This Week in the Russia-Ukraine War (August 25)

A snapshot of recent news from sources around the world on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

F-16s of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Image – RNAF

Political Developments

A private passenger aircraft carrying Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin crashed in Russia on Wednesday.  The aircraft came down in the Tver region.  An aviation expert said he believes the aircraft was hit by a missile rather than destroyed by an onboard bomb.

Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency later released a passenger list, which included Prigozhin’s name as well as other key Wagner figures, including Dmitry Utkin. Prigozhin’s death follows an abortive coup he launched in June.

Russian state media reported on Wednesday that Sergei Surovikin has been replaced as commander of the Aerospace Forces. Surovikin led Russia’s war effort in Ukraine from October to January. He has been linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner Group, and had been out of the public light since Prigozhin led the mutiny two months ago.

At an international press conference on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged that Kyiv will end Russian occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. Moscow formally annexed Crimea in March 2014 and bases its Black Sea Fleet out of Sevastopol.

A poll released this week showed that the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians still oppose territorial concessions to Russia as part of a theoretical peace deal.

Military Assistance to Ukraine

The U.S. said it would be open to training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s donated by European countries. Washington recently signaled a willingness to approve F-16 transfers to Ukraine from the Netherlands and Denmark. Certain conditions must be met for transfer approval to be given, such as English language training, with some ground logistics issues to be sorted out as well.

In addition, “Ukraine can count on Norway to make a contribution,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said on Thursday, confirming  that his country will also donate an unspecified number of F-16s to Ukraine.

Sweden and Ukraine announced a plan to strengthen cooperation on CV90 production, operation, training, and maintenance. Sweden has also said it would allow Ukraine to test its Saab Gripens, but the Swedish government has said it doesn’t have enough inventory to donate any of the aircraft.

The French government has delivered the first batch of SCALP missiles to Ukraine.  The Ukrainian government has repeatedly called on its Western allies to provide long-range missiles, including the U.S. Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the German-made TAURUS.

Lithuania expects to deliver NASAMS air defense systems to Ukraine starting in September, President Gitanas Nausėda said this week.

The Netherlands will also provide a thousand chargers to help Ukrainian troops carry out remote demining. Russian troops have set up minefields to inhibit Ukrainian advances along the frontlines.

Ukrainian soldiers training on U.S. Abrams tanks in Germany will receive additional training on the vehicles, at the request of Kyiv. A 12-week training program was about to conclude when the Ukrainian government asked for additional proficiency training.

The Ukrainian “Armor Company” has begun large-scale production of 120mm mortar rounds, with thousands reportedly delivered to frontline troops.  Production was undertaken with the assistance of two unnamed NATO members.

Battlefield Updates

Ukrainian forces announced the re-capture of the village of Robotyne this week, and on Wednesday a spokesman for the military said troops were continuing to advance in the vicinity of the village.

But land mines are presenting a major obstacle for Ukrainian troops trying to recapture lost territory.  Ukraine’s summer offensive is continuing, but has not achieved any major breakthroughs. Ukrainian sources say that in some parts of the frontline, there are five land mines per square meter.

Ukraine has reportedly carried out a drone attack on a Russian supersonic bomber.  Images online show a Tu-22 long-range bomber on fire.  The burning bomber appears to be located south of St. Petersburg.

Russian air defenses shot down a Ukrainian drone on Monday in the Ruzsky district west of Moscow. Officials say at least two people were injured by the wreckage. On Wednesday, Russia said its air defense forces have destroyed Ukrainian attack drones targeting the Moscow region.  The attack drones were brought down over the Istrinsky District. Russian air defense forces intercepted three Ukrainian-made attack drones on August 23 around Moscow.

A Russian helicopter pilot may have defected to Ukraine along with his helicopter. Ukraine announced on Wednesday that, following a months-long intelligence operation, a Russian pilot landed his Mi-8AMTSh in Ukraine, allegedly transporting along with him parts from Russian combat jets. Russian-aligned social media channels had previously said that the pilot had gotten “lost” while returning to base.

Russia is building defenses around the bridge over the Kerch Strait.  This bridge has been targeted by Ukrainian-made unmanned surface vessels (USVs).  Russia is sinking ferries in the Kerch Strait to create a barrier.

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