The Ukrainian army is attacking Russian defense lines with casualties, but these are holding up so far. Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin is self-confident. Can Russia prevent a breakthrough?
The Ukrainian counter-offensive has begun, but it is still unclear with what intensity Ukraine is attacking Russian positions. The war is likely at a stage when Kiev is trying to test weaknesses in Russia’s defenses—major attacks are yet to come.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in Moscow on Friday that the Ukrainian counter-offensive had begun. The fact that the Kremlin chief is drawing attention to the current fighting is a sign that the Russian defense is holding up so far. But one thing is certain: So far, Russia has been able to prevent a similar collapse of the front as in late summer 2022.
They are bitter fights. In any case, the Russian war of aggression is again in a phase with high losses on both sides and great destruction – not least due to the rupture of the Kachowka Dam. The military expert Christian Mölling from the German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP) gives an overview of the current situation in the Ukraine war.
t-online: Mr. Mölling, the Ukrainian counter-offensive has begun and the intensity of the fighting has increased over the past few days. How is the Ukrainian army doing so far?
Christian Mölling: That’s hard to say, the reports from the front sometimes contradict each other. Progress appears to be slow for Ukraine, but first it is testing out front lines where it might be able to break through Russian lines. One thing is certain: there will be major losses and a bitter battle of materials.
While Ukraine has been scouting a lot in recent weeks and Russian supply lines have been attacked, are we now seeing a direct scan of the front lines in direct combat?
The Ukrainian counter-offensive has to be seen as a process, it won’t be over in a few weeks, it could go on for months. Of course, the Ukrainian army was able to conduct reconnaissance, but only now will they really realize how strong the Russian resistance is on certain front sections. That’s why the Ukrainian army isn’t running blindly, that would be irresponsible.
Christian Mölling is deputy director of the research institute of the think tank German Society for Foreign Relations (DGAP) and head of the Center for Security and Defense. He studied politics, economics and history at the Universities of Duisburg and Warwick and received his doctorate from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich.
Accordingly, there is probably no master plan for the counter-offensive?
Exactly. We currently see three to four focal points in the Ukrainian attack activities – for example around the cities of Bakhmut, Marjinka or Welyka Novosilka in Donetsk. But it always depends on the Russian resistance, and it is possible that some thrusts will be added or dropped. Ukraine probably has several plans.
Another problem is probably that a lot of information from the front cannot be confirmed without a doubt.
Yes. We can already see it: there are many false images and disinformation on social media. Like the entire conflict, the fog of war is hanging over the Ukrainian counter-offensive, and disinformation is being spread every minute on Russian troll farms. We should always be careful when assessing the situation at the front. A lot of information is a lie or long history when we get it.
You need a bird’s-eye view for a reasonably correct picture of the situation – then you don’t take over the details, the truthfulness of which is doubtful anyway and mostly not important for the course of the war. The picture, especially for the current fights, then becomes more shadowy.
Which schemes of what is currently happening at the front do you currently recognize?
Combat activities have increased significantly in the past few days. Beyond that, I wouldn’t draw any conclusions at the moment.
But is it already foreseeable that Ukraine will try to advance to the Sea of Azov?