“Not as fast as in the movies”
Ukrainian general speaks of breakthrough in the south
September 23, 2023, 9:16 a.m
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Ukraine claims to have achieved a breakthrough in its counteroffensive in the south of the country. The Ukrainian General Tarnawskyj now hopes to advance further towards the strategically important location of Tokmak. But what impact will the approaching period of bad weather have?
Ukrainian forces have made a significant breakthrough in their counteroffensive on the southern front line near Verbowe, Ukrainian General Oleksander Tarnavsky, who is leading the operation, told CNN. “On the left flank [bei Werbowe] “We have achieved a breakthrough and are moving forward,” Tarnawskyj told the US broadcaster.
The village of Werbowe is located in the Zaporizhia region of Ukraine in the south of the country, which is largely occupied by Russia. There had previously been reports that Ukrainian troops with armored vehicles had gotten behind the main Russian defense line near the town. “This is the first observed use of Ukrainian vehicles behind the Russian defense line,” reported the US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
However, the Ukrainian general admitted to CNN that his troops were making progress in the area more slowly than expected. The push was “not as fast as expected, not like in the World War II films,” he said. “The most important thing is that we don’t lose the initiative.”
Location Tokmak strategically important destination
Since the end of July, the Ukrainians have repeatedly attacked this section of the front in southern Ukraine. They initially fought their way towards the town of Robotyne and, according to their own statements, liberated it at the beginning of September. Werbowe is located a few kilometers southeast of Robotyne. The counteroffensive would only have achieved a real breakthrough if it succeeded in recapturing the town of Tokmak, Tarnawskyj told CNN. According to the current status, it will be another 20 kilometers until then. Tokmak is considered strategically important due to its role as a distribution center for Russian supplies.
Ukraine hopes to advance to the Sea of Azov in this direction. One goal is to cut off the Russians’ land connection to the Crimean peninsula. However, there are still several Russian defense lines and the sea is still over 100 kilometers away. On the question of whether there will be another big breakthrough, Tarnawskyj said: “I think so. I think that will happen after Tokmak.”
“Surovikin line” not biggest problem
Currently, Russian troops in the area rely on the depth of their defensive line, Tarnavskyi said. However, the biggest problem in advancing is not the developed “Surovikin Line”, but the “crossroads, tree lines and minefields between the tree lines”. The “Surovikin Line” is named after Russian General Sergei Surovikin, commander-in-chief of Russian troops in Ukraine from October 2022 to January 2023. After the coup by the Wagner mercenaries at the end of June, Surovikin was missing for a long time and only appeared publicly again at the beginning of September.
Will the approaching winter bring the Ukrainian offensive to a halt? Rain in autumn can make the ground in Ukraine muddy and therefore impassable for heavy vehicles. However, Tarnavskyj does not expect any disadvantages for the counteroffensive: Ukrainian troops would advance in small groups and mostly on foot.
“Russians learn quite quickly”
“At the moment, neither the enemy nor we are using large formations, companies, battalions or brigades. We are using assault squads, groups of 10 to 15 men,” he explained. “They do a gigantic job of concentrating enemy fire on themselves and using whatever means they need to survive.”
One of the reasons for the slow advance of Ukrainian forces, the general said, was the fact that Russia was able to learn some lessons from other Ukrainian offensives. “The Russians learn quite quickly because they have no other choice. If they don’t learn, they will be defeated sooner,” said Tarnawskyj.