Russia/Ukraine INTSUM 23FEB22–1; 1300 Eastern
[Originally posted on author’s Facebook page; post is publicly available.]
Another day is upon us. As is the news for which you’ve all been waiting.
1.) The US has issued yet another warning of an imminent Russian attack. Of particular concern is the city of Kharkiv, home to about 1.4 million people, despite sitting about 70 miles from the border of the Donetsk Oblast. I am unclear as to why, unless US intelligence analysts think that the Russians will extend their invasion beyond the borders claimed by the separatists. That said, I concur with their assessment that an attack is likely imminent. What it will end up looking like is anyone’s guess other than, perhaps, Vladimir Putin. I have seen an absolute ton of videos on various social media platforms that show a lot of military vehicles, from T-90A tanks to self-propelled artillery, moving around the border with Russia and, allegedly, within the separatist regions. CNN reports that they have geolocated some of these videos. It’s just a guess, but I’d think that the Russian Federation Council’s authorization of the use of military forces outside its borders might have influenced this new/old/renewed warning of a pending invasion.
1.a.) Additionally, “senior defense officials” have stated two things today. First, that Russia has “near 100% of all the forces that we anticipated that he [Putin] would move in.” Second, that 80% of those forces are “in forward positions, ready to go.” Some, according to one official, are as close as three miles from the border.
1.b.) If I had to guess, which I do, the prelude would feature cyber attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure and institutions. This might be followed up with artillery, air, and missile strikes against key infrastructure and Ukrainian military facilities (to include units). Only then would armor and infantry move in, under the watchful eye of Russian close air support. And, wouldn’t you know it? Ukraine is reporting that the websites of the government, foreign ministry, and state security, as well as several unnamed banks, are under another DDoS assault. Other reporting states that PrivatBank (the largest commercial bank in Ukraine) and Oschadbank have been targeted. NPR reports that “patrols from an international monitoring mission to Ukraine are also being blocked from seven towns in Luhansk and Donetsk, adding that the mission’s drones are also being obstructed, via GPS signal interference.” Count on the electronic warfare arena being lit up like a obnoxious neighbor’s Christmas decorations.
1.c.) I am curious as to how Russia is or is planning on getting up to date targeting data. As far as I know, there haven’t been any Russian ISR assets flying around, though this could simply be a matter of a lack of OSINT reporting on such. It’s hard for me to fathom them not doing some sort of ISR. I’m also afraid that I no longer have any insight into Russian national technical means (NTM), like what you folks call “spy satellites.” I suppose that I could look. Maybe I will.
2.) Speaking of Russian armor and military vehicles, The Warzone (a website devoted to military things published by The Drive) reports “mysterious symbols are appearing on Russian military vehicles near Ukraine.” The symbol is a Z, sometimes with a box or a triangle around it. It’s on everything from self-propelled artillery to tanks to regular old military trucks. There are a number of theories as to what this means. One is that it’s a simple method of “IFF,” or identifying friend or foe. Since Ukraine and Russia use a lot of the same equipment, this might make sense. Another is that it represents units scheduled to move towards Kharkiv. Are we putting the pieces together? I forgot to mention that Kharkiv is home to Malyshev Tank Factory, which continues to make new tanks as well as refurbishing older tanks. Kharkiv also has a slew of other industrial facilities. In any case, there are a ton of videos showing this mysterious Z. I suspect we will eventually discover its meaning.
3.) Artillery strikes and other “incidents” emanating from beyond the line of contact and into Ukrainian-held territory continue. There’s too much to really get into, but suffice it to say that the Minsk agreement is dead. Out of 59 shellings as of 1700 local Ukrainian time, 53 of these attacks consisted of weapons — heavy weapons such as large artillery — prohibited from being within 31 miles (that’s 50 km) from the line of contact. Couples with Putin’s statements from yesterday, I think we can say for absolute certain that the Minsk agreement will not influence Russian/separatist activities.
4.) If we are in need of another I&W trigger, Russian military ambulances are within five miles of the border with Ukraine. A field hospital was erected in Belgorod. I’m not sure where, exactly, but Belgorod is about 20 miles from the border and about 40 from…Kharkiv. More logistical infrastructure in Belarus. Etc, etc.
5.) It seems like Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is finally maybe possibly seeing the writing on the wall, declaring a state of emergency (pending parliamentary approval). Today the military signed a conscription order applicable to all reservists between 18 and 60 to service for one year, beginning, according to the order I read, today.
6.) Paris is going to shine some colored lights representing Ukraine’s flag in a show of solidarity, apparently. Let’s hope those lights are capable of shielding Ukraine from SRBMs. President Zelenskyy said today, “Only I and our army will know the clear steps regarding the defense of our state. And believe me, we are ready for anything.” I hope he’s right. The other day, the US was trying to convince him to leave Kyiv and go to Lviv. I get the impression that Zelenskyy, a former comedian, is in it for the long haul. But you never know what will happen when the bombs start falling on your head.
Possibly more later.
Post-Script: The New York Times posted a video a while ago showing Russian personnel evacuating the consulate in Odessa. There’s a line of vehicles waiting to leave in the video. It appears the Russians were serious about its diplo staff leaving.