Russia/Ukraine INTSUM 04MAR22–2; 1745 Eastern/0045 Kyiv
1.) Russian advances toward Kyiv from the northwest continue to be stalled, including the now-infamous convoy, which has not made any discernible progress over the last four days. Reports are that UA forces have successfully targeted the lead vehicles in this convoy, preventing follow vehicles from advancing. In addition, it appears that the areas surrounding the Irpin River have been flooded, which was likely intentional. This denies RU vehicles the ability to advance anywhere but along the roadways without risk of losing vehicles to the elements.
2.) There are growing reports about issues with the tires the Russians have equipped on many of their vehicles. To most of us, tires don’t seem particularly important. However, just like our own vehicles, military vehicles (those that aren’t tracked) need tires. When military vehicles sit around without moving for a period of time, the tires can suffer from dry rot, just like in any tires. This more readily manifests when vehicles, that haven’t moved or been adequately maintained, use a low tire pressure setting via a central tire inflation system (CTIS) in order to traverse things like soft ground and mud. It can result in the tires basically disintegrating. This may well explain why the majority of the vehicles in the column to the northwest of Kiev are sitting on the road. Movement off the road may spell death for their tires. A lot of the vehicles I’ve seen abandoned have been sans at least one tire. It’s really the little things that add up in wars. It may also explain, to some degree, why the RU advances in the south have not been as bogged down; the ground is dryer, thus firmer, and these vehicles don’t need to use CITS in order to move. In addition, there’s been some discussion of oil from wheel hubs leaking due to dry rotted seals, causing the wheels to seize. This seems to indicate a severe lack of maintenance and logistical consideration given to this invasion. It’s unlikely that the RU military has sufficient tires to adequately replace them in the field. Some commenters have suggested that the tires are Chinese knock-offs of Michelin tires, which may be of dubious quality. I’m having a mechanic/prior-service soldier and his wife over tonight, and I may pick his brain a bit on these subjects. My knowledge of dry rotted tires is limited primarily to finding an old vehicle in the woods when I was 12.
2.a.) Mobility kills are, in most instances, as good as an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) to the hull, especially when it concerns vehicles in a modern, motorized/mechanized army that intends to rely on speed of maneuver to rapidly move and encircle things like enemy units and cities, which is what the Russian military has tried to do in Kharkiv and Kyiv, among others. Contrary to the movies, military forces do not always need to completely destroy equipment and, it seems, some Russian assets are suffering from mobility kills without necessarily having been engaged by any UA forces, whether that is from lack of fuel or self-shredding tires. This is hugely problematic for Russia. The amount of abandoned vehicles is quite surprising until we take into consideration the possibility of this issue. I doubt this is applicable to all abandoned vehicles, but it seems based on the visual evidence that it may apply to a large portion of them.
2.b.) Captured enemy equipment has long been used against that enemy. This applies to swords as much as it applies to tanks and guided missiles. UA forces reportedly captured a Russian truck full of 9M113M Konkurs-M (AT-5 Spandrel) semi-active command line of sight (SACLOS) tandem warhead ATGM. Ukrainian forces are already familiar with these systems. These will likely be added to the newly arrived NLAWs from Western nations and will probably soon be fired at Russian tanks. As of this writing, Russia has lost 90 tanks, as confirmed by Oryx. That number will grow.
Analyst’s Comment: Logistically speaking, none of this is sustainable, which we’ve discussed multiple times. Belingcat investigator Christo Grozev suggests that Russia will exhaust supplies in Ukraine by Sunday, but clarified that more can and will be resupplied. The latter is likely true, but I have no keen insight into Russian logistical stores in or around Ukraine. That said, it does appear that Russia has used vastly more resources than anticipated, and bringing in supplies from the north and east will be complicated due to the fact that during the initial push, Russian forces bypassed many urban areas from which we can expect to see the continued assault via ambush against their logistical lines. With vague reports of Russia repositioning equipment from the Pacific region, and with reports that tanks entering the front have not been updated, it is possible, but perhaps not probable, that the Russian situation is more dire than we currently understand. Russian losses mount, from men to planes to tanks and trucks. Morale was never particularly high, it seems. And now we’ve seen that the Russian government is shutting down social media (see below) and threatening to jail those who speak “fake news” regarding the ongoing conflict. Things could move very, very quickly over the next week.
3.) There are unconfirmed reports of a heavy engagement that took place in a Kyiv suburb and resulted in reported loss of 9 x RU tanks (NFI) and 4 x infantry fighting vehicles (NFI). These losses were claimed as having been the result of friendly, i.e. RU, fire. I’m currently skeptical of this report, at least in terms of the number of reported losses, as that represents a significant loss of armored assets in one combat action. It’s within the scope of reason, but just barely. We will see what subsequent reporting yields.
4.) UA troops and, presumably, civilians, in Odessa have barricaded at least some streets with tank traps of the Czech hedgehog variety. For a visual, think of those strange metal beams riveted and welded together that you’ve seen in Saving Private Ryan’s opening scene. Should RU armor attempt to advance down these streets without adequate engineering assets to clear these barriers, we can expect to see UA anti-tank assets used to good effect.
5.) UA air power has not been significantly degraded, according to several Western defense officials. Reports are that UA maintains a “significant majority” of aircraft available. Thus, the skies above Ukraine continue to be contested. Nor have UA air defenses apparently been significantly degraded, as evidenced by the recent destruction of RU ground attack aircraft.
5.a.) Recent calls from some for the transfer of A-10s to Ukraine are patently absurd. There are serious logistical considerations at play. I understand and suffer from the same cultural love affair with the platform as do many Americans and American veterans but, contrary to recent claims, the UA air force does not have the ability to operate in the airspace with impunity. RU does have anti-aircraft assets, as well as very good air superiority fighter aircraft, and those assets are capable of successfully engaging the A-10. As robust as the A-10 is, it is not invincible. It is also very slow. In addition to this, UA pilots would need to be trained on how to actually use the plane effectively. Ground crews would have to be trained on how to maintain it. UA would have to be supplied with ordnance to be dropped from it. This is not as simple as just giving them a couple of squadrons of planes. Someone like Representative Chrissy Houlahan — who’s a former US Air Force officer — should know this stuff, and yet she’s claiming to lobby the Biden Administration about transferring the system to “counter Putin’s armored assault” today. To be fair to her, she’s not even remotely the only one who’s floated the idea (though she may be the one with the most influence). There are memes abound regarding the “salivation” of A-10 pilots and how they would obliterate the convoy currently stalled northwest of Kyiv. They probably would, provided adequate SEAD. This, of course, ignores the geopolitical implications that have already been discussed in this space regarding the transfer of combat aircraft to UA forces.
6.) Speaking of SEAD or the lack thereof, there are credible reports of 3 x RU Su-25s being downed in the previous two days. These have been shown on video and via images taken on the ground. Reportedly, these aircraft have predominantly been neutralized by UA MANPADS teams. As has been mentioned, MANPADS will continue to be a thorn in the side of Russian aircraft flying at low altitude, just as the ATGMs will be for Russian armor.
7.) Based on the situation in southern Ukraine, it looks like some manner of amphibious assault IVO Odessa is increasingly likely, as RU forces attempt to deny UA access to seaports. Russia already controls virtually all the coastal areas along the Sea of Azov and, of course, Crimea. There’s a great deal of fighting in Mykolaiv west of the recently fallen Kherson and east of Odessa. Reports are that UA forces have at least one bridge in Mykolaiv rigged for destruction, which should slow efforts. But there is renewed focus on the south, as RU forces are having a somewhat easier time getting resupply.
8.) New reporting suggests that the deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army, Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky, was killed by sniper fire. Other commanders have also reportedly been killed after moving closer to the front lines, likely because of an inability to coordinate movement among subordinate units.
9.) In a call with Chancellor Sholz, President Putin denied that RU forces have bombed or otherwise struck Ukrainian cities, saying that it was “gross propaganda fakes.”
10.) The new Russian legislation regarding “fake news” has resulted in the BBC “temporarily suspending” all journalists’ work in Russia. Russia has also reportedly blocked Facebook and has “restricted access to Twitter,” which means those sites are now much more difficult (but not impossible) to access from that country. Russian state media, however, appears to still be tweeting.
11.) The S&P 500 Stock Index is reportedly removing all RU companies prior to 09 March 2022 reopening.
12.) There’s a video showing three Ukrainian civilians making off with a 2B11 120mm heavy mortar being towed behind a motorcycle. They appear very pleased with themselves.
More tomorrow. I’m going to enjoy some rare socialization during which I will speak, with words, to other human beings tonight. As always I reserve the right to be an intel weenie if breaking and significant news is to be reported. Thank you for reading.