Russia has claimed a readiness to negotiate should Ukraine show willing, yet continues its desperate strategy of finding virtually anyone willing to fight its war. Time and again, Russia has shown it cannot be trusted, so the question needs to be asked: What’s Russia’s game this time? And what could have been behind the car bomb that killed Daryna Dugina in Moscow last week?

“Will you walk into my parlor, said a spider to a fly?” The opening line of Mary Howitt’s 1829 poem has often been used to caution against the manipulative tactics of those who mask their true intentions.

And so here we are. After six months of fierce Ukrainian resistance and Russia’s poor performance on the battlefield, the leaders of the Russian Federation are now apparently ready to come to the negotiating table. Conveniently, they’re not ready to make the first move and have put the ball in Ukraine’s court to apparently crawl up to them waving a white flag.

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“If the Ukrainian side declares that it is ready for negotiations at any level, and in any format, then we will discuss it and respond,” said Leonid Slutsky, head of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, after an unscheduled State Duma Council meeting. This was reported by the Russian publication “Ria Novosti” on Aug. 25.

However, on the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree to increase the number of its troops in Ukraine by 137,000. In doing so Russia has shown itself to be scraping the barrel, recruiting prisoners in exchange for money and freedom.

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This decision is connected with the Russian army’s colossal losses in Ukraine, which the Kremlin has so far failed to refill either via covert mobilization or recruiting mercenaries for additional money. The training of an additional 137,000 soldiers therefore aims to increase its number of battalion groups. Putin wants to improve defenses, create offensive strike groups and increase the number of operating vehicles. His order enters into force on Jan. 1, 2023.

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The Kremlin knows that the Russian army did not have sufficient effective combat-ready assault infantry for a long-haul war. Added to that, its attempts to increase boots on the ground via the combat army reserve and Wagner mercenaries etc. have failed to yield a decisive result,

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army, through its strong infantry, heroism and professionalism, has been able to grind the conflict to a virtual halt, launch targeted counter-offensives and push the occupiers out from certain areas.

Russia therefore needs time to re-group and prepare for a fresh assault, which means building up numbers of additional trained and highly paid infantry assault units. Indeed, its military leadership is now offering three-to-six-month contracts for fresh fighters to send to the front.

The upshot is that Russia is supposedly now willing to take part in negotiations. The reality is that the rhetoric of a “truce” is misleading.

Putin does not want peace. He is strengthening is army and wants to seize the whole of Ukraine. That is why Western intelligence emphasizes that the war will be long and exhausting. After all, Russia currently has no significant problems with the support of the army, its human resources and military equipment.

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In addition, Russia is now resorting to terrorist-style attacks, which it blames on Ukraine as a precursor to recruiting more troops and – ultimately – a general mobilization.

Daryna Dugina murder – another false flag?

The Aug. 20 murder of Darya Dugina, daughter of the ideologue of fascism Aleksandr Dugin, looks like a costly and complex special operation of the Russian special services. Russia already claims to have solved the crime, pinning blame on Ukrainian citizen Nataliya Vovk after a mere 36 hours of investigation. Vovk went to Russia on July 23 with her schoolgirl daughter and rented an apartment in the same house where Dugina was living.

According to Russia’s State Security Service (FSB), the day before the murder, a Ukrainian woman and her daughter allegedly came to the “Tradition” festival, carried out a controlled explosion of a car (it was previously established that the explosive device was controlled remotely), and subsequently – immediately – headed for Estonia.

It should be noted that the Russian agency has not published any evidence of its deductions and assertions. Needless to say, the act is evidently another “false flag” operation designed to ramp up hatred among Russian people for their Ukrainian neighbors. In doing so, it is attempting to falsely claim that Ukraine – not in fact Russia – is a state sponsor of terrorism.

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On Aug. 24, Pope Francis appeared to unconsciously play into Russia’s hands when commenting in relation to Dugina’s murder: “I think of the poor girl who was blown up by a bomb that was under the car seat in Moscow. The innocent are paying for the war.”

In response, on Aug. 25, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reverted to Visvaldas Kulbokas, Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, to express disappointment with the words of Pope Francis for unfairly equating the victim with the aggressor. Kulbokas drew attention to the fact that, since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the pontiff has never paid special attention to other specific victims of the war, including the 376 Ukrainian children who are known to have died at the hands of the Russian occupiers.

The Zaporizhzhia manipulation

Meanwhile, Russia continues to blackmail the whole world with its sporadic shelling of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, to buy time to prepare for pseudo-referendums in the occupied territories. Also, a propaganda-fueled information campaign in the temporarily occupied territories aims to increase support for the Russian Federation.

“In order to turn the situation in its favor, the Kremlin regime is resorting to blackmailing the entire civilized world with an explosion at the [plant]. Its propaganda has already named the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the governments of all Western countries that will not make concessions to Russia as the culpable for any hypothetical disaster,” the Center for Countering Disinformation at the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine reported.

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Russia has already tried to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian electricity grid and pair it up to its own. This was announced by President Volodymyr Zelensky at a press conference during the second summit of the Crimean Platform. Zelensky added that disconnection has been avoided so far, but Russia is continuing in its tactics and trying to involve the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to demonstrate that the plant is safe under Russian control.

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