Yesterday’s SOFREP SITREP on the Ukraine-Russia war paints a positive picture of Ukrainian progress as they reclaim two villages in the southern city of Kherson. Yet, today, we’re met with operational silence from the Ukrainian military leaders as they prepare for another onslaught on the counteroffensive campaign.
According to the Institute for the Study of War, the Ukrainian ground forces continue to target Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) and ammunition depots in Central Kherson Oblast. A leaked video on social media also shows proof that the Russian forces have been dismantled in the region as it showed a battered and broken Russian position in Kherson.
😈The broken positions of the Russians in Kherson. pic.twitter.com/DhtQAM7xBk
— Slava Ukraini 🇺🇦 (@Heroiam_Slava) September 5, 2022
It was speculated that some Russian troops thought they were getting ready to surrender because of the lack of communication. This sentiment is echoed by retired US Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, who said that the recent movement on the front lines indicates a “future surrender.” Gen. Hertling also highlighted the poor “soldier discipline and horrible fieldcraft/training” that’s seen in the Russian forces’ performance in the past few months.
Any good military leader will tell you this indicates:
-extremely poor soldier discipline & horrible fieldcraft/training
-extremely bad lower level leadership
-senior leaders who aren’t circulating
-lack of standards
-the potential for disease
-future surrender https://t.co/nA6BX3T2Qe
— Mark Hertling (@MarkHertling) September 5, 2022
And just like our coverage on the memoir of the Russian veteran who was part of the campaign last February, the leadership in the Russian military is so bad it borders on the criminal, which results in the expected low morale among the fighting formations.
On Sept. 5, insider analysis from ISW also showed that Russian forces are rioting and refusing to take arms because of the lack of supply and support on the front lines. Last July, Andrei Rinchino, legal head of the Free Buryatia Foundation, told Russian media MediaZona that there were 17 soldiers detained by Ukrainian forces in the Eastern Luhansk region because they refused to fight. Richino said they had short-term contracts with the Russian defense ministry, but the Russian authorities forced them to participate in the war even after the contract ended. The soldiers also received death threats for refusing to fight.
“I will tell you a secret. The majority in the army, they are dissatisfied with what is happening there, they are dissatisfied with the government and their command, they are dissatisfied with Putin and his policies, they are dissatisfied with the Minister of Defense who did not serve in the army,” said Russian veteran Pavel Filatyev.
Slow Pace in the Coming Weeks
Though Ukraine was able to reclaim some villages in Kherson, the country’s Southern Operational Command had destroyed a Russian pontoon crossing in Lvove (west of Nova Kakhova) and attacked their command post of the 35th Combined Arms Army in the Kakhova Raion. Their strikes also destroyed a Russian ammunition depot in Tomnyna Balka (about 17 miles west of Kherson City). The Ukrainian General Staff reported eliminating 30 Russian servicemen and three tanks along the Antonivsky Bridge in this attack. In addition, geolocated imagery showed Russian convoys waiting to cross the Dnipro River, but they remained vulnerable because of Ukrainian strikes.
On the other hand, Russians are trying to rebuild their frontline forces in the south of Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Milbloggers are claiming the Russian forces are trying to create “kill zones” by allowing the Ukrainian bridgehead to push for the T2207 highway. The Russian Defense Ministry also claims that the Ukrainian forces failed to gain a foothold in areas like the Mykolaiv City-Kryvyi Rhi direction as they (Russian forces) continue to strike Ukrainian reserve units with precision missiles.
There were limited ground attacks in the east of Siversk in the past 24 hours from the Russian army. On the other hand, the Ukrainian General Staff said they were able to repel Russian advances in Hryhorivka, about 8.5 miles northeast of Siversk.
And as for the Kherson region, the Kremlin-installed leader “paused” an official announcement that would inform the residents about joining the Russian army. Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-appointed military-civilian regional administration, said they would like to “pause” for security reasons.
“We prepared for the vote, we wanted to have a referendum in the near future, but because of all the events that have happened now, I think that for now we will pause.”
The pause of the referendum is another indication that in Ukraine’s slow pace, they are pushing Russian defenses to the point of exhaustion and desperation.
Speaking of desperation, Russia has been posting job ads calling out “mentally unstable” people and prisoners of penal colonies to join the military.
And prisoners of penal colonies too. https://t.co/jb3JoKOmIK
— Marco Apostoli (@marcoapostoli) September 5, 2022
“We are most interested in murderers and bandits. You’ll like it in our squad,” wrote Evgeny Prigozhin of the Wagner Group.
Prisoners of Russian penal colonies have been recruited by Wagner Group and sent to Ukraine to die.
“We are most interested in murderers and bandits. You’ll like it in our squad.” Evgeny Prigozhin of the Wagner Group, a friend of Putin. https://t.co/fz7vmdwuAa
— 𝖕𝖚𝖘𝖘𝖞 𝖗𝖎𝖔𝖙💦 (@pussyrrriot) September 5, 2022
There are also reports that the Russian army is attempting to recruit up to 10,000 employees of the state-owned rail service to fight in the war against Ukraine. The rail service employs more than 700,000 people across Russia. We reported over the weekend that sanctions had sidelined tens of thousands of rail cars due to a lack of replacement roller bearings from Sweden, Germany, and the US. Without question, this would reduce the number of trains on the tracks even as it accelerated the wear and tear on the rolling stock still in service. This call for enlisting rail service employees who are being promised some $6,000 a month for a three-month term may indicate a large number of these employees are idle and still drawing a government paycheck. Trying to cut costs, the Russians are offering a lot of money(If you survive to collect it) combined with a short term of service, which will be involuntarily extended given the numerous reports of soldiers being forced to remain on the line after their term expires or being forced to sign long term contracts.
On Russian social media channels, the Ukrainian offensive is being called a failure because there hasn’t been a dramatic breakthrough combined with a collapse of the Russian army in Kherson. This line has been repeated here in the states as well. We like to think by those who predicted Russia would subdue Ukraine in 3 days.
They are all missing something important about the unorthodox way Ukraine has conducted this campaign given their limited military capability. As we have said previously, Ukraine lacks both a tactical and strategic air arm which in the US would be used to cut of lines of communication and supply to an enemy and then pound his front line positions in advance of the general ground offensive. In the first Gulf War, the air campaign lasted more than a month before the tanks and troops started their offensive. When the ground assault started it found Iraqi ground forces starving, thirsty, and mostly eager to surrender if they had not already deserted.
Lacking this important air component to their offensive strategy, the Ukrainians have opted to use HIMARS and other artillery systems to simulate both a strategic and tactical air force for their offensive. They have attacked bridges, roads, and rail lines leading to Kherson. They have relentlessly attacked supply depots, destroying fuel and ammunition. As a result, Russian forces may only be receiving 15-20 of their supply needs to remain combat effective.
Ukraine then put pressure on the entire line of occupation by Russian forces in the region, forcing them to expend ammunition they cannot replace because of their restricted lines of supply. At some point, the fire from their guns will slacken due to shortages and their troops, starved of food and medical supplies will bottom out in terms of morale and combat ability. They will then either desert, shoot their officers and mutiny, or surrender to Ukrainian forces when they advance.
Ukraine is doing its best to keep Russian forces in their trenches, watchful for the next attack, day and night to wear them down while having enough troops to keep their own men fresh, fed, and relatively rested.
Russian counterattacks have been stopped with heavy losses, the recent figures claim some 1,500 Russian troops have fallen in the last week. These are losses Russia will have a hard time replacing.
We have seen some tangential signs that the offensive is making progress.
Videos showing attacks by Turkish-built Bayraktar TB2 drones on Russian positions are beginning to appear again. This could be an indication that Ukraine was withholding them from combat prior to the offensive to increase their numbers, it could also mean a more permissive air environment over the battlefield for their use. We are also seeing videos of Ukrainian military movements in daylight including highly prized artillery systems like HIMARS which are priority targets for the Russians. The fact that they are moving in daylight suggests that eyes in the sky looking for them, or that they cannot get a missile to the location quickly enough if they do locate a HIMARS from the air. Ukraine has built dozens of dummy HIMARS out of wood to spoof the Russians into wasting missiles on these decoys. The result may well be that the Russians are wary of firing a missile at a decoy and therefore miss the opportunity to hit a real one.
This offensive will not be one of large armored formations smashing through enemy defenses with close air support and artillery pulverizing everything in its path in the US model of combined arms offensives, but rather a hybrid model of steady pressure depleting Russian ammunition stocks and the fighting efficiency of an already under-trained and poorly equipped Russian army until it collapses from sheer exhaustion. It is a smart strategy for Ukraine given its limitations on men and equipment.
That will take time.