Mud impedes operations, as no major changes in the lines are reported. Hacktivism continues, and Russia bans some messaging apps.
Ukraine at D+371: General Mud.
Ukraine continues to contest Bakhmut with the Russian forces attempting to invest and capture the city, the Guardian reports. Russian authorities report more cross-border activities by Ukrainian forces. Military.com says that Russian statements claim that Ukrainian special operations forces ("diversionary forces") have been active in Western Russian proper, and the Telegraph reports Russian claims of having shot down a large number of Ukrainian drones over Crimea.
When spring arrives, General Mud takes command.
The UK's Ministry of Defence offers a weather report. "As Ukrainian forces continue their defence of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, rising temperatures are now creating the muddy conditions known in Ukrainian as ‘bezdorizhzhia’, limiting cross country movement (CCM). Poor CCM typically provides some military advantage to defending forces. Daytime soil temperatures have risen and are now largely above freezing. As experienced since mid-February 2023, overnight freeze and daytime thaw remains likely until next week. Forecast warmer than average conditions for the remainder of winter and spring will further reduce CCM. It is almost certain that by late-March, CCM will be at its worst following the final thaw. This will add further friction to ground operations and hamper the off-road movement of heavier armoured vehicles, especially over churned-up ground in the Bakhmut sector."
Soft ground is an obstacle to vehicular movement, but it's worth keeping in mind that mud is no novelty to European armies, and so it wouldn't do to overestimate its effect on Russian maneuver. Still, the Russian army has been surprisingly road-bound since the war began, and mud isn't going to make maneuver any easier. The mud's a problem, to be sure, and especially so for an army as poorly trained as Russia's has shown itself to be. The Telegraph writes, with obvious Schadenfreude, that "Putin’s army stuck in mud like Hitler's in 1941." But mud itself isn't a war-winner. It's friction, as the MoD says, and friction isn't the same thing as the opposition's combat power. How Ukraine will be able to take advantage of the mire remains to be seen, and will no doubt become clearer over the coming weeks.
Hacktivist auxiliaries continue nuisance-level activities.
There have been no reports of major cyberattacks in recent days, but hacktivists have remained active. The US Consulate in Milan, for example, had its Twitter account hijacked, on February 27th, and the attackers used it to disseminate tweets associating Ukraine's government with Nazis. The State Department regained control of the account, but not, Newsweek reports, before the pro-Russian hacktivists' tweets achieved about 140,000 views.
Roskomnadzor has banned several messaging apps.
Russia's Internet watchdog Roskomnadzor has banned nine foreign messaging apps, Computing reports. Roskomnadzor's statement singles out the apps as being foreign-owned, and as providing a way for users to communicate directly with one another. The sender determines the recipient of the message with no possibility for public mediation of the content, and this direct, unmediated communication seems to be the more troubling aspect of the services. As Computing points out, other foreign-owned apps (like Zoom) remain acceptable. Rozkomnadzor's statement makes no specific accusation of subversion or direct complicity with anti-Russian forces, as had marked earlier bans on Facebook and Instagram. The apps that fall under the new restrictions include Discord, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Snapchat, Telegram, Threema, Viber, WhatsApp, and WeChat.