The war that erupted on February 24th, 2022, as called by Russia a ‘special military operation’, has already passed more than seven months and has taken a new shape in the context of recent developments. In particular, two major developments are quite visible. Firstly, it has been widely discussed about the fate of Russian annexation and the so-called referendums held in four regions of eastern and southern Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, and obviously, it is condemned by the western world as an illegal annexation. On the other hand, Russia is celebrating the success of the referendum as Moscow-installed administrations in the four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine claimed that 93 per cent of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhia region supported annexation, as did 87 per cent in the Kherson region; 98 per cent in the Luhansk region; and 99 per cent in Donetsk.
Moreover, as we know, two of these regions are predominately populated by Russian people, and two other regions in the south are very significant from a geopolitical viewpoint because these two regions connect Crimea with Russia. Furthermore, together, these four regions comprise about 15% of Ukraine’s territory and over 7 million population. Therefore, Russia has established some legal claims for these four new regions, as well as Crimea previously. Of course, the western world rejects these claims, and this is also not acceptable under international law and the UN Charter. Apparently, Russia has violated international law and norms about sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries.
Meanwhile, there were attacks on the Russian made connecting bridge between mainland Russia and Crimea that has partially damaged this critical installation. The blazing fire on the bridge is considered a major war gain of the Ukrainian forces. The 19-km long Kerch Bridge is a political symbol of Russian power. This has obviously angered Russia that prompted powerful retaliation from Putin that came through pounding of fourteen cities of Ukraine by Russian airpower on 10 October 2022. This has demonstrated a new level of intensity of war between Russia and Ukraine. This has again revealed the fact that the war is going to continue with more firepower from both sides. Significantly, contrary to the speculation of some quarters, Russia has formidable military strength to show in the war. It also tells that the winter in Europe will be a tough season for both warfare and survival in the cold.
– Delwar Hossain, Ph.D. is Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and the founder of the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).