Should Ukraine take the war to Russia?

Fighting continues in the Russian region of Belgorod, where Russian opposition paramilitary groups are combating the Russian army. The rebel groups have reportedly taken control of the locality of Novaya Tavolzhanka. The regional governor has called for people to leave towns near the border. Commentators discuss the significance of these battles in Russia.

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De Standaard (BE) /

Only weapons can stop the aggressor

Russia can only be defeated militarily, De Standaard argues:

“Contrary to expectations, the Russian economy has not collapsed. It is actually growing slightly (Germany's is shrinking) and the population's standard of living remains secure. ... Even the diplomatic counter-offensive did not bring Russia to its knees. ... Since sanctions and diplomacy have failed, only weapons can force the aggressor to negotiate. These are the high stakes of the Ukrainian counter-offensive: to find the weak point somewhere along the 900-kilometre front and force a military breakthrough the price of which turns out to be too high for Russia.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Don't give the opponent any excuses

Ukraine should avoid any appearance of condoning attacks on civilian targets, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recommends:

“Sure, that's a lot to ask. For over a year now Ukrainians have been murdered by Russians, children abducted, cities ruthlessly wiped out. But that is precisely why it is so important that Ukraine never gives the slightest impression that it could break the law itself. Otherwise it will give Russia exactly what it has been looking for for months: an apparent justification for its terror. Look here, Putin could say, we're only repaying like with like. War is dirty. Moreover, Ukraine is weakening itself. Not all states support the country because they really want to. Ukraine should not give them an excuse to withdraw their support.” (UA) /

Extend the strategy to Transnistria calls for a similar approach in the Republic of Moldova:

“The operation aimed at creating a demilitarised zone on Russian territory in the Belgorod region is one of Ukraine's most effective military initiatives in this war. ... Special attention should be paid to supporting the national liberation movement in the Russian-occupied territory of Moldova. The liberation of Transnistria and the elimination of Russian military bases and smuggling channels there would be a strategic victory that would make the south of Ukraine safe. We would be able to withdraw a significant number troops (up to two brigades) that are now guarding the border.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

An opaque galaxy of fighters

Corriere della Sera examines the parties fighting on the Ukrainian side in Belgorod:

“The spokesman for the Freedom of Russia Legion is Maximilian Andronnikov. As a young man he joined the Russian Imperial Movement - not exactly a liberal or democratic grouping. The Legion's political representative is Ilya Ponomarev, a former Duma deputy with close ties to the Russian reformism of anti-Putin billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now living in exile in London. The Russian Volunteer Corps, smaller in numbers than the Legion, presents itself as the armed opposition to Putinism from far-right positions that mourn the end of tsarism. ... A diverse and opaque galaxy of fighters.”

Wprost (PL) /

Russia buckling under the pressure

The operation is exposing signs of disintegration in the Russian military, Wprost observes:

“The regime in Moscow is reacting very chaotically to all of this. In the Belgorod region, the Russian army is having difficulties getting rid of the saboteurs of the Russian Volunteer Corps. ... Propaganda is spreading story after story about how they are being crushed, but the fighting on the Russian side of the border continues and is expanding across an ever larger area. Nor has Moscow responded to the most recent escalation of tensions between the Wagner group and the army, which culminated in the abduction of a high-ranking officer belonging to the regular army of the Russian Federation. ... The Russians seem to be having a hard time dealing with these tensions.”