National Security

Kramatorsk Holds The Key In Ukrainian War

The Russians must be stopped there.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Kramatorsk has become a key battle in the war against the Russians. If Ukraine can deny it to Putin the Ukes can continue their offensive. If not, Russians could gain an upper hand.

Grant: Forget whoever told you there’s a stalemate in the Ukraine war right now. Mariupol is gone, but a hot fight is raging through eastern Ukraine. It’s Russian artillery versus Ukraine’s hit-and-run counter-offensives, and at several points the battle is touch and go.

Much will depend on whether Russia can keep pushing toward the city of Kramatorsk.

You remember Kramatorsk, where the Russians hit the train station on April 9 with a single ballistic SS-21 missile strike, killing 57, including five children. Since then, Russian forces have advanced to within about 20 miles of the city. They are even closer to Russia has forces attacking from both the north and south, pressuring cities like Syeverodonetsk. On a map, the curving Russian force position looks like a crocodile’s mouth. Let’s call it the jaws of Kramatorsk.

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“The primary objective on this axis is to envelop Ukrainian forces,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence warned May 13. If Russia succeeds, some of Ukraine’s best forces will be cut off from other units in the West.

It’s the highways Putin wants. He’d like to grab the major road systems and snap the jaws shut on Kramatorsk—which was the high-water mark of Russia’s 2014 offensive before Ukraine took it back. Zelenskyy needs to hold around Kramatorsk to keep alive his hopes of pushing Russia out of the east and ultimately, all of Ukraine.

Since late April, Ukraine has generated momentum by pushing Russian forces away from Kharkhiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Russia is still struggling with battlefield coordination, according to the Pentagon.

But there’s no denying Russia has made progress by taking key highway towns like Popasna, which fell May 8. Russian tactics look like World War II. The Russian army pounds each town or crossroads with artillery, then makes a frontal attack. If they move too far and fast, Ukraine’s forces strike them.

Russia’s pace is “uneven, slow, incremental, short, and small,” in the Pentagon’s words May 16, but they have not stopped yet.

Despite all this, two factors prove Ukraine’s forces have the tactical ability to win. First, U.S. and NATO artillery and training are taking effect. “We do believe that the howitzers are having an impact, particularly in Kharkiv,” the Pentagon said Monday.

Second, Ukraine has mastered some very sophisticated tactics. You saw the Russian tanks blown apart in the mud after attempting to cross the Donets river at Bilohorivka last week. That’s right in the crucial area east of Kramatorsk.

Now consider the tactics behind it. First, Ukrainians watched the Russians set up to cross the river. Drones provided accurate positions. Then they waited, as the first Russian forces started across, and bunched up like it was the morning rush hour. Finally, Ukraine unleashed precise artillery fire, perhaps with sub-munitions that seek and hit armor. Post-strike pictures showed dozens of Russian vehicles destroyed. Ukraine displayed excellent command and control, and it tells you why Ukraine’s forces have the edge against Russian forces on the move…

If Ukraine holds open the jaws of Kramatorsk, Ukraine can push Russia out of Izyum and start taking back other towns along the 100-mile front. Zelenskyy’s new total victory plan will eventually require Ukraine to increase the pressure, such as by striking Russian military targets in Crimea, for example. It will be much harder to win if Kramatorsk falls.

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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Sara
Sara
1 month ago

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pa l
pa l
1 month ago

Another B S article…..If Russia was not pulling it’s punches, Ukraine would be a pile of burning mess, but Moscow decided to engage a limited war with limited aims,