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Russia’s war in Ukraine stalls amid casualties, equipment losses



Russian-held areas and troop movements

Separatist-

controlled

area

Russian troops are trying to advance within

artillery range central Kyiv.

Russian troops in the south moved north towards

Krivoy Rog.

Russian troops continued to fight for the capture

Mariupol.

Areas of control as of March 19

Sources: Institute for the Study of War,

AEI Critical Threat Project post-report

territories held by the Russians

and troop movements

Russian troops are trying to advance within range of artillery of the central Kyiv.

Separatist-

controlled

area

Russian troops continued to fight for the capture Mariupol.

Russian troops in the south moved north towards Krivoy Rog.

Crimea

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Operating nuclear power plants with energy capabilities

Areas of control as of March 19

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI Critical Threat Project, Post-report.

territories held by the Russians

and troop movements

Russian troops are trying to advance within range of artillery of the central Kyiv.

Separatist-

controlled

area

Russian troops in the south moved north towards Krivoy Rog.

Russian troops continued to fight for the capture Mariupol.

Crimea

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Operating nuclear power plants with energy capabilities

Areas of control as of March 19

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI Critical Threat Project, Post-report.

Videos of burnt tanks and abandoned convoys are constantly broadcast on Ukrainian social media accounts, along with footage of dead Russian soldiers, Russian soldiers surrendering, starving Russian soldiers stealing chickens from local farmers, and, increasingly, the mutilated bodies of Ukrainian civilians killed by rockets and artillery shelling.

The ferocity of the Russian advance only intensified as the advance slowed as Russia replaced battlefield progress with heavy bombing of civilians. Ordinary Ukrainians living in towns surrounded or partially surrounded by Russian troops are paying the price for military operations that began to falter in the first hours.

But in the absence of significant progress on the ground, and given the scale of losses suffered in their ranks, the Russian military campaign could soon become unsustainable, with troops unable to move forward due to a lack of manpower, supplies and ammunition, analysts and officials. say.

According to them, the next two weeks could play a decisive role in determining the outcome of the entire war. Unless Russia can quickly improve its supply lines, bring in reinforcements and maintain the waning morale of the troops now on the ground, its goals may become unattainable.

“I don’t think Ukrainian forces will be able to push Russian forces out of Ukraine, but I also don’t think Russian forces will be able to take much more territory in Ukraine,” said Rob Lee, a former US Marine who is now a senior fellow at the Institute for Research foreign policy.

Saturday’s assessment by the Institute for the Study of War went even further. “Ukrainian forces have been defeated in the initial campaign of this war,” the statement said. The conflict, he said, is now deadlocked.

Events on the battlefield could turn in a different direction, for example, if the Russians succeed in capturing the beleaguered and desperate city of Mariupol, freeing their forces to support an offensive elsewhere.

But in a widely circulated article this week, a retired US general and a European military academic argue that Russian forces are close to what military strategists call the “climax” of their offensive, that is, they have reached the limits of their capabilities. ability to fight the war they intended to fight.

“The Russian war of conquest in Ukraine is now entering a critical phase; the race to reach the pinnacle of Russia’s offensive capability and Ukraine’s defense capabilities,” wrote retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges and Julian Lindley-French, chairman of the Alphen Group think tank in the Netherlands. They advocate the relentless efforts of the US and its allies to supply military equipment to Ukraine in the hope that Ukrainian forces can use this “window of opportunity” to secure concessions at the negotiating table.

“I don’t think Russia has the time, manpower, or ammunition to support what they’re doing now,” Hodges, who now works at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, said in an interview. The assessment, he said, suggests that the West continues to build up military support for Ukraine, thereby allowing Ukrainian forces to maintain the pace of their resistance.

The Russian armed forces continue to be overwhelmingly superior in numbers and technology compared to the smaller and more lightly armed Ukrainian armed forces. Russia could still turn the tide if it could replenish its forces and supplies, Lindley-French, Hodges’ co-author, warned.

“It would be a big mistake to think that Russia will not be able to withstand this war,” he said. “They can’t now, but they could fix it” by adjusting their tactics and bringing in reinforcements.

However, he added, “if the Russians can’t really improve their game and start rotating [troop] connection to the front line, this particular force is facing a problem.”

US officials refuse to make public predictions about the course of the war, but say there are clear signs that the Russians are struggling to maintain the existing forces they have and are struggling to find reinforcements and resolve their logistical problems.

Calls for Chinese military assistance, while a failed attempt to recruit Syrians and talk of reinforcements from other parts of Russia and separatist territory of South Ossetia in Georgia, have so far failed to show evidence fresh troops are on their way, officials say. say.

“The very fact that they are talking about resupply and resupply suggests they are starting to worry about longevity here,” said a senior U.S. Department of Defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive topics.

“It is rather unusual that three weeks later they still have the same logistics and supply issues and that they are considering additional ways to overcome this shortage from outside Ukraine,” the official added.

Officials and experts say Russian troops, who initially broke into Ukraine from at least four directions, expected to be greeted as liberators and were not prepared for a protracted battle. Instead, the Russians have faced fierce resistance and are now sprawled across multiple fronts, bogged down in intense sieges and without pre-planned supply lines to sustain a protracted war, officials and experts say.

The current map of the battlefield indicates the extent of the difficulties, Li said.

He said it was clear from the way Russian forces moved in the early hours of the war that their key objectives were to take Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkov, connecting the occupied Donbas region with the port city of Odessa along southern Ukraine. coast and, most importantly, a lightning strike from the north to capture the capital Kyiv.

More than three weeks later, Russian troops have still not achieved any of these goals.

They have not succeeded in completely encircling the northeastern city of Kharkov, although it is only a few miles from the Russian border. Their drive to capture the port city of Odessa was halted by fierce Ukrainian resistance at the gates of Nikolaev. Their attempts to tie down the Russian-annexed territory of Crimea were trapped in a grueling and increasingly bloody siege of Mariupol.

The Russians are making headway in the east, in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which Russia recognized as independent republics on the eve of the war and which have been partly occupied by Russian-backed forces since 2014. the original ambitious target of the invasion.

Russian hopes to encircle Kyiv, let alone capture it, are beginning to dwindle, Lee said. Russian troops are stuck about 15 miles from the city, and although US officials say Russia is moving rear units to the front in anticipation of a renewed offensive on the capital, the front line has not moved.

Meanwhile, the Russians are dying at an increasingly unsustainable rate, Li said. While Russia still has huge manpower reserves, he said, it has already committed most of its combat-ready forces, and they are almost certainly bearing the brunt of the losses.

There are no confirmed casualty figures, and Russia has not updated the 498 death toll it announced a week after the war began. But of the Russian army’s 168 battalion tactical groups, or BTGs, 120 are already fighting on the ground, representing about 100,000 soldiers out of a total of 190,000 sent to Ukraine. That means Russia has already committed 75 percent of its combat-capable forces, US officials say.

Western intelligence estimates that it is likely that at least 7,000 Russians were killed and up to 20,000 wounded, and assuming that the fighting forces bear the brunt of the losses, this could mean up to a third of the main fighting. The forces are now disabled, Lee said.

“This is a huge loss and you cannot easily make up for it,” he said. Russia could bring in new conscripts or call in more reservists, but that would weaken the capabilities of the entire force, “and that’s not in Russia’s interest,” he said.

Ukrainian forces are also suffering casualties, although it is not publicly known how many exactly because they have not released any figures either. The longer the war drags on, the more dangerous their position will become and the more likely Russia will overcome its initial mistakes, said Jack Watling of London’s Royal United Services Institute.

But, he noted, Ukrainian forces appear to remain highly motivated, while there are clear signs that the morale of Russian forces continues to decline, he said. Russian forces continue to surrender, abandon their vehicles and show little sign of initiative in the areas they do control — signs that “these forces are poorly motivated,” he said.

As Russia’s offensive capabilities decline, the risk of rising civilian casualties is high. The ISW assessment says the stalemate is likely to become “very violent and bloody” because Russian forces are likely to rely on city bombing to exert pressure.

According to US officials, there are signs that Russia is running out of precision-guided missiles, meaning Russian forces will also increasingly resort to using so-called “dumb bombs” that are dropped indiscriminately on civilian areas to force them into submission. .

According to officials and analysts, Ukraine is unlikely to be able to push Russia out of the territory it has so far seized. But the Russians’ current difficulties open up the possibility that the Ukrainians could at least fight them to the bitter end, thus putting pressure on Russia to negotiate a solution.

Now the main question has shifted from how long it will take the Russians to conquer Ukraine, to the question “can Ukraine fight Russia to a stalemate?” said the Western official. “At the moment they are doing well.”

“The next two weeks are going to be pretty crucial,” Watling said. He predicted that the war would not be over in two weeks, and all signals from Moscow are that the Russians are more likely to double down than down, making the war deadlier for the Ukrainians, even if it moves more slowly.

“The odds are strongly stacked in favor of the Russians. This is their war to lose. The reason why they do not achieve their goal is largely due to their own incompetence, lack of coordination,” he said.

“It really comes down to whether the Russians are going to act together.”

William Booth contributed to this report.



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