The first phase of the Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territories began weeks ago without any publicity. Kiev has not provided many details about the situation, other than claiming that troops are advancing.
Fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine, largely out of sight of impartial observers, took months to build formidable defenses and honed tactics with troops armed with new weaponry supplied by the West. The Kremlin army fights.
See what’s happening after over 16 months of war.
What is the Ukrainian tactic?
Fighting rages at several points along a 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) front. Ukrainian forces are advancing steadily along the north and south sides of the destroyed city of Bakhmut, which Russian forces have occupied since May.
Fighting is also raging on the southern front in Zaporizhia, with Ukrainian forces scoring minimal victories against Russia’s formidable fortifications.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Mariar recently claimed that Kiev’s forces had destroyed six Russian ammunition depots within 24 hours, hinting at Ukrainian tactics.
“We will deliver effective, painful and precise blows that will make the occupiers bleed. Shortages of ammunition and fuel will sooner or later prove fatal,” she said.
British military officials say this is Ukraine’s primary goal, to starve Russian supply and reinforcement forces by attacking rear logistics and command centers, including British-supplied Stormshadow missiles. is. Britain’s chief of defense, Admiral Tony Ladakin, said earlier this month that Ukraine was seeking to expand Russian resources by simultaneously attacking multiple points along its front lines.
He said a full-scale Ukrainian attack would come when a point on the frontline collapsed. Kiev’s reserves can pour in through the breakthrough.
“I would describe this as a policy of starve, stretch and strike,” Mr Ladakin told a British parliamentary committee.
He said Ukraine lacked air defenses, which are essential for an attack. Kiev has won commitments from Western allies to deploy F-16 fighter jets, but the fighters are not expected to be seen on the battlefield until next year. Ukraine is also seeking additional long-range weapons and ammunition.
The US sent cluster bombs to Ukraine this week to step up its offensive. President Joe Biden said he hoped the controversial bomb would be a temporary solution to deter Russian tanks because “the Ukrainian military is running low on ammunition.”
What is Russian tactics?
Kremlin forces are using large numbers of anti-tank mines to delay Ukrainian armored counterattack operations in southern Ukraine. This leaves exposed Ukrainian attackers at the mercy of Russian drones, helicopters and artillery.
Behind many kilometers of trenches, anti-tank dugouts and other obstacles, the trenches, said to be up to 20 kilometers deep in some places, pose many challenges for the Russian army.
Battle attrition reduced Moscow’s military strength. The war also exposed the incompetence, lack of initiative and poor coordination of the Russian military.
British Commander-in-Chief Ladakin said Russia had lost about half its combat power since a full-scale invasion in February 2022. He also said Russian factories could not supply enough ammunition to replace the ammunition lost on the battlefield. .
For example, according to Ladakin, Russia has used about 10 million shells in Ukraine, but has produced only 1 million new shells. Similarly, the company lost more than 2,000 tanks, but built replacements for only 200.
Russian forces have reportedly carried out offensive operations in the northern Kreminna forest area and are making minimal profits.
The Ukrainian counterattack will be “very long” and “very bloody,” US Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently.
Ukrainian soldiers say the sheer size of the Russian shelling of their positions is alarming, slowing the advance in Kiev.
Especially in the Zaporizhzhya fields, where it is difficult to find cover, the commanders deploy fewer soldiers to limit the number of casualties from heavy artillery.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admitted last week that the counterattack was “not going fast”.
It started later than most expected, apparently because Kiev was waiting for the delivery of Western weapons and the arrival of Western-trained soldiers. This delay meant that operations would begin in the summer rather than the spring.
Military planners need to keep in mind that the Ukrainian winter brings muddy conditions, jamming armor and troops. The infamous mud season even has its own name: ‘Rasputica’.
If the weather deteriorates, the belligerents will have to think through the situation and prepare for the possibility of another war of attrition in the coming winter.
Western analysts say even a successful counterattack would not end the war. But this could be the decisive episode and strengthen Kiev’s position in any negotiations. Ukraine is also keen to show the West that it is worth sending aid.