President Zelenskyy did not make an address this evening. I think it’s because he traveled to meet with Ukrainian forces in Mykolaiv.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the frontline positions of the Ukrainian troops in the Mykolaiv region.
The Head of State heard information on the operational situation on the front.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy talked to the defenders and presented state awards.
“I want to thank you for the great service – each and everyone! For defending our state, each of us, our families, defending our sovereignty. I want to wish you all the best. Take care of Ukraine – the only thing we have. And take care of yourself – only you can do it,” said Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
President Zelensky in Mykolaiv. This city in southern Ukraine is shelled by Russia almost daily. pic.twitter.com/QTdPAV6Yje
— Alexander Khrebet/Олександр Хребет (@AlexKhrebet) June 18, 2022
The Ukrainian MOD did post an operational update after I did yesterday’s post. There is not one up yet for today, so the one from yesterday is below. (emphasis mine)
The operational update regarding the russian invasion on 18.00 on June 17, 2022
The one hundred fourteenth (114) day of the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people to a russian military invasion continues.
In the Volyn and Polissya directions without changes. Combat training activities are being carried out with the personnel of engineering units of the Armed Forces of the republic of belarus.
In the Siversky direction, the enemy fired on civilian infrastructure near Mezenivka and Hlukhiv, Sumy region. In addition, enemy aircraft struck two settlements in the Sumy region.
In the Slobozhansky direction, the enemy carries out remote mining of the area. Conducted air reconnaissance using UAVs.
In the Kharkiv direction, the enemy is trying to prevent units of the Defense Forces from entering the state border of Ukraine and the rear of the russian group of troops operating in the Slovyansk direction.
In order to identify weaknesses in the defense of our troops in the areas of Dementiyivka, Rubizhne and Pyatihatki, the enemy used sabotage and reconnaissance groups. Ukrainian soldiers found them and inflicted losses. The enemy retreated. Not far from Kochubiivka, the occupiers tried to conduct reconnaissance by fighting. Our defenders did not give them any chance of success and the enemy retreated with losses.
russian occupiers fired on civilian infrastructure in the areas of Tsyrkuny, Verkhniy Saltiv, Pishchane, Ruska Lozova and Krynychne.
In the Slovyansk direction, the enemy’s main efforts are focused on continuing the offensive in the direction of the city of Slovyansk, the fighting continues. He tried to conduct reconnaissance near Krasnopilla by battle, was unsuccessful, and retreated.
The enemy carried out systematic artillery shelling in the areas of the settlements of Dibrivne, Pashkove, Hrushuvakha, Kurulka, and Velyka Komyshuvakha.
Units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine forced the enemy to leave the village of Dmytrivka, Izium district, Kharkiv oblast.
The enemy did not take active action in the Lyman direction. It fired at the positions of our artillery units.
In the Siverodonetsk direction, the occupiers continue to fire from artillery and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. In addition, they launched air strikes on the positions of our units near Syrotyn and Borivske.
Fighting continues to establish full control over the city of Siverodonetsk.
Our soldiers successfully repulsed the assault in the areas of Sirotin and Metolkino. The enemy withdrew to the previously occupied positions.
In the Bakhmut direction, the enemy fired on civilian infrastructure in the areas of the settlements of Mykolaivka, Bilohorivka, Pokrovske, Zaitseve and Stepne.
Near Hirske, Ukrainian defenders stopped by selective fire an attempt of enemy’s reconnaissance by fighting. Also, the enemy again conducted unsuccessful assaults in the areas of Berestove and Kodema. He suffered losses and left.
After regrouping, with the support of artillery, the occupiers attempted an assault near Nyrkove. Ukrainian soldiers by fire forced them to abandon this idea. Now the enemy is counting his losses.
In the Avdiivka, Kurakhivka, Novopavlivsk and Zaporizhzhia directions, the enemy did not take active action. It fired on civilian infrastructure in the settlements of Novoselivka, Krasnohorivka, Zelene Pole and Kamyanske. It struck air strikes on New York, Avdiivka and Pobeda.
In the South Buh direction, the enemy conducted air reconnaissance of UAVs in order to detect changes in the position of our troops and correct artillery fire.
In order to deter our units, it fired from barrel and jet artillery and mortars in the areas of the settlements of Topolyne, Knyazivka, Lupareve, Posad-Pokrovske and Novohryhorivka.
The occupiers continue to violate the rights and freedoms of the citizens of Ukraine in the temporarily occupied territory, to destroy and export to the territory of the russian federation the property of the seized industrial enterprises, to carry out measures of the administrative-police regime. The enemy does not understand and is afraid of total resistance from Ukrainians.
We believe in the Armed Forces of Ukraine! Together to victory!
Glory to Ukraine!
More after the jump!
Here’s today’s assessment from Britain’s MOD:
There was no updated map from British Military Intelligence today. Nor did Chuck Pfarrer update his mapping of the battle for Sievierodonetsk. And given it is the weekend, there was also not a DOD backgrounder today.
While President Zelenskyy didn’t give an address today, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska’s interview with The Guardian was published today.
In the early hours of 24 February, Olena Zelenska became aware of the sound of muffled booms somewhere in the distance. As she drifted towards wakefulness, she realised the sounds she was registering could not be fireworks. Her eyes snapped open; she discovered she was alone in the bed. She jumped up and hurried to the next room, where she found her husband, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, already dressed for work in a suit and tie.
“What’s going on?” she asked him.
“It’s started,” he told her.
“I had the feeling I was inside a parallel reality, that I was dreaming,” Zelenska says, describing the moment when normal life was interrupted, for her family and her country. Soon afterwards, her husband left for the presidential compound in the centre of Kyiv, to chair a security council meeting that would decide on the initial response to Vladimir Putin’s shocking full-scale invasion of Ukraine. He told his wife she should wait for him to call later in the day with instructions.
Left alone, she went to check on the couple’s two children, nine-year-old Kyrylo and 17-year-old Oleksandra. They were already awake and dressed, and they seemed to understand what was happening. Zelenska began to throw together a suitcase of possessions, scurrying down to the basement with the children and their security detail every time the booms got too close. At one point, she was standing on the first floor of the presidential villa and looking out of the window when a fighter jet screamed by, loud and low. She wasn’t sure if it was Ukrainian or Russian.
“It was a surreal feeling … like I was playing a computer game and had to pass certain levels to find myself back at home. But I was also keeping it together, and I had this weird smile on my face all day, because I was trying not to show the children panic. We just followed the orders of security, went where we were told,” she says.
In the evening, she was able to see her husband again, briefly, though she won’t say where. He told her that she and the children would be taken to a safe place. They hugged, but there was no time for tears or sentimentality. It was only later that she allowed the thought to creep in: she might never see him again.
Zelenska greets me with a gentle handshake. “Thank you for coming,” she says in English, before switching into Ukrainian.
Back in those first days of the war, there was a terrifying sense that anything was possible, as missiles rained down on targets across the country and Russian troops advanced on Kyiv from three directions. “According to the available intelligence, the enemy marked me as target No 1 and my family as target No 2,” President Zelenskiy said in one of his early video addresses. His wife does not know what intelligence the assessment was based on, and Zelenskiy never told her about any specific threat to the family. She tries not to think too much about it, “otherwise I’ll get paranoid”. But she was alert to the possibilities that seizing the first family could provide the Russians.
“Of course, it’s possible to exert pressure on the president through his family, and I wouldn’t want him to have to make the choice between his family and his responsibilities as president. So if there is even the smallest chance of that, you have to remove it,” she says. She speaks in a soft voice with carefully enunciated consonants, punctuating her answers with deep sighs.
So while Zelenskiy ignored suggestions from western leaders that he should leave Kyiv and set up a government-in-exile in western Ukraine or Poland, he did send Zelenska and the children away to relative safety. She is understandably cagey about exactly where she spent those two months – “The less I say, the safer I am” – but says she moved regularly, and insists she remained inside Ukraine the whole time. At times, she could hear the air-raid sirens that have become the background soundtrack for many millions of Ukrainian lives. Oleksandra and Kyrylo never left her side.
President Zelenskiy has been through more surprising life twists in the past five years than most people experience in a lifetime. When I interviewed him in February 2020, he was desperate to change the topic from Donald Trump, after spending his first year in office dragged into Trump’s impeachment. But he outlasted the Trump drama and he is doing his best to overcome Putin, too. Even the president’s bitterest political rivals, who feared that a comedy actor was not the right person to take on Putin in Ukraine’s hour of need, have conceded that this wartime leadership has been both courageous and inspirational.
Zelenska claims she is not surprised by how impressive her husband has been. “He’s someone who, more than anyone I know, whenever there were situations where everyone says it’s impossible, he always saw it through and got it done, and was able to inspire others, too.”
I ask for an example and she tells a story about how, once, her writing team had to compose a song for him to sing as part of a sketch. The shooting was the next day, and they had nothing. At 10pm she went to Zelenskiy and told him that probably they’d have to abandon the idea of having a song. “He said, ‘Fine, you go home.’ And he sat down to write it himself, and two hours later it was done. And it wasn’t bad! He just never gives up, even when all around him do.”
It’s hard to take the comparison seriously: writing a song for a comedy sketch hardly seems like preparation for leading a country through an invasion by the second largest army in the world. But, clearly, she is right that something in her husband’s character has turned him into an unexpectedly competent wartime leader. Part of it is certainly his communication skills. “He remembers texts very quickly, and can say them confidently,” she says. “He knows how to work with cameras. He is not acting – he just has the skills to do that well. For me, I find it incredibly difficult to speak in public, I get stressed every time, but for him it’s natural.”
Another ingredient is discipline. Because of his jokey manner and her more austere bearing, people often assume she is the disciplinarian in the relationship while he is the chilled creative. “But, actually, discipline is his middle name,” she says. “The alarm goes off and he gets up, brushes his teeth, gets dressed and leaves, and it takes him five minutes, whereas I’m rolling about for half an hour. He has these qualities, psychologically, to withstand stress and to keep discipline.”
She claims, rather surprisingly, that she has not noticed any difference in his mood over the past months. Does that mean he’s bottling it all up? Is all the stress going to take its toll after the war is over? “I’m not worried for his psychological health, but his physical health – he always gets ill after difficult periods. He relaxes, and then he goes and picks up a virus or something. I am trying to look after him in this regard but, like all men, he doesn’t like to check his temperature or his blood pressure. But I try to get through to him by making a scene.”
Much, much, much more at the link!
BG Volodymyr Karpenko, the the head of logistics for Ukraine’s land forces, and Denys Sharapov, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Defense (DMOD) for Procurement and Support for Weapons and Equipment, did an interview with National Defense, which is the publication of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). For full disclosure, in 2014 I gave the keynote address and functioned as the on site master of ceremonies/conference coordinator* for one of their conferences in 2014 that dealt with human geography, geospatial analysis, and defense. Here’s BG Karpenko’s and DMOD thoughts on what Ukraine needs to continue to prosecute the war against Putin’s re-invasion:
Our readers are about 1,800 corporate members of the defense industrial base in the United States. What message do you have for them? And what do you need from them urgently?
Sharapov: The [Ministry of Defense] is concentrating currently on fulfilling all the needs of the armed forces. You asked a question about needs. First, you have to understand that the frontline is 2,500 kilometers long. The frontline where there is active combat in more than 1,000 kilometers long. That’s like from Kyiv to Berlin. … As of today, all the people in all of our armed forces and within the defense and security sector is up to one million people. And we have to support them all. We have to supply them with small arms, with personal protection gear and with the means of communication.
And of course, to carry out a war in this day and age, we need heavy weapons — that’s primarily artillery systems. As of today, our need for heavy artillery systems is measured by hundreds. That’s why we also need a huge number of rounds for these artillery systems.
I am not going to name the exact number we need. That is information for internal use. I’m just going to tell you I think to fulfill those needs we have to engage the entire military industrial complex of the entire world.
We have received a large number of weapon systems, but unfortunately with such a massively expendable resource, it only covers 10 to 15 percent of our needs. We need artillery, we need artillery rounds, infantry fighting vehicles, combat vehicles, tanks. We really need air-defense systems and the multiple launch rocket system.
Also, high-precision weapon systems, because we believe that high-precision weapon systems will give us an edge over the enemy, the upper hand in this war.
There is a debate in the United States about whether to send Ukraine armed Predator drones. How important are they to your fight?
Sharapov: The party that will win in this war will be the party that will first start using contemporary high precision equipment and weapon systems. And those drones that you mentioned, they are a part of the modernized, highly accurate, highly precise, modern equipment. It gives us an advantage that allows us to accurately strike the enemy.
Gen. Karpenko: Regarding the first question, I want to add something to what the deputy minister has said in terms of the need for equipment and armaments. I just want you to understand the intensity of the conflict. While the deputy minister was talking, I drafted some numbers to just show you the intensity of combat along those … kilometers where the combat is most active.
Think about this: one brigade occupies around 40 kilometers of the fence line. That means that to cover the active combat conflict we need 40 brigades. Every brigade is 100 infantry fighting vehicles, 30 tanks, 54 artillery systems — just for one brigade, and we have 40 of them.
I’m not going to talk about the anti-tank guided missiles or anti-tank guided weapons for now. I’m just talking about heavy weapons. As of today, we have approximately 30 to 40, sometimes up to 50 percent of losses of equipment as a result of active combat. So, we have lost approximately 50 percent. … Approximately 1,300 infantry fighting vehicles have been lost, 400 tanks, 700 artillery systems.
That is a mathematical estimation we can make based on the length of the frontline and the intensity of the conflict. So, I’m giving you this estimate just for you to understand how significant the requirement is based on the intensity of the conflict.
So, think about it. If the current need for artillery systems is 700 vehicles, that needs to be replenished because they were destroyed. And we have only received 100 vehicles for example from [foreign] aid. … Then there [are] medical needs, the air force troops, the special forces and all the other branches and services that are also fighting in this war.
Regarding the heavy armaments and in regard to the drones as you asked about: this is what the war has come down to — using heavy artillery systems. It’s close-contact warfare. So that leads to a lot of casualties.
The war that we are seeing in Ukraine right now happened the last time in 1945 when the world won over evil.
Unfortunately, today, we don’t have the technologies that would allow us to limit human casualties. We have close human contact within the warfare. And that’s why the deputy minister said correctly that the victorious side will be the party that has those [long-range, precision] technologies.
You have to understand that all of the [unmanned aerial vehicles], the armed UAVs that are needed, the kamikaze drones, they are the weapons that will allow us to extend the line of contact. So, the [increased] space between us and the enemy will limit human casualties while still increasing the efficiency of the destruction of enemy vehicles.
We need both the multiple launch rocket systems and the kamikaze drones [loitering munitions].
If we can use long-range items like the drones — like the MLRS — that will allow us to extend the effective range up to 60 kilometers, that will give us the upper hand and that will give us significant success.
And if we can increase the number of multiple launch rocket systems and kamikaze drones that will decrease the rate of consumption of artillery systems.
Why do you think it is taking so long to deliver the weapon systems?
Sharapov: You should understand that any weapon transfer is always a political decision. And very often, it’s not up to the government of one country. There are different alliances.
Very often a highly technological, highly precise weapons will contain subsystems from multiple countries. And if they were to transfer that technology, they will need to have permissions from all those countries.
And the other component is that, unfortunately, not all politicians understand the gravity of what is going on in Ukraine. Some people believe that this is not their war. This war is so far away it doesn’t concern them. But in reality, this is a war for the entire world. Unfortunately, we happen to be on the frontline of this.
Yes, we do receive a lot of support, especially the support for many nations being here at this exhibition at Eurosatory. We have heard a lot of kind words. We have heard a lot of people expressing sympathy to our situation. However, unfortunately, it is taking a long time for many people to comprehend what kind of threat Russia poses to the entire world today.
That is why we would like to take this opportunity … to draw the attention of the entire world once again that this is a war not only back in Ukraine, this is the war that impacts the entire world.
The distance from Kyiv to Paris is the same as the length of our frontline, 2,500 kilometers. That is why it is our joint goal to stop Russia advancing in this war.
Our armed forces were forced to learn how to use many weapons from all over the world more efficiently than many other armies. You have seen the proof of that all around our stand and in our videos. But because of the consumption rates, we need a lot of weapons and weapon systems.
Much, much more at the link.
Der Spiegel has done a deep dive into the artillery war in Donbas.
It’s a Sunday morning in June, somewhere on the expansive fields of the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine. A Ukrainian 2S1 howitzer emerges from one of the thick hedges that line the fields. The 15-ton, self-propelled gun from Soviet times – nickname: Carnation – rattles across a dirt track on its tracks before coming to a stop. Two soldiers jump out, sprint 50 meters and set up an aiming circle on a tripod. The battery commander barks the target coordinates and a cannoneer loads the weapon. With an ear-splitting roar, the gun fires off two rounds in rapid sequence before immediately moving off and disappearing into the brush, hidden from enemy drones.
It is a scene that is typical for the situation in which Ukraine currently finds itself. Almost four months after the Russian invasion, the war has transformed into an artillery duel. The fighting takes place across several kilometers against a frequently invisible enemy using heavy artillery. The goal is that of quickly firing off rounds before return fire begins raining down.
At the beginning of the offensive, when Russian troops began advancing in large columns from the north toward large Ukrainian cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv, the goal was that of luring the enemy into ambushes, where antitank weapons were waiting. Now, though, with the fight having migrated to the vast steppes of southern and eastern Ukraine, the battle has become more brutal, more unrelenting. Just like the battle fields on the Western Front in World War I, the fields of Ukraine are now being plowed up by the constant shelling. Courage, expertise and imagination are of little help when the necessary weaponry isn’t available.
“Artillery is the god of war,” says Colonel Roman Kostenko, who is observing the operation of the 2S1 howitzer from nearby. It is a well-known quote, originating with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Kostenko says that artillery will also be decisive in the battle to the south. Kostenko is a Ukrainian parliamentarian, but he also commands a special unit that works closely together with the artillerymen. They conduct reconnaissance missions to locate Russian positions and then pass along the coordinates.
In a more recent development, they no longer have to rely exclusively on Soviet-era weaponry, but also have modern, Western equipment available. On one of the fields that is bristling with artillery, an M777 is firing off rounds toward the Russian lines. The United States has promised 108 of these howitzers to the Ukrainian military, along with 200,000 rounds of ammunition.
The howitzers are not self-propelled, instead being towed by other vehicles. But they only weigh four tons, making them both extremely mobile and easy to hide. Furthermore, the “Triple Seven” – called “Three Axes” by the Ukrainians – has a longer range than Russian artillery and uses standardized NATO shell sizes, which can be resupplied. Norway and France have also provided artillery.
Oleksiy Arestovych says the deliveries of Western artillery are “decisive.” Without them, he says, “the enemy would now be storming Zaporizhzhia, they would have taken Lysychansk and would have surrounded Slovyansk.” Arestovych is an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “In close combat, battalion against battalion, we win,” he says. “Our problem is that the enemy is firing at us essentially with impunity from a distance.” That, he says, explains the high Ukrainian losses of up to 100 troops each day. Ukraine, he adds, ran out of ammunition for its own rocket launchers back in early April “aside from an untouchable reserve.”
“The Russians Are Afraid of Them”
The Russians don’t have such problems. They possess plenty of artillery and munitions, and in contrast to the beginning of the war, they are concentrating all of their firepower on the Donbas. A Ukrainian commander on the eastern front has dubbed the approach “wall of fire.” They lay down a blanket of artillery fire before every attack, allowing them to overwhelm the Ukrainian defenders. And the Russians aren’t likely to run out of munitions in the foreseeable future: “They are using stocks from the Soviet era, and the Soviets didn’t skimp when it came to arms.” The commander is also full of praise for the new M777 howitzers. “The Russians are afraid of them,” he says.
The Ukrainians are now awaiting the next delivery from the West. The U.S. intends to send four M142 HIMARS multiple rocket launchers. And the British have promised several M270 systems, a multiple rocket launcher with a range of up to 80 kilometers. That’s not only twice as far as the American howitzers, but it also slightly exceeds the range of comparable Russian systems. And the Germans have promised to deliver four MARS II systems by the end of June.
The Western rocket launchers have the ability to destroy enemy artillery from a great distance. And whereas Russian rocket launchers are notoriously imprecise, with a dispersion radius of 170 meters, the HIMARS and the M270 allow for precise strikes – assuming, that is, that GPS-guided rockets are used.
“The systems will make a real difference,” says Mark Cancian, an analyst with the Washington D.C.-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies. The problem, though, is that the eight systems promised by the Americans, British and Germans are not enough to defend against the Russian advance along the entire front line. “For just the Donbas, 10 systems are likely sufficient, but it is likely that at least twice that number is necessary for the rest of the front,” says Cancian.
Kostenko, the colonel and parliamentarian, also has high hopes for the rocket launchers. Ukraine has lately been pursuing counterattacks in the southern region where he is deployed, with the mid-term goal that of recapturing territory west of the Dnipro River. Russia has captured Kherson, which gives it a bridgehead on the western bank of the river from which it could advance toward Odessa.
Currently, Kostenko says, the situation looks as follows. The Ukrainians are able to break down the initial Russian lines with the help of targeted, drone-controlled artillery. “But then they send up reserves and we aren’t able to secure the territory.” The modern multiple rocket launchers with their vast range, he says, would enable the Ukrainian soldiers to also attack Russia’s reserve lines, making it easier to hold onto territory that has been won.
The U.S., meanwhile, made its view of the weapons systems’ potency abundantly clear by making President Zelenskyy promise that Ukraine would not use the rocket launchers to fire into Russian territory. And Washington has decided not to provide so-called ATACMS rocket, which can be fired by the same launchers but have a range of up to 300 kilometers. Russian President Vladimir Putin has seemed unimpressed by the announced deliveries of the rocket launcher systems, saying they would “change nothing of substance.”
The question, though, is how rapidly Ukraine will actually be able to deploy the multiple rocket launchers. The four HIMARS systems from the U.S. have already been transported to Europe, but Ukrainian soldiers must still be trained to use them, with three weeks set aside for that training. The German systems, meanwhile, require software adjustments that could result in significant delays, perhaps even until winter.
Much, much more at the link.
I think that’s enough for tonight.
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