The surprise attack of Bilohorivka will remain in the history of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine on the list of the most sensational planning errors, like the failed occupation of Hostomel, the sinking of the flagship of the Black Sea fleet, the massacre of officers in command of Izyum and the useless siege of the Azovstal plant / fortress: it is a (another) blow capable of decimating the troops and means of Moscow's forces and making the achievement of strategic objectives more difficult. Let's try to analyze what happened by aiming to better understand at least four key elements:
• Where the episode took place and why this location is so important
• What goals was Moscow setting itself with the operation that was so brutally stopped
• How great was the damage done by the Ukrainian forces to the Russian counterpart
• What the consequences will be for the war as a whole.
Lead by the hand to the fatal place ...
The Siverskyi Donets is a one thousand kilometer long river, roughly the size of the Po and Adige combined, which flows from southern Russia through the Ukrainian breakaway regions of Kharkiv and Luhansk and flows into the Don about XNUMX kilometers from the Sea of Azov.
Forget the exceptional width of Ukrainian waterways, such as the Dnipro and the Nistro: it is a small river that at most has a few tens of meters between the two banks. Yet, it has become a highly restrictive barrier to movement and a dangerous one for the Russian forces to cross, which in recent days have been ambushed by Ukrainian defenders several times.
Two days ago, by dint of blowing up bridges and conducting drone and artillery attacks in Kiev, the Ukrainians led the troops led by Generle Dvornikov to the outskirts of Bilohorivka, a village ten kilometers south of the man-controlled town of Kreminna Putin, in a favorable position to quickly surround Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, the two Russian targets in the heart of Donbass.
The lack of the surprise effect
The control of the two towns, placed between Luhansk and Kramatorsk, would allow the Russians to close a substantial part of the Ukrainian forces in a pocket, as well as to complete the conquest of the Luhansk oblast itself. The maneuver, however, cannot be carried out either quickly or surprisingly: every day, morning and evening, the General Staff of Kiev let the world know that it is aware of the movements and groupings of Russian forces. In short, the strategy of the Russians - also due to outdated vehicles and logistical problems - is bland and predictable.
The presence of Siverskyi Donets put them in great difficulty: the bridgehead built in Bilohorivka had the advantage of being very well placed with respect to the final objective. It had the huge critical element of being close to a wooded area, ideal for hiding Ukrainian fighters. Do not ask us why the Russians were caught, in turn, by surprise and found defenseless: in the last eleven weeks they have done so often, most of the time - of course - due to inefficiency. Even the British Ministry of Defense had made it public that they were moving units to the eastern flank of Siverskyi Donets to "reorganize and replenish their forces after heavy losses". In short, they were anything but invisible ...
The paw of the Ukrainians
Thus, it has reached the last forty-eight hours. The chance to make the leap to the western side of Siverskyi Donets at the start of an easy route to Lysychansk and Severodonetsk was too good an opportunity. Probably, if - as claimed by the Americans - the Russian operations are delayed by at least two weeks on the schedule of the "great offensive" which took place - we remember - just a month earlier, it is to be believed that the Kremlin was exerting strong pressure because troops reached their target as soon as possible.
Fatal mistake: the result of a large and absolutely surprising attack, with drones and artillery, by the 80th separate assault brigade, was the annihilation of at least 73 vehicles, those indicated below, as well as of more than a hundred men.
"Ukraine is using geography, using rivers, whatever they can to force the Russians into bottlenecks, and then attacking those bottlenecks when they become easy targets."said William Alberque of the London Institute for Strategic Studies. "Having so many vehicles in this small space so close to the Ukrainians shows incredibly poor discipline on the part of the Russians.".
The heavy delay cannot be made up: indeed, it is possible that more will accumulate. This happens in the only area of the vast front - we remember: the Russians attack from Odessa to Kharkiv, in an area almost half of Italy - in which the troops of Moscow have managed to advance since last April 11. Having thrown strategically important and very consistent forces into a bottleneck does not prove in favor of the decision maker, that is, General Dvornikov himself.
Despite the blow suffered, the troops and means of the Russians remain abundant: however, their ability to bag the Ukrainians in the Donbass is for now severely tested by important organizational, material and planning limits.