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Two years, five months, too many deaths

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Two years, five months, too many deaths

Last weekend marked two years since the start of what Vladimir Putin called “Special Military Operations” in the territory of his neighbor, Ukraine. It was the beginning of an invasion under the argument of giving protection to the Russian-speaking majorities of the Donbas region, in eastern Ukraine, which for almost a decade and with intervals or truces from different governments, had suffered attacks and harassment by the Kiev authorities.

Furthermore, the head of the Kremlin justified the order to advance given to some 100,000 soldiers that he had deployed almost a year earlier on Russia’s western border, as a way to “defend” his country against the threatening advance of the Treaty Organization. of the North Atlantic (NATO), a military alliance to which the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelensky, had requested to join his nation.

That is to say, Moscow used the argument of preventive attack that so many times the powers of NATO or Israel – to give a couple of examples – used to justify invasions, theoretically ‘surgical’ bombings, or ‘selective assassinations’.

The concrete thing is that, two years later, the war continues its course, with no signs of an end with winners and losers and, much less, of an agreement that settles differences and puts an end to the most serious conflict since the Second World War on European soil. , on par with the one that bled the Balkans three decades ago and ended the existence of a country called Yugoslavia.

On the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine, the president of that country once again asked that military and economic aid from the European Union and the United States not cease to prevent Moscow from achieving victory. But in Europe that has already transferred almost 95 billion dollars in assistance to kyiv, today it is not only the voice of Hungarian Victor Orban that denotes reluctance towards disbursements.

Something similar is happening in Washington, where Congress put on hold the sending of a shipment of 60 billion dollars in support to kyiv, which would add to the more than 75 billion already delivered at this time. However, an eventual victory of Donald Trump next November could mean a drastic change in the global puzzle, with more reluctance on the part of the White House to get involved in this conflict; and Zelensky knows it.

Dangerous climbing. For now, what the Alliance does not hold back are weapons and military supplies, in order to ensure a military defeat for kyiv that would also be seen as its own. Several leaders or senior allied officials on both sides of the Atlantic also used alarming rhetoric in the face of a scenario that on the military front shows stagnation or symbolic achievements for Russian troops.

In this sense, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, raised this week the possibility of NATO nations sending troops to Ukrainian soil, which would mean a much more direct entry of that alliance into the battlefield.

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When delivering his State of the Nation address to the Russian Parliament, Putin was quick to reply to his French counterpart and warn that, if NATO sends troops, Moscow could respond with the use of nuclear weapons “capable of destroying civilization.” .

The Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, tried to be more cautious and lower the decibels of Macron’s statements, but the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, added tension when evaluating the progress of the conflict. The Joe Biden government official considered that the Alliance bloc would be “propelled” to war if Russia defeats Ukraine and added that if he were one of the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania) he would be worried.

Austin’s warning about Putin’s potential “expansionist” idea toward Russia’s other neighbors was quickly echoed by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. “We must do everything possible so that Ukraine wins and Russia loses this war,” she said.

Meanwhile, in kyiv, Zelensky released a report from his country according to which 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers lost their lives in these two years. He also put the death toll among the Russian troops at 180,000, who also had half a million wounded at this time.

The Ukrainian president also admitted the death of tens of thousands of civilians in Donbas and regions near the border, while trying to minimize his own losses in lives and in the theater of operations of the conflict. Zelensky announced a “peace conference” of international support for his country for this imminent spring.

From Moscow, the figures differ quite a bit and the numbers of Ukrainian military casualties are multiplying, although controversy persists over civilian victims, between dead, wounded and displaced on Ukrainian soil.

The truth is that, two years after the formal start of hostilities, there was no devastating military parade or “blitzkrieg operation” by Russia against its neighbor; nor did the sanctions imposed by the West on Moscow to undermine Putin’s power, which they so often brought to the brink of fall, or even death at this time, had a devastating impact.

Screams at the funeral. These days, the greatest resistance on Russian soil against the powerful head of the Kremlin and the war in Ukraine came from the death of Alexei Navalny, a staunch opponent who was serving a 19-year sentence in a remote Arctic prison, under dark circumstances.

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Despite pressure to turn Navalny’s funeral into a private event, regarding whose end – like that of many Russian opponents – multiple versions and suspicions arose, thousands of people gathered to pay tribute to him. There were slogans against the war that, despite everything, were never at this time as multitudinous and destabilizing as they would have liked in the West.

Two years later, the war continues, although the faces of the victims or the pain from the losses and forced exile no longer occupy the covers or minutes of prime time international news.

War wounds that cross towns and calendars

Nor is it that news about what is happening in the Gaza Strip permanently occupies that information space (for different reasons). But this week different world leaders spoke out about an event that caused “horror” or “revulsion”, according to the words that were issued from official offices of the Old Continent. And this does not imply taking sides or helping any organization as is often the case in a false debate about one of the most conflictive regions on the planet.

Horror and devastation. Next Thursday will mark five months since the ferocious and horrendous crime perpetrated by Islamist militants from Hamas, the movement that launched the deadliest attack against Israel from the Gaza Strip since the creation of its State in 1948.

The terrorist incursion coordinated from the Strip on towns in southern Israel left 1,200 dead, hundreds injured and more than 200 hostages who were kidnapped by the fundamentalist group. The brutality with which the attack, rapes and other humiliations were perpetrated against victims who were overwhelmingly civilians, families, many of them committed to a peace process that would finally lead to the long-delayed constitution of a Palestinian State, reaped the logical repudiation and condemnation of the entire world. And they opened new wounds.

One day after that fateful October 7, Israel’s retaliation against Hamas on Gaza began, and confirmed the worst fears of a new spiral of violence and death that from time to time has hit that small, disputed and so symbolic portion of the planet.

As so many other times, with the first bombings came complaints from Gaza about civilian victims, who have also often been mentioned as hostages of the fundamentalisms that have ruled the Strip for more than a decade, although they do not represent the Palestinian people. as a whole. There were also many justifications and the attribution of all responsibility to the enemy, which was accused of using families and civilians as human shields, or infiltrating militiamen and weapons into hospitals or UN headquarters to avoid being hit by the offensive that in theory seeks Finish with them.

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But as the days went by, the air raids led to a ground operation that multiplied the destruction and casualties, from the north to the south of the Strip.

Warning about the number of civilian victims or denouncing abuses committed by Israeli troops in this or other offensives does not mean validating the terrorism of Hamas or other Islamist groups or assuming anti-Semitic positions, as different governments or political actors try to simplify with Manichean reductionism.

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The government of Benjamin Netanyahu, hampered by social protests before that fateful October 7, has supported this extreme position. Meanwhile, international denunciations of war crimes and genocide, which according to various sources have already cost more than 30,000 lives, largely women and children, continue to be substantiated in The Hague.

Actor clave. A strategic ally of the West and especially the United States in the Middle East, Israel has a veto in its favor in the UN Security Council. But this does not exempt him from criticism of his actions that intensified this week, when hundreds of desperate civilians who gathered waiting for food and help in Gaza came under lethal fire.

The African Union blamed Israel for the “killing” of more than 100 Palestinians and the wounding of nearly 800 others during the distribution of aid.

Israel, although admitting that its soldiers fired shots, attributed the deaths to a “human stampede.”

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, declared themselves “dismayed” by what happened and demanded an “independent investigation.”

The EU’s top foreign policy official, Josep Borrell, said he was “horrified” by the killing of civilians in the Gaza Strip and the United Kingdom, Germany and France are calling for a “humanitarian ceasefire,” with Macron blaming responsibility. to Israel.

In the last hours, Egypt revealed efforts for this ceasefire in a meeting that would take place today and would seek to silence bullets and bombs on Gaza before next Sunday, when the month of Ramadan begins.

The terms of the negotiation are not entirely clear nor how it will repair the pain and heal the wounds of the relatives of those who died in Israel five months ago or of those who lost their loved ones and have been struggling to survive in the rubble for years. although his photos rarely occupy covers and screens.

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