Good morning from Kyiv, where it continues to be cold and cloudy. At least the cafes are happy – winter soups keep selling.
Then again, in Ukraine, borscht is completely acceptable regardless of the weather, the season or the time of day. It is Ukraine’s undisputable super food.
What’s happening today?
NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made a surprise visit to Kyiv yesterday – his first since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. He declared: “Ukraine’s future is in NATO. All allies agree on that.”
Perhaps, Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius didn’t get that email. Late yesterday, he said: "[NATO’s] doors have opened a little bit, but it’s really not the time to make a decision [about Ukraine].
Stoltenberg’s visit and comments will spark more discussion today about what lies ahead in Ukraine’s quest to become a NATO member; the level of support Ukraine is receiving from NATO and whether it is sufficient for the imminent offensive; the timing of that much anticipated military operation, and; what might happen at today's Ramstein meeting on allied military aid.
Elsewhere, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has continued its work throughout the period of the full-scale invasion. Once infamous for fistfights in the parliamentary chamber, some observers say the Rada has never been as united and productive.
An MP told Kyiv Post: “There are hardly any parties any more, really. We just get things done.”
One thing getting done is ‘registered partner’ legislation which would give LGBT people in Ukraine legal status, particularly including if their partner is injured or killed during military service. Kyiv Post will soon report on that issue – and how it’s an indicator of a number of interesting changes taking place here during war-time.
What was in President Zelensky’s latest message?
Given the Stoltenberg visit, Zelensky stuck to NATO themes last night. He said:
“Neither the majority of Ukrainians, or the majority of Europeans, or the majority of the people of all NATO countries will understand if NATO leaders at the [July] Summit in Vilnius don’t issue a well-deserved political invitation for Ukraine to NATO. Ukraine has done everything for our application to be accepted.”
What is the latest military situation?
Well, the Russians bombed themselves last night. Two people were injured in Belogrod when, according to TASS, an “Su-34 aircraft of the Russian Air Forces was performing a flight above the city of Belgorod [when] an emergency release of an air ordnance occurred”. It left a 40 metre crater in the middle of the city of 400,000 and two people injured, according to the local Mayor.
More information on this story can be found at our Explainer
Russia also tried to attack Kyiv with Iranian Shahed drones after midnight. Ukrainian air defences destroyed 8 out of 10 of them.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported activity in the previous 24 hours as of 0600 this morning:
23 Russian aerial attacks, including Shaheds against Kyiv and Poltava;
49 assaults on Ukrainian positions and civilian infrastructure using anti-aircraft weapons;
60 infantry / landborne assaults, particularly in the Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka districts;
40 artillery assaults were directed at settlements in Zaporizhia, Kherson and Chernihiv regions (which resulted in four civilian deaths), and;
The Ukrainian Air Force conducted 6 assaults on Russian positions.
The Institute for the Study of War’s daily update highlighted:
· Russian forces continued limited ground attacks in the Kreminna area.
· Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued reconnaissance activity northwest of Svatove.
· Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk frontline, and in western Donetsk Oblast.
· Russian forces continued defensive preparations in southern Ukraine out of concern for a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The latest UK MoD Defence Intelligence update said:
· With soft ground conditions across most of Ukraine, severe mud is highly likely slowing operations for both sides in the conflict.
· However, Russian online outlets are likely exaggerating the overall impact of mud on Ukrainian forces as part of an information operation aimed at raising Russian morale, and undermining Ukraine’s supporters, in light of an anticipated Ukrainian counter offensive.
· Surface conditions can be expected to improve in the coming weeks. The threat from mines probably continues to be a more important factor in limiting the combatants’ off-road manoeuvre.
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