by Raffaele Crocco

Politics, diplomacy, coups and uprisings: the reality is that people are still dying in Ukraine. Civilians are still dying, killed by bombs that make no difference. They know this well in Kramatorsk, in southeast Ukraine. The famous Ria Pizza restaurant, a point of reference for journalists from all over the world, was hit by a rocket. It was full of customers. Eleven people were killed and many, too many, were injured. Among them was Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina. It is very serious. She was having dinner with the Colombian writer, essayist and journalist Hector Abad Faciolince, the former High Commissioner for Peace in Colombia, Sergio Jaramillo, and the Colombian journalist Catalina Gomez. They were all slightly injured.

An episode, it is clear: just one small, dramatic episode in this phase of the war that began 491 days ago with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Every day now seems to add to the horror with inextricable confusion. News of last week’s bizarre and abortive coup by private militia leader Wagner Prigozhin continues to circulate, leaving a thick blanket of doubt about what happened. He, Prigozhin, is in Belarus, as announced, and his men are more or less missing. It seems certain that Wagner will no longer be a fighting force, at least in Ukraine. Other heads are now falling.

One of the most popular generals until recently, Sergei Surovikin, ended up in handcuffs. According to the New York Times, he was aware of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s intentions, although it is not certain that he was involved. At the same time, an investigation published by the Dossier Center website, owned by Putin’s enemy oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, attacks the general. According to Khodorkovsky, Surovikin was an honorary member of the Wagner Group from 2017, along with 30 other generals. He would receive a personal badge with the number M-3744. The general, on the other hand, fought alongside Wagner’s men in Syria for years. As far as is known, he has been missing since Saturday, the day of the mutiny. He is believed to have been interrogated in an unknown prison.

Meanwhile, fighting continues at the front. Kyiv’s offensive, which according to Zelensky is still “not fully deployed”, continues in small jumps. Small successes, according to the Ukrainian command, in the south, where the Russians are said to have lost men and vehicles from three companies. Small victories that – apparently – make Ukraine’s allies aware of the low probability of a military victory in Kyiv.

The confirmation seems to come from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who now says that “the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine will be resolved through negotiations and diplomacy”, leaving behind the triumphalist and optimistic tones of a few months ago. This is an argument that Zelensky finds unsettling, but which Blinken reiterates by claiming that, together with the allies, “we have all made it clear that this situation must be resolved through diplomacy, through negotiations. The main obstacle at the moment is President Putin’s belief that he can somehow outlast Ukraine and the rest of the allies: that’s not going to happen. For this reason, with the aim of weakening Putin rather than achieving a military victory, “NATO will continue to provide short and long-term support to Ukraine and to strengthen Kyiv’s military capabilities to deter a repeat of the invasion. Once Putin is fully aware of this reality, space will open up for serious negotiations.

These words are part of a new diplomatic action by the Vatican, with the visit to Moscow of Cardinal Marco Zuppi, the pope’s envoy. He was received by Putin’s foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov. In a note, the Kremlin said it appreciated ‘the Vatican’s efforts and initiatives’ and welcomed ‘the Pope’s desire to contribute to the end of the armed conflict’. Meanwhile, the fighting continues.