Russia ramps up operations in Ukraine following annexation

The Russian government last month infuriated the West by officially annexing four Ukrainian regions – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson – into the Russian Federation.

In the weeks that followed, it ramped up its “special military operations” in Ukraine, calling in recruits, imposing martial law and targeting Ukrainian energy installations.

“The conflict has definitely intensified in recent weeks.” told The Epoch Times from 2008 to 2010.

Ukraine’s allies have accused Russia of what it sees as an illegal annexation of its territory, and Kyiv officials have repeatedly pledged to restore the four lost territories.

However, despite the outrage of the West, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the four regions as “indivisible parts of Russia” and on October 18, Moscow announced that it would become the other part of Russian territory. said it would ensure the security of these areas as well.

Russian reservist
Newly mobilized Russian reservists train at a firing range during the course of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region of Ukraine, October 10, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

mobilization of the army

Following last month’s annexation, Moscow said it considers any attack on its territory by Ukrainian forces or otherwise to be an attack on Russia itself.

Reflecting the changing territorial situation, ahead of the annexation, Moscow has called up 300,000 reservists to strengthen its front line of about 1,100 kilometers.

Western media have largely portrayed the mobilization as unpopular, impatient and plagued by logistical problems.

“The newly called-up force appears to lack adequate training and motivation,” Aquinchi said. “They are mostly made up of people who cannot escape conscription.”

Russian officials, including Putin, have admitted that “mistakes” were made early in the mobilization process. Nevertheless, according to Russian sources, so far he has had 260,000 recruits called up.

“In some areas the procedure has already been completed. In some areas, partial mobilization continues,” Peskov said on October 21.

When asked about media reports that newly recruited troops were being sent to the front without adequate training, he said: “They will certainly be investigated.” .

Firefighters at the site of a Kharkov thermal power plant damaged by a Russian missile attack
Firefighters fight fires at the site of a thermal power plant damaged by a missile attack on September 11, 2022 in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

target infrastructure

Russia’s increasingly aggressive stance in recent weeks has also been marked by increased attacks on power installations on Ukrainian territory, including the capital.

Officials in Kyiv say 30-40% of the country’s critical energy infrastructure has been damaged since October 10, when Russia launched widespread attacks on Ukraine’s power facilities.

Over the past two weeks, intermittent strikes have caused rolling blackouts across the country.

Moscow says it uses high-precision weapons to avoid civilian casualties, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has described Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as “terrorism.” there is

Kyiv and its allies also accuse Russia of using Iranian-made “suicide drones.”

Both Moscow and Tehran have denied Western claims that Iranian drones were used in the attack.

“Russia is trying to paralyze the whole country,” Akinchi said. “By crippling the energy infrastructure, it puts pressure on the public, [Kyiv] government will fall. ”

Strikes would help depress Ukraine’s war effort, but he added that “they would also hurt the general public.”

Stanislav Tkachenko, an adjunct professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at the University of Bologna, attributes the change in Russian tactics to Ukraine’s victory in this area and growing public dissatisfaction in Russia.

“Since early September, Russian public opinion has shown increasing dissatisfaction with how the special military operation is being handled,” Tkachenko, who specializes in EU-Russia relations, told The Epoch Times.

He went on to point out that the first wave of attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure came two days after the October 8 blowing up of the Kerch Bridge, which connects mainland Russia with Crimea.

“Moscow sees the bridge as an important infrastructure corridor to Crimea,” he said. “Of course, any attempt to cut off this route would have an immediate and decisive reaction.”

President Putin of Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin presides over a Security Council meeting via video link at his official residence in the Novo-Ogaryovo region outside Moscow, October 19, 2022. (Sergei Ilyin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

martial law

In a notable development on October 19, Putin issued an order to impose martial law across the four newly acquired regions.

At a meeting of Russia’s National Security Council held the same day, Putin said four regions were already under martial law, and the order was to maintain a state of emergency “under Russian sovereignty”. It added that it would provide a “legal basis” for

The decree, which went into effect the next day, called for the creation of local “defense forces” and the expansion of powers accorded to Moscow-appointed local governors.

Notably, the order also put several regions of southern Russia on “high alert”, especially those bordering Ukraine.

Enforcement of martial law, according to Tkachenko, means “a transfer of command from civilian authorities to the military government and the subordination of all agencies to provide security measures for people and infrastructure.”

He went on to attribute Putin’s decision to the escalating nature of the ongoing conflict, which he said: [Russian] The way military forces and territory in war zones are managed. ”

“Russia has responded to the deteriorating security situation by mobilizing all available human and material resources and significantly building up its military forces in conflict areas,” Tkachenko said.

Kerch bridge explosion
Black smoke rises from a fire on the Kerch Bridge, which connects Crimea to Russia, after a truck explodes near Kerch on October 8, 2022. (AFP via Getty Images)

“Fog of War”

Recent escalations in the ongoing conflict are not confined to war zones, nor to the Russian side. In addition to the dramatic attack on the Kerch Bridge, recent weeks have also seen a spate of attacks on Russian gas pipelines.

Late last month, the Nord Stream pipeline linking Russian gas fields to Northern Europe was breached in four different regions. The incident sparked a flurry of denunciations and official investigations launched by European governments.

In a lesser-publicized incident, Russian authorities arrested several people in mid-October on suspicion of trying to sabotage the TurkStream pipeline, which carries Russian natural gas to Turkey via the Black Sea.

The Kremlin blames Ukrainian operatives for the latter attack, which reportedly took place on Russian territory, but the perpetrators of the Nord Stream attack remain unknown – at least to the public.

“The Russian consensus is that the only logical beneficiary of these sabotages is the U.S. government,” said Tkachenko. “For a decade, Washington has tried to monopolize the position of American liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the European energy market.”

“As of September 2022, that goal has been fully achieved,” he added.

Akinci was also quick to point out that “Europe will be forced to buy more expensive LNG from the US” as a result of the closure of the Nord Stream pipeline.

But given the “fog of war” the conflict has created, “I don’t think we can ever know who was ultimately responsible,” he added.

On October 14, Swedish authorities abruptly halted a joint Danish and German investigation into the incident, citing “national security” concerns.

Tkachenko criticized the investigations by Swedish, Danish and German authorities as “opaque and completely closed to Russian experts and the general public”.

On October 21, Kremlin spokesman Peskov said Europeans would be “surprised” if the truth about the Nord Stream incident were made public. He didn’t elaborate.

Adam Morrow