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Weather factor: Will rains affect the front and halt Ukrainian Armed Forces' advance?

Weather factor: Will rains affect the front and halt Ukrainian Armed Forces' advance? In the West, Ukrainian advances are given up to 45 days, but it's unlikely that the weather will stop the Ukrainian Armed Forces (Getty Images)

Official sources in the West have indicated that the active phase of the counteroffensive will continue for up to a month and a half, while the Ukrainian side assures that their advancement will persist. The impact of weather on the front and whether rains or frost can halt the Ukrainian Armed Forces is analyzed in the following material by RBC-Ukraine.

Last week, the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) assessed Ukraine's chances of a breakthrough. According to Trent Maul, the Director for Analysis, the likelihood of breaking through all defensive lines in the south by the end of the year is estimated to be between 40% and 50%. One of the factors that could make this an incredibly challenging task, he mentioned, is worsening weather conditions in the fall.

Recently, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, Mark Milley, clarified the probable timeline.

"There's still a reasonable amount of time, probably about 30 to 45 days' worth of fighting weather left, so the Ukrainians aren't done," he noted.

He also added that the Ukrainian Defense Forces are advancing systematically and have not yet completed the combat phase of what was planned.

Weather factor: Will rains affect the front and halt Ukrainian Armed Forces' advance?

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, Mark Milley, believes that Ukraine has 30-45 days left for its advance (Photo: Getty Images)

The Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Kyrylo Budanov, acknowledges that advancing will be more challenging in cold, wet, and muddy conditions. However, he assured that the counteroffensive would continue, nonetheless.

Forecasts from Western partners are causing concern because some parallels can be drawn with the previous year. The end of the active phase of the 2022 offensive coincided with October-November. During that time, the Kharkiv operation was completed, the Ukrainian Armed Forces regained control of Lyman in the east, and by mid-November, they also controlled Kherson and the right-bank part of the region.

With the onset of wintry weather in December-January, the enemy switched to a counteroffensive, focusing on Soledar and Bakhmut. After months of intense fighting, both cities and their surroundings were captured. Therefore, the question arises whether a similar scenario will repeat itself and how the weather profoundly affects the front.

One and a half months left for the advance. What does this mean?

Obviously, the statement about 30-45 days is tied to the expectation that heavy rains will begin after this period. Seasonal precipitation will impact the condition of the ground, and heavy mud will slow down advancing forces, while the cold will add logistical problems.

However, seasonal weather can vary. Rain and low temperatures will undoubtedly affect the pace of the counteroffensive but will not bring it to a complete halt, according to a recent report from analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in Washington.

Military expert Oleksii Hetman agrees that the weather can indeed slow down the advance, complicating the movement of tanks, armored vehicles, and towed artillery through fields and rough terrain. Still, it won't completely stop it. Regarding Milley's statement, the expert believes it to be overly pessimistic.

"As the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. military, Milley, unfortunately, is not the first to express pessimism about our Armed Forces and our advance. What could be the reason for this? I believe this is a one-time position, his tenure as an American general is ending, and it is not excluded that his words may have more of a political undertone than a military one," he noted in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

Hetman emphasizes that this is his subjective opinion. Mark Milley is only 65 years old, which is not considered old by Western standards, and he may be thinking about what to do after stepping down as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States.

His position is not in stark contrast to the statements of U.S. and NATO officials but appears more pessimistic. Pentagon spokesman Pat Rider recently referred to the successes of the Ukrainian advance in the south as miraculous.

"It seems to me that Milley is making certain political moves. His words should certainly be taken into account, of course, but in the context of his impending retirement, it can be assumed that this is more related to political plans for the future," added the expert.

Weather factor: Will rains affect the front and halt Ukrainian Armed Forces' advance?
If inclement weather strikes the Ukrainian Armed Forces near Melitopol, it will become a problem for the Russians (photo from

Military-political analyst of the Information Resistance Group, Oleksandr Kovalenko, suggests not rigidly adhering to the stated timelines. The pace of the counteroffensive will largely depend on where our troops encounter bad weather.

For instance, if at the end of September or the beginning of October, the Armed Forces reach Tokmak (Zaporizhzhia region), it means they will be positioned between the second and third lines of the Russian defense.

"If in October we liberate Tokmak, it means we will reach the third line. If by the end of October, we can advance toward Melitopol, then, according to Mark Milley's forecasts, bad weather will strike in the vicinity of this city. What does this mean? It's a significant problem for the Russian occupiers because the territory up to the Azov Sea coast will be under our complete fire control," he noted in an interview with the publication.

In such a scenario, the enemy will have only the sea behind them, and they won't be able to maneuver effectively in conditions of reduced troop mobility and logistics challenges. However, it's still challenging to predict when the rains or frost will begin. No one knows whether they will occur in November; perhaps November will be warm, or it might snow.

"What we can achieve further will depend on where the bad weather stalls our Defense Forces. If it's a scenario with fire control over a narrow strip near Melitopol, then the bad weather won't be such a problem for us. It's a problem for the Russians because we can keep pushing forward and continue offensive actions," the expert emphasized.

Weather factor affects both sides

Heavy rains will negatively impact the operations of various military units. In terms of aerial reconnaissance, a wall of water will reduce the ability to visually identify enemy targets. Strong winds can even blow away lightweight drones.

Issues with aerial reconnaissance may slow down artillery operations. Limited drone usage can affect the speed and quantity of transmitted coordinates, which may reduce the intensity of fire. However, it won't affect the accuracy of the shots.

"Artillery calculations don't just fire based on coordinates. They account for adjustments for wind, rain, temperature, atmospheric pressure, and even barrel temperature. Artillery work isn't just about inputting coordinates, firing, and watching it go. All factors are considered, including barrel temperature. It's a complex science, and in combat calculations, experienced people need to know a lot to carry out tasks effectively," said Oleksii Hetman.

As for armored vehicles, it's evident that on soaked ground, it's challenging to move, not only for wheeled but also tracked vehicles. However, there's another perspective on the issue of soil conditions. The region in the south mainly features sandy and well-aerated soils that dry quickly. Since they remain relatively firm during rain, they become suitable for maneuvering armored vehicles after drying, especially in winter.

Weather factor: Will rains affect the front and halt Ukrainian Armed Forces' advance?

Fall rains could affect the work of aerial reconnaissance (

Oleksandr Kovalenko emphasizes that considerations about the impact of soil should be made abstractly.

"If the overall tactical task is to advance along asphalt roads like T0408, T1401, R37, and so on, in other words, working on logistics arteries, then the issue of soil becomes irrelevant," he clarified.

Another seasonal factor is the absence of so-called greenery in forest plantations after the trees have shed their leaves. However, experts explain that all the weather conditions cannot be unequivocally an enemy or an ally. They typically work in both directions. For example, heavy rains will create problems not only for Ukrainians but also for the Russians entrenched in defense.

However, according to Hetman, the fact that wet weather slows down an advance eases the situation for the enemy.

"Defending in trenches is easier than advancing in adverse conditions. But, on the other hand, the Russians will face difficulties too because they need to transport everything necessary from food to fuel and ammunition to the front line. If there's mud all around, and only the roads we control remain, it will be challenging for the enemy to do all that. On the other hand, we understand that the rains will last for a maximum of a few weeks. And there's no guarantee that they will cover the entire front line, making it impossible to move," he added.

Today, the Chief of Military Intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, reiterated that it's more challenging to wage war in cold and muddy conditions. However, combat operations were not halted last fall.

Ukraine or Russia: Who will advance in winter?

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) state that winter frosts are favorable for mechanized units. And if we rely on Budanov's words, the Ukrainian counteroffensive will continue one way or another.

The end of offensive operations in 2022 came in October-November when Ukrainian Defense Forces regained part of the captured territory in the east, including Kherson and the right-bank part of the region. With the onset of winter cold, the enemy launched an attack on Bakhmut and Soledar, which had been held for several months.

Weather factor: Will rains affect the front and halt Ukrainian Armed Forces' advance?

The Ukrainian General Staff may have already planned the next offensive operation (

Oleksandr Kovalenko explains that there are different methods of conducting military operations, as demonstrated in the past year. Despite the frost, Ukrainian forces effectively defended themselves, wearing down the enemy. Russians had a tough time advancing on Bakhmut and Selydove, suffering significant losses. The Ukrainian Armed Forces have adapted much better to winter conditions than the Russians.

Notably, the increase in activity was preceded by a massive mobilization in Russia. The Ukrainian General Staff warns that the enemy is preparing another wave of mobilization, which could involve mobilizing between 400,000 to 700,000 people.

Compulsory measures will also affect Chechnya, and the Ukrainian side believes that about 40,000 new Kadyrovtsy (referring to forces loyal to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov) may be used as blocking units behind the main Russian forces. Residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg are unlikely to be drafted, but this could apply to other regions, including the occupied territories of Ukraine.

Oleksii Hetman admits that the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Russians is theoretical.

"It's not guaranteed they can gather that many in practice, that's first. And second, it's unclear how they will arm these people. They don't have enough equipment, enough artillery – everything required to turn the mobilized into combat-ready units," he stated.

Regarding whether Russia plans a winter offensive and with what forces and means, it's currently difficult to say. However, judging by their ambitions, at the very least, there are intentions for the Lyman-Kupiansk axis.

"Although their capabilities are limited, even more than in 2022. So, I don't see the prospect of any large-scale offensive actions on their part. Even along narrow directions, there are doubts. Attempts are possible, but a repetition of what happened in Bakhmut won't happen," Kovalenko told RBC-Ukraine.

It's worth noting that there are no offensive operations that continue indefinitely, and the current Ukrainian operation will conclude once the planned objectives are achieved. However, it would be foolish to assume that fall, or even winter, can stop Ukraine.

According to Hetman, it's entirely possible that the General Staff has already planned the next operation, and preparations are underway.

"We cannot say that we will stop in winter. Based on the statements of Western partners, it might seem like we won't be able to move forward when the cold sets in. Nothing of the sort. We can advance in winter just as well as the Russians. Soon, we will see who copes better with the rains, mud, and everything that awaits us in October-November. And who will advance more in winter," the expert concluded.