Ukraine: Retaking of Kherson ‘is significant’ says retired General
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Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Crawford, who served in the Royal Tank Regiment for 20 years, including during the Gulf War in 1990-91, retired in 1999. Since then he has offered expert insights on defence issues, including several appearances on CNN following the Russian President’s invasion on February 24.
The Ministry of Defence yesterday said Ukraine’s counteroffensive was gathering momentum in the Russian-controlled southern Ukrainian city of Kherson – something which was no surprise to Lt Col Crawford.
He told Express.co.uk: “I said back in March that what I thought would happen was that the war would get stuck in the Donbas and the Ukrainians would, with Western help, slowly build up their weaponry, train up their soldiers and mount a counter-offensive aiming to retake curse in south and threatened the Crimea.
“And that seems to be what’s happening, although I’m slightly wary of it because the Ukrainians have been so open about their intention to attack Kherson and threaten Crimea that I’m just wondering whether that’s disinformation that they’re carrying out, and they’re going to do something else.
“But I think the essential truth is that the Russians have exhausted their immediate military capability and are undertaking what we call an operational pause, where they sort of catch their breath basically, rearm, retrain, bring fresh troops in etc.”
While this process was happening, Russia was not able to do very much else, Lt Col Crawford said.
He added: ”On the other side of the equation, the Ukrainians are getting stronger.
“They’ve got far better weapons systems now thanks to the USA and Britain and everybody else than they had at the beginning of the war.
“And of course, they actually have more manpower that they can access immediately because they’re defending their homeland, so there’s no question of people saying, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to Ukraine’ – they’re in there already.
“So I think the balance has shifted. My personal view is I don’t think Ukraine is yet strong enough to mount what I would call a strategic counter offensive, but it is now able to undertake offensive operations.”
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Putin had clearly underestimated the resilience of the Ukrainians and their leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, Lt Col Crawford said.
He explained: “It’s definitely fair to say Zelensky has given Vladimir Putin a bloody nose. Putin thought they would roll over within three days, and he would just replace the government and they would become like Belarus.
“The problem with Putin’s plan is, nobody really knows what his plan is apart from him and his close advisers.
“I think it has come as a shock. The Russians are not a stupid people, they will adapt. But I think it came as a shock to the Russian military, that they were as inept as they appeared to be in the early stages.”
Also this week, members of the US Congress were told more than 75,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the five months since fighting began – and Lt Col Crawford suggested even this might be an underestimate.
He said: “There’s been quite a lot of work done recently on the actual casualties in Ukraine, and I think most people would agree that it looks like what the Russians have lost something between 20,000 to 25,000 killed.
“And then the latest information on the ratio between killed and wounded for Russia, is that for every person killed, three or four will be wounded.”
Such a figure would indicate a total of as many as 125,000 soldiers, he pointed out.
Lt Col Crawford added: “The truth of the matter is, and it’s all a bit ghoulish, is that the purpose of a bullet is not designed to kill, it’s designed to incapacitate.
“There is a very niche piece of scientific research, which works out how many kilojoules of energy it needs to penetrate body armour and render someone ineffective.
“They’re not designed specifically to kill. If you knock someone down then you involve the whole evacuation process from the battlefield to the regimental aid post to the field hospital to civilian hospital, via all the transport etc, etc.
“And it just multiplies the effect whereas, sadly, if someone gets killed, he’s put in the ground.”
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