Ukraine Update: As Russia falls back toward defensive lines, how much force is Ukraine holding back?

Ukraine Update: As Russia falls back toward defensive lines, how much force is Ukraine holding back?

On Monday, Ukraine continued to drive deeper into territory on the southern front that Russia has occupied for months. It also broadened the scope of that attack, widening the scale of the counteroffensive even as Russian forces tumbled back toward the first of an extensive set of defensive lines Russian forces have constructed across southern Ukraine.

When the first of these lines was being built many kilometers behind the front lines, disconnected from any current action, they seemed like a joke. They seemed like an admission that Russia would be surrendering big swathes of the Ukrainian countryside, and a retreat behind the same technology that had failed to hold back mechanized forces in World War II, much less the 21st century.

That first part remains true. Russia’s construction of defensive lines well behind the front was a signal of what was clear—their ability to continue offensive operations was limited, if not culminated, and for months ahead Russia would be playing defense. The second part … not so much. Those unsecured dragon’s teeth and earthen bulwarks may have seemed funny flowing out at the Putin-ot Line in Luhansk. But over the winter Russia has kept its trenching machines and concrete factories running. All those lines are a lot less hilarious when they’re connected to a network of mine fields, dragon’s teeth, and anti-vehicle trenches in front of concrete pillboxes and sheltered artillery positions.

Ukraine has made good progress fighting the Russian forces in front of those lines, but it may not be good enough for what happens next.

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