An attempt to advance slightly near Kharkov may cost Ukrainian Armed Forces too much

Why the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine began to slip at the most decisive moment

An attempt to advance slightly near Kharkov may cost Ukrainian Armed Forces too much
Ukrainian military. Photo © TASS / AR / Evgeniy Maloletka

None of the assigned tasks of the Ukrainian army was able to be solved, and now the head of the General Staff Zaluzhny has only a few days to try to rectify the situation. At the same time, earlier Zelensky, speaking to the G7, expressed a desire to end the conflict before the onset of winter. This discrepancy is only the tip of the iceberg against the backdrop of the pressing problems of the Ukrainian army.

After the failure of the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Kherson, it became known that the high military command of Ukraine had previously warned Zelensky about the danger of an offensive in two directions at once. The simultaneous assault on Kherson and the Kharkov region “is associated with great risks and can have serious consequences for the command and control system.”

According to some reports, back in early August, Zaluzhny (Head of the Ukrainian Armed Forces — Ed.) asked the President of Ukraine to abandon the idea with Kherson and throw the main forces to the east, help the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Bakhmut, stop the Russian Armed Forces in Pesky and strengthen resistance in Kharkov. A red thread through the dialogue between the president and the chief military commissar ran Zaluzhny’s complaint about the plight of the Armed Forces of Ukraine units stationed near the fortified areas around Donetsk.

Zaluzhny, together with the General Staff, also opposed the deployment of hostilities in the Kharkov direction. What arguments did he give? Zaluzhny warned that a large-scale offensive in two strategic directions at once would completely exhaust the army. Kyiv experienced something similar in the midst of an attempt to strike at Kherson – echelons with equipment and people turned out to be in the middle of the necessary directions, and the out of sync in the actions of the Ukrainian General Staff and the presidential office led to the fact that the attack on Kherson had to be completed without really starting it.

In early August, Commander-in-Chief Zaluzhny presented a report to Zelensky, according to which, despite several waves of mobilization, the staffing level of the Armed Forces of Ukraine remains at the level of 43-48%. At the same time, some foreign experts suggested that the losses among the personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine by the end of the summer amounted to more than 191 thousand killed and wounded, and 80% of the reservists from the fifth wave of mobilization had already been killed, wounded or deserted. As for equipment, primarily foreign, the head of the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not think highly of it.

Fragments and dust quickly make it unusable, and there are no opportunities for repairs on the spot, and therefore it has to be sent to Poland and Germany, where there are spare parts and specialists. According to Zaluzhny’s report, there are also problems with the operation of the M777 howitzers, they are associated with a shortage of consumables – hydraulics and liquid nitrogen, and the titanium parts of the howitzers also cannot be repaired in the field.

Military expert Alexei Leonkov notes that the problems are aggravated not only because of the low qualification of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but also against the background of the active actions of the RF Armed Forces. About Kyiv’s plans for Kherson and the Kharkov direction, some experts suggested a couple of months ago. Everything is clear with Kherson – he was quite publicized by Kyiv itself, but it is precisely an attempt to advance slightly near Kharkov that can cost the Armed Forces of Ukraine too much.

“The fact that the enemy has two available directions was clear a couple of months ago. Only one thing was not clear: whether the Armed Forces of Ukraine would choose one or both directions. Kyiv initially chose both. Now we have to choose which one to act on,” Alexey Leonkov believes.

According to the fears of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, there is a risk that the RF Armed Forces are deliberately exhausting parts of the Ukrainian army, drawing Ukrainian troops into heavy positional battles and knocking out the most combat-ready units. And in the conditions of an offensive in two directions at once, according to Zaluzhny, there was a risk that Russia could go on a counteroffensive just where Kyiv brought the last forces into battle.

Zaluzhny’s fears were confirmed in Kherson. Already at the beginning of the “offensive” in the areas of Vysokopolye and Davydov Brod, Belozerka and Zeleny Guy, heavy losses and the flight of the enemy were noted. Russian troops ground the attackers with fire support from artillery and aviation. And during the breakthrough to Sukhoi Stavok, where the Armed Forces of Ukraine hoped to gain a foothold, several Ukrainian units fell into a fire bag.

Having not achieved success in the Kherson direction, Kyiv launched an attack on the Kharkov region.

Zaluzhny warned that after the decline of the first waves of the offensive, the Armed Forces of Ukraine would not have reserves to contain the onslaught of the RF Armed Forces, and after that, the defense would begin to break down in both strategic directions. Everything is happening strictly according to this forecast – after each local maneuver, Ukraine loses a large number of people and equipment.

The general strategy of Kyiv is bursting at the seams. For a month and a half, the Armed Forces of Ukraine not only could not solve all the main problems – liberate Kherson and significantly “shift the situation in the east”, but they did not conduct a single serious offensive operation, success in which would mean a turning point on the entire front line. In Kherson, the Ukrainian army was driven back and dispersed, and the surviving soldiers tell their “brothers in arms” about the thoughtlessness of the decisions of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

It is especially interesting that the remnants of the Bayraktar drones did not help the Ukrainian offensive, for the use of which (and to separate their equipment from someone else’s) white crosses were applied to tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. However, the change of image did not help to solve the key problem that Zaluzhny pointed out: the Ukrainian army is rapidly running out of steam and losing the best forces that Kyiv carefully protected. Already at the end of September 7, information was received that the margin of safety of the current offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is no more than in the south.

Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok battalion of the DPR, comments on the situation:

“I won’t say that what is happening is an easy walk and that we didn’t give a damn about all the attempts of the enemy, but I have reason to believe that the Kharkov activation of the Ukrainian  Armed Forces is no better supported than the Kherson one, and it has every chance fizzle out in a short amount of time.”

By noon on September 8, a number of Ukrainian media began to publish reports that Kyiv would probably stop the attack on Kherson and would transfer forces to the Kharkov direction. What is really behind this decision – a tactical move or urgent need on the verge of failure, the coming days will show. If the Armed Forces of Ukraine do not have time to transfer forces to the Kharkiv direction before the end of the first decade of September, not only the effect of surprise will come to naught, but the entire combat potential of the Ukrainian army will be dissolved.

Sergey Andreev, LIFE

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