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A view shows destroyed Russian tanks and armored vehicles in Lyman, recently liberated by Ukraine.

REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

What We’re Watching: Russian rhetoric & retreat, Ugandan “tweeting general” canned, Colombia-ELN talks resume

Russians retreat, but what comes next?

It’s a case of rhetoric vs. reality. On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin signed constitutional laws formalizing Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions and vowed to stabilize them. Yet continued Ukrainian advances in one of those regions, Kherson, are now forcing Russian troops to beat a partial retreat. Russia’s acting governor in the region, Kirill Stremousov, has even admitted openly that Putin’s forces are “regrouping to get their strength together and strike back.” Does the Russian retreat raise the risk that Putin, increasingly on his back foot, turns to the use of the once-unthinkable — nuclear weapons — to regain the advantage? While many analysts say such an escalation is unlikely, Moscow has signaled — through the reported movement of nuclear-capable equipment — an ability to make good on the threats. Increased domestic criticism of the war within Russia and losses on the ground no doubt have Putin feeling cornered. So the question remains, how far will he go?

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