Ukraine Update 2 April (Afternoon)

  • Another effort is underway to deliver humanitarian aid and buses to Mariupol. Yesterday’s attempt to evacuate civilians was unsuccessful after aid groups were not given the security guarantees needed despite Russian promises to establish a humanitarian corridor and call for a temporary ceasefire.
  • The withdrawal of Russian ground forces north of Kiev is underway and progressing. However, in other parts of Ukraine, Russian attacks are continuing and pressure remains. As the Russian focus shifts to fighting in eastern Ukraine, some of the forces that had been engaged in the failed push on Kiev could find themselves in Donbas quite soon.
  • Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said Turkey stands ready to organize a seaborne evacuation of civilians from Mariupol.
  • According to reports from the Ukrainian general staff, Moscow is mobilizing its troops in Moldova’s occupied Transnistria to demonstrate its readiness to attack Ukraine from the southwest and for potential provocations in the Moldova-Ukraine border region.

Ukraine Update 1 April, 2022 (Pre-Dawn)

  • Conflicting reports are coming out of Mariupol concerning Russia’s promise to allow more humanitarian access to the besieged city. Despite claims by the Russian government, many obstacles remain. Today, a convoy of buses sent to Mariupol for the purpose of evacuating residents from the city was halted by Russian troops in Berdyansk on their way to Mariupol. There has been no comment from the Russian defense ministry on the matter, though earlier in the day the ministry released a statement claiming a humanitarian corridor would be established on Friday morning from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia. This comes at the request of the French and German governments which have been working for some time now on expanding efforts to evacuate the heavily damaged city.
  • After over a month of combat operations in Ukraine, the Russian military continues to function without a theater commander. Instead, the campaign is being run from Moscow in a centralized manner reminiscent of the old Soviet days. This could also explain why Russian forces have struggled in the Ukrainian campaign. With no theater commander, the amount of coordination between different services and combat arms is likely minimal. Requests for air support or fire strikes (Russian term for artillery fire missions) must climb the ladder. Even in the digital age, this process takes time. Needless to say, combat commanders on the ground in Ukraine are fighting the war with their hands tied behind their backs as a result.
  • Ukrainian and Russian negotiators are set to resume talks in Turkey on Friday. Turkish President Erdogan has been making an effort to set up face-to-face talks between the foreign ministers of the two warring nations, yet there has been no sign that either diplomat will be involved in Friday’s discussions.

Ukraine Update 19 March, 2022 (Afternoon)

  • Defense Department officials have confirmed Russia’s claim of using hypersonic missiles in Friday’s attack on an aircraft repair facility in Lviv. This marks the first use of the weapon-type in combat. Officials also said the US was able to track the missiles in real time, although they did not confirm that the missiles were launched by MiG-31K Foxhound fighters, as Russia’s Ministry of Defense has claimed.
  • Prisoner of War camps are now operating in Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have said there are officially 562 Russian POWs in Ukrainian custody. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova stated that international humanitarian law on prisoners of war will be observed by her country. We assume this is a reference to the Geneva Convention.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insists Russia and China will continue to forge closer ties and cooperation in the face of Western efforts to negatively affect relations between Moscow and Beijing. Lavrov’s comments come one day after a video call between US and Chinese leaders, in which President Joe Biden urged China to cooperate with Western efforts to force Russia to end its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine.
  • Ten humanitarian corridors were scheduled to be open today in Ukraine. These will include civilian evacuation routes from Mariupol, Kherson, areas in Luhansk and a number of towns northwest of Kiev. There have been no reports on how well the corridors are operating, but concern is growing about the situation in Mariupol where fighting has reached the center of the city. Street fighting there is disrupting rescue efforts at Mariupol theater according to the city’s mayor.

Ukraine Update 8 March, 2022 (AM)

  • Amid growing pressure both at home and abroad, the Biden administration will announce a ban on Russian oil imports to the United States this morning. The move is intended to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine, which is now entering its thirteenth day. The ban is not expected to have too great of an impact on US oil imports, certainly not to the level a ban by European nations would bring about.
  • The humanitarian corridor and attached ceasefire in Ukraine’s Sumy region appears to be holding at present. Evacuations of civilians from Sumy to Poltava have started and remain underway. In a related development, the Ukrainian government has also confirmed that evacuations from Irpin, a town located near Kiev are now underway. Efforts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol are meeting with considerably less success.
  • Japan has announced a new batch of sanctions aimed at Russia and Belarus. The assets of nearly three dozen Russian and Belarusian officials, business executives with close connections to the governments and oligarchs have been frozen. Exports of Russia-bound oil refinery equipment and Belarus-bound general-purpose items that could be used by its military will also be banned.

Ukraine Update 6 March, 2022 (Noon, EST)

  • China’s winter wheat harvest could be the ‘worst in its history’ according to Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Tang Renjian. Rare heavy rainfall over the winter season prevented or delayed planting for 1/3 of the wheat acreage. China is the world’s largest wheat consumer and now there are legitimate concerns about its grain supplies. The war in Ukraine has already pushed grain prices to a 14 year high. Together, the two nations produce roughly 30% of wheat exports globally. With the terrible harvest, China now has added justification to purchase grain from Russia in the midst of economic sanctions.
  • Discussions between the US and Poland over a transfer of Polish MiG-29s to Ukraine continue. A deal is under consideration which would replace the MiGs Poland sends to Ukraine with US aircraft. An agreement has not been reached yet amid US concerns that the deal will be viewed as an escalatory move.
  • Airpower is on Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s mind following a morning Russian cruise missile attack on Vinnytsia airport in central Ukraine. The dual international airport/Ukrainian airbase was struck by eight cruise missiles and heavily damaged. Zelenskiy released a video address soon afterward. In it he made an impassioned plea for a no fly zone or replacement aircraft to make up for Ukrainian fighter losses. “If you don’t, if you don’t give us at least planes so we can protect ourselves, there’s only one thing to conclude; you want us to be killed very slowly.” His comments certainly indicate Ukraine is losing the war in the air at this point.