“The battlefield remains what it was,” retired Col. Steve Ganyard said.
Weeks into Ukraine’s counteroffensive, political turmoil in Russia has raised new questions in the war and what it means for Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
In a fleeting but shocking show of rebellion against Russia’s top military brass, forces with the Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group left the front line in Ukraine and claimed control of military facilities in Rostov-on-Don, a key Russian city near the Ukrainian border, late last week.
They then marched toward Moscow before the mercenary leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, ordered them to halt on Saturday and return to their field camps in Ukraine, saying he wanted to avoid shedding Russian blood.
The 24-hour mutiny marked the most significant challenge to Russian President Putin’s authority in his more than 20 years of rule. In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russia appeared to be suffering “full-scale weakness.”
Amid the brief drama, though, little has changed on the 600-mile front in southern and eastern Ukraine, as Ukrainian forces look for breakthroughs in what “continues to be a very long hard, difficult and bloody fight,” according to retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Steve Ganyard, an ABC News contributor.
“It’s important to take what was going on with Prigozhin and with Putin and put that into a Russia context, because that’s something that’s going on behind the scenes in Russia,” Ganyard said. “As of now, it’s not going to have any significant effect on the battlefield. The battlefield remains what it was.”
Counteroffensive a ‘long, hard slog’
Ukraine’s probing operations followed a stagnant period during the winter, when the Russians had months to build up three lines of defense, with layers of minefields, tank traps and trenches, according to Ganyard.
“The Ukrainians haven’t even gotten through the first line of defense anywhere along the front lines,” he said.
Whether Ukraine has the equipment and manpower to make a major breakthrough against those fortified defenses will be pivotal in the direction of the war — and its possible end, Ganyard said.
“The world really hasn’t seen a fight like this, hasn’t seen a war like this, for almost 100 years. It’s very reminiscent of the Western Front in World War I, where you had trenches and progress was measured in hundreds of feet per day,” he said.