Russo-Ukrainian war, day 57: Russian forces resumed offensive in Donbas, no major territorial gains for Russia so far

Ukraine war

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun
Russian offensive in Donbas is getting strength with minor success. Syrian or Libyan mercenaries are fighting on the Russian side. Marines and “Azov” rescued 500 fighters from the port of Mariupol. The pseudo-referendum in the Kherson Oblast is set for 27 April. Subsequently, Russia is planning to mobilize Ukrainian citizens into its military forces. Moscow has deported half a million Ukrainian citizens to Russia.

Morning report day 57 – April 21

The report is based on media reports, expert analyses, and official information posted online.

Situation

According to information from the General Staff:

 “The Russian Federation continues its full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine.

The Russian forces are trying to continue offensive operations in the Eastern Operational Zone in order to establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

  • The Russian forces intensified the use of operational and tactical aircraft and air reconnaissance. It inflicts systematic airstrikes on military and civilian targets, including long-range aircraft.

Et bilde som inneholder kart Automatisk generert beskrivelseThe Russian forces continue to launch missile and bomb strikes on military and civilian infrastructure throughout Ukraine.

In the Volyn, Polissya, and Siversky directions, the Russian forces did not take active action, and no changes in the condition and position of groups of Russian troops were detected.

  • The probability of missile strikes by units of the Air Force of the Russian Federation on military and civilian infrastructure in our country using the airfield network and the airspace of the Republic of Belarus remains.
  • In the Siversky direction: The protection of the joint part of the border with Ukraine is carried out by enemy units in an enhanced mode.

In the Slobozhansky direction, the Russian forces continue to increase the system of technical support.

  • The Russian forces continue to partially block and shell the city of Kharkiv.
  • The Russian forces are strengthening groups of army aircraft near the State Border of Ukraine. In the territory of the Belgorod Oblast, the equipment of helicopter landing sites has been completed, where more than 90 attack and multi-purpose helicopters are concentrated.
  • The Russian forces regrouped troops in the Izium direction. In the area of ​​the settlement Dibrovne the Russian forces carried out offensive actions and has partial success. In the area of ​​the settlement of Stara Hnylytsia the offensive was unsuccessful, as a result of the fire the Russian enemy suffered losses and withdrew.
  • In addition, the attempt to take control of the village of Dovhenke was unsuccessful. The Russian forces retreated with losses. As a feature, the actions of the enemy in this direction in the military uniform of the Ukrainian model are noted.
  • Units of the Russian occupiers continue to replenish stocks of logistics from the territory of the Russian Federation.
  • Additional units of the Russian forces are being transferred. Thus, at the Kupyansk-Sortuvalny railway station, the unloading of the echelon with weapons and military equipment and the movement of artillery units were recorded.

In the Donetsk and Tavriya directions, the enemy continues to carry out artillery shelling along the entire line of contact.

  • Nine enemy attacks have been repulsed in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts over the past 24 hours, one tank, ten armored units, two vehicles, one artillery system, two special engineering units, an anti-aircraft missile system, and an enemy ammunition depot have been destroyed.
  • The Russian forces are reconnoitering the routes of advance and preparing for further offensive operations in the direction of the settlement of Lyman and the exit to Sloviansk from the northeast.
  • The Russian forces continue to increase the number of troops in this direction. Units from the 90th Tank Division, the 41st Combined Arms Army, and the 232nd Rocket Artillery Brigade of the Central Military District were relocated from the territory of the Russian Federation.
  • The Russian forces tried to gain a foothold in the western and northwestern parts of Rubizhne. Failed. It carried out assault operations in the direction of Novotoshkivske but was unsuccessful.ME: According to media reports, the situation in Rubizhne might have changed in the last 12 hours.

  • The Russian forces are carrying out assault operations in the area of ​​the village of Popasna.
  • It continues to airstrikes on the infrastructure of the city of Mariupol, the Russian forces are carrying out assault operations near the seaport and the Azovstal plant.

In the Zaporizhzhia direction, with the support of artillery fire, the Russian forces resumed the offensive in the direction of the village of Temyrivka.

In the Pivdennyi Buh direction, the Russian forces are shelling the positions of our troops.

  • In addition, Russian military and tactical aircraft fired on individual targets.
  • The Russian forces tried to continue the assault in the direction of the village of Oleksndrivka but were unsuccessful.
  • There are no signs of preparation of the armed forces of the so-called “Transnistrian-Moldavian republic” to take part in the armed aggression against Ukraine. At the same time, the involvement of law enforcement agencies of this unrecognized state entity in conducting subversive and terrorist activities on the territory of Ukraine is not ruled out.

The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has hit four air targets in the previous day: three unmanned aerial vehicles and one cruise missile.”

80% of Luhansk territory is under Russian control, regional military governor Serhii Haidai tells CNN. If Ukraine doesn’t resist, the official said,

Russia is certainly not going to stop here and will push further on. Speaking to CNN’s Becky Anderson from an undisclosed location, Haidai concurred with the Russian characterization that the second phase of the war has begun but cautioned that it is not yet a “complete and total invasion. Certainly they (Russians) are spreading out a lot,” he said. “We’ve established our defenses in a lot of towns. They’re trying to encircle our troops, a lot of nasty business is going on there…but they haven’t had any successes so far. We are doing well to destroy their equipment.”

Russians take control of central Rubizhne in Luhansk, the CNN reports. Russian forces in Ukraine’s Luhansk oblast have taken central Rubizhne and the nearby village of Kreminna, videos circulating on social media show. CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the videos. In it, significant destruction is seen in the city’s center and northern districts. Russian forces and Russian-backed separatists appear to be moving freely in Rubizhne.

Marines and “Azov” rescued half a thousand fighters from the port of Mariupol, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. Soldiers of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, together with other units of the Armed Forces and the National Guard, successfully conducted a joint special operation to evacuate border guards and police at the Azovstal plant. The servicemen broke through to the fighters, provided fire cover, and took about 500 SBGS and NPU fighters to the territory of Azovstal.

The US assesses there have been no major territorial gains so far for Russia in the new offensive, CNN reports.

Early in Russia’s expanded offensive in the Donbas, the US assesses there have been no major territorial gains for Russia so far since the start of the new push, according to two senior US officials with direct knowledge of the assessment. The US has observed some new attacks by Russian forces, which appear to be probing attacks to test Ukrainian defenses, one of the officials said. However, the frontlines remain static with no major territory changing hands as of yet.”

Ukrainian General Staff has reported on the Russian manning and logistic challenges:

  • In Balakleya, wounded Russian servicemen began to be placed in the city’s polyclinic, even though a hospital for the Russian military was set up in the building of the local music school. The location of the Russian occupiers in the city polyclinic indicates a significant increase in the number of wounded and problems with their subsequent medical evacuation.
  • The battalion tactical group from the 150th Motorized Rifle Division lost its combat capability and was withdrawn to the recovery area.

According to British Defense Intelligence, (last 24 hours):

  • Russia likely desires to demonstrate significant successes ahead of its annual 9th May Victory Day celebrations. This could affect how quickly and forcefully they attempt to conduct operations in the run-up to this date.
  • Russian forces are now advancing from staging areas in the Donbas towards Kramatorsk, which continues to suffer from persistent rocket attacks.
  • High levels of Russian air activity endure as Russia seeks to provide close air support to its offensive in eastern Ukraine, to suppress and destroy Ukrainian air defense capabilities.

As of Thursday 21.04.2022, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day: Russo-Ukrainian war, day 57: Russian forces resumed offensive in Donbas, no major territorial gains for Russia so far ~~

  • Personnel – more than 21000 people (+100),
  • Tanks – 829 units (+14),
  • Armored combat vehicles – 2118 units (+31),
  • Artillery systems – 393 (+2),
  • Multiple rocket launchers – 136 (no change)
  • Air defense means – 67 (no change),
  • Aircraft – 172 (+1),
  • Helicopters – 151 (+1),
  • Automotive technology – 1508 (+4),
  • Vessels/boats – 8 units (no change),
  • Fuel and lubricant tanks – 76 (no change),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 166 (+1)
  • Special equipment – 27 no change)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (no change)

Russia has already lost 3.5 times more equipment than Ukraine, Ukrayinska Pravda reports citing Oryx. According to analysts, Russia has already lost 3002 units of equipment, of which: destroyed: 1588, damaged: 47, abandoned: 244, captured: 1123. Ukraine, meanwhile, lost 848 units of equipment: 389 destroyed, 22 damaged, 36 abandoned, 401 seized.

Russia’s defense ministry seeks greater secrecy on military deaths in Ukraine, the Reuters reports. The Russian defense ministry has proposed that relatives of soldiers killed in Ukraine should have to apply to military rather than civilian authorities for compensation payments, imposing an extra level of secrecy around its war losses. Russia already classifies military deaths as state secrets even in times of peace and has not updated its official casualty figures in Ukraine for nearly four weeks.

Humanitarian

Moscow has deported 500,000 people to Russia, the Reuters reports. “Half a million Ukrainian citizens were deported from Ukraine to the Russian Federation without agreement from their side,” said Mykyta Poturayev, the head of the Ukrainian parliament’s humanitarian committee told European lawmakers on Wednesday, calling on the Red Cross to establish contact with those missing. Reuters could not independently verify the figure given by Poturayev, who did not give details or supporting evidence.

According to UNHCR 5,034,439 refugees have been registered as of 19 April. The UN says that so far Poland has taken in 2,825,463 refugees, Romania 757,047, Russian Federation 549,805, Hungary 471,080, Republic of Moldova 426,964, Slovakia 342,813 and Belarus 23,759. Among those who fled Ukraine are also Ukrainian nationals with dual citizenship. An additional 113,000 people moved to the Russian Federation from the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts between 21 and 23 February.

OHCHR recorded 5,121 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of 19 April. 2,224 were killed (including 173 children) and 2,897 were injured (including 280 children).

As of April 20 and 21, humanitarian corridors operate with a focus on the evacuation of women, children, and the elderly from Mariupol. According to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine:

“Four evacuation buses managed to leave the city along yesterday’s (April 20) humanitarian corridor. They spent the night in Berdyansk and are now heading to Vasylivka. We are waiting for them in Zaporizhzhia soon. Today (April 21), the evacuation of women, children and the elderly continues. The security situation is difficult.”

Legal

Putin plans to carry out forced mobilization in the occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts, the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) claims. Putin plans to carry out forced mobilization in the occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts.

As previously reported, personal data of residents of the temporarily occupied territories are collected in advance for “referendums”, allegedly for “humanitarian aid” or social benefits. On election day, FSB officers will fill out ballots using the information obtained without the consent and physical presence of the Ukrainians themselves.

After holding pseudo-referendums in the occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts, the FSB of the Russian Federation plans to carry out forced mobilization and throw “mobilized” Ukrainians to the hottest parts of the front to storm the positions of the Armed Forces under the control of barricading detachments. This is an attempt to destroy Ukraine at the hands of Ukrainians themselves.

“The specified special operation pursues the following purposes:

  • destruction of representatives of the Ukrainian ethnic group.
  • Carrying out propaganda activities by imposing on the population of Russia and the world the myth that “the population of the regions liberated from the Nazis began to fight against nationalist battalions.”

This is another crime of the Putin regime against Ukraine and proof of the genocide against the Ukrainian nation.”

The General Staff of Ukraine claims:

  • In the Kherson oblast, the Russian invaders plan to organize the forced mobilization of the population for war with Ukraine. At the same time, the Russian occupiers set a goal to completely stop the humanitarian support of the region from the Ukrainian authorities. The terror of the Ukrainian population by Russian occupiers continues.
  • Thus, in the village of Zolota Balka, Kherson oblast, representatives of the Russian occupation forces held a meeting with the local population, where they stated that there would be no more “green corridors” and forbade people to leave the settlement. In addition, they warned that in case of shelling of their positions by units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Russian invaders will start shelling the settlement. The Russian occupiers continue to patrol the apartments and conduct searches.

The president and founder of Yahad-In Unum, Father Patrick Debois, who has been investigating the crimes of Nazis and ISIS terrorists for 20 years, has begun documenting Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. A Roman Catholic priest is looking for witnesses in Ukraine who can tell about the crimes of the Russian occupiers – they have created a special website for this purpose.

Et bilde som inneholder tekst Automatisk generert beskrivelse208 children were killed, and 376 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of 21 April. 1141 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 99 of them are destroyed fully.

As of the same date, 7661 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 3526 crimes against national security were registered.

Support

US defense official: Ukrainian Air Force adds about 20 more operational aircraft due to influx of spare parts according to a senior US defense official, the CNN reports. The official wouldn’t specify which country provided the aircraft parts.

The flow of spare parts has allowed Ukraine to expand its fleet of operational military aircraft, despite Russia’s ongoing invasion. They have more aircraft now than they did three weeks ago, the official said. One day earlier, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Ukraine had received additional fighter aircraft to add to their existing numbers. But on Wednesday, the senior defense official walked that back, saying that Ukraine had not received more aircraft, but had in fact received aircraft parts to make more of their existing aircraft functional.”

New US sanctions target a Russian bank, oligarchs, crypto-miner BitRiver, the Reuters reports. The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on dozens of people and entities, including a Russian commercial bank and a virtual currency mining company, hoping to target Moscow’s evasion of existing sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The US Treasury Department in a statement said it put sanctions on Russian commercial bank Transkapitalbank, whose representatives it said serve several banks in Asia, including in China, and the Middle East, and have suggested options to evade international sanctions. Washington also targeted a global network of more than 40 people and entities led by US-designated Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, including organizations “whose primary mission is to facilitate sanctions evasion for Russian entities.

“The Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on companies operating in Russia’s virtual currency mining industry, reportedly the third-largest in the world.”

The American company AeroVironment donated 100 Quantix Recon drones to Ukraine, regardless of other arms supplies from the United States, the Ukrainian News reports. This is stated in the message of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine on Facebook today, April 20. The donated drones will be sent within the current week, and other deliveries will follow, the Main Intelligence Directorate indicates.

This donation will provide operators with a tool that can fly undetected by enemy forces and not be exposed to radiofrequency silencers to conduct accurate and rapid reconnaissance of inaccessible areas of a dynamically changing battlefield. The information obtained by the Quantix Recon drones will allow planning operations in such a way as not to endanger the Ukrainian military, said the President and Chief Executive Officer of AeroVironment, Wahid Nawabi.”

New developments

  1. UN to debate Security Council permanent member veto power, the Aljazeera reports. The United Nations is on Tuesday set to debate a provision that would require the five permanent members of the body’s Security Council – the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia – to justify invoking their veto powers. The reform to the Security Council has been floated for years at the UN but has regained new traction following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Currently, the five permanent members can veto any resolutions put forth by the Security Council. Meanwhile, the rotating 10 other members have no such power. Moscow has used its veto power to limit actions by the UNSC since invading Ukraine on February 24, immediately blocking a resolution that called for Moscow to remove troops from Ukraine.
  2. Negotiations: The Kremlin has stated that it has handed over a “document” to Ukraine. Zelenskyy is studying the position of the Russian Federation reports, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president, said that Russia “handed over to Ukraine a draft document with clear wording, and the ball is on Kyiv’s side.” At the same time, Peskov once again stated that “the Ukrainian side is constantly deviating from its previously given agreements, its words, it is constantly changing them.” According to TASS, Moscow handed over the draft settlement agreement to Ukraine on April 15, citing Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
  3. Russia says talks with Ukraine hinge on Kyiv’s readiness to take into account Moscow’s demands, the Reuters reports. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in a phone call on Wednesday that the outcome of talks with Ukraine completely depended on Kyiv’s readiness to take into account Russia’s demands.
  4. The Russian Federation is not ready for a peaceful settlement, the Ukrinform writes. “The relevant statement was made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a joint briefing with European Council President Charles Michel in Kyiv, an Ukrinform correspondent reports. They (Russians – HPM). are not ready for peaceful settlement… It’s like they kept coming out with media signals until they started a full-scale invasion, Zelenskyy told. According to the President of Ukraine, he is ready for dialogue to put an end to the war.”
  5. A Ukrainian negotiation team is ready to leave for Mariupol for talks as soon as they receive confirmation from Russia, David Arakhamia, the head of the Ukrainian negotiating delegation, wrote Telegram, the Ukrinform reports. The Team consists of him and Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the President’s Office. “Mykhailo Podoliak and I are ready to arrive in Mariupol to hold talks with the Russian side on the evacuation of our military garrison and civilians,” he wrote. Mariupol defenders consider Russia’s proposal to disarm and surrender unacceptable, the Ukrinform reports. “Against the guarantees of the third party, they are ready to evacuate with small arms, taking the wounded and the bodies of the fallen with them. The relevant statement was made by Azov Regiment Deputy Commander Captain Sviatoslav Palamar in a video address.”
  6. Germany will end oil imports from Russia by year-end, the Reuters reports. “Germany will stop importing oil from Russia by the end of the year, said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock after a meeting with her Baltic counterparts on Wednesday. We will halve oil by the summer and will be at 0 by the end of the year, and then gas will follow, in a joint European roadmap, because our joint exit, the complete exit of the European Union, is our common strength.
  7. Finland inches closer to NATO after parliament expresses support for military alignment, the Reuters reports. The Finnish Parliament on Wednesday began debating the possibility of Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, joining NATO. Finland inched closer to joining NATO on Wednesday after its major parliamentary groups expressed support for some form of a military alliance as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A decision on whether to apply for NATO membership could be taken within weeks, Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said.

Assessment

On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Wednesday 20 April:

Russian forces made minor advances in the ongoing offensive in eastern Ukraine on April 19, seizing several small towns and advancing into the key frontline towns of Rubizhne and Popasna. Russian forces continued major assaults with heavy air and artillery support but are continuing to build the logistics and command-and-control capabilities necessary for a larger offensive. Russian forces have not achieved any major breakthroughs, nor have they demonstrated any new capability to conduct multiple successful, simultaneous advances. Russian forces additionally made grinding progress against remaining Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Works and announced plans for a May 9 Victory Day parade in the city – indicating Russian forces will declare victory in Mariupol by that date at the latest.

Russian forces made marginal gains in assaults against the Azovstal Steel Plant on April 20. Video footage depicted the Russian Naval Infantry and other mechanized units fighting on the outskirts of the plant. Russian aircraft continued to heavily target the Azovstal plant. Pro-Russian Telegram channels claimed that DNR militia and potentially Russian Special Operations forces are “clearing” the Azovstal Plant of Ukrainian sources, but we cannot confirm if Russian forces have been able to take portions of the plant itself.

Russian forces continued offensive operations concentrated on Rubizhne, Popasna, and Malinka and likely captured several outlying suburbs of Sievierodonetsk on April 20.

Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that Chechen and LNR troops took full control of Rubizhne on April 20, but ISW is unable to independently verify this claim, and the Urkainian General Staff reported Ukrainian forces remained in control of Rubizhne an hour before Kadyrov’s claim. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on April 20 that Russian forces are actively fighting in Torske and Zelena Dolyna, two towns west of Russian positions in Rubizhne. Pro-Russian sources additionally claimed that Russian forces took control of Kreminna and Stara Krasyanka, west of Rubizhne, on April 20. Russian forces continued attempts to advance into Popasna and reportedly captured residential sectors of the city.

Key Takeaways

  • Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine secured minor gains in the last 24 hours, taking parts of the key frontline towns of Rubizhne and Popasna.
  • Ukrainian forces reported the presence of small numbers of Syrian or Libyan mercenaries fighting in Popasna (eastern Ukraine), likely individual recruits fighting under the umbrella of the Wagner Group rather than larger units.
  • Russian forces made incremental advances in Mariupol and continued to set conditions to declare victory in the city by – at the latest – May 9.
  • Russian forces made minor advances around Izium but have not secured any major breakthroughs.

Russian forces may be preparing to conscript Ukrainian citizens amid continuing recruitment challenges. The Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate DIU reported on April 20 that Russian occupation forces are planning to hold pseudo-referendums in occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Oblasts to declare a forced mobilization and “throw ‘mobilized’ Ukrainians to the hottest parts of the front.” If confirmed, this effort is highly unlikely to generate meaningful combat power and will provoke an uptick in protests and partisan actions against Russian forces in these regions. The DIU additionally reported that Russia’s FSB is conducting a purge of the political leadership of the LNR in retaliation for its failure to achieve military objectives since February 24.“ (unquote)

Assessment by Hans Peter Midttun

The Ukrainian General Staff has for weeks claimed highlighted that the Russian Federation continues its full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine, and “are trying to continue offensive operations in the Eastern Operational Zone in order to establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.” President Zelenskyy is using the term “Battle for Donbas”.

The messaging is as correct as it is misleading. It is a continuation of what I believe to be 8 years long mistaken Strategic Communication strategy.

With all eyes on the offensive in eastern Ukraine, it is crucial to not forget either the ongoing air campaign across Ukraine or the maritime blockade of the Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

While I remain convinced that Russia is unable to occupy all of Ukraine and believe the Ukrainian Armed Forces can stop the forthcoming Russian offensive in the east, I still fear a Russian victory might be within its reach. The assessment is made with one huge caveat: The Western escalating sanctions and restrictive measures might lead to the collapse of the Russian Federation itself before it can secure a victory in Ukraine. I will return to this aspect later.

In my article “Zelenskyy is solving the wrong war” from September 2020, I argued that

“after the presidential election in 2019, Ukraine has adapted and aligned its narrative and description of the Russian aggressions to that of its international partners. The sense of a clear and present threat is gone. Ukraine concentrates on the military threat in Donbas, failing to explain the potential consequences of the non-military means being employed to destabilize Ukraine. Ukraine is negotiating peace based on a “war” that poses no threat to Ukrainian statehood while making concessions that are indirectly supporting the Russian strategic aim and objectives.”

I stressed that Russia is not fighting for Donbas but all of Ukraine. From the very first day of the war in 2014, it was abundantly clear that the Russian aggressions included the use of both military and non-military means, and encompassed all of Ukraine, including the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

At the time I pointed out that the “war in Donbas” and the Minsk agreements only cover a mere 2.8% of the Ukrainian territory. Even worse, the occupied territories of Donbas only constituted a mere 11.6% of the area that was de facto illegally occupied or controlled by Russia in 2020. Until 24 February, Russia was controlling approximately 19.6% (145 000 km2) of Ukrainian territory and areas under its jurisdiction. This included the Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, the adjacent Maritime Exclusive Economic Zones, and certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Still, the focus remained on Donbas.

In the report “Ukrainian storm warning” by the Centre for Defense Strategies, I outlined the “Maritime Ripple Effects” resulting from an embargo/blockade.

“Any interruption of maritime trade and freedom of navigation will cause ripple effects across all sectors of the Ukrainian economy and society, as its future prosperity is closely linked to the maritime domain. The Maritime Ripple Effect model illustrates how a maritime conflict might impact all of Ukraine and ultimately, Ukrainian independence and sovereignty.

The freedom of navigation and consequently, of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) is already being challenged. Russian actions in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov show how this affects all parts of society, from industry and agriculture to social development and the stability of society. Russia has demonstrated both the will and the ability to restrict and ultimately, stop all maritime trade through the closure of the Kerch Strait and the regular closure of major parts of the Black Sea on the pretext of ‘exercises’.navy

If (or when) Russia decides to impose a full blockade of all Ukrainian ports, the Ukrainian economy will collapse. The loss of access to the sea will stop all maritime imports and exports. This will result in the loss of jobs and income, affecting all other parts of the Ukrainian business environment. The loss of freedom of navigation and SLOCs will severely damage several industries and severely affect the lives of millions of Ukrainians. This would further destabilize Ukraine from within, undermining the sovereignty and independence of the country.

Ukraine is presently unable to challenge the Russian Black Sea Fleet or its multi-layered Anti Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capacity in the Black Sea. That is a critical vulnerability with a potential devastating ‘Maritime Ripple Effect’.”

Russia was forced to adapt its campaign plan and reduce its military ground objective to the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblast due to a combination of fierce Ukrainian resistance, Russian shortcomings, and Western support.

Its maritime objectives, however, remain the same. Russia is conducting a maritime blockade that over time will undercut the Ukrainian economy and destabilize Ukraine from within, undermining the sovereignty and independence of the country. Additionally, the blockade will impact the global food security and economy, inflicting costs on the west and challenging our resilience and cohesion.

While the sinking of the Russian Black Sea flagship “Moskva” was a tremendous morale boost and will, as previously argued, reduce the threat of an amphibious operation as well as improve the air situation over the southern part of Ukraine, it will have no impact on the maritime blockade. Civilian vessels will still be unable to transport goods in and out of Ukrainian ports.

A peace agreement on the ground in the present situation will, therefore, still destroy Ukraine. The present situation does not create the economic basis for an independent and sovereign state.

To ensure a Ukrainian victory and a Russian defeat, the maritime problem needs to be addressed. The Strategic Communication strategy must be adjusted. Ukraine cannot afford to continue a one-dimensional focus on Donbas.

This takes me back to my caveat: “The Western escalating sanctions and restrictive measures might lead to the collapse of the Russian Federation itself before it can secure a victory in Ukraine.” The sanctions have a limited impact on the maritime part of the war.

As long as the Russian Federation occupies the Crimean Peninsula, maintains a Black Sea Fleet (while Ukraine has no navy at all), and the West remains reluctant to engage militarily, Russia can uphold the maritime blockade indefinitely.

Lasting peace and an independent Ukraine require NATO to engage militarily. A potential peace plan must be based on the prerequisite that Crimea must be returned to Ukraine.

Additionally, Ukraine needs to rebuild both its Navy and Air Force. This urgently requires both a Marshall plan for Ukraine as well as a NATO presence on and above the Black Sea.

 

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