Ukraine Situation Report: U.S. Now Pushing To Deliver F-16s “As Fast As Possible”
Over the past two days, U.S. officials have indicated that Washington is working to drastically accelerate the delivery of F-16s to Ukraine.
It appears that Ukraine is getting closer to obtaining F-16 Vipers it has long requested.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday the U.S. is “moving rapidly” to get F-16s to Ukraine.
“We are going to push as fast as possible,” Sullivan said during remarks at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colo, according to Politico.
“Now look, the F-16s will get there probably towards the end of the year,” John Kirby, National Security Council spokesman, told Fox News on Thursday. “But it’s not our assessment that the F-16s alone would be enough to turn the tide here.”
Ukraine and 11 other nations have formalized a plan to train pilots, maintainers and support staff to operate F-16s, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov announced Tuesday in a Tweet. You can read more about that in our story here and regarding which nations might be able to provide Ukraine with those jets here.
Before we head into the latest from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.
During a meeting of the Russian Security Council, President Vladimir Putin suggested that Poland is seeking to occupy western Ukraine and stage an attack on Belarus.
He said that a well-organized, well-equipped “so-called Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian" regular military unit will be “used for operations in Ukraine, including to allegedly ensure the security of today’s Western Ukraine.”
But Poland's goal goes far behind mere security for Ukraine, Putin said.
Their aim should be called "by [its] true name, the subsequent occupation of these territories," the Russian leader said. "The outlook is clear: in the event Polish forces enter, say, Lviv or other Ukrainian territories, they will stay there, and they will stay there for good."
Putin also issued a veiled threat at Poland, raising the history of how the Soviet Union saved much of that nation from the Nazis during World War II.
"I would also like to remind you what Poland’s aggressive policy led to," he said during a meeting Friday of the Russian Security Council. "It led to the national tragedy of 1939, when Poland’s Western allies threw it to the German wolf, the German miliary machine. Poland actually lost its independence and statehood, which were only restored thanks in a large measure to the Soviet Union. It was also thanks to the Soviet Union and thanks to Stalin’s position that Poland acquired substantial territory in the west, German territory."
“It is a fact that Poland’s western lands are a gift from Stalin," Putin added. "Have our Warsaw friends forgotten this? We will remind them.”
Poland, he added, was eyeing an attack on Belarus, Putin’s vassal state, which would result in a response from Moscow.
“Belarus is part of the Union State, and launching an aggression against Belarus would mean launching an aggression against the Russian Federation,” he said. "We will respond to that with all the resources available to us.”
Poland, meanwhile, was making some military moves regarding Belarus. It's security committee decided in a meeting on Wednesday to move military units to the country's east due to the Wagner Group's presence in Belarus, state-run PAP news agency quoted its secretary as saying on Friday.
Wagner Private Military Company boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was shown in a video on Wednesday welcoming his fighters to Belarus, "telling them they would take no further part in the Ukraine war for now but ordering them to gather their strength for Africa while they trained the Belarusian army," Reuters reported.
But Polish officials are taking no chances.
"Training or joint exercises of the Belarusian army and the Wagner Group is undoubtedly a provocation," Zbigniew Hoffmann told PAP.
"The Committee analyzed possible threats, such as the dislocation of Wagner Group units. Therefore, the Minister of National Defense, chairman of the Committee, Mariusz Blaszczak, decided to move our military formations from the west to the east of Poland."
Speaking of Prigozhin, last month, Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov told us that the FSB was plotting to assassinate him after he staged an aborted mutiny. You can read more about Budanov’s comments in our exclusive interview here.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken seemingly confirmed Budanov’s assessment
“You know, if I were Mr. Prigozhin, I would remain very concerned,” Blinken told NBC news. "NATO has an open door policy. Russia has an open windows policy, and he needs to be very focused on that.”
On the battlefield, Ukraine is continuing is counteroffensive along at least three different sections in Zaporizhzhia Oblast and the Donbas, and is making limited, incremental progress. Russia, meanwhile, is making limited ground attacks the Donbas while trying to counterattack near the border of the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.
Here are some key takeaways from the latest Institute for the Study of War assessment:
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and reportedly advanced on July 20.
- Russian forces continued limited ground attacks on the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, around Bakhmut and along the Avdiivka–Donetsk City line and advanced on the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line as of July 20.
- Ukrainian forces continued limited offensive operations east of Kupyansk, near Kreminna, near Bakhmut, and along the Avdiivka–Donetsk City line and made gains near Bakhmut on July 20.
- Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Vuhledar, on the administrative border between western Donetsk and eastern Zaporizhia oblasts, and south of Orikhiv and made limited territorial gains in western Donetsk and eastern Zaporizhia oblasts and western Zaporizhia Oblast on July 20.
- Russian forces continued to unsuccessfully counterattack Ukrainian positions on the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast administrative border on July 20.
Russia is also continuing its airstrikes against the Odesa region.
“Today, Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky district is under attack,” regional governor Oleh Kiper said Friday on his Telegram channel. “The target is an important infrastructure facility. The Russians fired seven missiles at it. Unfortunately, there is damage.”
Russia struck an agricultural warehouse that resulted in 100 tons of peas and 20 tons of barley being burned, agricultural and rescue equipment damaged, and two people injured, said Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for Ukraine's Operational Command South.
Reuters is reporting that the U.S. plans to announce as soon as Tuesday a new military aid package for Ukraine worth up to $400 million, primarily comprised of artillery, air defense missiles and ground vehicles as Ukraine's counteroffensive grinds on, three U.S. officials said on Friday.
The package will tentatively include several Stryker armored personnel carriers, mine clearing equipment, munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), anti-tank weapons including TOW and Javelin and munitions for Patriot and Stinger anti-aircraft systems, Reuters reported, citing the officials.
The package was still being finalized and could change, the publication noted.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry (MoD) on Friday denied that it lost control of weapons donated by the U.S. as had been reported by a couple of American media outlets.
"Artillery, ammunition, sophisticated air defense systems, armored vehicles - everything is accounted for in Ukraine,” Deputy Minister of Defense Volodymyr Gavrylov said, according to the Ukrainian MoD Telegram channel. “Last year, an automated system of accounting and passing of all [equipment] through logistics was implemented,” he said.
The programs place bar codes and QR codes on equipment for tracking and allow for site visits when necessary, Gavrylov said.
With tens of billions of dollars of equipment flowing into Ukraine, reforms were introduced in January to help ensure the arms reached the desired location.
Gavrylov was reacting to a story, first published by Military.com on Thursday and picked up by CNN on Friday, that said Ukraine had lost track of a number of weapons and ammunition before security services recovered them.
Military.com stated that a Pentagon inspector general's report it obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request showed that in the opening months of the war in Ukraine, "American military forces were unable to monitor where much of the military equipment being sent into the country was ending up - showing a violation of U.S. law and suggesting some gear fell into the hands of Russians and criminals,” Military.com reported.
Ukraine, as expected, is seeing a lot of equipment destroyed and damaged as it pushes a counteroffensive through Zaporizhzhia Oblast and the Donbas.
To keep up with those losses, the U.S. and allies are shifting focus to repair and sustainment, a top Pentagon official told Politico on Wednesday.
“We’re setting up repair facilities in Europe, we’re translating [training and repair] manuals, we have to do much more together so there’s going to be more of a focus on that” by partner nations, the Pentagon’s acquisition and sustainment chief, William LaPlante, told the publication.
Keeping equipment in the fight is one of the primary functions of a 22-nation working group led by the U.S., Poland and the U.K., with LaPlante leading the charge, Politico reported.
Dedicated to sustainment not only for Ukraine, but to restocking U.S. and European defense warehouses, that group meets regularly as part of the 50-nation Ukraine Defense Contact Group led by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Germany on Friday announced its latest tranche of aid to Ukraine. It includes 10 Leopard 1A5 tanks, 20 MG3 machine guns for Leopard 2 tanks, Marder IFVs and Pionierpanzer Dachs, 1,305 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition and 2,064 rounds of 155mm artillery smoke ammunition.
The package also include one bridge system and 12 trailers, 10 ground surveillance radars, four border protection vehicles, 16 Zetros trucks, 80 RQ-35 HEIDRUN reconnaissance drones and 100,000 individual first-aid kits.
Speaking of Germany, Ukrainian troops are now in that nation training on Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns. They will be turned over at some point to Ukraine.
Oleksiy Makeyev, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Germany, recently posed in front of one of the Gepards, which was still painted in a distinctive desert of the Qatari Army from whence they apparently came. In February, the German Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that Germany was looking to purchase 15 of the Gepards from Qatar to provide to Ukraine. Germany has already provided Ukraine with 30 Gepards and the U.S. Army last month awarded a Florida company a contract worth nearly $118 million to purchase more from Jordan.
On Wednesday, we told you about Russia's mysterious glide bomb, known as the UMPK, or Unifitsirovannyi Modul Planirovaniya i Korrektsii, meaning unified gliding and correction module.
New video has emerged showing a Russian Su-34 Fullback fighter deploying them, with its wings opening after being dropped.
In a rare public appearance, U.K.'s spy boss blasted China and its communist ruler Xi Jinping for helping Russia in Ukraine.
Richard Moore, the chief of U.K.’s Secret Intelligence Service known as MI6, said China and Xi are “absolutely complicit” in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moore said at a rare public appearance hosted by Politico in Prague Wednesday, the publication reported.
Richard Moore — known in the intelligence community as “C” — said MI6 now devotes more resources to tackling China than anything else.
“When Putin invaded Ukraine, the Chinese very clearly supported the Russians,” Moore told Poltico executive editor Anne McElvoy. “They have completely supported the Russians diplomatically, they’ve abstained in key votes at the United Nations, they’ve absolutely cynically repeated all the Russian tropes, particularly in places like Africa and Latin America — blaming NATO and all of this stuff.”
But this support has come at a cost to Vladimir Putin’s rule and prestige in Russia.
“What may have happened, which I know many Russians find deeply uncomfortable, is that the balance of power between them has shifted,” he said. “It’s very hard to look at them and not recognize that one is very much now subservient to the other.”
Thanks to drones, we can see the horrors of war unfolding from the comfort of wherever we have our screen. Such is the case of this video below, showing Ukrainian forces advancing on dug-in Russian troops in trenches and trellises near Bakhmut.
Speaking of trenches, they were a horrible place to fight during WWI and they still are today. Artillery still rains hell, and today drones spot troops to pinpoint fire or directly blow them up. This video shows the overall conditions though haven't changed much in a century.
Given the nature of this war and the enemy they are fighting, Ukraine doesn't enjoy the same casualty evacuation capabilities as, for instance, the U.S. had in Afghanistan and Iraq with fleet of casevac helicopters that didn't have to contend with robust air defense. So Ukraine, as you can see in this video below, is improvising, in this case evacuating a casualty with an all-terrain vehicle.
Video has emerged showing a large explosion caused by an Iranian-made Shahed-136 (Geran-2 as named by Russia) strike drone in the central Ukrainian region of Zhytomyr.
And finally, Russia has apparently developed a ghost fleet of fighters at its Yeysk air base in Krasnador Krai Oblast, Russia. These images, compiled by Planet Labs and posted on Twitter by researcher Brady Africk, show Russia has apparently painted decoys in a newly constructed part of that base. Located across the Azov Sea from occupied Mariupol, is about 130 miles from the front lines as they currently stand. That's well within range of Ukrainian drones, which have already struck air bases inside Russia more than twice that distance. Similar peculiar silhouettes also appeared at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan while under U.S. control. You can read more about that here.
That's it for now. We'll update this story when there's more news to report about Ukraine.
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