Russia's defensive line is 'bending but not breaking' after Ukraine breached it, analyst says

  • Ukraine's counteroffensive made important progress last week.

  • But a Finnish military analyst said that so far Russia's defenses had not been broken.

  • Other experts believe that Russia could struggle if Ukraine achieves a decisive breakthrough.

Russia's defense line is "bending not breaking" amid intensifying Ukrainian attacks on a key part of the front line, a military expert said.

Last week, Ukraine's counteroffensive reached a pivotal point when its armored vehicles broke through Russian defenses for the first time in the Zaporizhzhia region of southern Ukraine.

It was the kind of progress that Ukraine had long been seeking in its counteroffensive — though observers were hesitant to declare it a major breakthrough that could alter the course of the war.

Emil Kastehelmi, a Finnish military analyst with the Black Bird Group analysis firm, wrote about the situation a thread on X posted Sunday.

He said Russia was still able to conduct an "organized defence" and Ukraine had not yet achieved a decisive breakthrough.

"Their lines are bending, but not breaking. The salient at the Robotyne-Verbove area is of course a problem for them, but they seem to have enough resources to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control," Kastehelmi said, refering to the recent Ukrainian breach.

Russia is launching waves of counterattacks in a bid to roll back Ukrainian advances, with the village of Robotyne which Ukraine recently seized back from Russia, the focus of intense fighting. Reports from analysts last week indicated that Russian units are sustaining high casualties in the counterattacks.

The push from Ukraine is part of a gruelling attempt to defeat Russia's formidable "Surovikin line" of defences and disrupt its access to occupied Crimea.

Ukraine is under pressure from its allies to achieve a breakthrough before winter sets in. So far it has made small gains on several fronts, but nothing sweeping.

Kastehelmi said that though Ukraine had been making progress every month, its forces have yet to achieve an "exploitable and reinforceable success."

This, he said "brings the defender into a reactive state, unable to carry out the original defensive plans."

"In this situation, the defender should be disorganized, either forced to retreat or risk heavy losses." That was the case in late 2022 when Ukraine was able to recapture vast amounts of northeastern Ukraine after routing Russian forces around Kharkiv.

There is debate among military analysts about whether Russia would be able to mount a fightback if Ukraine does achieve a decisive breakthrough.

Gian Gentile, an analyst with the Rand Corporation, recently told Insider that Russia would struggle to mount a successful fightback if Ukraine beats its defenses once.

But Kastehelmi said Ukraine was "unlikely" to achieve a breakthrough this year "if the Russians keep using their troops in a sensible manner and focus on repelling the Ukrainian attacks."

However, he said that "incompetence is a big factor which can have significant effects, at least locally" referring to the missteps and miscalculations that have been a recurrent problem for Russia's military during the invasion.

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