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The Economist’s coverage of the crisis in Ukraine (Feb 17, 2022)

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UKRAINE IS SHROUDED in a figurative fog. Until recently the drumbeat of war was only getting louder. But in recent days tensions have moderated, as Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, said he would withdraw some of the 130,000 troops massed near the border with Ukraine. There may yet be a “diplomatic path” out of the crisis, he told reporters at a press conference alongside Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, on February 15th.

Scepticism of Mr Putin’s pledges remains high in the West. On February 16th Antony Blinken, America’s secretary of state, said there had been “no meaningful pullback”. Not for the first time he noted a “difference between what Russia says and what it does”. De-escalation, said Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, will come from “a real withdrawal of forces”—not just a reshuffling of troops. Open-source sleuths say the evidence of a Russian withdrawal is limited to a single unit in Crimea. Separately, on February 15th the websites of several Ukrainian government ministries and two state banks went offline in a cyber-attack. No culprit has yet been identified, but the Ukrainian government suspects that a foreign intelligence service was involved.

Meanwhile the lower house of Russia’s parliament voted to recognise two breakaway republics in south-eastern Ukraine as independent states. The Kremlin’s approval of the move would violate the Minsk accords, the process by which Ukraine is meant to re-absorb them. Mr Putin has not backed the motion; instead he seems to want to continue negotiations around the accords.

His next move is anyone’s guess. The Economist is following it all closely. Our coverage below describes what’s at stake, what lies behind Mr Putin’s thinking and what might happen.

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