Three months after the beginning of Russia’s special military operation to demilitarize Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that his army is losing between 50 and 100 men every day as they are fighting in the east of the country. However, the invasion is also causing a high number of casualties on the Russian side. There are no official figures, but UK Ministry of Defense intelligence indicates that more Russian soldiers have died in three months than in the nine years of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, where 15,000 victims were counted on the USSR side.
Beginning of the “special military operation”
On February 24, Russia invaded Ukrainian territory from three fronts, Belarus included. It is the largest troop movement in Europe since World War II. In a televised message, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said the goal was to “protect people who for eight years have faced humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime,” a reference to the war between Ukrainian troops and Kremlin-backed pro-Russian forces in the Donbas, considering the Ukrainian leadership to be Nazis. A curious claim considering that the Ukrainian president is Jewish. Zelensky, who days earlier criticized Western “hysteria” over the imminence of the invasion declared the general mobilization and said that “Russia has gone down the path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself.”
Kiev resists and Russians withdraw
Many Western analysts believed that in a matter of hours or days the Ukrainian capital would be in Moscow’s hands. With Russian citizens without access to independent information, the Kremlin propaganda hid that the Russian soldiers were not well received. The 65-kilometer column on its way to Kiev was eventually broken up by the Ukrainians, who took advantage of tactical errors, the unpreparedness of the Russian military on the ground, and even dated equipment, to cut off supply lines. Images become famous of farmers towing tanks and other vehicles abandoned by the Russians on tractors. The Russian forces abandon the Hostomel military airport, where they destroyed the world’s largest cargo plane, the Antonov An-225 – and withdraw from the outskirts of the capital. A defeat that will be repeated in the second largest city, Kharkiv.
Bucha and Irpin massacres
In early April, after the Russian withdrawal from the Kiev region, the world saw the horror in Bucha for the first time. Hundreds of bodies in mass graves, an avenue with more than 20 civilian corpses spread over hundreds of meters, some of them with their hands clasped behind their backs. But the Russian regime not only denied the images but said it was a “provocation” and “staging.”
In Irpin, the 24-day Russian occupation led to the deaths of 290 people. According to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, 70% of the city was destroyed, and the Russians used ballistic missiles. The battle for the recapture of Irpin was marked by violent urban fighting. After the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced the opening of an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, it sent a team of 42 experts to Ukraine.
Russian cruiser sunk
In early March, the Ukrainians sank the Ukrainian Navy frigate Hetman Sahaidachny so that the invading forces would not use it. Three weeks later, the Ukrainians managed to destroy the landing ship Saratov in the port of Berdyansk near Mariupol. But the greatest achievement was that they struck and sank the cruiser Moskva, Russia’s flagship in the Black Sea. Moscow said there was a fire on board and it eventually submerged due to stormy conditions, and a week later admitted the death of one sailor and 27 injured people.
Fall of Mariupol
The strategic city of Mariupol, which had over 400,000 inhabitants before it was bombed on March 2, held out until May 17, even though Putin declared the “liberation” of this city bordering the Sea of Azov on April 21. Until then, the Russian forces followed the primer used in Syria, in a siege in which they did not spare a maternity hospital (which Moscow also claimed was staged), a theater where hundreds of people were sheltering (Russia blamed the Azov battalion), mostly women and children, destroying 90% of the city, and finally razing the huge Azovstal industrial complex, where hundreds of civilians and over 1700 Ukrainian soldiers were sheltering.
Finland and Sweden abandon neutrality
The decisions of Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership are a major victory for the military alliance. NATO is in dire need of a win right now, as neither the economic war against Russia nor the conflict in Ukraine seems to be working to the West’s advantage. Whether the official addition of two more Nordic countries would be a real military advantage for NATO remains to be seen, but at least it would be a clear public relations victory.
However, this situation could also become an image disaster for the West, if Turkey maintains its refusal to allow Finland and Sweden to become members of the organization. Nevertheless, given the public announcements of the Finnish and Swedish applications by NATO HQ and its members, it seems possible that Turkey may give in, if at least some of its demands are accepted.
Finally, Finland and Sweden seem to believe that they will gain security by joining NATO. But by officially renouncing their neutrality, they will not only jeopardize their security, but also lose their independence.