Ukraine has a good chance of liberating all of its territory – except Crimea – by the end of 2023, according to a military expert.

Cities like Severodonetsk, Melitopol and even Mariupol could be liberated if Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s forces maintain their counteroffensive success, according to former military intelligence officer Philip Ingram.

As we approach the end of a year that has seen Vladimir Putin Russia invade its neighbour, causing untold destruction and leading to the unprecedented return to war in Europe, Sky News takes a look at what could happen in Ukraine in 2023.

In the months following the February 24 invasion that saw Kremlin forces close in on Kyiv, Ukrainian defenders reclaimed more than half of the land captured by Russia since the war began.

President Zelensky insisted that his troops will eventually liberate all of his territory, including areas of Donbass and Crimea which have been occupied since 2014.

While experts remain divided on whether this will ultimately be possible, Ukrainian forces have demonstrated their courage and determination time and time again on the battlefield.

The early days of the war saw the historic defense of the port city of Mariupol, in which a small group of troops held out for 82 days against dreadful odds – buy crucial time for defense forces elsewhere to regroup and obtain western weapons.

More recently, stunning counter-attacks to the east and south sent Russian forces to withdraw from Kharkiv and Kherson.

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So what could happen next year?

Former intelligence officer Mr Ingram said everything could depend on what Ukraine does in the coming weeks as it seeks to make progress again.

He told Sky News: “If their next counter-offensive is as successful as the two they have already done – and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be – there is certainly a strong possibility that have taken over all the territory of mainland Ukraine by the end of the year.

“So I think 2023 will be a year of new Ukrainian counter-offensives and successes.

“I think at that time we will discuss the potential of operations to retake Crimea.”

Mr Ingram said further Ukrainian successes would lead to increased dissent in Russia, possibly jeopardizing President Putin’s rule.

He said taking over Mariupol in particular would have a huge psychological impact.

However, not all experts agree on this future for Ukraine over the next 12 months.

Explosion of the Kerch bridge.  Photo: AP
Image:
The attack on the Kerch Bridge in Crimea was a major event of the war. Photo: AP

Western weapons supply ‘not a bottomless pit’

Retired Air Vice Marshal Sean Bell has argued that the West can only support Ukraine for so long, as arms supplies are dwindling and some countries’ resolve may be weakening in the face of threats. high energy prices at home.

“When you look at the scale of the weapons that have been supplied, there is no bottomless pit,” he told Sky News.

“It’s very difficult militarily to see the West being able to support Ukraine for more than a year.”

He said that while President Zelenskyy is publicly calling for the return of all territory, behind closed doors he may be talking “pragmatically” about the future.

“I think that’s where you have great political savvy, because if winning is about securing more territory, then yes, Putin won.

“If Putin’s strategic goals are in fact to stop NATO expansion, it has failed.

“If his goal is to restore Russia to greatness, it has failed. If it is to create a stronger economy, it has failed.

“So depending on which metric we choose from a strategic perspective, it’s very hard to see this invasion being anything other than a dismal failure.”

He said it may well be that a peace will finally be negotiated where President Zelenskyy blames the West for forcing his hand, but privately accepts that this is the only way to prevent further losses of lives.

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