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Energy infrastructure under attack, exchange of POWs, and new security agreements for Ukraine: Ukraine’s weekly news digest

While Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine is entering its third year, the situation is still intense, with regular updates on attacks on civilians, offensive and defensive operations, and responses from the international community.

Here is what you may have missed on the news from Ukraine from May 27 to June 3.

Ukrainian energy infrastructure under new attack

At night on June 1, Russia launched a massive missile and UAV attack on Ukrainian energy infrastructure. In total, Ukrainian defenders shot down 35 out of 53 missiles and 46 out of 47 drones, reported the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

A Ukrainian firefighter eliminates the consequences of a massive Russian air attack on June 1, 2024.
Photo from Ihor Klymenko, Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine

However, Russia hit energy facilities in the Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kirovohrad, Lviv, and Ivano-Frankivsk regions. Enemy shellings destroyed critical infrastructure objects in the Zaporizhzhia and Kirovohrad regions. Russian troops also targeted two Ukrhydroenergo hydroelectric power plants, causing critical damage to the stations’ equipment.

Ongoing Russian terror against Kharkiv and the region

On May 31, Russian forces shelled Kharkiv with an S-300 missile system, hitting the residential infrastructure. An entire block of the multi-storey building was destroyed. The enemy once again used the tactic of “double-tap strike”, when the first air strike is followed by a second attack, targeting rescuers trying to help the wounded.

At least 25 Ukrainian citizens were injured due to the Russian shellings. Eight wounded victims were hospitalized, including a 12-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy. During the rescue and search operations, six killed residents were found under the rubble, reported the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

Kharkiv and the region have been suffering from constant Russian shellings after Russia started the new wave of offensive in this direction on May 10, making further attempts to seize Ukrainian territories.

Exchange of POWs between Ukraine and Russia

On May 31, another big exchange of prisoners of war (POWs) took place. As a result, Ukraine managed to return home 75 more Ukrainian citizens from Russia’s captivity. There are military personnel, including soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Guard, and the Border Guard Service, as well as four civilians, among those who were released from Russian custody.

Ukraine has returned home 75 more citizens from Russia’s captivity
during the exchange of prisoners of war (POWs) on May 31, 2024.
Photo from Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine

Ukraine signed six new security agreements

Over the past week, Ukraine signed bilateral agreements on security cooperation with a number of its allies, including Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway.

Under the agreements, Ukraine will receive significant military assistance from its partner states in the future:

  • Spain will provide €1 billion in military aid in 2024;
  • Belgium will provide €977 million in military assistance in 2024;
  • Portugal will provide at least €126 million in military support in 2024;
  • Sweden will provide military assistance worth about €6.5 billion (approximately €2.2 billion per year over 2024-2026);
  • Iceland will allocate almost $30 million per year in aid until 2028;
  • Norway will provide €1.2 billion in military aid in 2024 and a total of €6.4 billion through the Nansen Support Programme for 2023-2027.

All partner states will continue their joint work to support Ukraine and help with the development of the defense, economic, intelligence, cybersecurity, and countering disinformation sectors.

In addition, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, and Norway will participate in the aviation efforts to strengthen Ukrainian military capabilities. Thus, Belgium will provide 30 F-16 aircraft to Ukraine by 2028, with the first deliveries in 2024. Norway will assist Ukraine with modern combat aircraft, including F-16 jets.

At the same time, Portugal and Norway will further cooperate to develop the International Maritime Security Coalition, aiming to provide additional capabilities for the Ukrainian Navy in the Black and Azov Seas. Iceland will help to equip Ukrainian women in the Armed Forces and transport military cargo and equipment from NATO allies to Ukraine by chartered cargo planes.

The partner states will support sanctions, compensation for damages, and accountability for Russia. In addition, the security agreements provide for consultation and cooperation in the event of future Russian armed attacks.

Largest military assistance package from Sweden yet

On May 29, Sweden announced its 16th and largest military aid package, worth €1,16 billion, to Ukraine. According to Pål Jonson, Minister for Defence of Sweden, it will include two Airborne Surveillance and Control aircraft (ASC 890), Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), an entire stock of armored tracked personnel carriers (PBV 302), artillery ammunition, and other military items.

Ukrainian allies allowed to attack military targets on Russian territory with Western weapons

During the past week, several Ukrainian allies confirmed their permission to use weapons provided by them to Ukraine on military targets on Russian territory.

For instance, Denmark provided some details regarding the future use of F-16 fighter jets donated to Ukraine.

“Short answer: yes [regarding the possibility of F-16 strikes on military targets on the Russian territory – ed.], stated Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark. “This is not a new position, it is part of the transfer. We made it clear from the very beginning when we discussed this with our Foreign Affairs Committee in the Danish Parliament that this is part of self-defence so that it would also be possible to attack military targets on the aggressor’s territory.

U.S. President Joe Biden has also permitted Ukraine to use U.S. weapons to strike inside Russia for the limited purpose of defending the city of Kharkiv.

“Over the past few weeks, Ukraine came to us and asked for the authorization to use weapons that we’re providing to defend against this aggression, including against Russian forces that are massing on the Russian side of the border and then attacking into Ukraine. And that went right to the president, and as you’ve heard, he’s approved use of our weapons for that purpose. Going forward, we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing, which is as necessary adapt and adjust,” said Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State.

The list of the countries that expressed their permission to use Western weapons to attack military targets on Russian territory also includes Finland, Poland, Canada, Germany, and France among other states (updated).

Stats of the week

Due to Russian military aggression, approximately 23,000 patients with post-traumatic stress disorder are currently registered in the electronic health system of Ukraine.
Source: Viktor Liashko, Minister of Healthcare of Ukraine. Date: May 24, 2024.

About 30% of the total potential of the Ukrainian agricultural sector has been destroyed due to Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, and 20% of agricultural land is under temporary occupation.
Source: Viktor Kantsurak, State Secretary of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine. Date: May 24, 2024.

Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, approximately 673 Ukrainian citizens, including 80 children, have been injured by Russian explosive objects.
Source: Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, Spokesman of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. Date: May 29, 2024.

Ukraine has already returned 3,210 Ukrainian citizens, both military personnel and civilians, from Russian captivity through the exchange of prisoners (POWs).
Source: Dmytro Lubinets, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Date: May 31, 2024.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed 1,160 Russian artillery systems in May. It’s the biggest number of enemy artillery losses in two years of full-scale war.
Source: Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. Date: June 1, 2024.

Due to Russian military aggression, approximately 2,147 Ukrainian cultural institutions were destroyed in the temporarily occupied territories.
Source: Mariana Tomyn, Head of the Cultural Heritage Department of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine. Date: June 1, 2024.

Despite the constant Russian attacks on Ukrainian port infrastructure, the Ukrainian Black Sea ports have handled approximately 1,737 vessels since August 2023.
Source: Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority. Date: June 1, 2024.