Russia has already lost the war of attrition of its own making in Ukraine, Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) analyst Kyrylo Mykhailov said in an interview with NV Radio on Sept. 18.
NV: What struck you most in the Russian retreat from Izyum, Kharkiv Oblast?
Mykhailov: Oh, it’s the sheer amount of abandoned equipment. Russian Defense Minister claimed they performed an orderly force redeployment, but as the German Bundeswehr (military) notes in its analysis – even if an army is pulling back with haste, it ought to at the very least destroy everything it’s leaving behind, to avoid adding to the enemy’s capabilities.
For example, when U.S. forces were pulling back from Syria, they bombed their own warehouses and ammo depots.
Russia didn’t do anything like that. It proves their retreat from Izyum was abrupt and hasty, leaving enough armor for Ukraine to outfit more than one mechanized brigade.
NV: Where’s the vaunted 3 rd Army Corps, which was reportedly on its way to Ukraine?
Mykhailov: We’ve been waiting for those units to arrive for a while now, looking where it might deploy to. The other day, a video surfaced showing Russian armored vehicles being transported by rail towards Makiyivka – an eastern suburb of Donetsk. The tactical markings on those vehicles matched the ones we saw at Russia’s Mulino army proving grounds, where the corps was training.
NV: The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) writes that Russian troops continue “senseless” attempted assaults near Donetsk and Bakhmut, instead of focusing on countering the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Why would they describe this as “senseless?”
Mykhailov: In general, starting from April this war became one of attrition. The current situation in Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts makes it apparent that Russia has lost the attrition battle. It no longer has enough infantry to mount a proper defense, let alone launch any offensives. While Kherson is still holding, the Kharkiv front collapsed completely and spectacularly, forcing Moscow to cede numerous towns without a fight.
In proceeding with these doomed tactical assaults, Russian forces all but guarantee the Kremlin will not achieve its stated goal of capturing Donetsk Oblast. Once the northern part of the front around Izyum was gone, this aim is out of (Russian dictator Vladimir) Putin’s reach. Persisting in futile advances towards an unattainable goal is very much senseless. I concur with the ISW analysis.
NV: Some experts warn that Russia could ramp up attacks on Ukraine’s power grid ahead of the winter season. Which side do you think is more prepared for winter?
Mykhailov: If we’re talking about troops – it’s definitely the Russians who are ill-prepared.
To be sure, Putin may try to leave Ukrainian cities without power and heating. But he has a limited quantity of high-precision missiles, meaning it won’t be possible across all of Ukraine.
The Russian army, meanwhile, already experienced problems with winter gear at the very beginning of this campaign – notably near Mykolayiv, back in March. It’s unlikely the situation has improved in any way since.
Sure, there is a “volunteer” movement in Russia, attempting to equip at least their paratrooper regiments. But the scale if the effort is vastly insufficient and is not comparable to similar Ukrainian initiatives.
In the military sense, the Russian army will most likely fare much worse this winter.