Russia is exploiting Ukraine's lack of manpower to thin out the front line and seek a breakthrough, military expert says

Russia is exploiting Ukraine's lack of manpower to thin out the front line and seek a breakthrough, military expert says
  • Russia is exploiting Ukraine's manpower shortage, a war analyst told The New York Times.

  • Franz-Stefan Gady told the Times Russia is thinning out the front line to try to break through.

  • Ukrainian soldiers have been redeployed from Donbas to the embattled Kharkiv region, per the outlet.

Russian forces are taking advantage of Ukraine's manpower shortage to thin out the front line and improve their chances of making breakthroughs, a war analyst said.

Franz-Stefan Gady, an adjunct senior fellow with the Center for New American Security, told The New York Times that "the Russians have understood, just as a lot of analysts have, that the major disadvantage that Ukraine is currently suffering from is manpower"

He added: "By thinning out the front line, you are increasing the odds of a breakthrough."

According to the Times, in recent days Russian troops have poured across Ukraine's northeastern border and have taken at least nine villages and settlements.

But it said that part of Russia's plan, according to military analysts, is to force Ukraine to divert troops from other fronts, notably those in Donbas.

The Times cited a group of Ukrainian special forces who had been redeployed to Kharkiv from the eastern Donbas region, and were huddling at a gas station there as of Sunday afternoon.

The Institute for the Study of War, or ISW, drew a similar assessment on Saturday, saying Russian offensive operations in Kharkiv are likely meant to draw Ukrainian forces away from other battlefronts that they could otherwise defend.

This could have long-term implications, if Russia takes advantage of weaknesses in the Ukrainian lines.

Michael Kofman, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said there is a danger for Ukraine as it will take months for it to tackle its lack of manpower.

"Ammunition may come in two weeks, but manpower won't," Kofman told the War on The Rocks podcast last week, predicting that Ukraine's "manning situation is the kind of thing that's probably going to get worse before it gets better."

While some of the $61 billion in military aid from the US could reach Ukraine in a matter of days, according to the Pentagon, Ukraine's manpower issue is not such an easy fix.

Mark Herlting, a former US lieutenant general, said he doesn't think weapons alone will allow Ukraine to regain the territories it has lost.

"Artillery and long-range systems do not win war," he told CNN last month.

To address the dire situation on the front lines and replenish troops, Ukraine has lowered the conscription age from 27 to 25, done away with some draft exemptions, and created an online registry for recruits, per the Associated Press.

Ukraine's parliament also passed a bill earlier this month that would allow the country's military to recruit prisoners to fight.

Whether these will be enough to replenish Ukrainian forces and prevent Russian breakthroughs remains unclear.

For now, Russian forces appear to be trying to encircle the city of Vovchansk in northern Kharkiv from the west and the east, according to an assessment published on Sunday by the ISW.

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