Ukraine Situation Report: Patriot Missiles Welcomed By Defense Minister
The Ukrainian defense minister has thanked the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands for the much-needed air defense systems.
Further to our report yesterday on Germany’s delivery of a Patriot air defense battery and missiles to Ukraine, the Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov has issued a statement of his own regarding the arrival of what appears to be the first such systems.
Posting on Twitter, Reznikov said that “Our beautiful sky becomes more secure because Patriot air defense systems have arrived in Ukraine.”
In the same tweet, the Ukrainian defense minister also thanked the U.S., German, and Dutch governments for providing the systems. Reznikov added he had initially made a request for Patriots as long ago as August 2021, during a pre-invasion visit to the United States.
So far, the German-supplied Patriot battery is the only one confirmed to have arrived in Ukraine, the government in Berlin announcing yesterday that it had been transferred as part of its $2.41-billion commitment of lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine.
The U.S. government has declined to comment on whether it has delivered a Patriot system. “We don’t have any updates on this end and will allow the Ukrainians to announce any arrivals when they’re ready to do so,” Army Maj. Charlie Dietz, a Pentagon spokesman, told The War Zone yesterday.
Back in February, the Pentagon said that it was planning to “expedite” the delivery of the Patriot to Ukraine. The Netherlands agreed in January to also supply a pair of Patriot launchers.
Before we get into today’s latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up with our previous rolling coverage here.
Russia has reacted angrily to an announcement from South Korea that it might join the long list of countries supplying heavy weaponry to Ukraine to help thwart the Kremlin’s invasion of that country. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol laid out the conditions under which Seoul would shift its current policy and deliver arms to Ukraine, in response to which Moscow threatened to send weapons systems to North Korea in a “quid pro quo” move.
“If there is a situation the international community cannot condone, such as any large-scale attack on civilians, massacre, or serious violation of the laws of war, it might be difficult for us to insist only on humanitarian or financial support,” Yoon said.
In an interview with Reuters, the South Korean president talked about the country’s current assistance to Ukraine, based on humanitarian and economic aid, and likened the situation to the 1950–53 Korean War, when the South was heavily backed by the U.S. military in its conflict with the communist North.
While a key U.S. ally and today a major exporter of advanced weapons, Seoul’s policy as regards Ukraine has been driven by the need to protect economic relations with Russia as well as try and reduce tensions with North Korea, which has close ties with Moscow. The possibility of South Korea delivering weapons to Ukraine had been off the table, with lethal aid having been specifically ruled out.
“I believe there won’t be limitations to the extent of the support to defend and restore a country that’s been illegally invaded both under international and domestic law,” Yoon added. “However, considering our relationship with the parties engaged in the war and developments in the battlefield, we will take the most appropriate measures.”
The announcement immediately drew a fierce response from Russia. Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chair of the security council, took to Telegram and threatened to put advanced weapons from Russian production into the hands of “our partners from the DPRK” — the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea. This claim was quickly ridiculed by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, with the following tweet:
“There are new ones willing to help our enemies,” Medvedev wrote. “South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol said that, in principle, the state is ready to supply weapons to the Kyiv regime. Until recently, the South Koreans ardently assured that the possibility of supplying lethal weapons to Kyiv was completely ruled out. I wonder what the inhabitants of this country will say when they see the latest designs of Russian weapons from their closest neighbors — our partners from the DPRK? What is called ‘Quid pro quo…’”
Berlin today confirmed the forthcoming delivery of the German Skynex air defense system, from the Rheinmetall company. The War Zone previously reported that Skynex was likely headed to Ukraine. This is a modular system that integrates different sensors to provide a recognized air picture for air defense operators.
In other air defense-related news, a report in the U.K.’s Financial Times suggests that the urgent delivery of additional surface-to-air missiles for Ukraine will be on the agenda at a meeting of Western allies at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, later this week.
The FT cited “three officials briefed on the preparations” for the Ramstein meeting, this being the latest indicator that Kyiv is running short of missiles for its ground-based air defense systems, with the critical Soviet-era S-300 and Buk — which reportedly accounted for 89 percent of Ukraine’s medium/long-range air defense capabilities earlier this year — being especially hard hit.
With no obvious source of missiles that can be readily employed by the S-300 and Buk, any Western deliveries of ground-based air defense systems are likely to involve different types, primarily of Western origin. Should Ukrainian air defenses be depleted to a point at which Moscow considers it effective to launch a new large-scale air offensive, including ranging further west into Ukraine, the results could be disastrous, as The War Zone has recently discussed in detail.
“If Russia can get in with dumb bombers, Ukraine will be in trouble,” one of the unnamed officials told the FT. “It’s looking grim.”
In more positive air defense news for Ukraine, the country has now received the second of four German-supplied IRIS-T SLM batteries, plus 16 missiles. You can read more about the IRIS-T SLM system, of which evidence that it was deployed in Ukraine first emerged in October last year, in this previous report.
Russian drones, among the aerial targets that the IRIS-T SLM is particularly well-suited to counter, have again been used in attacks on southern Ukraine, according to Yuri Kruk, the head of the military command of the southern Odesa region. Strikes on the region overnight are said to have caused a fire at an undisclosed infrastructure facility, although no casualties were reported.
Additional overnight Russian airstrikes included two aerial bombs dropped on Vovchansk in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian state broadcaster Suspilne. These bombs were apparently dropped late on the evening of April 18. They are said to have damaged two houses, burned down part of a market, and injured two people. Rescuers today were reported to be looking for two more people under the rubble.
Other overnight developments in the conflict reported by Suspilne include two reported attacks on Kherson, the port city recaptured by Ukrainian forces last November. The latest attacks are said to have resulted in undisclosed damage. In the last 24 hours, the broadcaster reported, the Kherson community was subject to artillery bombardment 18 times, killing one person and injuring 10 more, with a market in the city center having been hit.
Elsewhere in the Kherson region, Ukrainian forces are said to have begun an assault on the Russian-occupied city of Nova Kakhovka, on the left bank of the River Dniepr. A Russian-installed official in the region, Rodion Miroshnik, stated on Telegram that Nova Kakhovka was under fire from Ukrainian forces. “The whole city is under fire. There are already wounded,” he wrote, although these claims can’t currently be independently verified.
At midnight, Suspilne reports the Russian military struck Druzhkivka in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, damaging a hospital. Yesterday, one person was killed and 13 wounded as a result of Russian shelling elsewhere in this region.
Donest region is also the apparent location of the following video and photos, showing a Ukrainian-operated pick-up armed with an ad-hoc rocket launcher. The turntable-mounted, three-round launcher appears to use unguided rockets. We have previously seen similar arrangements, often using S-8 80mm unguided rockets designed to be launched from aircraft.
Meanwhile, intense fighting also continues in and around the city of Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, which has become a focus of Russian efforts in recent months.
The AFP news agency recently interviewed Ukrainian personnel involved in the fighting for Bakhmut.
“The city looks more like ruins,” said one of the Ukrainian soldiers, named only as Denis. “There are almost no whole houses left. It’s practically wiped out. There’s shelling every day … artillery and mortar shelling don’t stop. Drones drop grenades. And of course, there is street fighting and machine gun fire.”
The unit in question that was interviewed by AFP had recently returned from the front line and is currently engaged in explosive ordnance disposal outside the city.
“When you go out, you don’t know if you’re coming back,” said Oleg, who described their work dealing with explosives and various booby traps. “They even mine the corpses of their soldiers. When they retreat, they mine absolutely everything,” he added.
This recently uploaded video also provides an idea of the intensity of the trench warfare taking place in the battle for Bakhmut. Apparently, it shows a last-ditch effort by Ukrainian forces to hold the last-remaining major road not controlled by Russians, to ensure that supplies can still flow into the city. At the 1:00-minute mark, the soldiers in the foxhole are lucky to avoid the blast of an apparent grenade or mortar round and the fighting becomes even more hair-raising after that point.
More evidence of the brutal fighting for Bakhmut — and the conditions endured by the few remaining civilian residents — is provided in the following tweet:
Further to our previous story on the arrival of the first U.S.-supplied M2 Bradleys promised to Ukraine in January, a photo has appeared on social media that appears to show two examples active already on the eastern front of the conflict. The Bradleys are seen accompanied by a pair of M-55S main battle tanks — much-modernized T-55s supplied to Ukraine from Slovenian stocks.
Other main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers are also on their way to Ukraine. The photos below are rumored to show former Spanish Army Leopard 2A4 tanks and M113 APCs being transported to a port for onward shipment to Ukraine. Madrid has pledged 10 Leopards and has reportedly already delivered around 35 M113s.
Another vehicle that may well end up being used by Ukrainian forces is this captured Russian Army Typhoon-K armored mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, produced by Kamaz. Considering its condition, it could well join the growing fleet of captured Russian vehicles now in service with Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the following vehicle is very much at the opposite end of the armor spectrum. Based apparently on the ubiquitous UAZ-452 ‘Bukhanka’ (‘bread loaf’) utility vehicle, it has had an improvised armor plate applied over most of its body, as well as camouflage. The date and location are unknown, but it may well originate in one of the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, where we have seen similar adaptations of commercial vehicles before.
More gruesome revelations about the practice of Russian fighters have been provided recently by Alexey Savichev, aged 49, a former Russian convict who was recruited by the Wagner Group, a private military company, last September.
While Savichev’s claims can’t be independently verified at this point, the Guardian newspaper, which interviewed him, confirms that it has seen documents that confirm he was released from a prison in Voronezh in September.
Savichev says that he killed and tortured “dozens” of Ukrainian prisoners of war during his six months of fighting in eastern Ukraine.
“We were told not to take any prisoners, and just shoot them on the spot,” he told the U.K. newspaper.
In one account, Savichev describes how he participated in the killings of 20 Ukrainian soldiers who had been surrounded, near the eastern Ukrainian city of Soledar, last year.
“We sprayed them with our bullets,” he said. “It is war and I do not regret a single thing I did there. If I could, I would go back.”
In another episode, Savichev recounted how he and other Wagner mercenaries had killed “several dozen” injured Ukrainian prisoners of war by “tossing grenades” into a ditch where they were being held. He claimed that the incident happened near the city of Bakhmut in January. “We would torture soldiers too, there weren’t any rules,” he added.
Currently, Russian forces are said to be stepping up their use of heavy artillery and airstrikes in Bakhmut. This is according to Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Kyiv’s ground forces, speaking yesterday. However, he added that Russia was still taking heavy losses in the fighting for the city.
In Russia, the state-owned TASS news agency reported today about what it claimed was a foiled sabotage plot in Russian-occupied Crimea, an area that has come under repeated attack from Ukrainian forces since the Russian invasion.
The agency quotes a statement from Russia’s FSB security service which describes a purported plan to attack energy infrastructure in Kerch. The FSB adds that a Russian-Ukrainian dual citizen said to have been involved in the plot has been detained.
The TASS report states that an “improvised explosive device and means of communication” were confiscated at the suspect’s home, together with evidence of correspondence with Ukraine’s special forces.
So far, the claims have not been independently verified.
In another sabotage-related story, a video has emerged showing the unusual Soviet-era DP-64 anti-sabotage grenade launcher in use with Russian forces in Ukraine. This double-barrel weapon was first developed to combat frogmen, for the protection of maritime assets. You can learn more about it here and in the video below:
That's it for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.
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