The Russian army seems to be looking for a second wind in Ukraine

A reprieve, albeit fragile and late. Four of the six humanitarian corridors intended to evacuate civilians from cities bombed by Russia were functional on Wednesday, the Ukrainian executive noted. A first since the invasion started 13 days ago.

These civilians, several thousand out of a total of five million displaced persons in Ukraine and two million exiles, were not bombed, contrary to what had happened during the previous failed attempts in recent days. They were therefore able to leave the cities, especially Energodar, Sumy, Izyum, to other regions of the country.

Boa constrictor strategy

In addition, the fighting decreased in intensity due to loss of light on both sides, which was disclosed on Wednesday by reliable sources. The various front lines have barely moved for five days, except for a Russian advance of about ten kilometers near Karkhiv, the country’s second largest city and mainly north and east of Kiev.

The Ukrainian president also argued that Russia had bombed a maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol. On the other hand, the Russian Air Force deployed around Ukraine, despite having 300 aircraft, some of which are state-of-the-art, still seems surprisingly inactive and limited to three or four aircraft attacks.

Parallel to this form of military status quo, Russian and Ukrainian leaders have been making statements since Monday to calm the situation. When NATO joined, its deputy chief of staff, Igor Zhovkva, announced that Ukraine is “open to discussions on neutrality as long as the its security would be guaranteed by its neighbours” and that this did not mean “no loss of a square meter of territory” on its part.

water in vodka

Russian diplomacy spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, for her part, said she saw progress in negotiations with Ukraine, stating that Russia’s objectives “do not include the occupation of Ukraine, the destruction of its state, or the overthrow of the current government”. Contrary to President Vladimir Putin’s recent comments about a necessary “denazification and demilitarization” of the country or according to which Ukraine’s future as a state was now threatened. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba will meet this Thursday in Turkey, a country with good relations with Kiev and with correct, if complicated, ties to Moscow.

These statements can be part of a classic game of gaining time to regain strength on the battlefield, or of a desire to get out of a conflict that is disastrous for both sides. Can Kiev withstand the steamroller of Russian artillery? And can Moscow risk a real economic collapse?

Risk of imminent default

The Kremlin on Wednesday denounced the “economic war” declared by the United States after Washington announced an embargo on US oil and gas imports. The rating agency Fitch estimated on the same day that the default of Russian bonds was “imminent”, lowering the Russian state’s rating to the final step before the default.

Other signs of the impact of the sanctions: The Central Bank has capped the amount of foreign currency withdrawals that any Russian citizen can withdraw from all their bank accounts by September at a total of $10,000. And Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning the export of a number of commodities, without specifying which ones;