War for Ukraine Update 37: The Ukrainian Air Force Has a Few Important Things It Would Like To Share

Let’s start tonight with President Zelenskyy’s video address he made earlier this evening in Kyiv. It has English subtitles.

The Ukrainian Air Force would like your attention for a few minutes. @KpsZSU is the twitter account name for the Ukrainian Air Force, so when you see @KpsZSU in the copied and pasted tweets read it as Ukrainian Air Force.

  • As we defend our country against Russian aggression, information is one of the most powerful weapons at our disposal. We ask journalists from all nations to take care to avoid supporting the Russian army by spreading inaccurate information. (2/16)
  • Myth: Ukraine’s successes on the ground will win the war. Truth: Air superiority is the deciding factor in this war. Air superiority has played a key role in all wars since WWII. (3/16)
  • Dominance in the air allows a combatant to quickly and effectively attack the enemy’s ground troops, supply chains, and other essential military objects. Air superiority also provides powerful protection for one’s own ground and naval forces. (4/16)
  • Myth: Ukraine’s air force is equipped to effectively defend the country against Russia. Truth: Russia’s air force is many times larger than Ukraine’s and has access to more advanced radar and missile technologies. (5/16)
  • Ukraine’s air force cannot close the sky over Ukraine or gain air superiority due to a large discrepancy in equipment and technologies. (6/16)
  • Due to this major imbalance between the Russians and Ukrainian air forces, @KpsZSU has been urgently requesting more modern fighter jets and air defense tools from its allies since the outset of the war. (7/16)
  • Over the past month, our air force has sustained losses; as equipment is destroyed by Russian forces or damaged in action, our need only grows more urgent. (8/16)
  • Myth: Stingers will make up for the @KpsZSU equipment shortfalls. Truth: Successful defense against Russian threats in the air (including cruise missiles, among others) requires fighter jets as well as medium- and long-range surface-based air defense systems. (9/16)
  • Stingers have a limited range and functionality; cannot compensate for a lack of modern fighter jets and medium- and long-range missile defense systems. Kamikaze drones are designed to destroy targets on the ground and also cannot defend against Russian aircraft and missiles. (10/16)
  • Myth: The US and @NATO are providing #Ukraine with needed weapons. Allies are doing everything possible, short of direct involvement in the war. Truth: To date, our allies have not answered our call for air defense support (fighter jets and SAM). (11/16)
  • We have not received the tools we need to defend our sky and achieve victory. In the sky, the greatest need is for fighter jets – F-15s and F-16s of the fourth generation or higher would be sufficient; Ukrainian pilots can learn to fly these with just 2-3 weeks of training. (12/16)
  • Unlike Soviet-era MiG-29s, these jets are equipped with the advanced technologies used by the enemy, including advanced radars and modern missiles. On the ground, air defense systems can prevent airstrikes and missile strikes. (13/16)
  • Russia has fired well over 1,000 ballistic and cruise missiles and dropped hundreds of tons of unguided bombs over the cities and towns of Ukraine. Most could have been intercepted if Ukrainian territory were covered by the required number of efficient air defense systems. (14/16)
  • Ukraine currently operates long-range S-300 (SA-10) missile systems and medium-range BUK-M1 missile systems. However, these are outdated, Soviet-era systems that are no match for Russian systems, such as the S-400 and others. (15/16)
  • To effectively protect Ukraine, the optimal solution would be Patriot systems from the United States or the cheaper, more mobile NASAMS systems from Norway. In addition, Ukraine could also use more Soviet-era S-300 and BUK-M1 systems, which are also currently effective against the enemy. (16/16)

To me the most interesting part of this thread is tweet #12, which states that Ukrainian pilots could get up to speed on F-15s and F-16s with only two or three weeks of training.

Much more after the jump.

As we’ve been discussing for several days now, the Ukrainian negotiating position that they would need the US, the UK, France, Germany, and Turkey to establish binding guarantees of Ukraine’s security were a non-starter. Yesterday I noted that Britain rejected the idea and Germany said something in diplospeak that sounded nice, but clearly wasn’t a yes. What I missed because I hadn’t seen it reported anywhere was that the US has also rejected the idea. That announcement came at yesterday’s White House press briefing.

Q Thank you, Kate. Earlier today, Germany said it is willing to act as a security guarantor for Ukraine as part of the peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. Is the U.S. willing to become a guarantor of Ukraine’s security or considering that option?

MS. BEDINGFIELD: So we are in constant discussion with Ukrainians about ways that we can help ensure that they are sovereign and secure. But there’s nothing specific about a security guarantee that I can speak to at this time.

My assessment is still that President Zelenskyy and his team know that the Russians are not negotiating in good faith. That the Russian demands are unreasonable and can and will shift on a dime. That it is a stalling tactic as Russia is weaponizing its diplomatic power to look like it is doing the right thing. As a result, the Ukrainians are going along to also look like they’re doing the right thing, but that nothing they’re proposing is really serious because they know it would be unacceptable to actual Ukrainians, the Russians will never agree to it, and/or it makes no actual strategic sense.

Here’s today’s British Ministry of Defense’s assessment:

Here’s the DOD’s background briefing for today:

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, good morning, everybody. We’ll get started.

Not a whole lot of updates today from yesterday. Day 36, we continue to observe some Russian forces begin to continue to observe them repositioning away from Kyiv, particularly from the north and northwest of Kyiv. I don’t have an update on quantity. We haven’t observed that much of a difference over the last 24 hours, so I’d still roughly leave it at about 20 percent or so. There hasn’t been and so it hasn’t been sort of, you know, wholesale movement, at least not at this point.

I would say that again, despite the rhetoric of de-escalations, we’re still observing artillery fire and airstrikes in and around Kyiv. They’re still fighting to the north of Kyiv. As these forces begin to repositioning, the Ukrainians are moving against them. Still fighting around Chernihiv, and again, we believe that the Ukrainians still have lines of communication there in Chernihiv.

Obviously, and again, you guys know this – while Russian forces haven’t made any major gains, there’s fighting that continues in southern and eastern Ukraine, and that includes Kharkiv, Mariupol and Mykolaiv. We do continue to observe some Russian forces inside Mariupol, but obviously, the Ukrainians are fighting very, very tough inside the city.

The airspace remains contested; again, no changes to that. We’ve observed now no big, major muscle-movement changes in the missile launches; still observe more than 1,400 as of today. There’s nothing new in the maritime environment to speak to.

On Mykolaiv, no really major change to the battlespace around Mykolaiv. We still assess that the Ukrainians are still fighting for Kherson and the degree to which the Russians are sort of positioned, it’s sort of in between Kherson and Mykolaiv.

We have seen the Russians continue to increase their number of sorties, aircraft sorties, in last 24 hours, up over 300. And their strikes are focused on Kyiv, Chernihiv, Izyum, which we’ve talked about before, to the south of Kharkiv, and then that joint force operation area, basically, the Donbas.

Those are sort of the four areas where they’re conducting most of their strikes. So again, for all the talk of de-escalation and moving away, Kyiv is still very much under threat from airstrikes.

And think I’ll leave it at that. Again, not a whole lot of change from yesterday.

Bob?

Q: Thank you. I actually was a little bit unclear on your use of the 20 percent number. Are you referring to, in other words, 20 percent of what? Are you talking about forces that include not just those to the north and northwest of Kyiv, but also the Chernihiv area? And you also mentioned Sumy yesterday. I’m wondering what the ,you know, sort of the geographic area that is 20 percent of what, kind of thing?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I was referring to the forces that they had arrayed against Kyiv specifically.

Q: Well, so do you consider that to include those in the northeast coming through Chernihiv?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, I was counting — I was just talking about Kyiv, because that was the big, that was the big muscle movement. That’s what the Russians announced, was they were going to leave Kyiv alone. You know, we’ve seen some minor movements in other, in other places to the…around the northern part of the country, but largely it’s — it’s around Kyiv that we’re starting to see this repositioning. And so the I said it was less than 20 percent, that it was a rough estimate. We don’t have a perfect count, and what I was referring to was the force that Putin had arrayed against Kyiv. I wasn’t counting other places because frankly, we just haven’t seen that much coming out of other place.

Q: Okay. The other quick question on the same topic was when you made your introductory remarks, you said that the Ukrainians are moving against them. Now, are you referring to those forces that are repositioning, or just in general in the north of Kyiv?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, I guess it’s a good question. It’s both, but what I was referring to was — was that they are attacking some of the repositioning forces, that they’re moving against them as they begin to reposition. But they have consistently been going on the offensive around Kyiv even before the Russians made decisions to start to reposition, even when they were just in defensive positions and sort of stalled and not moving forward, the Ukrainians were working against them. So it’s a little bit of both, but I was specifically referring to them pressing their attacks against some of these units that are repositioning.

Q: All right.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, Howard Altman?

Q: Thank you. A couple of questions. The Ukrainians say they’re concerned about Chernobyl’s a number of things. One is the presence of a great deal of ammunition there that they are concerned about that could accidentally explode, the presence of rocket systems there that could be used to attack from there. And then if the Russians withdraw, their concern about a Russian missile strike on the facility. Does the Pentagon share any of those concerns? And can you confirm the presence of (continued ?) presence of Russian troops and those rocket systems there?

And then my second question is, can you talk about the — the explosion at the Belgrade Russian facility – ammunition facility and whether that was a strike by Ukraine? Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: On the first question, you know, obviously, since the Russians moved into Chernobyl we said very clearly that we were concerned about their occupation of that defunct nuclear facility and our concerns over their lack of understanding or adherence to any kind of safety protocols. So that’s a long-standing concern.

I don’t have the level of detail you’re getting from the Ukrainians on rockets being left there, or how many Russians are there. We have seen them begin to reposition away from Chernobyl, but I couldn’t give you a nose count of how many are still there or what they might have left. So I can’t help you on that.

And on the Belgorad strike, the farthest I’m willing to go on that is, you know, we — we can’t — we can’t confirm exactly what happened there, what kind of munition was used or — or exactly from where it came. But we’re not in a position to refute the possibility that it could have come from the Ukrainian side. We just don’t have a whole lot more that we can say about it.

Tom Bowman?

Q: Yeah, any updates on Russian replacement troops heading in from Georgia, presumably to the Donbas?

And also, I was wondering if you can say anything more about Putin being misinformed or receiving little information from his generals?

Do you see him removing commanders, firing generals?

And also, it there a sense what the implications of this might be?

If he’s not getting the right information and maybe he’s suddenly realizing how bad things are, he could lash out even more. Is there any talk about that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, on your first question I don’t have any updates on reinforcements.

On the second question, we haven’t seen any tangible outcomes, based on our assessment, that Mr. Putin is being misinformed or is perhaps uninformed. So you know, no dots we can connect there that correlate to decisions that the Russians have made, or he has made, on the battlefield — other than — I mean, again, it doesn’t really answer the question, but, I mean, clearly, this repositioning that they’re doing around Kyiv and — and other places in the north, and this re-prioritization on the Donbas, clearly indicate that they know they have failed to take the capital city, that they know they have been under increased pressure elsewhere around the country. Because they are obviously making decisions to alter their goals and objectives.

Now, whether that itself is an outcome of Mr. Putin all of a sudden getting informed, we don’t know. So I can’t point to a specific decision point or a specific action that the Russians are taking and tell you that that’s evidence that, you know, Mr. Putin is now more informed than he was before.

And as I said — as the Pentagon briefer said yesterday, I mean, clearly, it’s cause for concern if he’s not being told the truth, if he’s not — if he’s being misinformed, I think, the gist of your question, because you don’t know how he’s going to react when he — when he does get fully informed. And you don’t know how that’s going to affect their legitimate, to the degree they could be legitimate, their negotiating tactics at the table.

So, yes, we’re concerned about the — the reports that he may not have the full information.

The rest of the Q&A at the link.

Here’s NATO Secretary General Jans Stoltenberg’s assessment:

Kharkiv:

Mariupol:

Irpin:

From Ukrayinska Pravda:

Roman Petrenko – Wednesday, 30 March 2022, 16:19

Oleksandr Markushyn, the Mayor of Irpin, has reported that up to 300 civilians and 50 military personnel have been killed in Irpin, according to preliminary information.

According to Markushyn: “They [the Russian troops] simply shot the people that they didn’t like.

I will say this – maybe some people won’t like this, but it is true. They crushed the bodies of Ukrainians who had been killed, just flattened them into the asphalt. It was frightening to watch…

Unfortunately, 16 guys from our territorial defence died, 29 have been hospitalised. As for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, up to 50 people were killed and nearly 100 wounded.”

Details: Markushyn said that it is still impossible to determine the exact number of civilians who have been killed and added that during the periods of heavy fighting, people were being buried in courtyards and parks. Markushyn believes that up to 300 civilians were killed.

The Mayor also said that the local residents who were hiding in basements [during the Russian occupation of Irpin] told him that not only were some of them stripped naked there, but also that there have been instances of [sexual] assault on women.

Markushyn also said that the occupying troops separated the men from the women for prisoner exchange.

Trostyanets:

This is a very interesting explanation with maps and diagrams of how one individual doing open source geospatial intelligence was able to map the Russian artillery targeting of Mariupol based on another open source having been able to record the unencrypted communications between the Russian commander calling for the fires and the artillerist entering the grid coordinates.

“For all targets: Moscow time is 14:00”

Unencrypted Russian military radio transmissions reveal an artillery strike in Mariupol

Over a month after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, billions of people around the world know of Vladimir Putin’s aggressive and bloodthirsty move against his country’s neighbor. What may have gone unnoticed, however, is the incredibly shoddy state of Russian equipment. In particular, their communication systems.

It’s no surprise that strong communications are necessary to fighting and winning a war. Calling in reinforcements, evacuating casualties, maneuvering units, and virtually anything else soldiers need to do rely heavily on secure, fast, and interconnected communications systems.

However, the corrupt and kleptocratic Russian military has robbed their soldiers of even the most basic radios, forcing junior officers to procure off-the-shelf civilian models for use in combat.

Problem is, unencrypted traffic on Russian military frequencies can be picked up and heard by regular people operating what’s known as SDRs — software defined radios. These allow users from all over the world to tune into essentially a website and listen to radio frequencies of all types, from the BBC to music to pirate radio stations to, as we’ll see today, Russian artillery units.

“In five minutes, be ready to work on all fronts” “Understood”

@xateond is one of the folks who has been listening to and translating Russian military frequencies since the start of the war1. On March 3, they noticed, transcribed, and posted to Twitter a conversation between two Russian soldiers, with call signs Volk and Consul.

Based on the exchange, Consul appears to be a high-ish ranking officer, with the authority to order artillery strikes across a wide front. Volk, on the other hand, is either a battery commander or an artillery spotter responsible for delegating and correcting fire.

Their conversation essentially consists of two parts. The first part — late at night on March 3 — is real time, with Consul ordering batteries to fire at unidentified targets and Volk reporting the results in real time. The second part is Consul’s meticulous orders for an enormous artillery barrage the next day. He tells all batteries to be ready to fire at “14:00 Moscow time” on March 4 with what appears to be the coordinates for at least 27 different targets2.

My curiosity piqued, I transcribed the 27 coordinate sets recorded by @xateond into a grid, with the coordinates rounded to the nearest whole number and placed in their correct positions on X and Y axes. So, for instance, the numbers in the tweet above would get a mark in the box at the intersection of 82 (on the X axis) and 37 (on the Y axis).

The coordinates (if that’s indeed what they are) have a loosely diagonal orientation, from the southwest to the northeast. To confirm my theory that these 27 numerical combinations were coordinates, I turned to an unusual source: old Soviet maps.

I noticed these Soviet maps had similar numbers running along their X and Y axes. I spoke with John Davies of sovietmaps.com, who confirmed that the axes numbers on these maps are “Gauss-Kruger values”, which show how far a point on a map is from the equator and a reference meridian.

One map of Mariupol, then called Zhdanov, caught my eye because the axis numbers in the grid above and the numbers in a section of the map seemed to match up particularly well.

Much, much, much more at the links. Including all the maps and diagrams and targeting tables! Make sure to stay around to see Omnes’s take in the comments.

The Russians are claiming to have destroyed all 36 of Ukraine’s bayraktar TB2 drones. This would be quite a feet as Ukraine only took possession of a dozen of them before the war started and they’re still waiting for the rest to arrive. We do have confirmation that a couple have been shot down, but not all 12 and certainly not an additional 24 that Ukraine never had.

Speaking of Russian disinformation and agitprop, Trump asked and Putin delivered. What he delivered is just complete bullshit, but he did deliver.

Unfortunately this will be catnip to the Fox News et al crowd! And because the political reporters in the US have decided that despite debunking the Hunter Biden laptop-harddrive story and explaining why there are too many holes in the various parts of the story and the chain of custody of the laptop and/or hard drive to have any confidence in any of the material, they’re going to keep pushing that story until it becomes 2022’s, 2023’s, and 2024’s her emails.

This Tynan guy gets it!

Speaking of Russian cyber operations, the Russians have completely infiltrated Hungary’s Foreign Ministry’s systems. Starting in August 2012. And they had access through January 2022, including access to classified NATO material.

On December 30, 2021, in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pinned the Order of Friendship on the suit of his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó. Although the medal was presented by Lavrov, it was Russian President Vladimir Putin himself who decided to award it. Not coincidentally, the medal, which is in the form of a wreath of olive branches encircling a globe, includes the inscription “Peace and Friendship” in Cyrillic on the back, is the highest Russian state decoration that can be awarded to a foreigner.

Péter Szijjártó knew long ago that Russia’s intelligence services had attacked and hacked into the IT systems of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFA), which he headed. By the second half of 2021, it had become clear that the Russians had completely compromised the foreign ministry’s computer network and internal correspondence. Furthermore, they had also hacked into the encrypted network used to transmit “restricted” and “confidential” state secrets and diplomatic information, which can only be used under strict security measures.

According to an internal document we obtained, the foreign ministry was still under targeted attacks in January 2022. Details of the Russian hacking of the foreign ministry’s communications channels were shared with us by former state officials, among others, who learned of the incident from officials with direct knowledge of it.

According to former intelligence officials, the cyber attack trail suggests that hacker groups working for Russian intelligence are clearly behind the operations against Hungary’s foreign ministry. These hackers work for the Federal Security Service, FSB, which was previously headed by Putin, and for the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU. According to our sources, these hacker groups have been well known to the Hungarian state authorities for a long time, as they have been continuously attacking Hungarian government networks for at least a decade. Russian attacks against Hungary are most often related to hacks against other NATO countries, and members of the Western alliance regularly cooperate and share information to identify these offensive cyber operations.

Hungarian diplomacy has become practically an open book for Moscow through the hacking of the ministry’s networks. Russians are able to know in advance what the Hungarian foreign ministry is thinking and planning, and this is happening at a very sensitive time. Russian infiltration remained active before and partly after the invasion of Ukraine, during the current EU and NATO crisis summits. Meanwhile, there is no sign that the Hungarian government has publicly protested to Russia about the cyberespionage.

Direkt36 uncovered the Russian intelligence operations against the Hungarian foreign ministry and the inadequacy of Hungarian counter-intelligence measures, going back at least a decade, with the help of foreign ministry documents and more than thirty background interviews. For example, we spoke to former Hungarian intelligence and security officers who had worked on Russian intelligence-related fields and had concrete information on many of the cases described in this article. Sources familiar with the internal affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade shared information about the ministry’s handling of the cyberattack.

Much, much, much more at the link!

We’ll finish with this!

Open thread!

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