Ukraine War Update: On day 68 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military continues to search for a breakthrough in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian military has been putting up a stiff defense, even counterattacking in places and reclaiming lost territory.
Strikes Across Ukraine
Meanwhile, Russian long-range fires continue to strike across Ukraine, hitting targets of military and civilian nature.
“Today, Russian troops continued to strike at the territory of our state. The targets they choose prove once again that the war against Ukraine is a war of extermination for the Russian army. They targeted the warehouses of agricultural enterprises. The grain warehouse was destroyed. The warehouse with fertilizers was also shelled. They continued shelling of residential neighborhoods in the Kharkiv region, Donbas,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Monday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 23,800 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 194 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 155 helicopters, 1,048 tanks, 459 artillery pieces, 2,519 armored personnel carriers, 152 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), eight boats, 1,695 vehicles, 76 fuel tanks, 80 anti-aircraft batteries, 271 unmanned aerial systems, 38 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 84 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
Evacuations in Mariupol
After weeks of failed negotiations and violated ceasefires, Ukraine and Russia seem to have reached an agreement for the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol. For the past few weeks, the last Ukrainian defenders of Mariopul have barricaded themselves in the Azovstal steelworks plant. Thousands of civilians have joined them in an attempt to escape the incoming Russian forces and bombs.
“Today we finally managed to start the evacuation of people from Azovstal. After many weeks of negotiations, after many attempts, different meetings, people, calls, countries, proposals. Finally! There was not a single day when we did not try to find a solution that would save our people,” President Zelensky said in an address to the Ukrainian people.
A few hundred civilians that had been trapped by the fighting were able to evacuate to Ukrainian-held territory. The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross helped mediate between the two dies.
“Today, for the first time in all the days of the war, this vital corridor has started working. For the first time there were two days of real ceasefire on this territory. More than a hundred civilians have already been evacuated – women and children first of all. Who were fleeing hostilities there. At Azovstal,” Zelensky added.
Moscow’s Plan For Ukraine?
Despite the heavy losses that the Russian military has been suffering in Ukraine, the Kremlin is seeking to consolidate any gains that it has made and incorporate the captured territories into Russia or at least bring them under Russian cultural, political, and economic control.
There is already evidence that this is taking place in Kherson, a strategic Ukrainian city in the south. Kherson was one of the first important urban centers that the Russian forces captured and has been under their control for more than a month. Now, Moscow is seeking to force Ukrainian residents to use the Russian Ruble instead of the Ukrainian Hryvnia as currency.
“Since seizing the southern city of Kherson in early March, Russia has sought to legitimise its control of the city and surrounding areas through installing a pro-Russian administration. Recent statements from this administration include declaring a return to Ukrainian control ‘impossible’ and announcing a four-month currency transition from the Ukrainian hryvnia to the Russian rouble. The Russian rouble is due to be used in Kherson from today,” the British Ministry of Defense stated.
“These statements are likely indicative of Russian intent to exert strong political and economic influence in Kherson over the long term. Enduring control over Kherson and its transport links will increase Russia’s ability to sustain its advance to the north and west and improve the security of Russia’s control over Crimea,” the British Ministry of Defense added.
To most effectively pull this off, however, the Russians will have to win the hearts and minds of the population, a highly unlikely proposition given how they have been treating Ukrainian civilians so far.
“What could be Russia’s strategic success in this war? Honestly, I do not know. The ruined lives of people and the burned or stolen property will give nothing to Russia. It will only increase the toxicity of the Russian state and the number of those in the world who will work to isolate Russia,” Zelensky added.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.