Ukraine victory in Kherson is threat to Putin: ‘Could turn nuclear!’

Kherson could be 'tipping point' for Ukraine says expert

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Ukrainian forces have begun a counteroffensive in the south of the country as they try to take back the city of Kherson from Russian occupiers. Experts have highlighted the city is crucial because it is located near the Dnipro river, and serves as a route into Crimea and and also as a pathway into the east of Ukraine. This means the battle for Kherson could have huge consequences for the outcome of the war. Dr Matthew Ford, a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Sussex, analysed the battle this week.

He told Sky News the Ukrainians want to “isolate the Russians and force them into an annihilatory battle north of the Dnipro.”

Dr Ford warned a Ukrainian victory could go in two very different directions – it could see Putin lose power, or he could become desperate and turn to nuclear weapons.

He added: “Those losses in Kherson would be existential for Russia.

“So if they lose on the battlefield, the question is what will Vladimir Putin do?

“If the choice for him is between regime change in Russia or the use of nuclear or special weapons, my sense is he will do whatever it takes to stay in power. And that means a real threat of things escalating.”

However, Dr Ford believes Ukraine is unlikely to achieve a swift win, and it faces a lengthy battle with Russia.

He concluded: “My sense is it’s going to be a battle of exhaustion as opposed to a decisive military operation.”

“The fortifications will slow them down, and like the Russians found in Severodonetsk and Mariupol, the city itself will slow them down. City fighting is dangerous and hard work.

“Winter is also fast approaching, so the Ukrainians have to do the maximum amount they can by around November.”

The good news for Ukraine is that the counter-attack in the south appears to be making progress.

Western officials have reported that Russian forces have been pushed back.

Natalia Humeniuk, spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military in the south, said: “We continue to destroy the enemy in terms of its logistics, capabilities, capacities. Ammunition warehouses explode, pontoon crossings explode.

“It means that the enemy’s logistics and transport connections are undermined to such an extent that they cannot raise reserves.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke defiantly this week, telling Russians in Kherson to run for their lives.

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He said: “The occupiers should know we shall oust them to the border, the line of which has not changed.

“If they want to survive, it’s time for the Russian military to run away. Go home.”

Despite the confidence in Ukraine, Russia has claimed that all of its war goals “will be reached”.

After a source told CNN that Ukraine has captured villages near Kherson, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed the “enemy’s offensive attempt failed miserably”.

He said: “All of our goals will be reached.”

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