The disinformation war continues following the attack on the Saky air base in Crimea. “Russia has intensified its information operations by spreading rumors in an effort to create friction between Ukrainian military and political officials.”
Ukrainian and Russian occupation authorities accused each other of shelling the ZNPP on August 11. Ukraine’s nuclear operating enterprise Energoatom reported that Russian shelling damaged the area of the commandant’s office, storage of radiation sources, and the nearby fire station. The fire station is approximately 5km east of the ZNPP. The Ukrainian Strategic Communications Center stated that Russian forces are deliberately staging provocations at the ZNPP and are carrying out dangerous experiments involving power lines to blame Ukrainian forces at the United Nations (UN) Security Council. Russian-appointed Zaporizhia Oblast Occupation Administration Head Yevgeniy Balitsky claimed that Ukrainian shelling damaged the ”Kakhovskaya” high-voltage power line, resulting in a fire and a large cloud of smoke seen on social media footage from the city.
Russian officials have previously accused Ukraine of striking positions of crucial significance to Ukrainians – such as the falsely-claimed HIMARS strike on the Olenivka colony in occupied Donetsk Oblast. A CNN investigation concluded that “there is almost no chance that a HIMARS rocket caused the damage to the warehouse where the prisoners were being held.” Russians may be continuing a similar narrative around the ZNPP to discourage further Western support to Ukraine. ISW cannot independently verify the party responsible for the shelling of the ZNPP.
Russia’s 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (64th SGMRB) of the 35th Combined Arms Army (CAA) has likely been destroyed in combat, possibly as part of an intentional Kremlin effort to conceal the war crimes it committed in Kyiv Oblast. Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFEFL) investigative journalist Mark Krutov conducted an investigation into the brigade following its participation in atrocities in Bucha and concluded that after heavy fighting on the Izyum and Slovyansk axes, the brigade has largely ceased to exist. Krutov stated that out of 1,500 soldiers who were in the brigade before the war, 200 to 300 were likely killed. Krutov quoted CNA Russia Studies director Michael Kofman’s estimates that the typical ratio for those killed to those wounded in action is around 1 to 3.5, which would mean that the 64th SGMRB suffered up to 700 to 1,000 wounded in action. It is typical for Russian units that are so severely degraded during combat to be disbanded and survivors reallocated into other combat elements, but Krutov noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot disband the 64th SGMRB without embarrassment. Putin had awarded the brigade the honorary ”guards” designation on April 18, following the emergence of evidence that it had committed war crimes in Bucha. The brigade was rushed back into combat in eastern Ukraine after it had completed its withdrawal from around Moscow without much time to rest, refit, receive replacements, or recover. Speculation at the time ran that the Kremlin was eager to have the brigade destroyed in combat to avoid revelation of its war crimes.
Ukrainian intelligence warned that the Kremlin is setting conditions to launch an informational attack on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an effort to discredit him. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that the Russian Presidential Administration approved the creation of a new informational task force within the Russian special services responsible for establishing the fake “Zelensky Foundation.” The foundation will feature an unspecified falsified proposal targeting foreign aid organizations and will operate as a ”multi-level marketing” scheme likely focusing on recruitment in European countries. The GUR noted that the main concept behind the foundation is to distribute misinformation in the European media sphere. The GUR noted that as of August 10, Russian special services had created a site for the foundation, prepared social media fake screenshots and comments, and established a network of bloggers to promote the foundation. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar echoed similar concerns that Russia has intensified its information operations by spreading rumors in an effort to create friction between Ukrainian military and political officials.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has told officials to stop talking to reporters about Kyiv’s military tactics against Russia, saying such remarks were “frankly irresponsible”. The president’s comments come after news organisations cited unidentified officials saying Ukrainian forces were responsible for blasts that destroyed a Russian air base in Crimea on Tuesday, despite Kyiv declining to say whether it was behind the explosions.
The devastation at the Russian air base in Crimea suggests Kyiv may have obtained new long-range strike capability with potential to change the course of the war. The base is well beyond the range of advanced rockets that western countries acknowledge sending to Ukraine so far, with some western military experts saying the scale of the damage and the apparent precision of the strike suggested a powerful new capability with potentially important implications.
The UN has urged a demilitarised zone around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant as Russia and Ukraine trade accusations over more shelling of the plant on Thursday. Ukraine’s nuclear energy company said it had been shelled five times by Russian forces on Thursday, resulting in staff being unable to change shifts. However, Russian news agency Tass reported that the local Russian-imposed authorities in occupied Zaporizhzhia said the plant had been fired upon by Ukrainian forces. Ukraine’s Energoatom agency said the plant was operating normally.
The United States supports calls for a demilitarised zone around the Zaporizhzhia plant after fighting involving Russian and Ukrainian forces in the vicinity of the plant, a State Department spokesperson said on Thursday. “Fighting near a nuclear plant is dangerous and irresponsible and we continue to call on Russia to cease all military operations at or near Ukrainian nuclear facilities and return full control to Ukraine, and support Ukrainian calls for a demilitarised zone around the nuclear power plant,” the spokesperson said.
The British defence secretary has said Vladimir Putin is now unlikely to succeed in occupying Ukraine. Ben Wallace said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “faltered” and was “starting to fail”, as he pledged more financial and military support to the eastern European nation’s defence.
Russia has doubled the number of air strikes on Ukraine’s military positions and civilian infrastructure compared with the previous week, Ukrainian Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov said on Thursday. “The enemy’s planes and helicopters avoid flying into the range of our air defences, and therefore the accuracy of these strikes is low,” he told a news conference.
Ukraine aims to evacuate two thirds of residents from areas it controls in the eastern battleground region of Donetsk before winter, partly out of concern people won’t be able to stay warm amid war-damaged infrastructure, the deputy prime minister said on Thursday. The government plans to evacuate some 220,000 people out of around 350,000, including 52,000 children, Iryna Vereshchuk told a news conference.
Ukraine said earlier this month that it had received another delivery of high-precision heavy weapons from Germany and the United States.
Moscow, which has accused the West of dragging out the conflict by giving Ukraine more arms, says it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine aimed at safeguarding Russia’s security against NATO expansion.
Ukraine and its allies accuse Russia of launching an imperial-style war of aggression.
Aid to boost weapons production
The money pledged by the 26 countries will be used to supply existing weapons, missiles and ammunition, increase weapons production for Ukraine, train Ukrainian soldiers, and de-mine war-torn areas in Ukraine.
“We will continue to assist Ukraine in its military needs,” Bodskov told journalists at the end of the conference that brought together European defence ministers to discuss long-term support for the country’s defence against Russia’s invasion.
Defence ministers of Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic signalled willingness to expand productions of artillery systems, munitions, and other military equipments to Ukraine, Bodskov said.
The United Kingdom, which has already donated advanced weapons systems to Ukraine and given thousands of its troops military training, on Thursday pledged an additional 300 million euros ($309 million), including multiple-launch rocket systems and precision-guided M31A1 missiles that can hit targets up to 80km (50 miles) away.
So why was 2014 so concerning to Russia that it chose to invade? Given Putin’s rhetoric about Euromaidan as a Western-backed plot, the most obvious conclusion is that he was afraid that regime change and democratization in Ukraine might reach – – or at least set an example for — Russian society and destabilize Putin’s increasingly consolidated authoritarianism. Research on the color revolutions and on the third wave of democratization in the region shows that this neighborhood effect was real. In other words, it’s not NATO at its doorsteps that’s so concerning to the Kremlin, but political competition, because it threatens authoritarian stability and introduces prospects of democratization.