Latest on Ukraine | Updates from the CDA Institute’s Ukraine Correspondents
The following essays are part of a series of publications by our colleagues Myroslova Zabotnova and Marharyta Miahka who join the CDA Institute team from exile in Germany. The two are lecturers at the National Guard Military Academy of Ukraine in Kharkiv. We are honoured to have them with us and thankful for their willingness to share these difficult stories. From the deepest of our hearts, we wish them a prompt return to normalcy and a reunion with their loved ones.
1/4 | Draw attention away from the Russian-Ukrainian war
The beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian War provoked the other military conflicts to resume. What is interesting is that these conflicts one way or another are connected in some way with the Russian Federation, namely in that these countries are supported through policy and strategic communication. Since the 24th of February, when the Russian Federation attempted to occupy Ukraine and overthrow Ukraine’s legal government, countries such as, The People’s Republic of China (PRC), Serbia, and Armenia have renewed their military operations against other states – all of which have their long and disputed story between parties.
It is obvious that the Armenian government will support the Russian Federation in their war against Ukraine so long as Armenia will continue to be supported by the Russian Federation regarding their long-standing territorial conflict against Azerbaijan. While from the 24th of February, Armenia and Azerbaijan engaged in disputes, the period of active engagement on the border began again on the 12th of September. The Armenian government has stressed that bombardments committed by Azerbaijan’s army on their shared border is unacceptable, while the Azerbaijan government argues that Armenia is preparing to renew their conflict instead because they are relocating their army, ammunition and artillery along the border. Furthermore, Nikol Pashinyan, the Armenian Prime Minister had a personal phone call with Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation to discuss these urgent issues. However, it is unlikely that Armenia would get active support from the Russian Federation so long as the Russian Federation continues to lose previously occupied territories it once held in Ukraine.
Another conflict that has renewed because of the Russian-Ukrainian War is the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo. This conflict can be easily manipulated by the Russian Federation as a means to draw attention away from the Russian-Ukrainian War, especially considering that on the 31st of July, a number of armed conflicts arose in the eastern part of Kosovo. While Kosovo has stopped reacting to Serbian provocations as a result of negotiations with the West, unfortunately, this conflict has not ceased and can be reignited at any time.
Both Serbia and Armenia’s conflicts are influenced by the Russian Federation. This has been seen through decades of Russian propaganda and the Russian Federation using strategic communication that depicts them as the most powerful and influential state in the world.
While it is questionable if the PRC would support the Russian Federation, the PRC does have a personal interest in the hostilities between the Russian Federation and the United States, especially considering the PRC’s interest in obtaining Taiwan. The emaciated state of both the United States and the Russian Federation economically and morally to the PRC can give the PRC the advantage globally against these two countries. But the possibility of a full-ranged war between the PRC and Taiwan can easily escalate to a full world war since Taiwan will be aided by Japan and South Korea. Ukraine has offered to support Taiwan through sending personnel if requested.
Other conflicts that the Russian Federation is involved in can be used as leverage to draw attention away from the Russian-Ukrainian War. However, it is in Russia’s best interest to refreeze all the conflicts they are involved in in order to focus solely on Ukraine.
2/4 | Mobilization
More than 210 days of the Russian-Ukrainian war are behind us. For all those days, the Russian Federation’s army has been trying to cope with their situation by using only actual career troops. According to the Russian government, their army has only lost no more than 6,000 personnel, but numbers provided by Ukraine show these casualties to be much higher – no less than 56, 000 have died since the beginning of the war. Even so, Russian propaganda argues numerous times about the possibility to conduct the mobilization of their reserve officers who would be glad to join the front lines.
On the 21st of September, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree for the whole Russian Federation territory. The decree (which was published on the Internet) included several points related with mobilization – particularly, a masked 7th point according to Russian insiders point out that the quantity of reservists total to about “1, 000, 000 people”. However, this mobilization is not going the way that is required by the Russian government but is still active.
Since the 21st of September, thousands of men have already left the Russian Federation’s territory – mostly for Georgia, Indonesia, and Turkey. Sometimes, they go further, often to other European countries that still accept Russian tourists. Unexpectedly, there have been peaceful strikes against mobilization all over the country, namely in Moscow and Saint Peterborough. These strikes saw many people arrested and as a result, summoned to the Russian army. This haste in mobilization proves the real situation on the battlefields – namely in that mobilizing more troops, Russia aims to strengthen their position in the occupied territories before the winter, especially since the Ukrainian counter-offensive continues to deoccupy their territories.
Russian internet users began writing negative comments that condemn the actions of their government. This reflects that the problem is not only in mobilization itself but on the same day of the mobilization order, the largest exchange of prisoners of war between Ukraine and the Russian Federation also occurred. According to Azov personnel, this exchange included Ukraine exchanging 55 military officers and President Putin’s personal friend (who had baptized his daughter in the 2000s), and Ukrainian ex-politician Medvedchuk for 215 Ukrainian warriors.
The ISW suggests that this exchange was conducted at the same time with the mobilization order in order to decrease interest in the prisoner exchange. However, people in the Russian Federation are aware, smelling the stink in that so-called “special military option”.
3/4 | NATO – Request by Ukraine
The Russian Federation has announced several reasons which influenced its decision to launch the war or so called “special operation” against Ukraine – a sovereign country. One reason is that Ukraine is seeking to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which currently includes thirty other countries. Shortly after independence, Ukraine took the first steps towards NATO inclusion such as joining the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1992 and signing NATO’s framework “Partnership for Peace” in 1994, which was later followed by the Individual Partnership Action Plans. But, while Ukraine has openly expressed about their desire to enter NATO for personal security and military development, Ukraine has still not applied to become a full NATO member.
On September 30th, 2022, the President of Ukraine – Volodymyr Zelenskyi announced that Ukraine is preparing its application to enter NATO as quickly as possible. This is a direct reaction against the illegal referendums held on Ukrainian territories of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhian regions that precluded their annexation into Russia. These regions have also been occupied by the Russian Federation in 2014 and as recently as 2022.
Immediately, NATO reacted to the Ukrainian announcement by gathering on the same day. While the world is still waiting for the rest of the decisions that were made during the meeting, NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, other NATO countries, alongside recent NATO applicants Finland and Sweden announced that NATO will not recognize the legitimacy of these annexations and “reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity”. That illustrates that the Ukrainian request will be accepted and discussed. However, the required time for NATO accession is uncertain and can take more than the war itself.
These recent developments, (involvement of NATO and IAEA, speeches from the U.S President, EU financial help) demonstrate that the Western partners are ready to support Ukraine until full territorial sovereignty is restored as outlined in Ukraine’s constitution that was ratified in August of 1991. While at this meeting, NATO did not express the desire for direct involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian war, it remains unlikely for Ukraine to get NATO membership before the war ended. Nevertheless, with the recent EU lethal weapons purchases (which costed around 2.5 billion Euros) similar 12 million USD purchases by the U.S government shows that there is a greater issue that Western leaders are preoccupied with – that despite continuing to support Ukraine with actual weaponry, they are also preparing to protect themselves.
4/4 | The Russian Army is going to Continue its Path of Occupation
After almost 6 months of war between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, at least 10% of Ukraine’s territory is occupied by the Russian Army. The largest part of the occupied region has been under Russian Army control since 2014.
From information provided by the Ukrainian government, since July 27th, approximately 321 communities are temporarily occupied and considered to be areas with combat activity. These communities are located in nine regions (oblasts) – Donetsk (66 communities), Kharkiv (56 communities), Dnipropetrovsk (7 communities), Luhansk (37 communities), Zaporozhzhia (55 communities), Kherson (49 communities), Mykolaiiv (25 communities), Sumy (21 communities), and Chernihivska (5 communities). Crimea – despite being occupied since 2014 – is not an exception.
Unfortunately, while improvement is minimal for the Ukrainian Army, the same can be said for the Russian Army, as they have not advanced any further into the country.
Moreover, the Russian Army continues to increase the amount of military personnel in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. This could signify that the Russian Army plans to conduct an offensive attack in order to occupy more territories, including big cities like Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia – of whom have kept their original borders since the start of the war. Despite Russia’s efforts, Ukraine’s Armed Forces and the National Guard of Ukraine have continued their brave resistance against the occupants.
It is obvious that the Russian Federation is focused on attempting to occupy the entirety of the Kharviv oblast and city, which borders territories that have access to both the Azov Sea and the Black Sea.
Increasing the number of Russian military personnel into the temporarily occupies territories gives the Russian Army a possibility to achieve their primary strategic goal – which is to cut Ukraine off from their trade routes at the seas. This would be a catastrophe for agricultural exports like corn. Currently, there are agreements between the Russian Federation and Turkey (acting as an intermediator) regarding these issues. Nevertheless, Russia chose to break this agreement before the first cargo ship set sail, as it chose to bomb the Ukrainian city Odessa. Not only was Odessa near to the port where the cargo ship was located, but Russia failed to achieve their goal since the ship was still able to leave port the next day.
However, it still remains impossible to calculate the amount of corn, seasonal fruits, and berries that are illegally being transported to the Russian Federation. Normally, these goods are exported to the EU.
Myroslava is currently pursuing a PhD in Philology at the Borys Grinchenko Kyiv University. She is a lecturer at the National Academy of the National Guard of Ukraine since 2013. Myroslava Zabotnova deals with political discourse, internet memes, and strategic communication.