On March 25th, one month after the battle for Hostomel Airport and the failed Russian offensive to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and the strategic Northeastern city of Kharkiv, President Putin announced a strategic shift to focus his nearly 300,000 troops to “liberate” the Donbass Coal Basin oblasts of Luhansk and Donetsk. Each Oblast is home to a self-declared breakaway republic supported by the Russian Federation since 2014.
With the complete conquest of Luhansk, announced after yesterdays capture of Lysychansk, Russian President Putin must now make a decision: to honor the promise made to the Russian people and the international community of sticking to the scaled back war aims or continuing on into Ukrainian held territory in the Kharkivska Oblast.
Russian Defense Minister Shoigu reported this morning to President Putin that the liberation mission of Luhansk on behalf of the Luhansk Peoples Republic is accomplished. However, the Luhansk Peoples Republic Leader Pasechnik told local media that:
“We must fulfill all the set tasks,” Pasechnik said. This rhetoric from the leader of one of the “liberated” oblasts could indicate similar over confident opinions by members of Putin’s decision making circle. The Russian Federation could concentrate its forces in Donetsk or worst case scenario, against Kharkiv where Ukrainian forces have pushed back to the Russian border. Whatever happens in the next two weeks will indicate President Putin’s decision making calculus on recent success.