Ukraine Situation Report: Scholz Says Germans Would Need To Deploy With Taurus Missiles

In our first update in the third year of the all-out war in Ukraine, Germany’s insistence on not supplying Taurus KEPD 350 air-launched cruise missiles to Ukraine is making headlines once again. Coming under continued pressure to give Kyiv Taurus, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz has now stated “that was out of the question” regarding the potential transfer.

The larger context surrounding this statement stems partially from an earlier disagreement between France and other NATO allies, including Germany, about the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine. But what Scholz was specifically referring to in terms of Taurus was the backend support needed to operate the system, including mission planning hardware and software that includes 3D models of the globe and sensitive information. As such, the system would have to be deployed to Ukraine and operated by German personnel, which is a red line he is not willing to cross. Others have argued that Ukrainians can be trained on the system and reasonable security precautions could be put in place to allay concerns if the system would have to be deployed to Ukraine at all.

Regardless, Scholz has also said the risk of provoking Russia via supplying long-range weaponry in itself is something he is not willing to take a risk on even though the U.K. and France have already done so in the form of Storm Shadow and SCALP EG.

“Germany is Ukraine’s largest military supporter in Europe. It stays that way. But one thing is clear: we will not become a warring party — neither directly nor indirectly. These two principles guide all my decisions,” Scholz wrote in a post on X recently.

In response to these comments from Scholz, and possible U.K. and French involvement in targeting these weapons, the United Kingdom said today that how Kyiv chooses to use donated cruise missiles is “the business of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” 

A spokesperson for the U.K.’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meanwhile told reporters that the United Kingdom has “a small number of personnel in country supporting the armed forces of Ukraine, including for medical training.”

Meanwhile, stocks of the missiles Ukraine is already using could be in doubt. It looks like further deliveries of French SCALP-EG cruise missiles to Ukraine could be threatened by limited production output. Currently, the manufacturing effort is producing SCALP EG missiles to meet a Greek order. Beyond that, the French Armed Forces Minister says that additional orders will need to be placed by France, both to backfill its own stocks and provide additional weapons for Ukraine.

The stockpiles of both weapons, which are nearly identical, are not understood to be massive to begin with, numbering in the hundreds not multiple thousands of rounds. As the war drags on, the supply of them will dwindle further, and both countries have minimal stockpile requirements for their own use. This is a key reason why acquiring Taurus would be such a big help to Ukraine.

Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.

The Latest

The Kremlin-backed breakaway region of Transnistria — also known as Trans-Dniester — has asked Russia at a congress of senior officials to help protect it from what it says is a concerted campaign directed against its economy by the Moldovan government. The development once again stokes fears about tensions in Moldova — another former Soviet state, and neighbor of Ukraine.

Hundreds of officials from Transnistria met at the congress, in response to Moldova demanding that firms from the region pay import duties to the central budget. The meeting was dismissed by the Moldovan government as a propaganda event to gain headlines.

Located between the Dniester River and the Ukrainian border, Transnistria broke away from Moldova in 1990. Ever since, its de-facto government has been hostile toward Moldova, which has moved increasingly into a pro-Western orbit. Few members of the international community recognize Transnistria’s self-declared statehood, although it receives economic and military support from Moscow, including around 1,500 Russian soldiers stationed on Transnistrian soil.

In the past, Moscow has tried to push the narrative that Ukraine is poised to make a military move against the region, without any evidence to back those claims.

More recently, there has been a flurry of reports suggesting that Transnistria may be poised to stage a referendum on its potential annexation by Russia.

It is unclear how, if at all, Russia will respond to the latest developments in Transnistria. During a previous round of tensions in the region, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that “the situation in Transnistria is the subject of our closest attention and a reason for our concern.” He added: “The situation is unsettled, it is being provoked, provoked from outside.”

Now, however, two years into the war in Ukraine, Russia’s ability to respond militarily in support of Transnistria is at least questionable. While any kind of Russian action would likely find much popular support in the breakaway region, the Black Sea Fleet is hardly in a position to launch an operation in Transnistria, and Russian airborne forces are otherwise heavily engaged in Ukraine.

Now to news from the battlefield, where the Russian Ministry of Defense claims that its forces have captured Petrovske, formerly renamed by Ukraine as Stepove, in eastern Ukraine. This was reported by the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti but has not been independently confirmed.

Russia is taking advantage of its momentum after taking war-torn Avdviika after many months of brutal fighting. There is real concern that further breakthroughs could lead to increasingly wider gains, especially as Ukraine is running low on artillery which is critical to keeping Russian forces at bay.

As concerns over rapidly diminishing Ukrainian ammunition stocks continue to grow, President Volodymyr Zelensky called upon allies in the Balkan region to step in to assist. During a two-day summit in Albania, Zelensky proposed a joint arms production initiative. “We are interested in co-production with you and all our partners,” Zelenskiy told delegations from Albania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Moldova in his opening remarks at the summit, which began yesterday.

Meanwhile, Zelensky says that Speaker Johnson, who is holding up a vote on a bill that would fund weapons transfers to Ukraine, said he was promised by the politician back in December that he would do everything he could to help Ukraine.

In the southeast of Ukraine, specifically the Zaporizhzhia region, heavy fighting continues and trench warfare remains prevalent. The video below shows the brutal reality of this kind of combat, with a close-quarters battle that resulted in two Russian soldiers being killed by a pair of Ukrainian infantrymen.

Over Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Ukraine once again came under attack by Russian drone and missile strikes. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, Russia used S-300 surface-to-air missiles in a land-attack capacity. The same source claimed that 10 drones were shot down, but did not say whether the missiles reached their targets.

Apparently, recent footage below shows a Ukrainian mobile anti-drone team in action. In this case, the team uses a 50-caliber Browning M2 heavy machine gun to successfully engage an Iranian-designed Shahed-series drone, somewhere in the Kharviv region.

As well as drones and missiles, Russia continues to make extensive use of bombs fitted with UMPK kits, or Unifitsirovannyi Modul Planirovaniya i Korrektsii, meaning unified gliding and correction module. This relatively crude wing and guidance kit fitted to any of a variety of general-purpose bombs has become a major concern for Ukraine, due to the significant problems in intercepting them. The video below shows the delivery of four UMPKs by a Su-34 Fullback strike aircraft.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced today that his government was considering a “temporary” closure of the border with Ukraine for goods. The possible move is the latest development in long-running tensions between Poland and Ukraine related to the issue of low-priced Ukrainian grain. “We are talking with the Ukrainian side about a temporary closure of the border, the cessation in general of trade,” Tusk told reporters. “I will also discuss this with Polish farmers tomorrow. This solution would only be temporary … and mutually painful,” he added.

Recent reports from South Korea suggest that, to date, North Korea may have delivered as many as three million artillery shells to Russia, which also faces its own ammunition shortages driven by the war in Ukraine.

“While North Korea’s arms factories operate at 30 percent capacity due to shortages of raw materials and power, certain factories are operating at full capacity, which primarily produce weapons and shells for Russia,” South Korean Minister of Defense Shin Won-sik told reporters earlier this week.

The South Korean defense chief said that North Korea was producing the weapons for Russia in exchange for much-needed food and other necessities.

Still very much in the action in the conflict is the Ukrainian Army Aviation fleet of hard-worked Mi-24 Hind assault helicopters, which has been bolstered not only by deliveries of additional secondhand aircraft from the Czech Republic, North Macedonia, and Poland, but also by the provision of U.S.-made Hydra 70 unguided rockets. These weapons are seen arming the Mi-24s in the video below, filmed somewhere in the eastern Donetsk region.

More Western-supplied weapons are in Ukrainian hands in the next video, which purports to show a U.K.-supplied ASRAAM missile being used to bring down a Russian ZALA drone somewhere in the south of Ukraine.

As you can read about here, the AIM-132 ASRAAM (Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile) has been adapted for surface launch, creating a new mobile ground-based air defense system.

The ad-hoc system is helping meet an urgent demand for short-range air defenses (SHORADs) needed to tackle a resurgent Russian aerial threat on the frontlines.

On the eastern front lines, meanwhile, Ukraine is investing in extensive defensive fortifications, as seen here. The photos show the deployment of both coils of barbed wire to help slow down infantry assaults, as well as prefabricated pyramidal concrete structures. These are essentially updated versions of the Dragon’s Teeth obstacles first used during World War II to impede the movement of tanks and other armored vehicles.

Dramatic aerial footage again from the Ukrainian Army Aviation, this time from the cockpit of a Mi-8 Hip combat transport helicopter engaged in a lofted rocket attack run somewhere near the front lines.

During a recent visit to the front lines, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu was shown a variety of arms captured from the Ukrainian forces. Most significant were the examples of U.S.-made M113 armored personnel carriers.

In other M113-related news, Ukrainian soldiers report that external fuel cells fitted to these vehicles are “100 percent effective in preventing prolonged diesel fires.” The following video shows damage to the M113 fuel cells, but the design of the cells is said, so far, to have not resulted in any total vehicle losses.

Drones and drone countermeasures continue to proliferate on the battlefield. In one fairly bizarre expression of this trend, a Russian soldier is seen holding a portable electronic warfare system over their head, to ward off the attentions of a hostile Ukrainian drone. The end result of this peculiar engagement has not been captured in this video.

A Saab official has confirmed that Ukrainian pilots have completed an introductory training course on the Gripen fighter in Sweden. Last September we reported about how the Swedish government may be considering donating a number of Gripens to Ukraine, which followed news earlier that year that the Swedish authorities had agreed to provide Ukrainian fighter pilots and ground personnel with training on the type. There are no plans for Ukraine to receive the JAS-39 at this time though.

An unusual mortar location is the subject of the next video, with a Russian firing position established in an abandoned building, somewhere in Ukraine. While the firing position is certainly well concealed, at least until a mortar round is launched, the damage inflicted on the building is worrisome, to say the least.

Ukraine has ordered an additional batch of Caracal 4×4 light armored vehicles from the German Rheinmetall company, according to a report in the German publication Sicherheit und Technik. The latest contract covers the supply of 20 Caracal vehicles and will be funded by the German government as part of military aid to Ukraine.

Reportedly now making another appearance on the front lines are soldiers from the notorious Russian private military contractor Wagner Group. According to Ukrainian officials, former Wagner soldiers are back in action after having been integrated into a so-called “volunteer corps” that is said to number 18,000 personnel. “They are used because of their combat experience,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an official advisor and a former deputy minister at the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs. “Wagnerites use the same approach as in Bakhmut last year: constant assaults and getting results at any cost.”

The dramatic end to a Russian BMP-series infantry fighting vehicle, reportedly somewhere near Avdeevsky in the Donestk region, was caught on camera. Unconfirmed reports say the vehicle was attempting to break into Ukrainian positions when it ran over a mine and exploded.

Finally, we see yet another sign of the changing nature of warfare due to low-end drones. Here a Russian soldier is dropped a note from a Ukrainian drone to tell him how to surrender.

Better a piece of paper than a shrapnel-filled bomblet.

That’s it for now.

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Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.