The AFU General Staff deceives the enemy, making him to defend the Crimean Bridge

July 12, 2023

The Ukrainian army’s counteroffensive showed that reality turned out to be more difficult than expected. However, the enemy still has no answer to the main question — about the direction of the main strike. The AFU General Staff is actually fooling the Russian occupiers, stepping up pressure in various sections of the front. As a result, the enemy has to move his forces from one area to another, exhausting his logistics and capabilities.

Today, activity is observed in the southern direction, where the enemy has redeployed its reserves from the east. Liberation of the south can really become a priority for the General Staff. However, it is already clear that due to the constant threat of attacks on the military infrastructure, such as the Crimean bridge, the occupier has deploy additional air defence weapons there. The lack of the Dnieper water in Crimea will not stop the enemy, but a man-made disaster at the Crimean "Titan" may have unforeseen consequences. This opinion was expressed by co-director of foreign policy programmes, coordinator of international projects of Razumkov Centre, military expert Oleksiy Melnyk in an exclusive interview with OBOZREVATEL.

— As the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reports, since the beginning of the offensive, the Ukrainian army has liberated 169 sq. km in the south. There is also information that the enemy redeployed almost its entire eastern task force to the south. Do you think that the south has become the priority direction of the AFU offensive? What are the prospects of this offensive?

— I would refrain from such conclusions, primarily about the main direction of the would-be strike. But I wish to draw your attention to the fact that our General Staff and other official sources report good news, and not only good news, with a certain lag. Previously, it was explained why it is not possible to immediately report on the liberation of specific settlements or successes in certain areas of the front. But it can really be one of the main directions of the strike.

I think that the general staff or the command of the Russian force would pay, figuratively speaking, a lot of money for the answer to the question of the direction of the main strike of the Armed Forces. The fact that they move troops from one direction to another is one of the goals pursued by the intensification of hostilities in various areas of the front — to force the enemy to redeploy troops and in this way exhaust their forces and logistical capabilities to make the defence in the direction of the main attack is as weak as possible.

If we talk about prospects, this is a rather difficult question. We civilians, watching anxiously and hopefully, saw that there were obviously some plans and options, but the reality turned out to be even more complicated than predicted or what the intelligence indicated. Therefore, of course, there are prospects, but now it will be very imprudent to talk about how fast, how deep this offensive can be.

— You said about the exhaustion of the enemy's logistical capabilities. We understand that these capabilities today are provided by the Crimean Bridge. There was information that this facility was hit. The occupiers allegedly quickly resumed traffic. However, we see that today Crimea is left without the Dnieper water after the explosion of the Kakhovska HPP dam. Do you think that such exhaustion can lead to another "gesture of goodwill" — the withdrawal of the occupying forces from the peninsula?

— Let's talk about the Crimean water first. Let us be honest with ourselves: the occupation authorities care very little about the problems of the local population and agriculture, which suffers the most from the lack of water. There is enough water for the occupants.

What can directly affect the hostilities is the Crimean "Titan". There was already a man-made disaster related to the lack of water. Even if the occupiers do not plan it, it can cause another man-made incident with unpredictable consequences. This is the only thing related to the art of war.

As for logistics, if you take the Crimean Bridge, it had long-term consequences. It is obvious that they will never be able to fully restore the carrying capacity of the bridge.

As for the Chongar bridge, the effect was for a few days or maybe weeks, but there are pontoon crossings. The enemy has learned these lessons. In order to minimize possible losses from repeated strikes, they obviously brought more air defence equipment there, that is, they took certain measures, just like with the Crimean bridge.

But anyway, even if it is a week or a few days when the enemy cannot provide supplies, it still causes a rather serious effect on the combat capability of Russian units. Therefore, it is absolutely obvious that the ground supply lines will continue to be attacked.

— US President Joe Biden stated that today Ukraine is not ready to join NATO, he cited several reasons. It seems that such a decision will not be made at the NATO summit in Vilnius. At the same time, the issue of security guarantees for Ukraine is being discussed. What can they be like?

— Let us be patient and wait for the final declaration of the summit. In my opinion, even those who are drafting and agreeing this text today cannot be sure what the final version of the text will be like.

Today, there are 31 NATO countries, and the decision to invite Ukraine to the Alliance must be made by consensus. If a key NATO country is undecided or takes a negative stand, the probability of a positive decision is literally close to zero.

If we recall the infamous decision that was taken at the Bucharest Summit (the summit was held in 2008. Germany and France blocked the decision to grant a MAP to Ukraine. — Ed.), the enthusiasm of the United States and its influence on partners was not enough to come to a consensus.

I want to be mistaken, but most likely we can hope for some new political formula, a phrase that will at least look more concrete than the "open door" that was talked about at the Bucharest summit.

The same applies, obviously, to security guarantees for Ukraine. Although here the situation is more clear. There is the willingness and understanding that the guarantees must be comprehensive, supported by purely practical obligations. There is the understanding that the level of these guarantees is still lower than Article 5.

Therefore, the question is to what extent these assurances, if we use the vocabulary of the Budapest Memorandum, will be close to guarantees, because in international law, in diplomacy, it matters.

— Ex-Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said in an interview with OBOZREVATEL that the MAP is a "relic" today, it should be forgotten, and new formats are needed for Ukraine. Do you think that a new formula, a new approach, a certain know-how is really possible for us, so to speak, adhoc, specifically for our specific situation?

— There is no need to invent anything new. The MAP was introduced after the first wave of enlargement, when Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary joined NATO. Before that, the MAP did not exist as such. The main objective of this tool was to provide a road map for candidates to better prepare for membership.

This is no algorithm in the Washington Treaty, it is not recorded in an international agreement. Using the example of Finland, we see that the MAP is simply put aside. Finland did not implement the MAP, neither did Sweden.

The second important point is that Ukraine, in fact, has a MAP, although it is not called so. The cooperation plan, on the basis of which it has been working for almost ten years, is actually a MAP. The annual national programmes implemented by Ukraine are also a component of the MAP. The only question is that our country fulfils it in the fullest possible way.

The problem areas are, first of all, the reform of the judicial system, politics and economics. As for the two aspects related to defence — the defence and security issues — there are, in principle, no big questions for Ukraine. If we didn't have problems with courts, prosecutor's offices, corruption, primarily political, then no one would tell us that Ukraine is not ready yet.

So, on the one hand, the situation is quite simple, on the other, it is extremely complicated. Perhaps this is not my area — courts, prosecutor's offices and SSU reforms — but this is exactly what is slowing down not only Ukraine's accession to NATO, but also all the reforms in our country. In wartime, it is also a matter of security, because, as we know, corruption kills. Literally.


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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