Ukrainian army faces new challenge against Russian troops

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Ukraine is preparing for a potentially more difficult new phase of its war to repel the Russian invasion as the battles move east into new terrain that could give the Russians more advantages.

The wide open spaces will make it more difficult for the Ukrainians to carry out guerrilla operations as they have done in the northern and western forests and will affect Russia’s ability to muster large mechanized formations of tanks and vehicles shielded.

But much will depend on the Russians’ ability to correct the mistakes they made in the first phase of their invasion, ranging from failing supply lines, logistical challenges and poor planning to the use of a insufficient manpower for the size of the area they were trying to seize. , analysts say.

The fact that the Ukrainians not only succeeded in keeping the Russian army at bay, but also forced its troops into a humiliating retreat from the north of the country testifies both to their combat capacity and to the poor performance of the Russians until present, according to experts.

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Russian forces have now completely withdrawn from areas around kyiv and Chernihiv in the north, where their attempt to launch a sweep in the capital was thwarted by fierce Ukrainian resistance, according to US officials. These troops are being refitted and resupplied, apparently for redeployment eastward, according to the Pentagon.

In a sign that Russia is trying to resolve some of the problems it initially encountered, the The Russians have appointed a general with extensive experience in Syria and the Donbass to oversee the war effort, marking the first time a single commander has taken control of the entire Ukrainian operation, a senior official said on Saturday. senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The appointment of General Alexander Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s Southern Military District, signals an attempt by Moscow to bring some consistency to what military experts describe as a chaotically executed operation so far that has cost the life seven generals.

The new center of battle is expected to be the Donbass region, which has been contested since Russia invaded in 2014 and seized part of the oblast, or province. Ukraine has been fighting ever since to maintain control of the rest of the region, and some of its best and most seasoned troops are stationed there.

The Russians are expected to attempt to push south from the Kharkiv region and north from the city of Donetsk to encircle Ukrainian troops in the Donbass, maneuvers that will play on Russia’s numerical superiority in terms of tanks and armored vehicles. In recent days, Ukrainian military officials said, the Russians began pushing south from the town of Izyum towards Sloviansk, with the aim of eventually seizing Kramatorsk, the capital of Donetsk and the site of the missile attack on a train station that killed more than 50 people. people on friday.


Control zones on April 1

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI Critical Threats Project

Areas under Russian control as of April 8

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI Critical Threats Project

Areas under Russian control as of April 8

Separatist-

controlled area

Sources: Institute for the Study of War

The Ukrainians could face a tougher fight on the eastern ground than in the forested north, analysts say. There, the trees provided cover for lightly armed fighters to sneak behind Russian lines to fire on tanks and armored vehicles, using anti-tank weapons such as the US-supplied Javelins that helped topple the war in favor of Ukraine.

The battles in the east will be more like “World War II, with big operations, thousands of tanks, armored vehicles, planes, artillery,” Ukraine’s foreign minister told AFP. last week, appealing for urgent supplies of new and different kinds of weapons.

The changing environment underpins Ukraine’s demand for NATO countries to provide more different weapons, including tanks, armored vehicles and artillery, US officials said.

“Fighting in the southeast, the terrain is different than it is in the north. It’s much more open and lends itself to armored mechanized offensive operations from both sides,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a congressional hearing last week. The Ukrainians need additional armor and artillery, he said. The United States relies on NATO allies to find the right equipment because the type used by the United States would require months of training for Ukrainians to learn how to use, he said.

The fighting in the east will also force the Ukrainians to adopt different tactics than they used around kyiv, where they were able to blunt and ultimately reverse the Russian assault.

The Ukrainians were able to wage guerrilla-style warfare against advancing columns of Russian armor confined to the roads by mud and trees, contributing to the buildup of vehicles that formed the infamous 40-mile convoy transformed in traffic jam. The onset of warmer weather will further assist Russia by giving its armored formations greater freedom of movement.

“This time the Ukrainians will have to move into the open countryside where they can easily be spotted,” said Jack Watling of the London-based Royal United Services Institute. “They’ll be in fights where both sides see each other, and if they’re not in armored vehicles, they’ll be vulnerable.”

The logistical problems faced by Russia in its initial push into Ukraine should be less of a problem to the east, Watling said, because Russia already occupies part of the Donbass region, which directly borders Russia, which makes it easy to send supplies directly from Russia.

The Russians have had time to adjust to the reality of Ukraine’s ability and willingness to resist Russian advances, he said. “They know what they’re up against and their supply lines will be shorter,” he said.

Russia, meanwhile, can draw on vast amounts of mechanized armour, including tanks and armored vehicles, where it has a clear advantage over Ukraine’s small army, retired General Philip Breedlove, a former commander, said. NATO’s supreme ally. Russia also has artillery systems that have longer ranges than Ukrainian weapons, which creates difficulties for Ukrainian forces when they clash, said Breedlove, who now works with the Middle East Institute. East.

“It makes it very difficult for the Ukrainians and imposes on the Ukrainians a shooting and movement philosophy that they would like to impose on the Russians,” he said.

Ukraine faces an “uphill battle” as Russian forces gather in the east of the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said April 9 at a press conference. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty/Reuters)

Many observers, however, doubt that Russia’s already depleted and reduced forces will have the strength to take much more territory from Ukraine anytime soon. Russia has mobilized 60,000 reservists and is assembling new combat units to replace those lost in recent weeks, but it will take time to equip and train them, said Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews.

Russia committed 75% of its combat-ready forces to the initial invasion, and its best troops have already fought. They are exhausted, demoralized and exhausted from the equipment losses they have suffered, he said.

Russia may be able to gain an advantage in some local areas, “but the army they have won’t be large enough to hold the area they take,” O’Brien said. “The army they have is too small.”

The new environment “isn’t a game-changer,” Watling said. “It depends on whether the Russians are tactically ready to do it, and they’ve been pretty incompetent so far.”

The Russians have now had a chance to adapt to the reality that the Ukrainians are likely to put up a tough fight, and they can be expected to adapt their tactics accordingly, said Mick Ryan, an Australian general. recently retired who studied war.

“However, Ukrainians have been better and quicker to adapt and are winning this adaptation battle so far,” he said.

Dalton Bennett in Dnipro, Ukraine contributed to this report.


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