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Stagnation with losses on the front line ZDFtoday

Moscow prepares air campaign: stagnation with frontline losses

by Christian Mölling, András Rácz

02/18/2023 | 07:47 Russia registers few territorial gains in Ukraine and prepares for a major air campaign. Russia is apparently determined to take Bakhmut. Bakhmut is hotly contested – the Ukrainian government has ordered the evacuation of the remaining civilians Source: Portal, Iryna Rybakova Russia is again carrying out attacks across Ukraine and has come up with a special tactic to do so. In positional combat, Russia has the best supply of ammunition, but at the same time records the greatest losses. Moreover, this week and next – almost a year after the start of the war – the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut will play a special symbolic role.

Trench battles and high Russian losses

This week, the Russian offensive has only managed to gain a little ground. There was widespread trench warfare on the border between Luhansk and Kharkiv and in the Donbass.

Russian forces repeatedly tried to break through Ukrainian positions. In doing so, they relied on “human wave” tactics, likely due to their lack of tanks and armored fighting vehicles. This approach leads to extremely high losses among attackers.

One year of war in Ukraine – chronology of events:

Baerbock No jet fighter debate zdfde02/17/2023 | 06:39 minutes

Meanwhile, Russian artillery continues to outnumber Ukrainian artillery. Russia is capable of firing three to five times as much ammunition per day. Similar to recent weeks, the majority of Ukrainian casualties are attributed to Russian artillery.

Russia is apparently preparing an air campaign

A potentially new element in Russian tactics is the fact that Moscow is deploying large numbers of planes and helicopters close to the Ukrainian border. This could indicate that Russia is preparing for a massive and concentrated air campaign to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defenses, paving the way for more efficient air support for Russian troops.

However, this is unlikely to happen in the coming days as the weather continues to deteriorate. A week of heavy snow and low temperatures is forecast, which is likely to slow both Russia’s ground offensive and air operations.

… is Director of Research at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin, where he directs the Security, Defense and Armaments program. He has researched and published on the topics of security and defence, weaponry and technology, stabilization and crisis management for over 20 years. He regularly reviews military developments in the Ukraine conflict for ZDFheute.

… is an associate member of the Security and Defense program at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin. He researches and publishes on militaries in Eastern Europe and Russia and hybrid warfare.

The fight for Bachmut as a symbol

According to reports, Russia intends to capture Bakhmut by February 24, the first anniversary of the all-out attack on Ukraine. Of course, Kiev is also aware of this intention and is not willing to cede this success to Vladimir Putin. As a result, Ukrainian forces still hold Bakhmut, although their situation is gradually deteriorating. The city is still not completely surrounded, but Russian forces are able to keep the city’s two main supply routes under constant fire.

The situation in Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, is dramatic – Kiev urged civilians to flee:

The only remaining route into the city is a minor country road, but this too is within range of Russian mortars, making resupply and evacuation of the wounded increasingly difficult. Still, Ukrainian forces are determined to hold the city for a while longer, at least until February 24th. After that, however, the defense of the ruins of ancient Bakhmut will largely lose political importance. As soon as the position becomes untenable, the Ukrainian military will withdraw from the city in an orderly manner in order to preserve as much combat capability as possible and avoid encirclement.

On February 17, the Ukrainian government ordered the immediate evacuation of Bakhmut’s remaining civilians. That suggests fighting could soon reach the city centre, where the few thousand remaining civilians have found shelter.

Russia’s war against Ukraine determines the Munich Security Conference:

New tactics in rocket attacks

On February 16, Russia launched another devastating drone and missile attack against Ukrainian infrastructure. Several months later, the city of Lemberg in western Ukraine was hit again. The Russian attacks included two new tactical elements: first, the cruise missiles were fired at night, making it difficult for Ukrainian air defenses to repel them.

Second, Russia deployed a series of foil-covered decoy balloons, ostensibly to distract and confuse Ukrainian anti-aircraft radars. As this is a cheap but supposedly efficient method, Moscow is likely to continue to use it in the future.

The Auslandsjournal Spezial recounts the events of February 24, 2022, when the Russian army invaded its neighboring Ukraine.

02/15/2023 | 43:39 minutes

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