President-for-Life Vladimir Putin is trying to enforce a law he had had enacted a month ago that allows the government to impose wartime conditions on military suppliers who are not fulfilling their contracts. Sanctions on Russia from its invasions of Ukraine have cut off supplies of key components. The new law is vague on what the government can do other than order changes to working conditions and how managers operate. These are Soviet-era rules. Putin is thinking World War II while the rest of the world sees the 1980s.
Putin is seeking to find $10 billion to augment the current defense budget, which so far this year is about $6.6 billion a month. For all of 2021 Russia spent $5.42 billion a month. Russia claims its economy is doing well. Foreign economists studying the matter come to a different conclusion. It is believed that Russian GDP will shrink more than fifteen percent in 2022. It’s worse in Ukraine, where deliberate Russian attacks on economic targets are causing long-term economic damage. In Russian-occupied Ukraine there is no effort to repair economic damage and useful economic assets are shipped back to Russia. This is the ancient strategy of “creating a desert and calling it peace”. Russian attempts to mobilize its economy for wartime production continue despite senior government economic officials pointing out that Western sanctions emphasize crippling weapons production. Putin insists Russia will find a solution, as it did during World War II. This assessment ignores how Russia lost the Cold War when its empire literally fell apart because of economic mismanagement while its World War II victory was due in large part to essential Western economic and military aid.
Ukraine has, without much fanfare, started its offensive to expel Russian forces from all occupied areas of the country. This comes months after the Russian invasion that everyone, including the U.S., other NATO nations and Russia believed would be over in a few weeks. Ukraine knew better, as did American and other NATO troops who had worked with the Ukrainians since the first Russian land grab in 2014. By late 2021 NATO nations were already supplying Ukraine with modern weapons requested by the Ukrainians.
The Ukrainians were winning because they had superior planning, tactics, equipment, morale, Information War capabilities, intel and logistics.
Planning And Tactics
Ukraine had learned a lot about Russian tactics and equipment capabilities since 2015. The ceasefire line in Donbas was always active, with Russian forces constantly violating the truce but not getting much to show for it. Ukraine learned from the Donbas experience, Russia did not. Since 2014 Ukraine has had support from NATO countries, including military observers, advisers and technical specialists. Between Donbas and Syria, much was learned about what Russian equipment could and could not do in a combat situation. As a result, Russia found its forces and weapons far less effective than expected. In contrast Ukrainian forces preparations were far more effective. Russian soldiers, most with no combat experience and many not even aware they were invading Ukraine, were prepared for what they faced. As the fighting continued the Ukrainian adapted to change far more quickly than the Russians, who had suffered very heavy losses, not just from being on the attack against a superior defender, but because of desertion, refusal to fight and acute shortage of replacements and new recruits.
After 2014 Ukraine kept its military equipment in better shape than the Russians. Since Ukraine used to be part of the Soviet Union, much of its military equipment was similar to what the Russians had. The difference was that Ukraine maintained the equipment and kept track of its status accurately. The Russians had problems in both these areas and that became obvious once the fighting began. Since 2014 Ukraine received more and more Western weapons and equipment and deliveries accelerated in the months before the Russians invaded. Since February Ukraine has been receiving larger quantities of weapons and equipment. Much of it is new but a lot of it is from NATO neighbors that still have some of their Soviet era equipment and are sending most of it to Ukraine.
The disparity in equipment quality and quantity widened as the war went on. This is a major embarrassment for Russia, which has not fired senior officials responsible, like the Minister of Defense, because that would draw attention to the poor pre-war preparations. Unlike Ukraine, Russia has few foreign sources of new equipment. One exception is Iran, which has provided UAVs in a trade deal that involved Iranian access to modern Russian warplanes.
Russian political and military leaders seem surprised at the extent to which Russian soldiers are refusing to fight in Ukraine. Perhaps someday these leaders will realize that this should not have been a surprise. While Russian leaders earlier made much of reforming the military and upgrading its equipment, they ignored fundamentals like willingness to fight. In modern war the infantry is a minority (10 to 25 percent of troops) but takes over 80 percent of the casualties and are essential in any war or battle.
Vladimir Putin realized there might be problems if his troops did not win a quick victory. There was no victory, quick or otherwise. The Ukrainians fought back and forced the Russian troops trying to quickly take the Ukrainian capital to withdraw to Russia and redeploy to eastern Ukraine and Crimea, areas Russia had seized in 2014 but were stopped in by unexpected Ukrainian resistance. These setbacks hurt Russian troop morale and inspired more Ukrainians to volunteer for military service to preserve their national independence if the Russians attacked again.
In 2022 the defeated Russian forces reacted differently to their defeat. Russian combat troops accused their government of sending them up against a formidable enemy that they were told would not resist. Many Russian troops were angry over the fact that they were not told they were invading Ukraine, leaving them to discover that only when they came under heavy fire after crossing the border they were not told about. After a few months of fighting Putin acted surprised as many Russian soldiers refused to go to Ukraine and many of those in Ukraine refused to fight.
As word spread inside Russia about what was going on in Ukraine, parents of conscripts backed their sons who were trying to stay out of the army and most definitely out of Ukraine. Putin apparently did not appreciate the fact that he was facing over a century of heavy losses and bad leadership that had killed millions of Russians, in addition to those killed by enemy troops. The Rodina (the Russian people) had not forgotten because it was the Rodina that died, not their leaders. The bill for over a century of such attitudes came due on Putin’s watch.
After more than a century of lies, deceit, poor leadership and heavy losses, the young Russian men headed for the infantry, as well as their families, are refusing to be killed in another unnecessary war in Ukraine. Defending Russia is another matter, but Putin’s attempt to call the invasion an internal problem with a wayward region, did not work.
Before the war Ukrainian military and information analysts predicted that the Russians would run out of soldiers because of low morale and that got worse once the magnitude of the Russian defeat became known to the Russian public. That news took longer to reach most Russians because of censorship. By May the Russian army was visibly shrinking from losses that amounted to nearly 100,000 Russian soldiers killed, wounded, captured or deserted. That’s nearly 40 percent of the Russian ground forces and few Russians were willing to join the army, either as a conscript or volunteer.
Desperate measures were required and the Russian government has employed most of them. They lowered the standards for conscripts and volunteers, encouraging unfit Russians to join. That did not work out well. Russia loosened the qualifications for volunteers, allowing men up to 60 years old to join. It was easier to find recruits in rural areas, where there was more poverty and less access to outside (of Russia) news. Most of the active (and passive) opposition to the war was in the cities. That’s where most of the anti-war demonstrations and physical attacks on recruiting stations take place. Despite that the government ordered urban recruiters to call in older (40s) veterans for an interview. If that fails the recruiters must ask the veteran if they would sign an affidavit affirming that they spoke to the recruiter and refused to join. Most of the reluctant vets sign, if only to annoy the government. Back in Soviet days such defiant behavior could get you in trouble. Despite the current authoritarian government, times have changed in Russia.
Russia also spent a lot of scarce cash on a program to form battalions in dozens of regions where bonuses and high pay were offered to volunteers, especially veterans, who would join the local battalion and enter combat alongside other locals. This program had some success, especially in poor rural areas. These new volunteers still required at least two months of training to prepare them for what they would face in Ukraine. Russia also had to supply armored vehicles and artillery for these battalions, most of them to be organized as BTGs (Battalion Task Groups). None of these new regional units has been in combat and those sent to Ukraine are placed in dormant areas where they can gain some exposure to the combat zone without taking heavy losses during their initial battles. Most of the regional volunteers were never suitable for combat because the program was crippled by corruption, mismanagement and a shortage of useful volunteers. Desperate to get something out of this, some individuals were sent to Ukraine without much training to replace combat losses. This included a lot of the older volunteers who had served in the military decades ago. Many were attracted by the relatively high pay and even higher signing bonuses, which the volunteers were told they would receive once they reached Ukraine. The federal government was supposed to help pay the volunteers but sometimes did not.
Another mobilization effort relied on the Wagner Group PMC (private military contractors) and several similar but smaller PMCs. The Wagner Group was created by Putin and works for him. Wagner is selective about who they accept and pay the highest rates any Russian military personnel in Ukraine get. To help with the troop shortage in Ukraine Wagner created an economy grade contractor that was cheaper because there were lower qualifications for the job that paid less, but enough to make it attractive. An additional source of cheap contractors was recruiting prison inmates who were offered contracts which, if completed, included cancellation of remaining prison time. Wagner Group personnel are now often the only ones available to make crucial attacks and even that is often not enough.
Ukrainian forces have proved to be far more resourceful, skilled and determined than the Russians expected and Wagner personnel were ordered to ignore the rules that soldiers are bound by. That made the PMC forces more effective but also a prime target for Ukrainian guided missiles or airstrikes. Despite that, Russian military contractors suffer lower casualties because of better leadership and morale. The contractors are also better at assessing a combat situation and declining to make attacks with little chance of success. Some veteran PMC men are not renewing their contracts or simply quitting and accepting the financial penalties for doing so.
Manpower shortages remain a major problem for the Russians. Their many improvisations have not solved the problem while contributing to continued high casualties because Russia has been sending anyone willing to serve in Ukraine, even if such volunteers are too old, unstable or inexperienced to be of any use. For experienced Russian troops, low-quality replacements like this are worse than no replacements at all. So far, nothing Russia has tried has generated enough additional troops to increase their troop numbers inside Ukraine. Currently Ukraine has about twice as many troops available but cannot fully use that advantage because most of them have little formal training. NATO nations help with this by establishing training centers in NATO countries bordering Ukraine. This is in addition to training programs inside Ukraine. Despite these efforts, it will be six months or more before most of the recent volunteers get their basic military training. The training includes the use of some combat veterans, who also update the training curriculum to include the latest lessons learned. Not enough combat vets are available for the training programs because there is a severe shortage of NCOs and junior officers in many units. This is because the army expansion was so large and fast, there were not enough NCOs and junior officers available in February 2022 to deal with combat and training needs. Unlike the Russians, Ukraine considers it a priority to keep their combat casualties as low as possible.
Ukrainians make the most of whatever NATO can provide, which includes information. There is a separate NATO coordination center for services, mainly information collected by NATO nation electronic collection and surveillance aircraft operating in NATO air space which are able to cover much of Ukraine. Similar services are provided by NATO member space satellites. Ukraine, like anyone else, has access to commercial space satellite images but can also get warning from NATO if some of those commercial satellite images are misleading. This doesn’t happen as much now because commercial satellites have improved to supply many of those verification systems. NATO nations also collect useful information via embassy staff and separate intelligence agency collection efforts. All this information is available to NATO members in wartime and Ukrainian access to this is one reason why Ukraine is often referred to as nearly a NATO member. Ukraine plans to complete the joining NATO process after the war is over. The outcome is still in doubt, at least in terms of how long it will last.
The intel advantage began with Ukraine using a more accurate and timely approach to acquiring and acting on information. This included locally developed software for quickly analyzing and acting on intel. An example of this was Ukrainians developing their own fire control software so they could make quick and effective use of this information. Since Soviet days, Ukraine always had a higher number of software developers and programmers than any other European country. Even before the invasion this led to the development of some very useful military apps. Since February the quantity and quality of such apps has increased giving Ukraine a substantial edge in response time for artillery fire or warnings of what the Russians are up to. Western support included access to the satellite based Starkink communications network. This gave Ukrainian forces much better communications than the Russians had.
NATO also established a coordination center to provide pertinent information as soon as possible. The intel advantage provided by NATO, in addition to the more accurate and reliable weapons and munitions provided by NATO nations, all contribute to Ukraine achieving a decisive advantage.
In March 2022 NATO (mainly the U.S. and Britain) set up ECCU/IDCC (EUCOM Control Center-Ukraine/International Donor Coordination Center) at a NATO base in southwest Germany (Stuttgart). EUCOM stands for the U.S. European Command, which has taken the lead in coordinating NATO logistics since the 1950s.
So far 26 NATO and non-NATO nations sending military aid to Ukraine have also sent logistics personnel to the EUCOM center to track the progress of items sent from their country to Germany, where it is moved by rail or aircraft to locations on the Ukrainian border, where Ukrainian vehicles move the material into Ukraine and distribute it to the troops or a distribution warehouse. The main transfer point is in Poland. The Ukrainians have to be careful how they move the new equipment through Ukraine to distribution sites or direct to combat zones. The Russians have tried to attack these shipments with missiles but have not been very successful at it. For the Ukrainians moving these shipments safely is more urgent and important than it is for the Russian invaders.
ECCU/IDCC provided Ukraine with much more effective logistic support than Russian forces in Ukraine receive. Russia does not have access to a worldwide network of suppliers. Nearly all Russian logistical support comes from Russian sources. This often includes older and often defective weapons. NATO always had more effective logistical support. This was also the case during World War I and II when Russia had problems handling local logistics and depended on aid from Western allies.
In Ukraine this disparity in logistical support has proved to be a key advantage. Ukrainians have, since the 1990s, sought to adopt a Western style of logistical support. Russian invasion plans depended on a quick victory because Russia did not have the logistical capabilities to handle a longer war. That turned out to be a major flaw in the Russian war plan and now they are feeling the impact of superior Ukrainian logistics more and more. This has long been expressed another way; “amateurs study tactics while professionals study logistics”.
Ukraine is also a major weapons manufacturer and despite Russian missile attacks on many of these facilities, production continues, often after facilities have been moved across the border to a neighboring NATO country. Ukrainians also make great use of commercial equipment, particularly quad-copters that are modified to deal with Russian jamming as well as to carry weapons, often just a hand grenade. These improvisations are widespread and make life for frontline Russian troops even worse, especially these armed quad-copters make life miserable for Russian troops and that includes difficulty getting enough sleep.
August 14, 2022: In the south (Kherson province, bordering Crimea) Russia has begun withdrawing troops, but not their heavy weapons across the Dnieper River. Ukraine has used its HIMARs missiles to disable or destroy all four bridges across the Dnieper (Dnipro) river and keep them unusable for anything but pedestrians and light vehicles since the 10th. This denies vital supplies to the twenty thousand Russian troops facing Ukrainian forces. Without fuel or heavy equipment (tanks, IFVs and artillery) replacements the Russian troops cannot attack, or effectively defend against the Ukrainian offensive. Already the Ukrainians are receiving less artillery fire from Russian forces on the right bank of the Dnieper River. There is less activity from Russian armor. If the Ukrainians can keep those bridges disabled, Russia will be forced to withdraw their troops to the left bank of the river, leaving the Ukrainians with a major win. That withdrawal process has begun, with headquarters personnel recently crossing. Unless the bridge situation changes, only individual pontoon ferries can be used to bring tanks and other heavy vehicles across. Ukraine has the river under aerial and satellite surveillance and if the pontoons become too active, especially near a damaged bridge, pontoons will become a target for air or missile attack.
August 13, 2022: Ukraine called on the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to take the lead in demilitarizing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant complex, the largest in Europe. The complex is on the Dnieper River in Zaporizhzhia province, which is adjacent to Donbas. Russia took control of the nuclear facility in February. Russia is using the threat of damage to the nuclear facility to force the advancing Ukrainian forces to retreat. Failure to comply will, the Russians imply, create another Chernobyl disaster and an even larger radioactive zone. A large region around the Chernobyl power plant is still highly radioactive because of the 1986 nuclear meltdown of one of the reactors. This nuclear disaster, which the Soviets tried to keep quiet, was quickly exposed as a major disaster and one of the reasons Ukrainians were so eager to leave the Soviet Union five years later. Most of the victims of the radioactivity were Ukrainian. On the second day of the invasion Russian troops replaced the Ukrainian security guards keeping people out of the 2,600 square kilometers (thousand square miles) radioactive exclusion zone near the Belarus border. After 1986 about 250,000 people were moved from the zone and since then only tourists were allowed in, under escort, for short periods. About 5,000 people guard the security zone and monitor the enormous concrete and steel structure now surrounding the still highly radioactive power plant uranium core. Those monitors spend fifteen days at a time in the zone and then two weeks outside it, with their radioactivity levels carefully monitored. Those monitoring personnel remained, but under Russian control. While Ukrainians comprised most of those killed by the melt down, about 70 percent of the initial radiation fell on what is now Belarus. For that reason, it seems unlikely the Russians would not arrange for an accident at the entombed nuclear core. Most Belarussians oppose Russia and their own dictator, which is currently kept in power by Russian forces. The main reason for taking control of the exclusion zone was that it is a key element of one of the shortest routes to Kyiv. That offensive failed and Russian troops withdrew from Chernobyl at the end of March, as all Russian forces retreated from northern Ukraine.
The IAEA has no police powers and is autonomous, although it cooperates closely with UN agencies. Ukraine knows that but Ukraine allows foreign reporters to visit the front lines, something Russia prohibits in the name of “security”. IAEA inspectors can observe the Zaporizhzhia complex and confirm that the Ukrainians are not firing on it, while the Russians are, and claiming the Ukrainians are responsible for damage to the reactors. Russia is one of the five founding members of the UN with a veto over most UN efforts. But the IAEA is not part of the UN and can document who did what at Zaporizhzhia. That can lead to war crimes charges against the Russian officers and officials involved. This is the sort of thing IAEA was created for when the IAEA was founded in 1957.
August 12, 2022: The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry thanked Latvia for designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and called on other nations to do likewise. Since July such a resolution has been making its way through the U.S. Congress. If that resolution is signed into law, it will make Russia the fifth nation the U.S. has designated and imposed sanctions and other restrictions related to terrorism support. The other four “state sponsors” are Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Syria.
August 11, 2022: The war in Ukraine had some unfortunate side effects for Russian air power. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February a lot of European nations have sought to obtain F-35s while canceling plans to buy lesser modern jets. Ukraine’s ability to defeat the larger Russian air force, using Ukraine’s own Russian-designed aircraft, made it clear that the Ukrainian tactics carried out with F-35s would provide an enormous edge over air forces equipped with older aircraft. Even China has not yet produced a stealth aircraft as capable as the F-35 and now NATO nations with F-35s realize they have a substantial edge and have shared that knowledge with other NATO countries. Over the last year joint exercises involving Israeli and foreign F-35s revealed many of these advantages. Details of these exercises have not been publicized but it apparently involves testing current and new F-35 capabilities and sharing that knowledge with other F-35 users.
In southern Ukraine, local partisans downed a power tower transporting electrical power from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant into Crimea. Repairs can be made and the new tower heavily guarded, but there are many similar targets in Crimea.
August 10, 2022: A Ukrainian government official commented, off the record, that the attack on a Russian air base in Crimea yesterday was the work of Ukrainian special operations forces. The next day president Zelensky criticized such comments because the less the Russians know about Ukrainian tactics the more effective these Ukrainian tactics are. At this point the Russians are so perplexed that this Zelensky criticism appears to be another Ukrainian tactic to hide what is really going on.
August 9, 2022: Germany reports that ten Russian air transports have been grounded in German airports since the Russian invasion began and additional economic sanctions were quickly enacted. The sanctions prohibit the Russian aircraft from taking off, which means they are stuck until the sanctions are lifted. Further sanctions could lead to the grounded aircraft being confiscated.
August 6, 2022: The Iranian remote sensing satellite that Russia is supposed to launch soon, will initially be used by the Russian military to support operations in Ukraine. Iran later denied this would happen. Remote sensing satellites are designed to monitor agriculture and natural resources but can also be used for border or battlefield surveillance. As part of this arrangement Russia will provide Iran with even more advanced, and expensive, photo satellite tech if the new remote sensing satellite performs as promised.
August 5, 2022: Ukraine reported they had spotted Iranian Shahed 129 UAVs in Ukraine. It was known that Russia had obtained at least 46 Iranian UAVs but not all were the veteran Shahed 129. In service since 2012, Shahed 129 is similar to the American Predator that entered service in the late 1990s. Shahed 129 has been used for surveillance and attack. Several are known to have been shot down and others were probably lost due to operational accidents. In 2017 a Pakistani fighter shot down a Shahed 129 that was at least three kilometers inside Pakistani airspace. That same year an American F-15 shot down another Iranian Shahed 129 in Syria because it was headed for U.S. supported rebels and was armed. Until 2021 Shahed 129 was the largest UAV Iran developed and built. In April the new Shahed 149 entered service. This UAV is similar to the 4.6-ton American Reaper. Like the 129, the 149 does not have satellite communications and both UAVs must be within 200 kilometers of a ground station. Since 2014 Shahed 129s have been spotted in Syria and Iraq (near Iranian border) doing surveillance. In early 2016 video on Iranian TV showed the Shahed 129 using laser guided air-to ground missiles. Iran did not make a big deal about the UAV lost over Pakistan and quietly told the Pakistanis that there was probably a navigation error by the UAV. Both UAVs are expensive to build, costing over $5 million for the larger 149. Most of the UAVs sold to Russian were apparently smaller models that could be used as cruise missiles. A 129 could be armed with laser guided missiles and sent out to hunt for Ukrainian troop and weapons convoys or the HIMARS vehicles. That would be risky for the 129s because no one has air superiority in Ukraine and Ukraine has excellent aerial surveillance and assistance from NATO surveillance aircraft and surveillance satellites. That has already led to heavy losses by Russian UAVs. Russia never managed to develop anything like the Predator or Reaper.
August 4, 2022: Russia confirmed that it is not withdrawing from the ISS (International Space Station) program by 2024 but will scale back its support because of the economic sanctions. That means other members of the ISS consortium will have to provide the transportation services to and from the space station. The Americans are already doing that via the SpaceX passenger and cargo capsules. Other American and European firms have developed similar capabilities. Currently the ISS is supposed to remain operational until 2030.
Even without the sanctions the Russian space program (Roscosmos) is broken, and sanctions only added to the many problems the Russian space program has had in the last decade. This ends a long Russian history with space stations. The Mir space station was the last of eight Russian built space stations and the one that remained occupied the longest (4,594 days). The 130-ton Mir was brought down in 2001 after Russia joined the ISS consortium. The 420-ton ISS has been in orbit since 1998, when the first of 17 modules was operational. Other nations have built similar, and rather temporary space stations. That effort began in the 1970s with the Russian Salyut 1 but since the 1990s most nations with space programs have put their resources into supporting the ISS. Now the development of commercial space stations will dominate simply because it’s cheaper and more efficient than government run operations. This has already happened, again without much media fanfare, to the design, launch and operation of space satellites.
August 2, 2022: Russia has expanded its territorial claims beyond Ukraine to include what it calls Greater Russia. This is not quite rebuilding the tsarist or communist empires because Russia does not want the expensive (to rule) Central Asian states, but rather more lucrative territories Russian once ruled. This includes portions of Poland, the Baltic States, Finland and parts of Alaska. There are some serious legal and practical problems with these claims. The United States has a larger military and nukes with which to dispute any Russian claims on Alaska. Russia is making claims on several Eastern European NATO members who are protected by the mutual defense clause of the NATO treaty.
Russia and all the nations involved are members of the United Nations. Article 51 of the UN charter demands that members refrain from the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. Russia says this does not apply because Ukraine is a breakaway part of Russia and Russian troops are seeking to liberate Ukraine from foreign (NATO) oppression. Ukraine is also a UN member and protests Russian claims as well as the UN tolerating the Russian use of its Security Council veto to block any serious UN opposition to the Russian aggression.
Ukraine pointed out that the Ukrainian forces will force Russian troops out of Ukraine and then the problem will be what the rest of the world does with Russia.
July 31, 2022: Neighboring Belarus agreed to send 200 soldiers to Syria to replace the many more Russian troops brought back to Russia to replace losses in Ukraine. Belarus has refused Russian requests to send its troops into Ukraine. While the Belarus dictator is pro-Russians most Belarussians are not and some openly support Ukraine.
July 30, 2022: Russia is still heavily involved in Syria. For example, today in northern Syria (Idlib province) Islamic terrorist rebels fired a few rounds of artillery shells to do substantial damage to a Syrian army divisional headquarters. Some Syrian soldiers were killed or wounded but the exact number was not released. This attack was in retaliation for an earlier Syrian artillery attack on rebel positions. These retaliation attacks have been going on for nearly a week, ever since a Russian air strike on the rebels prompted an artillery attack on the Syrian troops. The Russians are largely immune to rebel attacks because their well-guarded air base is near the Mediterranean coast. In the last few years, the defenses for the two main Russian bases (a port and airbase) have increased to the point where rebel attacks are not worth the effort. Turkish artillery and air strikes continue to be directed at Kurdish separatists operating near the Turkish border. There are more casualties than progress.
July 29, 2022: Ukrainian president Zelensky has fired the head of the SBU (internal security agency) and the chief prosecutor along with over sixty other officials and brought treason and collaboration charges against 651 SBU members and local officials. Most of those charged worked for the SBU.
The large number of people charged is the result of more Ukrainians reporting information leaks and collaboration with the Russians in Ukraine as well as the occupied territories, especially the ones that were seized in the first week of the Russian February invasion. There were also credible complaints from more recent members of the SBU that there were still a lot of SBU veterans who openly criticized government policy and condoned corruption, especially within the SBU.
The SBU is the successor to the Ukrainian branch of the KGB. After Ukrainian became independent in 1991, obvious KGB loyalists were fired but many vets remained and they perpetuated a culture of corruption along with the formidable deception and operational skills the KGB excelled in. The SBU is a large organization, with 35,000 employees. That is the same size as the American FBI, for a country with seven times more people. Equivalent European agencies, like DST in France and MI5 in Britain are equally small, relative to population, as the FBI. On a per-capita basis Western internal agencies have about 109 agency personnel per million population. For the Russian FSB it is 591 and for the SBU it is about 850. For the Soviet KGB it was 1,600.
The SBU, like its predecessor the KGB, demanded high performance and discipline. In return, KGB personnel were free to make a little extra on the side, The KGB was literally above the law as the only ones who could arrest KGB personnel were other KGB personnel. The post-Soviet FSB and SBU have similar immunities.
A growing number of the post-199os SBU hires were personnel who, like those who voted Zelensky into office in 2019, saw corruption as a major obstacle to Ukrainian prosperity and independence from Russian influence. Then came the 2022 invasion and NATO military aid and assistance, especially in intelligence collection. This monitored and decrypted (when needed) Russian communications relevant to Ukraine and shared much of that data with the Ukrainians. That data revealed many things, including evidence that turned suspicions of SBU treason into indictments. With leaky SBU members identified it was possible to identify many of their Ukrainian sources. It also sent a message to the SBU that the long-sought culture shift in the organization was happening.
July 26, 2022: Israel confirmed rumors that back in May a Russian controlled S300 air defense system fired a missile at an Israeli fighter headed back to Israeli territory. The missile missed because 0f Israeli counter measures. The Russians quietly reported that it was a misunderstanding and won’t happen again. The Russians don’t like incidents like this, which portray the S-300 as ineffective against Israeli countermeasures. The Israeli aircraft attacked an Iranian base in northwest Syria and completely destroyed it. Russia was later accused of doing the same thing, several times in Ukraine because of a shortage of ballistic missiles.