Ukraine could be at risk of civil war even if they stave of the Russian invasion, an expert has claimed.
Military experts are predicting that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will soon stall, as his faltering war machine is crippled by poor communications, outmoded tactics and devastatingly low morale.
But even if the advancing columns of Russian tanks were to withdraw, Ukrainians’ misery might not be over.
Dr Mike Martin, from The Department of War Studies at King's College in London, says that Putin’s most recent moves – such as signing up mercenaries from Syria and the Central African Republic to reinforce his demoralised troops – are “signs of desperation”.
He rejected the notion that Middle Eastern and African fighters could boost the Russian war effort, claiming “they can’t tip up into a new theatre without kit and do anything except get massacred".
But, Dr Martin warns, the next big danger for Ukraine could be civil war.
Inspired by their charismatic leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky, many ordinary Ukrainians have been volunteering for front line service and being issued with assault rifles and other weaponry.
And there lies the danger for Ukraine, according to Dr Martin.
“They’ve armed everyone,” he writes on Twitter. “There are lots of militias and arms floating around, even the Russians are paying militias in the separatist zones.
"Poorly-trained militias will make mistakes and kill civilians by accident…"
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From there, he warns, it’s all too easy for things to spiral out of control and for the various factions of armed militia to start fighting amongst themselves: “These are all recipes for a civil war,” he warns.
Dr Martin, a former British Army officer who has written extensively about the conflict in Afghanistan, says that the danger of an internal conflict must be part of the calculation for President Zelensky and his advisers.
He said: “They need to force Russian military collapse before irreparable damage is done to their society and they start heading into a civil war.
“They need to win and then disarm the population the race is on."
Bill Browder, and expert on Russian financial markets, says that victory in the field is not Putin’s only route to success.
“Part of Putin’s objective in Ukraine isn’t just to kill Ukrainian civilians but to weaponise the massive flow of refugees going to Europe," he wrote on Twitter. "He wants to upend our domestic politics as we absorb so many people."
Some three million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February, according to United Nations figures. The dramatic exodus puts Ukraine among the world's worst refugee crises.
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