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Expert: Offensive on the eastern front in Ukraine could last a few weeks

Rainer Saks.
Rainer Saks. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Russia's active offensive operations in eastern parts of Ukraine could last for another two weeks, security expert Rainer Saks said on the "Terevisioon" morning show.

"Russia is out of time when it comes to the destruction of Ukrainian forces. They launched the offensive a few days ago, and it has now reached an active phase. Should it be followed by a ground offensive, looking at the forces they have amassed there, they could remain active for a fortnight but not much longer," Saks said.

Saks said that there is little data on the aftermath of Russian artillery strikes on Monday.

"It seems that the bombardment came in the evening, with Russian forces now preparing for a daytime attack. But these things are in motion as we speak, and we do not really know what is happening," the expert told the hosts.

Saks said that Ukraine has been preparing for the offensive for a long time but has shared no information. "The next three or four days will tell whether the defenses will hold," he offered.

The expert said that the Mariupol metallurgical plant territory is being used as a base camp. "It is likely a territory that is convenient to hold. Air strikes are their number one concern. But I would stress that battles are also being fought outside the Azovstal area. The fighters still in the city are conducting raids in other parts of Mariupol. We are not talking about a narrow and confined battleground."

Saks described the Azov Battalion's defenses as thorough and very inconvenient for the enemy to try and break.

"What makes the situation difficult for the defenders is not so much lack of food or equipment but the fact that there are still civilians in the area who will keep them from unleashing their full strength so to speak. That is the most tragic aspect of this fight," Saks suggested.

He said there is no information on when Mariupol defenders were last supplied. "It seems today there are no more functional supply routes. But I believe that light arms and ammunition can be stocked for a very long time there. What matters is whether the defenders have the ability to destroy Russian armor that is the most unpleasant element of the offensive."

Saks added that while taking Mariupol would make it easier for Russia to supply its units in the south, the city holds no great strategic importance. "It rather stands to symbolize the mental fortitude of Ukrainian defenders and as a blemish on the Russian armed forces who have been unable to break the resistance."

He said that Ukraine cannot risk sending more troops to Mariupol as that is just what Russia is anticipating. "It could lead to a massacre and be generally very counterproductive for the Ukrainian side."

"Ukraine could win the battle for Mariupol by seizing other important territories that would force Russian troops out. If the Ukrainians could take Melitopol and a few other cities on the northern shore of the Azov Sea, conquering Mariupol would yield the Russians very little," Saks added.

The security expert suggested that lack of heavy weaponry both in terms of armor and artillery has been the main problem of the Ukrainian army. "There have been some western deliveries, while we don't know whether any of it has been used on the ground," Saks remarked.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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