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EXCLUSIVE War in Ukraine

Exclusive Insight: Interview with Armed Forces of Ukraine captain Viktor Tregubov

The captain of the Ukrainian army, Viktor Tregubov explains in an interview with Kyiv Post why the Ukrainian army was forced to retreat from Lysychansk, the potential liberation of Kherson, and debate

The captain of the Ukrainian army, Viktor Tregubov explains in an interview with Kyiv Post why the Ukrainian army was forced to retreat from Lysychansk, the potential liberation of Kherson, and debates the scale of the threat from Belarus.

Could you explain what is happening on the front right now? Why did Ukrainian forces retreat from Lysychansk?

Tregubov: This happened because the Russian army concentrated all its forces on the region, and threw all their resources at Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, using its significant advantage in artillery and cheap drones, which provide guidance.

Despite the U.S. Lend-Lease Act, we simply don’t have the number of weapons that would enable us to maintain the pace of an artillery duel. When one missile flies from one side, and twenty flies from the other – it is not equal, even if this one missile is flying more accurately.

In fact, the situation began to improve recently because we received long-range weapons and started to hit Russian weapons warehouses deep into occupied territory – this helped a lot, but it was too late to change the situation in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

While we are waiting for weapons to arrive in sufficient quantities, the situation in Luhansk Region remains quite difficult. We already have Western artillery, which is very effective, but the amount available is not sufficient to contain the barrage of fire used by the Russians.

Will the planned deliveries and Lend-Lease provide us with enough weapons to stop this Russian offensive in the East?

Tregubov: The fact is that when the U.S. and NATO made their projections as to the risk of a large-scale conflict with Russia, they predicted that the battle would take place with the participation of NATO armed forces and under conditions of the absolute dominance of aviation belonging to the NATO bloc in the air as NATO has much more modern aircraft.

Overall, it was not planned that NATO would actively fight against Russia in artillery duels. It was assumed that NATO forces would destroy Russian artillery from the air. It turns out that NATO countries do not have a sufficient amount of modern artillery weapons compared to Russia.

Of course, the Russian army has obsolete artillery weapons dating back to Soviet times, but in fairly large quantities.

The NATO command never planned to fight against Russia using artillery weapons, they planned to use aviation. So, when they started supplying us with artillery, it turned out to be insufficient because NATO countries generally do not have a great deal of artillery. On the other hand, providing Ukraine with planes is more complicated. First, airplanes are expensive, they require qualified personnel, and second, our allies are afraid.

Are they afraid that Russia will retaliate?

Tregubov: Yes. NATO could potentially help, but unlike artillery, aviation is challenging to maintain, requires spare parts and trained pilots, and it takes much longer to train a pilot than an artilleryman. Instead, NATO does not provide us with aviation because it is costly and because it is not sure whether we will be able to cope with it.

It was assumed that NATO’s conflict with Russia would be full-scale, and there were no plans that NATO would transfer weapons to another country. It turned out that NATO simply did not have several kinds of weaponry necessary for such a conflict, because they planned another war with different features.

How long will it take to redirect NATO’s needs and to help us?

Tregubov: That’s a good question. It’s hard for me to say how long it would take to produce artillery weapons and air defense systems in Western countries. It depends on specific arms manufacturers and their production capabilities. It could take months.

Nevertheless, our army has enjoyed successes: Zmiyny [Snake] Island is now liberated, and there were reports in the press today that our military is located one kilometer from Kherson. Is the Ukrainian army planning to liberate Kherson?

Tregubov: The liberation of Kherson should be planned, because this is where the Russians are most vulnerable, and the success of Ukrainian troops is most likely. Despite the fact that the Russians tried to strengthen their positions, the Ukrainian army is slowly advancing in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Regions, just as the Russians are slowly advancing on Donetsk and Luhansk Regions.

Zmiyny Island was freed. It happened thanks to Lend-lease and the supply of Western weapons – everything there was simply demolished, and the Russians were forced to retreat.

It is good news because the Russians had big strategic plans for this island, and if they have abandoned these plans, there will be no Russian troops landing on Odesa either. Ukraine controls the west of the Black Sea, and the question then arises as to how to finally unblock it to so as to restore export of goods by sea, including supplying Ukrainian grain to world markets.

What is the likelihood of an attack on Kyiv by Russian and Belarusian troops from Belarusian territory?

Tregubov: I don’t think they have enough resources to carry out an attack. If the Russians were stockpiling large “punching fists,” [military concentration] as they did before the full-scale invasion, there would be a threat.

There are Russians on the border, but there aren’t many of them, and the idea that the Belarusian army will rush onto the offensive is also unlikely, as a certain type of infrastructure for an offensive must be created. But there are no signs that such an infrastructure is being formed yet. In any case, we will find out about it ahead of time because it’s impossible to hide such actions in the modern world.


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