The Russo-Ukrainian Conflict: A Comprehensive Overview

Christian Baghai
6 min readApr 18, 2024

The ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict has captured global attention, with its roots tracing back to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. This article provides a detailed analysis of the conflict, highlighting key events, military strategies, and the impact on civilians. As the war enters its third year, the international community remains deeply concerned about the potential for further escalation and the dire humanitarian situation that continues to unfold.

Background

Invasion Begins (February 2022): Russia launched a major assault on Ukraine, attacking cities and military targets. The invasion involved land, air, and sea forces. This marked the beginning of one of the most significant conflicts in Europe since World War II, with far-reaching implications for global security and international law.

Ukraine’s Response: Ukrainian civilians and soldiers resisted, and President Volodymyr Zelensky declared that Ukraine would not surrender its freedom. Martial law was declared, and diplomatic relations with Russia were severed. The resilience of the Ukrainian people has been a defining feature of the conflict, garnering widespread international support and aid. Ukraine’s Prime Minister recently warned that defeat to Russia could lead to World War III, emphasizing the critical nature of continued international military aid.

The conflict has seen significant developments, including the fall of key towns and the involvement of advanced weaponry. The international community has responded with sanctions and military support for Ukraine, but the situation remains precarious as both sides continue to engage in intense fighting.

Key Developments

Battle for Avdiivka

  • Significant Victory for Russia: Ukrainian forces withdrew from Avdiivka, a key eastern town besieged by Russian forces for months. Avdiivka had been a possible gateway for Ukraine to reach the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk. The battle for Avdiivka was one of the bloodiest and fiercest of the war, with Russian forces launching an offensive to capture the city on 10 October 2023.
  • Impact: Almost all of Avdiivka’s pre-war population of over 30,000 people had left, and the town itself was nearly destroyed. Its fall marked a significant change on the front line since Russian troops seized the nearby town of Bakhmut in May 2023. The city was one of the most fortified settlements in Ukraine and described as a “gateway” to Donetsk.
  • Western Weapons Supplies: President Zelensky attributed the decision to withdraw to save soldiers’ lives and blamed faltering Western weapons supplies. Ukraine relies critically on US and other Western allies’ weapons to combat Russia’s superior military force. The US has been the largest contributor of arms to Ukraine, including a recent package worth $250 million, which includes air defense, artillery, and anti-tank weapons. However, the EU will miss its target of supplying Ukraine with 1 million artillery shells by March 2024, and earlier aid packages from the EU were blocked by Hungary.

2. Battle for Bakhmut

The battle for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has been the longest and bloodiest of this war, stretching over 10 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days. Here are the critical aspects of this intense conflict:

Heaviest Fighting and Russian Advances:

  • Bakhmut endured some of the heaviest fighting since the invasion began. The city became a focal point for both Ukrainian and Russian forces, with relentless artillery exchanges and urban warfare.
  • In late 2022, following Ukraine’s Kharkiv and Kherson counteroffensives, the Bakhmut–Soledar front became a critical focus of the war. It was one of the few front lines where Russia remained on the offensive.
  • Attacks on the city intensified in November 2022, as Russian forces were reinforced by units redeployed from the Kherson front and newly mobilized recruits. The battle turned into fierce urban combat, with both sides suffering high casualties.

Strategic Importance:

  • Bakhmut remains a key flashpoint along the front line. Its significance lies in its location, which allows control over access routes and communication lines.
  • The city’s proximity to other critical areas, such as Robotyne and Krynky further south, amplifies its strategic value. Controlling Bakhmut provides leverage in shaping the broader conflict dynamics.

Human Cost and Determination:

  • Western officials estimate that between 20,000 and 30,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in the battle for Bakhmut. The city has witnessed intense fighting, with both sides demonstrating determination not to yield ground.
  • Ukrainian forces have also paid a heavy price, sacrificing lives to defend the city. The densely packed streets have witnessed fierce combat, and experienced soldiers have been replaced by troops with less experience, who are gradually becoming battle-hardened.

Devastation and Pyrrhic Victory:

  • Bakhmut now stands as a crumpled, skeletal city. Most buildings lie in ruins, and its entire population has vanished. The prize for either side is a hollow victory.
  • Even if Russia were to wrestle control, it would be little more than a pyrrhic victory. The relentless artillery fire and urban destruction have left Bakhmut scarred beyond recognition.

3. Flashpoints in the South

The southern region of Ukraine has become a critical theater of conflict, with specific flashpoints shaping the dynamics of the Russo-Ukrainian war. Here are the key developments in this volatile area:

Robotyne and Verbove: Slow Progress and Strategic Significance

  • Russian Advances: Russia has made slow progress further south near the villages of Robotyne and Verbove in Zaporizhzhia. These areas were previously contested during Ukraine’s counter-offensive in 2023.
  • Strategic Importance: Robotyne and Verbove lie along the front line, and their control has significant implications. When Ukraine retook Robotyne in August, there was hope that its forces could cut the land corridor to Crimea, complicating Moscow’s supply lines.

Land Corridor to Crimea: A Strategic Tug-of-War

  • Ukraine’s Retaking of Robotyne: In August, Ukrainian forces recaptured Robotyne, a village near the border with Russian-occupied Crimea. The significance lay in the potential disruption of Moscow’s supply lines to the annexed peninsula.
  • Challenges and Implications: While the retaking of Robotyne was a tactical victory, maintaining control and securing the land corridor to Crimea remains a challenge. Russia’s forces continue to contest this area, aiming to maintain their access to the Black Sea peninsula.
  • Geopolitical Stakes: The land corridor to Crimea is not only a military concern but also a geopolitical one. It symbolizes Ukraine’s determination to resist Russian aggression and Moscow’s efforts to consolidate its hold on Crimea.

Casualties and International Response

Casualties: The human toll of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict has been devastating. While initial reports often mention dozens of people killed, including civilians, the actual numbers are significantly higher. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since the full-scale invasion began. In terms of Russian losses, estimates suggest that 180,000 Russian soldiers have been killed with tens of thousands more injured. The conflict has also led to a significant number of civilian casualties, although the exact figures are difficult to verify due to the ongoing nature of the war.

International Sanctions: In response to the conflict, the UK, EU, and other Western allies have imposed stringent sanctions against Moscow. These sanctions aim to pressure Russia economically and politically to end the aggression. However, these countries have ruled out sending troops, emphasizing support through sanctions and aid rather than direct military involvement. The UN General Assembly called for an immediate end to the war and demanded Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine, with 141 Member States voting in favor. NATO has condemned Russia’s actions and continues to provide Ukraine with unprecedented levels of support.

Conclusion: The Russo-Ukrainian conflict, now in its third year, shows no signs of abating. It continues to escalate, deeply affecting civilians and drawing sustained international attention. The world community remains engaged, hoping for a peaceful resolution to the conflict while preparing for the possibility of further challenges. The international response, through sanctions and diplomatic efforts, reflects a collective endeavor to support Ukraine and uphold international law in the face of aggression.

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