Next Big Battle in Ukraine War Will Be Brutal, Experts Say

THE NEW YORK TIMES – The forces russians and ukrainian are converging in the eastern part of the country, while thousands of civilians have left the region before what threatens to be the next big battle war.

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The fight can look substantially different from the battle for the capital of Ukrainewhich saw Russian forces retreat from areas around Kievleaving destroyed tanks and bombed-out houses in their wake.

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After withdrawing from the areas around Kiev, Russian forces are repositioning themselves for a new offensive in the region of Donbasin eastern Ukraine.

They will operate in known territory there, given Russia’s 2014 invasion, and with shorter supply lines, analysts say.

The Russians will also be able to rely on a vast network of trains to resupply their army – a benefit that did not exist north of Kiev, without a rail network linked to Russia.

Ukraine’s leaders say they are also preparing for a major confrontation. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmitro Kulebaurged the leaders of the nato last week sending reinforcements. Western weapons have arrived in Ukraine in recent days, but Kuleba said more was needed, and quickly. The battle for eastern Ukraine “will remind you of World War II,” he warned.

The center of the clash appears to be near the eastern city of Izium, which Russian units seized last week as they tried to join forces in the Donbas region of southeastern Ukraine. The Russians are also trying to solidify a land corridor between the Donbas and the peninsula of Crimea at the Black Seawhich Russia invaded and annexed in 2014.

There are other signs that the two armies are gearing up for a big fight. Newly released satellite images showed a Russian convoy of hundreds of vehicles moving south through the Ukrainian town of Velykyi Burluk, east of Kharkiv and north of Izium, according to Maxar Technologies, which released the images.

Satellite image shows armored vehicles and trucks of a military convoy moving south through the Ukrainian city of Velykyi Burluk, Ukraine, April 8, 2022
Satellite image shows armored vehicles and trucks of a military convoy moving south through the Ukrainian city of Velykyi Burluk, Ukraine, April 8, 2022 Photograph: via REUTERS / via REUTERS

“This will be a full-scale battle with hundreds of tanks and combat vehicles – it will be extremely brutal,” said Franz-Stefan Gady, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “The scope of military operations will be substantially different from anything the region has seen before.”

Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Moscow has supported separatist uprisings in two eastern provinces – donetsk and luhansk – from the Donbas. The conflict has killed more than 14,000 people in the last eight years.

“Russia is operating on very familiar ground,” said Keir Giles of the Conflict Studies Research Center in the UK. Moscow’s forces “will have learned from their mistakes in the early days of the campaign against Ukraine,” he added.

There is also the added benefit for Russia of railways in the east, Giles said, explaining that the networks are dense and cut through territories already under Russian control.

Still, for all the supposed Russian advantages in the east, some analysts doubt the army will be more effective in eastern Ukraine than in northern Kiev.

Russian forces that attacked the Ukrainian capital were so severely attacked that many of the units are too exhausted to start fighting again, according to Western officials and analysts. They also say many Russian units appear to be suffering from low morale, with some soldiers refusing to fight.

“Normally, a serious army would take months to rebuild, but the Russians seem to be throwing them into this fight,” said Frederick Kagan, director of the Critical Threats project at the American Enterprise Institute, which has partnered with the Institute for the Study of War to tracking the war in Ukraine. “The forces they are mobilizing are very badly treated and their morale appears to be low.”

Kagan said that in the east, Russian forces may encounter some of the same mobility problems they suffered in the invasion of northern Ukraine. Russian forces were largely confined to the country’s roads as they were not able to traverse the terrain.

This left Russian armored vehicles and trucks vulnerable to attacks by Ukrainian forces, which – using Western-supplied anti-tank missiles – destroyed hundreds of Russian vehicles.

For the Russians, transport problems are bound to get worse. Spring rains will turn much of the terrain to mud, making mobility even more difficult.

Kagan noted that Russian forces are “remarkably limited to roads, which can actually make the east more challenging because the road network is much worse than the network around Kiev.”

Ultimately, said Kagan, both armies face major challenges. “The Russians have a lot of strength to exert, but they have a lot of problems,” Kagan said. “Ukrainians have high morale, high motivation. And a lot of determination. But they are outnumbered and they don’t have the infrastructure of a militarized state to support them.” “In my head, it’s an impasse.”

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