The Ukraine Crisis: Situation Update #7
Foreign Policy Brief #152 | April 6, 2022
Header photo taken from: Axios
Follow us on our social media platforms above
Browse more foreign policy briefs from the top dashboard
Photo taken from: AP News
Ukrainian forces have retaken the Kyiv region and other surrounding areas over the weekend as Russian troops have begun a withdrawal from certain areas of Ukraine. The ongoing invasion has proven to be much more difficult than it seems Russian military officials had expected. About two-thirds of Russian troops have left the Kyiv region and are already in Belarus or on their way there. Though the withdrawal is seen as victory in holding back Russian forces, they are likely to regroup, resupply, and gather reinforcements which may instead intensify fighting later on in other regions. The Russian forces have begun what the Kremlin has termed “the second phase” of its operation where military focus will be on the Eastern part of the country. As they have withdrawn they have left behind large numbers of corpses littered across cities in the Kyiv region. Images of hundreds of people lying dead on the street in the city of Bucha have sparked international outrage.
On Monday April 4th, 2022, Ukrainian president Zelensky made his first trip outside of Kyiv since the beginning of the war, making his way to the city of Bucha to show the world what was left in the wake of the invading Russian forces. Zelensky said in one of his overnight addresses that over 300 people had been tortured and killed in Bucha. European leaders and the United Nations human rights chief in response joined the Ukrainians in condemning the bloodshed that was exposed after the Russians withdrew from the area. Meanwhile, Russian propaganda has claimed that the Ukrainian forces have staged the war crimes themselves. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the grisly scenes outside Kyiv were a “stage-managed anti-Russian provocation”.
Zelensky has again appealed for more weaponry as it appears Russia is preparing a new offensive focused on the Eastern part of the country. The U.S. and allies have announced a new sanction package against Russia considering the increasing evidence of war crimes committed in Ukraine. The new sanctions will ban all new investments in Russia, increase sanctions on Russian financial institutions and state-owned enterprises, and continue to embargo Russian government officials and their family members. Russia is already facing a deep recession and high inflation, new sanctions will increasingly squeeze the Russian economy into what Western states hope will result in submission and cessation of hostilities.
Still, not all European states have condemned Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. After weeks of the world witnessing a united Western front against the war and increasing pressure from his European counterparts, Vladimir Putin enjoyed two victories this weekend as both Hungary and Serbia elected pro-Russian candidates.
Photo taken from: NPR
Although Serbia had previously backed two United Nations resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it remains almost entirely reliant on Russian gas and was unlikely to move far from Russia’s sphere of influence.
Yet the most significant victory came from the reelection of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. Orban has been openly pro-Russian and himself has close ties to Putin. Hungary is both a member of the EU and NATO and thus implicitly has approved sanctions against Russia, However Hungary has been a major hindrance in EU talks on banning energy imports from Russia.
Hungary under Viktor Orban has drifted away from its European neighbors in recent years, favoring closer ties to Putin’s authoritarian style of governance. What Viktor Orban will do now that he has secured reelection as a pro-Putin candidate, at the same time as reports and images of war crimes are coming out of Ukraine, and fresh rounds of sanctions against Russia are implemented remains to be seen. As Russian troops withdraw and regroup, we also await the next steps the Kremlin will take in its war and how it will react to further sanction and pressure from the U.S. and our allies.