Here’s the summary:
Six months of war may have passed, but neither Ukraine nor Russia is able to stop fighting, despite the losses they need to sustain. Ukraine wants its occupied territories back, and Russia wants to keep inflicting pain not just on its opponent but, by proxy, the west also.
Russia’s new offensive strategy consists of massing artillery, destroying towns and cities, and grinding its way forward. It does this partly because it is effective, and partially to minimize casualties, having lost, by some western estimates, 15,000 dead thus far. It continues to adopt this strategy around Bakhmut within the Donbas, but progress is slow, partly because it’s had to redeploy some forces to reinforce Kherson.
The Kremlin may not have achieved everything it hoped for at the start of the war, but Russia now controls large swaths of Ukrainian territory in the east and south and is actively discussing annexation referendums. With cooler weather fast approaching, it’s likely to focus on consolidating what it has.
Winter is uppermost in strategic thinking for each side. Ukraine is already anxious about humanitarian issues because there’s no gas heating available for apartment blocks in Donetsk province and other frontline areas. One humanitarian official predicted a fresh wave of migration within the winter, with perhaps as many as 2 million people crossing the border into Poland.
Russians see winter as a chance. Ukraine fears Russia will target its energy grid, making its heating dilemma more acute, and will simply turn off the vast Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station. Moscow also wants to prolong the west’s pain over energy costs and has every incentive to rack up the pressure.
Key take ways
A US military official said that Russian forces have launched many missile strikes in Ukraine over the past week, most of them at civilian targets. The newest came Saturday, damaging an energy facility near Kyiv and prompting fears of blackouts.
•President Putin said he has no regrets about the missile barrage. He added there was no need for more massive strikes “at least for now.”
• Moscow announced evacuations from the occupied Kherson region, where a Russia-backed official said Saturday that the counteroffensive has intensified.
• International backlash: A UN envoy accused Putin’s military of using rape as a “military strategy” in Ukraine, and European lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to declare Russia a “terrorist” regime.
The next few weeks of the Ukrainian war are critical
The conflict is teetering toward a hit-or-miss new phase. The war in Ukraine, which for months seemed to be descending into a slow and painful grind, has erupted once more as winter nears.
“This is now the third, fourth, possibly fifth different war that we’ve been observing,” said Keir Giles, a senior consulting fellow at Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia Programme.
Ukraine said on Monday it had recaptured more villages in the northeastern part of the country, pushing back Russian forces. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian forces had retaken quite 6,000 square kilometres of territory.
“The movement of our troops continues,” he said.
A senior U.S. military official on Monday said Ukrainian forces are “making progress” within the south and the east, where Russian forces around Kharkiv have ceded ground to Ukraine.
However, this is often hardly a “rout” or the end of the war. Kharkiv is a secondary area. At present, the Russians remain firmly in control of their primary objective in the Donbas and along the southern coast “land bridge.” After all, they’re maintaining pressure on the southern half of the Donbas salient.
The next few weeks will be critical in assessing the sustainability and true importance of Ukrainian success.