Espreso. Global

Active defense tactics in south backfire on Russian troops - military expert Zgurets

5 September, 2023 Tuesday

During the Ukrainian Armed Forces' offensive, all Russian units that could have been deployed more effectively on the main front line have already been decimated by Ukrainian artillery, and this process is ongoing

Frontline situation 

A new dynamic appears to be developing on the southern front. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces asserts that Ukrainian units are making advances and consolidating their positions in the Melitopol or Tokmak directions, although specific details are not provided. Nevertheless, Ukrainian forces are actively conducting offensive operations in the direction of Novoprokopivka, as well as creating a wedge between Robotynе and Verbove, with an attack on Verbove itself.

Events unfolding in the southern region of Ukraine are beginning to garner significant attention in foreign media. Previously, these media outlets relied on statements from unnamed Pentagon or White House officials. Now the situation is changing.

On September 3, the Guardian, a British outlet, interviewed Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, who is in command of the Tavria direction. Tarnavskyi discussed key aspects of the offensive in southern Ukraine, mentioning a significant breakthrough near Zaporizhzhia. He said that a vital breakthrough has been made near Zaporizhzhia. While the phrase "vital breakthrough" was not directly from Tarnavskyi but rather used by journalists, it accurately reflects the situation. When Tarnavskyi talks about this breakthrough in the southern direction, he refers to a supply line just in front of the primary Russian defense line, commonly referred to as the Surovikin line. Tarnavskyi explained that Russian forces had prepared extensively to hold this line, believing that Ukrainian troops would not be able to breach it. They had been preparing for over a year to hold it. And they did everything to ensure that this territory was well prepared.

Tarnavskyi highlights the extreme difficulty of crossing minefields, as Russian troops would immediately target demining equipment. Therefore, only infantry forces had to clear the mines and only at night. According to the commander of the Tavria direction, Ukrainian troops are now advancing on both sides of the Robotyne rift and are gaining a foothold in the liberated territories. Ukrainian defense forces are also engaged in eliminating Russian troops covering the retreat of other Russian units to their second line of defense, which is the main line of defense.

Tarnavskyi says significant and swifter progress by Ukrainian forces will come in the future. He also mentioned that Ukraine is preparing other offensives that will take the enemy by surprise in order to wear down their army. Because it's difficult to succeed in just one direction, and you must always keep the enemy guessing. He likely meant to says that the offensive in the Berdyansk direction, also occurring in the south, is intended to divert the attention of Russian forces. The five potential directions in the south are the directions where offensive actions could be developed, and these are areas where the Russian invading forces might expect Ukrainian breakthroughs.

Tarnavskyi refused to answer questions about how long it would take for the Ukrainian Defense Forces to reach the Azov Sea coast or reach Melitopol, for example.

We can draw conclusions from this interview and say that all the defense lines that Russia has been building, and there are three of them, are challenging. The most challenging is this main line of defense, which Ukrainian troops are now approaching. Why then does General Tarnavskyi say that it will be easier moving forward? I think we can find the answer in the fact that Russia has been trying to pursue the concept of active defense. And instead of holding the main line, it was constantly throwing all its reserves and forces at holding the front line.

This tactic of active defense played a cruel joke on Russian troops. During this time, all Russian units that could have been deployed more effectively on the main front line have already been decimated by Ukrainian artillery, and this process is ongoing. Russia is pulling up reserves to protect this front line. The current loss ratio, based on statistics from the previous month, remains unknown, but the losses in manpower are roughly one to one. In terms of artillery losses, it stands at approximately one to three. This tactic is currently proving effective on the front line.

Ukraine has chosen the most optimal strategy for moving forward in the south. We hope that this strategy will actually yield results. Russia will not have enough reserves to hold back Ukrainian troops. However, the main task facing the Ukrainian army is not only to break through the Russian defense line but also to do so with sufficient forces in reserve to use this breakthrough to achieve further goals. This is what the Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and General Staff are now committed to.

Prospects for cooperation and military assistance from France

Meanwhile, the President of Ukraine is holding talks with leaders of other countries, seeking military support. In his evening address, the president said that he had talked with French President Macron about areas of cooperation, including in the military sphere.

Defence Express military expert Ivan Kyrychevskyi said that France has a research institution that calls itself the Resilience Institute. Recently, this institution has published a comprehensive 61-page study describing three scenarios for reducing the armored fleet of the Russian army. The researchers of this French institute, having taken into account all the available data on tanks that can still be found at Russian bases and are suitable for restoration, as well as the dynamics of losses incurred by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, came up with an interesting picture. According to their optimistic scenario, by the end of this year, only 250 tanks will remain in service in the Russian army. Moreover, it will be a hodgepodge of old T-62s and new T-90M tanks. Such a scenario will be achieved if the Ukrainian Armed Forces steadily maintain the rate of destruction of Russian tanks at 12 units per day during the counteroffensive.

Ivan Kyrychevskyi noted that the French believe that the average scenario is that by the end of this year and early 2024, Russia will have 500-600 serviceable tanks of various types at its disposal. Under these conditions, the Russian army will have a maximum of one combat-ready tank brigade to deploy to the hottest spots on the front. What the French have called a pessimistic scenario is that it will not be possible to increase the rate of loss of Russian tanks, and in early 2024 Russian troops will have 1,500 combat-ready tanks. This number would be sufficient to form an offensive unit, by which they possibly meant the formation of a tank army.

The Defense Express expert pointed out that when examining the report by French researchers comprehensively, it becomes evident that some of the figures have been adjusted to suit French political expediency. It seems that the primary objective of this study was not just to depict the potential fate of Russia's tank forces but to convey to the French establishment that Russia is not as formidable as some may think. Interestingly, this study coincided with the news that Ukrainian mechanized brigade soldiers were once again equipped with French MILAN anti-tank missile systems, as seen in official photos. It's possible that this study was intended to encourage France to provide additional weapons, potentially to diminish Russia’s tank potential.

Kyrychevskyi added that the French media started reporting that Paris was considering supplying Ukraine with Mirage 2000 aircraft equipped with SCALP missiles. However, subsequent information revealed that Ukraine is in negotiations with France for different aircraft, specifically the Rafale. Additionally, the Ukrainian president mentioned that there are agreements in place with France for training Ukrainian pilots. Therefore, it's plausible that the evolving perception of the external threat posed by Russia might impact Ukraine's standing regarding French aircraft.

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