Ukraine at D+516: Attacks on food, accompanied by disinformation.
N2K logoJul 25, 2023

Missile strikes and Russia's war for famine.

Ukraine at D+516: Attacks on food, accompanied by disinformation.

Ukraine's Defense Minister says that Ukraine will continue to strike targets in Crimea, including lines of communication like the Kerch Strait Bridge. Recent attacks have hit ammunition storage points in the peninsula, CNN reports. Ukraine also launched two drones at Russia's Ministry of Defense offices in Moscow; Russia continued to strike civilians gathered in Ukrainian towns and cities.

According to the Guardian, Ukrainian forces report minor gains in the south and in the vicinity of Bakhmut.

Russian targeting of grain storage and shipping infrastructure continues.

The British Ministry of Defence this morning assessed Russia's targeting of Ukrainian ports and other infrastructure related to grain storage and transport. "Since 18 July 2023, Russia has conducted greater numbers of long-range strikes against Odesa and other areas of southern Ukraine. These attacks have featured an unusual number of AS-4 KITCHEN missiles, a 5.5 tonne weapon originally designed to destroy aircraft carriers. Damage has included several grain silos at Chornomorsk Port, south of Odesa, as well as the historic city centre. On 24 July 2023, Russia extended one way attack drone strikes to the docks on the Danube River, approximately 200 metres from the Romanian border. Between August 2022 and June 2023, when the Black Sea Grain Initiative was still in force, Russia generally refrained from striking civil infrastructure in the southern ports. Since Russia failed to renew the deal, the Kremlin likely feels less politically constrained, and is attempting to strike targets in Odesa because it believes Ukraine is storing military assets in these areas. Since the start of the war, Russia’s strike campaign has been characterised by poor intelligence and a dysfunctional targeting process."

To conclude that Russian targeting of Odesa and the Danube grain terminals farther to the west is due to a conviction that grain facilities are being used to store military assets is to construe the targeting charitably. Russian official media have openly advocated direct, albeit sometimes deniable, attacks against grain shipments, usually through the use of sea mines whose deployment could be blamed on Ukraine. Portraying the strikes against Odesa as strikes against military targets, should Moscow adopt that narrative, would amount to disinformation.

Russia accuses US of cyber aggression.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev, attending the BRICS meeting of national security coordinators in Johannesburg, South Africa, accused the US of running an aggressive cyber campaign against Russia. TASS is authorized to disclose that Mr. Patrushev said, "The Pentagon’s cybercommand, the National Security Agency and the Tallinn-based NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence are planning and steering information attacks under the Ukrainian flag on our country’s critical information infrastructure. American special services enlist Ukrainian hacker groups for such attacks." The operations, in TASS's recounting of his remarks, extend to "Russia’s financial infrastructure, transport, energy, and telecom facilities, as well as industrial enterprises and government services websites." Mr. Patrushev added, "It is a secret to no one that Washington and its allies are directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine. Along with the aggressive information and propaganda campaign and weapons supplies, the US Special Operations Command is supervising the activities of the Ukrainian Center for Information and Psychological Operations. The collective West has taken the course of militarizing the information space and improving computer attack methods."

The BRICS group is named after its five founding members: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. In addition to these five, seven "friends of the BRICS" were also invited to the meetings, where, TASS says, they've been invited to participate in security discussions. Those countries include, TASS reports, Belarus, Burundi, Cuba, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the AP, President Putin will not be attending the BRICS meetings in Johannesburg at the end of August. Russia will be represented on-site by Foreign Minister Lavrov; Mr. Putin will participate by video link. The Russian President and his South African counterpart, by mutual agreement, CNN reported, decided that it would be better if he didn't show up in person. President Putin's attendance would have placed his hosts in the awkward position of having to choose between executing an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant on the Russian leader (who's under ICC indictment for war crimes) or shirking its commitments as an adherent of the ICC.

Norwegian government offices sustain a zero-day attack of undetermined origin.

Norway continues its investigation of the zero-day attack several government organizations underwent earlier this month. Details are scarce, but remediation seems to be well in hand. Twelve ministries, all of whom share a common ICT (information and communications technology) platform were affected, BleepingComputer reports. The Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all of which use a different platform, were unaffected. Neither Norwegian authorities nor anyone else has attributed the attack to any specific threat actor. Several observers point out that Russia has a recent record of cyberattacks against its neighbor, which is a NATO member, Europe's largest oil producer, and a strong supporter of Ukraine during the present war. But this remains a priori probability, insufficient for credible attribution. The zero-day itself is tracked as CVE-2023-35078, an authentication bypass vulnerability afflicting all supported versions of Ivanti's EPMM mobile device management software (formerly known as MobileIron Core). Ivanti has issued a patch accessible to all registered users of the software.