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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 382: Russia loses 500 soldiers in Bakhmut in a day

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 382: Russia loses 500 soldiers in Bakhmut in a day
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Russians lose 500 soldiers in Bakhmut over the last day. More than 10 explosions rock Melitopol. Russia runs out of armament stockpiles.

Daily overview — Summary report, March 12

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, March 12, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. March 11, 2023. Source: ISW.

 

The criminal Russian government does not give up its intentions to occupy the territory of Ukraine by using both its own armed forces and the PWC, as well as the armed formations of the quasi-Republics, continuing to conduct large-scale armed aggression.

Over the past day, Russian forces launched 12 airstrikes and 5 missile strikes, 2 of which hit the city of Zaporizhzhia. The Russian occupiers used the S-300 air defence system against the civilian infrastructure. As a result, one building was destroyed. There were no casualties or injuries among the civilian population. In addition, Russian forces carried out 56 attacks from MLRS. One was against the object of the civil infrastructure of the city of Kherson. There are victims among the civilian population: two killed and three wounded.

The probability of further missile strikes throughout the territory of Ukraine remains quite high.

During the past day, the main objective of Russian forces remained attempts to reach the administrative borders of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. For this purpose, Russian forces focused their main efforts on conducting offensive actions in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Mariinka, and Shakhtarsk axes. Thanks to professional and coordinated actions, our defenders repelled 92 enemy attacks on the indicated axes.

Kharkiv Battle Map. March 11, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: The operational situation remained stable. The Russian Federation continues to maintain a significant military presence on the territory of the Republic of Belarus but without the obvious formation of offensive groups. At the same time, Russian forces continue to engineer terrain in the border areas of the Bryansk and Kursk Oblasts. Russian forces carried out mortar and artillery attacks on the areas of 8 settlements, namely: Chervona Zorya, Krasne, Ohirtseve, Kolodyazne, Krasne Pershe, Novomlynsk and Kam’ianka of the Kharkiv Oblast.
  • Kupiansk and Lyman axes: Russian forces maintained a significant military presence in the areas bordering Ukraine to prevent our units from moving to other axes. Also, during the previous day, the occupiers unsuccessfully tried to break through the defence of our troops, carrying out artillery shelling of the areas of 13 settlements along the line of military confrontation. In particular, Dvorichny, Hryanikyvka, Masyutivka, Kislivka and Pischany of the Kharkiv Oblast; Novoselivsky, Nevsky, Kuzmyny, Bilogorivka, and Stelmakhivka in the Luhansk Oblast, as well as Dibrova, Rozdolivka, Spirnyi, and Yagidny in the Donetsk Oblast.
Donetsk Battle Map. March 11, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: Russian forces did not stop the assault on the city of Bakhmut. Near the contact line, Russian forces shelled, in particular, Vasyukivka, Zaliznyanske, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Hryhorivka, Bohdanivka, Bakhmut, Ivanovske, Kostyantynivka, Bila Hora, Minkivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Aleksandro-Shultyne, Zalizne, and New York of the Donetsk Oblast. In general, 15 settlements in the Bakhmut axis were affected by the shelling of the occupiers.
  • Avdiivka, Mariinka, and Shakhtarsk axes: Russian forces attempted offensive actions in the axis of the settlements of Kam’ianka, Severna, Pervomayske, Nevelske, Krasnohorivka, and Mar’yinka in the Donetsk Oblast. Didn’t have any success. 18 settlements near the contact line, including Berdychi, Lastochkine, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Krasnohorivka, Georgiivka, Bogoyavlenka, Vugledar, Zolota Niva, Alexandropol, Orlivka, Tonenke, Pervomaiske, Pobyeda, Novomykhailivka, Novoukrainka, Prechistivka, were subjected to numerous enemy shelling, including Velika Novosilka, Donetsk Oblast.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. March 11, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: Russian forces continue to defend. At the same time, they carried out intensive shelling of populated areas, namely: Malynyvka, Gulyaipol, Biloghirya, Malya Tokmachka, Novodanilivka, Novoandriyivka, Maly Shcherbakiv, Olhivskyi, Chervonyi, Charivnyi, Tavriyskyi, Prydniprovskyi, Plavniv, Kamianskyi and Stepovy in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast; Novopolya – Donetska, as well as Novodmytrivka, Mykhailivka, Dudchan, Zmiivka, Vesely, Ivanivka, Antonivka, Bilozerka, Dniprovskyi, Republikanets, Krasnoy Mayak, Novosilka, Odradokamyanka, Olgivka, Tyaginka, Tokarivka, Poniativka, Romashkovo and the city of Kherson. In total, almost 40 settlements were shelled.

[The Russian criminal authorities continue measures for the forced certification of the population of the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Thus, the military leadership of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation without exception requires all mobilized from previously occupied territories to sign long-term contracts for the passage of military service in the army of the Russian Federation. To do this, it is necessary to have a copy of the passport of the Russian citizen among the other documents. In this way, the occupiers are trying to force them to give up the so-called “L/DNR passport” in favour of Russian citizenship. Otherwise, servicemen and their families are threatened with the refusal of all established payments and social protection of the Armed Forces.]

During the day, the Ukrainian Air Force struck 6 areas of concentration of personnel and military equipment of the occupiers, and units of missile forces and artillery hit 4 areas of concentration of enemy personnel, one ammunition depot and 2 deployment sites of enemy EW stations.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Minister Reznikov: Russia fired 821 missiles at Ukraine since the invasion started, Ukrinform reports, citing Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov at a meeting with Norwegian Defence Minister Bjørn Arild Gram in Kyiv. “As of March 10, 2023, a total of 821 Russian missiles were fired at our country. These are cruise, ballistic missiles only. We know for sure that every 10 times that the NASAMS systems are used to the provision of which Norway has contributed, 10 missiles of the aggressor are shot down, 10 buildings and infrastructure objects are preserved, and hundreds of human lives are saved, Reznikov noted.”

More than 10 explosions rock Melitopol, Ukrinform reports. “It’s loud in Melitopol. Residents report more than 10 loud explosions in the northern part of the town [Saturday morning],” Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov posted on Telegram.”

Russians attack vital infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Zaporizhzhia Oblast Military Administration and Anatolii Kurtiev, Secretary of the Zaporizhzhia City Council. “Having no success on the battlefield fighting with Ukraine’s Armed Forces, today, Russian projectiles [reportedly S-300] hit the vital infrastructure of the administrative centre of [Zaporizhzhia] Oblast, where several hundred thousand civilians live, including a large number of people who were forced to leave their homes and flee from the Russian occupation. The administration noted that all relevant services were involved in dealing with the aftermath of the attack.”

Border guards eliminate a group of Wagner mercenaries in Bakhmut’s industrial area, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service. “Recently, the border guard unit of the Luhansk detachment has conducted a positional battle with enemy forces near one of the industrial enterprises. The day before, Ukrainian defenders withstood several assault attacks by the invaders. To continue the offensive, Russian mercenaries gained a foothold within one of the production shops and were accumulating forces, the report states.

In order to eliminate the Russian force cluster, using the SPG-9 recoilless gun, border guards neutralized a Russian machine gunner, who had been covering the approach to the building. A ground reconnaissance group of border guards went for a breakthrough and eliminated the Wagner mercenaries. Additionally, border guards set up an ambush for enemy reserve units. With the onset of darkness, Russian assault teams, approaching the front line, were met with a surprise. Ukrainian snipers decimated six Russian invaders

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

  • As Russia continues to suffer extremely heavy casualties, the impact varies dramatically across Russia’s regions. In proportion to the size of their population, the richest cities of Moscow and St Petersburg have been left relatively unscathed. This is especially true for the families of the country’s elite.
  • On 21 February 2023, Russian senior officials were photographed making up the front two rows of the audience of President Putin’s state of the nation speech. None of these are known to have children serving in the military.
  • In many of the Eastern regions, deaths are likely running, as a percentage of population, at a rate 30+ times higher than in Moscow. In places, ethnic minorities take the biggest hit; in Astrakhan some 75% of casualties come from the minority Kazakh and Tatar populations. As the Russian MoD seeks to address its continued deficit of combat personnel, insulating the better-off and more influential elements of Russian society will highly likely remain a major consideration.
  • Over the last four days, Wagner Group forces have taken control of most of eastern part of the Donbas town of Bakhmut. In the town centre, the Bakhmutka River now marks the front line.
  • Ukrainian forces hold the west of the town and have demolished key bridges over the river, which runs through north-south through a strip of open ground 200m-800m wide, between built up areas. With Ukrainian units able to fire from fortified buildings to the west, this area has become a killing zone, likely making it highly challenging for Wagner forces attempting to continue their frontal assault westwards.

However, the Ukrainian force and their supply lines to the west remain vulnerable to the continued Russian attempts to outflank the defenders from the north and south.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Sunday 12 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 159090 (+1090)
  • Tanks – 3466 (+8)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6769 (+7)
  • Artillery systems – 2487 (+4)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 493 (+0)
  • Air defence means – 259 (+2)
  • Aircraft – 304 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 289 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5348 (+4)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 2108 (+0)
  • Special equipment – 242 (+0)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 907 (+0)

Russians lose 500 soldiers in Bakhmut over last day – Armed Forces of Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Colonel Serhii Cherevatyi, the spokesman of the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “During this day, Russian forces groups on the Bakhmut section of the front fired 157 times, using various types of artillery… 53 skirmishes took place, 16 times Bakhmut alone was shelled, and 23 skirmishes took place in the area of the city itself.

Throughout the fighting, 221 enemies were killed, [and] 314 suffered wounds of various degrees of severity. […] On 10 March, Cherevatyi suggested that the inglorious history of the Wagner PMC was coming to an end because of their losses in the city of Bakhmut.

The information space presents many videos of mobilised Russians voicing their frustration, ChrisO_wiki (Independent military history author and researcher) reports. “Mobilised Russians from at least 16 regions of Russia have posted videos in the last few weeks complaining about poor training, lack of equipment, brutal commanders, mistreatment, and being used as “meat” for suicidal assaults on Ukrainian positions. Anyone who has been following @wartranslated will have seen many of these videos. The independent Russian news outlet Verstka has been analysing them and has identified where the people appearing in them came from.

As the map shows, they are from places across the European and west Asian regions of Russia. Notably, though, they are fairly peripheral regions; the wealthiest parts of western Russia do not seem to be represented. Verstka summarises:

  • 7 March: men of the 1439th Regiment from Krasnoyarsk Kra and Irkutsk and Novosibirsk oblasts complain that they are being “sent to slaughter“.
  • Also on 7 March, mobilised men from the Kaliningrad, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions voice similar complaints – threats from commanders, being sent on deadly assaults and supply problems.
  • 6 March: mobiks [Meaning: a soldier who has been conscripted into the Russian army as part of Russia’s war in Ukraine] from Belgorod Oblast, who were in territorial defence units, complain about being sent to “storm villages” in Ukraine without preparation.
  • 4 March: men from the Krasnodar region post an appeal in which they say they were sent into “senseless assaults” in the Donetsk region without preparation.
  • Also on 4 March, mobiks from the Orenburg region ask Putin to sort out “lawless orders” under which they were being sent into assaults without preparation or adequate equipment.
  • March 3: mobiks from Mordovia and Mari El appeal to Putin, saying they had been assigned to the “Luhansk military” without documentation and were then sent to carry out assaults without training.
  • Mobiks from Mordovia and Mari El, upon arrival at the front line in Lysychansk, were attached to the Luhansk military. Typically, their specialisations were changed to assault infantry. Men were sent to zero line with no weapons or training. Vladimir Putin, please help.
  • And in February, mobilised men from Omsk, Tyva, Samara, Tatarstan, Irkutsk Region, Bashkortostan, Mari El, Kaliningrad and Orenburg Regions made appeals.Another group of Russian mobiks lost in Ukraine. They trained for months to become artillerymen, but after arriving to the “DNR”, were turned into assault infantry and ransomed by locals for fuel money, or else they’d be sent to the frontline.”
  • News from the “large-scale offensive”, this is the 4th mobik unit filming an appeal to the ministry of defence wondering why they were turned from the 3rd line defence forces into assault troops. They have not been provided with adequate equipment.
  • Russian mobiks are paying the price of a “large-scale Russian offensive”. This is already a second unit of mobiks transferred to the full so-called “DNR” control and sent as cannon meat to achieve Russian goals in the Donbas, this time they came from Kaliningrad.
  • More on the mobiks from 1231 regiment I posted about earlier, addressing the command personally. They’ve been robbed of all equipment and sent to assault a height the locals were unable to take for ages. Several battalions of mobiks before them have already been slaughtered.

Verskta notes that this is the second big wave of mobik appeal videos to have appeared. The first was after mobilisation began in late September – early October 2022, when many mobiks were rushed to the front lines with little or no training after Ukraine’s offensive. From November 2022 through to the end of January 2023, there were few such appeal videos. This likely reflects who was taking the brunt of the fighting: principally Wagner soldiers and contract soldiers, who were mostly not incentivised or able to make appeals.

An assessment of the many videos of mobilised Russians voicing their frustration, ChrisO_wiki (Independent military history author and researcher) reports. “The videos all follow the same general format of an appeal to Russian president Vladimir Putin to resolve problems at the front line in Ukraine. […] The first wave of appeal videos were posted by mobiks in September-October when they were being rushed to the front lines to plug gaps that had been torn in Russian defensive lines by Ukraine’s Kharkiv and Kherson offensives. They had some similar themes to the latest videos. The petitioners complain that:

  • They have been sent to the front lines without the correct training,
  • They were told they would be assigned to territorial defence units in the rear or border areas, but were sent to the front instead,
  • Their commanders are absent
  • They lack equipment and armoured vehicles,
  • Fire support is absent,
  • Communications are poor,
  • Orders are unclear or lacking entirely,
  • They are taking unnecessary casualties,
  • Medical help and evacuation is unavailable

They do not (and cannot) protest the war itself, as this would be considered outside the bounds of legitimate discussion. They have to proclaim their loyalty and willingness to fight, but not question the premise of why they are fighting in the first place. Interestingly, in the current wave of videos, few mobiks complain of a lack of food and water. Last autumn’s petitioners complained that they were surviving on water from puddles and eating mushrooms and unharvested grains. Perhaps this logistical issue has been fixed?

Another consistent theme in the recent videos is the mobiks describing how they have been ordered to carry out assaults despite having no training as assault troops. This was true of the earlier wave of videos, as well. But the circumstances are different. Last autumn, many mobiks were thrown into battle in a desperate effort to hold back the Ukrainian advance. Commentators suggested that the Russians would use the winter to train the remaining mobiks as assault troops for a spring offensive. It seems that – at least for the men in the new videos – this did not happen. They were trained instead as territorial defence units and then found themselves being retasked as stormtroopers, with little or no preparatory training, when they arrived in Ukraine.

It’s likely that many mobiks were deliberately deceived about what their roles would be and were given the ‘wrong’ training so that they would be easier to handle. Russian military bloggers have discussed the mobilised being lied to.

One big change in the current wave of videos is that many of the petitioners say their Russian Army units were disbanded when they reached the separatist ‘Republics’ in eastern Ukraine. They were instead incorporated into local military forces. The two ‘Republics’ – the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic (DNR and LNR) each have an Army Corps, numbered as the 1st and 2nd respectively. […] These corps have become officially part of the Russian army, but before the war they had a severe shortage of personnel – some units were reportedly only at 50% strength. The Republics launched a mobilization at the outbreak of the war to remedy this.

The mobilisation was a remarkably brutal process – men were literally snatched off the street at gunpoint and impressed into the army. Prisoners and students were also forcibly conscripted. Exemptions for age or infirmity were routinely ignored.  The DNR and LNR used up their own mobiks rapidly, throwing them into major battles at Mariupol and Sievierodonetsk with little training and poor weapons. By last autumn, many DNR and LNR units were likely combat ineffective. Ukraine’s offensive routed such units.

Russia has been reconstituting the decimated DNR and LNR units with mobilised Russians. This is mentioned in several of the videos, but as the men complain, it seems to have been done in an underhand and irregular way. In several videos they say that their transfer was not documented and their military IDs were not updated, or were only updated with partial information. Other mobiks say they do not know what unit they belong to or who or what ranks their commanders are.

This has important practical consequences for the men. Without proper records, they are ‘off the books’. There’s no record of their war service, so they can’t get a combatant’s certificate that would entitle them to a pension and veteran’s privileges after the war. They can’t get leave, they may not be able to get paid, their relatives will probably not be compensated if they die. Conveniently for the Russian Ministry of Defence, their deaths would be on the casualty rolls of the L/DNR, not Russia. The men naturally don’t want this.

The men also complain about how L/DNR officers are sending them on suicidal assaults against Ukrainian positions. For instance, men from Mordovia and Mari El are reportedly being sent in groups of 8 to 10 but mostly dying in the process. In this video, they say they have been told directly by their officers that they are “expendable” and will only return home if injured. They are being sent to slaughter without cover, without escort. One soldier says his DNR commander told him, “Go and die.” The mobilised men also speak of clashes between Russians and ‘DNRovites’. The men in the video above say that their DNR officers machine-gunned the house where they were sheltering to drive them forward into combat.

They and others say that DNR forces will not evacuate the Russian wounded because they are afraid of losing their equipment. DNR evacuation teams will reportedly only take out their own men and lightly wounded Russians, leaving seriously wounded Russians on the battlefield. The DNR soldiers, they say, do not accompany them into combat. One Russian mobik says: There was also a prejudiced attitude towards the mobilised men on the part of the DNR men … We were given six DNR men as reinforcements, but they did not take part in the assault.

He quotes one DNR soldier telling him, We somehow managed to live these eight years without you – we would have kept on living. The man was a forcibly recruited prisoner. This suggests the DNR soldiers blame Russia for dragging them into the current war. The Republics’ endemic corruption – they are effectively run as criminal enclaves – is also a cause of discontent. The mobiks have spoken of being extorted to buy fuel for transport and being made to use their own money to buy food and water within the DNR.”

Two strikes in Mariupol might have hit Russian clusters of personnel, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Mariupol City Council and Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol. “The Mariupol City Council reported two strikes over the occupied city on 11 March.

Residents of the occupied city report two strikes – near the airport and Agrobase. Possible hit in the location of the occupiers.”

Russia runs out of armament stockpiles, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleksii Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine. “Russia is running out of [previously] prepared weapons stockpiles. Missiles and military equipment have been accumulated for decades. […] A corrupt economy is unable to provide [needs of troops on] the front; [cutting] foreign aid for terrorist Russia is a matter of primary importance.”

Humanitarian 

ICRC representatives manage to visit places of detention of POWs in Donetsk and Horlivka, Ukrinform reports. “During the meeting with the families of the Azov assault brigade (military unit No. 3057) members, a Headquarters representative noted that the Ukrainian side is [not] aware of the place of detention of all Azov members,” the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War posted on Telegram. As noted, after the terrorist attack in Olenivka, they were transferred to different penal facilities and are kept isolated from other Ukrainian prisoners. Therefore, those who return from captivity provide less information about the conditions of detention of Azov fighters.

The Coordination Headquarters emphasizes that the work is ongoing to search for a third country that could act as an intermediary in the exchange of Azov service members. We have certain hopes for Türkiye because this country has a real lever of influence on the Russian Federation. In addition, there was already a precedent of Ankara’s participation in the exchange, the report reads.

As noted, the ICRC representatives managed to visit places of detention in Donetsk and Horlivka last month. Now they are trying to get to the prisoners in Luhansk region. As reported, the Coordination Staff stated that Russia is in no hurry to respond to the requests of international organizations, in particular the International Committee of the Red Cross, regarding the confirmation of the capture of Ukrainian service members because this entails the fulfillment of certain obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Conventions.”

Power limitations implemented in 4 Oblasts due to results of attack, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the press service of Ukrenergo. “As of the morning of Saturday, 11 March, the power grid is being restored after a 15th large-scale missile attack and 18th drone attack, with network limitations in place in Zhytomyr Oblast and in some areas of Kharkiv, Dnipro and Mykolaiv oblasts.

One of the thermal power plants has been partially brought back into operation after emergency repairs, and one of the backbone power grid facilities of Ukrenergo has resumed operation in the city of Kharkiv. The city’s critical infrastructure is now fully powered. Work to fully restore the power supply to the city and the oblast is ongoing.  

The situation in Zhytomyr Oblast remains challenging, with some consumers without power supply and hourly outage schedules in place. There are also grid limitations due to the effects of attacks in certain areas of Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolaiv oblasts.

The level of consumption has decreased compared to last Saturday, 4 March, due to the warmer weather. Therefore, the volumes of electricity generated in the system are sufficient to cover the needs of all consumers. The grid restrictions currently in place in oblasts are caused solely by damage to the energy infrastructure caused by Russian missile attacks on 9 March.”

G7 renews pledge to support Ukraine energy sector, says Japan, Reuters reports. “The Group of Seven (G7) and other like-minded organisations renewed their pledge to support Ukraine’s energy sector, Japan’s foreign ministry said after the group convened for a meeting on Friday.

Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Japan intends to provide about 10 autotransformers and 140 units of power-related equipment to Ukraine, according to a statement released by the Japanese foreign ministry.”

Ukrhydroenerho receives another power equipment shipment from international partners, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ukrainian Energy Ministry. “The Ukrainian Energy Ministry has handed over another power equipment shipment, totaling about 10 tonnes in weight, to Ukrhydroenerho PJSC. In particular, the shipment included generators and disconnectors provided by Japan, the Netherlands and the Republic of Korea in humanitarian aid to Ukraine. […]

In general, Ukrhydroenerho PJSC received more than 131 tonnes of power equipment from international partners.”

UAE provides $100M in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “The United Arab Emirates has provided humanitarian aid worth $100 million to Ukraine. This happened immediately after the visit of the Ukrainian delegation led by First Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Economy of Ukraine Yulia Svyrydenko to the United Arab Emirates,” the press service of the Ministry of Economy posted on Telegram. The Ministry notes that humanitarian aid is intended for residents of Kherson and Mykolaiv regions: they will receive warm clothes and hygiene products.

Environmental

Explosive-contaminated areas in Ukraine may be the size of Britain – NYT, Ukrinform reports, citing The New York Times. “The HALO Trust, a global mine-clearing organization, estimates that mines and explosives in Ukraine may have contaminated a territory the size of Britain. Although the Russian troops who once occupied many of the fields of southern Ukraine are long gone, they left a colossal array of explosives behind, some abandoned and others rigged as traps.

Ukrainian mine clearers known as sappers must still survey and remove thousands of land mines and unexploded ordnance before anyone can resume a normal life. The problem is particularly acute in the Kherson region. In addition, large portions of liberated territory remain in range of Russian guns and are shelled daily, including with cluster munitions, which can spread unexploded bomblets over a large area.

According to open-source data collected by HALO, since the start of the war, nearly 200 civilians have been killed in accidents involving mines, though this is likely to be a significant undercount.

The news outlet spoke to Oleksandr Hordiienko, a Kherson Regional Council deputy and chairman of the Kherson Regional Association of Farmers, who said that some farmers have, very carefully, begun to survey their own lands. Using a hand-held metal detector as well as a larger apparatus attached to a tractor, he has so far found 1,500 mines, though he thinks there could be hundreds more.

Many Ukrainian farmers believe that Russian forces targeted their fields and equipment to starve Ukrainians and ruin one of their country’s most important economic drivers, according to The New York Times.”

Hans Petter Midttun: The information was first published on 8 January. “The full-scale war unleashed by Russia has led to the creation of a 250,000-square-kilometer mine field in Ukraine. It’s currently the largest mine field in the world. It’s not only making it difficult for people to travel, but also causing major disruptions in farming, which is one of our main industries,” Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal told South Korean Yonhap News Agency in an interview. As noted, 250,000 sq km is a territory larger than not only the entire Korean Peninsula (around 221,000 sq km) but also Romania (around 238,000 sq km) and Britain (around 244,000 sq km).”

President: More than 40 missile strikes launched on Kharkiv city this year, Ukrinform reports. “Only since the beginning of this year – in less than two and a half months – over forty enemy missiles have already struck Kharkiv,” President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said in his latest address. The President expressed support for all Ukrainian cities and communities that face brutal terrorist attacks by the evil state every day, every night.”

Occupiers force draftees from pseudo-Republics to accept Russians passports, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ukrainian General Staff. The Russian criminal authorities continue measures of forced passportization of the population of the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Thus, the military leadership of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation requires all those mobilised from previously occupied territories to sign long-term contracts for military service in the Russian army. For that to happen, it is necessary to provide a copy of the passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation, among the rest of the documents.

This way, the occupiers are trying to force them to give up the citizenships of the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republic in favour of Russian citizenship. Otherwise, servicemen and members of their families are threatened with the denial of all established payments and social protection provided for servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation“.

Support

Norway provides Ukraine with NASAMS ground-based air defence system, states the Norwegian Government. “Norway will provide Ukraine with two complete NASAMS firing units in cooperation with the United States. – Ukraine has a critical need to defend itself against missile attacks, and Norway will assist, says Norway’s minister of defence, Mr. Bjørn Arild Gram.

Norway has previously contributed equipment and training to US donations of NASAMS to Ukraine. These donations have been highly valued and contributed to defeat missile attacks. Continuing Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure highlight the need to further improve Ukraine’s air defence. Ukraine has repeatedly requested international partners to provide more and better air defence systems, says Gram.”

Ukraine ready to send military for NASAMS training in Norway as soon as possible, Ukrinform reports. “Ukraine’s Air Force is ready to send servicemen to the Kingdom of Norway in order to undergo training on the Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) within the shortest time possible.”

Denmark expects to deliver first batch of Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine during spring, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda. “Acting Danish Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen has announced the approximate timing of the transfer of Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine during a visit to the German company FFG, which is engaged in their repair. […]

Denmark launched the Leopard 1A5 tank restoration project together with the Netherlands and Germany in early February 2023. The first phase of the project is to deliver tanks for two battalions, equivalent to approximately 80 tanks, as soon as possible. The first Leopard 1s are expected to be ready in the spring and will be used for training the Ukrainian military. As part of the joint initiative, Ukraine will also receive spare parts and ammunition for the tanks.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov previously said that Ukraine would receive 80 Leopard 1s by the end of the year, with the first two dozen to arrive by summer“.

Ammunition, equipment, air defence: Zaluzhnyi and Milley discuss Ukraine’s defence needs, Ukrinform reports. “Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley have discussed the defense needs of Ukraine.

I had a phone call with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley. We discussed a number of important topics for us. I focused in detail on the issue of Ukraine’s defence needs, he wrote. Zaluzhnyi said both parties had discussed the supply of ammunition and equipment. He also emphasized the need to strengthen Ukrainian aid defence capabilities.”

Patriot air defence systems will shoot down ballistic missiles, enemy aircraft, Ukrinform reports. “Patriot air defence systems, which Ukraine receives from international partners, can shoot down not only ballistic missiles but also enemy aircraft that launch missile and bomb attacks on Ukraine from temporarily occupied territories.

The system is good not only in terms of shooting down ballistic missiles, it is a long-range system. Unfortunately, we do not have such long-range anti-aircraft systems, because our main system is Buk-M1 with a range of up to 40 km, S-300 system has a range of 70 km. Therefore, the range of 150 km, which both Patriot and SAMP/T systems have, will help primarily to shoot down not only ballistic missiles but also to oppose Russian aviation at long distances, Spokesperson for the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Yuriy Ihnat said.

He emphasized that now Russia uses aviation in the front-line areas of north and south to launch missiles and guided aerial bombs. They fly up to a distance of 30-40, 50-60 km to [the frontline] and can drop these bombs. We know how destructive aviation bombs of large tonnage are. And the presence of long-range anti-aircraft systems, as well as aircraft capable of firing at a distance of over 150 km, will drive Russian aircraft away from [occupied territories], Ihnat said. […] According to him, the systems will be placed in a way to cover Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and troops.”

Ukraine’s Kuleba urges Germany to send more ammunition and train up pilots, Reuters reports. “Ukraine’s foreign minister urged Germany in an interview published on Sunday to speed up supplies of ammunition and to start training Ukrainian pilots on Western fighter jets. Dmytro Kuleba told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that ammunition shortages were the “number one” problem in Ukraine’s attempt to repel Russia’s invasion.

He said German weapons manufacturers had told him at the Munich Security Conference last month they were ready to deliver but were waiting for the government to sign contracts. So the problem lies with the government, Kuleba was quoted as saying.

Kuleba made clear he did not expect Western allies to give Ukraine the fighter jets it has been asking for any time soon. But he said Ukrainian pilots should be trained anyway, so they would be ready once that decision was taken, the paper wrote. If Germany were to train Ukrainian pilots, that would be a clear message of its political engagement, he said.”

Finland permits Estonia howitzers and ammunition re-export to Ukraine, Euromaidan Press reports. “The Finnish government permitted Estonia to re-export its military equipment and supplies to Ukraine at a Wednesday meeting, as reported by the European Pravda. The decision concerns the export of D-30 howitzers and ammunition with a 122-mm caliber. The quantity of both military supplies is not specified.

The supplies recipient is the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Estonia has stated that the number of weapons exported is confidential, reads the statement of the Finnish government. Therefore, the Finnish government also reported that Estonia requires the number of exports to remain confidential.

The exports will likely occur within the framework of a 113 million military aid package approved by the Estonian government in January 2023. The package comprises “dozens” of 155-mm and 122-mm howitzers, thousands of shells, and trucks for their use. The package also includes over a hundred Carl-Gustav anti-tank guns and over a thousand rounds of ammunition. After that, Estonian Ambassador to Ukraine Kaimo Kuusk emphasized that all available 155-mm howitzers would be transferred to Kyiv.”

EU could top up fund for Ukraine arms purchases by 3.5 bln euros -official, Reuters reports. “The European Union could soon top up the fund used for purchasing weapons for Ukraine by 3.5 billion euros ($3.7 billion), a senior EU official said on Friday. Under a plan drawn up by foreign policy chief Josep Borrelll, EU states would get financial incentives worth 1 billion euros ($1.06 billion) to send more of their artillery rounds to Kyiv while another 1 billion euros would fund joint procurement of new shells.

If there is a deal on this 2-billion-euro package, resources under the EPF will be exhausted, the EU official said, referring to the European Peace Facility (EPF) used to fund arms for Kyiv. It’s up to the member states to decide if and when they want to operationalize this new possible 3.5 billion euros top up, he added.

Kyiv is burning through shells faster than its partners can make them and has urged the EU to club together to buy 1 million 155-millimetre shells this year at a cost of 4 billion euros to help fight Russia’s invasion and launch a counter-offensive.”

New Developments

  1. Russia will become an example of defeat and punishment for terror – Zelensky, Ukrinform reports, citing President Zelensky. Russia has become synonymous with terror and will become an example of defeat and fair punishment. “Today, I would like to support all those cities and communities of ours facing brutal terrorist attacks by the evil state every day, every night. Our Kherson region and the city of Kherson, on which the occupier is seeking revenge for its loss. Our Zaporizhzhia. Our cities of Donetsk region and Luhansk region, which Russia wants simply to burn. Our Kharkiv region and the city of Kharkiv. Only since the beginning of this year – in less than two and a half months – over forty enemy missiles have already struck Kharkiv. Nikopol, Marhanets – our Dnipropetrovsk region. Our Sumy region. Our Chernihiv region. Missiles and artillery, drones and mortars – the evil state uses a variety of weapons. But with one goal. To destroy life and leave nothing human. Ruins, debris, shell holes in the ground are a self-portrait of Russia, which it paints where normal life reigns without Russia. […] But Russia will not be there. It has become a synonym for terror and will be an example of defeat and fair punishment for this terror. The punishment that the Kremlin cannot stop
  2. US and EU reaffirm intention to jointly support Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing a statementpublished on the website of the European Commission. “S. President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a joint statement following their meeting in Washington confirmed the readiness of the parties to support a partnership for sustainable economic development and stand united in solidarity with Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression. […] The United States and European Union are working to ensure that Ukraine has the security, economic, and humanitarian support it needs for as long as it takes. We have worked together to supply the Ukrainian Armed Forces with the military equipment and training it needs to defend itself from Russian aggression, the statement said.”
  3. Iran announces new contract to buy Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing IRIB, an Iranian broadcaster. “Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Saturday, 11 March that the country has reached a deal to buy advanced Su-35 fighter jets from Russia. IRIB reported that Iran’s mission to the UN said that the Su-35 fighter planes were “technically acceptable” to Iran and Iran has finalised a contract for their purchase after the expiration of restrictions on Iran’s ability to purchase conventional weapons (under the UN Resolution 2231) in October 2020. […] Iran obtaining Russian Su-35 jets might significantly destabilise the regional power balance, with far-reaching consequences for the entire region.
  4. Italy to host Ukraine reconstruction conference on April 26, Ukrinform reports, citing Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and ANSA. “Today [on March 10] in a videoconference with the G7 foreign ministers I announced that the (Italian) government will organize a conference for the reconstruction of Ukraine on April 26, with the contribution of Italian firms. […] Our commitment in favor of peace and freedom for the Ukrainian people continues, Tajani tweeted.”
  5. Moscow-linked church to vacate all Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra premises, Ukrainska PravdaOleksandr Tkachenko, “Ukraine’s Minister of Culture and Information Policy, has said that monks and priests from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) must vacate all premises of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (the Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv) by the end of March. […] Today, on 10 March 2023, the National Kyiv-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Reserve gave notice to the UOC’s Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (the men’s monastery) to terminate the agreement on the free use of religious buildings and other state property. This notice is based on the conclusions of the Interagency Working Group, which, in the course of its work, found that the monastery had violated the terms of the agreement on the use of state property. A number of violations of the terms of use of state property have been established. The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy has set out its position in a letter.”
  6. Russian Orthodox head appeals against eviction of church from Kyiv, ReutersPatriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, on Saturday asked Pope Francis and other religious leaders to persuade Ukraine to stop [what he allege is] a crackdown against a historically Russian-aligned wing of the church. […] Kirill strongly backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Assessment 

https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-11-2023*

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  March 11, 2022:

Russian forces continued offensive operations northeast of Kupiansk on March 11. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Hryanykivka (18km northeast of Kupiansk) and Masyutivka (15km northeast of Kupiansk). Geolocated footage published on March 11 indicates that Russian forces likely control Pershotravneve (22km east of Kupiansk). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are maintaining a significant military presence in areas along the Russian border with Kharkiv Oblast to fix Ukrainian forces in the Kupiansk direction to prevent Ukrainian forces from transferring personnel to other areas in Ukraine.

Ukrainian sources reported that Ukrainian forces advanced towards Svatove. A Ukrainian media source reported on March 11 that Ukrainian forces entered Kuzemivka (14km northwest of Svatove) on an unspecified date and now hold positions 11km away from Svatove.

Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Kreminna area on March 11. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Kreminna, Nevske (18km northwest of Kreminna), and within 31km south of Kreminna near Bilohorivka, Spirne, and Fedorivka. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces conducted assaults in the direction of Terny (17km west of Kreminna) and that elements of the 331st Guards Airborne Regiment of the 98th Guards Airborne Division are operating along the Svatove-Kreminna line, likely in forest areas near Kreminna itself. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces counterattacked near Chervonopopivka (6km north of Kreminna).

Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut but did not make any confirmed advances within the city on March 11. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops repelled Russian attacks on Bakhmut itself; northeast of Bakhmut near Paraskoviivka (3km northeast); northwest of Bakhmut near Zalizianske (10km northwest), Dubovo-Vasylivka (6km northwest), and Bohdanivka (6km northwest); and west of Bakhmut near Ivanivske (5km west). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty noted on March 11 that fighting in Bakhmut was more intense this week than in the previous week and that there were 23 combat clashes in Bakhmut over the past day alone. Russian milbloggers claimed that Wagner Group forces crossed the Bakhmutka River in eastern Bakhmut and are moving towards the city center. Geolocated footage of Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin shows that he was about 1.5 kilometers away from Bakhmut’s administrative center. Several Russian milbloggers notably claimed that Ukrainian forces are preparing for a counteroffensive in Bakhmut.

Russian forces continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka–Donetsk City frontline on March 11. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensives towards Avdiivka itself; in the Avdiivka area near Kamianka (5km northeast of Avdiivka), Severne (5km west of Avdiivka), and Tonenke (6km west of Avdiivka); on the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Pervomaiske, Nevelske, Vodyane, and Krasnohorivka; and on the southwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Marinka and Novomykhailivka. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian troops are attacking Severne and Kamianka, advanced near Pervomaiske, and are fighting against stiff Ukrainian defenses within Marinka.

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on March 11. Russian milbloggers amplified footage of personnel of the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade claiming that they are still engaged in fierce fighting near Vuhledar despite recent claims of massive losses suffered to the brigade during attacks on Vuhledar. A Russian milblogger posted footage reportedly of Russian forces using incendiary ammunition to target Ukrainian positions in Vuhledar.

Russian forces did not make any confirmed advances within Bakhmut on March 11. Ukrainian and Russian sources continue to report heavy fighting in the city, but Wagner Group fighters are likely becoming increasingly pinned in urban areas, such as the AZOM industrial complex, and are therefore finding it difficult to make significant advances. ISW will continue to monitor and report on the situation in Bakhmut as it unfolds.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova confirmed that there is infighting in the Kremlin inner circle, that the Kremlin has ceded centralized control over the Russian information space, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin apparently cannot readily fix it. Kremlin journalists, academics, and Novorossiya supporters held a forum on the “practical and technological aspects of information and cognitive warfare in modern realities” in Moscow on March 11. During a panel discussion Zakharova stated that the Kremlin cannot replicate the Stalinist approach of establishing a modern equivalent to the Soviet Information Bureau to centrally control Russia’s internal information space due to fighting among unspecified Kremlin “elites.”

Zakharova’s statement is noteworthy and supports several of ISW’s longstanding assessments about deteriorating Kremlin regime and information space control dynamics. The statement supports several assessments: that there is Kremlin infighting between key members of Putin’s inner circle; that Putin has largely ceded the Russian information space over time to a variety of quasi-independent actors; and that Putin is apparently unable to take decisive action to regain control over the Russian information space. It is unclear why Zakharova — a seasoned senior spokesperson — would have openly acknowledged these problems in a public setting. Zakharova may have directly discussed these problems for the first time to temper Russian nationalist milbloggers’ expectations regarding the current capabilities of the Kremlin to cohere around a unified narrative — or possibly even a unified policy.

Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin said that he would transform the Wagner Group into a hardline ideological elite parallel military organization after the Battle of Bakhmut. Prigozhin stated on March 11 that the Wagner Group will start a new wave of recruitment after the envisioned capture of Bakhmut and reform itself into an army with an ideological component. The Wagner Group has recently been expanding recruitment centers throughout Russia, including centers and programs focused on recruiting youth. A Russian regional news source stated on March 11 that the Wagner Group has opened six recruitment centers in schools and youth sports clubs in Altai, Zabaykalsky, and Krasnoyarsk krais and Irkutsk Oblast. A Russian opposition news source reported on March 11 that the Ministry of Education in Apatity, Murmansk Oblast included Wagner personnel at a career guidance lesson to tell “heroic stories” and promote the Wagneryonok [“little Wagner”] youth group and summer camp in Crimea. The Wagner Group likely aims to recruit more impressionable recruits through these youth-focused campaigns and instill in them Prigozhin’s extremist ideological brand of Russian ultranationalism. Prigozhin may be attempting to restructure the Wagner Group into a hardline ideological elite parallel military organization to carve out a specialized role among Russian forces in Ukraine as its former role in solely securing tactical gains dissipates with the Wagner Group’s likely culmination around Bakhmut.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces did not make any confirmed advances within Bakhmut on March 11.
  • Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova confirmed that there is infighting in the Kremlin inner circle, that the Kremlin has ceded centralized control over the Russian information space, and implicitly that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot fix it.
  • Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin said that he would transform the Wagner Group into a hardline ideological elite parallel military organization after the Battle of Bakhmut.
  • Ukrainian sources report that Ukrainian forces advanced toward Svatove.
  • Russian forces continue to establish fortifications in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • Russian mobilized soldiers continue to publicize complaints that commanders treat them poorly and used them as expendable manpower to patch holes in existent formations.

Russian occupation officials use children’s healthcare to generate dependency on the Russian healthcare system.

We need time before counteroffensive begins, which is not far off, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleksandr Syrskyi, Commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and Commander of the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “The real heroes now are the defenders who hold the eastern front on their shoulders and, sparing neither themselves nor their enemies, inflict maximum losses on them [Russians – ed.]. It is necessary to buy time to accumulate reserves and start a counteroffensive, which is not far off. […]

Forces and assets are involved in the defence of Bakhmut, which prevent the Russian forces from making their plan come true, break their plans and force them to refuse to advance, Ukraine’s Ground Forces said.”

Russia imitates build-up of forces in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Sprotyv (Resistance). “The command of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is carrying out measures aimed at simulating a significant increase in its forces and means on the southern front on the territory of the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast. At the same time, it is emphasised that these measures are complex, as they are carried out at the level of demonstration actions with the involvement of military technology and a significant increase in the activity of the occupying forces in the media space of the temporarily occupied territories. 

In particular, camps for the training of mobilised citizens of the Russian Federation are scattered around the city of Melitopol, providing the necessary material and educational base and the involvement of the necessary samples of military training.

Meanwhile, key channels of information dissemination on the territory of the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast are filled with narratives about the successful conduct of the next stage of combat coordination of mobilised servicemen and the subsequent formation of new or additional staffing units of the Russian Armed Forces, which will be used in the future for conducting offensive operations on the southern front.”

Tactical group ‘Thunder’: Landing of Russian sabotage and recon groups in Kherson water area impossible, Ukrinform reports. “The entire open water area is controlled, the coast is mined, so any landing of saboteurs in the water area of Kherson is impossible. And most importantly, there is no sense because such operations are carried out exclusively in the context, as part of a larger operation. Just as artillery preparation should be done, but they use it solely to terrorize and demonstrate military presence. As for the boats that we sink and the personnel that we decimate, this process happens all the time, sometimes we talk about it on the air, and sometimes it’s routine work that we don’t show. We have been finding these targets and destroying them continuously for the past four months, Captain-Lieutenant Dmytro Pletenchuk, Spokesperson for the tactical group “Thunder”, said.

He noted that it had been wrong to expect that Kherson would not be shelled after liberation, and most of the military had not had such expectations. Even if we had managed to drive them away from the left bank to a distance of about 30 km, they would have simply used other types of weapons, as was the case in Mykolaiv. In particular, long-range artillery starting from Pion systems, infamous S-300 systems and ending with Tornado-S. Therefore, no one had such hopes, Pletenchuk said.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Offensive Guard assault brigades are almost ready, reserves being made, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Minister of Internal Affairs, Ihor Klymenko. “We have accepted 28,000 applications from volunteers [a month ago we reported about 27,000 applications – ed.]. First of all, applications went through the Centres for the Provision of Administrative Services and through the website. Of course, not everyone gets into these units, so there is a tough enough selection.

We have started the training of almost all units on the training grounds of our country, and not all of them can withstand the trials there. The training will continue as long as necessary to produce combat-ready units of the National Guard, State Border Guard Service and National Police, all of which are now called the Offensive Guard. Subdivisions are, for the most part, formed. We are recruiting additional volunteers to have a reserve for the future.”

On 2 February, Ihor Klymenko, Acting Minister of Internal Affairs, said that the Interior Ministry had begun forming eight assault brigades known as the Offensive Guard to strengthen the Armed Forces and liberate the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. On 3 February, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that the recruiting campaign had started quite actively.

All military personnel who will become assault troops in the Offensive Guard are promised a number of social guarantees, including the opportunity to get housing and medical treatment, as well as the opportunity to study at a university.

The spokesman of the National Guard, Colonel Ruslan Muzychuk, explained that planned mobilisation and creation of voluntary assault brigades known as the Offensive Guard are aimed at, first and foremost, creating reserves, assault units and ensuring the possibility of military rotation for carrying out missions related to the defence of the country.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: The Norwegian donation of NASAMS to Ukraine is an illustration of the scale and scope of the security and defence difficulties NATO is presently facing.

Ukraine’s urgent need for Air Defence has been recognised – if not acknowledged – by NATO from day one of the full-scale war. Ukraine has been facing a vastly superior Russian Air Force (VKS) in both quality and quantity from the very start.

In early March last year, it was assessed that Ukraine was down to about 56 operational warplanes. Across Russia, the VKS presently maintains a largely intact fleet of approximately 1,500 crewed military aircraft.

Russian warplanes were flying 200-300 sorties during the initial phase of the full-scale war, grossly outnumbering the 5-10 a day by Ukraine. Russia flew about 20 times more missions than their Ukrainian counterparts. After suffering heavy losses in February and March, however, Russia was forced to revise its approach and has remained risk-averse in Ukraine. They have not operated over Ukrainian-controlled territory since last spring. The combat aircraft no longer enter Ukrainian airspace, launching long-range missiles from inside Russia.

The Ukrainian Air Defence was simultaneously degraded during the phase of the invasion. According to RUSI (The Russian Air War and Ukrainian Requirements for Air Defence)

During the first week of the invasion, Russian electronic warfare using jamming equipment and E-96M aerial decoys were highly effective in disrupting Ukrainian GBAD [Ground Based Air Defence]. S-300 and SA-11 ‘Buk’ radar-guided surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems were particularly badly affected in the north of the country, especially to the north of Kyiv along the Hostomel/Irpin and Chernihiv axes. Cruise and ballistic missile strikes had also damaged or destroyed multiple long-range early warning radars throughout the country and destroyed various Ukrainian SAM sites in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts in the south. The physical destruction, along with the electronic disruption and suppression of SAM systems in the north and northeast, left the Mikoyan Mig-29 and Sukhoi Su-27 fighters of the Ukrainian Air Force with the task of providing air defence over most of the country for the first few days of the war.

The Ukrainian General Staff has reported daily attacks against 80-150 settlements, villages, and cities across Ukraine since 24 February. Russia has utilised all weapons, ranging from mortars, artillery, MLRS, air, land and sea-launched cruise missiles to air defence missiles in a secondary role.

Since many settlements, villages, and cities are located along the frontline, the effect is extremely devastating. Several have been eradicated and have ceased to exist.

However, NATO members were only forced into action after the first massive missile attack on Kyiv on 10 October 2022.

Russia has launched 15 massive missile and UAV attacks against critical infrastructure across Ukraine, launching 821 cruise and ballistic missiles. Its employment of S-300 and S-400 Air Defence missiles and UAVs comes on top of the high numbers of precision-guided missiles.

Despite having received some Western Air Defence systems, Ukraine is still unable to down ballistic and S-300/400 missiles. That capacity will only be available when Patriot is in place in the theatre. Additionally, 10-20% of the cruise missiles are still penetrating the Air Defence, striking a weakened energy sector across Ukraine.

When it took Norway more than a year to decide to donate NASAMS, it reflects the extreme dilemma the Norwegian Government and the Armed Forces are facing. Norway lacks robust Air Defence. In scale and scope, it’s probably far inferior to that of Ukraine. Any donation increases an already existing critical vulnerability.

This is not unique to Norway. Being one of the twenty countries that have failed to invest in security and defence for decades, like most of Europe, it lacks the force structure needed to fight and sustain a full-scale war. Even a war fought outside NATO’s area of responsibility.

Act fast. Face up to the war in Ukraine. Prepare for 2040. Those were the messages from industry panellists and experts gathered on Thursday [8 December 2022] to discuss strategic autonomy and defence industrial gaps at the European Defence Agency (EDA) annual conference. 

The war in Ukraine has highlighted our capability shortfalls,” said Jean-Pierre Maulny, Deputy Director, French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS). “The United States has larger stocks of anti-tank missiles and air defence systems. Sometimes we in Europe don’t do more because we cannot do more,” he told the panel.

In the search for more self-reliance, Tuija Karanko, Secretary General, Association of Finnish Defence and Aerospace Industries, reminded the 300 participants in Brussels and the 1,000 registered online viewers that: “all the military people in this room have known about their gaps for many years … We need more of that transparency.”

It is indicative of the situation across Europe and US. That’s why many of the Air Defence systems pledged to Ukraine are presently in production and not being sent directly from available stockpiles.

It is part of the general concern across the Alliance about the fast-depleting stockpiles of missiles, ammunition, and weapons. Ukraine is using ammunition far more quickly than its being produced.

Neither the US nor Europe has been able to substantially ramp up the production of their defence industry 9 years after the war – and 1 year after the full-scale invasion – started.

While Ukraine must live (and die) with the consequences of the enduring lack of Air Defence systems, all of NATO should share the concern. The war has not only reviled a critical Ukrainian capability gap. It has potentially reviled an even bigger one in NATO.

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