Russo Ukrainian War. Day 240: Russia mines large dam in central Ukraine, brings troops from Far East to Belarus

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Mobilization in Russia: more than a million Russians were banned from leaving the country. Russia brings military personnel and munitions from Russia’s Far East to Belarus. The threat of attack from Belarus is growing. Russia has launched nearly 300 attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since 10 October trying to provoke another Ukrainian migration wave to the EU. Russians have mined the Kakhovka HPP dam, if they blow it up, more than 80 settlements, including Kherson, will be in the zone of rapid flooding. Russia caused damage to Ukraine’s environment worth more than 37 billion euros.

Daily overview — Summary report, October 21

A map of the approximate situation on the ground in Ukraine as of 00:00 UTC 21/10/22. “There have been no notable changes to control since the last update.” Source: Twitter/War Mapper ~

A map of the approximate situation on the ground in Ukraine as of 00:00 UTC 21/10/22. “There have been no notable changes to control since the last update.” Source: Twitter/War Mapper

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, October 21, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below

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“Russian forces are trying to keep the temporarily captured territories, concentrating efforts on restraining the actions of the Defence Forces in certain areas. At the same time, it does not stop trying to conduct offensive actions in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka areas.

Et bilde som inneholder kart Automatisk generert beskrivelseOver the past day, units of the Defence Forces repelled the attacks of the Russian invaders in the areas of Bilohorivka settlements of the Luhansk oblast; Opytne, Bakhmut, Pobyeda and Maryinka of the Donetsk oblast.

Russian forces are shelling the positions of our troops along the contact line and conducting aerial reconnaissance. Violating the norms of International Humanitarian Law, the laws and customs of war, it continues to strike critical infrastructure and the homes of the civilian population.

Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces have launched 3 missile strikes, 24 airstrikes and more than 30 MLRS attacks.

Areas of more than 15 settlements were hit by enemy attacks. Among them – Mykolaiv; Nova Kamianka and Mala Seidemynukha in the Kherson oblast and Hatyshche in the Kharkiv oblast.

The invaders used cruise missiles and anti-aircraft guided missiles for their crimes. In addition, Russian forces launched more than 20 Iranian-made “Shahed-136” unmanned aerial vehicles. [Out of 20 UAVs, 15 were successfully shot down by the Defence Forces of Ukraine.]

In the Volyn, Polissia and Siverske directions, the situation remains unchanged. [The Republic of Belarus continues to support the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. The threat of missile strikes and the use of attack UAVs on the territory of Ukraine remains.]

Russian forces shelled in other directions:

  • in the Slobozhanske direction – from tanks, mortars, and artillery, in the areas of Starytsa, Krasne, and Khatne settlements;
  • in the Kupiansk and Lyman directions – from artillery and MLRS, in the areas of the settlements of Berestove, Zarichne, Nove, Pershotravneve, Stelmakhivka, Terny, and Yampolivka;
  • in the Bakhmut direction – from tanks and artillery, in the areas of Andriivka, Bakhmut, Bakhmutske, Bilohorivka, Zelenopillia, Spirne, Ivanhrad, and Yakovlivka settlements;
  • in the Avdiivka direction – from tanks, mortars, artillery and MLRS, in the areas of Vodyane, Marinka, Novomykhailivka, Pervomaiske, and Semenivka settlements.
  • in the Novopavlivskyi and Zaporizhzhia directions – Russian forces carried out shelling in the areas of Vremivka, Vuhledar, Dorozhnyanka, Neskuchne, Novodanylivka, and Stepova.
  • In the Pivdennyy Buh direction – up to 20 settlements along the contact line were damaged by fire. To conduct aerial reconnaissance, the occupiers made more than 20 flights of UAVs of various types. [Yesterday, more than 30 settlements along the contact line suffered fire damage. To conduct aerial reconnaissance, Russian forces made up to 40 sorties of UAVs of various types.]

According to the available information, up to 2,000 people from among the Russian mobilized people arrived in the temporarily captured territory of the Kherson region to replenish losses and strengthen units on the contact line. At the same time, the occupation authorities issued an order to prepare evacuation for the so-called “banking institutions”, and prepared evacuation lists of imported Russian medical workers and teachers. Humanitarian facilities in Kherson stop working.

[The military-political leadership of the Russian Federation is officially ending partial mobilization. At the same time, the forced delivery of subpoenas to certain categories of Russian citizens does not stop. In the Mosrentgen settlement of the Moscow region, the mobilized were placed at the deployment point of the 27th separate motorized rifle brigade for their medical examination and further referral to the combat zone. In the course of already conducted mobilization measures, significant problems arise.]

[The occupation leadership continues the forced mobilization of the male population in the temporarily occupied territories. At the same time, the evacuation of the civilian population began in separate directions.]

According to detailed information, more than 30 wounded people arrived at the hospital in the town of Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia region, at the same time after the fire damage caused by the Defence Forces of Ukraine.

During the past 24 hours, Ukrainian aviation has carried out 5 strikes. It was confirmed that 3 strongholds and areas of concentration of weapons and military equipment and 2 positions of Russian anti-aircraft missile systems were hit. Air defense units shot down 15 unmanned aerial vehicles.

Soldiers of the missile troops and artillery struck 4 control points, 7 areas of concentration of manpower, weapons and military equipment, an ammunition depot, an air defense device, a bridge, and a pontoon crossing of Russian forces.“

Military Updates

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

  • On 14 October 2022, Belarussian president Aleksandr Lukashenko said that 70,000 Belarusian troops and up to 15,000 Russians would be involved in a new Russian-Belarussian Group of Forces. On 15 October 2022, the Belarussian authorities released a video claiming to show the arrival of Russian troops in Belarus. However, to date, it is unlikely that Russia has actually deployed a significant number of extra troops into Belarus.
  • Russia is unlikely to be able to generate combat-ready formations of the claimed size: its forces are committed in Ukraine. The Belarussian military highly likely maintains minimal capability to undertake complex operations.
  • The announcement is likely an attempt to demonstrate Russian-Belarussian solidarity and to convince Ukraine to divert forces to guard the northern border.
  • On 18 October 2022, recently appointed commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin, told Russian media that ‘a difficult situation has emerged’ in the Kherson area. He endorsed the previously announced plans of the occupation authorities to evacuate the civilian population.
  • As the overall operational commander, Surovikin’s announcement highlighting negative news about the ‘special military operation’ is highly unusual. It likely indicates that the Russian authorities are seriously considering a major withdrawal of their forces from the area west of the Dnipro River.
  • A key challenge of any Russian withdrawal operation would be extracting troops and their equipment across the 1000m wide river in good order. With all the permanent bridges severely damaged, Russia would highly likely rely heavily on a temporary barge bridge it completed near Kherson in recent days, and military pontoon ferry units, which continue to operate at several locations.
  • Russia would rely heavily on military pontoon ferry units during any withdrawal across the Dnipro River.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Friday 21 October, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – more than 66750 (+100),
  • Tanks – 2573 (+6),
  • Armored combat vehicles – 5258 (+3),
  • Artillery systems – 1648 (+2),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 372 (+0),
  • Air defense means – 189 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 269 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 243 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 4006 (+1),
  • Vessels/boats – 16 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1325 (+14),
  • Special equipment – 147 (+0),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 329 (+0)

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 240: Russia mines large dam in central Ukraine, brings troops from Far East to Belarus ~~

Russia has fired 154 missiles at Ukraine since Oct 10, Ukrinform reports. “The analysis of Russian use of missile weapons over the past period shows a sharp and significant increase in its intensity. Since October 10, Russian forces have launched 154 missiles across the territory of Ukraine, a sevenfold increase compared to the first ten days of the month. For the first ten days, 21 missiles were launched, Oleksiy Hromov, deputy chief of the main operational department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said.”

Mobilisation in Russia: more than a million Russians banned from leaving the country, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Astra [Russian news agency]. “More than a million Russians have been banned from leaving the country to date because of partial mobilisation. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the number of conscripts does not exceed 300,000 people.

The news agency reports that the list of those who are banned from leaving the Russian Federation in connection with the partial mobilisation has already reached 1,025,703 people.”

Humanitarian 

Russia wants to provoke another Ukrainian migration wave to EU through shelling – Zelenskyy, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy believes that Russia’s shelling of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure aimed at exacerbating the ‘energy blackmail’ of Europe, as well as provoking another wave of Ukrainian migration to the EU. The President noted that, until recently, Ukraine used to export electricity to the EU, which was a very significant contribution to Europe’s energy and price stability.[…]

According to Zelenskyy, the shelling is aimed at creating as many problems as possible with electricity and heating for Ukraine this autumn and winter and forcing as many Ukrainians as possible to seek refuge in your countries. The terrorist state has already worsened social conditions in your countries, but it wants to worsen it further by provoking a migration wave, Zelesnkyy said. 

In his opinion, the European Union must respond to this by enhancing Ukraine’s air defences and imposing stricter sanctions on Russia and Iran, which is helping Russian troops with their UAVs.”

Millions of refugees from Ukraine have crossed borders into neighbouring 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 19 October:

Individual refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe: 7,710,924
Hungary, Republic  of Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia 2,259,117
Russian Federation, Belarus 2,868,248
Other European countries 2,583,559
Refugees from Ukraine registered for Temporary Protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe: 4,386,102
Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia 2,240,611
Other European countries 2,145,491
Border crossings from Ukraine (since 24 February 2022): 14,325,424
Border crossings to Ukraine (since 28 February 2022): 6,941,852

Russia has launched nearly 300 attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since 10 October, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Herman Halushchenko, Ukrainian Energy Minister. “Since last Monday, 10 October until today there have been almost 300 attacks in total on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure using missiles, artillery and drones. Certainly, preparations have been made – what to do if there is critical damage to energy infrastructure. Such damage will require longer to repair than we are doing now. […]

Halushchenko reminded the public that saving energy is critically important right now. He said that within the first few days of the large-scale attacks, Ukrainians managed to reduce energy consumption by 10%. Meanwhile, Halushchenko remarked that it is recommended that this percentage be increased to at least 20%.”

Ukraine’s Burshtyn power plant seriously damaged – regional governor, Reuters reports. “A Russian air strike that hit a major thermal power station in the city of Burshtyn in western Ukraine on Wednesday has caused “quite serious” damage, the region’s governor said on Thursday. Unfortunately, there is destruction, and it is quite serious, Svitlana Onyshchuk, Ivano-Frankivsk’s governor, said.”

Ukraine asks EU and NATO to help with energy equipment after Russian attacks, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing  European Pravda. “Dmytro Kuleba, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, has reported that Ukraine has sent out requests for the aid needed using NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) and the EU’s civil protection mechanism (ERCC – Emergency Response Coordination Centre). Ukrainian diplomats have also approached dozens of international and non-governmental organisations and private companies with a request for the supply of generators, their components and spare parts, as well as equipment for Ukraine’s gas transmission system. […]

We have received the first positive responses about the readiness to supply the equipment as soon as possible”, Kuleba stated. Thanks to the diplomats’ prompt work, agreements regarding supplies from Italy, France, Lithuania, Finland, Germany and Poland have already been reached. The first of about 600 pieces of equipment will arrive in Ukraine as early as next week.

The ministry added that stable supplies will help ensure that Ukrainian households, hospitals and schools can operate without interruption if critical energy infrastructure is damaged or power outages occur.

Ukraine already exported 8M tonnes of agricultural products via seaports, Ukrinform reports, citing the Infrastructure Ministry’s press service. “Since the departure of the first ship with Ukrainian grain, 8 million tonnes of agricultural products have already been exported, the report reads. […] A total of 362 ships with Ukrainian agricultural products have already left Ukrainian ports for the countries of Asia, Europe and Africa.

Environmental 

Weather forecasters predict a relatively mild winter in Ukraine, Reuters reports. “Weather forecasters in Ukraine on Thursday predicted a milder winter than usual, offering a glimmer of hope to Ukrainians facing power outages following Russian attacks on energy facilities. […] Winters can be long and hard in Ukraine, but the state-run weather forecasting centre suggested temperatures may be slightly higher than average this winter.

The average temperature of the winter period is expected to be 1-2 degrees (Celsius) higher than the norm… the probability of long periods of very cold weather with a minimum temperature of minus 25-30 Celsius degrees in Ukraine is very low, it said on Facebook. Mostly probable short-term significant cooling lasting 1-5 days, when the minimum temperature at night will be minus 15-20 Celsius degrees, it said.”

Russians blowing up Kakhovka HPP will make it impossible to supply water to Crimea for years, Ukrinform reports, citing the Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov. “Russian forces blowing up the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant will lead to a catastrophe with a huge number of casualties and will make it impossible to supply water to Crimea for years to come.

Then, in general, I cannot explain how the world should react to this. Because it’s not just the destruction of infrastructure. It will be a catastrophe of enormous proportions with a huge number of human victims, Danilov said. He noted that in this case, it will be impossible to supply Crimea with water in the coming years, and this issue is important for Russia.

Russia caused damage to Ukraine’s environment worth more than 37 billion euros, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, Yevhenii Fedorenko. “Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, The Russian Federation has caused more than 37 billion euros worth of damage to the environment in Ukraine.

The world must recognise that Russia is the biggest sponsor of terrorism in modern society. It is this country that uses nuclear, energy, and raw materials terror with the assistance of Belarus, [and] causes significant damage to the environment not only in Ukraine but also throughout Europe, he emphasised during the Forum for Security Co-operation of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] participating states.

According to the Ministry of Environment, as a result of forest fires, the burning of oil products, and the burning of industrial facilities, the atmospheric emissions throughout almost eight months of full-scale war have already exceeded 67 million tonnes.”

Legal

Experts identify weapons deployed in Russian attack on [civilian] convoy in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Interfax-Ukraine. [Oleksandr Filchakov, Head of the Kharkiv Oblast Prosecutor’s Office,] reported that French experts examined 16 out of the 26 bodies of civilians killed as a result of the Russian attack on an evacuation convoy near the village of Kurylivka in Kharkiv Oblast, as well as two out of six cars in the convoy that was damaged in the attack.

Parts of 30 and 45-mm highly explosive shells were found in the cars. Our French colleagues concluded that [these shells] are used with military guns mounted on heavy military vehicles, BMP-2 and BRM 3K Rys [Lynx]. These vehicles are in service with the Russian army.

In addition, metal remnants of shells were found in 16 civilian bodies they examined. [The French experts] identified these shells and the weapon from which they were fired… It looks like these were VOG-17 and VOG-25.”

156 Russian war crimes registered in liberated territories of the Kherson region, Ukrinform reports. “The police took measures to restore law and order in 88 settlements in the liberated territories of Kherson region. The work of two police units has been resumed – in the villages of Vysokopillia and Velyka Oleksandrivka. The investigators of the National Police documented 156 war crimes. Most of them, 139 criminal offences, were registered under Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (violation of the laws and customs of war),” Oleksiy Serheyev, head of the National Police department for analytical support and operational response, said during a briefing at the Military Media Center on October 20.”

429 children were killed, 817 children injured, 8,709 deported by foe forces, and 240 reported missing – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of October 21. 2,663 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, and 326 of them are destroyed fully. 40,843 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 18,070 crimes against national security were registered as of October 19.

Support 

The US will continue international interaction to provide Ukraine with air defence – Pentagon, Ukrinform reports. “The United States can confirm that the UAVs that Russia is using against Ukraine are from Iran and intends to continue working with allies and partners to provide the Ukrainian Armed Forces with the necessary means of defence. Defense Department Spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said this at a briefing on Thursday.”

Working group for urgent assistance to Ukraine created in the US, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Mustafa Nayem, the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine. “He noted that in Washington, almost all ministries and departments have created separate teams and groups that are looking for opportunities to help Ukraine during the full-scale war.

And this is not only about supplying very important weapons and military equipment, but also about directing financial support to the state budget of Ukraine and comprehensive humanitarian assistance to the affected oblasts, Nayyem noted.”

“As long as it takes”: National Security Council spokesman John Kirby vows continued support for Ukraine, CBC News reports. “The National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications says the United States will continue to support Ukraine “as best as we can” in its fight against Russia.  We are going to do everything we can, as we have now for going on eight months, to make sure that the Ukrainian armed forces have what they need in the field, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told “CBS Mornings”.     

We’re going to stay at this, he said. You’ve heard the president talk about that. As long as it takes. We’re committed to that. While he echoed President Joe Biden’s message that the US will not put troops on the ground in Ukraine, he said the US is leading and coordinating international efforts to get additional weapons and capabilities to the country. 

He also noted that the US is the largest contributor of financial and economic assistance for humanitarian purposes in Ukraine, as well as the largest contributor of security assistance. The US has kicked in nearly $100 billion in aid to Ukraine. Kirby noted that financial support for the country has received bipartisan support in Congress.”

New Developments 

  1. Zelensky: Russians mined Kakhovka HPP and an international observation mission is needed, Ukrinform reports, citing Zelensky. “Russia is deliberately creating the grounds for a large-scale disaster in the south of Ukraine. We have information that Russian terrorists mined the dam and aggregates of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, he said. If Russian terrorists blow up this dam, more than 80 settlements, including Kherson, will be in the zone of rapid flooding. Hundreds, hundreds of thousands of people may be affected, Zelensky said.
  2. President’s Office: Ukraine has already destroyed half the potential of NATO’s main threat – Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Andrii Yermak, the head of the President’s Office, is convinced that Ukraine’s membership of NATO will strengthen the Alliance. Ukraine has already destroyed almost 50% of the potential main threat to NATO in the form of the Russian Federation. Ukraine’s membership of NATO will definitely strengthen the Alliance.”
  3. EU agrees on new sanctions against Iran for supplying drones to Russia, Ukrinform reports. “Permanent representatives of EU member states today agreed on new sanctions against Iran over supplying combat kamikaze drones to Russia that are used for barbaric attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure facilities.”
  4. Germany’s Scholz blasts Putin’s ‘scorched earth’ tactics, Reuters reports. “Russian President Vladimir Putin is using energy and hunger as weapons but has failed to break the West’s unity and will not achieve his war aims through scorched earth tactics, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday.”
  5. NATO allies would act if Sweden, Finland come under pressure, Stoltenberg says, Reuters reports. “NATO allies will act if Sweden or Finland come under pressure from Russia or another adversary before they become full members of the alliance, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Thursday 20 October:

Eastern Ukraine: (Oskil River-Kreminna Line)

Russian sources continued to claim that Russian forces are consolidating limited positions in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast on October 20 that Russian forces allegedly regained over the last few days. Several Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian troops took control of a segment of the railway line in Horobivka, 16km northeast of Kupyansk. However, Ukrainian Kharkiv Oblast Head Oleh Synehubov noted that Ukrainian troops have liberated all but 1.8 percent (32 unspecified villages) of an unspecified area of Kharkiv Oblast, which suggests that unsubstantiated Russian claims of regained territory in this area likely reflect extremely limited gains compared to the recent sweeping Ukrainian counter-offensive that retook almost the entire oblast. ISW’s maps currently depict about 3-4 percent of Kharkiv Oblast under Russian control or advances. ISW will update its maps as soon as it has sufficient data to further clarify the control of terrain.

Russian and Ukrainian forces likely continued fighting along the Svatove-Kreminna line on October 20. Ukrainian Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai reported heavy fighting along the frontline in the directions of Kreminna and Svatove. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian attack near Bilohorivka, about 10km south of Kreminna in the vicinity of Lysychansk. Several Russian sources discussed continued Ukrainian attempts to cross the Zherebets River west of Kreminna around Nadiya, Stelmakhivka, Makiivka, and Yampolivka, each about 15km west of Kreminna.

Southern Ukraine: (Kherson Oblast)

Ukrainian military officials offered limited insight into ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive actions in Kherson Oblast on October 20. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that Ukrainian units are active along the entire frontline and that Russian troops are taking defensive measures, regrouping, engineering fortifications, and mining areas of projected Ukrainian advance. Deputy chief of the Main Operational Department of the Ukrainian General Staff, Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov, noted that Russia has concentrated up to 45 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in the Kherson ”direction” to defend against ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensives. Hromov additionally reported that Ukrainian troops improved their tactical positions around Blahodatne, about 40km north of Kherson City, but did not offer additional details.

Russian sources indicated that Ukrainian troops have advanced in northern Kherson Oblast. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) acknowledged on October 20 that Ukrainian forces penetrated Russian defenses around Sukhanove, about 30km north of Beryslav, and claimed Russian forces repelled the attack. The Russian MoD also stated that Russian troops struck Piatykhatky, which lies 8km northwest of Sukhanove and 40km north of Beryslav, confirming that Ukrainian troops have taken control of the settlement. Other Russian sources reported that Ukrainian troops attempted to break through Russian defenses in that area toward Beryslav from the Nova Kamianka area. ISW has not observed independent verification of these Russian claims.

Ukrainian forces additionally continued their ongoing interdiction campaign against Russian military assets and concentration areas in Kherson Oblast on October 20. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command noted that Ukrainian strikes destroyed two Russian ammunition depots around Beryslav on October 19. Social media footage and reports from residents of Nova Kakhovka showed explosions following Ukrainian strikes in the area on October 20.

Russia is likely continuing to prepare for a false flag attack on the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on October 20 that Russian forces mined the dam of the Kakhovka HPP and noted that the HPP holds over 18 million cubic meters of water, which would cause massive and rapid flooding of settlements along the Dnipro River, including Kherson City. Zelensky emphasized that the flooding would impact hundreds of thousands of people. Russian sources, however, continued to accuse Ukrainian forces of shelling the Kakhovka HPP and have widely circulated graphics depicting the flood path in the event of a dam breach. As ISW reported on October 19, Russian sources are likely setting information conditions for Russian forces to blow the dam after they withdraw from western Kherson Oblast and accuse Ukrainian forces of flooding the Dnipro River and surrounding settlements, partially in an attempt to cover their retreat further into eastern Kherson Oblast. Continued Russian preparation for a false-flag attack on the Kakhovka HPP is also likely meant to distract from reports of Russian losses in Kherson Oblast.

Russian forces are likely setting conditions to remove military and occupation elements from the west bank of the Dnipro River in anticipation of imminent Ukrainian advances. Kherson City Telegram accounts claimed on October 20 that Russian forces disbanded and looted a fire station in Kherson City and ferried fire trucks, stolen civilian cars, and other miscellaneous household items across the Dnipro River to Hola Prystan. ISW cannot independently confirm those reports. The Ukrainian service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty also reported on October 20 that Russian forces are moving military equipment from the west bank to the east bank of the Dnipro River in the face of recent Ukrainian advances, and posted satellite imagery that shows a Russian cargo ferry traveling across the Dnipro River from Kozatske (west bank) to Nova Kakhovka (east bank). Radio Liberty noted that the ferry is fully loaded when it arrives at Nova Kakhovka and empty when it returns to Kozatske and suggested that this movement has been ongoing since early October. Taken in tandem, these reports indicate that Russian troops are likely deliberately removing large amounts of personnel and equipment from the west bank of the Dnipro River. Russian forces have likely learned, at least in part, from their failures during the panicked Russian retreat from Kharkiv Oblast in the face of a previous Ukrainian counteroffensive. The militarily sensible thing would be to remove men and equipment in good order to avoid another devastating rout. Such a rout in Kherson could trap Russian forces and equipment on the west bank of the Dnipro River.

The White House confirmed on October 20 that Iranian military personnel are in Russian-occupied Crimea, Ukraine, to assist Russian forces in conducting drone attacks on Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure. US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that “a relatively small number” of Iranian personnel are in Crimea to train Russian personnel in the use of unfamiliar Iranian-made drones. Kirby emphasized that “Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground and through the provision of weapons that are impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, that are killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure in Ukraine” and warned that Russia and Iran will continue to lie about their partnership. Russian officials have continued to deny their purchase of Iranian drones, but the existence of the deal is increasingly common knowledge even within Russia. A member of the Russian Ministry of Defense Public Council, Ruslan Pukhov, believed he was not being recorded when he told a Russian television host live on air on October 20 that “we won’t rock the boat too much, so I ask you not to [focus] too much on those Iranian [drones], like that classic story: ‘you have an ass but no word for it.’ We all know that they’re Iranian, but the authorities are not admitting that.” Iranian officials have also denied the sales despite the widespread Russian use of Iranian drones in Ukraine since mid-September, but Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei boasted on October 19 that ”a few years ago, when pictures of [Iran’s] advanced missiles and drones were published, they said they’re photoshopped pictures! Now they say Iranian drones are dangerous [and ask] why do you sell them to so & so?”

Iran is providing military support to Russian forces in Ukraine despite new international sanctions likely in part because Iranian leaders believe that they need Moscow’s help to upend the US-led global order. The European Union imposed additional sanctions on Iranian officials and the manufacturer of the Shahed-136 drones that Iran has sold to Russia for use in Ukraine on October 20. Senior Iranian officials and state media frequently argue that Tehran must expand strategic relations with Russia and China to cooperate toward countering US global influence. Iranian leaders may worry that a Russian failure in Ukraine would seriously disrupt this vision and possibly threaten Vladimir Putin’s hold on power and, therefore, Iran’s security. Iran could further expand its military support to Russia in the coming months.

The risk of a Russian offensive from Belarus into northern Ukraine remains low despite a prominent Ukrainian official’s October 20 warning that the risk of a Russian offensive from Belarus is “growing.” […] The nearest Ukrainian east-west rail line is 30 km from the Belarusian border, and the Pripet Marshes in northern Ukraine and Belarus make maneuver warfare across the international border in Volyn and Rivne oblasts exceptionally difficult. Ukraine’s road and rail network has sufficient nodes with Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary that a Russian incursion from Belarus could not seriously degrade Ukrainian logistical lines without projecting deeper into Ukraine than Russians did during the Battle of Kyiv, when Russian forces were at their strongest. Those forces are now significantly degraded. A Russian milblogger reiterated on October 20 that the Russian force group in Belarus is too small to threaten Kyiv. White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby reiterated on October 20 that Belarus may concentrate manpower on the border to fix Ukrainian forces in northern Ukraine and prevent their deployment to the active area of operation in southern and eastern Ukraine, as ISW has assessed.

Key Takeaways

  • Russia is likely continuing to prepare for a false-flag attack on the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP).
  • Russian forces are likely setting conditions to remove military and occupation elements from the west bank of the Dnipro River in anticipation of imminent Ukrainian advances.
  • The White House confirmed on October 20 that Iranian military personnel are in Russian-occupied Crimea, Ukraine to assist Russian forces in conducting drone attacks on Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure.
  • Iran is providing military support to Russian forces in Ukraine despite new international sanctions likely in part because Iranian leaders believe that they need Moscow’s help to upend the US-led global order.
  • Iran is providing military support to Russian forces in Ukraine despite new international sanctions likely in part because Iranian leaders believe that they need Moscow’s help to upend the US-led global order.
  • Russian sources continued to claim that Russian forces are consolidating limited regained positions in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast on October 20 despite Ukrainian reports that Ukraine has liberated all but 1.8% of Kharkiv Oblast.
  • Russian sources indicated that Ukrainian troops have advanced in northern Kherson Oblast as Ukrainian forces continued their interdiction campaign.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct ground assaults in Donetsk Oblast but Russian sources contradicted their own claims on control of Bakhmut. Russian forces are likely continuing to falsify claims of advances in the Bakhmut area to portray themselves as making gains in at least one sector amid continuing losses in northeast and southern Ukraine.
  • Russian regional governments and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) continue to blame each other for military administrative failures.“ 

General Staff names priority task of Russian occupiers, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleksii Hromov, deputy head of the Main Operative Directorate of the Ukrainian General Staff. “The information gathered by the intelligence says that in the near perspective, the main task of the Armed Forces of Russia is to hold their positions and stop the Ukrainian offensive on the Kherson front. Russians plan to fulfil this task during the first wave of mobilisation and by increasing the quantity of the Russian military units on the right bank of the Dnipro River.

Hromov states that as of today, the occupiers use 45 battalion tactical groups that accelerate the fortification of the defensive lines for containment of the Ukrainian offensive in the Pivdennyi Buh front. Thus, Russians are constantly trying to restore the crossings over the Dnipro River in order to facilitate the support of their troops.”

Zelensky: Russians mined Kakhovka HPP, international observation mission is needed, Ukrinform reports, citing Zelensky. “Russia is deliberately creating the grounds for a large-scale disaster in the south of Ukraine. We have information that Russian terrorists mined the dam and aggregates of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, he said. He added that the Kakhovka HPP is a large energy facility, and its dam holds about 18 million cubic meters of water. If Russian terrorists blow up this dam, more than 80 settlements, including Kherson, will be in the zone of rapid flooding. Hundreds, hundreds of thousands of people may be affected, Zelensky said.

According to him, the water supply of a large part of southern Ukraine may be destroyed. Zelensky said that this Russian terrorist attack could leave the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant without water for cooling as water for the ZNPP is taken from the Kakhovka Reservoir. In addition, he noted that even the operation of the canal, which was built to supply water to Crimea […] will be completely destroyed.

According to our information, Russia has already prepared everything to carry out this terrorist attack. Ukrainian workers were kicked out of the Kakhovka station – only Russian citizens stay there. They have complete control over the station. It is necessary to act immediately so that Russia does not have the opportunity to realize this catastrophe. An international observation mission to the Kakhovka HPP is needed. It is necessary to return the Ukrainian personnel there and ensure immediate and professional demining of the aggregates and the dam, Zelensky said. He added that Russia is doing this in order to organize another false flag operation – to carry out a terrorist attack and blame Ukraine for it.”

Situation at the front escalates but Russian army achieves no success, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleksii Hromov. “As of 20 October, Russians are putting most of their efforts into achieving their plans to reach the administrative borders of Donetsk Oblast and holding the occupied territories of Kherson Oblast and parts of Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv oblasts. The occupiers continue to accumulate armaments, ammunition and other military equipment, and are deploying their new units near the border between Russia and Ukraine as well as in the temporarily occupied territories.

The situation on the front has escalated since the mobilisation conducted in the Russian Federation, including of convicts, has worsened, and Russian forces are not advancing. Hromov states that the mobilisation in Russia “is only increasing the occupiers’ losses“.

He added that Russia is making up for the lack of progress on the front by intensifying its attacks on the energy infrastructure of Ukraine, using cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and kamikaze drones.”

Satellite photos show occupiers gathering forces on the border of Belarus and Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Belarusian Service of Radio Liberty. Recent satellite photos show that the volume of Russian equipment and troops has increased at Zyabrovka airbase near the border with Ukraine. The news agency draws attention to the fact that the Zyabrovka military airbase near Gomel has undergone significant changes over the past month. Recently, more Russian equipment and troops have arrived there.

Radio Liberty states that similar structures in the form of mounds can be seen, for example, in military unit 1146 of the anti-aircraft missile regiment, which protects the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant. There are radar stations installed on the embankments (see photo below), which are used to identify targets and guide missiles.

The satellite image below, taken on 16 October, shows that the number of military trucks has increased on the territory of the Zyabrovka airbase, the territory of the military camp has expanded, and the presence of S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems is visible. We also see a train that arrived with fuel.”

Russia brings military personnel and munitions from Russia’s Far East to Belarus, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Belaruski Hajun. “According to the information from the military monitoring media outlet’s source, a number of train carriages marked “explosive materials” were dispatched from a railway station in the Primorsky Krai on 26 September. The echelon arrived at a station in the Nizhniy Novgorod Oblast. From there, carriages with ammunition are getting “attached” to military echelons headed for Belarus.

Thus, on 17 October, a military echelon with Russian military personnel and two attached carriages with munitions arrived at the Polonka railway station (Baranovichi district, Brest Oblast, Belarus) from the Ilino station,” the military monitoring media outlet stated.

The threat of attack from Belarus is growing, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing General Oleksii Hromov, Deputy Head of the Main Operational Directorate of the Ukrainian General Staff. “The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine believes that the threat of a new offensive from the territory of Belarus is growing, but the direction of the offensive might be different this time, targeting the western part of the Belarusian-Ukrainian border.

There is a growing threat of a renewed offensive by the Russian Armed Forces on the northern front. The direction of the offensive could be different this time, [with Russian forces targeting] the western part of the Belarusian-Ukrainian border in order to interrupt main weapons and equipment supply routes used to deliver aid from Ukraine’s western partners. Hromov said that Russia is continuing to deploy its aircraft and other military units in Belarus.

Moreover, Belarus is continuing to undertake covert mobilisation and to allow Russia to use its territory to launch its drones and ballistic missiles on Ukraine. Hromov additionally explained that Russian MiG-31 aircraft have been deployed at Belarusian airfields; these aircraft might be armed with Kinzhal cruise missiles.

The representative of the General Staff said that Ukraine was responding to these developments by monitoring the situation and taking measures to protect its borders on the northern front.

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Inflation rate in Ukraine to reach 30% at year’s end, Ukrinform reports. “Inflation will accelerate to around 30% at the end of this year but it will decrease in the following years provided that security risks are expected to decrease and monetary and fiscal policies are coordinated,” Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine Andriy Pyshnyy said at a briefing, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

The NBU governor noted that this year’s acceleration of the inflation rate could be considered quite moderate given the full-scale war and long-term inflation records in many world countries.”

French-German ties need ‘reset’ amid Ukraine war and energy crisis, French minister says, Reuters reports. “Strained relations between France and Germany amid the war in Ukraine and energy crisis need a “reset” to forge a stronger alliance between the two biggest EU countries, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday. Ties between the two countries, traditionally the driving force behind broader EU policy initiatives, have hit a rough spot with their governments postponing a meeting planned for next week until January.

Le Maire, a fluent German speaker with long-running political contacts in Germany, said that relations were currently “difficult”, firstly because the war in Ukraine had prompted Berlin to turn towards Washington while Paris championed “European sovereignty”.

And the halt to gas flows from Russia exposed Germany’s dependence and called its energy model into question while France was making a new push on nuclear energy, Le Maire said. Lastly, Germany was struggling to get to grips with new more difficult business conditions in China, which had long been an “El Dorado” for German industry, Le Maire said.

The war in Ukraine, the gas and energy question and the China issue must lead us to a strategic redefinition of relations between France and Germany, Le Maire told a business conference.”

As inflation stalks Europe, leaders shudder, The New York Times reports. “All they want is arms, arms, arms,” she said of Ukraine. “I’m sick and tired of them.” It is a sentiment — impatience, even inchoate anger, at the inflation fueled by the war — that transcends the shoppers in Rome’s piazzas and can be found among the weekly protests in Germany or in the swelling ranks of French strikers. And it has leaders nervous. While Britain’s economic tailspin was largely self-inflicted by unfunded tax proposals, the resignation on Thursday of Prime Minister Liz Truss sent perhaps the clearest signal yet that political peril awaits those who fail to address inflation and the erosion of living standards, no matter the cause.

The situation is arguably even more dire on continental Europe. The annual inflation rate in the European Union is now at its highest in decades — 10.9 percent in September, up from 3.6 a year earlier. That is worse even than in the United States or Britain, and it is being driven largely by the bloc’s unique and anguishing withdrawal pains as it tries to punish Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, for his invasion of Ukraine by quitting its long dependence on cheap Russian gas. As winter approaches, Europe’s united turn away from Russian energy is beginning to bite in households everywhere, eroding living standards and in some countries threatening to chip away at the united front for sanctions against Russia.

Mario Draghi, the departing prime minister of Italy and an architect of the continent’s united line against Russia, warned as much would happen if Europe failed to reach a deal to cap prices on the alternative gas imports. […] It “can wear down the commitment of our countries toward Ukraine, he added. That moment, it seems, is arriving as strikes and protests over the rising cost of living proliferate, ushering in a period of social and labor unrest not seen since at least the 1970s.

We have seen this after the First World War, Second World War and also in the ’70s, said Kurt Vandaele, a senior researcher at the European Trade Union Institute. There were strike waves associated with a real spike in inflation. […]

But the Baltic countries, which are taking the hardest economic hit, have shown that the opposition to Mr. Putin remains the priority. Estonia, which last month registered an inflation rate of 24 percent, the highest in Europe, has not wavered on the war. Nor has Lithuania or Latvia, where inflation is running at about 22 percent. But the loss of purchasing power is not without political consequence.

Support for Estonia’s far-right nationalist party just six months before a parliamentary election has grown, though it has shown no sympathy for Mr. Putin and support sending arms to Ukraine. And while fringe groups have turned out for protests in the Czech Republic, where inflation last month rose to 17.8 percent, the pro-E.U. government seems strong. […]

In Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, the leadership is trying to spend its way out of the crisis as only it can. But even there it’s not clear the relief will be felt in time, and whether it will further wobble the country’s already deeply divided stance on how to help Ukraine and whether to work with Russia or isolate it. Today, 67 percent of Germans worry about rising costs of living — 16 percent higher than last year. It’s the country’s top anxiety despite government aid packages. […] The German authorities said that an aid package of 200 billion euros that was proposed by the government earlier this month appeared to have eased some popular anxiety, with promises of gas and electricity price caps, as well as direct aid to struggling families and businesses.

But in France, the strikes and demonstrations are gaining in intensity as a fear of eroding living standards dominates concerns, polls say. Inflation, pushed by soaring energy prices, will shave $73 billion from the gross domestic product and shrink France’s purchasing power by 1.4 percent next year, with the effect felt largely in poorer households, a recent study predicted. […]

On Tuesday, France’s main unions led large demonstrations in Paris, with tens of thousands marching for wage increases, and a survey last week by the polling firm IFOP found that support for Ukraine was down about 5 percentage points since May. […] While there is still general opposition to Russia, on the question of sacrificing purchasing power to support Ukraine, “public opinion is much more divided,” said Adrien Broche, the co-author of a study showing that only a third of the French now agree with bearing the economic consequences of the war.

In Italy, Ms. Meloni has had to assure skeptics that she would keep Mr. Draghi’s hard line against Russia despite having in her coalition Matteo Salvini, a populist leader who used to wear shirts with Mr. Putin’s face on them […]. Lorenzo Codogno, a former director general of the Italian treasury who runs a consulting firm that closely follows Italian politics, said he thought Ms. Meloni would maintain her strong support of Ukraine but would probably appeal to Europe to help lower taxes on core food items to help low-income Italians.

Hans Petter Midttun’s assessment

Analysts and experts alike have been warning about increasing food and energy insecurity, poverty and famine, inflation, recession, and costs of living for months. I have described these as the “tsunami of ripple effects” from the war.

Recognising the potential consequences of a growing level of frustration in populations, including the risk of demonstrations, riots, increasing extremism and ultimately, the fall of governments, I have long questioned the present NATO strategy.

The voters will punish the incumbent Presidents or Prime Ministers for their failure to avert the costs and end the war at the term of democracy and international law. Populist – and often nationalistic – political parties stand ready to exploit the popular discord spreading across Europe.

The political landscape in both Europe and the USA is likely to change at the cost of democracy. Our ability to meet common challenges is being undermined. Euro-Atlantic security and stability are being contested by an increasingly belligerent Russia.

I have long argued that the only way to avoid the ever-increasing costs from the “tsunami of ripple effects” is to execute a humanitarian intervention in Ukraine. The employment of overwhelming force would change the military balance in favour of Ukraine, Euro-Atlantic security, democracy, and international law.

NATO has in contrast, decided to act in conflict with its previous strategic concept and provide non-military support only.

Western support for Ukraine is slow, half-hearted and insufficient. Ukraine is being denied the tools it needs to re-establish control of its airspace, defend itself against Russian airstrikes, and missile and UAV strikes, and break the maritime blockade. NATO member states are not providing the weapons Ukraine needs to win.

The present NATO strategy – or rather the lack of a robust, common strategy on Ukraine – means that the Alliance sees a protracted war and its many ripple effects as a better strategy than the alternative scenarios. The member states “accept” Ukrainian death, suffering and destruction, a European recession and political instability, loss of NATO credibility and increased global poverty and hunger because the alternatives are worse.

This is seen as a better solution than what?

A hypothetical nuclear dilemma that has always been – and more crucially – will forever remain a dilemma in the face of an aggressive, autocracy aiming for Great Power status at the cost of the USA, NATO and the EU?

Or is the decision not to act a symptom of a far more disconcerting problem: An Alliance unable to solve its core mission?

Several indicators might support the latter. The logical consequences of more than two decades of underfunding, streamlining, and downsizing of member states’ armed forces are one. Decades of focusing on terrorism and out-of-area operations at the cost of collective defence are another. Political statements of “doing all we can for as long as it takes” without defining victory or providing the tools and numbers needed are yet another disconcerting sign. And there are many other indicators. Defence industries struggling to ramp up production. Countries reluctant to deliver weapons and ammunition in the face of dwindling stockpiles. A general decrease in the inflow of weapons and ammunition. NATO’s decision to only supply non-military means. Its unwillingness to conduct Freedom of Navigation Operations in the Black Sea despite its crucial importance for international trade. And not least, NATO stepping away from past commitments and effectively reducing its level of ambitions.

We might have grossly overestimated the Russian conventional military power. We might, however, also have overestimated NATO’s will and ability to defend our common security and values.

The low level of support – and the consequential tsunami of ripple effects – might, therefore, be the logical outcome of decades of neglect of Euro-Atlantic security. We will be paying a high price for having failed to invest in our security.

The question arises: Will NATO survive the so-called “Russian war in Ukraine”?

Let’s for a moment imagine a new defence alliance launched to replace NATO. What would be the acceptance criteria? More than 2% of GDP for the defence budget? 3%? The ability to ensure sustainability beyond the first month of fighting? Resilience and the ability to mobilise, coordinate and synchronise the cross-sectorial efforts of the state? A demonstrated will and ability to do what’s needed to defend shared values? A proper appreciation of the risks and threats, and a demonstrated professionalism on the battlefield? Geostrategic factors?

What countries would meet these conditions? The USA, the UK, Ukraine, and Poland would be obvious candidates. The Baltic countries probably for their stench support for Ukraine, their risk willingness, and their understanding of the costs of oppression and occupation. One would want Finnish “sisu” (“stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness”).

Anyone else? Who else has acted in a manner that has made them eligible for collective defence?

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