Russia Seeing Success in Ukraine but May Be Short-Lived: Analysts

Russia Seeing Success in Ukraine but May Be Short-Lived: Analysts

  • Russia is making some gains in its brutal advance in eastern Ukraine, analysts told Insider.
  • It is a reversal from the early invasion, where Russia was humiliatingly pushed back.
  • The analysts both said Russia is pushing hard now but will likely lose momentum soon.

Russia is finding success in its invasion of Ukraine after ripping up its original plan to focus on a far narrower area, analysts told Insider.

Two experts pointed to recent gains in the Donbas region, which align with bleaker assessments from Ukrainian officials who are urgently seeking Western aid to rebalance the odds.

It is a stark reversal from the early weeks of the war, when Russia appeared to expect Ukraine to fall within weeks. Its troops tried to seize Kyiv while also attacking on several other fronts, but were humiliatingly pushed back.

On March 25, Russia redefined its main goal, saying it wanted to take the eastern Donbas region which had been partly held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

Since then Russian artillery has pummeled the region and Russia began to achieve its narrower aims, albeit while taking heavy losses.

In a downbeat message to his people, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday: “The situation in Donbas remains extremely difficult. The Russian army is trying to gather overwhelming forces in certain areas to put more and more pressure on our defenders.”

On Tuesday officials said Russian forces had overrun part of Sievierodonetsk, the largest city in the Donbas still controlled by Ukraine, the latest in a string of territorial losses.

It’s no surprise that Russia is finding some success, according to experts, since it is focusing a large number of troops on a smaller space.

Gen. Robert Spalding, a former director at the White House National Security Council, discussed the situation in an interview with Insider.

“It makes a lot of sense,” he said. “Once the Russians got into Ukraine they just extended their lines too far and ther ability to move people and supplies throughout of Ukraine is just too much,” said

“But as they draw closer to their own territory their ability to resupply and bring in more people is a lot easier.”

Mathieu Boulègue, a senior research fellow on the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House, suggested that Russia was making the most of a temporary advantage.

Its forces, he said, would likely try to gain as much ground as possible before running out of steam.

“What we will see in the next weeks is a shift between movement warfare, the advance of troops, to positional warfare. Basically, Russia bunkering down inside Ukrainian territory,” he told Insider.

“It’s a headlong rush, and they’re full of exhaustion and this exhaustion will turn into attrition,” Boulègue said.

“We see this in Kherson, where Russia is bunkering down, instead of being more offensive and pushing deeper in Ukraine. This is what we see in Donbas,” he said.

“There’s only so much they can throw at Ukraine before they’re exhausted.”

Spalding agreed, predicting that Russian advances would soon halt.

“I don’t think the Russian’s are going to get too far from where they are now as they don’t have the ability to sustain that, and I don’t think the Ukrainians are going to be able to push them out,” he said.

“It’s not trench warfare but it looks like trench warfare. You’re lobbing rockets and missiles and artillery at each other.”

KHARKIV, UKRAINE - MAY 29: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY â MANDATORY CREDIT - "UKRAINIAN PRESIDENCY / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the Kharkiv region for the first time since Russia started the attacks against his country on February 24, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine on May 29, 2022. After the investigations on the front line, Zelenskyy visited the houses and other structures destroyed by the clashes in the city of Kharkiv, and held a meeting with the army officials there.  (Photo by Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy seen in Kharkiv on May 29, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

By controlling the Donbas, Russia is able to cut off Ukraine from the Sea of ​​Azov, making it far harder to export commodities like grain.

This in turn stokes a global food crisis which Moscow hopes to leverage into sanctions relief.

In recent weeks, Ukrainian leaders have pleaded with the West to send long-range rocket systems so it can counter Russia’s advances from a distance as well as on the front lines.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday said that he would send Ukraine some long-range weapons, but nothing that would enable it to strike beyond its borders.

Spalding said the situation in the Donbas echoes the dynamic in the Korean war, where the front line morphed over a period of many years.

“That’s what you’re going to see with Ukraine. It’s going to be a process of both sides trying to figure out how much are they willing to lose,” he said.

“Ukraine’s going to be a long-term thing. Putin can’t back down because of his own pride and reputation. Ukraine, it’s their territory, they can’t back down.”

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