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EDF colonel: Ukraine trying to do something more, south of Dnipro River

Col. Toomas Väli.
Col. Toomas Väli. Source: ERR

Ukrainian troops could take advantage of Russia's focus on the ongoing battles around Avdiivka, by attempting something bigger to the south of Kherson, on the southern bank of the Dnipro River, Col. Toomas Väli, deputy chief of operations at the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) General Staff, said on ETV show "Esimene Stuudio."

Recently, in the ongoing war in Ukraine, there has been a lot of attention on what is happening in and around the city of Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast. Speaking on ETV show "Esimene Stuudio," Väli said that, as Ukraine has built extensive fortifications in and around Avdiivka since 2014, in his view, Russian forces ought to have realized before they began maneuvering there, that their chances of succeeding were low.

"The Ukrainians have had time to prepare for this, and they have not overlooked the concentration of the Russian Federation's troops near Avdiivka, because most of the columns were moving out from cities in Donetsk Oblast. A great many of those who were first to go on the offensive in Avdiivka were mobilized from Donetsk Oblast. This was to be expected, and the Ukrainians had obviously anticipated it," he said.

At the same time, the launch of the offensive on Avdiivka may have been linked to Russian president Vladimir Putin's visit to China, according to Col. Väli. "We always tend to focus on the tactical situation on the ground, however, Putin's visit to China took place at the same time. There is probably some connection, because when a president goes to talk to the president of another country, he will want to talk about how successful his troops have been in military operations."

According to Väli, Russia's offensive had also been carefully prepared, as the principles of joint forces cooperation such as air support and armored maneuvering can be seen. "They basically tried to do everything there according to their own regulations, but they have not succeeded," said Väli.

Ukraine, however, could exploit Russia's current focus on Avdiivka by taking action elsewhere, Väli said.

"While we are looking very carefully at a particular place, at the same time they might be doing something else somewhere else. As things stand, what is happening downstream of the Dnipro, in Kherson Oblast, could be an indication of something that Ukraine is trying to exploit," he said.

"They have actually been constantly prodding at Russian Federation troops from across the river. This type of raiding, taking advantage of night vision capabilities, using small vessels, which cross the Dnipro quickly, make a quick hit and then go back. This has been done before. But in the last two or three days, something different has been observed. In this sense, it seems that Ukraine is trying to do something more to the south and south-east of Kherson. Warfare is often so opportunistic that if there is a way to squeeze through from somewhere, they will squeeze through from there, however, it is too early to judge at the moment. It seems that the Russians were expecting it and have moved their reserves. But, for now, I would keep an eye on the southern bank of the Dnipro," he explained.

"At the very moment when Ukraine would be able to move ten kilometers beyond the line of the Dnipro River, this would allow them to build some more serious pontoon bridges over the Dnipro, and out of range of Russian artillery. It's very difficult to speculate, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed and I'm looking at the southern direction of the Dnipro with great interest," added Väli.

ATACMS unlikely to bring breakthrough

The U.S. has provided Ukraine with MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) and Kyiv's forces have already used them. Väli explained that the ATACMS will increase Ukrainian troops' firing range by 150 kilometers.

"The possibility of hitting at a range of almost 300 kilometers means that the Russian Federation will have to make changes to its current maneuvers. They will have to change their command and control points, they will probably have to move aircraft again from the airfields to somewhere further away, which in turn means they will probably not be able to support their own ground maneuvers as quickly," said Col. Väli.

"It will be interesting to see what happens now. However, what is now clear is that the Ukrainians have the opportunity to have an impact from a distance. Would that mean any kind of breakthrough? Probably not. Here again we come to the point that the numbers are probably large enough so as to enable a massive strike on everything in a particular area. It's not a 155mm projectile, we're still talking about a precision weapon," said Väli.

"This is a precision weapon, which can hit very high-value targets," he added.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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