Putin faces ‘most perilous moment’ as Russian forces pull back in Ukraine

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The war in Ukraine is likely entering a critical phase as Kyiv forces advance in the south and east of the country, forcing invading Russian troops to retreat.

In recent days, Ukrainian troops have broken through Russian lines in the southern region of Kherson, liberating several villages along the Dnieper. Kyiv forces now control settlements about 30 kilometers beyond previous front lines.

Reuters reported that Ukrainian forces were trying to cut off supply lines for 25,000 Russian troops deployed on the west bank of the river.

“higher” forces

The Russian Defense Ministry admitted on Monday that “superior tank divisions” near the town of Zolota Balka allowed Ukrainian forces to break through Russian defences.

Ukrainian forces are supported after recapturing territory lost at the start of the Russian invasion. Yaroslav, a Ukrainian soldier manning the front lines outside Kherson, told Agence France-Presse that morale was good.

“The boys’ mood, everything, has changed from what it was before – it’s gotten a lot better. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, inspired by the wins,” he said. declared.

Ukrainian forces are also consolidating their territorial gains to the east. Moscow forces withdrew from Lyman in Donetsk Oblast over the weekend after Ukrainian troops nearly surrounded the town. The streets were littered with burned Russian tanks and dead soldiers.

Ukraine’s military said on Thursday that its troops had advanced up to 55 kilometers into territory previously occupied by Russia, liberating 93 villages and taking control of more than 2,400 square kilometers. The request could not be verified by VOA.

Russian tanks and armored vehicles destroyed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pile up in the recently liberated town of Lyman in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on October 5, 2022.

“The underlying factors that led to the massive gains from Ukraine that you have seen over the last 24 to 48 hours, and even before that, have been a combination of very weak Russian capabilities in these areas,” said Karolina Hird, Russian researcher at the University of Washington. -based at the Institute for the Study of Warfare, said in an interview with VOA. “We have had reports that units in northern Kherson Oblast are completely understaffed, understaffed and stretched along a very, very long front line that Russian troops have not just not the men to fill.”

western weapons

The United States this week announced another $625 million in new security assistance for Kyiv, including four more precision-guided multiple rocket launchers known as HIMARS. Ukraine said these weapons played a key role in the recent counter-offensive.

Oleksandra Matviichuk, a human rights lawyer and president of the Kyiv-based Center for Civil Liberties, said the West must seize the moment and help Ukraine defeat Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Ukraine needs weapons, more, because the Russian people will tolerate war criminals, but they will not tolerate losing war criminals. This military defeat in Ukraine provides the first signs of bankruptcy Putin’s rating in Russia,” Matviichuk said.

Nuclear threat

Putin on Wednesday signed annexation documents for four regions of eastern Ukraine, an illegal move rejected by most of the international community. The war is entering a critical moment, said Charles Kupchan, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“It becomes in some ways decisive for Putin. His ability to survive depends on a certain level saying, ‘I managed to defend the Russian homeland and expand it. Where it goes, no one knows. But it’s safe to say this is probably the most perilous time for Mr Putin since he took power some 20 years ago,” Kupchan told Reuters.

Putin said he would use any means necessary to defend Russia, raising fears he could use tactical nuclear weapons. James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told VOA it was difficult to predict Russia’s next step.

“Things are very bad for Russia,” he said. “Now I don’t know how bad it has to be before Russia is considering using nuclear weapons in a very serious way. I’m not even sure Putin has in his mind how bad it should be for him to use nuclear weapons.

“The goal is to terrify Ukraine, its Western supporters – the United States in particular – that the threat of further escalation, the threat of even worse all-out nuclear war, might terrify them into backing down. “

Mobilization

For now, Russia is trying to turn things around with conventional forces. The Ministry of Defense said this week that more than 200,000 men had been drafted into the armed forces since the announcement of a partial mobilization two weeks ago. The Kremlin’s initial goal was to recruit 300,000 men into the army.

Hird of the Institute for the Study of Warfare said the mobilization will have no immediate impact on Russia’s territorial losses.

“These forces are unlikely to provide any additional defensive or offensive capabilities in the short term. And in the long term, these troops are unlikely to be well trained or necessarily highly motivated,” she said.

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