Russo-Ukrainian war, day 113: Ukraine holds up in Sievierodonetsk; US, NATO pledge aid as Kyiv says weapons are slow to arrive

Russo Ukrainian war, day 113: Ukraine holds up in Sievierodonetsk; US, NATO pledge aid as Kyiv says weapons are slow to arrive

 

Daily review, Russian-Ukrainian war 2022

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun
Ukraine retakes villages near Izium, keeps resisting Russian assaults on Sievierodonetsk. Russia’s advances in Donbas are slow due to severely undermanned groupings; yet, Russia also makes small gains near Kharkiv. US provides new $1 bn in security aid and NATO pledges more military aid as Kyiv says weapons are slow to arrive.

Morning report day 113 – June 16: Situation

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 16.06.2022, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

“In the Volyn and Polissya directions, as part of the combat readiness check, one of the mechanized brigades of the Republic of Belarus has worked out the deployment of mobilization resources reception points with the practical reception of conscripts. [The engineering equipment of the area in the border areas of the Pinsk district of the Brest region continues. The threat of missiles and airstrikes from the territory of the Republic of Belarus continues.]

Russo-Ukrainian war, day 113: Ukraine holds up in Sievierodonetsk; US, NATO pledge aid as Kyiv says weapons are slow to arrive ~~

In the Siversky direction, Russian forces continue to hold units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation from the Western Military District in the border areas of the Bryansk and Kursk regions to demonstrate the presence and restraint of units of the Defence Forces. Russian forces fired artillery at the positions of our troops in the areas of Leonivka and Bachivsk in the Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts, respectively. [Yesterday, Russian forces fired mortars at the positions of our troops in the border areas of Sumy and Chernihiv regions. In order to clarify the position of our units and correct the fire, they conducted air reconnaissance of UAVs. Russian forces used electronic warfare systems to disrupt the Defense Forces’ command and control system.]

In the Slobozhansky direction, Russian forces regrouped troops in order to increase offensive capabilities.

  • In the Kharkiv direction, Russian forces are focused on maintaining the occupied frontiers. In order to restrain our units and prevent the transition to the offensive, Russian forces carried out intense artillery shelling, including from multiple rocket launchers in the areas of Bazaliyivka, Udy and Verkhniy Saltiv.
  • In the Slvyansk direction, the aggressor is conducting assault operations, searching for weaknesses in the defensive positions of our troops. He fired artillery of various calibres at civilian infrastructure near Pryshyb, Dolyna, Karnaukhivka and Virnopilla. [Yesterday, the aggressor focused on continuing the offensive in the direction of Izium – Sloviansk. Russian forces unsuccessfully carried out assault operations in the direction of Dovhenke – Krasnopillya. Russian forces tried to improve the tactical situation in the area of ​​the settlement of Dolyna. Ukrainian soldiers repulsed and forced the occupiers to withdraw.]

In the Donetsk direction, Russian forces are fighting along the line of contact. The main efforts are focused on the Bakhmut direction.

  • In the Lyman direction, Russian forces did not take active action, firing at our units with artillery in the area of ​​Pyskunivka.
  • In the Sievierodonetsk direction, the Russian occupiers continue to fire on the units of our troops from all available firepower in the areas of the settlements of Bilohorivka, Lysychansk, and Sievierodonetsk.
  • Russian forces do not stop trying to establish full control over the city of Sievierodonetsk. Conducts assaults, and the fighting continues. [Yesterday, in Toshkivka, our defenders successfully repulsed another enemy assault.]
  • In the Bakhmut direction, Russian forces are storming to improve the tactical situation. Artillery shelling was recorded in the areas of the settlements of Vesele, Soledar, Berestove and Vovchoyarivka. [Yesterday, Russian forces fired at our troops with artillery and MLRS. Ukrainian soldiers inflicted losses on Russian forces during his offensive in the directions of Vasylivka – Yakovlivka and Vasylivka – Berestove. The occupiers withdrew.]
  • In the Lyman, Avdiivka, Novopavlivka and Zaporizhzhia directions, Russian forces exert systematic fire in order to restrain the actions of units of our troops in the settlements of Novobakhmutivka, Vodiane, Pervomaiske, Mykilske, Antonivka, Huliaipole, Novopil and Orikhiv.
  • On the Yehorivka-Shevchenko route, our soldiers discovered and destroyed an enemy sabotage and reconnaissance group.

In the Pivdennyy Buh and Tavriya directions., Russian forces are concentrating their efforts on maintaining the occupied frontiers and preventing the advance of our troops. Inflicts fire damage on units of the Defence Forces. Continues to improve the engineering equipment of positions in the areas of settlements Bezvodne and Ishchenka.

  • [To counter the technical means of reconnaissance of the Defense Forces, Russian occupiers deployed a complex of electronic warfare in the area of ​​Melitopol.]

In the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov Maritime, Russian forces focus on blocking civilian shipping. In the Black Sea, Russian forces remain ready to use three high-precision weapons.

[According to the available information, changes in the force composition of Russian forces operating on the territory of Ukraine have been revealed. Thus, the grouping of the occupying forces was increased by one battalion tactical group from the 138th separate motorized infantry brigade of the Western Military District.]

[In addition, in the Bakhmut direction, Russian forces increased the group with a battalion tactical group from the operational reserve, which was redeployed to Pervomaisk from the Kupyansk district. After the restoration of combat readiness, separate units of the 8th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District were introduced in the districts of Komyshuvakha and Popasna.]

[The leadership of the law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation continues to take measures to recruit additional human resources to the war against Ukraine by increasing payments and introducing short-term contracts, with the possibility of their extension.]

[Russian forces continue to use enterprises in the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson region to restore and repair damaged weapons and military equipment.]

[According to available information, in the city and the region of Belgorod, there is an additional involvement of medical workers from other regions of the Russian Federation to work with wounded servicemen. All this indicates the significant losses of the Russian occupiers.]”

Ukraine says troops hold out in Sievierodonetsk after last bridge destroyed, Reuters reports.Ukraine said on Tuesday its forces were still holding out inside Sievierodonetsk and trying to evacuate civilians after Russia destroyed the last bridge to the devastated eastern city in a potential turning point in one of the war’s bloodiest battles. The situation is very difficult but there is communication with the city” despite the last bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river having been destroyed, said the Ukrainian mayor of Sievierodonetsk, Oleksandr Stryuk. Russian troops are trying to storm the city, but the military is holding firm.”

Ukraine’s Armed Forces retaking villages near Izium, Ukrinform reports. “Fierce fighting continues in the Izium direction. Russian occupiers are also trying to advance towards the towns of Sloviansk and Barvinkove to encircle our troops in the area of the Joint Forces Operation. However, the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Izium Territorial Defense Forces are holding out and even counterattacking Russian forces on the flanks, liberating some settlements even on the outskirts of Izium. These are such villages as Spivakivka and Zavody, located on both banks of the Siverskyi Donets River, [Maksym Strelnyk, head of the Department of Youth, Sports and Image Projects at Izium City Council, said].”

Credit: Nathan Ruser, https://twitter.com/Nrg8000/ ~

Credit: Nathan Ruser, https://twitter.com/Nrg8000/

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours):

  • All of the main bridges over the Siverskyy Donets River, which link the contested town of Sievierodonetsk and Ukrainian-held territory, have now highly likely been destroyed. Ukraine has probably managed to withdraw a large proportion of its combat troops, who were originally holding the town. The situation continues to be extremely difficult for the Ukrainian forces and civilians remaining east of the river. With the bridges highly likely destroyed, Russia will now likely need to either conduct a contested river crossing or advance on its currently stalled flanks to turn tactical gain into operational advantage.
  • Russia’s combat force in the Donbas is highly likely operating in increasingly ad hoc and severely undermanned groupings. As claimed by the Ukrainian authorities, some Russian Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) – typically established at around 600 to 800 personnel – have been able to muster as few as 30 soldiers. For both sides fighting in contested towns, front line combat is likely increasingly devolving to small groups of troops typically operating on foot. Some of Russia’s strengths, such as its advantage in numbers of tanks, become less relevant in this environment. This is likely contributing to its continued slow rate of advance.
  • After more than a month of heavy fighting, Russian forces now control the majority of Sievierodonetsk. Russia’s urban warfare tactics, which are reliant on heavy use of artillery, have generated extensive collateral damage throughout the city.
  • Elements of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, along with several hundred civilians, are sheltering in underground bunkers in the Azot Chemical Plant, in the city’s industrial zone. Russian forces will likely be fixed in and around Azot whilst Ukrainian fighters can survive underground. This will likely temporarily prevent Russia from re-tasking these units for missions elsewhere.
  • It is highly unlikely that Russia anticipated such robust opposition, or such slow, attritional conflict during its original planning for the invasion.
  • Russia’s operational main effort remains the assault against the Sievierodonetsk pocket in the Donbas and its Western Group of forces have likely made small advances in the Kharkiv sector for the first time in several weeks.

As of Thursday 16 June, 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 113: Ukraine holds up in Sievierodonetsk; US, NATO pledge aid as Kyiv says weapons are slow to arrive ~~

  • Personnel – more than 32950 (+200),
  • Tanks – 1449 (+9),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 3545 (+17),
  • Artillery systems – 729 (+7),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 233 (+3),
  • Air defence means – 97 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 213 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 179 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 2494 (+9),
  • Vessels/boats – 13 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 591 (+0),
  • Special equipment – 55 (+1),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 129 (+0)

Russian enemy suffered the greatest losses (of the last day) in the Bahmut direction.

Humanitarian

The Russians have captured more than 30 drivers who were evacuating people from the war zone, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. “The Russians have been holding at least 33 volunteer drivers captive for more than two months. Two of them need immediate medical attention. The drivers were detained as they went to pick up relatives from the war zone or evacuate other civilians from Mariupol.

They are accused of “terrorism”, and the authorities want to imprison them for 5-10 years. None of them is in the military. At first, these people were kept in occupied Olenivka, but then they were taken to a pre-trial detention centre in Donetsk.”

64 more fallen defenders from Azovstal returned to Ukraine – the Ministry of Reintegration, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. “In Zaporizhzhia Oblast, another operation on an exchange of bodies of the fallen soldiers took place, according to Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories. In an exchange with Russia, Ukraine has received the bodies of 64 heroic Azovstal defenders. They will be buried with dignity.

The operation was carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Reintegration, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, the Security Service of Ukraine, the General Staff of the Armed Forces, and other law enforcement agencies of Ukraine.”

Millions of refugees from Ukraine have crossed borders into neighbouring countries, and many more have been forced to move inside the country. The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance the UNHCR reports. As of 14 June:

Individual refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe: 5,094,531

  • Belarus, Hungary, Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia 2,644,449
  • Other European countries 2,450,082

Refugees from Ukraine registered for Temporary Protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe: 3,331,807

  • Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia 1,309,894
  • Other European countries 2,021,913

Border crossings from Ukraine (since 24 February 2022): 7,567,024

Border crossings to Ukraine (since 28 February 2022): 2,479,398

OHCHR recorded 9,983 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of June 14. 4,452 were killed (including 280 children) and 5,531 injured (including 459 children).

Environmental

The US is working on a plan to deliver grain from Ukraine by rail – Biden, Ukrinform reports. “The United States, along with its allies and partners, is working to implement an alternative scheme for exporting grain from Ukraine by rail, which involves building temporary grain silos on Ukraine’s borders. […] Biden stressed that due to Russia’s aggression, the traditional sea route for food exports from Ukraine has been blocked, so other ways must be sought.

“We’re going to build silos, temporary silos on the borders of Ukraine, including in Poland. So we can transfer [grain] from those cars into those silos into cars in Europe and get it out into the ocean, and get it out across the world,” Biden said, adding that this is taking time.”

Ukraine’s besieged farmers fear war-time harvest ‘hell’, Reuters reports. “Agriculture is one of the few business sectors that is working… Of course, they want to destroy it. They want to end this stream of income into the country, farmer Volodymyr Onyschuk said near a pile of Russian shell casings on his 2,000-hectare wheat and sunflower holding near Mykolaiv. Crops will be vulnerable to fire caused by shelling, he said, and that could be “hell” for farmers when the harvest season begins in the coming weeks. […]

Since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, the world’s fourth-largest grains exporter, Kyiv has repeatedly accused Russia of attacking infrastructure and agriculture to provoke a global food crisis and pressure the West. Moscow, which calls its war a special military operation, blames Western sanctions and sea mines laid by Ukraine for the drop in food exports and rising global prices.

Five shells hit a cluster of warehouses and grain conveyer belts at the Nika-Tera plant, rendering one of Ukraine’s largest agricultural terminals unable to load or unload ships, local officials said.  The blasts triggered an intense fire in sunflower meal stores. These were still smouldering during a brief press tour on Sunday. Separate grain elevators on the site were untouched.

They are trying to undermine food security worldwide, said Georgy Reshetilov, First Deputy Head of the Mykolaiv military regional administration. The region’s agricultural facilities have suffered an estimated 34 billion hryvnia ($1.16 billion) worth of losses, he said. Sites hit include a large producer of tomato pulp and a large number of farms.

Shelling is feeding fear across a sector already hamstrung by Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea, the primary route for Ukraine’s vast agricultural exports. Combine harvester operators are leery of bringing their equipment to the region, fearing shelling along and possible mines and munitions in the fields, farmers said.

Some grain traders are reluctant to even buy stocks from farmers, fearing they will bear responsibility if their storage facilities are subsequently attacked. Nobody can guarantee the safety of this harvest in a time of war, said Reshetilov.

Supplies of fertilizer are running low, and without buyers for grain exports, farmers said they could struggle to raise funds to buy more supplies, even if they were available. Fuel has gone up. Fertilizer prices are insane. I don’t know how we are going to work next year, said Valentyn Matviyenko, who runs a farm near Bashtanka, around 60 kilometers northeast of Mykolaiv city where some land is within range of Russian artillery. […]

Few in the region hold out hope that diplomatic efforts will unblock the Black Sea. They said a few convoys of ships would not even dent the volumes that need to be exported, and it is not economical to send the same grain by road. […] After spraying fertilizer on a field of young sunflowers, tractor driver Vasyl Boyko, 38, said he does not believe a solution will be found unless Ukraine pushes back Russian forces and the West opens trade corridors in the Black Sea. We don’t need words, we need weapons, he said.”

Legal

“Hands tied, shot in the knees”: new mass grave discovered in Kyiv region after the Russian invasion, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. “7 civilians were tortured and then brutally shot in the head by the Russians, [Andrii Niebytov, Chief of the National Police of Kyiv Oblast said]. The mass burial of the executed civilians was discovered today (13 June – ed.) on the sites where the soldiers of the Russian Federation were stationed near the village of Myrotske, Bucha district. Many victims had their hands tied and had been shot in the knees. We are currently working to identify the people killed.”

ICC prosecutor visits Kharkiv region where 760 civilians died in Russian strikes, Ukrinform reports. “In Kharkiv and Kharkiv region, 760 civilians have been killed and more than 1,000 injured in persistent attacks by Russian troops. That’s according to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office, Ukrinform reports.

Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Khan inspected the sites of Russia’s war crimes in Kharkiv and discussed joint steps in the strategy of prosecution and justice. According to the PGO, as a result of persistent attacks on Kharkiv and across the region, more than 4,000 buildings were destroyed, of which almost 2,500 were apartment blocks.”

318 children were killed, and 581 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of June 16. 2000 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 208 of them are destroyed fully. 17,764 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 8,625 crimes against national security were registered.

Support

The US to send $1bln in security aid to help Ukraine in Donbas, Biden says, Reuters reports. “The United States will provide an additional $1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine for its efforts in the eastern Donbas, the recent focus of Russia’s invasion, President Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart during a call on Wednesday. The support includes “additional artillery and coastal defence weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems,” Biden said in a statement from the White House after the call with Volodymyr Zelensky.”

Austin: Defense Contact Group takes into account all Ukraine’s urgent needs on the battlefield, Ukrinform reports. “The Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which already involves more than 45 countries, is committed to providing Ukraine with everything it needs to defend itself, and the group’s successful work is a reflection of the global rejection of Russia’s unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine.

“Minister Reznikov and I have been in close contact about changes on the battlefield and we’re working in lockstep to meet Ukraine’s requests for new capabilities, especially its need for long-range fires, armour and coastal defence. To help Ukraine defend itself, the United States has provided it with howitzers and Javelins and huge amounts of ammunition, UAVs, Mi-17 helicopters, counter-artillery radars, tactical vehicles and electronic jamming equipment. Along with our partners, we’re also training Ukrainian forces on new capabilities, and we’re committed to doing even more,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in his opening remarks at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group Meeting in Brussels, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

According to the Pentagon chief, Ukraine is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield. As President Zelensky warned, Russia has shifted its focus to Donbas after failing to take Kyiv. “We can’t underestimate the challenge that Ukraine faces. Russia is using its long-range fires to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions, and Russia continues to indiscriminately bombard Ukraine’s sovereign territory and recklessly endanger Ukrainian civilians. So we must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine’s self-defence and we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens and its territory,” Austin said.”

Ukraine has only a fraction of the weapons it needs from the West, a Kyiv official says, The New York Times reports. “Ukraine’s deputy defence minister said on national television on Tuesday that the country had received only 10 percent of the weapons it says it needs to fight the Russian Army. No matter how hard Ukraine tries, no matter how professional our army is, without the help of Western partners, we will not be able to win this war, said the minister, Anna Malyar. We can’t wait very long because the situation is very complicated.

The United States has provided more than $4.6 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since the start of the war in February, according to the State Department. But the 108 155-millimetre Howitzers and the handful of multiple rocket launch systems pledged by the United States — even when combined with the heavy weapons being sent by Britain, France, Poland and several other nations — are far short of what Ukraine says it now needs. […]

Military analysts have said the need for more weapons and ammunition is acute. Ukraine will not be able to win the war without very significant and sustained support from its foreign partners, said Rochan Consulting, which tracks developments in the war. Existing deliveries slow Russian forces down, but Ukraine’s requests are more far-reaching and include equipment that would allow Kyiv to take territories back.”

But even as the call for more weapons grows stronger, European leaders have expressed concern that giving Ukraine everything it wants could leave European stockpiles dangerously depleted. And Ukrainian military analysts have said the specific numbers are at the high end of what they could reasonably expect.”

NATO’s leader pledges more military aid as Ukraine says weapons are slow to arrive, The New York Times reports. “NATO member countries will continue to provide Ukraine with heavy weapons and long-range systems, and a new package of assistance to Kyiv will be agreed on by allies in consultation with Ukraine’s defence minister, NATO’s secretary-general said on Wednesday. “Ukraine is in a really very critical situation, so there is an urgent need for support,” the secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said before a meeting of the alliance’s defence ministers in Brussels.”

Russia made nearly $100B from fuel exports in the war’s first 100 days, a report says, The Washington Post reports. “In the 100 days after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s revenue from exports of fossil fuels soared to 93 billion euros — about $97 billion — according to a report by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air. China was the largest importer, buying more than $13 billion worth of fossil fuels during that period, followed by Germany, at around $12.6 billion, the CREA report released Monday said. Over the first 100 days of the war in Ukraine, France was the largest importer of Russian liquefied natural gas, the Finland-based research center found, while Germany bought the most Russian pipeline gas.”

Ukrainian special-operations forces doubled in size while training with the US, top US special-ops commander says, Insider reports. “Our special-operations forces help develop and work with other allies to come into Ukraine and help build up the Ukrainian special-operations forces,” Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of US Special Operations Command, told members of the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing in April. Since that training began eight years ago, those Ukrainian forces have “doubled in size,” Clarke said. […] Clarke highlighted that Ukrainian special operators have also added new capabilities, with US operators bringing them up to speed on operational planning, urban warfare, and small-unit tactics, among other things. But it is in the unconventional-warfare mission set where the Ukrainians have learned the most.

In the weeks after Russia’s attack on Ukraine began in late February, Ukrainian special-operations forces wreaked havoc behind Russian lines. Using their inherent organizational flexibility and taking advantage of the Russians’ lacklustre force-security practices, Ukrainian special operators took out Russian logistical convoys, starving Russian frontline units of ammo, fuel, and reinforcements.

One tactic Ukrainian commandos used was the employment of small anti-tank weapon teams on quad-bikes or motorcycles. These mobile teams could outrun and outmanoeuvre the cumbersome Russian columns and use anti-tank missiles or mines to take out Russian tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles. Videos frequently emerged showing Ukrainian commandos ambushing and destroying Russian mechanized columns and even elite Russian units, such as the VDV airborne forces.”

New developments

  1. China’s Xi offers closer cooperation with Russia in a call with Putin, The New York Times reports. “China’s president, Xi Jinping, offered to deepen cooperation with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, in a phone call on Wednesday, signalling that Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine had not dented Mr. Xi’s basic commitment to their partnership. [….] the summary of the conversation between Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry left little doubt that — whatever his misgivings about the invasion of Ukraine — Mr. Xi remains committed to close ties with Russia, which help to offset rising antagonism with the United States and its allies.”
  2. French, German and Italian Leaders to Meet With Zelensky in Kyiv, Wall Street Journal reports. This week’s planned meeting among the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Ukraine comes amid a split within NATO about what kind of military aid to send to Kyiv. France, Germany and Italy haven’t been sending large quantities of heavy weapons, while the US and the U.K. have both pledged in recent weeks to send more advanced rocket-launching systems. Poland has dispatched over 200 main battle tanks and scores of heavy artillery pieces. [ME: The trio also represents countries calling for a peace agreement and, consequently, Ukrainian concessions. France and Germany were also pushing the Minsk agreement as the only alternative for a peaceful resolution of the war for 8 years, and right up to the point when Russia started the full-scale invasion.]
  3. Macron says he wants a Ukrainian victory, but underlines that talks will still be necessary, The New York Times reports. “President Emmanuel Macron of France on Wednesday called on Europe to ramp up support for Kyiv, saying he hoped for a Ukrainian victory over Russia but emphasized that the conflict would eventually have to end at the negotiating table.”

  4. Zelensky to Scholz: You can’t balance between Ukraine and Russia, Ukrinform reports. “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he expects Germany to more clearly define its priorities in relations with Russia and support Ukraine in its EU membership aspirations during Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to Kyiv. I expect that he [Olaf Scholz] will personally support us and that he will be personally confident that Ukraine can join the EU and that candidate status will be granted to Ukraine as early as June, Zelensky said. According to him, Kyiv expects assurances from Scholz that Germany will support Ukraine.

He and his government have to make a decision. You can’t try a balancing act between Ukraine and relations with Russia, you have to choose for yourself where to set the priorities, Zelensky stressed. He said that Germany faces many economic challenges and it is difficult to choose a side because it will be painful. It will be economically painful regardless of whether you choose the Ukrainian or the Russian side, he said.”

  1. Ukraine has been invited to participate in the next North Atlantic Council meeting, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. Ukraine has received an invitation to take part in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of defence ministers, which will take place on 15-16 June in Brussels.
  2. Pope raps Russian ‘cruelty’ in Ukraine, says invasion violates nation’s rights, Reuters reports. “Pope Francis has taken a new series of swipes at Russia for its actions in Ukraine, saying its troops were brutal, cruel and ferocious and that the invasion violated a country’s right to self-determination.”
  3. EU removes three more Russian banks from SWIFT, Ukrinform reports. On June 14, the European Union cuts off Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, Russian Agricultural Bank, and Credit Bank of Moscow from the SWIFT international payments system as part of the sixth package of sanctions against Russia over its aggression against Ukraine.
  4. Russia offers safe passage for Ukraine grain, not responsible for corridors, Reuters reports. Russia can “provide safe passage” for Ukraine grain shipments from the country’s Black Sea ports, but is not responsible for establishing the corridors, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters on Wednesday. “We are not responsible for establishing safe corridors. We said we could provide safe passage if these corridors are established. Establish them. It’s obvious it’s either demine the territory, which was mined by the Ukrainians or to ensure that the passage goes around those mines,” Nebenzia said.

Assessment

1. On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Wednesday 15 June:

Western officials announced additional military aid for Ukraine on June 15. US President Joe Biden pledged $1 billion worth of military aid, including coastal defence weapons, advanced rocket systems, artillery, and ammunition to support Ukrainian operations. NATO members additionally announced they will additionally continue to provide Ukraine with heavy weapons and long-range systems and plan to agree on a new assistance package after consultations with Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. This newest round of military aid will be invaluable to support Ukrainian operations, especially in the face of increasingly protracted and artillery-heavy fighting against Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine, though Ukraine will require further sustained support.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces launched ground assaults in Sievierodonetsk and settlements in its vicinity but have not taken full control over the city as of June 15.
  • Russian forces launched largely unsuccessful offensive operations around the T1302 Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway in an effort to cut Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Lysychansk.
  • Russian forces continued efforts to advance along the E40 highway to Sloviansk and southeast of Izium.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to fight in northeastern settlements around Kharkiv City.
  • Russian forces continued to fortify fallback positions in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Oblasts, while undertaking defensive measures to strengthen Russian presence in the Black Sea.
  • The Kremlin and proxy republics continue to pursue ad hoc annexation policies in occupied territories.

If Ukraine falls, ‘Baltic states will be next’, says Russia’s former PM, LRT reports. “Russia’s war in Ukraine may last for up to two years and if the country falls, Moscow may then attack the Baltic states, according to former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Kasyanov, who was President Vladimir Putin’s first prime minister from 2000-2004, said in an interview with AFP that he did not initially believe Moscow would invade Ukraine, but realized Putin was “out of it” when he summoned the security council days before the attack.

When I saw the meeting of Russia’s Security Council, I realised, yes, there will be a war, Kasyanov said, adding that he felt Putin was not thinking properly. I just know these people and by looking at them I saw that Putin is already out of it. Not in a medical sense but in political terms, he told AFP.”

A top Ukrainian official says urgency is missing in the West’s response to the war, The New York Times reports. “For weeks, Ukrainian officials have pleaded for powerful Western weapons as a way to stave off battlefield defeats. A senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky shifted this messaging on weapons on Monday by laying out for the first time the total number of howitzers, rocket launchers, and tanks Ukraine thinks it would need to win the war against Russia.

At the same time, the adviser, Mykhailo Podoliak, accused Western leaders of being reluctant to seriously address Ukraine’s gigantic disadvantage in long-range weaponry, and the scale of what will be needed to even the odds. He suggested that Western nations lacked a sense of urgency even as Ukraine’s army, low on ammunition and taking heavy casualties, is being battered in fighting in the East.

And he suggested that some Western European countries, including France and Germany, were “hiding from the war.” “If you think we should lose, just tell us directly: ‘We want you to lose.’ Then we will understand why you give us weapons at this level,” Mr. Podoliak said in an interview in the presidential office compound in Kyiv. […]

Mr. Podoliak said the scope of that support was far from sufficient to combat the firepower the Russian army’s heavy, mechanized units have brought to bear. Russian forces are now firing about 70,000 projectiles per day in combat in the eastern region known as Donbas, he said, about 10 times as much as Ukrainian artillery teams can fire. For Ukraine to achieve parity with the Russian army in the east, Mr. Podoliak said, Western nations will need to provide it with 1,000 howitzers, 300 multiple-launch rocket systems, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and 1,000 drones.

Lacking that level of firepower, the Ukrainian military command has resorted to a risky strategy of seeking to engage the Russian military in street fighting in the city of Sievierodonetsk to at least inflict casualties on Russian units that would not be possible in the open fields.”

2. Consequences and what to do?

As prices rise, Europeans are divided over how the Ukraine war should end, The Washington Post reports.

As the war in Ukraine drags on through its fourth month, Europeans remain largely united in backing Kyiv, but they are divided over how long they’re willing to endure the conflict’s economic fallout, a poll published Wednesday shows.

The survey across 10 European countries suggests public attention may turn from the war to fears about its wider impact, particularly the rising cost of living on the continent. European governments will have to contend with those concerns as they seek to maintain pressure against Moscow, analysts say. Slightly more than a third of those surveyed want the war to be over as soon as possible, even at the expense of Ukrainian territorial concessions, while 22 percent say it should last as long as it takes to punish Russia and restore all of Ukraine’s land.

Still, the participants were not divided over support for Ukraine — or about who’s responsible for the war. A large majority, 73 percent, mainly blame Moscow, and 64 percent believe that Russia, not the United States, the European Union or Ukraine, is the biggest obstacle to peace.

The poll, published by the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank and conducted online by YouGov and the research firm Datapraxis, surveyed 8,172 adults in 10 European countries, including Germany, Romania and Sweden, between late April and mid-May.

Respondents were split into those who said they favor “peace,” even if that involves concessions from Ukraine, and those who view “justice” as the priority, even if it means a protracted conflict. A fifth of the voters “swing” between the two and still want a strong European response, while the rest said they didn’t know. The sentiments will affect European policy on Ukraine, according to the report’s authors, Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard of the ECFR.

“The findings of the poll suggest that European public opinion is shifting, and that the toughest days may lie ahead,” they wrote. Europeans are also worried about the threat of nuclear escalation, and if the feeling grows that sanctions on Russia “are failing to bring results,” the divide between those who want to end the war quickly and those who want to see Russia defeated will grow, the report says.

In all 10 countries in the survey apart from Ukraine’s neighbor Poland, the first camp — for “peace” — is larger than the second, labeled “justice.” Many of those in the first category worry their governments are prioritizing “action against Russia ahead of other important issues, such as rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis,” the ECFR said.

As economies are still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s war in Ukraine propelled already rising inflation in countries that use the euro to a record high in May, with energy projected to have the steepest annual rate. And that was before an E.U. deal this month to phase out most imports of Russian oil, spurred by mounting evidence of Russian war crimes in Kyiv’s suburbs.

The prospect of a drawn-out conflict, with the battle for eastern Ukraine raging, has raised questions about whether war fatigue, coupled with skyrocketing food prices and energy bills, could test countries’ political will to keep pressuring Moscow over time. On Sunday, President Biden blamed the Russian invasion of Ukraine for rising US gas prices, saying it was “outrageous what the war in Ukraine is causing.” […]

The impact on European households has prompted a range of policy moves. Germany, for example, is offering temporary energy tax reductions and issuing a monthly 9 euro ticket for public transportation.

Governments are “walking a fine line,” said Tyler Kustra, an assistant professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham in England, whose research focuses on economic sanctions. “I think there is tremendous disquiet across Europe over the cost of living. These things are things you can’t not buy. You need food; you need heat,” he said. “I think we have to remember how much we don’t want a war in Europe and how much we have to hold the line against Vladimir Putin,” Kustra added. “There isn’t one option that is win-win; it’s a series of unfortunate trade-offs. This is why we need this war to end.”

 

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