October 4, 2022
Russians ‘run away like Olympic sprinters’ as Ukraine retreats northeast

Ukrainian commander Petro Kuzyk knows the secret of the offensive that has led to the collapse of Russian forces in the country’s northeast – a mix of gritty determination, careful planning and clever use of limited Western military equipment.

The result, an advance by Ukrainian troops that has liberated 3,000 square kilometers in just six days, is Kyiv’s biggest victory since it pushed Russian troops back from the capital in March. Many Ukrainians expect the passage to be a turning point in the nearly seven-month conflict.

“Our counter-attack was ready for a long time,” said Kuzyk, the commander of the Svoboda Swift Reaction Force of the National Guard of Ukraine, which took part in the attack. “We decimated their ability with frequent and precise strikes . . . the general staff. [also] Distracted them into thinking that there was going to be a major counter-attack in the south. ,

By the time Kuzyk and his men moved to attack last week, Russian forces were already in panic around the southeast corner of Kharkiv province. Many left in such a hurry that food was still laid out on canteen tables and valuable ammunition and other weapons were kept near the trenches.

“We expected success, but didn’t expect this kind of cowardly behavior,” Cuzick told the Financial Times, “his voice stifled with exhaustion after six days of fighting.” “They left their tanks and equipment. , , He also grabbed a bicycle to run away. Our task was made easier by completely dismantling the Russian army; They ran like Olympic sprinters. ,

Balaklia.  Russian military vehicles in
Russian military vehicles in Balaklia. Ukraine’s commander Petro Kuzyk said the Russian defense system was ‘chaotically organised’. , , with a well-preserved first row’ but the second and third lines were just ‘sporadic observation posts’ © Juan Barreto / AFP / Getty Images

According to Ukrainian Army Commander General Valery Zaluzny, the Ukrainian offensive around Kharkiv pushed Russian forces back to the north-eastern border within 50 km of the border, and followed a separate attack launched to the south around the strategic city. does. Kherson.

The joint arms campaign, in which Ukraine deployed a coordinated attack with tanks, infantry and air cover, confused skeptics who thought that the Ukrainian military lacked sufficient troops and equipment, which was a The military seemed to be involved in the standoff.

This led to a deliberate use of Russia’s numerical strength and massive artillery to destroy major Russian ammunition dumps, logistic bases and command posts behind the front lines, along with more accurate Western rockets and artillery attacks by Kyiv. Strategy validated.

Defense Minister Oleksey Reznikov has called this a “David versus Goliath” strategy. In a north-eastern offensive, this meant capturing railways and logistics centres, which the Russian army used to move vast quantities of weapons and fuel, allowing them to maintain their artillery and numerical advantage over the less equipped Ukrainians. is required.

Serhi Kuzan, a military adviser to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry who had just returned from the Eastern Front, said, “If you remove the asymmetric advantage of the Russians in artillery, they not only stop fighting, they run away.” go.” “That was the secret of the operation. The Russian army is a blown up balloon.”

Ukrainian soldiers salute the country's flag in Balaklia
Ukrainian soldiers salute the country’s flag in Balaklia. Once the city was surrounded, Ukrainians moved on to Kupiyansk, a rail and road hub that supplies Russia’s defense in the northeast © Ukraine’s Defense Ministry via Reuters

The speed with which the balloon appears to be flying in this part of the front line of at least 1,300 km has taken everyone by surprise. At first the Ukrainians moved to Balaklia, where Kuzyk said that Russian defenses were “chaotically organized . . . with a well-preserved first line” but second and third lines which were only “sporadically observation posts”.

When Balaklia was besieged, the Ukrainians advanced on Kupiyansk, a rail and road hub that supplied Russia’s defenses in the northeast. This weakened the Russian troops stationed in nearby Izium.

“His entire arsenal of weapons along the Izumi axis was captured,” Kuzan said. “The Russians have an advantage in weapons, but the speed of our army did not allow them to take advantage of it.”

Adding to the Ukrainian momentum, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday it had ordered its troops to be pulled back from Balaklia and Izium, claiming it would allow them to focus on a different front line. “He said it was an evacuation. But he was [a] Panic retreat,” Kuzan said.

Both Kuzyk and Kuzan said that Ukraine needed more weapons to bring back the Russians. “If we get it, the challenge will be to stop our forces at the border,” Kuzic said.

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The strategic implications of what this attack achieved – apart from the free vast areas of sparsely populated Ukrainian territory – still remain to be elucidated. “The development of this operation has been better than we expected and this means that even ordinary army personnel will be changing their plans in accordance with the successful results,” Reznikov said.

Mark Gelotti, a Kremlin watcher and military analyst, warned: “You should never completely underestimate the Russians, even though they may seem like keystone police forces.

“But it [the offensive] Provides Ukraine with the military magic of speed, which deliberately keeps the Russians speculating about what might happen next and all the different ways Russia should scatter its troops. ,

This has undeniably given Ukraine a massive morale boost – both to its own troops and to its Western allies – while seriously denting Russian trust. Chechnya’s powerful leader Ramzan Kadyrov is among those criticizing Russia’s military for retreating. He said he would talk to the “leadership of the country” if the army’s strategy did not change.

Kuzan said, “The attack has achieved “a major psychological break in the spirit of the Russian soldiers – and the fighting spirit is the key to the ground troops, without it they have no chance.” It also changed the “spirit of Russian society”. broke; we have already seen how they are looking for who is to blame”.

Additional reporting by Max Seddon

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