Ukraine, Dunaev (Riac): ‘Italy alongside Kiev, Zelensky has received Meloni’s message’

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, “received the message of Prime Minister Meloni”, who arrived in Kiev with the “objective” of making his interlocutor understand that “apart from the disagreements in the majority and a tiredness in public opinion, the Italy is firm in its support for Ukraine and what matters are the facts”. This was stated to Adnkronos by Alexander Dunaev, expert of the Russian International Affairs Council (Riac) and collaborator of Carnegie Moscow, recalling how Italy has supplied important armaments to Kiev and is preparing to deliver the advanced Samp/T anti-aircraft defense systems. “Politics is a game of symbols and this visit was an important symbol to make Ukraine understand that Italy is on Zelensky’s side regardless of the disagreements in the majority”, he declares.

According to Dunaev “there is a not remote probability that in 2024 the conflict will not have ended yet” and in any case it is “very probable” that it will continue at least until “next autumn”. For the expert, at the moment the only factor that could end the war is “a Ukrainian offensive”. Why this happens will depend a lot on the West, but in any case it will take “weeks, if not months” before supplies of tanks or fighters – which have been recently discussed in Western chancelleries – arrive in Ukraine. To indicate that the war will not end soon, Dunaev specifies, there are two elements that should not be underestimated: the first is the ability of the Russians, despite the difficulties to advance, to “hold the front”, the second is the idea that it is making room for Moscow or aiming for a war of attrition given the impossibility of launching a new lightning offensive.

The analyst, who does not consider China as a decisive actor for the solution of the conflict, believes it is “improbable” that Russia will be able to launch a large-scale offensive in Ukraine given that it “has neither the means nor the necessary troops” , underlining how the offensive that has been talked about in Russia for two-three weeks so far “has not brought any visible success”. In Bakhmut the Russian troops “advance very slowly” and the head of Wagner himself, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has admitted that the city will not be taken before March-April, continues the Russian expert, according to whom there are also stages of “stall” or even defeat for Moscow such as near Vuhledar, where a column of Russian tanks was destroyed a couple of weeks ago. “There has also been talk that Russia is amassing warplanes near the Ukrainian border – adds Dunaev – but the Russian military is afraid to attack with aviation on a massive scale because the Ukrainians have demonstrated that they have many anti-aircraft systems and Moscow has already lost 130 aircraft since the beginning of the war.”

Finally, regarding the announcement made by President Vladimir Putin on the suspension of Russia’s participation in the START treaty on nuclear weapons, the expert believes that “it will not have important consequences on the strategic security of the world” since – as explained by the ministry of Russian Foreign Affairs a few hours after the announcement – “at any moment everything can go back to how it was before” and Moscow today, given the difficulties of the war industry in Ukraine, does not seem able to “start a new arms race”. Dunaev reads Putin’s words more as a message to the home front. His goal, he concludes, was to “tranquilize the population”, see the announced 18% increase in the minimum wage, and at the same time the ranks of “nationalists”, who expected a signal from him such as the declaration of war or a new mobilization, “even if the first one has not been officially declared over”.