Ukraine war: Bundeswehr general: Kiev militarily in a difficult phase

One year after the start of the Russian war of aggression, the defense of the Ukrainians is in a difficult phase, according to German Brigadier General Christian Freuding.

Ukraine war: Bundeswehr general: Kiev militarily in a difficult phase

One year after the start of the Russian war of aggression, the defense of the Ukrainians is in a difficult phase, according to German Brigadier General Christian Freuding.

The head of the special staff for Ukraine in the German Ministry of Defense referred to a recognizable ability of the Russian military leadership to learn. "We also know that the Ukrainians are no longer able to refresh their units with only volunteers, but that they are now deliberately recruiting reservists of different ranks. This indicates that they are currently under pressure," Freuding said German press agency.

The general practically coordinates German military aid. The 51-year-old was previously the commander of Panzer Lehrbrigade 9 in Munster.

Freuding referred to the bitter fighting for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which symbolizes a history that goes back far beyond the current war. In December, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented a flag from the frontline city to the US Congress.

"From that point of view, what we are seeing now is certainly more than the tactical battle for the city of Bakhmut and the surrounding area. But the city also has a purely tactical importance. If you look at the road connections, you can see that the loss of Bakhmut and the district road further west would mean that supplying the Ukrainian troops would be much more difficult," says Freuding. "The Ukrainian troops would have to give up terrain at a depth of up to 30 kilometers."

Ukrainians are tactically very skilled

The planned reinforcements with western main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers will enable the Ukrainians to create local superiority, said Freuding. "You will then be able to achieve success in both defense and attack." In width, however, an advance is difficult. He pointed out that the front line was 1,200 kilometers long. However, the Ukrainians have proven that they can be very skilful tactically. "And they have to try to do that with the new device that's coming in. I think it's our job, the job of all partners and nations, to enable them to some extent for what we call combined arms combat: working together of all branches of service at the level of large units, brigades."

From the point of view of the general, the areas conquered by Russia, which form a land bridge to the annexed peninsula of Crimea, are of particular importance. "If you start from the levels of operational management - tactical, operational, strategic - then I would call the land bridge to Crimea an operational goal. It is certainly one that is at the heart of the Ukrainians' considerations, because it allows them to use their political-strategic goal, namely regaining territorial integrity," said Freuding. "At the same time, by cutting the land bridge, they would also mean that the Russian troops would probably not be able to hold the entire part of the land bridge west of Zaporizhia to the Crimea for long."

Why did the Russian attackers fall back?

The general also drew attention to changes in the approach of the Russian military leadership. In the beginning, Russia relied on battalion tactical groups that were very much designed to bring together the different branches of the service at the lower level. "They can't do that, they don't have the level of training, the skills are missing, the means of communication aren't there," he said. That is why the Russian attackers reverted to the Soviet military doctrine with a regiment structure.

"You could see at the beginning that the attacks that were being carried out were carried out in a way that was far too uncoordinated. That was compensated for by mass recruitment and the use of mercenary troops," he says. "We're starting to see an ability to learn how to remove key logistics points, important command posts and command facilities from enemy fire range. But that stretches the supply lines and also makes them more vulnerable. But you see wherever the Russians don't do that, that's where they become sensitive hit by the Ukrainians."

"Russian rhetoric is to be taken very seriously"

It is also clear that the Western military listens very carefully to Russian statements. "If there's one thing we've learned over the past year, it's that Russian rhetoric is to be taken very seriously, nothing to be taken lightly," Freuding said. From a purely military point of view, he currently sees no indicators that a large-scale attack, for example from Belarus, is to be expected. However, the danger ties Ukrainian troops there. He also sees no Russian forces that would be able to surprisingly create a land bridge to Transnistria. Russian soldiers have been stationed in the breakaway region from Moldova since the 1990s.

Freuding said he could see the clear Russian goal of conquering the Donbass in its entirety. "Politically, however, that is not all for Russia. As long as Russia's imperial claim exists, we must be prepared for attempts to enforce this imperial claim, including with violence. For me, that is - very briefly - the great lesson of the February 24."