Sunday, 23 June 2024 04:46

What to know after Day 850 of Russia-Ukraine war

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WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Has Russia just dropped a deadly new 3,000kg glide bomb in Ukraine?

The multistorey building stands alone just off a main road. The houses around it are completely destroyed, razed to the ground by relentless Russian shelling, and the dirt road is scarred by shrapnel. All that can be heard is the sound of a bomb being dropped, followed seconds later by a mighty explosion.

The bomb smashes into the ground 10 metres from the building, opening up a huge crater before a swelling fireball engulfs the entire three floors. When the smoke eventually dissipates, the footage shows the building’s whole roof has been ripped off.

This, Russian military bloggers are claiming, is the first test of a 3000kg glide bomb, otherwise known as the Fab-3000, a modified munition that is packed with nearly a tonne and a half of explosives. Earlier versions of these explosives, which are Soviet-era munitions retrofitted with fixed wings and GPS navigation systems that extend their range beyond the reach of Ukrainian anti-air defences, appeared earlier this year. These were the Fab-500s and the Fab-1500s.

This building is located on the eastern side of Lyptsi, a small village just behind the front line in the northeast Ukrainian region of Kharkiv.

Kharkiv has been under relentless ground and aerial assault since thousands of Vladimir Putin’s forces pushed over the border from Russia in mid-May. Having moved several miles towards the region’s namesake capital, home to around 1.3 million civilians, Ukraine’s forces have managed to halt the attack about two miles north of Lyptsi. It is about 20 miles from Kharkiv.

This alleged new model threatens to worsen an already dire situation facing not only Ukraine’s soldiers but the millions of civilians living within range of these glide bombs.

Since their introduction, they have killed hundreds, even perhaps thousands, of Ukrainians. Aid workers in Kharkiv city say the explosives have even rendered bomb shelters irrelevant.

“If a glide bomb hits then you’ve just got no hope,” says Ada Wordsworth, who runs a charity rebuilding homes in the wider Kharkiv region. “The destruction is so massive. It’s a weird kind of psychological torture [to face them].”

The footage posted by the Kremlin-approved Russian military blogger Fighter Bomber, believed to be in the Russian air force, purports to show a new version of the glide bombs that is twice as heavy as its predecessor, and twice as destructive.

“This is an excellent result even for a guided munition,” Fighter Bomber wrote alongside the video, before claiming that fragments of the bomb “retain their destructive power at a range of 1,240 metres”.

He added: “Here there is one bomb but you can throw 10 of them [at once].”

In March, footage showed Russia’s then defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, touring a weapons manufacturing plant located around 250 miles east of Moscow, where production of a new Fab-3000 M-54 was announced.

Ukrainian officials say they have noted the latest video, but that fragments of the weapon – which would be used to identify it – have not yet reached investigators. “All we can say for sure at the moment is that such objects have not yet been submitted to us for examination,” Natalia Nestor, deputy director of the Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise, the investigative arm of Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice said. She added that if confirmed, this would be the first piece of evidence of the Fab-3000.

The Institute for the Study of War, which monitors Russia’s invasion, is taking the footage as proof of the use of the bombs. “The fact that Russian forces have figured out how to launch FAB-3000s is a significant development,” the Washington-based think tank wrote in its latest daily update, citing the video posted by Fighter Bomber. “It will increase the destructive potential of Russia’s ongoing glide bomb attacks against Ukrainian forces and infrastructure.”

Other analysts have been more circumspect in their assessments, choosing to wait for confirmation from the ground before determining whether this marks a new weapon. In either case, the level of destruction the video shows has had people in Ukraine calling for more to be done to deal with glide bombs.

“If this is not a FREAKING MASSIVE WAKE UP CALL for finally doing everything possible and impossible to find a solution to the notorious [glide bomb] problem, I don’t know what is,” Illia Ponomarenko, Ukraine’s most followed journalist, wrote on Twitter/X.

The problem of glide bombs is “notorious” because they are extremely difficult to shoot down. The bombs’ navigation modifications mean they can be fired well beyond the range of Ukrainian air defences from deep within Russia territory.

The most effective way to stop the missiles is to shoot down the fighter jets carrying them, either in the air or while they are stationed at a base. But up until last month, Ukraine’s Western allies had barred Kyiv from using their missiles to strike over the border, meaning that fighter jets could launch these glide bombs without fear of being hit within Russia itself.

The Pentagon said on Friday that Ukraine's military is now allowed to use longer-range missiles provided by the US to strike targets inside Russia across more than just the front lines near Kharkiv, if Kyiv is acting in self defence, opening the way for Ukraine to halt the glide problem at the source.

But Ukraine’s leaders have been clear that US-made F-16 fighter jets are also crucial for its fight against the glide bomb threat. The first batch of F-16s, from around 80 promised by several European countries, is expected to arrive in Ukraine this summer, and they will allow Kyiv to go toe to toe with Russian fighter jets while in the air.

“Against these [glide bombs], even air defence systems are not so useful,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to president Volodymyr Zelensky, last month. “Only F-16s will work.”

** Russia launches 'massive' attack on Ukrainian power grid

Ukrainian energy facilities have come under a massive attack from Russia, in the latest onslaught targeting the country's power grid, officials say.

It is the eighth time Russia has launched an attack on energy infrastructure facilities in the past three months, Ukraine’s energy ministry said.

Air defence systems shot down 12 of 16 missiles and all 13 drones launched by Russia at several regions through the night, the Ukrainian air force said.

Later on Saturday officials in Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine said three people were killed and at least 18 injured by Russian guided bombs, with at least four explosions heard in the city.

“This is one more terrorist attack, a precise attack on civilian infrastructure. There is nothing of military interest in this district," Kharkiv's regional governor, Oleh Syniehubov said.

The overnight attacks on infrastructure wounded two energy workers in the central Zaporizhzhia region, and damaged equipment in the western city of Lviv, officials said.

In the south-western region of Ivano-Frankivsk, the authorities also reported damage to houses and a kindergarten.

Russia has renewed its campaign of strikes on Ukrainian energy targets over spring and early summer, causing frequent blackouts across the country. President Volodymyr Zelensky recently said Moscow had destroyed half of his country’s electricity-generating capacity since it began pummelling its energy facilities in late March.

On Thursday, Ukrainian authorities said seven employees were wounded and energy infrastructure, including a power station, had been damaged in a major overnight attack.

Ukraine is buying energy from the European Union, however, this is not enough to make up the deficit.

This means that most days involve a planned nationwide blackout to protect critical infrastructure such a hospitals and military facilities.

"We urgently need to close our skies or Ukraine faces a serious crisis this winter," the chief executive DTEK, of one of Ukraine's largest private energy companies, Maxim Timchenko said.

"My plea to allies is to help us defend our energy system and rebuild in time.”

Zelensky has repeatedly called on Ukraine's allies to send more air defence systems. He has specifically requested seven sophisticated air defence systems called Patriots from the US.

Ivan Fedorov, Zaporizhzhia's governor, echoed Zelensky's message on Saturday morning in a message posted to Telegram.

"We can say for sure: the enemy will not stop. Ukraine needs air defence systems." he said.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that Washington would put Ukraine at the top of the queue for Patriot deliveries, ahead of other countries that have ordered them.

 

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians hiding from draft officers — NYT

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian men have gone into hiding as they avoid conscription for fear of dying in the conflict involving "bloody trench warfare," The New York Times reported on Friday.

While it is not clear how many men are hiding from authorities, in big cities like Kiev and Lvov, social media groups alerting members to mobilization include tens of thousands of people, the newspaper wrote.

Ukrainian men expressed fear of dying in the conflict, the NYT continued. According to the newspaper, Kiev has been sending troops without "sufficient training" to the front to replace combat losses.

Military analysts agree that a lack of adequate training makes it difficult for Kiev to hold its lines, the newspaper concluded.

Ukraine announced a general mobilization in February 2022, which it has extended periodically ever since, with the country’s authorities doing their utmost to prevent men of conscription age from dodging the draft, including a ban on male residents of Ukraine from leaving the country. On May 18, a law tightening mobilization rules came into force in Ukraine, allowing hundreds of thousands more Ukrainians to be called up into the army.

** Ukraine lost Canadian armored combat vehicle Senator for the first time

 For the first time since the beginning of Russia’s special military operation, the Russian Defense Ministry has reported the loss of the Canadian armored combat vehicle Senator by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

"Units of the West group of forces occupied more advantageous positions, defeated the personnel and equipment of the 58th motorized infantry brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the 102nd, 123rd ground defense brigades and the 21st brigade of the National Guard in the areas of the settlements of Varvarovka, Novoivanovka in the Zaporozhye region, Prechistovka and Neskuchnoye in the Donetsk People's Republic. Enemy losses reached over 140 servicemen and one Canadian-made Senator armored fighting vehicle," the ministry said.

At the same time, the Russian military destroyed warehouses for storing unmanned boats and aircraft-type UAVs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. "Operational-tactical aviation, unmanned aerial vehicles, missile forces, and artillery of groupings of troops of the Russian Armed Forces destroyed warehouses for storing unmanned boats and aircraft-type UAVs, and defeated concentrations of enemy forces and military equipment in 127 regions," the ministry said.

Units of Russia’s South battlegroup have also improved the situation along the frontline over the past 24 hours. "Units of the Southern Group of Forces improved the situation along the front line and defeated the manpower and equipment of the 143rd Infantry, 30th, 54th, 93rd Mechanized, 79th Air Assault Brigades of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the areas of the settlements of Chasov Yar, Kleshcheevka, Andreevka, Kalinino, Grigorovka, Krasnogorovka, Razdolovka, and Verkhnekamenskoye in the Donetsk People’s Republic," the ministry said.

 

Independent/BBC/Tass

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