Ukrainian soldiers worried about the adaptability of the Russian army

Many Ukrainian soldiers say that Russian forces are showing more adaptability and combat effectiveness than before, which worries them.

At a fighting post in Donbass, two Ukrainian soldiers rushed in, their faces still red with tension. They had just driven back from the front lines and immediately reported to the brigade commander about the situation of the Russian forces on the front lines.

Looking at the large map at the brigade headquarters, they showed the positions where the Russian forces were advancing, towards an important road.

“They’re about 400 meters away from us, across the field right here. We’re still trying to hold out, but it’s getting harder,” said Sergeant Denys Kalchuk from the Dnipro-1 volunteer battalion. .

A Ukrainian soldier is evacuated with his wounded comrades from the battlefield to a hospital in the Donetsk region on January 9.  Photo: AP.

A Ukrainian soldier is evacuated with his wounded comrades from the battlefield to a hospital in the Donetsk region on January 9. Photo: AP.

According to Kalchuk, Russian infantry, fighter aircraft and artillery units are showing that they are well adapted to the battlefield situation and cooperate more and more effectively in the Bakhmut offensive campaign.

“Airplanes are the worst. You can’t hear them before it’s too late. Tanks too. Artillery is easier to deal with, at least you have a second or two to hide after listening to it. heard a muzzle explosion,” Kalchuk said.

Bakhmut is the hottest spot on the Donbass frontline today. Over the past several weeks, Russia’s Wagner “mercenaries” have been the mainstay of most of the massive attacks on the city, despite massive casualties. But in recent days, according to some Ukrainian soldiers, the Russian regular army has regained its pivotal role on the battlefield and has shown remarkable combat effectiveness.

“The situation right now is extremely difficult for us. We understand that Russia is learning day by day and changing its strategy. I think we need to learn faster,” said Dmytro Podvorchanskyi, the head of the group. a reconnaissance unit of the Dnipro-1 battalion, said.

According to him and several others, Russian regular forces are much better at hiding and dispersing ammunition depots, and more effectively targeting Ukraine’s supply lines. As a result, they are continuing to expand their control over the villages around Bakhmut and threaten Ugledar, another important city to the south.

However, there is still no indication that Russian forces can immediately make a strategic breakthrough. A senior Ukrainian commander claims military aid from the West has brought the balance to Kiev and that Western tanks could soon give Ukraine an advantage.

After months of continuous fighting, some Ukrainian soldiers showed signs of fatigue and pessimism.

“There have been cases where the units did not seem ready to fight and disagreed on tactics,” admitted one Ukrainian soldier.

Others talked about the pain of seeing their friends die, when units suffered so many casualties, and about the psychological impact of fighting among so many corpses. One soldier even feared that “the enemy would crush us” as Russia mobilized more than 300,000 reserves and prepared to launch into the battlefield.

However, most Ukrainian soldiers were quick to dismiss the pessimism. They praised the commanders for still trying to give them time to rest in the midst of fierce battles.

One reason given to explain Ukraine’s lack of effectiveness in Bakhmut is that the units entrenched here are relatively weak and inexperienced, while the strongest forces are being deployed elsewhere. to prepare a counterattack or deal with the scenario where Russia organizes a large offensive campaign.

Ukrainian soldiers open fire at Russian forces near Bakhmut in November 2022.  Photo: AP.

Ukrainian soldiers fire rockets at Russian forces near Bakhmut in November 2022. Photo: AP.

The location of a new counterattack is a topic of much discussion among Ukrainian soldiers. Some believe that they may launch a major operation in the Lugansk province to dislodge the Russian forces, while others believe in an offensive southward, to the city of Melitopol, to isolate and intimidate the Russian army. in and around the Crimean peninsula.

An experienced officer said he believes Russia is looking to expand its front line, capture a few more parts of the Donbass, then declare “mission accomplished” and push for negotiations.

He stressed that Ukraine would certainly never agree to that, but warned that the military would need Western fighter jets to penetrate Russia’s new defenses, especially in the south of the country.

Vu Hoang (Theo BBC)

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