- I—Background and Russian Unit Organisation
- II—Russian Equipment and Personnel
- III—Russian Onslaught
- IV—Russian Inertia
- V—Russian Rout
“It suggests that the generals need to be at the front lines to ensure that their troops are conducting the battle plan in the way that they want. But that also suggests a lack of confidence in their troops if they need to be that far forward with so many senior ranks.”—Col. Steve Ganyard (rtd), adviser to the Ukrainian Army
By April, it was clear that, despite bumptious pronouncements on Russian TV that “The Ukraine Special Operation” against the fascists in Kiev was going to plan”, somebody in the Kremlin worked out they were getting nowhere. Casualties were far higher than anticipated and, after the prolonged and bloody battle for Mariupol, a major port on the Sea of Azov, there was little to show beyond a land bridge to Crimea and the city of Kherson, blocking the lower Dnepr river.
What had surprised Russians from the lowliest pyadavoy to the Kremlin was the widespread unity and fierce resistance of the Ukrainians—even those who spoke Russian as a mother tongue. The troops have been sent in with a variety of lies as motivation: that they were off on exercise; that the Ukrainians would treat them as liberators; that women would welcome them with flowers. But it seems even the Kremlin largely believed therir own propaganda—that Putin’s efforts to reconstruct the Russian Empire, if not the Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe as well would come to pass as Ukrainians flocked to the cause.
The decision was made to redeploy forces that had failed to take either Kyiv or Kharkiv in the North and use them to complete conquest of the breakaway oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk in the East. So plans were altered and an unsubtle, grinding advance behind massive artillery did eventually occupy both.
However, the withdrawal uncovered how Russian troops had behaved I occupied areas, displaying brutality to the residents and poor discipline and morale among Russian units.
Between May and July, a grinding advance focussed on clearing the Donbas by withering artillery barragescost Ukraine 150-200 soldiers killed and several hundred wounded each day. However, Russian casualties were just as heavy and the expenditure in ammunition was prodigious. Before being ejected, the Ukrainians scored successes, using longer-range weapons, partisans and special forces to destroy several supply and ammunition dumps, slowing the Russian effort.
By August, both sides appeared to have exhausted both themselves and their options. Most observers began talking about a long stalemate, with speculation how Putin could save face and claim spme sort of victory when the military situation was hard to spin as successful completion of the “Special Military Operation”.