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By April 3rd, they began to withdraw from their siege of Chernihiv and by April 6th all Russian forces had withdrawn completely from the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts.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