Ukraine Conflict: Day Thirteen

With something of a lull in the fighting as humanitarian corridors are again attempted (and failed), day thirteen sees widespread economic ramifications from the Ukraine conflict. The UK, USA, and EU have made an agreement to ban Russian energy imports, while releasing a portion of their strategic oil reserves. Prices of fossil fuels and metals have skyrocketed.


Two pilots ejected after a Russian plane was shot down near Kherson earlier, presumably by MANPADs. From the footage, it appears one of the parachutes was faulty or damaged.

Russian IFVs were seen moving through the village of Snihurivka in Mykolaiv oblast. The Russians have been operating in the vicinity of Mykolaiv for over a week, but have yet to capture the city or subdue the countryside.

A large explosion was recorded in Kalynivka, near Vinnytsia, 100 miles southwest of Kiev. The cause remains unknown.

Near Kiev, a Ukrainian Cold War era Tu-141 recon drone was shot down. Satellite footage shows large amounts of Russian armoured vehicles deploying around Hostomel airbase, ppotentially preparing another attack on the outskirts of Kiev in order to secure the airbase for supply drops.

A shipment NLAW and AT4-CS anti-tank weapons allegedly arrived in Kharkiv today, probably trucked in from Poland, having been sent by Sweden and the UK. If the location is accurate, this would refute the Russian Army claim that Kharkiv is surrounded. Further images shows a large collection of lethal weapons arriving at a different location.

Footage shows Ukrainian soldiers using the British-made NLAW in action, from the top of a building. One thing the mainstream media has neglected to mention in its extensive coverage of Russian vehicles shooting at ‘civilian’ buildings, is the fact that buildings are very useful for soldiers to shoot from, as this footage demonstrates. 

Trading Up Aircraft?

Following up Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s recent announcement that the USA would ‘give the green light’ to NATO countries wishing to donate fixed-wing aircraft to Russia, we at Ukraine Observatory were not the only ones thinking ‘you first!’ The Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs has reportedly stated that Poland is willing to place all of their Mig 29 fighter jet fleet at the USA’s disposal at Rammstein Airbase, provided they be compensated by an equal number of aircraft with similar operational capabilities. Reading between the lines, Poland appears to be using this opportunity to ‘trade up’ its aircraft. The USA has yet to issue a statement regarding this alleged offer.

Ukraine announced today that it had killed the first two Private Military Contractors (PMCs) working for Russia, possibly near Baturyn. These are likely working for the Wagner Group. Dogtags were posted on social media.

Operational Security? What’s That?

A second senior Russian commander was confirmed to have been killed in action yesterday near Kharkiv. A phone call to the senior commanding officer was allegedly intercepted and the transcript was published by Ukrainian military intelligence. 

The Russians are using open, unencrypted communications, since the mandatory ‘Era’ secure cryptophone requires 3G or 4G telecommunications infrastructure to function, and is incompatible with Russian army telecoms. Use of foreign smartphones is apparently banned. In theory, anyone in the world could flood senior Russian commanders’ phone numbers with spam calls and texts. Quite the fiasco.

Media At War

Chinese state media is embedded with Russian units, and reporting from occupied territory.

A still released by the Russian military for Russian state TV appears to show a much more successful advance into Ukraine than we have so far been able to determine. Interestingly, the map shows Chernihiv as ‘captured’ and Kharkiv as completely surrounded, while the marking of a contested area around Transnistria (southeast) implies that the tiny post-Soviet state has in some way contributed to the war effort. As far as we are aware, none of these things is true. 

The map also shows a significant concentration of Ukrainian forces in East Donbas, liable to be cut off by an advance from Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv. Another concentration of Ukrainian soldiers is shown northwest of Mykolaiv.

Here is an alternative map, to compare.

‘Economic Annihilation’

Various analyses and alleged insider leaks have pointed to the Russian economy being in dire straits. Some have speculated that following economic sanctions, Russia has only weeks left before it runs out of money to pay its public sector workers. Others predict a complete annihilation of Russia’s domestic economy by June.

The UK, the USA, and the EU today announced a ban on Russian gas and oil exports. With energy prices already at unsustainably high levels in the West, this will likely push many ordinary consumers over the brink. The effect on Russia’s economy is also likely to be catastrophic, since the only politically-viable importer is China. China has recently been buying large stakes in Russia’s energy firms, and is looking to build two additional pipelines to Russia. Whether there will be a Russian economy left to export by the time these pipelines are completed is another matter.

Nickel futures have skyrocketed over the past two days, causing the London Metals Exchange (LME) to halt trading. The volatility is allegedly a due to a short squeeze, with investors forced to buy more nickel to recoup their short positions; some reports indicated that a single mystery investor bought up $3.7bn in nickel. Russia produces 10% of the world’s nickel, which was already facing shortages before the invasion. Other metals have also ballooned in price.

The German economy is set to take a big hit from the war with Russia, particularly its automotive sector. In 2020, Germany imported 44% of its nickel, 41% of its titanium, 33% of its iron ore, and 18% of its palladium from Russia. All of these metals are currently trading at record highs. 

Russia is a disproportionate exporter of high quality nickel, which is used for electric cars; Volkswagen has reportedly closed two of its EV factories and furloughed 8,000 workers in response to the crisis.

It appears that the domestic consumer will bear the brunt of an economic war against Russia. “Some of you may freeze to death, but that is a risk we are willing to take,” the leaders of the free world did not say to their electorates.

The McCain War Machine

Footage has emerged, allegedly from 2016, which shows US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham giving speeches to Ukrainian soldiers. They claim that ‘2017 will be the year of offence’ and ‘Russia must pay a heavier price’ before declaring their intention to return to Washington and push the case for US involvement in the fighting in East Donbas. 

John McCain has previously been pictured encouraging jihadis during the Syrian Civil War, and in 2008 held a conversation with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair about using an American-European alliance to ‘make Russia a little desperate’ by ‘sowing the seeds of confusion in Russia’s sphere of influence’. McCain is pictured here with the Ukrainian neo-Nazi leader and head of the Svoboda party, Oleh Tyahnybok.

Bioweapons Conspiracy Resurfaces

During the early stages of the Ukraine conflict, a number of online commentators jumped on the fact that there were a number of US-funded and constructed biolabs in Ukraine. However, these labs were Biosafety Level 2, as opposed to the more secure BSL-3 or BSL-4, that would be used for bioweapons storage or research. This was swiftly dismissed as a conspiracy theory, particularly regarding the attempts to link COVID19 to American bioweapons research which have been popular in communist China.

However, during a recent statement at a Senate hearing, US Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland (of 2014 leaked call fame), made a rather strange statement.

“Ukraine has biological research facilities, which, in fact, we are now quite concerned Russian forces may be seeking to gain control of, so we are working with the Ukrainians to see if they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.”

If these laboratories are simply food safety labs and so on, why would there be any particular issue with the Russians occupying them? Allegations of a bioweapons programme remain unverified, and since Ukraine apparently hosts frozen stores of pathogens left over from the Soviet bioweapons programme, this should not be taken as ‘gotcha’ proof of American or Ukrainian bioweapons research in the region.

Photo Credit: Фото Дмитрий Муравский, Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, CC SA 2.0.

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