Viktor Shayga – former Russian volunteer on his view of the future of the war in Ukraine

by | 30 May 2022 | Russian Accounts

Just over a week ago I published a translation of a very long account posted in the Russian internet space by a young-ish volunteer, Viktor Shayga, from Belgorod, Russia, who served in Ukraine on a contract in April this year. He was stationed near Izyum and took part in several attempts by Russian forces to capture Dolgen’koye settlement. In his account, he provided a lot of insights into the internal structure of the Russian volunteer corps currently fighting in Ukraine.

Viktor has become quite active on his livejournal page after the recap of his experience gained significant popularity, sharing a lot of… opinions, which are mostly not worthwhile spending any time on. However, I found this particular text quite interesting as he shares his view on when the second stage of the ‘Special Military Operation’ might end, so decided to spend a few hours making it available to my audience.

I’d consider taking some of the things he’s saying with a grain of salt – after all, he was just an infantry, and his discussions are likely to be less valuable than him directly summarising his personal experiences ‘in the field’ – but in the following text, he provides those too. Besides, he does have a bit of this ‘I know everything’ vibe which may not be so constructive, but nevertheless, the things he says appear to be quite close to what many experts with years of knowledge would presume.

Anyway, you can find the original post in Russian here. Otherwise, enjoy:

What will happen on Ukrainian frontlines in the summer/autumn? A view of a person who has been at the frontline…

 

There are completely opposing viewpoints regarding the future development of hostilities in Ukraine. In Ukraine, a prevalent opinion is that the enemy, represented by the Russian army and the Donetsk and Luhansk forces, will be completely destroyed, and the Ukrainian forces will reach the administrative borders of Ukraine as they were in 1991, and that this will happen in the nearest future – in July/August. In fact, statements of this nature are made by Ukrainian state officials of the highest level. Such statements were made by the head of the Ukrainian intelligence Kyrolo Budanov, and Presidential Advisor Mykhaylo Podolyak, and the Foreign Minister Dmtyro Kuleba, and the Minister of Defence of Ukraine – Reznik. As we can see, it’s a rather extensive list of the top Ukrainian officials making such predictions. This is one point of view on how the situation in Ukraine will develop.

 

Another, completely opposite point of view is expressed by Russian experts and bloggers whose audience is comparable to audiences of Russian federal channels (that’s Yurii Podolyaka, and Mikhail Onufrienko, and more). There’s a completely opposite view of the situation – they say that the Russian army together with Donetsk and Luhansk militia will reach, at minimum, Central Ukraine at the Vinnitsa – Zhytomyr line. And possibly even Lviv. At the same time, they do not name specific dates for achieving these milestones.

 

It’s also important to note that the officials in Russia are not naming any specific dates for the end of the second stage of the special operation in Ukraine. So, it can go as far as until next May. And then some sort of a third stage might begin. The official stated objective of the second stage is reaching administrative borders of Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. At the same time, Russia is almost openly now saying that those parts of Kherson and Zaporizhye Oblasts of Ukraine which are now under control of Russia will be included into Russia as fully-fledged subjects of the Russian Federation – so, as I understand, as Kherson and Zaporizhye Oblasts.

 

What can be said about these radically opposing viewpoints? My opinion is that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

 

Generally, it’s necessary to say that Ukrainian army is defending very competently, focusing large forces in those parts of the frontline where it is most valuable for Russia to advance. The Russian army was not allowed initially to develop an offensive in the south – in Huliaipole and Uhledar, as well as near Husarovka, Velikaya Kamyshevakha, and Dolgen’koye localities north of Sloviansk. So the Ukrainian army did not let the whole large Donbas group to be taken into an encirclement. How will the situation develop further? Right now, yes – a slow advance is on-going towards Lisichansk, Severodonetsk, Bahmut. The Ukrainian army is truly being seriously pushed there. In Russia, all military experts and bloggers are rejoicing about this fact – they all say that Ukrainian defence is collapsing in these areas and is slowly, mile after mile, is being broken through. This is true. But what does this give Russia in a long-term perspective? Let’s try to figure it out.

 

If, in the end (in a week, or a month, or two months), complete annihilation (or pushing out) of the Ukrainian army in Lisichansk, Lyman and Severodonetsk takes place. What will this achieve? Of course, the administrative borders of Luhansk will be reached. Is that a victory, an achievement? Of course, it will be a victory. Is that a huge victory? Perhaps, this is not for me to judge…

 

In my opinion, knowing about Russia’s stated goals to reach borders of Luhansk and Donetsk, Ukrainian army has already developed (and continues doing so) a very substantial defence in areas of Bahmut, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk. And when they reach these cities, I think that our guys will face extremely tough defence. Can they take these cities by October? I don’t know… Even if they are encircled and then captured, it will be at the cost of very heavy losses… (Ukrainian army will also suffer huge losses, no less than Russia, in my opinion). I think it is possible, but it’s not guaranteed that the whole territory of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts will end up under control of the Russian, Donetsk and Luhansk forces… Even taking these large cities and defence centres like Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, other cities such as Uhledar, Pokrovsk, Dobropolye, Aleksandrovka, Konstaninovka will remain to be taken. Who will be taking them? In my opinion, after taking Sloviansk and Kramatorsk (if they are taken) our armies may not have enough forces to assault these settlements, which Ukraine by that time will turn into strongpoints and create a new prepared frontline. So in this calendar year, unless something extraordinary happens, some miracle, then in my view the Russian army will not be able to reach administrative borders of DPR.

 

If Russian army received 700 (no less) high-class strike drones then I believe a cardinal change at the frontline is possible, and it will be possible to deal a devastating defeat to the Ukrainian army.

 

For 28 days I was in the Izyum area, specifically near Suligovka settlement. Back then, we didn’t have enough strength to take Dolgen’koye village which is located half-way between Izyum and Sloviansk. Speaking about that particular direction, even back in April Ukrainian army created very substantial defence in the area and focused significant forces to prevent reaching Sloviansk from the north and bypassing Sloviansk from North-West to take it into a half-circle with by our group which advanced from Izyum towards South and South-West. For instance, our assault groups (mainly infantry) were almost never supported by helicopters and planes since our aircraft was very often shot down. Our attack helicopters are very easy to take down as I understand it. Which is why the infantry was being sent in without any cover from attack helicopters. If the helicopters had not been shot down and we’ve had their support during assaults, the Russian army offensive would have been much quicker, and way fewer losses would have been taken. The same situation applies to our tanks. If they weren’t hit in dozens from ATGMs, Javelins and NLAWs, then without doubt our offensive would have been very rapid. Tanks are like fortresses on wheels – you can’t hit with an assault rifle. Even using a Soviet RPG-7, it’s very, very difficult to even knock out a T-72.

 

Also important to note that it’s much easier to defend than attack. Regarding the Ukrainian artillery – if it wasn’t for its power and precision, I think in firefights our troops would have defeated the Ukrainian army.

 

Also, when I was in Izyum, and it’s my personal opinion and observation, if we had enough good strike UAVs, it would have been possible to win the war and achieve a turning point just using those. With strike UAVs you can first of all locate and destroy positions of Ukrainian artillery. It’s my opinion, of someone who is in many respects not a military, but rather a regular citizen. Later, when I returned to Russia in May I found that even back in 2019 the Donbas authorities were telling the Russian military high command it was extremely important to have strike UAVs to reach success in this war if it happens. As I understand, they were not listened to. By the way, just days ago Defence Minister Shoygu said that soon they will receive strike UAVs in the special operation zone. Where are they going to take them from – I have no idea. Perhaps, China quietly delivered parts for them to be assembled in Russia, I don’t know.

 

Also important to note that many victories and achievements that our army had in Ukraine were not achieved by some high-tech superiority of our army, but with simple courage and heroism of our soldiers who gnaw and scratch out certain victories and capture enemy lines of defences at the cost of their own health and lives… Our offensive in Ukraine is first and foremost built on the character, will and selflessness of our soldiers and officers…

 

It should be noted, thanks to the fact that in Russia on the federal TV channels they say how everything is going well in Ukraine and how the special operation is moving according to the plan, the vast majority believe it’s going well for our army. Official losses in our army – 1351 soldiers. What can be said about this?.. On 19 April, when I was in Izyum, one person said our losses were at 15,000. My opinion this is more or less true. But almost no one wants to hear this in Russia, and when on several occasions I wrote in YouTube comments that the special operation is turning out to be very difficult for Russia, they replied to me that I was a Ukrainian bot. Well, so be it.

 

It is also necessary to note one more thing. Russia is very competently destroying military and civil infrastructure of Ukraine. For about three weeks now, there has been a very serious shortage of fuel for transport in Ukraine. As I understand it, there is still fuel for military needs, but it’s not enough for private vehicles and businesses. In the end, this annihilation of the infrastructure conducted by Russian army hundreds of kilometers away from the frontline will lead to Ukraine significantly losing in its income into the budget, and it will become fully dependent on external aid. So, there will be someone to fight, and something to fight with, but there will be very little business and income within Ukraine. And it’s already happening, and the scale of it will increase if Russia continues rocket strikes at Ukraine’s military and civil infrastructure.

 

Finally, it should be noted that deliveries of Western long-range artillery to Ukraine are in full swing… This long-range artillery can become a serious factor for inflicting heavy losses on our army (and such losses are already happening), both in terms of manpower and equipment, and this can lead to us no longer having anyone or anything to attack Ukraine with after the capture of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk… If they will be taken at all, of course…

 

But I will emphasise once again that most people in Russia are confident that everything is going well for our guys in Ukraine, and that everything will be fine in the end… How this will really turn out – we will see…

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