The sunny weather in southern Ukraine signals that a new war season has begun

ZAPORIZHZHIA REGION, Ukraine – A military vehicle, an old Soviet-designed 2S1 self-propelled howitzer, rumbled loudly around a corner. Above him were four Ukrainian soldiers in summer uniforms, their feet dangling, a Coca-Cola can next to them.

One soldier raised an ice cream cone triumphantly above his head as he passed, while another waved a peace sign.

“It’s vanilla,” he said, when he was stopped and questioned a few minutes later.

Spring has started in southern Ukraine. And with temperatures hitting 78 degrees Fahrenheit last weekend, hopes of a long-awaited pushback against the Russian military captors have begun to peak.

Several months of heavy rains left the ground muddy, sticky and unfit for heavy vehicles. But with the latest dry season, conditions are on the verge of a much-anticipated war, which President Volodymyr Zelensky and others have described as a chance to show the Westerners back that Ukraine is able to regain its footing.

Although there have been no dramatic military moves like the lightning sweep of the Ukrainian army through northeastern Kharkiv in the fall, the attack may already be – quietly.

On Thursday, Zelensky’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, sought to renew expectations that Kyiv would fire some kind of gun to announce the opening of a new project.

“Again about the objections,” Podolyak tweeted. “1. This is not a ‘one time event’ that will begin at a special hour of the day with a red ribbon cutting. 2. These are many actions to destroy Russian forces in various ways, which have been happening yesterday, are happening today and will continue tomorrow. 3. Taking too much damage from enemy weapons is also frustrating.”

Podolyak’s tweet was an attempt to clarify the situation after Italian broadcaster RAI quoted him in an interview as saying that the protest had been going on for days.

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In the Zaporizhzhia region, which is expected to be the main focus of the Ukrainian army as it seeks to retake the city of Melitopol, the weather has been closely monitored in recent weeks.

Pushing south through the agricultural region, now full of bright yellow fields and summer crops, would allow Ukraine to illegally break the “land bridge” between Russia and Crimea, cutting off vital lines and putting Ukrainian troops on hold. another attack.

A nuclear power plant

in Enerhodar

Unauthorized inclusions

and Russia

in 2014

Background: May 24 data control through the Institute for

Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project

A nuclear power plant

in Enerhodar

Unauthorized inclusions

and Russia in 2014

Source: May 24 data correction via the Institute for the Study of War,

AEI’s Critical Threats Project

A nuclear power plant

in Enerhodar

Unauthorized inclusions

and Russia in 2014

Background: May 24 data control through the Institute for

Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project

Such a campaign would also push back from places like Orikhiv, a once-populated town of 19,000 that is now three kilometers from Russian lines and for months has been under almost daily shelling, according to Deputy Mayor Svitlana Mandrych.

“We’ve been hearing about this scandal for a long time,” said Mandrych, 52. “We’re hoping it’s going to happen and it’s going to work.”

Orikhiv is now abandoned, and Mandrych leads relief efforts for the 1,400 or so people who remain. “We are five kilometers from the front,” he said. “We’ve always been on fire.”

Even away from the front line, in Kyiv and the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, Russian missiles have caused significant damage over the past month. On Friday, a Russian missile attack destroyed a hospital, killing two and injuring 30. The same morning, Kyiv was attacked by military equipment – the 13th such attack since the beginning of May.

Talk of spring teasing has been going on for months. Zelensky and military officials have said they are expecting more weapons, ammunition and other equipment to arrive. The Ukrainian army has also been training to use new European-supplied combat vehicles and other equipment.

But even if there were enough things, the weather was very difficult. “It depends on God’s will and the weather,” and how much power can be gathered, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said when asked about the upcoming attack in an interview with The Washington Post earlier this month.

“This year there was a lot of water in the winter – a lot,” Reznikov said, adding that the water table on May 1 was 4.7 inches higher than expected.

In Zaporizhzhia, the problem here can be explained simply: mud.

Mud season in Ukraine, known as “bezdorizhzhia” or “no road” in Ukrainian, is an annual event in Zaporizhzhia. The clay-rich soil, which contributes to Ukraine’s agriculture, does not drain well, resulting in a wet mess, which cannot knock down conventional armored vehicles and tracked vehicles such as tanks or the 2S1 howitzer.

Changing soil conditions

southern Ukraine

As spring turns to summer, the muddy and barren landscape of southern Ukraine is intensifying, as seen in infrared images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel satellite.

Source: Copernicus Sentinel

Evolution of soil conditions in southern Ukraine

As spring turns to summer, the muddy and barren landscape of southern Ukraine is intensifying, as seen in infrared images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel satellite.

Source: Copernicus Sentinel

“It’s the same dirt you find in northwest France,” said James Rands, a military expert at the British intelligence firm Janes, pointing to the site of the famous muddy, bloody battles of World War I.

Although the mud season is supposed to last only a few weeks, the weather has not cooperated this year. April was the “wettest month” in Ukraine, said Inbal Becker-Reshef, a researcher at the University of Maryland who tracks global climate, with record low temperatures earlier in the month.

The weather has played a role in the conflict in Ukraine since Russia’s coup last year.

The winter months of late 2021 and early 2022 were surprisingly mild, causing the mud to melt earlier than usual. This led to the previous muddy season, which saw many Russian tanks and other heavy vehicles stuck in fields or blocked in muddy roads, where Ukrainian security forces could easily reach them.

Now, warmer weather offers other benefits, including better tree cover for troops and vehicles and more daylight hours.

After April, May is the driest month, with temperatures often in the 70s. Becker-Reshef said that the lowest level of wet soil in Ukraine is now in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, a neighboring region that could also be on the front line in the war. Some areas are now in drought.

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Ben Hodges, the former commander of the US Army Europe, said that the situation on the ground is one of the factors that Ukraine can consider when planning new offensive operations. “Is it dry enough to allow the movement and movement of hundreds of heavy, armored vehicles and hundreds of support vehicles?” Hodges asked.

But he stressed that it was one of a number of factors, including the readiness of the Ukrainian military and whether their Russian adversaries were intimidated by the airstrikes or distracted by prolonged fighting in other areas such as Bakhmut to anticipate Ukraine’s next move. .

“Are Russian officials sufficiently confused about the time, method and location of the attack?” Hodges wrote in an email.

Some experts said that the ground conditions were no longer the reason for the delay. “The weather was one of the factors that caused it,” said Ukrainian military expert Oleksiy Melnyk. “But not a big one.”

In a field west of Zaporizhzhia, about an hour from Orikhiv, the 1st Tank Battalion did some dirty work Wednesday with Soviet-made T-64 tanks, artificially plowing fields and deploying smoke detectors to try to clear the now occupied agricultural fields. the Russians.

The temperature was dropping slightly, with clouds on the horizon. T-64s have a tendency to get stuck in the mud, according to Yuri, a 29-year-old officer, but the ground was hard enough not only for tanks but also for regular vehicles.

After the exercise, the soldiers gathered at a nearby house to watch a drone demonstration over bowls of solyanka, a thick soup. Mykhailo, 39, the deputy chief of staff, was not impressed.

“What if this is our garden and the orcs are here?” he said about the Russian military. “So what are you going to do? Shoot ours?”

“By doing this, you will be dragged to hell!” he said later.

In a town like Orikhiv, such studies are not possible in the near future. The winter was difficult and there was no chance to enjoy the hot weather that was offered near the bombs every day. Most of the remaining people spend 18 to 20 hours underground.

Mandrych, the deputy mayor, now lives and works in the basement of a town hall where he and other volunteers have set up a food distribution system and provided WiFi, electricity and hot showers in a city where few buildings have these. .

Mandrych and other residents have also taken the time to plant some flowers in the side of the city’s central square. He said: “We continue to fight.

Isobel Koshiw in Kyiv, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

One year of Russia’s war in Ukraine

Pictures of Ukraine: Life for every Ukrainian has changed since Russia launched its attacks a year ago – big and small. They have learned to survive and help each other under extreme pressurein bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed houses and damaged markets. Study the photos of Ukrainians who show a year of loss, courage and fear.

Civil War: Over the past year, the conflict has evolved from a series of battles that included Kyiv in the north to a conflict centered on the eastern and southern regions. Follow the 600-kilometer front line between the Ukrainian and Russian forces and see where the war has settled..

Year of separation: Russia’s invasion, as well as Ukraine’s martial law banning military-age men from leaving the country, have forced millions of Ukrainian families to make tough decisions. how to manage safety, work and love, and lives once connected have been unrecognized. This is what it is at the train station full of goodbyes it seemed like last year.

Multiplying global distribution: President Biden has declared the re-invigorated Western alliance established during the war as a “universal alliance,” but under scrutiny. it shows that the world did not agree on the issues caused by the war in Ukraine. More evidence that efforts to isolate Putin have failed and Sanctions did not stop Russiabecause of the oil and gas they export.

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