The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region has proceeded much better and faster than anyone thought possible. After breaking through the Russian lines, the defenses collapsed, and Ukrainian units raced east, retaking large swaths of land and capturing almost two brigades’ worth of equipment in the process.
However, the counteroffensive in the south has not netted nearly as much territory. But many of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advisers and proxy leaders in Kherson and the Donbas are feeling the effects of the Ukrainian advances. And it seems from all appearances that panic is setting in with how the war continues to progress in Ukraine’s favor.
While public pronouncements by Putin that Russia “is in no rush in Ukraine” and that the “special military operation” is going according to its plan, those close to Putin are hearing the opposite.
Incorporate Ukrainian Territory Now, Say Political Officials
Dmitry Medvedev, a former president of the Russian Federation, who is currently the deputy chairman of the Security Council, has urged Moscow to incorporate the gains made in the Donbas (Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, or other provinces) now.
His argument is that once Russia incorporates the areas already taken and those that are still in doubt into the Russian Federation, they would be inviolate to attacks from Ukraine. Those attacks would then be on Russia itself, which would open Pandora’s Box to Russian mobilization and/or using tactical nuclear weapons.
“Encroachment onto Russian territory is a crime which allows you to use all the forces of self–defense,” Medvedev wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “This is why these referendums are so feared in Kyiv and the West.”
“They (referendums) would completely change the vector of Russia’s development for decades. And not just of our country. The geopolitical transformation of the world would be irreversible once the new territories were incorporated into Russia,” he added.
He failed to mention overtly that Ukrainian forces are already attacking Luhansk and that Russian and proxy forces only control about 60 percent of the Donetsk province. Ukrainian troops are only about six miles from the city of Lysychansk.
In Kherson, the Russian proxy leaders, who put off their phony referendum “due to security concerns,” are now calling for it to be done “immediately.” Vladimir Ovcharenko, the chairman of the Kherson city council, said, “We consider it more timely than ever to make a strong-willed decision on the immediate holding of a referendum on joining of the Kherson region the Russian Federation.
“We are sure that the initiative will be fully supported by the residents of the Kherson region, and joining Russia will not only be a triumph of historical justice, but will also secure the territory of the region, open new opportunities on the way to the revival and restoration of the power of our land and the return to a full-fledged peaceful life,” he added.
Denis Pushilin, the head of the Russian proxy separatist Donetsk region, called on his fellow separatist leader in Luhansk to combine their referendums quickly since the Ukrainians are moving to take back the territory seized in the invasion.
He posted a video on his Telegram channel app where he told Luhansk People’s Republic leader Leonid Pasechnik in a phone call that “our actions need to be synchronized.”
Russia Forced to Enlist Felons As Citizens Are Not Volunteering
With casualties continuing to mount, the Russian military desperately needs new troops to replace those lost in battle. But as the scope of the losses becomes clearer to the Russian people who don’t get the truth from their government, they are not enlisting for military service.
The Wagner Group, ostensibly a private military company with a notorious reputation for human rights violations, is enlisting convicts from Russia’s prisons, promising freedom for six months of combat service in Ukraine.
All signs point to the Russians panicking as the entire invasion could ultimately unravel before their eyes. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said as much in a video message sent out on Monday.
“The occupiers are clearly in a panic,” Zelensky said in a televised address late on Monday, adding, “The speed at which our troops are moving. The speed in restoring normal life.”
The Institute for the Study of War said that any attempt for Moscow to “immediately” annex the territories reflected panic and would be “incoherent” since it would “place the Kremlin in the strange position of demanding that Ukrainian forces unoccupy ‘Russian’ territory, and the humiliating position of being unable to enforce that demand.”
Expert Biography: Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. A proven military analyst, he served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.