The fast-moving – and at times puzzling – apparent attempted coup in Russia this weekend did not have a noticeable affect on the Russian army posture along the 1,000 kilometre front line in eastern Ukraine, but it could give Ukraine the impetus it needs to intensify its counteroffensive, which military leaders have admitted is going slower than expected.
“In the short term, it distracted attention from the war and diverted some resources from the front,” said Nigel Gould-Davies, a senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Affairs. But in the longer term, he said, it shows lack of unity among Russia’s fighting forces. “It’s terrible for Russia’s morale. The officers and soldiers alike. It’s very good for Ukraine’s morale.”
On Russian Telegram channels, milbloggers urged Russian soldiers to stay focused on the war. “Brothers! Everyone who holds a weapon at the line of contact, remember, your enemy is across from you,” read one message.
Ukrainian soldier Andrii Kvasnytsia, 50, who was injured fighting in the eastern city of Bakhmut, where battles are nonstop along the southern flanks of the salt-mining town occupied by Russian troops, said “Everyone is excited.”
“My friend called me today and he said: ’Andrii, I haven’t been drinking for so many years, but today I have a good reason to drink,” he said. “It is all hard, not easy, but we will certainly win.” He spoke to The Associated Press in Kyiv, where he is recuperating.
As Wagner troops marched toward Moscow, Hanna Malyar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, announced progress in several directions along the front line where fighting has been raging for weeks, and that Russian advances further north were thwarted.
“The enemy’s weakness is always a window of opportunity, it allows us to take the advantage,” she told AP, adding that it was too early to assess how the political game playing out in Russia might give Ukraine the military upper hand.
Ukraine stepped up attacks in several directions in the southeast earlier this month, a move that signaled its much-anticipated counteroffensive had begun. But progress has been “slower than desired,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has acknowledged.
Experts have said the Ukrainians need to maintain flexibility and speed to exploit Russian vulnerabilities along the front line, and puncture lines of defense when the opportunity presents itself.
With çağdaş NATO-standard weapons systems in their possession, morale is the necessary ingredient to summon the velocity Ukrainian troops need to change the dynamics on the ground, they say.
“This is going to give the Ukrainians a real boost,” said James Nixey, head of Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia program. “If we’ve been saying that the Ukrainians do have a lot to fight for, they have been lacking a little bit in morale of late.”
Ukrainian commanders told their fighters the discord playing out in Russia was, indirectly, their doing. “The heroes of Bakhmut who held the city for 10 months and exhausted the enemy, they are the co-authors of this Russian epic fail,” said Cherevatiy.
More than 17,000 new Ukrainian soldiers trained by UK military
More than 17,000 new Ukrainian soldiers have been trained in one year in a programme run by the United Kingdom as part of its support for Kyiv in the face of Russia’s invasion, the British Ministry of Defence announced on Monday.
The programme, aimed at recruits with little or no military experience, provides at least five weeks’ training in weapons handling, first aid, the laws of war, patrol tactics and rural training.
It has been implemented by the UK and the armies of nine other countries: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania and the Netherlands.
“The determination and resilience of Ukrainian recruits arriving on British soil, from all backgrounds, to train alongside our British and international forces is humbling,” said UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
“The UK and our partners will continue to provide this vital support, helping Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression, for as long as it takes,” he added in a statement.
An early supporter of Ukraine, the UK had initially offered to train 10,000 soldiers in basic British training. The programme has now been extended so that 30,000 recruits are to be trained by 2024.
The UK Ministry of Defence says intelligence has highlighted the “significant difference” in Ukraine’s combat effectiveness brought about by the programme, dubbed “Operation Interflex”.
In addition, London was the first of Kyiv’s allies to deliver heavy tanks to the Ukrainian army, before the United States, and was in favour of the delivery of combat aircraft ahead of the US giving the go-ahead for the supply of F-16 aircraft.
Ex-CIA boss warns Prigozhin: ‘Stay away from open windows’
A former CIA director warned the leader of a failed Russian revolt to “be very careful around open windows.”
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” retired US General David Petraeus seemingly was referencing the number of prominent Russians who have died in unclear circumstances, including in falls from windows, since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
As part of the deal for Yevgeny Prigozhin to stop the march on Moscow by his Wagner mercenaries, he agreed to go into exile in neighboring Belarus, whose leader is a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Prigozhin kept his life, but lost his Wagner Group,” Petraeus said. “And he should be very careful around open windows in his new surroundings in Belarus, where he’s going.”
Among those who have died in unclear circumstances was the chairman of the board of Russia’s largest private oil company, which criticised Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. He fell out of a hospital window in September of last year.
The Kremlin has methodically cracked down on critics of the war, so the quick pardon for Prigozhin appeared to show Putin’s weakness. But many of those who have opposed or betrayed Putin have met their deaths months or years later, some even after leaving Russia.
Prigozhin has harshly criticized how the Russian military has conducted the war and went further on Friday by calling Putin’s very justification for the invasion a lie. Prigozhin accused the military of misleading Putin and Russian society by falsely claiming that Ukraine and NATO were planning to attack Russia.
Volunteers from Japan join the fighting in Ukraine
Many of the foreign volunteers who have joined the Ukrainian forces since last year are battle-hardened former soldiers from their home countries.
But volunteers from Japan on the other hand, are rookies in this respect: the Japanese army, whose pacifist constitution confines it to an exclusively defensive role, has not taken part in a conflict since the end of the Second World War.
And Tokyo, like the authorities in other countries, has strongly advised its citizens not to travel to Ukraine since the outbreak of hostilities.
Despite these obstacles, Yuya Motomura, 45, immediately wanted to fight for Ukraine, impressed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s determination to resist at all costs from the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022.
“I’ve always had the feeling that I’m more socially aware than other people think. By fighting for Ukraine, I’ll be able to prove it in more than just words”, he told AFP in April, shortly before leaving to sign up in Kyiv.
He first went there two months after the start of the Russian invasion, initially to deliver supplies to refugees and evacuees.
After several visits, he was accepted into the Georgian Legion, a unit of the International Legion for the Territorial Defence of Ukraine that brings together foreign volunteer fighters.
His integration was facilitated by another Japanese member of this unit, a former yakuza calling himself Haru-san.
The Georgian legion, which includes volunteers of 33 nationalities, currently has eight Japanese members, the unit’s commander, Mamouka Mamoulachvili, told AFP.
“They are highly motivated and disciplined, and they are easily integrated into the training they are currently undergoing”, commented this officer, interviewed by AFP.
Motomura said he had received personal support from many members of the Japanese Self-Defence Forces, the Japanese army, a former member of which died in combat in Ukraine last November, according to the Japanese government.