Amidst ongoing efforts to seek a resolution to the protracted conflict, Ukraine finds itself at a critical juncture, deliberating the possibility of extending an invitation to Russia for a future peace meeting
Day 531 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Kremlin's Top Target Kyrylo Budanov was on an Official Visit to Bulgaria
Day 531 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- The Kremlin's top target Kyrylo Budanov was on an official visit to Bulgaria
- Breakthrough: the Armed Forces of Ukraine carried out a landing on the left bank of the Dnieper near Kozachi Laheri
- The US no longer believes in serious progress by the Ukrainian forces
- Russian missiles hit the center of the Ukrainian city of Pokrovsk, there are casualties
- US approves first tanks for Ukraine and new package due to mistake in billions
- Poland accused Belarus and Russia of organizing a new migrant wave to the EU
- ISW: China is not Russia. Differences between Beijing and Moscow became apparent at the Jeddah talks
- Russia has half-emptied its largest warehouse of military equipment - in Buryatia
- Why the sanctions did not lead to the collapse of the Russian economy
The Kremlin's top target Kyrylo Budanov was on an official visit to Bulgaria
The head of Ukrainian intelligence, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, surprisingly turned out to be on an official visit to Bulgaria. This was made clear by a message from the Bulgarian military intelligence.
When Budanov arrived in the Balkan country and when he left is not clear for obvious reasons. He is in the top 3 of the most important targets for Russia together with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and the Chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi.
It is clear from the announcement of the Bulgarian military intelligence that he led a delegation and held meetings with the Minister of Defense Todor Tagarev and the director of the Military Intelligence Service, Brigadier General Venelin Venev.
In the course of the talks, the state of regional and international security, prospects for the development of the situation and other topics of mutual interest were discussed, according to the Bulgarian military intelligence.
Both sides gave a high assessment of the meetings held. In addition, the productivity of the talks was emphasized and satisfaction with the level of bilateral cooperation was expressed, the official announcement also reads.
It is also indicated that a question was raised from the Bulgarian side about the "Myrotvorets" list, which includes both Russian war criminals and pro-Russian propagandists. It also included Bulgarians glorifying Russian military aggression in Ukraine. According to the official announcement, the topic has been clarified, but no further details are given.
Only a few days ago, Budanov gave an interview to Bulgarian media bTV, in which he announced that he highly values the partnership with Bulgaria.
"Your country has given us a significant amount of weapons, but most importantly, it is increasing the production of new ammunition. As mentioned earlier, the needs are very great, and therefore for us, it is largely a matter of survival. Ukraine will always remember and will be grateful for the help your country, your leadership, has given us," he announced.
Breakthrough: the Armed Forces of Ukraine carried out a landing on the left bank of the Dnieper near Kozachi Laheri
Ukrainian forces have carried out a successful landing on the left bank of the Dnieper River near the village of Kozachi Laheri and have deployed a bridgehead there with a depth of 800 to 1000 meters inside the territory controlled by the Russians, Ukrainian and Russian sources said at the same time. Among the Russian channels that confirm the fighting on the left bank of the Dnieper is the usually well-informed "Rybar".
According to various sources, the fighting on the left bank of the river in the Kherson region has been going on for almost a day. The Ukrainian Air Force managed to carry out a landing with the help of two boats (their number according to Rybar is 7). The attack east of Kherson was a surprise for the Russians and, according to various sources, began two days ago, but the Ukrainians themselves did not report their success immediately for operational reasons.
Russian sources confirm that the AFU has presence on the left bank of the Dnipro near Kozachi Laheri. Although this is not yet supported by visual confirmation. For now, only the gray zone has widened west of Kozachi Laheri. There is no sign of a large Ukrainian troop presence. pic.twitter.com/TJba9C4TbR— NOELREPORTS ???????? ???????? (@NOELreports) August 8, 2023
The acting governor of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said that there had been an attempt to land with two boats, but the military from the Russian Dnieper group of troops had destroyed the boats when they tried to establish themselves on the left bank, and the Ukrainian fighters had ended up in the water and tried to save themselves by swimming but failed.
Saldo's claims are in complete dissonance with the operational environment described by pro-Kremlin military bloggers. They express concern about the situation, as the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) managed to create a bridgehead, move 800-1000 meters inland and even break through the first line of Russian defense. Neutral comments are that even if this is a small Ukrainian strike force, it will be useful on the left bank by forcing Russian troops to regroup.
OSINT channels claim that Kozachi Laheri is completely under Ukrainian control. Video recordings of the crossing of the river by small groups of AFU soldiers also appeared.
Ora che è confermata la presenza di una testa di ponte ???????? a Kozachi Laheri possiamo postare questo video.— OSINT-I (@OSINTI1) August 8, 2023
Nell'ultima settimana l'attività delle forze speciali ???????? in questo settore si è notevolmente intensificata, il che potrebbe indicare che sono in corso i preparativi per 1/ pic.twitter.com/v1Pe4GheDR
"Due to engaging the attention of other directions, the situation on the Dnieper went out of the public eye. For several months, the Armed Forces of Ukraine continued to conduct fire on the left bank, covering the actions of reconnaissance groups with cutters. But after the replacement of the units of the Airborne Forces, operating there for a long time, with new formations of the AFU intensified their attacks against the Russian positions. The goal in this case is simple - to take advantage of the inexperience and ignorance of the situation of the newcomers to create a bridgehead on the left beach", Rybar analyzes the situation.
According to the channel, during the night, 7 Ukrainian boats landed seven sabotage-reconnaissance groups of 6-7 people each after the activation of a smoke screen west of Kozachi Lageri. The groups used the replacement of the first line and struck from the flank, reaching the settlement on the banks of the Dnieper. The effect of unexpectedness and the delayed reaction of the Russians allowed the AFU to carry out the landing and reach the village without hindrance.
Russian bloggers also write about three AFU boats with 15 people each, which planned to establish an observation post on Domakhsky Island, but, subjected to artillery fire, the boats turned back.
The US no longer believes in serious progress by the Ukrainian forces
The likelihood that the Ukrainian army will make progress that will change the balance of the conflict is very small.
This was claimed by an anonymous Western diplomat to CNN.
According to him, Western officials are increasingly soberly assessing the ability of Kyiv's forces to regain a significant part of the occupied territories. He cited information from four senior US and Western European officials familiar with the intelligence.
"This is the most difficult time of the war," Democratic congressman Mike Quigley, who regularly attends briefings on the situation, told the program.
A major challenge for the Ukrainians is the long-term difficulties in breaking through the multi-layered Russian defense lines in eastern and southern Ukraine. There, Kyiv's forces suffered "catastrophic losses". This forced the Ukrainian command to stop some of its units, regroup them and reduce their numbers.
The US recognizes the difficulties that Ukraine is facing, but hopes that its troops will once again make progress, an American representative points out.
The lack of progress in places is one of the reasons why Ukrainian forces are striking Russian territory more often. Thus they demonstrate Russia's vulnerability.
Russian missiles hit the center of the Ukrainian city of Pokrovsk, there are casualties
Two Russian missiles hit the center of the Ukrainian city of Pokrovsk in the Donetsk region last night. 7 people were killed and over 27 were injured, announced the regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko.
The second rocket hit the Ukrainian-controlled city, near the front line, 40 minutes after the first, the regional governor said. Among the dead are two rescuers and one soldier. Many of the injured are also members of the rescue teams. The rockets completely destroyed the top floor of a 5-story residential building. Rescue operations continue. Other buildings were also damaged.
Horrible scenes coming from Pokrovsk, and what looks like a pattern. The Druzhba hotel, and nearby restaurant - which so many journalists & humanitarians frequent - were hit. Follows the attack on Rio pizza place in Kramatorsk another popular spot pic.twitter.com/iypGsFy9sI— Bel Trew (@Beltrew) August 8, 2023
Earlier, a senior Ukrainian official said the weekend talks in Saudi Arabia on the war in Ukraine represented a "big blow" to Russia and that the participants had agreed to hold another meeting of political advisers within six weeks. More than 40 countries, including China, India, the United States, European countries but not Russia, took part in the talks, which are seen as an attempt by Kyiv to build a wider coalition of countries to support its vision of peace.
President Volodymyr Zelensky presented a 10-point plan to serve as a basis for peace and an end to full-scale war. It includes the withdrawal of all Russian troops and the return of all Ukrainian territories under Kyiv's control.
The Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said that the consultations on Ukraine in Jeddah were not successful:
"Washington tried to present a beautiful picture of US support from the countries of the Global South in an attempt to isolate Russia. The notorious Kyiv 'peace formula' was not supported at all," Antonov said.
At the same time, they continue to push for the resumption of the grain deal
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview with the French radio station RFI that the US has done everything possible to resolve Russia's problems on the grain deal, and that the UN has sent Moscow a proposal to resolve the issues related to the Black Sea grain initiative, but the Russian Federation has not yet responded
For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has threatened to leave Russia without ships in the Black Sea if Kyiv is not allowed to export grain by water.
According to Zelensky, Ukraine "must find a way to end the blockade" in order to exercise "its right to export and import goods".
US approves first tanks for Ukraine and new package due to mistake in billions
The first batch of Abrams tanks that the United States is providing to Ukraine has been approved for shipment over the weekend, and the machines will arrive in early fall.
This was said on Monday by Doug Bush, the head of procurement in the army, CNN reported. "Now they have to get to Europe, and then to Ukraine, along with all the things that go with them. Ammunition, spare parts, fuel equipment, a repair base (...) These are not just tanks, but a complete package."
The US began training Ukrainians on tanks in May in Germany. 31 tanks were destined for Ukraine, which were in the process of being repaired and prepared for shipment for several months.
Initially, there was talk of sending the tanks by the end of the year or the beginning of the next, but the deadline was subsequently accelerated with the decision to transfer the older M1-A1 models instead of a more modern version.
The Abrams tank decision also gave way to approval from Berlin to send the German Leopards, although some observers believe that brigades without such Western equipment are doing better in the course of the counteroffensive.
Earlier, Reuters reported that the US was sending 0 million worth of weapons to Kyiv as part of the larger .2 billion freed up due to an error in calculating the value of military equipment.
In this package there are ammunition anti-aircraft complexes "Patriot", missiles for the rocket systems with salvo fire HIMARS and others.
These are the last of a .5 billion package the administration could use to provide weapons from the US stockpile in the event of a mistake under the so-called Presidential Drawdown Authority.
President Joe Biden's administration is currently working on a new package for Congress to consider this fall, Doug Bush says. That wasn't expected to happen until early next year, and some lawmakers in Congress feared the money for Ukraine could run out by midsummer. The reason this is not happening is mainly in the "mistake" for 6.2 billion dollars.
Poland accused Belarus and Russia of organizing a new migrant wave to the EU
Poland has accused Belarus and Russia of organizing a new wave of migrants to the European Union in an attempt to destabilize the region, AFP reported.
The head of Poland's border guard, General Tomasz Praga, has asked the defense ministry to send in 1,000 more troops, arguing that the Belarusian secret services have become an organized crime group that makes huge profits from illegal immigration.
19,000 people tried to illegally cross the Belarusian-Polish border in the first 7 months of this year. That's 3,000 more than in all of 2022.
The big crisis was in the summer of 2021, when Polish border guards stopped tens of thousands of people from the Middle East who had reached the border through Minsk.
ISW: China is not Russia. Differences between Beijing and Moscow became apparent at the Jeddah talks
The growing divergence between China and Russia over any agreement to end the war in Ukraine was evident at talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on August 5-6, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) analyzed in its latest report today.
Analysts quoted the Financial Times as saying that Chinese representatives at the meeting were "constructive" and "wanted to show that China is not Russia." The publication cited a European diplomat involved in the talks as saying that "the very presence of China shows that Russia is increasingly isolated."
The Chinese delegation in Jeddah has indicated its willingness to attend the next meeting in a similar format, which is also likely to exclude Russia. A Russian insider has claimed that Russia has rejected China's 12-point peace plan for the war in Ukraine since February 2023 (which the Chinese delegation presented again during the talks in Saudi Arabia) and that some Chinese elites are secretly expressing their displeasure with the move of the Russian leadership regarding the peaceful settlement of the war in Ukraine.
These reports of the Saudi talks and insider claims, if true, are consistent with ISW's previous assessments that China does not fully agree with Russia on the Ukraine issue and that Russia-China relations are not a "no-holds-barred partnership" as the Kremlin would like.
The Ukrainian delegation to the talks in Saudi Arabia presented a 10-point peace plan that reportedly includes calls for global food security, nuclear safety, environmental security, humanitarian aid and prisoner release.
The head of the administration of the Ukrainian president announced that all BRICS members except Russia - Brazil, India, China and South Africa - attended the negotiations. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the Ukrainian plan "a senseless ultimatum aimed at prolonging hostilities." In this way, Zakharova repeated the long-standing Russian information operation, which absurdly claims that Russia, unlike Ukraine, "has always been and will remain open to a diplomatic solution" to the war in Ukraine.
"The meeting in Jeddah is a slap in the face for Putin. The peace talks concerned the war between Ukraine and Russia, and they were conducted without the participation of Russia," said Russian political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin in an interview with Ukrainian media. "They were deeply offended in the Kremlin, but they don't want to show that offense," he adds.
Moscow's exclusion from the negotiations means, according to Oreshkin, that Russia not only lacks the ability to negotiate, but has also lost its value in the political arena.
On Sunday, the two-day peace talks on Russia's war with Ukraine, attended by 40 state representatives, ended in Jeddah. The meeting in Saudi Arabia was aimed at supporting the peace formula proposed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Russia has half-emptied its largest warehouse of military equipment - in Buryatia
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Russia has withdrawn more than 40 percent of Soviet tanks and combat vehicles from a warehouse in Vagzhanovo, Buryatia's largest base for military equipment, The Moscow Times reported, citing Google Earth satellite images.
Vagzhanovo is located near Ulan-Ude and occupies an area of about 13 square km.
In the five months before the Russian invasion, about 3,840 machines were stored in Vagzhanovo, and by May 2023, their number at the base had decreased to 2,270. Thus, in the last year and a half, about 1,570 tanks and combat vehicles were brought out, with the majority of the equipment (32%) leaving the base after the start of mobilization in September 2022.
According to the instructions of the Ministry of Defense, there are four categories for the storage of military equipment. The first - the most valuable equipment is stored in special ventilated and heated rooms, and the second - in unheated hangars. The third category is under tents, and the fourth - outdoors.
"Where there are tent sheds, there the equipment must at least be in motion. Under the open sky - it is not to be regretted," explains military expert Pavel Luzin.
In Vagzhanovo, the equipment was mainly stored outdoors. Photos from November 2022 show that about half of it was missing turrets or had other damage visible from the satellite. Similar signs can be seen on about half of the remaining equipment at the base as of May 2023. It also has 10 hangars that can hold up to 400 APCs.
Photos of tanks can be seen on the social networks of ex-servicemen from the base in Vagzhanovo. Military experts identify them as T-62 tanks, which were produced in the USSR from 1962 to 1975.
Before the war in Ukraine, Russia regularly got rid of obsolete armored vehicles: from 2014 to 2022, 35 contracts worth 232.2 million rubles were concluded. The number of contracts for the destruction of tanks began to decrease in 2017: at that time, General Alexander Shevchenko, head of the Main Department of Armored Equipment of the Ministry of Defense, said that instead of the previously planned 10,000 tanks, only four would be destroyed thousands. The rest may prove useful "due to changes in the international situation". In 2022, the Ministry of Defense terminated the conclusion of contracts for the disposal of military equipment.
Against the background of President Vladimir Putin's statements that some samples of old Soviet equipment are still superior to Western weapons, reports of the decommissioning of old Soviet equipment began to appear in the media. For example, in October 2022, the 103rd armored personnel carrier near Chita received an order for the modernization of 800 T-62 tanks. There they are equipped with additional protection, more advanced engines, as well as optoelectronic systems and thermal imaging cameras. Defense Minister Shoigu regularly visits enterprises that repair and modernize decommissioned equipment. Shoigu recently inspected Remdiesel in Tatarstan, and this year he visited plants in Nizhny Novgorod and Omsk regions.
According to the Dutch military analysis project Oryx, by the summer of 2023, Russia might have lost over 2,000 tanks in its war with Ukraine. But canned equipment is used not only to compensate for the loss of armored vehicles, but also to palliatively replace artillery, Luzin says.
"Furthermore, barrels and transmissions can be removed from the tanks from the warehouse for overhaul of active tanks and for the restoration of others already removed from the warehouse," continues the expert.
The de-conservation of old tanks is a worldwide practice: the entire US tank fleet is stored in the open, including thousands of M1 Abrams, another military expert says.
"We have at least 15 tank repair plants across the country that do deconservation and modernization. That means these tanks are inspected if necessary, engines and transmissions are replaced, the engine is looked at, modern instruments and sights are installed. Then they will be used as infantry support machines, not tanks. Calibers are different, old, but there are wagons with these shells in the warehouses," he explains.
Ukraine also uses old tanks: about half of the fleet of NATO weapons delivered to the Ukrainian Armed Forces is from 1950-1960, the expert emphasizes.
In an interview with Ukrainian blogger Volodymyr Zolkin, Russian prisoners of war constantly talk about the malfunction of armored vehicles. For example, one of them talks about the damage to the BMP, which has just returned from repairs. Another said that of the 15 tanks in his brigade, only five were operational, and equipment coming from the warehouse often arrived unusable, for example with non-functioning electronics.
Sometimes the modernization of tanks for the war in Ukraine seems quite exotic. Both the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Russian army in the second year of the war were forced to use hybrids of different equipment and home-made weapons. For example, Russia uses an MT-LB armored personnel carrier equipped with 2M-1 ship-mounted anti-aircraft turrets, which entered service in 1945. Obsolete tanks struck in Ukraine often show traces of unusual modifications designed to protect them from modern weapons.
Why the sanctions did not lead to the collapse of the Russian economy
Some left-wing politicians in Germany have recently remarked sarcastically that the sanctions against Russia have been a "total failure" and that the West has in fact been waging an "economic war against Russia". The reason for these statements were the economic forecasts of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for 2023 and 2024 announced at the end of July. According to them, the Russian economy will grow by 1.5% this year and by 1.3% in the next. At the same time, the IMF forecasts a decline of 0.3% for Germany's gross domestic product in 2023, writes the German public-law media ARD and raises the question of the effectiveness of sanctions against Russia.
University of Bremen economics professor Michael Rochlitz cautions that IMF data should not be analyzed without looking at last year's indicators. In 2022, Russia's real GDP has contracted by about 2.1 percent, and at the beginning of the year the IMF was still forecasting growth of about 3 percent. "This makes a total drop of about 5 percent, which is due to the sanctions," said Rochlitz, quoted by ARD.
Still, this is significantly less than expected. An important factor in this, according to the expert, is that the Russian economy has become very military-oriented. "There is a big increase in government spending in the defense sector", Rochlitz points out. "The big weapons factories are working around the clock to keep this resource-consuming war going".
This is also shown by the data of the state statistics "Rosstat". According to them, the biggest increase in June was in the production of metal and radar equipment. Another factor of economic growth is the construction industry. "A lot is being invested in repairing roads and rebuilding destroyed buildings in the Russian-occupied territories," says Rochlitz. According to the Russian media, at times there was even a shortage of cement, ARD points out.
According to Rohlitz, retail is also benefiting from Russia's war of aggression. Both soldiers and munitions factory workers receive relatively high wages. "This money in turn supports the retail sector in the factory and war zones."
According to the Reuters agency, Russia has doubled its defense spending this year, and it now accounts for a third of total government spending. In Germany, this share is around 10 percent. Rohlitz also notes that the positive development of the mentioned sectors hides the fact that in many other areas the sanctions have led to a sharp economic decline. The production of cars, for example, has decreased by more than 50 percent, and pharmaceuticals by more than 40 percent.
Vasiliy Astrov, senior economist at the Vienna Institute for International Economic Comparisons (WIIW), however, argues that the sanctions against the financial sector have not achieved their goal. "On the one hand, Russia was very well prepared for them, and on the other, the Russian Central Bank reacted very competently and on time. In this way, the financial panic was prevented and the processes were brought under control."
Exclusion from the international financial settlement system SWIFT did not come as a surprise to Russia, writes ARD. This measure was already discussed in 2014 after the illegal annexation of Crimea. In response, Russia has moved to conduct fewer trade transactions through the US dollar, writes political scientist Andreas Nölke. According to him, the share of Russian transactions in US dollars with China has fallen from about 90% in 2013 to below 50% in 2020. And those with India - from 95% to 20%.
In 2022, the Russian Central Bank managed to stop the depreciation of the ruble, as well as to stabilize the exchange rate to some extent. "I think the only thing the Russian government didn't expect was the freezing of the country's foreign exchange reserves," says Astrov. According to data from the European Union, around 300 billion euros of the central bank's assets are blocked in the EU and G-7 member states.
Russia was able to replace at least some of the products imported from the West with Chinese ones and find new buyers for its raw materials, albeit on significantly worse terms. For example, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in March of this year, Russia exported an average of 8.1 million barrels of oil per day to other countries. This is the largest amount since April 2020, ARD said. However, the drop in revenue is about 43% compared to the previous year.
It is also believed that since the beginning of the war, several hundred thousand skilled professionals, many of them from the IT sector, have left the country. "This is a big loss for Russia and will certainly affect the potential for economic growth in the coming years," predicted Astrov. Among other things, because of the sanctions, the Russian economy will develop much worse than it could. The middle class will be particularly affected, the economist believes. With few exceptions, Russia's share of world GDP has been steadily declining since 2008.
Expectations that the sanctions would end the war in the short term were overblown from the start, experts say. "Sanctions undoubtedly have an impact - they hurt the Russian economy," explains Rochlitz, quoted by ARD. "But they did not work to create any organized front against Putin's policies in the country".
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