How the international media covered the Russo-Ukrainian war, June 19

Sasha Sverdlova

The editorial board of The New York Times published an opinion piece titled “The world has a choice: work together or fall apart” that discusses the urgency in addressing the global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is essential to get Ukrainian grains moving, writes the piece, and the time is running out. According to UN estimates, about 25 mln tons of grain could rot if it isn’t exported soon. Shipping via road, rail and river is insufficient, and the Odesa port that could handle the volume is blocked by Russian warships and mines. Kremlin promises to open a corridor for wheat in exchange for lifting some sanctions, but this would set a precedent for humanitarian blackmail. What might work, write the editorial board, is a joint appeal to Putin by the countries affected by the food crisis, especially those that have not joined Russiaʼs ostracism. “International trust and cooperation are in desperately short supply, but it’s the only way out of any of these intertwined crises.” ― concludes the publication.

The Wall Street Journal explores how Moscow is dealing with its manpower problem. As Kremlin continues to call the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation”, it has been using peacetime military units to pursue this campaign, bringing mixed results. Some counts suggest that Russian losses compare to Soviet personnel losses in Afghanistan. Yet, Putin avoids announcing war which would enable him to declare general mobilization, and instead introduces halfway measures such as increasing payment for contractors and allowing men over 40 to join. At the same time, the military offices have started to reach out to veterans asking to confirm their whereabouts, which is a sign that a broader mobilization is possible. In response, more than a dozen military recruitment offices have been set on fire since the start of full-scale war, writes the outlet.

The Guardian writes about how the death of Roman Ratushnyi, a prominent 24 years old activist, became a symbol of war’s heavy toll on Ukrainian society. Ratushnyi was an environmental and political campaigner, one of the student-protesters beaten on the first night of the Revolution of Dignity. He died during a combat task near Kharkiv a few weeks before his 25th birthday. This is symbolic, as Ukraine is suffering some of the heaviest losses since the start of the war, with between 100 and 200 Ukrainians dying daily, writes the outlet. The war severely impacts younger Ukrainian generations, as facing the atrocities of the Russian invasion, there won’t be a reconciliation with Russia for many years. Ratushnyi tweeted last month: “The more Russians we kill now, the fewer Russians our children will have to kill.”

The former presidents of Liberia and Nigeria, Ellen Johnson and Olusegun Obasanjo, wrote an op-ed in The Economist featuring growing worries about Russia’s invasion impact on Africa. The complicated situation on the continent is influenced by many factors, including the growing population, the isolation from global supply chains during the COVID-19, and the economic crisis. Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine blocking grains and fertilizers exports adds 60% wheat prices rise and 2m tonne deficit in fertilizers that will lead to smaller in-house harvest. “Unlike COVID-19, this unfolding catastrophe is a choice”, write the authors, the choice of one person, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Johnson and Obasanjo discuss the potential path for peace, which in their opinion, could be achieved via an acceptable off-ramp for both Ukraine and Russia that would lead to dialogue and a political solution. The authors offer three components to achieve stability and cooperation in Russia-Ukraine relations: strong external pressure on Ukraine and Russia to ensure a negotiation process, internal willingness to prefer peace over war, and most importantly, strong leadership able to accept necessary compromises. The Russo-Ukrainian war, write the authors, is a symptom of a bigger issue of dysfunctional global security architecture, and in particular UN security council, that does not include Africans, who don’t have a voice and are expected to be passive spectators as global events pummel their continent.

Susan J. Wolfson, an English professor at Princeton University, wrote an essay on The Atlantic where she compares President Zelensky to inspiring poets of the early 19th century – Byron and Shelley. Just like the two poets who used words to change minds (as Byron himself called it, “the poetry of politics”). today, Volodymyr Zelensky’s speeches are filled with eloquence used as a weapon in the war. Wolfson quotes parts of Zelensky’s addresses, starting with the now-famous “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.” and further. The foundation of Zelensky’s style is concise, staccato sentences that build with clausal and verbal repetitions, writes Wolfson, that reminds of Byron and Shelly. There are other parallels between the Ukrainian President and British poets: just like Zelensky went from being a comedian and an actor to leading a country, Byron changed his roles from being a poet to a celebrity and then a political activist. Wolfson even writes that Zeensky’s “That is it. That’s all I wanted to tell you. Glory to Ukraine” is Byron’s determination of heroism.