The Russian invasion is bogged down in eastern Ukraine and the Ukrainian counter-offensive is weak, say observers on the ground. Meanwhile, the death toll, both civilian and military, is rising rapidly.
“It appears Russian and Ukrainian forces are locked in a grueling and deadly stalemate,” The Guardian reported on Wednesday. The British daily quoted Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, as saying: “The Russians aren’t winning and the Ukrainians aren’t winning, and we’re kind of at an impasse. »
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sees things differently. “The occupiers are gradually being pushed back from Kharkiv,” he said. Ukrainian troops reportedly recaptured the villages of Cherkaski, Tyshky, Ruski Tyshki, Borchtchova and Slobojanske during the day.
Justin Massie, professor in the political science department at UQAM, also believes that there is an impasse on the ground, but he notes the gains of the Ukrainians and the inability of the Russian army to bring down the major centers, except Mariupol. “The Russians are able to control a good portion of the territory, but not necessarily a large portion of the population. However, he continues, an impasse is often conducive to a peace agreement. “When neither side feels they can do more on the ground, both have an interest in ending the conflict,” he says. They can take a break, a ceasefire that can lead to a peace agreement. Mr. Massie adds that Russia will not sign such an agreement without results. “Vladimir Putin must have a way out, save face, by having some territorial gain. »
On the ground, the number of deaths, both military and civilian, is constantly increasing, without an independent body being able to make an official assessment. In the Donbass, where the Ukrainians are struggling to contain the Russian assaults, doctors are doing what they can to treat the wounded from cluster bombs. “If you look at the statistics, it’s a bit scary,” a doctor says of the Ukrainian casualties. Separately, Ukraine announced that the bodies of 44 civilians were discovered in a five-storey building destroyed in March in Izium. In addition, no less than 561 Ukrainian National Guard soldiers have been killed and 1,697 injured since the start of the conflict, said the head of this troop, Oleksïï Nadtotchy. This very partial assessment concerns only one of the units of the army. In mid-April, President Volodymyr Zelensky had estimated the number of Ukrainian soldiers dead in the range of 2,500 to 3,000.
In a virtual meeting held on Wednesday with students from Sciences Po, a major school established in Paris, President Zelensky indicated that Ukraine’s patience had limits pending possible negotiations with Russia, because the examples of abuses and crimes are piling up. “Our desire to negotiate dwindles with each new Boutcha, each new Mariupol,” he said. Meanwhile in Kyiv, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has indicated she is ready to bring to justice three Russian prisoners accused of war crimes, including murder and rape. Venediktova’s office says it recorded 10,700 crimes.
Visiting Sweden and Finland, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised that the United Kingdom would come to the rescue of these two countries in the event of an attack. A barely veiled allusion to the Russian neighbor. Since the invasion of Ukraine, these two countries have been considering joining NATO. “By expressing their desire to join NATO, but not yet being admitted to it, these two countries are in a position of vulnerability to the Russians threatening them,” said Justin Massie. The statement of the British Prime Minister is relevant in this sense. It is also part of the so-called Global Britain policy which provides that even if it has left the European Union, Great Britain [NATO member] wants to play its role on the international scene. »
The first major city to be captured by the Russians in March, Kherson is considering seeking annexation to Russia, a Russian official based in the region has said. “There is no plan to create a self-proclaimed republic like Donetsk and Luhansk,” Kirill Stremousov said. But there are plans to seek annexation from Russia. »
In Ottawa, federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser announced three charter flights to Canada for Ukrainians and their family members. These flights are offered to holders of the Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization (AVUCU). The ACUVU allows beneficiaries to be temporary residents for a maximum period of three years. As of May 4, 204,000 applications have been submitted and 91,500 approved.