In the past month, the Ukrainian Army has launched new offensive pushes and successfully reclaimed vast portions of territory that Russian forces had previously captured, notably the town of Izyum. Russian troops were forced to flee, abandoning military equipment and supplies in their wake, allowing Ukrainian soldiers to use their old equipment. In response to this defeat, Russian President Vladimir Putin has called up 300,000 reservists to the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s offensive began in late August and early September. Notably, Ukrainian forces have taken back large parts of the Kharkiv region, which was held by Russian troops for months. With support from Western countries, including weapons and strategy planning, Ukrainian forces were able to break the stalemate and overcome the Russian defenses.
Although the offensive was largely successful, military advisors caution that this does not necessarily pave the way for a clear victory for Ukraine. The progress the offensive made shows that Ukraine is capable of breaking the stalemate. It also proves from able to boost their morale and their standing with Western allies. However, it has also alarmed Putin, who has made suggestions of escalation, including the possibility of using nuclear weapons.
The last time Russia had to call up reservists was during World War II. Putin’s move to call up more troops means that around 300,000 people could be recruited to join the invasion of Ukraine. This move has impacted the confidence Russians have in the military’s operation in Ukraine and has led to protests, despite laws against criticizing the government and the military. According to the New York Times, at least 745 people were arrested at protests, with more detained at earlier protests. The move to call up reservists has even seen some limited criticism on state media, previously unheard of in Russia during this military campaign. The new policy has also led to a rush of people fleeing the country, with borders near Georgia and Finland being clogged according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, Russia has been holding “referendums” in captured areas of Ukraine. These referendums would allow Ukrainians to vote on if they would like to officially become a part of Russia, cementing Putin’s claim that Ukraine is meant to be a part of Russia. Many believe this referendum is a sham, with soldiers reportedly forcing individuals to vote. A similar referendum was held in Crimea, where reportedly 97% voted to join Russia and leave Ukraine, a statement that many see as a lie. A similar outcome is expected from these current referendums. However, the recent offensives have prevented some of these referendums from occurring as some Ukrainian towns and villages have been freed.
The war in Ukraine was a major focal point this past week during the United Nations General Assembly. Many world leaders spoke in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and condemned Russia’s actions. President Joe Biden spoke directly to Putin’s threats of nuclear escalation. “Let us speak plainly: A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase the sovereign state from the map,” Biden said as he addressed leaders, according to CNN.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also addressed world leaders via a recorded video, again condemning Russia’s actions and calling on other nations to take a stand against Russia’s invasion. He declared that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a crime that they must be punished for, according to the New York Times. “Russia wants to spend the winter on the occupied territory of Ukraine and prepare for a new offensive: new Buchas, new Iziums. Or at least it wants to prepare fortifications on occupied land and carry out military mobilization at home,” Zelensky stated. Additionally, Zelensky called for more aggressive action from the UN, particularly the UN Security Council. Zelensky also advocated for greater economic punishments against Russia, specifically in the oil and energy sectors.
As the world watches how effective the Ukrainian offensives are, the impact of Western support for Ukraine is still crucial. From military equipment to intelligence to sanctions against Russia, the war in Ukraine is far from over, but a critical turning point has been reached.