Ukraine, Briefly

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This week, the Russian defense ministry acknowledged that Ukraine has made territorial gains in the battle for the east Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, with Ukrainian forces advancing on the flanks of Donetsk city just to the south, Newsweek reported. However, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder and leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, denied these claims and criticized the Russian defense ministry for misrepresenting a retreat. The Institute for the Study of War suggested that despite successful Ukrainian counterattacks, Russian forces are likely reinforcing their offensive efforts in the Bakhmut area.

Meanwhile, former Russian army commander and lawmaker Viktor Sobolev called for a crackdown on Wagner amid escalating tensions over its role in the Ukraine invasion, Politico wrote. Sobolev labeled the mercenary group an “illegal armed formation” and warned of potential prison sentences for soldiers defecting to Wagner. Prigozhin has accused top Russian generals of failing to support his troops in Bakhmut. Leaked documents indicated Prigozhin may have offered information on Russian army positions to Ukraine in exchange for a retreat, the Washington Post added.

Also this week:

  • Russia launched 30 cruise missiles against Ukraine, with Ukrainian air defenses successfully shooting down 29 of them, the Associated Press noted. One person died and two were injured when a missile struck a building in Odesa. Kyiv was targeted for the ninth time this month, causing explosions and a fire. Meanwhile, a major air attack on Kyiv was repelled by sophisticated Western-supplied air defense systems.
  • Ukraine and Russia agreed to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative this week, a critical agreement that allows Kyiv to transport its grain across the Black Sea, the New York Times noted. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the two-month extension after talks in Istanbul, facilitated by the United Nations and Turkey. The agreement, originally established in July 2022, allows Ukraine to transport grain past Russian naval vessels that have blockaded Ukrainian ports, with inspections taking place off the coast of Istanbul. The agreement and extension underscore another rare instance of cooperation between Moscow and Kyiv since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion 15 months ago. However, there have been tensions in the past over the deal, with Russia threatening to withdraw from the agreement and both sides raising issues regarding inspections and shipping provisions.
  • Dozens of European companies have continued to supply critical goods and equipment to Russian firms involved in the country’s military activities in Ukraine, according to a report by the investigative outlet the Insider. The report highlights 25 companies from countries including Germany, France, and Hungary, that have fulfilled orders with Russian companies linked to the Russian military. The items include microchips for missiles, fiber optics for night vision devices, body armor, and components for warship engines. The report raises concern about the effectiveness of Western sanctions in restricting supplies to the Russian army amid the ongoing conflict.
  • Meanwhile, the Central Intelligence Agency created a Telegram account to recruit Russian assets and establish secure communication with US agents, according to the Hill. The intelligence agency seeks to reach individuals who wish to engage with the CIA and provide information securely. The agency’s Telegram posts encourage military officers, intelligence professionals, scientists, and individuals with knowledge of the Russian Federation to contact them.

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