Pro-Russia Official Facing 'Calm Before the Storm' as Ukraine Closes In

A Russia-installed official in the occupied Kherson region of Ukraine said city leaders may be facing the "calm before the storm" as the Eastern European country makes gains near Kharkiv.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion on February 24, hoping his large military would bring him a quick victory. However, Ukraine responded with a stronger-than-anticipated defense effort, largely preventing Putin's military from achieving any major goals in the more than six months of fighting.

In recent weeks, Ukrainian troops have launched several counteroffensives to retake territory Russia captured in the early weeks of the war. A counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region, located alongside the eastern border with Russia, caught Moscow by surprise and allowed Ukraine to see major gains in cities such as Izyum, forcing Russian troops to retreat.

Amid these successes, Kirill Stremousov, who the Kremlin named as the deputy head of the Kherson military-civilian administration, said there is "no panic" in Kherson in a Telegram video reported by Al Jazeera on Monday.

Kherson faces "calm before the storm": Official
Above, residents are seen applying for Russian citizenship in Kherson. Kirill Stremousov, a Russia-installed official in the region, said they are facing the “calm before the storm” amid a counteroffensive effort from Ukraine. STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

Kherson is a city in southern Ukraine with an important strategic location just north of Crimea, the region of Ukraine that Russia annexed in 2014, which Ukrainian leaders have indicated they would like to take back.

Kherson was one of the most important cities captured by Russia, and Ukraine launched a separate counteroffensive to retake control of it last month and has seen some successes in the region. The British Ministry of Defence on Monday warned in an intelligence update that Russia is likely struggling to bring resources to its Kherson front line.

Even though the counteroffensive in Kherson has moved slower than the Kharkiv counteroffensive, it has still made significant gains throughout the past week. According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the counteroffensive is expected to continue, with Ukrainian forces potentially pushing east to intercept Russian communication lines.

Still, the atmosphere in Kherson remains "calm" despite the possibility of Ukrainian successes in Kharkiv, said Stremousov.

"It's calm. Possibly it's the calm before the storm, but we are ready to stand until the end and will not surrender our Russian city of Kherson to anyone," he said.

Ukrainian Successes See New Russian War Criticism

Ukrainian gains have seen some pro-war Russians take on a new tone, as some Ukrainian leaders hope they may see a quicker-than-expected victory against Russia.

Boris Nadezhdin, a former member of Russia's parliament, said during an appearance on Russian-state television that it is now "impossible" to defeat Ukraine, saying that Putin should begin to engage in peace talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"We're now at the point when we have to understand it's absolutely impossible to defeat Ukraine using those resources and colonial war methods with which Russia is trying to wage war, using contract soldiers, mercenaries, no mobilization," he said.

The Russian leader is also facing criticism from pro-Russia bloggers, who have called Russia's challenges in recent days a "horrible failure." One blogger, Yuri Podolyaka, described Saturday as "the most difficult day of this war."

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.