Estonian colonel not convinced Ukraine can liberate territories by year end
Although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has set the goal of liberating the entire territory of Ukraine from Russian troops by the New Year, this does not seem to be possible, says Colonel Margo Grosberg, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces' intelligence center (Kaitseväe luurekeskus).
Speaking at a Ministry of Defense briefing on Friday, Colonel Grosberg reiterated that, as winter approaches, the window for either side to conduct military operations is narrowing.
"As I said last week, depending on when the weather turns bad, there are around 7-9 weeks remaining, until the end of all active hostilities. From then on, we will be dealing with 'static warfare' of the kind we are now seeing in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, until spring," said Grosberg.
Grosberg explained, that it is therefore also unlikely that Ukraine will be able fulfill President Zelenskyy's wish of liberating its entire territory from Russian troops in such a short timeframe.
Colonel Grosberg also spoke about the series of counteroffensives launched by Ukrainian forces in the Kherson Oblast this week. "I wouldn't categorize this as a mass offensive - it's not yet. But Ukraine has been making progress in the Kherson region since the beginning of April," Grosberg said.
Grosberg explained that, if Ukrainian troops were to advance out of the Kherson Oblast and reach the Dnieper River, it would remove the threat of Russian forces trying to advance towards Odesa. However, according to Grosberg, any difficulties faced by Russian units crossing the Dnieper would also be problems for the Ukrainian troops, with the colonel adding, that in order for an attacking force to succeed, it needs to have a threefold advantage over its opponents.
In addition to this, Russia has built a large number of defensive fortifications in the Kherson region, with Ukrainian forces only been able to break through the first line so far. However, in Grosberg's view, the remaining defensive lines are much stronger, making it very difficult for the Ukrainians.
The colonel stressed, that this makes it crucial for Ukraine to continue receiving increased Western support.
At the same time, Ukraine's successes in the Kherson Oblast and the increasingly intense offensive, will reduce the ability of the occupying forces to stage any form of referendum (on accession) there, Grosberg said.
Elsewhere in Ukraine Russian units have made attacks, closer to Kharkiv and in the Donetsk oblast, but with little success. The same is true of an offensive on the outskirts of Soledar.
Russia is bringing additional troops into Ukraine, with the first units of the third army corps sighted in the bordering Rostov Oblast, Grosberg said. However, it is not yet known where they will be deployed. The nearest destination for them would be Donetsk Oblast, but if Ukraine makes progress in Kherson, they will likely be deployed there to plug the gaps, Grosberg said.
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Editor: Michael Cole