Russian armed forces ‘in disarray’ after disastrous year

Vladimir Putin claims that Ukraine 'attacked Crimea bridge'

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A European security expert has said Ukraine is in a good position to launch a fresh offensive in the early part of 2023 – and may even succeed in driving Russian troops out of the country completely. Ed Arnold, a Research Fellow for European Security within the International Security Studies department at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), was speaking on the final day of a tumultuous year in which Putin ordered troops into Ukraine only for them to become bogged down in brutal fighting.

Recent months have seen Ukrainian forces regain large swathes of territory, notably Kherson, with Russia firmly on the back foot.

Mr Arnold told “There will be new offensives, because from a military perspective, Russia has about 20 percent of Ukrainian territory at the moment roughly, which is not enough for it to achieve its political objectives.

“And obviously for Ukraine, they’ve now got 80 percent of their country, so the military situation in terms of territorial control suits no one.

“So we’ll see the offensive from both sides and at the moment, it’s a question of who can actually generate the combat power to do that.

“And I think Ukraine is in a far better position both in terms of numbers of personnel but also significantly equipment and ammunition stocks because they’re getting supplied from the West.

He added: “The Russians meanwhile are struggling to hold the 20 percent that they’ve got.

“While people are saying that there’ll be a renewed Russian offensive I just can’t see it materialising just due to the fact that what we saw, the deficiencies of 2022 are not easily fixed.

“There’s just I think there’s too much to do on the Russian side.

“I’d say they are in disarray. If you’re going to fix these problems, you need to sustained periods to focus on these issues when you’re not fighting – it’s really difficult to do while fighting.”

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Conversely, from a Ukrainian perspective, their political objectives aligned with their military ones, Mr Arnold stressed.

He said: “I think also the Ukrainians have some options. They can press in the Donbas and hold on Crimea.

“They could go into Crimea first, or they could open up an additional front, south of Zaporizhzhia and basically try and sever the land bridge that the Russians have created.

“As the moment the Ukrainians got a lot of options and they are prepping, they’re planning using deceptive means to try and mask what they’re actually going to do when the weather gets better.”

Mr Arnold agreed that Ukraine’s hopes of reclaiming all the territory lost since Putin’s invasion on February 24 were realistic – but added: “It all depends how they go about it.

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“They have the advantage – it’s whether they can fully exploit that.”

With specific reference to the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, Mr Arnold said: “I think if I was advising them I’d basically say don’t touch Crimea for now and isolate Crimea because Crimea is actually a different kettle of fish for Putin politically.”

He continued: “On the Russian side, they might be able to take the whole of Donetsk if they pushed really hard but that’s really the only realistic objective.

“They’re not going to be able to push west to Kherson, they are probably not going to take much of Luhansk so there are not many options whereby the Russians can launch a modest offensive and then claim that as a political victory.

“I get the fact that the intent will be to push a lot of people in there, but also what the Russians need desperately is experienced soldiers, which they do not have.”

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