European intelligence sources tell Asia Times Moscow sucessfully deploying ‘time-honored’ encirclement tactic to hem in Ukrainian forces
https://asiatimes.com-by David P Goldman
Russian troops have crossed the border with Ukraine despite Moscow’s earlier assurances it did not plan an invasion. Photo: AFP / Anadolu Agency
NEW YORK – Russian forces are driving the Ukraine army into pockets of envelopment, well-informed European military sources told Asia Times.
“The Russians are in no hurry,” a European military intelligence analyst wrote in a text message. “They will engage and drive the Ukrainians into several pockets. Then they will ask them to talk or kill them. It’s a time-honored tactic.”
There are three major Russian encirclement maneuvers presently in progress, the intelligence source added. The first is in the south, with troops moving to the west of Mariupol, the largest city in the breakaway Donbass region whose independence Russia recognized last week.
Russian columns are moving north on the west side of the 70-kilometer highway that connects Mariupol and Mykolaivka. In Donbass, Russian forces are bypassing heavily entrenched Ukrainians on the so-called Line of Control, threatening the Ukrainian fortifications from the rear.
Kiev is already encircled, its mayor told the Associated Press late on February 27: “Mayor Vitali Klitschko was silent for several seconds when asked if there were plans to evacuate civilians if Russian troops managed to take Kiev,” the AP reported. “We can’t do that, because all ways are blocked,” he finally said. “Right now we are encircled.”
Google Maps shows that roads close to the capital on the west side of the Dnieper River are closed, presumably by Russian columns pushing south from Belarus.
Russia appears to be trying to minimize casualties—a potential political liability for Putin—and avoiding frontal assaults on entrenched Ukrainian positions or urban warfare in Ukraine’s major cities.
Instead, the Russian Army is fighting a war of position, with the aim of cutting off Ukraine’s best units from resupply and forcing a negotiated settlement on Moscow’s terms.
The Russian Army knows the terrain and tactics well. During the Second World War, Ukraine was the setting for history’s biggest battles of encirclement.
The German envelopment of Russia’s Southwestern Front in the First Battle of Kiev in 1941 resulted in over 700,000 Russian casualties.
In 1943, the Soviet First Ukrainian front attempted to envelop and annihilate the German Army Group South. Although this failed – as did the Germans’ attempt at a counter-envelopment – Russian forces retook the city of Kiev and left German forces exhausted.