It will be more repositioning of troops rather than a withdrawal, with regrouping of forces to the east and to the south. Disinformation continues as more territory is reclaimed, and the sides insist that they can claim a final victory.
Washington and other Western capitals have expressed skepticism about Russia’s declared intent of refocusing on the east, with officials saying that Russia appears to be in the process of regrouping and repositioning its forces rather than limiting its goals.
And what lies ahead could prove just as bloody as Russia compensates for its failure to make significant advances on the ground by targeting civilian areas with missiles and airstrikes. It also sets up the likelihood of a longer war, at least than the one Russia originally anticipated.
But it also defers, perhaps indefinitely, the broader threat to Ukraine as a whole, fundamentally changing the nature of the war.
“Russia has lost the big war,” said Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland. “The big war is over”
The pullback has provided a clearer picture of the human suffering the Russians are leaving in their wake in areas near Kyiv. Video posted to social media Saturday and verified by The Washington Post showed at least nine people, including a child, laying in the street of a single neighborhood in the town of Bucha, northwest of the capital. Some of the dead were huddled together on the side of the road.
(March 2022) The goal for the West in general, and the United States in particular, must be to hasten the defeat of Putin’s army. Three scenarios for liberating Ukraine from Russian attack and occupation should shape the appropriate Western strategies for helping end this horrible war as fast as possible.
Of course, the best outcome for Ukraine and the rest of the world is a total Russian defeat. In this scenario, Russian armed forces fail to capture Ukraine’s major cities, including, most importantly, Kyiv, while rapid economic meltdown inside Russia compels retreat. This outcome is the most desirable but also the least likely.
The second-best outcome is stalemate on the battlefield, which produces ripe conditions for a settlement. Both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will find it hard to accept this end game. Putin would have to acknowledge that he waged a senseless war, killing thousands of Russian soldiers and thousands of innocent Ukrainians (ethnic Russians and Ukrainians alike), only to achieve what he de facto already had — control over Crimea and parts of the Donbas region as well as Ukrainian neutrality. That, after all, was the status quo on Feb. 23, the day before Putin launched his invasion. In this scenario, what was tacitly and ambiguously accepted would be codified de jure in a peace settlement. Zelensky also would have to agree to conditions, including perhaps neutrality, that would be hard to accept.
The worst outcome would be a Russian occupation of major Ukrainian cities followed by a prolonged guerrilla war. With snipers, suicide and car bombs, and acts of nonviolent civic resistance, Ukrainians would continue to resist Putin’s occupation until Russian soldiers go home. I have no doubt that Ukrainians will one day liberate their country again. In contrast with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Eastern Europe after World War II, Putin does not have a sufficiently large army, willing collaborators, or a compelling idea to maintain Ukrainian occupation for long. The duration and human cost of this scenario, however, could be horrific, not unlike the carnage in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation.
All three scenarios make clear that more Western military assistance, especially weapons that can shoot down Russian airplanes and rockets or destroy artillery, is immediately needed for ending the war. Zelensky, in his address to Congress Wednesday, has powerfully reminded us of this fundamental point. More fighter jets, more surface-to-air missiles systems and more counter-fire weapons against long-range artillery are needed immediately. In parallel, the West must ratchet up economic sanctions against Russia every single week until one of these three endgames is reached.
- Russian forces continued to capture territory in central Mariupol on April 2 and will likely capture the city within days.
- Ukrainian forces repelled several possibly large-scale Russian assaults in Donbas, claiming to destroy almost 70 Russian vehicles.
- Russian forces will likely require a lengthy operational pause to integrate reinforcements into existing force structures in eastern Ukraine and enable successful operations but appear unlikely to do so and will continue to bleed their forces in ineffective daily attacks.
- Russian forces in Izyum conducted an operational pause after successfully capturing the city on April 1 and will likely resume offensive operations to link up with Russian forces in Donbas in the coming days.
- Russia continued to withdraw forces from the Kyiv axis into Belarus and Russia. Ukrainian forces primarily conducted operations to sweep and clear previously Russian-occupied territory.
- Ukrainian forces likely repelled limited Russian attacks in Kherson Oblast.
- The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces have rendered two-thirds of the 75 Russian Battalion Tactical Groups it assesses have fought in Ukraine either temporarily or permanently combat ineffective.
ISW has updated its assessment of the four primary efforts Russian forces are engaged in at this time:
- Main effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of two subordinate supporting efforts);
- Supporting effort 1—Kharkiv and Izyum;
- Supporting effort 2—Kyiv and northeastern Ukraine; and
- Supporting effort 3—Southern axis.
The Russian military has carried out mass killings of unarmed Ukrainian civilians in Bucha northwest of Kyiv. “Bucha's still-unburied dead wore no uniforms. They were civilians with bikes, their stiff hands still gripping bags of shopping.”
Zachistka (Russian: зачистка, lit. clearing operation) is an unofficial Russian military term for "building (room-to-room) clearing operations" (battle drill) featuring armed patrols and house-to-house searches. The term is mostly associated with, but not exclusive to, the "insurgency phase" of the Second Chechen War following the reinstatement of Russian peacekeeping operations in Chechnya. Several zachistka operations became notorious for their accused or confirmed human rights violations by Russian forces, including ethnic cleansing and pillaging, and the term zachistka is used in English exclusively to refer to these violations, particularly in Chechnya.
NY Times interactive: www.nytimes.com/...
- Do not interrupt your enemy while he is hurting himself. ICBM tests can wait. Putin is basically blowing himself up in Ukraine and the world is focused on that. Why you'd want headlines (that you can't control) saying US TESTS MISSILE DURING CRISIS I have no idea. /2
- It would be a needless self-inflicted wound to distract anyone, anywhere, from what Putin is doing. Biden is acting prudently. Cancelling a test while your opponent is leaving his dead on the battlefield is - or should be - a no-brainer. /3
- Additionally: We have no clue what's going on in the Kremlin, but it looks like there's a completely Putin vs FSB vs MOD shitstorm in there. Why would you want to intervene in all that to get them all focused on a missile test that doesn't mean anything? Let. Them. Fight. /4
- As for risk, two things. One is that you do not want a failed or aborted or otherwise haywire test. This is not a signaling contest. If a test goes wrong, you're up the creek. Second, we have no idea who's watching which things in Moscow. Don't risk misinterpretation./ 5
- Putin's busy destroying his own military. Stop trying to get in his way./6x
• • •
Almost 300 people have been buried in a mass grave in Bucha, a commuter town outside Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, according to its mayor, after the Ukrainian army retook control of the key town from Russia.
“In Bucha, we have already buried 280 people in mass graves,” Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told the AFP news agency by phone on Saturday. He said the heavily destroyed town’s streets are littered with corpses.
“All these people were shot, killed, in the back of the head,” Fedoruk said.
He said the victims were men and women, and that he had seen a 14-year-old boy among the dead.
The mayor also confirmed to Al Jazeera that he had seen at least 22 bodies on Bucha’s streets. He said it had not been possible to collect the bodies yet, amid fears that Russian forces had booby-trapped the corpses.
“[Fedoruk] is claiming that this has been a deliberate targeting by Russian soldiers – basically a massacre of civilians in his town,” said Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Lviv in western Ukraine.
Bucha has seen fierce fighting during the past few weeks and had been under Russian occupation for about a month until it was retaken this week.
“According to the mayor [the dead people] were trying to escape to Ukrainian held territory when, according to him, they were simply gunned down,” McBride said.
He said Ukraine’s ministry of defence has accused Russia of killing civilians in other towns.