Rajat Sharma

Will Ukraine accept Putin’s conditions?

AKBThe Russian armed forces closed in on Ukraine from north, east and south-east, as fighting continued for the third consecutive day. Its airborne forces, including paratroopers, have captured the Hostomel airport, 7 km outside capital Kyiv. Nearly 200 Russian helicopters were used to capture the airport, and in fierce fighting, Russia claimed to have killed nearly 200 Ukrainian Special Forces soldiers.

Russian media claimed that the southeastern city of Melitopol has been captured by Russian army, but the Mayor of the city has denied the report. There were videos of Russian armoured vehicles passing through the city streets. Russian army carried out an amphibious landing of naval infantry at a place between Melitopol and Mariupol.

The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said, 137 ‘heroes’, including 10 army officers, have been killed. On Saturday morning, there were horrific videos of a Russian missile destroying a big apartment block in capital Kyiv, with casualties still unknown. A kindergarten nursery was also hit in Russian attack, the Ukrainian ambassador to India alleged.

Experts said, Russian forces have so far occupied Chernobyl, parts of Kharkiv, Cherson and Mariupol, and are closing in on Kyiv and several other cities. Gun battles are going on in several localities of the capital Kyiv, with Ukrainian fighters taking on Russian soldiers. There were videos of gun battles near a station, 5 km away from the city center.

At the United Nations Security Council, a resolution moved by the US condemning Russian invasion of Ukraine was vetoed by Russia, while China, India and UAE abstained. India said, ‘dialogue is the only answer to settle differences and disputes, and regretted that the path of diplomacy has been given up.

On Friday night, Russia President Vladimir Putin called on the Ukrainian army to revolt against its President and political leadership. Putin called upon the Ukrainian army to remove its leaders from power, calling them “terrorists, drug addicts and neo-Nazis”. On the other hand, US, Canada, UK and European Union slapped sanctions against Putin and his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, holding them directly responsible for the “unprovoked and unlawful invasion”. The EU unanimously agreed to freeze their assets.

The Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has rejected US President Joe Biden’s offer to evacuate Kyiv. Zelenskyy said, “the fight is here: I need ammunition, not a ride”, according to a senior American intelligence official.

There were heart breaking scenes of thousands of families, including children trying to enter Poland from Ukraine, with a 40 km long tail back of cars waiting. There were visuals of people walking on foot for more than ten hours under sub-zero temperature, with several families sleeping on ice. There were images of Ukrainian kids, with masks, sitting in rows inside the subway of Kiev Metro. One report said, there were more than 50,000 people homeless after Russia invaded Ukraine.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Friday night, we showed visuals of an apartment block destroyed by Russian missiles in Starobilsk in Luhansk breakway region. The entire residential block has been reduced to ruins in the missile attack. There were visuals of survivors looking for their near and dear ones in the rubble.

In our show, we also showed videos of how children and their parents shrieked in horror, soon after siren was sounded in capital Kyiv. A Russian bomber aircraft zooms in the sky, dropping bombs, and soon most of the apartments nearby are turned into rubble.

Though Russia may claim that its army is not targeting civilians, the situation on the ground is opposite. There are visuals of hundreds of people crammed into subways and bomb shelters, cowering in fright, as siren wails, and missiles drop from the sky. There were visuals of civilians running away in fear as Russian forces begin shelling near Obolon metro station in Kiev.

The emotional words of Ukrainian president Zelenskyy sound scary: “Our country has been left alone to fight the invading Russian army. Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don’t see anyone. Who is ready to give Ukraine a guarantee of NATO membership? Everyone is afraid. We are defending Ukraine alone.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine raise several key questions about the post-Cold War order. It also relates to balance of power among the world’s mightiest armies. Has the West led by US President Joe Biden bowed to Putin’s brazen invasion? Has the Russia-China axis changed the balance of world powers? Why did the US and NATO countries refuse to send armies to defend Ukraine after making threatening statements against Russia?

Putin is clear about his motive. He wants to decapitate or dislodge the present government in Kiev and install a puppet government. The bombs and missiles that were rained on Ukraine has caused huge casualties for the common citizens.

Joe Biden may have gone to sleep after announcing sanctions against Russia daily, UK prime minister Boris Johnson may limit his actions to issuing bombastic statements against Putin, French President Macron may have disappeared from view after issuing threats to Russia, but who are the ultimate losers?

The innocent and helpless citizens of Ukraine, whose lives have turned topsy-turvy after the Russian invasion. More than a lakh Ukrainian have left their homes in search of security and safety, with their lifetime savings ruined. Their apartments have turned into rubble in front of their eyes. These are the consequences of a mindless war.

The world is disappointed over the feeble reaction from the US. It was the US President Joe Biden who had been threatening Russia to be ready to face the consequences if it invaded Ukraine, but when the crunch time came, Biden and his allies in the West decided not to send their armies to defend Ukraine. At this point of time, the people of Ukraine are at the mercy of an aggressive Russian army.

There have been worldwide anti-Russian protests in New York, Paris and other major cities, and even in St. Petersburg, Russia, where several protesters were later rounded up. Nobody in the world wants a war. Even the Russians do not want a war, with many Russians saying, it is Putin who is at war. Peace loving people across the world are praying for an early end to this invasion. Those who are fleeing their homes in sub-zero temperature, sleeping on ice, and inside subways and bomb shelters, want the war to end, immediately.

These commoners have nothing to do with this mindless war, but it is the war that is destroying their lives, and their near and dear ones. Children are being orphaned, parents are losing their sons and daughters. People across the world are sympathizing with Ukrainians for the miseries that have been heaped on them.

In this hour of crisis, I would like to appreciate the efforts being made by the Indian government to evacuate its citizens from war-torn Ukraine. Four Air India flights – three to Romania, and one to Hungary – are scheduled to operate for evacuating Indian citizens. Russian President Putin has given a personal assurance to Prime Minister Modi that instructions have been given to Russian forces to ensure the safety of Indian citizens. Indian consulate officials are active in Poland, Hungary and Romania to arrange smooth evacuation of our citizens who have crossed over from Ukraine.

There is also a question: What next? It is now clear that Putin wants to negotiate from a point of strength. He is already on record for having demanded that Ukraine must declare that it will not seek membership of NATO, two, it must announce that it will be a country in eastern Europe having ‘neutral status’, and three, it must reduce its army strength. It is not rocket science to understand that this would mean Ukraine will remain as a satellite to Russia.

This was Russia’s aim since day one. Putin has already said that Ukraine must stop following diktats from the US and NATO. It was towards this end that Putin and his army applied pressure, and are now on the verge of forcing Ukraine to accept its conditions. The world is watching these developments carefully.

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