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The world looks on in horror as the stakes continue to rise in Ukraine

By Harry Brown
01 March 2022

By Harry Brown

Six days on from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the world holds its breath as the stakes continue to rise.  

The last 24 hours has seen the bombardment of Ukraine’s second-biggest city, Kharkiv, including the iconic freedom square and opera house. Russian forces now surround the southern city of Kherson, whilst the port town of Mariupol has been fired on, and American satellite images show a 40-mile-long Russian convey is now less than 18-miles from Kyiv. Whilst it is believed over 400 mercenaries from the Russian backed Wagner Group are in Ukraine with orders to assassinate the Ukrainian President.  

President Zelensky, on the other hand, claims Ukrainian forces have killed over 5,000 Russian soldiers, and the Ukrainian President continues to produce motivational videos and even submitted a symbolic application to join the European Union.  

This follows the breakdown of talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations on the Belarussian border, indicating that the end to this bloody conflict is not yet on the horizon.  

We now enter a stage where an unpredictable conflict looks set for escalation. The resistance from Ukraine and the united response from the West has pushed Moscow into a position where President Putin may seek more decisive action.  

At this point of the conflict, the Russian military has held back using its full might. The Russian Air Force, which flexed its muscles in Syria, has yet to unleash its full capabilities, whilst over a third of the Russian army remains on the border yet to enter the conflict. 

It is hard to tell whether this was a miscalculation on the Russian side or a deliberate tactic. Either way, Putin now finds himself in a position his inner circle had not anticipated. To sanction the full might of the Russian military on Ukraine and, in the process, kill civilians and wipe out historical cities of a neighbour that has such close cultural and linguistic ties to Russia was not part of the initial plan.  

Another miscalculation from the Russian regime has been the unified response of the West. Decisive sanctions from the EU, UK and US have all but wiped out the market economy that Russia has built over the last 30 years. Since the outbreak of war, the ruble has hit an all-time low, long queues at ATMs have been reported in Moscow, and inflation soared on imported items such as iPhones and cars. Yesterday, the UK bought forward an Economic Crime Bill to help root out ‘dirty money’, and the EU is increasingly likely to exile further Russian banks from the crucial SWIFT banking system.  

This is combined with widespread condemnation from international sports stars, social media companies and celebrities, including the daughter of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovic, Sofia. Sporting bodies FIFA, UEFA and Formula 1 have also closed the door to Russian participation, leaving Russia isolated from some of the most prestigious global spectacles. Russian tennis star Daniil Medvedev and racing driver Nikita Mazpien have spoken of their disillusion and sadness at the situation, whilst Russian social media influencers have shared images of the atrocities being committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.  

The Russian regime is famed for its ability to control the message and even promote disinformation; however, it seems to be losing the comms war. It wasn’t ready for the backlash from the West nor Russia’s global citizens and now finds itself in a precarious situation.  

Ultimately where this war goes next is impossible to tell. French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday tweeted his willingness to talk to Putin and look for a way out. However, with the Russian regime increasingly cutting an isolated figure, it may feel escalation is their only way out of this truly awful conflict.