Russia/Ukraine INTSUM 01MAR22–1; 0940 Eastern/1640 Kyiv
[Originally posted on author’s Facebook page; post is publicly available.]
1.) President Putin, according to a Western diplomat, isolated and misinformed saying, “We don’t believe he has a realistic understanding of what’s going on.” US intelligence has stated that Putin’s behavior within his inner circle is uncharacteristic, with outbursts of anger. These two things seem to contradict one another, but it’s very likely that Putin is misinformed and still angry. This is the issue with autocrats who’ve been in power for over two decades; no one wants to tell them the bad news, and people are fearful. Stalin laid in his own urine for hours after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage because his followers were afraid to touch him and he died three days later, on a couch from which he did not move. And that was a guy who was semi-conscious and immobile. Putin is neither of those two things and, I would imagine, doesn’t take receiving bad news very well. On the plus side, if this intelligence is solid, it means the US likely has collection assets very near and dear to the leader.
2.) A live feed from the central square in downtown Kharkiv showed what appeared to be a Iskander ballistic missile targeting the regional government administration building at approximately 0800 local time. The missile struck just in front of the building, seemingly on the sidewalk, while cars drove on the street. The missile caused substantial damage and there are reports of dozens of casualties. This is clearly the deliberate targeting of a building associated with UA’s legitimate government operations in the area and shows evidence of previously assessed escalation of violence on behalf of RU. In addition to this strike, approximately 87 apartment buildings in the city have been damaged by MLRS strikes, and utilities are out in multiple neighborhoods. Other than the likely intentional Iskander strike on the government building, targeting throughout the city looks to be indiscriminate. Still, Kharkiv is proving a tough nut to crack. RU evidently expected the city to fall very quickly and, when it didn’t, we’ve seen a steady increase in force applied in an attempt to force the city into capitulation.
2.a.) Alternatively, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that Russian precision munitions are not quite as precision as previously thought. Perhaps they meant to actually hit the building (and the myriad runways they’ve targeted with the Iskander, all of which they’ve seemed to miss ever so slightly). This seems to be the main reason the Ukrainian air force survived the opening days of the invasion.
3.) The oft-discussed and critically important convoy approaching from the northwest of Kyiv was, reportedly, struck by UA forces near Borodyanka, which is about 20 miles from Kyiv. Video shows multiple RU vehicles destroyed and abandoned. It’s possible that the TB2 unmanned aerial vehicle was involved, but one source stated that Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces raided the supply line. UA forces also captured a resupply vehicle containing an unknown number of 280mm rockets. Significantly, the rockets are dated 1986. Another truck containing approximately 40 x 122mm rockets was also captured. Portions of the town are also heavily damaged, however. We previously discussed the likelihood of increased pressure on lines of logistics as the conflict moves on, in part due to RU lack of control of the surrounding areas, the inability to control the airspace or, seemingly adequately engage the TB2, and poor/lax security. I expect these raids will continue, but it’s also likely that RU forces will learn and adapt; to what degree is currently uncertain. Video evidence shows TB2 strike on what appears to be two 9K37 Buk surface to air missile systems in or around the same area (possibly). To the west near Sumy there is visual evidence of substantial RU vehicle losses, ranging from trucks to a a Msta-S self-propelled howitzer (152mm) to a command vehicle. Just south of Sumy, near Poltava, credible evidence shows one T-80U burning and another likely nonoperational. This is just a smattering of reported RU losses. Make no mistake, UA forces are also suffering losses of equipment, though apparently not to the same degree. However, I will not be reporting or remarking on the loss of UA equipment, in most cases.
4.) British Defense (or Defence as they spell it) Intelligence Update for 01 March 2022 states: “The Russian advance on Kyiv has made little progress over the past 24 hours, probably as a result of continuing logistical difficulties.” It also assesses that Russia has still failed to control the airspace over UA, resulting RU forces switching to night operations. I largely agree with their assessments. I’d expect that Kyiv is already the modern equivalent of Constantinople in terms of being fortified. The city is not cut off, meaning supplies are still able to flow in, and the residents are proving to be tenacious on the defense. If RU forces eventually do attempt to take the city, which they most certainly will at this point (and have tried and thus far failed), expect to read about horrific casualties, which will undoubtedly include civilian losses. Putin has shown in the past that he has little deterring him from using brutal force on cities, but this is a much larger conflict with a lot more global attention (especially through the use of modern technology and social media) than was the case at Grozny. If that is the path he chooses, the world is going to see a lot of terrible images. I am unclear as to what that might mean, especially in terms of public opinion for or against continued or increased support — perhaps direct involvement. Terrible images often have a way of instilling in us powerful emotions, and those emotions sometimes encourage us to do things beyond our original intent.
4.a.) [Analyst’s Bloviation: Regardless, it is advisable that if you do not wish to see such suffering, you should avoid the news. If you have children, they should also avoid the news. As a father of kids ranging from 5 to 17, I have no issue discussing with them the horrible things in the world; they should know that their lives are thankfully peaceful and without privation, but that others do not have such luxuries. They should know that war is real, that people die, and that the world is sometimes a horrible place. I am comfortable talking with them about any of this. But I do not wish for them to have to see these things. There will be time enough for that because, as Plato is claimed to have said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” End Bloviation.]
5.) Contrary to previous reporting, Mariupol does not seem to have fallen to RU forces; at least not entirely. Heavy fighting is ongoing, to include significant artillery effort and air strikes throughout the night on behalf of RU. Reportedly, Mariupol has no internet and most of the city is without electricity.
5.a.) An unverified report states that in Mariupol, which is occupied by RU forces, some groups of Russians, potentially the FSB, are looking for specific people, armed with a list of names and addresses. I wish we could get a better picture out of these areas that are now under RU control.
5.b.) Horlivka, which was just outside the so-called line of contact prior to the start of hostilities, also remains in UA control despite heavy artillery fire. Upon first glance, that makes no sense. It’s right next to the two “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk and, given that it lies right in the territory those entities claim as their own, it seems like it would have been among the first gains. But it’s important to note that UA has had eight years to fortify the area, and likely has significant defense in depth. Advancement by Donetsk and Luhansk forces, even if backed up by RU troops, to the border of the Donbas region was always going to be a slog.
6.) About an hour ago, Russian Strategic Bomber high-frequency (HF) voice comms were observed as active. NFI.
6.a.) An explosion was reported at Taganrog Airbase, inside Russia, as a result of a possible Ukrainian Tochka-U tactical ballistic missile strike. One Il-76 may have been on fire.
7.) The US Army is reporting that the 405th Army Field Support Brigade is activating teh Army Prepositioned Stock-2 (APS-2) sites and will outfit an armored brigade combat team being deployed to Europe from the US. This is the first time in APS-2’s history that it’s been tasked with such. The equipment will be moved to Grafenwoehr Training Area where it will await the 1st ABCT, 3rd ID. This deployment was previously noted. Equipment includes M1 Abrams MBTs, M2 Bradley IFVs, M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, and other vehicles.
7.a.) NATO and US air assets continue to fly IVO Ukraine and Belarus. Reportedly, F-35As along with a KC-135 tanker aircraft. The purpose of these flights is to continually remind Russia that NATO exists and is a very capable force.
8.) I don’t see a lot of information about this and I would like to know more, but it seems likely now that the fighters supposedly coming from Eastern Europe to Ukraine will not be coming after all. We’ve discussed the optics involved with potential co-combatant concerns; this is likely the result of those concerns.
More to follow. Thanks for reading.