Russia responds to NATO members' decision to supply tanks to Ukraine with DDoS, scattershop missile strikes. and a reframing of its war as a defense against NATO aggression.
Ukraine at D+337: More DDoS, more scattershot missile strikes.
Poland has announced its intent to ship an additional seventy-four main battle tanks to Ukraine. Sixty of them are upgraded Soviet-era T-72s, and the remaining fourteen will be German-produced Leopard 2s, according to the Telegraph.
Military.com reports that Stefano Sannino, Secretary General of the European Union’s European External Action Service, in the course of defending European and US decisions to supply Ukraine with tanks, made an obvious but necessary point about the present direction of Russian official propaganda. The official line has “moved from a concept of special operation to a concept now of a war against NATO and the West.”
TASS has also been authorized to disclose the same point, from the other side. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova this morning said, "The citizens of NATO’s countries should know that their bloc is completely involved in confrontation with our country. And this confrontation is growing." It's a war against Russia, with NATO as the aggressor and Russia as the aggrieved party. And Ukraine, moreover, is nothing but America's puppet. "Washington’s direct involvement in governing the Ukrainian army was also recognized by US President Biden," Ms Zakharova added. "In fact, he announced that when the spring sets in, a counteroffensive of the Ukrainian army will follow. So, who makes decisions on Bankovaya Street? We understand that it is not Zelensky, although he pretends he is the decision-maker."
The death toll from yesterday's drone and missile strikes against Ukrainian cities has now been raised to eleven, the AP reports. The strikes are generally seen as retaliation for Germany's decision to send Leopard 2s to Ukraine. The effects of the missiles have been militarily insignificant, especially since the dead are civilians, but incalculable in terms of human grief.
Reports of Russian advances appear to be disinformation.
The UK's Ministry of Defence dismisses Russian claims of significant advances as disinformation. "Over the last six days, Russian online commentators have claimed Russian forces have made significant advances, breaking through Ukrainian defences in two areas: in Zaporizhzhia Oblast near Orikiv, and 100km to the east, in Donetsk Oblast, near Vuhledar. Russian units have probably conducted local, probing attacks near Orikiv and Vuhledar, but it is highly unlikely that Russia has actually achieved any substantive advances. There is a realistic possibility that Russian military sources are deliberately spreading misinformation in an effort to imply that the Russian operation is sustaining momentum."
Killnet continues reprisals against German targets.
Russia has conducted more distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against targets in Germany, SecurityWeek reports. Germany's BSI security organization said the attacks hit, in order of priority, airports, the financial sector, and, finally, federal and Land (state) administrations. The BSI attributed the attacks to Killnet, the hacktivist group that's functioned as an auxiliary to Russian security and intelligence services. The agency found the attribution difficult, given Killnet's practice of broadcasting a call-to-hack that invites like-minded people to join in, but concluded that the attacks were indeed the work of Killnet. As has generally been the case with earlier operations by the DDoS specialists, Killnet's attacks were quickly contained, produced minimal disruption, and amounted to little more than a nuisance. The cyberattacks appear to have continued Russia's policy of punishing Germany for its decision to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
US sanctions the Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organization.
The US has expanded sanctions on Russia's mercenary Wagner Group. The White House has been signaling the move for some time, and yesterday the US Government formally designated the professional military corporation (PMC) as a transnational criminal organization. The Department of the Treasury summarizes the reasons for the designation. The Group's activities in Ukraine figure prominently in the decision to sanction it, but Treasury gives equal attention to the PMC's activities in Africa:
"PMC Wagner (Wagner Group) is a Russian private military company led by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Putin crony and the target of multiple U.S. sanctions. Wagner Group has been involved in Kremlin-backed combat operations around the world in support of Putin’s war on Ukraine. As Russia’s military has struggled on the battlefield, Putin has resorted to relying on the Wagner Group to continue his war of choice. The Wagner Group has also meddled and destabilized countries in Africa, committing widespread human rights abuses and extorting natural resources from their people. Today, the Wagner Group is being redesignated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13581, as amended by E.O. 13863, for being a foreign person that constitutes a significant transnational criminal organization. Wagner personnel have engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass executions, rape, child abductions, and physical abuse in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali."
The sanctions Treasury describes extend also to companies, individuals, and other organizations, both in Russia and outside of it, that support the Wagner Group's activities.
At the same time, the Treasury Department also announced other sanctions against Russia that are directly related to its war against Ukraine. These are grouped under three headings:
- "Sanctioning Russia’s defense industrial complex, including those supporting previously sanctioned Russian Federation defense-related entities"
- "Targeting Putin’s cronies and their family members"
- "Holding Russia accountable for illegal attempted annexation"
The effects of the sanctions are:
"As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the individuals above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. All transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or blocked persons are prohibited unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt. These prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person and the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person."
Concurrently, the US Department of State announced further sanctions against the Wagner Group and other Russian organizations and individuals:
"[T]he Department of State is designating today five entities and one individual linked to the Wagner Group and Prigozhin. These designations target a range of Wagner’s key infrastructure – including an aviation firm used by Wagner, a Wagner propaganda organization, and Wagner front companies. OFAC is also designating persons and entities based in CAR, the People’s Republic of China, Luxembourg, and the United Arab Emirates that are connected to Wagner’s operations around the world.
"The Department is also designating under E.O. 14024 three individuals for their roles as heads of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, which has been reported to facilitate the recruitment of Russian prisoners into the Wagner Group. The Department is also designating a Deputy Prime Minister who also serves as the Minister of Industry and Trade and the Chairman of the Election Commission of the Rostov Region.
"The Department is further designating under E.O. 14024 one individual and four entities associated with Russian Oligarch Vladimir Potanin, who was sanctioned pursuant to E.O. 14024 in December 2022. Similarly, the Department is designating Sergei Adonev, a financier of Russian President Putin, alongside several associated entities and individuals. The Department is also identifying two yachts and one aircraft associated with Adonev as blocked property.
"Additionally, the Department is designating under E.O. 14024 Aktsionernoye Obshchestvo Dalnevostochnyy TsentrSudostroyeniya i Sudoremonta (AO DTSSS) alongside eight subsidiaries. AO DTSSS and its subsidiaries are known for building and servicing Russia’s military, including its Pacific Fleet.
"Finally, the Department is announcing steps to impose visa restrictions on 531 members of the Russian military for actions that threaten or violate the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of Ukraine pursuant to Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act."