The alleged attack by Ukrainian forces on a Russian fuel depot in Belgorod should come as little surprise; what does Putin think war is about, just a one-sided assault? One of the Russian President’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, commented such action by Ukrainian forces was not conducive to peace talks: we are once again in the realm of fantasy land, where doublespeak states one thing while behaviour indicates the opposite. If Putin were in earnest to bring the conflict to an end he would agree to an immediate ceasefire, the evacuation of civilians and a meeting with Zelensky to discuss an end to hostilities without preconditions.
I suspect if the Belgorod attack is confirmed, then this represents another example of Putin’s serious miscalculation on how his war would progress. Hitting targets inside Russia is a bold but potentially effective strategy to force Putin to the conference table. The Ukrainian military need to identify vulnerable sites in Russia that will weaken that country’s stamina to wage war: oil installations, supply lines, and military bases. It will be difficult to conceal from the Russian people the damage caused by such attacks. It is a gamble and may provoke a more extreme response from the Putin regime, but taking the fight to the enemy may be a price worth paying.
The war is now entering a critical stage. With the deployment of Syrian mercenaries whose objective will be to crush Ukrainian resistance in the cities, Putin may believe this will force the surrender of Ukraine. How far these savage fighters will go to realize Russia’s objectives, is speculation; but barbaric methods, such as were evident in the Syrian civil war, may well send shockwaves around the world. However, there is reason for some degree of optimism. The Ukrainian military has proved itself more than a match for the poorly trained conscript Russian army; and with what may be the beginning of an offensive against Russia itself, something, surely, Putin did not foresee, the tables may be turned and the aggressor will be brought to heel.