Ukraine won the battle of Liman today as Russian forces (yes, even the militia of Donbas and Luhansk are Russians now) withdrew rather than risk being encircled and captured. Champagne bottles are popping in Kiev and Washington. The Russians are really on the ropes now and this is a sweet punch in the nose in the wake of Moscow’s celebration yesterday of the four former Ukrainian oblasts becoming new members of the Russian Federation. At least that is the version of the story that Russia’s adversaries are telling themselves.
From a PR standpoint the “loss” of Liman is significant because it feeds the western meme that Russia is doomed in its quest to defeat Ukraine. After all, here we are 7 months after the start of the “Special Military Operation” and those pesky Ukrainians are hanging on. Meanwhile, back in Russia, hundreds of thousands of men eligible to be drafted are reportedly fleeing the country. And the Chechen Leader and General Ramzan Kadyrov is calling out the Russian General who commanded the Russian forces defending Liman for being absent from the field of battle and asleep at the wheel. Airing dirty laundry in public is an especially bad look for the Russian Army.
Kadyrov, to his credit, understands the importance of messaging when it comes to combat operations. Here is his blistering comment:
This kind of outburst would normally qualify as a court martial offense. But Kadyrov is a popular commander who won the battle of Mariupol and is one of the few who can get away with being this outspoken.
In the broader strategic picture, Liman is inconsequential. I encourage you to listen to my friend, Andrei Martyanov’s views on this matter:
Let me note some concerns regarding the military operations of Ukraine and Russia. First, Ukraine’s assault on the Russian position in Liman was carried out without any significant close air support. Ditto for Russia–i.e., no apparent close air support to fend off the attacking Ukrainians. Ukraine has an excuse–it no longer has a functioning air force. Russia does not. It has a surfeit of available air frames that could carry out that mission. Why are they holding back?
The second issue is the quality of battlefield intelligence and Russia’s ability to act on it. Let me present the options for your consideration and discussion:
Option 1–Russian intelligence knew the size of the Ukrainian force attacking Liman and the Russian Commanding General ignored the intelligence and did not call for sufficient reinforcements.
Option 2–Russian intelligence knew the size of the Ukrainian force attacking Liman and the Russian Commanding General believed he could hold them off.
Option 3–Russian intelligence DID NOT know the size of the Ukrainian force and the defenders were caught by surprise and unable to reinforce until it was too late.
Option 4–Russian intelligence knew the size of the Ukrainian force attacking Liman but Russia did not have the ability to resupply and reinforce the defenders.
Option 5–The Russians know Ukraine’s intention and allowed Liman to fall–effecting a tactical withdrawl–in preparation for a counter strike that will destroy the Ukrainian force who believes they have the Russians on the run.
If Russia was experiencing this kind of setback across the 1000 kilometer front then alarm bells should be clanging in Moscow. But that is not the case. This is one small geographic area and the Russians inflicted massive casualties on the Ukrainian attackers. Events during the next week will inform us whether this is an aberration for Russia’s Ukraine plan.