Who is Winning the Ukraine War?
Ukrainian forces have made rapidly gained progress in recent days, retaking large areas from the opponent. Russia says it is regrouping, and its forces still occupy about a fifth of the country.
The turn of events
On 24 February, Russia invaded Ukraine and surrounded its capital Kyiv. It also attacked the south, east, and north of the country.
Ukrainian forces then retook large areas around Kyiv in early April, as Russia abandoned its push towards the capital.
Since then, Russia has been focusing its military operations in the south, east, and northeast of Ukraine, taking hold of large areas.
However, things took a dramatic turn at the start of September.
Ukraine drove back Russian forces in a decisive offensive in the northeast. Ukraine claims that it has regained 1,158 sq miles of territory around the city of Kharkiv alone. According to the country, it has retaken a total of 3,088 sq miles from Russian control in September– the most significant territorial gains since the war commenced.
Izyum and Kupiansk are the cities Ukraine regained on 10 September, and both were key supply hubs for the Russian forces. As such, these developments suggest important strategic gains.
The Kherson region is also experiencing a counter-attack from Ukraine. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says Ukrainian troops have wrecked the Russian forces and inflicted a “major operational defeat.”
According to Justin Bronk of the Royal United Services Institute, Russian positions in Kharkiv collapsed completely. The Russian withdrawal was apparently the most dramatic reverse since they retreated from Kyiv in April.
Russia seconded that it had retreated from Izyum and Kupiansk, but it was a strategic withdrawal to “regroup.” It said it would continue to target these areas with military strikes. The Russian army has seemingly abandoned large quantities of equipment and ammunition during the withdrawal.
The Territory Still Occupied by Russia
Russia still holds nearly 20% of Ukraine, according to the ISW. Largely it has occupied areas in the eastern Donbas region and in the south of mainland Ukraine, as well as the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Since Donbas is a mainly Russian-speaking area, pro-Russian forces took over more than a third of the region after Russia seized Crimea in 2014. It created two “people republics” there.
The west of the country was attacked with missiles, but no attempt has been made to take and occupy the ground.
What is Russia After?
Russia does not believe its invasion to be a war. Apparently, it is only undertaking a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The Kremlin would continue “until all the tasks originally set” were achieved. While launching the invasion in February, President Vladimir Putin claimed “demilitarising Ukraine” to be his goal.
Russia wanted to make sure Ukraine did not join Nato, the Western defensive alliance. It initially wanted to overrun Ukraine and depose its government. However, considering the current scenario, it seems Russia has limited its ambitions to securing land in Ukraine’s east and south.
What does Ukraine want?
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said his main goal is to drive all Russian troops out, to “de-occupy our whole territory.”
Mr. Zelensky also appealed for more funding and equipment to retain the areas retaken from Russia. Ukrainian forces are heavily using western shipments of weaponry.
The Death Toll
Both countries have suffered losses, but neither has published the exact numbers. Ukraine claims to have killed more than 50,000 Russian troops, and at the end of August, it said it had lost nearly 9,000 military personnel since the conflict started.
Russia rarely publishes its own troop fatalities. The most recent death count in Russia was in March, when it said 1,351 Russian soldiers had died since the invasion.
In July, US officials estimated the death toll to be about 15,000 Russian soldiers. Civilians have also died. At the start of September, the UN corroborated about 5,700 deaths. It also mentioned that the actual number is likely much higher.