On the final week earlier than the Gregorian Christmas, the optics of Russia’s conflict in Ukraine have taken on a special dynamic and reveal that the battle just isn’t solely being fought on the frigid frontlines in Ukraine, however can be turning into one thing of a PR tit-for-tat.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has harnessed the media to turn into an ever-present determine on screens internationally, beaming himself into parliaments, conferences and even music festivals.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a previous grasp of propaganda, is driving his personal agenda via his absolute management of Russian state media. Comparisons between the 2 present a chasm which will replicate the bigger narrative of the conflict.
Final Friday, in response to the Kremlin, Putin “spent all day working on the joint workers of army branches concerned within the particular army operation.”
However the one photographs that emerged have been of Putin on the head of a desk of generals, wearing a navy swimsuit and tie, listening to army chiefs who kowtow to his each whim. There was no point out of a location for this assembly, no readout, nor did the President make any public feedback.
Zelensky, against this, broadcast his location to the world.
He spent Tuesday morning on the frozen frontlines, visiting troops within the beleaguered city of Bakhmut. The placement was vital: Zelensky and his generals have repeatedly stated this a part of the 1,300km-long frontline in Ukraine sees probably the most persistent and lethal combating. Wearing khaki fatigues, he known as his troopers “superhuman.”
Zelensky is not any stranger to the frontlines within the east of his nation. Final week he posted a selfie-video from the city of Slovyansk. Maybe that go to prompted the Kremlin into motion.
On Sunday the Russian Protection Ministry launched a video purporting to point out Protection Minister Sergei Shoigu inspecting the troops concerned within the so-called “particular army operation” in Ukraine.
However the video was not labeled as being from any specific area. Nor did it reveal any figuring out areas. In actual fact, the one factor it revealed in any respect was Shoigu in a helicopter, and that Russia nonetheless has some functioning helicopters.
The starkest of contrasts got here this week.
On Tuesday in Moscow, Vladimir Putin handed out medals within the gilded halls of the Kremlin – once more, clad in a darkish swimsuit and maroon tie. The honors, together with a purple sash, have been bestowed on the Russian-installed leaders of the occupied areas of Ukraine: Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
The hand-wringing and bouquet-brandishing couldn’t have been extra at odds with how President Zelensky wrapped up his go to to Bakhmut. Standing in a secret underground location, he handed out medals to troopers, weapons slung throughout their shoulders, risking their lives in protection.
From Bakhmut, Zelensky delivered rousing phrases: “The East is holding out as a result of Bakhmut is combating. That is the fortress of our morale. In fierce battles and at the price of many lives, freedom is being defended right here for all of us. Bakhmut defenders deserve our most assist and our highest gratitude.”
However the coup de grâce was delivered by Zelensky’s workplace in a press assertion on Tuesday night. “The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy began an official go to to the USA of America,” it learn.
There may be little coincidence that Zelensky has determined to make the US his first official go to outdoors of Ukraine because the 300 day-old conflict.
On Monday, President Putin made a uncommon journey to Minsk, Belarus, to go to his ally, President Alexander Lukashenko, typically ascribed the moniker of Europe’s final dictator. The 2 males, seen as pariahs by massive swaths of the Western world, have been seen hugging on a purple carpet on a frozen morning at an airport in Minsk.
In distinction, Zelensky will shake palms with – and perhaps even hug – the chief of the world’s strongest nation, the free world, converse to reporters on the South Garden, signal a momentous protection package deal which incorporates the important Patriot air-defense methods, which the Kremlin has described as being a “purple line”, and provides an tackle to Congress.
It’s the final flex from Zelensky to Putin and never an insignificant achievement for his first journey outdoors the nation because the conflict started.