Though much of the attention on Russia’s war in Ukraine is focused on the battle for Donbas, and understandably so, there’s a shadow war taking place out of the public eye.
Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that “some C.I.A. personnel have continued to operate in the country secretly, mostly in the capital, Kyiv, directing much of the vast amounts of intelligence the United States is sharing with Ukrainian forces, according to current and former officials.”
Meanwhile, “a few dozen commandos from other NATO countries, including Britain, France, Canada and Lithuania, also have been working inside Ukraine.”
Ukraine is conducting its own shadow war as well, according to the Times of London, with troops from the Shaman battalion, a nickname given to Ukraine’s 10th Special Forces Detachment, taking part in cross-border sabotage missions.
“The exact targets are classified but the teams’ forays across the border help to explain how Russian oil refineries, ammunition depots and communications networks have been mysteriously sabotaged,” the paper reported.
We are just learning about these actions and while we are unable to independently confirm them, they do offer a glimpse, if true, about how Ukraine is taking matters into its own hands to defend itself by striking across the border.
Before heading into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.
Rescue operations continue after more than a thousand civilians were in the Amstor mall in Kremenchuk hit by Russian missiles on Sunday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said on his Telegram page.
“The mall is on fire, rescuers are fighting the fire, the number of victims is impossible to imagine,” Zelensky wrote. “No danger to the Russian army. No strategic value. Only the attempt of people to live a normal life, which so angers the occupiers."
“Russia continues to place its powerlessness on ordinary citizens. It is useless to hope for adequacy and humanity on her part.”
The Russians, however, claim that the intended target was the Kremenchuk road machine plant about 100 yards away where they say Ukrainian military equipment has been repaired since 2014
So far, three deaths have been confirmed, while 20 others have been hospitalized, nine of them in critical condition, said Poltava regional state administration head Dmytro Lunin, according to the Pravda_Gerashchenko Telegram page.
Ukraine officials say they've struck Snake Island, the strategically important Black Sea rock, yet again, once more eliminating a Russian Pantsir air defense system.
Russia, without offering any proof, denied any damage and said it was Ukraine that suffered losses. You can read more about that here.
The U.S. will soon announce it will supply Ukraine with the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, or NASAMS. This system is one that Kyiv has considered introducing itself in the past and Ukrainian Air Force pilots have also highlighted it as one of the best solutions to help overhaul the country’s surface-to-air missile inventory.
According to a report from CNN, citing an anonymous source, a U.S. announcement regarding the purchase of NASAMS systems for Ukraine is likely to come this week. It is expected to be part of the latest package of arms and other support for Kyiv, together with additional artillery ammunition and counter-battery radars. We have more details here.
The Pentagon says it continues to “work diligently” to get the additional four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) into Ukraine that were announced last week as part of the latest Presidential Drawdown Authority, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Monday morning. The official added that the second round of HIMARS training should coincide with that as well.
Ukraine has already used the systems, including an incident in which it says it struck a Russian command post in Donbas.
“We're conducting training out of Ukraine, in Germany and England,” said the official, adding that involves everything from maintaining to operating the donated HIMARS units.
There were more than 60 missile strikes across Ukraine over the weekend, including at Kyiv, Lviv, Chernihiv and Odesa, the official said. “They certainly could be a protest against the G7 [summit] or the arrival of the HIMARS.”
On Sunday, the Institute for the Study of War suggested the strikes were indeed a protest against the ongoing G7 summit.
“This is the first such major strike on Kyiv since late April and is likely a direct response to Western leaders discussing aid to Ukraine at the ongoing G7 summit, much like the previous strikes on April 29 during UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ visit to Kyiv,” ISW reported.
There were other explosions of note recently as well.
Russian military warehouses well behind the front lines apparently blew up, Euromaidan Press reported on Twitter.
"Locals have reported huge fire in the Russian-occupied Svatove following the explosions. The explosions happened in the Russian military warehouses, according to the Luhansk Oblast head. Svatove is more than 60 kilometers behind the frontline."
The Ukrainian pullout from Severodonestk over the weekend offers lasting lessons, the official told reporters.
“The small number of Ukrainians that held the Russians at Severodonetsk as long as they did is really something we'll probably all study in the future,” the official said. “And when they chose to leave Severodonetsk, they chose to do it of their own accord, and to give that up in order to move to better prepare locations for the continuing of that defense.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu may or may not have visited Ukraine to meet with Russian generals and hand out medals.
Many media outlets, like The Mirror, report that he was in Ukraine, citing the Russian Ministry of Defense. However, Reuters added a correction to its story "to show that Shoigu visited troops involved in the Ukraine operation, according to the defence ministry. It was not immediately clear whether or not he visited Ukraine."
Photos of a rotund Russian general taking command hit social media over the weekend, with that officer being called “the bottom of the barrel.”
The senior U.S. defense official said the Pentagon was aware of “several reliefs of Russian generals in Ukraine."
While the official deferred specifics to the Russian Ministry of Defense, “we do continue to see concerns with that leadership, and continued morale concerns with Russian forces.”
Ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid this week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the organization was boosting its high readiness forces to well over 300,000. There are currently about 40,000 NATO Response Force troops.
The increase includes:
- More prepositioned equipment, and stockpiles of military supplies.
- More forward-deployed capabilities, like air defense.
- Strengthened command and control.
- And upgraded defense plans, with forces pre-assigned to defend specific Allies.
“Together, this constitutes the biggest overhaul of our collective deterrence and defense since the Cold War,” he said.
The Panzerhaubitze, a German self-propelled 155 mm howitzer, was spotted in the wild in Ukraine.
"Expected for so long: the German #Panzerhaubitze safely camouflaged in the bushes, was already in action," said German TV reporter Katrin Eigendorf in a tweet. "Ruslan has just returned from Germany where he was trained. The question: will the howitzer be in time to stop the Russian advance?"
The arrival of the German howitzer in Ukraine was first announced six days ago by Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
Russia continues to steal Ukraine's grain.
In an exclusive report, BBC says it has evidence and explains how it’s happening.
"They take grain to the annexed Crimea first, where they transport it to Kerch or Sevastopol [ports], then they load Ukrainian grain on Russian ships and go to the Kerch Strait," BBC quotes Andrii Klymenko, an expert at the Institute for Black Sea Strategic Studies in Kyiv, who regularly monitors movements of ships around Crimea.
"There, in the Kerch Strait [between Crimea and Russia], they transfer Ukrainian grain from small ships on to bulk carriers, where it is mixed with grain from Russia - or in some cases, they sail to this area just to give the appearance they are loading up with Russian grain."
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