For months, the Ukrainian counteroffensive was a big mystery. Their timing, extent and territorial focus were unknown until recently. A few days ago and after a few false alarms, the go-ahead for the counterattack actually sounded. Since then, the battle tanks have been rolling towards the positions of the Russian troops.
Major Ukrainian offensive: Army will presumably advance south on several axes
Of course, only Kiev’s government knows exactly how the offensive will proceed. In conversation with theRNDHowever, military economist Marcus Keupp estimates that Ukraine will primarily advance along two axes – on the one hand from Velyka Novosilka in a southeasterly direction to Mariupol and on the other hand from Orikhiv in a southeasterly direction to Melitopol. The Ukrainian armed forces are then expected to pivot near the coast of the Azov Sea before connecting in the coastal city of Berdyansk.
In addition, partisan groups will sabotage railway lines that are strategically important to Russia as they supply soldiers on the southern front. Only on Monday partisans attacked two railway lines, cutting off logistically important connections from the Crimean peninsula, which serves as a logistics center for the southern front, and the mainland.
Should the Ukrainian army then unite in Berdyansk as planned, it could control the Black Sea coast. Then, Keupp predicts, Zelenskyy’s forces could attack the annexed peninsula and separate it from the Russian invaders. “As soon as this happens, the war is strategically lost for Russia,” says the military economist at ETH Zurich.
Kyiv speaks of military successes
According to its own account, Ukraine has been able to achieve some successes in the course of the counter-offensive. As the Ministry of Defense announced on Telegram on Monday, Ukrainian forces have already recaptured seven villages. Three settlements in the Donetsk region were also liberated. There, the Ukrainian army continued to advance by 200-250 meters at various points. Battles of conquest were also going on near the city of Bakhmut, recently occupied by Russia.
The armed forces continued to liberate an area totaling three square kilometers near the southern port city of Berdyansk. In total, a little more than 90 square kilometers are back under the Ukrainian flag.
A breach on the defensive line could have fatal consequences for the Russians
So far, only light brigades have been deployed, explains Keupp. They first try to push corridors into the Russian defense lines, which the heavy brigades are then supposed to break through. “The Russians do not know where this breakthrough will be, but they are not in a position to evenly secure this 300-kilometer line from Zaporizhia to Donetsk,” says the military economist.
However, the Russian armed forces should “allow themselves no mistakes this time”, as even a single breakthrough could have enormous consequences. After all, the Russians no longer had any fixed positions behind the main line of defense, according to Keupp. If they broke through, they would be pushed against their own trenches and ultimately encircled, since there was only the Black Sea coast on the other side.
Keupp rules out the possibility of a large-scale attack from the Ukrainian side at some point. “There is a misconception in the West that there will be a big, romantic main attack,” says the expert. “The Ukrainian military is pursuing the strategy of a thousand bee stings, which means it is attacking on several axes at the same time.” Additional diversionary maneuvers would continue to be aimed at tying up Russian reserves.
Military expert rules out Russian counteroffensive: “Wearing of strength is too high”
Keupp also considers a major Russian offensive to be impossible in view of the high losses. “The Russian wear and tear is now too great for the Russians themselves to be able to carry out offensive operations,” he says. This would also be underlined by the fact that the Russian soldiers were “digging into the terrain”.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to attack Ukrainian targets – mainly from the air. There had been several air raids on Tuesday night. While the Kiev region was able to shoot down all the rockets according to the Ukrainian account, a residential building in Zelenskyy’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih was hit. According to the Kyiv Independent, six people were killed.
However, the Kremlin denied that Ukraine had already achieved some successes in its offensive – and thus contradicted the assessment of international experts. The Kremlin postulated that the Ukrainian attacks near Bakhmut had been successfully repelled. If truly undeniable, Moscow claimed that these were gray areas that Russia had never fully controlled.