Many who talk about hypothetical Russian offensives/occupations of something consider individual episodes out of context. Let's try it a little differently. In the form of fortune telling on several carpets at once.

Because Russia’s ability to put pressure is communicating vessels with a limited resource. If they advance somewhere, it means they will not be able to advance somewhere.

Let me make a reservation right away: we are talking about an inertial-negative scenario, which we can (and should) improve through our actions.

1.What ways out of the war are there?

There is no part of Ukrainian territory for which Putin launched a full-scale invasion. Therefore, any proposals from well-wishers on the topic “give him something so that he calms down” are a priori meaningless.

The Kremlin's obvious goals:

• undermine the EU and NATO in order to take revenge for defeat in the Cold War and rebalance relations with the West;

• so that Ukraine does not exist as a democratic alternative, where everyone, incl. – Russians live better than in the Russian Federation. For this is a verdict on the Russian empire and its “Russian world”.

None of these goals have been achieved. But it didn’t fail either. While Putin has not lost the ability to fight, he has not completely lost.

This leads to the thesis: the priority is not negotiations or “containment,” but the proactive deprivation of Putin’s ability to wage war. Then he will lose. Then there will be real negotiations and a just peace. “Negotiations” as a means of stalling for time are quite acceptable as an element of tactics.

2. What about time?

The Kremlin at the moment probably views the situation as a “window of opportunity” that will (if) close in January 2025.

Prerequisites for such an assessment:

• formalities have been completed, Putin has been “extended”, and the situation in the West is just unstable - elections are gaining momentum,

• problems within the Russian Federation (economy, social affairs, etc.) are accumulating, but they are partially stopped, subsidence is not happening quickly,

• at the front the situation for Ukraine is difficult, the Russians are very slowly and with huge losses, but they are crawling forward. (Therefore, until the front is completely stabilized, we are still waiting for news about the abandonment of a number of small settlements).

Consequence: this year the Russian Federation will push with all its might. What has already been said, including by Ukrainian officials.

An important issue that the Russian Federation will decide before the end of the year is the issue of power. Only the authorities can change policies and reconsider decisions.

The war against Ukraine and the accompaniment of the war (political, diplomatic, informational...) by influencing public opinion will be used to form the most beneficial structures of power for Russia at key points. Anyone can write these points in a column.

The most obvious:

• elections to the European Parliament (June, campaign peak – May) followed by the design of the European Commission;

• US presidential elections (November, peak of the campaign – from September).

In the background there are elections in Moldova, Romania and other countries.

The anniversary NATO summit (July) so far looks like a decorative event, the decisions of which will be verified (or not) no earlier than November. That is, spoiling the holiday for the “Satanists” is sacred, but not the ultimate goal.

A positive result for the Russian Federation in Europe is a tilt to the right and for everyone to quarrel to the point of open Euroscepticism. The significance of this goal is growing as Europe revitalizes and cooperates in the field of defense.

Positive result in the USA: it is generally accepted that Trump will win. But it seems to me that another thing is to deepen the split and for the most weakened president, anyone, to come to power. This scenario is beneficial to all of Putin’s friends, because what the representative of Taiwan said will happen - the United States will cease to be a reliable partner.

Total. Putin ideally needs to stage something big and successful in 2 months in order to impress the Europeans. And then increase the temperature in early autumn and press for several months to obtain optimal results in the USA.

You will need a lot of strength. No time. The game immediately counts.

3. Where is Kharkov?

The city remains an extremely tasty prize for Putin. He got punched in the nose here and desperately wants revenge. And the song about him sounded loudly, it still echoes. In view of this, it is impossible to rule out an attempt to attack Kharkov - under favorable conditions SOMEWHERE IN THE FUTURE.

Now all adequate military experts say the same thing. To attack Kharkov, you need to a) maintain pressure along the existing front and b) concentrate a separate large group (from 150 thousand). Which in itself is a difficult task that cannot be solved covertly and quickly.

In order to accumulate such forces for a campaign on Kharkov in the required two months, the Kremlin would have to significantly weaken the troops in other directions and draw in all the recruits.

That is, 1) technically at the limit of possibilities; 2) risks in other areas increase sharply; 3) with scanty chances of success.

Our military is getting ready. Defense on the ground is improving. The cost of a hypothetical attempt to climb Kharkov for the enemy is growing every day. The Russians see this. This is a real deterrent.

Therefore, it is much more pragmatic for the Russian Federation to now build up groups in the south and in the Donetsk region in order to try to build on its success there. Technically, it’s an order of magnitude simpler, and you can accumulate it on time. There are fewer risks. If there is no adequate help for us, then the Russian troops will have a chance for some success.

Therefore, an attack on Kharkov (this includes all options - a detour to the west, landings, etc.) in the next few months would look extremely unnatural. They won't crawl on the ground. Maximum - in the format of disturbing, delaying activity.

4. What could affect the situation in the coming months and still provoke an attempt to occupy Kharkov?

I see only one option - political destabilization in Kyiv.

Could trigger a catastrophic scenario. The defense will disintegrate into pockets and will be as difficult as possible (this is exactly what the Russians tried to achieve in 2022, nothing has changed). Here we will talk about the fate of not only Kharkov. Therefore, it is impossible to consider the military situation without the general political one.

Everyone can independently assess: what is the likelihood of destabilization of the central government (in my opinion, it is still low) and what factors work for this.

Various experts have already noted that an avalanche of publications on the topic “after May 21 there is no power in Kyiv” has begun online. It is being driven by Russian and enemy-aligned resources.

That is, it looks like at the end of May (coinciding with the end of the campaign in Europe) attempts will be organized to destabilize from within while simultaneously increasing pressure from without (at the front, air strikes, etc.). Before this, the media space will warm up for two months.

But even in this case, a large group cannot be moved in an instant. That is, the likelihood of a ground attack on Kharkov is still elusively small.

Total. In my opinion, in the coming months the Russian Federation assigns a different role to Kharkov in its plans. Namely, a catalyst for a humanitarian crisis. To draw back scarce resources, clog communications, and play extra for destabilization. This will just help Russian troops in the East. Putin’s thesis about the “sanitary zone” will be the explanation of the atrocities for the West.

This means that attacks on Kharkov will continue, even if no occupation offensive is planned in the coming months.

5. What about the end of summer?

Putin announced a call for conscripts. The conscription age has been raised from 27 to 30 years. The Russian Federation has also begun testing electronic summonses.

The Russian authorities have drawn conclusions and are trying to avoid a new public wave of mass mobilization. Instead, they will force conscripts to sign a contract after 3 months, and also pull people out through the massive use of electronic subpoenas, but without highlighting this process.

In such conditions, it is possible to accumulate a significant group in 4-6 months (although it is not very clear what to arm it with). That is, for the desired autumn.

But where to apply it is a dilemma.

The most organic thing is: if there is activation in the Donbass by June, then continue to put pressure there, declaring the goal of reaching at least the borders of the Donetsk region.

A more daring plan with potentially higher bonuses is an attack on one of the NATO countries in a hybrid format. The likelihood will increase if positive results for the enemy are achieved in Ukraine.

An option approximately the same in terms of audacity and level of stakes is a new campaign against Kyiv.

Neither Kharkov nor Kyiv will be taken. But because of Kyiv, the resonance will be higher. And it fits more beautifully into the “holy war” format. For political purposes and gaining a strong negotiating position, it is more effective.

Total. Before the beginning of summer, an attack on Kharkov would have been unnatural; it will not happen. In the fall, the probability is higher, but there are more organic and profitable options for Moscow.

Therefore, the role of Kharkov in the plans of the Russians is most likely as follows:

• catalyst for a humanitarian crisis due to attacks on civilian infrastructure and

• “unsuitable object” to distract attention during the preparation and implementation of the main plan.

Hence: regardless of whether Putin is going to attack Kharkov or not, there will be information pressure on this topic in any case. Because this muttering helps solve several problems at once.

If the Russians manage to squeeze out something more (for example, because of the political crisis in Ukraine), they will try.

Basically, something like this.

6. What can be done?

For now, let’s leave aside hypotheses about what the government and foreign partners should do. Let's leave behind the scenes what we expect from the military. Let's see what citizens can do.

We need to mentally estimate the de facto options for the year.

Every adequate person in Kharkov for this period has two roles:

• Help the defense;

• Stop the Russians from organizing a humanitarian crisis.

Helping the defense means reducing the likelihood that there will be an attack in the first place. The Russians will not climb the evil monolithic stronghold of a million people.

How to participate/help the defense - everyone will decide for themselves, based on their individual situation. Lots of options.

But here’s how to thwart plans to organize a humanitarian crisis – there are only two fundamental options:

• Do not become hysterical, be self-sufficient in terms of provision and a little support for others;

• Don’t get hysterical, be ready to leave as planned (mentally, work out options in advance).

This is the hardest part.

Because we need honest answers to ourselves. And not everyone will like them.

7. What do we already know from experience?

We are incredibly resilient and resilient in the best sense of the word. Although many are really tired.

UZ will take everyone out.

Energy and utility workers will work wonders.

The rescuers will do their best work.

New mail will deliver everything.

Various good forces will bring Starlinks, generators, water and other critical items to the city.

Fresh bread will be baked. The coffee will be brewed.

But in a deteriorating situation, it will be a huge contribution to the defense of the city - not to overburden yourself unnecessarily.

While there is time, everyone should wrinkle their brow and decide: if the situation gets worse, until when will I stay? How do I minimize risks, where do I hide? When/if the time comes (for example, housing is destroyed during shelling), where and how do I get out, where do I knock for help? Etc.

The main thing is not to deceive yourself.

For example, a burning question: should one hundred thousand children roam around in Kharkov? And how can you optimally protect your people? When/where to export? What about dogs/cats/parrots? Which school will the children go to in September if there is an exacerbation?

In general, assessing what might be needed, taking into account the deterioration of the situation, is important.

Russia will try to make the maximum number of Kharkov residents fall sharply into the crisis and succumb to panic. In order to cause the collapse of power and support structures.

The city is full of people on the edge, without any clear income, who have one resource - housing. The bottleneck for many is medicine and drugs.

Often a difficult answer will emerge: we will not leave as long as we have somewhere to live, no matter how dangerous it may be. For different reasons. We will not abandon our relatives with limited mobility. We help those who are fighting. Nowhere. My pleasure. Etc. We need minimal estimates of how to survive under increasing pressure.

The authorities will help in some places, but in others they won’t. Some will be picked up by volunteers or humanitarian missions. If you are definitely not leaving until your home is destroyed, it is worth identifying them proactively.

In the city there are waiters (enemies) and adherents of peace at any cost (not always enemies, often just completely exhausted fellow citizens). The more self-sufficient, sober in assessments and persistent the pro-Ukrainian (not even so - anti-Putin) part of Kharkov is, the less likely Russia is to bring down the city and turn it into a problem. And then - into production.

If the attacks increase (and the likelihood of this is high), some part of the population will inevitably have to evacuate. Ideally, prepare as much as possible for this.

8. The army will not flinch, we know that. And Russia knows.

Motivated and trained civilians will not add problems. They will be a factor of strengthening, not weakening.

In total, this will help eliminate an attempt to capture the city in the foreseeable future and reduce pressure. Because in a prepared city it is much more difficult to create a crisis. If there is no crisis, there is little point in wasting resources.

When in the summer the Russian Federation sees that there is nothing to catch with Kharkov, it will not hesitate, will not panic, and will be motivated to switch resources to other purposes.

9. Residents of other regions often ask how to help?

The most important thing is a roof over your head. If residents of relatively safer regions tell their friends and acquaintances in Kharkov that when things get really tough, we will accept/organize them - this will add strength now. Many who traveled in 2022 and then returned have such connections. However, not all.

Next is assistance in preserving jobs. Even now they are doing a lot of good things in Kharkov. All other things being equal (and even slightly unequal), buy in Kharkov.

This will allow us to maintain an active part of the population in the city, which will take care of itself and support someone else.

For things that don’t really require money, organizational support is important.

Now in Kharkov there is everything and everything can be brought. If the pressure increases (not only light, but also water/gas, communications, transport, etc., begin to decline, then the usual search for what you need will take a lot of time and effort, even when you have money.

If you are in a relatively safer region, get yourself a sponsored Kharkov resident. Collecting one out of 5 parcels in Vinnitsa and sending it to Kharkov is real help. If you can create such a “cloud back office” outside the city, that’s +100 to sustainability.

These measures will help those who export in principle not to fall. And they will save life in the city.

And be prepared that Kharkov residents even express gratitude in a boorish manner. It's from an excess of feelings

10. Regarding the state and foreigners. Common places such as air defense, etc. spoken many times.

I am convinced that in order to reduce the risks for Kharkov, it is necessary to integrate it into the international agenda in every possible way. Just so that the name of the city sounds and associations arise.

The more complicated the situation, the fewer official visits there will be (of which there were already much fewer than in Odessa). Therefore, it is necessary to drag various deputies (national, local) from friendly countries to the city. There are many of them, no one feels sorry for them, and they themselves will receive a heroic entry on their resume. Many decent Kharkov residents have drinking buddies from among foreign deputies. This is a reason.

An international tribunal, sanctions and confiscation of Russian assets - at a minimum, these topics should be institutionalized in Kharkov. So that bombs would fall, conditionally, not just “in the central part,” but 500 meters from the office of the international tribunal. Then there will be at least some kind of informational reason. Otherwise, we will not be able to compete for attention.

And we need visualization - what Kharkov is, how it differs from Avdiivka and Bakhmut. From the sounds of it, this is another city, a little larger, which also needs a lot for defense. Doesn't work well. Here I would ask for advice from those who feel foreign audiences. Because we love and are proud of Derzhprom. But a golf club may be more helpful for the current task. And even ugly monkeys will do...

Total. The situation may worsen, or it may improve (two squadrons of F-16s - and there will be a different movie).

If you don’t prepare and panic, everything will go according to the worst-case scenario.

If you remember that there are more Kharkov residents than Chechens. That we are much more unpleasant as an enemy. Because the range of resources ranges from our people in Israel to the extremely motivated “new Kharkovites” - Donetsk and Lugansk.

Now, if you collect all this and much more and show that the city is serious about welcoming uninvited guests, then more help will come. And they will think three hundred times whether it’s worth climbing here.

We remember: the goal is not to repel an attack, but to eliminate it and remove as much motivation as possible from causing a nightmare to the city.

Not everything, but a lot is still in our hands.