Ukraine is engaged in a counteroffensive aimed at creating “chaos” within the Russian military by attacking invaders’ supply lines in the occupied territories, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top adviser.
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Mijailo Podoliak says in an interview toGuardian that there could be more attacks in the “next two or three months”, similar to Tuesday’s mysterious attacks on a railway junction and an air base in Crimea, as well as last week’s attack on Russian warplanes in the saky airfieldon the peninsula.
Russia said on Tuesday that the explosions at an ammunition depot in Crimea’s Dzhankoy district had been caused by a fire. Podoliak says this incident is a reminder that “Russian-occupied Crimea means warehouse explosions and a high risk of death for invaders and thieves.”
Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attacks that have caused Russian tourists to flee Crimea in panic. On Tuesday there were queues at the train station in the regional capital, Simferopol.
The Defense Ministry in Moscow says it is dealing with cases of “sabotage” and taking “necessary measures”.
the chaos within
From the presidential headquarters in kyiv, Podoliak says: “Our strategy is to destroy logistics, supply lines, ammunition depots and other objects of military infrastructure. Create chaos within their own forces.”
The adviser, often described as the country’s third most powerful figure, says kyiv’s strategy is against Moscow’s powerful artillery to seize more territory to the east in the Donbas region, where Russian troops have destroyed cities such as Mariupol and Severodonetsk in their advance.
“So Russia has taught the whole world that a counteroffensive requires huge numbers of troops that work like a giant fist moving in one direction,” he says. “A Ukrainian counteroffensive would be very different. We don’t use the tactics of the 60s and 70s, tactics of the last century.”
However, the remarks could also be interpreted as an acknowledgment that Ukraine is struggling to muster the number of military personnel and materiel needed to sustain a full counteroffensive in the south of the country, which normally requires a superiority of three or more soldiers for every soldier. enemy.
Instead, Ukraine has attempted to isolate Kherson, the only Russian-held city on the western bank of the Dnieper River, by damaging road and rail bridges using newly supplied Western rocket artillery to such an extent that it can no longer it is possible for Russia to re-supply its forces effectively.
Podoliak is calling for “50, 60, 80 more” MLRS (a multiple launch rocket system) to add to the existing stockpile of some 20 rocket launchers, 16 of which are US-supplied truck-mounted Himars. Three of them, the track-equipped M270s, come from the UK and are described by the President’s adviser as “very good”.
Aided by Western-supplied long-range missiles, Podoliak says Ukraine hopes to weaken the invaders’ strength by making them suffer from “lack of supplies and lack of ammunition” so that “the Russians will fight as they did in the first few months.” from the war”.
Russians in traffic jams
During the first phase of the conflict, a disorganized Russian Army failed to capture kyiv after the invading forces became trapped in a series of traffic jams on the roads leading to the city, leaving them vulnerable to Ukrainian infantry and weapons. antitank.
The presidential adviser suggests that last week’s attack on the airbase may have been the work of partisan groups, but dismisses any suggestion that it may have been an accident, as Moscow claimed immediately afterwards.
Podoliak says the Russians “are made of different stuff” if they truly believe the ammunition depot explosions were the result of an accident involving cigarette butts. He then anticipates that these attacks will be repeated behind the front lines in the future.
“I agree with the Russian Defense Ministry, which anticipates more such incidents in the next two to three months. I think it is possible that they will repeat themselves,” says Podoliak.
It also notes that Ukraine considers the Crimean bridge linking the occupied peninsula to the Russian mainland a legitimate military target. “It is an illegal construction and the main entry point for supplies for the Russian Army in Crimea. Such objects must be destroyed,” he says.
Although Ukraine has refused to take public responsibility for the attack on the Saky air base, it has done so in private. The incident has taken place at a time when a series of Russian strategic targets far from the front line have been attacked.
On Monday it was speculated that Yevgeny Prigozhina Russian businessman allegedly linked to the Wagner Group, a private military organization believed to be working as a parallel army to the Kremlin, may have been injured or even killed following a Ukrainian rocket attack in Donbas.
Photos published by a Russian journalist of the man’s meeting with Wagner Group mercenaries in eastern Ukraine made the location of the base easy to identify. And, on Sunday, the building on Mironivska Street was hit by a Ukrainian artillery attackprobably coming from a HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) system.
The future of negotiations
Podoliak, who was a negotiator in the peace talks during the early phases of the conflict, says there is no chance for Russia to negotiate seriously until it experiences defeat on the battlefield. He says some unnamed European countries are “under the illusion” that the Kremlin can seek talks in good faith.
“Russian ears only open when there is a giant military bat hitting the Russian head,” he says.
He praises the support Ukraine has received from the UK so far, which in some respects has surpassed that of the United States, and says he hopes this support will continue after Boris Johnson is no longer prime minister. “Once you’ve become a giant, it’s hard to go back to being a dwarf,” he says.
Johnson gave “personal and emotional support” to Zelensky in the “darkest moment in Ukraine’s history,” according to Podoliak. “UK help will be remembered for centuries.”
Translation of Julian Cnochaert.