It has now been a full 100 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
When the assault began on 24 February, most experts and observers predicted a swift and decisive Russian victory with Kyiv falling in a week, given the military asymmetry between Russia and Ukraine, along with the former's nuclear capability.
How things stand 100 days hence, on Friday, 3 June, is far from that. The Ukrainian military has pushed back Russian troops from Kyiv and other areas in the central part of the country, and consequently, the fighting has entirely shifted to the eastern side.
Territory: The East-West Differential
As of now, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Russia is controlling about 20 percent of his country's territory.
Ukrainian forces have successfully fought back against Russian advances in central and northeastern Ukraine, like near Kyiv and Kharkiv respectively, and also in large parts of the South.
The Donbas region, however, which is in the eastern part of the country, is under intense bombardment from Russian troops.
One of the eastern targets is Severodonetsk, which is a mining and industrial town in the Luhansk Oblast of Ukraine.
There are two main reasons why Russia is going after this town. The first is that controlling Severodonetsk is important in order to win control over Donbas, especially the Luhansk region.
The governor of Luhansk had stated last week that Russians forces were in control of more than 90 percent of the oblast already. Severodonetsk is the last major city held by Ukraine in Luhansk.
The second reason is the Kremlin's pride. After all, the Russian military failed spectacularly in its attempts to control the suburbs of Kyiv.
Russian President Vladimir Putin desperately needs "a win," said Matthew Schmidt, an associate professor of national security and political science at the University of New Haven, as reported by The Washington Post.
Due to the intensity of Russian attacks, Ukrainian forces are reportedly withdrawing further to the west.
Mariupol has fallen to Russia.
Ukrainian Refugees & Western Aid
This trend, however, has recently shown some signs of reversing, with many refugees in Poland making a return to their homeland.
According to The Economist, for instance, during the second and the third week of May, the number of Ukrainians who returned home from Poland was just less than 3,50,000, which exceeded the number of Ukrainians fleeing to Poland (just over 2,50,000).
Neighbouring countries that have been taking in Ukrainian refugees in the past three months are observing similar trends, say reports.
The US, earlier this week, unveiled the 11th package of military aid worth $700 million to Ukraine since the invasion began. This included four units of the M142 Himars, which is a modern, high tech multiple launch rocket system.
Two weeks ago, president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen proposed further financial aid to Ukraine (up to $9.5 billion) in order to rejuvenate its war-torn economy.
The UK, too, has been providing strong support to Ukraine, dropping all tariffs on trade and at the same time, continuing to ban exports to and imports from Russia.
Sanctions & Counter-Sanctions Continue
Recently, a ban on sales of US services to Russia, like accountancy and management consultancy, was initiated by the White House. Oil imports from Russia continue to be banned.
There is reportedly some division within Washington on whether another round of sanctions should be imposed on Moscow or not, with some fearing that it could have drastic implications for the American and the global economy.
EU leaders, on the other hand, in a major agreement, agreed to ban most Russian oil imports after late night talks on 30 May.
The ban "will effectively cut around 90 percent of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year," von der Leyen announced.
It will also include seaborne oil purchases, of both oil and petroleum products, but temporarily exempts the Russian oil delivered by pipeline, so that countries like Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic can buy more time to phase off their crude oil supplies from Russia.
Punitive measures against Russia have been imposed not just by countries and blocs, but also by multi-national companies.
On the other hand, the Kremlin has been taking punitive measures of its own against the West.
Russia had announced earlier this week that it will cut off gas supplies to the Netherlands from 31 May.
The Netherlands joined Finland, Poland, and Bulgaria on the list of countries that have been targeted by Russia with the weaponisation of gas.
Additionally, the Russian state-owned company, Gazprom, has halted gas supplies to Danish company Orsted and British company Shell, which send some gas to Denmark and Germany respectively, after both companies refused to pay the former in roubles.
Both countries, however, have alternate sources (like German, Italian, and French companies) for buying Russian gas, for now.
It is a big deal for two reasons. Firstly, both countries have been non-aligned, that is, neutral, for a long period of time. Joining a military alliance turns that neutrality on its head.
Secondly, Sweden and Finland have decided to go ahead with NATO membership despite repeated Russian warnings against the same.
The biggest barrier, however, to their swift entry into NATO has come from a member of the alliance itself. Turkey accuses both countries of harbouring people linked the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and other such "terrorist groups".
A lot of Kurdish people have fled to Sweden over the past decades, and Stockholm has allegedly refused to extradite those who are "terrorists" to Ankara.
On top of that, the Erdogan government is also upset at the two Nordic countries for imposing an unofficial embargo on military sales to Turkey.
Most recently, Turkey has said that Sweden and Finland should change their laws if they want the former's support for NATO membership. Some of its demands, Ankara has acknowledged, will require amendments to both countries' laws.
According to the rules, all 30 NATO members must vote unanimously in favour of Sweden and Finland's accession into the alliance.
As for Ukraine and its potential accession into NATO, that possibility was thrown out of the window by 9 March when President Zelenskyy withdrew his demand for membership in the organisation.
"I have cooled down regarding this question a long time ago after we understood that... NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine," Zelenskyy had said in an interview to ABC News, stating that the "alliance is afraid of controversial things, and confrontation with Russia."
Swift Peace or Prolonged War?
With respect to when the war ends, that depends on how the main actors respond to each other in the near future.
Russia is clearly is in no rush for a ceasefire, and given that it was pushed back from Kyiv and central Ukraine, it is desperate to win over Donbas.
Ukraine, on the other hand, is emboldened after regaining some territories from Russia. Now that it believes that it can win the war, Kyiv is less willing than before to accept a Carthaginian peace.
"The paradox of the situation is that both sides still believe they can win," said Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst based in the Ukrainian capital. "Only if we really reach a stalemate, and Moscow and Kyiv recognise it as such, can any talk of compromise be possible," he added, as reported by The Economist.
The other factor is how the West keeps responding to the crisis. Some countries, like Germany and France, want negotiations to begin so that the fighting can stop as soon as possible. For them, stability across Europe in different aspects like oil supply is the need of the hour.
Other countries like Poland and the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – want the war to end with a weakened Russia. They certainly don’t want a stronger and emboldened Russia threatening Eastern Europe after tasting blood in Ukraine.
The US does not seem to have clear war aims as of now. But, as President Biden wrote in his recent op-ed for The New York Times, his government "will continue providing Ukraine with advanced weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, powerful artillery and precision rocket systems, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, Mi-17 helicopters and ammunition."
"My principle throughout this crisis has been, 'Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine'," his essay added.
Considering all these factors, peace does not seem to be an outcome that will emerge anytime soon.
(With inputs from The Guardian, Reuters, BBC, FT, The Economist, The Washington Post, and the New York Times.)