Ukraine shows military capabilities, but Russia ‘can still hit back hard’: military analyst

A Ukrainian soldier passes by a Russian tank damaged in a battle in a just freed territory on the road to Balakleya in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Sept. 11, 2022. (AP Photo)

CTV News/In what some are calling the biggest battlefield victory for Ukraine since the start of the war with Russia, Ukrainian troops have succeeded in reclaiming swaths of territory from the Russian side in recent days.

Starting in the final days of August, a Ukrainian counteroffensive has resulted in major gains in the country’s Kharkiv region to the northeast and the Kherson area to the south, forcing Russia to withdraw troops and leave behind weapons and munitions.

It comes as the war reached on Sunday 200 days since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The counterattack has been called Ukraine’s biggest success since it repelled an attempted seizure of its capital, Kyiv, in the war’s early days.

Walter Dorn, a professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., told in a phone interview on Sunday that the counteroffensive has become a “really remarkable battlefield victory,” as well as a show of Ukrainian military strength in the face of a “numerically superior” Russian force.

“What this shows us is Ukraine has tremendous military capacity, and that can lead to optimism that they can seize more territory and that they can repel attacks, but we have to be aware that Russia still has a lot in reserve,” he said.

Among the key gains made by Ukrainian forces include the reported recapture of Izyum, a city southeast of Kharkiv, which is considered an important logistical hub for whomever controls it.

“I think Russia can still hit back very hard and regain some of that territory that it lost, but it’s certainly an indication that there are all kinds of problems with the Russian military,” Dorn said.

In a video address Saturday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the military had reclaimed approximately 2,000 square kilometres of territory so far this month.

Russia had relocated many of its troops from the Kharkiv region to the south in anticipation of a counteroffensive. The Russian Defense Ministry says the recent withdrawal is meant to strengthen its forces in the eastern Donetsk region.

“The Ukrainian army has taken advantage of the relocation of the bulk of the Russian forces to the south and is trying to direct the course of the war, excelling in maneuver and showing great ingenuity,” Mykola Sunhurovskyi, a military expert with the Kyiv-based think tank Razumkov Centre, said in a report from The Associated Press. Ukraine’s quick gains, he added, are “important both for seizing initiative and raising troops’ spirit.”

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov also said in the same Associated Press report: “Swiftness and surprise have become key components of the Ukrainian army action in the Kharkiv region after Russian forces deployed there had been relocated to the south.”

Meanwhile, engineers shut down the last operational reactor at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine — Europe’s largest — due to continued fighting in the area.

Russian forces have occupied the plant since the early stages of the war, with both Ukraine and Russia blaming each other for shelling in the area that has damaged power lines.

On Sunday, the office French President Emmanuel Macron said he had asked Putin to withdraw heavy and light weapons from the plant.

Source: With files from The Associated Press and Reuters