The counter-offensive of the Ukrainian forces in the Donbas does not yet mean a final turning point in the Russian-Ukrainian war, but it allows us to draw several global conclusions. Allies and enemies of Ukraine both should pay heed to them.
The rapid liberation of the Kharkiv region after the diversion in the steppes of the Kherson region demonstrated the operational skill of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Armed Forces have shown that they are capable not only of resisting the barrage of Russian fire in the Donbass, but also of conducting swift counteroffensives. Ukrainian generals and officers proved with real action that since 2014, after the start of the hybrid war with Russia, they have been learning to fight. The pace of advancement of the Ukrainian troops speaks for itself, with them managing to liberate more than 6,000 square kilometers of border territory previously occupied by the Russians.
The point is not only the almost complete liberation of the Kharkiv region, but also in the spectacular termination of Putin’s plans to seize the Donetsk region before September 15 by Ukrainian defenders. Now it will be difficult for the Kremlin to talk about any success in the Donbas before the end of 2022. Even the limited mobilization in Russia announced by Putin is not able to replenish the ranks of the Russian army with quality soldiers and officers in time. The offensive in the Kharkiv region demonstrated a laxity in Russia’s state structure, on account of which Yevgeny Prigozhin («Putin’s chef,» as the media likes to call him, is directly involved in the activities of the Wagner PMC) could allow himself to tour the colonies to search for those who want to fight with Ukraine. The television series Shtrafbat, beloved in Russia, received an unexpected renewal.
Of course, the successful actions of the Ukrainian troops were also determined by weapons supplied by the West. This not only says something about the groups of Ukrainian defenders operating behind enemy lines, but also about the HIMARS MLRS that have become the subject of intense Russian propaganda. With only two dozen launchers, Ukrainian defenders were able to significantly influence circumstances, destroying dozens of ammunition depots, command posts, reducing fire activity and the ability to maneuver the Russian group. It is no coincidence that Russian propaganda is trying to prove that it is destroying dozens of HIMARS (as well as Bayraktar UAVs and 155-caliber howitzers), but the situation on the battlefield demonstrated quite the opposite. Ukraine has every reason to ask for more modern weapons, since its soldiers and officers become proficient with them no worse than their counterparts from NATO countries.
The rapid Ukrainian offensive uncovered the graves of civilians and prisoners of war in Izyum. More than 400 people were buried in the forest near the city. Izyum was a key point during the counterterrorist operation in 2014, and it was bombed especially heavily.
The mass burial of Ukrainian citizens indicates that hatred towards Ukraine is part of Russian state policy, and what happened in Bucha is a far cry from just an excess by the perpetrators or the independent actions of individual commanders.
It is frightening to imagine what will be discovered in the liberated territories of the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions and in the so-called DPR and LPR, as there are practically no men of military age left. These are also war crimes of the Kremlin regime.
Russia has responded asymmetrically to Ukraine’s military successes. Collaborators in the Ukrainian occupied territories declared their desire to simply immediately hold a “referendum.” It should be noted that the nature and timing of this do not meet even minimum standards for democratic procedure. Russia, through Putin, has already expressed its readiness to support this step, which would allow it to secure «the historical lands of Novorossiya.» About 5 million people lived there before the start of the full-scale invasion. Russia seeks to legalize the occupation. (It should be reminded that on February 24, 2022, Putin spoke only about “assistance to the people’s republics” and denied any possibility of occupying Ukrainian territory.) The ruler of the Kremlin also hinted at the possibility of using nuclear weapons «in the event of a threat to Russian territory.» Obviously, this statement was precipitated by the approach of Ukrainian troops towards the Russian borders, which they are quite capable of crossing.
It should be emphasized that the holding of so-called referendums has no legal basis, but this will not stop the Russian Central Election Commission of Russia from demonstrating its readiness to help conduct them while serving as an observer. Russia spit on norms of international law and formal logic, for which it should receive an unequivocal reaction from the world community.
By announcing «limited mobilization,» Vladimir Putin demonstrated to the whole world that plans for a blitzkrieg in Ukraine had failed.
Russia is being drawn into a protracted confrontation that will come as an unpleasant surprise to many of its citizens. How «limited» the mobilization will be is not defined by law, and this will have a dampening effect on Russian society. Turning away in the early 2000s from democratic rights and freedoms, the citizens of Russia did not consider such a scenario. The West is gaining an opportunity to put Russia in its place with new sanctions and increased military-technical assistance to Ukraine. The turning point for this has arrived.
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