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Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn't had the best week. (Photo: POOL New via Reuters)
Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has definitely not gone to plan over the last four months – and this week was arguably the least successful of all.
Vladimir Putin allegedly thought he could seize Russia’s European neighbour relatively quickly, preventing Ukraine from aligning itself any closer with Western organisations such as Nato or the EU.
With depleted morale among troops, a growing list of war crime accusations, and several other significant events this week, it doesn’t look like things are going to swing in Putin’s favour any time soon.
Here’s what happened.
1. Ukraine becomes a candidate for the EU
A video of the EU flag being carried into the Ukrainian parliament was widely praised on social media on Friday.
It comes after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a joint statement showing the government was united in its hope to join the trade bloc.
The European Council also granted Ukraine the status of a candidate to join the EU on June 23.
This is significant because, though his invasion, Putin wanted to bring Ukraine back into Russia’s sphere of influence rather than let it move towards the West.
Instead, Russia is only becoming more isolated.
Putin claims he has “nothing against” Ukraine joining the EU, but the Kremlin has warned it will give Ukraine’s application to become a member “increased attention” at the bloc is considering its own defence force.
It said: “The military, defence and security components are being discussed. We are, of course, observing it all thoroughly.”
Zelenskyy has warned that Russia could retaliate over its application, taking it out on both Ukraine and other European countries.
— Matti Maasikas (@MattiMaasikas) July 1, 2022
2. Russia lost Snake Island
The Russian ministry of defence announced it was withdrawing from Snake Island, a Ukrainian outcrop in the north-west of the Black Sea.
It was seized by Russia on the first day of the invasion, and sits along the main shipping lanes to Odesa – which is currently under intense attack from Russian forces – and adjacent ports.
Russian forces claimed this withdrawal was a “gesture of good will” to prove it was not obstructing Ukrainian grain exports (which has caused a food crisis in some areas of the world, although Ukraine said Moscow was still bombing its grain stores.
UK officials with the ministry of defence have pointed out that it’s probably due to “the isolation of the garrison and its increasing vulnerability to Ukrainian strikes”.
Snake Island pictured before the invasion (Photo: Maxar via Getty Images)
3. Finland and Sweden edge closer to Nato
Rather than weakening Western alliances, Russia’s invasion has only made them stronger.
Finland and Sweden only applied to join Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) due to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, after rethinking the military neutrality the region is famous for.
Sweden has been neutral for more than 200 years, while Finland became neutral after a brutal battle with the Soviet Union in World War 2.
The main obstacle to their accession was Turkey, who opposed the pair joining over their supposed willingness to host Kurdish militants. The countries could not join Nato unless they had Turkey’s backing – new applicants need the backing of all 30 existing member states.
But then on Thursday, foreign ministers from all three countries signed a joint security pact to quell Turkey’s fears, and Sweden promised to increase its efforts on extraditing suspected militants.
Finland and Sweden agreed to lift their restrictions on selling weapons to the country too.
However, Putin did warn on Thursday that Russia would respond in kind if Nato set up military infrastructure in Finland and Sweden. He also noted that Moscow’s relationship with the country would decline as a result of their new membership.
Ukraine also had ambitions to join the military alliance, but it’s thought those ambitions have been put on the back burner for now.
It was Ukraine’s membership with Nato which concerned the Kremlin considerably before the war.
Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a security pact this week (Photo: via Associated Press)
4. Ukraine starts sending power to the EU
Zelenskyy said on Friday that Ukraine was now launching power transmissions to Romania, meaning the country is severing yet another tie with Russia.
Zelenskyy praised the move for being “another significant step in our movement towards the European Union”, but it also means Ukraine is no longer dependent on Russia’s grid operator, and shows how Europe is moving away from the country’s hydrocarbons.
As the president pointed out: “This is therefore not just a question of export earnings for us but a question of security for all of Europe.
“Let me remind you that linking our country to the common EU energy system took place already after the war began.
“Ukraine is doing things now that once seemed impossible.”
The total trade capacity should reach 100megawatts in its first phase, but it reportedly has the potential to reach 2.5 gigawatts.
5. Putin was mocked by the G7
World leaders are mocking Putin as they sit for G7 talks. When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked if he should keep his jacket on, he added, “We have to show that we’re tougher than Putin.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joked, “Bare chested horseback ride.”
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) June 26, 2022
Boris Johnson jokingly suggested that all the G7 leaders could take their clothes off to “show that we’re tougher than Putin” while at the summit this week.
His Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau then joked that Western leaders could try to compete with Putin’s naked torso pictures with a “bare-chested horseback riding display” – but judging by his response, Putin didn’t enjoy that.
During a visit to Turkmenistan on Thursday, he told reporters: “I don’t know how they wanted to get undressed, above or below. the waist. But I think it would be a disgusting sight in any case.”
He said to look good, “it’s necessary to stop abusing alcohol and other bad habits, do physical exercise and take part in sports”.
Johnson also accused him of being the perfect example of “toxic masculinity” due to his violent attempts to take over Ukraine.
Putin is known for trying to portray a macho image (Photo: via Associated Press)
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.