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Russo-Ukrainian war, day 562: US believes Ukraine can breach Russian defenses by year’s end

American intelligence sees a “realistic possibility” Ukraine can break through the rest of Russia’s lines in the south in 2023. Russian trade volumes have returned to pre-war levels. Ukrainian forces made further gains near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
Russo-ukrainian war 2023

  Morning report day 562 – September 8

The report is based on media reports, expert analyses, and official information posted online.

Situation

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 08.09.2023, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

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

On September 8, there were 39 combat engagements. The enemy launched 7 missiles, 74 airstrikes, and 46 MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements.

The operational situation in the east and south of Ukraine remains difficult.

  • Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes.
  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Popivka, Sal’ne (Chernihiv oblast), Sumy, Hrabovs’ke, Starykove (Sumy oblast), and Hranove (Kharkiv oblast). More than 25 settlements came under artillery and mortar fire, including Tur’ya, Bleshnya (Chernihiv oblast), Kozache, Uhroidy, Hrabovs’ke (Sumy oblast), Udy, Veterynarne, Vovchans’k, Budarky, Hatyshche, and Ohirtseve (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis: the Ukrainian Defence Forces repelled enemy attacks in the vicinity of Syn’kivka (Luhansk oblast). More than 15 settlements came under artillery and mortar fire, including Krasne Pershe, Kam’yanka, Fyholivka, Dvorichna, Kucherivka, and Tabaivka (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Lyman axis: the Ukrainian defenders repelled enemy attacks in the vicinity of Novojehorivka (Luhansk oblast). The enemy launched airstrikes near Bilohorivka (Luhansk Oblast), west of Dibrova and Spirne (Donetsk Oblast). More than 15 settlements, including Nevske, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Verkhn’okam’yans’ke, Vesele, Spirne, Rozdolivka, and Yampolivka (Donetsk oblast), were shelled with artillery and mortars.
  • Bakhmut axis: the Ukrainian soldiers repelled adversary attacks in the vicinities of Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Klishchiivka, and Andriivka (Donetsk oblast). The enemy launched an airstrike near Maiors’k (Donetsk oblast). More than 15 settlements came under artillery and mortar fire, including Chasiv Yar, Ivanivske, Klishchiivka, New York, and Pivnichne (Donetsk oblast). Conversely, as a result of assault operations, the Ukrainian Defence Forces have partial success south of Bakhmut, pushing the enemy out of its positions and consolidating new positions.
  • Avdiivka axis: the adversary attempted an attack in the areas of Keramik and Avdiivka (Donetsk oblast), to no success. Russian forces launched an airstrike near Avdiivka. More than 10 settlements came under artillery and mortar fire, including Novokalynove, Keramik, Stepove, Avdiivka, Sjeverne, and Pervomais’ke (Donetsk oblast).
  • Marinka axis: the Ukrainian Defence Forces continue to hold back the Russian offensive in the vicinities of Marinka and Novomykhailivka (Donetsk oblast). Thus, our troops repelled more than 10 enemy attacks here On September 7. The adversary launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Krasnohorivka. The invaders fired artillery and mortars at around 15 settlements, including Krasnohorivka, Mar’inka, Pobjeda, Novomykhailivka, and Antonivka (Donetsk oblast).
  • Shakhtarske axis: the Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled enemy attacks in the area south of Prechystivka. The enemy launched an airstrike near Urozhaine. Around 10 settlements, including Vodyane, Vuhledar, Prechystivka, Zolota Nyva, and Urozhaine (Donetsk oblast), came under artillery and mortar fire.
  • Zaporizhzhia axis: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Mala Tokmachka, Zolota Nyva, Robotyne, Novodanylivka, and Omel’nyk (Zaporizhzhia oblast). The invaders fired artillery and mortars at more than 20 settlements, including Ol’hivs’ke, Hulyaipole, Levadne, Mala Tokmachka, P’yatykhatky, Robotyne, and Kam’yans’ke (Zaporizhzhia oblast).
  • Kherson axis: the enemy launched an airstrike near Kozats’ke. Antonivka, Kherson, Veletens’ke, and Tomyna Balka (Kherson oblast) came under artillery and mortar fire.

At the same time, the Ukrainian Defence Forces continue to conduct the offensive operation on the Melitopol axis, crushing the enemy and liberating the occupied territories step by step, succeeding in the area south of Robotyne, and consolidating the new positions.

On September 7, the Ukrainian Air Force launched 10 airstrikes on the concentrations of troops, weapons, and military equipment, as well as on the positions of the anti-aircraft missile systems of the adversary.

Missile and artillery troops hit 1 ammunition depot, 6 artillery systems, 2 command posts, and 2 anti-aircraft missile systems of the adversary.“

Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated from Russian invaders territory south of Robotyne and west of Verbove, – Defense forces of Tauria direction, Censor.net reports, citing Ukrinform quoting Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun, the spokesman for the joint press centre of the Defence Forces of the Tauria Region. “Ukrainian defenders of the past era destroyed 59 units of enemy military equipment. In particular, one tank, 13 armoured combat vehicles, six artillery systems, and mortars, three units of anti-tank means, 30 units of various types of UAVs, and six units of automobile equipment. Three warehouses with ammunition were also destroyed “, the spokesman said.

According to him, the Russian occupiers continue to surrender. Only yesterday, six people surrendered to the Ukrainian military, and over the last week – more than 20 occupiers, Shtupun said.

In addition, yesterday the Armed Forces managed to liberate a small area south of the village of Robotyne and west of the village of Verbove from the occupiers.”

Drone hits industrial facility in Bryansk, Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Alexander Bogomaz and Russia’s Defence Ministry. “Alexander Bogomaz, the governor of Bryansk Oblast in the Russian Federation, says a drone has attacked an industrial facility in Bryansk. Russia’s Defence Ministry is claiming that one of two drones was destroyed in the air. Bogomaz claimed that Ukrainians had launched an attack on an industrial facility in the city of Bryansk, using a UAV. An administrative building caught fire as a result. There were no casualties. 

Fire brigades, response teams and emergency services are working at the scene, the Russian governor said. […] Local residents said the explosion was heard near the Kremniy El plant, which produces microelectronics.”

Explosions thunder in Rostov-on-Don, local authorities claim drones are involved, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Vasily Golubev, Governor of Rostov Oblast, on Telegram. “Explosions were heard in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don, and local authorities have claimed that Russian air defence shot down several drones, but local Telegram channels are posting videos of explosions and flashes. Golubev said that air defence was triggered at about 03:00 [Thursday] in Rostov-on-Don. Two drones were supposedly shot down. […]

Russian Telegram channels report that the explosion occurred on Pushkinskaya Street, a few streets away from the headquarters of the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces. Telegram channels reported that three explosions were heard in the city, after which a fire broke out.”

Ukrainian flag was raised in two villages of “gray zone” in Kharkiv region, Censor.net reports, citing the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “The flag of Ukraine flew in the settlements of Stroyivka and Topoli, Kharkiv region. The flag was raised by the soldiers of the Steel Frontier Offensive Guard.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs noted that Stroyivka and Topoli are located on the border with Russia and are in the so-called “grey zone”. “After the de-occupation of the Kharkiv region, it was dangerous to enter this territory because of mines, but now the border guards have paved the way and raised the State Flag of Ukraine! – the statement reads.”

The occupiers are actively using chemical weapons against the Armed Forces of Ukraine: the military spoke about the new tactics of the enemy, Obozrevatel reports. “The Russian occupation forces are actively using chemical weapons on the front lines. In some places, due to such actions of the enemy, the Ukrainian defenders must retreat. Sergey Filimonov, deputy head of intelligence of the Da Vinci Wolves battalion and one of its leaders, said this in an interview. He also spoke about the Russians’ new tactics for the use of chemical weapons.

The Russian invaders are launching several drones at once towards the Ukrainian positions. The first dumps chloropicrin gas into a dugout or trench, because of which our soldiers begin to suffocate and are forced to leave their shelter. When you get out of the dugout, they throw grenades, VOGs drop. If there are wounded or killed, you are forced to evacuate. When you evacuate positions, at that moment they begin to make a “meat assault,” Filimonov explained.

If the invaders succeed in their assault actions, they occupy the same dugouts of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which were previously bombarded with chemicals. And because of this, our military are forced to retreat 50-100 meters in the other direction and again dig trenches for themselves. Dig in again while you dig – they shoot drones again, the fighter added.

As OBOZREVATEL reported, earlier Russian invaders fired chemical munitions at the village of Novodanilovka , which is near Orekhov in Zaporozhye.”

Ukraine Armed Forces destroyed 25 “Shahed-136/131”, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “On the night of September 7, 2023, the Russian occupiers attacked Sumy region and Odesa region with several groups of “Shahed-136/131” type UAVs from the northern, southeastern and southern directions (Kursk, Primorsko-Akhtarsk – Russian Federation, Chauda Cape – TOT, Crimea).

A total of 33 “shahed” launches were recorded, mainly in the direction of the southern regions of the Odesa region. According to the results of combat work by the forces and means of the Air Force, in cooperation with the anti-aircraft defence of the Defence Forces of Ukraine, 25 “Shahed-136/131” were destroyed.

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

  • Residents of the Russian-controlled area of Donetsk Oblast in Ukraine are now receiving Russian-language local news bulletins from one of Russia’s major broadcast organisations. On 4 September, the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) opened a Donetsk franchise and commenced broadcasting in the internationally unrecognised Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR). Local news bulletins are provided by Russia’s Rossiya 1TV Channel and present the Russian view of the war. This is part of Russia’s broader effort to assert enduring control of the area.
  • Ukraine-based Russian language television and radio stations were freely available in the now-annexed areas before 2014. After the invasion, pan-Ukraine providers continued to provide locally sourced Russian-language content. DNR-government-controlled and aligned broadcasters also rebroadcast Russian national news programming as part of a propaganda campaign but did not provide regional bulletins.
  • Broadcasting VGTRK in Donetsk has taken over a year to achieve, having first been announced in 2022. This was almost certainly due to the refusal to work of trained local technicians. Those sympathetic to the DNR and with the required skills have now likely been brought in from Crimea, Luhansk and elsewhere.
  • Although blocked over the airwaves, Ukrainian broadcasting is still accessible to a wide audience via the internet. Where Russian filtering restrictions are in force, audiences use VPN or other active circumvention technologies. Mobile phones linked to Ukrainian providers are highly likely unfettered.

As of Friday 8 September, 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 267540 (+640)
  • Tanks – 4529 (+23)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 8726 (+23)
  • Artillery systems – 5753 (+31)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 754 (+1)
  • Air defence means – 507 (+1)
  • Aircraft – 315 (+0) 
  • Helicopters – 316 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 8264 (+47)
  • Vessels/boats – 19 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 4570 (+29)
  • Special equipment – 860 (+1)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1455 (+0)

Humanitarian

Russians attack Odesa region’s Izmail district – the fourth attack in past five days, Ukrinform reports, citing Oleh Kiper, the head of the Odesa Regional Military Administration. “On the night of September 7, Russian terrorists have been attacking the south of Odesa region with drones for about three hours. This is the fourth attack on Izmail district in the past five days. As a result of today’s raid by Shaheds, civil and port infrastructure facilities, an elevator, and an administrative building were damaged in several settlements, the report says.”

Ukraine offered Türkiye to restore “grain corridor” without participation of Russian Federation, we are waiting for response, – Ambassador Bodnar, Censor.net reports, citing Ukrinform quoting the Ambassador of Ukraine to Türkiye Vasyl Bodnar. “The proposal to operate (the grain corridor) without Russia has been submitted to the Turkish side. There is no final confirmation yet. But since the ships (with grain – Ed.) are already sailing through the territorial waters of Romania, Bulgaria and Türkiye and passing through the straits without restrictions, this is actually a rational way, the diplomat said.

Bodnar recalled that even within the framework of the Grain Initiative, there were quite frequent cases when the aggressor country restricted the passage of ships to Ukraine or tried to regulate access to a particular Ukrainian port. In addition, there were restrictions on the list of products that could be exported from Ukraine. The ambassador added that since there are no export restrictions on Ukrainian products for ships passing through this humanitarian corridor, this alternative option could be one of the main ones to resolve the situation.

At the same time, he noted that communication between Türkiye and the UN is currently underway following the results of negotiations with both Ukraine and Russia to develop agreed positions. We are, of course, taking a constructive stance towards our partners Türkiye and the UN and mediators, and we will work out mechanisms that will be beneficial to our side, but will not harm the principled position on lifting sanctions against Russia – this is absolutely the wrong way, Bodnar concluded.”

Environmental

Draining of Kakhovka Reservoir may lead to desertification of southern Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “The draining of the Kakhovka Reservoir as a result of the Russian Federation blowing up the hydroelectric dam may exacerbate the trend towards desertification in the south of Ukraine. The drainage of the territories will affect the food system in the future, Vladyslav Dudar, an officer of the Environmental Safety and Demining Department of the Ministry of Defence, said during the briefing Three Months Since the Occupiers Destroyed the Dam of the Kakhovka HPP on 5 September.

As Dudar says, the average annual precipitation in Kherson Oblast is 400 mm. This exceeds the indicators characteristic of deserts, in particular, in Spain, where an average of 200 mm of precipitation falls per year. However, the lack of a sustainable water supply, which was provided by the reservoir, will negatively affect the ecology of the south, says Dudar.

There are negative forecasts that indicate an increase in the process of aridisation (desertification) of Kherson Oblast. Most specialists are not inclined to believe that it will become a desert because there is enough precipitation in the region,” added the officer from the Mine Action and Environmental Safety Department of the Ministry of Defence.”

About 25,000 Ukrainian citizens may be in Russian captivity, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Interfax-Ukraine quoting Dmytro Lubinets, Ukrainian Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights. “Regarding civilian hostages, as per my information, approximately 25,000 Ukrainian citizens can be considered to have gone missing under special circumstances. The situation here is not changing, it is extremely terrible: the Russians detain civilians in temporarily occupied territories practically every day, thus adding to this list.”

About 90% of Ukrainian prisoners of war were tortured – Prosecutor General, Ukrainian Pravda reports, citing Prosecutor General Andrii Kostin. “According to recent estimates, roughly 90% of Ukrainian prisoners of war have been subjected to torture, rape, threats of sexual violence, or other forms of ill-treatment. We are finding evidence of these horrors in all the liberated territories. In Kherson Oblast alone, 11 torture chambers have been recorded. In Kharkiv Oblast, investigations are ongoing into almost 100 cases of torture, in which more than 700 victims have been identified.

According to the Prosecutor General, 156 suspects have been identified so far – Russian military personnel and representatives of the occupying “authorities”. Indictments have been filed against 114 people, and 35 have been convicted of torture and ill-treatment as war crimes.”

16 people confirmed dead in Kostiantynivka, not 17, and strike not due to artillery, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleksandra Havrylko, head of the communications department of the Donetsk Oblast police. “The Russian military hit the town of Kostyantynivka, Donetsk Oblast, on Wednesday afternoon.

The official data says that, as of now, there are 16 dead and 33 wounded. Initially, there was information about 17 people killed. When we conducted a thorough visual examination of the remains, we found 16 bodies. Almost all of them have now been identified, relatives have been found, and DNA samples have been taken from the victims and their relatives. As of the evening, four bodies had not been identified. As of the morning, there is one person (the body of a man) whose relatives have not come forward. […]

She also added that the police have ruled out the use of artillery, which was reported earlier. At the moment, the examination is still underway. I can say that there are several lines of enquiry regarding the actual type of weapon. We are ruling out artillery for now, although initially we provided information about artillery fire. There are several options. The exact information will be available later.”

MEPs call on Zelenskyy to return draft law on opening declaration registers to Ukrainian Parliament, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Michael Gahler, member of the European Parliament, on Twitter (X). “Members of the European Parliament have called on Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to return the draft law on the restoration of mandatory electronic declaration to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Ukrainian Parliament). MEPs urged Zelenskyy to return draft law No. 9534 to the Verkhovna Rada with the demand to open the register and to veto draft law No. 9587-d on prosecuting persons authorised to perform functions of the state or local self-government.

The statement reads that the MEPS support the restoration of electronic declaration of property in Ukraine and are concerned about closing the register from the public for another year. We are concerned, that closing the registry from the public will not strengthen the trust of the Ukrainians and international partners, will have a significant negative effect on anti-corruption efforts and withhold one of the key instruments of public control over the public officials, while also undermining trust in reforms efforts. […]

On 5 September, the Verkhovna Rada also adopted the bill No. 9534 about resuming online tax declaration for officials, but the declaration register will be opened in a year. […] Ukrainians collected 25,000 signatures on a petition demanding that the president veto draft law No. 9534 and return it to parliament to open a register of officials’ property declarations.”

Support

Pentagon announces new US$600 million military aid package for Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the US Department of Defense press service. “The Pentagon has announced a new military aid package for Ukraine to meet its needs on the battlefield. The US$600 million package is being provided through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI). It will include equipment to augment Ukraine’s air defence system, artillery munitions and other supplies.

The new US military assistance package includes equipment to sustain and integrate Ukraine’s air defence systems; additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS); 105-mm artillery rounds; electronic warfare and counter-electronic warfare equipment; demolition munitions for obstacle clearing; mine clearing equipment; and support and equipment for training, maintenance and sustainment activities.

The day before, the United States announced a new $175 million military aid package for Ukraine which includes depleted-uranium munitions. In addition, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced during his visit to Kyiv that Washington would allocate more than a billion dollars to help Ukraine.

US to supply Ukraine with new batch of cluster munitions soon – NYT, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The New York Times. “The US will supply Ukraine with a new batch of cluster munitions soon. One of the officials told NYT, this armament is a key to preserving the dynamics which the Armed Forces of Ukraine have recently achieved during the counteroffensive in the south of Ukraine.

The Western officials and experts agree that cluster munitions are the most effective against troops and columns of equipment concentrated in open areas.  It is expected that the demand for ammunition in Ukraine will be increasing since some units rely more and more on heavy artillery in order to prepare ground for the offensive of infantry.”

US to send over 190 armoured vehicles to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink on Twitter (X). “The United States of America will send 190 MRAP armoured vehicles with enhanced anti-mine protection to Ukraine.

The US will give 190 MRAPs to enable Ukraine’s brave law enforcement officers to protect civilians — especially those near the frontlines. The US ambassador noted that the MRAP armoured vehicles will be delivered to Ukrainian border guards and police.”

New rules would give Europe more scope for military spending post-Ukraine invasion, Reuters reports. “The European Union is close to agreeing provisions in revamped fiscal rules to enable extra military spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, officials close to the talks said. EU fiscal rules underpin the euro currency used in 20 nations by limiting government borrowing. They set a ceiling on budget deficits at 3% of GDP and on public debt at 60% of GDP. The bloc’s executive European Commission is supposed to start disciplinary steps against countries that exceed these limits.

Currently only nine EU members meet a NATO alliance defence spending goal of 2% of national output, with four – Finland, Romania, Hungary and the Slovak Republic – above that only in 2023. France, Germany and Italy, the EU’s biggest economies, are all below the NATO threshold.

After Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, many European countries neighbouring Russia called for military spending to be excluded outright from EU deficit calculations. This did not fly, but there is agreement that while defence spending would still be part of the deficit calculations, the Commission would categorise such outlays as ‘relevant factors’ that allow it not to start any disciplinary steps even if the 3% limit is exceeded, one EU diplomat close to the talks said. […]

Despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 12 member countries of the alliance decreased their defense spending as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022 from 2021, while seven, including the U.S., were at their lowest in three years.Despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 12 member countries of the alliance decreased their defence spending as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022 from 2021, while seven, including the US, were at their lowest in three years.

Opposition to a full exemption from EU calculations stemmed from concern that military spending could be a very broad category that could help hide a lot of ordinary expenses. By stipulating that military spending would only be a “relevant factor” that could help avoid disciplinary action, the new rules would leave it to the Commission’s judgement what spending would be eligible. […]

The proposal has won backing among the committee of finance officials from EU capitals looking at how to reform the budget rules. The rules have been suspended since 2020 to allow higher public borrowing during the pandemic and the energy crisis but are to be reinstated from 2024. EU finance ministers are to have an initial discussion on changes to the rules next week and then again in October with a view to reach a deal by the end of the year, though some see that deadline as very ambitious.”

EU defence agency signs first joint procurement ammunition deals for Ukraine, Euractiv reports. “The European Defence Agency (EDA) on Tuesday (5 September) signed eight contracts with European industry for the joint procurement of 155mm ammunition for Ukraine in the first-ever move to use the bloc to purchase weapons collectively. With these contracts, EU member states and Norway will now have the option to procure 155mm ammunition through the EDA, which would work as a procurement agency. The €1 billion worth of joint procurement of ammunition is one of the EU’s efforts to secure artillery ammunition and missiles for Kyiv.

The “track 2” works in parallel with the EU’s other programmes to support deliveries straight from the stockpiles and to boost ammunition production (ASAP) across the bloc while counting on economies of scale. Five contracts were signed, adding to three concluded earlier in the summer, at the Agency’s headquarters in Brussels.

We are now offering viable opportunities for member states to place orders with industry through EDA, either to support Ukraine or to replenish their own national stocks. It is now up to Member States to make full use of these options, EDA’s chief executive Jiří Šedivý said. The EDA says it has to date, negotiated and signed the contracts for ammunition for two systems: the German Panzerhaubitze 2000 and the projectile and fuse components of ammunition for the Polish Krab howitzer system. More framework contracts will soon materialise for other howitzer systems, the press release also states.

More generally, the EDA says that the ammunition being procured is for the most common self-propelled howitzers that EU member states have sent to Ukraine: France’s Caesar, Poland’s Krab, Germany’s Panzerhaubitze 2000, and Slovakia’s Zuzana. The joint procurement will include shells, powder and explosives, according to EURACTIV’s understanding.”

New developments

  1. Bulgaria to arm coast guard with missiles due to Russian threat, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Novinite quoting Nikolai Denkov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria. “Bulgaria has started to arm its coast guard with missiles due to the threat from Russia in the Black Sea. […] He stressed that Bulgaria must develop its naval forces so that they are prepared to defend the country. […] Denkov added that Bulgaria’s national interest is to keep the front line and the aggressor state represented by Russia as far away as possible from the state borders. This is also the reason why Bulgaria supports Ukraine in every way. Russian politicians have stated many times that after Ukraine, the Baltic republics and Moldova will be next. The time has come for Bulgarian citizens to open their eyes and see that there is an aggressor who wants to regain its imperial influence, Denkov stressed.”
  2. NATO sees no signs that Russia attacked Romania on purpose, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “NATO sees no signs that the drone wreckage found in Romania was the result of a deliberate Russian attack against the country. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking to EU lawmakers, reported by European Pravda with reference to Reuters We don’t have any information indicating an intentional attack by Russia, and we are awaiting the outcome of the ongoing investigation.”
  3. Kremlin decries US plan to give seized Russian money to Ukraine, Reuters reports. “A US plan to send Ukraine funds seized from Russian businesspeople targeted by sanctions is illegal and any such actions will be contested, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on a visit to Kyiv on Wednesday that Washington was transferring to Ukraine $5.4 million in assets seized from sanctioned Russian oligarchs, which will now be used to support Ukrainian military veterans.”
  4. Ukraine tycoon Kolomoisky is suspect in second criminal case – lawmaker, Reuters reports. “Ukrainian anti-corruption authorities suspect tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky of involvement in the embezzlement of $250 million, a lawmaker said on Thursday, dealing a potentially major new blow to one of the country’s richest men. […] Kolomoisky is a former owner of PrivatBank, which was nationalised in late 2016 as part of a clean-up of the banking system. He is among the tycoons who built their fortunes in the ashes of the Soviet Union and amassed political power in Ukraine’s fragile democracy. On Saturday, a court ordered Kolomoisky to be held in custody for two months on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. It gave him the option of posting bail, but his lawyers said he would not do that. Kolomoisky is under US sanctions and is a one-time supporter of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy whose election he backed in 2019.”

Assessment

On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Thursday 7 September:

Et bilde som inneholder tekst, kart, atlas

Automatisk generert beskrivelse

Russian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line and did not make any claimed or confirmed advances on September 7. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Synkivka (9km northeast of Kupiansk) and Novoyehorivka (15km southwest of Svatove). A Russian milblogger also reported Russian attacks near Novoyehorivka and Novoselivske (16km northwest of Svatove). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Ilya Yevlash stated on September 6 that Russian forces are conducting an operational pause after experiencing failure near Novoyehorivka and are forming new combat-ready units from previously defeated units for further attacks.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line and reportedly advanced on September 7. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces recaptured unspecified positions in the Serebryanske forest area near Shyplivka (about 10km south of Kreminna). The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Kyslivka (20km southeast of Kupiansk) and Dibrova (7km southwest of Kreminna).

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut direction on September 7 and advanced south of Bakhmut. Geolocated footage posted on September 7 of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) 4th Motorized Rifle Brigade striking Ukrainian positions shows that Ukrainian forces have marginally advanced northwest of Klishchiivka (about 5km southwest of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces advanced on Bakhmut’s southern flank, and Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Ilya Yevlash noted on September 6 that Ukrainian forces advanced near Klishchiivka. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Klishchiivka and Andriivka (9km southwest of Bakhmut).

Et bilde som inneholder tekst, kart, atlas

Automatisk generert beskrivelse

Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut direction and did not make any claimed or confirmed advances on September 7. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces attacked near Orikhovo-Vasylivka (13km northwest of Bakhmut) and Klishchiivka. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces counterattacked near Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka (12km southwest of Bakhmut), and Zalizyanske (10km northwest of Bakhmut) but did not specify the outcome of these attacks.

Ukrainian forces did not conduct any claimed or confirmed offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on September 7.

Russian forces conducted ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on September 7 and did not make any claimed or confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops repelled Russian attacks north of Donetsk City near Avdiivka and Novokalynove (12km northwest of Avdiivka) and on the southwestern outskirts of Donetsk City near Marinka and Krasnohorivka. A Russian milblogger advertised an equipment crowdfunding campaign for soldiers of the 103rd Motorized Rifle Regiment (150th Motorized Rifle Division, 8th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District), who are reportedly fighting in the Marinka area.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations along the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts on September 7 but did not advance. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian assaults near Novomayorske (18km southeast of Velyka Novosilka). Russian sources claimed that elements of the Russian 40th Naval Infantry Brigade (Pacific Fleet) and the 37th Motorized Rifle Brigade (36th Combined Arms Army, Eastern Military District) repelled Ukrainian assaults along the Novodonetske-Novomayorske (12km to 18km southwest of Velyka Novosilka) line. The Russian “Vostok” Battalion and its commander Alexander Khodakovsky, who are defending in the area, claimed that Russian forces periodically retreat to tactical rear areas before restoring their original positions and that Ukrainian and Russian forces periodically exchange control over advance positions along the Novodonetske-Novomayorske line. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces also attacked Russian positions near Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) and amplified footage purporting to show elements of the Russian 336th Naval Infantry Brigade (Baltic Fleet) operating near Pryyutne (15km southwest of Velyka Novosilka).

Russian forces conducted limited unsuccessful ground attacks in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area on September 7. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near Prechystivka (18km southwest of Velyka Novosilka).

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Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on September 7 and advanced. Geolocated footage published on September 7 indicates that Ukrainian forces have made further advances northwest of Verbove (18km southwest of Orikhiv). A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces made further advances in the area and other milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces temporarily advanced to the northwestern outskirts of Verbove on September 6, likely indicating further recent Ukrainian advances northwest of the settlement. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces pushed Ukrainian forces back from the northwestern outskirts of Verbove, but ISW has not observed that Ukrainian forces hold positions close enough to the northwestern outskirts of Verbove for Russian forces to have repelled them from the outskirts to begin with. Satellite imagery collected on September 6 shows burning foliage in a tree line roughly a kilometer northwest of Verbove, suggesting that Russian forces are firing on advancing Ukrainian forces in the area. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun stated that Ukrainian forces advanced south of Robotyne and west of Verbove on September 6. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces attempted to break through Russian defenses east of Novoprokopivka (13km south of Orikhiv) and made unspecified gains in the area. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces continued to repel mechanized Ukrainian assaults along the Robotyne-Verbove line.

A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces resumed offensive operations west of Orikhiv in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and advanced on September 7, but ISW cannot confirm these initial reports at this time. The milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces resumed offensive operations near Kamianske (31km southwest of Orikhiv) and made unspecified gains in the direction of Luhove (30km southwest of Orikhiv). The milblogger also claimed that Ukrainian forces expanded their control along an unspecified part of the left (southern) bank of the Yanchokrak River. The Russian milblogger has made previous accurate claims about Ukrainian offensive activity in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast in advance of other milbloggers, although he has also promoted intentionally false information in the past as well.

A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces continued limited activity on islands in the Dnipro River delta. The milblogger claimed that two Ukrainian landing groups with about three dozen personnel in total advanced from the northern part of Perevalsky Island (west of Nova Kakhovka) but that Russian artillery and tank units on the left bank of the Dnipro River pushed Ukrainian forces back to the northern part of the island.

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Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on September 7 and made further gains on both sectors of the front. Geolocated footage published on September 7 indicates that Ukrainian forces have made further advances northwest of Verbove (18km southwest of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces made further advances in the area and other milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces temporarily advanced to the northwestern outskirts of Verbove on September 6, likely indicating further recent Ukrainian advances northwest of the settlement. Satellite imagery collected on September 6 shows burning foliage in a tree line roughly a kilometer northwest of Verbove, suggesting that Russian forces are firing on advancing Ukrainian forces in the area. Geolocated footage published on September 7 indicates that Ukrainian forces have made marginal gains northwest of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved unspecified successes south of Bakhmut and near Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) and Verbove in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director of Analysis Trent Maul stated that there is a “realistic possibility” that Ukrainian forces will break through the entire Russian defense in southern Ukraine by the end of 2023, while a Ukrainian source suggested that upcoming Russian defensive positions are weaker than those Ukrainian forces have previously breached.  Maul stated on September 6 in an interview with the Economist that the recent Ukrainian breach of the “first” of three Russian defensive layers in southern Ukraine gives Ukrainian forces a “realistic possibility” to break through the remaining series of Russian defensive positions by the end of 2023. Maul stated that Ukrainian forces have also advanced into the “second” Russian defensive layer, likely referring to recent advances by light Ukrainian infantry past the series of Russian defensive positions that run northwest of Verbove to north of Solodka Balka (20km south of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Former Ukrainian Aidar Battalion Commander Yevhen Dykyi stated on September 4 that battles are already ongoing at these Russian defensive positions but that Ukrainian forces have not yet broken through them. Dykyi stated that the minefields ahead of the upcoming Russian defensive layer are not continuous, consistent with previous Ukrainian statements suggesting that Ukrainian forces have already advanced through the densest minefields. Dykyi stated that Russia’s “third” defensive layer in southern Ukraine is primarily comprised of command posts, communication points, and warehouses and mainly acts as a support line for the Russian defensive positions further north. Dykyi argued that Russian forces will not be able to hold back Ukrainian advances at this “third“ series of Russian defensive positions, implying that a definitive Ukrainian breach of the current Russian defensive layer would be operationally decisive. However, Maul notably stated that the bulk of Russian reinforcements are deployed to the “third” Russian defensive layer, contradicting Dykyi’s suggestion that these positions are merely supportive in nature. The subsequent series of Russian defensive positions may be weaker, less mined, and less manned than the defensive layer that Ukrainian forces have breached. Russian defenses are not uniform across the front in southern Ukraine, however, and assessments of the strength of subsequent Russian defensive positions may be extrapolations based on limited information from small sectors of the front. Ukrainian forces are making tactical gains and successfully attriting defending Russian forces and ISW continues to assess Ukraine’s counteroffensive may achieve operational successes in 2023, but subsequent series of Russian defensive positions still pose significant challenges for Ukrainian forces and may in sections be strongly held.

Russian forces conducted another large-scale Shahed-136/131 drone attack against Sumy and Odesa oblasts overnight on September 6-7. Ukrainian Air Force Command stated that Russia launched 33 Shaheds in several groups from the northern, southeastern, and southern directions, predominantly aimed at grain infrastructure in Odesa Oblast, and that Ukrainian forces destroyed 25 of the drones. Geolocated footage posted on September 7 shows the aftermath of the Shahed strike on port infrastructure in Kiliya, Odesa Oblast. Ukrainian Southern Command Spokesperson Captain First Rank Nataliya Humenyuk noted that Russia is increasingly using such loitering munitions because they are cheaper to manufacture than missiles and are available in larger quantities.

Moscow Oblast authorities detained the commander of the 1st Special Purpose Air and Missile Defense Army on bribery and corruption charges amidst continued and escalating drone attacks on Moscow. Russian media reported on September 7 that the Moscow Garrison Military Court detained Major General Konstantin Ogienko for bribery and noted that 4th Air Defense Division Commander Major General Dmitry Belatsky organized the allocation of state defense property to an unnamed civilian organization in collusion with Ogienko. The 1st Special Purpose Air and Missile Defense Army, including its 4th Air Defense Division, is notably responsible for the air defense of Moscow City and the surrounding oblast. Drone strikes on Moscow Oblast have recently become more prevalent, and it is likely that command changes resulting from a bribery case against top commanders of one of the most elite elements of Russia’s domestic air defense could further complicate Moscow’s ability to defend against such attacks. While ISW has not observed evidence to suggest that Ogienko was detained for reasons other than bribery charges, Russian sources have recently complained that Russian air defense elements are responsible for failing to curb increased drone attacks on Moscow, and Ogienko’s removal could be a response to such allegations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin promoted three Russian generals, including Central Military District (CMD) and Russian Central Grouping of Forces in Ukraine Commander Colonel General Andrey Mordvichev, on September 6. Putin promoted Mordvichev and 8th Combined Arms Army (Southern Military District) Commander Gennady Alashkin to the rank of colonel general, and Ministry of Defense (MoD) Main Armored Directorate Head Alexander Shestakov to the rank of lieutenant general. The Central Grouping of Forces is primarily committed in Ukraine on the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, and the 8th CAA is currently deployed near Bakhmut and on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line. These promotions award each general with a rank that corresponds with his current command and are not necessarily unusual. Putin likely awarded these promotions now to reward loyalty and obedience to the senior Russian military command, rather than to recognize battlefield performance or particular responsibilities. Putin has previously publicly lauded Mordvichev, indicating that Mordvichev may hold more of Putin’s favor than other military district commanders, as ISW has previously assessed.[19]

Russian sources accused Armenian authorities of detaining a pro-Russian blogger in Goris, Armenia, on September 6. Head of Rossotrudnichestvo (Russian Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation) Yevgeny Primakov claimed that “unknown masked men” abducted pro-Russian blogger Mikayel Badalyan in Goris on the night of September 6. Primakov noted he had interviewed Badalyan on a Radio Sputnik segment the day before and that Badalyan criticized the Armenian government for its “anti-Russian policy.” Sputnik Armenia also noted that Armenian authorities also detained columnist Ashot Gevorgyan in Goris. Badalyan’s and Gevorgyan’s alleged arrests occurred against the backdrop of increasing tensions between Armenia and Russia, with Armenia beginning to deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine for the first time, preparing for joint military exercises with the US, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan publicly questioning Armenia’s historical reliance on Russia for security guarantees. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova responded to the incident and called it a “provocation” aimed at further spoiling the relationship between Russia and Armenia.

The Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) cancelled regional elections in some areas in Russia near the Ukrainian border for the first time. Russian CEC Head Ella Pamfilova announced on September 7 the cancellation of local elections in Shebekino Raion and the village of Zhigailovsky in Belgorod Oblast due to the “high alert” regime in the area.  Russian authorities previously passed a law in May 2023 authorizing the CEC to cancel elections in certain areas under martial law.[26] The CEC likely cancelled these elections due to prior criticism of evacuations from Shebekino and the possibility that there may not be enough civilians remaining in Shebekino to portray these elections as legitimate.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on September 7 and made further gains on both sectors of the front.
  • US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director of Analysis Trent Maul stated that there is a “realistic possibility” that Ukrainian forces will break through the entire Russian defense in southern Ukraine by the end of 2023, while a Ukrainian source suggested that upcoming Russian defensive positions are weaker than those Ukrainian forces have previously breached.
  • Ukrainian forces are making tactical gains and successfully attriting defending Russian forces and ISW continues to assess Ukraine’s counteroffensive may achieve operational successes in 2023, but subsequent series of Russian defensive positions still pose significant challenges for Ukrainian forces and may in sections be strongly held.
  • Russian forces conducted another large-scale Shahed-136/131 drone attack against Sumy and Odesa oblasts overnight on September 6-7.
  • Moscow Oblast authorities detained the commander of the 1st Special Purpose Air and Missile Defense Army on bribery and corruption charges amidst continued and escalating drone attacks on Moscow.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, in the Bakhmut direction, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area but did not make any confirmed advances on September 7.“ (unquote)

NATO Secretary General announces progress of counteroffensive: “Ukrainians are gradually gaining ground”, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that Ukrainian troops were able to break through Russian defences and made progress in the counteroffensive. Stoltenberg said that when Russia launched its invasion, its army was considered the second strongest in the world: Now the Russian army is the second strongest in Ukraine.

The Ukrainians are gradually gaining ground and it proves the importance of our support and also our ability and willingness to continue the support, Stoltenberg said. The NATO Secretary General noted the significant mining of the territories, which complicates the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ advance.

But the Ukrainians decided to launch the offensive because they are going to liberate their land, and they are making progress. Not perhaps as much as we hoped for, but they are gaining ground gradually, some 100 metres per day, Stoltenberg said.

In hardly any war we will see only victories for the side we support. There will be bad days and good days. We need to be with Ukraine not only (in) good times, but also bad times, he emphasised. According to the General Secretary, we support them when they win and if they lose, we are there with Ukraine.”

Pentagon calls Ukrainians’ actions on battlefield “extremely effective”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ukrinform quoting Sabrina Singh, Deputy Press Secretary of the US Department of Defense. “The Pentagon considers the Ukrainian forces’ actions on the battlefield to be extremely effective and has a positive assessment of the results of Ukraine’s Armed Forces’ use of Western weaponry.

Ukrainians are extremely effective on the battlefield. We see how the progress in their counteroffensive has been achieved. We are watching how and where they [Ukrainian soldiers – ed.] use cluster munitions. We think they are using them efficiently and responsibly.

Singh also remarked that the Ukrainian Defence Forces are highly skilled at using the long-range Storm Shadow missiles and equivalents provided by Ukraine’s Western allies. She refused to comment, however, on the prospect of the US sending ATACMS missiles to Ukraine.”

US intelligence believes Ukraine can break through Russia’s remaining defence lines by end of year, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Trent Maul, Director of Analysis at Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in a rare interview with The Economist. “The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency believes that the recent successes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine suggest a “realistic possibility” of a breakthrough in the rest of the Russian defence lines by the end of the year, although it would be extremely difficult.

After three months of slow progress, the Ukrainian counteroffensive is gaining momentum. Had we had this conversation two weeks ago, I would have been slightly more pessimistic. Their breakthrough on that second defensive belt…is actually pretty considerable, Trent Maul says. […] Maul admits that American and Ukrainian officials failed to assess the depth of Russian defences and how difficult it would be for Ukraine to break through them with armoured vehicles. Ukrainian generals told the Guardian that 80% of Russia’s efforts aimed to build the first and second lines of defence. But Maul warns that a significant part of Russian reinforcements remains on the third line.

Maul says two critical variables are extremely important: Ukraine’s ammunition supply, vital to support the artillery that ensures the advance, and the weather in the fall. One of the officials of the Biden administration says that Ukraine has about six to seven weeks of fighting left before the culmination of the offensive. Maul is somewhat less gloomy. […]

Maul also says that Ukraine’s recent successes are significant and give its forces a realistic opportunity – in intelligence terms, with a 40-50% probability – to break through the remaining Russian lines by the end of the year. But he warned that limited ammunition and deteriorating weather would make it very difficult. At the same time, the attention of the US intelligence community is already shifting to the next combat season. Even without a breakthrough this year, the DIA believes that if Ukraine can expand the salient around Robotyne, hold its ground and secure ammunition supplies, it will be well-prepared for another breakthrough in 2024.”

Elon Musk disrupted Ukrainian attack on Crimea in 2022 by turning off Starlink – CNN, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “In 2022, Elon Musk secretly ordered the Starlink satellite connection near the coast of Russian-occupied Crimea to be shut down in order to disrupt an attack by Ukraine on the Russian naval fleet at Sevastopol. CNN, which has gained access to an extract from Musk’s biography by American journalist and writer Walter Isaacson, which will officially go on sale on 12 September.

The excerpt states that in 2022 Musk secretly ordered his engineers to turn off a satellite connection network near the Crimean coast in order to disrupt an uncrewed surface vessel (USV) attack by Ukraine on the Russian naval fleet in Sevastopol. According to Isaacson, the Ukrainian USVs loaded with explosives approached the Russian fleet but then washed ashore harmlessly.

Isaacson says Musk’s decision was motivated by his fear of a possible Russian strike in response. Musk had apparently spoken to Russian officials and believed that Russia could use nuclear weapons in this kind of situation. In the biography, Musk explains that the satellite network is not designed to be used in conflicts. […] The Ukrainian side allegedly tried to convince Musk, but he did not give in.”

Consequences and what to do?

The global economy suffers from the war in Ukraine and the pandemic, Ukraine Business News reports. “The global economy has demonstrated resilience to a few negative shocks — pandemics, wars, climate events, and the cost-of-living crisis. The recovery from these shocks continues slowly and unevenly, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said. Trillions of dollars in global production have been lost compared to pre-pandemic global trends, she said.

According to her, only the US has fully recovered among the largest economies. The Eurozone continues to lag by around 2%, while China and other developing and emerging market countries lag by around 5%, with low-income countries suffering even more.

After solid growth of more than 6% in 2021, the recovery has slowed significantly, mainly due to the shock of Russia’s war in Ukraine. We forecast that this weakness will persist, with global growth of around 3% over the medium term, added Georgieva. This is the lowest growth in recent decades in terms of inflation.”

Trade volumes in Russia have returned to the pre-war level, Ukraine Business News reports. “As the EP writes, Western sanctions have not caused significant damage to Russian trade. The indicators for exports and imports by the Russian Federation returned to the 2021 level. In 2022, prior to sanctions and amid high global energy prices, Russian exports reached $591B. This is the highest figure in the entire history of the Russian Federation.

At the beginning of this year, global prices fell, and the embargo on Russian oil came into effect. In the first half of 2023, exports from Russia fell from $306 to $206B, year-over-year. This is a 30% drop, but the indicator has not fallen below the pre-war level.

A similar situation exists with Russian imports. In 2022, they decreased by 13%, but in the first half of 2023, they exceeded the pre-invasion indicator. The Russian’s trade surplus during this period amounted to $57B.”

Hans Petter Midttun: Russian disinformation is often based on the notion of Russia as the victim. Russia is under existential threat from the West. The West is attempting to dismantle or dismember the Russian Federation.

President Putin claims the US and its NATO allies want to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia. The aim, he said, was to “make our people suffer”. He said this alleged plot had been underway since the collapse of the USSR. He claimed that the West tried to reshape the world on their terms.

“We had no choice but to react,” he said three days before the first anniversary of the full-scale invasion and nine years after Russia started the war. He alleged that the US and Europe were complicit in Ukraine’s “crimes”.

Putin used the opportunity to reiterate some of the standard lies (highlighted text – 14 lies):

One year ago, to protect the people in our historical lands, to ensure the security of our country and to eliminate the threat coming from the neo-Nazi regime that had taken hold in Ukraine after the 2014 coup, it was decided to begin the special military operation. […] Since 2014, Donbas has been fighting for the right to live in their land and to speak their native tongue. It fought and never gave up amid the blockade, constant shelling and the Kyiv regime’s overt hatred. It hoped and waited that Russia would come to help.”

According to “The Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation”:

Russia pursues an independent and multi-vector foreign policy driven by its national interests and the awareness of its special responsibility for maintaining peace and security at the global and regional levels. Russian foreign policy is peaceful, open, predictable, consistent, and pragmatic and is based on the respect for universally recognized principles and norms of international law and the desire for equitable international cooperation in order to solve common problems and promote common interests.”

The concept illustrates the tremendous gap between what Russia says and what it does.

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 EU stated in September already that Russia is trying to destabilize the union from within, and concluded that the current Russian regime threatens European peace and security.

The country considers itself entitled to a sphere of interest. It demands a change in the international security architecture at the expense of smaller nations. It requires that NATO’s presence and pattern of operations throughout Eastern, Central and Northern Europe be reduced at the expense of the countries’ security needs. Not least, Russia seeks to weaken transatlantic cooperation, which has ensured our collective security for more than 75 years.

The ongoing negotiations about the restoration of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) illustrate another fundamental gap between what Russia says and what it does.

Firstly, the sanctions imposed on Russia are a result of its unprovoked, unjustified, and ruthless attack on Ukraine. It is acting in breach of the very international law it claims to be protecting. Russia is believed to be involved in both genocide and ecocide, while found “guilty” of a large number of war crimes, specifically evidence of torture and strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure that are considered crimes against humanity.

These sanctions cannot be lifted until Russia has asked for peace, withdrawn its forces from Ukraine, been held accountable for its war crimes, and paid war damage. Russian blackmail cannot be allowed to undermine the UN Charter and international law.

Secondly, the US and Europe have not imposed any sanctions on Russian food and fertiliser exports. Moscow claims, however, that its exports are hampered because sanctions make it harder for traders to process Russian payments or to obtain vessels and insurance.

Russia has on the contrary seen a significant increase in grain and fertilizer exports according to its own statistics. In 2022, grain cargo turnover at Russian seaports increased by more than 6 percent year-on-year, amounting to 45 million tons, while mineral fertilizer turnover rose by 25 percent, reaching 24 million tons. The indicators for the first four months of 2023 were even higher. During the same period, Ukrainian grain exports have dramatically declined.

Thirdly, while the UN and Türkiye are trying to find a diplomatic solution to restore the BSGI – trying to alleviate the dramatic impact the Russian blockade has on global famine – Russia is actively attacking civilian port infrastructure, trying to destroy Ukraine’s ability to export its agricultural products altogether.

Russian air strikes damaged 26 Ukrainian port infrastructure facilities and five civilian vessels only during the first nine days after it terminated the BSGI on 17 July. During the first month, it destroyed 270,000 tons of grain. The number has since increased.

It has upheld its relentless attacks on the infrastructure needed to export grain by humanitarian vessels. The last wave of attacks was conducted while Türkiye was preparing to hold face-to-face negotiations between President Erdogan and President Putin on 4 September. It just conducted its fourth attack on Izmail district in the past five days only.

Putin refused a new grain deal until the West met his demands, while simultaneously destroying Ukrainian ports and maintaining an unlawful maritime blockade, holding the world-hungry hostage.

The scale of the current global hunger and malnutrition crisis is enormous. According to World Food Programme (WFP), more than 345 million people face high levels of food insecurity in 2023. That is more than double the number in 2020. This constitutes a staggering rise of 200 million people compared to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels. Wars, conflicts, economic shocks, climate extremes and soaring fertilizer prices are creating the “perfect storm”. As many as 783 million people are unsure of where their next meal is coming from. Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine is one of the reasons for unprecedented the global food crisis.

The tremendous gap between what Russia says and what it does is illustrated by its relentless attacks on Ukrainian ports while claiming that the UN proposals do not lead to a solution to the problem.

For once, it might, however, be right.

Negotiating with a state sponsoring terrorism – a country that weaponizes food, and holds the world hungry hostage, while conducting a war of aggression in breach of the UN Charter and international law, destroying the port infrastructure needed to export food, and conducting an illegal maritime blockade stopping exports – will not lead to a solution of the problem.

A UN-mandated Freedom of Navigation operation and Military Intervention according to the UN Responsible to Protect doctrine would solve the problem.

The more than 345 million people facing high levels of food insecurity in 2023 need action, not futile negotiations. So does Ukraine and Europe.

 

Hans Petter Midttun is educated at the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy, the Norwegian National Defence Command and Staff College and the Norwegian Defense College, as well as education from the Federal Defence Forces of Germany. He has broad international experience from both operations and postings abroad (NATO, Germany, Spain, Belgium, and Ukraine). The service includes seven years in command of frigates and six NATO deployments. Midttun put into operation, tested and verified the operational capabilities of one of the newest frigates in the Norwegian Navy. He served at the Norwegian Joint Headquarters and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) before being posted to Ukraine as the Norwegian Defence Attache (2014-2018). Based on previous experiences, Midttun is presently publishing articles and analytic works on the security situation in and around Ukraine as a private person.
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