NewsUkraine's struggle intensifies as Russia prepares for summer offensive

Ukraine's struggle intensifies as Russia prepares for summer offensive

Ukrainians suffer from a lack of people and supplies.
Ukrainians suffer from a lack of people and supplies.
Images source: © East News, Telegram
5:55 AM EDT, March 30, 2024

The Ukrainian front is faltering under the pressure from Russia. Shortages of manpower and ammunition negatively impact the defenders. Moscow seeks to exploit this situation. "If the Russians achieve a strategic breakthrough, they will encounter no resistance in the operational depth, allowing them to advance significantly. This is the gravest threat, the worst-case scenario," General Roman Polko told Virtual Poland.

The British weekly "The Economist" has reported that Russians are preparing for an offensive, expected to commence with the onset of summer. The situation on the front is already dire for the Ukrainians.

Kyiv's forces must contend with the overwhelming advantage of the enemy, which they cannot match. Recent reliance on Western deliveries, now significantly reduced, has impacted their artillery capabilities. Frontline units also suffer from personnel shortages - Ukraine is short-staffed. Putin is well-aware of this and aims to capitalize on the situation.

"You don't need to be a military genius to see: if the adversary is weak, it's time to mobilize and seize the opportunity," General Roman Polko remarked during a conversation with Virtual Poland.

"The fact that Ukraine is cut off from supplies is widely recognized. A Russian strategic breakthrough would leave them facing a void, enabling them to penetrate deep into Ukrainian territory. This represents a major threat, a scenario President Zelensky is aware of," the former GROM commander explained.

Poor decisions by Kyiv and insufficient supplies from the West

The lack of operational depth, meaning insufficiently prepared defensive lines, results from decisions made in Kyiv. Ukrainians are critical of the West, accusing it of promising more support than it actually delivers to the front, as noted by "The Economist." This is also due to inadequate preparation on Ukraine's part. "Much was said about the offensive, leading the Ukrainians to overestimate their capabilities and neglect necessary defensive preparations," General Polko emphasized.

Retired military officer General Waldemar Skrzypczak concurs. "The mistake lies in the shallow defense. Just as pursuing an offensive was misguided, so was neglecting to prepare for strategic defense. The Russians, with their current advantage, have ample room to maneuver and can strike at will," he told WP.

The military also highlights that current Ukrainian defensive positions are only 3-5 miles deep, insufficient to sustain them. "A breakthrough would enable the Russians to flood into the country, pushing as far as the Dnieper," he underscored.

Moreover, Kyiv's units are facing a personnel crisis. With Russia preparing for another round of mobilization, and many potential Ukrainian recruits abroad, the military shortfall is acute. "The Ukrainian army is in a critical state. There is no way to offset losses. Brigades are operating at 40-50 percent strength. The crisis deepens as casualties mount without replacements," General Skrzypczak detailed.

"Even a mobilization now would only see new recruits ready by fall. It takes time for training and preparation. This doesn't offer an immediate solution," he added.

Ukraine "running on fumes"

A shortage of ammunition is another significant issue for Zelensky's troops. The West is also struggling to find necessary supplies. The Czech Republic's announcement of a potential delivery of about a million artillery rounds by April might offer some relief. President Zelensky himself highlighted the desperate ammunition situation in an interview with American television CBS, stating, "With the pause in US support, Russia is fully exploiting the situation; we're almost out of artillery."

"Since August, Ukraine hasn't been able to purchase ammunition with Western funds, primarily for artillery. In essence, they're 'running on fumes.' Putin is aware of the dire situation in the Ukrainian military, which is why he's urging Sergei Shoigu to find quick solutions and seize the opportunity," General Polko pointed out.

"The delivery is significantly overdue. At the current rate of consumption, it will last about two months. However, with artillery being destroyed and a lack of gunners, its use will be very limited," he assessed.

Morale is crucial on the front

So, what can we expect in the coming months? Experts speculate on possible Russian strategies. "Putin has set a new objective - if last year it was Donbas, now it seems to be reaching the Dnieper towards Poltava and Zaporizhia, aiming to conquer all of eastern Ukraine. As a military commander, I'd do the same," General Skrzypczak noted.

According to military analysts, that's not the Kremlin's only objective. "Another goal could be distancing Ukraine from the Black Sea. The operation towards the Dnieper could unfold in spring-summer. It's likely being prepared now," he mentioned.

General Polko also touched on the importance of the Dnieper line. "Predicting outcomes is challenging. Even along the Dnieper line, defenses may not be ready. The only deterrent for the Russians - if they bypass the main resistance - is the fear of flanking hits. Advancing deep without securing flanks can lead to a precarious situation, possibly even encirclement," he highlighted.

Morale could be the determining factor for Ukraine. "Morale is crucial. It enabled Ukraine to fend off Russians near Kyiv. The passion and belief in victory were present but have now dwindled. Not just the fatigued Ukrainians, but also the disengaged West, losing the information war, are to blame. The frontline soldier needs positive reinforcement to bolster morale. Without it, even the best equipment won't suffice," he remarked.

"If I were a Russian commander, I'd leverage every resource to further demoralize and fissure Ukrainian forces. This objective will certainly guide Moscow's strategy. Nevertheless, this doesn't spell defeat for Ukraine. The essence of Putin's war strategy is to divide the West, from which he benefits," he concluded.

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