NewsAfter Avdiivka's fall, Ukraine braces for more Russian attacks

After Avdiivka's fall, Ukraine braces for more Russian attacks

KUPIANSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 22: A view of the snowy trench as Ukrainian soldiers are on duty in the direction of Kupiansk, Ukraine on February 22, 2024. (Photo by Jose Colon/Anadolu via Getty Images)
KUPIANSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 22: A view of the snowy trench as Ukrainian soldiers are on duty in the direction of Kupiansk, Ukraine on February 22, 2024. (Photo by Jose Colon/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Images source: © GETTY | Anadolu
12:50 PM EST, February 28, 2024

The situation remains tense after Russia took control of Avdiivka, with the possibility of further strategic losses. "Without Western support, Ukraine risks losing both Kupiansk and Kharkiv," Ukrainian Deputy Oleksandra Ustinova warned in an interview with Deutsche Welle.

According to Ustinova, seizing Avdiivka is merely the initial phase of the Russian offensive. "Kharkiv is Ukraine's second-largest city, home to over a million people. Losing Kupiansk, a key railway hub, significantly heightens the risk of losing Kharkiv," she explained.

She stressed that to avert such outcomes, Ukraine needs more military aid including equipment, ammunition, and F-16 aircraft. "Without additional support and long-range missiles, and if the promised F-16s don’t arrive by summer, we are facing a grave problem," the politician cautioned.

Harsh tactics by Russians

The situation near Kupiansk is worsening. On February 25, marking the second anniversary of the full-scale war's outbreak, Russian forces stepped up their efforts to capture the city. They bolstered their equipment and deployed more troops.

"Recently, as the Russians incurred significant losses, they resorted to deliberately targeting civilians, especially around the Oskil River. This inhumane strategy aims to inflict suffering on the civilian populace. Amidst intense artillery and mortar fire, Russia is probing for weaknesses in Ukraine's defenses, making repulsion of these assaults challenging," reported Nadiya Zamryga, spokeswoman for the 14th Independent Mechanized Brigade named after Prince Roman the Great.

"No direction is off-limits"

Maciej Matysiak, a reserve colonel, Stratpoints foundation expert, and former deputy head of the Military Counterintelligence Service, told Wirtualna Polska that the Russians are determined to advance.

"The more resources or opportunities they have, they will opt for strategically important directions or where the opposition is less fortified," the expert stated. "Absolutely no direction is off-limits. Wherever they see a chance for success, they will press on."

The issue of a quasi-referendum

The potential occupation of certain areas, leading to administrative district closures, could also be a significant strategy. "This could pave the way for a quasi-referendum to annex the area into Russia," added Colonel Matysiak.

He also highlighted the complex nature of arms deliveries to Ukraine. "Complicated equipment, like F-16s, requires more than just delivery. It involves a completely new set of technology and tactics, necessitating comprehensive preparation," emphasized Matysiak.

KHARKIV REGION, UKRAINE  FEBRUARY 18: A view of destroyed Kupyansk city administration following the Russian airstrike on Feb. 17 on the city of Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, Ukraine on February 18, 2024. After the Russian conducted two series of strikes and fired about 20 bombs, 2 people were killed and 5 people were injured as 4 of them were rescued from the rubble. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images)
KHARKIV REGION, UKRAINE FEBRUARY 18: A view of destroyed Kupyansk city administration following the Russian airstrike on Feb. 17 on the city of Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, Ukraine on February 18, 2024. After the Russian conducted two series of strikes and fired about 20 bombs, 2 people were killed and 5 people were injured as 4 of them were rescued from the rubble. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images)© GETTY | Anadolu

He mentioned that training is crucial, alongside technical support, pilot training, ammunition supplies, and efficient radar systems.

Challenges in Ukrainian mobilization

The Ukrainian military is increasingly struggling with personnel shortages. Recruitment centers are actively seeking out young men avoiding military service in public spaces such as streets, gyms, and even sanatoriums.

Over 25,000 men banned from leaving the country have illegally crossed the border, with Moldova being the primary destination. Since the war's start, 15,000 people have fled Ukraine for Moldova.

Media reports highlight the growing average age of soldiers at the front, now over 40, and a decreased influx of volunteers. Many eligible men have left the country, sometimes through bribes, while others have secured exemptions due to health reasons.

In early February, Ukrainian authorities proposed mobilizing hundreds of thousands more soldiers using both incentives and penalties. Volunteers could earn a minimum of 20,000 hryvnias per month (about $550), with potential wartime bonuses based on role, rank, and location, ranging from 30,000 to 100,000 hryvnias ($825 to $2,750). New conscripts would undergo two to three months of training before deployment.

Zelensky on Ukraine's situation

President Volodymyr Zelensky recently highlighted the critical situation in Ukraine. "The European Union has only fulfilled 30% of its commitment to supplying Ukraine with one million artillery shells," he reported during a briefing with Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov in Kyiv.

The EU's leaders had agreed to deliver one million artillery shells within twelve months, at the end of March 2023. Yet, as Josep Borrell, the head of EU diplomacy, admitted, only half the planned amount will be available in the stipulated timeframe.

Zelensky lamented the timely arrival of aid, attributing it to the offensive's failure in southern Ukraine. "Many factors are beyond our control. Every day, we suffer losses. Nonetheless, we must remember that we are not facing this enemy alone," he concluded.

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