Is Ukraine’s counteroffensive slow? What’s required to make it faster?

Ukraine’s offensive is proceeding slowly, according to numerous reports, but is it the case from an objective perspective? Several experts say that it’s just a change in the Ukraine’s army’s tactics after it faced issues in the first stage of the counteroffensive.

Several Western news outlets reported the reasons for the “slow” counteroffensive progress – Russian minefields in up to 10 kilometres deep in front of Russia’s essential fortifications, and also the Ukrainian army’s lack of demining systems. As a result, Ukrainians had to change their strategy, according to the Ukrainian military who talked to the media. 

Ukraine’s change of tactics in the counteroffensive

The Ukrainians are using tactics to pull Russian units out from well-fortified second-line defence positions to areas which are under the targeted fire of Ukrainian artillery. That is why there are no significant advances deep into the Russian defence line. But in the medium term, this approach will exhaust invading Russian troops in occupied Ukrainian territories a lot.

The Russian military leadership demands that the occupied territories in the south and east of Ukraine be held at all costs, while the Ukrainian Armed Forces are crushing the Russian troops on the first line with heavy artillery fire but are not taking their positions. On the contrary, they are enabling the Russians to send reinforcements, which are again targeted by Ukrainian artillery.

Ukraine hits Russian artillery with long-range missiles

At the same time, long-range missiles, such as Storm Shadow and M142 HIMARS, are destroying Russian artillery installations on the third line, which is why, according to the General Staff of Ukraine, there has been such a large number of destroyed Russian artillery systems in recent weeks.

The recent dismissal of a Russian general proves this assessment. Major-General Ivan Popov, commander of Russia’s 58th army, has said that he was dismissed from his post because of his “harsh” report to the higher command. Popov’s appeal to servicemen was circulated by Russian State Duma deputy Andrei Gurulev, who also commanded the 58th army in the past.

In the audio recording, Popov voiced problems “on combat assignment” and “provisioning.” The major general considers Russia’s lack of counter-battery warfare and Ukraine’s artillery superiority as the main problem for Russian troops in the south. According to him, this leads to mass deaths and injuries of Russian soldiers.

So, we see a methodic destruction of Russian war assets in occupied territories. This is being done so that the Russians will not be able to repel a second stage of Ukraine’s counteroffensive when the Ukrainian Army command decides to move forward.

The tactic also allows them to avoid significant damage to the Ukrainian settlements behind the frontlines. After all, the main fighting takes place on the frontline. Unfortunately, the settlements at the forefront of the attack will suffer significant damage.

How cluster munitions will be used?

Cluster munitions that the US decided to supply to Ukraine aimed to increase the destruction of Russian forces on the first line of their defence lines. Their use will cause even more significant losses to the Russians.

However, this requires the Ukrainian Armed Forces to manoeuvre in a limited area so that the Russians refrain from resorting to their tactic of deploying military personnel close to civilians. In this case, this controversial munition type can harm civilians.

These munitions are likely to be used on the frontlines to hit fortified positions and trenches. While in the occupied Ukrainian towns, Russians deployed their personnel in educational and medical institutions, government and law enforcement buildings, etc. And such facilities are located in densely populated areas. In this context, pulling Russian occupation forces into the battlefield to the first line is even more justified.

In this way, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are creating the prerequisites for future successful offensive operations, when all combat-ready Russian units will be destroyed on the first line.

Why Russian missile strikes on cities delay Ukraine’s offensive?

However, the only unresolved issue for the Ukrainian Armed Forces remains Russian combat aviation, which, like artillery, can strike at advancing Ukrainian troops. To destroy it, a large number of air defence systems are needed. Ukraine has received many modern Western air defences system from its partners, but it cannot deploy all of them to the war zone.

To prevent their use on the frontlines, the Russians continue to launch terror missile strikes on large cities targeting residential districts and energy infrastructure. They aim to force Ukraine to keep air defence systems around large cities in the far rear.

That is why, for example, the civilian infrastructure of Lviv and Kyiv is being targeted by Russians. In this terror tactic, Russian troops, by killing civilians far from the frontlines, are trying to gain advantages on the battlefield.

Fighter jets can speed up Ukraine’s counteroffensive

There are two ways to solve this problem. The first is to supply Ukraine with even more modern and efficient air defence systems, which will allow a significant number of them to be used to cover Ukrainian brigades.

The other way is to supply Ukraine with fighter jets, primarily F-16s, that can provide air cover for the soldiers at the frontline and, if necessary, be involved in countering Russian missile attacks on peaceful Ukrainian cities.

What comes next in Ukraine’s counteroffensive?

In this situation, Ukrainians and Western partners should be patient; the offensive has been developing as fast as it can be under current circumstances that include fortified and mined Russian defence lines and missile attacks on the cities.

At the same time, the Ukrainian army continues to retain the strategic initiative on the battlefield. For faster and better progress, fighter jets, more air defences, and more demining systems are essential.

Each commander will only send his fighters to break through the defensive lines if they are covered from the air or when the territory before them is cleared of mines and the opponent infantry is suppressed by artillery strikes.

The war will end only when Ukrainians have enough of the required weapons to repel Russian attacks and force them to withdraw from illegally seized Ukrainian territories. The momentum and the initiative are essential. The sooner the combat aviation and air defence systems are provided, the sooner the aggressor troops will be defeated in this war.

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