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Russia was viewed as having the second best army in the world.
Now they are viewed as having the second best army in Ukraine.

Russo-Ukraine War - March 2022

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In mid-December 2021, Russia sent draft security agreements to Washington and NATO which envisaged the alliance's non-expansion, Ukraine's non admission to the military bloc, non-deployment of offensive weapons systems near Russia's borders, and the return of the bloc's European capabilities and infrastructure to 1997 levels. Moscow warned the Western states that if its proposals were dismissed, Russia would resort to a military-technical option. However, Russia's core proposals were disregarded by the US, NATO and the EU.

On the night of February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a video message, announced in response to the appeal of the leaders of the republics of Donbass, the start of a “special military operation” against Ukraine. Explosions were heard in a number of Ukrainian cities. According to Vladimir Putin, its goal is the "demilitarization" and "denazification" of Ukraine. Western countries announced sanctions against Russia, Europe decided to close its airspace to Russian aircraft, and anti-war actions were held in some cities.

Russia's special military operation in Ukraine exercised the right to self-defense from a regime that sought to restore access to nuclear weapons and join NATO, while having territorial claims against the Russian Federation, so Moscow's actions are aimed at preventing a world war, Vasily Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, stated.

"President Putin's special military operation to defend the people of Donbass from an imminent general offensive by the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev not only is it fully justified in international law by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, but it is fully consistent with the military praxis and doctrine of the legitimate self-defence of States in the face of an imminent threat emanating from a neighbouring state or enemy forces," Heinz Dieterich, director of the Centre for Transition Sciences (CTS) at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico City, and coordinator at the World Advanced Research Project (WARP), said 01 March 2022.

The last US ambassador to the USSR, Jack Matlock, who worked under the Republicans Reagan and George W. Bush, again analyzed the topic on the website of the American Committee for Accord between the United States and Russia and came to the conclusion that "to agree with Putin's demands in the objective interests of the United States."

Robert Hunter, US envoy to NATO under Democrat Bill Clinton, in a commentary for the Responsible Statecraft online publication, pointed out that "NATO should get rid of its obsession with the so-called open door principle, not only for Ukraine (and Georgia) - which will never happen - but potentially for other countries as well," the expert wrote. no major countries are on any potential "waiting list" for NATO membership. Thus, the principle serves as a hindrance to practical needs.

Russia initially said that it is not going to attack anyone. She not only “did not show up” for the war on the date announced by Biden (according to a publication in the Politico newspaper, that was scheduled for February 16), but even through the mouth of the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, sarcastically suggested that Western “mass disinformation media” clarify the “invasion schedule” on this year.

Russian state-run news agency RIA-Novosti published a comment piece proclaiming Russian victory in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Quickly deleted, the article, by writer Petr Akopov, stated “Ukraine has returned to Russia”. RIA Novosti is known for its systematic support of the Kremlin and work according to so-called “temnik” (directives and agendas from the government). "Russia is restoring its historical fullness, gathering the Russian world, the Russian people together - in its entirety of Great Russians, Belarusians and Little Russians. If we had abandoned this, if we had allowed the temporary division to take hold for centuries, then we would not only betray the memory of our ancestors, but would also be cursed by our descendants for allowing the disintegration of the Russian land....

"Vladimir Putin has assumed, without a drop of exaggeration, a historic responsibility by deciding not to leave the solution of the Ukrainian question to future generations.... Ukraine has returned to Russia. This does not mean that its statehood will be liquidated, but it will be reorganized, re-established and returned to its natural state of part of the Russian world. In what borders, in what form will the alliance with Russia be fixed (through the CSTO and the Eurasian Union or the Union State of Russia and Belarus )? This will be decided after the end is put in the history of Ukraine as anti-Russia. In any case, the period of the split of the Russian people is coming to an end.... The West as a whole, and even more so Europe in particular, did not have the strength to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence, and even more so to take Ukraine for itself. In order not to understand this, one had to be just geopolitical fools....

"Europe, as part of the West, wanted autonomy - the German project of European integration does not make strategic sense while maintaining the Anglo-Saxon ideological, military and geopolitical control over the Old World. ... Europe needs autonomy for another reason as well — in case the States go into self-isolation (as a result of growing internal conflicts and contradictions) or focus on the Pacific region, where the geopolitical center of gravity is moving. ... the confrontation with Russia, into which the Anglo-Saxons are dragging Europe, deprives the Europeans of even the chance of independence ... independent-minded Europeans are now completely uninterested in building a new iron curtain on their eastern borders - realizing that it will turn into a corral for Europe. ... Russia has not only challenged the West, it has shown that the era of Western global domination can be considered completely and finally over."

On 24 February, forces of the Russian army, unprovoked, crossed into Ukraine’s sovereign territory. Along three main axes, Russian armor attempted to occupy Ukraine. Its plan was to reach and encircle Kyiv, encircle Ukrainian forces near the border and invade from the south to link up with its forces via Mariupol. Russian high command committed 65% of its entire land forces, which are indisputably in possession of overwhelming firepower and armor. It is estimated that at the start of the invasion they had between 110 and 120 battalion tactical groups dedicated to the task, compared with approximately 65 in Ukraine. Their missile stocks gave them even greater strength to reach Ukraine at distance. However, what they did not possess was the moral component so often needed for victory.

Russia does not consider it necessary to make excuses for launching a special military operation to protect Donbass, Russian President Vladimir Putin said 11 March 2022 at a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko. Ukraine would have attacked Belarus if not for a preemptive strike from Russia, said Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

Bigger, better equipped, more powerful, the subject of extensive reforms and restructuring, Russia’s military was supposed to steamroll Ukraine’s much smaller armed forces. In the Kremlin’s forecasts, Russia’s forces were supposed to be welcomed -- if not with open arms, then with simple resignation. Ukraine’s government was supposed to collapse or flee, leaving a vacuum that would be filled quickly by Moscow-appointed officials.

After 14 days of the war, according to the Ukrainian general staff, at 06 March, Russian casualties were assessed to include 285 tanks, 985 armored fighting vehicles, 109 artillery systems, 50 multiple launch rocket systems, 44 aircraft, 48 helicopters and 11,000 soldiers, who have lost their lives needlessly. There are numerous reports of surrenders and desertions by the ever-growingly disillusioned Russian army. To be clear, those are Ukrainian figures; not verified by Western defence intelligence or other means.

Pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravde reported 20 March 2022 "According to preliminary estimates of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, from the beginning of the special military operation in Ukraine to March 20, the RF Armed Forces have lost 96 aircraft, 118 helicopters and 14.7 thousand military personnel. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation refutes the information of the Ukrainian General Staff about the alleged large-scale losses of the RF Armed Forces in Ukraine. According to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, during the special operation in Ukraine, the Russian Armed Forces lost 9861 people killed, 16153 people were injured. Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper claimed hackers attacked its system and briefly published the figure indicating a Russian death toll of nearly 10,000 soldiers from the fighting in Ukraine before editors deleted the information.

Of the initial Russian objectives, only one had been successfully achieved. While Russian forces are in control of Kherson, Melitopol and Berdyansk in southern Ukraine, they currently encircle the cities of Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol but are not in control of them. In addition, their first day objective of targeting Ukrainian air defence failed, preventing total air dominance. The Ukrainian armed forces have put up a strong defence while mobilising the whole population. President Putin’s assumption that he would be welcomed as a liberator crumbled as fast as his troops’ morale.

The Russian advance was unexpectedly slow in the north. The Russian combat formations were short of outflanking the capital Kiev, and they could not capture the railways-hub city of Kharkiv. The logistics appear to be badly coordinated. The Russian armored platforms were not stopped by the Ukrainian terrain’s infamous Rasputitsa, the early-spring muddy roads, but simply because they were out of fuel.

The Russian armed forces, like the Soviets before them, move almost everything by rail. They also build temporary pipelines to deliver oil and water to the front. Yet in Ukraine, all of that hadg to be moved by road and the Russian army is chronically short of the trucks to do it, simply because it doesn’t normally need them. Russia's military needed to take major cities to access the rail network. The military also can’t run temporary pipelines to deliver fuel, because they don’t control the territory and can’t rely on locals not to destroy them.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, a significant portion of Russian military supplies have been brought into Ukraine via the Homel-Kyiv rail line, the Ukrainian government had said. On March 17, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych called on civilians in the conflict area to conduct a “railway war” against Russia by destroying rail lines and equipment, particularly in Crimea, other parts of southern Ukraine, eastern Ukraine, and near Belarus.

“Many people in northern Ukraine, in the areas of Sumy, Chernihiv, and Okhtyrka have carried out an excellent war in the enemy’s rear,” Arestovych said. “And it has immediately produced results. Now we should ask: Don’t we want to conduct an all-out railway war in the south?” he added “Breaking the railway supply lines of the enemy -- which is the most efficient means of supply -- can radically change the situation in our favor”.

The Russians had not been fighting like Russians in terms of doctrinal approach and concepts of operations (CONOPS). Military literature suggests that the current Russian way of fighting is centered on Soviet Red Army-fashion echeloned offensives, with motor-rifle brigades forming the first wave, followed by heavy tank divisions secondly, and Rosgvardia (the National Guard) personnel as the final wave for protecting critical facilities and pacifying any local resistance.

Instead, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation had been sending in small airborne troops detachments and reconnaissance units. There had not been combined arms warfare or massive armoured assaults – yet. More importantly, principal manoeuvre units, first and foremost the First Guards Tanks Army, had not staged breakthrough operations from the forward-assembly areas in Belgorod pushing all the way into Kharkiv.

The Russian Airborne Forces’ (VDV) opening moves in the Antonov Airport on the outskirts of Kiev aimed to take control of the facility through the elite VDV pioneers, then use the airport as a “portal” to bring follow-on units into the Ukrainian capital and insert a puppet regime. The Ukrainian security forces repelled the air-assault operation time and again. Importantly, the Ukrainian military has also developed close cooperation with the local populace who have helped defy various penetration attempts behind the frontlines.

During the 2022 Ukraine invasion, an inability to communicate -- up and down the chain of command and across branches of the Russian military -- impeded Moscow's war plans. Evidence suggests that some of the roots of the Russian communication lapses lie in mismanaged development and procurement processes for things like tactical military radios, undertrained and under-deployed specialists, and the challenges of operating on foreign soil, where the enemy controls not only cellular networks but also wired communications that frequently serve as a reliable backup channel.

The predicament was on display over the first 24 days of the war through statements by captive troops, tapped conversations, and other clues posted by Ukrainian intelligence or others eager to highlight perceived weaknesses in the much larger invading forces, and reports suggesting an unsecured call might have aided Ukrainian forces in targeting at least one of four Russian generals who have reportedly been killed in the conflict.

One of the results has been varying complexity among the systems used by troops for voice and data communications, multiplying challenges particularly because they involve mixed air, land, and naval forces. In such cases, all troops are forced to use a system that's common to the least advanced among them.

Mixing so-called open and encrypted systems makes them only as strong as their weakest link. Some of those Russian forces' older equipment can be decrypted almost in real time and thus it's not useful to add the extra layer of complexity to operate the equipment when there's little benefit.

A deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, Yevgeny Meychik, pledged that "by the end of 2011, we plan to bring a radio station to every serviceman, to every combat vehicle." But while Meychik's plan presupposed use of the main tactical-level army radio system at the time, known as Akveduk, the Defense Ministry instead opted to pursue the development of a wholly new, sixth-generation system that came to be known as Azart. An upstart manufacturer, Angstrem, one of whose owners had been an adviser to Medvedev, was chosen for the project. Years of promises and many unmet deadlines to deliver the phones, dubbed "green crocodiles" by troops because of their half-meter-long antennas, followed.

In 2022 the Russian occupiers were reportedly short of manpower. To strengthen their groups, they recruited mercenaries and release cadets early. On 16 March 2022 the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported "The enemy is trying to strengthen the grouping of troops by additionally transferring to Ukraine battalion tactical groups formed from consolidated units that suffered losses during the first ten days of the operation, military mercenaries from among foreign nationals. In addition, according to available information, the decision on early graduation of cadets of higher military educational institutions on the territory of the Russian Federation with the subsequent involvement of them in hostilities against Ukraine".

Having misjudged the discipline and warfighting will of the Ukrainian security forces, Moscow leadership expected an inevitable collapse of the Ukraine Armed Forces following the first shots fired in the streets of Kiev. That did not happen. Notwithstanding its overwhelming advantages, the Russian military campaign in Ukraine met stiffer-than-expected resistance from Ukrainian forces. General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine stated: "The Russian occupiers have reduced the pace of the offensive, but are still trying to develop success in some areas in the offensive against Ukraine." The cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Chernihiv, Kherson, and Volnovakha were completely under Ukrainian control. The occupiers captured the Berdyansk district.

The Ukrainian capital had been a Russian strategic goal from the beginning of the war. A huge convoy, comprising hundreds of vehicles, tanks, artillery, armoured personnel carriers and supply trucks advanced towards Kyiv, only to stop some 25km (15 miles) from the city, well within Ukrainian artillery range. There it stayed, a potential target some 64km (40 miles) long, immobile on a single road for 10 days. It is one of the big mysteries of the war so far. Why did the Russians advance so close then stop? And why did the convoy not at least spread out to protect itself? There have been reports that the head of the convoy was attacked so its advance stalled; that the Russians ran out of fuel, or less likely, that cheap Chinese tyres used by the Russians could not handle the rough roads and burst. But there is a second part to this mystery: Why didn’t Ukrainian long-range artillery destroy at least part of the convoy? At the start of the war, the Ukrainian military had 354 multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), including over 80 of the locally made Alder precision-guided MRLs which, with a range of 70km, could easily target the whole of the convoy.

The south of Ukraine, however, was a different story. Despite personnel and material losses, the Russian military has fought its way deep into southern Ukraine. As of 01 March 2022, the cities of Melitopol and Berdyansk had been captured by the Russian Federation, putting the coastal city of Mariupol in a very dangerous envelope from the west and the breakaway Donetsk in the east. The US Naval Institute even reported an amphibious landing some 30 miles (48 kilometres) from Mariupol a few days earlier.

The Ukrainian forces on the eastern line of contact were potentially going to be cut off if they did't move to the west of the Dnieper River soon. They would need to resupply because they're doing the heaviest fighting and they are the best Ukrainian troops from the 95th Air Assault Brigade.

The port city of Odessa, on the other hand, was always under threat. Russia had already flexed its amphibious muscles before the conflict erupted. As of early February, detachments from the 810th Naval Infantry Brigade were put on high-alert, conducting exercises. The unit is garrisoned in Crimea and can be deployed at any time. Open-source intelligence suggests that the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade was brought from the Pacific area, and elements from the 366th brigade had left Kaliningrad before the war for the Black Sea.

Overall, the Russian marines, in coordination with the Black Sea Fleet, VDV units in the south (the 7th Division elements deployed in Crimea), and the army formations (including the 58th Army elements brought in from Kavkaz) can stage a joint attempt to seize the heart of Ukrainian trade. The south can hold more dangerous results for Ukraine if not addressed properly. Russia cutting off Ukraine from Black Sea access, for instance, would be the true nightmare scenario.

Russia’s tactics toughened as hospitals and other civilian infrastructure were repeatedly hit by air raids and artillery shells. The coordinates of these hospitals are known to Russian military planners, the buildings are large and easily identified from the air. One or two attacks might be a mistake, one of the dreadful realities of war, but any more than that shows a deliberate strategy to make life unbearable for the local civilians who will then flee to unoccupied areas, quickly overwhelming the meagre resources of the towns and cities near the front lines.

One of the big surprises of the war was that Russia’s military with its “new” professional army had barely achieved any of its strategic objectives and, in terms of applied combat power, logistics, command and control and general morale and focus, has underperformed across the board. Military communications have been so bad that Russian generals have had to move much closer to the front lines to exert some control over the tactical situation there. Three generals have so far been killed in the war, an almost unprecedented number in any modern conflict. Communications has in some places relied on normal unencrypted civilian networks, allowing the Ukrainian military and intelligence to intercept Russian military communications traffic.

Should the spy-chief President of Russia lose in Ukraine, he might have bigger troubles at home in Moscow than restoring the Soviet empire in Kiev. After all, a Russian president cannot look weak. Otherwise, he will not have to worry about the Ukrainian generals but his own.

On March 14, the UN’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a stark warning about the wider threats of the war in Ukraine: world hunger. “We must do everything possible to avert a hurricane of hunger and a meltdown of the global food system,” he said. The comment echoed a similar concern voiced by David Beasley, the head of the World Food Programme, just a few days earlier: “The bullets and bombs in Ukraine could take the global hunger crisis to catastrophic levels. Supply chains and food prices will be dramatically impacted,” he said.

Ukraine, along with southwestern Russia, has long been known as “Europe’s breadbasket” thanks to the region's rich dark soil, chernozem, among the most fertile in the world. The region accounts “for about 15 percent of the world’s wheat production, and nearly 30 percent of world exports,” Sébastien Abis, a researcher at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) and director for the Deemeter Club think tank, which specialises in global agricultural issues, told FRANCE 24. “But it’s not just wheat,” Abis said, “the two countries account for 80 percent of the world’s sunflower oil production, and Ukraine is the world’s fourth largest exporter of maize.”

Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria have already started to feel the sting of the wheat-shortage. “The Maghreb countries depend heavily on Ukrainian wheat,” Abis said. "And this year, even more so because they have suffered a major drought which has increased their needs for foreign imports." For Egypt, it’s catastrophic. “Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat and gets 60 percent of its imports from Russia and 40 percent from Ukraine."

Faced with this threat, and the possibility of new “hunger riots” which broke out in several countries in 2008 over soaring grain prices, French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called on the European Union to cover for the lost Ukraine wheat.

The Institute for the Study of War said the initial Russian campaign to seize Ukraine’s capital and force regime change failed. “The doctrinally sound Russian response to this situation would be to end this campaign, accept a possibly lengthy operational pause, develop the plan for a new campaign, build up resources for that new campaign, and launch it when the resources and other conditions are ready,” the United States-based group said. But the Russian military has not yet adopted this approach and continues efforts to restore momentum to this “culminated campaign”, the ISW said. This is creating conditions of “stalemate throughout most of Ukraine”, a bloody phase that could last for weeks or months, it added.

"The World War I battles of the Somme, Verdun, and Passchendaele were all fought in conditions of stalemate and did not break the stalemate. If the war in Ukraine settles into a stalemate condition Russian forces will continue to bomb and bombard Ukrainian cities, devastating them and killing civilians, even as Ukrainian forces impose losses on Russian attackers and conduct counter-attacks of their own. The Russians could hope to break Ukrainians’ will to continue fighting under such circumstances by demonstrating Kyiv’s inability to expel Russian forces or stop their attacks even if the Russians are demonstrably unable to take Ukraine’s cities. Ukraine’s defeat of the initial Russian campaign may therefore set conditions for a devastating protraction of the conflict and a dangerous new period testing the resolve of Ukraine and the West. Continued and expanded Western support to Ukraine will be vital to seeing Ukraine through that new period."

On March 25, following losses in northern Ukraine, Moscow announced a major shift in strategy and removed forces from the north, including the suburbs of the capital, Kyiv, to consolidate military gains in the Donbas and establish a land bridge to the Crimea Peninsula, which it seized in 2014.

Ukrainian and Russian diplomats trying to broker a peace deal hope to find a quick and durable solution to the ongoing conflict. The most important part of the draft is related to Ukraine’s neutral military status. The draft suggests that Ukraine will drop plans to be a part of NATO and will not host any foreign military bases and weaponry, accepting to be a neutral country like Sweden or Austria. In exchange for giving up its NATO membership prospects and Western military support, Ukraine demands that some NATO states like the US, the UK and Türkiye provide “security guarantees” against Moscow.

Since February 24, Russia had taken over significant territories between southern and eastern Ukraine and also some areas in the north. In 2014, Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and it recognised the two separatist regions in the Donbass Oblast as independent states prior to its attack. According to people familiar with the negotiations, the draft has no clear word on the Crimean annexation and the status of the separatist regions. As for the Russian troops who attacked and held Ukrainian territories after February 24, the draft suggests that they will withdraw from those regions.

The draft agreement also offers that Ukraine will respect and enshrine the Russian-speaking minority’s cultural sensitivities like their language rights.

On 29 March 2022 Ukraine set out a detailed framework for a peace deal under which the country would remain neutral but its security would be guaranteed by a group of third countries. It said it would also be willing to hold talks over a 15-year period on the future of the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters it was a “positive factor” that Ukraine submitted its written proposals during the discussions in Istanbul, but added that “we can’t say there has been something promising or any breakthroughs”.

First spotted on the side of Russian tanks and military vehicles amassing on the border with Ukraine, the letter “Z” has since become the main symbol of public support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. Following the February 24 invasion, government supporters have used the letter, which does not exist in the Cyrillic alphabet used in Russia, to show solidarity with the armed forces fighting in the neighboring country.

There have been various theories put forward since Z was first seen emblazoned on military hardware, alongside other letters, including V and O. They have ranged from suggestions that they stood for the first letters of the full name of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy, to suspicions that they represent the areas where the soldiers operating them were usually based. Russia's defence ministry has confused things somewhat by posting on its official Instagram and Telegram pages that Z stands for: "Za Pobedu" ("for victory"), "Za Mir" ("for peace"), "Za pravdu" ("for truth"), and "Za Rossiou" ("for Russia").

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Page last modified: 17-10-2022 19:16:33 ZULU