EDF colonel: Winter in Ukraine may bring heavy casualties

Colonel Eero Rebo.
Colonel Eero Rebo. Source: ERR

As winter approaches, so too is a new phase of Russia's war in Ukraine. Any significant changes in the overall course of the war will depend heavily on Russia's ability to undermine Ukraine's energy infrastructure. It will also be crucial for both sides to ensure their respective militaries remain combat-ready throughout the winter months, with an advantage to be gained by whoever can cope best with the falling temperatures. However, for the time being, the initiative remains with Ukraine.

By attacking Ukrainian energy infrastructure ahead of the winter, Russia has been attempting to play something of a tactical trump card in an attempt to regain the upper hand in the war.

In particular, Russia's use of Iranian-supplied drones, which Tehran has reportedly promised to replenish, has led to a situation in which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's recently announced that a third of Ukraine's power stations have been put out of action in the last two weeks.

But, does this mean Russia is taking back the initiative in the war?

Colonel Eero Rebo, chief of the general staff of the Estonian Defense Forces, says that this strategy is definitely not one Russia is employing in order to win the war outright.

"Instead, this strategy is more about bringing negotiations closer. (Russia) certainly started (with this approach) too soon, because the weather forecast in Kyiv over the next 14 days promises to be the same as in Estonia, and that is something that (Ukraine) can live with," Rebo said.

An addition to which side is more successful on the front, the key question now, is whether Russia will be able to continue attacking Ukraine's infrastructure throughout the winter.

"The question is, how long will this kind of campaign last? Will the Russians be able to keep going for weeks, or even months? Another question is, what is happening on the front? At the moment, it seems that in Kherson Oblast Russian troops are being pushed to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River. That means there is a retreat. That would make for a huge change to the overall picture," said Martin Hurt, research fellow at the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) in Tallinn.

So, what developments can be expected in the war going into winter? Colonel Eero Rebo believes, that success will depend on which side is better able to consistently arm and supply its troops throughout the colder months.

"When it comes to logistics and maintenance, Putin's army is not in great shape at the moment," said Reno. "For now, it seems like the numbers are actually working against Putin. (Russia) had a very big mobilization drive, but they chose quantity over quality," he said.

However, Rebo also predicts that the coming winter is likely to bring heavy casualties as the frozen ground once again facilitates the movement of heavy weaponry, and changes in the terrain also reduce opportunities for fighters to take cover.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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