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Russia-Ukraine war: the back room of Vladimir Putin’s speech, increasingly weakened by the offensive

Official information indicated that one million people were mobilized for the great Victory Parade over Nazism, on Monday in Moscow. It was thus more remarkable and important the only absence recorded by the western press, that of General Vassyly Gerasimov, chief of staff of the armed forces and unanimously considered the most important military man in Russia, brain of strategies and the reorganization of the army in the last ten years.

Do not forget that Gerasimov is, along with President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Serguei Shoigu, the member of the trio who handles the keys and buttons in unison to make it work the attack device with atomic weapons.

Where was Gerasimov? He was left for dead and then wounded and has since disappeared because no one has seen him, when he went to the Ukrainian east to push and refine the offensive to occupy the Donbas region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his speech, this Monday, in Moscow’s Red Square, on “Victory Day”. Photo: AP

Day 76 of the war: the fighting is centered in the east of the country

Balance of the war

Until now the results for Putin are dismal and they were reflected in his speech, beyond the patriotic print runs, which lacked the triumphalism that seemed inevitable.

It has not achieved anything important in the war beyond destruction. Russia is neither safer nor richer, as one American diplomat summed it up.

It needs the victory of the Donbas, the richest region of Ukraine, which borders on the Russian border to the east. There are the two small Russophile republics incorporated into the Russian Federation.

General Gerasimov must be there, and if instead he is at his command post in Moscow, he is busy with the same thing: occupy the Donbas, finish off what is left of resistance in Mariupol after more than two months of siege.

The victorious offensive has become an imperative necessity, vital because the war is also fought beyond the Ukrainian and Russian borders, in the world of financial, commercial and social traffic.

An explosion above the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, besieged by Russian troops.  Photo: REUTERS

An explosion above the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, besieged by Russian troops. Photo: REUTERS

The hit of sanctions

Where Putin has reaped yes the worst defeat of his life: the sanctions of the United States and European countries, the threatening key to their progressive weakening.

The sanctions until the big parade in Moscow on Monday, are 10,128, according to a compilation of the Duma, the Russian Parliament. A real avalanche.

“Never so many in history,” Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin commented. Until February 24, when the invasion of Ukraine began, the sanctions were 2,724, the vast majority for the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and other related episodes. In these two and a half months of war, 7,374 were added and continue. The European Union is about to approve a sixth package of punishments.

Putin went on the counterattack announcing “trade restrictions to hostile countries”, which are the ones that approved the sanctions.

Pro-Russian militiamen from the separatist Donetsk region patrol a street on Monday.  Photo: AP

Pro-Russian militiamen from the separatist Donetsk region patrol a street on Monday. Photo: AP

Transactions and agreements “with foreign individuals and legal entities subject to the restrictions” will be prohibited. In addition, the export of raw materials and products from Russia “in the interest of these individuals” is prohibited.

Moscow announced that in a few more days the lists of punished individuals and companies will be announced, as well as the criteria for determining the operations subject to the ban.

Of course interest is concentrated in the energy sectorwith the embargo on the purchase of Russian oil.

The Russian sanctions will intersect with the sixth package of sanctions from the 27 countries of the European Union, delayed by the heated internal discussions on the most burning issue: the embargo on Russian oil, on which much of Western Europe depends.

The EU package also contains a very important financial sanction: the exclusion from the Swift system of transactions of the bank Sberbank, Russia’s main bank, which handles a consistent part of the transactions. Two other Russian banks are also excluded.

Hungary’s position

Until now, the strict opposition of the president of Hungary, Viktor Orban, has prevented the approval of the package of measures.

Orban, with permanent litigation in the EU for his undemocratic decisions and his proximity to Putin, does not give his consent and as European regulations require unanimity, in fact the Hungarian strongman paralyzes the European Union in a dramatic moment.

The two most vulnerable countries are Hungary and Slovakia. The others affected are smaller states that can be helped without major problems. The solution is to authorize exceptions for the transition that allow it to continue receiving Russian oil until 2023.

But Orbán maintains that Hungary needs at least five years and more funds to reorganize and rebuild refineries. A serious problem is that it lacks access to the sea. The tug-of-war has to be resolved immediately because time is pressing.

Western-imposed economic sanctions hit Russia's finances.  Photo: EFE

Western-imposed economic sanctions hit Russia’s finances. Photo: EFE

Shakes in the European Union

The destabilization caused by the war decided by the Russian president is of such magnitude that the problems grow and intertwine.

The current head of the European Union, French President Emmanuel Macron, proposed changing the European Union Treaty to adapt it to the new times.

Among other things, he suggested abandoning the unanimity criterion in decisions on social, tax and foreign policy issues, implementing majority voting. Liquidate once and for all the vetoes, like those of Hungary. Thirteen countries out of twenty-seven have declared themselves against it.

  The European gas pipeline network

Stop financing Putin’s Russia and its war in Ukraine with mountains of dollars and euros, which is what European countries pay every day for oil and gas supplied by the Russians, is the most important and urgent issue, because it largely sterilises the sanctions.

The United States wants a leap in quality from the European Union with the new sanctions against Moscow. The Treasury Department already launched its own punishments in April for put Putin’s Russia ever closer to defaultwhich is the inability to honor debts.

The most important measure is a procedure that prevents the Russian government from paying its obligations using the current accounts of US banks.

The aim is to make it even more inaccessible for Moscow to access its foreign reserves, which total 600 billion dollars, which have been frozen by at least fifty percent due to previous sanctions.

The procedure is important because the Russian government used to pay the US bank JP Morgan as a “correspondent bank” and thus use a complex mechanism. With the measure of the Department of the Treasury, the facilities were extinguished.

A government spokesman explained that the decision “aims to push Moscow to choose what to do with the dollars to which it has free access: whether to pay its debts or whether to use them for other purposes, such as those linked to the war.”

In this way, Russia is forced to use its internal dollar reserves, from the billions it receives every day from European countries to pay for its high dependence on Russian oil and gas. The measure also highlights the urgency for the European Union to put an end as soon as possible to an unbearable situation of financing Putin’s war by the Europeans.

The British government also announced a new package of trade sanctions against Russia and Belarus.. It imposes increased import duties on precious metals such as platinum and palladium, and bans exports to Russian manufacturing and heavy industries.

“This package of sanctions will cause further damage to the Russian war machine,” said the British Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Treveyan.

Rome, correspondent


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