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Russo-Ukrainian War, Day 117: Russia targets fuel facilities. Ukraine counterattacks in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts.

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 117. Russia hits fuel depots.
Russo-Ukrainian War, Day 117: Russia targets fuel facilities. Ukraine counterattacks in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts.
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

In Donbas, violent fighting continues but Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Avdiivka, Krasnohorivka, and other hotspots are holding out. The Russian army continues with the assault on Sievierodonetsk. The Ukrainian military and more than 500 civilians remain there, hiding in the Azot plant. The Ukrainian army conducts a successful counterattack in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts where the Russian military focused on holding their defensive positions. The Russian army is accumulating forces in the Kharkiv direction and in the Zaporizhzhia region. In the South, Russian troops increased the number of ships and submarines in the Black Sea, with a total arsenal of 36 missiles. Russian troops destroy fuel storage facilities in the east of Ukraine.

Summary report, June 19

Institute of Study of War. Map. June 19, 2022. Credit: ISW.

According to military expert Roman Ponomarenko, Russian troops continue to methodically destroy fuel storage facilities in the east of Ukraine. The fuel tank in the Novomoskovsk area was struck, 1 killed. This strategy is successful. According to Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine currently imports 100% of its fuel from the EU.

Kharkiv Oblast: fighting continues on the previous frontiers. The Armed Forces of Ukraine captured and lost Ternova. Active fighting continues near Rubizhne. The Russian military continues to concentrate its forces in the Kharkiv direction, to secure the northern flank of its troops in the Donbas. In Russia, talks about the need to occupy Kharkiv and integrate the entire Kharkiv Oblast into Russia intensified after a break. At present, the Russians do not have the forces to accomplish these plans, but the intention is clear. Adviser to the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Vadym Denysenko today called the situation north of Kharkiv “quite difficult.”

Izium, Sloviansk: no new developments.

Luhansk Oblast: Russians captured about half of the village of Metolkino, south of Sievierodonetsk. No new developments were reported in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk and in the area of ​​Bakhmut — Soledar — Hirske — Zolote. The Russian troops continue to push forward, but the Ukrainian army is holding them back.
Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, and Mykolaiv Oblasts: The front line stays stable. Reinforcements of the Russian group in the Kherson Oblast are reported.


The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, June 20, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below. 

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 20.06.2022, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].


“[The aggressor continues to launch missiles and airstrikes on military and civilian infrastructure in our country.]

The situation in the Volyn and Polissya directions has not changed significantly. [Certain units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus perform tasks to cover the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, carry out fortification equipment in the Gomel region, and conduct electronic reconnaissance.]

In the Siversky direction, Russian forces continue to hold up to three battalion tactical groups from the 1st Tank Army of the Western Military District and airborne units to cover the Russian-Ukrainian border in the Bryansk and Kursk regions. In the Bryansk region, the enemy deployed S-300V4 anti-aircraft missile division to the anti-aircraft missile division.

In the Slobozhansky direction, Russian forces launched an airstrike and carried out artillery fire in the areas of the settlements of Tymofiyivka and Morozova Dolyna.

  • In the Kharkiv direction, Russian forces are focused on preventing the Defense Forces from advancing to the State Border of Ukraine. Russian forces fired intensively at the settlements of Kozacha Lopan, Mali Prokhody, Dementiivka, Petrivka, Verkhniy Saltiv, Rubizhne, and the outskirts of Kharkiv. [Yesterdy, they conducted reconnaissance by fighting in the area of ​​the settlement of Rubizhne, but had no success.]
  • In the Sloviansk direction, Russian forces fired from artillery and rocket-propelled grenade launchers in the areas of Chepil, Pryshyb, Protopopivka, Velyka Komyshuvakha, Dibrivne, Virnopillya, Mayak, Kurulka, Bohorodychne, Mazanivka, Krasnopillya and Dolyna. [The main focus of Russian forces is to gather resources in order to carry out a further offensive in the direction of the city of Sloviansk. Russian forces fired on the positions of our troops and conducted air reconnaissance of the Orlan-10 UAV.]
  • In the Donetsk direction, Russian forces continue to focus their efforts on the Sievierodonetsk and Bakhmut directions. They intensively use aviation.
  • In the Sievierodonetsk direction, Russian forces fired from artillery and MLRS at the settlements of Lysychansk, Syrotyne, Voronove, Borivske, Bila Hora, Ustynivka, Myrna Dolyna, Toshkivka, and launched airstrikes with pairs of Su-25 aircraft near Bila Hora and Myrna Dolyna. Fighting continues to establish full control over the city of Sievierodonetsk. [Yesterday, Russian forces conducted round-the-clock air reconnaissance with Orlan-10 UAV. Conducted assault operations to establish full control over the city of Sievierodonetsk, hostilities continue, Russian forces are unsuccessful.]
  • In the Bakhmut direction, during the day, Russian forces fired from artillery and rocket-propelled grenade launchers in the areas of Orikhove, Zolote-3, Mykolayivka, Berestove, Bilohorivka, Yakovlivka, Pokrovske, Klynove, Zaitseve and New York. Russian forces launched an airstrike near Yakovlivka and missile strikes near Travneve, Dolomitne, Zaitseve and New York. [Yesterday, Russian forces struck Ka-52 helicopters near Yakovlivka and fired missiles at the settlements of Travneve, Dolomitne, Zaitseve, and New York.]
  • [Yesterday, on the eastern outskirts of the village of Berestove, Ukrainian soldiers successfully repulsed an enemy assault.]
  • In the Lyman, Avdiivka, Kurakhiv, Novopavliv and Zaporizhzhia directions, it is trying to prevent the regrouping of units of our troops. It fired artillery of various calibers in the areas of Kalinove, Ocheretyne, Berdychi, Zhelanne, Tonenke, Sieverne, Orlivka, Semenivka, Vesele, Avdiivka, Netaylove, Vodiane, Opytne, Pervomaiske, Pisky, Krasnohorivka, Mariinka, Novomykhaylivka, Pavlivka, Shebchnko, Velyka Novosilka, Vremivka, Olhivske, Zelene Pole, Novopil, Temyrivka, Poltavka, Malynivka, Chervone, Zaliznychne, Huliaipilske, Novodanylivka, Orikhiv and Kamyanske.
  • In the Lyman direction, Russian forces launched an airstrike with two Su-25 aircraft near the village of Pryshyb and a missile strike near the village of Mayaki.
  • In the Avdiivka direction, Russian forces launched a Su-25 airstrike in the areas of Shevchenko and Vuhledar.
  • In the Pivdennyy Buh direction, Russian forces are concentrating their efforts on maintaining the occupied frontiers and preventing the advance of our troops. It did not take active actions. It carried out artillery and MLRS fire in the areas of Chervonyi Yar, Murakhivka, Kalynivka, Zelenyi Hai, Kvitneve, Polyana, Chervona Dolyna, Shyroke, Blahodatne, Zorya and Lupareve. [Yesterday, Russian forces fired on the peaceful settlements of Lymany, Lupareve, Nova Zorya, Tavriyske, Novohryhorivka, Bilousove, Knyazivka, Topolyne, Velyka Kostromka, and Osokorivka. Russian forces are improving the engineering equipment of the first and second lines of defense.]
  • [Russian occupiers are improving the air defense system in the temporarily occupied territory of the Kherson region.]

In the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, the Black Sea Fleet focuses on blocking civilian shipping in the northwestern part of the Black Sea. 5 warships and submarines carrying cruise missiles are kept ready to launch missile strikes on objects on the territory of Ukraine.”

Military Updates 

Russian troops to advance towards Kharkiv, Ukraine official says, Reuters reports. “The situation north of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is quite difficult as Russian forces have been trying to get closer to shell the city again, an official at Ukraine’s interior ministry said on Sunday. Russia is trying to make Kharkiv a frontline city, Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to the interior minister, told Ukraine’s national television.”

Ukraine loses control over Metiolkine village near Sievierodonetsk, Ukrinform reports. This was announced on Facebook by the head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, Serhiy Haidai. “Battles are underway in multiple villages around Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. Unfortunately, we currently have no control over Metiolkine near the regional center. The rucists intensified artillery and air fire. The Russians are hitting hard the Sievierodonetsk industrial zone and the city outskirts. The same is true in the Toshkivka and Ustynivka districts, where the orcs seek to gain a breakthrough. For this purpose, they have gathered a large amount of equipment there, the statement reads.”

20 missiles of Kalibr type in the Black Sea are prepared to be launched, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Operational Command South. “The naval group of the Russian forces fleet has not changed overnight, it continues to keep a safe distance from the shore, so as not to face another strike. Nevertheless, 20 Calibre cruise missiles are ready to be used against Ukraine. A hostile landing operation is currently unlikely to happen, but not ruled out.”

Ukrainian aviation attacks Russian invaders’ and their equipment, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Operational Command South. “4 air attacks were carried out by missile and artillery units and aircraft of the Armed Forces of Ukraine as part of fire tasks. Three helicopters hit the aggressors massed in the Kherson region, attack aircraft hit the invaders’ accumulated manpower and equipment in the area of ​​Davydiv Brid and Snihurivka, and a fighter struck an ammunition store in the Bilozirka hromada [community] of Kherson region.”

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): [HEADING 3]

  • Russian ground and tactical air operations have remained focused on the central Donbas sector over the weekend.
  • In the conflict to date, Russia’s air force has underperformed. Its failure to consistently deliver air power is likely one of the most important factors behind Russia’s very limited campaign success. It cannot gain full air superiority and has operated in a risk-averse style, rarely penetrating deep behind Ukrainian lines. Some of the underlying causes of its difficulties echo those of Russian Ground Forces. For years, much of Russia’s air combat training has highly likely been heavily scripted and designed to impress senior officials, rather than to develop dynamic initiative amongst aircrews.
  • While Russia has an impressive roster of relatively modern and capable combat jets, the air force has also almost certainly failed to develop the institutional culture and skill-sets required for its personnel to meet Russia’s aspiration of delivering a more Western-style modern air campaign. This has led to a greater than planned weight of effort falling to ground troops, who are becoming exhausted; and on advanced cruise missiles, stocks of which are likely running low.
  • In recent days, both Russia and Ukraine have continued to conduct heavy artillery bombardments on axes to the north, east and south of the Sievierodonetsk pocket, but with little change in the front line.
  • Combat units from both sides are committed to intense combat in the Donbas and are likely experiencing variable morale. Ukrainian forces have likely suffered desertions in recent weeks, however, Russian morale highly likely remains especially troubled. Cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur.

The Russian authorities likely struggle to bring legal pressure to bear on military dissenters, hampered by the invasion’s official status as a ‘special military operation’ rather than as a war. Drivers for low Russian morale include perceived poor leadership, limited opportunity for rotation of units out of combat, very heavy casualties, combat stress, continued poor logistics, and problems with pay. Many Russian personnel of all ranks also likely remain confused about the war’s objectives. Morale problems in the Russian force are likely so significant that they are limiting Russia’s ability to achieve operational objectives.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Monday 20 June, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:

  • Personnel — more than 33800 (+200),
  • Tanks — 1477 (+9),
  • Armored combat vehicles — 3588 (+11),
  • Artillery systems — 749 (+4),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS — 238 (+3),
  • Air defense means — 98 (+0),
  • Aircraft — 216 (+0),
  • Helicopters — 181 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks — 2527 (+4),
  • Vessels/boats — 14 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level — 601 (+3),
  • Special equipment — 55 (+0),
  • Mobile SRBM system — 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles — 130 (+0)

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


OHCHR recorded 10,094 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of June 16. 4,509 were killed (including 294 children) and 5,585 injured (including 463 children).

Environmental [HEADING 3]

Approximately 270,000 square kilometers of territory need to be demined in Ukraine, according to Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Denys Monastyrskyi.

“If we talk about the number, today we understand that we need to mine about 270 thousand square kilometers. This includes the occupied territories, “said the head of the Ministry. According to him, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine orients units of the SES of Ukraine to conduct primary operational demining during the year.

“Simply put, the road between the settlements should be demined, the settlement, adjacent territories, as well as the territories around the settlements should be completely demined. But full demining, which includes roads, forest belts, reservoirs, will take years, “said Denis Monastyrsky.

The Minister assured that Ukraine has a European civil protection mechanism in place: “We receive all the necessary equipment and clothes for rescuers. As for pyrotechnics, this is a very specific technique that costs millions of euros. Today we are negotiating with Great Britain, France and Italy.”

The 2022 sowing campaign has ended in Ukraine, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine reports. Agrarians of Ukraine have completed work on sowing. The projected crops of the main spring crops for the 2022 harvest in the territory controlled by Ukraine amounted to 14.163 million hectares, which is 2,753 million hectares less than last year (16,916.3 thousand hectares).

The sowing of spring crops has been completed. In total, 95% of the projected area is sown, which is 13.4 million hectares. According to the results of the 2022 sowing campaign, the biggest changes in the structure of crops concern wheat, corn, sunflower and soybeans.

39 ships from 14 countries are blocked in Odesa Oblast ports, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Currently, 39 civilian ships sailing under the flags of 14 different countries are blocked in the ports of Odesa Oblast due to the Russian military aggression in Ukraine.

A French nuclear crisis frustrates Europe’s push to quit Russian energy, The New York Times reports. “As the European Union moves to cut ties to Russian oil and gas […], France has been betting on its nuclear plants to weather a looming energy crunch. Nuclear power provides about 70 percent of France’s electricity, a bigger share than any other country in the world. But around half of France’s atomic fleet, the largest in Europe has been taken offline as a storm of unexpected problems swirls around the nation’s state-backed nuclear power operator, Électricité de France, or EDF.

The outages at EDF, Europe’s biggest electricity exporter, have sent France’s nuclear power output tumbling to its lowest level in nearly 30 years, pushing French electric bills to record highs just as the war in Ukraine is stoking broader inflation. Instead of pumping vast amounts of electricity to Britain, Italy and other European countries pivoting from Russian oil, France faces the unsettling prospect of initiating rolling blackouts this winter and having to import power.

The crunch could not have hit at a worse time. Oil prices touched record highs after the European Union agreed to cut off Russian oil, intensifying economic pain in Europe and adding to a cost-of-living crisis that France and other countries are scrambling to address. The price of natural gas, which France uses to make up for fluctuations in nuclear-powered energy, has also surged.”

Looting personally greenlighted by Putin — intercept, Ukrinform reports citing SBU. “Vladimir Putin personally permitted his invasion forces to engage in looting in Ukraine. That’s according to the latest phone call intercept, released by the SBU security service, Ukrinform reports.

“That is, in short, it is not punishable by criminal law that we loot here. This is allowed. Putin allowed it. He issued a decree stating that looting was allowed…” a Russian soldier was heard telling his wife over the phone. Apparently, the soldier also envies his superior, who “looted TVs, washing machines, grills… everything!”

Russia says more than 300,000 Ukrainian children were “deported”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the National Defence Management Centre of the Russian Federation, quoted by Interfax. “The Russian military has said more than 307,000 children have been deported from Ukraine to Russia since the start of the war. According to Mizintsev, a total of 1,936,911 Ukrainians have been deported to Russia since the beginning of the war; 307,423 of whom are children.

323 children were killed, and 586 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of June 20. 2,028 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 209 of them are destroyed fully. 18,381 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 9,083 crimes against national security were registered.


Poland can take over air defense over Western Ukraine, Daily Banner reports. “If Russia continues shelling border with Poland regions of Ukraine, then Warsaw can take over the air defense over the western regions. This was stated by Brigadier General, ex-head of the National Security Bureau of Poland Stanislav Kozei in an interview.

Speaking about the technical equipment of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, the Polish general noted that compared to the beginning of the war, Ukrainians have a lot of modern military equipment from the West. The Russians lose in this case because they rely on outdated, Soviet or post-Soviet equipment. However, quantitatively, obviously, the Russian Federation still poses a serious threat.

Describing the situation with air security in Ukraine, Kozey suggested the possibility of missile defense in the western regions, given the proximity of missile strikes to the Polish border. We have arguments in order to provide preventive insurance and inform Russia about it. If it does not stop attacking our border with long-range missiles, then from day to day we can introduce missile defence over Western Ukraine,” said the former head of the BNBO of Poland.”

German arms fiasco in Ukraine deliveries: Scholz apparently surprised everyone — with dire consequences. reports. “German arms deliveries to Ukraine are under criticism — or rather, the hesitant, non-existent deliveries. Because, as has now become known, no heavy weapons at all have been delivered to the crisis area for weeks.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz had announced some heavy weapons for Ukraine’s fight against Russia, but deliveries are being delayed — sometimes for months, while the escalating Ukraine conflict continues unabated. Business Insider reports. For example, Scholz had spoken of the Iris-T air defense system in the Bundestag. This news came as a surprise not only to the Defence Ministry but also to Egypt. The Arab country is said to forego one of its Iris-T orders. But it shouldn’t be ready for use until November or December anyway.

From Ukraine’s point of view, things are no better for the Marder infantry fighting vehicle. Scholz had announced here that he would exchange rings with Greece. Athens was supposed to send 50 Soviet BPM tanks to Kyiv, Germany to deliver Marder to Greece. And again, there is a fiasco: Greece is surprised and afraid of Türkiye’s reaction when suddenly more modern tanks are stationed in Greece. But — the same applies here: the delivery should take until autumn or winter. Manufacturer Rheinmetall, who wanted to sell the tanks directly to Kyiv, was therefore surprised by the idea.

Things are also going badly for the Mars II multiple rocket launchers. It was said that the Bundeswehr should give up four systems. According to Business Insider, fewer than 20 of the armed forces’ 40 vehicles are operational, so there is a lack of understanding in the army about giving up four of them. In addition, the rocket launchers cannot fire the US or British ammunition held by Ukraine. The reprogramming should take months, they say.

The portal reports that Germany has not delivered any military material to Ukraine in the past two weeks. A new list of exactly what should be delivered will only be available again on Thursday (June 16).

After all, a delivery of 15 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks seems to be in the plan — these should therefore be delivered from mid-July to the end of August. Likewise, delivery of seven German self-propelled howitzers at the end of June.”

US drone sale to Ukraine hits a snag, Reuters reports. “The Biden administration’s plan to sell four large, armable drones to Ukraine has been paused on the fear its sophisticated surveillance equipment might fall into enemy hands, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The plan to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia was first reported by Reuters earlier in June. The objection to the export of the drones arose due to concerns the radar and surveillance equipment on the drones could create a security risk for the United States if it fell into Russian hands. The sources said this consideration had been overlooked in the initial review but came up in meetings at the Pentagon late last week


New developments 

  1. Medvedev on negotiations after counteroffensive by the Armed Forces of Ukraine: “If there is anyone to talk with”, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “The Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, believes that after the counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, by August there will be no one to talk to.”
  2. Ukraine will be deprived of EU candidacy without reforms: Details of the Commission Opinion, European Pravda reports. With candidate status, Brussels demanded reforms from Kyiv. And some of them the government has long avoided. The European Union has identified seven blocks of reforms as a condition for maintaining candidate status: (1) Constitutional reform, (2) Judicial reform, (3) Fight against corruption; appointment of a new head of the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, (4) Anti-money laundering legislation, (5) Implementing the Anti-Oligarch law, (6) Adopting a media law that aligns Ukraine’s legislation with the EU audio-visual media services directive and (7) Reform for national minorities.
  3. The decision taken by the European Commission is unprecedented. Normally the EU recommends starting membership negotiations after a country has been declared ready to apply. It came up with a hybrid version for Ukraine. Brussels does not assess that Ukraine is ready to become a candidate, but it granted candidacy right now. The seven requirements described above, however, need to be implemented to maintain candidate status.


The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Sunday 19 June, 2022:

The UK Ministry of Defense assesses that the Kremlin’s continued framing of its invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation” rather than a war is actively hindering Russian force generation capabilities. The UK Ministry of Defense reported on June 19 that Russian authorities are struggling to find legal means to punish military dissenters and those who refuse to mobilize because the classification of the conflict in Ukraine as a “special military operation” precludes legal punitive measures that could be employed during a formal war. ISW has previously assessed that the Kremlin’s framing of the war as a “special operation” is compounding consistent issues with poor perceptions of Russian military leadership among Russian nationalists, problems with paying troops, lack of available forces, and unclear objectives among Russian forces. The Kremlin is continuing to attempt to fight a major and grinding war in Ukraine with forces assembled for what the Kremlin incorrectly assumed would be a short invasion against token Ukrainian resistance. The Kremlin continues to struggle to correct this fundamental flaw in its “special military operation.”

Russian authorities likely seek to use war crimes trials against captured Ukrainian servicemen, particularly troops that defended Mariupol, to advance its narratives around the war. Russian sources reported that the authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) plan to hold war crimes tribunals until the end of August 2022 and that at least one of these tribunals will be held in Mariupol. These tribunals will reportedly be judged in accordance with DNR legislation (which notably allows capital punishment, unlike Russian law) and be modelled on the Nuremberg format for war crimes trials. The trials are a sham attempt to try lawful prisoners of war as war criminals and support the Kremlin’s false framing of its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as a ”de-Nazification” operation. Despite the fact that DNR authorities plan to try Ukrainian servicemen in the DNR, a source in Russian law enforcement told state-owned media outlet TASS that the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment and the commander of the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade will both be transferred to Russia for investigation and trial. Russian authorities will likely use these trials to strengthen legal controls of occupied areas and further demoralize Ukrainian defenders by setting a harsh legal precedent during preliminary tribunals, as well as advancing the Kremlin’s false narrative of invading Ukraine to “de-Nazify” it.

Key Takeaways

  • Concentrated Russian artillery power paired with likely understrength infantry units remains insufficient to enable Russian advances within Sievierodonetsk.
  • Russian forces continued to prepare to advance on Sloviansk from southeast of Izium and west of Lyman.
  • Russian forces are focusing on strengthening defensive positions along the Southern Axis due to recent successful Ukrainian counterattacks along the Kherson-Mykolaiv Oblast border.
  • Successful Ukrainian counterattacks in the Zaporizhzhia area are forcing Russian forces to rush reinforcements to this weakened sector of the front line.
  • Russian forces are likely conducting false-flag artillery attacks against Russian-held territory to dissuade Ukrainian sentiment and encourage the mobilization of proxy forces.

NATO warns of long Ukraine war as battles grind on, Reuters reports. “The war in Ukraine could last for years, the head of NATO said on Sunday, calling for steadfast support from Ukraine’s allies as Russian forces battle for territory in the country’s east. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said supplying state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops would boost the chance of freeing its eastern region of Donbas from Russian control, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported.

After failing to take the capital Kyiv early on in the war, Russian forces have focused efforts on trying to take complete control of the Donbas, parts of which were already held by Russian-backed separatists before the Feb. 24 invasion.

“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine,” Stoltenberg was quoted as saying. Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices.”

Putin May Win in Ukraine, But the Real War Is Just Starting, Max Hastings claims in an article published in The Washington Post. “[…] it seems hard to consider Russian President Vladimir Putin as anything other than a force for evil. He is personally responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Ukraine through an act of unprovoked aggression, designed to fulfill a vision of national and personal greatness that has no foundation in law or morality. At least as appalling, through his strangulation of Ukrainian grain shipments, he is inflicting hunger and threatening starvation upon a growing portion of the Southern Hemisphere.

This is why it hurts to say that it is hard to see an outcome of the catastrophe that punishes Putin and his nation as they deserve. Or one that restores to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s people the security and prosperity to which they are entitled. […]

In a famous, or rather notorious, address to a committee of the Prussian parliament in 1862, Otto von Bismarck said: “Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided” but by “Blut und Eisen” — blood and iron. We like to believe that civilized 21st-century societies have advanced beyond such brutish doctrine. Yet Putin is attempting to demonstrate that he can exploit extreme violence to secure a vastly larger role on the world stage than Russia’s economic and political stature confers. […]

Putin is waging a new kind of asymmetric warfare. In the long term, a clumsy exertion of force cannot substitute for economic and social success. A critical difference between Bismarck’s Prussia and Putin’s Russia is that the former’s army was backed by a rising industrial nation, while the latter’s is yesterday’s superpower. The combined GDP of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations is nearly 30 times that of Russia’s, and their defense spending is 15 times that of the Kremlin’s.

Yet to meet Putin’s aggression, Europe needs to liberate itself from Russian energy bondage and rearm. Both these measures require time, during which Putin’s soldiers are advancing in the Donbas region. As of now, even the best-armed, or least weak, European allies — Britain, France, and Germany — would require months to put into the field a single battleworthy division.

The might and commitment of the US are indispensable. R.D. Hooker Jr., a former dean of the alliance’s defense college, wrote recently: “NATO must have the will to compete, and the US must lead and encourage.”

In the immediate term, Putin’s blood-and-iron policy seems likely to succeed, because even a blundering Russian army is stronger than the Ukrainian one. My friends now serving in the military predicted weeks ago that Zelenskyy’s forces should be able to prevent an absolute Russian conquest of Ukraine. They have always also argued, however, that the chances of Kyiv ever retaking the occupied Donbas are “zero” — a general’s word, not mine — no matter what weaponry the West supplies.

Russia is fortifying the territories it has seized. Despite its army’s stunning losses and poor morale, Putin still has at his disposal an inventory of unused weapons, some of them horrible. Only direct Western military intervention offers a prospect of tilting the odds decisively against Russia.

There is a case for US and allied warships to escort vessels carrying Ukrainian grain to and from Odesa, defying Putin to fire on them. At present, however, President Joe Biden’s administration seems wary of taking this step, which might precipitate general war. It is almost unthinkable that US forces will be directly committed.

Many Americans, not all of them Republicans, think that their country is already staking too much in Europe when China remains the more dangerous adversary. The frustration of national objectives over two decades in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan makes the skeptics unwilling to see the US again commit to a messy struggle in a faraway country that costs blood and treasure […].

Putin, thinking long as usual, is surely calculating that the 2024 presidential election will return to the White House either former President Donald Trump or a Trump clone, opposed to deeper entanglements — perhaps to any entanglement at all — in a European showdown with Russia.

A US retreat from Europe would leave Ukraine dependent on European military, political, and economic support, a grim prospect indeed, because the US supplies more than 80% of its aid. Most of Europe is embarrassingly desperate for a settlement that will defuse its energy crisis before winter comes.

Whatever expedients are adopted to preserve a façade of continental unity against Putin, there is no sense of real steel behind the rhetoric of most European governments. […]

Then there is Putin’s lightly veiled threat to resort to the worst weapons of all. Some bold spirits argue that we cannot indefinitely allow ourselves to succumb to a Russian or Chinese nuclear bluff. We must instead fight; if necessary, commit our own soldiers, defying the nuclear-armed bullies to do their worst. […] Some of us, however, still flinch from challenging the Russians to use their nuclear weapons by going further. Whatever long-term expedients are adopted to bolster NATO, it remains hard to identify means to frustrate Putin’s immediate objective of reducing the rump of Ukraine to a failed state. […]

In the emotional climate currently prevailing in Britain — much more so than in the US, where the struggle seems more remote in every sense — much of what I have written above is reckoned to constitute ignoble defeatism. The optimists say: With more Western arms, the brave Ukrainians may yet reverse the tide; Putin could be deposed; continental European governments may yet display more guts than I give them credit for. […]

there is a principled argument that we should follow the example of 1940, by continuing to insist that nothing less than Russia’s defeat and expulsion from Ukraine can constitute an acceptable outcome. People whom I respect, in Britain and the US as well as Kyiv, adhere to this view. […]

Unfortunately, much of the world remains indifferent to the struggle. India is conspicuous both for its willingness to buy Russia’s cheap oil and refusal to condemn the Kremlin. China continues to support Moscow and is likewise buying its sanctioned energy.

Putin has almost certainly relinquished his initial objective of extinguishing Ukraine as a sovereign state. But he seems likely to fulfill his hopes of achieving its de facto partition. He remains convinced that the soft West will sooner or later decide that its creature comforts, and above all its energy needs and fear of his nuclear weapons, will compel acquiescence.

The historic challenge for the West is to prove this calculation mistaken, because its success would deal a shocking blow to the cause of democracy, freedom, and justice in the 21st century. Zelensky must rely upon Churchill’s dogged policy: KBO (“Keep Buggering On”) and pray that something will turn up. The West must continue to provide him with arms and economic support, not merely for as long as Kyiv keeps fighting, but far beyond. […]

Today, we must acknowledge how slim the prospects are of delivering Ukraine from evil by military means alone. But for tomorrow, or next year or next decade, if Putin’s blood and iron strategy triumphs, the historic success of the Western European democracies will become hollow indeed.”

Consequences and what to do? 

Getting Back to Peace Talks, The New York Times reports. Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine ground to a halt in mid-May, despite some hopeful signs of progress weeks earlier. Each side is blaming the other for the collapse. The impasse stemmed from Russia’s insistence on maintaining control over large swaths of Ukraine. Ukraine was also emboldened by successes on the battlefield. For some insight on a potential path for diplomacy, I turned to Steven Erlanger, the Times chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. […]

What are the prospects for a return to diplomacy?

Steven: Warring sides come to talks after one side wins, or they come to a stalemate, or a third party steps in and forces a solution.

Here, I think nobody is ready. The Russians aren’t ready. They’re still progressing, though not very quickly. The Ukrainians aren’t ready because they would be talking at a disadvantage and may still believe very much that with more Western weapons and ammunition, Kyiv can turn the tide and improve the situation on the ground. So a lot will depend on mutual exhaustion, and it will depend on whether the fight reaches a stalemate, which it has not yet done.

Whether Ukraine likes it or not, and despite what everyone says, to some degree it’s more dependent on decisions made in Washington and Paris and Poland because of the support these countries are providing in weapons and diplomatically. And that’s what’s causing a certain degree of anxiety in Kyiv, because the more the war goes on, the more different threads there are to keep in place. The Europeans in particular could fray with time.

Ukraine’s allies have cleaved into two camps. How is this division affecting diplomatic efforts?

Ivan Krastev calls it “the peace party” versus “the justice party.”

The justice party, which is basically the Eastern Europeans and Baltic states and Britain, feels this is about more than Ukraine, that it’s about the European security order. That if Putin doesn’t feel defeated, if he’s not stopped here, then he will continue in some fashion. The peace party worries that the aims of the justice party are extending the war, the risk of escalation, the risk of NATO countries’ involvement in the war, that Putin may be being pushed into a corner.

There’s a lot of anger. It can get very vicious. The feelings are very strong, with warnings from the justice camp of appeasement. I understand that. Many of them have lived in the Soviet world and don’t want to return.

Ukraine sometimes sees calls for diplomacy as a sign of faltering support. What’s at play for those who are pushing for a cease-fire?

Part of the peace party’s problem is that they tend to be the richest countries in Europe, so they’re the ones suffering a lot through the economic sanctions. And the sanctions will go on for a very, very long time. They’re worried about the war blocking food exports from Ukraine to countries in Africa and the problems that could cause there. And, in the long run, their worry is about a new wave of migration from North Africa. Migration is the third rail in Europe politics to some degree, so that’s a very important consideration.

With inflation this high and gas prices this high, there’s got to be political blowback. There has to be. And that obviously worries people. Prices of electricity in Europe — it’s shocking how expensive it’s all getting. And then there are the worries of returning to fossil fuels. […] Everyone is having economic pain; it’s not just the big countries. But the Eastern European ones are much more willing to pay the price.

What role does the US play?

It’s crucial because it’s the largest country in NATO. When you think of the $40 billion that it has allocated for Ukraine aid — the whole French defense budget is about $50 billion euros. So it’s a huge amount of money. There is no question that it’s American leadership on the anti-Russia coalition. And the Americans are so far with the justice party as opposed to the peace party. So that has a big weight. If the Americans stopped tomorrow, Ukraine would lose the war pretty quickly.

Hans Petter Midttun: “The peace party” versus “the justice party” — the description of the two camps could not be more misleading.

In the article “Peace versus Justice: The coming European split over the war in Ukraine”, Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard argue that Europeans are split into two opposing groups: “a Peace camp and a Justice camp. Supporters of the Peace camp want peace now even at the cost of Ukrainian concessions to Russia. The Justice camp believes that only Russia’s clear defeat can bring peace. This split runs through many countries — and between them. As the conflict in Ukraine turns into a long war of attrition, it risks becoming the key dividing line in Europe. And, unless political leaders handle this difference in standpoint carefully, it could spell the end for Europe’s remarkable unity.!

While the article refers to European public opinion, the split also reflects the foreign policy of European countries. Some countries, mainly the Eastern European and Baltic states and Great Britain openly advocate that the war is about more than Ukraine and that it’s about the European security order. That if Putin isn’t defeated and not stopped in Ukraine, then he will continue undermining European security. The “peace party” prefer to see this as a “Ukrainian war only” and worries that the policy promoted by the “justice party” might expand the war. Some even argue that it is vital that Russia is not humiliated over its invasion of Ukraine.

The description of the two camps could not be more misleading. Understand me correctly: I agree wholeheartedly with both the split and the potential consequences. I disagree with the notion that a group that has helped enable and embolden President Putin should be called the “peace party” as if their intentions are pure and noble.

If we accept the description, only one of the groups worries about the broader aim and objectives of President Putin’s aggressive foreign policy, leaving the other camp to worry about the consequences of us standing up to his belligerent actions. Despite the evidence of the contrary, the “peace group” either believes that the West will remain safe if we let Putin have what he wants, or their motives are far more cynical.

I don’t believe the difference follows those lines at all. If that was the fact, the so-called “peace party” would be ignorant of the hybrid war Russia has waged against the EU member states for years already. The European Parliament last year stressed that freedom, stability and peace on the European continent and beyond are being threatened by the aggressive policies of the Russian authorities. It described a confrontation between Russia and the West that goes far beyond Ukraine and stated that Russia is executing hybrid warfare against the EU, its Member States, and the EaP countries.

Its conclusion was a consequence of large-scale military exercises and military build-ups; the illegal and violent occupation and annexation of Crimea; the violation of the territorial integrity and the destabilization of Ukraine, Georgia, and the Republic of Moldova; support for frozen conflicts and its failure to respect ceasefire agreements in Georgia and Ukraine as well as Russia’s attempted coup in Montenegro. Russia has, however, also engaged the West directly. This includes multiple cyber-attacks, meddling in referendums and elections, assassination (or attempt thereof) of individuals in the United Kingdom and Germany, alleged acts of terrorism on the territory of the EU Member States such as Czechia, violations of the sea and air space of countries in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea regions, espionage and not least, influence operations aimed at undermining political processes and increasing polarization in Europe and NATO. The list is by no means complete.

They would also be ignorant of the Russian ultimatum to both the USA and NATO in December 2021, when it told the West to withdraw NATO infrastructure from the territories of countries joining after 1997, stop operating in areas or airspace within striking distance of targets in Russia, and stop further eastward expansion.

They would also be ignorant of the Russian interventions and warfare in other countries, including Moldova, Georgia, and Syria. Its militarization of the Arctic would have gone unnoticed.

That is obviously not the case. It is reasonable to ascertain that anyone engaged in security and defence policy is fully up to speed regarding Russia’s violations of international law and its threat to European security.

Foreign policy is not based on ignorance. The differences in policy toward Russia are not a question of peace or justice. It is all about values and principles; and national interests versus those of the common good.

Actions speak louder than words.

The countries of the so-called “peace party” are the same that for more than 8 years have denied Ukraine support to rebuild its armed forces while upholding their business relationships with the Russian Federation. Some even exported weapons to Russia after the 2014 embargo. Their insistence on “peace at any costs”, and their pursuit of the Minsk Agreements as the only alternative to a peaceful settlement of the conflict — despite its much too obvious shortcomings — helped convince Putin that the West is weak and unwilling to stand up for its declared values and principles.

Their actions — or rather their inaction — do not allow them to be affiliated with peace. While Russia carries the full responsibility for its gross violations of international law, the ones who decided to go to bed with Putin, are in part also his accomplices.

The distinction between good and evil — between those who stand up for common values and principles and those who primarily pursue their national interests — between those who defend international law and the security architecture that has ensured peace, stability, and prosperity in Europe since WW2 and those who do not — must be made clear for all to see.

Putin started a war in Europe in 2014 in order to win. We have watched Russia occupy and illegally annex the Crimean Peninsula, start a low-intensity war in eastern Ukraine, increase its control over the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, and start a hybrid war in both Ukraine, the USA and Europe while doing nothing to stop the development from turning into a full-scale war on the European continent.

It is time we stop watching and start acting. And it is high time we stop acting like we have a choice. If we do not demonstrate strength and meet Russia’s aggressions with military power, there will not be peace in Europe.

Many claims that Russia has not met any of its strategic aim and objectives. That is correct. If it had, the war would be over by now. It is not.

I have previously argued that its present strategy — having reverted to the protracted war it has waged since 2014 — might bring about the defeat of Ukraine in the long run unless actively countered. I would further argue that Russia might very well be succeeding in achieving the long-term aim of dividing Europe and splitting the trans-Atlantic ties. The division within Europe is real and will continue to increase as the “tsunami effects of the war” start taking full effect across the continent. I am afraid that the imbalance between the USA and European contribution to our common security will further accelerate the process in the time to come.

Inaction is also an action with severe consequences. It is time for the West to unite around a strategy that forces Russia to step back. We either act in unison with the strongest Army in Europe, or we wait until Ukraine is defeated and Russia takes the next step forward. We can only decide when we engage. The decision to engage has already been made by Russia.

It is time for the “party of peace and justice” and “party of cynicism” to unite.

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