Heavy fighting continues in the Donbas, with Russian forces falling back to defensive positions amid reports of high losses among poorly prepared troops. Cyber auxiliaries of both sides seem to be aiming for influence as opposed to disruptive effect.
Ukraine at D+257: Russia addresses casualty reports.
Heavy fighting continues in the Donbas, where Russian casualties are reported to be heavy. The Telegraph, citing Ukrainian sources, says that "hundreds" are being killed daily. Enemy casualties are notoriously difficult to assess with any accuracy, particularly in near-real time, and high estimates should be treated with caution, but the Ukrainian claims received some partial confirmation from Russian sources. The Washington Post reports that Russian hard-war advocates (who've recently been excoriating some Russian senior regular army leaders as soft and inept) are repeating soldier complaints in letters home of high casualties and poor leadership. Official Russian sources have responded that casualties, while high, haven't been as high as rumor makes them out to be. It's a minimizing statement intended to mollify public opinion, but it's also the first time official military sources have directly addressed reports of heavy battlefield losses.
In the southern front, where much of Kherson's population has been forced to evacuate, Al Jazeera reports that Russian troops are accused of widespread looting of unoccupied dwellings.
Ukraine rejects calls for early negotiations.
Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak has indicated that Ukraine is willing to negotiate, but not until Russia has withdrawn from all Ukrainian territory. He said, the Telegraph reports, that under present circumstances, "Negotiating with Putin would mean giving up, and we would never give him this gift”.
Sowing dragon's teeth.
Russian forces are digging in for a defense in depth, particularly around Mariupol, astride lines of communication to Crimea. "Russia has started constructing defensive structures around the occupied southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol," the UK's Ministry of Defence said in this morning's situation report. "Two plants are producing concrete pyramidal anti-tank structures, known as dragon’s teeth, for this purpose. Dragon’s teeth have likely been installed between Mariupol and Nikolske village; and from northern Mariupol to Staryi Krym village. Mariupol forms part of Russia’s 'land bridge' from Russia to Crimea, a key logistics line of communication. Dragon’s teeth have additionally been sent for the preparation of defensive fortifications in occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Russia is fortifying its lines throughout areas of occupation. On 19 October 2022, Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed the construction of a fortified ‘Wagner Line’ of defences in Russian-occupied Luhansk Oblast. This activity suggests Russia is making a significant effort to prepare defences in depth behind their current front line, likely to forestall any rapid Ukrainian advances in the event of breakthroughs."
Dragon's teeth are widely used, inexpensive concrete obstacles placed to impede the advance of armor along roads and other easily transited ground. (Think of them as being more compact, harder-to-move, concrete Jersey barrier.) Most battlefield obstacles of this kind are intended not so much to stop an enemy advance as they are to channel an enemy advance into direct-fire kill zones.
Mariupol was an early objective in Russia's invasion, and its story has been a tragic one, even by the horrific standards of this present war. Civilians suffered heavily during the Russian assault, with some 5000 to 7000 killed as their houses were destroyed by Russian bombardment. The BBC reports that occupying forces have continued to dig (and fill) mass graves in and around the city; the number buried there remains unknown.
North Korea has denied reports that it's sent Russia any artillery ammunition, the AP reports. “We regard such moves of the U.S. as part of its hostile attempt to tarnish the image of [North Korea] in the international arena,” a spokesman for Pyongyang said, adding that the DPRK has never traded arms with Russia.
Air & Space Forces Magazine reports that the first National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) have arrived in Ukraine, and that they've been deployed to stop Russian missile and loitering weapon attacks.
Killnet's targeting and the effects achieved.
We've seen the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's assessment of Russia's Killnet hacktivist auxiliary as posing more of a psychological than a tangible threat to the networks it hits with distributed denial-of-service attacks. Yesterday the Record by Recorded Future offered some notes on Killnet's interests and targeting. The threat actor is mostly interested in hostile nations found in the Near Abroad (now-independent former Soviet Republics, especially Estonia and Moldova) and former members of the defunct, Soviet-led Warsaw Pact (in particular Bulgaria and Poland). Officials in those countries essentially agree with the FBI: Killnet's operations were punitive in their intent, and while the group crowed high in its social media channels, the actual effects they achieved didn't rise above the now familiar nuisance level. At this point in the hybrid war, such cyberattacks are best regarded as a form of influence operation, intended more to menace and intimidate than to hobble or disrupt.
The IT Army claims to have hit Russia's Central Bank.
The Record reports that Ukraine's auxiliary IT Army claims to have successfully breached databases belonging to Russia's Central Bank. The Central Bank itself has said publicly that the data breach is all hooey. As quoted in Positive Technologies' Security Lab blog, the bank said, "Not a single information system of the Bank of Russia has been hacked." The material the IT Army dumped online, the Central Bank claimed, was all anodyne, publicly available information.
In its Telegram channel, the IT Army explained its objective in hacking Russian banks: "The goal remains the same as for all banks," the group said of an upcoming action, "to create problems in the processing of payments, to delay the fulfillment of financial obligations under contracts, and to sow doubts among those who receive payments through it." Thus, like the activities of their Russian counterparts, the IT Army is interested in influence.