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Fall of Liman Shows the Trajectory of War If Russia Hadn't Mobilized
Mobilization wasn't a choice
Declared to be a part of Russia on September 30, Liman was then lost to Ukrainian army on October 1.
Some of the surrounding settlements meanwhile, got the chance to start voting to join Russia on September 23, only to be overrun before the annexation proclamation.
It’s safe to say that Russia isn’t exactly covering itself in glory on the battlefield these days. (Through no fault of the troops.)
After the Ukrainian Kupyansk-Izyum Offensive of September 6-15 caused the Russians to flee beyond the Oskil river, Liman became the next logical target.
That is because Russian positions at Liman formed a “balcony” facing Ukrainian lines to the west but also to the south. Also Liman lies on a river-flat that doesn’t offer many advantages to the defender, while also being a useful road hub.
On the other hand, what the Russian defenders theoretically had going for them is that their initial positions were anchored on the Oskil river to the west, and the Seversky Donets river to the west and south.
However, after Izyum the Ukrainians were able to bridge the Oskil without much fuss, and then steadily kept creeping forward until they were enveloping Liman from the north.
Liman’s fate was probably sealed when a few days ago the Ukrainians successfully bridged the Seversky Donetsk as well, thus enveloping Liman also from the southeast.
This crossing of Seversky Donetsk was perhaps particularly impressive seeing how in May when the Russians were crossing the river in the same area in the other direction, they first suffered a famous debacle in which a battalion-worth of equipment that had been bunched up by the river was destroyed.
The Ukrainians managed without such embarrassments.
The Liman battle was more successful for the Russians than the defeat in Kharkov region, since this time they at least successfully traded space for time and blood. Instead of having to quickly flee and leave a portion of heavy equipment behind as they had done in the Kupyansk-Izyum offensive.
(Perhaps some of the difference is down to Liman being in Donetsk so that Donetsk troops were more motivated than had been the Lugansk militias in Kharkov, ie outside Lugansk.)
In any case, albeit a less lopsided loss than at Kupyansk (where Russia relinquished as much territory in several days as it had captured in several months), Liman is still a defeat.
Moreover, while Kupyansk-Izyum could be blamed on Kiev catching the Russians by surprise, such an excuse is not available for Liman.
One Ukrainian victory could be a “coincidence” but stringing two in a row is a trend.
The nadir of Russian fortunes is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that defeat at Liman was, for the first time, followed by public recriminations going after named individuals. Ex-terrorist Ramzan Kadyrov publicly attacked general Lapin, commander of the Central Military District, scapegoating him for the defeat.
Actually, it turns out Lapin wasn’t even in charge at Liman. He only contributed some reinforcements toward the tail end of the battle.* But Kadyrov and Prigozhin who run private armies have a strong incentive to try and discredit Russia’s real army. The army that is carrying 95% of the weight of this war, and without special favors from the top that Kadyrov’s selfie troops and Prigozhin’s criminals can count on, but on the contrary being handicapped at every turn.
The private-interest brigade is smelling weakness, that’s for sure.
Questions about the Western District aside, the gravely outnumbered Russian forces at Liman did about as well as could have been expected of them in the circumstances. (Probably a lot better than Kadyrov’s joke troops that many African warlords would be embarrassed to field would have.) If the opposition has the forces to envelop you from three sides, including to your rear, there just isn’t a lot you can do.
The fish rots from the head. The real question to ask is why are Russians everywhere outnumbered? Why was the Russian military thrown into the largest European war since WW2 piecemeal, its professional element detached from its conscript and mobiki elements?**
Kupyansk-Izyum and Liman reveal one truth about the September 21 mobilization. They reveal that this mobilization wasn’t optional. It was a choice between mobilizing and accepting that Kiev would eventually win, inflicting a defeat on Putin that his rule would be unlikely to survive.
*As it happened many soldiers jumped to Lapin’s defense:
**Actually it would be interesting to research if it was precisely the FSB, Kadyrov and Erik Prince, sorry, Yevgeny Prigozhin who reassured the Tsar that he didn’t need to use conscripts or mobilize because of the assets they had to give him.
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