Russia is struggling to hold onto territory it has supposedly already annexed through so-called referendums in the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia.
And while the Ukrainian military is responsible for driving the invaders back, there are resistance movements in the occupied regions doing their bit to sabotage newly installed Russian-backed leaders.
Of all the problems Putin has, perhaps the grassroots efforts of Ukrainian resistance don’t rate highly on the list, but some of the developments in the occupied regions help demonstrate just how murky this side of the war is.
In Kherson, there have been reports local leaders appointed by Russia have mysteriously fallen ill and, in one case, Vitaliy Gura was reported to have been shot dead outside his office.
That was in early August, but by September Vitaliy showed up in Moscow alive.
According to him, he knew he was the target of a Ukrainian assassination plot and so the Russian FSB staged his death and brought him home.
What’s true, what was ever really planned, who it was planned by is all part of the murky world of Russia, its infighting, resistance movements and each sides’ intelligence services.
What Dr Shelest would confirm is that the Ukrainian intelligence services are working with resistance movements, both to gather information and to help their efforts.
“We understand perfectly that we have our resistance movements in the occupied territories, parts of them are independent — grassroots partisans — but some of them are in good contact with the special forces and with military intelligence,” she said.
“So these operations are definitely happening.”
Putin’s inner circle unese
With a series of embarrassing and symbolic attacks, mounting motivations for revenge and the undeniable loss of territory in the ground battle, Russia has returned to the sky.
With a new commander for the “special military operation”, Putin is pushing on.
Mr Grant said with Sergei Surovikin — or “the killer” — now in charge, there was “a change of tack”.
“He’s going to go for the population. He’s not a general — I mean he’s not a highly trained type of senior officer who knows what he’s doing,” he said.
“He’ll throw lots of bodies at it, throw lots of ammunition and missiles at it and kill as much as possible.
“I don’t see that we’re going to see any true tactical change on the front line.”
Russian political commentator Tatiana Stanovaya reports Putin’s inner circle is increasingly trying to offer solutions on Ukraine.
“The attempts are getting louder, the suggestions are more diverse. Everyone wants to help Putin find a way out.
“But Putin’s behaviour in recent months creates a feeling among the elites that there are no solutions other than nuclear ones,” she writes in R.Politik.
Not only does their leader look incompetent, but with widespread analysis the Russian military is ineffective, the motherland itself looks both weak and stunningly cruel on the world stage.
Among those voices are strong proponents of doubling down.
“He’s definitely desperate, but he’s also paranoid,” Dr Shelest said.
“So the only question is, how far other people around him are willing to go, because he’s not the only person who is pushing the buttons.”
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