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Ukraine 31: Icarus Edition


The Wondering Wolf
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Something going on in Crimea. Some reports that Russia's entire air defence network - or what's left of it - is going hammer and tong over SW, S and SE Crimea, and the Kerch Strait Bridge has been closed. Not a lot of video (some very blurry stuff), but apparently Russian police and the FSB has been cracking down on anyone posting pictures of Crimea at all after Ukraine geolocated and blew up that S400 system from tourist selfies.

Some reports of 3-6 UAVs active over SW Crimea but the response seems disproportionately excessive.

Klischiivka has been fully liberated, along with some suggestions that Ukraine is staggering its reporting to 2-3 days after the fact, and Ukrainian units are already east of Klischiivka and fighting towards Zaitseve (SE of Bakhmut). Ukrainian artillery and drones are already engaging Russian targets in Kodema, which is just to the south.

Kadyrov is reportedly undergoing medical treatment at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow. Bloggers have reported Chechen-registered cars arriving and leaving at odd times over the last couple of days, apparently exempt from the usual security checks. A video showing Kadyrov in good health has been posted but showing him in Grozny, so was presumably filmed at least some days ago.

Unusually late save by an S-300 versus a Russian cruise missile over Odesa:

Take with a grain of salt, but some suggestion that Romania might be given Patriot batteries to station over the Danube and these will intercept and destroy all Russian cruise missiles entering their range regardless of their target, to ensure no more impacts on Romanian soil. This would de facto bring all of Ukraine's Danube river ports under a NATO protective umbrella. That's being very carefully debated in NATO circles right now, to see if it would effectively create a NATO no-fly zone over Ukrainian territory. Obviously this will not be necessary if Russia stops attacking the river ports. However, with Turkish cargo ships currently in those ports, Russia will have to be very careful about its attacks anyway.

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The DPR headquarters in Donetsk city took a direct missile hit. Unclear if there was any casualties, or if the DPR government tried to evacuate as they did at least once before (only for the Russians to tell them to stay put).

Norway currently estimates that Russia has less than 20% of the normal forces positioned on its borders with both Norway and Finland, the rest have been diverted to Ukraine.

Unconfirmed speculation that the third S-400 complex in Crimea has been destroyed, leaving only one to cover the whole peninsula, which it cannot do.

Edited by Werthead
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6 hours ago, Werthead said:

Norway currently estimates that Russia has less than 20% of the normal forces positioned on its borders with both Norway and Finland, the rest have been diverted to Ukraine.

 

Which goes to show the NATO expansion argument for the invasion is bullshit. If Russia was actually afraid NATO would attack them, surely they wouldn’t reduce their forces along those borders? 

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Azerbaijan has just launched a massive assault on Karabakh, saying this is their last push to fully reclaim the region and its capital city, Stepanakert. There are 3,000 Russian peacekeepers in the region.

This is basically a violation of the peace deal brokered by Russia three years ago. Turkey is backing Azerbaijan, Russia has been lukewarm in supporting Armenia despite treaty obligations via the CSTO, and Iran has suggested it might intervene to support Armenia (prompting Israel to say it would have to respond accordingly if that happened), should full-scale war erupt again. The Armenian diaspora, fearing another Armenian genocide, is obviously in uproar about it.

Not a good look for Russia in not being able to keep a lid on the situation in its backyard.

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Looks like Russia mounted a serious offensive against Novoiehorivka, Luhansk Oblast (NW of Severodonetsk) starting a few weeks ago. The Ukrainians defeated the attack with artillery and drones, destroying at least seven tanks in the process. The attack petered out, apparently due to reserves being shuttled off to SW Zaporizhzhia to reinforce the lines there.

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Latest Perun video on the war in Ukraine. This week's subject is "Russian Defence Production 2023 - Can Russia keep up with equipment attrition in Ukraine?"  It is, IMO his best video in some time on where the war stands.  I'm only halfway through but it has a lot of really interesting stuff that he can glean from publicly available sources.

 - Russian defense industries put out information on their revenues and employees.  From this you can see that Russian military contracts went up in 2021, down in 2022, and are now up at ~ 20% higher than 2021 levels in 2023.  A 20% increase is a pretty substantial increase in peacetime, but it's actually pretty small for a war.  You certainly cannot double tank and artillery manufacturing with a 20% increase - it simply cannot be done. 

 - Russian economic data likewise tells a similar story.  In a war, many things get more expensive.  Soldiers have to be paid more and you need more of them.  Maintenance facilities need to work overtime.  Logistics and training infrastructure need to be expanded.  All these things cost money, and we can see that the Russian economy is struggling to pay for it all.  In 2023, military expenditures are up, but maybe not as much as you'd expect,  and actually not as much as security state expenditures (police, Rosgvardia, etc). 

 - This is NOT to say that the Russian economy is nearing collapse.  That isn't really the subject of this video and that's much harder to determine from public data anyway.  Instead, it's just that the Russian military is doing a lot of "making do" because they cannot afford anything better.  No doubt they would prefer to be using exclusively the newest T-90M tanks, but there just aren't enough of them rolling out of the factories these days. 

 - The most widespread "make do" that the Russians have been using since the initial blitzkrieg to Kyiv failed is to draw down Soviet stockpiles.  You can see this happening in satellite photos where approximately 50% of the tens of thousands of tanks, IFVs and artillery pieces that were stored out in the open have disappeared.  We can safely assume that those vehicles were used to fight Ukraine (one way or another), and that Russia made use of the best maintained/least rusty pieces first. 

 - You see a pattern emerging with tanks and IFVs where the newest equipment has pretty consistent rates of attrition across the past 20 months.  That is because this equipment is being repaired and replaced with new pieces.  Equipment from the 90s and 00s had huge losses in the second half of 2022, but that percentage has actually dropped in 2023.  What is replacing it is Soviet era stuff from the 80s and earlier.  BMP-1s are IFVs produced from the mid 60s to early 80s.  They made up only a small fraction of losses in the first few months of the war, but losses have been steadily increasing since.  They now represent 44% of all losses in May-Aug of 2023, higher than BMP-2 or modern BMP-3.  The only reasonable explanation for this is that Russia has exhausted its store of usable BMP-2s in storage (and remember that BMP-2 started production in 1979).  Thus they are turning to the BMP-1.  Some of those vehicles are getting a quick battlefield refresh like better comms and optics, but not all.  Even the most modern BMP-1 is more than 40 years old.

- The story for tanks and artillery is similar - share of losses of equipment from the 90s and 00s is dropping, almost assuredly because that equipment is getting destroyed and worn out.  So the Russian army is increasingly making up for the losses with Soviet era stuff. 

 - That cannot last forever, or indeed, all that much longer.  No stockpile lasts forever, and the quality and reliability of the equipment that remains in storage gets worse every month.  This strategy is already running into diminishing returns and that will only get worse. 

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Finished the Perun video (from my last post).  A few more items:

 - The notable exception wrt Russian production is drones.  Russian drone manufacturing is exploding, because drones can be made in huge quantities for relatively little money, and drone parts are simple enough that you can easily get around sanctions.  Drone production is going to be dramatically expanded by 2025, and Ukraine needs to be prepared. 

 - From what can be gleaned from publicly available data, it is clear that Russia is not even close to producing all that it needs to fight the war.  If it is going to continue at this level of intensity, that shortfall can only be made up with foreign imports and weapons in storage. 

 - The weapons in storage are basically removed in order of how useful they are, so Russia is probably already getting diminishing returns (BMP-1s are not as useful as BMP-2s, older artillery has less range and is more liable to fail, etc).  There will not be a point at which the Soviet stockpile is "totally exhausted" but instead it will be just less and less meaningful as the most usable equipment has already been removed.  However, from what we're seeing, it is fair to assume that the Soviet stockpile will be a much smaller factor in the war a year from now, and even less so by 2025.  It is vanishing at a rapid rate.

 - Once that happens, the only way to make up the shortfall will be foreign imports.  We're already seeing that be an important factor for things like drones (Iran), artillery shells (North Korea) and body armor/medical kit (China).  However, all of those items are relatively small and comparatively inexpensive.  Russia is less likely to be buying fleets of artillery and tanks because those are incredibly expensive and difficult to hide politically.  Thus there are certain holes that can really only be filled with domestic production. 

 - The key caveat of the "how long can Russia keep this up?" question is the level of intensity.  If the war continues at the intensity we've seen in 2023, then Russia is likely to have real sustainment issues within a year.  However, it is fair to question whether Ukraine can continue at this level of intensity either.  If US military aid gets slashed in the budget showdown over the next few weeks, then that means Ukraine probably won't be able to mount a 2023 offensive at the same intensity level of 2022.  This is basically Russia's win condition, that the war gradually loses intensity, and becomes refrozen, similar to the Donbas war in 2014-15. 

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A Russian Su-34 crashed in Voronezh. Speculation over the cause, but both Russian military and civil aviation is running into parts problems.

A potentially interesting advancement: Ukrainian special forces are reportedly operating in Sudan. They allied with local forces opposed to Wagner-aligned elements. Ukraine provided satellite intelligence and drone expertise to allow them to launch a series of attacks on Wagner forces operating in Sudan, resulting in heavy losses. Wagner was unprepared for attacks at this level of efficiency. If Ukraine is targeting Wagner forces operating wherever they are in the world, this would show a willingness on the side of Ukraine to engage Russian forces on foreign soil (to be fair, western forces should have been obliterating Wagner forces wherever they were located years ago, and if Moscow moaned about it, just point out how Moscow has denied having anything to do with them).

Possibly a SO or local Russian militia attack on Chkalovsky Airbase. An AN-148 and IL-20 were destroyed and a MI-28N helicopter was disabled. A second AN-148 was lightly damaged.

A Swedish TV crew were apparently targeted by a Russian drone in Stepnohirsk. They got out of the car before it was hit. I've seen some suggestions that the Russians may have gotten confused between the Swedish flag and a Ukrainian one (incidentally, some Swedish brands in Moscow have been pulled because people thought they were Ukrainian, or sending a pro-Ukraine message).

Shades of the Swiss Embassy, which did not evacuate when the war started, putting up a Swiss flag to stop their building from being attacked, but they were advised to take it down because the Ukrainians thought they'd be deliberately targeted by Russians mistaking it for a Red Cross.

Some reports of a drone attack on a Russian fuel depot near Sochi, but that's not been widely reported yet, so waiting for more confirmation.

Edited by Werthead
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Ukraine's relations with some of it's biggest supporters are getting disturbingly rocky over grain imports. Seems the Russians cancelling the grain deal is really hurting Ukraine. I'm not sure how much of this is Polish posturing for elections but it seems very worrying to me. I'd like Biden or some of the leaders in Western Europe to step in with some kind of subsidy deal to allow Ukraine to export grain from European ports at reasonable prices. Rather than having Ukraine desperately trying to flood the  markets of it's European allies. 

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Apparently India is going to join a full embargo on Russian diamonds from next month, prompting Russia's diamond sector to send out profit warnings. Interesting, if perhaps minor in the grand scheme of things. India taking any kind of stand against Russia (if moderate) is interesting, especially as India's relations with the west are strained by the current Sikh controversy.

A Russian Duma proposal is apparently being prepared which will call on Putin to restore the full borders of the USSR as they stood in 1991. It's not expected to go anywhere (obviously) but it seems to be an intimidation tactic which has instead sparked a comical response.

Additional attacks on Sevastopol today, with military installations around the city hit. Ukraine's goal at the moment seems to be to put Sevastopol and Crimea effectively under a state of constant siege.

Saki Airfield in Crimea has been hit heavily. Unclear what the damage was, but there were at least 12 Russian military aircraft present.

First attempted attack on Ukrainian energy infrastructure in about six months. Most of the incoming missiles were shot down, but there were enough strikes to cause disruptions in several parts of the country. Interestingly, Russia used S-300s in ground attack mode, a further sign of a lack of native cruise missiles and long-range weapons.

Very tentative, but Ukrainian armor and infantry has been spotted making a concerted attack on the Verbove axis, behind the primary Russian defensive line. Ukraine may be looking to mount a major penetration of the rear of the line in one area and try to force a breach. There's been hesitation about attacking here because Verbove is not linked to the currently-held Ukrainian highway network, meaning resupply will be a bit of a headache.

Preposterously, the US is apparently still months from supply GLSDB (to the bemusement of many analysts who thought they'd been deployed already) and ATACMS will not be on the table in Biden's meeting with Zelensky tomorrow.

Albania on good form recently:

14 hours ago, Darzin said:

Ukraine's relations with some of it's biggest supporters are getting disturbingly rocky over grain imports. Seems the Russians cancelling the grain deal is really hurting Ukraine. I'm not sure how much of this is Polish posturing for elections but it seems very worrying to me. I'd like Biden or some of the leaders in Western Europe to step in with some kind of subsidy deal to allow Ukraine to export grain from European ports at reasonable prices. Rather than having Ukraine desperately trying to flood the  markets of it's European allies. 

If you believe Polish sources, this is posturing to get the rural vote out for the upcoming election, which is looking tight. Once that is secured, Poland and Ukraine will reach a deal, probably by December at the latest.

Ukraine is well aware of this, but Zelensky feels that it's still posturing and gamesmanship whilst Ukraine is under existential threat, and he wants Poland to get its shit together since it knows if Ukraine falls, Poland's future has to look distinctly less secure.

Some people also suggesting a Xanatos Gambit where Poland and Ukraine are deliberately stirring up a fake confrontation so Russia can continue to puts its hope in the alliance falling apart rather than escalating, but that seems extremely thin. Zelensky looks really pissed off over the issue.

Edited by Werthead
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1 hour ago, Werthead said:

If you believe Polish sources, this is posturing to get the rural vote out for the upcoming election, which is looking tight. Once that is secured, Poland and Ukraine will reach a deal, probably by December at the latest.

Part of it is my take.

There's been some rumbling in the background over Ukrainian grain in Poland undercutting prices for a year or so (tbf, not just Poles are have mixed feelings about this).

The PiS(s) party is also atm busy downplaying/denying a visa scandal, with embassy worker selling off work visa on the black market, esp. in Africa. Which is bad optics esp. for an anti-migrant right wing douchebage party.

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1 hour ago, Werthead said:

Very tentative, but Ukrainian armor and infantry has been spotted making a concerted attack on the Verbove axis, behind the primary Russian defensive line. Ukraine may be looking to mount a major penetration of the rear of the line in one area and try to force a breach. There's been hesitation about attacking here because Verbove is not linked to the currently-held Ukrainian highway network, meaning resupply will be a bit of a headache.

I think rather than going for a deep penetrating breakthrough to the south, capturing Verbove allows Ukraine to fortify their only break point of the second Surivikan line. After they do that they can push east and west along the trench network which is easier than attacking a trench head on. The entire main Russian defensive line will become more vulnerable once that happens. 

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