Putin’s only frontline offensive falling apart despite 100k troops and 800 tanks

Ukraine: Drone footage shows fighting near Bilohorivka

While Ukraine launches at least three counter offensive operations across the 600-mile front line, Russian soldiers are staging their own attack along the most northeasterly point of the conflict.

A Ukrainian colonel commanding forces in Luhansk Oblast said last week that they had seen evidence of 100,000 Russian soldiers, as well as 800 tanks, positioned in the region, warning that a “big offensive” was incoming.

Their target, the city of Kupyansk, was liberated last September after a sweeping counter attack from Ukraine in Kharkiv Oblast, where Russian forces initially crossed over the border at the start of the “special military operation” last February.

Russian forces have been making incremental gains roughly 15 miles outside of the city over the last few months as Ukrainian brigades make inroads into fortifications further south.

But for all their manpower, this offensive will likely fail, an ex-US intelligence director formerly based in Europe has told Express.co.uk, and their slim prospects for success boil down to three main reasons.

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Steven Horrell, a former director of a military intelligence centre for the US European Command at RAF Molesworth, Cambridgeshire, now a senior fellow at the Centre for European Policy Analysis, spoke at length this week with Express.co.uk about the state of the Ukrainian front line.

Nearly two months into the Ukrainian counter offensive, the focus of coverage has been on the two central axes of attack in the middle of the front line.

But in the far east, Russian forces are staging an attack of their own along the Svatove-Kreminna line and further north around Kupyansk.

Footage dated July 31, showed Russian forces had made “marginal avadances south of Bilohorivka”, a small town roughly six miles south of Kreminna, according to the latest report from the Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank based in Washington DC.

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In the dense forests nearby, Ukrainian forces such as the 67th Separate Mechanized Brigade were filmed in recent weeks battling in close proximity with the Russians.

But Vladimir Putin’s Luhansk forces, led by the specialist Zapad Group, are failing to make any serious gains despite pro-Russian military blogger claims.

Mr Horrell said there were three reasons why there had been little movement along those lines, which have been frozen for months, and why Russians prospects of success remained “pretty low”.

Firstly, he said Russian forces are having “the same problems they have had for the past year and a half: they are poorly trained”.

A lot of those fighters are military conscripts with “just a few weeks of training” who have been fast-tracked into Ukraine as inexperienced soldiers; complex, combined arms attacks are proving too difficult to master.

Ukraine: 14th Mechanized Brigade mortar units fire at Russian forces

Beyond that, the Russians have failed to secure air and fire superiority, a tactic which they have relied upon for decades, razing territory to the ground before sending in their soldiers.

Ukrainian forces in Luhansk and Kharkiv have employed “counter battery fire against Russian artillery” with devastating effects, meaning Putin’s troops “don’t have what they would want, which would be advanced fires to support their advancing troops”.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially, the “terrain favours Ukraine” up in the northeastern areas of the front line.

The Russians are currently stuck behind the Zherebets River, which stretches 55 miles across the concave front line in eastern Ukraine. Behind them, on raised positions, await the Ukrainians.

The winding frozen front line almost perfectly runs parallel to this waterway, since to attempt to cross it would leave Russian soldiers “very vulnerable to artillery fire from the Ukrainian positions on the heights behind that river”.

The Ukrainian “units chosen” for the fight along the Svatove-Kreminna line are also “defensive” in nature compared to the more attacking combined arms counter offensive brigades ready to deploy further south.

Russian milblogger sources have repeatedly claimed that their forces have crossed the Zherebets River but no footage has appeared.

Ultimately, despite the vast amount of Ukrainian forces being committed elsewhere, Putin’s only “major offensive” is failing.

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