#UKRAINERUSSIAWAR. Doubts about the Pentagon video. Prigozhin mocks Italian media on Crosetto issue. US tests hypersonic weapon. Ukraine prepares spring counteroffensive


The Pentagon released a video of the MQ-9 Reaper UAV downing over the Black Sea in which fuel can be seen leaking from the Russian vehicle. The Russians, on the social sphere, commented that of the 19 steps required to bring down the drone in the video the Americans showed only two. For now the drone remains in the Black Sea the Russians let it be known that if it is of interest to them they will pick it up, ironically online by pro-Russian analysts it was suggested to the Americans that they should turn to the Ukrainian company that helped blow up North Stream II.

Irony aside, the American MQ-9 drone is located at a depth of 900 metres. Above it, it is the duty of the ships of the Russian Black Sea fleet not to allow anyone to approach the accident site. The issue of its recovery is being resolved.

There is one ship in the Black Sea Fleet that is capable of doing so: the legendary ‘Commune’ built in 1913. Rebuilt many times and with a huge track record of underwater work (including the recovery of several submarines, as well as aircraft and ships), it has deep-sea vehicles capable of operating at depths of up to a thousand metres.

On 13-14 March, on the Pacific coast of the US off the coast of California, along the standard Vandenberg Western Missile Range route, the US carried out another missile weapon test, most likely the AGM-183 ARRW air-launched hypersonic cruise missile (ALCM). In 2021, the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) almost regularly reported failures in the creation of next-generation missiles. However, the latest launches have been successful: the latest test of a hypersonic missile of the HAWC type was carried out on 18 January from the same test site.

The Pentagon has now requested $150 million for FY2024 to complete the development of Lockheed Martin’s AGM-183 ARRW, as well as $384 million to develop the HAWC-based HACM hypersonic cruise missile. Raytheon will be involved in the creation of advanced HACM weapons.

In addition, Congress has been requested $944 million to continue the development of the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) hypersonic missile project, whose stated range is expected to be 2,700 km. So far, DARPA has not announced any concrete results from the AGM-183 test. However, given the high activity of the missile defence agency’s aircraft, we can say that the test most likely took place. At the same time, the Pentagon planned to launch the ARRW at least once before it went into production.

Polish special services arrested nine foreigners on charges of espionage on behalf of the Russian Federation, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs said.

Also on 16 March, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, commented on the US drone issue: ‘The Russian military will deal with the issue of the recovery of a US drone from the seabed if they deem it necessary to ensure security; In the US drone incident, there have been contacts between the Russian Federation and the United States both militarily and diplomatically’. Among other statements Peskov: “The Kremlin regrets the desire of Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Russia has never posed and does not pose a threat to Finland and Sweden wanting to join NATO. Sweden and Finland, which have expressed their desire to join NATO, have never opposed the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation maintains good relations with Moldova, but rejects the existence of a certain ‘plan’. The Kremlin regrets that the Moldovan authorities are now affected by a ‘Russophobic infection’. Putin and Assad at the talks discussed military-technical cooperation and the normalisation of relations between Syria and Turkey. Following the negotiations between Putin and Assad, a decision was made to sign a document on trade and economic cooperation between the Russian Federation and Syria. A personal meeting between Erdogan and Assad should be preceded by a series of contacts at the operational level, which are underway”

President Vladimir Putin yesterday, meeting with businessmen, spoke of a new Russian economic model, inflation at 4%; foreign sales growth of 8% and trade surplus at $332 billion; describing in the data a slap in the face of European-US sanctions.

At the front, Russian Federation forces completely control the line of contact on the left bank of the Dnepr in the Kherson region. The Russian Defence Ministry reported that up to 50 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the direction of Krupyansk, just as a US-made M777 artillery piece was destroyed.

As of 09:00 on 16 March, an air alert is in effect throughout Ukraine. Explosions occurred in the Sumy region of northern Ukraine, the Ukrainian edition of Klymenko Time reported.

Following the US drone incident in the Black Sea, the Head of the Republic of Crimea Sergei Aksenov made it known that Ukraine has no chance of conquering Crimea, because nothing threatens the peninsula after fortification and defence training. Less certain are Russian military analysts who said they expect a Ukrainian offensive in the spring although it is not yet clear from where.

Prigozhin, after mocking the Italian media’s statements on the Crosetto issue and pointing out that Wagner is not a group but a Division, interviewed by Reuters and audio available online social sphere pro-Russian, in a second interview on the effectiveness of Wagner PMC said: “We have not lost a single square metre” According to Prigozhin, the merits of the Wagner PMC account for about 2% of the territory taken during the NMD. He quipped “But first, let’s keep everything, let’s win, and then we will find out”.

Regarding the offensive in the Donbass: all roads near Avdiivka are under control of Russian army fire. While the situation in Bachmut remains difficult, according to DPR chief Denis Pushilin. He added: “The situation in Bakhmut remains difficult, Kiev will not withdraw troops, the build-up of enemy forces in Chasov Yar is ongoing.” “Russian troops continue their offensive against Avdiivka. The Ukrainians have been knocked out of a number of strongholds and pushed back from the recently liberated Krasnogorovka. Moreover, ours are advancing near Kamenka to take it over in the near future’. Pushilin commented.

The Ukrainian army’s spring offensive will definitely be in the south according to Russian military analysts. “Now it only remains to be understood exactly where the main blow will be struck. The Ukrainian military and mercenaries are constantly probing the Russian defence along the Dnepr. Yesterday we saw this in Zaporozhye. I think the next attempt will be in the area from Velikaya Novoselovka to Vuhuledar,’ reports a post.

Mercenaries and aged conscripts absorb only Bakhmut. In Avdiivka and Maryanka, the Ukrainian armed forces react with the available forces and continue to create a striking force. Only a breakthrough of the front in one of the sectors or the creation of another ‘mincer’, such as Bachmut, can interfere with Ukrainian plans. It is thought that Avdiivka may become such a place.

Zaporozhye direction situation at 13.00 hours on 16 March 2023. After yesterday’s unsuccessful offensive in the Pologovsky and Orekhovsky sectors, the Ukrainian armed forces switched to positional battles. Along the line of contact, the activity of artillery gun and rocket crews increased, which may indicate preparations for the next offensive.

In the Vasilyevsky sector, the sabotage and reconnaissance groups of the 65th mechanised brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, with the support of the MLRS BM-21 Grad, conducted an unsuccessful sortie into the positions of the Russian Armed Forces near Vasilyevka . The attack was repelled and the 65th Brigade lost two killed and ten wounded.

In the Pologovsky section of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, they are conducting a massive bombardment of the positions of the 291st Motorised Rifle Regiment of the 42nd Division of the Russian Armed Forces. With a high degree of probability, the Ukrainian formations are planning another reconnaissance in force. Position battles are ongoing in the Novozlatopol area in the Gulyai-Polye sector. Two Mi-8 army aviation helicopters operate north of the front line. 120mm mortars with ammunition have been delivered to the positions of the 110th territorial defence brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. According to existing signals, the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine intend to continue ‘probing’ the defence of the Russian Army in various sectors of the Zaporozhye direction. At the same time, the Armed Forces of Ukraine do not expect a counter-offensive of the Russian Armed Forces in the near future: the command of the 128th Guards Brigade plans to transfer personnel to the Donetsk direction.

Graziella Giangiulio

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