‘Like turkeys at a firing range’: Mauling of Russian servicemen in Donetsk hotspot may herald issues to come

February 13, 2023



(CNN) ⸻ The Vuhledar debacle suggests chronic failures in the command and tactics of the Russians as they gear up for a spring offensive, and could jeopardize the Kremlin's plans to seize more territory. Ukrainian military drones have recorded video of Russian tanks veering wildly before exploding or driving straight into minefields, men running in every direction, some on fire, and bodies of soldiers caught in tank tracks. At least two dozen Russian tanks and infantry vehicles have been disabled or destroyed in a matter of days, according to the videos. Satellite images show intensive patterns of impacts along tree lines where Russian tanks tried to advance. The Russian Defense Ministry has insisted the assault is going according to plan, but the leader of the self-declared, Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) acknowledged Friday that the area was "hot" and said the enemy continues to transfer reserves in large quantities. Tom Cooper, who has studied the battle for Vuhledar, describes it as a "big, tall fortress in the middle of an empty, flat desert". Russian forces have been trying to take it for three months, hoping to shut down a nearby railroad and begin a northern "hook" as part of their spring offensive. However, attacks launched in the last week of January were fatally flawed, with Ukrainian artillery causing heavy losses to the advancing units and cutting off their supply links and possible withdrawal routes. Russian military bloggers have been outspoken in their criticism of the offensive. Russia's military bloggers have been highly critical of the campaign, alleging that Russian units lack information and have failed to integrate intelligence-gathering into battlefield decisions. They have also called for the dismissal of Lieutenant General Rustam Muradov, the commander of the Eastern Grouping of Forces, who was in charge when men of the 155th protested his tactics. The commander killed was a special forces colonel, Sergey Polyakov, according to unofficial Russian sources. The UK defense ministry reported Sunday that an uptick in Russian casualties is likely due to a lack of trained personnel, coordination, and resources across the front. Ukrainian military officials say there is a random mix of Russian forces in the Vuhledar area, including professional units, the recently mobilized, militia of the DPR and infantry of a private military company called Patriot. The key to success on the battlefield is effective fire damage, which requires an appropriate amount of weapons and ammunition. Analysts say the challenge for the Ukrainians is to resupply frontline units with shells and anti-tank missiles fast enough.

Kyiv Ukraine Russian Donetsk

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