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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 550: Russia launches another mass missile attack on Ukraine

Russia launches eight cruise missiles; Ukrainian air defense destroys four; other four might have been false. Ukraine hits a Russian military base in temporarily occupied Crimea. Second ship leaves port of Odesa after suspension of grain initiative. 

Daily report day 550 – August 27, 2023

Situation in Ukraine. August 26, 2023. Source ISW.

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 27.08.2023, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

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

On August 26, the enemy launched 5 missiles and 45 airstrikes, 67 MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements. Unfortunately, the Russian terrorist attacks have killed and wounded civilians. Residential buildings, schools, and other civilian infrastructure were damaged.

The likelihood of missiles and airstrikes across Ukraine remains high.

On August 26, there were more than 40 combat engagements.

  • Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes.
Luhansk Battle Map. August 26, 2023. Source ISW.
  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary fired mortars and artillery at more than 25 settlements, including Khrinivka, Klyusy (Chernihiv oblast), Kruzhok, Volfyne, Basivka, Tur’ya, Hrabovs’ke, Ryasne (Sumy oblast), Rublene, Ambarne, and Bolohivka (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis: the adversary fired artillery and mortars at the settlements of Dvorichna, Syn’kivka, Ivanivka, Kyslivka, and Topoli (Kharkiv oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. August 26, 2023. Source ISW.
  • Lyman axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Novojehorivka (Luhansk oblast). The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Novojehorivka, Tverdokhlibove, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), and Spirne (Donetsk oblast). More than 15 settlements, including Kreminna, Kuz’myne, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Tors’ke, Spirne, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast), were shelled with artillery.
Bakhmut Battle Map. August 26, 2023. Source ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: the adversary attempted offensive operations in the vicinities of Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Klishchiivka (Donetsk oblast), to no success. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Klishchiivka, Bila Hora, and New York (Donetsk oblast). More than 20 settlements, including Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Novomarkove, Stupochky, Andriivka, and Kurdyumivka (Donetsk oblast), suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
  • Avdiivka axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Stepove (Donetsk oblast). The invaders fired artillery at more than 10 settlements, including Keramik, Novobakhmutivka, Orlivka, Tonen’ke, and Netailove (Donetsk oblast).
  • Marinka axis: the Ukrainian Defence Forces continue to hold back the Russian offensive in the vicinity of Marinka (Donetsk oblast). The adversary launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Krasnohorivka (Donetsk oblast). The enemy fired artillery at more than 10 settlements, including Kurakhivka, Oleksandropil’, Hostre, Mar’inka, Pobjeda, and Novomykhailivka (Donetsk oblast).
  • Shakhtarske axis: the enemy launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Vuhledar and Staromaiors’ke (Donetsk oblast). More than 15 settlements, including Vuhledar, Vodyane, Shakhtars’ke, Blahodatne, Urozhaine, and Rivnopil’ (Donetsk oblast), suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. August 26, 2023. Source ISW.

 

  • Zaporizhzhia axis: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Mala Tokmachka, Orikhiv, and Robotyne (Zaporizhzhia oblast). More than 20 settlements suffered from enemy artillery shelling, including Staroukrainka, Huliaipilske, Orikhiv, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanylivka, and Robotyne (Zaporizhzhia oblast).
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. August 26, 2023. Source ISW.
  • Kherson axis: the adversary fired artillery at Ol’hivka, Odradokam’yanka, Mykolaivka, Kherson, Yantarne, and Dniprovs’ke (Kherson oblast).

At the same time, the Ukrainian Defence Forces continue to conduct the offensive operation on the Melitopol axis, consolidating their positions and conducting counter-battery fire.

On August 26, the Ukrainian Air Force launched 2 airstrikes on command posts, 10 airstrikes on the concentrations of troops, and 2 airstrikes on the anti-aircraft missile systems of the adversary.

On August 26, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 2 anti-aircraft missile systems, 1 concentration of enemy troops, and 4 artillery systems at their firing positions.“

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Air defences in action on approaches to Kyiv as Russia launches cruise missiles, Ukrinform reports, citing the Kyiv City Military Administration. “During a large-scale air alert that was activated across multiple regions of Ukraine on the night of August 27, the Kyiv authorities reported that Ukraine’s air defence forces were engaging incoming targets on the approaches to the Ukrainian capital.[…]

“According to tentative reports, Kh-101/555 type missiles were launched. Remain in shelters until the air raid alert is called off,” said Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv City Military Administration. It should be recalled that overnight Sunday, August 27, Russia’s Tu-95 strategic bombers launched missiles of the Kh-101/555/55 type from the Caspian direction.”

Four cruise missiles were destroyed, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “On the night of August 27, 2023, the enemy launched Kh-101/Kh-55/Kh-555 air-based cruise missiles. The cruise missiles were fired from 5 strategic aircraft from the airspace of the Russian Federation in the Engels area. In total, up to eight aerial targets were observed.

Forces and means of the Air Force destroyed four Kh-101/Kh-55/Kh-555 cruise missiles in the central and northern regions. The rest of the air targets are probably false as there is no information about strikes.”

Fire breaks out near Kozacha Bay in Sevastopol, Ukrinform reports, citing RFE/RL’s Crimea.Realities project . “A fire broke out in the area of Kozacha Bay in the temporarily occupied Sevastopol. According to media reports, “empty warehouses caught fire.” However, this information is currently unconfirmed. The Sevastopol department of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations does not comment on the situation.

As a reminder, the sounds of explosions have been heard in Crimea almost every day in August. The Russian authorities explain this as shooting at “Ukrainian drones”, “air defence work” or exercises of the Russian military.”

During the day, 93 occupiers, 19 units of military equipment and 5 ammunition warehouses were destroyed in Tauria direction, Censor.net reports, citing the commander of the operational and strategic group of troops “Tauria” Oleksandr Tarnavsky. “The work of the Defence Forces continues in the Tauria direction. […] As noted, in total, during the past day, the enemy attacked Ukrainian positions 27 times and carried out 731 shellings, carried out 2 missile strikes and 24 airstrikes.

Artillery units of the Defence Forces of the Tauria direction performed 1,283 fire missions during the day. For the last day, the loss of the enemy amounted to 309 people (93 irretrievably injured, 208 wounded, and 8 captured). 19 units of enemy military equipment were destroyed. In particular, 4 tanks, 6 self-propelled guns, 8 artillery systems and mortars, 1 self-propelled grenade launcher. Also, 5 enemy ammunition depots were destroyed, he added.”

Ukraine says it hit Russian military base in annexed Crimea, Reuters reports. “Ukraine’s [Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU)] military intelligence agency said on Friday a Ukrainian drone attack had hit a Russian military base deep inside annexed Crimea, while residents reported casualties, explosions and a road closure. Early on Friday, Russia reported one of the biggest coordinated Ukrainian air raids yet over Russian-controlled territory but said air defence systems had downed all 42 drones attacking Crimea before they could hit their targets.

Ukrainian intelligence officials said the attack struck Russia’s 126th Coastal Defence Brigade based in Perevalnoye, a town more than 200 km (120 miles) from Ukraine-controlled territory. We confirm that there was a hit, said [DIU] spokesman Andriy Yusov, according to Ukrainian media outlet Liga.Net. […]

The United States says it supports Ukrainian attacks on Russian military targets on the Black Sea peninsula of because it should be demilitarised. People – not only on the Ukrainian mainland but also in Crimea – need to remember and believe that our victory and their liberation are not far away, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said of Friday’s strike. Perevalnoye residents, posting on the Telegram messaging app, reported hearing blasts from the military base and cited casualties. […]”

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

British Intelligence Map.
  • As tensions remain high in the Black Sea, skirmishes have taken place between maritime and air forces around strategically important gas and oil platforms between Crimea and Odesa. Last week, a Russian combat jet shot at a Ukrainian military small boat operating near a platform in the north-west of the sea.
  • The platforms are operated by the Chernomorneftegaz company, which was seized by the pro-Russian occupation authorities in Crimea during the 2014 annexation. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, Ukraine has struck several Russian-controlled platforms. Both Russia and Ukraine have also periodically occupied them with troops.
  • The platforms command valuable hydrocarbon resources. However, like Zmiinyi (Snake) Island to the west, they can also be used as forward deployment bases, helicopter landing sites, and to position long-range missile systems.
  • The Ukrainian counter-offensive has put Russian forces under pressure in Bakhmut and southern Ukraine. Despite this, Russia’s Western Group of Forces has continued small-scale attacks in the north-east, in the Kupiansk-Lyman sector, and has made some limited local advances.
  • As Ukraine continues to gradually gain ground in the south, Russia’s doctrine suggests that it will attempt to regain the initiative by pivoting back to an operational level offensive. Kupiansk-Lyman is one potential area for this.
  • There is a realistic possibility Russia will increase the intensity of its offensive efforts on the Kupiansk-Lyman axis in the next two months, probably with the objective of advancing west to the Oskil River and creating a buffer zone around Luhansk Oblast..

Losses of the Russian Army

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

As of Sunday 27 August, 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 260820 (+550)
  • Tanks – 4396 (+6)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 8554 (+15)
  • Artillery systems – 5403 (+24)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 728 (+2)
  • Air defence means – 498 (+1)
  • Aircraft – 315 (+0) 
  • Helicopters – 316 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 7854 (+31)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 4378 (+11)
  • Special equipment – 808 (+4)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1411 (+0)

Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system in Crimea destroyed with Ukrainian missile – Ukraine’s National Security Secretary, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleksii Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, in an interview with Ukrainske Radio. “A Russian S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile system was destroyed in occupied Crimea on 23 August by a new Ukrainian-made missile. The missile was new, completely modern. Its use proved that [it is a product of] our defence industry, our programme, which was launched in 2020… This is our new product, which showed itself absolutely flawlessly.”

Explosions in occupied Crimea took place on the morning of 23 August near the village of Olenivka on Cape Tarkhankut, destroying a Russian long- and medium-range S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile system. The Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine stated that the S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile system was completely destroyed in the explosion, as well as the missiles on it. The crew was also killed.”

Russian Federation is considering option of mobilizing additional 450,000 people, Censor.net reports, citing the head of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, Kyrylo Budanov, in an interview with Radio Svoboda. “Mobilization in the Russian Federation has never stopped. The fact that last fall they called up about 350,000 in total, a little less, but close, everyone somehow thinks that they called up and that’s all. No. The call up takes place every month. It’s called hidden mobilization, – he said.

According to Budanov, in this way the Russians mobilize from 20,000 to 22,000 people every month. Now they are considering the option, this issue has not yet been fully resolved, an additional 450,000 for the draft, said Budanov. In itself, this leads to the following question: why such a number, if the losses, as they say, are negligible? Well, you will see that the truth will be somewhere in the middle, added the head of the DIU.”

Humanitarian

EU Commission calls on Russia to continue grain deal, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Reuters. “Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice President of the European Commission, has called on the Russian Federation to extend the agreement to allow safe export of Ukrainian grain through Black Sea ports. Dombrovskis says that Russian restrictions on the transportation of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea create problems not only for Kyiv but also for many developing countries.

Dombrovskis, who is in India to participate in the meeting of G-20 trade ministers, said that the Russian Federation uses grain as a weapon. So far, about 45 million tonnes of grain, oilseeds and related products have been exported via alternative routes through Poland and Romania, providing an important lifeline for Ukraine, Dombrovskis said.

The last ship within the framework of the Grain Deal with Ukrainian food left the port of Odesa on 16 July. Russia unilaterally withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Agreement on 17 July, and after that it has repeatedly attacked the port’s grain infrastructure.”

Export of Ukrainian grain may return to “pre-war indicators” in coming months, – US State Department, Censor.net reports, citing Reuters, quoting James O’Brien, the head of the Office for Coordination of Sanctions of the US State Department. “The US State Department sees viable routes for the export of Ukrainian grain, and therefore seeks to return to the pre-war indicators of exports in the coming months. I think we can see that there are viable routes through Ukraine’s territorial waters and land routes. And we aim to return to the pre-war average level of exports from Ukraine within the next few months, he said.

Ukraine used to ship millions of tons of food from the Black Sea ports of Odesa and Mykolaiv. However, after the withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the grain agreement on July 17, it was forced to rely only on the ports on the Danube River.” 

Russians stole 3.7 million tons of Ukrainian grain in occupied territories, – Centre of National Resistance, Censor.net reports, citing the Centre of National Resistance. “On the temporarily occupied territories, excluding the Crimean peninsula, 3.7 million tons of Ukrainian grain were stolen. Of these, 1.4 million tons were stolen in Zaporizhzhia. All this grain is robbed by the Russians from the farmers, who are forced to sell their products at fixed prices, many times lower than market prices.

The grain is then resold to enterprises related to Gauleiter and sold at market prices in the Russian Federation itself, the report says.”

Second ship leaves port of Odesa after suspension of grain initiative, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing data from the MarineTraffic resource, as reported by Interfax-Ukraine. “The bulk carrier Primus, under the flag of Liberia, has left the port of Odesa and is moving towards the Bulgarian port of Varna. It is noted that on the morning of 26 August, the bulk carrier Primus left Odesa under the flag of Liberia and is moving in the direction of the Bulgarian port of Varna. On 20 February 2022, the vessel arrived in Ukraine from the Greek port of Perama under the name Polarstar. […]

The first ship that used the Ukrainian Black Sea corridor after the withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the grain initiative arrived in Istanbul, Türkiye. Ukraine has opened registration for merchant vessels heading to and from Ukrainian ports.”

Lubinets calls on world to help free Ukrainian civilians held by Russia, Ukrinform reports. “Civilian hostages detained before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine need immediate release. Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, posted this on Telegram. […]

Lubinets once again emphasized that no international organization had been allowed to visit civilian hostages illegally held by Russia over the past seven years, the hostages had not been provided with the necessary medical assistance and had not been allowed to call their relatives. The real situation with the Ukrainian hostages may be critical.

“We cannot remain silent when the Russian Federation violates the Geneva Conventions and tortures our people! Ukraine needs the world’s help to free all civilians! the Ombudsman emphasized.”

11 Ukrainian children deported by Russians were brought back home, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Another 11 children have been brought back to Ukraine from Russia and temporarily occupied territories. Mykola Kuleba, former children’s ombudsman and executive director of the Save Ukraine charity foundation, said that the evacuation was carried out by Save Ukraine volunteers. The foundation noted that it managed to bring home 161 children in total. […]

Since the beginning of the full-scale war, thousands of cases of child abduction have been recorded. The Russians have illegally deported children, supposedly under the pretext of health improvement, evacuation from dangerous areas and the need to provide medical care, etc.

During the commission of crimes, the Russians sometimes changed the personal data of the children. In particular, there were cases when they added age to children taken to “re-education camps” in Crimea. It is almost impossible for children to leave the Russian Federation and temporarily occupied territories, as the Russians are preventing them from doing so. According to the Children of War platform, 19,546 people have been forcibly displaced or deported so far.” 

Ukraine to file fifth lawsuit in international courts on Russia’s ecocidal crimes, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The New York Times. “Ukraine is preparing an ecocide case against Russia, which will be the fifth lawsuit related to war crimes committed by the Russian Federation under consideration in international courts. Currently, four specific acts — genocide, crimes against humanity, aggression and war crimes — are recognized as international crimes. Ukraine would like to add a fifth — ecocide — and it is setting out to build its case against Russia,” reports NYT with reference to Maksym Popov, an adviser to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, who specialises in environmental issues.

We right now are developing the strategy for the prosecution of environmental war crimes and ecocide, he said. It is known that part of this case will be the mass death of dolphins that continues in the Black Sea.”

Support

Batch of artillery rounds produced together with European partners arrives in Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “The first thousands of 122mm high-explosive artillery rounds with full charge, which are produced in partnership with one of the ammunition holdings of Eastern Europe, were delivered to Ukraine. 122mm artillery rounds are air for D-30 and 2S1 Gvozdika artillery systems, they effectively hit enemy positions, defence lines and armoured vehicles, the Ukrainian Armor LLC posted on Facebook. […]

Having restored cooperation ties and united manufacturers of components from several European countries, we will continue to deliver thousands of such rounds to Ukrainian defenders,” the Ukrainian Armor LLC stressed.”

Ukraine has no problems with space intelligence, Ukrinform reports. “Ukraine has access to space intelligence information, the delay in receiving data can only be within an hour.

Intelligence department cannot exist without space intelligence. We use our own access to various spacecraft, we receive information on interaction and also through our own channels. We have no problems with space intelligence. There are problems with the speed of receiving information, well, this is a technical process. But it’s not a problem for us to see what’s happening now with about an hour delay, Head of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Crimea. Realities project.”

For superiority in sky, Ukraine needs not only the F-16, but also – Air Force, Censor.net reports, citing Yurii Ihnat, the spokesman of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, with reference to RBC-Ukraine. “Ukraine needs more than just F-16 fighters to gain superiority in the skies. Aircraft missiles and powerful radars are also needed. Radars and powerful missiles must be in our aviation. We must not give in to the same Su-35. In this way, we will be able to gain superiority in the air, Ihnat said.

He explained that there are different types of missiles for aviation, as well as their modifications to hit targets at different distances. As an example, he named the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-guided missile, which is the main weapon in the arsenal of NATO countries. As Ignat noted, these missiles are needed for the NASAMS anti-aircraft complex, which was transferred to Ukraine by the partners.

Aviation weapons are a very expensive thing. A missile for NASAMS costs half a million dollars… There are AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles with modifications that can hit targets up to 180 km away. This is enough to threaten the Russian Su-35, the spokesman emphasized.”

Greece to Terminate Contract for Servicing Russian SAM Systems and Transfer Them to Ukraine, European Pravda reports. “The Greek government has decided to terminate the contract with Russia for maintaining the Tor-M1 and Osa-AKM air defence missile systems in service with the country’s army. According to Pronews.gr, citing a ‘top-secret document’ leaked through parliament, it states that Athens will no longer procure spare parts and components for the Tor-M1 and Osa-AKM SAMs.

As a result, the mentioned systems may soon be decommissioned, as the available spare parts will only last for a few months due to their limited quantity and the government’s refusal to fulfil the existing contract. In total, the Greek army and Air Force have 21 self-propelled Tor-M1 SAMs and 38 self-propelled Osa-AKM systems with a maximum firing range of 10-12 km. […]

Pronews.gr claims that the SAMs will most likely be sent to Ukraine via third countries. The decision made is purely political.”

Ambassador to Germany calls delays in military assistance main reason for slow counteroffensive, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany Oleksii Makeiev has said that delays in the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine are the reason why the current counteroffensive by the Ukrainian defence forces is not meeting expectations in terms of its pace.”

New developments

  1. President: Ukraine starts negotiating document on security guarantees with Canada, Ukrinform reports. “We have started negotiations with Canada on a bilateral document on security guarantees. Earlier we started with the United States and the United Kingdom. This will give Ukraine much more opportunities,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address. He also noted that more than 20 countries had already joined the G7 declaration on security guarantees for Ukraine.
  2. Top advisor comments on CinC Zaluzhnyi’s meeting with NATO command, Ukrinform reports, citing NV.ua, quoting the head of the President’s Office, Mykhailo Podoliak. “On August 26, The Guardian said NATO command held an unpublicized meeting on the Polish border with the Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Valery Zaluzhnyi. The so-called “secret” meeting of Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhnyi and NATO commanders was in fact a routine event, one of the many such conversations whose content never makes it into the media space. […] According to the advisor, such meetings are held because it is necessary to constantly adjust tactics and strategies, see what Russia is doing, and explain to partners what Ukraine requires, (finding out – ed.) whether the military can expect additional missiles, additional front-line air defence capabilities, or even F- 16s. […] But what exactly the parties are talking about will not be discussed on the air, the advisor emphasized.”
  3. Biden: Plane with Prigozhin was shot down. We are trying to find out exactly how, Censor.net reports, citing Liga.net. “Washington is trying to find out exactly how the plane carrying the “Wagner” PMC terrorist leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was shot down. US President Joe Biden said this during a conversation with journalists. According to him, the USA is trying to establish exactly how the plane carrying Prigozhin was shot down. […] Earlier, Biden said that he was “not surprised” by the murder of Prigozhin, and also emphasized that dictator Vladimir Putin was involved. The British publication Inews, citing its own intelligence sources, wrote that General Andriy Averyanov from the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Federation (GRU) may be involved in the death of Prigozhin – he is responsible for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in 2018.”
  4. Türkiye sees alternative routes for grain exports from Ukraine as risky, Ukrinform reports, citing TRT Haber quoting the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Hakan Fidan. “Unfortunately, this [Black Sea Grain Initiative] ended as of July 17. We know that alternative ways are currently being sought for grain exports. However, we also see that these ways cannot be an alternative to the original initiative and carry risks. We need to resume the process as soon as possible before the gains brought by the Black Sea Initiative are lost. This is why we will continue to hold a dialogue with all parties at all levels, Fidan told.”
  5. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry considers intention of five EU states to extend the ban on grain imports from Ukraine unacceptable, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry. “Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on 26 August commented on the decision of Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Hungary to support the extension of the ban on grain imports from Ukraine after 15 September, when the EU’s restriction expires. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has called it “categorically unacceptable” to extend trade restrictions on grain imports from Ukraine after 15 September, the date when the European Commission’s ban will expire. The intention to add other categories of Ukrainian products to the list of goods banned from the import list is also completely incomprehensible. Such unilateral restrictions do not comply with the spirit and essence of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and the principles and norms of the EU Single Market, the ministry added. The Ukrainian MFA urged the EU and the five countries in question to find a balanced solution based on EU law and the Association Agreement, stressing that some of these states have received enhanced funding for the relevant sectors from the European budget.”
  6. Serbia renounces Crimea Platform declaration after meeting with Russia’s ambassador, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Politika quoting Ivica Dačić, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia. “There are manipulations related to the so-called Crimea Platform, which Serbia allegedly joined… The Prime Minister participated in this meeting through a video message, but we did not approve the text of the declaration because it goes beyond the acceptable framework for us, Dačić said. The minister added that Serbia condemns the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and speaks of the need to protect territorial integrity on international platforms. […] According to European Pravda, many of the participating countries of the 2023 Crimea Platform summit did not support the declaration, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine deliberately made its text very ambitious. Ivica Dačić’s statement appeared in the Serbian media on the morning of 25 August, and on 24 August it was reported about his meeting with the Russian ambassador in Serbia. It is also noteworthy that Russia published a statement threatening Bosnia and Herzegovina for the participation of its delegation in the summit, while Serbia’s participation was left without a public reaction.”

Assessment

  1. On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Saturday 26 August:

(quote) Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on August 26 but did not make any confirmed gains. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Novoyehorivka (16km southwest of Svatove) and Bilohorivka (12km south of Kreminna). Russian Western Grouping of Forces Press Officer Yaroslav Yakimkin claimed that Russian forces captured three unspecified strongholds in the Kupiansk direction. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Ilya Yevlash stated on August 25 that Russian forces shifted their tactical focus from the Kupiansk direction to the Novoyehorivka area. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces advanced near Synkivka (9km northeast of Kupiansk) and in the direction of Petropavlivka (6km east of Kupiansk), although ISW has not observed visual confirmation of these claims.

The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) stated on August 26 that Russian forces may launch an operational level offensive in the Kupiansk and Lyman directions in the next two months, though ISW assesses such an offensive operation remains unlikely. The UK MoD stated that Russian forces will possibly try to regain the initiative amidst Ukrainian counteroffensive operations by launching such an offensive operation. The UK MoD assessed that Russian forces will possibly try to advance west to the Oskil River and create a buffer zone around occupied Luhansk Oblast. Russian forces have been conducting localized offensive operations northeast of Kupiansk and southwest of Svatove in recent weeks, but there are no indications that Russian forces are committing the necessary manpower and materiel required to turn such localized offensive operations in this sector of the front into an operational offensive effort. Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi stated on August 25 that Russian forces are transferring elements of newly formed brigades and divisions to the Kupiansk and Lyman directions after a month of significant losses in order to resume active offensive operations in these directions, although ISW has not observed confirmation of these transfers. The resumption of localized Russian offensive operations likely aims to fix and draw Ukrainian forces to this axis and away from more critical areas of the front and has little likelihood of securing major territorial gains. Russian forces concentrated manpower for months in this sector of the front before launching their unsuccessful winter-spring 2023 operational offensive effort, and ISW has observed no similar preparations in the area. Russian forces are highly unlikely to be able to seize the operational initiative in the next two months.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted limited unsuccessful ground attacks along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on August 26. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces repelled five Ukrainian assaults near Synkivka, Novoyehorivka, Novoselivske (15km northwest of Svatove), and Raihorodka (13km west of Svatove). The Russian MoD and the Russian Central Grouping of Forces Spokesperson Alexander Savchuk claimed that Russian forces repelled seven Ukrainian assaults in the Lyman direction, including near Dibrova (6km southwest of Kreminna). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces also repelled Ukrainian attempts to restore lost positions near Torske (17km west of Kreminna) and in the Serebryanske forest area south of Kreminna.

Russian forces conducted offensive operations near Bakhmut on August 26 and reportedly advanced. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut), Ivanivske (6km west of Bakhmut), and Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). Russian sources claimed that Russian forces captured positions near Klishchiivka, although ISW has not observed visual confirmation of these claims. A Russian milblogger claimed that elements of the Russian 4th Motorized Rifle Brigade (2nd Luhansk People’s Republic Army Corps) captured positions north of  Klishchiivka.

Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations near Bakhmut and advanced on August 26. Geolocated footage published on August 26 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced further into Klishchiivka. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attacked near Minkivka (15km northwest of Bakhmut) and Klishchiivka. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attacked near Klishchiivka. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked near Kurdyumivka (13km southwest of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Ilya Yevlash reported on August 25 that Ukrainian forces are advancing 100-300 meters per day in the Bakhmut direction.

Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line and reportedly advanced on August 26. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka), Stepove (8km northwest of Avdiivka), and Marinka (on the western outskirts of Donetsk City). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces captured territory south of Novomykhailivka (10km southwest of Donetsk City). Another Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful assaults in the southwestern outskirts of Avdiivka, in Marinka, and northeast and southeast of Novomykhailivka.

The Russian MoD claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attacked near Krasnohorivka (either directly west of Donetsk City or 8km northwest of Avdiivka) on August 26.

The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Vuhledar in western Donetsk Oblast on August 26.

Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted offensive operations in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area but did not advance on August 26. Russian sources, including the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka). Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces also conducted unsuccessful attacks south of Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) and near Pryyutne (16km southwest of Velyka Novosilka), Staromlynivka (14km south of Velyka Novosilka), and Kermenchyk (16km southwest of Velyka Novosilka). The Russian “Vostok” Battalion expressed concern that Ukrainian forces would attack its area of responsibility after finishing attacks south of Urozhaine, suggesting that elements of the Vostok Battalion are no longer operating in the immediate Urozhaine area.

Ukrainian forces advanced closer to the next series of Russian defensive positions in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast as of August 26. Geolocated footage published on August 26 shows that Ukrainian forces made further advances west of Verbove (18km south of Orikhiv). Russian milbloggers also claimed on August 26 that Ukrainian forces advanced northwest of Verbove. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks in Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv), and some claimed that Russian forces managed to recapture some unspecified positions in the settlement. Other Russian and Ukrainian sources indicated that Russian forces only control part of Robotyne, however.[57]

Russian milbloggers continued to claim that fighting is ongoing on islands in the Dnipro River delta in Kherson Oblast on August 26. A Russian milblogger claimed that small Ukrainian landing groups landed on unspecified islands in the delta. Another Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted a failed landing on Borschovyi Island (14km southwest of Kherson City) on August 25.

Ukrainian forces have made further tactically significant gains in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, and several Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Ukrainian forces are advancing through what Ukrainian and US sources suggested may be the most challenging series of prepared Russian defensive positions. Geolocated footage published on August 25 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced 1.5km southward northeast of Novoprokopivka (13km south of Orikhiv). US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley stated on August 25 that Ukrainian forces are currently attacking through the main set of Russian defensive preparations along the axis of Ukrainian advance. Reuters reported on August 26 that a Ukrainian commander fighting in southern Ukraine stated that Ukrainian forces believe they have broken through the most difficult line of Russian defenses in the area and will now be able to advance more quickly. The Ukrainian commander reportedly stated that Ukrainian forces have entered areas where they encountered only Russian ”logistics groups” and that he expects that further Ukrainian breakthroughs in these areas will be easier. A Russian milblogger claimed on August 25 that Ukrainian forces were attacking in the direction of rear defensive lines near Verbove (18km southwest of Orikhiv), suggesting that Ukrainian forces may be near tactical rear areas within the series of Russian defensive positions that they are currently penetrating – though these reports should not be misinterpreted to indicate Ukrainian forces have entered Russian rear areas at the operational level.

Ukrainian forces now appear within striking distance of the next series of prepared Russian defensive positions, which may be weaker than the previous set of Russian defenses but still pose a significant challenge. The series of defensive positions that Ukrainian forces are currently advancing through were comprised of dense layers of minefields and fortifications to which Russian forces committed considerable manpower, materiel, and effort to hold. The series of Russian defensive positions now ahead of Ukrainian forces likely consists of a relatively more contiguous array of anti-tank ditches; dragon’s teeth anti-tank obstacles; and additional minefields – with Russian fighting positions behind these obstacles – much like the first Russian line of defense. However, the extent of the minefields in the area of this series of prepared defensive positions is unclear, although they may be less heavily mined to give Russian forces operating north of these positions the ability to retreat. ISW additionally recently assessed that this series of prepared defensive positions may be less heavily defended than the positions Ukrainian forces already penetrated to the north, although this remains unclear.

Each of these Russian “lines” are layered defensive positions with their own forward and rear area positions, and it is important to differentiate between the rear areas of individual Russian defensive positions and of Russian defenses in southern Ukraine as a whole. Russian defensive “lines” are additionally notional in the sense that Russian prepared positions are not uniform across the front in southern Ukraine and are not fully manned. There are additional series of prepared Russian defensive positions further south of the current Ukrainian advance, although Russian forces will only be able to fully leverage these positions if they have the available personnel and materiel to incorporate them into cohesive defensive operations.

A Ukrainian source indicated that Russian forces have laterally redeployed elements of a relatively elite formation from the Kreminna area in Luhansk Oblast to the Robotyne area in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. A Ukrainian reserve officer reported on August 26 that Russian forces transferred elements of the 76th Guards Air Assault (VDV) Division to the Robotyne area from the  Kreminna area. ISW has observed elements of the 76th VDV Division operating in the Kreminna area but cannot confirm if all elements of the 76th VDV Division were deployed in the area or what elements remain near Kreminna. ISW has now observed elements of almost every Russian VDV formation operating in areas where Ukrainian forces are conducting offensive operations, including elements of the 7th Guards Mountain VDV Division operating in southern Ukraine; and elements of the 98th Guards VDV Division, 106th Guards VDV Division, 11th Guards VDV Brigade, and 83rd Guards VDV Brigade operating near Bakhmut. A Russian source has claimed that elements of the 31st Guards VDV Brigade are also defending in the Bakhmut area, although ISW has not observed further indicators that these elements are present. Lateral redeployments of elements of the 7th Guards Mountain VDV Division from Kherson Oblast to the frontline in Zaporizhzhia Oblast and elements of the 76th VDV Division from the Kreminna area to the Robotyne area suggest that Russian forces may be using relatively elite units to reinforce critical sectors of the front. This additional lateral redeployment, if true, further supports ISW’s assessment that a lack of sizeable operational reserves would force the Russian command to conduct further lateral redeployments and make decisions about what sectors of the front to prioritize. Elements of these VDV formations may be more heavily committed in certain sectors of the front than others and each formation is unlikely to be operating as a cohesive brigade or division-level asset, and all reports should be understood as referring to elements of the relevant formation.

Russian irregular formations remain willing to threaten to withdraw from combat unilaterally despite recent efforts by Russian military command to purge and suppress insubordination. 
The “Rusich” Sabotage and Reconnaissance Group, a far-right Russian irregular paramilitary unit, announced on August 25 that the group will refuse to conduct combat missions in Ukraine until the Russian government secures the release of Rusich commander and founding member Yan Petrovsky, who is currently in Finnish custody. Ukrainian authorities requested the extradition of Petrovsky from Finland to Ukraine, where he is suspected of various charges related to terrorism. The Rusich Group accused the Russian government of not meeting its obligations to protect Russians abroad by not securing Petrovsky’s release earlier, and asked why Rusich personnel should protect Russia if the Russian government will not protect Russians. The Rusich Group indicated that it is likely operating on the Robotyne-Verbove line in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, a critical area of the frontline where the Russian military command likely cannot afford for any units to rebel and refuse to conduct combat missions. The Russian MoD has notably previously struggled with insubordination and threats of desertion from other Russian units in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is reportedly prosecuting the junior officers and soldiers of a Russian unit that complained about senior commanders’ inattention to frontline issues, following a MoD pattern of deflecting blame away from senior officers. Russian milbloggers claimed on August 26 that an assistant to an unspecified Russian deputy defense minister arrived in Kherson Oblast to investigate complaints associated with the 205th Motorized Rifle Brigade (49th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) that sparked outrage within the Russian information space on August 25. These milbloggers claimed that the Russian MoD official is protecting the 205th Brigade’s commander and punishing protesting company commanders. These Russian milbloggers expressed continued anger at this deflection of responsibility and at the broader Russian officer system that does not allow for officers with new command styles. These claims are unconfirmed, but the speed at which the Russian military command is reportedly responding likely demonstrates their deep concern about insubordination in the military, as well as of public criticism of the Russian military command. The Russian MoD has previously shown a propensity for deflecting blame away from senior officers and holding lower-level soldiers responsible for problems. The Russian military has recently suffered from multiple public instances of insubordination, and ISW has previously assessed that the Russian military chain of command is deteriorating.

No prominent channels known to be directly affiliated with Wagner have shared additional information on the future of the group despite speculation from nominally pro-Wagner channels, while the majority of Russian sources have focused their attention on kinetic activity on the frontline. Insider sources have continued to report details about the flight crew killed in the crash as well as the ongoing Russian government investigation into the crash. Russian sources that are not aligned with Wagner have largely stopped speculating about Prigozhin’s death and the future of the Wagner Group and have focused their reporting on operations on the frontline.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces have made further tactically significant gains in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, and several Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Ukrainian forces are advancing through what Ukrainian and US sources suggested may be the most challenging series of prepared Russian defensive positions.
  • Ukrainian forces now appear within striking distance of the next series of prepared Russian defensive positions, which may be weaker than the previous set of Russian defenses but still pose a significant challenge.
  • A Ukrainian source indicated that Russian forces have laterally redeployed elements of a relatively elite formation from the Kreminna area in Luhansk Oblast to the Robotyne area in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • Russian irregular formations remain willing to threaten to withdraw from combat unilaterally despite recent efforts by Russian military command to purge and suppress insubordination.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is reportedly prosecuting the junior officers and soldiers of a Russian unit that complained about senior commanders’ inattention to frontline issues.
  • No prominent channels known to be directly affiliated with Wagner shared additional information on the future of the group, while the majority of Russian sources have focused their attention on kinetic activity on the frontline.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in western Donetsk Oblast but did not make any confirmed advances.
  • Russian regional governments continue to facilitate the forced deportation of Ukrainian children from occupied Ukraine to occupied Crimea.“ (unquote)

Russia will not stop in Ukraine, there is already threat to EU and NATO countries, Censor.net reports, citing the Minister of Defence of the Netherlands, Kajsa Ollongren, in an interview with European Pravda. “She is convinced of the need to support Ukraine now to prevent Russia from winning. If Russia is not stopped now, if Russia is satisfied with the results of its aggression, then it will not stop in Ukraine. And it will not stop in this part of Europe. Then, at some point, we will also be directly threatened by Russian aggression against the states of the European Union and NATO, she said.

Therefore, we must do everything in our power to make sure that Ukraine does not stop and Russia does not win, the minister emphasized. The regime in Russia is very aggressive, revanchist, which dreams of returning to the old days, of restoring the Soviet Union and the empire, she emphasized. And this means that the eastern part of NATO, the eastern part of the European Union is under direct threat. And it is important that we talk about it, that it is not only a problem of Ukraine, it is a European problem, it is also a problem of NATO, Ollongren added.”

Ukraine will speed up advance on southern front, commander says, Reuters reports. “Ukrainian forces believe they have broken through the most difficult line of Russian defences in the south and will now be able to advance more quickly, a commander fighting in the south told Reuters. […] Ukrainian forces said on Wednesday they had raised the national flag in the settlement of Robotyne in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, about 10 km (six miles) south of the frontline town of Orikhiv.

We don’t stop here, said a commander who led some of the troops into Robotyne and who uses the callsign “Skala,” eponymous with the battalion which he leads. Next we have (the town of) Berdiansk, and then more. I made it clear to my fighters at once: our goal is not Robotyne, our goal is (the Sea of) Azov. Robotyne is about 100 km from Berdiansk, a port on the shores of the Sea of Azov, and 85 km from the strategic city of Melitopol. Both are occupied by Russian forces following Moscow’s full-scale invasion in February last year. […]

A US official said last week that Ukrainian forces did not appear likely to be able to reach and retake Melitopol in their counteroffensive, intended to split Russian forces in the south. […] We have passed the main roads that were mined. We are coming to those lines where we can go (forward). I’m sure we’ll go faster from here, Skala said. He said two houses were still under Russian control in Robotyne: We’re fighting for them, and then we’ll have full control (of Robotyne).

Skala said Ukrainian troops had now entered territories where there were only Russian logistics groups, and where he made clear he did not expect Russian defences to be as difficult to break through. We are moving on to liberate all our territories, he said.”

Russia to resume offensive in east Ukraine after regrouping, Kyiv says, Reuters reports. “Russia is regrouping in the Moscow-controlled eastern part of Ukraine in order to resume an offensive, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the Ukrainian military’s ground forces, said on Friday. After a month of fierce fighting and significant losses in the Kupiansk and Lyman directions, the enemy is regrouping its forces and means, simultaneously throwing newly formed brigades and divisions from the territory of the Russian Federation, Syrskyi said in his Telegram channel. Syrskyi said that the main goal of these measures was to increase the level of combat potential and resume active offensive operations.

Syrskyi did not provide details of the Russian regrouping but said the forces continued heavy artillery and mortar shelling and air assaults. Under such conditions, we must promptly take all measures to strengthen our defences on the threatened lines and advance where possible, the general said.”

It’s impossible to return Crimea without military operations, Ukrinform reports. “Crimea will be returned by combined means, but it is impossible to do without military operations. […] If someone knows how it is possible, through persuasion or another variant of diplomacy, to make the Russian army move even a millimeter, not figuratively, but actually in any direction, well, let them do it, Head of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Crimea. Realities project.

He also noted that the statement about the possibility of an easy offensive in Crimea was erroneous because about 30% of the terrain in Crimea is mountainous and holding the defence there is almost 100% success for the enemy. At the same time, this does not mean that it is impossible to liberate Crimea, Budanov noted. This is not a hopeless story, but it will not be as easy as we would like, he said. […] The intelligence chief also believes that while the defense forces advance toward Crimea, Putin will continue making nuclear threats.

UAV attacks on Russia aim to raise morale of Ukrainians, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The New York Times. “Drone attacks on the territory of Russia, the number of which has increased during the last few weeks, aim to show Ukrainians that Kyiv is able to respond to Moscow’s actions. The officials believe that these strikes are important amid an allegedly slow pace of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The NYT remarks that this summer, drone attacks on the territory of Russia became more frequent, and many of these drones were Ukrainian made. These attacks resulted in damaged buildings in the centre of Moscow, temporary closure of the airports and even in destruction of long-range strategic bombers. The strikes did not cause significant harm to the military potential of Russia but did not lead to escalation either.

Yet American officials state that the attacks have a more important target audience. If drone attacks have any strategic goal at all, then it is to strengthen the morale of civilians and the military of Ukraine. The US officials also expect that Ukraine will continue launching attacks on the territory of Russia as it is an important signal to the Kremlin: Kyiv is ready to strike back.

Sergei Sobyanin, the Mayor of Moscow, claims that on the night of 25-26 August, Russian air defence forces shot down a drone on the outskirts of Moscow.”

If no active actions are taken, Russia will be able to maintain its defence for rest of its life, Censor.net reports, citing RBC-Ukraine with reference to an interview with Radio Svoboda of the head of the Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, Kyrylo Budanov. “In the Russian Federation, only human resources are enough. The enemy can keep the defence under occupation for the rest of his life if Ukraine does not act. Putin has no resource, except human’s. There is no more resource, no economy, no military-industrial resource, the reserves are exhausted. They have a lot of human material, but this is the only thing they have in sufficient quantity, Budanov said.

According to the head of the Defence Intelligence, the Russian Federation has exhausted its resources, which is why it is forced to beg for supplies from third countries. In particular, he explained the shortage of resources by the fact that in the last 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the terrorist country did not replenish them in any way. In recent years, Russia was the second-third country in terms of exports. At the same time, it also had black exports. Black exports went much more than white, – noted the head of the Defence Intelligence.

After the start of the full-scale invasion, Russia and Ukraine “met” war with what was. Already six months later, the Russians began to go to Iran, Africa, Cuba, because their industrial volume was destroyed, and the pace of production did not meet the needs. At the same time, the human resource in Russia is sufficient to defend itself in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine at least for life, if the Ukrainian side does not take active actions. They can keep (temporarily occupied territories, – ed.) on the defensive for a long time. If we don’t take active actions, they can keep them at least for a lifetime, Budanov noted.”

Putin orders Wagner fighters to sign oath of allegiance, Reuters reports. “President Vladimir Putin has ordered Wagner fighters to sign an oath of allegiance to the Russian state after a deadly plane crash believed to have killed Yevgeny Prigozhin, the volatile chief of the mercenary group. Putin signed the decree bringing in the change with immediate effect on Friday after the Kremlin said that Western suggestions that Prigozhin had been killed on its orders were an absolute lie. The Kremlin declined to definitively confirm his death, citing the need to wait for test results. […]

Putin’s introduction of a mandatory oath for employees of Wagner and other private military contractors was a clear move to bring such groups under tighter state control. The decree, published on the Kremlin website, obliges anyone carrying out work on behalf of the military or supporting what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine to swear a formal oath of allegiance to Russia. Described in the decree as a step to forge the spiritual and moral foundations of the defence of Russia, the wording of the oath includes a line in which those who take it promise to strictly follow the orders of commanders and senior leaders. […]”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Borrelll: Sanctions against Russia are working, Ukrinform reports. “Josep Borrelll, High Representative of The European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, explained how Western sanctions affect Russia’s economic, industrial, and technological potential. Within a year, they [sanctions] have already limited Moscow’s options considerably causing financial strain, cutting the country from key markets and significantly degrading Russia’s industrial and technological capacity, Borrelll wrote in his blog.

Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, the EU has imposed 11 rounds of ever-tighter sanctions against Russia. The EU has also imposed travel bans and asset freezes on more than 1,500 individuals and almost 250 entities, he noted. To stop the war, we need to stay the course, the EU High Representative of the European Union stressed.

He wrote that the Russian economy had contracted in 2022 by 2.1%. In particular, the production of motor vehicles was down 48% year-on-year, other transport equipment by 13% and computer, electronic and optical production by 8% while retail trade was 10% lower and wholesale trade 17%.

Compared to 2021, 58% of total EU imports from Russia were already cut off in 2022. Non-energy imports from Russia have fallen close to 60%, with the most visible drops for iron and steel, precious metals and wood. This movement is accelerating: the decline in imports of non-energy goods is above 75% for the first quarter of 2023, and the fall is even greater for energy goods, at minus 80%.

Overall EU exports of goods were 52% below the annual average before the war in 2022. At the same time, EU exports of dual-use items and advanced technologies, which are essential to produce the equipment and weapons used by Russia to wage its war, dropped by 78% in 2022 compared to 2019-2021, Borrelll underscored. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that total Russian oil revenues are down 27% from a year before.”

Hans Petter Midttun: Yes, the sanctions against Russia are working, Josep Borrelll, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission, argues.

Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, the EU has imposed 11 rounds of ever-tighter sanctions against Russia. Some people claim these sanctions have not worked. This is simply not true. Within a year, they have already limited Moscow’s options considerably causing financial strain, cutting the country from key markets and significantly degrading Russia’s industrial and technological capacity. To stop the war, we need to stay the course.”

He is right: The sanctions are working. Borrelll does, however, not say to what degree they are working.

The EU sanctions were never meant to stop the war. They are designed to reduce the Kremlin’s ability to finance the war, impose clear economic and political costs on Russia’s political elite and diminish Russia’s economic base. But not stop Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

That is why the last part of the statement is highly misleading. Staying the course will not stop the war.

The Kremlin is regularly reiterating President Putin’s goals from February 24 to “save people, demilitarize, and denazify Ukraine”. Russia has long accepted the costs of the war – knowing that the potential gains far outweigh the present costs inflicted upon it – and upholds its effort to defeat Ukraine.

After 9.5 years of sanctions – and 9.5 years after the war started – it is probably fair to state that the West has failed to impose its will on Russia. In my opinion, NATO and the EU have achieved the opposite. A low-intensity war has escalated into a full-scale war.

There are several reasons for its failure to force Russia to withdraw and act according to international law.

Firstly, Russia sees negotiations as a sign of weakness, not strength. The fact that the West stands united behind the sanctions, does not signal strength. It only demonstrates collective weakness and lack of will and ability to do what is needed to end the war.

Secondly, sanctions are temporary. In contrast to the massive destruction in Ukraine, sanctions do not destroy anything. They only temporarily cut the flow of money. Russia knows from experience that the West use sanctions to motivate. The moment warfighting stops – irrespective of the outcome of the war – the West will most likely start lifting sanctions to facilitate a return to “normality”. Some Heads of State are bound to argue for a reset in the relationship – not because it is smart, but because we always do – and Russia has every reason to expect this to be the outcome once it has achieved the desired end-state.

Thirdly, Sanctions (non-military means) can only work when linked to the employment of military means. The key is to understand that in the “new generation warfare” the military and non-military instruments are used in multiple dimensions and levels simultaneously in a synchronized fashion. The ability to effectively coordinate the employment of both military and non-military tools means that the latter becomes a force multiplier. Being militarily inferior to NATO, the ability to synchronize its toolkit, combined with risk willingness, a quick decision-making process and military posture, puts Russia potentially on near equal footing with NATO.

The problem is that Russia is fighting Ukraine, not NATO. Furthermore, it is fighting a Ukraine lacking key military capabilities.

While Russia has long argued that it is fighting the collective West in Ukraine (and a Ukrainian government controlled by the West), the US and Europe have since 2014 consistently declared that they have no intention of intervening militarily in Ukraine (despite their commitment to intervene according to NATO’s 2010 strategic concept).

While the West is providing Ukraine with weapons and ammunition, the inflow has been slow and incremental. It does, however, not provide Ukraine with the full range of military means available to the Alliance. The most important of these is the mobilisation of Western forces – a coalition of the willing – to fight alongside the Ukrainian Armed Forces defending European security and stability.

Military intervention could include closing the sky, providing air support to Ukrainian troops, breaking the maritime blockade in the Black Sea, or providing Ukraine with the long-range strike capability needed to destroy Russian capabilities supporting its war efforts from Russian or occupied territories.

Fourthly, the sanctions are not effective because Russia has adapted to the new reality and established new chains of supply. According to the KSE Institute – an analytical centre at the Kyiv School of Economics – production of drones used by Russia still involves a high share of components that are produced by the West.

A June analysis found that because of the critical role of imported components in military production, international sanctions, i.e., dual-use and military goods export controls, are having an impact on Russia’s ability to manufacture key weapons systems, including armoured vehicles, artillery, and missiles. However, KSE reported that the analysis of Russian weaponry captured on the battlefield – in total, 58 pieces of equipment, ranging from missiles and drones to armoured vehicles and artillery – found 1,057 individual foreign components with microchips and processors playing the dominant role. Many of these components are still entering Russia via China, Türkiye, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere, adding to Russia’s pre-war stockpiles.

The report concluded that the export control regime is not as effective as needed.

Russia will live with the temporary pain to secure future gains.

Which is the fifth reason for sanctions not working. While the pains from sanctions are temporary, Russia stands to gain enormously from a victory in Ukraine. Strategically, it will secure a Russian Great Power status. Having also “defeated the USA, NATO and the EU in Ukraine”, it will take a position alongside that of the US and China.

A victory will ensure tremendous geostrategic gains. Russia faces major demographic challenges that in the long run will affect both its economy and its ability to project military power globally. Russia – or the Russian World – will grow by more than 800,000 square kilometres and up to 52 million people. This includes both Ukraine and Belarus.

It would bring Russian military power – including its ability to threaten European airspace – 1000 km closer to Berlin, Paris and London. A Russian victory will also ensure full control over the Sea of Azov and turn the Black Sea into a “Russian Lake”.

Equally important, it would create the preconditions for its Great Power status. The potential demographic gains have already been described. Russia will also gain access to more than $12.4 trillion worth of Ukraine’s energy deposits, metals and minerals. It would also gain control over oil and gas resources in the Black Sea assessed to be equal to that of the North Sea basin in scope and scale. It would control the “breadbasket of Europe”, the richest agricultural area on the continent. It would not least, allow Russia to reconnect its defence industries to the Ukrainian “missing link”. Additionally, it would gain access to Ukrainian innovation and technology across all sectors.

By defeating Ukraine, it would create the economic, technological, demographic and, therefore, military basis to become and remain a Great Power.

Even those who fail to acknowledge the ongoing confrontation between Russia and the West will be forced to acknowledge the increased risks of having a belligerent autocracy, a risk-willing and emboldened Great Power with nuclear arms at our borders. Especially bearing in mind the incompatibility of the Russian autocracy and the Western liberal democracies.

The potential Russian gains far outweigh the short-term, temporary costs of Western sanctions. This is why the West will continue to fail in its effort to end the war. Russia will continue to wage war until confronted by military means on equal footing.

Russia is fighting Ukraine in the physical space and the West in the cognitive space while avoiding Western-imposed sanctions with support from its international partners.

Sanctions will only work when employed in combination with military power. Western single-minded use of sanctions and unwillingness to intervene militarily serves as a motivation to continue its war of aggression.

 

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