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Who's winning the war in Ukraine?

Since the start of the war at least 9000 people have been killed, including 500 children, the United Nations believes.

CHASIV YAR, UKRAINE - JUNE 28: A damaged car is seen as intense clashes take place in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on June 28, 2023. As Russia-Ukraine war continues, clashes last on all fronts in all directions. Chasiv Yar, 15 kilometers to Bakhmut frontline, has been one of the places where the war has been the most intense. More than 90 percent of the buildings have been damaged and most of the houses are abandoned in the city. (Photo by Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Damage pictured in Chasiv Yar, one of the places where the war has been the most intense. 500 days in, the UN says 9,000 people have been killed in the fighting. (Getty Images)

What's happening? This Sunday will mark 500 days of conflict since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, 2022. Since then, at least 9,000 people have been killed, including 500 children, the United Nations believes.

The unwelcome anniversary follows significant developments in the conflict in recent weeks.

Last month, tensions inside Russia escalated as the Wagner mercenary group, lead by Yevgeny Prigozhin, staged a brief rebellion by leading troops towards Moscow. The uprising was abandoned some 24 hours later but the prospect of challenge in itself is likely to have weakened the authority of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant also threatened to spiral over the past week, with both Russia and Ukraine suggesting the other side was planning an attack on the plant and sparking concerns about a potential fallout from the largest nuclear power station in Europe.

That followed the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in Ukraine last month, unleashing a torrent of flooding. Kyiv described the bursting of the dam as an "environmental bomb of mass destruction" and laid the blame squarely at Russia's door. Moscow, in turn, blamed Ukraine.

And with Western powers continuing to pump weapons and money into Ukraine and Putin seemingly unrelenting in his pursuit of victory, Yahoo News looks at the major recent developments in the conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council, via video link in Moscow, Russia July 7, 2023. Sputnik/Alexander Kazakov/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's aims appear to have changed as the invasion continues. (Reuters)

Territory

To understand who is "winning" the territorial war in Ukraine, we need to understand the objectives of each side - for Kyiv the objective is to regain territory taken by Russia (including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014), whereas Russian president Vladimir Putin said at the beginning of the war that his aim was to "demilitarise and denazify" Ukraine.

More practically, the Russian goalposts have moved as the conflict has continued, with its geographic aims expanding from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics to include Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, among others.

"From the Russian perspective, I think they're a little bit closer to achieving their objectives because of the territory currently under their control," Marina Miron, a researcher at the Department of War Studies at King's College London, told Insider.

"Even if they hold onto it and don't go any further, it will be very difficult for Ukraine to retake that land.

"Territory-wise, I don't think Zelenskyy has budged on his objective of liberating all of the occupied territories, and I don't actually think that that's ever going to be possible."

AYLESBURY, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Britain's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak talks with Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, ahead of a bilateral meeting at Chequers on May 15, 2023 in Aylesbury, England. In recent days, Mr Zelensky has travelled to meet Western leaders seeking support for Ukraine in the war against Russia. Carl Court/Pool via REUTERS
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak talks with Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has garnered widespread support from the international community. (Reuters)

Hearts and minds

Globally, Ukraine has garnered widespread support from the international community, with 41 countries providing military, financial and humanitarian support to Ukraine, according to the Kiel Institute. Additionally, in March 2022 when the United Nations held an emergency session, 141 countries voted in favour of the resolution demanding that Russia withdraw its military forces from Ukraine, 35 abstained and five voted against.

Internally, Ukrainians widely back the government, with a March 2023 survey by the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Center for Insights in Survey Research (CISR) showing president Volodymyr Zelenskyy polling with a hugely popular 91% approval rating.

And while Putin has previously enjoyed internal support from Russians (with a May 2023 Statista poll showing him with an 80% approval rating), the recent attempted rebellion from Wagner mercenaries has hit his reputation hard and also nods towards a growing discontent from inside Russia with the ongoing conflict.

Russia Moscow, negative stock market data on a trading screen. Red percentage sign and ticker information. Stock exchange and business concept. 3D illustration
Both Russia and Ukraine's economies suffered in 2022. (Getty)

Finances

The Ukrainian backing has extended to its coffers. The US alone has given $75 billion in aide to Ukraine spread across military, humanitarian and financial support, while the UK's aid package totals around £1.5 billion.

And as Ukraine receives financial aid, a number of countries have slapped Russia with sanctions, with the EU putting restrictions on trade that are intended to strangle Russia's economy.

However, several countries have upped their interactions with Russia - including Iran, Syria and China - while Putin recently said: "Russia counters all these external sanctions, pressures and provocations and continues to develop as never before".

“We don’t know how much money Moscow has left, but it is reasonable to believe there is not much,” Oleg Itskhoki, a sanctions expert at the University of California, told The Guardian.

Both Ukraine and Russia's GDP fell in 2022, although Ukraine saw a larger drop, and both countries are experiencing ongoing high inflation although this will likely slowly fall.

Negotiations

BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA - JULY 7: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky answers journalist's questions during the joint press conference during his official visit in Slovakia on July 7, 2023 in Bratislava, Slovakia. The Ukrainian president's visit follows a meeting with Bulgarian leaders yesterday. (Photo by Zuzana Gogova/Getty Images)
Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been drumming up support for Ukraine's Nato membership bid ahead of the alliance's summit next week. (Getty)

Experts believe success in Russo-Ukrainian negotiations will very much depend on the territorial victories achieved by either side - and thus how much power they will bring to the table.

With concerns the war could yet continue for several years, the University of Birmingham's Russia expert Jaroslava Barbieri warned that unless Kyiv's counteroffensive was widely successful "there's a high danger that there will be more calls from Western governments to pressurise Ukraine to sit at the table of negotiations, based on the acknowledgment that this war cannot be won through military means".

The Kremlin, meanwhile has said it is open to negotiations but maintains that it will only join such discussions if Ukraine gives up Russia-occupied territories - while Ukraine will only talk if Russia abandons its offensive. Ukraine has also made it clear it does not see Putin as the person to lead any such negotiations.

“We knew long before the ICC arrest warrant that talking to Putin made no sense," Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba told Politico. "Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council adopted a legal resolution on September 30 of last year declaring that any negotiations with Vladimir Putin were impossible in response to Russia’s attempted annexation of additional Ukrainian territories."