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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 500: Ukraine: 500 Days of Grief and Glory

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 500: Ukraine: 500 Days of Grief and Glory

Ukraine advances more than 1km in the Bakhmut direction and continues to advance on the southern front. US to give Ukraine cluster munitions in $800 million aid package. Zelenskyy will attend NATO summit in Vilnius.

Daily overview — Summary report, July 8

Source: War Mapper.

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, July 8, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

 

Last night, the Russian Federation launched yet another air strike on Ukraine, using Iranian Shahed combat UAVs. Information on the aftermath of this terrorist attack is currently being updated.

On July 7, the Russian occupation forces also attacked the territory of Ukraine with Iranian Shahed combat UAVs. 12 out of 18 of these drones were destroyed.

In addition, the enemy launched a missile attack on the territory of one of the infrastructure facilities in Zaporizhzhia. Also, 53 airstrikes and about 60 MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements were reported. Unfortunately, the attacks caused civilian casualties on top of the destroyed infrastructure.

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

The adversary continues to focus its main efforts on Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Marinka axes. On July 7, there were 36 combat engagements.

  • 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 8, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Vil’shana (Kharkiv oblast). The adversary fired mortars and artillery at more than 15 settlements, including Popivka (Chernihiv oblast), Krasnopillya (Sumy oblast), Okip, Neskuchne, Vovchans’k, Budarky, and Rublene (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis: the adversary attempted an advance in the vicinities of Novoselivs’ke and Stel’makhivka (Luhansk oblast). The Ukrainian soldiers are standing their ground, all enemy attacks were repelled. Kolodyazne, Novomlyns’k, Dvorichna, Zapadne, Masyutivka, Kup’yans’k, and Kyslivka (Kharkiv oblast) came under artillery and mortar fire of the adversary.
Donetsk Battle Map. July 8, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Lyman axis: On July 7, the adversary conducted assault operations in an attempt to dislodge Ukrainian troops from their positions in the area northwest of Berestove (Luhansk oblast) to no success. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Bilohorivka (Luhansk Oblast) and Spirne (Donetsk Oblast). More than 10 settlements, including Nevske, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Vesele, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk), were shelled with artillery.
Bakhmut Battle Map. July 8, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: under heavy fire from enemy aircraft and artillery, the Ukrainian defenders successfully repelled all enemy attacks in the vicinity of the settlement of Berkhivka (Donetsk oblast). At the same time, the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of the settlements of Bohdanivka, Klishchiivka, Oleksandro-Shul’tyne, Bila Hora, Kurdyumivka, and Pivnichne. The enemy fired artillery at more than 20 settlements, including Vasyukivka, Bohdanivka, Ivanivske, Klishchiivka, Oleksandro-Shul’tyne, Bila Hora, and Dyliivka (Donetsk oblast).
  • Avdiivka axis: with the aircraft support, the enemy launched unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Novokalynove, Avdiivka, and Nevel’s’ke. At the same time, the adversary fired artillery at more than 15 settlements, including Keramik, Zhelane, Avdiivka, Sjeverne, Karlivka, Pervomais’ke, and Nevel’s’ke (Donetsk oblast).
  • Marinka axis: under enemy artillery fire, Ukrainian defenders repelled all attacks in the vicinity of the city of Marinka. The adversary launched an airstrike near Krasnohorivka (Donetsk oblast). The invaders fired artillery at the settlements of Krasnohorivka, Mar’inka, and Pobjeda (Donetsk oblast).
  • Shakhtarske axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensive operations in the vicinity of Blahodatne (Donetsk oblast). The invaders launched an airstrike near Velyka Novosilka and shelled more than 15 settlements, including Novomykhailivka, Yelyzavetivka, Bohoyavlenka, Vuhledar, Zolota Nyva, and Sjeverne (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. July 8, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the adversary focuses its main efforts on preventing the further advance of Ukrainian troops. The invaders fired artillery at more than 30 settlements, including Novodarivka, Levadne, Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Zaliznychne (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Lvove, Tokarivka, Antonivka, Veletens’ke, Kizomys (Kherson oblast), and the city of Kherson. At the same time, the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to conduct offensive operations on Melitopol’ and Berdyans’k axes, consolidating their positions, firing for effect, and conducting counter-battery fire.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. July 8, 2023. Source: ISW.

[Against the background of the successful combat operations of the Defense Forces of Ukraine and due to the significant losses of the enemy in manpower, the number of refusals to participate in combat operations increased in the units of the Russian occupation forces. For example, in the area of the village of Rozivka in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, about 20 Russian soldiers refused to carry out combat missions in forward positions. After that, they were taken into custody and moved to the building of the Roziv district court.]

On July 7, Ukrainian Air Force launched 7 airstrikes on the concentrations of enemy troops, 4 airstrikes on the anti-aircraft missile systems, and 1 on a command post of the enemy. Also, the Ukrainian defenders intercepted 2 operational-tactical level reconnaissance UAVs of the enemy.

On July 7, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 2 command posts, 1 ammunition depot, 8 artillery systems at their firing positions, 2 air defence assets, and 2 electronic warfare stations of the adversary.

 

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Defence forces advance more than 1km in the Bakhmut direction, Ukrinform reports. “Ukrainian troops have advanced more than 1 km in several sections on the southern flank in Bakhmut direction. On the northern flank, battles are ongoing, positions have not changed. In Bakhmut city, the enemy is actually trapped. Our troops made it as difficult as possible for the enemy to move and made it impossible to get out, Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine Hanna Maliar posted on Telegram. Shelling from both sides continues.

In addition, the defence forces continue offensive operations in Melitopol and Berdiansk directions, intense battles continue everywhere. Ukrainian defenders gain a foothold on the reached frontiers, and take counter-battery fight measures.

In addition, our defence forces are actually smashing the enemy’s equipment and weapons there, destroying ammunition depots, striking the places where the Russian military is stationed compactly – thus significantly reducing the enemy’s offensive and defensive capabilities, the deputy minister added.

According to Maliar, some Russian units refuse to participate in the battles in the south due to significant manpower losses. The ratio of irreversible losses in the south is 1 to 5.3. That is, the enemy loses 5.3 times more service members in the south than our troops, she said.

In the east, Maliar added, the invaders continue to advance in Avdiivka, Mariinka, Kupiansk, Lyman, and Svatove directions, unsuccessfully trying to break through the defense lines. Intense battles are going on everywhere without changes in positions.”

Ukrainian forces advancing on southern front line – General Tarnavskyi, Ukrinform reports, citing General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, the commander of the Tavriia operational and strategic grouping of troops. “Ukraine’s defense forces are systematically driving the enemy out of their positions in the southern Tavriia direction, and Russian invaders lost almost two companies of soldiers killed and wounded in action there over the past day.

According to him, Ukrainian artillery units performed 1,247 tasks on the southern axis over the last 24 hours. In just one day, Ukrainian defenders destroyed 28 units of Russian military hardware and an enemy ammunition depot there.

In particular, the invaders lost six tanks, five armored fighting vehicles, four D-30 guns, a 2S9 Nona self-propelled artillery system, three Orlan-10 drones, an Akatsiya self-propelled artillery system, a Murom- M long-range visual surveillance system, an electronic warfare station, etc.”

Blast at Russian explosives factory kills six in Samara region, Reuters reports. “Six people were killed and two injured in a blast at an explosives factory in the city of Chapayevsk in central Russia, according to emergency services sources cited by the state news agency TASS. The factory, about 30 km southwest of the Volga city of Samara, is operated by Promsintez, one of the main manufacturers of industrial explosives in Russia and the former Soviet Union. […] Alexander Khinstein, a member of parliament for the Samara region, said the blast appeared to have been caused by welding and might have been the result of explosive remains being left in the pipes.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine early last year, there have been numerous blasts or fires at fuel depots, factories, railway lines and other infrastructure inside Russia. Authorities have attributed some of them to Ukraine and others to pro-Ukrainian saboteurs. […] On June 20, five people were killed in an explosion and fire at a gunpowder factory in Russia’s Tambov region, but the regional governor ruled out any possibility of an attack or sabotage.”

Ukraine’s air defence units destroy five Shahed drones last night, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ukrainian Air Force. “On the night of July 8, 2023, the enemy fired Iranian-made Shahed-136/131 drones from the southeastern direction (Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Krasnodar Krai). Following the combat performance of the air defence units of Ukraine’s Defence Forces, five Shahed-136/131 drones were destroyed,” the report states.

Meanwhile, some loitering munitions failed to be intercepted and hit industrial and infrastructure objects in the Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovohrad regions. According to the preliminary data, civilians remained unharmed. Local military administrations will update on the damage caused and the elimination of consequences.”

A new wave of Shahed drone attacks on the night of 7 July, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “On the night of July 7, 2023, the Russian occupation forces attacked with Iranian attack drones of the “Shahed” type from the south-eastern direction (Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Krasnodar Territory). In total, 18 “shaheed” launches were recorded.

The anti-aircraft defence worked in the southern and eastern regions. As a result of combat operations by units of anti-aircraft missile forces, fighter aircraft and mobile fire groups of the Air Force, 12 attack UAVs of the “Shahed” type were destroyed.”

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

British Intelligence Map.

  • After a lull during June 2023, over the last seven days Bakhmut has again been the site of some of the most intense fighting along the front.
  • Ukrainian forces have made steady gains to both the north and south of the Russian-held town. Russian defenders are highly likely struggling with poor morale, a mix of disparate units and a limited ability to find and strike Ukrainian artillery.
  • The Russian leadership almost certainly see it as politically unacceptable to concede Bakhmut, which has a symbolic weight as one of the few Russian gains in the last 12 months. However, there are highly likely few additional reserves to commit to the sector.
  • On 1 July 2023, the Russian Navy established a new Azov Naval District, headquartered in the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
  • Subordinate to the Black Sea Fleet (BSF), the district will reportedly command eight warships including three modern, Karakurt class corvettes which can launch SS-N-30A Kalibr cruise missiles.
  • The Azov Sea is a vital maritime area for Russia because it links its inland waterways to international maritime routes. In the context of the war, it also offers an alternative military resupply option should Russia’s over-land routes to southern Ukraine be disrupted.
  • The Azov Naval District will likely focus on supporting logistical and counter-partisan tasks, freeing up the main BSF to concentrate on long range strike operations and projecting maritime power further abroad.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

As of Saturday 8 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 233440 (+630)
  • Tanks – 4074 (+4)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 7953 (+9)
  • Artillery systems – 4346 (+16)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 661 (+3)
  • Air defence means – 410 (+2)
  • Aircraft – 315 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 309 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 6914 (+16)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 3666 (+14)
  • Special equipment – 619 (+7)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1271 (+0)

Russia is losing its advantage in heavy weapons on front in Ukraine, – Bloomberg, Censor.net reports, citing Bloomberg. “The latest data on military aid to Ukraine from its allies indicate that Russia is beginning to lose its advantage in heavy equipment on the battlefield. […] It is noted that according to the estimates of lost or captured equipment, based on open sources, conducted by the Oryx intelligence group, Ukraine’s tank fleet has increased since the beginning of the invasion last year, while Russia’s has been halved. At the same time, many consider this estimate to be conservative. The gap in artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems has also narrowed, albeit by a much smaller margin.

The data on tanks, in particular, coincides with parliamentary testimony given on Tuesday by the UK Chief of Defence Staff Tony Radakin, the newspaper writes. Russia has lost almost half of its army’s combat capability. Last year it produced 10 million artillery shells, but at best it can produce 1 million shells a year. It has lost 2,500 tanks and at best can produce 200 tanks a year, Radakin told the legislative assembly’s defence committee.

However, as the newspaper notes, there is enormous uncertainty around such figures, as both sides consider their losses to be a state secret, and there are significant difficulties in collecting information from open sources. It is also impossible to obtain reliable data on the number of tanks and artillery pieces that Russia has produced or used from its arsenal of weapons since the beginning of the war.”

Ukraine has more tanks than Russia. Before 24 February, it was other way round – Bloomberg, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Bloomberg referring to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy and Oryx monitoring group. “Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine has only increased its tank fleet, while Russia’s has been halved. According to Bloomberg, statistics updated on Thursday from the Ukraine Support Tracker database show that allies have delivered 471 new tanks to Ukraine since the start of the full-scale war, with 286 more to come, although the pace of new aid has slowed.

Bloomberg has taken into account the statistics of lost and captured equipment recorded by Oryx and found that Ukraine’s tank fleet has increased since the start of the invasion last year, while Russia’s has been halved. Thus, Ukraine currently has about 1,500 tanks, while Russia has 1,400. […]

Bloomberg emphasised that the current assessment is based on confirmed data on lost and captured equipment, as well as weapons sent to Ukraine. There is no data on Russian production. According to Oryx, which only records losses for which there is photographic or video evidence, 2,082 Russian tanks have been destroyed, damaged, abandoned or captured since the full-scale war began in 2022. Moscow started the full-scale war with 3,417 tanks, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

At the same time, Bloomberg noted that there are significant difficulties in collecting information from open sources, especially when it comes to Ukrainian losses, which are less recorded. There is also no reliable data on the number of tanks and artillery shells that Russia has produced or withdrawn from the reserve since the beginning of the full-scale war.

Updated data from the Kiel Institute for the period from 25 February to 31 May show that aid pledges were significantly lower than in the winter. Military pledges for this period totalled €9 billion (US$9.77 billion). At the same time, the share of military aid increased compared to financial and humanitarian pledges. The United States and European Union member states are the slowest to fulfil their arms commitments, according to the report: 286 out of 757 tanks and 177 out of 556 155-mm and 152-mm howitzers have not yet arrived.

Bloomberg suggested that these delays may make even some of the tanks already delivered less effective, as Ukrainian troops have been forced to rush through training.

Russian forces likely lack combat-ready reserves, ISW assess. “Russian milbloggers claimed that aspects of Russian defensive operations in southern Ukraine have severe limitations and may not be as effective as Russian sources have previously portrayed them. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian mobilized service members operating in Zaporizhzhia Oblast have been on the frontlines since October 2022 without any rotations. The milblogger stated that Russian forces have not been able to rotate these mobilized personnel out of these positions because there are no available personnel to replace them with. The milblogger’s description of acute rotation issues supports ISW’s previous assessment that Russian forces likely lack combat-ready reserves. The failure to conduct any rotations will likely result in a quicker rate of degradation for Russian formations defending against Ukrainian counteroffensives in southern Ukraine.

Other Russian milbloggers accused Russian attack helicopters of striking already destroyed Ukrainian military equipment and suggested that the Russian MoD may be using these repeated hits to report inflated Ukrainian losses. The Kremlin has previously used reports of wildly inflated Ukrainian armored vehicle losses to portray Russian defensive operations as extremely effective.”

Humanitarian 

Civilian casualties in Ukraine three times higher in last 500 days compared to previous 8 years – UN, Ukrinform reports, citing a statement  by the UN’s Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU). “Three times as many civilians were killed in the last 500 days as during the entire previous 8 years of hostilities in eastern Ukraine. In particular, the UN mission was able to confirm that more than 9,000 civilians, including over 500 children, had been killed since Russia’s February 24, 2022 attack, but it cautioned that the real number could be much higher.

Today we mark another grim milestone in the war that continues to exact a horrific toll on Ukraine’s civilians, Noel Calhoun, the deputy head of HRMMU, said. The HRRMU noted that overall monthly casualty figures decreased earlier this year comparing to 2022, but in May and June the average number of casualties went up again.”

Dutch House of Representatives recognises Holodomor as genocide of Ukrainian people, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “The Dutch House of Representatives, the lower house of the country’s parliament, has recognised the Holodomor of 1932-1933 as a genocide of the Ukrainian people. [The Holodomor is a famine of 1932-1933 artificially created by Stalin’s repressive regime in the heyday of collectivisation, that is, the forced seizure of private property and the organisation of collective farms. As a result of those events, according to various estimates, from four to six million Ukrainians died due to the lack of food, mainly in rural areas – ed.] […]

Previously, the Holodomor has been recognised as genocide of the Ukrainian people by the parliaments of 27 countries in the world, including in Europe. In March, this step was taken by the Belgian House of Representatives, the Lower House of the Belgian Parliament, and Iceland’s Parliament. With the Netherlands, that figure has risen to 28.

By now, parliaments of almost thirty countries have recognised the Holodomor of the Ukrainian people as an act of genocide. The European Parliament has also joined the recognition campaign.»

Ukraine needs 300-400 automated systems to clear all farmland of mines, Ukrinform reports, citing Dmytro Solomchuk, a member of the Verkhovna Rada committee on agrarian and land policy. “We still have a lot of land to clear in Borodyanka and Hostomel (Kyiv region), not to mention Chernihiv, Sumy, and Kharkiv regions. Therefore, to clear all agricultural land in at least two seasons, we need a minimum of 300-400 automated demining complexes in Ukraine. Then this process will go faster, he said.

Solomchuk noted that automated demining systems are currently used mainly in the southern and eastern regions. At the same time, Ukraine uses “manual” demining with detectors, but this is a very slow and dangerous process. […]

As Ukrinform reported earlier, the World Bank estimates that the full range of humanitarian demining in Ukraine will cost USD 37.4 billion. Currently, the state is implementing a plan for priority demining of agricultural land, according to which 470,000 hectares of agricultural land are subject to priority inspection and clearance. In 6 months of 2023, 150,000 hectares of potentially mined agricultural land were inspected in Ukraine.”

Environmental

Risk of disaster at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant slowly decreasing – Ukrainian Intelligence Chief, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of DIU in an interview with The Times. “Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, has said that the risk of a Russian terrorist attack on the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is slowly decreasing. […]

Earlier, Budanov had warned citizens of the possibility of Russian sabotage at the occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP. For reasons he refused to disclose, he said that this threat is now diminishing – even though President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the occupation forces were planting explosives there. […]

Instead, Budanov’s attention was drawn to Defence Intelligence’s analysis of a secret internal study conducted by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs on the level of public support during the Wagner coup in Russia. Budanov is convinced that Russia is ripe for civil war.”

There are approximately 700 Russian military personnel at nuclear power plant, they mine everything, Censor.net reports, citing Petro Kotin, president of “Energoatom” in UNIAN. “At the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP in the city of Enerhodar, great danger remains due to the presence of the Russian military. According to Kotin, the station remains very dangerous due to the presence of the Russian military.

Their number there sometimes increases, sometimes decreases. According to the latest information, there are about 700 military personnel there. In fact, there are explosives and weapons there. There are all other substances that are not needed at this facility. The station is mined, the head explained. companies

He also added that the occupiers continue to mine both important and non-essential equipment for the operation of the station. They mine everything if they believe that there might be an attack from that side. Machine gun nests were placed on the roofs of some power units, he added.”

Ukraine is defending itself – NATO Secretary General on cluster munitions supply, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda. “Stoltenberg has noted that NATO as an organisation does not have a single position on the use of this type of munition. Some allies have signed the convention [on cluster munitions – ed.], and some allies have not signed the convention, Stoltenberg said, referring to the convention that bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions. 

It is up to the individual allies to make decisions on arms and military supplies to Ukraine, he added. At the same time, Stoltenberg has stressed that Ukraine is facing a brutal war. This brutality is reflected every day in the fact that we see casualties every day and that cluster munitions are being used by both sides, Stoltenberg added.”

Support

Slovak Republic to provide Ukraine with 16 Zuzana artillery systems, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing President Zuzana Čaputová at a joint briefing with the President of Ukraine in Bratislava, European Pravda. “We have signed a contract for the supply of 16 Zuzanas [artillery systems – ed.] to Ukraine and this will happen in the very near future. We will jointly develop a new type of howitzer. Joint production of ammunition will begin.

Čaputová was most likely referring to an agreement announced long ago by the Slovakian defence minister on the supply of 16 Zuzana self-propelled guns for Ukraine within a year – an initiative funded by Germany, Norway and Denmark. She added that Slovakia will also support mine clearance efforts in Ukraine. […]

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said, following talks with Zelenskyy, that Czechia would supply Ukraine with additional attack helicopters and large-calibre ammunition and help train F-16 fighter pilots.”

US to give Ukraine cluster munitions in $800 million aid package, Reuters reports. “The United States announced on Friday that it will send Ukraine cluster munitions – prohibited by more than 100 countries – as part of an $800 million security package, a move Ukraine said would have an extraordinary psycho-emotional impact on Russian forces. Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, sought to make the case for providing these arms to Ukraine shortly before the Pentagon formally announced the aid. Cluster munitions could boost Ukraine’s counteroffensive to reclaim territory seized since Russia invaded in February 2022.

We recognize that cluster munitions create a risk of civilian harm from unexploded ordnance, Sullivan told reporters. This is why we’ve deferred the decision for as long as we could. But there is also a massive risk of civilian harm if Russian troops and tanks roll over Ukrainian positions and take more Ukrainian territory and subjugate more Ukrainian civilians because Ukraine does not have enough artillery, Sullivan said. Asked why he was providing the cluster munitions now, Biden told reporters that it was because the effort to defend against Russia had run out of ammunition.

Cluster munitions typically release large numbers of smaller bomblets that can kill indiscriminately over a wide area. Those that fail to explode pose a danger for decades after a conflict ends. Ukraine has asked for these weapons to fire against Russian positions with dug-in troops. Ukraine has provided written assurances that it is going to use these in a very careful way to minimize risks to civilians, Sullivan said, adding that the US National Security Council was unanimous in its assent to send the weapons.

The security assistance package announced by the Pentagon included cluster munitions fired by 155-millimeter Howitzer cannons, 31 additional Howitzer cannons, additional munitions for Patriot air defenses and anti-tank weapons. New Penguin drones, munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and ground vehicles such as Bradley fighting vehicles and Stryker armored personnel carriers were also included in the security aid – the 42nd such US package for Ukraine totaling more than $40 billion since the invasion.

Human rights groups opposed the US decision to provide cluster munitions. Human Rights Watch has accused Russian and Ukrainian forces of using these weapons, which have killed civilians. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is against the continued use of cluster munitions, a UN spokesperson said. US ally Germany also opposes sending cluster munitions to Ukraine, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. Germany is one of 111 states party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a pact that does not include the United States.

Republicans on the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee applauded Biden’s move but wanted more, urging the US government to send the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, which they noted has a similar range to Storm Shadow cruise missiles that Britain has already sent. […]

Undoubtedly, the transfer of additional volumes of shells to Ukraine is a very significant contribution to the acceleration of de-occupation procedures, presidential political adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said on Friday. Especially if we are talking about cluster ammunition, which is undoubtedly capable of having an extraordinary psycho-emotional impact on already demoralized Russian occupation groups, Podoliak added.

Sending cluster munitions, known as Dual-Purpose Conventional Improved Munitions (DPICM), would ease a drain on standard “unitary” 155-millimetre shells that the United States has been shipping to Ukraine in massive quantities. Sullivan acknowledged that the United States needed to build a bridge from where we are today to when we have enough monthly production of unitary rounds, and said cluster munitions would be that bridge through the summer and autumn.”

Germany sends another military aid package to Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing the updated list of equipment sent to Ukraine. “In particular, Germany supplied Ukraine with a bridge for a BEAVER bridge-laying tank (three of these were delivered earlier), a BEAVER bridge-laying tank (in total, Ukraine now has nine of these), a DACHS armored engineer vehicle (in addition to the four transferred earlier), six 8×8 HX81 truck tractor trains, and three semi-trailers (now the Ukrainian army has 25 and 23 of them, respectively).

Ukraine also received three radio jammers (seven were delivered before) and two anti-drone sensors and jammers (55 were delivered before).”

Swedish-made CV 90 fighting vehicles already in Ukraine – Reznikov, Ukrinform reports, citing Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. “The Ukrainian Armed Forces have been reinforced with Swedish-made Stridsfordon 90 (CV 90) infantry fighting vehicles.”

Zelenskyy believes counteroffensive slows down as Western weapons arrive late, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing CNN. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been slowed down by fortified Russian defences, and he wished that Western arms supplies had allowed Ukraine to launch an offensive much earlier.

I’m grateful to the US as the leaders of our support. But I told them as well as the European leaders that we would like to start our counteroffensive earlier, and we need all the weapons and materiel for that. Why? Simply because if we start later, it will go slower. Zelenskyy said that the military could not even think of starting any offensives in some areas of the front as they lacked the relevant weapons.

He added that the challenges on the battlefield are now resulting in a slowed down counteroffensive. I wanted our counteroffensive to happen much earlier, because everyone understood that if the counteroffensive unfolds later, then a bigger part of our territory will be mined. We give our enemy the time and possibility to place more mines and prepare their defensive lines. […]

He also stressed his request for F-16 fighter jets: It’s not even about the Ukrainian advantage in the sky over the Russians. This is only about being equal. F-16s help not only those on the battlefield to move forward. It is simply very difficult without cover from the air.”

Stoltenberg announces decisions to be made at NATO summit on Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda. “NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that Allied leaders will adopt a package for Ukraine at the upcoming summit in Vilnius that will include three main elements. At the Summit, we will make Ukraine even stronger and set out a vision for its future. I expect the Allies to adopt a three-element package to bring Ukraine closer to NATO.

Stoltenberg said the leaders will agree on a multi-year programme of assistance to ensure full interoperability between the Ukrainian Armed Forces and NATO. Secondly, the NATO Secretary General noted, the summit will renew political ties between Ukraine and NATO by establishing a NATO-Ukraine Council. And third. I expect Allied leaders to reaffirm that Ukraine will become a NATO member and to unite on how to bring Ukraine closer to its goal, Stoltenberg added.”

NATO tells of progress of negotiations on security guarantees before Ukraine’s accession, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Romanian news outlet Digi24. “Mircea Geoană, Deputy Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance, has said that NATO is continuing negotiations on formulating security guarantees for Ukraine before it becomes a member. We will work on a package of assistance (for Ukraine. – ed.), and yes, we are conducting multilateral negotiations on the formulation of security guarantees that will ensure consistency and predictability until it becomes a member of NATO, Geoană said. […]

He also pointed out that Ukraine is much more closely connected with our alliance and the Western world today. The official added that in Vilnius, NATO leaders will reach the next level of political relations. Discussions are taking place. It is clear that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and Ukraine want to have a clear schedule of integration. And when the conditions are met, Ukraine has every chance of eventually becoming a member of NATO, Geoană concluded.

Earlier, it was reported that James Cleverley, UK Foreign Secretary, and Zbigniew Rau, his Polish counterpart, supported Ukraine’s accelerated entry into NATO. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on US President Joe Biden to invite Ukraine to join NATO now – even if the country joins the alliance after the war. Gitanas Nausėda, Lithuanian President, said that at the NATO summit in Vilnius, it will be possible to agree on such obligations to Ukraine that will not disappoint it.

Fight against Russian Federation is most important thing that is happening in world right now – leader of Republicans in US Senate McConnell, Censor.net report, citing European Pravda. “The leader of the Republicans in the US Senate, Mitchell McConnell, emphasized the importance of continuing to help Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression. The American senator noted that there are critics in both political parties who believe that the war in Ukraine is not important for the United States.

This is not my point of view, it is not the point of view of the majority of Republicans in the Senate and Democrats, he said, calling the fight with Russia the most important thing happening in the world right now. The Republican leader noted that aid to Ukraine benefits the United States, as half of the funds are spent in the United States on weapons production.

In the grand scheme of things, we’re helping someone else fight one of our biggest adversaries today – the Russians – and there’s nothing wrong with that, McConnell added. According to him, the consequences of the invasion of Ukraine turned out not to be as Russian President Vladimir Putin predicted, adding that the head of the Kremlin hoped for a split in NATO. Everything that Putin hoped for did not come true, the senator said.”

New Developments

  1. Zelenskyy will attend NATO summit in Vilnius, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, reported by European Pravda. “President Zelenskyy will join us for the inaugural meeting of the new NATO-Ukraine Council. This will be a platform for crisis consultation and decision-making, where we all sit as equals to address security concerns. Earlier, the Alliance announced that the first meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council, a new format for cooperation between Kyiv and the Alliance, would take place on 12 July, day two of the Vilnius Summit. At the Vilnius Summit, Ukraine seeks to obtain specific decisions concerning its accession to NATO.”
  2. Türkiye’s Erdogan to host Putin, hopes for Black Sea grain deal extension, ReutersTürkiye’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he was pressing Russia to extend a Black Sea grain deal by at least three months and announced a visit by President Vladimir Putin in August. […] Erdogan said work was under way on extending the Black Sea grain deal beyond its expiration date of July 17 and for longer periods beyond that. The deal would be one of the most important issues on the agenda for his meeting with Putin in Türkiye next month, he said.”
  3. Zelenskyy in public spat about the war with Bulgaria’s pro-Russian president, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Politico. “During his visit to Sofia on Thursday, 6 July, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had an argument with Bulgarian President Rumen Radev about military aid for Ukraine and criticised Radev’s pro-Russian stance. The argument was captured on camera and broadcast on TV. During the meeting of the Ukrainian and Bulgarian delegations, Radev said that there was no military solution to this conflict and that more and more weapons hardly lead to that solution. Zelenskyy responded by asking what Radev would do if Russia invaded Bulgaria. […] Zelenskyy criticised Radev for using “conflict” rather than “war” to describe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and brushed aside Radev’s suggestion of a diplomatic fix, explaining that military aid for Kyiv is a way for other countries, including Bulgaria, to ensure that war does not come to you. Ukraine and NATO should have shared values. It can’t be otherwise. You cannot support Russia and support a balancing position, because Russia wants to destroy NATO, wants to destroy Europe and the European Union; these are their goals. Do you get me? Zelenskyy said
  4. Biden warned China’s Xi on West’s investment after Putin meeting, ReutersUS President Joe Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping following his meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to be careful because Beijing relies on Western investment, according to excerpts from an interview with CNN. I said: This is not a threat. This is an observation, Biden said. Since Russia went into Ukraine, 600 American corporations have pulled out of Russia. And you have told me that your economy depends on investment from Europe and the United States. And be careful. Be careful.”
  5. Russian Gazprom threatens Kyiv with termination of any cooperation through arbitration courts, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Alexey Miller, the CEO of Gazprom, in a statementon 7 July. “Naftogaz’s ongoing arbitration proceedings with Gazprom may lead to the imposition of sanctions by the Russian Federation, Miller told reporters. He noted that Naftogaz filed another multibillion-dollar lawsuit against Russia in the US courts. According to the head of Gazprom, this will lead to a break in any cooperation. […] According to the Russian news agency, Gazprom is nervous about Naftogaz’s demand to fulfil the terms of the agreement from 2019 regarding the transit of Russian gas through the territory of Ukraine for European consumers. The agreements provided for the signing of a contract for five years with the possibility of extension for another 10 years, the minimum volume of transit: 65 billion cubic metres of gas in the first year and 40 billion cubic metres each in the next four years. Moreover, the Russian side is obliged to pay the specified volumes, regardless of whether they were pumped in practice.”
  6. Latin American countries refuse to see Zelenskyy at summit with EU, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing EURACTIV. “Latin American countries opposed the participation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in their summit with the European Union in Brussels in mid-July and removed everything related to Ukraine from the draft declaration of this summit. […] The counterproposal that the CELAC countries sent to Brussels shows that they are not on the same wavelength and want “to be perceived as equal partners, diplomats say. In a surprise move, CELAC members asked Europeans to pay reparations for the damage caused by slavery, which is likely to become a potentially contentious issue.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  July 7, 2022:

Russian forces continued ground attacks on the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on July 7. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful ground attacks near Novoselivske (15km northwest of Svatove), Stelmakhivka (16km northwest of Svatove), west of Karmazynivka (13km southwest of Svatove), and northwest of Berestove (30km south of Kreminna). A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces consolidated control over an industrial area in Novoselivske, advanced further into the settlement, and made marginal advances south of Novoselivske. Some Russian milbloggers claimed that unspecified Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) elements recaptured some ground in the Serebrianska forest area (11km south of Kreminna).

Ukrainian forces continued counterattacks on the Svatove-Kreminna line on July 7. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked positions of elements of the Russian 15th and 30th Motorized Rifle brigades (both of the 2nd Combined Arms Army, Central Military District) on the Karmazynivka-Krasnorechenske line (13-17km southwest of Svatove). The milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces also attacked Russian positions near Nevske (18km northwest of Kreminna), Dibrova (5km southwest of Kreminna), and Bilohorivka (12km south of Kreminna), and in the direction of Shyplivka (8km southeast of Kreminna). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian ground attacks near Makiivka (22km northwest of Kreminna), Yampolivka (14km west of Kremmina) and Torske (13km west of Kreminna).

Ukrainian forces made tactically significant gains in the Bakhmut area between July 6-7. Geolocated footage posted on July 6 shows that Ukrainian forces advanced west of Yahidne (2km north of Bakhmut). Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi stated that Ukrainian forces are making progress and have retaken unspecified territory in the Bakhmut direction. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations to the north and south of Bakhmut and repelled Russian attacks near Berkhivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut). A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted an unsuccessful offensive operation with forces of up to a company in size with armored vehicles south of Ozarianivka (16km southwest of Bakhmut) near the Mayorske checkpoint. […]

Russian and Ukrainian sources continued to disagree over the status of the heights surrounding Klishchiivka. Ukrainian General Staff spokesperson Andriy Kovalev reported that Ukrainian forces continue offensive operations north and south of Bakhmut and achieved partial success near Klishchiivka. Some Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces control important heights west and north of Klishchiivka. Other milbloggers disagreed and claimed that Ukrainian forces do not control the dominant heights in the area.

Russian forces continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on July 7. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Novokalynove (11km northwest of Avdiivka), Avdiivka, Nevelske (14km southwest of Avdiivka), Pervomaiske, Marinka (27km southwest of Avdiivka), and Novomykhailivka (36km southwest of Avdiivka). Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Valery Shershen stated that Russian forces continue to focus their efforts on offensive operations in the Avdiivka and Marinka directions. […] Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov posted footage purporting to show Chechen Akhmat forces operating alongside Russian 255th Motorized Rifle Regiment (20th Guards Motorized Rifle Division, 8th Guards Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) near Marinka.

Russian and Ukrainian forces conducted ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on July 7. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Blahodatne (just south of Velyka Novosilka). A Russian milblogger also claimed that Russian forces attacked and recaptured several positions northwest of Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka). Russian sources additionally claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted ground attacks south and southwest of Velyka Novosilka near Staromayorske (7km south), Urozhaine (9km south), Novodonetske (13km southwest), and Pryyutne (15km southwest). A group of mobilized Russian fighters from Altay Krai, Republic of Sakha, and Primorsky Krai posted a video appeal on July 7 claiming that the Russian military command abandoned them on the frontline in the face of Ukrainian counterattacks in Novodarivka (15km southwest of Velyka Novosilka), and that their unit has lost 66 men in this area since January 2023. The soldiers complained of a lack of artillery support, provisions, and water, indicating that some Russian forces fighting in western Donetsk Oblast are likely facing high levels of exhaustion and attrition in the face of continued Ukrainian counterattacks.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces launched a renewed wave of counterattacks in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on July 7. Several Russian milbloggers claimed that small Ukrainian infantry groups conducted a series of assaults along the western Zaporizhzhia Oblast frontline on the night of July 6 to early morning of July 7. The milbloggers noted that Ukrainian forces were particularly active southeast of Orikhiv towards the Novofedorivka-Verbove line (20km southeast) and southwest of Orikhiv towards the Nesteryanka-Kopani (10km southwest) and Pyatykhatky-Zherebranky (25km southwest) lines. Russian sources claimed that elements of the Southern Military District, particularly the 19th and 42nd Motorized Rifle divisions, repelled all Ukrainian attacks in these areas.

Russian occupation authorities continue to restrict international monitors’ access to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Raphael Grossi reported on July 7 that IAEA monitors have gained more access at the ZNPP since July 5 but still cannot reach the roofs of the reactor buildings, where Ukrainian officials have warned Russian forces may have placed objects resembling explosive devices. Grossi stated that the IAEA submitted an official request to the Russian occupation leadership of the ZNPP for access to the nuclear reactor containment unit roofs.

Russian forces conducted missile and artillery strikes on the west (right) bank of Kherson Oblast on July 7. The Ukrainian Kherson Oblast Administration stated that Russian forces conducted 77 artillery strikes against west bank Kherson Oblast on July 6-7. Ukrainian Southern Operational Command spokesperson Nataliya Humenyuk reported that Russian forces additionally targeted the west bank with S-300 surface-to-air missiles and Shahed drones. Russian milbloggers claimed that the situation on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast near the Antonivsky bridge remains unchanged and reported that Ukrainian and Russian forces are conducting mutual artillery shelling of positions on the opposite banks.

Ukrainian forces made tactically significant gains in the Bakhmut area and continued counteroffensive operations in at least three other sectors of the front on July 7. Geolocated footage published on July 6 indicates that Ukrainian forces have made tactically significant gains near Yahidne (2km north of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations north and south of Bakhmut, and Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsykyi reported that Ukrainian forces established control over unspecified previously lost positions in the Bakhmut area. Ukrainian General Staff Spokesperson Andriy Kovalev reported that Ukrainian forces also achieved partial success near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and along the administrative border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and other Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in the Kreminna direction along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border.

Russian forces have reportedly committed almost the entirety of the Russian Eastern Grouping of Forces to southern Ukraine. Ukrainian military observer Konstantin Mashovets stated on July 5 that the Eastern Grouping of Forces is comprised of the 5th Combined Arms Army (CAA), the 35th CAA, the 36th CAA, and the 29th CAA (all of the Eastern Military District). ISW cannot confirm the exact composition of the Eastern Grouping of Forces, although it continues to appear that this operational direction command structure is largely coextensive with the Eastern Military District (EMD). Mashovets claimed that the 5th CAA’s 127th Motorized Rifle Division and 60th Motorized Rifle Brigade are operating along the administrative border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts and that the CAA’s other main unit, the 57th Motorized Rifle Brigade, is operating south of Bakhmut. […] Mashovets stated that the 35th CAA’s 38th Motorized Rifle Brigade, 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade, and 69th Separate Cover Brigade are deployed to western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and that the 36th CAA’s 37th Motorized Rifle Brigade and 5th Separate Tank Brigade are deployed to areas south of Velyka Novosilka in western Donetsk Oblast. […] The Ukrainian General Staff previously reported on March 19 that elements of the 37th Motorized Rifle Brigade would deploy to western Donetsk Oblast. Mashovets also stated that the 29th CAA, the smallest combined arms army in the EMD, is the only formation of the Eastern Grouping of Forces in reserve. Mashovets added that the 58th and 49th CAAs and 22nd Army Corps of the Southern Military District (SMD) are committed to operations in Southern Ukraine. Mashovets stated that elements of the 68th Army Corps (EMD) are also deployed to southern Ukraine, but suggested that the 68th Army Corps is not a part of the Eastern Grouping of Forces, making it the only higher-level EMD formation separate from the Eastern Grouping of Forces. ISW has also observed elements of the EMD Pacific Fleet’s naval infantry brigades (40thand 155th) continuing to serve in western Donetsk Oblast after suffering heavy losses during the Russian winter spring 2023 offensive. Mashovets‘ reporting and ISW’s current observation of the Russian order of battle (ORBAT) in southern Ukraine indicates that almost the entirety of the EMD’s combat power is committed to defending against Ukrainian counteroffensives, primarily in southern Ukraine.

The deployment of almost the entirety of the Russian Eastern Grouping of Forces and extensive SMD elements to the frontline in southern Ukraine suggests that Russian defenses in southern Ukraine may be brittle. Mashovets’ report suggests that the only reserve that the Russian military maintains in southern Ukraine consists of elements of the 29th Combined Arms Army – the Eastern Military District’s smallest combined arms army that has only one maneuver brigade: the 36th Motorized Rifle Brigade. Elements of the 36th Motorized Rifle Brigade participated in the Battle of Kyiv in early 2022 and fought near Vuhledar in early 2023 and are thus likely degraded.

Russian defenses in southern Ukraine, while formidable, are not insurmountable. Russian forces in southern Ukraine would likely have to fall back on prepared defensive positions without significant support from operational reserves if Ukrainian forces achieved an operational breakthrough. Withdrawal in contact is an exceedingly difficult military task, and it is unclear that Russian forces in contact would be able to successfully withdraw from their first lines to other prepared lines in good order, especially if those forces – and the forces behind them in echelon – are worn-down and unsupported. ISW previously assessed that Ukrainian forces are likely conducting a gradual effort to systematically degrade Russian combat power in southern Ukraine over time, increasing the brittleness of the Russian defenses.

Russia temporarily disconnected at least partially from the global internet during a test of its “sovereign internet” system overnight on July 4-5. Russian state affiliated media outlet RBK cited telecommunications sources that claimed that Russia successfully conducted a test of the Sovereign Internet system overnight. The test reportedly prevented Russians from accessing common Western services including Google and Wikipedia while retaining access to Russian-hosted web services. The test likely disconnected some Russian government services, however, including Russian Railways and the Russian federal veterinary and agricultural oversight body Rosselkhoznadzor. Russian telecommunications operators Megafon and Beeline also reported outages during the test. Continued tests and development of the ”sovereign internet” indicate that the Kremlin continues long term efforts to be able to isolate Russia from Western influence and the global sphere, and this effort will likely have ramifications that spread beyond the information space. Russia’s economy would likely significantly from protracted internet isolation, for example, because so much international commerce relies on the global internet. […]

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces made tactically significant gains in the Bakhmut area and continued counteroffensive operations in at least three other sectors of the front on July 7.
  • Russian forces have reportedly committed almost the entirety of the Russian Eastern Grouping of Forces to southern Ukraine.
  • The deployment of almost the entirety of the Russian Eastern Grouping of Forces and extensive SMD elements to the frontline in southern Ukraine suggests that Russian defenses in southern Ukraine may be brittle.
  • Russia temporarily disconnected at least partially from the global internet during a test of its “sovereign internet” system overnight on July 4-5.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes against rear areas in Ukraine on June 6 to 7.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border. Ukrainian forces made tactically significant gains in the Bakhmut area between July 6-7.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces conducted ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces launched a renewed wave of counterattacks in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on July 7.
  • The Russian occupation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) continues to restrict international monitors’ access to the facility.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reportedly drafted a law that would expand the list of gross disciplinary offenses within the Russian Armed Forces.
  • Russian authorities continue to portray themselves as responsible custodians of Ukrainian children in an effort to discredit Ukraine while continuing to forcibly deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

A Belarusian military official stated that Wagner Group forces have not yet decided to deploy to Belarus while giving a press tour of the speculated Wagner Group base in Asipovichy on July 7.

Ukraine’s counter-offensive slower than expected, but too soon to judge, Pentagon says, Reuters reports. “Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russian forces is going more slowly than some expected but it remains too early to draw conclusions about Kyiv’s prospects for battlefield gains, a senior Pentagon official said on Friday. The United States and other allies have spent months building Ukraine a so-called “mountain of steel” of weaponry [286 out of 757 tanks and 177 out of 556 155-mm and 152-mm howitzers have not yet arrived – ME] and training Ukrainian forces in combined arms techniques to help Kyiv pierce formidable Russian defences during its counter-offensive.

But Russia also spent months digging into defensive positions, surrounding them with landmines and building heavily armed fortifications that have made Ukrainian advances in the east and south slow and bloody. Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top policy advisor, told reporters Russia was more successful digging in than perhaps was fully appreciated. He expressed confidence Kyiv was doing its best in a difficult fight.

It’s too early to judge how the counter offensive is going one way or the other because we’re at the beginning of the middle, Kahl said at the Pentagon. They are still probing Russian lines (and) Russian areas for weak spots. And the real test will be when they identify those, how rapidly they’re able to exploit those weak spots. Kahl’s remarks came as he announced the provision of cluster munitions that the Pentagon hopes will help ensure Ukraine has enough firepower.

We want to make sure that the Ukrainians have sufficient artillery to keep them in the fight in the context of the current counter-offensive, and because things are going a little slower than some had hoped, he said.”

Invaders draw up plan for ‘evacuation’ from Mariupol – National Resistance Center, Ukrinform reports, citing Ukraine’s National Resistance Center. “Our underground learned that the occupation administration in Mariupol had developed a plan for ‘evacuation’ from the city. These plans provide for the transportation of collaborators, documentation and the most valuable property to Russia. It should also be noted that cargo operations are being accelerated in the Mariupol port, particularly grain export operations, the report reads.”

Former US officials have held secret Ukraine talks with prominent Russians, NBC News reports. “A group of former senior US national security officials has held secret talks with prominent Russians believed to be close to the Kremlin — and, in at least one case, with the country’s top diplomat — with the aim of laying the groundwork for negotiations to end the war in Ukraine, half a dozen people briefed on the discussions said. In a high-level example of the back-channel diplomacy taking place behind the scenes, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov met with members of the group for several hours in April in New York, four former officials and two current officials said. 

On the agenda were some of the thorniest issues in the war in Ukraine, like the fate of Russian-held territory that Ukraine may never be able to liberate and the search for an elusive diplomatic off-ramp that could be tolerable to both sides. Meeting with Lavrov were Richard Haass, a former diplomat and the outgoing president of the Council on Foreign Relations, current and former officials said. The group was joined by Europe expert Charles Kupchan and Russia expert Thomas Graham, both former White House and State Department officials who are Council on Foreign Relations fellows. […]

Among the goals, they said, is to keep channels of communication with Russia open when possible and to feel out where there might be room for future negotiation, compromise and diplomacy over ending the war. The discussions have taken place with the knowledge of the Biden administration but not at its direction, and the former officials involved in the Lavrov meeting briefed the White House National Security Council afterward, two of the sources said. […]

It is not clear how frequently the back-channel discussions have taken place, nor whether they are part of a single, organized effort. On the US side, the discussions have involved some former Defense Department officials, including Mary Beth Long, a former assistant defense secretary with deep experience in NATO issues, according to two people briefed on the talks. At least one former US official has traveled to Russia for discussions involving the Ukraine war, two of the people said.

Aside from Lavrov on the Russian side, the discussions have involved academics, leaders from major think tanks or research institutes and others in the Russian foreign policy sphere perceived as having President Vladimir Putin’s ear or as being in regular touch with Kremlin decision-makers, the sources said. The people declined to identify the Russian participants by name, citing concerns for their safety. […]

An official in the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that it would not comment on specific news reports based on unnamed sources but that its overall position remained the same. Our position is unchanged — the fate of Ukraine cannot be decided without Ukraine. Many times the president and all our official speakers spoke about it. Not anonymously, but quite specifically and publicly, they said.

Signs are mounting that the US and its allies are eager for Moscow and Kyiv to move toward peace talks in the fall after Ukraine’s ongoing counter-offensive is completed. During a secret trip to Kyiv in May, CIA Director William Burns heard from Ukrainian officials about the prospect of pushing Moscow into peace talks by year’s end, officials told The Washington Post. […]

The meeting in April took place during a rare and brief visit by Lavrov to the US to chair the UN Security Council, which has a rotating presidency. Around the same time, Haass and Kupchan wrote a lengthy article in Foreign Affairs, which is published by the Council on Foreign Relations, laying out what they described as a plan for getting from the battlefield to the negotiating table. In the piece, titled “The West Needs a New Strategy in Ukraine,” Haass and Kupchan predicted a stalemate would most likely emerge after Ukraine’s counteroffensive and recommended that the US start laying the groundwork to propose a cease-fire in which both Russia and Ukraine would pull forces back from the front line, effectively creating a demilitarized zone. […]

Track Two talks have long played an important role in US diplomacy, including in connection with arms control, often providing a less formal opportunity to test out ideas and responses in parallel to official talks between governments. […] Yet in the context of the Ukraine war, the notion of former US officials’ engaging informally with Russians has caused a divide within the community of American diplomats, foreign policy scholars and national security professionals.

I worry about what messages might be conveyed with that and the implicit signal that we’re desperate for a deal, said Bradley Bowman, a former Army officer and Senate aide who studies political-military issues at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Right now what we really want to do is isolate and put pressure on Putin.

Michael McFaul, who was the US ambassador to Russia in the Obama administration, said he was skeptical that there are any suitable Track Two surrogates in Russia these days who have direct access to Putin and could serve as informal intermediaries. And discussing solutions to the war without Ukrainians at the table could undercut the Biden administration’s insistence that Ukraine’s future will not be decided by backroom deals between major powers, he said. […]”

Lukashenko begins referring to Wagnerites as defenders of Belarus, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Belarusian regime-aligned news agency BelTA. “Alexander Lukashenko, self-proclaimed President of Belarus, believes that the Wagner Private Military Company mercenaries, if deployed on the territory of Belarus, could be used for the country’s defence.

I am not concerned or worried that we will host a certain number of these fighters [from the Wagner PMC – ed.]. Moreover, they will be stationed under certain conditions. The main condition is that if we need to use this force to defend the state (if they are here), they will be deployed instantly in any area. And their experience will be in demand in Belarus.”

The Belarusian dictator also claimed that there would be no Wagnerites mutiny in his country, as there was in Russia. “As we say, there is no point in reading tea leaves. But I do not think that Wagner will rise somewhere and turn its weapons against the Belarusian authorities and the Belarusian state. Everything can happen in life. But I don’t see such a situation today, he said.

He also announced plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the near future to discuss, among other things, the issue regarding Wagner PMC.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Hans Petter Midttun: The full-scale war started exactly 500 days ago. The war, however, started 3426 days ago. World War 1 and 2 combined lasted 3762 days in total – only 336 days longer than Russia’s ongoing attempt to destroy Ukraine as a nation and integrate its territories into the Russian Federation.

The war is, however, so much more than a “Russia-Ukraine War”. For 3426 days, Russia has been waging war against the West. A hybrid war but a war, nonetheless.

In 2007 President Vladimir Putin held the famous Munich speech where he expressed Russia’s deep dissatisfaction with the world order and NATO’s eastward expansion, arguing for the need to rethink the international security architecture. Russia’s 2014 Military Doctrine characterizes NATO activity as an external danger to Russia.

Russia had, however, no reason to feel not secure: Russia is one of the safest countries in the world militarily. Russia has more nuclear warheads than the USA, Great Britain and France put together. “Moscow maintains a wide range of delivery systems for its thousands of nuclear weapons – from ICBMs to long-range bombers to nuclear submarines. It has one of the three most powerful conventional armies in the world and a right of veto in the UN Security Council. This makes the Russian Federation one of the militarily safest countries in the world.” The Russian Armed Forces deter all possible (and unlikely) opponents.

The claim that NATO enlargement threatens Russia’s security is only rational in the context of disinformation and manipulation. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, 15 nations have freely chosen to join the Alliance. More are hoping for or considering future membership. Their choice has been motivated by their fear of Russia. NATO enlargement is only a consequence of their choice. The claim that their security arrangement threatens Russian security is therefore utterly nonsense. Especially because NATO is a defensive alliance whose purpose is to protect its member states. The point is underscored by the fact that Russia’s nuclear weapons and conventional forces guarantee its security.

On 16 September 2021 – five months before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine – the European Parliament assessed Russia to be a long-term threat to European security. It stated that “the current Russian regime is threatening peace and security in Europe by [the] aggressive behaviour in its foreign policy, including but not limited to large-scale military exercises and military build-ups; the illegal and violent occupation and annexation of Crimea; the violation of the territorial integrity and the destabilisation of Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova; support for frozen conflicts and its failure to respect ceasefire agreements in Georgia and Ukraine; alleged acts of terrorism on the territory of EU Member States such as Czechia; cyberattacks and attacks on sensitive infrastructure in the EU Member States; violations of international law; election interference; and violations of the sea and air space of countries in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea regions.”

The European Parliament further stressed that Russia is implementing strategies of hybrid warfare against the EU and its Member States while underlining “that these acts are of a particularly destabilising and dangerous nature as they blur the lines between war and peace, destabilise democracies and sow doubt in the minds of target populations.”

On December 17, Russia published both a draft treaty between the USA and the Russian Federation “on security guarantees”, as well as a draft agreement on “measures to ensure the security of the Russian Federation and the Member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization”.

The geostrategic implications of the demands go far beyond Ukraine. Like the hybrid war, it affects both NATO and the EU.

NATO was asked to refrain from any further enlargement. Russia wanted to regulate NATOs force posture in all countries which joined the Alliance after 1997 (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia). Having started wars in Europe, Russia sought to limit the Alliance’s ability to forward deploy units in response to its aggressive foreign policy.

By demanding the USA to refrain from flying heavy bombers or deploying surface warships, including in the framework of the Alliance, in areas “where they can attack targets in the territory” of Russia, it called on NATO in principle to refrain from operating in the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Barents Sea and the Arctic, as well as the airspace over Northern, Central and Eastern Europe.

The USA was told to withdraw its nuclear weapons from Europe and eliminate all existing infrastructure on the continent.

Seeking security guarantees on the “basis of mutual respect for and recognition of each other’s security interests and concerns” the treaty includes a badly concealed warning. Russia having a nuclear doctrine allowing for the right to use nuclear weapons to end conventional military conflicts uses the treaty to raise the stakes through “escalate to de-escalate”. It warns the USA that a “direct military clash between them could result in the use of nuclear weapons” while stressing that “… a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.

On February 24, 2022, Russia started an unprovoked and unjustified full-scale war against Ukraine – not because of its aspiration for NATO membership – but because of Russia’s Great Power aspirations. The latter required Russia to stop Ukraine from becoming an integrated member of the Western, liberal democracies. The war was a continuation of more than eight years of Russian aggression, including its illegal occupation of Crimea, its attack on and partly occupation of Donbas, its maritime blockade of the Sea of Azov, its attack on the Ukrainian Navy, and not at least, its use of non-military means to destabilize Ukraine from within.

The hybrid war strategy Russia has been employing against Ukraine is, however, identical to the one it has been using against the EU in the same period.

Russia’s ultimatums to the US and NATO as of 17 December highlighted the core confrontation and confirmed something we had known since 2014 already: This was always a broader confrontation between Russia and the West.

NATO did not threaten Russia. The scale and scope of the Alliance hinder Russia from what it believes to be its right for Great Power status. It stands in the way of a Russian westward expansion to regain its sphere of interest over its Western neighbour countries (most of which are NATO members). Ukraine’s population, economy, industry, agricultural areas, natural resources, and not least, territory is crucial to its Great Power aspirations.

Russia is seeking Great Power status at the cost of European countries. Its aggressive foreign policy – demonstrated by its wars in both Georgia, Ukraine and Syria – poses a risk to Transatlantic security and stability already today. The threat will dramatically increase if it succeeds in Ukraine.

Russia has already defined NATO as a threat and a party to the conflict. It has publicly declared that the West is waging an information war, economic war, acts of aggression, war with Russia through a proxy and a total war. It sees Western defence aid to Ukraine as proof of its participation. The current sanctions and measures imposed on Russia are seen as unfriendly acts.

Antony J. Blinken pointed out the absurdity of the claim that NATO is a problem. ” NATO didn’t invade Georgia; NATO didn’t invade Ukraine. Russia did.” In 1997, NATO promised to significantly reduce its military forces. And NATO did just that. Russia promised the same but chose instead to invade two countries.

The list of Russian aggressions includes not only its use of military force, but also coup attempts, interference in elections and referendums, disinformation, cyber-attacks, terrorist attacks, liquidations, restrictions on freedom of navigation, and more.

The present security situation is defined by the following realities: A full-scale war in Europe has been triggered by the absurd idea that Ukraine as a NATO member is an existential threat to Russia. The war in Ukraine is, however, only a part of Russia’s broader confrontation with the West. The EU has been subject to a Russian hybrid war aimed at destabilising it from within for years already. NATO has been designated as an existential threat. However, Russia sees democracy – not NATO’s military power – as the core threat. The Alliance has been told to withdraw its forces and weapons from the 1997 NATO borders. It has been threatened with WW3 and a nuclear confrontation. The confrontation has continued to escalate since 24 February. Worse still, the “tsunami of ripple effects” from the war is increasingly destabilising Europe and threatening both the Transatlantic and European unity and stability.

I have previously argued that while the Russian security concerns are based on a lie, its threats are real.

I have long argued that NATO is a part of the conflict, not by its choosing but because of Russia’s aggressive foreign policy. The alliance cannot remain disengaged from an international conflict that is all about NATO.

Russia has never declared war on Ukraine. Or on NATO. Or on the EU. But its actions against all have until February 24 been the same.

The hybrid war – which Russia is also waging against the USA, the EU and NATO – requires Western action. Not reaction.

The broader confrontation has lasted nearly as long as WW1 and 2 combined. For 3426 days, Russia has been waging war against both Ukraine and the West. A hybrid war but a war, nonetheless.

When the Second World War erupted on 1 September 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

“When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger.”

Facing the same reservations as the West is expressing today, Roosevelt tried to warn his audience that neither neutrality nor distance could guarantee American security in a globalized world. While he pledged peace, Roosevelt wanted the USA to take a more active role.

Today, NATO and the EU are the audiences. While NATO pledges peace, we need NATO to take an even more active military role in what has become the biggest crisis in international security.

NATO – or a coalition of the willing – urgently needs to intervene militarily to end the war and reduce Russia’s ability to undermine the economic viability of Ukraine and change the political landscape of the West.

The present Western strategy allows Russia to continue the hybrid war at the peril of democracy, shared values, and principles, and not least, our security and stability.

 

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