End the war: On Russia-Ukraine conflict

Russia has the primary responsibility to push for a peaceful settlement with Ukraine 

Updated - June 15, 2022 01:46 am IST

Published - June 15, 2022 12:10 am IST

The battle for Severodonetsk, the easternmost part of the Donbas where the Ukrainian forces still have defensive positions, has entered the final phase with Russian troops destroying all bridges over the Donets river linking the city with its sister city, Lysychansk. The Russians now have more than 80% control of the industrial city, with the remaining Ukrainian troops trapped without supplies. If Russia takes control of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, the entire Luhansk Oblast will be in its hands, allowing it to march towards Kramatorsk, the last industrial city in the Donbas still with Ukraine. In recent weeks, Ukrainian troops have taken heavy losses with Russian forces blasting their way into Severodonetsk using artillery fire. Officials in Kyiv have said that up to 200 Ukrainian soldiers are being killed every day and troops are running out of shells and ammunition. While these public statements have been in part to push western allies to ramp up weapons supplies, they also draw a bleak picture of the situation in the east. Despite their brave resistance in the north and northeast, which forced Russia to retreat from around Kyiv and Kharkiv, the Ukrainians never stood a chance to push the Russians back in the Donbas.

The West’s strategy has been two-fold. It has sent money and weapons to Ukraine to help it resist Russian aggression and slapped biting sanctions on Moscow to make the war economically painful. While arming Ukraine has certainly slowed down Russia’s advances (with heavy losses across the battlefronts), it has failed to stop the Russian war machine. Russia has taken most of the key cities in the east and south, including Mariupol, Berdyansk and Kherson, and Severodonetsk could be the next. The economic sanctions have had a mixed result. Sanctions have hit Russia hard and its economy is expected to contract by 8.5% this year. But, at the same time, it has continued to reap a windfall from high oil and gas prices, while, on the other side, soaring inflation has hit the global economy. And Ukraine’s economy, needless to say, faces collapse. As the ‘weapons and sanctions’ approach has been unsuccessful in its objectives, other options should also be explored to end the war. Between the maximalist positions taken by Russia and the U.S., France, Germany and Turkey have maintained some lines of communication with Moscow and Kyiv. These countries should push both sides for talks and try to revive new proposals where all sides get something and lose something in return for peace. Ending the conflict is an imperative not just for Ukraine but also for the world that has been battered by high prices of everything, from food to fuel. Russia, whose invasion has pushed the world to the brink of a devastating security and economic crisis, has the primary responsibility to end this war through a political settlement.

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