Ukraine at D+558: Drone strikes and Ukraine's push against Russia's prepared defenses.
N2K logoSep 5, 2023

Ukraine now occupies ground past Russia's main defensive line. Drone strikes disrupt flights at Moscow airports. Russia hits Danube ports as it refuses to restore the Black Sea grain deal.

Ukraine at D+558: Drone strikes and Ukraine's push against Russia's prepared defenses.

Russian authorities say they shot down three Ukrainian drones headed for Moscow. They were downed, sources cited by Radio Free Europe | Radio Liberty says, over Kaluga, Tver, and Istra regions. About fifty flights from Moscow's four major airports--Vnukovo, Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo and Zhukovsky--were delayed or canceled.

Yesterday the Institute for the Study of War confirmed that "Ukrainian light infantry has advanced to positions beyond anti-tank ditches and dragon’s teeth anti-tank obstacles that comprise the current Russian defensive layer ahead of the Ukrainian advance in western Zaporizhia Oblast, and Ukrainian forces likely intend to hold those positions." They have yet to confirm the presence of armor accompanying that infantry. Russian artillery seems overmatched: short on ammunition and unable to carry out effective counterfire.

Russia has continued attacks north of Ukraine's counteroffensive, but apparently without success. Their objective is more to divert Ukrainian forces from the main effort than to gain ground.

Russia has also withdrawn its advanced T-14 Armata tanks from service in Ukraine, saying that their testing under combat conditions has been completed.

Interdicting grain.

Ukraine says it has photographic evidence that some of the Russian drones launched against Ukrainian grain facilities on the Danube fell into Romanian territory. Romanian authorities deplored the strikes but have denied that any Romanian territory was affected. Strikes that hit Romania, a NATO member, would inevitably be seen as escalatory. The Telegraph quotes a spokesman for the Romanian Foreign Ministry as saying, “We have seen that Russia cynically continues to attack the civilian infrastructure, not allowing Ukraine to export their cereals. Of course, there is a risk of accidents or incidents, but for the time being it was not the case.”

The Russian strikes against the Danube ports came on the eve of Monday's summit in Sochi between President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan. President Erdogan had hoped to secure Russia's agreement to return to the Black Sea grain deal, but Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle report that such hope proved vain: President Putin said a complementary agreement guaranteeing Russian shipment of its own agricultural products had not been honored, and that Russia would continue to interdict Ukrainian grain until Russia received equivalent treatment. No one is sinking Russian grain ships or attacking crop storage sites, so Mr. Putin must mean he wants a partial relaxation of international sanctions before he'd agree to return to the grain accord.

Russia begins staging elections in occupied territories.

The UK's Ministry of Defence this morning reviewed elections being conducted by Russia in the Ukrainian territories it's occupied. "Russian authorities in the occupied regions of Ukraine plan to hold for the first time elections on 8-10 September 2023 in parallel with those held in the Russian Federation. Voting has already started in Zaporizhzhia and Mariupol. Whilst over 1,000 candidates have been identified, there is a lack of qualified, experienced, and willing candidates according to some reports. There is also an absence of independent candidates that are not members of the Kremlin endorsed parties, indicating that these will not be free or fair elections. The Ukrainian Centre of National Resistance claims that the occupation administrations have significantly overstated the number of voters on the electoral register. Kremlin polls indicate United Russia, the dominant political party in the Russian Federation, is predicted to gain 80 per cent of the vote in the four occupied regions. The United Russia party will likely command the majority of seats in an attempt to secure the Kremlin's hold and influence over the occupied regions."

General Surovikin is out and about, and still unemployed.

General Sergei Surovikin, relieved of his job as top commander in Ukraine for being too close to Yevgeni Prigozhin's mutiny, and subsequently fired as chief of Russia's Aerospace Force, has been seen in public again for the first time in more than a month. A photograph of him walking with his wife was published by Russian media personality Ksenia Sobchak in her Telegram channel with the observation “General Sergei Surovikin is out: alive, healthy, at home with his family in Moscow.” So he's out, no longer detained, "but he no longer has any career prospects," as the New York Times (without evident irony) quotes an anonymous source close to Russia's Ministry of Defense as saying.

It's not quite Lend Lease delivered on the Murmansk run, but then you've got to work with what you've got.

Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, will visit Russia this month, the New York Times reports, where he will meet President Putin to discuss supplying Russia with weapons and munitions. General Secretary Kim will travel to Vladivostok by armored train, where he's expected to meet President Putin. Mr. Putin wants anti-tank rockets and artillery ammunition. In return, Mr. Kim is expected to ask for food aid to relieve North Korea's domestic hunger, and also advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines. That a quondam super power like Russia should be looking to Pyongyang for basic army munitions indicates how far Russian industrial capacity has fallen short of being able to sustain its present war. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said "we cannot confirm" that such a meeting is planned.

Distributed denial-of-service attack takes down German financial regulator's site.

On Friday a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) incident rendered the site of BaFin, the Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht, Germany's Federal Financial Supervisory Authority, inaccessible. The authority tweeted that the public website was the only aspect of its operation affected, and that the regulator's other activities continued uninterrupted. Access to the website seems this morning to have been restored, Security Affairs reports. The attack hasn't so far been attributed to any threat actor, but BleepingComputer cites reasonable and informed speculation that points toward a Russian hacktivist auxiliary whose objective was to punish Germany for its support of Ukraine.