05/12/2022

Brace for ‘mass attacks’ on energy network, Zelenskyy says; Ukraine at risk of running out of air defenses, analysts say

Ukraine looks to technology to help rebuild its economy amid Russia’s onslaught

As the war in Ukraine rages on, the country’s technology entrepreneurs are trying to stay positive.

“I don’t think there’s something in the world that could kill our ability to win and ability to do work or anything,” Valery Krasovsky, CEO and co-founder of Sigma Software, told CNBC on the sidelines of the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon.

Sigma, which has 2,000 employees based in Ukraine, equipped its offices with diesel generators and Starlink internet terminals to allow employees to continue working amid Russian shelling of critical energy infrastructure.

“Nothing could happen that would stop us delivering business, even in these conditions,” he added.

Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov (right) and First Lady Olena Zelenska (center) attend the Ukraine booth at Web Summit 2022.

Rita Franca | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Sigma was one of 59 Ukrainian start-ups that attended the event last week. Ukraine had a notable presence at Web Summit, where it sought support from the global tech community to bolster its fight against Russia.

In 2021, Ukraine had a small booth at Web Summit, Krasovsky said. This year, it had a much larger stand, lit up in yellow and blue. It was surrounded by floods of visitors, with Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska — accompanied by armed guards as she passed through the venue — among them.

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— Ryan Browne

Kremlin declines to comment on reported Ukraine de-escalation talks with U.S.

The Kremlin towers and Ivan the Great Cathedral in Moscow.

Kirill Kudryavtsev | Afp | Getty Images

The Kremlin on Monday declined to comment on a Wall Street Journal report that Washington held undisclosed talks with top Russian officials about avoiding further escalation in the Ukraine war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that while Russia remains “open” to talks, it is unable to negotiate with Kyiv due to its refusal to hold talks with Russia.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan held undisclosed talks with top Russian officials in the hope of reducing the risk the war in Ukraine spills over or escalates into a nuclear conflict.

— Reuters

Ukraine at risk of running out of air defense weapons, needs the West’s help: Think tank

Ukraine is at risk of running out of air defense weapons and needs the West’s urgent help to defend against a tide of cheap Iranian-supplied drones that are targeting its energy infrastructure, according to analysts at the defense and security think tank RUSI.

“Further Western support is needed to ensure that Kyiv can counter Moscow’s updated approach to the air war in Ukraine,” RUSI’s defense analysts Justin Bronk, Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds said in a new report Monday, noting Russia’s increased use in recent months of cheap Iranian Shahed-136 drones to disable Ukraine’s energy networks.

Previously, they noted, “Russia’s attempts at strategic air attack have been limited to expensive cruise and ballistic missile barrages at a much more limited scale. These failed to achieve strategically decisive damage during the first seven months of the invasion.”

“However, the latest iteration is a more focused and sustainable bombardment of the Ukrainian electricity grid, blending hundreds of cheap Iranian-supplied Shahed-136 loitering munitions against substations with continued use of cruise and ballistic missiles against larger targets,” they said.

Local residents look at parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle, what Ukrainian authorities consider to be an Iranian-made drone Shahed-136, after a Russian drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv on Oct. 17, 2022.

Vladyslav Musiienko | Reuters

This combination poses a risk to Ukraine, with the West warned to “avoid complacency about the need to urgently bolster Ukrainian air-defence capacity.”

“If Ukrainian SAMs [surface to air missile systems] are not resupplied with ammunition, and ultimately augmented and replaced with Western equivalents over time, the VKS [Russian Aerospace Forces] will regain the ability to pose a major threat,” the analysts warned.

In the short term, Ukraine needs large numbers of additional man-portable air-defense systems, known as “MANPADS,” and radar-guided anti-aircraft guns, such as the Gepard, “to sustain and increase its ability to intercept the Shahed-136s and protect its remaining power infrastructure and repairs to damaged facilities,” they said.

“In the medium term, Ukraine needs cost-effective ways to defend itself against the Shahed-136,” the analysts said.

One option, they added, could be “compact radar and/or laser ranging and sighting systems to allow numerous existing anti-aircraft guns to be much more accurate and effective against them.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Kyiv’s mayor says residents have to be prepared to evacuate the capital

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, said Sunday that residents have to be prepared for any eventuality, including evacuating the city, in case of a total loss of energy and water.

“A few days ago, journalists asked me: does the capital have a blackout plan? I will answer again. In the war situation in which we live, it is necessary to have plans in case of various scenarios of development of events and emergency situations. And be ready to act,” he said on Telegram.

While the city’s authorities were preparing for winter, he said, “to ensure the life of the capital in these difficult conditions,” he warned that Russia was “insidious and cynical” and was trying to cause Ukraine’s energy network to collapse.

Vehicles drive along a street with St. Sophia Cathedral in the background, as the city is plunged into near darkness following a military strike that partially brought down the power infrastructure, in Kyiv on Oct. 31, 2022.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

“Utility workers, energy workers concentrate and promptly eliminate damage to networks, do everything to ensure that residents have critical services. But we have to be prepared for various options for the development of events, although we hope that the worst will not happen,” he said.

Elsewhere yesterday, Klitschko told Ukrainian media that Kyiv’s residents should consider staying with relatives or friends outside the city. “If you have extended family or friends outside Kyiv, where there is autonomous water supply, an oven, heating, please keep in mind the possibility of staying there for a certain amount of time,” he said.

Ukraine has introduced “stabilization blackouts” or timed blackouts in a bid to reduce pressure on the country’s fragile energy system, which has been repeatedly attacked by Russia.

— Holly Ellyatt

Zelenskyy warns more mass attacks on infrastructure could take place

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Sunday night that Iranian drones, which Ukraine says Russia is using to attack its cities and energy networks, could be used to launch another barrage of attacks on its energy infrastructure.

“Today, the occupiers used Iranian attack drones again. There are downed ones. But, unfortunately, there are also hits,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Sunday.

“We also understand that the terrorist state [Russia] is concentrating forces and means for a possible repetition of mass attacks on our infrastructure. First of all, energy. In particular, for this, Russia needs Iranian missiles.” He said Ukraine was preparing to respond.

Firefighters work to put out a fire in an energy infrastructure facility, damaged by a Russian missile strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, Oct. 18, 2022.

State Emergency Service Of Ukraine | via Reuters

Russian forces have repeatedly targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in recent weeks, with Kyiv accusing Moscow of aiming to deprive citizens of heat, power and water as winter approaches. Moscow denies using Iranian drones to target Ukraine, or targeting civilian infrastructure.

Eastern Ukraine continues to be the epicenter of hostilities this week, with Zelenskyy singling out the region, saying “very fierce Russian attacks in the Donetsk region continue.”

“The enemy suffers serious losses there, but despite everything, despite any losses, he continues to drive his mobilized soldiers and mercenaries to their deaths,” he said.

— Holly Ellyatt

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