As Russia’s war in Ukraine dragged into its ninth month, its military’s weaknesses became clearer with an apparent reliance on Iranian support growing stronger.
Ukrainian civilians are shrugging off the attacks, which are believed to have been carried out with Iranian-made Shahed-136 “suicide” drones despite Tehran’s insistence to the contrary, and Ukrainian forces are seizing more territory in the south and the east.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the United States and the French president (more on these developments later in this report) appear to be sending mixed signals about their determination to continue supporting Ukraine.
Also last week, Russian forces struck Bakhmut in the east, without breaking Ukraine’s defenses.
In the Lugansk region, Ukrainian forces reportedly captured a highway linking Kreminna with Svatove, two towns that lead to Starobilsk, a major logistics hub.
Efforts by Russian troops to resume the offensive in Kharkiv, where they recently lost more than 8,000 square kilometers (3,088 square miles) of ground, have been ineffective. Ukrainian forces say they have now retaken 544 settlements in the region, with only 32 remaining under occupation.
It is Kherson in the south, where Russian forces have amassed 45 battalion tactical groups, that the next major, and possibly pivotal, action is expected to be fought.
Russian forces mined crossings and bridges over the Dnieper River in anticipation of a Ukrainian counterattack, according to Kyiv.
“The engineering and sapper units of the Russian occupation forces mine the [east bank of the Dnieper River]leaving small steps for a possible withdrawal of its troops from the right bank,” said the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The staff said Russia had sent 2,000 newly mobilized staff members to oversee the evacuation of doctors, teachers and bankers from western Kherson.
Russia’s Tass news agency reported that Moscow forces were preparing the city of Kherson for street battles, as “authorities” evacuated doctors, teachers and bankers from the wider area.
“All civilians in Kherson must immediately leave the city… all departments and ministries of the civil administration must cross to the left bank of the Dnieper today,” the city’s occupation administration said in a message on the Telegram channel on March 22. october.
To date, some 70,000 have fled Kherson, according to Moscow. Ukraine says the evacuations are best described as forced deportations to Russia or occupied territories.
Ukrainian intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told Ukrainian Pravda that he believes the city of Kherson will likely be captured by the end of the year.
An Aug. 29 counteroffensive has already recaptured more than 500 square kilometers (190 square miles) of the region, and Russian preparations now appear to be focused on defense and flight.
Ukrainian military intelligence reported that Russia was mining the locks and engine rooms of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam on the Dnieper River.
The Institute for the Study of War said Russian forces would likely blow up the dam to cover their retreat.
Budanov said partially blowing up the dam would flood western Kherson and delay the Ukrainian advance by two weeks, mainly because the dam will no longer act as a bridge and transport artery.
Russia has been running out of missiles and ammunition, Western and Ukrainian sources say.
“Terror with the use of Shahed [drones] it can exist for a long time,” Budanov said, because Russia had ordered 1,700 of the weapons allegedly made in Iran, although not all of them have been built.
“But with the use of missiles, no, because the reserves are almost exhausted. about 13 percent [of stocks] left for Iskanders, about 43 percent for the Kalibr-PL, Kalibr-NK missiles, and about 45 percent for the Kh-101 and Kh-555 missiles. It is generally very dangerous to drop below 30 percent, because [that is] the reserve intact,” he said.
Ukraine said that in addition to the drones, Iran was considering supplying Russia with Fateh-110 and Zulfighar missiles, which are close to the Iskander missile. The acquisition would be in the dozens of missiles.
The New York Times reported that Russia had moved S-300s from Syria to Ukraine, suggesting a shortage even of this thought-to-abundance ammunition.
Meanwhile, Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin has been criticizing Russia’s handling of the war in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Washington Post reported.
The Russian military has poorly supplied the Wagner Group with weapons and money, despite relying increasingly on it, especially in the east, the newspaper said.
Ukraine’s military intelligence said some 8,000 Wagner mercenaries were active on Ukrainian soil, most recruited from Russian prisons.
Unable to gain or hold territory, Russia continued to strike Ukraine’s infrastructure from the air, primarily using Iranian “kamikaze” drones that Iran officially denies supplying.
Budanov said the attacks were exclusively against civilian infrastructure.
Russian lawmaker Andrey Gurulyov explained the strategy on Russian television.
“The absence of electricity means the absence of water, the absence of refrigerators, the absence of sewage. One week after all electricity is cut off, the city of Kyiv will be swimming in shit. There will be a clear threat of an epidemic,” Gurulyov said.
“We need to take down the control centers. We are in the digital age. Data centers with servers control Ukraine’s railways and power supply systems, as well as banking systems and a mint that prints money,” Gurulyov said, predicting a “flood of refugees toward Western borders.”
But this air campaign does not appear to be progressing as planned.
After the initial shock of power loss and urban water pumping facilities targeted by drones and missiles, the Ukrainians sprang into action, claiming to restore 253 of the 580 damaged energy infrastructure facilities.
An October 24 poll revealed an unshakable will; Eighty-six percent of Ukrainians told the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology that they wanted to continue fighting despite the attacks on civilians.
Even among Russian speakers, 66 percent voted to continue the war. Overall, only 10 percent of Ukrainians said they should start negotiations to stop the bombing of cities.
Furthermore, Ukraine’s air defenses were succeeding in lessening the threat.
Budanov estimated that air defenses had shot down two-thirds of the 330 Shahed-136 drones deployed on October 22.
Figures from the Ukrainian General Staff for that day were typical of the Ukrainian success rate. Russia fired a reported 40 missiles and 16 Shahed-136 drones. Ukraine shot down 20 of the missiles and 11 of the UAVs.
Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuri Ignat said the German-supplied IRIS-T air defense system had performed well under attack, in the first confirmation that the supplies received on October 11 and were put into operation on October 17. October were effective.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he expected air defense to be strengthened considerably in the next two months with the arrival of new systems, as US President Joe Biden reportedly considered speeding up the shipment of Hawk interceptor missiles to Ukraine.
Ukraine’s spirit contrasted with mixed signals from its key allies.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who provided Caesar howitzers and promised Crotale air defenses, told an audience in Rome that “there is the prospect of peace, when Ukraine comes to such a decision,” suggesting that Ukraine should trade land for peace.
In Washington, a group of 30 liberal US lawmakers wrote to Biden urging him to open direct negotiations with Moscow.
The letter made Democrats appear divided in their support for Ukraine days before the US midterm elections on November 8, and the signatories withdrew it after 24 hours.
The call came days after Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appeared to suggest his party would cut military aid to Ukraine if he won a majority.
“I think people are going to be sitting in a recession and they are not going to want to write a blank check to Ukraine. They just won’t,” she said in an interview.
Instead, a clear signal of support for Ukraine came from Italy’s first female leader, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, a right-wing populist who campaigned on the need to cut war-swollen energy costs.
“Anyone who believes that it is possible to exchange Ukraine’s freedom for our tranquility is mistaken,” he told parliament in his opening speech. “Giving in to Putin’s blackmail on energy would not solve the problem, it would exacerbate it.”
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