Curated news, analysis, and commentary about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, tactical situation on the ground, in the air, and on the seas. Additional topics include NATO, aid to Ukraine, refugees, internally displaced personnel, humanitarian efforts, cyber, and information operations.
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Fighting continues to take place in Ukraine along the forward line of troops. The combat is particularly intense in the Donbas region. In the Kharkiv (NE) and Kherson (south) regions, the Ukrainians are consolidating their previous gains in territory while the Russians are bolstering their defensive positions. Some Russian units that fought in Kherson have been repositioned to assist in the offensive to take Bakhmut. Russian ammunition is reported to be rapidly dwindling with some severe shortages in early 2023. (Washington Examiner, Dec 12, 2022)
Bakhmut. The Russians have been attempting to take the city of Bakhmut (Google maps) in a ground offensive for over five months. Russian has attained minimal gains while suffering a significant amount of casualties in the heavy fighting. The months-long fight for Bakhmut has reduced much of the city to rubble due to Russian artillery barrages. The continuing battle during the upcoming winter months may come down to logistics and the availability of personnel reinforcements. Read more in “Ukraine War: Why Bakhmut Became Hell on Earth”, 1945, December 12, 2022.
Winter has arrived in Ukraine. Are Russian troops on the front lines prepared for the cold Ukrainian weather? Maybe not. “Russian Soldiers Are Freezing to Death in Eastern Ukraine”, by David Axe, Forbes, November 27, 2022.
Fight for the Skies
The Russians continue to employ missile and drone strikes against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. A frequent target is the energy grid – knocking out power to millions of Ukrainians as they confront the cold winter season. The air war over Ukraine is still undecided. Both sides are operating their aircraft from afar by deploying long-range weapons from aircraft a high altitudes or they fly extremely low for short periods of time. (Sandboxx, Dec 12, 2022).
Kh-55 Subsonic Cruise Missiles. The Russians have been using a cruise missile designed in the 1970s. The missile was designed to carry a nuclear warhead. Ukraine intelligence officials pulled one out of the rubble after a recent strike in October. The warhead had been removed and ballast added. The missiles, built in an Ukrainian factory decades ago, had been returned to Russia in the 1990s under an agreement aimed at assuring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Some of the retrofitted old cruise missiles have explosive warheads; but are being sent by Russia as decoys – getting the Ukrainian air defenses to spend valuable time and resources on missiles with no payload. “Russia is Using Old Ukrainian Missiles Against Ukraine, General Says”, The New York Times, December 12, 2022. (subscription)
Ukrainian Drone Strikes On Russian Airfields . . . in Russia. Apparently the Ukrainians have been hitting aircraft based on airfields hundreds of kilometers inside Russia. The Ukrainians are using old and new drones that have a range of about 1,000 kilometers. “The Mysterious Weapons Behind Ukraine Strikes on Russian Airbases”, Euromaiden Press, December 7, 2022. See also “Three things Ukrainian drone strikes on Russian strategic airbases change in the war”, Euromaiden Press, December 6, 2022.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet continues its operations in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov. It has been launching missile strikes from surface ships and submarines against coastal targets as well as against Ukrainian cities deep in the interior of the country. It also is standing by with Naval Infantry ready to conduct amphibious landings. Russian ships have maintained control of the Black Sea along Ukraine’s coast. Limited shipments of grain have been allowed from Ukrainian ports under the “Grain Initiative”.
Maps of Ukraine
Zelenskiy Addresses U.S. Congress. The President of Ukraine gave a speech before the U.S. Congress on December 21, 2022. He thanked the U.S. for its support of the Ukraine and says more assistance is needed. “Zenenskiy’s U.S. visit leaves unanswered questions”, Reuters, December 22, 2022.
Negotiations. There are no apparent signs that either side in the conflict is interested in negotiating and end to the conflict. President Biden has stated that he is willing to discuss the war in Ukraine with President Putin, but with certain pre-arranged conditions for the talks.
Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DUI). The history, structure, responsibilities, training, and equipment of the intelligence arm of Ukraine is detailed in this article. “Defence Intelligence of Ukraine: Rulers of the Stars”, Grey Dynamics, November 11, 2022.
U.S. Biological Warfare in Ukraine – Allegations. Robert Lawless examines the accusations of Russia claiming that the U.S. and Ukraine were collaborating to develop biological weapons. (Lieber Institute West Point, Dec 2, 2022).
Humanitarian Issues and Refugees
Refugees, IDPs, and Humanitarian Crisis. View the UNHCR Operational Data Portal – Ukraine Refugee Situation (Updated daily), https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine. See also a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report entitled Humanitarian and Refugee Crisis in Ukraine, dated November 23, 2022, PDF, 4 pages.
Ukrainian Refugees and U.S. Benefits. A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report entitled Ukrainian Eligibility for Selected Benefits Based on Immigration Status provides details on the eligibility for select public benefits. The different immigration status categories are refugees, asylees, parolees, and temporary protected status. Some of the benefits include Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Social Income (SSI), Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Refugee Benefits, and Department of State (DOS) Refugee Benefits. Read the CRS report, November 29, 2022, PDF, 7 pages.
U.S. Cyber Command and Ukraine. Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine the U.S. Cyber Command had deployed military personnel to Ukraine to strengthen its cyber defenses. “Partnering With Ukraine on Cybersecurity Paid Off, Leaders Say”, DoD News, December 3, 2022.
HIMARS Contract. The U.S. Army will be getting more of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems used so successfully by the Ukrainian military against the Russians. The new contract will allow the U.S. to more rapidly replenish DoD stocks and support Ukraine. “Army awards $431 million contract for HIMARS”, U.S. Army, December 2, 2022.
Slovakia’s MiGs. The country of Slovakia is ready to send its MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine. The country is in talks with other NATO countries on the way to accomplish the transfer. (The Kyiv Independent, Dec 12, 2022).
More U.S. Aid. On December 9, 2022 the Department of Defense announced another authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance for Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This is the 27th drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021. The equipment to be sent to Ukraine include more HIMARS ammunition, 80,000 155mm artillery rounds, Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems equipment, counter air defense capability, HMMWVs ambulances, medical equipment, 150 generators, and some field equipment. “$275 Million in Additional Assistance for Ukraine”, DoD News, December 9, 2022. A fact sheet published by the Department of Defense summarizes the various items of equipment that has provided to Ukraine since February 2021 – totaling over $20 billion. “Fact Sheet on U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine”, DoD, December 9, 2022. On December, 2022, the U.S. Congress approved a $45 billion aid package for Ukraine as part of the FY2023 Omnibus Appropriations package.
Russia Receives Arms from North Korea. According to the White House a Russian mercenary group has been receiving military equipment from North Korea. “White House: Russia’s Wagner received arms from North Korea”, AP News, December 23, 2022.
Patriot Training for Ukraine. The U.S. may soon be providing training on the Patriot air defense artillery system to the Ukrainians. The training could take place in the United States. The Biden administration has stated that it will be providing one Patriot battery to Ukraine. It is a sophisticated air defense system designed to shoot down incoming missiles and aircraft. The training on the complex system would last several months; for approximately 90 personnel – likely at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Many critics say that a single Patriot battery will not change the course of the war. “Military weighs training Ukrainians on Patriot in United States”, Politico, December 22, 2022.
Holodomor Recognized. A sad chapter in the history of Ukraine took place during the Holodomor – “death by hunger”. Joseph Stalin imposed harsh and repressive policies on Ukraine, including creating a deliberate famine in 1932-1933 that caused millions of Ukrainian men, women, and children to die of starvation. “Statement by President Joe Biden on Remembering the Holodomor”, The White House, November 23, 2022.
Crimea – in Ukrainian Hands by mid-2023? Retired U.S. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges is a former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe. He believes that the Ukrainian military is setting the conditions for the decisive phase of the war – the liberation of Crimea to take place by August 2023. “Retired Lt. General Predicts When Russia Will Lose Crimea”, Newsweek, December 12, 2022.
Podcast – A Firsthand Account of the Battle of Mariupol. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 one of its first targets was the city of Mariupol located in the southeastern part of the country along the coast of the Sea of Azov. Outnumbered Ukrainian defenders held out for 80 days before the city fell; but not before they provided the Ukrainian military time to hold the Russians off elsewhere. One of the Mariupol fighters was Aiden Aslin, a British citizen who was captured by Russian forces in April 2022 while fighting as a Ukrainian Marine in Mariupol. He was held prisoner for five months until his release in late September 2022. Hosted by John Spencer, Aslin describes his path to Ukraine, the Battle of Mariupol, and his captivity. Urban Warfare Project Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, November 25, 2022, one hour. https://mwi.usma.edu/a-firsthand-account-of-the-battle-of-mariupol/
Reports and Publications
CRS Report on U.S. Policy. A recent brief by the Congressional Research Service has been provided to Congress that describes the sanctions on Russia, assistance provided to Ukraine, U.S. and NATO force structure in Europe, and potential policy issues for the United States Congress. Russia’s War on Ukraine: U.S. Policy and the Role of Congress, CRS IF 12277, December 9, 2022, PDF, 3 pages.
CRS Report on Invasion of Ukraine. A four page brief has been updated by the Congressional Research Service that outlines the key European Union responses to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S.-EU cooperation, and U.S. congressional interests. Russia’s 2022 Invasion of Ukraine: European Union Responses and U.S.-EU Relations”, CRS, December 8, 2022, PDF, 4 pages.
SFOPS Supplemental Funding for Ukraine. A Congressional Research Service report outlines the requested and appropriated funding for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) accounts. This funding, more than $30 billion, is supporting a range of activities, including direct financial support for the Government of Ukraine, humanitarian assistance, security assistance, and civilian agency operations. Read the report here, November 21, 2022, PDF, 11 pages.
Resources about the Ukraine Conflict
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
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.
Weapons of the Ukraine War.