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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 542: US OKs F-16 for Ukraine from Denmark and Netherlands

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 542: US OKs F-16 for Ukraine from Denmark and Netherlands

US approves sending F-16s to Ukraine from Denmark and Netherlands. Another drone attack on Moscow. Moldova modernises railway infrastructure for Ukrainian grain export.Daily report day 542 – August 19, 2023

Source: War Mapper.

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 19.08.2023, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

Source: War Mapper.
Situation in Ukraine. August 18, 2023. Source: ISW.

“Last night, the Russian Federation conducted yet another airstrike on Ukraine using Iranian Shahed-136/131 combat UAVs. Information on the aftermath of this terrorist attack is currently being updated.

On August 18, the enemy launched 3 missiles and 41 airstrikes, 74 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 18, there were 36 combat engagements.

  • Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes.
Luhansk Battle Map. August 18, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Chervona Zorya, and Veterynarne (Kharkiv oblast). The enemy fired mortars and artillery at more than 25 settlements, including Karpovychi, Hrem’yach (Chernihiv oblast), Seredyna-Buda, Rozhkovychi, Vodolahy (Sumy oblast), Strilecha, Vovchans’k, Krasnyi Yar, Zemlyanky (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Syn’kivka (Kharkiv oblast). Russian forces launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Kurylivka, Kyslivka, and Hlushkivka (Kharkiv oblast). The following settlements were shelled with artillery and mortars: Kam’yanka, Krasne Pershe, Masyutivka, Kyslivka, and Berestove (Kharkiv oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. August 18, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Lyman axis: the invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast) and Spirne (Donetsk oblast). About 15 settlements, including Nevs’ke, Kreminna, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Tors’ke, Sviato-Pokrovske, Spirne, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast), were shelled with artillery.
Bakhmut Battle Map.August 18, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: the adversary attempted offensive operations in the areas east of Bila Hora and Toretsk (Donetsk oblast), to no success. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Klishchiivka and Andriivka (Donetsk oblast). More than 15 settlements, including Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Bila Hora, Dyliivka, Pleshchiivka, and New York (Donetsk oblast), suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
  • Avdiivka axis: the adversary attempted offensive operations in the vicinities of Novokalynove and Avdiivka (Donetsk oblast), to no success. The invaders fired artillery at more than 15 settlements, including Keramik, Novokalynove, Tonen’ke, Sjeverne, Nevel’s’ke, Netailove, and Karlivka (Donetsk oblast).
  • Marinka axis: the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to hold back the Russian offensive in the vicinities of Marinka and Krasnohorivka (Donetsk oblast). The enemy launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Krasnohorivka (Donetsk oblast). The invaders fired artillery at more than 10 settlements, including Hostre, Mar’inka, Novomykhailivka, Kostyantynivka, and Antonivka (Donetsk oblast).
  • Shakhtarske axis: the enemy launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Staromaiors’ke. More than 10 settlements, including Vuhledar, Prechystivka, Velyka Novosilka, Blahodatne, Urozhaine, and Rivnopil’ (Donetsk oblast), came under artillery shelling.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. August 18, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia axis: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Mala Tokmachka and Robotyne (Zaporizhzhia oblast). More than 20 settlements suffered from enemy artillery shelling, including Levadne, Zatyshshya, Novoandriivka, Stepove, P’yatykhatky, and Plavni (Zaporizhzhia oblast).
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. August 18, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Kherson axis: the adversary fired artillery at more than 15 settlements, including Mykhailivka, Antonivka, Kherson, Dniprovs’ke, (Kherson oblast), and Ochakiv (Mykolaiv oblast).

At the same time, the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to conduct the offensive operation on Melitopol’ and Berdyans’k axes, consolidating their positions, and conducting counter-battery fire.

On August 18, Ukrainian Air Force launched 10 airstrikes on the concentrations of troops, weapons, and military equipment, as well as 1 airstrike on the anti-aircraft missile system of the adversary.

On August 18, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 2 concentrations of troops, weapons, and military equipment, 4 artillery systems at their firing positions, 2 command posts, and 2 electronic warfare stations of the adversary.“

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Artillerists performed 1,402 fire missions in Tavria direction in the past day, Ukrinform reports. “Over the past day, the enemy lost 234 soldiers in Tavria direction – 64 killed, 168 wounded, and 7 captured. Tavria direction. Active work of the defence forces continues. Artillery units of our army performed 1,402 fire missions over the past day,” General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, the commander of the operational-strategic group of troops “Tavria”, posted on Telegram.

Ukrainian troops also destroyed 20 units of enemy military equipment, in particular, one Ka-52 helicopter, one tank, six artillery systems and mortars, one UAV, six vehicles, and five special equipment units. Three ammunition depots were smashed.”

Drone attacks Moscow again: Expocentre building damaged, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Russian Telegram channels Baza and ShotVCHK-OGPU; and Moscow Mayor Sobyanin on Telegram. “A drone attacked Moscow on the night of 17-18 August, an explosion was heard near the Moscow-City business centre, and the Expocentre [Russian exhibition company – ed.] building was damaged.

Baza said the explosion occurred not far from the Moscow-City business centre buildings. Eyewitnesses saw a drone flying overhead a few seconds before the explosion, Baza wrote. The Shot Telegram channel reported that a small column of smoke was visible at the scene, and rescue workers had rushed there.”

If Armed Forces aimed at bridges, they will also aim at pontoons, OC “South”, Censor.net reports, citing Ukrinform, quoting  the spokeswoman of OC “South” Nataliya Humeniuk. “The bridges are significantly damaged, but the occupiers are trying to repair them, to start a transport connection there, they are even advertising the launch of a bus route. But this only applies to passenger car transport, because they (the bridges. – Ed.) cannot withstand the passage of heavy military equipment and the transportation of ammunition, therefore, the occupiers are trying to arrange pontoon crossings there. But they should realize that if we hit the stationary bridges, we will also hit the pontoons, she explained.

According to Humeniuk, the work on the reconstruction of the Chonhar and Henichesk bridges is progressing slowly, and this greatly complicates logistics. Only the M17 route through Armyansk remains for the supply of ammunition and equipment to the enemy.”

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

British Intelligence Map.
  • Over the last week, most of the front line has remained static. However, in the south, Ukrainian forces have continued their advance along the course of the Mokri Yaly river, securing the village of Urozhaine in the face of stiff Russian resistance.
  • In the north, Russian forces have continued probing attacks in the Kupiansk area but achieved no significant advances.
  • Across the front, both sides confront a similar challenge: attempting to defeat well-entrenched forces while having limited uncommitted forces to open new assaults.
  • On 15 August 2023, First Deputy Head of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Kiriyenko travelled to Donetsk in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine to visit schools and check their integration into the Russian education system.
  • In Zaporizhzhia Oblast, the occupation administration received instructions from Russia regarding the introduction of new standards for the accreditation of educational institutions. Journalists from Russia are also being employed in media outlets in the occupied regions.
  • A new textbook on the history of Russia will be issued to schools in the occupied regions of Ukraine and throughout the Russian Federation from 1 September 2023. The book praises the so-called special military operation and describes Ukraine as an ultra-terrorist state.
  • Russia’s aim is to create a pro-Kremlin information space in the occupied regions in order to erode Ukrainian national identity.

Losses of the Russian Army

As of Saturday 19 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 257010 (+500)
  • Tanks – 4340 (+8)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 8424 (+14)
  • Artillery systems – 5212 (+19)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 714 (+0)
  • Air defence means – 486 (+0)
  • Aircraft – 315 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 316 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 7665 (+7)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 4282 (+6)
  • Special equipment – 785 (+2)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1406 (+0)

About 20,000 citizens are called up in Russia every month, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Andrii Yusov, the representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, at a briefing at Ukrinform. “The (mobilisation) measures continue every day and every month, and about 20,000 people are mobilised every month. Yusov recalled that recently Sergei Sobyanin, Mayor of Moscow, announced about 45,000 Moscow residents at the front, although before that, the figure of 35,000 was announced. This means that the mayor admitted that only 10,000 Muscovites have been mobilised in the past few months. In different ways, with different methods, but this campaign continues, Yusov emphasised.

The representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine indicated that it is a forced mobilisation, while it does not affect the children of officials and oligarchs. Those who have recently received a Russian passport are mainly being mobilised. This is an indicator of the criteria for obtaining a Russian passport, which creates a potential threat. There is a high probability that a person will be captured and sent to war, Yusov said.”

Most of the Russian prisoners did not surrender voluntarily, Censor.net reports, citing Ukrinform, quoting the representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, Andrii Yusov. “A large part of the Russians surrendered voluntarily, but the majority were captured during the hostilities. There is a fairly significant share of them, but there are fewer of them than those captured, and there are many logical explanations for this. For example, really working blocking units […]. They often fear for the families who remain there (in the Russian Federation. – Ed.) “, he noted. […]

A significant part [is] captured. And in addition to being captured, the Russians choose other forms for themselves (evading participation in the war – ed.). There is, for example, desertion, and these cases are not unique, especially in the front line. There are cases when dozens of people simultaneously disappear from the front line and are then searched for – both in the temporarily occupied territories and in the territory of the Russian Federation itself, both with equipment, and with weapons, and without, he said. […]

Yusov notes that there is no mass remorse among Russians. Frankly speaking, only in some cases. Yes, there are people who even show sincere remorse and can cry, who open some new pages of history, geopolitical reality and generally understand that they got into a different world. But for the most part, it is still trying to survive and get back to the conditions they are used to. There is no mass remorse. This is a fact, he emphasized.”

Humanitarian

Ukrainians leave occupation more often now, in particular through pedestrian border crossing point in Sumy Oblast, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Iryna Vereshchuk, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, has called on residents of these territories to leave for Ukraine through the territory of the Russian Federation and the pedestrian border crossing point in Sumy Oblast.

I want to thank the people who are leaving the occupied territories. This process has now intensified. For example, on the Sumy front, more than 200 people leave every day to escape the occupiers. I urge people to leave any way they can. I want to make an announcement: perhaps not everyone in the temporarily occupied territories knows that there is free evacuation transport in Sumy Oblast. I know that people are afraid of what awaits them here if they have no money… The main thing is to get to the border crossing point, and we will help you with everything.

On 10 August, Vereshchuk reported that a humanitarian corridor was operating in Sumy Oblast, through which Ukrainian citizens could get to Ukraine from Russia. A volunteer humanitarian centre operates on the Ukrainian border, where all Ukrainians can receive free psychological, legal and humanitarian assistance, as well as spend the night and get to Sumy or other cities in Ukraine.”

Polish infrastructure is not ready for the volume of Ukrainian exports, Ukraine Business News reports. “Polish infrastructure is not ready for the volume of Ukrainian exports. The total volume of exports through Polish ports decreased by 1% due to the infrastructure’s unpreparedness: the country cannot handle cargo both at the border and in the ports, and the infrastructure is designed for imports, not exports, said Dmytro Nikolayenko, the top manager of Metinvest.

He said that due to the blockade of the Black and Azov seas, the company had to look for new types of transport for export. Still, alternative routes, to Poland’s northern ports and Romania’s southern ports, are challenging. As Nikolayenko explained, in Ukraine the railway track is wide, but in Europe it is narrow. This affects not only overloading but also product storage. In addition, during overloading, impurities can get into metallurgical products, and cleaning is expensive. Because of this, Metinvest lost more than $19M in 2022 alone.

The route through Poland entails serious logistical difficulties. There are problems with the speed of movement of goods – it is half as much as compared to Ukrainian, the manager emphasized.”

Moldova modernises railway infrastructure for Ukrainian grain export, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Nicolae Popescu, Deputy Prime Minister of Moldova; Interfax-Ukraine. “Moldova has started active cooperation with Ukraine, Romania and donor organisations to modernise its railway infrastructure to help Ukraine increase exports of agricultural products.

We have seen that exports and imports from and to Ukraine are accelerating since the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. We see that Ukraine is making huge efforts on the battlefield. But it is also important for Ukraine to maintain its economic life and export potential, Popescu said. He stressed that Moldova knows the importance of Ukraine’s grain exports. […]

The minister acknowledged that Moldova’s infrastructure is not so well developed. Popescu recalled that the government of the country and the management of the Moldovan Railways are working closely with Ukrzaliznytsia [Ukrainian Railways – ed.] to modernise the Moldovan railway system. In the next 10-20 years, efforts will be focused on developing railway infrastructure and tracks.”

Environmental

Yermak holds sixth meeting with foreign diplomats to discuss Ukrainian Peace Formula, Ukrinform reports. “Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, has held the sixth meeting with representatives of foreign diplomatic institutions to discuss the issue of environmental security as an important point in the Ukrainian Peace Formula. […] The number of participants is increasing – today there were already 63 diplomatic missions, he said. He thanked diplomats from Albania, Cyprus, Malaysia, Moldova, Malta, Slovenia, Thailand and Vietnam who joined the discussion of the points of the Peace Formula for the first time.

In addition, Yermak said that the event had been attended by the co-chairman of the International Working Group on the Environmental Consequences of War, former Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy Yuliia Svyrydenko, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Ruslan Strilets, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko, and deputy heads of the Office of the President Ihor Zhovkva and Andrii Sybiha.

We talked about countering ecocide, because Russia is at war with our state and the environment. Almost 2,500 cases of damage to the environment have already been recorded, and the Prosecutor General’s Office is investigating almost 200 facts of environmental war crimes, Yermak said. He said that as a result of Russian aggression, about 250,000 square kilometres of Ukrainian territory had been contaminated with mines and shells. According to him, this is comparable to the territory of the United Kingdom.”

Poll says 52% of Ukrainian employers fear psychological problems of disabled war veterans, Ukrinform reports. “In Ukraine, 52% of employers consider the psychological problems of disabled veterans an obstacle to hiring them. This is evidenced by the study “Protecting defenders. Is Ukraine ready to employ veterans with disabilities?”, presented at Ukrinform by Andriy Zaitsev with the You Are with Us charity.

Under a quarter of employers see no special circumstances that would hinder the employment of veterans with disabilities, 24% are cautious, but ready to employ disabled veterans, 52% say they are afraid of psychological problems, peculiarities of the veterans’ behavior, 19% see as a serious obstacle alcoholism and drug addiction, to which, in their opinion, our veterans are prone, Zaitsev said.

The study found that the employment of this category of veterans is generally hampered by the same reasons that apply to all disabled persons. This includes, in particular, the need to create special conditions and adapt their workplace, as well as a lack of desire to work or study according to the requirements set by employers, and problems with laying them off. The average share of employees with disabilities at all surveyed companies was slightly more than 5%.

According to the study, every 20th employer believes that the government should pay veterans with disabilities a decent pension so that they could be able to remain unemployed.”

Zelensky: 63 diplomatic missions already working on Peace Formula implementation, Ukrinform reports. “The Peace Formula: already 63 diplomatic missions are working to implement the points of the Formula. It is crucial that the Peace Formula gradually unites the world majority based on our respect for international law and the UN Charter,” President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address.

The President stressed that Ukraine had important diplomatic successes this week. In particular, 18 countries have joined the G7 Declaration on security guarantees for Ukraine.”

Support

Ukraine gets two IRIS-T air defense systems from Germany, Reuters reports. “Ukraine has received two IRIS-T air defense systems from Germany, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his address on Thursday.

Two new IRIS-T launchers have been delivered to Ukraine. This is a powerful and much-needed air defense system, he said and thanked Germany for supplying the weapons.”

US approves sending F-16s to Ukraine from Denmark and Netherlands, Reuters reports. “The United States has approved sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands to defend against Russian invaders as soon as pilot training is completed, a US official said on Thursday. Ukraine has actively sought the US-made F-16 fighter jets to help it counter Russian air superiority.

Washington gave Denmark and the Netherlands official assurances that the United States will expedite approval of transfer requests for F-16s to go to Ukraine when the pilots are trained, the official said. […]

The government has said several times that a donation is a natural next step after training. We are discussing it with close allies, and I expect we will soon be able to be more concrete about that, Danish defence minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen told news agency Ritzau on Friday. A coalition of 11 countries will start training Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16 fighter jets later this month in Denmark, the Danish defence ministry said on Friday. The country’s acting Defense Minister Troels Poulsen said in July that the country hoped to see “results” from the training in early 2024.

NATO members Denmark and the Netherlands have been leading international efforts to train pilots as well as support staff, maintain aircraft and ultimately enable Ukraine to obtain F-16s for use in its war with Russia.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in May said the Netherlands was seriously considering providing Ukraine with F-16s, as it is currently phasing out the fighter jets from its own armed forces. According to figures from the Dutch defence ministry, the Netherlands currently has 24 operational F-16s which will be phased out by mid-2024. Another 18 of the jets are currently available for sale, of which 12 have been provisionally sold.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent letters to his Danish and Dutch counterparts assuring them that the requests would be approved, the US official said. I am writing to express the United States’ full support for both the transfer of F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine and for the training of Ukrainian pilots by qualified F-16 instructors, Blinken said in a letter to the two officials, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. […]”

Drone army transfers more than 270 Vampire attack drones to front, Censor.net reports, citing Deputy Prime Minister for Innovation, Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov. “”We are sending more than 270 Vampire attack drones from the Army of Drones to the frontline. According to him, these are Ukrainian-made copters. They can carry up to 15kg of payload. The military will use them to destroy armoured vehicles and tanks, as well as enemy defences, fortifications or ammunition depots.

Each drone is equipped with a thermal imager, so it can operate effectively at night. You will soon see the explosive results of these “birds” in the reports of UAV strike companies. The Ukrainian Defence Forces’ hunt for the occupiers will become even more effective.”

New developments

  1. Russia’s possession of nuclear arms is response to threats, Lavrov says, Reuters reports. “Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that possession of nuclear weapons protects Russia from security threats and Moscow keeps reminding the West of risks to prevent a conflict of nuclear powers. […] Last month, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would have to use a nuclear weapon if Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian troops was a success. […] Lavrov said that the United States and NATO allies risk ending up in a situation of direct armed confrontation of nuclear powers.”
  2. Germany walks back plan to meet NATO spending target on annual basis, Reuters reports. “The German government has retreated from a plan to legally commit itself to meeting NATO’s 2% military spending target on an annual basis, a government source told Reuters on Wednesday. A corresponding clause in a draft of the budget financing law passed by the cabinet of Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday was deleted at short notice, the source said. The change means that Germany will be able to stick to its current pledge of meeting the 2% target on average over a five-year period. […] NATO allies have criticised Berlin strongly in the past for not spending 2% of its gross domestic product on defence annually.”
  3. Ukraine’s victory will help settle Transnistrian conflict, Ukrinform reports, citing Radio Moldova, quoting Moldovan President Maia Sandu. “We live in peace thanks to the Ukrainian army. And during this time, we have also done everything to prevent our country from being drawn into the war, to maintain order and peace in our society, to fight lies. We are interested in settling the Transnistrian conflict, and I repeat once again that the solutions that we see are only peaceful, and maybe when Ukraine wins this war and returns its territories, a geopolitical opportunity will appear that will allow us to resolve the conflict peacefully,” Sandu said at the Diaspora Congress in Chisinau.
  4. US extends protected status for Ukrainian nationals through spring 2025, Reuters reports. “The United States on Friday extended its temporary protected status for Ukraine for 18 months and made other changes that would enable additional eligible Ukrainian nationals to apply for the status, the US Department of Homeland Security said. The extension will be in effect from October 20 through April 19, 2025, the department said in a statement.”
  5. Moldova breaks the military agreement with the CIS, Censor.net reports, citing NewsMaker. “Moldova denounces the agreement on providing the border troops of the CIS member states with weapons and military equipment. The decision was made by the parliamentary commission on foreign policy and European integration. […] According to the conclusion of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the competent authorities have never used this agreement and it is no longer relevant for Moldova. Earlier this year, the Moldovan parliament denounced eight agreements within the CIS. Another six such projects were registered in the parliament.”

Assessment

  1. On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Friday 18 August:

(quote) Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line and reportedly advanced on August 18. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Synkivka (8km northeast of Kupiansk), Kyslivka (20km southeast of Kupiansk), and Bilohorivka (12km south of Kreminna). Ukrainian Luhansk Oblast Head Artem Lysohor reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to advance towards Bilohorivka on August 17 and that Russian forces are using hastily-prepared “Storm Z” units manned by convicts to probe Ukrainian defenses in this sector of the front. […] A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces control Pershotravneve (21km east of Kupiansk) and continue to advance in the area. Another Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces continued offensive operations near Synkivka.

Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line but did not advance on August 18. The Russian MoD and Russian Western Grouping of Forces Spokesperson Yaroslav Yakimkin claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attacked near Synkivka, Vilshana (15km northeast of Kupiansk), the Mankivka tract (about 15km east of Kupiansk), Novoselivske (14km northwest of Svatove), Berestove, Kharkiv Oblast (20km northwest of Svatove), Hyrhorivka (11km south of Kreminna), Dibrova (7km southwest of Kreminna), and Berestove, Donetsk Oblast (30km south of Kreminna). Russian milbloggers claimed on August 17 and 18 that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attacked near the Serebryanske forest area (10km southwest of Kreminna) and that Ukrainian infantry conducted unsuccessful attacks near Torske (15km west of Kreminna).

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut on August 18 but did not advance. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations south of Bakhmut and entrenched themselves in new positions. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian armored assault with artillery support near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). A Kremlin-affiliated Russian milblogger claimed that the situation on Bakhmut’s southern flank remains tense despite a general decrease in the intensity of fighting in the area.

Russian forces conducted ground attacks near Bakhmut on August 18 but did not make any claimed or confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations northwest of Dubovo-Vasylivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut) and near Bohdanivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut) and Bila Hora (12km southwest of Bakhmut). Russian sources claimed that Russian forces unsuccessfully counterattacked from Dubovo-Vasylivka in the direction of Bohdanivka. […] 

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on August 18 but did not make any claimed or confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued to repel Russian advances near Marinka (on the southwestern outskirts of Donetsk City) and Krasnohorivka (directly west of Donetsk City). The Russian MoD claimed that elements of the Russian Southern Grouping of Forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Avdiivka and Marinka.

Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on August 18 but did not make any confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Keramik (14km northeast of Avdiivka) and southeast and east of Novokalynove (13km northeast of Avdiivka). Russian sources claimed that Russian forces conducted offensive operations on Avdiivka’s northern flank in the direction of Keramik on August 17 and claimed that Russian forces captured unspecified Ukrainian positions in the area.

The Russian MoD claimed on August 18 that Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian attack near Mykilske (27km southwest of Donetsk City) in western Donetsk Oblast.

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area and advanced on August 18. Geolocated footage published on August 17 and 18 shows that Ukrainian forces advanced southeast of Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) along the T0518 (Velyka Novosilka to Staromlynivka) highway. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked near Urozhaine and advanced towards Kermenchyk (15km southeast of Velyka Novosilka). Russian milbloggers reported continued fighting near Pryyutne (15km southwest of Velyka Novosilka), Urozhaine, and Zavitne Bazhannya (12km south of Velyka Novosilka).

Russian forces reportedly continued limited offensive operations in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area but did not advance on August 18. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to recapture lost positions near Urozhaine and Novodarivka (15km southwest of Velyka Novosilka).

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the western Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area and reportedly advanced on August 18. Some Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced in northern Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv). One milblogger claimed that Russian forces “temporarily withdrew” from Robotyne and claimed that fighting is ongoing south of Robotyne. Other milbloggers claimed that Russian forces repelled the Ukrainian attacks and that Ukrainian forces do not control any part of Robotyne, however. Geolocated footage published on August 17 and 18 shows that Ukrainian forces maintain positions in northern Robotyne despite the Russian claims to the contrary. Russian sources also reported Ukrainian attacks near Novopokrovka (16km southeast of Orikhiv). […]

The Washington Post reported on August 17 that the US intelligence community has assessed that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fail to reach Melitopol in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and will not achieve its principal objective of severing the Russian land bridge to Crimea. The unverified intelligence assessment reportedly states that effective Russian defensive operations and dense minefields have constrained Ukrainian advances and will continue to do so. Anonymous US officials reportedly stated that Ukrainian forces will advance to within several miles of Melitopol but not further. A Ukrainian advance to within a few miles of Melitopol would bring the critical road and rail connections on which Russia relies to supply its forces within range of Ukrainian artillery systems, severely compromising Russia’s ability to continue to use them for that purpose. It is unclear from published reports why US intelligence analysts have reportedly concluded that seizing Melitopol is the only way Ukraine can sever the Russian land bridge. ISW has, in fact, assessed that Ukraine has many options for severing critical Russian ground lines of communication along the northern Sea of Azov coast of which the seizure of Melitopol is only one. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken notably offered a diverging opinion from the alleged intelligence assessment on August 15, stating that the prospects for Ukraine’s counteroffensive to make significant “strategic gains” will remain unclear for at least a month or longer.

It is premature to make assessments about the overall success of ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive operations occurring along several lines of advance toward several different apparent objectives. ISW has consistently assessed that the Ukrainian counteroffensive will be a protracted, non-linear series of operations, which will likely continue to occur in phases of differing tempos. The Ukrainian counteroffensive is not a discrete set of scheduled operations, and current counteroffensive operations are likely setting more favorable conditions for larger significant operations. ISW continues to assess that Ukrainian counter-offensive operations are significantly degrading defending Russian forces and that the overall degradation of the Russian defensive line creates opportunities for any Ukrainian breakthrough to be potentially operationally significant.

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on August 18 and have reportedly advanced further near Robotyne in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut, Berdiansk (Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area), and the Melitopol (western Zaporizhzhia Oblast) directions. Geolocated footage published on August 17 and 18 indicate that Ukrainian forces maintain positions in northeastern Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv), from which Russian sources had previously claimed that Russian forces had expelled Ukrainian forces. The footage confirms that recent Ukrainian advances in the Robotyne area have likely been tactically significant, and ISW previously assessed that such advances are likely reflective of a significant degradation of the Russian forces defending the area. Russian milbloggers claimed on August 18 that Ukrainian forces control northern Robotyne and conducted assaults in unspecified areas south and southeast of the settlement after Russian forces “temporarily withdrew” from Robotyne itself, suggesting that Ukrainian forces have made further advances in the area. The relative speed of these alleged Ukrainian advances suggests that the areas north of the settlement may have been heavily more mined than areas into which Ukrainian forces are currently trying to advance. Geolocated footage published on August 18 also indicates that Ukrainian forces made marginal gains south of Urozhaine in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area.

The Kremlin has intensified its effort to increase its long-term control over the Russian information space, threatening the credibility of Russian sources that inform the wider Western coverage of battlefield realities in Ukraine. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) held the “Arms and Society: Mental Security Strategy” psychological operations conference as part of the ongoing Army-2023 forum on August 17. The conference included discussions about the historical, ideological, geopolitical, informational, and psychological aspects of the “special military operation” and “informational and ideological concepts” to combat the “information policy of unfriendly countries.” The conference featured prominent voices in the Russian information space, including politicians, political voices, journalists, and prominent Russian ultranationalist milblogger Yevgeny Poddubny, signaling the MoD’s likely effort to consolidate control over pro-war voices and messaging. Russian federal censor Roskomnadzor announced on August 18 that the Russian State Duma will consider legislation in the fall that would criminalize the publishing of information on Russian military asset locations, Ukrainian strike locations, and strike aftermaths. This effort immediately follows recent similar Crimean occupation and Russian Federal Council efforts, and the Russian information space largely did not react to these prior efforts. A prominent Russian milblogger dryly commented on Roskomnadzor’s August 18 announcement that Russian authorities finally cracked down against military censorship after a year and a half of war. Another Russian milblogger claimed that implementing these censorship measures will drive Russians to stop following Russian information space voices and listen to pro-Ukrainian and pro-Western channels instead.

The Russian ultranationalist community has widely considered Russian milbloggers to be the last remaining credible voice on the war in Ukraine, and the Kremlin’s effort to censor and control their reporting may eliminate that trust. The Kremlin’s effort to control moblogger content, therefore, threatens to undermine the Kremlin’s other effort to leverage select Russian milbloggers’ connections to the wider ultranationalist community. Kremlin control over milblogger content would replace tactical and operational reporting on the war in Ukraine with unchallenged Kremlin narratives and make accurate coverage of battlefield realities more challenging. […]

The Russian MoD accused Ukrainian forces of targeting Russian ships in the Black Sea with an unmanned naval drone overnight on August 17 to 18. The Russian MoD claimed that the Russian Pytlivy and Vasily Bykov patrol ships destroyed the Ukrainian drone before it hit a Russian vessel in the south-western part of the Black Sea (approximately 237km southwest of Sevastopol). A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that the Pytlivy and Vasily Bykov patrol ships were accompanying a tanker from the Mediterranean Sea and speculated that a drone may have targeted the tanker. The milblogger speculated that Ukrainian forces may have launched the drone from the civilian container ship Joseph Schulte, as the Joseph Schulte was allegedly traveling through the Bosphorus Strait at the same time as the attempted strike. The milblogger conceded that the location of the drone’s launch remains unclear, however. ISW previously reported on August 16 that the Joseph Schulte was the first civilian vessel to travel through a Ukrainian-created temporary corridor for civilian vessels in the Black Sea. The milblogger’s suggestion that Ukrainian forces may have launched the naval drone from a civilian ship is likely an attempt to justify further Russian escalation in aggressive Black Sea posturing and set informational conditions to justify future Russian strikes on civilian ships traveling through the Black Sea.

Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) Director Viktor Zolotov is allegedly attempting to remove Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu from his post. Russian lawyer Kirill Kachur, who was charged by the Russian Investigative Committee in absentia for embezzlement and bribery in 2022 and claims to have insider knowledge about internal Kremlin politics, alleged that Zolotov hoped to replace Shoigu with “one of his former subordinates and former adjutants to Vladimir Putin” as Defense Minister – possibly referring to current Tula Governor Alexei Dyumin, who previously worked in the Presidential Security Service as Putin’s bodyguard and adjutant and as Zolotov’s deputy. The source claimed that the recent bill allowing Rosgvardia to receive heavy military equipment was the Kremlin’s compensation to Zolotov for rebuffing his effort to remove Shoigu. Another Russian insider source had claimed on August 3 that Dyumin is also attempting to remove Shoigu as Defense Minister.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reiterated boilerplate rhetoric intended to weaken international support for Ukraine at the Second “International Anti-Fascist Congress” in Minsk, Belarus. Shoigu stated that the Congress will focus on uniting international efforts to eradicate Nazi ideology and insinuated that Western elites and the Ukrainian government promote neo-fascist ideology. Shoigu claimed that representatives of more than 30 countries are attending the congress.

Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) reportedly attempted to use civilians to sabotage weapons shipments to Ukraine in Poland. The Washington Post reported that the GRU attempted to recruit civilians in Poland to commit sabotage operations, including the derailment of trains on a railway through which more than 80 percent of military equipment delivered through Poland to Ukraine flows. The GRU also reportedly recruited civilians to post pro-Russia propaganda fliers in public spaces, hide tracking devices in military cargo, scout Polish seaports, and place cameras along railways.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Washington Post reported on August 17 that the US intelligence community has assessed that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fail to reach Melitopol in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and will not achieve its principal objective of severing the Russian land bridge to Crimea.
  • It is premature to make assessments about the overall success of ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive operations occurring along several lines of advance toward several different apparent objectives.
  • Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on August 18 and have reportedly advanced further near Robotyne in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • The Kremlin has intensified its effort to increase its long-term control over the Russian information space, threatening the credibility of Russian sources that inform the wider Western coverage of battlefield realities in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian Operational Command South Spokesperson Captain First Rank Nataliya Humenyuk challenged Russian claims that Russian authorities have adequately repaired the Chonhar bridge after a Ukrainian strike on August 6.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Aviivdka-Donetsk City line, and in the eastern Donetsk-western Zaporizhzhia border area on August 18 and advanced in some areas.“ (unquote)

Russians are in rather difficult situation: they have huge losses and logistics are not in good condition. However, counteroffensive of Armed Forces is very difficult battle, Censor.net reports, citing Ukrinform, quoting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley. “The Russians are in a rather difficult position because they have suffered huge losses. Their morale is not very good. Their leadership is questionable and ambiguous, depending on the type of unit. There are obviously big misunderstandings at the strategic level of leadership. Logistics is also not in a good state, he said in an interview with The Washington Post.

The general stressed that Russian troops are currently on the defensive, while Ukraine is conducting a counter-offensive. I said months ago that this offensive would be long, bloody, slow. And that’s exactly what it is: long, bloody and slow, and it’s a very, very hard fight, the US commander added.

Milley stressed that for Ukraine, this is an existential struggle. At the same time, for the rest of the world, Putin’s war means a frontal assault on the rules of the international order that have existed for ten years since the end of World War II, he added.”

US intelligence says Ukraine will fail to meet offensive’s key goal, The Washington Post reports. “The US intelligence community assesses that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fail to reach the key southeastern city of Melitopol, people familiar with the classified forecast told The Washington Post, a finding that, should it prove correct, would mean Kyiv won’t fulfill its principal objective of severing Russia’s land bridge to Crimea in this year’s push. The grim assessment is based on Russia’s brutal proficiency in defending occupied territory through a phalanx of minefields and trenches, and is likely to prompt finger pointing inside Kyiv and Western capitals about why a counteroffensive that saw tens of billions of dollars of Western weapons and military equipment fell short of its goals.

Ukraine’s forces, which are pushing toward Melitopol from the town of Robotyne more than 50 miles away, will remain several miles outside of the city, US officials said. US, Western and Ukrainian government officials interviewed for this report spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military operations. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

Melitopol is critical to Ukraine’s counteroffensive because it is considered the gateway to Crimea. The city is at the intersection of two important highways and a railroad line that allow Russia to move military personnel and equipment from the peninsula to other occupied territories in southern Ukraine. […]

Joint war games conducted by the US, British and Ukrainian militaries anticipated [major casualties] but envisioned Kyiv accepting the casualties as the cost of piercing through Russia’s main defensive line, said US and Western officials. But Ukraine chose to stem the losses on the battlefield and switch to a tactic of relying on smaller units to push forward across different areas of the front. That resulted in Ukraine making incremental gains in different pockets over the summer. Kyiv has recently dedicated more reserves to the front, including Stryker and Challenger units, but has yet to break through Russia’s main defensive line.

The path to Melitopol is an extremely challenging one, and even recapturing closer cities such as Tokmak will be difficult, said Rob Lee, a military analyst with the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Russia has three main defensive lines there and then fortified cities after that, he said. It’s not just a question about whether Ukraine can breach one or two of them, but can they breach all three and have enough forces available after taking attrition to achieve something more significant like taking Tokmak or something beyond that.

The bleak outlook, briefed to some Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, has already prompted a blame game inside closed-door meetings. Some Republicans are now balking at President Biden’s request for an additional $20.6 billion in Ukraine aid given the offensive’s modest results. Other Republicans and, to a lesser extent, hawkish Democrats have faulted the administration for not sending more powerful weapons to Ukraine sooner.

US officials reject criticisms that F-16 fighter jets or longer-range missile systems such as ATACMS would have resulted in a different outcome. The problem remains piercing Russia’s main defensive line, and there’s no evidence these systems would’ve been a panacea, a senior administration official said.

In an interview this week, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States has been clear about the difficult task facing Ukraine. […] While not achieving its objectives, he noted Kyiv’s success in degrading Russian forces. The Russians are in pretty rough shape, he said. They’ve suffered a huge amount of casualties. Their morale is not great.

US officials said the Pentagon recommended multiple times that Ukraine concentrate a large mass of forces on a single breakthrough point. Though Ukraine opted for a different strategy, officials said it was Kyiv’s call to make given the profound sacrifice Ukrainian troops were making on the battlefield.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday acknowledged the slow pace of Ukraine’s counteroffensive but said Kyiv would not stop fighting until all its land is retaken. […] Ukrainian officials have said privately that timing depends on how quickly forces can penetrate the minefields — a difficult process that has strained the military’s mine-clearing resources across a wide swath of territory.

Analysts say the challenges Ukraine has faced are multifaceted, but nearly all agree that Russia surpassed expectations when it comes to its proficiency in defending occupied territory. The most deterministic factor of how this offensive has gone thus far is the quality of Russian defenses, said Lee, noting Russia’s use of trenches, mines and aviation. They had a lot of time and they prepared them very well … and made it very difficult for Ukraine to advance.

Questions have also been raised about how Ukraine committed its forces and in which areas. The Ukrainians have for months poured tremendous resources into Bakhmut, including soldiers, ammunition and time, but they have lost control of the city and have made only modest gains in capturing territory around it. And while the close-in, trench-line fighting is different in Bakhmut from the problem of mines in the south, the focus has left some in the Biden administration concerned that overcommitting in the east may have eroded the potency of the counteroffensive in the south.

The new intelligence assessment aligns with a secret US forecast from February indicating that shortfalls in equipment and force strength may mean that the counteroffensive will fall “well short” of Ukraine’s goal to sever the land bridge to Crimea by August. The assessment, detailed in a classified document leaked onto the social media app Discord, identified Melitopol or Mariupol as the objectives to deny Russian overland access to Crimea.

US officials said Washington was still open to Kyiv surprising skeptics and overcoming the odds. One defense official said it is possible that Ukraine could buck historical norms and continue the counteroffensive through the winter, when everything including keeping soldiers warm and stocked with food and ammunition becomes much more difficult. But that would rely on several important factors, such as the amount of rest troops need after a hard fighting season. It would also depend on how much specialized equipment and cold-weather clothing they have on hand, the defense official said.

“Vostok” Battalion commander suggested that Russia freeze the war in Ukraine along the current frontlines, ISW reports. “Alexander Khodakovsky suggested that Russia freeze the war in Ukraine along the current frontlines, reintroducing a narrative that had been largely dormant since Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s armed rebellion. Khodakovsky stated that Russia will not be able to topple Ukraine militarily in the near term and that Russian forces are unlikely to easily occupy additional Ukrainian cities, echoing comments Prigozhin had made in April 2023

Khodakovsky concluded that Russia will likely have to come to a “truce” and that Russia may enter a phase “of neither peace nor war” with Ukraine. Khodakovsky suggested that Ukraine would be sufficiently weakened in this state of frozen conflict and that Russia would be able to exert more influence over Ukraine in such a situation than it currently can during the ”Special Military Operation.” Prigozhin’s April 14 essay suggested that Russia freeze the war in Ukraine to set conditions for a future victory without negotiations. Russian sources have periodically claimed that a Kremlin faction is interested in freezing the war along the current frontlines for similar reasons as well as over concerns about domestic political stability and the economic fallout from the war. […] Khodakovsky may be reintroducing the narrative into the Russian information space on behalf of the faction allegedly interested in freezing the war, although Khodakovsky likely has limited influence on the Russian leadership itself. ISW continues to assess that a temporary ceasefire in Ukraine and protraction of the war will only benefit Russia by allowing Russian forces to reconstitute and letting Russia wear down Western support for Ukraine.

Khodakovsky commands forces defending in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area and his comments about freezing the war follow the Ukrainian liberation of Urozhaine on August 16, suggesting that recent Ukrainian advances may be significantly weakening confidence in the Russian defense along the wider front in southern Ukraine. Khodakovsky has previously highlighted concerns about the Russian defense in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area, specifically relating to poor Russian counterbattery capabilities, heavy Russian losses, exhausted Russian forces, and a lack of reserves. Khodakovsky previously called for an operational pause on August 13 so that Russian forces could accumulate resources for a new operation. Khodakovsky’s escalation from calling for an operational pause to suggesting that Russia freeze the conflict is likely associated with his firsthand experience of recent tactically significant Ukrainian advances and the degradation of defending Russian forces in Urozhaine.

Recent Ukrainian advances near small settlements in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast are likely tactically significant because of the structure of Russian defensive lines. Ukrainian Colonel Petro Chernyk stated on August 15 that the three-echeloned Russian defensive line in southern Ukraine is comprised of a first line of minefields stretching several kilometers deep; a second line with artillery, equipment, and personnel concentrations; and a third line of rear positions meant to preserve resources. Recent Ukrainian advances north and northeast of Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhzhia may allow Ukrainian forces to begin operating in the areas past the densest minefields. If the areas around the second Russian line of defense are less heavily mined, then they would likely be more conducive to more rapid Ukrainian gains. ISW has no ability to assess the density or depth of Russian minefields, however.

Russian forces have dedicated significant effort, resources, and personnel to hold settlements such as Robotyne and Urozhaine, and recent Ukrainian advances in these areas are therefore likely reflective of a wider degradation of defending Russian forces. ISW continues to assess that Russian forces lack significant operational reserves, and the intense Russian effort to hold these settlements instead of withdrawing their forces means that Ukrainian forces have likely had to thoroughly degrade Russian units before advancing. ISW recently observed Russian forces conduct lateral redeployments of elements of the 7th Guards Airborne (VDV) Division from Kherson Oblast and possibly from the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area to the Robotyne area, further suggesting that recent Ukrainian advances have significantly degraded the Russian forces that have been defending in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast without rotation since the start of the counteroffensive. 

The lack of Russian operational reserves means that Russian forces will have to reinforce certain areas of the front at the expense of others, likely weakening Russian defensive lines in aggregate and offering Ukrainian forces opportunities for exploitation. Khodakovsky’s recent complaint that the Russian command failed to send reinforcements to secure exhausted Russian forces defending Urozhaine may indicate that the Russian command is already making difficult choices about what sectors to prioritize as Ukrainian forces advance. Russian forces increasingly appear likely to have to withdraw to secondary prepared defensive positions without significant support in the case of a Ukrainian breakthrough, and the further degradation of Russian forces creates opportunities for any Ukrainian breakthrough to be potentially operationally significant. Khodakovsky’s apparent waning confidence in the Russian defense in southern Ukraine may indicate that he believes that recent advances have made a Ukrainian breakthrough more likely.”

Biden’s administration is sceptical about effectiveness of Ukrainian strikes on occupied Crimea, Censor.net reports, citing UP. “According to CNN, some US military and officials from the Biden administration have criticized Ukraine for striking occupied Crimea, as they consider it a waste of resources. According to an unnamed senior defense official, it threw the Russians off balance a bit, but it doesn’t do anything decisive. “And, probably, it would be better for everyone if they (the AFU – ed.) would just focus on the counteroffensive, he emphasized.

According to a senior Western intelligence official, since roughly a third of the occupied peninsula is now within range of the US-provided HIMARS missile system, Ukraine has also stepped-up strikes against Russian ammunition depots and other logistics and supply infrastructure facilities there. Crimea is under more and more pressure, especially in recent weeks. I mean, they are just being beaten, he said.

At the same time, as a Ukrainian source told CNN, the attacks on Crimea are an integral part of Ukraine’s counteroffensive strategy aimed at isolating Crimea and making it difficult for Russia to support its military operations on the Ukrainian mainland.”

Troop deaths and injuries in Ukraine war near 500,000, US officials say, The New York Times reports. “The total number of Ukrainian and Russian troops killed or wounded since the war in Ukraine began 18 months ago is nearing 500,000, US officials said, a staggering toll as Russia assaults its next-door neighbor and tries to seize more territory. The officials cautioned that casualty figures remained difficult to estimate because Moscow is believed to routinely undercount its war dead and injured, and Kyiv does not disclose official figures. But they said the slaughter intensified this year in eastern Ukraine and has continued at a steady clip as a nearly three-month-old counteroffensive drags on.

Russia’s military casualties, the officials said, are approaching 300,000. The number includes as many as 120,000 deaths and 170,000 to 180,000 injured troops. The Russian numbers dwarf the Ukrainian figures, which the officials put at close to 70,000 killed and 100,000 to 120,000 wounded. […]

A senior US official acknowledged the high number of Ukrainian casualties but said combined arms is very, very hard. He added that in recent days, Ukrainian troops have begun to punch through initial rings of Russian defenses. In recent weeks, Ukraine has shifted its battlefield tactics, returning to its old ways of wearing down Russian forces with artillery and long-range missiles instead of plunging into minefields under fire. […]

Ukrainian commanders decided the pivot reduced casualties and preserved their frontline fighting force. American officials say they fear that Ukraine has become casualty adverse, one reason it has been cautious about pressing ahead with the counteroffensive. Almost any big push against dug-in Russian defenders protected by minefields would result in huge numbers of losses. In just a year and a half, Ukraine’s military deaths have already surpassed the number of American troops who died during the nearly two decades US units were in Vietnam (roughly 58,000) and about equal the number of Afghan security forces killed over the entire war in Afghanistan, from 2001 to 2021 (around 69,000).

The number of dead and wounded reflects the amount of lethal munitions being expended by both sides. Thousands of rounds of artillery are fired every week, tanks batter buildings, land mines are everywhere and drones hover overhead picking off troops below. When close combat does occur, it resembles the battles of World War I: brutal and often taking place in trenches.

The numbers also point to a lack of rapid medical care on the frontline. […] Russia analysts say the loss of life is unlikely to deter Mr. Putin. He has no political opposition at home and has framed the war as the kind of struggle the country faced during World War II, when more than eight million Soviet troops died.

Latvian Intelligence: Putin’s regime is stable, protests unlikely, European Pravda reports. “Latvian intelligence services believe that Vladimir Putin’s regime appears stable at the moment, with protests being unlikely but not entirely ruled out. As reported by Delfi, the Constitutional Protection Bureau (SAB) shared their assessments in a report. The SAB serves as a security agency with functions related to intelligence and counterintelligence. The SAB notes that the Kremlin regime remains stable, but the situation requires constant monitoring.

The agency also highlights a growth in socio-political apathy within Russian society. This trend can be observed in public opinion polls: Russian society displays caution, especially when opinions diverge from the mainstream political line, the report states, citing examples of differing support for special operations depending on how the question is framed.

The SAB notes that the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) incidents did not have a significant negative impact on the public perception of Putin’s regime, but there are reasons to believe that support for the Wagner PMC leader has diminished. Before the Prigozhin incident, nearly half of Russians supported him, but after, only one-fifth did. Meanwhile, support for the Russian Ministry of Defence position increased several times: if only a tenth of the population supported it before the uprising, the figure approached two-fifths after the uprising, the report states.

Large-scale protests against the Russian government are considered unlikely but not impossible. While Russian society’s attitude toward the war in Ukraine is complex and variable, there are currently no signals of a significant direct threat to the political stability of the Putin regime in Russia, according to the SAB.”

Lukashenko claims Putin has achieved his goals in war against Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Alexander Lukashenko in an interview with Diana Panchenko. “The goals of the Special Military Operation have already been accomplished. After this war is over, Ukraine will never be as aggressive towards Russia as it was before the war. Ukraine will be different. First, more careful, smart, and, if you like, cunning people will be in power. Smart people who will know that they have to build ties to their God-given neighbours.”

Lukashenko also said that Ukraine will no longer “dance to the Americans’ tune”. He further added that Putin’s war against Ukraine will teach Russia a lesson as well: “We are learning our lessons. Russia too.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Until the war ends, Ukraine will not be able to attract large-scale foreign investment, Ukraine Business News reports. “Attracting capital will be possible only if the active phase of the war ends and security guarantees are obtained from partners, said Deputy Head of the Office of the President Rostyslav Shurma. After the victory, the normal security guarantees, and the disclosure of all the potential we are talking about, we see that there will be a fairly large flow of all types of funds. Both cheap pension funds and active funds, he noted.

However, suppose the active phase of the war continues in Ukraine without security guarantees. In that case, the official is convinced that large international private capital will not invest in the Ukrainian economy. According to him, the only capital that Ukraine can count on is the concessional capital of partners, that is, part of the budget funds or state guarantees, under which specific projects with a limited scale will be financed.”

Since beginning of 2023, Ukraine has spent almost 60% of state budget on security and defence, Censor.net reports, citing the press service of the Ministry of Finance. “For the first 7 months of this year, expenditures of the general fund of the state budget on the security and defence sector amounted to 969.2 billion UAH or 59.1% of the total amount. In July – 150.2 billion UAH,” the report says.

The Ministry of Finance notes that the funds were directed to the financial support of military personnel, rank and file officers, police officers, the purchase of military/special equipment, weapons, ammunition, defence products, personal protective equipment, fuel and lubricants, food, medical care and other types of expenses to ensure the activities of relevant bodies and formations.”

Refusal of Russian gas: EU storage facilities already 90% full, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda, citing Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. “The gas storages of the European Union are already 90% full, almost three months ahead of schedule, which will allow them to pass the winter without the Russian fuel safely. This will help us be safe this winter. Together, we are weaning ourselves off Russian gas. And we keep working in parallel on more diverse energy supplies for the future. […]

EU member states had to fill their storage facilities by 90% by 1 November under new gas storage targets adopted last year. Last year, the peak filling level of storage facilities reached 95% of their capacity. Additionally, in 2022, the countries agreed to reduce gas consumption by 15% to get through the winter of 2022-2023. These efforts reduced gas demand by nearly 18%, with half of the savings going to households.

This summer, Germany approved the acceleration of the construction of LNG terminals to compensate for the refusal of gas from the Russian Federation.”

Hans Petter Midttun: Yesterday, Tom Malinowski, a former Democratic member of Congress, currently a senior fellow at the McCain Institute, published the article “How to End the War in Ukraine — Even If Vladimir Putin Wants to Keep Fighting”. He briefly discussed the two most obvious alternatives before presenting his own vision.

The first and most obvious way for Ukraine to win would be for its armed forces to take back all the territory Russia has unlawfully seized since its first invasion in 2014 — including Crimea. He argues that it is still possible but does not see it happening in the next couple of years. Additionally, he points out that it is not given that its international partners will continue supporting Ukraine’s offensive operations “for as long as it takes”. Malinowski fears that getting Biden’s recent supplemental funding request for Ukraine – which only provide funds for early 2024 – through the House of Representatives might prove difficult.

A second way for Ukraine to win — at least theoretically — would be through a diplomatic agreement. While international support for President Zelensky’s 10-point peace plan is growing, he highlights the fact that Russia under Putin has never ended its wars at the negotiating table. At best it has frozen them, keeping its options open.

As I have previously stressed, the West is the only party to the war discussing negotiations. Both Ukraine and Russia have outlined their preconditions for negotiations, and both find the opposing terms utterly unacceptable. Ukraine demands the restoration of territorial integrity, respect for the UN Charter, compensation for all damages caused by the war, punishment of every war criminal and guarantees that this will not happen again. Russia demands that Ukraine remains neutral and does not join NATO and the EU, confirm its nuclear-free status and not least, that both Ukraine and the international community must recognise “the new territorial realities”. Only the Ukrainian preconditions reflect the guiding principles of the UN Charter and international law.

As long as Russia avoids the risk of a total military collapse (due to a Western military intervention), and he believes there is a chance of political change in the West (as a result of both the ongoing broader confrontation, the “tsunami of ripple effects” from the war, and the upcoming presidential election in the US), Putin will uphold his military efforts. In my opinion, the potential gains from a Russian victory far outweigh the present temporary costs inflicted by Ukraine and the West.

Having shot down the two most discussed options – a military defeat of Russia or peace through negotiations – Tom Malinowski presents a third option. While he denies it to be the case, it is not dissimilar to the option presented by Stian Jenssen, the head of the NATO Secretary General’s Office, on 15 August and discussed in my article NATO strategist’s Ukraine “land grab” slip is as absurd as revealing.

In this scenario, the United States would give the Ukrainian military whatever it needs to advance as far as possible in its counteroffensive. At an appropriate point next year, Ukraine would declare a pause in offensive military operations and shift its primary focus to defending and rebuilding liberated areas while integrating with Western institutions. Then, at its July 2024 summit in Washington, NATO would invite Ukraine to join the Western alliance, guaranteeing the security of all territory controlled by the Ukrainian government at that point under Article 5 of the NATO treaty.

Offering Article 5 protection to Ukrainian territory in this fashion would be akin to admitting a divided Germany to NATO after World War II and to America’s security pact with South Korea after the armistice that halted the Korean War without reunifying the Korean Peninsula. This would be a defensive pact, but not a commitment to take direct part in any future offensive operations Ukraine might choose to undertake.”

As I argued before the Vilnius summit, he points out that NATO membership will stop Russia from attacking Ukraine. Unlike my proposal, however, Malinowski argues that Article 5 would only apply to Ukrainian-controlled territories (in contrast to all of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders). He argues that Ukraine joining NATO could “be how the war ends, consistent with Biden’s current policy — and at a time and on terms set by Ukraine and its allies, not by Russia.” It would effectively end Putin’s ambitions of re-establishing a zone of special interests in Europe. A Ukrainian (partly) NATO membership would constitute a strategic defeat for Russia. It would also, he claims enable Zelenskyy to emphasize nonmilitary strategies for reclaiming any parts of his country still under Russian occupation.

Tom Malinowski stresses that sanctions against Russia should remain in place. It would after all, still be occupying parts of Ukraine in violation of both the UN Charter and international law. He makes the point that “this approach would not require Ukraine to cede any territory to Russia (contrary to what a NATO official suggested this week). Ukraine and its allies would continue to pursue the country’s reunification within its 1991 borders. Nor should anyone pressure Ukrainians to adopt this approach — only they can decide whether and when shifting to consolidating their gains while joining NATO makes sense.”

The last statement is, however, not accurate. He is correct in stressing that Ukraine would not be forced to cede territory through negotiations. His proposed way forward does not involve negotiations. Russia would be presented with a “fait accompli” and its illegal occupation would still be very much in dispute. As a consequence, all Western-introduced sanctions would remain in place, slowly reducing Russia’s economic and military potential.

On the other side, he argues that Ukrainian NATO membership would be a defensive pact and not a commitment for its members to take direct part in any future offensive operations Ukraine might choose to undertake. This would most likely also include any obligations of collective defence in response to any Russian military assaults resulting from a future Ukrainian attempt to liberate occupied territories.

As long as Ukraine respects the “new realities” it would be protected by NATO’s Article 5. The moment it tries to re-establish its territorial integrity, it would once again stand alone. Cede territory (de facto) and remain safe; or act according to the UN Charter (de jure) and risk losing international support.

While the proposal most likely would stop further land and air assaults against Ukrainian-controlled territories, it would not stop the hybrid war, including the maritime, political, energy, economic, information and cyber war.

Russia would still be controlling the Black Sea as NATO has no appetite to challenge its sea control. Ukraine’s future prosperity is connected to its access to the sea and its ability to exploit the full potential of its maritime cluster and resources. The maritime “cluster” include merchant shipping, sea transport, shipbuilding and ship repair, naval activity, the exploitation of living marine resources and inanimate seabed resources, tourism, and recreational activities, as well as activities in the fields of science, education, ecology, and marine protection. Ukraine lost a larger part of its maritime cluster with Crimea.

Russia is presently controlling all of Ukraine’s maritime areas under its jurisdiction. It will continue to deny Ukraine the prospect to explore its maritime resources, including gas and oil. While up to 70% of the explored hydrocarbon onshore has already been exploited, 96% of the offshore deposits are intact.

Until 24 February 2022. more than 66% of the export passed through its seaports, having lost 5 major ports (Feodosia, Sevastopol, Yevpatoria, Yalta and Kerch) with Crimea. The maritime blockade would, however, continue unabated because peace will not have been re-established (while simultaneously recognising that a state of war has never been declared).

Additionally, the proposal would also fail to meet Ukraine’s – and in essence international law’s – expectations.

Territorial integrity will not have been re-established. Russia will not have been forced to compensate for war damages. War criminals will go unpunished. Prisoners of War will not be released. Worse still, 3,4 million Ukrainians will be abandoned on Russian-occupied territories, exposing them to further atrocities and genocide.

The only way to achieve all of this is to either make all of Ukraine a NATO member and/or execute a Western military intervention in Ukraine.

To paraphrase the Chatham House report “How to end Russia’s war on Ukraine”, “the only outcome to the war that can safeguard the future security of Europe is a convincing Ukrainian victory – hence, Western military support to Kyiv should be redoubled before it is too late.

Russia’s ambition does not end with the subjugation of Ukraine. In fact, it never ends, because the Russian state in its current form has little interest in peaceful coexistence with the West.”

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