This week, Russian troops recorded a surprising number of military victories in Donbass, including the capture of the city of Lyman. Three important lessons can be drawn from this, says military expert Mick Ryan.
In the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the tide seems to have turned – at least in part – this week. Russia has made several advances in its offensive in eastern Ukraine, including capturing Lyman, a tactically important city with central rail links. The Russian army has also advanced further and further to the city of Sievjerodonetsk. According to the local military administration, the city is almost completely surrounded by Russian troops.
For Australian ex-General Mick Ryan, the Russian advances are an “important lesson” in the Ukraine war. He describes this week as a “changing tide”. In a report on his Twitter channel, the military expert further explains: “There are times in war when the enemy succeeds despite the best efforts of those who oppose them. Most of the time, it’s unpredictable, regardless of past results.”
According to Ryan, by capturing Lyman and advancing on Sieverodonetsk and Popasna, Russian forces are attempting to encircle the area that forms the last parts of Luhansk under Ukrainian control. This could be part of a “broader Russian operational plan”. Russian forces have been trying to storm this area for weeks.
Sievjerodonetsk is the last major Ukrainian city in Luhansk that is still in Ukrainian hands. Taking the city would give the Russians an important advance. The governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Hajday, spoke of a difficult situation in Sieverodonetsk on Friday evening. Although you have enough funds to keep the defense, he said. However, it could be that the Ukrainian military will withdraw for tactical reasons. Ryan also suspects that: although the defenders could hold out for weeks, even months, the possible losses are too serious. The Ukrainian high command must therefore make a decision soon. But what do the current Russian advances mean for the future course of the war? According to Ryan, there are three key lessons to be learned:
The Russians had learned from their previous strategic and tactical mistakes, particularly during the battles around Kyiv. Instead of a broad front, they would have concentrated important troops on a smaller part of Ukraine. In addition, they would have moved more slowly than before in order to save energy and not to overwhelm the logistics. In this way they could have used the firepower of their cannon and rocket artillery more extensively.
Ryan believes that a certain “fatigue” has set in among Ukrainians, even as they continue to defend their country. Figures about the real losses of the Ukrainian army are unclear, they are also fighting on several smaller fronts in the east and cannot be equally strong in every fight. In addition, Ryan also emphasizes that it could be useful in the short term to cede ground like in Lyman in order to maintain your own armed forces.
Both sides are far from exhausted and have the will, the strength and the logistics to continue this war for some time, said the ex-general. Even if Ukraine was able to hold out better tactically and strategically than expected, the Russians have not yet indicated that they will withdraw. They are probably even encouraged by their offensive in Lyman, Sieverodonetsk and Popasna.
Nevertheless, Ryan warns to be careful when predicting the end of the war. “Changing tides” are normal elements of war. He believes that in the medium term, Ukraine’s advantages will prevail with the help of the West.