Ukraine’s conservative and cautious summer counteroffensive continued with territorial takeovers of three villages in the Zaporizhzhia Region and thrusts in two other combat zones, but key challenges for Ukrainian forces are coming into greater focus.

Ukrainian forces newly deoccupied three villages in the southwestern part of Zaporizhzhia Region – Lobkove, Levadne and Novodrivka. They join four other villages deoccupied by Ukrainian forces in the western Donetsk Region near its administrative boundary with Zaporizhzhia Region –  Neskuchne, Storozheve, Blahodatne and Makarivka.

The seven villages and regained territory span 90 square kilometers.

Kyiv’s Conservative Strategy

The gains are part of the Ukrainian military’s continuing strategy to carefully press into Russian-occupied territory, largely using limited probes.

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Kyiv Post yesterday reported that these “combine infantry, drones and armored vehicles in targeted assaults of short-range objectives usually no more than one or two wood lines or villages away.”

None of the Ukrainian assaults thus far have featured large numbers of mechanized infantry or tank units which could see hundreds of fighting vehicles deployed at one time. A typical Ukrainian armored brigade is likely to have 250-plus tanks and other armored vehicles of different types.

Ukraine has formed, equipped and received NATO training for at least eight such new brigades.

By contrast, Kyiv Post’s military expert, Stefan Korshak, notes that “Kyiv’s top military leadership has, to date, followed the conservative strategy of eroding Russian formations over time, gaining ground incrementally, avoiding major risks and limiting Ukrainian casualties as much as possible.”

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In an analysis today for the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), the UK’s former Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said “it seems that the Ukrainians are still probing, pressing, looking for vulnerabilities to exploit, reinforcing local tactical success where they find or create it… And some of what we are seeing is intended, perhaps, to confuse the Russians as to where the main attack will eventually be delivered.”

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“There is a big difference between starting an offensive, and the main attack or main effort of the operation,” Hodges continued.

“The offensive has clearly started, but not I think the main attack. When we see large, armored formations join the assault, then I think we’ll know the main attack has really begun.”

On Tuesday morning, Moscow claimed it had captured several German Leopard tanks and US Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, releasing footage showing Russian troops surveying the vehicles supplied to Ukraine by Western countries.

"Leopard tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. These are our trophies. Equipment of the Ukrainian armed forces in the Zaporizhzhia region. Servicemen of the Vostok group inspect enemy tanks and infantry fighting vehicles captured in battle," the defence ministry said in a statement.

Military Movement in Three Parts

The Ukrainian ‘slowly but surely’ strategy continued to play out over at least three parts of the 1000 kilometer front along Russian-occupied territory: part 1) near the administrative boundary between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia; part 2) southwestern Zaporizhzhia,and; part 3) central Donetsk including Bakhmut.

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In Part 1, Ukrainian forces continued to push south from four recaptured villages near the TO518 road toward Staromlynivka, a strategic point on the route to Mariupol. They appear to be moving along the Mokri Yaly river, where Russian forces have blown a bridge.

However, Russian sources reported that they recaptured Makarivka, the southern-most village along the axis. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar denied this and said that Ukrainian forces still control Makarivka. In Part 2, following the deoccupation of Lobkove, Levadne and Novodrivka, Ukrainian forces may have the option of pushing south toward Tokmak, which has been heavily shelled, and Melitopol, and thereby flank Russian forces on the land bridge between Russia and occupied Crimea.

 

Tokmak is one of the occupied cities that is heavily fortified and in the final line of defense. It is a key hub on the only railway line between Russian forces in the east of the occupied land bridge and the Kherson Region to the west.

Or Ukrainian troops could turn east via Rivnopil to link up with the Ukrainian contingents along the TO518 route toward Mariupol. At the same time, Russian forces shelled the Ukrainian-controlled town of Orikhiv with guided aerial bombs.

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As a result one person was killed and another one was injured, the Zaporizhzhia Regional Administration reported.

In Part 3, the Armed Forces of Ukraine seized control of 16 square kilometers around Bakhmut, according to Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar. "Advancement of troops: left flank – 1.5 km, right flank - 3.5 km; the area of the territory taken under control – 16 sq. km," Malyar posted on Telegram in an unverified claim.

Obstacles Ahead

However, Ukrainian gains and forays are likely occurring along the first line of Russian defenses, eg, minefields and some trench systems with infantry. Thereafter, according to satellite imagery, there are likely to be concentric lines of:

  • Steel hedgehogs and concrete dragons-teeth obstacles to stop tanks and other armoured vehicles.
  • Anti-tank ditches that are often vast, e.g., five or six meters wide by five or six meters deep.
  • Fortified personnel trenches and concrete bunkers at the rear of the defense, where defensive reserves are kept.

Sir Richard Barrons, the former commander of the UK Joint Forces Command, yesterday told AP that the Russian military has built “textbook” defensive lines and adjusted its tactics following its retreats from the Kharkiv and Kherson regions last fall under the brunt of a swift Ukrainian campaign.

In addition to formidable physical lines of fortification and defense, experts yesterday also pointed out other challenges that the Ukrainian military is likely to encounter. Barrons told AP about the improved Russian ability to both counter and use drones and also noted that Moscow has learned to better keep key assets like command headquarters and ammunition dumps out of artillery range.

“And they have sharpened up how they can fire at Ukrainian artillery and tanks when they spot them,” the retired general said to AP.

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“So if you add all that together, everybody knows this will be a harder fight than for Kherson or Kharkiv in the autumn of last year.

“People are still using those two successes, and they were successes, as benchmarks, which I think is unfair, unreasonable in the circumstances,” he said.

Russian forces have also improved their electronic/communications weaponry over the last 16 month, according to Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov.

He said the Russians increasingly use drones and improved electronic warfare to jam those from Ukraine, according to AP.

Additionally, Russia has stopped using battalion-sized tactical groups it deployed early in the war and shifted to smaller units, Zhdanov said.

While the Russian air force has operated in relatively small numbers, it has now modernized its stock of bombs to turn them into gliding weapons that have proven efficient, he said.

The 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) bombs adapted with a GPS module can inflict massive damage. “The Soviet Union produced those bombs in uncountable numbers,” Zhdanov said to AP, adding that the Russians drop up to 50 a day for a “major psychological effect.”

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These conversions allow the Russian air force to ramp up strikes on Ukrainian forces without risking its warplanes.

As reported by AP, the Royal United Service Institute, a London-based think-tank that focuses on defense and security issues, noted other Russian improvements in a recent report, including “better thermal camouflage for tanks; nimbler deployment of artillery into multiple positions, including integration with drones to avoid losses; and attacking Ukrainian artillery with loitering munitions that hover until they acquire a target” and interception of GPS-guided rockets fired from Western-supplied launchers such as HIMARS.

However, a key factor remains the psychology of the two combatant sides, according to Hodges who held senior command positions in Iraq and Afghanisation with allied forces.

“Defenses are only as good as the soldiers occupying them and covering those obstacles. I’m not impressed with the fighting capabilities of the Russians in most places, and the vicious in-fighting we see between the various Russian leaders, (e.g., warlords like Prigozhin and Kadyrov) highlights the lack of cohesion on the Russian side.  I imagine the UAF will exploit this,” Hodges said.

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Comments (2)

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David
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The Russians had very good Ukrainian teachers, New tactics and strategies are required to deal with Russian loitering munitions, drones, glide bombs and S300 as artillery.

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Isaiah
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Good morning, my opinion would be that 'to cease fire and negotiate with an enemy, doesn't mean defeat to ukrain or Russian. America is using your country to fight Russia and the outcome casualties are Ukrainians the war is not felt in America, so they don't care. You disorganized the hard rock solidarity of USSR that was formidable to the Americans and now they have taken advantage to use you to kill your people. Swallow the pride and negotiate

phil
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@Isaiah, absolute rubbish Ukraine is fighting because Russia has attacked it no other reason and the war will end the minute Russia withdraw just like wars in Afghanistan ended when the UK pulled out in the 1800s the Russians pulled out in the 1980s and the USA pulled out recently. Ukraine has no leverage to negotiate a Russian withdraw they can no more negotiate with the Russian fascists than the jewish community could have sat round a table with Hitler in 1943 and had a nice little agreement which saved the nazis from sending millions of innocent people men women and children to be gassed evil dictators don't act rationally or reasonably. As for the USA (along with the uk and Eu) they are NOT using Ukraine they are helping it defend itself from being wiped from the earth in a ruthless murderous and genocidal war of oppression.

Isaiah
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@phil, if you can't realize that America is using Ukraine, then you need to study it more. What is important in extending NATO to Russia borders even after Russia raised their security concerns and were coarsed. I said negotiations with an aggressor is not accepting defeat but to save lives and win without fighting, but Ukraine seems unable to make their choice without approval from the hegemonic allies. To me Ukraine is more related to Russia than America. Please recall the coup d'etat against an elected leader of Ukraine and wars started to wipe out Donbas and others. So let it not be who wins, but negotiate to save lives.

Hugh M.
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@Isaiah, I don't know if you are the giver-of-propoganda or the receiver/taker of it. BUT Phil is absolutely correct & you have NOT studied your history well.

1. After the Fall of the Nazi's an "Iron Curtain" of Communist Russia descended on Eastern Europe. They put in barbed wire to contain people who wanted to escape, and tortured & SHOT those who tried.
2. There were several attempts by Eastern European countries at uprisings to be FREE, including Hungary & Czechloslovakia. Rather than let their people choose, the Russians sent tanks & KILLED those who revolted;

3. When Gorbachev recognized the Soviet Communist model had failed Poland, East Germany, and ALL of Eastern Europe threw out Russia & the Soviet Union (& their local Communists who did the Soviet Union's killing) -then- Eastern Europe voted for freedom;

Hugh M.
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@Hugh M.,

4. Eastern Europe, Poland 1st, ACTIVELY lobbied to join NATO. It was by their OWN decision & free will. This is what POLAND's own government says:

https://www.gov.pl/web/national-defence/poland-in-nato-20-years

"...a visit was held by President Lech Walesa at the headquarters of NATO. The Polish president said that Poland wants a safe Europe, which is guaranteed by NATO."

5. When the Soviet Union dissolved, Ukraine became an independent country (as agreed BY Russia). As Putin & Russia have attempted to regain control by installing puppets, Ukraine & it's people have fought SEVERAL Revolutions (the Orange Revolution, the Revolution of Dignity, etc.) to be FREE.

After the 2014 invasion of Crimea & Donbas, Russia thought it could take all Ukraine. Instead the Russian war & torture machine united the vast majority of Ukrainians against Russia.

If you're going to spit out Russian propaganda you're going to have to do a better job at brainwashing not just yourself but the entire history of both the Ukraine & the world.

And if you're not a giver of propaganda, but an innocent victim of it, you really need to study your history more.

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Thomas
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@Isaiah, The USSR failed miserably and is permanently gone along with any romantic notions of Russia being an empire. Russia started this....Ukraine will end it and join Europe as an active member of the the EU and NATO. Russia will be further isolated and will be economically disadvantaged for decades....unless....Russia leaves, Putin is replaced and Russia starts undoing the damage it created.

Isaiah
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@Thomas, at a wider picture, the Americans and NATO which is nolonger a trade organization but war machinery against any state that seeks it's development without American and European approval, that era is gone other super powers have to emerge it's normal and accept competition. It's not adversity to advance and be like so-called development countries. What was the reason for development of biolabs in Ukraine by America and even refuse UN to investigate it's unfair in to blame one side and leave the other! No country has a right to attack the others but if Russia raised concerns of NATO expansion and to they ignored, what would follow

Hugh M.
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@Isaiah, You are seriously wrong. NATO was NEVER a trade organization.

Further, any "biolabs" were just science labs to help fight COVID & other diseases to PREVENT diseases from spreading & killing Ukrainians.

https://ua.usembassy.gov/embassy/kyiv/sections-offices/defense-threat-reduction-office/biological-threat-reduction-program/

This is NOT even an issue for Ukrainians. Just Russians & their parrots.

https://www.npr.org/2022/03/25/1087910880/biological-weapons-far-right-russia-ukraine

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Iain Mackenzie
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@Isaiah, you cannot negotiate with a hostage taker,you cannot pay off a hostage taker. If you give into them they will go away only for a short while and once they have spent their gains they will take another hostage, this time Ukraine but next time your country. One more threat of nuclear action against my grandchildren and I will personally visit fear on the 3 dictators

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