An injured European who volunteered to fight in Ukraine being evacuated at the sprawling base at Yavoriv 25 kms from Polish border following a predawn Russian cruise missile attack on Sunday
A French presidency official said on Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “did not show a willingness” to end the special operation in Ukraine during a call with President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the weekend.
The Russian readout said Putin informed the two European leaders of “the real situation on the ground” and the talks with Ukrainian representatives and reviewed “some issues pertaining to the agreements being worked out concerning the implementation of the earlier Russian demands.” But there was no mention of a ceasefire.
The Russian military manoeuvre has a dynamic of its own and it will end when the mission is over. The Western misconception arises out of its misreading that this is an “invasion”, whereas, Russians envisage “special operations” with the twin objectives of securing security guarantee and Ukraine’s neutrality and secondly, to vanquish the hostile extreme nationalist groups that have acted as a state within the state.
The tactical adjustments are self-evident — hardly any set battles, periods of lull and manoeuvres to outflank areas where there is entrenched opposition, and sudden shift of tactics as if the war metastasised. The Russian manoeuvres keep western military analysts guessing and politicians disoriented.
They still do not know whether Russian forces intend to capture Kiev with troops now moving towards the city from multiple positions! As per BBC, the famous 65-km long Russian armoured column has now dispersed, moving more artillery and rocket launchers to within range of the capital. Again, the raids Friday on airfields in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, far from the main areas of conflict, took analysts by surprise.
Two important subtexts of the Russian operations are the restoration of the administrative boundaries of the “people’s republics” of Lugansk and Donetsk in Donbass region, and establishing connectivity between Crimea and Donbass and, possibly, with the Russian base in Transnistria (Moldavia) to the west.
Meanwhile, the operation toward the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine is yet to begin. Dnipro is a lynchpin for control of the vast territory east of the Dnieper river and for the effective siege / capture of Kiev.
Again, military objectives in the east and south are still to be realised. In the east, Russian forces are encircling Kharkiv and moving down south along the northeastern outskirts of the city toward Izium, which aims to establish dominance over far-eastern Ukraine. In the south, Russian forces have captured the eastern outskirts of the port city of Mariupol.
Instead of a direct assault, gradual ground pressure is applied to force the city to capitulate, if possible. It is unclear whether the operations would prioritise Odessa at this stage. The short point is, the special operations are somewhat mid-stream at the moment. The Russian warning that Western convoys ferrying arms for Ukrainian weapons will come under attack underscores that ceasefire is not in the cards.
On Sunday, in a predawn attack, a barrage of cruise missile attacks fired from Russian warplanes that had flown from Saratov in southwestern Russia hit a military base in western Ukraine almost on Poland’s border, which is used to train and organise the thousands of foreigners who have arrived in the country from Europe. Russian account says “up to 180 foreign mercenaries” were killed and a large amount of weapons supplied by outside nations destroyed.
The Russian Defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov told a briefing that Russia would continue its attacks against foreign mercenaries. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Saturday that Moscow has warned Washington that “pumping weapons from a number of countries it orchestrates isn’t just a dangerous move — it’s an action that makes those convoys legitimate targets.” But Russia is not going to attack NATO and is staying away.
Russia has no alternative but to press ahead since this is an existential issue — unlike for Europe or the US who are interventionists. On the other hand, the entire western narrative is that the war is “unpopular” among Russian public doesn’t stand scrutiny. The Russian people understand the hidden religious, racial, cultural overtones of the current struggle, although the West suppresses them.
The fact that Serbs in the Balkans are rallying to fight for Russia speaks volumes. The NATO’s dismemberment of Yugoslavia in 1999 is still vivid memory. Wasn’t that why Serbs came to fight in the Donbass in 2014-2015? The West is horribly delusional to imagine that Putin operates in a political vacuum. Putin’s politics always devolves upon the support he enjoys from the Russian people. If history is any guide, Russian people will adapt to the “new normal” in day-to-day life.
For Slavic people as a whole, what is unfolding has shades of a “Holy War” against the West. And Holy Wars have no timeline. They also are seamless. In Belgrade, thousands rallied in support of Russia, chanting “The Serbs are with the Russians!” They waved the Tsarist Russian flag, as well as of Serbia.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said recently that “some eighty-five percent of people will always side with Russia whatever may happen. These are the facts I am faced with as the country’s president.”
Of course, the volunteers from the Balkans will eventually return home as war veterans. Serbian nationalism can undermine the independence of Kosovo and other western Balkan states and new battlegrounds may appear in Europe.
As it is, Bosnia-Herzegovina faces the consequences of the lack of strategic foresight behind the Dayton Accords, the agreement which formed the country’s tripartite presidency between Orthodox Bosnian Serbs, Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats. Also, there are a number of overlapping claims to spheres of influence in the Western Balkans.
On Wednesday, Serbian president Vucic once again warned that the hostilities in Ukraine is having a dramatic impact on his country. Together with Belarus, Serbia is the only country in Europe refusing to impose sanctions against Russia, despite expectations as an EU candidate state to align its foreign policy to that of the union.