what is the balance of power in the East and South?

As the war in Ukraine entered its sixth month on July 24, the situation on the ground remains disparate between the south of the country, where Ukrainian forces have gained ground, and the east, where the Russian army continues its slow development in the Donbass region. .

Shooting continues in Ukraine. Several localities were the subject, Saturday, July 30, of Russian strikes, which killed at least one person in Mykolaiv, in the South, and destroyed a school in Kharkiv, in the East, according to Ukrainian authorities.

At 157e day of the war, Russian forces are skating in the Donbass, the mining basin in the east of the country. If they try to advance near Siversk and Bakhmout (cities located about fifty kilometers from Kramatorsk), “Russia’s progress is very weak”, commented Joseph Henrotin, researcher at the Institute of Comparative Strategy (ISC) and editor in chief of the special journal DSI.

>> Also read: “Ukraine: does Russia want and can it continue its offensive in the West?”

“Contrary to the statements of the pro-Russian channels, Siversk is still not taken, the push to Bakhmout was unsuccessful, the Ukrainian forces stopped the offensive”, described the expert.

The conclusions shared by the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which believes that “there is little chance that the Russian forces will succeed in conquering Bakhmout despite the small advances towards the city”.

Slow but steady progress

“The Russian army continues to advance, but it is very slow,” said General Dominique Trinquand, former head of France’s military mission to the UN. “After marking a pause in the operation in the Donbass region, it continues its advance, and seeks to surround the forces of Ukraine in small pieces.”

“The Russian army is developing very slowly, probably because of the lack of human resources. It does not have enough soldiers to really improve,” he continued.

The same observation on the part of the British Ministry of Defense, which assures that “the Russian paramilitary group Wagner operates in eastern Ukraine in coordination with the regular Russian army” and “is assigned to specific sectors of the front line”. This new, more unified role “may mean that the Russian Ministry of the Armed Forces is facing a shortage of combat infantry”.

The Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region, Sergey Gaidai, announced on Friday that Ukrainian forces faced six Russian attacks in the east. “Enemy reconnaissance groups are trying to find weak points in our defense (..). They attack from different sides and resort to aviation on several occasions,” he said on Telegram.

“Surrounding operation” in Kherson

In the south of the country, the advantage is with the Ukrainian forces, who want to retake the city of Kherson, which has been occupied by the Russians since the beginning of March. In recent weeks, Kyiv has used a long-range missile system supplied by the West to severely damage three bridges over the Dnieper, which separates the city of Kherson and, according to British defense officials, which left the Russian military very weakly placed on the west bank of the river.

>> To read: “Bombed bridges, Himars rocket launchers: kyiv’s strategy to retake Kherson”

Ukraine’s Southern Command said in a statement that more than 100 Russian troops were killed and seven tanks were destroyed in Friday’s fighting in the Kherson region – figures that could not be independently confirmed. The first deputy head of the Kherson regional council, Yuri Sobolevsky, asked residents not to approach Russian ammunition depots. “The Ukrainian army has been released by the Russians and this is only the beginning,” he wrote on the Telegram app.

“The Ukrainians are trying to surround the Russian forces located west of the Dnieper, determined Dominique Trinquand, especially by reaching the bridges of the Dnieper river, and by gradually attacking the village in the region. (…) The supplies do not take longer to reach Kherson or come sporadically, and therefore the Russian troops find themselves isolated”, the general continued.

“A Russian defeat is not excluded”

Recent arms deliveries to the West have changed the situation. For Dominique Trinquand, “the key [de l’avancée ukrainienne, NDLR] is the Himars rocket launcher [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, NDLR] which makes it possible to hit the bridges or the Russian logistics. (…) We need machines that can shoot far. This is the case with the Cesars but even more so with the Himars”, said the expert.

“Ukraine thinks it will achieve victory in September, but I think it will be more difficult than it looks,” nuance of Samuel Ramani, geopolitical expert of the British think tank specializing in defense and security, ” Royal United Services Institute”, on the antenna of France 24.

“It is important to note that while Ukraine has Himars and other multiple launch rocket systems, the Russians have a 6-8 to 1 artillery advantage, which could be decisive in stopping, or at least slowing down . , in the Ukrainian counter-offensive,” he said.

The French general also said, for his part, a new Ukrainian strategy, based on “concentration of efforts in the area where we want to get the effect”, which also proves its value.

But if the Ukrainian progress is unusual, the general warned: “A defeat for Russia is not excluded. As long as Russia does not achieve its goals, it does not want to talk.”

“Now, we are still in the balance of power and when the time comes, naturally we will have to negotiate. But for the Ukrainians, negotiations when part of their territory is occupied will be more difficult. We can negotiate with a ceasefire, but obtaining more than a ceasefire in the coming months seems difficult for me,” he concluded.

With AFP and Reuters

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