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Over Twelve Months of Conflict: is End in Sight for War in Ukraine?


July 12, 2023

How did this war start?

The war started on the 24th of February 2022 when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Putin clarified that his goal was to "demilitarise and denazify" Ukraine and not occupy it by force. He also vowed to protect people from eight years of so-called Ukrainian bullying and genocide - a Russian propaganda claim with no foundation in reality. He spoke of preventing NATO from gaining a base in Ukraine as it threatened Russian borders, then added another objective of ensuring Ukraine's neutral status.

How has Putin changed his war aims?

A month into the invasion, and his campaign goals were dramatically scaled back after a retreat from Kyiv and Chernihiv. The main goal became the "liberation of Donbas" - broadly referring to Ukraine's two industrial regions in the east of Luhansk and Donetsk. Forced into further retreats from Kharkiv in the north-east and Kherson in the south, that aim remains unchanged, but it has shown little success in achieving it.

Putin then warned in December that the war "could be a lengthy process", but also added later that Russia's goal was "not to spin the flywheel of military conflict", but to end it.

A year into the war, he talks of Russia fighting to defend its "historical frontiers" and "rebuilding peaceful life in Donbas and Novorossiya", spelling out that Ukraine's southern territories are part of his project, just as much as the east.

So, what gains has Russia actually made?

The biggest success Putin can lay claim to is establishing a land bridge from Russia's border to Crimea, annexed illegally in 2014, so it is no longer reliant on its bridge over the Kerch Strait.

He has spoken of the capture of this territory, which includes the cities of Mariupol and Melitopol, as a "significant result for Russia". The Sea of Azov, inside the Kerch Strait, "has become Russia's internal sea", he declared, pointing out that even Russian Tsar Peter the Great did not manage that.

What stance has Ukraine taken in this situation?

It is arguably most convincing to say that Ukraine has shifted significantly to the West. Four months after Russia's invasion, the EU granted Ukraine candidate status and Kyiv is pushing to be accepted as soon as it can. Putin was also desperate to prevent Ukraine from entering NATO’s orbit, but his attempt to blame the Western defensive alliance for the war is false.

Not only did Ukraine reportedly agree before the war a provisional deal with Russia to stay out of NATO but, in March, President Zelensky offered to maintain Ukraine as a non-aligned, non-nuclear state: "It's a truth and it must be recognised."

So, is there an end in sight for Ukraine?

Unfortunately, there is not really a visible end in sight.

There are no real signs of a way out of the conflict. Neither side appears primed for an outright military victory, and progress at the negotiating table seems just as unlikely.

Neither Russian leader Vladimir Putin nor Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy show any signs of backing down and abandoning one of the largest military conflicts since the end of World War II. For the civilians caught in the crossfire, that means the bloodshed and suffering brought on by the war has no discernible end.

Onara Perera

Writer since Aug, 2022 · 2 published articles

Onara is a History, Economics and Politics A/Level student that is an avid reader and zealous writer. While she loves to read and write, she is also a ballroom/latin dancer with a passion for playing the drums and the piano. She loves listening to 80s music and always finishing her homework on time! Hope you enjoy my writing, thank you!