Ukraine: Russian Campaign Objectives and Outcomes – March 22
Russian progress on multiple axis in the North and North East – Kyiv and Kharkiv-Sumi axes appears to have been stalled due to heavy Ukrainian resistance and inability to penetrate the urban maze of these cities and towns despite use of heavy artillery and missiles.
On the other hand, one of the Russian campaign objectives in Ukraine was to establish a land corridor from the Donbass region which includes the Luhansk and the Donetsk People’s Republic “self declared,” and accepted as such by Russian parliament - Dumas to Crimea.
There are indications that a narrow land corridor may have been achieved except for the large urban complex of Mariupol which continues to resist.
Russian forces are facing protests in cities and towns that have been occupied across Ukraine and considerable forces appear to have deployed to contain the unrest with Ukrainian social media handles reporting curbs with a heavy hand including death of several civilians.
Another operational objective outlined by President President Putin was Denazification of Ukraine implying purging of the Azov militia, a right wing Neo Nazi group that is based on the former disbanded units of National Guard of Ukraine.
This group is active in fighting pro “Russian separatists,” in Donbas now independent self declared republics. When Russian leaders talk of atrocities against the people in the Eastern belt of Ukraine it is seen as the work of the Azov militia. The militia is fiercely resisting in Mariupol.
Russian forces have now deployed Chechen fighters owing allegiance to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to combat the Azov and the battles are ongoing
Clearance of Mariupol will provide greater depth to the Russian corridor linking Crimea.
The question remains will Russia having achieved one of the key operational objectives be willing to negotiate with greater flexibility sensing that it is operating from a position of strength.
Given that other perceived war aims such as installation of a favourable regime in Kyiv are not expected to be achieved through war fighting but may be possible on the negotiating table, if at all, Russia may be inclined to seek a cease fire.
Russian combat power to wage a long war of attrition in Ukraine should not be doubted wherein massive air, missile and artillery strikes will be undertaken which will result in destruction of towns and cities and cause heavy human casualties which even today are extensive.
This will also have enormous economic and political costs for Russia even as the UN General Assembly is expected to resume Special Session on Ukraine on March 23.
While 35 countries abstained in the previous vote, there has been considerable diplomatic effort by the United States and Europe to influence the abstainers to change their stance and call out Russia as the aggressor.
How this shapes up remains to be seen?