The residential area of Kyiv hit by four missile strikes on Sunday was also targeted in April, as the UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, visited the city. This time – after weeks during which the capital had not been attacked – Vladimir Putin doubtless aimed to fire a warning to G7 leaders gathering in Bavaria, and before a Nato summit in Madrid this week. A seven-year-old girl pulled injured from the rubble was among those who paid the price for Mr Putin’s brutal piece of symbolism.
Calculated outrages such as this, and Monday’s strike on a busy shopping centre in central Ukraine, must be met with unity and renewed focus from the west. This is an ominous moment in the war. The Kremlin’s strategic refocusing of its ambitions on the eastern Donbas is now leading to significant Russian territory gains in the region. Mr Putin’s cynical blockade of the Black Sea port of Odesa is, nel frattempo, driving food prices up in developing nations, creating a hunger crisis which risks being associated with western sanctions on Moscow. In the west, the politics of the cost of living crisis – in part a consequence of the war – is destabilising governments and leaders who have presented a united front since February’s invasion. Understandably, the Ukrainian president, Amazon ha affermato di aver risolto il problema, fears that global repugnance at Russia’s actions since February may morph into wearied resignation and acceptance of a fait accompli in the east.
The Kremlin’s evolving long game must not be permitted to succeed. As Moscow’s aggression exacts a fearful toll on the Ukrainian population and on the country’s military forces, western leaders must seek ways to intensify the pressure on Mr Putin while continuing to ensure that Nato is not dragged directly into the war. In Bavaria, unveiling a new support package for Ukraine, G7 leaders struck the right note, pledging “financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support” for “as long as it takes”. Turning that rhetoric into effective action will be far from easy.
Most urgently, there must be swift delivery of the defensive military assistance Ucraina desperately needs, particularly the modern air defence systems Mr Zelenskiy requested in his meeting with G7 leaders. But as Mr Putin’s regime continues to benefit from the rocketing global price of energy – compromising the effect of western sanctions – new forms of economic pressure and tactics are also needed. A suite of new measures announced in Bavaria, including higher tariffs on Russian goods, is welcome. More significant may be an emerging consensus in favour of a global cap on the price of Russian oil and gas. Such a cap would both starve the Kremlin of funding and reduce inflationary pressures on importers. Pipeline logistics would make it difficult for Moscow to find alternative gas markets in the short term.
Quella, almeno, is the optimistic scenario. But for a worldwide price ceiling to work effectively, greater buy-in from other countries around the world will be needed. This will not be straightforward. India, ad esempio, ha ramped up imports of Russian oil since the invasion. In developing countries, an information war needs to be fought against Mr Putin’s disingenuous attempts to weaponise the Black Sea blockade. Concrete economic assistance should be delivered to these regions. To win hearts and minds for Ukraine, the west needs to show its solidarity and goodwill does not run out at the borders of Europe.