Espreso. Global

Russia cannot control its own border. Serhiy Zgurets’ column

5 June, 2023 Monday

Russia is not able to control its border, there is information about hostilities near Shebekino, Belgorod region

Ukraine's future counteroffensive

The upcoming large-scale offensive, being prepared by the Armed Forces and new units of the National Guard of Ukraine, will not go unnoticed. It will be a significant event that we will both hear about and witness. However, the Ministry of Defense has released a video featuring our military personnel, accompanied by a clear hint that silence should be maintained in anticipation of the impending counteroffensive. They have stated that there will be no official announcements. Nevertheless, even without public declarations, the situation on the front lines remains intense.

Syrskyi reported that the 92nd brigade successfully repelled an attack from the Russian Federation in the Svatove direction, launching a counterattack and making significant advancements of several hundred meters. The public has mentioned the actions of Ukrainian armored groups near Zaporizhzhia. We eagerly await further details. Additionally, the Russian Volunteer Corps, which is currently engaged in combat operations 30 km from Belgorod in Novaya Talazhanka, is also making progress. There are reports of ongoing military actions near Shebekino, with the Russian Federation being targeted by artillery fire. There are indications that the Russian Volunteer Corps and Freedom of Russia Legion are conducting combat operations on the outskirts of Shebekino. The fact that the Russian Federation is unable to control its own border is a significant advantage for us.

Regarding the liberation of our occupied lands, Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that Ukraine is fully prepared to launch the long-awaited counteroffensive. He expressed the belief that the situation could unfold in various ways, but emphasized our readiness to reclaim our territory. The United States has stated that it has done everything within its power to assist in preparing for the counteroffensive. This initiative has been led by our General Staff, granting our leadership the advantage of choosing the optimal time and place to strike the enemy. The enemy, in turn, has attempted to fortify their defensive positions and is preparing to resist our counteroffensive to the best of their abilities. Our soldiers require weapons, training, skills, and courage, all of which have been demonstrated by the defenders of Bakhmut, a city that the Russian Federation has never fully captured, for over 10 months.

The situation in the Bakhmut direction

Yuriy Syrotyuk, a soldier of the 5th separate assault brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine highlighted a significant advance by the Ukrainian forces on the southern and western outskirts of Bakhmut towards Klishchiivka from multiple directions. However, heavy rains and thunderstorms caused the trenches to fill with water, halting the advance temporarily. Now Ukrainians will again hear good news from this area. 

The Wagner fighters have been replaced by regular troops of the Russian Federation, which is subordinate to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Unlike Wagner, these troops lack the same zeal and are not compelled to engage in battle under threat of execution. When the Ukrainian Armed Forces regained their positions, the enemy made poor efforts to retake control. 

The enemy used aviation and artillery trying to halt the Armed Forces, and while the intensity remains high, there has been a significant decrease in artillery activity. Ukrainian troops are now advancing on the flanks. The city itself is challenging for the Russian Federation to establish a foothold as the Armed Forces control the dominant heights, putting the enemy in a disadvantageous position. Despite the difficulty faced by the Russians in holding the area, they continue to persist due to the destruction of Bakhmut and the depletion of their forces. It is commendable that the Armed Forces of Ukraine have made progress over the course of almost a year in the Donetsk region. We frequently change positions, but the city remains under our fire control. Ukrainian intelligence accurately documents any progress made, and the enemy responds swiftly. They do not even attempt to advance towards the outskirts or dislodge the Armed Forces of Ukraine from the MiG monument area. Prigozhin's claims are false. The Armed Forces have successfully maintained their positions and continue to do so. 

After the loss of Soledar, the Russian Federation now controls the route to Lysychansk and has an open route to Debaltseve, with the primary supply route being the temporarily occupied Mayorsk. If the Armed Forces advance beyond Klishchiivka, enter the Opytne region, cut off supplies from the south, and regain control of the route from Sloviansk to Bakhmut and Siversk, the encirclement of Bakhmut will become a realistic possibility. 

However, this remains a distant objective. Although progress is being made, battles and losses continue. The enemy is actively retaliating. We will maintain the positions we have gained, while the enemy has only managed to make minimal advances. It is encouraging that our artillery and mortars are becoming more effective. While we may not have a numerical advantage yet, we possess a qualitative advantage in terms of reconnaissance, targeting, and weapon accuracy. However, the enemy's artillery remains formidable, although not as overwhelming as it was last summer near Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk, or Popasna. Russian aviation still flies to the positions of the Armed Forces on a daily basis. We will only claim that the defenders of Bakhmut have fulfilled their mission 100% when we regain full control over the city's ruins, defeat the Russian army, inflict heavy losses on them, and force them to retreat to avoid being surrounded. We have already dealt significant blows to the Russian forces, halted their offensive, and are now advancing ourselves. The enemy is on the defensive and facing significant problems on the flanks. It remains uncertain how they will cope with these challenges. In the first half of our mission, we lost territory but preserved our army and inflicted substantial casualties on the Russian Federation. In the second half, our objective is to eliminate the Russian Armed Forces entirely, reclaim the territory, and leave them behind. 

The situation in the Svatovye — Kreminna — Kupyansk sector is as follows

According to Reserve Colonel Viktor Kevlyuk, an expert at the Center for Defense Strategies, the Zapad group comprises approximately 50,000 soldiers, 400 tanks, 350 armored vehicles, 540 artillery pieces, and missile systems. It also includes three brigades, ten regiments, eleven territorial troops regiments, and eight battalions. Additionally, three territorial troops regiments are in reserve. The group also encompasses the border protection group deployed in the Bryansk, Kursk, and Belgorod regions, consisting of around 23,000 Russian personnel who are formally part of the West forces. The Russian Federation's activities aim to weaken the defense line and advance along Oskil, between Kupyansk and Dvorichna, in order to deprive the Armed Forces of Ukraine of a strategic foothold for further actions towards Svatove - Starobilsk and an offensive in the direction of Svatove. These actions by the Russian Federation are aimed at improving their tactical position. However, due to the lack of strategic reserves and the expectation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive, a large-scale counteroffensive in the Kupyansk region in the next month is unlikely.

Regarding enemy reserves

The First Tank Army of the Russian Federation is not functioning as a reserve but actively participating in hostilities. It is the largest army in Europe. Although Ukrainian forces have made efforts near Sumy, in Donetsk region, in Kharkiv, and Izyum to impede their progress, the 4th tank division operates in the Svatove region, while one of the regiments of the 47th division operates in the Kyslivka region. The whereabouts of the other divisions remain unknown. The 2nd motorized rifle division is engaged in the Pershotravnia, Orlyanka, and Mykolaiv areas, while the 270th motorized rifle brigade is fighting in Novoselivka. Five battalions of the 1st Tank Army are part of the border protection group and are stationed in the Bryansk and Belgorod regions. Two Russian Volunteer Corps battalions are operating in the Shebekino and Talizhanka areas. The First Tank Army is at the forefront, utilizing all available weaponry in their encounter with Ukrainian forces.

The strategic significance of conducting raids in the Belgorod region 

The Russian Federation has established logistics hubs like Shebekino and Urazovoe along the border to supply their brigades with essential resources, weapons, and personnel. Targeting these locations with operations such as the Freedom of Russia and the Russian Volunteer Corps disrupts enemy logistics and hampers their ability to restore combat capability. These actions greatly perplex the Russian Federation, forcing them to decide on the allocation of reserves and determine their priority in repelling the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The indications of the Ukrainian offensive

In the liberation operation of Izyum and the Kharkiv region, the initial 48 hours witnessed the breakthrough of the first line of defense and the elimination of the enemy's interpositional space. If we can continue dismantling the Russian Federation's defense within the first three to four days, subsequent actions will primarily involve pursuing fleeing adversaries.

The establishment of new armed forces

We must enhance our firepower capabilities as our neighbor possesses vast mobilization resources. The division into four operational and air commands based on administrative-territorial boundaries is commendable, as it proves to be both practical and effective. However, the role of the command, which is responsible for managing Ukrainian border operations in the north, remains somewhat unclear. It is imperative to clarify the distribution of tasks. Having only one bomber and one assault brigade in the Air Force is insufficient, and we rely on assistance from our allies in this regard. While we have made progress in developing a unified air defense and anti-missile system, it requires further systematization and alignment with international standards to ensure compatibility with our partners. In terms of maritime defense, we have concluded that protecting solely the maritime zone does not necessitate a large fleet, prompting the need to focus on developing an unmanned, high-impact component. It is also time to redirect our attention towards securing the Sea of Azov.

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