Heavy fighting around Bakhmut in the Donetsk, which has become a test of Russian pride. The partial mobilization remains in disarray. Russia disavows responsibility for its war as missile continue to strike Ukrainian cities and DDoS attacks hit parliaments in Poland and Slovakia.
Ukraine at D+246: A narrative of Russian victimhood (also DDoS).
Heavy fighting continues around Bakhmut in the Donetsk Oblast, the AP reports. The town's recapture has become a point of pride and a focus of Russian operations, and Wagner Group troops have been committed to the sector in large numbers. "The Wagner Group has played a prominent role in the war, and human rights organizations have accused its soldiers-for-hire of committing atrocities. Their deployment around Bakhmut reflects the city’s strategic importance to Moscow." According to the Telegraph, Ukrainian commanders in the sector claim that Russian forces are taking heavy casualties in what Ukrainian sources describe as "human wave attacks," and that those attacks have been repeatedly broken by Ukrainian artillery.
Russian resistance in the south, in Kherson, seems to be buckling, with soldiers withdrawing in disorder and looting as they leave the city. The Telegraph reports that locals have stopped accepting Russian currency.
The BBC reports that Russian forces have sabotaged the civilian water infrastructure supplying the southern city of Mykolaiv. Destruction of a water pipeline in this way is a war crime. The BBC says, "A UN expert, speaking anonymously because of having no authorisation to talk publicly on the subject, says the Mykolaiv water pipeline would be classified within the specially protected category of 'objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population' under international humanitarian law, making any sabotage of it illegal."
Russian missile and drone strikes against Ukrainian cities have continued, albeit at a lower rate than seen last week. The US announced that it was shipping more air-defense systems to Ukraine.
Russia continues to struggle with reconstitution.
The UK's Ministry of Defence reports that recently mobilized reservists have reached the front in Ukraine. "Russia has likely augmented some of its units west of the Dnipro River with mobilised reservists. However, this is from an extremely low level of manning. In September 2022, Russian officers described companies in the Kherson sector as consisting of between six and eight men each. Companies should deploy with around 100 personnel. In the last six weeks there has been a clear move from Russian ground forces to transition to a long-term, defensive posture on most areas of the front line in Ukraine. This is likely due to a more realistic assessment that the severely undermanned, poorly trained force in Ukraine is currently only capable of defensive operations. Even if Russia succeeds in consolidating long-term defensive lines in Ukraine, its operational design will remain vulnerable. To regain the initiative, it will need to regenerate higher quality, mobile forces which are capable of dynamically countering Ukrainian breakthroughs and conducting their own large-scale offensive operations."
Large numbers of Russian men have fled the country to avoid being swept up in the partial mobilization. CNN reports growing concern in Georgia over the large number of Russian refugees--mostly men of military age--now in that country,
President Putin's understanding of his war.
In a major foreign policy address, Russian President Putin blamed the United States for causing the war in Ukraine. He characterized the fighting as a civil war among different factions of one people. International law and norms of conduct are, he said, designed by major powers (the West) to enable them to act with impunity. "Dominion of the world is precisely what the West has decided to seek" in the present crisis, and the West is playing a "dirty" and "dangerous" game. That game is distracting the world from real problems, like climate change and diversity.
Mr. Putin denied any intention of using nuclear weapons, and renewed claims that Ukraine was preparing radiological weapons under Western instigation. The Guardian quotes him as saying he never made any nuclear threats: “We have never said anything about the possible use of nuclear weapons by Russia, but only hinted at the statements made by the leaders of western countries.”
No other countries have credited the Russian accusations of Ukrainian preparation of a "dirty bomb." An earlier Russian claim, that Ukraine, with US assistance, was preparing biological weapons, was again debunked this week by a UN investigation, which reported to the Security Council that it had found no evidence of any such program.
The speech was long (more than three hours, including questions and answers) and rambling, retailing a long list of grievances and implausible claims of Russian victimhood. It was remarkable for its scope, ranging as it did over a thousand years of history, quoting Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, Karl Popper, and others. At bottom, he said that the world was at its most dangerous point since the Second World War, and that Russia stood for both traditional values and cultural diversity, against a soulless Western hegemony driven by the US, a country which, as Mr. Putin explained, was incapable of making any contributions to civilization.
Cyberattacks on Polish and Slovak parliaments reported.
According to AFP (via Barron's) the parliaments of both Poland and Slovakia sustained cyberattacks yesterday that knocked out various parliamentary networks, including those supporting both voting and telecommunications. From descriptions of the attacks, the incidents appeared to be distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. "We have identified a cyber security incident... There is a signal coming from some point which jams our systems, computers, we cannot even serve the lawmakers in our cafeteria," Reuters quotes Bruno Kollar, speaker of the Slovak parliament, as saying. Polish sources said that some of the attack traffic originated from Russia, and it's widely suspected that the attacks were a Russian operation retaliating for Polish and Slovak support for Ukraine in the present war.