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The War in Ukraine: Russia's War of Words

It is very easy to forget the events transpiring in Ukraine as they fade into background news and slide further from the headlines, but the war continues, and Ukrainian lives remain on a knife’s edge.


In the last twelve months many Ukrainian refugees have come to Australia on emergency visas and for many the term of these is coming to an end. One family that I know are in the process of returning to their home in Ukraine with the intention of selling whatever remains and then migrating to Australia permanently.


They don’t know what they are going home to, but they have been told it is safer than when they left. Like my family in Ukraine, who live in the region around the capital Kiev, their homes came under fire early during the invasion in 2022 which is why they fled, but as Russia changed tact after the military operation failed, their homes became safer, though scars remain.


Sitting here on the other side of the world, to me, it seems that Russian President Putin has really started to focus on his war of words. As Russian troops are defeated, and his campaign failed in its initial objectives he needs to save face. With no physical action being undertaken to the extent that it was twelve months ago, it is his rhetoric that has kicked into the next gear. This includes false claims of Ukrainian attacks and warnings against un-true Ukrainian terrorist intentions.


In late February 2023 he declared the Ukrainian intention to invade the Moldovan breakaway region and Russian-held Transnistria. Moldovan authorities denounced this as false and almost two months later we’ve seen no movement on this front. It is interesting that this tiny breakaway nation has featured so much during the conflict. To read more on Transnistria click here


Similarly, Russia is claiming that Ukrainian forces have conducted attacks on Russian and Belarussian border towns. For the most part these are unsubstantiated but they have been used as the reason for further Russian attacks on Ukraine.


On 9 March Russia launched approximately 81 missiles across Ukrainian cities. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant lost power for the sixth time since it was taken by Russian forces. This attack was said to be in retaliation for those Ukrainian attacks across the Russian border.


In early March the focus of the war turned to the Donetsk city of Bakhmut. The frontline of the war besieged the city back in May 2022 however it has only been in recent weeks that the world’s focus has become directed upon what is left of the city. As of December 2022, Ukrainian President Zelensky stated that the city was just burnt ruins with less than 20,000 civilians remaining of what was once a city home to over 70,000 people.


Western media has been reporting on heavy Russian losses due to the fighting in March however the actual extent is unknown, but it is believed the Russians have lost more troops than Ukraine, though both sides have had heavy losses. Over the last month this has been where the heaviest fighting of the conflict is concentrated and just 4,000 people are thought to remain in the deserted city. Those left have no access to essential services and are hiding in bomb shelters as it was reported Ukrainian troops were withdrawing and Russian troops made a push to claim ground.

Bakhmut, February 2023 (Source: Ukrainian Government media)

On 22 March 2023, Ukrainian President Zelensky made a personal visit to the troops to hand out medals to wounded soldiers. Days later Ukraine reported that the situation in Bakhmut was stable and as of 2 April the BBC was reporting that much of the city remained under Ukrainian control, despite Russian claims to the contrary. This suggests that a Ukrainian counter-offensive may begin within the coming weeks.


One new tactic of Putin seems to be the mobilisation of Ukrainian prisoners of war with the intention to send them into combat zones. This is a direct violation of the Geneva convention, but does Russia seem to care about any international policies?


Following his increasingly erratic rhetoric and due to his actions in initiating the Russian invasion of Ukraine the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin on 17 March 2023. This was the first time such a warrant was issued against a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.


On 31 March the International Monetary Fund also made history when they announced a support package for Ukraine to aid with the country’s economic recovery. This would be the first time such a package was produced for a country at war.


The map below is a great visual representation of the changing military situation during the last twelve months. The original can be found here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60506682


The month of April began with the bombing of a café in the Russian city St. Petersburg. Just one person was killed, a Russian military blogger who, despite being a pro-invasion activist had recently criticised Russia’s strategy in Ukraine. Another 42 people were injured in the attack and Russia claims that Ukraine was behind it, however Ukrainian officials have stated it was an act of Russian domestic terrorism.


An anti-war protestor, Darya Trepova has since been arrested for the bombing however it is unknown if she is the bomber or an unwitting participant in a Russian plot to either remove a vocal opponent, frame Ukraine or even both.


In the aftermath of the bombing President Putin awarded the deceased man the Order of Courage. In what seems like a twisting-turning plot of a TV drama, will we ever really know the truth behind this attack?


Aftermath of the attack on Slovyansk, 14-15 April 2023 (Source: BBC World News)

As I write this blog President Putin is yet to be arrested and at least eight have been killed in a Russian shelling attack overnight in the Donbas region. The attack occurred in the city of Slovyansk, 45km north-west of the hotly contested Bakhmut. Russian troops have been trying to take Slovyansk since the end of 2022 however it remains under Ukrainian control.


Ukrainian homes were targeted in this attack, with one victim a 2-year-old child.

It is unlikely, Putin will be any time soon with many nations declaring they won’t enact the warrant for fear of Russian retaliation after Russia declared that any nation to move against them or their leader would face dire consequences. Thus, it seems these attacks on Ukrainian families will continue indefinitely.


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Further Reading:

*This blog has been put together with multiple current news sources such as the BBC World News Podcast, local nightly news and media outlets such as News.com


Articles and Websites:


Disclaimer: The observations and comments made in this blog are made after reflecting on the news stories and histories I read. History plays a big part in how I understand the present so my comments largely take into account history and the role it has in the present. After all, those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.


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