The front line has changed dramatically since the launch of the “special military operationby Vladimir Putin on February 24, 2022. Until the first days of April, it outlined an extensive invasion of Ukraine with three fronts to the north, south and east. But since then, Russian forces have moved north from Kiev and are concentrating in the eastern region of Donbass, which has been partially controlled by separatists since 2014 and where the main fighting is currently concentrated. In the south, the front line is immobilized.
In the east of the country, Russian forces are holding pressure on the outskirts of Kharkov – Ukraine’s second-largest city with 1.5 million inhabitants – and Sumy, but have interrupted their encirclement attempt, which was out of reach for them. Also in view, this time in the south of Donbass, is the port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. The Russians have surrounded it since March 1 and are now in the city. On March 24, they even took over the town hall, according to the Chechen fighters broadcast by Ramzan Kadyrovan essential asset of the Kremlin, against the Ukrainian fighters of the ultra-nationalist Azov battalion, which is now entrenched in several districts of the city.
The southern front has the likely goal of controlling the shores of the Sea of Azov, which would thus definitively become a Russian “lake”, but not only. Control over the Black Sea coasts to the west, or even a move north, are other potential targets, even if the front line has stabilized there as well, with even Ukrainian counter-attacks now interrupted.
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The most important turning point in recent days has been the end – at least temporarily – of the battle for Kiev. Faced with Ukrainian counter-attacks, the Russians withdrew in the early days of April, when they were only 30 km from the center of the capital. The conquest of the cradle of 9th century Kievan Rus’ – the first major Slavic state whose historical origins are disputed by Ukraine and Russia – and even the seat of the city of 2.8 million inhabitants were beyond the reach of the Russians: they would have had to maintain a circular zone of 100 to 150 km in circumference to surround it. Even if they haven’t been formally defeated – since they withdrew from the region – it sounds like a defeat for the Kremlin, as since February 24, in terms of the size of the deployment, the northern front seemed most strategic.