5 months Russia – Ukraine corrode each other on the battlefield

After 5 months of fierce fighting, the war between Russia and Ukraine became a long-term battle, when the two sides used firepower to erode each other’s vitality.

On February 24, the West was shocked when Russia launched a special military operation to “demilitarize, de-fascist” Ukraine. After 5 months with many times of changing the focus of the fighting, the conflict has left tens of thousands of people dead, more than 12 million Ukrainians homeless, and caused at least $100 billion in damage to infrastructure, but there has been no sign yet. end signal.

While Russian forces continue to pursue and expand their geopolitical goals, the Ukrainian military has also demonstrated enduring resistance against an overwhelming opponent in terms of both firepower and manpower.

Ukrainian soldiers fire an FH-70 howitzer in the Donbass region, east of the country, on July 18.  Photo: Reuters.

Ukrainian soldiers fire an FH-70 howitzer in the Donbass region, east of the country, on July 18. Image: Reuters.

Mark Cancian, senior security adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, based in Washington, US, said that in the early stages of the operation, Russia applied a “blitzkrieg” strategy to create shock. surprise the opponent. Russia’s goal is to quickly crush Ukrainian military resistance with daring raids and change the government in Kiev to forces more friendly to Moscow.

With this strategy, Russia opened the campaign with a series of airstrikes on important Ukrainian cities. This was followed by infantry attacks along four main axes: the capital Kiev in the north, Kharkov in the northeast, the Donbass region in the east and the southern provinces of Ukraine, bordering the Crimean peninsula.

But given Ukraine’s fierce resistance, including President Volodomyr Zelensky’s refusal to evacuate the capital to boost morale, Russia failed with its original strategy.

Convoys of Russian tanks and armor were stuck on the outskirts of Kiev, while other infantry attacks were continuously ambushed and destroyed by Ukraine. Errors in logistics and command capabilities further embarrass the Russian forces and suffer many losses.

After failing with the strategy of fighting quickly and winning quickly, from the end of March, Russia withdrew its forces from northern Ukraine, shifted its focus to the eastern region, and changed to a strategy of “strike firmly, advance firmly”, focusing on the region. Donbass, where the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk are located.

According to Angela Stent, an expert from the Brookings Institution, based in Washington, when Russia changed its strategy, the conflict turned into a “slow war of attrition” on the front lines, as the sides fought each other for “every inch of territory. earth”.

Ukraine faced a number of disadvantages from the outset, the most notable of which was its inability to compete in heavy weapons with Russia. Although the West is actively providing Ukraine with more advanced weapons, it still needs time to train its soldiers to use the new equipment.

Earlier this month, the US pledged to send more HIMARS rocket artillery systems to Ukraine. According to some recent assessments, HIMARS is said to be able to turn the battlefield in favor of Ukraine.

While parts of northern and western Ukraine are slowly returning to normal, fighting is still raging on the front lines. Last month, President Zelensky said Ukraine lost up to 200 troops a day in the Donbass.

According to Stent expert from the Brookings Institution, Russia could also lose the same number, or even more, especially as Ukraine is equipped with more and more modern heavy weapons from the West. Although both sides suffered heavy losses, analysts predict the conflict could drag on for years.

“Both sides are preparing for a long fight, recruiting, training, finding replacements, and moving from what you might call a sprint to an endurance run,” Cancian said.

Peace negotiations at this stage will be very difficult to succeed, observers said.

“We have not started anything yet,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on July 7. “Today, we heard that they wanted to beat us on the battlefield. Let them try.”

President Putin did not rule out the possibility of negotiations with Ukraine, but he stressed that the longer the conflict lasted, the “more difficult” negotiations would be.

“We all know President Putin is very patient and he won’t back down until he can claim victory,” Stent said.

Meanwhile, President Zelensky also made it clear that Kiev will fight to the end to regain lost territory. “Ukrainians are not willing to give away their land, never accept those territories as belonging to Russia. This is our land,” he declared.

From mid-April, fighting mainly took place on the battlefields in the east. After weeks of fierce fighting, the Ukrainian army had to withdraw from the city of Severodonetsk on June 25 due to overwhelming artillery fire.

On July 3, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Putin that their forces had “full control” of Lysychansk, the last city Ukraine still holds in the Lugansk province.

The appearance of the Ukrainian battlefield after nearly 5 months of fighting.  Graphics: Washington Post.

The appearance of the Ukrainian battlefield after nearly 5 months of fighting. Graphics: Washington Post.

The victory in Lysychansk helped Russia capture almost all of Lugansk Oblast and more than half of Donetsk Oblast, taking up a total of 75% of the Donbass region. However, Russia then “paused its tactics” and its momentum almost stalled.

During this time, the US and its Western allies increased military aid to Ukraine, especially with modern weapons without which Kiev would be defeated “in two or three weeks”, Cancian speak. According to this expert, the strong resistance of the Ukrainian army and Western weapons has significantly slowed Russia’s advance, making the Russian army “quite tired”.

To the west of Donetsk, Ukrainian forces continued to hold back the Russian advance from the direction of Izyum towards Sloviansk, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War. Further north, Ukrainian troops continued to prevent Russian forces from retaking the city of Kharkov.

In the south, after a siege that lasted more than two months, Russia took control of the entire port city of Mariupol at the end of May, helping to create a land corridor between Crimea and the Donbass region.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week announced that the country’s military goals in Ukraine are no longer focused only on the Donbass region, but have expanded to the southern provinces and many other regions.

He explained that the West’s supply of heavy weapons to Kiev was the reason why Moscow had to reconsider its goals. He also warned that “Russia’s geographical goals will go further than the current boundary” if the West continues to pump arms to Ukraine.

However, Russia’s warnings are unlikely to prevent the West from continuing to provide military support to Ukraine and strengthen its resolve to deal with Moscow.

Stent considers one of the “unwanted” consequences of Russia’s military campaign to make NATO more united. At a summit in Madrid, Spain, last month, NATO leaders agreed to increase the bloc’s military presence in Eastern Europe. On the last day of the meeting, Turkey announced that it was no longer opposed to Sweden and Finland joining the union, an unexpected turn of events.

Russia’s military campaign also spurred Europe to increase military spending. On June 3, Germany approved a $100 billion investment package to modernize its armed forces, which are often underfunded. “NATO has faced the challenge and overcome it to become stronger,” Cancian said.

The five-month conflict between Russia and Ukraine also caused heavy consequences for the world, most notably the global energy crisis, which led to inflation and skyrocketing prices. Tens of millions of tons of grain are trapped in Ukraine, while fertilizers from Russia and Belarus are affected by Western sanctions, raising fears of a global food crisis.

Grain at a warehouse in Odesa province, Ukraine, on June 22.  Photo: NurPhoto.

Grain at a warehouse in Odesa province, Ukraine, on June 22. Image: NurPhoto.

Moscow and Kiev recently signed an agreement with the United Nations and Turkey to open the way for ships carrying grain from Ukraine’s ports to pass through the Black Sea for export to the world. The agreement raises expectations to help the world avoid an imminent food crisis, but also poses many challenges and uncertainties, especially after the raid on the Russian port of Odessa.

Meanwhile, the risk from the energy crisis has not cooled down for Europe. Russia has significantly cut gas supplies to the European Union (EU) in recent months in response to Western sanctions. Energy experts warn that Europe may have to adopt a normative gas allocation measure this winter if it does not store enough in time.

As the consequences of the conflict pile up around the world, Ukraine will likely face pressure to make concessions to end the fighting and its accompanying effects. For now, though, “neither side has shown they’re willing to do that,” Caician stressed.

Vu Hoang (Theo Time)

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