What is Putin planning for eastern Ukraine?
Russia's president has stressed that the attack against Ukraine is proceeding according to plan and denied that the withdrawal from the Kyiv region was a defeat. He claims the intention was to first paralyse the enemy so that Russia would be better positioned for the planned major offensive in eastern Ukraine. Some observers say Moscow plans to take eastern Ukraine before 9 May. Europe's press is worried.
Even more brutal and ruthless
To secure his regime Putin needs a victory with which he can justify the Russians' sacrifices, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung points out:
“The major offensive looming in the east could provide the Kremlin with the material it needs for such a heroic narrative - provided it does not turn out like the attack on Kyiv. One must therefore fear that Moscow will use all its military might to break the Ukrainian resistance, even more brutally and ruthlessly than before. On May 9, Russia's victory in the 'Great Patriotic War' will be celebrated in Moscow. Putin will want to be able to announce to the Russian people and to history that his fight against the Nazis in Ukraine has been just as glorious and victorious.”
Not much time left before May 9 celebrations
The Russian president will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, Adevărul fears:
“Putin has seen that he can destroy cities, leaving tens of thousands dead, without Nato and the West reacting with anything more than economic and financial sanctions. Time is running out, something must be won in this war by 9 May, otherwise Putin will have nothing to boast about at the military parade on the Red Square. ... What will he have to show off at the May 9 celebrations? The use of chemical weapons against Ukraine in a first stage, then tactical nuclear weapons. He hardly has any other trump cards left.”
The mineral resources of the Donbass
If the Kremlin has its sights set on eastern Ukraine it's not only for ideological reasons, Corriere del Ticino explains:
“The Russian president's declared goal is to liberate the Ukrainian region in order to 'denazify' it. ... Less clearly expressed are the strong economic interests. ... In Donbass alone there are 100 billion tonnes of coal, 135 million tonnes of oil and 1.1 trillion cubic metres of natural gas reserves. And not only that: Donbass has huge reserves of metals and rare earths, which are essential for the technology industry as they're used not only in devices such as mobile phones, cameras and computers, but also in fighter jets.”
With Kirill's blessing
Putin has the bulk of the Russian population behind him, laments writer Corrado Augias in La Repubblica:
“The almost total domination of the country, the abolition of all freedom of expression and the brutal suppression of even the slightest dissent would probably not be enough to guarantee his security if Putin wasn't also able to count on a broad consensus among the population. Not the consensus of intellectuals, journalists and a few writers but the consensus of the people, both in the cities and in the endless countryside, who, according to reliable surveys, make up 83 percent of the total population. ... From this point of view, the support of Moscow Patriarch Kirill is a major bonus. Only a few days ago, the High Prelate prayed for divine assistance [for Putin].”
Cut off the gas pipelines!
Instead of making symbolic visits Western politicians should focus on what can really make a difference, Dagens Nyheter demands:
“The longer and bloodier the war in Ukraine becomes, the more necessary it will be for Europe to make do without gas. It wouldn't guarantee an end to the bloodshed, but it would increase the chances considerably, and it's by no means certain that it would hit the German and European economies as hard as the German government claims. ... The European Central Bank's assessment of the situation for the European economy as a whole is similar. A considerable shock, yes, but not an insurmountable one.”