The killings of civilians in Bucha by Putin’s forces cast further doubt on the nature of Russia‘s military modernization, revealing “a failure of leadership at all levels” and will backfire on Vladimir Putin’s plansassured this Monday the magazine The Economist in an extensive chronicle on the massacre.
“For weeks of fighting, Russian troops in the territory around kyiv have been hit by Ukrainian forces. As they withdrew from farms and emerging suburbs like Bucha and Irpin, they left behind the remains of tanks and armored vehicles, as well as loot they couldn’t take with them. But the Russians also left behind evidence of summary executions and random killings, war crimes on a terrible scale.”wrote the influential British publication.
According The Economist, the massacre, which Ukraine’s prosecutor general says left at least 410 civilians killed, evidence the backwardness of the Kremlin troopscontradicting the Russian narrative about an alleged modernization of the army.
“In the 1990s, the country’s armed forces were a post-Soviet mess, starved of resources, beset by corruption and infected by intimidation. Recruits were still stripped of dignity and abused. That was supposed to have changed after years of reform after the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. The size of the army was reduced and contained more professional soldiers,” the influential British publication wrote. “None of that supposed progress was seen on April 3 in Bucha, on the northwestern outskirts of kyiv.”
The Economist as well was able to check the reports of summary executions and denied the Russian version that blamed Ukraine for what happened.
“Nine bodies lay on the side of a builder’s yard and another two on the road between Bucha and Irpin. All had puncture wounds to the head, chest, or both. At least two of the bodies had their hands tied behind their backs. From the smell of the decomposing bodies, they had been there for some time, disproving Russian claims that the Ukraine, which freed Bucha on April 1, carried out the killings.”, read in the chronicle.
The massacre also revealed a lack of leadership in the Kremlin’s armed forces, according The Economist.
The magazine quotes General Sir Richard Barronswho was in command of the British joint forces until 2016, according to which evidence of civilian abuses by Russian forces “reveals a failure of leadership at all levels, a collapse in morale, a failure to train in the most fundamental rules of warfare, and probably, above all, a failure of collective self-discipline in the face of staunch resistance”.
The result, he said, will be militarily and diplomatically counterproductive for the Kremlin: it will redouble Ukrainian resistance, boost Western military support for sanctions and military aid, and significantly reduce the space for dialogue.
The Economist also underlined hehe disturbing similarities between the Bucha massacre and the wars waged by Russia in Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s, with Putin already president of the country.
What happened in Bucha, in particular, recalls the case of Novye Aldia suburb of the Chechen capital Grozny. There the Russian troops went from house to house executing civiliansaccording to eyewitness accounts gathered by the NGO Human Rights Watch. “Brutal sweeps like these became known as zachistka or ‘clean-up’ operations”remember the magazine.
In fact, the Chechens themselves could be involved in the massacre, which, moreover, in all probability, was premeditated, according The Economist: “The Conflict Intelligence Teama research group, says the Russian units involved in Bucha are likely to have come from the russian eastern military districtor one of the other formations involved in that axis: the airborne forces VDVthe rosgvardia (the Russian army national guard) or troops loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov”the Chechen leader accused of murders and all kinds of human rights abuses.
Magazine also cites Jack Watlinga military expert from Royal United Services Institutea British think tank, which was in Ukraine in the weeks before the war.
“Anyone who says that Bucha is the result of brutality or dishonest behavior is wrong”Watling said. “This was the plan. It was premeditated. It is consistent with Russian methods in Chechnya. And if the Russian army had been more successful, there would be many more villages like this.”
To this must be added thatsince Vladimir Putin took power in 1999, the Kremlin fostered a cult of aggression whose goal was “legitimize senseless military campaigns”, explained Elena Rachelasocial anthropologist at the University of Oxford.
Encouraged by state television, soldiers look to a father or grandfather who fought in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 as their role model. This explains videos such as the one published by the Russian Ministry of Defense on April 1, in which it appears Alexei Shabulincommander of a battalion that carried out a zachistka in the direction “Hostomel-Gucha… Bucha-Lozero”.
“My great-grandfather went through the entire Second World War and until 1953 he chased the fascist devil called Bandera through the Ukrainian forests,” he said. “I am now a glorious successor to this tradition. Now my time has come and I will not dishonor my great-grandfather, and I will go to the end.”
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