Months of diplomacy have yielded a set of agreements allowing Ukraine to export grain via the Black Sea. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts assess gains from the accord, which could be significant even if it does not by itself push down global food prices.
Russia continued operations to fully occupy Donbas, Ukrainian forces announced counter-offensive to liberate southern coast, and Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and UN struck grain deal. Ukrainian forces 2 July retreated from Lysychansk, Severodonetsk’s twin city in east. Russian army 3 July declared it had taken full control of Luhansk region and throughout month continued operations to bring remainder of Donetsk region under its control. Notably, Russian forces 5 July struck market in Sloviansk, killing at least two; missile 9 July hit apartment building in Chasiv Yar city, killing over 40. Missile 29 July struck prison in separatist-held Olenivka town, killing around 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war; Moscow and Kyiv traded blame for attack. In south, attack 2 July on building near Black Sea port of Odesa killed at least 21. Month saw some attacks in centre and west; missile 14 July struck Vinnytsia city centre, killing 23; Russian forces 28 July struck Kyiv, Chernihiv regions for first time in weeks. Ukrainian forces used their new Western-manufactured artillery with longer range to destroy dozens of Russian ammunition depots. Notably, 3 July they targeted military base outside occupied Melitopol city, which mayor claimed killed 200 Russian troops; 11 July struck warehouse in Nova Kakhovka city. Ukraine’s defence minister 11 July announced counter-offensive to liberate southern coast; Ukrainian forces 19, 20, 27 July shelled Antonivskyi bridge across Dnipro river in bid to blockade Russian-occupied Kherson city. Meanwhile, govt continued lobbying for long-range ammunition to target Russian-occupied Crimea; U.S. under-secretary of defense cautioned of their escalatory potential; Russian official 17 July said attack on Crimea would trigger “judgment day scenario”. Drone 31 July exploded in Crimea's Sevastopol city, which Russian officials said they would investigate as terrorist attack. Elsewhere in occupied territories, low-intensity insurgency continued. On humanitarian front, UN 19 July estimated 5.9mn refugees and around 6.3mn displaced by war. On international front, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission to Ukraine 1 July ceased activities after Russia vetoed its renewal. Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and UN 22 July signed deal in Istanbul opening Black Sea ports to grain exports; Russia next day struck Odesa port, sparking outcry from Ukraine’s allies.
Stalled Ukraine-Russia peace talks and a recent Russian buildup of troops near the Ukrainian border are raising tensions in Europe and with the U.S. Kyiv and its Western partners should send Moscow a strong deterrence message while also proposing mutual de-escalatory measures.
Years of conflict have exacerbated the economic woes of Donbas, once an industrial powerhouse. Authorities in Kyiv should take steps now to aid pensioners and encourage small trade while also planning ahead for the region’s eventual reintegration with the rest of the country.
Ceasefires in Ukraine's Donbas repeatedly fray because no side is fully invested in peace. Until the sides can agree on a long-term political solution, they should focus on protecting civilians through carefully targeted sectoral disengagements. If this facilitates peacemaking, so much the better.
The threat of coronavirus looms large in six self-declared republics that have broken away from post-Soviet states. War and isolation have corroded health care infrastructure, while obstructing the inflow of assistance. International actors should work with local and regional leaders to let life-saving aid through.
To help Ukraine find peace, the EU, NATO, and member states must seek new approaches to arms control discussions with Russia and European security as a whole. They should also consider a more flexible sanctions policy, such that progress in Ukraine may lead to incremental easing.
Russia and the separatists it backs in Ukraine’s east are no longer quite on the same page, especially since the Kremlin abandoned ideas of annexing the breakaway republics or recognising their independence. The rift gives the new Ukrainian president an opportunity for outreach to the east’s embattled population, including by relaxing the trade embargo.
I think Russia's plan right now is to capture Donbas [in Ukraine] and to see what they can do next.
There is a real premium [for the G7 leaders] on conveying unity and a credible response because this war [in Ukraine] is not going to be short-lived.
Given the personnel shortages, given the equipment shortages on both sides [to the war in Ukraine], but especially on the Russian side, I do wonder how long they can actually keep it up.
Few if any wars have been launched with as much nuclear posturing as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I think the bottom line is that Russia's doctrine allows nuclear use in case of existential threat to the state.
Having watched how the Russians fight wars over the years, this is nowhere close to all they can do.
[The UN resolution] isn’t going to stop Russian forces in their stride, but it’s a pretty enormous diplomatic win for the Ukrainians and the US, and everyone who has got behind them.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks with former Finnish Prime Minister and Crisis Group trustee Alexander Stubb about Finland’s decision to apply for NATO membership, Russia’s war in Ukraine and the war’s global repercussions.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Elissa Jobson talk about the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which continues more than 100 days after Russia launched its large-scale invasion of its neighbour.
More than two months ago, the Russian assault on Ukraine transformed a regional conflict into a war that poses the gravest risk to international peace and security in decades. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to keep supporting Kyiv, while averting escalation and laying the groundwork for post-war European security arrangements.
Crisis Group’s Program Director for Europe and Central Asia, Olga Oliker, speaks about the current situation in Ukraine, why it's more dangerous now than when Russia invaded in February and what can be done to de-escalate it.
Originally published in The London Review of Books.