Putin facing winter battles as Ukrainian progress tipped to slow

Russia's chances of conquering Ukraine 'close to zero' says expert

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Vladimir Putin’s forces are running out of time to launch a new counter-offensive in the north following their retreat in the south of Ukraine, Express.co.uk has been told, as Ukrainian forces are expected to face harsher conditions in which to push back Moscow’s defensive lines.

Russian forces retreated from the southern port city of Kherson in what was widely interpreted as a humiliating setback for the Kremlin.

Dr Marina Miron, of the Centre for Military Ethics at King’s College London, said the focus will likely turn to the region of Donetsk, where “Russia managed to regroup and send its elite units”.

The UK Ministry of Defence said on Friday that it believed “Russia will attempt to eventually redeploy some of the forces recovered from Kherson to reinforce and expand its offensive operations near the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast”.

Russian forces retreated from the west of the Dnipro River, pulling out from Kherson city earlier this month.

Dr Miron described the retreat as “justified” from the Russian side “to save manpower and to take up better defensive positions without the risk of being logistically cut off”.

But time is on the side of neither Kyiv nor Moscow for the next phase of the war, Dr Miron warned, with weather conditions quickly turning against both forces.

Dr Miron told Express.co.uk: “In terms of offensive operations, it would seem like both sides have little time left until winter frost kicks in.

“Whether or not Russians will conduct a huge offensive manoeuvre in the north, as some Russian commentators suggested remains, to be seen as it is expected that the weather will be a hampering element for both sides.”

Former British intelligence officer, Philip Ingram, suggested earlier this week that the “winter will slow things”, but that Ukraine will likely have the upper hand through the coldest months.

He told Reuters: “The winter will slow things but not stop them – the Ukrainians will be well prepared to keep fighting through the winter, the Russians will be less well prepared to survive the winter cold.”

He added: “Ukraine has the initiative and momentum and is dictating to the Russians where and when the next fight will be.”

Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, said last week that the harsher winter conditions would halt progress on both sides.

He said the winter “will slow down every activity on the battlefield for all sides”, but argued it would be an advantage after eight months of relentless fighting.

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He commented: “It’s beneficial for all sides. You will have a rest.”

Ukraine’s energy grid operator said on Friday that hours of power cuts could hit many Ukrainians as the winter encroaches and puts increased pressure on the energy systems.

After a fresh wave of missile strikes on Thursday, more than 10 million Ukrainians have been left without access to power.

Kyiv also said in updated statistics on Friday that it estimated Russian forces had lost 83,400 troops since the outbreak of the war in February.

The Ministry of Defence also said Russia was working to dig trenches almost 40 miles behind the front lines of the Dnipro River.

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