An update on artillery warfare.
Ukraine appears to be using Western-supplied artillery, particularly US-supplied HIMARS missiles, to engage targets that include munitions sites, command and control headquarters, and air defense systems. The BBC reports an apparently successful attack (judging by video of large explosions and satellite imagery after the attack) against an ammunition supply point in Nova Kakhovka, a town in the southern Kherson region.
A command post was also hit near Kherson. In the Telegraph report, “Major General Artyom Nasbulin, the chief of staff of the 22nd Army Corps, was killed in a Himar missile attack on a command post near Kherson, said Sergei Bratchuk, an Odessa region spokesman. If confirmed, he would be the 12th Russian general killed in Ukraine since the start of the war.” That’s an extraordinarily high casualty rate among senior officers whose exposure to enemy fire argues an unreliable chain of command that dictates the generals’ presence to the front of the battlefield to personally direct forces that require such close attention.
Ukrainian fire programs against Russian target sets have sometimes resulted in Russian retaliation. The Donetsk town of Bakhumut was reduced to rubble by Russian artillery after a Ukrainian HIMARS attack on a Russian air defense unit in nearby occupied Luhansk province, The Guardian reports.
HIMARS and the related MLRS missile systems have a range of around 84 kilometers with standard ammunition.
Russia’s short- and long-term goals in Ukraine.
The British Ministry of Defense this morning offered informed speculation about the next stages of the Russian offensive in Donetsk and Luhansk as the Russian army continues to reconstruct its units. “In the Donbass, Russian forces are likely to focus on capturing several small towns in the coming week, including Siversk and Dolyna on the approaches to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. The urban areas of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk likely remain the main targets for this phase of the operation.”
Russia’s long-term goal appears to be the delegitimization of Ukraine as such, as a means to that country’s rearmament. “Russia continues to seek to undermine the legitimacy of the Ukrainian state and to consolidate its own governance and administrative control over the occupied parts of Ukraine. Recently, this included an initiative for twin cities and regions between Russia and Ukraine to set up post-conflict administrations and a decree making it easier for Ukrainians to obtain Russian citizenship.”
These efforts have provoked a partisan reaction in the occupied territories that is likely to intensify. “Anti-Russian sentiment in occupied Ukraine is leading to Russian and pro-Russian officials being targeted. The Russian-appointed administration in Velykyy Burluk acknowledged that one of its mayors was killed in a car bomb attack on July 11, 2022. Attacks on officials are likely to escalate, adding to the already significant challenges faced by the Russian occupiers and potentially increasing pressure on already reduced military and security formations.”
Challenges in restoring units already consumed in the invasion.
Russia’s pause in operations seems to give the army an opportunity to rebuild its units after heavy losses in personnel and materiel. (Few observers take seriously Mr Putin’s recent remarks that say you haven’t actually seen anything; we haven’t even started yet.) The conversion of motorized rifle units with outdated MTLB infantry carriers is a sign of this, as are attempts to launch combat drones from foreign ones vendors to purchase. Defense One reports that battlefield surveillance drones are particularly scarce.
The Telegraph has a report on Moscow’s attempts to recruit convicts into military contractors (the Wagner group being the most famous of these). They would serve in exchange for remission of their punishments. Other recruitment efforts have focused on poorer, backward districts as Russia seeks to avoid the need for general mobilization. The recruits are said to have received hasty, minimal training within days.
Hacktivism in a hybrid war.
Hacktivists sympathetic to Ukraine have carried out distributed denial-of-service attacks against Russian cinemas. CyberNews says the attacks, seen as a backlash to Russian DDoS attacks by Killnet and others on Ukrainian and other sympathetic nation networks, have also affected “Kinomax, Mori Cinema, Luxor, Almaz and other chains” as well as “ticket service Kinoplan.”
Obviously, such campaigns are not war winners. The Record reports a consensus among Ukrainian security firms that DDoS is popular because it’s easy, and that targets chosen for disruption are chosen because they are interruptible, not because they either have high value or pay dividends.
Ukrainian hacktivists have more or less banded together into a loose umbrella organization, the IT Army. The Ukrainian government says it does not direct the IT army, and indeed its opportunistic and improvisational targeting seems to argue that its organization is quite thin. The Record says: “This lack of planning makes sense as the IT Army is an independent group of volunteer hackers and not a trained Cyber Army unit. “We do not coordinate cyber volunteers in their attacks and we have no information about such coordination centers,” said Ukrainian security official Victor Zhora.
So hacktivism could be seen as a morale maker. “The only benefit of IT Army DDoS was that thousands of people came together and felt useful in their resistance against Russia,” Cyber Unit Technologies’ Yegor Aushev told The Record. It’s also striking to see how DDoS apps have become mass-produced, provided for free and easily accessible, complete with short tutorials (and the briefest tutorial is all it takes to operate them).
Germany builds up its shields.
Aware of the potential threat posed by Russian cyberattacks, German authorities yesterday announced a preparedness and resilience-enhancing program. As reported by Deutsche Welle, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser explained the motivation for the increased alert: “The upheaval we are facing in view of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine requires a strategic repositioning and considerable investments in our cyber security.” In addition to new, secure systems the government wants to promote the resilience of small and medium-sized organizations for the exchange of information: “This applies to ‘critical infrastructure’, i.e. companies in the transport, food, health, energy and water supply. ”