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Ukraine is ready for counteroffensive, but it will be a challenge to maintain motivation and restore casualties - NYT

Tuesday, 4 April 2023, 03:12
Ukraine is ready for counteroffensive, but it will be a challenge to maintain motivation and restore casualties - NYT

With Western weapons and newly created assault units, Ukraine is ready for a decisive spring counteroffensive, but the challenge will be to overcome casualties and keep war-weary troops motivated.

Source: The New York Times 

Details: The new Ukrainian counteroffensive will test the Ukrainian army's ability to rearm and rebuild battalions while maintaining the motivation and manoeuvring skills that have given it the upper hand in three previous counteroffensives, the NYT writes.


"Success for Ukraine in the battles on the southeastern plains would drive home to the world the declining military might of Russia, ease concerns that the war has settled into a quagmire and most likely encourage Ukraine’s allies to further arm and finance Kyiv in the war," the newspaper writes. 

According to the NYT, the upcoming counteroffensive will be a very serious challenge for Ukraine.

"Ukrainian officers will have to choreograph artillery, infantry and armoured vehicle assaults that crash through Russian trenches, tank traps and minefields. In the south, Russian units have been building defensive positions since they were pushed out of the Kherson region in November. Sophisticated Western tanks, with better survivability and firepower, will be critical in uprooting those positions," the newspaper emphasises.


Evelyn Farkas, the director of the McCain Institute, said in a comment to the NYT that Ukraine is capable of inflicting losses on the Russian Army that could have far-reaching geopolitical consequences if weapons and trained troops fall into place in time. As she states, "Ukraine could render Russia a weakened military power in Eastern Europe with little leverage in negotiations to end the war".

She stated that people "only envision what they see now," but much can change with the arrival of new Western weapons and tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers undergoing training in Ukraine and Europe. 

However, the NYT notes that the success of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is hardly guaranteed, as allies are in no hurry to send weapons, and soldiers have to be content with accelerated courses in assault tactics.

Weapons and equipment for breaking through trench lines and crossing minefields are appearing in Ukraine, but it remains unclear whether they are in sufficient quantity, the newspaper writes.

At the initial stage, the Ukrainian counteroffensive may well depend on overcoming extensive minefields, military analysts told the NYT. To do this, Ukraine will rely on mine-clearing vehicles that have been in its arsenal since Soviet times, and some of them were captured from the Russians. In addition, Ukraine is now also receiving mine clearance equipment from the West.

The NYT notes that demining can be done manually, with soldiers probing the soil and keeping a close eye on tripwires as they walk in front of assault units, or with specialised mine-clearance equipment.

Ukraine is expected to strike in the south, where the terrain ranges from sprawling fields to towns and villages, the newspaper stated.

"A thrust of about 50 miles [about 80 km - ed.] over the steppe from the current front lines to the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol would split Russian-held territory into two zones, sever supply lines and put Ukrainian artillery within range of Russian bases on the Crimean Peninsula."

At the same time, the newspaper writes, the morale of Ukrainian soldiers, which for most of the war was better than that of the Russians, "is becoming more of a challenge".

In dozens of recent interviews with the NYT, soldiers in positions near Bakhmut or emerging from street fighting for short breaks expressed horror at the scale of violence and death.

One of the most striking examples of military reconstruction, the newspaper notes, is that the Ministry of Internal Affairs is restoring the Azov unit, whose fighters were killed, wounded or captured during the siege of Mariupol and the storming of the Azovstal metallurgical plant last spring, and who were killed in an explosion in a prisoner of war barracks in Olenivka.

Recently, Azov recruits spent five weeks learning basic soldiering skills at a base in a pine forest, the NYT reports.

"We will train new people, to raise them up to our level," said Lieutenant Illia Samoilenko, who was freed from Russian captivity in a prisoner exchange.

In order to ensure that only the most motivated soldiers join Azov's assault unit, recruits are given a choice. After completing the training course, they can decide to stay at the base or go into combat.

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