Ukraine war latest: 'Four missiles shot down' over Russian territory; why Wagner may be forced to scale back in conflict

The brutal fight in Ukraine erupted more than a year after Vladimir Putin elaborated on his frequently held assertion that Russians are Ukrainians are “one people”.

In his rambling 2021 essay, entitled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, the president denied Ukraine’s independent history and said the nation could only be sovereign in partnership with Russia.

The public essay published on the Kremlin’s website reiterated Mr Putin’s disappointment with the fall of the Soviet empire and raised concerns about what he had planned.

But when Russia invaded its neighbour on 24 February – in a move that sent shockwaves across the world – Ukrainian troops were able to withstand and repel the supposedly mighty Russian military.

But how did the Russian leader miscalculate?

Denying Ukraine’s independence

In an article for the London School of Economics, Oleg Chupryna, a PhD candidate in the Centre for European and Eurasian Studies at Maynooth University, describes how Mr Putin made a “critical mistake as he believed that independent Ukraine was a historical whim, artificially created by the West to weaken and divide Russia”.

Mr Chupryna states that denying Ukraine’s national identity made him believe that Ukrainians would not mount a serious defence and possibly even welcome Russian troops.

Believing Ukraine’s army was weak

The Kremlin “arrogantly believed that the Ukrainian army was weak” and that the resistance the Russian army meet would last just days – or maybe even hours, Mr Chupryna writes.

But what happened instead was Ukrainian men queued for hours at the military recruiting centres to join the army and defend their country, thereby preventing Russian troops from orchestrating the quick capture they had intended.

Unprepared for battle

When Russian troops entered Ukraine via Belarus last year, they were not prepared for the fight ahead.

Mr Chupryna notes that in the first six months of the war, Russia lost at least half of its professional army and its strikes on civilian infrastructure “failed” to achieve the Kremlin’s objectives.

The unity of Western allies

Russia did not expect a united response from the West and this was yet another setback for its takeover plan.

Mr Chupryna explains that economic, political and diplomatic support from the West has been “unprecedented”, especially when it comes to the supply of weapons and munitions.

He adds: “Importantly, Ukrainians are highly motivated as they have no choice but to fight until victory. They clearly understand that the Bucha massacre could await the whole country if Ukraine loses the war.”

Mr Chupryna’s points suggest the Kremlin miscalculated their invasion of Ukraine in many ways.

But with no signs of a ceasefire or an agreed peace plan in place, there does not appear to be any sign the Russian army will withdraw from Ukraine in the near future.