Putin to face deep ‘social instability’ after Ukraine war sparking fears of wider conflict

Brutal moment Ukraine's army obliterated two Russian tanks

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The Russian President continues to refer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation”. On the anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country was “reborn” when Russia invaded six months ago.

After days of warnings that Moscow could use the anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence Day to launch more missile attacks on major cities, the second biggest city Kharkiv was under curfew after months of bombardment.

The anniversary fell exactly six months after Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine. Wednesday’s celebrations were cancelled but many people marked the day by wearing embroidered shirts that are part of the national dress.

In an emotional speech to his compatriots, Zelenskiy said Russia’s attack had revived the nation’s spirit.

“A new nation appeared in the world on February 24 at 4 in the morning. It was not born, but reborn. A nation that did not cry, scream or take fright. One that did not flee. Did not give up. And did not forget,” he said.

The 44-year-old leader, speaking in front of Kyiv’s central monument to independence in his trademark combat fatigues, vowed to recapture occupied areas of eastern Ukraine as well as the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

“We will not sit down at the negotiating table out of fear, with a gun pointed at our heads. For us, the most terrible iron is not missiles, aircraft and tanks, but shackles. Not trenches, but fetters,” he said.

But according to Russia expert Matt Gertken, the political and social instability that will follow in Russia after the war will continue to make Moscow a dangerous player ready to spark a wider conflict.

The geopolitical lead at BCA Research told Express.co.uk: “Russia is a great worry and it’s not just over a one month or one year timeframe.

“It’s over a 10 or 20 year time frame because they have an economy that’s a shambles.

“And once they are finished with their Ukraine adventure, they will, in fact have to go through a significant period of social instability and possibly political instability.

“And it’s it’s going to be in the context in which we may not have an understanding over relations between the US and Russia.

READ MORE: Putin warned after Russian ministry in Ukraine bombed

“And that means that there is still a tail risk of a conflict that could be could really expand.”

Russia has made few advances in Ukraine in recent months, after its troops were pushed back from Kyiv in the early weeks of the war. Ukrainian soldiers on the front line in the east said they were more motivated than their enemy.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told a meeting of defence ministers in Uzbekistan that Russia had deliberately slowed down what it refers to as its “special military operation” in Ukraine to avoid civilian casualties.

On Tuesday evening, Mr Zelensky warned of the possibility of “repugnant Russian provocations” and on Wednesday, Ukraine’s military urged people to take air raid warnings seriously, reporting new air and missile attacks on civilian buildings.

The war has killed thousands of civilians, forced more than a third of Ukraine’s 41 million people from their homes, left cities in ruins, and shaken the global economy. It is largely at a standstill with no immediate prospect of peace talks.

US President Joe Biden announced nearly $3 billion for weapons and equipment for Ukraine in Washington’s “biggest tranche of security assistance to date”, while the head of NATO told Ukrainians they were an inspiration to the world.

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“You can count on NATO’s support. For as long as it takes,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a video message.

As well as Crimea, Russian forces have seized areas of the south including the Black Sea and Sea of Azov coasts, and chunks of the eastern Donbas region comprising the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk.

US officials have warned of likely new Russian attacks on civilian and government infrastructure in coming days.

Almost 9,000 Ukrainian military personnel have been killed in the war, its military said this week. Kyiv says the invasion is an unprovoked act of imperial aggression.

Russia has not publicised its losses but U.S. intelligence estimates 15,000 killed in what Moscow describes as an operation necessitated by threats to its security. Those deemed to discredit its armed forces are liable to prosecution.

Russian opposition politician Yevgeny Roizman was shown being detained at his home in a video published by state-owned news agency RIA on Wednesday. “The essence is that I called the war a war. That’s it,” he said as he was led away.

Moscow has installed officials in areas of Ukraine it controls but some have been assassinated. The head of the town of Mykhailivka in the Russian-controlled part of Zaporizhzhia region was killed by a car bomb on Wednesday.

Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991 after a failed putsch by Communist hardliners in Moscow, and its population voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum that December.

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