POLITICO: Ukraine is heading for defeat

11:45 19.04.2024 •

Morale among Ukrainian troops is grim.
Photo: NYT

Just ask a Ukrainian soldier if he still believes the West will stand by Kyiv “for as long as it takes.” That pledge rings hollow when it’s been four weeks since your artillery unit last had a shell to fire, as one serviceman complained from the front lines, notes POLITICO.  

Morale among troops is grim, ground down by relentless bombardment, a lack of advanced weapons, and losses on the battlefield. In cities hundreds of miles away from the front, the crowds of young men who lined up to join the army in the war’s early months have disappeared. Nowadays, eligible would-be recruits dodge the draft and spend their afternoons in nightclubs instead. Many have left the country altogether.

Even as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine is trying to find a way not to retreat, military officers privately accept that more losses are inevitable this summer. The only question is how bad they will be. Vladimir Putin has arguably never been closer to his goal.

Without a major step-change in the supply of advanced Western weapons and cash, Ukraine won’t be able to liberate the territories Russian forces now hold.

Ukraine’s military is braced for more losses in the coming months. Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander in chief of the armed forces, has warned that the situation on Ukraine’s eastern front has “significantly deteriorated in recent days.” As Zelenskyy himself put it elsewhere, “We are trying to find some way not to retreat.”  

The fears about the fragility of the front lines are only compounded by an unprecedented barrage of Russian attacks intended to knock out Ukraine’s electricity networks.

In recent meetings with POLITICO, the country’s political leaders acknowledged that public spirits are sagging, and although they all tried to stay upbeat, frustration with the West came through in every conversation.

Several senior officers talked to POLITICO only on the understanding they would not be named so they could talk freely. They painted a grim forecast of frontlines potentially collapsing this summer when Russia, with greater weight of numbers and a readiness to accept huge casualties, launches its expected offensive. Perhaps worse, they expressed private fears that Ukraine’s own resolve could be weakened, with morale in the armed forces undermined by a desperate shortage of supplies.

Ukrainian commanders are crying out for more combat soldiers — one estimate from the former top commander, Valeriy Zaluzhny suggested they’d need an extra 500,000 troops.

Two years ago, the trains heading out of Ukraine were almost exclusively carrying women, children and the elderly to seek refuge. This week, around a third of the passengers on one train carrying this correspondent out of the country were men of fighting age. Somehow they’d managed to get waiver papers to leave.


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