I am not all that much into posting about the ups and downs of the Special Operation in Ukraine, but it seems that there has been one of those lines crossed. While it was not widely publicized, June 10 was apparently a deadline set by V.V. Putin for Russian forces to conquer Severodonetsk. While reportedly they control a solid majority of that now mostly destroyed city, with 90% of its population having left, Ukrainians still control portions, especially an industrial zone, somewhat mimicking Mariuopol, and are also bombarding Russian forces from a hillside in Lyschansk across the Siviersky Donets River. The deadline has not been met, even as much western declares as it has been doing for some time now that the Russians will probably gain full control "within a few days." Maybe.
In any case, there have been some changes. One of them has been a curious shift of justification for the war. Putin has long identified his special operation as WW II redux, with the Ukrainian government supposedly run by a bunch of Nazis who need to be removed so that Ukraine can be "de-nazified." The now-defeated Azov battalion that was based in Mariuopol was founded by some apparentl neo-Nazis, although it was absorbed into the Ukrainian national guard and given new leadership. But that was about it for anybody who seemed seriously to be any sort of Nazis, not the Jewish president of Ukraine, V. Zelenskyy, whom Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov declared ar one point was a Nazi precisely because he was Jewish, although Putin then backed that off an apologized when this led to an outcry from Israeli leaders, who have maintained an official neutrality so far.
But now, on the 350th birthday of Peter the Great, Putin has invoked him as justidication for the invasion. They need to "retake" what was theirs, like he did supposedy. In particular, Peter conquered portions of Ukraine from Sweden, notably at the 1704 Battle of Poltova, which is located southwest of Kharkiv. He even held territories on the Sea of Azov, recently battled over in this war, although it was not later under Catherine the Great that Crimea would be conquered. However, after Poltova Peter would lose those territories bordering on the Sea of Azov to the Ottomans, ending up holding only the northeastern corner of what is now Ukraine at his death. Ironically this is the region of Donbas where the most furious fighting is going on right now, including in the much-contested city of Severodonetsk. Anyway, what was supposedly an anti-Nazi war that was led by Stalin has now been transformed into an old fashioned imperalist one led by Peter the Great, the first Russian leader to declare himself an Emperor. Reportedly Putin has long admired him and is a native of the city named for him.
The major news media in the last few days has argued that on the ground things have shifted in Russia's favor, and on some matters they appear to have Most particularly it seems the Ukrainians are running low on ammunition that works for most of their weapons, which are leftover Soviet ones. In a story this morning in the Washington Post it was reported that the balance of artillery firing between the two sides is now at a ten to one rate in favor of the Russians, which is allowing them to gradually take over villages by the old "we had to destroy it to save it" model the US used in Vietnam, although in fact the number of villages taken over recently seems to be fairly small. The reports in the papers seem to ignore what is going on in the Kherson and Kharkiv fronts, where Ukraine had been gaining, although it appears those gains may be slowing. It is also reported that because of this ammunition disadvantage, the Urkainians are now suffering higher casualties than the Russians.
There are also conflicting reports about the state of the Russian economy. Supposedly, with the strong ruble, inflation has declined from a 20% rate to a still high 17% rate. The former McDonald's has reopened under a new ownership and logo. Oil revenues are up with the higher oil prices, although apparently imports have been way down, and a number of items are in short supply. Not reported in the western media is that the Duma has just passed a law allowing the government to block people from taking money from their bank accounts, which is causing some unhappiness. Those allegedly higher oil revenues may not be sufficient to cover the rising costs of the special operation.