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Russia struggling to reinforce front line

September 12, 2022

The Ukrainian counteroffensive has Russia prioritizing defensive positions. Meanwhile, the EU's visa agreement allowing Russians relatively easy access to visit the Schengen area was fully suspended on Monday.

A destroyed tank in the Ukrainian town of Balakliya
Ukraine's president thanked the Ukrainian forces who "liberated hundreds of our cities and villages" Image: Metin Aktas/AA/picture alliance

Russia is struggling to get reinforcements to the front line after the recent Ukrainian counteroffensive and is being "forced to prioritize emergency defensive actions," according to the latest UK military intelligence report.

The report said Russia had likely ordered the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the entirety of Kharkiv Oblast, adding that "Russia is likely struggling to bring sufficient reserves forward across the Dnipro River to the front line" in the south, near Kherson.

Ukrainian long-range artillery is reportedly hindering Russia from carrying out repair works on crossings across the Dnipro.

The intelligence report added that with the significant success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive Russia has been forced to "prioritize emergency defensive actions," thereby restructuring its overall operation plan. This has also contributed to eroding the troops faith in the military leadership.

The Ukrainian army said Monday that its forces recaptured 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) in Kherson, adding that the settlements of Vysokopillia, Biloguirka, Soukhy Stavok and Myrolioubivka were "fully under Ukrainian flag." 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the Ukrainian forces who "liberated hundreds of our cities and villages" in a video address on Sunday. Ukraine has recaptured Balakliya, Izium and Kupiansk in its latest counteroffensive.

Ben Hodges, the former commander of US army troops in Europe, told DW that the Ukrainian army "deceived the Russians where the main attack was coming by talking openly about an attack in Kherson when the main attack actually was coming from the north."

"Russian forces are exhausted, their logistics are exhausted, leaders are being killed. And we've watched for the last couple of months the deterioration of morale and fighting spirit of Russian forces throughout so they don't have the will to fight," Hodges said.

As Ukraine attacks, news of Russian retaliation emerges

Here's a roundup of some of the other key developments regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine on September 12.

Moscow, Kyiv 'engaging' in Zaporizhzhia ceasefire talks: UN

Kyiv and Moscow have shown "signs that they are interested" in creating a security zone around Europe's largest nuclear plant in Ukraine threatened by shelling since Russia invaded its neighbour, the UN atomic watchdog said Monday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has two experts at the Zaporizhzhia plant since a mission there early this month, has urged fighting around the facility to stop. 

"What we need here really is Ukraine and Russia to agree on a very simple principle of not attacking or not shelling the plant," IAEA director general Rafael Grossi told reporters.

 "Basically it's a commitment that no military action will include or will imply aiming of course at the plant or a radius that could be affecting its normal operation. This is what we expect."

He added both Kyiv and Moscow were "engaging" with the agency on the issue and asking "lots of questions".

The development was welcome news to many, as shelling around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant in has raised fears of a nuclear disaster. The news also appeared to contradict earlier statements by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov that there were no plans for a ceasefire in the area.

Nuclear expert accuses Russia of 'stealing' Zaporizhzhia power plant

Russian envoy says Berlin crossed 'red line' by supplying weapons to Kyiv

Sergey Nechayev, the Russian ambassador to Berlin, said Germany had destroyed its previously good bilateral relations with Russia in light of the war in Ukraine. 

"The delivery of lethal weapons to the Ukrainian regime — which are used not only against Russian soldiers but also against the civilian population in the Donbas — is a 'red line' that the German government... should not have crossed," Nechayev said in an interview with the Russian daily Izvestia

Nechayev added that Berlin could not have a mediating role between Moscow and Kyiv as it had been a leading force behind Western sanctions against Russia. 

The envoy also referred in the interview to Germany's "moral and historical responsibility for the crimes of Nazism in the Second World War," as Moscow claims its objective in Ukraine is "denazification." 

Germany has supplied Ukraine with military equipment, ammunition and anti-aircraft tanks, although critics say Berlin's support came late as it was initially reluctant to supply weapons to a conflict zone.

Amid renewed calls for Germany to supply Ukraine with more weapons, Berlin said it would only do so in close coordination with its allies. 

"German Chancellor [Olaf Scholz] has, after all, said several times that there will be no unilateral moves in this matter," said deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann on Monday.

Russia vows to achieve its 'objectives' after Ukraine's counteroffensive 

Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov said Russia will carry on its "special military operation" in Ukraine until it achieves its goals. 

"The special military operation will continue until the initial objectives are achieved," Peskov told reporters in a conference call. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the attack on Ukraine on February 24 with the aim of "denazifying" and "demilitarizing" Ukraine, as well as supporting its separatist eastern regions.

Both Kyiv and NATO governments say that is a pretext for an imperial-style war of conquest.

Peskov also said on Monday there was currently "no prospect of negotiations" between Moscow and Kyiv, and no talks regarding a possible demilitarization around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

His remarks came following significant wins for Ukraine, including retaking parts of the Kharkiv region from Russian occupation

Russia's Defense Ministry on Monday said Russian air, rocket and artillery forces were "delivering precision strikes on units and reserves of the Ukrainian armed forces."

Russia retaliates with power outages in the east

EU suspends easy visa agreement with Russia

The European Union's visa agreement with Russia, which allowed its citizens relatively easy access to visit the Schengen area, was fully suspended on Monday.

The European Council last week adopted the proposal to suspend the visa agreement with Russia, in place since 2007.

The suspension means that Russians will be issued significantly fewer visas. There will be restrictions on multiple-entry visas, as well as an increase in fees from €35 ($35) to €80. The visa processing time will also increase.

Some applicants might have their applications rejected, while others could see current visas revoked because of the tightening of the rules.

West increases weapons production

Western governments are moving to replenish their weapons stockpiles, depleted by the supply to Ukraine.

Ukraine is heavily dependent on its Western allies for arms — especially crucial artillery and missile systems — in its war against Russia.

The supply of the munitions to Ukraine also drawn from reserves kept for their own defense. 

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a meeting of senior national armaments directors from allied countries to "discuss how our defense industrial bases can best equip Ukraine's future forces with the capabilities that they need" and at the same time rebuild their own reserves.

Since the beginning of the war the US has supplied Ukraine weaponry worth $15.2 billion.

In July, European Commissioner Thierry Breton warned EU countries about drawing on their stocks of weapons. "This has created a de facto vulnerability that now needs to be addressed urgently," he had said.

Emergency IMF funding to tackle food price shocks

The International Monetary Fund is exploring options to provide emergency financial aid to countries facing food price shocks, especially those caused by war, according to an exclusive Reuters report.

The measures will be discussed during an IMF executive board meeting on Monday.

One of the beneficiaries of this funding will be Ukraine, and will come without imposing conditions required in regular fund programs. At the same time, IMF officials admit that Ukraine needs a "full-fledged" financing package.

Food prices around the world have surged since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with sanctions and blocked shipping routes playing a big part.

Even though the resumption of export of grains from Ukraine has helped lower prices in recent weeks, many African and low income nations continue to suffer food shortages.

fb, ss, es/aw (dpa, AFP, Reuters)