Russian cruise missiles struck the southern Ukrainian port of Nikolayev (Mykolaiv) on Sunday, marking the second missile attack against the city in two days. Ukrainian military officials reported the attack damaged industrial infrastructure in more than one part of the city and caused damage and fires to civilian neighborhoods. There was no official word on casualties. Nikolayev is a coveted objective for Russian forces in southern Ukraine. The city has endured several air and missile attacks in recent weeks as part of a Russian effort to soften the city’s defenses. Last month, Nikolaev’s mayor urged the remaining populace to leave the city if possible, citing a depletion of resources.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has sacked two of his government’s most senior ranking officials. The prosecutor general and head of the domestic intelligence agency were unceremoniously fired on Sunday. Zelenskiy claims the move was made as a result of the large number of treason investigations started on employees of law enforcement agencies, including the prosecutor general’s office and the domestic security agency. 651 cases of high treason had been opened against law enforcement personnel and at least 60 employees of the prosecutor’s office and the Security Service of Ukraine have remained in occupied territory and are working against the Ukrainian government.
Videos making the rounds on social media Friday evening appear to show large-scale Russian rocket attacks against the Ukrainian city of Nikolayev (Mikolaiv). Fear is growing that the city will soon be entirely in Russian hands, setting the stage for it to be a multi-direction attack on Odessa, 115 kilometers southwest of Nikolayev. At present, Russian forces are closing in on Odessa from three directions. If the city falls, Ukraine faces the danger of losing its entire Black Sea coastline to Russian control.
Ukrainian intelligence is claiming 18 Russian Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) have been rendered combat ineffective due to losses, with 13 others entirely destroyed. As with the majority of similar claims by the Ukrainian government or military, this one is currently lacking independent confirmation. Until it is confirmed, this information should be taken with a hearty grain of salt.
A purge of Russia’s FSB (Federal Security Service) appears to be underway. Numerous reports from Moscow earlier today claim that Vladimir Putin’s dissatisfaction with the intelligence service’s dreadfully inaccurate estimates of Ukrainian resistance has led to the arrests of Col Gen Sergei Beseda, head of the foreign intelligence branch of the FSB and his deputy. Changes ae apparently coming to the FSB in light of its failures, which are partly responsible for the Russian military’s dismal performance in Ukraine so far.
The eastern axis of Russia’s land offensive in Ukraine is picking up momentum as it moves closer to Kiev. The danger facing Ukraine capital has increased significantly over the last day as indications of a major Russian assault in the near future grow more solid and numerous.
Reports have surfaced about a core of Ukrainian government officials having arrived in Poland to lay the groundwork for a Ukrainian government-in-exile, should it become necessary. I will discuss this more tomorrow. However, given events over the past 36 hours, Ukraine’s government is making preparations should the worst-case scenario come about.
-The negotiations between Ukrainian and Russian officials ended earlier today with no ceasefire or conflict resolution agreed upon. The prospects for a second round of talks seem to be gaining traction though. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy released a short statement explaining. “Ukrainian and Russian delegations held the first round of negotiations in the area of the Ukraine-Belarus border in order to find common ground for the fastest ceasefire. The parties discussed in detail a number of key topics on which they have prospects for finding mutually acceptable decisions. A decision was made to immediately hold additional consultations in the capitals of the states. After that, the second round of negotiations of Ukrainian and Russian parties is to take place in the near future.”
Whether Zelenskiy is trying to sugarcoat the failure of today’s talks remains to be seen. But as the negotiations ended, explosions rocked Kiev. Earlier in the day, Russian forces launched heavy artillery and rocket strikes against the city of Kharkov. By all accounts, the fighting that took place there over the weekend did not involve elements of the main Russian effort from the east. The city appears to have been bypassed in the first days of the war and is just now receiving the attention of second-echelon forces.
-It would appear the city of Nikolayev (Mykolaiv) is preparing for a large force of Russian armor to arrive in the near future. This follows a weekend of probing attacks against Ukrainian cities arrayed on or near the Black Sea coastline. Put simply, the purpose of the weekend artillery attacks and probes was to force the defenders of these cities to keep their heads down as other Russian units maneuvered around them enroute to other objectives. Now it would appear that a concentrated assault is being prepared against Nikolayev as Russian forces seem ready to move decisively to capture Ukraine’s seacoast.
-Despite news reports to the contrary, US government officials claim there are no indications of a Belarussian mobilization currently underway. Their posture has remained unchanged and for the moment at least, it does not appear that Minsk is preparing to commit military forces to the war in Ukraine.