Six months after invading Ukraine, Russia is feeling the pressure

For so many reasons, anniversaries can be painful moments.

According to the (mistaken) common sense of the world at large, August 24 is the sixth anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The war, for all its horror, has really been on our faces for just the past half year – not in the frozen, distant sense that has marked the conflict for the past eight years.

For Ukrainians, today feels like the 3,108th day of fighting (even if only for a day or two) in the war that began with Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Moscow’s first attempt to capture the region. East Donbas.

Many articles have been written in the past six months about the devastating impact of war on the people of Ukraine and their pulverized cities. But an expert who closely follows the conflict is now paying more and more attention to what he suspects are signs that the Russian regime itself is beginning to unravel.

The recent murder of 29-year-old extremist Darya Dugina in Moscow has caught the attention of observers, who believe it is a sign of growing violent divisions within the country. Russia about war.

Philosopher Alexander Dugin, center, speaks to a priest during the final farewell ceremony for his daughter Darya Dugina in Moscow on Tuesday, August 23, 2022. (Dmitry Serebryakov / AP)

The daughter of philosopher Alexander Dugin – a man often referred to as “Putin’s brain” because of his reported influence on the Russian leader – died in a car bombing last week.

“That’s very important,” said Sean Maloney, professor of history at the Royal Military College and an expert on Russia.

“We now have a Russian regime destabilized in a way that we haven’t seen in years. And it’s only in that space because of this invasion.”

The Russian security service (FSB) has come up with different scenarios since the bombing, one of which was by Ukrainians. The government in Kyiv has strongly denied any involvement in the attack.

Maloney argues that Moscow’s explanation “smells like Stalinist disinformation” and ignores the growing divide in Russian society between war ferventists and anti-war activists. , who are increasingly speaking out.

Dugin and his daughter were at a festival near Moscow, where the supranationalist philosopher gave a presentation on Saturday night. The two of them were supposed to be traveling in the same car, but at the last minute, Dugin changed his mind.

Maloney said someone inside Russia is targeting Dugin or trying to send a message by killing his daughter.

“Whichever angle you look at this, it’s clear that there are elements of the population in Moscow who are not happy with what’s going on, even if [the war in Ukraine] is not far enough or it has gone too far,” he said.

When the full-blown invasion hit the six-month mark, Maloney said, it became clear that the war had been “catastrophic” for Russia in a way that the West was just beginning to turn around.

They were driven back from Kyiv and Kharkiv and fought to a stalemate in Donbas. The Ukrainian General Staff estimates that Russia has lost up to 40,000 people.

Some of Russia’s problems are obvious. Some have been sophisticated.

The Russian military’s inability to quickly conquer Ukraine was evident. The political and social divisions of a society – especially in a dictatorship – are hard to see until it explodes, Maloney says.

Alima Tatiyeva, widow of Nurlan Tatiyev, a Russian soldier who was killed in Ukraine, cries during a ceremony to award the Medal of Courage to the families of soldiers killed in Volgograd, Russia on June 30, 2022. (Alexandr Kulikov / AP)

For now, the Kremlin is keeping a lid on dissent. Dugin has blamed Ukraine for his daughter’s murder and is calling for revenge.

“We just need our victory [against Ukraine]. My daughter sacrificed her childhood life on the altar of victory,” he said in a statement Monday.

In the past, Dugin presented the fight as a much broader spiritual battle. After the annexation of Crimea, he said that “Ukraine must … disappear from the Earth and rebuild from scratch.”

Ordinary Russians are now paying the price for that vision – loss of life, damage to their economy. Now Russian experts around the world are watching closely to see how long those ordinary Russians are willing to continue.

A woman uses a mobile phone as she walks past a billboard with a portrait of a Russian soldier and the words “Glory to the Heroes of Russia” in St.Petersburg, Russia on August 20, 2022 . (Dmitri Lovetsky / AP)

“This is the war on racism of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and his leadership,” said Matthew Schmidt, an associate professor and national security expert at the University of New Haven in Connecticut.

“It’s a battle of egos that will keep piling up because they’re not strong enough to admit mistakes.”

He added that marking the day as a “six-month anniversary” has dissenting meanings for Ukrainians.

“There will be many more such false anniversaries to come, because the roots of war are ingrained in the minds and aspirations of too many, but not all, people in Russia,” he said.

“Such roots are not easily pulled.”

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