Members of a Ukrainian civil defense unit pass new rifles across a destroyed bridge on Kiev’s northern front on March 1, 2022.
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images
The next phases of the war in Ukraine are likely to impose a huge cost on major cities as Russia turns to bigger, more indiscriminate weapons and prepares for brutal urban combat.
Despite fierce Ukrainian resistance, towns are surrounded and Russian forces are already using weapons such as artillery to shell them, retired US Army Col. Jack Jacobs told ‘Squawk Box Asia’. CNBC.
“The Russians will increase their indirect fire on population centers, especially on Kiev,” Jacobs said. Indirect fire refers to weapons that do not aim at an individual target but at an area, such as a city. Weapons such as artillery pieces are used in large volume and destroy large areas.
I think Putin is going to have a hard time going back. He will keep going until he does…at enormous cost.
Retired US Army Colonel
“And by doing that, they’re going to do something that they didn’t want to do, because they wanted to take the city intact,” Jacobs said. “They will use (…) rocket launch capability, artillery, missiles and other indirect fire to subdue the Ukrainians in the city. And then they will try to enter it.”
At this point, the war shifts from one that plays Russian military forces to one that plays Ukrainian forces. But it will also be a much more destructive war, as it will be fought closely in urban areas.
Russian military culture focuses training on operations in the open, Jacobs said, while Ukrainians — including many of its civilians — have long prepared for door-to-door combat in the cities themselves.
The Ukrainians “knew from the very beginning that ultimately it might depend on their ability to destroy Russian forces inside built-up areas,” said Jacobs, who experienced urban combat as an officer. during the Vietnam War.
Unfortunately, this scenario would come at a horrific cost to Ukrainian cities, which are still full of civilians although many have fled.
John Spencer, urban warfare expert at the US Military Academy’s Modern War Institute, told NBC News that once Russian soldiers are in cities in large numbers, “it’s going to get really ugly.”
“The Russians won’t be able to take Kiev just by bombing it,” Spencer told NBC. “They’re going to have to get soldiers in there.”
Volunteers make molotov cocktails in the basement of an air raid shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Chris McGrath | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already demonstrated his personal will to destroy a city – even within Russia’s borders – if that’s what it takes to achieve his political goals.
As Russian prime minister in 1999, Putin launched a brutal military campaign against Chechnya to keep that province under Moscow’s control. Russian troops largely destroyed its capital Grozny in the process. Thousands of civilians were killed there.
“I think Putin is going to have a hard time going back,” Jacobs said. “He’s going to keep going until he does…at huge cost. To Ukraine, Russia and maybe even allies.”
Other major cities in Ukraine are likely already surrounded by Russian forces, according to a Update from the UK Ministry of Defense published on Tuesday.
“Ukrainian forces continue to hold the cities of Kharkiv, Kherson and Mariupol, but all three cities are now likely surrounded by Russian forces,” the ministry said.
Ukraine’s government said on Tuesday that Kharkiv, its second-largest city, was coming under intensified shelling from Russian forces, NBC News reported. This city has about 1.5 million inhabitants.
At least 10 people were killed and 35 injured on Tuesday by Russian rockets in central Kharkiv, Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said in a social media post.
Kiev is not yet surrounded, but a massive 40-mile Russian column is slowly advancing from the north towards the city to join the southern forces and encircle the capital.
Ukrainian troops put up fierce resistance to the invading Russians north of Kiev, but without sufficient air power they were unable to force the convoy to retreat.
The ongoing struggle around the convoy is critical for Ukrainians and Kyiv. It is important, Jacobs said, that more Western weapons get to Ukrainians before they are cut off.
“If the Ukrainians can … bring in enough weapons to carry on this convoy, they might stop it long enough for the Ukrainians to be resupplied by the West,” he said.