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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 536: Ukraine makes ‘tactically significant’ progress – NYT

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 536: Ukraine makes ‘tactically significant’ progress – NYT

Ukraine makes ‘tactically significant’ progress in its counteroffensive – NYT. Explosions on Kerch Bridge. Russians try to seize initiative in Kupiansk direction

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Source: War Mapper.

Daily report day 534 – August 13, 2023

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 13.08.2023, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

Situation in Ukraine. August 12, 2023. Source: ISW.

“On August 12, the Russian occupiers launched 7 missiles and 47 airstrikes, 43 MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements. Unfortunately, the Russian terrorist attacks have killed and wounded civilians. Residential buildings and other civilian infrastructure were damaged.

The likelihood of missiles and airstrikes across Ukraine remains high.

On August 12, there were 39 combat engagements.

  • Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes.
Situation in Ukraine. August 12, 2023. Source: ISW.

 

  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Hur’iv Kozachok (Kharkiv oblast). The invaders fired mortars and artillery at more than 20 settlements, including Klyusy (Chernihiv oblast), Rozhkovychi, Kindrativka, Loknya, Uhroidy, Popivka (Sumy oblast), and Udy, Strilecha, Hlyboke, Okhrimivka, and Budarky (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the areas northeast of Syn’kivka, north of Kyslivka, and southeast of Andriivka (Kharkiv oblast). Russian forces launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Kyslivka and Pershotravneve (Kharkiv oblast). Kup’yans’k, Masyutivka, Kyslivka, and Berestove (Kharkiv oblast) came under artillery and mortar fire from the adversary.
Donetsk Battle Map. August 12, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Lyman axis: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Serebryanka, Sivers’k, Spirne, and Vesele (Donetsk oblast). More than 10 settlements, including Nevske, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Tors’ke, Verkhn’okam’yans’ke, and Spirne (Donetsk oblast), were shelled with artillery.
Bakhmut Battle Map. August 12, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: the adversary attempted offensive operations in the vicinities of Klishchiivka and Bila Hora (Donetsk oblast), to no success. Russian forces launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Blahodatne. More than 15 settlements, including Min’kivka, Markove, Chasiv Yar, Predtechyne, Dyliivka, and Toretsk (Donetsk oblast), suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
  • Avdiivka axis: under heavy fire from enemy aircraft and artillery, the Ukrainian defenders continue to hold back Russian troops’ advance in the vicinity of Avdiivka (Donetsk oblast). Russian forces launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Avdiivka. The invaders fired artillery at more than 10 settlements, including Keramik, Avdiivka, Sjeverne, Netailove, Nevel’s’ke, and Karlivka (Donetsk oblast).
  • Marinka axis: the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to hold back the Russian offensive in the vicinity of the city of Mar’inka (Donetsk oblast). The enemy launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Krasnohorivka (Donetsk oblast). The invaders fired artillery at more than 10 settlements, including Oleksandropil’, Maksymil’yanivka, Pobjeda, Novomykhailivka, and Yelyzavetivka (Donetsk oblast).
  • Shakhtarske axis: the enemy made unsuccessful attempts to regain the lost position in the vicinity of Urozhaine (Donetsk oblast). The invaders fired artillery at around 15 settlements, including Bohoyavlenka, Zolota Nyva, Blahodatne, Staromaiors’ke, Novosilka, and Novopil’ (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. August 12, 2023. Source: ISW.

 

  • Zaporizhzhia axis: Russian forces fired artillery at more than 25 settlements, including Levadne, Ol’hivs’ke, Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Pavlivka, Kam’yans’ke (Zaporizhzhia oblast), and Nikopol’ (Dnipropetrovsk oblast).
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. August 12, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Kherson axis: the enemy artillery shelled more than 25 settlements, including Mykhailivka, Vesele, Ivanivka, Antonivka, Berehove, Veletens’ke (Kherson oblast), Kutsurub, and Ochakiv (Mykolaiv oblast).

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

At the same time, the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to conduct the offensive operation on Melitopol’ and Berdyans’k axes, and have had partial success in the vicinity of Robotyne (Zaporizhzhia oblast). The Ukrainian forces consolidate their positions and conduct counter-battery fire.

With panic growing among the occupiers, the number of desertions is increasing. For example, military patrols and military personnel of the commandant’s office of the Russian occupation forces are going door-to-door in the temporarily occupied settlement of Hornostaivka (Kherson oblast) to search for their deserting servicemen. It is noted that these actions are due to the significant increase in the number of not only deserters but also people among the newly arrived Russian military personnel in the settlement and on the outskirts who use alcohol and drugs. The occupants are leaving their places of service and trying to hide in abandoned buildings.

On August 12, the Ukrainian Air Force During 10 airstrikes on the concentrations of troops, weapons, and military equipment of the adversary.

On August 12, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 1 anti-aircraft missile system, 1 ammunition depot, 1 electronic warfare station, and 3 artillery systems of the adversary at their firing position.“

Ukraine makes ‘tactically significant’ progress in its counteroffensive – NYT, Ukrinform reports, citing The New York Times. “American analysts believe that Ukrainian forces have made somewhat bigger advances along two major lines of attack over the past few months. Military analysts said Ukrainian troops had advanced 10 to 12 miles (16-19 kilometres) along two main lines of attack in Kyiv’s drive to reach the southern coast and sever Russian supply lines.

In the ground war, the Ukrainians are advancing south along two principal lines of attack: through the eastern village of Staromaiorske toward the Russian-occupied city of Berdiansk, a port on the Sea of Azov; and farther west toward the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol, a vital transportation hub near the coast. The amount of territory seized, 10 to 12 miles on both vectors of attack, while relatively small, is important in that it is compelling Moscow to divert forces from other parts of the front line, military analysts say, the article reads.

The Institute for the Study of War called the advances tactically significant, saying Moscow’s redeployment would most likely further weaken Russian defensive lines in aggregate, creating opportunities for any Ukrainian breakthrough to be potentially decisive.

In the Berdiansk sector, Ukraine has consolidated gains around the ruined village of Staromaiorske, which it recaptured in late July, and appears to be pushing toward the Russian stronghold of Urozhaine, according to the Ukrainian military and military analysts. […]

According to the article, Ukraine has devoted thousands of soldiers, including some of its most experienced and battle-hardened marines, and armour to the campaign drive south down the Mokri Yaly River Valley. If they can manage to push through or around Urozhaine, that will put them within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the two major port cities of Berdiansk and Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. And with each mile they advance, the Ukrainian forces put more pressure on the Russian supply lines, The New York Times wrote.”

Ukrainian forces recapture some territories in Tavria direction, Ukrinform reports, citing the commander of the Tavria operational-strategic group of troops, General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi. “The Defense Forces of Ukraine recaptured some territories in the Tavria direction. […] According to the commander, throughout the day, the artillery units of the Defense Forces performed 1,303 fire missions in the indicated direction.

The Russian army lost 242 soldiers: 80 occupiers were killed, 160 wounded, and two captured. In the past day, the Ukrainian defenders destroyed three enemy ammunition depots and seven units of the invaders’ military equipment in the Tavria direction: a tank, two combat armored vehicles, two units of artillery systems and mortars, one motor vehicle, and one unit of special equipment. As reported by Ukrinform, the Ukrainian defenders achieved partial success in Robotyne area of Zaporizhzhia region.

Russians try to seize initiative in Kupiansk direction, Ukrinform reports. “Serhiy Cherevaty, the spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, has stated that the Russians try to escalate the situation and seize the initiative in Kupiansk direction. […] Over the past day, in particular, the main offensive actions took place in the area of Ivanivka and Synkivka. The enemy tried to attack our positions eight times, struck 328 times with all types and calibres of artillery – from mortars to MLRS, carried out 10 air raids by combat helicopters and attack aircraft. While repelling enemy attacks, 69 occupiers were killed, 97 were wounded, two T-72 tanks, three armoured vehicles were hit; a D-30 howitzer, a mortar, two ZALA enemy drones, and one command and observation post were destroyed, Cherevaty said.

When asked what the information about the involvement of reserves by the Russians in Kupiansk direction indicates, the spokesman said: This shows that they cannot make any significant progress there for a long time […]. This shows that competent defence has been built there. […] They want, first, to make our forces and means withdraw from Bakhmut direction and, second, to show at least some small intermediate result on the eve of the anniversary of the Kharkiv operation which humiliated them. But nothing will work.

The spokesman noted that the main task for the Russian occupiers remained the same. They sought to capture the entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions. And Kupiansk is a certain point that they absolutely did not expect to lose last year; the point from which we knocked them out, and the point of some humiliation, shall we say. They would like to at least bring it back as some kind of achievement and present it as some kind of military trophy. […].”

On afternoon of August 12, explosions rang out near Kerch Bridge, Censor.net reports, citing the National Resistance Centre on Telegram. “On 12 August, two explosions occurred near the Kerch Bridge. The occupiers immediately put up a smoke screen, but the photos show black smoke from the explosions along with the white smoke. 

It is loud again in the area of the Crimean Bridge. Eyewitnesses report two powerful explosions on the bridge in different places, the statement said. It is noted that traffic on the bridge is blocked. The occupiers immediately put up a smoke screen of white smoke, but the photos also show black smoke from the explosions.”

Explosions sound near Crimean bridge for second time in one day, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Krym.Realii; Meduza; Mash. “Explosions have been heard for the second time in a day in the vicinity of the Kerch (Crimean) bridge in occupied Crimea. Radio Svoboda (Liberty) reported on new explosions in the city of Kerch. Local residents reported eight explosions.

Traffic on the bridge has been blocked again, and the Russians report that air defence is operating. The occupiers also report on a “smokescreen” being laid down near the bridge. Sergey Aksyonov, the so-called “head” of Crimea, reported that a missile was downed – this time just one.”

On the night of August 12, 2023, the enemy attacked from the south-eastern direction with five attack UAVs of the “Shahed” type, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “Three “shaheds” were destroyed by anti-aircraft defence within Zaporizhzhia region.”

Naval drones [attack] enemy ship in Black Sea, Censor.net reports, citing the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine. “The Defense Intelligence of Ukraine showed footage of Ukrainian naval drones [attacking] occupier’s vessel[s] in the Black Sea. The video shows episodes from the hunt of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine for all kinds of Russian occupation prey in our Black Sea! the statement reads.”

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

British Intelligence Map.
  • The Wagner Group is likely moving towards a down-sizing and reconfiguration process, largely to save on staff salary expenses at a time of financial pressure.
  • Since the abortive mutiny of June 2023, the Russian state has acted against some other business interests of Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin. There is a realistic possibility that the Kremlin no longer funds the group.
  • If the Russian state no longer pays Wagner, the second most plausible paymasters are the Belarusian authorities.
  • However, the sizable force would be a significant and potentially unwelcome drain on modest Belarusian resources.
  • Russia has likely redeployed airborne forces’ (VDV) units from the Kherson region to the heavily contested Orikiv sector in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. The 58th Combined Arms Army (58 CAA) has been in combat facing Ukrainian assaults since 4 June 2023.
  • As early as 11 July 2023, the then commander of 58 CAA was sacked, likely partially because of his insistence that elements of his force needed to be relieved.
  • Reports suggest that the 70th and 71st Motor Rifle Regiments have faced particularly intense attrition and heavy combat on the front line. There is a realistic possibility that the arrival of VDV will finally allow elements of these regiments to be pulled out for rest and recovery. However, the redeployment will likely leave Russia’s defences near the east bank of the Dnipro River weaker, where they are increasingly harassed by Ukrainian amphibious raids.

Losses of the Russian Army

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

As of Sunday 13 August, 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 253850 (+560)
  • Tanks – 4298 (+3)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 8335 (+11)
  • Artillery systems – 5072 (+19)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 713 (+0)
  • Air defence means – 477 (+5)
  • Aircraft – 315 (+0) 
  • Helicopters – 313 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 7543 (+20)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 4204 (+3)
  • Special equipment – 760 (+1)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1379 (+0)

Ihnat: Ukrainian air defence forces shoot down 13 Kinzhal, more than 20 Iskander missiles, Ukrinform reports. “As for yesterday’s [August 11, 2023] attack by the Russians, Kh-47 Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missiles were launched, one of which was shot down in Kyiv region. These missiles can be shot down with air defence systems capable of working against ballistic missiles. Ukraine does not have many such systems, but we have the result still. Not one Kinzhal has already been destroyed by the air defence forces of Ukraine. On May 16 – six missiles were downed, on June 16 – also six, and now we have one more. That is, Ukraine’s air defence forces have already downed 13 Kinzhal missiles. In addition, more than 20 ballistic missiles were shot down, including Iskander and S-400 missiles. Given that Kinzhal is moving in the sky at a huge speed, more than 7,000 km per hour, there is not much time to eliminate it, Yuriy Ihnat, the spokesman for the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, told the Ukrainian Radio in a comment.

According to him, every month the Russians produce about 100 missiles of various types, including Kh-47 Kinzhal missiles. Although the enemy has a relatively small supply of Kinzhals.

He also noted that the enemy always targeted infrastructure facilities and military objects, and yesterday’s attack proved that the enemy had relevant information and used it.“

Humanitarian

Ukraine starts registering ships for Black Sea corridor – agency, Reuters reports. “Ukraine, which is seeking to form safe shipping routes in the Black Sea, has started registering ships willing to use the corridor it announced earlier this week, a local news agency said on Saturday. Ukraine on Thursday announced a “humanitarian corridor” in the Black Sea to release cargo ships that have been trapped in its ports since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. The corridor is a new test of Russia’s de facto blockade since Moscow abandoned a deal last month to let Kyiv export grain.

Registration is now open and the coordinator is already working, Interfax Ukraine quoted Ukrainian Navy spokesman Dmytro Pletenchuk as saying. He gave no more details while an industry source told Reuters on Friday that no ships had yet passed through the corridor. Of course, everything will take place under the supervision of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. We are doing everything we can to ensure security, Pletenchuk said.

Russia has not indicated whether it would respect the shipping corridor, and shipping and insurance sources have expressed concerns about safety. At least initially, the route would apply to vessels such as container ships that have been stuck in Ukrainian ports since the [full-scale] war began and were not covered by the deal that opened the ports for grain shipments last year.”

Environmental

Ukrainian sappers neutralize almost 2,000 explosives in one week, Ukrinform reports, citing First Deputy Minister of Defense, Lieutenant General Oleksandr Pavliuk. “From August 5 to 11, Ukrainian sappers neutralized 1,919 explosive devices in the territories of Ukraine liberated from the Russian invaders. Demining teams of the units of the State Special Transport Service of the Ministry of Defense and the Support Forces Command of the Armed Forces continue to clear the communities of Mykolaiv, Kherson, Kharkiv and other liberated regions of explosive objects, Pavliuk said.

According to him, over the past week, specialists of the Support Forces Command and the State Special Transport Service examined and cleared 1,522.7 hectares of territories, 76.6 hectares of agricultural land and 1.77 km of motor roads. […] A total of 196,962 explosive objects were found and destroyed by demining teams as part of the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the State Special Transport Service.”

Zelensky thanks demining units for cleaning territories from traces of Russian terror, Ukrinform repots, citing President Zelensky in his video address to the nation. “In the past day, 133 demining units worked across the country, most of them in Kherson, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions. […] The Head of State reminded that currently about 174,000 square kilometres of Ukraine’s territory are potentially dangerous due to mines and unexploded ammunition.

Ukraine also needs equipment from partners, and it is very important to create a production base in Ukraine so that we can clear our land of Russian mines. And this task should be completed not in decades, but in years, Zelensky said.”

New wave of brutal sweeps and checks in Mariupol. Civilians go missing, Ukrinform reports. “A new wave of brutal sweeps and checks. This time, the outskirts and the private residential sector are a priority. Checks, searches, undressing. People go missing again,” Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the Mariupol city mayor, posted on Telegram. According to him, such checks in the city intensified after a regular rotation of the Russian Guard.

As reported, Russia’s aggression caused one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in Mariupol. The city is almost 90% destroyed as a result of enemy shelling, there is still no normal supply of electricity, water, or gas. The enemy turns Mariupol and surrounding villages into a military-logistics hub.”

Zelensky: All enlistment office chiefs to be dismissed in Ukraine, The Kyiv Independent reports. “President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Aug. 11 that the heads of all regional military enlistment offices across Ukraine would be dismissed. The decision comes after a nationwide inspection of Ukraine’s recruitment offices revealed multiple violations, including corruption, power abuse, and fraud.

The fired enlistment chiefs will be replaced with officers who have had battlefield experience after they undergo an inspection by the Security Service. This system should be run by people who know exactly what war is and why cynicism and bribery in wartime is treason, Zelensky said in a video address. The decision was approved at an Aug. 11 meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, will be responsible for its implementation.

Ukrainian authorities began the nationwide inspection of military recruitment offices in late June after journalists discovered that the family of Yevhen Borysov, the former head of the Odesa Oblast military enlistment office, had purchased property worth $4.5 million in Spain during the full-scale war. According to Zelensky, a total of 112 criminal cases have been opened against Ukrainian enlistment officials, and 33 people have been charged. Zelensky assured that every enlistment officer would be held responsible if proven guilty.”

Support

White House open to training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 in US, Reuters reports. “The White House on Friday said it was open to training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets in the United States if capacity for such training is reached in Europe. White House spokesperson John Kirby, speaking to reporters, said Washington is eager to move forward with the training.”

We will not hesitate to go to Congress again – White House on additional funds for Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House, quoted by Ukrinform. “If necessary, the White House will again ask Congress for additional funds to further support Ukraine. Kirby said that it is not known how long the war unleashed by Russia will last, so it would be irresponsible not to do everything possible to assess Ukraine’s needs in the first quarter of the next fiscal year [after 30 September 2023 – ed.] and submit a request to Congress.

Commenting on the size of the new package for Ukraine of more than US$20 billion, which the US administration has addressed to MPs, Kirby stressed that this amount is based on careful calculations. However, if this proves to be insufficient, the government will make efforts to obtain additional funding. We will not hesitate to go to Congress again if we feel we need to do so and ask for more after the first quarter, or if we need to make changes to what we have already demanded.

The US President Joe Biden’s administration has submitted a request to Congress to allocate more than US$22 billion in support of Ukraine by the end of the year.”

Washington Post: Ukrainian pilots to complete F-16 training no earlier than next summer, The Kyiv Independent reports. “The first Ukrainian pilots to undergo F-16 jet fighter training will not be ready to fly them until summer 2024, the Washington Post reported on Aug. 11, citing Ukrainian government and military officials. Only six pilots, which is about half a squadron, will undergo the first round of training, two unnamed Ukrainian officials reportedly said. Two more pilots have been identified as reserve candidates, the Washington Post reported.

Though fluent in English, the pilots must first undergo four months of English lessons in the U.K. to learn the terminology needed to fly the jets. This means that the combat training itself is expected to start only in January 2024, the Washington Post reported. A second group roughly the same size would be ready around the end of the next year, the outlet said. Additionally, 20 more pilots with minimal English skills are reportedly available to start language instruction in the U.K. within the month.

According to the Washington Post, the delays highlight the division between the West, which sees F-16s mainly as a tool for Ukraine’s long-term security, and Kyiv, which hopes to deploy the modern jets against Russian forces as soon as possible.”

Germany in talks to send Taurus missiles to Ukraine, DW reports. “The German government is in talks with arms manufacturer MBDA regarding alterations to the programming of Taurus cruise missiles before their potential delivery to Ukraine, a source told Reuters news agency on Friday, confirming an earlier report by Germany’s Der Spiegel newsmagazine.

Kyiv has been pushing Berlin to supply it with the Taurus, a cruise missile with a range of more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) that is launched by fighter jets such as the Tornado, the F-15 or the F-18. While the UK and France have sent Storm Shadow and Scalp cruise missiles to Ukraine, Germany has been reluctant amid concerns that the weapon could be used on targets in Russia. The United States has also refrained from sending its Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to Ukraine.

Following the reports on Friday, a German government spokesperson said there was no new information on the status of potential Taurus missile deliveries to Ukraine. Germany is focusing on heavy artillery, armored vehicles and air defense systems. There is no new information on the Taurus cruise missile, said the spokesperson.

According to Der Spiegel, the German Defense Ministry has asked Taurus’ manufacturer to integrate programming restrictions on possible targets into long-range cruise missiles. With these changes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz aims to avoid the possibility of Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory, the publication reported. […]

Russia warned France and Germany in June that sending cruise missiles to Ukraine would lead to a further round of “spiraling tension” in Russia’s war in Ukraine. […] The German military has some 600 Taurus missiles in its inventories, with around 150 ready for use, according to media reports. The Spanish and South Korean militaries also operate the Taurus.”

German MP slams Scholz for lack of trust in Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office is working in Putin’s favour by constantly delaying the supply of much-needed weapons to Ukraine. Roderich Kiesewetter, a member of the Bundestag from the opposition Christian Democratic Union, said this in an interview with the n-tv channel. This is an extreme war of attrition caused by hesitation in support. Maybe even especially from Germany, the politician said. He noted that Ukrainian soldiers are fighting in an environment in which the Bundestag would never send the German military: no air superiority, extreme shortage of ammunition, difficult supply of spare parts, and problems with personnel rotation.

Kiesewetter recalled that his country had handed over only 16 Leopard tanks to Ukraine. At the same time, Germany refused to participate in a “fighter jets coalition,” although it could have provided about 30-40 of its Eurofighters that will soon be phased out. And now, due to a lack of political will, Germany is still delaying the transfer of Taurus cruise missiles.

Germany should have produced ammunition on a massive scale over the winter. The British have suggested an eightfold increase in their ammunition production. The Germans didn’t do anything. This allowed the Russians to dig in deep. […] If Ukraine had received Western fighter jets early on, the [Russian] defense could have been destroyed long ago, the politician said. […]

According to the MP, one gets the impression that some countries, including Germany, are more concerned that Russia will be exhausted without being defeated – and for this, they are ready to accept the defeat of Ukraine. At the same time, Kiesewetter pointed to two basic wrong assumptions that prevail in the German chancellor’s office: little trust in Kyiv and lack of recognition that Ukraine is preventing the war from spreading and thereby defending freedom in Europe.

It is important to trust Ukraine. Instead, it is said that one does not know whether the Ukrainians will attack Russian territory. However, this is permitted under international law as long as it is proportionate, and no civilian targets are being attacked. It makes strategic sense and is politically correct to attack facilities in Russia that contribute to the war, the MP said. […]

Putin’s goal is not only the incorporation of Ukraine and Belarus (which has actually already happened), but also of the Baltic States and Moldova,” the politician warned, urging not to trust Russia, which is interested in a temporary truce in order to accumulate forces and launch a new attack. The politician concluded that Ukraine must completely liberate its territory within 1991 borders, and its partners must provide the country with everything it needs to achieve this goal.”

Ukraine’s Ambassador to US reports on negotiations on supply of ATACMS to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing LB.ua. “Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States, said that negotiations with American partners in regard to providing Ukraine with ATACMS long-range missiles are ongoing. […] The ambassador expressed hope that Ukraine will receive this long-range weapon in the near future.

The priority in providing weapons from the United States remains air defence, Markarova noted. Now the only limitation is the physical presence of the necessary installations. Obviously, the more systems (Patriot, NASAMS, IRIS-T) and the corresponding missiles we have, the more protected our citizens and cities will be. That is why in every American defence assistance package we have ammunition for air defence systems. We are actively working to ensure that the United States constantly orders these systems and components for us, the ambassador explained. Other priorities are artillery, assault aircraft, armoured vehicles, and mine clearing vehicles.

ATACMS tactical missile systems are surface-to-surface missiles with a range of about 300 kilometres, about four times larger than the missiles used by the mobile HIMARS systems the US began sending to Ukraine last year.”

EU reveals how many artillery shells were delivered to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing DW, quoting EU spokesman Peter Stano. “[EU – ed.] Member states have delivered around 223,800 artillery ammunition – long-range self-propelled, precision-guided [munitions] as well as mortar [munitions] – and 2,300 missiles of all types, Stano said.

In the spring, EU member states promised to increase the supply of artillery shells to Ukraine, as Ukrainian forces faced a shortage of badly needed ammunition. The countries agreed on a plan worth EUR 2 billion, which provided for the supply of ammunition from their stocks and the placement of joint orders for the production of shells. The goal was to transfer a million of ammunition shells to Ukraine within 12 months.

In July, the EU put into force the plan to expand the production of ammunition and missiles in connection with the need to replenish stocks.”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: As of 18 July 2023, the US has delivered over 2 million 155mm artillery rounds to Ukraine. Mortar rounds is not included. Recognising that both the US and NATO grapple with critical ammo shortage for Ukraine because of failure to ramp up production and mobilise their Defence Industries when the war started 20 February 2014 (3462 days ago), the US has still delivered about 10 times more ammunition than the EU member states. That is an indication of highly different level of readiness and industrial capacity. Europe will be facing huge problems re-establishing a credible deterrence.

New developments

  1. Russia vows retaliation for Ukraine’s ‘terrorist attack’ on Crimean Bridge, Reuters reports. “Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned on Saturday what it called Ukraine’s “terrorist attack” on the Crimean Bridge, saying it put innocent civilians’ lives at risk, and vowed retaliation. […] Earlier, Russia’s Defence Ministry said its forces had thwarted a Ukrainian rocket attack on the 12-mile (19 km) bridge, which links Russian-annexed Crimea to Russia across the Kerch Strait.”
  2. “The longer the range of the missile, the shorter the war”: Kuleba on the supply of Taurus and ATACMS to Ukraine, TCH reports. “Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, assured international partners that Ukraine will use long-range missiles “Taurus” and “ATACMS” exclusively within its own borders. […] “Long-range missiles are of crucial importance. That’s why Taurus and ATACMS are essential for Ukraine’s success, and we urge our partners to provide them as soon as possible. Both types of missiles will be used exclusively within our borders. The longer the missile’s flight range, the shorter the conflict, Kuleba wrote.
  3. Erdogan and Putin may meet at end of August or beginning of September, – mass media, Censor.net reports, citing A Haber. “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may meet with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in late August or early September this year. According to the publication, the Turkish president is waiting for Putin’s visit to Türkiye, but sources do not rule out Erdoğan’s trip to Russia. At the same time, the exact date of the meeting between the two leaders is not mentioned. It will probably take place at the end of August or the beginning of September.” 
  4. Head of Presidential Office says Ukraine starts talks with UK on security guarantees, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Andrii Yermak, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, quoted by European Pravda. “On Friday 11 August, Ukraine began bilateral consultations on security guarantees with the United Kingdom. Indeed, after our American colleagues, we started [consultations – ed.] with our friends and partners from the UK. This country is one of our main and strategic partners in terms of key assistance. Yermak noted that 13 countries have already joined the G7 declaration on security guarantees for Ukraine. At the same time, he pointed out that Ukraine had started bilateral consultations on guarantees with the United States. Yermak stated that the current goal is to have the first bilateral agreements with countries that will provide security guarantees to Ukraine by the end of the year.”
  5. Greece joins G7 declaration on security guarantees for Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing President Zelenskyy on Telegram. “Greece has become the 14th country to join the G7 declaration of support for Ukraine, which is to serve as a framework document for future security guarantees.”
  6. Polish Defence Ministry: Provocations on Belarisian border to be repeated, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing PAP. “Mariusz Błaszczak, Minister of National Defence of Poland, does not doubt that provocations on the Belarusian border will be repeated but he assures that the troops are ready for various scenarios. The deployment of the Wagner fighters to Belarus poses a serious security challenge. Especially in the context of Belarusian-Russian hybrid attacks on our border, the Minister of National Defence of Poland said. Błaszczak said this issue was widely discussed at the NATO Summit in Vilnius. Our position is clear – NATO and its allies are ready to respond to any aggression immediately, he emphasised.

Assessment

  1. On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Saturday 12 August:

(quote) Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Kupiansk area but did not make any confirmed gains on August 12. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations northeast of Synkivka (9km northeast of Kupiansk), north of Kyslivka (22km southwest of Kupiansk), and near Ivanivka (20km southeast of Kupiansk). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty stated that Russian offensive operations in the Kupiansk direction aim to draw Ukrainian forces from the Bakhmut direction, supporting ISW’s previous assessment that intensified Russian offensive operations in the area hope to draw Ukrainian forces away from more operationally significant areas of the front. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported that elements of the Russian Western Grouping of Forces improved their tactical positions in unspecified areas in the Kupiansk direction.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted unsuccessful counterattacks northeast of Kupiansk on August 12. The Russian MoD claimed that elements of the Russian Western Grouping of Forces repelled Ukrainian counterattacks near Pershotravneve (21km east of Kupiansk), Synkivka, and the Mankivka tract (around 15km east of Kupiansk).

Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line on August 12 but did not advance. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations southeast of Andriivka (15km west of Svatove). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces seized the initiative near Karmazynivka (13km southwest of Svatove) and conducted assaults near Nadiya (15km west of Svatove). Another milblogger claimed that Russian forces made unspecified advances near Torske (15km west of Kreminna).

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted unsuccessful ground attacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line on August 12. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian assaults near Novoselivske (15km north of Svatove), Serhiivka (12km southwest of Svatove), and in the Serebryanske forest area south of Kreminna.

Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted offensive operations around Bakhmut on August 12, but did not make any confirmed or claimed advances. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and other Russian sources claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Yakovlivka (14km northeast of Bakhmut), Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut), and Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut). A Russian news aggregator claimed that Russian forces continue to repel Ukrainian attacks from the heights around Klishchiivka despite Russian forces defending lowland positions in the settlement. Russian sources claimed that the area west of Klishchiivka is contested and that intense fighting is ongoing. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Force Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty stated that Ukrainian forces continue to hold the initiative around Bakhmut.

Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks around Bakhmut but did not make any confirmed advances on August 12. A Russian news aggregator claimed that Russian forces counterattacked near Klishchiivka and are gradually advancing. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Bohdanivka (8km northwest of Bakhmut), Klishchiivka, and Bila Hora (12km southwest of Bakhmut).

The Russian MoD claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted unsuccessful limited ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on August 12. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Vodyane (7km southwest of Avdiivka), Krasnohorivka (14km southwest of Donetsk City), and Nevelske (13km southwest of Avdiivka).

Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on August 12, but did not make any confirmed or claimed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks near Avdiivka and Marinka (on the southwestern outskirts of Donetsk City).

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area on August 12 and reportedly made tactically significant advances. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces abandoned their positions in Urozhaine on August 12 after days of intense fighting and several statements earlier in the day that Russian forces were struggling to hold their positions in the settlement, but ISW cannot independently confirm these reports at this time. Geolocated footage published on August 11 shows that Ukrainian forces made marginal gains near Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka). Russian sources claimed that Russian forces pushed Ukrainian forces out of Urozhaine on the night of August 11–12 after Ukrainian forces briefly took control of the northern part of the settlement earlier in the day on August 11. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed early on August 12 that elements of the Russian Eastern Grouping of Forces repelled two Ukrainian attacks near Urozhaine.

Several Russian sources reported Ukrainian advances and difficult fighting in Urozhaine prior to the late-breaking unconfirmed reports of a Russian withdrawal from the settlement. The “Vostok” volunteer battalion, which is allegedly defending in the Urozhaine area, stated early on August 12 that Russian forces were losing their positions in the settlement and that the Russian loss of the entire settlement was likely. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces entered the northern part of Urozhaine earlier on August 12, and that fierce fighting is ongoing in the area. A Russan milblogger claimed that Russian forces were struggling to hold positions in Urozhaine due to Ukrainian fire from three sides. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces repelled a small Ukrainian attack near Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) and that elements of the 127th Motorized Rifle Division (5th Combined Arms Army, Eastern Military District) destroyed a Ukrainian sabotage group north of Pryyutne (16km southwest of Velyka Novosilka).

Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area but did not make any claimed or confirmed advances on August 12. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Urozhaine.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and did not make any confirmed advances on August 12. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhzhia Oblast) direction. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled three Ukrainian attacks near Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv). A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian infantry groups attacked Robotyne but did not specify the outcome of those attacks. Another milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces achieved partial success near the settlement. Elements of a volunteer battalion from North Ossetia-Alania reportedly defending near Pyatykhatky (25km southwest of Orikhiv) and Zherebyanky (26km southwest of Orikhiv) claimed that there is active fighting in the area. Another milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted unsuccessful attacks near Zherebyanky.

Russian milbloggers acknowledged that Ukrainian forces are maintaining a presence on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast in contrast to previous Ukrainian raids, but ISW does not yet assess that these positions constitute a bridgehead. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed on the evening of August 11 that Ukrainian forces have established positions west of Kozachi Laheri after several days of limited raids across the Dnipro River. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups continue to operate west of Kozachi Laheri, but that the settlement itself is still under Russian control. The milbloggers also claimed that Ukrainian reconnaissance groups continue to operate near the Antonivsky Bridge and in the Hola Prystan area and conduct raids across the Dnipro River. Continuing Russian claims that Ukrainian forces maintain a presence on the east bank of the Dnipro River suggest that Russian forces are concerned that Ukrainian forces have established semi-lasting positions across the river. Russian sources continue to describe Ukrainian groups operating on the left bank as small in size and fighting to be primarily between light infantry units. No Russian sources have indicated that Ukrainian forces on the left bank have the heavy equipment or vehicles likely required to establish a bridgehead that would be necessary to enable wider offensive operations into left bank Kherson Oblast. An effective Russian mechanized counterattack could threaten this Ukrainian advance position, but it is unclear if Russian forces possess the mechanized reserves necessary to do so. ISW will continue to offer a conservative assessment of the situation on the east bank of Kherson Oblast until or unless ISW observes visual confirmation of an enduring Ukrainian presence on the east bank of Kherson Oblast. ISW has not yet observed visual evidence that Ukrainian forces have established a permanent position or have deployed a substantial number of personnel near Kozachi Laheri.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least two sectors of the front on August 12 and reportedly made tactically significant advances along the administrative border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhzhia Oblast) and Berdiansk (Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk Oblast border area) directions. Geolocated footage published on August 11 indicates that Ukrainian forces made marginal gains near Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) in the Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk Oblast border area. Russian milbloggers claimed late on August 12 that Russian forces abandoned their positions in Urozhaine after days of intense fighting, although ISW has not yet observed visual confirmation of these claims.

The “Vostok” volunteer battalion, which is allegedly defending in the Urozhaine area, had earlier expressed concern that Russian forces would lose Urozhaine if the Russian military does not fix persistent issues with Russian counterbattery capabilities. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces are effectively using electronic warfare systems to disrupt Russian communications in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and retain large artillery and precision munitions stocks to support interdiction efforts against Russian forces there. The milblogger also claimed that Ukrainian forces have significantly reduced the time between target identification and strikes on Russian targets with HIMARS rockets, warning that Russian forces need to move farther than 10km from the frontline in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast to be safe from Ukrainian strikes.

Ukrainian forces reportedly launched two missile strikes targeting the Kerch Strait Bridge and a drone attack targeting occupied Crimea on August 12. Russian authorities claimed that Russian air defenses downed up to three Ukrainian ground attack missiles fired from S-200 systems targeting the Kerch Strait Bridge. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) also reported Ukrainian forces targeted occupied Crimea with 20 drones on the night of August 11­–12. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian air defenses shot down 14 Ukrainian drones and downed another 6 drones with electronic warfare (EW) systems. A Kremlin-affiliated Russian milblogger claimed that Russian air defense units of the 31st Air Defense Division shot down one of the Ukrainian missiles near Kerch in occupied Crimea. Russian sources claimed that Russian authorities stopped traffic on the bridge for several hours following the Ukrainian missile and drone strikes, creating a traffic jam of almost 1,300 cars. Russian sources claimed that Crimean occupation authorities are initiating tougher criminal liability for publishing photos and videos showing locations of military installations such as air defenses, likely in response to a photo posted today showing the location of a Russian air defense system in occupied Crimea. Ukrainian strikes targeting Russian logistics in Crimea are a part of a deliberate interdiction campaign aimed at setting favorable conditions for larger counteroffensive operations. Previous Ukrainian strikes on bridges along Russian ground lines of communications (GLOCs) between occupied Crimea and occupied Kherson Oblast continue to disrupt Russian logistics.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian milbloggers acknowledged that Ukrainian forces are maintaining a presence on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast in contrast to previous Ukrainian raids, but ISW does not yet assess that these positions constitute a bridgehead.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least two sectors of the front on August 12 and reportedly made tactically significant advances along the administrative border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts.
  • Ukrainian forces reportedly launched two missile strikes targeting the Kerch Strait Bridge and a drone attack targeting occupied Crimea on August 12.
  • Russian forces conducted counteroffensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area on August 12 and made no confirmed gains.
  • The Russian Ministry of Digital Development is preparing an amendment to the law on the conscription age that would increase the military service deferment age for IT specialists from 27 years to 30 years, likely in response to concerns about “brain drain” from Russia.
  • Russian authorities are reportedly adjusting propaganda language about the war aimed at Russian schoolchildren in Russia and occupied Ukraine.“ (unquote)

Ukrainian morgues seeing ‘more or less double’ the fatalities since counter-offensive began, Insider reports. “Nederst i skjemaet

The Ukrainian summer counteroffensive began in June, and, despite Western allies supplying advanced tanks and weaponry, the country’s recent moves against Russian combatants have resulted in only modest gains — and heavy casualties. The New York Times reported morgues in the country are seeing vastly increased fatalities due to the heightened fighting. There are many more bodies at the moment, the outlet reported Taras Svystun, a soldier on a six-man crew responsible for recovering and identifying deceased servicemen, said. The total dead in the local morgues is more or less double since the counteroffensive started, added.

Though Ukraine doesn’t publicly share the total number of casualties it has sustained, Insider reported General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated in February that Ukraine had lost more than 100,000 soldiers since the war began last year. […] Insider previously reported that Ukrainian troops are taking heavy damage from old-fashioned wartime tactics, including mines and booby traps, high-tech drone attacks, and advanced weapons systems.

While the US and other allies have provided formidable battle tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, and massive amounts of ammunition, Insider reported the modest gains won so far in the summer counteroffensive have prompted Ukrainian troops to abandon Western tactics and strategies in favor of wearing the enemy down with barrages of missiles.

Seth Jones, the director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, International Security Program, previously told Insider that, while it remains unclear how the Russian invasion of Ukraine will continue to unfold, the war could drag on without a cease-fire for years.”

Defence forces achieve tactically significant success in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing ISW. “Analysts note that Ukrainian forces have made tactically significant gains in the western part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast as counteroffensive operations continued in at least three frontline areas on 11 August. Geolocation data released on 11 August confirms that Ukrainian forces have reached the northern outskirts of Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, although the permanence and extent of these positions are unclear.

The ISW recalls that Ukrainian forces have been conducting regular ground attacks towards the settlement of Robotyne for several weeks now as part of operations aimed at weakening Russian defences. According to the report, the ability of the Defence Forces to advance to the outskirts of Robotyne, which Russian forces have spent considerable effort, time and resources defending, remains significant, even if Ukrainian gains to date have been limited. Geolocation footage released on 11 August shows that Ukrainian forces have advanced to Urozhaine (9 km south of Velyka Novosilka) along the border of Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.

According to the experts, Ukrainian counteroffensive operations seem to be forcing the Russian military to laterally redeploy Russian forces defending the western part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast. This indicates that Ukrainian efforts there could significantly weaken Russian defences. The ISW also points out that Russia’s practice of conducting lateral redeployments in key areas of the front is likely to further weaken Russian defensive lines in general, as operations on both sides entrench Russian units in certain areas of the front.

These lateral reinforcements are likely to disrupt Russian offensive and defensive operations in the sectors from which they come and threaten to rapidly degrade the forces that the Russian military uses as reinforcements. Furthermore, it is noted that Russia does not currently appear to have significant available forces that it could bring in for reinforcements without jeopardising other sectors of the front.

Ukrainian counteroffensive operations have drawn elite Russian formations and units to the Bakhmut area and continue to hold them there. Russian forces have also deployed significant numbers of troops for localised offensives in the area of Kupiansk and Svatove, which are also aimed at drawing Ukrainian troops away from the areas of Ukrainian counteroffensive operations. Even if the Russian command determines to end localised offensive pushes in these areas it would likely take some time for Russian forces to lower the tempo of their operations and withdraw forces for lateral redeployments without opening up areas of the front to successful Ukrainian counterattacks. 

The limited Russian lateral redeployment of elements of the 7th VDV Division from the left bank of Kherson Oblast in June appears to have set conditions that allowed Ukrainian forces to more freely operate in the area, and Ukrainian forces will likely similarly exploit weakened Russian groupings in other areas of the front where they are actively conducting offensive operations in the event of further Russian movements, the review says.

On the other hand, analysts say, Ukrainian troops have reserves that allow them to rotate units instead of relying on redeploying units engaged in defensive and offensive operations to other parts of the front without rest. In the ISW’s opinion, Ukrainian forces are likely to be able to maintain the necessary combat capability required to continue to degrade Russian forces defending themselves in the southern part of Ukraine and the Bakhmut area, while also holding back Russian advances along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.

And the lateral redeployment of Russian troops is likely to increase the likelihood that the Russians will be forced to retreat to prepared defensive positions without significant support in the event of a Ukrainian breakthrough. The further degradation of defending Russian forces thus creates opportunities for any Ukrainian breakthrough to be potentially decisive, the experts conclude.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

ME: On 10 August, President Biden asked Congress for more than $24 billion for Ukraine for Fiscal Year 2024 (starting 1 October 2023). The request included more than $13 billion in security assistance and $7.3 billion for economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. A year ago, the White House asked for $11.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress to provide lethal aid and budget support to Ukraine.

John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House, stressed that the amount is based on careful calculations but that if it proves to be insufficient, the White House will not hesitate to ask Congress for more.

The funding request might indicate that the US is not about to donate F-16s to Ukraine.

On 25 May, General Milley said that the F-16 fighters would not be able to provide air defence as Russia maintains a significant superiority in the air (ignoring the fact that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are already providing some air control and air defence with their ageing Soviet legacy combat aircraft). He argued that:

“…the F-16: the plane itself costs a billion dollars, its maintenance costs another billion dollars. That is, one plane costs two billion dollars. The Russians have thousands of fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets. Therefore, in order to oppose them in the air, a significant number of fourth- and fifth-generation fighters are needed.”

The price tag is at best highly inaccurate.

Colin Kahl, the former undersecretary of defence for policy, said F-16s would cost too much. “We don’t see F-16s as the top priority right now,” Kahl said on 28 Feb. 2023 at a House Armed Services Committee hearingProviding F-16s could take three to six years for new aircraft and cost up to $11 billion to equip Ukraine, Kahl said. But he also acknowledged that older, used F-16s could be provided for as little as $2 billion, and fielded in as little as 18-24 months.

Kahl said Ukraine requested as many as 128 fourth-generation aircraft, a mix of F-15s, F/A-18s, and F-16s. The US Air Force, however, estimate Ukraine’s requirements to be 50-80 F-16s. Such a force would cost $10-11 billion, according to Khan ($2-3 billion short of President Biden’s request for funds for the first quarter of FY-2024).

Both General Milley and Colin Kahl expressed a long-term US ambition: Half a year ago the US remained committed to providing Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) only despite the obvious lack of availability of GBAD in the US and Europe. It saw the replacement of its combat aircraft – all of which have long passed their life expectancy limits – as a long-term commitment.

When the full-scale invasion started, the Ukrainian Air Force was operating about 50 Mikoyan MiG-29s, 30 Sukhoi Su-25s and a couple dozen each Sukhoi Su-27s and Sukhoi Su-24s. It has since lost 69 aircraft and a great number of its most experienced pilots. Some of the planes have been replaced by Western donations.

The loss rate has been greatly reduced this year because of the introduction of long-range weapons. It allows Ukraine to conduct stand-off attacks.

The shift to stand-off attacks—all Ukrainian jets except the Su-25s can fire munitions from beyond the range of most of Russia’s ground-based air defences—greatly has boosted the life expectancy of Ukrainian pilots. After writing off more than 60 jets last year, this year the air force apparently has lost just four MiG-29s, a Su-24, a Su-25 and a Su-27. A rate of loss for 2023 that’s a fifth of what it was in 2022.

On 24 February, President Biden said Ukraine didn’t need F-16s. However, Biden noted that there is no way to know what Ukraine would need in the future.

The US assessments and strategy are greatly at odds with the reality of the battlefield.

The fact is that (1) Ukraine has been defending itself against an enemy with thousands of fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets for 534 days with (2) a decreasing number of Mig-29s, Su-25 and Su-27 way passed their life expectancy. It has (3) lost many of its most experienced pilots as a consequence. Simultaneously – and as recently as illustrated by Russia’s massive missile and drone attacks against Ukrainian ports – Ukraine is also (4) facing a dwindling number of Soviet legacy Air Defence systems as the West (5) finds itself unable to provide sufficient numbers of GBAD systems for (6) lack of availability after three decades of underfinancing, streamlining and downsizing of its force structure.

The Western strategy is not least, at odds with (7) future requirements. Introducing Western combat aircraft – irrespective if they are fourth or fifth-generation – requires time. The Ukrainian Air Force needs to educate, train and exercise pilots, technicians, and support personnel. The required infrastructure capable of surviving Russian assaults must be established. The planes, weapons and spare parts must be produced and/or renovated.

New F-16 versions are still in production. The current Block 70/72 models in production first flew in January. The US Air Force has also 935 F-16C and F-16D jets in its inventory. Even older F-16s are available at the Air Force’s retired boneyard at Davis-Monahan Air Force Base, but it is not known how long it would take to make any of those aircraft flyable as they are in varying conditions, and many have already been cannibalized for parts.

If the West had acted upon the battlefield realities and started the process of transitioning the Ukrainian Air Force to Western-made combat aircraft on 24 February 2022, Ukraine would probably have been operating F-16s today.

Instead, Ukraine is facing 6-8 critical months as it risks losing Air Control over Ukrainian-controlled territories.

Ukraine fears that the first group of six Ukrainian pilots is not expected to complete training on the F-16 before next summer. It will only be able to muster a full squadron of F-16 in the fall of 2024.

The timeline reflects the disconnect between Ukraine’s supporters, who envision F-16s as a key tool in the country’s long-term defence, and Kyiv, which has desperately requested that the jets reach the battle space as soon as possible, viewing them as critical for the current fight against occupying Russian forces.”

In the meantime, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are conducting a counteroffensive to liberate occupied territories. It is executing military operations no NATO member state would endeavour to do for lack of Air Control, Air Support and Air Defence (as well as too few main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery, ammunition and mine clearance equipment).

The West is failing to set up Ukraine for victory, increasing the likelihood of Western intervention.

In the article “Why Ukraine will win in 2023,” I ended 2022 with a positive prediction. I argued that we were seeing trends and processes that might cause a tectonic shift in Western foreign and security policy, including its support for Ukraine. European defence and security policy deliberations, discussions and decisions are undergoing a “maturing process.” Equally important, I argued that the West had gradually come to acknowledge its part in a broader confrontation. Ukrainian efforts are being increasingly recognized as aligned with European values, principles, and interests.

While Ukraine received many weapon systems in 2023 it was previously denied, the “tectonic shift” in Western foreign and security policy has failed to materialise. Ukraine is still fighting an uphill battle – supported by partners governed by fear struggling to mobilise its industrial basis – while defending itself against an enemy willing to do whatever is needed to succeed.

The West might be technologically superior but – lacking political will, guts and strategic understanding – is possibly psychologically inferior to Russia.

The West is pursuing a long-term strategy – a continuation of a strategy that allowed Russia to turn peace into full-scale war – that will allow Russia to pursue a protracted war.

A CNN poll released last week found that 55% of Americans believe Congress should not authorize additional funding to support Ukraine. Only 45% said Congress should authorize such funding. 51% said the US has already done enough to help Ukraine. A poll conducted in late February 2022 found that 62% felt the US should have been doing more. According to CNN, partisan divisions have widened since that poll, too, with most Democrats and Republicans now on opposing sides of questions on the US role in Ukraine.

This trend does not support a long-term strategy.

In my opinion, the West is fast approaching the point where military intervention is inevitable. Ukraine cannot fight another year without Air Control and Air Support.

Hans Petter Midttun, Independent Analyst, Hybrid Warfare, Non-resident Fellow at Centre for Defence Strategies, board member Ukrainian Institute for Security and Law of the Sea, former Defence Attaché of Norway to Ukraine, and Officer (R) of the Norwegian Armed Forces.

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