By James Lechner - Special to The Washington Times - - Wednesday, November 16, 2022
KYIV, Ukraine — The war is far from over in Ukraine with a long winter ahead.
Analysts who once warned that Ukraine stood little chance of holding out for long against a bigger, better-armed enemy now say Kyiv must be wary of overconfidence and overestimation of the difficulties that lie ahead against a potent Russian occupying force.
The stunning Ukrainian counteroffensive against invading Russian forces that began this summer has been widely hailed as a resounding, if not decisive, “turning point” in the war. Yet even as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was visiting a newly liberated Kherson this week and vowing to press his forces’ advantage, a contrarian, far more sober assessment emerged.
Ukrainian forces can boast of a string of victories since the summer — in Izyum, Lyman, Kharkiv and now Kherson — and the government in Kyiv has not been shy about touting its successes and highlighting Russian atrocities and battlefield mistakes.
The Ukrainians encouraged Western media to visit the liberated countryside around Lyman. They pointed to the destroyed convoys and piles of Russian dead on the roads as examples of their success. They also released intercepts of cellphone conversations between panic-stricken soldiers to stoke rumors of a potential Russian collapse.
Still, the Russian army is entrenched in large parts of Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, and the battle lines in the eastern portion of Ukraine have stabilized as the daily artillery bombardments along the front line continue. As the Russian forces pulled back, they shortened and strengthened supply lines, presenting a more compact and formidable force for the looming winter.
Ukrainian soldiers who have just returned to the Kyiv area from the front in the east are giving reality checks to the largely positive media coverage.
One Ukrainian leader described the intense Russian artillery fire as his small, lightly armed company took part in the offensive to recapture Izyum and occasional chaos as hastily assembled and underequipped Ukrainian forces attempted to push forward against Russian armored units.
Lacking anti-tank missiles such as the U.S.-supplied Javelin and other supporting weapons, the officer said, the Ukrainian units sustained high casualties in spite of the overall success of the counteroffensive.
Some skeptics say glowing reports of Ukrainian successes obscure the Russians’ formidable position and their separatist Ukrainian allies.
By any measure, as the invasion nears the nine-month mark, Russia has gained and maintained a significant amount of territory in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. Although Ukrainians have recovered large swaths of this territory, it is a minor fraction of the overall ground still occupied by the Russians.
“The Russians know how to fight,” Ukrainian Maj. Roman Kovalev, who is leading a newly configured 500-member battalion on the southern front, recently told NPR. “They learn fast. They’re not the same forces as they were in the spring. It is hard to fight them.”
A close look at the map reveals that the amount of territory that the Ukrainians regained in September and October barely exceeds, if at all, the amount of ground captured by the Russians during their phase 2 offensive in June and July.
During that offensive, Russian forces captured Izyum and Severodonetsk, the de facto capital of the Luhansk region, as well as its sister city Lysychansk. The latter two cities remain firmly under Russian control, far behind the front lines.
Another critical aspect of the battle in the east is the fighting along the south Donbas front, centered largely on the city of Bakhmut. Along the eastern Donbas front, the Ukrainian line forms a salient to the east, anchored in the north at Izyum, extending east and anchored in the south on Bakhmut.
In the south, the Russian pressure on the Ukrainian line has been relentless and continues to advance slowly, even while the Ukrainians were on the offensive to the north. Now, in spite of the loss of Izyum, with the reestablishment of the line to the north, the Russian offensive against Bakhmut is gaining momentum.
In recent weeks, Russian forces have made significant gains and have begun to encircle the shell-torn city. Ukrainian units attempting to hold the line around Bakhmut report almost continuous Russian attacks and heavy casualties on both sides.
The stakes are high. The road network supporting the southern portion of Russian-occupied territory along much of Ukraine’s southern coastline runs through the Bakhmut area, and control is key to Russian operations there. The coming weeks will be critical in the battle for Bakhmut and with it the Donbas region.
Analysts caution that the significance of the recent Ukraine counteroffensive must be measured not just in terms of square miles and towns liberated, or even casualties. It must be viewed within the context of the overall strategic situation in the eastern Donbas area and the occupied southern coast.
While the Ukrainian armed forces have repeatedly demonstrated skill and resolve against a much larger opponent, the Russian position, being fortified by some 300,000 reservists called up by President Vladimir Putin, is strong, and the Russian pressure on the Ukrainian line in many areas remains relentless.
James Lechner is a retired US Army Infantry Officer. Jim served in the US Army for 27 years, beginning as an enlisted infantryman in the Army National Guard. He is a 1989 graduate of The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina with a degree in History where he was commissioned in the Regular Army. His military career includes command and staff positions in conventional and special operations units, and participation in eight operational deployments to include Somalia with TASK FORCE RANGER, made famous by the book and movie “Blackhawk Down”, as well as the Sinai, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. His key leadership role during successful operations in the city of Ramadi, Iraq, are recounted in the books A Chance in Hell by Jim Michaels and A Soldier’s Dream by William Doyle. The recent movie American Sniper depicts some of the dramatic aspects of this critical battle in Ramadi during the war.
In addition to deployments in support of combat operations, he has served at the national policy level, to include advising the National Security Council at the White House and numerous tours at the Central Intelligence Agency. Since his retirement from the US military in 2011 Jim has served in Afghanistan as a counter insurgency advisor to the commanding general of the coalition forces, as well as providing support for other US government efforts. He holds a Masters degree in History, serves on the Board of Directors of the New York Warrior Alliance, the Big Red Barn Veterans Retreat Center and various other veterans charities. He is currently a History Professor for Liberty University and is the Sales Director for Radical Defense (AR15s and suppressors).
With the beginning of the War in Ukraine Jim joined the team at Newsmax as a war correspondent and has covered the war in live and video television broadcasts since March of 2022. When not overseas Jim lives with his wife Beth in Chapin, South Carolina and they are members of First Baptist Columbia church. He spends much of his time restoring an antebellum plantation in Newberry.
"Last Thursday divided the life of every Ukrainian into the Before and the After" Nadia
I have heard this from a handful of our dear Ukrainian friends as they describe the horrible effects that this war has taken on the beautiful country of Ukraine. Yet they are strong, patriotic and resolved to fight for their country that they love. To fight for continued sovereignty and freedom! Ukrainians are valiant and resourceful beyond measure as well as never ceasing in pray to God for his almighty protection over His children.
Some of the other thoughts from our Ukrainian friends are so strong and valiant.
“We are going to give all our best to defend our country” Sergey
“This is not a new war, it has been going on since 2014, but now it has the world’s attention” Slav
“The situation in our country has united us so much and have made many Good Samaritans!” Yana
“We are far away in distance, but “together” in our hearts to change the world” Artum
For us who are outside of the country, we have felt shock, disbelief, and overwhelmed with the news coming from so many sources. It has been an overload and we must focus on helping others effectively in the ways that we can and not get sucked into scrolling our social media all day and end up doing nothing at all. I have found it very hard to concentrate and focus as I receive emails, texts, Facebook notification and phone calls all day long.
We are seven days into this attack by Russia. We have all seen and heard the atrocities coming from our friends, family and ministry partners in Ukraine. We want you to know that every day we are in contact with Oksana G. who is our Ukraine director. She has safely arrived in Poland where there she is our “boots on the ground”. Oksana is connecting UOO with those that need immediate assistance and she is able to provide connections within Ukraine for everything from evacuating people from cellars, to coordinating the transport of over 100 orphans to Germany, as well as buying supplies for so much need along the border and in Ukraine. Please, we ask you all, to pray for Oksana as she navigates this new world in Eastern Europe. Pray for her heart, her endurance, her health, and just everything that she must be going through in these unprecedented times. Also, please pray for her two children who are living this new reality.
The immediate needs we have seen coming from our Ukraine brothers and sisters:
Every day we send messages (we are very grateful to Google translator) to our two homes. The boy’s home, House of Grace, is located in Kramatorsk and they are in the Donbas, which is the region P declares as Russia. Maxim, Lena and the kids are hunkered down in the home and as far as we know, any of the young men who have graduated out and now live independently are safe, for now. The girl’s home, located in Kherson, the House of Hope is sadly reported to by occupied by Russia now. We spoke with them briefly this morning and their spirits seem positive, but it is really hard to know. We have also been in connection with the IDP family that is in Andrushivka. They say they are safe for now, but news has reached them recommending evacuating. We will stay connected with them to assure support if they should need to flee. Our dear friend, Alex B. in Zhytomyr keeps us updated daily. Our hearts are heavy as he has taken his family to the Poland border and then hitchhiked back to his home town. Now he is part of the force making barricades from sandbags in the city. Zhytomyr has been heavily hit as well, yet Alex continues shining the light of Christ every step he takes.
As to answer some of the most common questions this past week:
Thank you for understanding this evolving situation. Our hearts are with the people of Ukraine and we pray this war against Ukraine ends now. We know there will be so much opportunity to serve those in Ukraine for many years to come, and Lord willing, we will be committed to helping as many as we can.
Please continue to pray fervently, without ceasing and expectantly, asking God for protection, strength, sustainability, and understanding the hope only found in Jesus Christ.
Glory to Ukraine
We are thrilled to announce the arrival of a new van for the House of Grace in Kramatorsk! We are so grateful to so many who made this need a reality. As you may remember, the old van was totaled back in mid-December. We praise God that during that accident, Maxim, the house dad, was the only one driving and he has healed from the injuries received!
Our friends with Agape, Sergiy and Oleg, delivered the van to our home in Kramatorsk. Our hearts are overflowing with joy and thankfulness for all who made replacing the totaled van with this beautiful new one a reality! Thank you to all those who prayed, helped with fundraising, donated towards the van and supported us during this time! In three months time we were able to raise enough funds, work with Agape to find a suitable van and now it is delivered!
A van is more then just a set of wheels. It is a beacon of hope when seen in the community. When people see it they know there are either rides being given, donations being delivered, "meals on wheels" for those in need and most importantly, people in the van that show the love of Christ in their neighborhood and beyond.
When I have personally been a passenger in the old van, I have been apart of road trips that visit orphanages, special need schools, hospitals, technical schools, churches and homeless people. Witnessing the pure joy on children's faces as we enter the grounds of a remote orphanage is an expression that is stamped on my heart. When Maxim, the house dad, drives through the metal gate, children start gathering and once he steps out of the van he is greeted with hugs, kisses and sweet smiles.
I look forward to seeing how this new van will continue to carry on in this tradition of "wheels of hope". Please pray with us for safety and protection as the van will be put to work almost immediately!
Thank you all again!
We give our biggest thank you to our Lord Jesus, for always being so faithful to the needs of serving the least through his people!
Kris Stoesz - Executive Director
“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.” —Elizabeth Edwards
Hello UOO supporters,
We hope that 2021 has been kicked off to a good start, with health, provision, and a covering of inner joy! As we enter into our 15th year of ministering to the marginalized in Ukraine, we are humbled and stand in awe of how God has carried us through the years! Both Clarke and I know, feel, and see that it is only in His power and will that we have made it this far! We continue to remind ourselves to stay in a posture of leaning into our Lord to discern and follow His will for our work, which we are so privileged to do in Ukraine.
With all honesty, we have both questioned “how much longer can we continue our work in Ukraine?” We thank God that He has provided for Ukraine Orphan Outreach and remind ourselves of how blessed we have been to be a part of something so much bigger than we could have ever imagined.
As we reflect back and look forward, we wanted to share a piece of our hearts and how we have been changed because of working with the least in Ukraine.
From April 2 to May 10, we are collecting gallon-size Ziploc bags for orphans in Ukraine. If you would like to participate, please gather some of the items listed below (all of which are so desperately needed by orphans and at-risk children in Ukraine) and then assemble your Ziploc bag (or bags!). We will be taking these bags with us on our mission trip this summer. We have collection points in Washington, DC and in Colorado.
Coming to Ukraine I am inspired, refocused, activated for action yet exhausted and sad. I have been wondering what to post about our visit to a very big orphanage known as the “Emerald City”. So when you you think of the Emerald City, what do you think of? We think of the well known story of Dorothy searching. She is searching for her family. She is searching for her home. Family and home….where is that to be found in a place like this? This is a false illusion for over 300 orphaned children that are looking for their forever home. Looking for their family. When you think about it, in the story of “The Wizard of Oz”, has so much irony around an orphanage called “Emerald City”.
Our departure is a day away as we enthusiastically finish up final details and packing in anticipation of what the Lord has for the team as we head to Ukraine. Please keep the mission team in your prayers as we continue to prepare our hearts and minds to serve alongside our friends in Ukraine. Although we pre-plan our days in Ukraine with our ministry partners, our plans are His plans first and we leave any expectations at home and be open to new opportunities that are led by the Spirit.
Mission Trip 2017 – Do You Want to Serve with Us?
Hello friends and family,
Soon Kelly and I will be departing for a mission trip to Ukraine, spending about one week in the country. We will be flying out on May 28th and arriving in Kiev Sunday afternoon. Upon arrival we will catch our breath for a few hours and then climb aboard an overnight train that will take us to Kramators’k, which is located about 60 miles from the Ukraine/Russian conflict zone. Our team has not been able to visit the House of Grace family since the summer of 2013 so we feel it is very important to spend time with Maxim, Lena and the kids. The last time we traveled to Kramators’k with our team, we flew into Donetsk to the new, beautiful airport.