August 31, 2022
Ukrainian troops lost more than 1,200 people during the day in Nikolaev-Krivoy Rog and other regions. Up to this point, the biggest defeat of Kiev was the Ilovaisk cauldron in 2014, but even there the number of military personnel killed was less. What was the tactical plan of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and why did it result in heavy losses for them?
On Tuesday, the Russian Defence Ministry released detailed data about the losses of the Ukrainian Armed Forces during the failed attempt of the Ukrainian troops to develop a counteroffensive in Kherson and other regions. The enemy suffered large-scale losses – 48 Ukrainian tanks, 46 infantry fighting vehicles and more than 1,200 servicemen were destroyed over the past day. Thus, the attempt to counterattack was not crowned with strategic success for Kiev, but brought heavy losses to the Ukrainian Armed Forces in manpower and equipment.
The losses of the Ukrainian Armed Forces during the failure of the August offensive are comparable to those that Ukraine suffered during the breakthrough from the Ilovaisk pocket in Donbass on the same days eight years ago, military commentator Yury Podolyaka noted on his Telegram channel. “It might be a coincidence, but Zelensky launched an adventurous ‘offensive’ in the Kherson region on the Day of Remembrance of the Defenders of Ukraine, which was timed precisely with the Ilovaisk events,” Podolyaka notes. “This is, apparently, so that the days of remembrance do not multiply – in one day to commemorate both the Ilovaisk dead and the Kherson ones.”
Recall that in mid-August 2014, the offensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the National Guard and the irregular nationalist battalions “Azov” and “Dnepr-1” in the Donetsk region with an attempt to reach the Russian border was stopped by the DPR militia led by Aleksandr Zakharchenko, Mikhail Tolstykh (Givi), Arsen Pavlov (Motorola) and Aleksandr Khodakovsky. By August 26, 2014, Ukrainian troops were trapped in a cauldron near the city of Ilovaisk, and during an attempt to break out the UAF and the nationalist battalions suffered extremely serious losses.
The official reports of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry included 366 dead, but the investigative commission established by the Verkhovna Rada at that time concluded that the army lost more than a 1000 (killed). The head of the commission, a deputy of the then convocation of the Rada from “Batkivshchyna” Andrey Senchenko, in an interview with LigaBusinessInform, called the Ilovaisk defeat at that time “the most severe defeat of the Ukrainian forces”.
“The Ukrainian Armed Forces of Ukraine have suffered the biggest one-time losses in recent months,” Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the National Defence magazine, told the VZGLYAD newspaper. However, he links Zelensky’s decision to launch a counteroffensive not with the Day of Remembrance of the Defenders of Ukraine, but with the EU summit being held in Brussels at the level of the heads of military departments and the Foreign Ministry. “In particular, the issue of further assistance to Ukraine from the EU is being discussed there. It was for this meeting that Zelensky demanded a counteroffensive, counting on military success,” Korotchenko believes.
“However, the offensive turned into senseless death and further escalation between Zelensky and the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny, so Kiev was left with a broken trough,” the source believes. We will remind that the opinion is expressed that General Zaluzhny warned the political leadership of Ukraine in advance that an attempt by the UAF at a counteroffensive in the Nikolaev-Krivoy Rog direction would end in failure. “It was a completely senseless massacre, in fact, Ukrainian servicemen were used as cannon fodder. And their lives are on Zelensky’s conscience,” Korotchenko stressed.
“Such a huge number of victims for the Ukrainian Armed Forces suggests that the tactics of the military-political leadership of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Armed Forces have not changed since the Ilovaisk pocket.
Like back then, Petro Poroshenko, and now Zelensky herded their fighters to slaughter – for the sake of creating a beautiful picture about a ‘counteroffensive’, about ‘Ukraine’s fight on the front line of all Europe against the ‘horde of orcs’.
Probably, the figures of losses and video recordings of military operations will then be presented to the leadership of Western countries in order to bargain for new supplies of weapons and money,” says Aleksandr Perendzhiev, an associate professor of the Department of Political Science and Sociology of Russian Economic University of G. V. Plekhanova and member of the Expert Council of Officers of Russia.
“Another goal of Zelensky, apparently, was the desire to rehabilitate himself for the recent defeats of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in other parts of the front,” the expert believes. “Such a victory would be widely spread throughout the entire Ukrainian and Western media space. But winning was probably a fallback for him – losing was just as good. Now, according to his plan, the West will be horrified by the number of victims among Ukrainian soldiers, and then active assistance to Kiev will resume,” the source added.
The PR offensive of Ukrainian troops in the south was prepared on a grand scale, experts admit. For the first time in five months, a fully-fledged enemy offensive was attempted on this sector of the front, said military commander Roman Saponkov, who is in the special operation zone. “The Ukrainian Armed Forces used quite large means. Up to 20 tanks and up to 2 infantry battalions were deployed at each of the three sites,” the source said.
It should be noted that exactly the same number of tanks – 20 units – was assigned to the UAF formation that unsuccessfully tried to break through the front in Donbass, near the village of Kodema near the town of Bakhmut (DPR). “In the area of Kodema, the enemy attempted a counteroffensive, it was successfully repelled, 20 tanks and 30 militants were destroyed,” Eduard Basurin, deputy head of the DPR People’s Militia department, said on Tuesday. Also, judging by the description, in both cases – during the offensive on Kherson and in the battles near Kodema – the UAF used diversionary strikes.
“This is one of the types of tactics used by battalion tactical groups that were preparing to break through the contact line,” explained military expert Aleksey Leonkov. The tanks and APCs involved play the role of fire support, and in the event of a successful combination of circumstances, they can act as breakthrough equipment with small MLRS support.
In the actions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Western standards of combat are evident, Leonkov believes. “This tactic was taught to the Ukrainian Armed Forces by Western instructors, there is no doubt about it. If they operated according to the Soviet model, they would attract significantly more armoured vehicles – about 40 units per battalion,” the expert said.
As the “Military-Industrial Courier” newspaper noted, since 2015, military personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the National Guard have been training under the American JMTG-U program at the Yavorov training ground in the Lvov region. The training program included, among other things, the technique of conducting tactical combat and staff work. According to open sources, the British ORBITAL training mission and the Canadian-Danish UNIFER training program have been operating since 2015, both NATO courses were attended by approximately 20,000 Ukrainian military personnel.
However, Perendzhiev, unlike Leonkov, sees in the standard methods of breakthrough that the UAF demonstrated not the result of NATO lessons, but the legacy of not even the Soviet, but pre-revolutionary military school. “In a certain sense, the Ukrainian Armed Forces use tactics similar to the Brusilov breakthrough, the offensive operation of 1916. They strike distracting blows, and then strike in the main direction,” the expert pointed out.
“I don’t see anything outstanding in these attempts of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, everything follows Western patterns. About a month ago, the Ukrainian offensive plan leaked online, it actually completely repeats what is being done now,” said military expert Vladislav Shurygin. The fact that the Ukrainian Armed Forces tried to strike in several places simultaneously (in three main directions in the Kherson theatre of operations, plus an attempt to break through in the Donbass area of Bakhmut) is explained quite simply, the source said. “There was a goal – to contact us as much as possible with the battle and, if possible, push through, break through somewhere, and then try to manoeuvre our forces and throw additional reserves in this direction,” the expert noted.
Shurygin is sure that “the Ukrainian Armed Forces were counting on an attempt to gain a foothold with the help of a spurt in order to demonstrate at least some success, progress that will be turned into a great victory further online.”
It is not difficult to conduct reconnaissance in combat, distract the enemy with a blow to another direction and then try to break through on the main one, in turn, said Konstantin Sivkov, Doctor of Military Sciences. “Another thing is that for all this, one needs to ensure the secrecy of the actions of one’s forces and their deployment. But the Ukrainian Armed Forces do not have such capabilities, as well as there is no air supremacy,” the expert noted. “Under these conditions, such measures become ineffective. Therefore, the attempt of the Ukrainian troops’ offensive is accompanied by heavy losses and does not bring the desired success.”
The huge losses of the Ukrainian Armed Forces that were reported on Tuesday by the Ministry of Defence are quite understandable, in turn, Shurygin noted: “To go on the offensive in a desert area, practically on a steppe, without having a complete superiority in strength and without suppressing our entire artillery support system and our combat control systems in advance, means condemning oneself to huge losses”.
Darya Volkova, Alyona Zadorozhnaya
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