Russian forces trained mock nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, on Wednesday. An attack was launched on an imaginary enemy using missiles with a nuclear warhead. More than 100 soldiers participated in the exercises. Clingendael defense specialist Dick Zandi sees it primarily as fear-mongering by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
We’ve seen something like this before, namely at the beginning of the war. Then it came to the Strategic Missile Forces. Putin wants to put pressure on the West and show: Do not interfere.
In his daily video message during the night from Wednesday to Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that 344 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol on Wednesday. More evacuations will follow in the coming days. Russia could have allowed this to get the job done quickly. If Mariupol does not fall by May 9 – the day Russia celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany – it will be a disgrace to the Russians. According to Zandi, the question is whether the Russians will succeed in time. “No one knows how strong the Ukrainian men are still in the underground factory corridors.”
While Russian ground forces primarily target eastern Ukraine, Russian missiles have hit targets across the country. The British military announced this on Wednesday evening. The attacks target important cities in Ukraine such as Odessa, Kherson, and Mariupol. The Russians hope to completely deny Ukraine access to the Black Sea in order to weaken the country’s economy. Bringing the country to its knees economically may be a long-term strategy. But I think that the concentration of the armed forces in the Donbass makes this impossible for the time being.
Declaration of war
On Tuesday, CNN news channel reported, based on statements by US and other Western officials, that the Russian leader will issue a declaration of war on May 9. This is because it is Victory Day for Russia. The Kremlin denies it will issue a declaration of war. There are all kinds of risks to Putin if he does. For example, the growing resistance of Russian society, although they are helpless. Mobilizing forces takes training and time, says Zandi. “Because then the equipment and troops will have to be transferred to Donbass.”
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