Russian President Vladimir Putin attending Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 2022
Wana News Agency / Reuters

For the first time in the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin must contend with the serious prospect of losing it. Early setbacks around Kyiv and Chernigov had been balanced by Russian gains in the south and the east; they could be justified as tactical retreats and thus as Russian choices, regardless of whether they truly were. By contrast, the near rout of Russian soldiers in the Kharkiv region on September 10—and the rapid reconquest by Ukrainian forces of territory spanning some 2,000 square miles in the east and south—clearly showed that Ukraine was on top and that Russian

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