Russia continues to shift already-battered forces toward Eastern Ukraine and has made new moves around Kherson, but there’s still no clear picture of what Russia’s actual next plans might be. There are hints that Russian leaders are focused on capturing a broad section of the country centered around Kramatorsk, which would allow Russian troops to fully encircle deeply dug-in Ukrainian defenders who have long held back separatist aims in the Donbas—but outside observers are skeptical that Russia could pull off such an ambitious operation. Each of the logistical problems that plagued Russia in its Kyiv assaults—from lack of coordination to lack of communication to long supply lines that were relentlessly (and very successfully) hounded by Ukrainian territorial defenders—would only be doubled; the battalions Russia is sending have already seen hard fighting and heavy losses.
Russian leaders, however, might be so desperate for something that can be portrayed as victory that they are willing to throw as many troops as is necessary at Ukrainian defenses. We’ve circled from pre-war predictions—most positing that Russia would tear through Ukraine’s defenses like steel through paper—to experts struggling to come up with a scenario in which Russia cobbles together any military victory at all.
That does not mean it is not possible. It also doesn’t mean Russia will not continue to inflict horrific violence on Ukrainian civilians—the only Russian military skill that appears to have survived Putin’s purge of competence. Today’s updates:
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