The attack comes about two weeks after Russia quickly routed tens of thousands of soldiers bogged down in the Kremlin’s failed northern offensives around the capital Kyiv, where they were repeatedly jaded by Ukrainian resistance.
In those northern battles, Russia lost thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks and vehicles to anti-tank weapons poured into the country by the US and its western allies, a feat Kyiv officials hope to replicate in the east.
But this Western aid for what is likely to be a different war in Donbass has only just arrived and has not always lived up to the expectations of the Ukrainian leadership.
Officials in Kyiv have long called for fighter jets and more air defense systems consisting of both the older Soviet systems they already use and new NATO weapons capable of shooting down Russian missiles and fighter jets with greater accuracy.
The Biden administration last week announced a new package containing 18 howitzer guns and 40,000 rounds of ammunition, and American trainers will show Ukrainian forces how to use them, a senior defense official told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday. The comments mark a reversal of previous US reluctance to announce contacts between US and Ukrainian troops.
Other weapons, including British anti-ship missiles, tanks from Eastern European countries and armored vehicles from countries as far away as Australia, are being readied for rapid deployment to combat, following a recent donor conference held by the British government. A Slovak official confirmed to POLITICO that Bratislava is still in talks to sell Ukraine up to 16 Zuzana 155mm self-propelled howitzers, which have a range of about 25 miles. The longer range would be a huge boost when dealing with Russian systems attacking Ukrainian cities and military positions from afar.
Slovakia recently shipped one of its S-300 air defense systems to Ukraine, followed by US, German and Dutch Patriot batteries arriving to bolster the country’s domestic air defenses.
The Czech Republic supposedly delivered up to 20 RM-70 multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine, a system capable of throwing rockets up to 12 miles and derived from the older Soviet BM-21 Grad launchers already in Ukrainian stockpiles.
In a video message last week, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov called for new weapons to replace older Soviet-era equipment, citing air defense, aircraft, long-range missiles and artillery, and anti-ship missiles as his top priorities.
On Monday the Ukrainian colonel Yurii Andriychuk pleaded on Twitter for the Swedish-made NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) as missile inventories for the Soviet-era BUK systems are being reduced. Medium-range air defense NASAMS is operated by the United States, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and others.
Monday night’s massive strikes came after American intelligence observed Russians moving heavy artillery in and around the Donbass, the defense official said, where “it appears they are trying to learn from the failed lessons of the North, where.” they didn’t have adequate support capabilities.” Due to the geography in this part of Ukraine, where flat farmland offers miles of visibility, the US believes “armored capabilities and artillery will be relied on,” the official said.
Surprisingly, the Russians appear to have launched this offensive before fully capturing the southern city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian marines were resisting a much larger Russian force.
The Russian attempt to take Mariupol pins 12 tactical battalion groups in street fighting, leaving them unable to operate elsewhere along the already extensive Russian front.
The Ukrainian defenders – along with thousands of civilians – have largely retreated to the sprawling Azovstal Steelworks while refusing to surrender. Videos Monday showed large parts of the factory complex smoldering from Russian air and artillery strikes.
Battle for the city has slowed Russian advances elsewhere, British defense attaché Mick Smeath said in a statement Monday. Russia’s scorched-earth tactics, including attacking populated areas, “are consistent with Russia’s approach to Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016,” he said. “This is despite claims by the Russian Defense Ministry on February 24, 2022 that Russia would not attack cities or threaten the Ukrainian population.”
Russia still has over 70 tactical battalion groups in eastern Ukraine, many reinforced by units drawn from failed offensives in the north. These troops will be bolstered by new artillery capabilities deployed from bases in Russia.
The new struggle may only have just begun, but Ukrainian forces have been battling Russian-backed separatist forces in Donbass for eight years, giving Ukrainians a familiarity with the terrain. But the war, from which Russian officials would appear to last only days, has turned into an existential struggle, not only for Ukraine but also for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose economy is being choked by Western sanctions.
As a result, renewed fighting in Donbass will be larger, more violent and more desperate than the attritional war of attrition since 2014.
The Russian offensive “will likely look similar to what the Donbass battle has been like for the last eight years, bar steroids,” said Dave Johnson, a senior researcher at RAND who focuses on armored warfare. “The question is: can the Ukrainians survive this? That is frankly an open question.”
https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/18/russia-ukraine-war-missiles-00026102?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Russia unleashes an offensive against Ukraine and initiates a new phase of the war