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: Romanian troop while training with NATO Response Force (NRF) during an exercise in Romania. Image from video by NATO Multimedia filmed on April 12, 2022.
Editor’s Note: We jumped the gun in the headline on the Russian Flagship of the Black Sea Fleet in Thursday’s article. Following the lead of numerous news reports, we initially reported the Moskva was sunk. Apparently, it was badly damaged, the crew evacuated, and was being towed to port. In the latest update, as of late Thursday night, Russia has announced that the Moskva sank while being towed to port.
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Current Tactical Situation and Assessment
The Russians are consolidating and reinforcing their forces in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine; especially around the town of Izyum. Additional Russian helicopters are arriving in the area of operations. The Ukrainian military believe a Russian offensive in the area will begin soon. There are reports the Russians may make another attempt for Kharkiv. Russian air operations are mostly focused on the Donbas region. There are about 44,000 Ukrainian troops in the Donbas region. The Russians have about 65 operational Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) in the south and east of Ukraine.
Sinking the Moskva. This is a major blow to the Russian forces that has strategic consequences. The Black Sea fleet now knows it is not invulnerable. Russian ships have moved away from the Ukrainian coastline towards the south. The attack on the Moskva was about 65 nautical miles due south of Odesa, so now the Russian ships are an even further distance away. The possibility of an amphibious landing is lessened, which means more Ukrainian troops defending the coastline can be moved to the east along the coast to confront Russian ground troops. The Russian naval fleet has lost significant air defense capability making them more suseptable to air attack. The information operations battle is another aspect to be considered.
Mariupol. There are some initial reports that about 1,000 troops from the 36th Independent Marine Brigade have surrendered. Predictions of an imminent Russian victory in Mariupol are announced every day, yet the city continues to hold out. Ukrainian ministry officials say that the two remaining Ukrainian units – the Azov Regiment and elements of the 36th Independent Marine Brigade are now fighting together. Elements of the 36th broke through Russian lines to join the Azov Regiment’s positions in Mariupol. The two units were fighting in two separate areas of the city.
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.
General Information and Commentary
Sweden and Finland . . . and NATO. On Wednesday (Apr 13) the Finnish and Swedish prime ministers held a joint press conference outlining plans to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They did not provide a time table but indicated the joining process would begin soon. The Swedish Social Democrats have already decided to apply for NATO membership and may submit the application to join at the upcoming Madrid summit at the end of June.
Russia’s president has provided the exact opposite effect that he had desired and anticipated – instead of weakening NATO and reducing its presence on Russia’s borders – NATO has now become stronger and more border areas of Russia will be adjacent to NATO countries. Russia is threatening to deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic region if Sweden and Finland join NATO.
UK SF . . . Doing a Little Training. Persistent reports keep surfacing about contributions of the British special forces (SAS, SBS, Special Reconnaissance Regiment, and Special Forces Support Group) in the Ukraine War. (National Herald (India), Apr 12, 2022).
Refugees, IDPs, and Humanitarian Crisis. More than 4.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country. Ninty percent of those who have left are women and children. View the UNHCR Operational Data Portal – Ukraine Refugee Situation (Updated daily), https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine. UN OCHA’s situation report for April 14th is posted here. The Biden administration is preparing to roll out a new program for Ukrainian refugees (CNN Politics, Apr 12, 2022).
Russian Hackers and Ukraine’s Power Grid. Attempts to target the Ukrainian power grid to cause a blackout for over two million people were made using a wiper. This is malware specifically designed to destroy targeted systems by erasing key data and rendering them useless. (MIT Technology Review, Apr 12, 2022).
Transformation of Ukrainian Army. Daniel Michaels details the long-term training relationships the Ukraine military forces have had with the United States and other NATO countries. He points out that the effort by NATO trainers has had a dramatic effect from “foot soldiers to the defense ministry to overseers in parliament.” Concepts such as a strong NCO corps, mission command, and other western approaches to warfare were introduced over the past eight years that professionalized the Ukrainian military. Much of the training took place near the city of Yavoriv, located 10 miles east of Ukraine’s border with Poland. Read more in “The Secret of Ukraine’s Military Success: Years of NATO Training”, The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2022.
Russian Tanks – Pictures of War. Social media is awash with pictures and videos of Russian tanks getting blown up by artillery, anti-tank missiles, or via remotely-controlled drones. Many of the tank turrets are completely separated from the chassis when the projectile blast causes all the tank’s ammunition to detonate. The resulting overpressure blows the tank’s turret off the tank body. “Here’s why Russian tanks keep getting decapitated in Ukraine”, Task & Purpose, April 13, 2022.
Prisoner Exchange. The fourth exchange of prisoners took place since the war began. 30 Ukrainian prisoners of war were released; it is unknown how many Russians were released.
The Importance of Odesa? The Ukrainians have done well in pushing the Russians out of the Kyiv region and the northern area of Ukraine. They now face a determined Russian force in eastern Ukraine that intends on seizing the whole of the Donbas region. In addition, Ukraine needs to pay attention to those Russian forces that are threatening Mykolaiv and perhaps Odesa. If Odesa falls to the Russians, Ukraine will become landlocked and economically crippled and the Dnieper River could become the ‘New Berlin Wall’. “An Irrevocable Blow” What Happens if Russia Conquers Odesa?”, by Dr. Can Kasapglu, Hudson Institute, April 2022.
Anti-Ship Missiles – A Game Changer. Brian Frydenborg explains how Ukrainian anti-ship missiles can negate the power of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. His article was published just hours before reports surfaced indicating that two Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles severely disabled the Flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva, on Wednesday, April 13. (SOF News, Apr 13, 2022). A week ago an article pointed out that Russia’s most powerful warship in the Black Sea was operating in a pattern (Naval News, Apr 7, 2022). The United Kingdom has announced it will supply Ukraine with its truck-mounted version of the U.S.-supplied Harpoon missiles. Read more in “Why Russia’s Navy in Ukraine War is Doomed (or Irrelevant)”, Small Wars Journal, April 13, 2022.
Foreigners Can Serve. The Ukrainian parliament passed admendments to the law regulating the work of Ukraine’s intelligence agencies. As of April 14th, foreigners can serve in Ukraine’s intelligence agencies during the war.
Ukraine and Identity. Siamak Tundra Naficy, a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School and an anthropologist, explains how Putin’s War will actually strengthen the Ukrainian identity as an independent nation. Something that Putin was trying to diminish. Read more in “A Ukrainian State of Mind”, War on the Rocks, April 13, 2022.
Putin and His War Crimes. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin and Lela Gilbert argue that the international community has to ensure that Vladimir Putin is held accountable for his war crimes in Ukraine. If he isn’t brought to justice, then “. . . the whole concept of tribunals on behalf of those who have suffered war crimes becomes a farce.” Read more in “Vladimir Putin Must be Tried for War Crimes”, Newsweek, April 8, 2022.
EU Oil Embargo. European Union officials have begun drafting another response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Although energy prices may increase around the globe, the EU is considering an embargo on Russian oil products. This is a move that would hurt the economy of Russia, as well as European nations.
Putin and Central Asia. During February 2022 the Russian president made numerous phone calls to the leaders of the Central Asian states seeking their public support for his invasion of Ukraine. He also wanted the leaders to recognize the breakaway republics of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. The idea of diplomatic recognition was a non-starter for the Central Asian states. However, the economy of these nations and the economic sanctions imposed by the West against Russia are major factors in the diplomatic stance that these countries are taking on the Ukraine War. Like many countries around the world – the leaders of these countries are in the midst of a balancing act. Gregory Gleason, a professor at the Marshal Center, provides a detailed explanation in “Saving Central Asia From Putin’s Embrace”, War on the Rocks, April 8, 2022.
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