Ukraine war update

AFP/JUAN BARRETO - Vehículos blindados destruidos en la carretera en Balakliya, región de Kharkiv
AFP/JUAN BARRETO - Destroyed armoured vehicles on the road in Balakliya, Kharkiv region

June 6th, and the start of the next phase of Putin’s war, The Special Military Operation, is underway, except we were thinking it was the Ukrainians who would be making the move. However, in a surprise to stun us all the Nova Kakhovka dam across the Dnipro River upstream from Kherson was breached by, most likely, the setting off of land mines by the Russians, which they placed there last year. The result does not look like it was aerial created, albeit seeing it remotely, is my view of the damage. The Russians have blamed the Ukrainians, naturally denied, but it is more likely to have been rogue elements of the Russian forces denying a key access point for the threatening Ukrainian counter-offensive, without understanding the wider implications on a global scale.

With the Russians using mercenaries, such as the Wagner group, which includes a good number of doubtful characters, the Russian no longer control all of the armed forces reputedly fighting for their so-called cause. Incidents have been recorded which are totally unacceptable, the worst of war crimes. Of course, these are all denied!

The damage is devastating and the cost of repair, which is absolutely necessary, will be in the billions of dollars and will take 5 years, the current estimate. The important city of Kherson, currently under water, will be different, but the people are strong and with outside help can restore it to its former state. I have borne witness to a similar situation in Aceh, Indonesia after the horrific tsunami disaster in 2004, when much of Banda Aceh was flattened. This can and must be done and I would expect the UN to lead in the necessary rehabilitation and reconstruction. The added difficulty here is the continuing shelling by the Russians. This must stop while repair work is undertaken or else there must be the severest of consequences.

Expecting the Ukrainian counteroffensive and the BRICS Summit 

One issue that has not yet received attention which will be desperately required, however, is the devastation to the thousands of hectares (1,000,000 ha) of prime farm land, the important Ukrainian wheat belt. From this it was expected to feed many peoples in Africa, who will be otherwise starving. This is a very serious problem. The UN will be very concerned. It shows there is little margin for upset of this magnitude in global food distribution. In fact, this is such a disaster, the UN with as much of the world backing as possible, should move quickly, set the ground rules, no missiles and drones of bad intention, and treat the matter with all of the seriousness it deserves.

Meantime, we hear of a group of Russians who object to the Kremlin line, and have sided with the Ukrainians to undertake skirmishes into the Russian border town of Belgorod. The Ukrainians will have to be careful that it is clear that they are not seen to be involved in order to maintain NATO support.

There is no doubt that the Ukrainian counter-offensive will have to be rethought, in the south particularly, after the way across the Nova Kakhovka dam has been temporarily closed, which will have been the Russian intention. 

The BRICS grouping of countries is due to meet in August in S Africa. The BRICS countries comprise Brazil, Russia, India, China, and S Africa and include some 40% of the world’s population and has about the same GDP as Europe, albeit Europe’s GDP/capita is significantly more. The question remains whether Vladimir Putin will travel to S Africa, and risk being picked up as a War Criminal for which he has already been indicted in the Hague court for crimes committed in the Ukraine war. This will greatly embarrass the S African government, who have ‘’hummed and hawed’’ over what they would do. Like many African countries they are beholden in some ways to the Russian government, albeit China is much the bigger player of the two communist regimes of note. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has already been to S Africa to prepare the way.

The next weeks and months are important in the Ukraine war. Attention will be divided between the war itself and the awaited Ukraine counter- offensive, and the huge clean up works that the breaking of the Nova Kakhovka dam has created.

Dr J Scott Younger, International Chancellor of the President University, Honorary Senior Research Fellow of the Glasgow University  and member of IFIMES Advisory Board 

IFIMES – International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has Special Consultative status at ECOSOC/UN since 2018. and it’s publisher of the international scientific journal “European Perspectives”.