Trying to Take Their Country Back
The embattled nation of Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive in an attempt to retake control of their homeland and drive Russian forces back to theirs. The United States Department of Defense defines a counteroffensive as “a large-scale offensive undertaken by defensive forces to seize the initiative from the attacking force.” In this instance, the “attacking force” would be the Russians, who launched their invasion of Ukraine on February 24th of this year.
In his address to the nation on August 29th, President Volodomyr Zelensky made it clear to his fellow citizens that he wanted the Russian invaders out of Ukraine. Here is part of what he had to say:
“Ukraine is returning its own. And it will return the Kharkiv region, Luhansk region, Donetsk region, Zaporizhzhia region, Kherson region, Crimea, definitely our entire water area of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov – from Zmiinyi Island to the Kerch Strait. This will happen. This is ours. And just as our society understands it, I want the occupiers to understand it, too. There will be no place for them on Ukrainian land.”
He goes on to mention that he will not, of course, inform them of his exact plans because that would be irresponsible.
Zelensky then addresses Russian fighters on an individual level by letting them know,
“If they want to survive, it is time for the Russian military to flee. Go home. If you are afraid to return to your home in Russia – well, let such occupiers surrender, and we will guarantee them compliance with all norms of the Geneva Conventions. If they do not listen to me, they will deal with our defenders…”
It’s a clear warning, get out while you still can because we are coming for you.
That was on Monday; by Tuesday, according to WION News, “heavy fighting” began in “almost the entire territory” of the Kherson region. Russian forces have occupied the Ukrainian territory of Kherson Oblast since March 2nd, 2022.
As I research this piece, I’m reminded by The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) that “Military operations on the scale of this counteroffensive do not succeed or fail in a day or a week.” In looking at a deeper dive conducted by the ISW, they tell us that the Ukrainian military leaders are well aware that they don’t have the firepower to launch a traditional blitz-like operation to quickly overwhelm Russian forces. That’s not their plan.
As we have noted multiple times on SOFREP, the Ukrainians have been fighting an intelligent war by conducting targeted attacks on enemy command and control centers and doing their best to destroy Russian resupply routes and materials. They’ve likely picked the present time to launch their counteroffensive as recent attempts to “soften” enemy troops have been somewhat successful. The timing also seems to have a psychological angle as it coincides with Ukraine’s Day of Remembrance of the Defenders of Ukraine.
The Day of Remembrance
According to the AnydayGuide, the Day of Remembrance is a relatively new holiday, only added to the Ukrainian calendar in 2019. It is set aside to honor their military members who have died while protecting their nation’s independence and sovereignty. Historically, Ukrainian warriors have been fighting and dying for that cause, against numerous enemies, for hundreds of years. August 29th was explicitly chosen to remember the events of the Battle of Ilovaisk, where Russian forces killed over 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers in 2014.
Briefly, on the tenth of the month, the Ukrainians first attempted to capture the city of Ilovaisk from the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). Over the next two weeks, the Ukrainians found themselves outnumbered and surrounded. They had suffered heavy losses, and some refer to the killings as a massacre. Finally, on the twenty-ninth, an agreement was reached between representatives of the DPR, Russian President Putin, and Ukrainian officials. This ended the bloodshed and allowed the surviving fighters to exit to safety.
Timeline and Considerations
The current counteroffensive is unlikely to be resolved in a matter of a few days, according to IWC. Instead, they feel we will see hostilities continue over the next several weeks or months as the Ukrainians methodically work to pick away at weak sectors while preserving as much of their infrastructure as possible. CNN reports that US officials have suggested to Kyiv that limiting the scope of the operation would work in their best interests. This would prevent concurrent engagements on multiple fronts, which can be hard to manage. As a result, the Ukrainians initially considered utilizing a much broader counteroffensive than the west recommended.
Brigadier General Pat Ryder recently told CNN, “the United States has routine military-to-military dialogue at multiple levels with Ukraine. We will not comment on the specifics of those engagements. Generally speaking, we provide the Ukrainians with information to help them better understand the threats they face and defend their country against Russian aggression. Ultimately, the Ukrainians are making the final decisions for their operations.”
US officials now say troop levels and weapons systems are more evenly matched up between the two warring nations than in the past. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Washington is sending several weapons systems to Kyiv that are more suitable to close in fighting than, say, HIMARS or 155 howitzers. That lethal aid package includes 120 mm mortar systems (and 20,000 rounds of ammo), 1,000 additional Javelin, hundreds of AT4 anti-armor systems, and things like claymore anti-personnel mines and C-4 plastic explosives.
The Ukrainians, over the past several months, have become better warfighters. They’ve quickly caught on to our weapons and put them to good use. To quote a senior NATO official, “It shows you what the sustained training and weapons provision can do when the force is highly motivated and capable in its employment.” Yes, indeed. The Ukrainians are fighting for their country, families, and way of life. In many cases, Russian forces fight for just a few hundred dollars a month. This is why they have gone AWOL in droves.
Keep an Eye Out for False Flag Operations
You probably haven’t heard of this in the mainstream media. Still, yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) put out an official statement saying, according to intel from ISW, that Ukrainian forces are planning artillery attacks on schools in Kherson, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Luhansk, and Donetsk Oblasts. To be clear, this is Moscow telling the world, “Be advised, the Ukrainians are prepping to shell their own children in the near future.”
This gives me chills up my spine, to read the Russians may be premeditating the killing of children for the express purpose of blaming it on their enemy. Not only that, but the Russians have also provided a list of all the addresses and exact locations of all schools in the occupied areas noted above and said they are doing it to “ensure the safety of students and teachers.”
School in Ukraine, as in many places, begins in early September.
ISW paints three scenarios of why the Russians may have made the above statements.
- This may be preparation for a true false flag attack. The Russians shell the schools, then turn around and say, “See, we told you the Ukrainians were going to do that and blame it on us.”
- They could use it to excuse the anticipated extremely low school enrollment for the upcoming year. Many Ukrainian families with school-aged children have understandably fled occupied territories, and the Russians do not want to face up to that reality.
- The Russians may be trying to develop a “no strike” list by specifically identifying these potential targets. They know the Ukrainians are not going to blow up schools. They may use these structures for military purposes, such as command and control centers or weapons depots.
The Kyiv Post provides recent intelligence updates from the British Defense Agency. They reiterate how Ukrainians continue using longer-range weapons systems (such as HIMARS) to strike across the occupied zone, cutting off resupply routes. A senior advisor to President Zelensky, Oleksiy Arestovych, is quoted by WION as saying Russian defenses had been “broken through in a few hours.” He noted that they were shelling ferries used by Russia to resupply areas on the west bank of the Dnipro River.
The British Defense Agency also commented on a video showing Ukrainian aircraft flying with high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs) in place. In addition, Russians have reportedly recovered fragments of these weapons in the past. Finally, they note that the Russian military relies heavily on ground-based air defenses, such as the radar systems that HARMs are designed to destroy.
#Ukraine: The Ukrainian Air Force has released video showing for the first time ever US-supplied AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missiles being fired from their MiG-29 jets.
They seem to be fired in pairs from the inboard pylons where R-27 AAM would otherwise be carried. pic.twitter.com/o0OMTiwnow
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) August 30, 2022
I spent a couple of hours watching the talking heads on TV last night, and most agree that not much information is being released to the public about the level of progress being made in the battle for southeast Ukraine. Military think tanks such as ISW state, “Ukrainian military officials maintained operational silence and have not revealed any additional details about the counteroffensive…”
However, they have reported that the Ukrainian Southern Command has taken out two command posts, more ammunition supply points, a radar station, and at least one anti-aircraft system. They continue to block Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in an attempt to cut frontline troops off from their commanders. There are reports on Telegram of how Ukrainian forces have demolished a convoy in Oleshky. A town about 9 km south of Kherson and on the left bank of the Dnipro river.
If they have not done so yet, I feel that the Ukrainians will try to take out dug-in Russian positions around Kherson International Airport in Chornobaivka without damaging the functionality of that airport as the Ukrainians fully intend to use it again as their own.
The actions of the Ukrainian military, the consistent strikes to the center of the Kherson Oblast, and their other actions noted above, indicate strongly that they are working to push their enemy to the left bank of the Dnipro river and back towards mother Russia. This is consistent with President Zenelsky’s recently stated goals.
Russia is brushing off Ukrainian aggressions like a minor annoyance in some instances, but the reality of the situation is being captured on video, such as the one below showing perhaps the most intelligent group of soldiers in the Russian Army flying the white flag of surrender and saving their lives.
⚡️ Attention! Profanity. Russian soldiers raise a white flag near the village of Pravdyne, Kherson region. Video from social networks. pic.twitter.com/SFQFsjAk9J
— Flash (@Flash43191300) September 1, 2022
Trying to predict the outcome or course of a war is like trying to guess who will win a football game. There are just so many variables that you never know for sure. But some aspects of what’s to come are for certain.
- Winter is coming, and it must be prepared for now. There will be a new refugee crisis because, as reported by The Guardian, “there is no gas heating available for apartment blocks in Donetsk province and other frontline areas.” Humanitarian officials predict as many as 2 million people may need to leave Ukraine for Poland to survive the winter.
- The Russians view the onset of winter as giving them the upper hand as they still control the massive Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (the largest in Europe), which they could turn off at will, further freezing out Ukrainian citizens.
- If Ukraine is to succeed in pushing Russia out of its country, it can only be done with ongoing western military aid. Had we not provided the aid we have so far, Ukraine would have fallen to the Russians months ago. We’ve aided in getting them this far; it would be irresponsible not to see this through. There is also an enormous and growing need for humanitarian aid. The Russians have made a point of destroying the homes of Ukrainian citizens either by strikes on large apartment complexes or carpet bombing entire residential communities. Almost half a year ago, homes that were destroyed around Kyiv are still in ruins and will be fro some time. There is no money now to rebuild. Families are living in schools and other large communal shelters.
As we help them win the war, we must also look forward to assisting them in rebuilding and strengthening their future defenses such that Russia does not pose such a threat. I believe that part of this should include them becoming a full NATO member.
Putin must realize that he can never bully his neighbors in such a manner again.