Watching the unfolding Russian offensive in Ukraine and the cities/regions they are targeting here is what I see as their short-term military objective–take control of the Dnieper River and secure the eastern half (the Russian speaking half) of Ukraine. There are ten key areas (going from south to north):
(SEE MAP ABOVE)
If all of these river crossings are seized and the Ukrainian Army is still east of the Dnieper that will be the end of the Ukrainian Army. The Russians will not have to engage in bloody battles to render them inert. With their lines of communication severed it will only be a matter of time before they have to surrender. Looks like the Russians learned some lessons from what the Nazis did to the Soviet Army when it tried to hold Kiev.
So far the Russians have secured Chenobyl in the north and are surrounding Kiev. In the south, Russia has secured the mouth of the Dnieper around Odessa, Kherson and Kakhovka. They also are likely to secure Zaporizhzhia within the next two days.
Kakhovka is the location of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, which the Russians appear to have captured tonight. The breathless media reports screaming that the Russians were attacking the nuclear plant with the implication that they were putting the reactors in jeopardy appear to be hype. The video of the action indicates that Admin building was attacked and on fire. While there is always the possibility that a stray round could hit one of the reactors, I believe the Russians are cognizant of that risk and taking the necessary precautions to avoid creating a new Chenobyl disaster.
If Russia succeeds in securing the Dnieper River as its western “wall” it will have control of the Russian speaking Ukrainians that inhabit the eastern part of Ukraine.
While Ukraine continues to insist that Russia is bogged down, consider this–in one week Russia has secured territory inside Ukraine equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom (thanks to Patrick Armstrong for that factoid).