Vladimir Putin is fighting for his life. His political one, at the very least.
That's the assessment of Oleksiy Arestovich, a Ukrainian intelligence officer and advisor to president Volodymyr Zelensky, in the wake of Russia's retreat from the key Kherson region in recent weeks, which saw Ukrainian forces reclaim large swathes of important territory.
As Ukraine troops triumphantly liberated local residents, Zelensky earlier this month hailed it as the "beginning of the end" of Russia's war with his country. If that ends up being true, that would spell disaster for Vladimir Putin.
Speaking to British newspaper The Times, Arestovich made the bold claim that the Russian dictator would be looking over his shoulder.
"[Putin] is very afraid because there is no forgiveness in Russia for tsars who lose wars," he said.
"He is fighting for his life now. If he loses the war, at least in the minds of the Russians, it means the end. The end of him as a political figure. And possibly in the physical sense."
The retaking of Kherson was one of Ukraine's biggest successes in the nine-month-old war, dealing a major blow to the Kremlin. And it could serve as a springboard for more advances into occupied territory. It is a crucial target in the invasion because of its link to Russian-annexed Crimea and Ukraine's Odessa port to the west – and Putin's backers very much know this.
"This has forced even people who are very loyal to Putin to doubt that they can win this war," Arestovich claimed.
Despite his rather colourful past, his comments have been widely circulated as the world waits for Russia's next move in the conflict which is expected to slow during winter.
Russia targets energy facilities as winter descends
Ukraine has promised shelters with heat and water and encouraged its people to save energy as a harsh winter looms amid relentless Russian strikes that have left its power structure in tatters.
Special "invincibility centres" will be set up around Ukraine to provide electricity, heat, water, internet, mobile phone connections and a pharmacy, free of charge and around the clock, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address on Tuesday (local time).
Russian attacks have knocked out power for long periods for up to 10 million consumers at a time. Ukraine's national power grid operator said on Wednesday more blackouts would be necessary across the country.
"If massive Russian strikes happen again and it's clear power will not be restored for hours, the 'invincibility centres' will go into action with all key services," Zelensky said.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said this week that some 8500 power generator sets are being imported to Ukraine daily.
The first snow of the winter has fallen in much of the country in the past week.
Authorities have warned of power cuts that could affect millions of people to the end of March - the latest impact from Russia's nine-month invasion that has already killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions and pummelled the global economy.
Russia's attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities follow a series of battlefield setbacks, including the retreat of its forces from the southern city of Kherson.
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