After Cherson… Ukraine is preparing for more fierce fighting with the Russians
In the Ukrainian village of Kivcharyka, phrases like “Russia will stay here forever” can still be seen on the streets, which are now controlled by Ukrainian soldiers after fierce fighting two months ago paved the way for the full liberation of the Kherson region have leveled.
Not far from the village on the eastern bank of the Oskil River, Ukrainian forces, trying to expand the Ukrainian counterattack that was encroaching on neighboring territory, encountered a wall of Russian resistance.
But after a series of autumn victories for Kyiv, the war in Ukraine is heading for another turning point, according to the newspaper Washington Post.
The Ukrainian force faces obstacles that threaten to slow progress as each side prepares to continue fighting into next year, and neither side comes anywhere close to what they see as victory.
Russia has been able to withdraw its best combat units from Kherson, which means it can probably handle even heavier fighting on the front lines.
Russia has also strengthened its defensive positions, forcing Ukrainians to attempt to breach several defense lines.
Weather conditions and muddy terrain make maneuvering particularly difficult, and the Ukrainians, like the Russians, struggle with stockpiles of ammunition and fatigue hampering the soldiers’ performance.
The Washington Post quoted Ukrainian military officials as saying that “the hard fighting will take place outside of Svatov,” a town on the outskirts of Kherson.
A Ukrainian soldier told the newspaper his unit recently tried to enter a village but was ambushed.
The soldier added that groups of Russian special forces are mingling with the newly mobilized forces.
Not only do these elite soldiers have better experience, but they are also assisted by reconnaissance drones that target Ukrainian forces attempting to advance.
The newspaper says Moscow has managed to strengthen its defenses to some extent while launching a relentless bombing campaign on vital Ukrainian infrastructure.
This situation has prompted suggestions, notably from the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, that it might be time for Ukraine to negotiate a political settlement to the conflict with Russia – which would almost certainly require handing it over a territory.
At a news conference, Milley said that the front lines from Kharkiv to Kherson were “starting to stabilize,” noting that it was unrealistic in the long term to think Ukraine could regain the remaining 20 percent of its territory from Moscow controls, “it unless the Russian army completely collapses, which is unlikely.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin pledged to continue to help Ukraine protect its people and achieve its battlefield goals, which Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny defined as restoring all Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory, including the semi-autonomous region of Crimea, which was illegally annexed in 2014.
Austin said he does not want to assume what is possible for Ukrainian power, noting that it is up to Kyiv to decide when is the right time to start negotiations.
Officials in Ukraine and elsewhere have warned peace talks would give Moscow some breathing room at this point.
Yuriy Ignat, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force, said Ukraine does not trust Russia to honor an agreement to start negotiations and would use any lull in hostilities to rebuild its stockpiles of ammunition and missiles, its newly mobilized Train and replenish forces and replace damaged equipment.
Russia “needs a truce by spring, and then it will hit with everything it has,” Ignat said.
He added that the Russians will “make new missiles, attack us with renewed force and destroy us completely. This is Russia’s foreign policy and peace plan.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has accused Ukraine of refusing to negotiate in recent days. He said the city of Kherson was still Russian territory and insisted the annexation would take place despite the withdrawal of Russian forces.
“The Ukrainian side does not want negotiations,” Peskov told reporters.
“The military special operation continues and its goals must be achieved,” he said. He also insisted that Russia’s bombing of Ukraine’s infrastructure was for military purposes.
Military analysts said that Ukraine will continue offensive operations in the near future, but on a smaller scale.
And another sweeping Ukrainian counterattack – like trying to push south from Zabrigia to cut Russian supply lines – could be difficult to implement after recent gains and the current weather.
Mason Clark, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, said Kyiv may not be able to launch another large-scale offensive before January or February, but it will likely launch smaller operations to retake territory by the end of the year start.
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Friday Russian forces are digging new trenches along the Crimean border and near the Seversky Donets River in eastern Ukraine, 60km behind the current front line, indicating they are on prepare further Ukrainian advances.
Russia had 90,000 troops on the front lines when the conscription campaign began and has since increased to 100,000, according to an official from a European NATO country who spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity.
The official said up to 200,000 additional Russian soldiers are being trained and will arrive in the coming months, and they are likely to be in at least slightly better shape than the ill-equipped and ill-prepared men who have arrived in Ukraine so far.
Meanwhile, the United States and its European allies are scrambling to provide Ukraine with sufficient arms and ammunition, which has helped Ukraine achieve battlefield successes in recent months.
Despite calls for negotiations, Kyiv and Moscow are taking steps to prepare for a continuation of the war.
“We’ve come to a point where both sides are tired and weary, but not ready to stop fighting,” said Dara Massicot, a Russian military analyst at Rand Corporation.
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