Business is booming.

Vladimir Putin has no good options for how to react to Ukraine, says military expert JUSTIN BRONK

Vladimir Putin has no good options to react after a lightning strike from Ukraine inflicted Russia’s most serious and swift military defeat on the battlefield since World War II, a military expert said today.

JUSTIN BRONK, a research fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute, analyzed the latest situation in an article for MailOnline today, as Ukrainian forces continued to put pressure on retreating Russian troops.

Ukraine is now trying to hold on to its sudden momentum that has seen major territorial gains, with Russian forces surrendering en masse in the hopes that a turning point in the war has finally been reached.

The counter-offensive left the Kremlin struggling to respond to its worst military defeat in Ukraine since Russia withdrew from areas near Kiev after failing to capture the capital early in the invasion.

It comes as Russia’s state-media war correspondent Alexander Sladkov inadvertently revealed the magnitude of their losses in Ukraine, telling Kremlin-run news channel Rossiya 1 that a “huge number of people” have died.

Mr Bronk said Ukraine has “persuaded Russia to accept a battle of attrition in a very militarily unfavorable position,” adding that Russia “will have a hard time simply avoiding more disasters before winter.”

The expert, who also gave his analysis to MailOnline in a video, said it was “one of the most successful counter-offensives we’ve seen in modern history in terms of territory won at a certain rate of progress.”

Vladimir Putin has no good options for how to react

Late last month, the long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive to retake the southern city of Kherson finally began.

However, many were baffled by the relatively cautious pace at which Ukrainian troops advanced, pointing out that Kiev had given the Russian army more than a month to move some troops by making it clear that a counter-offensive was being prepared in Kherson. of its most elite remaining units and large numbers of reserve support units to block it.

The brilliance of this strategy was revealed last Wednesday, when a second Ukrainian force launched a smaller-scale but much more mobile counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region to the north.

After initially breaking through the Russian front lines at the town of Balakliya, Ukrainian armored and mechanized brigades did not stop to consolidate their gains, but instead drove rapidly over the next two days and nights, deep into Russian-occupied territory.

While the Ukrainian commanders urgently rushed reinforcements to consolidate and widen the narrow corridor of liberated cities, the spearhead units isolated and bypassed the limited Russian reserve forces that tried to stop them at the small village of Sevchenkove and reached the southern edge of the crucial junction city ​​of Kup’yansk on Friday morning.

Ukrainian military vehicles drive on the road in the liberated area of ​​the Kharkiv . region on Monday

Ukrainian military vehicles drive on the road in the liberated area of ​​the Kharkiv . region on Monday

Ukrainian military vehicles drive on the road in the liberated area of ​​the Kharkiv . region on Monday

At this point, panic began to set in the Russian units stationed in the occupied Kharkiv Oblast, as the crucial highway and rail links between Russia itself and the fortified stronghold of Izyum all passed through Kup’yansk, meaning an entire flank of the Russian line was suddenly cut off from reinforcement, supplies or orderly withdrawal.

Responding to the unexpectedly rapid success of their spearheads at Kup’yansk, Ukrainian forces stationed south of Izyum in Donbas began attacking northwards as the original breakthrough force descended the Ozkil River to complete the encirclement.

With the main roads and railways cut off, and total encirclement an imminent possibility, the heavily fortified Russian forces at Izyum abandoned their heavy equipment and weapons and fled on foot and in stolen civilian vehicles along the remaining minor roads to the east.

Within days of launching its northern counter-offensive, the Russian Defense Ministry had confirmed that it was “regrouping” all its troops in Kharkov Oblast to the Donbas or back to Russia itself.

Ukrainian soldiers pose for a photo in the recently liberated settlement of Shevchenkove . on Saturday

Ukrainian soldiers pose for a photo in the recently liberated settlement of Shevchenkove . on Saturday

Ukrainian soldiers pose for a photo in the recently liberated settlement of Shevchenkove . on Saturday

In less than a week, more than 3,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory had been liberated, huge stockpiles of ammunition, weapons and armored vehicles were captured for use by Ukrainian forces, and the entire Russian position in northeastern Ukraine was completely destabilized.

Russian troops have not suffered such a serious and rapid military defeat on the battlefield since World War II.

Worse for Putin is that he has no good options to react now.

The majority of its potentially mobile and elite units in Ukraine are still concentrated in Kherson in the south and are facing a serious and ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensive operation that cannot be ignored.

Moreover, by signaling for so long that Kherson was the target for liberation, Ukraine has led Russia to accept a battle of attrition in a very militarily unfavorable position.

The region of Kherson Oblast that Russia is trying to hold onto is on the western bank of the wide Dnipro River.

Local residents stand in front of their building on Monday, partially destroyed by rocket attack on Kharkiv

Local residents stand in front of their building on Monday, partially destroyed by rocket attack on Kharkiv

Local residents stand in front of their building on Monday, partially destroyed by rocket attack on Kharkiv

Thanks to the US-supplied HIMARS long-range missile artillery system, Ukraine has been able to effectively destroy its only two border crossings – the Antonovsky Bridge and the Bridge at Nova Kahkovka – and regularly destroy the temporary pontoon bridges and ferry crossings that the Russian military has tried to build. . instead of.

As such, the large concentration of Russian troops defending Kherson relies on heavily disrupted and clogged supply lines, meaning they quickly run out of medical supplies, food, and most importantly, ammunition.

This is a war of attrition that favors Ukraine for the area involved, but for Putin, Kherson must be defended politically for its status as the only major Ukrainian city to have remained roughly intact during this invasion.

With his northern flank collapsing, Putin cannot easily withdraw elite units from Kherson, as it would risk a second major defeat in the face of ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensive operations there.

Bystanders gather in front of a destroyed maternity hospital in Kramatorsk in the Donetsk . region on Monday

Bystanders gather in front of a destroyed maternity hospital in Kramatorsk in the Donetsk . region on Monday

Bystanders gather in front of a destroyed maternity hospital in Kramatorsk in the Donetsk . region on Monday

Even if he tries to withdraw some troops, the blown-up bridges and the often-affected temporary crossings over the Dnipro will make it difficult to transfer heavy equipment and vehicles from Kherson.

If its forces remain in the south, most of Russia’s usable combat power will be held back to the river and steadily knocked down by a Ukrainian force that has much better supply lines and more troops, and thus can sustain a battle of attrition. duel longer.

However, if the Kherson front were to collapse, it would be such a political and military disaster to come shortly after the stunning defeat at Kharkov that Russia’s military morale could be completely disintegrated, or Putin could even be threatened by disaffected factions within the Russian power structure at home.

Since redeploying troops away from Kherson is such an unappealing choice, and the Russian military elsewhere in Ukraine is so overstretched, Putin’s only other conventional choice is to deploy newly enlisted troops mobilized since Russia’s partial mobilization in late June. began.

A view shows a connection of a power station badly damaged by a recent Russian missile attack in Kharkiv on Monday

A view shows a connection of a power station badly damaged by a recent Russian missile attack in Kharkiv on Monday

A view shows a connection of a power station badly damaged by a recent Russian missile attack in Kharkiv on Monday

However, it takes time to train new recruits or conscripts to be useful at all on a modern battlefield, and most of those conscripted would just be cannon fodder with so little time to train.

Moreover, the need to send those in training or in second-line formations in Russia to Ukraine to try to stabilize the line in the Donbas signifies any hope Putin had of restoring a serious force for renewed offensive operations by the spring of 2023.

He could declare war and begin full mobilization, but even that could yield useful formations too late to counter a Ukrainian offensive in the spring.

In addition, it would be highly unpopular in most of Russia and further destabilize the regime.

Local residents stand in front of their building on Monday, partially destroyed by rocket attack on Kharkiv

Local residents stand in front of their building on Monday, partially destroyed by rocket attack on Kharkiv

Local residents stand in front of their building on Monday, partially destroyed by rocket attack on Kharkiv

Even if Ukraine takes back little additional territory from Russian forces before deteriorating weather in November halts most major moves for both sides, the current counter-offensive represents a major turning point.

Ukraine now has the initiative and Russia will have a hard time avoiding any more disasters before winter.

Ukraine’s western partners now have evidence that Ukrainian troops can decisively defeat the Russian military if they get enough material support, and that will make it much easier politically to keep that support at the necessary level during what promises to be a difficult winter. from a food and energy crisis security point of view.

Russia, meanwhile, has no good options and will face the knowledge that even if it can avoid losing the war this year, its battered troops will face an even better equipped Ukrainian army by 2023.