As Ukraine mounts a new counteroffensive in the southern part of the country, Zelensky’s bravado risks setting expectations too high. In truth, Ukraine probably won’t liberate its territory this year, or even next. Still, as Ukrainian forces push toward the Black Sea coast, Zelensky is delivering a defiant response to President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Ukraine is not a real country. Not only can Ukraine survive, it also can regain some of its occupied land.
The best defense is a good offense, as military strategists have argued for centuries. And if Ukraine’s drive toward the coast succeeds, it will restore the country’s economic viability by relieving pressure on its port city of Odessa. Moreover, it could threaten Russia’s occupation of Crimea by cutting into the land bridge that connects to the Russian-controlled Donbas region in the east.
The Ukrainian attempt to capture the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant consisted of two river crossings–1: seven speed boats carrying up to 60s that landed 3 kilometers northeast of the ZNP and 2: two barges launched several miles south of the ZNP manned by Ukrainian airborne forces.
The Russian Ministry of Defense provides an accurate summary of the action:
On the morning of September 1, the Kiev regime attempted a major provocation to disrupt the arrival of IAEA expert working group at Zaporozhye nuclear power plant.
At 6:20 a.m., seven fast-moving motorboats landed on the coast of Kakhovskoye reservoir, three kilometres northeast of Zaporozhye NPP, with two sabotage groups of up to 60 people in total.
The sabotage groups were detected and blocked in the drop-off area by Russian National Guard units guarding the territory of Zaporozhye NPP.
A unit of the Russian Armed Forces and helicopters of the army aviation arrived to reinforce Russian Guard troops in order to suppress an attempt to enter the nuclear power plant and destroy Ukrainian saboteurs.
At about 7:00 a.m., units of the Russian Armed Forces prevented another attempted landing to seize a nuclear power plant.
A few kilometres from Zaporozhye NPP near Vodyanoye, an attempt was made to land a tactical airborne assault by AFU two self-propelled barges from Nikopol. Two self-propelled barges carrying tactical airborne assault of AFU are sunk as a result of the Russian Armed Forces’ shelling.
As of 8:00 a.m., the Kiev regime has blocked the passage of IAEA expert mission from controlled territory to Zaporozhye NPP.
Ukrainian artillery is shelling the territory of Zaporozhye NPP, the meeting place of IAEA mission with Russian specialists near Vasil’evka, as well as the route of their movement to Energodar. Four shells exploded 400 metres from the 1st unit of Zaporozhye NPP.
If Ukraine had pulled this off it would have been a major black eye for the Russians and would have put the nuclear plant back in Ukrainian hands. It would have marked the first serious victory in this war for Ukraine. If, if, if. There is an old saying, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts it would be Christmas every day.” Christmas did not come for Ukraine. They got their ass handed to them.
The Ukrainian troops selected to carry out this operation clearly had advanced training. Some sources report that the British did the training and MI-6 had the lead in planning the operation. The CIA’s role appears to have been providing support on the information warfare front (i.e., getting Ignatius to tee up an article). Ukrainian sources are privately bitching that someone leaked the op to the Russians. It was an elaborate ambush. These are troops Ukraine could not afford to lose. There was a substantial investment in time and money to train them for this mission. I estimate at least two months were devoted to the training and equipping of these two attack elements.
This was not the brain child of the Ukrainians. This has the fingerprints of western intelligence all over it. That is why there were so many western reporters on hand. If Ukraine had succeeded, the operation would have dominated western news coverage. “Ukraine’s stunning victory.” Success would have bought Zelensky and Ukraine more time.
But this was a failure and it is likely to have some rather nasty side effects. The Ukrainians have lost some, if not all, faith in the competence and promises of the British and the American intelligence offices. I am pretty sure the Ukrainians were promised that this would be a swift victory and would catch the Russians with their pants down.
Just consider how things would look if Ukraine had pulled this off. With Ukrainian forces in control of the ZNP plant complex, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection team would arrive and would have certified that Russia was shelling the place. In fact, with the IAEA present, it would have been crazy for Russia to try to take the facility back. Note that the IAEA team came prepared to leave some of its members behind. I would not be surprised to learn that the head of the IAEA team was briefed on the upcoming operation and was prepared to play the role assigned to him. Whoops. Russian killed those plans along with almost 100 Ukrainian troops involved in the operation.
One Telegram channel offers a dire assessment of the Ukrainian Kherson offensive:
The second wave of Ukrainian offense on Kherson ends in a predictable disaster, 2000 or more KIA, and between 5 and 6 thousands wounded. The hospitals in all the nearby large cities nearby are full. Yet, Ukrainians cling to the bridgehead near Davydov Brod, that can indicate their intent to try for the third time.
Russian intelligence uncovered the plan of Ukrainian spec op on Zaporozhye nuclear plant to capture it shortly before the IAEA mission would arrive. Some 300 elite Ukrainian elite special forces operatives lured into a trap and destroyed.
Apart from creating tensions between Ukraine and its western allies, this failure also is likely to exacerbate strife within the Ukrainian leadership. There are reports that the Ukrainian military leader, General Zaluzhny, was at odds with President Zelensky over the timing and scale of Ukraine’s “offensive”. This is not only a loss of face for Zelensky, it is likely a loss of support from key members of the Ukrainian government.
The icing on the cake for Russia came from the UN. In response to a reporter asking about the military action around the nuclear facility, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric thanked Russia: