An aide to Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky says Vladimr Putin is “living in fear for his life'” because the Russian military has retreated.

Earlier this month, Russia declared its abandonment of the Kherson region, a humiliating setback for Putin and a potential turning point in the conflict, which has dragged on for nine months.

The loss of Kherson, the only regional capital Russia had captured in the conflict, dealt a heavy blow to plans to establish a land corridor to Crimea and secure a water supply to the Russian-controlled territory.

Moscow could be preparing a fresh offensive from Belarus to the north of Ukraine, after the liberation of Kherson. Putin’s troops retreated from Kyiv early in the war after encountering fierce resistance.

According to Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Ukraine’s chief of staff, Putin is terrified because Russia has no mercy for tsars who lose wars.

“He is fighting for his life now. If he loses the war, at least in the minds of the Russians, it means the end. The end of him as a political figure. And possibly in the physical sense.”

Since the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has declined. A recent poll by the Levada Center, an independent Russian polling organization, showed that only 38% of Russians approve of Putin’s job performance—the lowest rating since he took office in 2000.

Many Russians are growing increasingly disillusioned with Putin’s policies, and there is a growing demand for change. This sentiment is especially strong among young people. Another survey found that 70% of Russians aged 18-24 want Putin to step down.

There is also increasing opposition to Putin within the Kremlin. Earlier this year, a group of Russian officials wrote an open letter calling for Putin to step down. The letter was signed by dozens of senior government officials, and several high-ranking members of the security services.

Despite this growing discontent, it is unlikely that Putin will step down willingly. He has been in power for 17 years and shows no signs of wanting to retire. If he does decide to step down, he will presumably orchestrate a handover to another member of his inner circle, like Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

In late August, Ukrainian forces finally turned the tide against Kremlin-backed insurgents in the Donbas region after a series of humiliating Kremlin-backed insurgent victories in Kharkiv.

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Even people who are very loyal to Putin have doubts about whether they can win this war.

Because of Russian shelling, Ukrainian authorities fear that living conditions will be too harsh this winter in recently liberated areas of the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, where heating, power, and water are lacking.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the lives of millions of people in Ukraine are at risk in the coming months, as residents of the southern regions are urged to relocate to safer areas in central and western parts of the country.

All of Ukraine’s territory seized by Russia, including Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, should be recaptured, Arestovich said.

Putin Reverts Public’s Eyes to the Arctic

While flag-raising and the dock launch for two nuclear-powered icebreakers that will ensure year-round navigation in the Western Arctic, Putin touted Russia’s Arctic power amid the troops’ retreat.

Putin affirmed that such icebreakers are important to the nation, speaking via video link from St. Petersburg at the launch ceremony.

Vladimir Putin
President of Russia Vladimir Putin gives a speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club meeting, in Moscow Oblast, Russia. (Source: Presidential Executive Office of Russia/Wikimedia)

According to Putin, Russia’s large-scale, systematic work to re-equip and replenish the domestic icebreaker fleet is part of a large-scale, systematic project in which both icebreakers were built in order to strengthen Russia’s position as a major Arctic power.

The Arctic is becoming more strategically important, ironically, thanks to the climate crisis, as ice caps are shrinking and creating new sea routes. Vast oil and gas resources are located in Russia’s Arctic regions, including a liquefied natural gas operation on the Yamal Peninsula.

In honor of the new nuclear icebreaker, President Vladimir Putin smiled and stood as the Ural icebreaker’s flag was raised, beginning its work in December. He also said he would meet with the mothers of Russian soldiers serving in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that a meeting with soldiers’ mothers, as reported by the Vedomosti newspaper, took place. Russia commemorates Mother’s Day on November 27th.

“Yes, we can confirm that such a meeting will take place,” Peskov told reporters.

According to the United States, tens of thousands of soldiers have been killed or wounded on both sides as a result of the war. The Russian invasion has also provoked the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis, which is the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.