Having failed to achieve their initial goal of a lightning campaign to seize the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Russian forces are focusing their efforts on the Donbas region in the country’s east in what is likely to be a decisive—and bloody—next chapter of the war, Ukrainian and Western officials believe.
“If this gets bogged down, it’s not clear what’s next as far as Russian decision-making,” Samuel Bendett, an advisor at CNA and a member of its Russia Studies Program, said in an interview.
“It feels like in this reorganization almost everything is on the line right now as far as the Russian military is concerned.”
If the offensive does succeed in securing large swaths of new territory and encircling the large pocket of Ukrainian troops fighting in the Donbas, it would give Moscow substantial leverage in future peace talks—and perhaps even a toehold from which to launch a renewed assault on Kyiv.
“Clearly, both militaries have been exhausted,” Bendett added. “The question is, who is more exhausted right now?”
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