Science | History | Geography | PSHE

Hope for Ukraine from a girl in a red dress

Could the war be over by Christmas? Russia is steadily reducing many Ukrainian cities to rubble. President Zelensky refuses to back down. Some fear this is a war without an end. It is an image of defiance to impress the world. A girl poses in the red dress she bought for her school prom – which never happened, because the school took a direct hit from a Russian bombardment. It ruined, says 16-year-old Valerie, “all our plans that we so dreamed of.” But, as the photo shows, continuing missile strikes have not broken Ukraine’s spirit. If Valerie’s plans have not worked out, nor have President Putin’s. Valerie’s city, Kharkiv, was a prime target for the invading forces. But it was never taken. Nor did the Russians have the quick victory they expected in Mariupol. On Tuesday two of its captured defenders, both British, were charged by a pro-Russian court in Donetsk with trying to “seize power”. They could face the death penalty. Legally, this makes no sense, since Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were fighting for Ukraine, of which Dontesk is part. It is a weird aspect of a war which, says the UN’s Amin Awad, “has and will have no winner.” The UN estimates that 15.7 million people need help. Many have no water and electricity; three million children are unable to go to school. Most experts agree that the Russians did badly to start with but are now gaining ground in the east. Retired US general Stephen Twitty says their plan is simple and brutal: to destroy every city in their way. The Ukrainians, he argues, will never have the military strength to drive the invaders out. But Stephen J Hadley, a former US national security adviser, believes the Ukrainians can “grind down” the invaders “so that you get to the point where there is a stalemate.” The hope is that this will lead to peace talks. But with the Ukrainians determined not to concede any territory, and Putin needing to gain territory in order to save face, there is little room for compromise. Could the war be over by Christmas? Painful truce? Yes: The fighting is hugely costly for both sides. By the end of the year, Russia will feel the deep impact of sanctions, while countries suffering from energy and grain shortages will pressurise Ukraine. No: Neither side is in the mood for negotiation, and both will fight to try to gain a military advantage. Both have enough soldiers and supplies of arms to continue the war for years. Or... As Amin Awad says, there will be no winner. Russia’s new approach to the war means that whoever gains control of the territory fought over will just be left with devastated cities to rebuild. KeywordsContinuing missile strikes - On Tuesday they killed one person and wounded three others.

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