The proliferation of Russian attacks on Ukrainian ranks has degenerated into natural disasters. The latest aerial bombardment hit the Adatvizca chemical plant, the heaviest so far on critical infrastructure.
Journalist and correspondent in Ukraine María Senovilla has analysed on the ground for Onda Madrid's "De cara al mundo" the latest developments in the war on Ukrainian territory.
Natural disasters in the war are surfacing. The latest is the one suffered at the Adatvizca chemical plant. The smoke is said to have reached as far as Kramatorsk, some 100 kilometres away. What consequences are already being felt by the Ukrainian population?
The attack took place in the context of a new wave of massive attacks. In the last few hours, the cities of Odessa, where Putin launched more than 30 drones, and the city of Kherson, where three people were killed, were heavily attacked. On the Donetsk front, these Russian attacks were carried out by aircraft, as they have a rather terrifying destructive power. The heaviest was on the Adatvizca coke processing plant. The videos of the bombing, which caused a huge mushroom of black smoke, were shocking. The smoke reached as far as Kramatorsk.
At noon, when the attack took place, there was already a smell of iron, a smell of burning, but metallic. And the smoke, suddenly, in a few minutes, enveloped the whole city. A smoke that, moreover, was very stinging to the eyes. The town of Adatvizca, as you say, is 100 kilometres from Kramatorsk, south of Kramatorsk, so that anyone can get an idea of the scale of the attack on the chemical plant.
How important can it be in the lives of Ukrainians?
This offensive is a new attack on critical infrastructure related to heating, because coke, which is a derivative of coal, is used as heating fuel. When the cold season starts, this will affect, I don't know how many localities, but it will affect the heating system, in addition to the environmental damage it has caused. The continuous systematic shelling of the mining and industrial towns of Donetsk, where there are plants like these, is causing the release of compounds, both in the air and in the water. A release that will not be analysed now in the middle of the war, because there are other priorities, but I find it more than worrying, because all this is accumulated during 19 months of invasion.
What is the real extent of these natural disasters?
In an interview with an army officer with family in Mariupol, he told me that the real situation in the city is unknown. Mariupol has been occupied by Moscow's troops almost since the beginning of the invasion, and we all remember the intense attacks Russia launched against the Azovstal steelworks, where the Azov battalion dug in and held out for 82 days. Today, smoke continues to emanate frequently from this huge facility, which is almost half the size of the city, and there are also sections of it that are underground.
The smoke is not normal. This officer told me that one day the smoke may be blue, another day it may be yellow, that it causes coughing, that it causes discomfort in the people living nearby. So far we don't have too many details of what life is like there, because Russia has a rather secretive communication policy in the occupied territories, but there is certainly environmental damage being done that is affecting the health of all those Ukrainians living under Russian occupation in this particular city.
Possible return of the Wagner group to the eastern front: What future do you foresee for Wagner right now if they return to the eastern front?
They are already here and this has been confirmed by British intelligence services. Moreover, Putin has met with a former Wagner commander, Commander Andrey Trosev, and has issued a communiqué, not a private meeting. This confirms a report that had been circulating for days on Telegram forums, where Ukrainian soldiers claimed that Wagner troops were once again fighting on the eastern front, specifically in Bakhmut. Ukrainian army units that know exactly who they are fighting and can distinguish whether the troops are Wagner or not.
About Putin, what can you tell us about the meeting with Andrey Trosev?
As for Putin's meeting, this commander he met with is one of the founders of the mercenary group, one of the few who are there, because the Kremlin has eliminated most of Wagner's leadership after the Prigozhin rebellion. With this meeting they stage a kind of momentary peace between the Kremlin and the mercenary army and that all is well.
The truth is that Krylov's Chechen battalion, which relieved Wagner at Bakhmut, turned out to be a failure. It lasted about a week, ten days. The Ukrainian soldiers nicknamed them the TikTok battalion, because they were on this social network, which is a social network of short videos, mainly designed for young people, because they said that the TikTok battalion, the only place where they put up a fight was in these videos that they posted on the Internet. So little relevance did they have that they are no longer even heard of on the front lines in Donetsk.
What happened to the relationship between members of the Wagner group and the Russian army?
Attempts were also made to enlist Wagner mercenaries into the regular army in Moscow after Prigozhin's death by means of calls from the Kremlin to join the regular forces. In the end, it turned out that a small percentage decided to change command. The pay is not the same, the guarantees are not the same, the equipment is not the same. In short, fighting under the orders of the old Soviet generals has nothing to do with how the Wagner group works, which is quite contrary to their interests.
Moreover, and we should not forget this, we know that the Wagner Group carries the weight of a large part of Russia's interests in various African countries. And no doubt this is also a compelling reason for them to "make peace" with the Kremlin. There was talk after Prigozhin's death that another private mercenary army belonging to the current Russian defence minister might take over from the Wagners in Africa. But this has turned out to be a non-starter, and Putin is therefore regaining control, as far as possible, over the Wagner group. The interests go far beyond the war in Ukraine. We are talking about countries in the entire Sahel zone of the African continent, and also in Latin America.
Counter-offensive in Zaporiyia. The Kremlin is building a new railway line to link Mariupol with southern Russia, is there a possibility that they will have problems with logistics?
This confirms that the real significance of the seizure of this town was not the enclave itself, but that it opened the way to the city of Zaporiyia.