(TheRedWire.com) – In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine with little opposition. At the same time, Russia armed proxy fighters in Donbas, creating an eight-year war in the region between Russian separatists and Ukrainian armed forces. On February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed the Donbas region. Since then, he’s reduced parts of the country to rubble, but Ukraine has also launched a surprising, sustained pushback against Russia.
In early March, Putin’s core reasons for the invasion included his opposition to Ukraine’s interests in joining NATO or the EU. Putin did not want Western military forces in his backyard. Second, the Russian president called for the de-Natizification and demilitarization of Ukraine.
As of Tuesday, March 29, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claims Russia met its goals in the first stage of its plan and will refocus on the Donbas region. Some question Shoigu’s statement.
Are Russia’s First Stage Goals Complete?
Russian news agency Tass reported Shoigu said Russia accomplished its first stage of goals. The Russian defense minister stated that Russia significantly reduced the Ukrainian armed forces’ combat potential and destroyed the Ukrainian Navy. He said this achievement would allow Russia to focus on Ukraine’s eastern front. He stated the primary goal of the Russian offensive was to free Donbas. Yet, that hasn’t been the main focus over the last month.
On at least one occasion, Putin stated the goal was to overtake the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. On Tuesday, March 29, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said that Russia controlled the port city of Mariupol after his military supposedly liberated the city.
Do the Facts on the Ground Contradict the Russian Claims?
Shoigu’s and Kadyrov’s statements appeared to contradict reports over the last month. From the onset of the invasion, reports emerged indicating Russia’s army struggled against the much smaller and less combat-ready Ukrainian military. After suffering food and gas shortages, the Russian convoys heading towards Kyiv and Lviv were unable to surround, much less occupy Ukraine’s two most important cities.
The Ukrainian government reported Russia lost approximately 400 tanks and other military equipment. NATO estimates that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers are dead, and the Russian military lost more than 230 heavily armored tracked vehicles.
Former deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO Policy, Michael Ryan, said Russian forces appear to be running out of energy and may have reached a point where the Russian military can’t supply the forward lines due to heavy sustained losses. Ryan said he believes Russian soldiers faced low morale in February, and it’s worse now.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby recently stated the Russians didn’t properly plan their logistics, and military effectiveness is becoming a serious issue for its military. The US government said Russia’s comments are suspect, and the facts on the ground and in the air don’t bear witness to Russian statements. Ukraine denied Russia’s statement that the first stage is over.
Will negotiators reach a breakthrough anytime soon to end the conflict?
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