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Russia is difficult to win in eastern Ukraine

Russia controlled 80% of the Donbass region, but could not promote its rapid offensive momentum when the weaknesses in combat had not been completely overcome.

As Russia shifts the focus of its military campaign in Ukraine to the eastern Donbass region, the West fears an onslaught that will cause Ukrainian forces to collapse within days.

But again, the West has misjudged, when Russia has so far not been able to win a quick victory in this strategic area. In recent weeks, Russian forces have controlled about 80% of the Donbass region, but the momentum of the offensive is slowing down significantly, even in many places at a standstill.

To the northeast, the Ukrainian army even managed to push Russian forces out of Kharkov, the country’s second largest city. On the main eastern front, the Russian and Ukrainian armies are in a tug-of-war on both sides of the river Seversky Donets divide the battle lines.

Attempts to bridge the pontoon across the river by both sides were detected by the enemy and blocked by artillery, causing heavy losses.

Ukrainian special forces police inspect a site after an airstrike by Russian forces in Lysychansk, Lugansk region, eastern Ukraine, on May 13.  Photo: AP.

Ukrainian special forces inspect a site after an airstrike by Russian forces in Lysychansk, Lugansk region, eastern Ukraine, on May 13. Image: AP.

According to Mark Cancian from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), based in Washington, military experts initially predicted that after withdrawing troops from Kiev, Russian forces would launch one of the attacks. most violent attack in Donbass. “But that didn’t happen,” he said.

Western sources say about 12,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the Donbass in recent weeks, while Ukraine puts the toll at 25,000.

Moscow did not comment on this report and has not released an update on casualties on the battlefield. However, British intelligence said that a recent raid by Ukrainian artillery on the area where Russian forces bridged the river pontoon caused a battalion-level battle group to lose up to 73 tanks and armored vehicles.

Such losses could significantly affect Moscow’s ability to win a decisive victory in eastern Ukraine, even though the scale of the operation has been reduced.

Russia’s military is now much leaner than in the past, in which the core is a professional military force, so Russia “needs to be very cautious about casualties”, Cancian said. The loss of troops would certainly affect the morale of the soldiers more or less.

Russian forces are said to have fought ineffectively in the early stages of the campaign, when they were unable to encircle Kiev and key targets in northern Ukraine. By the end of March, when it announced the progress of the second phase, Russia concentrated 80% of its troops in Ukraine on the Dobass front.

Moscow has also tried to deploy a large number of tanks to the Donbass, and at the same time learned lessons in dealing with Ukraine’s resistance tactics. However, many problems of the Russian army revealed from the beginning of the campaign to date have not been completely resolved, the most serious of which is the ability to cooperate in combat between units and armed forces, according to the report. military experts.

“Each Russian military unit is conducting the war in its own way, both tactically and strategically, instead of working together,” said Alexander Grinberg, an expert from the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic and Security Studies (JISS). ), comment. “Even if Russia issues a general mobilization order to mobilize more troops, it is difficult to imagine how they will overcome the most basic problems of such synergies.”

Operation “strongly everyone does” was clearly demonstrated in the attack on the Kharkov region. When the Russian infantry entered, they destroyed cell towers (BTS) in the area, making it impossible for officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to use Era encrypted phones, which were needed 3G or 4G data connection to operate.

Unable to use an encrypted phone system, they were forced to communicate with each other using walkie-talkies or regular cell phones, making it easy for Ukrainian and Western intelligence agencies to intercept calls and obtain important information. .

According to experts, such inherent weaknesses have made it impossible for Russian forces to “win” in eastern Ukraine, causing the fighting to gradually fall into a tug-of-war.

The Ukrainian army has so far resisted fiercely against attacks from Russian forces. However, experts say Ukraine does not have enough force and firepower to win a comprehensive victory in the region.

The war situation in Ukraine after more than two months of fighting.  Graphics: Washington Post.

The war situation in Ukraine after more than two months of fighting. Graphics: Washington Post.

Some believe that Kiev has the ability to turn the tide and defeat Russian forces when Western heavy weapons reach them. However, many experts are skeptical about this scenario, noting that Ukrainian soldiers have very little time to familiarize themselves with the large complex artillery and weapons of the West.

Ukrainian soldiers have shown their ability to resist persistently, but have not proved their superiority in attack and have also suffered significant losses in the face of fire from Russian artillery and air force.

“In order to regain territory, the Ukrainian military will have to demonstrate offensive capabilities,” said Simon Schlegel, a senior fellow at the think tank the International Crisis Group. “According to conventional tactics, the attackers need three times more forces than the defenders, so Ukraine will need more troops, which is very difficult for them in the current situation.”

Schlegel said that when Ukraine cannot regain territory, while Russia is difficult to advance, the fighting in Donbass will fall into a stalemate. The two sides will continue to clash but on a small scale, it is impossible to launch decisive blows to change the situation.

“The situation then will be very similar to what happened in eastern Ukraine between 2014 and February 2022,” Schlegel said. According to him, neither Russia nor Ukraine want this scenario to happen, but it may take a long time to accept it before a peaceful negotiated solution can be found.

Vu Hoang (According to AFP, Vox)

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