Key developments on Sept. 11:
- Military intelligence: Ukraine regains control of drilling rigs in Black Sea
- Defense Ministry: Ukraine retakes nearly 5 square kilometers on southern front over past week
- UK Defense Ministry: Russia wants to recruit 420,000 contract soldiers in 2023
- Rheinmetall to refit, deliver 40 Marder armored vehicles to Ukraine
- Military intelligence: Calls from Russia to surrender hotline rise by 70% after helicopter pilot defected.
The rigs had been occupied by Russia since the 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea.
Since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces turned the platforms into a military site, adding equipment like radar and helipads, according to HUR.
The multi-phase operation involved a battle between Ukrainian special forces on boats and a Russian SU-30 fighter jet, shown in a 13-minute video HUR released about the operation.
The SU-30 jet was damaged and forced to retreat, HUR said, adding that Ukraine took helicopter ammunition and a Neva radar system from the site.
As a result of the operation, Ukraine regained control of the "Petro Hodovalets" and "Ukraine" drilling platforms, informally known to Ukrainians as the "Boyko Towers," as well as the "Tavryda" and "Syvash" mobile rigs, HUR said.
Ukrainian journalists investigated the purchase and reported that the tender process was corrupt, as intermediary companies had massively inflated the price, siphoning millions of dollars from the state budget.
Ukraine retakes nearly 5 square kilometers on southern front over past week
As Ukraine continues its advance towards Melitopol, operations to the south of Robotyne and the west of Verbove in Zaporizhzhia Oblast have been successful, Maliar added.
Maliar's statement was consistent with the latest assessment by the Institute for the Study of War, which said that Ukrainian forces had made gains east of Novoprokopivka, a few kilometers south of Robotyne.
Maliar said that Ukrainian forces have now retaken 256.5 square kilometers of land in Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts. The area is the focus of Ukraine's summer counteroffensive.
Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said on Sept. 10 that although the operation is going slower than expected, Ukraine is still "progressing at a very steady pace through the Russian front lines."
However, according to Milley, Ukraine likely has about 30 to 45 days for the counteroffensive before the weather worsens on the ground.
UK Defense Ministry: Russia wants to recruit 420,000 contract soldiers in 2023
Russia plans to recruit 420,000 military contract personnel by the end of the year, likely exacerbating the country's labor shortage, the U.K. Defense Ministry said in its intelligence report on Sept. 11.
Citing the Yegor Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, the analysis pointed out that Russia's industry shortage of workers already reached a new record of 42% in July 2023, a 7% increase compared to April.
The process does not affect all industries equally. The Russian IT industry has reportedly "taken steps to preserve the workforce," as it already suffers acute shortages. The sector lost 10% of employees – around 100,000 people – who left Russia in 2022.
The Kremlin has acknowledged the crucial role of the IT sector. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Sept. 4 to increase the military service exemption age for IT professionals from 27 to 30.
The U.K. Defense Ministry estimated that Moscow will likely seek to avoid further unpopular mobilizations in the run-up to the presidential elections in 2024.
The Russian military is continuing efforts to refill its ranks following high casualty rates during the invasion of Ukraine. Moscow launched mobilization in the fall of last year, targeting mainly migrant workers and citizens from more remote regions to avoid antagonizing wealthier segments of the population in major cities.
Moscow also drafts military personnel from occupied parts of Ukraine. According to Ukraine's military intelligence spokesperson Andrii Cherniak, Russia has forcibly mobilized from 55,000 to 60,000 men in the occupied territories of Ukraine between the start of the full-scale invasion and July 2023.
Rheinmetall to refit, deliver 40 Marder armored vehicles to Ukraine
The German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall will deliver 40 more Marder infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) to Ukraine based on an order placed by the German government in August, the company announced on Sept. 11.
This brings the total number of Marder vehicles to be supplied by Rheinmetall to Ukraine on Germany's commission to 80, with the first 20 shipped in March and another batch of 20 ordered in June, which are currently being overhauled and delivered.
Further 20 Marders were provided from the German military's own stocks in March.
"Rheinmetall is pressing ahead with work to overhaul these older vehicles and ensure that the latest lot of Marder IFVs can be delivered as per contract starting in 2023," the press release reads.
The company is refitting Marder 1A3 systems formerly used by the German military, restoring them to full combat readiness "at its own expense." Rheinmetall promised that it could deliver up to 10 vehicles per month.
Berlin presented its latest major military aid package for Ukraine during the NATO summit in Vilnius in July.
Apart from the said 40 Marder IFVs that are to be refitted by Rheinmetall, it also included 24 Leopard 1A5 tanks, two Patriot launchers, 20,000 artillery rounds, and other support.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is making progress in talks on receiving long-range Taurus missiles from Germany, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Sept. 11.
The comments came as part of a Foreign Ministry press release following Kuleba's meeting with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, during her visit to Kyiv.
The in-depth discussions with the German foreign minister have led to a better understanding of "the process of making a final decision by the German government," on the missile deliveries, Kuleba said.
"Based on the results of the negotiations, I can say that the option of providing these missiles remains open, and the decision-making process within Germany is moving forward," he added.
Taurus missiles have a range of up to 500 kilometers, meaning Ukraine could use them to strike deep into Russian-occupied territories, including Crimea.
Ukraine submitted a request for Germany’s air-launched cruise missiles earlier in May, with some German officials voicing support for the transfer.
However, media reports emerged that the German government is concerned that the long-range missiles will be used in strikes on Russian territory.
Kuleba emphasized in August that Taurus missiles would be "used solely inside our borders." "The longer the missile range, the shorter the war," he argued.
During their meeting in Kyiv, Kuleba and Baerbock also discussed Ukrainian grain exports, the abduction of Ukrainian children by Russia, and Germany's support to Ukraine on the path towards becoming a member of the European Union.
Kuleba thanked Baerbock for the military aid Germany provided to Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion, particularly for sending tanks and air defense systems.
Baerbock arrived in Ukraine's capital on Sept. 11 for her fourth visit since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion.
Military intelligence: Calls from Russia to surrender hotline rise by 70% after helicopter pilot defected
After news broke that a Russian helicopter pilot defected to Ukraine, calls to a hotline set up for Russian soldiers wanting to surrender to Ukraine's military increased by 70% in one day, Ukraine's Military Intelligence (HUR) spokesperson Andrii Yusov said on Sept. 11.
Launched in September 2022 by the HUR, the 24-hour hotline, which is called "I Want to Live" in Russian, helps Russians to surrender themselves or their units to the Ukrainian military.
Ukraine promises Russian military personnel that they will be held in compliance with the Geneva Conventions after surrender.
Maksim Kuzminov, a 28-year-old Russian helicopter pilot, landed his Mi-8 helicopter at an airfield in Ukraine to give himself up to the authorities, Ukrainian media reported on Aug. 23.
He spoke at a press conference on the operation on Sept. 5 and explained that he defected because he "did not want to contribute" to the crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, which he believes is a "wonderful country."
He said that he contacted the Ukrainian side on his own initiative, and was told he would receive security for himself and his family, payments, and new documents from Ukraine if he defected.
Kuzminov said that his parents supported his plans to defect and have joined him in Ukraine.
On Sept. 5, the HUR announced he would receive the hryvnia equivalent of $500,000 (approximately Hr 18.48 million) as a reward.
Ukraine's parliament passed a law in April 2022 offering up to $1 million to Russian military personnel who manage to transfer equipment to Ukraine, depending on the type of equipment they hand over.