Putin's 100th day of death, destruction and shame

Putin’s 100th day of death, destruction and shame: Russia’s ‘plan has failed’ MoD says as Kremlin media is ‘ordered not to draw attention’ to gut-wrenching milestone

  • Today marks 100 days since Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine
  • What was meant to be a rapid assault to seize Kyiv and assume control has devolved into a protracted conflict
  • Ukrainian forces have put up a fierce defence and continue to battle the invaders in the Donbas region
  • But the biggest armed conflict in Europe since World War II has seen untold numbers of civilians killed 
  • Close to 7 million people have been displaced and Ukraine has suffered incredible economic losses 
  • The conflict has also exacerbated a global food crisis and triggered a sharp increase in energy prices
  • MailOnline takes a look back at 100 days of war and reviews the fallout from a conflict which was unthinkable for many in Europe just a few short months ago

It has now been one hundred days since Russian tanks rolled across the border and into neighbouring Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

A torrent of gut-wrenching images and clips have emerged since that fateful day: Civilian corpses in the streets of Bucha; a blown-up theatre in Mariupol; the chaos at a Kramatorsk train station in the wake of a Russian missile strike, to name a few.

But those images tell just a small part of the overall picture of Europe’s worst armed conflict since World War II. 

More than 100,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s borders in the days leading up to February 24, but many analysts and commentators dismissed the notion that Russia would launch a full scale invasion into its European neighbour.

Those who did predict such a conflict warned Putin’s troops, superior in numbers and equipment, would sweep to victory in a matter of days. 

More than three months later and Ukraine’s armed forces, driven by a duty to protect their homeland and reinforced by Western supplies and weaponry, have successfully repelled Russia’s soldiers from Kyiv and are still fighting their invaders fiercely throughout the Donbas.  

Russian state media, which from the beginning portrayed the conflict as a ‘special military operation’ designed to ‘demilitarise and de-nazify’ Ukraine, was asked by Putin’s administration ahead of the 100th day of war ‘not to propagate the theme of the operation’ and ‘not to draw attention to its duration’, multiple sources told Russian-Latvian news organisation Meduza.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) meanwhile surmised that Putin’s forces ‘failed to achieve their initial objectives to seize Kyiv and Ukrainian centres of government’ and declared ‘in order for Russia to achieve any form of success will require continued huge investment of manpower and equipment and is likely to take considerable further time.’

But the protracted armed conflict has wrought utter havoc, and Russia’s painstakingly slow but steady progress in seizing more land in eastern Ukraine means there is no end in sight. 

Now, MailOnline takes a look back at 100 days of war and reviews the fallout of a conflict unthinkable for many in Europe just a few short months ago.

Destroyed military equipment of the Russian army in the city of Bucha close to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv

The body of a serviceman is coated in snow next to a destroyed Russian military multiple rocket launcher vehicle on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 25, 2022

An explosion tears a hole in the side of an apartment building after a Russian tank fired a rocket in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 11, 2022

In this photo taken on April 02, 2022 bodies of civilians lie on Yablunska street in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, after Russian army pull back from the city

A view shows the building of a theatre destroyed in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict, as a word ‘children’ in Russian is written in large white letters on the pavement, in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 10, 2022

The remains of a large rocket with the words ‘for our children’ in Russian is pictured next to the main building of a train station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, that was hit by a rocket attack killing at least 35 people, on April 8, 2022

THE HUMAN COST 

Nobody knows how many combatants or civilians have died, and claims of casualties by government officials and armed forces staff – who are likely to be exaggerating or lowballing their figures in an attempt to favourably shape the narrative of the conflict – are all but impossible to verify.

Foreign government officials, U.N. agencies and independent organisations who carry out the grim task of counting the dead are unable to gain access to many places where people have been killed.

And the Kremlin has released scant information about casualties among its forces and allies, giving no account of civilian deaths in areas under its control. 

But even with all those caveats, ‘at least tens of thousands’ of Ukrainian civilians have died so far, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday in comments to Luxembourg’s parliament.

Mayor of Mariupol Vadym Boichenko recently estimated more than 21,000 civilians had died in his city alone after suffering months of constant bombardment, brutality at the hands of Russian occupiers and drastically reduced supplies of food and water.

Severodonetsk, a city in the eastern region of Luhansk that has become the focus of Russia’s offensive, has seen roughly 1,500 civilian casualties just in the past few weeks of fighting, according to the city administration chief Oleksandr Striuk.

Ukraine’s Armed Forces have not released a death toll for its servicemen and women, but Zelensky said this week that 60 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers are dying every day along the eastern front amid bitter close-quarter fighting in urban centres, with about 500 more wounded.

The Kremlin has only once released official figures for troop deaths, when a general told state media on March 25 that 1,351 soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded.

But the Land Forces of Ukraine, which have kept a running tally of Russian losses throughout the war, say more than 30,000 of Putin’s soldiers have been killed so far, while Western estimates given in late April put the number at more than 15,000. 

Zelensky declared recently that Moscow has lost ‘more troops in three months than the Soviet Union lost in 10 years of the war in Afghanistan’ – more than 15,000 Soviets were killed between 1979-1989. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity Wednesday to discuss intelligence matters, a Western official said Russia is ‘still taking casualties, but in smaller numbers.’ The official estimated that some 40,000 Russian troops have been wounded.

Mariana Vishegirskaya stands outside a maternity hospital that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 9, 2022

Bodies of civilians in plastic bags lay in a mass grave in Bucha city, which was the recaptured by the Ukrainian army, Kyiv (Kiev) area, Ukraine, 04 April 2022. More than 410 bodies of killed civilians were carried from the recaptured territory in Kyiv’s area for exgumation and expert examination

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the press in the town of Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, after seeing scores of corpses of Ukrainian civilians slaughtered by withdrawing Russian troops

A woman learns how to use an AK-47 assault rifle during a civilians self-defence course in the outskirts of Lviv, western Ukraine, on March 4, 2022

THE DEVASTATION

Russia has used a lethal mix of heavy artillery, air and missile strikes to conduct a relentless bombing campaign of dozens of Ukrainian towns and cities since the war began.

Several urban centres have been reduced to rubble as a result with critical infrastructure almost completely destroyed and residential areas heavily damaged.

Ukraine’s parliamentary commission on human rights says Russia’s military has destroyed almost 38,000 residential buildings, rendering about 220,000 people homeless – but the true figure is believed to be much higher.

Nearly 1,900 educational facilities including nurseries, schools and universities have been damaged, including 180 completely ruined.

Other infrastructure losses include 300 car and 50 rail bridges, 500 factories and about 500 damaged hospitals, according to Ukrainian officials.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has tallied 296 attacks on hospitals, ambulances and medical workers in Ukraine this year.

And in the worst hit cities like Mariupol, the destruction is almost total. Boichenko reported as early as April that 90 per cent of the city’s infrastructure had been destroyed, of which half was obliterated beyond repair. 

A woman reacts as she stands in front of a house burning after being shelled in the city of Irpin, outside Kyiv, on March 4, 2022

A man with his bicycle walks between debris outside the destroyed Retroville shopping mall in a residential district, after a Russian attack on the Ukranian capital Kyiv on March 21, 2022

A view of the city of Mariupol on June 2, 2022, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine

A NEW REFUGEE CRISIS 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that about 6.8 million people have been driven out of Ukraine as a result of the conflict.

But since fighting subsided in the highly populated capital and nearby regions after Russian forces were forced to withdraw and redeploy to the east and south, just under a third of those displaced were able to return to their homes, according to the U.N agency.

The U.N.’s International Organisation for Migration estimated that as of May 23 there were more than 7.1 million internally displaced people – that is, individuals who fled conflict zones but remain in the country with no telling of when they will be able to return to their homes. 

UNHCR reported that as of June 1, there are 2,928,252 Ukrainians who have registered for temporary protected status in different countries throughout Europe, more than 1 million of which registered in neighbouring Poland. 

But Poland alone has registered more than 3 million border crossings from Ukraine since February 24, suggesting there are hordes of refugees scattered throughout Europe with no legal safety net.

A child looks out a steamy bus window with drawings on it as civilians are evacuated from Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR estimates that about 6.8 million people have been driven out of Ukraine at some point since Russia’s invasion

People cross a destroyed bridge as they evacuate the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, during heavy shelling and bombing on March 5, 2022

People stay inside a subway station used as a bomb shelter, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine, 28 March 2022

LOSS OF UKRAINIAN LAND 

Ukrainian officials say that before the February invasion, Russia controlled some 7 per cent of Ukrainian territory including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and areas held by the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk. 

On Thursday, Zelensky admitted Russian forces now hold 20 per cent of the country.

While the front lines are constantly shifting, that amounts to an additional 22,000 square miles of land under Russian control, a total area slightly larger than the entire country of Croatia. 

Russia was forced to abandon its plan to take Kyiv after sustaining heavy losses during the first month of the war, but military leaders in late March declared their new aim was to redeploy all of Russia’s military might to eastern Ukraine and launch an all-out assault to seize the Donetsk and Luhansk regions which constitute the Donbas. 

Fighting in the east has since intensified and although progress has been painstakingly slow, Russian forces are believed to be making noticeable gains and have essentially seized control of the entire region of Luhansk. 

In its latest intelligence update posted today, the MoD said: ‘Russia is now achieving tactical success in the Donbas.

‘Russian forces have generated and maintained momentum and currently appear to hold the initiative over Ukrainian opposition. Russia controls over 90 per cent of Luhansk Oblast and is likely to complete control in the next week… by concentrating fore and fires on a single part of the overall campaign.’

Meanwhile, in the southern city of Kherson – the first city in Ukraine to fall to Russian forces – a pro-Russian local government has already been installed, announcing last month that salaries and pensions would be paid in roubles and that Russian state media was being broadcast in the region. 

A picture taken during a media tour organized by the Russian Army shows Russian servicemen standing guard near the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP) on the Dnieper River in Kakhovka, near Kherson, Ukraine, 20 May 2022

Russian look at a dolphin in a dolphinarium in Skadovsk, Kherson region, south Ukraine, Friday, May 20, 2022

Russian serviceman stands guard as a family walks on a promenade along the Dnipro River in Kherson

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

The West has levied a host of retaliatory sanctions against Moscow including on the crucial oil and gas sectors, and Europe is beginning to wean itself from its dependence on Russian energy.

Evgeny Gontmakher, academic director of European Dialogue, wrote in a paper this week that Russia currently faces over 5,000 targeted sanctions, more than any other country. 

Some $300billion of Russian gold and foreign exchange reserves in the West have been frozen, he added, and air traffic in the country dropped from 8.1 million to 5.2 million passengers between January and March.

Additionally, the Kyiv School of Economics has reported that more than 1,000 ‘self-sanctioning’ companies have curtailed their operations in Russia, including some of the world’s most recognisable brands in various industries.

The MOEX Russia stock index has plunged by about a quarter since just before the invasion and is down nearly 40 per cent from the start of the year. 

The Russian Central Bank said last week that annualised inflation came in at 17.8 per cent in April.

Ukraine, meanwhile, has reported suffering a staggering economic blow.  

Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelensky’s presidential office, said recently: ‘Our direct losses today exceed $600 billion’ – roughly 35 per cent of the nation’s GDP.

And the Kyiv School of Economics reported on May 25 that $105.5 billion worth of damage had been caused to Ukraine’s buildings and infrastructure, of which $39.9 billion pertained to housing stock alone. 

FOOD AND FUEL CRISIS 

Ukraine says it has been unable to export some 22 million tons of grain as a result of the war, much of which would be destined for poor and developing countries whose people rely on the imports to survive. 

Zelensky accused Russia this week of stealing at least half a million tons of grain during the invasion, and also said it was impossible to export the huge quantities of grain by sea due to Russian blockades, mine deployments and the seizure of key ports.

The fallout has rippled around the globe, further driving up costs for basic goods on top of inflation that was already in full swing in many places before the invasion.

Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies. Russia is also a major fertiliser exporter and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil. 

Wheat supplies have been disrupted in African nations, which imported 44 per cent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine in the years immediately before the invasion. 

The African Development Bank has reported a 45 per cent increase in continental prices for the grain, affecting everything from Mauritanian couscous to the fried donuts sold in Congo.

Corn lies scattered in a grain warehouse damaged by Russian tanks on May 14, 2022 in Cherkska Lozova, Ukraine. The war in Ukraine has greatly exacerbated food shortages, as the two nations involved are responsible for production huge amounts of grain, oils, and fertilisers used and consumed worldwide

Ukrainian farm worker Misha stands near a tractor destroyed by a Russian tank shell on May 14, 2022 in Cherkska Lozova, Ukraine. He said that Russian forces had destroyed a grain warehouse and farm equipment while occupying territory outside of Kharkiv

The United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres, has warned of a global food crisis which has been exacerbated as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

The head of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall, is to visit Russia on Friday for talks with Putin.

The visit is aimed at ‘freeing up stocks of cereals and fertilisers, the blockage of which particularly affects African countries’, along with easing the Ukraine conflict, Sall’s office said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is trying to broker what he calls a ‘package deal’ to resume both Ukrainian food exports and Russian food and fertiliser exports.

David Beasley, head of the UN World Food Program, warned last month that ‘failure to open the ports will be a declaration of war on global food security, resulting in famine and destabilisation of nations as well as mass migration by necessity’.

‘This is not just about Ukraine,’ he said. ‘This is about the poorest of the poor around the world who are on the brink of starvation as we speak.’

Meanwhile, the EU on Thursday gave its final approval to new sanctions on Russian oil which will see Europe cut 90 per cent of its oil imports from Putin by the end of 2022.

‘This will reduce Russia’s capacity to finance its war,’ the head of the EU’s executive Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said of the measures.

But there are serious concerns over how European nations will be able to make up for the supply deficit, and crude oil prices in London and New York have already risen by 20 to 25 per cent since the start of the war, resulting in higher costs at the pump and for an array of petroleum-based products.

Major oil-producing nations have agreed to accelerate their output over the next two months to cool the sharp rise in prices.

Members of OPEC, which include Saudi Arabia and Iran, agreed to increase production by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August following a meeting of its ministers this week.

But British energy experts said prices for petroleum products are still likely to rise throughout the summer.  

TIMELINE: 100 days of war in Ukraine

February 24: Russia invades – Russian President Vladimir Putin announces a ‘special military operation’ to ‘demilitarise’ and ‘de-nazify’ the former Soviet state and protect Russian speakers there.

A full-scale invasion starts with air and missile strikes on several cities. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pledges to stay in Kyiv to lead the resistance.

February 26: Massive sanctions – West adopts unprecedented sanctions against Russia and offers Ukraine military aid.

Air spaces are closed to Russian aircraft and Russia is kicked out of sporting and cultural events.

February 27: Nuclear threat – Putin puts Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert, in what is seen as a warning to the West not to intervene in Ukraine.

February 28: First talks – During the first peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow, Russia demands recognition of its sovereignty over Crimea, the ‘demilitarisation’ and ‘de-nazification’ of Ukraine and a guarantee Ukraine will never join NATO. Ukraine demands a complete Russian withdrawal.

March 3: Kherson falls – Russian troops attack Ukraine’s south coast to try to link up territory held by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine with the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula. Russian forces relentlessly shell the port of Mariupol.

March 4: Media crackdown – Russia passes a law punishing what it calls ‘fake news’ about its offensive – such as referring to its ‘special military operation’ as an invasion – with up to 15 years in prison.

March 16: Mariupol theatre razed – Russian air strikes raze a Mariupol theatre killing an estimated 300 people sheltering inside. Moscow blames the attack on Ukraine’s nationalist Azov battalion.

March 16: Zelensky lobbies Congress – Zelensky tells the US Congress to ‘remember Pearl Harbor’ and lobbies Western parliaments for more help.

April 2-3: Horror in Bucha – After a month of fighting, Russia withdraws from northern Ukraine, announcing it will focus its efforts on conquering the eastern Donbas region.

On April 2 and 3, Ukrainians find dozens of corpses of civilians scattered on the street or buried in shallow graves in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, which Russian forces had occupied.

Moscow dismisses accusations of Russian war crimes, saying the images of the bodies are fakes.

April 8: Train station carnage – A rocket attack on a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk kills at least 57 civilians being evacuated from Donbas.

April 12: Biden speaks of ‘genocide’ – Biden accuses Russia of ‘genocide’, saying Putin appears intent on ‘trying to wipe out the idea of even being able to be a Ukrainian’.

April 14: Flagship sinks – Ukrainian missiles hit and sink Russia’s missile cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea, a major setback for Moscow.

May 11: $40 billion in US aid – US lawmakers back a huge $40-billion package of military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

May 16: Kharkiv retreat – Ukraine says its troops have driven Russian forces back from the outskirts of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, to the Russian border.

May 18: Sweden, Finland apply to NATO – Finland and Sweden apply to join NATO, reversing decades of military non-alignment because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

May 23: First war crimes conviction – A Ukrainian court finds a 21-year-old Russian soldier guilty of war crimes and hands down a life sentence for shooting dead a 62-year-old civilian in northeastern Ukraine in the opening days of the war. He has appealed.

May 21: Battle for Mariupol ends – Russia declares it is in full control of Mariupol after Ukraine ordered troops holding out for weeks in the Azovstal steelworks to lay down their arms to save their lives.

Nearly 2,500 soldiers surrender and are taken prisoner by Russia.

May 30: EU bans most Russian oil – EU leaders overcome resistance from Hungary to agree a partial ban on most Russian oil imports as part of a sixth wave of sanctions.

The deal bans oil imports delivered by tanker but allows landlocked countries such as Hungary to continue receiving Russian oil by pipeline.

May 31: Russia seizes part of eastern city – Russian troops seize part of the key eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, its governor says. Taking the city would give Russia de-facto control over Luhansk, one of two regions that make up the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland. 

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