Ukrainian raids on the occupied part of the southern Kherson region are forcing the Russian army to redeploy its forces. One of the raids resulted in Yuriy Tomov, a Russian intelligence company commander and a combatant, being taken prisoner.
It is clear that the raid in question was not for Mr Tomov’s sake, Ivan Stupak, a military expert and former employee of the Security Service of Ukraine, the SBU, tells LIGA.net.
"But by coincidence, this ‘curious cat’ was captured and can now provide a lot of interesting information," he points out.
LIGA.net has looked into the details of the daring operation of the Ukrainian forces — and what it means for Kyiv's counteroffensive in southern Ukraine.
Capturing Major Tomov
In the Kherson region, Ukrainian forces have been carrying out raids on the left bank of the Dnipro River, which is still being occupied by Russia. The operations have been kept secret, although a rare confirmation was made earlier this week by Hanna Maliar, the deputy defence minister.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a report last week that panic was growing among the Russian troops in the occupied part of the Kherson region, and cases of desertion have become more frequent.
The report was confirmed by Yuri Tomov, a major of the Russian army who was taken prisoner by Ukraine.
In a video published by a Telegram channel believed to be close to the Ukrainian military fighting in the south, Mr Tomov says that he finds the overall training, morale and psychological state of his battalion's soldiers "very unsatisfactory".
"The personnel are depressed and refuse to perform their tasks," he said, adding the unit’s combat losses are about 25 percent, with many objectors — that is, those refusing to obey orders — among his subordinates.
The author of the Telegram channel noted that Mr Tomov "helps the Ukrainian military in the implementation of combat missions with very classified information".
The story of Major Tomov is an ‘information blow’ to Russia under the belt, says Oleksii Melnyk, a military expert from the Razumkov Centre, a Ukrainian think tank.
"The Russians invested a lot of effort to make a hero out of this major. Then a video appeared showing him surrendering everything on the map," he tells LIGA.net.
The Russian media noted Mr Tomov’s disappearance only because he suddenly disappeared, Ivan Stupak adds.
"When Mr Tomov disappeared with his group in the area where the Ukrainian reconnaissance group was operating, it was a great excuse to create an obituary for the scout who gnawed the enemy with his teeth and then died heroically," he says.
"But as soon as they started to make a hero out of him, the Ukrainians posted a video of him surrendering his own men on camera."
Making use of the captured Russian commander
Mr Tomov shouldn’t be expected to be able to reveal all the information about Russian defences in southern Ukraine since such data is not passed at the level of majors, Oleksii Melnyk believes.
But the information that the captured Russian has indeed can make the work of Ukrainian defenders in specific areas of the front easier, Ivan Stupak suggests. For instance, he can provide information about minefields and key collaborators working with the Russian.
All the information provided by the captured Russian will need to be repeatedly checked, the experts stress. Nevertheless, they agree it can be useful for the Ukrainian defence forces.
In addition, Mr Tomov has been actively sharing data on the positions of the Russian military since captured. In particular, he ‘helped’ Ukrainian forces destroy a Russian ammunition depot in the city of Oleshky, German newspaper Bild reported.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces are now doing an important job: Dispersing the Russian army’s resources, as well as systematically and methodically destroying all logistical components of supply and maintenance of Russian troops, Vladyslav Selezniov, a colonel in the Ukrainian Armed Forces and former spokesman for the General Staff, told LIGA.net.
The situation is very tense, Oleksii Melnyk adds: From the available reports of the General Staff, it can be concluded that the situation is critical for Russian defence, at least in several sections of the contact line.
There are prerequisites for a breakthrough of the first line of defence in the southern section, the expert cautiously suggests.
"But these are only prerequisites. They are just as obvious to the enemy as they are to us. That's why the enemy is making every effort to prevent us."
UK intelligence says that localised fighting has intensified in the lower Dnipro River area, in addition to the expansion of the foothold held by the Ukrainian Armed Forces near Antonivskyi Bridge across the Dnipro in the Kherson region.
Tthe Russian command is now allegedly facing a dilemma: Either strengthen the area or deploy troops in the areas of Ukraine’s main counter-offensive operations, i.e. further east, according to intelligence reports.
What to expect next
It is too early to say that Ukrainian defenders are in full control of the situation and are moving towards further success, Vladyslav Selezniov said, adding that much will depend on what losses the Russians are willing to take.
The raids by Ukrainian defenders in the Kherson region are not only making the Russians nervous, but they are also pulling up reserves and resources — in particular, operational resources that have not yet been fully deployed, says Mr Selezniov.
If Ukraine’s estimates are correct, Russia is now limited to moving its reserves from one area to another, Oleksii Melnyk adds.
Earlier, the UK defence ministry said that the redeployment of Russian forces would weaken their defences on the eastern bank of the Dnipro.
At the current stage, the war is not about square metres, but about destroying the enemy's potential, Mr Selezniov emphasises.
"An enemy that retreats hundreds of metres will still retain its combat potential. Destruction of the potential is what Ukrainian defenders are working on now."