Ukraine might have gone on the offensive in the South as well

October 2, 2022

Russian channels inform that ZSU has started a large offensive in the South, and several towns in Kherson have already been liberated. The Russians appear to have planned an attack on the 3rd, and now they have to regroup if this information turns out to be true. There are about 22,000 Russian troops on the right bank of the Dnipro River, another 2,000 at Inhulets River, and yet another 6,000 on the left bank. They had managed to move more troops over the earth bridge they built at Novaya Kahovka, and were expecting up to 100,000 in newly mobilized reinforcements from Crimea. This might explain why the ZSU have decided to launch an offensive there. The attack has started from the north, where the Russian forces are weaker, and the Russians are afraid to send reinforcements because ZSU could attack from Mikolayiv. If this offensive succeeds, it will cut the Russian forces in the south in half and allow activization of the Zaporizhzhia front as well.

Nothing official from the ZSU High Command except a plea not to speculate about movements. As a result, almost all Ukrainian correspondents only report information available to the Russians, to make sure they do not accidentally reveal something they should not. We will know more in a couple of days.

Meanwhile, the Kharkiv Counter-Offensive continues in the North. Several towns close to the Russian border have been liberated, and after taking Lyman, ZSU are continuing their advance on Kremennaya, whose capture would give them operational choices in almost all directions. One possibility is Severodonetsk although it’s unclear if it’s worth taking after the Russians leveled the city when they captured it. Svatove appears more interesting because it’s the next key transport hub. The Russians have been stockpiling forces there though, so it might be a tougher nut to crack.

The risk of nuclear strikes is the highest it has been since the start of the war but the US reports no indications that they are imminent. A note of caution though: we might not be able to detect movements and arming of operational and tactical nukes — so it’s possible we will only find out about intent to use them when the first mushroom clouds go up.

The Russian plans seem to require a counter-offensive of their own. The instruments of annexation approved by the Constitutional Court today indicate that they are claiming the regions in their administrative borders. This means the Kremlin would have to conquer quite a bit more land than it controls now. The Russians are in dire need of a victory or at least a claim to something that looks like one, and they need to break ZSU’s strategic initiative (the Ukrainians are more or less choosing where to fight and on what terms right now). The replacements for the disgraced commanders would have to demonstrate that they are worth the trust placed in them by their superiors. The Russian movements in the north suggest a plan for another invasion there, with the possible support, or maybe even participation, of Belarus.

To my mind, these are wild and desperate plans that appear destined to fail. And this brings us straight back to the nukes. Insider channels insist that Putin has decided to use them, but then again, that’s exactly what the Kremlin would want everyone to believe. However, as the situation on the front deteriorates further, Putin might be sorely tempted to resort to what he clearly considers his Wunderwaffe, the ace up his sleeve. Lots of Russians seem utterly convinced that the West would never respond to a nuclear strike in Ukraine, which makes the escalation even more likely. NATO’s firm rejection of a direct war with Russia is encouraging the hotheads in Moscow because they take it as evidence of weakness. Of course, saying that NATO would fight will just give more grist of Putin’s “we’re surrounded by the West that wants to kill you” myths that the government is feeding the population. The White House says there are no private communications right now between the US and Russia, so I hope they clarified our intent with Putin and his elites the last time they spoke.

One thought on “Ukraine might have gone on the offensive in the South as well

  1. “Insider channels insist that Putin has decided to use” nukes. What sort of channels are these? How likely is this just signaling (as you seem to imply it might be) and how likely is it actually a sign of planning? Probably unknowable. But this certainly got my attention.


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