Russo-Ukrainian war, day 42: Heavy fighting continues in Mariupol, Ukraine receives tanks from the Czech, EU expels 120 Russian diplomats

Russo Ukrainian war, day 42: Heavy fighting continues in Mariupol, Ukraine receives tanks from the Czech, EU expels 120 Russian diplomats

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun
Russian troops continue to withdraw from Ukraine and relocating from Belarus to their bases in south-western Russia. Withdrawal of Russian forces from around Kyiv is nearing completion. Heavy fighting and bombings continue in the encircled city of Mariupol. The humanitarian situation in the city is disastrous: 160,000 residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat or water. UN immigration agency: more than 11 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine. EU and its allies started “diplomatic” war with Russia and expelled more than 120 Russian diplomats.

Morning report day 42 – April 06

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 05.04.2022, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment]. The General Staff has reduced its assessments to two a day.

“The Russian Federation continues to conduct full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine. The enemy’s main efforts are focused on preparing for an offensive operation aimed at establishing full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Russia's WAR against Ukraine MAP

The threat of Russian forces’ use of naval, air and ground-based missile weapons continues. The Russian occupiers are inflicting fire on the defence complex, logistics infrastructure and residential areas of cities.

At the same time, the Russian forces are trying to improve the tactical position in the Pivdennyi Buh directions. The use of the territory of the self-proclaimed Transnistrian-Moldavian Republic to support the offensive operation in this direction is not ruled out. Preparations for receiving aircraft are being carried out at Tiraspol airfield.

The export of military equipment of the armed forces of the Russian Federation from the territory of the Republic of Belarus by rail and military transport planes continues in the Siversky direction. At the same time, the movement of certain units of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus in the direction of the state border of Ukraine was revealed. The rotation of units involved in strengthening the protection of the state border of Belarus is not ruled out.

There are no signs of the formation of offensive groups in the Volyn direction. Certain units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus continue to carry out tasks to cover the Ukrainian-Belarusian border.

The occupiers did not take any active action in the Polissya direction. Some of the enemy units withdrawn from this direction are located on the territory of the Republic of Belarus. Recovery measures are ongoing, presumably to regroup and strengthen other groups. [Russian troops might remain on] the territory of the Republic of Belarus to restrain the actions of the Defense Forces of Ukraine and prevent their transfer to other areas. Another goal is to assist the Republic of Belarus in covering part of the Belarusian-Ukrainian border.

In the Siversky direction, the restoration of Russian units, which had previously been withdrawn to the Bryansk and Kursk regions of the Russian Federation, is underway.

In the Slobozhansky direction, the enemy continues to block the city of Kharkiv and launch artillery shelling in its separate areas.

  • In the Izium direction, the Russian occupiers did not abandon their intentions to create a strike group and continue the offensive in the direction of the settlements of Sloviansk and Barvinkove.

In the Donetsk direction, the enemy is trying to improve the tactical position of its units. Continues to carry out assault operations in the areas of Popasna, Stepne, Novotoshkivske, Rubizhne, Siverodonetsk and Solodke. It is not successful.

  • The Russian forces continue to actively use munitions prohibited by international humanitarian law. Attempts to storm Mariupol do not stop. The defenders of the city held a heroic defense for more than forty days, restraining the overwhelming forces of the Russian invaders.

In the Tavriya direction, in the area of the settlement of Basan, the movement of some units from the 58th All-Military Army was recorded, probably to regroup forces.

In the Pivdennyi Buh directions, the enemy is taking measures to restore combat capability and take measures to engineer positions. Continues to terrorize civilians in the temporarily occupied territories of the Kherson Oblast.

As a result of the offensive actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the forces lost control over the settlements of Dobryanka, Novovoznesenske and Trudolyubivka. Fighting continues in the area of the settlement of Oleksandrivka.

The group of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed 8 cruise missiles the previous day. The Air Force aircraft continued to support the actions of the ground forces of the Defense Forces and launched airstrikes on the occupying forces.“

A civilian ship under the flag of the Dominican Republic was Tuesday sinking because of the Russian shelling of the port of Mariupol, which is blockaded by Russian troops, Ukrayinska Pravda reports.

Russia urgently needs to divert the international community’s attention from its atrocities in Bucha and undermine international support for Ukraine. Therefore, the main task of Russian propaganda presently is to divert the attention of both international and domestic audiences. According to the General Staff of Ukraine, Russia is preparing a large-scale provocation in both Izium and Mariupol to blame Ukraine for them.

In the city of Izium, the Russian occupiers are fabricating evidence of the alleged crimes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. To this end, they are shelling the settlement and creating a kind of “documentation“.

According to available data, Russia is preparing a large-scale falsification. They plan to gather bodies of Mariupol residents killed by the Russians themselves and present them as mass victims of Ukrainian troops. To this end, false theses have recently been circulating that “Ukrainians are using civilians as human shields.” The fact is that Russian forces have been destroying Mariupol and its citizens since the first days of the war. In early March already the city was burying the dead in mass graves.

Units of the State Traffic Police of the Seversk Police Department have reached the state border of Ukraine in the Chernihiv Oblast and provide protection of the state border Dniprovske, Hirsk, Nedanchychi, Operational Command North reports.

Russian Servicemen who Committed Atrocities in Bucha Are Being Returned to Ukraine, Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) claims. The 64th motorized rifle brigade of the 35th combined arms army, who massacred and tortured civilians in Bucha, will be returned to Ukraine. The Russian command will not rotate the personnel in this unit and will throw them back to the front.

As of April 4, the brigade had been withdrawn from Ukraine to Belarus. The personnel will be transported by railway to Belgorod (Russia) by April 6. After only a two-day rest, it is planned to deploy them to Ukraine in one of the “hottest” places (in the Kharkiv direction). Being denied recovery and rest indicates that “special tasks” are expected for the 64th brigade according to DIU. Firstly, the opportunity to repeat the crimes of genocide in Bucha in other cities. Secondly, the rapid “disposal” of unnecessary witnesses. That is redeployment to a section of the front where they will have no chance of surviving making it impossible for them to testify in future courts.

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

  • The Russian forces do not abandon attempts to involve mercenaries from other countries in hostilities against Ukraine to make up for its losses in manpower. At the same time, the use of mercenaries will not have a significant impact on the course of hostilities, given their small number.
  • The command of the 200th separate motorized infantry brigade (Pechenga, Murmansk region) of the 14th army corps, which involved two battalions tactical groups in the war with Ukraine, trains servicemen to make up for losses. According to available information, the total loss of the brigade in manpower is about 30%. One battalion tactical group was destroyed, and the other was withdrawn to the area of recovery in the Belgorod region.
  • According to available information, the losses of the 236th Artillery Brigade of the 20th All-Army are about 20 percent of the personnel and weapons. This significantly reduced the intensity of the brigade’s actions.
  • In the western military district of the Russian Federation, to recruit to units that have suffered losses on the territory of Ukraine, covert mobilization measures are being carried out. In addition, the command of the armed forces of the Russian Federation is trying to make up for the loss of personnel by involving representatives of military schools. The Chita Suvorov Military School of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia conducted a written survey of teaching staff on their readiness to take part in a “special operation” outside the Russian federation. Many teachers have given up on possible involvement in the “performance of tasks” and are ready to be discharged from military service.

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

  • Heavy fighting and Russian airstrikes have continued in the encircled city of Mariupol.
  • The humanitarian situation in the city is worsening. Most of the 160,000 remaining residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat or water. Russian forces have prevented humanitarian access, likely to pressure defenders to surrender.
  • Analysis of satellite imagery dated 21 March 2022 shows at least 8 bodies identified lying in a street in Bucha, Kyiv Oblast. Bucha was occupied by the Russian armed forces until 31 March 2022.

As of Wednesday 06.04.2022, 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 18600 people (+100),
  • tanks – 684 units (+8),
  • armoured combat vehicles – 1861 units (+3),
  • artillery systems – 332 (no change),
  • multiple rocket launchers – 107 (no change)
  • air defence means – 55 (no change),
  • aircraft – 150 (no change),
  • helicopters – 135 (+1),
  • automotive technology – 1324 (+2),
  • vessels/boats – 7 units (no change),
  • fuel and lubricant tanks – 76 (no change),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 96 (+2)
  • Special equipment – 25 (no change)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (no change)

Humanitarian

The United Nations migration agency estimates that more than 11 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia’s unprovoked war began on February 24, RFERL reports. More than 7.1 million had been displaced within Ukraine as of April 1, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on April 5 in its first full assessment in three weeks. Another 4.24 million have fled abroad, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

According to UNHCR 4,244,595 refugees have been registered as of April 4. The UN says that so far Poland has taken in 2,469,657 refugees, Romania 648,410, the Republic of Moldova 396,448, Hungary 394,728, Russia 350,632 (no changes since March 29), Slovakia 301,405 and Belarus 16,274. Among those who fled Ukraine are also Ukrainian nationals with dual citizenship. An additional 113,000 people moved to the Russian Federation from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions between 21 and 23 February.

OHCHR recorded 3,675 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of midnight of April 4. 1,480 were killed (including 123 children) and 2,195 injured (including 183 children).

167 children were killed and 279 children injuredOffice of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports that as of 8 a.m. on April 6.

On April 5 the agreed humanitarian corridors allowed for the evacuation of 3,846 people. According to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine.

In particular, 2,216 people from Mariupol and Berdyansk travelled to Zaporizhzhia by their own transport. Among them 1496 people from Mariupol and 720 people from the cities: Pology, Vasylivka, Berdyansk, Melitopol. At the same time, a convoy of 7 buses to evacuate people from Mariupol, accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross, was forced to return after the blockade in Mangush. Iryna Vereshchuk noted that Mariupol residents and local residents from the city of Berdyansk were evacuated by these buses on the way. In addition, 1,080 people were evacuated from the Luhansk oblast.”

Legal

More than 400 people have gone missing in 35 days of occupation in Gostomel – eyewitnesses say some have died, but their whereabouts are still unknown, Ukrayinska Pravda reports.

We know about the people who were killed, there are confirmations, photos and video recordings, but we still can’t find them. When there was a connection, eyewitnesses were able to tell us this information, and now we still can’t find them, Taras Dumenko, head of the Gostomel village military administration said. According to Dumenko, the Russians were cleaning up the tracks of their atrocities“.

According to the General Staff of Ukraine:

  • Russian troops, defiantly ignoring the rules of international humanitarian law, continue to use aircraft and artillery to strike at civilian infrastructure and industry. Thus, as a result of the shelling of the city of Rubizhne, Luhansk oblast, the occupiers damaged a tank with nitric acid.
  • In the settlements of Velykyi Burluk, Prykolotne and Fedorivka [Kharkiv Oblast], the Russian occupiers are searching for pro-Ukrainian residents and illegally detaining them.
  • In Tokmak, medical staff at local health facilities are being forced to sign so-called “contracts” with the Russian Ministry of Health.
  • In the temporarily occupied territory of the Zaporizhzhia oblast, in the city of Berdyansk, local residents are being detained.

Russian war crimes

Ukraine has published a list of Russian commanders directly involved and responsible for the killings of civilians in Bucha, Irpen and Gostomel.

The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine has once again published the list of servicemen belonging to a Russian unit. This time servicemen of the 96th separate reconnaissance brigade from the 1st Tank Army of the Western Military District (Military unit No. 52634) that was deployed to Kyiv Oblast.

4684 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 2400 crimes against national security were registered as of the same date. 927 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 83 of them are destroyed fully.

Support

Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs: Introduce “the mother of all sanctions” to avoid “another Bucha”. Dmytro Kuleba called for a ban on Russian energy imports in order to avoid another Bucha in Ukraine.

To avert ‘new Buchas’, impose the mother of all sanctions: stop buying oil, gas, and coal from Russia. Stop financing Putin’s war machine. The Russian economy — and its war — would stop in a matter of months. A few months of tightening your belts are worth thousands of saved lives.”

Ukraine quietly receives tanks from the Czech Republic to support the war effort, The Wall Street Journal reports. The move marks the first time a foreign country has provided tanks to Ukraine. It has been sending old Soviet-designed tanks into Ukraine, providing badly needed heavy weapons to outgunned Ukrainian troops that are battling a much better-equipped Russian invasion force.

$100 Million in Additional US Security Assistance for Ukraine, the US Department of State says in a statement. Secretary of State Blinken authorized the immediate drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $100 million to meet Ukraine’s urgent need for additional anti-armour systems.

The US blocks Russia’s access to dollars for bond payments, heightening the risk of Russian default, The New York Times reports. The US has started blocking Russia from making debt payments using dollars held in American banks, a move designed to deplete its international currency reserves and potentially push Russia toward its first foreign currency debt default in a century. The new restriction is intended to force Russia to choose between draining the remaining dollar reserves it has in Russia or using new revenue (from natural gas payments, for example) to make bond payments to avoid defaulting on its debt.

Press statement by President von der Leyen on the fifth round of sanctions against Russia. This fifth package has six pillars.

  1. First, we will impose an import ban on coal from Russia, worth EUR 4 billion per year. […]
  2. Second: a full transaction ban on four key Russian banks […]. These four banks, which we now totally cut off from the markets, represent 23% of the market share in the Russian banking sector. […]
  3. Third: a ban on Russian vessels and Russian-operated vessels from accessing EU ports. Certain exemptions will cover essentials […]. Additionally, we will propose a ban on Russian and Belarusian road transport operators. […]
  4. Fourth: further targeted export bans, worth EUR 10 billion, in areas in which Russia is vulnerable. This includes, for example, quantum computers and advanced semiconductors, but also sensitive machinery and transportation equipment. […]
  5. Fifth: specific new import bans, worth EUR 5.5 billion, to cut the money stream of Russia and its oligarchs, on products from wood to cement, from seafood to liquor. […] Sixth: We take several very targeted measures, such as a general EU ban on participation of Russian companies in public procurement in Member States, or an exclusion of all financial support, be it European or national, to Russian public bodies.

95% of Ukrainians are convinced of Ukraine’s victory but have less faith in the fast end of the war, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. The number of those who believe that victory is possible in a few weeks is decreasing from 39% in early March to 30% today. Another 5% of respondents are convinced that Ukraine needs only about a week to win. At the same time, there is a growing number of people who believe that it will take several months or even six months or a year to win. 16% of respondents are convinced that they will have to wait about six months or a year to win, and another 4% think they will wait more than a year.

The support for NATO accession continues to decline, while the support for EU accession is growing, according to the Sociological Group “Rating”. In the first days of the war, the support for Ukraine’s accession to the Alliance increased from 62% to 76%. After the first week of the war, this support decreased to 72%, and at the end of March, it equals 68%, i.e., it is approaching the pre-war levels. At the same time, the support for EU accession is growing. In the first days of the war, it increased from 68% to 86%, then its growth continued, and as of the end of March, 91% support Ukraine’s membership in the EU – an absolute record over all the years of our surveys.

New developments

  • The US and the UK call for Russia’s suspension from UN Rights Council, RFERL The United States and Britain say they are seeking the removal of Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, following reports that Russian forces killed dozens of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.
  • EU allies expel over 120 Russian diplomats in two days after the Bucha killings, The Guardian Italy, Denmark and Sweden have joined EU allies in expelling Russian diplomats over the war in Ukraine, with more than 120 told to leave in the last 48 hours. Since the beginning of the special operation of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, 315 Russian diplomats have been expelled from the West, TASS reports.
  • Zelenskyy urges the UN to expel Russia from the security council and hold it accountable for war crimes, RFERL He provided graphic details of events that took place in the town of Bucha, where he said entire families were killed indiscriminately, particularly those who had served Ukrainian forces in some capacity. “This is no different from other terrorists such as Daesh (Islamic State)…and here it is done by a member of the United Nations Security Council.”¨
  • Zelenskyy also questioned the ability of the UN Security Council to provide security, undermining the very functions for which it was created, The Guardian “The UN Security Council exists, and security in the world doesn’t. For anyone. This definitely means that the United Nations is currently unable to carry out the functions for which it was created. And only one state is to blame for this – Russia. […] I hope the world will draw conclusions. Otherwise, there will be only one institution left in the world to guarantee the security of states. Namely – weapons.”
  • OSCE called a Special Council meeting on Russian atrocities in Irpin and Bucha, Tuesday 5 April. UK Deputy Ambassador Deirdre Brown calls out President Putin for his brutal war of choice in Ukraine and denounces reported appalling acts perpetrated by Russian invading forces in Irpin and Bucha. “Mr Chair, in this room Russian colleagues have told us they had no intention of invading Ukraine – a lie. They told us Ukraine was bombing their own schools and hospitals – a lie. Now they tell us Ukraine is executing their own civilian population. Have they no shame? There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine

  • Zelensky says Ukraine-Russia talks the only option to end war, Reuters President Zelensky said on Tuesday Ukraine had no option but to negotiate with Russia to end fighting but that he and President Putin might not personally hold talks. He was speaking after accusing Russian troops of atrocities in the town of Bucha west of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
  • Security guarantees for Ukraine are under development, but there have been no specifics yet, Ukrinform Ukraine has not yet met with all countries that expressed readiness to act as security guarantors for Ukraine. Thus, we want to meet all of them, but this meeting has not yet been held. According to Zelensky, security guarantees are being discussed with France, the United States, Germany, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, Israel, Ireland and other countries. “All these different countries are ready to guarantee different things, but so far Ukraine has not received a specific list of such guarantees and the countries that are 100% ready to join us.”

The State Duma adopted in the first reading the presidential bill on citizenship of the Russian Federation, TASS The document reduces the number of requirements for admission to citizenship for more than 20 groups of people. Citizenship can be obtained by persons who speak Russian, who know the history of Russia and the basics of Russian legislation, who undertake to abide by the constitution, and who do not pose a threat to the security and law and order of the country. It includes citizens of the former USSR, their children, and participants in the state program to assist voluntary resettlement in the Russian Federation of compatriots living abroad.

Assessment

On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Tuesday 05 April:

Russian forces continued to reposition to continue their invasion in eastern and southern Ukraine, having abandoned the attack on Kyiv. They have largely completed their withdrawal from the Kyiv area and are reportedly redeploying some of the withdrawn combat forces from Belarus to Russia. Ukrainian forces are moving to regain control over segments of the state border in Chernihiv, having already done so in Kyiv and Zhytomyr Oblasts. Russian troops are pulling back toward Russia along the Sumy axis as well, but it is not yet clear if they intend to retreat all the way back to the border or will try to hold some forward positions on the Sumy axis.

Russia has not yet committed forces withdrawn from the Battle of Kyiv back into the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Russian reinforcements continuing the drive southeast from Izium toward Sloviansk are from elements of 1st Guards Tank Army units that had been in the Kharkiv-Sumy area.

Russian units that retreated from Kyiv will not likely regain combat effectiveness for some time, and it is not clear that the Russians intend to return them to the fight soon. That said, an unconfirmed Ukrainian military intelligence report suggests that Moscow could soon send the 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 35th Combined Arms Army, a unit that reportedly committed war crimes in Bucha, into the fight in eastern Ukraine in the hopes that guilty members of that brigade and witnesses of its war crimes are killed in combat with Ukrainian forces.

Belgorod continues to emerge as the primary concentration area for Russian forces regrouping and refitting after their retreat from Kyiv and in preparation for onward movement to their home stations or to join the fighting in the east.

Elements of the Central Military District pulling back from Chernihiv Oblast are reportedly on their way to Belgorod. Their final destination is not yet known.

The Battle of Mariupol continues, with Russian forces continuing to pound the city using artillery and airpower. The constrained information environment in Mariupol prevents us from assessing concrete changes in control of terrain, but Ukrainian forces appear to be sustaining organized resistance in parts of the city.

Russian offensive operations southeast from Izium toward Sloviansk continued on a small scale and made limited progress. Russia has not yet attempted to mass large concentrations of forces on this axis but continues instead to send individual battalion tactical groups to advance on their own.

Key Takeaways

  • The withdrawal of Russian forces from around Kyiv is nearing completion.
  • Russia has not yet introduced forces withdrawn from western Ukraine into the fight in the east.
  • Ukrainian forces continued to put up organized resistance in parts of Mariupol.
  • Russian forces conducted limited offensive operations on the Izium-Sloviansk axis.”

“It is dangerous for all of us”: NATO General Secretary says Russia is not giving up Ukraine offensive, SkyNews reports.

What we now see is a brutality on the scale and the scope of war that we haven’t seen in Europe since the Second World War,” he said. “And this is extremely serious. It’s horrific and of course, it causes suffering for the Ukrainian people. “But it is also dangerous for all of us. And we see the nature of President Putin’s war, his lack of respect for and for the rule of law, for international rules, and also his lack of respect for basic human rights.”

He added that Moscow was not giving up on its offensive in Ukraine but will try to refocus on completely taking the Donbas region in the coming weeks.

We now see a significant movement of (Russian) troops away from Kyiv to regroup, re-arm and re-supply and shift their focus to the east,” he said. “In the coming weeks, we expect a further Russian push in eastern and southern Ukraine to try to take the entire Donbas and to create a land bridge to occupied Crimea.”

Consequences and what to do?

In the article “NATO Intervention in Ukraine Won’t Spark World War III” by Limor Simhony published in Foreign Policy 1 April, she argues that the Western aversion to casualties and fears of Russian nuclear use is impeding NATO intervention against a vastly inferior opponent are unfunded. Worse still, this has been understood and exploited by Putin.

Liberal democracies have war fatigue. It has been demonstrated by disengagement and withdrawal from conflicts (like in Afghanistan) and limited interventions (like in Syria, Libya, and Yemen), where Western forces reduced dependence on ground forces and concentrated on airstrikes and assistance to other fighting forces, such as the Saudis in Yemen and rebels in Syria. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 passed with few consequences for Russia, and as Russia prepared to invade the rest of Ukraine on Feb. 24, it was clear that Western nations would stick to a policy of nonengagement.

Sanctions against Russia have been severe, and Ukrainian forces have been receiving weapons, equipment, and valuable intelligence from Western nations, which have allowed them to deploy unexpected force against Russian troops—fiercely contesting their invasion and causing thousands of casualties, loss of tanks, and other armoured vehicles, rocket launchers, aircraft, and ships. Diplomatic efforts to keep Russia isolated have also been crucial.

However, Russia’s indiscriminate attacks against Ukrainian civilians—including bombing hospitals and schools as well as the use of horrific weapons, such as cluster bombs and white phosphorus—should drive the West to reevaluate its war engagement policy and take a more active role by implementing a no-fly zone or securing evacuation corridors—perhaps even actively fighting Russian forces.

The main concern is any such escalation could lead to World War III. There are two reasons that this is unlikely. The first is that Russia’s military capabilities are poor relative to those of Western armies. Their forces are not sufficiently trained; their equipment and weapons are dated and inferior; they experience major logistical, operational, and tactical difficulties; and their soldiers have low morale.

Damaging economic sanctions also mean that Russia may not be able to fund a wider war. The expectation that Moscow will be able to escalate the war into other theaters in an effective way, especially by conventional means, is unrealistic. It is possible that if the Russian military continues to struggle, Russian President Vladimir Putin will deploy chemical or even nuclear weapons to increase gains and deter the West from interferingbut that is unlikely.

The second is that Russia has become isolated. To fight a world war, Russia needs powerful allies, which it does not have. Its strongest ally, China, has largely remained on the sidelines since the war started. It abstained from voting against the U.N. resolution demanding that Russia ends its offensive, and it is worried about secondary sanctions if it aids Russia. The only countries besides Russia that voted to reject the resolution were Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, and Syria—hardly a winning alliance. Both world wars saw blocks of powerful allies fight one another. Currently, such a bloc does not exist on Russia’s side.

These factors mean that there is not a high risk of substantial escalation into total global war. This should be enough to convince Western nations to change their engagement policy and help Ukraine win the war by repulsing an opponent that is considerably inferior militarily to their own forces. It is unlikely to happen for two main reasons: fear of Russian nukes and the West’s aversion to casualties.

The most widely discussed reason is the concern that Russia will use nuclear weapons if NATO intervenes militarily. Putin has reasserted Russia’s right to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, making this a legitimate concern. However, it is more likely that nuclear deterrence—albeit different to Cold War deterrence—will hold. Russia’s deployment of nuclear weapons, either against Ukraine or against a NATO member state, could incur devastating consequences for Russia. […}

In addition, at the heart of this conflict stands national identity. Putin has little motivation to devastate a county that he wishes to annex and has not knowingly made any preparations for using nuclear weapons. Fear of the bomb accounts for one reason behind the West’s decision to leave Ukraine to fight on its own.

Another consideration is fundamental to the West: casualty sensitivity. Sensitivity to casualties—specifically deaths among troops—has become a major element affecting liberal democracies’ war preparedness, use of force, and decision-making regarding participation in wars. […]

Conflict behavior and public attitudes toward wars have undergone deep changes during the 20th and 21st centuries as a result of extensive liberalization and democratization processes. Liberal concepts of individualism, personal freedoms, a reduction in internal violence, and a comfortable lifestyle that includes longer life expectancy brought about changes in attitudes about war—primarily, that it is an undesirable way to resolve conflicts. Rejecting the violence and suffering that comes with it has made it difficult for leaders of liberal democracies to justify to the public participation in wars, especially wars of choice, in which the nation is not under direct threat. […]

Nondemocracies and guerrilla and terrorist organizations do not exhibit such an aversion to casualties. […]

There has been little evidence to suggest there is heightened sensitivity to losses among troops in Russia, a nation with a history of mass deaths in both the world wars, its own civil war, and from the brutal suppression and killing of its own people. The continued use of force in Ukraine, which has resulted in as many as 15,000 Russian military deaths so far according to the Washington Post, indicates that casualties are of no concern to Russia’s top brass. This stands in contrast to Ukraine, which accepts its causalities because it is fighting an existential war for independence and national survival.

Casualty sensitivity has been one of the factors shaping democracies’ behavior, with Western politicians preferring to avoid direct engagement in wars or to limit the use of ground forces, even at the price of compromising objectives and deterrence. It is one of the reasons that a policy of nonengagement was adopted, without question or hesitation, regarding Ukraine, long before Putin raised the alert status of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

Fear of casualties among soldiers meant that a policy of nonengagement has existed prior to Russia’s invasion—and therefore separately to a concern about escalating into a broader war. This has been understood by Putin, who bet—correctly—that Western nations will not take an active role in the war by using direct force against Russian troops, not only out of fear of escalation but as a result of a preexisting doctrine that seeks to minimize casualties. Had the West exhibited less casualty aversion, this could have acted as a greater deterrent against Russian aggression.

For the war in Ukraine, unlike the risk of escalation and use of nuclear weapons, the risk of incurring casualties is high. Considering how formative aversion to casualties has been, committing troops to fight Russia will require liberal democracies to undergo a major paradigm shift.

But there are ways to mitigate the effect of casualty sensitivity on public opinion. Adjusting the public’s expectations regarding the length of the war and the casualties that will result as well as displaying internal political unity could help. Employing force that relies primarily on air power, […] done in collaboration with Ukrainian ground forces, [will help limit Western casualties]. […]]

Russia is no stranger to targeting civilians, as it has done in the carpet-bombing of Grozny in Chechnya, in 1994 to 1995 and 1999 to 2000. It is doing this again now. It is time for the West to stop being afraid of limited threats that are not likely to materialize and to use its military superiority to help Ukraine defend its independence.

Intervention will not turn this local conflict into World War III. It runs the risk of causing a tactical nuclear attack on Ukraine, but this risk is limited given what any retaliation could mean for Russia. The West must therefore decide how long it will refrain from engagement and allow Russia to sow devastation in pursuing expansionist ambitions for fear of casualties or the bomb.”

Assesment by Hans Petter Midttun

It is widely reported that Russia is refocusing and adjusting its objective for the so-called “special military operation”.

The full or partial withdrawal of Russian forces from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy Oblast, and the knowledge that a significant part of Russian combat aircraft and helicopters are being relocated from Belarus to Russia will come as a relief to most. It is like the first feeling of spring after a particularly long and harsh winter. It brings relief and hope.

The risk of a wider conflict (that has been ongoing for years already) will be seen as averted. It allows the West to revert to old, well-used (and worn out) mantras like “the parties must seek a diplomatic solution to the war” and the “conflict cannot be solved by military means” while refocusing on other evolving challenges. This includes the severe ripple effects of the war, like reduced food and energy security, trade, recession, rising costs of living and political repercussions.

It is crucially important to stress that the short-time changes to the Russian campaign plan are only minor adjustments to a long-term strategy. It is not the “end station” but only a decision point in a process aimed at one day, defeating and gaining control over all of Ukraine.

Western war fatigue, aversion to casualties and fears of Russian nuclear use will continue to fuel Russian expansionism. Our unwillingness to use the complete toolkit of the state to defend common values and principles creates the preconditions for the Russian aggressive foreign policy. Our lack of will to use military power, irrespective of the military asymmetry between NATO and Russia, is allowing a small autocratic nation to wage war and dominate the west. Our version of casualties is creating casualties beyond our imaginations. The dilemmas of liberal democracies are understood and being actively exploited by Putin. This knowledge is driving the abovementioned “process”.

Hope for a peaceful resolution to 8 years of war will include compromises at the cost of the victim of Russian warfare. Ukraine is not in the position to liberate occupied territories by force, and Russia is not about to give it up.

IF – and it is a big IF – the offensive stops at the administrative borders of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblast, this must be seen as a temporary reprieve only. The hybrid war will continue, and Russia will go on dominating the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The destruction from the war and the loss of additional territory will leave Ukraine weakened. More importantly, it will leave Ukraine extremely vulnerable to the next assault.

If NATO and the EU truly want peace, security, and stability, they need to act according to the NATO strategic concept designed and approved to achieve just that. They need to overcome their aversion to casualties, and their internal discord and focus on short-time national interests at the cost of European security. Additionally, the West need to solve the cause of the war to stop the cycle of wars and violations of international law: Russia.

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