A review of the past week’s most important events

Heavy Fighting, European Victory, and Kremlin’s Propaganda Op

The situation at the Front

Fierce battles continue in the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk region. On the geopolitical chessboard, Ukraine is winning. Meanwhile, the Kremlin continues to conduct a program of psychological propaganda, trying to “promote” the idea of peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.

The situation at the front remains difficult. As in previous weeks, the war’s main events have unfolded in the country’s east; more specifically, in the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk region, where the Russian occupiers have been trying to surround the Ukrainian Armed Forces. According to the General Staff’s order, Ukrainian troops withdrew to Lysychansk and managed to avoid encirclement in the area of Hirske and Zolote.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces continue counterattacks in the Kherson direction and Izium area, where our defenders are trying to cut communication lines, with the enemy advancing on Slovyansk.

Modern Western weapons are due to arrive at the front; in particular, the high-precision, multiple launch HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), which will increase the Ukrainian army’s fire power. These weapons have helped to destroy a large number of the enemy’s ammunition depots and two command posts, slowing down Russian attacks in the direction of Slovyansk.

Meanwhile, on June 27, NATO leaders met and decided on a large-scale rearmament program for Ukraine. We will discuss this in greater detail in the next review.

Undoubtedly, Russian media will use the occupiers’ temporary successes in Severodonetsk in their propaganda. Strategically, however, the enemy achieved no decisive success, with the battle for the Donbas continuing, and Ukrainian Armed Forces mounting successful counterattacks in some areas. The situation is difficult, but controlled.

Foreign Policy Victory – Ukraine an EU Membership Candidate

A meeting of the European Council was held on June 23 with the participation of European Union member-state leaders, at which a historic decision was unanimously adopted, granting Ukraine candidate status for accession to the European Union.

In previous researches, analysts of the Information Defense Project have already written that such a decision would likely have strategic, long-term, rather than short-term, consequences for Ukraine. Below is a brief analysis of them.

Existential consequences – most importantly, as Europeans, Ukrainians have made their geopolitical, European choice and have clearly demonstrated their commitment to democratic values.

Political consequences – Ukraine is now an EU candidate, and the EU is able to provide serious political support to the country.

The latest example of such EU political unity is Lithuania, which has banned the transit to Kaliningrad of goods that have come under EU anti-Russian sanctions. In fact, in response to Russian pressure, the EU had provided strong non-military support to Lithuania.

With additional EU mechanisms, Ukraine’s political support will become more consolidated and effective.

Financial consequences – with its latest decision, the European Union has provided a loan of €9 billion for Ukraine’s macro-financial stabilization. EU candidate status provides access to other financial instruments of expansion, in particular, for the implementation of infrastructure projects.

For example, Poland has realized most of its infrastructure projects, worth tens of billions of euros, as an EU membership candidate.

Business implications – implementing the Association Agreement with the EU: Ukraine has already implemented 70% of European rules and regulations. The European Economic Area (EEA) is a completely different business and investment environment, with the rules of the game facilitating business development.

Ukrainian entrepreneurs will get new opportunities for development and trade with EU countries. Furthermore, Ukraine’s candidate status is a kind of insurance policy for foreign businesses that have risked their activities in Ukraine.

In addition to completing seven “homework” tasks from the EU, it is clear Ukraine will have to go through a long negotiation process, which may take more than a year. The process is further hindered by the war, which is not conducive to such negotiations. According to Ukrainian officials, Ukraine’s accession to the European Union will be completed by 2029.

Ukraine hopes to become a part of the European Union much earlier, as it has paid for that privilege with the blood of thousands of Ukrainians.

Russian Narratives and Special Information Ops

The Kremlin has continued a special information operation to claim it is emphasizing the need for a ceasefire and peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.

The “sale” of the so-called Italian peace plan to Ukraine ended in failure. After a Kyiv visit, French President Emanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have taken a firm and confident pro-Ukrainian stance.

However, Russian propagandists decided to use other channels to promote their narratives.

On June 18, The National Interest published a 15-point proposals for a peace plan between Ukraine and Russia. The founder of this publication is a well-known Soviet-Russian-American political scientist, Dimitri Simes, who, according to former KGB agent Yuriy Shvets, was “deported” by Soviet intelligence in the 1970s to the United States.

What does this “peace plan”, devised by Kremlin agents, actually mean?

It would, of course, incorporate such conditions as: Ukraine taking up constitutionally neutral status; Ukrainian disarmament under Russian control; international legal recognition of the occupation of Crimea; holding a referendum on the status of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions; lifting sanctions on Russia; and reducing the Ukrainian army to 150,000 troops.

In general, this is the familiar set of Russian “whims”, which are completely unacceptable to the political and military situation in Ukraine. However, it’s clear that even something like this plan will find support neither in Ukrainian society, nor in the Ukrainian government, nor among our partners.

Nevertheless, Russia continues to stubbornly push its narratives among the American establishment.

On June 24, the influential American newspaper and political journalism company Politico published information about the meeting of Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov and Dimitri Simes with the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in which the “behind-the-scenes truce” between Russia and Ukraine was discussed.

It is unlikely such behind-the-scenes proposals will be supported by Western governments, among which there is a clear consensus – “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.” Today, our partners – Europe, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Poland, the Baltic States and the Central European countries – have a consolidated position: they must not interfere in the peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.

For example, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the G7 countries and NATO allies could not encourage Ukraine to agree to unfavorable peace terms while Russia’s brutal war drags on.

The Kremlin appears to have a habit of stepping on the same rake and getting hid hard, starting with its invasion of February 24, when it expected Ukraine’s people to meet Russian troops with flowers.

According to military expert Oleh Zhdanov, Moscow is organizing a meeting in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, where it plans to sign an agreement on the establishment of the Union of Slavic Countries. Attention! That agreement is meant to be signed by Russia, Belarus and… Ukraine, with Ukraine’s convicted ex-president-in-exile, the disgraced Viktor Yanukovych, signing for Ukraine. That signature would be entirely illegitimate and legally void, as far as Ukrainians are concerned.

Russia’s political class does not understand Ukraine, Ukrainians, or their public sentiments. Such specifically Russo-centric political constructions, invented by Russian intelligence and political technologists will never be implemented, as there will never be public support for them in Ukraine.

 

Ihor Zhdanov, Information Defense Project, The Open Policy Foundation

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Kyiv Post.

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