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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 556: Russia delivers first nuclear warheads to Belarus

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 556: Russia delivers first nuclear warheads to Belarus

Daily report day 556 – 2 September 2023

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 02.09.2023, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

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Automatisk generert beskrivelse

“On September 1, the enemy launched 4 missiles and 39 airstrikes, 42 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 September 1, there were 45 combat engagements.

  • Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes.
  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary fired mortars and artillery at more than 30 settlements, including Huta-Studenets’ka, Karpovychi (Chernihiv oblast), Chernats’ke, Sosnivka, Boyaro-Lezhachi, Kindrativka, Tur’ya, Popivka (Sumy oblast), Veterynarne, Pyl’na, Vovchans’k, Okhrimivka, Mala Vovcha, and Varvarivka (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Novoselivs’ke (Luhansk oblast). The enemy launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Krokhmal’ne (Kharkiv oblast). The invaders fired artillery and mortars at more than 15 settlements, including Kam’yanka, Krasne Pershe, Dvorichna, Kup’yans’k, Kotlyarivka, and Novoserhiivka (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Lyman axis: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Novojehorivka and Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast). The enemy fired artillery at more than 15 settlements, including Makiivka, Nevske, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Yampolivka, Sivers’k, Spirne, Vyimka, and Fedorivka, and Vesele (Donetsk oblast).
  • Bakhmut axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Kurdyumivka (Donetsk oblast). The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Stupochky, Bila Hora, and New York (Donetsk oblast). More than 20 settlements, including Min’kivka, Bohdanivka, Chasiv Yar, Dyliivka, Druzhba, and New York (Donetsk oblast), suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
  • Avdiivka axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Sjeverne (Donetsk oblast). The enemy fired artillery and mortars at the settlements of Novokalynove, Avdiivka, Pervomais’ke, Halytsynivka, and Memryk (Donetsk oblast).
  • Marinka axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Krasnohorivka (Donetsk oblast). The invaders fired artillery at more than 10 settlements, including Krasnohorivka, Kurakhove, Pobjeda, Kostyantynivka, and Yelyzavetivka (Donetsk oblast).
  • Shakhtarske axis: the adversary launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Staromaiors’ke (Donetsk oblast). More than 15 settlements, including Vuhledar, Zolota Nyva, Blahodatne, Rivnopil’, Novosilka, and Zelene Pole (Donetsk oblast), suffered from artillery shelling.
  • Zaporizhzhia axis: the adversary launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Malynivka (Zaporizhzhia oblast). The adversary fired artillery at more than 20 settlements, including Ol’hivs’ke, Huliaipilske, Chervona Krynytsya, Robotyne, Shcherbaky, Stepove (Zaporizhzhia oblast), and Nikopol’ (Dnipropetrovsk oblast).
  • Kherson axis: the enemy shelled more than 10 settlements, including Dudchany, Beryslav, Tyahynka, Kherson, Veletens’ke, and Ol’hivka (Kherson oblast).

At the same time, the Ukrainian Défense Forces continue to conduct the offensive operation on the Melitopol axis, consolidating their positions and conducting counter-battery fire.

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Automatisk generert beskrivelse

Between August 15 and 30, representatives of the Russian occupation administrations conducted a campaign in the temporarily occupied settlement of Volnovakha (Donetsk oblast) and other settlements of Volnovakha district. They were forcing the locals to have their school-age children study in educational institutions under the Russian curriculum and to participate in elections and vote for candidates from the United Russia Party. Representatives of district education departments, accompanied by the Russian FSB, visit families who refuse to send their children to educational institutions. They caution the families about compliance with Russian laws on compulsory secondary education. Reports on improper performance of parental duties were drawn up against the parents. According to the information available, with three such reports drawn up, the parents will be deprived of parental rights, and the children will be placed under the care of social services in orphanages in Russia.

On September 1, the Ukrainian Air Force launched 6 airstrikes on the concentrations of troops, weapons, and military equipment, as well as 5 airstrikes on the anti-aircraft missile systems of the adversary.

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On September 1, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 4 concentrations of troops, weapons, and military equipment, 10 artillery systems at their firing positions, 2 command posts, 3 ammunition depots, and 1 radar station of the adversary.“

Military updates

Russians claim Ukraine tried to attack Crimean Bridge again, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Russian Defence Ministry. “The Russian Ministry of Defence has alleged that a Ukrainian sea drone tried to attack the Crimean Bridge but was destroyed in the Black Sea.

At about 23:15 Moscow time on 1 September, the Kyiv regime attempted to launch a “terrorist strike” on the Crimean Bridge using a semi-submersible unmanned vessel. A Ukrainian sea drone was promptly discovered and destroyed in the Black Sea. The Crimean Bridge was temporarily closed to road traffic from 00:00 onwards.”

Ukrainian Armed Forces exhaust Russians near Robotyne to break through 1st line of defence – Estonian Intelligence, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Estonian intelligence report quoted by ERR. “The intelligence centre of the Estonian Defence Forces notes that the most important contact-line events are currently unfolding on the outskirts of Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, south of which the Russian military is barely holding its position. The Estonian military assumes that the Ukrainian Defence Forces were able to break through the positions of the Russian army on the contact line; fighting continues with the troops of the first defence line near Novoprokopivka and Verbove. 

As Estonian intelligence reports, the Russians are barely holding their ground. In an attempt to stabilise the situation, the Russian Armed Forces transferred parts of the 76th Guards Airborne Assault Division from Lyman, Donetsk Oblast, and an assault brigade from the Bakhmut front to this area. These circumstances probably indicate that the Russians do not have operational reserves. 

In addition, as the intelligence agency emphasised, the Ukrainian Armed Forces could sufficiently exhaust the Russian units holding the defence in Zaporizhzhia Oblast to break through their positions. Ukrainian troops have created the prerequisites for tactical success – a breakthrough in the first defence line of the Russian Armed Forces. However, Estonian intelligence believes that it will be very difficult for Ukraine’s Armed Forces to achieve results at the operational level by cutting the land corridor to Crimea. 

Russian occupiers continue to attack on the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line. The Armed Forces of Ukraine carried out attacks near Bakhmut with minimal success, Estonian intelligence added.”

Breaking through first line of defence is not yet victory, Censor.net reports, citing RBC-Ukraine quoting Natalia Humeniuk, head of the joint coordination, press center of the Southern Défense Forces. “It cannot be claimed that the breakthrough of the first line of defence of the Russians in the south is a final victory, after which there will be no resistance. The enemy has a place to retreat and a place to entrench. It cannot be said that passing the first stage is the biggest victory and it will be easier in the future. We are ready for the fact that the further sections will also be difficult, she noted.

She said that after the soldiers knock out the Russians from certain positions, the latter have a place to retreat and entrench themselves. Therefore, the counter-battery fight of the Armed Forces is carried out in several stages: first, the elimination of the Russians from the closest positions; then – strikes in the deep rear of the enemy with the aim of destroying his infrastructure.”

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On the night of September 1, 2023, the enemy struck with Kalibr cruise missiles, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “The launch of two missiles from the Black Sea (Feodosia region) was recorded. One rocket was destroyed, the other hit one of the private enterprises in Vinnytsia region. Property, private cars were damaged, assistance is provided to the victims.”

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

  • Ukrainian Forces continue to take offensive action on the Orikhiv axis in southern Ukraine, with units reaching the first Russian main defensive line. Russian forces, primarily composed of the 58 Combined Arms Army and Russian Airborne Forces elements, seek to halt the Ukrainian counter-offensive whilst maintaining their own offensive on the northern axis around Kupiansk.
  • Russian forces are likely seeking to distract Ukraine from its counter-offensive, thereby forcing it to divide its forces between Orikhiv and Kupiansk. Given that Russia has made modest gains near Kupiansk since the Ukrainian counter-offensive began in June, they are highly likely seeking to capitalise on these by continuing to resource the axis. However, Russia risks dividing its forces as it seeks to prevent a Ukrainian breakthrough.
  • The Kerch Strait is a bottleneck for military logistics support to Russian forces in occupied areas of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts. Russia is heavily reliant on the Crimean bridge and ferries to cross the Straits.
  • Russia is employing a range of passive defences such as smoke generators and underwater barriers, alongside active defence measures such as air defence systems, to strengthen the survivability of water crossings and minimise damage from future attacks. The bridge’s importance for both logistics and symbolism of Russian occupation mandates these extensive protection measures.
  • As of 29 August 2023, imagery confirms Russia has created an underwater barrier of submerged ships and containment booms to deter against Uncrewed Surface Vehicle (USV) attacks against the Crimean Bridge. At the southern part of the bridge, this includes several vessels 160 metres apart. These are located at the same place as the Ukrainian “Sea Baby” USV attacks on 17 July 2023.
  • Previously, in September 2022, the Russian Navy briefly trialled radar decoys on barges for several days, likely to deter radar seeking missiles. Other countermeasures to protect the bridge include the use of TDA-3 truck-mounted smoke generators, with an exercise conducted on 24 May 2023. This smoke was activated to deter incoming air threats on 12 August 2023.

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

Russian soldiers who refuse to fight are starved and kept in pit, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Hanna Maliar, Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine. “The Russian occupiers in the temporarily occupied part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast are keeping their own soldiers in a pit without food because they refused to fight. At the end of August of this year, near the settlement of Pokrovske, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, the Russian police are keeping more than 50 Russian soldiers in a so-called zindan (a deep dug pit) for their refusal to participate in combat actions. They are fed with meagre rations only once a day.

Maliar noted that the Russians are using similar deep pits as “prisons” throughout the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine for punishing locals detained for violating curfew or for any other far-fetched reason. She added that the mobilised soldiers are arriving in the occupied city of Donetsk en masse; most of them are labour migrants from former Soviet republics who went to Russia to earn money and obtained Russian passports. These people state that they were basically taken to the territory of Ukraine by force, under escort. At the moment, they are being held under guard in the houses, whose owners have been deported to Russia.

Maliar added that the rations received by the conscripts are almost over, and no other food supply is provided until their arrival at combat units. Moreover, the Russian occupying administrations of the Svatove district in Luhansk Oblast were informed that in September 2023, the food supply for the personnel of the units deployed in the territory of this district will be stopped.”

Humanitarian

As of today, 16,976 children considered found in Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing the Office of the Ombudsman of Ukraine. “A total of 16,976 children have been found in Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale war.

According to the state portal for the search for children ‘Children of War’, as of September 1, 2023, 1,165 children are considered missing in Ukraine, and 16,976 children are found, the press service said.”

Ukrainians will receive $232M from the World Bank for urgent home repairs, Ukraine Business News reports. “These funds will reimburse the costs of repairs for 98,000 individual houses and 8,000 families in 160 apartment buildings from five regions that were affected by the Russian Federation’s invasion, the World Bank said.

$70M of this is a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, secured by a guarantee from the Japanese government, and $162.5M is a grant from the multilateral donor Trust Fund for the Support of Reconstruction and Reform of Ukraine. It is noted that additional financing of up to $800M is expected later from the World Bank and partners in the form of credit guarantees, grants, and other contributions.

The project will help thousands of Ukrainian families and support the government in laying the foundation for a sustainable, inclusive, and green recovery. The organization noted that The WB supports Ukraine on its way to restoring housing and other urban infrastructure.”

Compensation for the transit of Ukrainian grain to Baltic ports will cost €600M: conditions have been put forward, Ukraine Business News reports. “The European Commission still does not have a clear decision on whether the grain embargo on several Ukrainian agricultural products will continue, European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said. If this ban is not extended, we will have problems, he said.

In his opinion, to prevent a possible crisis in the EU grain market, it is necessary to maintain the embargo and subsidize the transit of Ukrainian grain to Baltic ports at €30 per ton. The total compensation will come from the EU budget and amount to €600M. The condition for its allocation will be Ukraine’s obligation to find a recipient for its goods in third countries, Wojciechowski explained.

According to him, Ukrainian grain settles in Europe because the cost of transportation through Baltic ports to third countries is too high. As a result, these countries buy cheaper Russian grain. Therefore, the EU’s aid to Ukraine as a subsidy is the best solution now.”

Environmental

ZNPP operated in violation of safety principles, Ukrinform reports, citing the acting head of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate Oleh Korikov. “Russians are using Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) in violation of safety rules. ZNPP is operated in violation of internationally recognized safety principles and in violation of the license terms, Korikov said. He emphasized that the power units have not been put into a “cold” state and maintenance and repairs are not carried out on time. Part of the territory is mined.

In addition, the online transmission of radiation monitoring data from ZNPP industrial site has not been restored. This complicates the response to a possible radiation accident. The emergency preparedness and response system remain degraded. Korikov called for isolating Russia both through sanctions and exclusion from international organizations, including the IAEA.

As reported, ZNPP has been under occupation since March 4, 2022. During this time, the Russians have repeatedly violated the principles of nuclear safety by deploying military equipment on the territory of ZNPP, mining the territory and terrorizing the plant’s personnel.”

High school students without Russian citizenship are not allowed into school in occupied territories, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the National Resistance Center, “Russian-imposed authorities in Ukraine’s temporarily occupied territories have been refusing to allow high school students who do not hold Russian passports to attend classes.

In a number of settlements in the temporarily occupied territories, there are cases of high school students who did not obtain a Russian passport being temporarily refused admittance to schools run by the occupation authorities. Schools in Kherson Oblast handed over lists of the students who do not hold Russian passports to the local occupation authorities. The students now have 10 days to “rectify the situation”. Only then will they be allowed to take part in lessons.

In addition, the Russians in the occupied territory issued school stationery only to those children whose parents have Russian citizenship.”

EU condemns Russian sham elections in Ukraine’s occupied territories, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano has condemned the sham “elections” being held by Russia in the occupied territories of Ukraine.

Russia has started early voting in its illegal so-called ‘elections’ in temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories. This is a further massive violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty, Stano tweeted. Crimea, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk are all Ukraine! Those involved [in the fake elections – ed.] will be held to account, he added.”

Support

US to send depleted-uranium munitions to Ukraine, Reuters reports. “The Biden administration will for the first time send controversial armour-piercing munitions containing depleted uranium to Ukraine, according to a document seen by Reuters and separately confirmed by two US officials. The rounds, which could help destroy Russian tanks, are part of a new military aid package for Ukraine set to be unveiled in the next week. The munitions can be fired from US Abrams tanks that, according to a person familiar with the matter, are expected be delivered to Ukraine in the coming weeks. […]

Although Britain sent depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine earlier this year, this would be the first US shipment of the ammunition and will likely stir controversy. It follows an earlier decision by the Biden administration to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine, despite concerns over the dangers such weapons pose to civilians.”

Pentagon ordered AMRAAM missiles for Ukraine, Censor.net reports, citing Pentagon’s website. “The US Department of Defence has ordered Raytheon to produce advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles AMRAAM for Ukraine. The US company Raytheon Missiles and Defence (Arizona) will purchase advanced AMRAAM missiles from various sources worth $192 million. The dates of delivery and the number of missiles to be purchased are not disclosed.

It is planned to do so by 29 November 2024. Funds for the purchase of missiles are allocated from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative fund.”

Aviation coalition now includes 14 countries, each making contribution, Ukrinform reports. “The aviation coalition for the provision of fighter jets to Ukraine includes 14 countries and each will make its contribution. Some states have not yet had time to publicly declare their participation. However, each of the 14 participants will make a contribution, Deputy Head of the President’s Office Ihor Zhovkva told Ukrinform in an interview. […]

However, according to him, there are certain procedures, because, for example, the F-16 is an American-made aircraft, and the United States should give permission to each of the countries to supply them or even to use them for training. Zhovkva said that the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway had announced a specific number of F-16 aircraft, some countries had announced pilot training, adding that Ukraine asked not only for F-16s.

Thus, he noted that during the visit to Sweden [the President’s visit took place on August 19], the provision of Gripen aircraft was discussed with the Swedish Prime Minister and with all the leaders of the parliamentary parties. We understand that Sweden is not yet NATO member and for now it has to bear full responsibility for its own security. But we are aware that Sweden will become NATO member very soon. […] When Sweden becomes a full-fledged NATO member, then the issue of aircraft will move faster, the deputy head of the President’s Office believes.”

US not running out of munitions due to Ukraine aid, Pentagon Acquisition Boss Says, Air and Space Forces Magazine reports. “Despite sending more than $43 billion in military aid to Ukraine—both lethal and non-lethal—the US is not “running out” of any particular munitions or equipment needed for its own forces, Pentagon acquisition and sustainment chief William LaPlante told attendees at a defense conference in Washington, D.C. […] In the papers, sometimes, it says, we’ve run out of X or Y, because of aid to Ukraine, but that’s not true, LaPLante said. 

We’re managing all of that, he added, describing the process to identify items for Ukraine that are excess to US military needs. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs review the lists of what’s being offered and what’s being requested, and they look exactly at the effect on readiness of providing those items, LaPlante said. If they feel there’s a negative effect, or if handing off a certain weapon or quantity of weapons increases risk beyond an acceptable level, we won’t do it, he said, although he didn’t cite any examples of equipment withheld.

There have been concerns in Congress that providing large quantities of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine is emptying US stocks, but LaPlante said there are enough on hand and has previously said his organization is working to shorten lead times for replenishment orders. The real challenge has been to not simply provide equipment as requested, but to anticipate what Ukraine will need and have it moving through the pipeline so it arrives in a timely manner, LaPlante noted. For example, Ukraine needed different military equipment for its ongoing counteroffensive than in the early days of the conflict, when it was focused on holding ground and repelling advances.

Since then, it’s been an effort of matching provision of gear to the consumption rate, LaPLante said, and in some cases such as artillery, those rates approximate the consumption in World War II. […] More broadly, LaPlante said there has been a mindset change in the US defense industrial base as a result of the Ukraine war. In the past, US stockpiles were geared toward short conflicts and not surges. That’s changed as think tanks and Pentagon wargamers expand the timescale of their exercises, to see what would happen if a conflict didn’t last a few weeks but a year or more, he said. When the timelines are extended, it usually leads to a shortage of precision guided munitions, especially at an intense level of effort, he said.

Although this has shown up in some previous wargames,“we didn’t budget to it, LaPLante said, and he acknowledged that munitions have frequently been the account that gets cut when budgets tighten. Moreover, during the 20 years the US was fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, there was a tendency to produce the minimum of high-end weapons needed for peer conflict. The push now is to do more multiyear procurements, and LaPlante said that shows industry they can safely invest in expanding capacity. […]

A new wrinkle in the aid to Ukraine will be sustainment, LaPlante said. The M1 Abrams tanks being provided to Ukraine won’t work in a few weeks if they don’t undergo certain kinds of maintenance. The US can’t put its own troops on the battlefield and doesn’t want to expose contractors to that risk either, so LaPlante said the US is increasingly turning to “tele-maintenance,” wherein contractors or Army personnel walk Ukrainian maintainers through the process remotely. What’s being learned is applicable to how the US may sustain equipment in future conflicts, as tele-maintenance will make it possible to reduce the forward footprint of troops and contractors.

All in all, LaPlante said the defense enterprise has done a “remarkable” job in streamlining processes to get Ukraine the gear it needs in a timely manner. Configuring the M1 tanks in a way that was acceptable to the Army—removing some gear considered too sensitive to risk Russia gaining access to it—normally takes a year and a half, LaPlante said, but the Army managed it in six months.

BAE Systems signs cooperation agreement with Ukraine on localizing weapons production, Ukrinform reports, citing the Presidential Office. “In Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky met with representatives of BAE Systems, a multinational company operating in the arms, security and aerospace sectors. […] The President noted that the weapons manufactured by BAE Systems, in particular L119 and M777 artillery systems, CV90 infantry fighting vehicles, are already actively operating in Ukraine, helping to bring victory in the confrontation with the Russian aggressor closer and receiving extremely positive feedback from the Ukrainian military.

According to him, Ukraine seeks to be a co-creator of a new effective system of European and global security, which is impossible without a powerful defence industry, for which the state wants to attract leading defence companies from allied countries. Following the meeting, in the presence of the President and CEO of BAE Systems, the Ministry of Strategic Industries of Ukraine and BAE Systems signed a cooperation agreement on localization of BAE Systems arms production.

A Framework Agreement was also signed between the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and BAE Systems on cooperation in the repair, spare parts, and production of new L119 light guns.”

New developments

  1. Russians claim they put Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile system on combat duty, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Russian Kremlin-aligned news agency Interfax and Latvian-based Russian media outlet Meduza. “Yury Borisov, head of Russian Roscosmos, claimed that the Sarmat strategic missile system was put on combat duty. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced its deployment on 23 February 2023. The Russian Ministry of Defence announced the first successful tests of Sarmat in April 2022. However, on 20 February 2023, when US President Joe Biden visited Kyiv, the Russians conducted an unsuccessful test of the Sarmat missile. Sarmat is a Russian strategic missile system with an intercontinental ballistic missile. The Russians are convinced, that due to its characteristics, it is able to overcome all modern missile defence systems and is considered to be the weapon with the largest range in the world. According to official Russian data, the Sarmat missile has a range of more than 11,000 kilometres and can carry a warhead weighing 100 tonnes.”
  2. Lithuanian Foreign Minister warns international society against appeasing Putin at cost of Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has called unacceptable the scenarios in which Ukraine would have to negotiate a truce and the Kremlin would gain some benefits from the aggression. Landsbergis noted that if Russia were to obtain a ceasefire in the near future, Putin could call it a victory, and in practice, it would also mean that the aggressor had won, and the world had accepted it. You can call it a ‘new reality’ if you want, but this new reality would be horrible and we cannot allow it to happen. We should choose to make the aggressor lose. Landsbergis’ statement is clearly a response to the public debate in the West that the Ukrainian counter-offensive is progressing very slowly and that Ukraine’s intentions to return all the occupied territories look unrealistic. Before that, he said that the West should openly set a goal of Ukraine’s victory in the war, rather than talking about support for as long as it takes.”
  3. Targets 1,500 km away in Russia are no problem now – Ukraine’s Security Council Secretary, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ukrainian Radio. “Ukraine has been working on its own missile programme and drones for a long time now, so hitting targets in Russian territory, even if they are located 1,500 km away, is no longer a problem, says Oleksii Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council. […] Danilov stressed, however, that Ukraine only attacks military facilities of the Russian Federation. The bombing of oil refineries or other facilities is the work of Russian partisans whom Ukraine does not control. We attack either factories or military production, i.e. the components that are killing our children. We must put an end to this, Danilov concluded.”
  4. White House reacts to increase in number of Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Voice of America quoting John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House. “The White House has reacted to the increase in the number of Ukrainian strikes on targets located on the territory of the Russian Federation far from the border of Ukraine. Asked about the US reaction to increasingly frequent attacks on facilities in the Russian Federation, Kirby emphasised that Washington’s policy remains unchanged. Nothing has changed in our policy on strikes against Russia, we neither encourage nor facilitate them. We are focused on enabling Ukraine to regain its territory on its own soil, the White House representative said.”
  5. Russia’s Putin says he will meet China’s Xi soon, Reuters reports. “Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that he expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping soon, following earlier reports that he planned to visit China in October. Russia has turned increasingly to China as its most powerful ally since alienating the West last year with its decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, what it calls a “special military operation”. China has declined to blame Moscow for the war and condemned Western sanctions on Russia, even as it has profited by securing discounts for oil and gas that Russia can no longer sell to Europe.”
  6. China supports territorial integrity of Ukraine but does not want defeat of Russian Federation in war, – Budanov, Censor.net reports. “China does not want Russia to be defeated militarily, but supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity.The head of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, Kyrylo Budanov, said this in an interview with TSN. […] For China, it is Russia’s military defeat that is bad. In a big strategic game, they think they will be left one-on-one with their opponents, and they don’t want that, he said. Budanov also noted that at the same time, China supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine and speaks about it. This means a lot, the official statements there are serious. They need a configuration in which Russia does not suffer an open defeat, but it is also desirable that Ukraine regains its sovereignty. But I emphasise – it is desirable, Budanov said, adding that if China helped Russia, it would not have any problems with weapons.”
  7. Russia to block G20 declaration if its views are ignored, Lavrov says, Reuters reports. “Russia will block the final declaration of this month’s G20 summit unless it reflects Moscow’s position on Ukraine and other crises, leaving participants to issue a non-binding or partial communique, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.”
  8. Kremlin confirms date of meeting between Putin and Erdoğan, European Pravda reports, citing Interfax. “The Kremlin has confirmed that the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will take place in Sochi on September 4. The negotiations will take place in Sochi, on Monday. […] This meeting marks a rare visit to Russia by the leader of a NATO member country during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ankara has not yet officially confirmed the date of the meeting. It is expected that during the meeting, Türkiye will emphasise the need to resume the Black Sea Grain initiative, from which Moscow unilaterally withdrew in July. Additionally, Erdoğan is concerned about bilateral issues, such as natural gas imports from Russia.”
  9. Ukraine lists PepsiCo and Mars as international sponsors of war, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the National Agency on Corruption Prevention. “National Agency on Corruption Prevention has added American companies PepsiCo and Mars to the list of international war sponsors. Despite the declaration of reduction of their business, cessation of advertising activities and production of their products, these companies continue to work in Russia, paying taxes and supporting Russia’s economy.”

Assessment

  1. On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Friday 1 September:

(quote) Russian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on September 1 but did not make any confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Novoselivske (15km northwest of Svatove) and Novoyehorivka (16km southwest of Svatove). Russian Western Grouping of Forces Press Officer Yaroslav Yakimkin claimed on September 1 that Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Kupiansk direction and captured an unspecified Ukrainian stronghold. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that elements of the Russian Western Grouping of Forces captured several unspecified Ukrainian strongholds and key heights in the Kupiansk direction between August 25 and September 1. Russian sources claimed on September 1 that Russian forces continued to make unspecified gains near Synkivka (9km northeast of Kupiansk), Petropavlivka (7km east of Kupiansk), and Vilshana (14km northeast of Kupiansk), although ISW has not observed visual confirmation of these claims. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that there are only positional battles ongoing in the Kupiansk direction. Another Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces conducted an assault near Bilohorivka (12km south of Kreminna) but did not specify an outcome.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted limited unsuccessful ground attacks along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on September 1. Yakimkin claimed that elements of the Russian Western Grouping of Forces repelled four Ukrainian counterattacks in the Kupiansk direction. Russian Central Grouping of Forces Spokesperson Alexander Savchuk claimed on September 1 that elements of the Central Grouping of Forces repelled four Ukrainian assaults near Torske (15km west of Kreminna) and the Serebryanske forest area south of Kreminna. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces repelled three Ukrainian assaults near Torske and another three assaults near the Serebryanske forest area.

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut on September 1 and made marginal advances south of Bakhmut. Geolocated footage published on September 1 indicates that Ukrainian forces made marginal advances northwest of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations south of Bakhmut. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Ukrainian forces repeatedly unsuccessfully attacked near Klishchiivka and Malynivka (24km northwest of Bakhmut) over the last week. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces continue efforts to capture Klishchiivka. […]

Russian forces continued counterattacks near Bakhmut on September 1 but did not make any confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Kurdyumivka (12km southwest of Bakhmut). Ukrainian Eastern Grouping of Forces Spokesperson Ilya Yevlash stated on August 31 that Russian forces are counter-attacking in the Bakhmut direction in order to stop Ukrainian advances. Several Russian milbloggers claimed on September 1 that Russian forces counterattacked near Kurdyumivka, Ozaryanivka (14km southwest of Bakhmut), and Klishchiivka and recaptured unspecified positions in the area. Other milbloggers claimed that Russian forces recaptured some heights west of Klishchiivka. […]

Russian forces continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on September 1 but did not make any confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Sieverne (6km west of Avdiivka), Krasnohorivka (directly west of Donetsk City), Marinka (directly west of Donetsk City), and Novomykhailivka (10km southwest of Donetsk City). A Russian milblogger claimed on July 31 that Russian and Ukrainian forces skirmished near Nevelske (directly west of Donetsk City) and claimed that Russian forces have entrenched themselves near the Trudovska mine area near Marinka.

Ukrainian forces reportedly continued offensive operations in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area but did not advance on September 1. Russian Eastern Grouping of Forces Spokesperson Oleg Chekov claimed that Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian attack in the direction of Pryyutne (15km southwest of Velyka Novosilka). Other Russian sources claimed that small Ukrainian groups attacked in the direction of Staromlynivka (14km south of Velyka Novosilka) and that Ukrainian forces are conducting offensive operations near Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka). Russian “Vostok” Battalion Commander Alexander Khodakovsky expressed frustration with the inadequacy of Russian counterbattery fire near Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) and along the Novomayorske-Novodonetske-Kermenchyk line (12-18km southeast of Velyka Novosilka), claiming that Russian artillery in the area takes several days to strike Ukrainian positions whereas Ukrainian forces do not suffer such constraints. Khodakovsky claimed that Russian forces defending in the area are under extreme physical and psychological stress and warned that this stress will impact Russian forces’ defensive ability in the area.

Russian forces continued limited offensive operations in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area on September 1 and reportedly advanced. A Russian milblogger claimed that elements of the Russian 127th Motorized Rifle Division (5th Combined Arms Army, Eastern Military District) advanced 100-200 meters north of Pryyutne since August 30. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the Velyka Novosilka area, likely referring to the broader Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area.

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and reportedly advanced on September 1. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved unspecified success in the Novodanylivka-Novopokropivka direction (5km to 13km south of Orikhiv). Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked near Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv) overnight on August 31 to September 1 and on September 1, but that Russian forces repelled the attacks. One Russian milblogger characterized the Ukrainian forces that attacked near Verbove as small, 15-person groups without armored vehicle support. Russian sources also claimed that Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian attack near Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv), and some claimed that Russian forces still maintain positions in southern Robotyne. 

The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful operations near Verbove in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on September 1.

Reported Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) efforts to censor a subsect of Russian milbloggers who are complaining about the treatment of the Russian Separate 205th Motorized Rifle Brigade (49th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) in Kherson Oblast are likely impacting discourse about the brigade. A Russian milblogger claimed on September 1 to have obtained information about the conflict within the Russian 205th Brigade from other milbloggers, Russian personnel in the area, and other unspecified sources who cannot publish such information themselves, indicating that some voices are deliberately self-censoring likely out of fear of retribution. Some milbloggers claimed that they refuse to stay silent following reports that unspecified actors within the Russian military command called for the milbloggers’ detentions on August 31, but also largely kept their complaints vague. A milblogger claimed that unspecified “very respected persons” and “political circles” are becoming interested in the situation, indicating that these milbloggers may fear specific reprisals from these individuals.

Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence (GUR) Head Kyrylo Budanov reported that the Russian military deployed elements of a newly created “reserve army” (the 25th CAA) to enable units currently on the frontline in Luhansk Oblast to laterally redeploy to defend against the Ukrainian counter-offensive in southern Ukraine. Budanov stated on August 31 that the Russian military deployed elements of the newly formed 25th Combined Arms Army (reportedly formed under the Eastern Military District) to replace elements of the 41st Combined Arms Army (Central Military District) in the Kupiansk direction, and that these elements of the 41st Combined Arms Army (CAA) began a “slow” redeployment to an unspecified area in southern Ukraine. Elements of the 41st CAA’s 35th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade and 90th Tank Division participated in the failed Russian winter 2023 offensive operation in Luhansk Oblast and have continued limited offensive activity along the Svatove-Kreminna line through now. These units are likely degraded and have been operating without brigade and regiment level rotations like many frontline Russian units throughout the theater. ISW previously assessed that a lack of operational reserves would force the Russian command to conduct further lateral redeployments and make tough decisions about what sectors of the front to prioritize. The Russian military command appears to have deployed elements of the newly formed and likely low quality or understrength 25th CAA to Luhansk Oblast to free up the relatively more effective 41st CAA elements for southern Ukraine. Budanov added that elements of the 25th CAA are already participating in hostilities in Luhansk Oblast.

The 25th Combined Arms Army is unlikely to be combat effective at scale given its rushed deployment, ahead of a previously reported intended deployment date of December 2023. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) formed a “reserve army” at the end of June, likely referencing the 25th CAA, which began recruiting personnel from the Russian Far East in mid-May. The 25th CAA will reportedly consist of 30,000 contract personnel in two motorized rifle divisions as well as an unspecified number of tank and artillery battalions, although it is unclear what elements have actually formed to date. Budanov stated that Russian forces formed the 25th CAA as a ”strategic“ reserve and did not intend for the formation to be combat ready before October or November 2023. A Russian administrator in Dalnegorsk, Primorsky Krai posted a recruitment ad for the 25th CAA on June 5 that claimed that the 25th CAA would train personnel from September 1 to December 1 and then deploy to either Zaporizhzhia or Kherson Oblast – ISW has not independently observed reporting of the October or November date Budanov cited but has no reason to question this statement. Ukrainian Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department Oleksii Hromov stated on July 5 that the 25th CAA would not be combat ready until at least 2024. Budanov noted that the 25th CAA elements that have arrived in Luhansk Oblast are understaffed and lack training, unsurprising due to their accelerated deployment. ISW cannot yet independently verify that elements of the 25th CAA are operating in Luhansk Oblast, and the scale of the 25th CAA’s commitment is unclear from Budanov’s comments. The current size and capabilities of the elements of the 25th CAA deployed to Ukraine five months prematurely are unclear. The formation is likely either severely understaffed and not near the paper strength of two divisions or is poorly trained much like initial Russian mobilized units in fall 2022, or both.

The Russian command likely views the deployment of a combat ineffective formation to Luhansk Oblast as a tolerable risk given the relatively lower tempo of operations along much of the Luhansk Oblast frontline. The recent lateral redeployment of elements of the 76th Guards Air Assault (VDV) Division from the Kreminna area in Luhansk Oblast to the Robotyne area in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast in late August further suggests that the Russian military command likely views this sector of the front as relatively safe. Ukrainian forces are conducting limited ground attacks in Luhansk Oblast compared to other areas of the front.

Additional Russian lateral redeployments and the immediate commitment of intended operational reserves suggest that short term reinforcement needs are impeding intended long-term reconstitution efforts. The redeployment of elements of the 41st CAA to southern Ukraine is the third major Russian lateral redeployment since the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in June and the second in recent weeks. Russian formations at the division level (and in some areas lower) defending in southern Ukraine have done so without rotation since the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, and these forces have committed substantial material, manpower, and effort to hold back Ukrainian advances. The second lateral deployment in the span of a few weeks suggests an increasing Russian concern about the stability of Russian defenses in light of Ukrainian advances around Robotyne. The creation of the 25th CAA is likely a part of Shoigu’s long-term objective previously announced in January 2023 to form several new major ground forces formations, and the deployment of elements of the 25th CAA to avoid creating gaps in the Russian defense suggests that the immediate threat of a Ukrainian breakthrough is serious enough to supersede that effort.

Russian “Vostok” Battalion commander Alexander Khodakovsky continues to highlight the impact of the lack of Russian counter-battery capabilities on Russian morale in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area. He claimed on September 1 that Russian forces continue to suffer from a lack of counter-battery capabilities in the Novomayorske-Novodonetske-Kermenchyk area (12km to 18km southeast of Velyka Novosilka), where Khodakovsky and the “Vostok” Battalion are reportedly defending. Khodakovsky insinuated that Russian forces are experiencing extreme physical and psychological stress in this area due to constant Ukrainian artillery fire and the Russian inability to return fire. He expressed concerns about whether distressed and exhausted Russian forces will be able to defend against a future Ukrainian offensive in this sector of the front.

Khodakovsky has previously highlighted similar concerns about the Russian defense in this area, although his recent comments are more negative and defeatist in tone. Khodakovsky’s complaints about the lack of counter-battery capabilities in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area and concerns about its impacts on Russian morale are not necessarily indicative of a wider phenomenon in the Russian defense. However, Khodakovsky’s comments likely accurately reflect the situation in his limited but important sector of the frontline as well as the situation for often neglected proxy military formations such as Khodakovsky’s Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) “Vostok” Battalion. Khodakovsky noted on August 31 that Russian forces cannot lose sight of the daily fight against Ukrainian forces while fantasizing about “burying the enemy in the future.” Khodakovsky may believe that senior Russian commanders have done exactly this by letting the situation deteriorate to the point that Russian forces may be unable to defend against future Ukrainian offensives in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area.

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and made some advances on September 1. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations south of Bakhmut, and geolocated footage shows that Ukrainian forces marginally advanced northwest of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved unspecified success in the Novodanylivka-Novopokropivka direction (5km to 13km south of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) and Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv), however. US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby stated on July 1 that the US has observed notable Ukrainian progress in the “Zaporizhzhia area” (likely meaning the western Zaporizhzhia Oblast direction) in the past 72 hours and that Ukrainian forces have achieved some success against the “second line of Russian defenses” in southern Ukraine. Kirby also stated that anonymous US officials’ criticisms of the progress of the Ukrainian counteroffensive are unhelpful.

Politico confirmed previously-reported numbers of refurbished US Abrams tanks set to arrive in Ukraine by mid-September. Politico confirmed that Ukraine will receive the first 10 of the 31 promised refurbished US Abrams tanks by mid-September following refurbishment in Germany, citing a US Department of Defense official and another source. The US Army Europe and Africa Spokesperson Colonel Martin O’Donnell stated that the US remains committed to delivering the 31 Abrams during an unspecified timeframe in the fall. O’Donnell stated that 200 Ukrainian servicemen recently completed one of the final phases of Abrams training. Ukraine is unlikely to deploy the initial Abrams tanks (two platoons) until the entire brigade set is ready for operations.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Yunus-Bek Yevkurov is reportedly visiting multiple African countries as part of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD’s) continued effort to assume control over the Wagner Group’s operations in Africa. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Yevkurov is conducting a tour of various African countries including Burkina Faso and recently visited Libya and Syria in an attempt to replace “private military companies” (PMCs) with Russian MoD-controlled formations. The milblogger also claimed that the Russian MoD is forming a “volunteer corps” to function as an “expeditionary corps” that will include over 20,000 personnel. The “expeditionary corps” may be a reference to the “Rossiyskiy Ekpeditsionniy Korpus” (Russian Expeditionary Corps) PMC that Russian officials are allegedly creating to conduct operations abroad. Bloomberg reported on August 31 that unnamed sources close to the Russian MoD and an unspecified PMC claimed that a Russian MoD-affiliated PMC is positioned to take control of Wagner’s operations in the Central African Republic. ISW has continually observed claims since the Wagner rebellion on June 24 that the Russian MoD is attempting to consolidate control over Wagner operations in Africa.

A Russian public opinion poll indicates that there is likely little to no societal discontent around the Wagner Group or its financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s death, and the true cause of the plane crash will have little impact on both Russian perceptions and the future of the Wagner Group. Independent Russian polling organization Levada Center found that roughly equivalent percentages of Russians believe that either Prigozhin’s death was accidental; Russian authorities intentionally orchestrated Prigozhin’s death; Prigozhin is still alive; or the cause of Prigozhin’s death is difficult to determine. Levada Center polls conducted on June 23 and August 23 found that Russians are almost evenly split between disapproving and approving of Prigozhin’s activities. Public opinion on the death of Prigozhin (very likely a Kremlin-directed assassination) would only impact Kremlin or Ministry of Defense decision making if public opposition reached a far higher threshold, and the Kremlin likely in fact benefits from continued disagreement in Russian society over the circumstances of Prigozhin’s death.

A fringe Russian milblogger arrested on August 31 for allegedly discrediting the Russian military reportedly pled guilty on September 1. Russian state media outlet TASS reported that Andrey Kurshin, administrator of the “Moscow Calling” Telegram channel, pled guilty to charges for knowingly disseminating false information about the Russian military and faces up to 10 years in prison. Russian media outlet Baza claimed that Russian officials charged Kurshin for posts made on September 14 and November 23, 2022 covering Russian shelling of Zaporizhzhia Oblast and a strike near a dam on the Inhulets River near Kherson City, respectively. Kurshin, via the “Moscow Calling” channel, has actively criticized the Russian military, Ministry of Defense (MoD), and Kremlin throughout the war for poor Russian conduct, and these specific and older posts are unlikely to be the impetus for Kurshin’s arrest. Russian authorities reportedly arrested prominent ultranationalist Igor Girkin based on Telegram posts two months prior to his arrest but reportedly began investigating Girkin on the same day he levied especially harsh critiques against Russian President Vladimir Putin, as ISW has previously reported.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence (GUR) Head Kyrylo Budanov reported that the Russian military deployed elements of a newly created “reserve army” (the 25th CAA) to enable units currently on the frontline in Luhansk Oblast to laterally redeploy to defend against the Ukrainian counteroffensive in southern Ukraine.
  • The 25th Combined Arms Army is unlikely to be combat effective at scale given its rushed deployment, ahead of a previously reported intended deployment date of December 2023.
  • Additional Russian lateral redeployments and the immediate commitment of intended operational reserves suggest that short term reinforcement needs are impeding intended long-term reconstitution efforts.
  • Russian “Vostok” Battalion commander Alexander Khodakovsky continues to highlight the impact of the lack of Russian counter-battery capabilities on Russian morale in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area.
  • Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and made some advances on September 1.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast but did not make any confirmed gains.
  • Russian occupation officials announced on September 1 that voting began for the Russian regional elections held in occupied Ukraine and will continue in various forms through September 10.
  • Russian officials continue efforts to forcibly indoctrinate Ukrainian youth into Russian culture and identity by integrating schools in occupied Ukraine into the Russian educational system.“ (unquote)

Only a handful of those who rule Russia are in favour of war – Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence Chief, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing TSN. “Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, has stated that there are almost no people among Russia’s decision makers who support the continuation of the war. In Russia, among those who actually make decisions, there are literally only a few who advocate war. Everyone understands that this is a collapse and that the sooner it is over, the better.” 

Budanov also said that it is good for Ukraine when officials and soldiers in Russia who speak out about the real situation are removed from their positions. […] Budanov believes that Russia will want revenge after losing the war against Ukraine and that this may happen in 10 years.”

US sees Ukrainian progress in Zaporizhzhia, no comment on Russian missile reports, Reuters reports. “The United States has seen notable progress by Ukrainian forces in southern Zaporizhzhia in the last 72 hours, the White House said on Friday, adding separately that it could not confirm reports that Russian missiles were put on combat duty.

We have noted over the last 72 hours or so some notable progress by Ukrainian armed forces …in that southern line of advance coming out of the Zaporizhzhia area, and they have achieved some success against that second line of Russian defenses, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kirby said it was up to Ukraine on how to capitalize on their success.

That is not to say …that they aren’t mindful that they’ve still got some tough fighting ahead of them as they try to push further south or that Russia could launch a counter effort, he added.”

On Ukraine, Biden needs to listen to these US generals, The Hill reports. “President Biden’s support for the Ukrainian war effort continues to be just enough for Ukraine to survive, but not enough for it to win. For Ukraine, this is like treading water wearing a 25-pound life preserver. All your energy is required just to stay afloat; nothing is left to swim ashore. When will the president start listening to his generals — his own military advisers? One can only assume the advice he is acting on is coming from the likes of national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken or former US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Biden has a history of not taking the advice of his military advisers — Secretary of Defense and retired Army four-star General Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Mark Milley. He has been accused of being wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades. Three of America’s finest retired general officers — former commanders who have led US soldiers in combat — are speaking out. Their message is consistent: Give Ukraine the weapons it needs and let the Ukrainians fight their fight. They do not need any more “West-splaining” from the Biden administration.

As Ben Hodges, former commanding general of US Army Europe, stated, “I’d trust the judgement of the Ukrainian commanders actually in the fight.” Jack Keane, retired four-star general and former vice chief of staff of the Army, opined in the Wall Street Journal last Sunday that “The US should be focused on helping Ukraine fight the war the way it wants to fight, not chirping from the sidelines.”

Missing from the $43 plus billion in US assistance to Ukraine are the weapons and munitions they need to win the war — fighter aircraft to gain air superiority and provide close air support, precision deep strike capability to interdict targets on the opposite side of the border in Russia and engineering assets needed to clear minefields, trenches and obstacles. The cost of their absence can be measured in the speed of the counteroffensive, and the number of lives lost and casualties. The New York Times recently cited US officials as estimating Ukrainian casualties as “close to 70,000 killed and 100,000 to 120,000 wounded.” This figure does not include the loss of civilian life — the result of the Kremlin deliberately targeting residential neighborhoods, schools, hospitals and bomb shelters with drones, artillery and missile attacks. […]

Neither side is going to negotiate a peaceful solution, given each side’s dictated terms, meaning this war will continue its slow, murderous grind. The aforementioned New York Times article states that Ukraine has 500,000 troops, “including active-duty, reserve and paramilitary troops, according to analysts.” Russia has nearly three times that, with 1.33 million “active-duty, reserve, and paramilitary troops.” Although outnumbered, Ukraine enjoys the advantage of superior weapons systems and advanced technology provided by the US and NATO. Technology beats mass on today’s battlefield.

General Milley is correct in his most recent assessment of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, “So [Ukraine’s] fighting the fight. I had said a couple of months ago that this offensive was going to be long, it’s gonna be bloody, it’s going to be slow. And that’s exactly what it is: long, bloody and slow, and it’s a very, very difficult fight.” This is a direct result of the Biden administration denying and slow-rolling to Ukraine the tools it needs to fight the fight as the US and NATO doctrine dictate.

White House indecision is making conditions on the battlefield more difficult as well. Retired US Army General and former CIA Director David Petraeus recently commented that even the US military would be unable to win this fight (“the truth is we could not have done this”) given the same constraints that the White House has imposed upon the Ukrainian Army — namely the absence of air superiority and ability to shape the battlefield for a combined arms operation.

Petraeus also noted in a Washington Post opinion he co-authored with Frederick W. Kagan that “Ukraine has none of the advantages the United States had in [Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom]. In both Iraq-related cases, coalition forces benefited from air supremacy, while Ukrainian aircraft cannot operate over Russian lines and cannot prevent Russian aircraft and helicopters from hitting their own advancing troops. And Ukraine has been given too few armored breaching systems.”

Petraeus added that “Ukraine needs long-range precision-strike capabilities such as ATACMS. It needs cluster munitions for its rockets, not just its artillery rounds. It needs more ammunition to sustain the offensive. And it needs the accelerated delivery of F-16s. In truth, Ukraine needed these capabilities months ago.” How can we expect Ukraine to advance rapidly through successive Russian defensive belts without precision deep-strike capability and air superiority?

With the addition of US precision deep-strike munitions, an accelerated timeline for the introduction of fighter jets, intelligence and engineering assets to clear minefields and obstacles rapidly, Ukraine can attack Russia’s ability to wage war in Ukraine through interdiction — the deep fight, strike back at drone and missile launch sites targeting civilians by defeating the weapon system at the point of origin versus the missile in flight, and expedite the close fight and breakthroughs of Russian defensive belts.

Ukraine is on the correct glidepath to win this war, and Crimea will be the determining factor. It is the “decisive terrain.” They can push Russian forces out of the Ukraine mainland and the Crimean Peninsula, but Biden must listen to his military experts — his commanders, SECDEF, CJCS and the plethora of retired general officers at his disposal. Biden must enable Ukraine to win. That means getting the weapons, munitions and intelligence they need now, not six to 12 months from now. We developed a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus in four months, but such things require one’s heart to be in it. Right now, Biden’s is not.

Biden must therefore relinquish control of what Hodges called the “8,000-mile screwdriver from [the] Pentagon to [the] Ukrainian front lines” and let Zelensky and his generals fight their fight. Support the war effort — do not dictate from the Oval Office or defer to Foggy Bottom. Biden must stop cowering at Putin’s “red lines,” overcome his “escalation paralysis,” and push ahead for the decisive knockout blowTo echo Keane, “America should stop the criticism about what Ukraine is doing and focus instead on helping Ukraine achieve our common aims as rapidly as possible. That would be sound strategy.

Drone strikes on Russian soil will increase, senior Ukraine official says, Reuters reports. “A senior Ukrainian official said on Friday that drone strikes on Russian soil were set to increase and that recent such attacks showed that the war in Ukraine was gradually shifting to Russia. In an interview, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak also ruled out peace talks for now, saying any negotiations would amount to “capitulation” on the part of Ukraine and the democracies that support it.

Ukraine had ramped up its strikes on occupied areas, and attacks inside Russia itself would also increase, carried out by “agents” or “partisans”, Podoliak said. […] Because this is the stage of the war… when hostilities are gradually being transferred to the territory of the Russian Federation, he said […].

Drone attacks on Russia have sharply increased in scale and frequency in recent weeks, culminating this week with strikes that hit six Russian regions in one night and destroyed transport planes in a blaze at a military airfield. Ukraine generally cheers such attacks while stopping short of openly claiming direct responsibility for them. Its Western allies forbid it from using weapons they donate to strike Russia, although they say Kyiv has the right to carry out such attacks on military targets with its own weapons.

As the attacks have increased in frequency, Kyiv has touted its progress in developing long-range strike weapons to give it an answer to Russia’s long running campaign of airstrikes on Ukrainian cities. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday praised what he said was the use of new Ukrainian weaponry with a range of 700 km – roughly the distance from Ukraine’s border to Pskov, where a Russian military airbase was engulfed in flames a day earlier.

Ukraine has hit back at critics of the slow progress of its much-vaunted counter-offensive in the east and south that has been hampered by heavily mined areas and Russian defensive lines that were prepared over the course of months. The operation is nearing the three-month mark but has not yet recaptured any major settlements. Russia calls the Ukrainian push a failure; Kyiv says it is advancing slowly on purpose to minimise losses.

Podoliak said Kyiv’s forces were continuing to advance and hoped that Western military aid would continue to come in the months ahead. He used forthright language to rule out the expediency for Ukraine of any negotiations with Russia. “Any negotiation process… it will mean the capitulation of Ukraine and the capitulation of the democratic world on the whole, he said. […] At the moment, the partners understand that this war will no longer end in a compromise solution – that is, either we destroy Russia’s capabilities by military means, and to do this we need the appropriate tools, or this war with such level of aggression will continue for some time.”

First nuclear warheads already delivered from Russia to Belarus, Ukrinform reports. “Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, says the first nuclear warheads had been delivered to Belarus from the Russian Federation. He stated this in an interview with Natalia Moseichuk. According to Budanov, nuclear weapons in Belarus are a tool of nuclear deterrence and a tool for raising stakes. […]

The first warheads were delivered just a few days ago. Prior to that, large-scale training was conducted on nuclear simulators. I read the original documents on the outcome of that training. The documents look quite ugly for Belarus. Russia’s 12th General Directorate, the agency responsible for these weapons, wrote that the training on nuclear simulators for the Iskander system, which are stationed in Belarus in small numbers showed that Belarus was completely unprepared for the use of such weapons. However, the Belarusians showed the highest possible result in using Tochka U missiles, he added.

As Ukrinform reported earlier, on May 25, the defence ministers of Russia and Belarus signed agreements on the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory. On the same day, Aleksander Lukashenko of Belarus announced that Russian nuclear weapons were already being delivered to his country.

On June 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the first nuclear warheads have been delivered to the territory of Belarus. On August 22, Polish President Andrzej Duda said Russia’s transfer of short-range nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus is changing a regional security architecture.”

Russia will want revenge after losing the war, this may happen in 10 years, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, in an interview with TSN . “Russia will need about 10 years to recover in terms of military capabilities. Exactly 10 years is a normal period for rethinking all this. And to start preparing for revenge again.

We will definitely have 10 years, and if we manage to influence the territories that will be created in other ways after the victory of Ukraine, let’s say, maybe we will have much more, but we will have at least 10 years. […] NATO’s military committee also emphasised that Russia will remain a threat to the North Atlantic Alliance, even if its troops are defeated in Ukraine.”

Attack on Pskov air base launched from Russia’s territory, Ukrinform reports. “The Russian air base “Kresty” in Pskov was attacked by drones launched from the territory of Russia. We work from the territory of Russia, Head of the [Defence Intelligence of Ukraine], Kyrylo Budanov told The War Zone. Budanov did not specify the number and type of combat drones used. Nor did the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence say who exactly carried out the attack – Ukrainian intelligence agents or partisans supervised by the Ukrainian special service.

At the same time, Budanov confirmed that four Russian Il-76 military transport aircraft were struck as a result of the attack. Two were destroyed and two were seriously damaged, he noted. According to him, these aircraft were targeted specifically because the Russian Federation used them to transport military cargo and airborne personnel. Budanov revealed some details of the strike: the fuel tanks and an important part of a wing spar, located in the upper part of IL-76, were targeted.

As reported, on the night of Wednesday, August 30, drones attacked a military airfield in Pskov region, destroying four Russian Il-76 transport aircraft.”

‘Five Eyes’ intelligence allies link a Russian hacking group to an attack on Ukraine’s battlefield devices, The New York Times reports. “The United States and its allies said on Thursday that Russian hackers were behind a malware attack used to penetrate Ukrainian battlefield mobile computing devices. On Aug. 8, one of Ukraine’s intelligence service, the S.B.U., announced that some of its mobile devices used on the battlefield had been infected with Russian-designed malware. The attack, Ukrainian officials said, was designed to damage the military command system.

Ukrainian officials said that the capture of some of their devices had allowed hacking groups to develop a malware that could spread to other mobile devices with stolen security keys. The penetration of mobile computing devices used to command and control battlefront forces is considered serious. But it is not clear how much information the hackers were able to take before the malware was discovered and removed.

On Thursday, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, said the malware, called Infamous Chisel, had been used by a hacking group known as Sandworm, which US and Ukrainian officials have identified as being affiliated with the Russian military intelligence service, the G.R.U. In its announcement, the US agency said the malware had provided backdoor access to Android devices, periodically scanned files on the computers and then exfiltrated the information from the infected devices.

The US agency made the announcement as a part of a joint report with the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing coalition formalized during the Cold War and composed of Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. In a statement, Eric Goldstein, CISA’s executive assistant director for cybersecurity, said the announcement was part of longstanding effort to call out Russian actors who have engaged in a range of malicious cyberactivity targeting US and allied partners for cyberespionage and potential disruptive actions.”

Consequences and what to do?

Ukraine’s accession to the EU will affect the bloc’s budget and agricultural policy, Ukraine Business News reports. “The prospect of Ukraine joining the EU poses new challenges for the bloc, writes The Guardian. The EU budget is €185B, and Germany, France, and Italy make the largest contributions. The entry of new members is likely to increase the contributions from each country.

The second issue is the size of the European Parliament. With its population, Ukraine could claim 50-60 MEPs. There may be several options: remove Britain’s quota, expand the parliament, or reduce the number of MEPs from other countries – which carries risk as being potentially unpopular.

However, one of the biggest tasks for officials in Brussels will be reforms to the common agricultural policy if Ukraine becomes a member. A shock to the system is already being felt in Poland and other neighbouring countries that have introduced embargoes. The prospect of Ukraine’s accession will provoke negotiations and spur the debate that has been going on for years on the EU’s common agricultural policy.”

Despite sending more than $43 billion in both lethal and non-lethal military aid to Ukraine the US is not running out of any particular munitions or equipment needed for its own forces, Pentagon acquisition and sustainment chief William LaPlante says. His message addresses US audience concerns over the potential impact of its substantial defence support to Ukraine as the defence industries are struggling to tamp up production.

The message does little to alleviate Ukrainian concerns. LaPlante stresses that the US will not put US military readiness at risk. If the US Department of Defense or Joint Chiefs of Staff feel that defence support will have a negative effect, or if handing off a certain weapon or quantity of weapons increases risk beyond an acceptable level, the US will not supply Ukraine with the weapons or ammunition it needs.

The problem is that failure to support Ukraine means the failure to deter aggression elsewhere. US and European support for Ukraine reflects their ability to respond to emerging security challenges.

Western strategic messaging is constructed around the notion that the inflow of weapons and ammunition is constantly adjusted to the situation on the battlefield.

The only problem with the narrative, however, is that it is not true.

2022 Weapons and ammunition Military situation
February Javelins, Stinger and Mistral Russia attempted “Blitzkrieg” and maritime blockade of Ukraine
March Starstreak and MILAN
April M777 Howitzers Russian offensive in Eastern Ukraine
May Brimstone, Harpoons and CAESAR howitzers
June HIMARS, M270s, 155mm PzH 2000 and 155mm AHS Krabs
July HARM and M113
August
September Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkiv and Kherson. Russia launch attack on Ukrainian energy sector.
October IRIS-T
November NASAMS and Crotale
December Battle for Soledar and Bakhmut.

“Stalemate” and Force Generation

2023
January
February Leopard 2 and Hawk
March GLSDB, JDAM-ER, Marder IFV, Challenger 2, AMX-10 RC and Stryker
April Patriot
May SAMP-T, Storm Shadow and 155mm “Paladin” M109A6
June CV90 Ukrainian counteroffensive. Strikes in Russia’s deep rear (missiles, drones, partisan and SOF). Wagner rebellion.
July SCALP and US cluster ammunition
August Leopard 1
September Abram tanks

The list only contains the most important Western weapon contributions. The actual defence support is far bigger in scale and scope.

While the list on the face of it lends credit to the claim that the defence support is adapted to the everchanging military situation on the ground, the reality could not be more different.

Firstly, Russia was at its peak military power on 22 February 2022. It attacked Ukraine on multiple axes, employing both Land, Air and Naval forces. While the attention of the international community was fixed on the Russian attempt to take Kyiv in days – where Western-made Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) and anti-tank weapons played an important role – Ukraine was defending itself from parallel and synchronised ground and air attacks from the north, south and east. Russia was (and still is) employing all weapons available to it – including massive numbers of main battle tanks, artillery and MLRS – while advancing in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Kharkiv Oblast.

The first Western-made tanks only started arriving one year later. Nearly 3 months into the Ukrainian counteroffensive, the main bulge of pledged tanks has not yet materialised. Artillery arrived months after Russia withdrew from the northern axis and refocused its efforts on Eastern Ukraine.

Secondly, during the first phase of the Russian onslaught, the Air Force conducted 200-300 combat missions a day. During the first day of the full-scale war alone, it launched 155 long-range missiles against Ukrainian high-value targets.

The US and Europe, however, first acknowledged the dire state of the Ukrainian Air Defence network after Russia started its massive missile and drone attacks against Ukraine’s energy sector in October 2023. The first Western-produced Air Defence systems arrived shortly afterwards. The first Patriot system, however, only arrived in April this year. Western support has ensured the defence of the Ukrainian capital. Most other cities are still vulnerable to missile and drone attacks. Equally important, the Ukrainian counteroffensive suffered progress for lack of short- and medium-range Air Defence.

Thirdly, the slow and incremental inflow had a huge impact on Ukraine’s ability to maintain the initiative after its highly successful offensives in Kharkiv and Kherson last fall. While a strategic pause probably was needed to generate new forces and restock ammunition in preparation for the forthcoming counteroffensive, the slow inflow of defence aid ended up defining the start date of the offensive. It was denied the opportunity to start the advance while the ground was frozen solid during winter.

Russia was instead given ample time to dig in, fortify and prepare a comprehensive defensive network along all probable lines of advance. It has not least, been given time to generate new forces to sustain operations.

Lastly, Ukrainian bravery, adaptability and brazen disregard of Russian red lines with no “apocalyptical” response have helped the West to ramp up the quality of weapons provided. The US and Europe have gradually “escalated” defence support from MANPADS to artillery, MLRS, main battle tanks and advanced missile systems. They are providing Ukraine with weapon systems that were unconceivable only last year. That process will continue to evolve as modern, 4th generation combat aircraft is scheduled to arrive in early 2024.

That said, the slow and incremental supply of weapons and ammunition is not only a result of political deliberations and increasing maturity. It is also a symptom of a far more fundamental Western challenge. Most European countries have failed to invest in security and defence during the last 3 decades. This is reflected in both their existing force structures, their rush to rebuild the former and, not least, the defence industries’ problems meeting the urgent requirements as quickly as needed.

It is, however, also reflected in the slow and incremental supply of defence aid. As Pentagon acquisition and sustainment chief, William LaPlante stressed – echoing the deliberations of all NATO members – none will not put their military readiness at risk. If the defence support will have a negative effect, or if handing off a certain weapon or quantity of weapons increases risk beyond an acceptable level, the West will not supply Ukraine with the weapons or ammunition it urgently needs.

And exactly this point opens the West to new risks.

The risk of being seen as unprepared for the not-so-new strategic security situation. That perception will increase the longer Russia is allowed to wage its unjustified, unprovoked and ruthless war in Ukraine.

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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