Ukraine’s strikes on Russia challenge Putin’s war narrative

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By Carina

The sounds of war have become a grim routine in Belgorod, a city lying on Russia’s border, perpetually under the shadow of conflict following a Ukrainian missile attack during a New Year’s celebration. 

This assault left a grim tally of casualties, underscoring the war’s reach into Russian territory. Similarly, a Ukrainian drone targeted a significant fuel terminal on the Baltic Sea, causing a massive explosion that led to a temporary halt in operations for the energy giant Novatek. 

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Shift in dynamics and increased capacity in Ukraine’s strikes

These incidents, along with attacks on oil refineries, military facilities, and arms producers across various Russian regions, signify a pronounced shift in the dynamics of the nearly two-year conflict.

Avoiding a Long War: U.S. Policy and the Trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine  Conflict | RAND
Credits: RAND Corporation

The recent spate of attacks within Russian borders marks a strategic evolution. 

Michael Kofman of the Carnegie Endowment observed, “Ukraine has increased its capacity to strike back against Russia,” highlighting a surge in assaults on critical infrastructure and military bases, notably in Crimea and cities like Belgorod. 

Challenges to Putin’s narrative amidst escalating conflict, domestic unrest

This escalation challenges President Vladimir Putin’s narrative of an unaffected Russian homeland, particularly as he seeks re-election amidst growing signs of domestic unrest.

In response to the escalating conflict, the Russian political landscape is showing cracks. Liberal candidates like Boris Nadezhdin, focusing on ending the war, are gaining traction despite the Kremlin’s stringent control over political expression. 

Grassroots movements, from soldiers’ wives demanding their husbands’ return to protests in Bashkortostan, underscore a growing public discontent. 

Fears and reactions following Belgorod missile strike

The Dec. 30 missile strike on Belgorod, which resulted in significant civilian casualties and property damage, has particularly heightened fears among the Russian populace, forcing many to reconsider their safety and the war’s proximity.

Putin’s reaction to the Belgorod attack was one of intense anger, accusing Kyiv of using “barbaric methods” in a desperate show of force. 

Yet, the Kremlin insists on targeting only military sites in Ukraine, a claim contradicted by evidence of civilian harm in Ukrainian cities. 

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Ukraine’s response and calls for aggressive military posture in Russia

Ukrainian leaders, asserting their right to defend against Russian aggression, have been largely silent on these internal attacks, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promising retribution from Russia’s borders.

The Belgorod strike has ignited calls within Russia for a more aggressive military posture. 

Figures like nationalist Alexander Dugin advocate for an all-out mobilization and an intensified military campaign, suggesting a pivotal moment for Russia to abandon restraint. 

Challenges and adaptations in face of Ukrainian technological assaults

The difficulty of defending against Ukraine’s technologically adept assaults has exposed vulnerabilities within Russia’s military infrastructure, prompting debates on strategy and defense.

As winter sets in, the static front lines contrast with the dynamic aerial offensives reaching deep into Russian territory. 

These tactics, reminiscent of Russia’s failed attempts to cripple Ukraine’s power grid, underscore a strategic tit-for-tat, with each side adapting to the other’s moves. 

Challenges and ongoing evolution of Ukraine-Russia conflict

The targeting of Russia’s energy infrastructure presents a new challenge, with sanctions complicating repairs and potentially significantly impacting the nation’s economic and military capabilities.

Ukraine: Conflict at the Crossroads of Europe and Russia | Council on  Foreign Relations
Credits: DepositPhotos

In this complex web of military engagements, political maneuvering, and societal impact, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia continues to evolve, with significant implications for both countries and the broader international community. 

As both sides prepare for further escalations, the world watches, awaiting the next move in this high-stakes geopolitical chess game.

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