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Is the End Near for Russia's War on Ukraine?



It's been almost two years since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, and President Vladimir Putin seems to be expressing a rare moment of introspection regarding the conflict. At a "Year of the Family" event on January 23, Putin made comments that suggest a shift in his stance on the ongoing war.

 

Describing the current situation as "not the best and far from calm," Putin's admission marks a departure from his previous confident proclamations about the success of Russia's "special military operation" in eastern Donbas and the self-proclaimed "Novorossiya," or "new Russia."

 

Putin's hope for the swift integration of these regions into the "common Russian space" and the resolution of security issues is a surprising departure from his earlier insistence on the annexation of eastern Ukrainian territories, which served as the pretext for the invasion labeled illegal by the international community.

 

The historical significance of the term "Novorossiya" and the annexation of Crimea a decade ago raises questions about Putin's shifting rhetoric. In June 2023, Putin claimed Russian forces had control over "almost all" of Crimea, yet Ukraine's military continues to resist, and estimates suggest that Russia presently occupies 17.5% of Ukraine's territory.

 

The ongoing conflict in southern Ukraine extends beyond territorial disputes, involving issues of national pride and economic considerations. Novorossiya was responsible for approximately two-thirds of Ukraine's GDP before the loss of Crimea. Putin's insistence on the annexation of these territories is underscored by his statement that "the payoff is well in sight," despite extensive combat damage.

 

Putin's recent comments contradict his earlier confidence, just one week prior, when he declared it "impossible" for Russia to relinquish any Ukrainian territory. He dismissed peace talks as an attempt to undermine the gains achieved over the past year-and-a-half, warning that continued Ukrainian resistance might deliver a severe blow to the country's statehood.

 

However, skepticism surrounds Putin's assertions, with analysts suggesting that he may be using the military situation as a political tool in the lead-up to his re-election. The Institute for the Study of War argues that Putin's claims may be exaggerated, citing Kherson as a contested battleground.

 

Putin's acknowledgment of the challenges and his expression of hope for a swift resolution indicate a potential shift in strategy or a recognition of the complexities involved in the ongoing war. Only time will tell whether these remarks mark the beginning of a genuine desire for peace or are part of a broader political maneuver.

 

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