ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore explores whether Putin has the agility to abandon a failing strategy which has seen Ukrainian forces put up heavy resistance against troops sent by Moscow
Moscow’s disastrous and faltering campaign in Ukraine has achieved a first, small military success for the Kremlin, but it may be short-lived. The Russians have claimed control of the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine. It’s a strategic hub, but at every stage resistance has been fierce.
Any student of Russian military campaigns can only be deeply alarmed at what lies ahead. In the Chechen wars, and in the Syrian air operation in support of the Assad regime, Moscow’s generals showed utter ruthlessness and a complete disregard for civilian lives.
The possibility now is that they will use similar tactics to devastate Ukrainian cities.
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The likelihood is that the Russians - realising they will face bitter opposition from local Ukrainian populations - will simply surround cities like Kyiv and pound them into submission.
So far the Russian Air Force has played only a minor role. That may be about to change. A sustained bombing campaign from the air would be horrendous. It is the fate that befell both Grozny in 2000 and Aleppo in 2014.
As we pointed out in Wednesday's blog, Western options are limited and imposing a NATO-enforced no-fly zone is out of the question. It would lead to direct clashes between Western and Russian forces. Down that road lies World War Three.
The best hope for a Ukrainian victory lies in Russian troop morale collapsing. There is some anecdotal and social media evidence of that already but the extent is impossible to verify.
In combination with political protest in Russian cities, and the economic shock felt by the Russian middle class, perhaps the Kremlin would then reassess its fratricidal war.
But more likely, President Putin will double down and apply even more brutal military tactics.
That’s why Russian military success would be a strategic disaster for the West, but Russian battlefield setbacks might simply lead to a still bloodier and more ghastly conflict.