Belarus is in fact in a state of war.
The Ukrainian troops are confidently holding Bakhmut and inflicting huge losses on the Russians. What is the current situation at the front in Ukraine? What to expect from Lukashenka and Putin in the near future?
Ukrainian military analyst and reserve colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Petro Chernik answered this and other questions for Charter97.org.
– Bakhmut is a really strategically important location both for us and for the enemy. It has both political and moral significance for the enemy. Putin has already given either the ninth or the tenth order to enter the administrative lines of the Donetsk region. They cannot complete this task. It was Bakhmut who became the bone in his throat.
– Why is Bakhmut strategically important from a military point of view?
– It’s a key for potential counteroffensive operations in the Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk axes. Bakhmut is located at a convenient height for striking the Debaltseve Railway Junction. Debaltseve is located 42 km from Bakhmut.
The importance of fire control over Debaltseve is that HIMARS operate at a distance of 84 km range. At the moment, 95% of the war consists of artillery fire. Trucks like KAMAZ or Ural can not deliver ammunition from Russia. They need a railway. So, the Debaltseve Junction is the very railway along which ammunition is delivered by 60-ton cars.
Indeed, it’s not a kind of public information, that's right, we are working in terms of strikes against this node. Bakhmut is precisely the point from where this operational control is carried out. This is the first thing.
Secondly, if we really withdraw from Bakhmut, then the next line of defence becomes the next urban conglomeration. This is either Chasiv Yar-Kostiantynivka, or Kramatorsk-Sloviansk. We understand that this area will also be ruined. Therefore, we keep Bakhmut as long as we can.
By the way, Bakhmut is such a kind of Thermopylae 2.0. There was such a battle in 480 BC, when King Leonidas stopped the colossal Asian invasion led by Xerxes. Something similar is now happening near Bakhmut.
A huge number of trained Russian manpower are under the hammer there. First of all, this is the Wagner PMC, as well as a huge amount of military equipment. Therefore, it makes sense to keep it as long as Bakhmut is standing, and we have ammunition, medicines, food, water, supplies and so on.
– What will happen if the Ukrainian military leadership nevertheless decides to leave Bakhmut?
– If we are leaving Bakhmut, then it won’t be a strategic defeat. It will be painful and uncomfortable. As Napoleon I Bonaparte, the great military commander said, “You can lose all battles except the last one.” This is not the last battle.
Bonaparte won the brilliant Battle of Borodino and burned Moscow, however, he lost the war. It is important for us to win the war.
At the moment, Bakhmut is a kind of effective defence point providing us with an opportunity to destroy the last remnants of the well-trained forces of the Russian Federation as efficiently as possible. The Ukrainian military command will be keeping Bakhmut until they come to the conclusion that it is time to withdraw.
We remember that a huge package of military aid is already being sent to us. We have already received the first few dozen Leopard 2 tanks. The first armored vehicles are already approaching the front line, and Bakhmut can become the starting point for further counteroffensive operations. I emphasize that this is analytics only, but it's hard to foresee the developments in reality.
War is a way of deceit. The enemy still has a huge human resource, and we cannot ignore it.
– If we talk about the counter-offensive of Ukraine, then, in your opinion, what scenario is the most likely?
– I will express a personal, very specific point of view. The next counteroffensive operation will take place for sure. When and under what circumstances should be left in shadows. Real operations require complete silence.
I never go into predicting the specifics of offensive operations personally, as an analyst.
The enemy parses every word. Literally two weeks ago, my analysis was analyzed on the site of Skabeeva (Russian TV presenter, propagandist - approx.) in the 60 Minutes program. My words got changed around and distorted, but they showed that they were watching us. And me personally. Therefore, I will not allow myself to give the enemy another portion of analytics.
All potential areas of counteroffensive are being considered, I’m 100% trusting our General Staff. They will make the best decision possible.
– Let us talk about the role of the Lukashenka regime in this war. How likely is the scenario that after some time there will be a new attack on Kyiv from the territory of Belarus?
– As I understand it, Lukashenka is desperately fighting for his life now. Putin is holding a sharp NKVD’s knife at Lukashenka’s throat. The only question is whether he cut his throat.
Let's be honest, Belarus is in fact in a state of war. Missile attacks against my native Lviv were carried out from the territory of Belarus. Large groups entered the Chornobyl zone at the beginning of a full-scale invasion, in February-March. There were joint Belarusian-Russian groups. It is a matter of fact.
The question is whether Lukashenka will dare and whether Putin will put pressure and force him to conduct the second ground operation. However, it's tricky. We were taken by surprise at the beginning of the war. It is true that we were not ready for such a large-scale war.
At the same time, the northern border has become similar to the Mannerheim Line. The whole area is mined and fortified. The north of the Ukrainian-Belarusian border is forests and swamps. Spring has already come. It will be warm. Even if they decide, they will only be able to go by roads towards Kyiv or towards Western Ukraine. It's totally suicidal.
We’ve gained experience in using the roads. We are the second country in the world in terms of FGM-148 Javelin systems. We'll strike everyone as nuts there, I'll stress - as nuts.
At the moment, a ground grouping of 15,000 people is deployed in Belarus. These are three brigades. If they go on the offensive, we will be hurt and feel uncomfortable, but this will not change the course of the war.
They need 40,000 manpower in order to hurt us seriously. They need not only 40,000 troops but also 825 tanks, 2,500 armored vehicles, up to 1,000 artillery systems, and, most importantly, air cover.
Since April, Russian aviation has not entered our air space. We’ve been shooting down almost every single aircraft. For example, we are shooting down 70% to 90% of enemy cruise missiles. This is a very high figure. Our Air Defence is getting stronger not every month, but every week.
If the Belarusian-Russian groups decide to turn some regular aviation systems into scrap metal, then we cannot refuse them this.
There is such a Roman thinker Mark Cicero. There is a good saying by him, “The closer the collapse of the Empire, the crazier its laws are.” Can they take this crazy step: bury 15,000 people in the Ukrainian swamps of the north? They can. But this will not affect the course of the war.
It seems to me that Lukashenka is a little smarter than Putin. He is a bloody dictator in Belarus, but does not want to cross the final border. If they resume the full-scaled land phase of the war, then it will be the black line crossed.
I could be wrong, but, in my opinion, Putin is being cautious about eliminating Lukashenka, because he needs an alternative figure. The Belarusian people in 2020 showed that they are a nation. There were spurts, and there is no guarantee that there will be no new spurts again after Lukashenka will be replaced. This will be a very serious defeat for Putin. This is a knot that has not yet been untied either positively or negatively, but sooner or later it will be untied.
The fate and freedom of Belarus is tightly linked to the victory of Ukraine in the war. It's only a matter of time.