A pivotal point in Ukraine war

THIS SHIP HAS SUNK This Dec. 17, 2015 file photo shows the Russian missile cruiser Moskva patrolling in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Syria. AFP FILE PHOTO

THIS SHIP HAS SUNK This Dec. 17, 2015 file photo shows the Russian missile cruiser Moskva patrolling in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Syria. AFP FILE PHOTO

THE sinking last week of the Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet, could be a pivotal point in the war in Ukraine.

The Moskva went under after being struck by missiles launched by Ukrainian forces.

Moscow has been reluctant to confirm that the vessel was hit by enemy fire. The official account is that a fire had spread uncontrollably through the ship, causing it to sink.

The loss of the Moskva has no doubt lifted the spirits of the Ukrainian people, who have been living the nightmare of war for more than a month. But the incident is said to have further infuriated Vladimir Putin, whose goal of a swift victory in Ukraine has been shattered by the stiff resistance put up by an undermanned but fiercely determined Ukrainian resistance.

And here is where the danger lies. Putin is a leader who does not countenance humiliation or defeat. The failure of the Russian blitzkrieg has forced him to order troops to fall back and regroup for a new offensive.

The general behind the debacle has been summarily fired and replaced with Aleksandr Dvornikov, labeled as the “Butcher of Syria,” for his ruthlessness as the commander of Russian forces called in by the Assad government to help quell a rebellion in Aleppo in 2012.

Dvornikov's tactics included torture, systematic rape and the use of chemical agents. His credentials must have impressed Putin, who feels that Dvornikov is just the general to turn around the flagging Russian campaign in Ukraine.

Putin is also not about to let the sinking of the Moskva go unpunished. Cluster munitions, banned by international conventions, have rained down on Ukrainian cities, and the munitions factory where the missiles that sank the warship were manufactured came under heavy bombardment.

While Russian forces were raising havoc in the ground, Moscow was warning the United States to desist from further supplying the Ukrainian fighters with weapons, or suffer “unpredictable consequences.” The US has stepped up arms aid to Kyiv, shipping attack helicopters and drones and 40,000 howitzer rounds. The “consequences” were not enumerated, but Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy believes that Russia is preparing “a new stage of terror” that could involve the use of chemical weapons.

The new Russian thrust and the buildup of military arms for Ukrainian forces are unsettling signs that the conflict is about to enter a more bloody phase. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 3,455 civilians killed and 2,038 injured since the Russian invasion was launched on February 24.

The agency said most of the civilian casualties were from “the use of explosives with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple rocket systems, and missile and air strikes.”

There is mounting evidence, too, that before they were redeployed, Russian troops had gone on a killing spree. Satellite images showed more than 300 dead bodies of civilians lying on the streets of Bucha, a city near Kyiv. Some of them had their hands bound and were shot in the back of the head, execution-style.

Similar massacres of civilians in other Ukrainian towns have emerged, triggering condemnations that Russian troops had committed genocide. Moscow has been fending off the allegation, labeling the incidents as a “hoax.”

These recent developments are making it more difficult to pave the path to peace in Ukraine. It also prolongs the global economic crunch that the war has triggered.

When the Ukraine conflict first erupted, some of our officials confidently declared that it was too far to affect the Philippines. But we are already feeling the fallout from that war. Fuel prices have been skyrocketing, a direct consequence of the trade restrictions clamped by the US and its allies on Russia. Ukraine and Russia are also the world's biggest growers of wheat, so expect the prices of local bread and other bakery products to soar as well.

But more importantly, we cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of the Ukrainian people and the shocking atrocities committed by the forces that have invaded their land.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

Check Also

Super majority in Congress should be more productive

POLITICAL allies of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. have a supermajority in Congress, and yet they …