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Putin's Thirst For Blood Is A Reckoning For The West

The Russian military is systematically committing war crimes - now for all to see in the middle of Kyiv. It is shameful that the West is not helping adequately, for example with appropriate air defense systems. The time for political excuses is over.

back vew of a man holding up and waving a little ukrainian flag in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington

A protestor waves the Ukrainian flag in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington on Monday.

Clemens Wergin


BERLIN — It was the worst assault of rockets since the first days of the war in late February. Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities are being targeted primarily against civilians and civilian targets, yet another brazen Russian violation of international law.

We are told it is retaliation for the Ukrainian attack on the Kerch Bridge, which connects Russia to Ukraine's Crimea.

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Like a small child throwing a tantrum, Russia's President Vladimir Putin is lashing out with missile attacks that have no military utility whatsoever, designed instead only to terrorize the population.

This coincides with the arrival of Sergey Surovikin as Russian commander-in-chief of the Ukraine war. His resume includes having flattened the city of Aleppo in the Syrian civil war. Now he has begun using the same terror tactics against Ukrainian cities.

Russia apologists and Putin himself have tried to place the Ukrainian attack on the Kerch Bridge in Crimea on the same moral level as Russian attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine.

Geneva Convention, take it or leave it

But this is entirely false. The Kerch Bridge was a legitimate military target: universities, hospitals, playgrounds, pedestrian bridges, and critical civilian infrastructure such as energy supplies are not. Finally, the Kerch Bridge plays a crucial role in the illegal invasion of Ukraine, as the main route for transporting soldiers, military equipment, and supplies to the front lines in the south.

Moreover, the bridge was built illegally and without the consent of Ukraine, to whose territory Crimea belongs. None of this applies to the targets Russia targeted in Ukraine on Monday, some of them with Kalibr missiles launched from the Black Sea, which are considered comparatively accurate.

It is one of the most striking asymmetries in Moscow's war of conquest that the Ukrainian defenders continue to feel bound by the Geneva Conventions, while the Russian aggressors no longer even maintain the pretense of respecting international law.

For months, for example, Putin's propagandists have gone on television to call for systematic war crimes against Ukraine, and the Russian military has been willingly implementing much of it. But the truth is just the opposite: Russia has become a terrorist state and should be branded as such by Western countries.

a man is seating on tires as he observes the damages left by a Russian missile strike on a house

In Slovyansk, Donbas, a man observes the damages of the residential buildings after a Russian artillery strike hit the city center in July.

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

An end to German excuses

The new, massive Russian attacks this week are also a stark reminder of how shameful it is that after nearly eight months of war, the West has still done almost nothing to help Ukraine protect major cities and critical infrastructure against Russian airstrikes. This is despite the fact that Russia's methods, which violate international law, have been there for all to see since the beginning of the war.

It is not an exaggeration when Ukrainians say that they are also dying for our interests.

What Ukraine needs now is an end to constant excuses, notably those from Germany. The West must quickly deliver modern Western air defense systems to Ukraine, because every day that Ukrainian cities remain insufficiently protected means even more civilians are killed.

The same is true of the war effort in the east. The faster Ukrainian troops retake occupied territories, the fewer Ukrainian civilians can be arbitrarily murdered, raped, or tortured by the occupiers. Because this is still a reality in the occupied territories: as we see new mass graves, torture cellars and rape victims found in every town liberated by the Ukrainians.

It is not an exaggeration when Ukrainians say that they are also dying for our interests. After all, if their country were to fall, the next targets of Russian neo-imperialism would be NATO partners such as the Baltics or Poland.

Language of strength

The least we should do, therefore, is to shorten Ukrainian suffering. To do so, we must give them better tools to liberate their country more quickly. This includes heavy Western weapon systems such as the Leopard-2 tank and missiles such as the ATACMS, which are launched from the Himars missile launchers and cover the entire Russian-occupied part of Ukraine with their 300-kilometer range.

It is also necessary to lift restrictions on weapons supplied from the West, because currently Ukrainians are not allowed to use them to attack military targets inside Russia. We are thus imposing shackles on the Ukrainians that further exacerbate the asymmetry in favor of Moscow in this war.

It is both unfair and counterproductive for Russia to be able to attack even critical civilian infrastructure in Ukraine with impunity, while Russian military installations on Russian territory supporting the invasion of Ukraine remain off-limits.

And yes, it is also important to show Russia that it is vulnerable on its own territory if it continues to systematically destroy the lives and livelihoods of the Ukrainian nation.

Putin understands only the language of strength. That is why we should respond to every new Russian terror campaign by supporting Ukraine even more resolutely in its struggle defend itself from the invaders.

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