Six months after the start of the latest Russian invasion, Ukraine celebrated the 31st anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence on 24 August with air sirens alerts sounding across the country. The celebration was marred by the death of at least 25 people by a Russian missile that struck a railway station in southwestern Ukraine.
In the north of Ukraine, Russian forces continued to fire barrel artillery at civilian and military infrastructure in a number of settlements in Chernihiv and Sumy Oblasts. On the night of 24-25 August, two Russian missiles hit settlements near Kyiv but no injuries have been reported. Many civilians were concerned about increased attacks in Kyiv during Independence Day and attempted to leave the capital.
In eastern Ukraine, Russian military forces continued to shell the city of Kharkiv and settlements along the front line with barrel and rocket artillery, damaging residential and commercial buildings, where at least two civilians were injured. Russian forces continued to conduct attacks near the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border and the Izyum-Slovyansk line with artillery.
In the Donbas, Ukrainian military forces reported that Russian forces attempted to advance near Bohorodychne, about 20km northwest of Slovyansk, and continued to shell the settlement. Residential infrastructure in Slovyansk was shelled by Russian forces on the night of 22-23 August.
Russia did not make any significant territory advances around Siversk but continued to shell the city and surrounding settlements.
Intensive fighting continued northeast and southeast Bakhmut, especially around Soledar-Bakhmutske (10km northeast of Bakhmut), Kodema (20km southeast of Bakhmut) and Zaitseve (10km southeast of Bakhmut). Russian troops are reported to advance from positions in Vershyna towards the outskirts of Zaitseve and will likely continue to push north towards Bakhmut from Zaitseve. Heavy shelling continued in the city of Bakhmut, Soledar and Yakolivka.
Russia made limited territorial advances west of the city of Donetsk and continued to focus on the encirclement of Adviivka, attacking settlements northeast and southwest of Avdiivka.
In southern Ukraine, Russia forces made limited territorial gains east of the city of Mykolaiv and in northwestern Kherson Oblast and continued to shell settlements around the front line. Ukrainian forces continued to target Russian supply lines with long-range systems on a daily basis, especially in Kherson Oblast.
In Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, a Russian rocket struck on a train station in Chaplyne, killing at least 25 people and injuring 55 on 24 August. Synelnyky, Nikopol, Kryvorig, and Dnipro were also shelled, injuring several people. Russia claimed that the missile killed more than 200 Ukrainian servicemembers and destroyed 10 equipment units; however, this information has not yet been confirmed by the Ukrainian authorities or verified.
On 20 August, the Russian authorities again accused Ukraine of shelling near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. There is still no evidence of shelling as Russia has not presented clear evidence to back up its claims about the nuclear plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that, given the recent attacks on the nuclear power plant, there is a high risk of radiation leakage. These developments have led the European Union, together with 42 other countries, including the United States, to issue a joint statement calling on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. In addition, Western leaders have also called for an IAEA visit to the Ukrainian nuclear power plant because of safety concerns. 2Secure assess that the risk of a nuclear accident like the Chernobyl in 1986 is unlikely although political tension is likely to increase on this issue.
On 20 August, a drone attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, was reported. Ukrainian officials have not yet claimed responsibility of the attack. In addition, Russia blamed pro-Ukrainian saboteurs for the attack on a Russian military base in Dzhankoi, northern Crimea, on 16 August. Ukraine has not publicly admitted the attack, but Presidential Office Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak described the incident as “demilitarisation in action”. In addition, a spokesman for the Ukrainian air force command blamed the explosion on Russia’s failure to observe fire precautions. Almost 3,000 people have been evacuated from nearby villages and two people have been injured. The explosions damaged power lines, an electricity substation, residential buildings, and railway infrastructure, disrupting railway traffic between northern Crimea. Ukrainian forces have used US Himars multiple rocket launchers to attack up to 50 weapons depots and also bridges in southern Ukraine, endangering vital supply lines from Crimea to Kherson.
In western Ukraine, there have been no significant developments. However, air sirens alerts sounded across western Ukraine on 24 August. The whole territory of Ukraine remains under risk of Russian missile attacks. The risk of a Russian ground invasion of central and western Ukraine remains low.
Developments in Russia
On 21 August Darya Dugina, the daughter of President Vladimir Putin’s close ally, was killed in a suspected car bombing on a road outside of Moscow. Darya´s father Alexander Dugin, a prominent ultra- nationalist ideologue known as “Putin´s brain”, was possibly the intended target of the attack. The father and daughter attended a festival near Moscow and were to leave the venue in the same car, but the plans were changed at the last minute were Mr Dugin decided to take another car. Ukraine has dismissed involvement of the attack. Maria Zakharova the spokeswoman for Russia´s Foreign Ministry stated that if any Ukrainian link will be found to the attack, it will be interpreted as “state terrorism”. The Russian state- controlled media have been reporting the news as a Ukrainian attack, and that the attack came from a Ukrainian secret agent in a Mini Cooper. The fast blame on Ukraine is interpreted as a way for Russia to be stepping up efforts to attack Ukrainian civilian infrastructure and government facilities.
Russian politician Yevgeny Roizman, former mayor of the Ukrainian city of Yekaterinburg, was detained by Russian law enforcement officials. The reason for the arrest was a video in which Roizman claimed to journalists that he was being investigated under a law against discrediting Russian armed forces because of the use of the phrase ”invasion of Ukraine”. Thousands of people have faced court on charges such as ”discrediting the Russian army”, and most of them have been convicted. In addition, more than 16,000 people have been detained for protesting against the invasion. Offences often include street protests, posting on social media or simply referring to the era as an invasion.
After the UN and Turkey deal, over 33 grain ships have left Ukraine since 01 August while dry weather weighs on US, China and European production prospect. The cargo ships contain around 71,954.9 tons of grain, and it is estimated that the Ukrainian grain export could reach four million tons in August, compared to the three million tons in July. Since the Russian invasion has the Ukrainian agricultural commodities fallen by almost half since before the invasion. By ensuring the Ukraine grain export through the Black Sea ports it will aid the global food security, and restrain shortages and famine.
On 22 August a new format of the ’Kiev Initiative’ was developed with the aim of strengthening Ukrainian ties with Eastern European and Baltic countries. The initiative is seen as a platform to discuss common security challenges for Central and Eastern European countries in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The initiative will gradually involve other countries. Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the Baltic countries are already involved in the work of the format. The initiative will increase the ability to strengthen cooperation and the protection of common interests. The head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, Andriy Yermak, held the first meeting with the advisors to the Head of State and Government of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary participating in the format. The meeting discussed the importance of Russia’s international legal responsibility for its aggression and the development of a security system that would make a repetition of such a war impossible in the future. The initiative also involved strengthening sectoral sanctions in the areas of energy, finance and trade, and introduced new sanctions against oligarchs, high-ranking officials and top managers of state-owned enterprises in the Russian federation, as well as suspending the issuance of visas to Russian citizens by all EU and G7 countries.
The Swedish Defence Forces will grow from 66,000 to 105,000 people within ten years. The military intelligence service is warning that extremists are trying to join the forces to obtain weapons and combat training; five to ten extremists are turned away from the forces each year. The threat of opponents entering the military is causing the military to continually update and improve its security testing. Swedish companies, government agencies and other public bodies linked to critical national infrastructures are at risk of infiltration by extremists. Internal security processes such as Insider Threats programmes should be implemented, as well as conducting comprehensive background checks before hiring new employees.
Several European countries have this week announced new military supplies to Ukraine. Norway and UK will jointly supply micro drones to Ukraine with the aim of assisting in the invasion. The drones are estimated to cost 98 million SEK. The drones are manufactured in Norway and are world leaders in the market, such drones are used for scouting and target identification. The aid will not affect Norwegian defence, says Bjorn Arild Gram, Norwegian Minister of Defence. In addition, Spain will send Ukraine anti-aircraft battery and missiles.
Russian military forces have not made significant territorial advances in Donbas since advancing through Novoluhanske and the Vuhlehirska Thermal Power Plant southeast of Bakhmut, and the Butivka coal mine southwest of Avdiivka, both in late July. Russia has several times proven its incapacity to turn minor tactical gains into operational successes, most likely due to Russia’s inability to allocate enough resources to offensive operations. This is likely to deter Russia from further territorial advances in the following weeks.
Moreover, Rosgvardia (Russian National Guard) units have reportedly been deployed to Luhansk Oblast to carry out security tasks in the region. This is probably in response to the decline in support for the war in the occupied region. The deployment of Russian authorities in Luhansk is most likely to diverts these forces from operations elsewhere near the frontline, which is likely to further contribute to Russia’s overall failure to translate limited tactical gains into operational successes.