Russia-Ukraine crisis

[OPINION] Russia’s war against Ukraine: For whom the bell tolls

Olexander Nechytaylo
[OPINION] Russia’s war against Ukraine: For whom the bell tolls

PROTEST. Demonstrators hold flags and a sign during a 'Stand with Ukraine' rally against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in front of the White House in Washington, February 28, 2022.

Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

'Make no mistake – in time we will rebuild our beautiful country. And Russia will pay for every life lost...'

It has been almost a month since Russia made a mockery of international law and the United Nations Charter by waging a full-scaled cruel war on my country. Moscow openly challenged the world by putting into question the right of every nation to lead its existence free from external interference, subversion, or coercion. 

So, where do we stand now, and what is the end game? 

First and most obvious fact: Russia failed to achieve its immediate military objectives. Kremlin’s pipedream of a blitzkrieg has been forgotten like it never even existed. All major cities across Ukraine remain under control of the Ukrainian government. At the time of writing this article, the enemy lost almost 15,000 personnel, including 6(!) generals, 476 tanks, 96 airplanes, 118 helicopters, and countless vehicles, equipment, and axillary hardware. Some of the most elite units, including the Pskov Air Assault division, Taman Motor Rifle division, and Ulyanovsk Air Assault brigade were practically annihilated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Even human resources, something that has never been lacking and therefore hardly had any value to Russian leaders, is running out.

Last week, Defense Minister Shoigu signed off the clearance to engage 17 to 18-year-old teenagers to fight in Ukraine. In fact, the losses are incomparable to any other military campaign led by Russia so far. The brilliant strategy of the Ukrainian Armed Forces proved to be very effective. More importantly, the Russians failed to break our people’s morale and our will to resist. Even in the areas where the aggressor managed to move forward, the civil disobedience and defiance of the locals came as a shock to the occupiers, who naively believed their own propaganda promising a “walkover.”

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Losing momentum and motivation, the invaders resorted to the tactics they had widely used in Chechnya in Syria – indiscriminate massive attacks against the civilian population. Cities with millennia of history were flattened to rubble. The world is witnessing a global-scale humanitarian catastrophe, as Ukrainians pay a heavy price for their freedom: 4,000 civilian casualties, including 115 kids, 6.5 million internally displaced persons, and 3.5 million refugees in Europe. Following the referrals of 39 countries, the UN’s International Criminal Court opened an investigation into the war crimes committed by the invaders. Due to the scale of the atrocities and the complexity of the prosecution, there are growing calls for establishing a special international tribunal for the Russian war against Ukraine.    

Internationally, Moscow has lost access to the global banking system and financial markets. They are being increasingly isolated in their ability to trade, travel ,and compete in sports. Putin has become toxic; even his close allies seemed to be taken aback by his irrational moves. Russia has broken a record (if there’s such thing) through becoming a global leader by the number of sanctions imposed against it. There are some skeptical voices as to their effectiveness, but the plain truth is that the Russian economy is going down at an astonishing speed. Clearly, for oligarchs and the Kremlin goons, Putin is no longer the source of wealth and power – and is more of a liability. They are used to enjoying all the luxuries from the countries they claim to despise; their children study, live, and until recently had businesses in the “so much hated” West. Will they be ready to give it all up?   

Last but surely not least – it has been a test of quality leadership. While the “strongman” is hiding in the bunker and keeping a few meters’ distance during rare and carefully orchestrated public appearances, President Zelenskiy has shown extraordinary bravery by refusing to leave Kyiv, encouraging Ukrainians from the streets of the national capital, and finding time to address parliaments across the globe.  

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Make no mistake – in time we will rebuild our beautiful country. And Russia will pay for every life lost, every house destroyed, and every child orphaned because of their aggression. But for now, each member of the international community must cease contact with Russia at all levels, particularly when it comes to the officials, diplomats, and military command directly responsible for planning and committing the war crimes in Ukraine. Some ASEAN countries have a long history of defense and military cooperation with Moscow, but let’s be very clear here: there will be no more business as usual. Almost all major international brands from all industries already said “No!” to Russia. 

Similarly, responsible media should not fall into the trap of false narratives and brutal disinformation that mislead the public and incite distrust and hatred. Russia is an outlaw, and it ought to be treated accordingly.  

Four weeks into the war, the clock on the Spasskaya tower of Kremlin is ticking. Every hour the peal of the bells gets louder. What started as a fake “denazification” may well end up as a genuine and comprehensive “deputinization.” – 

Olexander Nechytaylo is the Non-resident Ambassador of Ukraine to the Philippines.

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