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.
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Russian Campaign Update
Russian Withdrawal. The retreat of Russian troops from areas in northern Ukraine (Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, etc.) is welcome news for the civilians that live in those areas. It is estimated that roughly 2/3s of the Russian forces in this area have departed and are in Belarus. Many of the Russian battalion tactical groups (BTGs) will reorganize, resupply, and refit in either Belarus or Russia before being committed to the fight for the Donbas region in the eastern part of Ukraine. Some BTGs are in better shape than others – the reorganization will distribute weapons, equipment, vehicles, and personnel to bring BTGs back up to strength. Some BTGs may be combined to reconstitute fully manned and operational fighting units. Russia invaded Ukraine with more than 125 battalion tactical groups on February 24, and many are still in Ukraine or refitting in Belarus.
Donbas Region. The main objective of Putin’s War is now the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in eastern Ukraine, sometimes called the Donbas region. However, Ukrainian forces continue to defend this territory and any Russian gains are incremental at best. Some Russian forces are advancing south from the outskirts of Kharkiv into this region – there may be an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east, cutting them off from their supply lines coming from the interior of Ukraine.
Devastation. As the Russian withdraw the extent of the devastation of much of the occupied area is now being revealed. For instance, the city of Irpin located northwest of Kyiv had a pre-war population of 60,000. Now just 3,500 residents are there and many of the homes and business are destroyed. Throughout the region the Russians are leaving behind mines and boobytraps that pose a danger.
Bucha Massacre. Satellite imagery provided by Mazar Technologies is showing a number of dead bodies in the streets of Bucha since March 11, while Russia occupied the town. The images debunk Russia’s claim that Ukrainian soldiers were responsible for the killings of civilians.
President Zelensky will address the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday (Apr 5). He is predicting the reporting of more instances of mass killings of civilians by Russians as Ukrainian forces push forward in the formerly Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. The United States plans to ask the United Nations General Assembly to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. A vote may take place this week on the proposal.
Kyiv. The capital city of Ukraine was once considered the primary objective of the Russians. However, the Russians are now denying that they wanted to take the capital. Missile strikes continue to hit Kyiv although most Russian artillery is now out of range of the city. It is unlikely the Russians will make another attempt to capture Kyiv with ground troops.
Kharkiv. The Russians may still attempt to capture Kharkiv located in the northeast of the country. Ukrainian defense officials say that the Russians are concentrating their forces in the Donbas region and around Kharkiv. The city is the second largest in Ukraine with a pre-war population of 1.4 million people. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is assisting in the delivery of safe drinking water – to the Kharkiv Vodokanal water system with the provision of liquefied chlorine for water purification.
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. There are numerous reports that the city will ‘fall in days’, however, the Ukrainian forces still are in control of parts of the city.
Mykolayiv and Then Odessa. Reports by Ukrainian officials says that the Russians recently used cluster bombs in Mykolayiv, killing a number of civilians. The bombardment of this city is continuing. The Russians consider the capture of this city a key to being able to attack and capture Odessa located further west along the coast of the Black Sea. The Russians are hitting some of the Ukrainian fuel depots. One fuel supply point was hit in Odessa over the weekend.
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. View more Ukraine SITMAPs that provide updates on the disposition of Russian forces.
Refugees, IDPs, and Humanitarian Crisis. More than 3,000 people were evacuated from the areas around Mariupol, Zaporizhia, and Berdyansk on Monday (Apr 4). Some Ukrainians are having difficulty in accessing food, water, medicine, and other basic necessities. The World Food Programme (WFP) has assisted one million people in the eastern, northern, and southern oblasts of Ukraine since the start of the Ukraine War. Read the Office of the Commissioner of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) report published on Monday (Apr 4).
UNHCR Operational Data Portal – Ukraine Refugee Situation (Updated daily).
Diplomacy. Forty Russian diplomats are no longer welcome in Germany. They have been given five days to pack their bags and leave. Lithuania has also taken diplomatic action – downgrading its ties with Russia and closing the Russian consulate in Klaipeda. China continues to be allied with Russia – although publicly it says it is not picking sides. The New York Times (subscription) says that the Chinese Communist Party is pushing a campaign that paints Russia as a long-suffering victim rather than as an aggressor. China says that its strong ties with Russia is vital to deterring Western dominance.
U.S. Weapons for Ukraine. The United States has committed to providing more than $1.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February 2022. Javelins, Stingers, UAVs and more continue to flow to Ukraine. A new development is the news that the U.S. is sending limited quantaties of a more robust version of the Switchblade drone, in addition to the 100 that are supposedly on the way to Ukraine in a previous shipment. The U.S. is continuing its robust schedule of exercises in Europe in conjunction with its NATO partners. The biannual exercise Northern Viking will begin that includes the U.S. 6th Fleet in the Iceland area. This exercise demonstrates the U.S. commitment to the defense of Iceland and the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap – sometimes referred to as the GIUK gap.
Report – Foreign Fights, Mercenaries, and Others. A recently published report examines the non-state actors fighting for Ukraine and Russia. Foreign Fighters, Volunteers, and Mercenaries: Non-State Actors and Narratives in Ukraine, The Soufan Center, April 2022, PDF, 39 pages.
Sanctions – Will They Work? Comprehensive sanctions against a country do hurt the target country’s economy. It also can damage the economy of the countries imposing the sanctions. For instance, Russian oil is being sanctioned, but that is putting European nations in an energy crunch. Putting aside America’s untouched energy resources, Iran and Venezuela both can pick up the slack in oil shipments. But both of these countries are also under a sanction regime of sorts. Read more in an article by David Uren – a senior fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. “History shows the West’s sanctions on Russia could backfire”, The Strategist, ASPI, April 5, 2022.
India and Putin’s War. India is taking some hits on its neutral stance on the Ukrainian conflict. However, observers shouldn’t be surprised with the country’s hesitancy to criticize Russia for its aggression towards Ukraine. India depends on Russia for its supply of weapons for India’s armed forces – especially needed to counter the ambitions of Pakistan and China in the South Asian and Indo-Pacific region. India and Russia have a long history of friendship going back to the Cold War. It may be time for India to diversify the sources of its weapons fielded to its military forces. “The Ukraine-Russia War: An Uncertain Future for Indian Defense Modernization”, Georgetown Security Studies Review, April 4, 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/.
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.