Having woken up quite early this morning, I took the opportunity to pop down into town on my own, before breakfast, to collect our copies of the Saturday newspapers. At this hour on a Saturday morning, I only encountered one jogger and one dog-walker but the weather was quite bright but chilly. Before I set off on my journey, I availed myself of one of those ‘instant’ packets of porridge oats which help to set you up for the day. Then it was a case of getting home, getting a quick update on the Ukrainian situation (about which more later) and our normal ‘cooked’ breakfast which is normally a fry-up of a red onion, a tomato, some mushrooms, a spoonful of instant garlic and some tomato and onion pasta sauce. This constitutes a filling for an omelette that I make for Meg whilst I have some of the mixture only.
And so, we return to the Ukrainian situation. I would not have been surprised if the Russians had not taken the opportunity to roll on into the centre of Kyiv under the cover of darkness. Having attacked Ukraine from multiple directions, it appears that one of the war aims of the Russians is to move quickly onto Kyiv to attempt a swift ‘decapitation’ of the Ukrainian government. Western officials estimate that Russia had up to 190,000 troops on Ukraine’s border – far more than Ukraine’s entire regular army of 125,600. Russia also has an overwhelming superiority in terms of control of the air ways. According to military analysis, which is being well explained on the Sky News channel, the Russians are assembling a range of terrifying armaments including precision fighter bombers, tanks, armed personnel carriers and artillery that can inflict untold damage. The Ukrainians are evidently completely outgunned and no match for the military might of the Russians. However, by all accounts the Ukrainians have so far been putting up a dogged defence of their country against overwhelming odds and have slowed the advance of the Russian army, much to the surprise of the Russians. The Ukrainians, though, have to make some terrible military decisons. They can decide to try and attack the Russians who are are now within 20 km of the city centre and perhaps even closer. Were they do this, they would certainly be overwhelmed and Kyiv would all to intents and purposes be left undefended. On the other hand, if the Ukrainians stay their hand somewhat and allow the Russian forces to enter the city down the main roads, then the advancing forces are much more vulnerable and susceptible to guerilla style attacks.The latest thinking seems to be that the Russians are assembling their forces today (Saturday) and may make a final concerted push into the city during the hours of daylight tomorrow, Sunday. If this is to be the case, then the onslaught into the Ukrainian capital will be terrible to behold and the civilian population that remains (women and children and the aged) will be subject to the most horrendous slaughter. There is no doubt, of course, that the Russians can and will conquer the Ukraine in that way but the huge question remains that once a city has been ‘captured’ can it actually be held and occupied without a really massive army of occupation? Imagine a tank or a personnel carrier advancing down a modern urban street but subject to attack by AK-47 rifles (Kalashnikovs) which are being handed out to whoever in the civilian population is prepared to handle a weapon. The Russians may have thought that they were going to enter a country where they were greeted by flowers and flag-waving crowds – instead, they may have to engage in hand-to-hand fighting street by street and house by house – for which they are almost certainly not prepared.
The international ramifications are also become interesting. Yesterday, in the Security Council a resultion was passed by 11 votes to 1 (that one being Russia) and three abstentions, the most critical one being China. Although in the Security Council, each of the 5 permanent members has the power of veto, the way might now be open for a general vote of the 192 members of the UN where no power of veto exists. So this will be interesting to watch in the days ahead. There is also talk that both Sweden and Finland, noted for their neutrality (particulaly Finland) may now be prepared to join NATO. Russia is now issuing blood-curdling threats against Sweden and Finland so if these if these two states join Nato then it could be that Putin has completely overreached himself. The Russian propaganda is also interesting and one wonders if they really do believe it themselves. They are arguing that Ukraine has been captured by a cabal of drug-crazed neo—Nazis,hell bent on the genocide (of any Russian speakers in the east, presumably). I would surmise that the rest of Europe will now start to pour weapons of every description into Ukraine so that the remaining citizenry can arm themselves for the conflict to come.