The Russian army continues to exhibit surprising tactical and operational shortfalls. Its roadbound heavy forces, even as slow-moving as they've proved to be, have clearly already outrun their logistic support. Having been unable to capture key Ukrainian cities, they've turned to heavy and indiscriminate targeting of civilians despite a second negotiated round of cease-fires.
Influence operations: the advantage still seems to go to Ukraine, as Russian efforts look inward.
Moscow is recycling implausible and unsupported claims that Ukraine is attempting to create a "dirty bomb," that is, a radiological catastrophe, by mining a research reactor in Kharkiv. Sputnik maintains that Russian forces are actually the heroes in Kharkiv, having secured the reactor and prevented the disaster the Ukrainians had prepared. Russian government-controlled media are also claiming that Ukraine is attempting to conceal a large-scale biowar program it's been operating with US support and collusion. Neither of these seem to have any international legs, but then the audience is probably a domestic one.
Russian domestic influence operations continue to rely heavily on censorship. There are also some signs of direct intimidation of journalists. The Atlantic Council says that reporters in Odessa say they've received menacing emails from odezzarus@protonmail[dot]com. The biggest obstacle to a successful Russian information campaign, however, apart from persuasion being inherently harder to achieve than confusion, may be the pervasive availability of social media and a large international journalistic presence in Ukraine. Unusual Western openness with intelligence, notably used for what some have called "prebunking," the anticipation of Russian disinformation themes and the release of fact-checks before the disinformation finds its legs, seems also to have played a part.
Assessing the effects of hacktivism and cyber operations in the hybrid war.
A report late last week from Check Point Software gives a timely reminder that in any war, and in a hybrid war especially, early reports and claims should be treated with cautious skepticism. That applies to claims on behalf of both sides. Here are a few such early reports, which may or may eventually be confirmed.
Inside Cyber Warfare reports that operators at Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Service Cyber Operations Unit penetrated networks at Russia's Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant. The incident, which is so far unconfirmed by other sources, is said to have been confined to information collection
Anonymous claims to have hacked into Russian television feeds and interrupted their programming with footage of the war against Ukraine. According to Computing, the hacktivist collective sees their action as a way of bypassing state control of media to bring home to the Russian public the facts of the war being waged on their behalf.
Who's helping Russia defend its networks, and who's assisting them in recovering from cyberattacks? Huawei, the Indian news service WION reports. Australian Defence Minister Dutton, the Daily Mail says, has criticized Huawei for working on behalf of Russia, and accused Moscow and Beijing of having concluded an "unholy alliance."
Privateering: Conti and (probably) others.
The Conti gang, which has publicly pledged its allegiance to Mr. Putin's war, has shrugged off the reputational damage it sustained when it was infiltrated by a Ukrainian hacker who released records of the gang's internal chatter. eSentire has published an extensive account of Conti's history and an assessment of its current capabilities. Attacks the group conducted against Western targets may have represented a contribution to Russian battlespace preparation.
The CyberWire's continuing coverage of the unfolding crisis in Ukraine may be found here.