Russian President Vladimir Putin is “living in fear for his life” as his army retreats, a senior Ukrainian military adviser has said.
Earlier this month, Russia announced it was withdrawing from the Kherson region, marking one of Putin’s most embarrassing defeats and a potential turning point in a war now in its ninth month.
The loss of Kherson, the only regional capital that Russia captured in the conflict, dealt a serious blow to plans to create a land corridor to Crimea and secure water supplies to the Russian-controlled peninsula.
“[Putin] is very afraid, because in Russia there is no forgiveness for tsars who lose wars,” said Oleksiy Arestovich, adviser to the chief of staff of the Ukrainian president Times.
“Now he’s fighting for his life. If he loses the war, at least in the minds of the Russians, it’s over. End him as a political figure. And perhaps in a physical sense.
Ukraine’s victory over Kherson followed a series of humiliating retreats by Kremlin forces in the Kharkiv and Donbas regions.
“It has even forced people who are very loyal to Putin to doubt the possibility of winning this war,” Arestovich said.
He said the liberation of Kherson sparked renewed Russian attacks on the country’s infrastructure and plans for a new offensive by Belarus, Russia’s ally in northern Ukraine. Putin’s troops advanced on Kyiv from Belarus in the early stages of the war, but were forced to retreat after fierce resistance.
Ukrainian authorities have begun evacuating civilians from recently liberated parts of the Kherson and Mykolaiv oblasts, fearing that the lack of heat, electricity and water caused by Russian shelling will make life difficult this winter.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says millions of people in Ukraine will face “life-threatening” conditions in the coming months, with residents in the southern regions being urged to move to safer areas in the central and western parts of the country.
Arestovich reiterated that Ukraine’s goal is to reclaim all of its lands occupied by Russia, including Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula that was annexed by the Kremlin in 2014.
This week, Putin touted Russia’s Arctic might during a flag-raising and docking ceremony for two nuclear-powered icebreakers that will provide year-round navigation in the western Arctic.
Presiding over a video link from the Kremlin at the opening ceremony in the former capital of the empire, St. Petersburg in northern Russia, Putin said such icebreakers are of strategic importance to the country.
“Both icebreakers were launched as part of a large-scale serial project and are part of our systematic large-scale work to re-equip and replenish the country’s icebreaker fleet to strengthen Russia’s status as a great Arctic power,” Putin said.
The Arctic is taking on greater strategic importance due to the climate crisis as shrinking ice sheets open up new sea routes. Vast oil and gas reserves are located in Russia’s Arctic regions, including a liquefied natural gas power plant on the Yamal Peninsula.
Putin smiled as the nuclear icebreaker Yakutia was launched at the docks and stood as the Russian national anthem marked the raising of the Russian flag on the Ural icebreaker, which will begin operation in December.
The Russian president also announced meetings with the mothers of reservists called up to fight in Ukraine.
According to the United States, the war killed and injured tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides, and the Russian invasion sparked the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
The meeting with the mothers of the soldiers, which was first reported by the Vedomosti newspaper, was confirmed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Russia celebrates Mother’s Day on November 27.
“Indeed, such a meeting is planned, we can confirm,” Peskov told reporters when asked whether Putin was to organize a meeting with the families of those mobilized.
“Such a meeting is in preparation.
“The president often organizes such meetings, not all of them are public. In any case, the president receives first-hand information about the real state of affairs.”