Who is winning the war? Russia or Ukraine?

After more than 200 days of the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the war has gained new contours in the last few days and it seems to be far from over and with no definition of who will win it.

The Ukrainian capital Kiev dawned under Russian bombers yesterday in the Kremlin’s response to the two days earlier attack on the bridge in Crimea that links the peninsula annexed in 2014 to Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the attacks were a way to generate “panic and chaos” as the Russians “are hopeless”.

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, raised the tone of the threats by confirming that the bombings in Kiev were a reaction to the “terrorist” attack on the Kerch bridge.

The escalation of Putin’s threats was expected by international analysts heard by the report, who project new retaliation from Moscow to Ukraine amid a crucial moment for the Russian leader to regain popular support during the invasion of the neighboring country.

Who is winning the war? experts heard by UOL they said that Ukraine currently has an advantage over Russia in the war.

“Right now, it’s impossible not to say that Ukraine is winning”, says Gunther Rudzit, professor of International Relations at ESPM-SP.

He explains that the Ukrainian offensive to recover the four regions illegally annexed by Russia at the end of last month — Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — showed the unpreparedness of Putin’s army.

“The Ukrainian advance shows the state of the Russian armed forces: very poorly organized, prepared and commanded,” says Rudzit. “Ukraine is retaking in weeks territories that Russia took months to conquer, and the Russians are not in a position to reverse that,” he adds.

Therefore, one begins to consider an unimaginable scenario, which is the possibility of total dismantling of Russian forces, leading to a large-scale defection, and, consequently, the total defeat of Russia and even the retaking of Crimea.
Gunther Rudzitprofessor of International Relations at ESPM-SP

Tanguy Baghdadi, a master in International Relations at PUC-Rio, recalls that Russia advanced with difficulty into Ukrainian territory at the beginning of the war, and is now “withdrawal”.

“The main issue at the moment is the morale of the troops,” says Baghdadi. “There is a feeling among Russians that the situation is not going well and this is reflected in public opinion and in the press, even those most aligned with the Putin government.”

He points out that, like other armies, Russian troops are not transparent about their true situation. “It is very difficult to know how many resources Russia has, whether it still has enough or not. [para prolongar a guerra].”

The Russian situation at this time is very difficult and challenging, to say the least. So much so that she starts to raise the tone and talk about nuclear threats.
Tanguy Baghdadi, Master in International Relations from PUC-Rio

Kiev streets with debris generated by the explosions this Monday (10);  Russia launched attacks in retaliation for the destruction of a bridge in Crimea - Vladyslav Musiienko/REUTERS - Vladyslav Musiienko/REUTERS

Kiev streets with debris generated by the explosions this Monday (10); Russia launched attacks in retaliation for the destruction of a bridge in Crimea

Image: Vladyslav Musiienko/REUTERS

Russia loses but can still win. Despite Ukraine’s advantage, both experts say that, from a military point of view, it is the Russians who lead – that is, if the war ended today, the Kremlin would be victorious.

“Whoever has troops on the other’s territory is Russia,” says Baghdadi. “The fact is that Russia has annexed four territories and, although it does not fully control them, it still has an important presence in Ukraine,” he adds.

Today, if the war ends, Russia has the upper hand, as it has troops in four Ukrainian territories. But Ukraine is building the possibility that, going forward, achieve a winning position.
Tanguy Baghdadi, Master in International Relations from PUC-Rio

Rudzit believes that the annexation of the territories by Russia does not affect the advance of Ukrainian troops to expel the invaders and recover the four regions, but he warns of Putin’s reaction.

“Since now, officially for Russia, these are Russian territories. With that, Putin can declare full mobilization, or worse, use a tactical nuclear weapon as a defense of Russian territory,” he says.

Baghdadi agrees that Putin can use the excuse of defending territories to increase nuclear threats against Ukraine.

“If Ukraine makes some kind of major offensive against these four regions, it could be considered a direct attack on Russia and would therefore justify bigger, more violent and potentially nuclear attacks”, says the master of International Relations.

Despite this, he believes that Ukraine is not being intimidated. “Ukraine knows that Russia cannot use nuclear weapons in a rational logic because that would end up leading other countries to use nuclear weapons against it as well,” he says. Baghdadi.

Attacks on Kiev expose Russia’s weaknesses. The ESPM-SP professor believes that Russia’s recent attacks on Kiev show that pressure on Putin has increased.

“So much so that he made an indiscriminate attack against the Ukrainian population,” he says. Rudzit. “This is yet another humiliation [para a Rússia]since, although the government of Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the explosion on the bridge [da Crimeia]it could only have been them.”

[A Ucrânia] managed to bomb a gigantic and billion dollar infrastructure project, which is the symbol of the occupation, and was considered unattainable by the Russians. Gunther Rudzitprofessor of International Relations at ESPM-SP

08.Oct.22 - Helicopter drops water to extinguish burning fuel tanks on Kerch Bridge, Kerch Strait, Crimea - STRINGER/REUTERS - STRINGER/REUTERS

08.Oct.22 – Helicopter drops water to extinguish burning fuel tanks on Kerch Bridge, Kerch Strait, Crimea

Image: STRINGER/REUTERS

For Baghdadi, the attack on the Crimean bridge only strengthens Ukraine’s position in the conflict, which remains confident of retaking its occupied territories.

“Ukraine continues as if nothing had happened, including advancing on the Lugansk region. This is something that would already contradict what Russia was saying about the territory being hers. Ukraine has not stopped the advance”, says the expert.

“[Os ataques em Kiev] make Putin more politically fragile”, emphasizes Rudzit. “No wonder he changed the military commander. This admits that militarily things are bad. Changing the military commander during a war is a sign that they are doing very badly,” he adds.

A few hours after the attack on the Crimean bridge, the Russian president decided to change the command of the forces involved in the invasion of Ukraine. Now, Air Force General Sergei Surovikin is in command of Russian forces in neighboring territory.

What should happen from now on? For the two experts, it is difficult to project what will happen from now on in the war in Ukraine.

Rudzit analyzes that the greatest difficulty is predicting the Kremlin’s next steps. “OUkrainians will try to make the most of this advance before winter [no hemisfério Norte] arrive”, he says.

Already Baghdadi reckons that Russia should increase nuclear threats and, perhaps, call up new reservists. “THE Russia cannot afford to lose this war. That’s Putin’s thinking: this war is to be won anyway,” he says.

“Ukraine will try to take advantage of the good moment to advance as much as possible on the territories [ocupados] because it boosts troop morale and support [internacional] too”, he adds.

*With information from AFP, Reuters and RFI

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