Ukraine Update 26 February, 2022 (Early Afternoon)

Good afternoon. At this moment, events and actions taking place in Ukraine continue to be at least partially blanketed by the fog of war. This has been the case since the first shots were fired early Thursday morning and will likely continue for some time. However, the fog is gradually starting to lift, and at this point the amount of hard information available will allow some conclusions to be reached and questions answered….

-Russia’s offensive is behind schedule and continues to face significant delays. Whether this is because of Ukrainian resistance or the fact that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, is unclear. It could be a combination of the two factors that have slowed the Russians down. On social media there have been a number of videos posted purportedly showing Russian supply convoys destroyed on roadways, victims of Ukrainian ambushes or air attack. Russia’s overall progress on the battlefield over the first two days of the war has been marked by success in some sectors and a lack thereof in others. It’s overall success, though, will be measured by how quickly it can capture Kiev.

-US DoD officials are estimating half of the Russian forces that had been massed alongside the Ukrainian border have entered the country. This leaves a considerable number of troops, vehicles and equipment uncommitted and available as reinforcements or replacements if required.

-Turkey does not intend to close the Bosphorus off to Russian warships, despite the flurry of claims that followed a tweet by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy this morning. Ankara is bound by the Montreaux Treaty to allow Russian warships access to their Black Sea homeports.

-Ground based Ukrainian air defenses appear to be active still, if reports about the destruction of two Russian Il-78 cargo planes south of Kiev are accurate. The air picture remains convoluted, to say the least. Many reports and claims are going around, with little substantial information to back them up.

Next update will come in the early evening and with luck, I’ll focus it on preparations in Kiev for another  upcoming night of heavy fighting.

Competing Exercises Increase Black Sea Tensions

160731-N-FP878-013

The Black Sea has become a beehive of naval activity in recent days as NATO’s annual Sea Shield exercise is underway off the coast of Romania, and Russia’s Southern Military District is running a series of high-profile exercises as well. The Russian exercises have been billed as a counter to Sea Shield. The competing exercises come at a time when military tensions in the Black Sea region are rising. Russia has become more aggressive, especially in the waters around the Crimean Peninsula. Over the past year, NATO has been focusing more attention on the area. In 2018, NATO warships spent 120 days in the Black Sea, an increase of 40 days from the year before.

The clash between Ukrainian and Russian ships near the Kerch Straits in November, 2018 has served as the catalyst for the most recent round of tensions. The US Navy has made it a point to have at least one ship in the Black Sea most of the time. The amphibious assault ship USS Fort McHenry entered the sea in January. Her visit was followed by the destroyer USS Donald Cook, which has been to the Black Sea twice this year so far. The latest US warship to pass through the Bosphorus was the USS Ross, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, which came through on Sunday night.

Russia is monitoring the movement of the destroyer and government officials have publicly stated on state news outlets that the appearance of Ross in the Black Sea is viewed as a provocative action. Moscow has long regarded the Black Sea as a Russian lake. Seizing the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 has allowed Russia to expand its maritime power in the region and more effectively enforce its proprietary attitude on its Black Sea neighbors, and to a similar extent, on NATO.