The Russian invasion of Ukraine is an ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. The invasion commenced on February 24, 2022, after a months long buildup of Russian troops on the Ukranian border, following an eight year long protracted conflict between the countries in the eastern region of Donbas. The invasion has been met with major internation condemnation, with many western countries offering military assistance to the Ukranians. The conflict is the largest in Europe since World War II, with casulity estimates running in the hundreds of thousands, and millions of Ukranians displaced.
In 2014, under Russian President Vladimir Putin, the country annexed the Donbas, and Crimea, two areas of Ukraine with predominantly Russian speaking populaces. Ukraine had been engaged in sporadic fighting in Donbas with Russia between 2014 and February 2022.
In early 2022, Russia President Vladimir Putin ordered a build up of troops near the Ukranian border. On February 22, Russian troops entered the Donbas. On February 24, Putin announced the start of a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Shortly after his speech, Russian assault elements entered Ukraine on four fronts. Meanwhile, Russia shelled Ukranian cities and military installations.
Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy enacted martial law and general mobilization, and called on Russian civilians to resist Putin’s rule. The international community was mostly united in its condemnation of Russia, with many countries enacting sanctions on it, as well as providing Ukraine military support.
President Putin reasoned that his invasion was necessary due to possible NATO expansion into Ukraine, being a threat to Russia. He claimed that Ukraine was killing civilians in Donbas, which is why Russia had to intevene. He also falsly claimed that Ukraine was being run by neo nazis. Protests quickly erupted in both Russian and European cities against the invasion. Russian protests were quicjly squashed. Despite many public stances of opposition to the war, studies have found that a majority of Russian support the war.
Russia’s primary objective was to capture the Ukranian capital, Kyiv, to impose regime change. The northern thrust into Kyiv was made from Belarus, a Pro-Russia country, that Russian troops had been stationed in for weeks. Kyiv lies just 80 kilometers from the Belarussian border, and safeguarding it was Ukraine’s number one priority. Russia utilised it’s most elite forces, including the First Guards Tank Army, on its rapid assault, quickly gaining land and nearing the capital. Simultaneously, Russian air strikes hit the capitals defenses, and a strike group attacked and captured Hostomel Airport, near Kyiv.
Russia’s second thrust was in northeastern Ukraine, near the city of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine.
Russia’s third thrust was in Donbas, aiming to strike Zaporizzija and reach the Dniepr river.
The final thrust was from the south, from Crimea. It aimed to take Kherson, and Mariupol, forming a land bridge between Donbas and Crimea.
The Ukranian defensive strategy was coined the defensive depth strategy. Ukraine avoided engaging Russia in decisive battles in the initial phases, which could’ve allowed the Ukranian defenders to be encircled. Ukraine avoided battle, even if it came at the cost of losing territory.
Russia thus captured swaths of territory in the initial phases, but they were forced into maneuvering warfare. Russian logistical difficulties shined, with the invaders struggling to manuever forces and equipment efficiently.
Russia failed to capture Kyiv with its initial thrust. Russian attacker were stopped some 25 kilometers north of the city center. By March 15, Russian troops withdrew back to Belarus from Northern Ukraine. As they retreated, Russian war crimes were exposed in the towns of Irpin and Bucha. Since then, Russia has been suspected on numerous war crimes, including bombing a train station with civilians, maternity wards, and rape, torture and execution of civilians and prisoners of war. In March 2023, the International Criminal Court indicted President Putin and his Minister of Children’s affairs Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova for an alleged scheme to deport and re-educate Ukranian children.
After abandoning the Kyiv front, President Putin announced that the Russian military would focuse its efforts on the Donbas and Eastern Ukraine.
Despite setbacks in the north, Russian captured the southern city of Kherson on March 2, the first, and so far only, capital of the 22 administrative regions of Ukraine.
After fierce fighting and a months long siege, Russians captured the port city of Mariupol on May 22, forming a land bridge between Crimea and the Donbas.
In the Donbas, the Russians made limited progress, as fighting bogged down in the war-torn terrain. On June 25, they captured the destroyed city of Severodonetsk, which had been acting as the regional capital of the Luhansk region.
Despite fierce fighting, and the threat of encirclement, Russia failed to capture the city of Kharkiv.
After the Invasion began, western countries, led by NATO, began sending military equipment to Ukraine. This equipment included anti-tank anti-air and long-range artillery. The total cost of military aid to Ukraine during the first six months ran into tens of billions of dollars. Many of the western-made weapons sent to Ukraine have outperformed their Russian counterparts.
Utilizing their western aid, Ukraine began a major counteroffensive in Southern Ukraine on August 29. Russian forces were caught by surprise, and in a span of just a week, due to a poorly organized pullback, Ukraine retook some 1,170 square kilometers. After their southern successes, Ukraine also started a counteroffensive in the North near Kharkiv on September 6, which again broke through Russian lines, and collapsed the Russian military administration in Kharkiv. In total, during the two offensives, Ukraine retook some 8,000 square kilometers, more than Russia had taken since the first three weeks of the war.
On November 9, as a result of the Ukranian counteroffensive near the city, the defending of Kherson became untenable, and the Russian retreat from the city begun.
On September 21, Vladimir Putin, faced witha a shortage of manpower, enacted partial mobilisation for Russian citizens, with the goal of recruiting 300 000 new soldiers. The mobilisation caused protests and many fighting aged Russians fled the nation. Many conscripts have been reportedly sent to the front with little equipment and suffer from poor morale. As 2023 commenced, Russia increasingly continued to utilize artillery, and the war bogged down to an atrittional level.
In March, Russia and Ukraine have been fighting fiercely for the Eastern Ukranian town of Bakhmut. In the battle, Russia has increasingly relied on the Wagner group, a set of Mercenaries tied to Russia.
According to strength estimates, Russia began the war with some 200,000 men, while Ukraine began it with some 900,000.
According to casulity estimates as of March 2023, some 8,300 civilians have died and some 13 000 have been injured. Both sides have suffered high casualities. According to the UK Ministry of Defense, Russia has likely suffered some 175,000 casualities, while Ukraine has suffered some 120,000.