On the fifth day of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Vladimir Putin rose He did so after the terrorist Igor “Strelkov” Girkin publicly accused him of ignoring the war he himself had started and compared him to a “mummy”. He did it, moreover, to reassure his citizens and try to convince them that all Ukrainian attempts to advance had been repulsed. In other words, recognized the offensive, but anticipated its utter failure when we haven’t even been a week yet.
Both the Ukrainian side and their allies insist that this offensive will be long and slow. At the moment, it is characterized by the lack of information (only the thousandbloggers Russians provide images and all of them, obviously, are in favor of their army), something that already happened in the offensives that ended with the collapse of the invading defenses in Kharkov and Kherson last summer-autumn. Ukraine has been trying to “blind” the Russians for months by attacking their surveillance and information systems and it is clear that kyiv does not want to give any hint of where its attacks can go.
What we do know —and we can trust it because it is geolocated information from normally pro-Russian videos— is that said offensive, to be slow, is achieving goals at remarkable speed. South of Bakhmut, Ukrainian troops are already surrounding Klischiivka. To the north, they approach the city of Krasna Hora in the face of chaotic disputes between the Russian regular forces and the retreating members of the Wagner Group. We haven’t heard anything about Kadirov’s Chechens for days.
The bombardments continue on the capital Lugansk and, especially, on Berdiansk, the great Russian operations center in the Azov Sea. There is also talk of advances in the vicinity of the capital Donetsk, where the Ukrainians could be close to the airport, practically recovering the positions lost in these months and returning to the line of combat that was maintained from 2014 to 2022. Still, this pales in comparison to what is happening on the entire Zaporizhia front, starting from the Orikhov-Mala Tokmachka axis in the west and from the town of Velyka Novosilka on the border with the Donetsk region.
Advances around 10 km
To assess the Ukrainian advances, two issues must be taken into account: we are talking about the most protected areas of the southern front. Areas in which Russia has been organizing defenses based on mines and anti-tank constructions for months, as well as important concentrations of troops, although mostly reservists and last wave mobilized. Apart, Ukraine is not showing its best weapons yet. The fact that Russia has sold the blowing up of a Leopard as a feat suggests that there are not many more in that area… or that those that are are advancing without problems.
[Objetivo Zaporiyia: Ucrania avanza al norte de la inundación para colarse en la línea defensiva rusa]
In principle, the offensive began on Monday with the attack on the cities of Novodonetske and Novodarivka. The Russians assure that both sites remain under their control, but we have geolocated images of Ukrainian troops in the vicinity of Storozheve, in the middle of T0518 that leads to Staromlynivka and is dangerously close to Mariupol, a target that is still very far away, but that the Russians will have to start protecting very carefully. We talk about a advance from Monday’s positions of more than seven kilometers. Let’s remember how every hundred meters was held in Bakhmut and at what price.
Yet it seems that the great objective of these first movements is the Orikhov-Tokmak-Berdiansk axis. It’s nothing new. Already in March, we commented on this possibility following statements by the aforementioned Strelkov and Eugeni Prigozhin. In other words, we must insist that Ukraine has started where Russia expected it… and for this reason the images of armored vehicles hit or attacks repelled should not be surprising. What is surprising, in fact, is the extent to which the offense is succeeding despite all the warnings.
And it is that, right now, Ukraine is fighting for the town of Lobkove, in permanent dispute, and would have also reached Novoprokopivka, further east, which would mean another considerable advance of more than ten kilometers along the T0408, which connects Orikhov with Tokmak. What is most important, these advances are endangering the city of Vasiliivkawhich we have mentioned several times as key in this war and which the Russians cannot allow under any circumstances to remain in Ukrainian hands.
Clean the river or continue to Melitopol
Where does the strategic importance of Vasiliivka come from? The city of 13,000 inhabitants is right next to the Dnieper river and It is the origin of the E105 highway, which leads directly to Melitopol. Taking Vasiliivka so soon would mean for Ukraine the possibility of choosing between two possible paths, each one more dangerous for the Russian army: go clearing the southern bank of the Dnieper to the Energodar nuclear power plant —as far as we know, there is no news of the river overflowing at that height—or continue straight ahead, as we said, to Melitopol.
[En un barco de rescate bajo los bombardeos en Jersón: “¡Quietos! Tenéis drones encima”]
We know that the entire south of the Dnieper was prepared for a frontal amphibious attack, confident that the Vasiliivka-Tokmak-Andriivka axis would hold out without any problems. It is not so clear that Gerasimov has contemplated the risks of an attack from the west and there are serious doubts about the capacity of the troops stationed in those positions. It gives the feeling that they have mined everything and then they have sent their best men to the Bakhmut front to protect Donbas. In that case, who’s going to stop the attack to Energodar, Nova Kakhovka, and then through the mud to the other side of Kherson?
Troops would have to be moved from other areas, but which ones? Unprotect Crimea? Sending men from Berdiansk when it is another of the great objectives? Help from Melitopol despite the threat that looms over the great emblematic city of Russian Zaporizhia? Ukraine’s goal is to shake the tree and see what falls, that’s clear. What happens is that too many things are falling or it gives that impression.
[El sur de Ucrania, antes y después: la ruptura de la presa de Kajovka inunda toda la región de Jersón]
Russia must hold the Vasiliivka-Tokmak line no matter what or it will be seen against the wall on the south front. Worst of all, it cannot transfer troops from the other front either, since both Lugansk and Donetsk are in danger. Not only that: in the event that the Ukrainians reached Berdyansk —again, a long-term objective, as we said about Mariupol—, the two fronts would be cut off, a real tragedy for the invaders.
In summary, Ukraine is slow, yes, but not that much. If we see breakthroughs like this next week, the counteroffensive will be very close to success. If the front stagnates, we could be facing very hard weeks, with many casualties on both sides.