Last week witnessed a sudden escalation in the ongoing war in Ukraine, with Moscow gearing up politically and economically to address the situation. The Ukrainian military initiated a new phase of its counteroffensive, which has been underway since the start of the summer. Moscow twice came under drone attack. First, drones tried to hit buildings that house top-secret Russian military intelligence. Then, six days later, they attacked ministry offices in the capital’s business district. Meanwhile, Russia’s parliament adopted a raft of legislation predicated on a long-running war.
On July 27, Western media reported on the start of a new stage of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which had previously progressed slowly due to Ukraine’s strategic retention of Western-trained military personnel and limited use of advanced Western weaponry. However, though the Ukrainian military still has forces in reserve, the “majority” of its forces are now actively engaged in the counteroffensive, a U.S. official told CNN.
The primary direction of the latest phase is southeastern Ukraine, encompassing the partially occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, along with the Russian-annexed Donetsk and Luhansk “People's Republics.” Ukraine's military reported successful advances against Russian troops, though it faced hindrances such as minefields, artillery fire and air strikes. Having lost about one-fifth of the weapons and equipment provided by NATO at the start of the offensive, Ukraine is moving away from assault operations with armored landings in favor of large-scale use of its artillery, which has a greater range and is more powerful than Russia’s, the Financial Times wrote. This helps advance parties to progress and secure tactical successes without heavy losses.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has achieved nothing, and that Ukraine’s forces have suffered great losses. Russia’s losses are far fewer, he said. These statements follow the Kremlin’s efforts to use Russian propaganda to paint the Ukrainian response as a failure — Putin is citing inflated figures for Ukrainian losses, as experts at the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War have pointed out.
Attack of the drones
The war came to Moscow again last week, on two separate occasions. Early on July 24, drones attacked buildings in the city center, including those suspectedof housing Russian military intelligence and a hacker group called Fancy Bear. Six days later, several drones attacked Moscow City, the capital’s high-rise business district. A powerful explosion knocked out four floors of windows in one of the skyscrapers, and a further blast shattered windows on the fifth and sixth floors. The Russian Defense Ministry blamed Ukraine for the attack and reported that one drone was shot down en route to Moscow.
As usual, Ukraine did not take direct responsibility for the strikes on Moscow. “Step by step, the war is returning to Russian territory, to its symbolic centers and military bases. This is an inevitable, natural and entirely just process,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said during an address to mark 522 days of the war.
The attack on Moscow City is noteworthy because the district is home to the offices of several Russian ministries, as well as IT giant Yandex. The VChK-OGPU Telegram channel, which is believed to be connected to Russia’s security services, published photographs of damage sustained by offices at the Digital Development Ministry. Eyewitnesses also found documents from the Economic Development Ministry scattered on the street.
In addition to housing ministries and businesses, the district is home to Russia’s most expensive real estate: the Federation Tower skyscraper complex, which consists of a 65-story western tower and a 95-floor eastern tower. It is home to high-ranking officials, owners of burned-out banks and senior security officers.
Laws “for a long war”
Before the summer recess, deputies in Russia’s State Duma passed several significant laws “for a long war,” as described by Andrei Kartalopov, head of the Duma’s Defense Committee. There are no doubts that the president will sign these laws. They come as Russia’s losses through 16 months of combat in Ukraine could be at least 47,000 men.
In fact, deputies have completed the biggest, and probably most significant, reform of the army. They voted to raise the upper age limit for the draft to 30 (from 27), meaning an additional 2.3 million people could be called up. This reform was announced last year by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, but at the time he promised that the lower age limit would also be raised from 18 to 21. However, that has not happened.
In addition, the Duma approved new laws that significantly increase the fines for failing to report to a recruitment office and created a new offense: “failure to assist military registration and enlistment offices to notify citizens of their mobilization and obligation to report to recruitment points.” Lawmakers also approved new ways of issuing electronic call-up papers which, until now, officials say have not been used.
Why the world should care
Putin’s words and deeds can change. At the end of last year, he said that Russia’s aim was to end the war as soon as possible. Now he is saying that a ceasefire is impossible during the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The Russian economy has to adjust to these mood swings while moving to a military footing, and it will be even harder for it to switch back again. You can read more about this here.