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Three months after Russia invade Ukraine here is what I have learned about the Russian army: OPINION

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, it anticipated to conquer the country in a matter of days or weeks. Many Western analysts agreed with him. However, as the conflict entered its third month on Tuesday, Moscow appeared to be mired in what appears to be a war of attrition, with no end in sight and few battlefield victories. There was no quick victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin's powerful forces, no rout that would allow Moscow to seize control of most of Ukraine and install a puppet government. Instead, Russian troops became stranded on the outskirts of Kyiv and other major cities, where they were met by powerful Ukrainian defences.

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Russian armoured convoys appeared to be stuck on extended lengths of route. Troops were running low on supplies and gasoline, making them easy targets from the ground and air. Russia effectively acknowledged the failure of its blitz and withdrew troops from areas near Kyiv a little over a month into the invasion, declaring a shift of focus to the eastern industrial region of the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014. To be true, Russia has grabbed large swaths of land in the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed eight years ago.

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It has also succeeded in completely cutting Ukraine off from the Sea of Azov, regaining full control of the key port of Mariupol after a siege that prevented some of its troops from fighting elsewhere while battling diehard Ukrainian forces holed up in massive steelworks. However, the drive in the east appears to be stalling as Western supplies pour into Ukraine to boost its outmanned army. Russian artillery and warplanes continue to pound Ukrainian positions in the Donbas every day, attempting to breach defences erected during the separatist conflict.

3 months since invasion began, Russia embroiled in Ukraine war with no end  in sight | The Times of Israel

They've only achieved small gains, which reflects Russia's limited force numbers as well as Ukrainian opposition. In one recent incident in the Luhansk region, Russians lost hundreds of personnel and dozens of combat vehicles while attempting to cross a river to establish a bridgehead. "The Russians are still well behind where we believe they wanted to be when they began this revitalised effort in the eastern part of the country," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Friday, describing the Donbas fighting as "very dynamic," with small towns and villages changing hands every day.

In other parts of Ukraine, Russian forces have used cruise missiles and air attacks to target Western arms shipments, ammunition and fuel depots, and essential infrastructure in the hopes of diminishing Kyiv's military might and economic potential. The Kremlin appears to be pursuing a more ambitious goal of isolating Ukraine from the Black Sea coast all the way to the Romanian border, allowing Moscow to construct a land corridor to Moldova's separatist Transnistria, where Russian forces are stationed. However, Moscow appears to recognise that this goal is currently unattainable with its current forces.

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"I believe they're just gradually understanding that they can't do it all at once," said Justin Crump, a former British tank commander who now runs the strategic advising firm Sibylline. Moscow's setbacks have forced it to rely on hurriedly patched-together battalions in Donbas, he claimed, which can only make minor gains. Crump explained, "It's a steady downshifting of gear toward smaller objectives that Russia can actually achieve." "And, on a larger scale, I believe they've shrunk their approach to better match their ability on the ground." Many in Ukraine and the West expected Putin to pour resources into Donbas in order to achieve a conclusive victory by Victory Day, May 9, when Moscow commemorates its WWII victory over Nazi Germany.

Russia has incorrectly labelled the conflict as a conspiracy to "denazify" Ukraine, which has a democratically elected Jewish president who seeks deeper ties with the West. Rather of launching a big onslaught in the east, the Kremlin instead launched a series of tactical mini-offensives aimed at gradually capturing land and encircling Ukrainian soldiers. "The Russian leadership is pressuring the military command to show at least some progress, and it has no choice but to keep sending more troops into the slaughter," Mykola Sunhurovskyi, a military specialist at the Razumkov Center think tank in Kyiv, said.

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Many in the West expected Putin to call for a large-scale mobilisation to replenish the Russian military. Putin might time a statement on Victory Day, according to British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. However, this never happened, and Russia has continued to rely on a small force that was clearly insufficient to counter Ukrainian defences. A large-scale deployment will undoubtedly inflame Russian anger, feed anti-war sentiment, and pose significant political risks. Authorities chose more limited choices, with MPs crafting legislation to waive the current military age limit of 40 for individuals eager to join.

An quick Russian departure from areas near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, which has been bombarded since the start of the war, highlighted the paucity of resources last week. Some of the forces were reportedly redeployed to Donbas, but it wasn't enough to change the battlefield balance. "They had to thin out the forces they had around Kharkiv," Phillips O'Brien, a strategic studies professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said.

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"It can go on for quite a long time without much movement in the lines," he warned, as the conflict in Donbas has increasingly devolved into artillery duels. "At that point, it'll be more of a positional war," O'Brien said, with victory going to whoever "can endure the battering." Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to receive a constant stream of Western armaments, including US howitzers and drones, Polish tanks, and other heavy equipment that is quickly deployed in combat. "Ukraine's plan is straightforward and obvious: wear down Russian forces as much as possible in the coming months, gain time for acquiring Western weaponry and training on how to use them, and then launch a counteroffensive in the southeast," said Sunhurovskyi, a military specialist based in Kyiv.

3 months since invasion began, Russia embroiled in Ukraine war with no end  in sight | The Times of Israel

Ukraine, he claimed, intends to get even more powerful Western weapons, such as numerous HIMARS rocket launchers, anti-ship missiles, and more powerful air defence systems. The eastern impasse has enraged Russian hardliners, who have warned that unless Moscow conducts a massive mobilisation and concentrates all of its forces in a decisive offensive, it will lose. Former security officer Igor Strelkov, who led separatists in Donbas in 2014, criticised the Kremlin's inaction, warning it may lead to loss.

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