Ukrainian intelligence revealed the data showing how the invaders’ 200th Motor Rifle Brigade was wiped out, the U.S. has expanded the training program for the Ukrainian troops, and Japan ramps up its military strength due to the war in Ukraine and the risks of a major conflict. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin might ruin Russia’s oil industry for the sake of his imperial ambitions.
Intelligence revealed the fate of the invaders’ 200th brigade, which took part in the assault on Kharkiv
Based on documents obtained from Ukrainian intelligence, as well as accounts from officials and service members, The Washington Post reconstructed the demise of the 200th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade, which was among the first units to plunge into Ukraine on February 24, as part of an assault on Kharkiv.
A document from internal Russian military files shows that by late May, fewer than 900 soldiers were left in two battalion tactical groups that had departed the brigade’s garrison in Russia with more than 1,400. The brigade’s commander was badly wounded, and some of those still being counted as part of the unit were listed as hospitalized, missing, or refusing to fight.
In peacetime, the 200th was garrisoned on the Kola Peninsula in the municipality of Pechenga, northwest of Murmansk, less than 10 miles from Russia’s border with Norway. It served as a wedge between the NATO powers to the west and the Barents Sea bases of Russia’s Northern Fleet. At the same time, the Kremlin has repeatedly used the brigade for priority missions like helping President of Syria Bashar al-Assad or the war in Donbas in 2014.
In January of this year, two heavily armed battalion tactical groups from the 200th moved to the Ukraine border. A convoy of about 100 brigade vehicles began streaming across the border on the morning of February 24. By day’s end, multiple units of the 200th had been ambushed or attacked, dozens of soldiers killed or wounded, and equipment destroyed or abandoned on roadsides.
"The front they were assigned proved to be well defended with very motivated Ukrainians," a senior European intelligence official said.
The defenders included, in particular, units, including the 92nd Ivan Sirko Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The 200th, like other Russian units, was also hobbled by internal problems: it was low on food and fuel after consuming or selling critical stores in the weeks leading up to the invasion.
Putin’s decision to keep even senior advisers in the dark left commanders scant time to prepare troops, let alone coordinate attack plans with other units.
How the invaders’ 200th Motor Rifle Brigade was routed
In the months since the May inventory, the brigade has sustained further losses in engagements. In early June, it was defeated by the 127th Separate Territorial Defense Brigade near the village of Velyki Prokhody, and in July by the 92th brigade in the village of Hrakove.
All the while, the brigade was being degraded from within. The skilled troops and professional officers sent into battle at the start of the war with state-of-the-art T-80BVM tanks have given way to an assemblage of poorly trained conscripts pressed into service with paltry or outdated gear. The documents obtained by intelligence show that members of the brigade were accused of the illegal sale of explosives, and intercepts indicated that numerous soldiers had refused to follow the orders in battle.
"The unit is in a state of decay," said a soldier now serving in the 200th after being drafted under mobilization orders in September. He and others were initially issued "painted helmets from 1941 and vests without plates," he said. "They are not even training us. … They just tell you, ‘You are a shooter now. Here you go, here is a machine gun.’"
The 200th’s involvement in the siege of Kharkiv concluded in September when it was routed near Kupiansk in the Ukrainian offensive
According to Colonel Pavlo Fedosenko, commander of Ukraine’s 92nd Mechanized Brigade, only fragments of a single battalion were left of the enemy unit. Most of the officers had been killed or injured, Fedosenko said, and about 70 percent of its equipment had been destroyed or captured.
"Nothing of that brigade is left," he said in a recent interview with The Post. "It’s completely wiped out."
The U.S. will train more Ukrainian soldiers in the winter
The United States is expanding the number of Ukrainian troops it instructs at a base in Germany, with a new focus on advanced battlefield tactics, the Pentagon announced on Thursday, The New York Times writes.
The expanded training would emphasize "combined arms" warfare — tight coordination among infantry, artillery, armored vehicles and, when it is available, air support.
Ukrainian officials have been wary of pulling too many troops off the front lines for specialized training given the intensity of the war. But with winter slowing the tempo of fighting in many parts of the combat zone, officials said the coming months would provide a window for more troops to benefit from training.
According to General Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, the training is expected to begin in January 2023. American instructors will train a Ukrainian battalion, or about 500 troops, each month, a number that could grow.
American forces are now training about 300 Ukrainians per month — and have trained 3,100 since the full-scale war began.
The training is focused on using specific advanced U.S. weapons systems. Thus, 610 soldiers have learned to use the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS.
Allied nations have so far instructed 12,000 Ukrainian troops, the Pentagon said, primarily new recruits who have gone to Britain for basic infantry training.
Combined arms tactics are another area of skills unfamiliar to most Ukrainian troops, though Ukraine has used them to a degree in successful counteroffensives in the past few months. The invasion of Ukraine has shown it to be a weakness of Russian forces.
"Training is important to Ukraine’s continued success on the battlefield by ensuring that Ukraine has the skilled forces necessary to sustain its efforts to push back on Russian aggression," Colin H. Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, said in a statement.
Japan is arming because of Russia’s war in Ukraine
Japan on Friday unveiled its biggest military build-up since World War Two with a $320 billion plan, Reuters reports.
The plan provides for the purchase of missiles capable of striking China and the preparation of the country for sustained conflict, as regional tensions and Russia's Ukraine invasion stoke war fears.
The sweeping, five-year plan will make Japan the world's third-biggest military spender.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the ramp-up was his answer to the various security challenges.
His government worries that Russia has set a precedent that will encourage China to attack Taiwan, threatening nearby Japanese islands, disrupting supplies of advanced semiconductors and putting a potential stranglehold on sea lanes that supply Middle East oil.
"The Ukraine war has shown us the necessity of being able to sustain a fight, and that is something Japan has not so far been prepared for," said Toshimichi Nagaiwa, a retired Air Self-Defense Force general. "Japan is making a late start, it is like we are 200 meters behind in a 400-meter sprint," he added.
How Putin can ruin Russia’s oil industry
Vladimir Putin has drawn up a draft decree prohibiting the sale of Russian oil exports to any country or any entity participating in the G7 oil price cap, The Telegraph writes.
Unless he backs down, the world will soon face a critical shortfall in crude and liquid products, adding an acute oil crisis on top of the gas crisis that we already have.
It is widely assumed that the Kremlin will find some way to redirect oil supply from Europe to customers in Asia.
Yet Russia does not have enough tankers of its own and cannot obtain sufficient numbers from the "shadow fleet", a motley cast of shell companies. The West controls over 90% of the world’s tankers through direct ownership or financing and insurance.
Putin’s decree may be bluster, but he may equally be tempted to play his oil card in a last-ditch effort to pressure the West into letting him swallow the Donbas and the occupied land corridor to Crimea.
The West is banking that Putin will be forced to go along with the G7 price cap and will not risk shutting down oil wells, of which only a fifth have strong enough pressure to throttle back output for a sustained period without damaging the field.
Yet Putin has already shown that he is willing to sacrifice his gas industry. If he hesitates, it is because an oil crisis would risk a rupture with China and India.
"Oil is the only thing that he has left. He has destroyed the rest of the economy," says White House energy coordinator Amos Hochstein.