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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 494: Ukrainian counteroffensive continues in Zaporizhzhia

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 494: Ukrainian counteroffensive continues in Zaporizhzhia

Russia is likely pulling forces to Bakhmut from elsewhere in Ukraine to respond to the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Ukraine continues counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Russian forces begin to flee Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Source: War Mapper.

Daily overview — Summary report, July 3

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, July 3, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. July 1, 2023. Source: ISW.

 

[The Russian Federation continues to kill the civilian population of Ukraine and continues to ignore the laws and customs of war, while using terror tactics, carrying out strikes, and shelling both military and civilian targets.]

Last night, the Russian Federation launched yet another missile and air strike on the territory of Ukraine. Information on the aftermath of this terrorist attack is currently being updated.

On July 1, the adversary launched 1 missile and 27 air strikes, about 80 MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements.

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

The adversary continues to focus its main efforts on Lyman, Bakhmut, and Marinka axes, and the heavy fighting continues. On June 20, there were 46 combat engagements.

  • Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes. No signs of the formation of enemy offensive groups were found.
Luhansk Battle Map. July 1, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary continues to maintain its military presence. Russian forces launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Veterynarne (Kharkiv oblast). The invaders fired mortars and artillery at more than 15 settlements, including Karpovychi, Kam’yans’ka Sloboda (Chernihiv oblast), Myropillya, Ryasne (Sumy oblast), Udy, Pyl’na, Vovchans’k, Budarky, Chuhunivka, Odradne, and Kam’yanka (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis: the enemy launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Kyslivka and Kotlyarivka (Kharkiv oblast). The adversary fired artillery and mortars at Topoli, Novomlyns’k, Fyholivka, Masyutivka, and Kyslivka (Kharkiv oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. July 1, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Lyman axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives towards Nevske and south of Dibrova (Luhansk oblast). The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Bilohorivka (Luhansk Oblast), Vyimka, and Spirne (Donetsk Oblast). More than 10 settlements, including Nevs’ke, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Tors’ke, Dibrova, Verkhn’okam’yans’ke, Rozdolivka, and Berestove (Donetsk oblast), were shelled with artillery.
Bakhmut Battle Map. July 1, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Bohdanivka (Donetsk oblast). The invaders launched airstrikes near Bila Hora, Toretsk, and New York. About 15 settlements suffered from enemy artillery shelling, including Vasyukivka, Markove, Bohdanivka, Chasiv Yar, Ivanivske, Oleksandro-Shul’tyne, Bila Hora, Dyliivka, and Pivdenne (Donetsk oblast).
  • Avdiivka axis: with aircraft support, the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Avdiivka (Donetsk oblast). The adversary fired artillery at more than 10 settlements. The invaders targeted Novokalynove, Berdychi, Avdiivka, Pervomaiske, and Nevel’s’ke (Donetsk oblast), among other settlements.
  • Marinka axis: Ukrainian defenders repelled all enemy attacks in the vicinity of the city of Marinka. At the same time, the enemy fired artillery at the settlements of Histre, Heorhiivka, Marinka, and Pobjeda (Donetsk oblast).
  • Shakhtarske axis: the enemy launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Makarivka (Donetsk oblast). The invaders shelled about 15 settlements, including Paraskoviivka, Novomykhailivka, Zolota Nyva, Storozheve, Blahodatne, Makarivka, Vil’ne Pole, Zelene Pole (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. July 1, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the adversary focuses its main efforts on preventing the advance of Ukrainian troops. The invaders fired artillery at more than 30 settlements, including Novodarivka, Levadne, Ol’hivs’ke, Hulyaipole, Bilohir’ya (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Zolota Balka, Mykhailivka, Havrylivka, Kachkarivka, Kozats’ke, Ivanivka, Antonivka, Zelenivka (Kherson oblast), and the city of Kherson.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. July 1, 2023. Source: ISW.

[The occupiers suffer significant losses every day, which they are trying to hide while continuing to apply the traditional Russian practice of depriving the families of the dead of benefits and compensation advertised by Russian propaganda. Mobile crematoria are actively used for this purpose. In particular, it is known that one of these crematoria is currently operating 24/7 on the territory of the Berdiansk port. Currently, about 50 bodies of dead Russian servicemen, who were recently transported from the frontlines to the local morgue, are subject to cremation. The cremation of dead Russian soldiers is carried out without their identification and registration.]

On July 1, Ukrainian Air Force launched 10 airstrikes on the concentrations of enemy troops, 2 airstrikes on the anti-aircraft missile systems, and 1 on an enemy command post.

On July 1, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 1 command post, 4 concentrations of enemy troops, weapons and military equipment, 1 ammunition depot, 27 artillery systems at their firing positions, 1 air defence asset, 2 electronic warfare stations, and 1 other important enemy target.

 

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Ukrainian forces advancing in Tavriia sector, Ukrinform reports. “Ukraine’s defence forces are advancing in the Tavriia sector, according to General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, commander of the Tavriia operational and strategic grouping of troops. He wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian rocket and artillery units had performed 1,201 tasks over the past 24 hours.

Enemy losses amounted to almost two companies of KIAs and WIAs. Fourteen pieces of the enemy’s military equipment were destroyed, Tarnavskyi said. In particular, Ukrainian forces destroyed an armoured personnel carrier, a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher, an MT-12 Rapira anti-tank gun, three Zala UAVs, three 2A36 Giatsint-B guns, two Pion self-propelled artillery systems, a 2A65 Msta- B howitzer, and vehicles. Four enemy ammunition depots were also destroyed.”

Air defence units destroy all enemy targets in Kyiv’s airspace, Ukrinform reports, citing Kyiv City Military Administration on Telegram. “On the night of July 2, 2023, Ukraine’s air defence units detected and destroyed all enemy targets in the airspace around the city of Kyiv. Another air attack on Kyiv. This time the enemy has used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). According to the preliminary data, they were Shahed loitering munitions, Kyiv City Military Administration Head Serhii Popko noted.

In his words, it has been Russia’s first drone attack on Kyiv since early July and in the past 12 days. According to Popko, all enemy targets in Kyiv’s airspace were neutralized. No casualties or the damage caused have been reported so far. The final data are yet to be updated.“

New Russian units arrive in Melitopol and Henichesk, Ukrinform reports. “We do not see the occupiers leaving Melitopol. On the contrary, we see new units arriving both in the temporarily occupied Melitopol and in Henichesk. After blowing up the bridge near Chonhar, the enemy began to redeploy its equipment through the Arabat Spit and local residents note that convoys of equipment are going towards the Zaporizhzhia region, Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov said […].

Fedorov also added that the enemy is slightly reducing its presence in Enerhodar, but it is not yet possible to say that there are no enemy troops there at all. As reported, 11 explosions rang out in the temporarily occupied Berdiansk on the morning of June 30.”

Russians carrying out punitive operations in Kherson region – partisans, Ukrinform reports. “Atesh agents inform that the Russian occupiers are carrying out a punitive operation in the area of Radensk, Velyki Kopani and Tarasivka settlements [of Kherson region]. Armed people on military equipment with the participation of local traitors are conducting searches, checking mobile phones, and beating and torturing local residents, the military-partisan movement “Atesh” posted on Telegram.

The movement notes that the enemy is very frightened by the activity of Ukrainian partisans, and Tarasivka disturbs them especially.

 

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

  • Russia has cancelled the 2023 iteration of MAKS, its premier international air show. Scheduled every other year, MAKS takes place near Moscow and showcases Russia’s civil and military aerospace sectors and has become key to securing export customers.
  • The show has probably been cancelled largely due to genuine security concerns, following recent uncrewed aerial vehicle attacks inside Russia. Organisers were highly likely also aware of the potential for reputational damage if fewer international delegations attended.
  • The war has been exceptionally challenging for Russia’s aerospace community. The sector is struggling under international sanctions; highly trained specialists are being encouraged to serve as infantry in the Roscosmos space agency’s own militia. Meanwhile, Commander in Chief of the Aerospace Forces, General Sergei Surovikin, has not been seen in public since the abortive mutiny by Wagner Group, for whom he served as a point of contact with the Russian Ministry of Defence.
  • Since around 23 June 2023, Ukrainian forces have almost certainly restarted deploying personnel to the east bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast, near the ruined Antonovskiy Bridge.
  • Fighting intensified on the east bank from 27 June 2023. The defending Russian force includes elements of Russia’s 7th Guards Air Assault Division, part of the Dnipro Group of Forces (DGF).
  • In recent weeks, Russia has highly likely reallocated elements of DGF defending the bank of the Dnipro to reinforce the Zaporizhzhia sector. Combat around the bridgehead is almost certainly complicated by the flooding, destruction and residual mud from the collapse of the Kakhovka Dam on 06 June 2023.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

As of Sunday 2 July, 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 229660 (+790)
  • Tanks – 4052 (+10)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 7888 (+20)
  • Artillery systems – 4188 (+26)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 637 (+5)
  • Air defence means – 390 (+1)
  • Aircraft – 315 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 308 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 6816 (+22)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 3557 (+12)
  • Special equipment – 583 (+3)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1261 (+0)

Zelensky: Wagner lost about 100,000 soldiers killed and wounded in eastern Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “Only in the east of Ukraine, our troops eliminated 21,000 [Russian mercenaries] and wounded 80,000 more. That is, about 100,000 Wagner fighters were killed or wounded by our troops in the east. These were colossal losses for the Wagner… Now everyone can see: we destroyed the real fist of the Wagner fighters in the east of Ukraine,” President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky told Spanish journalists in an interview, Ukrinform reports.

He emphasized that they were the most motivated members of the Russian army. According to the President, this information should also be considered in the context of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Killing such a powerful force and so many mercenaries in the east is also a counteroffensive. This is a serious springboard for our troops to move forward. … When someone says: Ukrainian troops started [their counteroffensive] on the 1st, 4th, 10th – we started earlier, we did a lot of things, Zelensky noted.”

Russia to raise salaries for military by 10.5%, Reuters reports. “The Russian government will increase salaries for military servicemen by 10.5% from Oct. 1, a government decree published on the official web portal showed on Friday. The move comes days after an abortive armed mutiny by the mercenary Wagner Group, which briefly took control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and marched towards Moscow in what its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said was a protest against incompetence and corruption in Russia’s top brass.

Powerful enemy group operates in Bakhmut direction – up to 50 thousand ruscists, – Cherevaty, Censor.net reports, citing Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesman for the Eastern Group of Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “Today, there are no Wagnerians in the Bakhmut direction. There is a fairly powerful enemy group there – up to 50,000, more than 300 tanks, more than 330 artillery systems and 140 rocket salvo systems,” the spokesman said. According to him, paratroopers, infantry units, and the combat army reserve “Bars” are advancing in this direction. As well as parts of units of small PMCs.

Cherevaty noted that for Ukraine and for advancement on the battlefield, the conflict between the Russian troops and the authorities has a positive effect. No one wants to share failures, only victories… Quarrels between their units started against the background of the failures that happened to them in Ukraine, Cherevaty emphasized.”

Russian army casualty rate in war many times higher than Ukraine’s, Ukrinform reports. “If we talk about the ratio [of losses] between us and Russia, it is big – many times higher. They have much more losses. I hold the meeting of the Staff of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief two or three times a week. Every time, apart from certain decisions, one of the most important [issues] is how many lives we were able to save and how many losses we have. These are both the killed and the wounded… And I see the losses of the enemy and the losses of Ukrainians, we see specific numbers – and the Russian [casualty rate] is many times higher,” President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky told Spanish journalists in an interview.”

Up to 8,000 Wagner Group fighters could stay in Belarus – Ukrainian border guards, Ukrinform reports, citing Ukrainian State Border Guard Service spokesperson Andrii Demchenko. “The terrorist country continues to use the Republic of Belarus as a base for training its units and military aircraft flights. But in view of the new possible risks associated with Lukashenko’s willingness to accommodate mercenaries from private military companies, Ukraine is bolstering its defences in this direction. The development of the situation in Belarus is under control and is being constantly monitored. […]

According to him, available information, including open-source information, indicates that Belarus is making efforts to accommodate Russian mercenaries. And given the support that Russia is providing to Belarus, the number of mercenaries that Lukashenko will be willing to accept can be quite significant. It can be about 8,000 people. For example, the current number of Russian soldiers from regular army units stationed in Belarus is about 2,000, Demchenko said.

According to him, although camps for Wagner Group fighters are being constructed at a considerable distance from Belarus’ border with Ukraine, the very presence of mercenaries in Belarus will constitute an additional potential threat, primarily the one related to subversive activities and various kinds of provocations.

Therefore, in order to strengthen the border in this area, the Staff of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief instructed the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the commander of the northern operational area to carry out the necessary set of measures. […] He said that the situation at the border is entirely under control. At the moment, we are not observing Russian offensive groups on Belarusian territory, he said.”

Humanitarian 

Civilian casualties are impossible to estimate, Ukrinform reports, citing President Zelensky in an interview. “It is now impossible to estimate civilian casualties as about 30% of the territory of Ukraine is under temporary occupation. Still, 26-30% of Ukraine is under occupation. And that’s why we don’t know how many [civilians] have been killed, we don’t know if the information from those people who are in concentration camps or in captivity is true… Because this information is obtained through intermediaries, or from social networks, or from Russia, intelligence. That is, this is vague information.

You do not know how many people are buried in Mariupol… We do not know today how many people [were killed] in Donbas where the towns were completely destroyed. Wherever Russia still controls the territory, we don’t know what happens to the people there, the President said.

At the same time, he noted that the bodies of tortured people are found in the basements of the de-occupied towns, and mass graves of the murdered are discovered even now in Kyiv region which was liberated more than a year ago. Therefore, it is currently impossible to estimate civilian casualties

Russia’s top diplomat Lavrov sees no reason to extend Black Sea grain deal, Reuters reports. “Russia said on Friday it saw no reason to extend the Black Sea grain deal beyond July 17 because the West had acted in such an “outrageous” way over the agreement, but assured poor countries that Russian grain exports would continue.

The United Nations and Türkiye brokered the Black Sea Grain Initiative last July to help tackle a global food crisis worsened by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine – something it calls “a special military operation” – and its blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports. The deal allows food and fertiliser to be exported from three Ukrainian ports – Chornomorsk, Odesa and Pivdennyi (Yuzhny). The agreement has been extended three times. […]

Lavrov said one of the last straws for Russia was an attack on the Togliatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline, an attack he blamed on Ukraine which has in turn accused Russia of damaging it. I don’t see what arguments there can be by those who would like to continue the Black Sea initiative, Lavrov said.

The United Nations on Friday said it was concerned no new ships had been registered under the Black Sea deal since June 26 – despite applications being made by 29 vessels – and called on all parties to to commit to the continuation and effective implementation of the agreement without further delay.”

Environmental

Russia can remotely blow up the ZNPP after handing it over to Ukraine – Zelenskyy, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced one of Russia’s plans to blow up the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); they want to blow it up remotely after handing over the plant to Ukraine. They are looking for the format and the moment (of blowing up the ZNPP – ed.). We know for sure that the moment was considered one of the plans for later, when the plant is handed over to Ukraine, to remotely blow it up for emission [of hazardous chemicals – ed.]. 

When we get to the station, the IAEA should check everything clearly and in detail and warn Russia that we know about your alleged plans, and they are dangerous for the world. He explains that Russia plans to cause an explosion at the nuclear power plant in order to freeze the war. They need this in order to strengthen their army and return to Ukraine with the war.”

Russian forces begin to flee Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant – Ukrainian Defence Intelligence, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing DIU. “The latest data indicates that the occupying forces are gradually leaving the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Three employees of Rosatom [a Russian state corporation specialising in nuclear energy], who led the Russians’ actions, were among the first to leave the facility. Ukrainian employees who have signed a contract with Rosatom have also been advised to evacuate. Under the instructions received, they should leave by 5 July.  The Russians advise leaving for temporarily occupied Crimea.

Intelligence reports that the head of the legal department, Mantsurova, chief inspector Shtatsky and deputy head of the station for support, Gubarev, have already left for the peninsula. The DIU also emphasises that the number of military patrols at the ZNPP and in the satellite city of Enerhodar is gradually decreasing.

Meanwhile, intelligence reports that the Russian occupiers have instructed the personnel who remain at the station to “blame Ukraine in the event of any emergency.

On 20 June, Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of Ukrainian Defence Intelligence, said that the threat of an explosion at the (ZNPP) was real since the occupiers had additionally mined the cooling unit. On 22 June, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russia was probably preparing to commit a terrorist attack at the ZNPP, which could lead to a radiation leak. Later, Budanov said he was convinced that the Russians’ plan to blow up the (ZNPP) had been fully prepared and approved, and the threat had never been as great as it is now.

On 25 June, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the Russians have prepared and approved the scenario of a terrorist attack on the (ZNPP), and the world’s attention is insufficient. The United States said that it does not currently consider the threat of Russian occupiers blowing up the ZNPP “imminent”, despite Ukraine’s recent reports that Russia is preparing a terrorist attack.

However, the Ukrainian authorities have nevertheless decided to conduct large-scale special civil defence training in Zaporizhzhia Oblast in case of a possible accident at the ZNPP.”

President enacts NSDC decision to speed up judicial reform, Ukrinform reports, citing a decree published on the president’s website. “In accordance with Article 107 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the President decided to enact the NSDC decision of June 23, 2023 “On speeding up judicial reform and overcoming manifestations of corruption in the justice system.” The NSDC secretary has been tasked with monitoring the decision’s implementation.

As noted, the NSDC has decided to appeal to the legal subjects of a legislative initiative regarding the need to consider the issue of amending the Criminal Code in terms of strengthening criminal liability for corruption criminal offenses in the sphere of justice, providing for punishment in the form of imprisonment for a term of 10 to 15 years with confiscation of property. It is planned to strengthen the role of the institution of jury trial and expand the cases of its application.

In addition, the decree envisages checks by the High Council of Justice of all judges of the Supreme Court for possible disciplinary offenses or gross or systematic neglect of the judge’s duties, confirmation of the legality of the sources of property origin.

It is also about the possibility of effective and transparent qualification evaluation of judges in line with the best world standards and methods as one of the priority tasks of the Higher Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine. At the same time, the possibility of introducing a periodic psychophysiological survey of judges with the use of a polygraph is foreseen.

Among other things, the Verkhovna Rada is recommended to speed up the adoption of a draft law on amendments to some laws of Ukraine to resume the consideration of cases on the disciplinary responsibility of judges and ensure the work of the Service of Disciplinary Inspectors of the High Council of Justice. The decree enters into force on the day of its publication.”

Support

Zelenskyy: Partners are delaying approval of Ukrainians’ F-16s training schedule, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused foreign partners of delaying the approval of schedules for the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets. First of all, about whether there is an understanding of the plans and schedules of F-16 [fighter jet] deliveries. I have the same questions as you asked our esteemed partners: do they have an understanding of when Ukraine can receive the F-16s?

We agreed and stressed that we have a coalition of countries that are ready to start training for Ukrainian pilots. There is no training mission schedule. I believe that some partners delay it. I don’t know why they do it.

On 30 June, President Zelenskyy said that when Ukrainian pilots fly F-16 multipurpose fighters, there will be no chance for the Russians in the Ukrainian skies. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said that for successful progress on the front, Ukraine needs more of all types of weapons, significantly more shells and, of course, F-16 fighters to have air superiority.”

Spain to supply Ukraine with four more Leopard tanks, armored personnel carriers, Ukrinform reports, citing Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said this at a joint press conference with President Zelensky in Kyiv. “Spain will soon deliver new military hardware to help [Ukraine] in the war, including four Leopard tanks and armoured personnel carriers. We will also supply a mobile field hospital with surgical equipment. This element should bolster Ukraine’s ability to provide assistance to wounded military personnel and civilians near the front line, Sanchez said.”

Spain becomes 21st country that supported Ukraine’s NATO membership – Zelensky, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Ukraine and Spain signed a joint declaration, which became the 21st document on support for Ukraine’s membership in NATO. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s President, during a joint press conference with Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister of Spain. […]

The joint declaration of the leaders of Spain and Ukraine states that Spain supports the strengthening of NATO’s partnership with Ukraine, in particular through the creation of a Ukraine-NATO Council as a platform for further strengthening and expansion of current cooperation to facilitate the implementation of Ukraine’s path to the Euro-Atlantic family in accordance with the Bucharest Declaration. Spain confirms its support for NATO’s open door policy in accordance with NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept and the NATO Madrid Summit Declaration, the document says.”

New Developments

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1675353099991433216

  1. Ukrainian Foreign Minister urged Germany not to repeat Merkel’s mistake, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in an interview with Bild. “Don’t repeat Chancellor Merkel’s mistake in Bucharest in 2008, when she fiercely resisted any progress towards Ukraine’s NATO membership. According to Kuleba, the Alliance’s decision at that time “opened the door for Putin’s invasion of Georgia and, ultimately, the illegal annexation of Crimea. If Ukraine had already been a member of NATO in 2014, the annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas and the invasion of the entire country would not have happened. However, according to Kuleba, Kyiv does not expect accession to NATO during the war. But after the war, it would be suicide for Europe not to accept Ukraine as a member of NATO, he said. The only way to close the doors of Russian aggression against Europe and the European-Atlantic area as a whole is to accept Ukraine into NATO, the minister stressed.”
  2. Several countries are close to agreeing on security guarantees for Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the German newspaper FAZ. “The agreement on security guarantees for Ukraine can be signed before the NATO summit in Vilnius on 11-12 July. The agreement concerns a multilateral system of guarantees for the transitional period before Ukraine’s accession into NATO after the war. According to the report, the corresponding framework agreement with Germany, France, the UK and the US is almost ready. Each participating country will sign a separate agreement with Kyiv. The agreement covers weapons, money, military aid and training. It should allow Kyiv to defend itself without the direct intervention of guarantor countries.”
  3. Zelenskyy explained when Ukraine will be ready for a diplomatic settlement of the war, Ukrainska PravdaPresident Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasises that Ukraine will be ready for a diplomatic settlement of the war only when it reaches the borders of 1991. […] The borders that were on 24 February are not our borders. There was a contact line between us and the occupiers. And that is why we emphasise once again: Ukraine will be ready for one or other format of diplomacy when we are really at our borders. On our real borders, according to international law.”
  4. Belarus leader says nuclear arms will not be used, ReutersBelarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the Kremlin’s staunchest ally in its war in Ukraine, said on Friday he was certain Russian tactical nuclear weapons deployed in his country would never be used. Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin have acknowledged that some tactical weapons have arrived in Belarus and the remainder would be put in place by the end of the year. […] I am certain that we will never have to use them while they are here. And no enemy will ever set foot on our land. Lukashenko, like Russia, has repeatedly accused Western countries of trying to destroy his state and says the nuclear deployment is necessary to deter potential aggressors.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  July 2, 2022:

Russian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line on July 1. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Novoselivske (16km northwest of Svatove), Nevske (18km northwest of Kreminna), Dibrova (6km southwest of Kreminna), and the Serebryanske forest area (11km south of Kreminna). Geolocated footage published on June 30 shows elements of the Russian 104th Air Assault Regiment (76th Airborne Division) striking Ukrainian positions southeast of Dibrova. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully tried to counterattack near Torske (16km west of Kreminna) on June 30 and that Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) continued assaults in forest areas near Kreminna on July 1.

Ukrainian forces continued to conduct ground attacks around Bakhmut on July 1. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian troops advanced from Pryvillia (10km northwest of Bakhmut) along the E40 highway and near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and other Russian sources claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Bakhmut, Vesele (20km northeast of Bakhmut), Zaliznyanske (13km north of Bakhmut), Yahidne (2km north of Bakhmut), and Kurdyumivka (13km southwest of Bakhmut). Russian sources claimed on June 30 that Ukrainian forces attacked near Rozdolivka (19km northeast of Bakhmut), causing Russian forces to retreat about 150 meters, and near Zaitseve (22km south of Bakhmut) and Horlivka (26km south of Bakhmut).

Russian forces continue to conduct limited ground attacks in and transfer airborne (VDV) elements to the Bakhmut area. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Bohdanivka (8km northwest of Bakhmut) and Khromove (immediately west of Bakhmut). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces attacked near Rozdolivka (19km north of Bakhmut). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty stated that Russian forces transferred an unspecified VDV regiment from the Lyman direction to areas north of Bakhmut and are concentrating Russia’s best forces in the Bakhmut direction. Geolocated footage published on June 30 shows elements of the 137th Air Assault Regiment of the 106th VDV Division operating south of Rozdolivka. Footage published on June 30 purportedly shows elements of the Russian 200th Motorized Rifle Brigade (14th Army Corps, Northern Fleet) and the “Alexander Nevsky” volunteer reconnaissance and assault brigade operating near Soledar (12km northeast of Bakhmut).

Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on July 1. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Avdiivka, Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka), and Marinka (immediately southwest of Donetsk City). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces unsuccessfully conducted assault operations near Marinka, Pobieda (5km southwest of Donetsk City), and Novomykhailivka (30km southwest of Donetsk City) and that Ukrainian forces made limited advances in the Pisky direction (9km southwest of Avdiivka).  […] Geolocated footage published on July 1 shows Ukrainian drones striking Chechen ”Akhmat” forces near Marinka.

Russian forces continued to counterattack recently liberated Ukrainian positions on the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts on July 1. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked Rivnopil (11km southwest of Velyka Novosilka). […] Ukrainian Tavriisk Defense Forces Spokesperson Captain Valeriy Shershen stated that Ukrainian forces continue consolidating newly liberated lines and are demining territories in the general Tavriisk (Zaporizhzhia) direction. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces successfully advanced towards Pryyutne (17km southwest of Velyka Novosilka) and in the vicinity of Novodonetske (15km southeast of Velyka Novosilka).

Ukrainian forces continued counter-offensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on July 1. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the direction of Robotyne (14km south of Orikhiv) and advanced in an area up to 1.5km deep and 6km wide. Another milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces of up to platoon size attacked in the direction of Robotyne and are still at least 1.5km north of Robotyne as of July 1 and that Ukrainian forces periodically engage elements of the 810th Naval Infantry Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet in the area. The 810th Naval Infantry Brigade was notably heavily degraded in failed assaults against Vuhledar in winter-spring 2022-2023. […] Russian sources claimed that fighting is ongoing north of Robotyne and that  Pyatykhatky (25km southwest of Orikhiv) remains a contested “gray zone.” Russian sources claimed that small Ukrainian assault groups attempted to liberate Pyatykhatky but were unsuccessful due to Russian artillery fire in the area. Russian sources observed that Ukrainian forces are operating in small sabotage and reconnaissance groups and are not using many armored vehicles in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces launched Storm Shadow missile strikes at Berdiansk on July 1. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces shot down both missiles over Berdiansk. ISW reviewed imagery of the airfield in Berdiansk on July 1 and did not observe any evidence of damage to Russian helicopters on the airfield.

Russian security procedures on the Kerch Strait bridge are likely slowing down Russian logistics from Russia to occupied Crimea. Crimean Occupation Minister of Transport Nikolai Lukashenko claimed on July 1 that a major traffic jam formed at the entrance of the Kerch Strait bridge in Krasnodar Krai and that wait times for security inspections are up to two hours.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in at least four sectors of the frontline on July 1. […] Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces made marginal gains near Rozdolivka (18km north of Bakhmut) and unspecified gains near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations along the administrative border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts and made gains southwest of Velyka Novosilka. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations south and southwest of Orikhiv in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, with one milblogger claiming that Ukrainian forces made gains up 1.5km deep and 6km wide in the direction of Robotyne (12km south of Orikhiv). Other milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces are still at least 1.5km north of Robotyne as of July 1, consistent with ISW’s current assessment of the control of terrain in the area.]

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley acknowledged that Ukrainian counteroffensive operations will take longer than some Western observers had expected. Milley stated that Ukrainian forces are deliberately working through difficult minefields and advancing from 500m to 2,000m a day. Milley reiterated that he expects Ukrainian counter-offensive operations to last up to 10 weeks and urged people to realize that the Ukrainian counteroffensive will be a long and likely costly operation. Russian sources are increasingly claiming that Ukrainian forces are currently conducting assaults in southern Ukraine with smaller infantry groups and fewer armored vehicles than during earlier counteroffensive operations. Russian sources also claim that Ukrainian forces are conducting reconnaissance-in-force operations in southern Ukraine in even smaller groups, some of them allegedly with seven to nine personnel. These claims about Ukrainian operations suggest that Ukrainian forces are not currently attempting the kind of large-scale operations that would result in rapid territorial advances. Ukrainian officials have routinely indicated that Ukrainian forces have yet to commit a substantial portion of their forces to counteroffensive operations and have yet to launch the main phase of the counteroffensive.

Russian officials and sources celebrated claims that Russian forces defeated small-scale Ukrainian landings in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast on July 1 as if they had won a major victory. Kherson Oblast Occupation Head Vladimir Saldo claimed that servicemen of the Russian “Dnepr” Group of Forces cleared areas near the Antonivsky Bridge on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River after special forces elements conducted a surprise landing on Ukrainian forces’ rear positions overnight. Saldo claimed that elements of a “Storm” detachment, the 61st  Naval Infantry Brigade (Northern Fleet), the 126th Coastal Defense Brigade (22nd Army Corps, Black Sea Fleet), the 127th Reserve Brigade (likely a new reserve unit), and the 205th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (49th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District [SMD]) participated in the operation that decisively repelled Ukrainian forces from their position near Antonivsky Bridge. Saldo also claimed that Ukrainian forces no longer have any “bridgeheads” on the eastern bank, and a Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Russian forces were able to advance to the dacha areas near the Antonivsky Bridge after launching an Iskander ballistic missile at the bridge on June 30. A Crimean-based Russian blogger also claimed that elements of the 7th Guards Mountain Air Assault (VDV) Division using T-72 tanks also participated in an attack against Ukrainian positions near the Antonivsky Bridge. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces eliminated a Ukrainian sabotage group that attempted to land on the island north of Oleshky (9km southeast of Kherson City) – likely referring to the Antonivsky Bridge area. The Russian MoD also demonstratively awarded servicemen of the 80th Arctic Motorized Rifle Brigade (14th Army Corps, Northern Fleet) – a unit within the Russian “Dnepr” Group of Forces – for destroying Ukrainian military equipment in Kherson Oblast. The Russian MoD also published an interview with the commander of the 80th Arctic Motorized Rifle Brigade who claimed that Russian forces fully restored their positions along the coast of the Dnipro River and along the islands and repelled all Ukrainian attempts to cross the river. Russian sources notably did not provide any evidence that Russian forces regained control over coastal areas and many Russian sources reported that clearing operations near the dacha areas adjacent to the Antonivsky Bridge are still ongoing as of July 1.

The exaggerated Russian praise for defeating a small Ukrainian landing suggests either that the Russian military command sincerely fears a Ukrainian attack on east bank Kherson Oblast or that it is desperate for an informational victory following the Wagner Group’s armed rebellion or both. Russian sources previously claimed that a grouping of around 70 Ukrainian servicemen held positions near the Antonivsky Bridge and that the Russian “Dnepr” Group of Forces’ military command had been consistently ordering Russian forces to eliminate the Ukrainian “bridgehead” despite significant personnel and equipment losses. The Russian “Dnepr” Group of Forces is reportedly headquartered in Rostov-on-Don likely within the SMD headquarters. Wagner forces notably surrounded the SMD headquarters during the armed rebellion on June 24, and the Russian MoD is likely trying to recover the headquarters’ reputation. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger also expressed concern that Ukrainian forces will continue to conduct small unit sorties across the Dnipro River and will launch a large-scale attack to reach Oleshky to break through to southwestern Kherson Oblast. ISW makes no effort to forecast Ukrainian operations, but the milblogger’s statements suggest that the Russian military command may be increasingly concerned over a potential Ukrainian landing on east bank Kherson Oblast.

Russian forces are likely responding to Ukrainian operations around Bakhmut by pulling forces from elsewhere in Ukraine. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty reported on July 1 that Russian forces recently transferred an unspecified Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) regiment from the Lyman direction (the area west of Kreminna) to the Bakhmut direction. Geolocated footage published on June 30 shows the 137th Guards Airborne Regiment (106th Airborne Division) operating south of Rozdolivka (18km north of Bakhmut). A Russian milblogger also claimed that elements of the 98th VDV Division are now operating in the Bakhmut direction. 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 Lyman direction, although ISW has not seen any visual confirmation of elements of either formation near Bakhmut recently. Cherevaty reported that Russian forces replaced the VDV regiment in the Lyman direction with unspecified territorial defense forces, indicating that Russian forces may be redeploying more elite units to the Bakhmut area and replacing the elite units with inferior formations. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar previously stated that Russian forces transferred some of their most-combat capable units from the Kherson direction to the Bakhmut and Zaporizhzhia directions in the week following the start of Ukrainian counteroffensives on June 4. Cherevaty stated that Bakhmut continues to offer Russian forces more propaganda value than military benefits and suggested that Russian forces may be concentrating elite forces in the Bakhmut area to preserve the perceived informational victory resulting from the capture of Bakhmut on May 21.  If Russian reinforcements already sent to Bakhmut are insufficient to hold Russian gains in the area the Russian command may face difficult choices about whether to risk creating serious vulnerabilities in Kherson or Luhansk oblasts or to begin drawing forces away from southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that the Russians might initiate an intentional radioactive leak at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) as part of a potential Russian strategy to freeze the war. Zelensky stated in an interview with Spanish news outlet El Mundo published on June 30 that Russian forces may attempt to remotely detonate the ZNPP if Ukrainian authorities are able to pass control of the ZNPP to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Zelensky stated that Russian forces may cause a radiological incident to halt maneuver warfare and buy more time for Russia to recruit more personnel and produce more military equipment. Zelensky also reported that about 5,000 Russian forces remain at the ZNPP with military equipment. ISW continues to assess that Russia remains unlikely to cause a radiological incident at the ZNPP since Russia would not be able to control the impacts of the incident, which would degrade Russia’s ability to operate and govern in occupied southern Ukraine.  Russian forces could conduct various possible man-made radiological incidents at varying levels of severity; however, ISW continues to assess that the consequences of a Russian radiological incident would outweigh any benefit for Russian forces at this time. Russia is likely continuing to use the threat of a radiological incident to constrain Ukrainian counteroffensive actions and degrade Western military assistance support for Ukraine.

Russian propagandists are likely conducting an information campaign to destroy the Wagner Group’s reputation as a uniquely effective fighting force in support of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) effort to dismantle the Wagner Group and integrate former Wagner fighters into MoD structures. Russian state TV channel Rossiya-1 aired a segment on June 30 trivializing the Wagner Group’s effectiveness in Ukraine, calling into question the “constructed myth about the Wagner Group’s [high level of] effectiveness.” The segment implied that there is a popular misconception in Russia that Wagner forces are extraordinarily effective and argued that regular Russian forces are more effective than the Wagner private military company (PMC). Rossiya-1 argued that regular Russian forces captured a geographically larger and more important city of Mariupol (in 71 days) much faster than Wagner Group forces were able to capture Bakhmut (in 224 days). Many Russian milbloggers – including Wagner-linked milbloggers – decried the report as a shameless rewriting of history and part of a “vile agenda” designed to “consign [Wagner PMC] feats to oblivion.” The Kremlin media apparatus is likely targeting Russian public perception of the Wagner PMC to decrease the group’s popularity as the MoD may seek to effectively disband the Wagner Group in Ukraine and reorganize its elements within the Russian MoD. This segment is likely a supporting effort within Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assessed campaign to destroy Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s personal reputation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted counter-offensive operations in at least four sectors of the frontline on July 1.
  • US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley acknowledged that Ukrainian counteroffensive operations will take longer than some Western observers had expected.
  • Russian officials and sources celebrated claims that Russian forces defeated small-scale Ukrainian landings in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast on July 1 as if they had won a major victory.
  • The exaggerated Russian praise for defeating a small Ukrainian landing suggests either that the Russian military command sincerely fears a Ukrainian attack on east bank Kherson Oblast or that it is desperate for an informational victory following the Wagner Group’s armed rebellion or both.
  • Russian forces are likely responding to Ukrainian operations around Bakhmut by pulling forces from elsewhere in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that the Russians might initiate an intentional radioactive leak at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) as part of a potential Russian strategy to freeze the war.
  • Russian propagandists are likely conducting an information campaign to destroy the Wagner Group’s reputation as a uniquely effective fighting force in support of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) effort to dismantle the Wagner Group and integrate former Wagner fighters into MoD structures.
  • Russian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Ukrainian forces continued to conduct ground attacks around Bakhmut.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks in and transfer airborne (VDV) elements to the Bakhmut area.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Russian forces continued to counterattack recently-liberated Ukrainian positions on the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • Russian security procedures on the Kerch Strait bridge are likely slowing down Russian logistics from Russia to occupied Crimea.
  • Iran may be sending materiel and personnel to Russia to help construct a factory in the Republic of Tatarstan that will reportedly make Iranian combat drones.

Ukrainian and Western sources continue to report on the abductions of Ukrainian children and adults in the occupied territories.

Hearing that offensive is slow is annoying as every metre gained is paid for in blood − Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The Washington Post. “Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, has said that soldiers pay in blood for liberation of every metre of Ukrainian land, so he is annoyed by other people’s comments that the counteroffensive is slower than expected.

So it ‘pisses me off’, Zaluzhnyi said when he hears that Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive in the country’s east and south has started slower than expected. According to him, his troops are moving forward every day, even if it is only 500 metres. This is not a show. It’s not a show the whole world is watching and betting on or anything. Every day, every metre is given by blood.

The Commander-in-Chief stressed that for the Ukrainian counteroffensive to move faster, it needs much more of each type of weapon and the air superiority that can be gained with the acquisition of F-16 fighters. He said that without the troops being fully supplied, these plans are generally unfeasible, but despite everything, they are being implemented.

Yes, maybe not as fast as the participants in the show, the observers, would like, but that is their problem, Zaluzhnyi summed up.”

Movement of Wagner units to Belarus currently not recorded – Nayev, Ukrinform reports, citing Lieutenant General Serhiy Nayev, the Commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “As of today, not a single unit of the Wagner PMC has been recorded on the territory of Belarus. Nevertheless, we are aware of the further development of the situation, and our intelligence agencies are working to obtain information about it. If this happens, the military command will know about it, said Nayev.

He added that in case of deployment of Wagner units in Belarus, several action scenarios are being considered. In each of them, the Armed Forces will take adequate countermeasures. Forces are currently being trained to counter possible manifestations, said Nayev.

He also noted that Ukrainian intelligence and Ukraine’s partners are closely monitoring the situation in Belarus, in particular, regarding the transfer of nuclear weapons, as stated in Russia. So far, according to him, such movements have not been recorded.”

CIA’s Burns: armed mutiny shows damage Putin has done to Russia, Reuters reports. “US Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said on Saturday that the armed mutiny by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin had shown the corrosive effect on Russia of President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. It is striking that Prigozhin preceded his actions with a scathing indictment of the Kremlin’s mendacious rationale for the invasion of Ukraine and of the Russian military leadership’s conduct of the war, Burns, a former US ambassador to Moscow, said in a lecture to Britain’s Ditchley Foundation in Oxfordshire, England.

The impact of those words and those actions will play out for some time – a vivid reminder of the corrosive effect of Putin’s war on his own society and his own regime. Burns cast the mutiny as an armed challenge to the Russian state but said it was an internal Russian affair in which the United States has had and will have no part.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Alyona Getmanchuk and Olena Halushka explains “Why Ukraine should get an invitation to NATO”, Politico reports. Opening accession talks won’t drag the Alliance into the war with Russia — in fact, it will prevent it. For decades, NATO’s policy toward Ukraine was driven by the desire to avoid “provoking” Russian President Vladimir Putin at any cost. And, unfortunately, it appears the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and of Ukraine in 2014 didn’t teach NATO member countries the lesson that it is concessions — and not strength — that provoke Russia.

The upcoming NATO Summit in Vilnius has a historic mission to fix the strategic mistakes of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and NATO’s 2008 Bucharest Summit. It is a chance to introduce effective security guarantees for Ukraine — which voluntarily gave up the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal — and effectively end the era of so-called strategic ambiguity that has allowed Russia de facto veto power over the accession of various countries to NATO, giving hope to the idea that the great Russian empire can be restored in the 21st century.

In 2008, Ukraine was promised that one day it would become a NATO member, but in the following 15 years, no clear steps toward integration have taken place. And it is now high time to stop treating the country as a burden for transatlantic security and make good on that commitment.

The truth is, Ukraine is an asset. For over 15 months, the country’s armed forces have been repelling an invasion by the so-called second-largest army in the world and shielding NATO from “the most significant direct threat.” Prior to that, Ukraine also contributed to all major NATO-led missions and operations — including Iraq and Afghanistan, where it impressed the world with its evacuation of Canada-bound Afghans from Kabul during the withdrawal of troops. And when the world was hit by COVID-19, Ukraine’s cargo planes delivered emergency medical supplies to Allies through NATO’s strategic airlift program.

Meanwhile, the argument that the NATO enlargement process can’t start during wartime is only incentivizing Putin to prolong the sluggish fighting. Plus, it is a myth that NATO is limited in its ability to invite countries in the middle of war. In reality, there’s actually no clear list of criteria, nor are there any formal restrictions regarding wartime. Rather, according to the 1995 study on NATO enlargement, the decision to invite a particular country is made on a case-by-case basis. And though all previous accessions were, indeed, held in the absence of active war, the lack of such experience doesn’t mean it’s prohibited.

Many also fear that inviting Ukraine to join the Alliance at the Vilnius Summit would mean NATO soldiers marching into Ukraine to fight the Russian army early next morning. But it’s enough to simply take a look at the official NATO accession procedure to understand that’s absolutely not the case.

Article 5 applies only to full members, and getting full membership is preceded by a complex procedure that took Finland a full year and Sweden is still in the middle of. So, by the time Ukraine actually became a NATO member, it would have had many opportunities to regain control over its territory. Moreover, NATO has experience accepting countries that have occupied territories — like Germany. West Germany was at the forefront of the Cold War in Europe when it joined the Alliance in 1955, while East Germany remained under Soviet occupation and joined with the reunification of Germany in 1990.

Additionally, according to research we conducted at the New Europe Center, which tracks Ukraine’s implementation of NATO principles and standards, in 2021 the country had already implemented more standards than some current NATO members. Ukraine is also rapidly transitioning to modern weapons in combat, and its soldiers are mastering NATO’s weapons faster than expected. The battlefield has become a testing ground for weapons like Patriot air defense systems, as Ukraine’s troops proved they can intercept Russia’s hypersonic ballistic missiles.

Despite the significant progress made in interoperability, however, there are still issues to be addressed. US President Joe Biden recently reminded that Ukraine still has to “clean up corruption.” Between between 2014 and 2022, Ukraine actually achieved a lot in combating corruption and establishing rule of law, and while not all of the changes have been fully implemented yet, the country continues reforming even in wartime — though at a slower pace — with its anti-corruption fight receiving a powerful boost from the EU candidate status and the attached conditionalities. Granting Ukraine an invitation to NATO and starting the negotiating process would similarly give its defense and security reforms a huge push as well. With record-high support for NATO membership from 82 percent of Ukrainians, accession talks would strengthen the country’s resilience, but in areas not covered by EU accession, such as democratic oversight of Ukraine’s security and defense sector, state secrecy or improvement of defense procurements.

Many NATO country leaders would probably be surprised to learn their own citizens view the prospect of Ukraine’s NATO accession much more favorably than they do. A poll conducted by Kantar on behalf of the New Europe Center revealed that among participants, 70 percent of Americans, 55 percent of the Dutch, 53 percent of Italians, 56 percent of the French and 50 percent of Germans support the idea of a NATO extending an invitation to Ukraine as early as the Vilnius Summit. And the number of respondents who outright opposed an invitation was strikingly low. As a union of democracies, the Alliance needs to heed the voice of its citizens.

The role that NATO membership would play in terms of the sustainability of peace in the mid- and long-term, as well as in reconstruction efforts, shouldn’t be underestimated either. Throughout the year, donors have convened several conferences focusing on Ukraine’s reconstruction and ways to attract foreign investors, but many investors considering participating in Ukraine’s reconstruction are asking about security. Inviting Ukraine to join NATO would be a much cheaper and more sustainable guarantee for them than launching multi-billion insurance funds, or covering swaths of Ukrainian territory with air defense systems.

NATO accession would also be a powerful signal to millions of Ukrainian refugees — particularly families with children who don’t want their sons and daughters to fight in the next hot phase of the war. NATO accession would show them they can safely return to Ukraine and plan their future lives at home.

Furthermore, not inviting Ukraine to join NATO bears several geopolitical and practical risks. It means Russia will retain its de facto veto right over NATO enlargement — a confirmation that its policy of waging wars and occupying other countries works. Alliance countries will also be sending a signal to the Kremlin that they view Ukraine’s NATO membership as a bargaining chip in possible future negotiations, ignoring the agency of the Ukrainian people and discrediting the Alliance in the eyes of not just Ukrainian society but their own citizens who support the country’s invitation too.

Ukraine is also a democracy with the largest combat-experienced army in Europe. And while having it within the Alliance would turn it into a powerful asset for NATO, keeping it out, in the “gray zone,” might pose a risk.

Overall, the Russian army would have no chance in a military confrontation with NATO — it is barely coping with the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Thus, inviting Ukraine into NATO is the only way to end — and not expand — the war, bring sustainable peace back to Europe, end Russia’s imperialist ambitions and make sure this conflict isn’t repeated once Russia rearms and trains its new conscripts. This is a time of historic challenges that require historic leadership, and the West mustn’t be afraid — Ukrainians are not.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: Ukraine is increasingly signalling that they don’t expect NATO membership until after the war. The statements are not a reflection of its requests or desired outcome. Ukraine has consistently signalled a desire to become a part of the Alliance since the war started in 2014. As the NATO Summit in Vilnius is fast approaching, its statements are simply a reflection of numerous bi- and multilateral talks.

Ukrainian NATO membership after the war seems to be the writing on the wall.

What does that entail?

Firstly, it means a continuation of a strategy of appeasement. NATO will still be governed by the irrational fear of “escalation”. As Alyona Getmanchuk and Olena Halushka correctly pointed out:

Opening accession talks won’t drag the Alliance into the war with Russia — in fact, it will prevent it. For decades, NATO’s policy toward Ukraine was driven by the desire to avoid “provoking” Russian President Vladimir Putin at any cost. And, unfortunately, it appears the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and of Ukraine in 2014 didn’t teach NATO member countries the lesson that it is concessions — and not strength — that provoke Russia. The upcoming NATO Summit in Vilnius has a historic mission to fix the strategic mistakes of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and NATO’s 2008 Bucharest Summit.”

Secondly, it will be seen as a Putin veto and a motivation for rough nations to seek nuclear power status. Moscow does not have a “veto against NATO enlargement,” NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said ahead of an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo, Norway. Formally, that is correct. NATO’s inaction during the last 15 years says otherwise. Putin’s aggressions have de facto succeeded in stopping Georgian and Ukrainian accession into the Alliance.

The reality is that it is very much in the West interest to accept Ukraine into the Alliance. Ukraine will be one of NATO’s biggest assets, only outclassed by the US, the UK and Poland. Without Ukraine, there is no European security. The Alliance will not be able to defend the security and stability of its member states without a strong and democratic Ukraine. Its membership will strengthen Europe’s security and defence autonomy. It will reintroduce military power into what has become a predominant political alliance. Fighting the most complex war in centuries – in which drone warfare, electronic warfare, and cyber warfare dominate the physical battlespace while the cognitive space is being exposed to intense manipulation – its lessons learned will help transform NATO and its member states.

Ukrainian membership in the EU and NATO will help establish clear lines between the democratic West and autocratic Russia. It will remove one of the “grey zones” motivating Russia to wage war. 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. It will help contain “20 years of chaos” as Russia inevitably collapse along with its dream of global power.

A Ukrainian NATO membership will not only end the war but might ultimately also save Russia from itself.

Inviting Ukraine into NATO is the only way to end — and not expand — the war, bring sustainable peace back to Europe, end Russia’s imperialist ambitions and make sure this conflict isn’t repeated once Russia rearms and trains its new conscripts. This is a time of historic challenges that require historic leadership, and the West mustn’t be afraid — Ukrainians are not.”

If the West chose not to keep Ukraine outside NATO, it will be despite all the advantages its membership would bring. It would be out of fear for Russia. The world will watch and concludes that the “world’s strongest military power” is being deterred by the Russian Federation. It will inspire all nuclear power wannabes that nuclear weapons are a prerequisite for military expansion.

Thirdly, a promise of Ukrainian NATO membership after the war will be an invitation for Russia to continue – not end – the war. Russia will be motivated to uphold its warfare in Ukraine indefinitely. While its ability to uphold its present level of intensity might wane, a low-intensity war like 2014-21 will allow it to uphold its “veto” against Ukrainian NATO membership for decades to come.

Russia will remain the world’s biggest nuclear power for decades to come. If the West is cowed today, it will remain so as long as Russia continue to wage war in Ukraine.

While Russia’s conventional military power has never been weaker– and Ukraine has never been militarily stronger than today – Ukraine is still facing the tremendously difficult task of trying to evict dug-in military forces. Russia is conducting sound defensive operations from reinforced positions protected by a layer of minefields, tank traps, kamikaze drones, artillery and MLRS, anti-tank systems, electronic warfare, air defence systems and not least, air power. As previously stressed, Russia does not need to capture any more territory to succeed. It only needs to defend its present frontline and wait out the West.

Zelensky and Kuleba have lately argued in favour of an “invitation to join” NATO (recognising that membership is off the table). Acknowledging that an invitation not being equal to membership, it will not serve as anything but diplomatic signalling. It will be one step closer to a possible membership and a possible source of motivation for both soldiers and the civil population. Unfortunately, it will also serve as a motivation for Russia to continue the war. It will also not provide Ukraine with the security guarantees it seeks to defend its population and cities against further killings, suffering and destruction.

If Ukraine had already been a member of NATO in 2014, the illegal annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas and the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine would not have happened.

If NATO membership would have hindered the war from happening, the West needs to ask itself: Why cannot NATO membership stop the war?

The war started because diplomacy failed. Diplomacy failed to convince Russia that the costs of war would be much higher than any potential gains. Presently, the potential gains far outweigh the cost it is being inflicted.

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

A Ukrainian NATO membership would close the door to any potential Russian gains and simultaneously, increase the effect of sanctions several times over.

The idea that a Ukrainian membership would escalate the war only exists in the heads of Western citizens, and key policy and decision-makers because Russia planted it.

 

 

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