Two months ago to the day, on February 24, 2022, Vladimir Putin announced during a warrior speech the launch of a “special military operation” in Ukraine, paving the way for an invasion of the country.
Two months after the start of the offensive, Moscow announced on Friday April 22 that it was aiming for total control of southern Ukraine and the Donbass region in order to “ensure a land corridor to Crimea” annexed by the Russians. since 2014. “The control of southern Ukraine is also a corridor to Transdniestria, where there are also cases of oppression of the Russian-speaking population,” said Russian general Rustam Minnekayev. For Volodymyr Zelensky, this only “confirms” that the Russians “want to capture other countries”.
State of play of a conflict that Europe and the world are following, holding their breath.
The situation on the ground
In the northeast, the Ukrainian authorities claimed to have taken over three villages near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city. Russian forces are also continuing their offensive in the districts of Izium and Barvinkove, aiming to “take control of the rail network”, according to kyiv. They are also trying to encircle the fortified positions of the Ukrainian army in the area bordering the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, which form the Donbass basin.
In the Donetsk region, Russian troops are “concentrating their efforts” in the area between Slaviansk-Kramatorsk”, according to Oleksiï Arestovych, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency. And in that of Lugansk, Russian troops “continue to attack” the cities of Roubijné and Severodonetsk, the de facto capital of the part of this region which remains under Ukrainian control, according to its governor Serguiï Gaïdaï. In the south of the country, another target of the Russian forces, they are “trying to continue their offensive on the city of Goulyaïpolie”, halfway between Zaporijjia and the port city of Mariupol.
While Moscow claims to have “liberated” Mariupol, kyiv maintains that the city is still resisting Russian troops. According to Ukraine, Ukrainian fighters continue to defend the huge Azovstal metallurgical complex. The total fall of Mariupol, a major industrial port on the Sea of Azov, which has become a martyr city and a field of ruins after nearly two months of Russian bombardment and siege, would constitute an important victory for Moscow, which seeks to create a land bridge linking annexed Crimea with pro-Russian separatist areas in the Donbass region.
#UPDATE The success of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine depends on Moscow’s ability to capture the strategic port city of Mariupol, which has been surrounded for weeks by Russian forces, the regional governor told @AFP pic.twitter.com/ioSyhQiDZB
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) April 22, 2022
A Russian offensive was also underway in the region between Kherson, the only administrative capital captured by the Russians in the first days of the invasion, and Mykolaiv, on the road to Odessa.
While the war has been going on for two months, negotiations between Moscow and kyiv aimed at settling the conflict have produced no apparent progress. According to the statements of the head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov, Friday, April 22, the negotiations “skate”. “They are slipping, because a proposal that we submitted to the Ukrainian negotiators five days ago and which was formulated taking into account their comments remains unanswered,” he said.
The Russian minister also said he had doubts about the willingness of Ukrainian leaders to continue these talks. “It is very strange for me to hear statements every day (…), including from the (Ukrainian) president and his advisers, which give the impression that they do not need these negotiations at all “, he specified.
For its part, kyiv had stressed a few days earlier that the discussions with Moscow were “extremely difficult”. On Saturday April 23, the Ukrainian president called again to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin “to end the war”. “I think whoever started this war can end it,” he said. The Ukrainian president also warned that kyiv would abandon negotiations with Moscow if the Ukrainian soldiers entrenched in the vast metallurgical complex of Azovstal in Mariupol in the south-east of Ukraine are killed by the Russian army.
The human toll
Currently, there is no overall civilian death toll. According to the Ukrainian authorities, there are nearly 20,000 dead in Mariupol alone, due to the fighting but also to the lack of food, water and electricity. In the vicinity of the Ukrainian capital kyiv, investigators collected more than 1,000 bodies of civilians from streets, courtyards or improvised graves, some of whom had their hands and feet tied or bullet wounds in the back of the neck, said , Thursday, April 21, officials.
On the military level, Volodymyr Zelensky said that around 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since the start of the conflict and some 10,000 injured. The Kremlin recently admitted to its side “significant losses”. On March 25, he acknowledged the death of 1,351 soldiers for 8,825 wounded. Some Western sources go as high as 12,000 dead Russian soldiers. However, these figures should be taken with caution.
A humanitarian drama
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 5.16 million Ukrainians have left their country since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24. In April, at this stage just over 1,128,000 Ukrainians fled, far fewer than the 3.4 million who had chosen to leave in March. More than 7.7 million people have also left their homes but are still in Ukraine, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).