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War Speeches. Russia swallows the "grain deal" and complains that Patriot is shooting down "Kinzhals"

Monday, 22 May 2023, 13:15

Last week (May 15–21), international meetings took place, which showed unwavering support for Ukraine. In particular, at the G7 summit, the United States joined the "coalition of fighters" for Ukraine. At the Summit of the Council of Europe, they created a Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation. 

To discredit Ukraine and reduce military assistance, Russia convened yet another meeting of the Security Council, which did not yield any diplomatic success for the aggressor. Moreover, Russia agreed to extend the grain deal for two months without achieving its vital goal – lifting some sanctions.

Recently, we have also heard more new peace initiatives to resolve the war; air traffic between Georgia and Russia has been restored; and crisis hits the post-Soviet organizations of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). 


Below, we talk about the critical statements and developments of the war-struck week.  

"New" Peace Initiatives, the Grain Deal Extension; International Summits With Diplomatic Gains for Ukraine

The past week has been rich in diplomatic events, including international summits. All of them emphasized their unwavering support for Ukraine. 

Thus, at the Summit of Heads of States and Governments of the Council of Europe, held in Reykjavik on May 17, more than 40 countries and the EU signed the Treaty on the Register of Damages Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation Against Ukraine. The Ukrainian Ministry of Justice explains: "It is a significant step in bringing the Russian Federation to justice for the aggression. But this is only the first component of a comprehensive compensation mechanism. The ultimate goal is to create a comprehensive mechanism to ensure the actual compensation payment." On the other hand, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said that the five-year period of post-war reconstruction of Ukraine would require additional investments of about $50 billion a year.

Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal hopes that the next step after establishing the Register of Damage should be the mechanism of confiscating Russian assets. 

On the contrary, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that the decisions of the Council of Europe would be "null and void for the Russian Federation, and we will consider joining it as an act hostile to Russia." According to her, the Council of Europe has become a fully EU-controlled instrument, its "ideology department," which is "actively used by the West in a hybrid war with Russia." Apparently, Russian officials did not like other decisions made in Iceland. 

The fourth Summit of the Council of Europe also approved a resolution with political support for the Ukrainian reading of the "peace formula" and welcomed the progress in creating a special tribunal for the leadership of Russia.

The subsequent two summits, discussed below, were attended by Volodymyr Zelensky personally. Thus, on Friday, May 19, the President visited the Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia. He also met with the Hereditary Prince, Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud. Later, he held talks with the heads of delegations of the UAE, Oman, and Kuwait. 

At the event, Volodymyr Zelensky called for the protection and support of Ukrainians, particularly the Ukrainian Muslim community. The President of Ukraine also asked the members of the League of Arab States to join the implementation of the Ukrainian peace formula. It should be mentioned that the leader of the Crimean Tatar people, Mustafa Dzhemilev, also took part in the event.

In the following days, on May 20–21, Volodymyr Zelensky attended the Summit of the G7 countries held in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The President said, "In Japan, Ukraine and its partners are coordinating positions and preparing new joint steps to win the war with Russia." The President of Ukraine expressed gratitude to the partners for their assistance and suggested holding a meeting on the peace formula in July.

On the sidelines of the event, Zelensky also held bilateral meetings and negotiations with heads of state and governments, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni, US President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida a.o. In particular, at a meeting with Joe Biden, Zelensky stressed the importance of security guarantees for Ukraine before joining NATO. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak focused on supporting the protection of Ukraine from Russia, underscoring that "Ukraine's security is our security."

On May 20, on the eve of the Summit, the G7 leaders agreed on a joint communique about support for Ukraine: "We are taking concrete steps to support Ukraine for as long as it takes in the context of an illegal aggressive war by Russia." 

The G7 leaders also announced new restrictions on Russian diamonds, adopted a plan to counter the risks of Russian "energy armaments," and reaffirmed that "the international order must be based on the rule of law."

In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the G7 countries were literally "fixated" on an all-rounded confrontation with Russia, and the primary outcome of the Summit was allegedly "a set of statements saturated with questionable passages of an anti-Russia and anti-China nature." The Russians also believe that "the majority of the world community shares their assessments of the G7 and its destructive actions."

Nevertheless, making harsh and critical statements must be all that "Russian diplomacy" can do. Its stance keeps constantly changing, for example, regarding the grain initiative.

Thus, on May 17, Vice Prime Minister for Reconstruction of Ukraine, Minister of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development, Oleksandr Kubrakov, said that the grain deal was unblocked and would be valid until July 18: "The world will continue to receive Ukrainian food supplies thanks to the efforts of our partners in the deal – Turkey and the UN." Kubrakov added, "As of today, 30.4 million tonnes of agricultural products have already been shipped to the world." 

Since mid-April, Russia has once again begun to restrict the work of the initiative. Since May, it has blocked it, refusing to register a new fleet and inspect ships that come to be loaded in Ukrainian ports. You can read about the entire timeline of the Russian sabotage of the grain deal in this OPORA article.

The United States welcomed the extension of the grain initiative, but Russian officials commented differently on their blackmailing failure. Thus, Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov explained the extension of the grain agreement as a "relative outcome" in the negotiations: "We have a relative result in the negotiations with the representatives of Turkey, Ukraine, and the UN. As for Rosselkhozbank, various options equivalent to unlocking SWIFT are being elaborated. "

At the same time, the official website of the Russian Foreign Ministry says the grain agreement was extended "without any changes" for another two months "in response to appeals, primarily from Turkish partners as parties to the deal." In his speech, Sergei Lavrov said that "the initiative's implementation is not related to domestic political processes in Turkey." Yet, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, it was a proposal from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As a matter of fact, he is awaiting the second round of elections on May, 28.

Furthermore, despite multiple speculations by the Kremlin, Russian wheat exports in January-February 2023 almost doubled compared to the same period last year.

In addition to international summits and the defeat of Russian blackmail over the grain deal, "new" peace initiatives came up last week.

Thus, according to Reuters, Pope Francis wants to send his representatives to the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia to try to reach a ceasefire. They plan that the Bologna cardinal, Matteo Zuppi, will go to Kyiv for negotiations with Volodymyr Zelensky, and the head of the Department of the Eastern Churches, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, will travel to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin. The publication says that both Presidents agreed to meet with papal envoys.

The Republic of South Africa also plans to bring forward their peace initiatives. Thus, the office of the President of Ukraine reported that during a telephone conversation on May 13, the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, "informed Volodymyr Zelensky about his intention to come to Ukraine as part of a mission from several African countries." The President of Ukraine is ready to receive distinguished guests in Ukraine, listen to their proposals, talk about the Ukrainian formula for peace, and invite them to join its implementation.

Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, said his country supported all peace initiatives because "no one knows what peace plan would have a chance of success." According to Orban, even the true nature of the conflict has not yet been clarified: some believe that a "mediation war" is taking place in Ukraine, while others talk about a real war between the parties.

Commenting on the peace initiatives, Secretary of the NSDC of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, emphasized that in relations with Moscow, weapons are the best method of diplomatic communication. "The criminal group of murderers and rapists does not understand any other language. If you want an end to the war, first call on Russia to lay down arms and leave the territory of Ukraine. 

Also, on May 16–17, a special representative of the Chinese government, Li Hui, visited Ukraine. He met with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba, and other officials. 

China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "there is no panacea for resolving the crisis, but all sides need to start with themselves, build mutual trust, and create conditions for ending the war and the negotiations." They also mentioned something about China allegedly willing to help Ukraine "within its capabilities."

Dmytro Kuleba highlighted the importance of China's participation in implementing the peace formula of the President of Ukraine, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and in guaranteeing nuclear safety and other critical international efforts. Head of the Office of the President, Andriy Yermak, said that he held a briefing on the current security situation in the country for the Chinese government delegation.

Well, peace initiatives are certainly a good thing. What is more important is that they correlate with the Ukrainian formula of peace. 

Russia invents a story about destroying the Patriot, and they will undoubtedly meet the F-16 on the battlefield

On the night of May 16, Russia launched a massive missile attack on Kyiv. However, the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces reported taking down all 18 missiles that flew at the Ukrainian capital. Also, the army said that with the help of the Patriot system, they managed to shoot down the Kinzhal aeroballistic missiles. 

It is the second time that a Russian hypersonic missile has been shot down with the help of the Patriot air defense system that Ukraine recently received. The first such case occurred on May 4, when Patriot came out the winner in a duel with Kinzhal attempting to strike it.

In contrast, the Russian Ministry of Defense said, without referring to any evidence, that "a high-precision strike with a hypersonic missile complex "Kinzhal" smashed the Patriot missile system." However, the Russian Defense Ministry later reported the "Kinzhal" strike "completely destroyed" as many as 5 Patriot launchers. 

Ukraine refuted this information. The Air Force Command said that one missile could not destroy 5 launchers because they are located in different places. The United States also overturned the destruction of the Patriot. On May 18, the Pentagon confirmed that the Patriot air defense system was damaged, but it had already been repaired, and now the weapon is fully operational. 

Meanwhile, on May 16, several developers of Kinzhal missiles were arrested in Russia for "high treason." They are suspected of having transferred data related to hypersonic technology to China. 

On May 18, Russia initiated a meeting of the UN Security Council to condemn the supply of weapons to Ukraine. On the eve of the meeting, Serhiy Kyslytsia suggested: Russia would complain that Ukraine is shooting down Russian missiles every night. By and large, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN Security Council was not wrong. During his speech, Russian diplomat Vasily Nebenzia was highly dissatisfied with the fact that the allies were increasing the intensity of arms supplies to Ukraine, the total amount of which has already reached more than $60 billion. He was unhappy to see the provision of powerful weapons, including Leopard tank and long-range Storm Shadow missiles, and that they were preparing to transfer F-16 attack aircraft. According to the Russian representative in the UN Security Council, all of it is detrimental to the "settlement of the conflict." To put it bluntly, it prevents Russia from winning the war. 

In addition, Nebenzia shared the joint statements of Russian disinformation: Ukraine has been bombing the Donbas since 2014; shelling civilian infrastructure with HIMARS (according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, they have already destroyed more than Ukraine received), and the commanders of the Ukrainian army sell weapons to the black market. 

Russia's rhetoric found no support. Thus, US representative Robert Wood stressed that the supply of weapons did not exacerbate the conflict but prevented it from deepening. The representative of France, Nicolas de Rivière, voiced a similar position. He said that the end of this war depended solely on Russia, and no one but the Kremlin still sought to continue this conflict.

By far the most prominent news of this week is that Ukrainian pilots would begin training on F-16 aircraft. The United Kingdom and the Netherlands have built an aviation coalition. According to a statement from Downing Street, the two heads of government agreed to "work to establish an international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air power and means, providing support in everything  from training to the acquisition of F-16 fighters." Later, FranceBelgiumPortugalDenmark, and the United States joined the coalition. They are ready to start training Ukrainian pilots, which could take 4 months. Some countries, such as Denmark, are prepared to transfer their F-16s for the needs of Ukraine. 

In addition, in the United States, the country producing the F-16, which must approve the re-export of military equipment, said that they did not object to the provision of these aircraft to Ukraine by other countries. Subsequently, on the eve of the G7 summit, it became public that the F-16 fighters that Ukraine would receive from the allies would be provided, on condition that they are not used to strike at Russia. Still during the Summit, on May 19-21 in Hiroshima, Joe Biden stated that he had received such guarantees from Volodymyr Zelensky. 

At  the same time, according to the Associated Press, in an interview with reporters, the US president said that F-16 aircraft can be used "wherever the Russian troops are within Ukraine." 

It is not yet known when the F-16 will arrive in Ukraine. However, given the announced pilots training and based on Joe Biden's statements in Hiroshima, we can carefully assume that a political decision on transferring the F-16 to Ukraine had already been made. Ukraine's Ministry of Defense hopes that the aircraft will protect the Ukrainian sky in the fall. The agency also expects to receive about 40 to 50 fighters. 

The "Near Abroad": Geopolitical Failures and Russia's Attempts to Maintain Influence in the Region

The updated foreign policy concept of the Russian Federation emphasizes its strategic interests in Eurasian integration. They declared their intention to rely on international organizations, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

However, Russia's role in international organizations can hardly be called constructive. It is worth mentioning the lack of results from the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorny-Karabakh and the general passive attitude of the CSTO during the years-long conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. 

Currently, Armenia is considering the possibility of withdrawing from the CSTO. Secretary of the country's Security Council, Armen Grigoryan, said in an interview with Novaya Gazeta that Russia did not supply weapons, although Yerevan had already paid for the order. In addition, he said that the security architecture in the region had changed dramatically.

"Contractual obligations are not respected. Our whole security concept was built on it, but there is no new version yet. It is the crisis," he said.

In contrast, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assured of the CSTO's viability and emphasized that all organization members worked based on consensus and respect for each other, unlike NATO, where a "discipline of the rod" allegedly reigns.

However, the CSTO members are not the only ones who see no alternative to the post-Soviet unions. Thus, Moldova is beginning to withdraw from the Interparliamentary Assembly of the CIS and the organization as a whole. Speaker of the Parliament, Igor Grosu, said, "This organization cannot be called common after its founder, Russia, barbarously attacked Ukraine." Moldovan President Maia Sandu supports this decision and does not consider Russia a strategic partner.

"When Russia keeps troops on our territory against the will of our people for 30 years, it is not a strategic partnership,"  she said.

Moreover, Maia Sandu said that Moldova sought to join the EU as soon as possible to protect its territory from Russia. At the same time, the country's leadership believe that the neutral status prescribed in the Moldovan constitution is not enough for protection, and Moldova should become part of the security architecture in the region.

The Kremlin responded to Moldova's pro-European actions. They stated that leaving the CIS would harm Moldova and that Sandu acted in favor of those who "gave her Romanian citizenship" and "inspired her and her government at severing regional relations with their historical neighbors." The aggressor also officially "warned" its citizens that when entering Moldova, Russian passport holders would be allegedly subjected to a humiliating procedure of additional inspection, and that the Moldovan authorities discriminated against Russian people.

The Kremlin's provocative buffoonery will not surprise anyone, especially in the context of Russia's decision to resume air connection with Georgia. The country surviving the military aggression of Russia and the occupation of 20% of its territories in 2008 supported the aggressor. 

On May 19, the plane of the Russian airlines Azimuth performed the first direct flight from Moscow to Tbilisi, after a 4-year hiatus. On May 20, the first direct flight from Tbilisi, of the Georgian airline Georgian Airways, landed at the Russian airport Vnukovo. Following the resumption of air traffic with the Russian Federation, protests broke out in Georgia. The country's President, Salome Zurabishvili, urged to boycott the Georgian airlines.

During the 2008 war, Georgia severed diplomatic relations with Russia. Besides, today, they are trying to obtain the EU⁠candidate status. However, such decisions of the Georgian authorities only distance the country from European integration. And Russia understands it very well. The Russian side concealed the real purpose of the resumption of air traffic and said it happened in response to "a request for this from a huge number of people."

"We proceed from the fact that trade, economic, and humanitarian ties should not be 'hostages' to politics," Maria Zakharova said at a briefing.

The current Georgian authorities publicly reflect only on the need for peace. They do not mention the inevitability of punishing a country guilty of numerous war crimes. Georgian Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, said at the Summit of the Council of Europe in Reykjavik: "We are aware of what the war brings, and we do our best for peace… It is apparent that today the global order is changing, the world will never be the same, and no one can escape this predicament alone."

Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, is convinced that the Georgian people have not stopped demonstrating solidarity with Ukraine. In contrast, the position of the Georgian authorities is erroneous.

"Some people may think it doesn't concern them. And that it is normal to deal with terrorists and murderers. Wrong position, history will put everything in its place; and people will definitely do it, too," Yermak said.

Disclaimer: Articles reflect their author’s point of view and do not claim to be objective or to explore every aspect of the issues they discuss. The Ukrainska Pravda editorial board does not bear any responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided, or its interpretation, and acts solely as a publisher. The point of view of the Ukrainska Pravda editorial board may not coincide with the point of view of the article’s author.

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