Temperatures are steadily dropping across Ukraine. The UK Met Office predicts light (but quite cold) rain in Kyiv for the next day or two, followed by snow, snow, snow, as the mercury steadily drops to negative numbers next week.
Large areas of Ukraine, including the capital, are now without electricity most of the time. And Moscow still persists in its strategy of targeting Ukraine’s electricity supply. It is difficult to say – as the Kremlin continues to insist – that these are military targets.
Yesterday a two-day-old baby was killed when what would have been Russian missiles hit a maternity ward in Zaporizhzhia. The region is home to the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and has recently been particularly bombed.
The factory itself has been under Russian occupation since March, but the surrounding area is hotly contested. It is one of the four regions annexed by Russia at the end of September, but important areas have been taken over by the Ukrainian counter-offensive.
It is, of course, a war crime to deliberately target civilians or civilian infrastructure. But power plants are a gray area because they could be considered legitimate military targets. And, to be fair, this has been a tactic used time and time again during wars in the 20th and 21st centuries. German Zeppelins dropped bombs on Soviet power plants during World War II and the United States did the same in Vietnam and, more recently, in Iraq.
But the European Parliament has used Russia’s attacks on power plants, schools and hospitals to justify its decision this week to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism – a distinction so far given only to Cuba, Korea of the North, to Iran and Syria.
“Today the European Parliament recognized Russia as a terrorist state,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in response, adding; “And then Russia proved all of that to be true by using 67 missiles against our infrastructure, our energy grid, and ordinary people.”
Scott Lucas, international security expert at University College Dublin, believes that the EU’s decision will have few real-world consequences. Russia is already subject to a severe sanctions regime, which is one of the penalties accompanying the decision of the European Parliament. But the move will lend weight to the arguments of Western governments when it comes to continuing to provide huge packages of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine in the face of a cost-of-living crisis that is gripping all over the place.
This is our weekly roundup of expert analysis of the conflict in Ukraine. The Conversation, a non-profit discussion group, works with a wide range of academics across its global network to produce evidence-based analysis. Get these recaps delivered to your inbox every Thursday. Subscribe here.
Russia’s bombardment of Ukrainian infrastructure appears to have become Moscow’s default strategy in the face of major military setbacks in the past two months or so. We recently reported that Ukraine has reoccupied the strategically and morally important city of Kherson. It is the capital of one of the four regions annexed by Russia in September.
Military strategist Frank Ledwidge of the University of Portsmouth says the victory at Kherson paves the way for a possible advance on Crimea, which – he writes – is perceived by both sides as the “centre of gravity” of Russia, the key to the war.
It will be a far cry from Kyiv’s counter-offensives so far. As Ledwidge notes, unlike the rest of the occupied territories in Ukraine, most Russians agree that Crimea – with its majority Russian population – is legitimately Russian territory. She also proved, over the centuries and various conflicts, including the Second World War, a tough cookie.
One aspect of the war that we haven’t specifically focused on so far has been the resilience of the Ukrainian economy after nine months of conflict (kindly pointed out to us by a reader a few weeks ago). Like almost everywhere else, Ukraine found the COVID-19 pandemic very difficult, but rebounded strongly in 2021, recording GDP growth of 3.2%. But the war knocked the economy off a cliff.
Ukrainian academic Dmitriy Sergeyev, professor of economics at Bocconi University in Milan, points out how the war affected some sectors more than others. Some industries are relatively easy to outsource. For example, Ukraine’s booming IT sector has held up relatively well, but steel production and other heavy industries have been hit hard. For Ukraine’s hugely important agricultural sector, the decision to renew the grain deal will bring welcome export revenue, which – he says – may even be enough to plant for the next season.
The outlook for the Russian economy, meanwhile, “bodes ill for Vladimir Putin’s ability to finance Russia’s war in Ukraine”, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report, which adds that “mobilization, sanctions and falling energy prices” are hurting Russia. wrong.
Alexander Hill, a Canadian-based researcher with a particular interest in Russian affairs, reports in The Conversation that The mobilization has hit Russian industry quite hard, causing labor shortages in key areas.
But, writes Hill, a bumper harvest allowed Russia to export huge quantities of grain, while the replacement of Western companies that withdrew from Russia after the war began with new Russian companies. (McDonald’s, for example, has been replaced by a hamburger chain called Vkusno i tochka – “Tasty, full stop”). Inflation is falling and pensions, wages and the minimum wage would keep pace. Hill thinks the West may have underestimated Russia’s ability to deal with sanctions.
Banksy in Ukraine
One of the recurring themes in reports from Ukraine since the invasion began in February has been the high morale of Ukrainians, both civilian and military. On the home front, in particular, this has been supported by an explosion of eye-catching artwork that builds the resilience of the Ukrainian people and culture.
Now it looks like Banksy, the Scarlet Pimpernel of graffiti artists, has done his part to help. Earlier this month, Banksy posted on his Instagram a picture of a gymnast doing a handstand, painted on the side of a building devastated by shelling in Borodyanka in the Kyiv region.
He later confirmed that he was responsible for six other works of art in Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine, including one depicting Vladimir Putin thrown by a child during a judo match. War historian Rachel Kerr of King’s College London to the story.
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