After nearly 20 drone and missile attacks on the country’s capital this month Anna Morgan fears the real target is Ukraine’s Western partners.
The grieving parents look on at the body of their 9-year-old daughter killed in a missile strike on Kyiv on 1 June. Photo: Twitter
May has seen the largest drone and rocket strikes on Kyiv since the start of the full-scale invasion. 18 attacks in the past 30 days mean almost nightly alarms, that last for several hours on average. I have experienced at least six of those, including the two largest so far during my two-week return to my home country (I am a UK resident working on Ukrainian issues).
How do Ukrainians React?
Kyiv has adapted extraordinarily well. Despite the sleepless nights, people go to work as usual every morning. After one daytime attack – on 29 May – I saw a group of students starting a game of Quest in downtown Kyiv, only 30 minutes after a rocket was shot down in the same area.
Unlike last September when I was last here, when people didn’t react to the warning sirens, this time around the siren is something people pay attention to. Some hide in the shelters, almost all are following the updates on Telegram (a popular messenger service in Ukraine), to know what is coming, from where and to decide on the best course of action.
The nights are the hardest. Even though Kyiv has so far been well protected by the anti-air defence, sleeping through the hours of shelling isn’t easy. Even if you choose to not hide during the strike, you’ll hear multiple loud – very loud – explosions, which put you on high alert, at least until the ringing stops.
Those living in multi-story buildings, on top floors, are almost literally playing Russian roulette every night, because the debris of shot-down drones and rockets can burn down your apartment and kill you. This has happened many times throughout May.
And yet, Kyiv is full of life, people are not trying to leave the city, to continue with their jobs, children go to schools and nurseries (if they have shelters nearby). The resilience of people here is remarkable.
So What is the Target?
There is not one target, there are many. Intimidation of civilian population is certainly one, even if it’s not working. Hitting anti-air defence systems to damage Kyiv’s defence capabilities is another. Ukrainians are well aware of it, but they are managing what they’ve been given by the West, and their own defence systems, masterfully.
What might be working though, is Moscow’s attempt to project its power to discourage Western backers of Ukraine. The recent BBC-conducted interview with Russia’s ambassador to the UK is a good example. “It is a big idealistic mistake to think that Ukraine will prevail. Russia is 16 times bigger than Ukraine. We have enormous resources, and we haven’t just started yet to act very seriously.” This translates as ‘your support to Ukraine is hopeless, we are bigger and more powerful. You might as well give up’.
The West is only supporting Ukraine because of its fierce resistance and brave fighting. With the daily attacks on the Ukrainian capital, Moscow is trying to create an image of desperate situation where the Western bet on Ukraine’s victory looks like a bad one. Ukraine’s partners shouldn’t fall for the bluff.
Ukrainians are Staying Strong, and so Should their Western Partners
Ukrainians smile when hear about the ‘war fatigue’ notions from abroad. And it’s clear why. They are the ones persevering under daily attacks, and they still believe in victory. Ukraine’s partners should be encouraged by the effectiveness of the anti-air defence systems they have provided and increase them.
But while Kyiv remains relatively well protected, there are multiple cities in Ukraine in a much worse situation, where the drones and rockets do reach their targets, causing loss of life and damage to civilian infrastructure.
The more air defence capability Ukraine gets, the better. It won’t, of course, stop Moscow’s drone strikes and shelling, but it will save lives. How can you put a price on that?
Source: Byline Times