(MENAFN- Caribbean News Global)
By Ian Stubbs
Over these past weeks, heavy and attritional fighting has continued, especially around the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, and in the less reported-on sector of Kremina, in Luhansk. In the south, in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, both sides have massed significant forces, which have conducted artillery exchanges and skirmishes, but have avoided any large-scale offensive effort.
Frustrated by lack of progress, Putin has sought to reconsolidate his military power base. However, we continue to see evidence of tension between the military leadership and Wagner Head, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Despite these clear tensions, the Wagner Group has been increasingly relied upon to fill the void where the Russian military cannot. Wagner has become a key component of the Ukraine campaign. It now almost certainly commands up to 50,000 fighters in Ukraine. At least 40,000 of these appear to be convicts recruited from prisons and penal colonies – this means approximately one-quarter of all Russian personnel serving in Ukraine are convicts recruited by Wagner. This is yet more evidence of President Putin and his military leadership scrambling to provide numbers in place of trained fighters and effective leadership.
In the FSC exactly a year ago we discussed“Compliance with International Humanitarian Law and Protection of Civilians”. During that meeting, my Russian colleague stated that:“Humanity, including on the battlefield, is a hallmark of civilized behaviour by States.” For once, we agree.
However, Russia's actions over the last year show that it has chosen a path of depravity over humanity. It has demonstrated complete disregard for International Humanitarian Law; it has unleashed horrendous violence, conducting heinous attacks impacting on civilians and civilian infrastructure; and it has demonstrated its willingness to sacrifice its own people in their thousands to try and overcome persistent and institutional poor decision making by the Kremlin. Putin's horrific war of choice has created a legacy for which millions will be forced to bear the cost of for years to come.
On 19 january the defence ministers of estonia, the united kingdom, poland, latvia and lithuania; and the representatives of denmark, the czech republic, the netherlands, and slovakia met to reaffirm our continued determination and resolve to supporting ukraine in their heroic resistance against russia's illegal and unprovoked aggression .
At this meeting, we recognised that equipping Ukraine to push Russia out of Ukrainian territory is as important as equipping them to defend what they already have. The new level of combat power required by Ukraine is only achieved by combinations of main battle tank squadrons, beneath air and missile defence, operating alongside divisional artillery groups, and further deep precision fires enabling targeting of Russian logistics and command nodes in temporarily Russian-controlled territory.
The united kingdom's accelerated package consists of a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks with armoured recovery and repair vehicles; AS90 self-propelled 155mm guns; hundreds more armoured and protected vehicles; a manoeuvre support package, including minefield breaching and bridging capabilities; dozens more un-crewed aerial systems to support Ukrainian artillery; another 100,000 artillery rounds; hundreds more sophisticated missiles including GMLRS rockets, Starstreak air defence missiles, and medium range air defence missiles; 600 Brimstone anti-tank munitions; an equipment support package of spares to refurbish up to a hundred Ukrainian tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.
The package is further augmented by continuing basic training and junior leadership training for the AFU in the UK with 9 International partners, with the aim of training around a further 20,000 AFU personnel in 2023.
We do not underestimate the continuing threat posed by the Russian Federation but, in time, there will be cause for Ukraine to celebrate. Ukraine will continue to demonstrate their resolute courage, determination and enduring moral strength as they fight to liberate more of their homeland. Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence will be fully restored.