Ukraine tries to retake the south and tie up Russian troops – Times of India


Even as Moscow’s war machine creeps through eastern Ukraine to achieve the Kremlin’s goal of taking complete control of the country’s industrial heart, Ukrainian forces are ramping up attacks to reclaim territory in the Russian-occupied south. .
The Ukrainians have used American-supplied rocket launchers to attack bridges and military infrastructure in the south, forcing Russia to divert its forces from the Donbas in the east to counter the new threat.
As the war in Ukraine enters its sixth month, the coming weeks could be decisive.
While the bulk of Russian and Ukrainian military resources are concentrated in the Donbas, the industrial region of mines and factories, both sides hope to make profits elsewhere.
Ukraine has vowed to drive the Russians out of the area they have taken since the invasion began, including the southern Kherson region and part of the Zaporizhzhya region, while Moscow has pledged to hold the occupied territories and take more ground around the country.
The Donbas consists of Luhansk Province, now wholly owned by Russia, and Donetsk Province, about half of which is controlled by Moscow.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov noted that by ramping up attacks in the south, Kiev has forced Russia to disperse its troops.
“The Russian military command is faced with a dilemma: try to continue the offensive in the Donetsk region or build a defense line in the south,” Zhdanov said. “It will be difficult for them to do both tasks at the same time for a long time.”
He noted that instead of trying to mount a large-scale counter-offensive, the Ukrainians have tried to undermine the Russian military in the south with a series of attacks on its ammunition and fuel depots and other key locations.
“It doesn’t have to be a frontal attack,” Zhdanov noted.
Moscow-backed local officials in eastern and southern Ukraine discussed holding votes to join Russia as early as September. Those plans depend on Russia’s ability to take full control of those areas by then.
“The Kremlin’s main goal is to force Kiev to sit down for talks, secure the existing line of contact and hold referendums in the fall,” said Mykola Sunhurovsky of the Razumkov Center, a Kiev-based think tank.
He noted that Western weapons have increased Ukraine’s capabilities, allowing it to target targets far behind the front lines with a high degree of precision.
Ukraine has received about a dozen American-built multiple HIMARS rocket launchers and has used them to attack Russian ammunition depots, which are essential to maintain Moscow’s lead in firepower. HIMARS systems have a range of 80 kilometers (50 miles), allowing the Ukrainians to hit the Russians from beyond the range of most enemy artillery.
“It’s a serious advantage,” Sunhurovsky said. “The Ukrainians have begun carrying out precision attacks on Russian depots, command posts, railway stations and bridges, destroying logistics chains and undermining Russian military capabilities.”
The Ukrainian attacks on ammunition depots have caught the Russian military by surprise, forcing it to move equipment to dispersed locations further from combat zones, extend supply lines, shrink Russia’s lead in firepower and delay the Russian offensive to the east.
“They need to move everything to smaller, more dispersed stocks,” said Justin Crump, a former British tank commander who heads Sibylline, a strategic consulting firm. “These are all real irritants that slow down Russia. They suffered at the rate of artillery fire, which used to be really important.”
Crump said the Russian military had underestimated the threat posed by HIMARS and left their ammunition depots in known locations. “They thought their air defenses would shoot the missiles down. And it didn’t really happen,” he said.
In a series of attacks that boosted the country’s morale, the Ukrainians repeatedly used HIMARS to build a major bridge over the Dnieper River in the Kherson region, disrupting river traffic and potential supply problems for the Russian troops in the area sprang up.
Zhdanov, the Ukrainian military analyst, described the bridge as the main supply link for Russian troops on the right bank of the Dnieper.
Russia can still use a second crossing of the Dnieper to transfer supplies and reinforcements to its forces in Kherson, which is just north of the Crimean peninsula, which was occupied by Russia in 2014. But Ukraine ‘s attacks have demonstrated Russia ‘s vulnerability and weakened its grip on the region .
“The Russians have the river at their back. That’s not a great place to defend,” Crump said. “They can’t easily get supplies. Morale is probably pretty low at this point on that side of the river.”
He said Ukraine could eventually launch a massive counter-attack with large numbers of troops and weapons.
“That’s the chance for Ukraine, I think, to deal a more devastating blow to the Russians and push them back,” Crump said. “I think there’s more chance of that being attempted here than we’ve seen at any other point.”
Crump noted that the very prospect of a major Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south helped Kiev by forcing the Russians to divert some of their troops away from the main battlefield to the east.
“That slows the Donbas offensive,” Crump said. “So even the threat of an offensive is succeeding for Ukraine at the moment.”

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