The EconomistThe Economist

A Ukrainian attempt to retake Crimea would be bloody and difficult

27 Nov 2022 · 4 min read

VLADIMIR PUTIN hoped to take over Ukraine in ten days. Nine months on, he faces serious problems holding on to the slice of territory he did manage to seize. Momentum is on Ukraine’s side following two counter-offensives, around Kharkiv in the north-east, and Kherson in the south, that were conducted with a minimum of loss and a maximum of triumph.

But those victories now raise the prospect of what would be much more humiliating Russian reverses in the Donbas and Crimea, territory seized by Vladimir Putin in 2014. In an interview published on November 24th, Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, reiterated his aim to “return all lands”. This approach chimes with Ukrainian public opinion, but not necessarily with Western backers. They fear that an operation to retake Crimea, or the Donbas (militarily perhaps an easier proposition), might drive Russia into escalation, perhaps even past the nuclear threshold.

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