by Raffaele Crocco
It has been precisely 584 days since Moscow’s attempted invasion of Kyiv was met with strong Ukrainian resistance, halting any progress. The conflict continues, preventing any possible negotiations. Moscow is seizing the moment to continue its ominous dance of nuclear threats. Vladimir Putin addresses the world, stressing that Russian nuclear experts are actively incorporating cutting-edge technologies in various fields – energy, space, nuclear medicine, ecology, the modernisation of the icebreaker fleet and advanced weaponry, which are crucial for maintaining the global strategic balance. Putin made these remarks while congratulating the dedicated team at Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear agency. While the occasion was formally meant to honour them, it’s clear that Putin intended to send a message to the ‘adversaries’: the US and Europe.
On the battlefield, the Ukrainian military resolutely resisted the Russian advance in Avdiyivka, Maryinka, Shakhtarske and Zaporizhzhya. As per the Kyiv General Staff, Ukrainian troops successfully repelled an enemy assault towards Avdiyivka. Russian forces attempted to regain lost ground in the Robotyne region, but were unsuccessful. The Ukrainian army continued its offensive towards Melitopol, engaging in relentless and intense clashes. From Wednesday 27 September to Thursday 28 September, the Russians carried out two rocket attacks and 57 air strikes. They fired over 50 missiles at Ukrainian forces and civilian infrastructure. These attacks caused numerous civilian casualties and extensive damage to residential buildings and a hospital.
Moreover, the Ukrainians are continuing their slow offensive alongside their resistance. There have been some gains on the ground, but not enough to force Moscow to negotiate. This perspective is indirectly acknowledged by Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary General, who stated: “We see no signs – he says – of a change in Putin’s objectives. So the best way to achieve a lasting peace is to increase our support for Ukraine”. These words accurately reflect reality and once again condemn civilians, who are the real sufferers in this war. This week, for example, Kherson and the surrounding region endured difficult nights, resulting in the death of a 41-year-old man in a Russian attack. Between 27 and 28 September, Russia launched two rocket attacks and 57 air strikes, firing over 50 rockets at Ukrainian troops and civilian infrastructure, causing significant damage and casualties.
The war continues, but there seems to be potential for movement. Observers were struck by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s comments in an interview with the Russian news agency Tass. Lavrov said: “Moscow is ready for negotiations on Ukraine, taking into account the realities on the ground and Russia’s security interests.” While the minister’s words don’t represent anything entirely new, they do give the impression of a certain ‘openness’ to the possibility of negotiations, a stance that had previously been denied. It’s a delicate thread to hold on to. At the same time, the newly appointed Defence Minister has assumed office in Kyiv. Rustem Umerov, a member of the Crimean Tatar group and a former member of the Ukrainian parliament, took over from Oleksiy Reznikov. Umerov, known for his role in negotiating the grain deal with Russia and Turkey, now holds this critical position.
The issue of wheat is giving rise to fresh ‘diplomatic’ challenges in Kyiv. Following protests by Polish and Slovakian farmers, Croatian farmers have also begun protesting against the flooding of the local market with Ukrainian wheat. They claim that this influx is having a significant impact on the selling price of their own agricultural products. Reports from Zagreb indicate that Slavonian farmers are expressing their dissatisfaction with the influx of significant quantities of Ukrainian wheat and flour into their markets. What’s the practical situation? Following Russia’s unilateral withdrawal from the agreement on the export of Ukrainian wheat and the destruction of Black Sea port infrastructure through bombing, the Croatian government opened the Adriatic and Danube ports in August to facilitate the transit of Ukrainian wheat to third countries. However, some of the grain found its way into the Croatian domestic market.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovi denies allegations that wheat destined for third countries is being diverted to the domestic market. The Ministry of Agriculture in Zagreb supports this claim, asserting that Croatia maintains a steady and regulated import of Ukrainian wheat. However, this response does not assuage the concerns of the farmers, who remain determined to continue their protests.