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Military intelligence general: Chasiv Yar's fall probably a matter of time

by Martin Fornusek May 3, 2024 8:49 AM 3 min read
Deputy Head Of Chief Of Defence Intelligence Of Ukraine Vadym Skibitskyi gives an interview with Ukrainian news media on Jan. 8, 2024 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Vitalii Nosach/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

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The fall of the embattled Donetsk Oblast town of Chasiv Yar in a way similar to Avdiivka is probably a matter of time, a military intelligence deputy head, Major General Vadym Skibitsky, said in an interview with The Economist published on May 2.

"Not today or tomorrow, of course, but all depending on our reserves and supplies," the general added.

Russian forces shifted their focus toward Chasiv Yar, an elevated town that potentially opens the way to further advances into the oblast, after capturing Avdiivka in February.

Ukraine is also facing a difficult situation near the village of Ocheretyne, a village some 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of Avdiivka, where Moscow's troops have reportedly managed to create a salient.

Skibitsky believes that as its first goal, Russia will seek to capture the rest of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Looking further ahead, the Kremlin is likely preparing for an offensive around northeastern Sumy and Kharkiv oblasts, with the main push likely to begin at the end of May or early June, Skibitsky suggested. Other Ukrainian officials have also mentioned this timeline.

Russia's group of forces around the Kharkiv Oblast border is currently 35,000-strong but set to expand to 50,000-70,000 troops, according to the general.

While this is not enough to capture a major city, it could be sufficient for smaller tasks, he clarified: "A quick operation to come in and come out: maybe. But an operation to take Kharkiv, or even Sumy city, is of a different order."

May will be a key month, as Russia is preparing a three-step plan to destabilize Ukraine, the general said.

The first part relates to military pressure. Even though the U.S. finally approved a $61 billion aid bill for Ukraine, it will likely take weeks before it can make an impact on the battlefield, giving Russia some time to press forward.

The second phase is a disinformation campaign aimed at undermining the Ukrainian leadership and the mobilization push. Many observers have criticized Kyiv's delayed draft efforts, which resulted in manpower shortages, but the country finally passed an updated mobilization bill in April.

Skibitsky acknowledged that the manpower situation has somewhat improved since December 2023 but said that the emergency is far from over.

As the third step, Russia will seek to isolate Ukraine internationally, the officer said.

The faith in the U.S. has been shaken by the almost seven-month delay in passing the aid bill, and a possible victory of Donald Trump in the upcoming November presidential election makes future prospects even more uncertain.

According to Skibitsky, the main unknown factor is Europe and the issue of whether it will be able to ramp up its defense production to help Ukraine and stave off further Russian aggression.

Looking at the possible end of the ongoing war, the intelligence officer believes that battlefield victories alone would not be sufficient. Even if Ukraine manages to push Russian forces from its borders, wars like this eventually have to end in treaties, he said.

Both sides are now contesting for "the most favorable position," but any real talks can begin only in the second half of 2025 at the earliest, the general estimated. Skibitsky thinks that by then, Russia will also face significant challenges, as its arms production will reach a plateau by early 2026 due to a shortage of materials and engineers.

Battle of Chasiv Yar begins under a drone-infested sky
Editor’s note: In accordance with the security protocols of the Ukrainian military, soldiers featured in this story are identified by first names and callsigns only. CHASIV YAR, DONETSK OBLAST – As he creeps between rubble-strewn garages near the central square of Chasiv Yar, the eyes and ears of t…
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