posted on 10/06/2022 06:00
(credit: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP)
Despite recognizing the difficulties in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday sanctioned the annexation of the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson (southeast) and Donetsk and Luhansk (east). The Kremlin chief also signed a decree exempting university students and students from private institutions from the partial mobilization of reservists. On the day Kiev announced further military advances in Kherson and Luhansk, an increasingly pressured Putin sought to convey a message of optimism. “We assume that the situation in the new territories will stabilize”, he declared, in a conversation with teachers, during a videoconference broadcast on television.
A poll released by Moscow-based independent research institute Centro Levada found that 47% of Russians reacted with “horror” and “anxiety” to Putin’s order to mobilize 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine – 23% said they were shocked, 13% angry and another 23% said they felt patriotic pride. The president’s approval dropped from 83% to 77%. Also yesterday, Putin promoted Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to the rank of colonel general, just days after his ally called for the use of tactical nuclear weapons as a strategy to force the recovery of territories.
Gunther Rudzit, a professor of international relations at ESPM and an expert on international security, told the Correio that, by sanctioning the annexations, Putin was trying to show the Russian people that things would be under control. “The measure coincides with the intensification of criticism of the government, including from nationalists and Chechen leaders. The annexations would be a response to disapproval,” he explained. “Another hypothesis is that, with the retaking of areas by Ukraine, Putin could officially declare war, as Ukraine would be invading ‘Russian territory’. He could also announce a total mobilization, in addition to implementing more forceful measures, such as population control.”
According to Rudzit, the human losses were enormous for Russia. “The fact that the Russians took months to reconquer the territories and lost them in a matter of weeks shook them up. What makes the situation more complicated is that the reservists are not prepared for war, apart from being above the age limit. When they reach the front, if they don’t flee, they will die quickly”, warned the scholar. A scenario that, he warns, could lead to a situation of despair for Putin, a mass defection among the Russians or the military bankruptcy of Kremlin troops in Ukraine. “That would make Putin even more dangerous, in the sense that he could appeal to a tactical nuclear weapon.”
For his part, Peter Zalmayev — director of the NGO Eurasia Democracy Initiative (in Kiev) — said that Putin faces a “growing divorce” with reality on the front. “There are two types of reality: one virtual, created by the Kremlin, and another dictated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the front. The reality of the Kremlin is falling apart,” he told the report.
Zalmayev cited tensions between members of the ruling elite, with criticism of the president by allies and Ramzan Kadyrov. “Ukrainian forces have successfully created a very risky moment for Putin on the domestic stage. The Russian elite does not believe that Putin has acted decisively enough and advocates indiscriminate bombing of Ukraine. This is Putin’s dilemma.”
Regarding tactical nuclear weapons, Zalmayev believes that the chances of use have increased, although the US still sees no signs of Russian preparations. “If you detonate this kind of artifact, Putin could lose important allies such as Russia and China,” he noted.
In a controversial move, Russia formally seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, which Moscow forces have occupied for months, according to a decree published yesterday. “The government must ensure that the plant’s nuclear facilities . . . are accepted as federal property,” the text states. Europe’s biggest nuclear plant has been the target of bombing since last March, raising the risk of radioactive leakage. Zaporizhzhia is situated in one of the four regions annexed by Russia.
four questions for
Serhiy Hayday, governor and head of military administration of the Luhansk region
How do you see the fact that Ukrainian troops advanced into Luhansk on the same day that Putin sanctioned the annexations?
These are unrelated events. We have our own plan – to take back all our territories. We don’t adapt to the rages of the Russians. We just focus on our goal. We’ll get to it soon.
What concrete progress have Ukrainian forces made in Luhansk in recent days?
At the moment, six small settlements have been liberated. In the morning, there will be more.
Do you see the risk that Putin will radicalize and use tactical nuclear weapons if Luhansk returns to Kiev’s control?
We will not deviate from our goals and plans.
How do you see the annexations of four regions by the Kremlin, sanctioned today?
It doesn’t change anything for us, we must liberate our territories.
Russia takes over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
Russia has formally seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, which Moscow forces have occupied for months, according to a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin and published yesterday. “The government must ensure that the plant’s nuclear facilities … are accepted as federal property,” said the decree, published days before a possible visit to Russia by the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi. The plant, the largest in Europe, is located in the Zaporizhzhia region, one of the Ukrainian territories that Russia formally annexed last week. The plant is close to the line separating Kiev-held and Moscow-occupied territories. “The government must ensure that the plant’s nuclear facilities … are accepted as federal property,” the Russian decree states.
US accuses Kiev of murder
credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP
US intelligence agencies believe that sections of the Ukrainian government authorized the car bomb attack that killed Daria Dugina, daughter of Russian nationalist Aleksandr Dugin (L) — a key ally of President Vladimir Putin. Daria died on the night of August 20, on a highway near Moscow, after the explosion of an artifact hidden inside a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, a black SUV that belonged to Aleksandr himself. Father and daughter reportedly switched cars moments before the murder. Ukraine has denied involvement in the crime, and Kiev officials have repeated the denials when asked about the US intelligence assessment. Washington intelligence services did not reveal which elements of the Ukrainian government authorized the mission or whether President Volodymyr Zelensky endorsed the operation.