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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 356: 130 pieces of Russian armored vehicles destroyed in just one week near Vuhledar

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 356: 130 pieces of Russian armored vehicles destroyed in just one week near Vuhledar
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

130 pieces of Russian armored vehicles destroyed in just one week near Vuhledar. World Bank, WHO believe the damage to Ukraine’s healthcare system stands at $26B. Russia is draining a massive Ukrainian reservoir, endangering a nuclear plant.

Daily overview — Summary report, February 14

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, February 14, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. February 13, 2023. Source: ISW.

 

During the past day, Russian forces launched 2 missiles and 32 air strikes and conducted 55 MLRS attacks.

The threat of Russian air and missile strikes remains high across Ukraine. However, our air defence system is constantly being strengthened.

Russian forces continue to focus their main efforts on offensive operations on Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Novopavlivka axes. Russian forces suffer significant losses. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are taking additional measures to strengthen defence.

Over the past day, Ukrainian defenders repelled attacks in the vicinities of Hryanykivka (Kharkiv oblast); Nevske, Kreminna, Kuzmine, Shipylivka and Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast); Fedorivka, Paraskoviivka, Bakhmut, Vodyane, Mariinka, and Pobieda (Donetsk oblast).

Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna, and Slobozhanshchyna axes: no signs of the formation of enemy offensive groupings were identified. Russian troops undergo combat training at various training grounds in Belarus. [Certain units of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus and the armed forces of the Russian Federation continue their missions in the areas bordering Ukraine. At the same time, the adversary does not stop mortar and artillery shelling of the positions of Ukrainian troops and settlements near the line of contact.]

Kharkiv Battle Map. February 13, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna, and Slobozhanshchyna axes: The vicinities of Yanzhulivka settlement (Chernihiv oblast); Tovstodubove, Vovkivka, Bilokopytove, Volfyne, and Basivka (Sumy oblast); Veterynarne, Krasne, Vovchansk, and Dvorichanske (Kharkiv oblast) were subjects to enemy shelling last day.
  • Kupiansk and Lyman axes: Russian forces employed tanks, mortars, and artillery systems to shell the vicinities of Novomlynsk, Dvorichna, Masyutivka, Synkivka, Kup’yans’k, Stepova, Kislivka, Tabaivka, Krokhmalne, Berestove, Pishchane, Vyshneve, and Cherneshchyna (Kharkiv oblast); Stelmakhivka, Makiivka, Ploshanka, Nevske, Dibrova, and Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast); and Ivanivka, Spirne, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. February 13, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: the vicinities of Bilohorivka, Vesele, Vasyukivka, Zaliznians’ke, Bakhmut, Oleksandro-Shultine, Ozaryanivka, Diliivka, and Mayorsk (Donetsk oblast) suffered enemy mortar and artillery fire.
  • Avdiivka and Novopavlivka axes: Russian tanks, mortars and artillery systems shelled vicinities of several Ukrainian settlements along the contact line, including Avdiivka, Severne, Pervomais’ke, Nevels’ke, Krasnohorivka, Mariinka, Pobieda, Bohoyavlenka, Novoukrainka, Prechistivka, and Zolota Nyva (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. February 13, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia axis: Vremivka and Novopil (Donetsk oblast); Olhivs’ke, Hulyaipole, Staroukrainka, Hulyaipilske, Charivne, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanylivka, Novoandriivka, Stepove, Kamyans’ke (Zaporizhzhia oblast); Illinka and Nikopol (Dnipropetrovsk oblast) came under enemy fire.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. February 13, 2023. Soource: ISW.
  • Kherson axis: Russian forces have yet again shelled civilian objects in Kherson and Antonivka (Kherson oblast) with mortars, artillery and MLRS.

Due to the lack of metal identity tags (so-called dog tags), personnel of the Russian 20th Army operating in the Luhansk oblast were ordered to carry a cartridge case with a piece of paper in their breast pocket. Each piece of paper should contain personnel information of the holder, their personal number etc.

In order to motivate the personnel for offensives, propaganda about daily cash allowances for participation in assault operations is distributed in enemy units. In addition, an additional payment was announced to each invader for a kilometre of advancement on Ukrainian land.

[There is an increase in the number of cases where the mobilized serving in units attached to the 1st Army Corps of the Southern Military District refuse to attack. Because of this, the men mobilized from the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk oblast are removed from the second and third lines and sent to training grounds. There, they undergo two-weeks training and man the assault units for offensive operations on Avdiivka axis.]

[Due to the significant number of medical losses among the invaders, a maternity hospital in the temporarily occupied Luhansk is used to treat wounded soldiers of the Russian occupation forces. In addition, the premises of children’s hospital No. 3 have also been re-arranged as a military hospital.]

Agitation work on the mobilization of scientists has begun in Moscow. In particular, with the staff of the research institute “Polyus”, which is Russia’s leading scientific centre in the field of laser technologies, explanatory work was carried out about social guarantees and benefits of mobilized persons.

During the past 24 hours, Ukrainian Air Force conducted 15 air strikes against concentrations of Russian troops. Ukrainian defenders shot down 2 Russian Su-24M jets and 1 Su-25 jet.

Ukrainian missile and artillery troops attacked 1 command post, 7 concentrations of Russian troops, 2 EW stations, as well as 1 ammunition depot of the Russian occupiers.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

“Major offensive” near Vuhledar: 130 pieces of Russian armoured vehicles destroyed in just one week, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Colonel Oleksii Dmytrashkivskyi, spokesman for the Defence Forces of the Tavria front. “The Russian army lost quite a lot of armoured vehicles on the Vuhledar front within the two weeks of the so-called major offensive. Last week alone, 130 pieces [of armoured vehicles] were destroyed, including 36 tanks. This is a battalion.

Regarding the previously posted photos and videos of the destruction of a column of military equipment in this area, Dmytrashkivskyi explained that there were days when Russian forces had been losing 15 to 20 pieces of equipment.”

Russian barracks, trucks with ammunition hit near Mariupol, Ukrinform reports, citing Advisor to Mariupol Mayor Petro Andriushchenko. “Russian barracks and four trucks loaded with ammunition have been hit in the urban-type settlement of Nikolske near the city of Mariupol.

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

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

  • In the last three days, Wagner Group forces have almost certainly made further small gains around the northern outskirts of the contested Donbas town of Bakhmut, including into the village of Krasna Hora. However, organised Ukrainian defence continues in the area. The tactical Russian advance to the south of the town has likely made little progress.
  • In the north, in Kremina-Svatove sector of Luhansk Oblast, Russian forces are making continuous offensive efforts, though each local attack remains on too small a scale to achieve a significant breakthrough. Russia likely aims to reverse some of the gains Ukrainian forces made over September-November 2022: there is a realistic possibility that their immediate goal is to advance west to the Zherberets River.
  • Overall, the current operational picture suggests that Russian forces are being given orders to advance in most sectors, but that they have not massed sufficient offensive combat power on any one axis to achieve a decisive effect.
  • As of 07 February 2023, open source imagery indicated Russia had likely further bolstered defensive fortifications in central Zaporizhzhia Oblast, southern Ukraine, particularly near the town of Tarasivka. As of 08 January 2023, Russia had established defensive fortifications between the towns of Vasilyvka and Orikhiv, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • Despite the current operational focus on central Donbas, Russia remains concerned about guarding the extremities of its extended front line. This is demonstrated by continued construction of defensive fortifications in Zaporizhzhia and Luhansk oblasts and deployments of personnel. Russia’s front line in Ukraine amounts to approximately 1,288 km with the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia oblast frontline at 192 km.
  • A major Ukrainian breakthrough in Zaporizhzhia would seriously challenge the viability of Russia’s ‘land bridge’ linking Russia’s Rostov region and Crimea; Ukrainian success in Luhansk would further undermine Russia’s professed war aim of ‘liberating’ the Donbas. Deciding which of these threats to prioritise countering is likely one of the central dilemmas for Russian operational planners.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Tuesday 14 February, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russan Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – about 139080 (+740),
  • Tanks – 3286 (+3),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6500 (+8),
  • Artillery systems – 2299 (+9),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 466 (+1),
  • Air defence means – 234 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 298 (+2),
  • Helicopters – 286 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5155 (+5),
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 2011 (+4),
  • Special equipment – 218 (+1),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 857 (+0)

Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence believes Russia will delay second wave of mobilisation, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The Wall Street Journal and Vadym Skibitskyi, representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU). “They are preparing for the second wave of mobilisation, but we believe that they will postpone it because they have not overcome all the difficulties they experienced during the first wave. They were not ready for such a large-scale mobilisation then, and they are not ready now.

Skibitskyi clarified that if Russia goes ahead with a new round of mobilisation, it will suffer the same problems that the previous wave revealed, including the lack of modern equipment in good working order and a sufficient number of combat-ready officers, the training of a huge influx of untrained people.”

Our losses were gigantic’: life in a sacrificial Russian assault wave, The New York Times reports. “Poorly trained Russian soldiers captured by Ukraine describe being used as cannon fodder by commanders throwing waves of bodies into an assault. The soldiers were sitting ducks, sent forth by Russian commanders to act essentially as human cannon fodder in an assault.

And they have become an integral component of Russia’s military strategy as it presses a new offensive in Ukraine’s east: relying on overwhelming manpower, much of it comprising inexperienced, poorly trained conscripts, regardless of the high rate of casualties.

There are two main uses of the conscripts in these assaults: as “storm troops” who move in waves, followed by more experienced Russian fighters; and as intentional targets, to draw fire and thus identify Ukrainian positions to hit with artillery.

In interviews last week, half a dozen prisoners of war provided rare first-hand accounts of what it is like to be part of a sacrificial Russian assault. These orders were common, so our losses were gigantic, Sergei said. The next group would follow after a pause of 15 or 20 minutes, then another, then another. […]

But using infantry to storm trenches, redolent of World War I, brings high casualties. So far, the tactic has been used primarily by Wagner in the push for Bakhmut. Last week, the head of Wagner, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, said he would end the practice of recruiting convicts. But Russia’s regular army this month began recruiting convicts in exchange for pardons, shifting the practice on the Russian side in the war from the Wagner private army to the military.

Some military analysts and Western governments have questioned Russia’s strategy,  citing rates of wounded and killed at around 70 percent in battalions featuring former convicts. On Sunday, the British defence intelligence agency said that over the past two weeks, Russia had probably suffered its highest rate of casualties since the first week of the invasion.”

Humanitarian 

World Bank, WHO believe damage to Ukraine’s healthcare system stands at $26B, Ukrinform reports, citing Health Minister Viktor Liashko. “As for the financial assessment, where we have access to the facilities that have been destroyed and damaged, we look at the price per square meter for the hospital, using the design and estimate documentation for other facilities for 2021. We have calculated the average price for all the facilities and now we can actually talk about the amount of up to $1 billion that is needed to bring them to the pre-invasion condition…

At the same time, specialists with the World Bank and World Health Organization calculate by their methodology: not only the recovery to the condition as of February 24, but also lost investment and other lost potentials that the affected hospitals could generate. They estimate the damage to Ukraine’s healthcare system at tens of billions of dollars. In particular, the last figure they presented in late September 2022 was $26 billion, Liashko said.

The minister added that the state has no access to the healthcare facilities located in the temporarily occupied territories so the degree of their damage cannot be assessed at the moment.

According to the minister, 1,218 healthcare facilities were damaged as a result of Russian aggression. Of them, 173 objects were destroyed by more than 90%. As Liashko noted, in such cases, the facilities are not to be restored. Erecting new buildings based on new projects will be on the table.”

Environmental

Russia is draining a massive Ukrainian reservoir, endangering a nuclear plant, NPR reports. “Russia appears to be draining an enormous reservoir in Ukraine, imperilling drinking water, agricultural production and safety at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, according to satellite data obtained by NPR. Since early November 2022, water has been gushing out of the Kakhovka Reservoir, in Southern Ukraine, through sluice gates at a critical hydroelectric power plant controlled by Russian forces. As a result, satellite data shows that the water level at the reservoir has plummeted to its lowest point in three decades. […]

At stake is drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents, irrigation for nearly half-a-million acres of farmland, and the cooling system at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Late last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it was aware of the potential risk posed by dropping water levels at the reservoir. “Even though the decreased water level does not pose an immediate threat to nuclear safety and security, it may become a source of concern if it is allowed to continue,” the IAEA’s director General Rafael M. Grossi said in a statement. […]

The reservoir is essential to supplying water to otherwise arid farmland in the southern part of the country, according to Brian Kuns, a geographer at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences who has studied farming in southern Ukraine. A network of canals leading from the reservoir irrigates roughly 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) of farmland that is used to grow sunflowers, grain and vegetables. “It’s very important locally,” Kuns says.

The reservoir was also a critical source of water for the Crimean Peninsula, which is supplied via a 403-kilometer (250 mile) canal. After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, Ukraine diverted water from the canal, leaving the peninsula parched. Following Russia’s larger invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, one of the goals was to restore Crimea’s water supply, and Russia did so that summer by diverting water out of the reservoir.

Russia appeared to have spent several months using the Kakhovka Reservoir to refill a network of reservoirs in Crimea, according to David Helms, a retired meteorologist with decades of experience working for the US federal government, most recently at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. “There’s 23 reservoirs; they’re topped off,” he says. […]

It appears that Russian forces deliberately used two gantry cranes on the Russian-controlled side of the dam to open additional sluice gates, allowing water to rush out of the reservoir. The result has been startling. Radar altimetry data shows the current level of the reservoir at 14 meters, approximately 2 meters below its normal height. Since December, the reservoir’s water level has plummeted to its lowest level in 30 years of satellite observation.

A Feb. 7 statement on Telegram from the local government said that if the level fell below 13.2 meters, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant’s cooling system, which relies on water from the reservoir, would be in peril. The statement said that Ukrhydroenergo, Ukraine’s hydroelectric company, believes the discharge is being done deliberately by the Russians. […]

Helms believes the deliberate discharge is another way for Russia to hurt Ukraine. Now that Crimea’s reservoirs are full, he says, this could be a way for Russia to hamper Ukraine’s economy, which depends heavily on agricultural exports. […] But Kuns is less certain of Russia’s intent. He points out that most of the affected agricultural areas are in Russian-held parts of Ukraine. It just seems strange that they’d be doing a scorched-earth on territory that they claim publicly that they want to keep, he says.

Enemy hampering Ukraine’s potential efforts to reconnect Zaporizhzhia NPP to power system – minister, Ukrinform reports, citing Energy Minister German Galushchenko. “The situation is worsening. And this is not only our assessment as it coincides with that of the IAEA experts. We discussed this with (IAEA Director General Rafael – ed.) Grossi. He is aware of this, as are his experts who are on the ground.

These are a few tracks of this worsening. First, there is some anger on the part of the Russians that they failed to get the number of people they wanted to sign contracts with them, and consequently the pressure is increasing on the NPP personnel. They get beat up in public, some people disappear… That is, this is the usual Russian terror in action. And the second track is that in general, the NPP currently operates in such a way that this deteriorates the equipment. This significantly worsens the possibility of reconnecting it to our power system in the future, Galushchenko said.

Yermak on a special tribunal for Russia: We already discussing specific mechanisms, Ukrinform reports. “Head of the President’s Office Andriy Yermak held a meeting of the working group on the issue of establishing a special international tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine.

Yermak noted that most allies support Ukraine’s initiative: Today, almost all of them say they are willing to participate in the creation of the tribunal. We are no longer discussing the likelihood of the idea itself, but the specific mechanisms of its creation.”

Ukrainians file 325,000 reports of destroyed, damaged homes, Ukrinform reports, citing Olena Shuliak, head of the ruling Servant of the People party. “Since March, more than 325,000 reports of damage or destruction to accommodations as a result of Russia’s armed aggression have been filed by Ukrainian citizens. The government has been collecting such reports since March 2022, Shuliak said.

According to the party leader, this figure is not final because not everyone was able to submit their report just yet. […] As reported, on March 26, 2022, the government adopted a resolution on the collection, processing and accounting of information on homes damaged and destroyed as a result of hostilities, acts of terror and sabotage caused by Russia’s armed aggression.”

Support

Sky defence and tank coalition: Ukraine’s Defence Minister on main themes of Ramstein 9, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Oleksii Reznikov, Defence Minister of Ukraine, is on his way to the 9th meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, also known as the Ramstein-format meeting. I have the honour for the ninth time to lead a joint team of representatives from the Ministry of Defence, Intelligence, the General Staff, and our diplomats, which will work intensively with partners in the coming days. The pace is extremely high.

According to Reznikov, the main issues on the agenda will be […] protection of the Ukrainian skies, including through the involvement of an aviation platform; development of a “tank coalition”; the formation of a safety margin for ammunition; training programmes for Ukrainian soldiers; and stability of support, including logistics, maintenance, repair and the practical implementation of “Military Schengen”.

Duda says Russia’s victory is possible if the West hesitates with weapon supply, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Polish President Andrzej Duda. “Ukraine urgently needs to receive military equipment from its Western allies in the coming weeks, otherwise the Russians might win the war. They do not have the modern military infrastructure, but they have people! If we don’t send military equipment to Ukraine in the coming weeks, Putin might win. He might win, and we don’t know where he will stop, the Polish president said. […]

Last week, during his meeting with EU leaders, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy handed over a wish list regarding new arms supplies. At the same time, according to media reports, the leaders of the European Union states did not give Zelensky any promises to provide Ukraine with combat aircraft during the summit in Brussels, although the Ukrainian president hinted at such agreements.”

Germany does not discuss providing fighter jets to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Bild. “Annalena Baerbock, German Minister for Foreign Affairs, has said that the government in Berlin is not currently considering providing fighter jets to Ukraine.

Bundeswehr will start training Ukrainians on Leopard 2 next week, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Spiegel. “The Bundeswehr, the Armed Forces of Germany, will start training the Ukrainian troops on the Leopard 2 tanks next week. Over the last few days, the German Air Force transferred the first groups of Ukrainian soldiers, along with military equipment, from Poland to Germany. In the middle of next week, training on the Leopard 2 tanks will start at the military training ground in Münster, Lower Saxony, where the Ukrainian units are already training on Marder armoured vehicles.

The Bundeswehr plans to give the accelerated course to the Ukrainian soldiers, and some of them have arrived from the contact line near the city of Bakhmut. The training will last just six to eight weeks. […] If everything goes according to plan, the trained troops will come back to the contact line in Ukraine with the Leopard combat tanks by the end of March.

19 CAESAR howitzers from Denmark are already in Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda. “Ukraine’s Defence Ministry has reported that Denmark has already handed over the promised 19 ​​CAESAR self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine and posted footage of their transfer to Ukraine.

In late January, the French Minister of Defence said that Ukraine had 18 ​​CAESARs, of which one needed serious repair. This brings the total number of ​​CAESARs to 37, along with 19 from Denmark. In addition, 12 more ​​CAESARs are expected from France in the future.

NATO expected to raise munitions stockpile targets as war depletes reserves, Reuters reports. “NATO is expected to ask its members to raise its ammunition stockpiles which have been badly depleted by the war in Ukraine, as allies try to put arms supplies to Kyiv and their own militaries on a sustainable footing after a year in crisis mode. Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year, many NATO countries fell short of meeting the alliance’s stockpiling targets, as officials considered wars of attrition with large-scale artillery battles a thing of the past.

But the pace of deliveries to Ukraine, where Kyiv’s troops are firing up to 10,000 artillery shells daily, has drained Western inventories and exposed holes in the efficiency, speed and manpower of supply chains. If Europe were to fight Russia, some countries would run out of ammunition in days, a European diplomat told Reuters. NATO has just completed an extraordinary survey of the remaining munition stocks, a NATO official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Those NATO (munitions targets) that we set, and each ally has a specific target, those were not being met for the most part (before the Ukraine war), the official said. Now the stockpiles are running even lower due to the conflict in Ukraine, making it likely that NATO will raise the target levels for their members’ ammunition reserves, the source said. […]

The NATO official said the biggest shortfall are battle-decisive munitions ranging from 155 mm shells used in howitzers, to HIMARS missiles, and ammunition for air defence systems like IRIS-T, Patriot and Gepard, all in heavy use by Ukrainian troops. Decisions on stockpiling goals are expected when NATO leaders meet for a summit in Lithuania in mid-July.

The war also cast a spotlight on the lack of industrial capacity necessary to ramp up production quickly, after decades of dwindling government orders saw many production lines vanish. […] The United States and France have both started to pressure defence companies to boost production. […]

Germany, where Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a 100 billion euro special fund days after the invasion to modernise the military, has made little progress in backfilling arms and munitions rushed to Kyiv. Until the end of last year, we did not receive any significant orders, said the head of the Association of the German Security and Defence Industry, Hans Christoph Atzpodien. […]

Even in Britain, which has appeared as one of Ukraine’s main suppliers, unease has grown among the opposition after London supplied Kyiv with 30 AS90 big artillery guns in January. John Healey, defence policy chief for the main opposition Labour Party, told Reuters that this was one third of Britain’s entire supply, but nothing had been done to replace them.[…]

Efforts to ramp up defence production are hampered by several factors, among them a worldwide shortage of semiconductors, some raw materials and the challenge of finding enough highly skilled workers. “I don’t necessarily think that within the next year our stockpile levels will increase massively,” the NATO official said. Any additional stockpiles we will have will be heading to Ukraine.”

Saab’s ‘huge ramp up’ in anti-tank weapon, ammo production targets 400,000 units a year, Breaking Defense reports. “Swedish manufacturer Saab expects the weapons of its ground combat portfolio — including the company’s Next generation Light Anti-tank Weapon (NLAW) which have proven highly effective in Ukraine — will increase dramatically to reach an annual output of 400,000 units.

In the context of how we have doubled capacity from one year to the next at our Swedish [production] sites…and by 2025 we will have doubled capacity again, then it will be possible to generate 400,000 units from our sites per year, said Saab CEO Micael Johansson during a Feb. 10 financial results media briefing. It is a huge ramp up.

Included in that 400,000 number are the company’s Carl Gustaf, AT4 and NLAW systems, all of which are man-portable weapons used against ground vehicles, as well as ammunition.”

New Developments 

  1. The United States tells citizens: Leave Russia immediately, ReutersThe United States has told its citizens to leave Russia immediately due to the war in Ukraine and the risk of arbitrary arrest or harassment by Russian law enforcement agencies. US citizens residing or travelling in Russia should depart immediately, the US embassy in Moscow said. Exercise increased caution due to the risk of wrongful detentions. Do not travel to Russia, it added.”

  1. Russia’s plans to stage a coup in Moldova involving hostage-taking, Sandu says, Ukrinform reports, citing NewsMaker. “President Maia Sandu of Moldova spoke of Russia’s plans to organize a coup in the country, involving opposition protests and engaging participants with military training, as well as citizens of the Russian Federation, Belarus, Serbia, and Montenegro, to attack government buildings and topple the government. The leader stated this on Monday at a press conference on the issue of the country’s security.”
  2. Russia’s coup plans for Moldova is another proof of “enormous appetites”, Ukrinform reports, citing Mykhailo Podoliak, the adviser to the head of the Ukrainian President’s Office. “Attempts of RF to destabilize Moldova and commit a coup d’état – are yet another proof of the true nature of the Russian expansionist state and its enormous appetites,” Podoliak tweeted. The advisor added that anyone seeking a “settlement” with Russia must remember this.
  3. NATO defence ministers expected to discuss Ukraine’s request for fighter jets, The Washington PostNATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he expects Ukraine’s request for fighter jets to be addressed at this week’s gathering of defence ministers in Brussels. The comments, made at a news conference Monday, come as Western nations decide how far they are willing to go in arming Ukraine to defend itself almost one year after Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.”
  4. The future of Poland depends on assistance to Ukraine – Morawiecki, Ukrinform reports, citing Dziennik Gazeta Prawna and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. “We are helping Ukraine, because our future depends on our eastern neighbor. We are doing more than others because we have more to win and more to lose, he said. […] He said that Ukraine would not be able to defeat Russia without the solidarity of the West, including sanctions, financial, humanitarian and military assistance. It won’t be easy to continue the enthusiasm currently present in European official halls. But the most important thing that we have to continue is European unity and determination in supporting the defenders of Ukraine. We woke up the West, so we cannot let it fall asleep again, Morawiecki said.”
  5. UN draft resolution: Any peace must keep Ukraine intact, APUkraine’s supporters have circulated a proposed resolution for adoption by the 193-member UN General Assembly on the eve of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor that would underscore the need for peace ensuring Ukraine’s “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.” The draft […] is entitled “Principles underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.” The proposed resolution is broader and less detailed than the 10-point peace plan that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced at the November summit of the Group of 20 major economies.”
  6. Russia may launch massive missile attack on Feb 24, Ukrinform reports, citing the Head of the Press Center of the Southern Defense Forces, Natalia Humeniuk. “Talking of [time] distance from one massive missile attack to another, it is usually up to two weeks. We can notice that, from the previous one to the next one, it is exactly February 24. Keeping in mind Russian forces’s obsession with sacred dates, it is necessary to stay alert, Humeniuk told.”

Assessment 

https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-february-13-2023*

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  February 13, 2022:

Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks northwest of Svatove on February 12 and 13. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian ground attack near Hryanikivka (55km northwest of Svatove) on February 13. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced up to five kilometers in unspecified areas in the Kupiansk direction (about 50km northwest of Svatove) and made marginal territorial gains near Hryanykivka, Dvorichne, Synkivka, and Lyman Pershyi, all within 16km northeast of Kupiansk. A Russian milblogger claimed on February 12 that Russian and Ukrainian forces clashed near Kotlyarivka and Kyslivka, 26km northwest of Svatove. Another Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted reconnaissance-in-force in the Dvorichna and Novomlynsk areas, within 20km northeast of Kupiansk.

Russian forces continued ground attacks in the Kreminna area on February 12 and 13. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground assaults near Kreminna itself; 10km south of Kreminna near Bilohorivka and the Hryhorivka forest area in Luhansk Oblast; and 13km west of Kreminna near Torske, Donetsk Oblast, on February 12 and 13. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhii Cherevaty stated on February 12 that Russian forces are concentrating their efforts in the Lyman direction west of Kreminna and increasing their use of artillery in Luhansk Oblast. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces pushed back Ukrainian forces 1km in an unspecified forest area near Kreminna. A Russian milblogger claimed on February 12 that Russian forces attacked Bilohorivka and attempted to advance on Zarichne from positions in Dibrova, both just southwest of Kreminna. Another Russian milblogger posted footage in which Russian personnel claim that Russian Spetsnaz forces are correcting Russian fire against Ukrainian positions in the Torske area west of Kreminna and that professional forces and mobilized personnel work together efficiently, suggesting that Russian sources want to create a narrative that Russian forces are dedicating effective personnel to offensive operations near Kreminna. […]

Russian forces continued making tactical gains and conducted ground attacks around Bakhmut on February 12 and 13. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops repelled Russian attacks on Bakhmut itself; northeast of Bakhmut near Fedorivka (15km northeast) and Vyimka (22km northeast); north of Bakhmut near Vasyukivka (12km north); southwest of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka (7km southwest); and west of Bakhmut near Ivanivske (5km west) and Chasiv Yar (10km west) on February 12 and 13. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces spokesperson Colonel Serhii Cherevaty stated on February 12 that Russian and Ukrainian forces engaged in 19 combat clashes over the course of the day and that fighting occurred near Fedorivka, Chasiv Yar, and Ivanivske. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that Wagner Group forces captured Krasna Hora (4km north of Bakhmut) on February 12, which is confirmed by footage and imagery of Wagner Group fighters in Krasna Hora. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed the capture of Krasna Hora on February 13 and stated that “volunteers of assault detachments” took the settlement, continuing the Russian MoD’s campaign to undermine Wagner’s role in operations around Bakhmut. Russian milbloggers claimed that Wagner Group forces are now fighting for Paraskoviivka (just north of Krasna Hora and about 5km north of Bakhmut) but that Ukrainian forces maintain control of the settlement. Russian sources additionally claimed on February 12 and 13 that fighting continued along the T0504 Kostyantynivka-Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut highway and near the E40 Bakhmut-Sloviansk highway. Russian sources reiterated that Russian forces have not yet completed the operational encirclement of Bakhmut as of February 13.

Russian forces conducted ground attacks along the western outskirts of Donetsk City on February 12. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian troops repelled Russian attacks on the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Pervomaiske and on the southwestern outskirts near Pobieda and Marinka on February 12 and did not confirm any ground attacks in this area on February 13. A Russian milblogger claimed on February 12 that Russian troops continued attacking towards Nevelske (on the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk City) and fought in Marinka. A Russian milblogger posted footage on February 13 of the 132nd Motor Rifle Division of the 1st Army Corps (forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic) striking Ukrainian trenches north of Avdiivka, and notably characterized the 1st Army Corps as part of the Russian Southern Military District (SMD), which is consistent with the official February 3 integration of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic (DNR and LNR) militias into the SMD. Other milbloggers posted footage of assault groups of the 150th Motor Rifle Division (8th Combined Arms Army, SMD) operating in Marinka. DNR troops that have been subsumed into the SMD are likely experiencing logistical issues associated with the integration of irregular formations into conventional units. ISW is continuing to monitor for reports of additional SMD (or other) regular units moving into the Donetsk City area as a possible indicator that the Russians will launch a significant offensive on this axis. The lack of a major new Russian offensive on the Donetsk City axis prevents Russian operations around Vuhledar and Bakhmut from being mutually supporting. ISW has not yet observed any such indicators.

Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack in western Donetsk Oblast on February 12. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian attack near Vuhledar (30km southwest of Donetsk City) on February 12 and did not confirm any ground attacks in this area on February 13. Geolocated footage posted on February 12 shows Russian tanks hitting mines east of Vuhledar, indicating that Russian troops previously made minor advances in this area. Commander of the DNR “Vostok” battalion Alexander Khodakovsky claimed on February 13 that a Ukrainian HIMARS strike on Vostok headquarters killed the headquarters commander but that Russian command and control in the Vuhledar area will not be impacted by the strike because of duplicated communication channels. A Russian milblogger claimed that elements of the 29th Combined Arms Army (SMD), 155th Naval Infantry Brigade, DNR formations, and 3rd Army Corps have occupied new ground near Vuhledar and are escalating offensive operations in this area.

Moscow continues to leverage its relationship with Iran to provide military support for the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) intercepted audio on February 10 reportedly of two Shahed drone operators coordinating targets in what the GUR claimed was a “Kurdish dialect interspersed with Farsi words.” ISW cannot identify the dialect in the audio intercept with high confidence, but the fact that the individuals in the audio clip are Shahed operators indicates that they may be operators from Iranian Kurdistan who are likely affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It is far less likely that Russia has been able to identify or import individual Kurdish militants with experience operating drones to conduct Shahed strikes on Ukraine. ISW has previously reported that IRGC-affiliated elements are likely supporting Russia’s use Shahed drones by acting as operators and trainers, and the operators in the GUR intercept are likely part of the same line of effort. UK outlet The Guardian relatedly reported on February 13 that Iran has smuggled at least 18 long-range drones to Russia using boats and Iranian state-owned aircraft. The Guardian found that these shipments include six Mohajer-6 drones and 12 Shahed-121 and 129 drones, which have air-to-ground strike capabilities and are designed to deliver a payload to the target and return to base, unlike the Shahed-131 and 136 loitering munition-type drones that Russian forces have widely used in Ukraine thus far. Russian milbloggers noted on February 13 that IRGC-affiliated Il-76 cargo aircraft routinely fly to Russia, suggesting that Tehran consistently provides Moscow with a variety of material using IRGC-affiliated planes. These data points, taken in tandem, suggest that Russia continues to rely on Iran for military and technological support in Ukraine and that some Iranian personnel are likely in Ukraine directly supporting Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, as ISW has previously reported.

The Wagner Group’s continued dissemination of deliberately brutal extrajudicial execution videos and generally graphic content is normalizing an increasing level of brutality and thuggishness within the domestic Russian information space. A Wagner Group-affiliated Telegram channel posted a video on February 12 showing the brutal execution of former Wagner fighter Dmitry Yakushchenko with a sledgehammer. Yakushchenko reportedly was convicted of robbery and murder in Crimea and was serving a 19-year sentence when he joined Wagner. The Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel accused Yakushchenko of defecting to Ukraine and posted a video reportedly of Yakushchenko expressing pro-Ukrainian sentiments while in Ukrainian captivity. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin later posted a video that appears to be of Yakushchenko alive and uninjured and thanking Wagner for forgiveness. Whether the videos of Yakushchenko’s execution or alleged proof-of-life are real—or in what sequence they might have been recorded—are less important than the wider issue highlighted by the creation and dissemination of such videos. Several prominent milbloggers responded positively to the execution video, claiming that such vicious and inhumane killing is an appropriate way for Wagner to deal with betrayal in its ranks. […] The continued justification and glorification of such brutal tactics is symptomatic of the wider pathology that Wagner has come to represent—one where excessive and performative violence is taken as a necessary tactic of military practice. Many military justice systems, including America’s, include death penalties for various crimes, particularly in combat. Militaries fighting for healthy societies that are themselves professional and well-disciplined do not, however, conduct executions with sledgehammers nor do they glory in the vicious brutality of the capital punishments they execute. The Kremlin will likely need to balance its continued desire to use Wagner as a stop-gap measure in pursuing operations in Ukraine with the damage that the increasingly evident chaotic brutality that Wagner has come to institutionalize is inflicting on Russian society.

Russian authorities are increasingly undertaking measures to promote self-censorship in Russia under the guise of countering increased information threats resulting from the invasion of Ukraine. A representative of Russia’s Main Radio Frequency Center (GRChTs), a subsidiary of Russian state media censor Roskomnazdor, announced the launch of the “Okulus” automatic search system that automates scanning text, images, and video footage to detect state-censored content, extremist themes, calls for mass illegal activity, suicide, and pro-drug and pro-LGBTQ content (which Moscow apparently views as posing a national security threat). The GRChTs will reportedly fully develop Okulus by 2025. The Russian Okulus has no connection to any technology offerings of Western companies that have similar names. The GRChTs claimed that an unprecedented amount of fake information disseminated at high speed has flooded the Russian information space following the start of the invasion of Ukraine and that Okulus can analyze 200,000 images per day (an increase from the manual processing of 106 images and 101 videos per day) to address this increase in information. A Belarusian hacker group that supposedly hacked into Okulus claimed that GRChTs programmed Okulus to find personal insults directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin, including comparisons to unflattering figures. Okulus, alongside other recent Kremlin efforts to digitize Russian society while simultaneously expanding control of digital Russia, are likely efforts to scare Russians into further self-censorship. It is also unclear to what extent the Kremlin will shield critical milbloggers from such systems.

Independent Russian language opposition outlet Meduza reported that Roskomnazdor may soon ban YouTube and that Russian state-affiliated social media outlet VK is expanding its social media monopoly to recruit famous Russian-language content creators on YouTube to its video service. VK is also attempting to expand its music streaming service, likely in an effort to eliminate Russians’ interactions with unwanted content. Russian authorities also seek to expand the scope of rhetoric eligible for censorship. […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to publicly stand by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) as Russian forces continue to suffer catastrophic casualties around Vuhledar, Donetsk Oblast. Putin commented on a Russian state TV show recorded on February 9 and broadcast on February 12 that Russian “naval infantry is working as it should right now” and that the Pacific and Northern fleets are “heroically fighting.” Putin likely deliberately praised his Pacific and Northern fleets against the backdrop of highly published and substantial losses to mechanized elements of the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade of the Pacific Fleet in their assault on Vuhledar. The Russian MoD had been silent regarding Russian losses in Vuhledar, and Putin’s comment follows Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s statement on February 7 that Russian forces are successfully developing an offensive in Vuhledar. Putin is likely deliberately doubling down on the Russian MoD’s extremely overly optimistic description of the Vuhledar frontline to sustain the narrative of an imminent and sweeping major Russian offensive in Donetsk Oblast. Putin is also likely refraining from siding with critical milbloggers who had been increasingly accusing the Russian MoD and military command of failing to learn from their previous mistakes when conducting mechanized drives. […]

The Russian military’s use of mobilized personnel as replacements in battle-damaged units is unlikely to generate sufficient offensive capabilities for a large-scale and rapid mechanized advance. Representative of the Ukrainian Tavriisk operational direction, Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi, stated that the Russian military will need to restaff the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade for the third time due to its losses in Vuhledar and previous military failures around Kyiv Oblast and Pavlivka, Donetsk Oblast. [He] noted that the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade had 5,000 servicemen prior to its defeat in Vuhledar. A Russian serviceman from the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade who participated in an assault on Vuhledar told a Russian opposition outlet that the brigade was 80% to 90% staffed with mobilized men because the Russian military command consistently reinforces Russian units with mobilized servicemen. Russia’s continued reliance on mobilized men who were unable to perform military tasks such as identifying and detecting minefields or knowing what to do having blundered into them during the assault indicates that these mobilized elements do not have the necessary combat experience necessary to stage a successful mechanized offensive. These mobilized men have likely received limited individual training and lack the unit cohesion and professional training or experience necessary for large-scale mechanized offensives. Russia may deploy additional mobilized elements that may be able to conduct sound defensive operations or attrition-based offensive operations to the Vuhledar frontline, but these mobilized soldiers are unlikely to become effective mechanized elements capable of mounting successful offensive operations in any short period of months.

Key Takeaways

  • Moscow continues to leverage its relationship with Iran to provide military support for the war in Ukraine.
  • The Wagner Group’s continued dissemination of deliberately brutal extrajudicial execution videos and generally graphic content is normalizing an increasing level of brutality and thuggishness within the domestic Russian information space.
  • Russian military command is facing challenges integrating irregular armed formations with conventional forces.
  • Russian authorities are increasingly undertaking measures to promote self-censorship in Russia under the guise of countering increased information threats resulting from the invasion of Ukraine.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to publicly stand by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) as his naval infantry continues to suffer catastrophic casualties around Vuhledar, Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna.
  • Russian forces made marginal territorial gains near Bakhmut and continued to conduct ground attacks across the Donetsk Oblast front line.
  • Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked Ukrainian positions in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast while continuing to fortify their positions in the region.

Russian officials and regime-linked actors continue to exploit assets from captured Ukrainian cities for economic and military benefit.

Russian Army fails to overcome problems it had a year ago – White House, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing  Ukrinform and John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council. “They’re [Russians –  ed.] still suffering some of the same problems they were a year ago… The Russian military is still struggling. They have not surmounted these problems. Kirby has explained that he was referring to the Russians’ problems with logistics, sustainment, integration of joint fires, manpower, personnel and unit cohesion.

He has added that Vladimir Putin continues to “change generals like socks,” but this does not help solve the problems of the Russian army.”

Ukraine’s Offensive Guard receives 27,000 applications, new brigades planned, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Maryana Reva, the spokeswoman of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “For a little more than a week of an active campaign, we can note a great activity of people in this regard. In total, we have received more than 27,000 requests to date. This figure includes the consultations provided by employees at the Centres of Administrative Services, as well as through the hotline – more than 12,000 applications were recorded.

If we are talking specifically about applications from volunteers to join our brigades, there are already more than 15,000 of them today. People actively sign up; before that they actively ask our consultants about the conditions, about what awaits them.”

The spokeswoman of the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that more than 800 people have already passed military medical examinations and are included in the next stages. Reva noted that the formation of 8 brigades, which are currently being selected, will be carried out until 1 April, but after that, additional assault brigades will be formed.”

Moscow expanding subversive influence operations across Europe, Ukrinform reports. “Russia has planned a number of malign influence operations in several European countries in order to create the illusion of pro-Russian sentiments, popular discontent over Russia sanctions and military aid being provided to Ukraine. That’s according to Robert Lansing Institute, a US-based think tank. […] These stunts are being prepared ahead of the Munich Security Conference (February 18-20). It is obvious that, according to Moscow’s operational plan, such rallies should raise popular doubts about the unity of the West in countering Russia’s armed aggression, RLI reports.

Assets from among the members of left-wing political forces and organizations are being recruited to this end, the report reads, adding that a significant part of them had initially been engaged by Russia’s communist regime to support the anti-war movement in the West. Far-right organizations and parties will also be involved, operating from the positions of protecting national interests and military potential, getting rid of the US influence, and pulling out of NATO. […] The events are expected to be attended by pro-Russian activists who have travelled to the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine or participated in propaganda events in Russia in the capacity of journalists or NGO members.

The slogans to be promoted by the organizers will include demands to end hostilities in Ukraine, resume direct political dialogue with Moscow, reject the sanctions policy, demand that the Portuguese government stop its military aid to Ukraine, etc.” the report notes.

A number of protest stunts on German soil are carried out with the direct support of the right-wing populist political party “Alternative für Deutschland” (AfD), which is suspected of being financially supported by Russia, as well as of an extensive contact with Russian diplomats in Germany and members of foreign organizations that are known to be openly pro-Russian, as per the report. […]

The Kremlin’s inability to influence NATO’s decision-making politically leads to attempts to organize demonstrative ‘solidarity’ rallies, designed similar to those run by communist Moscow during the Cold War. Sources in Moscow note that in the ongoing effort to set up pro-Russian rallies, there is a trend to organize demonstrations and pickets outside US military bases, RLI reports. Another option is to gather crowds outside other military infrastructure facilities operated by NATO allies involved in the training of Ukrainian servicemen.

According to the think tank’s estimates, violent acts of provocation targeting such facilities are possible involving infiltrated military intelligence operatives, in a radical bid to curb military aid to [Kyiv]. In this context, we cannot rule out that the Kremlin will turn to the scenarios developed by the June 2 Movement, GRAPO, Brigate Rosse, and Die Revolutionären Zellen organizations. On February 26, a rally has been scheduled for 12:00 (local time) outside NATO’s Ramstein base under the slogan “Stop the export of NATO weapons to Ukraine to prevent the Third World War.”

Hans Petter Midttun: I believe Russia to be far more successful than Robert Lansing Institute credit them. On 12 February the Institute for the Study of War assessed that Russa has “reconstituted the ability to conduct discrete information campaigns in support of specific strategic objectives and to tailor those campaigns to mitigate battlefield setbacks and to set conditions for future planned operations. […] Russa’s operational-level information campaigns aim either to set conditions for planned Russan operations or to mitigate Russan military failures. Russa shapes the information space in preparation for offensive operations to impede Ukraine’s ability to retain the battlefield initiative or prepare for the offensives. Russa also uses information campaigns to deter the West from supporting Ukraine’s counteroffensive efforts and exploitation of Russan military setbacks. Some of these Russan information campaigns are also intended to reestablish Russa’s geostrategic deterrence by rebuilding the projection of power that had been the focus and hallmark of Russan information campaigns before the 2022 re-invasion.

It is now clear that the Russan information campaign centering on peace negotiations that intensified in December 2022 was aimed—among other things—at delaying the provision of Western tanks and other advanced equipment essential for the continuation of Ukrainian mechanized counteroffensives in order to set conditions for Russa’s own planned offensives. The Kremlin sharply amplified a false negotiations narrative throughout December 2022, with numerous Russan officials giving intentionally misleading signals of Moscow’s willingness to engage in serious negotiations with Ukraine.

Russa continues its shaping effort targeting Western provisions of long-range weapons and tanks to Ukraine by spreading the narrative that Ukraine will deliberately threaten Russa with these weapons instead of prioritizing the liberation of its Russan-occupied territories.”

1,765 UAVs purchased for Drone Army, Ukrinform reports, citing RBC and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov. “This is a technological war; it is necessary to use UAVs more effectively and save the lives of our soldiers. That is why the Drone Army project was launched as part of the fundraising platform UNITED24. Over eight months of work, it has already contracted 1,765 ‘birds’ for a total sum of $3.4 billion. We also train drone pilots. More than 3,500 soldiers have already undergone such training, Fedorov noted.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Russians abandon wartime Russia in historic exodus, The Washington Post reports. “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war has set off a historic exodus of his own people. Initial data show that at least 500,000, and perhaps nearly 1 million, have left in the year since the invasion began — a tidal wave on scale with emigration following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.

Now, like then, the departures stand to redefine the country for generations. And the flood may still be in its early stages. The war seems nowhere near finished. Any new conscription effort by the Kremlin will spark new departures, as will worsening economic conditions, which are expected as the conflict drags on.

The huge outflow has swelled existing Russian expatriate communities across the world and created new ones.”

Only 9% of almost 1,500 global companies leave the Russian market – Podoliak, Ukrinform reports, citing Mykhailo Podoliak, an advisor to the head of the President’s Office. “Almost a year into the start of war. And only 9% of almost 1,500 global companies left the Russian market… Among the Western firms that remained working in Russia, the largest share is German (19.5%), 12.4% – American, and 7% – Japanese,” said Podoliak. In particular, the following companies retained operations in the terrorist state: METRO, Leroy Merlin, Auchan, Nestle, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Siemens, Pfizer, Philip Morris, Bayer, Acer, Alibaba, CloudFlare, Societe Generale, Credit Suisse, Lenovo, Asus, Cersanit etc.

Podoliak also reported that some Western banks have seen surplus profits in Russia over the year of the full-scale war. Raiffeisen increased its profit in Russia by 313%. For 2022, the profit of the Russian branch amounted to EUR 474 million, which is the largest amount among the branches in South-Eastern Europe. Corporate income tax in Russia is 20%. […] Moreover, Raiffeisen recognized the “l(d)nr” pseudo-Republic, offering a credit holiday to the mobilized soldiers. This example was followed by Citibank, Credit Europe Bank, and OTP Bank.

Podoliak also recalled that recently the national anti-corruption watchdog recognized a US-based corporation as an international sponsor of war. The company owns such subsidiaries and brands as Gillette, Fairy, Tide, Ariel, Lenor, Mr. Proper, Pampers, Always, Head & Shoulders, Pantene, Old Spice, Hugo Boss, Max Factor, etc. […]

The adviser to the head of the Presidential Office noted that, while operating in the Russian Federation, international companies pay taxes to Russia’s budget, and these funds are therefore used to manufacture defence products. The total annual turnover of these 1,200+ companies in Russia stands at almost $290 billion. This is a fifth of Russia’s GDP.

In addition, companies also contribute to mobilization efforts. According to the new legislation in Russia, corporations operating in the country are forced to contribute to the recruitment of their staffers into the army and to finance their military gear. Failing to pull out of the Russian market throughout the year of full-scale war is no accident but a deliberate position, Podoliak stressed.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: In March 2015, Stratfor argued that Russia’s military position in Ukraine was very exposed and had come at a great cost relative to its limited political gains. Crimea was seen as defensible but exposed to potential isolation. The position of the Russian proxy forces in eastern Ukraine would require further military investment to secure. Already 8 years ago, this raised the question of whether Russia would take further military action to secure its interests in Ukraine.

To answer this question, in 2015 Stratfor examined six basic military options that Russia might consider, ranging from small harassment operations to an all-out invasion of eastern Ukraine up to the Dnipro River. In the end, it discussed three core strategies that were available to Russia: Land Bridge, Coastal Option and East Ukraine.

The study considered several aspects ranging from the invasion and occupation forces required, time and space, scope and scale of insurgency, the ability to hold the terrain, logistical challenges and more.

The ability to defend and hold occupied territories was given much attention. All scenarios had long frontlines requiring significant military forces to defend and hold. Only the East Ukraine option, however, offered a natural defensive feature: the Dnipro River.

The eight-year-old study is to some degree still relevant today. The initial Russian invasion had higher ambitions than foreseen in the analysis but was initiated with fewer forces than was believed needed to occupy “only” Ukraine east of Dnipro. The discrepancy is further underlined by the knowledge that the Ukrainian Armed Forces in 2015 did not have the qualities it had in 2022. The time and space deliberations have, therefore, changed radically.

The challenges of defending and sustaining a 1,288 km long frontline running through eastern and south-eastern Ukraine have, however, proven accurate. Even if Russia was to succeed in taking all of Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporiazhia oblast these challenges will prevail.

Despite the Russian construction of defensive fortifications in Zaporizhzhia and Luhansk oblasts and its deployments of additional personnel and equipment, they will remain vulnerable to Ukrainian precision strikes and counteroffensive. Ukraine will gradually increase its ability to target Russian command and control nodes, logistic hubs, ground lines of communications, and concentration of manpower and equipment throughout occupied territories and beyond.

The aim of occupying all of Donbas makes no military sense whatsoever unless seen in the context of the wider hybrid war and the hope of a Russian-favoured “peace agreement” at the negotiating table. Russia will need to occupy all of Ukraine east of Dnipro to reduce the risk of a counteroffensive, allowing it to reallocate military forces to other theatres of emerging international competition (e.g. the Arctic and the Northern Sea Routes).

Russia’s ability to occupy all of Donbas – or Ukraine east of Dnipro seems unlikely at this stage. We have not seen any intelligence reports or satellite imagery depicting the concentration of Russian forces. We have, however, ample information about old equipment being brought out of storage and extensive logistical problems, as well as demonstrations of a lack of professionalism due to previous massive losses of elite units. Having suffered tremendous losses of manpower – the total casualties (KIA and WIA) ranging from 418-557,000 soldiers (more than half of the Russian Armed Forces before 24 February) mobilised personnel is likely filling vacant positions rather than building new formations.

To quote British Defence Intelligence: Overall, the current operational picture suggests that Russian forces are being given orders to advance in most sectors, but that they have not massed sufficient offensive combat power on any one axis to achieve a decisive effect.

 

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