RUSSIA'S BUDGET ALREADY HAS A HOLE OF MORE THAN €32 BILLION (07/03/2023)
Political strategic level
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised on Monday not to withdraw from Bakhmut and not to hand over the ruins to the Russian marauders, who have been ravaging the city for six months now and have turned every street and every corner of every house into a place of their own death. Only last week, Mr Podoliak, an adviser to Mr Zelensky, said that the defenders could retreat to nearby positions, but yesterday the President agreed with Mr Zaluzhny, the head of Ukraine's armed forces, and other high-ranking generals, who "spoke in favour of the continuation of the defence operation and the further strengthening of <our> positions in Bakhmut". Later in his nightly video address, the President announced that his advisors had unanimously agreed to continue the fight, "not to retreat" and to strengthen Ukraine's defences.
Mykhailo Podoliak later said that Ukrainian forces were reinforcing their positions around Bakhmut and preparing tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops for a possible counter-attack.
Meanwhile, the Russians are making every effort to capture the nearby towns of Chasiv Yar and Kostantynivka and to completely encircle Bakhmut. Police and volunteers have evacuated people from these and other towns on the front, but the operation has been hampered by blown bridges and constant artillery fire, which has left almost no houses.
And although Bakhmut is of little strategic value and its capture is unlikely to be a major turning point in the current situation, Russia's drive to seize the area is part of the Kremlin's operational objective. The importance of the city is a symbol for the Kremlin regime and its capture would finally bring good news for the Russians on the front line. For Kyiv, it is a symbol of heroic courage and resistance, which sends a message to Ukrainians that, after a year of brutal attacks, Ukraine is holding its own and justifies the continued support of its Western allies.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed this view on Monday, saying that the "Bakhmut has "more symbolic value than ... strategic and operational value". He added that Moscow continues to "send large numbers of poorly trained and ill-equipped troops to Bakhmut", while Ukraine, backed by Western troops, is patiently building up "combat power" elsewhere ahead of a possible spring offensive.
The strategic decision of the Ukrainian military and political leadership is, in our view, linked to three very important aspects.
First of all, another ten days, perhaps two weeks, and the whole area in the east between Kremin and Bakhmut, as far as Toretsk, which is the rear of the Ukrainian forces and a well-fortified line of defence, will become a sticky mush that will be difficult for armoured vehicles to penetrate for a few more weeks, if not a month or two.
Secondly, in the meantime, a large consignment of Western equipment is likely to reach Ukraine, including tanks and armoured vehicles, possibly fighter jets, and other frontline weapons.
Thirdly, a few weeks will give the Ukrainians time to train the newly mobilised and to properly prepare for an offensive in the south, while at the same time putting pressure on the Russian actions in the east.
Of course, the price of all this is the blood of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers, shed in the hope that the crushing spring offensive will force Russia to withdraw from the occupied territories and that the liberation of the Crimea will be the final straw in this war.
We, however, have long since assessed and factored that in, and as usual, we will be the ones at the party who will spoil the mood for you: will the liberation of Crimea and the flight of the horde from the occupied territories in the east really mean the end of the war? You see, the Westerners, and now, with their help, the Ukrainians, have forgotten that a representative of the 'Russian world', wearing a trilby, drunk on vodka and wielding a balalaika, will take this course of action as a direct attack on Russia. Therefore, to achieve final victory, we will repeat, it is necessary to cut off all the heads of the hydra and pierce its bile-soaked heart with an iron pestle. And this must be done in Russia itself, starting in the Kremlin.
And to make this happen as soon as possible, the European Union is approaching a significant joint purchase of ammunition to help Ukraine and replenish its members' stockpiles, but has not yet resolved the important issues of financing and the scale of the purchase. This week, EU defence ministers will discuss plans to speed up the supply of 155 millimetre ammunition to Ukraine, which is asking for more of the same artillery shells to fight a Russian invasion. Defence Minister Hanno Pevkuras of Estonia, which has been pushing for the EU to order millions of rounds of ammunition, said he hoped ministers meeting in Stockholm on Wednesday would reach a "political agreement" on joint purchases.
China's foreign minister said the US should change its misguided policy towards China, otherwise "conflict and confrontation" would result. He reiterated Beijing's call for dialogue to end the conflict in Ukraine. "The US is engaged in suppression and containment of China, not fair or rules-based competition", Qin Gang told a press conference in Beijing.
"The United States' perception and attitude towards China is deeply distorted, and it sees China as its main rival and most important geopolitical challenge. This is like the first shirt button that has been wrongly buttoned", the media quoted him as saying.
If the button had been fastened according to Beijing's wishes, today Taiwan would be occupied, arms would be supplied to Russia and Seoul, rather than the Sea of Japan, would be the target of Shakorei's missiles.
The centre-right Reform Party of Estonian Prime Minister Kajas Kallas, one of the most outspoken supporters of Ukraine in Europe, won the country's elections in a landslide, while the right-wing populists lost seats in a vote that focused on national security and the economy. Preliminary results from the final count show that the Reform Party won 31.2% of the vote, the highest in Sunday's elections. This means 37 seats in Estonia's 101-seat parliament, three more than in the 2019 elections.
In Turkey, a six-party alliance on Monday nominated Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the main opposition party leader, as a joint candidate to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May's elections.
On 14 May. Turkey will hold landmark presidential and general elections on May 14, which could either change the country's course towards democracy or prolong the increasingly authoritarian rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan into a third decade.
These elections are also important because, if the dictator Erdogan is finally removed from his seat, the Swedish and Finnish applications to NATO are likely to be ratified as a matter of urgency and NATO will be strengthened by two more very important allies at the Vilnius Summit.
On Monday, a Belarusian court sentenced exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to 15 years' imprisonment on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government, after a case heard in absentia.
This is probably the Kremlin's way of giving more weight to its potential project, as Ms Tsikhanouskaya is completely forgotten, not only in Western Europe but also in Lithuania.
Russia's budget hole is growing six times faster than planned. In January and February, the Russian government almost completely "fulfilled" the annual plan for the state budget deficit. This is according to a March report from the Russian Ministry of Finance. Federal budget revenues in January and February amounted to 3.16 trillion roubles, a quarter less than in the same period last year. This was due to a 46% year-on-year drop in oil and gas revenues. Non-oil and gas revenues fell by 9% year-on-year. At the same time, Russia's budget expenditure increased by 52% year-on-year and amounted to more than 5.7 trillion roubles at the end of the first two months.
The budget deficit in the first two months of the year alone was therefore 2.58 trillion roubles (around €32 billion). This represents 90% of the total plan for this year - 2.925 trillion roubles.
The Russian Ministry of Finance has given assurances that it will be possible to stay within the planned deficit until the end of the year. The Ministry attributes the faster reduction of the deficit at the beginning of the year to the fact that a large amount of urgent advance spending was needed.
Ukraine is seeking MK-20 cluster munitions to be fired from unmanned aerial vehicles, according to US Representatives Jason Crowe and Adam Smith, both of whom serve on the House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services. This would be in addition to the 155 mm artillery cluster munitions that Ukraine has requested in the past, they said.
According to the two US lawmakers, Ukraine has expanded its request for the controversial cluster bombs to include them in the list of desired weapons. The Ukrainians are asking for them to be able to drop cluster munitions from drones on Russian forces. Kyiv has urged members of Congress to pressure the White House to approve the weapons, but it is unlikely that the Biden administration will sign off on it. Cluster munitions, which are banned in more than 120 countries, seed a large number of smaller bombs that can threaten civilians.
In Kryvyi Rih, the Ukrainian mining and metals company Metinvest has started to produce six-site bunkers for soldiers at the front. The 123 structures, 2 metres wide and 6 metres long, have already been shipped to the hottest spots in Eastern Ukraine.
The President of Ukraine made staff changes in the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and dismissed the heads of the regional directorates of Zaporizhzhya and Sumy regions.
In his traditional evening video address to Ukrainians, Mr Zelensky noted that a video had emerged showing the brutal killing of a Ukrainian soldier by the occupiers, who told them to their face: "Glory to Ukraine!"
"I want all of us, together, united, to respond to his words: "Glory to the hero! Glory to the heroes! Glory to Ukraine!", the President stressed, promising that the killers will be found.
The main efforts of the occupiers are concentrated on offensive actions in the directions of Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtar.
Last day, Ukrainian troops repelled more than 140 enemy attacks.
In total, the enemy struck 50 air strikes and 5 missile strikes. The enemy used 11 Shahed-136s, 9 of which were shot down. In addition, the attackers fired 59 rounds of rocket-propelled grenades, including at settlements. The threat of missile strikes remains highly probable throughout Ukraine.
In the direction of Bakhmut, the enemy continues to storm the town of Bakhmut and its surroundings despite heavy losses. During the past day, the enemy has launched 37 attacks in the vicinity of the village of Dubovo-Vasiljivka alone.
Residents of Zaporizhzhya region who do not hold a passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation are unable to receive cash benefits, including wages. Transfers can only be made to cards (accounts) issued by Russian banks.
In order to protect their troops, the Russian occupiers in temporarily occupied Luhansk have decided to use part of the town's clinic as a barracks.
Over the past day, Ukrainian Defence Forces aviation has carried out 15 strikes on occupation focal points, including a strike on an anti-aircraft missile complex in firing position.
In addition to the Shahed-136 assault drones, the Ukrainians shot down an enemy SU-25 and another 8 drones of various types during the past day.
Missile forces and artillery units struck a command post, 8 enemy focal points, 2 enemy air defence complexes, an artillery unit in firing positions, an ammunition depot and an occupation radar station.
On Monday, the Ministry of Defence of NATO member Denmark banned the video sharing app TikTok from its staff's official phones to ensure cyber security.
Pictured here is a bunker being boiled for troops in Kryvyi Rih. Source: apnews.com
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