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Russia Declares Victory in Luhansk

The region is now in Russia’s hands—leaving neighboring Donetsk to face the next onslaught.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
A destroyed school in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
A destroyed school in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Rescuers work in the wreckage of a destroyed school that was hit by a rocket in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on July 4. Sergey BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the latest from the war in Ukraine, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to the Philippines, and more news worth following from around the world.

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Russia Grinds to Victory in Luhansk

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the latest from the war in Ukraine, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to the Philippines, and more news worth following from around the world.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Russia Grinds to Victory in Luhansk

Ukrainian troops have retreated from the city of Lysychansk, a move that now puts Russian forces in control of the entirety of Luhansk province.

The city’s fall completes the Russian advance through the region, following the capture of Severodonetsk in late June after months of fierce fighting.

Speaking on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to encourage his troops to continue their push into the neighboring Donetsk province, urging them “to carry out their tasks according to previously approved plans” and expressing hope that “everything in their fields of operations will continue as it happened in Luhansk.”

In the face of another battlefield defeat, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has attempted to put on a brave face. In his nightly televised address on Sunday, Zelensky vowed to return to Luhansk: “We will rebuild the walls, we will regain the land, but people must be saved above all else.”

Zelensky’s comments align with those of Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai, who told the Associated Press that the retreat was necessary to avoid encirclement by Russian forces. He added that Ukrainian forces had successfully withdrawn equipment during their retreat.

“It is likely that the operation in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk was a deliberate attempt to slow the Russians and allow Ukrainian forces to escape and occupy new positions. This is evidenced by the forces that escaped Lysychansk,” Sam Cranny-Evans, a research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, told Foreign Policy by email.

With Luhansk now in Russian hands, the British defense ministry said Moscow’s focus “will now almost certainly switch to capturing” Donetsk, the other self-proclaimed republic recognized by Russia at the outset of the invasion.

Even though Ukraine’s military appears to be on the back foot following a positive start to the war, Cranny-Evans cautioned that its defense has mostly been backed by Western military aid from the Soviet era, with more modern equipment coming later. As that advanced weaponry begins to arrive, Ukraine’s forces may be in a better position to counterattack. But large obstacles remain—like the requisite training needed to operate the equipment.

Cranny-Evans said that the support that has made it to Ukraine, including the United States’ High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), has had a positive, albeit limited effect: “Systems such as the HIMARS are allowing the Ukrainians to target Russian ammunition dumps, which will impair their ability to sustain the artillery fight. However, without very creative tactics and further supplies, it is possible that these systems will eventually be targeted and eliminated.”

While Ukraine’s forces suffer losses, the West’s appetite to continue its full-throated support for Kyiv may be waning. As FP’s Jack Detsch reports, direct impacts to consumers in the West, like rising gas prices and increases in the cost of living, as well as indirect issues, like domestic U.S. political turmoil, have helped shift attention away from the war. Right now, $40 billion in U.S. funds is committed until September, but what support lies beyond that isn’t certain.

“I think it’s already clear that there is that sort of very strong consensus—just at the edges, there’s a bit of fraying,” one European official told Detsch last week. “And over time, I think we’ll see that political pressure [on] the $40 billion … Whether that would be repeated in the fall, I think that would be a big challenge.”


The World This Week

Thursday, July 7: Indonesia hosts G-20 foreign ministers in Bali for a two-day meeting. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken are all expected to attend. 

Sunday, July 10: The Republic of Congo holds first-round parliamentary elections.


What We’re Following Today

China-Philippines ties. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrives in the Philippines today for a two-day visit. Wang is expected to meet with new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and invite him to visit Xi Jinping in Beijing. Wang will also meet with Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo and National Security Advisor Clarita Carlos.

Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO steps. NATO allies will today sign the accession protocols for Finland’s and Sweden’s future membership in the bloc. Once signed, the 30 current NATO members must ratify the protocols according to local procedures. (In the United States it will need a two-thirds majority in the Senate.)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will host a press conference with Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde following the signing.


Keep an Eye On

U.S.-Israel relations. The U.S. State Department issued a statement on Monday saying it “could not reach a definitive conclusion” on the origin of the bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American, in May. U.S. officials concluded that “gunfire from [Israel Defense Forces] positions was likely responsible” for her death but “found no reason to believe that this was intentional.”

The statement comes after a number of separate investigations from U.S. news outlets that all concluded that the fatal shot likely came from an IDF position. A CNN investigation suggested that Abu Akleh was deliberately targeted.

Congo-Rwanda tensions. Felix Tshisekedi, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will meet with Rwandan President Paul Kagame this week. The two leaders are likely to discuss attacks in eastern Congo by the M23 rebel group. Tensions between the two leaders have risen over concerns that Rwanda, along with Uganda, may be supporting the rebels. Mélanie Gouby, writing in Foreign Policy on Monday, explained why M23’s resurgence is causing regional upheaval.

Chile’s new constitution. Chilean President Gabriel Boric has set Sept. 4 as the date for voters to decide on a new constitution after the country’s democratically elected constitutional convention delivered its final draft on Monday. The draft sets out major changes from the previous constitution adopted during the era of dictator Augusto Pinochet. The new document describes the country as “plurinational” in recognition of its Indigenous population. It also enshrines equal representation for women and increases protections for the environment.


Odds and Ends

The Eiffel Tower in Paris is in desperate need of repairs amid an enduring rust problem, the French magazine Marianne reported, citing confidential sources. The tower will once again be on display for the world in 2024, when the French capital hosts the Olympic Games. Instead of structural fixes, current plans suggest it will merely receive a paint job.

“It is simple, if Gustave Eiffel visited the place he would have a heart attack,” one manager at the tower told the magazine.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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