Logistics supply chains failed, leaving soldiers stranded on roadsides to be captured as their cars ran out of fuel.
Most importantly, Pentagon officials say, Russia has proven unable to secure air superiority over the tiny Ukrainian air force — despite having the world’s second largest air force. A senior US defense official said Sunday that its forces have not yet captured any significant city or significant plot of land.
On Sunday, a Russian attempt to seize the city of Kharkiv, less than 30 miles from the Russian border, was repulsed. A new push towards the capital Kiev has come to an end in the suburb of Irbin, where videos posted on social media showed the charred remains of Russian tanks and armored vehicles littering the streets as Ukrainian soldiers removed weapons from the bodies of the dead. Russians.
These scenes of humiliation It was widely played on social media, where the Ukrainians won a clear advantage. Multiple videos from across the country have captured scenes of burning Russian tanks, Russian soldiers being killed and Russian capturing, some of whom are barely in their teens, making sad calls to their parents.
Meanwhile, the Russian military has released few reports on the Ukraine war, in contrast to the prolific reporting that resulted from its intervention in Syria. On Sunday, a spokesman acknowledged Russian casualties and losses, while saying they were “significantly less” than those suffered by Ukraine.
Russian soldiers show courage and heroism while carrying out combat missions in the special military operation. “Unfortunately, there were dead and wounded among our comrades,” state news agency TASS quoted military spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying. “The losses of the Russian armed forces are much less than the number of soldiers of the Ukrainian armed forces.”
US military officials and experts warn that it is still too early to draw conclusions about the final course of the war, which is only a few days away.
“We are on day four. The Russians will learn and adapt and try to overcome these challenges. “I think we need to be pragmatic about that,” said the senior US defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation frankly.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s gamble on a quick and decisive takeover of Ukraine has clearly not paid off.
The US defense official said the relative constraints on the resources thrown into the fighting thus far indicated that the Russians had been expecting little or no resistance, and the Russians appeared to be stunned by the ferocity of the fighting and the challenge by the Ukrainians. Ordinary civilians, who were seen swearing contemptuously to Russian soldiers.
Military experts were also stunned by the tactical errors and military inadequacies that the fearsome Russian army had demonstrated thus far.
“Russia is showing the world that they are not as strong as we thought. This boosts NATO confidence,” said John Spencer, a veteran who heads the Department of Urban Warfare at the US Military Academy’s Institute of Modern Warfare.
“It doesn’t show great military strength, that’s for sure. It shows great weakness.”
said Rob Lee, a former Marine Corps officer who is now a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
So far, he said, at least, the Russians have acted with remarkable restraint compared to the previous wars they fought in Syria and Chechnya. They have refrained from the intense bombing and missile strikes on civilian areas that devastated and vacated cities like Aleppo in 2016 and Grozny in 1999, perhaps because they thought the locals would welcome them.
The worry now is that Russia, having suffered early setbacks, will unleash the massive firepower at its disposal, throwing bombs and missiles at towns and cities to force them into submission, Western officials say. But Spencer said it may already be too late to restore the momentum gained on the ground by highly motivated Ukrainian forces, which have had time to set up defenses in urban areas, arm civilians and learn Russian weaknesses.
He said it was clear from the way the Russians launched the offensive that their goal was to make a lightning dash into the heart of Kiev, capture or kill President Volodymyr Zelensky, install their puppet government, and thus subjugate the country to Russia. Power without having to fight across the rest of Ukraine.
Instead, with the Kiev offensive stalled outside the city, the Russians face the prospect of having to fight in densely populated urban streets defended by soldiers and civilians who know the terrain. The blockade could last for months with an angry and increasingly turbulent world on the lookout, bringing even more punishment and potential pain to Putin and the Russian state.
“The only way you can take a city this way is to destroy it,” he told me. In addition to inflicting heavy casualties on civilians, “it would be a nightmare for the Russians if people fought from all these buildings.”
The Russians made some progress elsewhere, particularly in the south. But without Kiev, said Spencer, these gains would be meaningless and would put the Russians in the position of having to fight on scattered fronts while maintaining forces scattered across the country.
“Kiev is everything. This war is about Kiev,” he said. “If they do not take Kiev, they lose. For the Ukrainians, not losing is winning.”
Anthony Kolotti, a former US Army Ranger who served several tours in Afghanistan, said Russia’s tactical pitfalls and weaknesses were evident in the early hours of the war. He was shocked by the weakness of the initial Russian attempt to seize the Antonov airfield north of Kiev, which was clearly intended as a bridgehead for the advance on the capital. Paratroopers parachuted into the facility and captured it, but were then let down by not sending reinforcements. Ukrainian National Guard Kolotti said the driving force quickly regained control, and although Russian forces have since regained control, the momentum has been lost.
“This is like a basic takeover of an airport,” he said. “You clear the airport, and then as soon as you guys get in, you rush to create a perimeter so you can bring in the follow-up troops.”
Military experts have missed other steps, such as the way in which the Russian military did not provide helicopters or infantry support to tanks traveling on open roads, where they are easy targets for anti-tank missiles that the United States and other allies were quick to supply. Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Koloti said that the scales of burnt tanks and other vehicles seen in videos circulating on roads around Ukraine indicate that Russian armor is of lower quality than was assumed.
Although the Russians are known to have advanced night vision equipment, they are combative by day, ceding a potential advantage to the Ukrainians and making their slow-moving armored columns easy targets for the Ukrainians, Spencer said.
Michael Kaufman, director of Russian studies at CNA, a Virginia-based think tank, said the traditional approach to attack would have relied heavily on ground fire and strikes before any progress was made. Instead, the Russians moved directly into a ground offensive along the roads. “They have really bogged down and left themselves vulnerable to counterattacks, ambushes and over-expanded logistical supply lines,” he said.
The Ukrainians have also done well, buoyed by the recently accelerated injection of weapons into the country by America and its allies, including the accurate and deadly American-made Javelin anti-tank missile.
Ukraine’s Turkey-supplied Bayraktar TB2 armed drones have helped change the outcome of battles in Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan, and the Ukrainian military claims they have been used in devastating strikes against Russian forces in Ukraine over the past two days.
Military experts say that while a quick Russian victory has been widely predicted, all outcomes are now in play. Russia may feel more pressured to accept a ceasefire, or it may intensify its efforts to assert its military supremacy — with potentially disastrous consequences for Ukraine.
“If you had asked me four days ago, I would have said this would be over very quickly and would be very bad,” Spencer said. “But since the last 48 hours, I hope the Ukrainians can slow this down enough so that they can survive the Russian invasion.”
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