Ukraine makes more progress on the ground, and drone strikes against government offices in Moscow continue. Russian bombardment of Ukrainian cities continues.
Ukraine at D+523: Looking for reliable C2.
Ukrainian forces are said, by the Independent and other media, to be making more progress through Russian defenses. It's not a breakthrough by any means, but as the Conversation puts it, the counteroffensive is "picking up speed." Russian fixed obstacles, especially extensive minefields, have been the main reason the Ukrainian advance has taken as long as it has.
The UK's Ministry of Defence describes the fighting. "In southern Ukraine, intense fighting continues to be focused in two sectors. South of Orikhiv, the focus of Ukrainian assaults have been against Russia’s 58th Combined Arms Army (58 CAA). 58 CAA is highly likely struggling with battle fatigue and attrition in forward deployed regiments which have been in intense combat for over eight weeks. Further east, south of Velyka Novosilka, the defending Russian force is drawn from both the Eastern and Southern military districts, likely creating problems of co-ordination. Elements of the 5th Combined Army are likely to be under particular pressure, and probably also feel that they are long overdue for a rotation out of the front-line. Across the south, common problems for Russian commanders are highly likely to include shortage of artillery ammunition, a lack of reserves and problems securing the flanks of units in the defence."
Elsewhere Russia persists in missile strikes against civilian targets, notably the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih and the southern city of Kherson. At least ten civilians died, according to the Washington Post, and about a hundred were injured. Kryvyi Rih in particular is a city of no obvious military significance. As has often been mentioned in news reports, it is Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's hometown, but whether that figures in Russia's targeting calculus is unknown. Kharkhiv was also hit by Russian missiles. That strike took out a university dormitory, the Guardian reports.
Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that two Ukrainian drones were shot down and two others "jammed" as they attempted to hit Moscow. Some damage was done to an office building, and one security guard was reported injured. According to the New York Times, the building houses Russian government ministries.
Russian forces have also gone on the attack in Luhansk, the ABC reports, evidently seeking to draw Ukrainian forces away from the southern part of the front, where Ukraine's axis of advance threatens to separate occupied Crimea from Russia proper. The attacks in Luhansk have generally not succeeded in taking ground, and Russian forces deployed there are themselves suffering attrition (and, of course, are away from the decisive sector).
StarLink limits Ukrainian access to its systems.
StarLink, which shortly after Russia's invasion last year played a vital role in restoring connectivity disrupted by early and successful Russian cyberattacks against the ViaSat networks that had served Ukraine, is now selectively blocking Ukrainian military access to its systems. The Telegraph reports that an attack by surface drone boats against Russian naval units in the Black Sea was canceled, reports say, when StarLink withdrew the connectivity that would have been necessary to control the operation. StarLink is controlled by Elon Musk, who has said he didn't want his system used in support of long-range offensive operations. He's selectively denied access to the network when he disapproves of attacks it appears likely to be used to execute. Mr. Musk has previously expressed approval of an ill-advised peace plan for Ukraine that would have essentially accepted the widely discredited plebiscites Russian occupation authorities staged in conquered Ukrainian territory. Ukraine is interested in acquiring a communications infrastructure that's less dependent upon Mr. Musk.
EU levies new sanctions against “digital information manipulation.”
Cybernews reports that several organizations and individuals have been sanctioned for their participation in disinformation designed to support Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This latest round of sanctions addresses a campaign the EU calls "Recent Reliable News." The effort involved the creation and operation of more than two-hundred-seventy proxy news outlets that flacked coordinated Russian propaganda. The entities under sanction include InfoRos (a news outlet closely connected to the GRU, and regarded as the coordinator of Reliable Recent News), ANO Dialog (a Russian not-for-profit connected to Russia's Department of Information and Technology), the Institute of the Russian Diaspora, the Social Design Agency, Structura National Technologies, and two Russian IT firms. The EU has frozen their assets and prohibited EU citizens from funding the sanctioned organizations in any way. The individuals who've been sanctioned are now forbidden from entering or passing through EU countries.
Ukraine's Security Service takes down money-laundering exchanges.
Yesterday Ukraine's Security Service announced that it had disrupted a network of illicit fund-transfer sites that were engaged in converting Russian rubles into Ukrainian hryvnia. The network made use of various sanctioned Russian crypto payment services to turnover currency each month worth more than $4 million, Bank Info Security reports. The Security Service of Ukraine said that "underground exchange points" were found and shuttered in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Rivne and Sumy.