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: Mi-28 Attack Helicopter. The “Havoc” is a Russian all-weather, day-night two seat anti-armor attack helicopter. It carries a single gun in an undernose barbette, plus external loads carried on pylons beneath stub wings. There are over 100 of these Mi-28 helicopters currently in service and some are seeing action in Ukraine. Photo by Artem Katranzhi, 6 August 2021, Creative Commons.
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Russia has withdrawn most of the troops it had committed to the invasion of northern Ukraine to refit and reorganize. Now in Belarus, these units will soon move to the Donbas region to rejoin the fight. Russia has acknowledged the economic impact of the war and the rising troop losses as well.
Fight for the Skies. One of Russia’s most capable aircraft was shot down this past Sunday (Apr 3). A Su-35 was hit by a ground-to-air missile and crashed in the Kharkiv region. The pilot ejected and was captured by Ukrainian forces. The Su-35 entered full service in 2018. The Su-35 has thrust vectoring engines that make it very maneuverable. See “Ukrainians Shoot Down Su-35”, Avweb.com, April 4, 2022.
Mariupol. The Russians are continuing their siege of the city. They are massing additional forces for a renewed offensive to wrest control of Mariupol from Ukrainian defenders. Some news reports indicate that the Russians have captured the center of the city while Ukrainian forces maintain control of the southwest sector of Mariupol.
Kyiv. Embassy representatives from Latvia and Lithuanian have returned to Kyiv to resume operations. Now that the capture of the Ukrainian capital by the Russians is considered remote, many activities are returning to normal.
Evacuees Killed at Train Station. Two Russian rockets hit a busy train station in Ukraine on Friday (Apr 8) killing at least 39 people and wounding another 87. The women, children, and elderly were trying to flee fighting in eastern Ukraine. The incident occurred in the city of Kramatorsk. No Ukrainian troops were killed in the attack. About 4,000 people were at the train station at the time of the attack. “Ukraine says Russia deliberately struck railway station used by evacuees”, Reuters, April 8, 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. View more Ukraine SITMAPs that provide updates on the disposition of Russian forces.
Refugees, IDPs, and Humanitarian Crisis. Almost 5,000 people were evacuated from conflict areas of Ukraine on Thursday (Apr 7). Many came from Mariupol while others were from the Zaporizhzhia region. View the UNHCR Operational Data Portal – Ukraine Refugee Situation (Updated daily).
And The Coming Insurgency? The Ukrainians have a past history of insurgent warfare against the Soviet Union. In post-WWII the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists was supported by the Central Intelligence Agency and was credited with killing 35,000 Soviet soldiers, police, and Communist Party officials. U.S. military doctrine cites a ratio of 50 counterinsurgents for every 1,000 inhabitants. Based on Ukraine’s population, the Russians would need a force as large as 800,000 soldiers and police to fully pacify all of Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is prepared to conduct a resistance movement – you can learn more on their website entitled Center of National Resistance setup by their special operations forces command. James Dobbins, a former assistant secretary of state for Europe, explores this topic in detail. “Could Insurgency Offer Ukraine a Decisive Edge?”, The RAND Blog, April 6, 2022.
Mercenaries in Ukraine. Russia is struggling to increase its manpower to reinforce its forces in Ukraine. Russia sent about 75 percent of its main ground combat forces into Ukraine in February. A good part of that force is spent – supplies diminished, tanks and vehicles damaged or captured, and significant personnel losses. Almost 40,000 Russian troops have been withdrawn from around Kyiv and Chernihiv in northern Ukraine and are now in Belarus or Russia – to be resupplied with equipment, vehicles, and personnel. They will soon be sent into the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. In addition, contract private soldiers are being fed into the battle – Russians and Syrians. Read more in “Russia is recruiting mercenaries and Syrians to Ukraine, Western officials say”, Lobo Institute, April 7, 2022.
The Belarusian Battalion. Hundreds of volunteers from Belarus have joined a unit fighting against the Russians in Ukraine. Another 1,000 are awaiting vetting and training before joining the unit. The unit has already been engaged in fighting in the Kyiv region. “Belarusians, Russians Join Ukraine’s Military, Hoping for Freedom at Home”, The Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2022 (subscription).
Intelligence Provided to Ukraine. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday (Apr 7) that the United States is giving Ukraine officials intelligence on Russian forces in the Donbas region. “US giving intel to Ukraine for operations in Donbas, Defense Secretary says”, CNN.com, April 7, 2022.
Threat of Chemical Weapons? One big question is will Russia escalate the conflict and employ chemical weapons in their attacks against Ukrainian military forces and the civilian population. In a press briefing on Thursday (Apr 7) the head of Europe’s World Health Organization (WHO) said that the organization is considering “all scenarios and making contingencies for different situations,” including chemical weapon use by the Russians. There are concerns that Russia will conduct a ‘false flag’ operation about Ukrainian use of chemical weapons and then employ chemical weapons in response. “WHO preparing for chemical weapons use in Ukraine”, The Hill, April 7, 2022.
The West and Buying Oil from Russia. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba addressed NATO allies in a speech on Thursday (Apr 7) and said that Ukraine needs more to be done to stop the Russians immediately. He says sanctions have long and mid-term consequences for the Russian economy. However, in the short-term, Ukrainians are dying. He stated that it is wrong for Western nations to continue to buy Russian oil and supporting Russia’s war machine. (BBC World News, Twitter, Apr 7, 2022).
Russia Suspended from Human Rights Council. The United Nations voted to suspend Russia from its Human Rights Council on Thursday (Apr 7). It was accused of “gross and systematic violations of human rights.” This is a rarely used penalty imposed by the UN. Read more in “Russia’s Suspension from the UN Human Rights Council”, DoS Press Statement, April 7, 2022.
More U.S. Weapons to Ukraine. All of the anti-armor and anti-air systems approved in March by President Biden have been delivered to Ukraine. The U.S. has delivered over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 5,000 Javelin anti-armor systems, and over 7,000 other anti-armor systems. Among these items are over 100 of the Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems. Read more in “Fact Sheet: U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine”, DoD Release, April 7, 2022.
More U.S. Sanctions. The U.S. Department of State announced on Thursday (Apr 7) more blocking sanctions against Russia. These additional actions are against a shipbuilding corporation and the world’s largest diamond-mining company. There is a bill (H.R. 7108) before Congress that will suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus that would provide additional authorities for the executive branch to impose greater economic punishments on Russia.
Ukraine and Lend-Lease Act. A bill being considered by the U.S. Congress will temporarily waive certain requirements related to the President’s authority to lend or lease defense articles intended for the Ukrainian government. Read up on S.3522, Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022.
Finland Increases Defense Budget. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted many countries to re-examine their defense posture and increase their expenditures on defense. Finland, a country that has already endured an invasion by Russia in the past, is one of these countries spending more money on weapons and military equipment. Among the many new provisions is the amount of reservists who will be called up for refresher training and exercises – an increase from 19,000 soldiers to 29,000. “Finland beefs up its defense with 2.2 billion Euros”, Vantage Point North, April 7, 2022.
A Ukrainian Diary. A daily account of the war at a personal level is provided by an author who lives in a village near Kyiv has been published. It begins on “Day 0”, 24 February 2022, the day Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine. “A Ukraine diary: When the war came to me”, The New Humanitarian, April 6, 2022.
How Does the War End? The answer comes down to three internal clocks. Ukraine’s clock is counting down in years, it will weather Russia’s punishment over the long-term as long as it has the continued support of the West. Russia’s clock is counting down in months, and is contingent on the continued domestic support for the war and how quickly the Russian military can change its operational and tactical methodology to move from failure to success. NATO (and the U.S.) isn’t ticking at the moment, it has decided not to intervene militarily. “The Ukraine War’s Three Clocks”, THE RAND Blog, April 1, 2022.
And India? One of the vexing problems faced by India is how to straddle the line between expressing condemnation of the Russian attack on Ukraine without jeopardizing its unique position in the Indo-Pacific region. It relies on Russian weapons for its defense forces so it can be prepared for any conflict with China or Pakistan. Yet it needs a ‘partnership’ with the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific regions for the same reason. And then there is the Russian oil that fuels its economy. “Whose side is India on in the Russo-Ukrainian war?”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, April 8, 2022. To offset the loss of Russian support for its acquisition and maintenance of weapons systems, India will ramp up its production of aircraft, tanks, and other military equipment. “India to boost arms output, fearing shortfall from Russia”, Defense News, April 7, 2022.
“Third Rome” Doctrine and Putin. A look back in history may provide some insight into Putin’s motives in the Ukraine. Or does it? “Blaming the “Third Rome” Doctrine for Putin’s Invasion Distorts His Motives”, by Matthew Lenoe, The Washington Post, April 6, 2022 (subscription) or read at History News Network.
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.