Posted by on September 22, 2022 6:42 am
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Ukraine braces for violent winter: ‘A lot of good Ukrainians will die to win this war’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. (Genya Savilov, Pool Photo via AP) Genya Savilov/AP

Ukraine braces for violent winter: ‘A lot of good Ukrainians will die to win this war’

Joel Gehrke September 22, 06:00 AMSeptember 22, 06:00 AM Video Embed

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization of fighting-aged men portends a winter of violence in eastern Ukraine.

“It means we will face an acute stage of the war in the winter,” a senior Ukrainian government adviser told the Washington Examiner. “We will face the acute stage, probably in the end of January, middle of February. And it will be a lot of casualties on both sides.”

Some Ukrainian officials previously had suggested that an autumn counteroffensive could set the stage for a winter of relative calm as both sides licked their wounds and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government would have to tend to the needs of the civilian population. Yet Putin’s order threatens to keep Ukrainian forces in the familiar yet difficult position of fighting against a much larger force, but one that has proven incapable thus far of turning numerical superiority into victory.

“It’s not simple mathematics in the sense [of saying] that the Russians just need more men to fill the gaps,” Czech Deputy Defense Minister Tomas Kopecny told the Washington Examiner. “The absolute majority of those who will be mobilized [will be] conscripted. It will mean that those will be light units because you cannot just make, out of civilians, heavy mechanized units, heavy mechanized brigades, let alone whole armies. … You can’t do this from the general population, from general mobilization.”

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Putin unveiled the mobilization order following a Ukrainian counteroffensive that reclaimed large swathes of territory in northeast Ukraine while hemming Russian forces around the key southeastern city of Kherson. That assault forced even Russia-aligned analysts and state media figures to acknowledge the setback and impressed even those leading powers of Europe that have hesitated to provide robust military aid to the Ukrainians.

“Putin is always very dangerous. He started a war against his neighbor, the Ukraine, with no reason — just for conquering parts of the territory or the whole country,” Germany‘s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, told NBC in a Wednesday interview. “They were able to spoil all the plans of Putin, [that] he had for Ukraine. And now he is desperate and taking decisions that are escalating, but I’m sure this will not help him. He will not win the war.”

The Kremlin chief’s nuclear saber-rattling has served to curb Western military support for Ukraine, although President Joe Biden’s team has gradually increased the quantity and quality of weapons shipments as Ukrainian forces demonstrated their ability to repel the Russian attempt to seize Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. Poland‘s president, Andrzej Duda, whose country has served as a staging area for NATO assistance to his war-torn neighbor, downplayed the likelihood that Putin would reach for nuclear weapons as his losses mount — but acknowledged that the prospect can’t be ruled out entirely.

“Nobody can be sure of that, 100%,” Duda told PBS in an interview for the Wednesday broadcast. “That would break all the taboos. And I believe that the Russian authorities know that perfectly well. It is not only Vladimir Putin — also the inner circle of Vladimir Putin, also those who make decisions in Russia, also the strategic military decisions.”

Zelensky struck an optimistic note this week as Putin’s mobilization plans began to circulate in Russia.

“The situation on the front line clearly indicates that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,” Zelensky said in one of his regular updates from Kyiv. “Of course, today there is quite high-profile news from Russia. Lots of questions about this. But what actually happened? What did we hear that had not been heard before? Our positions are clear and well known. Only this should interest us — not what sounds somewhere but what is our task.”

Putin’s draft order provoked an uptick in protests against the war — “I don’t want to be cannon fodder,” the Moscow Times quoted a 30-year-old resident of the city as saying — and sparked a run on airfares to fly out of the country. Yet that show of domestic displeasure was cold consolation for the Ukrainians still fighting for their country.

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“It makes the situation probably politically … more difficult for Putin, but at the same time, it means we will face an acute stage of the war in the winter,” the Ukrainian government official told the Washington Examiner. “I’m pretty sure that actually, we will win anyhow, but I’m not happy. … It is completely clear that a lot of good Ukrainians will die to win this war.”

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