Russia bogged down in Ukraine amid ‘long war’ warnings


When Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine in February, Russian General Yakov Rezantsev apparently told his troops they would not be at war for long.

“This operation will end in a few hours,” Rezantsev said, according to an intercepted source. conversation released by the Ukrainian security services. The Moscow Times could not verify the recording.

More than two months later, Russian troops have made only limited gains in Ukraine and are bogged down in brutal fighting, advancing slowly in some places and losing territory in others. With Russia’s rapidly mounting losses of men and material, predictions of a long and bloody military stalemate are becoming increasingly common.

Rezantsev himself was killed in March in a Ukrainian airstrike near the Russian-occupied city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, according to the BBC.

Despite expectations that the symbolic date of May 9, when Russia marks the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, would see President Vladimir Putin announce a change of course in Ukraine, it happened without a change. public in the approach to Moscow.

General Yakov Rezantsev.
49th Combined Army Press Service

“We believe that President Putin is preparing for a protracted conflict in Ukraine,” said US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. Told a US Senate hearing on Tuesday.

The Russian advance was “slow and difficult”, said Tracey German, a security expert at King’s College London, and they failed to capture strategic towns in eastern Ukraine, including Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Russian forces have lost “a lot of manpower and equipment, and are struggling to replace those losses,” German added.

Even the modest gains Russia has made recently have come at the cost of losing control over other areas, particularly near the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine.

“[They] have to compromise,” said Dmitry Gorenburg, a Russian security expert at the Virginia-based think tank CNA. “The price of making gains in one place is that the Russians have to move forces out of another area and then Ukraine can retake territory.”

The situation increasingly resembles a “stalemate” in which, despite fierce fighting, neither side makes significant territorial gains or losses, according to Gorenburg.

A view of the Azovstal Ironworks in the port city of Mariupol.  Peter Kovalev/TASS

A view of the Azovstal Ironworks in the port city of Mariupol.
Peter Kovalev/TASS

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley predicted last month that a protracted war in eastern Ukraine could last “for years”.

In a long war, the supply of men and material becomes essential.

Inadequate manpower is a growing problem for the Russian military as it seeks to advance on a front more than 500 kilometers long.

Moscow’s apparent plan to carry out a giant pincer movement – with troops pushing south from the town of Izyum in northeastern Ukraine, and north from areas around the port city of Mariupol – now looks increasingly impossible to achieve, analysts said.

“When you look at the size of their facade, the width turns out to be an issue,” said Nick Reynolds, land warfare expert at the London-based Royal United Services Institute.

Estimates of the number of Russian casualties differ. British intelligence has put the death toll at 15,000 soldiers, while the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense says the figure is 26,000. Officially, Russia has admitted only 1,351 soldiers killed in action .

Despite speculation that Putin was preparing to declare a national mobilization to help provide the manpower needed to enable the army to push west, no such announcement was made.

A tank belonging to Russian forces is seen in the port city of Mariupol.  Peter Kovalev/TASS

A tank belonging to Russian forces is seen in the port city of Mariupol.
Peter Kovalev/TASS

Analysts say the Kremlin likely decided not to mobilize because of the potential for even higher casualty rates among recruits who struggle to use complex weapons.

“Mobilizing untrained soldiers is producing corpses,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, an expert on Russian politics at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Besides manpower attrition, large amounts of Russian military equipment were also destroyed during 11 weeks of fighting.

Russia has lost 3,590 military vehicles, 124 aircraft and 9 warships since the war began, according to Oryx, an intelligence blog that documents Russia’s military losses.

Long-range missile stocks are also would have running low. Their replacement, especially under Western sanctions, is likely to take time.

“If the Russians want to make serious progress from now on, they will have to be slow, methodical operations with a significant investment of resources and manpower,” Reynolds said.

President Vladimir Putin with <a class=Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov.”/>

President Vladimir Putin with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov.

Whichever way Russia chooses to pursue its offensive, it is also facing growing resistance from a Ukrainian military increasingly well equipped with Western weaponry.

Politically, Ukraine also seems less willing to seek de-escalation with Moscow.

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky said Russian forces were withdrawing on their pre-February. 24 posts would be a minimum requirement for any peace deal.

All of these factors reduce Russia’s options on the battlefield, according to Gorenburg, and greatly increase the risk of a protracted military conflict.

Instead, Russia could attempt to strangle Ukraine economically, impose a blockade of the Black Sea, and block goods from entering and leaving major Ukrainian ports.

“It may not be the war they want to fight, but it may be the only war they can fight,” Gorenburg said.

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