Ukrainian Counteroffensive is Failing and Weeds are to Blame?

PHOTO Credid: Ukrainian servicemen check their T-72 tank at a position in the Donetsk region on June 25, 2023. ©  Genya SAVILOV / AFP/RT News

Growing vegetation on the battlefield is hampering Ukrainian attempts to breach Russian defenses, the UK Defense Ministry claimed on Thursday.

In its regular intelligence update, the ministry described “undergrowth regrowing” in the southern part of the front as a likely factor “contributing to the generally slow progress of combat in the area.” 

UK officials explained that arable land, which is abundant in the region, has been “left fallow for 18 months, with the return of weeds and shrubs accelerating under the warm, damp summer conditions.”

According to the ministry, this provides extra camouflage cover for Russian troops and complicates Kiev’s mine-sweeping efforts. “Although undergrowth can also provide cover for small stealthy infantry assaults, the net effect has been to make it harder for either side to make advances,” it added.

Ukraine launched a major counteroffensive against Russia along several sections of the front in early summer, but failed to gain any ground and has lost tens of thousands of troops in botched attacks, according to Moscow. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu stated that, in July alone, Kiev’s forces lost nearly 21,000 service members and 2,227 units of military equipment.

Both Ukrainian and Western officials acknowledge that the offensive has developed more slowly than expected, with Kiev blaming stiff resistance from Moscow’s forces, a lack of air support, and delays in arms shipments for the difficulties.

Well-prepared Russian fortifications have also reportedly helped to blunt the Ukrainian attacks. CNN ha described the defenses as consisting of multiple layers, including minefields, tank traps, and other such obstacles. Faced with these hurdles, Ukrainian troops “have resorted to using small groups of military engineers working through forested areas to cut a path through or evade these minefields,” the report said.

On Tuesday, Politico reported that the Ukrainian offensive has “sorely disappointed” Kiev’s supporters in the West. It noted that despite Ukraine committing 150,000 troops to a three-pronged attack, its gains have been measured in the hundreds of meters, with the second and third defensive lines still lying ahead.

The report also said that even when Ukrainian troops manage to clear mines and advance, Russia uses artillery and helicopters to drop more mines in the rear in order to trap the Ukrainian spearheads.