April 12th war map in Ukraine by Nathan Ruser
Map by Nathan Ruser. Disclaimer: This map and the information below is informed by reliable and verified open sources, it is meant to convey the general disposition of Russian troops in Ukraine and should not be considered confirmed nor comprehensive. Importantly, do not use this map to plan evacuation routes through Ukraine.

The present sta­tus of Vladimir Putin’s war of aggres­sion in Ukraine is very flu­id, vio­lent, and fre­quent­ly star­tling. NPI will try to err on the side of cau­tion when evi­dence behind claims or state­ments are lacking.

The begin­ning of the cur­rent month of April saw the Russ­ian mil­i­tary begin­ning to with­draw in earnest all mil­i­tary forces, using artillery fire to pro­tect their retreat, from their salient north­west of Kyiv.

April 12th war map in Ukraine by Nathan Ruser
Map by Nathan Ruser. Dis­claimer: This map and the infor­ma­tion below is informed by reli­able and ver­i­fied open sources, it is meant to con­vey the gen­er­al dis­po­si­tion of Russ­ian troops in Ukraine and should not be con­sid­ered con­firmed nor comprehensive. 

By April 3rd, they began to with­draw from their siege of Cherni­hiv and by April 6th all Russ­ian forces had with­drawn com­plete­ly from the Kyiv, Cherni­hiv and Sumy oblasts.

While con­cur­rent­ly the Rus­sians were solid­i­fy­ing their holds between just out­side of Kher­son and north by north­east of the south­ern­most reach­es of the Dnipro Riv­er near Kryvyi Rih and Osoko­riv­ka, the focus of the war large­ly turned toward the Don­bas region and the Rus­sians’ inten­si­fied attempts to turn the flanks of the pri­ma­ry Ukrain­ian defens­es there.

The Rus­sians main­tained pres­sure on Kharkiv to the north­west of the Lunan­sk and Donet­sk oblasts of the Don­bas region, pri­mar­i­ly through artillery but also with mis­siles and airstrikes.

Damaged Russian military column
A dam­aged Russ­ian mil­i­tary col­umn report­ed­ly from Rus­si­a’s 201st Mil­i­tary Base in Tajik­istan (Pho­to: Ukrain­ian Gen­er­al Staff)

Russ­ian units pre­vi­ous­ly in the north of Ukraine have been large­ly trans­ferred toward Izium with­in the Khark­hov oblast; Izium was ful­ly secured by the Rus­sians around April 5th.

Some ana­lysts expect the thrust to be a north­ern pin­cer of encir­clement toward key cities with­in the Ukrain­ian por­tion of the Don­bas, Slovyn­sk and Kram­a­torsk, but oth­ers thought that they might make a dash for the city of Dnipro, some 230 to 340 kilo­me­ters south by south­west, depend­ing on the route taken.

A sec­ond axis for the Don­bas has been south­west toward Sievierodonet­sk and Lsy­chan­sk, again like­ly toward Slovyn­sk and Kram­a­torsk, while a third has been attempt­ing to advance north­west from Donet­sk, most­ly toward Adi­iv­ka and Pisky, with the even­tu­al goal either the south­ern pin­cer of an encir­clement or a sec­ond dash toward Dnipro, over 260 kilo­me­ters to the northwest.

Mar­i­upol is still hold­ing out against Russ­ian resis­tance, though for how long is any­one’s guess. Although details are scarce, appar­ent­ly the Ukraini­ans had been, until recent­ly dis­cov­ered by the Rus­sians, send­ing heli­copters in to remove the wound­ed and pro­vide muni­tions and sup­plies to the defenders.

Russ­ian cru­el­ty to Ukrain­ian non­com­bat­ants became clear­er with the with­draw­al of their forces from the north­west of Kyiv, espe­cial­ly with­in the town of Bucha, but it is also appar­ent that a mobile cre­ma­to­ri­um has been in use through­out the siege of Mar­i­upol, with an empha­sis on elim­i­nat­ing evi­dence of dead civil­ians and liv­ing non­com­bat­ant observers of war crimes with­in the city.

Over four hun­dred thou­sand Ukraini­ans have alleged­ly been forced to leave their homes and enter Rus­sia, although it should also be not­ed that no one is sure if that num­ber includes around six­ty thou­sand Ukraini­ans liv­ing in the Russ­ian-occu­pied por­tion of the Don­bas that left or were forced out of the area just as the war began.  Of that num­ber, at least one hun­dred thou­sand have been moved to the Russ­ian Far East or to the Cau­ca­sus region.

As of now, over four and a half mil­lion peo­ple have fled Ukraine, and depend­ing on the source, between over sev­en and ten and a half mil­lion peo­ple with­in Ukraine are inter­nal­ly displaced.

Rus­si­a’s many set­backs have not deterred its dic­ta­tor Vladimir Putin, who made it clear yes­ter­day dur­ing an appear­ance with Belaru­sian Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Lukashenko at the Vos­tochny Cos­mod­rome that he is com­mit­ted to wag­ing his mur­der­ous war of aggres­sion no mat­ter the cost.

Putin repeat­ed­ly employed the defense mech­a­nism of pro­jec­tion as he sought to jus­ti­fy his pos­ture. For instance, he remarked: “That Blitzkrieg on which our foes were count­ing did not work.” By that, he meant the sanc­tions adopt­ed by the Unit­ed States and the Euro­pean Union. But “blitzkrieg” is a mil­i­tary term of art that means “an over­whelm­ing all-out attack, espe­cial­ly a swift ground attack using armored units and air sup­port.” It was Putin who count­ed on a light­ning war strat­e­gy to top­ple the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and over­run Kyiv.

That gam­bit has now failed and Putin is chang­ing up his strat­e­gy and tactics.

The effec­tive­ness and poten­cy of eco­nom­ic and finan­cial sanc­tions as a response to regimes like Putin’s has been long debat­ed. There is evi­dence that sanc­tions pack some­what more of a punch over time as opposed to in the short term. That’s what makes Putin’s ref­er­ence to “blitzkrieg” all the more ridiculous.

Rus­si­a’s for­mer Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Andrei Fedorov, a for­mer Krem­lin offi­cial, says Putin is absolute­ly deter­mined to bring down Ukraine’s cur­rent gov­ern­ment and remove Volodymyr Zelen­sky from office, whether by force or otherwise.

“He will con­tin­ue until he reach­es the goal,” Fedorov said in an appear­ance on DW, com­ment­ing that he has known Vladimir Putin for many years. “And the goal is to change, frankly speak­ing, change the regime in Ukraine.”

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