On the Big Occasion of May 9, Putin Had Nothing to Say

It stood to every political and strategic reason that President Vladimir Putin would announce a major decision opening the Victory Day military parade at the Red Square. Over the years, he has altered the meaning of this holiday from celebrating the allied triumph in the struggle against Nazi Germany to celebrating the might of Russian militarism.

Today’s parade in Moscow. Photo: Kremlin.ru

In 2005, some 150 dignitaries, including US President George W. Bush and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, attended the event; in 2021, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon was the only guest of honor, and this year, Putin was alone.

He had obviously planned for a very different moment envisaging the spectacular success of the “special operation” against Ukraine, launched on February 24, as his only ally, Aleksandr Lukashenko, brutal dictator of Belarus, confirmed poignantly (Izvestiya, May 6).

The apparent failure to conquer even the whole territory of the Donetsk region made it impossible to pretend that the invasion was progressing according to plan. Yet, it was exactly what Putin opted to do.Read More

Putin’s Blood Trail from Syria to the Ukraine: Western Failures in the Face of Power-Play, Propaganda and De-humanization

One of the tragic side-effects of the war in Ukraine is that at long last – and unfortunately only now – the last person in the West may have come to understand what really happened in Syria, especially after Russian intervention.

This does not help those Syrians who have been suffering for more than a decade from heavy shelling of their neighbourhoods and medical facilities, who have starved to death in besieged areas, or who had to flee their home country. But the type of warfare in Syria and the Ukraine may help us to understand the broader picture and draw conclusions for the future.

Photo: Omar Haj Kadour / AFP / NTB

The change of Russian military leadership of the Ukraine campaign in April, as a consequence of military failures, shows that Putin and his entourage consider unscrupulous methods of warfare against civilians a “successful” model to follow. General Aleksandr V. Dvornikov, who led the war of submission in Syria, has now been tasked to pursue the same strategy in the Ukraine arena.Read More

Escalation of Lies and Threats Leaves Putin with Two Bad Choices

The deadlocked war has delivered Russia to an impossible situation where it can neither reckon with reality nor keep denying it.

The official discourse on and the societal response to the unfolding disaster have so far contained a peculiar mix of patriotic mobilization and pretense that normal life continues undisturbed.

A spontaneous anti-war picket, in Yekaterinburg February 24 2022. Photo: Vladislav Postnikov / Wikimedia Commons

The intensity of official propaganda has reached the climactic level, but the war is still described as a “special operation” progressing according to plan. Harsh repressions have discouraged anti-war protests, but the prevalent attitude is confused indifference to rather than active support for the brutal aggression (Meduza.io, April 24).

Neither the hysterical drum-beating nor the cynical minding of own business is sustainable for much longer, and the approaching celebrations of May 9 Victory day may mark the point where Russian neither-war-nor-peace stance would acquire a more definite and perhaps more dangerous character.Read More

Українські жінки беруть участь в опорі і мають брати участь у мирних перемовинах: результати нового опитування

Жінки є «невід’ємною частиною країни та її опору» – з таким посланням звернулася до світу президент організації «Ла Страда-Україна» Kaтeринa Чeрeпaхa,  виступаючи перед Радою Безпеки ООН у квітні.

У своєму виступі вона також підкреслила високу вразливість жінок і дівчат щодо загроз викрадення, катувань та вбивств. Тепер ми знаємо, що жінки в Україні також стоять перед загрозою сeксуaльного насильства.

Photo: Atlantic Council / Eurasia Center

Водночас Катерина Черепаха застерегла від ставлення до українок лише як до жертв російської воєнної агресії. Фокусування на жінках насамперед як на жертвах нiвелює їхню свободу дій та внесок і роль у війні, що триває. Педалювання стереотипних уявлень про жінок як про жертв може лише посилити ідеї про необхідність культури захисту, що применшує свободу дії і силу жінок.Read More

Ukrainian Women Engage in Resistance and Should Be in the Peace Talks: New Survey Evidence

Women are an “integral part of her country and its resistance.” This was the message that Kateryna Cherepakha, President of the organization La Strada-Ukraine, communicated to the world when speaking before the UN Security Council in April.

Her speech also highlighted increased vulnerability of women and girls to the threat of kidnapping, torture and killing. We now know that the threats to women in Ukraine also include being targets of sexual violence.

Photo: Atlantic Council / Eurasia Center

Yet, Cherepakha warned against viewing Ukrainian women as mere victims of the Russian military aggression. Focusing on women primarily as victims disguises their agency and contributions in the ongoing war. Fortifying stereotypical assumptions of women as victims only can reinforce ideas about the need for a protective culture in which women’s agency and power are belittled.Read More

Digital Humanitarianism in a Kinetic War: Taking Stock of Ukraine

The war in Ukraine – which can be described as an info-kinetic conflict – is the first war in a society with a relatively mature digital economy, a substantial tech sector (including a diaspora tech sector) and a high adoption rate of technology and digital platforms.

From a peace and conflict studies perspective, as of mid-spring 2022, the war in Ukraine can be understood as an information war, a war through digital diplomacy, a cyberwar, and the first war where Big Tech has actively taken a side.

Illustration: TechCrunch

For those working on the narrower topic of the digital transformation of the humanitarian sector and the politics of humanitarian technology, the initial phase of the ongoing war in Ukraine points to a number of issues that need to be better understood.Read More

No Sensible End-Game for Russia in the Badly Mismanaged War

Predictions of a decisive offensive in Donbass and speculations about peace talks have gained new intensity in both Russian propaganda and Western commentary last week – and neither makes much sense.

Artillery and air strikes on the solid Ukrainian defense lines in several key directions on the battle for Donbass have escalated, but Russian battalions, exhausted by two months of unexpectedly hard fighting (and two moths of winter camping prior to invasion) are unable to gain any ground.

Borodyanka, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda/Flickr/CC BY-2.0

The visit to Moscow and Kyiv scheduled by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for this week (after both countries celebrated Orthodox Easter) is well-intended but most probably fruitless, as President Volodymyr Zelensky can only confirm his readiness to meet with President Vladimir Putin and the latter will blame Ukraine for sabotaging negotiations and reiterate the message given to Charles Michel, President of the European Council (RIA-Novosti, April 22).Read More

Failure Looms Over Russia’s Decisive Offensive in Donbas

Triumphalist rhetoric coming out of Moscow notwithstanding, Russia’s war in Ukraine is not progressing according to plan (see EDM, April 11).

Nevertheless, President Vladimir Putin repeated yet again last week (April 12) that the central objective of the massive re-invasion of Ukrainian territory starting on February 24 purportedly was always limited to seizing the whole of the Donbas region (Kommersant, April 12).

A Ukrainian soldier walks past a Russian vehicle destroyed in a fire fight. Photo: Ivor Prickett for The New York Times / Flickr / CC BY-2.0

It took plenty of careful persuasion from the top brass to impress upon him three weeks ago that Russia’s thrice-revised original plan to capture Kyiv — by a swift attack, or a forceful breakthrough, or a long siege — could not be implemented. And notably, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has not made a single public statement or international contact since this retreat.

The allegedly newly appointed commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, Army General Aleksandr Dvornikov (Russian sources remain mum about his promotion), is presumably responsible for executing a decisive offensive in Donbas. But this latest push could well also turn out to be mission impossible (Meduza, April 13; see EDM, April 13).Read More

Putin Is Staking His Political Future on Victory in Ukraine – and Has Little Incentive to Make Peace

Despite stop-and-start peace talks, a resolution to the brutal war in Ukraine appears distant.

Putin celebrating the anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia. Moscow, March 2022.
Photo: The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

Major cities in Ukraine are faltering. Civilians, including children, are dying of shrapnel and glass wounds, exposure and thirst.

At the same time, Ukraine’s resilience and a coordinated global response means the war is not ending as many expected before it began – with Russia’s swift victory.Read More

Russia’s Quick Victory Vanishes, as Protracted War Looks Inevitable

Russia has revised its war plan multiple times during the, so far, seven-week-long, ill-conceived large-scale invasion of Ukraine, yet it still remains incompatible with both tactical imperatives and political ambitions.

Ukrainian soldiers inspecting the charred remains of a Russian military convoy in Bucha. Photo: Daniel Berehulak /NYT/Flickr/CC BY-2.0

The consecutive revisions themselves have been flawed in different ways: if the initial “Blitzkrieg” design was based on the assumption that the Ukrainian military would disintegrate, the follow-up proposition for laying siege to Kyiv presumed that the government would capitulate, while the order to execute a breakthrough toward Odesa mistakenly took for granted that Ukraine’s most important seaport had been left undefended.Read More