Last week (September 11–17), Russian dictator Vladimir Putin met with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un, who supported the Kremlin in its “holy struggle” against “hegemonic forces.” However, the Russian Federation and the DPRK have not signed any agreements, at least officially. Also, the Russians once again stated that they were allegedly ready for peace talks, but did not forget about the ultimatums: Ukraine must agree to the occupation of part of its territories. 

The Council of Europe adopted a declaration with the principles of transparent and effective functioning of the previously created International Register of Damage Caused by Russia's Aggression against Ukraine. Several EU members bordering the aggressor country banned vehicles with Russian license plates from entering their territory.

On the other hand, Ukraine systematically attacks the Russian Black Sea Fleet with the sea drones. In total, the Defense Forces destroyed or damaged more than 20 Russian warships, including 5 last week. Among them, there is a large landing ship "Minsk" and the submarine "Rostov-on-Don".

Russia says again that they do no mind the negotiations but hide their agreements with the DPRK

Last week, the so-called “negotiation track” intensified somewhat, and Russia actively commented on this topic. It all started with the fact that on September 20, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said: peace negotiations with Moscow are currently impossible because “it takes two to tango.” However, if Vladimir Putin shows interest in the negotiations, the Ukrainians will join them. At the moment, the US does not see “any signs that Putin is interested in meaningful diplomacy.” 

Anthony Blinken also emphasized: “G20 leaders not only want this war to end, but also to see it end on fair and lasting terms.”

Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that there have been no prerequisites for the resumption of negotiations with Ukraine: “Kyiv will have to start negotiations with the Russian Federation to recognize the reality that has come up since March 2022.” By doing so, he once again confirmed that Kremlin was the one not ready for diplomacy.

On the other hand, Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine should first declare its desire for negotiations and cancel the decree on the impossibility of holding them [it is obviously about the decision of the National Security and Defense Council stating the impossibility of holding negotiations with Putin – author]. Aleksandr Lukashenko also supported him, and added that the Americans gave a command to Kyiv and “prohibited to negotiate.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated similar points, adding that the Kremlin “does not withdraw from the negotiations” but “the longer they procrastinate [those who withdraw from the negotiations – author], the more difficult it will be to negotiate.” The representative of the same agency, Maria Zakharova, said that Russia “has never refused to achieve the SMO goals through political and diplomatic means.”

It must be highlighted that, as Volodymyr Zelensky ssid, now is a bad moment for negotiations with Russia, and he and his team “must be ready for a long war.”

Russia continues to look for resources to continue the war, as evidenced by Vladimir Putin’s meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on September 13, at the Vostochny cosmodrome, in the Russian Far East. During the talks, the dictators exchanged courtesies and talked about more intense cooperation. 

Kim Jong-un also said that he supported the Kremlin in the “holy struggle” against “hegemonic forces.” Although many expected more specific agreements (for example, there were fears that Pyongyang would announce the supply of ammunition to Russia), so far this has not happened, at least publicly. In particular, Dmitry Peskov emphasized that no agreements had been signed with the DPRK. 

On the other hand, Sergei Lavrov said that the Kremlin would no longer support sanctions against North Korea in the UN Security Council, and China would do the same. As you can see, the formula “weapons for the Kremlin in exchange for something for the DPRK” may still be relevant. 

It is noteworthy that the United States and the EU have already stressed that if the DPRK supplies weapons to Russia, Pyongyang will face additional sanctions. Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Mykhailo Podoliak, said that Ukraine “takes seriously the actions of Moscow and Pyongyang and makes its own estimates.”

In this context, it is critical that the United States is ready to continue to support Ukraine in order to prevent Russia from achieving strategic success. In particular, US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, spoke about bringing Ukraine to the point where, militarily, economically, and democratically, our state could stand firmly on its own feet.

The EU is thinking about changing the enlargement policy, Russian cars cannot enter the EU, the Council of Europe called Russia a dictatorship 

On September 11, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights  expressed concern about the legitimacy of the amendments to the Russian Constitution made in 2020, and called this country a dictatorship. We are talking about changes that allow Vladimir Putin to run in the presidential election two more times. Hence, he would need to “sit out” as prime minister after two presidential terms in a row, as it was in 2008–2012. Now Putin can rule the country until 2036, or, four terms without interruption. 

“The enormous power of the president, which arose as a result of an extremely long term in office, combined with the absence of any checks and balances, such as a strong parliament, an independent judiciary, free media, and an active civil society, turned the Russian Federation into a de facto dictatorship,” said the PACE. 

In addition, on September 11, the Ministers of Justice of 42 member and observer countries of the Council of Europe adopted a declaration setting out the so-called Riga Principles for the transparent and effective functioning of the International Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. 

This Register should be victim-oriented, in particular among the most vulnerable groups of the population (women and children), in order to provide them with remedies. It should also enable the prompt documentation of claims of human rights violations and abuses such as murder, kidnapping, sexual violence, grievous bodily harm, torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention. At the same time, the Register should provide an opportunity to document other claims, such as for damage to property, infrastructure, to the environment and cultural heritage.

It should be reminded that the establishment of the Register of Damages was announced following the summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, held in Reykjavik on May 16–17, 2023. It was created as a platform for intergovernmental cooperation within the institutional framework of the Council of Europe. It is located in The Hague (Netherlands) and serves as a documentary form of taking account of evidence and claims of losses, damage, or injury that have occurred on the territory of Ukraine since February 24, 2022 as a result of Russia's internationally wrongful actions in or against Ukraine. All interested individuals and legal entities, as well as the state of Ukraine, will be able to submit reports and information about the damage caused.

On September 13, the European Parliament adopted a resolution “On relations with Belarus.” There, the self-proclaimed president of this country, Alexander Lukashenko, was recognized as an accomplice to the crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine, specifically the deportation of children. The resolution says that the Belarusian authorities are involved in Russia’s promotion of hate speech, disinformation, and propaganda, “repeating the militant rhetoric of Moscow.” 

It also became known that the European Commission will start reviewing the EU policy, and suggest its ideas on the functioning of the European Union in connection with the future accession of new members, such as Ukraine. “An enlarged Union can be achieved more quickly. This means answering practical questions about how the Union of more than 30 countries will work in practice,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her annual State of the Union Address. 

Meanwhile, LithuaniaLatviaEstoniaPolandGermany, and Finland enforced the recommendations of the European Commission, and banned cars with Russian number plates from entering the EU. Now Russians can enter the territory of these countries only by bus or on foot. 

The gradual destruction of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the advance of Ukrainian troops

Having withdrawn from the “grain deal”, Russia announced restrictions on free navigation in the Black Sea region, and threatened to attack any ships heading to the ports of Ukraine. However, thanks to the successful work of the Defense Forces of Ukraine, the “glorious” Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation suffered significant losses.

On the night of September 13, Ukrainian troops attacked a shipyard in Sevastopol, destroying the large landing ship Minsk in dry dock. Moreover, Ukraine seriously damaged the Rostov-on-Don submarine. This operation is unique because the Armed Forces do not have the regular capabilities to fight submarines.

Advisor to the Head of the President's Office Mykhailo Podoliak highlighted that Ukrainian actions are the only correct response to Russian attempts to turn the famine into a weapon and a way to ensure an uninterrupted supply of grain.

However, the waste disposal of the Russian fleet did not stop there. Ukrainian troops damaged  the Russian patrol ship Sergei Kotov, and destroyed the patrol boat Tunets. In addition, on September 14, a Ukrainian sea drone  hit the Russian missile ship Samum, which was later pulled with a noticeable roll by tug boats.

Estonian intelligence reported that by asymmetric actions, Ukraine managed to deprive Russia of its dominance on the sea almost along the entire western coast of Crimea, pushing the Russians into the eastern Black Sea. In addition, the intelligence suggested that due to the successful actions of Ukraine, Russian ships would be relocated from the temporarily occupied Sevastopol to Novorossiysk.

Therefore, to some extent, the process of de-occupation of the peninsula has already begun: along with the gradual destruction of the Crimean Bridge and the expulsion of the Russian fleet, Ukraine is also destroying the air defense of the occupiers, in particular, the “superweapon” – the Triumph system. On the night of September 14, the military counterintelligence of the SSU and the Navy “canceled” the Russian air defense complex near Evpatoria, worth $1.2 billion.

Ukrainian capabilities to destroy Russia’s fleet will continue to grow. Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov said that by the end of 2023, the production of drones in Ukraine will increase 120 times. 

At the same time, the Ukrainian defense industry was strengthened by an additional batch of German Marder IFVs. 20 such IFVs were transferred to the Armed Forces of Ukraine last week, and the German government instructed Rheinmetall to supply another 40 vehicles to Ukraine. It is also worth paying attention to the military aid package from Denmark in the amount of 800 million euros, of which about 75% will be used in 2023 for purchases that are not publicly disclosed.

In parallel, the Ukrainian military completed induction training on Swedish Gripen fighters, which can be sent to Ukraine. 

Western partners also continue to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense in the context of the approaching autumn and the threat of Russian attacks on critical infrastructure. In particular, German Foreign Minister Annalena Burbok came to Kyiv. Following her visit, Volodymyr Zelensky said that additional air defense systems would be delivered to Ukraine. 

The topic of building up air defense systems for Ukraine was also an important track during the meeting on September 15, of Baerbock and her U.S. counterpart Anthony Blinken. The heads of foreign affairs publicly testified to their unwavering support for the country. “Putin goes into nowhere if he thinks the world would get used to war because there are other problems,” Annalena Baerbock said.

On the other hand, in the context of such developments, Russia once again decided to use the seat of a permanent member of the Soviet Union in the Security Council, and convened a meeting on the supply of weapons to Ukraine. The member countries of the international body had to listen to the hackneyed narratives of Vasyl Nebenzia about the “hopeless steps of the Kyiv regime and its allies against the backdrop of the obvious failure of the counteroffensive,” “black transplantology,” and the destruction of the “widely promoted Western technology.”

Vladimir Putin managed to surpass Nebenzya’s lies at the Eastern Economic Forum, where he announced the destruction by the Russians of 543 tanks and almost 18,000 armored vehicles of various classes during the Ukrainian counteroffensive. At the same time, he said that after last year’s partial mobilization in Russia, when 300,000 people were involved in the army, another 270,000 people signed contracts to serve as “volunteers.”

Besides, there  comes increasingly more information about the preparation of another wave of mobilization in the Russian Federation, which may take place this fall. Russian pro-government media seem to have received a “strong request” from the presidential administration of the Russian Federation to cover “rumors” about the second wave of mobilization as little as possible.  

Russia is ready to put hundreds of thousands of their citizens in the Ukrainian soil in order not to lose the temporarily seized lands, and then keep inventing sky-rocketing numbers of destroyed Ukrainian equipment. However, the Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to advance, and the front south of Bakhmut is completely unfavorable for the occupiers, especially after the liberation of the completely destroyed villages of Andriyivka and Klishchiyivka.