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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 492: Ukraine pleads to the international community to prevent a nuclear disaster

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 492: Ukraine pleads to the international community to prevent a nuclear disaster
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Ukraine conducts a broad offensive in the Bakhmut area.  Sattelite photos of a new Wagner Group base in Belarus appear. Ukraine’s Parliament asks the international community to prevent a nuclear disaster at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Daily overview — Summary report, June 30

    • Source: War Mapper.

 

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, June 30, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

 

“[The Russian Federation continues to kill civilians in Ukraine, while ignoring the laws and customs of war, and using terror against civilian population.]

Last night, the Russian Federation launched yet another missile and air strike using Iranian Shahed combat UAVs and S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles. Information on the aftermath of this terrorist attack is currently being updated.

On June 29, the adversary used 6 S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles against civilian infrastructure in the cities of Zaporizhzhia and Chuhuiv. In addition, the enemy launched 29 airstrikes and 60 MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements On June 29.

The likelihood of missile and air strikes across Ukraine remains very high.

The adversary continues to focus its main efforts on Lyman, Bakhmut, and Marinka axes, the heavy fighting continues. On June 29, there were 31 combat engagements.

Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes.

Luhansk Battle Map. June 29, 2023. Source: ISW.

Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the enemy fired mortars and artillery at more than 10 settlements, including Karpovychi, Tymonovychi, Leonivka (Chernihiv oblast), Seredyna-Buda, Znob-Novhorods’ke, Kindrativka, and Yunakivka (Sumy oblast).

Kupiansk axis: Russian forces launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Kyslivka. Kyslivka and Berestove (Kharkiv oblast) came under artillery and mortar fire.

Donetsk Battle Map. June 29, 2023. Source: ISW.

Lyman axis: the enemy attempted offensive operations near Rozdolivka and Bilohorivka, to no success. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Lyman, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast). More than 5 settlements, including Nevske, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Verkhn’okam’yans’ke, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk), were shelled with artillery.

Bakhmut Battle Map. June 29, 2023. Source: ISW.

Bakhmut axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Bakhmut. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Bila Hora and Dyliivka. More than 10 settlements, including Vasyukivka, Khromove, Chasiv Yar, and Ivanivske (Donetsk oblast), suffered from enemy artillery shelling.

Avdiivka axis: with the aircraft support, the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Avdiivka. The invaders fired artillery at more than 5x settlements, including Stepove, Avdiivka, and Vodyane (Donetsk oblast).

Marinka axis: the Ukrainian defenders repelled all enemy attacks in the vicinity of the city of Marinka, Pobjeda, and Novomykhailivka. At the same time, the enemy launched air strikes near Krasnohorivka and Nevel’s’ke. The adversary fired artillery at more than 10 settlements, including Nevelske, Oleksandropil’, Krasnohorivka, Marinka, Pobjeda, and Paraskoviivka (Donetsk oblast).

Shakhtarske axis: the enemy conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Novomykhailivka. The invaders launched airstrikes near Vuhledar, Zolota Nyva, Makarivka, and Rivnopil’ (Donetsk oblast). The occupant forces shelled more than 10 settlements, including Novomykhailivka, Prechystivka, Vuhledar, Zolota Nyva, and Blahodatne (Donetsk oblast).

Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. June 29, 2023. Source: ISW.

Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the adversary focuses its main efforts on preventing the advance of Ukrainian troops. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Mala Tokmachka (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Molodizhne, Inhulets’, and Antonivka (Kherson oblast). The occupant forces fired artillery at more than 25 settlements, including Poltavka, Hulyaipole, Huliaipilske, P’yatykhatky, Lobkove (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Antonivka, Kherson, Dniprovs’ke, Veletens’ke, Kizomys (Kherson oblast), and Ochakiv (Mykolaiv oblast).

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. June 29, 2023. Source: ISW.

On June 29, the Ukrainian Air Force launched 11 air strikes on the concentrations of the adversary troops.

On June 29, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 3 command posts, 2 concentrations of troops, 1 radar station, and 13 artillery units at their firing positions.

 

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Air defence forces destroy 10 out of 13 Shahed drones in south, Ukrinform reports. “On the night of June 30, 2023, the Russian invaders attacked Ukraine from the south-eastern direction. They launched 13 Shahed-136/131 Iranian-made kamikaze drones from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov (Prymorsko–Akhtarsk) and four S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles, the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine posted on Telegram.

Military and infrastructure facilities in Zaporizhzhia region were attacked. Air defence forces and means of the Air Force and air defence units of other components of the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed 10 out of 13 Shahed-136/131 combat drones. According to preliminary data, nobody was injured.”

Russians intensify shelling of Ukraine’s border areas: 1,700 attacks since early June, Ukrinform reports, citing the spokesperson for the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service Andrii Demchenko. “Russia is intensifying the shelling of Ukraine’s territory, and the Kharkiv region is affected the most. Prior to that, they launched most strikes on the Sumy region. The number of attacks has tripled recently. A total of 1,700 Russian attacks have been recorded since early June, Demchenko told.”

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

In a June 2023 report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) assessed that Russia’s military spending budget for 2023 is around 6.6 trillion rubles (USD $85.8bn). This equates to about 4.4 per cent of Russian GDP compared with 3.6 per cent in 2021, before the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s true military expenditure remains uncertain due to a lack of transparency, including the use of classified budget lines, which account for approximately 22 per cent of the Russian Government’s total budget.

Although only part of the defence budget is spent on the war in Ukraine, the increase in spending highlights the cost of Russia’s activity in Ukraine. In addition, Russia almost certainly faces extra direct budgetary defence costs due to the war, including security expenses in the occupied regions and defensive measures in regions bordering Ukraine.

On 24 June, air defence forces of the Wagner private military company reportedly shot down Russian military helicopters and an Ilyushin Il-22M airborne command post aircraft.

The Il-22M is part of a relatively small fleet of up to 12 aircraft, heavily utilised for both airborne command and control, and radio relay tasks. These special mission aircraft have played a key role in orchestrating Russian forces in their war against Ukraine. As high value assets they have operated within the safety of Russian airspace, far beyond the range of Ukrainian air defence systems.

The loss of this aircraft is likely to have a negative impact on Russian air and land operations. In the short term the psychological shock of losing a large number of aircrew in this manner will almost certainly damage morale within the Russian Aerospace Force. In the longer term, there is a possibility that current tasking levels may have to be reduced to safely manage the remaining fleet. This will likely undermine Russia’s ability to command and coordinate its forces, particularly during periods of high tempo operations.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

As of Friday 30 June, 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 228340 (+560)
  • Tanks – 4041 (+3)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 7863 (+6)
  • Artillery systems – 4127 (+11)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 630 (+3)
  • Air defence means – 389 (+1)
  • Aircraft – 315 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 308 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 6785 (+5)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 3519 (+6)
  • Special equipment – 569 (+0)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1261 (+0)

Wagner mercenaries will no longer fight in Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Kyrylo Budanov, Head of Ukrainian Defence Intelligence. “We see that the Russian leadership has been compromised. Once again the myth of the stability of the Russian regime has been destroyed. Losses have been inflicted on the military [Aero]space Forces of the Russian Federation. And moreover, Wagner will no longer participate in hostilities on the territory of Ukraine. And this is the most effective Russian unit, which was able to achieve success at any cost.”

Budanov suggests that Prigozhin did not reach Moscow because of “patriotic convictions”, Censor.net reports, siting Ukrainian Pravda. “Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense, suggests that Evgeniy Prigozhin, the leader of the “Wagner” PMC, was persuaded to stop the mutiny by pressing on his “patriotic convictions.” I hate to admit it, but Evgeniy Prigozhin is a patriot of Russia. Lukashenko and others were able to convince him that his actions would tear Russia apart.”

Humanitarian 

Russia destroyed 184 medical facilities and damaged another 1,376 in Ukraine – Health Ministry, Ukrinform reports, citing the website of the Health Ministry of Ukraine. “Since the first day of the full-scale war, the Russian army continues to target the medical infrastructure of Ukraine. The enemy systematically destroys hospitals, dispensaries, maternity hospitals, and polyclinics. Since the full-scale invasion, Russian missiles and projectiles have destroyed a total of 184 medical facilities and damaged another 1,376, the report says.

The medical infrastructure of Kharkiv, Kherson, Donetsk, Mykolaiv, and Kyiv regions suffered the greatest losses. The Ministry of Health emphasizes that despite constant shelling, Ukraine is rebuilding the affected healthcare facilities.

As of the end of June 2023, it has already been possible to fully restore 333 healthcare facilities, while another 357 facilities have been partially rebuilt. The largest number of restored medical facilities are in Mykolaiv, Dnipro, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Chernihiv regions, the ministry said.”

Eighteen settlements remaining flooded in Kherson region, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ukrainian State Emergency Service on Telegram. “As of June 29, 2023, one settlement (one house) was remaining flooded on the right bank of the Dnipro River and 17 settlements within the temporarily occupied areas, the report states.”

Environmental

Ukraine’s Parliament asks international community to prevent nuclear disaster at ZNPP, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Yaroslav Zhelezniak, member of the Ukrainian Parliament. “The Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council; the parliament) of Ukraine turned to the worldwide community on 28 June with a request to prevent a nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) and counteract Russia’s nuclear blackmail. Specifically, the appeal was addressed to the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the EU, OSCE, NATO, the European Council and their Parliamentary Assemblies.

A corresponding draft of decree No.9429 was voted for by 274 MPs, with 226 necessary to pass. In its address, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine called upon the international community to strengthen restrictions and sanctions that concern Russia’s nuclear sector and military industry. The Ukrainian Parliament also asks the international organisations to recognise Russia as a sponsor of terrorism, to expand military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and to develop effective mechanisms of guarantees of peace and safety in Europe.

The explanatory note to the draft document says that the actions of the terrorist state will have catastrophic consequences, which will be felt far beyond the borders of Ukraine and will affect the environment and the well-being of the residents of the Black Sea region and the whole Europe.

Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Defence Intelligence, is convinced that the plan to blow up the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) by Russians has been fully developed and approved, and the threat has never been as great as it is now. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine, said that the Russians have developed and approved the scenario of a terrorist attack on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), which includes a radiation leak. Zelenskyy stressed that the world’s attention to the existing Russian threat at the Zaporizhzhia NPP was still insufficient.”

In case of disaster at ZNPP: training close to reality held in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Yurii Malashko, Head of Zaporizhzhia Oblast Military Administration. “A large-scale special civil protection training close to real-case conditions has been held in Zaporizhzhia Oblast to prepare for a possible disaster at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Herman Halushchenko, the Minister of Energy; Ihor Klymenko, the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine; and Serhii Kruk, Head of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, coordinated the training.

The employees of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast Military Administration, local authorities, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, members of law enforcement agencies and special services were involved in the training.”

France calls Russia’s missile attack on Kramatorsk as war crime, Ukrinform reports, citing a statement by the French Foreign Ministry published by the French Embassy in Ukraine on Thursday. “France has utterly condemned the Russian missile attack on a restaurant in Kramatorsk, which killed and injured civilians, including children. By targeting a place of leisure where Ukrainians went to seek some respite from the suffering inflicted by Russia’s war of aggression, Russia has once again deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure in a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. As Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna has repeatedly stressed, these unacceptable acts constitute war crimes and cannot go unpunished, the statement reads.

The French Foreign Ministry noted that the listing of Russia on the infamous list of the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict for killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals confirms the seriousness of the crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine. In this context, the French Foreign Ministry reiterated its firm condemnation of Russia’s forced transfer of Ukrainian children.

Working closely with its allies, France will continue to provide military support to Ukraine to help it strengthen its air defence capabilities, and to lend support to Ukrainian courts to combat impunity for such crimes, the French Foreign Ministry assured.”

Human Rights Watch reports new evidence of Ukrainian use of banned landmines, Reuters reports. “Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday that it uncovered new evidence of the indiscriminate use by Ukrainian forces of banned anti-personnel landmines against Russian troops who invaded Ukraine in 2022. The group called on Ukraine’s government to follow through with a commitment made earlier this month not to employ such weapons, investigate their suspected use and hold accountable those responsible. […]

Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, HRW has published four reports documenting the use by Russian troops of 13 types of anti-personnel mines that killed and injured civilians.

The new report is a follow-on to a January report that Ukrainian soldiers fired rockets that scattered thousands of PMF-1 mines in Russian-occupied areas in and around the eastern city of Izium between April and September 2022, when Kyiv’s forces recaptured it. The latest report said that fresh evidence of Ukrainian forces’ use of anti-personnel mines in 2022 came from photographs posted online by an individual working in eastern Ukraine that showed warhead sections of Uragan 220mm rockets. Those rockets each indiscriminately disburse 312 PFM-1S anti-personnel mines, said the report.”

Support

Ukraine expects two results from NATO summits and accepts no compromise – President’s Office, Ukrainska Pravda reports.Ukraine has shaped two specific expectations from the forthcoming NATO summit in Vilnius concerning Ukraine’s membership in the Alliance and security guarantees, and it will insist on their implementation. At the GLOBSEC conference in the city of Kyiv, Ihor Zhovkva, Deputy Head of the President’s Office of Ukraine has presented two parallel results Kyiv aims to attain at the meeting of NATO leaders in Vilnius in July. […]

The level of the formulations Ukraine wants to receive in Vilnius, the so-called deliverables, is on the table of every leader of every NATO member country. Everyone knows about them and feels that Ukraine will insist on them until the last day before the summit, Zhovkva explained.

The detailed formulations of this document have not been disclosed but the overall contents are made public.

  • Firstly, Ukraine insists that the algorithm of Sweden’s and Finland’s accession to NATO be applied, according to which the Alliance must officially accept Ukraine’s “application for membership”, submitted last autumn and assert that further accession procedure must be carried out with no interim stages like the Action Plan for NATO Membership (MAP).
  • Secondly, Kyiv accepts the condition that despite immediate initiation of the accession procedure for Ukraine, it will not be fast. In this case different options are being considered, for instance, to call the current invitation “political” and postpone final approval of Ukraine’s accession to NATO at the NATO summit in Washington in 2024, for example.
  • Thirdly, it is suggested that the final decision about Ukraine’s accession to NATO be approved “when safety conditions allow it”, or when certain “guarantees” appear, restricting the influence of the Kremlin on Ukraine’s future.

Having in mind that the issue of NATO membership cannot be solved before Ukraine’s victory, we wish that this process starts at the Vilnius summit, where Ukraine has all grounds to get an invitation for membership. The invitation is not equal to membership (and neither is application of Article 5, which stipulates collective defence if an Alliance member is attacked). The example of Sweden and Finland proves this, Zhovkva added.”

EU leaders back security commitments for Ukraine, Reuters reports. “European Union leaders declared on Thursday they would make long-term commitments to bolster Ukraine’s security as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged them to start work on a new round of sanctions against Russia. At a summit in Brussels, the leaders restated their condemnation of Russia’s war against Ukraine and said the EU and its member countries “stand ready” to contribute to commitments that would help Ukraine defend itself in the long term. In a text summarising the conclusions of the summit, the leaders said they would swiftly consider the form these commitments would take.

Josep Borrelll, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, suggested they could build on existing EU support, such as the European Peace Facility fund that has financed billions of euros in arms for Ukraine and a training mission for Ukrainian troops. […] The training has to continue, the modernisation of the army has to continue. Ukraine needs our commitment to continue ensuring their security during the war and after the war, he added.

France – a champion of a greater security and defence role for the European Union – proposed the text, diplomats said. But it was amended to accommodate concerns from militarily neutral countries and from staunch supporters of transatlantic cooperation such as the Baltic states, who see European security as mainly a matter for NATO, with a strong US role. The final text said the EU would contribute together with partners and in full respect of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.

The EU’s statement feeds into a discussion among NATO members and military powers such as the United States, Britain, France and Germany over measures to assure Ukraine that the West is committed to enhancing its security over the long term. Ukraine has argued the best way to assure its own security and that of Europe is for it to join NATO. But Kyiv has acknowledged that is not possible during the war and NATO allies are divided over how quickly it could happen afterwards.”

US is close to providing long-range ATACMS systems to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The Wall Street Journal, referring to US and European officials. “The United States came close to making a decision to provide Ukraine with ATACMS long-range tactical missile systems. According to European and US officials, providing ATACMS to Ukraine still needs to be approved at the highest level.

But they have seen signs that the previously reluctant White House changed its position and came to understand the urgent need to support Ukraine in its struggle in the coming weeks. As a senior Ukrainian defence official told The Wall Street Journal, in recent weeks Kyiv has received positive signs that the US has changed its position on the ATACMS system.

The army’s ATACMS tactical missile systems are surface-to-surface missiles with a range of about 300 kilometres, roughly four times the range of the missiles used by the mobile HIMARS systems that the US began sending to Ukraine last year.”

Pentagon is not ready to supply Ukraine with ATACMS, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Patrick Rider, spokesperson of the Pentagon, at the briefing on 29 June cited by Radio Liberty. “I have nothing to announce concerning ATACMS, and I do not know about any forthcoming decisions concerning ATACMS.

The journalists requested that Rider comment on the article by The Wall Street Journal, stating that the US are “close” to the coordination of supplying Ukraine with long-range ATACMS missiles.”

Germany supplies Ukraine with air defence radar, bridge layer tanks and military equipment, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the website of German government. “On 29 June, Germany reported about another military aid package, sent to Ukraine, which includes an air surveillance radar station TRML-4D. In addition to the TRML-4D, Ukraine received three Biber bridge layer tanks, a portable demining system, two border guard vehicles and 16 Zetros off-road trucks. Ukraine received the first air surveillance radars TRML-4D from Germany in May.

TRML-4D uses an advanced radar technology AESA, able to detect, track and classify different types of air targets, concentrating on small, high-speed, low-flying and/or manoeuvring cruise missiles and aircrafts, as well as helicopters that hover in the air. The system allows quick detection and tracking of nearly 1500 targets in the radius of up to 250 km.

Last week Germany supplied Ukraine with a new batch of military assistance, which included high-precision guided projectiles.”

Nausėda Said When Lithuania’s NASAMS Systems Will Arrive in Ukraine, European Pravda reports, citing LRT. “President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda has informed that the NASAMS systems, ordered by his country, will arrive in Ukraine in approximately three months. After Lithuania announced its decision to purchase two NASAMS launcher systems for Ukraine, Nausėda stated that it was done without harming national security. […]

The purchased systems, bought from the Norwegian company Kongsberg for 9.8 million euros, are expected to be in Ukraine within three months. It should be by late September, early October, Nausėda said.[…]”

Switzerland has rejected request to sell almost 100 Leopard 1s to Ukraine, Censor.net reports, citing Radio Liberty. “The Swiss Federal Council announced on June 28 that it had rejected a request by the Swiss defense firm Ruag to sell 96 Leopard 1 A5 main battle tanks for use in Ukraine. 

Such a sale would be against the law and would trigger an adjustment to Switzerland’s neutrality policy, the government said. Earlier in June, the upper house of the Swiss parliament decided that the re-export of Swiss weapons to countries at war does not contradict the position of Swiss neutrality and can be allowed under certain conditions.”

Support for US Arming Ukraine Increased among Americans – Reuters/Ipsos Poll, European Pravda reports. “The vast majority of Americans support military assistance to Ukraine to defend itself against full-scale Russian aggression, viewing it as a demonstration of the United States’ willingness to protect their own and allied interests from China and other adversaries. According to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, it has concluded a “sharp rise” in backing for arming Ukraine, with 65% of the respondents approving of the shipments compared with 46% in a May poll.

Specifically, 81% of Democrats, 56% of Republicans and 57% of independents favour supplying US weapons to Ukraine. The Reuters/Ipsos survey also found that 76% of Americans believe that providing aid to Ukraine demonstrates to China and other rivals that the United States has the will and capability to protect our interests, our allies and ourselves.

Furthermore, large majorities of Americans – 67% and 73% – are more likely to support a candidate in next year’s US presidential election who will continue military aid to Ukraine and one who backs the NATO alliance.”

New Developments

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1674786188031586308

  1. Russian envoy rejects idea of Swiss peace summit on Ukraine, ReutersRussia’s ambassador to Switzerland said Moscow could not accept any Swiss-hosted peace summit on Ukraine after it joined European Union sanctions against his country, adding Switzerland had lost its reputation for neutrality. […] Switzerland has been harshly criticized by Russia for adopting the European Union’s sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine and freezing Russian assets worth 7.5 billion Swiss francs ($8.36 billion). Switzerland, which has a long-standing policy of barring any country that buys its arms from re-exporting them to parties in a conflict, on Wednesday blocked arms maker Ruag AG from selling Leopard 1 tanks that could have been used in Ukraine.”
  2. EU can start accession negotiations with Ukraine in December, net reports, citing Ukrinform. “The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metzola, stated this today in Brussels during a press conference following the meeting with the heads of state and government of the EU countries. There is an understanding that accession negotiations should begin already this year. I hope that the European Council in December will be the place and the time when this step can be taken. I very clearly stated that each country has its own path. When we are talking about Ukraine is not only about the speed with which you exceed the initial requests or the speed with which you responded to the questionnaire. All this happens during wartime. This should be recognized, Metzola said. She noted that her position, as well as the position of the European Parliament, is very clear: when reforms are implemented, in particular in the judicial sphere, in the sphere of freedom of speech or protection of minorities, then the EU should take an adequate step to reward these efforts.”
  3. Granting Ukraine status of candidate for EU membership affects discussion of its membership in NATO, – Stoltenberg, net reports, citing Interfax-Ukraine.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg states that granting Ukraine the status of a candidate for EU membership affects the ongoing discussion in the Alliance regarding Ukraine’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In NATO, we see a connection with the European Union, because, of course, the decision of the EU to grant Ukraine the status of a candidate, of course, also affects the discussions taking place within NATO (regarding Ukraine’s membership in the Alliance. – Ed.), he said. He reminded that at the NATO summit in Vilnius, which will be held on July 11-12, the allies will discuss the issue of Ukraine’s aspirations for membership, with the subsequent adoption of a decision.”
  4. Zelenskyy won’t attend NATO summit if its leaders have “lack of courage”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ihor Zhovkva, the deputy head of the Office of the President and Zelenskyy’s diplomatic adviser, in an interview with Reuters. “When asked what the minimum conditions are for Zelenskyy’s presence at the NATO summit, Zhovkva referred to his speech in the parliament, where the Ukrainian leader spoke about the importance of courage in the modern world. The president will not travel … to the summit if the leaders will tend to or will show a deficit of courage, while Ukraine with all its courage, will and strength and high morale is fighting against Russian aggression, he said. He added that the president of Ukraine doesn’t have the reason and time to go to the summit in Vilnius if there is no result.”
  5. Britain says NATO should consider removing MAP hurdle to Ukraine’s membership, ReutersNATO should look at skipping the requirement for Ukraine’s Membership Action Plan (MAP) as part of its pathway to joining the alliance, British defence minister Ben Wallace said on Thursday. Any move to ditch or circumvent the MAP requirement for Ukraine, which is designed to help candidates meet certain political, economic and military criteria, could speed up its accession. […] But of course, we have to put some realism in this space that there are 31 members of NATO now and, you know, we have to all move together.”
  6. Estonian PM: Only security guarantee for Ukraine is NATO membership, Ukrinform reports, citing Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. “The only security guarantee that really works and the cheapest security guarantee that really works is NATO membership, Kallas said, answering a question about security guarantees for Ukraine at the summit in Vilnius. At the same time, she admitted that this cannot happen while the country is at war.”
  7. Putin is weakened. It is necessary to send clear signal that he will not win war – Finnish Prime Minister Orpo, net reports, citing RBC-Ukraine.Russian dictator Vladimir Putin became weakened after the attempted mutiny of the “Wagner” PMC. It is necessary to send a signal that he will not win the war. This was stated by the Prime Minister of Finland, Petteri Orpo. On the eve of the summit of the leaders of the European Union in Brussels, Prime Minister Orpo said that for him the attempted mutiny of the PMC “Wagner” in Russia was a surprise. He noted the need to carefully monitor what is happening on the territory of the occupying country, Belarus, the Ukrainian border and the front.”
  8. Russian patriarch tells papal envoy their Churches should work together for peace, ReutersThe head of Russia’s influential Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, told an envoy of Pope Francis on Thursday their churches should work together to avert negative political developments and serve the cause of peace and justice. Kirill is a strong supporter of President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine, while Francis has called repeatedly for an end to the conflict, which has destroyed Ukrainian villages and towns, caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people and driven millions more from their homes.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  June 29, 2022:

Russian and Ukrainian forces continued limited ground attacks south of Kreminna on June 29. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Rozdolivka (32km southwest of Kreminna) and Bilohorivka (12km south of Kreminna). A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Russian forces made unspecified gains near the Serebryanske forest area (5–10km southwest of Kreminna). […] A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked Russian positions near Kreminna and that Russian forces stopped a Ukrainian assault near the Serebryanske forest area. The milblogger also claimed that Russian special forces destroyed a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group near the Serebryanske forest area.

Ukrainian forces intensified counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut area and reportedly made advances on June 29. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian forces seized the “strategic initiative” in the Bakhmut direction and are currently conducting a broad offensive in the area. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar reported that Ukrainian forces advanced 1,200m in the direction of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and 1,500m in the direction of Kurdyumivka (13km southwest of Bakhmut). Maliar added that Russian forces in the area are conducting counterattacks but have retreated in some areas after suffering losses. Ukrainian Commander of the 57th Motorized Brigade Denys Yaroslavsky stated that Ukrainian forces are in the process of liberating Klishchiivka and that there is intense fighting in the area. Yaroslavsky also stated that Ukrainian forces pushed Russian forces out of positions on the western outskirts of Bakhmut and that fighting is ongoing near Berkhivka (4km north of Bakhmut). Yaroslavsky added that the liberation of dominant elevated positions in Berkhivka and Klishchiivka will allow Ukrainian forces to operationally encircle Russian forces in Bakhmut. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced along the E-40 (Bakhmut-Sloviansk) highway near Zaliznyanske (12km north of Bakhmut) and that Russian forces repelled several Ukrainian mechanized assaults near Kurdyumivka. The milblogger also claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in the direction of Yahidne (2km north of Bakhmut) and Paraskoviivka (7km northeast of Bakhmut). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty reported that the Russians transferred an unspecified Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) regiment from the Kreminna area to the Bakhmut direction to reinforce Russian forces in the area. ISW has previously observed elements of the 237th Air Assault Regiment (76th VDV Division) and the 331st Airborne Regiment (98th VDV Division) operating in the Kreminna area, although ISW has not seen any visual confirmation of elements of either formation near Bakhmut recently. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Bakhmut itself and Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut), Bohdanivka (8km northwest of Bakhmut), and Bila Hora (15km southwest of Bakhmut).

Russian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka–Donetsk City front on June 29. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Avdiivka, Sieverne (6km west of Avdiivka), Marinka (27km southwest of Avdiivka), and Novomykhailivka (36km southwest of Avdiivka). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces also conducted unsuccessful ground attacks near Pobieda (32km southwest of Avdiivka).

Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations along the administrative border between western Donetsk and eastern Zaporizhzhia oblast and made limited gains on June 29. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar reported that Ukrainian forces advanced 1,300 meters in the western Donetsk–eastern Zaporizhzhia oblast border area and have established new positions in the Rivnopil-Volodyne (10–16km southwest of Velyka Novosilka) direction. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces entrenched themselves in new positions near Pryyutne (15km southwest of Velyka Novosilka), while another milblogger claimed that Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian attack near Pryyutne. […] A milblogger claimed that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked positions from Staromaiorske in the Rivnopil direction. Footage published on June 28 purportedly shows elements of the Russian 127th Motorized Rifle Division (5th Combined Arms Army, Eastern Military District) operating near the Vremivka salient.

Ukrainian forces conducted limited ground attacks in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on June 29. Ukrainian Tavrisk Group of Forces Commander Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi reported that Ukrainian forces continue to advance in the Tavirisk (Zaporizhzhia) direction. Some Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Robotyne (12km south of Orikhiv), while other milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced on the northern outskirts of Robotyne. Footage published on June 28 and 29 purportedly shows elements of the “Sudoplatov” volunteer battalion, 429th Motorized Rifle Regiment of the 19th Motorized Rifle Division, and 70th Motorized Rifle Regiment of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division (both of the 58th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) operating in the Zaporizhzhia direction.

Russian forces constructed a dam on the outskirts of Tokmak in occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast ahead of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Open-source intelligence group Bellingcat shared satellite imagery on June 29 showing that Russian forces established a dam and moat around Tokmak (35km southwest of Orikhiv) in early May in an effort to prepare to defend the city against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.

Continued Russian endangerment of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has forced Ukraine to change the operational regime for four reactors at the ZNPP. The Ukrainian State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate put reactor No. 3 into “stop for repair” mode and put reactors Nos. 4, 5 and 6 into cold shutdown. The Ukrainian State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate reported that these conditions are optimal for security and cited an increased risk due to continued Russian occupation of the facility and decreasing water levels in the Kakhovka reservoir. ISW has previously reported on the ZNPP personnel transferring reactors from normal operations to hot, then later cold shutdowns in response to Russian forces endangering the ZNPP.

A Russian BARS (Russian Combat Reserve) affiliated source claimed that Russian forces are moving military equipment to unspecified areas on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River. The Russian MoD and other Russian sources claimed that Russian forces control the entire east (left) bank of the Dnipro River near the Antonivsky Bridge and repelled all Ukrainian advances and attempts to transfer equipment to the area.[60] Other Russian sources claimed that heavy fighting is ongoing and that Ukrainian forces have established positions near the bridge. Kherson Oblast Occupation Head Vladimir Saldo claimed that the volunteer Kherson “Vasily Margelov” battalion is conducting combat missions in Kherson Oblast.

The Crimea-based Atesh partisan group stated that Russian forces are increasing their presence in Armyansk to defend key infrastructure in northern Crimea. Atesh stated that Russian forces are intensifying their presence in Armyansk and that a large number of Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers are in the area. Atesh stated that Russian forces have placed the Crimean “Titan” chemical plant under a special control regime. Atesh also stated that the Russian “Convoy” PMC is protecting Kherson Oblast occupation officials who visit the ongoing repair work on the Chonhar bridge.

The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian forces seized the “strategic initiative” in the Bakhmut direction and are currently conducting a broad offensive in the area. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar similarly stated that Ukrainian forces seized the “operational initiative” in the area and reported that Ukrainian forces advanced 1,200m in the direction of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and 1,500m in the direction of Kurdyumivka (13km southwest of Bakhmut). Ukrainian Commander in Chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi also stated that Ukrainian forces have the “strategic initiative” in a phone conversation with Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley on June 29. ISW previously assessed that Ukrainian forces had gained the initiative at every level of war across almost the entire front following the Russian capture of Bakhmut on May 21. Ukrainian officials are likely now acknowledging that Ukrainian forces possess the initiative in order to signal that Ukrainian forces intend to leverage it to a greater degree.

Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in at least two other sectors of the front and reportedly made gains on June 29. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and on the administrative border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved partial success along the Rivnopil-Volodyne line (up to 16km southwest of Velyka Novosilka).

The Kremlin may intend to assume formal control over the Wagner Group following its armed rebellion and turn it into a state-owned enterprise, although it is not clear if the Kremlin has committed itself to such a course of action. The Wall Street Journal reported that Russian authorities decided to assume control over Wagner’s activities abroad. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin reportedly flew to Damascus to tell Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Wagner will no longer operate as an independent organization in Syria and that Wagner personnel reported to the Russian military base in Latakia. Russian Foreign Ministry representatives also reportedly told Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera and Malian leadership that Wagner will continue operations in their respective countries. Putin claimed on June 27 that the Kremlin “fully funds” and “fully supplies” Wagner, and Russian officials may use Wagner’s existing status as a state-financed and -supplied organization to complete its formal nationalization. The nationalization of Wagner would likely aid in the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) effort to subsume existing Wagner personnel into the regular Russian Armed Forces through contracts. The nationalization of Wagner would not likely dramatically disrupt its foreign activities, and the Kremlin may be interested in assuming de jure responsibility for Wagner’s operations abroad to deprive the group of a remaining source of influence and independent cash flow. ISW has previously assessed that the agreement brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will very likely eliminate Wagner as the independent actor that it is in its current form but could allow elements of the organization to endure. The Kremlin has not indicated that it intends to nationalize Wagner, and it is possible that Putin has yet to determine what course of action to take in subordinating the group more firmly under the Kremlin’s control.

Recent satellite imagery may have detected active construction of a speculated new Wagner Group base in Asipovichy, Belarus. Mid-resolution imagery collected between June 15 and 27 shows new activity at an abandoned Belarusian military base (formerly used by the Belarusian 465th Missile Brigade) 15km northwest of Asipovichy. This activity could be construction for a rumored new Wagner Group base. This site is within 15km of a large Belarusian combined arms training ground — a facility that Wagner Group personnel would need to access to service the Belarusian military in a training and advisory role that Belarusian officials have suggested Wagner will fulfill. Russian opposition outlet Verstka previously reported on June 26 that Belarusian authorities are constructing a base for 8,000 Wagner Group fighters near Asipovichy. Polish Deputy PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski stated that Poland anticipates that around 8,000 Wagner Group fighters will deploy to Belarus. Further study of this area of interest with higher resolution collection instruments may provide additional clarity on the nature of the activity in the area and the size of the force that may be based there.

Wagner Group personnel may deploy elsewhere in Belarus, however. There is nothing particularly unique or interesting about a potential Wagner Group base in Asipovichy. Verstka’s original report indicated that the Wagner Group would have multiple camps in Belarus. Belarus hosts many training grounds and field camps that accommodated 30,000 Russian soldiers in early 2022 — many of which were on the border with Ukraine in Gomel and Brest oblasts. The Wagner Group in Belarus could use some of these facilities as bases as well as or instead of the rumored base in Asipovichy.

Kremlin-affiliated businessmen may be acquiring Prigozhin’s domestic media empire, likely as part of an ongoing effort to destroy his reputation in Russia. Russian independent outlet The Bell, citing sources who cooperate with Prigozhin’s companies, reported that the Russian presidential administration will likely have direct control over Prigozhin’s media assets. Sources noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “personal banker” Yuriy Kovalchuk may acquire assets of Prigozhin’s “Patriot” media holding group and the RIA FAN news outlet for his “National Media Group.” The Bell also noted that some Russian Telegram channels claimed that the president of the “Herst Shkulev Media” holding group Viktor Shkulev may purchase Prigozhin’s media assets for one ruble with a commitment to retain the media editorial teams for three months and to pay salary arrears to staff. Sources expressed confidence that the Russian Presidential Administration will likely directly control Prigozhin’s media assets regardless of the identity of the future owner of these companies.

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov refused to address Army General Sergei Surovikin’s whereabouts on June 29, prompting more speculations in the Russian information space. Peskov could have denied ongoing speculations about Surovikin if there were no investigation of him. Peskov’s refusal suggests that Russian officials may be investigating Surovikin since Russian officials usually refuse to comment on ongoing investigations. Russian news aggregator Baza reported that Surovikin’s daughter, Veronika Surovikina, claimed that Russian authorities did not arrest Surovikin and that he continues to work. Russian sources claimed that Surovikin’s deputy, Colonel General Andrey Yudin, denied claims that Russian officials were holding him and Surovikin at the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center in Moscow. A Russian milblogger denied Surovikin’s detention but claimed that the Kremlin is continuing to investigate members of the military leadership with close ties to Prigozhin. Russian opposition news outlet Vazhnye Istorii reported that two of their sources close to the Russian General Staff and Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed that Russian authorities questioned Surovikin and released him. It would be logical for Russian officials to question Surovikin or any other military officials with ties to Prigozhin after Wagner’s armed rebellion.

Western observers continue to speculate about the whereabouts of Russian Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov following Wagner’s rebellion, although his lack of public appearance is not necessarily indicative of his current official standing within the Russian military leadership. Gerasimov has previously not appeared in public for long periods of time, particularly between the summer of 2022 and his reemergence in the winter of 2023 in the weeks leading up to his appointment to overall theater commander. These stretches of absence prompted speculations that the Kremlin either had replaced him or intended to replace him as Chief of the General Staff. The Kremlin and the Russian MoD carefully responded to these previous bouts of speculation by routinely affirming Gerasimov’s role as Chief of the General Staff, although they have yet to respond to the most recent round of speculation fueled by Wagner’s armed rebellion. ISW recently assessed that the Kremlin will likely attempt to balance a desire to mitigate widespread disdain for MoD establishment figures like Gerasimov that fueled Wagner’s rebellion with trying to disempower those who may have sympathized with the rebellion. Russian speculations that Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) Commander Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky recently assumed Gerasimov’s responsibilities for Russian operations in Ukraine would be in line with this effort, although there continues to be no confirmation that such a transfer of responsibilities has occurred. It is possible that Putin has yet to decide how to fully respond to Wagner’s rebellion, including decisions on a potential overhaul of the Russian military’s command cadre or changes in whom among the military leadership Putin favors. Until the Kremlin’s response to the rebellion becomes clearer Gerasimov’s public absence alone is not an indicator of his position within the Russian military leadership. ISW has previously observed that Gerasimov’s involvement, or lack thereof, in public meetings with Putin indicated the likely degree of favor that Gerasimov has enjoyed with Putin during the full-scale invasion of Ukraine but not his retention or loss of his formal position.

Russian sources claimed that the Kremlin replaced the head of the Kaliningrad Oblast Rosgvardia (National Guard) on June 28. Russian sources reported that Murmansk Oblast Rosgvardia Head Viktor Galiy assumed the position of the Kaliningrad Oblast Rosgvardia head.

Key Takeaways

  • The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian forces seized the “strategic initiative” in the Bakhmut direction and are currently conducting a broad offensive in the area.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in at least two other sectors of the front and reportedly made gains on June 29.
  • The Kremlin may intend to assume formal control over the Wagner Group following its armed rebellion and turn it into a state-owned enterprise, although it is not clear if the Kremlin has committed itself to such a course of action.
  • Recent satellite imagery may have detected active construction of a speculated new Wagner Group base in Asipovichy, Belarus.
  • Kremlin-affiliated businessmen may be acquiring Prigozhin’s domestic media empire, likely as part of ongoing effort to destroy his reputation in Russia.
  • Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov refused to address Army General Sergei Surovikin’s whereabouts on June 29, prompting more speculations in the Russian information space.
  • Western observers continue to speculate about the whereabouts of Russian Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov following Wagner’s rebellion, although his lack of public appearance is not necessarily indicative of his current official standing within the Russian military leadership
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued limited ground attacks south of Kreminna.
  • Ukrainian forces intensified counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut area and reportedly made advances.
  • Russian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front.
  • Russian forces in early May constructed a dam on the outskirts of Tokmak in occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast ahead of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
  • A Russian BARS (Russian Combat Reserve) affiliated source claimed that Russian forces are moving military equipment to unspecified areas on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River.
  • The Crimea-based Atesh partisan group stated that Russian forces are increasing their presence in Armyansk to defend key infrastructure in northern Crimea.

Russian Cossack armed formations are reportedly signing contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) as part of a larger formalization effort to integrate irregular forces into MoD structures.

US assumes Putin’s “red lines” more flexible than previously thought – Politico, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Politico. “After the failed rebellion in Russia, US officials suspect that Vladimir Putin’s so-called “red lines” are more flexible than previously thought, including these on the issue of supplying weapons to Ukraine.

US officials suspect that one motivation for Putin making the deal was to avoid widespread violence on Russian soil. That has led some to wonder if they could push the envelope further in supplying Ukraine with more lethal, longer-range weapons — including F-16s. Their thought: Putin’s red line might be softer than anticipated, and he might choose not to escalate for fear of widening the conflict, according to two people familiar with the deliberations. But they cautioned that no decision has been made. […]

According to the publication, in the short term, it is evident that the NATO summit, which will be held in Lithuania in two weeks, will acquire a new relevance. Blinken hinted at a robust package for Ukraine that will be presented by NATO leaders in Vilnius. But it is also possible that the Alliance’s plans for a possible entry of Ukraine may change, given Russia’s military weakness and the genuine prospect of civil war on its borders.

Ian Bremmer, Eurasia Group president believes that “It’s still a high bar [for Ukraine’s potential NATO membership] because all 31 [NATO] countries have to say yes”. But this will help. The West now has less reason to worry about Putin’s supposed red lines, and all the more reason to worry about how to prepare for a destabilised, unpredictable situation in Russia.

Politico writes that some analysts assume Putin’s “restraint” during the deal with Prigozhin may be a sign of his rationality, others say that a weakened dictator may become even crazier. The fragility of the Putin regime is also forcing some US officials to take a closer look at the possibility of a post-Putin Russia and a nuclear stockpile that could become an even more destabilising factor for the world order.”

Twenty-nine percent of citizens ready to defend Ukraine with weapons in their hands, Ukrinform reports. “The share of citizens who are ready to defend the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine with weapons in their hands is 29%. Among men – 44%, among women – 16%. In 2015, among all respondents, 17.5% gave such an answer, said Mykhailo Mishchenko, deputy director of the Razumkov Center sociological service.

Forty-two percent of respondents expressed readiness to protect the country by participating in the volunteer movement. In addition, 21% of respondents want their children to become professional soldiers and dedicate their lives to serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Also, according to the poll results, 76% of respondents want their children to live in Ukraine. The research showed that compared to 2001, the share of those who would like to leave Ukraine to reside abroad permanently decreased from 32% to 11%. But here it is necessary to take into account the situation that a large part of those who intended to emigrate before the war could already do that after the start of the full-scale war, Mishchenko added.”

Result of counteroffensive may affect attitude of West towards Ukraine, – Financial Times, Censor.net reports, citing Financial Times. “The results of the Ukrainian troops’ counteroffensive may affect the West’s attitude toward Ukraine. It is about financial and other support. The publication, citing an unnamed high-ranking European diplomat, indicates that the results of the counteroffensive will affect everything we do regarding Ukraine. Funding, support, political participation… and most importantly, peace talks that will happen whether we like them or not, the diplomat said.

At the same time, the commander-in-chief of NATO in Europe, General Christopher Cavoli, believes that Ukraine’s counteroffensive has not yet achieved significant success. According to him, the Armed Forces faced difficulties related to the Russian defense. Russia still has an advantage (at the expense of, – ed.) massiveness, Cavoli said.

The NATO military headquarters refused to comment on the commander’s remarks. NATO has been closely monitoring the conflict in Ukraine since its inception… The next phase of their struggle may be long and difficult, but we will continue to do everything we can to help Ukraine win its existential struggle, the statement said.”

MEP: Ukraine has three to four months to show success in counteroffensive, Ukrinform reports, citing MEP Janusz Wojciechowski during a briefing in Brussels. “Ukraine has a few months to show the world progress in its counteroffensive, otherwise Europe may start pushing Kyiv to freeze the conflict. When asked how he personally sees the end of the war, the MEP said: I’m Polish and I find the end to the war as you (Ukraine – ed.) find it. For us, victory is defined by the same words as you define it. To recover Crimea, to recover Donbas, to punish Russia, to make Russia pay reparations. […]

Is it realistic? I am not sure. This definition (victory – ed). has not been shaped and is not shared in a number of Western European countries, Wojciechowski said. I think you have three to four months of margin of freedom. The world is watching the progress of the military offensive. If in a few months of the offensive it is going to stop and there is no progress, Europe will start pushing Ukraine to freeze the conflict, to start talks with Russia and thus repeat the solution of 2015. This is my pessimistic opinion, the MEP said.

As reported, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described the current situation with the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ counteroffensive as a process that is at an early stage and emphasized that Ukrainian forces are provided with everything they need to achieve victory [except air power, long-range missiles, and sufficient number of air defence means, main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles – ME]”

Russian sources speculated that Wagner’s rebellion is already having widespread impacts on the Russian command structure, ISW reports. “A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Wagner’s rebellion has prompted “large-scale purges” among the command cadre of the Russian armed forces and that the Russian MoD is currently undergoing a “crash test” for loyalty. The milblogger claimed that the Russian Federal Protective Service (FSO) is conducting a review of the Russian military leadership as well as the individual unit commanders. The milblogger claimed that Russian officials are using the MoD’s “indecisiveness” in suppressing the rebellion and “support for paramilitary companies (PMCs)” as pretexts to remove “objectionable” personnel from their positions.

The milblogger notably claimed that Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) commander and rumored deputy theater commander Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky assumed responsibilities as overall theater commander in Ukraine from Chief of the General Staff and current overall theater commander Army General Valery Gerasimov on an unspecified date, but likely after the rebellion. The milblogger emphasized that Gerasimov will retain his post as Chief of the General Staff but will no longer have responsibilities for Russian operations in Ukraine. Another Russian source claimed that an “atmosphere of suspicion has enveloped the General Staff” and that affiliates of Gerasimov are accused of indecision and failure while the affiliates of deputy commander of the joint grouping of forces in Ukraine Army General Sergei Surovikin are accused of complicity in the rebellion. […]

The Kremlin will likely attempt to balance a desire to mitigate the widespread disdain for MoD establishment figures that fueled Wagner’s rebellion while also trying to disempower those who may have sympathized with the rebellion. Segments of the pro-war ultranationalist community and the Russian military have routinely criticized Gerasimov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for their management of the war in Ukraine, and Prigozhin’s avowed goal of forcibly removing the two generals suggests that the Kremlin may view Gerasimov’s and Shoigu’s unpopularity as a direct threat to Putin’s ability to retain support among key constituencies and the military. […] ISW has previously assessed that Gerasimov’s removal from either position would be too damaging to Putin’s and the MoD’s reputation. Putin could attempt to avoid the fallout from future command changes by increasingly rewarding commanders with responsibility beyond their official positions. Putin is likely further incentivized not to publicly replace Gerasimov out of fears of legitimizing rebellion as a successful means of blackmail. […]

The Kremlin may have chosen Teplinsky as a de facto overall theater commander because he is reportedly widely popular among the Russian rank-and-file and the Russian ultranationalist community. Teplinsky previously commanded forces alongside Wagner around Bakhmut in the winter of 2023, but it is not immediately clear if Teplinsky supported Wagner more generally as Surovikin reportedly did, and Teplinsky remained silent during the armed rebellion. Teplinsky reportedly expressed dissatisfaction with the current military command directly to Putin in late February and assumed a leading military command position in April 2023, becoming one of the most notable anti-Gerasimov commanders aside from Surovikin. […]   

Russian sources claimed that the Kremlin is punishing Russian forces that it perceives to have failed in their response to the rebellion.  Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian pilots who refused to strike the Wagner convoys and Russian border guards who refused to open fire on Wagner are now facing unspecified criminal prosecution.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Estonian PM: Only security guarantee for Ukraine is NATO membership, Ukrinform reports, citing Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. “The only security guarantee that really works and the cheapest security guarantee that really works is NATO membership, Kallas said, answering a question about security guarantees for Ukraine at the summit in Vilnius. At the same time, she admitted that this cannot happen while the country is at war. […] She is convinced that it is necessary to agree on a “clear pathway” for Ukraine in the Alliance.

The Estonian Prime Minister is convinced that EU countries should also do more to improve their own defense capabilities. She cited data showing that from 1999 to 2021, EU investments in defense increased by 19.7%, while the United States increased them by 65.7%, Russia by 292%, and China by 595% over the same period. So clearly we are not doing enough, the Estonian Prime Minister stated, adding that this is especially true when partners are transferring a lot of weapons to Ukraine. She also emphasized the importance of developing the defence industry. […]

Russia is unstable, unpredictable, and dangerous, Kallas emphasized […]. Belarus, she said, was an aggressor and remains so. Both countries have been and remain dangerous, so it is necessary to focus on helping Ukraine, not on Russia’s internal problems, Kallas said. […]

The head of the Estonian government believes it is necessary to use Russian frozen assets to restore Ukraine, which will also be discussed in Brussels this week. I think it’s fundamentally wrong that our taxpayers get to pay for something that we haven’t caused. […] It has to come from their assets, the politician said. She insists on increasing economic and political pressure on Russia.

Speaking about Ukraine and Moldova’s membership in the EU, Kallas said that there will be no discount for you, they must fulfill the criteria and carry out difficult reforms. As reported, the EU summit is taking place in Brussels on June 29-30.”

Far-right parties on the rise across Europe, BBC reports. “Look around Europe right now – north, south, east and west – and you see far-right parties of different flavours – nostalgic nationalist, populist nationalist, ultra conservative with neo-fascist roots and more – enjoying a notable resurgence. Old taboos dating back to Europe’s devastating 20th Century war against the Nazis and fascist Italy – meaning most voters felt you shouldn’t vote ever again for the extreme right and mainstream political parties refused to collaborate with far-right groupings – are gradually being eroded.

I was living in Vienna back in 2000 when the centre-right first jumped into a coalition government bed with the far-right Freedom Party. It made headlines the world over. The EU even slapped Vienna with diplomatic sanctions. Now, the EU’s third largest economy, Italy, is run by Giorgia Meloni, head of a party with neo-fascist roots. In Finland, after 3 months of debate, the far-right nationalists The Finns recently joined the coalition government. In Sweden the firmly anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalism Sweden Democrats are the second largest party in parliament, propping up the right-wing coalition government there.

In Greece last Sunday three hard-right parties won enough seats to enter parliament, while in Spain, the controversial nationalist Vox Party – the first successful far-right party in Spain since the death of fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 – outperformed all expectations in recent regional elections. There’s talk about them possibly forming a coalition government with the conservatives after national elections in three weeks’ time.

Then there are the ultra-conservative, authoritarian-leaning governments in Poland and in Hungary. The list really does go on and on. Including even Germany, still so sensitive about its fascist past. Polls there now put the far right AfD just ahead of, or neck and neck with, Chancellor Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD). Last weekend an AfD candidate won a local leadership post for the first time. The SPD called it a political dam-breaker.

So what’s happening? Are millions upon millions of European voters really swerving far-right? Or is this more of a protest vote? Or a sign of the polarisation between urban liberal voters and the conservative rest? And what do we mean anyway when we describe parties as ‘far-right’? […]

Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations says we’re looking at a huge paradox. On the one hand, many a mainstream politician has in recent years grabbed slogans or stances from the far-right, hoping to rob them of their supporters. But by doing so they help make the far right seem more mainstream. While at the same time, a number of far-right parties in Europe have intentionally moved more towards the political centre, hoping to entice more centrist voters.

Take attitudes towards Russia for example. A large number of parties on the far-right – like The League in Italy, Marine Le Pen of France and Austria’s Freedom Party Far had traditionally close ties to Moscow. That became more than awkward following Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, leading to party leaders to change their rhetoric.

Mark Leonard cites far-right relations with the EU as another example of their ‘centrification’. […] Many European countries had deeply Eurosceptic populist parties doing well at the time but over the years those parties have felt obliged to stop agitating to leave the EU or even its euro currency. That seemed too radical for a lot of European voters.

They looked at the social and political – never mind the hotly-debated economic impact – Brexit had in the UK and many concluded that exiting the EU would cause further destabilisation in a world that already feels very volatile. Think: Covid pandemic, living next door to aggressive, unpredictable Russia, worrying about China, struggling with soaring living costs – with millions of European families still suffering the after-effects of the 2008 economic crisis. Polls suggest the EU is more popular amongst Europeans at the moment than it has been for years. And so far right parties now speak about reforming the EU, rather than leaving it. And they’re predicted to perform strongly in next year’s elections for the European parliament.

Paris-based Director of Institut Montaigne’s Europe Programme Georgina Wright told me she believes the far-right renaissance in Europe is largely down to dissatisfaction with the political mainstream. Currently in Germany, 1 in 5 voters say they’re unhappy with their coalition government, for example. Wright said many voters in Europe are attracted by the outspokenness of parties on the far-right and there’s tangible frustration that traditional politicians don’t appear to have clear answers in 3 key areas of life:

  • Issues linked to identity – a fear of open borders and an erosion of national identity and traditional values
  • Economics – a rejection of globalisation and resentment that children and grandchildren aren’t assured a better future
  • Social justice – a feeling that national governments are not in control of the rules that govern the lives of citizens

You can see these issues bleeding into the debate about green energy in Europe too. […]

 

Hans Petter Midttun: “Result of counteroffensive may affect attitude of West towards Ukraine.” “Ukraine has three to four months to show success in counteroffensive.” “If the counteroffensive stalls and the conflict turns into a prolonged insurgency, there are questions about whether Western countries will continue supporting Ukraine at current levels of military aid.” “Mr. Zelensky said his government needed to show progress to motivate both its own troops and its foreign backers. Officials in Kyiv and some of their supporters abroad worry that if the long-anticipated counteroffensive does not produce significant gains, then the Western allies might lose patience with pouring billions of dollars into the war, and pressure Ukraine to reach a negotiated settlement that would leave Russia holding vast tracts of conquered lands.”Early stages of Ukrainian counteroffensive ‘not meeting expectations.”

These are but some of the last in a series of articles signalling a possible waning Western resolve. The link between the progress of the ongoing counteroffensive and future Western support, however, are utterly unfounded.

Western expectations to the counteroffensive do not change its global threat assessment. According to NATO:

The Russian Federation is the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. It seeks to establish spheres of influence and direct control through coercion, subversion, aggression and annexation.”

The speed of the counteroffensive does not impact the threat assessment. Its success, however, will have long-term positive implications.

A Ukrainian success means that Russian military power will be further decimated. It will help evict Russian forces from Ukraine; stop Russian Western expansion and destroy its imperialistic ambitions. A Ukrainian success – with Western support – will reduce Russia’s ability to re-establish a zone of influence beyond its internationally recognised borders. Ukraine will not only be restoring its territorial integrity but also re-establish the security and stability of Europe. A strong, democratic Ukraine will not least, help contain the ensuing chaos resulting from a Russian collapse and disintegration following its defeat.

In essence, a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive will reduce the threat the EU and NATO is presently facing.

Suggesting that a quick success is needed to secure future Western support runs contrary to not only the established threat assessment, but also ongoing processes within both the US and Europe. Both the EU and NATO is openly discussing the future accession of Ukraine. It is no longer a question about if – but rather when – it will become a member of the two organisations. Several member states openly recognise that Ukraine is defending European security and stability. Ukraine is recognised as a democracy belonging to the West.

Furthermore, many countries acknowledge that Ukraine’s present “grey zone” status serves as a invitation to Russian aggression. Its membership in the EU and NATO will help establish clear lines between the democratic West and the autocratic Russia. It will help contain Russia. Its membership in the Alliance will serve as a deterrence against future attacks and help secure the restoration of Peace in Europe.

In parallel, the West is also considering delivering both F-16 and long-range missiles to Ukraine. Its international partners are in the process of strengthening its support; not reducing it.

That’s not to say that Western support might not falter. I have long argued that the West is running out of weapons and ammunition it can supply Ukraine. There are numerous indications that US and European defence industries have not yet – more than 9 years into the war – received the pledges of commitment needed for them to invest in the increased production capability needed to sustain the long-term support efforts. The West is not setting up Ukraine for victory as the defence support delivered so far does not enable it to conduct a doctrinal sound counter-offensive. It is being urged to conduct an offensive without the complete set of tools needed in direct violation of US and NATO military doctrine.

I have also stressed that the “tsunami of ripple effects” are slowly transforming the political landscape in Europe, increasing the political power of right-wing, nationalistic, and populistic parties across Europe (at the cost of unity and cooperation). That process is taking place right in front of our eyes as NATO remain determined to not engage directly in a war its already a part of. This process will over the next 1-2 years both impact Western unity as well as its willingness to support Ukraine.

Ukraine should ignore the notion that a quick success is needed to secure future Western support.

European security and stability are directly interlinked to Ukraine’s ability to defeat Russia. Neither the EU nor NATO can accept the potential consequences of a Russian victory. An attempt to freeze the war along the present frontline will constitute a Ukrainian defeat. It will embolden Russia, allow it time to rebuild its conventional forces in pursuit of its imperialistic ambitions and great power status. It will create a launch-pad for its next war.

Ukraine must ignore any attempt to coerce it into operating in conflict with existing military doctrines.

It should preserve its present military power until it has received all the tools needed to be victorious.  Ukrainian forces have not been provided with everything they need to succeed. It lacks combat aircraft and long-range missiles. It does not have enough air defence means, main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. It lacks ammunition. It is not least, still very vulnerable to Russian electronic warfare and kamikaze drones.

I advise strategic patience until the West is fully committed to victory.

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