by Raffaele Crocco
597: These are the days of this phase of the war in Ukraine, this is the time that separates us from the Russian invasion in February 2022. The only certainty is that the war is still going on, hard, with no stops. Kyiv’s allies seem to be busy highlighting the progress on the ground of the now long Ukrainian offensive. According to US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin III, “the Ukrainians are making progress.” He added, “We are impressed by the value of the Ukrainian forces on the ground. Some of the assistance we are sending now is focused on Kyiv’s need to strengthen its air defences, to protect its cities and its troops.”
Austin spoke on the margins of the NATO meeting in Brussels. Almost as if to back up his words came the news that Denmark and Belgium had decided to hand over a number of F16s to Kyiv to bolster its air force. A decision that will please Ukrainian President Zelensky, who has been trying for months to persuade his allies to hand over F16s to counter Russian air superiority. At the same meeting in Brussels, Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke. He pointed out that Kyiv had managed to regain “50 per cent of the territory it lost in February last year, with the occupation desired by Moscow. Now – he continued – Russia is militarily degraded, economically weakened and politically isolated, but we must continue to guarantee the flow of arms and ammunition to Ukraine.” Words that found substance in the announcement of a new $200 million military aid package from the US.
Not all international observers agree with Stoltenberg, however. They point out that much of the world, countries such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa, have all but abandoned and isolated Moscow. Moreover, they add, Putin is still convinced that he can win the war, knowing that Kyiv cannot compete in terms of material and human resources. Kyiv, this is the Kremlin’s reasoning, will not be able to receive eternal help from outside and certainly cannot count on Russia’s mobilisation capacity in terms of men and women to deploy.
It is therefore an open game for the Kremlin, which, not surprisingly, is launching offensives. Moscow’s forces have increased the pressure in Donetsk. In Avdiivka, the Russians have advanced towards Berdychi. As always, civilian casualties are being counted, always too many. In Nikopol, Russian shelling destroyed a gymnasium and killed two people. Three people, including a child, were killed by falling debris from a drone shot down over a house in the Belgorod region. Air alerts have been sounded across the country as concern grows over the approaching winter. The risk of spending it in the cold and dark, with infrastructure and power stations destroyed, is more than real and is frightening the population.
This is the situation on the ground, while the political and diplomatic world stands still. This is Putin’s first foreign trip since the International Criminal Court issued two international arrest warrants for crimes against humanity in March 2023. There is an international arrest warrant out for Putin. Despite this, he has left the Kremlin and arrived in Kyrgyzstan. He will meet his Kyrgyz counterpart, Sadyr Japarov. He will then attend the summit of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which brings together several former Soviet republics.
A trip that shows how the world is divided over the ongoing war in Ukraine, contrary to what Austin said. Moscow is not isolated, and meanwhile those helping Kyiv are also thinking about the future of the Country. They are worried, for example, about the many mines that plague the territory. The Slovenian Government has announced that it will provide half a million euros for demining and the rehabilitation of civilian victims of the war. Ljubljana had already earmarked two million euros for this type of intervention. A drop in a bucket, obviously, but a vital drop in saving lives.