World must end Russia-Ukraine war


A series of drone attacks deep inside Russian territory by the intrepid Ukraine military on Monday and Tuesday followed by a terrifying barrage of missiles targeting Ukrainian infrastructure by Russia testify to the escalation of the 10-month-old war. Reports said Russia fired over 70 missiles and launched airstrikes against civilian targets as it intensified its attempt to devastate its neighbour’s territory. Clearly, peace efforts by the United Nations have failed to stop the carnage.

The world cannot give up as the human cost has been horrendous. In an update on the cost of the war to his country, a senior advisor to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, said between 10,000 and 13,000 of its soldiers had been killed, a lower estimate than that cited by Western military sources. On the Russian side, the British Broadcasting Corporation estimates about 9,311 soldiers killed, including four generals and 47 colonels. The US Army reckons about 100,000 soldiers killed or wounded combined on both sides. It said between 15 million and 30 million Ukrainians had been displaced and up to 40,000 Ukrainian civilians killed.

Since Russia’s Vladimir Putin sent in his invasion force on February 24, this year, the economic fallout has been seismic, spreading well beyond the two adversaries to afflict a world struggling to climb out of the COVID-19-induced meltdown. According to the London School of Economics Library Services’ data base, LSE Research Online, by mid-November, the war had negatively impacted the global economy to the tune of $1.5 trillion, representing about 1.0 per cent of global GDP in 2022. It projects the eastern part of Europe’s GDP to contract by 30 per cent and add to global inflation this year by 2.0 per cent.

All this was signposted immediately the war began, but Putin’s obduracy in pursuing a needless aggression has hardened despite the collapse of his dream of a swift victory over Russia’s smaller neighbour. Thwarted in this ambition, he has been steadily escalating in the face of the fierce resistance by Ukraine’s troops and population.

The pluck and ingenuity of the Ukrainians were on display when they deployed ageing Russian-made drones to strike air bases (one 600 kilometres deep into Russian territory); two on Monday and a third early on Tuesday. Russian media reported three persons killed and five injured, while two warplanes were damaged. In response, Putin’s forces stepped up their missile attacks on homes and infrastructure, firing at least 70 missiles at several Ukrainian cities.

Since October, after successful counter-offensives by the Ukrainians beginning August in which over 500 settlements and 12,000 square kilometres of territory in the Kharkiv region were recovered from the Russian invaders, Russia has shifted to what the European Union calls terror mode. It has been raining bombs on civilians and deporting hundreds of Ukrainians to Russia. When it lost Kherson, it began a deliberate scorched earth campaign; all critical infrastructure, water, power, communications, and major roads were destroyed.

Its deliberate attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure – power plants, dams, factories, and homes – are being investigated by international bodies as possible crimes against humanity. As winter set in, Russia has callously targeted power facilities in what observers called its “weaponisation of winter.” Several cities and regions have been without power, including Kyiv, the capital, where 40 per cent of the city was affected. Obviously, says The Economist of London, “Putin hopes to freeze civilians” into submission.

All efforts so far to broker peace have failed. Ukraine will not submit, and Putin’s ego is at stake. The UN should do more. US president, Joe Biden, has called for a truce which Russia spurns. It is painfully aware that it is America and its allies that have armed and encouraged the Ukrainian resistance. US aid to Ukraine hit $68 billion by November and Biden has asked the US Congress to authorise another $37.7 billion. Since the war started, European Union countries have given €19.7 billion and plan an additional €18 billion in 2023.

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Pressure should be brought to bear on both sides to end this war which negative impact has been felt across the world. The World Bank cites the fallout as a factor in Nigeria’s current economic straits.

Though acknowledged as the underdog and victim of Putin’s megalomania, Ukraine’s forces have also been accused of committing possible war crimes. Russia’s own atrocities are being unearthed and documented.

Putin has toned down his earlier threats to deploy nuclear weapons, but anxiety persists. His forces have shelled nuclear power station areas and its attacks on sensitive sites continue. Experts fret that fighting to retain, or regain control of nuclear power stations may result in a Chernobyl-style disaster.

China, which is the major power and UN Security Council member allied with Russia, needs to persuade Putin to de-escalate. Battling unaccustomed slow growth, turbulent financial markets, and a rare challenge to the authority of the Communist Party, it can ill-afford to fuel the war. It should move away from its restrained hints of disapproval to issuing a strong rebuke to Russia’s leadership.

Mischief making by Iran and North Korea is another matter; the two pariah states have been supplying Russia with weapons in furtherance of their permanent belligerence against the US and its allies. Dissuading them will require a tightening of the sanctions both are facing.

Developing countries like Nigeria; and Africa, should avoid the mistake of taking sides. As the continent relies heavily on food and energy imports from Russia and Ukraine, the Oslo, Norway-based Peace Research Institute said the war “has resulted in extreme price shocks and a disruption of the supply chains of various commodities across Africa, ranging from wheat and sunflower oil to crude oil.” The earlier this war ends the better for the world.

The belligerents suffer the most: apart from the humanitarian displacement, the World Bank estimates that Ukraine will require $349 billion for reconstruction; the Foreign Policy Research Institute also forecasts Russia’s economy to contract by 15 per cent this year.

The senseless war should be brought to an end. ,

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