by Raffaele Crocco

For some time now, it has been clear that Putin is not isolated, despite attempts to portray a different narrative. This is true both at home, where he is gearing up for widespread support in the upcoming presidential elections in March, and on the global stage, where numerous Countries are openly expressing varying degrees of support. One notable development in the 96th week of conflict between Russian forces and resilient Ukraine is Brazil’s endorsement of Russia. The Brazilian government has announced its willingness to host Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 in Rio de Janeiro, scheduled for November 2024.

To fully understand the significance of this invitation, it’s important to note that Putin is the subject of an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for alleged crimes related to the war in Ukraine. These allegations include his possible responsibility for the abduction of children who were forcibly taken from occupied Ukrainian territory to Russia with the intention of ‘Russifying’ them. Despite the seriousness of the charges and the ICC arrest warrant, Brazil’s Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira said this week that Brazil would be ‘very happy’ to host Putin at the G20, pre-emptively suggesting that his country might not enforce the ICC arrest warrant. Surprisingly, Vieira downplayed the fact that Brazil is a signatory to the Rome Statute, insisting that Countries are not obliged to comply with the Court’s decisions. He pointed out that even Brazil’s President Lula has questioned the ICC’s effectiveness and authority, noting that major nations such as the United States, Russia and China do not recognise it, leading to an ‘international imbalance’.

There is speculation that Lula’s decision to welcome Putin is linked to the BRICS project, in which the member countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – aim to expand economic alliances and create an alternative pole to the traditional G7 powers. This geopolitical alignment is becoming more defined in the context of the world’s new polarisation.

The diplomatic move was not welcomed by Ukrainian President Zelensky, who is struggling to secure vital military supplies from the United States and Europe. The situation on the ground remains tense, with the Ukrainian army retreating in Marinka, Donetsk, while achieving a naval victory by sinking the Russian ship Novocherkassk in the Black Sea, suspected of carrying drones for ground bombardment.

The situation remains difficult, but time is in Moscow’s favour as it has more human and material resources at its disposal. And the year that is knocking on the door could prove even more difficult for Kyiv. This was said in an interview with the BBC by Oleksandr Tarnavsky, commander of the Ukrainian armed forces group ‘Tavria’. He is the commander of the southern front and led the operations to liberate Kherson in 2022. “The Russians,” he said, “are a strong enemy, there are many of them and they learn very quickly. The situation in our region is very difficult. The enemy has intensified its actions almost along the entire battle line, and we are clearly aware that its strategic goal is the liquidation of the Ukrainian State.

The EU is keen to avoid this, and is therefore devising a plan to get around Hungarian PM Orban’s “No” to new aid for Kyiv. The Financial Times explains that at an upcoming summit on 1 February, many member states will provide guarantees to the EU budget, allowing the European Commission to borrow €20 billion for Ukraine next year. This is a procedure that does not require unanimity. Orban and any veto he might have would be out of the picture.