Update on the War in Ukraine – It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Russia’s high command had promised Vladimir Putin that the Russian military could deliver a decisive blow and take control of Kyiv within 72-hours. But after weeks of siege warfare and heavy losses, the Russians have withdrawn from the capital and left a shocking amount of carnal damage including murdered civilians that have many accusing the Russians of war crimes. Here is the state of play in the Russia – Ukraine War of 2022:
Tough-fought Ukrainian Victory in Kyiv
Ukraine can be considered the victors of the Battle of Kyiv. But it was a pyrrhic victory in this war of attrition.
Some Russian troops have been left behind amid the retreat or re-positioning of Russian forces from the Kyiv Oblast. These skeleton forces are creating a rear-guard action to cover Russian movement. The retreating Russian troops have left booby traps, mines, and improvised explosive devices that will not allow the Ukrainians to inhabit the recovered urban territory any time soon.
Russia Commits War Crimes in Ukraine
Shockingly, not only has Russia left Ukrainian soldiers and executed civilians (with their hands and feet bound) in mass graves or simply lying on the street, but they have also left bombs rigged to the corpses.
The Ukrainians claim the destruction around the area of Bucha with at least 400 civilian corpses strewn about constitutes war crimes. Even though the Russians left a myriad of destroyed tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and trucks behind, they still have withdrawn substantial forces from the west bank of the Dnipro River.
It’s Not Over Yet
Unfortunately, this war is far from over.
The Ukrainian win at Kyiv is a great development for Ukrainian forces, but it is not decisive as the Russians will take these retreating forces and send them east to reestablish strength in the Kharkiv avenue of approach and, in time, to the Donbas. They will probably use ceasefire negotiations as a delaying tactic to get their men and materiel in a position to make more attacks during new offensives.
Russians Are Licking Their Wounds
The good news for the Ukrainians is that the retreating Russians who attacked Kyiv from the north and east are in poor shape.
The Russians will have to figure out exactly who is still alive, treat their wounded, take an inventory of armored vehicles, and maintain some form of rejuvenation and morale adjustment. They need food and rest plus maintenance on surviving vehicles and their ammunition replenished.
This delay in further offensive operations will give the Ukrainians time to do the same thing, so the war in the north will pause as both sides recover.
What Does the Geography of the Battlefield Look Like?
The Institute for the Study of War has determined the geographical array of forces as of April 4. “Russian forces are likely abandoning the east bank of the Dnipro fully as well, withdrawing from around Chernihiv to the north and from Brovary to the east. Russian troops will likely seek to hold a salient around Konotop and Sumy long enough to allow their forces to complete their retrograde from near Kyiv but will then likely withdraw back to Russia from almost all their positions west of Kharkiv.”
Some Russians Do Not Want to Fight in Ukraine
The Russians are being forced to deal with beleaguered troops with bad attitudes. High casualties have Vladimir Putin’s forces behaving not only as war criminals, but they are refusing orders from commanders, according to reports from British intelligence.
Lack of Competent NCOs and Junior Officers
The Russians do not have a quality professional non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps. The lack of quality NCOs leaves conscripts to their own devices. Many of these draftees do not have the will to fight. NCOs can also supplement company-grade officers in a way that would lead to better combat performance. But the junior officers are under-performing leading to generals joining the front lines to take over command.
Ukrainee Know What They Are Doing
The Ukrainians will take pride in their fight against Vladimir Putin’s forces. Successfully defending Kyiv gives them a boost in morale and confidence that their forces are better qualitatively than Russian forces. This, unfortunately, is not the last of the fighting. Putin is likely to refuse to give in even though his army is not exhibiting successful combined arms warfare.
The Russian army was supposed to have been modernized for 21st-century warfare, but now they are exhibiting tactics from a bygone era. They do not display a successful recipe for joint warfighting.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.