Moscow’s effort for a small victory
NAfter seven weeks of war, Kyiv and Moscow only agree on a few points. On Tuesday it was this: Russian forces launched a new offensive in Ukraine. After representatives of Kiev announced the start of the battle in Donbass on Monday, the Russian Foreign Minister confirmed Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday a new phase of the “special operation” in an interview with the TV channel India Today.
The attack in eastern Ukraine is apparently initiated with extensive shelling of individual areas at the front and targets in the rear. The Russian Ministry of Defense said that targets in the Donbass and the Kharkiv region had been attacked with precision missiles. Artillery fired on 1,260 military objects in Ukraine on Tuesday night alone, and the air force bombed another 60. Two camps with surface-to-surface missiles of the “Totschka” type were also destroyed southeast of the city of Kharkiv. With them it was the Ukrainian armed forces according to unconfirmed Western reports, in the first days of the Russian raid managed to attack the Millerovo air base in Russia’s Rostov Oblast. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Ukrainian troops and weapon systems near the towns of Barvinkov, Slovjansk and Popasna were also fired upon during the attacks in eastern Ukraine. The information could not be verified.
While the Russian side provided detailed information about the fire support of its own armed forces, Western news agencies did not initially report any descriptions from Moscow about the progress of any combat on the ground. That’s what the Ukrainian side did. According to the Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych, Russian troops tried to put pressure on the Ukrainian positions in the east of the country from several sides on Tuesday, encircling the units in the far east in the cities of Rubishne, Lysychansk and Sievjerodonetsk. Around 25,000 Russian soldiers were involved in the advance from the northern arc of the front near Izyum south towards Slowijansk alone. Nevertheless, according to Arestovych, the offensive has so far started “very cautiously”. The Russian side is trying to identify the weak points in the Ukrainian defense lines. But they lack the strength to make a breakthrough.
The governor of the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk was less optimistic on Ukrainian television. Russian troops have occupied Kreminna, said Serhij Gaidai. The city, which originally had more than 18,000 inhabitants, was attacked from all sides. The Ukrainian forces should have retreated and would now move to new positions to continue their fight. Attacks at Rubischne and Popasna were repelled. However, the situation is “difficult” in view of increasing attacks from the Russian side.
The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which has regularly assessed military developments since the beginning of the Russian invasion, is cautious about the chances of success for the Russian armed forces in their offensive in eastern Ukraine. They may succeed in wearing down Ukrainian defenders and achieve limited success. Greater progress is unlikely, however, given the condition of the Russian troops involved. The effective fighting power of the tactical battalion combat groups (BTGs) represents only a fraction of what they are worth on paper.
The ISW puts forward a number of reasons for its assessment. For example, units that had previously suffered some heavy losses around Kyiv were, at best, provisionally replenished and then transferred to the Donbass without a break. The number of BTGs that are fully combat-capable and not yet deployed in Ukraine is, at best, small. A Ukrainian relief offensive southeast of Kharkiv and the persistent defenders of Mariupol would also tie up units that were missing for the Russian offensive. According to Ukrainian reports, the problems with the combat morale and the logistics of the Russian troops are still unresolved. With its firepower and many times the majority of soldiers, the Russian side could still achieve success – but probably only at great expense. An end to the war is not in sight.