Military analyst forecasts Ukrainian success in Russo-Ukrainian war

6 April, 09:49 PM
A Ukrainian serviceman walks next to an abandoned Russian tank in Kyiv Oblast on April 5 (Photo:REUTERS/Gleb Garanich)

A Ukrainian serviceman walks next to an abandoned Russian tank in Kyiv Oblast on April 5 (Photo:REUTERS/Gleb Garanich)

The Ukrainian Armed Forces have successfully conducted a defense operation in the north of the country. Now, they will recapture the east from the enemy, and later they will liberate the south, says Mykola Beleskov, a defense analyst at the National Institute for Strategic Studies.

In an interview with Radio NV, he predicted how Russia would launch an offensive, who unraveled the enemy's plans, and why — most likely — the next round of the war will also be victorious for Ukraine.

NV: What can you say about the so-called “Putin's plan” (to deploy Russian forces to Donbas)? How successful can a Russian offensive in the east be?

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Beleskov: The Russians will concentrate on the largest grouping that we have — on and around the Joint Forces Operation [zone]. This makes sense because the encirclement of the JFO would be a big trump card in the negotiations, not to mention the ingress to the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. That is, the concentration [of Russian troops] in the east is predictable, based on military science, because we are talking about encircling and destroying the main, significant enemy forces, and not just taking control of certain territories.

Those forces that they withdrew from the north of Ukraine (Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy oblasts) will obviously not resume fighting tomorrow. They must first transport them and concentrate on the flanks of the Joint Forces Operation and along the front line. Then a certain time will be required for a regrouping to take place, for the soldiers to rest — they cannot fight indefinitely. This will go on for two or three weeks at least, and perhaps even longer — until the end of April.

During this time, we won’t be twiddling our thumbs either. Our command will redeploy additional forces to this area, devise a defense system, predict where the enemy will go, and how to face it. This will probably be a repetition of the situation with the Kursk Bulge of 1943, when the Soviet army knew where the enemy would advance. And we have time to prepare, because the Soviet army had time to prepare. The outcome, I think, will also be similar: first, we will carry out a successful defensive operation, exhaust the remaining offensive combat potential, and then we will put the reserves into action and mop up our territories. At the very least, those that the enemy has occupied since February 24, 2022.

NV: But Russia has an upper hand in the number of forces. This was said even before the war, and now they are conducting covert mobilization. There will be an advantage in numbers and in aviation.

Beleskov: These will be frontal attacks, which will be very costly. The losses of Russian troops will be even greater.

A Russian Su-35 aircraft is burning up (Фото: Air Force Command of UA Armed Forces)
A Russian Su-35 aircraft is burning up / Фото: Air Force Command of UA Armed Forces

The defense system will be set up in such a way that quantity won’t matter, or if they advance, it will cost them very, very dearly.

Regarding aviation. The most modern Russian aircraft like Su-35 and other planes are being shot down. Believe me, there will be MANPADS [in large numbers], other air defense systems will also gradually come. The effectiveness of airstrikes will not be as the Russians would like.

Indeed, the enemy has certain quantitative advantages, but we have qualitative ones. We have soldiers who know how to fight, we have generals who can decipher the enemy's plans and effectively implement countermeasures.

It seems to me that today is the time for a Ukrainian strategic defense operation, and no one should have any doubts about the ability of the Ukrainians to conduct effective strategic defense operations, the result of which we saw in the north of Ukraine.

NV: Now let's analyze what will happen to Kharkiv and the Kharkiv region? What are the prospects for the Russian army?

Beleskov: The attack on Kharkiv will be part of a general attack in the east. It will not be any separate operation. Kharkiv, perhaps, is needed for political reasons, as a kind of political center in the imagination of the Russian leadership. The (Russian) Main Intelligence Directorate clearly announced plans to create two Ukraines: to juxtapose a "Russian Ukraine" to Ukraine itself.

Our forces are stationed there, some of the best brigades of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They have already shown that they can effectively fight the enemy, they did not let themselves be besieged, sealed off, and have the city taken. They will stick to this task in the future.

The enemy will try — in the context of its offensive in the JFO zone — to advance and capture Kharkiv, but as it failed in 40 days, it most likely will not succeed in the next round of our full-scale war with the Russian Federation.

NV: Another sore spot on the map of Ukraine is Kherson Oblast and the city (of Kherson). What are the chances that Ukraine will be able to expel the invaders from there?

Beleskov: I understand that you want everything at once, but we can’t afford such a luxury.

We worked effectively in Kyiv — the enemy left. We will work on Donbas. It is possible that we will drive the enemy along the roads it advanced down. We’ll get to the rear of the group that is in the Kherson Oblast. It will be forced to either evacuate or be encircled.

I wouldn’t rule out that on the back of everything, the de-blockade of Mariupol will take place.

Kherson residents protest against Russian occupation. March 20, 2022 (Фото: Still from video obtained by REUTERS)
Kherson residents protest against Russian occupation. March 20, 2022 / Фото: Still from video obtained by REUTERS

Let’s not diffuse our efforts. This is probably what the enemy would like us to do — diffuse our efforts everywhere.

Now, our key task is to successfully repulse a possible attack in the Donbas, to conduct the same successful strategic defense operation as was carried out around Kyiv.

NV: I stress Kherson, because I read the comments and people write: "Do not forget about Kherson."

Beleskov: Nobody had forgotten about anything.

No one should have any doubts about the ability of the top military leadership to correctly assess the situation and concentrate on the areas of top priority. We spared our energy, fought back in the Kyiv Oblast, and we will fight back in the Donbas with minimum losses on our side and maximum for the enemy. Then we will get round to other directions.

NV: Covert mobilization is being carried out in Russia. There are reports of recruited Syrian mercenaries who also arrived in Russia. There were also reports of about 1,000 Wagner PMC mercenaries that arrived in Donbas. To what extent can this attraction of human resources make Russia more efficient than it was before?

Beleskov: The Russians need to carry out a real mobilization, not a hidden one. The numbers you mentioned are one battalion-tactical group, or even insufficient for that. When they are put into action in small groups, it does not have any effect.

If Russia now wants to multiply its combat potential, then, firstly, they need to announce a real mobilization, and secondly, (it will take) at least six months, so that those people pass at least a basic training course. They also need to resolve issues with equipment, especially with armored vehicles, because we inflicted heavy losses. And then, in six months, and maybe more, they will have some forces.

The Russian army is not that big. Everything they could manage was somewhere around 70-80% of what they concentrated around Ukraine by February 24. That is, they have minor reserves.

As long as partners help us with appropriate weapons. We now have the best tacticians in the world, our soldiers and generals are better able to analyze the situation at the operational level of the war.

NV: Western countries are announcing deliveries of more powerful types of weapons. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Ukraine should be given more lethal weapons. How fast do we need to get those?

Beleskov: We have heard multiple statements in the past week. So far, as I understand it, we have not received the appropriate systems.

First of all, we are interested in air defense systems for covering ground troops, artillery systems — cannon and rocket artillery; means of mobility.

If we got really heavy weapons, we would be better at both defensive and offensive operations.

At least artillery to support the advancing forces — that would be a completely different ball game in terms of quality. We could secure entirely different negotiating conditions and no longer look for any compromises. Through one or two effective defensive operations, one or two more active offensive operations, we could liberate the territories militarily, and not say “let's exchange some territories for some political concessions” as part of some compromise.

This would drastically change the alignment both in terms of the conduct of hostilities and at the strategic level — during the negotiations or consultations that we have with the Russian Federation.

NV: We, unfortunately, do not have allies, because they would have gone and fought with us.

Beleskov: The allies are undertaking the fight the way we have here: one is attacked, everyone fights. Unfortunately, there is no such readiness yet, so we clearly state: we have partners whom we value, but, unfortunately, we have no allies yet.

NV: Perhaps the situation in Bucha will change everything?

Beleskov: I doubt it will change their willingness to fight for us. Perhaps it will change [the situation] in terms of readiness to punish Russia and give us weapons.

The first thing our government and leadership mentions is: “We are not asking you to die for us. We are a country in which there are enough people who are ready to take a conscious risk. Give us heavy weapons. Prevent another tragedy, because you have already allowed one tragedy.” The Western countries allowed [the tragedy] to set the stage for this full-scale aggression.

The more heavy weapons there are, the lower number of victims we’ll have, of course. And the fact that we will fight, return our territories — I think there is no doubt about it.

In addition, I am sure that a bunch of army men — who went through hell, who lost their comrades, who took a liking to the destruction of the rascists — will not accept any compromise agreements that will be perceived by them as a betrayal of national interests. They will beat the enemy to the last, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny previously said.

NV: Do you have an answer to the question, how long this war will last?

Beleskov: I have no time frame, but there is an understanding.

One or two such failed offensive operations, as around Kyiv, in the north of Ukraine, and they will not have the strength to continue offensive operations, they will need to negotiate. The pace of resource mobilization lags far behind the pace of churn, which means there will be a pause one way or another.

Whether this pause will be supplemented by some political agreements is an entirely different matter. But the fact that they do not have the ability to permanently mobilize stands. The active phase of hostilities will soon end one way or another. Whether there are negotiations or not is another matter.

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