by Raffaele Crocco
The day is 388 since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nothing changes at the front. Russia continues to bomb villages. In Kostiantynivka and Toretsk, bombs in the last few hours killed a 50-year-old woman and wounded a 40-year-old man. Six other people were injured. Meanwhile, in the villages of Pivnichne and Pivdenne, more than 30 houses were destroyed, with damages to gas pipes, cars and farm buildings.
From a military point of view, the week did not bring any changes. According to analysts at the British Ministry of Defence, the Russians have exhausted their offensive capability. They will have to stop to rebuild supplies and troops, settling on a defensive line. For US observers, however, things are worse for Ukraine, which is now at its limit, at least in terms of equipment and forces to be deployed. Hence, there are many who wonder whether throwing so many lives into the Russian-besieged Bakhumt furnace was really the right strategy.
At least from the supply point of view, the countries siding with Kyiv are not backing down. Poland is the first NATO country to supply Ukraine with some military jets. They are the announced, old Mig-29s. Four ‘air superiority’ aircraft from the Soviet era, still fully functional, which the Ukrainians know well. Nine other countries are ready to send over 150 Leopard tanks to Kyiv. “There is no more time to lose. We are putting together the weapons and military assets that will enable the Ukrainians to regain their lost territory,’ said Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin. The US continues to focus on the military defeat of Moscow, thinking it can deliver the decisive blow to an ‘increasingly isolated Russia with depleting ammunition supplies and troops disillusioned with its military leadership’. The idea is to put Kyiv in a position to launch a major offensive at the end of April, supplying hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles to lay the bridges to conquer the Dnipro river. That is where the South-Eastern trenches are. Unlike Poland, however, no other country seems willing to supply aircraft: it is too dangerous to give weapons that could bring the war deep into Russian territory, triggering an uncontrolled reaction from Putin.
For Washington, maintaining contacts with Moscow remains central, despite the fact that relations are at their lowest and most dangerous point in seventy years. The incident over the Black Sea, with the shooting down of a US spy drone by two Russian fighter planes, has certainly not brightened the mood, although there has been an effort on both sides to keep tones low. Moscow has pledged to recover the wreckage, Washington is monitoring that everything goes as planned. The difficulties appear to be many: the remains of the aircraft could be more than a thousand metres below the surface.
On the diplomatic front, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has been very active in recent days. He has held talks with his American and Chinese colleagues to discuss Zelensky’s ‘peace plan’. “During my phone call today with Chinese State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang,” Kuleba explained in an official note, “we discussed the significance of the principle of territorial integrity. I emphasised the importance of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Peace Formula to end aggression and restore just peace in Ukraine’. Zelensky’s plan is to have direct contact with Chinese President Xi Jinping sooner or later. Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to the Ukrainian president, speaking on national TV explained that ‘negotiations for a meeting are underway, but it is too early to know whether the conversation will take place’. Meanwhile, Beijing reiterates its closeness to Moscow. Xi Jinping will be in Russia from 20 to 22 March. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry specifies that the trip ‘will be about friendship aimed at deepening mutual trust between China and Russia and will serve to discuss strategic cooperation between the two countries’.
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