Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, escalating a war that began eight years before with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. For Ukraine, its very existence as a state is at stake, while Russia hopes its attack will help assert its place in the world and restore its dominance over key neighbours. Ukraine’s Western backers see the prospect of Russia succeeding in violently shifting borders as a risk to their security. They, therefore, try to balance military support to Ukraine and the risk of escalating the conflict. Crisis Group’s reporting follows developments in the war, assesses its human costs and gauges the conflict’s regional and global security implications. In its advocacy, Crisis Group seeks to support policies that will help Ukraine survive and reduce escalation risks and the human cost of fighting while contributing to a sustainably secure Europe.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Elissa Jobson talk with Crisis Group experts Alissa de Carbonnel and Simon Schlegel about where things stand for Ukraine and its Western supporters two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion and what might be next.
Russia conducted deadly airstrikes as its ground forces retook battlefield initiative, which could shift war’s centre of gravity north; Ukraine stepped up diplomatic efforts.
Russia escalated strikes on Ukrainian cities as Kyiv scaled up air defence. Russia 29 Dec-8 Jan launched massive airstrikes targeting civilian and military infrastructure; U.S. and allies 10 Jan alleged attacks featured first use of North Korean ballistic missiles (see Russia). UN humanitarian agency 16 Jan claimed hundreds of civilians were killed or wounded; energy infrastructure remained operational. President Zelenskyy 30 Jan said Russia had launched nearly 1,000 missiles and drones at Ukraine since beginning of 2024. In effort to counter attacks, Ukraine 17 Jan claimed first successful use of hybrid ‘FrankenSAM’ air defence system against Russian drone, 20 Jan claimed scaled-up electronic warfare capabilities enabled interception of twenty missiles on 13 Jan. Sides, meanwhile, traded blame for downed plane in Russia’s Belgorod region 24 Jan that left 74 dead, including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war.
Moscow regained battlefield initiative and could shift war’s epicentre north. Russia’s ground forces continued attacking Avdiivka town in eastern Donetsk region, with reports late Jan indicating they had entered town’s southern periphery. In northern Kharkiv region, stepped-up Russian attacks near Kupiansk city 16 Jan prompted governor to order nearby villages to evacuate; Russian military 21 Jan claimed capture of Krokhmalne village, south east of Kupiansk; 29 Jan reported capture of Tabaivka village, which Ukraine denied. With Moscow increasingly able to dictate battlegrounds, fighting’s epicentre could shift north in coming weeks.
Kyiv sustained high-intensity diplomatic activity. Ukraine 12 Jan signed ten-year security cooperation agreement with UK. Govt delegation 14 Jan attended meeting on Ukraine’s peace plan at World Economic Forum in Davos, along with 82 other countries; China remained absent. Polish PM Donald Tusk 22 Jan met President Zelenskyy in capital Kyiv, announced military assistance and commitment to dialogue over trade issues.
In other important domestic developments. Govt 30 Jan filed revised version of mobilisation reform bill to parliament following criticism over potential constitutional violations and corruption risks. Meanwhile, Zelenskyy 29 Jan asked top commander Valerii Zaluzhnyi to step down amid rising tensions between the two; Zaluzhnyi refused.
Ukraine's weapons supplies are depleted by the counteroffensive, and its allies are struggling to quickly ramp up production.
Moscow's strategy of waiting for an erosion of European unity over Ukraine could yet prove a miscalculation.
[Putin’s] goal is to force the West to negotiate on Moscow's terms … on the entire post-Soviet space. He wants to divide the world into spheres of influence again.
Russia wants negotiations … because it thinks that it can get … what it wants from this war … It doesn't mean that Russia is ready to accept any compromise.
If [war in Gaza] morphs into a long, regional conflict, resource constraints on Ukraine may grow in time.
If, as a result of the long conflict between Israel and Palestine, the US has to cut military support to Ukraine … the consequences won’t be until next summer.
This article was originally published in the World Politics Review.
In this online event Crisis Group experts discuss the biggest challenges facing Kyiv and its Western backers and options to address them.
Now entering its third year, Russia’s war in Ukraine is at an impasse, with victory in view for neither side. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2024, Crisis Group explains how the EU can keep supporting Ukraine despite the risk of U.S. aid ending.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard talks with Olga Oliker, Crisis Group’s Europe & Central Asia Director, about Russia’s war in Ukraine, battlefield dynamics and whether Western support for Ukraine will hold.
This week on War & Peace, Olga talks with Samuel Charap, Senior Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation, about the prospect (or lack thereof) of negotiations to end the war in Ukraine, what diplomacy would look like and what role Kyiv’s Western supporters would play in facilitating it.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard talks with Crisis Group experts Olga Oliker and Michael Hanna about the geopolitics of the Gaza war, what it might mean for Ukraine, risks of a wider conflagration and U.S. policy in the Middle East and Europe.
In March, units reportedly affiliated with the Ukrainian armed forces but composed of Russian citizens and others began making armed incursions into regions of Russia along Ukraine’s border. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts explain who these Russian combatants are and what they are doing.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Elissa Jobson speak with Charli Carpenter, director of the Human Security Lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, about the perception and the gendered effects of Ukraine’s male travel ban and ways for better protecting civilians in wartime.
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