Day 448 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Ukrainian Intelligence had secret Negotiations with Alexander Lukashenko?

Ukraine | May 17, 2023, Wednesday // 10:18|  views

Day 448 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:

  • Ukrainian intelligence had secret negotiations with Alexander Lukashenko
  • Finland said its embassy's bank accounts in Russia had been frozen since April
  • Russian strikes against Kyiv damaged US-provided Patriot system
  • Russian missile strikes on civilian infrastructure in southern Ukraine
  • Zelensky thanked all countries and leaders who helped Ukraine improve its air defense
  • ISW: Russia sends troops to defend Bakhmut, but AFU may surprise them elsewhere
  • China to Foreign Missions: Remove Ukrainian Flags

Ukrainian intelligence had secret negotiations with Alexander Lukashenko

Ukrainian intelligence has held secret talks with authoritarian Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko about Belarus not participating in direct military action against Kyiv. After a series of speculations on this topic, the news was personally confirmed by the head of intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine (MoD) General Kyrylo Budanov.

"We have not observed Russian shelling from the territory of Belarus for a long time. This is the result of the overall activity of various entities in our country," said Budanov during a conversation within the framework of the "Different People" media project, quoted by "Ukrainska Pravda".

"We have already established contacts with Lukashenko, using all available means and opportunities for this purpose. We activated these activities after the escape of Russian troops from the Kyiv region in the spring of last year. Then we did not want to allow another attack from the Belarusian direction. As we see now, our efforts have been successful," said the head of military intelligence in Kyiv.

The general informed that the link between the authorities in Kyiv and Minsk was a member of the Ukrainian parliament and a friend of Lukashenko - Yevgeny Shevchenko. “We've been using his contacts for quite some time and we've never hidden it. Shevchenko's activity has the desired effect. Not once did he refuse when we approached him with a specific request," noted Budanov.

However, the admissions of Shevchenko's participation in GRU operations are a surprise for public opinion in Ukraine, where the MP is not well regarded. It will probably turn out that his behavior, which also brought him a negative image, may have been a deliberately constructed image for intelligence purposes. On July 18, the odious fan of Alexander Lukashenko appeared in the Verkhovna Rada in a military uniform, which caused a scandal and he was removed from the parliament session. Moreover, his clothing was the official uniform of Ukrainian military intelligence. After the scandal broke out, Shevchenko went to change clothes, but never returned to the meeting.

The MP is known for his pro-Russian and pro-Belarusian views, but it may turn out that they were all staged. Yevgeny Shevchenko was an MP from the Servant of the People presidential faction, but was expelled from the party after going to a one-on-one meeting with Alexander Lukashenko.

"I'm in Minsk again. Warm, tasty, calm. Belarusians are somehow real. It's as if they haven't spoiled themselves, they have some incredible humanity," the deputy from the Belarusian capital wrote back in April 2021.

Even then, questions arose on whose "tip" Lukashenko was going to Minsk. "Belarus is turning into a concentration camp. For few, Lukashenko is already 'handshakeable' (yes, Putin meets with him and Mishustin). And bam - the deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine from the ruling party 'Servant of the People' Yevgeny Shevchenko is visiting Lukashenko", journalist Irina Romaliyska was outraged even before the war. "Is there power in that country? Servants have their masters. Someone sent him!", the journalist continued. Today, Budanov gives an answer to the question posed in 2021.

He's not an idiot

General Budanov also assessed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. According to him, Vladimir Putin has already lost hope that he will be able to involve the Belarusian army in a war with Ukraine. "Whether we like it or not, Lukashenko is not an idiot. He himself would be the first to prevent a repeat of February 24, 2022 (the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, including from the territory of Belarus)", the head of the GRU also emphasizes.

Although the Belarusian forces did not support the Russian army in the aggression against the neighboring country, the regime of Alexander Lukashenko provided its territory for the needs of Moscow. At the end of February 2022, an attack was launched from Belarus towards the northern part of Ukraine, including the Kyiv region. From there, Russian units shelled Ukrainian cities, including civilian objects, with missiles.

GRU also talked with Prigozhin?

In recent days, one of the most speculative information in social networks and authoritative publications such as "Washington Post" is about secret conversations between GRU and the owner of PMC "Wagner" Yevgeny Prigozhin, who gained fame as "Putin's Chef". The "Washington Post" refers to documents leaked in April by the US intelligence agency, according to which at the end of January Prigozhin suggested through his contacts in the military intelligence department of Ukraine that Kyiv withdraw the AFU from Bakhmut in exchange for providing Ukraine with information about the positions of the Russian army that the Air Force could use to attack the enemy. Two Ukrainian sources confirmed to the American publication that Prigozhin had contacted GRU on several occasions and had made similar proposals, but Kyiv rejected them, as it did not trust the Chef. The information was part of the background to the conflict between Pritozhin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Prigozhin himself called the information from the American newspaper an active event and did not rule out that the "comrades from Rublevka" were leading a campaign against him.

Finland said its embassy's bank accounts in Russia had been frozen since April

The bank accounts of Finland's embassy and consulate in Russia have been frozen and the Scandinavian country has not received an explanation from its neighbor, the Finnish foreign ministry said, as quoted by Reuters.

Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, officially joined NATO on April 4, marking a historic shift in its policy prompted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Moscow subsequently threatened countermeasures.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters that the bank accounts stopped functioning on April 27.

"The accounts of the Finnish missions have been frozen in Russia and cannot be used at the moment," Haavisto said, adding that the missions used their cash reserves to pay bills.

Haavisto pointed out that Finland sent Russian authorities a notice on May 4 demanding that Russia guarantee the missions' ability to operate there and requesting an official explanation for the freeze, but has so far not received one.

The Russian central bank did not respond to a request for comment.

Russian strikes against Kyiv damaged US-provided Patriot system

In Ukraine, a “Patriot” air defense system provided by the US to Kyiv was probably damaged after Russian strikes. This is reported by two anonymous American representatives and they add that this does not mean that it has been destroyed.

The damage occurred after Russian strikes with a supersonic "Kinzhal" missile. Washington has given instructions to Kyiv on how to repair the “Patriot” system. Otherwise, Ukraine continues to report significant progress in the battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut. Against this background, Russia carried out airstrikes on the capital, Kyiv.

Russian missile strikes on civilian infrastructure in southern Ukraine

Russia hit the civilian infrastructure of the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv last night with two “Kalibr” cruise missiles, the General Staff of Ukraine announced in its morning report. In addition, two Russian Federation S-300 missiles hit the civilian infrastructure of Konstantinovka in the Donetsk region. Also during the day, the occupiers carried out 57 airstrikes and carried out 96 attacks from rocket systems for salvo fire on positions of the Ukrainian troops and settlements, UNIAN agency states.

6 “Kinzhal” missiles, 13 “Kalibr” cruise missiles and 10 land-based missiles were used, 25 of which were destroyed by the Ukrainian defenders. Civilian infrastructure was reported as destroyed, and civilians were killed and injured.

The likelihood of further missile and airstrikes across Ukraine remains high.

Britain wants to build an "international coalition" to help Ukraine

Britain wants to build an "international coalition" to help Kyiv get F-16 fighter jets. This was announced by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after a meeting with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte.

The Ukrainian military announced that it had shot down six Russian “Kinzhal” ballistic missiles fired from an aircraft. For them, Moscow claimed that they could not be destroyed by any air defense system.

Last night there was a massive attack over Kyiv. The Ukrainian capital was attacked from the north, south and east with missiles and drones. In recent weeks, Russia has stepped up airstrikes - possibly in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Zelensky thanked all countries and leaders who helped Ukraine improve its air defense

In the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, the meeting of the Council of Europe began - the organization in which a larger number of countries are members than in the EU, such as Turkey, Great Britain and Ukraine. Their goal is the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and this is the first meeting after a two-decade break. During the two days of the Council of Europe forum in Reykjavik, the emerging threats against the background of the ongoing war in Ukraine will be discussed. Russia was excluded after hostilities began.

Before the start of the meeting of the Council of Europe, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for the creation of an international registry of military damage in Ukraine. According to Scholz, this will help in the recovery of the country. According to him, the register can provide a basis for talks at the international level.

Addressing the forum after renewed heavy rocket fire on Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked his supporters and emphasized the power of European cohesion. Zelensky said:

"Russia is trying hard to improve its ability to kill. At the same time, we are trying to improve the defense of our people. And I thank all the countries and leaders who help us improve our air defense. A year ago we did not have the opportunity to shoot down most of the terrorists' missiles, especially the ballistic ones."

The Ukrainian capital was subjected to extremely intense shelling on the night of Tuesday. The anti-aircraft systems of the Ukrainian army managed to shoot down all 27 missiles fired by the Russian military, including six “Kinzhal” ballistic missiles.

Russia, for its part, said it had hit all the targets, which included ammunition depots and military equipment supplied to Ukraine by its Western allies. Moscow also claims to have destroyed a “Patriot” anti-missile system with its supersonic missile.

However, according to US officials, the system, which is used to repel Russian airstrikes targeting critical infrastructure, has been damaged, and Washington and Kyiv have already discussed the best way to restore it.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian military intelligence has reported that around 400,000 Russians are currently fighting in Ukraine. The head of intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, pointed out that very few foreigners are fighting in the Russian units.

ISW: Russia sends troops to defend Bakhmut, but AFU may surprise them elsewhere

Russian forces are likely to step up their advance near Bakhmut amid local counterattacks by the Ukrainian army. However, this will likely affect their military's ability to repel the upcoming Ukrainian counter-offensive.

This is stated by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), citing information from Russian military personnel, that four additional Russian battalions have been transferred to Bakhmut. The information was also confirmed by the leader of the separatists from the unrecognized "DPR" Denis Pushilin, who defined the measure as "stabilizing the flanks".

The ISW report said these statements were consistent with Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar saying that Russia was moving its airborne troops to the area. On May 16, the occupiers achieved minor successes in Bakhmut itself.

The Russians have focused their main efforts on Bakhmut, while Ukraine has repeatedly emphasized that it is moving towards limited operations for now, experts explain.

"The redeployment of Russian troops from other parts of the front to the Bakhmut area is likely in response to Russia's continued concerns about the stability of the front line in the area amid the continued deterioration of the situation of the Wagner Group in the offensive to capture Bakhmut," write from ISW.

The AFU’s small successes in the Bakhmut area may have prompted Russia to further focus on tactical offensive efforts in the area. At the same time, the Kremlin intends to present the "capture" of Bakhmut as a "victory" before possible setbacks during the Ukrainian counteroffensive. These tactical considerations and shifts in Moscow's priorities could undermine Russia's broader efforts to prepare to repel a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

At the same time, the Armed Forces of Ukraine has recently achieved limited success in the city itself. Geolocation footage from 16 May indicated that the AFU had made minor gains east of Orikhovo-Vasilovka (11 km northwest of Bakhmut), although as of 16 May ISW had recorded no further progress by Ukrainian forces around Bakhmut.

In the last couple of days, the Ukrainian defense forces have liberated from the Russian occupiers about 20 square kilometers in the northern and southern outskirts of Bakhmut.

According to Hanna Maliar, the fact that the defense of Bakhmut has lasted for so many months and that there is progress in certain areas is a super effort of the AFU and shows a high level of professionalism of the defense command.

Earlier, the US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that as of May 13, Ukrainian defenders near Bakhmut had liberated 16.85 square km from the enemy during the latest counterattacks.

China to Foreign Missions: Remove Ukrainian Flags

China has notified several foreign missions in Beijing that they should not display "politicized propaganda" in their buildings. That's what diplomats told Reuters, adding that the request appeared to be aimed at the Ukrainian flags they have been displaying since the Russian invasion.

Several foreign missions in China have raised the Ukrainian flag or displayed its image on posters and lights since the February 2022 invasion, which drew international condemnation of Russia, a close Chinese ally.

"We and others received a letter urging embassies and missions to refrain from using the exterior walls of their buildings for 'politicized propaganda,'" one diplomat, whose embassy displayed an image of a Ukrainian flag, told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The diplomat said the mission did not intend to comply with the notification. Three other Beijing-based diplomats confirmed there had been a notification, adding that while it did not directly mention Ukraine's flag, it was clearly aimed at it.

Reuters has not seen the notice. China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Weeks after Russia launched what it called a "special military operation" in Ukraine, a Ukrainian flag poster on the outside wall of the Canadian embassy in Beijing was defaced with anti-NATO graffiti, according to a Reuters witness.

The missions of the European Union, Great Britain, Germany and Poland in Beijing have also displayed images of Ukrainian flags. They did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China has called for peace in Ukraine but refrained from condemning its ally Russia, drawing criticism from Western countries. Some embassies in Beijing also displayed rainbow flags in support of the LGBT community to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on Wednesday and LGBT Pride Month in June.

It was not known whether China, which has faced criticism from rights groups for cracking down on LGBT activism in recent years, objects to such displays.

Novinite is still the only Bulgarian media that publishes a summary of events and highlights related to the conflict, every single day. Our coverage began on day one - 24.02.2022 and will not stop until the war has concluded. Despite the pressure, our independent media will continue to provide its readers with accurate and up-to-date information. Thank you for your support! #stayinformed

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Tags: patriot, Ukraine, Russia, Bakhmut


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