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Momentum in Ukraine is shifting in Russia’s favour

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Published on Jun 13, 2022
Momentum in Ukraine is shifting in Russia’s favour

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A war in Ukraine that began with a Russian debacle as its forces tried and failed to take Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, has seemingly begun to turn, with Russia now picking off regional targets, Ukraine lacking the weaponry it needs, and Western support for the war effort fraying in the face of rising gas prices and galloping inflation. On the 108th day of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war, driven by his conviction that Ukraine is territory unjustly taken from the Russian Empire, Russia appeared no closer to victory. But its forces did appear to be making slow, methodical and bloody progress toward control of eastern Ukraine.
On Saturday, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, once again promised victory. “We are definitely going to prevail in this war that Russia has started,” he told a conference in Singapore in a video appearance. “It is on the battlefields in Ukraine that the future rules of this world are being decided.”
Yet, the heady early days of the war — when the Ukrainian underdog held off a deluded and inept aggressor and Putin’s indiscriminate bombardment united the West in outrage — have begun to fade. In their place is a war that is evolving into what analysts increasingly say will be a long slog, placing growing pressure on the governments and economies of Western countries and others throughout the world.
Nowhere is that slog more evident than in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Despite urgent pleas to the West for more heavy weapons, Ukrainian forces appear to lack what it takes to confront Russia’s use of artillery for scorched-earth shelling of towns and villages. While Ukraine is holding Russia back in the major regional city of Sievierodonetsk, it is suffering heavy losses — at least 100 fatalities a day, although their full extent is not yet known — and desperately needs more weapons and ammunition.
Russia also appears to be making headway in establishing control in towns it has captured, including the leveled Black Sea port of Mariupol. It has set out to convince and coerce the remaining population that its future lies in what Putin views as his restored empire. Citizens there and in cities like Kherson and Melitopol face a bleak choice: If they want to work, they must first obtain a Russian passport, a blandishment offered to secure a semblance of loyalty to Moscow.
Propaganda that compares Putin with Peter the Great, Russia’s first emperor, blares from cars in Mariupol in what Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the city’s mayor, called a “pseudohistorical” onslaught.
The comparison, one that Putin has made himself, is dear to the Russian president’s heart. He has repeatedly insisted that Ukraine is not a real nation and that its true identity is Russian. His invasion has, however, cemented and galvanized Ukrainian national identity in ways previously unimaginable.
Russia has its own difficulties, particularly in southern Ukraine, where the provincial capital of Kherson captured earlier in the war is still contested. Attacks by former Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have picked up in recent weeks. Russian losses in the war are not yet known but certainly run into the tens of thousands, a potential source of anger toward Putin, whose autocratic hold on Russia keeps tightening.
If the Russian economy has shown surprising resilience, it has been hit hard by Western sanctions; a brain drain will undermine growth for many years. Putin’s pariah status in the West appears unlikely to change.
Elsewhere, however, in Africa and Asia, support for the West — and for Ukraine — is more nuanced. Many countries see little diffe...


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