The war in Ukraine is finally coming to an end.
Although Ukrainian forces did not succeed in the offensive in Kherson Oblast, they succeeded in a surprise attack in Kharkiv Oblast, and President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on September 13, 2022 that he had recaptured 8,000 square kilometers of territory. ing.
At the same time, however, President Zelensky has rejected a “ceasefire that would allow Russia to keep its seized territories intact.”
Will the Ukrainian military succeed in recapturing stolen territories?
Russia, on the other hand, is about to hold a referendum to make the annexation of the occupied territories into Russian territory a fait accompli.
Russia has lost Kharkov Oblast, but it has the trump card of nuclear use. If so, when and how likely is it?
Undefeated Russian Army
Against the Russian forces in the western bank of the Dnieper River in Kherson Province, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) first destroyed three bridges on the river and a hydroelectric power plant dam upstream. rice field.
This cut off the Russian rear supply line.
The Russian army immediately built several floating bridges to secure supply lines, but the existing bridges could not be used, and it seems that the amount of supplies and the reinforcement of troops from the east bank were restricted.
Against this approximately 22,000 Russian troops on the west bank of the Dnieper, approximately 35,000 Ukrainian troops launched an offensive on two fronts, north and south, on August 29.
As a result, the Russian army was divided into north and south, and an attempt was made to break through with the main force from the center of the gap.
The plan for the Ukrainian military is to have tank brigades consisting of several hundred T-72 tanks and armored vehicles provided by Poland and other countries as the main force, and commanders such as Hymers provided by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It is believed that the goal was to break through the center with ranged firepower and anti-aircraft missile cover and recapture the provincial capital of Kherson.
However, the Russian army’s powerful interdicting firepower and air attacks caused extensive damage, and all three frontal offensives were blocked by the Russian army.
In particular, the west bank of the Dnieper River in Kherson Oblast is flat and lacks forests that can be concealed. It looks like it did a lot of damage.
In order to recover from such a war situation, it seems that the main force of the reserve force, which had been detained in front of Kherson, of about 20,000 people, was detoured through strategic maneuvers at night.
The main force of the detouring force was sent to the southern front of Kharkov (Kharkiv), where the Russian army deployed troops with low training standards and was understaffed. The Russian army, which was ambushed by the offensive that started around September 7, was temporarily disorganized and retreated, leaving behind some of its heavy equipment.
The troops of the Ukrainian army, which rushed from the southern part of Kharkiv city, succeeded in breaking through more than 50 kilometers behind the Russian army-occupied area at once. succeeded in.
At that time, there was also a sham scheme in which the advanced and infiltrated units hoisted Ukrainian military flags in various places behind the Russian army to demoralize the Russian army.
On September 11, Izyum, a key transportation hub and gateway to the Donbass region, was also recaptured.
However, as of September 20, Russian forces have reorganized their positions on the east bank of the Oskol River, which flows through eastern Kharkiv Oblast, blocking the eastward advance of Ukrainian forces.
The Ukrainian army’s offensive to the south of Izyum has also weakened, and only part of the Luhansk region has been recaptured.
However, there is no information that many Russian soldiers surrendered or were taken prisoner.
The Russian army is retreating while maintaining its organizational strength as a unit. For Russia, Kharkov Oblast is not necessarily necessary for its original war purposes.
In his TV speech on September 21, 2018, President Vladimir Putin said, “Today I will speak to… our brothers and sisters, Lugansk People’s Republic, Donetsk People’s Republic, Zaporizhia, Kherson and other neo-Nazi regimes. They are the residents of each liberated area.” (NHK International News Navi, September 22, 2022).
In other words, it can be said that the purpose of Russia’s war is to segregate Crimea, which has a large number of Russian residents and which overlaps with the already occupied territories, with the exception of a part of Donetsk Oblast, and to annex Crimea into the Russian Republic.
From that point of view, the occupation of Kharkov Oblast is not an obligatory goal for Russia.
If that is the case, then it would be wiser to withdraw troops from Kharkiv Oblast and concentrate operations in order to secure the occupation of the currently occupied territories. .
In that sense, it would be premature to conclude that the Russian army was defeated.
As President Zelensky has warned, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kharkiv Oblast would be more likely to be seen as an organized retreat to redeploy and reorganize forces for the next offensive.
Evidence of an organized retreat can be seen in the fact that the abandoned corpses, prisoners of war, and abandoned equipment of Russian soldiers, with the exception of some heavy equipment, have not been reported.
Conversely, this means that although the Ukrainian army was almost successful in recapturing the Kharkov region, it failed to capture and destroy the main force of the Russian army that broke through.
By the way, when the Ukrainian army around Severdonetsk was surrounded and surrendered, the Russian side reported that about 15,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war were taken.
On the other hand, the offensive of the Russian army is intensifying in Bakhmut, which is a strategic point in the southwest.
Russian forces continue to advance westward, closing in on the Ukrainian supply lines of railroads and highways. On the same front, the Russian 3rd Corps is reportedly gathering and moving north from the beginning of September, and it is possible that a new offensive by the Russian army is being prepared.
Regarding the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant on the south bank of the Dnieper River, where the shelling temporarily became a problem, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) entered on September 1 and released an investigation report on the 6th, declaring the nuclear power plant area as “safe protection”. area” and stopped military operations on both sides.
Regarding the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, it is reported that about 700 special forces trained by British MI6 secretly crossed the Dnieper River at night on September 1 in rubber boats and infiltrated the area around the power plant.
However, as of September 20, Russian forces are still occupying the nuclear power plant.
In addition, the Russian military bombarded three inland areas on the opposite bank of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, purporting to suppress the troops bombarding the nuclear power plant. The Ukrainian military claims that it was a self-made act by the Russian military, and the two sides are at odds with each other.
From a common sense point of view, the Russian army bombarded the nuclear power plant until it was seized, but after it was taken, the Ukrainian army counterattacked and bombarded it to prevent its use. deaf.
The Russian artillery shelling of targets north of the Dnieper suggests this. Together with the results of the IAEA survey, this is an issue that requires careful judgment.
As will be described later, President Putin, in his September 21 speech regarding the partial mobilization order, referred to the Ukrainian military’s shelling of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and criticized it as “the danger of a nuclear catastrophe.” there is
Regarding nuclear power plants, it is believed that the Russian military attacked a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on September 19.
However, according to satellite imagery, this attack hit the Ukrainian army’s grease storage facility to the south of the nuclear power plant, so it seems unreasonable to assume that the Russian side intentionally added the nuclear power plant.
As will be discussed later, one of Russia’s major concerns is the possession of nuclear capabilities by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
This point is also evident in President Putin’s speech on the day of the war when he said, “They claim to have nuclear weapons.”
From this point of view, immediately after the start of the war, the Russian army deployed its main force in front of Kyiv (Kyiv), first occupied the Chernobyl nuclear power plant as a military reactor from which plutonium can be extracted at any time, and when it withdrew from the same front, spent fuel rods. , and the continuing occupation of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in the south, we can see that Russia has consistently attempted to deprive or weaken Ukraine’s nuclear potential.
In addition, in the anticipated nuclear arms race, the plutonium production capacity extracted from the spent fuel rods supplied by the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant will be of extremely important strategic value to both Russia and the United States, Britain, and France, which support Ukraine. have.
The Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is also of vital importance from the point of view of the energy war.
It was Europe’s largest nuclear power plant built during the Soviet era and supplied about half of all Ukraine’s electricity.
With winter approaching, the Ukrainian war is becoming more of an energy war, as the supply of natural gas from Nord Stream 1 and 2 and soaring oil prices are becoming a problem in Europe.
The occupation of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant has extremely important strategic value in terms of both nuclear capability scramble and energy warfare.
Recognizing its importance, there is a high possibility that the Ukrainian side will attempt to recapture it with the support of the United States, Britain, and France, and it will become one of the focal points of the battle in the south.