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GLEB GARANICH (REUTERS)

Focus Ukraine: Russia Convincingly Confirms its Status as the Largest Terrorist State in the Modern World

Ihor Petrenko, Dmytro Levus, Petro Oleshchuk, Oleksiy Kushch

20 mins - 9 de Abril de 2024, 07:00

Agenda Pública and United Ukraine Think Tank present Focus Ukraine, a weekly article series analysing how the military conflict in Ukraine and the political and economic situation in the country will evolve. The articles are written by Ihor Petrenko, Dmytro Levus, Petro Oleshchuk and Oleksiy Kushch, experts of the United Ukraine Think Tank.
Strikes on the rescue operation are one of the sustainable methods of Russian terror. In the face of limited effectiveness of anti-Russian sanctions, Ukraine has found and systematically applies its own effective restrictions on terrorists: There will be no safe and peaceful places in Russia where the aggressor country would manufacture weapons, and Russia will not receive money for the war from the sale of oil products.

The course of hostilities over the past week confirms the view that Russia's persistent attempt to destroy Ukrainian cities is part of a war plan approved by Russian dictator Putin. Russia's massive use of guided aerial bombs, missiles and Shahed kamikaze drones against residential areas of Ukrainian cities is aimed at creating unbearable living conditions, real danger and panic among Ukrainians. The goal of this plan is to force Ukrainians to leave cities where Russians will continue to destroy residential and industrial infrastructure, followed by ground attacks on the abandoned and destroyed cities.

The Russians are still trying to strike as hard as possible at Kharkiv and Kharkiv region, where there are still problems with electricity supply, which is provided with significant interruptions. The Russians destroyed all transformer substations and severely damaged the thermal power plant. However, Kharkiv power engineers performed a miracle and started to return electricity to Kharkiv residents' homes as soon as possible. More than $10 billion is needed to restore what Russia has destroyed in the city. On the night of Saturday, April 6, a nighttime strike on Kharkiv's Shevchenkivskyi district killed six people and wounded 11. It was the result of a "hit" by the Shaheds on residential buildings - at least 9 high-rise buildings, three dormitories, a number of administrative buildings, a store, a gas station, and a service station were damaged. Earlier, on the night of Thursday, April 4, Russia also struck Kharkiv with Shahed kamikaze drones. The Russians launched 20 Shaheds from the Kursk region, 11 of which were shot down by Ukrainian air defense, but since Kharkiv is close to the front line, it was not possible to shoot down all targets. "The Shahed was developed in Iran for terrorist attacks. This is exactly how Russia, a terrorist country, uses them. The Russians choose residential areas as targets for drone attacks. On Thursday, a 14-story building was hit, several apartments were destroyed, and one person was killed. Another drone was sent by Russian terrorists to a three-story residential building. During the rescue operation, when the rescuers arrived and tried to get a 67-year-old man out from under a concrete slab, the Russians hit with a second drone. Three rescuers were killed. This is exactly what terrorists do, they attack rescuers and medics after explosions targeting civilians. There are videos and photos of these arrivals, which clearly refute the words of Russian propaganda that they are targeting military targets. At the same time, Russia is striking other cities. For two days in a row, the enemy has been terrorizing the residents of Zaporizhzhia with rocket fire. Four people were killed and 23 wounded, including two children. Four of them are in critical condition. More than 40 buildings were hit, including 24 private houses, 9 high-rise buildings, a dormitory and a kindergarten. Among the wounded are journalists from Ukrinform and 1+1 TV channel who were filming the aftermath of the first hit. As before in Kharkiv, Russians struck again in Zaporizhzhia at rescuers, police officers and doctors. The Russian occupiers fired two missiles at one of the oldest balneo-mud resorts in Ukraine, which has been operating for over 190 years, Slavkurort in Sloviansk, Donetsk region. This is a place where people from all over Ukraine were treated before the war. Also, as a result of the Russian strike, 8 multi-storey buildings in Dnipro were damaged; industrial enterprises in Kyiv and Zaporizhzhia regions were damaged, and Starokonstantinov in Khmelnytsky region was hit. It can be confidently stated that a repeated attack on the rescue operation is one of the consistent methods of Russian terror, which confirms the information about the Russians' actions aimed at destroying Ukrainian cities, coordinated by orders at the highest level. Against this background, Ukraine continues to need more means to protect its people and cities. Ukraine needs modern air defense systems and F-16 aircraft.

Russian troops continue to exert pressure at the front. 

The occupiers' expectation that the Ukrainian defense would collapse after the capture of Avdiivka did not materialize. Currently, the Russians are trying to exert massive pressure using armored vehicles. On March 30, 2024, soldiers of the 25th Brigade of the Airborne Assault Troops of the Ukrainian Defense Forces defeated a column of the 6th Tank Regiment of the 90th Tank Division of the Russian Federation, destroying at least 12 tanks and 8 armored personnel carriers, some of them with troops. Javelin, Stugna, Konkurs, and Fagot ATGMs were used to repel the attack. There were explosions on mines of Russian equipment, artillery fired deep into the Russian position. It is noteworthy that this is the regiment that lost five T-72 tanks and several armored personnel carriers in an ambush at the beginning of the great war in Skibin near Kyiv, and its commander was killed in that battle. In total, the losses of the Russian occupiers have already amounted to more than 446,000 manpower units.

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Ukraine is defending itself and will continue to bring the war to the aggressor's territory. The list of targets targeted by Ukrainian long-range strike drones is expanding, and combat operations are becoming even more systematic. Given the great threat of Russian aviation, a significant number of strikes are directed at Russian military airfields. On April 5, at night, after drone attacks, explosions occurred at airfields in the Russian cities of Yeysk, Engels, and Morozovsk. Engels is the main base for long-range aviation, and there was information that a Tu-95MS strategic bomber was possibly damaged. In Yeysk, Su-25 aircraft were probably damaged. In Morozovsk, Rostov region, several dozen explosions were heard at the airfield after the drone attack. This is one of the main airfields of the occupiers. The 559th Aviation Bombing Regiment is based there. Approximately twenty Su-30 aircraft, several Su-34 and Su-27, and a couple of helicopters were there. According to preliminary information, strike aircraft carrying guided bombs may have been destroyed or damaged. The strikes will continue. Earlier, on the morning of April 2, a new record was set by drones. Targets were hit in Tatarstan, more than 1,200 kilometers away from the Ukrainian border. One of the strikes was very symbolic. It hit a factory that produces Shahed-type kamikaze drones in Elabuga. Drones also hit the TANEKO oil refinery of Tatneft in Nizhnekamsk, also in the Republic of Tatarstan. One of the refinery's processing units burned down. This is the first refinery built from scratch in post-Soviet Russia in 2005. It ranks fifth in the ranking of the country's largest oil refineries with a processing capacity of 16.2 million tons of oil per year. There will be no safe and peaceful places in the Russian Federation where the aggressor country would manufacture weapons. Russia will not receive money for the war from the sale of oil products. On April 6, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine reported that at night near the town of Azov (Rostov region of the Russian Federation), as a result of the explosion of a pipeline that was used to pump oil products from a local oil depot to tankers at the port territory of the Azov Sea Port, the loading of tankers with oil products was suspended for an indefinite period. The facility was used by the aggressor state for military purposes to support its genocidal war against Ukraine.

On April 3, at a joint press conference with President of Finland Alexander Stubb, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy commented on statements condemning Ukrainian attacks on Russian refineries. It was not Ukraine, but Russia that started the destructive war. From the first days of the full-scale invasion, Russia has been attacking Ukrainian refineries, oil depots, other energy facilities, civilian and critical infrastructure, and Ukrainian homes. While Ukraine is grateful for the political support of the international community and the condemnation of Russian attacks, so far no expressions of concern have affected Moscow and its aggressive war against Ukraine. Russia understands only the language of force, not declarations. Given the lack of control over sanctions, drone attacks on Russian oil refineries should be seen as an attempt to balance the situation. And all those who condemn the Ukrainian attacks on Russian refineries should first visit Kharkiv or Kherson and see what Russia has done to Avdiivka, Bakhmut, and other Ukrainian towns and villages.

The threat to Eastern Ukraine as a political topic
Recent weeks have been marked by large-scale attacks on Kharkiv with Russian missiles and other weapons. As a result, Russian forces were able to destroy almost the entire energy infrastructure of the city. Indiscriminate attacks on civilian objects and buildings continue. All of this is obviously intended to reinforce Russian propaganda theses about an "offensive on Kharkiv" with the prospect of its capture.

According to various military analysts, the Russians do not have enough forces to really claim to capture a city like Kharkiv. 

At the same time, the Russians are actively promoting this very thesis, skillfully manipulating the equation between shelling and capture. In fact, the shelling of Kharkiv has not stopped for more than two years, which is directly related to the city's proximity to the Ukrainian-Russian border. But this in no way meant a direct threat of occupation of one of the largest Ukrainian cities.

It is obvious that by spreading an information and psychological campaign about the city's capture, the Russians are pursuing the following objectives.

1. To ensure that citizens leave the city, which should have a significant negative psychological effect on all residents of Ukraine, to create the impression of the expected "surrender of Kharkiv", which should be associated with defeat in the war.

2. To put pressure on Ukrainian society through the suffering of Kharkiv residents to promote the idea that negotiations are necessary to "avoid suffering."

3. To create a general atmosphere of defeat in Ukrainian society, of the inability to continue the war, which should have a negative impact on the morale of citizens.

It should be emphasized that the Russians continue to use purely terrorist methods of warfare, using terror against the civilian population as a weapon against the Ukrainian army. Thus, having failed to break the resistance of Ukrainians on the battlefield, the Russians are seeking to influence the military through terrorist acts against civilians in the rear. In this way, the Russians confirm their status as the largest terrorist state in the modern world.

Military aid in exchange for natural resources
As the parliamentary inter-party debate in the United States heats up over the terms of the 2024 financial aid package for Ukraine, the voices of Republican Party representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are increasingly heard calling for Ukraine to be granted a loan "secured by available natural resources."

Leaving aside the moral aspect of this discourse, it is worthwhile to determine how rich Ukraine is in natural resources and which ones it can use for its post-war development.

Only by answering this question will it be possible to find out whether any "extra" natural resources not used in the country's reconstruction will be left to pay off debts.

Even a superficial analysis of this topic clearly shows that Russia's current war against Ukraine is currently taking place in the areas where the country's largest mineral reserves have been explored.

In other words, the war is being waged "right on the resources" that nature has endowed the Ukrainian state with.

So what kind of resources can we be talking about when the US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham states:

"I want to turn the aid package into a loan, and that makes sense to me... We have a $34 trillion debt. Ukraine has minerals, has a lot of resources... This is Trump's idea. If it is adopted, I think it can get a lot of votes in the House and Senate."

In this article, we will not evaluate the potential of Ukrainian black soil, because agricultural land in the country is almost entirely distributed among private owners.

Nor will we analyze the potential for privatization of state-owned enterprises, such as Turboatom in Kharkiv or the Odesa Port Plant, as it is unlikely that these assets will be of interest to anyone in the current environment and worth significant funds.

Let's analyze only mineral reserves.

Natural gas and oil are of little interest - they do not fit into the Green Transition model and their reserves are not that significant.

Lithium, titanium, uranium, iron and manganese ore are of the greatest interest.

The estimated value of Ukraine's mineral resources is almost $15 trillion. The problem is that a significant part of them is concentrated in the area of the Ukrainian crystal shield (this is the essence of geology).

That is why the richest regions are Donetsk ($3.8 trillion), Dnipro ($3.5 trillion), Luhansk ($3.2 trillion), Zaporizhzhia (over $600 billion), and Kharkiv (almost $700 billion). Plus Crimea (about $200 billion).

The trick is that all of these territories are either occupied or located near the front line.

That is, access to $8 trillion of natural resources (53%) has either been lost or the extraction of these resources is difficult due to the proximity of the frontline.

Among the more or less secure regions are Poltava (almost $800 billion), Lviv (over $500 billion), Kirovohrad (up to $300 billion), and Zhytomyr (up to $600 billion).

As for the structure of natural resources.

Here we come to a very important fact: the thesis about the incredible wealth of Ukrainian subsoil is to some extent mythology.

After all, out of $15 trillion in estimated natural reserves, more than $9 trillion are coal reserves, which in the context of the "green transition" in the Western world are no longer needed. This is 60% of Ukraine's natural resources.

Rock salt, granite, and building materials are also of little interest to anyone in the broader global context. 

The salt remained in the occupied territories, and granite is usually used in local construction, which is very expensive to transport outside the country.

It is clear that no one is interested in Ukrainian clay and peat, which is up to $200 billion in reserves.

The question of whether the West needs Ukraine's natural gas, oil, and oil shale reserves - up to 700 billion dollars in reserves - is debatable. The deposits are old, depleted, production costs are high, the depth is great, and there is the social factor of domestic consumption.

Nevertheless, Ukraine has other minerals besides coal, oil, and gas.

First of all, it is iron and manganese ore. This is more than $2 trillion in reserves and is the second most important resource after coal. But there is a catch. All iron ore deposits belong to private financial and industrial groups.

So, hypothetically speaking, these deposits (mining and processing plants) should first be nationalized and then sold to multinational companies to pay off their debt.

Would Western countries go for such a blatant violation of private property rights? It is doubtful.

But there are other, conditionally "free" resources.

First of all, there are reserves of apatite-ilmenite titanium-magnesium ores.

Titanium is the most important element in aircraft and rocketry. Ukraine has 600-700 billion dollars worth of these reserves. Some of the deposits have not yet been explored, meaning that the state can issue licenses for them. The main part of the titanium complex belonged to oligarch Firtash - the United Mining and Chemical Company, which is now managed by the State Property Fund.

So titanium will be the easiest to deal with: transfer of licenses and sale of UMCC (United Mining and Chemical Company).

There are also lithium, graphite, and germanium. The total reserves are up to $200 billion. Everything here is also owned by the state.

Lithium and graphite are needed for the production of electric vehicles, which will be a mega-trend in the next 20 years. Elon Musk may be interested in these reserves.

Germanium is a unique element for the production of semiconductors. Its reserves in Ukraine are estimated at $100 billion, and it can be extracted from coal seams.

Germanium (a scattered metal) is unique in that it is used as a raw material in the production of semiconductors and in optics.

It is worth reminding that the US and the EU are now moving the production of semiconductors and chips from Asia to their territories. In Europe, a "chip coalition" of countries has been created with investments of up to 200 billion euros. The largest chip and semiconductor factories will be built in Germany and Poland.

For the United States, the number one task now is to get rid of dependence on China in terms of rare earth metals (semiconductor manufacturers, 5G base stations, solar panels, etc.).

Currently, China controls 90% of the rare earth market and skillfully uses this to blackmail the United States and impose restrictions on the export of this type of raw material (quotas, duties, etc.).

If the confrontation between Beijing and Washington escalates, including trade wars and the conflict over Taiwan, China may block the export of rare earths to world markets altogether.

According to the UN: "The territory of Ukraine contains deposits of the 21st rare earth element from the list of 30 substances identified by the European Union as "critical raw materials" in the production of devices for the development of "green" energy. These include lithium, cobalt, scandium, graphite, tantalum, niobium, and others."

"Approximately five percent of the world's critical raw material reserves are located in Ukraine, which occupies only 0.4 percent of the Earth's surface," said Svitlana Grinchuk, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, speaking at a meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The UN cites other figures: "Over the next two decades, demand for copper and rare earth elements is expected to grow by more than 40 percent, for nickel and cobalt by 60-70 percent, and for lithium by almost 90 percent. According to the International Energy Agency, in order to meet the projected demand for the most important minerals by 2030, it is necessary to significantly expand their production. An additional 50 lithium, 60 nickel and 17 cobalt mines will need to come on stream by 2030 to meet global net carbon emissions targets."

The total reserves of rare earths in Ukraine can be estimated at $100 billion.

The problem is that the extraction of this raw material is extremely harmful to the environment and human health. It contaminates soil and groundwater.

In addition, lithium mining requires a huge amount of water: up to 2.27 million liters per ton of lithium.

It should be understood that Ukraine, contrary to the prevailing stereotype, is a water-scarce country. The country is already at the level of some Asian and African countries in terms of quality water supply.

Another important resource is uranium. 

There are more nuclear units in the world, but fewer uranium reserves. The United States is now dependent on uranium supplies from Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. Ukraine has uranium reserves of up to 30-50 billion dollars. It seems like a small amount, but strategically it is very valuable.

For comparison, Kazakhstan, the largest seller of uranium, exports $3.4 billion worth of it per year. That is, Ukraine's reserves will be enough to compensate for Kazakh exports for several decades.

To summarize, it turns out that up to one trillion dollars of natural reserves in Ukraine are of strategic value to the West. If we apply a reserve valuation factor of 0.1, we get an estimated value of about $100 billion.

But Ukraine needs all these resources to build a cluster model of the economy, where the added value remains inside the country and the economy moves from a raw material model to a more complex manufacturing profile.

When the country exports batteries and electric vehicles instead of lithium, semiconductors and chips instead of germanium and rare earth, and finished wafers or 3D printed titanium powder parts instead of titanium.

If Ukraine fails to move to a value-added economy after the war, its raw material model will become definitive: large companies in the land use structure; oligarchic financial and industrial groups in resource extraction; international TNCs in the extraction of minerals critical to the West.

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