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.
Photo: Members of 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces prepare to fastrope from a helicopter. The 10th SFG(A) area of responsibility includes Europe. Photo by SSG Larraine Whetsone, SOCEUR, August 3, 2016.
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Russian Campaign Update
Ukrainian forces have stopped the Russians in the Kyiv area. The Russians are continuing to advance . . . slowly . . . in the seaport of Mariupol. The Russians appear to be focused on reaching the administrative borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. More than 1,370 missiles have been launched against Ukraine. Most of the cruise missile strikes are coming from inside Russia or Belarus. Russia is sending some of its troops that have been based in the country of Georgia to Ukraine.
Wagner Group. The press continues to note the use of the Russian’s Wagner Group in Ukraine. Russia is sending (or has sent) over 1,000 members of the private military company into the conflict. There are reports that up to 400 members of this group are operating in Kyiv to try and decapitate the Ukrainian government. There have been at least three attempts on the life of Ukrainian President Zelensky. Read more in “Putin’s Hitmen: How Mercenaries Serve the Kremlin at the Expense of Stability”, Georgetown Security Studies Review, March 28, 2022. See also “Wagner Group mercenaries deployed to eastern Ukraine: UK intelligence“, Washington Examiner, March 29, 2022.
Casualties. The Russians have suffered significant casualties. Some estimates say that the total is more than the Russians lost during the ten-year war in Afghanistan – and this in only one month in Ukraine. Olga Ivshina, a BBC World correspondent, breaks down the casualties by type (airborne, armor, officer, etc.) and from which units and regions of Russia, in her Twitter feed.
More than 510,000 Ukrainian citizens have returned from foreign countries since the Russian invasion. Almost 80 per cent of them are men, most who join the Ukrainian military. A Ukrainian bank is offering 100,000 rubles to Russian soldiers who surrender their weapons and equipment. The Russians have occupied the city of Kherson, located north of Crimea, but the Ukrainians are conducting a counterattack to try and take the city back.
Kyiv. One of the suburbs outside of Kyiv to the northwest, Irpin, has been retaken from the Russians on Monday (Mar 28) according to Ukrainian defense officials. This town has been the scene of heavy fighting for the past month. 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. Although the Russians recently stated that Kyiv is not an objective for the Russian invasion they continue to build up forces in the vicinity of the capital. On the north and northwest the Russians are still about 15 to 20 kilometers away. To the east and northeast, they hold positions about 55 kilometers from the Kyiv city center.
Kharkiv. The second largest city of Ukraine is Kharkiv located in the northeast of the country. There have been no significant changes in the tactical situation for Kharkiv, although it continues to receive heavy shelling. The city is not encircled and continues to receive supplies from the interior of Ukraine.
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. It is estimated that more than 5,000 civilians have been killed by the Russians in this city. Over 150,000 residents have fled the city, most going to western Ukraine or other European countries. The evacuation routes from the city may soon be under Russian control. Stavros Atlamazoglou writes about Mariupol – “Russia’s New Military Strategy for Ukraine: Conquer Mariupol?”, 1945, March 28, 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. For those interested in what languages are spoken in Ukraine – Language Map of Ukraine.
Negotiations. President Zelensky says that his country is prepared to discuss ‘neutrality’ in talks with Russia. Talks are taking place in Istanbul, Turkey between representatives of the two nations on Tuesday (Mar 29). There are no plans for a Putin – Zelensky meeting. Among other demands, the Russians want to see the annexation of Crimea and independence of Dongas recognized by Ukraine. There are indications that the negotiations are getting closer to some sort of agreement. Three of Russia’s initial demands may no longer be in play: “denazification, “demilitarization”, and legal protection for the Russian language in Ukraine. The United Nations is proposing a humanitarian ceasefire that will allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and evacuation of civilians from the contested areas. (UN News, Mar 28, 2022).
Refugees, IDPs, and Humanitarian Crisis. As of March 29, over 3,800,000 refugees have left Ukraine according to data provided by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). The European Commission Emergency Response Center (ERCC) has published a map depicting the population displacement and casualties caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine (Mar 28). Over 2.2 million have gone to Poland, 275,000 to Slovakia, 350,000 to Hungary, almost 600,000 to Romania, and near to 400,000 to Moldova. Poland has received over 60% of the refugees. The European Council has adopted an implementing decision introducing temporary protection due to the mass influx of persons fleeing Ukraine. The rights include residence, access to the labor market, housing, medical assistance, and access to education for children.
Biden’s Message. The president delivered a fairly good speech this past Friday (Mar 25) in Poland. His speechwriter(s) should be commended on the performance . . . as he was saying all the right things. Not a lot of substance, but some excellent soundbites. That is . . . until he goes off script. A lot of discussion has taken place in the U.S., in Europe, and in Russia about his off the cuff comment: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power”. Biden hasn’t back tracked on his statement saying “I make no apologies”.
Cyber Operations in Ukraine War. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been characterized by a relative lack of major cyber operations . . . at least compared to what was expected. Read an accounting of those cyber activities that have taken place. “Tracking Cyber Operations and Actors in the Russia-Ukraine War”, Council on Foreign Relations, March 24, 2022. Another report says that a Ukrainian internet service provider used by the country’s military was hit with a cyberattack on Monday (Mar 28). Services have been restored.
Report – U.S. Assistance to Ukraine. Since the Russian invasion in February 2022 the United States has authorized a total of $1.35 billion to provide immediate security assistance to help Ukraine. Much of this aid is focused on meeting the threats posed by Russian aircraft and armored vehicles. In addition, billions of dollars have been appropriated to replenish DoD equipment stocks sent or to be sent to Ukraine. A recent report by the Congressional Research Service provides more details. U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine, CRS IF12040, March 28, 2022, PDF, 3 pages.
US Weapons Production. The US military stockpiles of Javelin missiles (anti-armor) and Stinger missiles (anti-air) are being depleted as they are sent to Ukraine. The Defense Department plans to increase the production of these weapons so it can restock its shelves and continue to send some to Ukraine. (CNN Politics, March 29, 2022).
India – Staking Out That Middle Ground. Despite international isolation of the Kremlin, India continues to maintain its supportive relationship with Russia. A great concern of India is China; and India, thinking long-term, sees Russia as a counterweight to China’s ambitions in Asia and the Pacific region. India also relies on Russian weapons to meet its defense requirements. And then there is the Russian oil that could help India’s economy. Read more in “India Preserves Relations with Russia After Ukraine Invasion”, The Soufan Center IntelBrief, March 29, 2022.
Volunteering for Ukraine Duty? There have been numerous volunteers from the United States that have headed to Europe to take part in the fight against Russian aggression against Ukraine. So what is the legal status of these volunteers? Are they breaking any U.S. laws or regulations? Find out more in U.S. Nationals and Foreign Military Service, Congressional Research Service, CRS IF12068, March 28, 2022, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12068
Understanding Putin. There are three major issues to consider in why Russia invaded Ukraine, and they revolve around what goes on in the mind of the Russian president. The first is Putin’s perception of why the USSR collapsed 30 years ago and the resulting humiliation of losing the Cold War. The second is Putin’s views about the eastward expansion of NATO and the alleged threat to Russia. The third is why Putin thinks Ukraine is part of Russia. Paul Dibb, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, details these three points in “Putin’s revanchist excuses for going to war”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, March 29, 2022.
Proxy War. The U.S. and Europe are currently engaged in a ‘proxy war’ with Russia. These types of ‘conflicts’ will sometimes escalate into general war. But it may be the West’s best option. “A Proxy War in Ukraine is the Worst Possible Outcome – Except for All the Others”, War on the Rocks, March 28, 2022.
Food as a Weapon. The conflict in Ukraine is threatening the world’s food system. Russia and Ukraine supply 30% of the world’s wheat. Over 40% of the wheat from Ukraine goes to African nations. According to the European Union’s Agriculture Commissioner, Russia is intentionally attacking Ukraine’s agriculture infrastructure. In 1932 and 1933 the Soviet Union used starvation as a tactic against the people of Ukraine and millions died. Almost 4 million Ukrainians died during the efforts of Stalin to impose collectivism and tamp down Ukrainian nationalism. Read more in “Weaponizing Food”, Articles of War, Lieber Institute West Point, March 28, 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.