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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 374: Ukraine: The situation in Bakhmut is under control

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

The situation in Bakhmut is extremely challenging but controlled. Almost 10,000 Russian soldiers express their willingness to surrender. A regiment of untrained mobilized Russians killed near Donetsk.

Daily overview — Summary report, March 4

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, March 4, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. March 3, 2023. Source: ISW.

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The threat of Russian missile attacks remains high across Ukraine.

Russian forces are concentrating their main efforts on offensive operations on Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk axes. Last day, our defenders repelled more than 150 enemy attacks.

Kharkiv Battle Map. March 3, 2023. Source ISW.
  • Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the operational situation has not changed significantly, and no offensive groups of Russian forces have been detected. During the past day, the adversary shelled the settlements of Medvedivka (Chernihiv oblast); Sobky, Bachivsk, Ulanov, Kucherivka, Bilokopytove, Starykove, Khodyne, Ryzhivka, Atynske, Pavlivka, and Ryasne (Sumy oblast); and the vicinities of about 10 settlements in Kharkiv oblast, including Strilecha, Starytsia, Vovchans’k, Budarki, and Ambarne.
Donetsk Battle Map. March 3, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Kupiansk and Lyman axes: Russian forces attempted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Kreminna and Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast); and Spirne and Vesele (Donetsk oblast). The vicinities of Dvorichna, Kup’yans’k, and Krokhmalne (Kharkiv oblast); Makiivka, Nevs’ke, Kreminna, Dibrova, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast); and Kolodyazi, Sivers’k, Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast) were subjects to artillery fire.
  • Bakhmut axis: Russian forces do not cease attempts to encircle the city of Bakhmut. During the past day, our soldiers repelled numerous attacks in the areas of Vasyukivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Bohdanivka, Bakhmut and Ivanivske settlements (Donetsk oblast). Fedorivka, Vasyukivka, Zaliznyanske, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivske, Stupochki, Predtechine, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, Ozaryanivka, Diliivka, Toretsk, Mayorsk, and Siverne suffered Russian artillery attacks.
  • Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk axes: The adversary unsuccessfully attacked Ukrainian positions near Novokalynove, Krasnohorivka, Kam’ianka, Avdiivka, Severne, Vodyane, Nevelske, Mar’yinka, and Pobyeda. Russian forces conducted artillery and mortar shelling of almost 30 settlements, including Vesele, Berdychi, Avdivka, Pobyeda, Novomykhailivka, Vodyane, Vugledar, Bogoyavlenka, and Velyka Novosilka (Donetsk oblast).
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. March 3, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: Russian forces stays on the defensive. In some areas, they are trying to improve their tactical position, and create conditions to continue the offensive. Russians carried out artillery shelling of the districts of more than 25 settlements, in particular, Vremivka, Novosilka, and Zeleny Poly in the Donetsk oblast and Hulyaipol, Zaliznychny, Hulyaipilsky, Charivny and Kam’iansky in Zaporizhzhia oblast; Ochakov in the Mykolayiv oblast; and Beryslav, Tomariny, Kozatskyi, Bilozerka, Dniprovskyi and Kherson. The attacks caused casualties among the civilian population.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. March 3, 2023. Source ISW.

In Simferopol of the temporarily occupied Republic of Crimea, the Russian occupation authorities, fearing the activation of the pro-Ukrainian movement and the actions of patriotic groups, are creating so-called “voluntary units”. It is known that due to the war in Ukraine, there is a certain shortage of law enforcement officers, therefore, in addition to patrolling the city, one of the tasks of the mentioned units should be the detection of troublemakers and saboteurs.

Continuing the armed aggression, the Russian army of occupation suffers daily significant losses in manpower. Previously, we reported on overcrowded medical facilities in temporarily occupied settlements in the Donetsk Oblast. The trend has not disappeared – recently one of the hospitals in the city of Horlivka received an instruction to increase the number of beds for receiving wounded invaders.

[In the Luhansk region, the so-called occupation authorities continue to put pressure on the local population, in particular on the least protected strata. In the settlements of the Swativ region, the invaders deprived people of the opportunity to receive pensions and other social benefits by turning off ATMs. Pensioners and other categories of the population in need of social protection are offered to receive cash payments on certain days. However, because of such an organization, people are mostly physically unable to get money.]

Last day, the Ukrainian Air Force conducted 14 airstrikes on concentrations of Russian troops and military equipment and 2 air strikes on Russian anti-aircraft missile systems at firing positions. Moreover, our defenders shot down 1 enemy Su-34 aircraft and 8 reconnaissance and attack UAVs of various types.

Ukrainian missile and artillery troops attacked 1 command post, 3 enemy concentration areas, 1 ammunition depot, 2 fuel and lubricants warehouses, and 1 Electronic Warfare system.

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Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

NSDC Secretary: The situation in Bakhmut is extremely challenging but controlled, Ukrinform reports, citing National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) Secretary Oleksiy Danilov. “Bakhmut has been a hot spot for four months now. The situation is difficult, but we understand that this is our land, and we have to defend it. The fiercest battles are taking place there. The situation is extremely challenging but controlled, Danilov told. In addition, Danilov emphasized that a huge number of Russian invaders are eliminated in this direction on a daily basis.”

Three Russian missile carriers ready to fire 16 Kalibr missiles from Black Sea, Ukrinform reports, citing a spokesperson for Odesa Regional Military Administration Serhii Bratchuk. “In the morning of March 3, 2023, three Russian missile carriers were remaining on combat duty in the Black Sea with a total volley of 16 Kalibr-type cruise missiles.

During a nationwide telethon, Spokesperson for Odesa Regional Military Administration Serhii Bratchuk assumed that increasing pauses between massive missile attacks might indicate a significant reduction in Russia’s potential.”

Ukrainian anti-aircraft gunners shoot down Russian Su-34 jet over Yenakiieve, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ukrainian Air Force. “Ukrainian anti-aircraft gunners have shot down a Russian Su-34 fighter jet in the skies over the occupied city of Yenakiieve, Donetsk Oblast.”

Six Su-34 jets disappear at a Russian airfield in Yeysk after a presumable attack, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Russian service Radio Liberty. “Six fighter-bombers have disappeared at a Russian airfield in the city of Yeysk after the fire and a supposed UAV attack on 28 February. […] On 28 February, Russian Telegram channels reported that “unknown drones” had attacked an airfield in Yeysk, Russia.

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

https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1631599414824321027

  • The Ukrainian defence of the Donbas town of Bakhmut is under increasingly severe pressure, with intense fighting taking place in and around the city. Regular Russian Army and Wagner Group forces have made further advances into the northern suburbs of the city, which is now a Ukrainian-held salient, vulnerable to Russian attacks on three sides.
  • Ukraine is reinforcing the area with elite units, and within the last 36 hours two key bridges in Bakhmut have been destroyed, including a vital bridge connecting the city to the last main supply route from Bakhmut to the city of Chasiv Yar.
  • Ukrainian-held resupply routes out of the town are increasingly limited.
  • Despite the war in Ukraine, Russian defence companies continue to showcase their products at major international arms fairs.
  • The Arena-E active protection system (APS), designed to improve the survivability of armoured vehicles, was displayed at a recent event. Its promotional literature states that it ‘defeats the threats that are most dangerous for armoured vehicles…if you value your armour and crews you need Arena-E’.
  • There has been no evidence of Arena-E systems being installed on Russia’s own vehicles in Ukraine, where it has lost over 5,000 armoured vehicles. This is likely due to the Russian industry’s inability to manufacture high-tech systems at scale; a problem which is exacerbated by the effect of international sanctions.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press

As of Saturday 4 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 152190 (+820)
  • Tanks – 3409 (+4)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6683 (+10)
  • Artillery systems – 2414 (+12)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 487 (+3)
  • Air defence means – 247 (+0)
  • Aircraft – 302 (+1)
  • Helicopters – 289 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5289 (+8)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 2066 (+5)
  • Special equipment – 230 (+0)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)

Cruise missiles – 873 (+0)

Almost 10,000 Russian soldiers express their willingness to surrender, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War. “9,836 people from Russia and temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine have already turned to the Ukrainian national initiative called Hochu Zhit (“I Want To Live”), stating their intention to surrender. 

Over six months of the project functioning, more than 14 million people visited the website of the “Hochu Zhit” initiative, despite regular attempts of Roskomnadzor to block access [Roskomnadzor is the Russian federal executive agency responsible for monitoring, controlling and censoring Russian mass media – ed.]. 84% of those who searched the website were from the Russian Federation. 

Apart from Russian soldiers themselves, their family members and close people call a hotline. Conscripted Russians who have come to Ukraine often do not have any access to the Internet or cellular data.”

Regiment of untrained mobilised Russians killed near Donetsk, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Sibir Realii [Siberia Realities] project reports that unprepared draftees who served in the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 1439th Regiment (stationed in Russia’s Irkutsk Oblast) were sent to storm the city of Avdiivka, not far from Donetsk; almost all of them were killed. […]

On 27 February, the mobilised ones sent their third appeal to Vladimir Putin with a complaint about the command of the so-called “DNR” [the non-recognised “Donetsk People’s Republic”]. According to soldiers from the “Sloviansk Brigade” of the occupation troops, they are being sent to assault without any intelligence, communication, and artillery support, and they are threatened with persecution for desertion after complaints that they “cannot execute the order“.”

Humanitarian 

Death toll in Russia’s missile attack on Zaporizhzhia rises to seven, Ukrinform reports, citing the Main Department of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service in the Zaporizhzhia region. “Rescuers have recovered two more bodies from under the rubble of an apartment block hit by the Russian missile in the city of Zaporizhzhia on the night of March 2, 2023. Rescuers have recovered seven bodies of victims from under the rubble of the house, the report states. Search and dismantling works continue. Municipal services have already removed 333 tonnes of the debris.

A total of 110 professionals and 21 equipment units are working at the scene, including 76 rescuers and 13 equipment units from the Ukrainian State Emergency Service.

A reminder that, around 01:30 a.m., March 2, 2023, Russia’s S-300 missile hit an apartment block in the city of Zaporizhzhia. The Ukrainian State Emergency Service managed to rescue 11 civilians and evacuate 20 more people. Seven people were taken to hospital, including two in critical condition.”

PM Shmyhal: Ukraine lost more than three million jobs for year of full-scale war, Ukrinform reports. “Economic recovery is what we have to do. The Ukrainians lost over three million jobs for the year of full-scale war. That’s why we launched eWork project, Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal said at a press conference in Kyiv. He added that the Cabinet of Ministers would extend the implementation of the project which provides grants to Ukrainians for starting a business, developing entrepreneurship, and training. The project has shown the first good results.

As reported, eWork government project offers grant programs aimed at stimulating entrepreneurship. The first wave of applications for micro-grants to start or develop a business was launched on February 1, 2023.

The project consists of six grant programs: micro-grants for starting a business; grants for developing a processing enterprise; state funding for planting a garden; funds for developing greenhouse farming; grant for a startup; funds for IT education.”

Ukraine’s energy system operating with no capacity deficit for 20 days, Ukrinform reports, citing Ukrenergo National Power Company. “There has been no capacity deficit in the energy system for 20 days in a row, and nothing like that is expected at the moment. The consumption volumes are at the level of a working day and are fully covered with the electricity output from Ukrainian power generating facilities and a small amount of imports, the report states.

According to Ukrenergo, all types of power plants are running now. The volume of available generation capacities contributes to improving the operational safety of the energy system. There are no power supply restrictions for household consumers across regions now, Ukrenergo noted. However, if there are any changes in the energy situation and consumption volumes rapidly increase, power outages may be introduced.

Power engineers continue repair works within all energy objects, which were previously damaged in Russian missile and drone attacks, in order to increase the available capacity in the energy system, raise the reliability of power transmission and power supply in certain regions, Ukrenergo concluded.”

Millions of refugees from Ukraine have crossed borders into neighbouring countries, and many more have been forced to move inside the country. The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance the UNHCR reports. As of 28 February:

Individual refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe: 8,104,606
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia 2,635,427
Other European countries 2,578,004
Russian Federation, Belarus 2,873,175
Refugees from Ukraine registered for Temporary Protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe: 4,881,590
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia 2,635,950
Other European countries 2,245,640
Border crossings from Ukraine (since 24 February 2022): 19,080,271
Border crossings to Ukraine (since 28 February 2022): 10,635,028

OHCHR recorded 21,580 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of 27 February. 8,101 killed (including 488 children) and 13,479 injured (including 962 children).

Environmental

IAEA inspectors complete rotation at three Ukrainian NPPs, Ukrinform reports, citing Energoatom. “New inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency have replaced their colleagues at the Rivne, South Ukrainian, and Khmelnitskyi nuclear power plants in Ukraine. The agency noted on Telegram that the international experts with the IAEA are there to monitor compliance with nuclear safety amid the ongoing war. Permanent deployment of the IAEA officials at Ukraine’s nuclear power plants allows for monitoring and observing nuclear and radiation safety.

In addition, IAEA inspectors can analyze the impact of Russian strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and convey the relevant reports to the international community. That is why the IAEA guarantees the continued presence of its inspectors at all of Ukraine’s NPPs.

As reported earlier, on March 2, 2023, IAEA inspectors completed a rotation at Europe’s largest Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which had been captured by the Russians since March 5, 2022. The rotation was supposed to be held in early February, but the Russian invaders had been blocking the effort.

Since January 2023, the IAEA permanent missions have been working at all nuclear power plants located in government-controlled areas. At the temporarily captured Zaporizhzhia NPP, IAEA officials arrived in early September 2022.”

 

Year after Kyiv area massacres, police struggle to find those still missing, Reuters reports. “Russia’s failed attempt to swiftly capture the capital left at least 1,370 dead civilians before the Ukrainian army pushed them back, according to Ukrainian officials. The whereabouts of 278 people from the Kyiv region (population 1.8 million) remain unknown, and one year later, it is getting harder to find them or their remains.

Fourteen mass graves were discovered previously and police say the remaining bodies may be in shelled and blackened buildings in towns or dense pine forests around them. The issue highlights both the scale of civilian suffering around Kyiv and the difficulty in finding remains in a heavily damaged area from which many people fled. Some of the missing may still be alive. […]

Some of the war’s worst civilian massacres occurred near Kyiv in the war’s early weeks, with hundreds slain in Borodianka and in the nearby towns of Bucha and Irpin. […]

Nebytov said that of the 1,370 dead from Russia’s invasion of Kyiv region, about 700 were shot. Some 350 died in shelling, and the rest died because they could not obtain medical help. More than 71,000 alleged war crimes have been reported in Ukraine since Russia invaded.”

Torture chambers in Ukraine’s Kherson financed by Russian state, Reuters reports. “A network of at least 20 torture chambers in the recently liberated southern Ukrainian region of Kherson was planned and directly financed by the Russian State, war crimes investigators said on Thursday, citing new evidence. The Mobile Justice Team, funded by Britain, the EU and the United States, has been working with Ukrainian war crimes prosecutors across Ukraine and in Kherson since it was reclaimed from Russian forces in November after more than eight months of occupation. The Kremlin press office did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters reported on the scale of torture chambers in Kherson in January, when Ukrainian authorities said around 200 people had allegedly been tortured at 10 locations. Survivors told Reuters about being tortured, including electric shocks and suffocation techniques. […]

Witnesses described the use of electric shock torture and waterboarding by Russian forces. At least 1,000 torture chamber survivors have submitted evidence to investigators and more than 400 people had been reported as missing from Kherson, it said. Funding a network of torture facilities was part of a Russian state plan to subjugate, re-educate or kill Ukrainian civic leaders and ordinary dissenters, the team said. Torture centres were operated by different Russian security agencies, including the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB), local Kherson FSB and the Russian Prison Service, it said. […]

An investigation is also underway by the International Criminal Court, part of a both domestic and international efforts to hold those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide across Ukraine to account.”

Ukrainians say they were pressured to register babies as Russian during occupation, Reuters reports. “Russia required all newborns to receive Russian citizenship, said Leonid Remyga, chief doctor at Kherson City Clinical Hospital, the city’s only working hospital. […]  Early in the occupation, Ukrainian parents faced pressure to accept Russian citizenship for their newborns. According to Remyga and Kateryna’s parents – Natalia Lukina and Oleksii Markelov – this included denying them free distribution of diapers and baby food. {…]

During the occupation, many parents delayed visiting Russian-controlled registry offices, said Olena Klimenko, head of Kherson’s regional registration office. Once the occupation ended, many of those parents registered their babies for Ukrainian citizenship, Klimenko said. She did not have precise statistics.

It is unclear how many babies received Russian citizenship because Russian officials recorded them and Ukrainian registration workers did not cooperate with them, Klimenko said. Before the war, an average of 1,200 babies were born at Kherson City Clinical Hospital per year, but the number dropped to 489 births in 2022, according to Remyga. He said the drop reflected the fact that many mothers left to give birth in Ukrainian-controlled parts of the country, or abroad.”

Support

Artillery and shells are No.1 needs to stop Russia – Zelenskyy, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Interfax news outlet and the press service of the Office of the President. “Artillery is the No. 1 thing we need. Both [artillery] systems and ammunition, as well as shells in large quantities to stop Russia. Not to attack their territory, but to drive them out of ours. […]

In addition, Zelenskyy stressed that Ukraine would soon obtain a tank army.[…] Very soon the whole thing will be ready. However, at the same time, there is a corresponding deficit. Covering [with the help of partners – ed.] all these gaps, the constant deficit, is what can help us.”

Moscow Wants Serbia’s Explanation over “Thousands of Rockets” to Ukraine, European Pravda reports. “Russia demands an official explanation from its ally Serbia over reports that the Balkan country has delivered thousands of rockets to Ukraine for its fight against Russia’s invasion. As AP reports, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova expressed deepest concern about the reports, which first came from pro-government Russian media last month.

We are following this story, Zakharova said in a statement posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website late Thursday. She added that the possible arming of Ukraine represented a serious question for Serbian-Russian relations. According to media reports, state arms factory recently delivered some 3,500 missiles for the Grad multiple rocket launchers used by both the Ukrainian and Russian armed forces. The 122 mm rockets were allegedly transported to Ukraine via Türkiye and Slovakia.

Serbian Defence Minister Miloš Vučević has denied the country exported the missiles to Ukraine but left open the possibility they could have gotten there via a third party. If private companies buy weapons in third states’ markets and then sell them to other companies in other countries, that is not a question for Serbia, that is international trade, he said.

Serbia is Moscow’s closest ally in Europe, with historic, religious, and cultural ties bolstered by decades of pro-Russian propaganda campaigns in the Balkan country.”

US announces $400 mln in new arms aid to Ukraine including tactical bridges, ammunition, Reuters reports. “The United States announced a new military aid package for Ukraine on Friday worth $400 million primarily comprised of ammunition, but for the first time will include tactical bridges to move tanks and armored vehicles. The bridges could be used by Ukrainian troops who have been training in “combined arms maneuver” warfare, which is the coordinated use of artillery shelling, alongside tank and armored vehicle attack movements, to retake territory seized by Russian forces since they invaded Ukraine a year ago. […]

Assault bridging is essential for combined arms operations. It allows armored vehicles to cross narrow rivers and ditches that would otherwise cause a whole force to slow down, said Jack Watling, a Senior Research Fellow for Land Warfare at the London-based Royal United Services Institute. Importantly, assault bridges are only critical for offensive operations showing that the US is preparing Ukraine to continue retaking its territory, Watling added. […]

This military assistance package includes more ammunition for US-provided HIMARS and howitzers, which Ukraine is using so effectively to defend itself, as well as ammunition for Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, Armored Vehicle Launched Bridges, demolitions munitions and equipment, and other maintenance, training, and support, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in announcing the aid. […]

The package will be funded using Presidential Drawdown Authority, or PDA, which authorizes the president to transfer articles and services from US stocks without congressional approval during an emergency, Blinken said.”

Germany transfers nine armoured bridge layers to Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ukraine. “Germany provides comprehensive support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Biber (Beaver) armoured bridge layer is an engineering combat vehicle, with the help of which combat units overcome rivers, anti-tank ditches and other obstacles. Nine such vehicles have already been handed over to the Ukrainian military,” the report says.

Biber can deploy and retract a 22-meter bridge consisting of two eleven-meter elements in a matter of minutes. Biber is based on the Leopard 1 tank chassis. It is equipped with a bridge laying system instead of the turret.”

Hear and destroy: Ukrainian artificial intelligence project Zvook helps shoot down Russian missiles, Euromaidan Press reports. «Over one year of war, Russia launched nearly 5,000 missiles at Ukraine. The attacks destroyed residential buildings and took away the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. The Ukrainian military has built a comprehensive air defense system to clear the sky from Russian missiles that struck the country during the last 12 months of the war.

In an interview with the Guardian, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine’s air defense systems had increased their efficiency from 50% at the beginning of the war to 80% in December 2022. To break the country’s successful defense, Russian troops constantly change their military tactics and use both Iranian Shahed-drones and missiles when launching strikes to exhaust Ukraine’s surveillance systems.

The Ukrainian Army retaliates to the new challenges with strengthened complexes, which include modern high-tech systems. One of them is the Zvook AI project (“Zvook” is “sound” in the Ukrainian language) that helps identify and destroy Russian cruise missiles, helicopters, drones, and fighter jets at low and medium altitudes. […]

The team of leading Ukrainian IT and telecom experts set up the Zvook project (“sound” in the Ukrainian language) based on machine learning (ML) technology that recognizes the engine sounds of enemy air targets. The system reported the flight of the cruise missile four hours after the installation of the first complex. As of today, 40 instances of the complex have been deployed throughout Ukraine. Currently, the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces can predict the routes of cruise missiles by analyzing tracks of previous missile strikes. Zvook, in cooperation with air defense, covers “blind” areas and conducts reconnaissance.

The engineers of the Zvook project use machine learning to teach systems to distinguish sounds of insects, voices, vehicles noise, animals, and Russian missiles. In 2006, machine learning technology revolutionized image editing after receiving almost human data analysis capabilities. Modern neural networks learn from mistakes and improve their experience. When experts convert an image to a sound sample, systems can detect the object and send information about it to the leading center.

At first, specialists trained the network to identify Russian targets’ noises through videos of flying missiles captured on phones. Since the start of the Zvook project, the team has increased the accuracy of intercepting missiles from 50% to 100% by installing acoustic devices throughout Ukraine and collecting data from actual missile launches.”

New Developments 

  1. The world is yet to discover the full truth about atrocities of Russian occupiers in Ukraine – Zelensky, UkrinformOver 70,000 Russian war crimes have already been recorded. But unfortunately, we do not know about all crimes at the moment. A large part of our territory still remains occupied, and we cannot currently reliably predict how many Russian crimes we would discover after the occupiers are expelled, Zelensky said.”
  2. Zelensky meets with prosecutors general from partner states of Ukraine, UkrinformPresident Volodymyr Zelensky met with attorneys general and prosecutors general from partner states of Ukraine and international institutions. An important meeting with the prosecutors general of Ukraine’s partner countries and international institutions. Unfortunately, our country is now a large battlefield. And we have to win on different fronts. The most important is the real battlefield where our soldiers are fighting. Other fronts are diplomatic and legal, Zelensky noted. […] According to the president’s press service, the meeting was attended by: US Attorney General Merrick Garland, US Ambassador at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan, Head of the European Public Prosecutor Office Laura Kövesi, Attorney General of Spain Álvaro García Ortiz, Attorney General of the UK Victoria Prentis, Prosecutor General of Estonia Andres Parmas, Prosecutor General of Latvia Juris Stukāns, Prosecutor General of Lithuania Nida Grunskienė, and UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten.”
  3. Putin convenes Security Council to discuss defence against terrorists, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested discussing anti-terrorism security during an operational meeting with the Security Council of the Russian Federation.”
  4. Bundesrat Adopts Resolution in Support of Ukraine, European PravdaThe Bundesrat, which represents the sixteen Länder (federated states) of Germany, on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution in support of Ukraine on the anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion. The document demands the Russian Federation withdraw its troops from the entire territory of Ukraine and prosecute the Russian leadership and military for war crimes committed during the full-scale invasion. In addition, the Bundesrat supports further European Union sanctions against Russia, increasing military assistance to Ukraine and promoting its EU membership. The possibility of cooperation between German and Ukrainian regions, in particular through sister cities, in matters of education, science, culture, police and justice, which could contribute to the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine, is underlined separately.”
  5. Bundestag call Merkel responsible for war in Ukraine due to blocking its entry into NATO, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing an interviewwith German TV channels RTL and n-tv. “Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, Head of the Defence Committee in the German Bundestag, has criticised the decisions made by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which, in her opinion, made a full-scale Russian attack on Ukraine possible. She recalled that there were many supporters of the early admission of Ukraine into NATO in 2008, but Germany and France opposed it because of Russia’s position. According to the politician, the fact that the Ukrainians did not join NATO was a big mistake on the part of the French and Angela Merkel at that time.
  6. Russia set to mothball damaged Nord Stream gas pipelines – sources, ReutersRussia’s ruptured undersea Nord Stream gas pipelines are set to be sealed up and mothballed as there are no immediate plans to repair or reactivate them, sources familiar with the plans have told Reuters. Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, each consisting of two pipes, were built by Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom to pump 110 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas a year to Germany under the Baltic Sea.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  March 3, 2022:

Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on March 3. Western media reported that Ukrainian officials have ordered the mandatory evacuation of vulnerable civilians from Kupiansk due to Russian shelling of the area. A Russian source claimed that Russian troops have advanced in the Synkivka area (8km north of Kupiansk) and amplified claims made by Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) officer Andrey Marochko that civilians are leaving Kupiansk en masse in advance of Russian offensive operations near the city. Ukrainian Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai reported that Ukrainian forces struck a Russian equipment column near Svatove on the night of March 2 to March 3, causing Russian forces to suffer substantial equipment losses in the area. Haidai also noted that Russian forces in the Kreminna area are increasingly resorting to using heavy equipment such as BMPT Terminators because they have been unsuccessful in conducting effective small-group attacks. A Russian milblogger posted footage reportedly of elements of the 76th and 98th Guards Airborne (VDV) Divisions in the Kreminna area and claimed that BARS-13 (Combat Reserve) elements are also active on this sector of the front. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Bilohorivka (10km south of Kreminna).

Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut as Ukrainian forces appeared to prepare for a controlled withdrawal from at least parts of the city on March 3. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops repelled attacks on Bakhmut itself; north of Bakhmut near Vasyukivka (13km north); and northwest of Bakhmut near Dubovo-Vasylivka (6km northwest), Orikhovo-Vasylivka (10km northwest), Hryhorivka (10km northwest), and Bohdanivka (8km northwest). Geolocated footage posted on March 3 shows Ukrainian forces destroying a bridge across the Bakhmutivka River in northeastern Bakhmut and another bridge across the Khromove-Bakhmut route west of Bakhmut, suggesting that Ukrainian troops may be preparing to conduct a controlled withdrawal from parts of Bakhmut. Russian and Ukrainian sources amplified a video posted by a Ukrainian soldier who says that his unit received the order to immediately withdraw from Bakhmut and move into a new combat zone. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that Wagner forces have almost entirely encircled Bakhmut and that Ukrainian troops can only feasibly withdraw along one remaining road (likely in reference to the Khromove-Bakhmut route). Russian milbloggers claimed that clashes are ongoing in northern Bakhmut near the AZOM industrial plant and within urban areas of southern and eastern Bakhmut. One Russian source claimed that Wagner forces broke through Ukrainian defenses in Ivanivske (5km west of Bakhmut along the T0504 Kostiantynivka-Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut road) and are threatening the western outskirts of Bakhmut from the Ivanivske area. There is no corroboration of this claim.

Russian forces continued ground attacks in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area on March 3. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops conducted unsuccessful attacks on Avdiivka itself and in the Avdiivka area near Krasnohorivka and Kamianka, as well as on the southwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Marinka and Pobieda. Geolocated footage posted on March 3 indicates that Russian forces have made incremental advances on the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Vodyane. Russian sources continued to report on Russian efforts to seize the remainder of western Marinka.

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on March 3. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces continued unspecified offensive operations in the Vuhledar direction (30km west of Donetsk City). A Russian source claimed that Russian forces are continuing positional battles in the dacha area southeast of Vuhledar, and another Russian milblogger posted footage reportedly of 40th Naval Infantry Brigade elements assaulting Ukrainian positions near Vuhledar.

Ukrainian forces appear to be setting conditions for a controlled fighting withdrawal from parts of Bakhmut. Russian forces have been fighting to take Bakhmut, a city with a pre-war population of roughly 70,000 people, since roughly May 2022 and have suffered devastating casualties in the process. Geolocated footage posted on March 3 confirms that Ukrainian troops have destroyed two critical bridges in the Bakhmut area—one across the Bakhmutivka River in northeastern Bakhmut and one along the Khromove-Bakhmut route just west of Bakhmut. The preemptive destruction of bridges is likely an indicator that Ukrainian troops may seek to inhibit Russian movement in eastern Bakhmut and limit potential westward Russian egress routes out of Bakhmut. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Oleksandr Rodnyanskyi previously stated on February 28 that Ukrainian forces could choose to pull back from positions in Bakhmut as needed. Rodnyanskyi also noted that Ukraine has fortified the area west of Bakhmut such that even if Ukrainian troops begin to withdraw, Russian forces would not necessarily be able to rapidly take the entire city. If the Ukrainian military command deems it necessary to withdraw from Bakhmut it will likely conduct a limited and controlled withdrawal from particularly difficult sectors of eastern Bakhmut judging from Ukrainian statements and reported Ukrainian actions. ISW will continue to monitor the situation and offer updated assessments of the implications of possible Russian courses of action if and when Ukrainian forces begin to pull back.

Russian officials continued to release limited information about the March 2 incursion in Bryansk Oblast but failed to provide clarity about what actually transpired.  Russian State Duma Deputy Alexander Khinshtein claimed on March 2 that a Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) vehicle ran over a mine while clearing the area near Sushany, Bryansk Oblast, and four personnel sustained minor injuries. Russian authorities previously claimed that the perpetrators mined the area before leaving. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) released edited footage of the purported aftermath on March 3 that shows two civilian cars with substantial damage from bullet holes and deceased drivers as well as man-portable military equipment and mines, all supposedly in the Bryansk Oblast border area. The footage largely lacks any identifying features of the area that could verify the FSB’s claims and has not been geolocated. The head of the Russian Volunteer Corps, which claimed responsibility for the incursion, claimed on March 3 that Ukrainian officials greenlit the incursion. The Russian Investigative Committee did not corroborate the Volunteer Corps’ claim, instead announcing that it has initiated an investigation into the actions of “Ukrainian saboteurs.” Russian officials and milbloggers made additional claims accusing Western states of direct involvement in the incursion. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that the perpetrators used NATO-provided weapons during the incursion and accused NATO states of being “accomplices” to the operation. State-run media outlet RT amplified a milblogger claim that the Russian Volunteer Corps has indirect affiliations with the UK via the Azov Regiment and accused the UK of involvement. ISW remains unable to confirm any of the Russian or Russian Volunteer Corps’ claims about what actually occurred on the ground.

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not address the reported situation in Bryansk Oblast in the readout of an emergency meeting with the Russian Security Council on March 3. Russian sources widely claimed that Putin held the meeting to discuss anti-terrorist security measures in response to the Bryansk incident, but the readout of the meeting instead recycled a number of tired Kremlin talking points and did not use this platform to introduce any new objectives or means for Russian military operations in Ukraine. Putin did use the speech to outline new, albeit limited, support measures for Russian soldiers serving in Ukraine and announced that all families of soldiers killed in Ukraine will receive the standard insurance coverage provided for by law, a one-time lump sum allowance of 7.4 million rubles (98,143 USD). Putin also called for “appropriate payments” for those wounded in Ukraine in the form of insurance payments and one-time injury payments. Putin continues to use public appearances to expand promises of social support for existing servicemembers, potentially to quell domestic discontent and incentivize those already fighting, but does so instead of articulating specific goals or outlining additional resources or measures to be taken for the future of the war.

Russian authorities continued efforts to portray Russia as the only safe operator of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), likely to constrain the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presence at the ZNPP and compel the de facto recognition of Russian ownership of the ZNPP. […] The IAEA […] characterizing the March 2 personnel rotation as “successful” after previously delaying the rotation for over a month due to security concerns. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi reported that the final remaining backup power line to the ZNPP was damaged for the third time in a week on March 1, which the IAEA contingent at the ZNPP characterized as “likely because of shelling on the other side of the Dnipro River.” Ukrainian nuclear energy operator Energoatom reported on March 3 that Russian forces have established machine gun firing positions and erected sandbag fortifications at ZNPP facilities. ISW has extensively reported on Russian efforts to militarize the ZNPP, including prior footage confirming that Russian forces have stored military equipment, including ammunition, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft guns, and other armaments on the ZNPP grounds.

Key Takeaways

  • Ukrainian forces appear to be setting conditions for a controlled fighting withdrawal from parts of Bakhmut.
  • Russian officials continued to release limited information about the March 2 incursion in Bryansk Oblast but failed to provide clarity about what actually transpired.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin did not address the reported situation in Bryansk Oblast in an emergency meeting with the Russian Security Council according to the meeting’s readout.
  • Russian authorities continued efforts to portray Russia as the only safe operator of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), likely to constrain the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presence at the ZNPP and compel the de facto recognition of Russian ownership of the ZNPP.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks along the Donetsk Oblast front line as Ukrainian forces appeared to prepare for a controlled withdrawal from at least parts of Bakhmut.
  • The Kremlin continues efforts to increase government oversight of the Russian defense industrial base (DIB).

Russian occupation authorities continue to prepare occupied territories for the September 10 Russian regional elections.

Canada’s intelligence seeing no readiness for peace talks in Russia’s actions, Ukrinform reports, citing the Canadian Forces’ Intelligence. “Russia has continually claimed that it is open to negotiations to end its war in Ukraine. Based on our analysis, Russia continues to demonstrate a commitment to its maximalist war aims, which is at odds with its professed openness to a negotiated settlement to the conflict, Canada’s intelligence reports.

A striking example proving this is Russia insisting on the preservation of four temporarily occupied regions of Ukraine as part of the Russian Federation as a “precondition to any peace agreement. Russia knows its preconditions are a non-starter for Ukraine, indicating Russia is currently unwilling to negotiate a good-faith peace agreement, the Canadian Forces noted.

As Ukrinform reported earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba of Ukraine stated that any talks with Russia must be preceded by a complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

For the overextended Russian army, winning in Bakhmut could mean losing later, Forbes reports. “There are just two roads out of Bakhmut for Ukrainian troops. Russian forces are within rocket range of both of them. And that means that, after nine months of brutal fighting, the battle for Bakhmut is entering what could be its decisive phase. In the coming hours or days, it’s possible one of two things will happen. The Russians advance so close to the two roads that the Ukrainians retreat in order to avoid encirclement. Or the Ukrainians counterattack and push back the Russians.

The former would resolve the long, awful fight over Bakhmut. The latter would prolong it. In any event, the ultimate outcome should be the same. Whether or not they capture the virtually lifeless ruins of Bakhmut, the Russians have expended a lot of their combat power. Which appears to be exactly what the Ukrainians wanted. They apparently have used Bakhmut—and the Kremlin’s weird obsession with the town—to bleed Russian forces and, in so doing, set the conditions for a long-planned spring offensive.

When the Ukrainians finally attack with their new American and Swedish fighting vehicles and British, Polish, German and Canadian tanks, they could face exhausted Russian brigades, some of which will have lost thousands of men in the long fight for Bahkmut. […]

It’s in Bakhmut that The Wagner Group, Russia’s shadowy mercenary company, chose to prove its battlefield mettle way back in May. For months, Wagner’s leaders sent wave after wave of poorly trained ex-convicts in suicidal direct assaults on Ukrainian fortifications. At least 4,000 Wagner fighters died around Bakhmut in 2022, according to The Guardian. Gradually, over a period of several weeks early this year, regular Russian troops replaced many of the mercenaries fighting around Bakhmut. […]

In fully controlling both roads, the Russians effectively would cut off the Ukrainian garrison in Bakhmut. To save itself from a bloody siege, such as occurred in Mariupol last spring, the garrison should retreat before the roads close. But the Ukrainian general staff isn’t quite ready to give up Bakhmut. Our defenders fought back attacks in the areas of the settlements of Bakhmut [and] Khromove, the general staff reported Thursday. And the army is sending reinforcements into the area, Ukrainian deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar said Wednesday.

The reinforcements likely do not include the battalions and brigades that are training to use the hundreds of new armored vehicles that Kyiv’s allies have pledged to the war effort. American M-2 and Swedish CV-90 fighting vehicles. Challenger 2 tanks from the United Kingdom. Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, Poland, Canada and other countries.

Those troops and their new vehicles are in reserve for Ukraine’s planned spring offensive. An offensive that could begin as the battle for Bakhmut ends. Bakhmut might be a prelude to the war’s next phase, when it’s the Ukrainians’ turn to attack. […]

They’ve done it before. Last summer, Ukrainian troops conducted a fighting retreat in the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, 25 miles northeast of Bakhmut. The battle for Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk so badly depleted Russian formations in eastern Ukraine that, when Ukrainian brigades launched a powerful counteroffensive at the end of August, the Russians were too weak to hold. They retreated from northeastern Ukraine around the free city of Kharkiv, surrendering thousands of square miles of territorial gains.

A Ukrainian retreat from Bakhmut likewise could lead to a wider Russian retreat once the Ukrainians counterattack. It’s not inevitable, of course. Even after losing thousands of troops in Bakhmut—and Kreminna and Vuhledar—the Russian army in Ukraine still is a powerful force. With good leadership, it could defeat a Ukrainian offensive.

But good leadership is the one thing the Russians seem totally to lack. Good leaders wouldn’t have wasted thousands of men capturing one low-value town in a battle that’s a fairly obvious Ukrainian trap.”

Top Ukrainian intelligence official: Russia will run out of ‘military tools’ by spring, The Hill reports. “Russia has wasted huge amounts of human resources, armaments and materials, Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov told USA Today in an interview published Thursday. Its economy and production are not able to cover these losses. It’s changed its military chain of command. If Russia’s military fails in its aims this spring, it will be out of military tools.

Russia launched its long-anticipated counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine last month, sending in tens of thousands of new troops. However, Moscow has incurred heavy casualties in its latest effort, as it continues to send in ill-equipped and ill-trained recruits, experts say. Russia is losing hundreds of soldiers a day during some of the heaviest fighting in Bakhmut, although Ukrainian officials have recently indicated that they may withdraw from the city.

While many military experts have suggested that the war could drag on for an extended period of time, Budanov predicted in his interview with USA Today that the end was near, suggesting that there would be a decisive battle this spring, and this battle will be the final one before this war ends.

However, the US has warned in recent weeks that China has previously provided Russia with non-lethal aid and is strongly considering upping that to lethal aid, such as weapons and munitions. Kyiv has increasingly pressed the Biden administration for heavier weaponry, most recently F-16 fighter jets, but President Biden has so far ruled out such assistance. 

I apply a different logic when I look at this issue, Budanov said of the West’s hesitancy. This conflict has already grown into an existential war between Russia and the West. Yes, the West is not participating in this war with their militaries. But they are providing us with weapons so we can use them in the fight. This means a Ukrainian victory over Russia is a common victory, he added. And if Ukraine falls — though unlikely — it’s a defeat for all of Western civilization.”

America and Ukraine conduct war gaming for offensive, Frankfurter Allgemeine reports.  “American generals and Ukrainian officers met in Wiesbaden this week for military war games. According to American media reports, high-ranking officers from Washington took part in the exercises at the US Army’s Europe and Africa headquarters. The aim was to help Kyiv plan possible offensives in the coming weeks and months, participants said on Thursday. It was not disclosed exactly which scenarios were played through in the simulations. They are said to have had the goal of developing strategies and working out the advantages and disadvantages of certain operations against the Russian army. 

Nobody sits there and tells the Ukrainians ‘turn left’ or ‘turn right’ or ‘do this’ or ‘do that’. That’s not the international community’s job, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley told reporters accompanying him. Rather, the American officers should serve as a “sounding board” for the Ukrainians, participants described their role. After the exercises, the supreme commander of NATO troops in Europe, General Christopher Cavoli, praised the phenomenal adaptability of the Ukrainians. […]

The American generals stressed that the United States remains ready to support Ukraine. Cavoli said America stood by Kyiv for as long as it takes. Milley, in turn, emphasized that in the current situation, Ukraine primarily needs anti-aircraft defences. Ukraine must continue to be able to defend its airspace against Russian attacks with planes, missiles and drones.

The reports about the war games come shortly after Russian accusations that America helped Kyiv to conduct attacks in Russia. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov said on Thursday that drone attacks on targets in Russia could only be carried out with American support. A Pentagon spokesman contradicted this: I can definitely say that the accusation that we gave information to Ukraine to attack targets in Russia is nonsense, said General Pat Ryder. The United States has admitted to providing intelligence information to Kyiv in the past. However, it was always stressed that it was not a matter of selecting targets. We are not at war with Russia, and we do not want war with Russia. Our goal is just to help Ukraine defend itself. And we will continue to do so, Ryder said.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do?

International tribunal for Russia can save world from global slaughter, Ukrinform reports. “The world needs the widest possible international institution of Russia’s accountability for aggression in Ukraine with the highest level of recognition, with the help of which it would be possible to strike a powerful legal blow against particular international criminals. That’s according to the Head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, Andriy Yermak, who spoke at the United for Justice conference in Lviv, Ukrinform reports, referring to the Office press service. Justice will save the world. An effective system of international justice, primarily an international tribunal for the aggressor, can protect it from a new global slaughter, the head of the Office of the President said during the International Communities Response for Accountability panel. […]

Terror against the civilian population, hostage-taking, torture, extrajudicial executions, and mass murders are one of the key elements of the Russian strategy. Over the past year, we have recorded over 70,000 war crimes and crimes against humanity. In every de-occupied settlement, we find numerous burials of people with traces of violent death. It is impossible to find out the number of victims now, but the number is already in the tens of thousands, Yermak said.

As the head of the President’s Office said, the Russians are methodically destroying the civil infrastructure in Ukraine seeking to create inhuman living conditions for millions of citizens and cause a humanitarian catastrophe. In addition, according to him, Russian troops are purposefully destroying hospitals, schools, and universities on the territory of our country, massively destroying cultural monuments, which is part of their plan.

“There is another part – it is impossible to talk about it without emotions. These are mass rapes. These are mass deportations, and mass abductions of children. This is the mass brainwashing of young Ukrainians forcibly deported to Russia. To date, more than 16,000 cases of forced transfers of Ukrainian children have been recorded. And these are only documented facts. Children are forcibly separated from their parents, taken to infiltration camps, taken to the basements of death camps, and then sent to Russia. As the occupiers hope, forever,” he said.

Yermak said that Ukrainian law enforcement officers, together with international partners, are investigating all these crimes, and the International Criminal Court is working to bring those guilty of genocide and war crimes to justice. However, we need a system, a comprehensive and all-embracing approach. […] According to him, the main element of this system should be an international tribunal for those who committed the major crime – the crime of aggression, which is the basis of all other crimes against humanity.

In the near future, the Interim Prosecutor’s Office will start working in The Hague, which will deal with the collection of evidence of the crime of aggression. Ukraine is also waiting for the UN General Assembly resolution, which will call for the punishment of Russia for the crime of aggression, Yermak said. We must punish those who started this war. Punish substantively and demonstratively. Because this aggressor would not stop on his own. And others would know that there are no rules in the world anymore. Therefore, everything is allowed – up to the extermination of entire states and nations, the head of the President’s Office said.

He recalled that not only did Russia attack Ukraine but they also deliberately caused an energy crisis in Europe, use world nuclear blackmail, blackmail the most vulnerable nations with hunger, and inflict massive damage to the environment. […]

Two other options are the creation of a special tribunal based on an agreement between Ukraine and the UN with the adoption of a corresponding resolution of the General Assembly and the creation of a tribunal based on a multilateral open international agreement between the states of the civilized world. These two ways, as the head of the President’s Office emphasized, are acceptable and indicate the readiness of the international community to strike a powerful legal blow against specific international criminals. […]

As Ukrinform reported earlier, the United for Justice Conference, or the so-called “Legal Ramstein,” was held in Lviv on Friday.”

Russia’s second, silent war against its human capital, The Moscow Times reports. “At the end of last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to draw up a package of measures to increase Russia’s birth rates and life expectancy. He also expressed bewilderment at the falling birth rates in a number of regions. Just a few days later, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu proposed upping the age from which Russian men are required to perform their military service from 18 to 21 and increasing the upper age limit for conscription from 27 to 30. These proposals mean young men would be called up after earning their college degrees, and trained specialists would be pulled out of the job market to have their skills voided by military service. 

There is a major discrepancy between these two objectives. If men go to war or emigrate en masse instead of fathering children, where will the children come from? The effect on the labor market will also be severe: conscription at such a productive age leeches the labor force out of an economy that is already expected to lose 3–4 million people aged 20–40 between 2020 and 2030 due to demographic trends.

The working population is also losing those who have already left or will leave the country in response to the intense militarization of life, not to mention those who are mobilized, killed, or maimed in combat if the so-called “special operation” continues. 

Combined, this will create a significant labor force deficit and a plethora of demographic problems, further exacerbating the negative dynamics in birth rates that have been observed in Russia since 2017. The decrease in the working-age population will become chronic, and the “preservation of the people” that Putin has spoken about for many years will not be achieved. […]

The Covid-19 pandemic and the “special military operation” have created extreme uncertainty about the future. This has predictably changed family planning: some people are deciding not to have children at all, while others are postponing having them until a time of greater psychological and financial stability. Nor does the militarization of life in Russia encourage people to add to their families, except for those who consider it their duty to supply the motherland with cannon fodder for future wars.

A year of military service for the 300,000 men mobilized into the army in September and October 2022 will mean 25,000 fewer births, estimates Mikhail Denisenko, director of the Institute of Demography at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. That isn’t a huge number, but it could rise significantly as a result of emigration, the long-term decline in birth rates, and the potential expansion of the mobilization age. Russian legislators are also pitching in to increase the birth rate. Worried about the reduced production of future soldiers for their imaginary empire, lawmakers — supported by the clergy — are mulling a partial ban on abortion. […]

We are witnessing a phenomenon Russia has faced many times: wave after wave of war and repression is draining away human resources. The best way to promote higher birth rates is to create the conditions for a stable, peaceful, and safe life — which means keeping young men safe from the clutches of the military. […]

The proposal to change the conscription age to 21, which was likely approved by the Kremlin, will be a double whammy for the labor market and the economy: highly qualified college graduates unable to enter the labor market will instead end up in the military and lose their qualifications, while young men with vocational degrees who are already in the labor market will be torn from the economy midway through honing their skills. It would be a mistake to think that this wouldn’t affect the qualitative and quantitative indicators of Russian GDP, household income, and quality of human capital.

Essentially, there is a second war underway at home: a war against the quality of Russia’s human capital. And the militarization of the country creates all of the conditions to reduce this quality for the longest of terms. Although Russia will not see large-scale unemployment, this is only the case because the economy will face a deficit of both high-skilled and low-skilled labor. […]

Authoritarian regimes want to get rid of high-quality and globally competitive education. The “special military operation” has only accelerated the political purges at Russian educational establishments. We have yet to find out how many young people with science and technology degrees have left Russia (including those who fear being persecuted for espionage or treason if working with covert innovations). However, even the nearsighted state has noticed that the number of high school students planning to take the Unified State Exam in physics and information sciences has fallen. 

A high-quality, modern education produces modern, thinking people, and thinking people aren’t prepared to go and fight for false ideals. Educated individuals are independent individuals, including economically. A militarized state does not need independent people. It needs people who diligently obey orders. One of the main problems of Russian society today is that the generation of 70-year-old Russian leaders is deciding how young people will live and what they will die for. This is not a responsible strategy that will contribute to the healthy development of the country, and it certainly does nothing toward the preservation of the population.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Head of the Ukrainian Defence Intelligence (DIU), recently stressed that:

This conflict has already grown into an existential war between Russia and the West. Yes, the West is not participating in this war with their militaries. But they are providing us with weapons so we can use them in the fight. This means a Ukrainian victory over Russia is a common victory, he added. And if Ukraine falls — though unlikely — it’s a defeat for all of Western civilization.”

I have been saying the same for the last five years. The assessment is based on several factors.

Firstly, because Russia stresses that it is involved in a war with the US and NATO.

It has repeatedly claimed that the West is waging an information war, economic war, war of proxy and total war against Russia. The sanctions are seen as an act of aggression. Putin claims the military potential and capabilities of almost all major NATO countries are being widely used against Russia, alleging that NATO staff officers, artillerymen and other specialists are in the zone of hostilities.  President Putin is increasingly describing the confrontation with the West over the Ukraine war as an existential battle for the survival of Russia and the Russian people.

What many describe as a Russian war against Ukraine is described by Putin as a Western war against Russia.

The United States and NATO are falsely being depicted as preparing the Kyiv “regime which they controlled and Ukraine which they had enslaved for a large-scale war”. Putin claims that the West is directly involved in Ukraine’s attempts to strike at its strategic aviation bases. Russia’s foreign minister has accused the West of being directly involved in the conflict by supplying it with weapons and training its soldiers.

Secondly, because Russian actions during the last 15 years support its narrative, only the other way around.

Russia’s disinformation and propaganda tend to mirror its own actions toward its opponents. According to the EU Parliament, Russia has been waging a hybrid war against Europe for years. The list of Russian transgressions of international law is long and includes unfriendly actions against both the US and Europe. Its ambitions were fully reviled on 17 December 2021, when Russia presented USA and NATO with its ultimatums. Russia published both a draft treaty between the USA and the Russian Federation “on security guarantees”, as well as a draft agreement on “measures to ensure the security of the Russian Federation and the Member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization”.

The geostrategic implications of the demands go far beyond Ukraine. Like the hybrid war, it affects both NATO and the EU.

NATO was being told to refrain from any further enlargement. It wanted to regulate NATO’s force posture in all countries which joined the Alliance after 1997. The Alliance was told to reduce its forward deployment of units in response to Russia’s aggressive foreign policy. Russia asked the US to withdraw arms and personnel from new NATO members. In principle, it called on NATO to refrain from operating in the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Barents Sea and the Arctic, as well as the airspace over Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. The USA is being told to withdraw its nuclear weapons from Europe and eliminate all existing infrastructure on the continent.

Why? To enable Russia to re-establish and extend its sphere of influence westward as a part of its great power ambitions.

Thirdly, because the West has taken a stand and is committed to supporting Ukraine as long as it takes and – depending on the Head of State – either ensures a Ukrainian victory or denies a Russian victory.

The coalition of 54 countries has invested enormous resources – financial, humanitarian and defence – in making sure that Ukraine remains an independent and sovereign state.

Increasingly more sees Ukraine’s efforts as a defence of our shared values and principles.

Ukraine should get all the necessary military equipment and training it needs to defend its territory and its people from Russia’s war of aggression. They are not just defending their country; they are also defending our common values and the basic principles of international law.”

Josep Borrelll, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

If Russia wins despite the Ukrainian coalition, this will rightfully be seen as a Western defeat. Both the US, NATO and the EU will be greatly discredited at the cost of future security and stability.

Lastly, because the consequence of a hypothetical Russian victory is extremely detrimental to European security and stability.

The consequences for Ukraine, Europe and the USA would be devastating. Not only would an autocracy have defeated democracy, but it will also have established Russia as a Great Power status. An aggressive country that has expanded for centuries at the expense of its neighbours will once again have succeeded, thereby securing the resources needed to expand and grow. Its military power will move 1000 km closer to Warsaw, Berlin, Paris and London. Additionally, it will create a constant belt of instability along the NATO borders as the Ukrainian nation continues its resistance.

Equally important, an imaginary Ukrainian and Western defeat will serve as an example for any other autocracy or totalitarian state with territorial ambitions in conflict with international law.

The bottom line is that the West is already deeply involved in the broader confrontation Heads of State are trying to avert.

It is high time NATO starts responding to the Russian aggression against its member states. The Alliance must acknowledge the fact that most of its eastern member states are already defending themselves in Ukraine.

If not, the very relevance of NATO is at stake.

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