Another dramatic week full of news against the background of ongoing war and the quest for victory.

The war drones on, as has been the case literally this week. First, new attacks by Russian drones on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, which only demonstrated the increasing effectiveness of Ukraine’s air defenses. 

Then the strange spectacle of mysterious drones being shot down over the Kremlin itself. Theatre, comedy or farce? Most observers were not convinced that it was the genuine thing, but rather a staged show to restore waning public support for Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Sooner or later, we should know the truth. But in the meantime, there can be no doubt that the Putin regime has been displaying nervousness about Ukraine’s growing ability to hit targets within Russia, and in Moscow itself. This has upset plans for the annual Victory Day celebration on May 9 and spoilt the general mood. 

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The Russian public has not been accustomed to hearing about successful Ukrainian strikes against military targets within Russia, or that the prospect of a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive has to be taken seriously. Consequently, there is unease and apprehension. So much so, that on May 5 the Russian occupiers ordered the evacuation of inhabitants from frontline areas held by them in southern Ukraine. And signs of panic have long been in evidence in Russian-occupied Crimea.

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On top of this, the failure of the Russians to extend their control over the Donbas has resulted not only in massive military losses, but also split the ranks of their most militant imperialists. Having become bogged down in and around the strategically important town of Bakhmut, Russia’s military leaders have turned against one another, with the likes of war criminals Igor Girkin and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the creator of the ruthless Wagner “private” mercenary army, stepping up their rhetoric criticizing Vladimir Putin himself, whether explicitly or implicitly, and his closest commanders for incompetence and even irresoluteness.

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Could one have even imagined more than a year ago, when many Russians still felt they could snatch victory from a humiliating start to their all-out war against Ukraine, that the Wagner chief would be threatening to withdraw his fighters from a key battle zone (Bakhmut) “to lick our wounds” and avoid “facing a senseless death,” as well as openly accusing the Kremlin of withholding ammunition?

And that’s precisely what has happened now. After the pride has come the fall. What a disgrace for the Russian chauvinists who would hold the world in fear as they demand to be allowed to seize, destroy or depopulate the territory of neighboring independent states with impunity. How problematic for even the most seasoned Russian propagandists to explain away this messy failure.

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This deteriorating situation is also hardly likely to inspire Russia’s external apologists and supporters – China, India, Brazil, etc. – who would like us to believe that the Russian imperialist autocracy is somehow a proper geopolitical and ideological counterbalance and alternative to the democratic West.

For in the face of the fiasco that the Russian would-be blitzkrieg against Ukraine and the West has become, serious questions with potentially deadly implications for those involved are being raised.  

Who is responsible for the colossal miscalculation and failure of Russia and its regime, the economic penalties and international isolation it has brought? How sane and competent are Putin and his cronies? Will Prigozhin be labelled a deserter for threatening to pull his forces out of Bakhmut, and Girkin, a subversive or even traitor for challenging the Kremlin’s tactics and policies?

We shall have to see how all this unfolds, but it is already clear that Russia is in deep crisis. There are plenty of questions but seemingly few obvious responses other than the system having to be brought down and changed. But what will replace it? 

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Are the majority of Russians themselves, however disenchanted, seeking solutions or just coasting along hoping the current Kremlin tsar and his ideological auxiliary – the Patriarch of Moscow – will somehow see them through? Are there enough genuine Russian democrats out there ready to make a difference by playing the proper role in the opportunity provided by history?

But wars produce many unexpected moments, good, bad and sometimes bizarre. And one such embarrassing moment occurred over Kyiv on May 4 when a stray Ukrainian drone that had somehow got out of control had to be shot down while flying across the capital.

On the external front, President Zelensky has remained as active and enterprising as ever. This week, he promoted Ukraine’s aims and messages in various European capitals. His surprise appearance in Helsinki on May 3 at the Nordic-Ukrainian Summit of Leaders meeting of Nordic ministers is typical of the way he acts – determined to deliver his messages on behalf of his country whether through a video link up, or, as in recent weeks, by actually appearing unexpectedly at key European venues.

The summit produced a joint statement signed by the leaders of Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden pledging to support Ukraine’s path to membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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And suddenly, on the very next day, the indefatigable Ukrainian president was in the Netherlands, meeting with Dutch and Belgian leaders and addressing the International Criminal Court in the Hague, where he urged it to establish a special tribunal to prosecute his Kremlin counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for war crimes. 

The visit produced another important display of support for Ukraine: Zelensky was able to come away with a joint agreement with the heads of the governments of the Netherlands and Belgium for additional security assistance and future accession to NATO. Sixteen NATO member states signed it as well, and it includes a proclamation to hold Russia accountable for its aggression toward Ukraine.

In short, Zelensky has again risen to the occasion and shown himself to be not only the man of the hour, but, as a wartime leader and outstanding communicator, the perfect response to the demands of our times. His wife Olena is paying her part admirably, and most of the presidential team are delivering the required results.

Meanwhile, on the home front, the quiet war against corruption has continued gathering momentum. It is not clear whether it reflects the will so much of the presidential administration itself, or is driven by the just and constructive conditionality being imposed by Ukraine’s Western supporters in return for their financial and political backing. 

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This week the prime target was the notorious mayor of Odesa, Gennadiy Trukhanov, who for long has managed to evade law enforcement agencies. On May 4, the controversial former-pro-Russian politician was finally detained on embezzlement charges. This high-profile development has sent a shock wave through the country’s officialdom at local and national levels. 

Last, but not least, events in Britain are looming large. First, on May 6 the coronation of Charles III is taking place in London. Ukrainians have no tradition of monarchy but nevertheless respect the UK’s political system with the constitutional monarch at its head. They are also aware and appreciative of the new British monarch’s support for Ukraine. 

And then, next week, it’s the annual Eurovision contest being held in Liverpool. Ukraine won last year’s Eurovision in Turin, but because of Russia’s onslaught it could not host this year’s event at home. So, this year, the famed British city is holding it on behalf of, and in partnership with, Ukraine. The venue will provide another major occasion to present Ukraine on the European stage.  

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