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WORLD NEWS | Ukraine aims to weaken and outmaneuver Russian military distracted by infighting

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Streaks of light seen in California. (Photo credit: Video Grab)

KIEV, June 30 (AP) — The ambush had been delayed three times until, on a recent night, Ukrainian commanders decided the conditions were finally ripe. A battalion of the 129th Brigade in Kiev pushed forward through the darkness, quietly advancing on unsuspecting Russian soldiers.

By the time the Russians on the front lines realized they were under attack, it was too late.

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Ukraine recaptured the small village of Neskuchny in the eastern region of Donetsk on June 10, embodying the strategy of a massive counteroffensive launched earlier this month. The small platoon relies on the power of surprise, and once successful, it can gradually gain territory and battlefield intelligence.

“We had several scenarios. In the end, I think we chose the best one. It came quietly and unexpectedly,” said Serhii Zherebylo, 41, deputy battalion commander of the battalion that recaptured Neskucciny. ) explain.

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On the 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) front, Ukrainian troops are trying to weaken the enemy and reshape the front to create more favorable conditions for a decisive eastward advance. One tactic could be to try to split the Russian military in two in order to isolate the Crimea peninsula, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014, from other territories it controls.

Last week, an armed insurgency in Russia posed the most serious threat to the power of Ukrainian President Vladimir Putin in more than two decades, boosting the morale of Ukrainian troops. It remains to be seen, however, how the rebellion of Wagner Group mercenaries under the command of Russian warlord Yevgeny Prigor will affect the trajectory of the war.

Infighting is a major distraction for Russia’s military and political leadership, but experts say the impact on the battlefield so far appears to have been minimal.

Ukraine has intensified operations over the past four days around the eastern city of Bakhmut, which Wagner’s forces took after months of heavy fighting before handing it over to Russian soldiers, who continue to lose some on the southern flank position.

On the front line, however, the strength of the Russian army has not changed since the uprising.

It is not clear where Ukraine will try to break through decisively, but any success will depend on newly formed, yet-to-deploy, Western-equipped brigades. For now, Russia’s defense-in-depth positions and relative air superiority are slowing Ukraine’s advance.

Military experts say it is hard to say who has the upper hand: Russia has the manpower and ammunition, while Ukraine is versatile, equipped with modern weapons and smart on the battlefield.

But with just four months left until the fall mud season, some Ukrainian commanders say they are in a race against time.

“While Ukrainian forces are making small but steady inroads, they do not yet have the operational initiative, which means they cannot dictate the tempo and terms of their operations,” said Dylan Lee Laelke, an analyst at British security intelligence firm Janes. “

“That led some observers to claim that the counteroffensive fell short of expectations,” Laelke said. But he said it would never be like last year’s Ukrainian blitz to liberate eastern Kharkov because “Russian troops took too long to prepare fortifications”.

Russian authorities said Ukraine had suffered heavy losses since the counteroffensive began, with 259 tanks and 790 armored vehicles lost, Putin said, but Putin’s claims could not be independently confirmed.

Fierce battles are taking place in multiple theaters.

Last month, a catastrophic dam failure in the southern region of Kherson changed the geography along the Dnieper River, giving Ukrainians more freedom of movement. Russian military blogs have claimed that a small group of Ukrainian militants is making inroads in the area, but Ukrainian officials have not confirmed the reports.

On the agricultural plains southeast of the Zaporozhye region, Ukrainian troops, backed by tanks, artillery and drones, appear to be weakening Russian positions more decisively.

If Ukrainian forces were able to regain access to the Sea of ​​Azov from this direction, effectively cutting off Moscow’s land bridge to Crimea, it would deal a serious blow to Russian forces. It is too early to determine whether this is a realistic goal.

They still have a long way to go.

In the underground command center on the front line, a Ukrainian special forces commander with the call sign “Hunter” stared intently at the lush battlefield from a bird’s eye view.

His men had just attacked the enemy’s position, but the return fire continued. The Russian fired rockets into the air while his fighters hid and waited for orders.

Hunter directs the drone operator to shoot.

On the screen, a huge black smoke expands in the air. It was a success, he said.

Analysts say the battle here will only intensify.

Ukrainian troops are still several kilometers away from the main Russian defense line. As they penetrate deeper into occupied territory, the fighter jets will have to contend with Russia’s defenses organized in diagonal lines, some as deep as 10 kilometers, including minefields, anti-tank trenches and pyramid-shaped formations known as “dragon teeth”. obstacle.

With each advance they become more vulnerable to Russian air strikes.

At least 130 square kilometers (50 square miles) of land has been recovered in the south since the counteroffensive began, Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Mallial said this week.

That’s not the speed many were hoping for.

A U.S. official familiar with the thinking of the Biden administration said the counteroffensive would be a “long battle” that would test Ukrainian forces rarely in the 16-month war. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a “D-Day moment” was never expected, but early developments suggested that the pace of the counteroffensive would be “difficult and challenging”. “For Ukrainians.

Unlike some battles earlier in the war, when Russian troops offered little resistance or even fled the battlefield, Ukrainian troops are currently facing stiff resistance, the official said.

In the northeast, Russian forces have intensified offensive operations in the direction of the Kremina Forest near Lyman, with the aim of securing a buffer zone against incursions near the Moscow supply line, Laelke said. But he said it likely had a secondary goal — to force Ukraine to deploy more troops.

As it turns out, densely forested areas are notoriously difficult terrain.

“Russian saboteur groups go into the woods and sometimes they go behind the first Ukrainian line of defense,” said Pavlo Yusov, a press officer for the Thunderstorm Brigade of the National Guard currently based in Leman.

Colonel Volodymyr Silenko, commander of the 30th Mechanized Brigade, which was operating near Bakhmut, did not heed criticism of the speed of the attack. It’s more important to pay attention to how your opponent thinks and reacts, he said.

“War is not a contest of force, weapons and human strength, but a contest of who is more cunning,” he said.

Sirenko knew that the Russians spied on his soldiers, just as he spied on theirs. Moscow saw their actions, how they changed, how they evolved.

“Our job is to outsmart them,” he said.

Deception was a key part of Ukraine’s biggest battlefield victory to date, last fall’s “Kherson trick.” By making the city of Kherson the main target of the counteroffensive, Ukrainian forces were able to quickly recapture the northern region of Kharkov.

“That was a master class in deception,” Laelke said. “Whether they can do the same this time remains to be seen.” (AP)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a syndicated news feed, the latest staff may not have revised or edited the body of content)


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