Ukraine at D+344: Historical revisionism in Russia.
N2K logoFeb 3, 2023

Little change in the front lines, but casualties continue to mount.

Ukraine at D+344: Historical revisionism in Russia.

On the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory at Stalingrad during the Second World War, President Putin recast that war as an instance of Russian resistance to aggression from "the collective West," and explained that the special military operation was nothing but a continuation of the fight against Nazism. He said that then, as now, Russia's principal weapon was "truth." In the meantime the Russian army continues to feed poorly trained infantry into the front, and continues to shell apartment buildings, killing civilians in the process.

Running out of people who don't count.

The UK's Ministry of Defence describes tensions between the Wagner Group and the Russian Ministry of Defense. "The scale of Russian paramilitary Wagner Group’s convict recruitment programme has probably significantly reduced from its peak between summer and autumn 2022. The Russian Federal Penal Service (FSIN) figures released on 31 January 2023 reported a national penal population of 433,000, suggesting a decrease of 6000 inmates since November 2022. In contrast, FSIN data had indicated a decrease of 23,000 from September to November 2022. Wagner recruitment was likely a major contributing factor to this drop. Separately, anecdotal evidence from Ukrainian combatants over the last ten days suggests a reduced Russian reliance on human wave style assaults by Wagner convict fighters in key sectors.Significant tensions between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defence are playing out in public; competition between factions in the Russian elite is likely to be partially responsible for the reduced supply of convicts."

The Telegraph glosses this as Russia's beginning to run out of prisoners to conduct human-wave attacks. It's an instance of the more general problem that's affected partial mobilization as well: Mr. Putin is running out of people who don't count. Cautious estimates by US and other Western intelligence services assess Russian casualties--killed, wounded, captured, or missing--as approaching 200,000, almost double the prevailing assessments in November.

KillNet continues its campaign against hospitals.

Becker's Hospital Review reports that KillNet has continued its attacks against hospitals in countries deemed hostile to Russia. The attacks--distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) for the most part--have afflicted medical organizations in the UK, the Netherlands, the US, Germany, Poland, and the Scandinavian countries.

Ransomware as misdirection for cyberespionage.

The Russian-speaking ransomware gang LockBit continues its financially-motivated campaigns, most recently against financial tech firm ION, where, Computing reports, the gang has demanded that it be paid by tomorrow. Canada's Communications Security Establishment warned that "LockBit will almost certainly remain an enduring threat to both Canadian and international organizations into 2023." LockBit has taken care to position itself as a simple, apolitical criminal organization, and not a cyber auxiliary working under Russian state supervision. But it certainly operates with the permission of, and at the sufferance of, the Russian government, and the relationship with that government is complex and imperfectly understood. Le Monde Informatique, for one, argues that not only Russian, but North Korean and Chinese services as well, are using ransomware as a cover for cyberespionage.

Russian surveillance extends to Telegram chats.

Telegram, a platform that's enjoyed a reputation for anonymity, seems to have been penetrated by Russian security services. Wired reports that dissidents have been receiving police attention that seems to be accounted for only by Telegram's cooperation with the authorities.