Ukraine Update 19 April, 2022 (Afternoon)

  • The Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine commenced late Monday following missile strikes against military targets in western Ukraine and preparatory artillery fire strikes against Ukrainian forces in the east. Russia has spent the past two weeks reinforcing and resupplying its forces in the Donbas region in preparation for this moment. Ukraine had also resupplied and reinforced its ground forces in the east to the best of Kiev’s ability. These efforts have attracted Russian attention, as was made apparent by the missile attacks on military targets deep in the Ukrainian rear areas like Lviv. Disrupting the flow of war supplies from outside Ukraine has become a high priority for Russia, a lesson learned the hard way earlier in the conflict. The supply routes coming from Poland and other NATO nations into Ukraine are going to be targeted more as the offensive in Donbas is now getting underway.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has confirmed that a new phase of the war has begun. During an interview with India Today, the diplomat said, “This operation in the east of Ukraine is aimed as it was announced from the very beginning to fully liberate the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.” When he was questioned about the growing rhetoric over nuclear weapons, Lavrov blamed the Ukrainian government, and specifically Volodymyr Zelenskiy for fueling false allegations.
  • The IMF (International Monetary Fund) is modifying its forecast for global economic growth over the next 24 months as the ripple effects of the conflict in Ukraine continue to expand. When the war started in February, 2022, economies around the world hadn’t yet fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now these recoveries will be hampered by the war, jeopardizing growth in nations mainly across Europe and Asia. Naturally, Russia and Ukraine are feeling the most direct and immediate effects of the war.

Ukraine Update 13 April, 2022 (Morning)

  • In the past 24 hours, the city of Kharkov has been hit with over fifty Russian artillery and multiple-launch rocket fire strikes. The intensity of these attacks has increased dramatically as large convoys of Russian troops, equipment and vehicles continue their transit towards the Donbas region. The purpose of the artillery and rocket attacks is militarily sound; keep the Ukrainian forces in and around Kharkov from interfering with the movement of Russian forces into the east. Unfortunately, while these strikes are logical in the military sense, they are causing considerable amounts of collateral damage.
  • According to a report from the Svenska Dagbladet, a daily Swedish newspaper, Sweden intends to submit its application for NATO membership in late June according to sources. Part of the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a shift in security priorities by Stockholm and Helsinki. If either, or both, countries decide to join NATO it will bring about a dramatic change in the security and foreign policy pictures for Northeastern Europe.
  • The Russian Defense Ministry claims the last units of Ukrainian Marines still fighting in Mariupol have surrendered. There has yet been no confirmation that this news is accurate. If it turns out to be true though, Mariupol will become the first major Ukrainian city to fall since the start of Russia’s invasion in late February.
  • The national leaders of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are on their way to Kiev to tour the city and meet with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy later today. Estonian President Alar Karis said in a Twitter post that the purpose of the visit is to show “strong support” to the people of Ukraine and meet with their Ukrainian counterpart.

Ukraine Update 26 March, 2022 (Afternoon)

  • Joe Biden’s ‘major speech’ was anything but. The address given by Biden in Warsaw today was a rehashing of the US and Western positions on Russia and Russian leadership. The highlight came when Biden called for Putin’s removal from power. He labeled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a ‘strategic failure’ reaffirmed US and Western support for Ukraine and that the world must prepare for a ‘long fight ahead’. Biden also attempted to adopt a firm stance when he warned Russia about taking action against any NATO member-state.
  • On Saturday afternoon, Lviv was struck by three Russian missiles. Two of the missiles landed in the city’s eastern outskirts, reportedly at an oil or fuel storage facility. A short while later a third missile impacted somewhere inside the city limits. Lviv’s mayor also said the city has been targeted by airstrikes.
  • With Kiev and most other Ukrainian cities proving to be nearly impossible objectives to capture, the Russian military is shifting its focus to the Donbas region. In an operational briefing on Friday, Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoy stated his nation’s is now the liberation of Donbas. “The main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been accomplished,” Rudskoy announced to gathered reporter. “The combat potential of the armed forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which…makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of the Donbas.”

Ukraine Update 11 March, 2022

  • 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 Ever-Present Risks of Escalation

The possibility of the Russia-Ukraine War escalating into a larger conflict involving NATO member-states has been on the minds of politicians, diplomats, and general officers around the world since hostilities started in late February. For some nations, imposing economic sanctions on Russia and providing overt military support to Ukraine has forced them to walk a line that at times strays perilously close to promoting escalation. The prospect of provoking a wider conflict has forced the West to throttle back when it comes to undertaking some of the more perilous courses of action in response to Russia’s invasion.

This was clear in the first few days of fighting when the European Union moved to establish the groundwork for a plan allowing willing Eastern European nations to transfer their Soviet-era aircraft to Ukraine. Initially, there was a significant amount of enthusiasm for the proposal. As the days went on and the consequences this action could release was realized in capital cities across Eastern Europe, many governments quietly backed away from their pledges to send surplus MiGs and Sukhoi combat aircraft to Ukraine. Their concerns are justified. Sending warplanes is an overt act of support, quite different from the shipment of small arms, handheld SAMs and anti-tank guided missiles.  Poland is the only nation has stayed the course with Warsaw still actively searching for a way to ship its MiG-29s to Ukraine without being labeled as a co-combatant by Russia. The latest move, dependent upon US involvement was immediately turned down by Washington.

The prospect of a no-fly zone has also been surreptitiously sent to the grave.  A number of retired general officers and politicians in NATO nations have been vociferously calling for the introduction of a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent Russian airstrikes and missile attacks. The Ukrainian government has been the biggest proponent of a no-fly zone and its position is contrary to the Ukrainian Air Force’s claims of having shot down over fifty Russian combat aircraft and eighty helicopters. Air forces that inflict these types of losses do not need outside help. Therefore, it is increasingly certain that Ukraine has lost air superiority over the bulk of its territory. A no-fly zone involving air units from the United States and other NATO nations runs the risks of clashes with Russian aircraft. The consequences of this are apparent. NATO and Russia would find themselves engaging each other in combat and escalation would be imminent.