A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jul 18, 2023

As Ukrainians Adapt To Press Attack, Weak Logistics Hinder Russian Defense

The Ukrainians have adapted to stronger than expected Russian defenses by keeping most of their armor - vulnerable to Russian air attacks - in the rear and have been advancing systematically on foot. 

Their successful attacks on Russian ammunition depots is creating a demonstrable reduction in artillery fire, which will eventually help create a breakthrough. JL 

James Marson reports in the Wall Street Journal:

The Ukrainians are adapting and seeking to press forward in the south as well as around Bakhmut, (taking) a more gradual advance over the flat land of the south using U.S.-made Bangalore torpedoes, which will help them clear mines. Advancing meticulously to preserve Western armor, the central aim remains reaching the Sea of Azov. Russia remains vulnerable because its troops are less well prepared and supplied by weak logistics that depend on railways. With Ukraine pushing in several places, Russia doesn’t know where to deploy its reserves and may struggle to react if Ukrainian forces break through. The flooded Dnipro River has created opportunities by washing away some Russian defenses.

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. The stocky former paratrooper and his company of some 100 men had been prepared to push through any gap created in Russian lines and dash south.

But the gap never appeared. On the third day of the counteroffensive, he drove to Mala Tokmachka to the southeast of Orikhiv to check out the route they were supposed to take. As artillery shells crashed around him, he began to withdraw when he saw a Ukrainian vehicle blown up and body parts of Ukrainian soldiers strewn over the road. He and his teammates dismounted to recover what they could.

Now, the task is even more daunting. After the destruction of the Kakhovka dam flooded the Dnipro River at the start of June, Russia moved some units that had been guarding the river’s eastern bank to bolster forces to the south of Orikhiv. They quickly dug in, expanding the lines of defense and reinforcing the edges of towns and roads.

Kharchenko and his men are training for a more gradual advance over the flat land of the south, where neat villages are dotted among open fields of sunflowers and wheat. They are using U.S.-made Bangalore torpedoes, metal poles with explosive charges, which they hope will help them clear mines and booby traps from lines of trees along the edges of fields so that they can advance and dig in.

Russian fortifications in Ukraine

Areas under Russian control

Russian fortifications










Sea of Azov

Area of



Black Sea

100 miles


100 km

Note: Data as of July 16

Source: Institute for the Study of War and AEI's Critical Threats Project (Russian-controlled areas, advances); Brady Africk, American Enterprise Institute (Russian fortifications)

One of his men questioned why they would seek to advance on foot given that the West provided armor for protection.

Kharchenko said they don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the Russians in the early days of the invasion, when Ukraine chewed up column after column of Russian armored vehicles. 

Ukraine has been targeting ammunition stores and command posts with Himars rocket artillery and long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles. The Storm Shadows can strike farther but are expensive and in shorter supply, while the U.S. has so far declined to provide longer-range ATACMS missiles that can be launched from Himars.

So Ukraine has resorted to using Himars in a more daring fashion in recent weeks, moving them as close as a few miles from the front line to strike deeper into occupied territory and push Russia’s ammunition dumps and command posts farther back.

Cluster munitions provided by the U.S. could help blast holes in minefields and Russian defensive networks including trenches and antitank obstacles called dragon’s teeth.

Russia remains vulnerable because its troops are generally less well prepared and supplied by a weak logistics chain that depends heavily on railways. With Ukraine pushing in several places, Russia doesn’t know where to deploy its reserves and may struggle to react quickly if Ukrainian forces do break through.

Ukraine has been advancing fastest around the small eastern city of Bakhmut, which Russia seized in late May after months of brutal fighting that cost it several thousand fighters.

The Russians barely had time to lay mines after capturing Bakhmut after months of house-to-house fighting.

Ukraine counterattacked and is now pushing Russian forces back on the northern and southern edges of the city. In the south, Ukrainian forces have crossed a canal and are pushing past the town of Klishchiivka, while in the north they are fighting toward a major highway.

As in the south, Russian air superiority is a major obstacle. Russian Ka-52 helicopters hover at a distance of around 5 miles, outside the range of Stinger missiles, and fire laser-guided missiles at Ukrainian targets.

The West blundered by giving tanks and armored vehicles but insufficient means, such as jet fighters or air-defense systems, to protect them from attack, said Yuriy Ulshyn, a 49-year-old commander near Bakhmut, better known as “Grek,” or “Greek.”

“It’s like giving a bike without pedals,” said Grek. “Thanks a lot for the bike, but…”

Grek, a former geologist, commands a unit of some 40 volunteers whom he stations in gaps between larger formations, gluing them together at potential weak points.

His men on a hillside 3 miles from the edge of Bakhmut are armed with a Stinger and a Soviet-era PKM machine gun, looking out for Russian jets, helicopters and aerial drones.

Ukraine’s Bakhmut Push

Ukraine is retaking territory to the north and south of the Russian-occupied city, but is taking losses.


Area of detail











2 miles

2 km

Note: Areas of control as of July 16
Sources: Institute for the Study of War and AEI's Critical Threats Project; staff reports

Russian Orlan surveillance drones are a constant menace, spotting targets and calling in artillery fire. 

On cloudy days, if the craft swoops low enough, they fire bursts from the PKM, hoping to down it. If the sky is clear, the Russians can watch idly from above the PKM’s range, because Grek’s team is preserving precious Stinger missiles for a more dangerous target like a helicopter or war plane.

 “Our problem everywhere is the sky,” said Grek. “When the enemy can see the whole battlefield, what can you do? You need so much of everything. When he can’t see it, he’s in the dark, and you don’t need as much.”

The lack of equipment weighs on Grek. A tow rope snapped as he was trying to drag a damaged car away from the front line. Immobilized vehicles, even those in Russian range, are quickly stripped for useful parts. He worries about dying not in the heat of battle, but from his lack of an armored car.

“I don’t want to die behind the wheel,” Grek said.

He and his men are finding creative solutions.

They scrambled to the top of a slag heap one recent night to mount a camera connected to a Starlink internet terminal powered by a generator. The camera provides a feed that can help them spot Russian aircraft at a distance.

They make their own attack drones in a garage in a nearby town, equipped with enough explosives to take out an armored vehicle when they slam into them. Their latest innovation, as yet untested in battle, is a remote-controlled machine gun attached to the base of an electric wheelchair.


In the south, meanwhile, the flooded Dnipro River has created opportunities by washing away some Russian defenses. 

Ukrainian special forces have crossed the river and are trying to expand a bridgehead opposite the southern capital of Kherson. Other troops have been training in river crossings, including Kharchenko’s men, who used sports inflatables provided by a charity fund.

Ukraine still holds a morale advantage from fighting for its own territory, Kharchenko said. It may take longer and cost more lives, but “there is no other plan,” he said. “It’s our land. We have to do it.”


Anonymous said...

Why we are here talking of Russian defence let US ponder for awhile about Mr Putin attending an economic summit very soon in South Africa.STOP.

This is the most unusual planned action probably in decades for any European leader infact place every dollar you have on the Americans having a plan of action....actually the entire members of NATO for that matter,further evidence that Putin himself is not a well
man...we most .South Africa on this day of action will become probably the biggest ever sniper den in living history

nx70 you should hall by now know the score street !!!!
certainly mean this.

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