Ukraine Daily Summary - Thursday, March 16

Leaked document exposes Kremlin's plan to undermine Moldova -- Russia plans to hire 400,000 professional soldiers -- 6 detained as Russian spy network broken up in Poland -- Poland says several countries willing to send MiG-29 jets to Ukraine -- and more

Thursday, March 16

Russia’s war against Ukraine

A damaged truck at a garage cooperative following a Russian missile attack in one of the areas in Kharkiv on March 15, 2023 as Russian-Ukrainian war continues. No one was injured in the incident. (Photo by Sofiia Bobok/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Reznikov ‘optimistic’ following latest Ramstein format meeting. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said the tenth round of the Ramstein format meeting, which was held on March 15, “inspires optimism.” According to Reznikov, this enthusiasm relates to strengthening air defense, ammunition supplies, training soldiers and forming what has has called an “armored fist.”

Media: 6 detained as Russian spy network broken up in Poland. Poland’s Internal Security Agency has detained 6 people part of a Russian spy ring who are alleged to have been spying on transfer points for weapons to Ukraine and planning acts of sabotage, according to RMF24.

Survey: Ukrainian military tops national trust ratings. Ukrainians have the greatest amount of trust in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, according to a survey conducted by the Razumkov Center. The results show that the level of trust in the military raised from 68% in 2021 to 95.8% in 2023.

Media: Russia plans to hire 400,000 professional soldiers. Russia’s Defense Ministry will start a new recruitment campaign on April 1, aiming to conclude contracts with 400,000 professional soldiers, the Russian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported, citing several regional media outlets.

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ISW: Wagner Group offensive on Bakhmut appears to be nearing culmination. The number of attacks in and around Bakhmut has significantly markedly decreased particularly over the last few days, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest assessment on March 15.

General Staff: Ukraine repels 75 Russian attacks in past 24 hours. Ukraine’s military repelled over 75 Russian assaults in five areas over the past day, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported in its morning briefing on March 16. Russian forces are concentrating their efforts on conducting offensives toward Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Mariinka, and Shakhtarsk in Donetsk Oblast.

Governor: Less than 3,000 residents remain in Bakhmut. Less than 3,000 residents, including 33 children, remain in Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported. “There are people who absolutely refuse to leave,” Kyrylenko said, noting that evacuation efforts are ongoing.

SBU: Woman in Kharkiv Oblast to spend 15 years in prison for treason. Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) has gathered “indisputable” evidence to convict a former official of a state-owned enterpise in Kharkiv Oblast to 15 years in prison for treason for providing Russian security services with the movements of Ukrainian troops.

US-Russia drone incident

Austin and Shoigu speak by phone following drone incident. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held a telephone conversation on March 15 in the wake of a Russian jet downning an American drone over the international waters of the Black Sea, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Russia to attempt to retrieve wreckage of US drone in Black Sea. Russia’s Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev said on March 15 that Russia is looking to retrieve the wreckage of the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone that was deliberately forced down by a Russian Su-27 fighter jet over the Black Sea on March 14.

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Ukraine war latest: Russia ramps up mobilization

As Ukraine reaffirms its willingness to keep fighting for the city of Bakhmut, Russia reportedly plans on drafting 400,000 people to fight the war against Ukraine.

Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds. Pool/Getty Images

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Leaked document exposes Kremlin’s plan to undermine Moldova

As Russia is waging war in Ukraine, it also seeks to increase its already strong influence in Moldova, a nation of 2.6 million people that borders Ukraine and the EU.

Photo: Anna-Karin Nilsson/Expressen

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The human cost of Russia’s war

UK estimates between 20,000–30,000 regular Russian forces, Wagner fighters have been killed, wounded in Bakhmut since last May. A U.K. official said during his speech in Vienna on March 15 that Russian military leaders have sacrificed military units and squandered strategic resources for small tactical gains. “Russia is suffering extremely heavy casualty rates,” military advisor Ian Stubbs said.

3 killed, 20 injured as Russia attacks 8 Ukrainian regions over past 24 hours. Russian troops struck civilian infrastructure in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kharkiv on the morning of March 15, said Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Syniehubov. Earlier the same day, Syniehubov reported that the Russian military had attacked three districts in Kharkiv Oblast, killing two people and injuring two.

Russia shells Marhanets in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, killing 2. A Russian attack on the city of Marhanets in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast on March 15 killed two women, according to the oblast governor Serhii Lysak.

International response

US official: 9 countries have pledged more than 150 tanks to Ukraine. Nine countries have pledged to transfer more than 150 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, according to U.S. Defense Minister Lloyd Austin at the Ramstein format meeting on March 15. Austin did not name any specific countries, only remarking that the tank coalition “continues to grow.”

Spain pledges 4 additional Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. According to Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles, as cited by El Espanol, the first batch of 6 tanks will be sent to Ukraine “in the near future.” The tanks are still undergoing repairs at a defense industry facility in Seville.

Canada to transfer artillery, air defense ammunition to Ukraine. Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand announced on March 15 that Canada would provide Ukraine with more ammunition and anti-aircraft defense following the tenth Ramstein format meeting. Additionally, Canada has already started the shipments of Leopard 2 tanks that were pledged in February, Anand said.

Poland says several countries willing to send MiG-29 jets to Ukraine. Warsaw has received “clear declarations” from several countries willing to supply Ukraine with MiG-29 fighter jets, the Polish government’s spokesman Piotr Muller said on March 15, as cited by Bloomberg. Muller didn’t name those countries.

Politico: US senators from both parties pressing Pentagon to send F-16s to Ukraine. “After speaking with U.S., Ukrainian, and foreign leaders working to support Ukraine at the Munich Security Conference last month, we believe the U.S. needs to take a hard look at providing F-16 aircraft to Ukraine,” eight senators wrote in a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, obtained by Politico. “This would be a significant capability that could prove to be a game changer on the battlefield.”

Denmark to set up $1 billion Ukraine fund. The Danish government and the parliament’s majority have agreed to allocate an additional seven billion DKK (about $1 billion) in civil, defense, and economic aid for Ukraine, according to a press release published by the Danish Finance Ministry.

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Today’s Ukraine Daily was brought to you by Oleg Sukhov, Dinara Khalilova, Francis Farrell, Kate Tsurkan, Teah Pelechaty, Brad LaFoy, and Olena Goncharova.

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