Russian President Vladimir Putin. (archive image) © ALEXEY FILIPPOV/afp
Russia is facing problems in the Ukraine war. Vladimir Putin's troops are not advancing, and now the conventional missiles are running out.
Munich – The first months of Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin's Ukraine war went well for his troops. The Russian army was able to quickly seize territories in the north of Ukraine, advance in the east, and also occupy regions in the south. But then everything fell apart: the Russian troops had to withdraw completely from the north, the Ukrainian army fought back in the east and the Russians also fled in the south.
Ukraine war: Putin's propagandists sell developments as a success
Since then, the Kremlin has not been able to celebrate any major successes in the Ukraine war. Also, the capture of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, where clashes lasted several months, was possible only after a bloody and costly battle. Instead, not even Russian border regions are now safe from war. Russian partisans from Ukraine recently attacked Belgorod. In addition, there are drone attacks on the Russian capital Moscow.
In the midst of the delicate situation, the Kremlin is firing its conventional missiles in attacks against the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. These are attacks that kill and injure Ukrainian civilians, but do not advance the Russian military in the war against Ukraine on the front line. The Kremlin's propagandists are selling the attacks as decisive successes on the battlefield, as the US newspaper The Hill reported.
Not only that: the impact of drones in Moscow is also presented as a positive development. For example, Russian ex-naval officer Konstantin Sivkov said that the drone strikes against the Russian capital are "very positive, as they will help mobilize Russian society against the enemy." Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobanin stressed that the drone strikes had caused very little damage.
More importantly, however, the development is a severe psychological blow to Russia. What began as a supposedly quick campaign turned into a war that is now also affecting Russian territory. With the attack, Moscow has thus put itself in a difficult situation.
Ukraine war: Kremlin chief resorts to nuclear means
In any case, the head of the Kremlin does not have an infinite number of missiles and therefore cannot afford to fire them generously. He has to be economical with the conventional missiles he still has. Since his conventional offensive capabilities are now significantly limited, Putin is creating a nuclear mood with hints of escalation. He sent nuclear weapons to Belarus, which are nevertheless said to be under Russian control, and ended Russia's participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. Both developments are seen as a sign of a readiness for nuclear escalation.
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In the background of Ukraine's plans for a large-scale counteroffensive, Putin wants to throw a spanner in the works for Kiev, apparently with a radioactive "accident" at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. At least that's what the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed in a post on Twitter on May 26. Russian troops would attack the nuclear power plant site, which is in Russian hands, and eventually claim that radioactive material had leaked. The goal: to blame Ukraine for bringing about a ceasefire and preventing the Ukrainian counteroffensive, while at the same time regrouping its own troops.
For Russia, the Ukraine war is becoming increasingly stressful. The heavy losses of soldiers and equipment, the gradually shrinking arsenal of missiles, the international isolation, the impact on the Russian economy: Putin is trying to free himself from the delicate situation with nuclear sabotage. (bb)