The Ukraine Crisis: Situation Update: #19

Foreign Policy Brief #169 | By: Ibrahim Sultan | February 13, 2023

Header photo taken from: Getty Images

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Ukrainian forces are gearing up for a major Russian offensive in the coming weeks, likely aligning with the first anniversary of the war later in February.

Photos taken from: Reuters

War continues to rage almost one year on...

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We are now a week out from the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The war has led to huge loss of life, damaged economies, created food shortages worldwide, caused political divisions within alliances like the EU and NATO, and continues to threaten the security of all of Eastern Europe. This weekend Ukraine’s top military commander said the country’s forces are holding their ground along the front line in the eastern region of Donetsk, including the besieged town of Bakhmut, where some of the fiercest battles of the war are currently taking place. 

The fighting by the Russians in this region is being waged and managed by the private mercenary company, The Wagner Group. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, recently said that Russia must capture the strategic city of Bakhmut in order to proceed with their war campaign. This signals that if and when Bakhmut is captured it will only serve as a stepping stone for further aggression. Though the Russian forces over the course of the war have had trouble obtaining and maintaining territorial gains and avoiding heavy casualties. 

The UK ‘s Ministry of Defence said this weekend that over the past two weeks, Russia has suffered its highest rate of casualties since the beginning of the invasion. It is estimated that the number of Russian troops killed and wounded in a year of war is about 200,000. A signal that the war has gone and continues to go disastrously for the Kremlin and Valdimir Putin. On the Ukrainian side a verified total of 7,155 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting, though this is likely below the true figure.

Heavy Weaponry

In a speech to the European Parliament on February 9, 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated requests for military support against Russia, linking Ukraine’s fate to that of Europe as a whole, “Free Europe cannot be imagined without free Ukraine,” Zelensky said. Earlier this month in response to Ukrainian pleas for military aid the German government approved the delivery of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, something Germany had previously been reluctant to do. 

The Leopard 2 was originally designed in the 1970s for the West German army in response to Soviet threats during the Cold War. They are built to move quickly over a variety of terrain and confront enemy armor, they are also widely used among other European countries and could be more easily sent over as a single unit of heavy weapons to Ukraine by multiple countries. 

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a speech at the start of a summit at EU parliament in Brussels. Zelensky: "Only Ukraine standing in way of Putin 'annihilating European way of life."

Photo taken from: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP

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The U.K. has also pledged to send some of its Challenger 2 tanks and is considering sending fighter jets, while the U.S. has said it will send M1 Abrams tanks. Russia sees the decision to send more advanced weapons to Ukraine as a very dangerous escalation of the war.

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