Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.

Mud impedes Ukrainian counter-offensive

Troops from Ukraine’s 43rd Separate Artillery Brigade have just about everything they need to begin the counteroffensive planned for the spring. They are well rested, have plenty of ammunition and are now in possession of several advanced German-made self-propelled howitzers, which have replaced their old Soviet artillery pieces.

But for the moment they are barely advancing, blocked not by ferocious Russian attacks, but by an equally tenacious enemy: the slimy Ukrainian mud in the center.

“Until the weather improves, there will be no counter-offensive,” said a brigade lieutenant named Serhii. “Vehicles are going to get stuck and then what do we do if filming starts?”

Deep and black, with a consistency similar to a mixture of cookie dough and wet cement, spring mud is an obstacle that the Ukrainian military, for all its ingenuity, has struggled to overcome. He jams weapons and steals boots from soldiers’ feet. Wheels and treads spin and turn, only digging military vehicles deeper into the mud.

Serhii made the decision to remove all new Panzerhaubitze 2000s from the field, lest the 60-ton howitzers might escape if they came under fire. Last week, one of them had to be towed when it got stuck in the mud. Over the weekend, at the unit’s rear position in the Zaporizhzhia region of southeastern Ukraine, troops were busy scraping a layer of heavily hardened mud from treads and armour. .

Ukraine is under pressure to launch a counter-offensive and avoid a stalemate that could last until 2023 or more. Failure to make progress in the war, recovering stolen land or inflicting serious damage on Russian forces, could hurt morale and test the patience of Ukraine’s Western backers.

The Zaporizhzhia region, half occupied by Russian forces and with vast agricultural fields leading to the Sea of ​​Azov, is seen as a likely area for Ukraine’s big push. But of all the variables commanders must consider before launching the attack, the weather is perhaps the most unpredictable.

Ukraine is counting on the heat of late spring and summer to dry out the ground into a firm pavement, ideal for the heavy tanks and artillery pieces that will be at the heart of the counter-offensive. But when it will happen, anyone can guess. Spring rains have been much heavier than normal this year. Heavy downpours in Zaporizhzhia over the past few weeks have turned the battlefield into a gelatinous soup.

“It was an unusual spring,” said a brigade commander. “There has never been so much rain before.” He identified himself by his call sign, Kubik; like other Ukrainian commanders, he spoke on the condition that his full name would not be used, for security reasons.

The 43rd Brigade received delivery of the Heavy Panzers from Germany and the Netherlands over the winter. After several weeks of training in Germany, the brigade has spent the last few months acclimating to the advanced artillery system on the battlefields of that region.

The German howitzer is superior in many ways to the Soviet-made Peony artillery system it replaced. It’s full of bells and whistles like an electronic targeting system and autoloading, allowing soldiers to quickly fire a volley of shells in less than half the time it would have taken to fire a shell on the old system.

It’s also safer. Soldiers ride inside an armored capsule which the men say withstood direct mortar fire and indirect fire from an array of artillery shells. The Peony, which the Russian forces also possess, had no armour, and the soldiers would ride on it, exposed to anything the Russian side could throw at them.

Russia has retrofitted versions of Soviet-made self-propelled howitzers, although Ukrainian troops have said they face older Soviet weapon systems more often, especially multiple rocket launchers like Grads or Hurricanes.

Russian artillery is also sometimes blocked, but due to its claw-like metal tracks, the Peony works best in muddy conditions. Panzers delivered to the Ukrainian unit have rubber treads that are better suited to flat, hard surfaces, the troops said.

Under the right conditions, the Panzer is quick and maneuverable, allowing soldiers to fire a few rounds and then get away before the Russian side retaliates. A howitzer commander who uses the Boychik call sign said it was “like the difference between a Zhiguli and a Mercedes”, referring to a cheap Soviet-era car.

But the howitzer is also delicate. Its sensitive electronics go haywire when exposed to moisture or dirt. Soldiers must put on special slippers or slippers when going inside to avoid getting in the mud, and each vehicle comes with its own vacuum cleaner. In Germany, soldiers said, howitzers had their own air-conditioned garages where they were stored when not in use – conditions clearly non-existent on the Ukrainian battlefield.

“The Panzer really likes cleanliness,” said Mykola, a young artillery commander. He and his men struggled to clean the barrel of their mud-encrusted howitzer with a long wire brush like a chimney sweep. “If you fire two full loads of ammo, you have to spend a day servicing it,” he added.

On the battlefield, the Panzers have performed well so far, despite the muddy conditions. The day before they were called to their rear base due to weather, Mykola said his team had scored two direct hits on a Russian tank and knocked out infantry.

Russian forces usually cover an area with artillery fire, he said, hoping to hit something in a massive barrage. His team often gets better results with fewer shells, he said.

“Of course, we are all waiting for the counter-offensive,” Mykola said. “Only forward.”

Looking around at the thick mud, Yuri, one of his teammates, gently chided him, “Where do you plan to go?”


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.

Back to top button