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Izyum Counteroffensive And Ukraine Updates 

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By: Arindam Mukherjee
Updated: September 14, 2022 17:21
Ukraine President Zelensky visited his soldiers in the newly liberated city of Izyum
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There was a sudden scramble of big proportions a few days ago among the Ukraine watchers: Russian special operations forces had retreated! It so happened that the Ukrainian forces organised a counteroffensive and they pushed the Russian forces out from Izyum and a couple of important points in the Kharkov Oblast.  

The Russians defending the region were mostly conscripted men of the Luhansk People’s Republic; they were spread thin and had too little artillery support. In short, they were quite an easy target if a regular army unit were to make a determined push. The Ukrainians had moved extremely fast and hard with armoured trucks, tanks, and artillery support topped by HIMARS systems. The local resistance had no chance. 

The western media immediately hailed this as a major victory, a new chapter in the Ukrainian war where Ukraine would turn things around. They argued that Donetsk and Luhansk were next. And some went to the extent that Ukrainian forces would eventually move into Russia in time. The alternate media, quite taken aback at the scale of tactical blunder made by the Russians, tried to find reasons behind the retreat, some arguing that this could be a Russian trap to draw the Ukrainians in. 

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To be fair to the mainstream media triumphalism and Russia fans’ sense of desperation, if Kharkov isn’t important for Russia (there are no plans for a referendum there) then there was little point in occupying it. It was a blunder no doubt; we just do not know the proportion of it yet.  

However, there are a few points beyond the Izyum retreat that need a look. Entanglement with day-to-day affairs makes one miss the woods for the trees, so it would be good to recall the original plan that Russia had tabled in February. That had to do with the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, the geographic liberation of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the securing of Mariupol as a land corridor to Crimea. Couple of us argued that cutting off Black Sea access was also a plan – one that Putin did not go public with.  

Today, Ukraine’s defence industry has been reduced to rubble. Mariupol has been secured. Luhansk liberation has been achieved. Crimea’s permanent representative to the Kremlin, Georgy Muradov has (endorsed our Black-Sea-belief when he) proclaimed the necessity to reintegrate all the land of Crimea, the Northern Black Sea and the Sea of Azov into a single block in the near future. This means Odessa is a definite target too. Denazification – frankly, easier said than done – is also in progress (though we think this is optics). 

Russia also wanted to topple Kiev. And the SMO had moved quickly and surrounded it too. There was a time back in March when Kiev wanted to negotiate, but it was a Boris Johnson visit that put a stop to it, with Zelensky surrendering to the NATO proposal of unlimited arms and a fight back to the last Ukrainian. The Russian SMO has pulled back since; focussing on Mariupol and Kherson. The control lines have also remained fairly stable since then – an indication that Russia had achieved their first-round objectives. The Izyum counteroffensive could change that.  

Russia, since the Izyum affair, has begun employing missiles to take down Ukrainian power stations, communication stations and related infrastructure. This is a first; since Russian forces never targeted basic infrastructure between February and August. The Ukrainian forces have continuously been targeting and bombing their infrastructure in Russian-occupied territories. They have even sent missiles targeting infrastructure in Russia (Belgorod). The Zaporozhye power station has been under relentless attack from the Ukrainians. They have bombed their power infrastructure in Donetsk over days, in an organized manner and fashion.  

This behaviour is essentially NATO. The US bombs civilian infrastructure like power stations, rail/road connectivity, water supply etc while invading and sacking a country. They have done it in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans. It seems Russia has now taken to replying in the same fashion. Vladimir Putin, while addressing the Duma had once remarked ‘… by and large, we have not started anything in earnest yet’. Evidently so, because Russia has done nothing much to stop the flow of NATO weapons. Russia has avoided damaging civilian infrastructures up till now, as they have been exceptionally careful about the loss of civilian lives.  

So what are we to make out of this recent Izyum retreat? Just this, that such back and forth will continue. Russia has pushed in and has been pushed out a few times during the past few months. War is a highly volatile engagement and it keeps changing shape by the hour; control lines (that were fairly stable until recently) keep moving. And this has been augmented largely by the reluctance of Vladimir Putin.  

The probable reason could be that unknown to most of us, Ukraine has already been marked for control. The eastern (Russian-speaking) industrial side of the country is what Russia aims for. They are exercising caution about civilian lives and infrastructure because they have in mind to rebuild the same when the dust settles. The West is targeting western Ukraine (the agricultural belt) having secured access already to 17 million hectares of fertile land (courtesy Monsanto, Dupont etc as faces with BlackRock and Vanguard etc as the main owners). That is half of the Ukrainian farmlands. Russia might make a push for control up to the Dnieper River again in the near future, as the conflict wears down the Ukrainian side, but is expected to maintain its focus on Kherson, Mariupol and Crimea with an aim to secure Odessa and cut off Ukrainian access to the Black Sea. 

And finally an obligatory reminder: The cost of these would be massive. From Ukraine to Europe, the entire landscape would be left to bear the brunt of NATO adventurism and its hangover. The only way to stop this is if France, Germany, etc prime West European states realize the incredible stupidity behind pushing their people towards a socio-economic disaster by being a puppet of Joe Biden and decide to stop dancing to his tunes. Ukraine’s map won’t be the same again, but it might just save the rest of Europe.

 

Arindam Mukherjee is a geopolitical enthusiast and the author of JourneyDog Tales, The Puppeteer, and A Matter of Greed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author’s own

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