This is more territory than the Russian army has won in all its operations in Ukraine since April.
Their failures and disorderly retreat to the east make it considerably more difficult to achieve all of the goals of President Vladimir Putin’s special military operations in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
Over the weekend, a Russian retreat from border areas occupied since March continued. In villages within 5 km of him from the border, the Ukrainian flag was flown.
The collapse of Russia’s defenses has sparked condemnation among influential Russian military bloggers and Russian state media personalities.
One question has arisen as the Ukrainian flag has been hoisted one community after another over the past few days. That’s how the Kremlin responded.
Ukrainian officials had sent telegrams saying an attack was imminent, but not where it actually took place. There has been much noise about the counterattack in the south, and even US officials have spoken of Ukrainian operations to “form a battlefield” at Kherson. Russian reinforcements – perhaps 10,000 of him – poured into the area for several weeks.
Katerina Stepanenko of the War Research Institute, a Washington-based analytical group, says the deception worked.
“Ukrainian military officials have reported that elements of the (Russia’s) Eastern Military District, which previously supported the offensive operation against Sloviansk, have been relocated to the Southern Axis,” she told CNN.
“It was a mixture of Cossack volunteers, volunteer units, DNR/LNR militia units and Russian Rosvaldia (National Guard),” Stepanenko said. And a complicated front line. ”
The Ukrainians chose the weakest spot in the Russian defenses for the first attack – an area controlled by the Luhansk militia with Russian National Guard units further rear. They were no match for the highly maneuverable armored attacks that quickly rendered artillery useless.
Igor Strelkov, a former Donetsk People’s Republic militia commander and now a scathing critic of the shortcomings of the Russian military, pointed to the lack of training of these units and “special attention to the actions of Russian aviation.” In short, Russian front-line forces were hanging to dry without adequate air support.
Multiple videos located and analyzed by CNN, as well as local accounts, depict a chaotic withdrawal of Russian troops, leaving large amounts of ammunition and hardware behind.
It is difficult to understand the poor quality of Russia’s defenses along the critical north-south axis supporting the Donetsk offensive. Once underway, the intention of the Ukrainian offensive was very clear: to destroy the main supply artery. Within three days they did – especially since Russian reinforcements were slow to mobilize.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday tried to portray the abandonment of Kharkov as planning to redirect efforts to the Donetsk region, but in reality it complicates those efforts.
Until this week, the Russians were able to attack the Ukrainian defenses of Donetsk from three directions: north, east and south. The north axis is gone. The threat to Sloviansk and its surrounding industrial areas has been greatly reduced, as has the likelihood of encirclement of Ukrainian defense installations.
Simply put, the battlefields of eastern Ukraine were redrawn in a matter of days.
The most influential and perhaps surprising public critic of the situation was Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who supplied thousands of fighters to the attack. In a Telegram post on Sunday, he said he would contact senior defense officials to explain his message.
“Clearly there was a mistake. I think they will draw some conclusions,” he said.
Alluding to the confusion among the commanders, Kadyrov said that “(the troops) would not withdraw if the Russian General Staff were unwilling to leave,” but that Russian soldiers “did not have proper military training. and retreated.
Russia’s influential military blogger is even more outspoken. Zakhar Prilepin, whose Telegram channel has more than 250,000 subscribers, reposted a commentary describing the events in Kharkov as a “catastrophe” and a massive information failure.
“We can now observe the consequences of the criminal irresponsibility of those who were responsible for this direction,” the post read, adding, “Special military operations are long over. War is on the way.” I am concluding.
Another pro-Putin blogger going by the name Kholmogorov reposted an equally scathing account from the front lines by the Partisan Telegram channel.
“The soldiers were walking with a machine gun and a bag.
The poster, a self-proclaimed Russian Orthodox nationalist, says that while hatred of the enemy is growing, “hate of the government and command is growing even more.”
Adding his own thoughts, Kholmogorov said: “Lord, save the Russian soldiers from a frontal blow, and even more so from a rear one.”
A similar analysis comes from Pyotr Lundstrem’s Telegram channel.
“The military does not have infrared cameras, bulletproof vests, reconnaissance planes, secure communications, adequate helicopters or first aid kits.”
Referring to his anniversary in Russia this weekend, Moscow’s birthday, he added:
On Saturday after the rout, Putin opened a Ferris wheel in Moscow.
“The withdrawal announcement further alienated Russian millbloggers and the Russian nationalist community, who support the Kremlin’s grand vision of occupying all of Ukraine,” the War Research Institute said.
Putin’s next move
Prominent Russian media officials are trying to fabricate this week’s calamity as a planned operation. TV host Vladimir Soloviev reposted his Telegram commentary, claiming that “the enemy will take advantage of easy advances in certain sectors of the front to trap them.”
“Right now, Russian forces are being deliberately reorganized,” the comment added, although there are few signs of that.
It begs the question of how the Kremlin will prosecute the war after suffering the worst week of the entire campaign. Several existing battalion tactical groups were reorganized. Volunteer battalions were raised throughout Russia to form the 3rd Corps. US officials say Russia is running out of ammunition and is even asking North Korea for supplies.
The War Research Institute’s Stepanenko told CNN that the spectacular success of the Ukrainian military’s counteroffensive will require a reassessment of how the new corps operates.
Stepanenko, who studies the recruitment and formation of the Russian Armed Forces, said that the Russians “may try to use these forces to deter a Ukrainian counterattack in Kharkov, but they are poorly trained and unprepared.” It is a very risky, dangerous attempt to commit raw, unarmed troops to such an operation.”
Given Russia’s need for new personnel, she said, “Based on reports that several volunteer battalions were already fighting on the front lines in Kherson, in any case the Russian army could It is highly likely that they are deploying directly to the front lines.”
The Russian military still has considerable power in terms of rocket, artillery and missile forces. But even though the high command has already shuffled him once, its ground operations are unorganized and the commander appears to have been entrusted with little autonomy. Motivation and leadership issues were exposed last week.
Russian bloggers who have backed the offensive say a radical rethink is needed. “We need a change in the approach to war in Ukraine. Mobilization of the economy and industry. Creation of a political control center for the war,” one commented.
Strelkov came to the same conclusion, stating that “it’s time to start a real battle (martial law, military mobilization, economy, etc.).”
During the civil war, Putin has avoided full mobilization, which may be unpopular at home.
It is impossible to know whether the Kremlin will now double down its efforts to complete the special military operation or begin seeking a negotiated solution.
Given what happened last week, the first option seems daunting. The second is humiliating. A third possibility, perhaps most likely, is that Russia will continue its onslaught, inch by inch, with little to no acquisition of additional territory. But now we face the enemy, the wind is in our sails, and a fresh infusion of Western military aid is being prepared for the winter.
Ukraine’s battlefield advances have galvanized Allied support, and a meeting in Germany this weekend yielded further commitments for long-term assistance.