Ukraine at D+636: Ukraine's infantry attacks east of the Dnipro.
the cyberwire logoNov 22, 2023

Electronic attack and electronic countermeasures undergo a battlefield renaissance in Ukraine.

Ukraine at D+636: Ukraine's infantry attacks east of the Dnipro.

Both sides continue local ground attacks, although with some difficulties imposed by autumn rains, mud, and some wintry mix. Russian artillery fire has diminished due, Ukrainian authorities say, to bad weather. (This is difficult to credit--artillery is as close to a true all-weather weapon as exists, but there may be difficulties observing fire.) Fighting is expected to continue along current lines despite the weather. Mud is no novelty to a European army. It makes operating in the field difficult and unpleasant, but it's far from the war-stopper some media reports have made it out to be. And when the ground freezes, as the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) points out, maneuver will become easier.

The UK's Ministry of Defence this morning described the infantry fight developing east of the Dnipro. "In southern Ukraine, fighting has continued around the village of Krynky where Ukrainian marines maintain a bridgehead on the east bank of the Dnipro River. The ground fighting has been characterised by confused, dismounted infantry combat and artillery exchanges in complex, wooded terrain. Ukraine has made particularly effective use of small attack uncrewed aerial vehicles, while the Russian Air Force is conducting significant numbers of sorties in support of frontline troops, predominantly launching munitions from beyond the range of Ukraine’s air defences. The fighting around Krynky is on a smaller scale than some major battles of the war but will be considered highly unfortunate by Russian leaders. Russia withdrew from the west bank of the Dnipro River a year ago, almost certainly aiming to hold Ukrainian forces west of the river, keep the sector quiet, and free up Russian forces elsewhere."

Desultory Russian missile and drone strikes continue, showing both poor aim and an indifference to properly discriminate targeting. Ten Shahed-131/136 drones launched from Primorsko-Akhtarsk, one Iskander-K ballistic missile (fired from from Dzhankoi, in occupied Crimea), and four S-300 missiles from the direction of Donetsk hit, among other targets, a civilian hospital in Selydove and the Kotlyarevska mine in Novohrodivka, both in the Donetsk Oblast. Nine of the Shaheds and the Iskander were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses.

Narrative challenges for the Kremlin.

The ISW also notes that Ukraine's successful establishment of bridgeheads across the Dnipro has become a challenge to Russian messaging. "The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Russian officials are struggling to subdue Russian hysteria around Ukrainian operations in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu addressed the Russian MoD Collegium on November 21 and claimed that Russian forces prevented all Ukrainian attempts to conduct successful 'amphibious operations in the Kherson direction.' Shoigu further claimed that Russian forces are inflicting 'colossal' losses on Ukrainian forces. Shoigu’s statement is likely an attempt to downplay some Russian milbloggers’ concerns over Russia’s inability to decisively repel Ukrainian attacks on the east bank of the Dnipro River but is unlikely to calm the ever-growing complaints in the Russian information space." That is, the milbloggers aren't buying it. They continue to complain of ineffectual Russian battlefield leadership, and to insist that Ukraine's operations across the Dnipro are more successful than not.

President Putin addresses the G20.

President Putin, in remarks delivered by video conference to the G20 summit today, characterized his war with Ukraine as a tragedy, called for peace talks, and blamed Ukrainian intransigence for the continued fighting. "I understand that this war, and the death of people, cannot but shock," he said, as quoted by Reuters, and then maintained that Russia was not the aggressor, that Ukraine's government was genocidal, and that Russia had always been open to peace talks.

A renaissance in electronic warfare.

The New York Times writes that electronic warfare has been a relative strength of the Russian army. Its ability to jam drones in particular, and to successfully geolocate radio-frequency emitters accurately enough for targeting has presented a contrast with that army's otherwise lackluster tactical performance. Ukraine and its suppliers are adapting, using hackathons and what the Times characterizes as a start-up mentality to respond to demonstrated Russian capabilities. But the full spectrum of Russian electronic attack and collection capabilities remains a problem Ukraine has yet to fully solve.

And a response in the form of countermeasures.

GPS signals have been a common target of Russian jamming. This is most commonly thought of in terms of interference with positioning, but GPS signals are also a source of precision timing. Disruption of timing can interfere fatally with elements of the power grid, and thus they're expected to figure prominently on Russian electronic attack target lists this winter. CNN reports that Cisco has developed and delivered switches that give Ukrenergo, Ukraine's power authority, redundant timing to compensate for any GPS interference. The switches, placed in electrical power substations, ensure those substations' connectivity with the utility's networks even in the absence of GPS.