we summarize the week when kyiv regained the military initiative against russian troops

A few days ago, such a scenario seemed unlikely. After several months of status quo in the war between Ukraine and Russia, the military dynamic now seems to be on the side of the kyiv troops. Kupiansk, Balakliïa, Vovtchansk… The list of towns recovered from Russia by the Ukrainian army is increasing daily since September 6. The capture of Izium, in particular, fulfills the lightning counter-offensive that pushed the forces in Russia from most of the Kharkiv region. The blue and yellow flag flies again in the establishment of the local government, while this city constitutes, until now, an important logistical platform for the forces of Moscow.

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In general, “Since the beginning of September, our soldiers have liberated 6,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory in the east and south, and we continue to advance”, stated Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, Monday, September 12 in the evening. Twice more, therefore, than was announced only the previous day. According to the first available elements, the local army is now trying to gain a foothold east of the Oksil River, which serves as a natural border. Before hoping for better, this time in the Luhansk region.

The Ukrainian flag hangs from a statue in the center of Balakliia, on September 10, 2022, in the Kharkiv region, after the successful counter-offensive of the Ukrainian army.  (JUAN BARRETO / AFP)

Fighting is raging around Lyman, the key to the axis leading to Donbass. This did not stop the governor of the occupied Luhansk oblast, Sergei Gaïdai, from expressing his optimism: “The Ukrainian Armed Forces will soon begin operations to liberate the region.” The situation is changing daily, and it is too early to know where the future front line will be between the two warring nations.

According to the Conflict Intelligence Team, an organization of Russian experts, Moscow has lost 7.7% of the territory it occupied in Ukraine since June 2. Most of these losses (6.9%) occurred in the last week of the offensive. The Kremlin first tried to invoke a “strategic regrouping of forces”. But this statement is hardly misleading, because the withdrawal of Russian forces seems to be flowing. Countless documents prove that the Russian forces hastily abandoned the ammunition and vehicles, without even taking the time to sabotage them.

Edouard Jolly, researcher at the Institute for Strategic Research of the Military School, spoke to franceinfo about forty tanks, including twenty in need of repair, about twenty new T-80 tanks (…), infantry fighting vehicles, transmission and reconnaissance equipment and also artillery units “. An unexpected windfall, which resulted in a very popular joke on social networks on the Ukrainian side: “If Russia sends us more weapons, then so can Germany…”

This counter-offensive in the East is surprising, because Kyiv initially contented itself with announcing a major operation in the South, finally launched the week of September 5, to recapture the city of Kherson, which occupied since the early days of the conflict. Remarkably, it shows the ability of the Ukrainian army to attack simultaneously on two fronts. In total, Kyiv claimed to have captured 500 square kilometers of territory from Russian forces in two weeks, from its fortress in Mykolaiv.

Ukrainian soldiers load tanks abandoned by Russian forces in Kharkiv region, September 9, 2022. (UKRAINIAN GENERAL STAFF NEWS SERVICE)

“Why is this happening now? Because most of the Western military equipment that was promised, especially the Americans, has arrived,” courtesy of franceinfo Pierre Servent, operational reserve colonel and specialist in defense issues. A reference to Himars, these American rocket launchers with a long range.

Cooperation with the United States is also intense in terms of military intelligence: in August, Washington signaled to Kyiv that “The Russians are moving some of their best units to the South”explains the New York Times (in English) Colin Kahl, Pentagon number three. Finally, since the start of the war, the United States has trained 1,475 Ukrainian soldiers in the use of artillery systems and drones, according to figures obtained by the magazine. Foreign policy.

However, the response from the East did not lead to “defeat” Russian, warns franceinfo Etienne de Poncins, French ambassador to Ukraine. “No more [capture de] Russian prisoners to a large extent of Ukrainian troops.” In the short term, Vladimir Putin’s forces will still be forced to define new goals. “The Russians must choose between withdrawing from Donbass or continuing to the southern part of the Sea of ​​Azov and Crimea”analysis for The world Joseph Henrotin, research fellow at the Institute of Comparative Strategy (ISC).

The recent Ukrainian victories have drawn many reactions from Russian military commentators. Some want to continue to believe in an alleged trap set for the enemy, the better to stop him. But this explanation is not very convincing.

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Alexander Kots, Russian war correspondent, evokes, as for him (in Russian), the presence of “frozen cowboys” and “African Americans” who came to fight in Ukraine with foreign units. And so NATO is accused of intervening directly on the ground, on the strength of a video published by Malcolm Nance, an American veteran who left to join the international legion in March.

In addition, the Kremlin and the Russian general staff have come under unprecedented criticism from the ultra-nationalist camp. Igor Girkin, known as “Strelkov” (“the shooter” in Russian), banderillas have been multiplied since the beginning of the conflict. This Russian military expert, who enjoyed an aura leading the rebels in Donetsk in 2014, is now calling the generals “cretins” (in Russian) and point out tactical errors in command. “The enemy will not give our troops time to regroup and strengthen weak positions.”

The most popular Telegram channels (Grey Zone, Military informant, Letters from Yaroslavl, etc.) also increase critical comments of the military command. “We know we’re all on your blacklists because we’re the most inconvenient for you”, wrote on the Rybar channel (780,000 subscribers) to the attention of the Russian Ministry of Defense. The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, said instead that he himself would go to discuss “the situation on the ground with the leaders of the Ministry of Defense and the country”if the strategy has not changed.

For his part, the spokesman of the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, prefers to be temporary: “Vladimir Putin is in contact 24 hours a day with the Minister of Defense and the military commanders”. One way, therefore, is to remember that the president is still in charge of what he calls “special operations”. The previous day, Vladimir Putin appeared at the inauguration of a Ferris wheel for Moscow’s 875th anniversary, raising questions about his handling of the situation, even as Izium returned to Ukrainian control.

The Russian president then postponed a scheduled meeting with senior brass and representatives of the military industry. In retaliation, Russian planes also bombed Ukraine’s second largest thermal power plant, near Kharkiv, causing a massive power outage. Then the strikes continued on Monday in two districts of the regional capital (killing at least one person and injuring six), without staff deigning the specifics of the strategic objective sought. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Defense announced several strikes on “all operating departments”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a video conference on the state of the country's economy on September 12, 2022. (GAVRIIL GRIGOROV / SPOUTNIK / AFP)

At the same time, the viability of a general mobilization was again debated. Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of Russia, is in favor of this, believing that the country today “in war”. The option seems adventurous, political and military. And Alexander Khodakovsky, a commander of the Vostok Battalion, has already distanced himself from the idea of ​​general mobilization. Russia’s failures, he insisted (in Russian)not related to the number of soldiers but to them “crazy use”, as well as the lack of organization and equipment. In the short term, he wrote, Russia is destined to “grind its resources in the meat grinder of war”.

“For now, nothing, no discussion” about a possible general mobilization, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the press on Tuesday. He assured that the offensive “continue until the goals previously set are achieved”. It remains to be seen which ones these will be, as they seem to have varied since the start of the war. Kyiv, for its part, still has a few weeks to drive home, before the arrival of the first winter frosts.

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