During a new round of ceasefire talks in Istanbul, Russia has vowed to drastically reduce combat operations around the capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. Although the Kremlin portrayed this as a goodwill gesture, Russia has in fact admitted defeat in Ukraine in the initial weeks of its invasion.
India has refrained from outright condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The country is yet maneuvering between Russia, which is its arms supplier, and the United States, as the New Delhi-Washington ties have improved lately. As more Indian companies secure deals with Russian crude suppliers, possibly the country will fill in the vacuum left by Western firms.
The OPEC group of oil-producing countries and its Russia-led allies ignored Western pressure to significantly boost production. As concluded at the latest OPEC+ meeting, oil-producing states are unlikely to make any shifts until May in a move that has an impact on global oil prices.
Western countries have expelled a total of 120 Russian intelligence officers masquerading as diplomats following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Perhaps it is not over yet. This is the biggest coordinated action against the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine since the spring of 2018 after an attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal.
Although Western sanctions have not yet started to hit the Russian economy, the country’s energy export is now in trouble. Russia is seeing a drop in oil output, refinery throughput, and export figures. But for the OPEC+ cartel and its stance, Russia would be in bigger trouble, though.
Amid failed efforts to wage an all-out war, Russia is scaling back its goals in Ukraine. What now seems is that Russia is planning to at least extend the “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk to the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and then capture both following a sham “referendum.”
Beijing has refused to condemn Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. Perhaps the same will apply for the arms industry. However, joint business projects are now at risk. Beijing is afraid of Western sanctions.
The Novatek-controlled flagship LNG project, or Arctic LNG-2, is again in trouble. Japan and France have stopped making new investments in a major liquefied natural gas development project in the Russian Arctic, Nikkei reported on March 25.
Amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ties soured rapidly between Moscow and Tokyo. After Japan condemned the hostiles and joined Western nations in imposing sanctions, Moscow halted peace treaty talks and launched military drills near the Kuril Islands whose status is disputed by the two states. In response, Tokyo reminded Russia that it had been illegally occupying four of its islands.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Kyiv has said there is a high risk of an attack on the country being launched from Belarus. Minsk would allow Moscow to use its territory, facilities, and troops to invade Ukraine. If this does take place, it will be one of the last decisions Alexander Lukashenko takes as the Belarusian leader.
No matter how the Russia-Ukraine war ends, some security issues in the Black Sea have changed irreversibly. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is damaging infrastructure along the entire Black Sea coast and blocks access to shipping routes by deploying mines.
With Russia’s frantic claims that Ukraine was operating non-conventional weapons, there are increasing concerns that Russia could be prepared to use chemical weapons to attack Ukraine. Russia has a track record of accusing the West of the very crimes that Russia itself is perpetrating.
The Russian oil-export duty will grow in early April this year, the Russian government announced amid a new trend of declining oil prices worldwide. As the Russia-Ukraine war has so far influenced a price increase, what might also worry many is a possible slowdown in the Chinese economy and Western efforts to look for new energy supplies to curb reliance on Russian energy and thus push prices down.
With the veto from some EU countries, Russia can trade its gas and oil to Europe quite freely. Those that are most short of blue fuel in their storage facilities are countries in western Europe that fell victim to Gazprom’s deliberate strategy to inject little gas to the facilities last year and fill them with commodities only in November.
The Kremlin is reportedly fearful of suffering incalculable losses in conscripts and will possibly wage a lengthy and bloody war against Ukraine. This is perhaps why Moscow is seeking to hire thousands of mercenaries––mostly from Syria––and send them to Ukraine. Making this statement public means that the Kremlin’s strategy is to intimidate people in Ukraine by painting a picture of ruthless Muslim warlords who arrived in the war-torn country to terrorize civilians.
The southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of 500,000, has been a top target of Russian forces since they invaded Ukraine. Seizing the city would bring about a massive propaganda effect for Russia and prompt Moscow’s retaliation for the efficient defense the port located on the Sea of Azov had seen back in 2014.
After the first three days of the offensive, it was clear that the war was not going as Russia had planned. Last week saw some territorial gains from the Russian army that yet got stalled. After nearly two weeks, Russian forces are unable to encircle Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. The Ukrainian army is still fighting in Chernihiv, Suma, and Kharkiv. Russian forces indeed encircled Mariupol but are incapable of seizing the city. Mykolaiv has been under intense fire by Russian forces, but the aggressor did not seize the city. In some Russian-occupied towns, people take to the streets in the most visible example yet of resistance to Russian occupation. Russian troops are now suffering low morale. Yet mercenaries are unlikely to be deployed to the war theatre instead of young conscripts. What shows Russia’s worsening position is that its foreign minister Sergey Lavrov agreed to hold talks with Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba, but nothing concrete came out of this meeting.
Russian forces remain stalled everywhere except for the southern front. The aggressor has sustained heavy losses and is now short of reinforcements as Moscow has involved all military forces previously massed along the Ukrainian border. The Russians are regrouping for new attacks on key targets, notably those of Kyiv and Kharkiv, while clearly targeting civilian areas. Russian forces are shelling civilian infrastructure as civilians are seeking to escape, which makes it clear they got such an order from the Kremlin’s top officials. But this strategy has backfired, making the Ukrainians fight back and weighing heavily on Russia, mostly in the information space.
March 3 saw no major shifts in the military theater. Russian forces have advanced only along the southern front. Ukraine retains control of the capital, Kyiv, and its biggest cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, and Mariupol, despite heavy fighting, continue to repel Russian assaults. A second round of ceasefire talks with Russia had not yielded the results Kyiv hoped for, but Ukrainian negotiators reached an agreement to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate citizens from besieged cities.
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine entered its next day on March 2, some heavy fighting was reported. The Russian convoy is stalled but its forces are encircling Ukraine’s bigger cities to destroy them. At the end of the day, forces defending Kherson were in the worst situation on the southern front. But the Russian offensive on Kyiv slowed down.