Thanks to this month’s Kharkiv offensive, Ukraine has taken over the reins of the war and is now the one determining the course of the fighting. In an interview for Seznam Zpravy, Ukrainian security analyst Mykhaylo Samus claims that Russian mobilization is a consequence of this. However, according to him, its timing is inappropriate because winter is approaching.
“Most of the soldiers that (Russia) will send to the front will be poorly equipped and with minimal training. At the same time, the timing of the mobilization is not suitable, because winter is approaching and both in the south and in the east the winters are quite cold. And I’m sure the soldiers don’t get quality equipment and clothing to last in the trenches,” Samus judges.
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In the interview, the analyst, who previously worked in the Ukrainian army, also comments on the possibility of deploying Russian nuclear weapons or the state of the offensive in the Kherson region in the south of the country.
Russian President Putin announced a partial mobilization. What does this indicate about the state of the Russian army and how will it be reflected in the course of the war?
Mobilization is no longer something like a special operation, it has a clear framework and order that is clearly given by law. According to my calculations, up to 16 million people may be affected, Minister (Sergei) Shoigu tentatively spoke of up to 25 million conscripts.
But what is most important – the Russian invasion turns into a war within Russia. The special operation did not concern ordinary Russians, but the mobilization changes that. This broke the social contract between the ruling elite and the common people, which said: you will have a full fridge and entertainment on TV and you will let me (Putin) rule. And now this social contract is completely crumbling at its foundations. Putin has essentially transferred the war from Ukraine to Russia and this can have destructive consequences for the Russian regime.
From a military point of view, the first wave will involve 300,000 people and their preparation will take about a month. But the permission order will not come only to them. He will date millions of people and they will then choose between them. In terms of number, it is indeed a big number. If we look historically at the Russian army, real combat units consist of 300,000 people. By mobilizing, Putin is actually saying that the first 300,000-strong combat core has been destroyed and he needs another 300,000 in order to continue fighting.
More on the Russian partial mobilization
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization in an extraordinary speech. It applies immediately and applies to 300,000 reservists.
What led Putin to announce a step that he had been avoiding in every possible way for months?
The mobilization is intended to affect citizens in reserve and with military experience. But what experience do these people have. They are supposed to go to the front and start fighting according to modern standards of war, but they were taught according to Soviet textbooks. So this influx of new strength will not add combat capability to the Russian army. And we must not forget the material security of the new conscripts, the Russians already have a problem with logistics and supply.
What effect can this have on social events in Russia? The Russian president avoided announcing mobilization for a long time.
Violation of the aforementioned social contract will be such a social survey as it really is with the Russians. Because even in the West there are voices that Russian society is not to blame, but Putin. Now it remains to be seen whether they will all join the army peacefully and march to war. If this really happens, everything changes and Russia becomes a global threat in the sense that Russians trust Putin and are ready to die for him.
The Ukrainian army has gained almost the entire Kharkiv region under its control and is conducting an offensive in the Kherson direction. What are we witnessing now in the development of the war in Ukraine?
Thanks to the Kharkiv Offensive, Ukraine took the strategic initiative and this caused the Russian military to no longer decide where to fight because their command does not know when, from where and where Ukraine will attack. Therefore, Putin had no other solution but to declare a partial mobilization. But its timing is not suitable, because winter is approaching and both in the south and in the east the winters are quite cold. And I’m sure the soldiers don’t get quality equipment and clothing to last in the trenches.
There were opinions that heavy armored technology was losing its meaning. During the Kharkiv Offensive, Ukraine launched an offensive with the help of combined forces, including a strong tank contingent. There was also information that the United States could deliver an unspecified type of tank at some point in the future. Are tanks proving to still be important for massive offensives?
In the Kharkov region, due to the nature of the landscape, similar tank offensives can be carried out, in this it differs from the south, which is very agrarian, and at the same time there are many canals, which are actually such anti-tank ditches.
The behavior of the Ukrainian army in the direction of Kherson does not remind me of an offensive at all, but of constantly maintained and increased pressure. Shelling and disruption of supply and logistics infrastructure. And when the moment is right, a huge number of Russian soldiers will be surrounded or captured. At the same time, I am convinced that tanks will play a very important role in the future as well.
The rainy season and winter are approaching. Can it be an advantage for either side? What developments do you expect in the coming days and weeks, where will the Ukrainian offensive continue?
Ukraine has a month and a half to two months before the weather starts to break. At the same time, the first mobilized people may arrive in a month, and Ukraine must react by this time. It now has a strategic advantage that is not static, but a dynamic process that needs to be exploited. The Russians, as we know, do not have human reserves and therefore cannot move troops elsewhere because they would endanger positions elsewhere.
They currently have a large number of people in the Kherson area, but they cannot move them. At the same time, Kyiv is attacking Lyman, which can be taken as preparation for the liberation of the Luhansk region. Because according to my information, the Russians do not have a large number of people in the Luhansk direction.
Of course, there are different options, you can go to the Luhansk and Donetsk regions or towards Mariupol or Melitopol. The Russians are now trying really hard to find out what plans the Ukrainian military has. The next month will be very interesting indeed, where and how it will take place and how the Ukrainian army will use it.
Now he can use heavy armored vehicles, but later there may actually be a situation where even tanks can’t get through. And I hope that Ukraine will use this strategic advantage effectively.
What is the situation at the front?
In recent days, the political environment in which it takes place is changing faster than the situation on the front. The initiative in the war is clearly taken by the Ukrainian army.
At Kherson, the Ukrainian offensive ran into a relatively well-prepared Russian defense. The Ukrainian attack did not “burn out”, but the losses there are not negligible, and the Russian front did not collapse. Wouldn’t it help the attacking units to open a second front, for example, towards Melitopol or Mariupol?
The offensive in the Kherson direction does not proceed so quickly, because it is quite an open landscape compared to Kharkiv. What is “positive” news, the paratroopers are sitting in their trenches. And the Ukrainian army is slowly liquidating them instead of carrying out special missions and occupying new territories.
Regarding the opening of another queue. Yes, it can be a variant that they will symbolically attack the Luhansk region and the main attack will be on Melitopol and Mariupol. But if you really want to surround the Russian troops, you have to go at least as far as Crimea. If you look at the map, the distances between individual places are large, and that also has its risks.
Or it will be done the other way around and the main attack will be directed to the Luhansk region. But at the same time, you don’t know where they can strike from. Only the Ukrainian command really knows where and how many people it has, what reserves it has and where it could potentially advance.
It is also necessary to realize that if you push the Russians out of the south and the north and advance to, for example, the Luhansk region, it will be easier for the Russian command to determine where to send troops and defend effectively.
Mychajlo Samus is the director of the Kyiv-based independent security think tank New Geopolitics Research Network. He worked for over twelve years in the Ukrainian armed forces. He started his career as a journalist for the Defense Express Ukrainian website. As editor-in-chief, he led the Export Control Newsletter.
How difficult will it be for the Ukrainians to keep the recaptured positions?
It will be a big challenge for both the Ukrainian army and society. The Kiev region was occupied for a month and the newly liberated regions for half a year. The locals see that they are returning to a free and civilized world and it needs to be maintained. It is important to quickly form, in addition to defense units, a territorial defense of people who return there or stay there and to set up the processes correctly.
The Russian mobilization is a challenge for the Ukrainian army, which it must respond to and work with. It may happen that the 300,000 soldiers will be deployed again along the entire length of the Ukrainian border. At the same time, it is necessary to monitor and analyze how Belarus can possibly get involved in this.
Russian attacks continue around the towns of Soledar and Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. What is the strategic sense of their attempts to go on the offensive in this area?
From a military-tactical point of view, it has no meaning. From a political or emotional point of view, they can show that they too are attacking and want to liberate the rest of the Donetsk region.
The established self-governments in the occupied territories will start referendums on joining the Russian Federation this week. Could Moscow, in the event that the Ukrainian army advances to the given territories, use tactical nuclear weapons on the grounds that it is a threat to its territory?
In this way, Putin would completely question the nuclear agreement, everyone could say that if someone wants the occupied territory back, they will use nuclear weapons. But it doesn’t change anything for Ukraine, it fights and defends its territory, and if it gave in to this blackmail, it wouldn’t have to fight from day one.
The Russians are rioting
Hundreds of Russians throughout the country rioted because of the announcement of mobilization. The police cracked down hard on it. View images from the Moscow protest.
From the very beginning of the invasion, the probability of using nuclear weapons is very low, and even now Russia is bluffing. If it used them, it would be a de facto violation of the Budapest Memorandum, and Moscow would no longer defend it.
But I am concerned that in Russia various marginal personalities are increasingly gaining a say and influence. Although it does not seem like it, Putin is trying to maintain the image of some kind of Russian civilization, but he had structures and persons around him who would not approve of a nuclear attack. But these marginals want to see Russia as the biggest empire in the world, which will dictate terms to the United States and the West, with no regard for the economy or security guarantees.
In such a situation, the United States and Great Britain must clearly say that they take over guarantees for the nuclear security of Ukraine. In my opinion, the leading representatives of both countries indicate in their statements that the reaction would be harsh, and this worries Moscow.