Ukraine at D+309: Year-end strikes.
N2K logoDec 31, 2022

Russian strikes against Ukrainian cities mark the close of 2022.

Ukraine at D+309: Year-end strikes.

Large-scale Russian strikes against Ukrainian cities mark the end of 2022.

A large wave of Russian drone strikes hit Ukrainian cities last Thursday, with additional strikes continuing into the New Year. The UK's Ministry of Defense (MoD) in Saturday's situation report, wrote, "On 29 December 2022, Russian forces launched another wave of long-range strikes across Ukraine, once again primarily targeting the power distribution network. Since October, Russia has sustained a general pattern of conducting an intensive wave of strikes every seven to ten days. Russia is almost certainly following this approach in an attempt to overwhelm Ukrainian air defences. However, there is a realistic possibility that Russia will break this pattern to strike again in the coming days in an effort to undermine the morale of the Ukrainian population over the new year holiday period."

Ukraine hasn't acknowledged its strikes against targets well inside Russia, but it hasn't disavowed them, either. Andriy Yusov, speaking for the Main Intelligence Agency of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, predicts more explosions like those at the Engels Air Base. will continue on the Russian territory. "In the future, Russia's military infrastructure will continue to degrade, which means that such incidents are likely to continue," Interfax-Ukraine quotes him as saying.

The Western Group of Forces gets a new commanding general.

On Friday the UK's Ministry of Defence reported that, "Lieutenant General Yevgeniy Nikiforov is likely in the process of taking over command of Russia’s Western Group of Forces (WGF) in Ukraine." General Nikiforov's predecessor served only three months. "He would be at least the fourth commander of the formation since the invasion, and replaces Colonel General Sergei Kuzovlev, who was appointed just three months ago. As the Chief of Staff of Russia’s Eastern Group of Forces (EGF) during the early weeks of the invasion, Nikiforov would have been heavily involved in planning the disastrous attempt by EGF and airborne forces to advance on Kyiv from the north-west, via the Chernobyl area. WGF is almost certainly currently tasked with holding Russia’s right flank, the area of Luhansk Oblast around Kremina and Svatove. As either side could plausibly attempt an offensive in this sector, Nikiforov assumes an important operational role in the conflict. The continued churn of senior Russian officers probably reflects internal divisions regarding the Russian Ministry of Defence’s future conduct of the war."

Russian cyber operations have long shown a preference for civilian targets.

Wired offers an appreciation of Russian kinetic and cyber operations that sees the two as being of a piece: both are designed and intended to hit civilian infrastructure. "But looking back on nearly a year of Vladimir Putin's full-blown war in Ukraine, it's now clear that Russia's earlier cyberwar in the country also served as a different sort of harbinger: It foreshadowed exactly how Russia would carry out its full-scale physical attacks on Ukraine, with a vastly greater human cost. In 2022's war, just as in that earlier digital blitz, Russia's real playbook has proven to be one of ruthless bombardment of civilian critical infrastructure, with no tactical intention other than to project its power and inflict pain hundreds of miles past the war's front lines."

Belarusian Cyber Partisans are using a self-erasing app.

Social media having become important channels of unofficial communication for good or ill, authoritarian governments in particular devote considerable attention to monitoring them for evidence of dissent. That monitoring has been particularly intrusive and overt in Belarus, where since 2000 police have worked under direction to stop suspicious people and demand that they surrender their Telegram passwords and present their phones for inspection. Telegram had played an important role in the organization and conduct of protests against President Lukashenka's most recent election (widely regarded as fraudulent).

Recorded Future reports that the Cyber Partisans, a dissident group in Belarus, have developed and distributed a version of Telegram, "P-Telegram" whose features include an "S.O.S. password" that, when entered, can "log out of the account, delete selected chats and channels, and even send a notification about the arrest of the account owners to their friends or families."