Get Informed, Stay Inspired

The 2023 War of Attrition between Russia and Ukraine continues to escalate with intensified fighting.
Europe Ukraine

The 2023 War of Attrition between Russia and Ukraine continues to escalate with intensified fighting.

In 2023, Ukraine made an effort to penetrate the front lines of Russian troops who had invaded the eastern region of the country. In response, Western countries increased the provision of more powerful weapons and advanced missile technology. Despite these actions, both sides have been unable to achieve a major breakthrough and it seems unlikely that Kyiv and Moscow will engage in peace talks.

During a news conference on December 19, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared that Russia did not achieve any success in 2023. He emphasized that Ukraine’s yellow and blue flag remains proudly in their country, which he considers their greatest triumph. Zelenskyy also noted the importance of preserving the flag for future generations.

The ongoing battle has escalated to a prolonged struggle, resulting in significant losses for both parties. A recently released intelligence report from the United States, made public earlier this month, stated that approximately 315,000 Russian soldiers have been either killed or wounded, accounting for almost 90% of their initial personnel count at the start of the conflict. Ukraine does not disclose their casualty numbers, but according to information from U.S. officials cited in an August article from The New York Times, the death toll for Ukrainian soldiers at that time was estimated to be around 70,000.

In January, Ukraine suffered a strategic setback when Russian forces took control of the salt-mining town of Soledar after a prolonged period of intense combat. Additionally, Russian missiles continued to bombard Ukrainian cities, causing significant harm to innocent civilians.

Western allies have declared their plans to provide Kyiv with heavy weaponry, such as tanks and missile systems with longer range, as Ukrainian forces continue to face challenges in advancing on the battlefield.

In preparation for the upcoming one-year mark of the war in February, American leader Joe Biden surprisedly traveled to Kyiv. He stated that Russian leader Vladimir Putin had underestimated the support of Western nations towards Ukraine. “He believed he could outlast us. But I don’t believe that’s his mindset at the moment,” Biden shared with the audience in Kyiv.

Based on information, it appears that in May, Russia intentionally caused the Kakhovka dam to break, resulting in widespread flooding in southeastern Ukraine. This was likely done to hinder any potential attack from Ukraine and resulted in significant damage to the environment. In response, Russia accused Ukraine of causing the dam to collapse.

FILE - A woman and her daughter listen to a prayer for fallen soldiers at Lviv cemetery, western Ukraine, on Feb. 23, 2023.

On February 23, 2023, a woman and her daughter attended a prayer honoring fallen soldiers at Lviv cemetery in western Ukraine.

In June, Ukraine successfully regained some land, however they were unable to penetrate the Russian defense. Analyst Ian Bond stated that the supplies of Western weapons were insufficient and came too late.

Bond informed VOA that due to delays in providing the equipment, the Russians were able to extensively prepare their minefields and fortifications. As a result, their position has become significantly stronger. Despite this, Ukraine has been urged to launch a counteroffensive, despite having limited air capabilities. Bond also noted that Ukraine has made impressive strides in countering Russia’s navy.

He stated to VOA that the Russian Black Sea fleet has been successfully taken out of the majority of the western Black Sea. The Ukrainians can now export grain from their Black Sea ports with greater ease compared to before. This is a significant accomplishment for a nation without a functional navy.

In June, members of the private Wagner army from Russia revolted and demanded the removal of Moscow’s defense minister. This was due to allegations that the Wagner fighters were not receiving proper support and ammunition from the Russian army. Putin resolved the mutiny with the help of Belarusian leader Aleksander Lukashenko. Shortly after, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, died in a plane crash.

In November, General Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s military leader, stated that the conflict had reached a standstill, despite disagreement from Ukraine’s president.

Zelenskyy successfully achieved a diplomatic milestone when the European Union agreed in December to initiate formal discussions for accession. In a video posted on social media following the EU’s decision, Zelenskyy stated that while the negotiation process may be challenging, it is crucial to note that Ukraine has always been and will continue to be a integral part of the European community.

However, according to Olga Tokariuk, an analyst at Chatham House in Britain, the possibility of a European future for Ukraine is uncertain. She suggests that if Ukraine is unable to succeed in its military efforts, the negotiations for EU membership will hold no value. This would not only be a failure for Ukraine, but also for the European Union and the rest of the Western world who have pledged to support Ukraine until it reaches its goals.

The soldiers in Ukraine are preparing for a difficult and harsh winter as they remain on the front lines. In December, the military requested President Zelenskyy to authorize the mobilization of 450,000 to 500,000 more individuals into the army.

Analysts predict that the upcoming year may bring Western shipments of F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv, providing hope for the country. However, due to delays in critical military aid from both the United States and the European Union, Ukraine’s primary worry for the next year is the possibility of Western weariness.

Zelenskyy expressed his belief that the promised military aid would be provided. He stated, “I have faith that the United States of America will not let us down and that our accomplishments with them will be honored,” during his end-of-year press conference.

The upcoming 2024 U.S. presidential election has caused anxiety in Ukraine and Europe, according to Fabrice Pothier, a former NATO policy planner and current CEO of Rasmussen Global consulting group.

He informed VOA that if the U.S. were to elect a president who goes against the interests of Ukraine and Europe, it would be a significant setback.

Next year, Russia will also be conducting presidential elections. According to analyst Ian Bond, the vote is unlikely to be fair or free, and it is almost guaranteed that Putin will emerge victorious. However, the outcome of the election could have an impact on Putin’s approach to the ongoing war. Bond speculates that Putin will be seeking a military achievement that he can use to boost his image in the lead-up to the election.