12 June 2023.
By Ilya Shablinsky
The circumstances surrounding the destruction of the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power station remain unclear. But perhaps the most important consequence of the disaster is that the flooding of vast areas has created additional obstacles to the planned (long-planned) counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces.
The breaking of the dam and opening the way for the gigantic water flow from the reservoir to the surrounding villages and small towns is one of the worst disasters of this war. It is also a terrible crime. A six-month-old video clip has been playing on the web in recent days, in which a Russian soldier (more precisely, a mercenary from the Wagner Private Military Company) talks about the mining of the dam and the fact that it is to be blown up on New Year’s Eve. Such a gift, one might say. However, it is clear that the decision on the date of the explosion was not made by this man.
It should be noted that Norwegian seismological stations and American satellites from different positions recorded an explosion in the area of the dam just before it was destroyed.
The man-made flooding has already killed dozens of people and rendered thousands homeless. Some one million people are without access to clean fresh water. One can’t help but wonder what other crimes might be spilling out of that box that was opened by the Russian dictator last February.
The anticipated offensive by the Ukrainian army has indeed begun in recent days. In particular, near Bakhmut and to the south, near Zaporizhzhya. According to estimates by official Ukrainian sources, fierce battles are taking place on the line of contact. Russian sources say that attacks by the Ukrainian army have been repelled. Putin has also played a role in this, stating that the Ukrainian military has not yet been able to attain the goals it has set itself.
The dictator is clearly nervous. And there are good reasons for that. But everyone involved in the fight is in a state of tension. There is no doubt that this episode of the war could be a significant turning point.
I`ll risk outlining two possible scenarios for the future here.
Russian troops have occupied a huge territory in south-eastern Ukraine. Much of this area is steppe with sparse woodland – open, easily penetrable spaces. Convoys of equipment moving through them are highly vulnerable. In recent months, Russian troops have also created several lines of defence.
The first scenario is that the Ukrainian army will not be able to overcome these defensive lines, or their advance will be negligible. This would mean the front line could remain relatively stationary, allowing the Russian side to maintain control over the occupied part of Ukraine. This is an ideal option for Putin and his faction. It would allow the Kremlin to continue the war for a considerable time, periodically offering peace talks on Putin’s terms – that is, while retaining control of the land that Mr Prigozhin figuratively described Russia as ‘having had time to grab.’
Turning a so-called ‘special military operation’ into a long, exhausting, endless campaign (if it is mainly defensive in nature) is already an option acceptable to Putin. He’s ready to go along with it. For it makes it possible to keep the country permanently under tension, and to keep the dictator himself in power as a military leader – defending what he has gained – for as long as he lives. War without end is the basis of dictatorship – very Orwellian.
The second scenario, less favourable to the master of the Kremlin, assumes that Ukrainian forces manage to regain control of vast areas adjacent to the Sea of Azov or part of Luhansk region. Such advances by the AFU would put the entire Russian grouping in a new and rather difficult position. The southern part of this grouping could be cut off. While even in this case the war promises to be long, this scenario would lead to a more rapid weakening of the Russian regime and to its discrediting in the eyes of a part of the Russian public. And under this scenario, it is also difficult to imagine that the Ukrainian armed forces would succeed in liberating all the occupied territories, including Crimea. But this scenario casts Putin’s regime in the role of a severely wounded or even dying dragon. As this second scenario unfolds, by the end of the dictator’s physical existence – if he retains power – his regime will be similarly weakened. And that will make it easier to dismantle.
However, both scenarios are nothing more than speculative exercises. As we know, real life likes to deviate from the vectors drawn and loved by self-satisfied experts. Meanwhile, the fighting in Zaporizhzhya and Donetsk regions is escalating, and every day, every hour, young men from both sides are dying in this massacre unleashed by a mad dictator.
Inside the Russian Federation, all war-related processes are proceeding at the same pace. The trial of Oleg Orlov, the co-chair of the banned Memorial, on charges of ‘repeatedly discrediting the army’, under Article 280.3 of the Russian Criminal Code, has begun. The occasion was a Facebook post – a translation of his own article in a French publication. Let us in this case cite here the lines for which Orlov is being tried. I have a feeling that someday they will be quoted in history textbooks: ‘The bloody war unleashed by the Putin regime in Ukraine isn’t just the mass murder of the Ukrainian people and the destruction of the infrastructure, economy, and cultural property of this wonderful country. It isn’t just about the destruction of the principles of international law. The war also deals a very heavy blow to Russia’s future….The country that left behind communist totalitarianism thirty years ago has slipped back into totalitarianism, only now of the fascist variety.’
During the first court sessions, Orlov reiterated all his assessments of the war of aggression and reminded the court that the Constitution guarantees him the right to express his opinion, even if it does not suit the authorities. It must be said that Orlov has always been calm and firm in various situations. I remember that he reacted in much the same way to threats from Kadyrov. Now he’s in his 60s, and he’s facing up to five years in prison. I don’t know what kind of orders the Golovinsky court in Moscow has been given. Like many people, I harbour the hope that those officials in the presidential administration who decide the sentences of the authorities’ opponents will take Orlov’s age into account, after all, and that he is not an active politician and has not been involved in the organization of mass protests. By and large, he is not so dangerous for them that they would have to isolate him in a prison cell for several years. Yet it is difficult to foresee the logic of functionaries whose job it is to methodically fill prisons with dissenters.
Interestingly, in those same days or so, the UN’s special judicial mechanism, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, based in The Hague, announced that it would not sentence Félicien Kabuga, co-founder and sponsor of Rwanda’s Thousand Hills radio and television broadcaster. That radio carried out unbridled genocidal propaganda against the Tutsi people between 1993 and 1994. Kabuga, incidentally, also bought machetes for the massacres. Well, the Court in The Hague found that as a result of age and dementia he was unable to take any further part in the trial. Yes, such legal grounds are provided for by the status of the court. Kabuga, however, will remain in detention.
For those who have at least occasionally in recent months listened to the shows of Vladimir Solovev and some of his colleagues in the propaganda profession on Russian television it is obvious these people are not that far from Kabuga. The Rwandan maniac at least did not call (for objective reasons) for the nuclear bombing of European capitals.
And in news about culture, everything continues the same. The news now is that the band Zvery has been banned from performing a free concert on Palace Square as part of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, which runs until 16 June. The reason, as usual in recent times, was a denunciation – this time a public one. Yury Kot, dean of the Faculty of Journalism at the Moscow State Institute of Culture, displayed his vigilance in revealing the anti-war stance of Zvery, or to be more precise – of its lead singer Roman Bilyk. Moreover, the band has never performed in annexed Crimea. Further more, Bilyk himself is half-Ukrainian and lived for some time in Mariupol, which means that he could remember it in its pre-war state, and now how it has becme after its ‘liberation.’ How could such people be trusted to perform at on Palace Square?
Translated by Rights in Russia