Last week (July 3–9), Ukraine actively worked to get guarantees of NATO ⁠accession at the Alliance summit in Vilnius to be held on July 11–12.

Five commanders who defended Mariupol returned from Turkey to Ukraine. This caused public hysteria in the Kremlin, as well as the decision taken by the United States to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine.

Russia continues a discrediting campaign to disrupt arms supplies to Ukraine, and threatens to strike Ukrainian nuclear power plants.

One Step Away From Vilnius: Ukraine’s Latest Diplomatic Efforts Ahead of the Summit

On July 11–12, a NATO summit will be held in Vilnius, and Ukraine is actively preparing for it. Our diplomats have formed two expectations for the event: a political decision on the invitation to NATO, and security guarantees while the accession to the Alliance lasts.

According to the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Dmytro Kuleba, on the eve of the summit, Ukraine actively convinces partners to make the necessary decision and has gained some success. “We are watching the Vilnius Summit from morning to night and are constantly negotiating… Now we have entered a highly intense phase of negotiations. They are not easy. Certain gains have already been made but these are not the gains that fully satisfy us," the diplomat said on the air of the national telethon on July 3.

Thus, we know now that Bulgaria and Portugal became the 22nd and 23rd countries signing NATO membership declarations with Ukraine. Ukraine also received public support from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Following the meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky who visited Istanbul on July 7, the Turkihs President said that Ukraine deserves NATO membership.

At the same time, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that at the Vilnius summit, the leaders will adopt a package on Ukraine which will contain three main elements.

First, Allied leaders will agree on a multi-year support programme to ensure full interoperability between the Ukrainian armed forces and NATO. Secondly, the Secretary General said the summit would renew political ties between Ukraine and NATO, launching the NATO-Ukraine Council. “And the third. I expect that the leaders will confirm that Ukraine will become a member of NATO, and will be united in how to bring Ukraine closer to its goal,” Stoltenberg added.

The head of NATO expressed confidence that the leaders of the Alliance countries would agree on the wording of Ukraine’s future NATO membership but at the moment he was not ready to disclose the particulars.

At the same time, on July 9, Politico reported that a small group of NATO states is conducting “frantic last-minute negotiations” to finalize a declaration on security guarantees for Ukraine on the eve of the summit.

As early as on Monday, July 10, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba said that NATO member countries agreed to cancel the Membership Action Plan for Ukraine on the way to joining the Alliance. According to the minister, it will significantly shorten our country’s path to NATO.

Cluster Munitions for Ukraine and Russian Hysteria

Another event related to the strengthening of Ukrainian military potential is the decision of the United States to transfer cluster munitions (shells that contain many small explosive devices — OPORA) to Ukraine. They have been included into a new military aid package announced on July 7.

The US President stressed that Ukraine would receive cluster munitions during the “transition period” until the Americans establish more production of 155-mm artillery shells. This message was also confirmed by US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. He added that Kyiv had also assured “as part of its written request” that it would use cluster munitions with minimal risk to civilians, so as not to use them where civilians live.

At the same time, the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Oleksiy Reznikov, said on Twitter that Ukraine has 5 principles for the use of cluster munitions:

  1. They will be used only for the de-occupation of Ukrainian territories only. They will not be used in Russia.
  2. The defense forces will not use them in urban areas to avoid risks for the civilian populations. Instead, they will be sent only to the sites of concentration of Russian military to break through the enemy defense lines.
  3. Ukraine will keep a strict record of the use of these weapons and the local zones where they will be used.
  4. After the de-occupation of Ukrainian territories and the victory, they will be prioritized for the purposes of de-mining to eradicate the risk from the unexploded elements of cluster munitions.
  5. Ukraine will report to the partners about the use of these munitions, and about their efficiency to ensure transparent reporting and control.

The transfer of cluster munitions caused hysteria in Russia. Thus, the State Duma deputy Leonid Slutsky refers to the fact that their use can cause significant harm to the civilian population. At the same time, the politician “forgot” that Russia is using these weapons against the civilian population of Ukraine. Such cases were recorded in Kramatorsk, Mykolaiv, and Kharkiv. Slutsky also referred to the fact that cluster munitions are prohibited by a special Convention but neither the United States nor Ukraine, not even Russia, signed it.

The Russian Foreign Ministry used other propaganda narratives. First of all, they claim that the transfer of cluster munitions prolongs the war. The second is the Ukrainian counter-offensive (which, for objective reasons, cannot be as fast as everyone wants it to be — OPORA) allegedly failed. This rhetoric aims to disrupt the supply of weapons to Ukraine: they say it s a waste of resources which does not produce any results.

Another trigger for Russia was the return from Turkey of five commanders who defended Mariupol, where they had stayed since September last year after being released from Russian captivity. To explain this decision, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov used several typical narratives: external forces made Turkey to take that step, and the Ukrainian counteroffensive fails, that is why Ukraine was given back the 5 Mariupol defenders.

Such statements are certainly easier to make than to recognize one’s defeats in the international arena.

The Kremlin is trying to reduce military assistance to Ukraine and introduces the title of “SMO Hero City”

The strengthening of Ukraine’s defense capability due to military assistance from Western partners come as a serious concern for Russia. Attempting to further discredit Ukraine, the aggressor actively shares disinformation about the supplied Western weapons.

Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, during his visit at the production grounds for Russian air defense systems (Obukhov plant), was frustrated that the coalition of NATO countries are increasing the combat capabilities of the Ukrainian army, providing modern means of destruction with an increased range.

"Therefore, the situation is very serious and we really need to create a reliable air defense system, both in our zone and for objects remote from the contact zone,” Medvedev said.

The politician also shared the narrative that in order to end the war, it is necessary to stop the supply of Western weapons. They claim that it would allegedly help “end the SMO in a few days.”

At the same time, the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said that the riots in France have the neo-Nazi groups directly involved.

“The weapons supplied to Kyiv end up in the hands of protesters and are used against the police in France. Did President Emmanuel Macron say this to his people?”—  says Zakharova.

She also compared the Ukrainian authorities  with the “Enfant Terrible.” She implied that, as they say, it is better not to even negotiate with them  but to immediately please. Moreover, Zakharova spoke about the large-scale “hunt” of the United States for weapons of Soviet, Russian and Western origin to transfer them to Kyiv.

According to her, unprecedented pressure is exerted on countries. They use the methods of intimidation and blackmail reaching as far as “the threats of physical annihilation.” The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman urged countries not to succumb to Western promises, and otherwise threatened negative consequences for bilateral relations with the Russian Federation.

The Russian side also accused Ukraine of terrorism when 5 unknown drones attacked the Moscow region on July 4. The Russian Foreign Ministry immediately stated that Ukraine tried to carry out terror attacks on civilian infrastructure, although the Russian media themselves admitted that the attacks targeted military facilities. The Russian Ministry even accused the United States and allies of “pumping” Ukraine with weapons, without which “such attacks would have been impossible.”

Meanwhile, the aggressor cynically continues to kill the civilian population of Ukraine. Last week, Russia attacked a high-rise building in Sumy city with a drone, they hit Pervomaisky with an Iskander, shelled the Bilozerska community, and struck a residential building in Lviv with a Kalibr missile. However, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported on the “apt destruction of the deployment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and foreign mercenaries.”

Russia uses Iranian drones to strike civilian targets in Ukraine, thus violating the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which they supported in 2015. The resolution approved the Iran nuclear deal but also limited Iran’s ability to obtain and transfer weapons technology, including drones.

At a Security Council meeting on July 6, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, called the photos of downed Iranian drones in Ukraine a fake, but at the same time objected against the UN inspection of drones that had been used in Ukraine. The Russian side is certainly not interested in inspections because, according to U.S. intelligence, the aggressor is actively building a plant for the production of Iranian kamikaze drones, and Iran provides materials for construction.

Russia seeks to ensure a steady supply of weapons, equipment and manpower for war, while complaining that Ukraine is being provided with weapons for self-defense. On July 4, during a meeting on the under-manning of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev said that in 2023, 185,000 contractors were accepted into the Russian army. In addition, he proposed to transfer the equipment confiscated from poachers for the needs of the “special operation,” in particular high-speed boats, cars, and tracked vehicles.

At the same time, to support the front, in the coming weeks, Russia may send more Chechens and prison inmates to the front line. Bloomberg, quoting the representatives of European intelligence, notes that Russian troops need to compensate for the shortage of forces due to the departure of Wagner fighters, so the Kremlin is looking for such opportunities in the context of avoiding general mobilization.

However, the Kremlin continues to believe in the unconditional fulfillment of the goals of the so-called “special operation” and to live in a “parallel reality”. Members of the Government of the Russian Federation, together with Vladimir Putin, are concerned about supporting the tourist season in the Crimea and are thinking about how to deliver people to the occupied peninsula. In fact, due to the inspection of all vehicles they introduced, many kilometers of queues have been built. In the end, the invaders decided to transport vacationers with cars on two large amphibious assault ships.

The LDPR party submitted to the State Duma a draft law on the establishment of the title “Hero City of a Special Military Operation.” The occupiers want to install in the “hero cities” commemorative stellas depicting the city’s coat of arms, as well as museums “dedicated to the heroic exploits and resilience of residents during the SMO.” However, the Defense Forces of Ukraine are bringing quite opposite events every day, where Russian criminals are only in for justice.

Medvedev threatens to strike three Ukrainian nuclear power plants, although the Russian terrorist attack on ZNPP is still on the agenda

In the middle of last week, the head of the Chief Intelligence Agency, Kirill Budanov, in aninterview with The Times, said that the risk of a Russian terrorist attack on the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “is slowly decreasing.” Beyond any doubt, it was a positive signal, as well as the message of the IAEA that the experts of the organization had not yet found signs of ZNPP mining, urging “not to relax” as they had not visited part of the premises, such as the roof. It is on the outer roof of the 3rd and 4th power units of the ZNPP, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, that foreign objects similar to explosive devices are located. This information was confirmed by the data of the Planet Labs service.

The reality of the threat of provocations is also evidenced by the fact that on July 5, at the meeting of the Supreme Commander’s Headquarters, the issue of protecting the nuclear power plant was considered. On July 8, Ukrainian intelligence reported that the Russians continue to mine the ZNPP. It was about the installation of explosives in technical rooms and engine rooms.

Also, according to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, the Ukrainian authorities are developing an algorithm for evacuating the population from the territories near the ZNPP. The head of  the Ministry of Reintegration for the reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories, Iryna Vereshchuk, emphasized: “We are at war. Therefore, we must be ready for any developments. Our actions must be clear and consistent.”

It is interesting to see that on July 6, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation, Sergei Kiriyenko, and the occupying “head” of the Zaporizhzhya region, Yevgeniy Balitskiy, visited the ZNPP. They allegedly made sure that “the station was operating normally, there were no violations of security boundaries.” The day before, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, generally stated that at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant there was allegedly “a high threat of sabotage from the Kyiv regime, which could entail catastrophic consequences.” The leader of the LDPR faction in the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Leonid Slutsky, claimed: “everything indicates that Zelensky intends to lay out the 'last card’ on the table before the NATO summit and plant bombs at the Zaporizhzhia NPP.”

The White House says they are closely monitoring the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and emphasized that “the nuclear power plant cannot be an object in the combat zone.” Also on July 7, political adviser to the US mission to the OSCE, Elizabeth Rosenstock-Siller, said that Russia should immediately withdraw their troops from the territory of the ZNPP, and safely return the plant under the control of Ukraine: “Russia shocked the world with their treatment of the station personnel and thoughtless disregard for nuclear safety.”

Russia is not going to abandon the totally meaningless rhetoric and threats. Last week, the Kremlin intensified blackmail and actively used for this the Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev, like previously. Thus, in the article “The Age of Confrontation” for the Rossiyskaya Gazeta [official publication of the Russian government], Medvedev intimidates readers with the apocalypse and argues that the world is in a confrontation, much worse than during the Caribbean crisis. According to him, the Kremlin’s opponents are “the ultimate idiots” because they decided to “defeat the largest nuclear power which Russia is.” The same article says that the “nuclear weapons have already been used, it is known by whom and where, which means that there is no taboo.” Interestingly, Medvedev also demands that there be “no Anti-Russia” and “the Kyiv Nazi regime was annihilated.” The West “will have to accept this if it does not want an apocalyptic end to our imperfect civilization.”

As soon as a few days after the article’s publication, the deputy chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation stated that any war, even a world war, can be ended very quickly. “Either if a peace treaty is signed, or if we do what the Americans did in 1945, when they used their nuclear weapons and bombed two Japanese cities.” At the same time, on July 9, Medvedev threatened: if the attempted attack by NATO missiles of the Smolensk nuclear power plant is confirmed, then “it is necessary to consider the scenario of “a simultaneous Russian strike on the Pivdennoukrayinska nuclear power plant, the Rivne nuclear power plant, and the Khmelnytskyi nuclear power plant, as well as on nuclear facilities in Eastern Europe.” Thus, we are only left to state that Russian nuclear blackmail continues with more intensity.