Evenly matched, house-to-house fighting continues in Sieverodonetsk. Ukraine claims it's advancing into Kherson. US Cyber Command describes its support for Ukraine as a "hunt forward" exercise in threat intelligence and information sharing. And Russia's Foreign Minister says the only Black Sea blockade is one being run by Ukrainian "neo-Nazis."
Ukraine at D+105: Fighting in Kherson and Sieverodonetsk; partisan and cyber warfare updates.
This morning's situation report from the UK's Ministry of Defence remains focused on the Donbas. "Fighting continues in the Sieverodonetsk pocket but, in the last 48 hours, Russia’s Eastern Group of Forces (EGF) have also likely increased their efforts to advance to the south of Izium. Russia’s progress on the Izium axis had remained stalled since April, after Ukrainian forces made good use of the terrain to slow Russia’s advance. Russia has likely attempted to reconstitute EGF after they suffered very heavy casualties in the failed advance on Kyiv, but its units likely remain understrength. Russia likely seeks to regain momentum in this area in order to put further pressure on Sieverodonetsk, and to give it the option of advancing deeper into the Donetsk Oblast."
Fighting in Sieverodonetsk, which Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has described as decisive for control of the Donbas as a whole, continues to be close and, apparently, evenly matched, with gains and losses measured in city blocks. Reuters reports Ukrainian claims that their forces are holding in Sieverodonetsk and advancing in the southern city of Kherson.
Russian President Putin described possible retaliation for Western deliveries of weapons and other supplies to Ukraine, indicating that Russian forces would consider hitting targets in Western Ukraine to interdict the relevant supply lines. Belarusian cooperation with Russia seems intended to lend credibility to that threat, whether the cooperation is effective or a bluff. Belarus announced the beginning of nationwide military exercises on June 7th. The exercises are generally understood as intending to present a threat to Ukraine.
Ukrainian partisan warfare against Russian occupiers continues to rise. The Telegraph reports a representative attack: Ukrainian partisans bombed a cafe in Kherson that's been frequented by senior Russian officers and officials during the occupation. Russian sources denounced the attack as "terrorism."
Another hacked broadcast.
This one is apparently the work of pro-Ukrainian hacktivists. BBC reporter Francis Scarr tweeted that a news broadcast carried by the Russian radio station Kommersant FM was interrupted to play the Ukrainian patriotic song “Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow." The Washington Post adds that the feed was also interrupted with an anti-war song, "We Don't Need War" by the Russian rockers (and parodists) Nogu Svelo (that is, "Leg Cramp"). The station, owned by sanctioned oligarch Alisher Usmanov, has resumed normal operations and said it was investigating the incident.
Hunting forward as an exercise in threat intelligence collection and sharing.
Sky News, following up its interview with US Cyber Command's General Nakasone, concentrates on a discussion of what "hunt forward" means in the context of cyber conflict. It involves the collection of threat intelligence in friendly, cooperating networks, finding malware samples and other evidence of hostile activity, and sharing that intelligence to "inoculate" friendly networks against such attacks. General Nakasone said, "This ability for us to work at the behest of a foreign government to go and hunt with them on their networks, then releasing the information. We have released over 90 different malware samples to a series of private sector cybersecurity firms. What does that do? It provides inoculation for all of us that operate in the domain. And I think that's an example of where this public-private partnership so important."
General Nakasone also credited Ukraine with considerable resilience in cyberspace. "One of the things that we certainly learned is the importance that the Ukrainians have placed on having a resilient network. Of all that's said in terms of what's gone on in this conflict, one of the things that I think is sometimes missed is that the Ukrainians have maintained their internet and being able to communicate, and this is a great tribute to them."
Russia's grain blockade.
Russia's blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea ports continues to exacerbate grain shortages in countries dependent upon Ukraine for wheat. The Guardian has a series of interactive maps that show the effects of the Russian blockade on grain shipments. They also point out what's being overlooked: the summer harvest will be affected by fighting in southern and eastern districts of Ukraine, which include some of the country's more important farming regions.
The maps point out that mines in fields will be a big problem for farming, which is correct, but that's a problem more easily remediated than another, bigger problem that isn't being discussed: the widespread litter of dud ammunition that inevitably accompanies the kind of bombardment Russia's war has seen. Granted, Russian fire has concentrated on cities and towns as opposed to fields, but the fields have been affected as well. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the dud the more unstable, hence more dangerous, it is, and dud submunitions from what journalists call "cluster bombs" are especially hazardous. This problem will endure for years. One of our staff writers served briefly as an exchange officer with a French regiment in northern France. During exercises in the countryside it was common, seventy years after the First World War had ended, to come across dud shells fired between 1914 and 1918. Some of them had rusted through and were empty of their explosive charge, but many of them remained intact and dangerous.
Russian spin continues to blame Ukraine for the Black Sea blockade. The Guardian also reports on a press conference Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov held in Turkey. It was heavily scripted with tame questions, but at the end a Ukrainian journalist interrupted to ask how much Ukrainian gain Russia had stolen, and what Moscow intended to do with it. Mr. Lavrov seemed initially uneasy at the unscripted and awkward question, but smiled and answered, "'You Ukrainians are always worried about what you can steal and you think everyone thinks that way. Our goals there are clear, we want to save people from the pressure of the neo-Nazi regime. We are not obstructing the grain. In order for it to leave the ports, Mr Zelenskiy must give the order, that’s all.'”
The Russian blockade has recently grown more distant. Ukraine has forced Russian warships back up to sixty miles from shore with the use of British-supplied Brimstone anti-shipping missiles.