Few developments occurred along the front in Ukraine as officials inside of Russia again downsized ambitious goals to push entrenched Ukrainian forces out of the Donbas. Russian leadership has begun to justify long-term conflict and occupation in public statements, potentially preparing for some degree of forced mobilization to replace exhausted forces.
- Officials including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu have increasingly openly admitted that the Russian offensive in Ukraine is moving slower than anticipated. Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergey Naryshkin justified the slow pace by affirming that the goal of the operation is to ensure “Nazism” is “100% eradicated”, indicating that Russia is setting conditions for a protracted war in Ukraine to justify slower and more measured advances.
- Putin signed legislation on 25 May to simplify obtaining Russian citizenship for those in Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine's southern Kherson and Zaporizhia oblasts. Known as ‘passportization’, the process mirrors steps Russia took in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian war in 2008 and signals that Russia is not considering voluntarily returning conquered territory to Ukraine.
- Russian forces continue to make slow but steady advancements along the front in eastern Ukraine with the aid of heavy artillery. They have likely abandoned efforts to encircle large Ukrainian formations and are instead focusing on smaller encirclements around Ukrainian strongholds, including Severodonetsk.
- Elsewhere along the front, there have been no significant changes as Russia defends captured territory from Ukrainian counteroffensives. Demoralization among Russian and proxy forces remains a significant obstacle hindering their operations across Ukraine.
- Meanwhile, Finland and Sweden submitted applications to join NATO on 18 May, abandoning decades of neutrality in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the ongoing NATO accession process is unlikely to affect the war in Ukraine due to the lack of significant existing military threats to Russia in these countries.
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