Battalion destroyed, hundreds of dead suspected: ex-general after Russian river debacle: “It’s worse than that”
An entire Russian tank battalion was destroyed by the Ukrainian army on the Donets River on Thursday morning. Hundreds are believed to have died. Ex-General Mick Ryan has analyzed the Russian debacle and writes: “It’s worse than that.”
A few days ago, the Ukrainian army’s 17th tank brigade struck a heavy blow against the Russian troops. Putin’s soldiers tried to cross the Siverskyi-Donets river near Bilohorivka with a pontoon bridge, a bridge consisting of special floating bodies. They came under Ukrainian artillery fire. The bridge was destroyed, according to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. In addition, dozens of vehicles burned, others fell into the water.
Experts assume that up to 60 Russian vehicles were destroyed. A Ukrainian officer who claims to have been involved in the operation speaks of 1,500 dead Russian soldiers. A number that cannot be verified. Independent observers are more likely to assume a few hundred deaths. How could this happen? According to the US news channel CNN, Ukraine has managed to lure the Russians into a trap.
Ex-general explains how a tricky river crossing works
Ex-General and military expert Mick Ryan is now analyzing what can be concluded from the debacle on Twitter. Ryan explains that armed river crossings are one of the most difficult military manoeuvres. This is mainly due to the fact that the respective unit is extremely vulnerable before and when crossing a river. The opponent must be distracted in order to get safely to the other side. He reports from his own time in the military, in which his commander trained precisely these maneuvers. The reason: “If we can successfully conduct river crossings as a brigade, we can also conduct any other combined arms mission. He was right.”
As Ryan describes, such a mission would consist of six phases.
- Education and planning: Why do you need the crossing, where is it made and what happens on the other side of the river?
- Oppression: The enemy (in this case Ukraine) should be denied access to reconnaissance, surveillance and shelling opportunities at the crossing point.
- inconspicuousness: The enemy should not know what is happening at the crossing point. This could happen via jammers, smoke or deception maneuvers.
- Fuse: In this phase, the armed forces secure the access routes to the crossing point and the troop assembly points.
- Reduction: A phase that military strategists “love” according to Ryan. The obstacle, in this case the river, is then “reduced”, meaning the bridge is created. Well-structured units have created at least two crossing points, with a third in reserve, according to Ryan.
- Attack: In the last phase, all troops (ground units, air force, etc.) go on the attack, quickly cross the bridge and immediately continue the attack on the other side.
Mick Ryan: “Such operations usually only take place on an axis of advance”
Ryan works out that a lot of staff is also needed around these phases. In addition to the troops, a lot of organization is also needed, for example to decide who will cross the bridge first. In Ryan’s view, the Russians were pursuing one goal above all with the construction of the temporary bridge: to strengthen the main axis of their advance in the Ukraine. Because: “Such operations usually only take place on an axis of advance, which is or is intended to be a main effort,” writes Ryan.
And for him, this is also the reason why the failed mission would have even more drastic consequences than the loss of hundreds of soldiers already represents. As Ryan writes: “Yes, they lost a lot of vehicles – but they’re used to that now. Probably not just a battalion, but a whole brigade has lost a large part of its combat effectiveness.
Military expert on river debacle: ‘This is a major setback for them’
Even more important for the course of the war is that some bridge-building equipment has now been lost. Ryan categorizes: “These resources are neither cheap nor available in large quantities. And they’re in high demand during an offensive.”
But the ex-general considers that aspect of the main axis of the advance to be the most important, which Russia wanted to strengthen by building the bridge. “By being defeated in crossing the river of attack, the Russians probably lost an advancing axis which they obviously thought would be of use in their eastern offensive. This is a major setback for them.”
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