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Military expert's war forecast 2024: Without liberation of south, it's impossible to advance to east

Military expert's war forecast 2024: Without liberation of south, it's impossible to advance to east Serhii Hrabskyi, Colonel of the reserve of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (Photo:

Serhii Hrabskyi, Colonel of the reserve of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, spoke about the results of the Ukrainian military campaign in 2023 and whether the Defense Forces are capable of launching a new offensive operation in 2024, as well as what to expect from the Russians on the front line in an interview with RBC-Ukraine.

The offensive operation of Ukraine in 2023 did not meet high expectations. Society's hopes for a quick end to the war have turned into a certain uncertainty. Meanwhile, Russia shows no willingness to stop the war. On the contrary, despite significant losses, the occupying forces persist in attempting to break through our defense from the East to the South. In Western media are reports of Kremlin plans regarding which territories of Ukraine Putin aims to capture by the end of 2026. What to expect from the war this year, what Ukraine and Russia are capable of on the front – military expert Serhii Hrabskyi revealed in an interview.

Evaluation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive

The results of our offensive operation in the summer and fall of 2023 can be considered limited, says Hrabskyi. This was influenced by overly ambitious plans, limited material support, insufficient weapons, and the robust defense of enemy forces. Moreover, we did not have a threefold advantage in personnel, equipment, and technology.

But considering the overall strategic situation on the front line, the opponent failed to achieve any goals throughout the year despite the colossal buildup of its combat potential.

Hrabskyi does not immediately consider the Ukrainian offensive plan on three fronts to be a mistake. On the contrary, in his opinion, it was our only possible model of conducting an offensive operation with the available forces and resources.

"In our case, there simply were no other options. I do not consider it a mistake because one must understand that we were advancing against a well-prepared and heavily fortified enemy defense. And having the resources we had and have, hoping that our strike in one place will lead to some success, would be senseless," explained the expert.

Military expert's war forecast 2024: Without liberation of south, it's impossible to advance to east

Ukrainian troops waged an offensive in the South, having no advantage over the enemy (photo: Ministry of Defense, Facebook)

Is the current situation on the front at an impasse?

According to Hrabskyi, the situation on the front is not at an impasse or stalemate. The Ukrainian Armed Forces confidently conducted a defensive operation in Kupiansk-Svatove, Chasiv Yar, and Avdiivka. In other words, there is a high intensity of combat operations.

"In the Avdiivka area, the confrontation of forces is in a ratio of 1 to 7 or 1 to 10, and the losses are approximately the same. We are talking about active combat actions in the Marinka area, where the enemy tries to advance, and we nullify his attempts to advance. We continue active combat actions on the Robotynsky bulge, where the enemy tries to counterattack and push us out. We are conducting very active combat operations on the left bank of the Dnipro, and this is what gives us grounds to say that in case of success on this front, we create conditions for possible further raid actions to reach the administrative borders of Crimea and cut off the enemy's communications," explained Hrabskyi.

The situation would be impasse if neither we nor the enemy could conduct combat operations and only exchanged artillery, mortar, and missile strikes. Instead, the dynamics of the battles are incredibly high, and combat actions are taking place on every front segment, the expert clarified.

Military expert's war forecast 2024: Without liberation of south, it's impossible to advance to east

The situation at the front is not a stalemate, the dynamics of the fighting is very high (photo: GettyImages)

Is there a chance for a new successful offensive in Ukraine, like those in Kharkiv and Kherson regions?

Hrabskyi believes that breakthrough operations like those in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions will not occur again in Ukraine. In the future, the Armed Forces will have to conduct combat operations and offensive campaigns against the intensely fortified defense of the enemy on all fronts.

"Perhaps, except for some audacious forays to bypass the enemy's defensive fortifications through the territory of the Russian Federation. The enemy will not allow that anymore. Fortifications are being erected across the entire front – essentially from Skadovsk to Troitske. Moreover, these fortifications have been created in the Donetsk region over many years. Therefore, easy 'strolls' or operations like before will not happen," says the reserve colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

According to the interlocutor, Ukraine needs to increase its combat potential to meet the traditional requirements of an offensive operation – air superiority, strike forces and means, personnel, maneuverability, and more.

"There will be other operations, but there won't be a repetition of such operations because the density of forces and defensive positions on both sides exclude such operations in principle. It's about an entirely different format of operations on different front segments, using not only ground equipment. The operations in Kharkiv and Kherson were carried out exclusively using ground equipment and troop formations. We need to think about expanding the spectrum of our operations, particularly in the air," clarified Hrabskyi.

He added that Ukraine cannot afford to chew away at the enemy's defense by 15 kilometers per year. Hrabskyi does not rule out that the Armed Forces will not conduct new offensive operations in 2024 if they need another year for preparation.

"If we need a year to prepare – so be it, it will be a year. It's not about necessarily conducting some offensive operation in 2024. It's about defeating the enemy and the time factor that we will need to accumulate more quantitative and qualitative resources and think about conducting offensive operations," emphasized the interlocutor.

Forecast of the frontline situation in 2024

According to Hrabskyi, there is only one promising direction for further advances in Ukraine. Without strategically addressing the issue of the south, it is impossible to talk about any advancement to the east. No military planner would plan combat operations with the threat of a flanking attack on the communications of advancing troops.

"We urgently need the South and the liberation of Crimea to consolidate our dominance over most of the Black Sea waters and significantly expand the area of our economic operations, which is also a component of the war. The main component of any war is money. Therefore, we have no directions – we have only one direction. Without resolving the issue of the South, talking about any other operations is absurd. Without the collapse of the southern front, which we are currently working on, discussing other directions, in my opinion, is wrong," said the expert.

As for Russian prospects, if they continue to act as they do today, there will be no significant successes, according to the interlocutor. However, they will continue to gnaw at our defense and attempt to bite off small pieces of our territory, as they did during 2022-2023.

"At present, the Russians are trying to accomplish the strategic task set on April 17, 2022 – to reach the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. An additional task, which is also important for them, is reaching the Oskil River, eliminating the Robotyne bulge and the zone where Ukrainian forces operate on the left bank of the Dnipro in Kherson. So, the Russians have tasks, but the question is how they will accomplish these tasks," specified the expert.

About the significance of Western aviation for the front

Given that the Russians have 320 aircraft, the transfer of two dozen F-16s to us will not impact the situation on the front at the strategic level. At the tactical level, 10-20 aircraft can expand the capabilities of operations, such as strikes on Feodosia. But to say that after the appearance of 20 aircraft on the battlefield, Russian aviation will fly away entirely – that's not the case.

"Today, our military-political leadership already understands the importance of developing the military-air component, and therefore, in requests to partners, it is about obtaining not only F-16s but also F/A-18 Hornets, helicopters, including Black Hawks and Apaches. I would also add A-10 attack aircraft in quantities of tens. And we also need cruise missiles like Tomahawks, and for them, we need appropriate carriers that will allow us to strike at the enemy's territory," explained the expert.