Russia May Try To Partition Ukraine Like Korea, Ukrainian Official Says

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Ukraine’s top military intelligence official said Sunday Russia appears to be focused on retaining control of occupied areas of southern and eastern Ukraine and splitting the country in two, rather than taking the entire country, in what would be a major shift in Russian strategy as its forces have failed to take Kyiv after more than a month of fighting.

Ukrainian defense intelligence head Kyrylo Budanov said in a statement Russia might attempt to politically split Ukraine based on occupied and non-occupied areas, which he said would effectively create a “North and South Korea in Ukraine,” according to a Reuters translation.

A senior Pentagon official told reporters Friday the Russian military “at the moment” is no longer mounting a ground offensive toward the capital, noting forces were “digging in” to create “defensive positions.”

The Kremlin suggested a change in strategy on Friday by announcing Russia was focusing on the “liberation” of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, which Russian-backed rebels have partially controlled since 2014.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Julianne Smith told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Western officials aren’t convinced Russia has given up its goal of capturing the entirety of Ukraine, after multiple rockets struck Lviv in western Ukraine on Saturday.

Budanov also warned that any Russian attempt to maintain control of Ukrainian territory would lead to an ongoing insurgency.

“The season of a total Ukrainian guerrilla safari will soon begin,” Budanov said, according to Reuters. “Then there will be one relevant scenario left for the Russians, how to survive.”

The leader of the pro-Kremlin Luhansk People’s Republic breakaway state in eastern Ukraine said there will likely be a referendum held in the near future about joining Russia. Ukraine has denounced any potential referendum as having no legal basis.

Russia has seized territory in southern and eastern Ukraine since starting its invasion on February 24, but Russian forces have not made much ground in taking other regions, amid stiffer-than-expected pushback from Ukrainian forces. Advances on Kyiv have been stymied, and attempts to take other large cities like Kharkiv have also been unsuccessful. Reports on Saturday also suggested Ukraine managed to take back villages near Kharkiv and the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol in a series of counterattacks. American officials have said a war of attrition was not the original plan for the Kremlin, which expected forces to move into Kyiv and topple Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government within days of the initial invasion. U.S. officials also believe the slow Russian progress and bloody nature of the conflict has led to morale problems among Russian troops.

15,000. That’s how many Russian troops may have been killed in Ukraine, a senior NATO official told media outlets last week. Casualty counts on both sides remain largely unclear at this point, but the official said the Russian death toll is likely between 7,000 and 15,000, with additional tens of thousands likely being wounded or taken prisoner. Russia claimed last week 1,351 of its personnel had died.

Ukraine says Russia wants to split nation, calls for more arms (Reuters)

Russia Appears To Scale Back Goals Of Ukraine Invasion (Forbes)

NATO: 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops dead in Ukraine (Associated Press)

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