After a Stunning Retreat, Putin Hears It From Hawks

Ukraine recaptures large swaths of the northeast
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2022 9:05 AM CDT
After a Stunning Retreat, Putin Hears It From Hawks
A file photo of volunteer Ukrainian soldiers.   (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko, File)

Is it a blip or a major turning point in the Russia-Ukraine war? That's the key question in play after Ukraine forces recaptured cities in the northeast and forced a Russian retreat in that region. Coverage:

  • The gains: Ukraine says it recaptured more than 3,000 square miles in just two days, reports the BBC. The specifics could not be verified, though Russia has acknowledged it pulled troops from Balakliya and Izyum to "regroup." Ukraine forces were continuing to push east on Sunday, per the AP.
  • One assessment: "The stunning rout of Russian forces by Ukraine’s flash counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region does not, on its own, signal a decisive shift in the war to Ukraine’s advantage," per the Washington Post. But the development appears to further reveal big problems with the Russian offensive in regard to supply lines, troop morale, strategy, etc. Still, Russia still controls about one-fifth of the nation.

  • The hawks: One group that agrees with the notion that Russia is getting hammered is the hawks who are staunch supporters of the war and Vladimir Putin, reports the New York Times. Putin was taking unusual public flak from this camp on Saturday, especially since he was dedicating a massive new Ferris Wheel at a Moscow park the same day his troops were in retreat. “You’re throwing a billion-ruble party,” complained one blogger in a popular post on Telegram. “What is wrong with you? Not at the time of such a horrible failure.” The story makes clear the blogger is not alone in his sentiment.
  • Familiar: Russia's claim that it has redrawn troops to regroup for fighting elsewhere sounds similar to what the Kremlin said when its forces failed to capture the capital of Kyiv earlier in the war, notes the AP. The story notes that the pro-Kremlin leader of Chechnya issued this critical warning: “They have made mistakes and I think they will draw the necessary conclusions,” said Ramzan Kadyrov on Saturday. "If they don't make changes in the strategy of conducting the special military operation in the next day or two, I will be forced to contact the leadership of the Defense Ministry and the leadership of the country to explain the real situation on the ground."
  • US help: The New York Times reports that the latest Ukraine gains were possible in part because of greater intelligence sharing with the US, which provided details about Russian vulnerabilities.
  • Zelensky prediction: Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky is boasting about the gains and—as part of a plea for more weaponry from the West—asserting that his nation is on the brink of wholesale victory. "I believe that this winter is a turning point, and it can lead to the rapid de-occupation of Ukraine," Zelensky said Saturday, per Reuters. "We see how they (occupiers) are fleeing in some directions. If we were a little stronger with weapons, we would de-occupy faster."
(More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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