by Raffaele Crocco

News, death and contradictions mark the 73rd week of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The fighting continues, Kyiv’s offensive continues at a pace that is always too slow compared to expectations, including international expectations. The Russians are far from being expelled from the territories they have occupied since February 2022 or earlier, and even further from a possible military defeat. In a few days, as always, everything happened. On the night of Sunday 16 July to Monday 17 July, the Crimean bridge was again attacked by Ukrainians. A couple travelling in a car died, hit by surface drones that Kyiv admitted it had used for the mission. The following nights saw Russian retaliation: bombings and explosions, mainly in Odesa. The motorway between Kerch and Sevastopol was closed because of a bombed Russian ammunition depot. Some 2,000 people were evacuated. There were also explosions in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhya. Odesa was also hit for the fourth time last night (after the failed grain deal).

One fights everywhere, with all means and without uncertainty. They are fighting and looking to the future, and whichever way you look at it, tomorrow looks increasingly armed. The icing on the cake, or – if you prefer – the last straw, comes from the Ukrainian Defence Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov. He wants to amend the Ukrainian Constitution to allow the establishment of foreign military bases. Ukrainska Pravda writes. Reznikov states that “if necessary, it is possible to find a legal formula not to call a base a base, but a kind of centre of interaction and exchange of experience or something like that”. He adds that “it is necessary to remove this constitutional restriction, which has lost its relevance, in order to destroy the basis for speculation”. In practice, this would mean incorporating Article 17 of the Constitution. This is the one that talks about protecting the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. According to the Minister, a paragraph should be added to allow Ukraine to join international treaties or organisations in order to maintain its security.

It is an indication of a precise policy that insists on the phrase ‘Ukraine is ready to join the Atlantic Alliance, which Zelenskyy repeated several times, a few days after the NATO summit that postponed this possibility – Kyiv is not giving up on this, despite the recent summit and the uncertain diplomatic cards. International chancelleries claim that the Vatican will soon return to the field, but it remains to be seen what the actual results will be. The diplomacy therefore seems to be focused mainly on the ‘death of the grain deal’, unilaterally decreed by the Kremlin. The fear is that this will have an impact on the world market and lead to hunger and famine for millions of people.

From a diplomatic point of view, the only real news is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision not to attend the Brics summit scheduled for the end of August in Johannesburg, South Africa. This comes as a great relief to the South African presidency: Putin’s arrival would have been difficult to manage. Why is that? The summit of the five major emerging powers – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is scheduled for 22-24 August in Johannesburg. The problem is that in March Putin was served with an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the war crime of ‘deporting’ Ukrainian children after the invasion of Ukraine. As a member of the ICC, South Africa should have arrested Putin as soon as he stepped off the plane to attend the summit. The Kremlin leader decided to defect and remain safe in Moscow, to South Africa’s relief. Not much came out of the meeting between Biden and Matteo Zuppi, the Vatican’s envoy.