Russia mines extensively in Ukraine. Minesweepers report on their dangerous work – they have to clear the way for their own tanks.
Kiev – Russia and Ukraine have been at loggerheads for months in Moscow’s war of aggression against Kiev. As in many modern wars, part of the battlefields are minefields. Opposite the Italian newspaper La Republica A Ukrainian officer reported his experiences on a corridor south of Zaporizhia within the Surovikin Line. This is a three-tier defense complex built by General Surovikin, the former head of the Russian Armed Forces.
Russians tie three mines together so that they destroy clearing machines
“On average we find five mines per square meter,” explains the Ukrainian officer, who did not want to be identified. Its mission is to create a gap for armored vehicles. But the minefield is a veritable death zone, littered with Russian “hamburgers” – Tm-62 mines tied together. A demining machine can withstand an explosion from a single mine, but not a detonation from three.
In the fall of 2022, Surovikin gave the order to fill the front with anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, create trenches and dig hundreds of tunnels and underground bunkers that are connected to each other – the Ukrainian officer calls them “anthills”. The area prepared in this way extends over a 130-kilometer-long section, stretching from Vasylivka in the Zaporizhzhia region to Vreminwka in Donetsk. The deminers are not only exposed to mortal danger from the explosive devices, but also from Russian mortar fire. But at the end of August, Ukrainian attack units managed to break through the line, but the path between the mines was too narrow: the lined up tanks quickly became unable to maneuver and were destroyed by Russian artillery.
Success for the mine clearers: the breach becomes a corridor
However, the breach has now become a corridor: almost ten kilometers long and a few meters wide, it leads from Robotyne east towards the destroyed village of Verbove. The officer reports: “Opening a safe corridor in the minefield belt, which is the first of the three Surovikin lines, is the most complicated part. We can only do this at night, we have to proceed in a zigzag pattern.” A prerequisite is that the afternoon was sunny: “This is the only way the metal from the mines will actually heat up to the point where it can be seen in the infrared viewers. And when I say we’re moving forward on a carpet of bombs, it’s because when you put your sights on the prairie lights up as if the sun were on the ground.”
On the day of the Ukrainian attack on Crimea, news arrives that for the first time a large number of vehicles are present beyond the third level of the line. At least two Storm Shadow cruise missiles evaded the air defense system protecting the occupied peninsula and hit the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in central Sevastopol. According to rumors, for which there is no official confirmation, the admiral at the head of the fleet was killed. “And that’s not the end of it,” say the leaders of the Kiev Air Force. Shortly after the explosions, the peninsula’s internet network went out of control due to a massive cyberattack. Zelensky, who was in Canada, did not comment on Crimea or Surovikin’s breakthrough. However, he was sure that they would soon recapture Bakhmut on the Eastern Front “and two other cities whose names I will not mention.”
Is the corridor used? “Ukrainian generals will surprise elsewhere”
The actual significance of the area to the south is difficult to assess. “The Ukrainian army has shown that it knows how to overcome the Surovikin barriers,” explains Oleksiy Melnyk, a Kiev-based military analyst La Republica. “But the picture to consider is broader. I doubt that a counteroffensive capable of advancing ten kilometers per day will pass through this corridor.” The Russians will now concentrate their forces there, so I expect the Ukrainian generals to surprise them with an attack elsewhere. “
Surovikin is not a homogeneous fortress, but rather a rugged system consisting of obstacles and barriers built beyond the last strip of tunnels. “The strategic goal for us remains the same,” explains the Ukrainian officer, “to recapture all the occupied territories up to the Sea of Azov, and for this it is crucial to capture Tokmak.” The fortified citadel is in the hands of Putin’s soldiers, the corridor direction Werbowe could be used for encirclement. The officer calculates: “From Tokmak we control the land supply routes to Crimea. We hope to be there by the end of the year.”
Moscow’s ideology leads to problems on the battlefield: the officers are partly based on a template from Soviet times. (cgsc)
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