Ukraine Situation Report: U.K. To Give Kyiv “Longer-Range Weapons”
Exactly what long-range weapon system remains unknown, but the U.K. states it is the first country to provide such a capability to Ukraine.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his country would be "the first country to provide Ukraine with longer-range weapons" in a speech at the Munich Security Conference.
Sunak said there must be “a military strategy for Ukraine to gain a decisive advantage on the battlefield to win the war, and a political strategy to win the peace.”
“To win the war, Ukraine needs more artillery, armored vehicles, and air defense,” Sunak said. “So now is the time to double down on our military support. When (Russian President Vladimir) Putin started this war, he gambled that our resolve would falter. Even now, he is betting that we will lose our nerve. But we proved him wrong then and we will prove him wrong now."
“Together, we’re delivering as much equipment in the next few months as in the whole of 2022. And together we must help Ukraine to shield its cities from Russian bombs and Iranian drones. And that’s why the United Kingdom will be the first country to provide Ukraine with longer-range weapons, and it's why we’re working with our allies to give Ukraine the most advanced air defense systems and build the air force they need to defend their nation.”
Sunak further promised that the U.K. would help any country that could provide Ukraine with combat aircraft it could use immediately. The Royal Air Force is training Ukrainian pilots on “NATO-standard fighter jets” with previous suspicions the RAF could give Ukraine some of its older Eurofighter Typhoon jets. British Defense Minister Ben Wallace confirmed to German news outlet Der Spiegel that any Typhoon transfer would not take place until the war’s end.
Sunak did not go into detail about what platform or weapon system would give Ukraine long-range capabilities. While suspicion has focused on the Storm Shadow cruise missile and its roughly 250-mile range, the platform could involve a long-range 'suicide drone.' It was recently revealed that such weapons were designed via a secretive U.K. program called KINDRED.
The reported delta-wing kamikaze drone could well give Kyiv the replenishable long-range strike capability it seeks alongside the legacy Soviet-era Tu-141 “Strizh” drones that have been converted into crude cruise missiles. Ukraine also has its shadowy "Alibaba drones" that have been converted from commercial types and used to strike deep into Russia and Crimea since early last Summer. None of these types provide the precision, survivability, and heavy-hitting warhead of the Storm Shadow though.
Other possibilities exist, as well, so we will have to wait and see exactly what the U.K. provides Ukraine, but clearly they are not disclosing it at this time. Questions also remain as to what targets these weapons will be limited to. Will they be restricted to use in Russian-occupied Crimea and parts of Ukraine, or also Russia proper?
Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.
Saturday’s intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defense notes how the war, or rather, “special military operation” and its effects are increasingly inescapable in Russia as the full-scale invasion’s anniversary approaches this week.
NBC News reported Saturday that the U.S. intelligence believes China may be providing non-lethal military aid to Russia’s war in Ukraine, with fears growing that could soon evolve into direct lethal aid. CNN reporter Natasha Bertrand later tweeted a similar report, noting the U.S. has shared this intelligence with its allies at the Munich Security Conference.
Also at Munich, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken have alleged Russian troops committed “crimes against humanity” in Ukraine.
After the horrific discovery of massacre and mass graves in Bucha and through the liberation of other occupied territories, reports of Russian terror on the populace and prisoners of war have come to light.
“Based on a careful analysis of the law and available facts, I have determined that members of Russia’s forces and other Russian officials have committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine,” Blinken said. “Members of Russia’s forces have committed execution-style killings of Ukrainian men, women, and children; torture of civilians in detention through beatings, electrocution, and mock executions; rape; and, alongside other Russian officials, have deported hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians to Russia, including children who have been forcibly separated from their families."
“These acts are not random or spontaneous; they are part of the Kremlin’s widespread and systematic attack against Ukraine’s civilian population.”
The term has its modern-day legal roots in the post-WWII Nuremberg Charter, the governing document which preceded subsequent Nazi tribunals. Prosecutors crafted Article 6, section C because traditional war crimes statutes had no provision for crimes against a country’s own people like the Holocaust and other atrocities by the Nazi regime. It subsequently saw use in tribunals for former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and eventually the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
In Munich’s background, the fallout from the reported Russian double agent in Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) continues. Der Spiegel reported that the turncoat’s Russian handlers offered “six-digit sums” for the locations of Ukrainian HIMARS and IRIS-T launchers.
Ukraine has fortified its northern border with Belarus amid previous concerns that Russia could reopen its northern front against Kyiv. In an interview with BBC News Russia editor Steve Rosenberg in Minsk, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said he would readily allow Russian forces to use his territory for a new offensive if Ukraine attacked Belarus.
“I’m ready to provide territory again, but I am also ready to wage war together with the Russians from the territory of Belarus,” Lukashenko said. “But only if one soldier, even one soldier, comes from Ukraine to kill my people.”
Lukashenko, who has aligned himself and his country closer and closer to Russia since the war began, claimed that the “United States and Western Europe pushed Ukraine into this war” when confronted with Ukraine not previously threatening Minsk. Russian troops have spent much of the winter exercising with Belarusian troops as they did in 2022, keeping concerns of a new invasion at a simmer.
The video below, however, begs the question of what exactly Belarusian troops are readying for. Smashing flaming pieces of concrete across your and your comrades’ foreheads doesn’t seem that widely applicable on the modern battlefield.
Sticking to the bizarre, there is incredible aerial footage of a Russian soldier being leveled by the overpressure from a tank’s cannon. Two soldiers are seen standing in front of a Russian tank in heavy snow when the tank fires its 125mm main gun. The soldier closest to the muzzle blast drops his rifle and falls into the snow in a heap.
There is also a video of a Russian unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) reportedly in combat service near Svyatovo. The wheeled vehicle has a remote turret with both 7.62mm and 12.7mm machine guns, and an operator can be seen walking near it with a large controller not that unlike an RC hobbyist’s. How useful such a contraption would actually be on the battlefield is highly debatable.
With both sides preparing for expected offensives as the spring thaw nears, Russia continues to fortify its occupied territory in Kherson Oblast. Video shows flatbed trucks hauling concrete pillboxes in the oblast as Russia shores up its backstop between occupied Crimea and the Dnipro River.
Ukrainian artillery gunners got another kill with 155mm M982 “Excalibur” guided artillery shells, this time a Russian 9K33 Osa (SA-8 “Gecko”) surface-to-air missile system trying to hide under an awning.
Low-level helicopter operations are nothing new for the Ukrainian pilots running missions near the frontlines, but a video shows one Ukrainian Mi-8 “Hip” pilot giving new meaning to “low-level.” The pilot might need a driver’s license to fly that close to the road.
That concludes our coverage of the Ukraine conflict for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news to share.
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