By David Sole
Western media, as well as official Ukrainian sources, have been proclaiming a coming “Spring Offensive” against the Russian Federation forces. Ukraine is committed to winning back all the territory formerly under its control as well as the areas that it lost in 2014-2015 following the U.S. organized right-wing coup d’etat.
In 2014 the mainly ethnic Russian populations of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region defended themselves militarily against the anti-Russian forces from Kyiv, declaring themselves People’s Republics. Russia also took control of the Crimean peninsula including their Black Sea navy based in Sevastopol. In 2022, following votes in the two People’s Republics as well as Zaporizhzhya province, Russia annexed the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine under their military control.
Two previous Ukrainian military offensives in the summer and fall of 2022, in Kherson and Kharkov provinces, were able to recapture some territory from Russian control. However the cost to the Ukrainian armed forces was severe in losses of soldiers and armor.
Recent fighting has seen intense battles develop around several Ukrainian controlled cities including Bakhmut and Avdiivka north of Donetsk city, in Russian control and the capital of Donetsk province.
Ukraine has been reinforcing Bakhmut steadily but now faces having many thousands of its troops surrounded and cut off from reinforcement and resupply. Similarly, Avdiivka may also find itself encircled by Russian forces.
Much of the western capitalist press has been putting out predictions of Russia’s imminent defeat due to enormous casualties. But several recent press reports paint a very different picture.
The pro-Ukrainian Kyiv Independent recently interviewed a number of front line troops from the Bakhmut battlefront. One soldier complained “When they drive us to Bakhmut, I already know I’m being sent to death.” He explained that the Russians “keep firing at us, but we don’t have artillery – so we have nothing to attack them back with …We are just getting killed.”
A Ukrainian sergeant estimated that his side had 20,000 to 30,000 troops in that city. The Kyiv Independent reports that “Ukraine is also taking heavy losses as it holds on to the city.” They take comfort in repeating the often quoted, but never explained or verified that “at least five Russian soldiers were killed for every Ukrainian loss.”
This reporting of exaggerated Russian losses is suspect from their own article which, according to Ukrainian soldiers’ reports “probably 90% of our losses are from artillery – or tanks or aviation and much less from shooting battles.” But all reports are that Russian artillery pounding Bakhmut, Avdiivka and other sites of conflict is anywhere from six to 10 to one over the Ukrainian artillery capabilities. “You hear an incoming (shell) every second” according to one soldier.
The article also reports that “many soldiers in his platoon have refused to go to Bakhmut as Russians came closer.” A soldier told the Independent that “only eight out of 25 soldiers in his platoon headed out to Bakhmut.” Soon after arriving at the front “Two were killed and two were seriously wounded …The rest … received a severe concussion.”
These accounts show that Ukrainian casualties must be much higher than Russian based on the heavy dependence on artillery power.
The Washington Post confirms Ukraine’s declining capabilities. A March 13 article admitted “Ukraine is short of skilled troops and munitions as losses, pessimism grow. The Post reports that Ukraine has lost 120,000 troops killed or wounded over the past year leading some Ukrainian officials to question Kyiv’s readiness to mount a much-anticipated spring offensive.”
“Kupol”, a Ukrainian battalion commander in the 46th Air Assault Brigade admitted to the Post “there are only a few soldiers with combat experience.” His only hope was “there’s always belief in a miracle.”
A long Reuter’s news article waited until the last line in their report of heavy fighting near the Luhansk city of Kreminna some 6o miles north of Bakhmut. “Tuman” who commands the 110th Battalion at this front also confirmed the reports from other battles. “My guys have been fighting for months. They are dying and they are not seeing a single Russian, because they were all hit by artillery.”
Even if the Ukrainians can muster newly trained troops from their limited reserves fortified by U.S. and NATO weaponry arriving by trains from Poland, it isn’t clear that such a counter offensive would be successful. Russian forces have been developing heavy fortifications all along the hundreds of miles of front lines and strengthening their defenses with the hundreds of thousands of reservists called to active duty last year.
Any advance by the Ukrainians would come at a terrible cost as they advance across open ground to well fortified Russian positions. And taking territory does not mean they will be able to hold it from Russian counter attacks.
Some speculate that Ukraine may be marshaling forces to send a relief column into Bakhmut. Such a force might, if strong enough, break through the Russian encirclement. But the question is – will such a relief operation break the Russian hold or would the new Ukrainian forces only succeed in being encircled themselves?
An alternative scenario is one that has the U.S. and NATO escalate the war by more direct involvement. A provocative U.S. surveillance drone was brought down by Russian fighter jets in the Black Sea near Sevastopol, Crimea on March 14. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “blasted Russia” and “vowed that such reconnaissance flights would continue.”
Even more alarming were the remarks by the Polish Ambassador to France to the French TV channel LCI. Jan Emeryk Rosciszewski stated “Either Ukraine will defend its independence today, or we will have to enter this conflict….we will have no choice but to enter the conflict.”
It is no secret that most weapons from the West flow into Ukraine through Poland. Poland has also recently begun to work towards doubling its military forces and heavy weaponry. As far back as May 2022 reports have been circulating that hundreds or even thousands of Polish troops entered Ukraine covertly and are involved in front line combat against Russian Federation forces.
Open involvement of Poland in case of the collapse of Ukrainian forces would directly involve NATO in the fighting and could certainly provoke a direct Russian retaliation on Polish bases which are also NATO facilities. Such a development might not be containable and could drag the rest of Europe and the United States into a major World War.
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