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Ukraine on the defensive at the start of the 3rd year of the Russian invasion

Ukraine enters its third year of war weakened on Saturday, aid from its allies drying up while the Russian military machine has gained power.

When Vladimir Putin announced that Russian troops were entering Ukrainian territory at dawn on February 24, 2022, the Russian president believed they could take kyiv in a few days but Ukrainian resistance forced them into humiliating retreats.

In 2023, it was Ukraine which experienced a major disappointment: the failure of its major summer counter-offensive, so much so that the army Russian, with an economy geared towards the war effort, finds itself in a position of strength, with the Ukrainian military complaining of the weakness of their troops as well as the lack of shells and anti-aircraft defense equipment.

The large presence in Ukraine on Saturday of Western leaders, led by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, to show their support, does not mask this state of affairs: American aid is blocked by the Republican rivals of the Democratic President Joe Biden, and that of the Europeans has fallen behind.

Ukraine on the defensive at the start of the 3rd year of the Russian invasion

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky participates in a press conference on February 23, 2024 in Lviv, Ukraine. © Ritzau Scanpix – Mads Claus Rasmussen

“What is important is that all decisions (on aid deliveries, editor's note) are taken on time. I think that is the priority,” insisted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, receiving the head of the Danish government on Friday in Lviv.

“Ukraine is fighting for itself, for its ideals, for our Europe. Our commitment to it will not weaken”, promised French President Emmanuel Macron.

“European aid for Ukraine of 50 billion euros over four years was decided with the support of France on February 1 last. With a clear message: President Putin's Russia must not count on any weariness among Europeans”, also warned the Elysée on X.

Solidarity The economy is also in trouble, with the blocking of borders by Polish farmers opposed to Ukrainian agricultural imports.

Russia, for its part, prides itself on increasing its assaults on the front and claims successes, in particular the capture of the fortress town of Avdiïvka on February 17.

– Believe it –

Russian soldiers are also on the offensive and are gaining ground in a second sector of the East, that of Mariïnka, henceforth described as ” hot spot” by Kiev.

However, residents of the Ukrainian capital interviewed by AFP say they are still determined to defeat the invader.

Ukraine on the defensive at the start of the 3rd year of the Russian invasion

A memorial to Ukrainian soldiers, February 23, 2024 in kyiv © AFP – Roman PILIPEY

“We learned to hold on, to be stronger and to believe. An expression says that he who has faith will be rewarded”, says Nina, a retiree.

“War is our way of life”, summarizes Ioury Passitchnyk, a 38-year-old entrepreneur.

Russia is no less galvanized by its recent military successes.

Its President Vladimir Putin once again saluted on Friday these “heroes” who are fighting Ukraine. Some 500,000 men signed up in 2023 and around 50,000 more in January of this year alone.

The opposition was decimated by a merciless campaign of repression, culminating on February 16 with the death in an Arctic prison of the leading figure of the critics of the Kremlin, Alexeï Navalny.

And three weeks before the Russian presidential election in mid-March, Mr. Putin's hold on power seems more complete than ever.

– Cut off from the truth ? –

In the streets of the Russian capital, Muscovites display their exaltation: “A lot of my friends sent their sons” to the army, notes Nadejda, a 64-year-old teacher, “and we congratulate them all and await their return.”

Ukraine on the defensive at the start of the 3rd year of the Russian invasion

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left), accompanied by his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (right), attends a ceremony on February 23, 2024 in Moscow © POOL – Sergei SAVOSTYANOV

Critics of the “Special Military Operation”, punishable by heavy prison sentences, are for their part showing caution, like Konstantin, a theater teacher: “We are so cut off from the truth, it is difficult to make decisions.

As for the sanctions which cut Russia off from the Western world and initially shook the Russian economy, the Kremlin has never stopped making fun of them, while circumventing them.

These measures did not prevent the defense industry from increasing its production, tilting the balance of power in favor of the Russians on the field of battle.

The new round of Western sanctions announced in recent days should remedy this but Russian officials have brushed them aside, like the ambassador to Canada, Oleg Stepanov, who called them “an impotent and meaningless symbolic act”.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116