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Press review: Whither Russia post Artyomovsk win? and US finally lets the F-16s fly

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, May 22nd

MOSCOW, May 22. /TASS/. Experts weigh in on new goals for Russia in wake of its victory in Artyomovsk; Washington okays deliveries of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine; and Moscow submits draft convention on international information security to UN. These stories topped Monday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: Experts weigh in on new goals for Russia in wake of its victory in Artyomovsk

An offensive conducted by assault units of the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), with artillery and aviation support from Battlegroup South, has resulted in the liberation of Artyomovsk, the Russian Defense Ministry reported on Sunday. Over the previous 24-hour period, roughly 100 Ukrainian servicemen and mercenaries, as well as several pieces of equipment, were wiped out near the city. Now, that Artyomovsk is fully under Russia’s control, experts believe, Moscow is nearing the completion of a critical phase of its operation to liberate the entire Donbass, with Avdeyevka and Maryinka standing next in line.

Overall, the battle for Artyomovsk lasted 224 days, military expert Vasily Dandykin noted. In operational and tactical terms, the liberation of the city represents a key milestone, for it had served as a major hub for all Ukrainian logistics, from Donetsk all the way up to Seversk [99 km north of Donetsk]. Thus, the loss of this major transportation hub for the Ukrainians will make it difficult for them to redeploy troops and supply their units with ammunition and other materiel, the expert argues.

As well, according to him, the liberation of the city will deal a major blow to the morale of Ukrainian military units and ideologists alike. "Yet another myth of Ukrainian propaganda has collapsed: They had been promoting an image of so-called "fortress Bakhmut" (the Ukrainian name for Artyomovsk - TASS) as a symbol of the die-hard, unyielding Ukrainian spirit, but, finally, this myth has now gone up in smoke, with no substitute for it in sight. It’s a critical gut punch for the enemy," Dandkykin said.

However, the expert said, the next major step for Russia would be to strengthen its flanks and repel Ukrainian counterattacks, by which Kiev’s armed forces have been seeking to at least put the city in a pincer, if not encircle it entirely. He is confident that Russian forces will succeed in pushing the enemy back. Further, Russian forces will have to advance toward Avdeyevka and Maryinka in order to put an end to shelling attacks on Donetsk and other major cities, Dandykin concluded.


Vedomosti: Washington green-lights deliveries of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

The G7 leaders who gathered in Hiroshima, Japan, over the past weekend used the summit to announce an agreement to send F-16 "Fighting Falcon" aircraft, the US air force’s fourth-generation fighter jets, to Kiev. US President Joe Biden said at a news conference following the G7 meeting that he had informed his Ukrainian counterpart, Vladimir Zelensky, of plans by Washington and its allies to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s and other fourth-generation Western combat aircraft.

Biden also said that Zelensky had assured him that the F-16s would not be used either for strikes at targets inside Russia or in the much-vaunted Ukrainian counteroffensive that is currently being prepared. Also, the US president acknowledged that the fighter aircraft would not have helped Ukrainian troops in holding Bakhmut (the Ukrainian name for Artyomovsk), which finally fell to Russian forces over the weekend. According to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the initiative to deliver the fighter jets to Ukraine sends a message to Russia. Also, in their final statement following the summit, the G7 leaders renewed their commitment to provide support to Ukraine and pledged to tighten sanctions on Russia.

An official close to Russia’s top brass told Vedomosti that integrating the F-16s would require the Ukrainian forces to build an entirely new infrastructure, one that differs dramatically from Ukraine’s current legacy systems designed to service Soviet-made jet fighters. For starters, a higher quality of runway pavement will be needed. Although basing the fighter jets in Poland for sorties would not be technically feasible, Poland could handle the sophisticated maintenance of F-16s, while airbases in Ukraine would be used as jump airfields, the official said. However, the delivery of the Western fighter jets will ultimately not be able to turn the tide for Ukraine, he concluded.

According to Mikhail Barabanov, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Ukraine could be given the F-16s by the end of this year. Denmark and Belgium will follow in the path of the Netherlands, which has been replacing its F-16s with newer F-35s, and this will make it easier to supply the older F-16 jets to Kiev, Russian International Affairs Council expert Alexander Yermakov pointed out. In addition, the aircraft are highly airworthy and can be transferred quite quickly, Yermakov added. However, given the need to train personnel and pilot crews, these aircraft may be supplied no earlier than within the next six months, or even later, for Western fighter jets require a different maintenance ecosystem than what is currently available in Ukraine, he concluded.


Kommersant: Russia submits draft convention on international information security to UN

Last week, Russia and four allied nations - Belarus, North Korea, Nicaragua and Syria - endorsed an updated draft concept of the Convention on International Information Security for consideration by the United Nations. Its key principles include the sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs, while the main tasks are conflict prevention and resolution, the establishment of interstate cooperation, and building up the cyber potential of developing countries. However, enlisting the support of a majority of member states at the UN will not be easy for Russia, as previous versions of this document were rejected by Western countries, and, given the conflict over Ukraine, there is no reason to believe that the new draft will fare any better.

The authors of the updated draft concept of the convention emphasize, rather than conceal, that it is based on best practices accumulated over the past years. However, unlike the previously published principles and ideas, the new convention proposed by Russia should not be voluntary, but legally binding. For this, according to its text, it should provide mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of its provisions by signatory countries.

What makes the updated concept special to Oleg Shakirov, a consultant at the PIR Center and expert with the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), is that it proposes a mechanism for establishing legal obligations. Since the late 1990s, Russia has been recommending that an international agreement be signed in this area, while voluntary rules for the behavior of individual countries in cyberspace were formulated at the UN in the past decade, the expert told Kommersant. "In other words, what Russia proposes is to pick the most important informal rules and use them as a basis for an international convention," he explained.

However, no bright prospects are seen for this initiative at the UN, the expert lamented, as he pointed to the array of co-authors of the document that do not include many of the traditional supporters of Russia’s approach to international information security, primarily China, although Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned the concept in their joint statement in March, Shakirov said.

According to him, the West has been consistently opposed to the creation of new legal obligations for cyberspace, as it insists that the existing international legal framework is sufficient for regulating relations in the digital realm. Also, the entire multilateral diplomacy is affected by the Ukraine conflict, and Russian initiatives do not receive the positive reaction they might otherwise garner in peacetime, Shakirov maintains. "In any case, diplomats proceed from the fact that debates on such a convention would take years and the basis for that has to be laid in advance, whatever the current situation is," he said.


Izvestia: Berlin refusing to share findings from its Nord Stream probe with Moscow

Germany is in no rush to make the outcome of its investigation into the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines public, and has simply been ignoring Moscow’s inquiries, Russian Ambassador to Berlin Sergey Nechayev told Izvestia. "I have the impression that Germany would rather conceal the inconvenient facts" than to investigate the incident, he said. According to the Russian diplomat, Germany is not currently considering making any repairs to the damaged Nord Stream system, despite proposals previously voiced by German politicians.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry assured Izvestia that the Nordic country’s prosecutors and security service are conducting a preliminary probe into the sabotage. "At the preliminary stage of the investigation, information is classified. The Russian authorities were informed about the situation around the incidents, including about the probes, and we have responded to their inquiries," Sweden’s foreign ministry said.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has called on Denmark, Sweden and Germany for transparency in their probes into the gas pipeline explosions, Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyansky told Izvestia. According to him, a scenario where the European Union and Russia could agree on a joint investigation is nowhere near becoming a reality, since "the EU is not independent in its decision-making," Polyansky specified. Meanwhile, he underlined, UN agencies cannot join the probe without Security Council authorization.

According to Nikita Lipunov, an analyst at the Institute for International Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), any cooperation between Russia and Europe, especially on such a sensitive issue, is highly unlikely. "On the contrary, European nations will continue to come up with even more incredible versions of what happened, categorically blaming Russia for that, even despite the fact that this is in conflict with common sense," the expert told Izvestia. "Moscow is currently being viewed as a major security threat, while any interaction with it is a vulnerability, hence Europe is not seeking to establish the real circumstances of the case," he concluded.


Vedomosti: Xi proclaims 'new era' in relations between China, Central Asia

The presidents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan signed a joint declaration with China’s President Xi Jinping following their first in-person forum in Xian, China. Participants in the summit, which, the Chinese leader said, would usher in a "new era" in Beijing’s relations with the region, agreed to establish a mechanism for communication between the heads of the post-Soviet countries and China. They agreed to hold high-level Central Asia-China meetings every two years, with the next one slated to take place in Kazakhstan in 2025.

Beijing is primarily interested in Central Asia for security reasons, Alexander Lukin, research director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of China and Contemporary Asia, told Vedomosti. "To a lesser extent, the region matters to [Beijing] in terms of economic cooperation, for these countries do not have enough resources to meet China’s needs," he said.

China is trying to outweigh Russia in the region, said Galiya Ibragimova, an expert in Central Asia. In contrast, Lukin argues that China is not seeking to squeeze Russia out of the region. "The Chinese are to some degree making an attempt to take on some of the security problems facing the region, given the fact that Russia is currently busy handling other areas of global politics," he explained.

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