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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 378: Ukrainian government approves forced evacuation of children from Bakhmut 

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Government approves forced evacuation of children from Bakhmut.  New prisoners of war’ exchange takes place: 130 for 90. Blast rocks occupied Berdiansk.

Daily overview — Summary report, March 8

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, March 8, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. March 7, 2023. Source: ISW.

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The occupiers are concentrating their main efforts on conducting offensive operations on the Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarske axes. Unsuccessful offensive actions continue in the districts of Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Kamianka, Avdiivka and Mar’yinka of the Donetsk Oblast.

During the last day, our defenders repelled more than 100 enemy attacks on the indicated axes.

The invaders launched 24 airstrikes and 1 missile strike. In particular, during the airstrikes, Russian forces used 1 UAV of the Shahed-136 type. It was shot down. The occupiers also launched more than 60 attacks from MLRS.

Kharkiv Battle Map. March 7, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the operational situation has not changed significantly. The formation of hostile offensive groups was not detected. At the same time, Russian forces continue to maintain their units near the state border of Ukraine. During the past day, Russian forces carried out mortar and artillery shelling of the areas of Senkivka and Karpovichi settlements of Chernihiv Oblast; Starikove, Bilopillya, Golyshivske, Pavlivka, Volfine and Grabovske – Sumy Oblast and districts of 18 settlements of Kharkiv Oblast. Among them are Udy, Veterinarne, Strelecha, Krasne, Zelene, Ustinivka, Aniskine, Shevyakivka, Dvorichna and Zapadne.
  • Kupiansk and Lyman axes: Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the vicinities of Hryanikyvka, Bilogorivka, Spirne, Vyimka, Nevske, and Fedorivka. Conducted artillery shelling of Putnykovo, Figolivka, Dvorichna, Hryanikyvka, and Krokhmalne settlements of Kharkiv Oblast; Novoselivske, Stelmakhivka, Nevske, Chervonopivka and Dibrova – Luhansk and Terna, Yampil, Rozdolivka and Fedorivka in Donetsk Oblast.
  • Bakhmut axis: Russian forces, despite significant losses, continues to storm the city of Bakhmut. They also carried out unsuccessful offensive actions in the areas of Berkhivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Orihovo-Vasylivka, Bohdanivka, Ivanivske and Klishchiivka settlements. Over the past day, Russian forces made more than 30 unsuccessful attacks near Orihovo-Vasylivka The areas of the settlements of Orihovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Bohdanivka, Stupochki, Predtechine, Oleksandro-Shultine, Diliivka, Zalizne and New York were shelled with artillery.
Donetsk Battle Map. March 7, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Avdiivka and Shakhtarske axes: Russian forces carried out unsuccessful offensive actions near the settlements of Oleksandropil, Kamianka, Severne, Vodyane, Mariinka, and Novomykhailivka of the Donetsk Oblast. Russian forces launched more than 20 attacks near Mar’yinka alone. More than 25 settlements, including Berdychi, Orlivka, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Pervomaiske, Nevelske, Krasnohorivka, Novomykhailivka, Vugledar, and Prechistivka were under enemy fire.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. March 7, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: Russian forces is on the defensive. Russians shelled the areas of more than 30 settlements near the contact line, in particular, Olhivske, Zatyshsha, Charivne, Pavlivka, Prymorske of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, as well as Kachkarivka, Mylove, Zmiivka, Ivanivka, Kherson, and Inzhenerne.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. March 7, 2023. Source: ISW.

In the village of Ulyanivka of the Vasylkivskyi district of the temporarily occupied territory of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, by the order of the so-called “Russian occupation administration”, grain crops from the neighbouring farms and farms of the district are brought to the local hangar. The occupiers, under the guise of buying at significantly reduced prices, simply confiscate grain.

[Teachers and kindergartners of the so-called “authorities” established by the occupation regime force students and their parents to stay after classes in local primary education institutions in the settlement of Strilkove (Heniches’k district) of the temporarily occupied territory of Kherson oblast. They are forced to study the constitution and laws of the Russian Federation, as well as the history and literature of Russian forces. During recess, children are forced to learn and sing the Russian anthem.]

Aviation of the Defense Forces made 7 strikes on the areas of Russian force concentrations during the day. Also, our defenders shot down an enemy unmanned aerial vehicle of the “Orlan-10” type.

At the same time, missile and artillery forces struck 1 Buk-M1-2 anti-aircraft missile system, 5 areas of concentration of Russian manpower, 3 warehouses of fuel and lubricants and 1 radar reconnaissance and control system “Zoopark”.“

Zelensky warns of an ‘open road’ through Ukraine’s east if Russia captures Bakhmut, as he resists calls to retreat, CNN reports. “Russian troops will have an open road to capture key cities in eastern Ukraine if they seize control of Bakhmut, President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in an interview with CNN, as he defended his decision to keep Ukrainian forces in the besieged city. This is tactical for us, Zelensky said, insisting that Kyiv’s military brass is united in prolonging its defence of the city after weeks of Russian attacks left it on the cusp of falling to Moscow’s troops.

We understand that after Bakhmut they could go further. They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk, it would be an open road for the Russians after Bakhmut to other towns in Ukraine, in the Donetsk direction, he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview from Kyiv. That’s why our guys are standing there. […]

Though Bakhmut does not hold significant strategic value in itself, its road connections to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk — two densely populated, industrial urban hubs to the northwest — mean those cities be next in Russia’s crosshairs if they are able to take control. […]

Nearly 4,000 civilians — including 38 children — remain inside the battered city, the country’s Vice Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said elsewhere on Tuesday. We have special evacuation teams, who help, and armored vehicles. But people often stay in basements, leaving no information about their whereabouts, she said in a televised address. This makes evacuation much more difficult. […]

An adviser within the Ukrainian Presidency, Mykhailo Podoliak, told CNN on Monday that in defending Bakhmut, Ukraine had two main goals: buying time to replenish its forces and inflicting heavy losses on Russian armies. It achieved its goals by 1,000%, he said. Even if the military leadership at some point decides to retreat to more favorable positions, the case of defending Bakhmut will be a great strategic success for the Ukrainian Armed Forces as a foundation for future victory.

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Military Updates

Four Russian missile carriers combat ready in Black Sea, Ukrinform reports, citing Operational Command South. “In the Black Sea, Russian forces continues maneuvering with its naval group, increasing the presence of missile carriers. Currently, there are 15 warships, including two surface missile carriers and two missile submarines, whose total volley may reach 24 Kalibr-type missiles, as well as three large landing craft, the report states.”

Russia changes tactics, attacking from north now – Humeniuk, Ukrinform reports, citing the Head of the United Coordinating Press Center of the Southern Défense Forces Natalia Humeniuk. “Russia has changed the direction they are launching the Shahed drones from. They have already made sure that flying through the southern regions reduces the effectiveness, as anti-aircraft defence units manage to destroy aerial objects before they reach the target. Therefore, they have changed tactics and are now attacking from the north, while keeping missile carriers in the south and getting strategic or tactical aircraft into the air.”

Blast rocks occupied Berdiansk, mayor in exile says, Ukrinform reports. “An explosion was reported on Tuesday in the temporarily occupied town of Berdiansk in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region. Melitopol Mayor in exile, Ivan Fedorov, broke the news on Telegram.

Something’s burning in the occupied Berdiansk. Locals report that these are allegedly the consequences of the (Ukrainian – ed.) hit, the posting reads. Fedorov added that he is currently awaiting verification of initial reports from official sources. As Ukrinform reported earlier, at least two explosions occurred in the occupied town of Melitopol on March 5.

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

  • On 4 March 2023, the Russian Ministry of Defence released a video of a rare visit to Ukraine by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. There is a realistic possibility that this was partially in response to recent footage of the owner of Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, visiting his fighters on the front line. Wagner is in a high-profile dispute with the Russian Ministry of Defence and Shoigu is likely sensitive to being compared to Prigozhin. The only deployed Russian field commander shown in the video was Colonel General Rustam Muradov. It is notable that Muradov is responsible for the Vuhledar sector of Donetsk Oblast, where several assaults have failed in the last three months.
  • Until recently, the Russian command likely saw a breakthrough at Vuhledar as a key way to achieve an operationally significant breakthrough in Ukraine’s lines.
  • Russian planners are likely facing the dilemma of attempting another Vuhledar assault or supporting intense fighting further north near Bakhmut and Kremina.
  • The Ukrainian defence of Bakhmut continues to degrade forces on both sides. Over the weekend, Ukrainian forces likely stabilised their defensive perimeter following previous Russian advances into the north of the town.
  • A Russian strike destroyed a bridge over the only paved supply road into Bakhmut still under Ukrainian control around 02 March. Muddy conditions are likely hampering Ukrainian resupply efforts as they increasingly resort to using unpaved tracks.

Public disagreements between the Wagner Group and Russian Ministry of Defence over the allocation of munitions highlights the difficulty in sustaining the high levels of personnel and ammunition required to advance with their current tactics.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Wednesday 8 March, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – about 155530 (+700)
  • Tanks – 3436 (+4)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6723 (+9)
  • Artillery systems – 2463 (+7)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 488 (+0)
  • Air defence means – 253 (+0)
  • Aircraft – 303 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 289 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5330 (+7)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 2098 (+3)
  • Special equipment – 236 (+0)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 873 (+0)

Russia loses 244 more soldiers in Bakhmut, searches for reserves, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Serhii Cherevatyi, the spokesman of the Eastern grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “The Russian army has suffered more losses in the battle for Bakhmut; during the day, 244 occupiers were killed, 315 more were injured. According to him, 9 more skirmishes took place in Bakhmut in the course of the last 24 hours; the Russians have also carried out 26 strikes on the positions of Ukrainian forces. 

They [the Russians – ed.] are now searching for reserves, they are already deploying those who were instructors, those who were on the command posts, the ones they valued. Cherevatyi reported that the Wagner Group mercenaries are also helped by the regular army of the Russian Federation, airborne and infantry units, as well as artillery and aviation.

The spokesman of the Eastern grouping said that the current task of the Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut is to deplete the combat potential of Russian forces and prepare approaches for reinforcements, which are currently undergoing combat training and mastering new equipment.”

Russia loses 5 times more soldiers than Ukraine in battles for Bakhmut – CNN, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing CNN referring to a NATO military official familiar with the North Atlantic Alliance’s intelligence data. “NATO intelligence estimates that Russian troops lost at least five fighters for every Ukrainian soldier who died defending Bakhmut. The official stressed that the ratio of five to one is a reasonable estimate based on intelligence data. He added that Ukraine also suffered significant losses defending the city.

At the end of February, the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine reported that the military personnel of the Russian army were forced to replace the mercenaries of Wagner Group PMC on the Bakhmut front because most of the PMC units were killed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Russia has lost up to 30,000 Wagner mercenaries in fight for Bakhmut, with one in three dead – Western intelligence, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the British publication i. “Western intelligence estimates Russia’s losses in recent months in the battles for the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, at 20,000-30,000 mercenaries from the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC); about a third of them may be dead. According to the official, there is increasing evidence emerging that Russian conscripts are refusing to go into battle in other hotspots along the 750-mile frontline, including the section around the city of Vuhledar, Donetsk Oblast, where hundreds of Russian troops are being killed or injured every day.

Additionally, Western officials believe that the Wagner Group is running out of reserves, as the number of men of draft age in Russian prisons, where the Wagner mercenaries are recruited, is beginning to decrease. The death rates of Wagner have been significantly higher than those of the Russian Armed Forces. [The battle of] Bakhmut has not been successful for the Russians.  They’ve been grinding away for six months now. What we’re seeing is a really horrific level of Russian casualties for very minimal territorial gain, and the Russian army is really in a bad way, the Western official emphasised.

The official also clarified that he did not have numerical data on Ukraine’s losses, but they are much lower than those suffered by Russia. He added that the West considers Kyiv’s decision to continue defending a city that is not tactically important the right one. They are killing a lot of Russians there, said the Western official. It may well last for another month or Ukraine could decide to leave within a week.”

Earlier, NATO intelligence estimated the losses of the Russian side in the battles for Bakhmut as five times higher than the Ukrainian losses. At the same time, British intelligence says that the Ukrainian defence of Bakhmut is continuing to wear down the forces of the Ukrainian defenders and the Russian invaders alike.”

Humanitarian 

356 children listed as missing since Russian invasion started, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ombudsman’s Office in Ukraine. “Following the data from the Children of War state portal, as of March 7, 2023, a total of 356 children were listed as missing, 16,224 – deported, 10,230 – found, 308 – returned, the report states.”

Government approves forced evacuation of children from active combat zones, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine. “The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has approved a mechanism of forced evacuation of children from active combat zones. From this time forth, a decision made by oblast military administrations, in agreement with the military command and the Coordination Headquarters for the Mandatory Evacuation of the Population, can be a reason for forced evacuation. 

Mandatory forced evacuation of children will be carried out with kids being accompanied by one of the parents, a legal guardian or other legal representative. Parent’s or guardian’s refusal to evacuate the child is not allowed. It is noted that, at the moment, the only area that fits the criteria for forced evacuation of children from active combat zones is the city of Bakhmut.”

New PoW exchange takes place: 130 for 90, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA NovostiRussian Ministry of Defence and the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andrii Yermak. “The Ministry of Defence of Russia reported that on 7 March, as a result of the negotiation process, 90 Russian servicemen were returned from the territory controlled by Kyiv. They will be delivered to Moscow by military transport aircraft of the Russian Air Force. Later, the Ukrainian side confirmed the swap.

There was another PoW swap – we managed to bring 130 of our people back home: 126 men and 4 women. These are the soldiers from the Armed Forces of Ukraine, members of the National Guard of Ukraine, members of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine and the State Special Transport Service of Ukraine. Among them are 87 defenders of the city of Mariupol, 71 of them from the Azovstal plant. We also brought back the people captured near the cities of Bakhmut and Soledar – 35 people from the Donetsk front in total.”

Minister Galushchenko: Ukraine’s energy sector received aid from 30 countries, Ukrinform reports, citing Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko. “Ukraine has received 450 power equipment shipments, totalling 5,650 tonnes in weight, in humanitarian aid from international partners since the full-scale war started. Thanks to this aid, we were able to restore a large number of energy infrastructure objects that Russians had targeted with missiles, drones and artillery. This is a huge contribution to Ukraine’s energy stability and, eventually, our future victory, Galushchenko noted.

The aid received included more than 1,700 power generators, about 1,000 transformers, mobile gas boilers, special equipment, high-voltage equipment for power transmission line repairs, and a mobile cable laboratory. In general, Ukraine received assistance from 30 countries. With the equipment provided by our partners, we have resumed power and heat supply services for millions of Ukrainians, passed through that extremely challenging winter, and are already preparing for the next heating season. The international coalition contributes not only to our energy security but also global energy security, Galushchenko concluded.”

“Glory to Ukraine!”: Brothers-in-arms reveal name of killed soldier, Ukrainska Pravda reports. ” On 5 March, a horrific video appeared on the internet showing an unarmed Ukrainian prisoner of war being shot by the Russians after saying “Glory to Ukraine! As per the information available, it was Tymofii Shadura from the 30th Mechanised Brigade. It is noted that Tymofii Shadura was considered to be a missing person since 3 February 2023, after combat actions near the city of Bakhmut. At the moment, the body of the Ukrainian defender is on the temporarily occupied territories. 

The Security Service of Ukraine has opened a criminal proceeding regarding the video in which Russian invaders shot a Ukrainian soldier. Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate the circumstances of the shooting of the Ukrainian prisoner of war.”

Military commissar prosecuted in Ukraine for “mobilisation” in Crimea for the first time, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “According to the public accusation of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomic Republic of Crimea, an occupying military commissar from Crimea was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment in absentia. He was found guilty of breaking laws and customs of war, specifically forcing civilians from the occupied peninsula to serve in the Armed Forces of Russia (Art. 438.1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). This is the first sentence in Ukraine for this crime.”

Support

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1633220969190834176

Ukraine is running low on ammo, asks EU for 250,000 artillery shells a month, Euromaidan Press reports. “In a letter obtained by the Financial Times, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov appealed to his counterparts in the EU states on 2 March to provide Ukraine with 250,000 artillery shells a month to ease a critical shortage, due to which Ukraine’s Armed Forces “only firing a fifth of the rounds they could.”

Reznikov said Ukraine was firing on average 110,000 155mm-caliber shells a month, a quarter of the amount used by Russia.

Meanwhile, Estonia’s ambitious proposal reviewed by NBC News would have Europe increase 155-millimeter artillery shell production by seven times, moving manufacturing capacity from 240,000 to 300,000 shells per year to up to 2.1 million shells annually.”

Ukrainian pilots ready to leave for any country to receive training immediately – Ihnat, Ukrinform reports, citing spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force Command, Yurii Ihnat. “The best Ukrainian pilots have already been designated and are ready to leave for any country willing to provide training immediately. Ihnat mentioned that two Ukrainian pilots had already gone to the United States in order to analyze the skills of Ukrainian aviators and the needs of a potential base intended for training in the operation of modern aircraft.

According to Ihnat, the Ukrainian side has a road map developed long before the Russian invasion. Our military leadership has long planned to switch to modern multirole aircraft. This is an action plan, a road map that provides for pilot training along with military engineer training. […] At the same time, [relevant] infrastructure should be prepared. This work is already underway in Ukraine, Ihnat noted.

In his words, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry and Defense Ministry are already working on this issue and preparing the sites where the Western advanced equipment can be received.”

Ukraine to receive Patriot, we should wait for official information, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson of the Ukrainian Air Forces Command. “Ukraine will receive Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems, but it is worth waiting for official information from authorised persons. Definitely, the Patriot will be in Ukraine. The decision has been made, and people are learning [how to use these systems – ed.]…

When you see that the commander of the Air Force is testing at the wheel of a Patriot, it will definitely be in Ukraine. Or we will announce the first Ruscist plane that will be shot down by a Patriot (they can shoot down targets up to 150 kilometres away).

On 7 March, several media outlets, referring to the Spanish media La Razon, which published an interview with Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak, wrote that Ukraine had already received the Patriot air defence system. At the same time, the ministry noted to Ukrinform that the mention in the Spanish edition of the Polish minister’s receipt of the Patriot air defence system by Ukraine was apparently due to an error during translation.”

Canada preparing to send Ukraine hundreds of high-tech drones – media, Ukrinform reports, citing National Post. “The Government of Canada is finalizing negotiations on the supply of hundreds of modern reconnaissance drones to Ukraine. Ottawa is understood to be negotiating a deal to supply Ukraine with hundreds of high-tech, Canadian-made drones the Ukrainians have identified as the only product on the market that satisfies all our operational requirements, the report reads.

It is noted that Yuliia Svyrydenko, Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development send last July a letter to Anita Anand, Canada’s Defense Minister, and Chrystia Freeland, the Finance Minister, telling them that tactical drones have become crucial for the forces on the ground. In the letter, Svyrydenko said Ukraine has developed some home-grown unmanned aerial vehicles but they come with serious limitations — including their vulnerability to Russian electronic warfare that has led to the deaths of many drone pilots, and their limited ability to operate at night and in bad weather.

Svyrydenko said that the Teledyne Flir R70 Skyranger, manufactured in Waterloo, Ont., with training and field support provided by the Robotics Centre of Ottawa, has the thermal imaging, signals intercept and chemical warfare detection capabilities the Ukrainians are looking for. She requested 300 drones as a donation from Canada — a commitment that likely would cost around $150 million. […]

The signals intercept capability of the R70, in particular, would be invaluable because it allows the drone to identify where enemy phones are, and can even identify individuals, the report reads.”

Canada expands military training program for Ukrainians – Trudeau, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The Canadian Press. “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced increased support for Ukraine as part of efforts to train Ukrainian military personnel; he said it during a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on 7 March.

Canada will extend the duration of the Unifier engineering training mission in Ukraine until at least October 2023 and will also send instructors to train the Ukrainian military in combat medicine.

In particular, the Canadian government will provide US$3,000,000 to support the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance in Ukraine, in addition to the US$32,000,000 already allocated for mine defusing action. The European Union will provide €43,000,000 for the same purpose.”

Hungary trains Ukrainian medics – Defence Ministry of Hungary, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Hungarian portal 24.hu. “The Ministry of Defence of Hungary confirmed that it partakes in the training of military medics from Ukraine.

The position of Hungary has not changed: we are on the side of peace and do not support any steps that may lead to the escalation of the war; this is why we do not send neither armament nor soldiers to Ukraine. […]

Yet the Hungarian government officially does not let the cargoes with NATO armament pass through its territory, and Hungary is the only Western state that does not supply Ukraine with any military equipment, as it believes that this will only prolong the war.”

Poland ready to set up a hub to repair leopard tanks sent to Ukraine, European Pravda reports. “Poland is ready to set up a maintenance hub for Leopard tanks transferred to Ukraine, Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said on Tuesday. Błaszczak expects his German counterpart Boris Pistorius to convince the country’s industry to deliver spare parts for older-type Leopard tanks that Poland has committed to deliver to Ukraine. “The main problem is the lack of spare parts. I hope for a breakthrough,” Bloomberg cited Błaszczak.

Błaszczak also said that Poland will deliver 10 more Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine this week after handing over four last month. Poland was the first of the Western allies to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Warsaw will also hand over 60 PT-91 Twardy tanks.

Ukraine has already received $38B in international aid – NBU, Ukrinform reports, citing the macroeconomic and monetary review for March 2023 from the National Bank of Ukraine. “Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, as of the end of February 2023, the amount of international aid has exceeded $38 billion. Due to the inflow of international financial aid, international reserves have been growing since October 2022, and as of the end of January 2023, they have reached $29.9 billion, the report said.

In January 2023, Ukraine received $4.2 billion from international partners. In 2022, Ukraine received more than $32 billion worth of international financial aid, including $14 billion in grants.”

New Developments

  1. S. says intel indicates pro-Ukrainian group hit Nord Stream pipelines -NYT, Reuters reports. “New intelligence reviewed by US officials indicates that a pro-Ukrainian group sabotagedthe Nord Stream pipelines that carried natural gas from Russia to Europe but there was no evidence of Kyiv government involvement in the September 2022 attack, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. […] The Times wrote that the intelligence review suggested those who carried out the attacks, which spewed gas into the Baltic Sea, were Ukrainian or Russian nationals who opposed Russian President Vladimir Putin but does not specify the members of the group, or who directed or paid for the operation. US officials declined to disclose the nature of the intelligence, how it was obtained or any details of the strength of the evidence. They have said that there were no firm conclusions about it, the Times added.”
  2. Zelenskyy aide: Kyiv ‘absolutely not involved’ in Nord Stream attack, ReutersA senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday that Kyiv was absolutely not involved in last year’s attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines and has no information about what happened. Without a doubt, Ukraine is absolutely not involved in the excesses on the pipelines,” Mykhailo Podoliak said in a statement to Reuters. It does not make the slightest bit of sense. […] Starting from the first day of construction on the pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, Ukraine repeatedly drew the attention of its Western partners to the sharply growing strategic risks for the security of Europe carried by the realisation of this project, Podoliak said.”
  3. Lukashenko calls Zelenskyy a “louse” and says that “the challenge is thrown”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing BelTA. “Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko believes that Ukraine has challenged Belarus with the “sabotage” of the A-50 radar plane at Machulishchy airfield […]. There is only one conclusion. I used to think that Ukraine needed peace, and that Zelenskyy was rooting for his people. President Zelenskyy is just a louse. Just a louse! Such operations are not carried out without the approval of the country’s leader and commander-in-chief. I am telling you this as the president. […] If they expect, I know that they want to drag us into a war at the behest of the Americans; if you think that by throwing this challenge you will drag us into a war tomorrow, which is already going on all over Europe today, you are mistaken. Lukashenko said that Ukraine trained the “terrorists”.
  4. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on Lukashenko’s rebuke of Zelenskyy: an act of impotence, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleh Nikolenko, spokesman of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “We categorically reject Alexander Lukashenko’s insinuations in regards to Ukraine’s alleged participation in the events on the Machulishchy airfield. It is evident that it is yet another attempt to create a phoney threat posed by Ukraine in order to justify his support of Russian aggression. Lukashenko has also allowed himself a gross personal rebuke of the President of Ukraine. We would not leave this act of impotence unanswered. Nikolenko has called to search for threats in Russia as opposed to Ukraine, as it uses all the means to try to involve Belarus in the war even more, stripping it of its independence and sovereignty“.
  5. Government approves denunciation of agreement on joint control on Ukrainian-Russian border, Ukrinform reports, citing the government’s permanent representative in the Verkhovna Rada, Taras Melnychuk. “The draft law ‘On the termination of the agreement between the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation during the joint control of persons, vehicles and goods on the Ukrainian-Russian state border’ has been approved, he wrote. The bill proposes terminating the agreement with Russia dated October 18, 2011 in connection with a fundamental change in circumstances caused by Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine.
  6. Zelenskyy makes series of dismissals in Security Service of Ukraine top management, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Zelenskyy’sdecrees on the presidential website. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has dismissed Oleksandr Yakushev, Deputy Head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU), two heads of departments of the secret service, and heads of the SSU in two oblasts.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  March 7, 2022:

Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on March 7. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Hryanykivka (54km northwest of Svatove), Nevske (17km north of Kreminna), Bilohorivka (10km south of Kreminna), and Spirne (25km south of Kreminna). Geolocated footage published on March 7 depicting Russian forces storming and capturing Ukrainian positions northwest of Kreminna indicates limited Russian advances. Luhansk Oblast Administration Head Serhiy Haidai stated that Russian forces are unable to capture Stelmakhivka (15km west of Svatove) and Nevske. A video posted on March 7 claimed to show personnel from the 375th Motorized Rifle Battalion of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) 2nd Army Corps operating in Luhansk Oblast. Geolocated footage published on March 7 shows Ukrainian artillery striking five Russian tanks near Chervonopopivka (6km north of Kreminna), indicating the further degradation of Russian mechanized forces in the area.  Haidai stated that Russian forces have increased the number of attack waves in the Kreminna and Bilohorivka directions. Footage published on March 7 claims to show elements of the 4th Separate Mechanized Brigade of the LNR 2nd Army Corps firing rockets at Ukrainian positions near Kreminna.

Russian forces have likely captured the eastern part of Bakhmut, east of the Bakhmutka River, following a controlled Ukrainian withdrawal from eastern Bakhmut as of March 7. Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around the city on March 7. Geolocated footage posted on March 6 and 7 shows Russian positions in eastern Bakhmut within 200m of the Bakhmutka River and Russian forces comfortably operating in areas in eastern Bakhmut where they previously had not been observed, supporting previous Russian claims that Russian forces captured the eastern part of Bakhmut and that Ukrainian troops have withdrawn to central and western Bakhmut. Geolocated footage posted on March 6 additionally shows Russian advances in southwestern Bakhmut. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces continue efforts to storm Bakhmut and that Ukrainian troops repelled Russian attacks on Bakhmut itself; northeast of Bakhmut near Fedorivka (15km northeast) and Bilohorivka (20km northeast); northwest of Bakhmut near Dubovo-Vasylivka (6km northwest), Yahidne (1km northwest) and Zalizianske (10km northwest); west of Bakhmut near Ivanivske (5km west) and southwest of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka (7km southwest). Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continue to withdraw westward from Bakhmut. One milblogger noted that Ukrainian troops are conducting counterattacks southwest of Bakhmut near the T0504 Kostiantynivka-Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut highway to maintain access to the road. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that the Wagner Group killed 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers in Bakhmut over the course of February, and other Russian sources also amplified claims of high Ukrainian losses.

Russian forces continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on March 7. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the Avdiivka area near Krasnohorivka (9km north of Avdiivka), Novokalynove (10km north of Avdiivka), Kamianka (4km northeast of Avdiivka), and Severne (5km west of Bakhmut); on the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Pervomaiske and Nevelske; and on the southwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Marinka. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces advanced 300m in an unspecified location northwest of Donetsk City. Another Russian milblogger remarked that the Russian 114th Brigade of the 1st Donetsk Army Corps (previously the 11th Donetsk People’s Republic Regiment) is active north of Avdiivka and making gains in the area. The milblogger claimed that the 114th Brigade is trying to capture Krasnohorivka in order to cut the E50 Donetsk City-Pokrovske highway. The milblogger stressed the importance of the Avdiivka front and claimed that Russian success in this sector will pose a serious threat to Ukrainian capabilities. Russian forces have been attempting to take Avdiivka since the summer of 2022 without significant success. A Russian milblogger also claimed that Russian forces advanced within Marinka.

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on March 7. Russian milbloggers continued to warn that Ukrainian forces near Vuhledar (30km southwest of Donetsk City) appear to be preparing for an offensive against exhausted and vulnerable Russian troops. A Russian milblogger posted footage of artillery of the 29th Combined Arms Army (Eastern Military District) striking Ukrainian fortifications in the Vuhledar direction. The Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) “Kaskad” tactical formation posted footage of its fighters taking Ukrainian prisoners near Vuhledar on an unspecified date.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on March 7 that the hypothetical Russian capture of Bakhmut would provide Russian forces an “open road” to Kramatorsk, Sloviansk, and other critical settlements in Donetsk Oblast.ISW continues to assess, however, that Russian forces lack the capability to exploit the tactical capture of Bakhmut to generate operational effects, and will likely rapidly culminate following the capture of Bakhmut. As ISW has previously assessed, Russian forces would have to choose between two diverging lines of advance after capturing Bakhmut. Russian forces could attempt to push west along the T0504 highway towards Kostiatynivka (about 20km from Bakhmut) or could push northwest along the E40 highway towards the Sloviansk-Kramatorsk area in northwestern Donetsk Oblast (about 40km northwest of Bakhmut). These two potential axes of advance are not mutually supporting, and degraded Russian forces would likely have to prioritize the pursuit of just one to have any chance of success – though Russian commanders have repeatedly stretched their forces too thin across multiple axes of advance throughout the invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian forces have also heavily fortified both of these routes, which are supplied by numerous ground lines of communication (GLOCs) running deep into the Ukrainian rear, and any Russian attempt to advance down these roads would likely be highly costly.

Russian forces additionally likely lack the mechanized forces necessary to advance beyond Bakhmut, and the tactical “assault detachments” used in assaults against Bakhmut are likely unable to conduct maneuver warfare. Recent Russian advances within urban areas of Bakhmut demonstrate that Russian forces can secure limited tactical gains with infantry-led frontal assaults. Russian forces likely lack the mechanized forces necessary to exploit the roads (which are likely highly fortified) west of Bakhmut. As ISW has recently reported, Russian forces are increasingly relying on “assault detachments,” a battalion-size element optimized for frontal assaults on fortified areas, rather than for maneuver warfare. These detachments are artillery-heavy, use simplified tactics, relegate tanks to a fire support role in rear areas, and would almost certainly struggle to effectively conduct operations beyond urban areas. A prominent Russian milblogger echoed this observation on March 7, noting that assault detachments are simply too small to “punch a wide and deep gap” in Ukrainian defensive formations and follow with tank and mechanized battalions, and called for the formation of “breakthrough brigades,” a change likely far beyond the current capabilities of Russian forces in the area. The continuing devolution of Russian force structure towards small assault detachments using simplified tactics, combined with mounting losses among the most effective Russian troops, will likely greatly limit the ability of Russian forces to properly exploit any paths of advance opened by the capture of Bakhmut Russian forces remain unlikely to secure more than a tactical victory following 10 months of assaults.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reiterated boilerplate rhetoric seeking to deter further Western military aid to Ukraine during a conference call on March 7. Shoigu reiterated senior Russian officials’ tired claims that Western states aim to destroy Russia by providing arms to Ukraine and have begun an information war targeting Russia. Shoigu invoked the commonly referenced historical memory of World War II to justify the war in Ukraine, calling on Russians to prevent lessons learned from defeating Nazism “to be distorted and forgotten.” Shoigu claimed that Russian forces killed over 11,000 Ukrainian military personnel in February 2023, which he claimed was a 40 percent increase from Ukrainian casualties in January. Shoigu’s speech did not craft any new rhetorical arguments that could shape the Russian information space and garner more domestic support for the war effort, continuing to rely on standard tropes in the absence of any Russian successes.

Shoigu also outlined long-term and likely aspirational efforts to restore and expand the Russian officer corps. Shoigu stated that the Russian military is undergoing a phased increase and needs to recruit about 18,000 students and cadets for officer training. Shoigu noted that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) needs to increase staffing at Russian universities to provide adequate training for over 280 military specialties and claimed that Russians are increasingly interested in the engineering and flight specialties. Shoigu also stated that children of Russian military personnel and students at select schools will undergo selection for military specialties before taking the necessary exams. Shoigu also noted claimed ongoing efforts by Russian forces in Ukraine to refine training processes, increase the protection of military personnel, and increase the efficiency of military operations. […]

Russian independent polling organization The Levada Center released poll results that 51 percent of Russians feel negatively toward Russians who left the country due to mobilization. Ten percent of Russians polled indicated that they have a positive or understanding attitude toward those that left. The Levada Center poll indicated that Russians over 55 years old and those living in rural areas and cities with fewer than 100,000 residents are most likely to have negative attitudes toward Russians who left due to mobilization. The Levada Center’s polling data demonstrates that the Kremlin retains a strong hold over the domestic information space. […]

US Air Force General James B. Hecker, commander of US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa, and NATO Allied Air Command confirmed on March 6 that the US has provided Ukraine with Joint Direct Attack Munition Extended Range (JDAM-ER) kits. Hecker noted that the JDAM-ERs arrived in Ukraine three weeks ago and have a range of 72km. Russian milbloggers generally had a muted response to the announcement, with one Russian source voicing concern that JDAM-ERs will allow Ukrainian forces to launch strikes against Russian front and near rear positions without running the risk of entering Russian airspace. […]

Key Takeaways

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on March 7 that Russian forces will have an “open road” to capture key cities in Donbas.  ISW continues to assess, however, that Russian forces lack the capability to exploit the tactical capture of Bakhmut to generate operational effects, and will likely rapidly culminate following the capture of Bakhmut.
  • Russian forces likely lack the mechanized forces necessary to advance beyond Bakhmut, and the tactical “assault detachments” used in assaults against Bakhmut are likely unable to conduct maneuver warfare.
  • Russian forces have likely captured the eastern part of Bakhmut east of the Bakhmutka River following a controlled Ukrainian withdrawal from eastern Bakhmut as of March 7.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reiterated boilerplate rhetoric seeking to deter further Western military aid to Ukraine.
  • Shoigu additionally outlined long-term and likely aspirational efforts to restore and expand the Russian officer corps.
  • Russian independent polling organization The Levada Center released poll results that 51 percent of Russians feel negatively toward Russians who left the country due to mobilization, indicating at minimum negative feelings towards those that escaped mobilization, if not overt support for the war.
  • The New York Times (NYT) stated on March 7 that low-confidence and unverified intelligence reviewed by US officials may suggest that a pro-Ukrainian group carried out an attack on the Nord Stream pipelines in September 2022, but made clear this is a very low confidence assessment.
  • US Air Force General James Hecker confirmed on March 6 that the US has provided Ukraine with Joint Direct Attack Munition Extended Range (JDAM-ER) kits.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • A Russian source claimed that Ukrainian forces attempt to conduct operations across the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian federal authorities continue to place the onus of solving mobilization issues onto Russian regional authorities who then absolve themselves of ongoing Russian command issues.

Russian occupation authorities continue to import employees from various Russian law enforcement agencies to staff vacancies in occupation administrations.

Russia’s Shoigu says capturing Ukraine’s Bakhmut will allow more offensives, Reuters reports. “Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that the seizure of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine was critical to punching a hole in Ukrainian defences and would allow Moscow’s forces to mount further offensive operations deeper inside the country.

Russian forces have been waging an intense campaign for months to seize control of the small city in what would become their first significant territorial advance since last summer.

The liberation of Artyomovsk continues, Shoigu said in televised remarks, using the old Soviet-era name for Bakhmut. The city is an important hub for defending Ukrainian troops in the Donbas. Taking it under control will allow further offensive actions to be conducted deep into Ukraine’s defensive lines, Shoigu said.”

Putin’s political pundit explains “for The Hague” the purpose of war on Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “Kremlin experts admit that they plan to turn Ukraine into a wasteland. Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official gazette of the Russian government, published an op-ed by the famous ruscist “intellectual” Sergei Karaganov, in which he explains what Putin’s latest message to the Federal Assembly meant.  

Karaganov clarified the goals of the operation as seizure and annexation of the east and south of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, as well as the devastation of its central and western regions. “This is obviously the protection of Donbas and reunification of the original Russian lands of the South and East, demilitarization, that is, destruction of the military machine of what may remain of today’s Ukraine.”

It will be necessary to help restore those parts of today’s Ukraine that will return to Russia. But it is hardly worth (to restore — ed.) Ukraine, which is taken by this operation, especially its least culturally developed western-central lands… Western Ukrainian territories, under their mandatory demilitarization, (should – ed.) become a buffer, the outskirts of Russia. Karaganov calls: “Preservation of Ukrainian statehood is unacceptable!” […] The lack of a resettlement programme for refugees from Ukraine to such regions of Siberia has no rational explanation, the ruscist author states.

The difference between Hitler’s ideas and the Russian political scientists’ dreams is only that the former sought to turn Ukraine into their “living space,” and the latter — into a “lifeless space” for Ukrainians.”

Ukraine is building up its forces for an offensive, The Economist reports. “On January 25th Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, ended weeks of dithering by promising to send the Leopard 2a6, an advanced variant of the tank. Many thought that would unleash a torrent of donations from the dozen other European countries which operate Leopards. It has been more of a trickle. So far, the coalition has pledged just two battalions of the most modern Leopards (a Ukrainian tank battalion is supposed to have 31 tanks). Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands are also purchasing at least 100 older, but refurbished, Leopard 1a5s for Ukraine, making up another three battalions.

The Leopards are being supplemented with a motley collection of other tanks. Britain is sending a company of 14 Challenger 2s. America has promised 31 m1a2 Abrams, the most advanced tanks in its arsenal, though they may not arrive this year. Poland, which has promised 14 Leopards and already sent around 250 Soviet-designed t-72 tanks to Ukraine, will send 60 modernised t-72s. A variety of infantry fighting vehicles, from the ageing Soviet-era bmp-1 to America’s Stryker and Bradley vehicles, will pad out the armoured brigades.

Yet the fixation on tanks has distracted from a more important shift in strategy. In December America and Britain realised that a protracted war was not in the West’s interests. Russia, moreover, was even weaker than previously thought. The mood, says one official involved in those discussions, was: “If we want something to change, we need to change something”. The turning-point came on January 20th at the eighth meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, an American-led meeting of defence ministers held roughly monthly at a big American air base at Ramstein in Germany. There, allies agreed to equip Ukraine with more than a division’s worth of kit, with the aim of having much of it in place by the end of March.

The flow of arms has accordingly turned from a trickle to a flood. Of all the military aid pledged by the Pentagon since the war began, 40%—over $8bn—has come in the three months since December 9th (see chart). One European defence official says that the infusion of arms agreed in Germany in January alone amounts to two-thirds of the total sent to Ukraine in all of 2022. Most of the donations are not as sexy as tanks, but are still crucial—the latest American package includes armoured bridge-laying vehicles, for instance, which would be vital for any offensive in the south or east.

Ukraine’s army is being transformed as a result. The bulk of its hardware is still of Soviet origin. But whereas the ratio of Ukrainian to Western kit stood at five to one at the end of last year, that is expected to fall to five to two as the aid flows in. In other words, almost a third of Ukraine’s army will soon have NATO-standard equipment. General Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top officer, hopes that he will eventually have three new army corps at his disposal, each with six brigades, and each comprising more than 20,000 men.

A Russian offensive that began in late January was intended, in part, to force Ukraine to commit these reserves, thereby making it much harder to mount a counter-offensive. In recent days, Russian soldiers and mercenaries have advanced deeper into Bakhmut, a town in Donetsk province that has been under Russian assault since last summer. But the battle for the town has resulted in far greater Russian losses than Ukrainian ones. And more importantly General Zaluzhny has avoided the obvious trap.

Instead of throwing sizeable reserves into Bakhmut to save the town, which is of far greater symbolic than military value, he has sent troops abroad to train on the new equipment. Since January, America’s 7th Army Training Command has been running a five-week course for Ukrainian units at its Grafenwoehr training area in eastern Bavaria. During its offensives last year, Ukraine’s army largely attacked in company-sized formations. The training in Grafenwoehr is intended to bring these together into bigger battalions and brigades capable of waging “combined-arms” warfare, in which infantry, armour, artillery and other combat arms work together rather than just sequentially—as is mostly the case now.

Western officials are divided on whether all this will be enough to eject Russia from the roughly 18% of Ukraine it controls at present. Only a battalion’s worth of soldiers will pass through Grafenwoehr each month; a large proportion of Ukraine’s army is still made up of mobilised men with limited experience. Ammunition remains a serious problem, because Western allies have been slow to ramp up production. And Ukraine’s lack of air power may become a bigger issue if Russian warplanes prove willing to run bigger risks during any Ukrainian offensive.

On the other hand, Russia’s army is in dire shape. If, after conquering Bakhmut, it decides to plough on deeper into Donetsk, it will have to further run down its own meagre reserves. It might eventually start pulling units from other parts of the long front line, creating gaps that Ukraine can exploit, suggests Gustav Gressel of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank. Ukraine’s allies are watching closely for weak points.

On March 2nd, Mark Milley, America’s top general, visited tabletop wargames held by America at a base in Wiesbaden, Germany, to help Ukrainian officers consider different options for an offensive. Few think that Ukraine can restore its pre-war boundaries at a single stroke, let alone take back territory, including Crimea, seized by Russia in 2014. But if Ukraine can tear another significant chunk out of the Russian occupation, as it did last year in the north-east around Kharkiv, and in the south around Kherson, it would quash the belief—expressed by General Milley, among others—that the war is doomed to stalemate.”

Russian forces fighting in Bakhmut are now drawn from the elite elements of the Wagner Group and from Russian airborne units as well as from lower-quality troops, ISW reported Monday 6 March. “Russian forces near Bakhmut have recently changed tactics and committed higher-quality special forces operators and elements of conventional forces to the fight. ISW has previously reported on the increasing presence of Russian Airborne (VDV) forces around Bakhmut since late December into early January, indicating that conventional Russian troops may be supporting or even supplanting Wagner’s operations around Bakhmut. 

The Wagner Group is still likely using prisoners to support operations in Bakhmut, albeit to a much more limited extent than in previous months due to massive losses suffered by those recruits in attritional frontal assaults. But Wagner has now also committed its very best soldiers to the fight, and it is they who are being attrited along with the conscripts.

The Battle of Bakhmut may, in fact, severely degrade the Wagner Group’s best forces, depriving Russia of some of its most effective and most difficult-to-replace shock troops. The Wagner attacks already culminated once, causing the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) to commit some of its elite airborne troops to the fight. It may well culminate again before taking the city, once more forcing the Russian military to choose between abandoning the effort or throwing more high-quality troops into the battle. The opportunity to damage the Wagner Group’s elite elements, along with other elite units if they are committed, in a defensive urban warfare setting where the attrition gradient strongly favors Ukraine is an attractive one.

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin apparently fears that his forces are being expended in exactly this way. Prigozhin made a number of statements on March 5 and 6 that suggest that he fears that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is fighting the Battle of Bakhmut to the last Wagner fighter and exposing his forces to destruction.”

US sees no signs suggesting Belarus preparing direct attack on Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “The US has received no intelligence that could confirm Belarus’s readiness to take direct part in hostilities in Ukraine, but at the same time the regime of Alexander Lukashenko keeps providing the country’s territory as a bridgehead for the Russian forces. That’s according to White House Security Council coordinator John Kirby, who spoke at a briefing on Tuesday.

We have not seen any indication that the Belarusian military or the Belarusian government plans to more tangibly support Russia in terms of putting their troops in the fight in Ukraine, the White House official noted. At the same time, he emphasized that the Belarusian regime had already provided direct support to Russian aggression. The Russians continue to use Belarus as a staging base and as a place from which they can and have continued to launch strikes inside Ukraine, Kirby said.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do?

“I cannot imagine Post-war Europe without Ukraine as NATO Member.” Interview with EPP President, European Pravda reports. “MEP Manfred Weber is one of the most influential politicians in the European Parliament. He headed the European People’s Party (EPP) last year, the main inter-party union in the European Union, replacing Donald Tusk, who is well-known to Ukrainians. Besides, he has been heading the EPP group in the European Parliament since 2014.

Weber is a German. He is a member of the Bavarian CSU, a long-time partner party in the CDU/CSU bloc until recently led by Angela Merkel. However, now he does not hold back in criticising the mistakes of the then-German government.

His statements may seem uncharacteristically harsh, as for a German MP – both on the commitment to Ukraine and the future of Russia. However, if not dominant, such a position is common among Brussels politicians. The EPP quickly turned into a centre of support for Ukraine. […]

I see the demand from the Ukrainian friends. They have to ask us Europeans and Americans for ammunition and the necessary support. I think it is already showing weakness if there is a need to tell us this publicly. It must simply work. I also told the European media that Europe has to transform, especially the military sector, into a kind of war industry, in a situation where we have extraordinary procurement. All these things have to be faster and quicker, to deliver what is needed. When it’s about weapons, I’m also in favour.

What I hear also in Kyiv that it is also about the long-range missile systems, the long-range artillery systems. I understand this well from a logistic point of view. For the Russians, it would be a big problem. That’s why let’s do it. What are we waiting for? We don’t have to take Russia’s irrational behaviour into account. We have to do what is needed to support Ukraine. […]

I think we have to heal the mistake of Bucharest. And Bucharest was a mistake not to have guaranteed a full security assurance to Ukraine. If we invite Finland and Sweden to NATO, it is fundamentally clear that Ukraine has the exact same right! Finland has about 1,400 kilometres of border with Russia, so I am sorry, but no one can say now that Ukraine’s accession ‘will make Russia closer to NATO.’ But it is obvious that Ukraine has to survive the war to join NATO. The key question is the free will of our free democracies. […]

All the Ukrainian friends also know that before the enlargement, we need peace. That’s clear because country at war cannot join. That’s basic, but I cannot imagine any long-term security architecture for the European Union without a strong European NATO pillar, that includes Ukraine.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: The war is often described as a “Russia-Ukraine war” and not as the broader confrontation is have been for more than nine years.

It’s not a confrontation between the Russian Federation and the West because I say so. It’s because Russia not only says so but also acts the part. The conclusion is supported by its Great Power ambitions (at the cost of Europe), its strategic documents and communication, its ultimatums to both the US and the individual NATO members, its hybrid war against EU member states (most of which also are NATO members) and, not least, its attempted westward expansion at the cost of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s request for security guarantees is often seen through the same narrow perspective.

While Ukraine is the one asking for it, the outcome will still define European security. Either the West and Ukraine achieve lasting peace, or we accept that Eastern Europe will remain a zone of instability and conflict for years to come.

The security guarantees Ukraine is asking for is essence deterrence. Both Ukraine and the West need to establish a credible will and ability to stop Russia from attacking Ukraine after the restoration of both peace and territorial integrity. It is an alternative to NATO collective defence while waiting for membership in the Alliance.

It is, however, a means to ensure the exact same effect: Credible deterrence to ensure lasting peace. No more and no less.

In the same manner as Ukraine is defending both its independence and sovereignty as well as European security and stability, it is asking for the one means that will ensure peace in both Ukraine and Europe.

It should not need to ask. The West should offer Ukraine the security guarantee Europe desperately needs.

To frame it differently:

The countries that are not willing to defend European security and stability should not be a member of NATO. I cannot see a future Western military alliance – whatever it will be called – without Ukraine as a member.

I have, however, no problem seeing the same alliance without a number of countries who have failed to invest in their security and defence sector while taking US support for granted.

 

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