The Russian commander of the “Vostok” Battalion fighting in southern Ukraine said on Thursday that Ukraine will not be defeated and suggested that Russia freeze the war along current frontlines.

Alexander Khodakovsky made the candid concession yesterday on his Telegram channel after Russian forces, including his own troops, were devastatingly defeated by Ukrainian marines earlier this week at Urozhaine in the Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk regional border area.

“Can we bring down Ukraine militarily? Now and in the near future, no,” Khodakovsky, a former official of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, said yesterday.

“When I talk to myself about our destiny in this war, I mean that we will not crawl forward, like the [Ukrainians], turning everything into [destroyed] Bakhmuts in our path. And, I do not foresee the easy occupation of cities,” he said.

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“We can [though] enter a phase that is most unfavorable for Ukraine in its ‘independent’ state: a phase of neither peace nor war. We could be in this phase if, instead of the special military operation, the [currently occupied] territories were recognized and officially taken under guardianship. But it would require a completely different twist of history,” Khodakovsky said.

Khodakovsky also concluded on Telegram that the likely eventual outcome of the war is some form of “truce.”

The well-regarded think-tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), assessed Khodakovsky’s comments in the context of: a) on-going power struggles among Kremlin elites, and; b) the practical consequences of recent battlefield set-backs for the unit that he personally formed in 2014.

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ISW said in its daily campaign assessment that Khodakovsky was “reintroducing a narrative that had been largely dormant since Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s armed rebellion.”

In April, Prigozhin stated that Russia should freeze the war in Ukraine to set conditions for a future victory without negotiations.

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ISW said that “Russian sources have periodically claimed that a Kremlin faction is interested in freezing the war along the current frontlines for similar reasons, as well as over concerns about domestic political stability and the economic fallout from the war.”

“Khodakovsky may be reintroducing the narrative into the Russian information space on behalf of the faction allegedly interested in freezing the war, although Khodakovsky likely has limited influence on the Russian leadership itself,” ISW said.

At a practical level, ISW further believes that Khodakovsky’s comments reveal that recent Ukrainian advances may be significantly weakening confidence in the Russian defense along the wider front in southern Ukraine.

Khodakovsky has previously highlighted concerns about the Russian defense in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia regional border area, specifically relating to poor Russian counterbattery capabilities, heavy Russian losses, exhausted Russian forces, and a lack of reserves, ISW noted, and that he has previously called for an operational pause so that Russian forces could reinforce for future operations.

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“Khodakovsky’s escalation from calling for an operational pause to suggesting that Russia freeze the conflict is likely associated with his firsthand experience of recent tactically significant Ukrainian advances and the degradation of defending Russian forces in Urozhaine,” ISW said.

Urozhaine is the 10th village and southern most point taken by the Armed Forces of Ukraine since the beginning of the summer offensive in early June.

Khodakovsky is a former commander of Ukraine’s Alpha special unit of the Security Service of Ukraine.

During Russia’s take-over of Donbas in 2014, he was part of local “insurgency” efforts, defected to Russia, and then served for a period as the security minister in the illegitimately created Donetsk People’s Republic.

In December 2022, Khodakovsky was reported to say that the only way Russia can win the war against Ukraine would be using nuclear weapons.

During fighting for Urozhaine, Khodakovsky alternately complained about a lack of equipment and reinforcements from the Russian general command, and then asserted that the “Vostok” Battalion alone would defend the “stronghold” against elite Ukrainian marines.

Fighting for the village began on Aug. 6, 2023, and Khodakovsky announced that the Vostok Brigade would be withdrawing from the village on Aug. 15, stating that “their defensive position had become untenable.”

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Video of Russian soldiers hastily retreating on foot from Urozhaine and being devastatingly shelled with cluster ammunitions from Ukrainian artillery went viral.

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