A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Dec 8, 2022

The Reason Ukraine Is Escalating Its Offensive In Donbas As Winter Sets In

The ground has frozen more quickly than expected, allowing armored vehicles and artillery at a faster pace and over a wider range of territory. 

This gives Ukraine an advantage as Russian units remain undermanned, underequipped and poorly trained. Despite having dug miles of trenches near cities and paved roads, the Russians do not appear capable of responding to rapid attacks across fields and other unprepared terrain. JL 

Matthew Bigg reports in the New York Times:

Ukrainian forces have escalated a counteroffensive in the east, aided by plunging temperatures that have frozen the ground and enabled them to use vehicles that for weeks had been bogged down in mud. Capture of Kreminna, Svatove and Starobilsk would extend gains Ukrainian forces made in the Kharkiv region and enable them to advance toward the Russian border. It would also give them control of a triangle of roads that provide access to Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. The main hospital in the city of Luhansk is full of wounded Russian soldiers

Ukrainian forces have escalated a counteroffensive in the east, military officials said on Wednesday, aided by plunging temperatures that have frozen the ground and enabled them to use vehicles that for weeks had been bogged down in mud.

Serhiy Haidai, head of the military administration in the Luhansk region, which is almost entirely controlled by Russia, said that there had been fierce fighting near two small cities, Kreminna and Svatove. While Ukrainian forces were gradually advancing toward Svatove, Mr. Haidai said on the Telegram messaging app that “the liberation of every meter of Luhansk comes at a high price” because Russian forces were making use of reserves of equipment and personnel as well as newly mobilized troops.

Capture of the two cities, and a third one, Starobilsk, would extend gains that Ukrainian forces made during a rapid counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region in September and could enable them to advance toward the Russian border. It would also give them control of a triangle of roads that provide access to two larger cities farther south, Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, that fell to Moscow during the summer.

Those larger cities were the objective of the campaign, Mr. Haidai said, adding that Ukrainian forces were already in a position to fire on Russian forces on the road between Kreminna and Svatove. There was no independent confirmation of the military situation.

Russia has held ground in two eastern Ukrainian provinces, Luhansk and Donetsk, since 2014 and illegally annexed the region, known as Donbas, in October. Ukraine’s ultimate war aim is to win back all of the territory that Russia has seized.

Though the onset of winter weather is compounding misery for people with limited access to heat and electricity because of Russian airstrikes on infrastructure, it could be a boon for Ukraine’s military.

“The cold weather and frozen ground will allow the Armed Forces of Ukraine to increase the pace of their counteroffensive in the east of the country,” Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for the army’s eastern forces, said on Ukrainian television this week. The high temperature in Luhansk on Wednesday was 23 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 5 degrees Celsius).

There have been no major advances in the war since mid-November, when the Kremlin withdrew its forces from the southern city of Kherson in a significant victory for Ukraine.

But fighting and artillery barrages have persisted for weeks. In the area of Svatove and Kreminna, Mr. Haidai said on Monday that Ukrainian soldiers shot down a Russian helicopter in the region on Sunday. The Ukrainian Air Force on Monday posted a video of the episode on Facebook but it was not immediately possible to confirm the attack independently.

Military experts have analyzed satellite images that they say show that Russian forces have been building defensive barriers aimed at impeding Ukrainian progress and protecting the ground they hold.

In a further sign of fierce fighting, the main hospital in the city of Luhansk is full of wounded Russian soldiers, the Ukrainian military administration said on Wednesday on Telegram.

Shelling along the front line continues to kill and wound civilians. Three people were wounded on Tuesday in the province of Donetsk, the head of the regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on Wednesday on Telegram

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