Putin's War, Week 120. Zelensky Gets Security Agreement With the US and the Repo Man Comes for Russia

SSG Cody Harding, 8th Army, Public Affairs Office

Week 120 of Putin's War didn't contain major ground action, but things were happening in the political sphere.

At the G7 meeting in Italy, Ukraine received the long-promised security arrangement with the US, and the first steps were taken to ensure Russia pays reparations for the damages it has inflicted. 

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BACKGROUND: G7 Agrees to Confiscate Russian Assets to Fund Reparations For Putin's War in Ukraine


The front lines were mostly static, and it is now obvious that the recent Russian offensive toward Kharkiv has run its course.

The US has imposed new sanctions on Russian banking and the Moscow stock exchange. The short-term result is that Russian banks are not allowing customers to withdraw funds, and official trading in dollars and euros has ceased. The long-term effect of this is anyone's guess. 

Here are some of my past updates.

Putin's War, Week 119. – RedState

Putin's War, Week 118. Ukraine Gets a Green Light From Biden and France Nearly Has 'Boots on the Ground' – RedState

Putin's War, Week 117. Jake Sullivan Under Fire, ATACMS Everywhere, and the Stalemate Continues 

Putin's War, Week 116. Russian Offensive Stalls, Ukraine Discovers Wild Weasel, and Blinken Plays Guitar

Putin's War, Week 115. ATACMS Makes a Splash and Russia Opens a New Front

For all my Ukraine War coverage, click here.

Politico-Strategic Level

US Signs 10-Year Mutual Security Deal With Ukraine

Via the New York Times.

President Biden will sign a 10-year security agreement with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on Thursday, an effort to signal a long-term American commitment to the country’s future as an independent and sovereign state, an administration official said. But the accord could easily be upended by the coming American presidential election.

The deal — whose final details were expected to be announced later Thursday — will outline a long-term effort to train and equip Ukraine’s forces, promising to provide more modern weapons and help the Ukrainians build their own self-sustaining military industry that is capable of producing its own arms, U.S. officials said.

Zelensky Addresses the Bundestag

Naturally, the "pro-peace" Russia-friendly AfD was absent.

The Repo Man Finally Arrives

The G7 leaders approved a plan to use frozen Russian assets as collateral for a $50 billion payment to Ukraine.


BACKGROUND: G7 Agrees to Confiscate Russian Assets to Fund Reparations For Putin's War in Ukraine


Without Fail...

One of the amazing and sad things about the War in Ukraine is to see the triumph of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. With increasing frequency, the populist right, especially the Lindberghian "America First" movement, sounds exactly like the hard left in the 70s and 80s. 

Ordinarily, I wouldn't take a swipe at a senator I've supported.


RELATED:

Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville Reminds the Defense Department That One Determined Man Is a Majority – RedState

The US Marine Corps Doesn't Have a Commandant Today Because 'One Man With Courage Is a Majority' – RedState

Chuck Schumer Folds Like a Cheap Suit and Schedules Vote on USMC Commandant and Other Senior Officers – RedState


But this case needs some attention. Here is Senator Tuberville on Steve Bannon's show, which will soon be going on hiatus, regurgitating Putin's talking points. Zelensky, he says, is a dictator. Putin was forced to invade Ukraine. 

Three or four other GOP senators and about 20 members of the House can be relied upon to say the same thing. Why would anyone use Putin's talking points as their official position? And does it make any difference why they would? Because the effect is the same.

Azov Brigade Cleared for Training and Funding

One of the most successful PR campaigns among the many successful PR campaigns the Russians have waged in support of Putin's War was the blacklisting of the Azov Brigade. Based on the most specious allegations supported by the flimsiest evidence, one of Ukraine's most successful units, the Azov Brigade, was banned from receiving US equipment or training because they were "neo-Nazis." The State Department has lifted that ban.

The United States has lifted a ban on sending weapons and training to the Ukrainian Azov brigade, which played a vital role in the defense of the port city of Mariupol, but had a controversial past.

The ban, called the “Leahy Law,” prohibits any military assistance or training to be provided to foreign units held responsible for human rights violations, according to the US State Department.

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This thread gives a solid rundown of the history behind the ban.

Believe What They Tell You

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia since 2020, president of Russia between 2008 and 2012, and prime minister of Russia between 2012 and 2020, posted this video to celebrate the little-known holiday of Russia Day

Note that Ukraine is included as part of Russia.

On the one hand, Medvedev is the guy Putin sends out to troll the West with threats of nuclear annihilation. On the other hand, the absorption of the "Little Russians" in Ukraine into Great Russia was one of Putin's objectives in starting this war; this is a sign he has not backed off that goal, and until there is an indication he has, peace is impossible.

The Quiet Part Out Loud

This comes as documents have leaked showing Russia planning for a nuclear war with China.

Beijing has maintained silence on the leaked Russian military documents revealing the Kremlin's plan to use a tactical nuclear weapon against China during a conflict-like scenario.

The documents revealed that President Vladimir Putin's forces have conducted rehearsals for the use of such weapons early in a conflict with a major world power, including scenarios for an invasion by China, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

"The order has been given by the commander-in-chief ... to use nuclear weapons ... in the event the enemy deploys second-echelon units and the South threatens to attack further in the direction of the main strike," the document said, according to the British newspaper.

Russian Government Brokers Kidnapped Children

For the entire course of the war, Russia has been deporting Ukrainian children and adopting them to Russian families. According to Russian Presidential Commissioner on Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova, over 700,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia and are in the process of being adopted.

In my last Update, I posted on Russia enticing families to send their kids to Russia for "summer camp," only to have them stolen.


RELATED:

Putin's War, Week 118. Ukraine Gets a Green Light From Biden and France Nearly Has 'Boots on the Ground' – RedState

Putin's War, Week 91. Mud and Snow Beats Fire and Steel, and Tumbleweeds Are Blowing Through Sevastopol – RedState


The Financial Times ran a story Wednesday on the results of its investigation of the complicity of the Russian government in child theft. It found several children on the government's official adoption website who were kidnapped Ukrainian children. Given the limitations of the project, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Operational Level

The big items for this week are the continuing successful Ukrainian campaign against Russian surface-to-air missile systems and the war on the Russian supply chain. Since the Kerch Bridge was nearly destroyed, Russian troops in Occupied Crimea, Occupied Kherson, and Occupied Zaporizhzhia have been supplied by ships and barges crossing the Azov Sea from Russia. 


BACKGROUND: WATCH: Incredible Footage of Key Russian-Controlled Bridge in Crimea Being Destroyed – RedState


Ukraine's naval drone campaign against cargo-capable ships, such as the Ropucha-class LST, is more than hitting targets of opportunity. It is designed to force all supplies onto the Russian rail network, which is now within range of ATACMS. The attacks on shipping have been so successful that Russia has been forced to send a limited number of trains across the Kerch Bridge despite its fragile condition.

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A sudden Russian emphasis on defending the Kerch Strait Bridge demonstrates the critical nature of the bridge now that shipping has been severely degraded.

The focus of Russia's efforts continues to be the area of the now-defunct Avdiivka Salient. They have made gains, but nothing that looks like it can change the dynamic of the front.

Russia continues to signal that it plans another incursion into Northern Ukraine west of the Kharkiv area in Sumy Oblast.

The troops allocated for this effort so far are Chechens, which indicates there are no plans for a full-on offensive.

New Air Defense Assets for Ukraine

One thing the Russian terror attacks on Kharkiv and its blitz of Ukrainian civilian energy infrastructure achieved was a political consensus to provide Ukraine with more antiaircraft systems.

The US will contribute a Patriot battery from the US battalion currently deployed in Poland. A battery consists of a phased array radar, an engagement control station, computers, power generating equipment, and up to eight launchers, each holding four ready-to-fire missiles.

Germany is also handing over another Patriot battery.

Update: Maybe the Deep State Won

The Patriot battery in Poland may not happen.

If Putin Went Bat*** Crazy Over ATACMS...

The head of the Ukrainian Air Force, General Serhii Holubtsov, said in an interview that some of Ukraine's F-16 fighters will be kept in foreign countries to train Ukrainian pilots. The controversial part was when he said spare F-16s would be housed outside of Ukraine to prevent a Russian attack. Putin has repeatedly threatened to strike at Western supply routes into Ukraine and has done nothing. How he reacts to reserve aircraft being kept out of harm's way will tell us a lot.

Rheinmetall Opens IFV Factory in Ukraine

Ukraine now has factories for making Leopard tanks and CV-90 IFVs, which are run as joint ventures. It also has repair depots, like the new Rheinmetall depot, which is run in cooperation with Western nations.

This strengthening of Ukraine's defense infrastructure gives Ukraine staying power.

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Russian Air Defense Shifting

A new directive has ordered Russian air defense troops stationed in Crimea to evacuate their families to the Southern Military District of Russia. The directive, reported by the Ukrainian partisan organization in Occupied Crimea, "Atesh," also reports that Russian air defense systems are being shifted from Crimea to Belgorod Oblast.

I reported last week on the slaughter of untrained and under-trained Russian air defense troops since Biden gave Ukraine the go-ahead to engage military targets in Belgorod. There may be a perception that Ukrainian attacks against targets in Belgorod are more damaging to the Kremlin's narrative of inevitable victory than attacks in Crimea.


BACKGROUND: Putin's War, Week 119. – RedState


Making the picture cloudier is Ukraine's chief of military intelligence, Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov's announcement that Russia is employing the state-of-the-art—well, the Russian variety of that, anyway—in Crimea. As the S-500 is optimized for anti-ballistic missile defense, this could be a reaction to Ukraine's use of ATACMS.

How Long Can It Last?

This is a very interesting thread because the author gets taken to task for presenting an overly optimistic situation for Russia. In my view, the artillery line is the one that matters. Everyone is focusing on Russia's self-reported ammunition production and ignoring the fact that gun tubes wear out at something south of 10,000 rounds. Russia's ability to produce new tubes and recoil mechanisms is limited, and its artillery boneyards have nearly been stripped. 

Still, the charts and the discussion are worthwhile for understanding the 1-2 year picture for Russia.

New Weapons

New Kh-101

Russia's use of the Kh-101 (NATO code name: Kodiak) air-launched cruise missile is not new, but a new variety has appeared in Ukraine. It contains a jam-resistant guide system, and the warhead has been changed from unitary to unitary+ICM.


Combat Operations

The SAMbush Revealed

In January, Russia lost two high value aircraft within minutes of each other.

The Russian Air Force suffered a major loss Sunday when an airborne early warning and control aircraft disappeared from radar over the Sea of Azov, and an Il-22M11 airborne command post was forced to make an emergency landing at Anapa on the northern coast of the Black Sea.

There has been no official acknowledgment of the loss from the Russian Armed Forces, but the semi-official milblogger Telegram channel, FighterBomber, through that channel, hints that it was friendly fire.

The intriguing thing about the loss was that no one could explain how it happened and the alacrity with which the Russians claimed it was friendly fire.


BACKGROUND: Russia Loses Two High Value Aircraft Near Ukraine and the Theories Abound – RedState


This mystery was solved.

A senior U.S. Army officer has confirmed that Ukraine used one of its American-made Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to down a Russian Beriev A-50 airborne early warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft in January 2024.

Colonel Rosanna Clemente, the assistant chief of staff of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, said in comments at the Fires Symposium event last month that Ukraine's Western-provided Patriot anti-air systems are serving Kyiv in various roles.

Clemente said some Patriot launchers are "being used to protect static sites and critical national infrastructure. Others are being moved around and doing some really historic things that I haven't seen in 22 years of being an air defender. And one of them is a 'SAMbush.'"

"They're doing that with extremely mobile Patriot systems that were donated by the Germans because the systems are all mounted on the trucks."

Here is Colonel Rosanna Clemente, the assistant chief of staff (G3) of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, letting the cat out of the bag at a panel discussion at the Air Defense "Fires Symposium" in May. The whole clip is worth watching; the part about the A-50 kill starts at 1:13.

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She also pointed out how this was made possible by the tough training the Ukrainian Patriot crews received.

The Russians picked up on this and reacted in the most Russian way possible. This is from a "Top War" article headlined "Why did the Pentagon send a colonel of the US Air Defense Forces to “confess” in front of the camera about the AWACS aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Patriot air defense system of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The main thing that attracts attention is that US Army Colonel Clemente repeated several times that the blow was carried out by “Ukrainians who were trained by the Germans, Dutch and Americans.” Moreover, the emphasis was repeatedly placed on groups of German instructors who “raised the prepared Ukrainian crews in the middle of the night and forced them to march on foot to a given area to organize an ambush.” Then, during the same interview, another American air defense officer took the floor, who said that NATO instructors “did an outstanding job training the Armed Forces of Ukraine to use the Patriot air defense system as a nomadic weapon for the purpose of hunting Russian missiles and aircraft.”

And to use a line from the epic movie "The Big Short," Colonel Clemente is not confessing.

 

Colonel Clemente does not say "march on foot," she says "march order," which means putting your vehicles or your people, if you are light infantry, into formation for traveling.

Accordingly, the hidden message: “It was not us, but Ukrainians, therefore the Russian Armed Forces cannot use their weapon against us".

I point this out to save some of the usual suspects in the comments section from making this claim as though it was an original idea.

Ukrainian Airbase Hit

Russian Iskander missiles hit a Ukrainian airbase. A Su-27 and an S-300 surface-to-air missile system were destroyed. This is a wake-up call about the vulnerability of airbases near the front lines in advance of the arrival of F-16s. Any sortie time you gain by forward-basing strike aircraft carries the potential of bad stuff happening.

Drone Operations

Over the course of these Updates, I've shown a lot of video of drones in action. This video is the first I've seen of how drone operations are prosecuted. The operator is 20 years old and has, according to the video, killed "hundreds" of Russian soldiers.

Ukraine has established a separate command for unmanned combat systems. Yes, the commander has a neckbeard, so you know they are deadly serious.

Pantsir-S Air Defense System Wrecked by HIMARS

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

Coming and Going

One of the fascinating parts of this war is that combatants on both sides frequently video the same incident. Because people are chasing social media clout, neither side cares about making themselves look bad. In this video, a vehicle jam-packed with Russian troops is attacked by a Ukrainian FPV drone. The Russian POV is captured via something like a GoPro. The lack of situation awareness is astounding. The video shows they have a man in the vehicle with a shotgun. That could have saved them a lot of grief if someone had been pulling security.

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"There's Another One Guys"

A Russian television crew helps a demining operation.

Somedays, You're the Windshield...

A Russian soldier fleeing from an FPV attack is wounded (0:09). He goes to ground and successfully shoots down two other FPVs attacking him (0:54 and 1:35).

From the reactions, this seems to be Russian recon drone footage. We don't know what happened after the end of the clip. Did he make it home? Or did drone #4 show up, and his marksmanship skill failed?

FPV vs. Recon Drone

Northern Front

Maps for Front Lines

Kharkiv

Lyptsi-Vovchansk

Here is the GoPro view of part of that operation.

Russian Position in Vovchansk Destroyed

I can't tell if it is HIMARS or an airstrike with Small Diameter Bombs, but it is effective.

Kupyansk-Svatove

Russian forces made minor advances south of Kupyansk. Clashes continue along the front, but the situation is stable.

Donbas

Bahkmut-Klishchiivka-Andriivka

The Russian attack on Chasiv Yar continues but without progress. The front line here is stable.

Avdiivka

This area continues to be the focus of Russian offensive efforts. Though there are claims of Russian advances, those claims have not been confirmed.

Ukrainian Counterattack 

Southern Front

Zaporizhzhia

Robotyne-Verbove- Novoprokopivka

The front line remains stable.

Kherson

There are no confirmed changes in the front line.

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Rear Areas

Crimea

Strikes on Air Defense Sites

Russia

Taganrog Bay Shipping Attacked

Russian Army Headquarters for Kharkiv Operation

What's Next

The sudden Russian focus on protecting the Kerch Strait Bridge shows the effectiveness of Ukraine's maritime campaign and the fragility of Russian supply lines into Crimea and the western half of Occupied Ukraine. I think we can expect an ATACMS strike against the new S-500 site designed to overwhelm any possible defensive measures. Even though the S-500 is supposed to be effective against ballistic missiles, keep in mind that Russian sales literature for its weapons is always much more ferocious than the weapons.

All forms of Russian combat action are down. Ground attacks have declined from their high point in early May. Air strikes, artillery bombardments, and missile attacks are all down. Some of this is cyclical. The standard pattern in Russian missile attacks has been a missile blitz about every three weeks. The last big attack was on June 1. I believe airstrikes and artillery bombardments will continue to decline due to a lack of ready aircraft and combat and technical attrition of Russian artillery.

The Ukrainians are slowly counterattacking in the Kharkiv area, and it isn't hard to see them forcing the Russians out by the end of summer. The various crises for Ukraine of the last five months seem to have abated.

At this point, I think it is safe to say that any major Russian advance depends upon the collapse of some portion of the Ukrainian front line. The lack of a Russian operational reserve calls into question whether Russia has the capacity to take advantage of good luck somewhere on the front. The size of Russian attacks is getting smaller, and we're seeing the Ukrainians beginning to take back ground. As I said last week, the Russian winter offensive reached its culmination point, and the momentum seems to be slipping back in the direction of Ukraine.

We can look for the tempo of missile attacks in Crimea to intensify, and it wouldn't be a shock to see the Ukrainians take another shot at the Kerch Strait Bridge.

I think we can expect a limited Ukrainian offensive in late July or early August. It could come in one of two places: either to push the Russians out of the area north of Kharkiv and restore the frontier or somewhere west of last year's offensive but still aimed at severing rail connections between Russia and Crimea.


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