A war is not won by blows. The difficulties encountered by the Ukrainian army against that of Russia, forcing it to retreat into the Donbass, in recent weeks, are there to prove it. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian forces have accumulated successful operations and warlike exploits since the start of the invasion decided by Vladimir Putin on February 24.
While Moscow announced this Thursday, June 30, its withdrawal from the strategic Serpents’ Island after having suffered missile fire from the Ukrainian army – well helped by Western arms deliveries – here are some of the most salient . They recount a conflict of unprecedented violence in Europe since the end of the Second World War.
At the start of the invasion, the Kremlin aimed to overthrow the regime through a lightning takeover of kyiv. In the early hours of the offensive, its helicopters, leaving from Belarus, dropped off special forces soldiers at the operational base of the Antonov company’s large carriers, the airport of Hostomel, northwest of the capital. Objective: to land troop transport planes as quickly as possible and melt towards the city center. But the Ukrainian fighters repel their adversaries, putting an end to the effect of surprise and stupefaction sought.
Admittedly, the airport falls from February 25 into the hands of the Russians. But they failed to take control in the first 24 hours and stuck in the suburbs of kyiv. The lightning offensive failed. A month later, Moscow, unable to encircle the capital, resolved to evacuate the north of the country to better concentrate its forces on the conquest of Donbass.
The sequence was filmed with a drone and quickly made the rounds of social networks, confirming in passing the mastery of war communication by the Ukrainians. On March 9, a column of Russian tanks advanced on the main street of Skybyn, a village in the Brovary district, northeast of kyiv. Without air protection, insufficiently surrounded by infantry, it was the target of an ambush by Ukrainian forces, who were waiting for it with anti-tank weapons and artillery. Taken by surprise, hampered in their retreats, the Russians lost several vehicles and several soldiers.
The Battle of Skybyn sums up the difficulties faced by Moscow in the first phase of the war. Lacking support, too often lonely, its tanks are easy prey for Ukrainian forces applying guerrilla tactics with agility, well aided by the weapons provided by the West. In the Donbass, for the second phase of the war, Moscow will avoid repeating this gross tactical error.
You had to dare. Before daybreak on April 1, two Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters crossed the border and entered Russian territory. Their low-altitude flight allowed them to decrease the risk of being shot down by air defense. Objective: Belgorod, about twenty kilometers north of the border, where they destroy part of a fuel depot used by the Russian army with their missiles.
This damage on Russian soil is not the only one. A fire broke out at a military research institute near Moscow on April 21, and more fuel tanks were destroyed over the weeks. Is it sabotage orchestrated by kyiv? “We do not confirm and we do not deny,” said Oleksei Arestovych, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky.
12,000 tons, 186 meters long and number of rocket launchers, guns and torpedoes on board. The cruiser Moskva was the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. It sank on April 14. A terrible humiliation for Moscow, which explained that its ship sank because of a fire which caused the ammunition on board to explode. In reality, it was hit by two “Neptune”, anti-ship missiles developed by kyiv, the equivalent of the Exocet of the French navy.
This spectacular blow by the Ukrainian forces came to remind Russia that its control of enemy waters does not prevent a certain vulnerability of its buildings – other ships have been sunk. It also highlights the tactical ingenuity of the Ukrainians, who claim to have used a drone to distract the cruiser.
The images broadcast by kyiv show the full extent of the disaster for the Russian army: dozens of charred armored vehicles and mobile engineer pontoons destroyed at the edge of a river. On the northern Donbass front, Moscow suffered a bitter failure in its attempt to cross the Siversky Donets River at Bilohorivka. According to estimates, hundreds of its soldiers – an entire battalion – perished under enemy artillery fire, trapped in a meander, on May 9.
This setback forced Russia to scale back its immediate ambition in the Donbass. Rather than a vast offensive on a line going from Izyum, where it is blocked, to Severodonetsk, it first had to concentrate its means on the sole capture of the latter city.
For the Ukrainian army, this is not a victory. But it is clearly a performance in its fight against the Russian occupier. Thwarting all predictions, his forces, besieged in this port city of Donbass, held out until May 20. It was on this date that the last fighters entrenched in the Azovstal steel complex became prisoners.
The resistance of Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol forced Moscow to allocate more forces than it wanted to this battle, delaying the deployment of some battalions to the northern Donbass front.
It is a city of 9000 inhabitants, where is the airport of Kherson, a large city in the south of the country, quickly conquered by Moscow. Except that kyiv has multiplied the raids there, claiming the destruction of dozens of enemy helicopters, causing many victims in the Russian ranks, including two generals. What is the part of the myth? At the end of May, the Ukrainian authorities assured that their forces were on their 22nd destructive attack on this area.
“Chornobaivka will go down in the history of wars, it is a place where the Russian army and its commanders have shown themselves as they are, incompetent, to simply lead their people to massacre”, declared on March 20 the president Volodymyr Zelensky. In fact, many Ukrainian military successes have been built on the fact that the Russians too often underestimated their opponents.