Last week (August, 28 – September, 3), military infrastructure of the Russian federation was severely affected by the massive strikes from Ukrainian drones. To fight back the attacks, Russians are re-arranging the air defense system, thus uncovering certain sections of their border in other places. They also plan to produce more air defense systems.

Kremlin continues applying information operations as a priority war tool. To justify the failures in defending their own territory, to discredit Ukraine, and instigate more conflicts in European society, Russia keeps disseminating disinformation.

On the other hand, Ukraine is implementing Peace Formula and is working hard to open the EU membership negotiations still this year. Another critical focus is the development of Ukrainian military industry complex, increasing weapon production jointly with European states, and offsetting Russian propaganda, specifically in African countries. 

Demilitarization of Russia continues, while Kremlin accuses Ukraine of terrorism

Russian Federation threatened to establish a demilitarized zone on the border with Ukraine but the aggressor had it all backfired at them. The war moving to Russia’s territory is an unavoidable and fair process. BBC Verify tracking the notifications about drone strikes  estimated that since the beginning of the year, the UASs have attacked Russia’s territory and in the temporarily occupied Crimea 190 times.

At the same time, the strikes on 6 regions in the RF on the night of August, 30, were by far the largest scale over the entire time of the full-scale war. That is when the military airfield in Pskov suffered the destruction of four aircraft IL-76, and 2 more aircraft were damaged. Ex-chief of intelligence of Finland, Pekka Toveri, called the strike at Pskov airfield the most successful effort so far. In his opinion, Russia should largely invest into the airfield defense, such as withdraw the air defense systems from the front, which eventually would weaken Russia’s capability.

British intelligence service agree with the conclusion. They  say that Russia might be changing the planning for air defense systems in the area between Ukraine and Moscow to be able to better respond to attacks. In particular, the Russian command decided to reinforce the defense of the sky by re-deploying air defense systems from other Russian territories. Thus, Japanese military experts  noticed that Russia took away the SAMS from the Kuril islands.

Moreover, after the massive strike, the RF defense minister Sergey Shoigu, visited  the plant of the Almaz-Antey Corporation in Tula region where he commanded to set the 24/7 production process. The aggressor certainly did not expect that Ukraine could run such large-scale operations. In addition to the Pskov airfield, on the night of August, 27, the Security Service of Ukraine  attacked with drones the aircraft SU-30 and MIG-29, and the С-300 and Pantsir missile systems on Kursk airfield. It is interesting to know that the SSU military intelligence units  attacked the airfield with the cardboard-made drones that undetectable by the enemy’s radars. 

Also last week, after the Ukrainian strike, a workshop producing electronic equipment for missiles was on fire in Lyubertsy near Moscow. Although Moscow’s City Mayor Sergey Sobyanin denied the fact, the source that the Ukrainian Truth relied on said the drone did reach the destination.

We keep seeing increasingly more reports on the news about downing Ukrainian drones in Moscow region,Central federal district, Bryansk and Tula regions, and also about delays of flights and closure of airports. More issues with the Russian air fleet are coming, too. According to estimates from Russian sources, Ukraine destroyed or damaged at least 24 aircraft in the Russian rear.

On the other hand, the sanctions affect the capacity of the civilian aviation industry. For example, the aircraft of the Icarus airline failed to depart from Thailand to Irkutsk because of the failure of components that are no longer supplied to Russia. Russian authorities are considering the solution to allocate from the National Welfare Fund over RUB 650 bln (USD 6.8 bln) for aviation industry projects.

Because of a series of events unfavorable for the Putin’s regime, Kremlin intensified the disinformation focusing on domestic audiences in the first place. A spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called Ukrainian attacks at military targets terror acts, and said they were targeting civilian infrastructure.

“The attacks by Ukrainian drones on civilian targets once again show the Kiev regime’s terrorist nature. It is also clear that Ukrainian drones could not travel such a distance without a carefully planned route based on information obtained from Western satellites. ,” said she.

In addition, Zakharova share about what was supposed to “explode” in the information space, according to her, but failed to attract the expected public attention. It is the introduction in Russia of a special position of the ambassador-at-large on the crimes of Kyiv regime. The position was allocated to the ex-“LPR Ambassador,” member of the Contact group for “conflict” resolution in Donbass, Rodion Miroshnik.

In other words, in order to structurally discredit Ukraine, Russian authorities introduce the designated tracks in their foreign policy office. However, Russia is not going to have any merit from it. The President’s Office is confidently reassuring that Kyiv is strictly following its commitments not to use the partners’ weapons to strike at Russia’s territory.  

On the other hand, efficient strikes on Russian territory demonstrate the progress in the Ukrainian military industry. Furthermore, Volodymyr Zelensky announced the maximization of production volumes of Ukrainian defense industry. “Ukraine can do it. Funding is available. Our defense industry will yield better results,” announced the President of Ukraine.

Outcomes of Kuleba’s European tour: what they discussed in Czech Republic, France, and Spain

Last week, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba held a series of foreign visits into EU states. The chief Ukrainian diplomat visited Czech Republic, France, and Spain. The  key topics of the visits included the reinforcement of air defense, promotion of Ukrainian Peace Formula, the preparations for the Global Peace Summit, combatting Russian propaganda in Africa, and the opening of negotiations about Ukraine’s EU membership still by the end of 2023.

On August, 28, Dmytro Kuleba visited Czech Republic where he had meetings with heads of diplomatic missions. According to the French Le Monde, during the meeting, the Minister suggested creating a group of post-Soviet states made of Baltic States, Moldova, and Ukraine to send a message to African states about the threat from Russian colonialism, and to refute the claim that Russia is the continuation of the “kind Soviet Union.”

According to the diplomat, the countries that experienced Russia’s colonial policy have a moral right to communicate that information to African countries. In fact, when France, the UK, and Belgium are doing it, African states respond negatively because of the imperial past of the European states. 

OPORA needs to remind that Russia is using different methods to strengthen their positions in Africa. One of them is the anticolonial rhetoric aiming against countries in Western Europe that used to have their colonies in the continent in the past but rejected the practice after the 1960s, and recognized the independence of African states. However, the paradox is that Russia who has been colonizing other nations during all their history is exploiting the anti-colonial policy against the countries who have long rejected it. On the other hand, the war against Ukraine that used to be part of the Russian empire is a certain factor confirming russia’s imperial aspirations. 

On August, 29–30, Kuleba had a working visit to Paris where he met Emanuel Macron. The Minister posted in his Twitter that they discussed with the French President further military support, expansion of the coalition in terms of Peace Formula, grain exports to African states and beyond.

In addition, Kuleba met the heads of French diplomatic missions, where he said that the freezing of conflict is not going to bring peace but a more horrible war. According to the diplomat, the only road to the real end of war is the Peace Formula suggested by the President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. 

“When the Peace Formula is implemented, it will be the first time ever since the Second World War that the war ends on terms of the attacked country rather than on terms of an aggressor or a third party. President Zelensky is right to emphasize that the war is raging on Ukrainian land, our people suffer, therefore, the Ukrainian vision of peace must be the basis for any peace efforts,” the diplomat accentuated. 

It must be reminded that the Ukrainian Peace Formula presented in November 2022 at the G20 Summit includes 10 points that must be implemented by the end of the war and establishment of peace. In particular, it provides for the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity of Ukraine, complete withdrawal of Russian troops and armed formations from the territory of Ukraine, and the fixation of the end of war. Russia has been rejecting this negotiation track and insisting that peace can only be possible if Ukraine refuses from the occupied territories. 

At the same time, according to the deputy head of the President’s Office of Ukraine, Ihor Zhovkva, currently over 70 countries share the Ukrainian philosophy of the Peace Formula. 

On August, 31, Kuleba visited Spain where in Toledo he took part in an informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers. According to him, the meeting participants agreed on certain decisions to be made by Kyiv and Brussels before December. It includes the increase of Ukrainian grain exports through seaborne and overland routes; extension of participants in the Peace Formula and bringing closer the Global Peace Summit scheduled for this autumn where the formula is to be implemented; growing the joint weapon production and opening Ukraine’s EU membership negotiations by the end of 2023.

Russia is investing into information operations and hopes for the human resources

Last week, the issue came to the fore about the resources needed to wage this long war. On that matter, Russia relies on human capital and disinformation. In this regard, the chief of Main Intelligence Board Kyrylo Budanov said: “Ha [Putin – ed.] has no resources. Other than people, he has no more resources to spare: there’s no economy, there’s no military industry resources, the military stock is exhausted.”

At the same time, the Russian command faces issues with recruiting people to the army. The British Intelligence  says that despite the attempts to make the military service financially attractive, the Kremlin struggles to recruit new people.

In addition, because of insufficient training, lack of motivation, and stressful situations in the Russian army,  there have been more cases of deserters. With the onset of “partial mobilization” Russian command chose the tactics of using large masses of people in their offensives and defensives.

The number of deserters might be growing also because of the punitive action against those who refuse to go on combat missions. The Ukrainian soldiers also found  cases when Russian soldiers are held in the trenches with the meager ration once a day, which demonstrates obvious issues within the RF army.  

Thus, all challenges combined, Russians would hardly be able to resume their offensives. Analysts from the Institute of the Study of War also say that further attacks of Russians are highly improbable because of the degrading compared to the elite units of air assault divisions where Ukrainian army conducts the counteroffensive actions.

The mobilization-related issues in Russia can be also confirmed by the cancelation of regular military training exercise “Zapad” this September that were supposed to be a climax of the year in the military drills. However, the demonstration exercise could have been cancelled because of shortages with manpower and equipment, and also against the fear for criticism. Russian Federation is investing all the possible resources into the war, thus lacking soldiers available for the training. After all, the “special operation” was not allegedly supposed to affect the capacity of the “second greatest army in the world.”

Information campaigns are also a critical focus for Russia. Thus, Russian Defense Ministry increased the censorship on the war-related reports. The government  is trying to reduce the number of news reports for Russian audiences about complaints from the front, or updates about the gains of Ukrainian army.

In parallel, Russia is preparing a new phase of information war. Main Intelligence Board of the Defense Ministry  says that the Russian president’s administration had a meeting to adopt the specific narratives to discredit Ukraine and impact its partners in the world. The disinformation may concern the “mass” mobilization in Ukraine, “disillusionment” of Ukrainian partners, “failures” of Ukrainian counteroffensive, “total” corruption, and “beautiful” life in the TOTs.

At the same time, the scale of russian disinformation for Western users is growing. For example, the Russia’s ongoing attempts to spread disinformation have been identified by German law-enforcement. Russia is using fake accounts, a complex network of state or government-related actors, authentically looking fake media accounts and websites to impact public opinion in Germany, to fuel internal conflicts and undermine trust for public institutions and government actions.

According to the representative of German Interior Agency, Telegram is most actively used for disinformation. However, other social media are bursting with Russian narratives. According to the study conducted by the European Commission, Russian propaganda about Ukraine on Twitter has now reached higher numbers than before the war.

“Pre-assessment shows that the coverage and impact of the Kremlin-supported accounts have increased in the first half of 2023 even more, also because of the security standards on Twitter broken,”  explain the experts.

However, the study showed that Twitter was not the only platform failing to stop the spread of Russian propaganda – Instagram, Telegram, and Facebook also faced criticism. The Office of the President says that the only possible solution is to fully stop the evil.  Russia must go through what it did not go through in the 1990s. They must face the debunking of the cult of personalities, repentance for own crimes, and the mandatory removal of the “imperial core,”  emphasized Mykhaylo Podoliak.