- Sputnik International, 1920, 25.02.2022
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
On February 24, 2022 Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine, aiming to liberate the Donbass region where the people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had been living under regular attacks from Kiev's forces.

Ukraine’s Offensive Runs Into Russian Defensive Wall – Ex-Estonian Spy Chief

© Photo : Screenshot / Russian Defense MinistryScreengrab of Russian Defense Ministry video showing Ukrainian tank destroyed by Russian strikes over the course of Kiev's attempted counteroffensive.
Screengrab of Russian Defense Ministry video showing Ukrainian tank destroyed by Russian strikes over the course of Kiev's attempted counteroffensive.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.06.2023
Ukraine’s NATO-armed and trained military has lost thousands of troops and hundreds of heavy tanks and armored vehicles since kicking off its so-called counteroffensive on June 4. The military operation comes with extremely high stakes for Kiev, whose military and economy would collapse in days without Western support.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces grossly underestimated Russia’s potential in their attempts to breach Russian defensive lines, former head of Estonian Foreign Intelligence Rainer Sachs has said.
“The bulk of the fighting is taking place on the southern front,” Sachs said in an interview with Estonian television while giving an overview of the strategic situation in the conflict area.
“The Ukrainians are yet to push deeply into Russian defensive lines. The Russians have built long defensive lines along the entire length of the front, with the fewest defensive positions in the north. Russia considers it very important to hold onto the southern part of the front, so more defensive lines have been built there. Ukraine attempted to break through the Russian defensive line in three places, but not using very energetic maneuverable units, but rather carefully with artillery fire. So I wouldn’t expect very fast or deep progress from such attacks,” Sachs said.
The defensive lines the spymaster was referring to are also known as the ‘Surovikin Line’, informally named after General Sergei Surovikin, the Russian commander tasked with commanding the Joint Group of Forces in the Special Military Operation Zone between October 2022 and January 2023. It was under Surovikin’s command that Russia began the large-scale construction of defensive positions in Kherson and Zaporozhye regions in preparation for the long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive. These defensive positions have demonstrated their significance in blunting Ukrainian offensive operations in recent weeks.
Sachs attempted to put a positive spin on the increasingly desperate situation, assuring that Russia may still face “a bit of trouble,” given that Kiev has yet to deploy “its main forces.” He admitted however that “it seems Ukraine has withdrawn” its main breakthrough units from direct assaults on Russian lines, and is instead now “trying to thin out Russian forces” “from a distance” using long-range strike systems.
Pointing to Russian air superiority across the front, Sachs said it would be highly “risky” for Ukraine to try to cross the Dnepr River and transfer large numbers of troops to areas where defensive positions may be weaker with the help of pontoon bridges. “It would be difficult to cover these forces from the air, so I think the Russians can be pretty certain that such a river-crossing operation will not be undertaken by Ukraine,” he said. The spy added however that Ukraine is definitely trying to organize special forces raids along the front, with smaller unites designed to “go to the other side [of the Dnepr] to irritate Russian defenses.”
Leopard 2 battle tank - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.06.2023
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
Ukrainian Tank Crews Feign Breakdowns to Avoid Combat
Another problem for Kiev mentioned by Sachs are Russia’s helicopter gunships, which he pointed out have a firing range beyond that of Ukrainian air defenses, although this also means reduced accuracy and coordination.
Sachs’ comments are a stark reversal from predictions he made just a month ago, when the former spy chief cited Ukraine’s ‘successful’ preparations for an offensive. As recently as a week ago, he assured that Ukrainian forces had yet to throw their reserves into battle, and that they may be driving Russian forces into a cleverly designed trap.
Footage from the frontlines from recent weeks has shown that Ukraine has lost much of its NATO-provided heavy armor and assault vehicles. Last Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Kiev lost 186 main battle tanks and 418 armored vehicles to date, with Ukraine’s losses “more than ten to one” against Russian forces.
A destroyed tank of Ukrainian Armed Forces is seen outside the town of Severodonetsk, in Lugansk People's Republic. - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.06.2023
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
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