Russian forces will likely pivot to take the remnants of Donetsk, per Western intelligence. This will likely include the cities of Bakhmut and Sloviansk, with the eventual goal of taking Kramatorsk. If Russia manages to replicate the costly but tangible success of battles in Luhansk in Donetsk, then Russia could gain a significant upper hand in deciding the course of the war, able to choose to either ‘freeze’ the conflict or attempt to pacify the West. Russia could even reignite ambitions of taking northern and western Ukraine through Belarus, though such an invasion would likely be met with catastrophic failure yet again.
Though Zelenskyy has claimed that western heavy weapons will allow for the liberation of Lysychansk, Ukrainian success in the Donbas is likely to be slow and long-term. So far, Western nations have expressed solidarity and support for a protracted conflict, which would allow Ukraine to regain ground over time with their ever-modernizing materiel. A more immediate target for liberation could be Kherson, where Russian forces have been met with partisan warfare and a lack of necessary occupation forces. With more troops committed to the Donbas, Russia may be forced to conscript citizens in Crimea, a decision reported by Ukrainian media. Russia has allegedly been moving ammunition from Crimea into Kherson amidst an impending Ukrainian counteroffensive. Though early Ukrainian counteroffensives did not significantly gain ground, recent weapon deliveries, many of which have seen use near or on the southern front, indicate a potential Ukrainian buildup of materiel to liberate the city.
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