By Alex Sabahat
With the conflict between the sovereign nations of Russia and Ukraine having started over 580 days ago and shows no signs of ending soon, it is surprising how media coverage has died down with time. With autumn rolling in and winter just around the corner, here is an update on what has happened in the last couple of months, and what will likely happen as winter approaches the front lines.
First, Ukraine is continuing an armored assault on the town of Robotyne. They have made significant progress in the last couple months on some very entrenched and fortified Russian positions causing the recapture of the small town and some of the surrounding areas. This is a very important accomplishment as it is widening the gap in the front lines of the Russian defenses, and it is crucial to cut off Russia’s supply lines to Crimea. However, they are not out of the woods yet, as they have still not breached through the last of the Russian fortifications in the area. However, if they do, it will be a large victory for the Ukrainians, and divisive in the outcome of the conflict. However, to complete the encirclement of Crimea, they will still need to push all the way to the Sea of Azov, a long and difficult task.
Next, the battle of Bakhmut has been one of the bloodiest battles in European history. It has been described as a meat grinder by the BBC, and has an estimated number of casualties exceeding 160,000 – not including civilians. All while Ukraine still has to make up the ground it lost back in may. However, the Ukrainians are now starting to make some slow progress by capturing some villages south of the city. The problem is, Ukraine’s defenses are weakening in the area due to Russia’s repeated deployment of paratroopers in the area.
Additionally, Ukraine has started some of its first counter attacks on the Crimean peninsula. The issue is, it is nowhere near recapturing Crimea, there is still significant progress in the area with them having made missile strikes against the port of Sevastopol, an offshore oil platform, and a couple of “advanced” S-400 surface to air missile sites. These strikes weaken Russia’s defenses in the area, and boost morale for Ukrainian soldiers. However, they are still far away from ending the war with Russia, as Zelenski has made it clear that he does not plan to enter peace agreements with Russia until he has won back all of the seized land.
Finally, as winter approaches it is very likely that the advances and counter advances are likely to increase. They will slow down significantly due to vehicles getting stuck in mud and snow, and the increased maintenance needed for vehicles to deal with the wet, cold, and muddy conditions. It will also make it harder for troops to keep warm and more difficult to navigate the terrain, slowing foot advances as well. However, this is not unexpected as the same thing happened last winter, and in most winters where there has been fighting in Ukraine and the surrounding areas. The problem is that Russia has an advantage from cold weather combat training. However, this might not be enough, as Ukraine has also got a similar advantage, as well as knowing the terrain better, and knowing the conditions that come through that area better. This means that it is still going to be incredibly difficult to move vehicles and personnel around for both sides due to the mud and snow. Because of this we should see a major Ukrainian counter attack to break through the Russian defenses before winter sets in and it becomes almost impossible to mount a counter attack. If the Ukrainians do not manage to break through, Russia will be able to reinforce their defenses by spring and set up new fortifications making the chances of a Ukrainian breakthrough much lower. This is what we should expect to see in the coming months for the Russian Ukrainian War.
Image credit, BBC news: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60506682