The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has raged for approximately 18 months, with significant repercussions on Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region. Neither side has achieved a conclusive victory on the battlefield, and it remains uncertain whether such an outcome would bring the conflict to an end. This is because this war is the result of many military and political crises from the historical process and continues today, and at the same time, it has evolved into a multidimensional conflict. This study analyses the current state of the war, firstly by examining the recent major military developments in Ukraine, and then by examining how the Russian-Ukrainian War has turned into a global crisis with the effects of other actors on the war.
The process that commenced with Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 has escalated into a declared war between Russia and Ukraine in 2022. It is known that for weeks before the war, Russia had been preparing for an invasion by massing troops and ammunition on the Ukrainian border. Before the outbreak of the war, the problems that a conflict in the east of Europe might cause, especially the energy crisis, were frequently on the agenda. Now, the map of Ukraine consists of the areas controlled by Ukraine, the areas controlled by Russia and the areas where the conflict continues. In order to understand the turning points of the war, it will be useful to consider the changes on the map. Although Russia did not achieve dominance over the whole Ukraine in a short time as Putin expected, it achieved a serious control especially in the east of Ukraine. Moreover, in September 2022, a referendum was held in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, which were under the control of Russian forces, and these regions were de facto annexed to Russia. While Western states and Ukraine found the situation against international law and did not recognise the decision, the Turkish Foreign Ministry made statements that the decisions taken quickly would only increase the tension in the region. Today, it appears that there is now a land link between the territories under Russian control and the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed in 2014.
In 2023, Bakhmut city was one of the most intensively fought places. After months of heavy fighting, the Russian army claimed to have taken control of the city in May 2023, while Ukraine insists that the war is not yet over. It should be emphasized that gaining control of the city was also challenging for the Russian army. It is known that since October 2022, the Russian private military company Wagner has been operating in this region. In the city of Bakhmut, which lasted for months and 100,000 people were thought to have died, it was observed that Wagner came to the fore as a very important power. Although Russia managed to capture the city of Bakhmut, it triggered one of the gravest crises since the onset of the conflict in the region. As a matter of fact, Wagner leader Prigozhin announced that they had completely taken control of the city and immediately afterwards experienced a tension with the Russian government. With this tension, the Ukrainian War actually led to a crisis in Russia’s domestic politics. Wagner leader Prigozhin accused the Russian army of incompetence and announced that he would withdraw his troops in the city of Bakhmut. Prigozhin, who later announced that his troops in Ukraine were bombed by the Russian army, started a march against Moscow with Wagner soldiers. Prigozhin declared that this march, which was perceived as a coup attempt by the whole world, was a protest and stopped the march. This development was interpreted as an agreement between Putin and the Wagner group. It is known that Lukashenko, a firm ally of Russia, hosted the Wagner leader in his own country and even mediated between him and Putin. In the end, an unofficial non-state element used in the war has turned into an internal threat issue of the state using it. This situation not only affected the course of the war, but also led to the questioning of the place of many private military companies, including Wagner, which has become more visible recently.