The ambush on the Ukrainian river once again shows that the Russian army “is not up to the task”

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Ukraine’s military once again demonstrated its prowess on Wednesday, when satellite images showed dozens of Russian tanks and armored vehicles destroyed after failing to cross the Donets River. The episode cost the Russian military an entire battalion – the latest sign that Russia’s pivot to eastern Ukraine is not working as planned.

“Recently, I accomplished a mission which had a huge impact on Russian casualties and completely thwarted their plans to encircle Lysychansk,” said a Ukrainian military engineer calling himself Max. wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, recounting piecemeal how his company all but wiped out an entire Russian battalion days before.

Satellite photos of its aftermath caused a stir around the world. They show destroyed and abandoned Russian tanks, armored vehicles and other military equipment on the banks of the Donets River, which runs through eastern Ukraine from the Kharkiv region to Donbass. Photos suggest that the Russians lost between 25 and 30 armored vehicles in this operation.

“These estimates seem realistic,” said Sim Tack, an analyst at US military consultancy Force Analysis, after checking satellite images.

“These images have been relayed so much because they are so visually impressive and allow us to see in a very tangible way the damage the Ukrainians are inflicting on the Russians.”

Strategic importance of rivers

The fighting took place in the Donbass region, more than 100 km north of Lugansk, Max wrote. On May 7, he found a spot that seemed suitable for a Russian attempt to cross the river using a pontoon bridge. He suggested his unit set up an ambush.

Max recounted the next day’s events on Twitter: “The artillery was ready. We were able to confirm that the Russians mounted 7 parts of the bridge out of 8. The Russians even managed to move troops and vehicles across the river. The fighting has started.”

“Within ~20 minutes of the reconnaissance unit confirming the Russian bridge being erected, HEAVY ARTILLERY engaged against the Russian forces, and then the air force also participated. I was still in the area and I have never seen/heard such an intense fight in my life.”

After a day of intense fighting, the bridge was completely destroyed, leaving about 50 vehicles and an unknown number of ground troops with no prospect of retreat, at the mercy of enemy fire.

The extraordinary Twitter account is “clearly a propaganda exercise, but that doesn’t mean it’s fake,” said Jeff Hawn, an expert on Russian military issues and a nonresident researcher at the US geopolitical research center New Lines Institute.

Ukraine and Russia have fought fiercely over rivers before. The Dnieper, Donets and other rivers form natural defenses against the advancing Russian army – not to mention the strategically pivotal Irpin near the capital, which the Ukrainians repeatedly prevented the Russians from crossing during the Battle of Kyiv.

Much like the fighting on the Irpin, the victory Max was celebrating had great strategic significance – mainly because it “means that the towns of Sieverodonetsk and Lyssychansk, located just to the south, will always be defended”, as he put it. Tack.

The place where Ukraine ambushed the Russians on the river is also “logistically important for Russia”, added Nicolo Fasola, a security expert in post-Soviet countries at the university. from Birmingham.

“The Russians have a supply line nearby and they are trying to push the Ukrainians as far as they can to secure it,” said Glen Grant, senior analyst at the Baltic Security Foundation. “So far they have failed and that makes it very difficult for them.”

The Russian army “not up to the task”

More broadly, the Ukrainian victory there signals a major setback for Moscow’s military strategy in eastern Ukraine. “The battle for control of the Donets River is a decisive theater for the outcome of this war,” Tack said,

If the Russians managed to cross the Donets, it would be much easier for them to encircle crucial towns in Donetsk Oblast such as Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

As it stands, “they’ve managed to cross at a single point far to the south, but they’re struggling to take advantage of it,” Hawn said,

Indeed, the Ukrainians are concentrating their troops at this point of the river in order to contain the Russian advantage.

But in addition to highlighting the tactical sense of the Ukrainian army, the episode announced by Max once again underlines the sad state of the Russian army.

“It’s striking how hastily they tried to erect this crossing, even though it’s one of the most complicated military maneuvers to perform,” Grant said. “The pontoon bridges must be built quickly, at night to cover the darkness, with effective artillery support. Above all, he must take the enemy by surprise. And none of that happened.

The episode reinforces that the training of Russian soldiers is “not up to par”, Hawn said.

Amid Russia’s chaotic attempt to create a pontoon bridge, the Ukrainians once again showed how eager they were to capitalize on their own strengths as well as Russia’s weaknesses: “They showed their ability to make the most of the few advantages they have — in terms of technology, knowledge of the terrain and likely access to American intelligence,” Fasola said.

The Ukrainians shouldn’t get too carried away rejoicing in this victory. “Russia’s failure at the Severskiy Donets pontoon is likely to weaken their ability to continue the offensive in the short term, but they will most likely try to connect this river elsewhere,” said Aliyev Huseyn, an expert on the Ukraine-Russia conflict. at the University of Glasgow. . “They still maintain an offensive capability in that area. As we have seen, they remain rather negligible in terms of casualties because they are under strong pressure from higher command to go to the administrative borders of Lughansk.

But while this particular Ukrainian victory is unlikely to decide the ultimate outcome of the war, the destruction of an entire Russian battalion is ‘far from trivial’ and will have a ‘significant impact’ on future operations , Hawn said.

Ukraine’s victory means that Russia lost around 50 armored vehicles used in its offensive in eastern Ukraine. This “will further diminish the morale of the already disgruntled and demotivated Russian soldiers,” Fasola said.

And the operation celebrated by Max will only increase the morale of the Ukrainian troops – showing how the expertise and initiative of one man was enough to eliminate almost an entire Russian battalion.

This article has been translated from the original in French.



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