During the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kyiv shocked the world by repelling Moscow’s supposed military prowess from their capital and gaining decisive victories in Kharkiv and Kherson. However, instead of tactical failures, Vladimir Putin order partial mobilization to reinforce their depleted and exhausted professional army.

The introduction of conscripts resulted in minimal success in their offensive operations. Casualties have amassed in the past few months due to Soviet-era tactics of frontal assaults toward fortified positions in the Donbas region. Only the town of Soledar was fully captured in Russia’s “grand” winter offensive.

Rumors have been circulating of Ukraine’s much-anticipated spring counteroffensive. Predicting where the Ukrainian Armed Forces (ZSU) will strike will be hard. Still, the strategically important cities of Melitopol and Mariupol will become of the utmost importance to expel Russian Occupational Forces from the country.

Strategic Importance of Melitopol & Mariupol

Melitopol represents a major railway intersection that Moscow has used the city to supply Russian Forces in the South and East. With the Kerch Bridge still out of commission for the next several months, Melitopol now represents their top priority as a supply line.

With a chance to liberate Melitopol, Russian Forces would be split into two occupational zones—effectively forcing their Ministry of Defense to prioritize their initial goals of complete annexation of the Donbas region or saving what’s left of their army in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts.

Mariupol was arguably the biggest prize for Vladimir Putin in his increasingly disastrous war thus far. The city is adjacent to the Sea of Azov, which the Kremlin prioritized turning into Russia’s own personal lake. This was a major factor in Moscow’s relentless and brutal carpet-bombing tactics during the battle, potentially killing tens of thousands as Russia eventually sought to secure all of Ukraine’s coastline.

Comparing himself to Peter the Great after the city’s capture, Putin has ordered extensive fortifications made to the city. New buildings have been rebuilt for propaganda purposes to show that the “city is alive again,” despite the reality of the standards of living and ever-increasing mass graves proving otherwise.