For the more than five months the war has raged, Ukraine has been on the defensive. But in a new story today, Joshua Keating reports on a coming offensive that could change the course of the war. I talked to him about what this means.
CH: How would a move by Ukraine to recapture Kherson be a turning point in the war? And why now?
JK: So far, the war has been characterized mostly by Russia’s offense and Ukraine’s defense. Ukraine has been able to regain some limited pockets of territory in the south and around Kharkiv, but this would be the most dramatic instance yet of them going on the offensive. In terms of timing, the Ukrainians may feel that the level of Western support they’ve received won’t last forever, and they need to demonstrate the ability to take back territory from the Russians now.
CH: Why is the city of Kherson so important – to both Ukraine and Russia?
JK: Kherson is the capital of an important agricultural region, and it has power plants that could potentially be used to supply electricity to Crimea, which has been cut off from the Ukrainian grid since 2014. In terms of war aims, losing Kherson would cut off Russia’s ability to advance further along the Ukrainian coast and would go a long way toward helping Ukraine resume exports through the Black Sea.
CH: What are you keeping an eye on in the near future?
JK: It’ll be interesting to watch what happens in eastern Ukraine now that Russia appears to be withdrawing troops to reinforce Kherson. They may not have the resources to advance on both fronts. More broadly, the key to this war is still foreign support for Ukraine. Recent events in Italy, where the staunchly pro-Ukrainian prime minister just resigned, could be an ominous sign for the future of Western solidarity behind Ukraine, which has been pretty remarkable so far.
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