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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 372: Russia loses major tank battle in Vuhledar

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Russia loses major tank battle for Vuhledar due to ambushes. Critical situation in Bakhmut. Most Wagner units destroyed by Ukraine.

Daily overview — Summary report, March 3

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, March 3, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. March 1, 2023. Source: ISW.

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The main efforts of Russian forces are concentrated on conducting offensive actions on the Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk axes. Last day, our defenders repelled more than 170 enemy attacks on the indicated axes.

[Russian forces continue to violate the rules of international humanitarian law, continue to launch strikes, shell civilian facilities and homes with artillery, and are trying to destroy the critical infrastructure of Ukraine.]

In total, the Russian occupiers launched 14 rocket attacks on civilian objects in Kharkiv Oblast, Poltava Oblast, and Donnechyna. There are wounded civilians, damaged apartment buildings and private houses. The invaders also carried out 21 airstrikes, including 2 Shahed-136 UAVs. Strike drones were shot down. Russian forces launched 58 attacks from MLRS.

The threat level of missile strikes by the Russian occupiers is very high throughout the territory of Ukraine.

Kharkiv Battle Map. March 1, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna, and Slobozhanshchyna axes: no formations of enemy offensive groups were detected. During the day, Russian forces shelled the settlements of Yeline and Baranivka of the Chernihiv Oblast; Rozhkovychi, Starykove, Hirky, Atynske, Stukalyvka, Budky, Volfyne, Turya, Grabovske in the Sumy Oblast and Chervona Zorya, Veterinarne, Strelecha, Krasne, Ternova, Okhrimivka, Potykhonove, Dvorichna, and Kindrashivka in the Kharkiv Oblast. It used an unmanned aerial vehicle with a combat munition near Budarok, Kharkiv Oblast. In the border areas of the Belgorod Oblast, Russian forces continue engineering equipment for the area and install anti-tank barriers.
  • Kupiansk and Lyman axes: Russian forces carried out offensive actions in the areas of Kreminna and Bilogorivka settlements in the Luhansk Oblast and Spirne in the Donetsk Oblast. There was no success. They carried out artillery shelling of the vicinities of Masyutivka, Lyman Pershiy, Kupiansk, Kislivka of the Kharkiv Oblast; Kuzemivka, Makiivka, Kreminna, Bilogorivka, Dibrova in the Luhansk Oblast and Zvanivka in the Donetsk Oblast.
Donetsk Battle Map. March 1, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: Russian forces continue to advance and storm the city. Our defenders repelled attacks in the areas of Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut and Ivanivske settlements. Bondarne, Zaliznyanske, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Ivanovske, Klishchiivka, Chasiv Yar and New York of the Donetsk Oblast came under enemy fire.
  • Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk axes: Russian forces carried out unsuccessful offensive actions on the settlements of Kam’ianka, Severna, Vodyane, Nevelske and Mar’yinka. The areas of Avdiivka, Lastochkine, Berdychi, Vodyane, Krasnohorivka, Mar’yinka, Georgiivka, Bogoyavlenka, Velyka Novosilka and Neskuchne in Donetsk Oblast were shelled.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. March 1, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: Russian forces are on the defensive. In some areas, the adversary is trying to create conditions to start an offensive. They carried out artillery shelling of more than 45 districts of populated areas. Among them are Mala Tokmachka and Novoandriivka of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, as well as Dobra Nadiya, Nikopol’, Zmiivka, Kozatske, Novosilka, Inzhenerne, Bilozerka, Dniprovske and the city of Kherson.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. March 1, 2023. Source: ISW.

[In Enerhodar (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Russian invaders involve local collaborators to propagate and highlight the fake “advantages” of the so-called “Russian authorities” coming to the oblast and to justify their legitimacy.]

[In the Manhushskyi district of the temporarily occupied territory of Donetsk oblast, the occupiers continue to exert pressure on civilians, in particular by limiting the supply of electricity to homes. The invaders destroyed an electric power pole and the settlement lost power for several days.]

[At the same time, local farmers in the temporarily occupied territories of Luhansk oblast have their summer and fall 2022 harvest spoiling en masse. The Russian occupation administration is completely blocking all local farmers from selling their grain both on the domestic and foreign markets.]

[Also, the so-called “occupation authorities” have unofficially banned all local bakeries from accepting grain from local farmers. Ukrainian farmers are desperate because of the large losses of their harvest.]

Over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian aviation has carried out 16 strikes on the areas of concentration of personnel and military equipment of the occupiers. Also, our defenders shot down an enemy unmanned aerial vehicle of the “Orlan-10” type. Missile and artillery units hit 1 enemy concentration area, 2 ammunition depots, [2 enemy electronic warfare systems] and 1 other important enemy target.

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Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Russia loses major tank battle for Vuhledar due to ambushes – NYT, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The New York Times. “Russia has lost a large-scale tank battle for Vuhledar in Donetsk Oblast, getting ambushed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine — just as it did during the attack when using tank convoys at the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

In the extended battle, both sides sent tanks into the fray, rumbling over dirt roads and manoeuvring around tree lines, with the Russians thrusting forward in columns and the Ukrainians manoeuvring defensively, firing from a distance or from hideouts as Russian convoys came into their sights.

When it was over, not only had Russia failed to capture Vuhledar, but it also had made the same mistake that cost Moscow hundreds of tanks earlier in the war: convoys advancing into ambushes.

According to NYT, the charred hulks of Russian armoured vehicles now litter farm fields all about Vuhledar, according to Ukrainian military drone footage – blown up on mines, hit with artillery or obliterated by anti-tank missiles. Ukraine’s military said Russia had lost at least 130 tanks and armoured personnel carriers in the battle.

Situation ‘critical’: Ukraine clings to Bakhmut as Russians advance, Reuters reports. “Ukrainian forces hung onto their positions in the ruined eastern city of Bakhmut early on Thursday under constant attack from Russian troops seeking to claim their first major victory for more than half a year. […] Ukraine says Bakhmut has limited strategic value but has nevertheless put up fierce resistance. Not everyone in Ukraine is convinced that defending Bakhmut can go on indefinitely.

I believe that sooner or later, we will probably have to leave Bakhmut. There is no sense in holding it at any cost,” Ukrainian member of parliament Serhiy Rakhmanin said on NV radio late on Wednesday. But for the moment, Bakhmut will be defended with several aims – firstly, to inflict as many Russian losses as possible and make Russia use its ammunition and resources.”

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Russia maintains 5 ships armed with 32 Kalibr cruise missiles in the Black Sea, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ukrainian Navy. “Ukraine’s Navy reported that as of 1 March, 17 Russian warships are deployed for combat duty in the Black Sea, including five Kalibr missile carriers armed with a total of 32 cruise missiles. One Russian warship is deployed in the Azov Sea.”

War update: Over 170 enemy attacks repelled in eastern Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ukrainian General Staff. “In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian defenders have repelled more than 170 enemy attacks in the Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk directions, where Russian troops are focusing efforts and conducting active offensive operations.”

Ukraine’s air defence brings down 80% of Russian missiles, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Serhii Naiev, Commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “At present, the percentage of missiles we shoot down has changed and is currently hovering at 80%. Even more in some cases. Our air defence experts have grown more skilled and competent.”

Explosions heard in Bakhchysarai and Yalta, Ukrinform reports, citing the Telegram channel Crimean Wind. “An explosion rang out near a Russian military unit in Bakhchysarai in the temporarily occupied Crimea, with explosions also heard in Yalta, Gurzuf and other settlements on the southern coast of the peninsula.

In Bakhchysarai, there was an explosion in the area of the military unit on Simferopolska Street. Subscribers report that it was probably the work of air defense systems. The explosion was heard in many villages of the Bakhchysarai district, the post said.

There are also reports of explosions on the southern coast of Crimea – in Yalta, Gurzuf and other settlements. Everything around shattered – furniture and windows, car alarms went off. There are sounds of airplanes in the background, the report said.

Russian ammunition explodes in occupied Kadiivka, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Serhii Haidai, the Head of Luhansk Oblast Military Administration, reported an explosion in the occupied Kadiivka; according to preliminary information, the explosion took place at a factory, where the occupiers tried to hide their ammunition.”

Explosions rock airfield in Russian-occupied Melitopol and city of Polohy, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ivan Fedorov, Melitopol Mayor. “Black smoke was seen rising over an airfield in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol. Explosions were also reported in the city of Polohy, to the northwest of Melitopol in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.”

No critical force in Transnistria capable of opening “second front” against, Ukrinform reports, citing head of the joint press center for Ukraine’s Southern Defense Forces, Natalia Humeniuk. “Provocations are not ruled out on the border with Moldova, but currently no activity is being observed on the part of Russian forces in the Transnistrian sector. Our defense forces at the border area provide general interaction with an adequate response to the likelihood of any threats from that direction. Currently, these threats are not critical. We are talking about the probable operations by sabotage and recon groups, or some kind of provocations such as shelling of the state border areas – none of those can be ruled out. We are observing closely. Currently, there is no activity on that side of the border, the spokeswoman said.

According to the spokesperson, the troops that have been amassed by the aggressor power in the area of Transnistria do not constitute a critical force capable of opening a second front against Ukraine. They will still need support, and geographically they can’t get it. That is why we are observing that now it’s more about psyops targeting Moldova, where they are trying to destabilize the socio-political system, Humeniuk said.

As reported by Ukrinform, Ukraine has strengthened border control with Moldova in the breakaway region of Transnistria, where a Russian military contingent is stationed.”

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

  • As Ukrainian forces continue their defence of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, rising temperatures are now creating the muddy conditions known in Ukrainian as ‘bezdorizhzhia’, limiting cross country movement (CCM). Poor CCM typically provides some military advantage to defending forces.
  • Daytime soil temperatures have risen and are now largely above freezing. As experienced since mid-February 2023, overnight freeze and daytime thaw remains likely until next week. Forecast warmer than average conditions for the remainder of winter and spring will further reduce CCM.
  • It is almost certain that by late-March, CCM will be at its worst following the final thaw. This will add further friction to ground operations and hamper the off-road movement of heavier armoured vehicles, especially over churned-up ground in the Bakhmut sector.
  • On 27 February 2023, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence confirmed it had shot down 11 Shahed one-way attack uncrewed aerial vehicles (OWA UAVs) out of 14 launched overnight. Serhii Popko, head of Kyiv City Military Administration, reported nine of these were shot down in the vicinity of Kyiv airspace. Three additional Shahed UAVs were reportedly shot down in Chernhiv Oblast, northern Ukraine.
  • Prior to this 26 February 2023 attack, there have not been any reports of OWA UAVs being used in Ukraine since around 15 February 2023. This decrease in OWA UAV attack tempo likely indicates that Russia has run down its current stock: it will likely seek a resupply.
  • Due to the vector of the attack, these Shahed-UAVs were highly likely launched from the Bryansk Oblast, Russia. Previously, the only observed launch site since mid-December 2022 was from the Krasnodar region, across the Sea of Azov. A second launch site would give the Russians a different axis of attack, closer to Kyiv. This is likely to decrease time in the air over Ukraine and an attempt to further stretch Ukrainian air defences.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of Russian Army. Source General Staff of Ukraine.

As of Wednesday 2 March, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – about 150605 (+715)
  • Tanks – 3397 (+2)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6658 (+20)
  • Artillery systems – 2398 (+5)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 480 (+1)
  • Air defence means – 247 (+0)
  • Aircraft – 300 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 288 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5264 (+7)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 2058 (+3)
  • Special equipment – 230 (+0)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 873 (+0)

Russia forced to replace Wagnerites as most units were destroyed by Ukrainian troops, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Hanna Maliar, Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine. “Military personnel of the Russian army are forced to replace the mercenaries of the Wagner Group on the Bakhmut front, because most of this PMC’s units were destroyed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

She also said that regular Russian soldiers are discouraged, unlike Wagnerites, who are mercenaries and are thus motivated by their payment.”

Humanitarian 

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy: we survived winter, but energy risks remain, Reuters reports. “Ukrainians survived the past winter thanks to government efforts to ensure energy and heat, but Russia still poses a threat to the generating system, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday. The first day of March is traditionally marked in Ukraine – and Russia – as the end of winter though cold weather may well continue. Russia has mounted regular waves of missile strikes on power stations in a calculated strategy to bring ordinary Ukrainians to their knees.

Winter is over. It was a very difficult one and every Ukrainian, without exaggeration, felt the difficulties, Zelenskyy said in his nightly video message, delivered after a meeting devoted to energy issues. But we managed to provide Ukraine with energy and heat. The threat to the energy system remains. And work goes on to ensure the energy system keeps functioning. […]

Human rights groups say attacks on energy targets have a considerable effect on civilians and some groups say they should be investigated as war crimes. The strikes have at times knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians in their homes.”

Ukraine already exported over 18M t of agricultural products through ‘grain corridor’, Ukrinform reports, citing MFA Ukraine’s Ambassador on special assignments, coordinator of the Council of Exporters and Investors Olha Trofimtseva. “Ukraine has exported more than 18 million tonnes of grain and oil crops since the “grain corridor” started working on August 1, 2022.

In total, more than 22 million tonnes of agricultural products have been delivered since the grain corridor was launched. Grain and oil crops – more than 18 million tonnes, Trofimtseva said. She noted that Ukraine could export much more food products if the seaports were operating at full capacity.”

Environmental

Energoatom’s cooperation with Westinghouse to help push Russia out of nuclear fuel market – minister, Ukrinform reports, citing the press service of the Ministry of Energy. “The cooperation between NAEC Energoatom and Westinghouse will help dislodge Russia from the global nuclear fuel market. Energy Minister German Galushchenko is convinced this is possible.

The results of our cooperation are inspiring, giving us confidence that as early as this year we will move Russia from the list of players in the nuclear fuel market. This will be facilitated by the close and fruitful cooperation of Westinghouse and Energoatom specialists, said the energy minister. According to Galushchenko, today the issue of getting rid of dependence on Russian nuclear fuel as soon as possible is critical for both Ukraine and all of Europe.

The minister recalled that Ukraine had stepped on the path of diversifying nuclear fuel supplies long before Russia’s military aggression. Due to this, after a full-scale invasion, the country halted all nuclear fuel imports from Russia. As reported, seven power units of Ukrainian nuclear plants, operated by NAEC Energoatom, have already been completely switched to the fuel produced by Westinghouse Electric Sweden AB.”

Russia needs to pay war reparations to Ukraine, says Polish climate minister, Reuters reports. “Democratic countries worldwide should make Russia pay war reparations to Ukraine and cut all financial and economic ties with Moscow, Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said on Wednesday. […] It should be decent compensation for everything, for energy, for energy infrastructure, for every single human being, for environment, for whatever what was destroyed and affected, she added.

The meeting of Partnership for Transatlantic Energy and Climate Cooperation (P-TECC) gathered government officials and private investors from the United States and Europe to discuss how to help Ukraine rebuild its energy grid and switch to clean energy.

After multiple battlefield setbacks and scaling down its troop operation to Ukraine’s east and south, Russia in October began bombing the country’s energy infrastructure, leaving millions without power and heating for days. […] During these attacks, about 50% of the whole energy system had been hit but Ukraine has succeeded to restore electricity supplies to all consumers in the country, Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said.

US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said the Russian invasion has united the free world in supporting Ukraine and stabilising global energy system, and also accelerated movement towards clean energy that can make countries energy self-sufficient.”

Ukraine may resume electricity exports soon – Ukrenergo, Ukrinform reports. “Ukraine plans to resolve the issue of electricity supply to Odesa region soon, which will allow the resumption of electricity exports. Yuriy Boyko, member of the Supervisory Board of National Power Company Ukrenergo stated this.

The issue of export is being considered. Moreover, I think it will be approved. The point here is not when it will be resumed, but what the prerequisites will be. The Government and the Prime Minister believe that first of all, the domestic consumer should be provided with uninterrupted electricity supply. In this case, the issue of export can be raised, Boyko said. He emphasized that the priority should still be focused on the domestic consumer.

In the near future, we expect a solution to the most acute current problem – Odesa region. I think this will become a trigger that will unlock the issue of resuming exports, Boyko said. As reported, there has been no deficit in Ukraine’s power system for 18 days, and it is currently not forecast.”

ICC’s top prosecutor in Ukraine to probe Russian attacks on power grid, Reuters reports. “ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan was in Ukraine to investigate Russia’s campaign of missile and drone attacks on power and other infrastructure that killed hundreds of civilians and left millions with no electricity or water. Russia says they are legitimate strikes aimed at weakening Russian forces’s military, but Ukraine casts them as a means of intimidating ordinary people. […]

Responding to Russian crimes in the face of this aggression exactly in terms of the rule of law and through the power of an international court is what will serve as one of the guarantees of the long-term future security of both Ukrainians and other peoples, Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

The Geneva conventions and additional protocols shaped by international courts say parties involved in a military conflict must distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives and that attacks on civilian objects are forbidden. “Generally we see clearly a pattern, I think, in terms of the number, scale and breadth of attacks against the power grids of Ukraine and we need to look at why that’s taking place; are they legitimate targets or not?” Khan said. […]

The job of the ICC and Ukraine’s own legal system in pursuing justice after Russia launched a full-scale invasion just over a year go is vast. More than 70,000 alleged war crimes have been reported, the vast majority of which would be dealt with in domestic courts.

The ICC in The Hague has jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide on the territory of Ukraine committed by either side and is expected to focus on high-profile suspects. Such cases could take years to build. Khan said there had not yet been any arrest warrants issued by the ICC resulting from the past year’s work in Ukraine, but he defended the court and its Ukrainian partners. […]

Evidence gathered so far by Western and Ukrainian authorities, particularly in areas occupied by Russian forces that have been liberated, points to widespread abuses, including torture, execution, forced deportation and sexual violence. Russia denies such accusations and says some of the evidence cited has been fabricated.

Moscow has also accused Ukraine’s military of abuses, including killing prisoners of war and shelling civilians in Russian-held territory in the east. Khan told Reuters that he had tried to contact the Russian government on several occasions to discuss his work in Ukraine. “I’ve got evidence from the Ukrainians. I have not got evidence from the Russians,” he said. If you’ve got something, give it. I stand ready to receive it and engage with them, but it takes two to tango.”

Support

Scrounging for tanks for Ukraine, Europe’s armies come up short, The New York Times reports. “Nearly a month after Berlin gave European allies permission to send German-made tanks to Ukraine, the flow of tanks so many leaders vowed would follow seems more like a trickle. Some nations have discovered that the tanks in their armory don’t actually work or lack spare parts. Political leaders have encountered unanticipated resistance within their own coalitions, and even from their defense ministries. And some armies had to pull trainers out of retirement to teach Ukrainian soldiers how to use old-model tanks.

The struggle to provide Leopard tanks to an embattled Ukraine is just the most glaring manifestation of a reality Europe has long ignored: Believing that large-scale land war was a thing of the past and basking in the thaw of the Cold War, nations chronically underfunded their militaries. When Russia launched the largest land war on the continent since World War II, they were woefully unprepared.

Hints of the problem have surfaced repeatedly since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, through shortages of weapons and ammunition. But now, as Germany and its allies struggled for weeks to scrape together enough Leopard 2s to fill two battalions of tanks — 62 vehicles in total — the extent of their quandary has become even clearer. […] Some countries that clamored for permission to send them to Ukraine are having difficulties doing so, or second thoughts of their own.

Despite Europe having an estimated 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks of different models — they are among the most commonly used main battle tanks across the continent — pledges for Ukraine are still short of the hundreds it says it needs. Germany has offered 18, and Poland another 14, but the numbers drop from there. And once the currently pledged tanks go into battle and get hit or break down, it is not clear which Leopards — or which country — will replace them. […] It is not so much that nations are unwilling to make good on their promises but rather that they have faced a rude awakening as to just how difficult it is.

Finland, where many outspoken members of Parliament led the calls for Germany to allow Leopard deliveries, announced on Thursday that it would supply three Leopard mine-clearing vehicles — but none of its estimated 200 Leopard main battle tanks. Some German officials expressed sympathy for Finland, which is not yet a NATO member and has Europe’s longest border with Russia, some 830 miles. It does not want to weaken its defenses now that Russia has shown a willingness to attack a sovereign neighbor. But some European officials were hoping for a larger contribution from Finland, given promises from the United States and Britain to come to its defense if necessary, even before NATO accession.

Nordic countries such as Sweden, which had long pushed for Leopard deliveries but on Friday offered only “up to” 10, are facing another unexpected problem, several German officials said: While their politicians and members of the public appear keen to offer tanks to Ukraine, their militaries are not. For decades, European countries enjoying a post-Cold War “peace dividend” had seen war as almost a thing of the past, regularly cutting military support. Now, the shrunken armies tend to be protective of what they still have. At NATO, European militaries are sometimes called “bonsai armies,” after the miniature trees.

For years, the United States has been nagging Europe to increase military spending, and in 2014, after Russia grabbed Crimea, NATO members agreed to spend 2 percent of GDP by 2024. Yet even today, by current NATO estimates, only nine of the alliance’s 30 members are spending that much, while a 10th is close. Thirteen countries, including Germany, were spending around 1.5 percent of their G.D.P. or even less.

In Germany, which for years clung to a foreign policy that emphasized aid and development more than hard power, some saw the problem as uniquely German. Yearly military reports to Parliament offered sometimes comical glimpses of the shortages. Commandos conducted water training at local public pools, because their own facilities were shut down. Planes could not fly. Soldiers trained with broomsticks instead of rifles. Even newer Puma infantry fighting vehicles recently broke down en masse. But other European nations are now realizing their own militaries may have similar troubles. […]

Spain, which has 108 Leopard 2A4 tanks, early on sought German permission to offer some of its vehicles to Ukraine. Now it has discovered that many of them are in poor condition and need refurbishment that could take weeks or months. […] Nevertheless, as Germany turned the pressure back on its allies for their shortcomings, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, on Friday improved on his promise to send six Leopards and said Spain would now send 10.

Ulrike Franke, a defense analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the struggle to find tank numbers raises questions as to where else European militaries face similar shortages and maintenance problems. Is it just bad luck that Spain has an issue with their Leopard tanks, but everything else works? she said. Or do they have the same issues elsewhere? Does 10 percent of their equipment not work, or is it 50 percent? Ms. Franke asked. It would be a good idea for Europeans to look at this more closely.

Poland, which has difficult relations with Germany, was foremost in pressing Mr. Scholz and Berlin on the Leopards, and even threatened to send some to Ukraine without the necessary German permission. Like Berlin, Warsaw has some 200 Leopard 2 tanks — but it says it will provide just 14. It sent the first of the tanks to Ukraine on the anniversary of the invasion, Feb. 24, although Poland has yet to finish training Ukrainian soldiers how to use them. Warsaw may be holding off on deliveries of Leopards until it receives new Hyundai-made K2 tanks from South Korea, meant to replace the German model, some analysts said. Poland has sent many upgraded Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukraine. […]

The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark have launched a joint initiative to refurbish and send 150 Leopard 1 models to Ukraine by the end of the year. But at a training session for Ukrainian soldiers in Germany earlier this week, one general said militaries had been forced to seek out retired Leopard 1 tank drivers to come back and help train Ukrainian forces. The old model is too unfamiliar to current militaries. […]

Another option would be for countries to simply buy more Leopards, made by the German companies Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, and send their current models to Ukraine. But European governments and the defense industry are currently in a standoff over production.

State leaders want industry to move first, while weapons makers want longer-term government orders before they step up production. If more government orders are made, analysts say, the more capacity may increase, thus speeding up production of weapons like tanks. At current rates, militaries would face a serious tank shortage for the two to three years it would take the industry to make the new vehicles, security experts say — a long waiting period politicians across Europe are learning their armies are fiercely resistant to accept.

Scholz Promises to Increase Ammunition Production and Repair Capacity to Support Ukraine, European Pravda reports. “German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday announced Berlin’s commitment to ramp up its ammunition production as well as weapon repair capacity to better support Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion. The now one-year lasting support of Ukraine has also brought us the knowledge that enables us to ensure that there is also a sufficient supply, with spare parts, that we have created repair capacities for the weapons used in the war, at locations outside of Ukraine, CNN quotes Scholz.

He added that Germany will ensure that the production of ammunition is advanced, both for the weapons that we have supplied ourselves and those that come from classic stocks that are available in eastern Europe. The decrease in ammunition stocks causes great concern in the EU, as tens of thousands of rounds are used up every day on the Ukrainian and Russian sides.

Although Ukraine uses ammunition more efficiently, it still consumes it faster than Europe is able to produce. Currently, the USA and the EU are trying to increase production both to supply Ukraine and to replenish their own reserves. According to the media, the European Commission wants to present a three-stage plan, which will not only ensure the supply of ammunition to Ukraine, but also replenish stocks in the EU countries.

New Developments 

  1. Russia wants its demands met before extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The Guardian. “The Russian side stressed that continuing the package agreement on grain is possible only if the interests of Russian agricultural and fertiliser producers in terms of unhindered access to world markets are taken into account, the ministry said, according to Reuters. […] The Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed in July 2022 and allows for commercial food and fertiliser exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea. The agreement was extended in November 2022 and is set to expire on 18 March 2023, unless an extension is agreed upon.”
  2. Russia accuses Ukraine of planning “radioactive provocation” in Transnistria, Moldova claims it’s false, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Russian Defence Ministry has brought to attention the provocations that the Kyiv regime is preparing in order to blame the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in alleged targeting of radiation-hazardous objects, which can lead to leakage of radioactive elements and contamination of the environment… It cannot be ignored that such events are taking place near Transnistria, where Kyiv is deliberately aggravating the situation, Zakharova said. The Moldovan government called Zakharova’s statement a lie. The state institutions are monitoring the situation and do not confirm the position propagated by the Russian side, reads the message on the government’s Telegram channel.”
  3. Baerbock on Putin: He doesn’t want to talk, he wants to destroy Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing ARD. “German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin has no interest in peace talks, and that everyone has already understood this. He doesn’t want to talk – he wants to destroy Ukraine… He’s not ready to take his soldiers back, he’s not ready to stop killing, Baerbock said, adding that every country that thought they could convince the Kremlin leader and sway him to peace, realized with disappointment that this is impossible. According to the minister, representatives of more than 140 countries repeatedly traveled to Moscow to make it clear to the Russian president that the war would harm the whole world, but their hopes that Putin would understand them never came true. Evaluating China’s “peace plan” regarding Russia’s war against Ukraine, Baerbock recalled that it is not a plan, but a positional document, and that the actual peace plan had seen support from 140 countries in New York last week.”
  4. Stoltenberg invites Zelensky to NATO Summit in Vilnius, Ukrinform reports, citing LRT. “NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he had invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to attend the Alliance summit in Vilnius this July. I invited President Zelensky to participate in the NATO summit in Vilnius. I firmly believe that this will be a strong sign of our solidarity, the support that allies give to Ukraine, and I hope that Mr. Zelensky will be able to attend. Of course, it will depend on the situation in Ukraine, which is still in the middle of the war, Stoltenberg said, according to the report posted in Russian.”
  5. US extends range of sanctions against Russia until end of 2023, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the White House. “US President Joe Biden issued a decree on 1 March extending the national emergency imposed in 2014 after Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and related sanctions against Russia until the end of 2023.
  6. US seeks allies’ backing for possible China sanctions over Ukraine war, ReutersThe United States is sounding out close allies about the possibility of imposing new sanctions on China if Beijing provides military support to Russia for its war in Ukraine, according to four US officials and other sources. The consultations, which are still at a preliminary stage, are intended to drum up support from a range of countries, especially those in the wealthy Group of 7 (G7), to coordinate support for any possible restrictions.”
  7. Here’s what Biden administration officials are saying about China supporting Russia, CNNOn Tuesday, a top State Department official said that in many ways, China has been supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine from the beginning, even if it hasn’t provided lethal aid. […] Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly accused Beijing of trying to have it both ways on the war. “It’s, on the one hand, trying to present itself publicly as neutral and seeking peace, while at the same time it was talking up Russia’s false narrative about the war. It is, as I said, providing nonlethal assistance through its companies and now contemplating lethal assistance, Blinken said in an interview with ABC last week. […] We’ve seen China’s stepping up its economic engagement and purchases from Russia, [Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel] Kritenbrink said.”
  8. Lukashenko tells Xi Jinping he completely supports his “peace plan” for Ukraine, Ukrainska PravdaDuring his visit to China, self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that his country fully supported Beijing’s “peace plan.” […] On 24 February, Chinese Foreign Ministry published a so-called “peace plan”with its ideas for the settlement of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
  9. China’s March imports of Russian oil may hit record – shiptracking data, ReutersChina’s seaborne imports of Russian oil are set to hit a record this month after refiners took advantage of cheap prices as domestic fuel demand rebounded, but Russia’s plan to cut exportswill likely cap buying in coming months. Hefty Chinese buying, alongside robust Indian demand, has been spurred by steep price discounts but is providing Moscow much-needed revenue after the Group of Seven imposed a $60 price cap on Russian crude. Tanker tracking consultancies Vortexa and Kpler estimated nearly 43 million barrels of Russian crude oil, comprising about at least 20 million barrels of ESPO Blend and 11 million barrels of Urals, are set to reach China in March. The previous high for Russian seaborne crude imports was 42.48 million barrels in June 2020, shiptracking data showed.”
  10. Moscow mulls possible use of nuclear arms to fend off US attack -RIA, ReutersRussian defence ministry journal says Moscow is developing a new type of military strategy using nuclear weapons to protect against possible US aggression, RIA news agency reported on Thursday. […] RIA said the article, published in the Voennaya Mysl (Military Thought) magazine, concluded Washington was worried it might be losing dominance over the world and had therefore “apparently” prepared plans to strike Russia to neutralise it. In response, Russian specialists were “actively developing a promising form of the strategic use of the Russian armed forces – an operation of strategic deterrence forces, RIA said.”
  11. Putin submits law on suspending nuclear arms treaty, ReutersRussia will continue to observe limits on the number of nuclear warheads it can deploy under the New START treaty despite a decision to suspend participation in the agreement, Moscow said on Tuesday. President Vladimir Putin announcedthe freeze during a speech to both houses of the Russian parliament in which he also repeated accusations the West was seeking to destroy Russia. Later in the day Putin submitted a draft law on the suspension to the Duma, the lower house of parliament, which will consider it on Wednesday and take an immediate decision, Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said in a statement.”
  12. Top Putin ally visits Cuba, meets president and Raul Castro, Reuters reports, “A top ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Cuba on Wednesday and held talks with President Miguel Diaz-Canel as well as former Communist Party leader Raul Castro, Tass news agency said. Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, Diaz-Canel and Castro discussed international problems and how to deepen bilateral cooperation, Tass cited the council’s press service as saying. Last month, Russia gave Cuba an “emergency” donationof 25,000 tonnes of wheat to combat shortages on the island, a sign of deepening relations between the two long-time allies.”
  13. Hungarian PM’s party backs ratification of Finland, Sweden NATO entry, Reuters Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party will back the ratification of Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, the party’s parliamentary group said on Wednesday, as lawmakers began the process after a months-long delay. The announcement followed calls by Hungary’s president and a government official to swiftly endorse expansion of the Western defence alliance in response to Russia’s year-old invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  March 2, 2022:

Russian forces are fortifying positions on the international border in Belgorod Oblast. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on March 1 that Russian forces deployed engineering equipment and are installing anti-tank mines in Novostroivka Vtoraya and Gorkovskii, Belgorod Oblast—approximately 47km northwest of Kharkiv City. The Ukrainian General Staff did not observe Russian forces forming offensive groups in the northern Kharkiv Oblast direction, and such fortifications further indicate that Russian forces are not preparing for renewed offensive operations in the area.

Russian forces continued offensive operations on the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on March 1. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces repelled three Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups near Novoselivske (approximately 14km northwest of Svatove) and Tymkivka (about 20km east of Kupiansk). Russian state news outlet Anna News reported that artillery units of the 488th Motorized Rifle Regiment of the 144th Guards Motorized Rifle Division (20th Guards Combined Arms Army) continue to operate on the Svatove-Kreminna line and are supporting Russian assaults against Ukrainian positions. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults northwest of Kreminna against Makiivka, Nevske, and Chervonopopivka, and south of Kreminna in Bilohorivka, Shypylivka, and Fedorivka. A Russian news aggregator also claimed that fighting is ongoing in the Makiivka-Balka Zhuravka area. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces repelled all Russian assaults on Yampolivka, Terny, Nevske, and Makiivka—all within 20km west or northwest of Kreminna. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that Akhmat special forces, elements of the Luhansk People’s Republic’s 4th Brigade of the 2nd Army Corps, and Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) stormed Ukrainian fortifications in the Kreminna area. A Russian milblogger noted that Ukrainian and Russian forces are fighting for dominant heights in the Kreminna forest area and noted that similar localized battles are ongoing in the Svatove area.

Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Ukrainian forces struck a Russian ammunition depot in Kadiivka, Luhansk Oblast. Luhansk Oblast Administration Head Serhiy Haidai reported that Russian forces intensified their use of kamikaze drones in the Luhansk direction.

Russian forces conducted ground attacks around Bakhmut on March 1. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops continue to advance in the Bakhmut direction and attacked Bakhmut itself; north of Bakhmut near Orikhovo-Vasylivka (10km northwest), Dubovo-Vasylivka (6km northwest), and Bohdanivka (8km northwest); west of Bakhmut near Ivanivske (5km west), Chasiv Yar (10km west), and Khromove (3km west); and southwest of Bakhmut near Bila Hora (15km southwest). Geolocated footage posted on March 1 confirms that Russian forces made advances on the southern outskirts of Bakhmut. Russian milbloggers claimed that Wagner Group fighters have consolidated control of the outskirts of Yahidne (1km northwest of Bakhmut) and are moving southwest towards Khromove, though Ukrainian forces retain access to the Khromove-Bakhmut route. Russian milbloggers additionally claimed that Wagner troops have advanced within Bakhmut near the meat processing plant and up to the bank of the Bakhmutivka River, which runs through eastern Bakhmut. Russian sources continue to claim that Russian troops are attacking Ukrainian positions along the T0504 Kostiatynivka-Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut highway near Ivanivske and that Ukrainian troops are withdrawing from Chasiv Yar. While some Russian sources claim that the situation in Bakhmut is worsening for Ukrainian troops, Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that Ukraine is transferring large numbers of reserves to the area.

Ukrainian officials continue to emphasize that Ukrainian troops have the option to conduct a controlled withdrawal from Bakhmut if they see fit. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Oleksandr Rodnyanskyi stated on February 28 that Ukrainian forces can strategically pull back from positions in Bakhmut if needed, but that a Ukrainian withdrawal from Bakhmut would not mean that Russian forces would be able to quickly take Bakhmut. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky previously stated on February 20 that Ukraine will continue to hold Bakhmut, but “not at any cost.” ISW has previously assessed that the Ukrainian defense of Bakhmut is a strategically sound operation that will continue to force Russian troops to expend manpower and equipment on costly assaults. Ukrainian officials continue to signal their willingness to strategically delay Russian forces by defending Bakhmut but appear to be assuring the United States and Western partners that they maintain the possibility of a controlled withdrawal if the Ukrainian command deems it necessary.

Russian forces continued ground attacks in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area on March 1. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops conducted unsuccessful offensive actions north of Donetsk City near Avdiivka and Kamianka; on the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Vodyane, Pervomaiske, and Nevelske; and on the southwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Marinka and Pobieda. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces continue fighting in the Adviivka area near Novobakhmutivka (12km north of Avdiivka) and are trying to break through Ukrainian defenses in Avdiivka from the Opytne-Spartak line to the south. Russian milbloggers additionally claimed that fighting is ongoing within Marinka and that Russian troops have made unspecified gains on the southern and northern outskirts of Marinka.

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on March 1. A Wagner Group-affiliated source posted footage of the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade operating near Vuhledar and claimed that naval infantry elements are trying to gain a foothold near the mine area by Vuhledar to launch further offensives against the settlement. Another Russian milblogger posted footage reportedly of the aftermath of an incident where a Russian tank hit a mine near Vuhledar and its crew crawled into a shell crater to hide from Ukrainian fire. The milblogger claimed that scouts of the 5th Separate Guards Tank Brigade (36th Combined Arms Army, Eastern Military District) and infantry of the 37th Motor Rifle Brigade (36th Combined Arms Army, Eastern Military District) evacuated the wounded tankers. The same milblogger also posted footage of BARS-23 (Russian Combat Reserve) fighters in the Vuhledar area.

The Kremlin may leverage an amendment to Russia’s Criminal Code increasing punishments for “discrediting” the war in Ukraine to promote further self-censorship among the critical ultranationalist community, prompting pushback from Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and prominent milbloggers. Chairman of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin announced on March 1 that the Duma could ratify amendments to the Russian Criminal Code introducing harsher punishments for discrediting participants of the Russian “special military operation,” including “volunteers,” as soon as March 14. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) labels irregular armed formations fighting in Ukraine—specifically the Wagner Group—as volunteers. Volodin stated punishments would include a fine of up to five million rubles (about $66,450), five years of correctional or forced labor, or a sentence of 15 years in prison. Russian President Vladimir Putin previously stated on February 28 that Russia must “identify and stop illegal activities of those who are trying to weaken [Russian] society” and identify those who “use separatism, nationalism, neo-Nazism as a weapon.” Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin has long called on the Kremlin to punish anyone who spoke poorly of Wagner under the guise of ensuring that all participants of the war are protected under existing laws against discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. However, Prigozhin released a suggested adjustment to the amendments in response to Volodin’s statement, arguing the amendment should not punish criticism of senior Russian MoD and Wagner Group commanders. Prigozhin argued constructive criticism “is necessary” to ensure Russian commanders use their powers “transparently and responsibly.” Prigozhin may be concerned that the Kremlin could use the expanded amendment to crack down on or, at minimum, promote self-censorship practices among ultranationalist milblogger communities who regularly criticize senior Russian commanders, and likely seeks to balance his desired protection of the Wagner Group with retaining the freedom for himself and friendly milbloggers to criticize the Russian military.

ISW assessed on February 26 that Putin has allowed the ultranationalist community to expand its influence at the expense of the Russian MoD so the Kremlin can leverage the community’s pre-established networks to recruit volunteers. The Kremlin likely seeks to mitigate further pushback from the pro-war ultranationalist community, which continues to look up to Putin as the facilitator of the war despite their criticisms of the conduct of the war. The State Duma will likely pass these amendments on March 14, given Volodin’s announcement. The Kremlin could use these amendments to promote self-censorship among select milbloggers whose constituencies are no longer needed for its force generation or crowdfunding campaigns, or whose criticisms have exceeded the Kremlin’s tolerance for open criticism. It is unclear to what extent such measures would scare Russian milbloggers into self-censorship, however. Former Russian officer (and avid critic of Putin) Igor Girkin mocked Volodin’s announcement, stating that he will start apologizing for his previous critiques of Russia’s military failures and sarcastically retracting his criticism. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger, however, celebrated the amendments, noting that Putin is attempting to prevent divisions in society to improve the war effort. […]

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a package of 16 documents on March 1 that may facilitate Russian sanctions evasion by channeling Chinese aid to Russia through Belarus. The documents include a strategy for joint Belarusian-Chinese industrial development, a document on Belarusian-Chinese scientific and technical cooperation for 2023-2024, and a memorandum of understanding on joint projects using Chinese government loans. Lukashenko stated that Belarus is interested in deepening cooperation with China on technological development, including the creation of joint ventures, the modernization of Belarusian enterprises with modern Chinese technologies, and trade in goods and services. […] ISW previously assessed that China may clandestinely transfer military or dual-use equipment to Russia via Belarus. 

Lukashenko likely additionally intends these agreements to support his longstanding effort to cultivate Chinese economic influence in Belarus to hedge against Russian integration pressure, although these measures will at most delay Russia’s ongoing campaign to secure full economic control of Belarus. Several of the documents also concern Chinese-Belarusian trade and economic cooperation. Lukashenko previously expressed support to expand China’s economic presence in Belarus in February 2021 when Lukashenko intensified his efforts to delay Russia’s absorption of Belarus through the Union State.

Russian occupation authorities may be attempting to further constrain the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presence at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) to compel the de facto recognition of Russian ownership of the plant. The IAEA announced on February 10 that it delayed a planned rotation of personnel to the IAEA mission at the ZNPP due to security concerns. IAEA General Director Rafael Grossi stated on February 20 that the situation remains unstable and on February 28 that 20 detonations occurred near the ZNPP, briefly disconnecting a backup powerline to the ZNPP and underscoring the ZNPP’s “fragile external power situation.” Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Spokesperson Maria Zakharova claimed on February 22 that the UN Department for Safety and Security indefinitely postponed the IAEA personnel rotation without proper cause, claiming that Russia is committed to ensuring the safe passage of IAEA personnel to the ZNPP. Zaporizhzhia Oblast occupation official Vladimir Rogov claimed on March 1 that Western intelligence agencies disrupted the routine rotation of the IAEA mission in order to accuse Russia of creating obstacles for the IAEA. Russian and occupation officials have previously criticized the IAEA’s presence at the ZNPP, such as Rogov accusing the IAEA in January of playing a political role at the ZNPP to support Ukraine. Russian and occupation authorities likely intend to use either the possibly trapped IAEA personnel or a reduced IAEA presence at the plant to coerce international recognition of Russian ownership over the plant. Russian and occupation authorities may also be attempting to deter a possible future Ukrainian counteroffensive in southern Ukraine by escalating threats to the ZNPP.

Politico reported that Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is seemingly reconsidering Serbia’s close ties with Russia, spurred in part by ongoing Wagner Group recruitment and subversion efforts in Serbia and demonstrating the international economic and informational costs imposed on Putin by his invasion of Ukraine. Politico reported on March 1 that Vučić seeks to appeal to both Russia and western institutions by continuing Serbia’s European Union membership bid while refusing to impose sanctions against Russia, but Vučić said that Serbia must make “difficult choices” soon. Vučić condemned the Wagner Group and stated that Serbian authorities will arrest all Serbians who have fought for the Wagner Group in Ukraine. Vučić characterized attendees of a Wagner-backed protest in Belgrade as anti-Serbian and paid off by unspecified foreign actors. Vučić greenlit on February 17 a US-led plan to normalize relations with Kosovo, which Serbia does not officially recognize, and stated that Serbia will remain on the path to EU membership. Politico noted that polls in Serbia suggest that more Serbians support Russia than Western states, suggesting Vučić would struggle to completely divest from ties with Russia – which he likely does not intend to do. A Russian milblogger amplified the Politico article and criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for turning Russia into a “pariah state” from which even “traditional fraternal states distance themselves.”

Key Takeaways

  • The Kremlin may leverage an amendment to Russia’s Criminal Code increasing punishments for “discrediting” the war in Ukraine to promote further self-censorship measures among the critical ultranationalist community, prompting pushback from Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and prominent milbloggers.
  • A New York Times (NYT) investigation into catastrophic Russian losses during the recent Russian offensive near Vuhledar indicates the Russian military remains unable to rapidly fix the endemic challenges posed by severe personnel and equipment losses.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a package of 16 documents that may facilitate Russian sanctions evasion by channeling Chinese aid to Russia through Belarus.
  • US officials continue to report that Ukrainian forces are properly using Western-provided weapons in Ukraine.
  • Russian and occupation authorities may be attempting to further limit the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presence at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) to compel the de facto recognition of Russian ownership of the plant.
  • Politico reported that Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is seemingly reconsidering Serbia’s close ties to Russia during the war in Ukraine, spurred in part by ongoing Wagner Group recruitment and subversion efforts in Serbia.
  • Russian forces are fortifying positions on the international border in Belgorod Oblast.
  • Russian forces advanced within Bakhmut and continued ground attacks around Bakhmut and in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct offensive operations on the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continue defensive operations in southern Ukraine.

Russian occupation authorities continue to struggle with the administrative management of occupied areas.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister speaks on five Russian defeats and advises them to “choke on missiles”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda. “On 1 March, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that Ukraine prevailed over Russian winter terror, and spoke on five defeats of the aggressor country. On 1 March 2023, Putin has suffered his fifth defeat since the beginning of the full-scale invasion – Ukraine has prevailed over his winter terror. We have withstood the most severe winter in our history. We were surrounded by cold and darkness, but we were unbreakable, the minister wrote. He also noted that Ukraine was supported by its partners and this is a victory for the EU too, as despite Russian gloating, [the EU – ed.] also survived without Russian gas. 

He listed the other four defeats of the Russian Federation since the beginning of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The first defeat took place when from the very first minutes of the war we didn’t let Putin fetter us with fear. The second, when we thwarted their blitzkrieg plan. Ukraine has not fallen, not in three days, not in seven months, and not even in a year. And it will never fall. The third blow was struck upon Russia on the diplomatic front: international coalition supporting Ukraine, resolutions, isolation, the flow of weaponry, sanctions, energy, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Fourth defeat – the loss of a big chunk of occupied territories of Ukraine due to effective advances and counter-offensives by the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other parts of Defence Forces, Kuleba stated. 

He noted that there is still a long way to go to victory, yet we already know how it is to win. As reported earlier, the United States of America does not expect significant territorial gains for Russia in the foreseeable future. Italian intelligence suggests that Russia needs an operational pause in order to get ready for a long-lasting war in the circumstances of Western sanctions.”

Kremlin reacts to Ukrainian official’s words about drones in Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “Dmitry Peskov, Press Secretary of the Russian President, has stated that the Kremlin does not believe the words of Mykhailo Podoliak, Adviser to the Head of the Office of President of Ukraine, who said that Ukraine did not attack Russia with drones.

On the night of 27-28 February, explosions rocked the Russian city of Tuapse in Krasnodar Krai, followed by a fire at a Rosneft oil refinery. News outlets reported that it was an attack of UAVs

An unidentified aircraft crashed in Adygea, in the Southern Federal District of Russia, the head of the Republic said. There was a large fire in the Temryutsky district.

On 28 February, 200 square kilometres of the airspace were closed in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, and the local Pulkovo Airport stopped accepting planes for landing after an unidentified flying object was detected over the city. Later, the Russian Ministry of Defence reported that the airspace over Saint Petersburg had been closed because they were conducting “air defence training”.

Russian media say Moscow will bolster air defence, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Sirena, Telegram channel run by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruprion Foundation, and The Insider. “Russian media reported that an additional air defence system has likely been installed near the Salaryevo metro station: a surveillance and targeting radar has been spotted in the area. […] The Insider later clarified that the video shows a P-18-2 Prima surveillance and targeting radar. Medium- to long-range air defence systems are normally deployed in the vicinity of such radars.

Several air defence systems were installed in Moscow and its outskirts in December 2022, but Russian media began paying attention in January 2023, when air defence systems appeared on the roofs of several buildings.”

30 meetings of youth movement Redan PMC in Ukraine observed over last two days, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the National Police of Ukraine. “The police have blocked 18 channels and group chats that were created for promoting the Redan Private Military Company (PMC), the newly created youth movement in Ukraine. Vasyl Bohdan, the head of the juvenile prevention department of the National Police of Ukraine, has said that the main goal of those who organised these groups is provoking conflicts and mass brawls between teenagers

In total, there have been about 30 youth meetings over the last two days in various regions of Ukraine. Bohdan has added that over 700 people were invited to police departments. Most of them are minors. Juvenile policemen are conducting preventive measures with teenagers and their parents. Operative services and with the Cyber Police are establishing funding sources and administrators of these information channels. 

On 27 February 2023, teenagers who associated themselves with the Russian subculture called Redan PMC gathered for mass fights in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Zhytomyr and Ivano-Frankivsk.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do?

 

Hans Petter Midttun: Today’s assessment will be published as a separate article. A teaser:

“The war in Ukraine is still a hybrid war. Until the full-scale invasion on 24 February last year, hybrid war was often described as a grey zone operation below the threshold of war. That was, however, a conclusion resulting from an academic debate which was proven wrong last year.

Hybrid War is the parallel and synchronized use of both military and non-military means to destabilize nations from within. It allows Russia to ‘escalate’ or ‘de-escalate’ horizontally rather than just vertically, thus providing further options.

What happened last year was just that: A horizontal and vertical escalation. A shift from the focus on the non-military to the military tools but still using all tools.

The combined efforts of its military and non-military means have been undermining Ukraine for years already. Ukrainian independence and sovereignty is still hanging in the balance and it is to early to conclude on the outcome of the war.

Russia still believes in victory because several scenarios support the conclusion. These are as follows (listed according to likelihood):

Scenario 1 – Failure to reform (NOT UNLIKELY)

Scenario 2 – Economic collapse (POSSIBLE)

Scenario 3 – Loss of Western support (LESS LIKELY)

Scenario 4 – Military defeat on the battlefield (UNLIKELY)

The article elaborates.

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