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Ukrainian forces capture the “sad” retreating Russian troops

S.some of the Russian forces driven out of the Ukrainian Kharkiv region fled back across the border, although an elite tank regiment tasked with carrying out the first strike against NATO and defending Moscow halted its retreat in Donetsk. The main Kremlin fortress in the northwest has fallen, and the road to Donbass has been recovered by Ukraine.

Russian troops left on the eastern and southern fronts in Ukraine are battered, degraded in military terms, and morale is low. The huge gains made by Ukrainian forces recovered over 6,000 square kilometers (2,300 square miles) of territory in 12 days – four times the size of Greater London or the size of Denmark, according to various comparisons.

The time and tide of conflict are changing and the beginning of the end may now come. The government of Volodymyr Zelensky called on the West to accelerate the supply of weapons in order to keep the pace of the offensive. US officials also reported that discussions are underway to provide Kiev with combat aircraft, although this will not happen in the near future.

NATO has allocated more than $ 8 billion (£ 6.9 billion) to military equipment for Ukraine, of which 4.6 billion comes from the US. Senior Western officials attending the conference over the weekend in Kiev confirmed that several NATO governments are in talks with manufacturers to increase production.

The advent of equipment such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMAR) and the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) undoubtedly changed the space of the battle, halting the seemingly inexorable Russian progress in the Donbas to the east.

However, even with the use of more advanced weapons, it will not be quick, and the next phase of regaining occupied territories will still be bloody and bitter, not necessarily in one-way traffic.

Three months ago, when Ukrainian troops marched into the newly liberated towns and villages around Kharkiv after months of beating, the mood was understandably turbulent.

One unit was sent photos from comrades who reached the Russian border, and the photos spread on social media. Similar emotions arose on Monday when the Ukrainian government announced that some of its forces had reached the northeastern border with Russia.

Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskij, commander of the Ukrainian land forces, warned against excessive optimism three months ago. Russian attacks in some of the liberated villages while we were there showed that they did not go that far. Then they returned to the artillery range of Kharkiv and began shelling the city again.

Last week, General Colonel Syrskij was in the recaptured city of Balaklya. As the Ukrainian flag was raised in the main square, he said: “Today we are finishing the liberation of Balaklija, the first major city on our offensive. I’m sure it won’t be the last city. Kupiańsk, Izium and many others are ahead of us. ”

In a matter of days, Kupiansk, a key point on the Russian supply route where many railroads meet, was captured, followed by Izium, the main Russian military stronghold on that front, stretching on the road to Donbas.

Colonel General – the old Soviet rank abolished by Ukraine except Syrski – is to be much more certain this time that the Russians will not be able to return to the Kharkiv region.

Captain Nikolai, serving in the horse infantry regiment, took part in the last counteroffensive of Kharkiv. There were differences this time, he felt. “We found that more and more from the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (DNR and LPR) and fewer Russians, and they were just as badly trained and armed as usual,” he said.

“We caught a lot and they were in a sad condition. Some of them said they were dragged from the streets, from shops, to fight. Whatever the truth was, they didn’t want to be here.

Another officer, Lieutenant Oleksei, added: “Overall, there were fewer of them. We found that they mask the numbers in some positions, trying to show that there were more than there were. When we got into position, it turned out that they had no shortage of weapons, ammunition, but fewer soldiers than we expected. ”

A high-ranking Russian-appointed official in the Kharkiv region, Vitaly Ganchev, said that during the counter-offensive, Ukrainian forces outnumbered Russians eight to one. Ukrainian officials deny that the difference was so large, but admitted that the Russians moved a significant number south in response to another Ukrainian offensive on Kherson.

Some Ukrainian officials and Western plenipotentiaries argued that the Kherson “operation” was a trick to deceive the Russians, while the one targeting Kharkiv Izium has always been real business.

However, this seems to be an attempt to make full use of the Russian unpreparedness factor. “Never let the Russian crisis go to waste,” said a presidential administration official. “There is great dissatisfaction among the Russian military with what is happening. No organization, no intelligence, we try to take advantage of it. ”

Kherson is a very real operation, but the progress of Ukrainians on this front is slow. The media, both Ukrainian and international, are kept away from the front by the authorities, so it is difficult to judge the situation on your own. But the signs of disagreement in Russia over what is happening in Ukraine are certainly growing and more visible.

Ukrainian pro-Moscow blogger Yuri Podolak, who has 2.2 million followers on Telegram, said: “We have to be honest, the Ukrainian command has beaten us here.” He warned against “the most serious combat defeat” unless the Kremlin succeeds in “stopping the Ukrainian breakthrough”.

Russian military blogger Maksim Fomin said that Russian forces had been defeated. “The situation is very difficult. Let’s breathe out and say we’re defeated, he said. Fomin demanded that an investigation be made as to why Russian forces were seemingly unprepared for the Ukrainian offensive leading to defeat.

What the Kremlin must worry about is that Ramzan Kadyrov, a staunch ally, has now turned weapons against the Russian leadership over defeat. A Chechen leader, whose thousands of soldiers fought in Ukraine, said the “real situation” on the ground was “staggering” and accused the military command of making serious mistakes.

The Russian mercenary company, the Wagner Group, headed by the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, another ally of Vladimir Putin, is also stationed in Ukraine. Their numbers grew as the Russian army struggled to replace the growing number of killed and wounded.

Wagner is also suffering losses. Last month, Ukrainians struck a group’s forward base in Popasnaya, killing a large number of militants using HIMARs, and there are reports that it is having difficulty obtaining data for Ukraine.

Wagner’s former contractor, who traveled to Syria and Libya, said friends serving in Ukraine tell him that breaching Russian security is only a matter of time.

“It is well known that the situation is very bad, and many people do not want to go there. I was told about all kinds of problems, lack of coordination, lack of planning, untrained soldiers who were a threat to everyone else. I was thinking about Ukraine, I went to see Donetsk, but I didn’t go to the end and I certainly won’t go now, ”said Murat Usmanov, who now lives in the Central Asian republic.

“Their [Wagner’s] the quality has also deteriorated, the people they send are sub-standard. The Russians underestimated the better-trained and better-armed Ukrainians. With the onset of winter, many people on the Russian side will not have the right clothes, the right equipment, the right weapons. It will be even worse for them. ”

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