RileySENTINEL: Ukraine Report

Weekly Security & Geopolitical Reporting and Analysis on the Ukraine Conflict

UA/RU Conflict

Publish Date: 06MAR2024
Security & Geopolitical Analyst: MF
Contributing Authors: CT, MSO, ML

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Over the past 7 days, a series of significant events have taken place that are directly or indirectly linked to the ongoing Ukrainian conflict. These developments have captured the attention of both regional and global audiences:

  • Moscow will consider Transnistria's appeal for 'protection'

  • Germany could deploy troops to Lithuania in 2027

  • Germany will conduct an investigation after a leaked recording emerged of secret army talks on Ukraine

  • Mandatory evacuation has been announced for 18 additional villages in Kharkiv Oblast

  • The Netherlands, Estonia, Lithuania, and Canada are considering sending military support to Ukraine

  • Polish trucks transport Russian agricultural products from Belarus to Poland

  • Poland is in talks with Ukraine regarding the temporary closure of the border for trade

  • Belgium allocates funds for Ukraine's shells

  • Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte signed a Dutch-Ukrainian long-term security agreement in Kharkiv

  • Japan has introduced new sanctions against Russia

  • Canada has banned indirect imports of Russian diamonds

  • Germany plans to join Czech Republic in purchasing artillery ammunition for Ukraine

Threat Mapping Updates

Mapping Analysis

As the transition from February to March 2024 unfolds, the Russians persist in their offensive along multiple contact points on the front line, making limited advances. One of the focuses is on the area around the recently captured Avdiivka. According to ISW, they are attempting to exploit tactical opportunities that have emerged since the capture of the city. Specifically, the Russians are trying to achieve this by maintaining a relatively high rate of offensive operations aimed at advancing as far as possible in the Avdiivka area before Ukrainian troops establish a more formidable defensive line that is harder to penetrate. In this regard, Russian forces have escalated their assaults by deploying larger groups such as platoons and even companies instead of squads. They are focusing on advancing to the west and northeast of the city, targeting locations such as Berdychi, Orlivka, Semenivka, Krasnohorivka, and Tonenke. Ukrainian military officials have observed that although the tactics and nature of the Russian actions have evolved, the overall strategy remains consistent. The attacks are carried out by a large number of infantry, supported by aviation, artillery, and equipment. Another focus of the Russian Army is Chasiv Yar, where they are amassing forces and making the "most powerful advances" in Donetsk Oblast. Ukrainians believe that the Russians consider Chasiv Yar critical to continuing the offensive on Konstantynivka and the Kramatorsk-Sloviansk agglomeration. Heightened concentration of ground attacks has also been noticed in the south-eastern Zaporizhzhia region, where Russian troops are focusing on retaking Verbove and Robotyne. In the Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna sectors, the Russians have maintained their military presence in border areas with the aim of conducting subversive activities to prevent the deployment of Ukrainian troops to dangerous sectors. In addition to ground attacks, they have also continued their shelling campaigns on Ukrainian territories and settlements. Over 140 locations in the Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, and Mykolaiv regions have been subjected to artillery fire in the last 7 days. Moreover, following the Ukrainian strike on St. Petersburg on March 2nd, the Russians responded with a deadly drone attack on Odesa. This tragic incident resulted in the loss of life of at least 13 people, including a 4-month-old baby and a 3-year-old child.

Several experts have suggested that Russian forces may seize settlements to the west and northwest of Avdiivka in the coming weeks. However, over the past 7 days, Ukrainian defenders not only repelled the Russian attack in the area but also successfully expelled enemy troops from the outskirts of Orlivka, located less than 2 kilometers northwest of Lastochkyne, which was recently occupied by Russian forces. While the Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief acknowledged that some miscalculations were made by individual commanders in assessing the situation in the area, he noted that these have now been rectified. Additionally, he pointed out that Ukrainian defenders are actively constructing strong defensive lines around Chasiv Yar, complete with minefields (both anti-tank and anti-personnel), embankments, and anti-tank shafts to impede the progress of the Russian army's heavy vehicles. Furthermore, as they strengthen their defenses, they continue to inflict heavy losses on the enemy. On March 2nd alone, Ukrainian aircraft struck 13 areas where enemy troops were stationed. Their rocket forces targeted a concentration of Russian military hardware, destroying three artillery pieces, three command posts, and three ammunition depots. Ukrainian air defenses have been particularly effective. In the last two weeks, they successfully downed 13 Russian military aircraft. This includes 10 Su-34 fighter bombers, 2 Su-35 fighter jets, and one rare A-50 aircraft. Reportedly, the last three Su-34s were destroyed in a single day on February 29 over eastern Ukraine. It was also reported on March 3 that an additional two Su-34s and one more Su-35 were shot down. According to various estimates, since the invasion began, Russia has lost approximately 670 aircraft units, including 345 planes and 325 helicopters. Attacks on Russia's rear have also continued over the past seven days. On March 1st, Ukrainians conducted a drone attack on Russia's Belgorod, damaging a Pantsir-S1 missile system. The following day, they targeted St. Petersburg. As stated by the Ukrainian President himself, Kyiv's strategic goal in 2024 will be to “make Russia's war felt in Moscow”. Ukrainians have also attacked Crimea, destroying an oil pipeline in Feodosiia on the night of March 2-3 and a large patrol ship, Sergey Kotov, a day later, using a high-tech sea drone called Magura V5. Various sources suggest that in the coming weeks, they will concentrate their efforts on targeting the Kerch Bridge, which connects the annexed Crimean Peninsula to mainland Russia.

Priority Updates

  • Moscow will consider Transnistria's appeal for 'protection'

    According to a report by the Russian state-controlled media RBC, Russia's Foreign Ministry stated that Moscow would "consider with attention" the appeal for "protection" from authorities in the Moscow-controlled Moldovan region of Transnistria. The statement followed Transnistria's request for assistance to end an "economic blockade" by Moldova during the Congress of Deputies. Congress passed a declaration urging Moscow to take action to protect Transnistria in response to increasing pressure from Moldova. Russia's Foreign Ministry stated that the protection of the residents of Transnistria is one of its priorities, as reported by RBC.

  • Germany could deploy troops in Lithuania in 2027

    As NATO allies continue to reject calls to send ground troops into Ukraine, approximately 5, 000 German soldiers are getting ready to relocate to Lithuania in 2027. This historic move marks the first permanent deployment of German troops since the Second World War. Germany plans to deploy two combat battalions to support Lithuania in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago. The reinforcement of Lithuania is a top priority due to growing concerns about a potential attack from Moscow, given the proximity of Russia's Kaliningrad enclave and its ally Belarus to Lithuania. The permanent deployment of German troops will be only 100 km away from the border of Russia. NATO hopes that stationing its troops will protect Lithuania, as they predict that Russia could attack a 60 km stretch of land on the Polish-Lithuanian border known as the 'Suwalki Gap' if the conflict escalates.

  • Germany will conduct an investigation after a leaked recording emerged of secret army talks on Ukraine

    Germany has announced that it will investigate a leaked recording of a conversation among several high-ranking German officers discussing the country's Ukraine war strategy. Talks between Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz and three senior Luftwaffe officers were intercepted by Russia. The officers were using standard off-the-shelf Webex video conference software on an office line for top-secret military planning. In a conversation posted online by the head of Russia’s state-backed RT channel, the head of the German air force discussed highly sensitive military secrets. This included the involvement of British personnel "on the ground," who could potentially assist Germany in deploying cruise missiles to Ukraine, specifically German Taurus cruise missiles. A spokesperson from the German Defense Ministry confirmed to CNN that the recording was authentic. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz believes that Britain and other NATO allies will be dismayed by this security breach, describing it as "very serious." He also stated that the incident will now be investigated "very carefully, very intensively, and very quickly."

  • Mandatory evacuation has been announced for 18 additional villages in Kharkiv Oblast

    In August 2023, authorities began the mandatory evacuation of families with children from 37 settlements in the Kupiansk district of Kharkiv Oblast due to the escalating Russian attacks. Currently, 161 children are residing in these areas, facing daily risks as the Russians deploy artillery, UAVs, mortars, and aircraft. Additionally, there are 1, 082 children living in the 57 settlements of the Velykyi Burluk, Vilkhuvatka, Kindrashivka, and Kurylivka hromadas. Reportedly, a total of 28, 329 people have moved to safer areas, including 869 children. The head of the Kharkiv Oblast Military Administration emphasized that the military administration, volunteers, and international organizations are providing aid, guidance, accommodation, and other forms of assistance.

  • The Netherlands, Estonia, Lithuania, and Canada are considering sending military support to Ukraine

    High-ranking officials in the Netherlands, Estonia, and Lithuania are considering deploying their military to Ukraine. According to various sources, these officials emphasize that such considerations are related to supporting personnel who will provide training, assist in setting up processes, and perform other tasks without engaging in combat. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas mentioned that all options are being considered to assist Ukraine in defeating Russia. Kestutis Budris, Chief National Security Advisor to the President of Lithuania, noted that his country is contemplating sending instructors to Ukraine, with a focus on providing weapons and ammunition support. The Dutch Minister of Defense emphasized that any deployment of Western troops to Ukraine should be part of a coalition effort. Canada is also considering this option under the condition that Canadian Armed Forces personnel are not in close proximity to a combat theater, but are solely present to provide training to the Ukrainian military. As previously reported, French President Emmanuel Macron was the first to mention the possibility of sending French military forces to Ukraine.

  • Polish trucks transport Russian agricultural products from Belarus to Poland

    According to undisclosed sources of Ukrainska Pravda, Polish trucks are transporting Russian agricultural goods to Poland from Belarus. Reportedly, Russian products are first sent to Belarus, where they are loaded onto Polish-registered trucks for transportation to Poland. The volume of these shipments is increasing, as highlighted in the report dated February 29th. Additionally, the report mentions that the three major Polish companies purchasing Russian agricultural products are Bromex, Diaspolis, and Kampol. This news comes amidst widespread protests in Poland against agricultural imports from Ukraine, a country currently experiencing a full-scale Russian invasion supported by Belarus. While agricultural trade with Russia or Belarus is not prohibited or sanctioned in the EU, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk recently stated that Warsaw would consider banning food imports from Russia, following Latvia's example.

Political Developments

  • Poland is in talks with Ukraine regarding the temporary closure of the border for trade

    Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has announced that Poland is in discussions with Ukraine regarding the potential temporary closure of their shared border for trade. He emphasized that this measure would be challenging for both nations. The statement comes as tensions between the two countries continue to rise. In response to Ukrainian agricultural imports and the EU's Green Deal, Polish farmers have been staging protests in various locations, including at the border with Ukraine.

  • Belgium allocates funds for Ukraine's shells

    During a conference held on February 28, 2024, Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder announced that her country would join a coalition to purchase artillery shells discovered by the Czech Republic in an undisclosed country. This financial package, worth €200 million, will enable Ukraine to receive approximately 50, 000 artillery shells. The procurement will be coordinated by the Czech Republic and funded by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, and Denmark. The announcement of the new financial assistance package followed a visit to Kyiv by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

  • Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte signed a Dutch-Ukrainian long-term security agreement in Kharkiv

    President Volodymyr Zelensky and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte signed a 10-year agreement on security cooperation between Ukraine and the Netherlands in Kharkiv. Zelensky announced this on March 1. The agreement involves 2 billion euros in military aid from the Netherlands for this year, as well as further defense support over the next decade. It focuses on enhancing Ukraine's air force, along with providing air defense, artillery, sea, and long-range capabilities. The Netherlands joins the U. K., Germany, France, Denmark, Italy, and Canada in signing similar deals to assist Ukraine in repelling Russia's aggression, based on a pledge made by the Group of Seven (G7) last July.

  • Japan has introduced new sanctions against Russia

    The Japanese government has implemented a new set of sanctions against Russia in response to its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The updated list comprises 12 individuals and 36 organizations. This information was reported on the Japanese government website on February 29th.

  • Canada has banned indirect imports of Russian diamonds

    On March 1st, Canada announced restrictions on the indirect imports of Russian diamonds weighing 1 carat and above, in coordination with other Group of Seven (G7) countries. This new restriction complements the ban on Russian diamonds announced in December and aims to provide Canadians with additional assurance that the diamonds they purchase do not support Russia's illegal war. This statement was made by the Canadian foreign ministry.

  • Germany plans to join Czech Republic in purchasing artillery ammunition for Ukraine

    Germany has reportedly announced its intention to participate in the purchase of artillery ammunition for Ukraine, a project led by the Czech Republic. The German Ministry of Defense allegedly informed ARD that Germany wishes to provide financial support, covering a "significant portion" of the total costs associated with the initiative.

Analysis of Priority & Political Updates

The global show of support for Ukraine has significant political ramifications on both regional and international levels. The backing from various nations underscores the complexity of the conflict and its implications for global security dynamics. As countries vocally condemn Russia's actions and express solidarity with Ukraine, diplomatic tensions rise, potentially leading to shifts in alliances and geopolitical strategies.

The United States and its NATO allies have been particularly vocal in their support for Ukraine, signaling a unified stance against Russian aggression and a commitment to upholding international norms and territorial integrity. This collective stance amplifies diplomatic pressure on Russia, potentially leading to sanctions and other punitive measures.

Furthermore, the global support for Ukraine underscores the importance of international law and norms in addressing conflicts and maintaining a rules-based international order. It serves as a reminder that actions violating sovereignty and territorial integrity are met with widespread condemnation and potential consequences, thus influencing the calculus of nations engaged in such activities.

The political impact of global support for Ukraine extends beyond the immediate conflict, potentially affecting broader diplomatic relations and regional stability. The unity of nations in support of Ukraine could embolden other nations to rally against aggression and assert their interests through international cooperation. However, it also raises the stakes of the conflict, increasing the potential for escalation and necessitating careful diplomatic navigation to prevent a wider crisis.

Conflict Zone Updates

As air and ground battles unfold, the development of military technology and weaponry remains a constant aspect of this war. 

Given the losses Russia has suffered in recent weeks, there is a renewed focus on rebuilding and advancing aircraft units. In this regard, Moscow is planning to resume the production of A-50 reconnaissance aircraft. According to Sergey Chemezov, the head of Rostec Corporation, "This aircraft is essential. We will definitely proceed with it. It is not only necessary for our military but also holds potential for export." In the meantime, the Russian Air Force has reportedly started using their latest Su-57 fighter jets in recent combat operations, targeting Ukrainian military positions in the east of Ukraine. According to various sources, the Su-57, escorted by two Su-35 jets, recently launched a missile strike on Ukrainian targets. The sources also suggest that the aircraft utilized the advanced Kh-69 stealthy cruise missile, specifically designed for the Su-57 platform. In addition to their air capabilities, the Russians are continuing to develop MLRS rocket systems as well. In late February, the Russian military showcased the latest multi-caliber multiple-launch Vozrozhdeniye rocket system for the first time. The distinctive feature of the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) is its revolutionary modular charging system, an innovative concept that is paving the way for a new era in military technology for Russia. This cutting-edge approach involves utilizing pre-made launch containers equipped with rockets, ensuring swift and efficient deployment during combat scenarios. The design allows for the use of various types of ammunition on the same platform. Furthermore, the MLRS features two types of containers: a 25-tube variant with rockets of 140mm caliber and an 8-tube variant with rockets of 220 mm caliber. It is important to note that using ready-made containers can accelerate the reloading process, eliminating the need to install rockets in tubes alternately, as was done in Soviet systems. According to Sergey Chemezov, the new rocket artillery system should further develop the Russian Zemledeliye engineering system of remote minelaying, which has demonstrated the advantages of using modular charging.

On the other hand, in addition to enhancing their air defense capabilities, as demonstrated by a series of successful downings of Russian aircraft, Ukrainians have recently been more focused on advancing drone technology, bombs, and armored vehicles. For instance, on March 1st, the Ukrainian defense company Inguar unveiled its latest development in armored vehicles, the Inguar-3. One of the main features of the Inguar-3 is its capability to maintain operational readiness even in the event of tire damage from bullet punctures or debris. The vehicle's combined armor meets the Stanag 4569 Level 3a/3b protection standards and includes extra shielding for the engine compartment to guard against fragmentation. By using armor steel and aluminum components in its armored shell, the Inguar-3 achieves optimal protection without adding excessive weight. In addition to being equipped with side-view cameras and night vision capabilities, the vehicle also includes an electronic warfare module, an automatic fire suppression system with optical sensors, a chemical filtration air system, an autonomous cabin heater, air conditioning, and a 12-ton winch. In addition to developing armored vehicles, the Ukrainian Army is also enhancing its bomb capabilities and has recently begun using JDAM bombs on the battlefield. The main feature of this technology is that it converts conventional unguided bombs into all-weather precision-guided munitions. More precisely, its kit includes an inertial navigation system and GPS receiver to improve accuracy. Additionally, small wings are attached to the middle of the bomb, along with a tail unit that features aerodynamic control surfaces. This setup allows the bomb to adjust its course during flight towards the target. The unit houses navigation and other equipment, and the range capacity of the ER (Extended Range) version is 72. 4 kilometers. After being released from the aircraft, the JDAM autonomously follows the predetermined coordinates of the target. The use of this weaponry was first observed last week when Ukrainian defenders bombed Russian positions at the Avdiivka Coke Plant. It should also be mentioned that in addition to upgrading their weaponry, Ukrainians are continuing to carry out cyber attacks targeting Russia's strategic infrastructure. On March 4, the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) reported that its cyber specialists had gained access to the servers of the Russian Defense Ministry and obtained a significant amount of data regarding the Russian military leadership, orders, reports, and directives in one of the latest attacks. The information retrieved includes various documents circulated among over 2, 000 structural units of the Russian Defense Ministry. DIU stated that this information enables it to establish the complete structure of the Russian Defense Ministry and its branches.

Considering the significance of continuous advancements in military technology and cyber capabilities in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, it is reasonable to expect that further developments will continue on both sides.

Air Raid Frequency Updates

In the field, having accurate and up-to-date information about air raid alerts is crucial for the safety and efficiency of personnel. Understanding the frequency, duration, and location of these alerts provides valuable insight that can significantly impact decision-making on the ground. Armed with this knowledge, personnel can plan their movements more strategically, avoiding high-risk areas during times of increased alert activity. With the help of this vital information, they can ensure safer operations while maximizing their resources effectively. 

By analyzing the available information from February 29 to March 6, several key points can be observed:

  • In contrast to the previous week, when the highest peak of air raid alerts occurred at 12 AM, this week witnessed the highest peak at 7 PM.

  • Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that the majority of Air Raid Alerts typically lasted less than 30 minutes, with a total of 139 occurrences. It was rare to encounter Air Raid Alerts that lasted more than 3 hours, which only occurred 7 times.

  • Moreover, there has been a slight shift in the pattern of eventful days for Air Raid Alerts compared to the previous period. In the previous reporting period, Monday had the highest frequency of Air Raid Alerts. However, recent data from the past week reveals a noticeable change. Tuesday became the most eventful day, with 61 occurrences, closely followed by Wednesday and Friday with 52 and 50, respectively. In contrast, Saturday had the lowest frequency, with only 30 reported Air Raid Alerts.

  • Finally, it was discovered that the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions had the highest concentration of air raid alerts, totaling 50 occurrences each. In contrast, the Ternopil and Khmelnytskyi regions had a minimal number of air raid alerts, with only 1 occurrence recorded in each.

Analysis of Conflict Development

Recent updates in the Ukraine conflict suggest potential shifts in tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP), which could have far-reaching implications for the conflict's trajectory in the near future. Reports indicate a notable increase in hybrid warfare tactics, including cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns targeting both military and civilian infrastructure. This suggests an evolving strategy to undermine Ukraine's stability beyond traditional battlefield engagements.

Leadership changes have also emerged as a significant development. New announcements indicate a reshuffling of top military personnel, potentially signifying adjustments in strategic direction. Such changes may lead to alterations in operational tactics and coordination among different units. Furthermore, the influx of foreign fighters, equipment, and military advisors on both sides has the potential to introduce novel combat techniques, potentially escalating the conflict's intensity.

In terms of equipment and infrastructure developments, recent reports suggest the deployment of advanced weapon systems, including long-range artillery and anti-ship missiles, which could alter the dynamics of engagements and complicate defensive strategies. Additionally, developments in electronic warfare capabilities have the potential to disrupt communication and surveillance systems, further shaping the battlespace.

In the coming weeks and months, the conflict's course could be influenced by these developments. A mix of traditional and hybrid tactics might lead to an increasingly complex battlefield, with information warfare playing a more prominent role. Leadership changes could either introduce more aggressive approaches or open doors to diplomatic solutions. As both sides incorporate advanced weaponry and tactics, the potential for more intense and unpredictable confrontations could reshape the conflict's trajectory.

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