A UK defence expert has rejected claims that Ukraine’s counteroffensive has failed and insisted it was making “good progress”.
Last week a high-ranking Austrian army officer claimed in an interview with Germany’s n-tv channel that the first phase of Ukraine’s counteroffensive had ended in failure.
Colonel Markus Reisner said that Ukraine’s initial attempts to use NATO tactics against fortified and heavily-mined Russian defences had proved unsuccessful.
He went on to add that the Ukrainian army was now adapting its tactics and predicted limited successes, but no major breakthroughs.
However, a former British Lieutenant Colonel dismissed the remarks as “nonsense”, saying the counteroffensive was making “good solid progress” and that it was still realistic for Kyiv’s army to reach the coastline of the Sea of Above before the winter set in.
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Glen Grant, who has been an adviser to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence and works as an analyst for the Baltic Security Foundation, told the Express that Zelensky’s army was facing two major problems, as it seeks to regain territory from the Russians.
“First of all you have the Russian defences,” he explained.
“So in among the tree lines where the defences are in most places, the Russians have got massive trench works.
“They are mined with a combination of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. When the Russians are forced out of a trench line, they are still leaving mines in the trenches, including mining their own casualties.
“The second problem is geography. In many areas – like in the south – you have these huge fields, so you can see everybody coming.
“This is wide open territory that consists of one-and-a-half, two kilometre, three kilometre, even seven kilometre long fields where you can see from one side to the other.
“So you have to get through the minefields and get across that, before you can get into the trench lines to start actually clearing people.
“At the moment a lot of the guys are having to do the fighting on foot and having to walk, as they can’t take their armoured vehicles with them.”
Ukraine has since the beginning of June launched multiple attacks along the 600 mile frontline, with mixed results.
Zelensky’s army is pushing hard around Bakhmut in the east, as well as moving south and south-east from Velyka Novosilka and Vuhledar in Donetsk province.
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It’s also battling its way south in Zaporizhzhia province, but has met particularly fierce resistance here. Analysts estimate that Ukraine’s army has so far recaptured just over 158 square kilometres of its territory.
One key objective for Kyiv would appear to be reaching the coastline of the Sea of Azov. This would potentially split the Russian army in two and help cut the supply lines to the Crimean peninsula.
Mr Grant argued this was still a realistic target, despite the stubborn resistance the Russians were putting up.
“It is going to depend on lots of variables – including just running out of energy, ammunition, the Russians reinforcing heavily where we didn’t expect it,” he said.
“This is war – you can’t predict it. Have Ukrainians got the ability as they are working at the moment to get down that far?
“The answer is yes, they do because they are moving forward and they are fighting well and the Russians are going back.”
He added that Ukraine was actively knocking out Russian artillery units and destroying ammunition dumps – a precondition for any major advance.
The former British senior officer criticised analysts and commentators for questioning the speed of Ukraine’s advances, arguing people had forgotten what real war looked like.
“People are thinking that this is a computer game,” he said. “It ain’t! This is real – lots of dead bodies on both sides. Lots of people dying in Ukraine to break through.
“It’s dirty infantry work that cannot be quick because you can only move 20, 30 and 50 metres at a time.”
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