Russia replies to news of tank deliveries with drone and missile strikes. NCSC warns of Russian and Iranian cyberattacks.
Ukraine at D+336: Missile reprisal for tank promises.
Russia responded to announcements of coming German and American tank deliveries to Ukraine with a wave of missile attacks against Ukrainian cities early this morning. Fifty-five cruise missiles were launched from Tu-95 Bear bombers based in Murmansk, a far-northern port city on the Barents Sea, the Telegraph reports. The other strike, some twenty-four Shahed drones, were launched from the south, near the Sea of Azov. According to Reuters, Ukraine says it shot down all the Shaheds and forty-seven of the missiles fired from the Tu-95s, but some of those got through, killing one civilian and wounding two others in Kyiv.
US will provide M1 tanks to Ukraine.
In a widely expected move, the US has announced that it will send Ukraine additional military aid that includes M1 Abrams tanks. The full list released yesterday afternoon outlines the aid package:
- "31 Abrams tanks with 120mm rounds and other ammunition;
- "Eight Tactical Vehicles to recover equipment [these are M88 tank recovery vehicles, heavy vehicles that can tow damaged or mired tanks];
- "Support vehicles and equipment;
- "Funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment."
This is enough to equip one Ukrainian tank battalion. Germany's decision to send Leopard 2 tanks will equip two more battalions. The UK had earlier announced that it would sendt fourteen Challenger II tanks to Ukraine, or roughly half a battalion's worth. The German and American decisions are seen, according to the Telegraph, as increasing pressure on French President Macron to supply Kyiv with the French counterpart to the Leopard and the M1, the Leclerc main battle tank. France has already supplied significant numbers of artillery systems and lighter armored combat vehicles.
Russian state television excoriated Germany's decision in particular to send tanks, representing it as a resumption of the Second World War, and an intolerable act of escalation aimed at the extermination of all Russians, everywhere, for all time. The US sees the matter differently. As the US Department of Defense said in its announcement, "Alongside the battalion of Abrams tanks provided by the United States, a European consortium is committing to provide two battalions of Leopard tanks to Ukraine in the near term. The United States will continue to work with our Allies and partners to meet Ukraine's battlefield needs to counter Russian aggression and ensure the continued freedom and independence of the Ukrainian people."
Ukraine continues to ask for long-range artillery missiles, particularly the US ATACMS system, which can hit targets out to roughly one-hundred-ninety miles, the Telegraph reports.
How Russia is reconstituting its divisions.
The UK's Ministry of Defence this morning looked at the reconstitution of the 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division, a formation that had been badly mauled before being pulled from the line last autumn. "Russia has likely completed training of the 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division (GMRD) in Belarus, which had been carrying out training since autumn 2022. The majority of the 2nd GMRD has now transferred back to Russia, before almost certainly being recommitted to operations in Ukraine. The 2nd GMRD is an element of the 1st Guards Tank Army and suffered major losses in the opening phases of the conflict. It is now primarily made up of mobilised personnel operating older equipment taken from storage. Its combat effectiveness will likely be limited despite several weeks of training. There is a realistic possibility that other Russian units are being rotated into Belarus for similar training, and that Russia will continue this model to regenerate and prepare units to maintain its force in Ukraine."
UK's NCSC warns of increased risk of Russian and Iranian social engineering attacks.
The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) warned this morning that Russian and Iranian intelligence services are increasing their phishing attempts. "The Russia-based SEABORGIUM (Callisto Group/TA446/COLDRIVER/TAG-53) and Iran-based TA453 (APT42/Charming Kitten/Yellow Garuda/ITG18) actors continue to successfully use spear-phishing attacks against targeted organisations and individuals in the UK, and other areas of interest, for information gathering activity." The campaigns are selective and highly targeted, prospecting people who work in academic, defense, and governmental organisations, in NGOs, and think-tanks, as well as politicians, journalists and activists. The campaigns are independent and not coordinated. Both efforts use open-source intelligence during their reconnaissance phase, impersonate well-known figures in a field of interest to the targets, and employ official-looking documents as their phishbait. They're both espionage campaigns engaged in collecting information. Their immediate goal is development of rapport with the target and eventually credential theft that might enable further social-engineering campaigns. Computing reports that the ultimate goal of the collection seems to be the gathering of compromising material that could later be used to recruit the targets.