In the last few months since I shared an insight into the war in Ukraine much has changed but so much more has stayed the same. We don't hear about large-scale attacks or the same volume of deaths as we have in the last year, and this is mainly because modern warfare seems to involve large numbers of drones and anti-missile machinery which stops the destruction and impact of aggressive actions being as high as they could be (e.g. during the month of May at least 17 air attacks were launched on the capital Kiev however in most instances these were intercepted with falling debris being the main cause of damage to homes and businesses).
Having said that the frequency of Russian attacks has increased in the last 1-2 months which now means that there is Ukrainian loss of life almost every single day. This doesn't always make the news as it has fast become "old news" which is why I have found putting this brief blogs together to be helpful as I try and come to terms with what my family are experiencing daily in Ukraine.
On 22 June the United Nations released a report stating that it can account for the deaths of 477 civilians over the last year in Ukraine. Of this figure 136 were attributed to Russian aggression and 80 were assigned to Ukrainian forces, while the remainder was unable to be determined who was to blame. At the end of July a internal Russian report by the Russian Children’s Rights Ombudswoman stated that 4.8 million Ukrainians had been deported to Russia during the war and of that number over 700,000 are children. These figures simply serve as a reminder of the human toll of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
With the aim of this being a brief run-down on what’s been happening and to keep it easy to follow I have only written about some of the major attacks and tried to keep it straight-up factual.
One thing that hasn’t changed but continues to increase is that the world remains committed to Ukraine and sends support and aid. From Germany to the USA and South Korea, the support being shown to Ukraine’s cause continues to grow. Ukraine has continued to pursue membership of NATO however, though NATO has stated that Ukraine will become a member, this is on hold until the war ends (clearly NATO wants to avoid being pulled into a full scale war).
Though Chinese officials had met with President Putin on 16 April, Ukrainian President Zelensky held a phone call with them on 26 April. In the wake of the call a new ambassador to China was appointed from Ukraine and in exchange China promised to help with peace talks by sending a delegation to Ukraine - the outcome of this is yet to be seen.
For these reasons in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Finnish and Danish embassy and consulates, found their bank accounts frozen. This was said to be in retaliation for the “unfriendly collective acts of the west”.
In the past several Ukrainian cultural organisations have been targeted and another Museum was hit by Russia when the Kupiansk Local History Museum in the Kharkiv Oblast was struck by a Russian missile on 25 April. Ten people were injured and sadly two were killed in the attack. While Russia targeted the cultural and historical heart of the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian forces continued to chip away at Russian forces along the Dnipro River.
On 28 April Russia launched multiple airstrikes against at least six Ukrainian cities. These were the capital Kiev, Dnipro, Kremenchuk, Poltava, Mykolaiv and Uman. Of the twenty-three missiles launched against the Ukrainian cities, twenty-one were intercepted. Unfortunately, the two that were unable to be stopped hit a nine-storey apartment building in Uman killing at least 23 people and injuring more.
The Headlines of May 2023
The month of May began with more Russian attacks. While Kiev was once again in the firing line so too was Pavlohrad, where dozens of homes were destroyed and over thirty people were wounded. This was thought to have been a strategic attack with Pavlohrad considered a key logistical point with main infrastructure and fuel depots.
Early May also saw Kherson forced into a lockdown as Russian missiles bombarded the city. Twenty-four people were killed during the attack with the lockdown lasting 58 hours as shelling continued.
It was around this time that the Wagner Group began to complain that they were not receiving the necessary artillery and ammunition required to keep fighting. The leader of the group threatened to pull troops out of the war after Russian Victory Day (10 May) but this did not come to pass with officials promising them the necessary weapons, (the Wagner Group would be what has continued to make headlines).
In another hit to Russian support, for the first time since 1995 Belarus imposed border controls with Russia. The official reason was to stop third party nationals entering the country however news outlets report that this was to stem the large number of Russian dissidents and draft evaders fleeing Russia.
Russia accused Ukraine of sending attack drones to the Kremlin in Moscow. Ukraine denies this and it is highly unlikely that Ukraine could have got drones that deep into Russian territory, so it seems Russia was once again fabricating news however in the last month Ukrainian drones have launched attacks on Moscow so maybe in this instances Russia was correct...
The Eurovision Song Contest 2023 was supposed to have been held in Ukraine after the country won the 2022 competition however for obvious reasons this was not possible and instead the UK hosted the event in Liverpool, England. Did you know that moments before Ukraine’s entry into the Contest were set to take the stage their hometown of Ternopil was struck by Russian missiles. Thankfully no one was killed but two people were injured and property was damaged. While the lengths and depths Russia will go to no longer surprise me this left me speechless at Russia's pettiness.
On 26 May a Russian strike on Dnipro hit a hospital killing at least two people and injuring 23 more. On this same day a report by Ukrainian officials was released stating that 483 children had been killed during the war to date. A further 1,000 had been wounded while over 1,500 have been orphaned. The largest number of those impacted originated in the Donetsk Oblast followed by the Kharkiv Oblast.
The Headlines of June 2023
The city of Bakhmut fell to the Wagner Group with their intention to hand control of what was left of the city to Russian forces on 1 June. In what seemed like a surprisingly honest interview, the head of the group announced that around 20,000 Wagner troops were killed in the battle for the city. A few days later on 5 June the Wagner Group confirmed that Ukrainian troops had re-taken part of the city. Indeed, the Wagner Group were starting to show signs of turning against the nation they were employed to fight for - Russia.
The Kakhovka Dam located along the Dnipro River in the Kherson Oblast suffered severe damage on 6 June forcing parts of the city of Kherson and numerous villages to be evacuated. In total around 16,000 people had to flee as the dam broke its walls and began flooding the surrounding area. Ukraine claim that Russia shelled the dam as a last resort in retaliation to the advances Ukrainian forces were making while Russian sources claim there was an explosion in a control room that caused the damage.
The number of those needing to be evacuated grew to over 40,000 of which 17,000 were in the Ukrainian controlled portion and the larger majority in the Russian controlled region. With thousands of people displaced, at least 58 deaths and many missing the news that every animal, all 300, of the Kakhovka Zoo were lost was a further blow to the local community.
As the month of June continued the tide of the war changed and the Ukrainian counteroffensive was well and truly underway. Despite suffering heavy losses Ukrainian forces were able to break through several lines of defence in Zaporizhzhia on 8 June. Three days later they announced that three villages in the Donetsk Oblast had been liberated.
In retaliation Putin announced that Russia would be deploying tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus. At the same time Russian officials were working hard behind the scenes to have the Wagner Group sign a contract bringing them more into line with government troops.
Throughout the rest of June almost every day Kiev faced aerial attack while Ukrainian forces worked hard to gain ground and liberate additional villages. It seems that every day the number of deaths recorded began to increase as a result of the war on both sides.
The biggest headline of the last few months though is the rebellion of the Wagner Group. Tracing the headlines throughout the last three months it is evident that this was coming but when it happened there was shock from most who had been observing the war.
On 23 June it was alleged that Russian forces shelled and killed 2,000 Wagner forces. The Wagner Group vowed to take revenge and began marching on the Rostov Oblast. The group are said to have claimed villages and got within 200km of Moscow. The Belarussian President is thought to have intervened after Putin declared the whole Group were dissidents. In exchange for standing down his troops the leader of the Wagner Group was allowed to leave Russia but was to remain in exile in Belarus while the group returned to following the orders of Russian military personnel (the world all asked how long this arrangement would last?....)
While the Wagner Group rebelled against Russia the attacks on Ukraine did not stop. On 24 June high-rise buildings in Kiev were targeted with at least five people killed and 11 wounded. Further attacks were witnessed on Dnipro and Kharkiv.
The Headlines of July 2023
The month of July began with the Wagner Group suspending its recruitment operations and closing recruitment centres. Officials announced that the group would no longer fight in Ukraine but would focus on training soldiers in Belarus and keep their attention on their activities in Africa.
On 6 July Russia hit Ukraine’s cultural heritage hard with an attack on the city of Lviv. A buffer zone had been established around the city as it is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. Home to over 60 museums and representing over 800 years of history and architecture, the city was listed by UNESCO in 1998.
The attack came from the Black Sea with ten missiles launched. Ukrainian efforts stopped seven of the missiles but the three that made it past the Ukrainian defences significantly damaged the cities infrastructure and killed ten with a further 42 injured.
This attack came a day before a UN report into the rising number of civilian deaths in Ukraine in the months of May and June. The total death toll of the war was estimated at 9,000, of which 500 were children. While the death rate had been lower than 2022 the number had begun to rise with the intensity of attacks undertaken by Russia, especially in Kiev and other major cities.
On 13 July the International Olympic Committee announced that Russia and Belarus were banned from the 2024 Olympic Games. Individuals from those nations were welcome to compete, provided they did so as individuals and not representatives of their native countries.
The Crimean Bridge was targeted once again on 17 July with two people travelling on a train crossing the bridge killed. The damage to the bridge was significant with repairs expected to last until November. Russia accused Ukraine of the attack and on 3 August Ukraine admitted they were behind the destruction.
The historic centre of Odesa came into the firing line of the Russian arsenal on 23 July when Russia launched an attack that killed two people and injured 19 others. On top of this 25 architectural monuments were damaged including the city’s largest Orthodox cathedral. Just under a month later Odesa was targeted again with an attack on 14 August causing fire to spread throughout the city. While no one was killed 203 buildings were destroyed and damaged.
In what has been called a “double tap” attack by Russia on 7 August, ten people were killed and 82 people injured in a missile strike on Pokrovsk in the Donetsk Oblast. Russia initially targeted a site and then 37 minutes when rescue personnel were on site they attacked the same location increasing the casualties and specifically targeting those there to help.
On 19 August Russia targeted Krasna Square in central Chernihiv which damaged the cities theatre and university. Over 156 people were injured and while the number killed is unclear it sits at least seven.
Exiled Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and other officers were reported as deceased after a plane they were travelling in crashed near Moscow on 23 August. The official cause of the crash is yet to be determined but smart money would be on an internal explosion with these deaths hardly a surprise, especially as just days later on 25 August Putin ordered the Wagner Group to swear an oath of allegiance to the Russian state.
When will the war be over? What will happen next? Who will bring an end to this madness?
*This blog has been put together with multiple current news sources such as the BBC World News Podcast, local nightly news and media outlets such as News.com
Articles and Websites:
"War in Ukraine", BBC World News (multiple articles), <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-60525350>
War in Ukraine (website of the War in Ukraine hosted by Ukraine), <www.war.ukraine.ua>
"Global Conflict Tracker", Council on Foreign Relations (Updated 12 May 2022), <https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/conflict-ukraine>
Disclaimer: The observations and comments made in this blog are made after reflecting on the news stories and histories I read. History plays a big part in how I understand the present so my comments largely take into account history and the role it has in the present. After all, those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.