Ukrainian military hampered by series of unforced errors — opinion

Why our mistakes at the front are repeated and not corrected at the highest level

What happened in Ocheretyne is an expected result, which many commanders in this area reported. If we run a battle, organize combat operations not with the help of tactics, but with pieces of paper, reports, and most importantly — to say that we aren’t guilty of anything and let someone figure it out... If instead of attacking the enemy with fire, reconnaissance, building a line of defense, we fight the enemy with reports that everything is stabilized here and we control the situation, everything is fine — eventually these lies lead to blunders as Ocheretyne, preceded by Soledar, Bakhmut, and Severodonetsk. All these mistakes, unfortunately, are repeated again and again, we shoot ourselves in the foot again, and the price of this is, unfortunately, many lives and more lost territory.

Waging the war with reports, pieces of paper, signed maps, and arrows on the map, unfortunately, is our greatest problem on all fronts.

Proactive brigade or battalion commanders can sometimes manage it in some areas, while there is no one to correct planning errors at the highest level in other areas, where our troops are poorly organized and not adequately prepared for their objectives.

Such a situation occurred near Ocheretyne, where an incompetent brigade was deployed to this sector. The same unit, unfortunately, also performed poorly in a similar situation in Severodonetsk in 2022. The brigade was again deployed on the front sector, but it failed to hold its position. Not because the people were bad, but because they weren’t prepared and organized for this kind of fighting. But there was no one to report objectively and fairly what was happening. Because in our country, commanders can be quickly removed for truthful reports, so some commanders just don’t report. Unfortunately, this system of negative factors played a decisive role.

But basically, everything is a paper war, the desire to wage war on paper, on maps, on reports, and not on tactics, real possibilities, forces, and means. This is our main problem at the front, as is clear from Ocheretyne.

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Lying always begins with assessing the situation. We have beautiful reports about the reasons for losing Soledar, Bakhmut, Severodonetsk. All this is a complete lie, and this lie is marked as “top secret.” Unfortunately, there is not a single analysis of the situation for the entire war that would be even 5% accurate at the highest level of the Ukrainian military command, the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, the head of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the commanders of the operational-strategic and operational-tactical groups. This is all just a lie to avoid responsibility. Therefore, our mistakes are repeated and not corrected at the highest level. Soldiers, battalion commanders, sometimes brigade commanders, but usually soldiers are made responsible. And the main planning errors include the responsibility of the Ukrainian Defense Forces’ top command. Unfortunately, there is no responsibility and no objective analysis here.

The Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief should require the military to tell the truth, this is its duty according to our Constitution and laws. If the President of Ukraine [Volodymyr Zelenskyy] gives an interview and says: we have a stable situation at the front, then his subordinates begin to give their own assessments of the situation under these absolutely unfounded statements, as well as telling those things that aren’t true: yes, everything is stabilized, everything is under control. But this is not true.

The Russian breakthrough in Ocheretyne is precisely the result of the fact that the analysis of the war and the situation is adapted to political slogans that aren’t true. And again, instead of acting with reason, they look to assign blame to someone, but absolutely not those who were actually responsible.

Read also: Russian troops exploit gaps ahead of expected US military support in Ukraine

The long-awaited U.S. aid package hasn’t yet had an impact. After all, it’s not artillery shells that fight, but primarily people. We don’t have an “ammunition hunger” at the front, but a mental one, among those who make decisions on the use of people. The entire organization of actions depends on the management of people. And the problems near Ocheretyne aren’t due to a lack of ammunition, but errors in the planning and organization of warfighting.

It’s interesting to see where in the area, where the enemy has been advancing continuously for more than half a year, there are at least some lines of defense, which are sometimes reported in press releases, where there is a network of communication routes, strongpoints, with some fortified dugouts, and camouflaged shelters. I would like to see where it can be found in that area. Maybe we just don’t know everything. Unfortunately, from what I hear from the front, I don’t see such lines of defense. Therefore, there are no lines of defense, no necessary fortifications, no operational planning. There is a shifting of responsibility from one person to another and, unfortunately, it takes a lot of on-duty time.

The supreme commander announced the stabilization at the front, giving an interview that everything is fine at the front. The head of the Armed Forces of Ukraine [Oleksandr Syrskyi] also said that it was possible to achieve stabilization. And, of course, we have very optimistic reports from the command of the Khortytsia operational-strategic group, which is currently deployed in that area.

There was a very large number of optimistic reports that turned out to be inappropriate for the situation. Now we need to find out who was responsible and what was the reason. Maybe they don’t know something, maybe some subordinates don’t report. Maybe they had drawn the wrong conclusions. But in any case, our leadership and the vertical of management are clearly defined, there is nothing to guess here.

It was reported the Russians were so overjoyed with their success in Avdiivka that they began to advance further. But the enemy pushed our troops back from Avdiivka not by élan, but simply by the accumulation of a lot of fresh infantry and ground forces, the constant purposeful deployment of reserves, massive use of reconnaissance and firepower, primarily aviation, and artillery.

I would like to remind you that the Russian offensive on Avdiivka began on Oct. 10, 2023. Since then, the enemy has been trying to attack continuously in that area. The enemy suffers huge losses, and the Russian losses are many times greater than ours. But the problem is that the enemy has the manpower resources to sustain this rate of losses, while we lack those. Therefore, we have particularly high requirements for effective management and organization.

The modern ground warfare tactics in Donbas are primarily aimed at preserving infantry. For this, we shouldn’t just say that we love and value our troops, but we need shelters, a system of counter-surveillance, so that the infantry cannot be seen. We need effective precision capabilities so that the infantry doesn’t have to engage in close combat. We need to ensure that the infantry is fresh and doesn’t suffer heavy non-combat losses. We need to do many things to save lives. Then we’ll have an advantage at the front. But we’re still trading troops; enemy losses are greater, but this trade isn’t in our favor. We won’t be able to stop the enemy at this rate.

The Russian offensive is brutally straightforward, with a clear purposeful operational strategic management. They’re throwing reserves in certain areas until our positions are exhausted. But we can fight and stop them at the tactical level, and for this we need planning and organization, as our well-organized brigades show in many areas. This is the main conclusion.

Unfortunately, these lessons were not learnt. First of all, the management organization near Ocheretyne, where one brigade was replaced by another, a weak one, which wasn’t prepared for modern fighting. And the commanders who brought that brigade there reported it was well-prepared. That’s why we now deal with dire consequences.

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Unfortunately, Chasiv Yar has become a hot spot. The situation is almost the same everywhere. The enemy outlines narrow areas of the breakthrough, trying to build a maximum advantage in reconnaissance, firepower, and constantly replenishes infantry there. The enemy is now trying to enter Chasiv Yar head-on, to gain a foothold behind residential buildings to make it easy to accumulate infantry and develop a further offensive, hiding from our fire. This is their strike area, just like near Avdiivka. They had been advancing towards Berdychi and Orlivka for a long time, but were destroyed by our 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade, 3rd Separate Assault Brigade, and 68th Jaeger Brigade, while the 26th Artillery Brigade pushed them back near Tonenke.

They had ousted the enemy, and then they found another weak area and deployed our 115th Mechanized Brigade there. And that’s it: once they saw it was weak, they redeployed their brigades from the neighboring areas to this one, where the battle organization was weaker. And that’s it, the offensive began. This is a creeping offensive. They [Russians] are advancing where they’re not destroyed or stopped by overwhelming fire. So, this is the nature of hostilities along the entire front.

What I expect from the military aid package that we should receive from both the United States and UK. We are provided with about $14 billion in direct military aid, while Russia spends, I think, three to four times more per year on arms. Therefore, to say that we can stop the enemy only with this number, with these weapons... I think now it’s about the fact that the U.S. aid package will help create a balance of forces, i.e. the enemy will fail to gain an overwhelming advantage. The enemy advantage will decrease somewhat, but will likely remain in place.

The U.S. aid is indispensable for us to continue effective resistance, to effectively destroy the enemy, but, of course, we cannot create an advantage over the enemy by technical means alone. Because the enemy is also developing its military industry, buying a large number of weapons and drones from its allies (Iran, China, and North Korea). Therefore, they’re also making efforts to increase their advantage, meaning that not everything is so linear. I hope the Americans will assess the situation and allocate additional aid to Ukraine during the year.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine