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Ukraine war

Prighozin’s death doesn’t change the war

Ukrainian troops firing towards Donbas. On a hiding to nothing? Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty

The presumed assassination of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and Vladimir Putin’s “enigmatic comments” about him highlights the “rivalry, bitterness and strife” at Russia’s summit, says Max Hastings in Bloomberg. But it would be rash to see it as heralding some radical change. With or without the mercenary warlord, “Putin’s calamitous war seems bound to go on”. And Ukraine’s much-vaunted summer offensive is struggling. Western hawks who promised governments that donating billions of dollars of advanced weapons guaranteed a “decisive victory” were wrong. The Russians have dug deep defences, including minefields, that the Ukrainians simply cannot hope to break through. For all the “courage and ingenuity” of its commanders, Kyiv has “no realistic prospect” of winning back Crimea or the Eastern Donbas.

What’s more, whatever Kremlin-watchers claim, there’s little to suggest Putin’s fall is imminent. The “brief revolt” by Prigozhin was swiftly dealt with, despite “crazily optimistic” Western claims about the Russian people’s hatred for Putin. The Wagner boss’s death “emphasises the likely fate of any challenger”. And in the highly unlikely event Putin is deposed, he will almost certainly be replaced by someone “equally unpleasant and likewise committed to the war”. We must go on arming President Zelensky’s troops, but not out of any “fantasy” that they can win, but to give him the best possible standing in any future peace negotiations, and to disabuse tyrants everywhere of the idea that “aggression pays”.