This Week in the Russia-Ukraine War (January 26)

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

French Caesar self-propelled howitzer. Image – DVIDS

Political Developments

On Wednesday, a Russian Il-76 carrying dozens of Ukrainian POWs crashed in Belgorod region, killing all occupants on board. The Russian Ministry of Defense blamed the crash on Ukraine, alleging that Ukrainian air-defense systems had fired a pair of interceptor missiles at the transport. Kyiv has neither denied nor confirmed the shoot-down of the aircraft.

Separately on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee green-lighted proposed legislation that would enable the U.S. to transfer frozen Russian assets to Ukraine. As much as $300 billion in Russian central bank reserves, held abroad, was frozen after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, but Western governments have been divided on whether to seize these funds to support Kyiv.

E.U. officials this week told Reuters that the E.U. is not likely to confiscate the frozen Russian assets held within its jurisdiction.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said on Thursday that, working in conjunction with the Prosecutor General and SBU, a procurement embezzlement scheme worth up to UAH1.5 billion ($39.9 million) had been discovered and prevented. The scheme, allegedly orchestrated by the head of one of the MoD’s main directorates, had involved the purchase of ammunition at inflated prices.

North Korean missiles are making an appearance in the war, but it is believed that fewer than 50 missiles have been transferred so far. However, there are concerns that North Korea could increase its supply of missiles to Russia. Pyongyang has also been donating artillery shells, many of which are old and turning out to be duds.

The German government remains reluctant to deliver TAURUS cruise missiles to Ukraine.  A clear majority in the Bundestag voted against this proposal.

Military Assistance to Ukraine

Poland is preparing to announce a new military aid package to Ukraine, an indication that the two neighbors are patching up relations, which suffered over trade disputes. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk stated, “Poland will do everything to increase Ukraine’s chances of victory in this war.”

The government of Hungary announced opposition to the creation of a new military fund for supplying armaments to Ukraine, but later in the week appeared to change course, lifting its objection. The fund aims to replace the European Peace Facility, which has been utilized to reimburse members for delivering military hardware for Ukraine’s defense.

France & Ukraine launched the “Artillery for Ukraine” coalition, with France pledging 78 Caesar howitzers (6 now, 72 in 2024) to bolster Kyiv’s military support. Ukraine has purchased six, while Paris will cover the cost for another 12. France is seeking for other European states to help shoulder the cost of the remaining 60.

The French government also announced the delivery of a pair of lance-roquettes unitaire (LRU), the French version of the M270 multiple rocket launcher, to Ukraine.

Berlin plans to deliver six Sea King Mk 41 helicopters to Ukraine, according to an announcement on Tuesday from German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius.

U.S. security assistance funding for Ukraine has run out, meaning the U.S. must halt the transfer of weapons to Kyiv. A supplemental spending request from the Biden administration that contains some $30 billion for weapons for Ukraine remains bogged down in Congress. The U.S. has said it will rely on allies to continue providing weapons until its funding issues have been sorted out.

Ukraine is expected to achieve initial operating capability on the F-16 by the end of 2024, according to U.S. officials. Training efforts are ongoing for pilots and maintenance personnel.

Ukrainian officials continue to pressure their Western allies for more weapons.  Western air defense systems are protecting different Ukrainian cities and critical sites.  Kyiv said it still wants Germany to provide it with the TAURUS missile.

Battlefield Updates

Russia is using human-wave attacks despite the high casualty rate around the city of Avdiivka to suppress and overwhelm defenders.

However, Russian military bloggers have recently opined that Russian troops have struggled to advance against Ukrainian positions due to the heavy usage of FPV drones. The drones have been used to target infantry formations “larger than a battalion,” a report in ISW said, forcing Russia to keep its troops dispersed.

Russia continues to pound targets inside Ukraine.  On January 23, Moscow launched another wave of missiles targeting Kyiv and Kharkiv.  Missiles also targeted other Ukrainian cities.

 

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