Ukraine War heading for a crucial phrase as Kyiv prepares spring offensive against Vladimir Putin's forces – Steve Cardownie

Last week marked the first anniversary of my nephew, Yura, arriving on these shores, as he and other family members fled the horrors of the war that were unleashed on Ukraine by Russian despot Vladimir Putin.
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As missiles flew overhead and a huge convoy of tanks approached Kyiv, he made his way from the city of Vasylkiv just outside the capital. His mother, aunt and two cousins were assisted by a Ukrainian citizen who agreed to help by driving them overnight along dangerous roads to the Polish border. Once there, they made their way to Warsaw where a Polish family took them in until they secured their visas from the British Embassy.

On arrival in Edinburgh, they were allocated accommodation under the Scottish Government’s “super sponsor scheme” and, after coping with the traumatic events of the previous weeks, they prepared themselves for a new life in the city until it was safe to return home. Some Ukrainian youngsters enrolled in Leith Academy and set about improving their English while embracing the different subjects that formed the curriculum.

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They were warmly welcomed by pupils and staff alike which eased their feelings of anxiety and helped them to settle in. Birthdays were celebrated by parties without some family members in attendance as most menfolk were back home assisting in the war effort.

Now, after more than a year, the war looks set to take a decisive turn as Ukrainian forces gear up for an anticipated spring offensive. It has been reported that Kyiv can now take advantage of improved weather to seize the battlefield initiative with new batches of western weapons, including scores of tanks and fresh troops trained in the West.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the goal of such an offensive “is to break Russia’s hold on southern and eastern Ukraine and convince Russian President Vladimir Putin that his war has become a losing proposition”. However, it goes on to introduce a note of caution, “US officials say that if Ukraine succeeds, Putin could eventually agree to peace talks on terms acceptable to Ukraine. But if it fails, the conflict is likely to devolve into a long war of attrition – and Putin has declared that, in that scenario, time is on Russia’s side.”

So, the coming weeks could herald a crucial phase of the war, and one which is likely to prove critical to Ukraine’s ability to finally repel Russia’s invading forces and claim back its lost territories. Tens of thousands of lives have already been lost on both sides, and all the signs are that many more will perish before the war is over.

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Ukrainian refugees will be anxiously scouring media outlets for the latest news, with the welfare of their loved ones back home at the forefront of their minds as the conflict heats up. That this has been going on for so long bears testimony to the resilience and defiance of the Ukrainian populace – it is crucial that we don’t lose sight of this war and what is at stake.

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