'Beginning of his end' Putin warned of catastrophe as Zelensky poised to win back key city

The focus of the war is predicted by many to switch from the east to the south over the coming days as Ukraine’s military ramps up efforts to liberate Kherson. Peter Dickinson, editor of the Atlantic Council’s UkraineAlert Service, warned in an article for the website the campaign to regain control of the “strategically vital” city could have huge implications for whether Russia or Ukraine wins the war.

He wrote: “The unfolding campaign to regain control over this strategically vital southern Ukrainian city is likely to be the most important engagement since the Battle of Kyiv and could prove decisive in determining the ultimate outcome of the war.

“Preparations for a major Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south of the country have been underway since May.

“After weeks of minor advances in the surrounding countryside that have seen Ukrainian forces liberate more than fifty towns and villages, there is now a mounting sense that the Battle of Kherson is about to begin.

“A Ukrainian victory would have huge psychological and practical implications for both sides.

“It would demonstrate to international audiences that the Ukrainian military is more than capable of forcing Russia to retreat from well-established defensive positions and convince Ukraine’s partners to continue providing military and financial support.

“Meanwhile, defeat in Kherson would be personally humiliating for Vladimir Putin and would spark further demoralisation within the ranks of his depleted invasion force.”

Reacting to these comments, Anton Gerashchenko, Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, warned in a post on Twitter: “Kherson is strategically vital. Russians need it for the image of their success and for advancing to Odessa and further.

“If Ukraine retakes it, this might be the beginning of Putin’s end. He knows it, so the fight will be extremely hard.”

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In his article for the Atlantic Council website, Mr Dickinson also warned “Kherson’s fate will shape the future direction of the war”.

He further explained: “As the sole regional capital captured by Putin’s troops and the only major Ukrainian city on the western side of the Dnipro River currently in Kremlin hands, Kherson holds the key to Russian ambitions in southern Ukraine.

“Moscow must retain control over Kherson in order to achieve its goal of advancing to Odessa and occupying Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coastline.

“If Ukraine retakes the city, Russia will be confined to Left Bank Ukraine and will face the prospect of further counter-offensives aiming to push Putin’s army out of southern Ukraine altogether.”

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Russia currently controls swathes of Ukraine’s south that it captured during the early weeks of its invasion.

But Kyiv has insisted it will still mount a counter-offensive, and said on Tuesday it had already recaptured 53 villages in occupied Kherson region.

That was nine settlements more than the number provided on Monday, appearing to show the accelerating tempo of Ukrainian gains in the region.

Regional acting governor Dmytro Butriy said on national television: “As of now, 53 settlements have been confirmed as liberated.”

On Wednesday, Ukraine said Russia had started creating a military strike force aimed at President Zelensky’s home town of Kryvyi Rih and warned the opposition could be preparing new offensive operations in the south of the country.

The Ukrainian President’s childhood town lies is located around 30 miles from the southern frontline.

In its regular update, Ukraine’s southern military command warned Russia had attacked along the frontline just a day earlier.

It said on Wednesday: “Russia has begun creating a strike group in the Kryvyi Rih direction.

“It’s also quite likely that the enemy is preparing a hostile counter-offensive with the subsequent plan of getting to the administrative boundary of Kherson region.”

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