Putin's New Ukraine Strategy: Is Russia Retreating?

in his speech to Russia justifying what Russia called a special military operation in Ukraine Putin said Putin chose his words carefully he said his intention among other things was to demilitarize Ukraine, not part of Ukraine not dombas not luhensk not maripol Ukraine western intelligence prior to the invasion seems to agree that Putin was always going to try and take Kiev Ukraine's capital with a view of occupying the rest of Ukraine well last week Russia's defence ministry held a briefing which suggested that the main task of the first stage of the operation has been completed and yesterday Russia has said that it will drastically reduce hostilities in Kiev in an effort to de-escalate the war and boost mutual trust in peace talks which all begs the question why is Russia adopted this new strategy now and is it credible first things first why in Russia's words was there a need in the first place to demilitarize Ukraine well Russia argues that attacking Kiev and by extension Ukraine as a whole was always simply to try and stop Ukraine sending reinforcements to Donbass the breakaway region hosting the self-proclaimed Luhansk people's republic and danesque people's republic going along with this position Russia is justifying the changing strategy by saying that Ukraine's combat potential has been considerably reduced which makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbass i.e., Ukraine and Ukrainian forces are no longer an immediate threat when it comes to reinforcements in Donbass all of these statements in the last week give the false impression that Russia was always just interested in taking dumbass Donbass was used as a de facto justification for attacking the other areas of Ukraine most notably Kiev but there's two problems with that a it's a seemingly limitless view if you believe it and b it's just not true in the first instance if you do believe that Russia's sole aim was to liberate the Donbass region and believe the Russian view that its activities outside of dumbass were solely to stop reinforcements from being sent to the region it raises the question as to why stop at just Ukraine throughout the entire lead-up the invasion there was immense speculation as to whether or not Ukraine would end up joining the Nato alliance taking the argument that it was necessary to attack Kiev to liberate Donbass it could well be equally true that it's necessary to attack the us to liberate Donbass and stop America sending reinforcements, it's an incredibly slippery and dangerous view if actually true which brings us on to the second aspect its veracity as the economist puts it the idea that Russia was only ever interested in Donbass is nonsense western officials with knowledge of Russia's war plans have consistently stressed that Russia's intention throughout was to capture Kiev and ideally the whole of Ukraine the Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky claimed that ceremonial uniforms were found in the back of captured Russian tanks either meaning that Russian forces were so unprepared that they had to resort to ceremonial uniforms to clothe themselves or much more likely they suspected an easy win and were planning a victory parade much earlier on in the invasion a matter of hours, in fact, r.a.a novozi a Russian state-owned news agency accidentally published a seemingly pre-prepared article stating that Ukraine has returned to Russia did someone in the old European capitals in Paris and berlin seriously believe that Moscow would give up Kiev the German chancellor Olaf Schultz at the beginning of the invasion highlighted how anyone who reads Putin's historicizing essays who has watched his televised declaration of war on Ukraine or has recently as I have done held hours of direct talks with him can no longer have any doubt that Putin wants to build a Russian empire he wants to fundamentally redefine the status quo with Europe in line with his own vision and he has no qualms about using military force to do so the reason Russia is supposedly changing its strategy to focus more on the Donbass region alone is primarily for the fact that it has failed to as hoped easily take over Kiev and other major parts of Ukraine Russian forces have ultimately taken just one city Kirsten failed to surround let alone capture Kiev and have lost somewhere between 7 000 and 15 000 soldiers according to Nato estimates up to forty thousand Russian soldiers have been killed wounded captured or otherwise missing in action in Ukraine crucially however is the shift in strategy genuine is Russia really focusing solely now on the liberation of dumbass to put it bluntly no in the immediate aftermath of the statement announcing a change in focus British defense intelligence stated that there had been no significant change to the disposition of Russian forces with a further western official remarking that Russia continues to pose a significant threat to Kiev john Kirby spokesperson for the pentagon reiterated the claim stating that we've only seen a small number begin to move away from Kiev we all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine it does not mean that the threat to Kiev is over in more substantive terms Russia has continued to attack the region it pledged to reduce hostilities in most notably Kiev and chernahiv chernyhiv's governor announced on telegram that Russian forces had been continuing to carry out strikes on the city of naijin including airstrikes and hit chernyhiv all night long Joni Hibbs mayor talking to the BBC highlighted how as recently as Tuesday inhumane artillery shelling of several residential areas of the city took place where about 35 people were hospitalized where people lost their legs and some people were killed reporters on the ground in Kiev have continued to hear heavy shelling even after the decreased hostilities in an overnight blog address Zelensky stressed that Ukrainians are not naive people we can say that the signals are positive but those signals do not drown out the explosions or Russian shells and frankly Ukrainians don't seem to believe that Russia's aim has been to liberate Donbass an opinion poll of Ukrainians conducted by the sociology group rating towards the beginning of March showed that 56 of respondents believe the main goal of Russia's invasion was the complete destruction of the Ukrainian people a view that dominates in all regions of Ukraine half believe that the aim is occupation of Ukraine and its annexation by Russia only two per cent believe that the invasion was aimed at protecting Russian speakers i.e., the breakaway regions the announcement of Russia's new strategy has to also be viewed holistically with Russia's actions before the war in an interview with euro news the Russian ambassador to the EU when asked whether Russia was about to invade Ukraine stressed that Russia has no plans to invade either Ukraine or any other country it's a bluff created not in Russia but in those countries that are spreading this hysterical message I would say across Europe and the world ultimately, we'll have to wait to see how genuine this shift is.