Russia said yesterday it had launched "massive" attacks against Ukrainian lines on all fronts in response to Kyiv's sweeping counteroffensive, with which it claims to have recaptured some 6,000 square kilometers. However, the Kremlin rules out pressing the accelerator to the maximum, as requested by the most radical voices of the Russian propaganda system, and rules out calling for a general mobilization. Meanwhile, the clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which yesterday resumed their war over Nagorno-Karabakh, come at the worst time for Russia, an ally of both and forced to mediate.
Russian missile forces and artillery attacked Ukrainian troops in all directions, including the east and south of the neighboring country. Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov assured that the high-precision strikes hit areas where Ukrainian units were deployed in several cities in the Donetsk region. They also hit the city of Kharkiv, the capital of the region where the Ukrainian advance has been most significant, as well as towns in the Mikolaiv and Zaporizhia regions to the south.
According to the Ukrainian side, Russian forces have shelled the areas of Kharkiv recovered by Kyiv in recent days.
Despite the Russian deployment, Kyiv remains determined to go ahead and expel Russian troops from its territory. After the counteroffensive, in dozens of towns that were under the control of the Russian army since April or May, the Ukrainian flag is waving again. Balaklia, Kupiansk and Izium are the most important cities, because they served as logistics bases for the Russian troops.
Now it remains to be seen if the Ukrainian momentum allows them to move forward. On the eastern front the target is the Donbass. Quoted by Russian news agencies Leonid Pásechnik, head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, said on Monday that the enemy was trying to enter that region, completely taken over by Russian and pro-Russian forces in July. His counterpart in the Donetsk People's Republic, Denís Pushilin, acknowledged that the situation was "difficult" and explained that there were attacks on the city of Limán, in the north of Donetsk.
Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian governor of Luhansk, said Kyiv's next offensive could be expected in that region.
But for the Ukrainian military machine to function as it has in recent weeks, it needs to be greased with Western weaponry. That is why the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, repeated in his late-night video on Monday an appeal to his Western partners to accelerate the shipment of weapons and "strengthen cooperation to defeat Russian terror."
The latest successes on the ground play to Ukraine's advantage, as they are good publicity for Western countries to see that their help is working.
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dimitro Kuleba, reproached Germany yesterday for not providing armored vehicles to his country, trying to increase the pressure on the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, who on Monday, according to AFP, was evasive on this issue.
“Disappointing signs from Germany. (...) There is no rational argument why these weapons cannot be sent, only abstract fears and excuses. What is Berlin afraid of that Kyiv is not afraid of?” she wrote on Twitter.
In Russia, meanwhile, the Kremlin is enduring the downpour from the most radical sectors, who have criticized the army commanders for a camouflaged withdrawal of strategic withdrawal. But the Kremlin does not contemplate a military response as forceful as the general mobilization, which the most extremist voices ask for.
Dimitri Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said yesterday that there is no debate on this matter. The criticism of nationalist commentators online is an example of "pluralism", he went so far as to say. And he claimed that the Russians continue to support Putin.
The Kremlin was able to open another front yesterday, very inconvenient in the midst of the Ukrainian conflict. In the Caucasus, violent clashes broke out again between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have good relations with Moscow but have been in conflict for three decades (including two wars) with each other over Nagorno-Karabakh. According to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, 49 Armenian soldiers were killed in the fighting.
Armenia asked Russia for help invoking the mutual assistance treaty, which establishes military support in case of aggression. Moscow resolved the situation by achieving yet another, but fragile, ceasefire. Hours later, Yerevan and Baku were already accusing each other of breaking it.
On the other hand, the Kremlin confirmed yesterday that Putin will meet tomorrow, Thursday, with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, in Samarkand (Uzbekistan), during the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. On the agenda, talk about Ukraine and Taiwan, said adviser to the Russian leader Yuri Ushakov.
Russia's break with Western countries is bringing Moscow and Beijing closer together. Oil and natural gas sales to China have more than offset the loss of energy sales to Europe. Ushakov stressed that China "perfectly understands why Russia launched the special military operation" against Ukraine.