Day 208 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky Promised the Offensive will Not Stop, the West is Watching how Russia will Respond

World » UKRAINE | September 19, 2022, Monday // 09:50
Bulgaria: Day 208 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky Promised the Offensive will Not Stop, the West is Watching how Russia will Respond @BNR

Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:

Zelensky urged the Ukrainian forces not to relax after the successful counter-offensive

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed there would be no let-up in the fight to regain territory lost to Russia after a senior US general warned it was unclear how Moscow would respond to its battlefield setbacks in Ukraine.

General Mark Milley, who chairs the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged vigilance, saying the war "is not going very well for Russia right now". He sees risks of escalation by the Kremlin amid Ukraine's successful counter-offensive. Russia may have expanded the locations it is prepared to strike in an attempt to undermine the spirit of the Ukrainian government and people, the British military has warned. The Russian army is conducting a campaign to recruit volunteers for the so-called from Moscow a "special military operation" in Ukraine by offering $3,000 monthly pay.

The Ukrainian army said yesterday that its forces had repelled attacks by Russian troops in areas of Kharkiv Oblast in the east and Kherson in the south, where Ukraine launched a counteroffensive this month, as well as in parts of Donetsk in the southeast.

In his late video address, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the sense of a lull in hostilities following the Ukrainian successes is currently false:

"It is possible that some of you now think that after a number of victories we have some kind of lull, but this is not the case. This is preparation for the next line, the next line, very important words for us, which must sound at any cost, because Ukraine must be free, all of it. Izyum, Balakliia, Kupyansk and Kharkiv region - cities and towns that we have liberated - these words sound, sound everywhere. Mariupol, Melitopol and Kherson are also heard, but they will be heard more often and strong when we liberate them".

Vatican envoy under fire in Ukraine while delivering aid

A high-ranking Vatican envoy and his entourage came under fire while delivering humanitarian supplies to Ukraine, the Vatican Information Service said Sunday, but there were no reports of casualties, the AP reported.

The incident happened near the city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday and forced Vatican envoy Cardinal Konrad Krajewski and others to take cover.

"For the first time in my life, I didn't know where to run. Because it's not enough to run, you have to know where to go," said the Polish-born cardinal.

Russian shelling hit towns and villages across a wide swath of Ukraine overnight, officials said Sunday, and Britain's Ministry of Defense warned that Russia was likely to increase its attacks on civilian targets as it suffered defeats on the battlefield.

"Over the past seven days, Russia has increased its attacks on civilian infrastructure even where it likely sees no immediate military effect," the ministry said in an online briefing. “As it faces setbacks on the front lines, Russia has likely expanded the places it is willing to hit in an effort to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government."

On Saturday, Russian shelling killed four medics trying to evacuate a psychiatric hospital in the Kharkiv region, Governor Oleg Sinekhubov said. Two patients were injured in the attack in Strelecha village, he said.

During the night, shelling also affected a hospital in the city of Mykolaiv, an important Black Sea port, regional governor Vitaly Kim announced. According to him, there was also shelling in other parts of the region, and two people were injured.

Four EU countries closed their borders to Russians

Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland banned the entry of Russians from September 19, including those with Schengen visas issued by third countries. This is reported on the website of the Estonian government.

"Together with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, we have decided to introduce general restrictions on tourism for Russian citizens to protect public order and security," Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said. "Russia has brought war to Europe and is using all tools to undermine our societies. As border states of the EU, we must keep Europe safe. It is currently not possible to ensure that Russian citizens entering the EU through Estonia do not pose a security threat. A regional agreement was reached and we will now continue to work to limit tourism for Russian citizens throughout the European Union."

"Traveling to the European Union is a privilege, not a human right. While the people of Ukraine are being tortured, killed and terrorized, the citizens of the aggressor state should not be able to enjoy the benefits of the free world. We will no longer allow Russian tourists to cross our border, visiting family living in Estonia will remain among the exceptions," Kallas said. This was also emphasized in the joint statement of the Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland today.

Currently, 49,804 valid visas have been issued by Estonia to Russian citizens. Of these, 47,998 were short-term resident visas and 1,805 were long-term resident visas. The purpose of the trip was tourism in 19,285 cases and visiting family and friends in 20,389 cases.

Other countries issue more than three million Schengen visas per year, valid for up to five years and allowing multiple entries into the Schengen area. In 2019, the last before the pandemic, Finland issued the most visas (almost 780 thousand), followed by Spain (570 thousand), Italy (550 thousand), France (480 thousand) and Greece (407 thousand).

According to the restrictions, which came into effect from 00:00 on Monday, Russians are no longer allowed into four European countries for tourism purposes. It is noted that the entry ban does not apply to all Russian citizens. It will continue to be possible for Russian citizens visiting family members or the other parent of minor children living in Estonia on a valid legal basis. Exemptions will continue to apply to diplomats; Russian citizens with a short-term visa and registered work in Estonia or with a student visa, as well as for people directly employed in the international transport of goods and passengers. Exceptional entry is also permitted for humanitarian reasons and for dissidents. Transit without delay is also allowed for people who need to travel through Estonia to reach their country of residence. Exceptions will also apply when crossing the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets said the country has already imposed a sanction on Russian citizens holding a Schengen visa issued by Estonia, but this does not prevent Russian citizens with a Schengen visa issued by other countries from traveling here or using Estonia for transit.

"In view of the EU sanction banning air traffic, the eastern border of Estonia is becoming a transit hub. While in February 10,477 Russian citizens crossed the eastern border of Estonia, this number increased to over 26,500 in July, and in in the summer months, an average of over 1,000 people cross the border per day. In addition to its own internal security, Estonia, a country with external borders, is responsible for the entire Schengen area and the mass travel of Russian citizens poses an increased security threat under the current circumstances. Each country has the right to close its borders for security reasons and temporarily limit crossing the border," added the minister.

The European Union, imposing restrictions on the entry of Russians, "continues to simply lock its cage from the inside and isolate itself both from Russia and the rest of the world, complicating business and personal relations between the peoples of the European continent, in the Eurasian space, violating the principles of freedom of movement, which are documented in OSCE documents," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on September 8. The Kremlin promised a "serious response" of Russia against the actions by the EU.

Zelensky promised that the offensive will not stop, the West is watching how Russia will respond

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed there would be no interruption in the offensive to regain control of Russian-occupied territories after Kyiv said its troops were already on the east bank of the Oskil River, key to Kharkiv Oblast, threatening Russian occupation forces in Donbas.

The Oskil crossing is seen as another key moment in Ukraine's counter-offensive in the northeastern region, as it runs south to the Siverskyi Donets River, which runs right through Luhansk Oblast, one of two administrative units in Donbas that pro-Russian separatists declared eight years ago years as independent "republics".

Ukrainian troops "took over Oskil. As of yesterday, Ukraine controls the eastern coast," the Ukrainian armed forces wrote on Telegram late Sunday. Sergey Gaidai, governor of Luhansk Oblast, wrote on Telegram: "Luhansk Oblast is next door. De-occupation is not far away."

Earlier, at a base in Poland, the top US general warned on Sunday that it remained unclear how Russia might respond to its latest battlefield setbacks and called for heightened vigilance among US troops.

The remarks of General Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was a reminder of the risks of intensifying the conflict, commented "Reuters". "The war is not going very well for Russia at the moment. So it is important for all of us to maintain a high level of alertness," Milley said in Warsaw after visiting the Ukraine aid base, whose location journalists were asked not to reveal.

Milley reviewed the base's air defenses, which include Patriot missile batteries deployed as a defense should Russia decide to attack the base, risking war with the US-led NATO military alliance. Milley emphasized that he does not believe American troops in Europe are under increased threat but said they must be ready. "In warfare, you just don't know with a high degree of certainty what's going to happen next."

US President Joe Biden also said victory for Ukraine meant Russian forces would leave the entire country and pledged US support for as long as needed. "Winning the war in Ukraine is getting Russia out of Ukraine completely and recognizing its sovereignty. They are defeating Russia," he said in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday. "Russia is proving to be less competent and capable than many people thought it would be."

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the army was not yet retaliating decisively against the Ukrainian actions. But Russian artillery continued to pound towns and villages along the front lines in the east and south on Sunday, including civilian infrastructure in the city of Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainian officials said, whose claims are difficult to verify independently.

In Poland, Gen. Milley was also briefed on the billions of dollars in arms maintenance aid provided by the US. Some members of the roughly 50-strong repair team showed reporters images of damaged US-supplied weapons, including M777 howitzers, which in the West would long have been considered pointless to repair. Not in Ukraine either. "They don't want to scrap them," said one soldier, recalling guns damaged by shrapnel and sometimes completely worn out from firing on Russian troops. But the Ukrainians managed to get those weapons back into battle, thanks to instructions from US forces and Kyiv's manufacturing power, which allows it to create spare parts through so-called reverse engineering approach.

Ukraine's Southern Command said on Monday that a radar station near Kherson and a pontoon bridge near Nova Kakhovka east of Kherson were also hit, where the Ukrainian counteroffensive has focused on destroying bridges over the Dnieper and Ingulets rivers.

Western military analysts such as the Australian Mick Ryan point out that there is a lot going on in Ukraine right now and one should not rush to firm conclusions until there is enough information or stabilization of the changed situation. It is also disputed whether the Ukrainian success was in fact due to initial weaknesses of Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, and to what extent Moscow viewed this section of the front as very important.

"The big picture is that Russia seems to have lost the initiative at every level. But there is also an interesting story about the planning of the campaign in Ukraine. The offensive in the northeast continues to exploit the clumsy and inconsistent Russian defensive scheme east of Kharkiv. Thousands of square kilometers of Ukrainian territory have been recaptured, and many towns and their inhabitants have been liberated," wrote Mick Ryan, who is a former Australian soldier who days ago returned from a visit to Kyiv.

"Even the defensive line on the Oskill River, quickly established by the Russians, appears to be crumbling," he added on Sunday. His Ukrainian military source indicated that Russian tactical intelligence in eastern Ukraine was poor and generally consisted of "advancing to contact" with infantry and armored vehicles rather than using special air and ground reconnaissance assets.

"This does not mean that Ukraine's operations in the south were a hoax. They were not, and this was confirmed to me recently by a senior Ukrainian military official involved in the preparation of the plans. The north and the south are mutually supportive offensives in a larger operational plan," explains Ryan.

In some areas of the front in Donbas, Russian troops are attacking, despite the complete retreat. This is a well-known element of tactical action - the advancing enemy must be attacked in order to force him to slow down, draw defense forces that he would otherwise need elsewhere, and thus buy time to leave the area without panic.

Зеленски обеща офанзивата да не спира, Западът следи как ще отвърне Русия

A Russian-speaking analyst popular in the West claims that the success of the Kharkiv offensive is also due to the fundamental problems of the Russian group in Ukraine. The defeat near Izyum is a logical development and we can expect a repetition of such an offensive in the near future, says the author, known as Jan Matveev.

According to him, what happened in the Kharkiv region was the result of a combination of gross mistakes and unsolved problems in the Russian army:

  • Lack of unified command
  • Supply problems
  • Lack of replenishment with fresh forces
  • Weak preparation of the army
  • Tactical mistakes

"Let's start with the fact that this is not the Russian army, this is some military group in which the army does not command everywhere and not always. For some, war is work for money and pleasure (the private military companies), for others it is a forced duty (the units of the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics), others have no idea what they are doing here (the army), and the ‘Rosgvardiya’ (gendarmerie and internal units) may be well motivated, but in itself it is not very combat-capable," he writes.

"Therefore, it is difficult to expect good cooperation between these groups. Will Prigozhin works under the orders of some general? He answers personally to Putin, then who is his commanding general? Or OMON (anti-riot units ) - they answer to Viktor Zolotov (the head of ‘Rosgvardia’), their losses are not even counted in the army. Therefore, there are gaps in communication, slow reaction and lack of flexibility."

In his analysis of the situation, he also asks "How would you throw Rosgvardia against enemy tanks? And will PMC Wagner die for some DPR platoon? A fragmented army is always a big problem."

According to him, the poor supply situation of the Russian army, in general, has been discussed many times, but specifically, in the area of ​​the Ukrainian offensive, the situation was particularly unfavorable. "The Oskil River limits the transfer of goods - there are only three possible places to cross it. And the railway only goes to Kupyansk. The roads to Izyum and Balakliia were easily closed by Ukrainian artillery, in recent months the Ukrainian armed forces have been actively destroying warehouses with shells, and generally, there was less ammunition".

Зеленски обеща офанзивата да не спира, Западът следи как ще отвърне Русия

Biden: The US will continue to support Kyiv

The Covid-19 pandemic in the United States is over, US President Joe Biden said in an interview with CBS television.

On the issue of the war in Ukraine, the US president said that Washington will continue to support Kyiv as long as it needs it. Biden also appealed to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, not to use chemical or nuclear weapons in hostilities.

American forces will defend Taiwan in the event of a possible Chinese invasion, Biden also said. According to him, Washington will stick to its policy of considering the island as part of China. According to a White House official, the authorities have not changed their view.

And on the question of the possibility of running for a second term in the presidential election in two years, Biden said that he has not yet made a decision. He had previously announced that he would be running.

Ukraine may win the war by spring

If the flows of weapons and non-lethal equipment continue, Ukraine can win the war and regain its territories by the beginning of spring, the journalist Christo Grozev from the investigative group Bellingcat predicted on Nova TV.

The Russian military is complaining about the lack of warm clothes and equipment, asking people to help them. Obviously, there are big problems with the logistics and financing of the Russian army, and with the corruption that leads to the lack of such basic things”, explained Grozev.

According to him, Ukraine continues to receive aid for non-lethal weapons and tools. "The question is whether this gambit that Russia is currently playing with the gas threats will lead to a halt in the flow of aid in the winter. That is the main factor," he pointed out.

Grozev predicts that if the flows of weapons and non-lethal equipment continue, it is possible that Ukraine will win the war and regain its territories by early spring.

According to informed sources, Putin's task is to gather about 50-60,000 new soldiers, the journalist added. "Currently, there are about 5 private companies that are engaged in the recruitment of soldiers. There are about 5,000 people who have been recruited as mercenaries from the prisons so far," explained Grozev.

According to him, in the last few weeks there has been an internal struggle in Russia between extreme right-wing and nationalist forces who want mobilization.

"For now, this is not in Putin's interest, since in the big cities they live with the illusion that there is no war. The war is felt in the Far East, in the poor regions, where most of the contract soldiers come from", he explained and added that the recruitment of prisoners with heavy sentences, against a promise that after 6 months of participation in the war, they would be put simply, it is covert mobilization.

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