It remains about Russian greed. A White House official said Moscow might stage an attack on a commercial ship and blame Ukraine.
The Kremlin may be destroying Ukrainian port and grain infrastructure before renegotiating the Black Sea grain deal to set conditions for the export of stolen Ukrainian grain from Russian-occupied territories that could disproportionately benefit the Russian economy.
Ukrainian Minister for Agrarian Policy Mykola Solskyi stated that it would take Ukraine no less than one year to restore the Chornomorsk port in Odesa Oblast, which was used for export of grain. The destruction of Ukrainian port infrastructure in government-controlled Odesa and Mykolaiv oblasts may restrict Ukraine’s ability to export grain by sea even if the grain deal is renegotiated, while allowing Russia to offer grain from occupied Ukraine or Russia to fulfil the deal in the meantime.
Russian forces launched a third night of missile and drone strikes against port and grain infrastructure in southern Ukraine on July 20 following Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched seven Onyx cruise missiles, four Kh-22 anti-ship missiles, three Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles, five Iskander ballistic missiles, and 19 Iranian-made Shahed drones. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian air defenses destroyed 18 targets, including two Kalibrs, three Iskanders, and 13 Shaheds. Spokesperson of the Ukrainian Southern Operational Command Captain First Rank Nataliya Humenyuk stated that Russian forces targeted port infrastructure in Mykolaiv and Odesa oblasts and noted that the strikes mainly affected warehouses and logistics facilities. Humenyuk noted that Russian “blackmail and sabotage” of Ukrainian ports started shortly after Russian began its rhetoric about its conditions for the expansion of the grain deal. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces struck Ukrainian manufacturing and storage facilities in Odesa City and Chornomorske in Odesa Oblast, and fuel infrastructure facilities and ammo depots in Mykolaiv City. Ukrainian military officials reported that Russian forces destroyed the Odesa Seaport Administration building in the center of Odesa City and noted that residential buildings were damaged by the blast wave. Ukrainian sources reported that Russian missile strikes also damaged a Chinese consulate building in Odesa City.
Ukrainian military officials outlined the challenge of defending against Onyx missiles and Russia’s shortage of Kh-22 missiles. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat stated that Onyx missiles fly at a speed of more than 3,000 kilometers per hour at a high altitude and then quickly change altitude to 10–15 meters above the surface when striking a target, making it difficult to detect and destroy. Ihnat noted on July 19 that Russian forces are using Onyx cruise missiles that are designed to destroy targets located directly on the coastline along the sea. Ihnat also stated on July 20 that Russia does not have the same ability to manufacture Kh-22 missiles that it does to produce other types of high-precision long-range missiles. Ihnat noted that Russia had approximately 250 Kh-22 missiles at the beginning of the war in February of 2022 and has already used approximately 150 missiles against Ukraine.
- Russian forces launched a third night of missile and drone strikes against port and grain infrastructure in southern Ukraine on July 20 following Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17.
- The Russian military announced that it may consider civilian ships in the Black Sea en route to Ukrainian ports legitimate military targets.
- The Russian military’s intensifying strikes against Ukrainian port and grain infrastructure and threats of maritime escalation are likely a part of a Kremlin effort to leverage Russia’s exit from the Black Sea Grain Initiative and exact extensive concessions from the West.
- The Kremlin likely views the Black Sea Grain Initiative as one of its few remaining avenues of leverage against the West and has withdrawn from the deal to secure these concessions.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and reportedly advanced on July 20.
- The United States and European Union (EU) reiterated their long-term security commitments to Ukraine via security assistance packages and proposals on July 19 and 20.
- Wagner Group personnel are training Belarusian special forces on modern tactics at the Brest Training Ground in Brest, Belarus.
- The Wagner Group may open another base in Belarus in Gomel Oblast near Belarus’ international border with Ukraine.
- The Wagner Group reportedly suffered an 80 percent casualty rate and a 28 percent killed-in-action rate in Ukraine.
- Russian forces continued limited ground attacks on the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, around Bakhmut and along the Avdiivka–Donetsk City line and advanced on the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line as of July 20.
- Ukrainian forces continued limited offensive operations east of Kupyansk, near Kreminna, near Bakhmut, and along the Avdiivka–Donetsk City line and made gains near Bakhmut on July 20.
- Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Vuhledar, on the administrative border between western Donetsk and eastern Zaporizhia oblasts, and south of Orikhiv and made limited territorial gains in western Donetsk and eastern Zaporizhia oblasts and western Zaporizhia Oblast on July 20.
- Russian forces continued to unsuccessfully counterattack Ukrainian positions on the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast administrative border on July 20.
- The Russian State Duma approved amendments increasing penalties for draft dodging and for officials and legal entities that fail to assist Russian force generation efforts on July 20.
- Russian authorities continue persecution of non-Russian Orthodox churches in occupied Ukraine.
Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Luhansk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and northern Donetsk Oblast)
Russian forces continued limited ground attacks on the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line and advanced as of July 20. Geolocated footage published on July 20 shows that Russian forces advanced across the N26 Kupyansk-Svatove highway south of Novoselivske (15km northwest of Svatove). ... The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks southwest of Masyutivka (13km northeast of Kupyansk). Ukrainian National Guard Main Directorate’s Application Planning Department Deputy Director Colonel Mykola Urshalovych acknowledged that Russian forces recently attempted a limited offensive effort on the Kupyansk-Lyman line but said that Ukrainian forces repelled the Russian assaults.
Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Donetsk Oblast (Russian Objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on Bakhmut’s northern and southern flanks and made limited gains on July 20. Geolocated footage indicates that Ukrainian forces have advanced in the forest area of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive actions north and south of Bakhmut. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attacked elements of the Russian Southern Grouping of Forces near Bilohorivka (22km northeast of Bakhmut), Klishchiivka, and Vesele (20km northeast of Bakhmut). Commander of the Ukrainian 3rd Separate Assault Brigade Andriy Biletskyi reported that Ukrainian forces successfully attacked elements of the Russian 72nd Motorized Rifle Brigade (3rd Army Corps) and “Storm-Z” detachments and advanced 1,800m in the Bakhmut direction. ... Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces tried to advance in the direction of Andriivka (11km southwest of Bakhmut) and near Kurdyumivka (13km southwest of Bakhmut).
Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)
Ukrainian forces reportedly attacked Russian positions near Vuhledar in western Donetsk Oblast but did not make confirmed territorial gains on July 20. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attacked positions of elements of the Russian 36th Guards Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (29th Combined Arms Army, Eastern Military District [EMD]) and the 155th Separate Naval Infantry Brigade (Pacific Fleet) near Mykilske (4km southeast of Vuhledar). Russian sources indicated that a company-sized Ukrainian force with tank and armored vehicle support attacked Russian positions in the area. ISW has previously observed elements of the 36th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade operating in the Mykilske area, and a Ukrainian military observer noted that this brigade is the 29th Combined Arms Army‘s only maneuver brigade. The military observer suggested that the only reserve that the Russian military maintains in southern Ukraine consists of elements of the 29th Combined Arms Army.
Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations on the administrative border between western Donetsk and eastern Zaporizhia oblasts and made limited advances on July 20. Ukrainian military officials reported that Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on the administrative border area and made unspecified gains. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked in the direction of Urozhaine (10km south of Velyka Novosilka) and advanced near Novodonetske (13km southeast of Velyka Novosilka). The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that elements of the Russian Eastern Group of Forces repelled two Ukrainian attacks near Staromayorske (10km south of Velyka Novosilka), and that the grouping eliminated a Ukrainian reconnaissance group west of Makarivka (7km south of Velyka Novosilka).
This leaves Russian forces not knowing what to do even if they *could* win on the ground in various areas (which they're not.) As we teach at US war colleges: operational victories do not automatically translate to strategic success, esp if you have no idea what your goals are./2
I suppose "Do not keep losing territory in areas you invaded" is a "goal," but it's by definition temporary. "Capture Kyiv and force a surrender" was the Kremlin order but that plan went to shit; Russian forces now find themselves fighting because those are their orders. /3
The Ukrainians, OTOH, have a clear goal: Expel the invaders and restore control over national territory. The Russian goal has degraded to "don't let them do that, or at least not too fast," because Moscow is paralyzed and dumbfounded that its only plan failed instantly. /4
This means that Russia is going to keep feeding men into the meat grinder. But Putin doesn't care: He's trapped now, and has to keep inflicting murder on Ukrainians (and bleed his own army) because he doesn't know what else to do. /5
Prigozhin seemed to grasp this, but Prigozhin's not exactly Clausewitz either, and mostly he was pissed that his guys were getting shafted by the Defense Ministry.
These are not very bright guys, as the saying goes, and things are out of control. /6
Key problem nopw is that there's nothing to negotiate over. Even things Russia *claimed* to want - keeping Ukraine out of the West's orbit - are no longer possible.
The bigger problem is that Russia itself now has no idea why it's fighting. And you can't negotiate with that. /7
You can't negotiate with a state whose only goal is revenge for its own failures. All you can do is keep making them pay the price until they withdraw. /8x
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The United States said Russia’s warning to ships indicated Moscow might attack vessels at sea following Moscow’s withdrawal on Monday from a UN-brokered deal to let Ukraine export grain. The signal that Russia was willing to use force to reimpose its blockade on one of the world’s biggest food exporters set global prices soaring.
Moscow says it will not participate in the year-old grain deal without better terms for its own food and fertiliser sales.
The UN Security Council will meet on Friday over “the humanitarian consequences” of Russia’s withdrawal, said Britain’s UN mission.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the Russian attacks on Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and warned the “destruction of civilian infrastructure may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.”
“These attacks are also having an impact well beyond Ukraine,” said UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, adding higher wheat and corn prices hurt everyone, especially vulnerable people in the global south.
Kyiv is hoping to resume exports without Russia’s participation. But no ships have sailed from its ports since Moscow pulled out of the deal, and insurers have had doubts about whether to underwrite policies for trade in a war zone.
Since quitting the deal, Moscow has rained missiles down nightly on Ukraine’s two biggest port cities, Odesa and Mykolaiv. Thursday’s strikes appeared to be the worst yet.