Ukraine at D+329: Disinformation and cyber in combined arms.
N2K logoJan 19, 2023

Mr. Lavrov is unclear on European history.

Ukraine at D+329: Disinformation and cyber in combined arms.

Al Jazeera reports some signs that Ukrainian forces continue to fight for Soledar, Russian claims to have taken the town notwithstanding. The Hill reviews speculation that Russia is planning a major offensive, perhaps in Luhansk, perhaps (although this is thought much less likely) from Belarus in the north. But there's an emerging consensus among informed observers that, as the Hill puts it, "Russia is planning another major offensive to make up for its losses on the ground and justify its heavy human cost at home."

The Russian line on the war continues to push the narrative that Russia is the victim of aggression, not Ukraine. Foreign Minister Lavrov suggested that the West, animated by "Russophobia," has embarked on a genocidal campaign against Russians as such. "[T]hey are waging war against our country with the same task: the 'final solution' of the Russian question," Reuters quotes Mr. Lavrov as saying. "Just as Hitler wanted a 'final solution' to the Jewish question, now, if you read Western politicians ... they clearly say Russia must suffer a strategic defeat." The non sequitur is outrageous--the Final Solution was extermination, not "a strategic defeat."

Challenges of deploying new equipment.

Russian deployment of the new T-14 Armata tank, if it happens, may be more of a propaganda gesture than a tactical decision, the UK's Ministry of Defence thinks. "Russia is likely considering deploying a small number of its new T-14 Armata main battle tanks in Ukraine. In late December 2022, imagery showed T-14s on a training area in southern Russia: the site has been associated with pre-deployment activity for the Ukraine operation. This followed pro-government Russia media outlets claiming T-14s were being prepared for deployment. However, it is unclear whether Russia has yet moved the type into Ukraine. Any T-14 deployment is likely to be a high-risk decision for Russia. Eleven years in development, the programme has been dogged with delays, reduction in planned fleet size, and reports of manufacturing problems. An additional challenge for Russia is adjusting its logistics chain to handle T-14 because it is larger and heavier than other Russian tanks. If Russia deploys T-14, it will likely primarily be for propaganda purposes. Production is probably only in the low tens, while commanders are unlikely to trust the vehicle in combat."

Ukraine warns that Russian cyberattacks continue.

The Guardian reports that Viktor Zhora, of Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection (SSSCIP), is visiting Britain's GCHQ this week, and has said that Russian cyberattacks have tripled over the past year, and continue at a high rate. Interestingly, he said that “in some cases, cyber-attacks supportive to kinetic effects” have been seen; that is, Ukraine sees signs that Russia is attempting to integrate cyber operations and information operations with missile strikes and action on the ground.

Mr. Zhora's remarks are consistent with a report his agency issued earlier this week, "Cyber Attacks, Artillery, Propaganda. General Overview of the Dimensions of Russian Aggression." The report stresses signs that Russian attempts at coordinated operations have increased, that Russian targeting has been not just indiscriminate, but directed against civilians, and that Russian cyber operations can amount to war crimes. The cyberattacks have generally been parried by Ukrainian defenses, but they remain an enduring threat. The report ends with a call for more international cooperation against cyberattacks, whether by Russia or other "authoritarian regimes," and notes the value of considering those states' military doctrine in forecasting their probable courses of action in cyberspace. It calls for international recognition of the ways in which cyber operations can constitute either crimes against peace or war crimes, and it urges an expansion and tightening of economic sanctions against Russia.

Leadership and motivation in Russia's army.

The Telegraph has a brief account of how Russia handled a deserter. “'Dmitry Perov, wanted for the unauthorised abandonment of his military unit, was found and liquidated,' the government of Lipetsk, a small city 300 miles south of Moscow, said. 'The situation is under control,' it added. 'There is no threat to residents. Investigations are under way.'" The Wagner Group is said to be even more unforgiving.