Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy greets European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, Kyiv, May 9, 2023 (AFP)
Tuesday’s Coverage: Kyiv’s Europe Day, Russia’s Not-Quite-Victory Day
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1741 GMT:
Russian shelling on Wednesday afternoon killed a woman in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine.
The attack damaged residential buildings and farms in the Kakhovskyi district on the Dnipro River.
UPDATE 1239 GMT:
Ukraine’s military says it inflicted heavy damage on a Russian brigade as a counter-attack regained 2.6 km (1.6 miles) on the frontline near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region (see 0745 GMT).
Serhiy Cherevatyi, a military spokesman for the Eastern District, said Russia’s 72nd Separate Motor Rifle Brigade was decimated.
He cautioned that the situation remained “difficult” in Bakhmut, where more than 80% of the center is held by Moscow’s troops. However, Russia is increasingly being forced to use regular forces because of losses among Wagner Group mercenaries and Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin’s conflict with the Russian Defense Ministry.
Prigozhin had confirmed on Tuesday, “Our army is fleeing. The 72nd Brigade pissed away 4 square km this morning, where I had lost around 500 men.”
He repeated on Wednesday that his mercenaries were being starved of ammunition and supplies.
He said in an audio statement, “We’re not receiving enough shells, we’re only getting 10%. We’re scraping by with a minimal quantity of shells.”
The head of Ukraine’s ground forces, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, later posted on Telegram:
It was the competent conduct of the defensive operation that exhausted the trained forces of the “Wagner” [Group] and forced them to be replaced in certain directions by less well-prepared units of the Russian regular troops, which were defeated and left.
UPDATE 1055 GMT:
Two Russian soldiers, Alexander Stepanov and Andrei Mikhailov, have each been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for refusing to fight in Ukraine.
A military court found the men, who are from Kamchatka in the far east of Russia, guilty of refusing orders.
UPDATE 1003 GMT:
Ukraine State nuclear energy company Energoatom is warning that Russian forces plan to evacuate about 2,700 workers from their homes near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Energoatom said the transfer of the workers from the nearby town of Enerhodar will lead to a “catastrophic lack of qualified personnel” at the nuclear complex, the largest in Europe.
The workers would be among about 3,100 people to be from Enerhodar to an unknown location.
Anticipating a Ukrainian counter-offensive, Russian proxy authorities have begun evacuations from occupied parts of the Zaporizhzhia region.
Ukraine’s military offered a different account, saying that the evacuation has been arranged for family members of the plant’s employees, but that the staff have not yet been allowed to leave Enerhodar.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, warned last week that the situation around Zaporizhzhia’s six nuclear reactors had become “potentially dangerous”.
UPDATE 0745 GMT:
Ukraine’s military claims it advanced 2.6 km (1.6 miles) in a counter-attack on the front in and near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
The claimed advance comes amid rising tension between Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group mercenaries attacking Bakhmut, and the Russian Defense Ministry and commanders.
See also Ukraine War, Day 437: Russia Walking Away from Bakhmut Assault?
UPDATE 0736 GMT:
UK military intelligence notes how a restricted “Victory Day” in Russia demonstrated the toll that Vladimir Putin’s invasion is taking on the country.
At least 23 Russian cities cancelled ceremonies, possibly fearing that relatives of troops slain in Ukraine would overtake the commemoration of the fight against Nazi Germany in World War II.
In Moscow’s parade, there were no warplanes and only a single T-34 tank. More than 8,000 personnel marched, but most were auxiliary units, paramilitary forces, and cadets. The only regular units were contingents of Railway Troops and military police.
UPDATE 0722 GMT:
In a unanimous vote, France’s National Assembly has asked the European Union to formally label the Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Group as terrorists.
MP Benjamin Haddad summarized:
Wherever they work, Wagner members spread instability and violence. They kill and torture. They massacre and pillage. They intimidate and manipulate with almost total impunity….
[They] follow a broad strategy, from Mali to Ukraine, of supporting the aggressive policies of President Putin’s regime towards our democracies.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, thanked the French legislators and urged other countries to act: “Every manifestation of terrorism must be destroyed, and every terrorist must be convicted.”
The UK Government is reportedly preparing to list Wagner as terrorist after two months of legal preparation.
A government source said action was “imminent” and likely to be be taken within weeks.
Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin is already under EU and UK sanctions.
UPDATE 0522 GMT:
French journalist Arman Soldin, covering the battle for Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, has been killed by a Russian rocket.
Soldin, a 32-year-old video coordinator for Agence France Presse, was with Ukrainian soldiers in Chasiv Yar, six miles from Bakhmut.
The rest of the AFP team was uninjured.
AFP chair Fabrice Fries said, “The whole agency is devastated by the loss of Arman. His death is a terrible reminder of the risks and dangers faced by journalists every day covering the conflict in Ukraine.”
Terrible news. He was a fantastic reporter. You can really say that Arman risked his life to tell the story. He seemed to be almost constantly on the frontlines and was one of the very few in the east throughout the last several months. https://t.co/PHuVc3nO5U
— Isobel Koshiw (@IKoshiw) May 9, 2023
At least 11 media personnel have been killed by Russian fire during the invasion. Last week Ukrainian fixer Bogdan Bitik was slain and Italian correspondent Corrado Zunino injured in Kherson city in southern Ukraine.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: On Europe Day, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has emphasized that talks should begin on Kyiv’s membership of the European Union.
Capping a Tuesday of Europe-related events, including his meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Zelenskiy said:
The time has long come to remove the artificial political uncertainty in relations between Ukraine and the European Union. The time has come for a positive decision to open negotiations on Ukraine’s membership in the European Union.
Our values are security. Our well-being is peace on the continent. All this can be 100% realized for Europe only together with Ukraine.
Zelenskiy expressed hope that the European Commission will issue a positive interim assessment on Ukraine’s candidacy as early as early as June.
The President signed Ukraine’s application for membership on February 28, 2022, four days after the start of the Russian invasion.
On June 23, the 27 EU heads of state and government granted Ukraine the status of a candidate state. The European Commission issued seven recommendations setting the requirements for Kyiv to enter the bloc.
“A Sustainable and Just Peace”
In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskiy linked victory over Nazi Germany in 2025 to the successful resistance of Vladimir Putin’s invasion:
It is only a matter of time before we can restore a sustainable and just peace for our part of Europe, for Ukraine. It is only a matter of time before the current aggressor loses, like the aggressor who lost 78 years ago, before Russian revanchism is crushed by the bravery of our warriors and the joint power of the free world.
It’s only a matter of time before we can restore a just peace for our part of Europe, for 🇺🇦. It’s only a matter of time before the current aggressor loses, like the aggressor who lost 78 years ago, before 🇷🇺 revanchism is crushed by 🇺🇦 warriors' bravery & the free world's power pic.twitter.com/VDUo046XnW
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 9, 2023
Zelenskiy and von der Leyen also discussed defense matters and the European Union’s 11th set of sanctions against Russia.
The Ukrainian President paid particular attention to his expectation that the EU will remove trade restricti00ons on Ukraine’s exports of grain and other foodstuffs.
The bloc adopted limits after unilateral action by Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Bulgaria to restrict the exports last month. Zelenskiy said the bans on movement are “harsh” and “protectionist”.
All restrictions on our exports are completely unacceptable right now. They only reinforce the abilities of the aggressor.
We are waiting for the EU to stop all restrictions as fast as possible.