Interview with Markus Reisner: "Russia is clearly carrying out terrorist attacks"

With the mass air strikes, Russia currently has the initiative in the war on a strategic level.

Interview with Markus Reisner: "Russia is clearly carrying out terrorist attacks"

With the mass air strikes, Russia currently has the initiative in the war on a strategic level. This is not only dangerous in view of the winter, says the Austrian military historian Markus Reisner in an interview. Russia could soon be manufacturing its own drones. After more than 250 days of war - where is Ukraine now?

Markus Reisner: Phase 1 of this war was the surprising resistance of Ukraine, with the result that Kyiv could not be occupied by the Russians. Russia then withdrew and tried to bring about a decision in phase 2 in Donbass. The Russians were actually able to achieve some regional successes. The army slowly advanced with massive artillery support, which in some places wore out the Ukrainian troops. Then, however, Ukraine managed to launch a counter-offensive with the help of heavy weapons from the West - phase 3 and the second surprise, which many observers did not think possible.

Very briefly, because you mention the weapons from the west: without HIMARS, for example, would phase 3 not have happened at all?

HIMARS, the US multiple rocket launcher, was part of this and had a very lasting effect, destroying important ammunition depots and severely damaging Russian logistics. However, US intelligence information was and is also decisive for Ukraine's success. This reconnaissance enables Kiev's troops to analyze the situation of Russian forces on the ground and to define the areas where they are most vulnerable. Kharkiv was a recognized weakness for the Russians, where the Ukrainians then attacked.

Are we still in phase 3?

This phase is ongoing and the question is whether it can be concluded with a decisive victory for Ukraine before the winter.

How and where can you reach it?

A decisive success in Cherson would be to push the Russians back from the west and north banks of the Dnipro across the river to the other side, the east bank. For this they would have to occupy the area around the city of Cherson. There we are witnessing the Ukrainian attempts to launch a sustained attack and the partial withdrawal of Russian elements to the other bank, where they are preparing positions. In addition, the weather develops unfavorably, the muddy period begins. So until the ground freezes, there will probably be a kind of stalemate. In addition to this stalemate at the operational level, there is also the strategic level, and there Russia has again taken the initiative.

You mean the massive attacks from the air.

Since mid-October they have been attacking targets in Ukraine in wave after wave with ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones. President Selenskyj has given drastic numbers: 40 percent of the critical infrastructure has already been hit.

How dangerous is that for the winter?

In Ukraine there is the 750 kVA network that carries the electricity from the nuclear power plants to the substations. The substations transfer the power down to 330 kVA and send the electricity on towards the big cities. There it is transferred again to the lines that go to the households.

How do the Russians do it - shoot through lines or aim at substations?

There are high-voltage lines that the Russians deliberately destroyed, such as near Cherson. But more frequent and more decisive are the attacks on the important substations and transformers. There are over 23,300 kilometers of lines and around 140 large transformers in the country. These transformers are very large devices, once hit they are almost impossible to replace. Repairing them is extremely time-consuming.

Is it still possible?

The Ukrainian suppliers are currently mostly trying to divert the electricity past damaged areas, i.e. to send it via other lines. However, if the lines are increasingly overloaded and the important base network frequency becomes more and more unstable, there is a risk of a blackout. Satellite images of Ukraine are already showing how often the power goes out there and how often it is simply dark.

Kiev Mayor Wladimir Klitschko also warns of a blackout.

The aim of the Russians is, on the one hand, to drive the population to flee to Europe and, on the other hand, to incite against the government. With the accusation that she is not doing enough to ensure the care of the people.

Is this strategy already having an effect?

On the contrary. Under the increasingly difficult conditions, the population is, at least it seems, even closer together. The Allies also made such calculations during World War II, for example British air strikes aimed at the civilian population, the so-called "moral bombing", in order to destroy German morale. Later studies have shown that it made people even more dogged.

Does Ukraine also have a chance of better repelling the attacks on the supply network?

To do this, Ukraine would have to be able to protect the depths, i.e. the rear area of ​​its huge country, with anti-aircraft systems. The military leadership withdrew such systems from many cities in the summer in order to use them to defend the forces deployed for the offensive against Russian missiles. That made sense, but it leaves cities partially vulnerable to such supply attacks.

Germany has already delivered an Iris-T-SLM anti-aircraft system, and others are to follow soon. Is the aid the West is planning enough?

If Ukraine is to be able to sustainably protect itself against such attacks, anti-aircraft systems must be delivered faster, and Ukraine needs more of them. The problem is that there are hardly any such systems in Europe and production takes time. We are in a race: the Russians are getting more and more drones and missiles from Iran, while Europe and the US are trying to equip Ukraine with the necessary defense systems.

There are fears that Russia could soon produce such drones itself.

That's to be expected, yes, because it's not difficult to make. It is a matter of time before Russia will be able to overwhelm the Ukrainian defense qua mass. Unfortunately, the existing Ukrainian defense system is not as developed as in Israel, for example, where, in addition to the important Iron Dome, other systems cover the entire spectrum.

What makes the difference?

When Hamas launches 300 rockets in a cluster from the Gaza Strip in order to overwhelm the defense system, the Iron Dome detects the 30 rockets which, due to their trajectory, would hit a built-up area. He focuses on them and lets the rest through.

Iris-T can't do that?

The Iris-T-SLM anti-aircraft system can detect missiles and drones as targets early and attack in time. But it doesn't distinguish between dangerous and non-dangerous missiles.

If there is still little protection against Russian air strikes in the future, will Putin achieve his goal of driving people to flee?

Zelenskyy has asked those who are already abroad to stay there so as not to further burden the supply. It is also to be expected that rural residents will flee to the cities. Kyiv, for example, has set up 1,000 warming rooms. Eventually people will try to flee to where it is warm. Simply because they have to survive. If that is no longer possible in their own country, especially with children, they will leave the country. That is why it is important to understand that supporting Ukraine is necessary to prevent an even greater humanitarian catastrophe. It is clearly Russia that is conducting terrorist attacks here, not Ukraine.

Frauke Niemeyer spoke to Markus Reisner

The interview was conducted before the Russian announcement of its withdrawal from Kherson

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