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Situation Update: #15 The Ukraine Crisis

Foreign Policy Brief #155 | By: Ibrahim Sultan | November 10, 2022

Header photo taken from: Viacheslav Ratynskyi / Reuters

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Russia’s announcement it would retreat from Kherson is another setback for Putin, and a political win for Ukraine.

Photo taken from: Metin Aktas / Getty Images

Fighting and Retreat from Kherson

After 260 days of war, the fighting in Ukraine is still raging as firece as ever, yet Ukranian forces have made more gains in recent weeks than they had in the first months of the war. Russia on Wednesday ordered its forces to withdraw from the city of Kherson, the only regional capital captured by Russian forces since the invasion began back in February. The withdrawal of Russian forces from the city signals another blow to the Kremlin’s efforts in Ukraine.

Kherson is one of the four regions that Putin proclaimed back in September to be incorporating into Russia. The annexation of the territory came after a sham referendum that was condemned as illegal by Ukraine and much of the international community. Yet only two months later, the Kremlin has at least for now, lost control of what is supposedly Russian territory. 

Additionally, only hours before the withdrawal, the Russian-installed deputy of Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, was killed in a car crash, making him the second Russian official killed in Kherson this since June. Stremousov was a dual Ukrainian and Russian citizen, and was one of the most prominent faces of Russia’s occupation in Ukraine’s territory. He had been urging civilians to evacuate Kherson and flee across the Dnieper River in the wake of the Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake the city.

With the Russian retreat from Kherson and weeks of losses in Ukraine, Putin announced that 50,000 reservists, which were called up under Moscow’s partial mobilization, have been deployed and are now involved in active warfare. A signal that Moscow intends to continue the fight and recapture territory liberated by Ukrainian forces. Ukranian officials are wary that the withdrawal may only be a regrouping for another push that is likely to come later.

International Support of Russia

Iran has supplied unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to its proxies in the Middle East and employed them during reconnaissance, sabotage, and attack missions in the region. Now, Iranian-made drones could end up in the hands of Russia, which is facing Western sanctions and international isolation, for use in its war in Ukraine.

Photo taken from: Radio Free Europe

Russia has become increasingly isolated in the international community and certainly among Western states. Western countries have made trade and even travel for Russian tourists increasingly difficult as a result of the Kremlin’s war.

Though even with the barrage of sanctions, restrictions, and condemnation from Western leaders, there has been relief for Russia from other global players. India has announced it will continue buying Russian oil ahead of a G7 meeting where Western powers had hoped to meet and agree to put further pressure on Russia. This week Indian foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in his first visit to Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, said, “We have seen that the India-Russia relationship has worked to our advantage. If it works to my advantage, I would like to keep that going.”

The move counters Western efforts to cripple Russia’s economy with sanctions that explicitly target its energy export sectors. Russia and India are also considering the joint production of modern defence equipment. Moscow has been India’s biggest supplier of military equipment for decades, with India having imported arms worth more than $20 billion between 2011 and 2021.

Russia’s security chief, Nikolai Patrushev, also this week met with his Iranian counterpart and the Iranian president in an effort to deepen ties between the two countries that have been isolated by Western powers. 

The Iranian president said Iran remains opposed to the war as a fundamental policy‌, nevertheless the two countries would be upgrading relations to a new “strategic” level, something he said is “a decisive response to the policy of sanctions of the United States and its allies. Iran has been accused by Ukraine of supplying Russia with drones used to attack Ukrainian infrastructure. 

Ukraine has faced blackouts, with 40% of the country’s energy infrastructure having been damaged after weeks of Russian attacks using Shahed-136 kamikaze drones and other types of unmanned aerial vehicles manufactured by Iran. The Iranian government has acknowledged that it had supplied drones to Russia, but claims the sale of weapons occurred before the invasion and not after.

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