Putin shifting to desperate three-pronged attack strategy in Ukraine

Ukrainian forces destroy Russian fuel depot in Luhansk Oblast

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Russia is trying to “do three things at once” in the run-up to winter to reverse months of losses on the battlefield. General Sir Richard Barrons, former commander of the UK’s Joint Forces Command, claimed that as well as “maintaining the battle for territory”, particularly in the strategic city of Kherson in the south, Russia is also trying to “deplete the will of the Ukrainian people” and the West by targeting electricity infrastructure “just as it starts to get cold and dark”. The act of disrupting access to heating and electricity, Russia hopes, will undercut support for the war effort and weaponise migration by forcing neighbouring European countries to take on more fleeing Ukrainians. 

General Sir Richard said Russia will additionally employ “cyber attacks” and cuts to gas supplies to the West to further discourage support. 

General Sir Richard said: “I think we can see Russia trying to do three things at once now. It’s maintaining the battle for territory, and we have talked about the fight for Kherson in particular at the minute. 

“It is focusing more effort on depleting the will of the Ukrainian people to keep going, and that’s behind the rash of these successful drone attacks and missile strikes on the Ukrainian electricity infrastructure that is designed to keep, currently today, 4.5 million Ukrainians without electricity, just as it starts to get cold and dark. 

“That, I don’t think is going to work. The Ukrainian population remains, it seems to me, really resolute. 

“And the third thing the Russians are going to try to do is to try to deplete our western will to supply Ukraine with not just political support but money, weapons, ammunition and training. 

“Without that, Ukraine will not be able to overcome the Russian presence in its country. We are going to see that focused on a range of European countries. So, not just gas supplies but also cyber attacks.” 

Russia has suffered a number of setbacks since Ukraine began staging rapid counter-offensives in the summer, ceding thousands of square kilometres of territory, some of which was in regions Vladimir Putin had formally annexed in September. 

Their material losses outside of territory include the deaths of roughly 77,000 soldiers, 2,700 tanks and 5,600 armoured vehicles, according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. 

Scores of Russian military equipment damaged but not destroyed in the counter-assaults have also been repurposed by Ukraine for their own use. 

The Crimean Bridge explosion in the early hours of October 8 also severely disrupted Russian resupplying routes, leaving its remaining soldiers stranded without recourse. 

Putin’s retaliation to these setbacks has included false accusations against Ukraine that they were to use a dirty bomb laced with radioactive material against his forces, that the west was Satanic and needed purifying and the election of a new commander of the war effort. 

The last of these moves, the appointment of General Sergei Surovikin, colloquially known as General Armaggeddon, was carried out hours after the Crimean bridge explosion and led to the mass bombing of Ukrainian civilian areas hundreds of miles behind the front lines. 

The strikes, using long-range missiles and Iranian suicide drones, though the clerical regime of Iran refuses to admit its complicity, have left millions of Ukrainians without heating and plunged cities across the country into intermittent blackouts. 

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The next few weeks of war could prove seminal in the trajectory of Russia’s invasion as the winter conditions – the average temperature in southern and eastern Ukraine during the last season of the year is zero degrees – start to render battlefield advances near impossible. 

And Russia is pushing to discourage Western support of Ukraine in the full knowledge that the methods of the war are about to change for the foreseeable future. 

Reports suggest that Russia has already pulled out of the strategic port city of Kherson, which is the last major occupied territory in dispute ahead of winter, despite its significant value to their supply avenues, in signs they are already planning for non-battlefield combat. 

Though it cannot be verified and Ukrainian officials have warned the reports of retreat could be a trap, Russian officials have suggested they are withdrawing their forces to prepare for a long-range missile assault on the city during the winter. 

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