More of the same combat and brutality with charges and counter-charges as Russia consolidates its hold on the Donbas. Less clear are the various areas of disinformation considering the leveling of recent casualty counts. In the background are movement toward Ukrainian EU membership, and Putin’s complaints about sanctions.
The war in Ukraine has proven that the age of industrial warfare is still here. The massive consumption of equipment, vehicles and ammunition requires a large-scale industrial base for resupply – quantity still has a quality of its own. The mass scale combat has pitted 250,000 Ukrainian soldiers, together with 450,000 recently mobilised citizen soldiers against about 200,000 Russian and separatist troops. The effort to arm, feed and supply these armies is a monumental task. Ammunition resupply is particularly onerous. For Ukraine, compounding this task are Russian deep fires capabilities, which target Ukrainian military industry and transportation networks throughout the depth of the country. The Russian army has also suffered from Ukrainian cross-border attacks and acts of sabotage, but at a smaller scale. The rate of ammunition and equipment consumption in Ukraine can only be sustained by a large-scale industrial base.
This reality should be a concrete warning to Western countries, who have scaled down military industrial capacity and sacrificed scale and effectiveness for efficiency. This strategy relies on flawed assumptions about the future of war, and has been influenced by both the bureaucratic culture in Western governments and the legacy of low-intensity conflicts. Currently, the West may not have the industrial capacity to fight a large-scale war. If the US government is planning to once again become the arsenal of democracy, then the existing capabilities of the US military-industrial base and the core assumptions that have driven its development need to be re-examined.
The war in Ukraine demonstrates that war between peer or near-peer adversaries demands the existence of a technically advanced, mass scale, industrial-age production capability. The Russian onslaught consumes ammunition at rates that massively exceed US forecasts and ammunition production. For the US to act as the arsenal of democracy in defence of Ukraine, there must be a major look at the manner and the scale at which the US organises its industrial base. This situation is especially critical because behind the Russian invasion stands the world’s manufacturing capital – China. As the US begins to expend more and more of its stockpiles to keep Ukraine in the war, China has yet to provide any meaningful military assistance to Russia. The West must assume that China will not allow Russia to be defeated, especially due to a lack of ammunition. If competition between autocracies and democracies has really entered a military phase, then the arsenal of democracy must first radically improve its approach to the production of materiel in wartime.
- Russian forces continued to launch unsuccessful ground assaults against Severodonetsk and its southeastern outskirts on June 17.
- Russian forces continued efforts to sever Ukrainian lines of communication to Lysychansk, both from the north toward Slovyansk and in the south near Bakhmut.
- Ukrainian forces are likely conducting a counteroffensive northwest of Izyum intended to draw Russian forces away from offensive operations toward Slovyansk and disrupt Russian supply lines and are making minor gains.
- Ukrainian forces and aviation continued to strike Russian logistics and fortifications in occupied settlements along the Southern Axis, with localized fighting ongoing.
- Russian forces continued to regroup and transfer personnel within Zaporizhia Oblast to maintain defensive positions along the frontline.
- Russian President Putin reaffirmed his commitment to “completing” the Russian operation in Ukraine but acknowledged that unspecified new Russian tactics (which are likely simply explanations for poor Russian performance) will take time.
- Unconfirmed Ukrainian sources reported that the Kremlin fired the commander of the Russian Airborne Forces, Colonel-General Andrey Serdyukov, due to poor performance
A Ukrainian paramedic has been released from Russian captivity, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced on Saturday. He said Ukraine had been able to secure the release of Yulia Payevska, a civilian parademic who was captured by Russian forces in Mariupol on 16 March.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted that the bravery of Ukrainians had created the opportunity for Europe to “create a new history of freedom, and finally remove the grey zone in Eastern Europe between the EU and Russia”.
Russian president Vladimir Putin said Moscow has “nothing against” Ukraine’s possible membership of the European Union. He made the comments on Friday after the European Commission recommended granting Kyiv candidate status of the 27-member bloc. “We have nothing against it,” Putin told Russia’s annual economic forum in St Petersburg. “It’s their sovereign decision to join economic unions or not … It’s their business, the business of the Ukrainian people.”
The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said it was “absolutely necessary” for leaders to speak directly with Putin in attempts to end the war. Speaking to German news agency DPA on Friday, Scholz said: “It is absolutely necessary to speak to Putin, and I will continue to do so, as the French president will also.”
Four civilians died and six were wounded on Friday in Russian bombing in the Donetsk region of the Donbas, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram.
Dozens of Ukrainian civilians performed military exercises on Friday in fortified positions left by Russian troops in Bucha, a town synonymous with war crimes blamed on Moscow’s forces. A sergeant known as Ticha said: “Most of those who are here aren’t soldiers, they’re just civilians who want to defend their country – 50% of them have never held a weapon until today.”
Lithuania has told the Russian region of Kaliningrad it will block the import and export of a large number of goods by rail because of western sanctions, the regional governor said on Friday. The region is home to the Russian Baltic fleet and a deployment location for nuclear-capable Iskander missiles. Governor Anton Alikhanov said the clampdown was “a most serious violation” to free transit and would affect 40-50% of the products imported to and exported from Russia through Lithuania.
Ukraine received a $733m loan from Canada. In a statement released on Friday, Ukraine’s finance ministry said the funds, which were “raised in accordance with the loan agreement between Ukraine and Canada”, would be “directed to the state budget to finance priority expenditures – in particular, to ensure priority social and humanitarian expenditures”.
The Biden administration’s plan to sell four large, armable drones to Ukraine has been paused over the fear its sophisticated surveillance equipment might fall into enemy hands, Reuters reported, citing two people familiar with the matter. The objection to the export of the drones arose due to concerns the radar and surveillance equipment on the drones could create a security risk for the US if it fell into Russian hands.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of colonial arrogance and of trying to crush his country with “stupid” sanctions that amounted to an economic “blitzkrieg”.
Addressing the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday, a showcase event this year being held with almost no Western participation, Putin told Russia’s political and economic elite that he would continue his war on Ukraine.
“We are strong people and can cope with any challenge. Like our ancestors, we will solve any problem, the entire thousand-year history of our country speaks of this,” he said.
Putin drew applause from the hall when he reaffirmed his determination to continue the “special military operation” in Ukraine that has unleashed what he said was an “unprecedented” barrage of Western economic sanctions.
He said the main aim of the invasion was to defend “our” people in the largely Russian-speaking Donbas region of eastern Ukraine – a justification that Kyiv and the West dismiss as a baseless pretext for a war that has already led to the occupation of parts of southern Ukraine far beyond the Donbas.
Putin said that Russian soldiers in the Donbas were also fighting to defend Russia’s own “rights to secure development”.
“In the current situation, against a backdrop of increasing risks for us and threats, Russia’s decision to conduct a special military operation was forced – difficult, of course, but forced and necessary,” he said.