There are several major events scheduled between now and Friday 24th, the 12-month anniversary of the start of what Moscow calls the Special Military Operation (SMO) and the West calls an invasion.
Escalation expected in the coming months. Reports from eastern Ukraine confirm an increase in fighting. This is expected to intensify ahead of the February 24th anniversary and before the arrival of the next batch of NATO equipment is delivered to Ukrainian forces.
Russian officials, including President Putin, have given very clear signals that Russia is ready for a cease-fire and the start of talks. But, at the same time, Russian forces are pushing to gain new ground and strengthen existing positions.
President Zelensky met with President Biden and addressed Congress on December 21st. He secured the first batch of Patriot missiles and, at least for now, ensured that Congressional concerns over “accountability” will not delay or reduce US aid to Ukraine.
President Putin called the 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements “a mistake” and indicated the conflict in Ukraine will last well into 2023. Previously there were reasons for optimism that Russia was heading for a frozen conflict, at least through the winter.
It appears the Russian military has changed its strategy and is now focused on preparing defensive positions for a “frozen winter conflict” while increasing the intensity of missile attacks to destroy Ukraine’s power infrastructure.
President Putin has ordered the removal of civilians from the west bank of the Dnieper River leading to speculation of either preparations for a major battle or the setup of a more defensible line on the east bank of the river.
In our last update, we referred to “the Dangerous Month of October” (October 1st). So far, this is unfolding.
The four provinces controlled by the Russian military in eastern Ukraine have, unsurprisingly, voted to join the Russian Federation. The Federation Council is expected to approve the applications on October 4th and President Putin (who will be 70 years old on October 7th) is expected to sign the legislation shortly afterwards.
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