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How will the Ukraine war evolve?

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Ukraine counterattack

NewsUkraine counterattack

Driving the invader across the Dnieper and capturing Kherson would pose a very direct threat to the Russian position on the Crimean Peninsula

Finally, Kiev has decided to move from words to deeds and has initiated a series of attacks through several axes of progression in the Kherson oblast, thus breaking the stalemate (violent in any case) into which the war had entered. Beyond feeding the morale of the troops and the citizenry with a discourse which already dares to predict victory as the only final result, Volodymir Zelenski seems to feel in a position to move from a defensive attitude to a purely offensive one, although it is very difficult right now to determine what the objectives of the operation unleashed at the beginning of this very week are and absolutely impossible to know what the results of this Ukrainian counter-attack will be.

For the time being, the main effort seems to be focused on reconquering the Russian-occupied land west of the Dnieper River, including the region’s capital itself, which accounts for almost one third of its 28,000 sq. km. Some 25,000 Russian troops are deployed there who, although they have managed to consolidate their defensive positions, thus hindering a possible Ukrainian advance, know that all bridges (including temporary pontoons) over that river have been destroyed by Kiev; which means that not only can they hardly receive reinforcements and supplies to resist the assault, but that the avenues of retreat to avoid an annihilation or an embarrassing pocketing are practically clogged.

To get this far Kiev has had to generate a superiority of forces – at least three to one in its favor – without having to scrap other fronts on which Moscow continues to press – in August it has managed to add another 400 km2. And it has also managed, thanks to the supplies that dozens of countries continue to provide, to accumulate the artillery and air resources to protect the advance of its infantry, as well as to prevent Russia from achieving total control of the airspace.

But none of this assures success. On the one hand, it remains to be seen how much resistance the Russian troops will put up -depending on whether they decide to organize a defense at all costs, whether they opt for a desperate retreat before the attackers close the encirclement or whether they are willing to use some of the tricks they have not used so far (including nuclear weapons as a last resort)-. On the other, it is also unclear how far Kiev can go and for how long it can maintain the current pace of attack, when its best troops reach this point with a high degree of attrition.

In any case, the incentive to insist on what Kiev does not yet dare to call a full-fledged offensive is undeniable. Without the loss of that terrain being interpreted as a definitive victory, expelling the invader to the other bank of the Dnieper would not only be a serious blow to the morale and image of the Russian armed forces, but would also pose a very direct threat to its position in the Crimean peninsula.

And all this is happening while prominent figures annoying the Kremlin (now the president of the oil company Lukoil, critical of the invasion) continue to die in strange circumstances. Meanwhile, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are working to ensure the safety of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant despite Moscow’s obstacles to their work. And meanwhile, the European Union approves a training mission for the Ukrainian armed forces which, above all other considerations, suggests that the EU-27 assume that the war will be a long one.

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