Ukraine wants longer-range missiles as Russia learns from its mistakes | CNN



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Ukrainian officials say the Russians are learning from their mistakes on the battlefield and making it harder for Ukraine’s missiles to reach their ammunition depots and logistics centers. That is why, they say, Ukraine needs longer-range missiles that can reach the interior of Russia.

They also believe that the appointment of General Valery Gerasimov as commander of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine is the latest roll of the dice for the Kremlin after multiple reorganizations of its military hierarchy.

The deputy head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, Vadym Skibitsky, told CNN on Monday that the Russians have begun dispersing military supplies “throughout the territory of the Russian Federation.”

In particular, he said, “everything moves to the southern regions via the Crimean peninsula” from logistics centers in Russia’s Rostov region.

“If you ask what is critical for the Russian Federation, the centers of gravity are these very centers, and it is necessary to attack them in order to disrupt supply systems of all kinds,” Skibitsky said.

And this requires strikes against facilities not only in Russian-occupied Crimea, “but also in the Russian Federation,” Skibitsky said.

He described Russia’s logistics systems as being 80 to 120 kilometers (50 to 75 miles) from the front line, meaning Ukraine needs longer-range strike systems to target them.

Another reason for the long-range artillery: Several Ukrainian officials have told CNN that Ukraine wants to launch a counteroffensive before Russian reinforcements are equipped and ready to move. But to do that, Kyiv needs to be able to go further.

“To prepare a counter-offensive or offensive operation, it is necessary to destroy many installations, not only on the front line, but also far back, 100-150 kilometers behind enemy lines,” Skibitsky said.

“Especially now, in order to form strong strike groups, we need tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, heavy weapons that allow rapid counter-offensive operations against the enemy.”

Last summer, the US-made HIMARS were very effective in eliminating such centers in the occupied parts of the southern Kherson region of Ukraine. But they would not have the range to hit Russian territory.

Until now, the Biden administration has been careful not to provide Ukraine with systems that could reach Russia.

Ukraine is now bracing for a brutal spring, awaiting a Russian offensive aimed at completing the seizure of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the goal set by President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s “special military operation.”

“The Russian Federation will continue to carry out offensive actions because it has failed in its main goal – the full occupation of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions,” Skibitsky said, “and it is in these territories that we foresee the focus of the main offensive. efforts of the Russian Federation”.

He also sees a regrouping of the Russian forces. “We can see that the troops that were training in Belarus are already here, in Lugansk,” he said. “So they were preparing, they created reserves, and these reserves include units of the Airborne Forces.”

The ranking officer of the Ukrainian army, General Valerii Zaluzhniy, said in December that Ukraine expected a Russian offensive any time between late January and March.

The question remains whether the most recent reorganization of the Russian command could delay such an offensive.

Skibitsky said that “giving Gerasimov all the responsibility is probably [Putin’s] last chance to rectify the situation and at least partially achieve the objectives” set at the beginning of the invasion.

“At this moment, all the resources are in their hands, all the armed forces, the entire logistics system, the entire weapons manufacturing, supply and maintenance system that is available to the troops,” he said.

But the Ukrainians believe that Russia’s military machine is still deficient on several fronts and expect more changes in its hierarchy.

“Based on our assessment, this is not the final change,” Skibitsky said. “[Putin] He really has problems with command, both at the top level, the generals, and at the bottom level of the platoon or company commander.”

Skibitsky and other Ukrainian officials who spoke to CNN say the Russians are also struggling to produce weapons in sufficient numbers, especially tanks, combat vehicles and artillery systems. “We see very little in terms of new weapons,” he said.

US and Ukrainian officials told CNN earlier this month that Russian artillery fire has dropped dramatically from its wartime peak, in some places by as much as 75%.

They said Russia may be rationing artillery shells due to supply shortages, or may be part of a broader reassessment of tactics in the face of successful Ukrainian counteroffensives.

The Ukrainians also seem to believe that Wagner’s private military contractors, who have been prominent in the assault on the eastern city of Soledar, may have reached their peak.

“Everything related to any success in the Donetsk-Luhansk axis will be attributed to the armed forces of the Russian Federation and Gerasimov,” Skibitsky said, adding that the mercenary group of oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin is likely to play a minor role due to internal Russian conflicts. power struggles.

“The leaders of the Russian armed forces will try to belittle Prigozhin’s role and place as much as they can, so that he cannot strengthen his position in the Kremlin hierarchy,” he said.

After weeks in which the focus was on the eastern city of Bakhmut and Wagner’s presence on the front lines, Ukrainian officials are also expecting the next stage of the conflict to play out on a much broader stage.

“Wagner no longer acts alone,” Skibitsky said. “Other reserves have been taken there, such as those Airborne Troops and other combat brigades from the Russian Federation, so we can no longer talk about Wagner acting there.”

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