On Saturday, Ukrainian forces attacked the eastern Ukrainian city of Pashmut, which was captured by Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenaries after months of heavy fighting this spring. Prigozhin owes his name and fame to the Russian war in Ukraine: the ruined Pashmut is the only city captured by Russia this year. But while Prigozhin and his army rocked Russia this weekend, Ukraine launched an offensive at Bashmut.
And the Russian Defense Ministry wrote on Telegram that the Armed Forces of Ukraine, taking advantage of “the chaos caused by Prigozhin,” are trying to break through the front line at Pashmut. And the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense, Hanna Malyar, announced on Saturday, through the same medium, that Ukraine had launched an attack in several directions, including Bashmoyt.
Was Kiev really responding to the events in Russia? No, says Roman Svetan, a military expert and reserve colonel in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “You wouldn’t come up with such attacks in one day. This requires more time to prepare.”
He believes that Russia’s exit from recent events is weak with a “wounded” armed force. “This is a reward for Ukraine.” Think of it as a tennis match, he says, in which the player gets injured but can still play.
No changes are expected for the battle on the Ukrainian front. He believes that Ukraine, in a counterattack, will not change its plans.
Svetan sees the events in Russia in recent days as a great advantage for Ukraine. Everything Prigozhin did is good for Ukraine. He sums up what shocked him: Prigozhin showed that the Russian army is indecisive, showed that Vladimir Putin does not control his forces, showed that Russia does not have its own defenses to arrange at home and showed that the Russian army has no combat capabilities. They cannot fight on their own territory. Not to mention that they can do it in Ukraine or in the world. This is useful information for Kiev. The Russian Federation is weak and this means in the long run the end of the Russian Empire. So we must continue to fight.”
Cvetan believes that this vulnerability does not necessarily mean that Ukraine will immediately change its counterattack plans. Ukraine is still fighting against an imperial army of 300,000 men on Ukrainian soil, he says on the phone from Ukraine. In addition, offensive plans are preceded by months of preparation if you look at the soldiers and combat equipment that you need for this. “Then you can’t change your plans in a second.”
However, the time has come to attack Russia. Svetan says that the Ukrainian Armed Forces can now increase internal chaos in Russia. It is believed that you can increase the number of missile attacks. Such as the strategic bridges in Russia or in the Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014 under Putin.
Creating additional chaos is an option currently available to Ukraine, says Ukrainian military journalist Yury Butusov. And certainly with the attacks on the Crimea. This is a sensitive issue for Putin. “Any pressure on Crimea is very painful for Russia. Crimea is a target for Putin. For him, a symbol of the Russian Empire. He wants to impress him. Every Ukrainian missile strike shows that the Russian president cannot control Crimea.”
The first step towards disaster
Butusov also does not expect any changes in Ukrainian actions at the front. Russia has a huge advantage in the number of people and weapons. They have enough supplies to continue this war. We’ll have to keep fighting that.”
Butusov notes that the current situation in Russia is due even to Ukraine. Russia thought it would bring Ukraine to its knees in three days. If successful, it would almost certainly make Putin unapproachable. Instead, the Ukrainian armed forces have resisted and the Russian president is facing many external and internal problems. Ukraine puts Russia in trouble. It just makes us stronger. They dreamed of conquering Kiev in three days. Now they are in a war that will last for years. It is a great disaster for the Kremlin. This rebellion is the first step towards disaster for Russia.
Kyiv sees it too. Volodymyr Zelensky concluded on Saturday that Russia is emerging from these days weak because of Ukraine. “The more Russia keeps its forces and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain and trouble it will bring to itself,” the Ukrainian president wrote on his Telegram channel on Saturday. “All of our commanders, all of our soldiers know what they’re doing.”
Butusov believes that the events are motivated by Ukraine. “Politically and in the media, these days were a disaster for Russia.” He explains that Ukraine sees a weak country with problems. Ukraine saw pictures of Russian helicopters shot down by Wagner’s army.
Wagner did not disappear
What has been left with Svetan in the past few days is a divided Russia. Ukraine can use that. Images have emerged on social media of Russians supporting Prigozhin and mocking the police in Rostov-on-Don, where Wagner’s army has taken control of a military headquarters. Svetan says Ukraine’s ultimate goal is the end of the Russian Empire.
Kiev could give an additional boost to this in addition to the current battle. Create separate battalions with Russian prisoners of war for the Russian republics of Tatarstan, Bashkiria, if necessary one for Moscow, as the reserve colonel explains, in order to undermine the Kremlin. Just as there is now a Legion for the Freedom of Russia that carried out an armed attack on Russian soil this spring.
Russia may weaken According to experts and Zelensky, Ukraine still has a powerful opponent: Prigozhin’s militants who conquered Bashmut. Ukraine is not done with Wagner, I think Svetan and Butusov. Prigozhin halted his advance towards Moscow after speaking to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The agreement would now include Prigozhin’s exile to Belarus. His men from Wagner stay behind. Butusov: “They will return to the front in Ukraine.”
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