There is a lull in the battle as Russia and Ukraine take stock of their options in the coming winter.

Ukraine, blushing with victory in retaking the strategically vital southern port city of Khersonhas had to pause while the troops rest and re-equip.

Kiev’s options are currently limited for combat operations, as the Dnieper River forms a natural barrier that will require significant effort and planning if it is able to capture and hold a bridgehead while transferring troops and vehicles in the numbers needed for offensive operations against Russian units dug in near the river.

Russia uses its experience Wagner mercenaries in the northeast and fighting has intensified, centered around the city of Bakhmut.

Ukrainian troops have been sent to this sector to strengthen defenses and stop Russia’s slow advance.

Subzero warfare

As the temperature slowly drops, the nature of the battles will change greatly.

Both armies are trained to fight in the cold, Russia did invade and Ukraine fought back, during one of the coldest months in 2022 – February – but Kiev has received much better winter clothing and equipment from NATO armies.

On the day of the invasion in Kiev, the temperature was about 3 degrees Celsius. Today it is 1C (33.8F).

The changes in combat in sub-zero temperatures are significant.

With fewer daylight hours, the army more adept at night combat will have the advantage. Night vision and thermal imaging cameras topped the list of equipment Ukraine requested from the West.

This photo, taken on November 3, 2022, shows a Ukrainian border guard carrying an Anglo-Swedish NLAW anti-tank missile launcher in a fortified position near the Ukrainian border with Russia and Belarus.
This photo, taken on November 3, 2022, shows a Ukrainian border guard carrying an Anglo-Swedish NLAW anti-tank missile launcher in a fortified position near the Ukrainian border with Russia and Belarus [File: Sergei Supinsky/AFP]

Survival rates in the “golden hour” – the critical 60 minutes after a battlefield wound – increase when soldiers are treated or moved to a first aid station, and plummet when exposed to harsh weather.

In the cold, equipment is more likely to fail.

Weapons jam as the frigid temperatures freeze vital parts. Tanks fare better once the ground hardens, but defensive positions are much harder to dig as the ground freezes, making artillery barrages all the more deadly.

And, of course, it’s not just the military facing changing conditions, the civilian population of Ukraine has been flagged by Russia for collective suffering as leverage.

The cold is a weapon

As the world this week focused on what appeared to have been a faulty missile wander to Poland and killing two people, 10 million Ukrainians were left without power as dozens of Russian missiles hit power grid junctions and destroyed installations that will be difficult to replace.

This is a situation that will only get worse if these attacks continue. It now appears that this is Putin’s strategy. Russia is holding territory, chasing small profits while pounding power plants, supply lines, fuel depots and storage facilities to bring Ukraine to its knees and bring it to the negotiating table.

The situation is so extreme that the Ukrainian government is now reportedly considering evacuating the capital Kyiv to save lives as heating of the city is no longer guaranteed.

Energy doesn’t just heat homes – without energy factories can’t run, gasoline can’t be pumped and streetlights can’t shine.

Ukraine’s infrastructure would be paralyzed and civilian life would grind to a halt.

Nearly 40 percent of Ukraine’s power grid has been destroyed or damaged, and it will take months to repair as spare equipment remains scarce.

Iran again

While Russia may have identified this as an effective strategy, troops will need large supplies of cheap cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, weapons that the military is increasingly short of.

They will have to depend on imports as the Russian defense industry struggles to produce them in the quantities needed.

Russia dependence on Iran will only grow becomes the main supplier of cheap, effective weapons.

Weapons such as the Shahed-136 loitering ammunition and the Mohajer-6 combat drone have been used effectively, especially when launched in swarms.

Yet Ukrainian air defenses managed to shoot down the vast majority.

Police officers shoot at a drone during a Russian drone strike, believed by local authorities to be Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), amid the Russian attack on Ukraine, in Kiev, Ukraine
Police officers shoot at a drone during a Russian drone strike, believed by local authorities to be Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), amid the Russian attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv [File: Vadim Sarakhan/Reuters]

Not yet seen on the Ukrainian battlefield, but worth considering are the arsenals of cheap, fairly accurate ballistic missiles that Iran has to offer.

Weapons such as the Fateh 110 and the Zolfaghar ballistic missiles have a range of up to 700 km (435 mi) and are accurate enough to destroy point targets such as supply dumps, radar installations or power plants far behind the front lines.

If Ukraine wants to shoot down all these Russian missiles and drones, it needs an equal number or more air defense missiles.

Ukraine has impressively integrated a wide variety of missile and radar systems into its existing air defense network, but the war-torn country must be resupplied quickly to fend off Russian attacks this winter.

The coming battle for the south

Not only is Ukraine passively relying on its air defenses to win this war, offensive combat operations have been highly successful since they began in early September.

In a matter of months, Kiev’s troops have recaptured at least half of the territory they had lost since the invasion began.

At some point, Ukraine will have to cross the Dnieper River to destroy Russian defensive positions there.

INTERACTIVE- The south of Ukraine

This area, from the banks of the Dnieper to Melitopol, is at the heart of this conflict.

Whoever controls it controls the freshwater channel that runs from the river at Nova Kakhovka to Crimea, supplying the peninsula with 85 percent of its water – this has been a strategic Russian war target since Ukraine blocked the North Crimean channel in 2014 when Russia illegally used the channel annexed. peninsula.

A successful Ukrainian advance to the east would cut through Crimea and isolate it from the rest of the country.

It would also make the Russian occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant unsustainable as the military faces increasing threats of being cut off and surrounded.

Russian troops there, already at the end of a long rickety supply chain, will struggle even more to defend themselves as Ukrainians Himars batteriesafter moving east, it could destroy supply depots and the railway hubs needed by Moscow’s military logistics units.

An attack across the river wouldn’t be easy.

Ukraine will have to attack the far bank of the Dnieper at several points, holding bridgeheads under fire while transporting enough soldiers, vehicles, supplies and equipment to launch and sustain offensive operations.

Russia cannot defend the entire riverbank and Ukraine has shown more skill and sophistication in combined arms operations to launch a river attack, combined with helicopter landings and long-range fire.

The grand prize would be Melitopol.

Known as “the gateway to Crimea”, it is an important transport, rail and logistics hub.

The recapture of this city by Ukrainian forces, along with the blocking of the freshwater channel, would make Russia’s military presence in Crimea increasingly precarious and herald the utter defeat of Moscow’s forces.

Can Russia avoid defeat with imported missiles and large numbers of new conscripts thrown onto the front lines?

Josef Stalin is rumored to have said, “Quantity has a quality all its own.”

Whether it will be enough to prevent Russia from losing this war is becoming increasingly unlikely.





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By wy9m6

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