With Ukraine stepping up its pleas for heavy weapons as Russia pounds Ukrainian towns and villages into ruins and its military suffers heavy losses, the US defence secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, said on Saturday that the war offered “a preview of a possible world of chaos and turmoil”.
But even as Russia makes slow and bloody progress in eastern Ukraine — and as it has started issuing passports to Ukrainians in parts of the south it controls — there are some indications that Moscow is struggling to govern the southern areas of the country that its forces occupy, according to Ukrainian officials, military analysts and witnesses.
The mayor-in-exile of Kherson — the only provincial capital captured by Russian forces — said that “explosions are heard every day” in the city, although the blasts’ origins are often unknown.
The Russians control government functions there and are trying to present an image of a city firmly under their grasp, but attacks by a nascent insurgency made up of Ukrainian civilians and former soldiers have picked up in recent weeks. He also noted that many had lost their jobs.
And in Mariupol, the Black Sea port that was levelled by Russia, the occupiers face a possible health crisis. The British defence ministry has joined a growing chorus expressing alarm that a lack of clean water and the destruction of the sanitation system there could lead to a cholera outbreak.
At the same time, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the city’s mayor, said that Russian forces were playing “pseudohistorical” propaganda programmes from cars for the relatively few remaining citizens. The programmes, on Peter the Great, played off a theme put forward by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia this past week, when he compared himself to the 18th-century czar and claimed to be engaging in a similar campaign to capture lands that he views as rightfully Russian.
While Ukraine is badly outgunned and has been making desperate pleas for the West to speed up the delivery of heavy weapons, the Russians also appear to be running low on precision missiles — but unlike the Ukrainians, the Russians can turn to other powerful weapons systems.
New York Times News Service