Russia/Ukraine INTSUM 02MAR22–1; 0950 Eastern/1630 Kyiv
[Originally posted on author’s Facebook page; post is publicly available.]
1.) The Kyiv Independent reports that the UA Air Force, “along with units of the army and territorial defense, destroyed a large Russian military convoy near the city of Bashtanka in Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region.” There’s reports that the convoy contained roughly 800 vehicles, though the number of RU vehicles destroyed or otherwise lost is not likely anywhere near that high. I’m always skeptical of self-reported battle damage assessment (BDA) by pilots and always need some sort of external verification. No offense to my pilot friends, but they usually have near “100% accuracy and destroy everything” at which they shoot, in my experience. This is never the case. It is not clear what role UA ground forces played, though there have been widespread reports of ambushes and skirmishes conducted against RU convoys, so it’s likely they did engage. It’s possible that this represents some coordination in a combined arms attack on this particular convoy. Which is in contrast to the apparent lack of coordination even within the same RU battalion tactical groups (BTG) fighting throughout UA.
1.a) I’ve seen a picture reportedly from Bucha, just northwest of Kyiv, of an RU mechanized column that was attacked a couple of days ago. The angle of the shot makes it difficult to make out how many vehicles and of what sort, but the destruction appears pretty significant to me, with many burned out vehicles. It looks as if they were just ambushed while on a street.
1.b.) In addition, RU forces seem to be bypassing many towns and cities in an effort to quickly surround Kyiv. It’s likely that this will result in further and widespread attacks on supply lines and logistical areas that still don’t seem to have implemented adequate security measures. To reinforce the point, the UA 128th Brigade reportedly captured a Russian supply dump, location unknown, however. It appears from pictures that at least two T-72 MBTs were colocated and now evidently belong to Ukraine. This seems like a poor strategy, but perhaps RU still believes that it will quickly end the war, and that the losses of supplies and equipment will be rendered moot. I suspect, however, that the RU troops running out of fuel, ammunition, and food might disagree. This is perhaps a compounding factor in the observed poor morale of these troops. Regardless, UA forces seem to have a special skill in attacking columns and logistics as evidenced over the past few days. Perhaps I should do a little Center of Gravity analysis…
2.) Kherson’s center is reportedly occupied by RU forces. RU claims to have captured the city, but Ukrainians there say that they are still contesting the city. Given the events over the last week, it’s prudent to hold off on calling any city as occupied by RU forces regardless of their claims. And “occupying” a city is not remotely the same as having secured a given city. There are multiple accounts of UA citizens confronting RU troops openly in the street, yelling at them and gesticulating wildly. They are not welcoming them as liberators. Violence will likely continue even in areas that Russia does occupy. Should this end in some occupation of Ukraine, Russia is going to have tremendous difficulty pacifying the population.
2.a.) UK Ministry of Defense, Defence Intelligence, reports “heavy Russian artillery and air strikes have continued to target built-up areas over the past 24 hours, primarily focused on the cities of Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol, and Chernihiv. Reflecting on the above point, I seem to recall Russian claims that Mariupol had fallen to their forces. Evidently UA forces seem to disagree, as there are multiple reports of heavy fighting ongoing, not just artillery, but also including small arms fire, meaning RU troops are being actively engaged. Please note, too, that Russian artillery and air strikes appear to be indiscriminate. We’ve discussed the likelihood of this in the past. There are many, many reports of buildings with no military value being struck and, in some cases, destroyed. It strongly appears that RU is no longer interested in preserving civilian life and has no qualms about inflicting mass casualties in these urban areas. UA news services are reporting ~2,000 civilian casualties so far. The number of wounded and missing is probably higher.
2.b.) Despite all this, morale remains incredibly high. Recent polling shows Zelenskyy with a 93% approval rating and that 90% of Ukrainians “feel hopeful.” Eighty eight percent believe that Ukraine will win the conflict. Given what we’ve seen over the last week, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, and yet it is to some extent.
3.) UA Ministry of Defense announced that two Su-35s were shot down by UA air defense assets, in particular an S-300 (SA-10 Grumble), but also lost one MiG-29, both events during action near Kyiv. Losing two Su-35s, one of the most advanced RuAF assets, in a single action is significant, though RU still has plenty of air assets. This event, if verified, continues to support the fact that air space is still heavily contested, and that RU hasn’t been able to conduct effective SEAD (suppression of enemy air defense) operations over much of Ukraine. In addition to the continued existence of these large, capable SAM assets, UA forces possess substantial numbers of MANPADS, which will pose a significant threat to low-flying RU aircraft for quite some time. MANPADS are much more difficult to suppress, as they are by definition “man-portable.”
3.a.) It is likely inevitable that RU will eventually gain control of UA airspace, simply due to sheer numbers, and will likely suppress UA systems such as the S-300 over time. While RU air assets are suffering losses, and these losses are embarrassing because they’re losses of some of RU’s most capable aircraft, these losses are mitigated because there’s just a lot more of them available. There are no reliable numbers available regarding air asset losses on either side, but the UA air force was much smaller at the start, and is smaller now. Before the conflict, UA had about 100 combat aircraft, to include MiG-29s and Su-27s. Russia had more Su-35s alone in its inventory than that, and more than 250 MiG-29s. Granted, not all of these aircraft are readily available to units flying combat missions in Ukraine, but Russia is vastly more capable of replacing losses than Ukraine. In an air war of attrition, this is not a war that Ukraine can win without external assistance in the form of equipment. In fact, the situation is similar on the ground; RU is more able to replace losses, even though those losses are astoundingly high after a week of combat (currently 52 tanks, 47 armored fighting vehicles, 61 infantry fighting vehicles, 22 armored personnel carriers, 153 trucks/jeeps, 16 SAM systems, etc, etc). Still, it’s important to note that thus far, the Ukrainian air force (and the Ukrainian ground forces) has given a very good account of itself, surprising most observers and certainly surprising Russia.
4.) Some things, however, are being resupplied and/or replaced. Two Turkish A400 transport aircraft reportedly delivered more TB2 Bayraktar UAVs to UA. Two things are unclear: 1.) Did these planes land in Poland and the TB2s were shipped overland into UA, or did the A400s land in Kyiv? 2.) How many TB2s were delivered in each plane? Ukraine had 48 TB2s on order from Turkey before the outbreak of hostilities. I think it’s more likely that the TB2s were transported over land from Poland, but I cannot confirm this. I’m not too sure that I’d want to fly around Kyiv in a big cargo plane while Su-35s and S-300s are flinging about with a reckless abandon. That said, the TB2 has so far proven an effective platform for UA forces, and their continued delivery into UA’s hands is significant.
5.) The Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security, Oleksiy Danilov, claims that the elite Chechen troops allegedly sent to Kyiv to assassinate President Zelenskyy have been neutralized, according to several Ukrainian websites. He stated on Rada TV, which was reported by Interfax-Ukraine, “The special operation that was to be carried out directly by Kadyrovtsy to eliminate our president is fully known to us today. I can say that we received information from representatives of the FSB who have no desire to take part in this bloody war. Thanks to this, that Kadyrov’s elite group that came here to liquidate our president was killed. We tracked them. One group was covered in Hostomel, the second is now let’s say, under the gun. We will not give our president our country to anyone. This is our land.”
5.a.) This claim is thus far unsubstantiated, and I’ve seen no independent reports in western media on this; merely circular reporting. While it has been widely reported that the Kadyrovsty unit was in Ukraine, and recently it was reported that the Kadyrovsty group in Hostomel was wiped out, to include its leader, there are some concerns with this claim. Stating that representatives from the FSB provided the information is suspect, and it sounds more like a Ukrainian/Western effort to sow doubt in RU leadership of the loyalty of the FSB. It isn’t clear what “under the gun” means. Perhaps something was lost in translation, and the second group has been captured. Perhaps killed. Perhaps nothing at all.
6.) President Biden announced that the US will close its airspace to Russian aircraft during the State of the Union address on 01 March 2022. This was expected, and was probably the only significant thing about Ukraine mentioned. Russian aircraft are finding large chunks of the globe unavailable to them. And before I forget, the ruble is now worth less than one cent and the Russian stock market remains closed, for the longest period since 1998.
7.) In a Tweet a few hours ago, the Kyiv Independent claims that Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president deposed in 2014, is in Minsk and that the Kremlin intends to install him as Ukraine’s president once again. While this wouldn’t surprise me, actually doing this would likely serve to further galvanize UA’s population against RU. Is it possible to get an approval rating over 100%? If so, this is how you do it. In fact, this news may be aimed at the Ukrainian population, and perception the goal; it could merely be UA propaganda and/or speculation. Ukraine has proven adept in the propaganda game thus far. I’ve seen nothing else to support these claims at this time, but it will be worth paying attention to it.
8.) Two RC-135W Rivet Joints, one US and one UK, are airborne, doing racetracks over eastern Poland, along the borders with Ukraine and Belarus. One US KC-135 Stratotanker is above Romania. The Rivet Joint is primarily a signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection asset, and an excellent one at that.
9.) US defense officials suggest that 80% of the arrayed forces at the start of the conflict are now operating within UA.
10.) I’m unsure if it’s the same event that happened a couple of days ago, but there’s nice, crisp video of two Ukrainian tractors making off with a Russian Tor surface to air missile vehicle (SA-15 Gauntlet). They’re just pulling it out of a field. War is strange, sometimes. And sometimes, despite the horrors, is rather humorous.
Reporting should shift fully to Medium this afternoon after my “spam moratorium” is up. More to follow. Thank you for reading.