Russia's Victory Day endgame seems to have focused on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. The US is providing Ukraine with battlefield intelligence. NSA's cyber director argues that hacktivist participation in hybrid war is unwise.
Ukraine at D+71: Preparing for Victory Day (which falls on D+74).
The UK's Ministry of Defence offered a situation report on the Russian operation against Azovstal and its probable consequences for the campaign in the Donbas: "Russian forces in Mariupol have continued their ground assault on the Azovstal steel plant for a second day, despite Russian statements claiming they would seek only to seal it off. The renewed effort by Russia to secure Azovstal and complete the capture of Mariupol is likely linked to the upcoming 9 May Victory Day commemorations and Putin’s desire to have a symbolic success in Ukraine. This effort has come at personnel, equipment and munitions cost to Russia. Whilst Ukrainian resistance continues in Azovstal, Russian losses will continue to build and frustrate their operational plans in southern Donbas."
Fighting in Mariupol has become intense as Russia increases pressure on the besieged port city. The reduction of the sprawling Azovstal plant seems to have become, the New York Times reports, a surrogate for the comprehensive victory President Putin is thought to want to be able to claim by Monday, Russia's Victory Day holiday, especially since some of the Ukrainian defenders have been associated with the paramilitary Azov Battalion (generally described as "far right"). That may be enough for the Kremlin to claim a victory over the "Nazis" it claims necessitated the special military operation.
Ukraine appears to have continued to carry the war into Russia proper, the Wall Street Journal reports, as what appear to be special operations have damaged Russian installations.
Foreign Affairs offers an assessment of Russia's war, its failure to attain its objectives, and how it might benefit, paradoxically, from the war's indefinite continuation. The Washington Post describes Western efforts to resupply Ukraine with weapons as it continues to resist Russian operations on the ground.
President Lukashenka on the war next door.
Belarusian President Lukashenka, while continuing to express his support for Russia's war against Ukraine (Ukraine was "provoking Russia") also thinks the war is dragging on, even though he's not following events that closely (he says). "“But I am not immersed in this problem enough to say whether it goes according to plan, like the Russians say, or like I feel it,” he told the AP in the course of a rambling interview. “I want to stress one more time: I feel like this operation has dragged on.”
The fault, the root cause of the war, is basically to be found in Washington. “The U.S. wants to seize the moment, tying its allies to itself, and drown Russia in the war with Ukraine. It’s their goal — to sort out Russia, and then China,” Lukahsenka said, and added that Ukraine was basically an American puppet. “Today it’s not Zelenskyy who’s running Ukraine – no offense, that’s my point of view, maybe I’m wrong,” he explained. And again, presumably no offense, if Joe Biden gave the word, then “everything will stop within a week.”
And Belarus isn't a threat to anyone, Mr. Lukashenka said: "We do not threaten anyone and we are not going to threaten and will not do it. Moreover, we can't threaten – we know who opposes us, so to unleash some kind of a conflict, some kind of war here in the West is absolutely not in the interests of the Belarusian state. So the West can sleep peacefully."
Hackivists in the battlespace.
NSA's Rob Joyce, who heads the agency's cybersecurity directorate, expressed reservations about hacktivists taking an active role in warfare, including the present Russian war against Ukraine. “I will tell you that the idea of the civil vigilantes joining in a nation-state attack is unwise, right? I really think it is,” Defense News quotes him as saying Wednesday at Vanderbilt University. “As you pointed out, it’s illegal. But it’s also unhelpful, because one of the things we talked about is we’re trying to get Russia to take account for the ransomware attacks and hacks that come out of Russia and emanate.”
The US Department of Defense says, according to Military Times and others, that it hasn't been targeting Russian generals, that is, providing intelligence that's enabled Ukrainian forces to attack Russia command posts and kill senior Russian commanders. “The United States provides battlefield intelligence to help Ukrainians defend their country,” Military Times quotes Defense Department spokesman John Kirby as saying during a press conference. “We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military.”
In some respects this sounds like a non-denial denial. Battlefield intelligence is used for, among other things, targeting. Early statements, given anonymously by Pentagon sources, suggested that US intelligence contributed not only to the battlefield deaths of Russian generals, but also to the sinking of the cruiser Moskva.
Mr. Putin says sorry.
President Putin is said to have offered his Israeli counterpart an apology for his Foreign Minister's historical excursus on how Hitler was actually probably Jewish, and so Zelenskyy is probably another Jewish Nazi, too. Reports don't include details on how the apology was worded.