‘This war began in Crimea and must end in Crimea – with its liberation,’ declared President Volodymyr Zelensky in August. And according to military experts, his generals intend to do just that.
The former American commander of forces in Europe, Ben Hodges, has outlined what he believes is the Ukrainian route to victory, beginning in Kherson and ending “when the last Russian soldier crosses the [Kerch] bridge out of Crimea.”
General Hodges, now at the Center for European Policy Analysis, believes that Ukraine’s main focus will continue to be on capturing Kherson in the south, where a major assault has been underway since early August, with a secondary attack hooking down through the Donbas and towards the city of Mariupol.
When Mariupol falls, he said at a CEPA conference last week; those troops will also converge on Crimea, pounding the peninsula with HIMARS rockets and pushing Russian forces back beyond the border.
Dr Mike Martin, a visiting fellow of war studies at King’s College, also raised the possibility of a third assault, with Ukraine using its reserves to split the Russian frontline in two, making it difficult for Putin to move reinforcements around.
Nothing is guaranteed in war, and Putin will undoubtedly do everything in his power to stop Kyiv, from mass conscription to the use of nuclear weapons.
However, as Ukraine’s path to victory becomes clearer, MailOnline investigates how it might play out.
Ukraine launched its much-touted counterattack on the Kherson region in early August and has been making gradual progress ever since, though reports of a breakthrough have begun to emerge this week.
The goal, as stated by Kyiv, is to retake Kherson from Russian control. It is the only regional capital that Putin has seized thus far during the war, and it is strategically located, spanning the Dnipro River, where it flows into the Dniprovska Gulf and onto the Black Sea.
Taking it would deprive Russia of its only foothold on the Dnipro’s west bank, effectively ruling out any assault on Odesa, proving Putin’s sham referendums and annexation claims, and opening the door to an assault on Crimea.