May 8, 2022 Newsletter #20.0

Good morning everyone,

Haven't done one of these in a few weeks. Going to be honest and admit by the time Sunday rolls around, I am completely exhausted from the week and don't want to do anything. But hey, that's not an excuse.

P.S. Apologies for the app notification spam on May 5, we were testing some notification stuff and it accidentally spammed everyone.

So with that, let's dive in:



Saturday, May 7, 2022: Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, has announced that “all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation has been completed.” For the past several weeks, there were numerous failed attempts to establish humanitarian corridors to help evacuate civilians that were holed up in the Azovstal industrial complex alongside the last remaining holdout of Ukrainian forces. Meanwhile, the area faced near constant shelling and airstrikes by Russian forces.

It wasn't until the past week when joint UN-International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) led humanitarian corridors were successfully established and resulted in the evacuation of several batches of civilians from the besieged industrial area. The civilians who were evacuated were then transferred to Russian aid stations before being bussed to Ukrainian held or separatist held areas away from fighting. Ukrainian officials are now trying to push for the evacuation of wounded soldiers that remain. It remains unclear how many, if any, male civilians remain in the complex as well.


Table of Contents

  • Ukraine Invasion

    • Russian Official Says There is no Intention of Leaving Southern Ukraine

    • First Confirmation of US-Supplied Switchblade use in Ukraine

    • Ukraine Targets Snake Island

  • Conflict

    • NRF Announces New Offensive Against Taliban

    • US-Taiwan Arms Sales Face Roadbump

  • Politics

    • Updates on Finland and Sweden's NATO Ambitions


Russian Official Says Russia Plans on Staying in Ukraine

Friday, May 6, 2022: Secretary of the Russian General Council, Andrey Turchak, announced on Friday during a trip to the Russian controlled city of Kherson that Russian forces plan to stay in southern Ukraine indefinitely. While addressing Russian reporters, he stated “Russia is here forever. There should be no doubt about this. There will be no return to the past. We will live together, develop this rich region, rich in historical heritage, rich in the people who live here.”

For the past several weeks, Ukrainian intelligence has believed that Russian forces will hold a staged independence referendum in the city to declare the greater Kherson Oblast as a breakaway state from Ukraine and pave the way for long term Russian occupation. Having Kherson be "independent" plays into Russia's larger tactical objectives of dividing Ukraine, as well as further legitimizing (to themselves) attempts to further secure southern portions of Ukraine to cut off access to the Black Sea.

Kherson city has seen significant protests and social opposition to Russian forces since it was captured on March 2. The city remains the only regional capital outside of Donbas that has been captured by Russian forces.



Thursday, May 5, 2022: First visual confirmation of Switchblade 300 loitering munition use by Ukrainian forces during the conflict, reportedly recovered near the Kharkiv frontline nearly a month after the United States said it would be supplying them. Utilizing an explosive payload similar to that of a 40mm grenade, the Switchblade 300 is primarily meant for anti-personnel operations or light vehicle targets. It has a range of 10km, maximum flight time of about 15 minutes, and a max speed of 100 mph. It is lightweight and compact, with both the launching tube and drone weighing a total of only 5.5 lbs, which means that the system is fully man-portable and can allow for additional drones to be carried at essentially no extra weight.

This one appears to have detonated as intended. I know what everyone is about to say “if it detonated there would be nothing left.” I posted this on the Instagram and provided footage of a test strike, in which the back half remains intact due to the explosion being directional and not meant to cause a massive blast radius.

 There are is another type of Switchblade, one we have not seen during this conflict yet. The Switchblade 600 is similar to the Switchblade 300, but boasts a much larger payload intended for armored targets and longer flight times. While less portable than the 300s at a combined weight of 50 lbs (tube and drone), the system has a specialized anti-armor warhead. The 600 series has a range of 90+ km, maximum flight time of about 40 minutes, and a max speed of 115 mph.


Saturday, May 7, 2022: The past week has seen a series of Ukrainian air and drone strikes targeting Russian military assets on Snake Island, which has been under Russian control shortly after the start of the invasion. The most recent strikes were revealed in footage released today, which shows two Ukrainian Su-27 fighter jets performing a bombing run on the island through the view of a Ukrainian Bayraktar TB-2 drone. While the extent of the damage is unknown at this time, the size of the blasts are significant. There have been several TB-2 drone strikes over the past week, which have destroyed several Russian anti-aircraft defenses, naval vessels, and positions on the Island. The exact number of casualties caused by these strikes is unclear, but Ukraine is claiming dozens.

The Island plays an important role in Ukraine’s demarcation of territorial waters, but is also highly symbolic. As you all may be aware, Snake Island is where the saying “Russian warship, go fuck yourself” was coined by Ukrainian servicemen stationed on the Island as Russian warships Moskva (now sunk) and Vasily Bykov called for their surrender during the initial days of the invasion. The incident drew international fame and became a key piece of propaganda for Ukraine’s war efforts. Although initially believed to be dead after the island was bombarded, the servicemen were alive and taken prisoner by Russian naval forces and sent to Sevastopol. The soldiers, as well as 19 civilian sailors who attempted to rescue them but were also captured, were eventually released during a prisoner swap in late March. The island continues to hold significant symbolism for Ukrainian resistance.

Russia has maintained control of the Island since and have largely been untouched until this past week. If Russia is to hold the island, it will provide a strategic strongpoint for further domination of the Black Sea by providing anti-aircraft coverage, as well as being a point for naval operations and communications. The island, however, is very small and an easy target, as seen in Russia’s swift takeover that I just mentioned. Snake Island lacks the infrastructure needed for large vessels to dock, and thus relies on smaller landing craft, or helicopters, to transfer supplies and manpower. It also lacks any natural protections from attacks and is quite literally a sitting duck. Now, Russia is dealing with holding the island while facing increasing drone and air strikes that have hindered anti-air defenses and maritime assets from being stationed there, as well as any chances of properly reinforcing the Island. With the presence of Neptune anti-ship missiles, it also appears that Russian naval ships are reluctant to bolster the island as they would be in range.




Friday, May 6, 2022: Spokesperson for the Afghan National Resistance Front, Sibghatullah Ahmadi, declared the launch of an all out offensive in Panjshir against the Taliban as heavy fighting has been reported in several districts within the province, as well as in several other surrounding provinces. Since the start of the offensive, the NRF has claimed all districts except the city center has been captured in both Abdullah Khel and Abshar. A considerable, but unspecified, number of T-ban reinforcements have been sent to the region. If confirmed, this would mark the largest offensive the NRF has conducted since the T-ban took over. Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that “No military incidents have been reported in Panjshir, Takhar and other areas. The allegations made by some insurgents in the media are untrue and no one is worried. There are thousands of well-equipped forces of the Islamic Emirate in Panjshir, Takhar and other areas.”

Turbulent Week for U.S.-Taiwan Military Sales

Wednesday, May 4, 2020: The U.S. is now considering supplying Taiwan with M142 HIMARS MLRS batteries instead of M109A6 Paladin batteries. The sale of the M109A6 has been severely delayed due to production and transfer timelines. Taiwan is already in a major purchasing bid for F-16 Block 70 and M1A2T Main Battle Tanks. This purchase has been given top priority from the Taiwanese, thus pushing back the timeline of the Paladins.

U.S. Defense Acquisition officials had to slam the brakes on the sale of the Paladins in order to allow the proper sale and transition of the aforementioned systems. However, due to other concerns such as American inventories and transfer costs of the Paladin, both sides are eying transfer of HIMARS batteries instead. Earlier this week, Taiwanese media sites claimed the United States canceled the sale all together due to a number of the systems pegged for Taiwan being transferred to Ukraine. 

In addition to that mess, today the Taiwanese Defense Minister announced they are dropping their bid for American MH-60R anti-submarine helicopters due to cost. They said: 

“In response to the suspension of the procurement of the M109A6 self-propelled gun truck, Defense Minister Qiu Guozheng said in the Legislative Yuan in the morning that "the reason why the United States stopped the case" this time is because the delivery schedule is not as good as the one proposed by our country at the beginning, because our country needs to improve rapidly The U.S. side also has good intentions for our combat capabilities and proposes alternatives, but the answer will only be answered after further evaluation by the Ministry of Defense. He also publicly confirmed for the first time that the purchase of 12 anti-submarine aircraft by the Navy's "Shenying III" will indeed be stopped because the price is too high and beyond the scope of our country's capabilities.”

Al-Shabaab Launches Large Scale Attack on Somali Military Base

Tuesday, May 3, 2022: Al-Shabaab militants carried out a complex attack and seized an ATMIS military base in Ceel Baraf, Middle Shabelle, Somalia. Militants began the attack with a complex ambush consisting of rocket and mortar fire followed by a hundreds strong infantry frontal assault on the lightly defended outpost. Al-Shabaab has unsurprisingly claimed up to 173 Burundian soldiers have been killed as they have also shared videos of their militants looting military stores. Local sources have put the death toll between 10 and 30, however an exact number remains unclear. Likewise, militant casualties were reported, but an exact number Is also unclear. African Union transport helicopters were spotted flying into the area, reportedly evacuating fleeing ATMIS soldiers. Last month African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) transitioned to African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) with the goal of eventually returning military control of the country back to the Somali government.


Updates on Finland and Sweden's NATO Ambitions

Thursday, May 5, 2022: Swedish media announced that their country has received security guarantees from the United States when they apply to NATO. Foreign Minister Ann Lind met with US Secretary of State Blinken where they spoke at length about Swedens application to NATO and how to combat possible Russian aggression against any vote. This also comes off the heels of NATO officials confirming to Finnish media that application paperwork and processes are being streamlined in preparation for the country’s’ votes in order to get the transition time from application to acceptance down to two weeks. The process on average takes six weeks, but all NATO countries must accept the application which in historical votes has taken up to a year. These security guarantees are bilateral and meant to dissuade Russian from interfering in Swedens vote to join, the application, and the waiting period where NATO accepts Sweden. Many analysts are saying this vote will happen in tandem with Finland in mid-May.


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