Ukraine on the defensive after 24 months of brutal war

Today Ukraine marks two years since Russia's invasion. Kyiv enters a new year of war weakened by a lack of Western aid while Moscow is emboldened by new successes.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" at dawn on February 24, 2022, many expected Moscow to win within days, but Ukraine struck back, forcing Russian troops into a humiliating retreat.
But Ukraine suffered setbacks with the failure of its counter-offensive in 2023. The Russian military, in turn, has built up strong positions thanks to booming military production, while Ukrainian troops are short on manpower and running out of Western-supplied artillery and air defense ammunition.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said that decisions on arms supplies should be a "priority".

The anniversary will be marked by Western leaders, including European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, but the overall picture for Kiev remains bleak due to the US Congress blocking a vital $60 billion aid package. This in addition to the delay in promised European deliveries.
US President Joe Biden renewed his calls for Republican lawmakers to unblock additional funding, warning that "history is waiting" and "the failure to support Ukraine at this critical time will not be forgotten.

War is our life
Russia has been attacking hard in the east, with the ruined town of Mariyka outside Donetsk the latest hot spot after capturing the heavily fortified town of Avdeyevka on February 17.
Ukraine's economy has also been hit by a blockade of the border by Polish farmers, which Kiev says threatens exports and halts arms supplies.
In Kiev, the mood is somber but still defiant, and people say they are used to military conditions.
"For women in Ukraine, this is our heartache - for our husbands, for our children, for our fathers. I would very much like this to end as quickly as possible," nutritionist Olga Birko told AFP in Kiev.
"Yes, of course, we learned to live with it... now war is our life," said Yuriy Pasichnik, a 38-year-old businessman.
"I think we should have more weapons so we can drive this evil spirit out of our land and start rebuilding our Ukraine," said 51-year-old Konstantin Goffman.
Ukraine needs almost half a trillion dollars to rebuild cities destroyed by the Russian invasion, according to the latest estimates by the World Bank, the European Union, the United Nations and the Ukrainian government.
Ukraine estimates that around 50,000 civilians have been killed.

Shells are running out
Neither side has given a number of military deaths and injuries, with both sides claiming massive losses.
In August 2023, The New York Times quoted US officials as estimating Ukraine's military losses at 70,000 killed and 100,000 to 120,000 wounded.
In December, leaked US intelligence said 315,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded.
On the eastern front, morale is low as outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainian troops give way to Russian forces.
"We're running out of shells and the Russians keep coming. Many of our comrades are wounded - or worse. It's getting worse and worse," said one soldier near Bakhmut, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Moscow has massively increased weapons production and received drones from Iran, and Kiev has confirmed Russia's use of North Korean missiles.
Zelensky said in December that the military wants to mobilize up to 500,000 more troops. The bill to expand mobilization caused widespread public fear.
The conflict has thrown Russia into further isolation from the West, with the United States and its allies imposing multiple sanctions.
But Putin is unfazed by the consequences and has hailed the soldiers as "true national heroes".
He used the war years to increase patriotism and crack down even harder on dissent, as few dared to voice their disagreement with the war.
The death in prison of opposition leader Alexei Navalny removed Putin's staunch adversary and he is certain to win another term in next month's election.

On the streets of Moscow, most people told AFP they supported the army fighting in Ukraine.
"I am proud of our men," said 27-year-old Nadezhda, an environmental engineer.
"Of course I'm worried about them, but it's a nice feeling that they're doing great, that they're out there fighting for our country," she added.
One of the few who expressed an alternative opinion was Constantine, a drama teacher who works as a waiter, who said: "I am against any war. It has been two years and I am angry that people cannot talk to each other and are at war." /BGNES