After the start of the operation in Ukraine, the main goal of the Russian forces was to capture the capital Kiev. But Russia’s military announced on Friday that its main priority now was to completely liberate the pro-Russian-dominated region of Donbass in Ukraine. They then claim that the goal of the first phase of the Ukraine campaign has been achieved. Now a new phase of the war has begun. They also claim that Ukraine’s military capabilities have been reduced through this military operation.

Now the question is, where will this war stop? Is Russian President Putin backing away from his ambitious goal? According to analysts, Russian forces have adopted defensive tactics in many places on the outskirts of Kiev. This indicates the strong resistance of the Ukrainian forces. On the other hand, in the coming days, Russian forces may continue to fight with very small targets. In this case, Moscow could use Danbas as a new strategic point.

Russian forces are facing stiff resistance in various parts of Ukraine. Meanwhile, many Western nations, including the United States, have stepped up their supply of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine. In recent days, Ukrainian troops have been fighting in an aggressive manner, according to U.S. military officials. This week, Ukrainian troops attacked a large Russian ship off the coast of the Black Sea. In such a situation, Russia’s top military commander, Colonel General Sergei Rudakov, declared the release of Danbas as the main goal.

“Putin is frustrated by the actions of the Russian military in the Ukraine war.”

Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense of the United States

In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Russia to end the war and engage in peace talks. However, he also reminded that Ukraine’s sovereignty and geographical integrity must be ensured. Attempts to divide Ukraine in the name of peace will not be accepted by the people of the country.

Armored vehicles of the Russian army are lying on the road destroyed by the attack of the Ukrainian army. In the city of Kharkiv in UkrainePhoto: AFP

‘It’s a sign of a break’
When Putin first ordered an attack on Ukraine, he said it was aimed at disarming the country and preventing the rise of neo-Nazism. He also spoke in support of the US Alliance, but said that maintaining some independence was important for Russia. For this he sent troops to Ukraine. Russian troops reached the outskirts of Kiev.

In the four weeks of the war, the Russian forces are in a crisis of arms and supplies. Ukrainian forces have prevented the fall of Kiev. Pavel Felzenhar, a Moscow-based military analyst, told Al Jazeera that Russian forces had suspended the fighting. They mean everything is under their control.

The regime has not changed
Omar Asher, chairman of the Critical Conflict Studies at the Doha Institute in Qatar, said: “Occupying Kiev is no longer Russia’s goal. This seems to be the case with the recent actions of the Russian military. I don’t think Russia has succeeded in bringing about a change of government in Kiev. So they want to keep the ultimate goal confined to the east of Ukraine. According to this analyst, Russia is involved in the war in Ukraine with three broad goals. Occupying Kiev, establishing control in the south and occupying large and important cities like Mariupol. There are questions about how successful Russia is in meeting these goals.

Heroic resistance
Speaking at a NATO summit in the Belgian capital, Brussels, last week, French President Emmanuel Macho said it was not yet time to say whether Russia had changed its behavior or tactics in the Ukraine war. Although a few days of fighting indicate the situation, the Ukrainians have managed to build a heroic resistance.

Stephen Bidel, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University in the United States, said Russian policymakers understood that they had started the war by taking the wrong steps. At the same time, the country has deployed troops in various parts of Ukraine. Now Russia is trying to define their goals. The country wants to make Danbas a new strategic point.

Russia is looking for alternatives
Many analysts claim that Russia is seeking an alternative to the final defeat in the Ukraine war. For this reason, the country wants to limit its military goal of ensuring the freedom of the Danvas without causing the fall of Kiev. According to Lauren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a Washington-based think tank, Putin hoped for a quick victory in Ukraine. But in reality that did not happen.

Ukraine has a better-than-expected resistance from Western weapons. In this situation, the question that has arisen in front of Russia is, if the war is prolonged, what will be the new price?

The way modern and well-trained Russian forces have faced obstacles in Ukraine has disappointed many. The lack of preparation and coordination of the Russian forces is obvious. According to NATO, between 6,000 and 15,000 Russian troops were killed in the first four weeks of the war. It is a manifestation of Russia’s strategic failure. According to former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Putin is frustrated by the actions of the Russian military in the Ukraine war.

Before the war began, Putin was told by many of his military officials that Russia would be able to occupy Kiev in a few days. In a few weeks, it will be possible to defeat the Ukrainian army. But that is not the case with Putin. So now Russia is trying to handle the crisis with alternative strategies.