JThe explosion of the Kakhovsky Dam in a Russian-occupied area in southern Ukraine could change the dynamics of any Ukrainian plan for a major offensive – but it is coming.
For months, speculation of a Ukrainian offensive has grown in proportion to the growing array of powerful weaponry supplied by the West, including tanks, devastatingly accurate missiles and artillery of the type needed to carry out a large-scale offensive.
The Russians are convinced he has started and Moscow even boasted that its forces had already crushed the Ukrainian attack, killing hundreds of enemy soldiers and destroying many tanks.
The Ukrainians acknowledged that battles were raging in several areas, but said the rout described by the Russians was a product of their fantasies. Even the leader of Wagner’s notorious Russian mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigozhin, scoffed at these claims.
The Kremlin’s declarations of victory sound like wishful thinking to Russia’s own population and Moscow’s forces are unlikely to realize Kiev’s ‘great push’ has only begun when they find Ukrainian soldiers all around them. .
The Ukrainians themselves were coy about what they were doing and repeatedly said they would not announce the start of any offensive. And now this.
Blowing up the dam appears to be an act of panicked desperation on the part of the Kremlin and another piece of evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin is becoming dangerously unhinged.
The floods have already submerged a large swath of territory, with thousands of people having to be evacuated even as the Russians reportedly shelled rescuers and survivors.
The dam reservoir provides water for reactor cooling and other safety procedures at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine and Europe’s largest, which is also manned by Russian troops.
kyiv accused Russia of deliberately detonating it. The Russians deny having done so. But Moscow has a long history of lies and most Western countries blame Russia. The EU called it another Russian act of “barbaric aggression”.
A vastly outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainian army performed surprisingly well employing much cunning and skillful deception. kyiv is certainly not going to telegraph to Moscow when Ukraine’s big push to reclaim Russian-occupied territory begins.
It is very possible that the current escalation in fighting is the Ukrainian investigation of Russian weaknesses, with final decisions on where and when to attack still undetermined.
kyiv formed new military units and trained thousands of soldiers in preparation for such an assault.
Along with the massive aid being provided, a feeling has grown among some of Ukraine’s Western supporters that the flow of arms to Kiev could not be sustained so generously unless Ukraine demonstrated that it could use these resources effectively.
Thus, a certain pressure was installed in kyiv to launch a counter-offensive which would inflict significant defeats on the Kremlin army and liberate the territory occupied by Russia.
However, the Ukrainian army was never going to spend the lives of its men and women to launch a premature major assault in order to satisfy the expectations of others.
On Sunday, I visited a large Ukrainian base where an infantry battalion, formed only four months ago from mostly fresh conscripts, was preparing to leave at short notice.
The mood in Ukraine is a thrilling mix of anticipation, apprehension, excitement, a certain fear and a solemn knowledge that many of the country’s bravest and best may soon die. At the military base, these feelings are amplified.
The battalion colonel, who only used his first name, Vitaliy, had been a professional soldier between 1994 and 2004 and later became an IT specialist specializing in solar energy companies. He served again in 2014 when Russia first launched its invasion and again reported for duty on February 24 last year – the day Russia launched its massive assault on Ukraine. .
He said there would never be a perfect time to send people into combat and that he would have preferred a longer training period for his 600 soldiers. He is confident that senior military commanders will initially give his troops support roles rather than throwing them headlong into frontline battles.
Deception and cunning were essential elements of Ukraine’s surprise offensive last fall in the northeast Kharkiv region, which expelled the Russians from huge swaths of territory.
Operations that the Ukrainian forces have certainly considered include using their newly acquired modern and powerful tanks to force their way through Russian lines south of the Black Sea and thus cut off the Moscow land route from Russia to the Occupied Crimea.
The Ukrainians may want to exploit the bitter differences between the Russian regular army and the Wagnerian mercenaries who left the Russian forces at Bakhmut, the site of the longest and bloodiest battle of this war, in a precarious position and possibly vulnerable to encirclement.
Another bold option would be for Ukrainian forces to enter Russian territory, for example adjoining its Kharkiv region, to attack behind heavy Russian defenses built in expectation of an assault from Ukrainian territory. Anti-Putin Russian volunteer forces coordinating with Ukraine have already created a beachhead there.
Ukraine has warned that the upcoming battle, whatever form it takes, is unlikely to result in an outright victory for Kyiv. As long as Russian President Vladimir Putin remains alive, he will maintain the war as a matter of personal survival. He doesn’t care how many of his countrymen continue to die.
Ukrainians are hoping that events on the battlefield will have enough impact to precipitate change in Russia that will eliminate Putin, although they know the chances of that happening are slim.
Ukrainians have no choice but to keep fighting because the murders, rapes, tortures, child abductions and other atrocities that the Russians have perpetrated all over Ukraine are a stark reminder of what would happen to everyone country if Moscow were victorious.
What Ukrainians hope is that the huge and heartbreaking sacrifices their army will have to make in the weeks and months to come will mean that their country’s allies will continue to support Ukraine and provide the equipment – including F16 fighters – to achieve a victory.
And that Ukraine will eventually become a member of NATO, or equally strong bilateral security guarantees, to ensure that its country will never again be hostage to Russian barbarism.