The Ukrainian authorities searched/raided a number of elites and notables today. Including Ihor Kolomoisky. Ukrainska Pravda has the details:
The Security Service of Ukraine and the Bureau of Economic Security are searching the home of oligarch Igor Kolomoisky in Dnipro.
The investigation concerns the machinations around Ukrtatnafta and Ukrnafta.
According to the source, it is about the waste of oil products on 40 billion hryvnias and evasion of customs duties on huge amounts.
More at the link. Kolomoiski is also under investigation here in the US. He is also a past governor of Dnipro and owned the network that President Zelenskyy’s TV show about a comedian who becomes president of Ukraine aired. Kolomoiski had been considered to be a Zelenskyy benefactor and ally, but the latter has been distancing himself from the former for several years. The former interior minister’s home was also raided:
Ukraine has launched a fresh wave of anti-corruption raids on high-profile figures, including one of the country’s richest men, Ihor Kolomoisky.
The home of former interior minister Arsen Avakov was also searched, as part of the apparent purge.
Ukraine has launched an anti-corruption drive and officials said the leaders of the customs service had been fired.
In a statement that made no mention of the tycoon, the economic security bureau said it had exposed large-scale embezzlement schemes and tax evasion worth 40bn hyrivnia ($1bn; £880m) by the former management of Ukraine’s two biggest oil firms, Ukranafta and Ukrtatnafta.
There was no initial comment from Mr Kolomoisky, whose companies had a substantial stake in both companies. They were among several strategic businesses transferred to state ownership last November. Weeks earlier, Mr Kolomoisky’s flat was searched in western Ukraine.
In a separate raid, the former interior minister, Arsen Avakov, told Ukrainian media that his home had been searched as part of an inquiry into Ukraine’s purchase of Airbus helicopters six years ago.
Mr Avakov was quoted as saying that nothing had been found and all the contracts had been approved at the time.
The move followed a deadly helicopter crash outside a kindergarten in a suburb of the capital Kyiv that left 14 people dead, including the interior minister, his entourage and a child on the ground.
Referring to the latest anti-corruption swoop as “spring landings”, Mr Arakhamia listed further investigations, including the dismissal of the entire leadership of the customs service. MP Oleksiy Honcharenko said the acting head and two deputies had been fired.
The main tax office in Kyiv was also raided.
Here is President Zelenskyy’s address from earlier today. Video below, English transcript after the jump:
Good health to you, fellow Ukrainians!
Today is a fruitful day for our country – a fruitful day in confronting those who are trying to weaken Ukraine even now. We will not allow anyone to weaken our state.
I thank all law enforcement officials who have demonstrated the power of law and the power of the state today. I am grateful to the Government of Ukraine for its prompt personnel response. In particular, today the heads of customs service were dismissed. I have been informed that disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against some of those dismissed.
Unfortunately, in some spheres, the only way to guarantee legitimacy is to change leaders along with institutional changes implementation. Change as much as necessary to ensure that people do not abuse power.
Today, the Security Service of Ukraine, the State Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Economic Security and the Prosecutor’s Office have conducted dozens of searches and other actions in different regions and against different individuals in the framework of open criminal proceedings. I do not want to make political assessments that can be used by these individuals in the interests of their defense. But I see from the reaction in society that people approve the actions of law enforcers. Hence, the movement towards justice is tangible. And justice will be ensured.
The purity of processes within the Ministry of Defense and the defense forces in general is especially important. Any internal supply, any procurement – everything must be absolutely as clean and honest as the external supply for our defense.
Those who interfere with this will not remain in the relevant structures.
And today I would like to thank the officers of the National Police of Ukraine, who quickly responded to the disgraceful facts that became known yesterday… Facts of abuse against girls. Criminal proceedings have been initiated. There are the first detentions of the perpetrators. Procedural actions are ongoing. There will be no place for violence in Ukraine.
Today was also a rather active day of diplomacy – the President of Austria visited our country together with several ministers of the Austrian government. There are significant intergovernmental agreements, and there is a clear understanding that Austria will not be neutral in the defense of life and Europe. There is a clear Austrian position condemning Russian aggression and willingness to further increase pressure against Russia for terror.
I thank Mr. President of Austria, representatives of Austrian municipalities for standing with Ukraine.
Of course, today I held several operational meetings with our military.
There is a certain increase in the occupiers’ offensive actions at the front – in the east of our country. The situation is becoming even more severe.
I am grateful to all our warriors who are ready for this and who demonstrate the resilience Ukraine needs.
We have steadfastly gone through all this time, from February to February. The enemy is trying to gain at least something now to show on the anniversary of the invasion that Russia allegedly has some chances.
In such circumstances, we all need to be especially united, especially focused on the national interest, and, as a result, especially resilient. I am confident that we will stay like that.
In the evening, I signed traditional decrees awarding our warriors. 244 servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine received state decorations.
I am grateful to everyone who fights for Ukraine!
I am grateful to everyone who helps us get the weapons we need!
I am grateful to everyone in the world who supports us!
Glory to Ukraine!
Here’s former NAVDEVGRU Squadron Leader Chuck Pfarrer’s most recent assessment of the situations in Bakhmut and Kremenna:
BAKHMUT / 2145 UTC 1 FEB/ RU Wagner PMC units conduct offensive operations at Krasna Hora in an attempt to capture the T-05-13 / M-03 HWY junction. S of the city, Wagner & VDV units continue efforts to reach the H-32 Hwy in the vicinity of Ivanivske. pic.twitter.com/fmZgqmr8Cp
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) February 1, 2023
KREMINNA AXIS /1230 UTC 1 FEB/ The 0600 brief of the Gen’l Staff reports UKR forces are in contact at Terny, Chervonopopivka & Dibrova. UKR forces have apparently maintained some positions in Kreminna. RU offensive ops aim to secure the east bank of the Zherebets reservoir. pic.twitter.com/RuLhmwQUl9
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) February 1, 2023
Yet another act of Russian liberation.
A missile just levels a residential block in Kramatorsk in Donbas.
Local Telegram channels say survivors are screaming under the ruins. pic.twitter.com/cBKSMOaMgx
— Illia Ponomarenko 🇺🇦 (@IAPonomarenko) February 1, 2023
Russian missile hit an apartment building in the city center of Kramatorsk. At least two people killed and seven wounded. Dnipro, Kharkiv, Kupiansk, Kherson, Kramatorsk – Russia increases the number of attacks on civilian targets. pic.twitter.com/Uwx4Pu9TLv
— Maria Avdeeva (@maria_avdv) February 1, 2023
#AFP We were just a few km from #Vugledar where weary Ukrainian soldiers are fighting tooth and nail to protect the town, now in the crosshairs of the invading Russian force. "The more time passes, the worse the situation gets," said Oleksandr operating his mortar #ukraine pic.twitter.com/BVGzjJExUG
— Arman Soldin (@ArmanSoldin) February 1, 2023
Vuhledar🇺🇦, 01.02 -10:00 AM update: The enemy tried another armored assault, sustained casualties and retreated. The enemy lost approximately one armored/tank platoon.
— Tatarigami_UA (@Tatarigami_UA) February 1, 2023
Quick update: despite initial information about enemy’s intention to start an offensive operation today, as well as continuous artillery fire and concentrated VDV forces it didn’t develop into a large offensive as I said originally, instead there were only some local attempts. https://t.co/XgIEvdCutP
— Tatarigami_UA (@Tatarigami_UA) February 1, 2023
The enemy still might start an assault at any time – just because they didn’t start in the morning, doesn’t mean they won’t start later. They concentrated significant assault forces in Kreminna area, hence it’s better to observe, things develop/change quickly
— Tatarigami_UA (@Tatarigami_UA) February 1, 2023
Bakhmut and remember, this is 14 hours old:
Update from Bakhmut, 1 February – the enemy is slaughtering their meat battalion in frontal attacks, but the city of Bakhmut is holding firmly. Don't panic and carefully analyse the headlines – the situation on the ground is very different from what's on the news. Kiyanyn. pic.twitter.com/VghtmB3Opp
— Dmitri (@wartranslated) February 1, 2023
“Moscow could be preparing to open a new front, pushing across the Russian border to recapture territory in Sumy or Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine after being driven out months ago, according to Ukrainian officials and military analysts” https://t.co/ONPhoZ4j67
— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) February 1, 2023
Interesting numbers. In November Russia had fewer than 100,000 troops in the field, so mobilisation has been numerically impressive. This figure also exceeds the number of *combat-capable* (not total) troops Ukraine had that month. But … equipment, training, leadership matter. https://t.co/6m5FAzTpqe
— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) February 1, 2023
Here’s the reporting from The NY Times:
Yet since the Kremlin named Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov to take over its struggling war effort last month, Russia has steadily added forces in Donbas, Ukrainian military officials say. Ukrainian intelligence estimates that Russia now has more than 320,000 soldiers in the country — roughly twice the size of Moscow’s initial invasion force. Western officials and military analysts have said that Moscow also has 150,000 to 250,000 soldiers in reserve, either training or being positioned inside Russia to join the fight at any time.
“We see that they are preparing for more war, that they are mobilizing more soldiers, more than 200,000, and potentially even more than that,” NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, told reporters during a visit to South Korea on Monday. “They are actively acquiring new weapons, more ammunition, ramping up their own production, but also acquiring more weapons from other authoritarian states like Iran and North Korea.”
A surge in Russian bombardment has accompanied the buildup of forces. Konrad Muzyka, a military analyst for Rochan Consulting, which tracks Russian deployments, said that reported Russian artillery barrages had risen from an average of about 60 per day four weeks ago to more than 90 per day last week, with 111 Ukrainian locations targeted on one day alone.
He also said that “the Russians are withdrawing a lot of equipment from storage areas.” Still, he concurred with other analysts who say that Russia will struggle to outfit large numbers of new soldiers with tanks, armored vehicles and other effective equipment.
How the Kremlin will ultimately deploy its tens of thousands of new fighters is also a matter of speculation.
Moscow could be preparing to open a new front, pushing across the Russian border to recapture territory in Sumy or Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine after being driven out months ago, according to Ukrainian officials and military analysts. It might be escalating fighting along the eastern front to divert Ukrainian resources and hurt Kyiv’s ability to launch its own offensive. It could be planning a drive from occupied territory in eastern Ukraine to push deeper into the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which make up Donbas.
The only matter of consensus is that Russia is not satisfied with the territory it has taken and is maintaining its ultimate goal of subjugating Ukraine. The intensified assault has continued Russia’s pattern for nearly a year: bleeding the Ukrainian military through relentless attacks.
Oleksii Danilov, the head of Ukraine National Security and Defense Council, told Sky News on Tuesday that he did not rule out “any scenario in the next two or three weeks.”
“The main fights are yet to come,” he said.
The U.S. is expected to announce the supply of GLSDB HIMARS munitions with a 94-mile range already on Friday. The manufacturer says it already has some in stock. No area of mainland Ukraine will be outside HIMARS range — a huge threat to Russian logistics. https://t.co/al0jS4k8i2
— Yaroslav Trofimov (@yarotrof) February 1, 2023
#Turkey's President #Erdogan threatened to make the US pay a price for what he claimed unfulfilled promises on fighter jets, vowed to make an alliance with #Russia, #Iran, and #Syria to bring peace in the region. pic.twitter.com/FPtb8hLN7O
— Abdullah Bozkurt (@abdbozkurt) February 1, 2023
Austria and Hungary have both received their orders from the home office in Moscow:
Austria and Hungary agree on not sending weapons to Ukraine, Austrian Defence Minister Klaudia Tanner and her Hungarian counterpart Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky said at a joint press conference.
According to Tanner, the greatest danger is that the war could spread to Europe. pic.twitter.com/p8F9YKKAPZ
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) January 31, 2023
Compare and contrast these three chuckleheads with the new Czech President Petr Pavel:
"Our cities are not being destroyed by Russian artillery and missiles. But our future could be destroyed if we don't support Ukraine to a successful end to this conflict."
Said #CzechRepublic President-elect Petr Pavel to BBC.https://t.co/WLBZSeI81J
— Filip Horký (@FilipHorky) February 1, 2023
The BBC has the details;
Czech President-elect Petr Pavel has told the BBC that Ukraine should be allowed to join Nato “as soon as the war is over”.
Mr Pavel, a retired Nato general, said Ukraine would be “morally and practically ready” to join the Western alliance once the conflict had ended.
In his first broadcast interview with the international media since his election, Gen Pavel gave a robust defence of Western military support to Kyiv, saying there should be “almost no limits” to what countries should send.
Speaking from the renaissance Hrzansky Palace, a few hundred metres from Prague Castle, he said for him sending Western fighter planes such as F-16s was “not taboo”, but he was unsure they could be delivered in a timeframe that could prove useful to Kyiv.
“I am proud of my country being one of the first to provide Ukraine with significant military help,” he told the BBC.
The Czech Republic was the first Western country to send tanks and infantry fighting vehicles – Soviet-designed T72s and BMP1s – to Kyiv, part of a series of deliveries of heavy weapons that reportedly began as early as March 2022.
“Probably very few people could imagine that Western countries would be willing to provide Ukraine with modern main battle tanks or long-range artillery or anti-aircraft systems,” he went on.
Now, he said, it was reality.
“But at the same time we see it’s still not enough” to counter Russia’s significant resources of men and materiel, he added.
Ukraine has asked for 300 such tanks and says the West has so far promised to send at least 120. But Gen Pavel said he hoped that would speed up – especially if Russia launches its anticipated spring offensive.
The president-elect brushed aside the view – long held in some European capitals, especially Berlin – that such deliveries could be seen as “escalation”.
Russia has warned that increased supplies of Western weapons will lead to Nato countries increasingly becoming directly involved in the conflict.
“We have no alternative,” he said. “If we leave Ukraine without assistance, they would most probably lose this war. And if they lose – we all lose.”
President-elect Pavel also said that he and other European leaders had a duty to explain to their sceptical – and in many cases frightened populations – of the sense in helping Ukraine.
“Our cities are not being destroyed by Russian artillery and missiles. But our future could be destroyed if we don’t support Ukraine to a successful end to this conflict.”
And he also dismissed claims – among them from the man who stood against him this weekend, former Prime Minister Andrej Babis – that he was closing the door to diplomacy.
“Once there is even the slightest chance of peace talks, let’s support it. But there are no signs of it from the Russian side,” said Mr Pavel, who was often portrayed as a warmonger during the campaign.
“What needs to be said is this: the end of war is entirely in Russian hands. It would take only one decision from President Putin to withdraw his forces from Ukraine and the war is over.”
And once it was over, he told the BBC, he could see a clear place for Ukraine in Nato.
“The Ukrainian military will be probably the most experienced military in Europe. Ukraine deserves to be part of a community of democratic countries.”
Including Nato? I asked.
“I believe they really deserve it.”
More at the link!
That’s enough for tonight.
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Okay, Austria is confusing me here. The president goes to Ukraine and is like “What up, Ze, we totally condemn russian aggression” but then the country is like “lol no weapons for you tho”. Put your [Googles “is Austria on the Euro”] euros where your mouths are!
I don’t know if this is somewhat due to translation but one thing I have consistently loved in Zelenskyy’s speeches and addresses is the seemingly anodyne and calm wording he uses for statements that would actually make me shake in my boots if they were directed at me. Like “Those who interfere with this will not remain in the relevant structures” is some cold as ice language.
I also like the phrase “russia is here for never” in this graffiti art in Kherson.
Thank you as always, Adam.
Anonymous At Work
Bakhmut’s a white elephant, but having trouble assessing first the Kreminina situation. That was a ballsy breakout attempt, 10 km, just to secure easily-encircled territory. Planning a big offensive operation and want more defensible natural barriers, sure. Lodgment is just asking for a meat grinder. Vugledar/Vuhledar is also puzzling. Big offensive of packed troops only works if ALL of EU and US shut off the arms supplies, otherwise you’re just asking for HIMMARS-o-clock, every 15 minutes.
Aside from assuming rationality in people that may not be rational, what am I missing?
Adam L Silverman
@Anonymous At Work: You’re not. They’re attempting to substitute mass (quantity) for effectiveness (quality).
Anonymous At Work
@Adam L Silverman: I really hate being right on this stuff, because it’s a terrible slaughter. So, we’ll see a ton of meat grinder assaults between now and the muddy season, we’ll see more during the muddy season and we’ll see spring offensives in the same manner after the muddy season, all in hopes that the Russians brought more bodies than Ukrainians have bullets?
Gin & Tonic
“According to Tanner, the greatest danger is that the war could spread to Europe.”
News flash, Klaudia, it’s already there. Ukraine is Europe.
@Anonymous At Work:
There’s also the cluster munitions option, if Russians pack masses of troops. (Most countries have banned them, not including USA, Ukraine, Russia, others, due the huge potential for civilian casualties from unexploded sub-munitions.)
Exclusive: Biden administration weighs Ukrainian requests for access to US stockpile of controversial cluster munitions (Natasha Bertrand, Alex Marquardt and Zachary Cohen, CNN, December 8, 2022)
Inaction and sabotage by Hungary, Austria, and Germany are going to increase the chance of this war spreading.
Adam L Silverman
@Gin & Tonic: Bless their heart.
Also, is it Kremenna or Kreminna? I’ve seen both.
Fuckin’ Austria. In WWII, it was more Nazi than the German Nazis were. Sure would be a shame if the FDA decided that Red Bull is dangerous to consume (which it is, IMO). I wonder what sort of penalty could be slapped on Rotax for every Rotax engine found in a Russian or Iranian drone? And Rotax sells an awful lot of engines for snowmobiles and quads. Sure would be a shame if Biden’s next economic bill favored Briggs & Stratton over foreign competitors (similar to the EV situation). Of course, that would suck for Bombardier up in Canada, but hey, eggs, omelets…
Gin & Tonic
@Adam L Silverman: It is the latter.
I stupidly signed up for a WaPo newsletter on Ukraine because they had one article yesterday I found interesting. So the first thing in my in-box this morning was by a certain Ishaan Tharoor (Yale grad), “The Argument for why the West should change course on Ukraine.” TL,TS,DR (TS stands for too stupid)
@Chief Oshkosh: We were in Austria just after the Brexit vote, and in the run up to Austrian national elections. Aside from dealing with a couple of old guys who were obviously fascist in leanings (a hearty mountain people don’t you know), the campaign posters for the far right were sure easy to figure out even though I speak zero German or Austrian.
Gin & Tonic
@zhena gogolia: I haven’t subjected myself to that piece, but my understanding from others is that it’s just recycling of the old RAND argument made by the odious Samuel Charap. You’d think being completely wrong about everything last year might lead one to a certain humility, but you’d be wrong.
Training Ukrainian troops in Ukraine.
@zhena gogolia: The only way that headline could work is if the article was just a blank page where you scroll and scroll until at the bottom it says “There isn’t one.”
@Alison Rose: Alison, perhaps you remember early on in the war, there were reports that the Austrian government was heavily penetrated by Russian spies? I did a quick search now, and found this article (which I’ve only skimmed, but it seems reponsive): https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/07/05/austria-russia-infuence/
Hungary …. well, we know they’re penetrated: heck, Orban’s a Putin stooge.
Red Bull is still open for business in Russia,……
@Chetan Murthy: I’d forgotten but I recall it now, yes. Sigh.
@Alison Rose: Austrians consider neutrality a paramount virtue. They are a singular people in that their biggest national holiday is not Independence Day but Neutrality Day, October 26.
That is the anniversary of the date in 1955 when post-WW2 occupation troops finally left and the Austrian parliament passed their Declaration of Neutrality.
That was somewhat understandable then, in that the previous 50 years had been rough ones for the Austrians (although some other Europeans had it far rougher). But now the Austrians are free riders.
@Chief Oshkosh: Bombardier could use the wakeup call, tbh. I live in Canada and they are a constant source of frustrated jokes up here; they get contracts for things like public transit because they’re the only Canadian company in the mix for those sorts of gigs, but then they suck at it (Toronto is STILL waiting on streetcars from a deal that closed yearas ago). American vendors would almost certainly do a lot better. Let’em sweat.
@Gin & Tonic: One line that crossed my consciousness was something like, “If we let Russia keep the territory it controls now, that would be a loss for them.” (I’m paraphrasing because I’m not going back to see what the exact words were.)
I think EU accession for Ukraine should be accelerated as quickly as possible, especially the bureaucratic process. However, accession standards should not be substantially relaxed, in order to maintain the integrity of the EU. Ukraine should be roughly level w/ Romania & Bulgaria at the time of their accessions. It should not be held to a higher standard than Albania or North Macedonia. Any complications directly caused by Putin (such as territorial “disputes”) should be waived.
on the Wet Coast, we are more than happy with the timescale, service and support from Bombardier in regards to LRT.
@Chief Oshkosh: From what I hear, Austria still trends more Fashy than Germany. Convincing the world that Hitler was German, and Mozart was Austrian was the PR coup of the century…
@Geminid: Yes, well, if you are neutral in situations of injustice etc etc
@Alison Rose: And also (of course) completely surrounded by NATO countries (except for CH, and CH+AT are completely surrounded by NATO countries). So not like they actually gotta *worry* about any *cost* for their neutrality.
“Freeloader” is the kindest description I can manage.
Grumpy Old Railroader
@Jay: don’t overlook Siemens light rail equipment built right here in Sacramento with union labor
There appears to be evidence of Russian intentions of some kind of offensive. Per ISW, a Russian buildup in the Svatove-Kreminna area is suggestive of a Russian offensive push. Such a push could come elsewhere instead/as well, given a sudden swelling of (barely trained) Russian manpower.
This presents the UA with a dilemma. Seize/keep the initiative, or use the advantage of the defensive to grind down more Russian manpower?
Seizure of operational initiative is always attractive, since it can screw up enemy plans and logistics, and dictate which fields of operations are prioritized to one’s advantage. Potentially, the UA could do this by driving over frozen ground at Troitske, a border crossing in the Northeast where the Russian rail supply from Belgorod enters Ukraine. This would really fuck up further Russian operations. But it may require more offensive strength than the UA can currently spare without rest and refit. Also, sustainment could be complicated after the mud thaws again, unless more of the road net is also seized.
Alternatively, letting the Russians drive into strong defensive positions is a plan with a great deal of merit. The only Russian advantage at the moment is newb manpower. Standard infantry tactics manuals call for a local preponderance of 3-1 or higher to achieve offensive “success”, and it should not be difficult to deny the Russians that sort of local advantage, given the UA’s adept use of its interior lines of communication. Moreover, the entire point of a local Russian “success” would be to set the stage for a combined-arms breakthrough into the Ukrainian rear areas of a sort that the Russians have demonstrated themselves incapable of in this war. The only successful Russian tactic so far has been slowly grinding forwards under cover of massive pulverising artillery. Rapid exploitation is an unattainable dream for them, in my opinion. So trading ground for Russian hamburger at exchange rates controlled by the UA is not an unreasonable option. Especially if a reserve can be gathered for a counteroffensive, to exploit an inevitable moment of Russian exhaustion.
The UA general staff have a demonstrated genius for making the correct calls on dispositions and operations, so far. I have no idea how they will call this. However, the window on “Winter spoiling offensive” will close soon, since such operations would need several weeks of frozen ground to be profitable. February, for sure. If we don’t see a UA offensive in the next 3-4 weeks, the call has likely been made to prepare the meat grinder welcome.
@Grumpy Old Railroader: Siemens built with in US with union labor. That is worth knowing.
After WWII Austria had to adopt neutrality to end the allied occupation and regain its sovereignty in 1955. It was added to the constitution and has become a sincere, deeply ingrained part of national identity (akin to anti-militarism in West-Germany) so it is no surprise that they aren’t turning on a dime, even now. Hungary is a different kettle of fish: authoritarian rule and an openly pro-Russian stance despite being in a NATO member.
@Carlo Graziani: Late to the thread as usual and maybe this is an Adam question, but how much do the UA’s adept internal communications rely on Elon’s whims? Hoping there’s a backup plan already; Ukraine must be getting the picture about him, but I wonder what the alternative is.
@Anonymous At Work: Perhaps Russia is using the war to empty their prisons of troublesome prisoners, like Castro did with the Mariel boat lifts? They certainly don’t seem to care about their lives.
@Argiope: Read in context, the term “communications” here has a meaning that mostly refers to transportation and logistics, rather than information transmission. Ukraine has a dense and well-maintained railway network which they succeeded in shutting the Russians out of by holding Kharkiv early in the war. As a consequence the UA can easily move troops and materiel to and between fronts, whereas the Russians must use the thin net of peripheral rail lines to shuttle stuff around. This advantage, which can translate into an initiative/response lag of UA days to Russian weeks, is one that Ukraine has already used to great strategic advantage several times in the 2022 campaign, including the late Spring race to the Donbas and the late Summer Kharkiv offensive.
As to the role of Starlink, I believe (from casual reading) that it’s usefulness is largely for secure communication with and between small units in the field or remote control of long-range drones, rather than for operations direction between headquarters or even tactical comms with larger units. The latter are presumably serviced by microwave towers or even old-school landlines (including newer-school fiber). So if access to Starlink were actually turned off (very unlikely in my view) it would constitute a real capability loss, but not in any sense a strategic catastrophe.
@Carlo Graziani: The value of StarLink is enabling broadband wireless communication that undergirds the informationalized warfare of the 21st century. Ukraine lacks the requisite communications satellite infrastructure, thus has to leverage civilian networks such as StarLink. W/o it Ukraine will essentially have to fight in the 80s & 90s mode, relying up on radio & landline communication. One can still use UAVs, but more limited by line of sight comms, thus limited by distance & potentially bandwidth, also more vulnerable to jamming. There are also UAVs that can serve as comm relays, but that only extends the range a bit more. Ukraine can still use drones w/ direct line of sight communication such as the Bayraktar TB2 (I don’t think the SATCOM enabled TB2Ss have been introduced), but that requires flying them high & making them vulnerable to Russian air defense.
NATO & other US Allie’s can rely upon the infrastructure that the US has constructed. China has been rapidly constructing an infrastructure of its own. Letting Ukraine into NATO’s satellite communications network may not be an option due to fear of Russian penetration & cyber espionage, and concerns about Russia seeing it as a major escalation in NATO’s active participation in the war. NATO can conceivably develop such a system w/ a few satellites customized for Ukraine, but that development would be very expensive & time consuming. It might also tempt Russia to employ its ASAT capabilities to take them out.
StarLink is actually a good alternative, & may well transform local warfare between underresourced countries or even non-state actor action going forward, much as civilian GPS has.
The discussion also begs the question of Russia’s capability here. It’s informationalization effort has always been behind NATO’s since the Cold War days, & is probably lapped by China by now. Russia has optical & synthetic aperture radar recon satellites in orbit, & military communications satellites, but may be very bandwidth limited. The drones it has been using all seem to be line of sight controlled. Among the specialized equipment destroyed or captured/abandoned, I recall seeing radars & electronic warfare gear, but not many SATCOM vans. Are Russian forces (including Wagner) also learning from Ukrainians & using StarLink? Can StarLink prevent this from happening?
J R in WV
My paternal grandfather was born to Swiss immigrants in the 1890s in Ohio and took his whole family, 3 sons, daughter, wife and large Oldsmobile touring car to Europe to meet the Swiss aunts, uncles and cousins, of course via passenger steamer, in 1938. . They were in Europe for several months, and heard Chamberlain’s “Peace in Our Time” speech on live BBC radio while in a movie theater in Britain. The passport has stamps from countries that no longer exist on any map.
Unbelievable stories I will try to post on today’s Ukraine report.
@YY_Sima Qian: Good clarification, thanks.
One point, however, is that Starlink is a low-earth orbit (about 800 km altitude) constellation, whereas in general communications satellites are geosynchronous (37,000 km altitude), including existing military systems. No ASAT system developed by any nation currently threatens geosynchronous satellites (or for that matter GPS satellites, 20,000 km altitude). So there is no possibility of Russia doing anything directed against orbiting comms infrastructure dedicated to Ukraine, should any be made available. The cost of dedicating even one such might be a non-starter, though.
@Carlo Graziani: No direct ascent kinetic ASAT weapons can currently threaten comms satellites in geosynchronous orbits. However, China is suspected to have tested a direct ascent kinetic kill vehicle that can reach geosynchronous orbits as far back as 2013. The US DoD’s annual report on Chinese military power has been assessing that China is actively developing ASAT weapons to threaten satellites in geosynchronous orbits since at least 2020. The U.S., China & Russian are all developing & possibly have tested co-orbital kinetic kill vehicles (essentially small satellites w/ robotic arms that can approach & grapple other satellites). All 3 also likely have soft kill directed energy weapons that can at least jam or otherwise damage components in satellites at geosynchronous orbit.
What is unique about StarLink & other proposed/planned constellations is their qty., small size & low cost of each unit. Destroying them using direct ascent kinetic kill vehicles will be very expensive, very cumbersome, & likely to foul the low earth orbit for human space flight for a loooooong time. Given how low they fly, they may be much more vulnerable to soft kill by directed energy weapons, though. These competing constellations, once completed, will make the low earth orbit very crowded, too.
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