NewsRussia shifts gears: Targets strategic Ukrainian cities as part of new war strategy until 2026

Russia shifts gears: Targets strategic Ukrainian cities as part of new war strategy until 2026

The Russians won't conquer all of Ukraine, but they already have a plan and subsequent goals.
The Russians won't conquer all of Ukraine, but they already have a plan and subsequent goals.
Images source: © Getty Images

8:31 AM EST, December 16, 2023

Russia acknowledges that its army is not currently powerful enough to conquer the whole of Ukraine. According to reports from "Bild", it has revised plans and goals it wants to achieve in Ukraine by the end of 2026. The newspaper's information comes from Western intelligence agencies and ongoing NATO analyses.

The leaders of Putin's army have conceded that a full occupation of Ukraine is not attainable. However, they plan, within the next two years, to advance their troops to the Dnieper line. This area would then serve as the natural border and frontline. There are plans to seize Kharkiv, Dnipro, and Zaporizhia, three pivotal cities in Ukraine.

This move will enable Russia to fortify its presence in the eastern part of the country and prolong the conflict.

Bild's military analyst, Julian Röpcke got intel from Western intelligence services that the aggressor aims to take over most of the Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv regions, including their principal cities. Kharkiv, Dnipro, and Zaporizhia are currently under Kyiv's control.

These cities are critical to the operations of the Ukrainian army in the east, housing their bases, command centers, hospitals and serving as their departure point for the front. The Russians are fully aware of this.

Russia plans to prolong the war with Ukraine till 2026. The Kremlin anticipates a reduction in Western support for Ukraine, which, in their calculations, would facilitate better preparations for long-term combat. Russia's strategy is to feign peace negotiations while intending to prolong the conflict.

During the annual meeting with Russian citizens, Vladimir Putin made it clear he has no intentions of backing down from achieving his objectives in Ukraine.

Analysts forecast that by the end of next year, Russia intends to secure control over the area from Kupiansk, through Sloviansk, Lyman, and Kramatorsk. This is predicted to set the stage for an offensive planned for 2026, where Russia aims to push back Ukrainian forces past the Dnieper line, advancing towards the oblasts of Kharkiv, Dnipro, and Zaporizhia.

Russia attempted an offensive towards Kupiansk this fall, but was thwarted.

Since 2014, Russia has maintained control over the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, albeit partially. A year ago, a Ukrainian offensive pushed them back to their previous lines, achieving a stalemate. Moscow is hopeful that next year, Ukraine will be limited to defending, providing Russia the opportunity to strike back and reclaim lost territories.

Additionally, Russia plans to establish control of the left bank of the Dnieper next year, a region where intense battles are ongoing and where the Ukrainians have built a foothold in Krynka. Although crossing the river and attacking Kherson is off the table, they plan to consolidate their northern front gains and cut off the entire eastern part of Ukraine.

By holding the conflict in a stalemate for years, Russia has the opportunity to rebuild its army and then proceed towards Kyiv, and eventually further westwards. The strategies of Vladimir Putin and his regime have become quite evident.

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