Oleh Smal drew the cartoon above in 2014. Putin had just annexed Crimea then and those of us who grew up in the Soviet Union knew he would not stop there. The vampire theme turned out to be prophetic.
The full-scale war against Ukraine Putin started on February 24, 2022 is nearing two years. It has now become a grinding war of attrition that takes away unimaginable resources and lives. How long can this go on? With the winter approaching, some of the battlefield activity will most probably slow down but it does not seem that the war will end any time soon as Ukraine will never accept negotiation proposals that involve giving up its occupied territories. The Ukrainian government and people need to win this war but Putin still has a lot more resources to grind and men to maim.
It really is a stalemate: Putin cannot lose the war because being at war is the only thing that keeps him in power. He can't win the war because as the world has seen Ukrainians are not going to surrender. No negotiation path exists for either side, mediated by other powers or not.
In the most recent (Nov.23, 2023) G-20 conference call, Putin was called out by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who urged him to end attacks on Ukraine. Instead, Putin sent 75 Shahed drones to bomb Kyiv one day later, which was an unprecedented attack on the Ukrainian capital since the start of the war (see the CNN report below for details).
Even though 74 of 75 drones were destroyed by the Ukrainian Air Defense units, such a massive attack caused fear and anxiety among Kyiv residents who had to seek shelter in the early hours before dawn. I keep in touch with my friends in Kyiv who said this attack was particularly scary as the drones were coming in droves.
Terrorizing civilians is now one of the few ways for Putin to put pressure on Ukraine. Ukrainians are dreading the winter when Putin will almost surely revamp attacks on the Ukrainian infrastructure so that the unbending people experience the cold of non-heated and electricity-rationed homes and the hunger from food shortages.
A month ago, I published a story here about the rumors of Putin's death circulating in Russia. A little earlier, a group of Japanese researchers used AI-powered face recognition program to show that Putin uses at least two body doubles. I still get questions from my friends if I think Putin is dead. I respond that he is certainly undead as he continues to suck the blood of both Ukrainians and Russians.
Seriously, I don't know if Putin is still alive. Some credible Russian spy defectors claim that he's been dead for awhile now. There is only a handful of people in Putin's immediate circle who would know for sure and they are not talking. As just like Putin, alive or dead, they are entrenched and cornered in this war. They know that if the news of Putin's death breaks Russia will not be able to sustain the war and they all will have to face the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
At this point, for the Russian power circle it does not matter that Putin is dead, if he really is. They will roll out another double or clone to stay in power. Because for them, the only goal is to stay in power, at any cost. Just like for Putin, if he is alive. They also don't really think strategically, most of their goal-setting is short-term as they don't know what can unfold even in the near future. But they do hope, in the endless Russian pessimistic optimism, that the fate will help them. There's a good Russian saying about this: "We'll see where the curve on the road will ride us out." The curve might lead them off the cliff for all that matters but it will happen later. At this very moment, the riding out the curve is more important.
Another Russian piece of "wisdom" originates in the world of thugs and gangsters that Putin comes from and rules. This saying, or rather a direct address, is for the enemy, perceived or real, but the enemy who is seen as a deadly threat in the game of survival: "You die today, I'll die tomorrow." Human life was never of any value for the KGB thugs, so if Putin sees Zelenskyy dead before him he'd be happy to die the next day.
As I see it, the most immediate Putin's goal for now is to get "reelected" in March 2024 for another presidential term, thus legitimizing his stay in power and continuation of his mad war. This goal is only 3.5 months away, and he will surely be "reelected." There can be no fair elections in a warring Russia led by the "irreplaceable" Putin. Between now and then, nothing can take him and his off the course, not even his own death. And maybe, just maybe, as they all hope, the world will get tired of watching two major wars at the same time and will stop supporting Ukraine. Let's not help him in that. Please support Ukraine in any way you can.
Glory to Ukraine, its heroes and its people.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!