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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 498: Airstrike on Lviv kills at least four

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Airstrike on Lviv kills at least four civilians, injures 34. Ukraine maintains positions in east (left) bank of the Dnipro river in Kherson Oblast Russians put items similar to explosive charges on two of six Zaporizhzhia NPP units.

Daily overview — Summary report, July 6

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, July 6, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

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Last night, the adversary launched yet another missile attack on Ukraine, detailed update information to follow.

On July 5, the Russian occupiers launched an attack with 5 Iranian Shahed combat UAVs. 2 kamikaze drones were intercepted by the Ukrainian air defence. Also, the Russian occupiers launched 59 airstrikes and 65 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, Avdiivka, and Marinka axes, with 38 combat engagements taking place on July 5.

  • Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes. No signs of the formation of enemy offensive groups were found. Certain units of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus continue their missions in the areas bordering Ukraine.
Luhansk Battle Map. July 5, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary continues to maintain its military presence. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Hrabovs’ke (Sumy oblast), Pletenivka (Kharkiv oblast), and the city of Kharkiv. On July 5, the adversary fired mortars and artillery at more than 35 settlements, including Hirs’k, Oleksandrivka, Tymonovychi (Chernihiv oblast), Seredyna-Buda, Stukalivka, Basivka (Sumy oblast), Veterynarne, Kozacha Lopan’, Zelene, and Hatyshche (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis: the adversary does not abandon its attempts to advance in the vicinity of Novoselivs’ke (Luhansk oblast). The Ukrainian soldiers are standing their ground, all enemy attacks were repelled. The occupiers launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Ivanivka and Kyslivka (Kharkiv oblast). The adversary fired artillery and mortars at Petro-Ivanivka, Fyholivka, Monachynivka, Husynka, Novomlyns’k, and Kyslivka (Kharkiv oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. July 5, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Lyman axis: in the course of offensive actions, the adversary, attempted to dislodge our troops in the vicinity of Novojehorivka (Luhansk oblast), to no success. Russian forces launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast). More than 10 settlements, including Nevske, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Tors’ke, Verkhn’okam’yans’ke, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast), were shelled with artillery.
Bakhmut Battle Map. July 5, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: the Ukrainian defenders successfully repelled adversary attacks in the areas south of Berkhivka and Bohdanivka (Donetsk oblast). At the same time, Ukrainian forces continue to conduct offensive operations south and north of the city of Bakhmut, consolidating their positions. The adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Bohdanivka and Toretsk. The enemy fired artillery at more than 10 settlements, including Vasyukivka, Markove, Khromove, Oleksandro-Shul’tyne, and Pivnichne (Donetsk oblast).
  • Avdiivka axis: the Ukrainian Defence Forces continue to hold back the Russian offensive in the vicinity of the city of Avdiivka. At the same time, the adversary launched airstrikes on the vicinities of Avdiivka and Nevelske. The invaders fired artillery at more than 5 settlements, including Berdychi, Stepove, Avdiivka, Sjeverne, Nevel’s’ke, and Pervomais’ke (Donetsk oblast).
  • Marinka axis: Ukrainian defenders repelled all enemy attacks in the vicinity of the city of Marinka. The adversary launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Krasnohorivka (Donetsk oblast). The invaders shelled more than 10 settlements, including Krasnohorivka, Hanivka, Mar’inka, and Pobjeda (Donetsk oblast).
  • Shakhtarske axis: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Zolota Nyva, Odradne, Makarivka, and Rivnopil’ (Donetsk oblast). The occupiers shelled more than 15 settlements, including Novomykhailivka, Vuhledar Novoukrainka, and Prechystivka (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. July 5, 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 Havrylivka, Novodarivka, Zmiivka, and Antonivka (Kherson oblast). The invaders fired artillery at more than 40 settlements, including Levadne, Ol’hivs’ke, Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Bilohir’ya (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Tokarivka, Antonivka, Veletens’ke, Kizomys (Kherson oblast), and the city of Kherson. At the same time, the Ukrainian Defence Forces continue to conduct offensive operations on Melitopol’ and Berdiansk axes, consolidating their positions, firing artillery for effect on the identified enemy targets, and conducting counter-battery fire.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. July 5, 2023. Source: ISW.

On July 5, Ukrainian Air Force launched 13 air strikes on the concentrations of troops of the occupiers and destroyed 1 anti-aircraft missile system of the enemy.

On July 5, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 1 concentration of troops, weapons, and military equipment, 4 command posts, 1 ammunition depot, 8 artillery systems at their firing positions, 2 air defence assets, 1 radar station, and 4 electronic warfare stations of the adversary.

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Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

On the night of July 6, 2023, the Russian occupiers committed another terrorist act, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “Lviv Oblast was attacked. Around the 1st of the night, the enemy struck from the waters of the Black Sea – Kalibr cruise missiles were launched from surface carriers and submarines. Several groups of rockets were recorded, which first headed in a northern direction, using the topography of the area and the channel of the Dnieper, and then abruptly changed course to the West.

As a result of the combat work of the Air Defense Forces, it was possible to destroy seven out of ten Kalibr cruise missiles. Unfortunately, there are hits on civilian objects in the city of Lviv.”

Russia deploys over 180,000 troops to 2 major eastern fronts – Commander of Ukraine’s East Group of Forces, Ukrainska Pravda reported on Monday 3 July. “A rather powerful group of forces has been deployed [on the Lyman-Kupiansk front]: over 120 enemy units. This includes air assault and mechanised units, units of the Bars combat army reserve, territorial forces, and new Storm Z assault companies that recruited people with criminal records. […]

More than 180,000 [Russian troops have been deployed] across the area of responsibility [of the Skhid (East) Group of Forces]… The Lyman-Kupiansk front is longer, which is why the enemy is concentrating their forces there. Meanwhile, there are around 50,000 [Russian] troops on the Bakhmut front.”

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

British Intelligence Map.

  • Military formations drawn from across Russia are currently bearing the brunt of Ukraine’s counter-offensive.
  • In Zaporizhzhia Oblast, the 58th Combined Arms Army is defending heavily entrenched lines; normally it secures Russia’s volatile Caucasus region. Around Velyka Novosilka, the 5th Combined Arms Army and Naval Infantry hold the front; they are routinely based 7000km away as a balance to Chinese power.
  • Around Bakhmut, the defence is now largely formed around airborne regiments normally stationed in western Russia, who normally act as an elite rapid reaction force in case of tensions with NATO. The way Russia is accepting risks across Eurasia highlights how the war has dislocated Russia’s established national strategy.
  • General Sergei Surovikin, Commander-in-Chief Russian Aerospace Forces and deputy commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, has not been seen in public since the 23-24 June 2023 Wagner Group mutiny. Meanwhile, Deputy Defence Minister Colonel General Yunus-bek Yevkurov was notably absent from a televised appearance by the Ministry of Defence’s leadership on 03 July 2023.
  • Reports of Surovikin’s arrest cannot be confirmed, but authorities will likely be suspicious of his long association with Wagner dating back to his service in Syria from 2017. Similarly, Yevkurov was filmed talking to Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin during the group’s uncontested take-over of Rostov-on-Don.
  • Although largely known in the West by his brutal reputation, Surovikin is one of the more respected senior officers within the Russian military; any official sanction against him is likely to be divisive. The suspicion that has potentially fallen on senior serving officers highlights how Prigozhin’s abortive insurrection has worsened existing fault lines within Russia’s national security community.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

As of Thursday 6 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 232300 (+600)
  • Tanks – 4068 (+6)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 7932 (+15)
  • Artillery systems – 4310 (+22)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 657 (+1)
  • Air defence means – 404 (+9)
  • Aircraft – 315 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 309 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 6888 (+23)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 3635 (+21)
  • Special equipment – 605 (+7)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1264 (+0)

Russia losses almost half of its combat capability in Ukraine – UK Armed Forces chief, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Financial Times citing Antony Radakin, Chief of the UK Defence Staff. “The Russian army has lost almost half of its fighting capacity in Ukraine, including tank losses amounting to about 2,500 units. Russia has lost nearly half the combat effectiveness of its army. Last year it fired 10 million artillery shells but at best can produce 1 million shells a year. It has lost 2,500 tanks and at best can produce 200 [new] tanks a year.

Radakin said that the high density of Russian minefields, a lack of Ukrainian air cover and lack of military equipment requested by Kyiv have complicated the counteroffensive campaign. At the same time, Radakin noted, it was unfair to tie Ukrainian offensive actions to a certain time and that the counteroffensive is a set of measures.”

Humanitarian 

4 people dead, 34 wounded, 50 cars destroyed and 30 houses damaged: aftermath of Russian strike on Lviv, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “At least 4 people have been killed, 34 wounded, about 30 houses damaged and around 50 cars destroyed in a Russian missile attack on Lviv last night. There may still be people under the rubble.

[Maksym Kozytskyi, Head of the Lviv Oblast Military Administration] said that the main blow was inflicted on a residential apartment building – this building was actually destroyed and 6 other buildings near it were critically damaged.”

Environmental

Russians put items similar to explosive charges on two of six ZNPP units, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ukrainian General Staff. “The Armed Forces of Ukraine officially inform [citizens] about the possible preparation, in the near future, of a provocation on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has been occupied by Russian terrorists since 4 March 2022. Operational information says that unknown devices similar to explosive charges have been placed on the outer roof of the third and fourth power units of the ZNPP today.

According to the military, their detonation should not damage the power units, but it may create an image of a shelling by Ukrainian forces. Russian media and Telegram channels report such actions of their military, too. The Armed Forces of Ukraine do not violate the norms of international humanitarian law, monitor and control the situation and are ready to act under any conditions. No provocation by the enemy will pass, the General Staff emphasised.

Earlier, Lieutenant General Serhii Naiev, Commander of the Joint Forces of Ukraine, reported that the Ukrainian defence forces are strengthening the northern border of the country with manpower and military equipment due to the latest events at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.”

Satellite records new objects on roof of ZNPP’s power unit 4, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Radio Svoboda (Liberty) on Telegram. “Satellite images of the ZNPP show the appearance of new objects on the fourth power unit’s roof, which was reported to be mined by the General Staff. Radio Svoboda reported that the photos were taken on 5 July.

The resolution of the picture does not allow viewers to understand what exactly has appeared on the roof. At the same time, Radio Svoboda examined satellite photos from the fourth power unit of the ZNPP over the past year and a half and wrote that similar objects were not visible on any image during this time.”

Russia is exacerbating situation with nuclear power plant and may resort to terrorist attack in order to turn tide of war in its favor, – Ministry of Defense, Censor.net reports, citing Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar. “Here it is worth understanding that a terrorist country is capable of any, even totally reckless actions, which it will then try to pass off as someone else’s. In order to minimize potentially negative consequences in four Ukrainian regions – Dnipropetrovsk region, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson region, and Mykolaiv region – training of emergency services to overcome the consequences of a possible terrorist attack on the ZNPP has been going on for several days, the official said.

According to her, Russia is exacerbating the situation with the ZNPP and may resort to terrorist acts on its territory to turn the tide of the war in its favor. Both scenarios – both intimidation by terrorist acts and their direct perpetration – are for the Russian Federation a tool for achieving military goals. What to do now? Keep calm, trust only official sources of information, and follow their recommendations, summarizes Maliar.

Also remind that earlier the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported on the possible preparation of provocations by the occupiers on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the near future. On the evening of July 4, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, announced that the Russian military had placed items similar to explosives on the roofs of several power units of the ZNPP.”

Russia’s attack on Zaporizhzhia NPP would affect the whole world – top NATO official, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing LBC radio station. “The head of the NATO Military Committee, Rob Bauer, said that in the event of a Russian attack on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), its consequences would affect the whole world. […]

If this would happen – if this would happen – then it is a much bigger problem than just a military problem or something only for NATO, Bauer added. He clarified that since it would be an ecological and medical disaster, it would go beyond NATO and security issues.

At the same time, the head of the NATO Military Committee admitted that he cannot imagine that a number of countries that support the Russian Federation will support these actions of its government. And therefore, one would think, one would hope, that the Russians will not do this because I think it will take away a lot of the support they have in the world if they would do this, Bauer is convinced.”

IAEA has seen no sign of explosives at Zaporizhzhia yet, more access needed, Reuters reports. “Experts from the UN nuclear watchdog based at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine have yet to observe any indications of mines or explosives at the plant, but they need more access to be sure, the agency said on Wednesday. […]

IAEA experts have in recent days and weeks inspected parts of the facility – including some sections of the perimeter of the large cooling pond – and have also conducted regular walkdowns across the site, so far without observing any visible indications of mines or explosives, the IAEA said in a statement. The IAEA experts have requested additional access that is necessary to confirm the absence of mines or explosives, it added. In particular, access to the rooftops of reactor units 3 and 4 is essential, as well as access to parts of the turbine halls and some parts of the cooling system at the plant.

The British Ministry of Defence said in April that satellite footage from March showed Russia had set up sandbag fighting positions on the roofs of several of the six reactor buildings at the plant.”

OSCE PA recognizes Russia as state sponsor of terrorism, Wagner mercenaries as terrorists, Ukrinform reports, citing Yevheniia Kravchuk, a member of the Ukrainian delegation to the OSCE PA, deputy head of the Servant of the People faction in the Verkhovna Rada. “The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly recognized the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism, and Wagner PMC as a terrorist organization. Kravchuk noted that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly members adopted the final declaration on Tuesday. According to her, the document states that terrorism is one of the biggest threats to international peace and security, and PMC Wagner actions on behalf of the Russian government can be characterized as terrorist ones. In this context, it is stressed that Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Wagner Group was “fully financed” by the Russian Federation.

In addition, Kravchuk stressed that the declaration states that OSCE member states should take measures against Wagner PMC, its affiliated and successor structures, including by declaring them a terrorist organization.

Most importantly – (OSCE PA – ed.) calls on member states to strengthen international norms that clearly recognize: the terrorist nature of the Wagner Group and its actions; the responsibility of the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of this terrorist organization; the inadmissibility of involving such subjects in interstate relations, she added.”

Support

Poland, Italy call for strong security guarantees for Ukraine, Reuters reports. “Poland and Italy believe Ukraine must receive real security guarantees, the countries’ prime ministers said on Wednesday, ahead of a NATO summit where Kyiv hopes to receive a strong signal that it will be able to join the alliance in future. […] But members such as the US and Germany have been more cautious, wary of any moves they fear could take the alliance closer to an active war with Russia […].

We are in perfect agreement with Poland on the need for real security guarantees for Ukraine, also because offering real security guarantees to Ukraine is also a key condition for the achievement in the future of a just and long-lasting peace, Italy’s Giorgia Meloni said during a visit to Warsaw. […] Meloni has been a staunch supporter of Kyiv despite some misgivings among her conservative coalition allies, who in the past have been close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the two countries’ views were in line on Ukraine.”

US may approve transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine this week, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing CBS News. “According to CBS News, the US administration is already studying the possibility of approving Ukraine’s long-standing request for the supply of cluster munitions, in order to help meet the high demand of their Armed Forces for ammunition during a counterattack. As one of the officials pointed out, cluster munitions eject bombs that can cover five times more territory than conventional munitions.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions took effect in 2010 and bans the use, production and stockpiling of cluster munitions in the 123 states that are parties or signatories. The U.S, Russia and Ukraine have not signed the treaty. CBS emphasises that both Russian and Ukrainian fighters have reportedly already been using cluster munitions on the battlefield.”

UK to start training Ukrainian pilots in August, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “[James Heappey, UK’s Minister of State for the Armed Forces] said that 20 Ukrainian pilots will start basic training in the UK in August. The UK was the first country to announce that it would train Ukrainian pilots to operate Western aircraft. This initial round of training will take place on the ground; following it, Ukrainian pilots will be able to undertake more specialised training to operate F-16 fighter jets.

On 3 July, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that an unspecified country promised to start training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets in June but has failed to do so due to an error.

On 15 June, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that Ukraine’s partners were planning to approve a training programme for Ukrainian pilots, engineers and technicians on F-16 fighter jets by July; he explained that the training would take place in a specially created centre in a European country.

Politico reported that Ukraine might start receiving F-16 fighter jets by early 2024.

New Developments

  1. Biden opposes Wallace’s appointment as NATO Secretary General because of F-16s for Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The Telegraph. “US President Joe Biden has supposedly blocked the candidacy of UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace for the post of NATO Secretary General because the UK, without Washington’s consent, began to promote the idea of training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s. […] The media outlets have also found out that Biden is most favourably disposed to the candidacy of the current President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, whose term in office will end by then. On Tuesday, the allies officially extended Jens Stoltenberg’s mandate as NATO Secretary General for another year as they failed to agree on a candidate for his successor.”
  2. NATO-Ukraine Council to meet for first time on 12 July, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda, citing an official programme of the summit. “The first meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council, a new format of cooperation between Kyiv and the Alliance, will take place on 12 July, the second day of the NATO Summit in Vilnius. It is noted that the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council at the level of heads of state and government, including Sweden, will take place on 12 July at 13:00. It will be opened with a public opening statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The announcement, and in particular the mention of the participation of “heads of state and government, means that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will most likely attend the NATO summit in Vilnius in person.”
  3. Kremlin dismisses head of main Russian propaganda outlet, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing TASSVedomosti, a pro-Russian news outlet, and Strategic Communications Departmentof Ukraine’s Armed Forces (StratCom). “Sergey Mikhailov, the CEO of the Russian propaganda news outlet TASS, has been fired after more than 10 years in charge. It is reported that Mikhailov, who led the propaganda news outlet in its justification of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, resigned from his post at his own will. He was replaced by Andrey Kondrashov, the former press secretary of the Russian dictator’s campaign headquarters and author of the propaganda films Putin and Crimea. The Way to the Motherland.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  July 5, 2022:

Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove line on July 5. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults south of Novoselivske (15km northwest of Svatove), west of Novovodyane (17km southwest of Svatove), and on Novoyehorivka (16km southwest of Svatove). A Kremlin-affiliated source claimed that Russian forces cleared a depot and an industrial zone in the southwestern part of Novoselivske and established positions on two unspecified streets in the settlement. The source claimed that Russian forces are continuing to fight for control over Novoselivske. Geolocated footage published on July 5 shows Ukrainian forces striking Russian forces just north of Novoselivske along the N26 highway. Another Kremlin-affiliated source claimed that Russian forces attacked the Novoselivske and Novovodyane areas.

Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to engage in combat around Kreminna on July 5. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked Ukrainian positions south of Dibrova (4km southwest of Kreminna). […] A Kremlin-affiliated source claimed that Russian forces attacked the Serebryanske forest area towards Hryhorivka (10km south of Kreminna) and in the direction of Yampil (18km southwest of Kreminna). A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces attempted two unsuccessful break-throughs near Makiivka and that Russian artillery units repelled a Ukrainian advance on Russian positions near Dibrova. Another Russian milblogger claimed that unspecified elements of the Russian Airborne Forces repelled Ukrainian assaults on the Torske salient.

Ukrainian forces conducted successful offensive operations in the Bakhmut area on July 5. Geolocated footage posted on July 5 shows that Ukrainian forces have advanced southwest of Berkhivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut), west of Yahidne (2km north of Bakhmut), and southwest of Bakhmut. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks near Bohdanivka (5km northwest of Bakhmut), Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut), and south of Berkhivka. The General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continue to conduct offensive operations to the north and south of Bakhmut City and have entrenched themselves in new positions. Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi stated that Ukrainian forces are storming Russian positions on the northern approaches of Bakhmut and have recaptured unspecified areas. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar stated that Ukrainian forces are advancing in an unspecified area on Bakhmut‘s southern flank and that it is difficult for Russian forces to maneuver within Bakhmut.

Russian milbloggers reported that Ukrainian forces liberated an important height near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) but have not liberated the settlement itself. One milblogger claimed that the settlement of Klishchiivka, which is still under Russian control, is not as important as the heights in and around the settlement. Another milblogger claimed that it is pointless to hold Klishchiivka and additional territory up to the Bakhmutka River without control of the heights that surround it. […] A prominent Kremlin-linked milblogger refuted another Russian report that Russian forces had withdrawn from Klishchiivka, instead claiming that some Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups only gained a foothold in Klishchiivka. Several milbloggers claimed that elements of the Russian 72nd Motorized Rifle Brigade (3rd Army Corps) and “Storm-Z” detachments are operating in the Klishchiivka area. ISW previously reported that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin accused the 72nd Motorized Rifle Brigade of abandoning a strategic position in Bakhmut which resulted in 500 Wagner casualties and that Storm-Z detachments received a remarkably short amount of time for training before being deployed.

Russian and Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on July 5. Geolocated footage posted on July 5 shows that Ukrainian forces have advanced west of Vesele (6km north of Avdiivka). The Ukrainian General Staff claimed that Ukrainian forces defended against Russian offensive operations in the Avdiivka and Marinka areas. Maliar also stated that Russian forces attacked in the Avdiivka and Marinka directions but did not advance. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Valery Shershen stated that Russian forces carried out 17 unsuccessful assaults in the Marinka direction. Shershen noted that Russian forces previously used ”meat grinder” assaults but have recently started using small groups of 8-10 people to attack. Shershen suggested that Russian forces are starting to run out of personnel to expend in larger attacks and are also trying to protect equipment. Ukrainian MP Yuriy Mysyagin claimed that Ukrainian forces established a new position north of Opytne (6km northwest of the outskirts of Donetsk City) after pushing Russian forces from these positions. […] A Russian milblogger claimed that elements of the Chechen “Sever-Akhmat” Regiment (part of the 78th Special Purpose Motorized Rifle Regiment, 42nd Guards Motorized Rifle Division, 58th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) are operating in Marinka.

Russian and Ukrainian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on July 5. Footage posted on July 4 shows elements of the Russian 155th Naval Infantry Brigade (Pacific Fleet) and 39th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (68th Army Corps, Eastern Military District) storming Ukrainian positions near Mykilske (3km southeast of Vuhledar). ISW has recently observed artillery elements of the 39th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade operating on the western outskirts of Donetsk City near Marinka.

Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks in the western Donetsk Oblast-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area on July 5. […] A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces also attacked near Pryyutne (14km southwest of Velyka Novosilka) and that Russian forces attacked near Rivnopil (8km southwest of Velyka Novosilka). Ukrainian officials acknowledged continued Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia oblasts border area. Geolocated footage dated July 3 shows burning Russian armor north of Pryyutne; it is unclear whether Ukrainian forces hold the village, however.

Ukrainian forces continued to conduct ground attacks in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on July 5. […] Russian sources continued to claim that small Ukrainian assault groups attacked Robotyne, Nesteryanka, and Kopani (all within 7-12km south of Orikhiv). Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin claimed that Ukrainian forces continued attacks but did not advance in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Geolocated footage shows that Russian forces have advanced to positions immediately south of Pyatykhatky (25km southwest of Orikhiv) as of July 4.

A Ukrainian official confirmed that Ukrainian forces maintain positions in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast. Ukrainian Southern Group of Forces Spokesperson Natalya Humenyuk stated that Russian forces conduct reconnaissance against existing Ukrainian positions in an unspecified area of the east bank of Kherson Oblast using small sabotage and reconnaissance groups on boats. Humenyuk also stated that Russian forces recaptured former positions in the east bank of Kherson Oblast that Russian forces lost due to flooding from the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (KHPP) dam destruction. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces continue efforts to push Ukrainian forces from their positions on the east bank near the Antonivsky Bridge. The milbloggers additionally claimed that Ukrainian forces managed to transfer two small groups of reinforcements from the west (right) bank to the east bank and that Russian forces are increasingly using airstrikes against the Ukrainian positions. Some milbloggers continued to criticize the Russian military command for continuing to impale Russian infantry against Ukrainian east bank positions despite sustaining high losses and despite the lack of threat to broader Russian positions in east bank Kherson Oblast posed by limited Ukrainian positions on the east bank. Russian sources indicated that elements of the Russian 126th Coastal Defense Brigade (22nd Army Corps, Black Sea Fleet) and 205th Motorized Rifle Brigade (49th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) are conducting reconnaissance against and striking Ukrainian forces in the area.

Russian occupation authorities claimed to have resolved the severe traffic jams to the Kerch Strait Bridge on July 5 following four days of severe issues. Crimean Occupation Transportation Minister Mikhail Lukashenko claimed that there were no traffic jams at either the Kerch or Taman entrance to the Kerch Strait Bridge as of midday on July 5. Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed Russian authorities on July 4 to increase the use of ferry crossings and even allocate Russian MoD resources to resolving the Kerch Strait Bridge traffic issues. It is unclear to what extent the Russian occupation authorities will be able to mitigate traffic issues along this critical logistics line given the continued promotion of occupied Crimea as a tourist destination for Russian civilians.

Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted counteroffensive operations in five sectors of the front on July 5 and made gains in some areas. Geolocated footage posted on July 5 shows that Ukrainian forces have advanced southwest of Berkhivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut), west of Yahidne (2km north of Bakhmut), and southwest of Bakhmut. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations south and north of Bakhmut, and Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar stated that Ukrainian forces are advancing in an unspecified area on Bakhmut’s southern flank. Ukrainian MP Yuriy Mysyagin stated that Ukrainian forces established a new position north of Opytne (6km northwest of the outskirts of Donetsk City) along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted assaults in the Lyman direction, the Bakhmut direction, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front, on the border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts, and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Ukrainian Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff General Oleksii Hromov reported on July 5 that Ukrainian forces have advanced 7.5km into Russian-controlled territory in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and along the administrative border between the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts. Hromov stated that Ukrainian forces have liberated nine settlements and 160 square kilometers of territory since the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive on June 4.

Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a series of missile strikes targeting Russian rear positions along the entire front overnight and during the day on July 5. Geolocated footage published on July 4 indicates that Ukrainian forces struck an ammunition depot in Makiivka, Donetsk Oblast (6km northeast of Donetsk City). A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces struck a Russian fuel and lubricants depot in Makiivka and that Ukrainian forces are regularly launching missile strikes against rear Russian targets in Ukraine. Geolocated images published on July 5 also show apparent Ukrainian strikes on Russian positions near Debaltseve (52km northeast of Donetsk City). Geolocated footage published on July 5 also shows the aftermath of an alleged Ukrainian strike on a railway station in Yasynuvata (6km northeast of Donetsk City). Geolocated images published on July 5 shows the aftermath of an alleged HIMARS rocket strike on a Russian occupation administration building in Volnovakha, Donetsk Oblast (35km southwest of Donetsk City). Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces struck Russian positions near Yakymivka (16km southwest of Melitopol) and attempted to strike Berdiansk in Zaporizhzhia Oblast with Storm Shadow Cruise missiles. Russian sources claimed that Russian air defense systems shot down a Ukrainian missile in the vicinity of Berdiansk. A local Kherson Oblast Telegram channel also claimed that Russian air defenses were activated near Skadovsk, Kherson Oblast (60km southeast of Kherson City).

The footage and claims of these Ukrainian strikes suggest that Ukrainian forces launched a coordinated series of strikes aimed at degrading Russian logistics and ground lines of communication (GLOCs) throughout the theater. United Kingdom Chief of the Defense Staff Admiral Sir Antony David Radakin stated on July 4 that Ukrainian forces are conducting an operation to “starve, stretch, and strike” Russian forces to break down Russian defensive lines. A widespread strike series targeting Russian GLOCs and logistics would be an appropriate element of such a strategy and is partially reminiscent of the interdiction campaign that Ukrainian forces conducted as a part of the Kherson counteroffensive. ISW previously assessed that Ukrainian forces appear to be focusing on creating an asymmetrical attrition gradient that conserves Ukrainian manpower at the cost of a slower rate of territorial gains, while gradually wearing down Russian manpower and equipment. A possible Ukrainian interdiction campaign supporting this effort would have cumulative effects, and its results would not be immediately evident.

Ukrainian and Russian officials maintained their heightened rhetoric regarding the situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) on July 5 following significant claims of a possible attack against the plant overnight on July 4-5. Russia likely continues setting informational conditions for a possible false flag attack against the ZNPP but remains unlikely to cause a radiological incident at this time. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar stated that Russia may attack the ZNPP to either accomplish its military goals in the area — presumably deterring any possible Ukrainian counteroffensive near the Kakhovka Reservoir — or to intimidate and blame Ukrainian forces for any attacks against the ZNPP. Ukrainian Deputy Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operational Department, Oleksii Hromov stated that the situation at the ZNPP is not new and that Ukrainian forces have the necessary equipment to handle radiological incidents. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed that there is a “great threat” that Ukraine may sabotage the ZNPP with “catastrophic consequences.” ISW continues to assess that Russian statements accusing Ukraine of imminent sabotage against the ZNPP are likely part of a broader information operation aimed at undermining support for Ukraine ahead of the upcoming NATO summit and dissuading Ukrainian forces from counteroffensive operations in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi stated on July 5 that IAEA experts at the ZNPP have requested access to nuclear reactors no. 3 and 4 and other areas at the ZNPP following Ukrainian statements that Russian forces placed explosives on the reactors’ outer roofs. Grossi’s statement on the importance of accessing certain areas of the ZNPP — along with consistent prior statements to the same effect — indicates that Russian authorities are denying the IAEA contingent access to various critical areas at the ZNPP and are unlikely to allow access in the future. Russian authorities may refuse access to reactors no 3. and 4 to prevent the IAEA from investigating the Ukrainian reports on these reactors. Satellite imagery published on July 5 shows unknown objects on the roofs of one of the ZNPP reactor containment units, reportedly reactor no. 4, placed there after July 3. Though the exact nature of these objects is unknown, their presence on the reactor containment unit roof, recent Ukrainian reports, and significant alarm over the ZNPP underscore the importance of Russia’s refusal to give the IAEA access to critical ZNPP areas to investigate possible threats to the plant.

Ukrainian officials reported that Russia continues to procure Iranian-made Shahed drones and is setting conditions to manufacture these drones in Russia with Iran’s assistance. Ukrainian Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff General Oleksii Hromov stated that Russia received up to 1,800 drones from Iran – of which 1,600 are of the Shahed-type and 200 of unspecified types. Hromov added that Iran consistently replenishes Russian stocks of Iranian drones, and that Russia reached an agreement with Iran to produce drones in the Republic of Tatarstan. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported that Russian and Iranian officials are planning to set up the production of Iranian Shahed drones on the territory of Yelabuga in the Republic of Tatarstan given that this settlement is the provisional headquarters of the Yelabuga Free Economic Zone. Russia previously used Yelabuga Free Economic Zone exclusively for civilian industrial and economic projects before turning the project into a key focus of Russia’s military industry. The Resistance Center reported that Iran will provide Russia with necessary components that will then be assembled in Russia. The Resistance Center, citing open-source intelligence, reported that Russian leadership intends to train Yelabuga specialists in Iran to assemble Shaheds and transfer the production of some Shahed components to the territory of the Yelabuga Free Economic Zone. The Resistance Center added that Russia wants to establish an automated production line.

The Kremlin continues to show concern over the risk of a potential armed rebellion in Russia after Wagner Group’s rebellion on June 24. A pro-Kremlin online outlet reported that the Moscow Oblast police will train in urban combat tactics, light machine gun shooting, grenade throwing, and tactical medicine to improve skills in the aftermath of Wagner’s armed rebellion. Such training indicates that the Kremlin is attempting to improve the ability of security forces in Moscow to defend the regime against potential future threats. Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs is unlikely to adequately prepare the Moscow Oblast police for urban combat given that some police elements are already expressing disinterest with the new training plans among many other problems with this plan. The outlet stated that Moscow Oblast’s female police officers are also trying to avoid the training. […]

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted counteroffensive operations in five sectors of the front on July 5 and made gains in some areas.
  • Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a series of missile strikes targeting Russian rear positions along the entire front overnight and during the day on July 5.
  • Ukrainian and Russian officials maintained their heightened rhetoric regarding the situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) on July 5 following significant claims of a possible attack against the plant overnight on July 4-5. Russia likely continues setting informational conditions for a possible false flag attack against the ZNPP, but remains unlikely to cause a radiological incident at this time.
  • Ukrainian officials reported that Russia continues to procure Iranian-made Shahed drones and is setting conditions to manufacture these drones in Russia with Iran’s assistance.
  • The Kremlin continues to show concern over the risk of a potential armed rebellion in Russia after Wagner Group’s rebellion on June 24.
  • The Financial Times (FT) reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping personally warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against threatening to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine during his visit to Moscow in late March.
  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin dismissed Sergei Mikhailov from his position as General Director of TASS state newswire and replaced him with Andrey Kondrashov.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove line, and Russian and Ukrainian forces continued skirmishing around Kreminna.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted successful offensive operations in the Bakhmut area, and Russian milbloggers reported that Ukrainian forces liberated an important height near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut).
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks in the western Donetsk Oblast-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • A Ukrainian official confirmed that Ukrainian forces maintain positions in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast.
  • Ukrainian officials reported that Russia’s hybrid cryptomobilization and contract service recruitment campaigns have failed to produce large numbers of recruits, contrary to Russian claims.

Russian officials are setting information conditions to postpone regional elections in occupied Ukraine likely out of concerns for successful Ukrainian counteroffensives.

UK army commander outlines offensive strategy of Ukraine’s Armed Forces and says that main push is ahead, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Financial Times. “Antony Radakin, Chief of the UK Defence Staff, has stated that the main push of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the course of counteroffensive operations is yet to come, rejecting accusations about the slow advance of the Ukrainian military. Radakin noted that repelling Russian aggression is “never a singular act,” and Ukraine’s strategy is to “starve, stretch [the defence] and strike.” According to him, these actions destroy Russian defence lines.

The question is, how do you take a front line that is more than a thousand kilometres long and turn it into more of a problem for Russia than for Ukraine? That is why you are seeing multiple axes being probed and feints by Ukraine, the commander said. He acknowledged that the Ukrainian counteroffensive was complicated by the high density of minefields, the lack of air cover, and the fact that Ukraine did not receive all the military equipment it wanted. […]”

Ukraine is gradually wearing down Russian manpower and equipment, ISW assess. Ukrainian forces appear to be focusing on creating an asymmetrical attrition gradient that conserves Ukrainian manpower at the cost of a slower rate of territorial gains, while gradually wearing down Russian manpower and equipment. Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov reported on July 4 that Ukrainian forces are performing their main task of destroying Russian manpower, equipment, fuel depots, artillery, and air defenses and that a “war of destruction is equal to a war of kilometers.” Danilov’s assessment underlines the prioritization of Ukraine’s ongoing campaign to attrit Russian manpower and assets over attempting to conduct massive sweeping mechanized maneuvers to regain large swaths of territory rapidly.

NATO Military Committee Chair Admiral Bob Bauer reported on July 3 that Ukrainian forces are correct to proceed cautiously and avoid high casualties in the counteroffensive and acknowledged that the counteroffensive is difficult due to landmines and other obstacles up to 30km deep into Russian-occupied territory. Buer stated that Ukrainian forces should not face criticism or pressure for moving slowly.

Ukrainian forces have liberated territory in multiple areas of the front since the start of the counteroffensive in early June. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar reported on July 3 that Ukrainian forces have liberated a total of 37.4 square kilometers in eastern and southern Ukraine in the past week. Ukrainian forces are continuing to make steady, gradual advances.

The current pace of Ukrainian operations is not indicative of a stalemate or evidence that Ukraine cannot retake large areas. Ukrainian forces conducted slow and gradual interdiction campaigns against Russian concentration areas in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast and limited ground attacks on the west (right) bank between August and November of 2022, before finally forcing the Russian withdrawal from the right bank in mid-November. The situation in southern Ukraine is different, of course, because there is no natural bottleneck of the sort created by Russian reliance on the two bridges over the Dnipro. The Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kherson nevertheless alternated phases of relatively rapid advance with long periods of preparation, combat focused on attritting Russian forces, and limited gains that ultimately made Russian positions on the west bank of the river untenable.  By contrast, the Russian winter-spring offensive culminated in just over one month without making significant gains along the Luhansk-Kharkiv Oblast border. The current Ukrainian counter-offensive is less dramatic and rapid than the one that liberated much of Kharkiv Oblast, more successful than the failed Russian winter offensive, and generally most like the slower but ultimately successful Kherson counteroffensive in its pace and initial progress.”

Enemy has set up system of engineering barriers up to 40 km deep, – General Staff, Censor.net reports, citing Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the Ukrainian General Staff, Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov, in an interview with Ukrinform. “According to intelligence data, the enemy has set up a deeply echeloned system of engineering barriers in the occupied territories, which consists of several obstacle strips with a length of 10 to 40 km each, and their density is quite high, he noted.

According to Hromov, each line of barriers includes anti-tank minefields, non-explosive barriers in the form of anti-tank ditches, concrete pyramids (known as “dragon’s teeth”), anti-tank hedgehogs, and wire obstacles. In addition, Russian troops use mines or groups of mines, setting them to be unremovable, like trap mines. Special engineering techniques are used to overcome such barriers.

Of course, during the execution of tasks, this equipment is damaged or fails. In this regard, and in order to further increase the capabilities of our troops in overcoming mine and explosive barriers of the enemy, there are agreements with partner countries to continue the supply of the necessary amount of engineering equipment, namely demining installations and charges, tank bridge layers, equipment for making passages in explosive and non-explosive barriers, he concluded.”

During his visit to Moscow, Xi Jinping personally warned Putin against use of nuclear weapons, – Financial Times, Censor.net reports, citing Financial Times. “Chinese leader Xi Jinping personally warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Xi Jinping issued the warning during his visit to Moscow in March. According to a senior Chinese government adviser, deterring Putin from using such weapons was central to China’s campaign to repair its frayed ties with Europe. China has consistently opposed the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine in its public statements.

According to a senior adviser to the Chinese government, a Russian nuclear strike on Ukraine or one of its European allies’ risks turning the continent against China, and Beijing’s continued pressure to prevent a strike could help improve relations with the continent.

The Financial Times writes that Putin was left disappointed after Xi’s visit failed to bring Russia any tangible results, such as approval of the long-awaited Power of Siberia 2 pipeline, Western intelligence officials said. The condemnation of the use of nuclear weapons in their joint communiqué was almost certainly added at China’s request, officials said.”

Russia is reportedly forming a new combined arms army as part of the Northern Fleet, ISW reports. “Russia is reportedly forming a new combined arms army as part of the Northern Fleet, likely in order to posture its preparedness against NATO. Russian news outlet Izvestia reported that Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) sources claimed that the existing 14th Army Corps of the Northern Fleet will be reformed into the new combined arms army with motorized rifle brigades, divisions, and regiments subordinate to it. Izvestia suggested that the 14th Army Corps‘ 200th and 80th Brigades will be reorganized into a division under the new combined arms army. Russian army corps before the 2022 invasion of Ukraine existed only within fleets and largely performed the same functions as combined arms armies.

The reported decision to form a new combined arms army is thus likely posturing ahead of the NATO summit on July 11-12 intended to show Russia’s military response to the accession of Finland and possibly Sweden to the alliance. The promotion of the 14th Army Corps to a combined arms army level will not by itself increase Russian combat capacity, and it is unclear where the Russian military leadership could find the personnel and equipment that would be needed for the new organization to generate a material difference.

Prigozhin arrives in St Petersburg, takes back seized weapons, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Russian media outlet Fontanka. “Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), personally arrived in St Petersburg on 4 July, where the weapons seized during the searches were returned to him. On 4 July, at 17:00, a 7-Series BMW and a Land Cruiser with security guards accompanying it drove up to the building of the Federal Security Service Department of St Petersburg and [Leningrad] Oblast on Liteyny Prospekt. […]

According to the outlet, on Tuesday, Prigozhin was returned two Saiga rifles, an Austrian Steyr Mannlicher rifle, an AR semi-automatic rifle and several other rifles and pistols. […] A few hours earlier, the leader of Wagner PMC was officially invited to take back his weapons found during the searches on 24 June and seized in his country residence in the elite cottage village of Northern Versailles.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Ukraine should join NATO as soon as possible and without MAP – Western experts and diplomats, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Politico. “On the eve of the NATO summit in Vilnius, 46 reputable Western experts, military officers and diplomats signed a letter calling for Ukraine to be given a roadmap to NATO membership as soon as possible. In Vilnius, the alliance should launch a roadmap that will lead clearly to Ukraine’s membership in NATO at the earliest achievable date. As with Finland and Sweden, the process can bypass the Membership Action Plan in light of the close and ongoing interactions between NATO and Ukraine.

The authors have noted that Ukraine’s stay in a grey zone of uncertainty provokes Russian aggression, while Putin has not yet abandoned his goal of establishing control over Ukraine. The signatories of the letter have called for measures to be taken to ensure that Ukraine wins the war, regains full control over its internationally recognised 1991 borders, and is a full part of the security and economic arrangements that “made Europe a continent of peace, prosperity and cooperation from 1945 to 2014.

The transatlantic community can only be stable and secure if Ukraine is secure. Ukraine’s entry into NATO, fulfilling the promise made at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, would achieve that. They have also noted that NATO Heads of State and Government should make an unequivocal statement of the Alliance’s support for Ukraine and Kyiv’s desire to restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity within the 1991 borders. They should further underscore their readiness to supply Ukraine weapons — including longer-range missiles such as ATACMS, Western fighter planes and tanks — in sufficient quantities to prevail on the battlefield.”

In their view, this would demonstrate the Allies’ unequivocal commitment to Ukraine’s victory and send a clear message to Moscow that its military situation in Ukraine will only deteriorate the longer the conflict continues. The signatories believe that NATO Heads of State and Government should task the NATO Council in permanent session to develop recommendations on the timing and modalities of Ukraine’s accession process for decision at the next NATO Summit in Washington in 2024.

To strengthen Ukraine’s security prior to its accession to NATO, the Alliance and Ukraine should establish a deterrence and defence partnership in Vilnius, in which the Allies provide all necessary weapons, training, equipment, intelligence and other support while Ukraine continues to take the necessary steps to accelerate its integration into the Alliance and its command structures.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed that Ukraine really needs security guarantees, however, not as an alternative to membership but for the time being, until Ukraine becomes a NATO member. According to the German news outlet FAZ, an agreement on security guarantees for Ukraine may be signed before the NATO summit, which will take place on 11-12 July in Vilnius.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: I have become a staunch supporter of Ukrainian NATO membership this fall already. I have argued that Ukraine’s accession to the Alliance would constitute a strategic defeat for Russia, possibly ending the war without the West having to fire a shot.

Additionally, I have argued that it is in NATO and the EU’s interest to ensure a Ukrainian victory. The consequence of a Ukrainian defeat would be devastating to European security. Equally important, without Ukraine, there is no European security. The Alliance will not be able to defend the security and stability of its member states without Ukraine.

A Ukrainian membership will strengthen Europe’s security and defence autonomy at a time when the US attention is increasingly focusing on the Pacific theatre. It will reinvigorate a political-military Alliance that over time has become predominantly political after decades of downsizing and streamlining its force structures. Because of Russia’s inevitable failure, Europe will also be facing 20 years of chaos. Ukraine will play a crucial role in countering the challenges this entails for European security and stability.

That’s a sample of some of the arguments in favour of Ukrainian NATO membership. Unfortunately, I don’t expect that to become one of the outcomes of the Vilnius Summit.

Ukraine’s statement to the effect has gradually changed as the summit is approaching. After having argued strenuously for the quickest possible NATO membership and after multiple bilateral talks at all levels, Ukraine is slowly reducing its expectations for the summit.

Ukraine is presently acknowledging that membership is unlikely until after the end of the war. This is not Ukraine’s choice but the will of NATO member states. Unfortunately, this is also an invitation for Russia to uphold its war of attrition indefinitely.

For that to change, NATO needs to start countering the effect of decades of Russian disinformation and propaganda. The mindset of Western populations, key policy and decision-makers must be changed. Not by disinformation or propaganda but by facts.

The strategic messaging must be changed. The war must be presented as it always was: A confrontation between Russia and the West; between autocracy and democracy; between Great Power prerogative and a rule-based world order. The so-called “Russia-Ukraine war” is only a small part of a greater confrontation that affects us all. Ukraine is, however, protecting our shared values and principles alone while the West remains disengaged.

The Hybrid War Russia is waging against Europe and the US needs to be explained. Its consequences – including the “tsunami of ripple effects from the war” – needs to be described and countered.

The consequences for Ukraine, Europe and the USA would be devastating and must be explained. Not only would an autocracy have defeated democracy, but it will also have established Russia as a Great Power status. An aggressive country that has expanded for centuries at the expense of its neighbours will once again have succeeded, thereby securing the resources needed to expand and grow. Its military power will move 1000 km closer to Warsaw, Berlin, Paris and London. Additionally, it will create a constant belt of instability along the NATO borders as the Ukrainian nation continues its resistance. Equally important, an imaginary Ukrainian and Western defeat will serve as an example for any other autocracy or totalitarian state with territorial ambitions in conflict with international law.

European security and stability are fundamentally linked to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. A lasting peace in Europe is not possible without Russia being evicted from Ukraine.

Until the US and Europe start acknowledging the risks and potential consequences – what is at stake – they will be unable to mobilise their societies for the actions and costs needed to end the war. It will remain indecisive and unable to come up with a clear end-state and the consequential strategy to achieve it.

NATO – or in its failings – a coalition of the willing could end the war in weeks. The West has the means to end the war but has so far refused to use them.

Reiterating the words of Hanne Hopko:

Crime of inaction is worse than crimes of aggression. When you know you can help and save lives but don’t do this .. or deliberately delay with decisions. Moral decadence or degradation is much cynical .. this is how evil prevails.”

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