Ukraine continues its slow advance toward the Sea of Azov, and Russia continues missile strikes against civilians.
Ukraine at D+538: More use of illegals as spies.
Extensive Russian drone and missile strikes hit Ukrainian cities yesterday as Moscow's campaign against civilian targets continues. Twenty-eight missiles in total were fired, sixteen of which were intercepted by Ukrainian air defenses. The Guardian reports that four of the missiles were launched from a Russian frigate in the Black Sea, the others from Russian bombers. The western Ukrainian cities of Lutsk and Lviv were among the targets, as was a food warehouse in the eastern city of Kramatorsk. Air defenses in these areas are less dense than they are around Kyiv and other, more strategic locations, and the Russian targeting appears to be in this respect opportunistic.
Ukraine continues its deliberate push toward the Sea of Azov. The Telegraph says Ukrainian authorities have announced the recapture of the key Donetsk town of Urozhayne, which would represent a significant advance in that direction.
"Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on August 15 and reportedly advanced in Luhansk Oblast and western Zaporizhia Oblast," the Institute for the Study of War reported yesterday. "The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut, Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast), and Berdyansk (western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast) directions. Coordinates published by a Russian milblogger on August 15 indicate that Ukrainian forces have advanced south of Dibrova (7km southwest of Kreminna). Geolocated footage posted on August 14 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced into Robotyne, and further Russian and Ukrainian reporting published on August 15 suggests that Ukrainian forces have committed additional counteroffensive brigades to the western Zaporizhia oblast area."
The advance is characterized as slow, with Russian positions established behind minefields "several kilometers wide," but mineclearing is proceeding nonetheless. Ukrainian forces are relying on counterbattery fire--artillery fire directed against enemy artillery units--to enable their mineclearing efforts to proceed.
Russia moves toward domestic production of Shahed drones.
"Russia has almost certainly started to deploy domestically produced one way attack Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (OWA-UAVs) based on Iranian Shahed designs," the British Ministry of Defence reports this morning. "Russian forces have been importing Iranian-made systems since September 2022. Indigenous manufacturing will likely allow Russia to establish a more reliable supply of OWA-UAVs. The performance of these weapons has been variable and Ukraine has proved effective in neutralising the majority of incoming OWA-UAVs. Russia likely aims for self-sufficiency in OWA-UAVs in the coming months. However, in the interim, Russia remains reliant on components and whole weapons from Iran, primarily shipped via the Caspian Sea."
Moscow court fines Reddit, Wikipedia, for unwelcome content about the war.
Cybernews reports that a Russian magistrate court in separate actions yesterday fined Reddit and Wikipedia a billion rubles each (the equivalent of a little more than $20,000, the ruble not being what it used to be) for their failure to remove content not in line with the Kremlin's view of its special military operation, that is, its war against Ukraine. Wikipedia has been fined before and has no intention of complying with the takedown orders that accompanied the fine.
As diplomatic cover is less available, Russian spying turns increasingly to illegals.
Scotland Yard announced that three men and two women have been arrested "on suspicion of an offence under the Official Secrets Act," the Telegraph reports. The individuals under suspicion have resided in the UK for several years. The Guardian sees these arrests as indicating a trend: with intelligence officers finding it increasingly difficult to operate in Western countries under diplomatic cover, and with travel visas less readily obtainable, the three principal Russian intelligence services are turning to illegals operating under deep cover.