War in Ukraine: why has Russia announced that it is focusing on the eastern part of the country?

The Russian military said on Friday that it would now focus on the “liberation” of eastern Ukraine, saying it had reached the original goals of its “military operation”. What does this ad really mean? Is Russia changing its strategy?

One month after the start of the invasion, the situation in Ukraine appears to be freezing. The Russian army took territories in the eastern and southern parts of the country, but did not achieve decisive victories. We are even witnessing Ukrainian counter-offensives, such as in the capital Kiev or Kherson, the only major city conquered by the Russians in a month’s war.

The goals announced by Vladimir Putin, namely the “denazification” (which implies a regime change in Kiev) and the “demilitarization” of Ukraine have not been achieved.

Worse, the Russian army suffered significant human casualties, estimated at between 7,000 and 15,000 according to Western estimates. Six Russian generals were even killed in action, according to Kiev, while Moscow acknowledges the deaths of two of them.

A failing army

How can one explain this failure despite the 150,000 Russian soldiers stationed in Ukraine and the use of high-tech weapons?

If the Russian army has already proven itself in Syria, Chechnya or Crimea, it has never been deployed in an area of ​​operation as large as Ukraine, the second country in Europe after territory after Russia. . The conflict therefore reveals major shortcomings.

“Logistics is chaotic”, emphasizes with CNEWS Philippe Gros, researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research and co-author of a note on the military situation in Ukraine. This is evident from the many pictures of tanks that are stuck or running out of fuel, published on social networks in recent weeks.

Heavy damage, but no strategic impact

“The Russians seem to be failing to develop and secure sufficiently robust lines of communication (roads). Their tactical transmissions, which are largely based on commercial radio systems, are subject to jamming and eavesdropping,” adds Philippe Gros.

Purely militarily, “the Russian suitability for combined arms combat (combination of tanks, infantry, artillery, etc.) seems largely lacking,” the expert continues. The Russian army is therefore dependent on airstrikes and missile fire, but “their military effects are reduced, despite the human and material damage they cause”.

The Russian stalemate is also explained by an underestimation of the Ukrainian resistance, determined to repel the assailant and provided with weapons from the West. “The Russian plans and forces were organized for an occupation operation, not for a major combat operation,” Philippe Gros explains.

No Russian withdrawal

As the war drags on, another problem arises. The Russian army lacks weapons. The reform of the military apparatus started in 2008, which favored the modernization of equipment to the detriment of the workforce. The troops stationed in Ukraine thus represent more than 70% of the total Russian land operations force (FOT). The last 30% should stay in Russia in advance to deal with any emergency.

“Moscow is engaging its rare forces that have not yet been requested and is trying to recruit mercenaries (especially Syrians). But if we look a few months ahead, it has no successors,” notes Philippe Gros.

All of these reasons could have made Vladimir Putin focus on eastern Ukraine. But “it is still too early to give this message any value in reorienting the Russian strategy towards more limited goals,” tempered Philippe Gros.

“We must not confuse a conquest campaign with a strike campaign. If the conquest campaign is officially (and currently) concentrated on the Donbass, the strike campaign will continue throughout the territory “, former Colonel and war historian Michel Goya also remembers it Twitter. The Ukrainian humanitarian drama is therefore not coming to an end.

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