By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BAKHMUT/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Chinese pressure is mounting on Russia and Ukraine for a ceasefire and possible peace talks amid the rapidly climbing death toll on both sides around the eastern Ukrainian city Bakhmut. But government leaders on both sides remain reluctant to start negotiations immediately, with NATO expansion imminent and battles raging in Ukraine.
One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s state goals to prevent further expansion of the NATO military alliance seems to fail.
Hungary is sending a governing Fidesz party delegation to Sweden and Finland starting Tuesday to discuss the Nordic nations’ entry into the NATO military alliance. Both countries want to join amid concerns that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will spread to other nations.
Hungary is the last European Union member expected to ratify NATO expansion despite disagreements with Sweden and Finland, who
criticized the Hungarian government’s perceived violations of the rule of law and democratic values.
However, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán urged Parliament last month to reluctantly agree, saying neighboring Ukraine’s entry into the NATO alliance as proposed by Brussels would be a far greater risk for Hungary.
After Hungary, only Turkey will have to ratify the NATO expansion, with Finland due to be the first to enter the alliance. Russia views the NATO move as a further threat to its security, but the West says the enlargement may not have happened without Moscow invading Ukraine.
Yet there were no signs Monday that the Russian invasion would end quickly despite a rapidly increasing death toll. U.S. and other Western officials now estimate that the number of total casualties on the Russian side — including dead and wounded — is approaching 200,000.
BLOODIEST CONFLICT IN DECADES
But many thousands are also believed to have died on the Ukrainian side. If confirmed, it would make this Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War Two, surpassing the horrors of the Balkan wars in the 1990s.
Moscow has acknowledged “significant” losses, but last reported accumulated casualties of under 6,000 by September. Many troops and civilians have died around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, where fierce fighting continued Monday.
Yet with NATO rapidly expanding and recent losses on the battlefield, Moscow appeared to view the Battle of Bakhmut as a way to regain at least some territory in Ukraine.
However, with the conflict and its trenches increasingly resembling World War One, calls for peace talks or a ceasefire have become even louder.
China is the latest big power to have presented a plan for peace talks. But Ukraine’s chief negotiator David Arakhamia remains skeptical. “The good sign is that China also started to feel that they also have to participate in some mitigation of the war. Because before, if you looked a year ago, they tried to pretend nothing happened. So it is a good sign that in their ideas or concepts, they are saying we have to obey the United Nations statute, which has to respect the legal borders of the country. So it plays for us,” Arakhamia said.
However, the negotiator added: “The bad sign, I think, is there was no single word about a call for Russian troops to go back.” And with the invasion now entering its second year, more death and destruction are expected.
Even if Russia wins the Battle of Bakhmut, Moscow has little to celebrate. The eastern Ukrainian city has been mostly reduced to rubble during the longest and bloodiest battle of the invasion, and much more fighting awaits exhausted troops on both sides.
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