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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 361: Ukraine anticipates Russian provocations on 23-24 February

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 361: Ukraine anticipates Russian provocations on 23-24 February
Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Russia brings Wagner recruits to the Zaporizhzhia frontline. Russia launched a missile attack on Ukraine on 18 February: explosions and air defense work reported in three oblasts. Ukraine anticipates Russian provocations on 23-24 February – Air Force spox.

Daily overview — Summary report, February 19

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, February 19, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. February 18, 2023. Source: ISW.

 
During the day of February 18, the russian occupiers launched 4x air and 15x missile strikes, most of them against the civilian infrastructure of Khmelnytskyi, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, and Kherson oblasts. The enemy also launched more than 90x MLRS attacks.
The threat of missile strikes by the russian federation remains high across Ukraine.
The enemy continues to focus its main efforts on offensive operations on Kup’yans’k, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Shakhtars’ke axes.
During the day of February 18, units of the Ukrainian Defence Forces repelled the occupant forces’ attacks in the vicinities of settlements of Hryanykivka, Masyutivka (Kharkiv oblast), Bilohorivka, Chervonopopivka, Kreminna (Luhansk oblast), and Vyimka, Fedorivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Berkhivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivske, and Chasiv Yar (Donetsk oblast).
Kharkiv Battle Map. February 18, 2023. Source: ISW.
Volyn, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: certain adversary units remain stationed in the areas bordering Ukraine, but no offensive groups have been found. During the day of February 18, the enemy shelled 23x settlements, including Kozache, Bunyakyne, Ryzhivka, Volfyne, Volodymyrivka (Sumy oblast), Veterynarne, Kozacha Lopan’, Strilecha, and Krasne Pershe (Kharkiv oblast).
Kup’yans’k and Lyman axes: the adversary shelled the settlements of Novomlyns’k, Dvorichna, Hryanykivka, Kup’yans’k, Berestove (Kharkiv oblast), Stel’makhivka, Nevs’ke, Chervonopopivka, Kreminna, Dibrova, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Rozdolivka, and Spirne (Donetsk oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. February 18, 2023. Source: ISW.
Bakhmut axis: the enemy shelled the vicinities of 21x settlements. Among them are Zaliznyans’ke, Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar, Stupochky, Ivanivske, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, and New York (Donetsk oblast).
Avdiivka and Zaporizhzhia axes: the adversary fired artillery at vicinities of 16x settlements. These include Avdiivka, Vodyane, Vesele, Nevel’s’ke, Heorhiivka, Mar’inka, Bohoyavlenka, Velyka Novosilka, Zolota Nyva, Vuhledar, and Neskuchne (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. February 18, 2023. Source: ISW.
Zaporizhzhia axis: the vicinities of settlements of Vremivka (Donetsk oblast), Malynivka, Stepove, Mali Shcherbaki, Novodanylivka, Mala Tokmachka, and Bilohir’ya (Zaporizhzhia oblast) were shelled.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. February 18, 2023. Source: ISW.
Kherson axis: enemy artillery fire hit Kherson, as well as the vicinities of 27x settlements, including Beryslav, Kozats’ke, Poniativka, Sadove, Vesele, Antonivka, Veletens’ke, and Berehove (Kherson oblast).
The enemy faced problems with the logistics of its units. For example, due to the premature failure of modernized S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems and the inability to promptly deliver the combat components to perform routine maintenance of equipment in combat conditions, the anti-aircraft missile systems have to be sent to manufacturing plants in russia.
In the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, large numbers of the mobilized soldiers’ relatives are addressing the russian Ministry of Defense due to violations of the servicemen’s rights. The main reasons are: no rotations or vacations for more than 6x months or any prospects for them in the next 2-3 months; poor nutrition and sanitary conditions, which forces the relatives to constantly send them food and personal belongings; officers of the russian occupation forces using their official position for their own enrichment – privates and sergeants are offered short-term vacations for a $1,000 bribe. The Ministry of Defense of the russian federation does not respond to these appeals.
During the day of February 18, the Ukrainian Air Force launched 6x air strikes on the concentrations of personnel and military equipment of the occupiers, as well as on the position of the anti-aircraft missile system.
During the day of February 18, Air Defense Forces shot down 2x Kalibr cruise missiles, while missile and artillery units hit 1x concentration of enemy.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Chinese drones still support Russia’s war against Ukraine, trade data shows — WSJ. Despite sanctions, exports of small, nimble Chinese drones are still providing the Kremlin with an effective way to target Ukrainian forces, according to Western officials, security analysts and customs data, WSJ reports. According to customs records, some of the commercial drones are arriving on the front lines from Russian distributors supplied by Shenzhen, China-based Da-Jiang Innovations Science & Technology Co., known as DJI, while others are transported through the United Arab Emirates.

Russia brings Wagner recruits to the Zaporizhzhia frontline. 43 white buses with presumably Russian Wagner recruits were spotted in Russia-occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol, heading towards Zaporizhzhia frontline Off-road vehicles with PMC Wagner markings accompanied the column, Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov wrote, sharing a video.
“No evidence of a big massing of Russian forces” to repeat 2022 February offensive — UK defense secretary Wallace. The Russian army is suffering huge losses in Ukraine, shows no sign it has improved its “meat grinder” tactics, and is struggling to sustain a stuttering offensive that is “advancing in meters not kilometres,” Britain’s defense secretary Ben Wallace said on Friday, speaking to the Financial Times on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Despite fears that Russia is poised to launch a massive attack around the first anniversary of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Wallace said there was “no evidence of a big massing of Russian forces” akin to the assault on February 24 last year.
Russia launched missile attack on Ukraine on 18 February, explosions and air defense work was reported in three oblasts. On Saturday, 18 February, explosions were reported in the south-Ukrainian Mykolayiv Oblast and in Khmelnytskyi in the west of the country. In Khmelnytskyi, 3 educational institutions and about 10 high-rise residential buildings were damaged, two people were injured, the mayor of Khmelnytskyi said.

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

  • On 15 February 2023 Ukrainian armed forces spotted several balloons with radar reflectors suspended beneath them over Kyiv. Ukrainian officials reported that they shot down at least six of these. Earlier, on 12 February 2023, Ukraine’s Air Force reported sighting balloons over eastern Dnipropetrovsk.
  • It is likely that the balloons were Russian. They likely represent a new tactic by Russia to gain information about Ukrainian air defence systems and compel the Ukrainians to expend valuable stocks of surface to air missiles and ammunition.

 

  • On 14 February 2023, sighting of a ‘balloon shaped’ object led to the closure of Moldovan airspace for several hours. There is a realistic possibility that this was a Russian balloon that had drifted from Ukrainian airspace.

Losses of the Russian army 

Humanitarian 

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1627143937818501126

A civilian killed and two others injured in Russian shelling of Kharkiv Oblast. As a result of Russian shelling of Kharkiv Oblast on Saturday, 18 February, a civilian was killed and two others were injured, head of Kharkiv Administration Oleh Syniehubov informs. Kupianskyi and Chuhuyivskyi districts of the Oblast were under Russian fire during the day.

A Russian pilot will face a trial for a war crime. Ukraine’s Prosecutor’s Office accuses a Russian pilot of shooting a civilian. His plane was downed over Chernihiv Oblast earlier in the war. He managed to eject and tried to hide. The Prosecutor’s Office said he shot a civilian who saw him, although the man was unarmed. The investigation also continues regarding the possible involvement of the pilot in bombing civilian objects in Chernihiv Oblast. The Prosecutor’s Office didn’t say his name publicly.

Support

It’s time to double down on military support to Ukraine, British PM says. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has urged world leaders to send the most advanced weapons to Ukraine now in order to secure its long-term future, BBC reports. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Sunak said allies must give the country “advanced, Nato-standard capabilities”. He said that now was the time to “double down” on military support. Sunak said he wanted to “make sure other countries follow our lead” in providing battle tanks, and training soldiers and aviators on Nato-standard aircrafts.

Poland called for the accelerated process of Ukraine’s accession to the EU. The Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki said at the Munich Security Conference on Friday that we live at a turning point in history and should think outside the box. For Ukraine, it is necessary to create a new accelerated process of accession to the EU, he said, Interfax Ukraine reports.

New Developments 

First digital security helpline in Central and Eastern Europe established in Ukraine. The first digital security helpline in Central and Eastern Europe NADIYNO helps Ukrainians on any digital security issues. NADIYNO’s digital security experts have already responded to over 1000 Ukrainians’ requests, including from the temporarily occupied territories.

Ukraine FM called on partners to start training Ukrainian pilots now. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on partners who could potentially send fighter jets to Ukraine to start training Ukrainian pilots, without announcing other obligations now, Interfax Ukraine reports. “I will take a chance, but I will say that Ukraine will receive aircraft: this is a matter of time and procedures. It will take longer than tanks. We understand this,” Kuleba said at a briefing on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

A documentary about the war in Ukraine by Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman has premiered at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival. A documentary about the war in Ukraine by Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman was presented at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival, known as the Berlinale. The movie opens months before war. The invasion dramatically raises the stakes, the News reported. Late in the evening of Feb. 24, 2022, just some 15 hours after Russia triggered its invasion of his country, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy found time to receive American actor Sean Penn. Sitting in a bare, apparently windowless room, Zelenskyy speculated on Vladimir Putin’s motives for the invasion. “He wants us to be dead,” Zelenskyy said of the Russian president in the central scene in “Superpower.”

“Nobody from serious countries is telling us that we need to talk to Putin” – Ukraine’s Foreign Minister at the Munich Security Conference. “If at the beginning of the war, even our friends said that Russia should not win, we worked very hard to change this rhetoric, to start saying that Ukraine should win this war. They [Ukraine’s allies] started to speak about it and build their policy from it,” the minister explained.

Poland to look into giving Ukraine MiG-29 fighter jets – Polish President Duda. In his interview with Ukrinform, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Poland would consider giving Ukraine MiG-29 fighter jets, which are in service with the Polish air force. At the same time, if a broad aviation coalition is formed to provide Ukraine with F-16 aircraft, Poland will certainly join it.

Ukraine anticipates Russian provocations on 23-24 February – Air Force spox. The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) believes that Russian provocations and missile attacks are anticipated on 23-24 February. The Ukrainian defenders are preparing “for every day,” as reported by Ukrainian Radio and regional news outlet Donbas.Realities, citing Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman, Yuriy Ihnat. According to Yuriy Ihnat, the Russians are always in a hurry to prove something to their Fuhrer. On another side, Putin is eager to prove something to his people. By specific dates, the Ukrainian Air Force had become accustomed to their shelling.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  February 18, 2022:

Russian forces conducted another missile strike targeting Ukrainian infrastructure throughout the country. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on February 18 that Russian forces launched 16 missiles targeting civilian infrastructure in Khmelnytskyi City and Ukraiinsk in Donetsk Oblast (about 30km west of Donetsk City).[1] Ukrainian military officials reported that Ukrainian air defense systems shot down two Kalibr missiles of four launched earlier in the day but did not release the total number of intercepted missiles towards the end of the day.[2] Ukrainian officials also did not release information about the type of missiles Russian forces used during this attack as of the time of this publication. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces struck critical infrastructure facilities in Khmelnytskyi City and oblast and Kryvyi Rih.[3] Ukrainian nuclear enterprise Energoatom reported that two Russian missiles flew dangerously close to the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant (NPP).[4]

Russian news aggregators are advocating for Russia to carry out “retaliatory strikes” that would systematically target electrical infrastructure supporting Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs) to force Ukraine to conduct emergency shutdowns of its NPPs. Prominent Russian news aggregator Readovka told its audience of almost 1.7 million subscribers that Russian forces need to prioritize the “decommissioning” of the NPPs’ external electrical infrastructure in hopes that doing so would lead to the emergency shutdown of NPPs in Ukraine.[5] Readovka did not advocate for Russian forces to directly strike nuclear power plants or attempt to cause radiological events, but rather to target separate substations that would cut off electrical supply essential to the safe operation of the plants thereby forcing Ukrainian officials to shut the plants down in ways that would make it very difficult to restart them. Readovka stated that the destruction of such targets for the three Ukrainian NPPs outside of Russian-occupied areas “will cause damage many times greater than the last few massive missile strikes.”[6] Readovka claimed with low confidence that the February 18 missile strike on Khmelnytskyi City may have targeted one such substation that supports the Khmelnytskyi NPP, though Ukrainian officials stated that Russian forces hit a military facility and civilian infrastructure.[7] Readovka had previously advocated for such strikes noting that Russia’s massive missile strikes have not generated the desired effect of prompting the Ukrainian government‘s capitulation.[8] ISW has no other evidence that Russia is pursuing or considering such a course of action but observes that the Russian militarization of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, the use of Zaporizhzhia NPP grounds to fire at Ukrainian positions, and the reported Russian strikes on Zaporizhzhia NPP transmission lines all suggest that it is not beyond the realm of the conceivable that the Kremlin might pursue actions with the intent of forcing the emergency shutdowns of Ukrainian nuclear reactors.

The Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) reported dismissal of Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) military spokesman Eduard Basurin as part of the formal reorganization of the DNR militia under the Russian MoD triggered another wave of Russian milblogger criticisms against the Russian defense establishment. A prominent Russian milblogger broke the news to his over one million subscribers that Russian military officials fired Press Secretary of the DNR’s Military Command Eduard Basurin on February 17.[9] This milblogger reported that the Russian defense establishment seeks to replace all commanders of the DNR and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) militias with professional Russian officers as part of the formal reorganization of the DNR and LNR militias under the Russian MoD. Many Russian milbloggers met the news with discontent, disappointment, and outrage, stating that the DNR and LNR commanders have practical experience fighting Ukraine and are better than the “real” Russian commanders even if DNR and LNR commanders do not have formal military education, know the military‘s peacetime functions, have the right bureaucratic experiences, or meet the Russian military’s physical fitness requirements.[10] Some milbloggers stated that a purge of the DNR and LNR officers would degrade Russian fighters’ morale and undercut support for the Russian military establishment.[11] Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin stated that he will meet with DNR commanders in the near future to discuss Basurin’s alleged dismissal and stated that the news must be some kind of fake propaganda because firing DNR and LNR commanders would be unacceptable.[12] Prigozhin will likely exploit this episode in his ongoing informational counteroffensive against the Russian MoD if Basurin’s dismissal is confirmed.[13]

The DNR and LNR’s 1st and 2nd army corps are not and never have been a professional military or even an effective fighting force. These Russian proxies were ineffective at capturing and holding ground during the initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and required reinforcements from the conventional Russian military to capture Debaltseve in 2015.[14] DNR and LNR unit effectiveness has not improve since 2014, and the proxy forces and have continued to be ineffective in the renewed invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The Russian milblogger community’s reaction to the professionalization of the DNR and LNR forces indicates that the ultranationalist community values ideological commitment to the DNR’s and LNR’s brand of Russian nationalism over military professionalism, competence, and fighting effectiveness.

The Kremlin continues to fail to deliver on previous financial promises to volunteer forces, a failure that will likely have detrimental ramifications on Russia’s ability to generate volunteer forces in the long-term as it seeks to professionalize and expand the army. Prominent Russian milbloggers claimed that the Russian military is not delivering promised financial compensation to Russian combatants across many units and noted that the problem is particularly affecting elements of the Russian Combat Army Reserve (BARS).[15] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) sought to establish BARS as an active reserve by recruiting volunteer reservists for three-year contract service starting in fall 2021 and offered minor financial compensation of 4,000 to 9,000 rubles (about $54 to $122) per month with other benefits, but this initiative failed almost immediately.[16] Milbloggers also noted that the Russian bureaucracy is making it impossible for volunteers who had joined the Russian war effort in spring–summer 2022 to obtain documents proving that they participated in combat — documents necessary to collect their promised payments. One milblogger noted that Russian officials must resolve these concerns soon or there will be “an explosion” of discontent.[17] Another milblogger noted that the Russian General Staff should be punished for the mistreatment of BARS personnel since the active reserve was the Russian General Staff’s initiative.[18] The milbloggers also noted that Russian mobilized servicemen who had fought on the Svatove-Kreminna line in late September 2022 are not receiving compensation for their injuries and added that officials in military recruitment centers are understaffed and incapable addressing these issues.[19]

The Kremlin’s uninterest in paying volunteer formations may kill any incentive among Russians to sign contracts with the Russian MoD during or after the war because of growing mistrust that promised financial incentives will materialize. ISW previously reported that the Russian MoD likely did not reach its recruiting targets for volunteers over summer 2022 due to pervasive underlying distrust of the Russian military to honor its promises against the backdrop of a bloody war, and that the Russian military will likely further undermine its reputation by failing to pay and recognize volunteers.[20] The widespread distrust and of the Russian MoD may increasingly erode Russians’ willingness to enter contract service and increase the Russian military‘s dependance on forced mobilization and recruitment practices. Integration of select irregular forces such as the Donetsk or Luhansk People’s Republic (DNR/LNR) may further alienate irregular volunteer formations, and ISW had been observing ongoing conflicts between irregular formations due to the Russian military command’s unequal treatment.[21] ISW had also previously assessed that the Kremlin would deplete Russian state budgets at the federal and s federal subject level if it delivers the promised payments and long-term benefit commitments.[22] The Kremlin’s failure to create and properly support BARS formations also indicates that the Kremlin will be unlikely to establish effective volunteer reserves — during wartime or peacetime.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) promoted the Western and Eastern Military District (WMD/EMD) commanders after confirming their appointments as district commanders. Russian President Vladimir Putin promoted WMD Commander Yevgeny Nikiforov and EMD Commander Rustam Muradov to Colonel General after the Russian MoD formally named the two as military district commanders.[23] Nikiforov and Muradov have likely held these positions for at least several months without the rank of Colonel-General that is typical for military district commanders.[24] The Kremlin likely ordered the Russian MoD to formally confirm Russia’s four military district commanders in part to present the Russian military as an organized institution with a clear chain of command following months of confusion about what commanders were in charge of the war in Ukraine.

Chechen Republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov appears to have rejected overtures from Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin to join a renewed informational campaign against the Russian MoD, suggesting that this campaign may fail to restore Prigozhin’s waning influence. Kadyrov likely responded to the Russian MoD’s confirmation of the four military district commanders on February 17, stating that Chechen formations will follow the orders of any commander appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and that Chechen combat officers have an excellent well-coordinated relationship with the MoD.[25] Kadyrov’s endorsement of the Russian MoD follows Prigozhin’s attempt to court Kadyrov’s support through a publicized visit to a wounded Akhmat Special Forces commander on February 16.[26] Prigozhin appears to be intensifying his informational campaign against the MoD, stating on February 18 that the Wagner Group is not subordinate to the MoD and ”has nothing to do with the Russian Army.”[27] Prigozhin’s and Kadyrov’s divergent attitudes towards the MoD are notable as Prigozhin used Kadyrov’s criticism of Russian military officials in October 2022 to undermine the MoD and establish the Wagner Group as Russia’s elite force in Ukraine.[28] Kadyrov likely refused to join Prigozhin’s renewed informational attack against the MoD because his formal ties to the Kremlin and position in the Russian government are more beneficial than any political relationship with Prigozhin could be. Prigozhin is likely trying to enlist ultranationalist figures within the Kremlin and select Russian milbloggers to support his quest for authority in Russia but will likely find that those with ties to the Kremlin may turn away from him to retain their patronage.[29]

Ukrainian officials continue to question the Russian military’s ability to conduct a large-scale offensive throughout Donetsk Oblast. Spokesperson for the Ukrainian Defense Forces in the Tavriisk operational direction Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi stated on February 18 that Russian forces likely do not have the potential to conduct large-scale assaults throughout Donetsk Oblast and are beginning to lose momentum along this sector of the front.[30] Dmytrashykivskyi also stated that Russian forces are committing motorized rifle detachments to offensive operations throughout Donetsk Oblast with insufficient equipment and without armored vehicle support.[31] ISW has previously assessed that the Russian military’s costly campaign in Ukraine has likely significantly depleted the necessary Russian equipment and manpower reserves for large-scale offensives in Ukraine.[32] The Russian military’s likely degraded ability to conduct mechanized maneuver warfare tactics may be denying the Russian military any tactical advances throughout Ukraine outside of marginal gains in the Bakhmut area.[33] ISW has observed that there are likely some Russian conventional units uncommitted in the current fighting that may constitute a reserve to support the ongoing offensive, although likely not on a large scale or in a way that would likely generate significant Russian momentum. ISW will explore this topic in more detail in its special edition on February 19.

United States Vice President Kamala Harris announced on February 18 that the US had determined that Russia had committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine.[34]Harris stated during the Munich Security Conference that Russian forces “have pursued a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population” by committing murder, torture, rape, and deportation. Harris noted that Russian forces forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of people from Ukraine to Russia, including children. Harris noted that after the review of the evidence, there is “no doubt” that Russia committed crimes against humanity. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that the US reserves the determination of crimes against humanity for the “most egregious crimes.”[35]

Key Takeaways

  • United States Vice President Kamala Harris announced on February 18 that the US had determined that Russia had committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces conducted another missile strike attack targeting Ukrainian infrastructure.
  • Russian news aggregators are advocating for Russia to carry out “retaliatory strikes” that would systematically target electrical infrastructure supporting Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs) to force Ukraine to conduct emergency shutdowns of its NPPs.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) reported dismissal of Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) military spokesman Eduard Basurin as part of the formal reorganization of the DNR militia under the Russian MoD triggered another wave of Russian milblogger criticisms against the Russian defense establishment.
  • The Kremlin continues to fail to honor its commitments to financially incentivized volunteer forces, which will likely have detrimental ramifications on Russia’s ability to generate volunteer forces in the long-term.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) promoted the Western and Eastern Military District (WMD/EMD) commanders after confirming their appointments to the roles as part of an ongoing effort to present the Russian military as a well-organized fighting force.
  • Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov appears to have rebuffed overtures from Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin to join a renewed informational campaign against the Russian MoD.
  • Ukrainian officials continue to question the Russian military’s ability to conduct a large-scale offensive throughout Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations northwest of Svatove and in the Kreminna area.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut, along the western outskirts of Donetsk City, and in western Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian forces are continuing to reinforce defensive positions in occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • Russian authorities continue to exaggerate the extent of a Ukrainian threat to Russia’s border regions, attempting to convince the public of the “existential necessity” of the war in Ukraine.

 

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