Putin confirmed to Erdogan that Russia can export food if sanctions are lifted says Kremlin
Dhaka May 31 2022:
Inside Russia : Outside Russia: News Digest by the Embassy of Russian Federation in Bangladesh on May 31 2022.
Russia’s Moon mission gets new launch window
Luna-25 moon lander mission is expected to blast off in September, Russia’s space boss has said
The long-delayed Luna-25 moon lander mission is expected to be launched in September this year, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s national space agency Roscosmos said on Monday.
“I hope that all the tests will be successful and at the end of September we will launch Luna-25,” Rogozin told reporters.
Back in April, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of continuing the country’s lunar program. “We’ll resume the lunar program,” Putin said as he visited Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far Eastern Amur Region, outlining the goal to launch the mission in the third quarter this year.
The Russian leader stressed that the unprecedented wave of Western sanctions imposed on the country over its ongoing military offensive against Ukraine will not derail Moscow’s efforts to explore space.
“Despite all the difficulties and attempts to interfere from the outside, we’re definitely going to implement all our plans with consistency and persistence,” Putin stressed.
Shortly after the announcement in April, the European Space Agency stated it is ceasing cooperation with Roscosmos on martian and lunar expeditions, because of the Ukraine conflict.
Luna-25 is expected to carry some 30kg of scientific equipment. The lander also boasts a robotic arm and a drill, to perform various experiments and take samples of lunar regolith. The probe’s planned destination is the Moon’s south polar region near the Boguslavsky Crater.
The mission is set to become the first Russian lunar probe in post-Soviet history. While the exploration of the Earth’s only natural satellite began with the Soviet Luna-2 probe in 1959, the country has not carried out similar missions for nearly five decades already. The last mission, Luna-24, was launched by the Soviet Union in 1976.
The new mission, conceived in the late 2000s, has been repeatedly postponed. The robotic lander was expected to blast off last October; however, the launch was delayed as the team developing Luna-25 deemed it not ready.
Russian oil exports to India jump 25x
Deliveries for May surged to 24 million barrels from last year’s average of 960,000 a month
India has received 34 million barrels of discounted Russian oil since February, more than 10 times the value of the total imports from the country year-on-year, Reuters reported on Monday, citing Refinitiv Eikon data.
According to the report, more than 24 million barrels of Russian crude were supplied this month, up from 7.2 million barrels in April, and from about three million barrels in March. The South Asian nation is set to receive about 28 million barrels in June, data shows.
Last year, Russian crude exports to India averaged just 960,000 barrels per month, roughly 25 times less than this month’s total.
Western sanctions on Moscow have created an opportunity for Indian refiners to increase purchases of Russian oil (mostly Urals crude) at discounted prices, as some European customers have been vocally reluctant to buy Russian crude.
India has come under fire from the West for its continued purchases of Russian oil. However, New Delhi has rebuffed the criticism, saying those imports make up a fraction of the country’s overall needs. Authorities also said India will keep buying “cheap” Russian oil as a sudden stop could drive up costs for its consumers. Previous media reports have indicated that the world’s third-biggest oil importer was seeking Russian crude at less than $70 a barrel to compensate for additional hurdles caused by sanctions.
For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section
Russia explains how it will pay its debts
A reverse ‘ruble-for-gas’ scheme will be used to cover interest payments, minister says
A scheme similar to the one Russia uses to get foreign payments for its natural gas will be used to service its sovereign debt, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has explained to a Russian business daily. Debtholders will need to open two accounts in a designated Russian bank to get what is due to them, Vedomosti reported on Sunday.
Russia has long used the Western-controlled financial system for payments related to its debt, but access has been restricted under the sanctions imposed in retaliation for February’s attack on Ukraine. Washington previously allowed payments to Russian Eurobond holders – first using its frozen foreign reserves and later proceeds from its foreign trade – but last week the US Treasury announced that the waiver won’t be extended.
Speaking to Vedomosti, the minister said that Russia intends to use a scheme similar to the one introduced for buyers of its natural gas, based in “unfriendly nations,” to circumvent the US ban. The ministry previously said the debt would be paid in rubles.
The gas scheme, which was launched to ensure that payments in foreign currency are not seized by Western nations, requires that customers from “unfriendly” states open two accounts in a Russian bank. The payments are made in euros then converted to the Russian currency.
“The eurobonds payment mechanism will work the same way, but in reverse,” Siluanov said, adding the ministry will soon finalize the arrangement and will be ready to present it to debtholders. The minister previously said Russia will have a mechanism ready to pay eurobond coupons by late July.
The American restrictions are intended to prevent Russia from serving its sovereign debt, potentially resulting in a technical default. But US officials admit that it would be more a symbolic blow against Russia showcasing the country’s supposed status as a pariah on the world stage.
“If Russia [defaulted], I don’t think that really represents a significant change in Russia’s situation. They’re already cut off from global capital markets,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. She added the now-expired exemption existed “to allow a period of time for an orderly transition to take place, and for investors to be able to sell securities.”
Moscow has also downplayed the threat, saying that missed payments on sovereign debt orchestrated by the US would be a case of financial sleight-of-hand not reflecting Russia’s real financial state. Unlike the painful default on domestic debt in 1998, it wouldn’t affect the domestic situation in the country, the finance ministry explained.
Russia will find other importers for its oil – envoy on EU’s partial oil embargo
MOSCOW, May 31. /TASS/. Russia will find other importers for its oil, Russian Permanent Representative to international organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said, commenting on the sixth package of EU sanctions against Russia, which includes partial embargo on Russian oil.
“As she rightly said yesterday, #Russia will find other importers. Noteworthy that now she contradicts her own yesterday’s statement. Very quick change of the mindset indicates that the #EU is not in a good shape,” Ulyanov tweeted Tuesday in response to von der Leyen’s tweet announcing the partial oil embargo.
Earlier, EU leaders negotiated the sixth package of sanctions against Russia during the summit in Brussels, which includes, in particular, cutting Sberbank off the SWIFT international payment system, partial embargo on import of Russian oil, ban on three more Russian state mass media an expansion of the blacklist of people whom the EU considers responsible for violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ursula von der Leyen noted that the EU hopes to reject up to 90% of imported Russian oil before the end of this year.
Putin confirmed to Erdogan that Russia can export food if sanctions are lifted — Kremlin
MOSCOW, May 30. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed readiness of the Russian side to export fertilizers and foods if sanctions are lifted in the telephone conversation with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, the Kremlin’s press service said.
“In the light of problems on the global food market occurred in consequence of the unwise financial and economic policy of Western states, it was confirmed that Russia can export considerable volumes of fertilizers and agricultural produce in case relevant anti-Russian sanction restrictions are lifted,” the Kremlin said.
Putin and Erdogan discussed the situation in Ukraine with the focus on providing safe navigation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and elimination of the mine threat in their water areas, the Kremlin’s press service added. “Vladimir Putin noted readiness of the Russian side to facilitate unobstructed seaborne transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners. This also pertains to export of grain from Ukrainian ports,” the press service noted.
Russian diplomat slams UK foreign secretary’s comments on Russia’s influence on Balkans
MOSCOW, May 30. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has slammed the British foreign secretary’s comments on Russia’s “malign influence” on the Balkans.
Liz Truss made the comments during a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 26, which was part of her regional tour, designed to reaffirm Britain’s commitment to “peace and stability in the Western Balkans”.
“The head of the British Foreign Office, Liz Truss, who is a known history and geography expert, warned people in Bosnia and Herzegovina against trusting Russia because of its ‘malign influence’ on the region,” Zakharova said in a post on her Telegram channel Monday.
In turn, the diplomat described NATO’s influence as “unscrupulously destructive”, recalling the alliance’s bombings of the former Yugoslavia, when depleted uranium projectiles were used. “Liz Truss knows about the Tatar-Mongol invasion of Ukraine, good girl, but is unaware of NATO bombings of Belgrade? Then some more instances of Western influence on the Balkans might be of interest to her,” Zakharova wrote.
At the start of World War II, Yugoslavia’s government “begged the brits” for help in the face of the Third Reich, but London ignored it and even took advantage of the war to pursue its own interests in Europe, she reminded.
In the 1990s, Britain as part of the western coalition covered up for human organ trafficking by Kosovo Albanians, as well as trade in all sorts of illicit goods, including weapons, Zakharova said, adding that the country’s actions in the region were “more destructive than powder and bombs, and more lethal than plague”.
Denmark faces Russian gas supply cut
Denmark could be the next country to be cut off from Russian natural gas after its biggest utility defied Moscow’s ruble payment demand. According to a Bloomberg report, Orsted said on Monday that it is continuing to reject demands from the Russian supplier to pay for gas supplies in Russian currency.
“We have no legal obligation under the contract to do so, and we have repeatedly informed Gazprom Export that we will not do so,” the company reportedly said, adding: “There is a risk that Gazprom Export will stop supplying gas to Orsted.”
The company’s payment deadline is Tuesday, and Orsted said it will continue to pay in euro, noting that it hasn’t opened a ruble account.
Russia’s new payment scheme requires gas buyers from “unfriendly” countries that have placed sanctions on Russia to open accounts in Russia’s Gazprombank. They can then deposit funds in their currency of choice, which the bank converts to rubles and transfers to Gazprom.
The Russian energy giant has recently suspended gas exports to Bulgaria, Poland, and Finland after they refused to comply.
For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section
Netherlands will not pay rubles for Russian gas, supplies to stop on May 31
MOSCOW. May 30 (Interfax) – GasTerra has decided not to comply with the one-sided payment requirements of Gazprom regarding the new payment system for Russian gas, the Dutch gas trader said in a press release posted on its website.
“In response to GasTerra’s decision, Gazprom has declared to discontinue supply with effect from May 31, 2022,” according to the press release.
“This is because to do so [pay rubles] would risk breaching sanctions imposed by the EU, and also because there are too many financial and operational risks associated with the required payment route. In particular, opening accounts in Moscow under Russian law and their control by the Russian regime pose too great a risk for the Groningen company,” GasTerra said.
“The cessation of supply by Gazprom means that between now and October 1, 2022, the date on which the contract ends, approximately 2 billion cubic meters of contracted gas will not be delivered. GasTerra has anticipated this by buying gas from other providers,” according to the press release.
To offset the drop in gas supply, Gasunie signed a binding contract for the lease of a floating LNG installation (FSRU) from the American energy infrastructure company New Fortress Energy. For the next five years this vessel will convert liquefied natural gas into gas in the Eemshaven in the north of Groningen. The installation is also suitable for the storage of gas. The vessel is expected to arrive in Eemshaven in the third quarter of 2022.
With this second floating LNG installation, Gasunie subsidiary EemsEnergyTerminal BV is expanding its new LNG terminal in Eemshaven, making a total of 8 bcm of natural gas available to the national network after processing the LNG that is brought in. At the end of April Gasunie contracted the FSRU S188 from the Belgian shipping company Exmar. This installation will also arrive in Eemshaven in the third quarter.
According to BP data, the Netherlands consumed 36.6 bcm of gas in 2020, receiving 11.2 bcm of it by pipeline from Russia. Gazprom Export said it supplied 11.81 bcm of pipeline gas to that market in 2020, including shipments to GasTerra, under short-term contracts, to subsidiaries and sales on the electronic trading platform.
New payment system
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree (No. 172) on March 31 on a “special procedure for foreign buyers’ fulfilment of obligations to Russian suppliers of natural gas,” under which payment for Russian pipeline gas supplied after April 1 to foreign counterparties specified in the decree must be made only in rubles.
Under this procedure, special “K” type ruble and foreign currency accounts are opened at the authorized financial institution, Gazprombank (GPB) , for foreign buyers. These accounts prohibit the suspension of transactions, freezing or debit of funds as part of foreign buyer’s fulfillment of obligations that are not related to payment on contracts to supply natural gas. Foreign buyers pay for gas in the currency of the contract, which the bank then sells on the Moscow Exchange and transfers rubles to Gazprom. This is the point at which payment for the gas is considered to be completed.
If this condition is not met, gas supplies will be suspended. Further gas supplies are prohibited if the payment deadline for gas supplied under a contract has expired but the foreign buyer did not make the payment or made it in foreign currency, not in the full amount or not to the account at the authorized bank.
Russia has already suspended gas supplies to Poland, Bulgaria and Finland because they refused to comply with the new payment system.
SPECIAL MILITARY OPERATION IN UKRAINE
Genocide of Donbass’ Civilian Population. Photo Evidence by Maxim Blinov
Death, children, elderly and women in basements, as well as ruins instead of houses and people fleeing into the unknown from war and bombing – this slideshow contains part of the photographic evidence of the genocide of Donbass’ civilian population. It was collected by Sputnik’s photographer Maxim Blinov.
Five killed by Ukrainian shelling – DPR
Kiev may have used US-supplied artillery to attack Donetsk, local officials claim
Ukrainian shelling of Donetsk has left at least five people dead, and 18 others injured, local authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said on Monday. According to local officials, a teenage girl is among the fatalities. The strikes damaged several civilian facilities in the city, including schools and residential buildings.
Preliminary reports allege that US-supplied artillery may have been used in the attacks. In one home, two 14-year-old girls were hurt, Mayor Aleksey Kulemzin said. One of them died while the other one was taken to hospital.
Three civilians were killed, and a dozen others injured at two schools, the mayor claimed. Two people were in serious condition, he added.
The headmistress of one of the schools, Olga Rachinskaya, told the media that many of the teachers “were lacerated with shrapnel”. She said the two workers who were killed were elderly.
“This is just an ordinary school. There is nothing military here, nothing,” she said. Luckily, Donetsk schools teach remotely, so students were not in the classrooms when the shells hit, according to the educator.
The DPR defense HQ claimed that Ukrainian troops fired at least two Smerch rockets armed with cluster munitions and also used 155mm artillery in the shelling.
On Monday, Mayor Kulemzin speculated that the Ukrainian troops may have used US-supplied 155mm M777 howitzers in the assault. “This is heavy weaponry, most likely the American delivery,” he told Russian television when describing the attacks. He claimed some of the shell fragments discovered on the ground had markings in English.
The US and its allies have reportedly supplied about 100 towed artillery guns to Ukraine, ramping up their military aid with heavier kinds of weapons. Kiev may soon receive US-made multiple launch rocket systems too, adding them to the weapons from Soviet stockpiles that it currently possesses, according to media reports.
Commenting on the news coming from Donetsk on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Ukrainian attacks on civilian infrastructure in DPR were “outrageous.”
“This is exactly what our warriors are fighting against. To make such things stop,” he said, branding the perpetrators “neo-Nazis”.
Russia attacked Ukraine state in late February, following its failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.
Europol alarmed over fate of western arms in Ukraine
The EU’s law enforcement chief told German media that the weapons could end up in the hands of criminals
Europol head, Catherine De Bolle, has warned that weapons currently being delivered to Ukraine could eventually end up in the hands of criminals operating on the continent.
In her interview with Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper published on Saturday, De Bolle said that one of the things which were of concern to her organization was the “whereabouts of the weapons that are currently being delivered to Ukraine.” She explained that when the conflict ends, Europol wants to “prevent a situation akin to that of 30 years ago in the Balkan war.”
“The weapons from that war are still being used by criminal groups today,” she said.
De Bolle noted that one of Europol’s key priorities now was to “find a way in which we will deal with the situation after a possible end to the war.” According to her, Europol “will be assembling an international task force that will address this issue.”
The official acknowledged that Europe is currently seeing an unprecedented level of violence on the streets, akin to the situation seen so far only in Latin American countries. De Bolle also said that corruption in the EU is on a “scale larger than we had assumed.” More than half of the criminal organizations Europol is observing use the services of corrupt officials in one way or another to facilitate their illegal business, the agency’s chief revealed.
As for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, another major area of concern to Europol, besides the weapons, is the travel of “known terrorists and extremist individuals prepared to use violence” in the war zone, according to De Bolle.
She said that while “Europol’s Counterterrorism Center is monitoring the phenomenon very closely,” the situation is “highly dynamic and fragmented.” The EU’s law enforcement agency has so far been unable to pinpoint the total number of such people as individual European countries are providing Europol with diverging data, De Bolle acknowledged.
According to the official’s assessment, the people who are going to fight in Ukraine “do not represent a homogeneous group,” but rather adhere to different ideologies. She also noted that Europol is seeing some of these fighters return to their home countries “disillusioned,” having seen firsthand the “brutality of the war.”
While Europol has seen a rise in cyberattacks in various EU member states since Russia started its offensive in Ukraine in late February, a large-scale attack affecting all 27 nations, that the agency had expected, has not materialized, De Bolle told journalists.
Since Moscow launched its military operation against its neighbor, a number of EU member states, as well as the UK and the US have been actively supplying weapons to Kiev.
During the first month of the conflict, Ukraine’s Western backers mostly provided the country with portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, more recently, the focus has shifted toward heavy weapons.
Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden signed the Lend-Lease Act into law, with the aim of speeding up sending military equipment to Ukraine.
On May 21, Biden also approved legislation that earmarked an additional $40 billion in assistance to Kiev.
Russia insists that the shipment of Western weapons only serves to prolong the conflict. Moreover, the Kremlin has also repeatedly warned that the weapons supplied to Ukrainian forces could eventually fall into the hands of terrorists and criminals elsewhere. Of particular concern, according to Russian official, are the supplies of man-portable anti-aircraft missiles to Kiev, which could potentially be used by terrorists to target civil aircraft.
Russia to probe claims of suspicious activity by Red Cross
The Ukrainian branch of the aid group allegedly catalogued children with healthy organs
The Russian Investigative Committee said on Sunday it will look into allegations the Ukrainian Red Cross Society was involved in shady activities, including keeping records of children with “healthy organs” in the city of Mariupol.
The claim came from Vladimir Taranenko, the head of the Donetsk-based civic organization ‘Peoples Retinue,’ a volunteer movement that states as one of its goals assisting law enforcement in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
The activist posted a video of what he called a search of the Red Cross office in Mariupol on his social media and claimed some of the evidence found there casts the group in a very suspicious light.
He claimed the office had medical records for over 1,000 children, but they marked their “healthy organs” instead of any medical conditions or procedures.
Taranenko also claimed that some of the reading materials discovered at the office were instructions on “how to use weapons, including in a format intended for children.”
The video showed at least one military-related manual. It was a printout of “Practical Military Ordnance Identification” by Thomas Gersbeck, a retired US Marines Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician. The book is a field manual on how to identify unexploded munitions and handle them in a safe manner.
Taranenko has said that DPR investigators will “shed light” on the activities of the society. The Russian committee said it will add the video to a list of evidence it already has regarding suspected crimes by Kiev.
Mariupol is a major port city in the DPR. It was liberated by Russian and Donbass forces during the ongoing military campaign against Ukraine.
Neither the Ukrainian society nor the International Committee of the Red Cross would immediately comment on the allegations.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.
Vladislav Ugolniy: Ukraine’s unity is crumbling amid serious military losses in the Donbass and Zelensky is feeling the heat
By Vladislav Ugolniy, a Russian journalist based in Donetsk
The recent advances of the Russian army have taken their toll on society and are a major setback for the leadership’s motivational efforts
Ukrainians appear to be losing unity amid military defeats in the Donbass and the economic crisis in the rest of the country. The surge of patriotism that arose when the Russian army was close to Kiev appears now, in the last days of May, to have been exhausted. Along with it, the national consensus that saw all political groups rallying behind the Ukrainian army, rather than struggling against President Volodomyr Zelensky seems to have disappeared.
Now, the Western-backed leader looks to be in big trouble.
The withdrawal of Russian troops from areas around Kiev, Chernigov, and Sumy, completed by April 3, was seen as a significant victory for the Ukrainian authorities. The removal of the threat from the capital made it possible to return diplomatic institutions, organize the visits of foreign delegations to the sites of past battles, and convince NATO countries that Ukraine would be able to withstand the war against Russia if it received more serious weapons.
All this was presented to Ukrainians as laying the groundwork for preparing a counteroffensive in Kharkov, Kherson, and the Donbass. In addition, a favorite carrot was brought out – promises of early accession to the European Union, bypassing existing norms – as payment for heroism and Ukraine taking up the banner of “Europe’s Shield.” The mood in Ukrainian society was positive. The Russian army had already been stopped. It remained only to wait for Western help, and it would be possible to take revenge for 2014, when Moscow reabsorbed Crimea.
Meanwhile, foreign aid was flowing in, but it did not bring relief to Ukraine. It proved effective only in supporting refugees in countries free from Ukraine’s corruption and cronyism. As for the military component, by the end of May, it turned out that the requested artillery and air defense systems were not enough to defeat Russia, and it was necessary to boost the army’s ranks to one million.
This increase was to be carried out through the mobilization and transfer of territorial defense detachments to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In the face of the economic crisis, even more Ukrainian men were to be sent to the front line.
As a result, the Kiev government has been detaining men on the streets of the cities it controls and serving them with draft notices. Meanwhile, Western Ukrainian territorial defense units that initially wanted weapons to protect their villages in the Carpathians have found themselves, instead, under Russian aviation and artillery in the eastern Donbass.
That is how belief in a speedy victory disappeared from Ukrainian society. Alexey Arestovich, a top adviser to the office of the President, who has somehow become the main military expert in Ukraine, as well as military bloggers associated with the nationalist Azov unit, are already talking about a difficult June and July. Even Zelensky himself has lost his optimism. What is the reason for this?
Since the second half of April, the Russian army has concentrated on several objectives:
By the end of May, most of these tasks had been completed. The Ukrainian army put up the greatest resistance in the area around Izium, thanks to which the front has been kept at a distance of 20 kilometers from Slavyansk. However, this was achieved by concentrating most of its reserves between Izium and Slavyansk, which made it impossible to deploy them in other areas.
A little to the east, the Russian army marched about 80 kilometers along the Oskol Reservoir, liberating the district center Liman on May 27. Now Slavyansk is under threat not only from a strike from the northwest, but also from the northeast, and positions on the left bank of the Seversky Donets River, which is key for this theater of operations, remain only in the Svyatogorsk area and the Kharkov Region.
This victory was impossible without successful action in the vicinity of Severodonetsk: the village of Kremenna and the northern part of the city of Rubezhnoye were occupied there without a fight. Fighting continued for a month, until the Ukrainians retreated from the southern suburbs on May 12, blowing up the bridge over the Borovaya River behind them. The success in Kremenna made it possible to attack Ukrainian army positions in the Liman area from the east and bring the vicinity of Seversk, an important logistics hub, within firing range.
Despite the constant advance, the Russian army did not go without defeats. An attempt at a forced crossing of the Seversky Donets River near Belogorovka to encircle Lisichansk failed, leading to the defeat of one battalion. This success extended the life of the Ukrainian garrison in Severodonetsk and Lisichansk for a month, but it is doomed due to a breakthrough in the south, in Popasnaya.
The town is a major rail hub in the Donbass, with a population of 20,000 people. Unfortunately, since 2014, the Ukrainians have transformed Popasnaya into one solid fortified area. This was facilitated by convenient multi-story buildings in the town center, the presence of large railway depot buildings, and its location on a hill. The battles for Popasnaya lasted more than two months and led to the complete destruction of the city. After the victory in Popasnaya, the Russian army conducted a successful offensive, bringing the Bakhmut-Lisichansk highway within firing range, effectively depriving the garrisons in Severodonetsk and Lisichansk of communication with the rest of Ukraine.
Also, the victory in Popasnaya made it possible to launch an offensive on the important logistics hub of Bakhmut and force the Ukrainian forces to retreat from Svetlodar, essentially leaving a strip of serious fortifications on the so-called Svetlodar arc without a fight.
In the Avdeevka area, the successes of the Russian army have not been as significant as in Popasnaya, but the Ukrainian forces are gradually retreating from this important area. Control over Avdeevka gives the Ukrainian army the ability to bombard Donetsk with artillery, as well as the hope of launching a counteroffensive on Yasinovataya and Donetsk. The Armed Forces of Ukraine have concentrated such significant forces here that the DPR army does not have time to move forward after the enemy is successfully weakened by artillery attacks, as it is literally swamped with resurgent enemy manpower. But even under such conditions, they have managed to sever the Avdeevka-Konstantinovka highway and significantly impair the enemy supply lines.
But the main Russian victory has taken place to the south, in the port city of Mariupol, which was cut off at the beginning of the war. The most combat-ready and motivated units of the Ukrainian Army and National Guard were surrounded and captured there. First and foremost, we are talking about the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment, whose backbone consisted of far-right militants. In addition to indoctrinating its own members, Azov was the main agent propagating ultra-right ideas in the entire Ukrainian army.
This was done through NCO courses, where, in addition to military subjects, emphasis was placed on ideology. This is one of the reasons for the ideological drift of the Ukrainian army, which surrendered Crimea without a fight in 2014 but has now managed to repel the Russians from Kiev.
The garrison in Mariupol, which later retreated to the Azovstal plant, became widely known both in Ukraine and around the world as an example of the resilience of Ukrainian soldiers. It seemed to everyone that these Neo-Nazis would fight steadfastly to the very end, like their heroes in the Waffen SS. Ukraine believed in them, and the Russians were forced to tie up significant forces in the area.
Heads of state, the Pope, and even the winners of Eurovision spoke about Mariupol. It turned out to be most inconvenient in the latter case: as soon as Ukraine won the song contest, the Azovstal garrison capitulated, as if it had an order to hold out until the final was completed.
Azov’s transformation from brutal far-right militants to the personification of Ukrainian resilience was risible. The West media coverage was also ridiculous, insisting that they were being ‘evacuated’, rather than captured. The Ukrainian leadership behaved like comedians, in asserting that the surrender was a ‘special operation’. Jokes flourished on the Russian internet, warning that the Azov had established a foothold in the Rostov-on-Don pre-trial detention center and an attack on the court area was imminent.
The situation surrounding the Ukrainian army, which received a lesson in how to treat POWs humanely from the Russians, was no joke. The worst thing here is that it received this education during the collapse of the frontlines in the area of Liman, Popasnaya, and Severodonetsk. And if, after cultivating military honor Azov’s members allowed themselves to be taken prisoner, then personnel manning garrisons caught in future ‘kettles’ or encirclements could surrender in good conscience too.
This threatens the Ukrainian strategy of turning the cities of Donbass into fortresses based on large industrial facilities. Due to the characteristics of the region, there are such complexes in every city, and they were built solidly, in anticipation of a nuclear war. It is possible to maintain a defense in them for a very long time – Azovstal is a precedent for this. But holing up like this is suicidal, as Ukrainian garrisons are quickly deprived of access to provisions, food, medicine, and ammunition. And now the Ukrainian leadership is unsure if its army is ready to stand to the end, since the best Ukrainian units have already refused to do so.
The scandal with Azovstal, whose members became national heroes only to be taken prisoner with the prospect of facing a military tribunal, is now complemented by appeals from various units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which are being sent First World War weapons – for example, Maxim machine guns – to take on advanced Russian tanks and aviation. Under these conditions, what is to prevent them from abandoning their positions without considering themselves deserters?
Ukrainian society has faced serious military defeats, and its motivation to continue the war is exhausted. Ukraine has already given up more than 5,000 Ukrainian military prisoners in Mariupol alone, and a new encirclement is on the way in Severodonetsk and Lisichansk. The Ukrainian government is now faced with a choice: surrender Donbass, save the army, and be faced with a revolt from patriotic forces who consider the surrender of Donbass a betrayal; or fight for Donbass to the last soldier, lose the army, and Donbass a little later, followed by other territories.
In reality, the situation is dire: By suffering defeats, Zelensky is losing the ability to lie to his Western allies about Ukraine’s readiness to fight if only it receivse more heavy weapons. What is the point of Britain or the United States giving Ukraine the most advanced weaponry if it is surrounded and falls into the hands of the Russian army, as has already happened with MANPADS and armored vehicles?
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