Two years after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine reorients its technique to concentrate on defence | EUROtoday

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Two years after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the shortage of troops and ammunition and the depth of Russia’s discipline fortifications are forcing Kyiv to undertake a extra defensive technique. As it waits for extra Western help, the Ukrainian military is holding out for higher days.

Is “defend now, attack better later” Ukraine’s finest shot? Two years after Russian forces invaded its territory, Ukraine has formally adopted a brand new technique centered on defence. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admitted that the state of affairs on the entrance strains was “extremely difficult” in his day by day deal with on February 19.

Since the failure of Kyiv’s summer time counteroffensive, which value Valerii Zaluzhnyi his place as commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, it’s not time for main manoeuvres geared toward discovering a breech within the Russian technique, in keeping with high-ranking Ukrainian sources. “We changed from an offensive to a defensive operation,” admitted the nation’s new military chief, General Oleksandr Syrsky, in an interview with German channel ZDF broadcast on February 13.

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It is difficult to think about some other possibility for the Ukrainian military. For months it has been up towards an imposing Russian defensive position of trenches, concrete cones and minefields stretching 15 to 20km deep, stopping any armoured car from piercing by way of.

“After regaining some of the territories that had been captured by the Russians, the summer of 2023 marked a turning point in the conflict. The deep Russian defensive lines exhausted the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The Russians still have gaps and command problems, but they learn quickly and their ability to adapt should never be underestimated,” says Guillaume Lasconjarias, a army historian and lecturer at France’s Sorbonne University.

In the Ukrainian battlefield, the huge use of drones can also be having a critical affect on offensive operations. . With these “eyes” positioned all alongside the entrance line by either side, the battlefield has now develop into “transparent”, rendering out of date the factor of shock so expensive to army strategists.

“To concentrate efforts in one point is less and less possible. Instead, we are now seeing strategies based on multiple ‘stabbing’ motions. But in the end, this leads to exhaustion,” says Lasconjarias.

Ammo disaster

As a outcome, the entrance line is deadlocked and neither aspect appears capable of bend their opponent. “As in World War I, we have reached such a technological level that we find ourselves at a dead end,” Zaluzhnyi admitted again in November 2023 in an interview revealed in British weekly The Economist.

“We must also take into account the recent change of leadership within the Ukrainian armed forces. A change of leadership requires the armed forces to take a moment to reorganise and reorient their structure and actions so they can be in line with the plans of the new chief of staff. Returning to a more defensive strategy in the short term may help to achieve this reorganisation,” says Nicolo Fasola, a specialist in Russian army points on the University of Bologna.

The alarming scarcity of ammunition can also be forcing Kyiv to undertake a extra cautious stance. In this static warfare, tons of of 1000’s of shells are fired by every military each month. However, the blocking of support by the US Congress and the delays in deliveries promised by Europe are severely handicapping Ukraine’s capacities.

According to army specialists, the “fire ratio” – which measures the distinction within the charge of artillery hearth between enemies – is at the moment one to 10 in favour of Russia.

“Even if it seemed to even out last summer, the volume of fire has always been in favour of the Russians. In the Russian-Soviet military tradition, artillery is an extremely important factor in shaping the battlefield. Faced with this large and diversified artillery, the Ukrainians have more precise cannons, such as the French Caesar or the American M777. But they have two problems: they have to move more often to avoid destruction, and they can fire back only when they know they are going to hit the target because of their lack of ammunition,” explains Guillaume Lasconjarias.

“Ukraine’s resources are becoming more limited,” provides Fasola. “It should also be stressed that most of the sophisticated equipment supplied to Kyiv has not been used effectively. It is illusory to think that the Ukrainian armed forces, which could not be trained in an in-depth way, could use these resources as efficiently as a Western army.”

Preserving Ukrainian nationwide unity

The latest withdrawal from the japanese city of Avdiivka illustrates Kyiv’s new defensive posture. After months of fierce preventing, the Ukrainian General Staff made the troublesome alternative of a tactical withdrawal. If it provided a symbolic victory to the Kremlin, this resolution additionally preserved the lives of 1000’s of Ukrainian troopers. This resolution is in stark distinction to the all-out ways seen in the course of the bloody battle of Bakhmut, a city within the Donbas area that fell into Russian fingers in May 2023.

Along with flagging shares of ammunition, dwindling manpower is one other of the Ukrainian military’s main issues. According to a declassified doc despatched to the US Congress, Kyiv has suffered losses estimated at 70,000 lifeless and 120,000 wounded in two years. Russian losses are estimated at 315,000 lifeless or wounded.

In addition to the losses, the exhaustion of Ukrainian troopers, a few of whom have been deployed for the reason that begin of hostilities, implies that rotations may also be vital over the approaching months.

“The real challenge for 2024 is for Ukraine to be able to regain some of the flexibility of its deployed brigades, which are now exhausted. It will also be necessary in order to mobilise newcomers, train them, equip them and take them to the front. This raises the question of the public’s ongoing acceptance of the conflict,” says Lasconjarias.

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A draft regulation desires to resolve this downside. The controversial invoice geared toward facilitating mobilisation was given the thumbs-up by the Ukrainian parliament on its first studying in early February. But the textual content has additionally triggered a vigorous public debate at a time when the stalemate within the struggle, the stagnation of the entrance and the uncertainty hanging over Western help have naturally affected the morale of each the troops and the inhabitants. Zelensky must work his manner out of this down part to protect the nationwide unity, which has so usually been praised by his Western companions.

“From a military point of view, it seems impossible to avoid some form of conscription extension, but its political cost will be high,” says Fasola. “It also raises the problem of troop management, because if people are recruited by force or against their will, there are two possibilities: either you treat your troops as Russia does, meaning with no regard for their dignity and free will, or you end up with people who don’t want to fight or follow orders, which is very problematic for military strategy and effectiveness.”

‘War of attrition slowly but steadily in Russia’s favour’

While ready to rebuild its offensive potential, the Ukrainian military shall be making an attempt over the approaching months to inflict as many losses as doable on its Russian enemy whereas conserving its troops and ammunition. Beyond simply holding out in a defensive posture, Ukraine is prone to proceed its in-depth assaults towards logistical infrastructures, significantly within the Russian border areas of Bryansk and Belgorod and within the annexed Crimean Peninsula within the hope of weakening Russia’s army system.

Kyiv’s official goal stays unchanged: to reconquer the territories annexed or occupied by Russia since 2014, which represents 18 % of Ukraine’s territory.

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According to analysts, solely elevated Western help may allow General Syrsky’s troops to maneuver ahead once more. Such a state of affairs is much from sure, particularly from the US: Democrats and Republicans are tearing one another aside in Congress over the query, and former president Donald Trump, who’s hostile to continued US support, is main polls forward of November’s US presidential election.

Moscow and Kyiv are “racing to rebuild their offensive capacities. If further Western funds are not released, if Russia gains the upper hand in one way or another, Moscow will have the opportunity to make further progress,” Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a researcher on the Washington-based Center for New American Security, advised AFP. “The dynamic has changed,” says the analyst, stressing that “from Putin’s point of view, 2024 is a crucial year”.

According to the specialists interviewed by FRANCE 24, Russia ought to have the ability to proceed supplying the entrance line with troops and gear all year long, however to no achieve or benefit, at the very least within the brief time period. “The front line is not likely to change radically. Over the next few months, Russia will continue to gradually erode Ukrainian control of the front line, which will nevertheless be very costly for Moscow,” predicts Fasola. “I expect the war to continue in the same way as it is today, as a war of attrition that is unfolding slightly, slowly, but steadily in Russia’s favour.”

This story has been tailored from its authentic in French.

© France Médias Monde graphic studio