Doubts in Ukraine about readiness for new offensive – WaPo
Kiev’s forces have been so “degraded” by a year of fighting against Russia that some Ukrainian officials doubt their ability to execute a planned spring offensive, the Washington Post has reported.
The conflict has taken many of the most seasoned Ukrainian troops, with the arrival of inexperienced draftees changing the profile of the country’s military, the US paper pointed out on Monday.
US and European officials have estimated that up 120,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or wounded since the launch of Russia’s military operation last February, it added. Kiev keeps information abouts losses secret, even from its Western backers.
“Unfortunately, they are all already dead or wounded,” a battalion commander in Ukraine’s 46th Air Assault Brigade, identified only by his call sign, Kupol, told the paper about his experienced troops. And the poorly trained rookies that he’s been getting recently “just drop everything and run” as soon as the battle begins, the commander added.
Another problem faced by Ukrainian troops is a shortage of ammunition, including artillery shells and mortar bombs, the Washington Post said, citing those fighting on the ground.
“You’re on the front line. They’re coming toward you, and there’s nothing to shoot with,” Kupol said, describing the situation.
“We don’t have the people or weapons,” an unnamed senior Ukrainian government official told the paper. He explained that casualties incurred by the side mounting an offensive are usually two or three times higher than on the defending side. “We can’t afford to lose that many people,” the official added.
“If you have more resources, you more actively attack. If you have fewer resources, you defend more. We’re going to defend. That’s why if you ask me personally, I don’t believe in a big counteroffensive for us. I’d like to believe in it, but I’m looking at the resources and asking, ‘With what?’ Maybe we’ll have some localized breakthroughs,” the source said.
The official called the number of tanks promised to Kiev by the US and its allies “symbolic,” while some of other officials who talked to the paper didn’t believe that Western weapons would be able to reach the frontline in time.
The newspaper also cited a US official, who said that – despite some gains on the battlefield recently – ammunition, manpower and motivation problems were even worse on the Russian side. However, no facts were provided to back this claim.
As for Ukraine, the stakes will be “particularly high” in the coming months as Kiev’s Western supporters watch to see if the country can reclaim the initiative, the Washington Post noted.