Another note as well, I havent seen much talk about this but I've noticed a shift in Kremlin rhetoric in the last few days and I find it particularly alarming.
Meh. They have different rhetoric for different audiences. The best one I heard so far, was that they weren't allowing the sharing of borscht.
Putin has explained this war as neccessary and justified, Peskov said it was to end US hegemony, and today Lukashenko said it was a preemptive strike against the West. The rhetoric has now shifted from this being about Ukraine to being a war against the West. In my mind that's truthfully what it was always about, but I worry if Russia continues to reframe this as a conflict not against Ukraine but the West that there is a much higher risk of this spiralling out of control. If the Austrian leaders meeting with Putin yesterday is anything to go by, Putin is living in a dream world divorced from reality. His decisions make sense in the context of what he believes, but what he believes is so far removed from truth I think it's very dangerous.
The shift makes sense. They know if the army collapses, they will have huge issues at home and threats to their regime. Yet, they have an army that is suffering lower morale in the field and a population that could well be on the way to finding out that 20k Russian troops are KIA in 2 months of fighting, for very little tactical gain and no real strategic gain. So they have to escalate the rhetoric at home to get their population to accept that these losses were justified.
As with all these things, watch what they do, not what they say. They didn't put in stop loss to prevent conscripts from leaving. They haven't gone to national mobilization. And while they have done a lot to block foreign media, they haven't yet erected a national firewall like China. Those would be signs of massive escalation coming.
I think they are looking to secure the Donbas, get their land corridor to Crimea and then they'll declare victory and call for a ceasefire. The real problem for them is that the Ukrainians may not be in the mood for a ceasefire now. And the West may not be in any mood to compromise on sanctions.