‘They’re running out of time’: Ukraine’s counter-attack becomes urgent as winter approaches

Ukrainian soldiers ride on an armored personnel carrier in Kostyantynivka, Donetsk region, on September 25, 2023.

Roman Pilipey | AFP | Getty Images

While the world is distracted by the geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East, the Ukraine continues to fight Russian forces across a stretch of the country, fighting through deep Russian defenses along the south and east.

It’s an understatement to say that Ukraine’s counteroffensive, launched in June, has not been as successful as Kiev and its Western allies had hoped it would be — with Russian forces dug deep into defensive positions, progress has been tough on the Ukraine and only a dozen or so towns and villages have been recaptured.

Russia still controls about a fifth of Ukraine, including most of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the east. the Crimean Peninsula and Zaporizhzhia in the south. and a piece of the neighboring Kherson region.

“Ukraine’s counter-offensive has not achieved its purported military and political objectives so far, and prospects for significant progress appear limited,” Andrius Tursa, CEE adviser at consultancy Teneo, said in a note on Monday.

“Despite inflicting significant casualties on the Russian armed forces, Ukraine’s four-and-a-half-month counteroffensive has not achieved major territorial gains or managed to cross the Russian ‘land bridge’ to Crimea,” he added.

Mud season is near

A “huge” bargaining chip

Russia has ‘significant advantages’

Kiev has argued that by fighting Russia it is defending the world from an aggressive and expansionist Moscow.

Unable to mobilize hundreds of thousands of troops in the way Russia can, it says it desperately needs more sophisticated weapons and long-range equipment, and especially air power, if it is to effectively destroy Russia’s occupation forces.

Western allies have tended to procrastinate on whether to give Ukraine heavier weaponry. Last winter’s debate over whether to send heavy tanks to Kiev was a case in point.

And once decisions are made to procure such equipment, long waits follow, again limiting what Ukraine can do in its counterattack. Ukraine had begged its allies for F-16s, but they refused. Months later, several European allies said they would give F-16s to Ukraine — but not before 2025.

Meanwhile, analysts say Russia has a clear advantage in this conflict, given that it is largely on the defensive rather than the offensive.

Russian forces had months to prepare layers of defense, including extensive networks of trenches. anti-tank obstacles such as ditches and “dragon’s teeth”. and minefields. Russian forces are also receiving support from artillery, attack helicopters and other aircraft, again impeding Ukrainian forces.

The minefields, in particular, have disrupted Ukraine’s offensive momentum and pace of advance, according to analysts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The think tank’s analysis shows that, at the height of their summer offensive between early June and late August, Ukrainian forces advanced an average of only 90 meters per day on the southern front.

CSIS noted that some minefields have extended from 120 meters to 500 meters in some areas, making Ukraine the country with the most mines in the world today and the situation a formidable and time-consuming challenge for its troops to overcome.

The Ukrainian army’s 35th Marine Brigade conducts mine clearance operations in a field in Donetsk, Ukraine, on July 11, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

“Ukraine maintains the operational initiative, but its relatively slow pace of progress and the trade-offs it has made to maintain personnel and equipment indicate that [Russian] defense has significant advantages,” CSIS analysts Seth Jones, Riley McCabe and Alexander Palmer said in a research note in October.

Change of fortune?

Read the original at Defence247.gr

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