Six weeks into Ukraine’s counteroffensive, Capt. Anatoliy Kharchenko and his reconnaissance company were supposed to be wreaking havoc miles behind Russian defensive lines pierced by Western-supplied armored vehicles.
Instead, after many of the vehicles got bogged down in minefields, Kharchenko and his men are training how to advance methodically on foot, moving from one line of trees to another, faced with the prospect of taking back their country one field at a time.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Kharchenko said. “Victory isn’t just important, but it’s the only option, otherwise we’ll all be dead.”
Ukraine’s counteroffensive, launched at the start of June, is aimed at retaking some of the nearly 20% of Ukrainian territory occupied by Moscow. The West provided dozens of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles and trained thousands of Ukrainian troops for the campaign.
The swift loss of several tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, many of them immobilized by mines or missiles launched from attack helicopters, jolted Ukraine and its Western backers. Ukraine hasn’t achieved a decisive breakthrough, although it has seized several villages.
Kyiv’s political and military leadership has complained that slow and insufficient deliveries of Western weaponry left it no choice but to assault Russian lines without adequate air defenses, leaving troops and vehicles vulnerable.
The Ukrainians are adapting and seeking to press forward in the south as well as around the eastern city of Bakhmut, Russia’s only significant gain in its winter-and-spring offensive. Advancing slowly and meticulously to preserve Western armor, the central aim remains reaching the Sea of Azov, cutting off Crimea and squeezing Russian forces out of the southern Kherson region.
Most of the Ukrainian brigades trained and equipped by the West remain in reserve, waiting to strike. Officers are seeking to preserve precious Western equipment, from tanks to shoulder-fired Stingers, while still pushing forward.
“We are probing with our fingers and working out where to direct our fist,” said Kharchenko. [Continue reading…]