This morning’s situation report from the British Ministry of Defense concentrates on Russia’s withdrawal from Snake Island. “On 30 June 2022, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced that its forces had withdrawn from Snake Island in the north-west Black Sea. The island was seized by Russia on the first day of the invasion and sits along the main shipping lanes to Odesa and its adjacent ports. The Ukrainian Armed Forces conducted attacks against the Russian garrison in the past few weeks using missile and drone strikes. In addition, it used anti-ship missiles to interdict Russian naval vessels attempting [to] re-supply the island. Russia has highly likely withdrawn from Snake Island owing to the isolation of the garrison and its increasing vulnerability to Ukrainian strikes, rather than as a ‘gesture of good will’, as it has claimed.” As that withdrawal was completed, Russia claimed an advance in the vicinity of Lyschansk, in the Donbas. “Separately, Russian ground forces claim to have captured the village of Pryvilla, north-west of the contested Donbas town of Lyschansk. Intense fighting probably continues for the commanding high ground around Lyschansk Oil Refinery.”

Giving up Snake Island complicates Russia’s ability to expand the area it controls along the Black Sea coast. Both amphibious operations and a blockade become more difficult with Ukraine in control of the island. The loss of Snake Island does not, however, deny Russia the ability to strike area targets in the region with long-range weapons. The AP reports nineteen civilians killed by Russian missile strikes against Serhiivka, a small town in the Odessa region. The missiles employed were the same model used Monday against the shopping mall in Kremenchuk: obsolescent Kh-22 Kitchen air-launched anti-shipping missiles with a thousand-kilogram high-explosive warhead. The target, or at any rate what the missiles hit, was an apartment building.

Russian President Putin explained Wednesday that the special military operation in Ukraine was proceeding on schedule and according to plan, and that any appearance of delay is mere appearance. Russia’s operational tempo is deliberate, he explained, due to his commitment to keep casualties low. “Our forces are moving forward and attaining the objectives that have been set for the particular period of the engagement,” Mr. Putin assured the press. He also characterized Russia’s war aims as “liberating Donbas, protecting its people and creating conditions that will guarantee the security of Russia itself.” His remarks came at a Caspian regional summit held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, with participation by Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Update on the DDoS attack against Norway.

Killnet’s Cyber Spetsnaz continue to look more like a state-directed operation than they do a spontaneously aroused group of patriotic hacktivists. Security Affairs has an account of the various units now claiming adherence to “the Killnet Collective.” These include, most recently, “Sparta,” which says its remit is sabotage. Beyond Sparta, Security Affairs’ Killnet scorecard looks like this: “’Phoenix’ coordinated its activities with another division called ‘Rayd’ who previously attacked government resources in Poland including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Senate, Border Control and the Police. Other divisions involved in the DDoS attacks included ‘Vera’, ‘FasoninnGung’, ‘Mirai’ [a familiar name used by others], ‘Jacky’, ‘DDOS Gung’ and ‘Sakurajima’ who previously attacked multiple WEB-resources in Germany.” The aim of the operations seems to be influence, not really serious disruption or disablement, and the DDoS attacks in Norway have been a nuisance as opposed to a serious, consequential attack.

NATO’s resolutions on cyber security.

NATO’s Madrid summit this week addressed the threat Russia poses to its neighbors, vividly on display in the special military operation. The White House has offered the US reading of how the Atlantic Alliance intends to address the Russian cyber threat specifically, through “Strengthened Cyber Resilience and Defense”: 

“Building on last year’s adoption of a new Cyber Defense Policy for NATO, Allied leaders will endorse a new action plan to strengthen cyber cooperation across the political, military, and technical levels. As an operational domain for NATO, cyber will also be a key component of NATO’s strengthened deterrence and defense posture. Building on lessons learned from the conflict in Ukraine, Allies will decide at the Summit to use NATO as a coordination platform for offering national assets to build and exercise a virtual rapid response cyber capability to respond to a serious cyber-attack. The United States will offer robust national capabilities as part of this support network.”

Thus a rapid cyber response capability is expected to become at least as important as a conventional, kinetic capability.