Putin's army has three reasons to double its efforts. Interview with military expert Melnyk

April 28, 2024

The Russian occupational army has got a window of opportunities and will surely want to take advantage of it. First of all, we are talking about the situation when the US decision to provide military aid to Ukraine has already been made, but its implementation will take some time.

Another "sacred" date — May 9 — is another reason for the activity of the Russian military. The Kremlin’s priority, as before, remains the seizure of Donetsk region within its administrative borders, says military expert, co-director of foreign policy programmes and coordinator of international projects of Razumkov Centre Oleksiy Melnyk in an exclusive interview to OBOZ.UA.

— President Zelenskyy announced that the US would supply long-range ATACMS systems to Ukraine. This issue has both a military and a political aspect. Military: How can it change the balance of power on the battlefield? Political: does this mean that, based on the range of these missiles, the US is actually not against Ukraine striking Russian territory?

— If we talk about the military aspect, then the picture is more or less clear, because these are exactly the weapons that Ukraine badly needs now. In the absence of an adequate air arm, Ukraine can compensate for this with long-range missiles and drones.

Regarding the second part of the question, I believe that it is premature to say that the United States, the Biden administration, has changed its position regarding its prejudice against strikes on the internationally recognized Russian territory. But, taking into account that the number of such missiles will probably still be limited, even in the occupied territories, including Crimea, there are many tasty targets for such strikes.

Finally, I would like to warn: the period between the statements and physical deliveries of these missiles should be short.

— Yes, about this period between the decisions and their implementation. What do you think the tactics and strategy of the enemy might be at this particular time — when Ukraine has not yet received help from the United States? What will the enemy do now?

— Undoubtedly, the US decision to provide aid will prompt the Russian leadership to raise the intensity of offensive operations, strikes with Shaheds and missiles. But this is not the only factor of escalation today.

Russia is trying to use this window of opportunities in every possible way. It also coincides with the seasonal factor — the improvement of conditions for ground operations, longer daylight hours, etc. This is a whole set of factors.

But we can definitely say that Russia will try to make the most of the window of opportunities, which, by the way, is not closing but only appears. After all, the majority of experts agree that this amount of aid is not decisive, it will not allow to turn the situation around, to seize the strategic initiative in the theatre of operations.

— Which direction is the most threatening today, in particular, with the next "sacred" date — May 9 — in sight?

— As before, the priority for the Russian military-political leadership is the seizure of the Donetsk region within the administrative borders. Whether they will be able to complete this task, as you rightly said, by the "sacred" date, will depend not only on political attitudes but also on the extent to which the Defence Forces are able to resist such an offensive.

If we talk about the most threatening directions, there is nothing new, except that not only the military but also the information operation in the Kharkiv direction is developing dynamically.

— Do you think there is a certain logical connection between providing Ukraine with long-range ATACMS and F-16 fighters? I mean, if they gave the first, will they finally give the second?

— The F-16 issue was resolved at least a year ago. I mean, politically.


Oleksiy Melnyk

Co-Director, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes, Coordinator of International Projects

Born in 1962 in Khmelnytsty Rgn


Royal College of Defence Studies, London, UK (2007)

Air Field Operations Officer School, Biloxy, MS, US (2001)

Squadron Officer School, Montgomery, AL, US (1994)

Defence Language Institute, San Antonio, TX, US (1994)

Chernihiv Higher Military Air Force Academy, Ukraine (1984)


1980 – 2001 — Air Force Active Service (Cadet, Instructor Pilot, Flight Commander, Squadron Commander, Deputy Air Force Base Commander, Participant of two UN peacekeeping operations, Lt.Colonel (Ret)

2001 – 2004 — Razumkov Centre

2004 – 2005 — State Company Ukroboronservice

2005 – 2008 — Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, Head Organisational and Analytical Division — First Assistant to Minister of Defence

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