Russo Ukrainian War. Day 177: Nuclear disaster or provocation at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant?

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Russian invaders plot provocation at Zaporizhzhia NPP for Aug 19. Russia refuses to create a demilitarized zone around Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant urges the world to prevent a nuclear disaster. Russian strikes on residential areas of Kharkiv killed at least 20 civilians. Ukrainian Air Force carries out 4 attacks on concentrations of the Russian military. Explosions at the military airfield in Sevastopol.  EU ambassador, SAPO head discuss the importance of continuing anti-corruption efforts. Slovakia to send weapons to Ukraine despite Russia’s efforts to prevent supplies.

Daily overview — Summary report, August 18

Situation in Ukraine. August 18, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. August 18, 2022. Source: ISW.

The situation as of August 19 according to military expert Stanislav Haider:

The Estonian government has approved a new military aid package for Ukraine, which includes new batches of mortars and anti-tank weapons, as well as another field hospital.

Donetsk Oblast. In the directions of Bakhmut and Siversk, the Ukrainian troops repulsed all Russian assaults. As in recent days, the Russians have been conducting an assault on Bakhmut from three directions, the newest one being northwest of Klynove. Fighting continues in this area and Russia transferred up to 1 battalion-tactical group here. Avdiivka saw more Russian attempts at attacks from different sides. In the north, Russians attacked the area of ​​Oleksandropol, unsuccessfully. From the south, heavy fighting continues. Fighting continues on the outskirts of Mariinka (eastern side) from the direction of Novomykhailivka, where the Russian forces have partial success.

Kharkiv Oblast. A warehouse in Timonovo, Russia’s Belgorod Oblast, which supplied ammunition for the Izium group and for the shelling of Kharkiv, has been eliminated. For several days now, the intensity of fighting in the areas of Brazhkivka and Dovhenke has been increasing. It is reported that another Russian strategic reserve, the “3rd Army Corps,” is operating in this area.

Kherson Oblast saw no significant changes, both on the front line and in the composition/disposition of the troops. The Injulets bridgehead is under Ukraine’s control. Russians are building pontoons at the Kherson Shipyard for the construction of a pontoon crossing across the Dnipro river. There is also information that the Russian Rosgvardia was withdrawn from Kherson to the left bank. After the attack on Belbek, the Russians set up roadblocks and began looking for saboteurs. Also, yesterday an FSB base in Mizhvodne on the western coast of Crimea caught fire.

Zaporizhzhia Oblast. The situation at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant continues to be extremely difficult, Russian are accumulating a significant amount of equipment in the engine rooms right next to the reactors. As for combat operations at the front, there have been no major changes. Russians continue laying mines in the area of ​​Dorozhnianka and Inzhenerne to protect Polohy. Fighting continues in the areas of Nesterianka and Shcherbaky. An unsuccessful Russian attack targeted the direction of Vuhledar. Local social media groups wrote about an increase in this direction by one Russian battalion-tactical group.

The Ukrainian artillery destroyed:

  • Russian ammunition warehouses in Amvrosiivka (Donetsk Oblast), Blahodatne and Beryslav district (Kherson Oblast), Russia’s Belgorod Oblast;
  • Russian bases in Nova Kakhovka (Kherson Oblast), Kadiivka (Luhansk Oblast);

Explosions were heard at Kerch and Belbek (occupied Crimea).

 

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, August 18, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below. 

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According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 18.08.2022, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. August 18, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. August 18, 2022. Source: ISW.

“[Russian forces continue to focus its efforts on establishing full control over the territories of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, holding captured Kherson oblast and parts of Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Mykolayiv oblasts, restoring the combat capability of units that have suffered losses, and preventing a possible counteroffensive by the Defense Forces.]

There are no changes on the Volyn, Polissya and Siversky directions. Russian forces shelled the village of Pavlivka, Sumy oblast, with artillery. [Yesterday, Russian forces fired from barrel artillery in the areas of Studenok, Pavlivka and Velyka Pysarivka settlements of the Sumy region.]

[In the Slobozhansky direction:]

Kharkiv Battle Map. August 18,2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. August 18,2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Kharkiv direction, [Russian forces are trying to hold the occupied positions, carry out measures to restore the combat capability of the units that have suffered losses, and replenish the supplies of logistical support for the troops. Replenished the grouping with a battalion tactical group and deployed additional electronic warfare systems.]
    • Russian forces fired tanks, artillery and MLRS in the areas of Kharkiv, Chuhuiv, Zolochiv, Protopopivka, Sosnivka, Korobochkyne, Shestakove, Milova, Duvanka, Husarivka and Prudyanka settlements. [Yesterday, they employed tanks, barrel artillery and multiple rocket fire systems for shelling the areas of the settlements of Udy, Kalynove, Slatyne, Derhachi, Pytomnyk, Bazaliivka, Ruska Lozova, Ruski Tyshky, Cherkaski Tyshki, Petrivka, Kutuzivka, Staryy Saltiv, Ivanivka, Husarivka, Pechenyhy, Lebyazhe, Korobochkyne, Stara Hnylytsia, Slobozhanske, Chepil and Velyki Prohody.
    • Strikes from planes and helicopters near Yavirske, Stary Saltiv, Lebyazhe and Zalyman. [Yesterday, the occupiers also carried out airstrikes near Verkhnyi Saltiv, Stariy Saltiv and Baranivka.]
  • In the Sloviansk direction, he carried out fire damage from artillery of various types in the areas near Dibrivny, Dovhenky, Virnopilla, Sulyhivka, Chepil, Mazanivka, and Bohorodychne. [In the Sloviansk direction, Russian forces fired from artillery and MLRS near Hrushuvakha, Velyka Komyshuvakha, Krasnopilla, Dibrivne, Virnopilla, Brazhivka, Chervone, Adamivka, Mazanivka, Nortsivka, Dolyna, and Bohorodychne.]
    • Russian forces tried to conduct assault operations in the directions Barabashivka – Karnaukhivka, Sulyhivka – Dibrivne, Sulyhivka – Nova Dmytrivka.
Donetsk Battle Map. August 18, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. August 18, 2022. Source: ISW.

[In the Donetsk direction:]

  • In the Kramatorsk direction, shelling was recorded near Siversk, Rozdolivka, Hryhorivka, Sydorove, and Pryshyb. [Yesterday, shelling was recorded near Siversk, Serebryanka, Rozdolivka, Hryhorivka, Spirne, Verkhnyokamyanske, Zvanivka, Ivano-Daryivka, Fedorivka, Berestove, Vesele, and Kryva Luka. In addition, Russian forces carried out an air strike near Spirne.]
    • [The occupiers made an unsuccessful attempt to attack in the Mykolaivka-Vyimka They suffered losses and retreated.]
  • In the Bakhmut direction, the impact of fire from tanks, artillery and MLRS was noted in the areas of the settlements of Bakhmut, Soledar, Berestove, Vesele, Zaitseve, Yakovlivka, Kodema, Spirne, Ivano-Daryivka, Bilohorivka and Zalizne. The occupiers struck with attack aircraft in the Soledar area. [Yesterday, Russian forces shelled the areas of Bakhmut, Soledar, Zaytseve, Yakovlivka, Kodema, Bilohorivka, Vershyna and Zalizne settlements from tanks and artillery of various types. Used aviation for strikes on the districts of Soledar, Bakhmut, Yakovlivka, Zaytseve, Pokrovske, Vesela Dolyna and Bilohorivka.]
    • [Yesterday, Russian forces tried to break through the defence of our troops and advance from the districts of Volodymyrivka, Pokrovske, Klynove, Semihirya and Holmivskyi in the direction of the city of Bakhmut. Had no success, and retreated.]
    • Russian forces waged offensive battles in the direction of Spirne – Vyimka, Strapivka – Soledar, Volodymyrivka – Soledar, Klynove – Bakhmut, Vershyna – Kodema. Russian units did not succeed in the indicated areas and retreated.
    • Battles continue in the direction Pokrovske – Bakhmutske.
  • In the Avdiyivka direction, artillery shelling was recorded near Avdiyivka, Maryinka, Krasnohorivka, Pisky, Opytne, Pervomaiske, Nevelske, Novobakhmutivka, and Netaylove. Russian forces launched airstrikes near Maryinka, Novomykhailivka, and Pavlivka. [Yesterday, the areas of the settlements of Avdiivka, Maryinka, Krasnohorivka, Pisky, Opytne, Pervomaiske, Nevelske, Kamianka, Vesele, Novobakhmutivka, Netaylove, New York and Yuryivka were hit by fire from tanks, artillery and MLRS.]
    • [Russian occupiers used aviation to strike directly at the settlement of Krasnohorivka.]
    • Conducts assault operations in the direction of Lozove – Pervomaiske, hostilities continue. [Yesterdy, Russian forces made unsuccessful attempts to improve the tactical position in the directions of Verkhnotoretske – Kam’yanka, Novoselivka Druha – Avdiivka, Pisky – Pervomaiske and Lozove – Pervomaiske.]
  • In the Novopavlivskyi direction, the areas of Pavlivka, Volodymyrivka, Velyka Novosilka, Vuhledar, Novomykhailivka, Prechistivka and Zolota Nyva settlements were affected by fire. [Yesterday, shelling was recorded near Pavlivka, Volodymyrivka, Velika Novosilka, Vuhledar, Vremivka, Novomykhailivka, Prechystivka, and Zolota Nyva. The occupiers also carried out an airstrike near Vuhledar.]
    • [Yesterday, Russian forces tried to improve the tactical position in the Taramchuk-Vodyane It was strongly repulsed and retreated.]
  • In the Zaporizhzhia direction, Russian forces used tanks and artillery near Shevchenko, Charivne, Preobrazhenka, Zaliznychne, Hulyaipole, Novosilka, Stepove, Vremivka, and Dorozhnyaky. [Yesterday, shelling from all available means of fire along the contact line did not stop. Russian forces used aviation near Shcherbaky, Zaliznychne and Novoandriivka.]

In the Pivdenny Buh direction, [enemy units continue to focus their efforts on holding occupied positions and preventing the Defense Forces from creating favourable conditions for counteroffensive actions.] Russian forces continue shelling our positions from tanks, artillery and MLRS along the battle line. He carried out an airstrike in the area of ​​Mykolaivske settlement.

  • [The occupiers strengthened the group with forces up to two battalion tactical groups due to the reserve and the transfer of individual units from other directions.]
  • [Russian forces launched airstrikes near Bilohirka, Bila Krynytsia and Lozove. The Air Force pays a lot of attention to aerial reconnaissance.]

In the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov, three warships with Kalibr cruise missiles are on combat duty.”

Military Updates 

Ukrainian Air Force carries out 4 attacks on concentrations of the Russian military, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Operational Command South. “The Ukrainian Air Force has struck a concentration of Russian military forces in the South. Our units carried out offensive actions twice over the past 24 hours in order to establish control over new settlements. We encountered two airborne assault units during one of the attacks.

In the course of the counterattack, the Russian military suffered fire damage and was forced to withdraw to their original positions with the loss of tanks, armoured vehicles and military personnel. Two Russian PoWs supplemented the Ukrainian PoW exchange fund.”

Explosions at the military airfield in Sevastopol: occupying “authorities” claim it’s air defense in action, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Krym.Realii (Crimea. Realities, a project by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) and Mikhail Razvozhayev (the Russian proxy “governor” of Sevastopol). “Russian and local Telegram channels are reporting explosions at the aggressors’ military airfield in Sevastopol. However, the occupying “authorities” claim that air defence is operating in the region.

Razvozhayev claims that “air defence systems shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle” over the Belbek airfield. He also claims that there were no casualties or damage. This is allegedly the second drone shot down by the Russians in Crimea this evening, according to the occupiers.

A Reuters journalist, citing sources in occupied Crimea, writes that at least four explosions have been heard near the Belbek airfield.”

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 177: Nuclear disaster or provocation at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant? ~~

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

  • Russian strikes on residential areas of Kharkiv killed at least 12 civilians on the afternoon of 17 August 2022. Although the front line in this sector has moved little since May, Ukraine’s second city has been one of the most consistently shelled since start of the invasion, when Russian forces probably aimed to reach the outskirts with 24 hours.
  • Sitting around 15 km from the Russian front line, Kharkiv has suffered because it remains within range of most types of Russian artillery. Multiple rocket launchers and generally inaccurate area weapons have caused devastation across large parts of the city.
  • Russian forces hold the Kharkiv sector relatively lightly but continue to conduct local raids and probing attacks against Ukrainian forces. They are probably trying to force Ukraine to maintain significant forces on this front, to prevent them from being employed as a counter-attack force elsewhere.
  • The heavy attrition of Russian Main Battle Tanks in Ukraine is highly likely partially due to Russia’s failure to fit and properly employ adequate Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA). Used correctly, ERA degrades the effectiveness of incoming projectiles before they hit the tank. This suggests that Russian forces have not rectified a culture of poor ERA use, which dates back to the First Chechen War in 1994.
  • It is highly likely that many Russian tank crews lack the training to maintain ERA, leading to either poor fitting of the explosive elements, or it being left off entirely. These deficiencies probably contribute to the widespread incidents of turret ejection, which are well documented in eye-witness videos from Ukraine.
  • The war has seen numerous failures by Russian commanders to enforce low-level battle discipline – such as the use of ERA. The cumulative effect of these failures is likely a significant factor behind the poor performance of Russia’s forces.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Friday 19 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 44700 (+400),
  • Tanks – 1899 (+10),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 4195 (+16),
  • Artillery systems – 1016 (+6),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 266 (+1),
  • Air defence means – 141 (+5),
  • Aircraft – 234 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 197 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 3130 (+69),
  • Vessels/boats – 15 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 795 (+2),
  • Special equipment – 94 (+1),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 190 (+0)

Russian enemy suffered the greatest losses (of the past day) at the Donetsk direction.

Humanitarian 

Seventeen civilians were killed in Russia’s missile strikes on Kharkiv, Ukrinform reports citing the Head of Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, Oleh Syniehubov. “A total of 17 civilians have been killed in Russia’s late night and early morning missile strikes on the city of Kharkiv. Two more civilians were killed in Russia’s missile strike on the city of Krasnohrad.

During the day, rescuers were dismantling the houses destroyed. Unfortunately, seven more bodies of victims were recovered from under the rubble. Hence, as of now, seventeen civilians have been killed in Kharkiv, including a boy born in 2009. Forty-two civilians were injured, Syniehubov wrote

More than 1,000 residential buildings were destroyed in the Dnipropetrovsk region due to Russian aggression, Ukrinform report. “Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, more than a thousand residential buildings have been destroyed in the region,” Mykola Lukashuk, Head of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council, Deputy Head of the Defense Council of Dnipropetrovsk region, said at a briefing at the Media Center Ukraine–Ukrinform.

According to him, from July 12 to August 16, 309 private residential buildings and 117 apartment blocks were destroyed and damaged in Nikopol district, which is constantly suffering enemy strikes launched from the temporarily captured territories of Zaporizhzhia region.

In Kryvyi Rih district, 30 private houses were completely destroyed and almost 500 were damaged in recent weeks. In Zelenodolsk community, which borders Kherson region, 59 apartment blocks were damaged by shelling, the head of the regional council noted.”

Millions of refugees from Ukraine have crossed borders into neighboring countries, and many more have been forced to move inside the country. The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance the UNHCR reports. As of 17 August:

Individual refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe:             6,657,918

Hungary, Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia: 1,563,760

Other European countries:                                                      2,885,071

Russian Federation, Belarus:                                                   2,209,087

Refugees from Ukraine registered for Temporary Protection or                         similar national protection schemes in Europe:                   3,840,568

Hungary, Republic  of Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia: 1,442,205

Other European countries:                                                      2,398,363

Russian Federation, Belarus: Not Applicable

Border crossings from Ukraine (since 24 February 2022):              11,150,639

Border crossings to Ukraine (since 28 February 2022):                 4,767,914

️️Environmental 

Russian invaders plot provocation at Zaporizhzhia NPP for Aug 19 – intelligence, Ukrinform reports. The Ukrainian intelligence has warned of a possible provocation at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), scheduled by Russian occupiers for August 19, 2022. The relevant statement was made by the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU).

“[Russian] occupiers announced an unexpected ‘day off’ at Zaporizhzhia NPP. On August 19, 2022, only operations personnel will stay at Zaporizhzhia NPP. Any other employees will not be allowed. It is also known that Rosatom’s representatives, who had been constantly present at the plant lately, have urgently left the site,” the report states.

At the same time, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on the Armed Forces of Ukraine allegedly preparing a ‘terrorist attack’. According to the Russian side, during a visit by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to Ukraine, a high-profile provocation is being prepared to accuse Russia of causing a man-made disaster. As expected, Russians are accusing the Ukrainian authorities of preparing a ‘terrorist attack’.

According to the [DIU], based on the available data, it is obvious that, after Russia’s massive shelling of Zaporizhzhia NPP, the occupiers may “up the stakes” and commit a real terrorist attack at Europe’s largest nuclear power facility.”

IAEA Director General ready to lead IAEA delegation to ZNPP, Ukrinform reports. “IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi informed Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba of his readiness to lead a delegation to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. In our call, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi informed me that, responding to Ukraine’s invitation, he is ready to lead an IAEA delegation to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. I emphasized the mission’s urgency to address nuclear security threats caused by Russia’s hostilities,” Kuleba posted on Twitter.

As reported, the Russian military seized the ZNPP on the night of March 4. The EU and 42 countries called on the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its troops from the Zaporizhzhia NPP and the entire territory of Ukraine.

In turn, a crisis headquarters was created at the basis of the National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine (Energoatom), which included representatives of various ministries, structures and departments that may be involved if an emergency situation related to the ZNPP arises.”

Russia refuses to create a demilitarized zone around Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Interfax Russia. “Ivan Nechayev, Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said that Moscow is not considering the proposition to create a demilitarised zone around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).

“The propositions to create a demilitarised zone around the Zaporizhzhia NPP are unacceptable. To implement them would mean to make the power plant even more vulnerable.” Meanwhile, Moscow said that it expects the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit the ZNPP “in the very near future”.”

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant urges the world to prevent a nuclear disaster that will make Chornobyl pale in comparison, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing a statement by the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant staff. “We believe that collective intelligence and goodwill can make the cannons go quiet and prevent an irreversible disaster from occurring. The consequences of such a disaster can be far worse than those of the Chornobyl and Fukushima tragedies.

The world’s nuclear sector has no emergency plans for ensuring the security of nuclear facilities when they become the grounds for military actions. The ZNPP staff note that over the past five months, “countless legal norms, principles and safety regulations have been violated” in the realm of “peaceful use of atomic energy”. They stress that the Zaporizhzhia NPP has essentially become “the target of relentless military attacks” in the past two weeks.”

Legal 

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 177: Nuclear disaster or provocation at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant? ~~

362 children were killed, 716 children injured, 6950 deported by foe forces, and 223 reported missing – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of August 19. 2,328 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 289 of them are destroyed fully. 29,184 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 13,593 crimes against national security were registered.

 

Terrorist attack in Olenivka: Guterres informs Zelensky about the preparation of UN mission, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ukrainian president’s press service. “[UN Secretary General] Antonio Guterres informed about the work on sending a UN mission to establish the facts in Olenivka, where Russia committed a cynical terrorist attack against Ukrainian prisoners of war, the report says.

In his turn, Zelensky proposed including the issue of compliance by the Russian side with the agreements reached in the context of the withdrawal of Ukrainian defenders from Azovstal into the missions’ mandate, as well as ensuring the security and rights of all Ukrainian prisoners of war.

In addition, the issue of illegal and forced deportation of Ukrainian citizens to the Russian Federation and the protection of Ukrainians illegally detained in Russia was discussed at the meeting.”

 

EU ambassador, SAPO head discuss the importance of continuing anti-corruption efforts, Ukrinform reports. “Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine Matti Maasikas discussed with the newly appointed head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, Oleksandr Klymenko, the importance of continuing anti-corruption efforts and the EU’s support to SAPO.

“Great meeting with the newly appointed Specialized Anti-corruption Prosecutor Oleksandr Klymenko. Discussed the importance of continuing anti-corruption efforts and EU´s support to SAPO. Fight against corruption helps Ukraine´s resilience and facilitates the road towards the EU,” Maasikas wrote on Twitter.”

Kremlin can’t handle “referendums” in temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Latvia-based independent Russian media outlet Meduza. “The Russian President’s administration does not know how to handle the so-called “referendums” on whether the occupied territories of Ukraine should “join Russia”, given that the Russian army has not managed to occupy Donetsk Oblast. At the moment Russia controls 60.25% of Donetsk Oblast, but this percentage is not increasing; a month ago it was 59.7%.

Despite this, according to two sources close to the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration has not yet given up on the idea of holding “referendums” in the autumn on the integration of the self-proclaimed terrorist “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic”, as well as the occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Oblasts, into Russia.

The Kremlin had planned to hold the “referendums” on 11 September, when regional parliamentary and some gubernatorial elections are to be held in Russia. However, according to the plans of the Russian authorities, Russian and “DPR” forces were supposed to have established full control of Donetsk Oblast by this date.

Now Putin’s administration is considering another option: “Referendums must be held on 11 September, but only 60% of the territory of Donetsk Oblast will be incorporated into Russia. If Russian forces occupy the rest later, then it will be incorporated ‘by default’.”

Sources close to the Kremlin stressed that in May and June, the Russian administration was certain that by September Donetsk Oblast would have been under its control “for some time”. The Russian administration is reluctant to postpone the referendums again (they were originally planned to be held back in spring).

Putin’s administration is working on a back-up plan – holding the referendums in winter. The Kremlin hopes that by December or January, the Russian forces will have finally managed to occupy the whole of Donetsk Oblast – without losing control of the previously occupied territories. The sources claim this scenario is becoming “more and more likely”.

The Kremlin realises that another postponement of the referendums may disconcert those who support the war: “People realise that things aren’t working out, the calculations aren’t being confirmed. It may seem like a weakness to them.” Meduza’s sources stated that the president’s administration has not yet figured out how to avoid this scenario.

According to three sources close to the Kremlin, the final decision concerning the referendum dates will be made by Putin shortly. If the so-called “referendums” are postponed until winter, then political strategists will probably have to come up with “new slogans and ideology elements” for them.

Putin’s administration had previously worked out the concept of “New Russia” for the referendums. It involved explaining to the residents of the occupied territories that after these territories join Russia, the country will become “stronger and richer” and “will take on a new quality”.

Reportedly, Putin and the members of the Security Council did not like this ideology as they believe that Russia “is taking back what belongs to it, not gaining something new”. People in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts are currently being encouraged to participate in the “referendum” with the slogans “Together with Russia” and “One People” (a concept that Putin has long favoured).”

Support 

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1560391338012676098

The flow of new international support for Ukraine has dried up in July, The Kiel Institute for the World Economy reports. “The flow of new international support for Ukraine has dried up in July. No large EU country like Germany, France or Italy, has made significant new pledges. However, the gap between committed and disbursed aid has narrowed.

The newest update of the Ukraine Support Tracker (July 2 to August 3) shows that, in July, Ukraine received only around 1,5 billion euros in new pledges of support. In total, the tracker now records commitments of 84.2 billion euros.

In July, donor countries initiated almost no new aid, but they did deliver some of the already committed support such as weapon systems, says Christoph Trebesch, head of the team that compiles the Ukraine Support Tracker. Germany, for example, has not announced any further military support, although it did send considerably military aid committed earlier.

Slovakia to send weapons to Ukraine despite Russia’s efforts to prevent supplies – defence minister, Ukrinform reports. “Jaroslav Nad’, Slovakia’s defence minister has stated that the Government of Slovakia will not stop providing military support to Ukraine despite all Russia’s efforts to influence public opinion in his country on this matter.

According to the minister, a not too high number of Slovaks’ support for this government initiative is related to the activity of Russian propaganda in his country which is making significant efforts to block the arms supplies to Ukraine, EuroNews reports.

Russian propaganda is doing its best in order to change the attitudes of the population to stop or to block further military equipment to be donated to Ukraine but this government certainly decided to continue in that because we need to help Ukrainians – they deserve that – and we very much understand what occupation means, he said.”

Biden administration readies about $800 mln in additional security aid for Ukraine -sources, Reuters reports. “President Joe Biden’s administration is readying about $800 million of additional military aid to Ukraine and could announce it as soon as Friday, three sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday. Biden would authorize the assistance using his Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the president to authorize the transfer of excess weapons from US stocks, the sources told Reuters.”

Estonia approves new military aid package to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing ERR [Estonian Public Broadcasting]. “The Estonian government approved a new military aid package to Ukraine, including new mortar batches and anti-tank weapons, as well as yet another field hospital.

Fightings in Ukraine remain intense, and although Ukraine receives more and more Western weapons, we are morally obliged to support Ukraine. Ukrainians are fighting for our common values, and if we have weapons that we can give them, we must do so. – Hanno Pevkur, the Estonian Minister of Defence noted. Yet another field hospital provided in cooperation with Germany.”

Turkey will help rebuild Ukraine: memorandum was signed in Lviv, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the press service of the Presidential Office of Ukraine. “In Lviv, Ukraine and Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding, which provides for the participation of the Turkish side in the post-war reconstruction of our country, the document was signed in the presence of the presidents of both countries.

New Developments 

  1. Kuleba states that there were no attempts to incline Ukraine to make concessions to Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda. “Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, noted that Ukraine was not urged to make concessions to Russia during the trilateral meeting between the Ukrainian President, Turkish President and UN Secretary General in Lviv. No one has urged us to make concessions in favour of Russia. I want to say straight up that this hasn’t happened just in case ‘treason’ accusations of sorts pop up on social networks, Dmytro Kuleba said.
  2. Estonia says it repelled a major cyber attack after removing Soviet monuments, ReutersEstonia has repelled “the most extensive cyber attacks since 2007”, it said on Thursday, shortly after removing Soviet monuments in a region with an ethnic Russian majority. Russian hacker group Killnet claimed responsibility for the attack, stating on its Telegram account on Wednesday it had blocked access to more than 200 state and private Estonian institutions, such as an online citizen identification system.”
  3. The world must make Russia withdraw from Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, or else all nuclear security agreements are worthless, Ukrainska PravdaUkraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is convinced that the rest of the world’s countries can ensure that Russia withdraws its troops from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). Otherwise, all nuclear security agreements are worthless, he believes.”
  4. Xi, Putin to attend G20 summit in Indonesia’s Bali this November, ReutersChinese and Russian leaders Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin will attend the G20 summit on the resort island of Bali this November, a longtime adviser to the Indonesian president said on Friday.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war.

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of 17 August, 2022:

There were no claimed or assessed Russian territorial gains in Ukraine on August 18, 2022 for the first time since July 6, 2022. Russian and Ukrainian sources did not claim any new territorial gains on August 18. However, Russian forces still conducted limited and unsuccessful ground assaults across the eastern axis on August 18.

Russian sources reported explosions across Crimea—possibly caused by Russian air defences, Ukrainian reconnaissance, or a Ukrainian attack—on the night of August 18. Three local sources told Reuters that at least four explosions struck around Belbek Airbase in Russian-occupied Crimea, near Sevastopol. The Russian-appointed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, claimed that preliminary information indicated that Russian air defences shot down a Ukrainian drone and caused no damage. Video of a large explosion that circulated on social media in the immediate aftermath of the reported explosions was from a previous engagement on August 8 and is not from the vicinity of the airbase. 

Russian sources also claimed that Russian air defences shot down a drone near the Kerch Bridge between Crimea and Russia on the night of August 18 as social media footage showed active air defences in the area. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podoliak had tweeted on August 17 that the Kerch bridge was illegally constructed and ”must be dismantled.” The railway side of the Kerch bridge is an important target for Ukraine to disrupt Russian logistics capabilities into occupied Ukraine. Social media videos also claimed to depict active Russian air defences at a Russian base in Nova Kakhova in southern Kherson oblast on the night of August 18, suggesting a possibly coordinated series of Ukrainian attacks, if there were attacks or drone overflights.

ISW cannot independently verify whether Russian air defences shot down a Ukrainian UAV, or whether any UAV was present in Kerch or Belbek. A Russian social media user posted a video claiming to be at Belbek on the evening of August 18, showing no apparent evidence of a strike there. Ukrainian forces will likely continue their campaign to strike Russian military targets in Russian-occupied Crimea to degrade Russian logistics capabilities and degrade Russian capabilities to sustain operations on the west bank of the Dnipro River, as ISW previously assessed. However, it is unclear at the time of publication whether the reported explosions are due to Ukrainian attacks or reconnaissance, poor Russian handling of military equipment, successful Russian air defences, or nervous Russian defenders who are likely steeling themselves for additional attacks in areas that the Russian military had believed until now to be out of the range of Ukrainian forces.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) appears to be setting information conditions to blame Ukrainian forces for future false flag operations at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). The chief of Russia’s Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Defense Forces, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, claimed in an August 18 briefing that Ukrainian forces are preparing for a provocation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP and that the provocation is meant to coincide with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ visit to Ukraine. Kirillov accused Ukrainian forces of preparing to stage this provocation in order to blame Russia for causing a nuclear disaster and create a 30km-wide exclusion zone around the NPP. Kirillov’s briefing, which was amplified by the Russian MoD, coincides with reports that Russian authorities told Russian NPP employees to not come into work tomorrow, August 19. Leaked footage from within the plant shows five Russian trucks very close to one of the reactors at the NPP on an unspecified date, which may indicate the Russian forces are setting conditions to cause a provocation at the plant and to shift the information narrative to blame Ukraine for any kinetic events that occur on the territory of the plant.

Key Takeaways

  • There were no claimed or assessed Russian territorial gains in Ukraine on August 18, 2022 for the first time since July 6, 2022.
  • Russian sources reported a series of unidentified and unconfirmed explosions across Crimea on the night of August 18.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense may be setting information conditions to blame Ukraine for a false flag attack at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Russian forces conducted ground assaults south of Siversk and northeast and south of Bakhmut.
  • Russian forces continued conducting offensive operations north, west, and southwest of Donetsk City.
  • Russian forces conducted an unsuccessful ground assault on the Zaporizhzhia axis.
  • Ukrainian officials confirmed additional strikes on a Russian military base and warehouse in Kherson Oblast.
  • The Kremlin is likely leveraging established Cossack organizations to support Russian force generation efforts.
  • Russian occupation officials continued preparations for the long-term integration of occupied territories of Ukraine into Russia.“ (unquote)

UK spy chief says Putin is losing information war in Ukraine -The Economist, Reuters reports.  “Russia has failed to gain ground in cyberspace against Ukraine almost six months after its invasion of the country, the head of Britain’s GCHQ intelligence service said on Friday. Jeremy Fleming, the intelligence head, in an op-ed in The Economist, wrote that both countries have been using their cyber capabilities in the war in Ukraine.

So far, President Putin has comprehensively lost the information war in Ukraine and the West. Although that’s cause for celebration, we should not underestimate how Russian disinformation is playing out elsewhere in the world, Fleming wrote. Just as with its land invasion, Russia’s initial online plans appear to have fallen short. The country’s use of offensive cyber tools has been irresponsible and indiscriminate.”

Five things you need to know about Russia’s intelligence failures ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, The Washington Post reports. A months-long examination by The Washington Post of the intelligence war in Ukraine draws on a trove of sensitive materials including intercepted communications involving Russian intelligence operatives, as well as in-depth interviews with senior Ukrainian, US and European officials. Here are some key findings:

  1. A clandestine branch of Russia’s security service was deeply involved in the Kremlin’s failed war plan, assuring officials in Moscow that Ukraine’s government would fall quickly and deploying operatives to install a puppet regime. The FSB branch, known internally as the Department of Operational Information, has for years carried out clandestine operations to penetrate Ukraine’s institutions, pay off pro-Russian politicians and prevent the country from leaving Moscow’s orbit. Despite its intense focus on Ukraine, Western intelligence officials said, the FSB either failed to grasp how fiercely Ukraine would resist, or did understand but couldn’t convey such inconvenient information to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  2. FSB officers were so confident they would seize the levers of power in Kyiv that they spent the final days before the war arranging accommodations in the capital. Communications intercepted by Ukrainian security services show FSB officers asking colleagues for details about apartments and other locations they might use as safe houses, residences or bases of operation. Days before Russian forces crossed into Ukraine, officials said, FSB informants were told to vacate the capital but leave behind keys to their residences for arriving Russian operatives.
  3. The FSB’s Ukraine department underwent a major expansion in the period leading up to the invasion, according to Ukrainian and Western security officials. The department surged in size from about 30 officers in 2019 to as many as 160 on the eve of the Ukraine invasion, officials said. FSB teams were assigned regions of Ukraine and networks of sleeper agents inside the country. In retrospect, Ukrainian officials see the buildup as an early warning that Russia was laying the groundwork for an attack.
  4. The FSB worked closely with prominent collaborators and lined up at least two pro-Russian governments-in-waiting. The FSB’s main allies included former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014, and Viktor Medvedchuk, an oligarch who became co-leader of Ukraine’s main pro-Russian party after forging a close relationship with Putin. Yanukovych was at the center of a group that assembled in Belarus in early March, possibly positioned to swoop in and reclaim power. A second group involving former members of Yanukovych’s party gathered in the territory in southern Ukraine that was seized early in the war by Russian forces.
  5. Despite repeated failures, FSB leaders remain in their positions and the agency has regrouped, putting officers on three-month rotations in regions occupied by Russian forces. US and other officials said they have seen no evidence that Putin has cleaned house at the top of Russia’s spy agencies or held senior officials to account for costly misjudgments. Instead, FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov and the leader of its Ukraine directorate, Sergey Beseda, remain in their positions, overseeing aspects of the war effort.”

2. Consequences and what to do? 

The US must arm Ukraine now before it’s too late, Ebra Cagan, John Herbst and Alexander Vershbow argue in The Hill. “Nearly 20 of our fellow experts and national security professionals — whose digital signatures appear at the end of this op-ed — agree: The war in Ukraine has reached a decisive moment and that vital US interests are at stake.

Long before the Kremlin first invaded Ukraine in 2014, we have — from senior positions in the US government and military — followed Moscow’s foreign policy and the grave dangers it presents to the United States and our allies. We have carefully watched Moscow’s major offensive since February and the response of the Biden administration and its allies and partners. We have maintained close touch with Ukrainian, US and European officials. Two of us just returned from meetings with Ukraine’s defense and military leaders.

Although the Biden administration has successfully rallied US allies and provided substantial military assistance, including this month, to Ukraine’s valiant armed forces, it has failed to produce a satisfactory strategic narrative which enables governments to maintain public support for the NATO engagement over the long term.

By providing aid sufficient to produce a stalemate, but not enough to roll back Russian territorial gains, the Biden administration may be unintentionally seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. Out of an over-abundance of caution about provoking Russian escalation (conventional as well as nuclear), we are in effect ceding the initiative to Russian President Vladimir Putin and reducing the pressure on Moscow to halt its aggression and get serious about negotiations.

Moscow’s imperialist war against the people of Ukraine is not just a moral outrage — a campaign of genocide aimed at erasing the Ukrainian nation from the map — but a clear danger to US security and prosperity. 

American principles and interests demand the strongest possible response, one sufficient to force the Russians as much as possible back to pre-February lines and to impose costs heavy enough to deter Russia from invading a third time. With Russian forces struggling to regroup in the east and stave off Ukrainian efforts to retake Kherson in the south, now is the time for Ukraine’s allies to pull out all the stops by providing Ukraine the means it needs to prevail. Dragging out the conflict through so-called strategic pauses will do nothing but allow Putin to regroup, recover and inflict more damage in Ukraine and beyond.

But so far, neither the administration nor European allies have succeeded in making clear why this is important to the United States and the West. It is important because Putin is pursuing a revisionist foreign policy designed to upend the rules-based security system that has ensured American and global stability and enabled prosperity since the end of World War II. Putin’s aggressive designs do not end in Ukraine. As Russian officials have repeatedly made clear, if Russia wins in Ukraine, our Baltic NATO allies are at risk, as are other allies residing in the neighborhood.  

Prudent policy today identifies tomorrow’s risk and seeks the right place and time to deal with that risk. For the US and NATO, that time is now — and the place is Ukraine, a large country whose population understands that its choice is either defeating Putin or losing their independence and even their existence as a distinct, Western-oriented nation. 

With the necessary weapons and economic aid, Ukraine can defeat Russia. If it succeeds, our soldiers are less likely to have to risk their lives protecting US treaty allies whom Russia also threatens.

What does defeat for Putin look like? The survival of Ukraine as a secure, independent, and economically viable country. That means a Ukraine with defensible borders that include Odesa and a substantial portion of the Black Sea coast, as well as a strong, well-armed military and a real end to hostilities. That should ideally include the return to Ukrainian control of all territories seized since Feb. 24 and, ultimately, the lands stolen in 2014, including Crimea. Such a peace is only possible when Putin realizes he is soundly defeated and can no longer achieve his objectives of dominating Ukraine or any other nation by force.

It would be a defeat for Ukraine (and the United States) if in haste to end the fighting, the West encouraged Ukraine to cede territory in return for a ceasefire. That would continue the pattern since at least Moscow’s aggression against Georgia in 2008 in which the West pushes for a ceasefire that effectively ratifies past Kremlin aggression and does not actually force it to stop shooting or taking more territory. (More than 10,000 Ukrainians died after the Minsk agreement ceasefires with scores and even hundreds of Russian violations daily.) A ceasefire would not end Russia’s aggression or its occupation of Ukrainian land; it would simply give Moscow a pause to consolidate its gains and then resume its offensive. Moreover, the vast majority of Ukrainians in recent surveys oppose any territorial concessions in exchange for a ceasefire with Moscow.

Such a plan would also condemn millions of Ukrainians to live under a regime that has committed numerous war crimes, whose senior officials and media have called for de-Ukrainianization of Ukraine, which is already being subjected to forced Russification, including the illegal and involuntary deportation of nearly 400,000 Ukrainian children to Russia for adoption. These measures have prompted a growing number of scholars to describe Russian policy as genocide

Moscow’s plan now is to make as many gains on the battlefield as possible; to conduct sham referendums in the newly occupied Ukrainian territory as a prelude to their annexation; to undermine unity in the West’s support for Ukraine by cutting off gas supplies going into the winter; and to blockade Ukrainian ports to produce destabilizing food shortages in the Global South designed to blow back on the West. For all of these purposes, Moscow needs time. Which means the United States and its allies must keep the pressure on Moscow.

The Biden administration should move more quickly and strategically, in meeting Ukrainian requests for weapons systems. And when it decides to send more advanced weapons, like HIMARS artillery, it should send them in larger quantities that maximize their impact on the battlefield

Ukraine needs long-range fires to disrupt the Russian offensive, including Russian resupply, fuel, and ammunition stocks. That means the US should send ATACMS munitions, fired by HIMARS with the 300km range necessary to strike Russian military targets anywhere in Ukraine, including occupied Crimea. And Ukraine needs constant resupply of ammunition and spare parts for artillery platforms supplied from various countries, some of which are not interchangeable. These systems are constantly in use, which makes maintenance and spare parts resupply critical. How and where these tasks are accomplished and the logistics infrastructure to quickly get the equipment back where it can be of greatest use can also make a huge difference.

Beyond this, Ukraine needs more short- and medium-range air defense to counter Russian air and missile attacks. An increasing problem is the need to deploy adequate countermeasures to hamper the growing prevalence of Russian-produced drones and new ones it is trying to procure from Iran.

The administration has been reluctant thus far to take such decisive steps for fear of provoking Russia, or as National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan recently said at the Aspen Security Forum, “to avoid World War Three.” Putin and other senior Russian officials have at numerous points in the run-up to and following Moscow’s Feb. 24 offensive reminded the West of the dangers of nuclear war. But the US is also a nuclear power, and it is a strategic mistake to suggest that nuclear deterrence no longer works. Nuclear deterrence still works.

It is to Putin’s advantage to threaten nuclear war, but not to initiate it. And we have seen the Kremlin make nuclear threats that proved hollow — for instance in connection with Finland and Sweden joining NATO. If we allow Putin to intimidate us from providing the weapons Ukraine needs to stop Russian revisionism, what happens when he waves his nuclear wand over the Baltic states? And why would the administration assume that Putin would not dare do that with Estonia or Poland if the tactic worked for him in Ukraine?

The stakes are clear for us, our allies, and Ukraine. We should not fool ourselves. We may think that each day we delay providing Ukraine the weapons it needs to win, we are avoiding a confrontation with the Kremlin. To the contrary, we are merely increasing the probability that we will face that danger on less favorable grounds. The smart and prudent move is to stop Putin’s aggressive designs in Ukraine, and to do so now, when it will make a difference.”

Hans Petter Midttun: I agree 95% with the abovementioned call for action. The nearly 20 experts and national security professionals make an excellent case concerning what is at stake. This was never only a war between Russia and Ukraine.

As repeatedly stressed, Ukraine is only an objective of a broader conflict between Russia and the West. It is a fight between the autocratic “Russian world” and Western liberal democracy. As the “tsunami of ripple effects” are gaining momentum and potentially threatening the political stability of western democracies, the full-scale war on the European continent is increasingly threatening our security, stability and prosperity. If we let ourselves be deterred by Russia – and if we continue to let the Russian “fait accompli” nuclear strategy blackmail us into submission – our future looks bleak.

I am, however, slightly disappointed by their level of ambitions. Firstly, they argue for a return to the pre-24-February frontline, while opening up for the return of Ukrainian control of all territories seized since 2014, including Crimea.

If we accept anything less than the full eviction of Russian forces from all of Ukraine, we not only argue for a compromise but also describe a solution rewarding the aggressor. That cannot be accepted after 8,5 years of war and multiple examples of horrendous atrocities.

More crucially, the op-ed failed to mention all of the tools Ukraine needs to ensure a victory. They did not recommend a Navy or an Air Force. Short and medium-range Air Defence systems do not suffice.

Ukraine needs both long-range Air Defence systems and combat aircraft. It needs a Navy to break the maritime embargo. It needs to be able to control the Sea Lines of Communication, conduct Sea Denial Operations and control the sky over the Black Sea. Recognizing that it is not possible to build a Ukrainian capacity to achieve this in months, NATO or a coalition of willing must step in and fill the gap.

If these tools are not provided, it is hard to see how Ukraine will be able to ensure a Russian defeat unless the aggressor itself collapses. That scenario is, unfortunately, not within reach.

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