Is Russia now winning the war in Ukraine? Experts have their say

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For months a narrative has built - and been fed by Western intelligence - that Russia is struggling to achieve its primary objectives in Ukraine.

We saw a complete withdrawal from the north and west after a failed push on Kyiv, and a refocusing on the Donbas in the east, where fighting has at times resembled a stalemate.

But now momentum, at least in the short term, appears to be with Vladimir Putin's forces, according to analysts.

So is the war now heading in Russia's favour?

Sir Richard Barrons, a former head of Joint Forces Command, told Sky News: "I think in the short term that is so.

"Russia will feel it's sitting on now just a bit less than a quarter of Ukraine. It knows that Ukraine does not have the military capability to throw them out, and it will sense that there is some weariness in the world at bearing the consequences of this war."

Over the last week, Ukrainian forces have retreated from Severodonetsk - the largest remaining part of the Luhansk region that was under Kyiv's control. Luhansk is part of the Donbas.

Territory in the southern belt has also been consolidated - but while militarily there has been progress, Moscow is aware that "strategically" it will lose that war, says Sir Richard.

"It's been isolated from the international community," he said.

"It's a pariah state. Its economy will shrink by maybe 15% this year. And if Ukraine is enabled to re-equip and re-arm, then Ukraine will reverse the military tide in due course, and start to throw the Russians out.

"And so for Russia, probably timing is everything here."

He said the Russian capture of Severodonetsk is a "tangible victory" but a stiff fight awaits in nearby Lysychansk, the last major Luhansk city still held by Ukrainian troops.

"Russians should in no way think they're going to advance further into the Donbas without paying a really heavy price in terms of the young people that they lose and the equipment that gets destroyed," Sir Richard said.

"And they'll know that their capacity to take all of the Donbas is going to be limited just because of the quality of the Ukrainian resistance."

The importance of capturing Severodonetsk

Defence analyst Professor Michael Clarke also said the Russian capture of Severodonetsk is "symbolically significant".

"It's the city that gives Russia the northern part of the Donbas," he said.

War at a 'critical point'

Former chief of the general staff General Lord Richard Dannatt also appeared on Sky News to offer his analysis of the war in Ukraine.

Asked about an attack on a shopping centre in Kremenchuk, which has killed at least 18 people, he said Russian President Vladimir Putin was a "terrorist".

"This is a crucially critical point," he said.

"There will come a time in the not too distant future when the Russians will have got control of those two Donbas provinces, which is what their strategic game currently is.

"Now, the West can tell the Russians they've got to go. The Russians will not go voluntarily and who is going to make them go?

"NATO is not going to launch an operation to throw them out. So there may be a new reality whereby part of sovereign Ukraine territory remains occupied by Russians for quite some time."

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