2 steps back
Tuesday was "a day of heavy fighting and fast-moving developments across multiple combat zone" in Ukraine, The Washington Post reports, citing Ukraine's military and Russian military bloggers. "The Ukrainians appeared to extend their recent successes in recapturing occupied territories and pushing Moscow's troops into retreat in areas that President Vladimir Putin has claimed now belong to Russia." At the same time, Russian shelling in eastern Donetsk killed at least seven civilians, Kyiv said Tuesday.
Ukraine made more headway in southern Kherson province, pushed back Wagner Group mercenaries in Bakhmut, Donetsk, and "gained new momentum in Luhansk, where they seized a key highway between the towns of Kreminna and Svatove," the Post reports. Yevgeniy Prigozhin, whose Wagner private military is leading the slow charge on Bakhmut, conceded Sunday that progress is slow amid "fierce enemy resistance."
"Prigozhin holds a unique position that allows him to reap the benefits of Putin's dependency on Wagner forces without having formal responsibility for any axis or area in Ukraine and while wielding considerable influence" through multiple Telegram and media channels and rapport with the military bloggers, the Institute for the Study of War research groups said Tuesday. "Prigozhin's influence in the information space is evident through the positive portrayal of Wagner forces, despite their failure to make significant advances in the Bakhmut area."
In Kherson, Russian forces appear to be digging in to defend the regional capital, Kherson City, while "evacuating" — or resettling — thousands of civilians and government officials across the Dnipro River, ISW reports. There were earlier hints that Russia was planning a retreat from all of Kherson west of the Dnipro, but "Russian milbloggers claimed that the Russian military command has not decided on the fate of Kherson City, given the ongoing situation in Kherson Oblast."
Ukrainian commanders told CNN they are confident they'll drive Russian forces over the Dnipro before the end of the year.
Some Russian military bloggers agree. "I don't know all the nuances and plans of the command, but I don't exclude the surrender of Kherson as from a military point of view its defense at the moment could turn into a rout," popular Russian military blogger "Zapiski Veterana" wrote on Telegram. If Moscow decides "to fight until victory, then there is nothing tragic in the surrender of Kherson because this war is here for a long time."