Military operations will not be canceled in Ukraine because of the winter and will rather be concentrated on roads, Brig. Gen. Vahur Karus, commander of the Defense Forces Academy, told ERR.
Karus said on the "Ukraina stuudio" program that even though reports of Russian units leaving the eastern shore of the Dnieper are unconfirmed at this time, it could point to disarray and the need to reorganize there, despite Russia's relative success withdrawing from the western bank.
"The Russians prioritize defending Crimea and not allowing the Ukrainians to set foot on the eastern bank. A part of Ukrainian units have been freed up after taking Kherson, meaning that Russian forces must also concentrate on certain strategically or operationally important places," Karus suggested.
Ukrainians would have logistics problem on eastern bank
Karus said that crossing the Dnieper would immediately cause the same problems for Ukrainians that Russians had on the western bank.
"Bridges have been destroyed, and the river is a kilometer wide there. Organizing logistics across that is quite the headache. We might expect the Russians want the Ukrainians to cross so they could inflict losses where they know the Ukrainians would have trouble with logistics," Karus remarked.
The general considered it vital Ukraine controls the Kinburn Spit. He said that the spit controls the Dnieper estuary and waterways to Kherson and Mykolaiv ports. "The Ukrainians must hold it to have any chance at normal transport. Kinburn sports strategic economic importance," Karus said.
"The western bank gives Ukraine a straight shot to Crimea. And this is something the Russians absolutely must prevent. It remains to be seen where they will station troops that could be capable of preventing it."
He also speculated that the Russian withdrawal could have been caused by the fact their initial positions were within the range of Ukrainian artillery.
Russians trying to tie down Ukrainians by attacking Bakhmut
Talking about Bakhmut, Karus said that Russia is trying to maintain its tactical upper hand there and tie the Ukrainians down.
"It could have to do with bogging down Ukrainian reserves that were freed up from Kherson, stopping them from being used in a possible counteroffensive in the north."
"If they can make their way past Bakhmut, turning left, they would find themselves behind Ukraine's northern offensive group. But whether they have the strength to pull something like that off I do not know. Right now, the aim is rather to tie down Ukrainian forces in a single region and keep them from undertaking new things elsewhere.
Weather has favored Ukraine so far
Karus said that the weather has been on Ukraine's side as the ground has frozen before the arrival of snow. "Snow can no longer isolate warmth inside the ground. If snow now falls on top, the ground will become as strong as concrete that allows units far more operational freedom. Smaller bodies of water will freeze, which will also give maneuver units more scope," Karus suggested.
The general added that the amount of snow Ukraine will see this winter will also affect developments. "If we'll see more than 20 cm of snow, it will become a hindrance for vehicles and see the war concentrate on roads. The roads network is much denser in southern Ukraine than it is in the north. The tactical problem with the war moving to roads is that the sides will increasingly be competing for the same space, which could hamper opportunities. However, the winter will not cancel operations in Ukraine," Karus said.
The head of the Estonian Defense Forces Academy also said that winter operations result in much bigger fuel consumption as machinery needs to be kept running in order to generate heat. Karus said that one can easily lose one's mind when forced to be outside in temperatures of -5 and -10 degrees night and day.
Soldiers also need a lot more food and water as the human body requires more energy to keep warm.
Infrared and thermal cameras are also much more effective at discovering targets in winter.
"If they can rally their units and find success, the Ukrainians could sever a supply route running along the shores of the Asov Sea from Zaporizhzhia. Russia needs peace [more than Ukraine] to get their forces in order," Karus said in closing.
Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Marcus Turovski