Information Defence: Analytical Review of the Situation during the Last Week (May 15-22, 2022)
Ihor Zhdanov, Information Defence Project, the Open Policy Foundation
With the beginning of russia's unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, the experts of the Open Policy Foundation together with other leading Ukrainian analysts joined a united team to implement the Information Defence of Ukraine project.
The project experts prepared daily reviews of the military-political situation in Ukraine in Ukrainian, English, and Russian, the first of which was published on February 26th, moderated the Telegram channel “Information Defence of Ukraine”, https://t.me/info_defense_ua. All experts of the Information Defence of Ukraine project work free of charge, on a volunteer basis.
At the same time, after almost three months of daily work, now the Information Defence for various reasons, subjective and objective, is in the process of transformation.
Some experts have left it, some cannot work in this mode as previously. The problem of funding to support the project is acute, which we are trying to attract through the donors’ support and charitable donations.
Because of internal team discussions, we decided to offer another format of our product - a weekly analytical review of the events in Ukraine and abroad.
Below we offer the first of them - an analytical review of the situation during the last week (May 15-22, 2022).
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1. The military situation in Ukraine as of May 22nd, 2022.
The first phase of the russian-Ukrainian war was the Kyiv Strategic Defence Operation and the Ukrainian Armed Forces' counterattacks near Kharkiv. Before the beginning of the russian aggression against Ukraine, the president putin announced the main goals of the occupiers: demilitarization, denazification of Ukraine and the establishment of a regime loyal to Moscow.
During the first phase of the war, the Armed Forces of Ukraine won the Kyiv Strategic Defence Operation, defended the capital of Ukraine, and completely liberated the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, and Poltava regions.
At the end of April, the Armed Forces of Ukraine launched counterattacks in the Kharkiv region, where, as of the time of writing of the review, they had pushed the enemy 25-30 kilometers from Kharkiv, liberated 23 settlements, and in some places reached Ukraine's state border.
As a result of these military actions, the russian occupiers actually lost the opportunity for massive shelling of Kharkiv, and the threat of its capture by russian troops in the near future was significantly reduced, and possibly eliminated.
During the first phase of the war, the russian forces did not achieve any of the strategic goals of their aggression. Ukraine has intercepted a strategic initiative, the enemy has sustained significant losses, and much of the de-occupied Ukrainian territory has been liberated.
The first operational pause was the regrouping of enemy forces, replenishment of losses after attempts to capture Kyiv. Demoralised russian battalion tactical groups (BTGs), which sustained heavy losses in an attempt to attack Kyiv, were withdrawn partly to Belarus and partly to russia, where they received reinforcements redeployed by the russian military and political leadership from the Far East, Armenia, Tajikistan and Syria.
BTGs were replenished mainly with old russian and Soviet equipment, which was removed from long-term storage bases and much of which is in unfit for combat operations.
According to UK intelligence, the russian occupiers lost up to 30% of their combatants and a significant part of military equipment during the fighting on February 24th.
According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as of May 22nd, 2022, approximately 30,000 russian occupiers were eliminated, 1,300 tanks and 200 aircraft were destroyed.
The second phase of the war - the Donbas attacks of the russian occupiers. From the beginning of April 2022, the russian military-political leadership changed the goals and priorities of the "special military operation" in Ukraine. We are no longer talking about demilitarization, denazification of our country and the establishment of a regime loyal to Moscow.
The main goals of the so-called "operation" were declared to reach the borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the preservation of the land corridor to the occupied Crimea.
Areas of concentration of military efforts have also been changed in line with political goals. russia has concentrated its main military units in eastern Ukraine, aiming to surround the Armed Forces in the area of the Allied Forces Operation.
According to the Pentagon, by mid-April 2022 russia had concentrated in Ukraine to 76 BTG, by the end of April their number had increased to 85 BTG, and by mid-May to 105 BTG. The vast majority of them are concentrated in the East of Ukraine, in the area of environmental protection.
The russian military leadership partially took into account its mistakes during the attack on Kyiv, appointing the sole commander of the operation - Aleppo butcher, General Dvornikov, dismissed for unsatisfactory command of commanders of individual armies, divisions, and brigades.
Using their superiority in artillery and aviation and other equipment, the russian occupiers, concentrating on the direction of the main strike in the East, are trying to "sell" and "bite" the Ukrainian defence due to artillery strikes and massive fire damage. In their actions, the aggressors are guided by the military postulate of the Soviet school, which was formulated by Marshal Georgy Zhukov: “with 300 guns per kilometer of the front, the enemy is not reported. They report on completed tasks and captured frontiers.”
The situation in the Severodonetsk region is extremely difficult today. Despite the steady defence of the Ukrainian military and the highly skilled operations of the commanders of the Armed Forces, the russian occupiers approached the northern and eastern outskirts of Severodonetsk and began an operation to capture it.
Fierce fighting also continues in the Popasna district, where the russian occupiers with a force of 8-9 BTG made a tactical breakthrough in the defence of the Armed Forces in order to further cut the Lysychansk-Bakhmut route and the environs of the Severodonetsk group of the Armed Forces. In the near future, the command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will make the following difficult decisions:
- to continue the difficult defence of the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk conurbation, trying to prevent its final encirclement. And in the case of outlying areas within this zone, trying to unblock these by counterattacks of Ukrainian units;
- And in the case of her entourage, try to unblock her by counterattacks of Ukrainian units;
- OR to withdraw Ukrainian troops from Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, organizing a stable defence on other borders.
The Armed Forces managed to stop the aggressors' attack on Barvinkove and Sloviansk. Counterattacks of the Ukrainian military in the direction of Vovchansk, Kupyansk, tin he Kharkiv region, threatened the operational encirclement of the Izium enemy group and cut its lines of communication.
Ukrainian forces also defeated russian forces in an attempt to force the Siverskyi Donets near Bilohorovka to encircle Severodonetsk.
As a result of these military actions of the Armed Forces, there is no question of the so-called "great encirclement" - the main battles will take place around the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk conurbation.
Interim results and prospects of the second phase of the russian-Ukrainian war. In the actions of the enemy, political priorities continue to dominate over purely military ones. Unprepared units ("cannon fodder") with obsolete weapons and military equipment rush into battle. russian troops follow the pattern, carry out the letter of the order, their commanders, especially the lower level and are deprived of reasonable initiative.
According to various estimates, russian troops are significantly behind schedule, exhausted by several weeks of offensive operations, and unable to continue their offensive at the proper pace.
According to our forecasts, the russian military leadership will soon have to make a radical decision:
- to suspend the attacks, regroup the forces, replenish them and give them a rest., thus demonstrating that they had failed to achieve new, even limited, objectives of the "special operation";
- or to redeploy additional BTGs from other areas to continue the attacks on the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk conurbation, while significantly weakening their forces in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and other regions. This, however, creates favourable conditions for counterattacks of the Armed Forces in these operational areas.
Nowadays, each single day helps the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In heavy defensive battles, the Ukrainian military must exhaust the enemy, knock out their armoured vehicles and "deprive" their troops of offensive potential. At the same time, the supply of modern heavy offensive equipment and weapons of Western partners will allow in the near future to create a decisive advantage for the Armed Forces on the battlefield.
According to such a scenario, the Ukrainian-russian battle for the Donbas is increasingly reminiscent of the Battle of Kursk, when Soviet troops deliberately switched to strategic defence, depleted German troops, and counterattacked strategic reserves.
According to our analysts, most likely, after a short operational pause, the next, third phase of the russian-Ukrainian war will begin no earlier than June 2022 with a counterattack by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
2. Political support for Ukraine.
Evolution of the content and forms of political support for Ukraine. Political support for Ukraine by partner countries since the beginning of the russian aggression has gradually evolved:
- from the realization of the imminent defeat of our country (after February 24th, 2022);
- to prevent russia's victory (end of March 2022);
- and the need to defeat it so that it could not pose a threat to Ukraine and the Western world for the next 10 years (mid-April 2022).
At the same time, today it has not been possible to secure a united and solid front of support - a number of European countries are showing constant fluctuations in their political support for our country. First of all, these are the countries of old Europe – Germany, France, and Hungary, which have problems in bilateral relations with Ukraine.
Discussion on Ukraine's membership in the European Union. On May 9th, the President of France Emmanuel Macron made a very unexpected statement: "It will take several years, maybe decades, for Ukraine to join the European Union." This position was in fact supported by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who stressed that Ukraine's application to join the European Union could not be considered quickly, despite the full-scale russian invasion.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba reacted critically to Scholz's statement saying that some EU countries considered Ukraine to be a "third-class" country.
It is clear that in the conditions of the russian-Ukrainian war; both societies and political elites will perceive, in an extremely negative and painful manner, that our country counts on the support of partner countries, even where any artificial delay in granting it the status of a candidate for EU membership applies.
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed that, in his opinion, those who offer Ukraine such "alternatives" are consciously or unconsciously promoting the interests of russia.
It should be noted that in the country, there is a socio-political consensus, according to which Ukraine must soon receive the status of a candidate for the European Union, and any other proposals will be considered, speaking frankly, as extremely incorrect for our country.
Proposals for a peace treaty between Ukraine and russia. The Italian government has prepared and submitted to the UN a step-by-step plan for peace in Ukraine, La Republic reported. According to media reports, the first stage involves a ceasefire and withdrawal of troops from the front line under UN supervision.
After that, Ukraine's accession to the EU should take place as soon as possible, while guaranteeing its non-accession to NATO. In the third stage, it is planned to sign a bilateral agreement between Ukraine and russia regarding the Crimea and the Donbas. It is assumed that the "disputed territories", as they are called in the Italian plan, will have full autonomy, but while preserving the sovereignty of Ukraine. At the last stage, a new multilateral treaty on peace and security in Europe will be prepared, which should ensure arms control.
These proposals are unlikely to find support in Ukraine. If at the beginning of the war it was quite acceptable to withdraw russian troops to the line of demarcation and borders as of February 23rd, now after the victory near Kyiv, the government and society see the main prospect of ending the war in restoring territorial integrity, and full liberation of Ukraine, including the Crimea.
Any other proposals will be considered treason and will not gain sufficient public legitimacy.
3. Military assistance to Ukraine.
The policy of military assistance to Ukraine, which began with the provision of relatively simple weapons, including Javelin ATGM, Stinger MANPADS, NLAW grenade launchers, other anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft portable missile systems, gradually came to the provision of modern offensive heavy weapons, including anti-ship missiles, and in the last package of assistance probably and modern air defence / missile defence systems "Patriot".
The evolution of views on the amount of military aid to Ukraine also took place quite symmetrically to its political support by partner countries:
- at the initial stage, the absolute rejection of the supply of one or another type of weapons to Ukraine;
- at the next stage, rather difficult and relatively long negotiations on the possibility of supplying a particular type of weapon;
- moreover, at the final stage, the decision-making and immediate delivery to Ukraine of the weapons it needs to win (see, for example, the history of the supply of heavy howitzers).
Volumes of military assistance to Ukraine. The undisputed leader and main driver of the military aid process is the United States, which has provided approximately $4 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the large-scale russian-Ukrainian war. The US President Biden recently signed a law providing $40 billion in aid to Ukraine, including $20 billion in military aid.
Also on May 9th, a law on land lease was signed, which greatly simplifies the procedure for arms supplies and requires payment only for equipment that was not destroyed during hostilities and which Ukraine wants to keep after signing the peace agreement.
Moreover, among the leaders of the countries supplying weapons to Ukraine are the UK (1.3 billion pounds), Poland (200 T-72 tanks, spare parts for aircraft, etc.), Slovakia, the Czech Republic, the Baltic countries and other partner countries.
New formats of coordination of military assistance to Ukraine. On April 26th, a meeting of 40 ministers of defence from around the world took place at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany to coordinate countering russia's aggression against Ukraine. The historical significance of this event is difficult to overstate, as for the first time since the end of World War II, representatives of the wider international community have gathered to decide what to do with a dangerous aggressor country that already possesses nuclear weapons. The participants in the meeting actually formed an anti- racist coalition similar to the anti-Hitler one.
The United States has also established a control centre in Stuttgart, Germany, which operates a network of more than 40 partner and allied countries that have met in Germany at Ramstein Air Force Base and are assisting Ukraine.
The next time a group of more than 40 countries meets again is on Monday, May 23rd, to discuss further defence support for Ukraine. We will analyse its results in the following review.
Problems with the supply of weapons to Ukraine. Problems with Ukraine's political support were also reflected in the process of providing military assistance to our country by the individual NATO countries,
Particularly noteworthy was Germany, which before the russian aggression refused to supply weapons to Ukraine at all. The real embodiment of this policy was the well-known and disgraceful history of supplying Ukraine with only 5,000 protective helmets at the beginning of the war and the Estonian government's ban on providing Ukraine with guns previously used in the GDR army.
Due to the strong impact of russian agents of influence, Germany's oil and gas dependence on russia, the “use” of former top politicians like Schroeder, Germany has become an outsider in both political and military support for our country.
The scandalous story about the reduction of the list of arms supplies personally by Chancellor Scholz, the delay in the supply of the Cheetah Armed Forces, the supply of which was announced in April, and the actual receipt is expected no earlier than July 2022.
This position of Germany has led to a real crisis in two foreign relations, which has recently been mitigated by a telephone conversation between the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Germany Federal President Walter Steinmeier.
The supply of weapons to Ukraine is also affected by the domestic political struggle in the United States and the congressional elections in November 2022. Although support for Ukraine has a bipartisan component, both the Republicans and the Democrats are using the Ukrainian crisis to their advantage. For example, not all Republicans supported the land lease law, and the Democrats delayed the process of passing it for almost a month: from early April to May 9th.
Strong informational opposition accompanied the supply of weapons to Ukraine from russia, which involved putin's entire agency of influence in Western democracies - politicians, so-called experts, and intellectuals.
The thesis that "arms supplies to Ukraine will lead to further escalation of the conflict" is widely used. That is, in the opinion of these politicians, when tens of thousands of civilians, children, women, and the elderly die, and the Armed Forces is unable to protect them because the enemy uses more modern, long-range weapons, this is not an escalation. This is not an escalation - it is the death of tens of thousands of people killed by the enemy in our country.
Ukraine has not waged this war - it is only defending itself, protecting its people and its future, it has demonstrated that it is a responsible state that has every right to use weapons adequate to the aggressor's weapons during the war .
Also in the political and information space is the thesis, unfortunately voiced by the President of France Emmanuel Macron, that “putin needs to be given a chance to save face," “russia cannot be humiliated,” can lead to unpredictable consequences.
This is a reminiscent of a rapist who has already committed a crime but received harsh reprimand from the victim who is trying to take a criminal to the police.
A good friend of both – of the perpetrator and the victim - asks not to proceed the case to court. For this, the rapist may even compensate for the cost of torn clothes or not.
Every person, every russian politician and every criminal must be held accountable for their actions, for their crimes, for the genocide and execution of peaceful Ukrainians in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities.
4. The Marshall Plan for Ukraine and its financial support.
Total losses and losses of the Ukrainian economy due to russian aggression. According to the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE), as of May 19th, 2022, the total amount of the direct documented infrastructure damage is almost $97.4 billion or 2.9 trillion UAH. The rating agency Moody's downgraded Ukraine's long-term credit rating from Caa2 to Caa3 and changed the outlook to negative.
The total losses of Ukraine's economy due to the war, according to joint estimates of the Ministry of Economy and KSE, taking into account both direct and indirect losses (GDP decline, investment cessation, labor outflows, additional defence and social support costs, etc.) range from $564 billion to $600 billion
In general, at least 12 civilian airports, 295 bridges and bridge crossings, 591 kindergartens, 574 medical facilities, 108 religious and 179 cultural facilities, 169 warehouses and 19 shopping malls have been damaged, destroyed or seized since the start of russia's war against Ukraine.
Taking this into account, when Ukrainians are defending a collective action against russian aggression, it is quite natural and reasonable to provide non-refundable financial assistance to Ukraine, which would include the following areas:
1) macro-financial assistance, covering the state budget deficit;
2) financial assistance to pay for the supply of modern military equipment and weapons (discussed in more detail in the previous section);
3) a special fund for the restoration of the economy and infrastructure of post-war Ukraine.
Macro-financial assistance to Ukraine. The state budget deficit in March-April amounted to UAH 171 billion, and Ukraine needs at least $5 billion in monthly assistance to maintain macro-financial stability.
Since the start of russia's full-scale invasion, Ukraine has received $5.6 billion from international partners. The Ukrainian people are certainly grateful to all the peoples, countries and institutions that have extended a help to our country at this difficult time for us.
At the same time, today the financial support of our state has not acquired a systematic, predictable and long-term character, but rather resembles "patching holes" in the fire department.
Among the latest decisions on financial assistance: the G7 countries have confirmed to allocate budget aid to Ukraine totaling $19.8 billion. The European Commission has announced additional macro-financial assistance to Ukraine in the amount of 9 billion euros. In addition, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation will provide additional support to Ukrainian companies by $ 3.4 billion.
At the same time, Ukraine needs macro-financial assistance for at least 40 billion US dollars by the end of the year, of which support of about 30 billion dollars has been already announced.
“Marshall Plan” for Ukraine. Ukraine invites international partners to sign a multilateral agreement that will provide for the confiscation of russian funds and property in other countries to compensate for the damage caused by russia during the war in Ukraine. This was stated by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyu in his speech.
Under such an agreement, russian funds and property under the jurisdiction of partner countries must be seized or frozen, confiscated, and then sent to a specially created fund from which all victims of russian aggression can receive appropriate compensation.
Ukraine invites partners to become founders of such a fund, as well as members of a special international commission that considers claims, appeals of both individuals and legal entities.
This task will not be easy, but an international debate has already begun on the need for such compensation from russian assets. In particular, the United States has so far stated that the confiscation of frozen russian state assets is not possible at this stage, while Canada is already working on the legal aspects of this issue.
Our country, as a result of russian aggression, has sustained great financial and infrastructural losses and quite naturally counts on their compensation at the expense of the aggressor country - russia.
5. Threats to global food security.
Ukraine is one of the world's leading suppliers of grain and legumes, whose Ukrainian exports are up to 60 million tons per year, 5 million tons per month. Some countries in the Middle East, Africa and the Maghreb are critically dependent on the Ukrainian grain supplies.
Unblocking of seaports of Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, russia has blocked peaceful navigation in the Black Sea near Ukrainian seaports, including Odesa. The aggressor declared the area off-limits to peaceful navigation and set up stationary minefields and drift mines. At the beginning of the war there were cases of shelling of peaceful ships.
According to the UN, some countries around the world are threatened not only by food shortages, but also by famine due to the shortage of Ukrainian grain in food markets, as its supply was carried out mainly by sea. In general, up to 75% of Ukrainian trade took place through the seaports.
At the beginning of May, about 20-25 million tons of ready-to-ship grain were stored in the granaries of Ukrainian ports. Approximately 90 ships are loaded with grain, ready to go to their ports of destination, but unable to do so due to Russia's blockade of the Black and Azov Seas.
The Ukrainian authorities, together with partner countries, have tried to change logistical routes by reorienting grain exports either through the Danube ports or by rail and road. In this regard, the volume of exports of Ukrainian agricultural products in April 2022 increased 2.9 times compared to March this year, volumes of exports by rail increased by 238%.
However, despite the efforts of the authorities, in absolute terms, exports increased slightly - during this period it was managed to export, for example, only 51 thousand tons of wheat and 1 million tons of corn. Rail transport does not have the same capacity as sea transport and cannot replace it in full.
Thus, the problem of unblocking the seaports of Ukraine in the Black and Azov Seas remains extremely acute. According to the experts of the Information Defence project, it is impossible to resolve this issue within the negotiation process with russia before concluding a peace treaty.
The President's Office emphasises that Ukraine needs an American MLRS multiple rocket launcher, to unblock the Black Sea. The United States is already working on a potential solution to transfer long-range anti-ship missiles to Ukraine so that Ukraine can unblock its ports in the Black Sea.
Also, according to unverified data, the allies are discussing the possibility, in case of further aggravation of the global food crisis, to create a coalition of countries interested in exporting grain through Ukrainian ports. This coalition could provide cover and armed protection for international convoys of Ukrainian grain in the Black Sea, trawling major sea routes.
The harvest of 2022. Another problem is the harvest in 2022.
First, in the conditions of hostilities, shortages of fuel and working capital, it is necessary to sow spring crops and carry out other agricultural activities.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, this year the area sown for cereals and legumes is 75% compared to 2021. According to operative data, sowing of spring crops is carried out by 23 regions of Ukraine, except for Luhansk, where fighting is taking place almost on the whole territory. The Ukrainian government has decided on preferential lending to farmers and agrarians, they are provided with fuel in the first place, after the military.
Second, it is necessary to get the harvest and ensure its export to countries that are critically dependent on food supplies and are at risk of starvation.
According to some estimates, hostilities may continue until the end of 2022, so the problem of unblocking Ukrainian seaports, if it is not resolved before that, will remain on the agenda of interested countries. Returning to the above proposal, it can be solved by escorting grain ships and trawling sea lanes.
Without the unblocking of Ukraine's seaports and the supply of Ukrainian food to world markets, the world will face a food crisis and some countries will face a famine.
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