In the Kharkiv region, Ukrainian soldiers attacked Russian invaders with US-supplied M777 howitzers.
Explosions in Crimea, attacks on Cherson: Over the past few days, the focus of Ukraine’s war has been on the south of the country. President Volodymyr Zelensky (44) had announced on all channels that he would launch a counteroffensive in the region.
But now the Ukrainians are striking instead in the east, making gains of some 2,000 square kilometers, according to their own reports. This included about 30 towns and villages, including the recaptured strategic cities of Kubyansk and Izyum.
The recapture may be Ukraine’s most significant victory in pushing back the Russians since the invasion began. As a result of these successes, the Ukrainian armed forces were able to cut off the supply lines of the Russian units.
In total, the Ukrainians gained more ground near Kharkiv in a few days than the Russians did in the month-long Donbass offensive. Russian forces in the region are said to be withdrawing at times, leaving behind heavy equipment such as tanks, troop carriers and radar systems.
Months in the making
According to media reports, Ukrainian special forces have now admitted that the widely publicized counteroffensive in the south was a diversionary maneuver to distract from a real offensive in the east. He is said to have been preparing for months.
Taras Berezovets, a former national security adviser and current press officer of the Bohun regiment of Ukraine’s special forces, explains to the British “Guardian”:«Russia thought the attack would be in the south and moved its equipment there. Then the attack happened not in the south, but where they least expected it, and they panicked and fled.”
Russia has reportedly moved 1,300 of the feared Chechen militants to the south. Equipment and soldiers were brought south from Kharkiv. Berezovets: “Meanwhile, our men in Kharkiv are equipped with the best Western, especially American, weapons.”
The tide is turning
The British Ministry of Defense said the Russians were surprised by the Ukrainians. “As Ukrainian operations in Kherson continue, the Russian defense front is under pressure in both the northern and southern regions,” it said.
Australian off-duty General Mick Ryan wrote on Twitter that Ukraine appears to have taken the initiative both tactically and operationally. The battle is still far from over, “but perhaps the tide is finally turning”.
A few weeks ago, ETH military experts told Blick that Ukraine had turned the tide and did not rule out the possibility of recovering all the territories captured by the Russians.
In his newsletter, British military historian Laurence Feidman doesn’t even rule out the possibility of the Russian war machine collapsing in the near future. A strong and well-equipped army could collapse and seek escape routes, he writes, noting the Afghan army disbanded within weeks.
However, it is not certain how long the victory of the Ukrainians will actually last. Johannes Warwick, a German political scientist and former president of the Association for Defense Policy, tweeted: “In my opinion, success reports regarding Ukrainian military successes do not change the overall picture: Russia (unfortunately) has expansionist hegemony. Medium-term high stability.”
A war on two fronts
ETH security expert Benno Chok (32) describes the Ukrainian initiative as a “successful strategy”. There is fighting all over the front, but Ukraine now surprisingly has a secondary focus on fighting around Kharkiv.
Looking at the past few months as a whole, the Ukrainian advantage remains slight, but overall there has been only limited territorial change. Zogg has concerns: “Conquered territory must also be defended against counterattacks.”
Chok does not believe Russian President Vladimir Putin, 69, can escalate the situation. Zogg: “It is highly conceivable that there will be consternation in Moscow and among the Russian public servants. However, for the time being, Russia cannot strategically reorient itself without showing any signs of its own weakness.”
Zogg also does not believe in the use of nuclear weapons. “The topic of nuclear weapons would be disproportionate and ineffective.”
What do the Russians officially say about the collapse? Moscow talks about a “restructuring” of its troops. Putin has yet to comment on the scandal. He has other priorities: On Saturday, the Russian president celebrated Moscow’s 875th birthday — and inaugurated Europe’s largest Ferris wheel, measuring 104 meters in diameter.
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