Russo-Ukrainian war, day 38: Ukraine recaptures large swathes of terrain near Kyiv as Russia focuses on Ukraine’s east

Russo Ukrainian war, day 38: Ukraine recaptures large swathes of terrain near Kyiv as Russia focuses on Ukraine’s east

 

Daily review

Morning report day 38 – April 02

Ukrainian forces recaptured large swathes of terrain both northwest and east of Kyiv as Russia withdraws its troops from the areas around the city in an alleged attempt to strengthen its offensive in the east. Russian troops left the territory of the Chornobyl nuclear plant in the north of Kyiv Oblast, servicemen affected by radiation while being in the Exclusion Zone, are placed in a specialized hospital in Gomel, Belarus. Heavy shelling of Kharkiv and Chernihiv continues. the Ukrainian army retook a number of settlements in the east, and the city of Izium has fallen under the control of the Russian army.

The report is based on media reports, expert analyses, and official information posted online.

Situation

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 02.04.2022, supplemented by its [midnight assessment]:

“The armed forces of the Russian Federation continue their armed aggression against Ukraine. They are withdrawing troops in certain areas, probably in order to strengthen the grouping of the occupying forces for further offensive operations in the Slobozhansky (Kharkiv and adjacent oblasts, – Ed), Donetsk and Luhansk areas.

Ukraine recaptures large swathes of terrain near Kyiv

It inflicts systematic missile and airstrikes on critical infrastructure facilities and residential areas of settlements.

Russian units continue to regroup to create offensive groups,.

According to the available information, a railway echelon with the equipment of separate units of the 4th Tank Division of the 1st Tank Army of the Western Military District arrived at the Dolbino railway station (Belgorod Oblast).

The situation in the Volyn direction has not changed.

  • According to available data, units of the Armed Forces of a Russian federation, which are assigned to Belarus, are concentrated on the territory of the Polissya Radiation Reserve in the areas of Kirov, Khilchikha, Narovlya and Volokhovshchina.
  • According to available information, in the territory of the Republic of Belarus, in the Gomel Republican Scientific and Practical Center for Radiation Medicine and Human Ecology, there are allegedly “wounded” servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Russian federation who received significant doses of radiation during their stay in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

In the Polissya direction, the enemy is operating with separate units of the 38th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 35th All-Military Army, the 37th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, and the 5th Separate Tank Brigade of the 36th All-Military Army. It did not carry out offensive actions, its main efforts were focused on defending certain borders in order to cover the withdrawal of troops to the territory of the Republic of Belarus. It mines areas and equipment that cannot be evacuated and destroys infrastructure to delay the advance of our troops.

  • Separate units of the 5th, 29th and 35th All-Military Armies of the Eastern Military District and the 155th Separate Marine Brigade of the Pacific Fleet are being withdrawn from the Chornobyl district to the settlements located on the territory of the Republic of Belarus. area.
  • Units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine restored control over the settlements of Demydiv, Dymer, Lytvynivka, Gavrylivka, Kozarovychi, Zhovtneve, Hlybivka, Yasnohorodka, Talakun, Sukoluchchya, Lypivka, Gavronshchyna, Makovyshche, Mykolaivka, Khmilna.

In the Siversky direction, a Russian enemy did not conduct offensive operations, the main efforts were focused on covering the withdrawal of troops to the territory of the Russian Federation and deterring offensive actions of the Defense Forces of Ukraine.

  • In the Chernihiv direction, a Russian enemy continues to blockade Chernihiv and inflict artillery strikes on residential areas of the city and positions of units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
  • In the Siversky direction, after the departure of the forces, the Armed Forces of Ukraine took control of the settlements of Rudnya, Shevchenkove, Bobryk, Stara Basan, Nova Basan, Makiyivka, Pohreby, Bazhanivka, Volodymyrivka, Shnyakivka, Salne, Sofiyivka, Gavrylivka.

In the Slobozhansky direction, the enemy continues to block Kharkiv, regrouping troops and shelling residential neighbourhoods. It conducts air reconnaissance of the positions of units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the use of UAVs.

  • In order to increase the grouping of troops, units of the 106th Airborne Division were moved from the settlement of Valuyky (Belgorod region) to the Pisky district (Kharkiv Oblast), presumably to conduct hostilities in the Donetsk direction.
  • In the Izium direction, Russian occupiers continue to control part of the city of Izium and maintain pontoon crossings across the Siversky Donets River, regrouping troops in order to create an offensive group.

In the temporarily occupied by the Russian enemy settlement Shchastia, Luhansk oblast, all attempts by the Russian occupiers to restore the thermal power plant, which suffered significant damage as a result of hostilities, were in vain, because qualified specialists left the village.

  • The enemy continues to suffer significant losses in the Luhansk Oblast. Thus, in the city of Alchevsk, the local hospital from the area of hostilities near the village of Popasna received about 30 wounded occupiers-Kadyrovs.

In the Donetsk direction, a Russian enemy continues to carry out fire and assault operations in most areas. It inflicts airstrikes on units of our troops in the areas of the settlements of Rubizhne, Bila Hora, Marinka, and Sievierodonetsk. The main efforts are focused on taking control of the settlements of Popasna, Rubizhne.

  • A Russian force carries out fire damage and assault operations in order to establish control over the city of Mariupol. It launched offensive operations in the direction of Velyka Novosilka and Rozdolne. He was stopped in both directions.
  • A group of troops of the Armed Forces of Ukraine repulsed 9 enemy attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk directions during the day. Our soldiers destroyed 8 tanks, 44 armoured fighting vehicles, 16 units of vehicles and 10 artillery systems.

There are no significant changes in the position and movement of Russian enemy units were recorded in the Pivdennyi Buh directions.“

According to the General Staff of Ukraine, Russia had launched a total of 1370 missiles against Ukraine as of 31 March. The indiscriminate bombing and shelling are not included in the numbers.

Russia claimed Ukrainian helicopters attacked an oil depot in Belgorod (Russian) on 1. April, BBC reports. “The strikes do not create “comfortable conditions” for peace talks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says.” The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine refuse to confirm or deny the fire at the oil depot in Belgorod, Russia, Ukrayinska Pravda reports.

During the last 24 hours, the Ukrainian General Staff has reported on the Russian manning and logistic challenges:

  • The enemy intensified work with the so-called “volunteers”.
  • On April 1 this year, the Ministry of Defense of a Russian federation decided to hold a military meeting with reservists from April 4 to May 23, 2022.
  • At the same time, work has been intensified to involve units of Russian troops based in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova to carry out provocations and demonstrations on the border with Ukraine.
  • The redeployment of Russian troops and units of the so-called Transnistrian-Moldavian Republic in order to prepare for a demonstration of readiness for the offensive and, possibly, hostilities against Ukraine was noted.
  • According to available information, the dead Russian occupiers are left on the battlefield. At the same time, last week, the irreparable loss of personnel in the units of the so-called 2nd Army Corps amounted to about 800 people.

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 24 hours):

  • Ukrainian forces continue to advance against withdrawing Russian forces in the vicinity of Kyiv. Along the northwestern axis, Ukrainian forces’ attempts to advance from Irpin towards Bucha and Hostomel are ongoing. Russian forces are reported to have withdrawn from Hostomel airport, which has been subject to fighting since the first day of the conflict. Along the eastern axis, Ukraine has retaken several villages.
  • In the east of Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have secured a key route in eastern Kharkiv after heavy fighting. This follows the liberation of Trostyanets, in the vicinity of Sumy, earlier this week.
  • A fire has destroyed several oil tanks at a depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border. On 30 March, explosions were also reported at an ammunition depot in the vicinity of the city.
  • The probable loss of fuel and ammunition supplies from these depots will likely add additional short-term strain to Russia’s already stretched logistic chains. Supplies to Russian forces encircling Kharkiv (60 km from Belgorod) may be particularly affected.

As of Saturday 02.04.2022, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:

  • personnel – more than 17800 people (+100),
  • tanks – 631 units (+6),
  • armoured combat vehicles – 1776 units (+25),
  • artillery systems – 317 (+1),
  • multiple rocket launchers – 100 (+4)
  • air defence means – 54 (no change),
  • aircraft – 143 (no change),
  • helicopters – 134 (+3),
  • automotive technology – 1236 (+16),
  • vessels/boats – 7 units (no change),
  • fuel and lubricant tanks – 76 (no change),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 87 (+2)
  • Special equipment – 24 (no change)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (no change)

Russo-Ukrainian war, day 38: Ukraine recaptures large swathes of terrain near Kyiv as Russia focuses on Ukraine’s east ~~

Humanitarian  

According to UNHCR 4,102,876 refugees have been registered as of 31 March. The UN says that so far Poland has taken in 2,384,814 refugees, Romania 623,627, the Republic of Moldova 390,187, Hungary 374,535, Russian Federation 350,632, Slovakia 292,039, and Belarus 12,746.

As of midnight of March 31, OHCHR recorded 3,257 civilian casualties in Ukraine: 1,276 killed (including 115 children) and 1,981 injured (including 160 children).

On April 1, 9 (nine) agreed humanitarian corridors operated, which allowed for the evacuation of more than 6,000 people.

More than 1,400 citizens travelled to Zaporizhzhia from Berdyansk and Melitopol by their own transport along the humanitarian corridors. Of these, 771 people – from Mariupol and 670 – residents of the cities Berdyansk, Melitopol, Polohy, Orikhov and Vasylivka.

42 buses from Berdyansk with Mariupol residents and 12 – from Melitopol with local residents – have already passed Vasylivka. This is more than 2.5 thousand people. More than 300 private cars follow the buses. All of them are now going to Zaporizhzhia.

More than 1.7 thousand people were evacuated – from Sievierodonetsk, Rubizhne, Lysychansk, Kreminna and Popasna.

Also, 10 buses arrived from Zaporizhzhia to Berdyansk today, delivering 80 tons of humanitarian aid. Tomorrow morning, they will continue the evacuation of Mariupol residents.

Ukraine’s Government executed an exchange of the prisoners of war on 1 April. This was the second agreed exchange since February 24, 2022. 86 soldiers, including 15 women were brought back to Ukraine.

Environmental

The Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gave a press conference on April 1 and expressed the anticipation of a support mission to the Chornobyl NPP as soon as possible. It will be the first in a series of such nuclear safety and security missions to Ukraine. IAEA also reports that:

“The IAEA has still not been able to confirm reports of Russian forces receiving high doses of radiation while being in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. Out of the country’s 15 operational reactors at four sites, Ukraine said eight were operating, including two at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia NPP, three at Rivne, one at Khmelnytskyy, and two at South Ukraine. The other reactors are shut down for regular maintenance (including Unit 2 at Rivne which shut down recently), it added.”

 

Legal

Overall registered numbers of crimes: 3927 crimes of aggression and war crimes, and 2128 crimes against national security. The Ukrainian General Staff reports that:

  • In the temporarily occupied territories, a Russian enemy continues to commit illegal acts and, in violation of international humanitarian law, abducts locals, shells in residential areas, mines in civilian infrastructure, looting and looting.
  • According to available information, a so-called referendum is planned for April 4 in the city of Tokmak by Russia. In particular, the occupation administration has already notified the local population about this event.

Ukraine recaptures large swathes of terrain near Kyiv

Support

Germany approves delivery of armoured personnel carriers to the Ukrainian army, the Spiegel reports. Berlin is clearing the way for the resale of combat vehicles from GDR stocks. Ukraine will receive 56 infantry fighting vehicles, which originally come from the stocks of the National People’s Army of the GDR. The PbV-501 armoured personnel carriers are equipped with cannons and machine guns and were part of the standard equipment of the Warsaw Pact armies. The tanks came into the possession of the Bundeswehr with reunification and were initially handed over to the Swedish army at the end of the 1990s.

In May 1997, Sweden awarded a contract to the Czech Republic VOP 026 repair facility for the modification and renovation of the vehicles. The upgraded BMP-1 vehicles, designated the Pbv 501 in Swedish Army service, were delivered to Sweden from 1998 through to 2001. They were later sold to a Czech company, which is now trying to sell them to the Ukrainian army. This, however, required German approval.

New developments

  1. Ukraine’s 10-point peace plan call for states to guarantee security. The US and its allies have been weighing how the West could provide Ukraine with alternative security guarantees should it forgo its NATO membership bid as a concession to Russia to end the war, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell CNN. “The discussions, which have included the Ukrainians directly, are in very early phases because it is not clear to US, Western and Ukrainian officials that the Russian negotiations are anything more than a smokescreen. But it is unlikely, they noted, that the US and its allies will ultimately offer Ukraine the kinds of legally binding protections it is requesting.”
  2. Ukraine has not yet received a response from Russia to the 10-point peace plan, the Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday, Ukrayinska Pravda We see some public comments from Russian officials, but we are waiting for a full formal response from Russia,” he said. This answer will make it clear whether Russia continues to speak in the language of ultimatums, or whether it has finally moved on to a constructive discussion of the agenda and the search for mutually acceptable solutions.
  3. The European Union and China agreed that the war in Ukraine was threatening global security, the head of the European Council said on Friday while warning China against helping Russia’s war, ReutersAny attempts to circumvent sanctions or provide aid to Russia would prolong the war. This would lead to more loss of life and greater economic impact, he said.”
  4. Europe pursues payment response as Russian gas supply threat eases, Reuters The Kremlin said on Friday it would not immediately turn off the taps to Europe as payments on deliveries due after April 1 come in the second half of this month and May. “That message and signs Europe would take a pragmatic approach sparked relief on markets. Although energy exports are Putin’s most powerful lever against sweeping Western sanctions, his room for manoeuvre is also limited because Moscow does not have alternative markets for its gas, which is piped to Europe.”
  5. Russia has refused to join consensus on extending the mandateof the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, Security and Human Rights Monitor The mandate of the Organization’s flagship operation in Ukraine, which has to be renewed yearly, expired at midnight 31 March. Thereafter, the mission will go into a limited, administrative mode and OSCE participating States will continue negotiations on a possible future OSCE presence in Ukraine. It is not yet clear how long this consultation process will last and how it will end.

Assessment

On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Friday 01 April:

ISW assesses that the Kremlin has revised its campaign plan in Ukraine after the failure of its initial campaign to capture Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities and its subsequent failure to adjust its operations in late March. ISW previously assessed that the initial Russian campaign of the war—airborne and mechanized operations to seize Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and other major Ukrainian cities to force a change of government in Ukraine—had failed as of March 19. The Russian military continued to feed small collections of reinforcements into operations around Kyiv and across northeastern and southern Ukraine in an effort to keep its initial campaign plan alive throughout late March. We assess that the Russian military has now halted these failed efforts and is beginning a new phase of its campaign in Ukraine with new objectives. We are updating the structure of our campaign assessments to reflect the new structure and prioritization of Russian operations.

Et bilde som inneholder kart Automatisk generert beskrivelse Ukraine recaptures large swathes of terrain near Kyiv

Russia’s main effort is now focused on eastern Ukraine, with two subordinate main efforts: capturing the port city of Mariupol and capturing the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. The Kremlin claims the entirety of these oblasts as the territory of its proxies in eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR). The Kremlin is increasingly redeploying troops from other axes of advance and channeling its remaining reinforcements from Russia into eastern Ukraine. Russian forces are unlikely to conduct active operations on other fronts in the coming weeks.

The Kremlin may intend to capture Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts before seeking to negotiate a Kremlin-favorable ceasefire and claim that Russia has achieved its war aims. The Kremlin’s initial false justification for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine was to protect the DNR and LNR from Ukraine and enable them to seize their “claimed” territory. The Kremlin is attempting to gloss over the failure of Russia’s initial campaign for a domestic Russian audience. The Kremlin has in fact been forced to alter its operations after the failure of its initial campaign. Kremlin claims that Russian forces solely attacked northeastern Ukraine to degrade Ukrainian forces before achieving the “main goal” of capturing Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts – such as statements made by the Russian General Staff on March 25 – are false.[3]

Russian forces have three supporting efforts: Kharkiv and Izium; Kyiv and northeastern Ukraine; and the southern axis, including Kherson.

  • Russian forces on the Kharkiv axis have abandoned efforts to take the city. Their new objectives are likely to 1) pin Ukrainian mechanized forces in place, and 2) drive southeast to link up with Russian forces in Luhansk Oblast. Russian forces captured Izium (southeast of Kharkiv) on April 1 after attempting to do so since at least March 7.[4] Russian forces, including elements redeployed from the Sumy axis in the past week, will likely continue offensive operations in the coming days in an effort to cut off Ukrainian forces on the line of contact in Donbas.
  • Russian forces around Kyiv and in northeastern Ukraine seek to conduct a retrograde action—the orderly withdrawal of combat forces—for refit and further redeployment to other axes of advance. Russian forces remaining on the forward trace of Russian lines are a covering force intended to screen the retrograde of most of the combat power previously deployed around Kyiv. Ukrainian forces retook substantial territory both northwest and east of Kyiv in the past 24 hours. Ukrainian forces likely advanced faster than Russian forces anticipated, but Russian forces successfully withdrew much of the damaged combat power remaining around Kyiv into Belarus.https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1509984192536498185?s=20&t=Ph-m1sgNJG70FJj0lBOCgg
  • Russian forces on the southern axis—centered on Kherson—are unlikely to conduct offensive operations in the near future and will aim to defend Russian-occupied territory around Kherson against Ukrainian counterattacks. Russian forces will additionally likely prioritize securing southern Ukraine against increasingly frequent Ukrainian partisan actions. Russian forces are unlikely to resume offensive operations west toward Mykolayiv or north toward Zaporizhzhia and Kryvyi Rih in the near future.

Key Takeaways

  • We now assess that Russia has revised its campaign plan in Ukraine after the failure of operations to seize Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities throughout March.
  • The Kremlin’s claims that Russia’s main objective has been eastern Ukraine throughout the war are false and intended to obfuscate the failure of Russia’s initial campaign.
  • Russia’s main effort is now concentrated on eastern Ukraine. Russian forces seek to capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
  • Russian forces will likely take Mariupol in the coming days but continue to suffer heavy casualties.
  • Russian forces seek to fix in place the Ukrainian forces around Kharkiv.
  • Russian forces captured Izium after three weeks of fighting on April 1 and will attempt to advance southeast to link up with Russian forces in Luhansk Oblast in the coming days.
  • Ukrainian forces recaptured large swathes of terrain both northwest and east of Kyiv in the past 24 hours, but Russia successfully withdrew elements of its damaged forces into Belarus.
  • The Kremlin will continue to funnel reinforcements (including both low-quality individual replacements from Russia and damaged units redeployed from northeastern Ukraine) into operations in eastern Ukraine, but these degraded forces are unlikely to enable Russia to conduct successful large-scale offensive operations.”

The situation in the south and the Donbas region remained extremely difficult President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday and reiterated that Russia was building up forces near the besieged city of Mariupol, Reuters reports. And in a rare sign of internal dissent, Zelenskyy also said in a video address that he had sacked two senior members of the national security service on the grounds that they were traitors.

The United States had excellent intelligence about the Russian plan to invade Ukraine but terrible intelligence about how the invasion would fare, the American columnist Max Boot highlights in the Washington Post on 28 March.

At the start of the war, officials expected that Kyiv would fall within two days. That was more than 30 days ago. This wildly off-target assessment is the mirror image of the US mistake in Afghanistan, where the intelligence community was surprised by the speed of the government’s collapse. Spectacular Russian setbacks are changing that view, but there still appears to be a residual assumption that sooner or later Moscow will get its act together and crush Ukrainian resistance. While the Russians have shown an appalling willingness to commit war crimes, there is no indication that they are breaking Ukraine’s will to fight. More than a month into the war, the invaders are losing — and there is no reason to expect a sudden reversal of fortune. The entire Russian campaign has been a shambles built on lies and illusions, sabotaged by incompetence and corruption. Don’t expect that to change. Stop overestimating the Russians and underestimating the Ukrainians.

Consequences and what to do? 

The Ukrainian Air Force has published a myth-burster and an appeal to the international community, addressing the misconception that we are doing all we can to enable Ukraine to defend itself. It focuses on weapon support and the equipment the Ukrainian Air Force needs to defend Ukraine (in the absence of an UN-mandated No-Fly zone):

“The Ukrainian Air Force would like to address misinformation published in multiple Western media outlets regarding the situation in the Ukrainian sky and support from our NATO  allies. As we defend our country against Russian aggression, information is one of the most powerful weapons at our disposal. We ask journalists from all nations to take care to avoid supporting the Russian army by spreading inaccurate information.

Myth: Ukraine’s successes on the ground will win the war.

  • Truth: Air superiority is the deciding factor in this war. Air superiority has played a key role in all wars since WWII. Dominance in the air allows a combatant to quickly and effectively attack the enemy’s ground troops, supply chains, and other essential military objects. Air superiority also provides powerful protection for one’s own ground and naval forces.

Myth: Ukraine’s air force is equipped to effectively defend the country against Russia.

  • Truth: Russias air force is many times larger than Ukraines and has access to more advanced radar and missile technologies. Ukraine’s air force cannot close the sky over Ukraine or gain air superiority due to a large discrepancy in equipment and technologies. Due to this major imbalance between the Russian and Ukrainian air forces, has been urgently requesting more modern fighter jets and air defense tools from its allies since the outset of the war. Over the past month, our air force has sustained losses; as the equipment is destroyed by Russian forces or damaged in action, our need only grows more urgent.

Myth: Stingers will make up for the Ukrainian Air Force equipment shortfalls.

  • Truth: Successful defence against Russian threats in the air (including cruise missiles, among others) requires fighter jets as well as medium- and long-range surface-based air defence systems. Stingers have a limited range and functionality; cannot compensate for a lack of modern fighter jets and medium- and long-range missile defense systems. Kamikaze drones are designed to destroy targets on the ground and also cannot defend against Russian aircraft and missiles.

Myth: The US and NATO are providing Ukraine with needed weapons. Allies are doing everything possible, short of direct involvement in the war.

  • Truth: To date, our allies have not answered our call for air defense support (fighter jets and SAM). We have not received the tools we need to defend our sky and achieve victory. In the sky, the greatest need is for fighter jets – F-15s and F-16s of the fourth generation or higher would be sufficient; Ukrainian pilots can learn to fly these with just 2-3 weeks of training. Unlike Soviet-era MiG-29s, these jets are equipped with the advanced technologies used by the enemy, including advanced radars and modern missiles. On the ground, air defense systems can prevent airstrikes and missile strikes.  Russia has fired well over 1,000 ballistic and cruise missiles and dropped hundreds of tons of unguided bombs over the cities and towns of Ukraine. Most could have been intercepted if Ukrainian territory were covered by the required number of efficient air defence systems. Ukraine currently operates long-range S-300 (SA-10) missile systems and medium-range BUK-M1 missile systems. However, these are outdated, Soviet-era systems that are no match for Russian systems, such as the S-400 and others. To effectively protect Ukraine, the optimal solution would be Patriot systems from the USA or the cheaper, more mobile NASAMS systems from Norway. In addition, Ukraine could also use more Soviet-era S-300 and BUK-M1 systems, which are also currently effective against the enemy.”

    Ukraine still drastically lacks weapons to defend its airspace, says Ukraine’s Air Force Command

Assessment by Hans Petter Midttun:

The assessments of an adjusted Russian campaign plan, new timelines and revised aim and objectives seem accurate. But only if the assessment is made in the context of the 24 February assault.

38 days ago, a long-term hybrid war changed into what Russia believed would be a quick and easy military campaign. What we might be seeing presently, is that the campaign plan and its timeline are changing back to a long-term hybrid war. Only this time, an even greater part of Ukraine is occupied, and Russia is employing all its military tools. The strategic aim and objectives, however, never changed since 2014.

This is – and always was – a conflict between Russia and the West over the world order, and the conflicting ideas of the authoritarian “Russian World” and the Western liberal democracies. Ukraine is only an object and not the strategic aim of the Hybrid War. A Russian victory in Ukraine is, however, a prerequisite for its global ambitions. Russia, therefore, needs to integrate Ukraine (and Belarus) into the “Russian World.”

That plan was, however, more likely to succeed until 24 February. Today, it is impossible to coerce Ukraine and Ukrainians into submission due to the Russian atrocities. Additionally, the previous strategy did its best to ensure that the West stayed disengaged, as well as avoid a direct confrontation with NATO and the EU. Today, even its “business friends” have been forced to see Russia for what it is: An aggressor threatening European security. The Western sanctions and the long-term consequences of its policy shifts have a direct bearing on its ability to pursue its global ambitions.

The exceptional level of sanctions, turning Russia into the most sanctioned country in history, came as a tremendous surprise despite the very strong vocal warnings given in the months leading up to the full-scale war.

During the last 15 years of aggressive Russian foreign policy, involving both conventional and hybrid wars, war crimes, assassinations, an attempted coup, election and referendum meddling, cyber-attacks, active espionage and an increasingly more aggressive military posture, the international community has responded with “words of concern”. Except for limited sanctions, NATO and the EU have hardly responded in any real-time, direct and practical manner. There have been barely any consequences. On the contrary, we have continued the reduction of our national and collective force structures, while we talked about reset of relationships.

While we immediately responded to any incident or provocation during the Cold War, we have hardly responded at all during the last 15 years.

The West did not believe Russia would do what they have done, and Russia – after 15 years of us doing “nothing” – did not believe we would do what we just did.

The West has been assessed for its actions – or 15 years of inaction – rather than its “words of concern”. The fact that both the USA and NATO have been seen to be strongly divided, and many western leaders have spoken about the need to reset the relationship with Russia and deepen the economic cooperation – despite the Russian transgressions – left Russia to believe that we would remain disconnected and disengaged.

Russia is alone responsible for the war. The West is, however, responsible for the failure of diplomacy. In view of our not too impressive “track record” and recognising that our forceful response came as a shock, we should not be surprised that Russia still does not believe the sanctions will last. Their statements indicate that they see this as temporary measures only. “It will pass”. “Things will go back to how it used to be as soon as they secure a peace agreement”, notwithstanding the new territories gained, the human suffering and destructions. Because that is what we have done in the past and continue to signal by our unwillingness to fully commit.

Why should they believe anything else? Neither the EU, the USA nor the UK has declared its preconditions for lifting sanctions. The West has not yet drawn its “red line”. NATO and the EU have yet to acknowledge the Russian perception of it being “at war” with the West. We still describe the war as a “War in Ukraine” while maintaining a “safe distance” from it. The military options remain off the table, and we are still not doing everything we should to support Ukraine. This includes the introduction of a No-Fly Zone, the supply of combat aircraft and medium/long-range air defence, naval strike missiles and main battle tanks. And despite words to the contrary, we remain divided.

That said, some of the difficult issues we have struggled to resolve, including European Energy Security will have a long-term effect on the Russian economy once solved. The collective effort to reduce energy dependency on Russia will reduce its ability to fund its wars and foreign policy. Upholding the sanctions will of course have an even greater effect. These aspects will, however, not impact Russian plans and intentions before they believe that we mean business and are prepared to uphold sanctions until Russia has withdrawn all of Ukraine AND has adjusted its foreign policy and military posture.

If the message is “there can be no “business as normal” until we see something resembling normality in Russia”, then we need to convince Russia of our resolve. It is time to engage properly and send clear messages.

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