‘I’m a war expert – this is Putins plan for another freezing winter in Ukraine

The arrival of winter in Ukraine as the country continues to fight its war against Russia means the conditions on the battlefield are increasingly unfavourable for troops and heavy machinery to make any advance. Earlier this week, Ukrainian forces reported that Russian troops trying to encircle the eastern city of Avdiivka were being slowed down by the increasingly bad weather.

With the terrain freezing and turning muddy while snow is already falling heavily in Ukraine, analysts don’t expect troops from either side to significantly push the frontline in any direction over the next months.

But this does not mean the fighting between Russians and Ukrainians will stop, Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society think tank warned.

Speaking about the near future on the frontline in Ukraine, Dr Mendoza told Express.co.uk: “There’ll be stalemate in terms of frontlines not moving, but it doesn’t mean there’ll be no action over the winter period. There will definitely be action.

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“And we’ll see various attempts to weaken each other over the course of of the coming few months.”

Referring to reports Ukraine is preparing to launch a major winter drone offensive, Dr Mendoza added: “Yes, of course, drones aren’t affected [by the temperatures] in the same way [as ground troops]. So given that we have just seen long-range missiles being used for the first time by Ukraine as well, given that these things are now available to Ukraine in large numbers, new possibilities are going to open up.”

Brigadier General Sergii Baranov, the chief of the military unit overseeing drone operations, said in November Kyiv wanted to build on the “significant successes” achieved during the counter-offensive launched in June by targeting Russian positions with drones.

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He told the Independent: “We intend to capitalise on the experience we have gained over the previous years and use drones to inflict a devastating effect on the Russians when the fighting will be much more static [this winter].”

As noted by Dr Mendoza, Ukraine can also rely on US-supplied long-range ATACMS missiles, which are known to have been used for the first time on the battlefield against Russians in mid-October.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, also Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged the winter is bringing on a “new phase of war”. He said: “Winter as a whole is a new phase of war.”

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Asked how the upcoming months of war will unravel, Dr Mendoza said: “I think the Russians want to make the winter an unpleasant experience for Ukrainian civilians by leaving them in the dark. And I think the Russians are going to keep on trying to sap Ukrainians’ morale and forces. So they’re going to continue playing this attrition game.”

Ukrainians will also try to dampen the Russians’ morale, Dr Mendoza added, as he said: “On the Ukrainian front it will be about persuading the Russians on the frontlines to give up because there’s no progress.

“As this war will shortly drag on into the third year, is there not huge apathy on the Russian lines already? What are they fighting for? So, from that perspective, everyone is playing a war of attrition here.”

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