by Raffaele Crocco
Guns, guns, more guns: on the 604th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, news agencies are mostly talking about guns. Wagner – yes, that’s right, back on the front line anyway, under the command of who knows who – has published a video showing Russia’s use of those terrible cluster bombs, which are considered ‘criminal’ by almost all Countries. It was Ukraine that started using them a few months ago. And without stopping. Not surprisingly, Kyiv retaliated by deploying US Atacms missiles. Zelensky had asked Biden for them at every opportunity, and the White House chief had long resisted the temptation to hand them over to Ukraine. He was afraid – this was the reason – that they could be used to attack Russian territory, a hypothesis that Washington sees as the arrival of a tsunami: a catastrophe.
Either the fear is gone, or Biden has decided to raise the level of confrontation. Look, Atacms can drop cluster bombs – 300 kilometres away. President Zelensky announced that they would be used to hit two Russian-controlled airports far from the front line. The Ukrainian armed forces also gave the toll of the action: dozens of dead and wounded among the Russian military and at least nine helicopters destroyed. The Ukrainians also claim new advances in the offensive on the east bank of the Dnipro river in the south of the Country. This was announced by the Ukrainian command, which reported that the Russian military had shelled the village of Pishchanivka, in the area occupied by Moscow forces in the Kherson region. This would mean the presence of Kyiv soldiers inside the territory. Earlier, the Ukrainian side of the Dnipro River was bombed, with several civilian casualties. And they continue to die everywhere in this war, affected not only by Russian attacks on industrial installations, infrastructure and cities. In Zaporizhzhia, a dozen people were reported wounded and five killed in the last few hours.
While soldiers fight, Putin is back on the road. After Kyrgyzstan, the Russian President was received with full honours in Beijing for the Belt and Road Forum. This is the ‘New Silk Road’ that Beijing wants, but which has been overshadowed in recent months by the war. One hundred forty Countries took part, and the impression is that Moscow is not exactly isolated, as Washington and Europe insist. Instead, Putin and his Government seem to be very active on the international scene. The Kremlin chief stressed that “cooperation with China in the energy sector is unprecedented, and the overall partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China has reached a new level and continues to develop dynamically.” This year, Russian gas exports to China will reach more than 30 billion cubic metres of gas, and in 2023, Russia will be the first Country to deliver oil to China, overtaking Saudi Arabia. Construction of the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline from Russia to China will begin in 2024. While benefiting from the Chinese consensus, Putin is also moving on the Israeli-Palestinian war front, siding with Turkey’s peace proposals and expressing his intention to offer himself as a possible mediator.
This is an attention-seeking that worries European chancelleries. And not without good reason. Putin met Hungarian President Orban in Beijing. The head of the Kremlin said that Russia’s relations with many European Countries “are being maintained and developed despite the sanctions, and one of these countries is Hungary.” This did not please the other EU Countries, which also had to swallow Slovakia’s decision to suspend military aid to Ukraine until a new Government is formed.
Diplomatic moves suggest changing scenarios, on the eve of a harsh new winter for the resisting Ukrainians, and in the background the somewhat ominous decision by the Russian State Duma, the Parliament, to unanimously pass a law to cancel ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. A step backward for Russia, no doubt. But the United States never ratified that treaty.