While the current situation on the ground in Ukraine is hard, it is not hopeless, Kalev Stoicescu, research fellow at think-tank the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) says, with the defending forces in with the chance of defending the capital Kyiv, despite the intense fighting.
"The craziest situation lies in Mariupol, which will soon start to resemble the siege of Leningrad," Stoicescu said, appearing on an "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) special broadcast.
"There are mass graves there, and the people are fighting for food. A human catastrophe is already taking place there," he continued.
"Russia has also been attacking airfields located in western Ukraine, to prevent their hosting warplanes such as MiG-29s, the expert said, referring to an offer from Poland to supply its neighbor to the east with MiGs in its' airforce service.
"I hope that these planes will be given to Poland. There are many considerations in play, as these planes also have a role to play in Poland's air defense," Stoicescu said.
"The negotiations are under way," he added.
Regarding any possible military attack from Belarus, subject of speculation since the war started, Stoicescu said that country had little to gain from full military intervention. "Their preparation has been poor and their morale is very low," adding that morale within Russian units was similarly deteriorating on a daily basis.
For this reason, Putin has booked his cannon fodder from elsewhere – from Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, Stoicescu said.
"Putin has signed a decree allowing 'volunteers' to fight for the Russian side in Ukraine: I can imagine how the prisons in Syria are being emptying out right now," he said.
However, mercenaries from Syria will not affect the outcome of the war, mainly due to climactic reasons, he said.
As to other desperate grabs the Russian leader may take in response to the unraveling of what was supposed to be a rapid takeover, Stoicescu would not rule out the use of chemical weapons, not least since Putin had already falsely accused Ukraine of doing the same.
"This is some sick fantasy. Ukraine has no weapons of mass destruction, no chemical weapons nor biological weapons. The most absurd aspect is that the accusations are being made by a country that has used those weapons, and poisoned people with polonium, for instance [Russian opposition leader Alexey] Navalny."
"Russia is without any shame. My belief is that they can use chemical weapons so as to say that you can see Ukraine had a chemical weapons. When the U.S. went to Iraq, there was also talk of weapons of mass destruction not being found. The difference is, however, that Russia can use chemical weapons there [in Ukraine], which the U.S., of course, did not do, Stoicescu said.
Key is retaining the unity of the allies even at crunch time, the expert added, while sanctions on their own are insufficient – halting the purchase of Russian oil and gas (which the U.S. has done but Germany has not – ed.) is essential.
Editor: Andrew Whyte