Russia has signaled intent to end ‘current phase’ of invasion, cut losses with Kherson referendum: expert

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Russia has potentially signaled intent to end the invasion of Ukraine and integrate the Kherson region, an intelligence expert told Fox News Digital. 

Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told journalists that “residents of Kherson must decide for themselves” whether they will “appeal” for “integration of the region into the Russian territory,” according to TASS. 

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Peskov refused to be drawn on the possibility of a referendum, saying he “stated what I wanted to state,” but former DIA officer Rebekah Koffler argued that Moscow will proceed with a referendum to provide “legal justification” for Russia to integrate Kherson. 

“This is standard Russian statecraft,” Koffler explained. “In 2014, 95.5% of Crimean residents voted for joining Russia.” 

But Koffler, author of  “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America,” further believes that integrating Kherson would be enough for Putin to say he achieved his goal for the current phase of the invasion, which Moscow has continued to call a “special operation” in Ukraine. 

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that completion of the “special operation” would stop the West’s attempts to “promote a unipolar world,” which Lavrov defined as “attempts to undermine international law.” 

Lavrov repeated the same talking points Moscow has pushed since before the invasion started, claiming that Russia’s intent behind the invasion was to protect “the inhabitants of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics from the Kyiv neo-Nazi regime” and ensure “the West will not build a military threat to the security of the Russian Federation from the territory of Ukraine.” 

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“This is the first time, since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, that such a senior Russian official mentioned the idea of ending the ‘special operation,’” Koffler said. 

The Kherson region would provide Russia its much-desired access to Southern Ukraine and establish a land bridge to Crimea. By securing this access, Russia would be able to control the mouth of the Dnieper River, which bisects Ukraine and provides access along the length of the country.  

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“Realizing he can’t win the war – as long as the U.S. and NATO are providing formidable weaponry and real-time intelligence to Ukraine – Putin is probably considering cutting his losses and ending the operation at this stage,” Koffler said. 

“If Putin absorbs Kherson into Russia or at least establishes another breakaway ‘People’s Republic’ — like Donetsk and Luhansk — he will have achieved the goals of this current phase of war,” she added. 

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