Russia has been bombing the Ukrainian energy, military and communications infrastructure as well as civilian targets including downtown Kyiv since Monday. Moscow has justified the move saying it comes in retaliation for “terrorist attacks” against Russian territory, and blamed Ukraine for Saturday’s explosion on the Crimea Bridge. Europe’s press sees a new escalation but predicts that Russia won’t gain anything from it in the long run.

 Today, Europe’s press debates the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here are some opinions from a selection of European publications, presented by eurotopics.

No more sugarcoating with “General Armageddon” in charge

Under the leadership of Sergei Surovikin, a hardline commander of the Russian forces in the Syrian war, Russia is now engaging in open terror, observes La Stampa:

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“The Russian Ministry of Defence has reported ‘mission accomplished, all targets hit’, and this time the Russian TV channels are concealing nothing, not even pretending to have hit only military targets, and triumphantly showing the strikes and Ukrainian civilians under fire. The jubilation of the most bloodthirsty members of the nomenklatura and public opinion is bringing back the Kremlin’s supporters and making Sergei Surovikin – ‘General Armageddon’ of the war in Syria, who has been appointed commander of the entire ‘special military operation’ – the country’s new hero.”

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Build up antimissile defence

The air strikes will lose their effectiveness in the long run, predicts journalist Luís Delgado in Visão:

“More than half of the missiles and drones have been intercepted and shot down (almost 60 percent). This indicates that the most powerful weapons have already lost effectiveness, which in military terms means another strategic defeat. The other fundamental point concerns the urgent need for allies to strengthen Ukraine’s missile defence systems. … To end this war, Ukraine needs an iron dome that would allow it to concentrate entirely on ground operations.”

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Blind terror also weakens the aggressor

Russia will pay a high price for its brutal air strikes, De Standaard predicts:

“The only thing Putin appears to have achieved here is that the bloodthirst of the hawks in the Kremlin has been quenched for the time being. … On the other hand, with this latest move Putin will further alienate his last remaining allies, in particular China. Only the Belarusian dictator Lukashenka is still willing to tie his fate to Putin’s. … In Ukraine, this blind terror against civilian targets is certainly not having the desired effect. Although the strikes triggered panic and fear back in February, the first reactions now testify to resolve and the desire to fight back, and that should also be the West’s reaction to Russia’s escalation.”

Nato should now intervene directly

The West must not stand idly by and watch a genocide unfold, Adevărul warns:

“In the event that Russia does not end the genocide against Ukraine, Nato can assert its right to defend a free, independent and sovereign country through the effective and direct involvement of its armed forces in Ukraine’s defence. But not for attacks on Russian territory. It is in accordance with international law to defend a country that is attacked by another. Especially when the lives of millions of citizens who are potential victims of the Russian army’s massacre are at stake.”

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Civilian victims not only on the Ukrainian side

Zsolt Bayer, journalist and co-founder of the governing party Fidesz, asks in the pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet whether all civilians count equally for the international public:

“[The explosion on the Crimean bridge] killed three people. At least that is the number of victims we know about so far. None of them were soldiers or politicians. … But these victims do not count. They will never have a face, a name or sobbing relatives expressing their pain in front of a CNN camera. Now we will see whether blowing up a bridge with civilians on it counts as terrorism, or whether it is just considered the normal course of business at this stage.”

Retaliation will target civilian infrastructure

Russia will now carry out even more strikes on civilian targets, fears Jutarnji list:

“These attacks herald a new phase of the war, with Russia attacking civilians far from the front line, spreading panic and fear as winter approaches and the people struggle with flooding and cold nights. Last month, Russian artillery hit power stations in Kharkiv, Zmiiv, Pavlohrad and Kremenchuk, leaving hundreds of thousands in eastern and central Ukraine without electricity. Russian troops also destroyed the dam in Kryvyi Rih, President Zelensky’s hometown, and cut off electricity and water to the north-eastern Kharkiv region several times.”

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A heavy blow for Putin

The severely damaged bridge is a symbol, writes Russian security policy expert Mark Galeotti in The Sunday Times:

“The bridge symbolised the reunification of Crimea with Russia. It may not have been destroyed, but Putin had closely identified himself with the bridge, driving the first lorry over the roadway when it was opened. Thus this is a blow not just to Russian national pride, but also very specifically to Putin’s. … Even more than the sinking of the Russian Black Sea flagship Moskva in April [it] provides a very visual marker of the Kremlin’s setbacks.”

Nothing will come of the “eternal connection”

Refat Chubarov, chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis [the highest executive-representative body of the Crimean Tatars], assesses the consequences on NV:

“Those who have settled illegally in Crimea are panicking because this is not just any explosion but one on a bridge that Putin and others said was a symbol of Ukrainian Crimea’s ‘eternal connection’ with Russia. It looks like that all came to nothing. … Until yesterday, a second wave of mobilisation had been expected across Crimea. Now we’ll see what happens after this explosion, because the logistics in all directions have been rendered very complicated. And this is especially true for military logistics from the territory of the occupying country to the territory of occupied Crimea.”

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Not decisive

Ilta-Sanomat examines the significance of the Crimean bridge:

“Besides the emotional impact, the attack on the bridge is almost certainly of major military significance since it represents – or at least has represented – a strategically important supply link for Russia from its own territory to Crimea and the war zones in southern Ukraine. … But even the destruction of an important bridge will not lead to Ukraine regaining control of Crimea, nor will it decide the outcome of the fighting in the Kherson region, let alone the outcome of the war.”

Moving closer to nuclear war?

The growing pressure on Putin is making the threat of him using nuclear firepower more and more real, Népszava fears:

“Putin is slowly running out of military options: He has neither enough weapons nor enough soldiers. It is now obvious that the Russian army will not defeat Ukraine by conventional means. It’s even questionable whether it can retain the territories it has conquered so far. The failure has created a hyper-nationalist opposition demanding the use of a nuclear bomb – two more weeks and Putin will seem like a dove of peace compared to them.”

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Don’t close off all bridges for negotiations

Público warns against destroying all possibility of peace negotiations:

“Crimea could be a potential concession in the difficult task of finding a way to peace that is not a total and crushing humiliation for Putin. Incidentally, the discussion about the need to find a way out of this has resurfaced in recent days, fuelled by Putin’s renewed nuclear threat. …We must not see this increasingly isolated Russia as the ‘incarnation of evil’, otherwise it will be impossible to build bridges for negotiating a way out.”

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