The course of the Russian-Ukrainian war after 90 days

General tendencies

«From capturing Kyiv in three days to pressing the Ukrainian army away from the Luhansk region, turning it into a scorched land» – this is a summary of 90 days of the hot phase of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war that started in February 2014 and was reignited on February 24, 2022.

Despite significant flaws in achieving its plans, the Kremlin has not changed its strategic goals. They include the destruction of Ukraine’s international subjectivity (so-called neutral status), de-facto colonial dependence, and further occupation of Ukraine’s territory. Non-acceptance of the Ukrainian identity is described as «nazism». Deprivation of Ukraine’s internal subjectivity, and dismantling of its industrial potential and infrastructure.

The Kremlin has shifted from the blitzkrieg to common tactics of leveled aggression (as defined by Stepan Bandera).

Currently, the war is moving to a breaking point. Exhausted invaders, fresh reserves, and heavy weapons open a perspective for active recapturing of the occupied territories up to the official borders. The long-term war will inevitably cause Russia’s demilitarization dozens of years ahead, as well as its military industry downfall.

Russian losses

According to the Ukrainian command, about 29,000 Russian soldiers have been killed. Meanwhile, Russia claims 5,176 losses. The Ukrainian command states that 8,600 Russian machinery units have been damaged. Among those, four thousand cases are supported by photos and videos. It is four times more than Ukrainian losses (about 1,000 machinery units).

Humanitarian situation

According to the UN data, 3,752 civilians died and 4,062 were wounded. These are estimates, as it is very difficult to count and identify the number of victims in frontline areas. Real numbers may be several times bigger.

The situation is catastrophic in the occupied Kherson region (which has the biggest Ukrainian ethnic group among other Southern regions), where the aggressor conducts ethnic cleansing and establishes a stiff military regime.

The world does not pay as much attention anymore to «Russia’s nuclear terrorism» – the capturing of Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Station, the biggest in Europe.

Course of the war

Tough battles keep raging around Izyum and Siverodonetsk, where Russia concentrated the largest amount of its battalion tactical groups. They were joined by moving forces from Mariupol. At the same time, around Kharkiv, the aggressor shifted from defense to retreat: Ukrainians gained ground on the North-East by recapturing Molodova and Staryi Saltiv. It opens a road to Vovchansk and Kupiansk with further half-surrounding of the enemy’s Izyum group. Activity increases in the Black Sea water area around Zmiyinyi island. Russia tries to gather all available resources even by losing positions in other regions. For example, there is information about moving troops out of bases in Syria.

Military actions change in nature. In March, the war was maneuvered, then the sides started focusing on particular areas, shortening the frontline, and shifting to positional actions. There are expert opinions about comparing 2014 and later years. However, the current situation is different, as the Ukrainian army is getting stronger with weapons while Russia tries to advance. The key role in the breaking point, that may come in July, is the amount of machinery as well as moving trained reserves to replenish Ukrainian forces.

Russia’s appetite is noticeably dropping. After they tried to quickly destroy Ukraine in February-March, in mid-April the aggressor changed to attempting to surround Ukrainians in Donbas (following the line of Huliaipole-Pokrovsk-Izyum). The desired scenario at the end of May was a little pocket in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. On the frontline from Lyman to Popasna Russians achieved dominance in artillery systems (as Western supplies were still on the way to Ukraine, and they are needed in other directions too). However, elsewhere – in Zaporizhzhya, Kherson, and Kharkiv regions (including the Western side of the Izyum group, where Russians hoped to achieve a breakthrough in April) the enemy is forced to defend and sometimes retreat (near Kharkiv). This conclusion was supported in May by the US intelligence data on the aggressor’s battalion tactical groups (BTG) concentration: Kharkiv – 5 BTG, 100 km wide, Izyum – 22 BTG, 60 km wide, Siverodonetsk – 19 BTG, 100 km wide, Popasna – 7 BTG, 20 km wide, Donetsk – 20 BTG, 140 km wide, Zaporizhzhya – 13 BTG, 130 km wide, and Kherson – 7 BTG, 160 km wide. Therefore, only in two or three directions, Russia is still able to advance, while elsewhere the defense is stretched. The enemy is shifting to the holding ground in the South.

However, even in the most threatened Siverodonetsk-Lysychansk area fighting will keep going for a while. The results of the summer campaign will be decided by how quickly the Western weapons come and the Ukrainians’ ability to learn how to use them.

A major factor in the usage of anti-tank weapons and drones, air battles, and anti-aircraft systems is unique for the last several decades. It will become a basis for the conclusions of military experts planning the operations (for example, the Chinese plan to invade Taiwan may be postponed). Another issue is that the Russian anti-aircraft system shows the inability to deflect the majority of strikes. It raises questions over the reliability of the anti-aircraft systems in case of a nuclear war, regarding not only Russia but also the USA and China (their capabilities have not been tried by war action).

As Lukashenko has no desire or ability to enter a full-scale war, the Kremlin uses airbases in Belarus as well as Belarus forces to distract parts of Ukrainian troops. Such military exercises are expected to expand in the Volyn area to show threats to communication lines where Western equipment is transported.

The economic factor

At the same time, the economic factor starts to become essential. Ukraine’s economy lost several key sources of filling the budget. Single «Azovstal» provided 0.6% GDP and 3.8% of Ukraine’s exports. Agriculture is becoming a vital export tool for many states. It requires unblocking the ports in the Black Sea water area. Vast numbers of refugees going to Europe allow reducing social expenditures. However, as the frontline situation stabilizes, we have to develop a national economic program no earlier than autumn or winter. Current advantages are the low start, increased labor mobility, and oligarchs losing their bases. Disadvantages are social unrest growing into political issues and increased amounts of non-returning migrants. Moscow is clearly counting on socio-economic disarray in the coming months.

Situation inside Russia

On the positive side, the Kremlin is attracting disproportionally high numbers of ethnic minorities to the army; it solves the problem of future resistance to the empire. Also, having captured substantial territory in the South, Russia provided a land corridor to Crimea along with a water supply.

Internal Russian politics is dominated by censorship and pro-government messages. However, the reality makes them acknowledge military losses as well as a cooldown on victorious predictions. The situation is particularly critical in regions bordering Ukraine and those in the Asian part (due to large wildfires). People express more interest in the mobilization while growing more skeptical about the war outcomes. Seeing this, the Kremlin changes regional leadership and pays additional attention to propaganda in national republics. In Ingushetia, a criminal investigation is launched due to soldiers refusing to go to Ukraine. Thirty troopers of two military units merely left the machinery and walk away from the battlefield without the command’s approval. The Tver region is particularly problematic after fires in the Tver Institute of Air Defence (where the Iskander missiles are constructed) and Dmitrov Chemical Factory in the Ivanov region (one of the largest in Russia). In the Krasnokholm district, a local attorney monitored, discovered, and blocked five resources describing how to prepare a Molotov cocktail. There was information about a prevented terrorist act plotted by local college students on May 9.

An ambivalent event occurred in Bashkortostan: the republic’s leader Radiy Khabirov launched the formation of a volunteer battalion to support the «special military operation». He clearly wanted to gain Putin’s approval by following Kadyrov’s steps, who is the only republic leader controlling a private army. However, it may be an attempt to create controlled armed forces.

International factor

A) А coalition in support of Ukraine

Russia’s military failures significantly lowered its geopolitical status, from a top-three tier player to a regional troublemaker. A long-lasting peace may be ensured only by Russia’s military defeat, the ceasing of its existence as an empire, and granting rights of self-determination to all ethnic groups enslaved by Russia.

A clear fact after 90 days is that Russia is no more a European country, both politically and geographically. The geographic connection with Europe is held by sea and pipelines, while the political return is merely impossible.

On April 26, ministers of defense from 44 countries met in the German airbase of Ramstein to coordinate military support for Ukraine. 30 of them were all NATO members’ representatives. However, the presence of the other 14 means that Washington and London aim to form a global coalition including Western countries with allies. In Europe – Sweden and Finland are going to join NATO in the nearest months. Far East representatives – Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan. From the Middle East – Israel, Qatar, and Jordan. All are friends of the USA, despite their complicated relationships. It seems Tel-Aviv was forced to support Washington too, in spite of having no desire to go against Russia. Support of Kyiv has triggered the creation of the Western global alliance (claimed to be standing up for democracy against authoritarianism, but in fact trying to preserve Pax America). It is aiming not only against Russia (which is a short-term threat) but more against China and its satellites (Moscow is quickly becoming one of them as a mere raw material supplier). It is affirmed not only by the geographic scale and the number of participants. More so by the economic potential. There are the biggest world economies: the USA (first), Japan (third), Germany (fourth), and Great Britain (fifth). Overall, 11 countries of the G20, in addition to other powerful EU members.

Russia tries to intimidate Finland economically by limiting electricity supplies as Sweden and Finland declare NATO integration hopes. At the same time, first time in a while the chair of Pentagon Ostin held talks with Russia’s Minister of Defense Shoigu who demanded Western military aid to stop; it clearly becomes an issue for the Kremlin.

B) Chinese factor

In March, China publicly called for a peaceful settlement and blamed NATO for provoking Russia. However, since April more Chinese companies cut ties with Russia while state officials intensified peaceful talks. Eventually, Xi Jinping mentioned his recognition of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

One of the reasons – Beijing does not like a prolonged war. Tensions around Taiwan and the North-China Sea increased over prior years, and China needs time to strengthen its army and economy. The Russian-Ukrainian war was about to distract USA’s attention while exasperating the double-faced nature of France and Germany which are dependent on Moscow’s energy. The peaceful settlement under any conditions had to destabilize the USA’s internal politics. However, the outcome is currently the opposite: the West has consolidated. Such a scenario will definitely hurt China’s ambitions.

Moreover, the war distracts Russia from Central Asia, where the risk of a conflict in Tajikistan is growing (on May 18, an anti-terrorist operation started in autonomous Gorno-Badakhshan; dozens of people have been killed). A Tajik opposition is getting armed behind the Afghani border. Spending the instability to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan threatens Northern trade lines with Europe, which are essential for the Chinese vision of «One belt – one road». Thus Beijing has to either reinforce its military presence (which it tries to avoid) or force Moscow to refocus its military remnants. At the political level, however, Beijing will overtake Moscow’s mediation function (the weakness of which has been shown by a disastrous ODKB summit.

C) Europe

Continental Europe started talking more about «peace» and freezing the war (Minsk-3 model). Proposals are heard from Italian politicians, and Hungary holds an openly pro-Russian position. Yet this point is visibly supported by some French and German elites; in the USA it cannot be openly stated due to the anti-Russian public opinion. It is caused both by the infiltration of Moscow’s agents and by the networks of Putin-Verstehers, as well as an economic interest to access Russia’s raw materials. Putin’s weaker image at the May 9 parade may be an attempt to enhance calls for compromise, supported by recent Macron’s and Scholz’s statements. Chubais and Abramovich likely work in this direction as intermediaries. Previously, a left sociologist Khomskiy compared Putin to a natural disaster that has to be ignored. Long-range weapon supplies are getting delayed, explained by a so-called unwillingness to intensify escalation between Russia and NATO.

Kyiv must stand against any such proposals as these discussions mount pressure on Ukraine. The activity of Putin’s agents lowers the scale of military assistance, revealing the Kremlin’s desire to hold the occupied positions. Ukraine has to focus its geopolitical effort on cooperating with the Anglo-Saxon block together with Central European countries (primarily Poland, Romania, Baltic and Scandinavian states).

D) OKDB’s collapse

On May 16, OKDB members held a summit in Moscow. In essence, the Kremlin failed to draw its last «allies» into war; Putin limited himself to «informing the OKDB colleagues» on the military actions. Armenia even directly blamed Russia and other members for the lack of their support in the war against Azerbaijan. Tajikistan faces an increasing threat of a conflict against the opposition which is currently located behind the Afghani border.


  1. Ukraine’s military organization must have the highest level of coordination (a war is always about the fighting of organizational structures). Backside, territorial defense, the National Guard, and Armed Forces – all of them are the elements of a single system that must work consistently in a unified direction.
  2. Due to sanctions, Russia experiences problems with producing high-precision missiles (which strike with over 50% accuracy). Also, it cannot make new drones and support navigation systems. However, there are vast quantities of less accurate weapons. Russia keeps producing howitzers that may be used for a long time.
  3. Modern war is mostly about high firepower. About 95% of losses are caused by artillery strikes. Currently, main Ukraine’s issue is low ammo stocks: the enemy is able to keep a much higher intensity of the artillery fire. In the short-run Ukraine needs large supplies of Western weapons, including long-range and high-precision units (for example, anti-ship Harpoon missiles, Himars, and MLRS rocket systems. A part of Western weaponry is already being used, such as Ceasars – French howitzers. The land lease is going to work in a few months, but the USA has already given Ukraine 90% of the promised 155-mm howitzers.
  4. Behind the scenes, there are attempts to freeze the situation on the current frontline, giving Russia a chance to «save its face», and making Ukraine negotiate with political concessions. Prolonged war, a threat of a nuclear weapon, and food and raw material crises may force the allies to be less enthusiastic about helping Ukraine with weapons. Therefore, it is vital to start producing critical components of the machinery in Ukraine.
  5. In the future, the military-industrial complex must be revived in the remote Western regions. Primarily, we need a production of explosive powder (which has not been established for eight war years), ammo, and artillery projectiles.
  6. Currently, it is essential to focus on high-precision weapons. For example, «Neptoons» (which were slowly developed since 2010). The mid-run goal is to create strategic non-nuclear forces (missiles with up to 500 km range, allowing them to symmetrically strike the enemy’s decision-making centers.
  7. The Black Sea-Baltic alliance (including Sweden and Finland) had to be a priority since 2015, combined with military cooperation. A good example is the Ukrainian-Turkish project «Bajraktar». For instance, we can cooperate on electronic intelligence (Ukrainian project «Kolchuha» and Checz «Vera»).
  8. We must ensure that all Ukrainians undergo preparation for possible military actions, gain paramedic knowledge, what to do under shellings, and how to deal with basic firearms. It must be obligatory for all adult men and women. Discovering Russian agents in the government bodies, security and defense sector, business, and humanitarian sphere is still insufficient.

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

Yurii Oliinyk, Head of Research Programs, NAC «Ukrainian Studies of Strategic Disquisitions», PhD in Political Sciences

English adaptation: Oleksandr Chupak

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