Sunday, 6 March 2022

Civil airports attacked as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, Emmanuel Macron, the French President,  held new telephone talks today with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  This call was the fourth time they had spoken since the invasion started and was shorter than their last call, lasting approximately 1 hour 45 minutes.

Emmanuel Macron is keen to have a positive result in talks with Putin as France’s youngest leader since Napoleon seeks reelection. Yet, this is looking increasingly unlikely because as days pass the French leader is facing increased internal pressures not to appease Putin in the way he has in negotiations thus far conducted.  

Earlier in the day, Putin had talks with the Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, who, according to media reports appealed for a ceasefire in the conflict. Putin told the Turkish leader he would only halt the Russian military operations if Ukraine stopped fighting and the Russian demands were met,. According to the Kremlin, Putin claimed the operation was going according to plan and was on schedule. The statement also stated that Putin hoped Ukrainian negotiators would take a more constructive approach at talks and take into account the reality on the ground. Turkey currently has rejected applying any economic or trade sanctions on Russia, saying it believes these are counterproductive.  Whilst it has supplied drones to Ukraine, it is still continuing other products to Russia as it maintains its current political stance.

The civilian airport at Vinnytsia airport has been destroyed by Russian forces, confirmed by the local authorities. According to Chatham House head of research, Orysia Lutsevych, Putin has done this to stop humanitarian supplies being flown into the country. 

Earlier in the conflict, the civilian airport at Mariupol was attacked and destroyed by the Russian forces which prevented humanitarian evacuation flights from taking place. Elsewhere, joint military and civilian airports have been attacked, such as Gostomel Airport, which appeared to be attacked by Russian helicopter gunships. 

According to German reports, the US is working on a possible deal with Poland, to supply them with more aircraft, if the Polish supply the Ukrainian air force with Russian made MIG fighter jets, which its pilots are trained to fly. 

The Ukrainian aviation industry was only just beginning to recover from the global downturn in business, travel restrictions and border closures during the covid pandemic. That recovery has been halted in its tracks and with the Russian targeting of civilian airports and civilian aviation infrastructure, there is a great question mark over the possibility of the industry ever being able to recover. 

Whilst a number of Ukrainian registered commercial aircraft were flown out of the country for safekeeping,  a large number are unaccounted for and their fate unknown.   Sadly,  one we do know about is the giant of the skies, the Ukrainian 'Dream' AN225 which has been destroyed by Russian forces. 

A look back at better times in this special AirClips video.

Opinion -Whilst there is no road map to peace, no united plan, no discussion on how this invasion will end, indeed if it even will end.  We don't know what Putin's plans are, perhaps one reason the massive long convoy that is less than 25 miles from the Kyiv is not moving much is that that convoy is on its way further west once Kyiv has fallen.  Of course, Russia has stated that it has no plans to invade Moldova, Romania or Poland or indeed the baltic states of Latvia and Estonia, it also previously stated it had no plans to invade Ukraine. Officials on the Ukraine and Belarus border said there would be a number of ceasefires to allow humanitarian evacuations from key cities, yet during those agreements were not upheld and the shelling, fighting and attacks continued. It seems that Putin's plans change, depending on which other world leader he talks to on the phone in these recent days, so the future is far from clear. 

I have no military campaign planning or experience, so I have no real opinion of which way forward would be the most effective, a no-fly zone by NATO forces, a preemptive western strike on the convoy, donated jets bombing the invasion forces or the total capitulation of Ukraine will be the fastest way to end the bloodshed. I do fear that future generations will look in the history books and wonder why 'we' didn't do more, maybe they will even wonder why Europe and NATO continue to use Ukraine as a human shield for so long against Russian aggression. 

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