Ukraine launched a counter-offensive. The Russians have no one to supplement the formations, says the expert | iRADIO

Ukraine launched a counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region near the city of Balakliya. According to the BBC, Russian forces were retreating beyond the North Donets River on Tuesday evening, and Russian missiles hit the center of the city of Kharkiv overnight. In addition, Ukrainian forces are conducting a counter-offensive in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine. Jan Kofroň, a political geographer from the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University, explains to Radiožurnál why Ukraine decided to go on another offensive.



Ukraine
5:05 p.m September 7, 2022

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Jan Kofroň | Photo: Kateřina Cibulka | Source: Czech Radio

Why did the Ukrainian forces decide to launch another offensive in the Kharkiv region?
This is a pretty good question because the Russians, which many people may not realize, have been fighting outnumbered for the past few months. In short, they don’t have enough people to cover a relatively wide front, and of course, if the Ukrainians are able to carry out several, even partial attacks, they make it quite difficult for Russia to decide where to send the not very numerous reserves of people and equipment.

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So in that regard, I see the intention of not allowing Russia to focus on just one single area. Whether the counter-offensive at Kharkiv will have a longer duration or if it is only a limited action, that is of course a matter that I cannot answer.

How can the Ukrainian offensive near Kherson be evaluated after ten days? Someone may have envisioned a quick action followed by an announcement of success.
Certainly, it is not some brilliant success, some blitzkrieg. At the same time, I think expecting something like that was somewhat naive and did not correspond to reality. But at the same time, I do not think that the voices that say that the Ukrainian offensive has completely failed are correct. The Ukrainians have some capabilities, some technical capabilities, and thanks to that, I think the maximum possible for them is to advance in defense a few kilometers a day at this moment.

But if it lasts like this for a fortnight, and today we are after about ten days, there is a good chance that they will succeed in breaking through the Russian line. Once they manage to break through the defense of the zone, at that point they will be able to start not quite sprinting, but they will be able to start moving much faster and they will be able to achieve some interesting objective.

For example, the encirclement of at least those Russian forces that are in the north of the Kherson region, which of course would radically change the balance of forces.


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How to imagine the Russian zone of defense, for a layman?
It is not one thin line where those soldiers, tanks and guns are lined up in a row, no way. Rather, let’s imagine it as a zone that is ten or twenty kilometers deep and individual defensive positions are laid out in a checkerboard pattern, including, for example, cannons and tanks.

The defender does not have to be in all those positions, and it is often the case that some positions are prepared as a backup and are withdrawn into them only when the attacker advances to the depth of the territory. Of course, from time to time the defender will make some kind of counterattack, to for example close the wings of the attack, trying to cut off the attacking units. So let’s not think of it as one continuous line, rather it’s a relatively sparsely populated area that’s relatively deep. And this is precisely what, on the one hand, allows the attacker to occupy the first two to three kilometers relatively quickly, it is not so difficult.

But it is difficult to fight your way through the entire zone, say fifteen kilometers, because it can take several weeks, of course. And if you advance quickly in such a zone, then it leads to relatively large losses, if the attacker is not tactically very excellent.

‘The difference is in the people’

You have already talked about the fact that the Russian army has a problem with a lack of people. Can this be described as the biggest problem of the Russian army at the moment?
Certainly, if we were talking about technology and the like, the Russians have some problems there too, but of course the Ukrainians have them as well. In humans, the difference is by far the biggest. Ukraine, although it has several units that are untrained and their combat capability is realistically very limited, it has the advantage of having over half a million people in arms.

So when there are losses, the Ukrainians are able to replenish the formations relatively easily, even if they are not quite high-quality soldiers. In the case of Russia, the problem is that they basically have nothing to replenish the formations if there are any combat losses, because they still rely on professionals and volunteers.

And we even know that some of the units that have been fighting since the very beginning had a lack of personnel. So this is definitely the biggest problem for the Russians at this point and especially compared to the Ukrainian side.


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And on the other hand, what do you see as the biggest problem of the Ukrainian army now? Ono seems to be able to defend, but is not entirely successful in winning back territory.
Attacking is just generally much harder than many people here want to admit. Of course, the most decisive thing is to have enough technology, to be honest, it’s not even about how modern the technology is, although of course that also plays a role, but skills are key.

Let’s realize that, for example, the Ukrainians sometimes sent territorial defense units into battle at the turn of May and June, because they had nothing else to do and they had actually completed a fortnight of training. So, of course, their abilities are acceptable for defense, but not enough for a bigger attack.

This is the biggest problem on the scene of Ukraine that can be solved, but it takes many months. It is necessary to ensure the training of units, not only of specific platoons and companies, but also to ensure quality training of staffs, especially the newly formed ones.

They have commanders who, for example, have not served in the army for many years or are not even soldiers at all, and of course their abilities will logically be relatively small at this point. If the Ukrainians change this, of course their combat effectiveness will increase significantly.

Vera Štechrová

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