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.
1/3 | Work of Russian Sabotage-Reconnaissance Groups on the territory of Ukraine
Russian Sabotage-Reconnaissance Groups (SRG) have been tracking the movements and locations of people, strategic objects, and places in Ukraine, with special attention to the location of mass public gatherings under orders by the Russian Federation. According to the Ukrainian authorities and detected by disclosed groups, there had been numerous SRGs located in Ukraine for over a year before February 24th 2022. Though some SRGs came earlier, many more entered the country in the first days of war by illegally crossing Ukrainian borders with the help of the Russian Army.
The SRG’s tasks consist of targeted bombings and shelling attacks on Ukraine. From the early days, people throughout Ukraine noticed many signs made by special reflective paint that was only visible at night. Most were in the form of a cross (X). These symbols were painted on the walls and roofs of houses and on the roads near military and tactical institutions. In only two months (February and March) Ukrainians had mastered how to effectively detect the signs of SRGs and efficiently get rid of them. Having learned about the active work of SRGs, military personnel and police officers began secretly investigating these groups. Ukrainian civilians also assisted in detecting SRGs. This was achieved through the analysis of speech peculiarities, the length of stay in neighbouring houses, odd activities, etc. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, some SRGs are too difficult to spot as they are deeply rooted and hidden in the territory of Ukraine.
Currently, there is clear evidence that reveals the results of SRGs activity – direct hits on the educational institutions across the country, military establishments such as the Yavoriv Combat Training Center, nuclear power plants, and cornfields. There have also been attacks on places where there are mass gatherings such as city malls populated with many women and children during the day (such as Khremenchuk on the 28th of June with more than 18 deaths, and Vinitsa on the 14th of July with more than 20 deaths).
Several SRGs are located in the Western parts of Ukraine, some of which have since been found and arrested. According to the information provided by insiders, there are preparations set for a massive attack on strategic institutions between July and the beginning of August in Western Ukraine. The goal of the Russian Federation to terrify and warn the EU and NATO can be seen at the border with Poland. Through these actions, the Russian government demonstrates their desire to hinder the international support of Ukraine.
2/3 | Partisan Movements on Occupied Ukrainian Territories Can Ruin Plans for Russian Occupants
The Russian Federation is working to “legalize” its presence on the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine (Melitopol, Mariupol, Kherson, and other regions). In the Southern part of Ukraine, Russia plans to carry out pseudo referendums at gunpoint with the hope that it will forward their agenda. The government of the Russian Federation does not appear to be phased by the fact that the majority of the population of the temporarily occupied territories are radically against the Russian occupiers which demonstrates the power of pro-Ukrainian ideas and values.
Nearly all the large cities in the occupied South have conducted peaceful demonstrations against the Russian occupation. Such events occurred in Ukraine including, but not limited to; Kherson, Enerhodar, and Melitopol. However, it was in Mariupol where the Russian Army committed mass atrocities. According to the preliminary data in Mariupol, there were more than 20 thousand civilians slaughtered including women, children, and infants. Unfortunately, due to the intentional efforts of the occupiers to hide the quantity of victims slaughtered, it is impossible to determine the number of civilian deaths.
Even with the constant threats of being shot at, large demonstrations were held in Kherson and Kherson region, which took place on the fifth day of the occupation. These demonstrations were met with weapons and smoke bombs set off by the military occupiers of the Russian Federation. No-one from the collaborative and occupational authorities expected to face such a powerful offensive resistance from untrained civilians, yet the dedicated and brave Ukrainians responded promptly.
Currently, Ukrainian citizens are afraid to wake up in a so-called quasi-state, “KNR” (Kherson National Republic), which would be run by the occupiers. There is ample evidence provided by the Ukrainian government that the government of the Russian Federation invoked kidnappings in addition to illegal detentions of pro-Ukrainian bloggers, politicians, and citizens. There remains some optimism as according to the mayor of the occupied Melitopol Ivan Fiedorov, “on the territories of temporally occupied southern territories of Ukraine there is an increasing number of the people involved in an active partisan movement”.
Nevertheless, there is a strong determination and seriousness by the the Russian Federation to prepare and carry out illegal referendums on the mentioned territories. This is clearly indicated by an announcement made by the Chairman of the ruling political party of the Russian Federation “United Russia”. Andrei Turchak referenced the possible unification of quasi-states LNR (Luhans National Republic) and DNR (Donetsk National Republic) with recently occupied Kherson, Kherson Region, and Zaporoshska Region, to form “one united district”. This suggestion posed by Turchak was completely supported by the State Duna of the Russian Federation.
Another strong indication of the implementation of these plans is the resignation of the DNR quasi-state’s pseudo-leader, Denis Pushylin. This can testify to the Kremlin’s preparations to introduce manual control. According to the illegal government of the occupied territories the proposed time frame to conduct the referendums is set for Autumn 2022.
3/3 | “To join or not to join the war– that is the question”.
Another training drill by the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus took place near the Ukrainian border. This has been declared the foundation of the “Southern Operational Command” by the military government of the country. According to the self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, it is counterweight to the possible appearance of a “new battle-front in the Ukrainian direction”. Also announced was the creation of a “People’s Army” (similar in their functions with the Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine). It appears that the Republic of Belarus isstrengthening its defensive capabilities considering Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Insiders provided information which revealed that the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Belarus had purchased twenty thousand identification badges for military personnel. Additionally, a meeting was held between the self-proclaimed President of the Republic of Belarus and the President of the Russian Federation. This may indicate one more attempts to bring Belarus into the war against Ukraine. However, there remains a possibility for Belarus to show some consideration for Ukraine. The self-proclaimed President of the Republic of Belarus had previously made the right conclusions as it played the role of the mediator and did not recognize Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian Crimea in 2014 and again when he (Alexander Lukashenko) initiated the so called law “About Little Green Men” in a year after aggressive events on the territory of Ukraine. This law allowed for the possibility to impose martial law in the Republic of Belarus if there are “any irregulated powers presented by another country on the territory of Belarus such as armed groups and banded forces”. The response to the internal and external circumstances led to the expulsion of the main opponent of Alexander Lukashenko – Sergei Tikhanovsky. Consequently, this led to the suppression of civil protests in 2020. Many of the repressed opposition leaders and representatives of the protests are now actively fighting on the side of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Two of the latest facts calls into question the true rational behind the formation of the People’s Army in the Republic of Belarus. In fact, the troops of the Russian Federation are not only currently partially located on the territory in the Republic of Belarus but Ukraine has recorded numerous missiles launched by Russian military personnel from the territory of the Republic of Belarus. The Republic of Belarus has been and continues to be a bridgehead for the Army of the Russian Federation in the war against Ukraine.
There is indication that the self-proclaimed President of the Republic of Belarus is taking into account the potential for ramifications on his country. According to the speech presented by Alexander Lukashenko at the end of May – “The situation in Ukraine is the scenario which could be implemented on the territory of the Republic of Belarus”. Thus, the question is – what country is expected to pose that threat?
According to the Ukrainian news agency “UNIAN”, the Republic of Belarus transfers its armoured fighting vehicles to the boarders of Ukraine from ther Volyn Region. This is not the first redeployment of combat equipment by Belarus and it seems it will not be the last. The actions implemented by Alexander Lukashenko still does not provide solid proof that they are ready to join the war. These movements fall short to indicate a desire to show the readiness of Belarus to fully support the President of the Russian Federation. Furthermore, there remains a hesitation by the Republic of Belarus to join a war that would not bring any benefits to the country itself.