7 votes

Weekly megathread for news/updates/discussion of Russian invasion of Ukraine - November 24

This thread is posted weekly on Thursday - please try to post relevant content in here, such as news, updates, opinion articles, etc. Especially significant updates may warrant a separate topic, but most should be posted here.

If you'd like to help support Ukraine, please visit the official site at https://help.gov.ua/ - an official portal for those who want to provide humanitarian or financial assistance to people of Ukraine, businesses or the government at the times of resistance against the Russian aggression.

9 comments

  1. cfabbro
    Link
    NATO vows to aid Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’ (AP)

    NATO vows to aid Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’ (AP)

    NATO is determined to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia for “as long as it takes” and will help the war-wracked country transform its armed forces into a modern army up to Western standards, the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg vowed on Friday.

    Speaking to reporters ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Romania next week, Stoltenberg urged countries that want to, either individually or in groups, to keep providing air defense systems and other weapons to Ukraine. NATO as an organization does not supply weapons.

    “NATO will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. We will not back down,” the former Norwegian prime minister said. “Allies are providing unprecedented military support, and I expect foreign ministers will also agree to step up non-lethal support.”

    Stoltenberg said that members of the 30-nation security organization have been delivering fuel, generators, medical supplies, winter equipment and drone jamming devices, but that more will be needed as winter closes in, particularly as Russia attacks Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

    “At our meeting in Bucharest, I will call for more,” he said. “Over the longer term we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet era equipment to modern NATO standards, doctrine and training.”

    5 votes
  2. skybrian
    Link
    Western sanctions catch up with Russia’s wartime economy [...] [...] [...]

    Western sanctions catch up with Russia’s wartime economy

    Recent figures show the situation has worsened considerably since the summer when, buoyed by a steady stream of oil and gas revenue, the Russian economy seemed to stabilize. Figures released by the Finance Ministry last week show a key economic indicator — tax revenue from the non-oil and gas sector — fell 20 percent in October compared with a year earlier, while the Russian state statistics agency Rosstat reported that retail sales fell 10 percent year on year in September, and cargo turnover fell 7 percent.

    [...]

    [E]conomists and business executives said the headline GDP figures did not reflect the real state of the Russian economy because the Russian government effectively ended the ruble’s convertibility since the sanctions were imposed. “GDP stopped having any meaning because firstly we don’t know what the real ruble rate is, and secondly if you produce a tank and send it to the front where it is immediately blown up, then it is still considered as value added,” said Milov, who wrote a report explaining the situation for the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies published this month.

    Deeper problems were also lurking in the Russian banking sector, where most accounting has been classified. The Russian Central Bank reported this week that a record $14.7 billion in hard currency was withdrawn from the Russian banking system in October, amid increasing anxiety over mobilization and the state of the economy.

    [...]

    One Moscow businessman with connections to the defense sector said a quiet mobilization of the Russian economy had already been long underway, with many entrepreneurs forced into producing supplies for the Russian army but fearing to speak out against orders at cut-price rates.

    “This became necessary right from the very beginning when the war began,” the businessman said, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “The main mass of business is silent. If you say you are making supplies or weapons for the Russian state then you could have problems abroad.”

    Anecdotal evidence reported in the Russian press has pointed to enormous problems supplying Russia’s newly drafted conscripts with equipment. An in-depth October report in Russian daily Kommersant described huge shortages in ammunition and uniform supplies for conscripts, with manufacturers citing difficulties securing the necessary materials due to sanctions.

    [...]

    The outlook appears likely to worsen when the E.U. embargo on Russian oil sales comes into force Dec. 5, economists said. Combined with a price cap expected to be imposed on all sales of Russian oil outside the E.U., the measure could cost the Russian budget at least $120 million in lost revenue per day, Milov said, and already the Russian budget is expected to rack up a deficit by the end of this year.

    5 votes
  3. cfabbro
    Link
    Artillery Is Breaking in Ukraine. It’s Becoming a Problem for the Pentagon. (NYT)

    Artillery Is Breaking in Ukraine. It’s Becoming a Problem for the Pentagon. (NYT)

    Ukrainian troops fire thousands of explosive shells at Russian targets every day, using high-tech cannons supplied by the United States and its allies. But those weapons are burning out after months of overuse, or being damaged or destroyed in combat, and dozens have been taken off the battlefield for repairs, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials.

    A third of the roughly 350 Western-made howitzers donated to Kyiv are out of action at any given time, according to U.S. defense officials and others familiar with Ukraine’s defense needs.

    Swapping out a howitzer’s barrel, which can be 20 feet long and weigh thousands of pounds, is beyond the capability of soldiers in the field and has become a priority for the Pentagon’s European Command, which has set up a repair facility in Poland.

    Western-made artillery pieces gave Ukrainian soldiers a lifeline when they began running low on ammunition for their own Soviet-era howitzers, and keeping them in action has become as important for Ukraine’s allies as providing them with enough ammunition.

    The effort to repair the weapons in Poland, which has not previously been reported, began in recent months. The condition of Ukraine’s weapons is a closely held matter among U.S. military officials, who declined to discuss details of the program.

    “With every capability we give to Ukraine, and those our allies and partners provide, we work to ensure that they have the right maintenance sustainment packages to support those capabilities over time,” Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Day, a spokesman for the U.S. European Command, said in a statement.

    The Pentagon has sent 142 M777 howitzers to Ukraine, enough to outfit about eight battalions, the most recent tally of U.S. military aid to Ukraine shows. Ukrainian troops have used them to attack enemy troops with volleys of 155-millimeter shells, to target command posts with small numbers of precision-guided rounds and even to lay small antitank minefields.

    The United States has shipped hundreds of thousands of rounds of 155-millimeter ammunition for Ukraine to fire in the largest barrages on the European continent since World War II and has committed to providing nearly a million of the shells in all from its own inventory and private industry.

    Ukrainian forces have also received 155-millimeter shells from countries besides the United States. Some of those shells and propellant charges had not been tested for use in certain howitzers, and the Ukrainian soldiers have found out in combat that some of them can wear out barrels more quickly, according to U.S. military officials.

    After the damaged howitzers arrive in Poland, maintenance crews can change out the barrels and make other repairs. Ukrainian officials have said they would like to bring those maintenance sites closer to the front lines, so that the guns can be returned to combat sooner, the U.S. officials and other people said.

    The work on the howitzers is overseen by U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, but may soon fall under a new command that will focus on training and equipping Ukrainian troops.

    “It’s not altogether surprising that there are maintenance issues with these weapons,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “They didn’t get a full training package for them and then were thrown into the fight, so you are going to get a lot of wear and tear.”

    The Western artillery weapons provided to Ukraine, in the form of rocket launchers and howitzers, have sharply different maintenance needs. Of the former, HIMARS vehicles need little work to keep firing their ammunition, which is contained in pods of pre-loaded tubes. But howitzers are essentially large firearms that are reloaded with ammunition — shells weighing about 90 pounds each — and fired many hundreds or thousands of times, which eventually takes a toll on the cannon’s internal parts.

    The nature of the artillery duels, in which Ukrainian crews often fire from extremely long distances to make Russian counterattacks more difficult, places additional strain on the howitzers. The larger propellant charges required to do that produce much more heat and can cause gun barrels to wear out more quickly.

    Currently, Ukrainian forces are firing 2,000 to 4,000 artillery shells a day, a number frequently outmatched by the Russians. Over time, that pace has caused problems for Ukrainian soldiers using M777 howitzers, such as shells not traveling as far or as accurately.

    Some of the issues can be traced, in part, to the howitzer’s design. Built largely with titanium, which is lighter than steel but just as strong, the weapon is easier to move on the battlefield and quicker to set up than earlier guns — a clear advantage for the United States when it began using the M777 in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s.

    In those wars, unlike in Ukraine, the M777 was generally used to fire small numbers of shells in support of troops.

    The United States did, however, get a glimpse of what might happen to Ukraine’s M777 howitzers five years ago, during the campaign to defeat the Islamic State.

    In 2017, a Marine artillery battery from Camp Lejeune deployed to Syria with four M777 guns and fired more than 23,000 rounds of 155-millimeter ammunition in five months of supporting combat operations in Raqqa — nearly 55 times what a typical battery of that size would normally fire in a year of peacetime training.

    As a result, three of the battery’s howitzers had to be removed because of excessive wear over the course of that deployment and were replaced with guns held in reserve in Kuwait.

    When one of the howitzers went down, the others simply fired more, an option the Ukrainians are forced to choose daily.

    5 votes
  4. cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    In an interview with Newsnight, the Russian Ambassador to the UK appeared to admit Russian troops may have committed war crimes in Ukraine but he denied targeting civilians and civilian...

    In an interview with Newsnight, the Russian Ambassador to the UK appeared to admit Russian troops may have committed war crimes in Ukraine but he denied targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. (BBC News - Video)

    Totally no-bullshit-taken interviewer asking hard question. Awesome to witness, and oh so satisfying watching that slug of an Ambassador squirm. Victoria Derbyshire is a legend.

    4 votes
  5. skybrian
    Link
    Poorly equipped German army awaits financial reinforcement from Berlin (Financial Times) (archive) [...]

    Poorly equipped German army awaits financial reinforcement from Berlin (Financial Times) (archive)

    Nine months ago, in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Olaf Scholz declared a Zeitenwende — a turning point — for Germany’s military and its place in the world. But since then, barely any of the €100bn in extra funding the German chancellor pledged has made its way to the armed forces.

    The parliamentary body set up in the spring to allocate money to modernisation and reform programmes has met once. The defence ministry had no procurement proposals to submit to it. Its next sitting will not be until February.

    Now opposition lawmakers, and some of the country’s leading security experts, are beginning to ask whether Germany’s commitment to a leading role in European defence is anything more than rhetoric.

    “Mr Chancellor — I can’t call it anything else, you are breaking your promise to the parliament and especially to the Bundeswehr [federal army],” opposition leader Friedrich Merz said in an attack on Scholz in the Bundestag on Wednesday morning.

    Far from rising, the 2023 defence budget, Merz noted, was set to shrink by €300mn based on current government plans. The lack of German action was “[giving] rise to considerable distrust” at Nato and in allied capitals, he claimed. Germany has long fallen short of its Nato-set obligation of spending the equivalent of 2 per cent of GDP on defence.

    [...]

    Last Sunday, German mass-circulation newspaper Bild ran a story on its front page about military ammunition supplies and even clothing nearly running out.

    The scale of the updates and resupply needed requires a bureaucratic overhaul, according to analysts. Germany’s military procurement body — the Koblenz-based Federal Office for Equipment, Technology and Support of the Bundeswehr — has the capacity to process about €9bn of military spending annually, according to an analysis by Christian Mölling at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

    “The defence and procurement system is so shipwrecked and everyone knows this. It will take a tremendous effort to make it work again,” he said.

    4 votes
  6. [2]
    cfabbro
    Link
    Wagner's Prigozhin gives bloody sledgehammer to EU for terror designation (JPost) p.s. Do your psyche a favor and DO NOT look for or watch the sledgehammer video in question. I have a very high...

    Wagner's Prigozhin gives bloody sledgehammer to EU for terror designation (JPost)

    Wagner mercenary group head Yevgeny Prigozhin gave a sledgehammer covered in fake blood to a European Parliament representative on Thursday morning in response to an initiative to designate the PMC as a terrorist organization, according to a Telegram group connected to the mercenaries.

    Prigozhin sent the sledgehammer in a violin case as an "information case" to those voting in EU Parliament. The Putin ally said that he had held a meeting with Wagner Group commanders, and they had decided to declare the European Parliament "dissolved."

    "Before this procedure enters into legal force, I have been instructed to submit an information case to the European Parliament,” Prigozhin said.

    Earlier in November, a video of a sledgehammer execution of a Russian soldier who defected to the Ukrainian side of the conflict had circulated on social media. Following this, the EU parliament voted to identify the Wagner group as a terrorist organization. Pro-Russian bloggers said it was revenge for his alleged treachery.

    "I prefer to watch this story in the theatre. As for the executed, in this show it is clear that he did not find happiness in Ukraine, but instead met with unkind, although fair people. It seems to me that this film is called 'The dog receives the dog’s death.'"
    Yevgeny Prigozhin, via Telegram

    The victim of the sledgehammer incident was abducted in Kyiv and brought back across state lines before being hit multiple times in the side of the head and neck. In an unverified video, the victim, identified as Yevgenny Nuzhin, 55, was recorded giving his final words, detailing the circumstances that put him there and foreshadowed what was to come.

    "I got hit over the head and lost consciousness and came around in this cellar," he said. "They told me I was to be tried." Immediately after, he received multiple blows from an unidentified man in camouflage. Nuzhin collapsed onto the floor and the unidentified man delivered another blow to his head.

    Reuters was unable to immediately verify the video, which the Grey Zone Telegram channel entitled "The hammer of revenge."

    It was also unclear how Nuzhin, who told Ukrainian media in September that he wanted to fight for Ukraine, ended up in the hands of what appear to be Russian forces.

    p.s. Do your psyche a favor and DO NOT look for or watch the sledgehammer video in question. I have a very high tolerance for witnessing death and gore, but watching that one still really fucked me up.

    3 votes
    1. cmccabe
      Link Parent
      There have been a number of articles expressing concern that anyone who would replace Putin may be even worse. The barbarity and absolute disregard for life from the Wagner group shows that is a...

      There have been a number of articles expressing concern that anyone who would replace Putin may be even worse. The barbarity and absolute disregard for life from the Wagner group shows that is a very real concern. Imagine if they had the nuke launch codes in Russia.

      5 votes
  7. skybrian
    Link
    Ukraine’s drone hunters scramble to destroy Russia’s Iranian-built fleet (Washington Post) [...] [...] [...] [...]

    Ukraine’s drone hunters scramble to destroy Russia’s Iranian-built fleet (Washington Post)

    Mykolaiv, which until recently was just 20 miles from the front, was one of the first cities targeted with Shaheds, and the city quickly cobbled together mobile anti-drone units drawing personnel from the police, army, territorial defense units and national guard.

    Russia initially deployed the Shaheds at all hours, the drone hunters said. But the noisy, slow-moving machines were easily shot down in daylight, so they now fly mostly between midnight and dawn.

    [...]

    When Russia first started using Shaheds, the Ukrainians were not sure how to destroy them. Some soldiers used shoulder-launched missiles. The Air Force even scrambled fighter jets.

    But risking multimillion-dollar planes on $20,000 drones was “completely wasteful,” said Paul Lushenko, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and doctoral student at Cornell University who studies drone warfare. The old-school approach of shooting them down with machine guns was a better solution, at least until more advanced Western air defense systems that have begun to arrive in Ukraine are fully operational, he said.

    [...]

    The drones are powered by small engines like on a motorcycle, and make a similar noise. When Mykolaiv residents hear them, they make reports via the Telegram app.

    The drone hunters use tablets showing the location of approaching Shaheds. Alerts give them roughly 10 minutes to get into position.

    Once a drone is illuminated, the barrages that follow can be so intense it is often hard to know which unit destroyed a drone. “Of course, there is competitiveness,” said K, noting his team had shot down three Shaheds as of early November. “But ultimately the Ukrainian state killed it. The result is the most important.”

    [...]

    The drone attacks have quieted in the past two weeks as Russia’s supply of Shaheds has run out, according to a British Defense Intelligence update on Wednesday. But Iran reportedly plans to send more to Moscow, and there is an agreement to begin manufacturing drones on Russian soil, according to new intelligence seen by U.S. and other Western security agencies.

    [...]

    The drone hunters said they were encouraged by reports of Western military aid to combat the Shaheds, including a recent announcement of U.S. anti-drone machine guns. But they have yet to see any of those weapons. The drone hunters said they also need more basic equipment, including thermal sensors, night vision goggles and sturdy pickup trucks.

    Ukraine is now a testing ground for a new type of terror that is inexpensive and easy to transfer across borders, Yarema said, adding that it was only a matter of time until other countries faced similar threats. “We are working on how to fight these drones, but we need more stuff,” Yarema said. “Then we can share our experiences, because the next batch of drones Iran might use against someone else.”

    3 votes
  8. cfabbro
    Link
    Ukrainian Snake Island captives released in POW exchange (JPost)

    Ukrainian Snake Island captives released in POW exchange (JPost)

    Ukraine has announced that 50 Ukrainian soldiers, including seven soldiers captured on "Snake Island", have been released from the Russian captive, on Thursday. 

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the release of the prisoners of war in a speech on Thursday, saying: "Today, another 50 Ukrainian warriors were freed from Russian captivity. Two officers, 48 privates and sergeants. 15 of them were captured in the Kyiv region, on the territory of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. Seven were captured on Zmiinyi Island. Finally, they will all be home.

    "We will do absolutely everything possible and impossible to return every Ukrainian man and woman who are still being held by the occupiers," He added. 

    Snake Island is a small island in the Black sea, south of the city of Odesa, with a population of fewer than 100 people, prior to the war. 

    On February 27, three days after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, two Russian military ships approached the island and ordered the Ukrainian soldiers stationed on the island to surrender. The Ukrainians responded by saying: "Go f*** yourself, Russian warship."

    The initial reports have said that all soldiers stationed on the island were killed in action, but the Ukrainian navy said later that week that all the soldiers are alive and were captured by Russia. Several of them were released previous to the current POW exchange. 

    A clip of the conversation between the soldiers and the Russian warships has been published in Ukrainian media and became an instant symbol of heroism and resistance for Ukrainians. The soldier who had said the now iconic line received was awarded a medal for his service in March.