Vladimir Putin has been warned it could be his “last roll of the dice” as Russia and Ukraine gear up for “major offensives”, with the result possibly defining his future. The brutal war in Ukraine has been ongoing for nearly a year, with little sign from both sides of a peaceful resolution. Russia has taken a battering in the conflict, with tens of thousands of troops killed, as well as key equipment and weaponry destroyed on the battlefield.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a retired British Army officer who served for nearly 30 years, has warned both sides are preparing crucial offensives over the coming weeks and months.
He told Express.co.uk: “At the moment there is relative inactivity between Russia and Ukraine in the war as both sides are preparing major offensives in the coming weeks, and possibly months. It could be a lull before the storm.
“We have Putin mobilising his forces, getting ready to send them into Ukraine. Some are already there to give him a much-needed significant boost he has had up until now to try and smash the Ukrainian army.
“He could attack from the south up towards the Donbas region. He could attack from the north from Belarus or he could attack from the northeast from inside Russia towards Kyiv. The options are open to Putin to some extent.
“Ukraine has got to do two things – defend against that operation if it occurs, and they also have to try to go on the offensive themselves.
“Whether they can do those two things together remains to be seen. Their attack will be down towards the south if they are able to mount it, down towards Mariupol to cut in half the Russian forces along the south.”
But Colonel Kemp also warned this could be the “last roll of the dice” for Putin, who desperately needs a “significant victory” in the early part of this year.
He warned defeat in the upcoming offences will result in a “very bleak future” for the President, increasing the possibility of a coup in Russia against him.
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He continued: “Putin is in a very strong position and still has huge popularity within Russia, despite this war.
“But we have also seen rumblings from some of the elites within Russia, for example from the head of the Wagner Group.
“The prospects of a popular Russian uprising against Putin are pretty low but the prospect of someone of significance in Moscow or a significant number of people deciding to move against him is possible. Whether that would succeed is an open question.
“The third question is whether it worsens or improves the situation because the most serious noises against Putin that I’m aware of are not those who have said we want peace, but from people who say they want to win this war.”
Colonel Kemp also believes the “critical point” will be whether these upcoming offensives for Ukraine succeed or fail because, at the moment, the chances of the war ending favourably on their terms are “pretty small”.
This is because he does not envision Putin giving up until he achieves what he set out to do when Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
The retired British Army officer continued: “This war could go on for many months and even years but the critical point will be whether these Russian and Ukrainian offences succeed or fail.
“If the Russians are able to muster enough combat power to do really severe damage to Ukraine – more than they have done already – that could see Ukraine in a situation Russia hoped it would be in.
“The chances of the war ending favourably on Ukraine’s terms are pretty small because I don’t see with Putin, with everything he has plunged into this war and everything he has lost in this war, could contemplate the status quo that existed before February 24, 2022.
“He has to fight and keep it going. The prospects are for either a Russian victory over Ukraine or a prolonged conflict.”