CHICAGO-(EJP)-On March 25, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced that the “first phase” of the invasion of Ukraine was over. A mere month earlier, President Vladimir Putin had vowed to completely destroy Ukraine’s military capabilities and to replace the Ukrainian government, which he claimed without any evidence was a neo-Nazi junta planning to commit “genocide” in Donbas.
To that end, on February 24 the Russian army and airborne forces attempted a lightning assault on Kyiv, and simultaneously launched offensives against Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Kherson, Melitopol, Mariupol and on the line of contact in the Donbas region. The subsequent month of unexpectedly vicious high-intensity combat has seen Russian forces fail to take all the cities, with the exception of the smaller southern cities of Kherson and Melitopol, which fell in the first days. In return, the Russian army has taken extremely heavy losses; between 7,000 and 15,000 personnel killed and more than 2,000 vehicles visually confirmed as destroyed or captured.
The new announcement by the Russian government is a direct response to these failures. It is an admission that, at least for now, Russia cannot return Ukraine to its control by force. Instead of regime change (“denazification” according to Russia), the new claim is that Russia’s goal is a more limited focus on taking territory and destroying Ukrainian forces in the Donbas.