According to the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the Ukrainian army is demonstrably continuing its southern counter-offensive. According to the constitution, Ukrainians are advancing in several directions in the west of the Kherson region and consolidating their positions in the Donetsk region. However, more details about the Ukrainian counter-offensive are not available, official sources are keeping the strategic details of the procedure secret. According to analyst Lukáš Visingro, the Ukrainians could inflict a defeat on the Russian army in the Kherson region before the arrival of winter. According to several media outlets, the Ukrainians are also making progress near the city of Kharkiv in the northeast of the country. Were the Ukrainians waiting for a moment of surprise? “There is speculation whether the whole thing was a gigantic strategic trap,” says the analyst.
In a report based on intelligence services, the British Ministry of Defense writes that it is “highly unlikely” that Russian forces will be able to complete the mission in Donbass by September 15, as ordered by the Kremlin. “They are highly unlikely to achieve this, further complicating Russia’s plans to hold referendums in the occupied territories on joining the Russian Federation,” the British ministry said in a regular report.
According to London, Russia’s main effort “almost certainly” remains its offensive in Donbass. “The main axes of advance on Donbass continue to be at Avdijivka near the city of Donetsk and 60 kilometers north around Bakhmut,” confirms the British Ministry of Defence. “Although Russia has had the greatest success in this sector, its forces are advancing towards Bakhmut at a rate of around one kilometer per week,” the British ministry added.
The pace of the counteroffensive in southern Ukraine is likely to “change dramatically from day to day,” according to ISW. Ukrainian forces appear to be seeking to deprive the Russians of supplies, disrupt their command and control operations, and weaken their morale.
Ukrainians are choosing a “corrosive strategy,” the analyst says
According to editorial staff and military analyst Lukáš Visingro, it is impossible to say with certainty what tactics the Ukrainians are currently choosing. “Only small shards can be collected. We see that the attacks are still continuing, they are gradually eliminating what they can with the help of HIMARS and now Bayraktars, because apparently they managed to eliminate enough parts of the Russian air defenses to be able to use drones again to a greater extent. There have been several Bayraktar attacks in recent days. Oleksiy Arestovych (advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – editor’s note) clearly said that the goal is not to liberate as much territory as possible, but to destroy the Russian army,” says Visingr.
“It’s a strategy called corrosive. The Ukrainians are trying to destroy the Russian army bit by bit, not necessarily to occupy some large territory. By the way, they have already launched a limited counter-offensive in Donbas. I still consider it realistic that they could succeed in the south, in the Kherson region, and inflict a military defeat on the Russians this year, before the arrival of winter. I think that is still their goal this year,” adds the analyst.
According to several observers, the Ukrainian army also launched a surprise offensive near the city of Kharkiv in the northeast of the country on Tuesday. According to Visingro, this may be part of the strategy. “There is speculation whether the whole thing was a gigantic strategic trap. The Ukrainians let the Russians move their forces south to Kherson, and when they found out where they were weakened, they attacked there. They are advancing there in the style in which the Germans advanced in France during the Second World War. Their tank units advance at maximum speed and break into the Russian rear, not holding back any encirclement. They want to get as far as possible and cut Russian communication and supply lines.”
The long-awaited southern offensive began at the end of August, when Russia was preparing for a large international military exercise with China and other countries, as we previously pointed out. Ukraine has been preparing the ground for a counterattack over the past few weeks, with Ukrainian artillery repeatedly hitting strategic targets such as bridges, Russian weapons and fuel depots.
Ukraine officially claimed responsibility for missile attacks in occupied Crimea this week, including an attack on Russia’s Saki airbase. This was announced by the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Army Valery Zaluzhny.
The Institute for the Study of War reports that the Russian Ministry of Defense launched an information operation several days ago to portray the Ukrainian counteroffensive as a failure. Several prominent military bloggers — including those who have previously criticized the Kremlin — have joined the campaign. According to others, the West pushed Kyiv to counter-offensive too soon, or on the contrary, too late.
Russian official media is also spreading unsubstantiated information about the civil-military conflict between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Chief of the Ukrainian General Staff Valery Zaluzhny, ISW reports. According to the Russian-language BBC server, there is currently no evidence that the Ukrainian operation was affected by internal political divisions.
ISW points out that a military operation of such a scale as the current counter-offensive in the south of Ukraine cannot end in victory or failure in a short period of a few days or a week.