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Colonel: Russia has the upper hand in some areas of soft power

Lt. Col. Toomas Väli appearing on an earlier edition of 'Ukraina stuudio.'
Lt. Col. Toomas Väli appearing on an earlier edition of 'Ukraina stuudio.' Source: ERR

Russia has managed to make small but notable gains in diplomacy and economy, said Lt. Col. Toomas Väli, deputy head of the EDF Headquarters operations department.

Väli said on the "Ukrainia stuudio" program that the past week has brought little change on the front lines of the Russia-Ukraine war. There is relatively more activity around Avdiivka where Russia is trying to make gains by relying on artillery and masses of troops.

The colonel said that Avdiivka matters because it is basically a suburb of Donetsk and a logistics hub.

He added that the Ukrainians must ensure their units are manned, armed, fed, treated and evacuated all under constant artillery bombardment. They have managed so far. But he also said that developments in Russia – Vladimir Putin running for president again, boosting the military by 170,000 personnel and hiking the defense budget constitutes very bad news for Ukraine.

Väli compared the battle for Avdiivka to that over Bakhmut.

"It is up to the Ukrainian command how long they want to hold on to Avdiivka. While Russia is losing 500-600-700-800 troops a day by attacking the town 20-40 times a day, Ukraine is also burning through defenders. We do not have a very good idea of how many Ukrainians have died or been wounded in the fighting, and the Ukrainians will eventually have to decide whether to pull out their troops and basically surrender the town to the Russians."

"But I feel that it remains a Bakhmut-like scenario today where the Ukrainian side will continue to decimate dozens or hundreds of attacking Russian troops as long as they have the weapons, men, ammunition, medical capacity, evacuation routes, drones and electronic warfare means. They have been holding on since October 10," the lieutenant colonel said.

Väli emphasized that Russia has enough resources to continue the war. "They have the resources and the ability to make more of what they need. Unlike in the West, their weapons factories are working around the clock. In other words, they have carried out a mobilization not just for human resources but aimed their industry squarely at winning the war. And that is something the so-called coalition of willing has not managed yet," he said.

The EDF colonel said that Ukrainian troops are complaining about munitions shortages. "The faster the West can mobilize to ramp up production of 155 mm artillery shells, HIMARS missiles and everything else Ukraine needs, the better."

Väli remarked that it is difficult to say where the war is headed, adding that Russia has already made small but significant soft power gains. He pointed to the International Olympic Committee's decision to allow Russian athletes to participate in the Olympics as one such example.

"The war is dragging on, and the Russian side has achieved small but notable diplomatic and economic victories."

The lieutenant colonel said that Ukraine's hopes rest on the U.S. having pledged to support them so the war could end on favorable terms for the Ukrainian side in late 2024.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Marcus Turovski

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