Ukraine says will raise 'million-man army' to retake lost territory; claim draws scepticism

Ukraine won significant victories in the opening phase of the war, with victories at Kiev, Chernihiv and Kharkhiv. But with setbacks in Donetsk and Luhansk, the realization is sinking in that this is likely to be a very bloody war, lasting years

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Monday, July 11, 2022, 03:52 PM IST
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Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank through the town of Trostsyanets, some 400 km eastern of capital Kyiv, Ukraine | AP

Ukraine is massing a million-strong fighting force equipped with western weapons to recover its southern territory from Russia, the nation’s defence minister has said.

Retaking the areas around the Black Sea coast was vital to the country's economy, Oleksii Reznikov said. The defence minister's remarks come as Russia makes progress in taking territory in the eastern Donbas region.

In an interview with British newspaper The Times, Reznikov said, "We need more, quickly, to save the lives of our soldiers. Each day we're waiting for howitzers, we can lose a hundred soldiers."

"We have approximately 700,000 in the armed forces and when you add the national guard, police, border guard, we are around a million-strong," the defence minister added.

Claim evokes scepticism

Russia’s artillery firepower is effective not only at reducing Ukrainian strongpoints but also in preventing Ukrainian forces from massing for counterattacks.

Russia fires approximately 20,000 152-mm artillery shells per day compared with Ukraine’s 6,000, drawing not only from new production but from Soviet stocks, of which by some estimates, several years’ worth still remains.

Adding to the disparity, long-range Russian missile strikes are destroying Ukraine’s defence infrastructure, eroding the country’s capacity to sustain what may become a years-long war.

The supply of replacement materiel from Western stocks has enabled the Ukrainians to survive, but is inadequate to procure a strategic victory. Furthermore, the wide variety of donated vehicles and weapons systems from Nato’s diverse stocks has left the Ukrainians with a complex and unwieldy supply and maintenance train.

Ukraine’s vast mobilisation of fighting men is providing the necessary mass to fight a high-intensity war at such scale, but at the cost of experience, so that a shortage of skilled infantry and armoured operators is limiting Ukraine’s offensive combat power, while limited staff capacity is limiting Ukraine’s ability to plan and execute combined operations at scale.

Russia makes slow, steady progress

Ukraine won significant victories in the opening phase of the war, with victories at Kiev, Chernihiv and Kharkhiv. But with setbacks in Donetsk and Luhansk, the realization is sinking in that this is likely to be a very bloody war, lasting years.

The country’s coastline is in Russian hands and its ports are blockaded. A serious economic crisis is looming both in Ukraine and more widely.

Last week, Russia captured the last major stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, the city of Lysychansk. Analysts predicted Moscow’s troops likely would take some time to rearm and regroup.

After the seizure of Lysychansk some analysts predicted Moscow’s troops likely would take some time to rearm and regroup but Ukrainian officials said there has been no pause in attacks.

Luhansk is one of two provinces that make up the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial region of mines and factories. Pro-Moscow separatists have fought Ukraine’s army in the Donbas for eight years and declared independent republics, which Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized before he sent troops into Ukraine.

After asserting full control of Luhansk, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian forces would have a chance to rest and recoup, but other parts of eastern Ukraine have come under sustained Russian bombardment. The Russian leader warned the Ukrainian government in Kyiv that it should quickly accept Moscow’s terms or brace for the worst.

“Everybody should know that, largely speaking, we haven’t even yet started anything in earnest,” Putin said while speaking with leaders of the Kremlin-controlled parliament Thursday.

(with inputs from agencies)

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