Ukraine war: Victory this year or ‘Ukrainians will become increasingly ground down,’ MP warns
Ukraine must make significant progress this year or the conflict will turn into a long drawn-out war of attrition, an MP has warned.
Now passed the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky has called for further arms from the West - namely fighter jets - in order to push back Vladimir Putin’s forces.
With the conflict now moving towards the spring and summer, it is thought Ukraine will launch an offensive to counter Russia’s attacks in the east which have focused on the town of Bakhmut.
Ahead of a new phase of the conflict, Bob Seely, Tory MP for the Isle of Wight and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine, said that if a victory isn’t secured this year, it will become a “stalemate” between the two sides - something which will favour Russia.
“The problem is, if the Ukrainians don’t win this year, I think it increases the likelihood that you’ll simply have a stalemate where Ukrainians will become increasingly ground down by Moscow because Moscow is ploughing conscripts into the war,” he told the Standard.
“I think a war of attrition may suit Putin more because it doesn’t matter if he has 200,000 casualties, if he can cause the Ukrainians 100,000.”
Western allies announced the dispatch of tanks to Ukraine earlier this year. The UK is dispatching 14 Challenger 2 tanks while Germany will also send 14 Leopard 2s.
The UK has pledged further military aid, already committed £2.3billion in assistance and is training Ukrainian troops.
According to Politico, the EU is to devote €1billion (£887million) to the production of artillery shells for Ukraine, namely 155mm rounds.
If the Ukrainian army can use this equipment, intelligence gathering and other modern elements of warfare, Mr Seely said “they should be able to break through Russian” lines this summer.
Russia attacks have increased over the last few weeks due in part to a large mobilisation which reportedly provided up to 300,000 troops in addition to the some 300,000 which were called up in October.
Due to increased attacks, Bakhmut has allegedly been surrounded.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Putin’s ‘private army’ the Wagner Group, appeared in combat uniform in a video filmed on a rooftop, to urge Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to order a retreat from Bakhmut to save his soldiers’ lives.
He said the city, which has been blasted to ruins, was almost completely surrounded, with only one route out left open for Ukraine’s troops.
“Units of the private military company Wagner have practically surrounded Bakhmut. Only one route [out] is left,” he said. “The pincers are closing.”
Victory in Bakhmut, a Donetsk province city with a pre-war population of about 70,000, would give Russia the first major prize of a costly winter offensive after it called up hundreds of thousands of reservists last year.
Russia, which lost territory in Ukraine in the second half of 2022, says taking Bakhmut would be a step towards seizing the rest of the surrounding industrial region known as the Donbas. Ukraine says the city has limited strategic value but wants to exhaust Russian forces.
Western officials believe that Ukraine’s army will eventually have to retreat from Bakhmut.