Russia’s War in Ukraine Has Lasted 6 Months: What’s Next?

A woman stands in the crater caused by a rocket that hit a schoolyard in a residential area in Kharkiv on June 27, 2022, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sergey Bobok | AFP | beautiful pictures

It has been six months since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, an act that shocked the world and was almost universally condemned.

Many assumed that Russia was prepared to declare a quick victory in Ukraine, but hopes of quickly toppling the pro-Western government of Volodymyr Zelenskyy soon vanished.

Six months later, many analysts predict the conflict will drag on “war of attrition” that caused death, destruction and widespread displacement in Ukraine – it cost the country and its people dearly – and also cost Russia.

The invasion of Ukraine comes as no surprise to Russia’s close followers – and the deployment of more than 100,000 troops along the border with Ukraine does nothing to dispel Moscow’s insistence that it does not want to invade.

However, a month later its full-scale invasion began on 24 February, and it was forced to change its troops and goals, after realizing that launching attacks on the defense Ukraine’s capital Kyiv from the north, east and south at once is too much for its forces amid stiff Ukrainian resistance.

TOPSHOT – Family members mourn next to the coffin of Ukrainian soldier Anton Savytskyi during a burial ceremony at the Bucha cemetery in the Kyiv region on August 13, 2022, amid the Russian military invasion of Ukraine. .

Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | beautiful pictures

Instead, in late March, the Kremlin said it would focus on “liberating” Donbas in eastern Ukraine, home to two pro-Russian separatist regions in Luhansk and Donetsk. That coincides with its goal of trying to strengthen its forces along Ukraine’s southern coast, gaining control of the ports of Mariupol, Melitopol, and Kherson with varying degrees of ease (and control), as well as money. strategic Black Sea outpost of Snake Island.

However, times have changed and while Russia’s position in the Donbas is relatively secure, its hold on southern Ukraine appears less stable.

Reverse luck

Russian troops have in recent months withdrawn from Snake Island and occupied areas, such as Crimea and Kherson (from which Russian commanders are said to have fled). Russian forces are also seeing an increasing number of Ukrainian attacks, which could be the start of a much-vaunted counter-offensive by Kyiv’s forces to recapture lost territory in the east. male.

Meanwhile, the port cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa further on the west coast came under constant shelling (and Mykolaiv saw fierce fighting to the east, towards Kherson ) but they are still under Ukrainian control.

The shipment of grain exports from other Ukrainian ports could also resume under a UN-Turkish deal brokered between Moscow and Kyiv. The deal ended a months-long blockade of Russia.

A farmer harvests in a wheat field outside the city center, as the Russian-Ukrainian war continues in Zolochiv, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine on August 1, 2022.

Wolfgan Schwan | Anadolu Agency | beautiful pictures

Sam Ramani, a geopolitical analyst and associate at the Royal Institute of Joint Services, a London-based think-tank, says something has reversed in Russia’s fortunes since then. start the invasion.

“In the first month of the war, the Russian stronghold was actually southern Ukraine. They took Kherson very quickly and two-thirds of Zaporizhzhia. They had Snake Island. The entire Black Sea coast was almost under their control. They, he said, block exports of grain and other products from Ukraine.

“Now we’ve seen a complete reversal. We’ve seen them take Luhansk and have very slow, but still somewhat consistent, progress in Donetsk, so the Donbas operation is going well. a little more – but now they’re vulnerable in the South.”

In July, Ukraine announced with great fanfare that it would launch a counter-offensive in the south, but many analysts have questioned where and when that might happen.

Max Hess, a fellow at the US-based Institute for Foreign Policy Studies, said: “Despite talking about this potential counterattack for a month, we haven’t seen major progress in Ukraine yet. on any Kherson-Mykolaiv-Dnipropetrovsk front”. told CNBC.

He added that the extent to which Ukraine can advance on those front lines is uncertain.

“It seems their strategy is to make Russia untenable and then have a siege rather than counter-attack, to try to convince them to give up control of the territory of Kherson and Mykolaiv, north. Dnipro the river.”

Ukrainian servicemen fire an M777 howitzer, Kharkiv Region, northeastern Ukraine. This photo cannot be distributed in the Russian Federation.

Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy | Future Publishing | beautiful pictures

With the discussion on the backdrop of the stalemate between Russia and Ukraine and neither side moving forward or conceding much territory, analysts are questioning what will happen over the next six months as the fall begins. along with the infamous muddy season, or “Rasputitsa” in Ukraine) and then winter came.

The outlook could look like a quagmire, both on a practical and geopolitical level, Hess said, with neither side able to make progress and no incentive to return to cease-fire talks after the negotiations were over. Negotiations failed earlier this year.

“I think we’re going to turn into a quagmire when winter comes, especially in the face of frost,” Hess said, adding that the West needs to start looking at the possibility that the territorial lines in Ukraine are worse than those in Ukraine. after 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. and threw its weight behind pro-Russian separatists fighting troops in eastern Ukraine.

However, despite the territorial expansion, Hess described those advances as a Pyrrhic victory for Russia’s Vladimir Putin, referring to the term used for a success that comes with great losses. . That’s because “the difference is that the Russian military is now fully committed to fighting and ultimately remains in the same strategic position as when Moscow’s proxy forces fought” in eastern Ukraine.

Russia hides losses

Putin is said to have miscalculated the cost of the invasion of Ukraine, and relations between Moscow and the West are at their lowest in decades with international sanctions piling up on the Russian economy.

However, the Russian public was still widely considered to be in favor of the war. This is perhaps not surprising given the widespread presence of pro-war propaganda broadcast by the state or pro-Kremlin press and fears of reprisals for speaking out against the uprising. aggression.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the head of the Republic of Mordovia Artyom Zdunov in Moscow, Russia July 5, 2022.

Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik | Reuters

Under Putin, Russia has sought to silence critical voices. This repression was reaffirmed during the invasion with Russia introducing legislation that would allow it to prosecute anyone it deems to be deliberately spreading “misinformation” about the Russian military.

How much the Russian public actually knows (or at least is willing to say in public) about the “special military operation,” as Russia calls the invasion, is uncertain.

“I cannot comment on the size of the damage as I will immediately be subject to criminal prosecution,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow and president of the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. told CNBC.

“The Russian authorities concealed the true extent of the damage,” he said, adding that in any case, “the majority of the population is not interested in them, as they do not have access to the independent media.” setting is blocked, and they don’t want to [know]deliberately block bad information for themselves. “

Russia has regularly released information regarding the number of its soldiers killed in Ukraine but has recently stopped doing so and it likely wants to keep it quiet; The former Soviet-Afghan War was unpopular because of its cost to Russian soldiers, with around 15,000 won presumed dead during the 10-year conflict.

On Thursday, Ukraine claims that more than 44,300 Russian soldiers have died in the current conflict but that may be an exaggeration; The US believes it could be higher around 15,000. The last official death toll announced by the Russian Defense Ministry was in March, with a total of 1,351 people.

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