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The outcome of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine depends on the battle for Kherson – Atlantic Council

The geographic focus of Russia’s war against Ukraine looks set to shift from east to south in the coming days as the Ukrainian military ramps up efforts to liberation of Kherson. The campaign to regain control of this strategically important southern Ukrainian city is likely to be the most important operation since the battle for Kyiv and could be decisive in determining the final outcome of the Russian war against Ukraine. Atlantic Council.

Preparations for a major Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south of the country have been underway since May. After weeks of little advance in the surrounding area, in which Ukrainian forces liberated more than fifty towns and villages, it is now becoming increasingly likely that the battle for Kherson is about to begin.

A Ukrainian victory could have enormous psychological and practical implications for both sides. This would demonstrate to an international audience that the Ukrainian army is more than capable of forcing Russia to retreat from well-established defensive positions and convince Kyiv’s partners to continue providing military and financial support. In the meantime, a defeat in Kherson would be personally humiliating for Russian President Vladimir Putin and would provoke further demoralization in the ranks of his exhausted troops.

The fate of Kherson will determine the further direction of the war. As the only regional center temporarily captured by Putin’s forces, Kherson holds the key to Russian ambitions in southern Ukraine. It is important for Moscow to maintain control over Kherson in order to achieve its goal of advancing to Odessa and occupying the entire Black Sea coast of Ukraine. If Kyiv returns the city, the Russian Federation will be limited to left-bank Ukraine and face the prospect of further counteroffensives by Ukrainian defenders to push Putin’s army out of the country’s south.

Ukraine is unlikely to throw everything into a total assault on Kherson. The Ukrainian strategy is likely to focus on incremental localized advances and “surgical strikes” to isolate Russian forces by cutting off supplies and attacking logistics hubs.

Since early July, the Ukrainian military has deployed its growing arsenal of long-range artillery and HIMARS precision-guided rocket systems to destroy dozens of Russian command posts and ammunition supply bases in southern Ukraine. Ukrainian forces recently shelled bridges across the Dnieper River that serve as a lifeline for Putin’s troops in Kherson. Since then, Russia has launched a makeshift ferry crossing, indicating that the main bridge near Kherson can no longer support the movement of Russian troops.

Discussions are still ongoing about the readiness of the Ukrainian army for a major counteroffensive. Some international analysts argue that a long pause could provide additional training for recruits and the integration of new weapons systems. Many Ukrainians also believe that the army needs further significant deliveries of weapons, including tanks and aircraft, before it can realistically hope to launch successful offensive operations. However, there may simply not be time.

Millions of Ukrainians now live under Russian occupation, where they face the risk of war crimes on a daily basis, including kidnapping, the death penalty and forced deportation to Russia. Given the horrors that have taken place in the territories of northern Ukraine liberated from Russian occupation, no one has any illusions about the scale of the atrocities that are now taking place in the temporarily occupied south. Putin has made it clear that he is waging a war of annihilation to destroy Ukraine. Each additional day of occupation means more misfortune and suffering.

Preparations are also underway for holding pseudo-referendums in the temporarily occupied south of Ukraine. Russia is seeking to repeat the rigged pseudo-vote staged during its takeover of Crimea in the spring of 2014 to give the appearance of legitimacy for further annexation of the country’s southern regions. While a fake vote would hardly convince an international audience or change would military realities, it could significantly worsen the situation of local residents, while at the same time allowing Moscow to strengthen its administrative control over the temporarily occupied regions.

Meanwhile, the Russian military is actively strengthening defenses in anticipation of a future offensive by Ukrainian defenders. There are a growing number of reports about the redeployment of large Russian units from the current main theater of operations in eastern Ukraine to the southern front. While exact numbers are difficult to confirm, the scale of these redeployments suggests that Russia may be planning to launch its own offensive in the Kherson direction. The longer Ukraine delays, the more difficult the offensive will be militarily.

Ukraine desperately needs a new victory to revitalize the war effort. The country’s heroism during the first month of hostilities aroused delight and convinced Western leaders that Ukraine was worthy of serious support. However, after the Ukrainian victory at the Battle of Kyiv, months of slow but steady Russian advance in the east followed. As war weariness grows and international calls for a compromise peace intensify, it is vital to demonstrate that Russia can still be defeated on the battlefield.

Talk of an imminent Ukrainian victory is certainly optimistic, but a major military breakthrough of this nature looks quite realistic. Western officials believe that the Russian military has suffered huge losses in Ukraine and is now just a “wrapper” of the forces that invaded the country on February 24. More than 75,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured in Ukraine, according to a recent US intelligence assessment. Putin’s army has been forced to withdraw completely from northern Ukraine and Serpents’ Island, and Russian commanders have made a flimsy attempt to salvage their reputation by portraying these ignominious retreats as “goodwill gestures.”

At the same time, Putin shows no signs of weakening his military goals. On the contrary, Kremlin officials are now openly talking about their intentions to seize more territory in Ukraine and overthrow the Ukrainian government. In June, the Russian dictator compared his invasion of Ukraine to the imperial conquests of Peter the Great and said he was on a historic mission to “reclaim” Russian lands. The loss of Kherson would be a devastating blow to these imperial ambitions, as well as revealing the limitations behind Russia’s persistent claim to military superpower status.

The future battle near Kherson is an event of unprecedented international significance. The outcome of this battle will determine the fate of Ukraine and the course of the war. A Russian victory could pave the way for the capture of the Black Sea coast and the complete subjugation of Ukraine. If Kyiv wins, it could be the beginning of the end for Putin’s dreams of a new Russian empire.

Read also: Ukrainian defenders liberated seven more settlements in the Kherson region

Why did the aggressor fail the first stage of the invasion and fail to succeed in the second? What tasks should our army solve at the third stage in order to force the Russians out of Ukraine? What are the consequences of a truce to which Putin will persuade Ukraine? The answers to these questions and the forecast for the coming months can be found in the article by Major General Sergei Savchenko“Are you waiting for powerful fire training and a counteroffensive? This will not happen. Everything has already begun”.

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