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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 416: Russia re-energized its assault on Bakhmut

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 416: Russia re-energized its assault on Bakhmut
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Russia re-energized its assault on Bakhmut. The Ukrainian army holds the western districts of Bakhmut. Nine killed in Russian strike on Sloviansk.

Daily overview — Summary report, April 15

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, April 15, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. April 14, 2023. Source: ISW.

 

The Russian Federation continues to ignore International Humanitarian Law, strikes and fires not only at the positions of our troops but also at the civilian infrastructure of populated areas.

Over the past day, Russian forces launched 9 air and 19 missile strikes, 13 of them from the S-300 air defence systems against the peaceful cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk and shot with 42 rounds from MLRS on the positions of our troops and the civilian infrastructure of populated areas. There are dead and injured civilians, high-rise and private residential buildings, as well as other civilian infrastructure, have been destroyed and damaged.

The probability of launching missile and air strikes on the entire territory of Ukraine remains high.

Russian forces continue to focus their main efforts on conducting offensive actions on the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka axes. The fiercest battles continue for Bakhmut and Mariinka. During the past day, 56 enemy attacks were repelled.

Kharkiv Battle Map. April 14, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna, and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the operational situation has not changed significantly, and no signs of the formation of offensive groups have been detected. Some units of the territorial troops of the armed forces of the Russian Federation continue to be on the territory of the Republic of Belarus. A full check of the combat readiness of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus is underway. Russian forces’ military presence is maintained in the Kursk and Belgorod regions bordering Ukraine. During the past day, Russian forces shelled the settlements of Galaganivka, Chernihiv Oblast; Studenok, Rivne, Iskryskivshchyna, Volfyne of the Sumy Oblast, as well as Kozacha Lopan, Tokarivka, Mali Prohody, Strelecha, Lukyantsi, Neskuchne, Staritsa, Vovchansk, Nesterne and Zemlianki in the Kharkiv Oblast.
  • Kupiansk axis: Stroivka, Dvorichanske, Krasne Pershe, Novomlynsk, Dvorichna, Zapadne, Lyman Pershey, Kindrashivka, Masyutivka, Tabaivka, and Berestov in the Kharkiv Oblast were under enemy fire.
Donetsk Battle Map. April 14, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Lyman axis: during the past day, Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near the settlements of Dibrova and Bilogorivka. Novoselivske, Stelmakhivka, Nevske, Belogorivka of the Luhansk Oblast and Torske, Dibrova and Spirne of the Donetsk Oblast were hit by artillery fire.
Bakhmut Battle Map. April 14, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: Russian forces continues to conduct offensive actions. Heavy fighting continues for the city of Bakhmut. Vasyukivka, Orihovo-Vasylivka, Novomarkove, Hryhorivka, Bohdanivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivske, Chasiv Yar, Stupochki, Diliivka, Toretsk and New York of the Donetsk Oblast were affected by enemy shelling.
  • Avdiivka axis: Russian forces carried out unsuccessful offensive actions in the Novokalynovo and Pervomaysky areas of the Donetsk Oblast, without success. They shelled the settlements of Novokalynove, Avdiivka, Pervomaiske and Karlivka.
  • Mariinka axis: our defenders repelled numerous enemy attacks in the area of the Mariinka settlement of the Donetsk Oblast over the past day. At the same time, Pobyeda and Novomykhailivka got under enemy fire.
  • Shakhtarske axis: Russian forces did not carry out offensive operations the last day. They shelled the settlements of Bogoyavlenka, Shakhtars’ke, Novoukrainka, Velyka Novosilka, Neskuchne, Zolota Niva, and Vugledar in the Donetsk Oblast.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. April 14, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: Russian forces continue to conduct defensive operations. Over the past 24 hours, there were shelled more than 40 settlements near the frontline. Among them are Vremivka, Novopil’ of the Donetsk Oblast; Olhivske, Malynyvka, Chervone, Gulyaipole, Charivne, Mala Tokmachka, Orihiv of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast; Zolota Balka, Novoberislav, Kozatske, Burgunka, Ivanivka, Mykilske, Antonivka, Bilozerka, Dniprovske of the Kherson Oblast and the city of Kherson.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. April 14, 2023. Source: ISW.

Russian invaders continue to commit looting in the temporarily captured territory of Ukraine. In particular, in the Novokakhov district of the Kherson Oblast, cases of grease draining from electric transformers were noted, which, in turn, led to the blackout of individual streets of the district’s settlements.

[Russian forces continue to use the medical facilities of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine for their own purposes. Thus, after operations in the surgical ward of city hospital No. 2 in the city of Horlivka, wounded Russian servicemen are transferred to the clinic of the Horlivka Machine-Building Plant. Currently, about 185 Russian doctors work in these civilian medical institutions. They provide their services exclusively to Russian military personnel.]

Over the past day, the Ukrainian Air Force has struck 5 areas of concentration of personnel and military equipment of the occupiers.

Units of missile and artillery troops hit 1 control point, 3 areas of concentration of enemy manpower, weapons and military equipment, as well as 1 enemy electronic warfare station.

Military Updates

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1647061428820668420

Russia spins another fake about Bakhmut to undermine trust in Ukraine’s military command, Ukrinform reports. “Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar reports that today, a Russian psyop once again focused on the topic of Bakhmut and is running the same narrative – claiming that the Ukrainian military command does not spare the lives of their soldiers.

Maliar noted that this was not the first time “when the Russians take our texts penned about them and pass them off as their own. The purpose of such Russian spins is to undermine confidence in the decisions of our military command and provoke discontent among the Ukrainians. According to the senior official, numbers and facts speak for themselves. Russian losses in Bakhmut are times higher. There are days when the ratio reaches 1 to 10. […]

Maliar emphasized that saving the lives of Ukrainian soldiers is a priority of the military command, which is how the military has repeatedly explained the decisions made through public communications.

As reported, earlier the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine denied the claims that mobilized soldiers who had not undergone military training were immediately sent to the front lines. Also, the ministry claims that the military draft notices would not be issued via the application for government e-services, Diia.”

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

https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1646817878702714881

  • On 11 April 2023, the Russian State Duma adopted a law establishing a unified registry of individuals eligible for military service. The key implication of the measure is that in future, the authorities will be able to serve call-up papers electronically, rather than by letter, removing one obstacle which has previously allowed some to dodge the draft.
  • With individuals’ call-up data now digitally linked to other state-provided online services, it is likely that the authorities will punish draft-dodgers by automatically limiting employment rights and restricting foreign travel.
  • The measures are reported to be coming into force later in the year; they do not specifically indicate any major new wave of enforced mobilisation.
  • Russia has re-energised its assault on the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut as forces of the Russian MoD and Wagner Group have improved co-operation. The Ukrainian defence still holds the western districts of the town but has been subjected to particularly intense Russian artillery fire over the previous 48 hours.
  • Wagner assault groups continue to conduct the main advance through the centre of town, while Russian airborne forces (VDV) have relieved some Wagner units securing the northern and southern flanks of the operation.
  • Ukrainian forces face significant resupply issues but have made orderly withdrawals from the positions they have been forced to concede.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Saturday 15 April, 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 181550 (+460)
  • Tanks – 3653 (+3)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 7073 (+4)
  • Artillery systems – 2785 (+1)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 535 (+0)
  • Air defence means – 283 (+0)
  • Aircraft – 307 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 293 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5646 (+6)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 2339 (+0)
  • Special equipment – 324 (+3)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 911 (+0)

Russian Special Forces suffer heavy losses in Ukraine, changing dynamics of war – Pentagon leak, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The Washington Post. “The leaked documents suggest Russian commanders have over-relied on the specialised units, which have been put to use as part of front-line infantry formations. Those formations, like the Ukrainians, have suffered massive numbers of dead and wounded.

The WP reports that Spetsnaz [special forces] personnel are typically assigned the sorts of stealthy, high-risk missions — including an apparent order to capture Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky — for which they receive some of the Russian military’s most advanced training. However, according to a US intelligence assessment, Russian commanders eager to “seize the momentum” ordered elite troops to engage in direct combat at the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

The depletion of Russian Spetsnaz changed the dynamics of the war from the very beginning, limiting the Kremlin’s ability to carry out covert operations. US intelligence believes that the staggering losses suffered by these units will make them less effective in Ukraine and other parts of the world where Russian troops operate.

The units are also deteriorating due to a lack of experience. According to US documents, special forces require at least four years of specialised training, so it could take Moscow decades to reconstitute these units. The documents do not specify the number of special forces personnel killed or wounded in Ukraine. Still, they cite intelligence intercepts as saying that only the 346th unit alone lost nearly the entire brigade with only 125 personnel active out of 900 deployed.”

Ukraine says it is finding more Chinese components in Russian weapons, Reuters reports. “Ukrainian forces are finding a growing number of components from China in Russian weapons used in Ukraine, a senior adviser in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office told Reuters, as Western supplies are squeezed by sanctions.

In the weapons recovered from the battlefield we continue to find different electronics, said Vladyslav Vlasiuk, who advises the president’s chief of staff on sanctions policy. The trend is now that there is less Western-made components but more – not hard (to) guess which country – made components. Of course, China, he said via a video call.

China has repeatedly denied sending military equipment to Russia since Moscow’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The assault triggered Western sanctions, including on sending military and dual-use technology such as microchips that could be used in either ordinary appliances or weapons.

Intelligence gathered by Ukrainian experts from the battlefield and shared with Reuters stated that Chinese-made components were found in a navigation system in Orlan aerial drones that had previously used a Swiss system. The experts also reported finding Chinese parts in the fire control system in Russian tanks that had earlier used French-made parts.”

Humanitarian 

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1647131273515741186

What happens if Russia abandons UN-backed grain corridor, Reuters asks? “The Kremlin has said the outlook is “not so great” for extending beyond May 18 a deal that allows the safe wartime export of grain from some Ukrainian Black Sea ports, raising concerns over what happens next with the UN-backed sea corridor. The deal has helped to tackle a global food crisis that UN officials said had been worsened by the most deadly war in Europe since World War Two. Reached in July last year, it created a protected transit corridor to enable exports to resume from three ports in Ukraine, a major producer of grains and oilseeds.

Under the pact to create a safe shipping channel, Ukraine has been able to export some 27.7 million tonnes of agricultural products, including 13.9 million tonnes of corn and 7.5 million tonnes of wheat. This represents about 60% of Ukraine’s corn exports in the current 2022/23 season and 56% of wheat exports. Other commodities shipped include rapeseed, sunflower oil, sunflower meal and barley. […]

Ukraine’s ports had been blocked before the agreement was reached in July last year and it is unclear whether it would be possible to ship grain if Russia withdrew. Insurance rates, which are already high, would be likely to climb and shipowners could prove reluctant to allow their vessels to enter a war zone without Russia’s agreement. Among the risks insurers would need to consider would be the presence of Russian navy ships in Black Sea waters and floating sea mines.

Ukraine’s grain exports are forecast to fall in the 2023/24 season after the war has meant farmers planted less corn and wheat. Favourable growing conditions, however, may limit the extent of the decline.

The International Grains Council has forecast that Ukraine’s corn crop will fall to 21 million tonnes, down from the prior season’s 27 million, with exports expected to drop to 15 million tonnes from 20.5 million. Ukraine’s wheat production is forecast to fall to 20.2 million tonnes from 25.2 million in 2022/23 and exports to be 11 million versus 14.5 million in the prior season. […]

Reduced shipments from major exporter Ukraine have played a role in the global food price crisis. Other factors include climate extremes and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the corridor were to be shut down, it would lead to a jump in global prices of grains when many countries already face a steep rise in the cost of imports of food and fuel. The United Nations World Food Programme said this month food insecurity remains at unprecedented levels.”

Nine killed in Russian strike, rescue teams sift through wreckage, Reuters reports. “Russian missiles hit residential buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk on Friday, killing at least nine people, wounding 21 and reducing parts of apartment blocks to a tangled mess of metal and concrete. Emergency services in eastern Donetsk Region, in a statement on Facebook, said the death toll stood at nine at midnight (2100 GMT), including a two-year-old child.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of Donetsk Region, told national television earlier that seven Russian S-300 missiles had been fired.”

Environmental

Russians prepare to block ZNPP staff, awaiting Ukraine’s possible counteroffensive, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Energoatom, the national nuclear energy company, and Enerhodar channel on Telegram. “Reportedly, there is currently a crazy shortage of nuclear engineers needed to operate the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP, and there is also information about an upcoming Ukrainian offensive, so the occupiers are preparing to hold ZNPP staff hostage for a long period of time.

It is noted that the invaders have brought a lot of provisions and water to the station. Energoatom has suggested that the Russians may not let the station’s staff go after one of the regular work shifts and will lock them in at the ZNPP by force.

Energoatom reiterated that this is something that the occupiers had already done at the beginning of the full-scale invasion when they locked in a shift of staff at the Chornobyl NPP. At that time, the invaders did not let the staff go home for about a month, holding people hostage until they were liberated.”

Russia to commit war crimes until invasion put to halt – Canada’s foreign minister, Ukrinform reports. “Russia will continue to commit brutal war crimes until its invasion of Ukraine is stopped. That’s according to Canada’s Foreign Minister, Melanie Joly. Reports of a video appearing to show the decapitation of a Ukrainian prisoner of war by Russian forces, are deeply disturbing. It is clear that war crimes & crimes against humanity will continue as long as Russia continues its illegal invasion, Joly wrote on Twitter. […]

As reported earlier, two videos showing the gruesome execution of Ukrainian soldiers are circulating on social media. The Security Service of Ukraine has launched a pre-trial inquiry into the beheadings. Law enforcement are taking measures to identify persons complicit in the atrocities.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine appealed to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court with a demand to urgently address the issue in the context of the investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine by the Russian forces.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1647001786136371200

Man suspected of leaking secret US documents appears in court, Reuters reports. “A 21-year-old member of the US Air Force National Guard accused of leaking highly classified military intelligence records online made his initial appearance before a federal judge in Boston on Friday to face charges he unlawfully removed and retained classified materials.

Jack Douglas Teixeira of North Dighton, Massachusetts, who was arrested by a team of heavily armed FBI agents at his home on Thursday […]. The leaked classified documents at the heart of the investigation were posted online on a social media website in March and perhaps earlier, but news of their existence did not come to light until it was reported by the New York Times last week.

It is believed to be the most serious security breach since more than 700,000 documents, videos and diplomatic cables appeared on the WikiLeaks website in 2010. […]

US officials are still assessing the damage done by the leaks, which included records showing purported details of Ukrainian military vulnerabilities and embarrassed Washington by revealing its spying on allies. In a criminal complaint made public on Friday, Teixeira was charged with unlawfully copying and possessing classified defense records. Each offense can carry up to 10 years in prison.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1647103204293844996

Support

Ukraine secures another $5 billion in funding after meetings, prime minister says, Reuters reports. “Ukraine secured promises of $5 billion in additional funding to support its ongoing fight against Russia amid “fruitful meetings” in Washington this week, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told reporters on Friday. Shmyhal met with representatives of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank as well as top US officials, on the sidelines of the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank.

He said Ukraine received new pledges of additional support from Switzerland, Denmark and a number of other countries during the meetings, as well as an agreement from US aircraft maker Boeing Co to relieve Ukrainian companies of $200 million in previous commitments. Kyiv expected to receive more support during an upcoming conference in London, he added.

The international partners have reassured us of their long-term support, Shmyhal said, describing his meetings in Washington, and referring to total financing of $115 billion over the next four years that was leveraged by the IMF’s approval last month of a $15.6 billion loan.

Ukraine needs about $14 billion in funding this year to close a budget gap, Shmyhal said, noting that the United States would provide $2.3 billion to plug the hole, while the European Union would provide 1 billion euros ($1.10 billion).

In addition to Switzerland and Denmark, he said Spain, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland and the Netherlands also promised more aid. […]

He said the discussions also touched on Ukraine’s insistence that the United States and other allies confiscate Russian assets to help cover the cost of rebuilding Ukraine – a sum put at $411 billion by the World Bank in a recent estimate. He urged the Group of Seven advanced economies to reaffirm their support for Ukraine and discuss the confiscation issue during an upcoming leaders summit in Japan, which is leading the G7 this year.”

France ready to provide €2 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine – Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Denys Shmyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine. “During his visit to the US, Shmyhal met with French Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire. France is ready to support Ukraine with 2 billion euros as part of a long-term programme. Part of the funds will be used for reconstruction, the Ukrainian Prime Minister said.

Earlier, the Swiss government announced its intention to provide Ukraine with at least another 1.5 billion Swiss francs [roughly US$1.7 billion – ed.] by 2028.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1647089153572569090

New Developments

  1. Finnish embassy in Moscow receives letter containing unknown powder, ReutersRelations between Moscow and Helsinki have deteriorated sharply since Finland formally joinedNATO on April 4, becoming the 31st member of the US-led military alliance. Finland shares a long land border with Russia. The embassy informed Russia’s foreign ministry that it had received three letters on Thursday, at least one of which contained a powder, Zakharova said. We can confirm such an appeal from the embassy of Finland to the Russian foreign ministry, according to which three identical envelopes addressed to the military attache and his aides were delivered on April 13 to the diplomatic mission’s mailbox, she said.”
  2. Ukraine will ‘test and use’ any non-banned weapons to retake Crimea: official, ReutersUkraine will “test and use” any non-banned weapons to liberate its territory, including Russian-occupied Crimea, the head of its National Security and Defence Council said on Friday. […] Kyiv’s Western partners have provided crucial military support, including modern battle tanks and armoured vehicles, since Russia’s full-scale invasion last year. But they have stopped short of providing heavier weapons, such as F-16 fighter jets, which Ukraine has asked for. Kyiv has also been developing its own weapons, such as drones and the Neptune missile, which it says it used to sink the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet last year.”
  3. China promises not to sell weapons to Ukraine or Russia in this war, Ukrinform reports, citing AP. “Foreign Minister of China Qin Gang has said that China will not sell weapons to any party to the war in Ukraine and will tighten control over the export of dual-use civilian and military goods.”
  4. Failure in Ukraine will mark beginning of end of West’s “golden age” – Polish PM, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Minister of Poland, during an address at the Atlantic Councilin Washington. “If we lose Ukraine, we will lose peace for decades. Failure in Ukraine could be the beginning of the end of the “golden age” of the West. Morawiecki said that Ukraine’s victory, on the other hand, will be a guarantee not only of reconstruction, but of strengthening of our economic power.”
  5. Belarus says it is already preparing sites for Russian nuclear weapons, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Belarusian state-owned news outlet Belta. “Viktor Khrenin, Minister of Defence of Belarus, has said that Belarus is already preparing sites for the deployment of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons. If necessary, we will have strategic nuclear weapons. And we are already preparing our existing sites. And if the hostile rhetoric continues, this will be the next step. We will respond to force only with force. The West does not understand otherwise. He has added that only the Russian side will be able to use the tactical nuclear weapons that will be deployed in Belarus.”
  6. Kuleba: Ukraine will not accept surrogate decisions on its accession to NATO at Vilnius summit, UkrinformIf the Allies decide that they will simply confirm the open-door policy for the 130th time in the issue of NATO membership, then for Ukraine this is an unacceptable result of the Vilnius summit. If they try to offer us in Vilnius some positive things regarding the deepening of cooperation with NATO, but at the same time do not take a single step towards Ukraine’s NATO membership, then this is unacceptable for us, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba said in a live broadcast on Instagram. Kuleba explains that Ukraine’s position is that in Vilnius NATO should take a step towards Ukraine’s membership and resolve the issue of what will happen with security guarantees for Ukraine between now and the moment when Ukraine becomes a member of the Alliance.”
  7. US wants to use frozen Russian assets to rebuild Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, US Department of State, during the US-Ukraine Partnership Forum, cited by the Ukrinformnews agency. “Among other things, we are working to ensure that Russia helps pay for all that it has broken. States and allies are discussing how to attract the frozen $300 billion of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. Nuland emphasised that, with the support of the US Congress, the US Department of Justice has new powers to use illegal assets confiscated from Russian oligarchs to help rebuild Ukraine. […] She also noted that currently discussions are ongoing about the estimated $300 billion of Russian Central Bank assets that we and our allies have frozen.”
  8. Hungarian Prime Minister calls Ukraine “financially non-existent”, Russia praises him, Ukrainska PravdaHungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that Ukraine was a “financially non-existent country” and that without the support of its partners, the war would end immediately; his words have already provoked a positive reaction in Moscow.”
  9. Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminds Hungary of its dependency on EU in response to Orban’s insulting comment, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleh Nikolenko, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. “The speaker called such statements of the Hungarian Prime Minister cynical, considering that Hungary itself needs considerable EU funds to maintain economic stability. “We urge Viktor Orban to face the truth: supporting Ukraine is not charity. By supporting Ukraine, Europe invests primarily in its own security. Instead, the Hungarian authorities should be grateful that, against the background of unprecedented Russian aggression, Ukrainians, at the cost of their own lives, keep a peaceful sky over Budapest and other European cities”, Nikolenko emphasised.”
  10. Norway’s security agency reveals activities of spies expelled from Russian Embassy, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing NRKnews outlet, citing the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST). “The Russian embassy staff, whose expulsion was announced by Norway this week, have been trying to recruit new informants, conduct radio reconnaissance and purchase advanced technology. Norwegian law enforcement officials state that the expelled embassy staff worked for the Russian secret services. […] Norway has declared 15 Russian embassy officials, who were de-facto intelligence officers operating under the cover of diplomatic positions, personae non gratae.”
  11. Atomic ‘angst’ over? Germany closes last nuclear plants, ReutersGermany will pull the plug on its last three nuclear power stations by Saturday, ending a six-decade programme that spawned one of Europe’s strongest protest movements but saw a brief reprieve due to the Ukraine war. The smoking towers of Isar II, Emsland and Neckarwestheim II reactors were to shut forever by midnight on Saturday as Berlin enacts its plan for fully-renewable electricity generation by 2035. […] The last three plants contributed only around 5% of electricity production in Germany in the first three months of the year, according to the economy ministry. And nuclear power made up just 6% of Germany’s energy production last year, compared to 44% from renewables, data by the federal statistics office showed.”
  12. Ukrainian Ministry bans national teams from competing against Russians and Belarusians, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Orderof the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine. “Ukraine’s Ministry of Youth and Sports has banned national teams from competing in tournaments where Russian and Belarusian athletes will be present.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  April 14, 2022:

Russian forces continued limited offensive operations in the Kreminna area on April 14. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations south of Dibrova (5km southwest of Kreminna) and near Bilohorivka (12km south of Kreminna). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces unsuccessfully tried to advance towards Torske (16km west of Kreminna) and Nevske (18km northwest of Kreminna), and that heavy fighting is ongoing near Makiivka (22km northwest of Kreminna).

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces are continuing to target rear areas in Luhansk Oblast. Former Advisor to Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Head Rodion Miroshnik claimed that Ukrainian forces struck Rubizhne (6km east of Kreminna) and Troitske (53km northeast of Kupiansk) with 14 HIMARS rockets on the evening of April 13. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces are striking Russian military assets in rear areas in preparation for counteroffensive operations in the area and speculated that Ukrainian forces will increase sabotage activities in rear areas in Luhansk Oblast.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued reconnaissance activity along the Kupiansk-Svatove line on April 14. […]

Russian forces continued to advance in Bakhmut on April 14. Geolocated footage showed that Wagner Group forces made marginal gains in northwestern Bakhmut and advanced in southwestern Bakhmut. Russian milbloggers claimed that Wagner forces cleared Rose Alley park in northwestern Bakhmut and advanced in several areas in central Bakhmut, including across an unspecified section of rail track on April 13. A Russian milblogger claimed on April 14 that Russian forces attacked Predtechnyne and Wagner Group forces continued assaults in Bakhmut, near Khromove (2km west of Bakhmut), and near Bohdanivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut). A Wagner-affiliated milblogger claimed that Russian forces do not control the T0504 Bakhmut-Ivanivske-Chasiv Yar highway despite prior milblogger claims to the contrary. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks in Bakhmut, northwest of Bakhmut near Bohdanivka, and southwest of Bakhmut near Predtechyne. A Republic of Tatarstan outlet reported that the 2nd Battalion of the ”Veterany” Separate Air Assault Brigade is operating on one of the Bakhmut flanks.

Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on April 14. Geolocated footage published on April 14 shows that Russian forces have advanced to the eastern outskirts of Nevelske (8km west of Donetsk City). Russian milbloggers claimed on April 13 that Russian forces advanced near Novokalynove (10km north of Avdiivka), Opytne (3km southwest of Avdiivka), and Kruta Balka (3km northeast of Avdiivka). A milblogger claimed on April 14 that Russian forces conducted ground attacks near Novomykhailivka, Pobieda, Sieverne, and Marinka. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks near Novokalynove, Sieverne (5km west of Avdiivka), Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka), and Marinka (27km southwest of Avdiivka).

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed or claimed ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on April 14. A Russian milblogger claimed that the Russian 40th Naval Infantry Brigade is still operating near Vuhledar as of April 14.

The Kremlin is likely attempting to portray Russia as an equal defense partner with China ahead of Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu’s visit to Moscow from April 16 to 18. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on April 14 that Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu will meet with Li to discuss bilateral defense cooperation as well as issues of regional and global security. Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Qin Gang stated on April 14 that China will not sell weapons to Russia and will regulate the export of items to Russia that have dual civilian and military uses. Qin‘s comments represent a continuation of China’s efforts to rhetorically downplay its support for Russia and demonstrate that there are limits to the ”no limits” partnership that Russia and China declared before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. ISW assessed that Putin was unable to secure the no-limits bilateral partnership with China that he likely hoped for when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow from March 20 to 22.

The Kremlin is likely hoping to make itself more attractive to China by launching Russian Pacific Fleet exercises to project Russia’s naval power in the Pacific. The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on April 14 that the Russian military raised the Pacific Fleet of the Eastern Military District (EMD) to the highest level of combat readiness for combat readiness checks. Russian Chief of the General Staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov, also stated that elements of the Pacific Fleet will conduct combat exercises. The Russian Pacific Fleet’s combat readiness checks are likely meant to signal to China that Russia supports Chinese security objectives in the Pacific and that Russia remains an equal military partner that can operate as a Pacific power despite the degradation of Russian military power in Ukraine.

The Kremlin also likely intends to use the Pacific Fleet’s combat readiness checks to attempt to deter further Japanese support for Ukraine ahead of the G7 meeting from May 19 to 21. Shoigu stated on April 14 that Russian forces declared that combat readiness checks are intended to work out methods to prevent enemy forces from deploying in the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk and to repel a landing on the southern Kuril and Sakhalin islands, both signals to Japan (which claims part of the archipelago that the Soviet Union seized at the end of World War II). Russia‘s Eastern Military District (EMD) recently deployed a battery of Bastion coastal defense missile systems to Paramushir Island in the northern portion of the Russian-occupied Japanese Kuril Islands, which ISW assessed was likely a warning to Japan about further supporting Ukraine. Russia likely intends to use military posturing in the north Pacific to raise fears about military escalation with Japan in an increased effort to prevent Japan from further supporting Ukraine when it hosts the G7 meeting in Hiroshima. Russia has employed similar information operations and demonstrative actions against the West aimed at preventing further Western security assistance to Ukraine by stoking concerns about escalation, although these efforts have never presaged any real escalation.

The Russian military is in no position to threaten Japan at this time. ISW previously reported that elements of the 40th and 155th Naval Infantry Brigades of the Pacific Fleet suffered heavy losses near Vuhledar, Donetsk Oblast in early 2023 and in late 2022, with the 155th being reconstituted as many as eight times in the past year. The Pacific Fleet likely lacks the available combat power in the Pacific region to posture in a way that would be truly threatening to Japan or suitable for Russia power projection attempts that would be able to convince China that it is an equal military power.

It is noteworthy that Prigozhin – one of most extreme thought leaders among Russia’s pro-war faction – considers that Russia can incur a defeat in Ukraine and that such a defeat in the short run would actually benefit Russia.

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin is setting information conditions to exploit a Russian military failure if the planned Ukrainian counteroffensive is successful. Prigozhin published an essay on April 14 in which he argues that Ukraine’s coming counteroffensive is more likely to succeed than fail. Prigozhin warned that a selfish Russian “deep state” (which he defines as “a community of near-state elites that operate independently of the political leadership of the state and have close ties and their own agenda”) is currently in crisis due to the Russian military’s failures to secure a victory quickly. Prigozhin accused members of this deep state embedded in the Russian bureaucracy of deliberately sabotaging Russian success in the war because they seek to resume their privileged lives of comfort. Prigozhin stated that these Russian deep state “internal enemies” will push the Kremlin to “make serious concessions” tantamount to “betraying Russian interests,” including even possibly returning occupied Ukrainian territory to Ukraine over the course of a few years.

Prigozhin explicitly rejected the notion of any negotiations to end the war and urged Russians to continue fighting, even if it results in Russia’s temporary defeat. Prigozhin stated that Russia must ignore the Russian deep state’s temptations to cut Russian losses and settle. Prigozhin stated the Russian military cannot stop fighting now despite current Russian territorial gains because the Ukrainian state has transformed, and unoccupied Ukraine is now politically opposed the Kremlin. Prigozhin stated that Russia must continue to fight relentlessly in Ukraine regardless of how adverse conditions become. He stated that any scenario in which Russia faces defeat will result in a groundswell of “radical national feelings” in Russia that will serve as the catalyst for a reinvigorated Russian patriotism and enable the Russian nation to undergo the baptism by fire necessary to emerge victorious and defeat Ukraine. Prigozhin’s essay is thematically and logistical consistent with his previous stated effort to transform Wagner Group into a hardline ideological elite parallel military organization to advance Russian interests.

The Russian nationalist discourse about the acceptability of Russia suffering defeat in Ukraine deviates from some Western assertions of the need to preserve Russia from humiliation and allow Russia to “save face.” Prigozhin’s argument that the Kremlin must resist the temptation to settle and instead remain committed to winning in Ukraine is not compatible with the idea that the Kremlin must be given a way to save face lest it conduct a massive, possibly nuclear, escalation. It is noteworthy that Prigozhin – one of most extreme thought leaders among Russia’s pro-war faction – considers that Russia can incur a defeat in Ukraine and that such a defeat in the short run would actually benefit Russia. Prigozhin’s comments, together with those of other radical pro-war voices, highlight the priority that the pro-war community places on galvanizing Russian society and energizing it for a long fight against the West.  That agenda is not advanced by courting thermonuclear destruction.

Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin denied speculations that he is facing charges in St. Petersburg for the discreditation of the Russian Armed Forces – a denial that likely further indicates his protection by unknown siloviki patrons. A Russian news aggregator claimed on April 14 that a Novosibirsk resident asked the St. Petersburg Investigative Committee to investigate Girkin’s social media content for discreditation of Russian forces – a crime punishable by a fine of up to five million rubles ($65,530), up to five years of correctional or forced labor, or up to seven years in prison. Girkin denied receiving a criminal charge notice, claiming that he will not alter his behavior and is not intimidated by authorities. Girkin denied receiving any charges from the Russian Ministry of Interior (MVD) and hypothesized that the MVD could ”theoretically” investigate him for discreditation. Girkin added that if someone has the ”political will” then he could be framed for humanitarian aid fraud. Girkin noted that everyone will soon find out if the “authorities are ready to stop [him].” Girkin’s response is consistent with his ruthless criticisms of the Kremlin and may indicate that he likely continues to benefit from some protection from within the Russian force structures – the siloviki. Girkin has every reason to believe that he would be convicted without such protection, as his vitriolic assaults on the Russian military’s performance in Ukraine almost self-evidently violate the discreditation law.

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin may be attempting to apply pressure on Girkin’s patronage networks by responding to accusations against Girkin. Prigozhin stated that Girkin would not be recruited into Wagner as Wagner is no longer recruiting prisoners – likely implying that Girkin would remain in prison for his behavior. While it is unclear if Prigozhin or Wagner-affiliated figures are involved in sparking an investigation against Girkin, it is notable that the complaint was filed in St. Petersburg – a city where Prigozhin has connections and a city where Prigozhin is attempting to push his political aspirations. Girkin is reportedly based out of Moscow, which makes the St. Petersburg venue of the complaint more unusual. Prigozhin and Girkin have a history of personal attacks and feuds, and Prigozhin may want to expose or strain Girkin’s patronage networks, which are allowing him to be unscathed despite ongoing censorship measures in Russia. ISW also previously assessed that Prigozhin and Girkin are likely competing for influence and patronage within the pro-war faction, and a public investigation into Girkin might burden Girkin’s patrons as they attempt to deflect or quash these accusations.

Russian elite forces are diluting their combat effectiveness with poorly trained mobilized personnel and volunteers due to high causalities sustained in Ukraine. The Washington Post reported that leaked classified US intelligence documents revealed that Russia’s 22nd Separate Guards Special Purpose (SPETSNAZ) Brigade (Main Directorate of the Russian General Staff) and two other unspecified SPETSNAZ brigades suffered an estimated 90-95% attrition rate in Ukraine. The Washington Post also reported that the 346th SPETSNAZ Brigade lost almost its entire complement, with only 125 servicemen remaining active out of 900 initially deployed. These high casualty rates suggest that Russia’s most elite forces – Airborne and SPETSNAZ forces – are likely no longer elite. Russian forces have recently deployed elements of airborne brigades and SPETSNAZ formations to frontline areas in Ukraine that operate as volunteer battalions or that are almost entirely comprised of mobilized personnel. It is highly unlikely that mobilized personnel or volunteers received training on how to conduct aerial landing operations and special forces operations, which would suggest that these Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) and SPETSNAZ elements do not differ markedly from other combat ineffective Russian formations staffed by mobilized personnel or volunteers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely host his annual June press conference in early June 2023. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov announced on April 14 that the Kremlin expects to hold the “Direct Line with Vladimir Putin,” a live forum at which Putin addresses questions from the Russian public, on an unspecified date likely in June 2023. Putin cancelled his “Direct Line” in 2022 due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as in 2020 due to COVID-19. Putin notably cancelled his annual address to the Russian Federal Assembly in December 2022 and regurgitated boilerplate rhetoric at his annual New Year’s speech, indicating that Putin was uncertain of his ability to shape the Russian information space amidst criticism of the Russian military’s performance in the war. This year’s event will likely be highly filtered to support Putin’s current rhetorical lines and avoid exposing any challenges to the Kremlin or to Russia’s conduct of the war in Ukraine.

The Russian State Duma is intensifying its efforts to censor Russian cultural figures who fled Russia and criticize the war, likely aimed at encouraging domestic self-censorship. Russian State Duma Vice Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy announced on April 14 that the State Duma has created a working group to find a “fair solution” to prevent these cultural figures as well as designated foreign agents from receiving income from creative endeavors in Russia. Tolstoy claimed that some deputies are making “radical proposals…because it’s not worth making money in a country that you hate.” Prior Duma proposals included withholding state funding, royalty payments, advertising revenue and copyrights, and confiscating the property of Russians who fled. State Duma Vice Speaker Irina Yarovaya chairs the committee, and other members include Tolstoy and the chairs of the State Duma committees for Security and Anti-Corruption, State Building and Legislation, Information Policy, Information Technology and Communications, and Culture. Measures that punish Russians abroad or foreign agents for criticizing the war in Ukraine also demonstrate to domestic audiences the range of punishments they may also suffer for airing their own criticisms.

Key Takeaways

  • The Kremlin is likely attempting to portray Russia as an equal defense partner with China ahead of Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu’s visit to Moscow from April 16 to 18.
  • The Kremlin is likely hoping to make itself more attractive to China by launching Russian Pacific Fleet exercises to project Russia’s naval power in the Pacific.
  • The Kremlin also likely intends to use the Pacific Fleet’s combat readiness checks to attempt to deter further Japanese support for Ukraine ahead of the G7 meeting from May 19 to 21.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin is setting information conditions to exploit a Russian military failure if the planned Ukrainian counteroffensive is successful.
  • Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin denied speculations that he is facing charges in St. Petersburg for the discreditation of the Russian Armed Forces – a denial that likely further indicates his protection by unknown siloviki patrons.
  • Russian elite forces are diluting their combat effectiveness with poorly trained mobilized personnel and volunteers due to high causalities sustained in Ukraine.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely host his annual June press conference in early June 2023.
  • The Russian State Duma is intensifying its efforts to censor of Russian cultural figures who fled Russia and criticize the war, likely aimed at encouraging domestic self-censorship.
  • Russian forces continued limited offensive operations in the Kreminna area as Ukrainian forces targeted rear areas in Luhansk Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued to advance in Bakhmut and conduct ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Russian forces continue to endanger the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) amidst continued Russian efforts to establish control over the ZNPP.
  • The Kremlin reportedly continues to use private military companies (PMCs) and nationalist networks to support its force generation campaigns.

Russian security personnel continue to arrest Ukrainian citizens under allegations that they associate with claimed illegal formations.

Ukraine’s Intelligence Chief said that only Russia will benefit from the Pentagon’s documents leak, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Kyrylo Budanov, the Chief of Ukrainian Defence Intelligence, in an interview with the ABC News channel. “Russia is the only beneficiary of this. We will get the final answer only after the completion of the investigation… We have communication with the relevant services in the US, and from literally the first hours, we started to talk. Major General Kyrylo Budanov made this comment on Wednesday evening in his office in Kyiv. He declined to comment on some of the most explosive revelations from the leak, including that US officials were listening in on internal Ukrainian discussions about the task of striking targets deep in Russia. […]

He also doesn’t expect the data leak to have much of an impact on the course of the war. If there is a problem, it will be solved. If there is no problem, even better. This will not be able to affect the real results of the offensive operation.

Budanov spoke of the Ukrainian military’s ability to succeed in a future and long-awaited counteroffensive against Russian forces, while US officials suggested in private conversations that success would be more modest than last year’s lightning operation, which returned vast swathes of territory to Ukrainian government control. […]

Budanov admitted that the success of this offensive operation is badly needed, not only for the Ukrainians but also for the allies who supply them with funds and ammunition. Without victories, sooner or later, questions will be asked whether it’s worth continuing to support Ukraine, he said, although he did not hear that further support from the West would depend on success on the battlefield.

Budanov again promised to take back the Crimean Peninsula and mocked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s undisguised nuclear threats and the failed winter offensive that ended with minimal gains and heavy losses. Studying a map of Russia, Budanov predicted seismic change in the neighbouring country, which he believes will play a role in ending Vladimir Putin’s war in favour of Ukraine.

“Borders can be changed. This is an artificially created mistake and, now, the moment has come for this country to collapse.”

Two senior Russian officials tried to “sabotage” Russian invasion to end war, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Tagesspiegel in its articles dated 13 April and 14 April; photo from The Daily Mail. “German news agency Tagesspiegel, citing a large-scale leak of a secret US military document, has stated that Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, and Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, allegedly tried to sabotage the invasion of Ukraine at the beginning of the war so that it would end by 5 March 2022. […]

According to the German news agency, the leadership of the Russian army allegedly had a plan to sabotage the war to the detriment of Putin. […] It is claimed that Nikolai Patrushev, the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, and Valery Gerasimov, Chief of Russia’s General Staff and the current Commander-in-Chief of Russian occupying troops in Ukraine, are behind the sabotage attempt.

The document, which is also at the disposal of Tagesspiegel, says that Russia planned to transfer resources from Taganrog [Russia] to Mariupol [Ukraine] and focus its attention on the southern front. According to the source, Patrushev and Gerasimov developed an offensive plan to sabotage Putin. According to the source, Gerasimov rejected the planned offensive. He informed Putin that Ukrainian forces were superior to Russian ones and warned that Russia would suffer heavy losses if the offensive took place.

The attempt at sabotage by senior military officials was to lead to a military defeat with the aim of casting Putin in a bad light so that Russia’s painful defeat would lead to the end of the war. The intelligence document says that, according to the sabotage plan, the war was supposed to end by 5 March, 2022, when Putin planned to start chemotherapy.

According to a source close to the Kremlin, Gerasimov wanted to disrupt the deployment of Russian troops. He planned to do this on 5 March, when Putin allegedly had a chemotherapy session, and therefore he could not influence the course of the war. […]

Tagesspiegel states that it is unclear to what extent the information obtained from the leak can be trusted. The German newspaper notes that data on Putin’s illness has not been confirmed, but there is not a single record on the Kremlin website for the period from 3 to 6 March 2022. Putin’s last meeting before the break was a meeting with the Security Council, and on 6 March all discussions were conducted by phone.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Ukraine’s NATO membership needs no action plan, we have to leave 2008 mistakes behind, European Pravda reports. “In times of big War in Europe, Ukraine’s NATO accession is finally being discussed as a real prospect. However, there is still no final decision. So it happens, both the Allies and Ukraine need to realise that the Euro-Atlantic space has a new reality. In particular, it means abandoning decisions whose fallacy has long been evident to both experts and politicians, but which have been repeated year after year in the decisions of the Alliance and the Ukrainian authorities.

Ukraine needs to take the lead and impose a taboo on mentioning the Membership Action Plan (MAP), previously considered a mandatory step for its NATO accession. This also means that we need to stop referring to the Bucharest Summit in 2008, based precisely on the idea of granting Ukraine a MAP. We need a new vision, a new strategy for bringing Ukraine and the Alliance closer together. Details may differ, but the main element is when the time comes, Ukraine’s accession to the Alliance must be swift and minimally bureaucratic.

The war has truly opened a historical window for possible rapid Ukraine’s NATO accession, as openly stated by Ukrainian officials, our friends in the Alliance, and experts. There are several reasons for such optimistic expectations.

First, it is a change in perception of Ukraine in the West. The heroic fight of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the new image of Ukrainians created by our refugees in Europe have made the perception of Ukraine unprecedentedly positive. It sometimes even makes the West turn a blind eye to the problems in war-torn Ukraine that would otherwise be in the spotlight.

Such leniency of the West has not only positive consequences (for example, it does not push for complex democratic reforms). But when it comes to politically sensitive decisions, it sometimes saves us. We saw this last year when the EU made breakthrough decisions regarding our future EU accession. A breakthrough on our path to NATO now also has historically the highest chances.

Second, it is a security consideration. NATO is primarily a security alliance and only then political. Following the Russian attack, the understanding of this in the West has grown again. Allies must be convinced that enlargement will increase security in the region and strengthen NATO. Ukraine is currently in the best position to prove that it meets this requirement. Surveys confirm the unprecedented trust of European voters in the combat readiness of the Ukrainian army, and European politicians understand that Ukraine NATO membership would not have unleashed the war.

Third, it is the weakness of Russia. Ukraine’s accession to NATO immediately after its victory or firm stabilisation of the front would mean that this would happen at a time when Russia is extremely weakened, and its reaction to this will be limited. We have already seen this after Finland’s NATO accession. The event that became a geopolitical disaster for the Kremlin did not elicit any response other than a few unconvincing statements by Russian politicians. This historical window may not remain open for long. Each of the three points listed above confirms this.

First, the level of empathy of Europeans and Americans towards Ukraine will decrease when Ukraine goes from the front pages of Western media. Together with it, Ukraine’s unique ability to “push through” sensitive political decisions will also diminish.

Second, people naturally think about safety when the threat is urgent. Therefore, after the end of the war, the strength of the Ukrainian defence forces will seem increasingly attractive to fewer and fewer Western politicians and voters. Pacifists and supporters of the “do not provoke Russia” approach, who have almost disappeared from the political field of Europe, will regain influence.

Third, Russia will regain its strength and once again become a threat to its neighbours with time. All of this means that Ukraine is obligated to use the historic window of opportunity and do everything possible to join the Alliance as soon as possible when the hostilities end.

Under these conditions, NATO membership can be achieved in principle. Western Europe and across the US have finally understood that a rapid accession procedure is needed, the path for which was paved by Finland and Sweden. Official Kyiv generally adheres to this approach – as stated, for example, by the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, at a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission in April.

Convincing those allies who do not yet support this approach is a difficult but real task. Unfortunately, not everyone in Ukraine understands that the reality has changed. There are no opponents of NATO membership among the political forces. It is a unifying idea. But there are those who still plan to demand a Membership Action Plan (MAP) rather than membership itself. The argument sounds noble – to use the leverage of NATO membership to accelerate Ukraine’s reforms. But the price could be too high.

For Ukraine, a MAP means losing the opportunity to join the Alliance when it is ever possible – now. To advance this, Ukraine needs to categorically reject the ideas of mandatory MAP for Ukraine, including those fixed in old documents, such as the decision of the NATO Bucharest Summit in 2008. Kyiv should also demand the Alliance to officially recognise that the world has changed. This ambitious task means a strategic review for NATO. However, Ukraine is forced to pursue ambitious goals. Some voices in NATO support this. Even NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stopped mentioning Bucharest when confirming that Ukraine’s future membership is NATO’s official policy.

The parliament should abandon decisions such as its recent appeal to all Allies, asking them to “implement the decisions of the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit regarding Ukraine’s membership.” However, the 2008 decision explicitly obliges NATO to take Ukraine through the MAP stage! We quote paragraph 23 of that document: “…(Ukraine and Georgia) will become members of NATO… MAP is the next step for Ukraine and Georgia on their direct way to membership.” We really hope that the MPs who knowingly advocate for MAP (if they exist) understand their mistake.

This story must teach them a lesson. Ukraine and NATO need a NEW concept of relations and Ukraine’s path to membership, which the summit in Vilnius in July 2023 should establish. Diplomats, politicians, experts – all those who sincerely want to see Ukraine in the Euro-Atlantic family should concentrate their efforts on developing this concept. We must abandon the burden of the past, including the 2008 decision.

Those who have been dealing with NATO for many years remember that the MAP principle was formally made up for “better preparation,” but also for slowing down the accession of new NATO members. And now geopolitical reality requires accelerating this process. In the case of Sweden and Finland, the Alliance found an understanding of this. Now it must also be found for Ukraine. Both sides should use the unique historical moment, for which many Ukrainians and the Ukrainian people as a whole continue to pay the highest price.”

Europe’s dependence on Russian gas down to 10% since war-start – IMF, Ukrinform reports, citing Alfred Kammer, Director of the European Department of the International Monetary Fund. “Since the onset of Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine and the introduction of Russia sanctions, European countries significantly reduced their dependence on Russian gas – from 40% before the war to 10% at the current stage. […]

He emphasized that the European market is now increasingly being filled with alternative gas supplies. In this regard, he pointed to the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe by sea. And the same is applicable on the oil side where Russian oil and oil products are being substituted through other import channels, Kammer noted.

In addition, he emphasized that financial linkages with the Russian economy remain very limited and that they have been reduced further.

As Ukrinform reported earlier, the IMF has repeatedly named the war launched by Russia against Ukraine, as well as the consequences of the pandemic, among the main reasons for the reduction in the development of the global economy.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: One of the pieces of advice coming out of the first Black Sea Security Conference under the Crimean Platform was to acknowledge where we are.

Everyone will agree that Russia is waging a brutal, unjust, and illegal war in Ukraine.

I would, however, add that NATO and the EU are exposed to a Russian Hybrid War. Russia has weaponised nearly everything, from diplomacy, politics, economy, energy, food, and security, to information and religion. NATO has proven itself less militarily capable than expected, having stepped back from past obligations, running out of weapons and ammunition it can provide Ukraine, and providing Ukraine with non-military support only. The Alliance is showing signs of discord when unity and collective efforts are urgently needed. European and US defence industries are unable to meet the present demand for military equipment. The EU has proven itself more important for European security than the Alliance. The USA and Europe are presently not setting up Ukraine for victory on the battlefield, denying it not only the tools it need to operate efficiently against a 3-dimensional threat but also the means in sufficient quantity to maintain the momentum when the counteroffensive starts.

All of the above are crucial to acknowledge when considering Ukrainian NATO membership.

I have long been in favour of a future Ukrainian NATO membership but have previously argued against its accession until Ukraine has completed much-needed reforms. I made the argument before NATO proved itself able to act as a political alliance only and before I came to realise that NATO itself urgently needs to undergo reform to transform it back into a military alliance.

At the time, I stressed that Ukrainian accession is probably the only diplomatic tool that might end Russian aggression. Additionally, I argued that Ukraine’s Armed Forces would strengthen the Alliance’s ability to conduct collective defence, crisis management, and cooperative security. That assessment is today more valid than ever.

The asymmetry between the strategic messaging from the Ukrainian delegation and its international partners was one of my takeaways from the Black Sea Security Conference on 12-13 April in Bucharest. The former was focused on resolving the war and re-establish peace and stability. It discussed ends, ways and means using simple, clear and to-the-point arguments. Its partners were unable to respond in kind and focused their contributions on broad policy statements offering little substance to resolve the shared security challenges.

When the international community is still unable to support the Ukrainian end state – the liberation of all occupied territories and restoration of its internationally recognised borders from 1991 – it supports my assessment that NATO urgently needs to be transformed back to the military alliance it was during the Cold War.

That transformation is impossible until Ukraine becomes a part of the Alliance.

The Membership Action Plan (MAP) is a NATO programme of advice, assistance and practical support tailored to the individual needs of countries wishing to join the Alliance. It was launched in April 1999 at the NATO summit in Washington to help countries seeking NATO membership, to prepare. It was based on the experience gained during the accession process of Czechia, Hungary and Poland, which became members in 1999.

MAP helped prepare Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia to become members in 2004, as well as Albania and Croatia, which joined in April 2009. Montenegro, which joined the MAP in December 2009, became a member of the Alliance in June 2017. The Republic of North Macedonia, which had been participating in the MAP since 1999, joined NATO in March 2020. Currently, Bosnia and Herzegovina are participating in the MAP.

MAP is, however, a peacetime procedure that is not fit for purpose in war. The accession of Finland is evidence that new procedures are not only needed but also very much possible when European security is challenged.

Russia’s war in Europe changes everything. When NATO states that the Euro-Atlantic area is not at peace, the EU stress that Europe is exposed to a Russian hybrid war. Russia started a war in 2014 to emerge victorious at the peril of Europe.

The West cannot afford to allow Russia to win and Ukraine to be defeated. The Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, framed it as follows:

If we lose Ukraine, we will lose peace for decades. Failure in Ukraine could be the beginning of the end of the “golden age” of the West.

Why? As I have previously argued, this would result in Russian forces being deployed along the Polish borders; Russian military power moving 1,000 km closer to Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, Brussels and London; Russian Air Defence systems covering a greater part of Central Europe; the Black Sea turning into a Russian lake. It would create a belt of constant instability along the border of the EU and NATO. Equally important, it would give Russia access to an immense wealth of rare minerals, gas, oil, and coal resources, as well as the “breadbasket of Europe”. It would gain control over the Ukrainian defence industry helping it to restore its military power. A victory would allow it to solve its fundamental demographic problems through occupation and oppression.

A hypothetical Russian victory in Ukraine would create the preconditions for Russia’s great power status. It would enable it to continue its aggressive foreign policy at the risk of Europe. A Russian victory would be seen as a victory over NATO, undermining the Alliance’s ability to safeguard the freedom and security of its member states.

To join NATO, countries must first be offered a MAP, which includes a formal invitation and a tailored road map for future membership. To obtain such a plan, prospective members must first peacefully resolve outstanding international, ethnic and territorial disputes.

The latter has been seen as an invitation for Russia to instigate wars and conflicts in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. It gives Russia the opportunity to deny neighbouring countries NATO protection from its aggressive foreign policy.

NATO needs to review the precondition for countries to peacefully resolve outstanding international, ethnic and territorial disputes. Russia’s war against its democratic neighbours should be an argument in favour of – not against – membership. It would effectively discourage Russia from instigating conflicts and destabilise Europe.

Countries seeking NATO membership must be able to demonstrate that they have a functioning democratic political system based on a market economy; the fair treatment of minority populations; a commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts; the ability and willingness to make a military contribution to NATO operations; and a commitment to democratic civil-military relations and institutional structures.

While being less than perfect in some respects, Ukraine is more than perfect in what really matters: It is a democracy safeguarding the freedom and security of NATO’s member states. Most members of the military alliance are unable to uphold their own security or provide meaningful contributions to NATO’s collective defence. Some are not even functioning democracies. The Alliance desperately needs Ukraine.

In my humble opinion, it is impossible to imagine a Western military alliance without Ukraine. It is, however, less difficult to imagine one without several other European countries that have failed to invest in security and defence.

It would be a mistake to take NATO for granted. In my opinion, it is not given that it will survive the war in Europe. The Alliance has played an immensely important role in protecting security and stability in Europe since 1949. This was possible because its members were committed to the task and invested in security and defence. Many have, however, failed to meet their obligations for decades. It will take decades to remedy their shortcomings as the pledge to invest 2% of GDP in the defence budget continue to shift further into the future.

NATO needs to reinvent itself as a military alliance or risk becoming irrelevant.

At this juncture in history, Ukraine’s membership should no longer be in question.

The question should be: Which other European countries deserve to join Ukraine in the future US-led military alliance replacing NATO?

The UK obviously. Poland and most of the Eastern Europe of course. But who else has met their commitment to defend Trans-Atlantic security and stability?

Appeasement does not stop dictators; it only increases their appetite. It has failed to secure peace. It is time for a new strategy that includes Ukraine.

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