Vladimir Putin’s troops will suffer a humiliating defeat in Ukraine in the new year, a former United States Army General has claimed. After Russia’s retreat from Kherson and parts of annexed regions, Ben Hodges is confident Ukrainian troops are beginning their “final phase of war” and will “liberate” Russian-occupied Crimea.
Speaking to the BBC about how the invasion could develop in 2023, he said that Ukraine will gain “momentum” and retake all territories lost since 2014.
He said: “Things will move slowly over the winter but by January, Ukraine could be in a position to begin the final phase of the campaign which is the liberation of Crimea.
“When I see the determination of the Ukrainian people and soldiers, and the rapidly improving logistical situation for Ukraine, I see no other outcome but a Russian defeat.
“The Russian pull-out from Kherson has partly led me to this conclusion, firstly as a psychological boost for the Ukrainian people, secondly as a profound embarrassment for the Kremlin and thirdly by handing Ukraine’s forces a key operational advantage – all approaches into Crimea are now within range of Ukrainian weapon systems.”
Mr Hodges’s prediction comes as battles rage on in the annexed provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Putin has sought to annex the four regions of Ukrainian land in a bid to intimidate Western countries from supplying Ukraine with weapons.
But his attempt has failed, as Ukrainian troops have retaken a significant portion of their land in a massive counter-offensive across the east.
Kyiv and Moscow officials are now engaged in a diplomatic fight to determine what peace would look like and what concession each side is ready to make.
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President Volodymyr Zelensky presented his 10-point plan to world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November. The steps include a path to nuclear safety, food security, a special tribunal for alleged Russian war crimes, total withdrawal of Russian troops, and a final peace treaty with Moscow.
Restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity is “not up to negotiations”, the Ukrainian leader insisted.
His “peace formula” has immediately been followed by criticism from the Russian side, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying Moscow will not negotiate with Kyiv on that basis.
“We will not talk to anyone under such conditions,” said Mr Lavrov, adding that President Zelensky’s idea of driving Russian troops out from the Donbas, Crimea, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson with help from the West was “an illusion.”
In line with Putin’s stance, Mr Lavrov said Russia would not give up any territories and remains open to a diplomatic solution to end the war.
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