the Belarus and Russian borders as one and the same, Pabriks said, and officials here closely watch what’s happening on the other side with the aid of intelligence provided by the United States and other partners. […]

 

Hans Petter Midttun: The article “Five takeaways from The Post’s examination of the road to war in Ukraine” is interesting reading, and reminds us of the cynicism of international diplomacy. But it is also a reminder of what failed diplomacy looks like and ultimately, the extreme costs connected to its failure.

As previously argued, I believe Russia and President Putin were surprised by the strong and comprehensive Western response to its assault on Ukraine on 24 February. Most probably he did not expect the USA and Europe to come together and jointly introduce the most comprehensive package of sanctions ever in history. Russia did not expect to be subjected to what it describes as a Western total, economic, information, and cultural war. Most likely Putin did not expect the USA and Europe to supply Ukraine with modern, high-tech weapons on the scale we have witnessed for more than 2 months already, either. Neither did he expect Europe to slowly turn its back to Russian energy.

Why? Because the West failed to respond resolutely to more than 15 years of its violations of international law. This includes not only its attack on Georgia and its brazen Hybrid War against the West but also its multiple transgressions since the international community first introduced sanctions over its illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea in 2014. These includes:

Since the sanctions were introduced in 2014, Russia has:

  1. Continuously evolved its aggression against Ukraine, including the illegal annexation, as well as continuous militarization and humanitarian violations in Crimea; the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and the creation of new permanent military formations along the Ukrainian border; the downing of MH-17, the maritime blockade in the Sea of Azov and attack on the Ukrainian Navy; and its still ongoing attempt to undermine Ukraine from within using non-military means; and not least, its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and multiple war crimes.
  2. Become involved in war crimes during the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Syria;
  3. Launched an ongoing borderization” in Georgia, gradually reducing the territory of Georgia;
  4. Attempted to orchestrate a coup in Montenegro (2016);
  5. Assassinated (or made attempts to) Russian individuals in the United Kingdom (using a military-grade nerve agent, Skripal, 2018) and Germany (Zelimkhan Khangoshvili shot in Berlin 2019).
  6. Conducted multiple cyber-attacks against many Western nations like Denmark, Estonia, FranceGeorgiaGermany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States;
  7. Attempted to meddle in past and present referendums and elections in several Western nations like the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Germany, NetherlandsSpainUnited Kingdom, and the United States;
  8. Continued its influence operations against many Western nations like France, Germany, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States, aimed at undermining political processes and increasing polarization in Europe and NATO (In 2018, 85% of Europeans believed that “fake news” is a problem for their country and 83 percent felt that its impact on democracy, in general, was a problem); and
  9. Continued its ongoing militarization of the Arctic while imposing restrictions on the freedom of navigation of both military and commercial vessels through the Northern Sea Route, threatening the use of force in case of no compliance.

If the assessment is correct – if President Putin was indeed surprised big time – it is an indication of our failure to demonstrate the unity and resolve – will and ability – to restrict Russia’s conceived freedom of action. Russia has developed and acted according to an increasingly more aggressive foreign policy believing that the West was weak, and not willing to defend shared values and principles.

Sending  CIA Director William J. Burns to Moscow to deliver Putin a message was, therefore, bound to fail. After having failed for 8 years to both respond forcefully and arm Ukraine, and having replaced action with words only (“nations of concerned”), Russia had no reason to believe we would respond this time.

According to the article, “Biden was determined to rally NATO allies in the face of the impending invasion without provoking a direct conflict between Russia and the United States.” That is consistent with the strategic messaging since February 24 by not only President Biden but also all heads of states of all NATO member countries.

That, however, does not make the message more credible.

The fact remains that the war in Ukraine threatens European security, stability and prosperity. Russia – irrespective of our desire to stay detached – has already defined the USA and NATO as both being a part of the war in Ukraine and accused us of waging war against Russia. It has publically declared that the West is waging an information war,  economic war, acts of aggression, war with Russia through a proxy and a total war against the Russian Federation. It has even waged a Hybrid War against the West for years. In December 2021 it handed over brazen ultimatums to both the USA and NATO member states before starting a new phase of its war against Ukraine.

Equally important, for more than 8 years Russia has done its best to ensure the West remains detached. The Hybrid War was designed to avoid a confrontation with the West. The main purpose of the Minsk agreement was to make sure we didn’t help rebuild the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The war stopped the NATO membership process dead in its tracks. And it helped to keep the Alliance at a safe distance. The bottom line is that despite its rhetoric and coercive diplomacy, Russia does not want a war with the USA and NATO. It never did, and it never will.

Acting as if none of the above has happened, is at best naïve and at worst, a continuation of a 15-year-old flawed policy of not responding in a manner Russia understand: From strength, resolutely and forcefully. That raises the risk of Russia making more strategic blunders in the time to come, increasing the likelihood of an armed confrontation.

NATO is still not acting according to its past strategic concepts but has instead published a new concept committing to do less. Despite all of the above, and the “tsunami of ripple effects” from the war (e.g. costs of living, food and energy insecurity, famine, recession, inflation, and more) increasing the likelihood of global unrest, riots, and collapse of the governments – despite all of this, NATO has decided to limit its engagement to the political sphere, deciding to provide Ukraine with nonlethal support only. The Alliance has decided not to conduct a humanitarian intervention in Ukraine to end the war and alleviate the many devastating consequences of the war.

The Russian actions since 2008 are, therefore, not only a testimony of our failed diplomacy but also a very flawed military strategy.

We are accepting unimaginable costs at all levels, while failing to correct Putin’s perception of the USA, NATO and the EU as weak. That will only embolden an aggressor that believes victory is within reach.

 

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