Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1536 GMT:
The Russian Defense Ministry is planning a campaign to recruit 400,000 men for military service, reports Radio Svoboda, part of the US Government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Citing regional media, Radio Svoboda says the Ministry has already sent orders to regions with the number of contracts to be signed. Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk oblasts will have 10,000 each, and Perm Krai will have 9,000.
The article notes that recruitment offices are trying to compensate for Russian losses in specialised soldiers, such as tank drivers and artillerymen.
Vladmir Putin’s mass mobilization last September sought 300,000 men for the frontline in Ukraine.
UPDATE 1525 GMT:
A Russian missile struck near a school in the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine this morning.
Civilians escaped without casualties.
The Russians launched a missile attack on Kharkiv. A school area was hit, the building is partially damaged, windows off. No casualties, fortunately.
— Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) March 15, 2023
UPDATE 0956 GMT:
Denmark has established a fund of $1.01 billion for Ukraine this year.
There is $777 million for military aid, $172 million for civilian assistance, and $57 million for Danish companies to help with reconstruction.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed gratitude:
Sincerely grateful to 🇩🇰 @folketinget, PM @Statsmin and Government for establishing 🇺🇦 Support Fund. More than $1 billion in military, humanitarian & economic aid to Ukraine is a guarantee of bringing our common victory over the aggressor and the return of peace to Europe closer!
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 15, 2023
UPDATE 0934 GMT:
The latest Russian shelling of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine has killed one civilian and injured 16.
The fatality was in Kramatorsk, under sustained fire from Russian forces.
UPDATE 0752 GMT:
Australian and UK Defense ministers have criticised Russia’s downing of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea.
Australia’s Richard Marles said:
I think this, again, is an example of Russia not playing by the rules, which is actually what’s at stake in the whole conflict in Ukraine.
Russia have some explaining to do in terms of the way in which they’ve acted in respect of this drone.
The UK’s Ben Wallace said during a visit to Japan, “The key here is that all parties respect international airspace and we urge the Russians to do so.”
UPDATE 0746 GMT:
British and German fighter jets have intercepted a Russian aircraft flying over Estonian airspace.
The operation was the first of its kind between the militaries of the two countries. L
The fighters intercepted the refuelling Russian aircraft because it failed to communicate with Estonian air traffic control.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Russian fighter jets forced down a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, in the first incident between the two militaries during Vladimir Putin’s 13-month invasion of Ukraine.
The MQ-9 Reaper drone was operating over international waters, about 75 miles southwest of Russian-occupied Crimea, when one of two SU-27 Flanker jets in the area intentionally flew in front of it and dumped fuel.
One of the Su-27s then damaged the propeller of the Reaper. That forced the US military to bring down the Reaper in international waters in the Black Sea.
US Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the Russian jets “flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless and unprofessional manner”.
He summarized, “This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.”
National Security Council spokeman John Kirby said there had been similar “intercepts” by Russian aircraft in recent weeks. However, this time the incident was “noteworthy because of how unsafe and unprofessional it was”.
A US military official who watched video of the drone incident said the Russian contact with the Reaper “was not a controlled tap”. The Russian pilot was “barreling toward the drone” and “out of control”, and as he “tried to pull away”, he hit the propellor.
“That was not something you’d see a professional pilot do. It was amateur hour,” said the official.
The US State Department summoned Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov over the incident. Spokesman Ned Price said the US Ambassador in Moscow, Lynne Tracy, “conveyed a strong message to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs”.
Brig. Gen. Ryder said the video of the downing will be published. He explained that the Su-27s were flying near the Reaper for about 30 to 40 minutes. A US military official added that the fighters were repeatedly zooming around the UAV and dumping fuel to ruin the drone’s camera or damage its sensors.
The much faster Russian warplanes repeatedly zoomed around the propeller-driven Reaper, dumping fuel on it, apparently in an effort to sully the drone’s cameras or damage its other sensors, the senior military official said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry insisted that its fighter jets “did not use airborne weapons and did not come into contact” with the drone. It decleared, without providing any evidence, that the Reapear was heading “in the direction of the state border of the Russian Federation”. Ambassador Antonov snapped, “We view this incident as a provocation”.