Local fighting continues along relatively static lines, as Ukraine awaits tanks and more artillery, and as Russia feeds newly mobilized troops to the front.
Ukraine at D+334: Rushing to the battlefield.
Fighting has picked up this week in Ukraine's Zaporizhia region. Al Jazeera cites Russian media claims of a renewed Russian offensive in the southern region.
"Ill-equipped, ill-trained, rushed to the battlefield."
The US Department of Defense offered an appreciation of the situation in Ukraine yesterday. "The situation in Ukraine remains largely static, but there are bloody battles as Russian forces try to take Bakhmut and Ukrainian forces continue offensives against the Russian position near Kreminna, a senior defense official said speaking on background." The US official emphasized the importance of maintaining a high level of support to Ukraine, and said that it would be difficult for Russia to reconstitute its forces even as it moves fresh troops into the theater of operations as quickly as it can. "A key aspect is, despite these increased numbers in terms of replacements, reinforcements, there is not a significant enhancement in terms of the training of those forces," the official said. "So again, ill-equipped, ill-trained, rushed to the battlefield." But they may be better groomed: Task & Purpose reports that General Gerasimov has made shaving a point of emphasis as he seeks to imprint his mark on the forces he now directly commands.
It's unknown how various organizations have fared once deployed in combat, but sources suggest that the Wagner Group's convicts have suffered particularly heavy losses. Meduza reports that 40,000 of the 50,000 convicts Wagner deployed to Ukraine are either dead or missing. The estimate originates with Russia Behind Bars, a charity that advocates for prisoners' rights in Russia, and not a disinterested party, but the estimate is worth watching.
Report: Russian airborne commander relieved.
"General Colonel Mikhail Teplinsky has likely been dismissed as one of Russia’s key operational commanders in Ukraine," the UK's Ministry of Defence writes in this morning's situation report. The reasons for the dismissal are unclear. "Teplinsky was the officer on the ground in charge of Russia’s relatively successful withdrawal from west of the Dnipro in November 2022, and he has received praise in Russia as a capable and pragmatic commander. It remains unclear whether Teplinsky still retains his additional remit as head of the VDV, Russia’s airborne forces. There is a realistic possibility that debate over the tasks VDV has been given has contributed to his dismissal: VDV has often been employed in ground holding roles traditionally given to the mechanised infantry. Teplinsky’s dismissal is likely another symptom of continued divisions within the senior hierarchy of Russia’s operation as General Valery Gerasimov attempts to impose his personal authority on the campaign."
Ukrainian officials leave posts over corruption scandals.
The Telegraph reports that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is preparing to dismiss some senior government officials for corruption. Meduza lists those who are already believed to be leaving their posts, and the alleged misconduct that prompted their departure: "Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who was accused of overseeing food purchases for troops at inflated prices; Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko, who reportedly borrowed a Kyiv businessman’s car to take a vacation in December; and President's Office Deputy Head Kyrylo Tymoshenko, who was accused of using an SUV donated for humanitarian use as his personal vehicle." The instances of corruption as alleged are petty and venal. Chickenfeed, but discreditable and disappointing.
Washington asks Beijing for an explanation of Chinese companies' aid to Russia.
The US has raised, with China, the issue of non-lethal aid to Russia. Bloomberg reports that the assistance Chinese state-owned companies are providing appears to fall short of what would constitute violations of sanctions, but that it's nevertheless of sufficient concern to warrant diplomatic conversations.
Latvia and Estonia downgrade diplomatic relations with Russia.
After Russia expelled Estonia's ambassador and ordered a reduction in the size of Estonia's mission to Moscow, the AP reports, Estonia responded with a similar move against the Russian embassy in Tallinn. Latvia yesterday announced that, in solidarity with Estonia, it was similarly reducing diplomatic relations with Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry explained the reason for its expulsion of Estonian diplomats as a response to "Russophobia." The Foreign Ministry's statement read, in part, “the Estonian leadership has purposefully destroyed the entire range of relations with Russia. Total Russophobia, the cultivation of hostility towards our country have been elevated by Tallinn to the rank of state policy,”
Mr. Lavrov says the West has blocked negotiations during the Special Military Operation.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov explained, during a trip to South Africa, that it's the fault of Western governments that Russia's attempts at a negotiated peace in Ukraine have come to nothing. “It is well known that we supported the proposal of the Ukrainian side to negotiate early in the special military operation and by the end of March, the two delegations agreed on the principle to settle this conflict," MIlitary.com quotes Mr. Lavrov as saying. “It is well known and was published openly that our American, British, and some European colleagues told Ukraine that it is too early to deal, and the arrangement which was almost agreed was never revisited by the Kyiv regime."
What's the hacktivist's postwar future?
Hacktivism has been practiced by both sides during Russia's war against Ukraine, with both Moscow and Kyiv using hacktivists as an auxiliary to their security and intelligence services' cyber organizations. In Russia's case, these auxiliaries have been marshaled to a significant extent from the Russian organs' longstanding relationship of tolerance of and collaboration with criminal organizations. The situation in Ukraine has been different, with more emphasis on recruiting IT-sector workers, hobbyists, and script kiddies into the IT Army. An essay in Wired wonders what the IT Army's hacktivists in particular can expect, once the war is over.
Could they, for example, be prosecuted for cyber crimes? It seems unlikely that any jurisdiction other than a Russian one would undertake to do so, but Wired considers it a serious possibility. Hacktivists who've developed their skills during the war do represent an augmentation to a cyber workforce, and governments might devote some thought on what to do with them in the postwar world. "In 2023, voluntary cyber operations in support of Ukraine may therefore prove to be both an opportunity and a challenge," the essay concludes. "Governments would do well to see the IT Army of Ukraine as a recruiting ground—a pool of talent for official cyber volunteer programs."