Ukraine advances in the Donbas and the south. Killnet continues nuisance operations against soft targets.
Ukraine at D+224: Russia struggles to resist Ukraine's counteroffensive.
Ukraine's counteroffensive continues, with significant new gains reported in the south, as Ukrainian formations press Russian forces in the vicinity of Kherson. Al Jazeera reports Ukrainian advances into Luhansk as well, with significant partisan activity seen in the occupied territories, especially in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts.
Ukraine's counteroffensive and probable next steps.
The UK's Ministry of Defence in its morning situation report offers a summary of Ukraine's counteroffensive, which has since the weekend pushed farther into Russian-held ground near Kherson. "Ukraine’s Armed Forces started a new phase of offensive operations in Kherson Oblast on 2 October 2022. Advancing south, Ukrainian units have pushed the front line forwards by up to an additional 20km, primarily making gains along the east bank of the Inhulets and west bank of the Dnipro, but not yet threatening the main Russian defensive positions Russian forces have typically broken contact and withdrawn. Russian commanders are likely to see the growing threat to the Nova Kakhovka sector as one of their most pressing concerns. The damaged river crossing over the Dnipro in this area remains one of the few routes available for them to resupply forces. Russia faces a dilemma: withdrawal of combat forces across the Dnipro makes defence of the rest of Kherson Oblast more tenable; but the political imperative will be to remain and defend. Russia has committed the majority of its severely undermanned airborne forces, the VDV, to the defence of Kherson. Therefore, Russia currently has few additional, high quality rapidly deployable forces available to stabilise the front: it likely aims to deploy mobilised reservists to the sector."
Russia has continued long-range missile and drone strikes against Ukrainian rear area targets, hitting both civilian and military sites. The Wall Street Journal reports that Iranian-supplied Shahed-136 drones were used to hit barracks in Bila Tserkva, about 50 miles south of Kyiv. In general, however, Russian forces are faring poorly in combat with their Ukrainian adversaries. The AP summarizes the situation as a contrast between a collapsing army and one that's highly motivated: "Military reporters and bloggers embedded with Russian troops in Ukraine have painted a bleak picture of an ill-equipped and poorly organized force under incompetent command. With the war in its eighth month, the Russian military suffers from an acute shortage of personnel, lack of coordination between units and unstable supply lines. Many Russian units also have low morale, a depressed mood that contrasts sharply with Ukraine’s well-motivated forces."
There's also a notable disparity in the two armies' ability to develop battlefield intelligence. The AP reports, "Unlike the Ukrainian military, which has relied on intelligence data provided by the U.S. and its NATO allies to select and strike targets, the Russian army has been plagued by poor intelligence." That disparity is especially marked in the targeting process. "When Russian intelligence spots a Ukrainian target, the military engages in a long process of securing clearance to strike it, which often drags on until the target disappears. Russian war correspondents particularly bemoaned the shortage of drones and noted that Iranian-supplied drones have not been used for maximum effectiveness due to the poor selection of targets."
An appreciation of the situation in the Telegraph predicts that the next Ukrainian operations will be a push to the south to isolate Russian forces in Kherson, and to threaten the Crimea, followed by a similar advance to the Black Sea at Mariupol, which would isolate Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia.
One interesting development in the Russian command structure: President Putin has appointed the Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov a Colonel General in the Russian army, according to Insider Paper's reading of Mr. Kadyrov's Telegram feed. The newly minted general called the appointment a "huge honor," and pledged to do everything in his power to bring the special military operation to a victorious conclusion. Mssrs. Putin and Kadyrov have been closely associated since Mr. Kadyrov joined Moscow's brutal repression of rebellion in Chechnya. He's effectively ruled the province since 2007, and he's consistently called for the harshest measures against Ukraine, sometimes to an extent that seems critical of Mr. Putin's half-measures. Puck describes the close and complicated relationship between Mssrs. Putin and Kadyrov.
Killnet hits networks of US state governments.
Killnet, the Russian hacktivist group, nominally independent but acting on behalf of Moscow's security services, has knocked some US state government services offline, CNN reports. Colorado, Kentucky, and Mississippi at least were affected, with some services sporadically rendered unavailable yesterday in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Kentucky's Board of Elections was one of the sites disrupted. The story is still developing, but the effects of the attacks don't seem to have risen above a nuisance level. Killnet has hitherto been best known for conducting DDoS attacks against lightly defended targets in European countries Russia deems too friendly to Ukraine.
Lloyd's of London investigates suspected cyberattack.
The major insurance marketplace, Lloyd's of London, is investigating what it believes may have been a cyberattack on its networks. Reuters quotes Lloyd's terse statement: "Lloyd’s has detected unusual activity on its network and we are investigating the issue. We have informed market participants and relevant parties, and we will provide more information once our investigations have concluded." There's no attribution yet, and indeed not much information about the nature of the attack, but Reuters, and the Record note that Lloyd's has been a prominent supporter of sanctions against Russia during the present war. The Record observes, "Lloyd’s representatives would not say if it was a ransomware attack or explain who may have been behind the incident. It has been one of the most notable supporters of sanctions against Russia since the country’s government decided to invade Ukraine earlier this year." Thus suspicion of a Russian cyber operation is a matter of a priori probability. On the other hand, absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, either. But in this case it's too soon to tell.
Reports: US thinks Ukraine may have been behind the assassination of Daria Dugina.
The New York Times reports that US authorities have concluded that Ukraine may been complicit in the August 20th assassination, in Russia, by car bomb, of media personality Daria Dugina. Ukraine has denied any involvement in the assassination. Ms Dugina was a prominent and unusually strident propagandist for a very hard Russian war against Ukraine, but she was also a noncombatant. Ukrainian involvement in her killing would reflect discredit on Kyiv's conduct of its defensive war against Russia.