In Other News – Ukrainian’s Remain Optimistic – 5/26/2022

May 26, 2022

Ukrainians remain optimistic in the fight against Russia, but as the war enters its fourth month Ukrainians, Russians, and many of the world’s citizens are feeling the human and economic toll. Over the past several weeks, Moscow has shifted its focus to eastern Ukraine and with 40 towns in the Donbas now under Russian fire, the region is facing extensive devastation. Outside of Kyiv and in the north where Russia has withdrawn, mass graves continue to be discovered and it’s increasingly clear the Russians see civilians as ready collateral. According to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, there are more than 11,000 ongoing war crimes cases in Ukraine with 40 suspects already identified. This week, the first Russian soldier who was tried for war crimes in Ukraine was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian. This sets a precedent for what’s to come and demonstrates Ukraine’s critical effort to document the violations and secure an accurate historic narrative for the world to see.

But Putin is trying hard to control the narrative and continuously blames the West for the disaster he’s created. As a global food crisis looms, Putin’s blaming sanctions for the shortage even while preventing Ukraine from exporting some 22 million tons of grain via the country’s Black Sea ports- many of which are reportedly heavily mined. US Secretary of State Blinken has repeatedly stated that food, fertilizer and seeds are exempt from sanctions, but this week Putin demanded that sanctions be lifted before he’ll make any changes. International pressure to get the ports open is increasing, but North Africa, the Middle East, and Africa, regions anticipated to suffer the worst from the shortage, are home to many of the same countries supporting Putin on the global stage. There’s a political misalignment happening, and if the situation isn’t resolved soon, the Ukrainian summer harvest will also be wasted, exasperating the global shortage and further plummeting Ukraine’s economy.

Further, China and Russia continue to show an overtly united front against their mutual adversaries. On Tuesday, the two nations held joint military exercises over the seas in northeast Asia while President Biden was visiting the region and meeting with Quad Security Dialogue members India, Australia, and Japan. Putin and Xi were likely trying to make a statement that they’re still strongly aligned, which is further corroborated by the consistent regurgitation of Russian propaganda throughout official Chinese state media channels. Regardless of these official efforts, the Russian narrative is a shaky one, and we’re starting to see dissent in some of the Russian military and diplomatic ranks. And while specific estimates vary, the significant number of Russian casualties since February could lead to a serious morale issue among troops, and cause increasing public dissatisfaction with the war back home.