The situation in Ukraine is now at an unsettling crossroads we should all be watching carefully. Backed into a corner, Putin is more dangerous than ever.

By Vinay Menon

Sept. 13, 2022

Toronto Star

Ukraine’s president was garbed in military fatigues and sitting at a desk. He was at the British Embassy in Kyiv, writing a condolence message for Queen Elizabeth II as his brave military was systematically recapturing territory seized after Russia’s barbaric invasion of the sovereign nation.

The images on cable news flickered with raw emotion. Ukrainians hugged soldiers, rushing to tanks with bouquets and loaves of bread. There were tears of joy as villages were liberated. Soldiers raised the Ukrainian flag in triumph, but still looked amped up to keep fighting for freedom.  This was primal. It was inspiring. It was worthy of coverage.  It was heartening to see Ukraine back on front pages and top of the hour.

In and around the Kharkiv region, Zelenskyy estimated more than 6,000 square kilometres had been reclaimed as Russian soldiers were either blown to smithereens or beat a hasty retreat, leaving behind weapons and another scorching humiliation for that shark-eyed psycho known as Vladimir Putin.

What Ukraine has achieved in the last few days is nothing short of a counteroffensive for the ages. Kyiv was supposed to fall after 72 hours. Six months later, Ukraine is now on the front foot, taking the fight to Russia. Still outmanned and outgunned, Ukraine is outsmarting Putin’s evil henchmen at every turn. This counteroffensive, as some military experts said this week, could prove to be a “turning point.” I pray it does. We all should. And it would be nice if the media could finally stay focused on Ukraine.

I know I’m asking too much. The news business, as much as I adore it, suffers from ADHD. The death of Queen Elizabeth II and the new reign of King Charles III is currently front and centre. A month from now, you’ll have to Google “Royal Family news” as the file vanishes from the cultural radar.

But the situation in Ukraine is now at an unsettling crossroads we should all be watching carefully. Yes, it’s incredible how this plucky nation, with the considerable aid of the United States and NATO allies, is defying expectations and trading punches with an invading superpower. This isn’t some faraway skirmish between two countries that have nothing to do

with us. This is a seismic battle between good and evil, between democracy and autocracy. Zelenskyy is the defender. Putin is the mass murderer.

But what’s scary is the possible trajectory of this conflict: What comes next?

On Tuesday, Russia launched airstrikes in regions where it was recently routed, targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. Russia does not abide by the Geneva Conventions nor any rules of war. Russia is a wild animal on the world stage. Now that grizzly bear is wounded and backed into a corner.

Putin is not going to blow a whistle and call back what’s left of his pathetic army. He’s going to double, triple and quadruple down. And as it becomes obvious he can’t win a conventional war against Ukraine, his possible options are increasingly terrifying. Ultra-nationalist Russian voices on Telegram are calling for tactical nuclear strikes. Russian state media, which has anesthetized and zombified its populace with propaganda and lies, is running out of excuses for why this “special military operation” is sputtering.  Or why upwards of 80,000 Russian soldiers are in body bags.

Whatever delusions of empire thrust Putin into the profoundly bad decision to invade Ukraine, he’s now got no good options to win. Some Russian politicians are calling for him to resign. Western sanctions are just starting to put the Russian economy in a chokehold. The mood in Moscow is darkening as reality shoots out the kaleidoscopic lights of disinformation. You can’t say the sky is green after people finally look up.  Nothing is going right for Putin. Everything is going wrong. And this makes him even more dangerous.

Ukraine is doing so well right now. And that is precisely why I am losing sleep. So long as Putin controls Russia, can Ukraine ever truly be safe? Even if Russian forces are expelled from its borders — even if Ukraine eventually retakes every inch of territory, including Crimea — does anyone believe Putin will not continue his state terrorist campaign in which hospitals, schools, public squares, train stations, airports, government offices and even nuclear power plants are wilfully targeted in a diabolical tangle of war crimes?

This invasion was never Putin’s latest aggression — it was always his last stand. This is a man who has committed unspeakable atrocities, abroad and against his own people. He is a monster. He is the Aaron Judge when it comes to contempt for human life. Putin’s disdain for democracy is a by-product of his lust for kleptocracy. He has bullied and killed his way to stay in power for years. Now Ukraine is threatening this treacherous streak.

Western media constantly underestimates the weight of its own power by getting distracted by the next shiny thing. But staying with a story can help change the world. Here, I’d like to give a shout-out to the Telegraph and its “Ukraine: The Latest” podcast, which is essential listening. A tip of my chapeau as well to Bob Leshchyshen, a Canadian researcher with the Ucrainica Research Institute who rounds up coverage from across the planet. Subscribe to his newsletter. It’s a tremendous resource.

Now more than ever, Ukraine needs our undivided attention.