Zelensky is caught between the devil and the deep sea
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived in Kyiv on June 16, 2023, to discuss his country’s peace proposals with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Ramaphosa then proceeded to St. Petersburg for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The African diplomatic initiative, however, failed because both the Ukrainian and Russian sides deemed the proposed terms to be unrealistic and unacceptable from their respective perspectives. Furthermore, Washington is determined to continue the counter offensive. On June 16, the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Miley informed the media that the US-NATO are currently training more than 6000 Ukrainians, in 40 locations, in 65 courses, in 33 nations, on 3 continents. This considerably reduces the space for meaningful negotiations for peace, although the alleged number of trainees is not large enough to make a difference in the war, given that it will take a long time for them to be combat-ready.
Members of the US-led Atlantic Alliance are increasingly wary of Washington’s leadership of the proxy war with Russia, but none has found the gumption to walk away. French President Emmanuel Macron, however, exposed the fractures within the alliance on June 14 by seeking an invitation for the BRICS Summit to be hosted by South Africa in August 2023. Regardless of whether he is invited or not, the old ideological and geopolitical walls are fast eroding. Earlier in April, Macron visited Beijing and asked Europe to exercise more strategic autonomy.
Ukraine’s problems, however, are far more complex. After the drone attack on the Kremlin (May 3, 2023), which Moscow claimed was an attempt on the life of President Putin, the Ukrainians allegedly blew up the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Dam (June 6) to prevent further inroads by Russia.
Veteran and political commentator, Col. Douglas Macgregor, alleged that the dam “was approved for demolition by Victoria Nuland. She’s been involved in everything happening in Ukraine for at least 14-15 years if not longer.” Journalist Seymour Hersh observed that the resignation of Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (effective June 30) has caused anxiety in the State Department that Victoria Nuland, undersecretary for political affairs, could succeed her and further harden US attitude towards Russia.
After the attack on the Kremlin, Zelensky who was on a visit to Finland, visited the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France and Britain, before finally returning on May 15, with new defence packages and support for the Ukrainian peace formula. The Kiev plan involves the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities, and the restoration of Ukraine’s internationally recognized state borders, including Crimea. Later, he visited Saudi Arabia for the Arab League summit (May 19) and the G7 Summit in Japan (May 21).
In reality, Zelensky is caught between the devil and the deep sea. While his regime is totally dependent on the West for survival, the Ukrainian army is incapable of winning the war, despite the receipt of billions of dollars of costly military equipment. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, in an interview with Stephen Gardner, asserted that Washington was aware that Kiev cannot succeed in the conflict with Moscow and plans to sacrifice Zelensky to cover up the sabotage of the North Stream gas pipeline and Kakhovka hydropower plant.
The war is going badly for Ukraine. On May 21, Wagner private army chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced, “Not a single Ukrainian military was left in Bakhmut, because we stopped taking prisoners, there are a huge number of corpses of the Ukrainian military.” Prigozhin said that the last Ukrainian soldier ran across the road, dressed in women’s clothes. “He was shot. We take no prisoners.”
But the blowing up the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Dam that could damage the cooling systems of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, has given a new edge to the conflict with Moscow. The dam lies in Russia’s Kherson Region, on the Dnepr River upstream from Kherson city. Officials said that the upper part of the dam was “destroyed as a result of a strike,” and several floodgates were damaged, which led to the release of huge quantities of water; however, the underwater structure was intact. The water level downstream rose by up to 2.5 meters; there was no loss of life but thousands of fish died.
Kherson Region officially became part of Russia in October 2022, along with the Zaporizhzhia Region and the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, after people in those territories voted for the change via referendums.
Though Zelensky denied blowing up the dam using drones, Major-General Andrey Kovalchuk, a former head of Ukraine’s Operational Command South, had in an interview with the Washington Post (December 2022) admitted that Kiev had considered blowing up the dam to paralyze Moscow’s forces that were defending Kherson, and even “conducted a test strike with a HIMARS launcher on one of the floodgates” on November 22, 2022. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu condemned the attack as “another terrorist crime” by the Kiev regime.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, revealed that Russia’s Ambassador to the UN had sent a letter to the UN Secretary General on October 21, 2022, regarding Kiev regime’s plans to destroy the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam. The Russian envoy to the UN, on June 8, accused the West of ‘schizophrenia’ for claiming that Moscow was responsible for the destruction of the dam and hydro-electric power plant in Kherson Region that had voted to reunite with Russia in 2022.
The most ominous statement came from President Vladimir Putin on June 7, 2023: “The Kyiv authorities, at the suggestion of their Western curators, are still making a dangerous bet on the escalation of hostilities, commit war crimes, openly use terrorist methods, organize sabotage on Russian territory.”
Meanwhile, the mystery of the fate of Ukraine army chief, General Valerii Zaluzhny, who was allegedly wounded in a Russian strike some weeks ago, endures.
The greater enigma of how Ukraine could ever repay the billions of dollars given in loans to pay for the costly arms and equipment sent for the war with Russia, has, however, been solved. Journalist Pepe Escobar reveals that the Kiev regime has been making covert deals with US corporates such as BlackRock. A Ukrainian Development Fund (UDF) for “reconstruction” has been established, which will focus on energy, infrastructure, agriculture, industry and IT. All other valuable assets will also be absorbed by Western corporates.
The military defeat cannot be a secret in Ukraine, no matter how hard the authorities try to cover it up. When the extent of national bankruptcy and the sale of prime assets is known in full, a popular revolt may unravel the regime.
Chintan India Foundation blog, 20 June 2023