The Grim Reaper’s Harvest
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The Russo-Ukrainian War has now crossed the three-month mark. So far, it’s a stalemate.
At the Brookings Institution, researchers see “a war of attrition, with neither side capable of a decisive military breakthrough.” How the war will end remains unclear. When is another question.
As they carried out Russian President Vladimir Putin’s revanchist plan, Russian troops failed to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, departing from the region in late March. They captured the important city of Mariupol but failed to capture the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv. In recent weeks, their focus has shifted to consolidating their gains in the eastern regions of Ukraine, including within two Russian-backed separatist states in the Donbas territory where Ukrainians have been fighting to reclaim their land since 2014, as Vox explained.
According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this month, Putin “made a big strategic mistake,” reported the Washington Post. The lightning strike to take Kyiv failed. The Ukrainians have managed to repel Russians in some places, and even strike at Russians across the border. They have also at times done serious damage to the Russian army and its weapons.
Even so, Russian fortunes have improved in the Donbas region in recent weeks.
Russian forces had broken through Ukrainian lines in the town of Popasna with the goal of cutting off strategic villages in anticipation of a renewed assault to the west, wrote the Air Force Times. Agence France-Presse photographer Aris Messinis released a harrowing video of his travels in the war-torn region on Twitter.
Now Ukrainian leaders are admitting that Russia has the “upper hand” in the Donbas area while Ukrainian troops are repeatedly falling back to more fortified positions on their side of the front, the Guardian reported. “We need to hold back this horde,” said Serhiy Haidai, the Ukrainian-backed governor of Luhansk, referring to the Russian troops pushing back against Ukrainian momentum. These developments have led Ukrainian commanders to plead for more of the Western armaments that, after their heroism, make their cause possible.
Still, the Russians are suffering heavy losses, especially among elite forces who have been deployed extensively throughout the campaign even though straightforward heavy infantry would be better suited to the tactics that Russian generals have chosen, noted ABC News. A failed river crossing near the town of Sievierodonetsk was one of the most lethal fights for the Russian army, added the New York Times, describing the aftermath of the scene: “Blown-up tanks, the detritus of pontoon bridges, heaps of branches shorn off by explosions and the bodies of Russian soldiers, some half-buried in the mud.”
Elsewhere in Ukraine, tens of thousands of Ukrainians have died in the fighting and bombardments. No one knows how many though, not yet.
But one thing is clear, as the months pass, the human toll grows – and there is no end in sight.