I feel sorry for Volodymyr Zelensky. It’s devastating watching him travelling all around the world, struggling to convince even his closest ally, Washington, to keep helping Ukraine. But that is not his only problem. I bet Zelensky and his speechwriters are tossing and turning in bed at night, wondering what he should say when he addresses Ukrainians over Christmas and New Year. This time last year, he said 2023 would be ‘the year of victory’. Now there are fears that Ukraine could lose.
These are dark times for Ukraine. While the West drowns in ‘fatigue’ from a war it is not fighting, Russian forces have taken the initiative along the frontline. Avdiivka in the Donetsk region remains the scene of the most intense battles. During its attempts to encircle the city, the Russian military has suffered more than 13,000 casualties and lost more than 220 combat vehicles, according to US estimates. Russia has reportedly lost 315,000 troops since the start of the full-scale invasion – almost 90 per cent of the military personnel it had in February last year. These losses don’t bother Vladimir Putin; he feels that luck is finally on his side, so he is ready to endlessly sacrifice his soldiers. Sending men, wave after wave, into a meat grinder worked for him last winter when the Russians captured Bakhmut, so why not do it again?
This is not the only hot spot on the frontline. There are conflicting reports over whether the town of Mariinka in the Donetsk region has fallen. Before the war, it was home to 10,000 residents. Now, nobody lives there: Russia has razed it to the ground. In the Kharkiv region, Moscow has been concentrating a large force near Kupyansk and is attempting to capture the nearby village of Synkivka, hoping to pave the way for the blockade of the city.