Analysis. Without soldiers there can be no resistance, but soldiers are useless without weapons, and the Ukrainian armed forces are now at critical levels.

Lacking weapons and soldiers, this will be Ukraine’s summer from hell

The Kremlin says there is “still no possibility of negotiating” with Ukraine, while Belarus is saying “the time has come for Ukraine and the West to sit down at the negotiating table and reach an agreement with Russia”; at the same time, Switzerland is considering whether to invite Moscow to the June peace conference. Between the lines of the diplomatic statements, one can read a lot of information about the current phase of the conflict in Eastern Europe and the expectations for the coming months.

First of all, there is the fear that Russian troops could break through somewhere on the front line. Since the fall of Avdiivka in early February, Ukrainian soldiers have been living with a looming ticking clock in anticipation of an enemy offensive. Kyiv officials have been saying that the Russians are “preparing for an offensive,” that the Ukrainian troops are outnumbered “seven to one” and “the warehouses are empty.” Until a few weeks ago, there was only talk of the shortage of ammunition and the consequent inability to respond to Russian fire with the force and frequency that would be required to mount a proper resistance.

Now there is an additional element being talked about, one that has been in the air since the first round of the confrontation between Zelensky and the former commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, Gen. Zaluzhny. The latter insisted on the need for a quick mobilization of troops, but the president objected. He likely thought it was too risky to alienate his already-waning popular support with a new call to arms, and deemed it preferable to put it off and leave the thankless task of proving Zaluzhny’s contention right to the developments on the battlefield.

On Saturday, all Ukrainian newspapers were reporting on the law passed in the second reading by the Ukrainian Parliament that will call up 500,000 conscripts and militarize the country’s life, starting from the schools.

The other inescapable political issue is weapons. Without soldiers there can be no resistance, but soldiers are useless without weapons, and the Ukrainian armed forces are now at critical levels. According to Bild, the Patriot missiles have now run out, so it is impossible to respond to the increasingly frequent Russian air strikes. After Kharkiv, Kyiv and Sumy, yet another power plant was hit on Saturday, this time in the Kryvyi Rih area. It is estimated that at least 400 settlements are now without power, with over half a million people.

These tactics are not new: destroying towns with the goal of destroying the morale of civilians behind the lines. Meanwhile, at the front, the notion of secure positions has become wishful thinking: between state-of-the-art drones and repurposed FAP bombs, we have now entered a new phase of the conflict. Trench warfare may soon give way to mechanized infantry charges. There were two main lines of advance: south and east. The first is in the Zaporizhzhia region. From Robotyne, Moscow’s men are pushing insistently to break through the fortified line of defenses that separates them from the road to the regional capital. It is by no means a foregone conclusion that they will succeed, because the Ukrainians are defending every inch and there is only one line of advance for the Russians. But in the east, the situation is very different. There are at least three critical points: Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Kharkiv. It seems like it will be just a formality to take Chasiv Yar, the high ground behind Bakhmut that allowed the Ukrainians to hold that town although outnumbered. From there, Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, the Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk, are less than 50 km away. At the same time, just to the south, around Avdiivka, the Russians are keeping the initiative and making advances westward, albeit very slowly. The obvious goal is to create a “pocket” that will lock in the Ukrainian defenders and force them to surrender due to inability to resupply.

Another risk, which has come up more recently than the last two but has been present since 2014, is that the invaders will attempt a new offensive toward Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city by population before the war, the “capital of the east.” According to several sources, the Russians have already amassed 200,000 troops in the region.

All of these scenarios will be tested on the battlefield, but it can already be said that for the Ukrainian soldiers, it will be a summer from hell.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!