Russia demands a multi-polar world, which is what it now says it's been fighting for all along.
Ukraine at D+407: A new world order as a precondition for negotiations.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has stated Russia's strategic goal in its special military operation: the creation of a new world order that rejects what he characterizes as a "unipolar world order led by 'one hegemon'," that is, a world in which the United States plays a dominant role. Recognition of that goal is a precondition of any negotiations. "Any negotiation needs to be based on taking into account Russian interests, Russian concerns. It should be about the principles on which the new world order will be based."
Fighting for Bakhmut and preparing for a Ukrainian spring offensive.
Russian forces have made local advances in and around Bakhmut this week, the UK's Ministry of Defence says in this morning's situation report. "In recent days, Russian forces have regained some momentum in the battle for Bakhmut. Since late March 2023 their advance had largely stalled. Russia has made further gains and has now highly likely advanced into the town centre, and has seized the west bank of the Bakhmutka River. Ukraine’s key 0506 supply route to the west of the town is likely severely threatened. Russian regular forces, likely including airborne troops, have probably reinforced the area, and Russia is again using artillery more effectively in the sector. There is realistic possibility that, locally, Wagner and Russian MoD commanders have paused their ongoing feud and improved co-operation."
For his part, Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin says that, despite advances, Ukrainian resistance remains determined (“We must say clearly that the enemy is not going anywhere") and that his forces need reinforcement. A general Ukrainian counteroffensive is expected between April 16th and May 8th. Many of the Ukrainian troops being trained abroad have completed their courses of instruction and are heading home. Ukrainian counterfire seems to be taking a toll of Russian artillery, and strikes against Russian positions around occupied Melitopol continue. This isn't a sign of an immediate preparation for an offensive in that area, but as the Wall Street Journal points out, the targets lie on Russian supply lines to occupied Crimea.
US investigates a leak of sensitive documents related to the war in Ukraine.
The New York Times reports that US authorities are investigating an apparent leak of sensitive information concerning plans for US support of Ukraine. The files have been circulated in Twitter and Telegram by Russian accounts. A significant fraction of the information seems genuine (although some at least of that could be inferred from publicly known open sources), and genuine enough to prompt an investigation. Other data, notably casualty estimates, appear to have been falsified in the Russian interest (with Russian casualties understated, and Ukrainian casualties exaggerated) and these seem to represent an admixture of disinformation, which may be the principal point of their publication.
Hacktivist activity continues.
TechRepublic offers a summary of trends in Russian hacktivism. Finland has become a recent target, as it became a member of NATO this week. And Anonymous Sudan has stepped up activity against Israel. The nominally Sudanese group appears to be acting in alignment with Russian interests, if not actual direction.
Russian dissent and Russian censorship.
The Atlantic Council offers some context for reports of Russian public opinion about the war. It's difficult to gauge. "A ruthless clampdown has made it increasingly difficult and dangerous for dissenting voices to be heard. Nevertheless, opposition figures continue to question the true levels of public backing for the invasion, while insisting that large numbers of Russians are either opposed or indifferent. The real situation within Russian society is certainly far more complex than the Kremlin would like us to believe, but today’s suffocating atmosphere means there is little reason to expect an increase in visible anti-war activity any time soon." The piece assesses support for President Putin and his war as broad, but more tepid than Moscow represents it. There is a prominent minority of ultra-nationalists, represented most obviously by the milbloggers. Within the armed forces, themselves, however, morale is seen as shaky.
Internet censorship within Russia has been extensive, which serves both to control news and to inhibit coordination among dissenters. A new VPN service, Amnezia VPN, is apparently proving more difficult for the authorities to block. WIRED reports that the service enables users to establish their own servers, obviating any need for traffic to pass through centralized servers, which is the common practice among most VPN providers.