Russia Regains Initiative, Western Tanks - Russian Invasion DOCUMENTARY
Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine continues. In the second half of 2022, Ukraine regained the strategic initiative on the battlefield, liberating the Kharkiv oblast and the right bank of Dnipro. Still, the narrowing of the frontline and mobilization have allowed Russia to stabilize the situation on the ground and regain initiative to a certain extent. Russia has been attacking on the Donbas front for months and has achieved some success, despite a grinding pace and heavy losses. Meanwhile, Ukraine hopes that increased hardware support from the West will allow it to recapture momentum and start the much-expected counter-offensive. We are going to talk about this and other updates from the second half of January We’d also like to highlight another video if you’re interested in the wars of the modern era, which is hosted by the hidden gem of the documentary world and our sponsor, MagellanTV.
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Before discussing the most active front in Donbas, let’s look at the situation elsewhere on the battlefield. The status quo persisted on the Kherson front along Dnipro. In this period, we have not seen any information on engagement in areas like the Kinburn Spit or in Potomkinsky Island, where according to the Ukrainian command, battles took place earlier. The only confirmed engagement in this period between Ukraine and Russia occurred on January 25, when a small Ukrainian unit landed near Korsunka and Dnipryani. Ukrainian military intelligence claimed this was a
successful raid in which several Russian soldiers were killed and an armoured vehicle destroyed. In contrast, Russian sources stated that the Ukrainian unit was eliminated. We can assume that these attacks aim to fix Russian forces along the left bank of Dnipro, preventing them from being deployed elsewhere. There were no other notable developments on this front. Most of the actions on the North Luhansk front took place in the Kreminna section. As of late January, the situation is still covered with the fog of war, as sides are reportedly fighting for control of the forest area near Kreminna. There are reports that Russia is deploying more forces to this section, the size of which may indicate that they plan to launch an attack from there.
The Institute for the Study of War assesses that Luhansk Oblast is the most likely axis of a major Russian offensive, which Bloomberg reported based on information allegedly provided by anonymous Russian sources. Elsewhere on the North Luhansk front, heavy battles continued in and around Novoselivske, Chornopopivka, and Spirne without significant changes on the battlefield. After months of lull, there has been some notable action on the Zaporizhia front, and, despite expectations, it was the Russian army which conducted offensive operations in several sections. It is reported that Russia has been attacking with small assault groups of 10-15 people without much artillery or armoured support. On January 20, the 123rd Motorized Regiment of DPR separatists attacked towards the town of Orikhiv and reportedly captured the town of Mali Scherbaky in the no man’s land. Other sources claim that the Ukrainian army later reclaimed the lost territory.
A few days later, the Russian 40th and 155th Naval Infantry Brigades and elements of Russian special forces launched an attack on Vuhledar at the junction of the Zaporizhia and Donbas fronts. The 72nd Mechanized Brigade, which defended the capital Kyiv at the beginning of the war, inflicted heavy losses on Russian attackers, who reportedly managed to make minimal gains to the southeast of Vuhledar. At this point, it looks like the attack on the Orikhiv section was more of a probing attack to find weaknesses in Ukrainian defences, while the Vuhledar attack may be a Russian attempt at something bigger. The Donbas front continued to be the hottest area of the war. Russia suffered significant losses, but achieved further gains toward Bakhmut. Klishchiivka to the Southwest and Blahodatne to the Northeast of Bakhmut were the main targets of Russian attacks on the Donbas front in this period. On January 17, Wagner groups entered the
outskirts of Klishchiivka and completed the capture of this town within a week. This has allowed them to develop their success towards Ivanivske. The fall of Ivanivske would cut one of the last remaining supply lines on the T0504 highway to Bakhmut. The next logical target for Russia in this axis would be Chasiv Yar on the O0506 highway. If Russia achieves this goal, all supply lines to Bakhmut from the west would be cut, forcing the Ukrainian army to retreat from Bakhmut, as their supply line from the north - the T0513 highway is also under a grave threat at this point.
Wagner units completed the capture of Blahodatne on this highway on January 29. As of late January, the 110th Territorial Defense Brigade has been repelling Wagner attacks on Krasna Hora on the M03 and T0513 highway junction, vitally important for the Ukrainian control over Bakhmut. Russia also occupied Krasnopolivka and succeeded in taking the fighting into the suburbs of Bakhmut once again. What would the possible fall of Bakhmut mean for the war in Ukraine? It would not be a strategic disaster for the defenders, but it would cause a vital road junction to be captured by Russia and would enable the Russian push north towards Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Siversk, along with putting pressure on the Ukrainian units on the North Luhansk front from the south.
It would also boost morale for Russia as their first significant victory since the capture of Lysychansk back in July. It is reported that Ukraine’s allies have been recommending that they withdraw from Bakhmut to preserve Ukrainian forces, which can be used elsewhere. But while that may be a sound recommendation, it is unlikely that Russia will stop in Bakhmut, as they will look to develop their success towards the north. Deterioration of the situation in this area has prompted Ukraine’s allies to make quicker decisions on sending more weapons to Ukraine. Most importantly, after weeks of negotiations and stalling, Western countries have finally agreed to deliver tanks to Ukraine. Initially, the United States was reluctant to supply Abrams tanks since they believed that learning to operate them would take a lot of time, while their maintenance would be another issue. Thus, it was widely considered
that German-made Leopard tanks would be the best option for Ukraine as many European countries already have them, and their maintenance would not constitute a problem. However, despite calls from the United States, Britain, Poland and several other European countries, Germany was reluctant to be the first to pledge tanks to Ukraine, fearing retaliation from Russia, while also implicitly conveying a message that it would be ready to take this step if the United States does it first. Moreover, Germany did not allow other countries with Leopard tanks to supply them to Ukraine. Even at the January 20 meeting of Ukraine’s allies in Ramstein, where they discussed further military assistance to Kyiv, the agreement on Leopard was not reached. But the ice finally
broke on January 25, when the German chancellor Scholtz agreed to supply 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks to Ukraine after a signal of intentions from the United States to send Abrams tanks too. Leopard 2A6 is the penultimate variation of this main battle tank. Germany also allowed other countries to send Leopards to Ukraine. This had the effect of floodgates getting opened. Portugal pledged to send 4 Leopard 2A6s to Ukraine. Spain’s Defense Minister confirmed plans to send Leopard
2s to Ukraine. Canada pledged 4 Leopard A4s, while Norway, Netherlands and Poland also directly or indirectly through media informed about their intentions to send Leopards to Ukraine. According to Zelensky, by late January, 12 countries pledged to send tanks to Ukraine.
Reports indicate that Ukraine will receive almost 100 Leopard 2s of different modifications. But other tanks have been pledged to Ukraine as well. According to the Algerian portal Menadefense, Morocco has sent nearly 20 T-72B tanks to Ukraine. Morocco then officially refuted this claim, and stated that these tanks were sent to Czechia for modernization, which sent them to Kyiv without Morocco’s permission. On January 23,
French president Macron pledged to send Leclerc tanks to Ukraine. On January 25, the United States agreed to send 31 Abrams tanks with 8 M88 recovery vehicles, which should help with the maintenance of Abrams tanks. 2 days later, Poland pledged 30 modernized PT-91 tanks. According to the Ukrainian ambassador to France, Ukraine will receive 321 main battle tanks from its allies. The West has also made other pledges of support to Ukraine. On January 17, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace informed that 20k Ukrainian soldiers would be trained in the UK in 2023. Along with that, the Netherlands announced its intention to send a Patriot missile defence system to Ukraine, while the EU sent its first package of financial assistance worth 3 billion euros to Ukraine.
On January 18, Canada gave 200 Roshel Senator vehicles. The following day was particularly notable for all the pledges made to Ukraine. Estonia promised military aid worth over 1% of its GDP to Ukraine, including their 155-mm howitzers, grenade launchers, and ammunition.
Sweden pledged 50 CV90 tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Archer artillery systems in an aid package worth 419 million dollars. Denmark donated 19 CEASAR self-propelled howitzers, which it bought from France. The US announced a military aid package worth 2.5 billion dollars, which included 59 Bradley armoured fighting vehicles, 8 Avenger air defence systems, 90 Stryker armored fighting vehicles, 53 MRAPs, 350 HMMWVs, HARM missiles, NASAMS missiles, artillery shells, Excalibur precision-guided projectiles, landmines, HIMARS munition, anti-tank rockets, night vision equipment, command vehicles and so on. Later they signalled their intention to increase the production of 155-mm artillery shells to help alleviate Ukraine’s artillery shell shortages. On January 30, Australia and France also signed an agreement to produce 155-mm artillery shells. On January 20, Finland announced a military aid package worth 400 million euros, without specifying what it included. The German defence ministry announced 1 billion euros worth
of military aid to Ukraine, which included Iveco VM 90, Iveco ACL 90 military vehicles and Renault TRM 2000 light utility trucks. On January 26, a day after a Russian missile hit a Turkish merchant vessel in Kherson, Turkey pledged to deliver floating power plants to Ukraine, each capable of meeting the power needs of one million households. Also, on this day, Norway stated that it would train Ukrainian soldiers. On January 27, Belgium promised 92 million euros worth of military aid, which included portable anti-aircraft systems, anti-tank guns and vehicles. On January 28, Italy and France agreed to deliver Samp-T air defense systems with Aster missiles capable of shooting down ballistic missiles. Finally, on January 31, Reuters reported about the intention of the United States to provide another military aid package to Ukraine worth 2.2 billion
dollars, which is expected to include precision Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs with a 150 km range. That would be short of Ukrainian wishes to get ATACMS with a 300-km range, but it would still have massive implications on the battlefield. HIMARS have played an important role in weakening the Russian supply lines and military infrastructure in Ukraine, paving the way for the Ukrainian counter-offensive operations in the second half of 2022. Still, HIMARS has only an 80 km range, allowing Russians to be untouched by moving their assets deeper into occupied areas, while GLSDB would cover almost all occupied areas, except for parts of Crimea. This would force Russians to do a better job of hiding or removing their assets to Russia, creating significant logistical constraints for its occupation campaign in Ukraine. In the described period, Ukraine has received a massive boost from its allies, particularly in connection with promises of tank supplies. Ukraine will get these tanks sometime
in the spring and summer of 2023, excluding Abrams tanks, the training for which may take more time. And since the West has already passed the threshold of supplying tanks to Ukraine, it is safe to assume that more will come. This armoured support will allow Ukraine to regain the initiative on the battlefield and launch its expected counter-offensive. Now Ukraine started sending signals to its allies asking for F-16 fighters or potentially other Western-made fighters like French Rafale or Swedish Gripen. Statements from the West in that regard are confusing at the moment. On January 30, Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki stated that Poland
would be ready to give any aircraft to Ukraine but only “in full coordination” with its allies. At a press conference with Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte expressed that there are no taboos concerning supplies they can make to Ukraine to win the war against Russia while adding that sending warplanes would be a huge step. US president Biden publicly said “No” to requests for F-16, but it would not be the first time that the West initially opposed delivery of certain types of equipment or vehicles to Ukraine, before being persuaded by Ukraine. Predictably, Russia was unhappy with delivering Western-produced tanks to Ukraine but downplayed their importance. Putin’s spokesperson, Peskov, stated that Abrams and Leopard tanks are “quite a failure … in terms of technological aspects” and that it is wrong to exaggerate their potential. They have said similar things about HIMARS and other Western weapons, which have made a difference on the battlefield.
On the contrary, there was no information about weapon supplies to Russia. Iran is still reluctant to give ballistic missiles to Russia and has been busy defending against drone attacks on its military infrastructure in late January. We will see if this attack impacted Iran’s arms deals with Russia in the foreseeable future.
It is indicative that Russia’s pace of drone attacks and airstrikes on Ukraine has slowed down significantly in this period, as there was only one major attack of that kind. On January 26, Russia launched 55 cruise missiles, 47 of which were shot down, and 24 Shahed drones, all downed, according to Ukraine. It is possible to speculate that Russia would need more Iranian drones to continue its campaign targeting Ukrainian critical infrastructure. Belarus is still being discussed as a potential starting point for another attack on Kyiv. According to Zerkalo independent media outlet from Belarus, Russia had sent 14 T-72B3 tanks, 4 Uragan MLRS, 41 artillery units, dozens of infantry fighting vehicles, armoured vehicles and engineering vehicles, 12 combat helicopters, 12 aircraft, 15 Tor-M2 anti-aircraft missile systems, 4-6k soldiers since October.
Clearly, these numbers are insufficient for any significant offensive operation. There have been no attempts to negotiate in this period, as both sides are bracing for their expected offensives. On January 22, Peskov stated that “there are no conditions for negotiations between Russia and Ukraine at the moment, neither de facto nor de jure.” Three days later, Zelensky expressed that he was not interested in negotiating with Putin, to which Peskov responded by saying that Zelensky had long lost an opportunity to be Putin’s opponent. So, it is clear that the sides are too far apart to negotiate, which means the war will continue.
How will it play out in the foreseeable future? It is extremely difficult to predict anything in a war, but we can speculate based on the information we have. Kyiv has been vocal about its intention to liberate all its lands, including Crimea in 2023. Training of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers in Europe, a pledge of hundreds of tanks by the West, and General Zaluzhny’s earlier note that Ukraine is organizing and holding its strike force in reserve indicates that Ukraine will attempt a counter-offensive. In previous videos, we assumed that the Zaporizhian and North Luhansk fronts would be where the Ukrainian army would launch its counter-offensive. On the Zaporizhian front, taking Melitopol, Tokmak, and Berdiansk would be a significant blow to the Russian aspirations of winning in Ukraine.
This would force Russian forces on the left bank of Dnipro to retreat to Crimea and cause critical difficulties for the supply of the Russian army South and West of Melitopol. Having said that, one should bear in mind that it will be far from easy. Russians have erected fortifications manned by a significant number of troops in the occupied Zaporizhia oblast, which has numerous irrigation canals making the offensive operations more complicated. On the North Luhansk front, Russia has managed to stop the Ukrainian offensive short of the P66 highway. Ukraine will continue putting pressure on this front to reach another crucial logistical hub in Starobilsk, creating massive supply difficulties for Russians fighting north of Luhansk. But there are risks associated with an offensive in this axis. Russia has deployed numerous units to this
front, following the Izium counter-offensive to stabilize the front. They have reserves in the rear. Factors like small rivers, high-rise buildings, and dense forest areas in this region favour the defensive side. Also, even if Ukrainians succeed in North Luhansk, they will be
vulnerable to counter-attacks from the territory of the Russian Federation. But similar risks were associated with the Izium counter-offensive, as the liberation of the Northeast of the country and reaching the internationally recognized border with Russia could make Ukrainian units closest to the borders susceptible to Russian counter-attacks, which has not happened that much. One of the Russian military bloggers and a former member of the separatist force in Donbas, known for criticizing Putin’s conduct of the war, has speculated that a counter-offensive on the left bank of Dnipro would be the most advantageous axis of advance for the Ukrainian army. Crossing Dnipro
and establishing a sustainable bridgehead on the left bank is the most considerable difficulty associated with this offensive. Since bridges connecting the liberated and occupied areas of the Kherson oblast were mostly destroyed during the Ukrainian counter-offensive, Ukrainians would have to use pontoon bridges to do that and will be extensively targeted by the Russian artillery. If Ukrainians manage to create a bridgehead, they would have to advance through a steppe area without much vegetation. On the one hand, this terrain does not give any cover to the attacking
side, but on the other hand, it is much more advantageous for armored maneuvers. Furthermore, the area between Dnipro and the Crimean isthmus does not have many settlements, which makes it difficult for a defending side to establish strongholds. The distance between a potential bridgehead and Crimea is relatively short, and if Ukrainians achieve any surprise they did in the Izium counter-offensive, their breakthrough may bring them to Crimea relatively fast.
Liberation of Crimea would be a massive blow to Russian morale, preventing them from using Crimea as the base for their aircraft and the Black Sea fleet. This scenario is hypothetical and is associated with significant difficulties, such as creating a functioning bridgehead and ensuring an element of surprise. But the Ukrainian command had shown its ability to do that in the Izium counter-offensive, conducted when everyone was expecting a breakthrough in Kherson. What about Russia? Since December, the Ukrainian military and political leadership have been discussing an imminent Russian offensive, which may start between January and March. Russia is currently successfully attacking in Donbas. Capturing Bakhmut would allow them
to continue their offensive on Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, along with putting pressure on the Ukrainians in Kreminna. Russia is also reportedly gathering troops for a counter-offensive in Kreminna. Putin may also order another offensive on Kharkiv due to its proximity to the Russian border and Belgorod, one of the staging points of the Russian army, which is advantageous due to its well-documented problems concerning logistics. For now, an attack on Kyiv does not seem likely. Thus,
it is possible to argue that Russia will focus on advancing to the administrative borders of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts to sell the capture of Donbas as a victory to the Russian public. Putin has already ordered to increase the number of Russian military personnel to 1.5 million people. The report of the Finnish military intelligence claimed that only 25% of Russian soldiers stationed on the border with Finland before the war are currently there, showing that Russia is concentrating its forces on defeating Ukraine at the expense of defending its own borders. The Russian airborne troops – VDV, its naval infantry and Wagner units seem to be the most capable and best-equipped ground troops of the Russian army. Unfortunately for the Russians, the VDV has lost upward to 50% of its strength since the beginning of the battle of Kyiv, while the naval infantry suffered heavy losses around Vuhledar, and Wagner lost considerable numbers around Bakhmut. Replacing these losses would be
difficult. At the same time, Wagner’s chief Prigozhin continues conflicting with the Russian establishment on various topics, including minor issues such as whether soldiers should be clean-shaven, which obviously brought Kadyrov into the conversation. But Ukraine has been experiencing internal issues too. On January 18, the Minister of Internal Affairs Denys Monastyrsky and several other officials died in a helicopter crash, which was likely accidental. In a separate episode, Zelensky fired several ministers and heads of regional administrations, along with banning government officials from travelling abroad for personal reasons. He also signed a law earlier adopted by the Ukrainian parliament, increasing
criminal liability for military insubordination, which was supported by the Ukrainian commander in chief Zaluzhny, but was not universally accepted by the Ukrainian public. The longer the war goes, the more internal problems both countries will probably face. The success of their offensives depends significantly on internal political stability, even more so in the case of Ukraine, since this is the only country in this conflict which actually faces an existential threat. The 11th month of the war in Ukraine has not brought us any closer to its resolution. Casualties have been mounting for both sides. A Ukrainian official speaking to Reuters said almost 9k civilians had been killed in Ukraine since February 2022. The chief of the Norwegian Army,
Eirik Kristofferson, suggests an even gloomier number of 30k. He has also claimed that Russia has lost 180k men dead and wounded, while the number for Ukraine is closer to 100k. According to the Oryx blog, the visually confirmed equipment losses for Russia as of February 1 are 1663 tanks, 3540 vehicles, 225 command posts and communication stations, 580 artillery pieces and vehicles, 170 multiple rocket launchers, 69 aircraft, 75 helicopters, and 171 drones. For Ukraine,
these are 453 tanks, 1299 vehicles, 8 command posts and communication stations, 227 artillery pieces and vehicles, 37 multiple rocket launchers, 57 aircraft, 29 helicopters, and 69 drones. Our series will continue in the coming weeks, so make sure you have subscribed and pressed the bell button. Recently we have started releasing weekly patron and youtube member exclusive videos. Join the ranks of patrons and youtube members via the link in the description or by pressing the button under the video to watch these weekly videos, learn about our schedule, get early access to our videos, join our private discord, and much more. Please, consider liking, commenting, and sharing - it helps immensely. This is the Kings and Generals channel, and we will catch you on the next one.