Russo Ukrainian War. Day 212: Russia stages pseudo referendum shows to annex occupied territories; Russian general wounded

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Russia stages pseudo-referendum shows in Ukraine’s occupied parts on the accession to Russia. Russian major general wounded in Luhansk Oblast. Russia intensifies air attacks in the south using Iranian loitering munition. North Korea denies that it supplies ammo to Russia. Ukraine secures bridgeheads on the Oskil’s eastern bank. Russia loses 550 soldiers in one day. Many released Ukrainian defenders were subjected to torture in captivity. Eight civilians injured in Kharkiv Oblast in one day by the landmines that Russians left behind. Ukraine sends 120,000 t of grain as part of the UN World Food Program. 192 vessels already left Ukrainian ports as part of the ‘grain initiative’. 349 energy infrastructure facilities were damaged in Ukraine since the Russian invasion started. The International Atomic Energy Agency begins negotiations to establish a nuclear safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Russia may be kicked out of the UN thanks to Ukrainian activists. Central Asian countries ban citizens from participating in the Russia-Ukraine war.

Daily overview — Summary report, September 23

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The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, September 23, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below.

https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua

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“Russian forces continue to focus its efforts on attempts to fully occupy the Donetsk oblast, organize defence and maintain the captured territories, and also try to disrupt the active actions of the Defence Forces in certain directions. It ires at our positions along the contact line, takes measures to regroup its troops, and constantly conducts aerial reconnaissance.

Russian forces do not stop striking the civilian infrastructure and the homes of the civilian population. The threat of air and missile strikes by the Russian occupiers remains for the entire territory of Ukraine.

Over the past day, Russian forces launched 4 missile strikes, 27 airstrikes, and more than 75 MLRS attacks on military and civilian objects on the territory of Ukraine, violating the norms of international humanitarian law, laws and customs of warfare.

More than 45 settlements were affected by enemy strikes. In particular, Pechenihy, Pryshyb, Yarova, Spirne, Vesele, Bakhmut, Maryinka, Krasnohorivka, Kostyantynivka, Neskuchne, Poltavka, Yehorivka, Bezymene, Kryvyi Rih, Bilohirya, Zaporizhzhia, Bilohirka, Pervomaiske, Mykolayiv, Ochakiv, Vysokopillya, Sukhyi Stavok, Myrolyubivka and Novohryhorivka.

The situation in the Volyn and Polissia directions has not changed significantly.

In other directions, Russian forces fired from tanks, mortars, and artillery of various calibers:

  • in the Siversky direction – in the areas of Shalyhine, Myropilske, Volfyne, and Yizdetske settlements of the Sumy oblast;
  • in the Slobozhansk direction – in the areas of the settlements of Dubnivka, Hoptivka, Vovchansk, Kamianka, and Kupiansk;
  • in the Kramatorsk direction – Mayaky, Mykolaivka, Dibrova, Kryva Luka, Pryshyb and Siversk;
  • in the Bakhmut direction – Soledar, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Vesela Dolyna, Zaitseve, Vesele, Bilohorivka and Yakovlivka;
  • in the Avdiyivka direction – Krasnohorivka, Opytne, Mariinka, Novomykhailivka;
  • in the Novopavlivka direction – Vuhledar, Zolota Nyva, Neskuchne, Vremivka, Novoukrayinka, Velyka Novosilka;
  • in the Zaporizhzhia direction, Russian forces did not conduct active operations, but at the same time shelled the settlements of Mala Tokmachka, Nova Tokmachka, Mali Shcherbaky, Zelene Pole, Zaliznychne, and Rivnopillia with artillery.
  • More than 20 settlements were shelled in the Pivdennyi Buh direction.

During the day, units of the Defense Forces repelled enemy attacks in the areas of Kupyansk, Spirne, Mayorsk, Zaitseve, Avdiivka, Novomykhailivka, Opytne, and Kamianka settlements.

Aviation of the Defense Forces hit 25 areas of concentration of enemy manpower and military equipment and 6 positions of anti-aircraft missile systems.

In addition, our air defence units, in different directions, destroyed the Mi-8 helicopter and 9 UAVs of the occupiers.

Over the past day, missile forces and artillery have inflicted fire damage, in particular, on 6 control and command points, 4 areas of concentration of personnel and military equipment, 3 air defence positions, 3 artillery positions, as well as 3 ammunition depots.

Russian forces continue to suffer losses, in particular among the leadership. According to available information, the commander of the 144th Motorized Rifle Division of the 20th Combined Arms Army, Major General Tsokov, was wounded as a result of a fire attack in the area of ​​the settlement of Svatove. It was evacuated on September 20 of this year.

Russian major general wounded in recent Ukrainian rear strike on Russian base – Ukraine’s General Staff

From September 19 to 20 this year, 105 bodies of dead Russian servicemen were delivered to the military hospital in Rostov-on-Don, and preparations are underway to receive another 200 bodies in the near future.

To replenish manpower losses, Russian forces continues forced mobilization in temporarily occupied territories. Thus, in Horlivka, on September 19, representatives of the 1st Army Corps detained and took ten men to military service, regardless of their age or health.

Between September 18 and 20 of this year, representatives of a Russian private company unsuccessfully tried to recruit prisoners in the Luhansk pre-trial detention center.

As part of the implementation of partial mobilization measures, the occupying authorities of Crimea stated that the main number of reservists is planned to be recruited from among the employees of private security companies who have military service experience. In Sevastopol, some firms have already been instructed to prepare lists of all employees subject to the requirements.

It is also known about the early graduation in Smolensk of the cadets of the graduation courses of the Air Defense Military Academy of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation named after Marshal Vasylevsky, and their subsequent placement in positions in the troops.

Based on the Moscow combined military command school, in the period from September 26 to October 24, the Russian military leadership plans to hold a meeting with citizens who are in reserve.

[Russian forces are trying to keep the situation in the temporarily occupied territories under its control. In Kherson, the administrative and police regime is being strengthened, and inspections of settlements and psychological pressure on local residents are being carried out.]

[The work on the preparation and holding of the so-called “referendum” on the temporarily captured territories of Ukraine was intensified. Thus, in the settlements of the Kherson oblast, representatives of the Russian occupation authorities, under the pretext of quality distribution of humanitarian aid, are trying to obtain their personal data from local residents. The formation of the so-called “election commissions” continues.]

[In the city of Starobilsk, Luhansk oblast, the occupation authorities forbade the local population to leave the city between September 23 and 27. According to available information, the occupiers are creating armed groups to go around homes and force people to participate in the so-called “referendum”. Preparations are being made for filming by propaganda media stories about such “active participation of local residents in voting”.]

[In the temporarily captured territory of the Zaporizhzhia region, local residents are promised cash rewards and household appliances for providing passport data and obtaining citizenship of the Russian Federation.]”

Military Updates

Russians using Iranian kamikaze drones in southern Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing Operational Command South. “Russian forces have intensified air attacks in southern Ukraine, using Iranian kamikaze drones. Russian forces continue aerial reconnaissance using UAVs and also intensify air attacks using Iranian kamikaze drones of the Shahed-136 type, the report said.

According to the report, such a drone was used to strike the port infrastructure of Ochakiv. One of the two attacking drones was shot down by Ukrainian units, and the other hit a port tug. Firefighters promptly extinguished the fire. There are no casualties.»

On September 22, the anti-aircraft missile units of the Ukrainian Air Force destroyed seven air targets, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “Three UAVs of the operational-tactical level and four kamikaze drones “Shahed-136” of Iranian production, which the occupiers label as “Geran-2”.

Air Force aviation carried out up to 10 group airstrikes in different directions. Bombers and attack aircraft destroyed several dozen invaders, up to 20 units of armoured combat vehicles, a platoon stronghold and other targets. The fighter aircraft used AGM-88 “HARM” anti-radar missiles against Russian forces’s air defences. Up to 10 enemy air defence positions were hit.”

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

  • In the last three days, Ukrainian forces have secured bridgeheads on the east bank of the Oskil River in Kharkiv Oblast. Russia has attempted to integrate the Oskil into a consolidated defensive line following its forces’ withdrawals earlier in the month.
  • To the south, in Donetsk Oblast, fighting is ongoing as Ukrainian forces assault the town of Lyman, east of the Siverskyy Donets River, which Russia captured in May.
  • The battlefield situation remains complex, but Ukraine is now putting pressure on territory Russia considers essential to its war aims.
  • On 21 September 2022, Russia’s Putin announced a ‘partial mobilisation’ to support operations in Ukraine. Russian Defence Minister Shoigu later confirmed this would involve the mobilisation of 300,000 reservist troops.
  • Russia is likely to struggle with the logistical and administrative challenges of even mustering the 300,000 personnel. It will probably attempt to stand up new formations with many of these troops, which are unlikely to be combat effective for months.
  • Even this limited mobilisation is likely to be highly unpopular with parts of the Russian population. Putin is accepting considerable political risk in the hope of generating much needed combat power. The move is effectively an admission that Russia has exhausted its supply of willing volunteers to fight in Ukraine.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Friday 23 September, according to the assessment of Ukraine’s General Staff, 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 56060 (+550),
  • Tanks – 2254 (+18),
  • Armored combat vehicles – 4796 (+20),
  • Artillery systems – 1355 (+14),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 326 (+8),
  • Air defense means – 170 (+1),
  • Aircraft – 254 (+1),
  • Helicopters – 219 (+1),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 3659 (+29),
  • Vessels/boats – 15 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 950 (+9),
  • Special equipment – 126 (+1),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 240 (+0)

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

Infographic: Vox Ukraine ~

Infographic: Vox Ukraine

Humanitarian 

Many released Ukrainian defenders were subjected to torture in captivity – intelligence, Ukrinform reports, citing Chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, Kyrylo Budanov. “Everyone is in a different state, that’s true. There are individuals who are in more or less normal physical condition, except for chronic malnutrition due to bad conditions of detention. There are individuals who were subjected to very cruel torture. And, unfortunately, the percentage of such individuals among those whom we returned is quite large, Budanov said.

As reported, on September 21, as a result of a prisoner swap, more than 200 Ukrainian defenders, including 124 officers, as well as 10 foreigners, were returned from Russian captivity. Viktor Medvedchuk, suspected of treason, and 55 Russian soldiers were returned to the Russian side.

Among the freed Ukrainians are 188 Azovstal defenders, including 108 warriors of the Azov regiment, National Guard service members, marines, border guards, police officers, members of territorial defence forces, and SBU employees. Five Azov commanders released from Russian captivity are now in safe conditions in Turkey.”

Eight people were blown up by landmines in Kharkiv Oblast in one day, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the police of Kharkiv Oblast. “On 22 September, a unit of the Chuhuiv district police received several reports that 8 residents of the Chuhuiv district had been injured by landmines left behind by the occupiers.”

Ukraine sends 120,000 t of grain as part of the UN World Food Programme, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry. “As part of the UN World Food Programme, a total of 120,000 tonnes of wheat has already been exported via Ukrainian ports. In particular, food aid was sent to Ethiopia, Yemen, and Afghanistan, the report states.

On September 22, 2022, the fourth vessel chartered by the UN World Food Programme left Ukraine’s Odesa Port. The bulk carrier BC VANESSA will deliver 30,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan.”

192 vessels already left Ukrainian ports as part of the ‘grain initiative’, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry. “A total of 192 vessels have left the Ukrainian ports since the ‘grain initiative’ was launched. In general, 4.38 million tonnes of agricultural products were exported to Asian, European, and African countries, the report states.

349 energy infrastructure facilities were damaged in Ukraine since the Russian invasion started, Ukrinform reports. “A total of 349 energy infrastructure facilities have been damaged in Ukraine since the Russian full-scale invasion started, including 11 combined heat and power plants (CHPPs) and three thermal power plants (TPPs). The relevant statement was made by Ukrainian Communities and Territories Development Minister Oleksiy.”

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 20 September:

Individual refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe: 7,404,007
Hungary, Republic  of Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia 1,688,047
Russian Federation, Belarus 2,705,706
Other European countries 3,010,254
Refugees from Ukraine registered for Temporary Protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe: 44,127,643
Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia 1,582,645
Other European countries 2,544,998
Border crossings from Ukraine (since 24 February 2022): 13,081,621
Border crossings to Ukraine (since 28 February 2022): 6,088,016

Environmental 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that it began negotiations to establish a nuclear safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).

According to the Institute for the Study of War,negotiations are unlikely to significantly ameliorate the situation due to continued Russian efforts to stage provocations at the plant. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi stated on September 22 that the IAEA had begun “productive conversations” with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and French President Emmanuel Macron in order to establish a Nuclear Safety and Protection Zone at the ZNPP. Despite the positive intentions of external negotiators, Russian forces may use negotiations as an opportunity to stage further provocations at the ZNPP and accuse Ukrainian troops of endangering the safety of the plant, as they have repeatedly done in the past. As ISW has previously reported, Russian forces previously exploited the IAEA presence at the ZNPP in order to accuse Ukraine of disregard for nuclear safety and blame Ukrainian forces for shelling the plant, despite being unable to provide visual evidence to support their accusations. Russian authorities may seek to leverage the IAEA negotiations to accuse Ukraine of nuclear irresponsibility in an attempt to degrade continued Western support to Ukraine.”

Legal 

Russia may be kicked out of the UN thanks to Ukrainian activists, The New Voice of Ukraine reports. Created to preserve peace, the United Nations has repeatedly seen its efforts to take important security decisions stymied by Russia’s Security Council veto. To put an end to this, the participants of the “Kick Russia out of the UN” initiative have set out to prove that Russia illegally appropriated membership in the international organization. […] Maksym Baryshnikov, a lawyer and one of the initiative’s founders, goes as far as to describe the very membership of Russia in the Security Council as illegal. […]

Two months ago, the initiative group founded by members of the Public Hub NGO, mainly lawyers, decided to seek consideration of the issue of the illegality of Russia’s presence in the United Nations and, as a result, the deprivation of its powers on the Security Council and other bodies of this organization. The main argument of the “Kick Russia out of the UN” group is not even that Russia is an aggressor country in the organization that is supposed to prevent wars, but that Russia has never gone through the statutory procedure of admission to the United Nations, and is, therefore, not a legal member. […]

In addition to the Ukrainian SSR, the founding countries also included the ByeloRussian SSR and the Soviet Union itself. So, when the latter ceased to exist in 1991, Ukraine and Belarus became independent states and simply changed their names in the register of UN members. But Russia declared itself not only the heir, as each of the former Soviet Republics was recognized, but also the successor of the Soviet Union. And thus took its place in the UN and the Security Council.

However, the Soviet Union ceased to exist as a legal entity, which Russia also recognized in some documents, Baryshnikov notes. So, if the Soviet Union does not have a continuation, then what could the successor countries be? What is also interesting, Baryshnikov continues, is that Russia is not mentioned in Article 23 of the UN Charter, which lists the states that are permanent members of the Security Council – the Soviet Union is still listed there. […]

But in other, similar situations, the organization has insisted on going through the acceptance procedure, he noted. For example, when Yugoslavia fell apart, Serbia wanted to take its place in the United Nations, but it was forced to go through the procedure stipulated by the Charter. In the case of Czechoslovakia, both newly formed countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, were also accepted through a corresponding vote.

What is more, while studying the documents regarding Russia’s entry into the United Nations in 1991, the members of the initiative group found a conclusion by the organization’s legal advisor, who at that time said it was not possible for Russia to assume membership of the UN without going through the required procedures. Articles 3, 4, and 110 of the UN Charter establish three stages of such a procedure: an application by a country that is not waging an aggressive war or threatening it, with a request for membership, then a conclusion by the Security Council, and finally, the vote of the General Assembly, says Baryshnikov. In addition, the parliament of a candidate state for joining the United Nations must ratify the Charter of the organization and send a letter of ratification to its secretariat. Russia hasn’t fulfilled any of these conditions, the lawyer says. […]

In order to gain public support both in Ukraine and abroad, the initiative group created an international petition titled “Kick Russia out of the UN!” It contains a call to UN Secretary-General António Guterres to provide documentary evidence of the reasons for Russia’s membership in the UN. “In the absence of such documents, we demand that Russia’s fictitious membership of the United Nations be terminated,” the document reads.

The petition has gathered almost 90,000 signatures in two months. The initiators of the group are aiming to collect one million. Such a number of people supporting the initiative is necessary to draw the attention of the world media to it, explains Haidai. This will help make the problem of the illegitimacy of Russia’s membership in the United Nations a matter of global discussion, and then it will be difficult for politicians of other countries to ignore it, he comments. […]

On Aug. 23, the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations officially appealed to the secretariat of the organization with a request to provide documents on the legality of Russia’s UN membership. […] If the United Nations recognizes that Russia’s membership is illegal, the organization’s next step is to strip the powers of the Russian delegation in the Security Council and the General Assembly, the lawyer says.”

Invaders to count minors’ votes in the sham referendum – SBU, Ukrinform reports, citing the Security Service of Ukraine. “The Security Service of Ukraine has obtained copies of documents circulating among “DPR” Russian puppet officials as regards allowing minor residents to cast their votes in the sham referendum on the accession to Russia of the temporarily occupied areas of Donetsk region.

The invaders hope to expand the ‘electoral base’ supporting the accession of the eastern part of Ukraine to the Russian Federation and involve local residents aged 13 to 17 in pseudo-voting,” the report says. In order to strengthen control over “turnout”, minors must be accompanied to “polling stations” by their parents, guardians, or representatives of so-called orphanages. Also, to boost turnout, they plan to attract families from the Donetsk region who had left for the Russian Federation.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1573251828686508032

Four Ukraine regions prepare to hold {sham] referendums on joining Russia, Reuters reports. “Four areas of Ukraine controlled by Russia and pro-Moscow forces were preparing to hold referendums on Friday on joining Russia, votes widely condemned by the West as illegitimate and a precursor to illegal annexation.

Russian-installed leaders on Tuesday announced plans for the ballots, a challenge to the West that could sharply escalate the war. The results are seen as a foregone conclusion in favor of annexation, and Ukraine and its allies have made clear they will not recognise the outcomes.

Voting in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing about 15% of Ukrainian territory, is due to run from Friday to Tuesday.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1573253964371484674

Et bilde som inneholder tekst Automatisk generert beskrivelse391 children were killed, 771 children injured, 7,820 deported by foe forces, and 235 reported missing – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of September 23. 2,500 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 289 of them are destroyed fully. 35,744 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 16,155 crimes against national security were registered.

Support 

Central Asian countries ban citizens from participating in the Ukraine war, The Jerusalem Post reports. “The diplomatic missions of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan in Russia warned their citizens residing in Russia against participating in the war in Ukraine on Wednesday.

The three Central Asian countries’ embassies in Moscow released separate statements, banning their citizens in Russia from participating in the war in Ukraine in light of the recent partial mobilization declared by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan also warned their citizens of legal repercussions in case of involvement in the war, reminding citizens that taking part in armed conflicts on foreign territories is unlawful. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are members of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), while Uzbekistan withdrew from the military bloc in 2012.”

Germany to pursue arms supplies to Ukraine despite Putin’s statements, Ukrinform reports. “Putin’s latest “initiatives” result in even greater support for Ukraine on the part of Europe, including through the supply of military equipment. This was stated by Germany’s Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, who spoke at a joint press conference in Berlin with her French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

Our response is consistent and, most importantly, resolute and joint: there will be no deviations, and we will continue to support Ukraine in its courageous struggle in the future, the German minister said. […] For us, these referenda will be of no significance as this is the territory of Ukraine and will remain so, the head of the Bundeswehr said.

The minister emphasized that the goal of the allies is to help Ukraine, including with military equipment, in the long term as well. It’s good that we are sending a clear signal: this Putin reaction to Ukraine’s successes only encourages us to continue supporting Ukraine, the head of the German Ministry of Defense emphasized.”

Zelenskyy to Germany: Decide independently whether or not to transfer tanks to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “European Pravda reported Zelenskyy’s remarks in an interview with Bild, the full version of which he posted on his Telegram channel. He stressed that the transfer of tanks and other armoured vehicles to Ukraine will not put an end to the full-scale war. “This is a matter of survival of Ukrainians,” since “without air defence and tanks, more people will die.”

A lot is going on around the fact that if the United States is the first to give Abrams [American battle tanks] and open the door to transferring tanks to Ukraine, then Germany and other states will join in. I just want to appeal to Germany. You are not dependent on any state, Zelenskyy stressed.

“If you are ready to save the lives of our Ukrainians (because it is about saving lives) – any armoured vehicles, including these tanks, would be used to defend our land. So give it to us. You are an independent state!” he added. If you don’t want to give us (tanks and armoured vehicles), listen, no offence. You are an independent state. Don’t give it to us. But don’t say, ‘First America, then Germany, then Poland.’ Don’t. Everyone should be responsible for themselves, the head of state said.”

Ukraine and France Working On Supply of New CAESARs – Kuleba, European Pravda reports. “After a meeting with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna in New York, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine announced that the two countries are working on the supply of new CAESARs. As previously reported, France will spend 85 million euros on replacing 18 Caesar self-propelled artillery units given to Ukraine, as its stockpile has since been reduced by a quarter.

Earlier, French Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu, also said Ukraine would receive a “significant number” of VAB armoured vehicles from Paris.”

Congress tells Pentagon to speed review of large drones for Ukraine, Reuters reports. “Seventeen members of Congress told US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to speed up a Pentagon security review of a Ukrainian request for large armable drones, according to a letter dated Wednesday and seen by Reuters.

The Biden administration’s plan to sell four large, armable drones to Ukraine hit a snag in June because of a fear the unmanned aerial system’s sophisticated surveillance equipment might fall into enemy hands, sources had previously told Reuters.”

New Developments 

  1. Occupiers start “referendums” in Donbas, Kherson Oblast and Melitopol, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “Kremlin puppets in the occupied parts of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson Oblasts and Melitopol have announced that they have started “referendums” on joining Russia
  2. U.N. chief says talk of nuclear conflict ‘unacceptable’, Reuters reports. “U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Thursday that talk of a nuclear conflict is “totally unacceptable” and any annexation of a state’s territory by another state through the threat or use of force is a violation of the U.N. Charter and international law.”
  3. Lavrov defends Russia at U.N. showdown rife with anger over Ukraine war, Reuters reports. “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended Moscow’s war in Ukraine at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday as the United Nations warned Moscow against annexing Ukrainian regions and Western ministers called for accountability over atrocities. Lavrov was only in the council chamber to deliver his address to the meeting of the 15-member body. Lavrov did not listen to anyone else speak.”
  4. Zelenskyy urges Russians to protest: “Children of top officials won’t have to fight. They don’t care what happens to your children”, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has urged all Russians to take part in protests against their government if they do not want to lose more soldiers in the war with Ukraine. He said he was certain that children of Russian government officials would not have to fight. Meanwhile, Russia does not care enough to even properly bury children of ordinary civilians killed in battle.”
  5. Ukraine’s Presidential Office urges mobilised Russians to surrender; they will not be forced to return to the Russian Federation, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Forcibly mobilised citizens of Russia who do not want to die ingloriously in a foreign country! At the first opportunity, surrender. Ukraine guarantees you the preservation of life and dignified treatment. Podoliak emphasised that according to the Geneva Convention, Russian prisoners will not be forced to return to the Russian Federation.”
  6. NATO says it will never recognize Russia’s “sham” referendums in Ukraine, Reuters reports. “Sham referenda in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions of Ukraine have no legitimacy and will be a blatant violation of the UN Charter, the North Atlantic Council, grouping the member states of the alliance, said in a statement. NATO allies will not recognize their illegal and illegitimate annexation. These lands are Ukraine, it added

What will partial mobilization in Russia change?

Assessment 

  1. On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Thursday 22 September:

Ukrainian Counteroffensives (Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories)

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 212: Russia stages pseudo-referendum shows to annex occupied territories; Russian general wounded ~~

The Kremlin’s heavy-handed approach to partial mobilization may successfully meet the Kremlin’s internal quota of mobilized personnel but is unlikely to generate effective soldiers and is prompting significant domestic backlash for little gain. Russian authorities are forcibly recruiting Russian citizens to fight in Ukraine on flimsy pretexts, violating the Kremlin’s promise to recruit only those with military experience. Russian authorities are also demonstrably mobilizing personnel (such as protesters) who will enter the war in Ukraine with abysmal morale. The Kremlin’s heavy-handed approach to partial mobilization will likely exacerbate domestic resentment of a measure that would have been unpopular even if implemented without the harsh approaches observed in the last 24 hours.

The Kremlin is openly not adhering to its promised conditions for partial mobilization just 24 hours after its September 21 declaration. Russian officials previously claimed that partial mobilization will only impact 300,000 men and only those with previous military experience. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated on September 22 that the practice of administering mobilization notices to detained protesters does not contradict the September 21 mobilization law. Peskov’s threat contravenes the Kremlin’s claim that it will abstain from mobilizing men outside of composed reservist lists. Western and Russian opposition media outlets reported instances of Russian military commissars administering draft notices to protesters in Moscow and Voronezh. Russian opposition outlets also reported on a bank IT specialist who had received a draft notice despite never having served in the army or attended military-education courses in university. The IT specialist is likely one of many Russian men who received mobilization notices despite not meeting the stated criteria for partial mobilization. A university student in Buryatia released footage of Rosgvardia and military police pulling students from lessons, reportedly for mobilization, despite Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu repeatedly stating that Russian students will not be mobilized.

Kremlin quotas will likely force local officials to mobilize men regardless of their military status. The quota for mobilized men remains unverifiable, with Kremlin officials claiming that Russia will mobilize only 300,000 men and Russian opposition outlets’ sources suggesting that the number might reach a million. Regardless of the total quota, the Russian federal subjects executing the mobilization order will likely undertake recruitment measures outside of the outlined reservist call-up. Some Russian federal subjects such as the Republic of Yakutia (Sakha) and Kursk Oblast are imposing laws restricting reservists from leaving their places of permanent residence. Russian enlistment officers and police are also reportedly enforcing unscrupulous mobilization practices […] by calling up men by phone, issuing notices in the middle of the night, and notifying men of their mobilization via state social benefits websites.

The Kremlin will also likely mobilize ethnically non-Russian and immigrant communities at a disproportionate rate. A member of the Kremlin’s Russian Human Rights Council, Kirill Kabanov, proposed mandatory military service for Central Asian immigrants that have received Russian citizenship within the last ten years, threatening to confiscate their Russian citizenship if they do not mobilize. Current Time reported that residents of Kurumkan, a village in the Republic of Buryatia, noted that Russian enlistment officers mobilized about 700 men of the total population of 5,500 people. If witness reports from Kurumkan are accurate, they would indicate that Russian officials mobilized about 25% of the male population from a single village in a majority ethnically Buryat district. An Armenian Telegram channel published a mobilization list from Tuapse, Krasnodar Krai that reportedly consists of 90% ethnically Armenian residents, despite the town’s total Armenian community being only 8.5% of the population.

The Kremlin’s heavy-handed approach to mobilization is prompting public anger and distrust across Russia. Independent Russian human rights outlet OVD-Info reported that protests took place in 42 cities across the country, including protests even in small villages in the Republic of Dagestan. Unidentified assailants set fire to several military recruitment centers and local administration buildings in Nizhny Novgorod, St. Petersburg, Tolyatti, and Zabailkalsky Krai. The Kremlin will likely subdue such protests in the coming days. However, the declaration of partial mobilization and blatant disregard for even the government-dictated parameters for the mobilization may alienate concerned swathes of the Russian public who were previously more tolerant of the less personally impactful Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin likely attempted to downplay a prisoner swap with Ukraine that is deeply unpopular among Russian nationalists and milbloggers by undertaking the swap the same day Putin announced partial mobilization. The Kremlin exchanged 215 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs), including captured foreign nationals and Azov Battalion leaders, for at least 55 Russian POWs and political prisoners, including Putin’s personal friend, Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Medvechuk, on September 21. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed on September 22 that Russian and DNR and LNR POWs were in “mortal danger” in Ukrainian custody. Far-right Russian milbloggers criticized the exchange and asked if the Kremlin had given up on the ”de-Nazification” of Ukraine, one of the stated goals of the Russian invasion. Kremlin propagandists had heavily publicized the capture and planned prosecution of Azov personnel, accusing them of being Ukrainian Nazis. […].” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov described the exchange as ”incomprehensible,” implied that Chechen forces tortured Azov prisoners in captivity, and implied that Russian forces who capture ”Nazis” should kill them rather than take them as POWs if they will be traded back to Ukraine.[18] Torturing or killing POWs is a war crime and violates the Geneva Conventions.

Key Takeaways

  • The Kremlin’s heavy-handed approach to partial mobilization may successfully meet the Kremlin’s internal quota of mobilized personnel, but is unlikely to generate effective soldiers and is prompting significant domestic backlash for little gain.
  • The Kremlin is openly not adhering to its promised conditions for partial mobilization.
  • Kremlin quotas will likely force local officials to mobilize men regardless of their military status and will likely incentivize the mobilization of ethnically non-Russian and immigrant communities at a disproportionate rate.
  • The Kremlin likely attempted to downplay a prisoner swap with Ukraine that is deeply unpopular among Russian nationalists and milbloggers by undertaking the swap the same day Putin announced partial mobilization.
  • IAEA negotiations around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant are unlikely to significantly improve the situation at the plant and may provide an opportunity for Russian forces to stage provocations.
  • Ukrainian forces likely continued limited counteroffensive operations along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border and continued attacks toward Lyman on September 22.
  • Ukrainian military officials maintained their operational silence regarding Ukrainian ground attacks in Kherson Oblast on September 22 and reiterated that Ukrainian forces are conducting an operational-level interdiction campaign in Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the frontlines in Donetsk Oblast on September 22.
  • Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks west of Hulyaipole on September 22 and continued routine strikes throughout western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • Russian occupation forces are hurriedly setting conditions to hold sham annexation referenda across occupied Ukraine from September 23-27.
  • Russian officials created polling stations in parts of Russia, ostensibly to enable displaced (in many cases meaning kidnapped) Ukrainian residents of occupied territories to “vote.”
  • Russian occupation officials in Ukraine likely expect to be forced to provide personnel to meet Russian regional mobilization quotas after the Kremlin illegally annexes occupied Ukrainian territories.

Russia’s military divided as Putin struggles to deal with Ukraine’s counteroffensive, US sources say, CNN reports. “Russia’s military is divided over how best to counter Ukraine’s unexpected battlefield advances this month, according to multiple sources familiar with US intelligence, as Moscow has found itself on the defensive in both the east and the south. Russian President Vladimir Putin is himself giving directions directly to generals in the field, two sources familiar with US and western intelligence said– a highly unusual management tactic in a modern military that these sources said hints at the dysfunctional command structure that has plagued Russia’s war from the beginning.

Intelligence intercepts have captured Russian officers arguing among themselves and complaining to friends and relatives back home about decision-making from Moscow, one of these sources told CNN. And there are significant disagreements on strategy with military leaders struggling to agree on where to focus their efforts to shore up defensive lines, multiple sources familiar with US intelligence said.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed that it is redeploying forces toward Kharkiv in the northeast — where Ukraine has made the most dramatic gains — but US and western sources say the bulk of Russian troops still remain in the south, where Ukraine has also mounted offensive operations around Kherson.

Putin announced a partial mobilization on Wednesday that is expected to include the call-up of up to 300,000 reservists. He has for months resisted taking that step and Biden administration officials said Wednesday that the fact he has moved to do so now highlights the severity of Russia’s manpower shortages and signals a growing desperation. […]

And while Russia flails on the battlefield, officials in Moscow have scrambled to assign blame for Russia’s abrupt turn in fortunes, a senior NATO official said. “Kremlin officials and state media pundits have been feverishly discussing the reasons for the failure in Kharkiv and in typical fashion, the Kremlin seems to be attempting to deflect the blame away from Putin and onto the Russian military,” this person said. […]

Russia has sent “a small number” of troops into eastern Ukraine — some of whom had fled amid Ukraine’s battlefield advances last week, according to two US defense officials — an effort to shore up its weakened defensive lines.

But even if Russia is able to coalesce around a plan, US and western officials believe Russia is limited in its ability to mount a strategically significant response to Ukraine’s counteroffensive operations that in recent days, sources say, has swung the momentum in Kyiv’s favor. Even after the announcement of the partial mobilization, officials are skeptical that Russia is capable of quickly deploying large numbers of troops into Ukraine given its ongoing problems with supply lines, communications and morale.

The “small scale” of the Russian redeployment is a signal of its inability to mount any serious operations, the senior defense official told CNN. […]

Absent more manpower that, right now, it simply doesn’t have, sources said Russia has few other options to penalize or push back Ukrainian forces. Putin is “struggling,” National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said in an appearance on CNN on Wednesday. Russia’s military has “poor unit cohesion, desertions in the ranks, soldiers not wanting to fight,” Kirby said.

He has terrible morale, unit cohesion on the battlefield, command and control has still not been solved. He’s got desertion problems and he’s forcing the wounded back into the fight. So clearly, manpower is a problem for him, Kirby said. He feels like he’s on his back foot, particularly in that northeast area of the Donbas. […]

Putin’s mobilization order is significant because it is a direct acknowledgment that Moscow’s “special military operation” wasn’t working and needed to be adjusted, military analysts said. […] Even if Moscow can grow its number of soldiers — both by preventing existing contract service members from leaving service and by mobilizing reservists — it will struggle to train, equip and integrate these troops into existing units, said Michael Kofman, the director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses. And even if that solves some near-term manpower problems, these will likely not be high-quality recruits, Kofman and others noted. […]

But, the senior NATO official said, Overall, Russia now finds itself on the defensive. Ukraine has the initiative, forcing Russia to take stopgap measures simply to avoid further losses. If Ukraine succeeds in undertaking sustained defensive operations, this could even further undermine the sustainability of Russian defenses, this person said.”

Russia could draft up to 1M reservists, a classified clause of mobilization decree says, Ukrinform reports. “Paragraph 7 of Vladimir Putin’s decree announcing partial mobilization across Russia, which has been classified, allows the country’s defence ministry to call up one million people. That’s according to the Novaya Gazeta EU outlet, citing a source in the presidential administration, Ukrinform reports.

Earlier, a scanned copy of Vladimir Putin’s decree on the introduction of “partial mobilization” in Russia was published on the legal information portal. Paragraph 7 of the decree is marked “for restricted use.” Later, in response to journalists’ inquiries, the president’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that the classified item was related to the number of reservists who could be called up for military service.

Russian command plans to use numbers, not skills, in the ongoing war – Gen. Zabrodskyi, Ukrinform reports, citing Lieutenant General Mykhailo Zabrodskyi, First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defense, and Intelligence, who penned an oped for Ukrinform, entitled “Partial mobilization in Russia: things aren’t that simple.”

“Three hundred thousand personnel is not a small operational-strategic quantity… This number of servicemen is approximately 60 to 100 combined military brigades. […]. We don’t know the true intentions of the Russian General Staff, so for relative objectivity, we should conditionally divide the 300,000 mentioned in half. In this case, the number of brigades potentially likely to be formed is reduced – to the range between 30 and 50. Let’s take the average number 40 as a base,” Zabrodskyi said. […]

It allows the Russian command to form an additionally 80-120 battalion tactical groups. “This number of troops is comparable to the size of the Russian invasion army in the spring of this year! However, thousands of people sporting military uniforms are not brigades or battalions. Unsurprisingly, the main question is the following. Four dozen combined military brigades imply about 1,200 tanks, up to 4,000 IFVs or APCs, about 1,600 artillery guns and MLR systems. The question expands into two. Where will they get them? What exactly will these samples be and what will be their technical condition?” […].

Russia does have plenty of depots, warehouses, and arsenals, so estimated quantitative indicators seem to allow the Russian Federation to equip a larger number of combined military units. At the same time, the lieutenant general recalled that the newest or not too old BMP-3 IFVs and T-72B2 MBTs began to rapidly vanish back in April […]. At the same time, an experienced military officer warned against taking lightly the increase in the number of Russian troops at the expense of the current “partial mobilization.” […]

The use on the territory of Ukraine of any additional number of replenished or newly formed units will give the Russian command an expanded opportunity to apply its favourite principle of military strategy by (PRussian general – ed.) Clausewitz – the massing of forces at a selected area. Such mass is capable of relegating to the background the issues of motivation, level of training and equipment. The possible consequences of this can be extremely destructive for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It seems that the Russian command is planning to continue this war by employing numbers, not skills, Zabrodsky noted. He added that it would be quite appropriate for Ukraine to take preventive measures as early as today.”

Russia may use nuclear weapons against Ukraine – intelligence official, Ukrinform reports, citing ITV News. “It is possible Russia will use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. They will try to stop our offensive activity and to destroy our state, Skibitskyi said. Such actions by Russia will pose a threat not only to Ukraine but also to other countries, he added. The blast of a tactical nuclear weapon will have an impact not only in Ukraine but the Black Sea region, Skibitskyi said, adding that the fallout from use of a nuclear weapon could affect countries including Poland, Turkey and Bulgaria.

He said that the consequence of mobilization measures in Russia could be an offensive by the Russian army, which may begin, according to Ukrainian intelligence, as early as this winter. Our assessment is that a new offensive is possible during winter and spring. This is why Russia needs new units. The main goal of Russia is the occupation of all of Ukraine’s territory, Skibitskyi said.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

The US has sent private warnings to Russia against using a nuclear weapon, The Washington Post reports. “The United States for several months has been sending private communications to Moscow warning Russia’s leadership of the grave consequences that would follow the use of a nuclear weapon, according to US officials, who said the messages underscore what President Biden and his aides have articulated publicly.

The Biden administration generally has decided to keep warnings about the consequences of a nuclear strike deliberately vague, so the Kremlin worries about how Washington might respond, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive deliberations.

The attempt by the White House to cultivate what’s known in the nuclear deterrence world as “strategic ambiguity” comes as Russia continues to escalate its rhetoric about possible nuclear weapons use amid a domestic mobilization aimed at stanching Russian military losses in eastern Ukraine. […] It was not clear whether the United States had sent any new private messages in the hours since Russian President Vladimir Putin issued his latest veiled nuclear threat during a speech announcing a partial mobilization early Wednesday, but a senior US official said the communication has been happening consistently over recent months. […]

Biden administration officials have emphasized that this isn’t the first time the Russian leadership has threatened to use nuclear weapons since the start of the war on Feb. 24, and have said there is no indication Russia is moving its nuclear weapons in preparation for an imminent strike. Still, the recent statements from the Russian leadership are more specific than previous comments and come at a time when Russia is reeling on the battlefield from a […] Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Whereas previous Kremlin statements appeared to be aimed at warning the United States and its allies against going too far in helping Ukraine, Putin’s most recent comments suggested Russia is considering using a nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine to freeze gains and force Kyiv and its backers into submission, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a nonproliferation advocacy group in Washington. What everyone needs to recognize is that this is one of, if not the most, severe episodes in which nuclear weapons might be used in decades, Kimball said. The consequences of even a so-called ‘limited nuclear war’ would be absolutely catastrophic.

For years, US nuclear experts have worried that Russia might use smaller tactical nuclear weapons, sometimes referred to as “battlefield nukes,” to end a conventional war favourably on its terms — a strategy sometimes described as “escalate to de-escalate.”

US Stratcom believes direct nuclear conflict realistic, Ukrinform reports. “The US Strategic Command does not rule out a possibility of a direct nuclear clash with Russia or China, which requires a review of approaches to warfare. That’s according to Navy Adm. Charles “Chas” A. Richard, commander of US Strategic Command, who joined a panel discussion on important national security concerns, Ukrinform reports, citing the Pentagon press service.

All of us in this room are back in the business of contemplating competition through crisis and possible direct armed conflict with a nuclear-capable peer, he said. We have not had to do that in over 30 years. The implications of that are profound. They’re profound for homeland defense. They’re profound for strategic deterrence, as well as us achieving national objectives. And this is no longer theoretical.

Every Defense Department plan and capability rests on an assumption that strategic deterrence, and in particular nuclear deterrence, is holding, Richard said. If that assumption isn’t met, nothing else in the department or the joint force is going to work the way that it was designed, the report reads.

Russia and China can escalate to any level of violence that they choose in any domain with any instrument of power worldwide, he said. We just haven’t faced competitors and opponents like that in a long time. Because of this, the department will have to change its approach to warfare, he said, adding that the slower, traditional approaches to escalation don’t work anymore. […] As Ukrinform reported earlier, the White House has reacted to Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats, stressing that Russia will suffer heavy consequences.”

Hans Petter Midttun’s assessment

President Theodore Roosevelt argued that “speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far” was a policy of caution and non-aggression, backed up by the ability to carry out violent action if required. It is in essence diplomacy backed by military power.

Unfortunately, the policy has not been used against Russia. The West has mainly been speaking softly while leaving the “big stick” behind. The US and NATO made it unequivocally clear in 2014 already that military force was off the table.

In March 2014, after the Russian illegal annexation of Crimea and after consultations with European Union and NATO members, President Obama said that the Western powers did not plan to try to dislodge Russia from Crimea by force. He argued that “over time, if the West remains united, Russia will recognize that it cannot use brute force to achieve its goals”.

The Russian occupation of the Crimean Peninsula marked the start of its occupation of parts of Donbas and low-intensity war against Ukraine, war crimes in Syria, an attempted coup in Montenegro, the downing of MH-17, closure of the Kerch Strait, blockade of Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov and the attack on its navy, restrictions on international freedom of navigation, the militarization of the Arctic, military build-up along the borders of Ukraine, partial integration of Belarus into the Russian Federation, terrorist attacks and not least, its hybrid war against both Ukraine as well as the NATO and EU member states. The latter includes repeated interference in elections and referendums, energy war, information war, cyber-attacks, liquidations, political manipulation, and more.

The problem is that the West did not remain united and Russia did not recognise that it couldn’t use brute force to achieve its goals.

The USA was (and still is) being torn apart by internal strife. The basis for democracy is threatened and the democratic principle of separation of powers is challenged. The Euro-Atlantic link has been strained for years. NATO is according to the head of state “experiencing brain death”. Despite nearly 9 years of war in Europe, 20 out of 30 member states refuse to reach the NATO target of 2% of GDP for defence budgets. As a consequence, the defence industries in both the US and Europe are unable to meet the urgent needs resulting from the “new” security environment. The European Union is struggling to cope with member states unwilling to adhere to the basic values and principles created as the basis for the EU. The UK decided to leave the EU altogether. Several European countries continued developing their business relationship and increase their energy dependence on Russia. Some of the NATO and EU members are even openly supporting Russia despite its confrontation with the West.

As a consequence, the US and NATO members continue to keep all military options off the table, including the ones executed during the last decades according to both the strategic concept of the Alliance and the UN doctrine on “Responsibility to Protect”.

Russia is still facing an Alliance openly declaring that it will not engage militarily in support of Ukraine. After nearly 9 years of war, it recognises that brute force is in fact the only way it can achieve its goals

The Biden administration has allegedly decided to keep warnings about the consequences of a nuclear strike deliberately vague to keep the Kremlin worrying about how Washington might respond in case it decides to use tactical nuclear arms.

In my opinion, this is a grave mistake. This is not the time to be vague or leave any room for interpretations. All assessments of our resolve – based on our last 15 years of inaction – will be in our disfavour. The West is seen as weak.

At this point, after years of “speaking softly while downsizing, streamlining and leaving the big stick behind”, and having made it unequivocally clear that military force was off the table, the West urgently needs to demonstrate resolve and willingness to defend our shared values and principles.

Adm. Charles A. Richard, commander of US Strategic Command, captured the essence of it when he stated that “every Defense Department plan and capability rests on an assumption that strategic deterrence, and in particular nuclear deterrence, is holding

How can deterrence hold when we both public state and act in a manner that tells Russia that we are unwilling to uphold it? NATO just committed to doing less, remember?

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