Ukraine at D+356: Tracking memes.
N2K logoFeb 15, 2023

Armored trains and heavy artillery fire are throwbacks to the First World War, but data breaches and meme control belong firmly to the 21st Century.

Ukraine at D+356: Tracking memes.

One of the minor surprises of Russia's war so far has been the relatively small role played by combat aviation, traditional close-air support and battlefield air interdiction. The Telegraph reports that this may be changing: Russia has been staging fixed-wing combat aircraft in apparent preparation for a future offensive campaign. It remains to be seen whether airpower will compensate for other difficulties the Russian army continues to experience on the ground.

Difficulties supplying the front.

Both sides are encountering difficulties in meeting the matériel requirements of protracted combat. "On 09 February 2023, Deputy Security Council Chairman Dmitry Medvedev called for an increase in Russian tank production while visiting the Omsk Transport Machine Construction plant," the UK's Ministry of Defence writes in this morning's situation report. "This follows several public comments by President Putin urging the defence industry to better support the ’special military operation’. In a televised meeting on 12 January 2023, Putin castigated Denis Manturov, the deputy prime minister with responsibility for the defence industry, for ‘fooling around’; one of the president’s strongest public outbursts since the invasion. Senior Russian leaders are likely aware that the state’s military industrial output is becoming a critical weakness, exacerbated by the strategic and operational miscalculation of invading Ukraine. Production is almost certainly falling short of the Russian MoD’s demands to resource the Ukraine campaign and restore its longer-term defence requirements."

For Ukraine, the challenge is narrower: obtaining enough artillery ammunition to keep pace with its high rate of expenditure. The Telegraph reports that the European Central Bank is working on incentives that would induce EU manufacturers to increase production. Ukraine is burning through 6000 rounds per day, Russia 20,000.

Byelarusian Cyber Partisans release data taken from Roskomnadzor.

The Byelarusian Cyber-Partisans, dissident hacktivists opposed to both the Lukashenka regime and Russia's war against Ukraine, have released 335GB dump of emails and other files obtained from Roskomnadzor’s General Radio Frequency Center division, CyberSecurity Connect reports that the hacktivists claimed credit in a Twitter thread, and promised that more was to come. “Do you want to know who in Roskomnadzor was preparing reports on protests in Ukraine & Kazakhstan for the leadership of the Kremlin? We published these reports and contact info of the RKN employees in our TG channel.” The data obtained from Roskomnadzor were posted to Distributed Denial of Secrets.

Censorship: tracking memes and muscling journalists.

Roskomnadzor is the Russian Internet governance authority. It's recently been involved in working to scrub derogatory references to President Putin. The Kyiv Independent reports that the agency is using AI tools to combat memes that portray Mr. Putin in a less than favorable light. Reuters describes "Oculus," one of the principal systems Roskomnador is deploying to identify dissent and shoo trolls. "The "Oculus" system will be able to read text and recognise illegal scenes in photos and videos, analysing more than 200,000 images per day at a rate of about three seconds per image, the Interfax news agency reported."

Not all the censorship is online, and not all the coercion is virtual. The International Press Institute reports "more than 900 cases of physical attacks, censorship, harassment, arrests, and other press freedom violations in Russia and Ukraine since Putin’s full-scale war of aggression began one year ago."

Mr. Putin's armored train.

In another throwback to the First World War, right alongside the negligible role of close air support and the heavy use of artillery fire against fixed positions, Russian President Putin is now said to be traveling in an armored train on restricted tracks, the better to ensure his personal safety.