Russia-Ukraine latest: Concert attack suspects arrive in court with black eyes; Poland demands answers for airspace violation | World News

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By Sean Bell, military analyst

In stark contrast to last year’s optimism that Ukraine would capitalise on Western military support to push Russian forces out of Ukraine, this year Kyiv’s prospects look significantly less positive.

The supply of Western weapons has been placed in jeopardy with $60bn (£47bn) of US aid currently tied up in the political process.

In addition, the war chests of Western nations can no longer provide the quantity – or quality – of weapons required. 

Meanwhile, Russia’s own defence industrial base has been placed on a war footing, funded by Russia’s oil revenues, and Moscow is also importing large quantities of ammunition and missiles from North Korea and Iran.

Despite taking casualties, Russia is on the front foot in the Donbas region, and Ukraine is struggling to contain Russian military pressure. 

Territory is the primary metric of success in this attritional war, and President Zelenskyy will be concerned that the Russian onslaught will be sustained throughout the summer – which could have grave consequences for Ukraine. 

Putin treasures one part of Ukraine above the rest

However, warfare is a complex undertaking, and fighting brutal attritional battles is not the only way to prevail.

Western military doctrine uses the concept of “centres of gravity”.

That is – what is the one thing your enemy holds most dear and which they would not want to lose?  

Although Vladimir Putin appears to want to subjugate the whole of Ukraine, he will not want to risk losing Crimea. 

The Crimean peninsula – and Sevastopol in particular – has great historical significance for Russia. 

If Ukraine was to threaten Russia’s hold on it, that could provide a very different calculus for President Putin’s military ambitions.

Laying siege to Crimea could influence end of war

Most military analysts believe that liberating Crimea would be a very difficult military challenge for Ukraine.

However, if it was to focus its offensive military action on the Crimean peninsula, it could force Russia to reassess its strategy.  

Despite not having any military navy, Ukraine has forced the Russian Black Sea Fleet to seek sanctuary to the east of Crimea.  

Ukraine has also demonstrated its ability to damage the Kerch road and rail bridge linking Crimea to Russia.

Laying siege to Crimea, using a mix of missiles, drones and amphibious attacks, could influence Vladimir Putin’s decision on whether – and when – to negotiate an end to the war.

Ukraine has to find a way to counter the Russian military advantage of mass and firepower – and fast – or the coming months could prove very difficult for President Zelenskyy and his fellow Ukrainians. 

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