A Jeff Koons 'balloon dog' sculpture was knocked over and shattered in Miami

 Nearly a year since Russian forces rolled into Ukraine, there are no real signs of a way out of the conflict. Neither side appears primed for an outright military victory, and progress at the negotiating table seems just as unlikely.

Neither side has released figures lately, but analysts estimate that about 200,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in the war so far. By comparison, Ukraine has seen some 100,000 killed or wounded in action, and 30,000 civilian deaths.

Meanwhile, neither Russian leader Vladimir Putin nor Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shows any signs of backing down and abandoning one of the largest military conflicts since the end of World War II. For the civilians caught in the crossfire, that means the bloodshed and suffering brought on by the war has no discernible end.

Within days of its initial assault one year ago this Friday, Russia's apparent strategy of a swift capture of Kyiv and toppling of Zelenskyy's government came face to face with an inconvenient reality: Ukrainian resistance was much stronger than anticipated, thanks in part to years of Western training and arms. Moscow's forces were unequal to the task. A 40-mile-long stalled Russian convoy along a main highway leading into the capital became symbolic of the Kremlin's military failure.

Russia then shifted its offensive to the south, where its forces captured the city of Mariupol after a devastating siege in an effort to secure a corridor along the Black Sea coast linking the Crimean peninsula and the Donbas region, areas Moscow invaded and annexed in 2014.

By late summer and into the fall, however, Ukrainian forces had struck back in a dramatic counteroffensive, routing Russian forces from parts of the south and east and liberating the key city of Kherson.

Since then, neither side has been able to make substantive advances. Russia has kept up pressure by using missiles and drones to target Ukraine's cities and infrastructure. It has also engaged in a months-long campaign to capture the eastern city of Bakhmut, but that has made little difference on the tactical map. Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that an anticipated Russian spring offensive had already begun. Ukraine is also expected to mount a counteroffensive in the coming weeks.

A negotiated settlement is probably off the table

Analysts broadly agree that a diplomatic deal to end the conflict looks like a non-starter. Putin, already chagrined by his military's poor performance in what he's billed as a "special military operation," cannot afford to be seen as backing out of a fight that he started and by his own estimates should have been able to easily win.

For Zelenskyy, the stakes are at least as high. A survey of Ukrainians in September showed they are steadfast in rejecting territorial concessions to Russia. "Any sort of cease-fire without Russian military defeat basically means regrouping," says Mikhail Alexseev, a political science professor at San Diego State University whose research is currently focused on the war in Ukraine. That would result in "further attacks down the line," he says.


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