After Kherson, open the way to Zaporizhia and Crimea? Not yet “the beginning of the end of war,” but “the end of the beginning.”

After Kherson, open the way to Zaporizhia and Crimea? Not yet “the beginning of the end of war,” but “the end of the beginning.”

Updated: 12 days, 19 hours, 41 minutes, 48 seconds ago

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared, this is not yet “the beginning of the end” of the war. Russia’s withdrawal from the city of Kherson would have implications for the course of the war and both sides would want to take appropriate measures to capture the territory. Institute for War Studies [Institute for the Study of War] He now believes Russia is preparing to launch a new offensive in Donetsk, reinforced by soldiers withdrawn from the western part of Kherson. But what will the Ukrainian Armed Forces do?

Analysts interviewed by Expresso believe Zaporizhia remains on Ukrainians’ radar. The Institute for War Studies, on the other hand, argues that Ukraine could win the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine, with troops being released from Kherson to help the front line. The Ukrainians will face a difficult logistical task if they want to establish themselves on the east bank of the Dnieper River.

The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

Mark Ganzian, a former adviser to the US Department of Defense, remembers that the victory in Kherson boosted the morale and self-esteem of Ukrainian troops. “Ukrainians are getting stronger over time as more equipment is supplied and troops receive military training. Although conditions are difficult, the fighting will continue at a higher level as the ground is muddy and winter is approaching.

As Zelensky proclaimed, “this is unlikely to be the beginning of the end of the war,” says a US defense analyst. “The Russians now have more defensive lines and are getting troops from the partial mobilization process. So they can set up a strong defense, and the Ukrainian advances will be slower.

CNN’s military analyst, the former head of the US Air Force (he served for 26 years), and there is no doubt that the liberation of Kherson is “a major milestone in the war” and will also mark a new beginning. phase of conflict. “We may believe that President Zelensky is right, but we may be closer to ending the beginning of the war than the end of the war,” argues the strategic risk analyst.

But Ukraine has already liberated about 74,000 square kilometers since the start of the war, half of the territory the Russians captured since February 24. “The main liberated city is Kherson, although Ukrainians face the same threats as Kiev and Kharkiv,” points out Mark Ganzian. “If we include the territory captured by Russia since 2014, Ukraine has regained a third of the territory it initially lost to Moscow”, Cedric Leighton clarifies.

What is the way forward?

There are some important factors to consider as Ukraine moves forward. According to Cedric Leighton, Ukrainian forces “need to consolidate recent gains west of the Dnieper River before moving east”. The route to Crimea — a region of special identity for Ukrainians and Russians that has been under pro-Russian rule since 2014 — is still fraught with obstacles. “With the destruction of the wide Dnieper River and all the main bridges crossing it, it is very difficult to carry out immediate operations towards the Crimea,” the former soldier maintains.

Another aspect that the Ukrainian military has to consider is the weather. “If the winter is relatively mild, the Ukrainians will be able to move once they have established crossing points on the Dnieper. If it is a cold winter, it will be very difficult for the Ukrainians to advance. Cedric Leighton expects Russian forces to try to “dig in” defensive positions east of the river. “However, the quality of Russian troops is very low. However, after losing the city of Kherson, the Russians were not ready to fight. In that case, Ukraine may try to take advantage of this situation and launch a counterattack, but I think they will take a break before that.”

Before the Russians left, Ukrainian officials warned Moscow of the possibility of turning Kherson into a “city of death.” “The Guardian” newspaper, confirmed. In the village of An 11-year-old child was injured when a family drove over a land mine in Novoraisk. Russian soldiers turned the entire area into a massive mowed field. Red tape surrounds several areas, indicating that there is an explosive deposit every ten meters. Efforts to clear landmines can take months or even years. Ukrainian demining experts warn that even if the war ends tomorrow, it will take at least a decade to eradicate the threat.

If the newly liberated areas of Kherson – especially the city – are still vulnerable to Russian artillery fire and drone activity from the eastern side of the river, the Ukrainians will make more moves to the northeast and east as tactical opportunities arise. Ukraine’s long-term goal is to liberate all the territory it has lost to Russia since 2014, including Crimea and the eastern provinces of Donbass, Luhansk and Donetsk. “With the added factor of having a nuclear power plant in Russian-occupied territory, Zaporizhia presents difficulties similar to those in Kherson. Once they feel they are ready, I expect the Ukrainians to move towards the Crimean border. There, says Cedric Leighton, Ukrainian troops have no foresight for their ports on the Black Sea, particularly in Odessa. “They will want to recover all the lost territory in the south. If they do, the Russian position will become even weaker and the Ukrainians will come closer to preventing a Russian landing from Crimea.

The Ukrainians have enough troops to mount an offensive in one area, but Mark Ganzian doesn’t expect an advance on Crimea for now. Ukrainians must make choices and not waste their efforts. “The Russians have been attacking for months in the Donbass area south of Pakmut, but making little progress. I doubt the Ukrainians are concentrated there. My personal guess is that they will attack in the Zaporizhia area because the area has been poorly defended in the past. Neither side has enough troops to heavily equip the entire front line.

The Institute for War Studies rules out the possibility of a ceasefire or a slowdown in military operations. This time, the pause in the conflict will favor Vladimir Putin, as the Ukrainians have seized the opportunity and, at its peak, entered Kherson so far.

So does Cedric Leighton: “Russia will continue to try to make life as difficult as possible for Ukrainian citizens by targeting Ukrainian infrastructure, especially power plants, heating structures and water management facilities. The Russians may try to step up cyber attacks, although the Ukrainians have handled them very effectively so far.”

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