Espreso. Global

How World War II tactics allow Russians to slow down Ukraine's counteroffensive

3 October, 2023 Tuesday
17:23

During their counteroffensive, the Ukrainians not only faced Russian minefields and an extensive network of trenches but also discovered the Russian strategy of surrendering positions before launching a retaliatory attack

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The New York Times writes about it.

The article mentions Monday's reports, where Russian troops claimed to have attacked Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines in the Zaporizhzhia region, but Ukrainian forces claimed to have "repelled the attacks."

Security analysts claim that Russian commanders have used a time-tested military strategy known as "elastic defence" in place of holding a line of trenches at all costs in the face of Ukraine's attack.

Russian soldiers pull back to a second line of positions with this technique, enabling Ukrainian forces to advance. Then, when the enemy forces are exposed, either as they move across open terrain or as they approach recently deserted Russian positions, the Russian forces strike back.

The objective is to stop Ukrainian forces from taking a location and using it as a base for other advances. Ukraine's largest victory in recent weeks came in the southern village of Robotyne, where they were able to do so.

“The defender gives ground while inflicting as heavy casualties as they can on the attackers with a view to being able to set the attackers up for a decisive counterattack,” said Ben Barry, a senior fellow for land war studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Elastic defence is not an innovative strategy, according to Mr. Barry. It was used by the Soviet Union to defeat Germany in the largest battle fought on the eastern front of World War II, the Battle of Kursk, in 1943. Additionally, it looks that Russia has been using it in Ukraine for a while.

Oleksiy Melnyk, a former Ukrainian commander who is currently a senior official at the Razumkov Centre, noted that the wise deployment of military reserves, who can be thrown into the fight for a counterattack, is a crucial component in the implementation of elastic defence.

According to Mr. Melnyk, Moscow appears to have started deploying elite airborne units to its defence in the Zaporizhzhia area, signalling that its normal reserves may be running low. Mr. Melnyk called this development "encouraging news" for Ukraine.

“One of the biggest things that remains in question is whether or not the Ukrainian military will be able to achieve a breakthrough,” he said.

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