“The Russians simply cannot come up with an adequate response. Moscow is clearly very confused,” said US General Ben Hodges, former commander in chief of US forces in Europe, in an interview with Deutsche Welle. He commented on the secret of Ukrainian success.
How do you think the Ukrainian troops managed to regain such a large territory in just a few days?
I think it’s a combination of three circumstances. First, the Russian army is exhausted, its rear support is also exhausted, and a significant part of the officer corps is destroyed; over the last few months we have seen a serious deterioration in the morale of the Russian troops, they simply have no desire to fight.
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Second, an important role is played by the weapons provided to Ukraine by the West, especially the long-range missiles, which greatly helped to destroy Russian logistics, artillery, command posts, etc.; these missiles have created a lot of problems for the Russians on their own territory, and they simply cannot understand what is going on, they cannot find an adequate response.
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In third place are the merits of the Ukrainian General Staff and the Ukrainian Armed Forces: they are disciplined, they have done a good job of protecting their information and their operational safety. They deceived Russia about where the main blow would be delivered. All the time they talked about an attack near Kherson, but their main thrust was actually in the north. That is, we observe the highest level in the implementation of tactical plans.
Military experts were really following the plans for the advance of the Ukrainian forces in the south, near Kherson. And you say that this was just a trick – to weaken the Russian defenses to the north and northeast of Kharkiv, right?
Exactly. The Russians were fooled – and so were many other observers. Precisely because of this, the Russians began to transfer troops to Kherson. Yes, Kherson is very important and ultimately we see that Ukrainian troops will enter there as well. But the real goal now was for the Russians to focus on Kherson and thus expose a weak point in the north where the Ukrainians were given an opportunity to attack.
And how do you explain Moscow’s almost complete silence about this defeat that we are now witnessing?
In my opinion, it is obvious that Moscow is confused. This must be a big shock. I think that in that system, truthful information never reached the top. That is, it is possible that people in the Kremlin and at various levels share divergent views about what is really going on – and how bad the situation really is. In my opinion, the preliminary assessments that the Russian army is better than the Ukrainian one were wrong. In recent days, there has been a lot of mutual accusations being exchanged in Russia, there have already been dismissals, criticism has come both from extreme nationalists and from those who thought that Russia should not have invaded Ukraine at all.
Do you expect a Russian retaliatory strike after this Ukrainian offensive?
I can imagine such a thing. The Russians have no choice but to continue killing innocent people by firing rockets at residential areas as they are doing now. Their ground forces clearly cannot stop the Ukrainian army. There is no Russian aviation, and their navy is hiding behind Crimea. So I don’t see much likelihood of any large-scale military action by Russia. They will try to compensate for this fact with rocket fire against the cities. Until they destroy them or until they are stopped.