Moscow will be politically under pressure to take back Ukrainian controlled regions which were annexed in September.
Vladimir Putin declared that those four regions will remain part of the Russian Federation forever and on Friday the Kremlin has said that despite the Russian forces’ withdrawal from Kherson, this will not change the status of the region.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Kherson’s status is “fixed” and that no changes were possible and in September Vladimir Putin said that the newly annexed regions will remain Russian lands “forever.”
Peskov added, “It is a subject of the Russian Federation – it is legally fixed and defined. There are no changes and there can be no changes.”
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Peskov told the BBC, “There are lots of different experts – some say what you’ve said, some say other things. We don’t want to comment on any of them.
“The ‘special military operation’ continues.”
However in an interview with Sky News, Ed Arnold, research fellow for European security at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) warned “Politically, there will still be pressure to take back territories.”
The analyst said the recapture of the port city was “hugely significant” for Ukraine and a “moral victory” for the country and Kyiv will not want to leave anymore “territory in “Russian hands.”
Arnold added, “In terms of the video reports we’re seeing at the moment, there’s a lot of people out on the streets greeting Ukrainian forces as liberators.
“There will be areas of the city which still need to be cleared in case the Russians have planted any improvised explosive devices to slow down Ukrainian forces, so there will be an element of clearing, and then essentially it will be on Ukraine to then decide how far they actually have to advance.
“At the moment, it looks like they’re going to be able to quite easily secure the west bank of the Dnipro and then the decision will have to be made as to whether to continue or hold there.”
The analyst was asked what he thought might happen over the coming weeks in Ukraine, he said, “Politically, there will still be pressure to take back territories because we’ve seen what happens in areas that Russia controls in terms of the things that they do to the population.
“Politically they will not want to leave any more territory in Russian hands.”
Arnold continued to say that although Ukrainian troops have gained “momentum” they will now have to cross the Dnipro river which is a “complex operation.”
Arnold added, “Military operations in the south will be quite complicated for Ukraine. However, saying that I do think the chances of continuing the counter-offensive in the east is probably for prudent for Ukraine at this time.”
He said that this latest move will be politically “difficult” for Putin, but from a military perspective there is still an “element of rationality” within Kremlin and the military’s decision making.
Arnold added, “If Russia had tried to keep hold of Kherson they would most likely have been encircled and been forced to surrender to Ukrainian forces and that could have been as many as 20,000 troops.”
President Volodymr Zelensky said in his nightly address that “Hope for Ukraine is always justified, and Ukraine always returns its own.
“I am happy to see how people, despite all the threats, despite the repression and abuse of the occupiers, protected the Ukrainian flags, believed in Ukraine.
“And even when the city is not yet completely cleansed of the enemy presence, the people of Kherson themselves are already removing Russian symbols and any traces of the occupiers’ presence in Kherson from the streets and buildings.”