Military Restructuring and the Ongoing Conflict

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Military Restructuring and the Ongoing Conflict

Between July 28th and August 4th, the Joint Forces Operation in eastern Ukraine reported Russian delivery of POM-2 mines in areas including Zaitseve and Mayorsk, nearly constant enemy surveillance via unmanned aerial vehicle Orlan-10 flyovers, and 61 Russian violations of the standing ceasefire agreement. As a result of frequent shelling, one serviceman suffered a shrapnel wound.

OSCE observers recorded an even higher number of ceasefire violations—numbering 66 over just the weekend from July 30th to August 1st—as well as repeated Russian attempts to obstruct monitoring. Observers were turned away by occupying forces at open checkpoints near Kozatske, Zaichenko, Khreshchatytske, and Olenivka and received a threat to shoot down monitoring drones. Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna, Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, called on Russia to restore its respect for the established truce at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council.

Heedless, the Kremlin continues to take escalatory steps. Liudmyla Rusetska, spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, noted that Russia brought more than 1,400 tons of fuel, anti-tank guided missiles, sniper systems, and anti-tank and -personnel mines into occupied Donetsk and Luhansk over the course of July. With increased support, occupiers have strengthened their positions and set up new minefields.

The Ukrainian defensive forces, however, are in flux. After first replacing Ruslan Khomchak with Valeriy Zaluzhny as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and Volodymyr Kravchenko with Oleksandr Pavliuk as Joint Forces Operation Commander, President Zelensky went on to dismiss Oleksandr Mironyuk, Igor Starobinsky, Igor Khalimon, Serhiy Korniychuk, Yevhen Moisiuk, and Volodymyr Kravchenko from leadership positions in Ukraine’s armed forces. The changes, Zelensky claims, stem from the desire to increase the effectiveness of military collaboration as well to pursue military modernization. While the armed forces readjust, Zaluzhny has temporarily banned top officials from entering the Joint Forces Operation Zone, de facto canceling the scheduled visit of Verkhovna Rada Chairman Dmytro Razumkov.

Amidst the purges, Zelensky visited the Donetsk region to hold a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council. Along the way, he stopped to commemorate the Day of Special Operations Forces and the seventh anniversary of the liberation of Avdiivka.

Meanwhile, regional joint and independent security drills continue. The United States and Ukraine are working to finalize plans for September’s Ukrainian-U.S. Rapid Trident 2021 command and staff exercises, which will involve 16 states and almost 6,000 military personnel. In Donbas, Ukrainian military engineers are practicingcovert river crossing and other key tactical exercises. In the Black Sea, Ukrainian and Georgian navy crews are conducting PASSEX joint drills. Ukrainian Navy divers are docked at the Romanian Naval Forces’ base in Constanta for Dive 2021, a four-stage, multinational mine-clearing exercise which began on August second. In the Croatian port of Split, the United States Navy has launched the largest naval exercises held since NATO's 1981 exercises as a part of the Cold War. The variety of drills further highlights Western anticipation of the upcoming joint Russia-Belarus Zapad 2021 exercise.