Thursday, 3 November 2022 — The van says…
Southern Russia is the area marked in red showing Russian advances since February this year. Expect to see the Russian flag flying in other places very soon indeed. Photo ©️Rybar
Since Russia launched its Military Operation, a goodly portion of what was Ukrainian territory is now part of the Russian Federation. This area, which is currently talked of as ‘Southern Russia’ is only set to expand as Moscow’s men push further during the coming winter. This article will look at what winter may bring and where that may leave the frontlines when the sun again shines on the region in spring.
Four New Lands
The former Ukrainian oblasts of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye are now wholly or partly under the control of Russian forces, these having been brought under the Kremlin’s wing after referenda were held in these regions. These regions, just as with Crimea, were allowed to democratically choose their destiny, the right of self-determination being paramount to both Moscow and its new subjects.
Where the Red Lines Lie
With Moscow not yet being finished with its operations, it is anybody’s guess as to where the Russian Federation will decide that the red lines lie. It is a pretty sure bet that Odessa could also become part of Russia, as will the lands to the west, right up to the Romanian border with Transnistria also being incorporated. Quite how the Kremlin and Russian High Command view areas to the north is quite another matter, these areas traditionally having been part of other nations’ empires.
To understand any potential moves by Moscow, we need to now look at a number of individual oblasts (provinces) and the possibilities they may (or not) present as Russia moves forward.
Nikolaev Oblast is currently at the limit of Moscow’s reach, yet far from Kiev’s forces having stalled Russian forces in the area, the Kremlin is accumulating resources in the region in the full knowledge that the danger of an effective counterattack is low, Ukrainian personnel and resources now at breaking point as they attempt to repel the inevitable in so many areas. The city of Nikolaev proper has a population of nearly half a million inhabitants, this being around a half of the total for the oblast as a whole and other than Voznesensk with around 180,00 inhabitants and Pervomaisk with 60,000, there are no other large conurbations in this province.
The oblast and the area it covers are of great value to Russia however. Not only is the region of agricultural importance, it has numerous smaller ports on the Black Sea and its geographic depth from north to south would make a flank attack by either Ukrainian or NATO forces a very difficult affair indeed.
This oblast borders the Donetsk People’s Republic to the east, Kherson to the west and Dnepropetrovsk to the north. It is already de jure part of Southern Russia, Moscow’s forces not having yet reached the administrative lines which divide it from neighboring provinces. This territory has a population of around 1.7 million, 700,000 or so living in the city of Zaporozhye which nestles in the northwestern extreme of the oblast. Just as with Nikolaev, the area is of agricultural importance as well as giving good access to the Black Sea. With the oblast having both the location and strategic location that it has, we can be sure that as time passes, the people of this territory will be given the option become part of Southern Russia should they wish.
Russian intentions towards this oblast were the subject of this recent article, its strategic, agricultural, industrial and maritime value eclipsing the previously mentioned provinces. A region that has traditionally been more pro-Moscow than pro-Kiev, not only does it have great importance for Russia and the Russians, its placement on the Black Sea means that by Moscow extending its gains westwards to the Romanian border, the Ukraine loses all maritime access as well. Not only that, but Southern Russia would then share a border with the breakaway Republic of Transnistria. In terms of area, Odessa is the largest oblast in the Ukraine and with a population of approximately two and a half million people is one of the most populous. When and not if Russian forces take this region, it will be a hammer blow to the overall situation for Kiev, a bad situation becoming completely untenable; possibly this would be the point where Zelenskiy and his masters are finally forced to the negotiating table.
With key areas covered, we will now examine two other areas that may be of interest as time and the Russians move forward.
Bordering the Donetsk Peoples Republic to the east, Zaporozhye and Kherson to the south, Nikolaev and Kirovograd to the west and Poltava and Kharkov oblasts to the north, Dnepropetrovsk is the industrial heartland of the Ukraine. This oblast is not a primary concern for the Kremlin, yet should it become part of Southern Russia, it would be a far greater loss to Kiev than it would be a gain for Moscow. In contrast to provinces further to the south, around eighty percent of the three million inhabitants live in cities such as Dnepr, Krivoy Rog, Kamensko, Nikopol and Pavlograd. Whilst this area is famed for its industrial output, since its population peaked in 1993 at a little over 3.9 million, this has now fallen to an estimated 3.1 million today. Whether Russia (or the people of this oblast) would want to become part of Southern Russia is a very good question, yet only as Moscow moves forward will clear answers come into sight.
Polishing the Ukraine Off
For all the clamor that has been seen with Russian operations in the East, few have been commented on what may happen in the west of the Ukraine, potential new developments that may affect the country in a different way. Much is written about the relationship between Russia and the Ukraine, yet what many do not know is that a huge area of what is today Western Ukraine was for centuries part of Poland and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In part or in whole, the oblasts of Zhitomir, Volyn, Rovno, Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, Ternopol and Khmelnytskyi came under the rule of these states and there are many in Poland who would dearly love former territories to come back into Warsaw’s grasp.
With provinces and particulars covered, there are two other factors that ought to be considered before arriving at conclusions.
The Maidan coup happened eight years ago, and since then, the Ukrainian people have experienced a not-so-slow decline in living standards as successive governments in Kiev have allowed politicians and the élite to bleed the country dry, leaving the average Joe sorely out of pocket. All the while, in spite of western measures to the contrary, standards in Russia have risen. Add to that the effects of a war which has been foisted upon the country by foreign players through their puppets in Kiev and it is not difficult to understand why many Ukrainians are now feeling a little more than peeved at the whole affair. Whilst it must be understood that the people themselves are Ukrainian, Moscow has made huge efforts in Southern Russia to ensure that the Ukrainian language is still taught, a new government going to great pains not to erase the culture of those who they govern. Whether this will sway the Ukrainian public remains to be seen, yet with Zelenskiy’s popularity being as low as it is, this is more than an outside possibility.
Lighting, Heating, Recovering
With the swarms of Geran drones amongst other arms having done the damage that they have, basic amenities are at present bad, yet the longer the conflict lasts, the worse the situation will become. When this is all over, the basic utilities which are necessary for everyday life will have to be put back into working order and the Ukrainian government in Kiev simply will not be in any position whatsoever to do so. It cannot be imagined that the Russians would cause the same damage to Ukrainian towns as Kiev attempts to wreak upon Donetsk, yet once the battle for the Ukraine is over, the road to recovery will lie ahead. This will entail years of work and immeasurable sums of money, but with a completely corrupt government that was already penniless before the Russians even set foot in the country, little hope will come either from Kiev or those nations that give the weapons of war with such generosity today.
We already know Southern Russia is an entity, created by Moscow and mandated by the citizens who have been affected by Moscow’s maneuvers. What is still unknown is where the fighting stops and new borders start. Even more importantly, the people in areas yet to see the Russian Army will be given the choice as to whether to get on Russia’s train or sit in the sidings for decades as they wait for a western-led government in Kiev to bail them out.
In the western reaches of the country, things could pan out differently, repeated rumors of Polish plans being more than just a flash in the pan.
Only time will tell us where it will all lead, yet in spite of all the naysayers in the Western media, Russia’s Military Operation in the Ukraine and the consequences it will yield have not yet even begun to end…