Russia on track to fulfilling its war goals in Ukraine:
The special military operation’ to invade Ukraine was initiated three months ago by Russian President Vladimir Putin. After three months, Russia’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine appears to be devolving into a protracted conflict. Thousands have died, millions have been displaced, and many villages have been destroyed. Both sides’ leaders insist they aren’t interested in talking about a ceasefire.
Ukraine’s president wants tougher Western sanctions to message Russia that ‘brute force’ will not work. However, Russia claims that its economy is surviving the sanctions.
On Friday, the last Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol’s port city surrendered at the Azovstal facility. The fact that at least half of them are members of the Azov regiment, which was founded by far-right militants in 2014, allows the Kremlin to claim significant success toward one of the officially announced aims of its war on Ukraine: “denazification.”
Inevitably, the Russian propaganda machine is now proudly displaying all the tattoos and patches on the surrendering Ukrainian soldiers’ uniforms that reveal their carriers’ far-right inclinations.
“Russia on track to fulfilling its war goals in Ukraine”
Pro-Kremlin outlets are disseminating footage of POWs being forced to undress and reveal their tattoos for the cameras of propaganda TV channels, in violation of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Both sides in this fight are filming POWs, including footage of their interrogation and torture.
Officials in Russia and Russia-backed unrecognized statelets in eastern Ukraine are now demanding that Azov fighters be tried. The Russian Prosecutor Office General’s petitioned the Supreme Court to label the Azov regiment a terrorist organization shortly after the siege of Azovstal ended.
This might open the door for Russia to prosecute Azov members on Russian soil as terrorists. Alternatively, the Kremlin might hold the trial in the statelets of Donetsk and Luhansk, which, unlike Russia, use capital punishment.
If Russia wasn’t also co-opting the far right, the Russian effort to highlight Ukraine’s disturbing tolerance of them would be more believable. The Rusich battalion, which is made up of open neo-Nazis from St Petersburg, is part of the infamous Wagner Group, a private army that presently fights on the Donbas front near the town of Popasna.
However, because such facts are virtually unknown to the Russian public, the Kremlin will be able to mark the goal of “denazification” as accomplished with the help of its massive propaganda machine, given that Azov is by far the most symbolic example of Ukraine’s contentious relationship with the far right.
While many in the West believe Putin wants to take all of Ukraine, Russia’s explicit territorial expansion goals announced at the start of the operation are far less aggressive. They boil down to regaining control of the full lands of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, which have been under Russian-backed rebel rule only in part since 2014.
So far, Russia’s progress in Donbas has been steady but sluggish. The Russians are close to gaining complete control of the Luhansk region, but the Donetsk region’s strongholds will be a far more difficult nut to crack.
Any Ukrainian area outside of Donetsk and Luhansk claimed by Russia is just a bonus when it comes to marketing the war to Russia’s jingoists. To persuade its supporters that it has fulfilled its objectives and declared victory, the Kremlin does not need to gain any territory outside of Donbas.
Source: Al Jazeera