War in Ukraine: Russian soldiers would refuse to fight

War in Ukraine: Russian soldiers would refuse to fight

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The Ukrainians continued to insist on regaining ground and the Russians increased their strikes on Tuesday in response to the breakthrough of the past few days. 

Here is a point of the situation on the 202nd day of the war based on information from AFP journalists on site, official Ukrainian and Russian statements, Western sources, analysts and international organizations.

The Russian army has announced that it will respond with “massive strikes” on all fronts to the breakthrough of enemy troops in northeastern Ukraine and their advance in the south.

“Russian air, ballistic and artillery forces are carrying out massive strikes against Ukrainian Armed Forces units in all operational areas,” the Russian Defense Ministry said, with shelling near Sloviansk, Konstantinivka and Bakhmout (east), in the regions of Mykolaiv and Zaporizhya (south) as well as in Kharkiv (north-east).

This shower of strikes responds to the Ukrainian counter-offensive of recent days.

Liberation of localities

“The liberation of localities from Russian invaders is continues in the regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk,” the Ukrainian army proclaimed on Tuesday.

In the evening, the chief of staff of the Ukrainian presidency Andriï Yermak released a video in which a voice-over explains: “The 14th separate mechanized brigade has reached the border of the Kharkiv region with Russia. This is the village of Ternova”, five kilometers from the Russian border.

“Since the beginning of September, our soldiers have already liberated 6,000 km2 of Ukrainian territory in the east and south and we continue to move forward,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday evening in an online video, while Kyiv claimed only 3,000 km2 the day before “liberated”.

Several experts mention the flight of Russian soldiers and the hasty abandonment of equipment. But the Ukrainian progression is not exponential.

Various observers emphasize the importance of a river, the Oskol, in this part of the front.

The Russians have “decided to abandon (…) the whole region of Kharkiv and are now concentrating behind (…) the Oskol, which is a natural obstacle that will be difficult for the Ukrainians to cross”, said explained to AFP Pierre Grasser, a historian of international relations and researcher associated with the Sirice laboratory.

In the Kherson region, Kyiv claimed the reconquest of 500 km2 in two weeks, his first quantified estimate of his advances in the south.

The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) confirmed on Monday, on the basis of satellite images, the withdrawal of Russian forces from several localities. This “could compromise (their) ability to defend the suburbs northwest of Kherson and suggests that (they) perceive in this area an imminent threat to their positions”.

The Ukrainians “regularly strike military, logistics and transportation facilities” in the region, the institute added.

Refusal to fight

The General Staff of the he Ukrainian army claims that the Russian 810th Marine Infantry Brigade has lost 85% of its personnel and that its soldiers refuse to return to combat.

Each passing day brings winter deadlines closer. Extreme cold, reduced visibility, complicated travel, men and materials in distress.

Pierre Grasser stresses that the Ukrainians “are in a very positive tempo, between the end of summer and autumn” but know that “in winter, it will be much more complicated”.

The military and diplomatic situation is currently favorable in Kyiv. But “in terms of human resources, there are risks” that with the war of attrition “the human reserves which are for the moment to Ukraine's advantage will weaken over time.” p>