By Ian Stubbs (UK delegation to the OSCE)
This week our courageous Ukrainian friends struck a significant blow to president Putin’s ill-fated adventurism. Russia’s announced withdrawal from Kherson was another strategic failure and a clear admission that Putin’s invasion is failing. He and his Generals have sent thousands of their own citizens to their deaths, poorly trained, poorly equipped and poorly led. More and more Russian lives will be lost, and for what?
No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war, nor can it hide the appalling litany of atrocities and devastation that has been left behind from the areas where Russian forces have retreated. The withdrawal from Kherson has exposed Putin’s rationale for the so-called “Special Military Operation’ and attempted illegal annexations for what they were – a sham. Putin’s Generals promised him he could beat Ukraine, but Putin’s Generals had not prepared him to fight Ukraine.
The withdrawal has also further revealed the Kremlin’s persistent and institutional poor decision-making to the Russian people. All that Putin has achieved for Russia is isolationism and humiliation – a painful legacy for which millions of young Russians will be forced to bear the cost for years to come.
As winter approaches, Putin, the Russian military and the Wagner Group, continue to inflict horrendous suffering on the Ukrainian people. Russia’s continuing attacks, including the massive strikes yesterday in Kyiv and across Ukraine, on civilians and civilian infrastructure aim to spread terror and deprive families of shelter, light, and heat. They are particularly cruel acts of vengeance by Putin for his military’s failures on the battlefield and for his inability to suppress the spirit of the Ukrainian people.
The military consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine are now spilling over onto the territory of neighbouring countries. May I offer heartfelt condolences for the tragic loss of innocent lives following the landing of missiles in Poland yesterday. We, the UK, stand in full solidarity with our Ally, Poland. We absolutely reject Russian disinformation that this is some kind of provocation. Russia is solely responsible for this war and can end it by removing its forces from Ukraine.
It will be December when this Forum next meets to discuss Ukraine. The muddy grounds will most likely have frozen and the nights will be long and cold. But the Ukrainian people will continue to demonstrate their resolute courage, determination and enduring moral strength as they fight to liberate more of their homeland.
In contrast, president Putin and his military leadership will be forced to send more and more recently mobilised family members, neighbours and friends, along with Wagner’s convicts, to the battlefield to provide numbers in place of fighters and effective leadership.
The harsh winter weather will further expose the effects of the enduring poor provision of training and equipment to those sent to the frontline. More deaths; more grieving families; more defeats; more demoralised troops; more discontent amongst the Russian population.
As we have witnessed in the Chamber in recent weeks, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine is struggling to keep abreast of its own U-turns, changing rationales and shifting narratives. We have seen our Russian colleagues contradict themselves and the Kremlin. Their disinformation campaign has sought to distract from failures on the battlefield with increasingly ridiculous allegations and false claims of an epic scale which do not stand up to the scantest of scrutiny – they are nothing more than the textbook delusion of an oppressor who has severely miscalculated.
Under orders from the Kremlin, our Russian colleagues have sought and failed to reframe Putin’s unprovoked and barbaric attack on Ukraine as an act of ‘self-defence’. Most recently, they have even spoken of creating a new world order. Well, as the playwright George Bernard Shaw once put it: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.”
Russia’s aggressive actions have brought into sharp focus for many countries what was once unthinkable – Russia’s willingness to invade a sovereign neighbour. In response, the UK, along with others who seek a secure and stable future in the Euro-Atlantic area, is strengthening its defensive capabilities, including through the NATO Defensive Alliance, to protect against Russia’s chosen path of naked aggression.
As the Ukrainian military and civilians defend their homeland from a brutal and barbaric invader they, and we, do not underestimate the continuing threat posed by the Russian Federation. The UK and the international community will remain steadfast in our support – for however long it takes – to ensure that the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the independence of Ukraine is fully restored.