Zelensky’s Answer to the Escalation of Threats from Russia: The Challenge

KYIV, Ukraine – President Volodymyr Zelensky and his government are responding defiantly and courageously to a range of threats from Russia as it prepares to take the provocative step of claiming parts of Ukraine. territory of Russia.

Amidst ominous signals from Moscow of an escalation of the war, including an allusion to the use of nuclear weapons, Ukrainian forces are accelerating their assault on Russian troops to the east and west. south in areas Russia plans to declare on Friday. And government officials are also pursuing a propaganda advantage, posting instructions on social media, in Russian, on how Russian soldiers can safely surrender.

Mr. Zelensky was very painful to point out that he could not dismiss the threat from Russia. He said he did not believe Mr. Putin was lying about threats of military escalation or the use of nuclear weapons.

But he also reminded the public of Ukraine’s recent successes, awarding medals Wednesday to 320 soldiers and other members of the security service for this month’s counterattack in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine. .

Russia launched its annexation plans after the attack broke through the Russian Army’s lines and forced it to retreat from thousands of square miles of land.

The merger would allow Russia to assert that Ukraine is attacking its territory and not the other way around, and Russian officials have defended their claim by all means, a hint of possible use. nuclear weapons. Russia also published a draft calling for hundreds of thousands of new troops.

The plot is already underway: Russian proxies from four Ukrainian provinces traveled to Moscow officially called on President Vladimir V. Putin to join Russia after sham referendums on the idea. A stage has been erected on Red Square.

In Kyiv, officials are responding with the swagger that characterized their public statements throughout the war, despite more cautious responses from Western allies.

“If you want to live, run,” Zelensky said in his nightly address Wednesday, speaking in Russian and addressing Russian soldiers. “If you want to live, surrender. If you want to live, fight in your streets for your freedom.”

Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, told a conference of security experts that many Western countries had predicted the collapse of the Ukrainian government during the initial Russian invasion, but had been proven wrong. “Ukrainians will never surrender,” he said.

Military analysts say that after the counterattack in the Kharkiv region, the initiative on the battlefield has shifted to Ukraine. The Ukrainian army has pressed from many directions a Russian-administered town in eastern Ukraine, Lymanand it looks like it’s about to finish an envelope.

If Russian troops were captured or forced to flee along the road remaining under their control, it would be an embarrassing setback for the Russians in an area they are moving to claim as a part of their country.

Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said that at least Russia intends to occupy all of Donetsk, the area where Lyman is located. Ukraine currently controls about half of the province.

Lyman’s fall would also weaken Russia’s defenses in eastern Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War, an American analysis group, wrote.

Russian rocket and missile attacks hit two Ukrainian cities, Dnipro and Kryvyi Rih, from Wednesday night to Thursday, damaging homes, killing two civilians and at least 15 people other injured. The Ukrainian government does not release information on military casualties due to Russian missile attacks.

Ordinary Ukrainians, ready to believe in the worst of Russia after the shelling of civilian areas and the discovery of mass graves in the territory recovered by the Ukrainian Army, has been given. Many people posted on social media about the fear of nuclear war.

“Next will be a nuclear attack, coming soon,” musician Stanislav Kotliar wrote on Facebook. “This is the main reason I send my loved ones to Germany, even though they want to stay in Poland – to keep them away from the nuclear cloud.”

Yet even Ukrainian analysts and former security officials see Russia’s nuclear threat as weakness, not strength. Oleksandr Danylyuk, former secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said in an interview that Ukraine will not stop the violations if Russia declares the four provinces as Russian territory.

He said that if the Russian line continues to collapse after reinforcements arrive from the deployment, that will increase the risk of a tactical nuclear attack. But he added: “For Putin, it is a fantasy that Ukraine and the West will back down. It is important to continue to bite the territory occupied by Russia. This is what Putin is trying to avoid, so we should do this.”

Maria Varennikova contribution report.

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