With a tight-fitting executioner that exposes only his nose and eyes and a rifle over his shoulder, Officer Sergei points to a modest building full of holes from the bombing: “Would you like to come to our house and thank us? expect? We paid them and we will continue to do so,” he says. “This is our land.” In the first week of March, Russian tanks and armored vehicles entered Kulbakino, a small town next to Mikolyev (in the south of the country), a town known for its shipyards that fought Ukrainian resistance against forces. One of the symbols of of the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin’s soldiers, with their gloomy white jade on their armored vehicles, had already taken Kherson to the Black Sea, which has been their biggest occupation, and were advancing to the southern shore, Ukraine’s main port of Odessa. longed to reach. , In the first attack, they managed to control the Kulbakino military airfield, a factory and some strategic parts of the small town. The fighting was fierce, but in a fierce counterattack, Ukrainian troops eliminated most of the Russian battalion and drove back the Kremlin forces.
Even on the southern front, where they were making their greatest advances, Putin’s forces are not only stuck a month after launching the offensive, they are also running into stiff resistance from soldiers whom the president has called. Vladimir Putin underestimated and forced them to return. some points. At the Kulbakino factory where Russian troops were strengthened, there are still remains of bloody battles. The Ukrainian military is still cleaning it up. “The landscape,” notes the officer with a shrug to Sergei, “does not please the eye.” Kyiv troops neutralized “90%” of the “between 250 and 300” uniformed Kremlin soldiers who launched an operation against Kulbkino and also managed to capture a string of cannons and some burnt armour. “Now they are ours,” says Sergei, as he points to a post-war video showing weapons, scorched earth and battle relics.
On Friday, amid a lack of adequate progress in the conquest, significant losses in weapons and personnel and enormous difficulties the handle For the sake of the population in the conquered cities and to maintain its advantage, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it had met the objectives of the “first phase of the operation” and would focus on securing the Donbass region, where it would Eight has been waged for the war between Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists backed and controlled by Moscow and who are serving as a screen for the conflict that began on 24 February.
This statement allows the Kremlin to maintain repeated rhetoric to its audience that everything is going according to plan, and may suggest that Putin is reneging on his intentions in Ukraine. It was, however, flooded from the beginning with declarations contrary to reality by Russian officials—announcement of the army’s withdrawal in early February, that they had no intention of invading Ukraine—which had already proved its taste for maneuver. have performed. Its tactical operation, the announcement raises serious doubts. Moscow also assured that although it “does not exclude” that its forces attack main Ukrainian cities – such as Kyiv, Kharkov, Chernigov or Mikolaiv – taking them was not the main objective.
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And in another paradox, the Kremlin this Saturday returned to brush off the threat of the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Former President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, assured that the Eurasian country has a “right” to use nuclear weapons against a state that “endangers the existence of Russia”, even if That state may have used weapons conventionally.
Furthermore, following the announcement that they would focus on the Donbass region in the east, Russian forces continued to forcefully punish Chernigov in the country’s northeast, very close to the border with Belarus and a city now practically After Putin is surrounded. Soldiers bombarded the bridge through which a trapped and frightened civilian was leaving the city; Notably this week after an attack on a bread queue that killed ten people. Also Jarkov, the second city in the country, where he continues his attacks on residential areas. This Saturday, in another order, Moscow has launched missiles against the surroundings of Lviv, in the country’s west, a city that serves as a refuge for refugees fleeing Poland. Also, an attack, the day US President Joe Biden is visiting Warsaw.
The US leader remarked this Saturday that the Russian declaration is not to be believed. Western spy services also doubt Putin’s true intentions. And Kyiv has reacted with great skepticism. Mijello Podoliak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky and one of the main negotiators in the talks with Moscow, has warned that the Kremlin has not given up on its true intentions to take over the major cities, on which it plans bloody and casualty attacks due to its lack of achievements. is implementing. , “They will take advantage of the announcement to regroup,” Podoliac says. An intelligence official from a Central European country, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believes the announcement is a tactical maneuver that Moscow will take advantage of, analyze its position and interests, and prepare for a second phase of the conflict. Will do Meanwhile, Putin needs something to sell As a victory between now and May 9, when the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany is celebrated and the day which is unofficially a Russian national holiday, accompanied by a great military parade in Moscow’s Red Square.
The construction of a land corridor between Crimea – which Russia invaded and illegally occupied in 2014 – and the Donbass region which it controls through pro-Russian separatists, and the conquest of Mariupol, the port city wrecked by the attacks What has diminished in me and has become a symbol of civilian suffering, may it bring you that victory. With an additional component: the city, which is in the southern region of the Donbass, is the main headquarters of the Azov Battalion, founded in 2014 by ultra-nationalist volunteers (now renumbered and converted into the second branch of the Ukrainian National Guard). With indiscriminate attacks on citizens, schools, hospitals, shelters, bread queues, it was facing the reality of a city that could marry its “disclaimer” and adulterated rhetoric about the liberation campaign.
An in-depth report by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War also warned that Russia’s announcement is actually aimed at Russian citizens. It is “an attempt to shed light on the failures of the Russian military to a national audience and to focus attention on the only part of the landscape where Russian troops are making any progress at this point,” he notes. For now, the main Russian achievements have been in some areas of the East and South. The Ukrainian military warned this Saturday that Kremlin forces are regrouping for a new offensive in the Lugansk region, where they are attacking residential buildings and food warehouses.
With the new moves, the Kremlin could seek to encircle Ukrainian forces stationed on the front lines of the Donbass – already highly militarized by the Eight Years’ War and which just days before the invasion strengthened Kyiv with fears that attacks would be carried out from there. came, which revealed the other realms – from the north and from the south.
The Kremlin has managed to regain control of the Azov Sea and, in the absence of total subjugation of Mariupol, where thousands of people are still trapped under bombs in a dire situation, it has also built a long-awaited land corridor. , However, despite early victories on that flank, advancing on the Black Sea coast has been complicated for Putin. After the Battle of Kulbakino and other strategic battles in the surrounding towns, Ukrainian forces are already fighting the Russians in Kherson, the only occupied territorial capital. With Ukrainian retaliation in full swing, the Pentagon considers Kherson a “disputed territory”.
With the forced withdrawal of Russian troops, a relative peace is reached in Mikolaiv, which has become a city. shield A very high human cost has been paid for Odessa and for its resistance. On Friday, President Zelensky appointed him Hero CityA prize from Soviet times to cities that resisted Nazism and saved a Ukrainian leader in this war.
As they fell back and saw that they were losing control of the city, Russian troops opened fire on four humble apartment buildings in Kulbakino. There, Mizael fears that this relative calm – the gunfire can be heard from afar – will not last. He has filled the Lada car he is wearing and is on his way to the dacha (country house) with his wife. He says he was lucky, one of the attacks landed on his building, but on the other portal. The apartments on the fourth and fifth floors are littered with rubble and rubble. There was no death. Its residents were in the shelter when the bombs arrived. A deep, dark and damp shelter in which 63-year-old Galina and Lyudmila have been sleeping since the beginning of the invasion: 30 nights on mattresses.
Mikolev remains a priority target for the Kremlin and is within range of Russian artillery. On Monday, a bombing targeting the administration building ended in a hotel. Another, in a psychiatric hospital that was under renovation and against a few houses next to the health centre. It was noon and Valentina was sitting in bed peeling potatoes for lunch when she realized the windows of her ground-floor one-bedroom apartment were shattered and took a piece of the roof with her. She trembles like a pudding when she remembers the noise. Her husband, Boris, who is 69 years old, still works as a builder to meet the meager pension of 180 euros a month, with his head in his hands. “And in the meantime, Putin’s fascists in their bunkers.” Valentina corrected him: “putler [una adaptación del nombre del líder ruso y el de Adolf Hiltler]Now we call him Putler.”