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​Zelenskyi Named Two Reasons Why Ukraine's 2023 Counteroffensive was Underwhelming

​Zelenskyi Named Two Reasons Why Ukraine's 2023 Counteroffensive was Underwhelming
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Ukrainian President says the decisive phase of renewed russian assault is expected in late May, and so Ukrainian forces are preparing for that

Ukrainian counteroffensive operation in the summer of 2023 was aiming to breach russian defenses and liberate russian-occupied territories of Ukraine with specially formed brigades mounting newly acquired Western tanks and combat vehicles.

The expectations were fueled by Kyiv's earlier success in reclaiming vast territories in the northeastern Kharkiv region, later labeled "the Kharkiv counteroffensive." But the new attempt did not live up to those anticipations, an outcome explained by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi.

Read more: ​Ukraine Might Launch a Counteroffensive in 2025

He reported two previously undisclosed and important details about this operation during the press conference at the "Ukraine. Year 2024" forum. First is the infiltration of the russian agents:

"Frankly speaking, our counteroffensive actions last year were on the Kremlin's table even before the counteroffensive actions started," the Ukrainian President said.

It was part of the answer to a journalist's question about whether Ukraine will be preparing another counteroffensive in 2024, to which Zelenskyi responds the plans are ready and this time fewer people will have access to them. Besides, he says there are several plans for misleading the enemy prepared.

Either way, success in executing any operation requires leveling down the russian superiority in artillery fire. During the counteroffensive in summer 2023, Zelenskyi said, the ratio of artillery systems used by Ukrainian to russian sides was 1:3, 1.5:3. By December–January, the ratio had shifted to 1:12 in favor of russians, now down to 1:7. As long as Ukraine cannot return at least to the 1:3 mark, "we will either stand still or lose 100–150 meters at a time."

Ukrainian Dana howitzer firing at russian positions, February 2024, 110th mechanized brigade
Ukrainian Dana howitzer firing at russian positions, February 2024 / Illustrative photo credit: 110th Mechanized Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Apart from the russians knowing Ukrainian plans beforehand, there was one more factor: the partners failed to adhere to their commitments regarding weapon supplies. Despite the promises to equip four full brigades planned to be engaged for the operation, these units still had no equipment by the time the counteroffensive started.

As for the current situation, russia is now preparing to intensify the hostilities, peaking in May or in early summer 2024, although these preparations are unlikely to cause a pause in the hostilities across the frontline in general.

"The coming months will be difficult because there is wavering in the US, which has an impact on some countries, although the EU has shown its ability to be the leaders. It will be difficult for us in March–April, we will have to get through a period of fluctuations: political, financial, pressure-wise, etc. The russian federation will be preparing an offensive at the beginning of the summer or in late May. if they can. They will be getting ready," Volodymyr Zelenskyi noted.

On the other hand, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are responding to such preparations with creating defense lines similar to those earlier created in the Kupiansk operational axis.

Construction of Ukrainian defense lines
Construction of Ukrainian defense lines / Illustrative photo credit: Support Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Though objectively, even success on the defensive heavily relies on the support from international partners. Take the air defense component for example, Zelensky said if Ukraine got 10 more Patriot systems to use near the frontline it would change the situation drastically. It's not just about air defenses, in the other fields as well the level of supplies in both weapons and ammunition finds a direct reflection in the capabilities of the Ukrainian forces.

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