Mar 20, 2022 - World
Axios Explains: Ukraine

Researchers say Russia's invasion reaching deadly stalemate

A person is crying surrounded by rubble

A man helps Ukrainian soldiers search for bodies at a military school hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine. Photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images

After more than three weeks, the war in Ukraine has reached a stalemate, and Russian forces are making only small gains, the New York Times writes.

Driving the news: That was the assessment Saturday from the Institute for the Study of War, a widely respected D.C. research group.

  • "Ukrainian forces have defeated the initial Russian campaign of this war," the note says. "That campaign aimed to conduct airborne and mechanized operations to seize Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa and other major Ukrainian cities to force a change of government in Ukraine." That failed.
  • "Russian forces continue to make limited advances in some parts of the theater but are very unlikely to be able to seize their objectives in this way."
Russian invasion of Ukraine, as of March 17
Data: The Institute for the Study of War with AEI’s Critical Threats Project. Map: Axios Visuals

Reality check: "Stalemate will likely be very violent and bloody," the institute adds.

  • "Stalemate is not armistice or ceasefire. ... 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."
  • "The World War I battles of the Somme, Verdun and Passchendaele were all fought in conditions of stalemate and did not break the stalemate."

What happened: Yaroslav Hrytsak, a Ukrainian historian and professor at Ukrainian Catholic University, writes in a New York Times op-ed that Putin made two huge miscalculations:

  • "First, he was hoping that, as had been the case with his war against Georgia, the West would tacitly swallow his aggression against Ukraine. A unified response from the West was not something he expected."
  • "Second, since in his mind Russians and Ukrainians were one nation, Mr. Putin believed Russian troops needed barely to enter Ukraine to be welcomed with flowers. This never materialized."

Go deeper: Read the "stalemate" assessment

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