Ukraine Counter-Offensive is Making Slow Progress

The Ukrainian counter-offensive has now been underway for at least a couple of weeks. Fighting has increased significantly along the 1,000 kilometre front line. The UkrAF are mainly involved in probing attacks, with most of Ukraine’s operational mobile being held in reserve, waiting for a breach in Russian defences to launch the main attack.

Ukraine is attacking at three points: at Bakhmut, threatening the Russian forces in control there with encirclement; south of Zaporizhzhia, towards Melitopol; and in southern Donetsk, where a number of settlements have been recaptured.

It has been slow going with gains measured in hundreds of metres to a few kilometres. The fighting has been hard, with heavy casualties on both sides, and with opposing armies claiming losses which are impossible to verify.

There was dismay when photographs showed US-supplied Bradley armoured infantry vehicles and German Leopard 2 tanks abandoned and on fire in a Russian minefield. We should not be surprised, though, because losses are bound to be incurred when attacking.

The Russians have had plenty of time to prepare their defences, and they are good at it. They have established at least three defence lines stretching tens of kilometres in depth, and the UkrAF have not reached their enemy’s main one yet.

The Ukrainians are also limited by a lack of more modern weapons systems. One has to wonder what might have happened if aircraft and tanks provided earlier. The F-16s are not expected in theatre for a few months, so the UkrAF are paying the penalty for US politicians pussyfooting around.

In sweepingly general terms, the Russians have more kit with greater range weapons in the air, protected by a layered anti-air defence matrix which would deter most air forces.

They also have a marked superiority in artillery and missile systems. These may not be as sophisticated as the western equivalents now deployed by Ukraine, but there are an awful lot of them.

So, given the time the Russians have had to prepare and their numerical superiority, it’s not that surprising that the counter-offensive is making slow progress. But let’s be optimistic and hope for a Ukrainian breakthrough. How can the west help them achieve this?

Well, by sending a continuous stream of material to support the UkrAF. They know what they need and are hardly shy about asking for it, but politicians have been reprehensively timid about supplying it in the quantities and timescale so required.

Ukraine is fighting a proxy war on behalf of NATO against the common enemy. We should give them everything we have as soon as we can. Tip-toeing around the issue is just prolonging the agony. It’s time we sent Zelensky what he needs.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now

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