Counteroffensive: started or not?
The offensive operations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Zaporozhye direction definitely intensified in the first week of June, and units trained under the guidance of foreign instructors and equipped with Western equipment entered the battle: German Leopard 2 tanks, French AMX-10RC wheeled-cannon reconnaissance and fire vehicles, American combat vehicles Infantry Bradley.
Both Vladimir Putin ( June 9 ) and Vladimir Zelensky ( June 10 ) made statements about the counteroffensive. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation dates the start of the operation to June 4, analysts of the Conflict Intelligence Team - to June 8 (when the first confirmation of the use of heavy equipment appeared).
At the same time, the scale of the offensive operation still looks rather modest. As the Polish military analyst Konrad Muzyka notes , the command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine involved only three of the 12 brigades formed from scratch (the personnel of nine of them were trained in the West), and they are used at the level of company and battalion tactical groups, that is, in a limited format. The brigade has 3.5-4 thousand people, the battalion tactical group - 600-800 people, the company tactical group - 100-200 people.
According to retired colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, military expert Roman Svitan, only 10% of the total offensive grouping is involved. One of the separatist field commanders in the Donbass in 2014, and now an influential Z-figure Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov / Runov) believes that from 2/3 to 3/4 of the forces assembled for the offensive remain in reserve, and those that are already participated in hostilities, are not at all defeated, as Russian propaganda claims, but remain combat-ready.
In addition, while on the battlefield there is no significant part of Western equipment transferred to the Armed Forces of Ukraine: for example, the German Marder infantry fighting vehicles, the American Stryker armored personnel carriers, the British Challenger 2 tanks. CV90), while the other is only being mastered by the Ukrainian military at training grounds abroad (Leopard 1A5 and M1A1 Abrams tanks).
Thus: the counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has begun, but is still at a very early stage.
What's going on at the front right now?
According to the Ukrainian side, eight settlements were occupied during the two weeks of the offensive: Novodarovka , Levadnoe , Storozhevoe , Makarovka , Blagodatnoe , Lobkovoe , Neskuchnoe , and Pyatikhatki . The total advance was up to 7 km in the depth of defense, 113 km² of territory was liberated.
According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, since June 4, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have launched 263 attacks on the positions of Russian troops, but “thanks to the competent and selfless actions” of the units of the Russian Armed Forces, “all of them have been repulsed, the enemy has not reached its goals.”
After active operations on June 5–10, there was a lull (an operational pause, in particular, analysts at the American Institute for the Study of War believe ). Most likely, the first wave has ended, and now there is preparation for the second wave of attacks. In the course of it, the Ukrainian command will adjust tactics, which at first did not bring significant success.
Over the past few days, fighting has been observed for the small settlement of Pyatikhatki and the neighboring village of Zherebyanki in the direction of Vasilyevka . This is the first bridgehead (or wedging), from where it is possible to develop a further offensive in the "Melitopol" direction. The second bridgehead was created on the so-called Vremevsky ledge .
Thus: now the Armed Forces of Ukraine continue limited attacks, but analysts are talking about an operational pause.
In what directions will the counteroffensive develop?
At least three directions have been identified where Ukrainian troops are conducting offensive operations with probable operational-tactical (and, if successful, strategic) goals. If you look on the map from west to east along the land line of contact, then these are:
- traffic to Vasilievka ( the settlements of Lobkovoe and Pyatikhatki are occupied there);
- movement from Orekhov in the direction of Rabotino ;
- moving south from Velikaya Novoselka towards Staromlynovka .
Ukrainian sources (somewhat ahead of events) call them the Melitopol , Berdyansk and Mariupol directions (by the name of the end points where strikes can be directed).
The successes of the Ukrainian forces are concentrated on the so-called Vremevsky ledge south of Velika Novoselka : in the direction of Staromlynovka , several settlements are occupied along the Wet Yaly River . But while these are tactical-level successes, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have not reached the main line of defense, and in other areas they are completely bogged down in battles for advanced strongholds.
According to Ukrainian military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko, Russian troops are forced to enlist units of the 127th motorized rifle division in this direction, removing them from the main line of defense located to the south. According to Kovalenko, the Russian command began to transfer reserves from the left bank of the Dnieper to the "triangle" Vasilievka - Tokmak - Melitopol , expecting a deterioration in the situation. British military intelligence writes about the same.
Ukrainian military expert Leonid Dmitriev, in a conversation with The Insider, draws attention to the fact that the direction of the main attack is still unknown, respectively, the Russian command is forced to keep significant reserves in constant readiness in order to throw them to the rescue if necessary.
At least two directions are obviously of an auxiliary or distracting nature: this is an advance on the flanks of Bakhmut and activity on the border with the Belgorod region .
Thus: despite some tactical successes, there was no breakthrough of the front anywhere, and it is not yet known where the main blow will be delivered.
Why so slow?
The most important thing that is usually overlooked when talking about the Ukrainian counteroffensive is the lack of operational surprise. After successful operations near Kharkiv and on the right bank of the Dnieper in the fall of 2022, most experts agreed that the Zaporozhye region would become the next direction of the Ukrainian Armed Forces strike. It is there that the main events are now unfolding.
The second important factor is that the counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been launched against prepared and fortified positions. The defensive lines built along the front, where the main battles are now taking place, form the largest system of fortifications since the Second World War. True, the Ukrainian troops have not yet even reached the first of at least three defensive lines created (more on them can be found in a large article by The Insider).
The third factor is related to the fact that the Ukrainians are trying to conduct an offensive operation without having air supremacy and, apparently, experiencing a shortage of military air defense systems (unlike strategic air defense such as the Patriot or S-300 air defense systems, these are installations with a shorter range of targets designed to work on the front line). Aviation is also used extremely limitedly, with the exception of attack helicopters, which are successfully used by the Russian side (additional helicopters were transferred to Berdyansk ).
True, there are factors that play into the hands of Ukraine, for example, the shape of the front line in the areas of offensive operations: it is a semicircle, on the inside of which are the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and on the outside - the forces of the Russian Federation. Accordingly, when transferring forces and means, the Ukrainian side has the so-called “advantage of internal lines” - the Russian side will be forced to use, other things being equal, a longer transport arm.
Another important factor that affects, however, not the belligerents themselves, but those who are trying to understand the flow of news, is the asymmetry of the information space: Ukrainian sources provide information extremely sparingly and with a delay of several days (and they agree with this approach not everyone is even on the Ukrainian side ), and Russian officials and “military correspondents”, on the contrary, “throw in” much more information (of course, describing the situation in a favorable light for themselves). In many respects, however, this is compensated by discord within the Russian forces. Let's say that the Ministry of Defense suffers more from Prigozhin and Girkin (Strelkov) than from the Ukrainian media.
Thus: the counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is slowed down by the lack of surprise, weak air support and the lack of military air defense systems.
Is it now possible to judge success or failure?
It is still too early to draw conclusions about the operation as a whole (and even about its initial stage), but so far the Ukrainian forces have clearly achieved less than expected, and the Russian troops, on the contrary, have shown themselves in defense much better than last fall.
Alexander Kovalenko believes that now it is more correct to talk about "large-scale reconnaissance in force", and not about "counteroffensive":
This is not a counteroffensive, because the wrong resources are involved. Now, units ranging from a platoon to a company are involved along the entire front, and they mainly operate in the area of providing the functionality of reconnaissance in combat, operational reconnaissance and deep reconnaissance. This is by no means the functionality of breaking through the defense line and not the functionality of the strike group. All this suggests that no offensive has yet begun, but there is a large-scale reconnaissance in force from Zaporozhye to the Donetsk region.
Reserve Colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Roman Svitan considers the actions of the Ukrainian troops a “preparatory stage”:
There is a stage of preparatory operations. Dangerous areas for breakthroughs are removed. The Vremevsky ledge is dangerous if left and not cut off to Staromlynovka - it is dangerous to leave it in the rear if you move to the Azov coast. There is also a dangerous ledge in the Bakhmut direction - the one into which Prigozhin dragged the Russian army, and it is now cut off if a decision is made to move along the Seversky Donets to Lugansk. That's what's happening on the front lines right now.
Leonid Dmitriev notes the successful use of kamikaze drones and electronic warfare (EW) and electronic intelligence (REW) by Russian forces. According to him, under these conditions, the Armed Forces of Ukraine rely on the disruption of supply chains and strikes at command posts (for example, the command post of the 80th motorized rifle brigade), rear areas (for example, the ammunition depot in Rykovo ) and enemy communications (for example, along the Chongarsky bridge in Crimea). Here one can also recall the “arrivals” of Storm Shadow missiles, probably at the Russian headquarters in Berdyansk and Mariupol , shortly before the “official” start of the counteroffensive.
Dmitriev points out that during the first week of the counteroffensive (from June 4 to June 11), the number of MLRS units, cannon artillery, and air defense systems destroyed, according to Ukrainian reports, increased two to three times. An example (however, it is not clear how typical) is the documented destruction of a battery of Russian Msta-S self-propelled artillery mounts (in all likelihood, HIMARS or M270 MLRS missiles). According to Russian sources , Ukrainian artillery has an advantage over Russian artillery in accuracy and, first of all, in range, which makes it possible to win counter-battery duels.
Both sides are striving to bring chaos to the logistics and the transfer of enemy reinforcements by remote mining of front-line roads and directly the line of contact. This seems to be bearing fruit: Ukrainian sources claim that one of these mines blew up a Russian truck loaded with ammunition. True, the remote mining systems themselves are also vulnerable , for example, to be hit by kamikaze drones.
Israeli military expert David Gendelman points out that the Russian troops show themselves in an unbelievably better way in terms of the stability of combat control than during the autumn offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine near Kharkov :
The main factor on which the outcome of the operation will depend is the stamina of troops under fire and the stability of command and control. It was this that was lost by the Russian troops in the Kharkov direction, as a result of which the Russian group retreated. At this stage, according to this parameter, the Russians perform much better than then - this is the main reason why the Armed Forces of Ukraine have not yet achieved greater success. What happens next depends on the number and pace of bringing in additional reserves and the accumulation of losses in manpower and equipment on each side.
At the beginning of the counter-offensive, the Russian Aerospace Forces "became famous" for the destruction of tractors and combines instead of Leopard tanks, but they probably accounted for a lot of actually hit equipment.
It is difficult to say how successfully the Ukrainians are resisting Russian attack helicopters. Since June 16, the command of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has reported the defeat of five attack Ka-52s, but there is no independent evidence of the loss of at least one of them. For sure, only the damage to the tail unit of one helicopter is known , which managed to return to the base and is subject to repair.
The experience of using engineering equipment designed for making passages in minefields turned out to be definitely unsuccessful: three Finnish mine-clearing vehicles Leopard 2R and one German engineering Wisent 1 were lost at once. On the other hand, the Ukrainians seem to be very successful in using mine-clearing installations (like the Soviet 77, and the American M58), traces of charge breaks can be seen on satellite images even in low resolution.
What can be judged quite definitely is that the initiative is in the hands of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the Russian troops are on the defensive and do not even think about any major counterattacks on this sector of the front (although there have been some reports of an attempt to seize the initiative on the Kupyansk direction in the east of the Kharkiv region ).
Thus: it is still too early to draw conclusions about the success of the counteroffensive, but so far the Ukrainian forces have achieved less than expected, and the Russian side, on the contrary, has not shown itself to be as disastrous as independent observers predicted.
Who bears more losses?
The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and Putin personally call absolutely fantastic numbers of Ukrainian losses.
The Ministry of Defense in official reports reported that on June 4, the Armed Forces of Ukraine lost 300 servicemen, 16 tanks, 26 armored fighting vehicles, and on June 5 - 1600 (!) Servicemen, 28 tanks, 136 units of other military equipment.
On June 13, Putin said at a meeting with "military commanders" that the Armed Forces of Ukraine had lost over 160 tanks and over 360 armored vehicles of various types during the counteroffensive, or 25-30% of the equipment supplied from abroad. At the same time, he mentioned the loss of 54 tanks by the Russian side - this is several times more than confirmed by independent sources.
A few days later, at a plenary meeting of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin spoke about the loss ratio of 1:10 not in favor of the Ukrainian troops and the loss of 186 tanks and 418 armored vehicles. Moreover, right in the course of the performance, the number of destroyed Ukrainian tanks increased to 218.
The degree of reliability of these figures can be judged on the basis of the story of five destroyed Patriot complexes, also told by Putin at SPIEF.
As far as it is known from open sources, Ukraine received only two complexes (batteries), as well as several separate Patriot launchers. It is possible that the President of Russia confuses the complex with individual combat vehicles from its composition. The air defense complex (battery) includes control posts, radar stations, generators, auxiliary equipment and launchers themselves. Missiles are launched from launchers, but each complex works as a whole.
However, even five separate combat vehicles from the Patriot complex would be difficult to hit (and even more so destroy) without it becoming known to journalists or independent observers.
The GeoConfirmed project conducted its own investigation, finding out that only one explosion occurred in the area of \u200b\u200bthe alleged position of the air defense system (at the same time, American sources said that one of the machines of the complex was damaged, but subsequently repaired on the spot). Thus, we cannot even talk about the destruction of five Patriot launchers ( declared by the Russian Ministry of Defense), not to mention five complexes.
Finally, on June 21, Putin announced that "our men have nailed" 245 tanks and 678 armored vehicles of various types. At the same time, despite the declared losses, improbably large for an operation lasting 2.5 weeks, the Russian president is inexplicably confident in the preservation of the offensive potential of the Ukrainian army.
In fact, the only serious failure of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was the defeat of the Bradley and Leopard convoy moving towards Rabotino on June 8th. Almost all the spectacular shots with the burned equipment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are from there. Кроме того, можно упомянуть неудачную украинскую атаку на легкой бронетехнике на населенный пункт Новодонецкое, последствия которой россияне продолжают демонстрировать .
В связи с этим министр обороны США Ллойд Остин сказал , что, сообщая об огромных потерях ВСУ немецких танков Leopard и американских боевых машин пехоты Bradley, россияне просто показывают одни и те же пять машин с разных углов. О том, как и зачем делаются приписки в докладах об уничтожении техники, рассказывал в интервью бежавший из России пилот ВКС РФ Дмитрий Мишов.
Глава военной разведки Эстонии Марго Гросберг полагает , что ВСУ по ходу контрнаступления потеряли менее 10% поставленной западной техники. По другим оценкам, украинские войска сохраняют 96% поставленной современной бронетехники. На 18 июня отмечается потеря ВСУ пяти танков Leopard 2A6 и двух 2А4, двух «колесных танков» AMX-10RC и восемнадцати БМП Bradley.
Согласно подсчетам на основе фото- и видеосвидетельств, с 1 по 19 июня общие потери в технике ВС РФ составляют 65 единиц, ВСУ — 105 единиц. При этом значительная часть техники ВСУ (43 единицы) оставлена экипажами, но не уничтожена и не захвачена, а значит, при благоприятных обстоятельствах может быть эвакуирована и возвращена в строй. Также можно заметить, что подтвержденные потери российской ствольной и ракетной артиллерии втрое превосходят украинские (14 против 4), однако о репрезентативности такой небольшой выборки судить трудно.
Если же говорить в целом о поставленной НАТО технике, то до ее уничтожения очень и очень далеко . Визуально подтверждена потеря всего 49 из 575 поставленных танков, 27 из 500 боевых машин пехоты, 79 из 1180 бронетранспортеров, 67 из 905 минно-защищенных бронированных автомобилей.
Примечательно, что подсчеты людских потерь по сообщениям в открытых источниках показывают гибель девяти российских военных в звании подполковника и выше за две недели контрнаступления (по состоянию на 16 июня).
При этом западные союзники уже объявили о новых поставках тяжелой техники взамен утраченной. В частности, США отправляют пакет помощи с 15 БМП Bradley и 10 БТР Stryker. Здесь немаловажную роль играет выживаемость экипажей западной техники при ее уничтожении, которая гораздо выше этого показателя для советских образцов, — это означает, что спасшиеся члены экипажа будут готовы сразу идти в бой на машинах, поступивших на замену потерянным. Нидерланды и Дания профинансируют поставку 14 танков Leopard 2A4. ЕС и вовсе собирается ускорить поставки вооружений и техники, чтобы поддержать наступление ВСУ.
Таким образом: наиболее надежные данные о потерях демонстрируют, что они для обеих сторон сопоставимы, хотя считается, что обычно наступающая сторона несет втрое больше потерь, чем обороняющаяся (и подобная картина наблюдалась во время российских наступательных действий в 2022 году и зимой 2023 года).
По всей видимости, ВСУ продолжат давить на одном из трех направлений в Запорожье , но вовсе не обязательно, что на одним из них и будет нанесен основной удар.
Александр Коваленко полагает, что главные силы могут ввести в «совершенно неожиданной локации».
Роман Свитан относит главный этап контрнаступления на июль и упоминает херсонское направление , то есть операцию по форсированию Днепра.
Как раз об этом, между прочим, говорил президент Владимир Путин, указывая, что разрушение плотины Каховской ГЭС сорвало планы наступать на этом участке.
Не исключено, что фактический спуск Каховского водохранилища откроет перспективу наступления на участке от Новой Каховки до нынешней сухопутной линии фронта — по высохшему дну. Впрочем, для этого все равно потребуется преодолеть естественную ширину Днепра, а «новая» местность может быть плохо проходимой, плюс там нет естественных укрытий.
По некоторым оценкам , нынешняя успешная оборона российских сил организована за счет привлечения сил и средств, которые предполагалось держать в резерве. Соответственно, если (когда) украинские войска подойдут к первой главной линии фортификационных укреплений, то заполнять и удерживать ее придется уже изрядно потрепанным в боях частям. Тогда и станет ясно, насколько российским войскам хватает выучки и дисциплины удерживать оборонительные позиции и не терять управляемость.
Эксперт британского Королевского объединенного института оборонных исследований (RUSI) Джек Уотлин пишет :
Российские подразделения в настоящее время ведут бои с подготовленных позиций, и их инфраструктура управления и контроля в основном не повреждена… Однако, если российские части будут вынуждены изменить позицию, из-за плохой подготовки и дисциплины оборона может стать нескоординированной и подверженной обрушению. Для создания таких условий от украинцев потребуются значительные усилия, чтобы заставить русских двигаться. Украина может попытаться создать такую ситуацию, но на нее нельзя рассчитывать.
При этом конечная цель всей операции не составляет никакого секрета: это попытка рассечь российские силы в Украине, выйти к Азовскому морю и изолировать Крым. Пока что ВСУ далеки от нее.
Таким образом: пока украинские войска продолжат давление в Запорожье, но эксперты ожидают, что рано или поздно ВСУ выберут какое-то конкретное направление для внезапной попытки прорыва фронта.