Waack: Russia fails in attempt to cross the Donets River

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With the surrender of the last Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol, Russia achieved a land link between Crimea and the breakaway territories it recognized as independent countries.

The forces led by Vladimir Putin, however, are still far from the great declared strategic objective, which was to conquer the entirety of these territories – the industrial base of Ukraine.

The Russians wanted to encircle most of the Ukrainian military forces in eastern Ukraine – something they have so far failed to do.

One battle explains what is, so far, a great failure: it was the battle of the Seversky Donets River, which rises in Russia, enters Ukraine and returns to Russia.

To encircle the Ukrainians, the Russians had to cross an obstacle – the river – which is always a delicate operation for any army over millennia of war.

The result, documented by various types of images, was a catastrophe for the Russians. Perhaps the biggest in a single day of fighting.

Knowing that the Russians were trying to cross the river, the Ukrainians concentrated their artillery on soft targets.

The Russians made the basic mistake of crowding troops and tanks in one place. And they lost an entire tactical battalion there alone, committing the forces necessary for the offensive aimed at encircling and annihilating the Ukrainians.

Historical digression: the Russians ignored centuries of military arts manuals, at least from the Middle Ages onwards, and even approached by the strategist Carl von Clausewitz, who pointed out the importance and, at the same time, the danger of river crossing operations for any military offensive of any army.

The error was gross and basic.

Such a disaster, which would have cost the Russians more than 500 deaths in less than two hours, ended up being a topic in Russia itself.

One of Russia’s most renowned defense columnists, Colonel Mikhail Khodaryonok, caused an international sensation by saying loudly and in direct words that the war is not going well for Russia.

During a debate on state television, Colonel Khodaryonok said that the strategic situation is bad, geopolitics is even worse, with the whole world against Russia, and that generals are making primary mistakes like that of trying to cross the river in Ukraine.

What is not known is whether that kind of realism made it to the Kremlin. The great offensive to engulf eastern Ukraine failed, after the offensive to seize the country’s capital, Kiev.

But Russia’s ambition to take over much of neighboring Ukraine does not seem to have abated. What has greatly diminished, perhaps decisively, is the military’s ability to achieve these ambitions.

Source: CNN Brasil

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