With new armaments, Ukraine subtly changes its war strategy

KYIV, Ukraine – From spring to summer, the Ukrainian army was beaten by Russian artillery in eastern Ukraine, steadily losing ground and...


KYIV, Ukraine – From spring to summer, the Ukrainian army was beaten by Russian artillery in eastern Ukraine, steadily losing ground and up to 200 troops a day in a mismatched duel. But in recent weeks, Ukraine has changed its strategy with new weaponry and has succeeded, at least for now, in slowing Russia’s advances.

Comes with a growing arsenal of western long-range weapons and aided by local fighters known as Partisans, Ukraine was able to strike Russian forces deep behind enemy lines, disrupting critical supply lines and, increasingly, hitting critical targets of combat potential. from Moscow.

The new weapons have also forced Russia to recalibrate on the battlefield, giving the Ukrainians leeway to make more strategic decisions.

One of the blows dealt to the Russians this week was a series of explosions at an airbase on the occupied Crimean peninsula which destroyed at least eight warplanesand which a Ukrainian official said was the result of a strike by special forces troops aided by local partisan fighters.

The approach has been particularly well suited to the Kherson region in the south, where for weeks Ukrainian officials have been engaged in the opening salvoes of a counter-offensive. The city of Kherson in particular, dependent for supply on only four bridges spanning the Dnipro River, is considered more vulnerable than other occupied cities.

On Saturday, the Ukrainians claimed to have rammed the last of those four key bridges, leaving thousands of Russian troops in danger of being isolated and cut off from supplies, according to Western intelligence officials.

“We don’t have the resources to scatter the territory with bodies and shells, as Russia does,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in an interview last week with Pravda, a Ukrainian media outlet. . “So it is necessary to change tactics, to fight in a different way.”

The strategy appears to be producing results. Although the Ukrainian military did not make any major territorial gains, it did manage to slow the Russian advance through the country, for now at least, and stem the heavy losses Ukraine has suffered in recent years. months, which had caused morale to waver and some soldiers had even deserted their platoons.

But the Russians continued to press east and south on Ukrainian frontline positions, some of which are slowly giving way. The incremental advances indicated that despite setbacks from Ukraine’s attacks, the Russian military effort still has sufficient strength to continue offensive operations.

Ukraine’s efforts in the south represent less a change of approach than an extension, with using new weapons with longer range, a strategy adopted at the start of the war aimed at leveling the playing field with Russia. With the Russian military far exceeding the Ukrainian forces in numbers of troops, weapons, and ammunition, the Ukrainian military had to be innovative and agile.

“It is clear that the Ukrainians cannot match the Russians unit for unit and soldier for soldier. And Ukraine, like the Russians, is short of soldiers,” said Samuel Bendett, Russian weapons analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis. “So Ukraine has to be very careful in how it withdraws Russian forces.”

Ukraine managed to repel Russian efforts to seize the capital, Kyiv, using smaller, adaptable combat units that exploited its advantage on the ground for lightning strikes against Russian forces, which were concentrated in large heavy columns which constituted easy targets.

To the east, with its vast rolling plains, Russia was first able to take advantage of its superiority in numbers and firepower, wearing down Ukrainian troops with relentless artillery barrages before moving to seize the territory.

But now, equipped with new, longer-range artillery pieces, like the American-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or HIMARS, Ukraine has been able to slow Russia’s advance and divert attention to what the generals Ukrainians consider it a more advantageous territory in the south.

It is there, particularly in the Kherson region, which was the first area of ​​Ukraine lost to Russian forces, that Ukraine hopes to begin to turn the tide of the war. Using HIMARS and other long-range weapons, Ukrainian forces have slowly reduced Russia’s ability to supply troops holding territory west of the Dnipro River, including the city of Kherson, which Russian forces control since the first weeks of the war.

Serhii Khlan, adviser to the head of the Kherson region military administration, said on Facebook that Saturday’s destruction of the last remaining bridge over the Dnipro River was part of Ukraine’s strategy to frustrate Russian forces.

“Of course they will try to repair, look for an alternative in the crossings,” he said. “But it’s time, money, and as soon as they get ready and gain equipment and strength, we’ll destroy it again.”

The idea, according to Ukrainian commanders, is to make conditions so untenable that Russia withdraws alone across the Dnipro in the face of the expected Ukrainian counterattack.

“Our soldiers are inventive and progressive, while the Russians work according to the rules, deploying combat formations as was planned in the Soviet Union,” said Vitaliy Kim, the head of the military administration of the Mykolaiv region, in an interview last week. “Our guys have read this book and fully understand it, and use it for their own purposes.”

In eastern Ukraine, the main Russian effort is now focused on trying to gain ground in the Donetsk region, and there has been intense fighting in recent days in the area around the town of Pisky . The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that the city had fallen, a claim that could not be independently verified.

The Ukrainian method, which is becoming more evident by the day, is to carry out strikes that undermine Moscow’s ability to support the forces it has deployed at the front.

“We are looking for the Russians’ weak points, determining the enemy’s critical points and bleeding them gradually,” said Andrii Ryzhenk, a former senior Ukrainian military official turned adviser to the Center for Defense Strategies, a Ukrainian think tank. said this month.

While the approach was aided by Western long-range weapons, it was also encouraged by Western officials. Mr Reznikov, Ukraine’s defense minister, said this week that both the US and UK defense ministers had given him advice: “The Russians are using meat grinder tactics — if you plan to fight them with the same tactics, we are not going to be able to help you. »

Moscow’s control over Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, is key to Russia’s efforts to hold onto land in southern Ukraine. Ahead of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops to the peninsula, and they captured large swaths of the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia within days.

Since then, rail lines from Crimea have been essential for Moscow to transport heavy weapons and equipment to southern Ukraine. Last week, Britain’s Defense Intelligence Agency said the Ukrainians had hit a key railway line from the peninsula, making it “highly unlikely that the Kherson-Crimea rail link will remain operational”.

The Russians will likely rush to fix it, the agency said, but the attack exposed a critical vulnerability.

The Southern Theater is now essentially bisected – split by the Dnipro River – and the British intelligence agency has said that even if Russia manages to carry out major repairs to the bridges that Ukrainian forces have hit, the structures will remain one. potential weak point.

Marc Santora reported from Kyiv, Ukraine, Michael Schwirtz of Odessa, Ukraine, and Jack Nicas from Rio de Janeiro. Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed report.

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Newsrust - US Top News: With new armaments, Ukraine subtly changes its war strategy
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