Russia works to consolidate its position in the Donbas as Ukraine prepares a major offensive against Kherson. SpaceX has told the US Department of Defense that it can no longer bear the cost of providing Starlink connectivity to Ukraine, and that it needs government funding to continue the service.
Ukraine at D+232: Ukraine prepares a push into Kherson.
The UK's Ministry of Defence this morning reports local Russian attacks in the Donbas, near the disputed town of Bakhumut. "In the last three days, pro-Russian forces have made tactical advances towards the centre of the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast. Elements of 2nd Army Corps, the pro-Russia militia of the Luhansk region, likely advanced into the villages of Opytine and Ivangrad to the south of the town. There have been few, if any, other settlements seized by regular Russian or separatist forces since early July. However, forces led by the private military company Wagner Group have achieved some localised gains in the Donbas: Wagner likely remains heavily involved in the Bakhmut fighting. Russia likely views seizing Bakhmut as a preliminary to advancing on the Kramatorsk-Sloviansk urban area which is the most significant population centre of Donetsk Oblast held by Ukraine. Russia continues to prosecute offensive operations in central Donbas and is, very slowly, making progress. However, its overall operational design is undermined by the Ukrainian pressure against its northern and southern flanks, and by severe shortages of munitions and manpower."
In the south, according to the Telegraph, Ukrainian forces are advancing on the city of Kherson proper, which they may recapture within a week.
SpaceX asks for Starlink funding.
Starlink founder Elon Musk tweeted last week that "This operation [providing Starlink service to Ukraine] has cost SpaceX $80M & will exceed $100M by end of year." CNN now reports that Starlink has said it can no longer bear the cost, out-of-pocket, of delivering resilient Internet service to Ukraine. The company has asked the US Department of Defense for funding. “We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” SpaceX’s director of government sales wrote the Department. There's no immediate word on the Pentagon's plans, but Starlink has become essential to Ukrainian command, control and communications, and it seems unlikely, at a time when Western matériel support for Ukraine is rising, that the service will be permitted to lapse.
Does Killnet have potential to do more damage than it so far has?
Killnet, an auxiliary under the direction of Russian intelligence services, has so far shown itself capable of little more than minor distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) operations and website defacements. But an essay in Cybernews argues that it would be a mistake to dismiss the group as unlikely to ever amount to more than a low-skilled collection of script kiddies. Killnet had been a known criminal group before turning its attention to operations designed to advance the cause of Russia. It was a botnet-for-hire operation, and the group's criminal background and the support of the Russian state suggests that it could be quickly augmented with the personnel and tools necessary to pose a more serious threat.