What Russian President Vladimir Putin once thought of as a quick victory has transformed into a months-long effort, as Ukrainian forces fend off heavy Russian artillery attacks in eastern and southern Ukraine.
While western nations have condemned Putin’s invasion of its smaller neighbor, accusing Russia of war crimes and imposing several rounds of sanctions, Ukrainians forces are engaged in intense fighting in the Luhansk and Donetsk territories as Russia aims to gain control of the Donbas region.
As Sunday marks five months since Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, here’s what to know about the war:
Kherson, Mariupol among Ukrainian territories under Russian control
After efforts to take Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv stalled, the Kremlin shifted its focus on the resource rich, industrial Donbas region, made up of the Luhansk and Donetsk territories.
Russian forces have made gains in southern and eastern Ukraine, including Luhansk, after Ukrainian troops retreated from the city of Sievierodonetsk. The capture of the city was among the last few hurdles for Russian control of the region.
The city of Mariupol also fell to Russian control as Ukraine evacuated the remaining Ukrainian soldiers after weeks of an impasse between Russians and Ukrainian troops defending the Azovstal steel mill in the besieged city. The Kremlin called the evacuation a mass surrender.
While Russia makes gains in occupying Ukrainian territories, the Kremlin faces a decision to either reinforce its hold of the Donbas region or defend counterattacks in the south Kherson territory of Ukraine, according to an assessment of the war by the British Defense Military. However, Russia seems to be moving to annex the Ukrainian regions they occupy, according to the Biden administration.
Zelenskyy dismisses top officials for working ‘against our state’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed two top officials, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and Security Service chief Ivan Bakanov, as well as over 60 employees from each agency after allegations that they were “working against our state,” according to Zelenskyy.
In a July 17 statement, Zelenskyy announced that 651 criminal proceedings had been filed related to treason and collaboration activities by members of the prosecutor’s offices and other law enforcement bodies.
Zelenskyy suspended an additional 28 officials, citing “unsatisfactory results of work.” He also announced that a “personnel audit” of Ukraine’s security service was being conducted during his July 18 video address.
US gives over $7 billion in aid to Ukraine
The United States has authorized over $7 billion in military, humanitarian and security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion in addition to aid the European Union and other NATO allies have sent.
Most recently, the US committed an additional $2.2 billion in security assistance while the Department of Defense authorized the 15th drawdown of equipment from its inventories to send to Ukraine since August 2021, which includes over 6,500 Javelin anti-armor systems, 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems and 126 Howitzers, according to the DoD.
Along with the latest aid package, the Pentagon is also sending four additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, bringing the total number of long-range missile launchers given to Ukraine to 16.
Western nations impose more sanctions against Russia
Western nations, including the US, have continued to impose stiff sanctions against Russia in retaliation for its efforts against Ukraine, including a wide range of measures targeting Russia’s ability to fund its war effort.
In the latest move by the US and its allies, leaders of G-7 committed to ban Russian gold. US allies also committed to banning Russian oil imports, following the US.
Leaders of the European Union followed through on their promise to ban Russian gold and jewelry – the country’s second most significant export after energy – in seventh round of sanctions against Russia. The EU previously imposed sanctions on Russian energy, banning coal imports and targeting its lucrative energy income. Coal imports amount to roughly $4.4 billion a year for Russia.
The US also targeted Putin’s ex-wife and two adult daughters, imposing sanctions that cut them off from the US financial system and froze any assets they may hold in the US.
Ukraine, Russia sign deal to export grain
Both Ukraine and Russia signed separate agreements with Turkey and the United Nations to allow the export of Ukrainian grain as well as Russian grain and fertilizer stuck in Black Sea ports since the beginning of the war.
Shipments of grain and other agricultural products have been halted since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as naval blockades have prevented Ukraine from exporting 22 million tons of grains, threatening food security around the world as Ukraine is among the largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil.
The deal establishes provisions for safe passages of ships and the creation of a control center in Istanbul that will be staffed by a collective group of U.N., Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials. Ships will also undergo inspections to ensure there are no weapons.