The war in Ukraine has been going on for 100 days. Analysts say the Russians are now taking action “against the enemy’s fatigue.” They limited the war area as well as the assumed goals. The further fate of the conflict, experts say, may be determined by the resources of both sides, the morale of the defenders and heavy equipment from the West.
– In relation to the first days and weeks of the conflict, the Russians have reduced their goals and the area in which they operate. There is a war, which can be described as positional, and the activity is currently focused mainly in the Luhansk region, in Severodonetsk and its vicinity, on the Donets River bend – said Mariusz Cielma, the editor-in-chief of the New Military Technique.
Back in April, the Ukrainian authorities, anticipating the Russian offensive and observing the regrouping of the aggressor’s forces, announced a “great battle for Donbass”, warning that these would be hard and long-lasting fights. These forecasts have been confirmed. For weeks, the Russians attacked along the entire line of contact in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and are now focusing on the part of the Luhansk region remaining under Ukrainian control. They also attack targets in the Donetsk region.
– The Russians use the artillery fire crushing tactic. In view of the much smaller artillery resources on the side of the defenders, they manage to move forward – said Marek Świerczyński, head of the security and international affairs department at Polityka Insight.
“Moscow’s immediate goal is to occupy the entire Lugansk region”
Although the Russians have boasted of “successes” in recent days, including entering Severodonetsk in the Luhansk Oblast, Cielma emphasized that Moscow has repeatedly reduced the goals of its activities in relation to its original plans.
– Since the intention to enter Kiev and take political control over the entire country, the focus has shifted first to the entire Donbass (Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts – ed.), And now it seems that Moscow’s immediate goal is to take over the entire Luhansk oblast, said Cielma .
Unable to reach Kiev from the north, both from its territory and from Belarus, the Russian forces withdrew at the turn of March and April from the Kiev, Chernihiv and Sumer oblasts. Currently, the Russians occupy some of the territories in the south, which were relatively quickly occupied at the beginning of the war, almost the entire Luhansk Oblast and part of the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions.
Support from the West will be of key importance
At the last stage of the conflict, the Russians failed to close the Ukrainian forces in the Severodonetsk region in a cauldron, and it seems that the Ukrainians are gradually withdrawing from this city in order not to repeat the tragic scenario from Mariupol, where the Ukrainian garrison was surrounded by the Russians.
– Probably the Ukrainian forces will gradually withdraw deeper into their positions and from there they will conduct the next stage of defense – assessed Świerczyński.
Cielma also predicted that if the Russians captured Severodonetsk, the next point of their attack would be Lisychansk in the Luhansk oblast, and that they would probably prepare for an offensive on the part of the Donetsk oblast that remained under Ukrainian control.
For the further course of the conflict, Świerczyński emphasized, it will be crucial whether the supplies of heavy equipment will reach Ukraine fairly quickly and in an appropriate quantity, including the HIMARS multi-lead rocket launchers already announced by the US and British MLRS systems, and possibly similar equipment from other Western countries.
– Deliveries of such heavy weapons with a range of up to 80 km are a completely new stage in Western support for Ukraine and an important signal, but to reach the front, time is needed, including training of Ukrainian soldiers. Currently, Ukraine does not have the appropriate equipment to respond to the Russians in an equivalent manner, Świerczyński said.
– Ukraine does not yet have sufficient forces to go on the offensive, which it announced for June, and the Russians are too weakened to make decisive changes at the front. A very brutal blows exchange is taking place, and the Russian side, although it also suffered heavy losses, is playing to destroy the opponent, hoping that it will finally get its chance, that there will be a crisis on the Ukrainian side that can be used, ‘added Cielma.
He pointed out that the Russians used the old equipment that was stored away, including the Soviet T-62 tanks, which were to be withdrawn from the army a few years ago. This confirms the information on large losses incurred in the course of military operations to date.
– The Ukrainian side says about the destruction of over 1,300 Russian tanks. The Americans give a slightly smaller number, around a thousand, but this is still a lot for just over three months of the war – the analyst noted.
“If someone asks if the war will last another hundred days, I will say that for sure”
In recent days, the Ukrainian president admitted that between 60 and 100 Ukrainian soldiers are killed every day, and about 500 are injured. The Russians have not commented on their losses for a long time, and according to Ukrainian data over 30,000 have died. Even taking into account that these figures are overstated, the Russian losses are very large.
Analysts, including the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) investigative project, talk about large personnel losses in the Russian army that will be difficult to replenish, low morale and the growing reluctance of soldiers to participate in combat. While older and less complex equipment may be easier to use for new “recruits”, it will not necessarily provide the appropriate level of combat.
– The Russians have a lot of equipment and an insufficient number of people, and the Ukrainians the other way around – they have soldiers, but not enough equipment with which they could fight – emphasized Świerczyński.
Military analysts, including PAP interlocutors, predict that the war in Ukraine may continue for a long time. – If anyone asks if the war will last another hundred days, I will say that it is for sure. Will it last until the end of the year? Probably. Will it continue for a few more years – it is likely – said Świerczyński.
– The Russians do not declare their long-term goals, but they certainly want to occupy at least the entire Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. The Ukrainian authorities, on the other hand, make it clear that there are no territorial concessions. In this situation, also in view of the fact that no peace talks are currently underway, it should be expected that this conflict will continue, assessed Cielma.
Main photo source: EPA / ALESSANDRO GUERRA