The Prime Minister has announced that New Zealand will deploy an additional 120 Defence Force personnel to the UK to help train Ukrainian soldiers to fight Russian forces.Video / Mark Mitchell
When Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in an unprovoked act of aggression on February 24, many expected a quick victory.
Six months later, Europe’s largest military conflict since World War II has turned into a fierce war of attrition. The Russian offensive has largely been bogged down as Ukrainian forces increasingly target critical installations far from the front lines, including Russian-occupied Crimea.
Take a look at where things stand:
When Putin announced the start of “special military operations,” he urged Ukrainian troops to oppose the government in Kyiv, reflecting the Kremlin’s belief that the invaders would be widely welcomed by the population. Some Russian troops from Moscow ally Belarus, just 200 kilometers north of the capital, reportedly carried their parade uniforms in preparation for a quick victory.
Those hopes were quickly dashed by fierce Ukrainian resistance, backed by the West’s supply of weapons systems to President Zelensky’s government.
The airborne troops sent to occupy airfields around Kyiv suffered heavy losses, and the armoured convoys along the main road to the capital came under heavy fire from Ukrainian artillery and scouts.
Despite numerous attacks on Ukrainian air bases and air defense assets, the Russian Air Force failed to fully control the skies and suffered heavy losses, limiting its ability to support ground forces.
A month into the war, Moscow withdrew its troops from near Kyiv, Kharkov, Chernihiv and other major cities, tacitly acquiescing in the failure of the Blitz.
The Kremlin then shifted its focus to the Donbass, the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling government forces since Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula in 2014.
With its huge advantage in artillery, the Russian army pushed forward in the heat of battle, destroying the area. The strategic port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, and after a nearly three-month siege, the city was reduced to rubble and collapsed in May.
More than 2,400 Mariupol defenders hid in the huge Azov Starr steel plant before surrendering and being captured. At least 53 people were killed in a bombing of a prison in eastern Ukraine last month, with Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other.
The Russians have taken control of the entire Luhansk region, one of the two provinces that make up the Donbass, and have also captured a little more than half of the second province, Donetsk.
Russia currently occupies about 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory.
“Putin will try to nibble piece by piece on Ukrainian territory to strengthen his negotiating position,” said Mikola Sunkhurovsky, a military analyst at the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center think tank. His message to Ukraine is: If you don’t sit down and negotiate now, it will get worse and we will take more of your territory and kill more people. He is trying to increase not only external pressure, but also internal Pressure on the Ukrainian government.”
The offensive in the Donbass has slowed as Moscow has been forced to move some of its forces to Russian-occupied areas in the south to fend off a potential Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Russian troops occupied the Kherson region in northern Crimea and parts of the neighboring Zaporozhye region early in the conflict. It set up a pro-Moscow government there, introduced its own currency, issued Russian passports and prepared for a referendum that would pave the way for their annexation.
But Ukrainian forces have recently recovered some land, attacking bridges and targeting ammunition depots. Meanwhile, both sides have accused each other of shelling the largest Russian-occupied Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in Europe, raising fears of a nuclear catastrophe.
“Ukraine has forced Russia to carry out a massive redeployment of troops and spread them across the entire front line from Kharkiv to Kherson,” said Olekhzhdanov, a Ukrainian military expert. “It’s hard to pull them off.” such a long distance.”
Although Kyiv does not have enough weapons to launch a large-scale counteroffensive, “time is in Ukraine’s favor,” he said. “The longer the pause, the more weapons Ukraine gets from its allies.”
success in ukraine
Western weapons, including the U.S. Himal multiple rocket launcher, have boosted Ukraine’s military capabilities, allowing it to target Russian arsenals, bridges and other critical installations with unerring precision.
The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, scored a major symbolic victory in April when it reportedly exploded and sank after being hit by a Ukrainian missile while on patrol. This dealt a heavy blow to Russia’s self-esteem and forced it to limit naval operations.
Another major victory for Ukraine came after Russian troops withdrew from the strategic Snake Island in the waterway near Odessa after a relentless attack by Ukraine. The retreat reduced the threat of a Russian naval attack on Odessa and helped pave the way for a deal to restore Ukrainian grain exports.
Russia suffered a fresh blow this month, with a series of explosions at an air base and ammunition depot in Crimea. While Kyiv was not responsible for the bombing, Ukraine’s involvement is beyond doubt. The Russians have admitted the sabotage was behind one explosion and the alleged unsafe handling of the munitions caused another — an explanation that Ukraine has derided.
The blasts were followed by drone strikes, highlighting the vulnerability of Crimea, which is symbolic to Russia and key to sustaining its operations in the south. They have demonstrated that Ukrainian forces are capable of striking behind the front lines, and Ukrainian officials have warned that Europe’s longest 19-kilometer bridge in Crimea could be the next target.
Lost and Disrupted Lives
Both Russia and Ukraine have focused primarily on each other’s casualties and avoided mentioning their own losses.
But Ukrainian military chief General Valery Zaruzhny said on Monday that nearly 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the operation.
The Russian Defense Ministry last reported casualties on March 25, a month after the war began, when it said 1,351 soldiers were killed and 3,825 wounded.
Western estimates of the Russian death toll range from more than 15,000 to more than 20,000 — more than the Soviet Union killed in Afghanistan’s decade-long war.
The Pentagon said last week that 70,000 to 80,000 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded in action — losses that have crippled Moscow’s ability to conduct a massive offensive.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded more than 5,500 civilian deaths in the war, but noted that the actual number could be much higher.
The invasion created the largest postwar refugee crisis in Europe. A third of Ukrainians have fled their homes, with more than 6.6 million internally displaced and more than 6.6 million displaced across the continent, the UN refugee agency said.
The outcome of the war will depend on the ability of Russia and Ukraine to mobilize additional resources.
While Ukraine has mobilized and announced a goal of a 1 million-member army, Russia continues to rely on a limited contingent of volunteers. The approach reflects the Kremlin’s fears that mass mobilizations could fuel discontent and destabilize the country.
Moscow has opted for temporary measures to try to encourage people to contract with the military, increasingly work with private contractors such as the Wagner Group, and even round up some prisoners for service — half-way measures that would not meet the demands of any large-scale offensive. need.
“Unless Russia mobilizes its population and mobilizes its industry, it cannot bear the weight of its people and industry to create a larger and more effective force, so it must consider how to hold on to what it has already taken,” retired British general manager Chad Barrons said.
Ukraine also lacks the resources to quickly reclaim its territory, and Barrons estimates it could take a long time to muster a force capable of driving the Russians out.
“Ukraine can only build and it can only do this if the West provides the political will, about $5-6 billion a month in funding, weapons like long-range artillery, ammunition to support that artillery, and then logistical and medical support. ,” said Barrons, co-chair of consulting group Universal Defense & Security Solutions.
He said the West should be prepared to continue supporting Ukraine in the long term despite soaring energy prices and other economic challenges posed by sanctions on Russia.
Abandoning Ukraine would send “a message to Russia and China and everyone else that the West doesn’t have the courage to stand up for their friends or even their own interests,” he said.
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