Unlocking the grain corridor

UKRAINE - Report 27 Sep 2023 by Vladimir Dubrovskiy and Dmytro Boyarchuk

Provisional reports suggest that the main Russian defense line has been breached to the north of Tokmak. Fighting continues, but the redeployment of competent Russian paratrooper divisions from other front sectors to the Tokmak area clearly signifies a crisis there. Meanwhile, in sectors stripped of competent units, the situation has notably shifted in favor of Ukrainian forces. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that the ruins of Bakhmut have been operationally encircled, signaling that a complete liberation of Bakhmut is likely imminent.

A crucial shift occurred in the Black Sea war theater between August and September. Previously the Russians, boasting their advanced S-400 air defense system and powerful Black Sea fleet, maintained dominance near the occupied Crimean Peninsula. Occasional Ukrainian drone and missile strikes were dismissed as mere flukes. However, the systematic neutralization of several S-400 units in Crimea (thought to be impervious) and consistent missile hits on Sevastopol, including the destruction of the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, demonstrated Russia's inability to control the Black Sea or defend occupied Crimea. This shift has allowed the resumption of sea routes from Ukrainian ports, disregarding the Kremlin's stance. Some vessels have begun shipping goods while Russia continues to shell the ports.

Ukrainian authorities felt significant political pressure from the United States in September. In August, the regular $1.25 billion grant had been temporarily withheld, and on September 6th, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unexpected visit to Kyiv. All of this occurred amid heightened activity surrounding oligarch Igor Kolomoyskiy, the dismissal of Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov, and the rapid reinstatement of e-declarations for state officials. By mid-September, the issue seemed to be resolved, as the Ministry of Finance reported the receipt of the $1.25 billion grant in September's coffers.

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