The course of the Russian-Ukrainian war after 50 days

The course of war

The results of 50 days of our holy fight for freedom.

The Russian-Ukrainian has been raging on for well over a month. From the military point of view, the Ukrainian Armed Forces successfully undertook a defensive operation against Russian aggression.

Moscow’s troops have retreated in Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, Ukrainians have liberated dozens of towns on the left and right banks of Dnipro, including Irpin, Bucha, Hostomel, Ivankiv, Borodianka, Dymer, and Bobryk. However, Russia keeps firing missiles over the entire Ukraine’s territory, targeting aerodromes and oil refineries (to damage the economy and interrupt sowing) but the intensity of strikes is lowering. The majority of Russian missiles are taken down by already experienced Ukraine’s anti-aircraft defense forces. At the same time, the aggressor’s people and the army are losing morale after giving up the initiative in the North.

On April 14, a guided missile cruiser “Moskva” – the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet – was hit by a Ukraine-produced “Neptun” anti-ship missile, and subsequently sunk. Russia had only 4 combat-ready ships. Other than “Moskva”, others are stationed on the North and Pacific fleets, two more are being repaired. The last time Russia had lost a fleet flagship was at the Tsushima battle during the Russian-Japanese war.

The aggressor lacks forces to cover all the directions, especially in the South. Ukraine’s army is slowly pushing the enemy toward Beryslav in Kherson region, on the right bank of Dnipro.

Russians concentrate troops to storm Severodonetsk and Kramatorsk suburbs, hold occupied territories along the Azov Sea, and make preparations to defend Dnipro crossings near Kherson and Kakhovka’s dam. The problem of protecting Mariupol is especially sharp for Ukraine.

The second stage of the campaign, according to Moscow’s plans, is a full-scale military operation in Donbas using aviation, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers to establish a consistent front line (unlike the North-Siversk model). However, the operation is delayed due to inability to regroup quickly coupled with a need to deal with well-constructed defensive barriers put by Ukrainians over 8 years of war. A direct offensive toward fortified Donbas cities (Severodonetsk, Kramatorsk, Pokrovsk) will cost aggressor numerous losses if not total destruction. Therefore, Russia is trying to surround Ukrainians from two directions: Izyum-Lozova and Huliaipole-Pavlohrad, and then get a better position before signing an armistice.

Meanwhile, Russia’s superiority in air-defense and aviation along the front may increase casualties among Ukrainian soldiers and civilians. The aggressor will try to distract us by attacking in the South and bombing Kharkiv.

From the North and Transnistria, as well as from Belarus, we may expect local distracting clashes designed to stretch Ukraine’s forces along the border. Currently, a group of Russia’s troops is located in bordering districts of Belarus’s Gomel region aiming to hold up Ukraine’s reserves.

Ukraine’s Armed Forces need to break the enemy’s strategic intentions by advancing on the right bank of Dnipro (to liberate Kherson) and to the North from Kharkiv. Shifting to summer will make it easier for Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces to work in the aggressor’s backside by cutting communications and liquidating traitors with occupant administrations.


Full-scale war between Ukraine and Russia (which uses the logistical opportunities of Belarus).

Death toll

According to the Ukrainian command, as of April 16, the enemy lost 20,100 in manpower and more than 70,000 military members are wounded or disabled. 5,324 units of machinery were destroyed or seized, including 762 tanks, 163 aircrafts, 145 helicopters. A guided missile cruiser “Moskva”, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, has been sunk. The exhaustion of the latest missile weapons resources is obvious. Ukrainians lost over 2,500 as dead and up to 10,000 are wounded.

Negotiations between the parties

The negotiations have already been paused for a few weeks: Ukrainians sense positive shifts and have no intention to capitulate, and the Kremlin wants to see the results of the “Donbas battle”. However, Russians noticeably get more inclined to negotiations to keep their gains and minimize losses. As the war drags on, Kyiv risks getting more pressure from the European allies that want to freeze the problem and lower its intensity.

Humanitarian consequences

According to the UN data – 1,982 civilians died, more than 2,651 were wounded. These are estimates, as it is very difficult to count and identify the number of victims in frontline areas. At the same time, according to the Mariupol city authorities, more than 20,000 people died in this city alone, the exact figures are still difficult to establish. Many people died during the shelling and bombing of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol by Russian forces.

The aggressor’s horrible crimes, killings, and torturing of civilians were uncovered in liberated cities and villages, including Bucha, Hostomel, Makariv, and Borodianka – more than 900 corpses have been found. Great Britain promised to assist investigating the acts of genocide.

According to the UN, more than 4.6 million Ukrainians have left the country, mostly fleeing to neighboring EU countries. However, over 783,000 refugees came back to Ukraine. Also, about 7.1 million people are internally displaced.

Control over territory

The enemy retreated in the Sumy and Chernihiv regions to redirect more forces to the East; it means that Ukraine has won in the Northern part of the front. The intense fighting is continuing in the Kharkiv region and Donbas, especially around Izyum, Lysychansk, and inside the blocked Mariupol. Also, the aggressor’s troops hold lands in the South of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions.

Russia focuses its effort on the South-East, and tries to interrupt Ukraine’s supplies to Donbas (for example, by shelling a big railway station in Synelnykove). Ukraine’s anti-aircraft systems operate relatively successfully.

Global impact

Sanctions get tougher, and Washington makes European countries put more pressure on Moscow. The US Senate voted for a Land-Lease Act to support democracy in Ukraine to simplify the transfer of military and humanitarian assistance. The aggressor’s economy is being hit hard: the EU countries closed their borders for transit from Belarus and Russia. Italy is working with Algeria to increase gas supply which will allow it to stop buying it from Russia.

The Prime Minister of Great Britain as well as allied presidents of Poland and Baltic states visited Kyiv. However, Kyiv, showing its independence, cancelled a planned visit of pro-Moscow German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Continental European elites generally inclined to “compromise” with Russia (for instance, Macron did not support Biden in calling what happens in Ukraine as genocide, and said that Russia and Ukraine were “brother” nations). Despite ultimatums about payments in rubles, Moscow keeps supplying gas to Europe because otherwise Russia will be in trouble. Only Hungary is ready to pay in rubles.

Meanwhile, Russia may face issues in Central Asia where Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan clashed at the border again (both countries are ODKB members). Even Kremlin’s vassals among ODKB keep their distance from Putin: Kazakhstan’s president Tokaev called for compliance with anti-Russian sanctions and supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Another Kremlin’s ally, Armenia, started negotiations with Azerbaijan in Brussels without Russia’s participation.

Finland and Sweden discuss simplified NATO admission, while Moscow threatens them by gathering forces near the border. However, there is no real threat due to a small number of troops.


Russia developed a political strategy based on the fragility of Ukraine’s government and society; it turned out to be inaccurate. Therefore, the military strategy was designed to be short-term (a few days to several weeks) and did not consider different scenarios or changes of military-political configurations.

Moscow aimed to destroy Ukraine’s sovereignty by installing a puppet regime to demonstrate an ability to dominate in its sphere of influence. New rulers would recognize the loss of Crimea and Donbas, review decommunization policy, grant dominant status to Russian language and church (by abolishing the Orthodox Church of Ukraine), and start repressions against Ukrainian activists.

Russia’s military strategy was based on the experience of Crimea annexation and the Ilovaisk battle in 2014. Russian generals planned for quick capture of Kyiv followed by surrounding and attrition of separate Ukrainian army groups. Therefore, they did not form a significant hitting force. Failure to achieve blitzcrieg couple without plan B led to weakening and demoralization of the aggressor’s troops when they tried to surround the capital on Irpin and Brovary directions. Russia was forced to retreat in the North and Siversk to reinforce its Donbas groups as well as to avoid complete destruction.

In mid February, USSD experts assumed that Russia aimed to make Kyiv comply with the Minsk agreement, and considered a full-scale invasion unlikely given that the quantity of troops gathered along Ukraine’s border was insufficient to achieve victory and occupy vast territory. Partially, we were right: Russia lacks forces for a long-term war.

It seems the aggressor looks for fresh tactical approaches under the new commander, Alexandr Dvornikov. The Voronezh region and Krasnodar Krai introduced high terrorist threat regimes, which means Russia is afraid of Ukraine’s activity in its backsides.


Sharp escalation of fighting with high intensity.

Donbas, Izyum, Zaporizhzhya. Previously announced planes of large advance in the Joint Forces Operation zone apparently get delayed due to the aggressor’s issues with equipment supplies and bringing reinforcements. However, Putin wants to get results before May 9, and the advance should begin before that date. It will be several weeks long, up to a month, with significant resource losses.

Sinking of the guided missile cruiser “Moskva” made troops landing near Odesa impossible and considerably undermined the possibility of launching rockets from Black Sea water area. “Moskva” was providing anti-aircraft coverage for Russian Black Sea Fleet ships as well as forces in the Kherson region. It may end the long blockade of Black Sea water area, which is important given Ukraine’s critical dependence on sea ports. However, in the long-term we need to transition from exporting raw materials to producing goods with added value, which are cheaper to move by railways and roads.

Given the anti-war sentiments in Belarus, Kyiv has to increase assistance to opposition and guerilla movements to make sure Minsk does not get involved in war.

During the third phase, Russia will retreat from the South while trying to keep control over a part of land from Donvas to Crimea and the Dnipro-Crimea channel (depending on how successfully Ukrainians operate).

Most likely, the intensity of fighting will eventually lower and the front line will stabilize similarly to the Donbas scenario in 2016-2021 with simultaneous negotiations. However, negotiations will not provide a long-term solution, as Russia will prepare another campaign to destroy Ukraine’s sovereignty and national identity (in other words, to commit genocide). Possibly, they will try to disintegrate Ukraine from inside using the economic crisis, the West’s fatigue of war, and veterans dissatisfaction with the war course. Apparently, shifting to this kind of strategy is seriously considered by the Kremlin, which is proved by their missile-bomb hitting of military-industrial complex plants. These plants cannot produce anything considerable within several months, thus Moscow tries to undermine our ability to create equipment in the long run.

Russia is getting weaker, however, it will present a real threat to Kyiv over the next few years.


Yurii Syrotiuk, Director, NAC «Ukrainian Studies of Strategic Disquisitions»

Yurii Oliinyk, Head of Research Programs, NAC «Ukrainian Studies of Strategic Disquisitions»

English adaptation: Oleksandr Chupak

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