Nato doubts if Russia can mount notable offensive; Brazil’s Lula makes U-turn on Putin arrest warrant waiver

Nato doubts if Russia can mount notable offensive; Brazil’s Lula makes U-turn on Putin arrest warrant waiver
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and Foreign Minister of Germany Annalena Baerbock at their meeting in Kyiv on 11 September 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Presidential Press Service handout)

Russia is unlikely to be able to mount a significant offensive operation this year as its armed forces lack the necessary munitions and troops, according to a senior Nato official.

Nato is concerned that imminent talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok could lead to additional arms deliveries to the Kremlin, a senior Nato official told reporters in Brussels.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made her fourth visit to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion and held talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. She praised his government for pushing ahead with the reforms needed to open formal accession talks with the European Union, while indicating that more work was needed in the fight against corruption.

Latest developments

North Korean arms cache gives Kim Jong-un a role in Putin’s invasion 

North Korean weaponry could allow Russia to prolong the storm of steel it has rained down on Ukraine, but probably isn’t advanced enough to alter the course of the Kremlin’s war on its neighbour, now well into its second year.

Leader Kim Jong-un is expected to cross into Russia this week for his first trip outside the peninsula in four years for talks with Putin. The US has said the meeting would focus on supplying munitions to Moscow.

While Pyongyang and Moscow have denied US accusations of arms transfers, North Korea sits on some of the largest stockpiles of artillery and unguided rockets that could be used in the Soviet-era weaponry Russia is using to launch indiscriminate attacks on Ukraine.

“Supplies of ammunition from North Korea are unlikely to be decisive in the short term but will make it easier for Russia to continue a war of attrition,” said Terence Roehrig, a professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College.

“A significant part of Putin’s strategy is an assessment that Russia can outlast Ukraine and the West’s support that is essential to Ukraine’s survival. More ammunition allows Putin to continue this strategy,” he said.

Discussions between Pyongyang and Moscow over North Korea providing further military support for Russia’s war effort in Ukraine were actively advancing, a senior Nato official said on Monday.

North Korea provided munitions, including infantry rockets and missiles, to the Wagner Group when they were still active in Ukraine but the equipment delivered so far hasn’t changed the battlefield dynamics, the official said.

But allies are concerned North Korea is planning to deliver more arms, the Nato official said. Their visibility on the quality and quantity of North Korea’s weapons and munitions stocks is constrained, so the volume and quality of what North Korea could provide is an open question, the official said.

Munitions from North Korea could buy time for Russia, giving its domestic industry a chance to catch up with demand.

Ukraine says Black Sea platforms used by Russian forces captured

Ukraine’s military intelligence service said its forces regained control of several drilling platforms in the Black Sea that were used by Russia for stationing helicopters and radar activity.

Special forces units seized a stockpile of helicopter ammunition and a Neva radar system used to track naval movements from the platforms off Crimea’s coast, the Defence Ministry’s GUR spy agency said in a statement on Monday. A Russian Su-30 fighter jet that engaged with Ukrainian forces on boats was damaged and retreated, GUR said.

The agency said intelligence units carried out a “unique operation” to retake the Petro Godovenets and Ukraina drilling platforms, as well as the Tavryda and Syvash facilities. Russia’s Defence Ministry has made no mention of the operation.

The drilling platforms were purchased and installed in 2011 in an area around the Odesa gas field, intended to be part of Ukraine’s oil-and-gas production infrastructure. Russia occupied them in 2015, a year after annexing Crimea from Ukraine, and relocated them closer to the peninsula.

Kim’s armoured train heads towards Russia for Putin talks

Kim was heading to Russia via his luxury armoured train, South Korean media reported, ahead of talks with Putin in Vladivostok that the US said would touch on arms transfers to help the Kremlin’s war machine.

Kim’s personal train was seen moving slowly toward the northeast border area, YTN cable TV reported, citing a South Korean government official it didn’t identify. The Dong-A Ilbo newspaper also reported the train was headed for Russia and expected to cross the border early Tuesday.

North Korea and Russia have a rail link at their border and from there, it’s about 150km to Vladivostok. The trip will be Kim’s first outside the Korean Peninsula since he last met Putin four years ago in that city. Kim’s train moves at a plodding pace, with his rail journey to the Russian eastern city taking about 20 hours for him to reach his destination.

Ukraine seeks as much as $14bn in US financial aid in 2024

Ukraine needs between $12-billion and $14-billion in financial aid from the US next year as budget spending remains high amid Russia’s ongoing invasion.

“There are no talks yet, there are a lot of uncertainties and we do not have confidence that this is guaranteed,” Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko told reporters in Kyiv on Monday. Ukraine also hopes to get $3.3-billion from the US before year-end.

Ukraine received almost $10-billion in financial aid from the US this year to help cover the budget deficit and Kyiv expects its needs won’t ease next year as Ukrainian troops are slowly progressing in their counteroffensive.

While President Joe Biden has requested $24-billion in emergency funds to address the war in Ukraine, the next tranche of US aid to the country is running into political trouble as the US heads into an election cycle.

Russia refineries cut runs in early September for seasonal maintenance

Russia’s oil refineries scaled back operations in early September for seasonal maintenance.

Primary crude processing averaged 5.52 million barrels a day from 1 to 6 September, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. That’s almost 32,000 barrels a day lower than the average for August, when throughput also fell month on month, Bloomberg calculations show.

Russia’s crude supplies to domestic refineries, with its seaborne exports, remain key gauges for market watchers tracking the country’s oil production after the government classified official data amid Western sanctions.

The monthly drop in refinery throughput comes just as the government is pushing Russian producers to sell more diesel and petrol at home to contain fuel-price growth.

Lula backs off pledge Putin won’t be arrested if he visits Brazil

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva backed off a pledge that Putin would be safe to travel to next year’s Group of 20 summit in Brazil without fear of arrest, saying that issue is up to his country’s judiciary.

“If Putin decides to go to Brazil, it will be the courts who decide whether or not he will be arrested, not me,” Lula told a news conference in New Delhi on Monday following this year’s G20 summit.

The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest on war crimes charges in March. Russia dismissed the allegations, but Putin has made only a few international trips since, last month skipping a BRICS summit in South Africa, which, like Brazil, is a signatory to the ICC charter.

Read More: How war crimes warrants limit where Putin can travel: QuickTake

Lula’s comments appeared to backtrack from assurances he’d given a day earlier.

“I believe that Putin can easily go to Brazil,” Lula said in a video interview with Indian news platform Firstpost late on Saturday. “What I can tell you is that if I am president of Brazil and he goes to Brazil, there is no way he will be arrested.”

At the news conference on Monday, Lula said he would “study” the ICC issue. “I want to know why Brazil became a signatory if the US didn’t,” he said, citing India and Russia as other countries that had not signed up to the court.

Brazil has not joined sanctions against Russia by the US and its partners over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Lula has offered to mediate in the conflict, so far without much success.

“Let’s see what happens until November 2024, when the G20 summit in Brazil will take place,” he said. “I hope that by then there will be no more war and that everything will return to normal. We will only know if Xi and Putin will participate when they get closer to the event.”

The Russian leader and Chinese President Xi Jinping both skipped this year’s summit in New Delhi. DM


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