In northern Ukraine, Russia launched a cruise missile attack on Kyiv on 05 June hitting key infrastructure facilities. It is likely that the attack was a bid to disrupt the delivery of Western weapons supplies to eastern Ukraine. Russian attacks are likely to increase as the West have promised to deliver more advanced weapon systems to Ukraine. Russia continues to bomb Chernihiv and Sumy regions from across the border. It is unlikely that this is a preparation for a larger ground invasion in the area, rather it is an effective way for Russia to fix Ukrainian troops and prevent them from moving to the frontline in eastern Ukraine.
In eastern Ukraine, there have been limited developments around Kharkiv. Russia has managed to halt the Ukrainian counterattacks, but have not launched any assaults of their own. Shelling of and around Kharkiv continues to occur.
Russia’s offensive in the Donbas is slowing. Russian troops have continued attempts to push south from Izyum towards Sloviansk and Barvinkove. The area remains under continuous Russian shelling. Russian troops are yet to seize Raihorodok – a town between Sloviansk and Lyman. Both bridges over the Donets river have been destroyed, making it more difficult for Russian troops, who remain on the east bank, to seize Raihorodok, which is on the west bank.
Fighting continues in and around the strategically important city Severodonetsk, 2Secure assess that Russia controls most of the city. Intelligence indicates that Russia is deploying additional troops to the area in order to launch a successful assault on Lyschansk, a city located west of Severodonetsk. Reports also indicate that Russia is sending additional troops east of Bakhmut in a bid to consolidate its positions and take additional territory in the area. Russian advances around Severodonestsk, Lyschansk, and Bakhmut are important in Russia’s bid to control the Donbas.
In the south, Russian troops are being redeployed from Zaporizjzja to Kherson in order to strengthen Russian defence positions following Ukrainian counterattacks in the area. There have been few territorial changes along the southern axis. Russia has conducted minor counterattacks in a bid to regain lost territory northwest of Kherson. Furthermore, Russia continues to shell Mykolaiv city and smaller towns in Mykolaiv region. Mykolaiv must be taken by Russia before Russia can advance on Odesa. Ukrainian partisan warfare is intensifying in Melitopol and Kherson. It is believed that 100 Russian military personnel have been killed in Melitopol since the city was occupied in the beginning of the war. An explosion was reported on 30 May outside the office of the pro-Russian official Yevgeny Balitsky. It is expected that such attacks will continue and become more intense in the coming weeks. In the interim, it is likely that Russia will attempt to established an effective police system in occupied areas of Ukraine.
There have been no significant developments in western Ukraine. However, areas in western Ukraine are continuously being targeted by Russia and the likelihood of a missile attack in western Ukraine remains high. Air raid sirens are activated every time a suspected rocket or missile is assessed as heading towards a region. This occurs on average three to four times a day in most regions of western Ukraine. The risk of a Russian or Belarusian ground assault in western Ukraine remains low.
Developments in Russia
On 05 June, Russian President Putin warned the US against supplying Ukraine with long-range rocket systems, claiming that this would lead to attack objects that have not been yet attacked. Although Putin did not specify which locations might be attacked, this statement increases the risk of an escalation of the conflict. The warning followed US and German promises to deliver additional weapons systems to Ukraine. Therefore, the likelihood of further attacks on western Ukraine and Kyiv will remain high, targeting arms depots and major rail and road transportation hubs.
Several Russian spokespersons have statemented that Russia has not abandoned its most ambitious strategic objectives despite the reduction of operational military targets in eastern Ukraine. On 03 June, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declared that Russia will continue the war in Ukraine until all its objectives are achieved. In addition, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also stated on 03 June that Russian forces will accelerate the military operation after reportedly identifying unspecified new tasks that will improve the units’ effectiveness and tactics.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been forced to cancel his planned trip to Serbia this week after neighbouring Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro closed their airspace to Lavrov’s plane. Russia claimed that this action closed “another channel of communication”, underlining the tensions of diplomatic relations with EU and NATO members. Serbia, a candidate for EU accession, remains highly dependent on Russian oil and gas and therefore refuses to join Western sanctions against Russia.
Russian Defence Minister Shoigu announced on 07 June that the Russian-controlled ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol are now ready to resume grain exports, pending Ukraine’s authorisation of access to the ports for exports to resume. Russia continues to blame the Ukrainians for the blockade.
A Russian court banned this week the publication of any casualty figures by the Russian media, which are now considered an offence equivalent to disclosing military secrets. The Russian government has not updated the official casualty figure since 25 March, which then already reached 1,351 deaths.
On 04 June, Russian attacks heavily damaged the Nika-Terrain grain terminal which is the second largest grain terminal in Ukraine. The terminal has a capacity to hold 515,000 metric tonnes and handled 3.9 million tonnes of grain in the year 2020-2021. The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Joseph Borrell stated that the strike will contribute the global food crisis, which continues to mount as around 25 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain remains stuck in Ukrainian silos unable to reach world markets. Charles Michel, the President of the European Council addressing the UN Security Council, accused Russia of using food as a weapon by destroying agricultural infrastructure and blocking Ukrainian grain exports. With these words, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation left meeting.
According to Turkish authorities, Turkey is coordinating closely with Russia and Ukraine to agree a plan that would re-start grain exports from affected Ukrainian ports.
African countries used to import up to 44 percent of the continent’s grain from Ukraine and Russia. Droughts and declining supply have caused prices to rise by 45 percent, leaving 18 million people in the Sahel region (out of 100 million) and 13 million people in the Horn of Africa (out of 106 million) facing the prospect of famine. Senegal and 17 other African countries abstained from condemning Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine during the vote on UN General Assembly on 02 March 2022. Out of 193-member states, a total 141 countries voted in support of the resolution. The main focus of the resolution while demanding Russia immediately end its military operations in Ukraine, reaffirmed Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, visited Sweden and Finland. The visit marked the start of the large-scale BALTOPS 22 exercise, in which the Armed Forces of the candidate countries are participating, in addition to 14 NATO member states, 7,000 service members, 75 planes, and 45 ships. The visit is a clear signal to Russia about the US support to hopeful NATO members Sweden and Finland. The Kremlin only replied that they had never threatened Stockholm and Helsinki.
As cyberattacks launched by pro-Russian hacker groups have decreased moderately in recent weeks, the risk of cyberattacks targeting Western companies, government agencies and other public bodies linked to critical national infrastructure remains high. The pro-Russian hacktivist group Killnet was one of the most active threat actors in the last weeks, focusing its efforts on European targets supporting Ukraine. This group has recently launched denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against several Italian Government agencies. Western organisations and public bodies need to ensure adequate cyber security processes within their organisation and supply chain; first by identifying vulnerabilities, reviewing current policies and incident response plans, improving cyber security training and building a general cyber security posture. As well, it will be critical for Western organisations to train its employees in information security awareness and hire information security experts, who play an essential role in cyber preparedness and information security awareness.
Pro-Ukrainian hackers have remained very active in recent weeks. Anonymous and Team Onefist are examples of the most active hackers’ groups launching cyberattacks against Russia. These hacktivist groups have recently attacked Russian-based organisations and government agencies, including a leak of files and client data of Rustam Kurmaev Partners – a Russian law firm – and the display of pro-Ukrainian messages in the webpage of the Russia’s Ministry of Construction, Housing, and Utilities. While these attacks are expected to predominantly affect Russian government agencies and their private sector partners, the hacking and leaking of internal and customer data highlights increased financial and reputational risks for Western companies maintaining operations in Russia.
Railway infrastructure and military depots across Northern and Western Ukraine will nevertheless continue to be the highest priority targets for long-range and air strikes.
Despite the efforts, the meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu ended with no real progress. Moscow continued to blame Kyiv for blocking their own Black Sea coast to prevent grain exports. Lavrov demanded that Ukraine demine the approaches to various key ports, including Odesa, before any progress can be made. Ukrainian authorities pulled back their current proposals, claiming that Russia has stipulated unreasonable conditions such as compulsory searches of Ukrainian vessels at sea.
On 09 June, President Zelensky pointed that millions of people could be affected even starve as a result of Russian blockade. However, after the meeting in Ankara, statements from both sides have underlined how far both Ukraine and Russia are from a mutually acceptable proposal. As a result, global food insecurity will continue to increase as millions of tonnes Ukrainian grain cannot reach the countries that need them.