Pentagon advisers say Russia threatens to seize Kharkiv within months

Russia could seize Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, within “a few months” if Moscow organizes a “powerful attack”, a spokesman for the Rand Corporation, an American research center commissioned by the U.S. government and the Pentagon, told Newsweek.

He said Kharkiv’s location just 26 kilometers from the Russian border would make it easier for Moscow to support the advancing troops, who would be able to advance “slowly” due to superior artillery and the Russian leadership’s willingness to take heavy casualties.

At the same time, the Ukrainian forces’ ability to repel Russian offensive operations has declined sharply due to a lack of materiel and will continue to decline in the near future unless the U.S. provides military assistance, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote. The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) have especially “degraded” in the eastern part of the country, where Kharkiv is located, military experts said.

ISW estimates that Russian forces have so far exploited the AFU’s lack of materiel to achieve minor tactical gains, but that they could make more significant and threatening advances on the battlefield over time.

Ukraine is preparing to repel a major Russian offensive expected in late May and early June, but it will be “catastrophically difficult” without Western military assistance, Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Directorate of Military Intelligence, acknowledged.

Sources close to the presidential administration told Meduza that Vladimir Putin had “sensed the weakness” of Ukraine and was preparing to make another attempt to take Kyiv or Kharkiv.

According to them, the Kremlin considers the capture of Kharkiv a “realistic goal”, after which the war could gradually end. “Symbolically, this is also a victory. [To capture] a city of one million people, where there is a large Russian-speaking population”, one of Meduza’s interlocutors explained.

To organize an offensive on Kharkiv, the Russian authorities may mobilize about 300,000 people in the near future, Verstka’s sources said. According to one of them, “no one wants to turn Ukraine’s second largest city into a second Mariupol”, so “there is an idea” to make it a showcase of how the Russians “know how to fight in a civilized manner”.

Amid reports of a possible offensive on Kharkiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has arrived in Kharkiv Region. There, he said that the region was very important for the country and the Russians “should see that we are ready to defend ourselves”. Zelensky emphasized that Ukraine has prepared for a possible Russian army offensive.

The head of the local military administration, Oleh Synegubov, specified that an extensive system of trenches, dugouts and other shelters had been created near the border. There are also plans to install “dragon teeth” and dig anti-tank ditches in the region.

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