Attacks, Information Campaigns, and Internal Adjustment

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Attacks, Information Campaigns, and Internal Adjustment

From July 15th through July 21st, the Joint Forces Operation in eastern Ukraine recorded 45 Russian ceasefire violations ranging from shelling and mining to unmanned flyovers of unoccupied territory. OSCE observers reported more than 700 individual incidents over the weekend alone, 608 in Donetsk Oblast and 133 in Luhansk Oblast. Militants also used targeted laser beams to block OSCE aerial surveillance. However, nearly every day, an unmanned enemy Orlan-10 aircraft crossed the line of contact to surveil the unoccupied northern region of the Luhansk Oblast.

Direct attacks and shelling led to the injury of six Ukrainian servicemembers, and a seventh was wounded in a landmine blast. One of the defenders, 29-year-old Kryvyi Rih serviceman Oleksandr Horbenko, suffered burns to 80% of his body in a July 15thshelling and passed away four days later in a Kharkiv hospital. The other injured servicemembers remain in stable condition. So far, more than 40,000 people have suffered injury (including 13,300 deaths) in the Russian war in Donbas. Civilians account for 25-26% of the overall injuries and death toll.

As the summer progresses, Russia continues to take an increasingly aggressive posture: Donbas occupiers currently conduct intensified mortar and artillery unit trainings, armed with covertly placed Russian 122-mm howitzers and self-propelled artillery units; Russia holds a significant number of sniper units notably close to the lines of conflict; Twenty one thousand Russian troops have recently moved into Crimea under the pretext of mitigating the effects of flooding; Russia flouts its developing—and potentially destabilizing—technologies, including its Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile and Prometheus missile system. Meanwhile, the Kremlin refuses to end RosTV calls for seizure of new territories in Ukraine in the wake of Putin’s recent “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” Press Secretary Peskov claims “no one officially questions the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” but that experts are free to discuss the article and Ukraine as they wish.

Ukraine plays a defensive role against ongoing misinformation campaigns. Pro-Russian politician and oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk—currently suspected of high treason against Ukraine—penned an article for French media group EuTalk, placing blame for stalled peace negotiations on Ukrainian globalists, manipulative “external forces,” and a lack of Ukrainian compliance with the Minsk Agreements. Russian politician Alexey Chesnakov and several anonymous Telegram channels work to discredit Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba by placing him at odds with the current administration due to ungrounded claims of “presidential ambitions.” Pro-Russian blogger Anatoly Shariy described his experience under investigation for subversive activities to Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, portraying himself as a dissenter persecuted by the Security Service of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Armed Forces Air Force faces severe personnel shortages due to several waves of mass resignations. Over the past two years, 140 pilots have resigned, and about 40 more are planned to do so this year. Ministry of Defense officials attribute this trend to internal wage competition and excessive time spent on paperwork. The average pilot spends only about 40-50 hours in the air each year, far below the 180-hour minimum threshold set by NATO regulations.

However, Ukraine’s defensive systems have recently made—and continue to make—several great strides. The Ukrainian Navy recently acquired the first of many Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones, characterized by long flight durations, quick turning, and enhanced surveillance technology. Ukrainian UkrOboronProm returned to the list of the world’s top hundred arms manufacturers (closing 2020 with a total revenue of $650 million). In addition, recent legislation provides for increasing the size of the Armed Forces of Ukraine as well as for devolution of the security effort from the armed forces to the nation as a whole.