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Russian-Ukrainian War. Day 460: Russian forces conducted the largest Shahid drone strike against Ukraine since the start of the war

Russian forces conducted the largest Shahid drone strike against Ukraine since the start of the war. President of Belarus Lukashenko hospitalized after meeting with Putin. Putin congratulates ‘dear friend’ Erdogan for winning the Turkish election.

Tensions flare in Georgia as government drifts into Kremlin orbit

Daily overview — Summary report, May 29

Source. War Mapper.

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, May 29, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. May 28, 2023. Source: ISW.

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[The Russian Federation does not give up its plans for the further occupation of our territory and continues to wage a war of aggression.]

The Russian Federation disregards its losses as it continues to wage its war of aggression. In violation of International Humanitarian Law, Russia launches strikes and shells military and civilian targets alike.

Last night, Russian terrorists launched yet another missile and air strike against Ukraine. Russian forces employed Shahed UAVs. Information on the aftermath of this terrorist attack is currently being updated.

On May 28, the adversary launched a total of 97 airstrikes , including 59 Iranian Shahed combat UAVs. 58 Shaheds were intercepted by Ukrainian defenders. Also, Russian forces launched 39 MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements.

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

Russian forces continue to focus their main efforts on attempts to fully occupy Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. On May 28, Ukrainian Defence Forces repelled 19 enemy attacks.

  • Volyn and Polissya axes : no changes or signs of the formation of offensive groups were found. Certain units of the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces are arriving at the training grounds of the Republic of Belarus for combat training before being sent to war in Ukraine.

Luhansk Battle Map. May 28, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes : the adversary continues to maintain a military presence in the areas of Russia bordering Ukraine. On May 28, the invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Kindrativka, Basivka, Mohrytsya, Myropillya, Slavhorod (Sumy oblast), Pletenivka, and Vovchans’ki Khutory (Kharkiv oblast). The occupant forces fired mortars and artillery at the settlements of Huta-Studenetska, Karpovychi, Tymonovychi, Zaliznyi Mist, Halahanivka, Murav’i, Khodyne (Chernihiv oblast), Novovasylivka, Seredyna-Buda, Prohres, Dem’yanivka, Manukhivka (Sumy oblast), Lyptsi, Hatyshche, Pletenivka, Vovchans’k, Mala Vovcha, and Budarky (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis : On May 28, the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Masyutivka. Russian forces launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Kyslivka (Kharkiv oblast). Kolodyazne, Krasne Pershe, Fyholivka, Novomlyns’k, Dvorichna, Zapadne, Masyutivka, Kyslivka, and Berestove (Kharkiv oblast) came under artillery and mortar fire.

Donetsk Battle Map. May 28, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • Lyman axis : the adversary did not conduct any offensive operations on May 28. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Yahidne (Kharkiv oblast), Serhiivka, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Ivanivka, Spirne, Rai-Oleksandrivka, Vesele (Donetsk oblast). Nevske, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Tors’ke, Verkhn’okam’yans’ke, and Spirne (Donetsk oblast) were shelled with artillery.

Bakhmut Battle Map. May 28, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • Bakhmut axis : On May 28, the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives northeast of Orikhovo-Vasylivka towards Ivanivske. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Predtechyne, Bila Hora, Kurdyumivka, New York, and Yablunivka (Donetsk oblast). Vasylivka, Pryvillya, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Hryhorivka, Bohdanivka, Chasiv Yar, Ivanivske, Stupochky, Predtechyne, Kostyantynivka and Pivnichne (Donetsk oblast) came under enemy fire.
  • Avdiivka axis : the adversary did not conduct any offensive The occupant forces launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Avdiivka, Vodyane, and Pervomais’ke (Donetsk oblast). The invaders fired artillery at the settlements of Avdiivka, Pervomais’ke, and Karlivka (Donetsk oblast).
  • Marinka axis : Ukrainian defenders repelled 12 enemy attacks in the vicinity of the city of Marinka. Russian forces launched an airstrike near Marinka. At the same time, Pobjeda (Donetsk oblast) was also shelled by Russian forces.
  • Shakhtarske axis : Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations in the vicinity of Velyka Novosilka (Donetsk oblast). The invaders launched an air strike near Vuhledar. The invaders shelled the settlements of Paraskoviivka, Novomykhailivka Vuhledar, Novoukrainka, Prechystivka, and Shakhtars’ke.

Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. May 28, 2023. Source: ISW.

  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes : the adversary stays on the defensive . Russian forces launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Beryslav (Kharkiv oblast). Russian forces shelled the settlements of Vremivka, Novopil’ (Donetsk oblast), Ol’hivs’ke, Hulyaipole, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanylivka, Orikhiv, Novoandriivka, Mali Shcherbaky, Stepnohirs’k (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Zolota Balka, Mykhailivka, Vesele, Kozats’ke, Mykolaivka, L’vove, Ivanivka, Antonivka, Dniprovs’ke, Kizomys (Kherson oblast), and the city of Kherson.

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. May 28, 2023. Source: ISW.

[About 80 people deserted in Lysychansk, Luhansk region from the “Storm-Z” unit of the Russian occupation forces. They voluntarily left their combat positions. Also, in the Bakhmut area, about 30 people from the “Wagner” PMC deserted , who also voluntarily left their combat positions, having stolen military equipment.]

[ Forced passporting of Ukrainian citizens in the Nizhnyosyrogozhsky district of the temporarily seized territory of the Kherson region continues. In particular, the Russian occupiers constantly put pressure on the locals, threatening deportation and confiscation of property. Thus, local citizens with a Ukrainian passport, driver’s license and technical passport for a vehicle is threatened with confiscation if they refuse to receive Russian-style documents.]

On May 28, the Ukrainian Air Force launched 15 air strikes on the concentrations of troops and military equipment of the adversary, as well as 6 air strikes on its anti-aircraft missile systems.

The Ukrainian defenders intercepted 1 reconnaissance UAV of Russian forces on May 28.

The Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 3 concentrations of weapons and military equipment, 1 S-300 anti-aircraft missile system, 1 Tor anti-aircraft missile system, 6 command posts, 1 electronic warfare station, 1 artillery unit at its firing position, and 1 ammunition depot of the adversary.

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Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Russian security services launch chemical weapons provocation in Zaporizhzhia region – intel , Ukrinform reported Saturday, citing Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU). “ In the Zaporizhzhia region’s temporarily occupied areas, Russian security services have launched a chemical weapons provocation. In order to disrupt the counteroffensive actions of Ukraine’s Defense and Security Forces, on May 27, 2023, Russian occupiers started to carry out a chemical weapons provocation in the Zaporizhzhia region’s temporarily occupied areas, the report states.

According to Ukrainian intelligence, Russian soldiers can be the real victims of Russian forces’ provocation. The aggressor state expects to use the traces of chemical weapons damage on their bodies as fake evidence to accuse Ukraine.

The [DIU] emphasized that Ukraine’s Defense and Security Forces use only conventional arms during military actions against Russian troops, and ‘another staged performance by the Muscovite security services’ cannot influence the further course of events on the front .”

Russia thwarts drone attack on Krasnodar oil refinery, officials say , Reuters reports. “ Several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) tried to approach the territory of the Ilsky oil refinery in the Krasnodar Krai,” the region’s emergency officials said on the Telegram messaging channel. All of them were neutralized, and the infrastructure of the plant was not damaged. The officials did not say who launched the attack. Reuters was not able to independently verify the report.

On Saturday, Moscow said that Ukraine had struck oil pipeline installations deep inside Russia. Kyiv almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia and on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.

The Ilsky refinery, near the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, has a processing capacity of around 6.6 million tonnes per year. It has been attacked several times this month .”

Blasts rock temporarily occupied Berdiansk , Ukrinform reports, citing the Berdiansk City Military Administration. “ A series of explosions have occurred in the Zaporizhzhia region’s temporarily occupied city of Berdiansk. According to the preliminary data, Russian positions were hit. […] Ukrainian Telegram channels reported on explosions that had been heard from the airport in Berdiansk.

At least five more strikes by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Russian positions in the Berdiansk community. Russian air defence systems once again proved to be ineffective. We feel joy together with you and are looking forward to details and an official confirmation from the General Staff, Berdiansk City Military Administration noted.

A reminder that, on the morning of May 28, 2023, an explosion was heard in the Zaporizhzhia region’s temporarily occupied city of Melitopol .”

Russia launches large air raid on Kyiv, 15th attack in May , Reuters reports. “ Russia launched a new wave of air attacks on Kyiv in early hours on Monday [29 May] using drones and cruise missiles, with the military administration of the Ukrainian capital saying defence forces shot down more than 40 targets.

In what was Russia’s 15th air assault on the city in May and second overnight attack in a row and of similar intensity, there were no major damages or casualties in Kyiv, officials said. Another difficult night for the capital, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging channel .”

Missile attack on Kyiv: air defences intercept over 40 targets , Ukrinform reports, citing the Kyiv City Military Administration. “ There were drones again this night – according to tentative reports, the enemy employed Shahed barrage munitions. Almost simultaneously with the UAV attack, enemy TU-95MS launched cruise missiles, likely Kh-101/555, from the Caspian region. So it was a combined attack on the capital, from different directions. In total, more than 40 air targets were detected and destroyed our air defence. No strikes were allowed in Kyiv! We thank the air defence for the excellent performance, the statement reads .”

52 “Shahed” destroyed on the night of May 28 , the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “ On the night of May 28, 2023, the enemy attacked Ukraine with Iranian attack drones “Shahed-136/131” from the northern direction – Bryansk region, and the southern – Krasnodar region. In total, a record number of kamikaze drone launches were recorded – 54.

Another night attack was directed by the enemy at military facilities and facilities of the state’s critical infrastructure in the central regions of the country, in particular, at the Kyiv region. […] As a result of successful combat work, 52 “shahedis” were destroyed .”

General Staff clarifies number of drones shot down last night: 58 out of 59 , Ukrinform reports, citing the Ukrainian General Staff. “ According to updated information, last night, the Russian Federation launched another massive attack on the territory of Ukraine, using Iranian-made Shahed combat UAVs; 58 out of 59 were destroyed by our defenders, the report reads .”

Ukraine’s Air Force explains kamikaze drone attack specifics , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Colonel Yurii Ihnat, Spokesperson for the Air Force of Ukraine. “ A large-scale and long-lasting air-raid warning was issued almost across the entire territory of Ukraine on the night of 27-28 May due to the record-breaking attack by Russia’s Shahed drones. Ihnat explained the insidious nature of the kamikaze drone attack.

They [Shahed drones – ed.] were launched from the south and the north […]. Then they fly in groups, in batches they fly towards different fronts. Each drone has its own route, each UAV has a GPS navigation [system], [and it] is controlled via a satellite, thus it can fly even in circles, and then strike at a certain moment. This way, the enemy tries to confuse and mislead our air defence system; it uses the topography of the area to disappear from radars.

Both kamikaze drones, such as Shahed, and cruise missiles are designed to overcome the air defence system, but as we can see, the Ukrainian air defence is getting stronger and stronger every day. We would like to have more equipment to get a 100% success rate. And perhaps the F-16 aircraft, which we have been waiting for so long, can cope with this better.

According to Ihnat, the most effective equipment against Iranian drones at night are anti-aircraft guided missiles, which have a large area of damage, compared to short-range anti-aircraft defense weapons. Aviation is used, too. Of course, it would be better to destroy Shahed drones with less expensive mobile fire groups, explains the Air Force spokesman, but unfortunately, their effectiveness at night is not so great. On the other hand, some of the drones were actually destroyed by these groups last night, the officer added .”

Russia reduces number of military personnel in Belarus territory – border guards , Ukrinform reports. “ Now the number of Russian troops in the territory of Belarus is much smaller than it was a few months ago. Earlier, there could be 10,000 or 11,000 of them, but now there are several thousand servicemen. But despite this, we continue to reinforce our border line … so that the State Border Guard Service units and other components of the defence forces that strengthen this direction have all the opportunities to respond to any threats or invasion attempts, Andriy Demchenko, spokesman for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine. According to him, the area near the border is mined to prevent the breakthrough of military equipment.

The situation on the border with Russia has not changed either. Unfortunately, the enemy continues to shell the Ukrainian border every day. Over the past 24 hours, our border units recorded more than 20 strikes within the bounds of Chernihiv, Sumy, and Kharkiv regions. Since the beginning of the month, more than 500 such strikes have been launched . During April, there were slightly less, about 450. The enemy uses artillery, mortars, and aviation to shell the territory of Ukraine. The majority of attacks are launched on the territory of Sumy region, the spokesman added .”

Eight Russian warships remaining in Black Sea, no missile carriers among them , Ukrinform reports, citing Operational Command South. “ In the Black Sea, the enemy’s naval group consists of seven vessels. One more ship is on combat duty in the Sea of Azov. All missile carriers returned to their home stations, the report states. ”

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

  • On 24 May 2023, Russia conducted a security exercise around the Crimea Bridge , which links the Russian city of Kerch to the occupied peninsula. This included the creation of a smoke screen, partially masking the bridge.
  • The smoke screen was laid by TDA-3 truck-mounted smoke generators, likely of the 28th Brigade of Russia’s Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troops .
  • Russian doctrine considers the use of smoke part of maskirovka (camouflage and deception) – upon which it places strong emphasis. However, in practice, Russian maskirovka has generally been ineffectual in the Ukraine war, likely because of a lack of a strong central planning function and poor low-level battle discipline.
  • In recent weeks, the tone of public debate in Russia has moved beyond merely punishing those who criticise the ‘Special Military Operation’ towards mandating citizens to actively make sacrifices in support of the war effort.
  • Russian state-backed media and business groups have petitioned the Economic Ministry to authorise a six-day week for workers in the face of the economic demands of the war , apparently without additional pay. On 21 May 2023, leading Russian propagandist Margarita Simonyan mooted that citizens should work for two extra hours in munitions factories each day, after their regular jobs.
  • The evolving tone of the conversations clearly echoes a Soviet-style sense of societal compulsion . It also highlights how the leadership highly likely identifies economic performance as a decisive factor in winning the war.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

As of Monday 29 May , 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 207030 (+430)
  • Tanks – 3801 (+4)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 7467 (+11)
  • Artillery systems – 3435 (+10)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 575 (+1)
  • Air defence means – 331 (+2)
  • Aircraft – 313 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 298 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 6207 (+15)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 3054 (+61)
  • Special equipment – 453 (+2)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1056 (+0)

Prigozhin says Kremlin banned reporting about him on state media , Reuters reports. “ Russia’s most powerful mercenary said on Sunday he was convinced that senior Kremlin officials had banned reporting about him on state media, cautioning that such a misleading approach would lead to a backlash from the Russian people within months. Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner mercenary group, is the most striking member of President Vladimir Putin’s circle to gain widespread notoriety in the 15-month war in Ukraine.

Prigozhin, a restaurateur who quipped last week that his nickname should be “Putin’s butcher” rather than “Putin’s chef”, took the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut earlier this month but his role in the victory was played down on state television. The 61-year-old has made a name for himself by imposing brutal discipline on his mercenaries and by using obscene language and prison slang to insult Putin’s top military brass including Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

In a sign of just how far Prigozhin is perceived to have breached the taboos of Putin’s Russia, state television ignored the fall of Bakhmut for 20 hours and did not air Prigozhin’s victory speech .”

South Africa to investigate US allegation of arms shipment to Russia , Reuters reports. “ South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed a panel to investigate US allegations that a Russian ship had collected weapons from a naval base near Cape Town last year, the presidency said in a statement on Sunday. The US ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety said on May 11 that he was confident that a Russian ship, which docked at a naval base in Simonstown in the Western Cape in December last year, took aboard weapons from South Africa. An allegation South Africa has since denied .

The allegations have caused a diplomatic row between the US, South Africa and Russia and called into question South Africa’s non-aligned position on the Ukraine conflict. South Africa says it is impartial and has abstained from voting on UN resolutions on the war.

The President decided to establish the enquiry because of the seriousness of the allegations, the extent of public interest and the impact of this matter on South Africa’s international relations, said the statement .“

Legal 

Twenty-six houses damaged in Zhytomyr as a result of drone attack last night , Ukrinform reports, citing the press service of the Zhytomyr City Council. “ As a result of the Russian drone attack on May 28, at least 26 houses, as well as educational and healthcare facilities, were damaged in Zhytomyr city. ”

Luhansk region residents submit more than 36,000 reports on property destroyed due to war , Ukrinform reports. “ The residents of the region have submitted 36,087 informational reports on damaged/destroyed real estate. 13,036 cases were processed by the military administrations of territorial communities, Artem Lysohor, Head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration.

Lysohor clarified that 10,406 reports submitted by residents are related to objects of the state register of property damaged and destroyed as a result of military operations, terrorist acts, and sabotage caused by the military aggression of the Russian Federation. A total of 12,165 real estate objects, including 5,418 buildings and 6,747 premises, were entered into the Register of Damaged and Destroyed Property.

As reported, the regional authorities, together with the UN Program, plan to create the Communities Recovery and Development Center to implement projects for the reconstruction of Luhansk region after its de-occupation .”

Support

Ukraine unlikely to become NATO member before war ends – Venislavskyi , Ukrinform reports, citing Fedir Venislavskyi, a member of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence, the President’s representative in the Verkhovna Rada. “ The international expert military environment assesses our Armed Forces very highly, and only a military-political issue remains. We must be realistic. I think that a decision [on Ukraine’s NATO membership] is unlikely to be made before the end of the war, although we want [Ukraine to join NATO earlier], and such options are being considered. We hope for it, but reality hardly allows us to be so optimistic. At the same time, neither we nor anyone in the world, even the same Russians, doubt that Ukraine will join NATO in the future, Venislavskyi said during the United News telethon.

He added that more specific bilateral or multilateral decisions on Ukraine’s closer integration into NATO structures may be adopted during the NATO summit in Vilnius in July. According to Venislavskyi, Ukraine is already working with NATO member states at various levels, including those countries that are skeptical about our country’s future membership in the alliance. […]

He also noted that Ukraine already has a number of agreements with various countries regarding security guarantees in the future. Venislavskyi believes that these guarantees will not stand in the way of Ukraine joining the alliance .”

Air Force explained how many F-16s Ukraine needs to prevail over Russia , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Brigadier General Serhii Holubtsov, chief of aircraft of the Air Force Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, in an interview with Donbas Realii (Realities), Radio Svoboda (Liberty) Project. “ If we understand that there are groups against us, let’s say 50 squadrons and 39 airfields from which they perform tasks, of course, we would want more [aircraft – ed.]. But if it is at least three or four squadrons , I think that on a separate front, we will be able to gain an advantage in the air and force the enemy to abandon the attacks that they are currently carrying out in a certain area, in a certain zone of defence.

At the same time, Holubtsov noted that in order to plan an operation to destroy or launch strikes…at least about a squadron is needed, at least about 12-16 aircraft . At the same time, the brigadier general said that the enemy does not have advantages as such, tactical or operational, in the air due to the fact that Ukraine has received quite powerful assistance from partner countries: radar detection stations, surveillance, anti-aircraft missile systems, and everyone sees in practice how these complexes work and what percentage of targets are hit.

However, Russian Aerial Forces are currently armed with Su-35 and MiG-31BM aircraft, which are capable of launching long-range missiles, and Ukraine does not yet have such weapons. If only we had a platform that could use, for example, American AIM-120 air-to-air missiles – they have a range of about 180 kilometres – we would simply not allow them to approach the borders at a distance [close enough] to launching these missiles, Holubtsov said.

Answering the question of how difficult it will be to hide F-16 fighter jets on the territory of Ukraine so that Russian missiles and drones do not reach them, the representative of the Air Force Command said: Just hiding the aircraft will not work. I think that here it will be necessary to look for a comprehensive approach, disguise and disperse, and move them from airfield to airfield. And the second approach is that it will still be necessary to use some of the anti-aircraft missile systems to cover these airfields.

Earlier, the Defence Ministry stated that a total of 48 F-16 fighter jets are essential for the liberation of Ukraine from the Russian invaders. Europe does not rule out the possibility that Ukraine may receive F-16 fighter jets as early as this autumn .”

Minister Reznikov: Ukraine needs to strengthen air defence prior to next winter , Ukrinform reports, citing Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov. “ Today, our task is to accumulate such [aid defence – Ed.] systems. Prior to winter, it is important to strengthen the air defence capabilities, because we need to secure our sky and enable our children to go to school, students to go to universities, doctors to safely provide treatment at hospitals, etc. We must ensure a safe life for our population. […] In his words, it is essential to protect not only Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv , but all big cities, such as Kharkiv, Dnipro, Odesa, Lviv, Zaporizhzhia, and others.

According to Reznikov, Ukraine has already solved all the core tasks related to the supply of a certain type of weapons and should focus on obtaining the necessary number of air defence systems and other means required for the protection of its sky. Now we are speaking not of a principled decision regarding a certain system but of the number of those systems that will be equipped with missiles. These are also systems of radars, interception, situational awareness, etc., Reznikov explained.

In addition to the supply of air defence systems, Ukraine is constantly raising the issue of maintaining the combat condition of such systems , namely in terms of providing spare parts, maintenance and repair works, Reznikov noted .”

Reznikov: Ukrainian military uses Storm Shadow missiles with 100% efficiency , Ukrinform reports. “ Out of the total number of Storm Shadow launches that have already taken place, all 100% hit the targets set by the General Staff,” Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov said during the United News telethon. […]

As reported, on May 11, Ben Wallace confirmed the UK’s transfer of Storm Shadow long-range missiles to Ukraine. Storm Shadow is a long-range cruise missile developed jointly by the UK and France. It is usually launched from the air. With a range of more than 250 km (155 miles), it is only slightly inferior to the 185-mile range of the US-made surface-to-surface Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS .”

Neutral Austria allocates €2 million for mine clearance in Ukraine after debate , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Austrian news agencyÖ24. “ Following a fierce debate, the Austrian government has announced funding for mine clearance equipment in Ukraine, totalling €2 million. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has announced that Austria will allocate €2 million to the International Trust Fund (ITF). The funds for mine clearance equipment will come from the Foreign Emergency Relief Fund of the Austrian Foreign Ministry.

Everything remains the same: no Austrian soldier will set foot on Ukrainian soil as long as it is a war zone. We will help with financial support for mine clearance, said Nehammer .”

Support at G7 Summit allows Ukraine to look to the future with confidence on the way to victory – Yermak , Ukrinform reports, citing the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak, referring to the President’s Office. “ During the G7 Summit in Japan’s Hiroshima, Ukraine received unprecedented support from the participating countries, which allows the state to have a confident position on the path to victory over the Russian aggressor and restoration of territorial integrity. […]

Everyone was united in the fact that Ukraine is fighting a fair fight, Ukraine deserves peace, Ukraine is absolutely right in its desire to restore territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders, Yermak noted. He also emphasized that the Ukrainian Peace Formula proposed by President Volodymyr Zelensky should become the basis for the civilized world’s further work to end the war and return a just peace to Ukrainian soil.

In Yermak’s opinion, as long as Russian troops remain at the occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP, there is a risk of catastrophe. At the same time, Yermak mentioned that, thanks to the consolidated position of the G7 countries and representatives of the Global South, the risk of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons is now lower than before. […]

In his words, the decision to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets was extremely important. Ukraine has been working for a long time to achieve this. This is extremely important for Ukraine. This is the protection of our sky. This is where we need to be stronger today. I am extremely grateful to all our partners for their collective determination – this is a powerful signal of not just support, but absolute faith in Ukraine’s victory. In addition, it also strengthens the confidence that Ukraine will become a NATO member in the future, Yermak concluded .”

New Developments

  1. President of Belarus hospitalised after meeting with Putin , Ukrainska Pravda reported Saturday, citing Valery Tsepkalo, Belarusian opposition leader. “ According to the information we have, which needs additional confirmation, Lukashenko, after meeting with Putin behind closed doors, was urgently taken to the Central Clinical Hospital of Moscow, where he is now located. The best specialists were sent to return him from a condition assessed by doctors as critical. [His – ed.] blood was purified, Lukashenko’s condition was proclaimed not transportable. The organised measures to save the Belarusian dictator were intended to ward off speculation about the possible participation of the Kremlin in his poisoning. It does not matter whether he returns to working condition or not, doctors warn of a possible recurrence of relapses .”
  2. Podoliak: Any compromise with Russia is a direct path to escalation , Ukrinform reports, citing Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine. “ He recalled that for almost nine years Ukraine tried to reach an agreement at the negotiating table, but as a result, it got a full-scale war, the like of which the world has not seen since the Second World War. Any compromise with the Russian Federation is a direct path to the next stages of the war, escalation, significant strengthening of the role of global terrorism. The main point of the peace plan is the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. The conversation with the Russians will begin only after that, Podoliak said. According to him, there are no other real plans, apart from the Ukrainian Peace Formula, and Kyiv will not accept other proposals .”
  3. Putin congratulates ‘dear friend’ Erdogan for winning Turkish election , Reuters “ Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated his “dear friend” Tayyip Erdogan who claimed victory in Türkiye’s presidential election on Sunday, saying the win was evidence the Turkish people appreciated Erdogan’s independent foreign policy. […] We highly appreciate your personal contribution to the strengthening of friendly Russian-Turkish relations and mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas, Putin said .”
  4. Ukraine plans to impose sanctions against Iran for 50 years , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the draft resolutionon approval of the decision of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine of 27 May 2023 “ On the application of sectoral special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions) against the Islamic Republic of Iran”. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has submitted a draft resolution to the Verkhovna Rada to impose 50-year-long sanctions against Iran. According to the document, sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran are applied for a period of 50 years and include a complete ban on trade operations, suspension of transit of resources, flights and transportation in Ukraine and prevention of capital outflow by Iranian residents. […] In addition, it is proposed to suspend electronic means of payment (including transfers, settlements and cash withdrawals) issued by residents of the Islamic Republic of Iran .”
  5. Russia decided to expel hundreds of German officials from country , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Sueddeutsche Zeitung. “ Hundreds of German officials will be forced to leave Russia due to Moscow’s decision to reduce the number of employees of German institutions in the country. According to the news outlet, to a certain extent, this applies to diplomats but primarily to employees of the education and cultural spheres, such as teachers at a German school in Moscow and employees of the Goethe Institute. According to preliminary information, about 350 people should remain. The German Foreign Ministry refers to the decision taken by the Russian Foreign Ministry in April. It provides for the introduction of an upper limit on the number of personnel of diplomatic missions and German intermediary organisations in Russia. This limit, established by Russia since the beginning of June, requires a serious reduction in all areas of our presence in Russia, the German Foreign Ministry said .”
  6. Russia blames US and the EU for escalating tensions in Kosovo , Reuters “ Russia on Saturday blamed Kosovo, the United States and European Union for escalating tensions in the Balkans and said it was watching with concern after violent clashes between Kosovan police and protesters opposed to ethnic Albanian mayors. The United States and allies on Friday rebuked Kosovo, saying the use of force to install mayors in ethnic Serb areas undermined efforts to improve troubled relations with neighbouring Serbia. NATO on Saturday urged Kosovo to dial down tensions. The clashes led Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday to place the army on full combat alert and ordered units to move closer to the border .”

Assessment 

  1. On the war.

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of May 28, 2022:

Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast of Kupiansk and along the Svatove-Kreminna line on May 28 . The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Masyutivka (13km northeast of Kupiansk) and did not conduct operations in the Kreminna area. […] A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces advanced from Masyutivka and expanded their zone of control in the area, although ISW has still not seen visual confirmation of these advances nor confirmation that Russian forces control Masyutivka. A Ukrainian serviceman serving near Kreminna reported that Russian forces regularly conduct unsuccessful ground attacks and fire prohibited gas cylinders on Ukrainian positions near Kreminna. A Russian news aggregator claimed that Russian forces advanced southeast of Bilohorivka (10km south of Kremmina), while a milblogger claimed that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful operations near the settlement. ISW has not seen visual confirmation supporting a Russian advance near Bilohorivka.

Russian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front on May 28. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Sieverne (6km west of Avdiivka), Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka), and Marinka (27km southwest of Avdiivka). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces regained lost positions south of Pervomaiske but sustained losses while doing so. The milblogger claimed that positional battles occurred near Vodyane (7km southwest of Avdiivka). The Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) People’s Militia published footage on May 28 purporting to show elements of the DNR 87th Regiment repelling a Ukrainian counterattack on the outskirts of Avdiivka on an unspecified date. A Russian source claimed that Russian forces attacked in the direction of Novokalynove (13km north of Avdiivka) and Krasnohorivka (8km north of Avdiivka) and repelled a Ukrainian counterattack near the H-20 (Donetsk City to Kostyantynivka) highway on May 27.

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on May 28.[47]

Russian forces conducted the largest Shahed drone strike against Ukraine since the start of the war overnight on May 27-28. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched 59 Shahed-131/136 drones, of which Ukrainian forces shot down 58 . Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat characterized this strike as the largest drone strike since the start of the war and stated that Russian forces chiefly targeted Kyiv. Zhytomyr Oblast Head Vitaliy Bunechko reported that Russian drones struck an unspecified infrastructure facility in the oblast. The Russian allocation of aerial munitions to targeting Kyiv rather than prioritizing infrastructure or military facilities continues to constrain this limited Russian air campaign’s ability to meaningfully degrade Ukrainian offensive capabilities for the upcoming counteroffensive, as ISW has previously assessed.

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that the Russian relief in place operation in Bakhmut may continue past his initial June 1 deadline and last until June 5. Prigozhin stated on May 28 that Wagner’s withdrawal from the city may take a few more days because Wagner is not able to transfer all equipment in good condition by June 1. Prigozhin stated that Wagner forces intend to fully withdraw from Bakhmut to rear field camps by June 5. The Washington Post reported on May 28 that Ukrainian personnel in the Bakhmut area have observed Wagner forces leaving Bakhmut City itself and regular Russian personnel taking responsibility for Wagner’s previous positions in the city. The Ukrainian personnel reportedly stated that they cannot confirm that regular Russian forces are replacing Wagner throughout Bakhmut City, however. Russian sources amplified footage on May 27 and 28 purporting to show elements of the ”Nevsky” volunteer battalion and the irregular 1st ”Wolves” Sabotage and Reconnaissance Brigade operating on the flanks in the Bakhmut area. ISW has previously assessed that the “Wolves” Sabotage and Reconnaissance Brigade was operating in the Avdiivka area, further suggesting that Russian forces may be transferring irregular forces and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) elements from around Avdiivka to the Bakhmut area . ISW previously assessed that the Russian transfer of these elements to Bakhmut may decrease the tempo of Russian offensive operations on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front.

The tempo of Russian operations around Bakhmut remains notably low. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on May 28 that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut), west of Khromove (immediately west of Bakhmut), and in the direction of Ivanivske (6k west of Bakhmut). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty reported on May 28 that only one combat clash occurred near Bakhmut City in the past 24 hours. Geolocated footage published on May 28 indicates that Russian forces made marginal gains west of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces are counterattacking west of Klishchiivka but that Ukrainian forces maintain their current positions in the area. A Russian source claimed that Ukrainian forces continued counterattacks near Orikhovo-Vasylivka on May 27, where Russian sources claimed Ukrainian forces advanced up to one kilometer on May 26. Ukrainian personnel in the Bakhmut area reportedly expressed optimism that the decreased tempo of Russian operations around Bakhmut may facilitate further limited and localized Ukrainian counterattacks. ISW previously assessed that the decreased tempo of Russian offensive operations in the Bakhmut area and the ongoing relief in place operation are likely providing Ukrainian forces in the area the initiative to launch a new round of operations around the city if they so choose.

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to have again indirectly undermined Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority and regime. Prigozhin responded to a journalist’s question about Russian state media banning any discussions about Wagner forces, stating that unnamed Russian bureaucrats will only benefit from such censorship in the near term of one to three months before the Russian people will push back and start hating the bureaucrats. Prigozhin stated that Russian officials would have been able to enjoy their historic ability to censor Russian society if Russia had not started the war in Ukraine. Prigozhin then gave advice to an unnamed official: “ If you are starting a war, please have character, will, and steel balls – and only then you will be able to achieve something.” Prigozhin implied that accomplishing real achievements would let the official avoid lying about the construction of new buildings, metro stations, and bridges in an effort to look good. Prigozhin notably shifted the discussion from talking about unnamed Russian officials to directly addressing a single man. Prigozhin’s comments are likely targeted at Putin whom the Russian state media has routinely portrayed as a leader minutely involved with small infrastructure projects and the lives of ordinary Russian people. Putin used to host annual hours-long “Direct Line” press conferences with constituents in which he often responded to inquiries that are best suited for local governments, for example.

Prigozhin may be attacking Putin for failing to give Prigozhin some promised reward for seizing Bakhmut. Prigozhin’s previous attack on Putin’s character occurred on May 9 – a symbolic holiday that Putin may have wanted to use to portray Russia’s claimed victory in Bakhmut as an achievement equivalent to Soviet Union’s drive on Berlin in 1945. Kremlin state media compared the seizure of Bakhmut city to the Soviet victory in Berlin on May 21, which likely indicates that the Kremlin was preparing to associate the victory in Bakhmut with Victory Day. Prigozhin claimed that Wagner had effectively captured Bakhmut by May 10 and cleared the city by May 20, and attempted to blame the delay in Wagner’s capture of the city on the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD’s) withholding of ammunition. Prigozhin also claimed that his ”Bakhmut meatgrinder” offensive operation killed half of the Ukrainian army, a statement that Russian ultranationalist Igor Girkin declared to be false. Prigozhin also claimed that Wagner opened a springboard for further offensive operations in Donbas and sarcastically noted that Russian regular forces subordinated under the Russian MoD will be able to reach the Dnipro River, capture the territories of the four annexed regions, and capture Ukrainian strongholds west and north of Bakhmut.

Prigozhin’s jabs at Putin and the Russian MoD – in combination with his bragging about Wagner’s accomplishments – may suggest that Prigozhin is frustrated that he did not receive some promised compensation for his victory in the Battle for Bakhmut. The Russian MoD may have deliberately sabotaged Prigozhin days or weeks prior to May 9th to prevent Wagner from capturing the remaining few blocks in western Bakhmut before Victory Day, as Prigozhin suggests. Putin may have deliberately overlooked such MoD sabotage efforts to avoid having to fulfill whatever promise Prigozhin thinks Putin had made to him. Prigozhin has previously stated that if he was given 200,000 personnel, Wagner would have made further great advances on the frontlines . Prigozhin’s May 28 statement and his previous behavior may indicate that he had envisioned expanding Wagner at the expense of Russian conventional forces or replacing Russian military officials with Wagner-affiliated personnel. ISW previously assessed that Putin is a risk averse actor who is concerned over the health of his regime and thus unlikely to fully satisfy Prigozhin’s radical demands .

The Wagner Group held a reportedly illegal pro-Wagner rally in Yekaterinburg on May 28 despite the reported banning of the rally by Yekaterinburg authorities. Approximately 100 to 150 cars of Wagner personnel and supporters held a procession from Yekaterinburg to a cemetery in Berezovsky, Sverdlovsk Oblast, where the supporters laid flowers at a Wagner monument. Some Russian opposition sources claimed that local authorities explicitly banned Wagner from holding the rally and that Wagner held the rally in direct defiance of the ban. Footage shows luxury cars participating in the procession, suggesting that some local elites may be supporting Wagner. Sverdlovsk Oblast is a notable Russian defense industrial base (DIB) hub, and Russian authorities recently conducted several prominent arrests there of individuals including Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich on charges of espionage. Gershkovich notably traveled to Yekaterinburg to report on Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s criticisms of the Yekaterinburg History Museum Director Igor Pushkarev. Prigozhin has also notably feuded with Russian regional officials over allowing dead Wagner personnel to receive burials equivalent to those of regular Russian military personnel.

Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov criticized former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin on May 27. Solovyov accused Girkin of discrediting the Russian military and stated that Russian authorities should have already imprisoned Girkin. Solovyov complained that authorities have prosecuted other Russian milbloggers for discrediting the Russian military but have not touched Girkin. Girkin responded on May 28, noting that Solovyov is criticizing him despite his extensive military experience. Girkin highlighted that Solovyov has not criticized Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin despite Prigozhin’s criminal record and control over a “mercenary army.” Rumors of an investigation into Girkin for discrediting the Russian military previously gained prominence in mid-April, during which Prigozhin may have tried to pressure Girkin and his patronage networks as part of an ongoing feud to compete for influence and patronage.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces conducted the largest Shahed drone strike against Ukraine since the start of the war overnight on May 27-28.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that the Russian relief in place operation in Bakhmut may continue past his initial June 1 deadline and last until June 5.
  • The tempo of Russian operations around Bakhmut remains notably low.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to have again indirectly undermined Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority and regime.
  • Prigozhin may be attacking Putin for failing to give Prigozhin some promised reward for seizing Bakhmut.
  • The Wagner Group held a reportedly illegal pro-Wagner rally in Yekaterinburg on May 28 despite the reported banning of the rally by Yekaterinburg authorities.
  • Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov criticized former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin on May 27.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast of Kupiansk and along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces conducted limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front.
  • Russian forces continued to fire on areas in Southern Ukraine.
  • The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) asserted that Russia is now demanding that Russian citizens make additional sacrifices to support the war effort.

Russian occupation officials continue to forcibly deport Ukrainian children to Russia under the guise of summer camps.

Top Czech general urges readiness for “bad scenario” for Ukrainian counteroffensive , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Bild. “ General Karel Řehka, the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Republic, believes that Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive against the Russian Federation will not necessarily change the situation on the battlefield, and is urging people to prepare for a protracted war. Řehka said the most important prerequisite for the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive is not the equipment provided to Ukraine, but the will of Ukrainian society, which in his opinion is still very strong.

I personally believe that we should be ready for a bad scenario – a long war, the Chief of the Czech General Staff added. According to Řehka, this means the West will have to support Ukraine with weapons for many years. Each country has its capabilities, potential, and characteristics. We must work together as one team, with everyone trying to contribute within their capabilities. And we must listen to Ukrainians. They know best what they need, Řehka believes.

For this reason, the Czech general is calling on Europe to provide Ukraine with more than just weapons and military training : No less important is our will to support Ukraine on all fronts: morally, diplomatically, financially and in other areas, such as education, culture, reconstruction etc. We must be able to explain to our public that supporting Ukraine is morally right and a necessary investment in our own security and defence . And there is a struggle in the information space. We must not underestimate this, he added. The Russians believe that time is on their side. We must show them that they are wrong, the Chief of the Czech General Staff concluded .”

Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin accused Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin of planning a coup against the current Russian leadership , ISW reports. “ Girkin openly accused Prigozhin of planning to conduct a coup amid the upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive and of continuously violating Russian censorship laws against the discreditation of the Russian army and military command. Girkin warned of “mutiny” if Prigozhin is “allowed” to lead the Wagner Group. Girkin noted that Prigozhin ordered for the Wagner forces to withdraw to the Wagner bases deep inside of Russia on the eve of the Ukrainian counteroffensive . He also claimed that Wagner personnel had never taken oaths promising not to engage in combat against Russia or its military.

Prigozhin stated on May 27 that Wagner will decide later on if it will fight in Ukraine or in another country , which indicates that Prigozhin retains the ability to command his own army outside of the formal Russian military command structure. Girkin also recently criticized the Russian military command for failing to address Prigozhin’s open and vulgar conflict with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), even warning that Prigozhin will “devour” the Russian military officials who “bet” in his favor as he seeks to increase his political power. A member of Girkin’s Angry Patriots Club claimed that the conflict between Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Prigozhin is developing into a conflict between the Russian military and Wagner forces but that Putin is not paying attention.

Girkin’s and his associates’ criticisms are largely consistent with Prigozhin’s continued prioritization of his own personal aims over those of the Russian Ministry of Defense and the broader operational situation near Bakhmut. Prigozhin’s decision to withdraw his forces from Bakhmut and, apparently, from active combat on the eve of the Ukrainian counter-offensive is strategically questionable .”

Ukrainian officials denied Western reporting that suggested that a Chinese diplomat expressed interest in a negotiated ceasefire in Ukraine amidst the likely renewal of Russia’s information campaign surrounding negotiations , ISW reports. “Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated on May 27 that he contacted his European counterparts who recently met with Chinese Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui and that they denied that Li had expressed interest in a ceasefire that would see Russia retain control of occupied territories, as a May 26 Wall Street Journal report suggested.

Li Hui visited Moscow on May 26 reportedly to discuss a negotiated settlement to Russia’s war in Ukraine, a visit that the Kremlin likely used to attempt to renew a recurring information operation falsely claiming that Russia is open to serious negotiations. The Kremlin previously intensified this information operation in December 2022 to attempt to delay the provision of Western tanks and other advanced military equipment to Ukraine in order to set conditions for Russia’s 2023 winter-spring offensive . The Kremlin is likely reintroducing the information operation intending to weaken Western willingness to send critical security assistance to Ukraine ahead of potential Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.

The Kremlin has established a pattern in this information operation in which some Russian officials express feigned interest in negotiations while other Russian officials simultaneously reiterate Putin’s maximalist goals for the war in Ukraine. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin stated on May 26 that the conditions for a ”comprehensive, just and lasting peace” in Ukraine include the cessation of hostilities by Ukrainian forces, the end of Western security assistance to Ukraine, the Ukrainian return to a “neutral non-aligned status,” the explicit Ukrainian refusal to join NATO and the EU, and the recognition of Russia’s annexation of occupied territories in Ukraine . Galuzin’s reiteration of Russia’s maximalist objectives coincide with Putin’s alleged expression of Russian interest in negotiations during a phone call with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva on May 26.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Europe’s new security architecture impossible without Ukraine’s integration – Stefanishyna , Ukrinform reports. citing the Ukrainian government’s website. “ Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanishyna has said that there is no European security architecture without Ukraine. She said this during a debate of the Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) entitled “Strengthening Europe’s security in wartime”.

The main lesson we learned during the first year of this war is learning in practice. Only through our own actions were we able to learn new lessons of how to stay more resilient, how to stay more confident, how to realize the very fact that our values are something we need to fight for. I am especially proud of the actions that have been taken collectively by the democratic world and individually by every state in Europe and on the other side of the Atlantic, as well as decisions taken in support of Ukraine. All these actions and decisions are success stories, she said.

According to her, one of the most important decisions was granting Ukraine the status of a candidate for joining the European Union. The official noted that on June 23 last year, all EU members demonstrated unity and steadfastness, and Ukraine received the prospect of a peaceful future as part of the European family.

We must learn from these lessons. We are still far from a strategic vision of the future security architecture. But we’re very close to starting to shape it, and I think it’s time to make some decisions. The issue concerns the long-term strategic uncertainty regarding Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations – one of the decisions that the Russian Federation has been speculating about for years. Due to the adoption of political decisions regarding the involvement of Ukraine in the family of European and Euro-Atlantic defense architecture, we must finally admit the obvious thing: without Ukraine, there is no European security architecture,” Stefanishyna said .”

Support for Russia drops in post-Soviet countries after Ukraine invasion , Euronews reports. A recent Gallup report shows that in many – but not all – states that were once part of the Soviet Union, approval of the Russian leadership took a hit between 2021 and 2022. This is at odds with what President Vladimir Putin, who seeks to restore “Russian dominance”, possibly wanted to obtain.

In countries like Ukraine, Georgia, and the Baltic states – traditionally warier of Russia as a problematic and often pushy neighbour – approval of the Kremlin has dropped from levels already below 20% to 0% or near 0%. In countries which have been historically sympathetic to the Russian leadership, like Armenia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, the drop in popularity for the Russian leadership has been even more dramatic . Here more people now disapprove of the Russian leadership than approve of it, reversing a previously opposite trend.

Falls in popularity for Russia in states with complex ethnic situations like Kazakhstan and Moldova have been linked to mounting concerns over possible attempts by Moscow to take over their territories. In Kazakhstan, the presence of a large ethnic Russian population at the border is cause for concern, as these people are seen as potentially more sympathetic to Moscow than Astana. […]

Only two countries in Russia’s traditional sphere of influence remain supportive of the Russian leadership – Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The percentage of people in these countries disapproving of the Russian leadership decreased between 2021 and 2022, while the percentage of those approving fell. Yet these changes have not swung the general feeling of overwhelming support towards Moscow, with 63% of the population approving of Kremlin leaders.

Globally, according to the Gallup report, disapproval of the Russian leadership has soared to a median of 57% in 2022 . Its approval rate, on the other hand, was 21%.

Russia’s dwindling popularity can also be seen in data reporting the number of people living in the countries with the largest Russian diasporas per capita — Kazakhstan, Latvia and Estonia — who identify as Russians. Between 2007 and 2009, about 3 in 10 residents identified as Russian in Kazakhstan (33%), Latvia (30%), and Estonia (29%). In 2022, those identifying as Russians dropped to 15% in Kazakhstan, 19% in Latvia, and 21% in Estonia.

While the invasion of Ukraine can be seen as the determining factor causing popularity to nose dive , there are also other reasons why post-Soviet nations may be unhappy with Moscow. One is that the invasion of Ukraine has distracted Russia from its traditional role as a regional power broker and chief mediator, Gallup writes, diminishing its importance. […] Another reason is that the war in Ukraine is also seen in some quarters as a chance for post-Soviet nations to carve greater autonomy from a less engaged Russia. Some of them – including Armenia, Ukraine, and the Baltic states – look more favourably to other superpowers like the US and China. Gallup has called Russia’s loss of status and prestige in the region where its power and influence have traditionally been the greatest a seismic shift which may signal the twilight of Europe’s last empire .”

Russia will be threat to NATO if it loses in Ukraine – UK Chief of Air Staff , Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the Chief of the Air Staff, in an interview with The Telegraph. “ Russia will be vindictive if it loses the Ukraine war and poses a direct threat to the UK. Wigston believes Russia’s air force, surface navy and submarine force are a threat to the UK and NATO and thinks this is something we must focus our minds on.

He warned that the threat will remain, or even get worse, if Russian President Vladimir Putin is ousted. When the Ukraine conflict is over and Ukraine has restored its borders, as it must, we will have a damaged, vindictive, and brutal Russia, whose means of harming us is through air attack, missile attack and subsurface attack, Wigston said .”

Putin orders stronger Russian border security , Reuters reports. “ Speaking in a congratulatory message to the border service, a branch of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), on their Border Guard Day holiday, Putin said their task was to reliably cover the lines in the vicinity of the combat zone. Attacks inside Russia have been growing in intensity in recent weeks , chiefly with drone strikes on regions along the border but increasingly also deep into the country, including on an oil pipeline northwest of Moscow on Saturday.

It is necessary to ensure the fast movement of both military and civilian vehicles and cargo, including food, humanitarian aid building materials sent to the new subjects of the (Russian) Federation, Putin said in a message posted on the Kremlin’s Telegram messaging channel. Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk are the four regions in Ukraine that Putin proclaimed annexed last September following what Kyiv said were sham referendums. Russian forces only partly control the four regions.

On Saturday, officials said three people were injured in Ukrainian shelling in Belgorod, a region that was the target of pro-Ukrainian fighters this week that sparked doubts about Russia’s defence and military capabilities. The Kursk and Belgorod Russian regions bordering Ukraine have been the most frequent target of attacks that have damaged power, rail and military infrastructure, with local officials blaming Ukraine.

Kyiv almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia and on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine but said that destroying infrastructure is preparation for its planned ground assault .”

Hans Petter Midttun : What happens if – hypothetically – NATO declares Ukraine a member a couple of weeks after the NATO Summit at Vilnius on 11 – 12 July 2023?

Just to be clear: I don’t expect NATO to declare Ukraine a member at Vilnius, but I strongly believe it is the smart thing to do .

The Ukrainian membership question is on the agenda for the summit. A fast-track membership is presently not seen as an option, though several countries have asked for just that. Both the Estonian parliament and the Polish Senate adopted statements in support of Ukraine’s NATO accession. The Polish senators backed an accelerated accession following the example of Sweden and Finland.

Some member states wish to officially put Kyiv on the path to membership. There are, however, different views in the Alliance on the issue and consensus is needed to move forward. Consultations are ongoing.

The Group of European People’s Party (EPP Group) calls on all NATO members to formally endorse both the Ukrainian Peace Formula and the Kyiv Security Compact recommendations and to actively contribute to their implementation.

“ The EPP Group expects that the upcoming Vilnius and Washington summits pave the way to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join NATO and that the accession process will start after the war is over and be finalised as soon as possible. This will strengthen our Alliance and be a further step towards sustainable peace in Europe .”

According to Euractiv, NATO might end up just upgrading Ukraine’s status in its relationship by setting up a “Ukraine-NATO Council.” European Pravda claims that:

“ Under the plan, Ukraine would be a “full-fledged” member around the Ukraine-NATO Council table instead of being only invited for discussions as is the case now. Kyiv could then call for meetings when they wish, and it would be easier to give a direct update on the situation on the battlefield.

Those could include more intelligence sharing and consultations, joint exercises, investment in the defence industry, and work on the interoperability between Ukraine’s and the NATO member states’ armed forces, giving Kyiv the option to align with NATO’s communiqués and standards .”

Even Ukraine, however, acknowledge that it is unlikely to become a member state until after the war. At the same time, it is actively promoting its need for security guarantees until membership is achieved. It is looking to both guarantees given to both Sweden (which is waiting for Türkiye and Hungary to accept its membership application) and Israel. Ultimately, no solutions provide better security than NATO membership itself.

Still, it’s important to rise the question: What happens if – hypothetically – NATO declares Ukraine a member a couple of weeks after the NATO Summit?

Some fear an escalation of the war into a broader confrontation (that has already been ongoing for years). Some oppose it out of fear, believing that an accession of Ukraine into NATO would trigger a WW3 or a nuclear confrontation. Others are seeking a political solution to appease the aggressor (despite more than 9 years of failure). Some, believe it runs counter to their national interests.

None of the above, however, changes the fact that without Ukraine, there is no European security architecture. NATO will not be able to defend the security and stability of its member states without Ukraine .

The Alliance’s prerequisite that new membership applicants cannot have any unresolved border disputes with their neighbouring countries sort of kills the debate. The starting point of the debate might, therefore, be just here: Does that particular precondition serve its purpose when it triggers wars and conflicts along NATO’s external borders?

The prerequisite has been decided by NATO and can be removed by NATO.

It is doable if the member states found this in their national interest to do. Removing it does not mean all applicants automatically become eligible for membership. The Alliance would still have to consider its application individually. Its removal, however, would allow for the accession process to start (without necessarily changing the outcome)-

I believe that the ongoing broader confrontation – including the war in Ukraine – is a testimony to the failure of diplomacy.

I have previously argued that a Ukrainian NATO accession – which in essence would be the ultimate diplomatic event in the present security situation – might help end the war. As one expert framed it:

A Ukrainian NATO membership will constitute a Russian defeat.

Some of the arguments in favour of its immediate NATO accession are:

  1. The West is already a party to the war. Not only because of Russia’s stated foreign strategy aims and objectives, its threat assessments, its military doctrine and concepts supporting its strategic aim and objectives, and its hybrid war against the West but also its inherent imperialistic nature. The EU has already recognised that its member states – most of which are also NATO members – are exposed to the Russian Hybrid War. Acknowledging the conflict and the threat would force NATO to act upon the transgression. It would be the first step in forcing Russia to withdraw.
  2. Russia does not want to fight the West. It has done its uttermost to limit Western support for Ukraine and not least, avoid a military confrontation with NATO. It succeeded in stopping the US and Europe from helping rebuild Ukrainian deterrence for 8 years. Since 24 February, its previous and ongoing efforts to shape the minds of both populations, as well as key policy and decision-makers in the West has resulted in a slow and incremental inflow of weapons and ammunitions. The West is still struggling to pass the two last “mental hurdles”: Executing a military intervention according to its late strategic concept and the UN “Responsible to Protect” doctrine and accepting Ukraine as a NATO member. Despite Russia’s information and influence operations – backed by its belligerent and outright threatening strategic messaging – Russia has in fact been trying to avoid a military confrontation over fear of being defeated.
  3. NATO members are already defending themselves in Ukraine . Eastern Europe has been advocating for NATO to act according to its late strategic concept for years. Failing to achieve consensus, they have still bilaterally acted according to the concept by providing Ukraine with what it needs at an unprecedented scale and scope. Additionally, most NATO members have long acknowledged that Ukraine is defending European security and stability as well as our shared values and principles. It is our fight to fight, and we should be defending our shared values and principles shoulder-to-shoulder with the Ukrainian soldiers.
  4. It could end the war . Without firing a shot and by a diplomatic declaration only – a Ukrainian NATO membership – would fundamentally change the military balance. By making Ukraine a fully integrated member of the Alliance, NATO becomes an official party to the war on the date of accession. It would mean that if Russia continued attacking Ukraine after its accession into NATO, it would trigger collective defence according to Article 5. It is a NATO “fait accompli”: Accept it or accept the consequences of continuing the war. As previously argued, it would offer Putin an off-ramp. Russia will never accept being defeated by Ukraine – a nation it alleges “does not exist” – but it will be forced to acknowledge a strategic withdrawal when facing the world’s strongest military alliance.

Some would argue that this would trigger World War 3. In my opinion – given the sorrowful state of the Russian armed forces and its role as the aggressor – it would present Russia with a small dilemma: Does it want to fight the collective US and Europe? Or would it prefer to withdraw its remaining military and security forces to secure its internationally recognised borders?

Russia does not possess the means to escalate a war in which it has already lost the military initiative; where it is increasingly forced to deploy antique weapon systems and poorly trained, demotivated mobilised personnel.

I have previously argued why a nuclear confrontation is extremely unlikely. I have also argued, however, why a failure to stop and evict Russia from Ukraine will lead to further aggression. The West either stops Russia in Ukraine today or accepts the risks of the military confrontation spreading tomorrow.

Will NATO declare Ukraine a member state at the NATO Summit? Not likely. It should, however, not stop us from calling for just that: Present Russia with a fait accompli by accepting Ukraine as a NATO member at Vilnius. Ensure a Russian defeat through one simple diplomatic decision.

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Watch Politics Hub live with Ali Fortescue │ Friday 12 July.

Watch Politics Hub live with Ali Fortescue │ Friday 12 July.

Joining Ali this evening are author and broadcaster Andy Bell and broadcaster and journalist Daisy McAndrew. Tap the 'Notify me' bell button to be reminded when the show goes live and make sure you don't miss anything ️ Get the latest in our Polit...

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