by Raffaele Crocco
Fighting is everywhere. News of the fighting comes through in a confused, uncertain way, without giving an accurate picture of the situation. It has been 87 weeks since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and people are still dying at the front and in the cities. Battles are raging at sea. The Russians intercepted three naval drones in the Black Sea this week. Ukrainian saboteurs are also in action, trying to attack Russian installations in Sevastopol, Crimea. The peninsula remains under pressure from Kyiv’s armed forces, which have no intention of letting go and leaving the peninsula in Moscow’s hands.
On the eastern front, around Avdiivka, the Russians are on the offensive. Elite units and assault groups – made up of former prisoners of war – continue to attack, apparently to distract the Ukrainians from the counter-offensive they have launched in the south of the Country. A tactic that is costing thousands of lives, observers say. Meanwhile, the artillery continues to fire, the Russian artillery frenetically, the Ukrainian artillery more deliberately and sparingly. This manoeuvre, this saving, is essential because there are problems on the horizon with the supply of ammunition to Kyiv by the Europeans. The stocks in the arsenals of the various Countries are said to be almost exhausted and industrial production is slower than the needs of the war. In any case, Kyiv says that the units are holding their positions, but the pressure seems to be increasing by the hour. In Avidiivka, the Russians are attempting an encirclement. The pressure on the Ukrainian Army is very heavy, with bloody battles in Kupiansk, an important railway junction, in Lyman, Bakhmut and Mariinka.
At the same time, Moscow is on the offensive further south, along the Dnipro river. The aim is to neutralise the Ukrainian presence on the left bank of the river, but even here Kyiv says that for the first time, the Army has captured a position in Russian-occupied territory, which, unsurprisingly, is shelling the area – and the entire riverbank – with artillery.
Civilians continue to be badly affected. In the Kherson region, the Russians bombed with guided munitions, killing a 13-year-old boy and injuring many other civilians. A ‘forced evacuation’ of at least 800 children is underway in the region, to move them to safer areas. According to observers, the Russians have resumed bombing infrastructure and power and water facilities. They do this in the knowledge that the winter has already had a significant drop in temperatures. They want it to be a hard, cold winter of suffering for the Ukrainians who are resisting, hoping to weaken them and convince them to stop talking about the war.
This is unlikely to happen. Determination to resist the Russians remains high and widespread. It remains to be seen whether European and US allies will continue to guarantee the flow of arms and ammunition. Australia has announced that it will resume deliveries, but Slovakia has announced its decision to stop military supplies immediately, guaranteeing only humanitarian aid. At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, met his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto in Minsk. The occasion was the international conference ‘Eurasian Security: Realities and Perspectives in a Changing World’. It was a new official meeting between the two governments after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán became the first European leader to meet and shake hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It happened during the Silk Road Congress organised by Beijing. It was a gesture that impressed the EU chancelleries. It seemed to hide the first cracks in the anti-Russian wall that the Europeans had erected at the beginning of the invasion.