According to Ukrainian officials, Kyiv had informed top American generals in advance of a plan to attack simultaneously on two fronts, but both governments were shocked by the success of the northern counteroffensive. “Everyone was surprised by how the Russians behaved,” said a Ukrainian government official on condition of anonymity.
The northern offensive was led by relatively small forces: just a handful of brigades of several thousand soldiers, officials and diplomats reported anonymously. Many Russian outposts were manned by conscripts and pre-trained and lightly armed soldiers from occupied areas of Ukraine who were overwhelmed by firepower and armored vehicles of the advancing forces.
The scale and pace of the Ukrainian assault was fueled by Western weapons supplies, notably precision rocket launchers and artillery shells supplied by the US. They shocked the Russian forces, stopping the movements of the ground forces and destroying ammunition depots, command and control facilities.
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US-made radars were of key importance, as they allow the Ukrainians to precisely locate and target Russian artillery within minutes of its use. The heavily armored vehicles donated by the USA, Great Britain, Australia and other countries also turned out to be important, as they allowed the Ukrainians to quickly and relatively safely approach Russian forces.
Ukraine’s drive to reclaim the territory completely wrecked the Kremlin’s hard-won gains in the spring, including the city of Izium, which the Russians had seized in April after weeks of bloody fighting.
Ukrainian forces raised a national flag over the devastated city this weekend after Russian troops fled in disarray. Ukrainian government officials estimated that 80 percent. buildings in this city with a population of 40,000 were destroyed during the fighting this spring.
Many soldiers from the retreating forces crossed the border with Russia, a high-ranking military official reported. There have been reports of Russians abandoning military equipment, which may indicate “disorganization of command and control” by Moscow, the official emphasized.
The United States has long provided Ukraine with a range of battlefield intelligence, from satellite imagery and other sources that Kyiv uses to make decisions about targeting and troop movements, two other US officials said.
“We certainly provide them with information on the conditions, but it is ultimately a Ukrainian choice,” said a senior Defense Department official. “The Ukrainian military and the Ukrainian political leadership have made decisions about how to launch this counter-offensive,” he added.
Western officials are now keeping a close watch on how far the northern offensive will get. The Ukrainians may be able to continue their attack using the new ammunition, vehicles and tanks the Russians left behind when they escaped using civilian vehicles.
“I wonder if Ukraine can continue to use the momentum it has developed in Donbas,” said Michael Kofman of the CNA think tank. “Russian forces will probably try to recover from the retreat and try to counterattack,” he added.
Meanwhile, both sides continue to clash around Kherson in the south, where Ukraine is likely to increase pressure in trying to cut off Russia’s land corridor from Donbas to Crimea.
“The current period offers an opportunity for Ukraine to take the initiative not only to occupy the territory, but also to deal blows to the Russian troops with which they will fight in the winter,” Kofman said.
Ukrainians’ quick gains come at an uncertain time for Western support. On Monday, the German government again refused to give the countries that purchased German-made Leopard tanks permission to hand them over to Kiev. German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said “no country has delivered Western-made IFVs or battle tanks to date,” and Berlin “will not act unilaterally”.
Germany was criticized for refusing requests from many countries to hand over to Ukraine the military equipment produced there, including howitzers and armored vehicles.
In Washington, the Biden administration is nearing the end of the fiscal year on September 30, which will require Congress to pass a new $ 13.7 billion package of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
The Biden administration announced last week a $ 675 billion worth of ammunition and armored vehicles recall, and a congressional advisor familiar with the issue said it was likely to announce another package worth around $ 600 million this week. Retired Equipment from U.S. Stocks.
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