Putin to ‘double down’ on Ukraine to salvage image after war ‘has blown up in his face’

Putin will 'double down' as war backfires on Russia says expert

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Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Charles Kupchan warned that Vladimir Putin’s humiliating defeat in taking Kyiv and breaking NATO will anger the Russian President and force him to retaliate with more aggression against Ukraine. Vladimir Putin failed in conquering parts of northern and eastern Ukraine in the first phase of the war, which he hoped to take over in a matter of days. In a speech in the days leading to the invasion, he pinned down the blame on the “unacceptable” eastward expansion of NATO for the invasion, which he claimed was a “peacekeeping operation.” Since the attack, though, NATO has shown its resolve and unity in the face of Russian aggression – dealing a blow to Putin’s ambition to weaken the Alliance.

Analysing Putin’s potential reaction, Mr Kupchan told Times Radio: “You know, the broad picture here is this is a war that has backfired. It has blown up in Putin’s face. He tried to topple the regime in Kyiv and has failed. He has pivoted to eastern Ukraine where he’s having more success.

“But he’s getting punished with economic sanctions that I’ve never really seen before he hit a major power. Sweden and Finland are joining NATO.

“NATO just went from a rapid reaction force of 40,000 to one of 300,000. So, the picture in the Kremlin right now is not very good.

“What’s Putin going to do? Probably double down. Talk more about the West coming after him, not admitting he’s the one who’s caused these problems.”

“But I do think that we see more fluidity in Russian politics than we’ve seen really since the end of the Cold War,” Mr Kupchan said.

“Putin, I’m not predicting he’s going to fall but he faces real heartache and real discontent even among those in his inner circle.”

After failing to invade northern and parts of eastern Ukraine, Putin was forced to redeploy his forces to the eastern Donbas region – that part of Ukraine has seen fighting raging on since 2014.

Putin then already attempted to destabilise the power in place amid nationwide protests.

Russian troops had until then failed to make significant inroads but now are on the brink of taking full control of the Luhansk province – one of the two Russian-backed self-proclaimed provinces that Putin unilaterally recognised as independent in the days prior to the invasion.

Now, Russian troops are zeroing in on the city of Lysychansk, where troops have captured an oil refinery, the Russian news agency RIA reports, citing Russia’s defence ministry. 

Other Russian troops continue their incursion in the city of Odesa where Ukrainian officials say at least 19 civilians have been killed overnight by Russian forces.

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A missile strike reportedly honed it on an apartment building and recreation centre.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has denied the allegations, telling reporters: “I would like to remind you of the president’s words that the Russian Armed Forces do not work with civilian targets.”

The attack came hours after the NATO Summit pledged to provide its unwavering support to Ukraine.

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