The destruction in Kharkiv and Mariupol in the last two days has been unprecedented. It stems from frustration within the Russian political and military circle with mounting sanctions by the US and EU and the demands by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government during the first Russia-Ukraine negotiations. The Russian military offensive till the talks was quite measured to limit collateral damage within Ukraine. However, Zelenskyy’s management of the crisis exhibits high-handedness tailored for television heroism rather than pragmatic politics.
The 64-km-long Russian armoured convoy headed for Kyiv is definitely not an indicator of the Russian offensive losing steam but is a harbinger of impending destruction in store for innocent civilians within the capital. The stratagem is simple, ‘surround and pound’ and it is only a matter of time before Kyiv falls to the Russian invasion.
Had Zelenskyy been pragmatic and sincere in his approach, he would have prepared for such an eventuality in the first place. Even better would have been an inclination towards the EU while allaying Russian concerns, which seems to be well-founded. In the midst of impending doom, Zelenskyy is resorting to chest-thumping and making emotional speeches on West-sponsored media outlets. He seems to have lost touch with ground reality and there seems to be little reason for his newfound heroism and nationality in his otherwise incompetent administration marred with corruption.
One reason for the Ukrainian government’s naivety could be the backing from the western bloc of countries that are trying to sooth the hue and cry within their countries against Russian aggression. To add the icing on the cake of Ukrainian support, the US and EU are declaring new sanctions almost every hour. Such sanctions will do little to deter the Russian offensive.
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The Russian objective seems to be simple—kill Ukrainian military potential by luring them into battle and eventually make the current administration face the ire of frustrated civilians post-war. It will automatically prompt a regime change. It would result in the death of the Ukrainian NATO dream and pave the way for the return of Russian hegemony in the country.
If the Ukrainian political administration somehow garners wisdom from the past two days of the Kremlin blitzkrieg, they must realise the essence of Russia-Ukraine negotiations must be focused on ending war rather than throwing untrained civilians in harm’s way. As retired General GD Bakshi puts it, “The West wishes to fight till the last Ukrainian”. The United States and the EU shall only applaud in video conferences and would love to prolong the guerilla warfare to boost their stagnant arms market owing to the pandemic rather than end this rampage.
Zelenskyy and his government must demand peace while they still can, instead of making unreasonable demands of Russian withdrawal from Crimea.
The author is a student at Government Doon Medical College, Dehradun. Views are personal