The Kremlin’s frontline supplies have been badly hit. If I were a Russian soldier in Kherson I would be pretty scared right now.
By Mike Martin. July 26, 2022
Some weeks ago the Russians announced an “operational pause” in the Donbas.
Breaks in fighting like these are pretty normal in this type of high-intensity warfare, because of the vast supplies required and damages inflicted.
Armies sometimes just have to take time-outs to regroup and build up their supplies again, although normally you don’t broadcast to everyone that you’re doing it.
That’s a bit odd, and makes it seem like there must be another reason that Russian military activity has decreased.
And decreased it has.
Russian artillery fire has significantly dropped, and there are a lot less offensives.
They compensated for this by lobbing a few missiles into cites, just to remind everyone they were still there, and still relevant. As if we’d all forgotten.
And while the Russians were focusing on regrouping in Donbas, the Ukrainians started hitting targets on the Kherson front in the South. In fact, this continues a theme: the Ukrainians have actually taken more territory off Russia in the South, than the Russians have off them in the Donbas.
This is the reason why the Russian military activity has dropped – they are playing catch up and trying to rush assets and personnel to defend Kherson in the South.
Kherson is very important strategically – it is the only foothold that the Russians have north and west of the Dnipro River, which is the major strategic barrier that runs across Ukraine from Crimea to Kyiv.
It is also the route to Crimea for the Ukrainians, which is where they should put pressure on the Russians if they want to evict them from the whole country. If the Russians feel threatened in Crimea they will strip units out of elsewhere, including the Donbas.
Crucially, during this Russian ‘operational pause’, the Ukrainians started bringing into action the longer-range, western-donated artillery systemsand attacking targets in the South.
Over the last fortnight or so, the Ukrainians have been hitting Command and Control posts up to the 70km range of the new systems. The targets include headquarters, communications sites, air defence radars, etc.
Destroying them dislocates a military force.
This sort of range means that – generally speaking – they are hitting brigade and divisional HQs rather than company and battalion ones.
In a war you keep the more valuable things further from the front line to protect them. Longer range artillery upsets this calculation.
Secondly, the Ukrainians have been hitting supply dumps. I’m sure we’ve all seen the videos and photos on Twitter.
Judging by the size of those fires they were brigade, divisional and corps level supply dumps – which are predominantly fuel and ammunition.
And specifically for the Russians and the way that they conduct war – it means a lot of artillery ammunition.
This has meant that the Russians have had to move all of these supply dumps back beyond the range of the new Ukrainian artillery.
And this has one very simple effect: the Russians now have to transport all those supplies, say, 100km rather than 30km, to get to the front line where they are used.
And this means that Russia, who rely on a very artillery-heavy way of fighting war (and artillery is extremely logistics intensive), can probably no longer get enough supplies up to the front line to conduct offensives; they can probably only defend on the Kherson front now.
As the cherry on the cake, the Ukrainians have started hitting the bridges over the river Dniprothat connect Kherson to the other side of the river. In other words, the bridges to the Russian force’s rear.
There are only two of them. And they haven’t destroyed them yet, they’ve just cratered them making them unsuitable for heavy logistics, and unsuitable for the Russian forces to move their tanks and infantry fighting vehicles across.
If I were a Russian soldier in Kherson I would be pretty scared right now.
The way to get an enemy force to collapse is to hit their command and control, hit their logistics, and then start playing games with their minds.
And this is what the Ukrainian Government are doing: on Sunday they announced that they would be in Kherson by September; President Zelensky has previously talked of a million-man army marching on Kherson.
I would be watching Kherson and the south of Ukraine very closely over the next few days – we might be about to have another ‘goodwill gesture’ from the Russians reminiscent of their withdrawal from Snake Island – just that this time, they’ll be leaving behind their equipment as well.
Dr Mike Martin is a War Studies Visiting Fellow at King’s College London and author of Why We Fight.
Now, some nice pics to go with the article: