Some of the videos and photos coming back from around Kharkiv/Kharkov, where Ukraine has mounted what seems by all accounts to be a very successful counteroffensive, are stunning. Russian forces have without question abandoned significant amounts of equipment and materiel around the city, with indications pointing to a disorganized rout.
“Russian equipment abandoned. Russian soldiers switching into civilian attire and trying to blend into the population and escape the front. This is not a ‘red badge of courage’ moment for Putin’s army,” noted ADM James Stavridis.
Even the Russians are confirming they have pulled back their lines, which is a rare admission from Moscow in a war that for the past 200 days has been akin to Baghdad Bob.
By some accounts, the military feint to the south around Kherson and detailed intel provided to Kyiv/Kiev by Western sources, set up the Russians for an easy fall.
It is all very reminiscent of the Israeli counter-push in the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
Takeaways as noted from the ISW:
- Ukrainian forces are continuing to make impactful gains in Kherson Oblast and are steadily degrading the morale and combat capabilities of Russian forces in this area.
- The Russian military command may be suspending the deployment of newly formed units to Ukraine due to recent Russian losses and overall degraded morale.
- Russian forces are failing to reinforce the new frontline following Ukrainian gains in eastern Kharkiv Oblast and are actively fleeing the area or redeploying to other axes.
- Ukrainian forces continued targeting Russian military assets and positions in Kherson Oblast, likely steadily degrading them.
- The Ukrainian recapture of Izyum has likely degraded Russian forces’ ability to conduct artillery strikes along the Izyum-Slovyansk highway.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced the restoration of the second reserve power transmission line to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).
- Ukraine’s sweeping counteroffensive is damaging Russian administrative capabilities and driving Russian departures from occupied parts of Ukraine far behind the line of contact.
Of course, the Russians are regrouping and plastering the region to the Northwest of Kharkiv/Kharkov with lots of rockets and air-delivered weapons (often with VDS flying missions that stop at the Russian border then lofting weapons to target down range) and if the Ukrainians outrun their supply lines the tide could turn. However, the first snowfall in the region normally hits in mid-October so the “fighting season” is likely to close in just a few weeks.
One key statistic that I would like to reference is that Oryx, which has been keeping a public running tab of equipment lost by both sides– using photographic reference as confirmation — since the war started on 24 February, has surpassed the 1,000th tank documented lost by the Russians. In comparison, Russia lost only three tanks during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
The Oryx Russian tank tally as of 13 September stands at 1,087, of which destroyed: 654, damaged: 44, abandoned: 51, and captured: 338. Most are T-72 variants (638) but a lot are newer T-80s (210) and even some T-90s (22) while only a few are ancient models such as the 43 T-64s logged.
As a note on propaganda and “body counts,” the Ukrainian MOD says they have zapped twice as many Russian tanks, which is obviously inflated.
By comparison, Oryx has Ukraine losing 259 tanks, mostly modified T-64BV models. This points to the massive amount of modern anti-tank weapons sent to the country in recent months.
Just take a look at the latest (8 September) fact sheet from the Pentagon on the $15 billion worth of goodies the U.S. alone has provided– it contains 8,500 Javelins (which will take at least four years to replace, just saying), 1,500 older TOW missiles, and 32,000 “other” mostly one-shot anti-armor systems such as M136/AT-4s, M72s, M151 BDM/Mk 153 SMAWs, etc.
Another interesting development is using cheap drones– even commercial Chinese quad-copters– by Ukrainian “poacher” units to drop grenades and mortar bombs down the hatches of resting Russian tanks behind the lines.
In short, Ukraine is the scariest environment imaginable for a Russian tanker to operate.