The early weeks of June saw the continuation of the Russian shelling and destruction which has become routine in Eastern Ukraine. Despite Russian pledges to withdraw troops following international outcry over its latest military buildup, Russia has withdrawn neither most of its personnel and nor its military hardware. Heavy artillery remains, mines remain, and new technology remains and is in use.
Between June fourth and tenth, the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation Command reported twenty Russian ceasefire violations. The violations include attacks from anti-tank grenades, automatic machine gun launchers, rifles, large caliber machine guns, and mortars in the areas surrounding Novhorodske, Avdiyivka, Novotoshkivske, Luhansk, Levedynske, and more. An unidentified explosive severely injured one serviceman, though he is now in stable condition. At the same time, Russia continues to jam Ukrainian armed services’ radio frequencies and to block Ukrainian navigation in the Sea of Azov and Kerch Straits.
Even in unoccupied Ukraine, threats endure. On June first, the SBU placed former National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) official and Russian informant Leonid Serhiyovych Pyrozhkov under house arrest awaiting trial for treason. On June sixth, authorities in Severodonetsk apprehended an undercover FSB agent coordinating a terrorist attack on a Kharkiv-based development institute. Dating back to 2015, newly leaked tapes suggest Viktor Medvedchuk intervened in and halted exchanges meant to free Ukrainians held captive by Russian militants.
On the internet and in cyberspace, Ukrainian media, economic institutions, and defense systems face constant bombardment, eroding both public confidence and domestic stability. According to NSDC Secretary Oleksandr Danilov, “challenges and threats in cyberspace today are much more threatening than [even those posed by] nuclear weapons.” Thus, Ukraine looks forward to developing a new Cyber Force, which will protect from both a range of cyber-attacks and pervasive disinformation technology. As a member of the trans-Atlantic cybersecurity discussion, Ukraine hopes to strengthen the Cyber Force’s capabilities through collaboration with regional powers and NATO partners. Collaboration will better equip Ukraine to handle evolving threats to its own security, but Ukraine also has a vital voice to contribute as Russia’s primary cyber opponent and testing-ground.
President Zelensky raised several of the above concerns in a recent phone call with President Biden. Now, Ukraine awaits the outcome of the nearing summit between Biden and President Putin. American support for Ukraine and pressure on Russia is pivotal to Ukraine’s defense efforts, and Biden’s recent about-face on Nord Stream II sanctions suggests he may take a less firm stance when meeting with Putin. However, the United States clearly demonstrates a desire for continued support of and dialogue with Ukraine, and Zelensky has accepted an invitation to visit American leaders by the end of the summer.