How Ukraine’s Himars barracks strike could shape the war throughout 2023

Ukraine soldiers Carpathian Sich Russia invasion war Europe - Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Ukraine soldiers Carpathian Sich Russia invasion war Europe – Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Ukraine’s New Year’s Eve strike on a Russian barracks in Makiivka is likely Russia’s single largest loss of life of the war to date.

While it is likely to neither have a strategic nor operational impact, it has serious implications for the future of the conflict.

Firstly, it showed that Kyiv’s advantage in precision weapons still has Moscow on the back foot.

Konrad Muzyka, the director of Rochan Consulting, said: “It is something I have been saying for months. Essentially, the Russians are not able to concentrate forces near the front line because if they deploy a larger presence of equipment or personnel, it is immediately destroyed by high-precision munitions fired by Ukrainians.”

That, in turn, makes it very difficult for Russia to return to offensive operations, which could break the current stalemate.

It may be one reason why General Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top military commander, warned that the next Russian attack could come from Belarus, where Kyiv cannot carry out pre-emptive strikes.

Even that would be a tall order. The terrain on the northern border does not favour attack and is now well-defended.

So Russia has few options and is powerless to stop Ukraine’s Himars launchers degrading defences on the battlefield in preparation for its own spring offensives.

More significant is the impact on public and elite opinion back in Russia. The country’s state media has not attempted to cover up the disaster at Makiivka – an implicit acknowledgement that it is too big to bury.

Ria Novosti broadcast pictures of civilians in the Samara region, where many of the dead men came from, laying flowers at memorials and organising donations for the survivors.

Margarita Simonyan, Vladimir Putin’s ultra-loyalist propaganda chief, amplified the defence ministry’s promise to investigate and punish those whose negligence led to the disaster.

There is no sign yet of Russian public opinion turning decisively against the war. However, the search for scapegoats is a sign of concern at the top.

Meanwhile, many of Russia’s vocal military bloggers are livid – and not with the Ukrainians.

“The most dangerous thing in war…,” wrote Semon Pegov, an eccentric but well-connected Russian war correspondent, “is not bothering… The list of such ‘not botherings’ is very long, but somewhere near the top should be ‘not bothering with dispersal of personnel’.”

Others reserved particular disgust for Lieutenant General Sergei Sevryukov’s statement on Wednesday that the strike was caused by the soldiers themselves ignoring orders not to use their mobile phones within range of enemy artillery.

To many, that was both difficult to believe – the choice of target was more likely identified by drone recon or Ukrainian agents on the ground – and looked like the brass blaming the dead for their own blunders.

“The general did not say anything about the compact deployment of large formations in range of such weapons,” noted Alexander Kots, the Komsomolskaya Pravda correspondent, as he reported the statement.

That anger is likely to feed into tensions within the Russian elite, particularly the increasingly open rivalry between regular generals and upstart warlords such as Yevgeny Prigozhin, the boss of the Wagner Group of mercenaries, and Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader.

Putin himself is, of course, above criticism. He has yet to comment on the disaster, but may yet exploit Makiivka for his own advantage.

A previously unknown group claiming to represent military widows popped up in the aftermath of the strike to demand that he launch another wave of mobilisation.

That could be the Kremlin preparing public opinion for more mass call-ups, one of the few cards he still has left to play.

Whatever the political fallout of the Makiivka strike, the angry bloggers are basically right about the facts, said Mr Muzyka.

“It was the negligence of the Russian side,” he said. “Essentially, they should not keep so many men concentrated in one building, because the likelihood it will get engaged by Ukraine is very high.

“The point is someone made the very bad decision to put so many people in one building.”

Published by anthonyhayble

I AM A PROFESSIONAL BLOGGER WHO BLOGS ON EVENTS, NEWS AND CELEBRITY ACTIVITIES. YOU WILL GET THE LATEST BLOGGING UPDATES WITH UP TO DATE NEWS AND EVENTS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU. COMMENTS AND LIKES ARE ALSO WELCOMED. I AM STILL IN THE PROCESS OF BUILDING AND UPDATING MY BLOGS AND IT WOULD BE UP AND RUNNING SHORTLY. THIS IS STILL A NEW SITE AND WILL GREATLY IMPROVE WITH TIME

%d bloggers like this: