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Kherson is ours. What's next?

Kherson is ours. What's next? © Getty Images
Some conclusions from the autumn campaign

Results of the autumn campaign

The autumn campaign of the Russian-Ukrainian war ended with the liberation of Kherson and the right bank of the Dnipro.

Within its time frame, the Armed Forces of Ukraine conducted a defensive operation in the East of Ukraine and two offensive operations, which resulted in liberation of significant territories in the East and the South.

The defensive operation in the Donetsk direction is taking place with tremendous strain on the efforts of our troops, but it is developing successfully. The enemy is suffering heavy losses and still cannot achieve any significant success. There is remained  threat of Russians capturing certain settlements, but even this would not change the strategic situation at the front.

The brilliant operation in the Kharkiv direction was characterized by the suddenness for the enemy, the depth and speed of the advance of our troops. It was not possible to create a pocket (or “cauldron” in Soviet military terms) near Lyman, but it would have been very difficult to do, both because of the configuration of the front and because of the ratio of the forces of the sides.

The operation to liberate Kherson Oblast was developing in a more complicated way. Its implementation was facilitated by the prerequisites for the isolation of the aggressor’s troops on the right bank of the Dnipro, and at the same time complicated by the high concentration of combat-ready enemy troops in this isolated area.

By the way, it is incorrect to call these operations counter-offensive. A counteroffensive is carried out against the advancing enemy, which has exhausted its offensive capabilities and reserves, and has been stopped. At this moment, the enemy’s defensive operation has not yet been planned, the operational formation of troops for conducting defense has not been created, there are no reserves, in terms of engineering, the defense area is not equipped, the fire system has not been built. These are ideal conditions for going on the offensive, the main thing is to determine the favorable moment in time.

In contrast to the counteroffensive, the Armed Forces are now conducting offensive operations, the essence of which is to defeat the well-prepared defense of the enemy, which was being prepared for a long time. This makes the offensive much more difficult, and its success is a testament to the skill of our commanders and the courage of the soldiers at the front.

The offensive on the right bank of the Dnipro began with an attempt to break through the enemy’s defenses. This attempt was based on the established canons of the organization of the offensive: a powerful fire preparation and, as a result, a strike by troops. The attempt was not successful. We suffered significant losses, but we did not achieve a significant advance of the troops. Days of mourning have been announced in Transcarpathia and Kamianets-Podilskyi. Eternal memory and Glory to the Heroes...

I have no moral right and will not analyze the reasons for the failure of the initial stage of the operation, although I was able to observe the development of events directly in this operational direction, and this gave me the opportunity to form a certain idea of ​​my own. But for a full-fledged objective analysis, it is necessary to have a complete picture of both the military and the military-political situation associated with this episode.

This first attempt to break through the defense was similar to the actions of Russian troops when conducting an offensive. And this is not surprising, because the weapons of both sides are almost the same type of equipment, and therefore the combat statutes determine the order of use of troops in almost the same way. But unlike the occupiers, our commandment did not start throwing soldiers into the attack wave after wave. Instead, after an operational analysis of the reasons for the failure, the use of troops and the method of conducting the offensive were adjusted. Such a decision is worth a lot.

Firstly, the commandment showed the ability to correctly and critically assess the situation and combine determination in achieving the goal with flexibility of management depending on the development of the situation.

Secondly, it was demonstrated in real life that trying to preserve the lives of our soldiers as much as possible is not an empty phrase for our commandment.

And finally, thirdly, such effective actions became possible thanks to the credit of trust and support of the military command from the Ukrainian society.

These three key positions fundamentally distinguish us from the enemy.

Observers often mention Operation Desert Storm, the first phase of which was aimed at damaging the enemy through air and missile strikes. This phase lasted 42 days. But according to the original plan, the time of its implementation was supposed to be much shorter. And already during the operation, through assessing the achieved results, the allied commandment made corrections to the plan and extended the time of its implementation.

It became possible to change the method of conducting an offensive in the Kherson region thanks to the availability of systems provided by partners. And the methods of waging war using them are mastered by our military quickly and successfully.

Our commandment abandoned frontal attacks on the well-prepared defense of the enemy and switched to conducting an offensive by fire impacting the group’s key objects. At the same time, the task of isolating the area of ​​hostilities was carried out by striking transport communications, and above all, crossings across the Dnipro.

The retreat of the occupiers was predictable and inevitable. Their grouping on the right bank of the Dnipro (more than 30 battalion tactical groups) was doomed to destruction. This was due to the difficulties of logistical support and the fire advantage we gained.

Ensuring the enemy grouping was based on the use of bridge crossings, which were periodically destroyed by the strikes of the Armed Forces, as well as to a large extent due to ferry crossings, which were carried out using pontoons, barges, boats and other watercraft, but in the winter using ferry crossings is practically impossible. Therefore, the threat of a COMPLETE supply blockade for the grouping of enemy troops on the right bank became real.

The motivation for the retreat from the right bank – maximum preservation of the lives and health of Russian soldiers – sounds like the height of cynicism, coming from the mouths of Russian war criminals, but it is based on a correct assessment of the situation. In order to preserve the lives and health of our soldiers, the enemy must flee across the borders of our country, and the Armed Forces will chase them away with fire.

Leaving the right bank of the Dnipro to the enemy is not a regrouping, it is an escape from the inevitable defeat under the onslaught of the fire offensive of the Armed Forces.

The enemy suffered significant losses. Unfortunately, we again failed to organize a complete encirclement and destruction of the enemy. Solving such a task required non-standard and risky actions, and in addition, the necessary forces and means to implement the plan. However, this fact does not make our victory any less significant. Pockets, or “cauldrons”, for the enemy are still ahead.

At least two powerful factors influenced the nature of the offensive operations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and made it difficult to carry them out: the lack of air superiority, which severely limited the use of our air forces, as well as a significant shortage of the necessary armored weapons. Hummers and other lightly armored vehicles (or armored vehicles), both domestic and obtained from partners, are an excellent option for completing tasks in populated areas, or for raiding operations in the desert, mountains and steppe. But they are not meant for conducting hostilities to break through the enemy’s prepared defenses. This requires tanks, infantry fighting vehicles (BMP-2, American “Bradley”, German “Marder”), armored personnel carriers of the BTR-80 level, domestic BTR-3, BTR-4.

Thus, the operations of the autumn campaign of the war proved that the occupying army is losing not only its offensive, but also its defensive potential; instead, the Armed Forces of Ukraine demonstrate the ability to continue to resolutely crush the enemy and liberate all captured territories. The main necessary prerequisite for this is the help of partners with the quantity and quality of the necessary weapons and ammunition for the Armed Forces.

What’s next?

At this time, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have mastered the strategic initiative. This means that we, not the enemy, decide where and when the next blow will be delivered.

The withdrawal of the aggressor to the left bank of the Dnipro and the creation of a defensive line along the Dnipro makes the continuation of our offensive in this direction unlikely, but not impossible.

Both on Zmiinyi Island and near Kherson, we showed that we can dislodge the enemy from the territory captured by him through powerful firepower. In the same way, we can push the enemy away from the Dnipro by fire, and create conditions for the landing (ferriage) of our troops to the left bank. But for a large-scale offensive, it is necessary to ferry a significant grouping of troops, plus organize its uninterrupted support. In the absence of bridge crossings, this is an extremely difficult task. Its solution can be facilitated by the presence of floating islands in the lower reaches of the Dnipro, which divide the current into several narrower branches, but this does not make it much easier to conduct an offensive in this direction.

Another possible direction of attack may be the east of Ukraine. The capture of Svatov and the subsequent offensive on Kreminna, Lysychansk, and Siverodonetsk would stop even a feeble enemy offensive operation on Bakhmut. And the Luhansk Oblast’s steppe offensive on Starobilsk and Bilovodsk creates conditions for the liberation of at least the territory captured by the enemy after February 24, 2022.

However, both of these lines of attack will not lead to a change in the strategic situation at the front. The key center, the capture of which could lead to a final turning point in the war, is Melitopil.

Conducting a successful offensive in the direction of Tokmak and Melitopil will divide the entire enemy group in half into the eastern and western parts. The departure of our troops to the Black Sea and Azov coasts will create conditions for striking not only the Kerch Bridge and the ferry crossings across the Kerch Strait, but also the bases of the aggressor’s fleet, both in Crimea and Novorosiysk. The destruction of the Kerch Bridge will deprive the enemy’s entire eastern group of logistical support. In addition, it will be impossible to strike the cities of Ukraine from the south with land- and sea-based missiles.

It is difficult to exaggerate the criticality of the situation in which the aggressor will find themselves in the event of our liberation of Melitopil. There’s no need to describe the understandable further development of events, with the exit of our troops to the Crimean Isthmus, the liberation of Crimea, the subsequent defeat of the aggressor's troops in the East.

The key to all this is the liberation of Melitopil.

The ideas expressed are obvious and are perfectly understood by both our commandment and the aggressor.

We can certainly successfully carry out such a powerful operation, but only if our partners provide us with the necessary offensive weapons in the required quantity.

At the same time, we see that the military-technical assistance is provided to us in a dosed and limited manner, both in terms of quantity and types of weapons. And recently, quite unexpectedly, in my opinion, there has been a growing wave of information about its suspension in general, about separate agreements between President Biden and Putin, about the right moment for negotiations with the aggressor, etc.

I am convinced that our partners have not changed their opinion about the need to end the global terrorist threat that Russia represents in its current state. On the contrary, with each new step Putin takes to escalate the conflict, this belief grows.

But an artificially created warning appeared on the way to the destruction of the Putin regime.

And what’s there “at Russia”? The search for hybrid salvation

What will happen after Putin, if this destruction happens in an uncontrolled way? Controlled here means the option when the world understands in advance, which forces in Russia will come to power afterwards, how predictable their future would be, and how ready they would be to abandon the course of aggression. There is no such understanding, and this is precisely what prevents the West from helping us in the amount that would ensure the quick defeat of the aggressor by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Putin also understands this factor and is using it.

During the aggression, the enemy tested various hybrid methods of influencing the development of events. The attempt at separate negotiations in Istanbul looked like a homemade preparation as part of the plan of aggression. Afterwards, they used  the blackmailing of the world community with the use of tactical nuclear weapons,  the accident at the Zaporizhzhya NPP, the creation of an artificial famine by blocking grain stocks in the ports of Ukraine, and the creation of an energy crisis in Europe during the winter period. The list of hybrid actions is not complete. They all failed.

Another attempt is now being used, which is also probably not the last attempt. Understanding the West’s determination to end his regime and hold him personally accountable for the crimes against humanity, Putin once again resorts to blackmail: he is demonstrating his readiness to hand over his power as to his rightful successors, to outright terrorists like Prigozhin.

Prigozhin is not an independent figure – he is Putin’s puppet.

“Wagner” is not a private military company – it is exclusively a state structure, the military part of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, created under the banner of the PMC. Russia was preparing for covert aggression, and for this it needed military formations that were not formally connected to the state.

Prigozhin does not conduct independent politics, he only plays the role written for him by Putin. Prigozhin demonstrates the dirtiest sides of human nature, openly presenting himself as a supporter of terrorism. Public tours of prisons and speeches on camera, recruiting mercenaries from convicts, comments on the brutal execution of one of the members of the PMC, sending a dummy of a bloody sledgehammer to the European Parliament, and much more – all this is done ostentatiously: “I am a terrorist. With my coming to power in Russia, you, the West, will not have much. In the fight for your destruction, I will stop at nothing.”

All this is massively replicated by the Russian mass media, which is completely controlled by Putin. Putin sends a message to the West: “If my defeat in the war against Ukraine is not stopped, then I will hand over power to Prigozhin & Co, and they will definitely not hesitate to use nuclear weapons. Try to stop them, they are outright terrorists. We will have to sit down at the negotiating table with them. Take care of me, Putin, I am not the worst of evils. It will be much worse without me!”.

Prigozhin is a generalized image that personifies the darkest forces and intentions. He hardly has a chance to come to power. But behind his public image are other forces, such as the Orthodox oligarch Malofeev, who played an active role in the seizure of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine, the ideologist of the Russian world Dugin, the terrorist Strelkov and other similar characters. They are ready to seize power after Putin. They profess the same principles and ideas that Prigozhin publicly proclaims. And the main thing is that they are not as toxic, and their ideas are supported by a significant part of the Russian population, which is intoxicated by the ideology of Russian fascism/chauvinism/Nazism.

The West has not lost its determination to end the Putin regime, but is looking for a way out of the current situation. And it will surely find it. Alas, so far, the aid is given to us in such a form and in such a quantity, that it does not allow us to quickly and decisively destroy the occupiers, which would entail the collapse of Putin’s regime.

But for every day that brings us closer to the inevitable victory over the enemy, we pay with the lives of our people. Therefore, we should not rely only on the West.

We believe in the Armed Forces of Ukraine!

Glory to Ukraine!

Read this article by Serhiy Savchenko in russian and Ukrainian.

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