International attention focuses on Black Sea shipping. Russification attempts intensify in the occupied territories.
Ukraine at D+540: Russification and disinformation.
Moscow's mayor says that Russian air defenses shot down a Ukrainian drone over the city early this morning. Debris fell on Moscow's Expo Center.
The container ship Joseph Schulte has reached a Turkish port after transiting the Black Sea through a Ukrainian-announced shipping corridor, POLITICO reports. Turkey warned Russia against interference with Black Sea shipping after a Russian patrol craft fired on the Palau-flagged vessel Sukru Okan when it declined to stop and submit to inspection.
Ukrainian forces continue to make slow progress through Russian minefields in the eastern and southern zones, CNN reports. According to the Washington Post, sources within the US Intelligence Community say, anonymously, that in their judgment Ukraine is likely to fall short of taking Melitopol. That city is a key transportation node and essential to Russia's ability to maintain its lines of communication between occupied Crimea and Russia proper. Russian minefields and other static defenses, the sources say, may prove more than the Ukrainian offensive can overcome.
A frozen conflict looks like an option to Russian hard-war nationalists.
The Institute for the Study of War reports some cautionary opinions being voiced in Russian nationalist circles. "'Vostok' Battalion commander Alexander Khodakovsky suggested that Russia freeze the war in Ukraine along the current frontlines, reintroducing a narrative that had been largely dormant since Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s armed rebellion. Khodakovsky stated that Russia will not be able to topple Ukraine militarily in the near term and that Russian forces are unlikely to easily occupy additional Ukrainian cities, echoing comments Prigozhin had made in April 2023."
A truce of some kind seems inevitable to Khodakovsky, who "concluded that Russia will likely have to come to a 'truce' and that Russia may enter a phase 'of neither peace nor war' with Ukraine." A weakened Ukraine would in the future be less able to withstand Russian influence, and this, Khodakovsky suggests, offers Russia a better prospect of exerting control over Ukraine than does the overtly aggressive special military operation.
"Prigozhin’s April 14 essay suggested that Russia freeze the war in Ukraine to set conditions for a future victory without negotiations," the Institute writes, but it seems that the Kremlin is interested in closing off this particular option. "Russian sources have periodically claimed that a Kremlin faction is interested in freezing the war along the current frontlines for similar reasons as well as over concerns about domestic political stability and the economic fallout from the war. Discussion of this narrative has waned with Prigozhin’s relative silence following Wagner’s June 24 rebellion and the arrest of ardent ultranationalist Igor Girkin, who routinely called on the Kremlin to resist the faction that aims to freeze the war."
Russification of the occupied territories.
This morning's situation report from the British Ministry of Defence looks at the progress of Russification in the occupied territories. "On 15 August 2023, First Deputy Head of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Kiriyenko travelled to Donetsk in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine to visit schools and check their integration into the Russian education system. In Zaporizhzhia Oblast, the occupation administration received instructions from Russia regarding the introduction of new standards for the accreditation of educational institutions. Journalists from Russia are also being employed in media outlets in the occupied regions. A new textbook on the history of Russia will be issued to schools in the occupied regions of Ukraine and throughout the Russian Federation from 1 September 2023. The book praises the so-called special military operation and describes Ukraine as an ultra-terrorist state. Russia’s aim is to create a pro-Kremlin information space in the occupied regions in order to erode Ukrainian national identity."
"Ukrainian Nazi" assassins run by MI6 (all that, and grain, too...)
According to the Telegraph, Russian military and diplomatic sources (amplified by state-controlled media) say that Britain's MI6 has assembled a team of Ukrainian "Nazis" and dispatched them, possibly aboard a grain ship now transiting the Black Sea, to kill Africans sympathetic to Russia. “The goal of the Ukrainian unit that has been trained by British intelligence is to carry out acts of sabotage on key infrastructure in Africa and assassinate the African leaders who favour co-operation with Russia,” those sources said.
The story is implausible, to say the least, but it's consistent with Russian propagandists' increasing attempts to frame Russia's war as a purely defensive operation, with the aggression all coming from "Anglo-Saxonia," that is, from the Americans and the British. London and Washington, Russian pundits argue, have been a war with Moscow continuously since 1945.