Posted on 16th April 2022

Easter is upon us, daffodils are everywhere and the bird-song is intense. I feel the need to get closer to nature because the news these days is so dark. At a time when us Christians should be thinking of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, all I can think about is the crucifixion of the Ukrainian people. This weekend my prayers will be for the Ukrainian 36th Brigade which is moving to join up with the Azov battalion in a final defence of Mariupol. After 7 weeks of bombardment Vadym Boychenko the City Mayor said it would be “very difficult” to retain control. However, the intensity and sense of purpose driving the Ukrainian forces contrasts strongly with often inexperienced Russian conscripts, some of whom must be wondering what in the hell they are doing. Putin needs Mariupol to fall. Its capture will give him a land-bridge between Russia and Crimea for troops and supplies. Also do not underestimate the significance in his attaining a victory before the May 9th Parades in Moscow.

Slane Castle

I’m sure the Ukrainians are well aware of this and will fight tooth and nail to try to deny Vlad the Bad his victory.  To this effect, they have retreated into a maze of tunnels.  This make it difficult for Russian airstrikes, artillery or snipers.  Indeed, if Russians takes them on directly “ they will be slaughtered because the defender of the tunnel will absolutely have the tactical upper hand”. That is according to Alexander Grinberg, an analyst at Jerusalem Institute of Strategy.  The siege of Mariupol is in so many ways horrific and the images of the pulverised city haunting but if the Ukrainians against all the odds can hold on there, it would deny Putin a victory at a critical time.  Still my hopes are up as I regard the successful strike by the Ukrainians against Russia’s flagship Black Sea missile cruiser to be a good omen.  Even Russian State media has had to admit the Moskva has sunk although it disputes the cause.  It was the flagship of the Black Sea fleet and as such was definitively a symbol of Russia’s military power.  Ironically it was originally built in Ukraine during the Soviet era.  Taking the ship out of action will be a major boost to Ukrainian morale.  However, it also removed an important strategic asset from the Russian navy.

So, going back to my prayers for the 36th Brigade and expanding it into a wider context, I just pray, like so many,  for the killing to stop.  If Putin is trying to justify this war is in defence of Russia’s borders he has failed spectacularly as both Sweden and Finland have now said they want to join NATO.  He has not weakened his enemy but strengthened it.  If he had sought to sow division in the EU he has failed. His only possible ally left is Orban in Hungary.  Most importantly he is  stiffening the EU’s resolve to break its dependency on Russian oil and gas.  If they succeed it will have long-term consequences on the Russian economy.  He is, in short, sowing the seeds of his own destruction.  Should his regime fall and in my view I already see cracks in the edifice, waiting in a prison is Alexi Navalny.  Easter you see is a time for renewal.

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