Curated news, analysis, and commentary about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, tactical situation on the ground, Ukrainian defense, and NATO. Additional topics include refugees, internally displaced personnel, humanitarian efforts, cyber, and information operations.
Image. 1928 Ethnic Map of Ukraine. American Geographical Society Library, University of Wisconsin.
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Russian Campaign Update. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said (Mar 17) that President Putin “may be growing more desperate” as Ukraine mounts fierce resistance to the invasion and the Russian offense is stalled. He believes Russia is using its propaganda to develop the narrative of Ukraine planning to use biological or chemical weapons. It is believed that this would lay the groundwork for Russia to employ these weapons but blame Ukraine. The invasion has been costly to the Russians, with an estimated 7,000 soldiers killed. Ukrainian military losses are said to be around 1,300. Russian troop morale has plummeted. The supply problems persist – shortage of food, fuel, and ammunition.
Air and Sea. Russian missiles have struck a number of targets across eastern Ukraine. Kyiv and Kharkiv are experiencing periodic shelling by the Russians. It is estimated (U.S. DoD) that over 1,080 missiles have been fired at Ukraine since the start of the invasion. There are reports that Germany and the Netherlands will provide Patriot anti-air missile defense systems to Slovakia; who will provide their S-300 anti-air defense systems to Ukraine. An amphibious landing force on several ships is still positioned in the Black Sea off the coast of Odessa to land a substantial element of Russian naval infantry. The Russian blockade of Ukrainian shipping continues.
Battle for the Cities. The capital city of Ukraine is experiencing shelling but the Russians do not seem to be making much headway in getting closer to the city center. To the west of Kviv and near Brovary (under Ukrainian control) the Russians are digging trenches and defensive positions. The second largest city of Ukraine, Kharkiv, is located in the northeast of the country and has been under attack for weeks. The Ukrainians have mounted limited counterattacks in the Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donbas, and Mykolayiv areas. An aid convoy reached the besieged city of Sumy near the northeast border area.
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. About 130 residents have been rescued from a Mariupol theater where up to a thousand sought safety from Russian shelling. Hundreds remained trapped in the rubble and are feared dead. 80% of the city has been destroyed by shelling.
Mykolayiv. Ukrainian forces conducted a major successful counterattack in the vicinity of 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. Without significant reinforcements, it is doubtful that the Russians can advance towards Odessa, located on the Black Sea west of Mykolayiv.
Lviv. This western city has been relatively untouched by the war . . . when compared to cities in eastern Ukraine. It has been a haven for thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs). Many Ukrainians are arriving in Lviv and staying 4 to 5 nights before departing for the border. The city receives about 10,000 people daily and there are no available rooms in hostels, hotel, or apartments to rent.
Refugees. As of March 18, over 3,200,000 refugees have left Ukraine according to data provided by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). The United Nations Migration Agency says that 6.5 million Ukrainians are internally displaced. The Ukraine: Humanitarian Impact Situation Report for March 18 has been posted by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has released a report entitled Humanitarian and Refugee Crisis in Ukraine, PDF, 4 pages, 18 March 2022.
Situation Maps. War in Ukraine by Scribble Maps. Read an assessment and view a map of the Russian offensive campaign by the Institute for the Study of War. MilitaryLand provides a daily situation update as well as detailed maps of each of the conflict zones in Ukraine. @JominiW provides his detailed SITMAP as well.
Biden Warns China. On Friday (Mar 18) President Biden threatened China with “consequences” if it aids Russia. In a two hour long phone call with Xi Jinping, the president detailed possible U.S. responses should Beijing provide support and assistance to Russia. It is likely that some of these responses would include sanctions on China.
U.S. Weapons to Ukraine. On Wednesday, March 15, 2022, the White House released a statement listing the weapons provided to Ukraine. Since the start of the Biden administration over a year ago about $2 billion in security assistance has been provided to Ukraine. Some of the direct weapons transfers include 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, almost 11,000 anti-armor systems, five Mi-17 helicopters, three patrol boats, satellite imagery and analysis capabilities, and other weapons. “Fact Sheet on U.S. Security Assistance for Ukraine”, The White House, March 16, 2022. One weapon to be provided to Ukraine includes small, one-time use drones recently adopted by U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF). Read about it in “U.S. Adds “Kamiakaze Drones” as More Weapons Flow to Ukraine”, Lobo Institute, March 18, 2022.
Russia’s Shadow Warriors. Wagner Group mercenaries have been battle-hardened in Syria, Libya, Central Africa Republic, and Donbas. They are Putin’s de facto private army loosely associated with Russia’s GRU. They are now, according to some press reports, hunting for the President of Ukraine. “The shadow warriors deployed to kill Zelensky”, Asia Times, March 19, 2022.
Tanks Without Infantry = Failure. There aren’t enough Russian infantry units in Ukraine. Many Russian tanks are in combat without infantry support and traveling down roads with no flank security. This lack of foot soldiers, usually found in motorized rifle regiments, means that Russian maneuver capabilities are limited. A tank’s armor is up front, not on the sides or in the rear. Infantrymen protect a tank’s sides and rear; but in their absence the tanks are vulnerable to ambush by the enemy from anti-armor weapons like the Javelin, NLAW, and others. Tanks in combat are ‘buttoned-up’ with limited visibility. David Axe provides the details: “In Ukraine, Russian Tanks Are Fighting Without the Protection of Infantry”, Forbes, March 15, 2022.
Bread Prices Rise Worldwide. Russia and Ukraine provide 30% of the world’s wheat. The Ukraine War is affecting the food supply worldwide and bread prices are going up. The United Nation’s World Food Program (WFP) says that poorer countries will be most affected by the shortage of wheat.
Russian Astronauts. Apparently three Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station on Friday (Mar 18) in flight suits made in yellow and blue, seeming close to the colors of the Ukrainian flag. They are on board the ISS for a six-month long stay, joining the crew of two Russians, four Americans, and one German. Where their standard-issue blue uniforms are is unknown at this time. “Russian cosmonauts arrive at ISS in colours of Ukrainian flag”, The Times, March 19, 2022.
Rough Start for Foreign Legion? Andrew Milburn, a retired Marine Corps officer who served with MARSOC, is now on assignment in Ukraine for Task & Purpose. He writes about his initial impression of the ‘internationals’ who are joining the Ukrainian’s unit for foreigners. His first impression is mixed. “Legion of the damned: Inside Ukraine’s army of misfits, veterans, and war tourists in the fight against Russia”, Task & Purpose, March 18, 2022.
Escaping the Russians – and Crowdsourcing. Volunteer groups have formed up to provide a way out of the cities currently being bombed and shelled by the Russians and on the verge of capture. Volunteers in Ukraine and abroad are coordinating rides from eastern Ukraine cities to western Ukraine and beyond into neighboring countries on buses, private vehicles, and in taxis. “Ukraine: How crowdsourcing is rescuing people from the war zone”, BBC News, March 19, 2022.
House votes on Trade with Russia. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to suspend normal trade operations with Russia. In a vote of 424 to 8, the representatives voted to strip Russia of preferential trade status and impose higher tariffs. Eight members of the Republican party voted in opposition to the bill.
Ukrainian Women Standing Strong. Some 32,000 women who belonged to the Ukrainian defense forces before the Russian invasion are now patrolling checkpoints and on the front lines. Many more women have joined the country’s armed forces since the invasion. “Ukrainian women stand strong against Russian invaders”, The Washington Post, March 18, 2022.
Pravda Propaganda – and 3 NG Members KIA. The Russian media outlet reported that three members of the Tennessee National Guard died while fighting in Donbas, Ukraine. The news outlet called them U.S. ‘mercenaries’. They listed the names of three current or former members of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment who served during a 2018 training mission in Ukraine. The National Guard says the three individuals are accounted for, not in Ukraine, and are alive. (Military Times, Mar 17, 2022)
How Ukraine Wins. Timothy Garton Ash expects Ukraine to suffer through a Russian campaign of long-distance bombardment and siege. But he describes how Ukraine can win the war. “How Ukraine can win”, The Spectator, March 19, 2022.
The Coming Resistance
Website – “Center for National Resistance”. The Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) announced the creation of an official website for the “Center for National Resistance”. The center will support and coordinate those who are fighting for the liberation of Russian occupied territory. It provides guidance on urban warfare and insurgent activities. The website will be run by Ukrainian Special Operations Forces. It is in Ukrainian with an English option.
U.S. Assistance to Insurgency – Vital. Christopher Costa, currently the executive director of the International Spy Museum, is a former career intelligence officer. He argues that the United States needs to start now to help setup the Ukrainian resistance to fight the occupation of the Russians. “The US must help the resistance wage the ‘other war’ in Ukraine”, The Hill Opinion, March 15, 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
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
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/.
UNHCR Operational Data Portal – Ukraine Refugee Situation
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.