Vladimir Putin’s attempt to launch a blitzkrieg against Kyiv completely failed. After 100 days, a war of attrition broke out in eastern Ukraine. Street by street. village by village.
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The battle for control of the Donbass region, consisting of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia’s main goal is to “liberate” Donbass.
The Russian “liberation” operation consists in the bombing of Ukrainian cities and villages with heavy artillery. In this way, they are trying to expand the area controlled by the Russian-backed rebels over the past eight years. A particularly oppressive regime has been introduced here.
Putin wants to expand the so-called people’s republics to include the entire Donbass. Then Russia in the next round could annex eastern Ukraine, as it did with Crimea in 2014.
At great cost, the Russian war machine is slowly advancing eastward. Now there is a bloody battle for control of Sievjerodonetsk. Ukrainian forces took control of this city in the far east, but in recent days Russian forces advanced and occupied areas.
The casualty figures are high, and the physical damage is enormous. More people are being pushed away. According to the governor, nine out of ten residents, 90,000 people, have fled. President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that all vital infrastructure in the city had been destroyed.
As a result of Putin’s war, the tragedy of Mariupol is repeated in more and more Ukrainian cities and villages.
Politically and economically, Russia has already lost this war. Only the Kremlin’s propaganda apparatus can claim that everything is going according to plan. Putin is still searching for something that might look like a victory. Which made the video a sensation overnight.
Perhaps in a few weeks or months, Putin can declare victory and claim that all of Donbass has been liberated. Then large parts of the population will flee and the cities will become uninhabitable. This is the Russian “liberation”.
But no one knows whether Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine are still greater than simply occupying Donbass.
Perhaps the Kremlin is calculating that the solidarity of Western countries with Ukraine is outdated, because the economic consequences of war and sanctions over time will be greater for Europe. The international energy and food crisis can create divisions among allies. The longer the war drags on, the more difficult it will be to maintain Western cohesion.
While countries such as the United States, Poland and Britain have taken a hard line against Russia, leaders in Germany, France and Italy are speaking with Putin and calling for an immediate ceasefire and peace talks.
But despite having different approaches, the Western Allies still agreed on the most important thing. They support Ukraine and tighten sanctions against Russia. In this serious crisis, the European Union and NATO have shown renewed vigor and ability to cooperate. On Tuesday evening, the European Union approved the sixth sanctions package, which includes stopping more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia.
Also watch a video of the May attack:
Since Ukraine did not fall into the first phase of the war, Putin must think long-term.
If long-term sanctions against Russia erode, or support for Ukraine diminishes, Putin will have more freedom to continue his military advance.
It is unclear how Putin envisions the end of that war. But it is also unclear what the Western powers envisioned in the qualifiers. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said earlier this spring that the US wanted to see “Russia is so weak that it can no longer do what it did by invading Ukraine.”
Nobody knows the end of this war. What exactly is victory or defeat in this war? Should Ukraine prepare to give up territory in exchange for peace, as some in the West have argued?
In Kyiv, these tones sound false. It is, of course, up to the government of Ukraine, and not other countries, to decide the acceptable outcome of this war.
In an interview with Ukrainian television last week, Zelensky indicated that it would be a victory for Ukraine if it managed to regain control of all the territories occupied by Russia after February 24.
In this case, a long-range and large-scale Ukrainian counterattack would be required, since Russia currently occupies large areas in the east and south. Putin did not achieve any of the goals he set when he declared war on February 24. The war can end in a peace agreement, or in a frozen conflict. There are many examples of such unresolved conflicts in which Russia is involved.
As long as both sides believe they can achieve more on the battlefield, there will be no peace talks. The war could be protracted.
Ukraine has no choice. They are fighting on their land for their freedom and sovereignty.
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