As the war in Ukraine approaches its third year, the Ukraine Defense Ministry reports that over 374,520 Russian soldiers have been “eliminated.” Yet as Valerii Zaluzhny has noted, merely killing more Russian soldiers will not win the war.

The Ukrainian four-star general who has served as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) since July 21, 2021, Zaluzhny reflected last November: “That was my mistake. In any other country such casualties would have stopped the war.”

Nonetheless, it is necessary – in the AFU’s close flight, in the trenches and in defense of the front lines and homeland. Every day, Ukraine repulses multiple attacks in the Donbas and along the Dnipro River. Hundreds of Russian soldiers are killed daily by the AFU as a result of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s relentless “meat assaults” and their equipment destroyed or abandoned on the battlefields.


Putin’s “special military operation” has transformed into a bloody war of attrition that has led to what Zaluzhny described as a “stalemate with Russia along a front line that has barely shifted despite months of fierce fighting, and that no significant breakthrough was imminent.”

Consequently, Kyiv needed to turn the screw elsewhere to keep up the pressure on Russia while rebuilding its combat power for another eventual offensive thrust to expel Russian forces from all its occupied territories.

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Fifteen EU and NATO countries have contributed over €1.6 billion ($1.7 billion) to the Prague initiative to supply Kyiv with ammunition and weapons from outside Europe.

While Washington struggles to embrace a winning plan and secure vital additional funding to help Ukraine in its war with Russia, President Volodymir Zelensky and his generals are doggedly forging ahead and boldly implementing new military tactics on the frontlines – as well as securing new European funding, weapons, ammunition, and security agreements

Kyiv is surviving. They are fighting with the weapons they have in innovative ways to blind Russian leadership, mask AFU intentions, and bring hardship to Russian citizens deep within the interior of the motherland amidst a brutally cold winter by targeting  fuel sources in St Petersburg and the Ust-Luga port oil terminal – turning Putin’s weaponization of winter back upon him.


Kyiv may be enduring a war of attrition on the front lines; however, Zelensky and his high command are winning the war of raw ambition and extracting a toll on an arrogant Putin.

In doing so, Ukrainians soldiers continue to valiantly display ingenuity, versatility, and boldness in the face of adversity, embracing what former-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

Losing is not an option, nor is waiting for President Joe Biden to make good on his promise that the “US would back Ukraine for as long as it takes” – especially since that has since devolved into “for as long as we can.”

One of those audacious new tactics is the Patriot missile battery ambush. There have been three to date.

Ukraine’s first ambush occurred in May 2023, downing at least four Russian aircraft from a strike package over Russia’s Bryansk Oblast, killing 11 aviators.


The second ambush on Dec. 22 when, according to Mykola Oleshchuk, commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, it shot down three Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber aircraft.

The latest “air ambush” is being credited with shooting down a pair of Russian aircraft over the Sea of Azov – a Beriev A-50 and Ilyushin Il-22M. This would be Kyiv’s third ambush, and arguably the most successful.

It’s believed the aircraft were baited into a kill zone by the Ukrainian military. According to Tom Cooper, the AFU destroyed a number of radar systems across the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula on Jan. 13.

This created a blind spot for Russian missile batteries defending the peninsula, “especially to the north, where the terrain could mask incoming Ukrainian planes, drones and missiles.” As a result, it forced Russia to deploy a Beriev A-50 radar aircraft, with a crew of 15 over the Sea of Azov to cover the dead space. An Ilyushin Il-22 airborne command post, with a crew of 10 accompanied the A-50.

The AFU was able to infiltrate an S-300 and Patriot missile battery into position to take out the aircraft on Jan. 16, then blended back into the Ukrainian landscape before Russian forces could geolocate their positions.


As an unintended consequence, it is rumored Lt. Gen. Oleg Vladimirovich Pchela, commander of Russian Aerospace Force long-range aviation and his deputy, Oleg Volodymyrovych, may have been aboard the Beriev A-50.

If so, he would be the third senior ranking Russian flag officer presumably killed – or at the very least unaccounted for to date. Admiral Viktor Sokolov, Commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, was killed by the AFU launching British-made Storm Shadow missiles on his headquarters in Sevastopol in late September 2023.

The other is Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Commander of Russian Forces in Ukraine, when the AFU conducted two deep fire missile strikes against Russian targets in Crimea on Jan. 5 with storm Shadow and French-made SCALP cruise missiles, striking a command post near Sevastopol and a radar station in Uyutne near the coastal western city of Yevpatoria.

Over the course of the war Ukraine has put on a clinic in ingenuity and multi-domain operations – keeping Russia off-balance, particularly in their execution of the deep fight. When Putin and his generals attempt to focus the fight in one area, Zaluzhny has turned the screw elsewhere on the Kremlin.

Nowhere has this been more in evident than in Crimea and the Black Sea. Ukraine, a country essentially without a Navy, has chased Putin’s Black Sea Fleet out of Sevastopol – and has as detailed by David Kirichenko rendered it as an ineffective naval force.


Kyiv destroyed its headquarters in Crimea, sunk the Mosvka – the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet – reoccupied Snake Island, and wiped out a plethora of other vital Russian navy assets, including the cruise missile carrier submarine Rostov-on-Don and Minsk landing ship last September. Ukraine’s success has caused most of Putin’s fleet to humiliatingly turn tail and sail back to safer harbors in mainland Russia.

Now, the AFU is bringing the same level of audacity to Putin’ air assets – and are doing so at a time when Russian bombers are being extensively used to intentionally target Ukrainian civilians to divert air defense systems such as the Patriots from the frontlines.

Zaluzhny’s approach is as simple as it is genius: keep Putin off-balance by staying one step ahead of him and hitting his forces from ever-evolving directions. Here and everywhere – providing no sanctuary for the Kremlin’s war machine or the generals directing them.

The Russian soldier in the trench is no longer the sole bill payer; he no longer carries the burden alone. Gerasimov’s Doctrine of total war has come home to roost sans the kinetic targeting of civilians.


The war is not over by any means, but Ukraine’s tactics have shifted – defend while setting conditions for the next offensive. Fighter aircraft are coming, M1A1 tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles are on the ground, and France and the United Kingdom have committed additional precision deep strike weapons. That will keep Russia off balance for now, but to win Zelensky and his generals must make Crimea untenable, a talking point emphasized by retired Lt. Gen Ben Hodges, which was recently echoed by former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Phil Breedlove.

According to Gen. Breedlove, “If the West chooses to give Ukraine what they need to win, Ukraine will win this war.” It is time for Washington to listen to their Generals.

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