Ukraine at D+551: President Putin will not attend Mr. Prigozhin's funeral.
N2K logoAug 29, 2023

Ukraine slowly advances in the southern zone, while Poland recovers from DDoS attacks by Russian hacktivist auxiliaries and rail disruption by two men acting for reasons unknown. Russian propaganda blames the Anglo-Saxons for the destruction of Wagner PMC boss Prigozhin's plane.

Ukraine at D+551: President Putin will not attend Mr. Prigozhin's funeral.

Ukrainian forces continue their deliberate advance in the south toward Melitopol. Their operational objective is to sever the land lines of communication between Russia and occupied Crimea.

The Institute for the Study of War summarized the situation yesterday. "Ukrainian officials formally acknowledged that Ukrainian forces had liberated Robotyne amid continued Ukrainian advances in western Zaporizhia Oblast and near Bakhmut. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar reported on August 28 that Ukrainian forces have liberated Robotyne, achieved unspecified successes southeast of Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) and south of Mala Tokmachka (7km southeast of Orikhiv), and are advancing in the directions of Novodanylivka (4km south of Orikhiv), Novopokropivka (15km south of Orikhiv), Mala Tokmachka, and Ocheretuvate (25km southwest of Orikhiv). Heat anomalies from NASA FIRMS/VIIRS sensors and Russian claims of Ukrainian advances likely indicate that Ukrainian forces advanced near Verbove. Malyar also stated that Ukrainian forces pushed Russian forces out of positions east of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and in the center of the settlement and have made unspecified progress near Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut)."

Elsewhere on the front, to the north, Russian artillery exacts a heavy toll in civilian life. Both sides exchange desultory drone attacks without much effect.

Russian military uses very high pay to attract volunteers.

The UK's Ministry of Defence looks at Russia's very high military pay, and thinks that it will be unlikely to attract enough volunteers to the services. "Military service in the Russian Armed Forces has become increasingly lucrative since the invasion. On 4 February 2022 Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that a lieutenant received 81,200 rubles per month. By October 2022, he announced that even mobilised private soldiers would receive 195,000 rubles per month. Many junior ranks serving in Ukraine are now on over 200,000 rubles per month. This is over 2.7 times the Russian national average salary of 72,851 rubles. By way of comparison, 2.7 times the average UK salary would equate to over £90,000 a year. It is highly likely that the salary and additional benefits are a strong incentive for personnel to join up, especially to those from the poorer areas of Russia. However, Russia is still unlikely to meet its targets for recruiting volunteers to the ranks."

Russian policy needs to balance high personnel requirements with a desire to keep the country as a whole insulated from the sacrifices and disruptions that going to a full war footing would require. The high compensation being offered is unlikely to be economically sustainable.

The Kremlin's line on Mr. Prigozhin's death: the Anglo-Saxons did it.

Russian television propagandist Vladimir Solovyov laid out the Kremlin's line on the crash that killed Yevgeny Prigozhin (via the Russian Media Monitor). "There is insane happiness in Ukraine! They are simply going wild! They are rejoicing! This demonstrates who ordered it!" His guests nodded. We will await the official results, but this is most likely a terrorist attack, and, I think," he added in the first of several non sequiturs, "the explosives were most likely placed during the repairs of the Embraer because no one can control which parts they are using. This means it couldn't have happened without NATO. It's totally obvious! It's obvious who is most inconvenienced by Wagner. That would be NATO's interests in Africa! This is a difficult situation. We should not relax!" It would seem, pace Mr. Solovyov, that President Putin was most inconvenienced by the Wagner Group, which pulled out of the line in Ukraine and undertook a march on Moscow, shooting down several Russian combat helicopters before calling off its advance. But the narrative has sought to shift attention to Africa, where the Wagner PMC has been heavily engaged for some years.

"What does this situation demonstrate?" asked Igor Markov, referred to as a "former politician." The lesson Mr. Markov draws is the importance of unity. "It shows how dangerous it is during wartime to have public conflicts among ourselves. Unfortunately our enemies did not hesitate to take advantage of that, counting on quick emotional conclusions that they anticipated people would make. Thank God our people have developed immunity against the villainy and cynicism of the West. I think the special services of only two countries were capable of this: the US and Britain. I have no doubt this is the handiwork of the British! Cynical, brazen, very calculating! With an immediate cover operation."

Later in the show others expressed concern for the health and safety of General Surovikin, the Prigozhin-sympathizer who was removed from overall command in Ukraine shortly after he failed to take action to stop the Wagnerite mutiny, and who more recently was relieved of his position as commander of Russian aerospace forces. He may be, the propagandists warned, Anglo-Saxonia's next target.

President Putin will not attend Yevgeny Prigozhin's funeral. He says it's purely a family matter, although, as the Washington Post reports, hardliners have called for Mr. Prigozhin to be given a state funeral.

Russian hacktivist auxiliary hits Polish organizations.

NoName057(16) yesterday hit the Warsaw Stock Exchange, the Polish Government's Trusted Profile identity verification service, and five major commercial banks: Bank Pekao, Raiffeisen Bank, Plus Bank, Credit Agricole Bank, and BNP Paribas. Cybernews quotes the group's communique as explaining, “To express our support to all adequate citizens of Poland who oppose the authorities of their country drowning in Russophobia, our DDoS rocket launchers today are aimed at Polish targets.” The attacks were all distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) incidents, which is consistent with NoName057(16) familiar operational pattern. Some of the attacks seem to have been of longer than usual duration. As of this morning the Warsaw Stock Exchange, Bank Pekao, and Raiffeisen Bank were still experiencing disruption.

Investigation of railroad incidents in Poland continues.

Polish authorities have arrested two men, both Polish citizens, SecurityWeek reports, in connection with an attack that halted twenty trains in the vicinity of Szczecin. They used an acoustic tone transmitted over a radio system to issue stop signals. The incident began Friday night around Szczecin, and continued, but with minimal effect, Saturday and Sunday in other parts of the country, notably around Gdynia and Bialystok. Cybernews says the two men arrested were taken into custody in Bialystok, where they were found in possession of "radio equipment." The suspects' ages are given as 24 and 29, but they're not further identified.

Polish intelligence services continue to investigate the incident for signs of Russian sabotage. Polish railroads would be attractive sabotage targets. According to the Washington Post, some 80% of Western supplies delivered to Ukraine transit Poland, and much that is carried by rail. Thus motive and (probably) opportunity point to Russian involvement, but so far no other evidence has been reported.