Beyond the Bubble: Russia continues wartime escalation in Ukraine

Sara Marshall, News Editor

It has been more than seven months since Russia began their invasion of Ukraine. In that time, 5,916 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and 8,616 injured.  According to the latest estimate from the United Nations, there are now 7.4 million Ukrainian refugees scattered across Europe. Intense hostilities and inaccessible locations lead UN officials to believe the numbers may be much higher.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and air strikes,” the UN civilian casualty update states.

Both Russia and Ukraine have been keeping their military casualties a closely guarded secret, though international analysts estimate Ukrainian casualties to be around 9,000 and Russian casualties to be approximately 20,000-25,000.

In a surprise escalation of the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a draft to enlist 300,000 new soldiers. Russia maintains that the draft is only a “special military operation.” Thousands of Russians have already received draft papers and have been shipped off on buses and trains for training.

Regions in Siberia and in the Caucasus Mountains seemed to be the areas with the highest concentration of new draftees. In an attempt to escape draft summons, military-age men are flooding border crossing sites and airports trying to flee Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a CBS “Face The Nation” segment, directly addressed the United States, detailing the current situation of the war and expressing hope for an eventual Ukrainian victory.

[Putin] knows that he’s losing the war. In the battlefield, Ukraine has seized the initiative. He cannot explain to his society why, and he is looking for answers to these questions,” Zelenskyy said. “His society does not understand what kind of second army in the world it is that is not capable to win and to defeat Ukraine.”

Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine Erik Møse presented findings on the suffering caused by the armed conflict, determining that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. This conclusion was drawn based on the conduct of hostilities, the number of indiscriminate attacks and sexual and gender-based violence.

Russian forces have attacked Ukraine’s nuclear electrical infrastructure, leaving millions without power in the process. In the coming winter, Zelenskyy predicts that Russia will continue to target Ukraine’s electrical power grid.

Putin continues to dangle the threat of nuclear weapons usage, targeting Ukrainian nuclear power plants in the city of Enerhodar. Putin announced his partial military mobilization during the third week of September, saying he was prepared to resort to more deadly weapons in his arsenal, including nuclear weapons. 

“Our country also has various means of destruction,” Putin said. “And when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal. It’s not a bluff.”

Zelenskyy emphasizes the need for global condemnation of Russia, stressing that Russia’s crimes will not end with Ukraine.

“We see Russia creating, artificially, other kinds of crises and they are very openly discussing the threats to the rest of the world. They started threatening us with nuclear weapons,” Zelenskyy said. “Will the world depend on one country or one person? The world has to make a decision. We have made our decision.”

Valerii Zaluzhnyi is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In a speech at a veteran’s forum in Ukraine, he emphasized the constant hell Ukrainian soldiers are enduring, claiming the only respite from the conflict is when combat locations are changed.

“We, the servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and those who belong to the defense forces, feel the smell of death nearby every day, every minute,” Zaluzhnyi said. “This smell cannot be confused with anything, it is always there, the taste of blood that does not go away, even if you try to drown it out with something else, it does not go away.”