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War in Ukraine. Russia’s three great defeats

War in Ukraine.  Russia’s three great defeats

War in Ukraine. Russia’s three great defeats

A year ago, when Russia gathered its troops along border with Ukraine, many experts and politicians in the West believed that in the event of an invasion, Kyiv would fall within a few days. This was apparently the assumption in herself as well Russia.

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Although in the first days of the war Russian troops advanced to the outskirts of Kiev, they were stopped by the Ukrainian army and forced to withdraw. The consequences of erroneous assessments are still visible today. Russian President Vladimir Putin does not openly admit it, but in early December he prepared his country for a long war.

Russia has no control over airspace

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many expected Russia to quickly eliminate both Ukraine’s air force and air defenses and thus dominate the airspace. The reason for this assumption could be the experience in eastern Ukraine.

When the war broke out in the Donbas coal basin in 2014, and Russia denied its involvement in it, Ukraine lost many planes and helicopters in the first months, and did not use those that remained. The Ukrainian Air Force has been virtually eliminated.

It looks completely different since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The report of the Russian Ministry of Defense of February 28 this year that Russia has control of the airspace over the entire territory of Ukraine turned out to be untrue.

It is true that the Russian air force is clearly superior to the Ukrainian one in terms of numbers and technology. But despite numerous missile attacks on military airfields and combat operations on the front lines, Ukraine still has intact warplanes and helicopters. Its anti-aircraft defense is also getting stronger.

Since the beginning of the war, Russia has lost hundreds of planes and helicopters, according to Ukrainian data. This data cannot be independently confirmed, but Western intelligence services also point to high losses of the Russian air force.

They operate in a limited way on the front line and no longer venture inland. Instead, Russia is increasingly using drones and missiles, which, however, are increasingly being intercepted by Ukrainian air defenses. Kyiv owes all this to Western aid.

War in Ukraine.  Russia’s three great defeatsRussian exercises in Crimea (April 2021) DPA/picture alliance

Lost Black Sea Fleet

At sea, Russia is clearly superior to Ukraine. In 2021, Moscow trained the landing of troops on the annexed territory twice Crimea. This raised fears that Russia would launch an offensive in southern Ukraine towards Odessa and with the help of warships will bring large military formations ashore, including infantry fighting vehicles.

So far, this has not happened and experts do not foresee such a scenario.

“Amphibious operations are very risky,” British expert Marc de Vore from the University of St Andrews tells DW. ‘This requires a significant predominance of possible options,’ he explains. Russia, according to the expert, apparently looked for landing options, but did not find any “unsecured beach”.

At the beginning of the invasion, Russia reinforced the presence of warships off the coast of Odessa. At that time, Russian troops managed to capture the small and strategically important Snake Island southwest of Odessa. But at the end of June, Ukraine managed to dislodge them with accurate artillery strikes.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet turned out to be one of the biggest losers of the war so far. Its flagship, the Moscow missile cruiser, was hit by Ukrainian missiles in April, damaged and later sunk. MarchUkrainian missiles sank the landing ship Saratov in the Sea of ​​Azov.

Missile cruiser Moscow in the port of Sevastopol (April 2022)Missile cruiser Moscow in the port of Sevastopol (April 2022) Maxar Technologies/dpa/picture alliance

As a result, the warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet keep a greater distance from the coast, which is controlled by Kyiv. They’re not entirely safe in the Sevastopol base either. Ukraine attacked both the headquarters and the ships there with drones.

However, the Black Sea Fleet is not out of action. Its ships continue to attack Ukraine with cruise missiles from a safe distance.

For this reason, Russia abandoned the naval blockade of Ukrainian ports. Officially, to enable the conclusion of the grain deal negotiated by Turkey and the UN. After the attack on Russian warships in late October, Moscow withdrew from the deal, then rejoined it.

Russia received, as the Kremlin claimed, “guarantees” from Kiev that the Black Sea Fleet would not be attacked from a certain “corridor”.

Strong cyber defense

Before the invasion, there were also fears that Russia would paralyze Ukraine with hacking attacks. These fears were justified, as Ukraine has been the victim of digital attacks many times over the years. Shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on February 15, a massive hacking attack took place, which Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov described as “the largest DDoS attack in the history of Ukraine”.

DDoS attacks target computer systems or network services and aim to occupy all available and free resources in order to prevent the entire service from functioning on the network. The attack affected, among others, many banks, as well as the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. The day before the Russian invasion, there were also hacker attacks on government structures and parliament.

And in this case, Kyiv seemed well prepared. More attacks followed, but they were less successful than in previous years. Parts of critical infrastructure, such as the electrical grid, are disrupted not by hacking, but by missile attacks.

And in this case, it has paid off that the West has been helping Ukraine strengthen its cyber defense for years. A few days before the invasion, the EU deployed its Cyber ​​Rapid Response Team (CRRT) to Ukraine. For now, it seems that the digital war attributed to Russia is weakening as much as the one on the real front. Western experts, however, expect more and more frequent hacker attacks in the winter.

The article comes from the Deutsche Welle website.

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