On 25 April, several Russian missile strikes hit key infrastructure in several Ukrainian cities – hitting five Ukrainian railway stations. The strikes were likely intended to disrupt Ukrainian reinforcements and logistics to the eastern parts of the country. However, reports suggest that Russia has exhausted almost 70 percent of its high-precision missiles, and lack key technical components to increase production.
In the north of Ukraine, Kyiv has imposed a night time curfew from 22:00 to 05:00. There have also been reports of explosions in the Kyiv region, injured people were reported as result of grenade explosion in Irpin.
In the east, the anticipated Russian offensive is yet to make any significant advances. However, minor Russian advances have been occurred. The town of Kreminna is now controlled by Russian troops, and Russian troops are slowly moving south from Izium. However, Russian troops have failed to seize Rubizhne and Popasna, and Ukrainian troops have successfully carried out counterattacks west of Izium. There have been no significant developments in Kharkiv, although Russian troops are still north and east of the city, and shelling remains a daily occurrence.
In the south, Russian forces have seized most parts of Mariupol, however, Ukrainian forces remain in the Azovstal Steel Plant defying Russian demands to surrender. A Russian offensive against the Steel Plant is likely to result in many Russian casualties, however, if successful, it would enable Russia to send additional troops to the frontline north of Mariupol. Russian forces are making minor advances towards Zaporizhzia, consequently, reports suggest that Ukraine are amassing troops in Zaporizhzia to counter Russian advances. In Kherson, Russia has seized control of the local government building – hoisting the Russian flag in the city and holding a referendum. Despite being under Russian occupation since 02 March, the Ukrainian government has officially remained in place, however, in practice it is likely that the Russian troops have been in charge. Ukrainian forces have made minor counterattacks towards the city; however, it is unlikely that they will be able to conduct any significant advances, rather their main objective is to disrupt Russian advances and settlement in the region. Shelling has occurred in Mykolaiv in the last 24 hours.
In the west, on 25 April the Russian forces have attacked railways and infrastructure and there were delays in the train schedule. Five railway stations in central and western Ukraine were hit by Russian strikes.
Developments in Russia
In Transnistria, the breakaway region of Moldova, numerous explosions took place near the Ministry of State Security in Tiraspol, followed by several explosions reported in Parkany due west of the de facto capital and a radio transmitter reportedly destroyed further north near Mayak. While the Security Council of Transnistria has declared them terrorist incidents, it remains highly likely that they were false flag operations by Russian or Transnistrian forces themselves, with Moldova describing the incidents as ”pretexts for creating tensions”, without attributing blame. The deputy commander of the Russian Central Military District commented that Russia aims to create a land bridge to Transnistria likely triggered the attacks, as he claimed last week that Russian speakers in the region are being actively oppressed.
Since 24 February, about 400 Russian diplomatic employees have been expelled from the counties that they have diplomatic missions. As international brands have stopped their operations in Russia, Russian IT companies have face difficulties in purchasing servers and storage systems. Even if the Russian Ministry of Finance reports that there is no shortage in Russian market and the agency has taken measures to organize a supply of Russian solutions, including servers and storage systems, several sources reported that even in second-hand market it is hard to purchase IT equipment.
On 26 April western diplomats gathered in Germany and main focus was Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov’s comments on so-called proxy war between Russia and NATO. Lavrov accused NATO of fighting a proxy war by supplying military aid to Ukraine while giving a speech to the Russian state media. Western official stated their concern by the increasing emphasis that Moscow puts on its nuclear arsenal while its military have failed in Ukraine due to strong resistance as well as logistical and technological problems. The western officials emphasized the growing need of military and humanitarian aid in Ukraine and they added the next couple of weeks will be very critical.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin travelled Kyiv and hold talks with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy over the weekend. While the US representatives in Kyiv, they declared US’s continued support for Ukraine. As they expressed confidence in Ukraine’s victory, also an additional defense package of $322 million was announced. Secretary Antony Blinken announced that the US President Biden’s decision to appoint Bridget Brinks as the US Ambassador to Ukraine. Secretary Austin stated intentions to work with allies on a plan to build and additional capacity of Ukrainian Armed forces both for the near future and or the long-run. Meanwhile, the Russian Ambassador to the US handed over a diplomatic note demanding the US stops supplying weapons to Ukraine.
The security cooperation between the UK and India was another important diplomatic movement in the last week. The Prime Minister of the UK invited his Indian counterpart to expand defence procurement ‘to meet threats across land, sea and air, space and cyber and the proposal of a joint project to develop a sixth-generation fighter was on the table. The proposal was interpreted as an attractive alternative to Russian prototype plus it will reduce New Delhi’s dependence on Russian weapons. The willingness to sell a full range of weapons and implement joint development projects also interpreted as a movement to strengthen the relations between the Quartet that includes the US, the UK, India and Japan.
Furthermore, the EU and India are also setting up a Trade and Technology Council to ‘deepen strategic engagement while the rapid changes in geopolitical environment occur’. The goal of this partnership between the West and India was interpreted as not only economic interests but also a greater inclusion of India into the western political and security space. Negotiations have also started on signing comprehensive trade and investment agreements.
In the last week, Greenpeace blocked an Exxon Mobil tanker from delivering Russian oil at the Slagen oil terminal south of Oslo, Norway. Activists chained themselves to a ship’s anchor in protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Exxon Mobil maintain that they had purchased the 95,000 tons of Russian oil before the invasion of Ukraine, and that they planned no further purchases of oil from Russia. The direct action is the latest high-profile campaign that has seen environmentalist groups across Europe step up their anti-fossil fuel campaigning on the back of the invasion.
Following Anthony Blinken and Lloyd Austin’s visit to Kyiv, the statements that Blinken said that he believes ‘Russia is failing in its war aims while Ukraine is succeeding, backed by the announcement of $713 million in military funding. This support will highly likely reinforce growing perceptions in Moscow that the war in Ukraine is a proxy conflict between Russia and NATO.
In this regard, domestic Russian propaganda is increasingly framing the war as between Russia and NATO as well as Moscow continues its claims long-range strikes across Ukraine are targeting NATO and EU weapons and military storage in particular.
The developments in Transnistria follows previous patterns of behaviour that justified intervention in the Donbas and other breakaway regions, and thus reinforces the likelihood of Russian aims to seize southern Ukraine if its offensive in the Donbas is successful. As in the past, the attacks could also be part of an effort to eventually marshal the troops that are currently in Transnistria for future operations against Ukraine to support such operations in southern Ukraine, but such an operation remains unlikely in the short term given limited Russian combat power in Transnistria. In this respect, Russian operations west of Kherson will remain the most important trigger to watch in the coming weeks, with Russian operations out of Transnistria unlikely to begin until at least Mykolaiv has been secured.