Curated news, analysis, and commentary about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, tactical situation on the ground, Ukrainian defense, and NATO.
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Russian Campaign Update. Russia continues to occupy three major Ukrainian cities – Kherson, Melitopol, and Berdyansk located in southern Ukraine. Mariupol on the coast of the Sea of Azov is encircled. The Russians have made some limited progress advancing from the east to Kyiv. Some small gains were made moving north from Crimea along the western bank of the Dnieper River. The Ukrainian counterattacks and ambushes against the Russian lines of communication in northeast Ukraine is hindering the logistics effort. Some news reports indicate that Putin has fired some of his top generals and others say that high ranking members of the intelligence community have been arrested.
Russian Wounded. Many wounded Russian soldiers are being evacuated to Belarus. There has been a constant flow of convoys of ambulances in the border area heading north. They are being taken to a hospital in Mazyr, a city in southern Belarus. Read more in “Russia Evacuates Wounded Soldiers to Belarus as Its Casualties in Ukraine War Rise”, The Wall Street Journal.
Russian Dead. The bodies of dead Russian soldiers are being brought by truck to Mazyr, Belarus and then sent home to Russia by train or plane. The morgues in Homel and Naroulia are also filled up. U.S. officials have estimated that several thousand Russian soldiers have been killed so far in the weeks-long war. “Bodies of Russian Soldiers Filling Up Belarusian Morgues, Residents Say”, Radio Free Europe, March 13, 2022.
Advance From Brest? There are indications that the Russians and / or the Belarus might push southward into western Ukraine from Brest, Belarus to interrupt the lines of communications running east – west across Ukraine. This would cut off supplies of weapons from western nations transiting across the border toward the central part of Ukraine in the vicinity of Lviv.
Fight for the Skies. The Russians are flying a couple of hundred sorties a day. However, most of them are not over Ukrainian airspace and are lobbing long-range missiles from inside Russian airspace. This is due to the air defense capabilities of the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians are flying infrequently because of the the Russian surface-to-air missiles that are in many locations of Ukraine. (Defense One, Mar 11, 2022).
Maritime Activities. No significant maritime activities have taken place in the past few days.
Kyiv. The capital city of Ukraine is considered the primary objective of the Russians. The Capture of Kyiv would allow Russia to put in place its puppet government. The Russian army is in the northern outskirts of the city and control the Antonov / Hostomel airport located to the northwest of the Kyiv. The city currently has electricity, gas, food, and water. There is enough food for the 2 million residents who have stayed in the city to last two weeks. The situation on the ground around Kyiv remains somewhat static. (view SITMAP of Kyiv).
Kharkiv. The second largest city of Ukraine is Kharkiv located in the northeast of the country. It is not yet encircled and the Ukrainians are putting up a strong defense. There is the possibility that Kharkiv could be cut off from the center of Ukraine – losing the ability to be resupplied.
Mariupol. Located on the Sea of Azov, the coastal city of Mariupol is under siege by the Russians. This city is situated along the coastal road network that would provide Russia with a land bridge between Russia and the Crimea. The mayor of the city says it can hold out until March 17th. The Ukrainian military is in no position to relieve the city as it is committed to defending too many other areas. Russian forces advanced into the eastern outskirts of Mariupol on Saturday. Humanitarian corridors continue to be interdicted by Russian forces.
Mykolayiv. Located on the west bank of the Dnieper River close to the coast of the Black Sea, Mykolayiv is a strategic objective for the Russians that is on the road to Odessa located further west along the coast of the Black Sea. Odessa is secure for now and the risk of an amphibious assault seems to have subsided for the moment.
Western Ukraine. The Yavoriv Military Range near the western city of Lviv suffered up to 8 missile strikes in the early morning hours of Sunday (Mar 13). The attack on the International Peacekeeping and Security Center is 20 kilometers away from the Polish border and 30 kilometers northwest of Lviv. At least nine are dead and 57 more were injured. This is the most western attack since the Russians invaded Ukraine. Reports indicate that the missiles were launched from Saratov, Russia. (The New York Times, Mar 13, 2022). (subscription)
Refugees. Currently 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries to the west of Ukraine. There are about 1.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled to western Ukraine. The evacuation route from the city of Sumy in northeast Ukraine was open on March 12th, with about 8,000 people able to flee.
Situation Maps. The Institute for the Study of War provides a daily map and assessment update. The War Mapper has posted its SITMAP for March 13, 2022.
UNCN. The Ukraine NGO Coordination Network is an organization that ties together U.S.-based 501c3 organizations and non-profit humanitarian organizations that are working to evacuate and support those in need affected by the Ukraine crisis. https://uncn.one
Russian Intel Officers Arrested. After a dismal two week performance in Ukraine, Putin has suddenly launched another surprise attack. This time against the Fifth Service of the Federal Security Service (FSB). The leadership has been placed under house arrest for providing poor intelligence ahead of Russia’s non-stuttering invasion. The Service of Operative Information and International Relations Service has seemed to have told Putin what he wanted to hear instead of what he needed to hear. “Putin Places Spies Under House Arrest”, Center for European Policy Analysis, March 11, 2022.
Russian Logistics. Alex Vershinin, a retired U.S. Army LtCol with time in armor units, describes some of the logistics challenges that Russia is experiencing at the moment. He says that the initial thrust into Ukraine sucked up the fuel and supplies that the invading forces had on hand. But he believes in time the logistics system will catch up . . . especially once the railheads are established within Ukraine. “Russia’s Logistical Problems May Slow Down Russia’s Advance – But They Are Unlikely To Stop It”, Modern War Institute at West Point, March 10, 2022.
Video – Learning to Use the NLAW. In Kyiv, instructors are giving last minute training to members of the 112th Territorial Defense Brigade in preparation for the defense of the capital city. Watch this video of the training on the NLAW. “Kyiv Volunteers Get Last-Minute Training on Powerful Anti-Tank Weapons”, Radio Free Europe, March 11, 2022, 5 minutes.
Javelin Anti-Tank Missile. One of the more potent anti-armor weapons is the Javelin anti-tank missile. The weapon locks onto the target’s thermal picture. It has a ‘fire and forget’ feature that improves the crew’s survivability. Read an excellent article that provides a detailed description and graphics on the Javelin. “What to know about the role Javelin antitank missiles could play in Ukraine’s fight against Russia”, The Washington Post, March 12, 2022.
Russian Cluster Bombs. Civilian deaths in the cities of Ukraine are climbing daily as a result of indiscriminate firing by the Russians of artillery, rockets, and missiles into residential areas. One of the more deadly weapons are the cluster munitions – a type of weapon that will deploy a large number of smaller sub-munitions over a target. More than 100 countries have banned their use and signed up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. “These are the Cluster Munitions Documented by Ukrainian Civilians”, Bellingcat, March 11, 2022.
Serbia – Staying Friends. Russians wanting to travel can fly direct from Moscow to Belgrade. There are about 15 flights a week by Ari Serbia. Travelers can then travel onward to their final destination from Belgrade. Top destinations are France, Switzerland, Cyprus, and Italy.
Helping From Afar. California’s National Guard has been training the Ukrainian Army, Air Force, and other elements of its military since the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. It has done this through the State Partnership Program. Now it is continuing to assist in a makeshift emergency operations center at the CA NG HQs in Sacramento. (Wall Street Journal, Mar 11, 2022) (subscription)
SF Trains for Big Fight in Arctic. Members of the 10th and 19th Special Forces Group are participating in Exercise ARCTIC EDGE 2022 in Alaska. The exercise is a train up for the Green Berets should they be employed in a winter or arctic environment . . . presumably against Russian forces. Read more in “US Military Arctic Training Sends Message to Russians”, Newsweek, March 11, 2022.
Cyber and Information Operations
Russia and China – Sharing Lies. The men who lead Russian and China have been spending some time nurturing their relationship. This deepening friendship is driven in part by a perception that the United States is constraining their interests. So naturally they are collaborating on the narratives they supply to their domestic audiences and to the world at large. David Bandurski, the co-director of the China Media Project, provides the details in “China and Russia are joining forces to spread disinformation”, Tech Stream, Brookings Institute, March 11, 2022.
Ukrainian Journalists. Life has changed dramatically for the reporters in Ukraine. They have adapted their work practices and location. Read more in “What It’s Like for Ukrainian Journalists Reporting on the War in Their Country”, Time, March 6, 2022.
From Cold War to Hot War. George Beebe, a former chief of CIA’s Russia’s analysis team, believes we could very well see ourselves in conflict with Russia. He believes that diplomacy is the only way to end the Ukraine crisis. Unless we follow that path he argues we are unlikely to find ourselves in a new Cold War. We may instead be in a very hot one. “Raging Toward the Abyss with Russia”, National Interest, March 11, 2022.
Supplying Weapons to Ukraine. There has been a lot of debate about the supplying of weapons to Ukraine by NATO and other countries of the world. Some critics worry that this support violates the law of neutrality – that it might be an act of war. A couple of law professors take a keen eye to this question and provide us with an answer in “Supplying Arms to Ukraine is Not an Act of War”, Just Security, March 12, 2022.
The Big Picture. Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at the nonprofit research organization – Center for Naval Analyses – is interviewed on the recent modernization of the Russian army, the false expectations of the Russian leadership, and the likely end result of the war. He says that a series of strategic missteps has hampered Putin’s campaign. “The Russian Military’s Debacle in Ukraine”, The New Yorker, March 11, 2022.
Keep the Weapons Flowing. Stephen Biddle, a professor at Columbia University, provides the argument for continuing the transfer of weapons to the Ukraine military. While it may not stop Russia from occupying Ukraine it will certainly make it costly for them. And it will raise the cost of Russian aggression in other countries. “Arming Ukraine Is Worth the Risk”, Foreign Affairs, March 11, 2022.
SOF News welcomes the submission of articles for publication. If it is related to special operations, current conflicts, national security, defense, or the current conflict in Ukraine then we are interested.
Maps and Other Resources
Maps of Ukraine
Ukraine Conflict Info. The Ukrainians have launched a new website that will provide information about the war. It is entitled Russia Invaded Ukraine and can be found at https://war.ukraine.ua/.
Ukrainian Think Tanks – Brussels. Consolidated information on how to help Ukraine from abroad and stay up to date on events.
Janes Equipment Profile – Ukraine Conflict. An 81-page PDF provides information on the military equipment of the Russian and Ukrainian armed forces. Covers naval, air, electronic warfare, C4ISR, communications, night vision, radar, and armored fighting vehicles, Ukraine Conflict Equipment Profile, February 28, 2022.
Russian EW Capabilities. “Rah, Rah, Rash Putin?”, Armada International, March 2, 2022.
Arms Transfers to Ukraine. Forum on the Arms Trade.
UNHCR Operational Data Portal – Ukraine Refugee Situation
Photo: By Vitaly V. Kuzmin – http://vitalykuzmin.net/?q=node/410, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia. The TOS-1 MRLS Thermobaric weapon.