As Russia degrades Ukraine’s electrical system near the European winter, in the new and dangerous phase of the neighboring country’s war, Moscow has further heightened the nuclear tension that permeates the crisis between Vladimir Putin’s government and the West.
In a week of deliberate attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Russia destroyed 30% of the country’s power plants it invaded on February 24. New actions on Tuesday (18) left parts of Kiev and other parts of the country in the dark and without water supply again.
The accusation was made by President Volodymyr Zelensky on Twitter, while the capital city hall confirmed two deaths this morning (dawn in Brazil). He called the attacks “terrorist”, leaving “no room for negotiations with the Putin regime”.
Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko urged residents to conserve energy and save drinking water. In Jitomir, Mayor Serhii Sukhomlin said that the blackout and lack of supplies are total. “Hospitals are using generators,” he told the public website Suspilne.
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, in turn once again made clear the Kremlin’s nuclear threat. Asked by reporters whether the four Ukrainian territories annexed on the 30th of this month were under the Russian atomic umbrella, he was clear.
“All these territories are an inalienable part of the Russian Federation and they are all protected. Security is at the same level as the rest of Russian territory,” he said. It is not yet known, however, exactly which border he is talking about, as Moscow does not fully control the occupied areas.
On the other hand, in recent weeks there has been an apparent stabilization of the front lines that Zelensky had managed to break through in Kherson (south) and Dontesk (east) – the latter province under Putin’s least control, with about 60% of the territory in his hands. russians.
Part of the dynamic was changed after the attack attributed to Ukraine on the bridge connecting Crimea, annexed by Putin in 2014, to mainland Russia, on the 8th of last month. Two days later, with a new commander installed in the field, the Russians began to attack civilian infrastructure targets with long-range missiles and swarms of kamikaze drones.
Peskov was also asked about the drones, purchased from the allied Tehran regime, which has an advanced program in the area. He said the Kremlin “ignores” the use of such weapons, although there is abundant photographic and imaging evidence.
According to a Russian military analyst, speaking anonymously to SheetMoscow bought 2,000 to 3,000 of these robot planes, which drop an explosive charge on targets — hence the nickname, which refers to Japanese suicide pilots in the final stage of World War II.
As they cost about $20,000 each, compared to up to $13 million for an advanced cruise missile, the lack of accuracy and ease of interception make up for it. This is from a military and psychological point of view, because on the ground the result is more civilian deaths, given that the precision of the devices is lower.
In any case, from a war narrative point of view, Putin’s new orientation somehow managed to buy time and change the tone of the negative news for Moscow, domestically, of course. It is an apparent reconquest of initiative, accompanied by the announced end of the unpopular mobilization of 222,000 reservists for the conflict.
The other leg of this tactic is the nuclear issue, which had been raised since the beginning of the war by Putin and other officials. The same military analyst is an adherent of the thesis shared this Tuesday by the commander of the Norwegian Armed Forces, according to which the threat to Russia is what matters.
The price of an attack, even with a low-powered tactical weapon, would be politically priceless and bring real risks of escalation. The Russian pondered, however, that he also thought that Putin would never actually invade Ukraine.
Be that as it may, Peskov kept the flame of doubt burning. It may, however, light a path to an end to the conflict, signaling what Moscow would consider its terms: the extirpation of 18% of its neighbor, out of the 4% it already controlled in Crimea. Kiev rejects this, but the tension and continuing energy crisis over Russian gas in Europe could put pressure on governments.
The renewed nuclear threat comes a day after the US-led military alliance NATO began its annual tactical atomic strike simulation exercise. Steadfast Noon unfolds in Belgium, the UK and the North Sea, involving 60 planes, including B-52 strategic bombers.
To complicate matters, NATO expects the start of the annual Russian simulation, Grom-2022, in the next few days, which in other editions involved several strategic forces, with missile launches and the use of submarines.
Adding mystery to the charged atmosphere, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace unexpectedly canceled a trip to Parliament and traveled to Washington to discuss security issues. His deputy James Heappey told Sky News TV that Wallace “was going to have the kind of conversation that … it’s unbelievable really, the fact is that we’re in a time where that kind of conversation is needed.”
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