Russo Ukrainian War. Day 418: Ukrainians celebrate Easter among the ruins

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Ukrainians celebrate Easter among the ruins. Drone explodes in Russia’s Belgorod. Germany receives 337 reports of war crimes in Ukraine.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1647646534543060993

Daily overview — Summary report, April 16

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, April 16, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. April 16, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. April 16, 2023. Source: ISW.

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[The Russian Federation continues to wage its war of aggression. It completely ignores International Humanitarian Law and continues to launch strikes across Ukraine using anti-aircraft guided missiles and shell non-military targets.]

Over the past day, the Russian occupiers launched 25 missile strikes with S-300 air defence system missiles on the peaceful cities of Zaporizhzhia and Komyshuvakha (Zaporizhzhia oblast); and Snihurivka (Mykolayiv oblast). Moreover, Russian forces launched 42 air strikes and conducted 46 MLRS attacks that targeted civilian infrastructure and Ukrainian Defence Forces. The attacks caused casualties among the civilian population and damage to residential buildings, educational institutions, hospitals, churches and other civilian infrastructure.

The Russian aggressor continues to use terror tactics, and the threat of missile and air strikes remains high across Ukraine.

Despite heavy losses, the Russian Federation does not give up on plans to occupy our territory. The adversary continues to focus its main efforts on offensive actions on Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Maryinka axes. Russian forces make active use of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. Heavy fighting continues in Bakhmut and Maryinka, where Ukrainian defenders repelled more than 60 enemy attacks during the day.

Kharkiv Battle Map. April 16, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. April 16, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: no signs of the formation of enemy offensive groups detected. [A comprehensive inspection of the combat readiness of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus is underway. Certain units of the territorial troops of the Russian Armed Forces continue their deployment on the territory of Belarus. Certain enemy units are still present in the areas of Bryansk, Kursk, and Belgorod oblasts (Russia) bordering Ukraine.] During the past day, the Russian invaders shelled Svesa, Shalygine, Bunyakyne, Bilopillia, Iskriskivshchyna, Shpyl’, Volfyne, Yunakivka, Basivka, and Velyka Pisarivka (Sumy oblast); as well as Veterynarne, Neskuchne, Ohirtseve, Vovchans’k, Bochkove, Mala Vovcha, Zemlianka, and Topoli (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupyansk axis: Russian forces shelled Novomlyns’k, Dvorichna, Zapadne, and Kindrashivka (Kharkiv oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. April 16, 2023, Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. April 16, 2023, Source: ISW.

  • Lyman axis: Russian forces attempted unsuccessful offensives in the area north of Hryhorivka and the vicinities of Spirne. Stelmakhivka, Nevs’ke and Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast); Ivanivka, Spirne, and Tors’ke (Donetsk oblast) came under artillery fire.
Bakhmut Battle Map. April 16, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Bakhmut Battle Map. April 16, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • Bakhmut axis: Russian forces continues to conduct offensive actions. Heavy fighting is ongoing in Bakhmut. Russian forces launched unsuccessful attacks in the vicinities of Khromove and Ivanivs’ke. Vasyukivka, Minkivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivs’ke, Chasiv Yar, Novodmytrivka, Svivnihne, Pleshchiivka, and Shcherbynivka (Donetsk oblast) were shelled by Russian forces.
  • Avdiivka axis: Russian forces attempted unsuccessful attacks in the vicinities of Novokalynove, Severne, Vodiane, Pervomais’ke, and Nevels’k. Russian occupiers shelled more than 15 settlements, including Novokalynove, Avdiivka, Tonen’ke, Vodyane, Pervomais’ke and Netaylove.
  • Maryinka axis: our defenders repelled numerous enemy attacks in the vicinities of Maryinka (Donetsk oblast). Krasnohorivka, Maryinka, Heorgiivka, Maksimilianivka, Pobieda and Novomykhailivka came under enemy fire.
  • Shakhtarske axis: Russian forces stays on the defensive. Vuhledar, Prechistivka, Novoukrainka, Velyka Novosilka, and Vremivka (Donetsk oblast) were subject to enemy attacks.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. April 16, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. April 16, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: Russian forces stays on the defensive. Over 40 settlements were shelled during the day, including Vremivka and Novopil’ (Donetsk oblast); Chervone, Charivne, Orihiv, Novopavlivka, and Stepove (Zaporizhzhia oblast); Zolota Balka, Kozats’ke, Lviv, and Mykils’ke (Kherson oblast); as well as the city of Kherson.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. April 16, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. April 16, 2023. Source: ISW.

[Russian occupation forces continue to suffer heavy losses. All medical facilities in the temporarily occupied territory are overcrowded with wounded invaders. As a result, Russian forces are using civilian educational institutions in the temporarily occupied territories for their own purposes. For example, the occupiers re-purposed a local school gym in the settlement of Vysoke (Zaporizhzhia oblast) into a military hospital. Medical services are provided to Russian military personnel exclusively. As of April 15, about 100x occupants with injuries of varying severity were undergoing treatment.]

[Russian invaders continue to rob civilians, appropriating their grain harvest. For example, the Russian so-called “authorities” put in office by the occupation forces in the city of Berdiansk (Zaporizhzhia oblast) are trying to take out stolen corn by loading it onto barges.]

[At the same time, the Russian occupiers continue to force their passports on the population of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. In particular, the invaders are actively conducting house-to-house visits in the settlement of Tavriya (Kherson oblast) to check for Russian passports. Citizens of Ukraine who have not received a Russian passport have been informed they will be deported and all their personal property confiscated unless they obtain the documents by June 1.]

Over the past day, Ukrainian Air Force launched 5 air strikes on the concentrations of Russian troops and an anti-aircraft missile complex.

4 enemy UAVs were shot down (2 Orlan-10 type, 1 Eleron reconnaissance and 1 Lancet kamikaze drone).

Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 1 command post, 1 anti-aircraft missile complex, 1 concentration of troops, 1 fuel and lubricant warehouse and 2 ammunition depots of the occupiers.

Military Updates

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1647736879771688961

Ukraine’s Defence Minister: Ukraine’s losses in war are smaller than the number of victims of the earthquake in Türkiye, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Spanish newspaper La Razon. “Oleksii Reznikov, Defence Minister of Ukraine, said that the losses on the Ukrainian side during the full-scale war are less than the number of victims of the earthquake in Türkiye.

Of course, we have losses, because we are at war. But they are critically smaller than the Russian losses. I cannot give a figure, but I can assure you that the total number is less than the death toll from the earthquake in Türkiye. This means that our main goal is to save the lives of our soldiers, while Russia uses them as cannon fodder. This is a meat grinder tactic. They don’t care. In Bakhmut alone, Russia loses 500 people a day killed and wounded.

On 6 February, southeastern Türkiye and the surrounding areas of Syria were rocked by two earthquakes of magnitude 7.7 and 7.6. The confirmed death toll from the destruction in both countries exceeded 50,000 people. After that, there were three more significant earthquakes, which also caused the destruction of buildings and the death of about a dozen people.

The recently leaked Pentagon intelligence says that Ukraine suffered between 124,500 and 131,000 total casualties, including 15,500-17,500 killed and 109,000-113,500 wounded. At the same time, Russia’s losses are estimated at 35,500-43,000 killed in battle and 154,180 wounded, that is, a total of 189,500-223,000.”

Drone explodes in Russia’s Belgorod, setting off a fire, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Russian BBC service and social media. “Social media users in Russia have reported that a drone exploded in Belgorod; according to some of them, the drone hit a power substation. In particular, the Bletgorod Telegram channel has posted a video of what it claims was a fire caused by a drone strike.

The Russian BBC service has noted that some sources report a strike on a thermal power plant, while others report a strike on a substation. In addition, most Russian sources have stated it was a Ukrainian drone. There are no reliable confirmations or denials, as well as no official statements.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1647660375352176648

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

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

  • Mine-related civilian casualties continue to be reported daily in Ukraine. The most affected areas are Kherson and Kharkiv oblasts: areas Russia has previously occupied.
  • With the arrival of spring, and more people involved in agricultural activities, the risk of civilian mine incidents will increase.
  • Over 750 mine related casualties among civilians have been reported since the start of the invasion – one in eight has involved a child. It will likely take at least a decade to clear Ukraine of mines.
  • General Colonel Mikhail Teplinsky, commander of Russia’s corps of airborne troops, the VDV, has highly likely returned to a major role in Ukraine. He was previously dismissed from the theatre in January 2023.
  • Teplinsky is likely one of the few senior Russian generals widely respected by the rank-and-file. His recent turbulent career suggests intense tensions between factions within the Russian General Staff about Russia’s military approach in Ukraine.
  • It is unlikely Teplinsky’s remit will be limited to VDV units, but he is highly likely to promote the corps’ traditional role as an elite force. In recent days, the VDV have resumed a key mission in the battle for Bakhmut, and likely undertaken novel integration with TOS-1A thermobaric rocket launchers in the Kreminna sector.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source Euromaidan Press. ~

Losses of the Russian Army. Source Euromaidan Press.

As of Monday 17 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 182660 (+590)
  • Tanks – 3660 (+3)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 7087 (+4)
  • Artillery systems – 2804 (+9)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 538 (+0)
  • Air defence means – 285 (+1)
  • Aircraft – 308 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 293 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5672 (+14)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 2347 (+8)
  • Special equipment – 328 (+2)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 911 (+0)

Humanitarian 

Ukraine and Russia hold major Easter prisoners-of-war exchange, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Andrii Yermak, Head of President’s Office of Ukraine. “Ukraine and Russia have held a major Easter prisoners-of-war (POW) exchange. We are bringing back 130 of our people. This has been taking place in several stages over the past few days.

Military, border guards, national guardsmen, Navy men, State Transport Special Service staff… Privates and sergeants who were captured on the Bakhmut, Soledar, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson fronts.”

Russia’s Wagner releases over 100 Ukrainian prisoners of war for Orthodox Easter, Reuters reports. “Russia’s most powerful mercenary group, Wagner, sent at least 100 Ukrainian prisoners of war back to Ukrainian forces to mark Orthodox Easter, according to a video posted by the group’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, on Sunday.”

Ukraine exchanges 2,235 POWs since war-start – deputy defense minister, Ukrinform reports, citing Deputy Minister of Defense, Hanna Maliar. “The Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War and the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense in cooperation with the President’s Office have already returned to Ukraine 2,235 prisoners of war since the full-scale invasion. […] According to the official, since February 24, 2022, for the first time since the beginning of the war, that is, since 2014, Ukraine has organized the process of exchange and treatment of prisoners of war in full accordance with the norms of international law.

For the first time, this process has become fully official and open as far as security allows. In the spring of 2022, all necessary laws, resolutions, and orders were promptly passed, and a new, effective, and civilized government mechanism for the exchange and treatment of prisoners of war was launched, Maliar emphasized.

On March 11, 2022, the Coordinating HQ was established under the military intelligence agency. The body coordinates the work of more than ten state agencies involved in the processes of POW exchange and treatment. Conditions have been created for holding enemy POWs in compliance with all the requirements of the Geneva Conventions. The logistics regarding an enemy POW the moment of capture to delivery to the camp have been regulated. Several law enforcement agencies take part in this process, and the area of responsibility of each is regulated by law.

The topic of exchange requires silence for the sake of the safety of our military, held in places of deprivation of liberty. Therefore, there is not much to say here. However, the results speak for themselves. The Coordination HQ, in cooperation with the President’s Office, has returned 2,235 people to Ukraine since the full-scale invasion, emphasized Maliar.”

Environmental

After 18 years, Europe’s largest nuclear reactor starts regular output, Reuters reports. “Finland’s much-delayed Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) nuclear reactor, Europe’s largest, began regular output early on Sunday, its operator said, boosting energy security in a region to which Russia has cut gas and power supplies.

Nuclear power remains controversial in Europe, primarily due to safety concerns, and news of OL3’s start-up comes as Germany on Saturday switches off its last three remaining reactors, while SwedenFrance, Britain and others plan new developments.

OL3’s operator Teollisuuden Voima (TVO), which is owned by Finnish utility Fortum and a consortium of energy and industrial companies, has said the unit is expected to meet around 14% of Finland’s electricity demand, reducing the need for imports from Sweden and Norway. The new reactor is expected to produce for at least 60 years, TVO said in a statement on Sunday after completing the transition from testing to regular output.

The production of Olkiluoto 3 stabilises the price of electricity and plays an important role in the Finnish green transition, TVO Chief Executive Jarmo Tanhua said in the statement.

Legal 

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1647723505058717701

Germany receives 337 reports of war crimes in Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Deutschlandradio (Germany Radio) . “As of mid-April, the German Federal Criminal Police Office had received 337 reports of possible war crimes in Ukraine. The German Interior Ministry has provided information on the data on war crimes received in response to a request from Christian Democratic Union MP Günter Krings.

The information was being collected since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. It is being provided by Ukrainian refugees in Germany or German citizens who have been or are currently in Ukraine.

The German Federal Criminal Police Office supports Ukrainian investigators technically by purchasing and providing materials for forensic examinations. In 2022, the German Federal Criminal Police Office purchased equipment – for instance, for the protection of evidence and documentation – worth more than €11.5 million and handed it over to the Ukrainian authorities.”

Occupiers threaten to deport residents in Kherson Oblast who don’t obtain Russian passport, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ukrainian General Staff. “Russian invaders continue to rob the civilian population of Ukraine, appropriating the grain harvest of Ukrainian civilians. For example, in the city of Berdiansk, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, the so-called Russian occupation ‘authorities’ are trying to export stolen corn by loading it onto barges.

The General Staff has also reported that the Russian occupiers continue to force passportization of the population in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. In particular, in the village of Tavriia, Kherson Oblast, the invaders are actively conducting house-to-house visits to check for Russian passports.

Citizens of Ukraine who have not obtained a Russian passport have been informed that if they do not obtain the documents by 1 June, they will be deported with the confiscation of all personal property, the General Staff said.”

Russians preparing to abduct children in Enerhodar and take them to Crimea, Ukrinform reports, citing the Telegram channel Enerhodar. “Russian invaders are preparing to kidnap children from the temporarily occupied city of Enerhodar in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region. In local schools and kindergartens of the temporarily occupied satellite city of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, information is being distributed about the forced evacuation, that has begun and will last until April 20,” the report said.

The invaders plan to take the children to temporarily occupied Crimea on the plant’s buses, thus allegedly legalizing the theft of the ZNPP transport, which the station personnel use to get to work. “Currently, the orcs have already begun to take furniture, mattresses and other things from the city’s kindergartens, the report said.”

Support

Ukraine’s Defence Minister names two reasons why West hesitates to supply all weapons to Ukraine: first reason is connected to Merkel, Ukrainska Prava reports, citing the Spanish newspaper La Razon. “Oleksii Reznikov, Defence Minister of Ukraine, believes that former German Chancellor Angela Merkel prevented the membership of Ukraine and Georgia in the North Atlantic Alliance in 2008, giving an opportunity for Russia to attack the two countries. 

Answering the question why the West has not yet given Ukraine all the necessary weapons, the minister said that the West has long lived by the dogma of not provoking Russia, which was especially noticeable during the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest. Then there was a very real possibility that Ukraine and Georgia would become new members of the Alliance. Americans were in favour, as were most Europeans. Only German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed and convinced others, he recalled.

Reznikov added that after that there were the invasion and occupation of part of Georgia, the occupation of Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, as well as explosions in warehouses in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria and poisoning in Salisbury, and again the same doctrine: do not provoke Russia.

The second mistake [of the West – ed.] was that they believed that if there was a military clash, then the small Soviet army would oppose a much larger one and be defeated. Well, we are not a Soviet country with a Soviet army, he said.

At the same time, Reznikov said he was now satisfied with the level of assistance provided by Germany. It took a lot of work to convince them to be bolder, but we did it. I understand their reasons. After the Nuremberg trials, they became a pacifist country, they changed. This can happen to Russia if Nuremberg-2 takes place and war criminals are convicted, the defence minister said.

At the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit, Germany and France blocked Ukraine and Georgia from submitting a NATO membership action plan for fear of escalation by Russia. Since then, the Alliance has only promised accession to both countries “one day”. After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Merkel refused to acknowledge that her decision that day could be one of the causes of Russian aggression.”

Italy transfers M109 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Italian publication La Republica. “Italy plans to transfer a total of 60 M109 self-propelled artillery howitzers to Ukraine in the near future, some of them are already on the frontline. According to the publication, dozens of howitzers were repaired at the expense of the United States, and some of them are already on the front line. The decision to transfer these systems was made by the government of Mario Draghi.

For weeks now, videos filmed in Ukraine have shown powerful M109L firing at Russian positions. These videos testify to the importance of Italy’s contribution to military resistance operations, the publication says. According to sources of the publication, a total of sixty howitzers have already been provided to Kyiv or will be delivered in the near future.

Italy and France promised to transfer SAMP/T-MAMBA systems to Ukraine; the Ukrainian military have already most likely been trained to use them. In addition, Italy planned to transfer other air-defence systems.”

Defense and recovery: PM Shmyhal outlines results of visit to USA, Canada, Ukrinform reports. “Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal outlined the results of the visit of the Ukrainian government team to the USA and Canada. As the PM posted on Telegram, the first visit of the government team to Canada took place this week, where productive meetings were held with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. We renew the free trade agreement. We have assurances about another package of military support, Shmyhal wrote.

Canada also adopted a new package of sanctions against Russia, in particular, against the Volga-Dnepr company. Preparations are underway for the confiscation of AN-124 aircraft and other assets of the aggressor in Canada and their transfer in favor of Ukraine. The USA also imposed sanctions on 120 legal entities and individuals, including representatives of Rosatom.

According to Shmyhal, substantive meetings were held with the US secretaries of defence, the Treasury, commerce, and transportation of the United States in Washington, D.C. We strengthen coordination on all urgent issues. We prepare for a counteroffensive, the liberation of territories, and their further restoration. We have absolute support from our American partners, the Prime Minister emphasized.

Agreements were signed with the World Bank, USAID, and DFC. The WB allocates $200 million for energy restoration, and the DFC will help attract private investments to restore the economy. In addition, Boeing company relieved the Ukrainian companies of $200 million in obligations.

With the online participation of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, a ministerial round table discussion was held at the Spring Meetings. We received assurances from the G7 countries of additional support in the amount of more than $5 billion. Switzerland will also provide CHF 1.8 billion over the next six years. Denmark creates a special fund and plans to fill it with EUR 1 billion. Spain, Ireland, Japan, Lithuania, Latvia, Iceland, and the Netherlands will provide additional support to Ukraine, Shmyhal noted.

The meetings with the Prime Minister of Poland, the finance ministers of Great Britain, Germany, France, the heads of the IMF, the World Bank, the EIB and other high-ranking officials were held. Key topics: recovery, sanctions, financial support.”

US discussing mechanisms to transfer frozen Russian assets for rebuilding of Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. “I think Russia should pay for the damage it has done to Ukraine. So that’s a responsibility that I think the global community expects Russia to bear. This is something we are discussing with our partners. But, you know, there are legal constraints on what we can do with frozen Russian assets and we’re discussing with our partners what might lie in the future. But I think that’s the right to happen that Russia should pay for the damages that it’s caused [to Ukraine], she said, commenting on whether Russia should pay for the rebuilding of Ukraine with its frozen central bank reserves.

Yellen also noted that two goals had already been achieved due to the introduction of sanctions against Moscow – revenues have lowered and Russia is being deprived of the equipment it needs to conduct the war.

On the revenue side, our price caps that we’ve put in place on Russian oil have lowered the revenues that Putin is receiving by roughly 40% over the last year. He expected to have budget surpluses. He now has very large budget deficits. In terms of equipment, we have had great success in depriving him of the equipment that he needs to conduct this war. This is due to our export controls. And importantly, it’s not just the United States acting alone. It’s that we have strong coalition partners who are working together to put in place sanctions, exports controls and working jointly on enforcement, she added.”

New Developments

  1. Pentagon Leaks: New twists in a familiar plot, The New York TimesAs Ukraine prepares for a long-anticipated counteroffensive that could usher in a new phase of the nearly [110]-month war, the documents are focusing heightened attention on Ukraine’s challenges, the shortcomings in Western military aid and the uncertainty of what comes next. Whether Ukraine’s Western allies are going to be able to deliver what Kyiv needs in this crucial moment is a major open question. European officials say they are working to speed more artillery shells to Ukraine, but are acknowledgingthat they may not be able to reach the goal of delivering one million rounds this year. […] From many points of view, this leak is really useful, and good, even I can say good for Ukraine, said Oleksiy Honcharenko, a member of Parliament in the opposition European Solidarity party. He said that unless Ukraine’s Western backers rushed to provide more than what he called incremental support, then everything can go to waste, because so much is at stake today.”
  2. G7 shows Putin its resolute stance on Ukraine, UkrinformThe Group of Seven must prove to the Russian president that he will never achieve his goals in Ukraine. This was stated by Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock […]. As a crisis team on a long-term mission, the G7 last year confronted Russian aggression with one barrier after another: winter aid for people in Ukraine, Russia sanctions and oil price caps. With our support, Ukraine survived the Russian energy war and the winter offensive, Baerbock said. She noted that during the meeting in Japan, the G7 representatives will confirm and strengthen their commitments. At the moment it is about showing Putin our determination that he will not achieve his goals including due to exhaustion and fatigue, the diplomat said.”
  3. Putin, Chinese defence minister hail military cooperation, Reuters  “Russian President Vladimir Putin met Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu in Moscow on Sunday and both men hailed military cooperation between the two nations, which have declared a “no limits” partnership. Chinese President Xi Jinping met Putin in Moscow last month. Russia and China have moved to further strengthen their economic, political and military ties since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022.”
  4. Intelligence leaks not affected cooperation between United States and partners – Blinken, Ukrinform reports, citing Voice of America. “The recent leaks of the highly classified information on Russia’s war in Ukraine and intelligence operations have not affected cooperation between the United States and its partners. The relevant statement was made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken […]. We have engaged with our allies and partners since these leaks came out, and we have done so at high levels, and we have made clear our commitment to safeguarding intelligence and our commitment to our security partnerships. What I’ve heard so far at least is an appreciation for the steps that we’re taking, and it’s not affected our cooperation, Blinken said.”
  5. Ukraine minister: G7 support crucial for longer war with Russia, ReutersA new international economic support package of $115 billion gives Ukraine more confidence that it can prevail in battling Russia’s invasion, amid growing recognition that the war could continue for longer than expected, Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said on Saturday. Marchenko said Group of Seven (G7) finance ministers assured him during this week’s International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Washington that they will support Ukraine for as long as needed, a shift from last year, when there was more pressure for Ukraine to agree to end the war. […] It helps us tremendously because it provides certainty that the IMF, together with G7 nations and supporters of Ukraine, will step in with money to cover our needs for four years, he said. Compared with the last spring meetings, I’m feeling more confident that we can prevail in this war.”
  6. European Commission on banning import of Ukrainian grain: Unilateral actions of EU member states are unacceptable, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Commission spokesman Arianna Podesta in a comment to Polish news agency PAP. “After Hungary and Poland banned the import of agricultural products from Ukraine, the European Commission said that trade policy belongs to the exclusive competence of the EU and unilateral actions of states are unacceptable. […] On Saturday, 15 April, the Hungarian government announced a temporary ban on imports of grains and oilseeds from Ukraine after a similar move by Poland amid rising prices. Prior to this, the Polish government decided to ban the import of grain and other agricultural products from Ukraine until 30 June in order to protect the Polish agricultural sector.”

Bulgaria considers imposing ban on grain imports from Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing Radio Bulgaria, referring to Bulgarian Agriculture Minister Yavor Gechev. “Following the example of Poland and Hungary, Bulgaria considers imposing a ban on the import of Ukrainian-produced grain. Bulgarian interests must be protected. Moreover, now that two countries have already acted in this way, if we do not react, the accumulations [of grain – Ed.] on Bulgarian territory could become even bigger, Gechev said. […] In fact, Sofia asked Brussels to respond to this problem back in September 2022. Gechev mentioned that, on Tuesday, there will be communication with the president, who is directly involved in this situation

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  April 15, 2022:

Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks south of Kreminna on April 16. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Dibrova (5km southwest of Kreminna), Hryhorivka (9km south of Kreminna), Bilohorivka (10km south of Kreminna), and Spirne (25km south of Kreminna). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful ground attacks near Torske (14km west of Kreminna) and Nevske (18km northwest of Kreminna) and that Ukrainian forces partially recaptured positions near Bilohorivka. Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that Chechen ”Akhmat” special forces elements repelled Ukrainian counterattacks near Bilohorivka for five unspecified days and then ”escaped encirclement.“ Another milblogger claimed that positional battles occurred near the Serebrianska forest area (10km south of Kreminna) on April 15. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty reported on April 16 that Russian forces use the most armored vehicles in the Kupyansk-Lyman direction and that Russian conventional forces mostly comprised of mobilized personnel operate along this line. Cherevaty also reported that Ukrainian forces destroyed three T-72 tanks, one BTR-80 armored personnel carrier, one BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle, one BREM-1 armored repair and recovery vehicle, and one Su-25 aircraft. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) reported that Russian Airborne (VDV) forces have likely integrated TOS-1A thermobaric artillery into operations near Kreminna. A Russian milblogger claimed on April 15 that the BARS (Russian Combat Reserve) “Kaskad” formation is operating along the Svatove-Kreminna line.  

Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut on April 16. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted attacks in Bakhmut and that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian forces west of Bakhmut near Khromove (immediately west) and Ivanivske (6km west). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty reported that Russian forces are throwing penal recruits at the front while conventional forces are more cautious. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced in northern, central, and southern Bakhmut, including south of the AZOM plant in central Bakhmut, on April 15. Another milblogger claimed on April 16 that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful attacks in northern, western, and southern Bakhmut. One milblogger tried to justify the delay of capturing Bakhmut as a deliberate operation to attrit Ukrainian forces for as long as Ukraine is willing to defend Bakhmut. The milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces have withdrawn to three microraions in western Bakhmut. Geolocated footage shows that the Russian 132nd Motorized Rifle Brigade (1st Army Corps) was recently active south of Bakhmut near Mayorsk.

Russian forces conducted ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on April 16. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks near Avdiivka, Novokalynove (8km north of Avdiivka), Sieverne (5km west of Avdiivka), Vodyane (8km southwest of Avdiivka), Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka), and Marinka (27km southwest of Avdiivka). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces advanced near Stepove (3km northwest of Avdiivka), Sieverne, and Pervomaiske, and attacked near Novomykhailivka (10km southwest of Donetsk City), Pobieda (5km southwest of Donetsk City), and in western Marinka on April 15. Another milblogger claimed on April 16 that Russian forces attacked towards Keramik (7km north of Avdiivka) and Pervomaiske and advanced along the H-20 Kostyantynivka-Donetsk City highway east of Avdiivka.

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed or claimed ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on April 16. Geolocated footage shows that Ukrainian forces made marginal gains southeast of Novosilka, Donetsk Oblast (36km northeast of Hulyaipole, Zaporizhzhia Oblast) on an unspecified date.

The Russian military command appears to be increasingly shifting responsibility for offensive operations in Ukraine to the Russian Airborne troops (VDV). The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) reported on April 16 that it is highly likely that VDV commander Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky has returned to a “major” but unspecified role in Ukraine after reports that the Russian MoD replaced him on January 13. UK MoD noted that Teplinsky’s return to command in Ukraine will not be limited to just VDV units, but that it is also likely that Teplinsky will try to promote the VDV’s traditional role as an elite force. ISW previously assessed on April 1 that milblogger speculation that the Russian MoD recalled Teplinsky from ”leave“ suggests that Russia may be preparing to reshuffle senior commanders following the failed winter offensive and in preparation for a potential Ukrainian counteroffensive. The UK MoD’s apparent confirmation of Teplinsky’s reappointment to a senior command position supports ISW’s assessment, and additionally suggests that the Russian military command is likely seeking to place an increased emphasis on the role of VDV elements in Russian offensive operations. VDV units are actively engaged along critical sectors of the front in Luhansk Oblast and near Bakhmut and have recently received TOS-1A thermobaric artillery systems, further indicating that the Russian military command may seek to elevate the VDV to greater operational prominence.

News of Teplinsky’s reappointment suggests that the Russian MoD is seeking to work more closely with the Wagner Group in order to complete the capture of Bakhmut, despite obvious tensions between Prigozhin and the traditional MoD establishment. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin seemingly confirmed Teplinsky’s Wagner affiliations in a public show of support for Teplinsky following Teplinsky’s reported dismissal over a disagreement with Chief of the Russian General Staff and overall theater commander Army General Valery Gerasimov in January. Teplinsky became embroiled in the rising tensions between Prigozhin and the Russian MoD establishment (represented by Gerasimov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu) as the Russian MoD appeared to be actively trying to cut the Wagner Group off from artillery shell supply and otherwise interfere with Wagner’s ability to operate around Bakhmut. Over the past few weeks, however, it appears that the Russian military command has been working more closely with Wagner, likely in an effort to expedite the capture of Bakhmut. The Russian MoD and Prigozhin publicly acknowledged on April 11 that VDV elements are engaged in the Bakhmut area and holding Wagner’s flanks north and south of Bakhmut while Wagner pursues the main offensive effort in the city itself. ISW has recently observed that elements of the 106th VDV division are operating in the Bakhmut area. Prigozhin has also scaled down his explicit rhetorical attacks on the MoD in recent days. Russian milbloggers have reported that Wagner forces are operating T-90 tanks within Bakhmut, suggesting that Russian leadership has allocated more modern assets to Wagner in their efforts to take the city. Teplinsky’s reappointment is therefore likely also an attempt by the Russian MoD to posture itself better to work with Wagner to finish the task of taking Bakhmut.

Teplinsky remains highly unlikely to restore the VDV to its prior status as an elite force due to widespread losses to the most elite Russian units. VDV units suffered extraordinarily high losses in the early phases of the war in 2022, and a prominent milblogger claimed on Russian state television on January 31 that VDV forces lost 40 to 50 percent of their personnel between the start of the war and September 2022. BBC Russia Service confirmed the deaths of 1,669 VDV personnel as of April 14, 2023. Widespread losses to previously elite units that are now being restaffed with poorly trained mobilized personnel are likely to have long-term impacts on the combat effectiveness of these units, and the replacement of a single commander is highly unlikely to be able to solve such pervasive damage.

Russian milbloggers seized on an opportunity to denigrate St. Petersburg Mayor Alexander Beglov in a manner that indicates that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s anti-Beglov campaign has permeated the Russian ultra-nationalist information space. Russian milbloggers criticized Beglov for standing in front of a Ukrainian flag at a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Interparliamentary Assembly in St. Petersburg on April 13. The milblogger-amplified image shows Beglov standing on the left side of the podium as another official speaks, and the angle of the image shows Beglov standing directly in front of the Ukrainian flag—a perspective likely not indicative of Beglov’s actual location relative to the flag. The milbloggers claimed that a “high-ranking Russian official” such as Beglov should not stand in front of the Ukrainian flag, with one even claiming that the act was analogous to a Leningrad City head standing in front of the flag of Nazi Germany during World War II. The milbloggers also criticized Beglov for standing in front of the flag just a few weeks after the assassination of Russian milblogger Maxim Fomin (Vladlen Tatarsky) in St. Petersburg. Prigozhin himself claimed that the Russian “deep state” is responsible for the flag’s presence, implying that Beglov is part of this deep state. Other milbloggers claimed that the inclusion of the Ukrainian flag at the meeting suggests that Russia has failed to put itself on a wartime footing.  One milblogger claimed that CIS protocol required the inclusion of the Ukrainian flag but noted the strangeness of the protocol given the current conflict. Ukraine ended its affiliation with the CIS in 2018 and has never been a full CIS member state.

Russian officials may have included the Ukrainian flag in an attempt to convey the fact that the Kremlin does not recognize Ukraine’s withdrawal from the CIS and refusal to conform to Kremlin-controlled international structures, falsely anticipating that the Russian information space would praise this underlying message. The Russian information space appears to be so poisoned against Beglov, however, that milbloggers jumped at the chance to criticize him regardless of the subtle Kremlin messaging. This attack against Beglov also suggests that Prigozhin’s Russian “deep state” narrative, about which also he notably warned in an April 14 essay, has the potential to similarly permeate the Russian information space.

The Wagner Group returned 130 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) on April 16, suggesting that Wagner may have engaged in the exchange independent of the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD). Ukrainian sources confirmed that 130 Ukrainian POWs returned to Ukraine but did not specify how many Russian POWs were exchanged in turn.  The Russian MoD deviated from its normal routine and did not confirm the prisoner exchange at all. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin posted a video showing Wagner forces preparing Ukrainian POWs for the exchange. The lack of Russian MoD confirmation contrasted with Prigozhin’s engagement with the exchange may suggest that the Wagner Group maintains a level of autonomy from the Russian MoD and was able to negotiate the exchange with the Ukrainian government independent from the Russian MoD. In the posted video, Prigozhin claimed that he ordered Wagner forces to provide Ukrainian POWs with food and water before their release and personally wished them good luck and health. A Wagner-affiliated milblogger noted that Wagner’s kindness to Ukrainian prisoners is particularly uncharacteristic for a unilateral prisoner exchange that was purportedly not coordinated with the Russian MoD or another entity. Wagner is notorious for the mistreatment of POWs, engaging in several high-profile and widely circulated executions of both returned Wagner POWs and Ukrainian POWs under Wagner’s control. The milblogger also criticized Prigozhin‘s decision to release such a large number of Ukrainian servicemen ahead of the anticipated large-scale Ukrainian counteroffensive. Prigozhin’s decision to release so many Ukrainian POWs at such a time likely suggests that the exchange returned high-value Wagner members whom he intends to redeploy on the battlefield. Prigozhin has previously accused Wagner POWs of being traitors and supported their execution, but the conditions of the April 16 prisoner exchange likely imply that he is prioritizing replenishing diminished Wagner units over his continued effort to project Soviet brutalist strength and appeal to Russian ultranationalists.

Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov also commented on the prisoner exchange on April 16. Kadyrov reported that five Chechens returned as part of the prisoner exchange but that he refused to meet them upon their arrival in Grozny. Kadyrov claimed that the five Chechen fighters should prove their honor by returning to the frontlines, stating that Chechens do not interpret capture as an excuse to lay down arms but instead as an action forced upon them. Kadyrov is likely using the POW exchange to fortify his own reputation as a capable and brutal silovik.

The Wagner Group may be attempting to force mobilized Russian personnel to sign contracts with Wagner, possibly in an effort to offset Wagner’s losses in Ukraine. Mobilized personnel from Moscow and Ivanovo oblasts alleged in a public complaint released on April 16 that the Wagner Group forced 170 mobilized personnel to sign contracts with Wagner. Russian sources previously claimed that 100 mobilized personnel in Luhansk Oblast disappeared as of April 7 after refusing to sign contracts with the Wagner Group, and geolocated footage published on April 11 shows Wagner personnel detaining the mobilized personnel in Kadiivka before escorting the personnel to an unspecified training ground. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) may allow mobilized personnel to fulfill their service obligations by signing contracts with Wagner, although the status of mobilized personnel initially assigned to conventional Russian units who have signed contracts with Wagner is unclear. Wagner’s reported impressment of poorly trained mobilized personnel, in addition to its change in approach to prisoner exchanges, suggests that Wagner is increasingly desperate for manpower as it continues to conduct highly attritional offensive operations in and around Bakhmut.

Key Takeaways

  • The Russian military command appears to be increasingly shifting responsibility for offensive operations in Ukraine to the Russian Airborne (VDV) troops.
  • News of Teplinsky’s reappointment suggests that the Russian MoD is seeking to work more closely with the Wagner Group in order to complete the capture of Bakhmut, despite obvious tensions between Prigozhin and the traditional MoD establishment.
  • Russian milbloggers seized on an opportunity to denigrate St. Petersburg Mayor Alexander Beglov in a manner that indicates that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s anti-Beglov campaign has permeated the Russian ultra-nationalist information space.
  • The Wagner Group returned 130 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) on April 16, suggesting that Wagner may have engaged in the exchange independent of the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD).
  • The Wagner Group may be attempting to force mobilized Russian personnel to sign contracts with Wagner, possibly in an effort to offset Wagner’s losses in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks south of Kreminna.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Russian forces reportedly intensified the rate of artillery strikes in southern Ukraine.
  • Russian mobilized personnel continue to publish public complaints against Russian commanders alleging mistreatment.

A Russian source stated that the Wagner Group is involved in the removal of Ukrainian children from Bakhmut.

Counteroffensive promises to be difficult and risky, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Financial Times. “American analysts explained that the upcoming counteroffensive by Ukraine could be very difficult, given Russia’s readiness and lack of air superiority. On one side will be around 35,000 Ukrainian soldiers, bolstered by western battle tanks. They will face more than 140,000 enemy troops along a 950 km frontline. Separating the two forces will be a deadly obstacle course of mines, earthworks and tank-stopping bollards set by the Russians. 

The day is soon approaching when Ukraine will attempt to breach Russia’s frontline fortifications…Success or failure will shape the battlefield and determine the strength of Kyiv’s hand in any eventual negotiations with Moscow to resolve the conflict. However, analysts and military officials warn that the fighting promises to be complicated.

First, breakthrough operations are highly complex, requiring the simultaneous work of all military units – from artillery and tanks to intelligence gathering and engineers. Added to the difficulties is the lack of air superiority among Ukrainians. The last time Western tanks met Soviet T-72s in Iraq was in 2003, but the US-led coalition had an overwhelming air advantage. The Ukrainians, the newspaper writes, also lack decisive air cover to stop attacks by Russian fighters that can attack Western equipment.

The classic approach in a land offensive is to break out into Russian forces rear, in one area or several, and deliver a concentrated blow against Russian forces’s centre of gravity. Successful examples without air superiority are rare, says Ben Barry, former British armoured infantry battalion commander. The media notes that the attack’s exact location remains a secret that is carefully guarded. Still, one of the strategically important areas for Russia is Melitopol, located near the Azov Sea.

But the Russian army, aware of the risk, has already prepared jagged lines of defence in this region. According to military analysts, Russian defence usually consists of a minefield followed by lines of pyramid-shaped concrete pillars called dragon teeth to slow the movement of mechanised parts. Behind them is another minefield, after another 400m – a line of trenches and dugouts, and after 500m – an anti-tank ditch.

According to Barry, first, you need to clear the mine strip to pass tanks and equipment, then destroy the dragon teeth, possibly with tanks equipped with ploughs, and at the end pass the ditches using special equipment to create bridges. The most challenging thing is synchronising the actions of different units and the Ukrainian army. However, analysts say it was able to conduct small-scale manoeuvres and has limited experience in combined-arms operations of this scale.

In addition, Ukrainian troops, write FT, lost a significant part of their most experienced soldiers, allegedly losing up to 120,000 people. Yet Ukraine’s army has been underestimated before, such as when it defied western military assessments last year and pushed back Russian forces from around the capital and then the northeastern city of Kharkiv. Russia has also lost almost twice as many men since the full-scale invasion, according to western assessments. Moreover, Ukrainian troops are better equipped and trained than their foes.”

Russia’s shelling tactics changed since early spring, Ukrinform reports, citing the spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force Command, Yurii Ihnat. “Russian troops have changed their tactics of shelling Ukraine’s territory since early spring 2023. Everyone had been used to hearing about massive attacks all over Ukraine since autumn and winter, when the enemy actually used the entire strategic arsenal of cruise missiles and fired them at our critical infrastructure objects. Now, things have changed. With the start of spring, the enemy began to primarily attack the southern, eastern and northern regions. Wherever they can reach with the weapons, they attack, Ihnat told.

In his words, according to the data from the Ukrainian intelligence, Russia had 7,000 S-300 missiles in stocks a few months ago. Many of them have been used since then. It is necessary to understand the condition of these missiles, if they are ready for use. How they were stored, and whether they became damp or not. Therefore, it is impossible to say exactly how many battle-worthy missiles they have, because, as we have already seen many times, the S-300 missiles were found within the territory of Russia. They did not fly far enough, Ihnat explained.

Ihnat mentioned that Russians could make missiles for the S-300 and S-400 systems. Additionally, they have reportedly resumed the production of Kh-50 missiles, which are similar to the Kh-101 missiles but cheaper.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

The ‘old Europe’ vs. ‘new Europe’ paradigm is back, The Washington Post reports. “Two decades ago, as the George W. Bush administration rushed to war in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld invoked what would turn into a post-Cold War trope. He was asked by a Dutch reporter in Prague about European opposition to the looming “preemptive” American intervention in the Middle East. Certain countries in Western Europe had been vocal critics of the rationale put forward by Bush, Rumsfeld and their cohort to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, warning against military action before U.N. weapons inspectors could verify whether the Iraqi regime’s supposed stockpile of illicit weapons of mass destruction had been adequately disarmed or even existed.

You’re thinking of Europe as Germany and FranceRumsfeld responded, gesturing to the two states at the vanguard of the European project, which also happened to be among the more staunch skeptics of Bush’s plans. I don’t. I think that’s ‘old Europe.’ If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the East. And there are a lot of new members.

Rumsfeld’s formula wasn’t the tidiest — governments in putative “old” Europe, like Britain, Spain and Italy, were at the time relatively supportive of the United States’ position on Saddam. And a number of governments in Eastern and Central Europe said they would back a US operation, but with the condition that it receive a mandate from the Security Council. That did not come to pass, and the United States and its cobbled-together coalition of the willing soon plunged into what would become seen by many as an illegal war that destabilized the Middle East for years thereafter. […]

But Rumsfeld’s rubric of an “old Europe” juxtaposed against a more vibrant — and, from Washington’s perspective, amenable — “new” Europe endures, 20 years later. It has been revived by the explosion of open war on Europe’s eastern borders, which has animated a host of countries formerly in the Kremlin’s orbit. Leaders of governments in Poland and the Baltic states have been the most unflinching in their support of Kyiv and suspicious of any diplomatic overtures made to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On a visit to Washington last week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki summoned the dichotomy, tapping into months of friction with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been the target of much Western consternation both for his failed attempts at outreach with Putin before last year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine and his more recent foray to China in the company of dozens of French business leaders.

Old Europe believed in an agreement with Russia, and old Europe failed, Morawiecki said in a joint news conference with Vice President Harris. But there is a new Europe — Europe that remembers what Russian communism was. And Poland is the leader of this new Europe.

This apparent phenomenon has been observed and discussed for a while. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, speaking in the Czech capital in August, said the center of Europe is moving eastward. The war in Ukraine had been a jolt to an arguably complacent continent, a shock to the system, and it seemed the countries in Russia’s periphery were more primed to react to what that shock represented.

Scholz is right, said Timothy Garton Ash, a European historian at Oxford University, to Steven Erlanger of the New York Times earlier this year. The voices of Central and Eastern Europeans are being listened to more and taken more seriously in the councils of Europe, and there is a big eastern enlargement agenda on the table.

What this supposed divide actually represents in the day-to-day workings of European geopolitics is a bit murkier. According to the Polish prime minister, Central and Eastern Europe can be a driving force in global competition and in defending our freedom, bolstering European defense with increased military spending while abandoning dependence on Russian energy imports.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council, Morawiecki said “the collective West [wants] Ukraine to win, but not necessarily to the same extent” and went on to bemoan how Western European nations focused too much on their economic interests, enabling China and Russia to amass considerable leverage over a continent hungry for Chinese goods (and later access to its market) and Russian energy.

Other analysts describe what’s at play more flatly: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has revealed Europeans’ profound dependence on the US for their security, despite E.U. efforts at achieving strategic autonomy, wrote Jeremy Shapiro and Jana Puglierin of the European Council on Foreign Relations, referring to the policy goal espoused in particular by Macron. […]

Josep Borrell, the E.U.’s top diplomat, said that it was incumbent on China to use its particular clout to compel Russia to abandon its revanchist war in Ukraine. It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the European Union to maintain a relationship of trust with China, which I would like to see, if China does not contribute to the search for a political solution based on Russia’s withdrawal from the Ukrainian territory, Borrell said in a statement Friday.

Yet, Borrell and the bulk of his European counterparts would likely share Macron’s unwillingness to wholly yoke European foreign policy to that of the United States. Vassalization is not a smart policy for the coming era of intense geopolitical competition — either for the US or for Europe, wrote Shapiro and Puglierin, in language that would be familiar to Macron. The alliance with the US remains crucial for European security, but relying fully on a distracted and inward-looking America for the most essential element of sovereignty will condemn the nations of Europe to become, at best, geopolitically irrelevant and, at worst, a plaything of superpowers. […]

Macron’s recent comments are evidence that even card-carrying members of ‘the West’ are uncomfortable with a vision of international order that divides the world into blocs,” wrote Peter Harris, a nonresident fellow of Defense Priorities, a Washington-based think tank. On this question, Macron might actually be much closer to the median world leader than his critics would like to believe.

Twenty years ago, one of the scorned denizens of “old Europe” offered a gentle riposte to the chest-thumping ideologues in Washington and their allies. An ‘old’ continent — a continent somewhat ancient in its historical, cultural, political, economic traditions — can sometimes be infused with a certain wisdom, and wisdom can sometimes make for good advice. Jean-Francois Cope, a French government spokesman, said at the time.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: Thousands of Czechs turn out for an anti-government protest, Reuters reports.

Thousands of Czechs demonstrated in Prague’s central square on Sunday, calling on the government to quit as they protested over high inflation and energy prices. Police did not give estimates of the size of the protest, named “Czechia against poverty”.

The Czech Republic, like other countries in Europe, has been hit by rising inflation that has soared into double digits in the past year and high energy prices that are cutting into household budgets. While [Prime Minister Petr Fiala] has sought to ease the burden on families and firms, it has also sought to rein in high budget deficits and drew smaller protests recently for slowing an inflation-linked rise in state pensions.

Recent polling from Kantar for Czech TV saw support for the five-party government slipping, with the main opposition party, ANO of former prime minister Andrej Babis, extending its lead over Fiala’s party to 29% compared with 20%.”

The Czechs are not the only ones to demonstrate or go out on strike as a result of what I have called the «tsunami of ripple effects from the war”. I first used the term on 6 May 2022. I argued that “we – Ukraine and the international community – do not have the time for Ukraine to build the military capacities needed to end the war on its – and therefore, our – terms. It does not make sense to sit “idle” waiting for the tsunami of consequences to increase in scale to a point where it will cause political, economic and geopolitical chain reactions that will be impossible to predict and difficult to control.

I have consistently argued that the Russian hybrid war in Europe – including its full-scale war in Ukraine – has resulted in a “tsunami of ripple effects”, including the loss of energy and food security, increased poverty and hunger, recession, inflation, and increased costs of living; as well as the potential repercussions, including the increased risk of demonstrations, riots, extremism and social unrest at the cost of global political stability.

The political landscape in the USA and Europe will – as in the 1930s – most likely be changed by political forces seeking to exploit the voters’ frustration. We have already experienced shifts in the political landscape (France, Sweden, and Italy) that are likely to spread the longer the war continues.

On 26 July, I argued that the “tsunami of ripple effects” will foster unrest, riots, and a collapse of governments. President Biden, Chancellor Scholz, President Macron, Prime Minister Støre, Frederiksen, Rutte, Sánchez, Costa, Trudeau, and more, will likely be held responsible for the increasing costs of living and the lack of energy and food security, having failed to act resolutely when challenged. While Russia bears full responsibility for the war, NATO’s failure to intervene in Ukraine has enabled a Russian protracted war with escalating global consequences.

We have grown accustomed to headlines like “Thousands protest in Portugal over cost-of-living crisis”, “Moroccans rally against high cost of living”, “Huge turnouts’ reported at UK cost of living protests”, “Thousands protest in Brussels over cost of living crisis”, “Thousands protest in Germany demanding solidarity in energy relief”, “Inflation protests span Sri Lanka, Albania, Argentina, Panama, Kenya, Ghana”, and “Strikes, protests in Europe over cost of living, pay and welfare”.

The ”tsunami of ripple effects from the war” has been gaining momentum since the start of the full-scale invasion. It all started, however, in 2014.

“Protests over food and fuel surged in 2022 — the biggest was in Europe”, Politico reported on 17 January.

Last September, Italians in Rome, Milan and Naples burned their energy bills in a coordinated protest against soaring prices. In October, thousands took to French streets to decry government inaction over the high cost of living. And in November, Spanish workers rallied for higher wages, chanting “salary or conflict.” 

Researchers have defined an unprecedented global wave of more than 12,500 protests across 148 countries over food, fuel and cost of living increases in 2022. And the largest were in Western Europe.”

Food inflation has not shifted and prices will remain high for some time, increasing the risk of food insecurity and social tensions the World Bank warned in its Food Security Update in January 2023. According to the Global Risks Report, soaring prices for energy and food could meanwhile persist for the next two years.

I, therefore, stand by my past assessments. Russia is not only waging war against Ukraine and the rest of Europe, but the cumulative effects of both its warfare and its tsunami of ripple effects have the potential to destabilise Europe and damage the trans-Atlantic link.

Russia’s aggressive foreign policy has global repercussions. And NATO has the means to stop it. It only lacks the will needed.

It is one of the reasons I have never understood NATO’s strategy on Ukraine (or the lack thereof). It undermines NATO. It weakens the USA. It fails to stop the fallout of the “tsunami of ripple effects”, including a potential change in the political landscape in Europe. It fails to defend our shared values and principles. It fails to alleviate Ukrainian suffering and the destruction of Ukraine. It fails to stop the global repercussions of the war. It fails to stop the war. It, not least, fails to respond to the Russian Hybrid War against the West.

The Western strategy is failing. Big time.

And we continue to believe that doing something is the same as doing what is needed.

We urgently need to start to “look up.

Listening to the advice of Ukraine and its Eastern European partners is a great place to start. Additionally, “Old NATO” needs to acknowledge and act upon its past mistakes.

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