Day 345 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Speculations about a Peace Plan and an End to the War

World » UKRAINE | February 3, 2023, Friday // 13:04
Bulgaria: Day 345 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Speculations about a Peace Plan and an End to the War

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

Fight against corruption and crisis PR: Arrests and dismissals of officials continue in Ukraine

The leadership and officials of the Odesa Regional Military Administration have been found guilty of misappropriating more than 7 million hryvnias (about 350 thousand BGN) from the state budget when purchasing food products for the Armed Forces of Ukraine (VSU). This has revealed an investigation under the procedural leadership of the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine.

A statement from the State Prosecutor's Office says that charges have been brought in the case for misappropriation of funds in particularly large amounts (Part 5 of Article 191 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). Among those under investigation are the former deputy head of the Odesa Regional Military Administration, the head of one of the directorates and the head of one of the departments, as well as the director of a commercial company.

The pre-trial investigation is carried out by the Main Directorate of the National Police of Ukraine.

According to the police, 500 million hryvnias were allocated to purchase products for the military and another 106 million for equipment and uniforms for territorial defense units and volunteer formations. Officials bought the goods at prices much higher than market prices, and the resulting difference was distributed among all participants. On just one of the contracts for the purchase of products, the group earned more than 7 million hryvnias.

"In April 2022, on only one contract concluded with a company that was under the control of the group, for the purchase of products for 40 million hryvnias, the profit on the difference in value reached seven million. But the amount of appropriated budget funds can be many times larger, so the work of the investigators continues," Acting Head of the National Police of Ukraine Ivan Vikhivsky, quoted by "Suspilne".

"I know the people, my duties include technical, accounting and warehouse reporting, I did not conduct negotiations, you have no evidence," said one of the defendants at the time of the accusations.

Machinery with land for 25 million hryvnias

On the same day, the Security Service of Ukraine made several arrests in anti-corruption actions. A land fraud for 25 million hryvnias was revealed in the port of "Chernomorsk". Officials involved in the case have been charged, the Strategic Investigations Department of the National Police announced on February 2.

According to the investigation, the officials removed from the state property plots located in the water area of the Black Sea port. Without the approval of the Council of Ministers, they gave permission and approved the land development project for the allocation of a land property with an area of 0.9 hectares in the water area of the Dry Lyman. This plot of land was later illegally transferred into a mortgage for the construction of facilities. As a result of the illegal expropriation of the plot, the state suffered losses in the amount of almost 25 million hryvnias, about 1.2 million leva.

Charges have been brought against the former first deputy head of the water agency and former former deputy minister of the environment and natural resources, as well as the former mayor of Chernomorsk, according to "Suspilne" it is Valery Khmelnyuk, the former deputy head of the regional department of the State Cadastre in the Dnipropetrovsk region and the former head of the department of the State Water Agency.

A purge in customs, the cabinet released the entire leadership

Earlier this week on Wednesday, the head of the parliamentary faction of the Servant of the People party, David Arahamia, announced the dismissal of the entire management staff of the State Customs Service. Ukrainian publications claim that the Council of Ministers dismissed the acting head of Ukrainian customs and two of his deputies. One of his deputies refused to write a resignation letter and went on sick leave.

There is both determination and a significant component of crisis PR and showmanship in the actions of the Kyiv authorities. Arahamia himself, against whom there were publications about income hidden in his official declarations, announced on Telegram on Wednesday "what is coming today": searches in the tax department, serving of charges on senior defense officials, searches of Kolomoisky and "Ukrnafta", a number of secret procedural actions, searches at Avakov, searches at Stolar, release of the entire management of the customs department.

This is only the beginning

"Our country will change in time of war. If someone is not ready for the change, then the government itself will come and help them change,” Arahamia wrote.

Indeed, on the same day, it was reported that searches were carried out at the former interior minister Arsen Avakov, the businessman Igor Kolomoisky and the entrepreneur Vadim Stolar. On Tuesday evening, commenting on the latest events that bear the hallmarks of an anti-corruption fight, the Secretary of the National Security Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, commented: "This is just the beginning."

According to analysts who have been watching the processes in Ukraine for the past few weeks, the authorities in Kyiv have estimated that the image and ideological damage that Kyiv will suffer from the Russian propaganda that will take advantage of the situation is negligible compared to the damage, which is inflicted on the warring party by the corruption that has been spreading since before the war.

A high-level meeting in Kyiv discusses Ukraine's desire for EU membership

Ukraine's desire to join the European Union will be discussed at a bilateral high-level meeting in Kyiv today.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said earlier that Brussels is planning new sanctions against Russia.

Von der Leyen also announced that an international center would be established in The Hague to investigate war crimes committed in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed that Kyiv deserves to start negotiations for EU membership this year.

"Further integration will energize and motivate our people to fight despite difficulties and threats. Only together and strong Ukraine and the EU can we protect life as we value it."

However, the road to full membership remains long, despite Kyiv's optimism, AFP commented.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned last May that it could be "decades" before Ukraine meets the criteria.

Germany has approved the delivery of Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine and is negotiating to buy 15 self-propelled anti-aircraft guns from Qatar to send to Kyiv, Süddeutsche Zeitung claims.

At the commemorations of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western elites of trying to drag European countries into a new war against Russia, noting that after so many years his country was once again being threatened by German tanks.

At the same time, the European Parliament adopted a resolution stating that the union should start preparations for Ukraine's accession negotiations, stressing that the process of joining the union should be based on merit and the implementation of reforms.

The document calls on member states to increase and accelerate their military aid to Kyiv, as well as the necessary political, economic, infrastructural, financial and humanitarian support.

Ukraine's allies are demanding that the International Monetary Fund complete more quickly the preparation of a loan program for Ukraine, which could reach between 14 and 16 billion dollars, writes the Financial Times. Fund representatives are expected to hold talks with Ukrainian officials later this month.

Speculations about a peace plan and an end to the war in Ukraine

The White House has denied reports that CIA Director William Burns offered Russian President Vladimir Putin a fifth of Ukraine's territory to end the ongoing war as part of a peace plan drafted on behalf of President Joe Biden.

A deputy spokesman for the White House National Security Council, told Newsweek that the report by the Swiss-German newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) was "not accurate" and that the CIA would say the same.

NZZ reported on Thursday, citing senior German foreign policy officials, that in mid-January Burns presented Kyiv and Moscow with a peace plan to end the war that began when Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. According to the newspaper, the proposal offered "about 20 percent of the territory of Ukraine" - roughly the size of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

A CIA official told Newsweek that NZZ's reports that Burns took a secret trip to Moscow in January and had a peace offer made on behalf of the White House were "absolutely false."

Last month, Burns traveled secretly to meet and brief Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, The Washington Post reported. Dmitry Polyansky, Russia's first deputy permanent representative to the UN, told Newsweek that the announcement was "interesting" but could not "comment on (speculation)". Kyiv and Moscow have reportedly rejected the offer. Ukraine rejected the offer "because they don't want their territory to be divided," while Russian officials said they would "win the war in the long run anyway," NZZ reported.

German politicians said Biden wanted to avoid a protracted war in Ukraine and had offered the territory as part of a peace plan. And when Ukraine and Russia rejected the offer, the Biden administration promised to provide Kyiv with Abrams tanks, according to the newspaper. On January 25, the United States announced that it would send up to 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. Germany also said it would provide Ukraine with 14 of its Leopard 2A6 tanks and allow partner countries to re-export other tanks to help Kyiv.

Almost a year after the war, Ukraine and Russia are no closer to peace, comments "Newsweek". Ukraine is demanding that Russia fully withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory under its 1991 borders, reparations, prosecution of Russian leaders for war crimes and NATO membership. Russia is pushing for international recognition of the four partially occupied Ukrainian territories that Putin illegally annexed in September, and the Russian leader is still vowing to "demilitarize" and "denazify" Ukraine. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that talks between Russia and Ukraine "are now impossible, as there are no conditions for them either de facto or de jure." Polyansky told Newsweek that peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow "will inevitably happen. But it's more between Russia and the West, Ukraine has shown a complete lack of sovereignty. The longer the West waits, the worse the outcome will be for Kyiv."

Germany has approved the supply of tanks to Ukraine and is negotiating to buy its machines from Qatar

The German government has approved the delivery of Leopard 1 tanks from its industrial stockpile to Ukraine and is in talks to buy 15 self-propelled anti-aircraft guns from Qatar to send to Kyiv, Süddeutsche Zeitung reports in today's issue, quoted from Reuters.

The delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine could take place at any time after the tanks are repaired, the newspaper said, citing government sources.

The companies "Rheinmetall" and FFG (Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft) want to repair dozens of Leopard 1 tanks and can deliver them to Ukraine if Kyiv wants to buy them, the publication adds.

Several senior German officials have discussed with Qatar's foreign ministry the possibility of Germany buying back 15 Cheetah machines that Doha bought to ensure the security of the stadiums during the soccer World Cup, Süddeutsche Zeitung writes, adding that Berlin is trying to get more ammunition from Qatar.

"The Cheetahs are performing very convincingly in the war in Ukraine. If we can get more from the partners here, it will definitely help the Ukrainians," said the new German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, as quoted by the newspaper.

There will be an international center for the investigation of crimes in Ukraine in The Hague

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said yesterday that a center for the investigation of crimes and the collection of evidence of acts of aggression in Ukraine will be opened in The Hague, Reuters reported, quoted by BTA.

"It will coordinate the collection of evidence and will be included in the joint investigation team, which is supported by our Eurojust agency," Von der Leyen said. She is on an official visit to Kyiv along with several high-ranking EU officials for two days high level talks.

The UN defines the concept of "act of aggression" as "an invasion or attack by the armed forces of any state on the territory of another or any military occupation".

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is already investigating alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The criminal court can prosecute if there is sufficient evidence that the crime of genocide was committed in Ukraine, but it has no jurisdiction to prosecute alleged acts of aggression committed by Russia.

Last month, MEPs demanded that the EU, in close cooperation with Ukraine and the international community, push for the creation of a special international tribunal to prosecute the crimes of the political and military leadership of Russia and its allies.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also previously called for a special international tribunal to be set up to prosecute Russian leaders over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Austria expels four Russian envoys

The Austria government revoked the diplomatic status of four Russian diplomats based in Vienna, including two at Moscow's mission to United Nations agencies in the city, according to the Federal Ministry.

The Federal Ministery, in a statement, stated, "The Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria announces its decision to revoke the diplomatic status of four Russian diplomats in Vienna. Two diplomats of the Russian Embassy have engaged in acts incompatible with their diplomatic status. Therefore, they are declared personae non-gratae under Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations." The statement further informed that two diplomats of the Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations have committed acts incompatible with the Headquarters Agreement and will also have to leave the territory of the Republic of Austria.

The four Russian diplomats concerned must leave the territory of the Republic of Austria within one week at the latest, i.e. by the end of 8 February 2023, it read.

Vienna is a major diplomatic center hosting both the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and United Nations organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"New York Times": Russians killed or wounded in Ukraine may be 200,000.

Russian military personnel killed or wounded in Ukraine may be approaching 200,000 people, according to Western and American officials, but Moscow is likely to bear its losses better than Kyiv, writes the New York Times.

The newspaper also quoted the words of its interlocutors that it is extremely difficult to estimate the exact number, but also that the casualties were probably many even before the fighting in the Bakhmut region and the neighboring town of Soledar flared up. In the battles in question alone, however, due to the deployment of undertrained and prisoners, casualties sometimes reach hundreds per day according to US forces. The data can be based on satellite images, intercepted communications, social media and on-the-ground intelligence, as well as information from governments themselves.

Given the absence of a political opposition in Russia and President Vladimir Putin's likening of the war in Ukraine to World War II (in which more than 8 million Soviet soldiers died), even the deaths of hundreds of thousands in the conflict are unlikely to stop it, though if the numbers plummet grows, his political support may even fall, experts believe.

"Meat Grinder"

Ukraine also does not report its losses and verification is difficult, but hundreds of Ukrainians are killed or injured in Bakhmut every day, the publication's interlocutors say. And here the less prepared - such as the territorial defense - are kept in the front ranks.

At two meetings between high-ranking military and representatives of defense departments from NATO and partner countries, interlocutors of the American media explained that the fighting in Donbas has turned into a meat grinder.

A senior American military official explains that around Bakhmut alone, the two sides exchange several thousand artillery shots every day, while the private army "Wagner" basically uses the prisoners as cannon fodder (according to the US, 80% of those fighting in Ukraine for "Wagner" 50 thousand. souls are prisoners). The Russian army, according to these estimates, deliberately used, like "Wagner", poorly trained units to exhaust Ukrainian ammunition.

In November, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Mark Milley said that the casualties and wounded on each side probably exceeded 100,000 people since the beginning of the war. Unofficially, New York Times interlocutors at that time were talking about values closer to 120,000. Last month, Milley explained that the number of dead and wounded on both sides was already "well over 100,000," including and the mercenaries of the Russian private military company Wagner. On January 22, an estimate came from Norway for 180,000 killed and wounded Russians and 100,000 military and 30,000 dead civilians on the Ukrainian side (according to the UN, the number of Ukrainian civilians killed is significantly less, but these are only the confirmed cases).

If the estimate of 200,000 people is correct, it means that in 11 months eight times more have been killed or injured than the number of American forces in Afghanistan in 20 years of war.

Russia is more able to bear the losses

On the one hand, a high-ranking representative of the Pentagon explains that the problem lies in tactical difficulties and those with the supply chains of the Russian armed forces. Key supplies are running low, as are artillery shells.

As for military losses, however, at least in Donbas, Russia is more able to bear them, Kusti Salm, Estonia's deputy defense minister, told a briefing in Washington. "In this particular area, Russian forces have used close to 40,000-50,000 prisoners. They are facing soldiers, people with families, with regular training, valuable people for the Ukrainian army."

The balance, Salm believes, is not "one to one" because Russia can easily sacrifice the prisoners - "a very clever tactical move on the Russian side".

It doesn't matter how big the Russian losses are, because their human resources are far greater than Ukraine's. In Russia, a soldier's life is worth nothing. The dead soldier, on the other hand, is a hero however he died. Soldiers lost cannot be replaced, and the number of casualties will not change public opinion about the war,” said the Deputy Minister of Defense of Estonia.

"Yesterday's Civilians"

If only statistics based on data from open sources are used, specifically the number of victims appears to be lower. The BBC Russian service and the Mediazona publication collect this information by name, knowing that this is not the actual number.

However, from the publicly available data, the two media recognize 13,300 Russian soldiers who died in Ukraine. Among them, 924 are mobilized, and in just a week there are reports of the death of another 500 Russians fighting in Ukraine.

"The majority of those who have died in the last three months have been mobilized, volunteers and prisoners," notes the BBC. Since the start of the war, every fourth person killed is yesterday's civilian.

Based on these statistics, the most conservative estimate is at least 26,000 dead soldiers (a study of the situation of cemeteries in 60 settlements indicates that the buried are at least twice as many). Irretrievable losses (disappeared, injured and dead) reached at least 117 thousand people.

According to the same publication, the Airborne Forces, the Marines, the special forces of the military intelligence and the special forces of the "Rosgvardia" suffered the greatest losses. Almost 15% of the military killed were officers; the death of four generals and 54 colonels was confirmed by name.

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