In the coming week, the Russian army will focus its main efforts on the southern regions of Ukraine, which directly threaten the country’s territorial integrity. The tactics of the Russian troops during the invasion exposed two strategic directions in which the Russian army concentrated its main forces and means: an attack on Kyiv from the north and northeast, using the territory of Belarus as a bridgehead and transshipment base, and an attack on the southern regions of Ukraine from the territory Crimea and “LPR/DPR.” Both of these areas are of strategic value for Russia in the view of its objectives. The capture of Kyiv will help set the image value of the war against Ukraine and manifest to the international community the idea that “the capital has fallen, and therefore the government has, too.” The occupation of the southern regions is also extremely important for Russia as it allows achieving several strategic goals at once: cutting Ukraine off the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, depriving it of its sea ports, seizing control of the two Ukrainian nuclear power plants in Mykolaiv and Zaporizhia regions, and thus turning this into a lever over Kyiv in the context of power supplies (an analogy with water supplies to Crimea, severed by Ukraine after the 2014 grab) and also integrating the power system of the southern regions of Ukraine into the so-called “Crimean energy bridge”, connected with Russia’s Krasnodar Territory and Rostov region, creating a prototype of a “quasi-republics” stretching from Transnistria to Novopskov, fully controlled by Russia, and spreading Kremlin propaganda and pro-Russian narratives there.
Russia has already applied various offensive tactics, which in general came down to three different approaches: an attempt to besiege a city (Kyiv), an attempt to break any resistance through massive shelling, regardless of casualties and destruction (Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Mariupol), an attempt to take a city through soft power or bypassing it from the rear (Kherson, Enerhodar, Kakhovka, Odesa, and Mykolaiv). In particular, in Zaporizhia, Kherson, and Mykolaiv regions, Russian troops are trying to encircle strategically important cities, gain control of motorway routes along which they are trying to advance along the Kherson-Mykolaiv-Yuzhnoukrainsk line in order to establish control over the Yuzhnoukrainska NPP and reach the order with Transnistria. This tactic would allow Russia to separate Odesa from the rest of Ukraine virtually without a fight, which is confirmed by the fact that Russia made no significant attempts to take Odesa by force, unlike Mariupol, the storming of which resulted in unprecedented civilian losses and destruction.
Therefore, in the near future, Russia will attempt to seize the Yuzhnoukrainska NPP with further advance deeper into the southern regions of Ukraine, to create a strategically important corridor from Transnistria to the southern borders of Kharkiv region, by analogy with the Anaconda Loop geopolitical strategy, which consists in blocking sea communications, slaying the country’s resource potential, as well as trade and economic components. This is one of the most difficult challenges the Ukrainian Army is facing in the short term. Any massive redeployment of the Ukrainian forces and hardware from other sectors of the front will immediately result in a Russian attack on the exposed areas. Realizing that significant resources are amassed on the outskirts of Kyiv, Russia is trying to make use of its tactical advantage in the south for the sake of maximizing the area it can seize there. If Russia succeeds in gaining control of these territories, this will inflict enormous economic and demographic losses on Ukraine, sharply increase military threats Russia is posing to the country’s central regions and Kyiv on three fronts, and deliver a blow to Ukraine’s power generation sector.
At the level of big politics, Russia is trying to thematically “devalue” the issue of Crimea and status of the “LPR/DPR” – by seizing larger territories with the establishment of pro-Russian puppet regimes there in line with the previously tested principle of the “republics” set up in Donbas. The capture of Ukraine’s southern regions also neutralizes the concept of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia in their current format as it will provide Russia with additional leverage, which it will use as a bargaining chip.