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Despite being massively outnumbered by invading Russian forces and subject to continuous long-range rocket and artillery bombardment, Ukrainian fighters have now actually managed to “push back” Russian invaders are actually reclaiming territory they had previously held. “
Ukrainian Army Pushes Back Russian Forces
Ukrainian soldiers have forced Russian invaders back from the east side of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv. Russians to the northwest of the city have begun digging defensive positions,” a senior pentagon official told reporters at a background briefing on the war, according to a transcript.
How is this happening, given the extent of Russian long-range bombing and heavy mechanized forces advancing on the Russian capital? For quite some time now it has been well understood that Russian forces are suffering morale problems and a lack of supplies such as food, water and ammunition.
Also, Ukrainian forces have been seizing the initiative and attacking advancing Russian forces at key chokepoints, bridges and intersections to deny passage or strike Russian forces when they are more vulnerable or exposed to incoming enemy fire in narrow passageways. The much-observed and widely discussed Russian convoy wound up being stuck in the mud, stalled and massively depleted, stalled and destroyed by Ukrainian ambushes and hit-and-run attacks.
Pentagon officials say these kinds of Ukrainian attacks have actually pushed Russian forces back a considerable distance.
“I think there's been no progress towards Kyiv on the ground. And in fact, to the north and northwest, it is -- it is effectively stalled as we see them take defensive positions now to really make no indications that they're planning to move forward from that direction. And from the east, they've actually moved backwards. The Ukrainians have pushed them back to about 55 kilometers from -- from -- to the -- the east of Kyiv; they were around 20 to 30 as we talked about the last several days. So, they've actually moved backwards on the Eastern front,” a senior official said.
Perhaps Russian forces only become increasingly vulnerable upon entering urban and more densely populated areas. This may be why the Ukrainians are able to push the Russians back and reclaim lost territory. More urban areas means advancing Russian forces, vehicles and convoys need to maneuver through narrow streets in close proximity to buildings. Buildings are optimal locations from which Ukrainian forces can stage counterattacks from hidden or fortified positions within buildings less visible to Russian targeting sensors. The Ukrainians are armed with extremely effective anti-armor weapons such as Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft shoulder-fired missiles.
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Dismounted Russian infantry fighting house-to-house in suburban neighborhoods or urban streets would likely face a disadvantage as well, given that Ukrainian forces are likely to know the details of the area in ways they can use to their advantage. As Russian vehicle columns get attacked and potentially destroyed by deliberately dispersed, disaggregated, dismounted groups of Ukrainian forces armed with anti-armor weapons, individual Russian soldiers likely have little incentive to fight.
It would make sense if this were playing out in suburban areas outside of Kyiv as Russian forces have been struggling to encircle the city with little success. Ukrainian forces seem to be holding strong with their plans to protect their capital city.
The city of Mariupol in Southeastern Ukraine is barely still visible beneath the smoke, flames and ruins of bombed out buildings. The humanitarian disaster there is reportedly reaching nearly unprecedented levels of devastation, yet the Ukrainians have still not surrendered the city and simply refused to be subjugated. The resolve and sheer intensity of Ukrainians fighting for their homeland continues to captivate world attention, and Ukrainian fighters are actually now taking back territory once occupied by Russians throughout parts of the country.
A Senior Pentagon official said the US assessment is that the Russians are fighting desperately for Mariupol to create a corridor up the Eastern side of Ukraine to connect the south with the Russian separatist areas in the Donbass region. A Pentagon report says the Russian strategy is aimed at cutting off, pinning down or isolating Ukrainian forces, yet the invaders have still been unable to fully capture Mariupol despite the incredible devastation of their attacks.
“Going back down south now towards Mariupol' -- again, very very contested still -- Russians are still bombarding it heavily with artillery and long-range fire we continue to observe Russian forces inside the city, but they're -- but it's not -- it's certainly not a majority of them, and the Ukrainians are also inside Mariupol' and of course fighting very hard for it,” a senior defense official told reporters at the Pentagon, according to a transcript.
However, in order to execute this kind of strategy, Russian forces would need to be sustained and resupplied with fuel, food and ammunition. Russian efforts to resupply their forces, however, are coming under heavy Ukrainian attack. CNN aired a video of a Russian warship docking from the Black Sea into Southern Ukraine in flames, reportedly destroyed by Ukrainian attacks. This could be a clear Ukrainian effort to target Russian supply lines, which has been a tactic they have employed throughout the country.
The problem for Russia is that their resupply ships and ground convoys are all quite vulnerable and falling prey to Ukrainian ambushes and surprise hit-and-run attacks. This is a much discussed reason why the Russian convoy North of Kyiv has been stalled, and it may indeed be part of why the Russians are having trouble linking Mariupol to the Donbass region and other areas along the Eastern coast of Ukraine. Convoys are inherently vulnerable, and part of why Russia appears to have resorted to long-range bombing instead of direct confrontation with Ukrainians may be related to their poor performance in combat. Knowing the streets buildings, neighborhoods and terrain as they do, Ukrainians are likely positioned to defend their cities with a distinct advantage which they appear to be leveraging.
“Mariupol is contested with the Russians bombarding the city with artillery and other long-range fires. The official said there are Russian forces inside the city, but the Ukrainians continue to fight very hard for Mariupol,” a Pentagon report said.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University