Speed Reads

A Tale of Two Countries

Ukraine is swinging between elation and blackouts, victory and cold reality

Ukraine is beating Russia on the battlefield and scrambling to keep the lights and heat on in its missile-targeted civilian population centers. The country is reveling in the newly liberated regional capital of Kherson while relieved residents there wait in long lines for food and endure artillery fire from Russian forces on the other side of the Dnipro River

And Ukrainian forces, buoyed by an autumn of military successes, are seeing their advances slowed by a wall of Russian troops hunkered down behind newly reinforced defensive lines. "It turns out they have three lines of defense now," Andriy, a soldier with Ukraine's 92nd Mechanized Brigade near Svatore in Luhansk, tells The Washington Post. "But they're just sitting there in a deep defense. They're not trying to move forward." 

Ukrainian troops are also exhausted and contending with advance-slowing muddy conditions until the ground freezes over. 

"Russian leaders will highly likely see retaining control of Svatove as a political priority," Britain's Defense Ministry said Monday. But defended largely by poorly trained reservists, "the Svatove sector is likely now a more vulnerable operational flank of the Russian force" than the fortified front lines in Kherson.

"Even if Kyiv's forces don't quickly gain more ground near Kherson," their advance to the west bank of the Dnipro extends "by miles to the east and south their targeting of Russian positions and supply lines," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Ukraine is already shelling retreating Russian troops across the Dnipro and recently landed some special-forces troops across the wide river."

As Moscow's troops flail, Russian missiles have destroyed about half of Ukraine's electrical capacity, forcing Ukrainian cities and towns into rolling blackouts as winter starts. "Russian strikes are plunging Ukraine into the Stone Age," Kyiv resident Anastasia Pyrozhenko, 25, tells The Associated Press. "Our building is the highest in the area and is a great target for Russian missiles, so we left our apartment for our parents' place and are preparing for the worst winter of our lives."

At the same time, "Russia's missile barrages on Ukraine are having much less impact than Vladimir Putin might have wanted, thanks to Ukrainian improvisation and ingenuity," Politico reports. Russia's military in mid-November fired "an estimated billion-euros worth of missiles at the country's energy infrastructure — but for all that money the net result was to cause blackouts only for a day."