How the battle in the east, likely to be the largest in this war, will end, and why Ukraine is more likely to win, Colonel Kostiantyn Mashovets, coordinator of the Information Resistance OSINT group, explained in an interview with NV.
A large-scale offensive by Russian troops in eastern Ukraine may begin in the coming days. It is there that the enemy is transferring their reserves, and renewing units withdrawn from Kyiv and Chernihiv Oblasts.
Mashovets, who has long been involved in defense planning, the use of troops and the development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, has explained the situation in the Donbas.
NV: In view of everything, the Russian command has decided to create two encirclements in the east, with which they are trying to catch the Ukrainian military. They're trying to break through toward Lozova (south of Kharkiv Oblast) from Balaklia and Izyum (east of Kharkiv Oblast), toward Pavlohrad (east of the city of Dnipro, southwest of Lozova) from Vasylivka and Huliaipole (east of the city of Zaporizhzhya). Are they trying to completely defeat all our eastern front?
Mashovets: This is a classic of the genre: based on the operational situation, the General Staff of the Russian Federation plans the most decisive and deepest goals, as taught by the Soviet military school. In this case, we see an attempt to achieve victory by encircling the entire Joint Forces Operation (JFO) group in Donetsk Oblast.
NV: How can this happen?
Mashovets: Two Russian strike groups are attacking while moving toward each other, then linking up. This will be the outer and inner encirclements, then they inflict dissecting or compressing strikes, depending on the situation. And destroy. From the south, they will strike to the south-east of Zaporizhzhya from the Vasylivka-Polohy line, the direction toward Pavlohrad, bypassing both Zaporizhzhya and Dnipro from the east. There will be a double strike on Lozova from the north through Balaklia.
Their strike groups are being replenished now, both in the process of their concentration and even deployment. The enemy is transferring new forces and equipment to the areas of Vasylivka, in the triangle Tokmak - Polohy - Chernihiv, as well as to the south-west of Volnovakha. Near Izyum, in parallel with attempts to move actively in the south-western and southern directions, the enemy continues to build up forces and resources as part of its strike group operating in this direction. This process is quite complicated for them: the Armed Forces of Ukraine have the possibility of a fairly dense field of fire on the enemy's communications in this area (namely the area of the transport hub near the town of Kupiansk and further along the Oskol River).
NV: They say there are two or three Russian landing ships in Berdyansk unloading military equipment. Is this also an indicator that the Russians are preparing, building up the forces to attack from the south?
Mashovets: They have a lot of this military equipment. And now it is being pulled up to the places of use, i.e. they are already assigned areas of concentration, deployment and entry to the takeoff line. Connections for the attack on the Pavlohrad-Lozova line are at the starting positions, and they will go first. And the increase of forces and material will take place in stages in order to create first the inner encirclement, and then the outer one. Later they will involve additional forces and flanking actions, to block attempts to break through or lift the blockade.
They will have enough strength and resources. Moreover, the restoration of combat capability of those groups and all their forces and material, which they withdrew from the north, is currently underway near Kursk and Bryansk oblasts at a rapid pace. And they will gradually be transferred to the area of operational application as the level of combat capability is restored. Several factors can influence the situation. I do not know what has been decided by our General Staff, but the most promising, of course, seems to be the defeat of the left flank of the southern group. Breaking through beyond Dnipro and accessing its communications. That's when all this orc construction will collapse.
NV: And will they push from the area to the west of Kharkiv?
Mashovets: The Russians will cover Kupiansk, in fact the key hub for the supply of the Izyum group. Part of the forces and material will be diverted to create a deployed front north of Kharkiv. If they keep the transport corridor through Kupiansk to Izyum, Svatove, the distance to deployment is small. Moreover, they are delivering supplies to Kupiansk by rail, i.e. they have the opportunity to transfer not by a drop, not by a teaspoon, as it was, for example, near Kyiv.
In general, the Russian army is still provisioned as an army during the Second World War, according to the same logistical principles – by rail. Therefore, they're trying to use the sea route where possible – you mentioned Berdyansk, because up to 10,000 tons can be loaded into a ship. They can also stuff a lot into the echelon, e.g. to pick up up to 50-60 freight cars and pull them to one place. This is especially true when it comes to fuel. Because modern military technology "eats" it to excess.
In my opinion, it is reasonable to strike the enemy's communications. It is not difficult to disable them. Without regular supplies, these strike groups are like a mushroom on a string.
NV: Are they waiting for that?
Mashovets: Their problem is that they treat the Ukrainian Armed Forces superficially, considering them incapable of complex forms of organization and proper management of hostilities. They reject the Ukrainian Army's ability to produce any complex or creative plans and methods of troop management. In fact, they think we are stupider than they are. And this initially entails a chain of making wrong decisions. For example, the fighting is planned based on the fact that "the Ukrainians do not think of this, they are incapable." It is also a classic of the genre and is called in the martial arts, "Underestimation of the forces and means of the enemy," rejecting even his abilities.
NV: To what extent can their plans seriously affect the combat effectiveness of our eastern group?
Mashovets: They can besiege, but they still need to keep this encirclement. In terms of the number of troops in Russia, it's quite comparable to what they have introduced in the previous stages of the "military operation."
NV: If they are defeated, will it be the final loss in this war?
Mashovets: No. Here we can compare the rates of loss. In fact, this is a battle for the configuration of our southeastern border. I think it will not be limited to one battle. There will be a series of certain tactical actions that will eventually draw the line.
These rates are much better in Ukraine and our chances for a final victory are better. In fact, the entire civilized community of countries is our rear. As soon as the United States finally approves Lend-Lease, it's like a bulldozer or a conveyor belt that floods us with weapons, equipment, and everything we need to wage war. It either turns on or off. If it's turned on, the mechanism starts working and it's a continuous flow. In addition, it's now clear that Ukraine is receiving weapons from many countries.
NV: And again, regarding the military operation in the east. Is there still a forecast that the invaders may advance to Kyiv, bypassing Poltava?
Mashovets: This may be the next task of the second, third stage. But we must understand that the logic of reasoning about the political goals of the war dictates the methodology, i.e. the strategy of its conduct. You asked about Kyiv as the next goal or stage of the operation. Because what we've read in an (recently published Russian major propaganda) article on RIA Novosti, the goal is to completely capture the country. That is, the liquidation of Ukraine as a centralized sovereign and independent state is in fact the real goal of this war on the part of the Russian Federation. And this goal cannot be achieved without capturing Kyiv. The government can evacuate, flee to Lviv, but it will no longer be Ukraine in the sense in which it was before the war. You can cut off anything – the Donbas, a piece of the south, finally end up with 50,000-60,000 of your troops near Kharkiv, but the centralized state of Ukraine under Kyiv, under our control will still remain. That's why the topic of the attack on the capital city is constantly popping up.
NV: What else can Russia do: launch a nuclear strike, use weapons of mass destruction?
Mashovets The fact of the application of these weapons is a trigger for the transformation of this war into the Third World War. That is, the involvement of other countries in this war. Putin and his enclave are well aware that the actual use of nuclear weapons will lead to the immediate guaranteed annihilation of Russia as such and the Russian people.
I understand that he is ready for paradise, to stay in a bunker, etc. But if he uses a nuclear warhead, all nuclear states will strike at him. According to the latest research, no nuclear winter will happen, even in case of a large-scale nuclear war. Only 40% of the population of the countries involved in these massive nuclear attacks will die, and 60% will survive. Putin knows these studies.
It makes no sense to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, because you cannot bomb the territory that you are going to capture and use. There is an option to strike at a remote NATO base in the Pacific or Indian Ocean, which the Kremlin is capable of. But this is scenario No. 2. Any use of weapons of mass destruction by the Russian military and political leadership will lead to an immediate mass retaliatory strike and the introduction of troops into Russia, both Chinese and NATO ones, they will all enter at once. And the Russian army will no longer exist by that time – it's already burning all its ground forces in Ukraine.