The Russians were completely surprised by the rapid advance of the Ukrainians around Kharkov. The success of the Ukrainians is the result of Zelensky’s strategic deception campaign, says war studies professor Frans Osinga.
1. The Ukrainian armed forces advance to the east, what about?
Ukraine suddenly makes a rapid advance around Kharkov, protected and supported by artillery and aircraft. We haven’t seen that before. The combination of armored personnel carriers on the ground, artillery from abroad and Ukraine’s deployment of aircraft explains why they have been so successful, reaching as much as 50 kilometers deep into Russian terrain within two to three days.
Today we heard that they have recaptured the important city of Izhum. With this, they are able to close all logistical supply lines running via rail from the north to the Donbas region in the south to the Russians. Russian troops are now retreating to the surrounding towns, as they are otherwise likely to be surrounded by the Ukrainians. Then ten to 20,000 men of Russian troops would be captured. That’s the surprising thing about what we’re seeing there right now.
2. Ukraine was just in an offensive in the south, right?
In the south, we have an offensive from Ukraine, which is going very slowly. Once things got going there, and the Russians were committed to fighting the Ukrainians there, Ukraine has launched an offensive around Kharkov in recent days that has progressed at a rapid pace. The Russians are really caught off guard by this and are really confused because they didn’t see this coming. We hear reports of troops fleeing and abandoning their military equipment, and even soldiers surrendering.
3. How is the Russian military responding to this new counterattack?
We are already hearing that the Russians are planning a counterattack. The logistical supply lines are crucial to what happens in Donbas. The Ukrainians have now taken those railways, but of course they are still very vulnerable to a counterattack. It is therefore expected that the Ukrainians will try to consolidate the territory they have won and to bring new weapons to it so that they can defend this territory also when the Russians launch another counterattack.
4. Did the Ukrainian army fool the Russians?
Admittedly, there was a strategic, deliberate deception campaign from the Ukrainian front. A few weeks ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that in this war they would focus on Kherson in southern Ukraine. As a result, the Russian army was forced to send more troops that way to defend the territories they had taken there.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has also launched an attack around Kharkov, 1,500 to 2,000 kilometers away in the northeast, which is the same distance between Amsterdam and Marseille. So once you have your troops in the south, you can’t just move them any further, because these are huge logistical operations. Zelensky thus lured the Russians into a trap by hinting at an offensive in the south, but at the same time going full on attack in the northeast, where there was much less Russian resistance at the time.
5. Do the Ukrainians have enough resources to win this match?
Ukraine still has plenty of troops, but that’s just the beginning. Above all, they need logistical supplies and weapons systems to continue the fight. Therefore, Zelensky has also called on the West to continue the support they provide to Ukraine, in the form of arms supplies, ammunition or money. It determines the extent to which Ukraine can continue the offensive. Ukraine remains dependent on the will and support of the West.
Watch the clip from the TV broadcast.