When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The "Corrosion" Strategy: How Ukraine Targets Russian Networks And Morale

Russia continues to shrink its ambitions in Donbas, as Ukraine doubles down on its strategy of guerilla attacks, interrupting supply and communication contacts and ultimately undermines the morale of the enemy.

Photo of Ukrainian soldiers sitting atop a tank near the Russian frontlines in Donbas on May 22

Ukrainian soldiers sitting atop a tank in Donbas on May 22

Clemens Wergin

For years to come, military experts will be studying how Ukraine managed to push back a far stronger enemy and grind Russia’s major offensive in the east of the country to a halt.

Some military strategists are already trying to find a term to sum up the Ukrainians’ success. Australian military expert and retired army major general Mick Ryan credited Kyiv's stunning showing to "the adoption of a simple military strategy: corrosion. The Ukrainian approach has embraced the corrosion of the Russian physical, moral, and intellectual capacity to fight and win in Ukraine.”

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Ryan argues that while the Ukrainians have used the firepower they possess to halt the Russian advance, while aggressively targeting their enemy’s greatest shortcoming. “They have attacked the weakest physical support systems of an army in the field – communications networks, logistic supply routes, rear areas, artillery and senior commanders in their command posts,” Ryan wrote.


According to reports, Ukraine’s corrosion strategy has focused on a previously neglected area: guerrilla attacks in Russian-occupied cities. Last week, the Ukrainian army reported that it had killed multiple Russian officers in an attack in Melitopol. The following day, it reported another successful attack in the city, this time on a Russian armored train apparently transporting soldiers from Crimea to the front.

Donbas in the balance

The situation is also escalating in occupied Kherson, which the Russians plan to annex by holding a rigged so-called “referendum.” The city is plastered with posters calling for Russian soldiers to leave or be killed.

One such poster shows a Ukrainian guerrilla fighter slitting the throat of a Russian soldier from behind. Above the image are the words “Get ready! We know all your patrol routes! Kherson is Ukraine!” The intention is clear: to make sure the Russian occupiers don’t feel safe anywhere and to further erode the already shaky morale among Russian troops.

Over the last few days, the situation at the front has not changed significantly. The Russians are concentrating their attacks on the Donbas region, but have only managed to take a few villages there, and it seems they have paid for the ground gained with heavy losses. The offensive on the Izium axis is still stalled, while around Kharkiv the Ukrainians have pushed the Russians back towards the Russian-Ukrainian border. Their artillery may soon be within range of the railway line between the Russian city of Belgorod and the occupied Ukrainian city of Kupiansk, an important supply line for the Russians.

Weapons from the West

For the last few days, the Ukrainian military in the south of the country has been reporting that the Russians are digging in and reinforcing their positions at certain points along the front. All of which suggests that they intend to halt their offensive there and focus instead on holding the territory they have already gained.

The current situation favors a stalemate in the short term.

At the same time, more and more heavy weaponry sent from Western countries is arriving at Ukrainian positions in the east of the country. According to the Pentagon, 79 of the 90 M777 howitzers sent from the US have now arrived at the front, and the Soviet-style Type T-72M1 and T-72M1R tanks sent from Poland have apparently also arrived, making the Ukrainians more evenly matched with the Russians in terms of artillery.

“The current situation favors a stalemate in the short term and is increasingly favoring Ukraine in the medium to long term,” according to Polish military analyst Konrad Muzyka from Rochan Consulting. “The influx of Western weapons and Ukrainian personnel will allow Kyiv to start pushing Russian forces back across a much wider stretch of the front.”

Many military experts believe that, with the number of troops it currently has available, Russia will not be able to turn the tide in Ukraine. That is why Moscow has begun a secret mobilization effort, as reported by the BBC and other media outlets over the last few days.

It seems that reservists have been summoned to recruitment offices, where officials are trying to convince them to sign short-term contracts to fight in Ukraine. At least ten such offices have been attacked in the last few days, some with petrol bombs – possibly the work of Russian saboteurs who fear they may be conscripted.

Photo of three Ukrainian soldiers resting at a checkpoint on the outskirt of the separatist region of Donetsk.

Ukrainian soldiers resting at a checkpoint on the outskirt of the separatist region of Donetsk.

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA/ZUMA

Blame culture

The Kremlin’s decision to reportedly suspend many military leaders has caused even greater uncertainty among troops. According to the British Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant General Serhiy Kisel, commander of the elite 1st Guards Tank Army, has been suspended for his failure to capture Kharkiv. Vice Admiral Igor Osipov, commander of the Black Sea Fleet, has reportedly also been fired because of the sinking of the flagship Moskva.

The British believe the blame culture within the Russian military and ministries means that high-up Russian military leaders spend more time covering their own backs than concentrating on the war itself.

“This will likely place more strain on Russia’s centralized model of command and control, as officers increasingly seek to defer key decisions to their superiors,” according to the British. And that will make it even harder for Russia to gain back the upper hand in this war.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

"Stranger Things" Resurrects The U.S. Satanic Panic Of The 1980s

One of the major plotlines of the fourth season of Netflix's hit show, set in 1986, takes inspiration in the real satanic panic that swept the United States in the 1980s.

In Stranger Things' fourth season, Eddie Munson gets accused of flirting with the occult

Michael David Barbezat

From Kate Bush to Russian villainy, Season Four of Stranger Things revives many parts of the 1980s relevant to our times. Some of these blasts from the past provide welcome nostalgia. Others are like unwanted ghosts that will not go away. The American Satanic Panic of the 1980s is one of these less welcome but important callbacks.

In Stranger Things, season four, some residents of the all-American but cursed town of Hawkins hunt down the show’s cast of heroic misfits after labelling them as satanic cultists. The satanism accusation revolves around the game Dungeons and Dragons and the protagonists’ meetings to play it with other unpopular students at their high school as part of the Hellfire Club.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ