Mariupol, Donbass, the AFU counteroffensive, negotiations and sanctions. What will decide the fate of the war

04.12.2022 So, a month has passed since the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

This war has brought untold grief and suffering to the Ukrainian people. Thousands of dead, millions of refugees, devastated cities. Colossal destruction that Europe has not seen since the Second World War.

The Country tells what happened during the month of this nightmare and when it may end.

Kiev and the border regions
During this month, Russian troops entered all the regions bordering Russia - Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Lugansk.

Across the Belarusian border, they occupied part of the Kiev region to the west of the capital, and from the Chernihiv region approached Kiev from the east.

But the largest cities are not taken in any of these areas.

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The Russians did not manage to get close to Kiev. Just as at the end of February, fighting is going on in the area of Gostomel, Irpen and Bucha, and north of Vyshgorod.

Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv are still under the control of Ukrainian forces. Although they are in full or partial blockade, they are shot through by the Russian army and suffer a humanitarian disaster. Kharkiv is especially badly destroyed.

One of the last major successes in this direction declared by the Russian army is the capture of Raisins (this was reported today by the Russian Defense Ministry, but the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine denied), a key point that opens the way to Slavyansk.

Although Russian telegram channels, citing sources on the front line in the Russian army, say that persistent fighting south of the city for control of the road to Slavyansk continues and, in general, the battle for Raisins is not over.

Blows are also being struck at Lozovaya, which covers the road from Kharkov to Pavlograd and the Dnieper. All communications of the Donetsk group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the mainland go through them.

Donbass, Zaporozhye, Kherson
The most active hostilities are taking place in and around Donbas.

Now the fighting is going on around Severodonetsk - a key point of Ukrainian defense in the Luhansk region.

Today, the Luhansk Regional State Administration reported that the enemy had gained a foothold in Rubezhnoye (10 kilometers from Severodonetsk), and to the south - broke into the outskirts of Popasna, from where the way to the Donetsk region to Bakhmut opens.

In the south of the Donetsk region, the enemy was able to capture one of the key points of Ukrainian defense - Volnovakha - and for the third week is storming Mariupol, surrounded on March 7. Both cities are almost completely destroyed, huge (estimated in thousands) civilian casualties, a significant part of Mariupol is already under the control of the DPR and the Russian army, but the resistance still continues.

In parallel, attempts began to encircle the third major Ukrainian group in the Donbas - Donetsk (which is based in the Avdiivka area). It is being attacked from the east by the DPR, and from the south and west, Russian troops are trying to cut off key supply lines - the highways that lead to the Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporozhye regions.

To the west of Donetsk, the enemy is also storming Marinka with ground units and trying to approach Kurakhovo. To the north - conducts massive bombing of Ukrainian fortifications in Avdiivka, and also moves to the Donetsk-Konstantinovka highway to cut it.

Along the outer perimeter there are attempts to encircle the Donetsk grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from the Kharkiv (Izyum) and Zaporozhye regions, where Melitopol and Energodar are already occupied. As well as the entire southern part of the Zaporozhye region adjacent to the Sea of Azov (Ukraine has lost access to it today). At the same time, the movement of Russian troops to the north of the Zaporozhye region was stopped in the area of Gulyai-Pole.

In the south, the group advancing from the Crimea occupied Kherson in the very first days. Now the Kherson region is almost all under the control of the Russian Federation.

From there, movements have already begun in the direction of Krivoy Rog, Dnipropetrovsk region, where some of the world's largest iron ore deposits are located.

Also in late February and early March, the Russians made attempts to encircle Mykolaiv, as well as to go west through the north of the region, reaching the borders of Transnistria and thus cutting off Odessa from the rest of Ukraine.

However, these movements were stopped by the AFU and the Russian army did not achieve any success here.

What is the strategy of Ukraine and Russia now?
The main feature of this war is the superiority of Russia in the air and in modern missile weapons. Therefore, the Russian army daily launches rocket and bomb attacks on Ukrainian cities, military and industrial facilities, fuel and ammunition depots, infrastructure. Residential buildings are also hit, which leads to large casualties among civilians. Many cities that were in the center of the fighting were almost destroyed. There is no water, light, heating, and often no communication.

Some of the missiles and planes are shot down by the Ukrainian air defense system, but the rest reach the target.

At the same time, the Russian army does not conduct active offensive operations on the ground, except in and around the Donbas.

Which is understandable.

Initially, the total number of the invasion group according to the maximum estimates (including the forces of the LDPR) was up to 200 thousand people. Despite the fact that the total number of the AFU and the National Guard at the beginning of the war was more than 300 thousand, and now has increased significantly due to mobilization.

The Russian army could count on success with such a balance of forces only in one case - if the APU had not provided serious resistance, and the command and control system immediately fell down.

But everything happened exactly the opposite.

The AFU is putting up a strong resistance, gaining a foothold in cities, as well as in key strategic points on the path of the movement of Russian troops. And the very competent and skillful actions of the Ukrainian gunners, who cover the enemy's positions with fire from guns and MLRS, are recognized even in the Russian army.

Hopes (if there were any) for mass support of the population were not justified, even in the south-east, where Russia was traditionally treated well. But that's all in the past. The open aggressive war launched by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, the shelling of cities and heavy casualties among civilians, the destruction of infrastructure and peaceful life, even set up many previously loyal citizens against Russia and Putin and consolidated society to protect against invasion.

In such conditions, in the absence of numerical superiority, the Russian army in Ukraine is not able to solve large-scale tasks like encircling Kiev or even Kharkov, Nikolaev and Odessa. In addition, the lack of forces to consolidate in the rear (that is, to create military commandant's offices and garrisons in all cities in the rear) puts the supply routes of Russian troops in Ukraine under constant attack.

And the Russian authorities are not in a hurry to announce the mobilization yet (apparently, so as not to provoke the discontent of the population, to whom the events in Ukraine are presented not as a full-fledged war, but as a kind of limited special operation in which only contractors participate).

Therefore, now Russia's tactic is to concentrate resources on one direction (now it is Donbass), and to go on the defensive on all the others, shackling Ukrainian troops. At the same time, apparently, the Russian military believes that, thanks to their superiority in the air, they will be able to repel possible counterattacks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces as soon as the Ukrainian army leaves the city fortified areas in a pure field.

If the Russian Federation manages to achieve its goals in the Donbas and take Mariupol, then the released forces will be thrown into other directions. For example, an attack towards Transnistria (to cut off Odessa from Central Ukraine) and/or the encirclement of Kharkov.

At the same time, the APU can break this plan if they organize a successful counteroffensive. For example, near Kiev. If they manage to drive the Russian troops away from the capital, this will allow them to transfer the AFU forces to other directions. For example, to the Donbass.

This, by the way, was said today by the Governor of the Luhansk region Sergey Gaidai. He expects that a counterattack will be launched near Kiev, after which the liberated forces will be thrown to the aid of the AFU in the Donbas.

That is, both sides have approximately the same tactics for the near future - to succeed in one of the chosen directions and transfer the liberated forces to other sectors of the front, thus achieving a turning point in the course of the war in their favor.

The question also remains open - whether Russia can send additional reserves to the front in order to resume the offensive in several areas at once, as well as speed up the task of capturing Donbass.

This is a question, the answer to which will directly affect the course of the future war. So far, very contradictory information has been received on this account. According to data from various sources, the Russian Federation is pulling up some reserves. But it is still unclear whether they will be enough for something more than just to compensate for the losses already incurred.

When will the war end?
In general, it is already clear that if Russia does not abandon its initial goals (the military defeat of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and forcing the Ukrainian authorities to fulfill their conditions), then the war will be very long even if Russian troops are able to achieve success in their current offensive in the Donbas.

With even greater casualties and an incomprehensible outcome, given the economic blow to Russia caused by the sanctions imposed by the West, as well as the limited military resources involved by Russia in Ukraine. In order to overcome the latter problem, it is necessary to declare mobilization in the Russian Federation, which creates the risk of a sharp drop in support among the population and the war itself in Ukraine, and Putin's policies in general. With the prospect of political destabilization.

On the other hand, Ukraine is in an extremely difficult situation.

The war is completely destroying the economy and infrastructure. Many cities are already sitting without electricity and water, and if the Russian Federation continues to launch missile strikes on life support systems (and possibly increase them), then whole regions may face a similar fate. The superiority of Russia in the air and in missile weapons makes it problematic to quickly expel the Russian army from the territory of Ukraine by the Armed Forces of the Armed Forces without direct military support from NATO countries (despite the fact that the Alliance almost daily declares that it does not intend to interfere in the war, but is only ready to help with weapons and then not with all that Ukraine asks).

And in general, the longer the war goes on and the greater the losses of Ukraine, the more difficult it will be for the Ukrainian authorities to maintain the current consolidation of society, fend off accusations of corruption and keep the situation in the country under their control.

The Russian economy is seriously suffering from sanctions (a particularly strong blow fell on many industries that are experiencing problems with the supply of components). However, high energy prices and the impossibility for Europe right now to abandon the import of Russian gas partially compensates for the sanctions losses of the Russian Federation and allows financing the continuation of the war (especially if Putin's idea to convert gas payments into rubles can be realized).

In addition, the West calculated that the lack of rapid military success of Russia in Ukraine, as well as the wave of sanctions against Moscow, would encourage China to distance itself from Putin and not help him overcome the consequences of sanctions pressure. But so far this calculation is not justified. Beijing and Moscow act in concert on most issues. And the Chinese leadership reacts very harshly to the demands from the West not to help Russia.

Thus, the continuation of the war for both Russia and Ukraine does not promise a quick victory, but is associated with very large losses and risks of catastrophic scale for the very existence of both countries.

That is why negotiations are continuing, which, by the way, started just a few days after the start of the war.

And, despite the publicly expressed diametric positions on the voiced conditions of Russia, they are not interrupted.

However, while compromises are being groped with great difficulty. There is only one point on which the parties are close to agreement - this is the non-aligned status of Ukraine. Zelensky is ready for this in principle, but not everything is simple here.

Ukraine links this with the provision of security guarantees from key Western countries and Turkey. But so far, no one from the West has publicly confirmed that he is ready to give such guarantees to Kiev.

In addition, there is an ambiguous attitude towards negotiations in the West.

If Western Europe wants the war (which is very painful for its economy) to end faster, and therefore they will certainly welcome if the parties come to a compromise, then there are alarming notes from the United States. They fear that Zelensky's consent to fulfill at least part of Russia's demands will allow Putin to feel like a winner and show that with the help of war he can solve his foreign policy tasks.

Also, the peace agreement is likely to be linked by Russia with the lifting of Western sanctions. On this occasion, there are no specific promises from the US and the EU either.

In general, there are questions even about the neutrality clause.

And for the rest of Russia's requirements (denazification, demilitarization, recognition of the Russian status of Crimea and the independence of the LDPR) Kiev has a directly negative position.

And Russia is not ready to give up these demands.

In general, both sides are now faced with the fact that it will be difficult to explain to society why such great sacrifices have been made if, as a result, part of the enemy's demands are still satisfied. This is especially true in Ukraine, where Zelensky's opponents are already beginning to rock the zrada about negotiations with Russia.

And in Moscow, not everything is simple. The very course of the war calls into question the status of the Russian Federation as a military superpower. Therefore, the Kremlin does not want to make any serious concessions.

But, on the other hand, as mentioned above, the general understanding that the war needs to be ended faster is already present in both Moscow and Kiev.

The only question is on what terms.

And the answer to this question, apparently, will be determined depending on the situation at the front.

Will Russia be able to finally take Mariupol, surround a group of Ukrainian troops in the Donbas (and if it can, how quickly)? And will Ukraine be able to organize a successful counteroffensive?

After the situation with these points becomes clear, the negotiating position of both sides will also become clear. This means that the negotiations themselves can reach the final stage.

And there will be a chance to end the war.

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Mariupol, Donbass, the AFU counteroffensive, negotiations and sanctions. What will decide the fate of the war