Russian offensive remains ‘deeply troubled’ – Western officials

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Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine remains “deeply troubled” despite recent tactical gains, Western officials have said.

Both sides in the conflict are taking heavy losses, with the Russian death toll from the fighting estimated at between 15,000 and 20,000.

Officials believe most of the besieged city of Sievierodonetsk is in Russian hands and will eventually fall.

However, they said the Russians faced a series of major obstacles if they were to achieve their objective of securing the Donbas region, which is part-held by pro-Moscow separatists.

Their efforts are being hampered by shortages of long-range precision missiles and other key capabilities.

Officials said the Russians even had to resort to using hundreds of 50-year-old T62 tanks, ill-suited to modern offensive warfare, to fill the gaps.

There may even come a point over the summer when the whole of Russia’s armed forces can “no longer generate offensive combat power”, one official said.

“The Russian campaign continues to be deeply troubled at all levels,” they added.

“Morale at unit level and in some layers of command is probably dire, units are often fighting at a fraction of their full manning.

“They are still struggling to work as an all arms or joint organisation, taking days or weeks to achieve even modest tactical goals such as taking individual villages which doctrine suggests they should achieve in hours.

“There is a sense of strategic improvisation or muddling through.”

Even if Sievierodonetsk falls, the Russians would still need to take the city of Kramatorsk – which is in a far more defensible position – to secure their objectives.

“Even if they mange to secure Sievierodonetsk there is plenty more fight to come. They have a river to cross,” one official said.

“There are two bridges there. The Ukrainians will blow those bridges and then the Russians have to do a river crossing or come through one of the other axes.

“It is a grinding military operation. All of this is going to build in significant cost to the Russians.”

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