Russian Military Strategy

April 19, 2022

Russia launched a broad assault in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region on Monday, attacking a 300-mile line in what Ukraine called "a new phase of the war." Ukraine's General Staff said early Tuesday that "the occupiers made an attempt to break through our defenses along nearly the entire frontline."  Ukraine's regional military administrator in Luhansk, Serhiy Haidi, said Russia took control of the town of Kreminna and another small town, and his forces retreated to regroup. Oleksiy Arestovych, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told Reuters that "the battle for Donbas" is "underway and is going very cautiously," and "the battle will not go in Russia's favor." A senior Pentagon official said Monday that Russian forces "are trying to learn from the lessons" of their failed attempt to capture Kyiv, the capital. "They are moving in heavy artillery. They are moving in command-and-control enablers. They are moving in aviation — particularly rotary aviation support," the official said. Russia has sent 11 more battle tactical groups, or about 50,000 to 60,000 troops, into the Donbas, the Pentagon official said. Jack Watling at Britain's Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank told BBC News that unlike the marshes and dense woodland up north, the Russians will now be fighting "over quite open country, over a very wide area," with smaller towns, giving them room to maneuver and use artillery. The Donbas battle "is unlikely to be dramatically more successful than previous Russian offensives," the Institute for the Study of War said Tuesday, because Russia didn't take a long enough "operational pause" to "reconstitute" their exhausted forces. Russia might "achieve frequent gains," the institute said, but "frequent reports of disastrously low Russian morale and continuing logistics challenges indicate the effective combat power of Russian units in eastern Ukraine is a fraction of their on-paper strength in numbers." Russia "may be able to add more artillery or more logistics, but their culture of combined arms and good battlefield leadership will take them more time to fix," said retired Australian Maj. Gen. Mick Ryan. "But they'd have to be exceedingly stupid not to have learned some lessons from their defeat in the battle of Kyiv." The next 48 hours will tell us a lot, he added. If the Russians gets a serious breakthrough in the Donbas, they adapted, but a continued quagmire would suggest the "Ukrainians are as good as we thought they were."

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