Good morning from Kyiv. The volume of rain that Kyiv has recently experienced has now caught up with it. Parts of the region are experiencing flood, but there’s at least a hint that the sky may clear today.
What’s happening today?
Grain remains on the agenda - with Poland, Hungary and now Slovakia announcing temporary bans on the import of Ukrainian grain and other food stuffs. The EU has said that’s unacceptable, but what substantive action it can take is anybody’s guess. Russia, with a record wheat harvest in 2022, is currently reneging on the UN grain deal and has blocked 50 grain ships bound for Ukrainian Black Sea ports in the Bosphorus.
The alleged cause of this ‘grain strain’ is the impact of Ukrainian imports, especially wheat, on prices being paid to Polish, Hungarian and Slovak farmers. In fact, while global wheat prices have fallen some 37 per cent in the last year, they appear to have now stabilised and are again rising. Plus, the drop came off the very high prices that existed in mid-2022. Additionally, the prices for most other commodities have also fallen this year, but also appear to have stabilised and gained in the last month.
So, perhaps this has more to do with politics than with prices. Poland and Slovakia have autumn elections and, in both countries, more isolationist opposition parties are gaining in the polls, and the votes of domestic farmers matter. Tomorrow April 19, the EU is scheduled to vote on extending the duty-free trade deal with Ukraine until June 2024.
"She's a little kid, 5 or 6 years old. I took a killshot. We were told to let no one out"— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) April 17, 2023
Russian project Gulagu net published a video with the confessions of two convicts, ex-commanders of Wagner PMC subdivisions - Azamat Uldarov and ex convict Aleksey Savichev.
They admit to… pic.twitter.com/X1cNpM0Rr6
On the war front, another day brings yet another appalling and grotesque item of news. Two Wagnerite mercenaries publicly talked about the killing of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians and children in Bakhmut and Soledar on the orders of their higher command, including Wagner’s leader. Click here for Kyiv Post’s coverage.
“We were only following orders.” A refrain the world has sadly heard before. Today, we will wait for and assess the world’s reaction, as the Ukrainian Prosecutor General has opened a formal inquiry.
What was in Zelensky’s latest message?
Some evenings, President Zelensky’s messages are directed at multiple audiences. Last night, his remarks seemed aimed very much at the international community, as Ukraine continues its preparations for an offensive. He said:
“We are already preparing for another Ramstein meeting. I have held preparatory meetings. And we expect solidly grounded decisions that will address our prospects on the battlefield. Quite ambitious prospects, which we are approaching with all our might.
“Moreover, we are approaching them not only for ourselves, not only for Ukraine but also for our entire anti-war coalition. The aggressor must lose. And this is our joint responsibility with our partners – to gain more time for peace, that is, to be as active as possible now in providing weapons and ammunition to speed up our joint victory.”
What is the latest military situation?
As of 0600 Kyiv time today, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine provided the following data, covering the previous 24 hours:
· 4 missile strikes, 41 airborne strikes, and 57 attacks from rocket salvo systems;
· 70 Russian assaults on frontline positions across the Kupyansk, Lymansk, Bakhmutsk, Avdiivsk and Mar’yinka axes with Bakhmut and Mar’yinka remaining the “epicenter of hostitilities”;
· In the southern district of Zaporizhiya and Kherson, there was continued shelling including of 40 populated areas, and;
· Ukrainian Air Force carried out 12 strikes on areas where personnel and military equipment are concentrated.
· There were four civilians killed and 19 injured over the period.
For its part, the Institute for the Study of War said in its daily campaign assessment: “Russian forces have made further gains in Bakhmut and continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line. Russian forces continued defensive preparations in southern Ukraine.”
The latest British Ministry of Defence daily intelligence update on Ukraine notes the following:
· Heavy fighting has continued along the Donbas front line. However, there is a realistic possibility that Russia has reduced troop numbers and is decreasing offensive action around Donetsk city, most likely to divert resources towards the Bakhmut sector.
· In Bakhmut, Russian MoD and Wagner Group forces continue to make creeping advances. The front line in the town centre largely follows the main railway line. Ukraine is generally holding Russia’s envelopment from the south along the line of Korsunskovo Street, the old main road west out of town.
· For both sides, the exact sequencing of any major drawdown of their units around Bakhmut has become a critical question, with Ukraine wanting to free-up an offensive force while Russia likely aspires to regenerate an operational reserve.
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