If Zaporizhzhia is a main objective for the Russian Armed Forces, as many analysts believe, their advance will be challenging in many ways, the smallest is to close the sharp cavity that has developed between Dolynka and Nesterianka. This coincides with the depressions north-east and south-west of Zahirne.
Another Russian concern seems to be of a Ukrainian push from the north to apply pressure in and around Melitopol. I find this curious as such a move would expose any forces that attempt it serious threat on three fronts.
It’s hard to know Russia’s motive for digging in at Melitopol and other areas, as I don’t always gather reliable news from the battlefield, but just observing their actions, I don’t think that it is strictly a defensive maneuver, rather it is for logistical purposes to secure their supply lines for a predicted Russian northern thrust from Vasylivka and Nesterianka against Zaporizhzhia.
Other challenges that come from an offensive against Zaporizhzhia is the odd shape of the battle lines. It is such a small battle field space and because of this, it causes sharp threats to flanks and the landscape poses logistical trials and hazards.
I will offer a prediction. The next main Russian offensive may include Zaporizhzhia, but it won’t be the main focus. The main focus of the Russian offensive will be Kharkov.
To say this is a war of attrition is an understatement. Russia has referenced their objective of grinding down Ukrainian forces many times. While I’ve never been a proponent of attrition warfare, Russia’s actions on the battle field attest to this strategy as the battle lines have only been fluid during certain phases of the war. As of late, there have been numerous battles across the entire front line, but most of the time, the battle line advances have been incremental.
The very fact that this is not a war of mobility further lends credence to the Kharkov prediction I made. There was a good reason for Russia to advance to Kherson in the south and Kharkov in the north at the outset of the war. Both points offer strategic vantage points across the region west of the Donbas, extending to the Dnieper.
Working from the premise of a war of attrition, Kharkov is the top of the cauldron and Kherson is the bottom, and everything in between is within a vast pocket. If there was ever a prime location to accomplish the horrible act of attrition warfare, this cauldron serves perfectly. I further believe this is why Russia is intent on holding on to the eastern part of Kherson. To lose it would not only expose their southern flank but would, of course, open a corridor toward Crimea.
Since they pulled their forces back east of Kherson, Russia has been pummeling the Ukrainian forces in the city. There is virtually no power or potable water in the city.
As for Belarus, while there have been reports of troop movement in the region, I believe this is more of a threat to hold Ukrainian forces in place, rather than an actual military operation.
According to various reports, both the Ukrainian Army and the Russian Army are struggling with their artillery systems. The Ukrainian Artillery is only operating at about 60% capacity, equipment breakdown causing holes in the ranks.
As for the Russian Army, their sophisticated systems, deadly at both long and short range, are reported to be above the knowledge base of their operators, who are not knowledgeable or experienced enough to take advantage of the weaponry.
KIA and Casualties
All wars are difficult in casualty calculation, but this war is one of the worst. Some of the information released in regard to casualties is highly questionable, however, some reports appear credible.
According to Ukraine’s reporting, published by Russian Medusa News, (they rarely report on their casualties, only Russian) they have killed 88,000 Russian soldiers. Although I am not there, I find this figure outlandish and not even remotely reliable. Other KIA statistics seem more accurate. One of them is 8,000 to 10,000 Russian dead, and up to 30,000 Ukrainian dead. KIA calculations and formulas adjust the numbers to be 25% of all casualties, minor and seriously wounded.
This would put the casualties at: Russia 40,000 and Ukraine 120,000.
As the Russian attrition battle plan progresses, the numbers will grow.
I will continue to declare, without compunction, that the military equation in Ukraine is an unwinnable calculation for the western forces.
NATO and the US cannot win this war.
Photos: Nico Smit, Martijn Hendrikx