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Review of two years of war in Ukraine

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Ανασκoπηση δy&omicron

By Alexia Cafetzis

It has been two years since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which was announced by the President of Russia Vladimir Putin himself in a dramatic speech in the early hours of February 24, 2022. Two years of war, which we look back on, while what happens next remains unclear.

Such days two years ago saw the peak of diplomatic and military tension between Russia, Ukraine and Western countries, foreshadowing negative but unknown developments. Negotiations on Moscow's ultimatum demands for the US and NATO to withdraw their military infrastructure in Eastern Europe further west and to the 1997 borders, thus also from Ukraine, had essentially collapsed before even starting in December 2021. Strong military forces of Russian and Ukrainian forces were concentrated and operating on either side of the disputed Donbass zone, most of which had already been de facto seceded since 2014, when the civil war inside Ukraine began, and was surviving on a military and economic nexus with Russia. Western intelligence agencies warned in early 2022 that an escalation was coming, but even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was not convinced that the Russian response would eventually take the form of a full-scale military invasion.

Ανασκoπηση δο χ ρoνων πολeμου στην Ουκρανiα

The official announcement of the …business

According to the KYPE, on February 21 Russia decided to recognize the independence of the so-called “People's Republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk and provide them with military assistance, a formal justification for the start of the Russian military operation on the territory of Ukraine, which was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the early hours of February 24, 2022. Putin spoke of the need to “de-Naziize” and “demilitarize” Ukraine, protect the Russian people of the Donbass from the “nationalist and neo-Nazi regime of Kiev”, but also to secure the Russian of security before the “ruler, who seeks world domination”, using, among other things, the “anti-Russia”, which he created in “historical Russian territories”, according to the description of the Kremlin. The Russian President invoked the crossing of Russian “red lines” and Article 51 of the UN Charter for self-defense to declare the “special military operation” and warned any third party seeking to get involved militarily with “unprecedented consequences”, meaning even use of nuclear weapons.

Depending on the tensions during the two years, the “nuclear argument” will be brought up again and again by some Western and several Russian officials, who insist that the defeat of Russia sought by the West and Kiev is impossible, because it will ultimately amount to the destruction of the planet. Russian officials have often reiterated that when a conflict is inevitable, “it's better to strike first,” noting that Russia's confrontation is essentially with the staffs, infrastructure, and production forces of more than 50 U.S.-allied countries, not just Ukraine. military. This quickly became commonplace in Russia, as the rallying of the West in a single line of economic and military undermining of Russia and direct support of Kiev, and indeed with increasingly aggressive and penetrating weapons at range, was perhaps the first major shock for the Kremlin.

Ανασκoπηση δyο χ ρoνων πολeμου στην Ουκρανiα

The failure of diplomacy, but also of sanctions

The generalization of the war in Ukraine was not just the confirmation of the collapse of diplomacy between Russia and the West, which, in the form of the temporarily unenforceable Minsk agreements, was supposed to be trying to settle the Donbas conflict since 2015. Putin's personal contacts with his once most frequent interlocutors in the West, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron, ended in an impasse, which has now been sealed, whose talks in the Kremlin will probably go down in history only for sanitary contemptuous length of their table.

Impressively quickly, just four days after the advance of elite Russian forces all the way out of Kiev, on February 28, 2022, Russian-Ukrainian delegation talks began in Gomel, Belarus. Two more rounds followed in Belarus and two in Istanbul, which almost resulted in a draft agreement on a neutral, non-NATO status and international security guarantees for Ukraine and a 15-year postponement of the Crimea status debate. Among the unprecedented events of the negotiations will be recorded the “accidental” execution by the Ukrainian Security Service of a member of the first Ukrainian delegation, Denis Kireev, who was unfoundedly suspected of spying for Russia.

Ανασκoπηση δyο χ ρoνων πολeμου στην Ουκρανiα

According to the Kremlin, the withdrawal of Russian forces from the outskirts of Kiev was an agreed gesture of goodwill, while the intervention of the then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in favor of the continuation of the conflicts, led to a stalemate. According to Kiev and the West, the folding of the Russian units was a result of the Ukrainian counterattacks and their first noticeable losses, with the most symbolic of these being the sinking of the flagship of the Black Sea fleet, the cruiser “Moscow” on April 14. Talks were supposed to have resumed in April via conference calls, but in May 2022 they were admitted to have ended without fruition.

In the first year of the war, more than 16 million Ukrainian refugees (over 1/3 of the total population) fled their homes, chased by hostilities, in the largest movement since World War II, with most heading to countries of the West and another 3 million to Russia, bringing the total of those who went to Russia after 2014 to about 5 million.

Ανασκοπηση δyο χ ρoνων πολeμου στην Ουκρανiα

After the panic of the first weeks and the blocking of Russian banks from foreign exchange flows and the international payment system SWIFT, the energy and financial staff of the Russian government put in place every available mechanism to fend off Western sanctions, obtain alternative revenues and convert excess hydrocarbons in Asia and the domestic market, achieving impressive results, revenue growth, but also growth of the Russian economy of 3.6% in 2023, after the slight decline of 2.1% in 2022. Many analysts highlight the “hypocrisy” and practical impracticability of sanctions, as many Western companies continue to operate in Russia “in disguise”, Russian crude oil is exported through transfers to foreign tankers, liquefied natural gas (LNG) or by exports through non-sanctioned bypass countries such as Turkey and former Soviet Republics or the ever-rising BRICS countries.

Α νασκoπηση δyο χρoνων πολeμου στην ΟυκρανΙα

The tragedy and the recovery of Mariupoli

After 83 days of firefights, hand-to-hand combat in the urban fabric for the gunmen, and martyrdom in underground and shelters for the luckiest civilians, on May 17, 2022, Mariupol came under Russian control after perhaps the bloodiest battle of this war , which certainly cost the lives of thousands, if not tens of thousands of people, civilians and non-civilians, the number of which is still difficult to reliably estimate in the face of fierce opposition to the propaganda of the belligerents. 60-70% of the buildings suffered some kind of serious damage, from fire or exchange fire. Speaking to eyewitnesses after at least half the population of about 450,000 had left, many called the Azov battalions “Nazis”, accusing their men of not allowing civilians to escape. Many responded phlegmatically, mocking those who were “defending” them (Ukrainian side) and those who were “liberating” them (Russian side), with the end result of them losing their homes regardless of which fire.

Ανασκoπηση δο &chi

epa09921716 A picture taken during a visit to Mariupol organized by the Russian military shows Russian military vehicles driving in front of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Enerhodar, southeastern Ukraine, 01 May 2022. The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station is under control of the Russian National Guard , the Ukrainian military that guarded the facility handed over their weapons and were released on 09 March according to Andriy Shevchik, head of the Enerhodar city administration. On 24 February Russian troops entered Ukrainian territory in what the Russian president declared a 'special military operation', resulting in fighting and destruction in the country, a huge flow of refugees, and multiple sanctions against Russia. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY

The nightmarish post-war image of Mariupol, a city of strategic importance because it definitively excluded the forces of Kiev from the Sea of ​​Azov, which acquired characteristics of a “closed sea” for Russia, after the bloodless surrender of other Russian-speaking cities such as neighboring Berdyansk, Melitopol and Kherson, or the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, and Ergondar, was another shock for Russian society and the country's leadership. The realization came to a certain extent that the “victories” of the Russian army will largely look like “fires”. For the first time in Russian data, this concern became public criticism in the media for wrong choices by the Russian military leadership. This is how the phenomenon of “authorized critics” of the army was born, such as the President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov and the head of the private war company “Wagner” Yevgeny Prigozhin, at a time when anyone who publicly criticizes the Russian army or demonstrates against the war, he will be faced with the new provisions of the criminal law, which prohibits “spreading false news about military operations”.

Ανασκoπηση δο χ ρoνων πολeμου στην Ουκρανiα

More than a year and a half later, Mariupol has been reborn with an unprecedented construction activity and improvement of infrastructure, such as highways, which had remained untouched since the Soviet period. Dozens of new buildings, residences, schools, hospitals have already been put to use, as well as most buildings that could be repaired, residents are returning, subsidized, developing business activity. The Kremlin apparently seeks, and to some extent succeeds, in turning it into a “showcase” of the future Ukraine, which will “cooperate peacefully with Russia”, although the region has now been included in the Donetsk People's Republic, and thus in the country's Constitution as a component a member of the Russian Federation, so it is very unlikely that Moscow will abandon it in future negotiations, nor is such a mood visible among the residents who have chosen to live there. Among them tens of thousands of Greek expatriates.

Ανασ&kappa ;oπηση δyο χρoνων πολeμου στην Ουκ&rho ;ανiα

epa09936185 Russian State Duma deputy Dmitry Sablin (L), veteran of the WWII Tamara Fedchenko (2nd-L), Head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin (3d-L) attend an Eternal Flame ceremony during Victory Day celebrations in Mariupol , Ukraine, 09 May 2022. The eternal flame, which was delivered to Mariupol from Moscow as part of the All-Russian action 'The Fire of Memory' was lit at the monument to the Victims of Fascism. Russia and self-proclaimed Donetsk People Republic celebrate Victory Day marking the anniversary of the Allied Forces' victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. EPA/ALESSANDRO GUERRA

Change in Russian tactics, “marathon not road race”

The constantly updated Western weapon systems and munitions, the first ever “on-the-ground clash” of NATO and Russian warfare tactics, the generalization of the use of aerial vehicles and the emerging unmanned aerial vehicles, which manage to strike, even symbolically, even the roof of the presidential office in the Kremlin or Ministry of Defense buildings and apartment buildings in central Moscow or the headquarters of the Russian Fleet in Sevastopol, forcing many Russian warships to retreat to more remote naval stations, along with the mobilization of hundreds of Western satellites for its needs Kiev, combined with the inherent flaws of the Russian armed forces, such as bureaucracy and “munitions hunger”, significantly increase the price, time and other budgets of the Russian war effort. The Russian political and military leadership is convinced that the most durable, the best at calculating over time will win, not the fastest.

With the unprecedented September 2022 blasting of energy infrastructure, such as the Nord Stream 1 and 2 undersea gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, which would easily transport even larger volumes to Germany and the rest of Europe, while Moscow says it is confident that it is the work of the British and/or the Americans, the Kremlin finally realizes that the conflict with the West is now a matter of “life or death”.

The announcement also in September of the partial mobilization of 300,000 Russian reservists revealed new problems in the organizational infrastructure of the Russian army, pathogens, but also the disagreement of part of Russian society with the more practical consequences of the Kremlin's policy. Tens of thousands of conscripts, according to other estimates hundreds of thousands, tried to escape across the border and many of them remain outside Russia, despite the fact that now the needs of the extended front and obviously the losses were covered in 2023 by at least half a million contract military. The new shock cemented the belief that the war is dragging on, will be “a marathon not a sprint” and was accompanied by the second major retreat of Russian forces to the eastern, so-called left bank of the Dnieper and the abandonment of the city exposed to Kiev fire of Kherson in November 2022.

Ανασκ όπηση δύο χρόνων πολεμου στην Ουκρ ανiα

epa09921712 A picture taken during a visit to Mariupol organized by the Russian military shows a Russian serviceman on guard in front of the main entrance of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Enerhodar, southeastern Ukraine, 01 May 2022. The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station is under control of the Russian National Guard, the Ukrainian military that guarded the facility handed over their weapons and were released on 09 March according to Andriy Shevchik, head of the Enerhodar city administration. On 24 February Russian troops entered Ukrainian territory in what the Russian president declared a 'special military operation', resulting in fighting and destruction in the country, a huge flow of refugees, and multiple sanctions against Russia. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY

The tactical changes and the Russian retreat to a more secure line of fortifications, named after him, have been linked to General Sergei Surovykin, who took over as commander of Russian forces in Ukraine in October 2022, but was demoted to deputy commander in January, under the orders now of the chief of the General Staff of the country Valery Gerasimov. According to Kiev, the Russian bombings are uncontrolled, massive and often misguided, which is why they cause many civilian casualties, with Moscow usually responding that Ukrainian air defenses are malfunctioning and are responsible for its anti-aircraft missiles falling on houses.

As “provocations”, Moscow characterizes attacks or murders of a terrorist nature, such as the explosion of a truck and the partial collapse of the Crimean bridge, with the loss of a family just passing by in their car, in October 2022, or the explosions of bombs targeting acquaintances Russian politicians, journalists, writers.

Ανασκoπηση δyο χ ρoνων πολeμου στην Ουκρανiα

of military service and reasonable fatigue. After stabilizing the front, Russia has largely succeeded in stabilizing the economy and diversifying its income, but avoiding a generalized militarization of society.

Combining war and communication activity, the head of the “Wagner” company G. Prigozhin stood out for his critical statements and patriotic outbursts. Prigozhin's mutiny, probably known to staff officers such as the soon-to-be-relieved Surovikin, was the most serious and vocal challenge to Putin's leadership. It lasted only 24 hours, from the evening of June 23, 2023, when Prigozhin declared the “march to Moscow”, costing the lives of an unknown number of soldiers and the loss of one or more helicopters, which were called to stop his men and apply Putin's order to “crack treason”.

Αν ασκόπηση δύο χρόνων πολεμου στην Ο υκρανiα

Despite the mediated understandings of officials with a good relationship with Prigozhin and the defusing of the crisis even with a private meeting of Putin with the leaders of the legendary for its action in Africa “Wagner”, despite the agreement that the company is dissolved and absorbed by the Russian military, two months later it was announced that Prigozhin and close associates were killed when his private jet crashed. Many inside and outside of Russia believe that he was “executed” by aggrieved Russian secret services or their officials, others blame those disturbed by the African action of the Frenchman and there are those who still doubt that he is dead.

One of the central themes of Prigozhin's criticism was the excessive losses in the ranks of the Russian army, due to staff mistakes and supply shortages, even going so far as to speak of 25,000 men dead from “Wagner” alone and the battle of Bakhmut (Artyomovsk) alone. in the Donetsk region. The issue of casualties on both sides of the conflict is a closely guarded secret, as it is virtually impossible to identify reliable sources and cross-reference information. According to an investigation by the Russian service of the BBC, the death of 43,014 Russian soldiers has been established, with a more likely estimate that the total number, together with the dead fighters of Donetsk and Lugansk, will reach 86,000 at the end of January. This number was according to other sources 120,000 (New York Times) last August. The US paper cites US officials and estimates that dead Ukrainian soldiers were 70,000 last year in August, but most sources give a higher number of casualties for Ukraine. According to Russian Defense Minister S. Shoigu, by the end of 2023, Ukrainian losses exceeded 380,000 dead and seriously wounded. Other sources, such as the former Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yury Lutchenko, estimate the number of victims in his country at over 500,000, while the American Pentagon at 124-131,000 victims.

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What is going to happen?

Two years after the general escalation of the war in Ukraine, no one seems ready to back down or negotiate. The Kremlin's statements of readiness only imply a capitulation by Kiev, which has acknowledged the loss of another strategic city, Avdeyevka, with the local authorities of Donetsk hoping that the “blind” fire on its civilians will now be reduced. Moscow will set up polling stations for the March 17 presidential election in all five Ukrainian provinces it now considers its constitutional territory, namely Crimea, Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia, with the latter two remaining partially under Ukrainian control. . The President of Ukraine recently announced the removal of the head of the armed forces of Ukraine, Valery Zalyuzhny, apparently because the counter-offensive he has led since last June has completely failed.

Ανασκoπηση δο χ ρoνων πολeμου στην Ουκρανiα

Since the supply of Western weapon systems to Kiev has indeed been delayed and hampered, and its morale is, as described, falling, Moscow says it has the initiative on all fronts and will continue to advance its forces. Ukrainian and Western officials are repeating identical statements from the past that a Moscow victory cannot be allowed and everything must be done to prevent it, but the tools do not seem to be in place to make that happen.

Could some fighter jets, which Kiev is expected to acquire later this year, be such a solution? Will there be further escalation and possible NATO ground forces on Ukrainian soil? Will the intensity of the pre-election period in the USA and the possible election of a non-Democratic candidate affect the developments? Is the cup of Russian “victory” half full or half empty, which according to the “hardliners” cannot be complete and safe without the “Russian cities” of Kharkiv, Odessa and Kiev? Will Russia, after a possible victory in Ukraine, seek to expand hostilities to neighboring countries, as is alleged? Or will it be enough to close “backlogs” inherited from the dissolution of the European Union, such as Transnistria, the pro-Russian separatist region of Moldova on the border with Ukraine?

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Many of these questions will be answered this year, but there is no certainty as to exactly how. In the recent survey by the European Council on International Relations, only 10% of respondents in 12 European countries believe that Ukraine will emerge victorious from the war, while 20% see Russia as the winner, with 37% believing that the war will end in compromise . On the contrary, Russia's permanent representative to the UN Security Council Vassily Nibenzia is sure that it will take at least a decade to restore normal US-Russia relations.

Source: 24h.com.cy

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