The past few weeks have seen heavy fighting across the country, sieges, evidence of war crimes, gains and losses of ground for both sides. The latest evidence suggests the conflict is set to intensify, meanwhile the EU attempts to cut off Russian energy and Finland and Sweden are now considering NATO membership.
The Ukrainians held their own and have managed to defend Kyiv as well as recapture substantial portions of the North and North East of Ukraine.
The Port city of Mariupol has been encircled and besieged for some time now by Russian Forces who have faced stiff resistance. At last notice, the Ukrainian Marines trapped in the city for 48 days were preparing to fight till the last of their ammunition and food. The last battle for the city may be unfolding as I write this (Tuesday 12th April 15:11 CET).
However in the last few days deeply unsettling images and reports of war crimes emerged from a number of locations in Ukraine, most notably the town of Bucha. Civilians shot dead were photographed stiff with rigour mortis, collapsed on the floor still on their bicycles, others with their hands bound behind their backs, the bodies of women, some decapitated and exhibiting evidence of rape hastily piled up and half-burned or buried in mass graves.
The conflict appears far from over with most analysts and sources pointing toward further intensification of the combat in the days to come. The Russian withdrawal from Kyiv is moreover a regrouping as Russia focuses its efforts on the East of Ukraine and the “Donbass” region comprising Donetsk, Luhansk and the surrounding area. Part of these efforts is a 13-kilometre long convoy heading down from the Russian controlled North in Izyum to resupply Russian troops.
This move is concurrent with apparent troop build-ups along the Ukrainian border in Russia’s Belgorod, Voronezh and Rostov regions. A new general has also been appointed to manage the situation, Aleksandr Dvornikov nicknamed the ‘butcher’ of Aleppo and Grozny for his hardcore and highly destructive tactics. Tactics which he employed to great effect when storming Grozny in the 90s or more recently stamping out rebellion for Bashar Al-Assad in Aleppo, in both cases incurring a high number of civilian casualties and quasi total destruction of the city.
Alongside these sobering bits of news President Vladimir Putin has also called up an additional 150,000 reservists and conscripts to bolster his forces if necessary. Understandably in the face of these moves, the Ukrainians in the East are digging in and preparing for a major land and air battle. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said “The battle for Donbas will remind you, I say it with regret, but it is true, it will remind you of World War II. With large operations and manoeuvres, using thousands of tanks, armoured vehicles, aircraft, and artillery,”.
There have also been unconfirmed reports of chemical weapons used in Mariupol, these claims cannot be confirmed as the evidence and affected persons are still in a hot combat zone however President Zelenskyy said he took this news “as seriously as possible”.
Amidst the bloody vicissitudes of human nature unfolding next door, the members of the European Parliament and Commission are trying to cut off Russian energy. In the most recent motion for a resolution, the parliament called on the Commission to put an end to all Russian fossil fuel and diamond imports. The motion also contained numerous other stipulations to close sanction loopholes and target the Russian banking and Russian and Belorussian road transport sectors with redoubled sanctions. Japan has also launched sanctions against 398 Russians including Putin’s daughters.
In a significant bit of news, the Finnish and the Swedes are also reportedly considering joining NATO and in response, Russia has warned that such action “will not bring stability to the European continent”. Discussions over Finland joining NATO will probably go on until mid-summer, although some Finnish officials are calling for a decision to be made before a NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June.
In the Swedish case, some sources believe the country may apply in Autumn.
All of these events are happening while a constant flow of refugees are fleeing to the centre and west of Ukraine for the bordering states whenever and however they can. Most of them have spent time in cellars and basements avoiding bombs and shells, without food, water or heating. Despite ongoing diplomatic efforts, the conflict shows no sign of slowing down and both sides seem determined to continue fighting despite the odds and the risks.
Written by: Sebastian Vassallo
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