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: Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armored Regiment fire an AT4 anti-tank weapon at Zdar Military Area in Northwest Czech Republic, March 4, 2022. The soldiers are participating in Saber Strike 22, a two-week, multinational exercise that enhances readiness and relationships between NATO allies in the European region. Photo courtesy of DoD.
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Big Picture of the Conflict
Could Monday (May 9) see a general mobilization announced by Putin on Victory Day? An escalation of the war by Russia could give the Russian forces momentum in the Ukraine War in future months, but the risks would be enormous. A mobilization would be admitting that the ‘special military operation’ has not gone well and could ignite domestic opposition. (The Washington Post, May 7, 2022, suscription). The annual spring conscription for the Russian armed forces is now being conducted. (Aljazeera, May 5, 2022). Some visitors went to Ukraine over the weekend – to include Premier Trudeau from Canada (Kiyv area) and First Lady Jill Biden (western Ukraine).
Russian Generals – Getting Killed on the Battlefield. Senior Russian commanders are visiting the frontlines in an attempt to fix the difficulties in command and control and to take personal leadership of operations. This has led to high losses of general officers in the conflict. (UK Ministry of Defence, Twitter, 8 May 2022). Read more in “Why Russia has Suffered the Loss of an ‘Extraordinary’ Number of Generals”, Lobo Institute, May 8, 2022. See also a report on news that the United States is passing intelligence to Ukraine that helps it target Russian senior commanders. “Officials Push Back on Report US Intel Helping Ukraine Target Russian Generals”, Lobo Institute, May 8, 2022.
Ground Situation. The Russian advances in eastern Ukraine over the past few days have been minimal. They have lost territory in the Kharkiv region due to Ukrainian counterattacks.
Fight for the Skies. The Russians are paying more attention to Ukrainian airfields in recent days. By hitting the airstrips with long-range rockets the Russians hope to destroy Ukrainian aerial capacity and establish air superiority. The air space remains contested and the Ukrainians are still very effective with their air defense capabilities. The Russians also have some significant air defense coverage over Ukraine; especially in the east. Most air strikes by the Russians are conducted in the Joint Forces Operations Area or JFO – basically the Donbas region. Mariupol also is a location where there are a lot of Russian air strikes.
Maritime Activities. An amphibious landing force on several ships is still positioned in the Black Sea off the coast of Odessa to land a substantial element of Russian naval infantry. According to Ukrainian officials, Turkish-supplied TB2 drones have destroyed two Russian patrol craft in the Black Sea. (The War Zone, May 2, 2022). Ukraine has struck Snake Island in the Black Sea with Su-27 Flankers, hitting multiple targets. (The War Zone, May 7, 2022). There are unconfirmed reports that the Ukrainians have hit and damaged a Russian frigate in the Black Sea.
The Russian blockade of Ukrainian shipping continues. Chuck de Caro argues that the delivery of US Navy Mark-VI’s could make a difference in the Black Sea. Read “Ukraine: Think Naval War“, Small Wars Journal, April 29, 2022. Sources of info on the Russian navy: Russian Navy – News and Analysis. A weekly analysis with graphics.
What is Victory? Public support in the United States and allied countries is critical to the outcome on the battlefield. The war is heading into a protracted fight – and the need to manage allied cooperation unity and public opinion in the U.S. and other allied countries will become a priority. A big question remains – what is victory? “As war grinds on, the definition of victory remains murky”, The Washington Post, May 7, 2022. (subscription)
Azov Battalion. The unit is made up of like-minded volunteers with a mission to protect the Donbas region from the Russian invaders. “Ukraine: What is the Azov Battalion?”, Forces.net, May 5, 2022.
Ukrainian SOF and Their ATV Tank Hunters. Ukrainian special operations forces are using a specially outfitted ATV to attack Russian tanks. It is mounted with a Stugna-P anti-tank guided missile. This is a Ukrainian produced ATGM that can pierce through armored targets. It is estimated that the ATV and missile costs about $32,000 each unit. “Ukrainian Special Forces Have “Stug-Buggies” Out Hunting Russian Tanks”, SOFREP, May 5, 2022.
Intelligence Sharing. The Department of Defense has acknowledged that they have been sharing intelligence with the Ukrainians. Recent news reports say that intel passed to the Ukrainians have helped in the targeting of Russian generals (lots of them have died thus far) and Russian naval vessels in the Black Sea. Queried during press conferences on these reports, DoD spokesman John Kirby has said he would rather not get into the details.
M777 Howitzer Training. As of Friday (May 6) over 220 Ukrainian soldiers have received training on guns recently provided to Ukraine. In addition, there are about another 150 currently in training for the M777 Howitzer. (Wikipedia) The vast majority of the M777s are in Ukraine now; a number which will soon total 90.
Phoenix Ghost Training. A newly developed drone will soon be in Ukraine. About 20 Ukrainian soldiers are currently undergoing training on the UAS system.
Kyiv. The U.S. embassy staff and U.S. Charge d’Affaires Kristina Kvien arrived in Kyiv on Sunday (May 8).
Kharkiv. The Ukrainian’s counteroffensive in the area around Kharkiv is having some success. They are retaking territory as they move outwards from the city’s limits. The Ukrainian forces may soon approach the Russian border.
Mariupol. According to numerous news accounts all women and children have been rescued from the besieged city of Mariupol located on the coast of the Sea of Azov. They were evacuated from a steel plant on Saturday (May 7) where the last of the Ukrainian defenders are gathered. Elderly civilian men were part of the evacuation. The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross negotiated the civilian evacuations from the steel plant. The Russians conducted another assault on the Ukrainian positions on Saturday (May 7). “All women and children rescued from besieged Mariupol steel plant”, Washington Examiner, May 7, 2022.
There is an attempt to negotiate the evacuation of the remaining Ukrainians at the Azovstal steel plant – including combatants, wounded soldiers, and medics. This is being referred to as the second phase of the evacuation. The commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade has made an appeal to the international community for the evacuation of the remaining soldiers from Mariupol.
Mykolayiv and Odessa. One big question is whether or not the Russians will try to move west towards Odesa and perhaps to the Moldova border. Both cities continue to experience missile attacks. Located on the west bank of the Dnieper River close to the coast of the Black Sea, Mykolayiv is a strategic objective for the Russians that is on the road to Odessa located further west along the coast of the Black Sea.
Negotiations. More prisoner exchanges have taken place over the weekend. Ukraine has received a mix of military and civilians who had been captured or detained by Russia.
Refugees, IDPs, and Humanitarian Crisis. View the UNHCR Operational Data Portal – Ukraine Refugee Situation (Updated daily), https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine.
Future Scenarios. There are a number of scenarios that could play out on May 9th. Putin could announce victory in Ukraine, state that Russia has achieved its primary objectives – liberation of additional areas of Donbas, a ‘land bridge’ from Russia to Crimea along the coast of the Sea of Azov, and control of the southern end of the Dnieper River allowing Crimea to once again enjoy the flow of fresh water to the peninsular. On the other hand, Putin could announce a general mobilization with the aim to continue the attack on Ukraine in the future – securing more of the Donbas region and extending its control of southern Ukraine by pushing towards Odesa and Moldova, denying Ukraine of any coastline and seaports. Some commentators think Putin may declare war on Ukraine, upgrading the conflict from a ‘special military operation’ to that of war.
Funding for Ukraine. As of late April 2022, the Biden administration had submitted to Congress two emergency supplemental requests to address the crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There is relatively broad congressional support for further emergency supplemental funding for Ukraine – but the proposal from the Biden administration has become more complicated due to the inclusion of other funding request not related to Ukraine. For instance, the request includes money for the Afghanistan Adjustment Act (AAA), which many lawmakers are still trying to sort out. In addition, the Democrats want to add $10 billion in funding for Covid vaccines and treatment. The Democrats see an opportunity to spend money on non-Ukraine related issues due to the Republican support for Ukraine. The Republicans prefer to have a ‘clean bill’ that will pass quickly and not delay needed assistance for Ukraine. Read more in a report by the Congressional Research Service entitled Supplemental Funding for Ukraine, CRS IN11877, May 2, 2022, PDF, 4 pages.
Sanctions on Ukraine. The Russian economy is worse off across a range of metrics since Putin ordered the invasion of his neighboring country. Russia’s economy will likely contract by almost 9% in 2022 and inflation will probably get as high as 24%. Unemployment will also increase. There will also be some significant impacts on the global economy. Read more Russia’s War on Ukraine: The Economic Impact of Sanctions, Congressional Research Service, CRS IF12092, May 3, 2022, PDF, 4 pages.
More U.S. Actions. The Department of State released a Fact Sheet detailing a series of actions to promote individual accountability for human rights abuses by the Russian Federation. It has instituted a new visa restriction policy and actions against Russia’s maritime fleet. (DoS, May 8, 2022).
Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act. On March 15th new legislation was signed into law that allowed for U.S. stocks to be replenished – making up equipment shortfalls due to equipment being sent to Ukraine. Last week about $1.45 billion was transferred to the Army and the Marines to procure replenishment stocks of Stingers, Javelins, and other key material. Another $5.4 billion is requested in the Ukraine Supplemental currently being considered by Congress. Communications gear, totaling $61.4 million, has been sent to Ukraine.
Switchblades. About 100 small attack drones were delivered to Ukraine. More are on the way. There are plans to deliver a total of 700 Switchblades. According to Pentagon sources, there is $17.8 million allocated to Switchblades for Ukraine in the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act.
$150 Million More. The U.S. Department of State released a press statement saying that more money will be used to provide military assistance to Ukraine. The equipment will come from U.S. military equipment stocks (referred to a ‘drawdown’). This is the ninth drawdown of U.S. stocks to provide assistance to Ukraine. (DoS, May 6, 2022). According to a DoD statement it includes 155mm artillery rounds, radars, and electronic jamming equipment. (DoS, May 6, 2022).
Russia Hypes Polish Invasion of Ukraine. Russian state media and pro-Russian social media channels have spent some time the last few weeks asserting that Poland, along with NATO allies, may invade western Ukraine in an attempt to seize and annex western regions of Ukraine. This would be under the guise of ‘peacekeeping’ or ‘humanitarian action’. “Explainer: The Kremlin’s ‘Polish Invasion’ Narrative”, Centre for Information Resilience, May 6, 2022.
Russia’s Victory Day – May 9th. In Russia, a celebration of the Russian victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War takes place every year in early May. A big event in Moscow to commemorate the day is a military parade. Many observers once noted that President Putin would take this occasion to announce victory in Ukraine as well. He will likely point to the liberation of ‘oppressed Russians’ in the Ukrainian Donbas. “What is Russia’s Victory Day and could it affect the war in Ukraine?”, Forces.net, May 6, 2022.
Russian Nukes Against Ukraine? Julian Spencer-Churchill examines four scenarios of tactical nuclear weapons use by Russia. “Four Important Thresholds of Russian Nuclear Weapons Use in Ukraine”, Real Clear Defense, May 9, 2022.
Ukrainian Welcome Mat, but the Afghans? Many human rights advocates hail the administration’s response to the exodus triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But others feel deeply frustrated that those left behind in Afghanistan have not received equal treatment. “Biden welcomes Ukrainian refugees, neglects Afghans, critics say”, The Washington Post, April 28, 2022. (subscription)
Videos, Podcasts, and Reports
Video – How Ukraine Won the First Phase of the War. The online video examines the first phase of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Covered is the build-up to the new stage of the Russo-Ukrainian War, how Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine continued, and the events that took place between February 24th and April 7th. Kings and Generals, YouTube, May 1, 2022, 34 minutes.
Video – Former U.S. Marine Creates Team of Special Ops Vets to Train Ukrainian Soldiers. A group of American and British military veterans called “The Mozart Group” is a team of special operations vets who are training and equipping Ukrainian soldiers. The group is headed up by Andy Milburn, a retired Marine who spent years in special operations. NBC News, May 4, 2022, 6 minutes.
Podcast – Role of Drones in Russia’s Ukraine Invasion. Two drone researchers explain some of the lessons we’ve learned about drone-assisted warfare after almost three months of war in Ukraine. Defense One Radio, May 6, 2022, 26 minutes.
Report – Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for Global Food Prices and Food Security, Congressional Research Service, CRS IN11919, May 2, 2022, PDF, 4 pages.
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