After major losses of territory since the Russian invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has replaced the commander of the armed forces in eastern Ukraine. The head of state dismissed Hryhorij Halahan by decree on Monday and installed Viktor Horenko in his place.
The 44-year-old Major General Halahan had led the special operation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions since August 2020. The war there started in 2014.
Zelenskyi repeatedly demanded heavy weapons from the West to stop Russia’s advance and recapture occupied territories. According to the Task Force South, the Ukrainian army has received six Stormer HVM air defense systems from Great Britain. Like the German Gepard anti-aircraft tanks that have already been delivered, they are primarily used for close-range air defense of troop formations.
After Russia’s invasion in February, Ukraine has now completely lost control of the Luhansk region. About 50 percent of the neighboring Donetsk region was conquered by Russian troops.
Before February 24, just under 30 percent of the areas were controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Selenskyj had recently complained that Kyiv no longer had 20 percent of Ukrainian territory under its control.
Meanwhile, the General Staff in Kyiv reported that the Russian units had achieved successes at the Wuhlehirsk coal-fired power plant. On the other hand, attacks in the direction of the towns of Bakhmut and Siwersk were repelled on the neighboring sector of the front.
Russian attacks in the Kharkiv region also failed. Several dozen places, especially in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, were shelled by artillery or bombed by the Luftwaffe.
Zelenskyj sees a form of Moscow’s “terror” against the West in the further throttling of Russian gas supplies to Europe. “And this is an open gas war that Russia is unleashing against a united Europe,” said Zelenskyy in his evening video message on Monday. Russia is deliberately making it difficult for Europe to prepare for the winter.
Moscow is showing once again that it is not interested in the fate of the people. By blocking Ukrainian grain exports, Russia is making people starve, suffering from cold, poverty and occupation.
“These are just different forms of terror,” said Zelenskyj, referring to the announcement by the Russian gas company Gazprom that it would cut supplies through the Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 1 to 20 percent of capacity from Wednesday.
Gazprom gave the reason that another gas turbine had to be repaired. For this reason, the current 40 percent output will be further reduced to 33 million cubic meters of gas per day, it said. Nord Stream 1 is Germany’s most important supply pipeline for gas from Russia.
According to information from the German Press Agency, representatives of EU countries have meanwhile agreed on an emergency plan to reduce gas consumption. It is to be officially confirmed on Tuesday at a special meeting of energy ministers in Brussels.
The cutback in gas supplies is another threat to Europe, Zelensky said. That is why the West must strike back. Instead of thinking about returning the gas turbine that has already been repaired, the sanctions against Russia should be further tightened. “Do everything possible to reduce Russia’s revenues not only from gas and oil, but also from other exports that remain,” he said.
Zelenskyy warned that any further trade relationship is a “potential means of pressure on Russia”. It has long had a reputation for using its gas as a “geopolitical weapon.” Despite the war, part of the gas from Russia continues to be pumped through Ukraine to Western Europe.
Preparations for export of grain from Black Sea ports are ongoing in Ukraine. “We expect that the first ship could move within the coming days,” said a UN spokesman. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during his visit to the Republic of the Congo that nothing stands in the way of fulfilling the Istanbul agreement reached on Friday.
In the agreement on Friday, Russia had pledged to let ships for export use a sea corridor and not to shoot at them. The ports involved, Odessa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny, must also not be attacked. Among other things, it is about the export of millions of tons of grain. The agreement, signed through mediation by the UN and Turkey, provides for exports to be monitored by a control center in Istanbul.
A memorandum was also signed with Russia in parallel with the Korn Agreement. According to Moscow, it states that the UN wants to work towards easing sanctions that indirectly restrict Russia’s grain and fertilizer exports. Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken of a package solution with regard to the export of Ukrainian grain.
However, the UN has not yet confirmed this. The documents are “not public” and will only be made public if everyone involved agrees, the UN said on Monday. On Friday, the UN merely stated in writing that the agreement was based on the principle “that the measures imposed on the Russian Federation do not apply to these products”.
From the EU perspective, this is already the case. For example, on Thursday an EU decision confirmed that no sanctions would be “in any way directed against trade in agricultural products and foodstuffs, including wheat and fertilizers, between third countries and Russia”.
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is visiting the Czech Republic and Slovakia this Tuesday. The Greens also want to talk about the Ukraine war there. The Czech Republic has held the EU Council Presidency since July 1st. Germany is also cooperating with its NATO and EU partners to supply Ukraine with weapons.