Russian forces have gained more territory in Ukraine this year than the Ukrainian side despite the Ukrainian counteroffensive that was launched in June, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
The report noted that despite nine months of heavy fighting in Ukraine, only about 500 square miles of territory have changed hands this year. Russia has gained 331 square miles while Ukraine has gained 143, a difference of 188, which amounts to Russia’s net gain in territory so far this year.
Most of the fighting in the first half of the year focused around the Donbas city of Bakhmut, which Russia fully captured in May after a brutal battle that started in August 2022. Ukraine’s counteroffensive has focused on the south, but fighting has continued near Bakhmut and across the entire eastern front.
The Times quoted Marina Miron, a postdoctoral researcher in war studies at King’s College London, who said Russia appears to be comfortable holding the territory it currently controls rather than seeking rapid gains.
“It’s not losing anything by not moving forward,” Miron said. “The whole strategy in Ukraine is for the Russians to let the Ukrainians run against those defenses, kill as many as possible, and destroy as much Western equipment as possible.”
The report said that the situation on the battlefield comes with “huge risks” for Ukraine since it could lose Western support without significant gains. “Russia is trying to wait out until the West turns its back,” Miron said.
Leading up to the Ukrainian counteroffensive, the Discord leaks and media reports revealed that the US did not believe Ukraine could regain much territory from Russia. But the Biden administration pushed for the assault anyway and rejected the idea of a ceasefire.
The Wall Street Journal reported in July that Western officials knew Ukrainian forces didn’t have enough training or equipment for their counteroffensive but hoped they would be able to break through anyway.
The lack of progress in the counteroffensive has not fazed the Biden administration, which is determined to support an open-ended conflict. Hawks in Congress are trying to sell the proxy war as a success since Russia is taking losses and no Americans are dying, demonstrating a lack of concern for Ukrainian lives.