Russo-Ukrainian war, day 69: Heavy artillery fire over the front line in Donbas but no ground attacks

Ukraine war

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun
Russian troops did not conduct any ground attacks in Donbas and instead shelled Ukrainian positions on the frontlines. Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian troops nearly 25 miles east of the city of Kharkiv. Russian military continues shelling of the Azovstal plant, including the buildings where civilians are still hiding. About 80 heavy US howitzers have already arrived in Ukraine. Nancy Pelosi: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine merits the strongest possible military response and the toughest sanctions.”

Morning report day 69 – May 03

Situation

According to information from the General Staff:

“Russian forces continue to conduct full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine and is conducting offensive operations in the Eastern Operational Zone in order to establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and maintain the land corridor with the temporarily occupied Crimea.Ukraine war

The greatest activity of Russian invaders is observed in Slobozhansky and Donetsk directions. In the Zaporizhzhia, Kryvyi Rih and Mykolaiv areas, Russian forces regrouped troops, and strengthened artillery units and air defense units. It is trying to establish a system of logistical support for the grouping of troops in these areas.

Russian forces continue to prepare reserves in order to further transfer them to operational areas in Ukraine.

Russian forces are taking measures to replenish significant losses of equipment in units of the armed forces of the Russian federation conducting hostilities on the territory of Ukraine. According to available information, in the city of Boguchar, Voronezh Oblast, between April 27 and May 2, 2022, seventeen tanks and sixty BMP-1 were taken out of storage. They were sent to the Ukrainian territories temporarily occupied by Russian troops.

Russian forces continue to launch missile and bomb strikes on targets in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.

In the Volyn, Polissya and Siversky directions Russian forces did not take active actions, and no signs of the formation of offensive groups were found.

  • The possibility of Russian forces’ demonstrative and provocative actions in the areas adjacent to the state border of Ukraine is not ruled out.
  • The threat of missile strikes on objects on the territory of our state remains.
  • Measures to strengthen the administrative-police and counter-intelligence regimes continue in the Bryansk Oblast bordering Ukraine.

In the Slobozhansky direction, Russian forces continued shelling the city of Kharkiv and nearby settlements.

  • In the Izium direction, Russian forces exerted active fire on units of Ukrainian troops.
  • To strengthen the group, Russian occupiers moved artillery and multi-launch rocket systems units to certain areas.
  • In order to improve the transport infrastructure, Russian forces built a pontoon-bridge crossing over the Siversky Donets River. Russian occupiers continue to shell the positions of Ukrainian troops and civilian objects located a short distance from the state border of Ukraine from the territory of the Russian Federation.
  • In the Belgorod Oblast, the concentration of Russian occupiers’ reserves for fighting in the Eastern Operational Zone continues.

In the Donetsk direction, the main efforts of Russian forces continue to focus on establishing full control over the settlements of Rubizhne and Popasna and advancing in the direction of the settlements of Lyman and Sloviansk.

In the Tavriya direction, measures are underway to regroup units and engineering equipment positions. In particular, a barrel artillery unit was deployed at firing positions near the settlement of Tokmak in the Zaporizhzhia oblast. Russian forces carried out artillery shelling of the positions of our troops in the area of ​​the settlement of Orikhiv.

  • In the temporarily occupied territories of the Zaporizhzhia oblast, Russian forces deployed a fuel and oil depot and a point for repairing and repairing damaged equipment.

Russian forces did not conduct active hostilities in the Pivdenny Buh directions. It continued to fire on units of our troops along the line of contact.

  • Russian forces are fighting to improve its tactical position. It does not stop trying to reach the administrative border of the Kherson oblast, it continues to deploy jet and barrel artillery units to fire on the positions of Ukrainian troops.
  • The transfer of material resources from the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea with the use of Ukraine’s railway infrastructure continues.
  • In the Bessarabian direction, the situation in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova remains tense. Russian forces, through controlled media, continue to spread provocative reports about the growing threat to the population of Transnistria from Ukraine.

In the waters of the Black and Azov Seas, warships are involved in missile strikes on the territory of Ukraine, perform the task of isolating the area of ​​hostilities and conduct reconnaissance.

During the previous day, the Air Defense and Land Forces air defense units hit seven Orlan-10 UAVs and one Forpost UAV.

Twelve Russian forces attacks have been repulsed in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in the past 24 hours, six tanks, five artillery systems, twenty-two units of armored combat vehicles and eight units of forces vehicles have been destroyed.

Russian forces also suffered losses in other areas. The resistance movement continues to develop actively in the cities and villages temporarily occupied by the Russian aggressor.

Ukraine’s Defense Forces inflict losses on Russian forces in all directions and are ready for any changes in the operational situation.”

Ukrainian defenders destroyed two Russian boats near Zmiinyi Island, the Ukrinform reports. “Two Russian Raptor-class boats were destroyed near Zmiinyi Island in the early hours today. Bayraktar is operating,” Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, announced this on Telegram.

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Russians fired missiles at Zatoka Bridge for the third time on Monday 2 May, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports. At 6:45 a.m. on 27 April, Russian invaders repeated their missile attack on the bridge across the Dnister estuary in Zatoka, Odesa oblast, the first attack had been on 26 April.

Hans Petter Midttun: The Zatoka bridge allows both communications with the westernmost territories of the Odesa oblast (Bessarabia). The railway bridge enables both imports and exports to Romania and Bulgaria. It is also important for the resupply of Ukrainian forces in the region if Russia attempts an amphibious landing in Bessarabia to link up with its forces in Transnistria. The missile strikes must therefore be seen in the context of Russia’s attempt to engage Transnistria in the war.

200 “volunteers” per week: a new plan to ensure sufficient manning for the Russian Armed Forces, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. According to the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU), a new campaign to recruit “volunteers” for military service under contract is being stepped up in the Russian Federation, with each region being forced to find 200 people a week.

“It is expected that volunteers are to cover the personnel losses of the units that have participated in the war in Ukraine. Several new divisions are also planned to be formed. The military leadership of the Russian Federation has set clear “recruitment standards:” for the Far East and Siberian federal regions, amounting to 200 “volunteers” weekly. At the same time, no recruitment is being carried out in Moscow at all. Propaganda events are being held with volunteers to motivate them to serve. In particular, traditional Russian narratives about the “collective West” and “non-existent Ukraine” are being reiterated. They also promise better pay and benefits.

It must be recalled that the Russian occupation command has already used at least 95% of the prepared BTGs, and this was still insufficient to achieve “success” in the war with Ukraine.

We had one tank left out of ten, and we broke it ourselves” – occupiers’ conversation intercepted by SSU, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports. The Security Service of Ukraine has evidence that the Russian occupiers are breaking their own equipment in order not to fight with Ukrainian defenders. This is evidenced by new telephone conversations between the invaders which were intercepted by the special services. The young invader explained that out of the ten tanks his unit had at the beginning of the war, only one tank was left – and they had broken it on purpose.

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

  • Russia’s defense budget approximately doubled between 2005 and 2018, with investment in several high-end air, land and sea capabilities. From 2008 this underpinned the expansive military modernisation programme New Look.
  • However, the modernisation of its physical equipment has not enabled Russia to dominate Ukraine. Failures both in strategic planning and operational execution have left it unable to translate numerical strength into decisive advantage.
  • Russia’s military is now significantly weaker, both materially and conceptually, as a result of its invasion of Ukraine. Recovery from this will be exacerbated by sanctions. This will have a lasting impact on Russia’s ability to deploy conventional military force.

As of Tuesday 03 May, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:Russian losses

  • Personnel – more than 24200 people (+400),
  • Tanks – 1062 units (+14),
  • Armored combat vehicles – 2567 units (+48),
  • Artillery systems – 475 (+16),
  • Multiple rocket launchers – 162 (+10)
  • Air defense means – 80 (+3),
  • Aircraft – 194 (+2),
  • Helicopters – 155 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 1843 (+19),
  • Vessels/boats – 10 units (+2),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 291 (+20)
  • Special equipment – 38 (+6)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 84

Russians take out the corpses of their soldiers at night in small batches to mask the losses, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports citing the Security Service of Ukraine.

Humanitarian

The UN-led evacuation from Azovstal does not concern military and wounded, the Ukrinform reports.

We continue to call for the evacuation of our people. Several tracks are being worked on. Now one of the tracks is proposed by the United Nations. I know that this evacuation, unfortunately, does not concern the military or the wounded. They do not assume such a responsibility. The UN is only ready to help evacuate civilians. We have already taken a certain number of people out of Mariupol when Russia did not block the routes. Now we are talking about civilians who hide at Azovstal. There are people there who are afraid of going outside because they are being killed. Now we talk about this. We work on this track,” President Zelenskyy told Greek newspaper EPT News in an interview, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

According to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine as of May 1, the President of Ukraine personally oversees the situation with Mariupol evacuation corridors, which are executed jointly with the UN and ICRC.

Mariupol humanitarian operation will last till we meet our aim of saving the lives of our citizens.”

The Azov regiment reports on their telegram channel that “After the partial evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plants, in the city of Mariupol the enemy continues shelling of the territory of the plant, including the buildings where civilians are still hiding. Russians use airstrikes, and ship artillery shelling, and tanks. The fight is on”

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According to UNHCR 5,563,959 refugees have been registered as of May 1. The UN says that so far Poland has taken in 3,056,826 refugees, Romania 825,874, Russian Federation 681,156, Hungary 530,157, Republic of Moldova 447,604, Slovakia 379,447 and Belarus 25,002. Among those who fled Ukraine are also Ukrainian nationals with dual citizenship. An additional 105,000 people moved to the Russian Federation from the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts between 18 and 23 February.

The number of Ukrainians entering Ukraine since February 28 is 1,357,500 as of May 1. This figure reflects cross-border movements, which can be pendular, and does not necessarily indicate sustainable returns.

OHCHR recorded 6,134 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of April 28 at midnight. 2,899 were killed (including 210 children) and 3,235 injured (including 309 children).

In two months, the Russian army killed twice as many people as the Nazis in the two years of occupation of Mariupol during WW2, the Mariupol City Council claims. Moreover, the ruscists have already illegally deported as many Mariupol residents as Hitler’s troops during the years of occupation. “In two years, the Nazis killed 10,000 civilians in Mariupol. And the Russian occupiers in two months – more than 20 thousand Mariupol. More than 40,000 people were forcibly deported. This is one of the worst genocides of civilians in modern history. The Russian army is purposefully and ruthlessly destroying our city and its inhabitants. Ruscism is the fascism of the 21st century. No doubts or illusions. Mankind has paid a high price for the victory over fascism in the last century. If we do not unite today and do not stop this evil, the price this time may be much higher”.

Environmental

UK exposes Russian troll factory plaguing social media with Kremlin propaganda, according to UK Government press release. UK-funded expert research has exposed how the Kremlin is using a troll factory to spread lies on social media and in comment sections of popular websites.

“The cyber soldiers are ruthlessly targeting politicians and audiences across a number of countries …. The research exposes how the Kremlin’s large-scale disinformation campaign is designed to manipulate international public opinion of Russia’s illegitimate war in Ukraine, trying to grow support for their abhorrent war, and recruiting new Putin sympathizers. The operation has suspected links to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, founder of the infamous bot-farm the Internet Research Agency. Key findings include

  • A new troll farm that is seeking to guide and ‘brigade’ a wider network of supporters and sympathisers to engage in targeted trolling behaviors.
  • This information operation and its associated targeted trolling activities are being directed at senior international politicians and international media outlets.
  • Traces of the operation have been detected across eight social media platforms including Telegram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok.
  • Key tactical innovations of the operational methodology include the use of commenting behaviours, use of VPNs and deliberate amplification of ‘organic’ content supporting the Kremlin’s position. All of these methods help to avoid detection and interception by social media platforms.

The UK Government will share this latest research with major social media platforms. We are already working closely with them to ensure they swiftly remove disinformation and coordinated inauthentic or manipulated behavior, as per their Terms of Service.

The UK has also created a Government Information Cell (GIC) to counter Russian disinformation. Made up of experts from across the UK Government, the Cell is focused on identifying and assessing Russian disinformation and both advising on and delivering output to expose and challenge the Kremlin’s lies.

Through our unprecedented package of sanctions against Russia, we have already targeted peddlers of Russian disinformation, including Putin’s key political allies, regime spokespeople including Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov and Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, and Kremlin-backed disinformation agencies.

The Government has also directly sanctioned state media organisations, targeting the Kremlin-funded TV-Novosti who owns RT, formerly Russia Today, and Rossiya Segodnya who control news agency Sputnik.

Legal

Russian forces again fired cluster munitions on Mykolaiv suburbs last night, the Ukrinform reports. “Last night the Russian occupation forces once again shelled suburbs of Mykolaiv city. Cluster munitions of Uragan multiple rocket launcher systems again hit the yards of civilians. Private houses and yards were damaged,” Dmytro Pletenchuk, a spokesman of Mykolaiv’s military commandant office, reported on Facebook. It is noted that the forces continue to terrorize civilians of the Mykolaiv Oblast at night, shelling residential districts with the forbidden cluster munitions.

Security Service of Ukraine identifies almost 900 Russian occupiers who committed atrocities in the Kyiv oblast, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has identified almost 900 Russian invaders who committed crimes against the civilian population in the Kyiv oblast, according to SBU spokesperson Artem Dekhtiarenko.

“The Ukrainian special services have all the information on the invaders, as well as evidence of their atrocities. Currently, more than 2,500 “Ruscists” a blend of “Russians” and “fascists”, whose units were based in the Kyiv oblast, are being investigated for involvement in crimes. The SBU continues to document atrocities committed by every Russian invader. Investigators and operational units of the Service have interviewed about 7,000 witnesses of aggressors’ atrocities. The SBU has also exposed about 100 collaborators who assisted the forces in the Kyiv oblast.”

According to the General Staff of Ukraine:

  • Russian forces continue to destroy Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. Inflicts rocket and bomb attacks and carries out artillery shelling of residential areas of the city of Mykolaiv, as well as settlements of Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Kharkiv oblasts.
  • In the temporarily occupied territories, the Russian occupiers are artificially creating and exacerbating humanitarian and economic crises. There is a shortage of medicines in the settlements, the range of grocery stores is limited, and bank institutions do not function.

Et bilde som inneholder tekst Automatisk generert beskrivelse220 children were killed, and 406 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of May 3.

1,584 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 118 of them are destroyed fully. 9,366 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 4,546 crimes against national security were registered.

Support

New shipments of advanced weapons from the United States and Western allies continue to flow into Ukraine, The New York Times reports. About 80 of the 90 howitzers committed have been transferred to the Ukrainians, as have about half of the 140,000 rounds for 155-millimetre artillery.

The Senate is expected this week to take up President Biden’s request for an additional $33 billion in military aid for Ukraine, The New York Times reports. It is a significant escalation of American support that would put the United States on track to spend as much this year to help Ukraine as it did each year fighting the war in Afghanistan.

Norway to provide Ukraine with M109A3GN 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers, the Army Recognition claims. “According to a Tweet published by “WorldOnAlert” on April 30, 2022, Norway will deliver 20 M109A3GN 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine.” The Norwegian newspaper Fremover on 26 April wrote that the Norwegian Armed Forces had called in extra personnel to carry out a test firing of the decommissioned M109 artillery which is stored in Bjerkvik and Osmarka. A spokesman for the Armed Forces did not want to answer whether the testing was connected to them being sent to Ukraine. I have so far yet to find any Norwegian sources confirming the decision.

New developments

  1. Ukrainians are not ready to give part of their territory to Russia, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports. In an interview with the Greek public broadcaster ΕRΤ, President Zelenskyy said: “People are not ready. None of us is ready. Forcible changes of borders, this is exactly what is happening, and otherwise, the borders in Ukraine do not change. We are ready to restore our territorial integrity. Russia will not stop there; you must know that. She did not stop in the Crimea or Donbas. Give them a little rest before they start new aggression in 2-3 years?”
  2. Pelosi says Russia’s war merits the ‘strongest possible’ response, The New York Times reports. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine merits the strongest possible military response and the toughest sanctions, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday, adding that the West should not be deterred by the threat of retaliation from Moscow.”
  3. A US diplomat says Russia is planning to annex parts of Ukraine with ‘sham’ elections, The New York Times reports. Russia appears to be preparing to annex two oblasts in eastern Ukraine and possibly a third in the country’s south, Michael Carpenter, the American ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on Monday, citing “highly credible” reports of Moscow’s plans. He said that the Kremlin would likely stage “sham” elections in Donetsk and Luhansk in mid-May to formally seize control of both. A similar referendum in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, could follow, he said.
  4. Mobilization in Ukraine could be extended after May 24, the Ukrinform reports. “The mobilization was announced for three months, from February 24, and it is about to end soon, but it does not mean that it can end. Everything will depend on the situation …. If necessary, we will continue to replenish the ranks of our military units with service members, and if necessary, the state leadership will decide to extend the terms of this mobilization. … If there is such a need, if the hostilities continue, there will definitely be a need to replenish our units with military specialists. Therefore, I think the leadership will extend the mobilization after May 24,” Roman Horbach, chief of the personnel department at the headquarters of the Command of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, said at a briefing at the Ukraine Media Center.
  5. Finland will decide to apply for NATO membership on May 12, the Reuters reports. “Finland will decide to apply for NATO membership on May 12, Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reported late on Sunday, citing anonymous government sources. The decision to join will come in two steps on that day, with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto first announcing his approval for Finland to join the Western defense alliance, followed by parliamentary groups giving their approval for the application, the paper reported. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed Finland and Sweden to the verge of applying for NATO membership and abandoning a belief held for decades that peace was best kept by not publicly choosing sides.”

Assessment

On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Monday 2 May:

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in Ukraine on May 2. The April 30 Ukrainian artillery strike on the Russian command post in Izium may be continuing to disrupt Russian efforts on the Izium axis. Russian troops on the Donetsk-Luhansk frontline and Southern Axis continued to regroup, likely in preparation for renewed offensives or to resist or reverse Ukrainian counter-offensives.

Russian forces conducted naval artillery and airstrikes on Mariupol while civilian evacuations from the Azovstal Steel Plant continued on May 1 and May 2. Ukraine’s Military Law Enforcement Service reported that over 100 civilians evacuated to Zaporizhzhia city from Azovstal on May 2, but Ukrainian defenders remain at the plant.

Russian forces shelled along the Donetsk-Luhansk frontline and did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks on May 2. Russian troops continued to focus on completing the seizure of Rubizhne and Popasna.

Russian forces continued to regroup and conduct unspecified offensive operations in the Izium area but did not make any confirmed advances on May 2. The April 30 Ukrainian rocket artillery strike on the Russian Airborne (VDV) and 2nd Combined Arms Army command post in the Izium area may be continuing to disrupt Russian operations along the Izium axis.

Russian forces continued to regroup, reconnoitre, and concentrate logistics on May 2, likely in preparation for ground assaults on Ukrainian position in the directions of Mykolaiv, Kryvyi Rih, and Zaporizhzhia.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks along any axes of advance and instead shelled Ukrainian positions on the frontlines.
  • The April 30 Ukrainian artillery strike on Russian command headquarters near Izium likely disrupted Russian operations on the Izium axis and may hinder Russian offensives from Izium for the next few days.
  • Russian forces on the Southern Axis continued to regroup and reconnoiter likely in preparation for ground assaults in the direction of Kryvyi Rih, Mykolaiv, and Zaporizhzhia.

Russia’s military strategy in the east is ‘anemic’ and ‘plodding,’ a Pentagon official says, The New York Times reports.

Russia’s offensive in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine is “anemic” and “plodding,” and slowed by a risk-averse approach designed to avoid the heavy casualties that Russian troops suffered in the first phase of the war, a senior Pentagon official said on Monday. The assessment builds on a Defense Department analysis released last week that Russia appeared to be “several days behind” schedule in its fighting goals for the Donbas because of stiff Ukrainian resistance and continuing supply line problems.

We see minimal progress at best,” the Pentagon official said, citing incremental Russian territorial gains east of Izium and nearby hamlets. “They’ll move in, declare victory, then withdraw their troops, only to let the Ukrainians take it.”

In this latest phase of the nearly 10-week-old war, Russia is attacking the region on three fronts: from Izium in the north; from eastern Donbas, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014; and from the besieged port city of Mariupol in the south, the official said.

But Russian forces have made only uneven progress at best and are a long way from their goal of encircling tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops in a pincer movement, according to the Pentagon official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence assessments. “It’s very cautious, very tepid,” the Pentagon official said. “In some cases, the best word to describe it is anemic.” Many Russian forces continue to be plagued by low morale and supply problems, the official added.

Ukrainian forces are putting up strong resistance elsewhere. Russia continues to bombard Kharkiv, a major city northwest of the Donbas, but in the past 48 hours, Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian troops nearly 25 miles east of the city into the northern Donbas, the Pentagon official said.

In another sign of Moscow’s sense of urgency, a majority of the dozen battalion groups that had been fighting in Mariupol have been redeployed to the larger fight unfolding to the northeast in Donbas, the Pentagon official said.

Moscow now has 93 battalion groups fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine — up from 85 more than a week ago, but still well below the 125 it used in the first phase of the war, the Pentagon official said. When at full strength, each battalion group has 700 to 1,000 troops, but many of the battalions have suffered casualties that have eroded their combat readiness, the official said.

Russia prepares to announce mass mobilisation on 9 May, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports. According to Ukrainian intelligence, Russia is preparing to announce a mobilisation on 9 May.

“Now Rosreserv Russia’s Federal Agency for State Reserves has started to check what they have in stock and to calculate what they can give out on mobilisation orders. This is a necessary step before the start of real mobilisation,” Kyrylo Budanov, Head of the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, said in an interview with “NV”. “Russia has already been enacting covert mobilization and is preparing to announce a mass mobilization shortly.” When asked whether the Kremlin plans to win in Donbas by 9 May, the head of the Chief Intelligence Directorate said: “That is their goal, but it will not happen, they do not have time. They will not manage to do it.”

Russia is preparing for a “cholera epidemic” in the regions bordering Ukraine, the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) claims. Russia is preparing for the cholera epidemic in the regions bordering Ukraine, the Russia’s Chief State Sanitary Doctor Anna Popova has signed a resolution “On additional measures to prevent cholera.”

“Particular attention is paid to additional prevention measures in the regions bordering Ukraine: Bryansk, Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh, Rostov Oblast, Krasnodar Territory and the occupied Crimea. Probably, in late May-early June, the Russian leadership may resort to provocations in the areas bordering Ukraine. Responsibility for this will traditionally be transferred to Ukraine, accusing it of “using biological weapons”.”

Consequences and what to do?

No Peace Deal is Possible After Red Lines Are Crossed in the Russia-Ukraine War, Sergiy Sydorenko, the Editor for European Pravda writes. And he is right. When you read his arguments, keep in mind that this phase of the war is only a part of a process – a long-term strategy that has been ongoing since Ukraine regained its independence in 1991.

“While the war in Ukraine is escalating, many in the world expect it to end up with a peace deal one day. For those, it seems to be the best possible outcome: the peace can end the hostilities, save many thousands of lives, and yet-not-destroyed infrastructure, shelled by Russian forces all over Ukraine.

And also, let’s not hide the truth: there are considerations in the world apart from the humanitarian. Some Western politicians are simply tired of the brutal war in Ukraine that takes too much of their attention. Outside of Europe, there are states that are openly seeking a way to push Kyiv for concessions to end the war and restore the food supply from Ukraine.

But there is bad news for all of them. A genuine and really functional peace deal with Russia is almost impossible in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the word “almost” in this phrase is just a hope for a miracle. Therefore, basing expectations on hope for this deal is a way to fail in prognosis. 

During the first weeks of the war, the situation was very different. At that time, many Ukrainians hoped (or feared, depending on whom you ask) about a possible Russia-Ukraine peace deal. Yes, fear of a deal with Russia was in Ukraine, too. Possible concessions by Ukraine, discussed by negotiators, were very controversial and far-reaching even compared with a hot war in Ukraine. Now, all of that does not matter. 

Red lines that make the deal impossible are already crossed or expected to be crossed soon. The genocide in several Ukrainian territories and senseless ruining of the civilian infrastructure leave not much ground for the negotiations accepted by Ukrainian society.   

And even more importantly, after several failed negotiation attempts, neither side has an appetite for this deal. Ukrainian unwillingness is easy to explain.

The key issue that makes a peace deal impossible is the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Zelenskyy would never agree to lose any of Ukraine’s territory in a deal with Putin, as polls strongly reject this option. Ukrainians are keen to fight until all continental territory is liberated, including Donbas in the East. 

For Putin, on his side, signing a document that fulfills this Ukrainian demand will be immensely humiliating. He’s started the war to “protect” Russia-controlled Donbas – and in the end, he would completely lose control in this region. Even with Russian propaganda, there seems to be no chance to turn this military failure into a victory. 

It means we’re in a deadlock. No surprise that peace talks have virtually ceased during the last weeks. The fight is the only option remaining.

You can ask, why do Ukrainians prefer fighting and losing lives instead of agreeing to some compromises? The answer is clear, rude, and horrific: we have all ground to believe that if we sign the “peace” on the conditions that Russia can agree to – this would lead to appalling consequences for the Ukrainian nation, or at least to part of it. Even more horrific than the ongoing war

Bucha lesson was well learned by Ukrainian society. When the area next to Kyiv was de-occupied, revealing brutal war crimes committed by Russian soldiers, we reached a wide consensus that Russian hate towards Ukrainians is not about Putin. Rapes, tortures, and murders were made by ordinary Russians, not by Kremlin employees. And surveys show well over 80% of Russians back brutal aggression. This number even rose after Bucha massacre became public.

One may say that areas next to Kyiv were devastated because Russia was never going to leave them occupied for a long time. That is true to some degree. Indeed, in Southern Ukraine, which Putin is keen to steal (Kherson, Mariupol, Berdyansk), the Russian army behaves differently. Putin wants to keep this land occupied because it allows him to supply water to the annexed Crimea; also, it cuts Ukraine from some seaports.

There are reports about rapes, repressions, and tortures from this part of Ukraine, too, but the scale is incomparably lower. Meanwhile, there is a high chance that the focus of brutality is different

There are growing reports that Russia is preparing another destiny for this occupied part of Ukraine. Grain elevators there are already looted by Russians; agricultural technics are transferred to Russia; there are reports that locals are prevented from fieldwork.

Ukraine lived through the same experience 90 years ago. In 1932-1933, a decade after Ukraine was forced to join the Soviet Union, Moscow organized artificial starvation under a secret decree. The scheme was just the same: all crops were taken away, and people were not allowed to leave their area. More than 3 million Ukrainians died from hunger. Later, people from Russia were moved to some of “liberated” areas. This genocide horror has the name Holodomor.

Do you say it’s not impossible in the 21st century? Just look what’s going on in Ukraine now. As you can imagine, all of this makes any deal with Russia senseless for Ukrainians.

Ukraine can’t live through the same experience once again. We will continue fighting for our land, and we will win, with no concessions-for-peace. Hopefully, now the West has begun to understand how reasonable the Ukrainian position is.”

Assessment by Hans Petter Midttun:

Despite the lack of significant progress on the battlefield in the east and south of Ukraine, there are no indications of Russia giving up Ukraine. The military build-up in the east continues. Russia is taking steps to improve the manning problems in its Armed Forces that offer no short-term solutions. It is increasing its control over the occupied territories and establishing pseudo governance structures. Russia is continuing its “Donbas strategy” of establishing so-called “peoples republics”, potentially planning to integrate them into the Russian Federation. Negotiations have stalled and there is no sign of a Russian will to compromise. The initial demands towards Ukraine remain unchanged. More importantly, the Russians are mobilizing around the “Russian flag”.

Russia knows the West normally struggle to stay focused and committed. As we are waiting for the sanctions to take effect, the Russian Federation is equally awaiting the full ripple effects of the war to hit the USA and Europe. Much higher living costs and unemployment will help destabilize and reshape the political landscape in the West.

There will be calls for compromises and an end to the war to help alleviate the everyday challenges the more than 777 million Europeans and Americans soon will be facing. The 1 May demonstrations across the world indicate what will follow. Citizens and trade unions rallied around the world, sending messages of protest to their governments, and issuing calls for peace in Ukraine. Their concern about the rising living costs was voiced loud and clear, and we are less than 10 weeks into the war. Russia has yet to use its “nuclear” equivalent non-military means cutting energy supply to Europe.

Russia is targeting the Western population, while the West is mainly targeting the Russian elite.

While the population in the West are outraged by the Russian atrocities and in awe of the Ukrainian courage and fighting spirit, they remain detached from the war itself. Their political leaders have after all, constantly told them that – contrary to the evidence of the opposite – that the war remains geographically limited to Ukraine. This explains why the population support defense aid to Ukraine but opposes “boots on the ground”.

In contrast, the sanctions (and the costs) have made Russians mobilise in support of their country. Fuelled by Russian propaganda, they firmly believe the country is under siege by the West. Additionally, they are by far more resilient to hardship than their counterparts in the west.

Russia has used the information sphere for the last decade to prepare Russians for the present conflict, while simultaneously having done its best to undermine our resolve and unity.

As stated already, the main battlespace of the hybrid war occurs inside the cognitive spaces of populations and key decision- and policymakers. The strategy exploits the protest potential of the population of both the nation under assault and that of its partner nations. It manipulates and reinforces existing vulnerabilities trying to ignite social instability. It aims to destabilize and undermine alliances, partnerships, and nations from within through disinformation. It allows Russia to undermine nations’ legitimacy, credibility, and moral and ethical standpoints, thereby reducing trust and international support. It helps foster both fear and inaction.

As previous wars and international operations have shown, our military resilience is directly linked to the prevailing mood of the population. If they are not happy with the present politic, they will vote for anyone promising what they want.

Unless we adjust our strategy, time might favour Russia, not Ukraine and the West.

It is, therefore, crucial to change the strategic messaging in the West. “The war in Ukraine is a part of a wider conflict between Russia and the West”. “We are at (hybrid) war”. “Russia is trying to undermine the international security architecture that has ensured prosperity, stability, and security since WW2”. “We need to defend democracy and our core values and principles”. “The conflict will inflict costs on us all, but that is the cost of freedom”. It is time for leadership, courage, and resolve.

It is equally essential to change the nature of our military support. I remain convinced that the combined efforts of NATO plus Ukraine will help conclude the war in weeks rather than months and years. The Alliance must start acting according to its strategic concept, executing an UN-mandated humanitarian intervention operation in Ukraine.

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