Curated news, analysis, and commentary about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, tactical situation on the ground, in the air, and on the seas. Additional topics include NATO, aid to Ukraine, refugees, internally displaced personnel, humanitarian efforts, cyber, and information operations.
Image / Photo: A German Army Leopard 2 tank, assigned to 104th Panzer Battalion, moves through the Joint Multinational Readiness Center during Saber Junction 2012 in Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 25, 2012. Photo by Specialist Markus Rauchenberger, U.S. Army.
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Current operations by the Russians are concentrated in the country’s east. There are reports in the media that these operations are lacking proper coordination and that there is a lack of interaction between the Wagner Group and the Russian military units. Tens of thousands of recently mobilized Russian soldiers have arrived at the front; negating to an extent the qualitative advantage the Ukrainians have had thus far in the conflict. Many reports indicate that the Russians have at least 300,000 soldiers in Ukraine.
A Russian Offensive in February? Ukrainian officials are expecting a large general offensive by the Russians in mid-February or around February 24th – the anniversary of last years invasion. The timing of the Russian offensive is critical; it has to take place after a sufficient number of reinforcements have arrived in the area of the conflict – most likely eastern Ukraine. The stock of fuel, ammunition, and other supplies must be replenished to support a general offensive. The operation has to take place before the muddy spring season and prior to the arrival of Western armored fighting vehicles and tanks. Read more in “Ukraine braced for renewed Russian offensive later in February”, BBC News, February 6, 2023.
Degrading Russian Forces. For their part, the Ukrainians are degrading the supply and logistic network of Russia, causing many Russian casualities, and limiting any advances by the Russians to small parcels of hard-fought territory. The Russian logistical depots have been pulled back from the front due to the ability of HIMARS to range beyond the front lines. The introduction of the GLSDB HIMARS munitions will mean that the Ukrainians will be able to strike even deeper into Russian rear areas. The Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs provide the HIMARS with an increase of range from 80km to 150km. This will cause the Russians to pull their logistical nodes even further back from the front and will allow the disruption of critical bridge crossings that supply convoys must pass over.
Tanks for Ukraine. The news that Western nations will soon supply Ukraine with modern main battle tanks like the Abrams, Leopard 2, and Challenger is still on the front pages of the media. Unfortunately, the decision to send tanks is belated; it would have been better if the decision was made earlier in the year. Since the decision was made so late it won’t be until late 2023 that Abrams tanks will arrive in Ukraine; too late to stop a spring offensive by the Russians or for the Ukrainians to conduct their own push to the east. The Leopards and Challengers should arrive sooner. Once the tanks arrive they will add an offensive punch; especially when combined with the numerous armored fighting vehicles like the newly deployed Bradleys. However welcome the news is about the soon-to-be deployed tanks to Ukraine, one must remember that the total number of tanks to be sent is small and are unlikely to have a significant impact on the outcome of the war.
Here are some articles on the topic of tanks from the last few weeks:
- “Tanking Up: Understanding the material – and moral – implications of the new armor heading to Ukraine”, by Frank Hoffman, Modern War Institute at West Point, February 3, 2023.
- “The Weight of NATO Tanks May Pose a Problem in Ukraine”, Newsweek, February 5, 2023.
- “Germany adds older Leopard 1s to the list of tanks for Ukraine”, The New York Times, February 3, 2023.
- “Tanks a Lot (Well, Actually Not That Many for Ukraine)”, by Robert E. Hamilton, Foreign Policy Research Institute, February 2, 2023.
- “Tanks and what they mean for the Ukraine War’s endgame”, by John A. Nagl, Pennsylvania Capital-Star, February 3, 2023.
Battle For Bakhmut. For months the Russians have been trying to take the eastern city from the Ukrainians – and with tremendous losses. The offensive for Bakhmut may likely continue and Ukraine will face the agonizing choice over whether to withdraw or face having units surrounded. The city is becoming increasingly isolated. The key to the battle is keeping the Bakhmut-Kostyantynivka highway open – a critical supply route for the Ukrainian army and evacuation artery for civilians. There are over 5,000 civilians still in Bakhmut. Thus far, the fight for this city has been the longest battle of the war. Taking the Bakhmut city and surrounding area is important to controlling the whole of the Donbas region. “Battle of Bakhmut nears tipping point as Russia intensifies offensive”, by Christopher Miller, Finanicial Times, February 2, 2023.
Phases of Russia’s Invasion. Serge Havrylets, a Kyiv-based journalist, explains how Russia has been changing its tactics in the war against Russia. He describes the invasion as one of four phases. Read more in “Evolution of Russian Tactics in Ukraine: From failed blitzkrieg to assault infantry”, Euromaidan Press, January 31, 2023.
- Phase I: Blitzkrieg – a large-scale rapid operation from the air, land, and water.
- Phase 2: Tank Breakthrough – taking place in April and May, use of tanks with massive artillery fires; followed by use of battalion task groups to establish a bridgehead.
- Phase 3: Probing the Defense – smaller units engaged in local fighting, seeking weak spots in the defense; then followed with a large-scale assault.
- Phase 4: Assault Infantry with artillery support. This is described as a creeping occupation. Most of the units are former convicts and mercenaries of the Wagner Group. These units are then followed into battle by the recently mobilized soldiers.
Fight for the Skies
Drone Factory. U.S. officials believe that Iran will assist Russia in the building of a facility that will produce about 6,000 drones to be used in Ukraine. The Russians are employing a number of drones that the Iranians have sent to Russia. There are reports that the Iranians will help Russia develop a Shahed-136 model that will have a new engine for a faster and farther flight. The senior leadership of an Iranian firm, Paravar Pars, has been sanctioned by the United States because the shipment of UAVs to Russia. Iran-produced UAVs are attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. See “U.S. Sanctions Leadership of Iranian UAV Manufacturer”, U.S. Department of State, February 3, 2023.
Air Defense Equipment: From U.S. to Ukraine. The Department of Defense announced that it will be providing another security assistance package to Ukraine. This will include a long-range fires capability as well as various types of equipment to defend against Russian missile attacks. “Air Defense Systems, Long-Range Fires Capability to be Sent to Ukraine”, DoD News, February 3, 2023.
Maps of Ukraine
General Information and Commentary
Negotiations. There was a recent prisoner exchange. Ukraine received more than one hundred ‘defenders’ in exchange for POWs sent to Russia. No sign of possible negotiations between the two countries in the near future.
Refugees, IDPs, and Humanitarian Crisis. View the UNHCR Operational Data Portal – Ukraine Refugee Situation (Updated daily), https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine. As of January 31, 2023, the number of refugees from Ukraine registered for temporary protection in Europe is over 4.8 million; according to UNHCR.
Wagner Group. The Russian paramilitary corporation has suffered heavy casualties in Ukraine. It has been recruiting prisoners, foreign recruits, and some Russians to fill its ranks in the units fighting in Ukraine. The Wagner Group units have featured prominently in the ground action in eastern Ukraine; especially in the Bakhmut region. The company has grown from 5,000 seasoned veterans to a force of 50,000. But the paramilitary group is not just busy in Ukraine; it has increased its presence in some of the more volatile countries in Africa.
- “Wagner Group Redefined: Threats and Responses”, by Raphael Parens, Foreign Policy Research Institute, January 30, 2023.
- “Countering the Wagner Group and Degrading Russia’s War Efforts in Ukraine”, by Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State Press Statement, January 26, 2023.
- “Actions to Counter Wagner and Degrade Russia’s War Efforts in Ukraine”, U.S. Department of State Fact Sheet, January 26, 2023.
China Aid to Russia. Russian government-owned defense companies are receiving navigation equipment, jamming technology, and jet fighter parts from China. In addition, thousands of dual-use goods, that have both commercial and military applications, are being provided to Russia. Many critical components (like semiconductors, commercial drones, etc.) needed for Russia’s war machine are on a sanctions list; however, nations like Turkey, China, and the UAE are key in avoiding these sanctions. “China Aids Russia’s War in Ukraine, Trade Data Shows”, The Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2023.
Australian Trainers in UK. Some Ukrainian recruits have been receiving military training in the United Kingdom. Over seventy Australian personnel arrived in the UK in late January to join a U.K.-led multinational mission named Operation Interflex to train the Ukrainians.
Key Leadership Changes. A new head for Ukraine’s defense may soon be appointed. It seems that the current defense minister is going to resign (or be told to resign) and be moved to the Ministry of Strategic Industries. The dismissal may be tied to allegations of corruption in the defense ministry. The Chief of Military Intelligence is rumored to become the next defense minister. President Zelensky has nominated a new head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). Vasyl Maliuk has been the acting head of the security agency since July 2022. The also “Ukraine expects leadership shake-up, with defense minister replaced by military intel chief”, The Washington Post, February 5, 2023. (subscription)
Change in European Politics and Leadership. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine the Nordic and eastern European countries have taken a stronger role in European politics. They are now seen as driving some of the policy issues of the European Union (EU) and NATO. One example is the sending of modern main battle tanks to Ukraine; they pressed Washington and Berlin hard for this to happen. Perhaps these smaller nations are, because of their proximity to Russia, more aware of the threat posed by their big neighbor to the east.
Banning Russian Diesel. A 27-nation bloc will prohibit imports of Russian gasoline, diesel, and other products used throughout Europe. “Europe bans Russian oil products, the latest strike on the Kremlin war chest”, National Public Radio, February 5, 2023.
Russian Classics. Some folks that study Russian literature are giving it another look and coming away with differing opinions. Read how to reckon with the ideology of “Anna Karenina,” “Eugene Oneign,” and other ‘beloved’ books. “Rereading Russian Classics in the Shadow of the Ukraine War”, The New Yorker, January 30, 2023.
Resources about the Ukraine Conflict
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
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.