Russian forces are constantly advancing into Bakhmut, possibly threatening Ukraine’s most important supply line in the city.
Palle Ydstebø is Lieutenant Colonel and Director of the Land Forces Department at the Norwegian Military Academy. He has the following analysis of the Russian winter offensive.
The failure of the Russian winter offensive. Idestipo says the Russians got stuck in several places and suffered heavy losses.
According to the military expert, Russia’s goal of the winter offensive was to capture all of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces by the end of March.
We are now in April and Russia has not reached its targets. They have suffered such heavy losses that they are less prepared for a spring offensive than Ukraine, says Ydstebø.
Lure them into a trap
Bakhmut is located on the front line in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. Since last summer, there has been a very intense battle for control of the city.
According to the Ukrainian authorities, the Battle of Bakhmut was the longest and bloodiest of the war.
– Bakhmut has a more symbolic meaning for Russians. The fall of the city does not mean that the Russians have changed the course of the war, says Pal Edistipo.
Part of the goal of defending the city from the Ukrainian side, the lieutenant colonel explains, was to inflict the greatest possible loss on the Russian forces:
– Ukraine sent various messages about how they are standing in the city. They lured the Russians into a trap. During the Russian Winter Offensive, Ukraine took advantage of the Russians’ symbolic need to capture the city.
According to the military expert, Russia had suffered such heavy losses that it was now important to capture Bakhmut so that they could send a message home that they had won in Ukraine.
– Bakhmut turned into a black hole that attracted the Russian attack. The Russians placed their most important forces in Bakhmut, and marched straight into a trap, Yedstepo asserts.
He has other intentions
The American Research Institute for the Study of War, which is funded in part by the US arms industry, reported in its latest analysis that Russia has reduced the intensity of offensive operations along the entire front line.
The think tank also reported that Moscow may try to exploit the upcoming Orthodox Easter celebrations in Ukraine, which begin on April 16, to call for a ceasefire out of respect for religion.
Russia also demanded a truce during Orthodox Christmas, which Ukraine rejected at the time, calling it a trap.
– Although Easter is more important than Christmas for the Orthodox Church, I think Ukraine will refuse this time too, says Yedstepo.
The military expert explains that the Russian proposal for a cease-fire would not be pure intentions, but rather tactical:
– It may be useful for the Russian forces to declare a cease-fire. Then they have a better time to prepare for a Ukrainian counterattack.
He could surprise the Russians
Ukraine and Russia are now preparing for the expected spring offensive. Palle Ydstebø believes that there are high chances that Ukraine will win this opportunity as well.
– There are several sites of strategic importance for Ukraine to attack. But they are quite obvious to both parties. Now it is up to Ukraine to figure out what is strategically beneficial and what is tactically feasible. Perhaps they will succeed in surprising the Russians.
The spring offensive has already been well planned, but no one knows a firm date, Yedstepo says.
– The spring offensive will come at the end of April or the beginning of May at the earliest, Ydstebø believes and adds that the weather plays an important role in order for it to be successful.
Winter was mild in Ukraine and now it is wet and slushy.
– The weather plays a big role because you have to maneuver big forces in the terrain, and then the ground has to be dry. Ydstebø says we’ve seen several pictures of material stuck in the mud, and that risk can’t be taken.
They suffered huge losses
Russian forces have suffered heavy losses so far in the war.
NATO General Christopher Cavoli Male in March That Russia lost 200,000 soldiers in Ukraine and that the Russians lost 2,000 tanks in the war.
There is a great deal of uncertainty about what we know about the Russians, and there is speculation about how much military power the Russians have left. They have lost much of the army and replaced it with new and old people who lack motivation and experience, Yedstepo says.
The expert believes that now it appears that Ukraine is the party best prepared for the spring offensive.
– Ukraine has soldiers who have been trained in Europe, which has raised the quality. They built brigades from scratch and have the materials for them. He says that the Russians suffered heavy losses from experienced commanders.
– Do we have anything to fear if Russia suffers heavy losses during this spring offensive? Could it make Russia more dangerous to the outside world?
– No, I do not think that Russia will commit mass suicide by resorting to nuclear weapons, – says Lieutenant Colonel Pali Edstepo.
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